The 21-Day Sugar Detox for Kids & Families: Overview

Those of us with kids at home may wonder whether it is possible, or even beneficial, to have our kids complete the detox with us. For most families and most kids, the answer is definitely yes, but with modifications.

Kids are growing, active beings, and their nutritional requirements (and let’s face it, their tastes) are much different from adults’. And while they often look and talk like tiny adults, nutritionally speaking, they are not. In general, kids need more carbohydrates in the form of starchy vegetables and fruit, high-quality proteins and fats (especially babies and toddlers), and they also need higher amounts of certain micronutrients such as calcium, iron, and zinc. Building a menu based on the 21-Day Sugar Detox YES list plus adding in some activity carbs will provide lots of nutrient-dense food that will feed those growing bodies.

Some of the typical detox symptoms adults experience, including headaches and fatigue, are things that kids do not need to experience. You are not truly trying to detoxify their little bodies; your goal should be to eliminate refined sugar and sweeteners, refined grain products, gluten-containing grains, and depending on your family, all grains, legumes, and/or dairy.

That said, changing your kids’ eating habits might be a painful process for everyone involved. Let me encourage you to be the parent. Think through the choices you plan to make and then talk to your kids in age-appropriate ways about why you are making changes.

It is also vital to include your spouse and any other regular caregivers in your plans so that they can support you and be on the same page.

Here are some general guidelines for including your kids on the detox:

#1 Decide whether the 21DSD is right for your family.

Have you already successfully completed a 21DSD? Is your spouse/partner on board with the program? How old are your kids? Are you mentally prepared for the challenges of completing a 21DSD as a family? These are all questions you should ask yourself BEFORE you decide to include your kids in your next 21DSD. If you feel confident and prepared to move forward, go for it! If you are hesitant, or have not completed the program on your own, you may want to step back for a bit and reevaluate whether now is the right time to do the 21DSD as a family.

#2 Feed them what you are eating.

Don’t make separate meals, but do take into consideration what your kids like to eat and try to find detox-friendly versions of those foods. It might sound harsh, but if they are hungry, they will eat. Try to always include a familiar food when introducing something new, especially for younger kids (under 7 or 8). Unless you are already a Paleo-eating family, or any of your family members already have established food intolerances/allergies, stick to the Level 1 lists, at least the first time through. This allows more freedom of food choices.

#3 Don’t worry about the limits.

Kids of all ages tend to need a larger percentage of their food intake from carbohydrates, especially as they go through the various growth periods of childhood. Allow for more starchy carbs (find ones your kids like on the list of starchy vegetables from the YES list), more fruit (yes, they can and should be eating more than one serving of fruit per day—you can give them a serving of apple and one of banana, and maybe some berries or other seasonal fruit), and more dairy if they tolerate it well. However, you must also consider that a serving for an adult is not the same as a serving for children. For example, a typical serving size for a child 2-3 years old would be roughly half that for an adult (read: a serving of green apple for you=1 apple; for your young child=1/2 a green apple). You don’t need to limit fruit, especially if it is whole, seasonal fruit, but try to get some starchy and non-starchy vegetables in the mix as well.

#4 Involve your kids in the shopping and cooking process.

If this is your first time through the detox, it might be a bit overwhelming to take them along on your first stock-up session, but ask them what kinds of vegetables they want to eat (or would like to try), what kinds of meat they like, what kinds of snacks they can’t live without (and then find an alternative if needed). Things will go much more smoothly if they are part of the decision-making process and feel that their preferences are respected.

#5 Work with their natural palate.

Kids naturally like sweet things (more than adults) and tend to dislike bitter and sour tastes. Work with this natural palate and provide foods that will nourish them but that they will accept and enjoy.

Ultimately, you can choose to involve your children in the 21-Day Sugar Detox or go through the detox on your own, but know that it is perfectly safe to remove sugars, sweeteners, and other nutrient depleting foods from their diets. They may resist at first, but they will most certainly thrive and reap the long-term benefits of a sugar-free life.

Stay tuned for more specific age-appropriate recommendations in our next #21DSDfamilies post.

If you have more questions about how to make the 21DSD successful for your family, we’re here to help! Drop us a question in the comments below. We’d love to hear from you!


Rebekah Reddy is mom to her three children (two girls, one boy), content development support member of Team Diane, and a part-time high school English/ESL teacher. She holds a BA in English with a minor in Spanish, an MA in English with an emphasis in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL), and a California teaching credential. She is also a certified Nutrition Educator, 21DSD Certified Coach, and the author of the blog Half Indian Cook through which she shares recipes and writes about food and culture in her mixed-ethnicity family. Rebekah’s passion for delicious, nutritious food has led her entire family to improved health and happiness!

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  1. Pingback: The 21-Day Sugar Detox for Kids & Families: Age-Specific Recommendations | The 21-Day Sugar Detox by Diane Sanfilippo

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