The number one question I am asked when folks find out I am sugar-free is if my kids are sugar-free too.
To which I reply, mostly.
Chip is only 9 months old so he is 100% sugar-free. Sausage is 2 1/4 years old, so she is the ‘mostly’. My second most-asked question is what on earth I give her to eat if she’s sugar-free, like she must live on gruel or something.
Having a mostly sugar-free toddler isn’t too hard when they are used to eating this way. I imagine that transitioning a toddler off large amounts of the white stuff wouldn’t be much fun! I feel exhausted just thinking about it…
Sausage is a pretty good eater (for now). She’s not too fussy, eats most fruit and vegetables, and generally eats what we eat – although she draws the line at Ryvita (yuck!), vegemite (I DON’T like it!) and lettuce (that’s digusting!).
She does however, have a massive sweet tooth, especially for chocolate. Her diet isn’t 100% sugar-free, but then it’s not my intention for it to be. I believe in taking an 80:20% approach to what my kids eat. I think forbidding my kids to eat any sweets, cake etc only serves to increase its desirability, which can lead to bizarre behaviour and attitudes towards food. My mother once told me about some children she knew who were never allowed any sweets at all. They got into serious trouble for shoplifting their ‘forbidden fruit’. I also have a friend who grew up without being allowed to eat anything ‘bad’ – he was always sent to parties with a box of his permitted food – and he went crazy when he finally left home for university. He had an enormous stash of chocolate at all times, and slept with several cases of cola under his bed! His unhealthy relationship with sweet stuff continues to this day.
So Sausage does get some sugary stuff during her week. It’s a lot less than the average child I think, and I think it’s easiest just to tell you what she might eat in a ‘typical’ day here in Tawhero.
Breakfast: She eats weetbix or cornflakes, sometimes with a bit of fruit on top (like the feijoas we have in abundance right now). I can’t get her to eat porridge but you can be sure we’re working on this. Pretty much any other cereal here in NZ is riddled with sugar. Some cereals can be 30-40% sugar and yet are promoted as being healthy such as Nutrigrain or Sultana Bran. And most cereals peddled at children, such as ‘Honey Puffs, Cocoa Pops, and Frosties’ are incredibly sugary.
Occasionally I make her scrambled eggs or pancakes for breakfast. She likes pancakes just with butter.
Just FYI, I don’t limit fruit. She’s a toddler and has more energy in her little finger than I have in my whole body.
Morning Tea: Morning teas can be my trickiest meals in terms of curbing her sugar intake. We attend two play groups that provide morning tea, and they always, always, always include sugary biscuits/cookies. They are not the worst offenders in the biscuit world (i.e. they tend to be cream wafers or vanilla wine biscuits) but they seem to be a staple at play groups, along with providing fresh fruit. One group sometimes provides a diluted raro drink (a powdered sugar drink) which I ignore and give her water (Sausage rarely has juice, and when she does it is very diluted. She’s never had soft drink. She is fine with drinking water or milk). I realise of course that I could forbid her to eat the biscuits, but one during the day isn’t going to hurt when they are often the only sugary things she eats that day. I could even bring her own morning tea, but I don’t for the above reasons. I’ve have spoken to the play group organisers but it falls on deaf ears.
Don’t get me started on what adults are given to eat at play groups. I have NEVER been offered anything savoury. It’s always chocolate biscuits (in front of the children too!). Fortunately I seldom need a snack in the mornings otherwise I’d go home with a grumbly tummy.
If we are at home, or at Playcentre where we bring our own morning tea, she eats things like boiled eggs, crackers (home made), cheese, hummus, vege sticks, fresh fruit, yoghurt*, sandwiches, cucumber and tomato slices, tuna, chicken or some sugar free baking if I’ve been particularly organised.
* I haven’t been able to convince Sausage that unsweetened yoghurt is delicious, so I sneak it in to her commercially prepared sweetened fruit yoghurt at a 50:50 ratio. I will be gradually increasing the unsweetened ration, mwahaha!
If we are out and about and are not organised we do occasionally give Sausage biscuits (just keeping it real). Griffin’s do a fruit digestive that is surprisingly low in sugar. They are the best of the bunch if you are in a pinch.
Lunch: Sausage is addicted to peanut butter sandwiches (home made, preservative-free bread, for those who have asked). We use Pic’s 100% peanut brand, which is in my opinion, the best ever. I will eventually have to wean her off onto other spreads as many schools forbid PB due to increasing numbers of kids with deathly peanut allergies in attendance. Anyway, lunch is often a PB sandwich, with vege sticks, cheese, fruit or whatever else is to hand.
Afternoon tea: Usually similar to morning tea.
Dinner: Sausage eats what we eat, unless it’s a highly spicy curry.
Sausage does get the occasional sugary treat such as ice cream or chocolate from us and her grandparents, and I allow her to eat what she wants at birthday parties – but she isn’t really on the party circuit like older kids can be. She is always my litmus test for any sugar-free concoction I make, as if it pleases her, it is generally a hit with everyone.
Having a (mostly) sugar-free toddler is possible.
Do you limit sugar in your house? How do your kids respond?