Numerous studies have denied the effects of sugar on children, but what should parents make of the terrible behavior that often appears on the heels of a sugar binge?
According to some nutritionists, it’s not the sugar but the sudden lack of sugar that causes the meltdown. When blood sugar levels get too high, the body releases the hormone insulin, which flushes the sugar from the blood. That sudden drop in blood sugar levels can cause children to feel sluggish – and desperate for more sugar.
Other researchers blame the rest of the junk that comes in sweets and treats. A British study last year showed that some common food dyes and the preservative sodium benzoate can cause dramatic behavioral changes in children. The younger the child, the more extreme the reactions.
Or, as some researchers say, it could just be the parents’ perception. But even if you’re not going to blame sugar for the meltdowns, sugary foods are full of empty calories that have been linked to obesity, diabetes and tooth decay.
What’s a parent to do, in this season of sugar? To make the best of an extremely sticky situation, take a good line of defense and then … let it go.
• For better quality candy, go trick-or-treating in neighborhoods, not in commercial districts (stores sometimes go for the cheap bulk stuff).
• After the initial haul, pick out the worst – candies containing hydrogenated oil, high-fructose corn syrup, artificial colorings or lengthy lists of ingredients. Favor candies made with nuts, nut butters, chocolate or cane sugar.
• Push protein and good fats, to slow down the absorption of sugar.
• Put off trick-or-treating as long as possible, or offer it in small doses – half an hour before the parade, or on the way home from the party.
• Don’t be afraid to throw away candy! You’re not doing the world a favor by eating the extras.