It is very easy for a toddler to get attracted to sweets and chocolates and consume more than what is ideal for them. And the fact that breast milk is sweet makes it easier for them to warm up to candies and sugary treats later. Now, sweets are generally unnecessary for your child’s body, as they provide no essential nutrients. However, a child develops a taste for sweets before he tastes anything salty, bitter, or tangy.
This is the reason why, in the early years of a child’s life, it is very important to balance different flavours, so that he doesn’t become too fond of sweets. This will help your baby to like and accept all kinds of flavours and not prioritize one over the others. Sugar and sweets can be addictive for not only a child but even an adult. Therefore, you need to monitor the intense sweet cravings that your child may have.
Too many sugary foods in your child’s diet may cause problems like:
- Decay of tooth or caries
- Excessive weight gain or childhood obesity
- Addiction to sugar, which can cause them to throw tantrums and act finicky about other food items
- Hyperactivity, as some studies indicate
Tips to reduce your toddler’s sugar intake:
- For any given day, plan different meals based on the major food groups, and educate your child about the ill-effects of sugar. Make sure he or she eats the right amounts of whole grains, lean proteins, vegetables and fruits, and healthy fats.
- Reduce the stock of chocolates, toffees, and baked items in the house. Occasional purchases are alright though, or your child might feel completely deprived. When these food items are not regularly accessible for your child, he won’t be able to succumb to them.
- Replace chocolates, toffees, cakes, and pastries with sweet yet healthy items like fresh fruits, dry fruits like raisins, dates, apricots etc. Such alternatives are loaded with dietary fibre and vitamins and minerals as well.
- While hydration is vital for all children, make sure you avoid giving carbonated or sweetened beverages or sodas. Instead, give your child fresh fruit or vegetable juices, smoothies, milkshakes, plain water etc. However, remember that whole fruits contain more fibre than juices. If your little one is not too keen about drinking plain water, add a few lemon or orange slices or mint leaves to make the taste interesting. Coconut water is another great source of natural hydration and is mildly sweet too. Lassi, without sugar, is another wonderful option. You can also serve soups at mealtimes or as a snack, to boost hydration and keep sugar at bay.
- Treat the little one with his favourite sweets occasionally. Try to make those sweets healthier in various ways. For example, add chopped fresh fruits to ice cream. If you have prepared low-sugar kheer or payasam, sprinkle dry fruits for sweetness.
- Eat with your child. Your child’s food choices largely depend on what you eat. So, if you are discarding sweets and eating healthy, your child is also likely to do the same.
So, here is the takeaway. Moderate or occasional consumption of sweets will not harm your little one. However, sugar is all about empty calories and zero nutritional value, and over-indulgence can increase the risk of obesity and diabetes in the future. Hence, healthy eating habits, as discussed above, need to be encouraged from an early age.