You are what you eat, as the saying goes, and that means as parents, we have the added responsibility of ensuring we provide a healthy and well-balanced diet for our children.
And that can be challenging in a world where the average child consumes too many treat foods.
These foods are high in sugar, fat and salt - like biscuits, chocolate and cakes - and provide little in the way of nutrition.
9 tips for cutting down unhealthy treat foods in your toddler's diet
Eating and drinking too much added sugar, for example, puts kids at risk for obesity, tooth decay, heart disease, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes and fatty liver disease, among other health problems, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).
The AAP recommends that you aim for less than 25 grams (about 6 teaspoons) of added sugar per day for children 2 years of age and older.
So as you can see, it doesn't mean banning sugar - or other treat foods - entirely.
But as the name suggests, they should only be eaten occasionally and in small amounts.
Building healthy habits
Apart from the direct health issues, children who fill up on treats don't have room for more nourishing foods.
And that causes more problems.
So now is a good time to work on building healthy habits that will benefit your children for a life time.
And here are our tips to help you cut down on unhealthy treat foods in your toddler's diet.
- Educate: It's important that from an early age you explain that treats are something special to be enjoyed occasionally. And make sure your family and friends know your stance too so that they can help you enforce the rule.
- Make a plan: A common plan is that children are allowed one treat and only on a Sunday. Not having treats doesn't mean your child can't enjoy yummy snacks and it would be a good idea for you to make some healthy snacks together.
- Healthy alternatives: If your child is hungry and asks for a treat, you can offer them a healthy snack instead. Make sure you have plenty of fresh fruit for them. You should also leave these healthier foods in easy reach so that they can help themselves.
- Avoid triggers: It's important that you remove temptation completely so no treats in the weekly food shop for example. If you are in the supermarket, try to stay out of the treats aisles.
- Change the association: When we think of treats for our kids, we automatically think of cake or chocolate. But what of their treats were your time; time spent playing together, time at the park or the beach. This will form much healthier habits overall.
- Added sugar: Avoid serving food and drinks with added sugar to children under 2 years of age.
- Read the label: Watch out for hidden sources of added sugar in processed food like ketchup, dried cranberries, salad dressing and baked beans.
- Limit 100% fruit juice: It has more sugar per serving than whole fruit.
- Encourage time outdoors:
Setting up for the future
Limiting treats can be tough, especially when your child is telling you that all their friends get treats and that you're a mean parent.
But stay firm - your efforts are helping to set them up for a healthier life both now and the rest of their lives.