How a 'sugar budget' helped one family eat healthier

Like most parents, Paddy Spence doesn’t want his daughters eating too much junk food. He also doesn’t want to be the dad who won’t let his kids have fun.

“At the end of the day, it’s horrible to be the parent who’s just wagging your finger and saying ‘No,’” Spence tells NBC News BETTER. “Why not let your kid make those choices herself and actually feel great about them?”
Spence, the CEO of Zevia, a popular natural diet soda brand, doesn’t tell his kids what to eat. Instead, he puts them on a “sugar budget” and lets them choose how to spend their own calories.

His kids may go over on some days, he says, which means they’ll need to figure out how to adjust their budget for the following day.

“Like any budget, it’s all about making sensible tradeoffs,” Spence says.

Spence and his wife Jerra devised the simple game to help their kids, ages 6 and 8, learn good eating habits in a way that’s fun. Their daughters are allowed to have 50 grams, or about 200 calories worth, of sugar a day, Spence says.

Spence says a sugar budget helps kids understand that healthier foods, like whole fruits and proteins, are more satisfying than sugary foods, while giving them a way to still enjoy sweets in small portions.

“As a parent I’m about controlling the overall level, and I’m not here to tell you how to consume your sugar,” he says. “And so that kind of choice is so exciting for kids because they quickly realize, technically, it’s the ice cream that’s going to win.”

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