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Ask the Nutritionist: How do I help my child control their sugar cravings?

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My child constantly nags for sweets and seems to have a real problem controlling his behaviour (especially after eating sugar). How can I help control his cravings and calm him down, without banning sugar all together?

Having balanced blood sugar levels has been shown to help control children’s behaviour. When your kids frequently eat foods that are really high in sugar, their blood glucose levels soar (leading to a sudden release of insulin by the pancreas) before crashing really low in a short period of time. This often leads to very hyper children and what I call “melt down” kids. In the long run, eating too many sugary foods can contribute to the development of type 2-diabetes. In order to prevent this we need to feed our children foods that balance their blood glucose. Examples of such foods include: vegetables, fruits, whole grains, nuts, seeds, avocados, and good quality protein sources, including legumes and beans.

Eating a balanced diet can include sweet treats, but only occasionally. If you are making your children’s sweet treats at home you can control what type of sugar (and how much of it) goes into their food. Using apple sauce, dried dates or date syrup, and coconut flower nectar are better ways to sweeten your children’s snacks as they are low GI and don’t raise their blood sugar levels so high. Another great tip is offering your kids foods that are high in fibre (like fruits, vegetables, oats and other wholegrains) as fibre provides bulk to their meals without wreaking havoc on their blood sugars.

A good example of a healthy treat is these homemade oatmeal, date and coconut sugar cookies.

Oat and Date Cookies

– ½ cup extra virgin coconut oil
– ¼ cup of good quality honey or coconut flower nectar
– 1 organic egg (room temperature)
– 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
– 1 cup spelt flour (or almond meal)
– 2 cups rolled oats
– ½ teaspoon baking powder
– ½ teaspoon sea salt
– 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
– 1 cup chopped up dried dates

1. Preheat oven to 180 degrees Celsius.
2. Beat the oil and honey or coconut flower nectar in a standing mixer for 1 minute.
3. Add the eggs and vanilla extract and beat for another minute on medium speed or until smooth.
4. In a separate bowl, mix and combine the dry ingredients (flour, oats, baking powder, salt and cinnamon).
5. Slowly add the dry ingredients into the wet and mix to incorporate.
6. Stir in the dates, then drop 1 tablespoon of dough for each cookie onto a lined baking sheet.
7. Bake for 12-14 minutes.

Makes 24 small(ish) cookies

Top image sourced via shutterstock

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