How much should you let your little ones have?
October means Halloween and Halloween means gobs and gobs of candy. Many children haul in pounds of the sugary stuff each Halloween. But how do you limit the consumption of sugary treats in your house without being a Grinch? And how much is too much?
Stick to a 1-2 piece limit
One piece, two -- what’s the right amount you should let your little astronaut or witch have? A good guideline to keep in mind is to keep added sugars to 25 grams or less per day. Breakfast cereals themselves can contain upwards of 25 grams of sugar per cup. All of that is almost always added sugar. That means if your little tiger has a bowl of cereal for breakfast, it’s probably not a great idea to pop a candy bar in his lunch box.
For reference, a fun size Snickers bar contains 8.5 grams of sugar, a Tootsie Pop has 11 grams and a fun size package of Twix contains 17 grams. When combined with other added sugars consumed throughout the day such as those in drinks, jarred marinara sauce, and yogurt, it’s easy to hit that 25-gram limit.
When you count sugars, keep in mind that the limit applies to added sugars, not natural sugars. Natural sugars occur in things like tomatoes, apples and oranges. The things you find natural sugar in are also often packed with other necessary nutrients like fiber and protein. Don’t cut out foods with natural sugars in your child’s diet just because she has a piece of candy -- she could miss out on important nutrients!
Don’t make it a habit
Habits are hard to break. Instead of getting into a groove of allowing a certain amount of candy each day at a specified time, play it by ear. Maybe one day you let your little one have a piece of candy after lunch. Maybe the next day, you let her have a treat after dinner. If you get into a habit of allowing sugar at the same time every day, once you run out of candy, your child may continue to crave sugary treats each day or may have the mindset that he/she just “gets” a piece of candy each day. It becomes something that is part of a routine instead of a conscious choice.
If there’s any day your child consumes too much added sugar then it’s easier to say “not today,” since he will not have an expectation that candy is something he gets every day. If you have an older child, you can loop the child into the decision process, counting added sugars together and then making informed decisions.
Eating sugar on an empty stomach can cause drastic blood sugar spikes. Individually, they won’t cause much damage, but repeated blood sugar spikes can harm arteries and the metabolic system. A blood sugar spike can also make a person feel downright lousy. Headache, blurred vision and fatigue are a few signs that you may be experiencing a blood sugar spike. To keep your child’s blood sugar in check, plan sugar consumption in conjunction with meals. A good time to consume candy is within about an hour or so of eating a meal. This will slow the absorption, keeping your blood sugar levels more even.
For kids, after lunch is a good time for a treat. At lunch, you’re not battling bath time and pajama time while they’re still bouncing around from sugar. Additionally, some sugary treats contain caffeine so having them close to bedtime may make sleep difficult. If you want to let your little one have a treat after dinner, plan it for a night when you have eaten early or when she can stay up late.
Did your kid bring home enough candy to last your entire family until July? Remove the feeling she may have that she needs to finish it all by portioning some of it out to donate. Make a list of charities or organizations that will accept candy like local women’s shelters, homeless shelters and other organizations. Then, provide the list to your child and discuss what each organization does and what her candy would be used for. Have her pick one or two to donate to, decide on an amount to give, and then take her to deliver the candy herself.
Remember, it’s OK to go wild every now and again! If your kid has three pieces of candy one day, it likely won’t cause any long-term issues. However, the key is to do everything in moderation.