September 4, 2014

Have you ever stopped to think about the consequences of the treats or rewards you give your kids? An Upworthy video looks at how too many innocent treats we give our kids can have a far bigger effect than we could imagine.

With the treats, what sort of messages are we teaching kids? What habits are innocently being created?

Fat used to be the enemy. The low-fat foods craze that started forty or more years ago and still, if you look at the ‘foods’ in the centre aisles of the supermarket, exists today.

Sugar is only recently being acknowledged as having any negative health consequences. Allowing kids to consume sugar drinks such as soft drink, fruit juice or flavoured milk tells them that these items are fine. They taste good, and humans’ natural drive towards sweet foods is satisfied by these drinks. But at what cost?

All sugar and carbohydrates are broken down in the body to simple sugars. Many of these sugars enter the bloodstream, where the hormone insulin is released to transport the sugar into storage in the muscles, liver and fat cells.

Over time, chronically elevated levels of glucose (sugar) in the blood lead to the body dealing with it less efficiently. It’s like the body gets tired. It develops a condition called Insulin Resistance, where the body does not react properly to insulin and so more needs to be released.

Insulin Resistance leads to Type 2 Diabetes. In the Upworthy video, we see the results of Type 2 Diabetes in a young mother and her daughter. It’s frightening and it’s preventable.

Ultimately, what the child consumes is a direct result of what the parent allows. What the parent consumes is the result of years of habit, sometimes poor nutrition knowledge, and sometimes an addiction to these harmful drinks and foods.

Recent research demonstrated that dietary change can retrain the reward centre of the brain to respond to healthy, rather than unhealthy, choices.

All parents need to lead by example. It may be hard, but parents need to cut out sugar drinks and junk foods. Retraining taste buds and the brain so they no longer demand the stimulation of sugar drinks and junk foods may present some difficult times, but for the sake of their health – and that of their kids – it’s important.

Kids will, of course, create a fuss at being ‘deprived’. They don’t have the maturity to understand the negative health consequences of continuing to consume these drinks and foods, but parents do have this maturity. Kids generally accept the change within a few days, and the bottom line is that they won’t starve if offered only healthy options.

Putting off the necessary changes doesn’t make it any easier. Starting now can have positive benefits for individuals, families and the community at large.