Little Sugar Addicts
by Kathleen DesMaisons, Ph.D.
This book's title includes the phrase "end the mood swings, meltdowns, tantrums, and low-self esteem in your child today." Right from the start it's a book any parent can relate to and probably should read. It was a really interesting read. I learned a lot about what sugar does to a body, especially children's bodies. It's not an anti-sugar book, and I'm totally NOT an anti-sugar person. I think sugar is awesome in fact and certainly has its place in our world and bodies. But this book is essential for those of us trying to navigate the toddler or young child or even teenage drama tantrum battlefields.
Sugar does indeed affect us, some more than others. I know it really, really affects my son, so we've limited the amount of sugar he gets since he started eating it after his first birthday celebration. We notice he amps up with his energy after eating sugar. Some kids aren't that affected by it, so it's nothing to worry about, but for most it does affect them. Knowing how it affects them and what you can do to prevent any pitfalls is what this book is about.
On page 2, DesMaisons explains how it is sometimes with kids who may be affected by sugar. "Sometimes it feels as if you are living with a split personality. The changes in behavior simply make no sense. You wonder what is behind it and you simply do not know what to do."
She writes about sugar sensitivity being a biochemical imbalance that affects how the "brain and body function." "These behaviors are not a result of your parenting skills." The author suggests starting by changing a child's food and diet instead of rushing to medications, counseling, etc. if you notice something off within your child.
On page 15 the author lists some questions that will help you to figure out if your child is sensitive to sugar. Questions include Is your child impulsive? Does your child ask for sweet foods all the time? Is your child wildly dramatic and goofy? Does your child have lots of allergies? Is your child known as a motormouth? If you answer yes to some of these your child has a sensitivity to sugar.
Monkey see, monkey do
The biggest point the author stresses in this book is that if you limit the sugar your kids take in, you must do the same with yourself. Kids are smart .They see right through the fact that you can drink soda but they cannot. You have to teach them by example.
Add before subtracting
The "plan" suggests adding in good foods (fruits, veggies, protein, etc.) before taking away other foods, so as not to overwhelm the kids and to do it gradually, according to DesMaisons on page 51.
The 7 Steps for kids:
1. Eat breakfast with protein.
Kids must eat something substantial in the morning, including eggs or cheese or something hearty with protein to keep them going. This affects their blood sugar most.
2. Make connections between food and mood.
Start tracking what your kids eat, how they behave, how long before they're hungry again, how you notice their moods. Better yet, if your children are old enough, ask them these questions. How do they feel after eating breakfast? You need a baseline to see where your kids are at with their current diet before you change anything.
3. Change snacks and drinks.
No sodas. Limit fruit juices. Decrease sugar. Instead, make sure all snacks have protein with them. Some examples the author listed on page 89 include:
-apple or Triscuits with cheese
-hard boiled egg with carrot sticks
-slice of wheat toast with peanut butter (sans sugar)
-handful of nuts (over age 3)
-cottage cheese and some unsweetened canned peaches
-applesauce and leftover sausage
"Maintaining a stable blood sugar is significantly more important in children than in adults," the author wrote on page 88. She said most parents and children graze throughout the day, but really meals and snacks should be very planned ahead of time and stuck to so that kids do not go too long without eating and can keep up their blood sugars.
She wrote that children need a snack midmorning and midafternoon. "Your child should not go more than three hours without having something to eat," she wrote on page 89.
DesMaisons said that disciplining a child who is really hungry is not effective until their blood sugars are stable. "Little sugar addicts are in an altered state when their chemistry is off. They are not rational. If you can begin to look at these 'bad' behaviors in a new way, you may be able to come up with some creative alternatives for what to do if your little sugar sensitive child starts acting up. First of all, feed him."
I have personally fed my son his lunch at 10 a.m. many times when I've noticed that he is starting to amp up his energy, not share as nicely, or disagree with everything I say. He needs food. He's not a sugar addict, but he definitely has whatever it is that I have in that he needs to eat every couple of hours or else he does not do well. I carry snacks with us wherever we go. I plan his meals and when he'll need a protein to tie him over, like his glass of milk. It's important to notice these things about our kids.
Kids must eat when they come home from school. The author wrote that their metabolism cannot last from noon at lunch until 6 or so for dinner without eating something. For those who do sports afterschool, pack an extra peanut butter sandwich or something for practice. They need fuel to workout.
4. Eat protein lunches.
"The most important rule is eating on time," the author wrote on page 110. Sometimes moms get distracted and though you are hungry you can push yourself a little more. With kids that's not an option. They need to eat when their body needs it, routinely. "You job as a parent is to make sure they have food on time. Most parents think the contents of meals are the most crucial. They get very motivated and think about what to feed their children and don't really factor in when. The more I talk with sugar sensitive parents, the more aware I have become about the 'when' factor."
She gives a great list in this chapter of fast food options that are healthiest and give protein in the meals in case you are out and busy, but need to stop for lunch.
5. Shift to whole grain food.
No brainer. Eat wheat!
6. Take out the sugar.
"But if you start to connect with the idea that the thing you are using to comfort and correct is actually creating the problem, you will find this step easier to take. If you remove the sugar from the equation, you won't have those out-of-control moments with your child. Moving to sugar-free will have benefits that so outweigh your reluctance to say no and stand your ground that you will wonder why you didn't do it before," the author wrote on page 151.
She stresses the motto that sugar is not love. "Sugar is poison. Time is love."
On page 154 she includes a great list of other commonly used terms for "sugar," like barley malt, brown sugar, cane juice, galactose, fructose, etc.
She said to first work on removing the "overt sugars" from your home first, including:
high fructose corn syrup
She said that many holidays, birthday parties, Halloween, family gatherings, etc. are where the problems start, as family do not understand why you would go sugar-free entirely, which is the authors advice - no sugar whatsoever.
7. Take care of life.
Get moving. Be active.
No diets, be healthier.
The last part of the book includes tons of great recipes that sound delicious - desserts included!
A recipe from page 94 of Radiant Snack Bars:
6 cups rolled oats
1 dozen eggs
1/2 cup cinnamon
4 cups milk, juice, whatever liquid you want)
1 cup cottage cheese
2 cups shredded unsweetened coconut, lightly toasted
1 teaspoon salt
Additional 1/2 cup shredded coconut for topping
Blend the wet ingredients for 1 minute
Mix the dry ingredients in a large bowl
Add the liquid mixture to the dry ingredients a little at a time
Pour into a 9x13 inch pan that has been sprayed with cooking spray
Sprinkle an additional 1/2 cup coconut on top (don't toast this)
Bake 1 hour at 350 degrees
Let cool and slice into "bars" that are sized for your children
You can add other things like nuts or applies if you like.
Overall, a very interesting read.
I was pleased to see a lot of her tips I already do at home with my son, who is an active boy. He needs to eat a lot, protein included. I'm the same way, definitely need to eat frequently or else I feel sick. We pack snacks wherever we go. It's essential. I feed him when he's hungry, but also stick to a schedule of meals. You have to do what works for your family.
I personally think the zero sugar thing is overwhelming, especially with kids. I can't imagine being at a birthday party and not permitting my child to eat a piece of cake when they sing happy birthday and all the children are eating it. But that's just me, and I'm talking about toddlers and older, not younger than 18 months. But if it's what a family wants to do, I support it, as it does make sense that it's probably healthiest.