Kids and Sugar

The stuff that I wrote about kids and sugar was recently published in this week’s Gulf Weekly newspaper in Bahrain.

I believe very strongly is this topic so I’ve posted it here for everyone to see.

Here’s what I said…

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My 5-year old son came home from school one day saying that his teacher asked him if we had any chocolate at home.  And he said no.
Like many people, his teacher wanted to know if the nutritionist’s son ever gets to eat sweets.  She wanted to know if he has a ‘normal’ childhood full of sweets and candy and ice cream. Most probably, she felt sorry for him for not having chocolates at home.

How much sugar is too much?

Sugar and Kids seem to go hand in hand.  Wherever there are kids, there are sugar and sweets.  The two have become inseparable.  And as a result, many health conditions have also become inseparable from kids.

When I was a child in primary school, we had only one or two kids in class who were overweight or wore glasses.  But I walk into classrooms today and I see something very different.  Our sugar addictions and obsessions have made sugar-related conditions part of daily life; acne, vision problems, hyperactivity, low attention spans, insomnia, obesity, lack of interest in sports, teeth problems, and much more.

Children go about their day shifting between sugary meals at home and sugary snacks at school.  For example, a typical child may start his day with sugary cereal and juice, then have a muffin or chocolate at school, then a fizzy drink with lunch, followed by dessert, a chocolate bar or biscuits in the afternoon, and maybe a sugary yoghurt with dinner. Add to that, the bigger amounts of sugar that might be ingested during a birthday party or weekends.  Their meals and snacks act like a sugar drip into their systems and their bodies get affected accordingly.

Let them enjoy their childhood

Some people say, “poor child, let him eat sweets and chocolates.  Let him enjoy his childhood.” The way I see it, the ‘poor’ child is the one eating all that sugar!  There are many other ways your child can enjoy his childhood.

Many parents and teachers will attest to the effects of sugar on their kids. The intake of processed sugar can affect vision, behaviour, skin, hormones, weight, and even immunity.  For example, kids who have sugar at recess are much harder to teach. And if you get your child to write something before and after having sugar, you’ll see the difference; the precision and attention to detail will be affected, more so if the sugar intake is continuous.  Also, many children fall sick after a birthday party where they have indulged on sugar. In fact, sugar lowers immunity for up to 15 hours, making him more prone to catching any illness.

If you control how much sugar your child is having, you would NOT be depriving him of his childhood, you would be giving him a better chance of living his life to its full potential.
I always say that an adult has a mature brain to make decisions about what he eats, how much, and when.  But a child does not.  A child will eat what he’s offered and will ask for what he is used to eating.  His brain and his judgment don’t allow him to make sound choices.  We as adults have to help our kids make better choices!  And what are we doing instead?  We are tantalising them with coloured products and sugary snacks.  We are filling them with ice creams, candy and chocolates because we ‘love them’. How is that love?

How much is too much?

As a parent, I know that it’s not easy or realistic to stop kids from eating chocolates, sugar and sweets.  The trick is knowing what to offer and when to say no.

Just like you teach your kids manners and press them to do well in school, you should also make sure they know how to respect their body and help it function at its best.

Many adults I know have a hard time putting a limit to how much dessert they have mainly because they never learned how to do it!

When you teach your children what to do around sugar, you are teaching them a life skill that will help them for the rest of their lives.

Five Crucial Sugar Tips

  • Make sugar a treat that is given once a week or only on weekends.  Believe it or not, kids usually adjust to that very quickly; it’s the parents I have a harder time convincing.
  • Make sure to choose good-quality treats such as organic dark chocolate instead of coloured candy
  • If your child already has a sugar addiction, remember that eating habits are learned, so you’ll also be able to help him unlearn his habits, learn new ones and develop new taste preferences; so don’t give up.
  • Make healthy desserts at home and involve your children.  Use natural sweeteners such as fruits, dates, raisins, etc..
  • Whenever you set a rule, always explain why you’re doing it.  Your child will understand what you’re trying to do because they also want to feel better.

In my recent book I Want Healthy Kids, I dedicate a whole chapter to sugar and many other important kids nutrition topics that you can look into.  There, you can find a lot of healthy alternatives and even some yummy recipes.  Go on over to Amazon now and buy it!  If you are in Bahrain, you can pick it up from Zen-Do Bahrain, Jashanmal, or Virgin Megastore.

Until then, stay healthy! and don’t forget to sign up on my website for more juicy stuff.

2 responses to “Kids and Sugar

  1. These are great tips. I have been reading up a lot on sugar and never realized the connection between sugar and vision problems. What I know more about is how sugar affects the teeth and oral health. Here is a great resource that offers practical tips on how to keep your kids’ mouths and teeth healthy from the newborn stage through the teen years. It’s call the Mom’s Guide (http://www.1dental.com/moms-guide/) and I am so glad to have it to reference for my two sons.

  2. Hi Alia! I absolutely love your blog and have started reading all the archives so I can properly “catch up”. I just found my way to this post and was wondering about your thoughts on Agave Syrup as a sweetener instead of traditional sugar or even honey?

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