Kids seem to be drawn to sugar like moths to a flame. But we all also know that too much sugar, from any source, is bad for us. As a parent, it can be very difficult to control our kids' sugar intake, so it is important to approach this challenge logically.
The first thing we need to consider is that children below a certain age do not experience sugar like we do. Under the age of four or five, our children's limit for sugar is the sky. After numerous studies in which gradual amounts of sugar was dissolved in water, it was found that older children and adults got to a point where it became “too sweet” to drink, while children under the age of five had no such limit.
So how much sugar is too much sugar? Three or four child-size servings of carbohydrate a day is usually sufficient depending on activity levels. Pairing the carbohydrate with some good healthy fats, protein and fiber, will keep your little (or big) person feeling full and happy much longer than a meal high in carbohydrates alone. For example, instead of feeding your child cereal and banana for breakfast, toast and jam for lunch, mac and cheese for dinner, and an ice cream for dessert (which are largely simple sugars), try a soft-boiled egg, toast and butter for breakfast, or gluten free oats with a splash of honey, berries of choice & topped with hemp or chia seeds. For lunch, offer a cold plate mixed with various veggies & hummus or guacamole, and some chicken slices and a piece of fruit. At dinner, try a baked sweet potato and sausage and a baked apple sprinkled with cinnamon for dessert. Trust me when I say you will have a much happier (and healthier) child on your hands!
Even too much sugar from natural sources, can cause issues. It will still spike your child's insulin, increase their sweet tooth, and alter their appetite. Especially when choosing foods for younger children, offer foods that do not taste sweet, things like nut butters, air popped popcorn & butter (or ghee), plain yogurt with berries, topped ground or finely chopped seeds, hummus and veggies, carrots & guacamole, deviled/boiled eggs, or homemade trail mix (we call it monster mix in our home). By curbing their sugar cravings and feeding them a variety of non-sweet foods we are providing their body with the nutrients they need to grow and thrive. In addition, this teaches them that sugary desserts are not everyday life.
To help your older kids make better choices, make sure to educate them about the importance of reducing sugar, and work with them to find alternatives. Your kids may dislike roasted chickpeas, but love veggies & hummus. That’s ok! Find a balance and offer a variety of options that they do like.
When permitting sugar, it is important to consider our kids' metabolic needs. Sugar and highly refined carbohydrates makes for a terrible breakfast, lunch & dinner food. Sugar at breakfast results in an energy crash and brain fog throughout the day. Prioritize protein and fiber at breakfast (refer to the examples above or head to my blog-- “Quick and Easy Breakfasts for Balanced Blood Sugar” here: https://www.helenpaquette.com/post/15-quick-and-easy-breakfast-ideas or, “Healthy Kids Breakfast Ideas” here: https://www.helenpaquette.com/post/healthy-kids-breakfast-ideas. When it comes to dinner, high carb meals and sugar may result in too much energy and affect sleep. Be sure to offer slow-release carb like quinoa, beans, root vegetables, nut butters, chickpeas etc., to help them wind down and sleep soundly.
It is important not to deprive your child of food, or food group (unless health conditions state otherwise and is necessary). Instead, show them that each food has a time, a place, and a purpose, with sugar included.
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