By sugar, I mean processed sugar – white sugar, corn syrup, high fructose corn syrup, sucrose, dextrose, fructose, and ALL artificial sweeteners.
There are too many bad effects of processed sugar (and any other artificial or processed sweetener) to list here! The one you commonly come across in relation to babies and children is tooth decay. That is merely the tip of the iceberg when it comes to sugar’s devastating effects on the body. Its effects are even more pronounced in babies and young children.
With ADD and Candida in Mila’s genes, it was a priority for me to avoid sugar in her diet. Research has shown that sugar suppresses the immune system; feeds candida and other pathogens; and, causes a rapid rise of adrenaline, hyperactivity, anxiety, difficulty concentrating, and crankiness in children. According to Dr Sarah Anne Rothman (ND at Pacifica Naturopathic Medicine) one teaspoon of sugar suppresses your child’s immune function by 50% for 24-48 hours!
For the full list of the ways sugar harms your health, I recommend reading “Lick The Sugar Habit” by Nancy Appleton.
Besides the negative physical effects sugar has on a child’s body, my persistence in not letting Mila have it has a lot to do with the behavioural issues it creates. Clinical research has proven that destructive, aggressive and restless behaviour is significantly correlated with the amount of sugar that is consumed.
I will never forget the first time Mila had (processed) sugar – she was just over 2 years old and at a friend’s Tinkerbelle birthday party. It was a fantastic party – décor, dress-up, and treasure hunts! Guess what the treasure was? Gold chocolate coins! Now how could I tell Mila she couldn’t have them? I took her aside, sat her on a chair and opened the coins – three of them. I wanted her to be fully aware of the moment. She was mesmerised! The rest of the party didn’t exist! She ate her three gold coins, and didn’t ask for more. “Oh… that went well”, I thought to myself. Twenty minutes later… I came face to face with a little girl that looked like a crack addict! Eyes going in different directions, jaw grinding and wildly racing around the room. I was horrified! I quickly put her in the car, took her home and fed her fried eggs and probiotic capsules! But she was ‘difficult’ for the rest of that day. We had been in the ‘terrible two’s’ for some time, but there had never been a temper tantrum – not so much as a sulk or shout, until that day. To this day (she is now three and a half years old), Mila has only ever had one other temper tantrum – and that was a couple hours after she had some (very) sugary sweets with her cousin.
This is my choice – I would rather spend time in the kitchen preparing whole free-from foods than spending time caring for a sick child, or disciplining a badly behaved one.
I believe whole, unprocessed natural sweeteners are fine in moderation – one cannot escape the fact that joy is a nutrient too! And sweetness feeds your little one with joy! Healthier sweeteners include: pure maple syrup, molasses, stevia, and raw unfiltered honey.
Your child will go to sugar-laden parties and she will want the brightly coloured cake that all her friends are eating. So what do you do?
In choosing to raise Mila as a ‘free-from’ child it has been very important to me that she never feels ‘less than’ the other kids – by that I mean, I didn’t want her to feel like she was missing our, different, deprived or that there is something wrong with her. That is why I work so hard to create and prepare delicious alternatives. I offered these alternatives to Mila at her friends’ parties until she was two years old. She did not notice that she was not getting what everyone else was – she was completely satisfied with what I was offering her. In fact, most times her friends wanted some of what she was having!
But there comes a time when mom’s free-from chocolate fudge just isn’t going to cut it! This is when you have to look at nutrition as more than just food and nutrients. In my studies at the Institute of Integrative Nutrition I have learnt about the power of Primary Foods™. The idea is that as adults, we are nourished by things such as spirituality, exercise, relationships and career. An extension of this is that love is a nutrient – it feeds you – as does joy.
With this in mind, and with my desire for Mila to not feel ‘less than’, I now let her have the artificially coloured sugary birthday cake. And the result? Mila is fed a healthy dose of Pure Joy! She sings Happy Birthday the loudest, she waits patiently in line to get her slice of cake, then she sits on the side and savours it (often not finishing the whole slice). Does she run around like that crack addict I mentioned earlier? No… but that is because of what happens before the party…
Healthy fats slow down the blood sugar rise caused by the absorption of the sugar into the bloodstream and probiotics use the sugar as its food, reducing the amount that gets absorbed into the bloodstream. Eating both fat and probiotics before, or with, sugar in any form, reduces the negative effects of sugar on the body. So, before Mila and I go to a party I feed her a high protein, high fat snack and give her a probiotic supplement! This also helps because she is not hungry at the party – which means she doesn’t eat all the other ‘less than desirable’ food that is on offer. I give her another probiotic supplement when we get home – and ta da… no tantrums, no crazy eyes and, no issues going to sleep at bed time.
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