Is it Just a Treat? Your Kids and Sugar

kids and sugar, happy girl eating pink cupcake, birthday party

My favorite part of working so closely with families is that I get to help them see the small ways they can improve their loved ones’ health – especially the kids!

I am consistently asked the same questions: How can I make healthier meals for my kids? What’s your number one tip for nutrition? How can I prevent the cold and flu naturally?

There are many components to a healthy lifestyle, but I always start with a discussion about SUGAR. It’s in everything! The most loved cereal brands, juice boxes, yogurt – even processed foods that are marketed “healthy” are chock full of that sneaky devil!

I want to give you the tools to feel empowered to go against the grain to make educated nutritional choices. There are so many easy, fun ways to make the switch from sugar to healthy alternatives.

Why is sugar at the top of my veto list?

Let’s start from the beginning. For it to end up on the supermarket shelf in the products we buy, it has a long journey. The sugar cane starts as a harmless (and actually quite nutritional) plant. After harvest, it’s stripped of all its vital nutrients and fibers – only the sweetest part is taken for distribution. It then undergoes bleaching and heat alteration to become the white granules you recognize.

Why is processed food bad for our children?

The body instinctively recognizes food in its whole state. Think of it this way – an apple, a carrot, or piece of fresh fish hasn’t been altered in any way. It originates from nature, and the body knows how to digest it.

Sugar has been distorted into something the body is unable to recognize; it sees it as an invader. The body is intelligent; it will set up defenses and pull vital resources from other body systems to protect itself. If this happens once in a while, the body is prepared and can handle this disruption, however, consistent sugar intake is a different story.

A constant attack unbalances the body’s delicate system, using up resources that should be saved for regular body functions. With a lack of resources, symptoms may begin to show: mood swings, digestion imbalance, low energy levels, impaired focus, lowered immunity, and a slowing in development.

What is key to understand here is the direct correlation between the food we feed our children and their mood and behavior.

As a parent, you hold the power to make informed decisions and teach your children how to make these choices as well. Even from a young age, children are remarkably impressionable if you set a good example.

I took care of an adorable two-and-a-half-year-old boy for about two years. I worked with his parents to instill in him strong nutritional habits. One day, I took him to Hu Kitchen (his fave) to grab a snack. I couldn’t stop laughing when he, in his tiny little voice, asked the cashier behind the counter if the cupcakes had healthy ingredients. I was so excited to see him absorbing the example we had set for him. Kids really get it!

Big companies are sneaky – they know people are on the lookout for high sugar content in processed foods, so they use other terms to describe it, knowing that it’s addictive and will sell.

It’s about knowing what to look for when you read the labels: Glucose, high fructose corn syrup, evaporated cane juice, sucrose, maltodextrin, barley malt, dextrose, maltose, rice syrup, corn syrup, glucose, fruit concentrates, and beet sugar are just a few aliases. Check for ingredients ending in -ose, which implies a sugar ingredient.

I believe life is all about balance

Moderation is key when it comes to the way we feed our families. I am not suggesting we remove sugar altogether, but that we start to make mindful choices that minimize sugar content in everyday items.

Let’s gradually circulate the sugary foods out that pantry door – save them for special occasions, birthday parties or a Friday night treat! These changes will support your child’s growth and health; there are plenty of products and recipes that have removed the refined sugar for you, so swapping out the cookies will be a piece of cake! (Pun definitely intended).

Here are three ways to kickstart a change:

  1. Liquids: Keep the juice and yogurt drinks to a minimum or swap out unless it’s freshly made.
  2. Small portions are key, especially for tiny bodies.
  3. Healthy sweeteners I recommend:
  • Dates – loaded with vitamins and minerals and are easily digested
  • Bananas –  high in potassium and a great creamy alternative.
  • Raw Honey – helps protect the body from free radical damage.
  • 100% pure Maple syrup -rich with antioxidants and can reduce oxidative stress
  • Coconut sugar – low glycemic load and rich mineral content

You’ve got this!

Addison Landry is a sought-after Energetic Nutritionist and whole-food chef with 5 years of high profile nanny experience. She values working closely with families to use nutrition and healing practices to allow well-being to flourish.

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