Children are especially susceptible to the effects of refined sugars. The goal of any responsible parent is to slowly start decreasing the refined sugars in your child’s diet and replace them with nutritional sources of carbohydrates with slower releasing sugars.
Here are some practical tips around today’s topic on sugar that can have dramatic effects, both on a physical and mental level, on your child.
- Never skip breakfast. It is not an old wives tale that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. After a period of fasting during sleep, the body needs to replenish vital glucose stocks. Breakfast is the meal that will stand as the nutritional foundation for the rest of the day. Build a poor foundation and don’t be surprised if the walls come down.
- Eat a nutritional breakfast. Throw out the white bread and the sweetened cereals and don’t buy into the marketing hype about corn flakes or sugar coated pops (with added vitamins) being a good start to the day. This is rubbish as we will see a little later in an example case study. We will look a little later at glycaemic load of foods and what foods to avoid. For now feed your child some fresh fruit followed by any combination of the following: rolled oats porridge, fish, lightly poached or scrambled eggs (not fried!) and brown or wholewheat bread or toast.
- Slowly replace refined sugars with better sugars. Fructose is an ideal sugar replacement and is available in most pharmacies and health shops. Fructose is a more complex molecule than glucose and although it will eventually be broken down into glucose, it will do so slowly creating a better more sustained release. Fructose, in my humble opinion, is also a far nicer sweetener than sugar. Also try and stay away from other high release sugars such as honey and syrup.
- Lunch time and Fruit. Limit access to rubbish foods. If your child is at school and does not have the money to buy chocolates and fizzy drinks but rather has a nutritional and delicious packed lunch then that is far better. Rather than giving a jam sandwich offer a whole-wheat one with peanut butter (preferably unsweetened). Give your child fresh fruit and/or vegetables at every meal. A tip here is buying your fruit on the weekend, chop it up, add a little orange juice to preserve it and put it in the fridge. This will act as a very good and convenient source of fruit for your children and takes the preparation time hassle out of supplying the fruit.
- Avoid artificial or sweetened drinks. Children very often prefer plain water by choice however if they are hankering for juice then provide pure 100% fruit juice half diluted with water (should be as little preservative as possible – if the expiry date says good until 2010 then it’s a no no).
- Watch for signs of glucose imbalance. Children, especially active children do not have the reserves that adults do and as such they are often prone to nutritional dips throughout the day. If your child starts to play up and get irritable an hour or two before meals then top them up with some fruit or a slice of delicious seed bread and natural butter. Very often the bodies’ desire for glucose will leave the child asking for juice or sweets and that is a warning sign.
- Top them up after sports. This ties in nicely with point 6, when picking your child up from sports, take a banana or sandwich along – this will help top up the reserves of glucose used up from the muscle and liver reserves and prevent a glucose imbalance related problem.