Our grandchildren are certainly are excited when grandma comes to town with jelly beans and chocolates in her suitcase and they know they are in the “Land of Yes” sleeping over at Grandma’s house.
Parents and grandparents tend to reward good behavior with treats. In fact, candy is good for taking care of just about any emotion. Sweets can be very effective when helping someone who is sad feel better, or to motivate them to finish homework!
Of course, it isn’t only children who like to be rewarded with sweet treats. I personally don’t know of anyone who refuses to eat foods with sugar because they don’t like the taste.
Is Having a Sweet Tooth a Real Thing?
The answer is yes! There seems to be some disagreement about the addictiveness of sugar but all the experts agree that the more we eat the more we crave it. That sounds a little like addictive to me.
Sugar has really taken a bad rap lately and evidently according to current research, it is all true. Is sugar really that bad for us?
The Power of the Sugar Industry
Science had proof over 40 years ago that sugar makes people sick, but that information was kept from the public. Way back in the 50s there was evidence linking sugar to heart disease and other health problems.
The sugar industry actually paid for a Harvard study that down-played that research and concluded a diet high in fat was the culprit that led to high cholesterol and heart disease.
New research as recent as 2014 has proven that a diet high in sugar significantly increases your risk of dying from cardiovascular disease. Ironically, when manufacturers started offering low-fat food to consumers to be healthier, they increased the sugar content to make the food taste better.
Effects of Sugar on Children
I really haven’t taken this warning too seriously until now. Why didn’t I know all of this when my kids were growing up? I knew about cavities and I wanted my children to eat healthily, but I find it really upsetting that we all believed that a low-fat diet was healthier than limiting sugar.
Rewarding kids with sweets was common practice. I even used gumdrops to reward my kids when they were being potty trained!
Access to information through the internet or documentaries on Cable TV were not available back then. People couldn’t sit down and google any question that came to mind like, “how harmful is sugar to children?”
I am stunned by all the evidence showing the negative effects of sugar on children. Eight years ago when I became a grandmother I started paying attention to healthy eating again. I realized I didn’t want to put my grandchildren’s health at risk so I made a promise to stop force-feeding her children sweets when they come to visit. Easier said than done.
Sugar, of course, can promote obesity, cavities and diabetes in children and adults. Eating too many sweets raises your blood sugar fast, causing what we refer to as a “sugar high.”
A “sugar high” in children has been linked to hyperactivity, trouble focusing and can affect memory. Unfortunately for many children their breakfast is loaded with sugar and are expected to sit still and focus in school.
How often is a child disciplined in school because their sugary breakfast had them charged up and fidgety?
Finally, in 2018 nutrition labels will be required by law to list total sugars & added sugars. This is important because in the past sugars were lumped together making it really hard to find products that used hidden sugars.
Encourage parents to read labels. Some companies instead of putting sugar on their labels measured in teaspoons are using grams thinking most people won’t pay attention. Well, 4 grams of sugar = 1 tsp. A 16 oz can of soda has 55 grams of sugar.
How Much is too Much?
First of all, it is important to note that there is a difference between added sugar & natural sugar in foods.
Sugar is a simple carbohydrate. Fruits and some vegetables are made up of simple carbohydrates but also have fiber to slow the absorption of sugar. An apple, for example, has about 19 grams of sugar, 4 grams of fiber and is loaded with vitamins and nutrients, while a 1.5oz bar of milk chocolate has 23 grams of sugar, no fiber and no nutrients.
Sugar consumption in children is out of control. A recent landmark study of more than 3,000 infants and toddlers found that close to half of 7- to 8-month-olds are already consuming sugar-sweetened snacks, sodas and fruit drinks, a percentage that increases dramatically with age.
The current recommendation is to try to keep sugar consumption to less than 6 tsp a day. That is about 25 grams of sugar a day. Remember that little piece of chocolate at 23 grams? This is true for adults and children over the age of 6. Children’s brains are developing into their 20’s but under the age of a child’s brain is growing rapidly. The recommendation here is to try to avoid added sugars as much as possible.
Well, the average American eats about 22 teaspoons of added sugar every day, which adds up to over 70 pounds a year!
How Can You Help Your Grandchildren Eat Less Sugar and Still Be a Good Grandma?
Let’s be real. We are NOT going to eliminate sugar and I for one, don’t want to.
There is a difference between a snack and a treat. Children need nutrition all day long and that includes a couple of healthy snacks during the day. Here is where the fruits, raw vegetables, hummus, and yogurt come in. Think of a snack as a mini-meal.
A treat is something made mostly of sugar and/or fat. A treat can’t be a treat if you can have it all the time, right? Unfortunately, children eat way too many treats and not enough snacks.
Children should be taught the difference between a snack and a treat to avoid unhealthy eating habits when making their own choices.
Most experts advise to let children have treats in moderation. What’s that?
• How about a small amount of candy or a little bowl of ice cream after a meal?
• Have your child eat something healthy with the sweet like proteins and high fiber foods.
• Desserts and candy can be once-in-a while-treats. Our daughter’s children know that two nights during the week are “dessert night” after dinner. Of course, she makes exceptions for special events like holidays or visits to grandma’s house.
It is certainly harder for grandparents. First of all, it is hard to say no when babysitting and you hear, “please grandma, could I just have a little treat?”
I admit to giving in.
As grandparents, it is really important to respect the parents’ wishes when they ask you to limit treats and help them promote healthy eating behaviors. When grandparents sneak treats to their grandchildren with a wink, the message may be that you don’t respect their parents’ rules. You want to be invited back, right?
Create Memories in Other Ways
There are lots and lots of things to do with your grandchildren to have fun without sweets.
- Paint Rocks. – yep. What a hit. Get your own rocks. I bought bright Sharpie Markers because I wanted them to be colorful. Just put old t-shirts on the kids and let them go. Be sure to make your own to share with them!
- Yahtzee – I know there are many many board games out there and this is an old one. I love Yahtzee because of the awesome math strategies kids learn while playing. They can count by ones on the dice and get help from grandma or they can add, subtract and multiply while being strategic at the same time.
- Slime! Making Slime is so popular right now. It is cheap to make and is hours of fun. You can find your own recipes or buy a kit!
- Legos – When was the last time YOU really tried to put some Legos together? Did you know they come with complete directions with pictures? Jump in and have hours of fun watching your grandchildren think hard and use their imaginations.
- Binoculars– Get these for the kids and grab yourself a grown-up pair. Head outside- No further directions needed. FUN!!
I know there a million games and activities out there, I just wanted to get you thinking of things that you can do together with grandchildren. Your time with them is so precious and your job is to create memories. I will be sharing more about grandchildren fun in other posts.
Is your whole family coming for a visit? Find menus and recipes to help you get ready with Best Lists for Planning for Family Events.
Now, back to treats.
Treats are Not Always a Bad Thing
Sometimes treats are part of a bigger picture and not just a food. Baking Christmas cookies and licking the frosting off the spoon is a wonderful memory for children.
Staying overnight with grandma and grandpa will certainly include an extra scoop of ice cream, chocolate chip pancakes or too many cookies.
Hopefully, the food, the fun, and the hugs will create lifelong memories.
Resources: Big Sugar’s Sweet Little Lies
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