Seven ways for kids to party without the sugar
Do your kids come back from children's parties having indulged and overdone the sugary foods and drinks? Here are some simple ways to help reduce sugar intake while party-planning, without ruining all the fun!
While you may be in control of what a toddler consumes, there comes a time in every parenting journey when you realise that, no matter how vigilant you are, you can no longer monitor everything your growing child eats. This is especially so when it comes to the sweets, cake and sugary drinks on offer at birthday parties and events they attend as they start to socialise.
Thankfully, more and more parents are becoming increasingly aware of the need to provide healthy alternatives for children celebrating birthdays. And while it does require some planning, it doesn't have to be expensive or boring.
"Some might say healthy food is the furthest thing from your mind when planning a party or another event, and you may have no desire to change that, but I'd urge you to reconsider," says Head of Vitality's nutrition strategy, Candice Smith.
Help avoid the heartache of teens struggling with their weight
"Reducing sugar at your child's party might be more time-consuming than opening a few packets and cracking a few cans. But this small effort now can help save you many years of heartache with a teenager struggling with their weight," Candice continues.
According to the 2016 Healthy Active Kids South Africa Report Card (HAKSA), South African teens consume more than 1 soft drink per day, and 3 times the recommended amount of sugar per week. Research shows, for example, that high sugar consumption leads to an increased risk for obesity in children and adolescents.
Levels of overweight and obesity continue to rise among SA children and adolescents. This is especially true for girls and children in urban settings. In a 20-year longitudinal study, South African researchers showed:
- Boys who were obese between the ages of 4 and 8 years were 20 times more likely to be obese when they were 16 to 18 years old.
- Girls who were obese between the ages of 4 and 8 years were a staggering 42 times more likely to be obese at 16 to 18 years.
Candice adds: "This is why it's especially important to use every opportunity, especially at events like birthday parties, to position wholesome food as fun in the malleable minds of your kids."
Seven ways to lower sugar intake
So you're convinced less sugar is better for your kids' health - but where to start reducing it? Try improve the nutritional value at your child's party with the following tips from Discovery Vitality dietitians Terry Harris and Candice Smith:
- Serve a selection of fresh fruit such as strawberries, melon slices, segmented naartjies or fruit kebabs.
- Swap sweet-filled party packs with small toys or get the kids to plant a seedling, herb or small flower to take home.
- Serve home-popped popcorn instead of crisps.
- Make a selection of sandwiches using brown or whole-wheat bread; then cut them into fun shapes with a cookie cutter.
- Instead of sweets as prizes for games, offer small toys such as crayons, stickers and balloons.
- Set out water jugs infused with fresh fruit or strips of cucumber so that guests can help themselves.
- For a morning party, prepare small muesli-and-yoghurt pots with a raspberry or other berries on top of each.
- Offer the cake as the sweet treat - no need for muffins and cupcakes too.