We are in the thick of sweets and treats season, and a parent can start to feel like a bit of a grinch trying to keep Halloween candy, Thanksgiving pie, and Christmas cookies out of their little one’s mouths. At West Maple, we believe that it’s not the seasonal indulgences that cause cavities, but the steady stream of sugar that sneaks into our daily lives that can cause decay.
It is absolutely daunting to try to stay ahead of what is currently considered unhealthy, and we’re proud of you for how hard you work to keep your sweetheart safe and sound! We’ve put together a list of ways sugar is sneaking into your lives on a daily basis, and how to protect your children’s hearts and oral health from becoming a casualty of food labeling.
You do your best to keep the candy moderated, fruit juices to a minimum, and sweet snacks on the sidelines, but is sugar sneaking up on you?
- Ketchup – Your child will each just about anything if it’s covered in ketchup! Chicken fingers, French Fries, roasted carrots, meatloaf, eggs, root vegetable fries… what magic does ketchup add to everything it touches that makes it all so… palatable? Well. Sugar. About a teaspoon of sugar per tablespoon of ketchup. And when you consider how much ketchup you go through in a week, you know your sweet thing is using more than that.
Try This Instead: Hummus! Pureed chickpeas with garlic can offer the same cooling effect as ketchup with a bit of a health boost. High in fiber and packed with ingredients that aid in gut health, many children enjoy it with fries, fresh veggies, on burgers and sandwiches, or as a dip for meatballs. Not into garbanzos? Try guacamole instead!
- Instant Oatmeal – You feel good about sending your child out into the world with a belly full of fiber-rich instant oatmeal! Oatmeal has been the hearty, filling breakfast go-to for generations, but the instant variety contains about 18 grams of sugar or sweetener per package. And when take an honest inventory, your child likely grabs two at a time.
Try This Instead: Use your crock pot to make overnight oats, adding apples or bananas to sweeten the pot naturally, while adding vitamins and minerals that will keep your child powered through the day!
- Heat and Eat Treats – From microwavable pizzas to canned pasta meals, if all you do is heat and eat, there’s a surprise hidden in your treat. Without mentioning the sodium added to preserve the edibility of food that should never have been in a can, most pre-made meals and snacks come with a hearty helping of heart-unhealthy sugar added. Try This Instead: Keeping veggies cut and ready in the fridge can keep your children’s mindless snacking on a healthy track between meals. Adding fresh ground almond butter adds a healthy dose of fats and proteins to keep them satisfied, and can help them focus! Leftover meals have the appeal of heat and eat, with the added benefit of being homemade, meaning that you know everything that went into it before it found its way into your fridge!
- Low-Fat, Non-fat, Fat-free – You’ve been health-conscious for a while now, so almost everything in your kitchen is gluten free, low fat, or lite. The bad news is, they’re trading the fat or gluten for something, and the only choices left are chemical additives or sugar. We’ve grown accustomed to reading only certain parts of nutrition labels, and chances are if you can’t pronounce it, you shouldn’t be eating it. And while “sugar” may not be on the ingredients list, sucralose, glucose, or any of their ugly stepsisters are all just fancy names for sugar. Try This Instead: Believe it or not, fat isn’t necessarily bad for you. In fact, some varieties are essential building blocks for brain health. Leave the fat, and whenever possible, opt for no sugar added, reduced sugar, and natural varieties. Be sure to check the label for the sneaky sugar pseudonyms while you’re at it!
- Granola – Granola has long been code for “healthy”, but why? Not only is it the absolute messiest food to try to offer your child, it is absolutely packed with sugar. Try This Instead: Make your own trailmix! Buy nuts in bulk and add only your family’s favorites. Throw in a handful of dried plums (Yes, they contain sugar, but not as much as granola which lacks the fiber, vitamins, and nutrients you’ll find in dried fruit) and a sprinkle of cinnamon.
- Bread – I know, the low-carb phenomena isn’t over, but there’s more to bread than your standard carbohydrate. Ask any Italian what they think of the American slice and they’ll usually ask if they’re eating cake. The amount of sugar in white bread is enough to shock any adult who wonders why their weight loss efforts aren’t going anywhere. Toast at breakfast, a sandwich at lunch, and garlic bread at dinner puts you above your daily dose of sugar in bread alone. We hope you weren’t hoping to grab a latte in the morning! Try This Instead: Corn tortillas contain very little sugar. Wrap your scrambled eggs with avocado and salsa for a fun huevos rancheros, add turkey, avocado, and tomato for an easy lunch wrap, and make any day Taco Tuesday!
When you look at this list, it’s easy to wonder how you yourself survived childhood. After all, weren’t peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, Chef Boyardee, and ketchup all building blocks for the person who would one day become the world’s best parent?
Absolutely. But over time, tastes, ingredients, food processing, and labeling policy all changed. Of course your mother thinks it’s fine to dose your children with Kool-Aid while you’re at work. Sugar wasn’t everywhere when you were growing up, so a glass of cold cherry sugar juice wasn’t a big deal back then.
We know you’re doing everything you can, and we will always be here to do everything we can to support you! You’re doing great, and we’re proud of you!