Sugar and Toddlers

Sugar

Admittedly, prior to having Berlin, I paid little, to no attention to the amount of sugar in my food. I would look at the fat or protein content rather than check out the possibly high amount of sugar lurking in my food. Honestly, I figured, since I didn’t eat candy bars or drink soda, my daily sugar intake must be at a healthy level. But once I began the journey of feeding solids to Berlin, I realized I was sorely mistaken and the amount of sugar I was ingesting as a relatively healthy individual was shocking.

It wasn’t until I began reading nutrition labels more closely and understanding the amount of sugar in my food,  that I discovered, by noon on any given day, I was easily downing nearly 35 grams (or 9 teaspoons) of sugar (and that only included eating one Clif Bar and drinking a homemade fruit smoothie). I sadly assumed that companies, like Clif Bar, that touted healthy living, with a belief in organic and sustainable living, were making products that were nutritious and low on simple sugars. But reality is, these bars are no healthier than a chocolate bar. In fact, the Carrot Cake bar I tricked myself into thinking was healthy, was giving me a whopping 25 grams of sugar in one serving. That is more than a Hershey’s chocolate bar by a surprising 6 grams. Shocking, right?!

Once I made this realization, I really started investigating the amount of sugar in the everyday food items I was buying for Berlin. I also began researching the scary truth about sugar’s effect on toddlers, and the actual amount of sugar that is healthy for a toddler to be ingesting per a daily basis. What I discovered was that although I am one of the more strict parents when it comes to Berlin’s diet, she too, was eating far too much sugar.

So what is a healthy amount of sugar for our toddlers to be ingesting? According to the American Heart Association, preschool age children eating a 1000 calorie diet, should be eating no more than 3 teaspoons, or 12 grams of sugar per day. The shocking reality is that toddlers are far surpassing that number, and according to the AHA are eating on average nearly 12 teaspoons (or 48 grams) of sugar daily. If you stop to think about it, that is really rather gross. Imagine taking 12 teaspoons and pouring it into your toddlers food each day, doubt you could do it with a good conscience.

So now that you know what the recommended intake is, lets look at the sugar content per serving in some of the foods toddlers are eating on a daily basis:

Stonyfield’s yoBaby organic yogurt: 13 grams
GoGo Applesauce Squeeze: 12 grams
Trader Joe’s Organic Probiotic Yogurt Smoothie: 23 grams
Happy Tot Organic fruit packets: 15-20 grams
Earth’s Best Instant Oatmeal: 8 grams
Sprout Organic Fruit Snacks: 13 grams
Nature’s Path Organic Koala Crip Cereal: 11 grams
Nature’s Path Organic Chocolate Crisp Bars: 8 grams
Plum Organics Jammy Sammy cereal bar: 11 grams

What is really sad, is that all of the above mentioned foods are organic and supposedly “healthy” brands. If you’re like me, you assume that organic products, made specifically for children, are nutritious options for your toddler. But most of these options supply your toddler with a full day’s amount of recommended sugar in just one serving.

Now lets discuss one of the biggest culprits of “through the roof” sugar levels, that are touted as a healthy option for our children, 100% juice boxes. I would say its safe to say that nearly half of children drink these on a daily basis, and I would assume that most parents think that its providing their children with the healthy nutrients that are needed each day. But in actuality, its like handing them a glass full of sugar with a bunch of unnecessary calories. To better understand this, let’s look at how juice is made. On average, it takes 3-4 medium apples to make one 8 ounce box of apple juice. Each apple has approximately 25 grams of sugar and 5 grams of healthy, much-needed fiber. The issue is, in the process of juicing, the cell walls are broken down and the fiber is eliminated, and fiber is what is needed to slow the metabolization of sugar and make you feel full. Therefore the body metabolizes the juice just the same as a sugar laden soda, wrecking havoc on your liver, and leaving you feeling hungry.

So now that you are throughly frightened, you should understand what to look for when purchasing foods for your little one. Here are the few names that sugar is hidden in:

  • High Fructose corn syrup
  • Fruit juice concentrate
  • Maple Syrup
  • Honey
  • Molasses
  • Cane sugar
  • Rice syrup
  • Anything with an “so” ending; dextrose, fructose, glucose

So how do we keep the sugar content down when its lurking everywhere? My best suggestion is to be mindful of food labels, anything with less than 5 grams of sugar is a safe bet. Serve plain, whole fat yogurt instead of fruit flavored (you can always jazz it up with some granola or whole fruit), serve whole foods; fruits, veggies and whole grains. Eliminate all empty calorie food options; juice boxes, high sugar cereals, fruit bars…and offer only water, milk or a homemade smoothie as a beverage option. Lastly, never buy anything with sugar being the number one ingredient listed on the package.

Of course, we can’t be perfect all the time. So just remember moderation is key. If your chid enjoys a high sugar fruit bar that day, watch what they eat the rest of the day. Be completley mindful of your child’s diet, you are in control of their health and are setting up their eating habits for life.



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Healthy & Quick Toddler Snacks

Coming up with healthy snack options for Berlin is a never ending quest in our home. Seeing as she eats non-stop, I have to be prepared to feed her around the clock. I whole heartedly believe in the grazing mentality for a child; allowing them to eat as they please, and eat several small portions, rather than sit down to a full meal. I trust a child’s natural intuition to eat when they are hungry, and its our job to provide them nutritious food options. But as easy as it sounds, its not so easy to come up with healthy options when your toddler is suddenly demanding food, or when you are busy out and about running errands. While the simple solution is to reach for a box of crackers or cheddar bunnies (believe me, I know!), its not providing our active toddler with the nutrients they need to sustain their ever so rapidly growing little bodies and brains.

I was recently in this snack snack rut; it was bananas, yogurt, and cheese for every meal. So I sat down and jotted a quick list of all my snack ideas so I could be better prepared. I have found it most helpful to review the list and prep her snacks in the evening. Then there is no full on toddler meltdown the next day when hunger strikes. It means less tantrums from her and fewer times being caught off guard for me. All in all, it has made our days go smoother.

Here is a roundup of my latest snack list. Please feel free to jump in and add your favorites, always loving to hear new ideas!

FruitSkewers

Apple Pizzas: Core an apple, slice, and top with almond butter and toppings of choice (granola, coconut flakes, slivered nuts, goji berries…)

Roasted fruit: top fruit of choice (peaches, plums bananas…) with butter and honey and bake at 400 degrees for 15 minutes, top with yogurt and nuts

Steamed Veggies: boil an inch of water in a small pan, add veggies and steam for 5 minutes, top with butter and unsalted Herbamare

Ants on a log: cut celery sticks in half and top with sunflower butter and raisins

Veggie chips: slice any veggie (kale, carrots, sweet potatoes or zucchini) into thin slices, top with olive oil and parmesan cheese, and bake for approx 15 mins at 350 degrees

Frozen banana: dip banana in yogurt, roll in ground flax seed or blended walnuts and freeze

Almond butter banana: spread almond butter on banana and sprinkle with coconut flakes

Tomato surprise: slice cherry tomato in half, fill with cream cheese and top with small slice of avocado

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Fruit skewers: alternate fruit with cheese on a wooden skewer

Frozen yogurt: mix yogurt with flax or chia or drizzle with honey and freeze (I freeze in reusable toddler snack packs)

Canned salmon topped with avocado (buy only wild Alaskan canned salmon)

Boiled Eggs: great to make a batch ahead and have on hand all week

Handful of sliced, organic, raw nuts: almonds, cashews, walnuts…

Raw Seeds: pumpkin, sesame, hemp…

Fresh figs topped with goat cheese or dried figs in off-season

Dried fruits: cranberries, mango, goji berries…(use sparingly as the sugar content is high and can damage toddler teeth)

Poached chicken: boil organic chicken with some bay leaves and garlic for approx 10 minutes

Frozen homemade waffles: here is a great buckwheat spinach recipe I make for Berlin all the time

Frozen homemade pancakes

Edamame

Seaweed snax

Smoothies: here is a link to one of Berlin’s favs

Hopefully this list helps you prepare for your toddler’s never ending hunger. Once again, please feel free to add any snacks you and your little one love.



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Berlin Bites: Cherry Coconut Smoothie

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Can I start off this post by saying just how excited I am that Berlin is (almost) walking! I mean, now there is no stopping this kid. Today she had her sights on a toy from across the room and bolted for it, she took over 10 consecutive steps, and was stable and sure of herself. It’s really amazing to see, brings a tear to my eye just thinking of it now.

Ok enough about Berlin’s monumental milestone, let’s talk smoothies. I have been making this one for Berlin since she began eating solids. It has the perfect amount of sweetness while being packed full of powerful nutrients. The cherries are rich in antioxidants, the almonds provide a good source of fiber and protein, and both the coconut oil and almonds are a great source of healthy fat-all of which are crucial for our young ones developing brains.

This recipe will make enough for a toddler size drink and some left over for yourself. Enjoy!

 

CherryCoconutSmoothie102

Cherry Coconut Smoothie

1 cup of almond milk (homemade is best)
1 cup of frozen organic dark sweet cherries
1 tablespoon of raw almonds
1 frozen banana
1/2 cup organic spinach
1/2 tablespoon coconut oil

Place all ingredients in a high power blender and blend until smooth.

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I am honestly not a huge fan of coconut, but I love this smoothie. If you prefer more coconut I would suggest adding a full tablespoon. I’ve also added honey and/or cinnamon to this recipe and both are great.

We are off to the wine country for the weekend, celebrating Ryan’s birthday. Can’t wait for a relaxing weekend at the hot springs! Wishing everyone a fabulous weekend.



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