We’ve all heard that sugar has a negative effect on children, but do you know why? What does it really do to our kids? We want you to be armed with the knowledge to protect your kids from the effects of sugar, so we’ve put together this short guide giving you all you need to know about the negative effects of sugar, and how you can prevent it.
Effects on behaviour
It’s now widely believed to be a myth that sugar has a negative impact on children’s behaviour, but it’s actually more often proving to be true. Smaller studies are starting to show that while sugar doesn’t cause hyperactivity, it can change the way your child acts and reacts to certain situations.
Some of the symptoms that you might see in your kids could be lack of concentration, easily agitated, and maybe even slight aggression; they’ve all been linked with sugar consumption. Sugar will affect every child differently, but the less refined sugar consumed, the better.
Trouble in the long term
Children’s bodies are growing and changing so fast, it can be difficult to miss the early signs, or even to know when enough is enough with sugar.
“Adult” diseases – like type 2 diabetes and heart disease – are striking earlier and earlier as a result of children’s consumption of sugar. As an example, in 1994 less than 5% of children had type 2 diabetes, compared to today, when between 30 and 50% of children are diagnosed with the disease. That’s a huge jump.
Pulling the sweet teeth
One of the biggest ways that sugar is killing kids’ health, is in their mouths. The mouth is full of hundreds of bacteria – some good, and some bad. Bad bacteria feed on sugars when they enter the mouth and create acids that destroy the tooth enamel, which can lead to cavities, decay, pain, and eventually loss of teeth.
According to the National Oral Health Alliance of Australia, nearly half of all six-year-old children have decay in their baby- or milk-teeth, and the fact is, it’s a highly preventable treatment.
Every day illnesses
A little-known fact about sugar is the effect it can have on kid’s general health. One of the most common effects of sugar can have on children are cold-like symptoms, said Dr. Julie L. Wei, a pediatric otolaryngologist. A lot of Wei’s patients complain of chronic runny noses, excessive mucus, cough, and symptoms of a sinus infection.
Sugar can also alter the balance of good and bad bacteria in the body, which can lead to a weakened immune system, meaning that if something is going around they’re much more likely to catch it.
So, what can you do?
Cutting out sugar doesn’t have to be as tough as it first seems. To prove it, we’ve put together this quick list of easy swaps you can make to cut your kid’s sugar intake.
- Breakfast Cereals
A lot of cereals that advertise as “high fibre” or “low fat” aren’t telling you that they’re also high in sugar. Swap these out for either wholegrain toast, fruit with plain yoghurt or oatmeal topped with berries or banana for a much better option.
- Say ‘No!’ to Juice
Although they class themselves as “one of your portions a day”, fruit juices are mostly sugar, and aren’t adding much to the diet nutritionally. Instead, offer water for thirsty children, and encourage eating whole fruit for more fibre.
- Sneaky Cereal Bars
Cereal and granola bars might seem like a great snack, but the only thing they really are is convenient. The amount of sugar in granola bars is quite shocking, but if your kids love them, bake a big batch of your own, sugar-free style.
- Yoghurt Swaps
Kids branded yoghurts pack a lot of hidden sugar, so go for Greek or natural plain yoghurt instead. Buying a big post can also save on cost – top with fruit for a delicious and much healthier treat.
- Don’t Forget the Treats!
It can be difficult to go through parenting without bribing your kids a little here and there, so be sure you have something up your sleeve to help them along. Fangks is a great sugar-free, 100% natural kids drink that can serve as a healthy treat, that’s easy on the teeth and totally delicious. But if your kids don’t like milkshakes, they have lots of yummy treat recipes to try on this website.
Cutting out sugar doesn’t have to be a big issue – explaining to your children why too much sugar is bad can help them understand why they need to cut out treats; you might be pleasantly surprised by how well they respond to the news!
If you have any great tips for cutting back on sugar as a family, or anything you’d like to say about going sugar free, we’d love to hear from you, so comment down below with your comments and questions.