No parent consciously sets out to feed their child a highly processed junk food diet that’s full of sugar and fat, but it’s an easy trap to fall into. Busy working mums and dads coupled with kids who have their social diaries crammed with after-school clubs and activities makes serving up wholesome home-cooked meals so much harder. Add in the social whirl of parties that kids get invited to nowadays and sweet, sugary, celebration, once-in-a-while kind of foods can quickly become everyday events. Before you know it, your child has become a ‘sugar junkie’.
It’s natural for our bodies to crave some sweet taste but regular consumption not only interferes with the body’s production of insulin, but is also highly addictive. The more we eat, the more we want. Globally, we are eating too much sugar and are paying the price. If we could simply make the decision to avoid it, perhaps it wouldn’t be such a problem but over the years, sugar has been added to all sorts of foods. The manufacturers know that we’re more likely to purchase their products if there’s an underlying sweet taste. You’ll now find sugar added to:
– white bread
– baked beans
– tomato based pasta sauces
– salad dressings
– granola style ‘health’ bars
– tinned soups and vegetables
– yoghurts (even low calorie ones)
It’s not uncommon for most of our meat dishes to be smeared with some kind of sweet sauce – sticky barbeque; sweet thai chilli; plum and hoisin, sweet and sour, apple sauce, orange and mango. The bottom line is sweet foods sell more.
Although our bodies can easily get addicted to all this sugar, the pleasant feelings it creates, soon give way to blood sugar spikes in the body. Insulin is released to break the food down and sugary foods get burned up quickly. Imagine putting a piece of paper on an open fire – the paper will burn very quickly with the hungry flames able to carry on for a while longer. Contrast this with putting a big log on the fire – it will burn more slowly, providing energy and fuel for longer.
If the food you’ve consumed is high in ‘sugar’ and that includes foods like white pasta and white bread, as well as the more obvious ones, your body will have experienced an insulin surge that hangs around for a while. The unpleasant side effects of this include: mood swings, irritability, angry outbursts, restlessness, an inability to concentrate or focus, sleep problems and even palpitations, anxiety and nightmares.
We all know what it’s like to drop sweet-natured angelic children off at a friends’ birthday party, only to discover that we’re taking a ‘little monster’ back home again. Our little ones are experiencing a sugar rush and we’ve got used to the behavioural consequences. We don’t give it too much thought because we feel it’s a ‘special occasion’ and not something that will be happening every day. But I know from my own experiences as a Children’s Behavioural Specialist that childhood stress, anxiety, depression and insomnia are on the increase. One of the first questions I always ask my clients is about their child’s diet – the answer usually lies here.