Is sugar the reason your child is a monster?
Sugar is BAD! As a Naturopathic Medical Doctor I know this and as a mother I worry about how much added sugar is in my children’s diet. The other day we went to visit with a friend and they had some candy on the counter… and of course they ask to have some. Too tired from lack of sleep because my youngest had been up in the middle of the night with a cold, I gave in. Needless to say an hour later my 3 year old is having a meltdown in the middle of the grocery store! This is why we as the parents need to make sure we are controlling portion size, diluting fruit juices, choosing treats low in sugar—and by making sure they eats something heartier along with sweets.
New research from the United Kingdom shows that families that self-rate as healthy and functional tend to see to it that their children limit their intake of sugary foods and drinks by the age of three or four. Frequent consumption of sugar has been linked to tooth decay, diabetes, heart disease, and obesity risk, in children and adults, so reducing consumption is considered an important public health goal both here and in Great Britain.
For the purposes of the study researchers adopted a common-sense definition of “effective family functioning: “a family environment in which the challenges of daily living are met routinely, and conflicts are resolved in a loving and supportive manner. This functionality depends on clear communication, well-defined roles for family members, and flexible behavior control.
Children from “functional families” were two-thirds more likely to have their intake of sugary beverages or treats limited to no more than four units per day, compared to children from less functional families. Although the research was conducted on families living in a section of London, it’s no great stretch to guess that the findings probably also apply here and elsewhere. Researchers concluded, “…Effective general family functioning may help reduce frequent consumption of sugary foods.”
This research comes at a time when a group of influential scientists has counseled the World Health Organization to advise that people get no more than 5% of daily calories from added sugars. Although that’s about seven teaspoons, most Westerners consume far more than that daily.
Professor Wagner Marcenes, who led the study at Queen Mary University of London, said: "Public health needs to move beyond the naïve belief that health education based on risk-awareness-raising programs alone will lead to behavioral change across the population. If these were the case, doctors and nurses would not smoke, drink above the limit and eat sweets.”
"It is crucial to understand why we crave for sugar and to identify factors that help people to deal with sugar craving. We need to focus on the wider determinants of health behavior and lifestyle, such as socio-psychological factors."
Just as children differ in body type, activity level, and temperament, there's no set measuring spoon for the right amount of sugar in their diet. At the same time, how sugar plays into various health considerations can help guide you toward the right balance for your child. Some of the harmful side effects to high sugar diets are cavities, behavioral problems, obesity, and diabetes. Protein (cheese, soy, beans, meat, nuts) and fiber (fruits, veggies, whole grains) are some of the foods to help slow the rise and fall of blood-sugar levels. So make sure that you are limiting the sweets to once a week… here are some healthy snack ideas for kids:
- Sliced apples and your choice of nut butter
- Whole wheat toast with apple butter or sugar free jam
- Healthy trail mix of unsalted nuts, raisins and other dried fruit
- Carrots and hummus dip
Sucharita Nanjappa, Mark Hector, Wagner Marcenes. Mother's Perception of General Family Functioning and Sugar Consumption of 3- and 4-Year-Old Children: The East London Family Study. Caries Research, 2015; 515 DOI: 10.1159/000431234