I want to preface this post by stating I’m not a nutritionist or expert in the health field. I’m just a mom trying to find a good balance of healthy eating for myself and family.
If you’re like many people, you’ve probably made some New Year’s Resolutions. There’s probably a good chance too that one of them has something to do with eating healthier, right?
For many of us, eating healthier means increasing fruits and veggies and cutting out the junk. The past few years, especially after reading the book, The Year of No Sugar, I’ve been working on reducing added sugar too.
I’ve read women should have no more than 25g of sugar/day and children no more than 12g. Four grams of sugar equals 1 teaspoon (tsp), which means 25g = 6.25 tsp and 12g = 3 tsp. I also want to note, I’m referring to added sugar. Natural occurring sugar can be found in many healthy foods like fruits and dairy, which I’m not currently trying to limit.
If cutting out added sugars is important to you and your children, reading nutrition labels is a must! You’ll soon realize added sugars in so many foods and it’s pretty easy to reach 25 grams and especially easy to reach 12 grams for children! It can be shocking to see how much sugar is hidden in the food we eat every day. Foods disguised as “healthy” like some I’ve noted below, can be deceiving.
If you and your children want to cut out added sugar, here are a few easy places to start!
Oatmeal – I know those packets of flavored oatmeal are convenient, but they have a lot of added sugar. Making your own doesn’t take much longer and is much healthier. See my Three Minute Apple Cinnamon Oatmeal recipe at the bottom of this post. Plus, a container of old fashioned oats is a lot cheaper. If you like to do weekly meal prep you can make a large batch on the stove and just reheat it during the week.
Yogurt – There are so many types of yogurt at the store. I find it sad it’s marketed as a health food because if you look at the nutritional information or ingredient list for many of them you’ll find it’s far from healthy. Many have close to a full days worth of sugar! Shocking, right? Make the switch to plain yogurt, either regular or the Greek variety. I’ve been eating plain yogurt for a while and my daughter and I love it. Fage Plain 2% is our favorite, followed by Dannon whole milk plain yogurt, which is cheaper. To make the switch easier, try adding plain yogurt to your flavored variety and slowly increase the amount of plain.
Vitamins – Gummy vitamins seem to be pretty popular these days. I get it, taking your daily vitamin is a lot easier, especially for kids, if it tastes like candy. The problem is that this “healthy” daily ritual can have as much sugar as candy. Until recently my two daily gummy vitamins had a total of seven grams of sugar. When I’m only allotted 25 grams of sugar per day, I surely don’t want to spend that much of it on vitamins. Do you? Switch to a pill form and save your sugar allowance for something better!
Ice Cream – I love ice cream; it’s one of my favorite foods! I used to have a scoop of a “slow churned” ice cream daily. I mean, for only about 120 calories I can get my daily ice cream fix! However, what I didn’t realize was that 120 calorie scoop had my full days worth of sugar in it. Eek! Now I either make “nice cream” or go out for the real thing as an occasional treat.
Peanut Butter -Peanut butter sandwiches are a childhood staple. Heck, even I eat a few peanut butter sandwiches each week. There’s not a ton of added sugar in regular peanut butter, but an easy way to bring that number down to zero is by buying a brand with 1 ingredient: peanuts. I love when stores have the grind-your-own peanut butter (like Fresh Thyme). When a store does not, I buy Crazy Richard’s, which is a Columbus-based brand. Once again, with most of these products, peanut butter with no added sugar initially tastes different than what you’re probably used to, but I’ve found it’s a pretty easy switch.
Fruit Snacks – Another staple I probably ate daily as a child. My daughter has fruit snacks here and there, but what I prefer for her to have is fruit leather. I buy ours at Kroger or Trader Joe’s. Make sure you check the ingredient labels, but there are many with no added sugar. I can personally tell the difference that there’s no sugar, but my daughter can’t and that’s what matters. She likes them just as much as the gummies, and has no idea they’re better for her! #MomWin.
Fruit Juice – Fruit juice is another one that’s often full of sugar. Even when there’s no added sugar, the juice is so concentrated and without eating the actual fruit with peel (to add a healthy fiber boost) it’s not really that healthy. To slowly wean off of juice, try adding water to it. After a while, you can hopefully just switch to all water or just very little juice for a little added flavor.
Ketchup – I know sometimes it’s hard to get kids to eat their dinner, so many parents include ketchup as a side in order to get them to eat. Even I’ve been known to get a little ketchup crazy with something like French fries, so I get it. Trying to get kids to eat can be like pulling teeth, but have you ever looked at a ketchup nutritional label? You probably don’t even need to do more than taste it to know there’s a lot of added sugar. If you or your child loves ketchup, you might try adding some plain yogurt or sour cream to it in order to reduce the amount of sugar. This is a trick I try with my both myself and daughter with great success!
Flavored Coffee Creamer – I know, this is a tough one. While I love flavored creamer and do have it occasionally, I’ve mostly made the switch to using half and half. This allows me to enjoy my coffee sugar-free and with zero guilt. Yes, I know half and half isn’t low in calories or fat, but it has zero added sugar, which is what I’m striving for right now. Like many of these other ideas, try making the switch by using some flavored creamer and some half and half and slowly reduce the amount of flavored creamer.
Three Minute Apple Cinnamon Oatmeal
1/2 cup Old Fashioned Oats
1 cup milk (I prefer 2% – you can also do 1/2 milk and 1/2 water)
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 small container unsweetened applesauce
Add oats and milk to a microwave-safe bowl, which holds at least five cups. Microwave mixture for three minutes. Stir in cinnamon and applesauce. Cool about five minutes and serve. You can also add other mix-ins like ground flax seeds, nuts or raisins. In the fall, I like to substitute a few tablespoons of pumpkin for the applesauce and even a mashed banana adds sweetness without any added sugar.