Even the most health-conscious parents occasionally have a hard time saying "no" to sweet treats for their kids. Now imagine the sugary temptations children face on a daily basis. However, that doesn't have to be the case. Simply replacing unhealthy ingredients with healthier alternatives, opting for nutritionally balanced snacks, or setting aside a bit of time once a week to prepare your family’s sweet, but healthier, indulgence will satisfy any lurking sugar monster… And make you feel like a superhero.
The Choco Monster
Chocolate does not have to be off-limits. In fact, it can even be healthy. Yes, you read that correctly. “It’s okay for kids to indulge in chocolate,” said Lori Walker Zanini, R.D., C.D.E., a registered dietitian. “Go for the healthiest type.” She suggests up to one ounce per day (three ounces for adults) of fair trade, organic dark chocolate with at least 70 percent cocoa. This type of chocolate is loaded with antioxidants and heart-healthy benefits, so you can actually feel good about letting your child indulge in this universally-loved treat.
Younger children and picky eaters may not care for the taste of dark chocolate. However, according to LIVESTRONG.COM, all forms of organic chocolate contain beneficial ingredients.
Make That Sugar Kick Last
The heavily-processed sugar found candy bars, as well as the high fructose corn syrup found in soda and other drinks, are absorbed into the body quickly. This gives kids a spike of wired energy that’s inevitably followed by a crash.
That doesn’t mean you should cut out all sugar from your children’s diets. As Bill Sears, M.D., explains it, what's important about added sugars is “the company they keep.”
“Added sugar behaves differently when partnered with ‘friends’ like protein, fat or fiber. These ‘friends’ help to steady the absorption of sugar into the body and eliminate harmful spikes in blood sugar.
Organic fruits paired with healthy proteins like yogurt keep children satisfied longer and provide energy to last an entire soccer match (or an afternoon at school). Plain or Greek yogurt is great with dried cranberries, raisins or apricots. Apple slices with almond butter slathered in between make fun, tasty sandwiches. Pair orange wedges with string cheese for a fun snack. And what’s the best part? These are anywhere, anytime sweet-tooth zappers for kids (and parents) on the go.
A Better Breakfast
Saturday mornings are fun because of sleeping in, cartoons and pancakes. But that last treat, while usually not terribly healthy, doesn’t have to be bad for you. There are secrets to making traditional pancakes healthy to the last syrupy bite. First, skip the all-purpose flour, which has very little nutritional value. Try hearty pancakes make of whole-wheat flour, coconut flour or oatmeal instead. Toss out old, artificial syrups from your fridge and smother on organic maple syrup, applesauce, honey or agave syrup. Add a punch of nutrition by mixing in a serving of flaxseed, or stuff pancakes with antioxidant-rich berries. For those picky eaters, you can even sneak in veggies with pureed zucchini or carrot. They will never know they’re eating something that’s good for them.
There are many temping dessert options in the frozen food aisle. But its super easy — and much healthier — to make frozen desserts yourself. For example, pass on the processed popsicles and make your own frozen watermelon pops. Mix pureed blueberries, mint or lemon zest with coconut milk to change up the popsicle flavor each week, keeping your kids’ fickle taste buds happily engaged. Zanini suggests freezing bananas and using them in different desserts, like mashed bananas with cinnamon or agave syrup. For delicious shakes, blend the frozen bananas with low-fat milk, soy milk or yogurt with one tablespoon dark chocolate chips and one tablespoon almond slivers. They're easy treats you can make Sunday night and have on hand all week long.
Every mom wants to keep her kids healthy, and she loves indulging them with the occasional treat. Following the above ideas, she can do both.
Paula Carvajal has been a journalist since 2007. She has worked for Malibu Magazine, Us Weekly and Cambio, covering major award shows and events such as the Oscars, Golden Globes, Grammys and New York Fashion Week. Carvajal received her Bachelor of Arts in communications and Spanish from Santa Clara University, as well as a Master of Arts from the University of Westminster.