So many advise against giving toddlers a sweet treat. They say it confuses children to be treated to something unhealthy when they’re supposed to be developing healthy eating habits. This position is based on the premise that all sweet foods are unhealthy, but this is not true. There are healthy sweets out there.
How can life be good without some sweetness in it? How can you expect children to be sweet when they never get to taste it? There’s something to be said for a sweet life. There’s also something in you that wants your children to experience the delight that desserts and sweet snacks provide.
It might be a case of FOMO (millennial abbreviation for “fear of missing out”), but living life without sweets is definitely missing out.
Source of Sweetness
The taste isn’t the problem. It’s the source that is usually the culprit. When you think of sweet treats, you automatically imagine foods that are loaded with sugar.
What’s wrong with sugar? To begin with, it doesn’t offer any nutrients, so it doesn’t have a redeeming factor for any of the following negative effects it does have on the body.
- Sugar interferes with hunger- and satiety-regulating hormones, leading to increased caloric intake and, consequently, weight gain.
- It messes up metabolism, leading to much higher insulin and fat storage, suggesting strong associations between sugar and obesity.
- Besides obesity, high sugar intake is also linked to some of the most serious diseases out there, such as heart disease, cancer, and, of course, diabetes.
- Sugar is addictive, frequently causing cravings and leading to overindulging.
Something that is purportedly worse than table sugar is high fructose corn syrup (HFCS). While there hasn’t been any conclusive evidence that the body reacts differently to HFCS, making it even less healthy than sugar, it does have associations with dementia on top of all the other diseases also linked with sugar.
Nutrition advisors do point out that HFCS has lots of chemicals and contaminants, making it less wholesome than sugar. The fact that it is cheaper and is used to flavor widely acknowledged commercial junk foods like pre-packed snacks and soda definitely counts against its favor.
Safe Sugar Substitutes
If sugar and HFCS are taboo, what are the better alternatives that you can use to make sweet treats for your kids?
This is a plant with leaves that can be used as a natural sweetener. Not only is it safe, but it also offers some health benefits. It is actually known to lower blood pressure, blood sugar, as well as insulin levels. You can use this to make muffins and other baked goodies or simply to sweeten healthy smoothies.
Too much honey can also raise your blood sugar, although not as quickly as table sugar does. Unlike table sugar, however, it does have some vitamins and minerals as well as a slew of antioxidants. It also has antibacterial properties that help fight infection and inflammation.
Remember that honey is not to be given to children below one year of age because of the possible presence of botulism spores, which are harmless to older kids but toxic to infants.
3. Maple Syrup
Like honey, maple syrup is a source of important nutrients and antioxidants, providing many health benefits, but it can also raise blood sugar, although, again, not at the rate that table sugar does.
This comes from sugar cane or sugar beet juice. It has even more antioxidants and nutrients than honey and maple syrup. It is very good for bone and heart health. Nonetheless, it does come with the same warning: Consume sparingly since too much can raise blood sugar.
5. Yacon Syrup
Extracted from the yacon plant, it has fructooligosaccharides, sugar molecules not digested by the human body, which means that you get significantly fewer calories from it. These molecules are also known to reduce appetite and feed the good bacteria in the gut.
Take note that you cannot cook or bake with yacon syrup so this is best for making no-bake treats like refrigerator cake and trifle.
Life can be both sweet and healthy, so there’s no need to deprive your toddlers of sweet treats. Just make sure that the source of sweetness is wholesome and nutritious.