We don’t let our kids eat food with sugar in it until after they’re two. And yet my nearly four-year-old loves it. Because don’t we all? So even though she’s a great eater, I have been working on a nutrition learning theme that teaches children about food but also works to drastically reduce sugar intake in kids.
How to help your kids understand which foods are healthy
There are easy ways to reduce sugar intake in kids just in daily habits and discussion you have with your children. Though most kids will always want to eat kids that aren’t great for them because sugar is so appealing, little steps at a young age make a huge difference.
- Make a small garden with your children.
Kids were made to play in the dirt and children that are engaged in gardening and work with planting, growing, and caring for food in a garden are more likely to eat said foods. It doesn’t have to be big, even just a window planter and some lettuce, you can involve your kids in the food process.
Find garden ideas based upon age here including a really unique pizza garden.
- Involve them in grocery shopping.
Making meal planning a game is a fun way to get them involved. Maybe even sit down and write out typical meals and their ingredients and you can have your child decide what’s for dinner that week. (If you take pictures of your meals and print them, this is a great way to do it with younger kids)
Having your child sit down to meal plan and write a list with you not only involves them but it opens up great discussion. So if they want to add a certain item to your list, you can talk about why you’re getting it or not getting it and let them understand why your family chooses to eat the way you do.
We especially did this in times like our first 2 weeks on whole30 as a family.
- Emphasize and make a distinction between treats, snacks, and real food.
From day one with our kids, we have made it a point to not call ice cream, candy, and other sugary items “food”. The words “food”, meal”, or when we tell them they “need to eat” are all reserved for real, whole foods and nothing that is sugar-filled or something we wouldn’t want them eating an entire serving of for every meal.
We’re also firm believers in the 80/20 eating rule where you don’t have to have perfect food 100% of the time. So we have worked on trying to talk about foods in terms of sometimes, frequently, and always eat.
Eliminating sugar from your child’s diet through play
Play is one of the best ways we can teach our children too. So pretend to cook (or even involved them in cooking) and find ways to talk about food in a fun way. Below are affiliate links to some of my favorite nutrition-based toys or tools, plus one of my printable downloads to sort and play. It is 6 pages including instructions, pictures of food, sorting mats, and a meal planning shopping list your child can do with you.
- Get my “Cut the Junk!” printable pack!
- Learning Tower to help your kids cook with you
- Wooden Play Food and play salad set
- 99¢ organic, non-gmo Seed packs Seed packs to grow in your garden
- Our favorite book from this learning theme: Eating the Alphabet
Other Nutrition Activities
- Find the Letter N is for Nutrition from 3 Boys and a Dog
- Make a Fun Food Dinosaur from Pears from Brain Power Boy
- Healthy Alternatives to Kids Junk Food for the Outdoors from FrogMom
- Growing Vegetable Soup Inspired Nutrition Activity from Pre-K Pages
- Grocery Shopping Activity from Sunny Day Family
- Healthy Meal Planning with Kids from Schooling a Monkey
- Nutrition App from iGameMom
- Healthy Nutrition Books for Kids from The Jenny Evolution
- Kids Nutrition Activities with Free Printables from Natural Beach Living
- Mud Kitchen with Stone Veggies from Parenting Chaos
- Kid’s Books about Gardening from Our Daily Craft
- Healthy Food Group Worksheets from Living Life and Learning
- Nutritional and Fun Snacks for Kids: Paw Patrol Themed Badge from Crafty Mama in ME
- Vegetable Beginning Sound Clip Cards from Simple Fun for Kids
- Bubble Wrap Painted Fruit & Veggie Puppets from Play Dough & Popsicles
Kara is an author, wife, and mother of 3 children living in Boston, MA. She has her degree in Secondary Education & Adolescent Childhood Development and is passionate about connecting with and even helping other parents on their journey to raise awesome kids!