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Children's General Health
children's health

Nurture With Food, Not Sugar

With today’s booming food industry, it can be very hard for parents to monitor how much sugar a child eats. This is because the foods marketed towards children today are becoming significantly sweeter than before, resulting in a generation of taste buds accustomed to and reliant on sugar.

I’m not a mom just yet, but I know for a fact that no mother in her right mind would pack her child’s lunch box with nothing but four Twinkies. Most of the time we stick with the classics; maybe peanut butter and jam on whole wheat bread, a cup of apple jelly and a juice box. That sounds pretty good doesn’t it? Sure, it contains some nutrients and fiber, but did you know your child would also be getting approximately the same amount of sugar that’s in four Twinkies?

In this day and age, with today’s booming food industry, it can be very hard for parents to monitor how much sugar a child eats. This is because the foods marketed towards children today are becoming significantly sweeter than before, resulting in a generation of taste buds accustomed to and reliant on sugar.

It’s not hard to see why children love sugar – they have a preference for it as babies – but overloading them with too much sugar may not only prevent their taste buds from maturing, but may also result in the child being unable to appreciate or eat a variety of foods when they get older.

We all know the main effects of sugar on children such as behavioural changes, tooth decay and weight gain; but what is not often discussed is sugar’s effect on brain development in children.

Research suggests that children are more sugar sensitive than adults; and as the brain is growing rapidly in younger years, the effects of sugar on behaviour and learning are exaggerated. 

According to researchers at centres including the National Institutes of Health, young children who have long-term high blood sugar levels are more likely to have slower brain growth and poorer memory as adults.

So how much is considered to be excess sugar? Children’s sugar levels should be limited to up to three teaspoons per day; meaning any more than this in food and drink could potentially be affecting brain development and function.

A great way to get on top of this is to cut out processed foods from lunchboxes.

  1. Limit portions of cookies, candies or baked goods. Instead try fruit-based desserts.
  2. Limit sugary cereals. Look for whole-grain cereals that don’t have added sugar and add nuts, fruit and cinnamon if you want to jazz it up.
  3. Avoid flavoured yoghurt which have high sugar content and choose plain yoghurt instead. Try adding your own sweetness by blending in frozen berries or adding some honey.
  4. Limiting juice, sports drinks and other flavoured beverages. Stick to water and unflavoured milk.

While we are on the topic of brain function and development, did you know that 60% of a dried brain weight is fat? Sounds a bit icky, but that is why good fats are so important to brain health.

So you cut down sugar in your child’s lunchbox – what’s next? Increase good fats!

You could replace some of the sugar in their diet with good fats such as nuts or seeds and possibly some fish. Now I know fish isn’t every child’s favourite food to eat, and if you are struggling getting your little one to eat fish regularly, you may be interested in our Omega-3/DHA Fish Oil. Studies have shown that fish oil is great for brain development and function – particularly in growing children. We have also recently launched our Omega-3/DHA Children's which means the capsules are easy to swallow.

What are your day to day lunch box ideas? What are your tips for cutting out sugar in your child’s diet? We would love to hear from you!

In good health.

References:

  1. For general information on sugar’s effects on children read here. http://www.parenting.com/article/sugar-does-it-make-kids-hyper
  2. A NIH study showing how high blood sugar could be detrimental to the developing brain of young children. http://www.nih.gov/news/health/dec2014/nichd-17.htm
  3. More information on sugary drinks and its effect on memory can be seen here http://www.medicaldaily.com/sugary-drinks-may-damage-childrens-brains-so-badly-it-affects-their-memory-295558

4 Comments

  • “Very good blog article, one of your best in the recent "sugar" series Mrs. Loo-Tolsma! I just don’t understand the sentence that says "…with today’s booming food industry…" but I am guessing its how certain food product categories have grown in the last 10-20 years.  I don’t know how much orange "juice" consumption has gone up, but I think its one of the highest sugar content items that is marketed as something healthy.  For yoghurt, usually those companies are good at quickly responding to the consumers health demand, as its a food that can easily have its macronutrients manipulated.  ”

    Dave March 04 2015

  • “Sugar is turning out to be a big problem, for sure. How many people, though, including many in the ‘health’ industry, understand that even wholegrain/wholewheat bread raises blood sugar levels just as high as sugar? The abovementioned lunch is very high in sugar and it’s not just the obvious things. Wheat has a particularly easily digested carbohydrate called Amylopectin A. Wheat has many other problems as well which you can discover by a google search. Butter is also a good fat, as is coconut oil. Enjoy!”

    Robin February 28 2015

  • “Hi Robin, You bring up a good point.Yes, wheat bread and bread in general can be a stumbling block for those trying to stay sugar-safe (and thats why I used it in my bad lunch example). People often forget about easily digested carbohydrates so thank you for bringing our attention to it. Butter is definitely good in moderation, and the better choice to margarine; but my personal favourite is coconut oil.. it has so many great benefits! I hope you continue to enjoy our sugar series! In good health, Madelynn”

    Customer Relations March 10 2015

  • “Hi Dave, Thanks for the feedback. I hope you have been enjoying our series so far! My sentence regarding todays booming food industry is in reference to the significantly large number of processed foods being available on supermarket shelves. If you think back five to ten years ago, at least half of these options didnt even exist! Your thoughts on orange juice is definitely something I agree with. Often these are just orange-flavoured water masquerading as juice but even so, freshly squeezed fruit juices contain significantly high levels of sugar which is why I often promote vegetable juices instead. Yoghurt can definitely be tricky too flavoured yoghurt is often packed full of added sugar and additives.  This is especially the case with childrens yoghurt.  I like to purchase unsweetened natural yoghurt and blend in frozen berries or fresh fruit a delicious alternative in my opinion! I hope you continue staying sugar-safe :) In good health, Madelynn”

    Customer Relations March 10 2015

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