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Sugar: Is it the Enemy?

Written by Genie Price

Are you guilty of giving your toddler the odd lollipop or piece of candy as a reward or motivation? As they bat their precious eyelids – how can you say no?  

Ice cream, chocolate chip cookies and birthday cakes are typical treats in our kid’s diets.  

But, what do you really know about these sugary delights and how they affect your children? Chances are they are causing more harm than good.    

The good 

Sugar receives a bit of bad press and is to blame for many health problems, but without it, the body would cease to function properly.  

Paediatricians indicate how the naturally occurring sugars, like those found in fresh fruit and lactose (milk sugars), are of benefit to your toddler’s health:   

  • Lactose encourages friendly bacteria to grow, which helps our stomach defend itself against unwanted organisms and promotes a healthy digestive system and gut health 
  • Sugars like lactose, play an important role in the natural process that takes place in the gut 
  • Small amounts of sugar can increase your toddler’s energy levels 
  • These sugars are essential in promoting healthy development in brain and nerve tissue 

The bad:  

With the good, often comes the bad. Sugar can impact negatively on your toddler’s health. The concern however, is not those naturally occurring sugars but instead, it’s the “added” sugars and syrups you need to be aware of.  

Evidence also suggests: 

  • Sugar encourages bacteria growth on the surface of your toddler’s teeth – causing tooth decay  
  • After an increase in sugar consumption physical symptoms such as shakiness, sweating, and altered thinking and behaviours as well as mood changes can occur – thus giving you a cranky and unreasonable 2-year-old 
  • Sugar can lower your child’s vitamin “B” levels  
  • There are genuine concerns that excess sugar can lead to addiction – yes, even at age two 
  • High sugar consumption can contribute to osteoporosis as it depletes calcium  
  • It is associated with eczema in toddler’s and young children 
  • Can lead to obesity, it’s not fat that makes us fat – it’s sugar! 

The world sure does love sugar! Wherever we look, it’s there. And, with the suggested amount of sugar for a child under two being zip, nothing, no sugar at all, parents have little room to move when it comes to food choices.   

How frustrating is that?  

Expert Insight and what to look for 

Paediatricians observe that reducing excess sugar is not as hard as it might sound.  

Simple steps such as:   

  • Replace fruit juice with water or switch to high-fibre snacks – this can help 
  • Offer your toddler more whole foods such as lean meats, fruits and vegetables – yes, it can work – persistence is key 
  • Avoid “takeaway” foods, and cook more for your children  
  • Read the labels on sauces, fruit and veggie pouches and cereals to avoid grabbing food with high sugar content 
  • When looking at labels watch for added honey, maple syrup, cane sugars and fructose 

As much as our toddler’s love sugar and we do too, (for how well it works for the purposes of parental bribes), when it’s consumed in large amounts, you are at risk of preventing normal growth and development. Leading to serious, ongoing health issues.   

Understandably, a lolly here and there and the odd bowl of ice cream won’t hurt your baby, be mindful of how much sugar is too much, for better control of your child’s sugar intake in the future.  


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