Sugar for Children – how to keep the balance?

Sugar for Children – how to keep the balance?

When headlines read: Baby teeth removals ‘up 24% in a decade, it makes you realise the reality of some families and how fortunate we are to have knowledge and access to information. Are the statistics a reflection of bad parenting, neglect, lack of information or mass manipulation by media and branding?

I spoke on BBC Asian Radio recently, expressing my opinion on tackling sugar intake in children. The question posed was who is responsible? Parents, grandparents, other family members, supermarkets, product advertising?… Before I give you my opinion let’s breakdown the effects of sugar in your child and in your body.

What is processed sugar/refined sugar?

Sugar, or sucrose, is extracted from sugar cane or beets which then undergo a series of refining processes until you are left with nothing from the raw source apart from white crystal granules. There are no proteins, essential fats, vitamins or minerals in sugar: just pure energy.

Refined sugars are classified by some as potential poisons to the body. They provide only empty calories lacking in other nutrients and minerals. In addition, they can drain the body of nutrients because of their demanding digestion requirements. Too much sugar consumption can lead to insulin resistence in the body leading to metabolic malfunction, peaks in blood sugar level, fat storage, diabetes, cholesterol, liver disfunction… and the list goes on.

In addition to this, sugar is bad for the teeth, but be surprised it’s not the only culprit. Tooth decay is caused by acid-producing bacteria in your mouth that feast on carbohydrates, be it sugar from candy or starch from wholesome foods such as bread. Even crisps or raisins that get easily stuck to your teeth are a feast for the bacteria in your mouth.

Natural sugar vs refined sugar

Regarding natural sugar, all plants produce sugar as a byproduct of photosynthesis. Fruits and vegetables have sugar in the form of fructose, which is broken down more slowly by the body than sucrose. In addition, fruits and veggies boast vitamins and minerals also have fiber to slow down the digestion of their natural sugars, which leads to more stable blood sugar levels.

How to keep your children away from too much sugar?

I believe in balance! Depriving children from chocolate and candy can fire-back and lead to demanding tantrums and cravings! Especially if grandparents, aunts, uncles… entice the children with goodies not fully understanding or accepting your feelings towards the white poison.

I believe in educating children about the effects of sugar. I show images to my girls of tooth decay and show them videos on you tube of children visiting dentists and getting anaesthetic injections which work a charm as my girls hate injections (as most kids do)! I also show talk to them about diabetes (which can involve injections as well), obesity and health issues provoked by sugar consumption. This may well work for older kids or even my 4 year old simply because she wants to follow her sister’s example on everything. For the younger ones this won’t mean much!

Birthday parties are the ultimate sugar coated fun-fair for children (and adults – I must admit I do like chocolate cake)! There’s also more candy and sweets in the favour bags just to add to the madness. But where do we draw the line? Do we cut it out completely from our children’s diets or do we preserve balance. How can we say NO all the time when all the other children around are happily munching down a chocolate or sucking away at a lollipop?

The first issue I have is saying NO! The positive parenting courses I’ve been attending teach me to face the problem in a positive way of course! So I mustn’t use a negative approach which doesn’t make life easier. It’s tantrum VS patience!

So this is how 15min Mom approaches the situation(s):

Situation 1:

Kri (age 6) ‘But mommy other children are allowed to have candy floss why can’t I?’

15min Mom (wouldn’t mind candy floss myself but focus mommy – sugar is the enemy and at 5pm the overdose may mean a late night and too much energy)

Negative approach – ‘sorry you can’t because mummy said so! I don’t care what other children are doing, you just listen to your mummy!’

Positive approach – ‘Oh sweets, I know it may seem unfair but it’s not treat day. How about you remember this treat and choose it for your treat day?’; ‘You know there will be birthday cake and candy in your favour bag and those are tough choices but you’re a big girl that can make the best choice so which would you rather have?’

The positive approach shows empathy towards your child and also gives them the act of responsibility and importance in making the choice! Chances are they will choose birthday cake and after a lick at the frosting, run off to join the party activities and forget all about it.

Situation 2:

Kiki (age 4) – (in a fit of tears) ‘I’m not listening to you. I want the candy floss NOW! You’re the worst mummy in the whole world!’

Negative approach – (raised voice) ‘I am not accepting this kind of behaviour. Don’t speak to mummy like that.’

Positive approach – (in an exaggerated voice matching the child’s exacerbated voice) ‘You’re so right, I’m such a bad mummy, now mummy won’t be allowed any cake!’ (a tight cuddle) ‘How about we take the candy floss with us and you can have it tomorrow if you go to bed nicely and if you’re an extra good girl tonight?’

The negative approach will just aggravate the tantrum whilst the positive approach doesn’t deny the child of the treat, instead makes them want to earn it. A little humour also helps when you agree with them about being a bad parent and empathise with their depravation.

Situation 3:

Kri & Kiki (age6 & 4) – ‘Mummy it’s the weekend and you promised we could have a treat if we behaved!’

Negative approach – ‘So sorry but you can’t have chocolate cake and ice-cream and that box of smarties!’

Postive approach – ‘Sure you can have your treat and you know our little game, every spoonful/treat you have you must drink one glass of water!’

The negative approach means you broke your promise whilst the positive approach doesn’t deny them of their weekend rights to a treat but the condition imposed will fill their tummies quicker, making them crave the sugar less and also helps their little bodies and teeth keep healthy!

The key is not nagging at your children and constantly saying NO! This becomes an empty word. It’s proven that when you empathise with your child, reason with them, talk to them like big children (and this takes time and a few good goes), eventually they become complacent.

By doing this with my girls from the very beginning has really made them more understanding towards sugar limits, its effects and consequences. Some parents probably think I’m a freak of a mother when my child goes for play dates and says ‘no thank you’ to a chocolate treat ‘because I don’t want to get diabetes!’ (slightly embarrassing!!!) or ‘I’ve had enough sugar for one day!’ (my eldest says this all the time).

Sugar guidelines a summary

I’m a strong believer that when you don’t give children any processed sugar or products containing processed sugar until the age of at least 1, chances are their taste buds won’t crave it as much. By the age of around 7 when their taste buds change again, they’re at a better age to understand and less likely to throw sugar related tantrums.

The human body needs sugar for insulin to do its job efficiently and for good energy. All this sugar can be taken from more natural sources i.e. fruit and vegetables.

There are also plenty of sugar additives that are naturally sourced and great to add to your cooking and food: jaggery, agave nectar, maple syrup, coconut sugar, unrefined sugar and some honeys. These are some examples of low GI factor sugars that don’t spike blood sugar levels.

In relation to your little one’s teeth, as soon as a tooth pops out of their gums, it needs to be brushed before bed time and in the morning twice a day and especially after milk! New hygiene guidelines state that you mustn’t rinse after brushing your teeth (especially at night) as the fluoride in the toothpaste will fight bacteria in your mouth throughout the night in the place of salivation. This goes for children and adults. Also mouthwash isn’t recommended after brushing your teeth as it rinses out the fluoride just like water does and defeats the purpose of brushing your teeth altogether.

kiki brushing teeth


*Everything you find on my blog is fruit of extensive research and personal experiences. If you like what you read on please leave a comment and please share – sharing is caring!

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1 Comment

  1. May 23, 2017 / 6:15 pm

    I loved reading this and feel exactly the same. It’s incredibly hard to be the mum that doesn’t allow their child to have certain things when others are. I just tell myself that it’s for my sons own good right now, he’s too young to know what a treat is! I don’t know if you have already read it, but I would recommend a book called ‘super food for super children’. It has fabulous recipes and imparts lots of knowledge about foods we should be feeding our little ones!