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Reducing Kids Sugary Snacks

Have you heard that Canadian children are consuming 5 times more sugar than they should be? Click here to read The Globe and Mail article. The author starts the article by describing how he gave his child a can of coke and 2 sugar cubes for breakfast without knowing it (providing them with sugary cereals, orange juice etc. not actually a can of coke, but the same amount of sugar). I work with many parents of young children who express the difficulties in finding snacks that aren't sugary, child friendly, and acceptable for schools (and I must agree, it can be very challenging).

According to data from the Canadian Health Community Survey, Canadian children (on average) are consuming 33 grams of sugar per day and this can add up quite easily. Think about a day's worth of meals and snacks, where is your sugar coming from? Some potential sources include: flavoured cereals, oatmeals, granola bars, snack type foods, flavoured yogurt, flavoured milk, fruit juices etc. So, having a few of these items daily can easily add up to 30 plus grams of sugar. In addition, it can be tricky for parents to identify all the different sources of sugar in packaged foods. Ingredient lists will include all sorts of names for sugar including glucose, maple syrup, honey, corn syrup, rice syrup, cane sugar and, the list goes on. This gets confusing, how many ways can we say sugar?

What can you do?

1. Avoid sugary drinks. Sugar sweetened beverages like juice, flavoured milk, pop etc. contain A LOT of sugar. For example, having 1 cup of apple juice gives you approximately 25 grams of sugar, which is more sugar than eating an apple itself. Even though some juices have no added sugar, it is still more sugar than the amount of sugar found in the fruit.

Bottom line: choose the fruit over the juice.

2. Reduce packaged foods. As mentioned in The Globe and Mail article, Dr. Hammond's research team from the University of Waterloo found that sugar was added to 66% of all packaged foods (like yogurt, breads, cookies etc.) Limiting the amount of packaged foods your child consumes is a great way to reduce sugar intake.

Bottom line: choose more whole foods and less packaged foods.

3. Remember sugar is sugar. Whether it comes from a natural source (for example, maple syrup) or is refined (white table sugar), the way your body reacts to it is the same. There are different benefits to consuming natural sources (e.g. trace minerals) but ultimately it's still sugar and the amount consumed should be limited.

Bottom line: sugar is sugar.

4. Think of snacks as mini meals. A snack doesn't always have to be a granola bar or a small packaged item, it can be a mini meal (for example a small amount of cereal with fruit and milk).

Bottom line: snacks can be a mini version of your typical daily meals.

5. Read the label. How much sugar is in one serving. My general rule of thumb is look for 8 grams or less in packaged snacks. Also, look at the ingredient list, is sugar the first or second ingredient? Is there multiple forms of sugar? If yes, there is likely A LOT of sugar in that item.

Bottom line: always read the label when selecting packaged snacks and compare between items.

Snack ideas for your little one:

This is the tricky part. You are told to reduce packaged foods, but so many child snacks come in packages. So, what are your options. Below are a few snack ideas that are healthy choices, low in added sugars, and not all from packages.

  • Fruit salad (mix together your child's favourite fruits)

  • Grapes and cubed cheese (always a classic and delicious pairing)

  • Graham crackers with yogurt/fruit spread (mix plain Greek or Skyr yogurt with a no sugar added jam and spread over graham crackers). Side note: what I love about graham crackers is the cookie like sweetness with much less sugar.

  • Cheese slices with whole grain/rice crackers. Side note: use a cookie cutter and cut the cheese slice into your child's favourite shapes.

  • Mini pizzas - use 1/2 an English muffin, top with tomato sauce, shredded cheese, and any veggie toppings. Broil in oven or toaster oven for 2-3 minutes. You can use a wrap instead and make pizza roll ups, cutting them into 1-2 inch pieces for school lunches.

  • 'Ants on a log" - celery sticks with peanut or soy butter, topped with raisins (aka ants) or dried cranberries (aka red ants).

  • Healthy mini muffins (use the small muffin tins and make 24 instead of 12). You can make a big batch, save some for lunches and freeze the rest. To check out my healthy banana muffin recipe - click here.

  • Fruit with yogurt dip

  • Raw veggies (cucumber, peppers, carrots etc.) with hummus. If your child likes pita or rice crackers they can dip those in the hummus as well.

  • Apple slices dipped in nut or soy butter and topped with their favourites (for example shredded coconut, raisins, etc.)

What other snacks do you offer your children? Please share your ideas.

Cheers to happy and healthy eating!

Until next time,

Eat Right Feel Right- Angela XO


Acton et al. (2017).Added sugar in the packaged foods and beverages available at a major Canadian retailer in 2015: a descriptive analysis-

Dave McGinn (2017). Canadian children are consuming five times more sugar than they should

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