By Dr. Madiha Saeed
With sugar all around us, part of our everyday life and celebrations, it is really hard to avoid it.
It’s important to remember that sugar is 8 times more addictive than cocaine. As a mother of four children under 8, I understand how easy it is to cave in to your children’s demands for sugar. With all you have going on in your life, it may feel like the least of your worries, and maybe the easiest way to calm your children when you just can’t handle any more chaos . . . we have all been there.
But we must realize that their cravings are not just because they like it. That desire for sugar is an addiction caused by sugar itself and driven by neurotransmitters and hormones. Eating processed sugar changes the child’s brain and forces our children to crave more, leading to weight gain and ultimately inflammation, the root of most chronic illnesses. Sugar shackles our children down, slowly stealing the light in their eyes and diminishing their quality of life. These children are our blessing, not for anyone else to manipulate, so how can we free our children from the not-so-sweet bonds of sugar?
Here are my five top strategies for taming the sugar beast:
- Start their day with protein and good fat.
Filling their bellies with protein and good fat will keep them satiated and full, leaving less room to crave sugar. When we add more fat to each meal, like nuts, avocados, coconut oil or olive oil, it will help to quickly satiate any hungry child, taming the sugar monster from within.
- Say no to liquid sugar.
Did you know that what most children drink is basically liquid sugar? A 12 oz glass of orange juice or other fruit juice (yes even the 100 % fruit juice) has about 9 teaspoons of sugar, and guess what?! So does a 12 oz can of Coke. All this extra unnecessary sugar weakens your immunity, despite the vitamin C benefit you think you are getting from that juice. I make lemonade with natural stevia for my children and it quickly quenches their thirst and satisfies them—with no added sugar! Yay!!!
- Be ready for any emergency.
When the child’s inner monster starts to crave sugar, having healthy snacks available is key to keep the sugar monster behind bars. I always have nuts, seeds, carrots and hummus, oranges, sugar snap peas on hand when they get hungry.
- Reestablishing the balance from within.
When children crave sugar, we must help their little bodies feel balanced, calm, happy and nourished. When your child is in this state of balance it makes weaning off of sugar so much easier, with less tears for both of you. My children love drinking herbal teas of all different flavors as a calming, soothing way to help them feel balanced and as an alternative to drinking “just water.”
- Choose “healthier” sweet substitutes.
Replacing sugar with more natural options replaces something of no nutritional value with something rich in minerals, vitamins and antioxidants. Examples include maple syrup, date sugar, blackstrap molasses and honey. Honey is full of enzymes and other nutrients and is a great source of energy. It can help relieve allergies and other respiratory issues. It can also help the body detoxify and possesses powerful properties against bacteria. Always look for raw and local honey.
How do you tame your child’s sugar monster?