Since childhood, the first taste that is introduced to children is sweetness. Then when they are older, small children are usually given sweets, such as candy, chocolate, tarts, and other sweet foods. No wonder if children really like and always want to eat sweet foods.
Why do children like sweet foods?
Sweet is the first taste that children like from birth. Carbohydrates stimulate the release of brain chemicals that produce positive feelings, namely serotonin. Sugar also stimulates the release of endorphins which results in a calm and relaxed response to the body. After eating sweet foods, children feel more happy and calm because they contain chemicals that can give rise to these feelings.
Not only food, small children also like sweet drinks compared to drinks that have no taste, such as water. According to the 2002 Feeding Infants and Toddlers Study (FITS), 28% of children aged 12-14 months, 37% of children aged 15-18 months, and 44% of children aged 19-24 months consumed sweet drinks, especially fruit-flavored drinks, at least once in a day. In addition, almost 50% of children aged 2-5 years consume soft drinks (Brown, 2011).
The problem comes when children want to always eat sweet foods and don't want to eat other, healthier foods. Consumption of sweet foods and beverages is associated with a decrease in intake of other nutrients. This happens because children are reluctant to eat other foods, they only want to eat sweet foods. This situation can cause children to be overweight or obese and can also lead to diseases, such as type 2 diabetes mellitus and dental caries. So it is recommended that parents limit consumption of sugary foods and drinks that contain sugar in children.
Tips to prevent sweet food addiction to children
If your child is very fond of sweet foods and has exceeded reasonable limits, then you as a parent need to limit children to eat sweet. Here are some ways to stop children from eating sweets:
- Get used to giving children small amounts of sweet food or in small portions. This can help reduce sweet food intake in children.
- Combine with other foods . By combining food, your child gets sweet foods that he likes and also nutrients from other foods. For example, combine chocolate with bananas or beans, sweetened condensed milk with a variety of fruits, and other combination menus.
- Give gum. Chewing gum can reduce the child's desire to eat excessive sweets.
- Change with fruit . If the child is wanting to eat sweet foods, try changing with fruit. By eating fruit, your child will also get fiber and nutrients, in addition to the sweetness of the fruit.
- Choose quality over quantity . Give children sweet foods that also contain other nutrients, for example, give small children chocolate size compared to large size candy.
- Make sure the child can eat sweet foods again next time . When children are not sure they will eat sweet foods again at a later time, surely they will eat large amounts of sweet food until they are satisfied. Parents can remind their children that they can eat sweet foods again at a later time while limiting the child's food intake right away.
- Aside from sweet foods, you should also be aware of sweet drinks that are consumed by children. Sugar intake increased by 20% in the past few decades, one of which contributed to sugar intake was drinks containing sugar, such as soda and bottled juice drinks. When children are often given sweet drinks, the child's threshold for sweetness becomes high. Limit sweet drinks for your child starting from not getting used to snacking on sweet drinks and ordering sweet drinks while in a restaurant. Change with water.
- Don't make sweet food a special dish (gift) for children . Try giving children special dishes that are healthier. Studies show that making sweets as a gift for children who succeed in spending vegetables also increases children's preference for the candy gift. The candy gift makes sweets a special food that is different from other foods according to children.
- Make it a habit for children to see vegetables and fruit by often providing them at home. If you have lots of canned cakes or chocolate in your jar in your house, move the food so it is out of reach of the child. Change with fruit in baskets or vegetables in baskets so that children are not familiar with these healthy foods.
- It's better to give children sweet foods made by themselves at home rather than sweet foods in the packaging. Invite children to make their own favorite cakes while teaching children about healthy food and foods that must be limited. You can tell about the adverse effects of eating too much sweet food so the child knows why they are restricted from eating sweet foods. You can also add nuts or fruits to your homemade cake and children to be more nutritious.
- Provision of Soft Drinks, Fruit Juice and Sweet Drinks for Children
- Sugar and Sweet Food in Your Child's Meal Menu
- How to Read the Nutritional Value Information Label on a Food Packaging