by Vaishali Sudan Sharma
Too much of anything is bad for you! Just as you can’t be too nice, too sad, too happy, too rich, similarly your food can’t taste too salty, bitter, sour or sweet. There has to be a right balance because an excess of anything can be harmful.
Talking about sweet, according to WHO (World Health Organization), one must not get any more than 10% of their daily calories from sugar, but now they’re considering lowering that to 5%. I am not surprised! The fact is that a scoop of ice cream or a bowl full of gajar ka halwa (carrot pudding) won’t do any harm to your little one. All things in moderation are good! However, overconsumption of sugar may be harmful not just for kids but adults alike.
I don’t mean to alert you by re-affirming that sugar is toxic, addictive and life-threatening. It isn’t! All I am suggesting is that there needs to be just the right balance. There are foods such as flavored yogurts or flavored milk which have a better nutrient profile and when given to your child, all the important nutrients along with the sugar they contain are provided as a wholesome meal.
In fact, I don’t understand why sugar is one of the most feared food items placed secretly in our grocery baskets. You know it’s not nearly as bad as many people think. Practicing moderation is the best and healthiest way of leading a life. As a mom, I use only small amounts of sugar to enhance the flavor of nutritious foods. A spread of jam on my little one’s multi-grain bread, a sprinkle of sugar over his daily bowl of cereal or maple syrup to his freshly cut fruit cone. I only offer ice-creams, a few bites from the bar of chocolate or a tetra-pack juice as an incentive for a good job done! Pastries and birthday cakes are a treat that happens once in a while! Why you may ask. It is because I read food labels carefully. My grocery shopping is a well researched, ing-ground rendezvous with processed food!
I think I know a little too much about sugar. And I want you to know it too..
Know More About Sugar!
Sugar must not be termed as an “unfit” dietary inclusion. But, this isn’t 100% true. So let’s delve deeper here and throw some light on this simple-yet-complex molecule.
There are different kinds of sugar, starting with simple sugars (called monosaccharides) like glucose, fructose, and galactose. Then there are also more complex forms (called disaccharides) like sucrose, maltose, and lactose. Because it is important for the end consumer to understand the difference between ‘good’ sugar, which is healthy and can very well satisfy the sweet tooth, I thought it might be a good idea to list the many different types of sugar and whether they’re any healthier for your little one or not:
1. Glucose: This sugar is present in plants and fruits. It is actually a byproduct of photosynthesis.
2. Fructose: Naturally present in fruits such as banana, etc. It also occurs naturally in cane sugar and honey.
3. Sucrose: This kind is found in the stems of sugar cane, the roots of sugar beet, and can be found naturally alongside glucose in certain fruits and other plants.
4. Lactose: Essentially known as milk sugar! This type of sugar is created in the human body through enzymes. The molecule is broken down into lactose by the enzyme reaction. However, some children and adults too maybe lactose intolerant.
Do note that the source of all the artificial sugar consumed by our body is the processing of one of two types of plants: sugar beets or sugar cane. This sugar has absolutely no nutritional value!
The Truth About Sugar Crash:
What follows right after your body has experienced a sugar rush is termed as a sugar crash. When too much insulin is released, our blood sugar begins to drop below normal levels. And we cram for more sugar. Too much of sugar cram means our body isn’t burning it as energy. Instead, it goes straight to extra insulin and fat storage!
So, What Happens When We Consume Sugar?
When we consume sugar, our bodies can either burn the sugar as energy or converts into glycogen (essentially: liver and muscle fuel). Our bodies can actually produce glucose when needed. So, when we consume sugar, pancreas detects a rush of sugar, and our brain signals it to release insulin hormone to deal with all of that excess sugar. Insulin in-turn helps regulate that level of sugar in our blood. If there is a lot of sugar in the bloodstream, the pancreas are required to produce more insulin. Insulin helps store all of this glucose in the liver and muscles as glycogen and in fat cells!
3 Absolutely Harmful Effects of Sugar on Your Child’s Health:
1. Cavities: Sugar lays the foundation for the growth of bacteria. That’s one of the reasons why most pediatricians advise against putting babies to sleep with bottled milk. Bottle decay has become way too common in babies these days.
2. Diabetes: A high-sugar diet can increase a child’s risk of developing Type 2 diabetes. Overworking pancreas which is being pushed to release more and more insulin every time there are a sugar rush and sugar cram is a crime on the organ (as well the body). And that my dear folks is not a good spot for your child to be in.
3. Obesity: Children tend to gain a few kilos if their calorie intake is way more than how much they can burn. Unfortunately, syrupy drinks, those birthday cakes, the evening oily-snacks, and sweet treats are packed with calories above and beyond what kids should typically have. One of the things I have always wanted to ban in the schools is those soda vending machines!
Now that my little one is trained enough not to ask for too much sugar in his homemade desserts, we are definitely enjoying our food! I am not saying that we don’t indulge in occasional sweets. Oh! Yes, we do! In fact in small quantities, sugar actually encourages nutritious eating. So, It is just that we have become more careful with the labels before purchasing any food item. Recently a friend recommended a few products from Slurrp Farm. We celebrated my birthday by gorging on the yummiest (and super healthy) cookies I have ever eaten. I am talking about Slurrp Farm’s no transfat- oat, honey, banana and raisin cookies banana which have very little sugar.
100% Yummy-ness: A Healthy, Organic Alternative to Junk Food:
Slurrp Farm is a health and organic food brand for children. Their mission (which should be every parents’ mission too) to provide tasty and 100% natural alternatives to the junk food that surrounds kids today. The brand is going all out to help parents fight the good fight of feeding their children healthy from an early age and making it fun.
At Slurrp Farm, there’s an emphasis on whole-wheat flours, millets, and lentils, which are a great source of fiber and vitamins among children. They love using traditional superfoods like ragi. Across their exclusive and select product portfolio, they use natural sweeteners like real fruit, freeze-dried or pureed, molasses, jaggery (gur), honey and organic brown sugar. Do note that they do not use any additives, hydrogenated fats or preservatives which make food addictive and unhealthy for children.
For parents with babies who are just getting started on their semi-solids, Slurrp Farm baby cereals are highly recommended. They use organic brown sugar for their preparation. Besides, Slurrp Farm products use wholegrain flours!
The fact remains that you can’t deny your child sugar. Even if there are strict rules at home, they will have access to it when they step out. However, what I suggest you should do is – instill healthy eating habits right from the beginning and create a healthy relationship with sugar.
About Vaishali Sudan Sharma: She is a mommy blogger, a communication consultant, and a super-juggler. And that's not enough, she also happens to be an avid reader, lover of acid jazz, die-hard fan of Nicolas Jaar, a narcissistic wife, and a doting mom. Phew!