How to reduce sugar in children's diets by creating herbal tea rituals


Emily Ventura, PhD, MPH  Involving kids in food & drink choices

By Emily Ventura, PhD, MPH

Involving kids in food & drink choices

One of the best and most fun ways to get kids excited about trying new foods and drinks is to involve them in selecting and preparing them. When they feel part of the process and take ownership of it, it becomes special and meaningful to them. This works not only for getting them to try something new, but also helping get them even more excited about healthy things they are already familiar with.

My kids already enjoyed drinking herbal tea, but when I asked them to each pick out a new mug and tea blend on the Small and Wild website, they got even more excited about it. When the mugs and tea came in the mail, they couldn’t wait to make a cup and immediately had a new sense of ownership over the ritual of drinking it.

Developing a tea ritual

My eldest picked the Happy Toucan mug and my youngest the Snoozy Fox mug. So now they have their tea each night (and sometimes in the morning too) in their own special mugs. They like to put their own teabags in their mugs and time how long they brew their tea. They also like that there are specific tea blends that match their special mugs: Happy Toucan and Snoozy Fox. Once they tried the matching blends, they also wanted to branch out and try the other varieties as well, such as Jolly Croc and Merry Tiger, to mix and match, and they love them all.

2 boys with cups of tea


The benefits of herbal tea and the damaging effects of sweetened beverages

As a mom and nutrition educator, I think that incorporating herbal teas into children’s diets is beneficial on so many levels, so I am really happy that my kids have gotten even more excited about it.

I’m co-author of a new book called Sugarproof along with Dr. Michael Goran. Our book is about how our overly sweet food environment is causing silent damage to children and affecting their growth and development.

We know from the research that liquid forms of sugar, such as those found in juice and fizzy drinks, are the most damaging to the body, and we suggest that families work on reducing and eventually eliminating all sweetened beverages to optimize health and prevent chronic diseases. For example, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease is now common in children, thanks largely to the rise in consumption of beverages such as juice that is high in fructose, which has been called “alcohol without the buzz.” This condition develops slowly and silently and usually parents have no idea that their kids are at risk for it. Sugar-sweetened beverages consumption is also associated with the development of other conditions including obesity, diabetes, depression, and even eventual cognitive decline and Alzheimer’s disease.

"Herbal teas like these blends are a great alternative to plain water in that they add natural flavor without any added sugars. They can be enjoyed hot or iced and kids have fun trying new flavors."

I highly recommend inviting your kids to pick out a new type of herbal tea to try and if possible also a new mug so they can develop their own special tea ritual, stay hydrated, and avoid sugar-sweetened beverages.

For more tips on reducing sugar and getting kids excited about healthy foods and drinks, see our book Sugarproof.

Dr. Emily Ventura is a nutrition educator, public health advocate, writer, and cook. Emily has 10 years of research experience in public health with a focus on dietary strategies for the prevention of obesity, diabetes, and cancer. Advocating for access to healthy food for all children, Emily has led public health campaigns for Slow Food International as well as the Jamie Oliver Food Foundation. She currently lives in the UK with her two young sons and works as a writer and recipe developer.