Q: We have relied a lot on diet soda, sugar-free cookies and candy, and other sugar-free products as a way to satisfy our son's sweet tooth. Are there other tips that we can use to curb his craving for sweets?
A: According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (formerly the American Dietetic Association), children can safely enjoy non-caloric sweeteners like aspartame and sucralose when part of an overall healthy diet.
One way to curb your son's cravings for sweets and reliance on artificially sweetened drinks and snacks might be to tweak his carbohydrate counts to allow for a cookie, small-sized chocolate bar or other naturally-sweetened item a few times a week. If your son's sweet tooth is no longer so demanding, it may become easier to provide it with fewer and fewer indulgences, however they are sweetened.
A second strategy to dampen your son's desire for sweets is to give him snacks that offer a hint of sweetness, but come packed with fiber and, in some cases, protein and fat, for a greater sense of satisfaction between meals. Taking into account carbohydrate amounts and insulin needs, offer a cold glass of milk instead of a can of soda, slice up an apple and top it with almond butter or cheese, make "ants on a log" by spreading a spear of celery with peanut butter and scattering a few raisins on top, or pair a whole orange with a handful of nuts. Your son may feel fuller longer (reducing the chance he will come back an hour later looking for another snack), and you'll be filling his diet with healthier foods.
It's not just children with type 1 diabetes (and their parents) who struggle with the issue of how much is too much when it comes to snacks and sweets. As you make changes to your son's diet, don't forget that this is a family effort. Revamp the snack cupboard and make sure everyone -- both parents and children -- are on board for healthier treats.
--Patty Beckwith, MPH, RD, CDE, is an outpatient pediatric dietitian at Mattel Children's Hospital, UCLA.
Disclaimer: The information in these articles is not intended as medical advice. Families should check with their healthcare professionals regarding individual care.
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