Kindergarten without sweets. Is it possible?
Why and should the kindergarten (and also the school!) say no to cakes and candy on children’s birthdays and on other celebrations - tells a nutrition specialist Guna Bīlande and a kindergarten “Creakids” manager Daina Kājiņa.
“Obesity has become a rapidly inclining social problem all around the world, also in Latvia. Especially in the last 20 years, the number of children and teenagers, who have excess weight or are obese, and this is medically defined as adiposity,” explains nutrition specialist Guna Bīlande. “For a while now, obesity problem in Latvia is not just a unreachable image coming from our TV screens and making us think that fast food and other “values” from the West culture are the problems for countries past the ocean.”
The Consequences of Too Much Sugar on the Menu
The amount of sugar consumed is one of the biggest factors to access weight. If there are 20 kids in a group and each of them bring a cake or candies for their name day and birthday, then for 40 days the kids will be eating sweets that they could have went without. There is a huge choice that even if you limit the sugar consumed at the kindergarten, most kids still consume more sugar than recommended every day. Consequences to excess sugar use can be - hyperactivity, trouble falling asleep, excess weight and other health issues. A research on children’s anthropometric parameters and school environment in Latvia made by the illness prevention and control centre in 2016 showcased that one fifth of the children are overweight or overfat and 13% of children starting the 1st grade have high body mass index (1). Children with excess weight usually become adults with excess weight.
How Much Sugar Can a Child Have Per One Day?
World Health Organization’s newest recommendations are that the amount of sugar every day should be reduced: the recommended rate every day shouldn’t be higher than 5% (it used to be 10%) of all of the consumed energy. Practically this means that a kindergartener can only consume about 3 teaspoons of sugar, including the sugar that’s added to tea or porridge. It must be noted that 3 teaspoons can be achieved even without eating candy - everyday products consist of more sugar than we imagine. By eating 220 milliliters yoghurt and 100 grams ice cream, as well as a glass of grape juice 5-6 teaspoons of sugar have been consumed (2). On the other hand, half a liter of sweetened icetea consists of 7-9 teaspoons of sugar. Truth be told, to eat completely healthy you have to remember to not only follow sugar consumption but also remember many other rules, like eating more fruit and vegetables and to eat less snacks etc.
Situations in Kindergartens
“In Latvia educational institutions havevery strict requirements regarding to children’s diet and nutrition. We are all for a healthy diet but I think this problem should also be discussed in a mindset level. To change one’s thinking we have been practicing something for 7 years already - we have declared ourselves as a kindergarten without sweets. We took this idea from an Norwegian kindergarten,” private preschool “CreaKids” manager Daina Kājiņa shares her experience. A kindergarten without sweets means that every celebration is celebrated without sweets, they aren’t brought to the kindergarten and they aren’t included in the Christmas gifts. “The most important event in a child’s birthday or name day is not the food but the honoring of the child and being all together. We have a chest for every special occasion, that consists of a crown, a cape and they have a special tray on the table. We also have a special chair for the birthday/name day person and we organize special playtime for them. If it’s the teachers special day, then she also wears the crown and the cape. The children are very happy that way! I think it is much more valueable than a piece of candy, “ believes Daina Kājiņa.
As for the sweets-free kindergarten rules, the parents are reminded every autumn meeting. And the kindergarten manager says that no parents have complained yet. It’s quite the opposite - there are parents who specifically chose our kindergarten because of the no sweets policy.
A Birthday Without Sweets? What do the Children Have to Say
“If the parents want to bring some food on their child’s special day, they can bring fruit. There are parents who give all of the children the opportunity to go to a museum, instead of bringing food. The museum is warned that there will be someone celebrating their birthday/name day and usually they provide special treatment and the kids feel awesome. Other parents organize some sort of excursion or an animator. Through this you can show children that celebrations can be different and I can see that this stance doesn’t cause any problems for the kids, they don’t even ask for sweets on their special days,” tells “Creakids” manager Daina Kājiņa. While smiling she tells that children themselves carefully watch out so that the rules are followed. “For example, there was once a color experiment with “Skittles”. One of the kids said that they would like to eat them but another reminded that this is a no sweets kindergarten.”
Healthy Snack Ideas for Children’s birthdays
“Children eat with their eyes, therefore, if you make a healthy snack very appealing, it will motivate to eat the healthy snack or even try it out. Even the simplest apple can become a very elegant snack, if you make it quite fancy!” explains the nutrition specialist Guna Bīlande. Her daughter made fruit smoothies for everyone at her educational institution on her birthday - and everyone was really happy!
To break the stereotypes that healthy food is boring, here are a few alternatives to the usual candy and cakes:
- fruit skewers (grapes made into a worm or just a fruit mis etc.);
- smoothies ( there are countless variations - banana, strawberry, orange and rice milk; has to be prepared before serving);
- bars of vegetables with hummus or a yogurth sauce;
- apple baked in the oven with a berry sauce and yogurth;
- dried fruit and nut truffles (an example: dates, dried cranberries, almonds, pumpkin seeds and coco);
- homemade chips ( for example, beets, parsnip, sweet potatoe);
- fruit, berry, bee bread pastilles (could be bought at the store or can be homemade: blend fruit and berries, heat it up a little bit to reduce the moistness, lay it out on a cooking tray and dry it in the oven. Afterwards you can use shape cutters or just roll them up);
- homemade whole wheat oat cookies with apple and raisins;
- homemade popcorn bags;
- “dressed up” fruit ( apple ninjas, banana gnomes etc.);
- dried apple and raisin necklace.