How to Reduce Sugar Consumption in Children's Diets?

Reducing sugar consumption in children's diets is crucial in order to ensure that they develop good health in the medium term. Learn more.
How to Reduce Sugar Consumption in Children's Diets?
Saúl Sánchez Arias

Written and verified by the nutritionist Saúl Sánchez Arias.

Last update: 13 December, 2022

Sugar consumption in children is a matter of real concern. This ingredient has a negative effect on many biochemical and metabolic parameters and influences health in the medium and long term. It’s best to ensure a very controlled intake to avoid alterations in the state of well-being.

However, it’s not always easy to limit the presence of sugar in children’s diets. This element is frequently found in many different products. For this reason, it’s always advisable to look at nutritional labeling to choose the best option.

Tips to reduce sugar in children’s diet

The following tips will help you to significantly reduce the amount of sugar in children’s diet, which will have a positive impact on their health in the medium term.

Avoid chocolate milk at breakfast

Industrialized chocolate milk or that made with powdered soluble chocolate is one of those products with a high content of added sugars. For this reason, it’s not a good option to offer at breakfast and it’s not good to include it in your child’s regular diet.

Instead, it’s a much better idea to buy defatted dark chocolate and add a certain amount to your child’s milk. This product has flavonoids that are capable of modulating blood pressure, among other benefits. This is evidenced by research published in The Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews.

If your child finds it too bitter at first, you can also add a small amount of fruit puree or dates to the preparation. In this way, the natural sugars present in the fruits are used.

A child drinking chocolate milk.
Dark chocolate is a good option, unlike soluble cocoa. Although its flavor is much less sweet, it’s a food that stands out for its high nutritional density.

Switch cereals

Most of the breakfast cereals found in the supermarket have excessive amounts of added sugars. For this reason, it’s key to look closely at labeling to choose those that are free of this ingredient. An excellent option is oatmeal, although not everyone likes it.

Beware of dairy desserts

Eating dessert can improve children’s health, as long as it’s of good quality. The best options are fresh fruits and natural yogurts. However, in the supermarket, you can find a lot of assorted dairy desserts with excessive amounts of added sugars inside. These aren’t healthy options.

Even flavored or sweetened yogurts aren’t a good choice. Those that incorporate artificial sweeteners, even if they don’t contain many calories, are capable of harming the microbiota and the proper functioning of the metabolism.

Always prioritize natural products or even those of Greek style. To give them a sweet or crunchy touch, you can put chopped fruit inside or a handful of nuts.

Eliminate sugary soft drinks

It should be clear that the best tool to ensure a good state of hydration is mineral water. Therefore, it’s essential to avoid giving children sugary soft drinks. These are among the worst products that can be offered for metabolic health, according to a study published in the European Journal of Epidemiology.

Sugar, when administered through a liquid, has a much faster absorption. Therefore, the impact it produces on pancreatic stress is greater. In this case, there’s no fiber to delay gastric emptying or the entry of glucose into the bloodstream.

A young girl drinking from a juice box.
Sugary soft drinks are among the worst options to include in the diet of children, as they affect metabolic health. Mineral water is the best alternative to ensure good hydration.

It’s essential to reduce sugar consumption in children’s diets

As you’ve seen, reducing sugar consumption in children’s diets can have very positive effects on health in the medium term. This ingredient is present in many different ultra-processed products, so it’s best to always prioritize the intake of fresh foods.

Remember that it’s also important to promote other healthy habits in children. For example, it’s a good idea for them to engage in regular physical activity. This is a very useful tool to prevent excess weight gain and alterations in metabolic function. It’s also important to ensure a good night’s rest to promote growth and avoid problems in the child’s hormonal balance in the medium term.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • Ried, K., Fakler, P., & Stocks, N. P. (2017). Effect of cocoa on blood pressure. The Cochrane database of systematic reviews4(4), CD008893.
  • Qin, P., Li, Q., Zhao, Y., Chen, Q., Sun, X., Liu, Y., Li, H., Wang, T., Chen, X., Zhou, Q., Guo, C., Zhang, D., Tian, G., Liu, D., Qie, R., Han, M., Huang, S., Wu, X., Li, Y., Feng, Y., … Zhang, M. (2020). Sugar and artificially sweetened beverages and risk of obesity, type 2 diabetes mellitus, hypertension, and all-cause mortality: a dose-response meta-analysis of prospective cohort studies. European journal of epidemiology35(7), 655–671.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.