Is sugar good for your child’s health?
This question is being asked by a mother once a day. Let’s start by understanding “sugar” better.
Sugars are carbohydrates (carbs), producing energy for the child’s body. These carbs are absorbed in the small intestine, converts to glucose by ways of the liver and then used for energy.
Sugar especially for a child must be consumed in moderation.
Too much sugar does not only affect a child’s behaviour but also his/her emotions and health. Please take into account that a child’s body does not process sugar the same way an adult body does. Sugar represses the child’s immune system and disturbs the body chemistry.
Here are a few negative health forms sugar can produce:
Ø Joint pain
Ø Gas or bloating
Ø Excessive sweating
Ø Skin problems
Ø High blood pressure
There are 2 types of carbohydrates:
- Simple carbohydrates:
- This is present in sugars for example lactose (milk sugar), sucrose (table sugar), fructose (fruit sugar) and glucose.
- Complex carbohydrates:
- This is present in vegetables and grains. This carb is therefore the fiber and starch in these products.
Healthy versus unhealthy carbohydrates.
Too many carbs may be stored as body fat. Just like everything else in life, you get stuff that is either good or bad for your health. The same motto applies to carbs. Carbs can either be healthy or unhealthy to your body.
Healthy carbs do not only supply energy but also gives the necessary nutrients that the body needs, for example brown rice, fruits and vegetables.
Unhealthy carbs contain more than 5% added sugars for example ice cream, fruit juices and sweetened yogurt. These sugars provide empty calories, there are no minerals or vitamins included.
Problems sugar can cause!
- Adult obesity as well as obesity in children is caused by an excess use of processed carbs. Processed carbs are refined sugars in foods like sweets, soda and refined grains like white rice, white flour and many pastas and breads. This processed carbs are a source of surplus calories which contributes to obesity.
- The rise in blood sugar levels are caused by those foods that contain a lot of simple sugars.
- One of the most important aspects in dental care in children is sugar. Sugar is one of the main reasons for dental caries.
When eating sugar remember the following:
- When preparing foods, use little added sugars or caloric sweeteners.
- A healthy person should use sugar in moderation and sugar should be used sparingly by a person with low calorie needs.
- Eat vegetables, grains and fiber-rich fruits.
- Always practice good oral hygiene after consuming sugar foods or beverages.
- One aspect a parent always tend to do is reward a child by giving them sweets. This is not the healthy way to go.
What if my child eats too much sugar and can’t stop!
I call this a sugar addiction. Chances are good that if your child has a sugar addiction, other family members will have it too. In order to help your child, you as a parent need to be accountable for your daily sugar intake as well.
If a parent’s sugar intake is under control, your child can be helped much easier and quicker.
Here are a few useful tips:
Ø Changing the family diet altogether, will lower your child’s sugar intake.
Ø Eat a healthy breakfast. Eat fresh fruits instead of sugary cereal.
Ø Breakfast should be eaten an hour before any activity. This reduces the risk of your child’s blood sugar level dropping. We all know what happens if your blood sugar level drops. You feel tired and sleepy, not in the mood for anything.
Ø Don’t give in to your child’s pleading words for a chocolate. Rather explain the reasons why your answer will be “no”, instead of feeling sorry for him/her. In the long run this will be worth the effort.
Ø Serve protein for lunch time, for example cheese, lean meat, nuts or poultry.
Ø Balanced meals and high-protein snacks will help your child to stay focused.
Sugar and my child’s teeth!
Minimizing the amount of sugar given to your child, will definitely prevent tooth decay. Especially in tooth decay, it is important to know how much, but more importantly how often your child eats sugar.
How often your child has acidic food and drinks affects the amount of acid that will attack the tooth enamel.
What not to do!
- A minimum amount of fizzy drinks, sweets and cakes. All the bad things that contain sugar.
- No sugary foods and drinks between meals and especially not before bedtime.
- Read the food labels. There are always hidden sugars in sauces and breakfast cereals.
What to do!
- Give your child healthier snacks like dried fruit and fresh vegetables. Why?, because they contain natural sugars. Still keep in mind, even natural sugars can cause decay if eaten in large amounts.
- Teach your child to drink water after every meal, or when eating a snack. This will neutralise the acid in the child’s mouth which will prevent tooth erosion.