What Sugars Are Good For Kids?
When Should We Start Giving Children Sweets?
When is it appropriate to include sweets in a child's diet and what are the sweet alternatives? We will talk about what carbohydrates they should eat, how to divide them, which are healthy and essential for their diet and what, we should limit.
Children like sweet tastes. Breast milk is also sweet. Maybe that's why it seems natural to us that children should eat sweeter foods and we tend to sweeten everything for them. However, when they start tasting their first dishes with vegetables, meat and fruit, they eat everything even without added sugar.
As they get to know and discover the world over time, they want what they see older children have, whether siblings or friends. Some of us reward children with sweets for doing something good such as eating the whole main meal and so on. That's okay to some extent, but from what age is it good to start rewarding?
Is there a difference between sugars and carbohydrates, or are they the same?
They‘re not. Carbohydrates come in many forms. There are compound carbohydrates that come mostly from whole grains, legumes and vegetables. Then there are the simple carbohydrates or sugars contained in fruit and in side dishes such as pasta or rice, and also in white bread.
And what about sugar?
There’s white, refined, but there’s also cane. This is also a simple sugar and the body definitely needs such sugars, because they can quickly supply it with energy. But it should not be the main component of any diet, let alone children's.
What about the sugar in sweets?
This is also a simple sugar, but it's tricky in that it often does not go into the child's tummy alone, but is surrounded by other unnecessary and unhealthy substances. A prime example is fat, because the food industry knows it intensifies the taste and delicacy. Because a lot of sweets are also supposed to be durable, they are fats that are not suitable for adults, let alone children. Consumption of sugar also has other consequences.
I know three-year-old children who drink sugary drinks and lollipops on the couch watching fairy tales, every day. Yes, these are extremes, but an unbalanced supply of sugar is often the culprit of "lazy children". Quick sugars immediately raise blood sugar levels, but they also digest quickly, so your baby may be hungry very soon after a candy snack. All of this creates bad eating habits at an early age, which children carry on into adulthood. This can end in obesity and subsequent health problems. That is if they do not manifest themselves in childhood. One-year-old children certainly won‘t see it this way, but if they cry and you give them a biscuit as a "patch", it will be sweets that affect them in the future. In fifteen, twenty or later when they will be standing on the scales and crying that they cannot stop eating sweets.
Instead of sweets, when they are crying - hug them, let them cry and then offer them sweets, in an emotionally calm state. This is very important. And as a reward, they gain important life experience. Only then will they perceive food purely as a source of energy and as a tool for their growth and development.
We have receipts for healthy snacks for children. Learn more, here.
When To Start With Sweets?
In the first 18 months sweets should be taboo. Children don't need sweets at all. In my opinion, everything is good in moderation. My son started getting something sweet here and there after around a year and a half. To this day, a few sweets play an important part of his daily routine, which I manage as best I can. He‘s learned that when we go to the shops, he can only choose one thing. When he eats his main meal nicely, he is allowed something small, which he can choose for himself. It took a while, but over time he learned and can do it without a hysterical scene. I see in my children how important it is to have rules set. Here you go, but that's enough. I set limits that I adhere to. I don't think keeping kids away from sweets is a solution either. One day they will go to nursery and then to school and so they will come into contact with sweets.
I have a friend who keeps children well away from sweets. The result is that when they go somewhere to visit, the children throw themselves at sweets and are able to eat everything on the table. On the other hand, my son, who is used to little sweets after he eats his meal, takes a small amount and continues to play. Sweets are no rarity for him. I find compromises. There is a middle ground. And if you are not a supporter of classic sweets, then there are alternatives that can be enjoyed not only by your children but by the whole family.
What Are The Alternatives To Sweets?
You can eat healthy sweets. The sweet taste is abundant in the realm of food in fresh and dried fruits, carrots and corn.
Fruit can be arranged very enticingly on a plate and with a little dexterity we can conjure up characters from fairy tales, animals or flowers. The colourful fruit attracts children and makes it easier for them to get used to it as a normal and tasty part of the diet. The diet can also be enriched with nuts. Almonds, pistachios, peanuts, walnuts, hazelnuts and Brazil nuts should be given to older children more often. They contain healthy fats and are a source of fiber and minerals. However, be careful when giving them to children under three years of age! There is a risk of inhalation, so watch them while eating.
When it comes to classic sweets like chocolate, sweets or bars, you don't have to omit them from the menu, it only pays to choose quality over quantity. Preference should be given to quality chocolate with a higher proportion of cocoa, and not the cheaper substitutes. Whole-grain biscuits or muesli bars without icing are also a good choice.
As for drinking, I think that if kids have a little sweet, then they don't need to be served sweet drinks. Our family drinks mostly water, sometimes sparkling, sometimes not. Once in a while, I buy children quality fruit syrup with minimal sugar or diluted fruit juice.