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How to Limit Children’s Sugar Intake During the Holidays

young girl eating donut outside winter

By Jack Maypole, Contributing Writer and Goddard School Educational Advisory Board Member

As the holidays come upon us, and the cornucopia of delectable desserts and candies and sweet offerings become ubiquitous from late October through Valentine’s Day, consider the following strategies on managing how much is too much for young children in terms of junky food and sugary snacks.

Is it excessive to sequester them to the kids’ table, where they might only access kale chips and dried fruit? Perhaps.

What is most important is stepping back for a moment, and thinking holistically. How many sweet or junky (and no doubt, delicious) foods or drinks do children consume on a typical day? Parents should have a sense of what a child eats. Keeping a food diary for 2 to 3 days may provide an informative snapshot towards that end.

For those kiddos who consume a larger amount of sweetened drinks, candy and junk food (say, several times a week), their parents may want to be more mindful and more vigilant in general, and work as a family to define what is reasonable. Resources like myplate.gov offer some nice resources to start that conversation. And, I’d reckon, a fair number of families may find that their children take in more sugary calories than they think.

So what to do for the holidays, then? A more pragmatic and sustainable approach of limiting sweets and sugary foods tends to eliminate free-range access to candy dishes and cabinets of findable goodies. Simply, don’t buy or leave these items around. They will be found!

Rather, during holiday gatherings, when the breaking of bread and sharing of food becomes a focal point of many family bonding sessions, buy them then, and perhaps in less mega quantity than wholesale brands would have you think you need. And, for the day or two that friends and family are about, set some ground rules and ease up a little. Perhaps if a child finishes a reasonable portion, then they earn a reasonably portioned dessert. Keep it conversational, and children will engage–and even cherish–times when the treats are allowed, and they are given a little liberty to indulge. Done thoughtfully, perhaps sharing that ‘special rules apply’ on these special days, children will understand. Limits will be set. Goodies will be had!

Bon appétit!