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Kids, Sugar and Behavioral Issues

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All kids love sugar (adults too, but I'll leave it for another post). Even though at my house I stock up little to no artificial sugar, my kids love to get their hands on it when they see it. Yes they know very well about the un-healthiness of it all and I must say they are really good about limiting it BUT kids will be kids and when they see sugary treats they want them.

Everything in moderation is OK, but what amount is moderation and what amount sends the kids over the edge? Well that all depends on an individual child.

In my case we eat super healthy 80 percent of the time and my cupboards are stocked with healthy organic snacks. My kids know what is healthy and what is not and surprisingly have amazing self-control (most of the time) when it comes to consuming sugary treats and desserts. So besides thinking about cavities and weight gain most don't think about other detrimental effects of sugar in children.

Because I am a nutrition/lifestyle coach AND we eat so healthy I never connected behavior changes in my school-aged child to sugar consumption. Before I connected the dots I would witness the behavior changes that would come on gradually over a few days and notice that my child wasn't acting her normal self. Her concentration would go down. She had a much harder time staying focused on her homework and at school. She would get agitated way too easily and even get a tad aggressive. Even when she was playing it seemed to be all over the place. This type of behavior lasted from 1-2 weeks. Since it didn't happen very often in the beginning I just chucked it to kids being kids and going through various developmental stages. However, deep down inside I felt that there was something more.

Since it wasn't just a one- or a two-time issue I started to journal what she did as well as what she ate for a few days before the behavior started. After about 3-4 months (yes it took me awhile to realize what the culprit was) I realized that the onset of the behavior was a few days after she had been consuming desserts and treats.

When I finally came to realization that perhaps it's the over-consumption of sugar that made her act the way she did I immediately stopped giving her anything that had sugar (she still continued eating fruits) and ensured that she was eating a super clean diet. I mean I had to cut out any artificial sugars, all natural organic treats/homemade cookies/ice cream, etc. and ensure that she ate a lot of vegetables, drank a lot of homemade smoothies and had good clean organic protein (fish/chicken). About 3-5 days she was back to acting her normal self. IT WAS THAT SIMPLE.

It truly shocked me that a few days of unhealthy desserts could wreck such havoc on my child's system. Now I am super careful about how much sugar she consumes and when I see even a slightest change in her behavior I ensure that all sugar gets cut off.

So be aware of your children's behavior/concentration levels and if you feel it could be related to sugar cut it out for a week and see what happens. Keep in mind, my daughter didn't eat a ton of treats in one sitting but if we had a busy social calendar or it was around some sort of holidays/birthdays where there were desserts (and not the healthy homemade ones) this is when the behavior issue would come out.

In conclusion I want to say that sugar affects each kid differently and what is moderation for one is way too much for the other. The least artificial sugar they consume the better it is. Most foods have sugar but there is a big difference between eating fruit and eating a piece of candy. There is also a big difference between eating organic dark chocolate and regular milk chocolate bar.

I would love to hear if you had similar issues with your children because of sugar and what you did or are doing to minimize those effects. Also, don't forget to share this so more parents can become educated on effects of sugar in children.

Maria Losseva-Malho, NWS, NWL
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