Today is World Diabetes Day and I’m sure we’ve been hearing and seeing a lot about diabetes and diabetes prevention but today I would like to focus on how to translate this information for our kids and their little bodies. In a previous post, I spoke about creating choices for our kids and providing alternatives but now I want to chat about how their little bodies and brains are affected by the sugar. Children are more ‘sugar sensitive’ than adults because their bodies are growing and adapting.
We already know that complex carbohydrates found in vegetables, grains and fruits are all part of a healthy diet. However, simple sugars we find in sodas, candy and many packaged snacks can harm little bodies that are still growing.
How sugar harms
An excess of sugar can depress the immune system especially in growing children. Two 12 oz. cans of soda can cause a 50% drop in the ability of white blood cells to fight bacteria. For tiny bodies that are constantly being exposed to germs and bacteria, this is very dangerous. If their bodies can’t fight the bacteria efficiently they are more likely to fall ill all the time.
Sugar affects behaviour, attention and learning in young children. Studies have shown that their behaviour and their learning deteriorates in proportion to the amount of junk sugar they consume.
Here is an example of a six year old child’s handwriting before and after a change in diet high in junk food and sugars.
Sugar craves sugar. A meal high in sugar triggers the production of excess insulin which lingers in the system and causes a craving for more sugar. So the more sugar you eat the more you want.
For a long time we have focussed on fat as a key cause of obesity but sugar promotes obesity. Many foods low in fat have high amounts of sugar to compensate for the taste. Sugary foods trigger the production of LPL, the enzyme that encourages the body to store food in fat cells. So the more sugar the more LPL in our system and the higher the chance of it being stored as fat.
As caregivers, we can shape young taste buds. We have a tendency to choose sweet over savoury or sour but we need find a way to show our kids that whole foods can be very satisfying and leave the sweet treats for special occasions. Help them to gain a healthy appreciation of the food they eat and how it can affect them.
Instead of offering a pre-packed or sugar-loaded snack try some of these alternative:
- Fresh cut fruit and dip/ nut butter/ seed butter
- Frozen grapes
- Plain yogourt with fresh fruit and granola
- Dried fruit, nuts and seeds
- Crackers and all fruit jams
Most importantly, let your kids see you enjoying whole foods.