Whether it’s cane sugar, high fructose corn syrup, barley malt, or glucose, sugar in all its varieties is a common ingredient in many foods. According to a recent government report, about 16 percent of total calories eaten by children are from added sugars. To boost your family’s health and well-being, try these easy ways to slash your sugar consumption at home.
• Toss out the boxed, sugar-coated cereal and opt for a bowl of oatmeal or kasha instead. Or try making your own muesli, with rolled oats, chopped nuts, and fruit.
• If you drink dairy alternatives, such as soy or rice milk, choose the unsweetened varieties.
• Most bread sold in supermarkets contains sugar. Source your loaves from a bakery that makes sugar-free options or bake your own with a bread machine.
• Sugar-free popsicles are as easy as 1-2-3: blend chopped fruit with a little milk or plain yogurt and freeze in popsicle trays.
• When shopping for peanut butter, look for a natural option with the least number of ingredients. Peanuts and salt are all you need.
• Skip the flavored yogurt in the dairy aisle. Pick up a container of the plain variety instead and add your children’s favorite chopped fruit. For on-the-go snack cups, dollop the homemade concoction into small, plastic containers.
• For those times when you do require something sweet, experiment with natural alternatives, such as stevia and xylitol.
• Get back to the basics with dried fruit, the natural, healthier alternative to fruit roll-ups. Cranberries, raisins, and apricots are all kid favorites.
• Make your own sugar-free soda: mix low-sodium seltzer water with fresh-squeezed lime, lemon, or orange juice, and add a couple drops of stevia to taste.
• Ditch the juice. Stick with water and milk, limiting juice to special occasions, such as at birthday parties. If your kids balk at the idea or if they’re used to drinking juice, try the “half-and-half” approach and dilute the juice with water.
• Teach your children about the finer things in life, like dark chocolate, which contains less sugar than milk chocolate. Yes, dark chocolate is more expensive, but since it’s a once-in-a-while treat, the higher price is a wash.
• When baking, substitute unsweetened applesauce for sugar, or reduce the amount of refined sugar your recipe calls for, by up to a cup. Many blogs and web sites feature great-tasting, low-sugar recipes.
• Who needs sugar-filled, store-bought salad dressing? A little olive oil and vinegar, with a dash of salt and pepper, tastes better on your greens than anything you can buy in a bottle.
• Decrease the amount of processed foods you purchase and shop on the perimeter of the grocery store where the freshest foods are located, as author Michael Pollan suggests in his book, Food Rules: An Eater’s Manual.
• Before you buy your child’s next bottle of gummy vitamins, research brands for one with the lowest sugar content. Or buy vitamins that contain only natural sweeteners.
• Of course, there’s nothing wrong with enjoying a sweet snack now and then. Like anything else, use sugar in moderation and teach your children that sweet foods and drinks are a special occasion treat to be savored.
Low-Sugar and Sugar-Free Websites & Recipes
Muesli with Yogurt Recipe
The muesli can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature until ready to use, up to one week. Serves 4.
4 cups (32 ounces) plain low-fat yogurt
For the Muesli
1 1/2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
1/4 cup wheat germ
1/4 cup dried currants
1/4 cup dried apricots, finely chopped
1/3 cup whole raw almonds, toasted and coarsely chopped
1/3 cup sunflower seeds, toasted
For the Garnish
1 small apple, halved, cored, and cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices
2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons honey (optional)
-Stir together oats, wheat germ, currants, apricots, almonds, and sunflower seeds in a medium bowl.
-For each serving, top 1/2 cup yogurt with 1/4 cup muesli; arrange apple slices on top. Drizzle with 1 teaspoon honey.
Heather Van Deest is a freelance writer and a mother to two young sons.