A Practical Parent’s Guide to Quitting Sugar

Photo: Erin Scott Photography

If you’re like most parents, your kids eat more sugar than you’d like. For most, it’s a whopping three times the daily recommended limit. A new health study, published in JAMA, shows the importance of reducing added sugar for our kids. It’s a chorus we’ve heard before. Something most of us know that we should be doing, but in the day-to-day struggle to feed our families find that it can be hard to actually do. So, what’s a practical strategy for busy parents to help their kids reduce sugar without giving up the foods they love? Here are three simple tips:

1) Sweeten Naturally

The easiest way to reduce added sugar in your favorite foods is to sweeten naturally with fruits and vegetables instead of sugar. Added sugar, like table sugar, honey, and maple syrup, is different than natural sugar found in fruits and vegetables. Fiber is the key, which helps your body process sugar in a healthier way. We need to reduce added sugar.

Choose one of your favorite family treats, and remaster it. Banana bread sweetened with dates, and zero added sugar, is an easy place to start. Get the recipe: No Sugar Banana Bread.

For special occasions, like birthdays, try this Super Moist Chocolate Cake that’s half the sugar of a boxed cake mix (and comes together quickly in your food processor). Get the recipe: Super Moist Chocolate Cake.

2) Start Your Day Right

Hidden sugars in breakfast foods, like packaged granola and flavored yogurt, can put your child over their daily limit of added sugar by breakfast. Always have one low sugar breakfast option on hand to start your kids on the right foot.

Simple grab-n-go breakfast pops are quick and easy to make. They are also infinitely customizable, so you can easily mix and match your favorite flavors. Get the recipe: Mango Coconut Froyo Pops.

Granola is one of the sneaky places where added sugar is lurking. What seems like a healthy choice can be loaded with sugar. Try sweetening your homemade granola with dates, almond butter, and toasted pecans to get the delicious flavor you crave without any added sugar. Get the recipe: Pecan Pie No Sugar Granola.

3) Cut Sugar in Your Drinks 

The best drink you can choose is water, because roughly 50% of the added sugar kids consume comes from sugar sweetened beverages like soda and energy drinks. But sometimes you want a treat and that’s okay! Homemade Hot Chocolate Blocks are rich and flavorful and clock in at half the sugar of a hot cocoa mix thanks to high quality dark chocolate and spices like cinnamon and vanilla. The recipe keeps well in the freezer, too, which makes it just as easy to prepare as a packaged mix when you want a cup of hot chocolate. Get the recipe: Homemade Hot Chocolate Blocks.

And when you don’t have time to cook, try to make smart choices at the grocery store. Read nutrition labels. Remember, there are about four grams in one teaspoon of sugar. Choose unsweetened products when you can, like unsweetened peanut butter, plain yogurt, and unsweetened apple sauce. Always avoid sugar substitutes. A simple rule: if you want a treat, cook it at home.

Jennifer Tyler Lee
Tinybeans Voices Contributor

Jennifer Tyler Lee is the award-winning author of The 52 New Foods Challenge and Crunch a Color®. In her upcoming cookbook, Half the Sugar, All the Love (Workman 2020), she shows that quitting sugar doesn’t mean giving up the foods you love. The trick is to sweeten naturally.


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