This month, we’re focusing on birthdays – an excellent opportunity to talk about sugar. Sugar may appear innocent and sweet, but it has a dark side that isn’t talked about very often. Based on the points below, I propose banishing sugar outright.
Nutritionally, 1g of white sugar contains about 5 calories. That’s it; there are no other nutrients. Consuming too many sugary foods or drinks can fill kids up, leaving little or no space for nutritious foods.
Sugar also wreaks havoc on natural blood sugar. When consumed, sugar creates a quick spike in blood glucose levels; this spike produces a quick burst of energy that drops almost as quickly as it started. This leaves us feeling weak, nauseous, and cranky. After that, blood sugar rises again and we start to crave the effects of sugar.
It shouldn’t come as a surprise that all this messing around with blood sugar levels can lead to diseases like diabetes. Sugar consumption has also been linked to cardiovascular disease, increased risk of cancer, and even conditions like asthma and arthritis. Sugar also damages teeth, coating them with a layer of sticky sweetness that allows bacteria to essentially throw a party in your mouth. They go to town feasting on that sugar, forming cavities in the process.
Kids also don’t know moderation or understand the concept of empty calories
Studies show mixed results on the effects of sugar in children’s behavior. I believe that this can be chalked up to genetic variability; some people are deathly allergic to peanuts and some can eat them without a problem. In the same way, some kids react badly after overdosing on sugar and others don’t seem at all affected. There are studies, however, that suggest that sugar is an addictive substance because of its effect on opioid receptors in the brain – something to consider when giving sugary drinks or treats to young children.
For all these reasons, I don’t consider sugar to be a necessary part of our diet. It’s not always realistic to completely eliminate sugar, but parents of kids under 3 should do their best to avoid giving sweets.
Why? Because children’s tastes are shaped from an early age. If they develop a taste for artificial sweetness, they’ll find other foods like vegetables completely unappealing. Kids also don’t know moderation or understand the concept of empty calories; once they try chocolate, they’ll want it every day. It’s best to leave sweets and candy to older kids, and even then only for special occasions like birthdays. There’s no reason to have those kinds of treats at home.
We all want our children to develop good eating habits for life because there will soon come a time when we won’t be able to control what they eat. Give them a head start by teaching them to enjoy the natural, healthy flavors of fruits and vegetables.
This article originally appeared on p22 in the November 2014 issue of beijingkids. To view it online for free, click here. To find out how you can obtain your own copy, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photos: Uwe Hermann (Flickr)