It’s autumn, and you’ve waved your children off to school for the new term and are looking forward to having more time to yourself. For many of us, the start of the new school year is when we resolve to start that new diet or get ourselves in shape. We all want our children to be healthy too, though, and sometimes a return to school means they’re eating less healthily than usual and are exposed to more temptation, in particular higher levels of sugar.
We may pack a nutritious lunch for our kids, we may slip a healthy snack into their school bag, but we can’t keep tabs on everything they eat during the day. A more practical approach is to educate your children about why eating too much sugar is bad for you, so that they can make their own decisions.
When we eat sugary foods, we cause a sharp rise in our blood sugar levels. Our bodies counteract this by releasing insulin, which causes the glucose in the sugar to drop into our cells giving that energy rush. As the cells process the glucose, our blood sugar levels drop and return to a healthier level. If you eat a lot of sugar, though, the body produces more and more insulin and your blood sugar levels eventually drop too low, which makes you feel headachy and tired and, ironically, craving more sugar. If you regularly eat too much sugar, your body will store any excess sugar in the liver which contributes to obesity and heart problems. While a little refined sugar won’t hurt, too much can also contribute to a wide variety of diseases including high blood pressure and asthma.
Some sources of sugar, such as chocolate, biscuits and sweets are easy to spot, but it’s harder to make children aware of hidden sugar such as fruit juice and soft drinks. Encourage them to get involved in cooking and baking so they’re aware of ingredients, and make reducing sugar into a game – swapping fresh and dried fruit for sugar in cake recipes, for example.