Sugar is not an essential nutrient in the body — it is a harmful product. JOHN MUTURI shows you how to wean a baby off sugar.
Sugar is so sweet and like most of us, babies find it irresistible. We eat far too much of it for our own good — and so do our children.
In fact, most children eat more than double the recommended amount of sugar, which is likely to have severe health consequences.
Sugar is not an essential nutrient and you can’t die of not having enough of it.
But too much of it can cause serious health problems.
Many wrongly believe that sugar is addictive — and you may think so too, especially when you’re trying to cut down on it.
Sugar can condition your taste buds so that you need more and more to feel satisfied and get that feel-good ‘sugar rush’ that it brings. That applies to your child too. The more sugar she eats, the more she’ll want.
Hidden sugars Many of our foods contain ‘hidden’ sugars. These include processed foods containing sugar — from drinks, cereals and cakes to savoury products like baked beans. Manufacturers know too well that children love sugar, that is why they sugar-coat almost all edible products.
But adding sugar to food has benefits too.
It helps mask the taste of poor quality food and preserves it for longer.
With all these ‘hidden’ sugars in manufactured products, it is easy for your child to take in more than the recommended amount of sugar.
For instance, some mothers attempt to avoid giving children sweets, but offer them snacks like biscuits, a cup of juice and sweet fruit yoghurt between meals.
However, nutritionists explain that the extra treats — especially the sugar drinks — can easily push your child over her sugar limit.
How it affects baby When a child takes more than the recommended sugar intake, it disrupts her behaviour, causes dental decay and leads to obesity, which is linked to various life-threatening health problems like diabetes.
When we consume sugar in drinks or food, it gets converted into glucose.
This gives us an instant rush of energy and even makes us feel a little hyper.
Next, the pancreas produces insulin to stabilise the glucose and our energy levels come crashing back down, making us feel weak, sweaty, tired and unable to concentrate.
Every time your child eats or drinks something sugary, her teeth’s enamel comes under attack for up to one hour.
Normally the production of saliva helps neutralise the acid formed when our natural plaque bacteria combines with the sugar. But if teeth are constantly exposed to sugary solutions, over time they decay.
Sugary food increases the risk of the baby becoming overweight, it is full of calories and as it makes food more palatable, it can lead to over-eating.
Weight gain If the child’s calorie intake is higher than her energy needs, she will gain weight.
Obesity has serious long-term health effects such as diabetes and premature death.
Thankfully, your child can be weaned off sugar. Studies show that if you give a child low amounts of sugar between the ages of two and four, when she grows up and is exposed to more sugar she tends not liking it.
• Offer only healthy snacks between meals — a biscuit with cream cheese and chopped fresh raw fruit.
Make your child eat healthy