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Eating too much processed sugar can wreak havoc on your health, and, worse, once you start eating too much of it, it can become addicting and make it hard for you to stop. That’s why it’s important to help your children develop healthy eating habits right from the start — so they don’t get trapped in this unhealthy cycle that can be too hard to break.

Kids love eating sugar. In fact, for most kids, it’s the only thing they will eat willingly. Here are a few tips for how you can curb sugar consumption in your toddler or pre-schooler so you don’t start this unhealthy cycle in them:

Provide Healthy Snacks Throughout the Day
When you go long periods without eating, your blood sugar crashes and the only thing you want to eat is something sweet or loaded with carbs. Your toddler is the same — only “long periods” without eating are much shorter for him. By providing healthy snacks throughout the day, you ensure that your toddler maintains healthy blood sugar levels and isn’t crying out for something sweet or starchy.

Don’t Offer Processed Sugar
One of the easiest ways to curb unhealthy sugar consumption is to simply not offer processed sugar. Instead of candies and cookies, offer alternatives with all-natural sweeteners. You can make your own treats with healthier sweeteners like honey and pure maple syrup, or you can purchase all-natural treats from a health-food store or organic baker. Of course, the most natural sweet treat you can offer is fruit.

Be Mindful of Juice
Juice seems to be the drink of choice for toddlers. However, it’s loaded with processed sugars. Even the natural versions contain much more sugar than is healthy for your toddler to have. If you must offer juice, cut it in half with water to reduce the sugar content. However, instead of serving juice, you would do better to offer your toddler water and whole milk.

Be a Role Model
The best way to teach your children to eat healthy is to be a healthy eater yourself. Set norms in your home by eating plenty of fresh fruit and veggies and limiting your own consumption of processed sugars. If your children see you eating cookies and other sweet treats, they will want to eat them, too. When they see you eating a consistently healthy diet, they will learn to do the same over time.

Excess sugar consumption can lead to unhealthy eating habits and chronic health problems, yet most toddlers and pre-schoolers would rather eat cookies than broccoli. You can use these simple tips to help you curb sugar consumption in your toddler or pre-schooler and to teach them healthier eating habits.

About the Author:
Bridget Sandorford is a freelance food and culinary writer, where recently she’s been researching a degree in restaurant management. In her spare time, she enjoys biking, painting and working on her first cookbook.

Earnest Parenting: help for parents who want healthy eating habits in their children.