It was a wedding and a magnificently enchanting candy bar that undid my daughter. The candy shone like mountains of brightly coloured jewels, treasures in every hue your heart could possibly desire, and they captivated her attention. I wasn’t opposed to her sampling one or two- what I thought was an appropriate serving for a 4 year old on this momentous occasion. Nonetheless well meaning party goers began dishing them up by the handful, and my darling sweet angel promptly soured!
A backlash of screeching, aggression and hallucinations unfolded, and what lay writhing before us was more akin to the devil’s child! With dilated pupils and her sweaty face full of terror, she glared, kicked and clawed at her beloved Super Daddy like he was a stranger. We struggled to break her state and bring our angel back to planet earth, and I could sense the judgments from distant relatives, assuming our child and parenting abilities were seriously out of control.
What they didn’t understand was her outrageous behaviour and inability to equalize was unquestionably out of character- and terrifyingly so! While soothing my daughter to sleep that night, sadness washed over me as I realized that thousands of children the world over are being permanently labeled with behavioral disorders, when some of these behaviors may simply be triggered by food?
It is universally accepted that accompanying every sugar high is an inevitable fall. When blood glucose levels crash, there is a compensatory release of adrenaline, causing symptoms such as shakiness, sweating, and altered thinking and behavior. Team this with the artificial additives that go hand in hand with sugar laden foods, and the impressionability of immature bodies, and you’ve likely got a ticking time bomb of delinquency on your hands! As the famous Dr Sears so eloquently puts it…’Studies of the effects of sugar on children’s behavior are as wildly contradictory as a sugar-crazed four-year-old after a birthday party, but the general consensus is that behavior, attention span, and learning ability deteriorate in proportion to the amount of sugar they consume.’
From family gatherings, to birthday parties, tuck shop and regular school celebrations, it seems everyone is trying to feed my kid sugar. For a rationale I cannot fathom, a myriad of sugary snacks at celebratory gatherings for children never raises eyebrows, but the absence of them- and my objection to my child ingesting them does! At times the disapproval is so fervent, its like high school all over again, where the peer pressure is too overwhelming to bear.
With the weight of the world stacking against my plight to resist the force-feeding of sugar to my children, I have found a few survival tricks to lesson the bourdon of my quest. This equilibrium between allowing children to participate fully in the joy and magic of celebrations, whilst minimizing the potential of a sugar meltdown is a very delicate dance, and especially so if drawing children’s attention to ‘bad’ food and ‘good’ food is to be avoided. Here are my top tips to maintain some parental control in these tricky situations:
- Firstly, it is a misconception that a vast array of sugary, additive laden junk foods are necessary to enhance these enchanting moments, and giving the impression that these are ‘treat’ foods, only increases their appeal. Nature offers an infinite and stunning assortment of vibrant, healthy and delicious treasures to choose from, and with just a little creativity in preparation, these can be equally as delightful!
- When attending parties, prepare a share plate of wholesome savory food your children can eat from as much as they like, and make it look fun and inviting so they don’t feel like they are missing out.
- Set some reasonable boundaries before you arrive, or they will assume it’s a free-for-all, first-in-best-dressed, eat-as-much-as-you-can-get-your-grubby-little-mitts-on opportunity! Children feel empowered by choices, so free them with the chance to make their own choice on what treat they can wholeheartedly enjoy at the party. This tactic works so beautifully with my daughter, she never questions it and she now reminds me of the appropriate boundaries on the way to parties. It’s so important to teach your children that 1 piece of cake is an appropriate serving of junkfood in one sitting, not all the cake, lollies, cookies, muffins, sausage rolls and Frankforts you can eat!
- Nourish children with dense, whole foods daily and before going to parties, as this naturally reduces their desire for junk food. When they are satisfied on a meal of healthy protein and fats, they are naturally less compelled to commence a ravenous frenzy of sugar consumption.
- When children do overindulge in sugary junk food and feel poorly as a consequence, support them in making the connection so they understand what they choose to eat greatly affects how they feel. When they make this association, junk food loses some of its lustre, and children become independently equipped to make better choices in the future.
Above all, establishing a healthy balanced food culture within your home, that fosters the natural development of these values in your children, is by far the greatest influence you can ever have on their relationship with food. This way they can independently apply these values to any situation they find themselves in- whether you are there to monitor and influence their choices in the moment or not.
PS if your one of those parents marching the band of peer pressure to feed my kid sugar, please stop…unless you’re prepared to babysit for the rest of the afternoon!