Top 10 Tips On How To Break Your Child’s Sugar Addiction

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There is nothing better than seeing our children happy. So you can understand the reasoning when you see parents give in to their children’s plea for candy, cakes and ice cream but at what expense. In this post I share the latest information on children’s sugar addiction and what I’ve learned from raising mindful eaters + my top 10 tips on how to breaking your child’s sugar addiction. 

Top 10 Tips On How To Break Your Child’s Sugar Addiction

 
Well, as it turns out, we all have a natural craving for sugar. It’s part of our survival programming and is most heightened during childhood and the adolescent years. We know how sugar affects the body and that eating processed sugar is bad and highly addictive but many parents believe that since the child is young it’s not a big deal. 
I remember when my son first went potty in the toilet. We were so proud! We danced around, cheered, and gave him cookies & ice cream. He loved it and we thought it was ok but if we are being honestly the amount of sugar we gave him that day was ridiculous. It was beyond what any adult could handle, so I can only imagine what was going on in his little body after eating all that sugar. I wanted to show him we were proud, but was all that sugar really the best way to do that?  

57 Hidden Sugar Names 

Sugar: A trick or a treat?

Many of us parents use sugar as a reward and we justify that it’s ok because we do it only occasionally. I’m not pointing fingers because I did it too, but the reality is that what may look like an occasional treat actually turns into a daily habit. Think about what the average child eats for breakfast alone. Usually they start their day with cereal, maybe some orange juice, and then a grab and go snack. All of which contain high amount of sugar, and that how we start the day? This was the norm in my household growing up, and is still what the average child eats now a days. 
A new report from the CDC finds that 16% of our children’s daily calorie consumption comes from added sugar and it only seems to grow more as they get older. 
Sugar is so immediately addictive that it’s rare that you give a child a cookie and they are satisfied with just one, so soon after the first, they ask for another and then another. This creates unhealthy habits that follow them into adulthood.
 

How to tell if your child is addicted to sugar?

We all have witnessed the scene after giving our child something high in sugar. Usually they get hyper and jump around the house while making a big mess. Then they either pass out asleep or they end up so moody you send them to bed anyway. It’s hard to pin point the characteristics of a sugar addicted child. Many factors come into play when you are looking at a child’s behavior to see if sugar is the underlining cause of those behaviors. If you think your child might be sugar addicted, chances are that they:
  • regularly eats large amounts of sugar
  • stays up late
  • experience frequent mood swings
  • constantly hungry
  • difficulty focusing or paying attention 
  • picky eaters
 
What I tell parents who are unsure is to test it firsthand. Eliminate processed sugar for a week and see how they react. This means: fruit juices, cereals, pop tarts, jelly, pancakes, waffles, cereal bars, chips, breads, pastas, cookies, candies, ice creams, frozen yogurt, and the many other products that are being sold now that have a high processed sugar content.
See how your children react to this change. If you notice a change in their behavior, know that you can teach them to overcome these bad habits. All you need is some patience and a lot of love and understanding.

Top 10 Tips on How to Break Your Child’s Sugar Addiction!

  1. Lead by example.  Our children learn about life, love and yes, even food, from us, the parents. So, if you’re wanting to create healthier eating habits in your children you have to first start with yourself. Do you snack on sweets often?  Is dessert a must after dinner? You can’t say one thing and do another. Show them that if you care then they should too. Take steps for yourself to be the model of healthy eating.
  2. Start early.  Eating habits start even before birth, so the sooner you start this journey the better.  If you can, limit the amount of sugar your child eats starting at birth. They don’t need to eat candy, cakes, and ice cream to have a memorable childhood. Teach your children to have a healthy relationship with sugar at an early age. And if your child is well into preteens you still have time. Start now!
  3. Focus on health.  Don’t talk with your children about weight gain, being over weight, or trying a weight loss program. Just focus on health. Children who are exposed to weight talk at an early age have a higher risk of developing an eating disorder and/or engaging in dangerous weight control behaviors. Instead, teach health. Show them that eating healthy is a valuable priority to have and can be the foundation to a long and happy life.
  4. Allow freedom of choice.  I believe that each child is capable of making healthy food choices, just as long as the parents are providing the proper support and encouragement. When we educate our children in what proper nutrition consists of and provide a range of healthy foods for them to eat, they will, over time, learn to make healthy choices around food. This is a great way to take the pressure off the parents so that when your child does make a poor food choice, you can be confident that you showed up and did your part as a parent and with time your child will follow.
  5. Teach them to listen to their bodies.  As your children get healthier, they will begin to notice the foods that affect them negatively, like sugar. Show them how their mood and body changes. Help them to notice the difference between what healthy sugar, like an apple, feels like and what the processed sugar, like a cookie, feels like. Show them the addictive behaviors of sugar and how it will affect them. Children are smarter than we think and when presented with proper information, they are capable of making smart choices.
  6. Investigate Labels.  You probably are aware of the power you have when reading a food label. Why not give this power to your children.  Teach them to read food labels at an early age. Show them what is in the food they buy and/or want to buy. Teach them the many faces of sugar and talk with them about why it’s added into almost everything we buy. Give them the knowledge to make wise choices around food.
  7. Prepare meals as a family.  When you prepare meals as a family you give them opportunities to have control in what they are eating so they will be more enthused about eating the healthy food they made. Studies have shown that children who eat the same meals as their parents tend to have healthier diets. So preparing and eating healthy food as a family models healthy habits. We have a lot of healthy vegan recipes on this site that you can browse if you click here or if you prefer a cookbook, you can check out the selection on Amazon for some inspiration by clicking here.
  8. Create a sugar free home.  Make your home a healthy place for them to roam. Limiting the sugar in your household is a must for children who are struggling with sugar cravings. Have healthy snacks for them like fresh fruit, raw nuts and/or trail mix. These are healthy alternatives to processed snacks. We often do sweet fruit, dates, and sometimes maple for our children when they are craving something sweet. Find a healthy alternative for your child.
  9. Push for produce.  Having less processed sweets in the house, your children will naturally gravitate to foods that have a natural sweetness. Always push them toward the freshest alternative…fruits and veggies! Make sure they are getting proper nutrients, such as carbs, proteins, and good fats in their bodies. Eating healthy foods with give them a natural energy boost without the scary sugar spike.
  10. If you fail to plan, you plan to fail!  This one is always the most important. There are so many situations out there that will expose children to high sugar, high processed foods, so have a plan for each situation. Think ahead about birthday parties, school functions, and even soccer snacks. Have a plan that works for you and your children. Pack their food, eat before you go, buy a special treat for them to have while at the party. Find a way to support healthy habits and allow them to get involved. Talk to them about the plan and listen to their suggestions. Children are fully capable of making smart choices when they are taught.  

Need More Help?

Resources I recommend…

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Let’s Chat!

I’d love to hear what you are doing to break your child’s sugar addiction and encouraging them to have a healthy relationship with food. Comment and share below, and stay tuned for more tips and resources on eating well!

Hugs,
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25 Comments

  • MY LITTLE SUGAR MONSTER: ???????????? …..SO…….2 years of organic food and breast milk…. 2 years of no sugar, salt and certainly no sweeties!….2 years of making every SINGLE meal fresh (aside from 5 shop bought jars which he hated!)…I make my own yogurt & bread & yogurt/honey/fruit ice lollies…. my own fruit pouches….????????????????????, my own Kefir, my own mouthwash, hair spray, hand cream, eye make-up remover…whoops i digress… I myself never eat puddings EVER… I rarely eat sweets chocolate or crisps, and we have a soda siphon for those odd fizzy drink cravings (sparkling water) with fruit or a splash of fresh fruit juice…..SUGARY DRINKS DO NOT ENTER MY DOMAIN!! (Diabetic dad so we never had them!)……after all that….???????????????? in year 3…I now suddenly have a sugar/ crisp addict monster!! ???????? I was even told off by a friend for “never giving him an ice cream” when we are out, or never ever doing puddings after his dinner, “only fruit???!! That’s not a pudding!!”…my family smirked as I said “please dont give him that” to crisps and sweets, like I was some sort of crazed mad dietician-scientist-stop-ruining-his-childhood Mummy. This snack=I love you ❤️❤️ So I lightened up..bought him some fromage frais, started to make his own little pots of jelly, and gave him the odd bowl of crisps at home, and lollipops if we were out!!…..However, if I give him the odd treat…and nursery give him the odd treat..and friends give him the odd treat…and uncle jonny & granny & grandad give him the odd treat…. this all builds up collectively into…..wait for it….. A LOT OF TREATS!!!! And my resulting, moood swingy, irritable “MORE CRISPS MUMMY!!!! WAAAAAAAA!!!!” screaming-for-an-hour little human being I no longer recognise!! ????????..so anyway..the week of COLD TURKEY begins….iwww nuts..iww sultanas… mmm rice cakes (yay!) …iwww fruit…. oh mummy you’re no fun….wish me luck people!!!.. ???????????????? Thanks for your post, even though I knew a lot of this already I need to reinfornce it with myself AGAIN….and our other houseguests!! xx

    Reply
  • Thank you very much for these tips! Its very frustrating! I had a not as careful diet with my first pregnancy – my child loves to be healthy … I had a very health conscious pregnancy with my second pregnancy – sugar addicted baby/toddler. My healthy pregnancy started out very well, and very healthy bloods. By midway, the placenta had stopped properly feeding my baby. Turns out that I had a rumbling appendix. I wonder if the placenta was protecting baby from the toxins. .. And now I have a sugar-addicted child. I do wonder if he gut health was weakened by this pregnancy, and not yet fully recovered. I work on healing his gut all the time, but its still an uphill battle!

    Reply
  • My grandson ,
    Is 15.5 he has a sugar addiction & had 3 litres of orange juice which in total worked @ 85 grams @ our house , but goodness knows what he had before .
    At home the house is full of chocolate bars , sugar coated cereals , ice lollies & pre packed meals.
    He can be aggressive attention span is poor & dosen’t sleep is all ways hungry , I can not cope with him after he has had
    surgery drinks ; when he hasn’t been on the sugar he is a different lad .
    Regards J.M.Curry (Mrs)

    Reply
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  • None of this works in the case of my girlfriend’s 8 yr old daughter. The mother is very health conscientious, and applies all these points, but it doesnt work at all. By keeping only healthy food in the house, the daughter goes thru elaborate schemes to acquire sugar, like a drug addict. Her mother does not know that the only reason her daughter joined Girls Scouts was to get at the cookies. And the only reason she is in choir is because they sell candy in a back room.

    Reply
    • Sugar is no joke and children will go to any length to get that sugar fix. Staying consistent is very important. Don’t give up :)

      Reply
    • I could use some help/suggestions. We are a VERY healthy family (clean eating, no processed sugar, make many things from scratch, etc.) I make sure my family has ‘special treats’ that use alternatives to processed sugar but taste just as good. My 9 year makes excellent choices when not at home (most of the time). My 7 year old, another story and he’s the one that has the most issues with it. We’ve talked to him many times about eating other people’s food at school and how its are making him sick. He promises he won’t, does it anyway, lies about it and eventually comes clean because 1. I can tell he’s lying and 2. he’s still sick! School has a policy of no sharing food due to allergies. I’ve spoken to the teacher and she’s talked to him and the few kids that are sharing their pop tarts, doritos, etc, however, she’s not with them 24/7 nor is it her job to monitor that! We’ve taken away all the things that are important to him (special treats & tech) for lying & breaking promises, not because he keeps eating other people’s food. We don’t tolerate lying/breaking trust in our family. What can we do to get the behavior to stop so he can get healthy again? Any thoughts? Thank you…….

      Reply
      • Hi Kristen,
        I’m so happy you reached out for help. I totally get your struggle, my oldest son was always on board with making good healthy choices though my youngest daughter still struggles with this from time to time. Understanding the triggers first will help to properly prepare. It will take some trail and error at the beginning but being consistent is very important. Maybe even asking him how you could help him with this. I did this with my daughter and she had some really good ideas and I think because they were her ideas and not mine she was more willing to comply to them. Also since we are Homeschoolers, we even did a whole school week on the sugar industry, the affects on the body, etc… Education is very powerful but make it fun :)
        My daughter is now nine and can understand a lot more and feel the affects sugar has on her body. She will even remind me when she is going to be at a friends for lunch to pack a “special treat” in case they all have something sweet. She has her mess up too but she understand more now than ever before. It’s about progress not perfection.
        You better than anyone else will know what is right for your son but I do hope that helps.
        Hugs,
        Vanessa

        Reply
    • This is my problem. My daughter steals candy. If there is a dessert in the house, she cannot and will not stop at one portion. If I keep nothing sweet in the house (a virtual impossibility), she gets it from friends, doctors, teachers, etc. She even eats chewable vitamins, which I must have since my son cannot swallow pills. It’s out of control. I came here looking for solutions but this, while great information, isn’t going to help. I already do this and have since they were infants. She’s never been allowed juice except rarely (like once a year) or sugary drinks at all. She loves fruits and veggies and lots of healthy foods. We eat oatmeal with apples or eggs and bacon/sausage for breakfast. I’m at my wit’s end!

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  • I think these suggestions are wonderful. However, I do believe that some kids are really quite addicted to sugary and salty snacks. I have noticed a “withdrawal” syndrome such as tantrums or moodiness when my children are deprived of the processed foods they crave. It can be quite hard for parents but over time it should become easier if you stand your ground.

    Reply

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