Cleaning Up Sweet Treats


It can be tricky to find the right balance of sweets in your family’s diet. Eating too much sugar can have health consequences and can displace room for nutritious foods. But, over-restricting the sweets can make children feel that they need to get in as much as possible outside of the house.

Unfortunately sugar can be addicting. And, the more sugar you eat the more you crave. Sugar comes in many forms –natural sugar in fruit, honey, maple syrup, sugar alcohols (xylitol and mannitol) and processed sugar (white table sugar, high fructose corn syrup). When choosing sweet products or recipes to make, select ones with better-for-you sweeteners, though the jury is still out on exactly which ones are the best. My favorite sweeteners are maple syrup, honey, and agave because they are sweeter than white table sugar, so you can get away with using less. No matter what sweetener you choose, recognize that these sweet foods are still treats, and they shouldn’t be over-eaten.

When it comes to treats, my go to number is to aim for 2-3 sweets per week. If a sweet dessert is a nightly tradition in your house, start by picking one night per week that is treat free and every few weeks cut back another night. You can empower your children by letting them choose which nights will be treat nights. As parents you are helping your kids to form their food habits. It is unlikely that children who are used to having ice cream every night will suddenly stop wanting dessert; it usually needs to come from an external source.  That is why it’s a good idea to get your children used to eating fewer sweets from an early age.

When it comes to dessert, treats, and celebration time, here is a list better-for you treats along with 2 of my favorite kid-friendly recipes:

Better-For-You Treats:

1). Single serving dark chocolate

2). Homemade popsicles prepared with blended yogurt and fresh fruit

3). 100% fruit leathers (Matt’s Munchies)

4). Banana “ice cream” prepared by blending frozen bananas with a splash of milk and vanilla extract

5). Fruit snacks made with no food coloring or dyes (Annie’s Bunny Fruit Snacks)

6). Strawberries and pineapple dipped in chocolate

7). Cookies made with apple sauce in place of white sugar

8). Low fat chocolate pudding

9). Sorbet bars with under 15 grams of sugar (Chloe’s Soft Serve Fruit Pops)

10). Fruit based crumbles

Check back each week as we dish out our June recipe series: Better-for-you sweets to enjoy with the entire family.

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About Nicole Silber

Nicole Silber, RD, CSP, CLC is a registered dietitian, board certified specialist in pediatric nutrition and certified lactation counselor. Nicole has worked with hundreds of children and families with chronic medical conditions, food allergies, picky eating, oral-motor and processing disorders, infant nutrition, breastfeeding, gastrointestinal conditions, prematurity, underweight and obesity. She works in private practice in New York City and also serves as Pediatric Nutrition Expert for Beech-Nut baby foods. Prior to her current roles she was a clinical nutritionist at the Morgan Stanley Children’s Hospital at New York-Presbyterian/Columbia and New York University Fink Children’s Ambulatory Care Center.

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