My friend opened her front door, red faced and flustered, hastily handing back my queasy looking son and disapproving faced daughter. “Um….he may have accidently eaten a few sweets.” She muttered with embarrassment. Years later she admitted, she had found him under the party table cloth, munching quantities of chocolate biscuits and cake.
Apparently my daughter had then piously read the packets informing my friend of all the poisonous e -factors my son had consumed, whilst she tried to scrub the chocolate off my son’s T shirt and face before I arrived. When we reached home my son was spectacularly sick which put him off another rebellious attempt until teenage years! (He did however try the dog chocolates given by a friendly neighbour as a treat for our dog, with equally disastrous results since doggie chocs are a form of laxative!)
I realize now that my evangelical campaign against sugar was probably extremely annoying to my friends, however I make no apologies and have no regrets. My children had a confectionary free childhood and as young adults, now follow extremely healthy diets. Their body organs will hopefully last considerably longer since they were protected from natural sugar for most of their formative years. The added benefit of a sweet free childhood is that when they do eat sugary foods, their bodies cannot tolerate much, which makes the ‘temptation’ to indulge easier for them.
There is much in the news at the moment about the huge amounts of sugar in ready meals, juices and even milkshakes. Parents I talk to frequently tell me it is ‘impossible’ to stop children eating sweets completely. It is hard ..but not impossible. As a parent you simply have to care about it enough to make it happen.
- To stop children under five eating sweets is easy – just don’t give them any! Give them raspberries, strawberries, mangos and grapes as a treat instead.
- Some parents use sweets to reward good behavior – if you are going to adopt this strategy a healthy treat of some kind works just as well. A word to the wise – the danger here is that children may learn to expect a reward for appropriate behavior which will be disappointing when they reach adulthood! If you do adopt this method, be warned that a few sweets is going to turn into skiing trips, electronic devises and designer clothes as they get older! A more useful strategy we use at Nipperbout is to have some clear rules and boundaries written up and reward any behavior that goes above and beyond that which is expected so it becomes more of a “thank you” present.
- When children start going to school and birthday parties avoiding sugar is harder. Sweets are sometimes brought into school to celebrate birthdays and party bags often contain a sugar filled gift. I used to take in a small box of sugar free edible treats and leave it with the teacher to give to my children when the others were given sweets. For parties, I would make up little goody bags to give to the host parent to give to my child at leaving time or quietly replace any sweets once I reached home.
- Facts – sugar enters the blood stream of children far more quickly than for adults so effectively they have a high which then drops suddenly leaving them tired tearful and cross. Fact – fizzy drinks not only contain sugar , they also contain carbon which stops the body absorbing any calcium the child may have had that day .
- This is one of the few subjects when my Uncle Bill’s measuring question can be answered with a resounding YES! If you give children sweets from an early age the chances are they will still be eating sugary foods when they are 21! Uncle Bill, by the way, is a dentist!