A couple of months ago I wrote a column on sugar and some impacts that large amounts can have on a youngster.
What to do, asks a reader, with children that will eat sugar? For an adult it's easy to know and understand that you shouldn't eat too much of it.
But even an adult is susceptible to large blood sugar drops and, once that happens, the cravings can take over and into the mouth goes the chocolate or whatever. How much more difficult for a child. And when is the child most often restless and fitful? Probably at exactly the same time that your blood sugar levels are low, too.
I'm not about to give definitive nutritional advice. If you have serious concerns you should seek the advice of a doctor or nutritionist. However, for parents looking to reduce the amount of sugar intake here are a few tips I've gleaned over the years.
One is the no-sugar/protein- nibbling approach. Protein nibbled on several times during the day will maintain blood sugar levels without triggering cravings. Instead of biscuits or sweets, try nuts or fruit.
Check snacks marketed for children for sugar content. You'll probably be surprised. Look at the sugar content on the label under the 100g heading - 36g of sugar in 100g tells you that the product is 36 per cent sugar.
Check breakfast cereals for low to no sugar. Go for peanut butter or Marmite on wholemeal or wheatmeal toast, an egg, an orange.
For evening dessert bring out the peanut butter, the cheese and fresh fruit. This should bring a better night and more pleasant morning.
It will take some time, perhaps three weeks, for your child to feel better for it and for you to see an improvement. It also depends on how well the sugar hidden in drinks, artificial colourings and flavourings has been avoided.
If you're really serious, you could totally clear the house of sugary items. The absence of sugar as a matter of course from an early age brings a certain acceptance later.
You can tell you're making progress when the "no" you say to a demand is no longer met by the usual tantrums two hours after a biscuit, ice cream or soft drink and instead is replaced by a calmer response, perhaps even a shrug, two hours after some protein.
If the night is better, the morning is good. If the morning is good, the day is better. Removing the sugar removes a major stress factor on the child's systems, which in turn removes many of the other stresses that follow on. Sugar-triggered habits of behaviour won't change overnight, but it will be worth the effort and the wait.
© Ian Munro 2014. All rights reserved.
- The Timaru Herald