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SUGAR AND YOUR KIDS…..GOOD OR BAD?

A lot of mums are concerned about the use of sugar in their child’s diet?  Many often wonder if it can be introduced from the age of six months when complimentary foods start and even worry about the quantity to use.  Is sugar really bad for your child’s health?  Is it really poison or a harmless part of childhood? Does it make your child hyperactive?  Well…read on to find the answers to these questions.

The fact about sugar is that it can be healthful in your child’s diet in modest amounts because it is needed to fuel brain activities, but most often kids get too much sugar than is necessary or healthy.  A lot of foods kids eat already contain sugar which are high in calories but “empty calories” meaning they do not contain the nutrients your child needs to grow and develop properly.   When these foods are eaten in large amounts, they displace the nutritious foods kids need.  For example, your toddler who has a poor eating habits may want to take about three   portions of caprisone and biscuits, and you are happy because at least he is putting something in his tummy, but what he has just eaten provides his body with a lot of energy and very little nutrients to grow and function adequately.

Sugar has been found to be addictive, that is one reason why you should not be in a hurry to introduce sugar to your kids.  According to research, eating sugar foods early on makes kids crave for more faster than those who do not eat at it at all.  It has also been found to contribute to

  • Cavities by fueling the growth of the bacteria that causes them.   That is why regular brushing of the teeth especially after eating sugary foods and before going to bed is very important.
  •  Behavioral problems (hyperactivity) in kids especially when a lot of sugary foods are consumed.  When sugar enters the blood stream, a lot of insulin is produced by the body to sweep out the sugar into the body cells.  Blood sugar may then drop so quickly, making your child feel so shaky or sluggish.  Low blood sugar levels can trigger a craving for more sweets, thereby creating a vicious cycle of sugar highs and lows.  To prevent this highs and lows, look for ways to reduce the amount of sugar your child takes at a sitting –   control portion sizes, dilute fruit juices, choose treats low in sugar and make sure something healthier is eaten with sweet things like nuts, fruits and vegetables, meat, cheese, whole grains etc)
  • Childhood obesity and diabetes.  Children gain too much weight when they take in more calories than they burn.   Unfortunately sugary drinks and treats supply way too much calories above and beyond what kids need to satisfy their hunger.  Consuming this on a daily basis definitely tends towards obesity.  As much as possible, refrain from putting sugary drinks in your child’s lunch bag daily, serve them cut up fruits and vegetables instead.
  • Weakened immunity in lids by altering the balance between good and bad bacteria and decreasing the good bacteria, thereby weakening the immune system.  Sugar has also been linked to colds, cough and allergies.

How to limit your child’s sugar intake

  1. Delay the introduction of sugar to your baby. Complimentary foods does not need to have added sugar in it, this is where most kids develop their sweet tooth because mums will go the extra mile to ensure the food is eaten.  Use natural sweeteners if needed like dates and honey (one year and above).
  2. Do not make sugary treats an everyday affair.  Limit them to once a week or so
  3. Shop wisely.  Sugar is hidden in list of many ingredients as fructose, sucrose, sugar alcohols etc.  Learn to read food labels.

Written by our guest writer and nutritionist Benice Akinola

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