At a time when even yogurt has come under scrutiny for its sugar content, it’s hard to know what constitutes a healthful lunch anymore.
Any way you slice it, too much sugar can be harmful for your health. The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends no more than 16 grams of sugar daily for toddlers and a maximum of 32 grams of sugar per day for teens.
Some foods that you may not consider “sweet” have more sugar than you may think. A yogurt cup and a granola bar contain about 25 grams of sugar. That’s an entire day’s worth of sugar in one seemingly nutritious snack. Add a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and a juice box, and your child may have consumed more than 50 grams of sugar before afternoon snack.
What’s a parent to do? You don’t need to replace your child’s favorite food. You don’t even need to say goodbye to any individual lunch item. However, you can moderate the total amount of sugar that’s being consumed on a daily basis by replacing just one sugary food with a savory one.
With this goal in mind, here are some great ideas for savory swaps.
• Replace yogurt with hummus and carrots.
• Swap out a peanut butter and jelly sandwich for a cheese and mustard sandwich.
• Replace fruit cups with black olives.
• Replace a juice box with water and a twist of lemon.
• Instead of a granola bar, add a serving of almonds or walnuts.
• Other savory items to try: hard boiled eggs, cubed cheese, cheese sticks, different varieties of olives, peanut butter and celery, sliced pickles and air-popped popcorn.
• For fun and flavor: Pack a put-together mini pizza kit: small pita, shredded cheese, a tablespoon of sauce and sliced or whole black olives.
• For dessert, swap out cookies for some blueberries or strawberries. Sugars in whole fruit enter the bloodstream slowly and don’t cause the same spikes in blood sugar as does junk food.
Ask your children for their input, too. This is an opportunity to talk to kids about making good food choices.