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Cutting Back on Sweets

Sweets and candy are year-round temptations, but they can be particularly hard to avoid around holidays. A few handy tips can help you and your family develop good nutrition habits and help sweets stay "treats," not the norm.

Limit Added Sugars

Sugary foods and drinks have lots of calories but few nutrients. Most added sugars come from sodas, sports and energy drinks, cakes and cookies, ice cream, and other desserts.

The simplest way to cut out added-sugars is to not buy those products. If those foods are not in your home, it's easier to avoid eating them.

Tips to Avoid Added Sugars

  • Serve small portions. Use smaller bowls and plates for desserts. Share portions with other family members.
  • Choose alternatives. Drink water, 100% juice, or fat-free milk instead of sodas and sugary drinks.
  • Use checkout lines without candy displays. Waiting in a candy-free line makes it easier to walk out of the store without a last-minute sweet purchase.
  • Avoid offering sweets as rewards. Offering sweets as a reward for good behavior gives children the impression that sweets are better than other foods.
  • Use fruits for desserts. Have baked apples or pears, fruit salad, or frozen 100% fruit juice bars instead of high-calorie desserts.
  • Have fun with your food. Sugary snacks and desserts are marketed as fun foods. Be creative with your food preparation (cut food into fun shapes or decorate them in funky ways) and cook as a family to enjoy healthy meals.
  • Invent new snacks. Make your own snack mixes from dry whole-grain cereal, dried fruit, and unsalted nuts.
  • Play detective in the grocery aisles. Create a challenge game for yourself and your kids to compare foods you like and pick the ones with the lowest sugars.
  • Consider sweets as extras. Keep in mind that sweets shouldn't replace mealtime foods.
  • Keep treats "treats." You don't have to cut out sweets completely. But be aware of how often you eat them.

More Information

The USDA's MyPlate nutrition outreach has easy and quick information on nutritious food habits for you and your family.

Contact your local Extension office for nutrition information and healthy eating ideas.

Adapted and excerpted from:

"Cut Back on Your Kid's Sweet Treats," United States Department of Agriculture (06/2011).

Foods on a grill

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