Cut Your Toddler’s Sugar Intake with This Simple Strategy

updated Sep 30, 2020
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(Image credit: Kelli Foster)

When my child turned 1, it suddenly seemed like the world was conspiring to up her sugar intake. There were lollipops at the supermarket (and the bank), bowls of candy at family nights in our town square, birthday cupcakes at daycare, and fruit snacks at the playground. I had so much sugar anxiety that I once seriously debated skipping a friend’s party when I learned there would be store-bought cupcakes piled high with bright-blue frosting.

But I’ve learned to relax about sugar — much to the relief of my entire family. Here’s how.

I’ve virtually stopped buying packaged snack foods to eat at our own house. And before you think that I’m some kind of super-mama who has time to scratch-bake crackers and whip up homemade fruit snacks each week, I’m not. (Although I will admit to doing both on the very rare occasion that the mood for a kitchen project strikes.) I’m busy, just like everyone else, but I’ve found that shifting our snack and dessert intake to more whole foods makes me much more relaxed about what my daughter eats when we’re out in the world.

Of course, the last thing I want to do is create a situation where certain foods are off-limits or “bad” — but this really isn’t that. It’s more that cupcakes, lollipops, fruit snacks, cheese crackers, and the like are a “sometimes” food, rather than ones we eat every day.

(Image credit: Faith Durand)

For now, she doesn’t even seem to notice. There’s rarely any fuss about what we’re having for snacks, and she almost never requests cheddar crackers, fruit snacks, or other sweet treats without being prompted. She will, of course, if she sees another kiddo with them, but they are not part of her daily world like they once were. (Bonus: This approach to snacking is also easier on the budget.)

If you’re wondering what sort of snacks my daughter likes to eat, there’s really no shortage of options. She loves chickpeas (either plain or lightly roasted), hummus with veggie dippers, sliced cheese, raw snap peas, dried fruit, frozen peas, sliced pears or apples put onto lollipop sticks, nut butter, yogurt popsicles, cubed summer sausage, homemade muffins, and energy bites.

I know there will likely come a day when she will demand Dora the Explorer fruit snacks, or at least that I will have to explain what the cartoon heroine is doing on a box at the grocery store. But until then, we’re going to stick to the outer aisles of the supermarket — and thoroughly enjoy the birthday treats whenever we’re invited to a party.