When it comes to consuming sugar in our diets there are three different sources that we can consume. Fructose is sugar from fruit, sucrose is from table sugar and lactose is from dairy. All three types of sugar will impact our blood glucose levels, however, what these sugars are consumed with can determine whether they spike our blood sugar levels or provide a more sustained and steadier rise in blood sugar levels. For example, eating a lolly will cause a sudden spike in blood sugar levels, which can cause side effects in children of poor behaviour, hyperactivity, and then fatigue once the sugar levels go back down.
Fructose consumed in the form of fruit will have an impact on blood sugar levels, but not like a lolly would. Fructose in fruit is packaged up with fibre and a range of other nutrients. The fibre helps to reduce the spike in blood sugar and provides more sustained energy.
Because lactose from dairy comes along with protein and fat from dairy, it won’t greatly increase blood sugar levels.
I don’t recommend avoiding sugar from fruit or dairy. I would, however, recommend limiting added sugars from the diet. Added sugars can be found in a range of foods including biscuits, cakes and sweet treats, chocolates, lollies, fruit juice, soft drinks, cordial, salad dressings, tomato sauce, cereal, stir-fry sauces, and more. Check the nutritional label for sugar, glucose, fructose, maltose, corn sweetener, corn syrup, invert sugar, malt sugar, fruit juice concentrates, high-fructose corn syrup, honey, and brown sugar. It is best to limit these added sugars to under 6 teaspoons (25 grams) for children between 3-12. Under 3 years old it is best to give as minimal added sugars as possible.
My child begs to eat their meals in front of the TV – how can I encourage mindful eating? How do I tell them that this is not a good idea?
If you have a regular routine of eating meals at the dining table, together as a family, then the occasional meal in front of the TV is ok. I wouldn’t recommend eating in front of the TV for every meal and eating most meals together as a family. Studies show that families, including children, benefit from eating together at the table. It can:
- encourage better self-esteem and a sense of connection
- lower the risk of depression
- lower the risk of obesity
- create a better vocabulary for toddlers
- create healthier eating patterns in young adults
- cause your child to eat a healthier diet if they are witnessing their parents eating a healthy diet regularly.
Telling your child that it is ok to eat in front of the TV every now and then, but not all of the time. And letting them know that we like to eat together as a family because it makes us all feel happier and means that we get to spend more time together.
Is it bad to use food as a reward? Sometimes this is the only way I can get my child to behave…
This really depends on how often you are offering food as a reward. Is it every now and then? Then that’s fine. But if every time you offer a reward, the reward is food, then it can contribute to a poor relationship with food. There are so many other fun things that we can offer to our children as a reward. Some ideas are:
- A trip to the movies.
- Playing a game together.
- Letting your child pick a small toy.
- Giving your child a nominal amount of money and helping them to decide how much they will spend and save.
- A play at the park.
- Stickers, bath bombs, a new water bottle, a one-on-one date with you, etc
I think my child might have allergies, but I am finding it difficult to pinpoint what. What should I do?
Allergies can range from very serious to mild. If you suspect that your child may have allergies, the first step is to book an appointment with your GP. They will then provide you with a referral to an immunologist. You can choose to go through the public system or to see an immunologist privately. The immunologist will ask you a range of questions and determine whether they need to do a skin prick test and which allergens to test for. This will then determine whether your child has allergies and how serious they are if they do. Your immunologist will give you the best advice tailored to your child.
Before you know for sure what is causing your child’s symptoms, it is a good idea to be very cautious when introducing allergens, in case they do have an anaphylactic allergy to a food. If you do suspect that your child has food allergies, I would personally recommend holding off on introducing common allergen foods until you have the results from your doctor.
Is it bad to force my child to eat certain foods? I don’t want to ruin their relationship with a type of food if they really don’t want to eat it.
It’s important to remember that we all have different taste preferences and at different ages. I remember as child-hating mushrooms, for example, but now as an adult, I love them. Our taste preferences change a lot over time. Trying to force your child to eat a certain food isn’t ideal, as it can upset their relationship with that food. Or reduce their willingness to try it. When introducing foods to children, it can take them several times of being exposed to that food before they even taste it. My advice is to be patient and keep offering the food, without pressuring your child into eating it. The more they see it as a part of a normal diet, the more open they will be to trying it, in time.
What are some ways that I can act as a good role model in terms of eating and healthy habits?
The best way to demonstrate to your child how to eat healthily is to eat a diet that is rich in vegetables, fruit, lean proteins, seafood, and complex carbohydrates (like brown rice, whole grain bread, quinoa, and wholemeal pasta). If they see you eating a varied diet then they are more likely to follow suit. If they see you eating refined and processed foods, then these are the foods that they are more likely to gravitate to. One of the best ways to encourage your child to eat a healthy, balanced diet, is by sitting and eating together at meal times. This helps to promote a positive feeling surrounding meal times and healthy eating.