While you might have read a lot of media scares telling you to avoid sugar at all costs, unfortunately there’s not a whole lot of research to support those claims. Before we get into the ins and outs of sugar, let’s have a quick (and simple) nutrition lesson.
Carbohydrates are a macronutrient, made up Carbon + Hydrogen + Water (hence the word, carbo-hydrate). It’s common to see this word and the term “sugar” used interchangeably, as carbohydrates are made up of a variety of sugar (chemical term: saccharide) molecules. In short, carbohydrates are the building blocks of most plant-based foods.
All carbohydrates are made up of sugars. Examples of these are things like grains (rice, breads, pastas, flours), beans, fruits, even vegetables and milk. These foods contain naturally occurring sugars, meaning they don’t have any “added sugar”. Foods like cookies, candy, and cakes contain added sugar, which can be in the form of table sugar, honey, maple syrup, and corn syrup. For the sake of this article, we are going to use the term carbohydrate as an umbrella term for all of these foods.
Now that you know the basics, we have some simple tips when it comes to navigating sugar in the house:
Carbohydrates Equals Energy!
Our diets need to consist of a balance of macronutrients: protein, fat, and carbohydrates. Carbohydrates are essentially sugar! And it’s recommended they make up 40-65% of our daily intake. This number might be surprisingly high (considering the media’s obsession with low-carb, low-sugar diets), but carbohydrates are our body’s main source of energy. Our body uses carbohydrates not only to move and play, but also to think and process new information.
If you read our previous post about how to help your child develop a healthy relationship with food, you’ll know that we typically don’t recommend elimination of any food or food group (unless there is a known food allergy). But, we also know that when parents hear this advice, they typically fear if their child had the chance, they would live on chocolate and cookies. But in fact, the opposite is true. If a child feels he or she is being deprived of a particular food, they are actually more likely to crave it, and more likely to overeat when they do have the opportunity to eat that particular food. This brings us to our next point…
Children Have the Innate Ability to Balance
If you find that your child leans towards less nutrient-dense carbohydrates like candy and sugary cereal, you have nothing to worry about! Kids are actually extremely intuitive when it comes to food, and if offered a wide variety of options from all three categories, they’ll naturally find balance if they don’t feel pressured to eat or not eat certain foods. Make sure that your children have a variety of carbohydrates available to them. This includes fruits, vegetables, grains, beans, milk, and even treats like cookies and cake. If they have the opportunity to get adequate amounts of carbohydrates form a variety of foods, it’s less likely they’ll gravitate towards just one. This doesn’t mean we’re encouraging you to feed your child only cookies, but it’s important they don’t feel deprived in order for them to balance their intake naturally.
Bottom line: you have nothing to fear when it comes to sugar! But, we know that there is also a lot of misinformation out there, and you must have some questions. Please, ask us anything in the comments below and we’ll write back with an answer!