With Halloween just a couple of weeks behind us and Thanksgiving right around the corner, now is that special time of the year when we all seem to get reacquainted with sugar whether we want to or not. It sometimes feels like, no matter how hard we try to avoid them, candy and sweets are everywhere! For kids, it can seem like paradise…a non-stop sugar fest that can last for weeks. For parents, it’s a time that forces us to re-evaluate what habits we’re teaching out kids.
While sugary treats and candy just seem to go with the season, we also have a greater understanding these days of just how harmful all of that sugar can be. It would probably seem like cruel and unusual punishment to ban any and all treats containing sugar from your home, but there are some very good reasons why, as parents, we should think twice before letting our kids eat too much of it.
Let’s start with the mouth. We all know the warnings about how sugar affects our teeth and how it can cause cavities. The truth is, there are changes that begin to take place in our mouths from the moment food enters. Sugars get together with bacteria in the mouth and make the dental plaque acidic. Bad teeth can lead to all kinds of long-term problems, including losing teeth prematurely. Now, it’s safe to say that some of our kids will get cavities no matter how careful we are. But we can definitely help by paying attention to how much sugar they are eating.
Next comes the immune system. Sugar can actually reduce the ability of white blood cells to fight off germs and infection by as much as 50%! Did you know that this immune suppression could start as soon as 30 minutes after sugar is eaten? It can last for up to 5 hours. We all know how easy it is for kids to come in contact with unwanted and harmful germs. The last thing we need is to help those germs out by letting our children eat too much sugar.
Weight gain can happen if we’re not careful. When our kids consume sugar that isn’t used right away in the body as energy, it turns into fat that is stored in the waist, hips and thighs. This is especially true of the sugars that are consumed in sugary drinks such as soft drinks and fruit punches. Unfortunately, gaining weight as a child can lead to major health issues. Even if they are able to avoid problems as a kid, it can actually change how their bodies work as adults.
Sugar plays a role in how our children learn and behave. There are now studies that point to the effects of sugar in areas such as attention span and memory. These studies show that there are both children and adults who are sugar sensitive, which leads to changes in their behavior and learning ability. Early childhood development is crucial for children. As parents, we can make a difference by simply monitoring their sugar intake.
Again, it may be near impossible to keep sugar and kids away from one another altogether. Every household is different and every child is different in how they will react to the foods they eat. Hopefully, by reminding ourselves of how sugar can affect our kids, we can at least pay closer attention to how much they’re eating.