You may or may not still be able to relate to the intensity of your toddler’s sweet tooth. Kids naturally crave more sugar because it is high-energy fuel for growing bodies. Too much sugar is poor-quality fuel, and your toddler would benefit from less sugar and more fruit, vegetables, and grains. Your GP or dietician can help you learn what goes into a balanced diet, which usually involves limiting sugar.
Banning sugar altogether may not be the best way to monitor your toddler’s sugar intake. It’s natural to want what we can’t have, so making sugar taboo could make it more desirable. If your little one is constantly denied sweets, they could grow up desperately wanting sugar and treats, and overindulge when they’re inevitably old enough to make their own dietary decisions.
Instead, avoid labels like 'good food' or 'naughty food' and model moderation, so they understand that sugar is okay, as long as it’s not too much or too often.
Lead by example
Your child will learn to mimic your behavior, which can include eating habits. When eating around your toddler, model balanced meals, and healthy portions. You can even talk to them as you’re making a meal about what goes in the meal and why it’s good for you.
Feel free to enjoy sweets together, or let your little one enjoy a treat. Just be sure to help them understand sugar as a treat and not a food group.
Read the labels of your food. Sometimes a muesli bar looks like an easy, healthy snack, but sugar could be one of the top ingredients. Cereals and drinks are often more sugary than we may realize.
The fruit is nature’s candy!
Fruit contains natural sugars. These are still sweet and can excite a toddler’s palate! The difference between sugar in fruit and sweets is that natural fructose is very hard to over-consume. The fruit is full of fiber which can keep you fuller for longer. So, as well as being a yummy snack, the fruit is good for you.
Of course, your child can tell the difference between lollies and fruit. Often, it’s the idea of lollies which is enticing (as well as how the refined sugar tastes). Try getting excited about fruit and use it as a compromise when your little one is craving sugar.
Avoid sugar as a bribe
It can be tempting to promise chocolate or lollies to get your toddler to cooperate. Sometimes, this can condition your child to expect sugar when they do good things or think of sugar in an unhealthy way.
Try to make it clear that sugar is okay sometimes, but shouldn’t be expected often or whenever something good happens.
Let them eat cake
It’s important to develop good habits and a healthy relationship with food early on. It’s okay to be flexible at times with your toddler. Consider letting them go crazy at the lolly table with the other kids at the birthday party. Then suggest they limit their sugar intake the next day, or communicate to them that it can be nice to share desserts with friends on special occasions, but not every day.
Soon enough they’ll be making their own decisions about what to eat, so set them up now with good information about balanced diets.