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Excess sweets also affect moods

Parents may want to put a lock on that cookie jar. Too many sweets in a child's diet may affect your child's mood even lowering their concentration and performance at school, says Kathleen DesMaisons, an expert on addictive nutrition and author of Little Sugar Addicts.

Not only can too much sugar in children's diets put them at risk for obesity, diabetes and high blood pressure, but research shows sugar can become addictive and affects the brain similarly to drugs, leading to similar withdrawal symptoms of mood swings, shaking, anxiety and anger.

Just like a drug addiction, the first step is admitting there is a problem. Signs a child may have a sugar addiction include constant begging for sweet foods, restlessness, obesity, exhaustion, difficulty concentrating or frequent bouts of crying and crankiness.

"Very often parents won't make that connection of a child's behavior with sugar," DesMaisons said. "You cannot imagine the effect that it can have on your children."

DesMaisons offers some tips to healing sugar addictions:

Gradually reduce sugar intake. Don't get rid of sugar completely; but gradually establish timely eating habits three meals a day with two snacks.

Make substitutions. Pick your first target, such as sugary sodas. Replace it with water, such as offering it in playful water bottles to make it more tempting. Then, look for additional substitutions, such as offering fruit for desserts and vegetables for snacks and meals. Also, replace white breads which are high in sugar and calories with healthier whole-grain breads.

Ease withdrawal. If your child experiences a meltdown from lack of sugar, give them protein, such as a cheese stick or some peanut butter, to alleviate a drop in blood-sugar levels.

Source: Saanich News

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