Kids and adults alike often indulge in a little sweetness to brighten up the day, whether it’s ice cream after dinner or sugar-packed muesli bars – often disguised as “health” foods – but there are a few perilous side effects that these habits can saddle us with.
Kids face a whole other ball game, with their ongoing development jeopardised by excess sugar intake. One study found brain development to be at significant risk, as it revealed the hippocampus was affected, meaning their learning and memory abilities take a hit. The gut microbiome may also become dysregulated by childhood sugar consumption and this, once again, causes problems with the hippocampus because of the gut-brain link.
Our gut flora plays a massive role in our overall health, and sugar is known to throw our balance off – in fact, researchfound it lowered microbial diversity, thus leaving the gut vulnerable to inflammation and disease development. High-sugar diets can also lead to a condition known as dysbiosis – an unbalanced microbiome – due to the higher levels of Proteobacteria. Too much of this puts people at higher risk for type 2 diabetes, heart disease and stroke.
Sugar, sugar everywhere.
With global and local sugar levels through the roof, we haven’t even begun to lift the lid on this issue. On average Aussies consume around 15 teaspoonsof added sugar each day, which is more than double the recommendation from the World Health Organisation. It’s not just us, though – around the world sugar consumption has exploded, with researchfrom the United States showing their daily intake in 1750 was around a teaspoon, now we’re clocking in nearly 15 times that amount. The culprit? Sugar – and it’s everywhere.
Excess sugar is added to foods ranging from breakfast cereals to yoghurt and bread, and of course there are also the obvious offenders like chocolate and lollies, but these are a little easier to spot. This means many are unknowingly packing sugar-laden foods into their kids’ lunchboxes, which have more in common with junk food than the so-called health foods these products are marketed as.
To make matters worse, children are also more susceptible to sugar cravings, according to research, which found that kids have a stronger taste for the sweet stuff than adults do.
The effect of excess sugar in childhood can go on to influence future eating habits – this includes eating disorders like binge eating disorder, anorexia nervosa and bulimia – along with raising the risk for diseases like obesity and diabetes. This is what you need to know.
The effect of sugar on children.
Sugar addiction is tough for anyone to fight, let alone children. With the prefrontal cortex underdeveloped in childhood, children are further disadvantaged in the fight against sugar. The function of the prefrontal cortex includes impulse control, and considering the cycle of reward-seeking behaviour triggered by sugar intake, it’s no small feat. This is because dopamine, the “feel-good” hormone, is released when we eat sugar, leaving us craving another hit, especially when stress levels hit the roof.
These are a few of the conditions that childhood sugar addiction can lead to:
- Liver disease.
- Anxiety and depression.
- Autoimmune diseases.
What you can do about it.
Get off to a good start: Help your kids move away from their in-built preference for sweet foods by exposing them to a range of different types of flavours, from bitter and astringents foods to the beloved umami flavour hailed in Japanese cuisine. Get them started on probiotics early to strengthen their gut microbiome – from yoghurt and kefir to Sauerkraut, kimchi and natto – you might be surprised at what they enjoy.
Swap sugar out: Make low-sugar and added-sugar free meals and snacks packed with nutrition and taste. Kids will still get to enjoy the fun of cooking up a storm in the kitchen – or eating said storm – without the blood spikes and low moods that come with excess sugar. You can also shape their taste buds early in life to prevent the ongoing cycle of sugar addiction. This is one way to ensure they actually prefer healthy foods, and seek them out instead of diving for the chocolate after dinner.
If you have the right recipes, healthy meals can be delicious, simple and satisfying. That’s where we come in – check out the I Quit Sugar Kids Cookbook eBook. Everything you need for a nutritious dish that will get any kid’s tick of approval is right there in those pages.
Here's a free recipe straight from the book:
Prosciutto Roll Ups
- ¼ cup goat cheese.
- 4 slices of prosciutto.
- 1 green apple.
- Slice the green apple into thin slices, around 5mm thick.
- Spread a thin layer of goat cheese on each slice.
- Lay a slice of prosciutto on a flat surface, on one end place apple with cheese.
- Roll from the edge of prosciutto with apple slice and continue rolling so apple is encased.
Instil a healthy relationship with food: Nip unhealthy coping mechanisms in the bud by offering alternative techniques for handling challenges. Instead of comforting your kids with a cup of hot chocolate and some bikkies, take them out for a stroll through the park or get creative with music or art. Painting and drawing are great ways to express difficult emotions when kids are finding it hard to verbalise their problems.
Making exercise fun is another great way to reinforce healthy ways of managing stress, for instance try a fun game of backyard cricket, cycling around the nearest trail or swimming at the beach to give your kids some healthy outlets. These coping mechanisms will guide your child through the rest of their life.
If you or your family are struggling with reigning in your sugar cravings, join us for our 8-Week Program. We’ll give you the tools to ditch sugar and take back control of your health – plus the simple tips and techniques you can share with the kids to get them off to a good start in life. Sign up HERE!