The Not-So-Sweet Effects of Sugar on Children

Kids can be as sweet as candy, but how much sugar is too much sugar? Sweets, candy, and sodas are all an integral part of childhood. Summers wouldn’t be complete without ice cream and Halloweens would be empty without your favorite candy treat. But too much sugar can have serious health consequences for your child. From brain function to high blood pressure, learn about the effects of sugar on children.

Provide Complete Nutrition for Healthy Development

Limiting your child’s sugar consumption can help ensure balanced nutrition and healthy development. If you’re thinking, my child eats too much sugar, you should compare their daily intake with the recommended limit. The American Heart Association recommends no more than 25 grams of sugar daily for children.

The daily recommended amount of sugar was established as a guideline to help prevent side effects and long-term health implications. 

If your child is filling up on processed, sugary foods, then they might not have as much room for healthy, whole foods that deliver the complete nutrition that their growing bodies need. A diet high in sugar can increase their risk of obesity and high blood pressure thanks to constant spikes in blood sugar levels.

Let’s talk about the negative impact of sugar on the brain. The link between sugar and child brain development has been highlighted by several studies. Results of a 2018 study suggested that increased sugar consumption during pregnancy and throughout childhood lead to decreased cognitive function and overall lower intelligence scores.

Yes, a child’s sugar addiction can be a real thing. If you find that your child is constantly craving sugar, that might be a sign that it’s time to dial back on those sugary, sweet, processed foods. If you can’t kick those sugar cravings, try swapping out for naturally sweetened foods – like berries and other sweet fruits.

Protect Your Child’s Dental Health

Limiting sugar for your child can help protect their dental health. While regular brushing, flossing, and dentist visits can help dodge those nasty cavities, a diet high in added sugars can wreak havoc on dental health.

Limit their intake of sugary fruit juices, sodas, and candy – especially right before bedtime or nap time. If you do decide to indulge in sugary treats, make sure to reinforce good tooth brushing habits to help avoid dental decay due to sweet foods.

Look for Sneaky Sugars

An easy way to make sure you’re cutting down on sugar intake is to read the nutrition labels. Many “healthy” foods aren’t so healthy. Things like yogurt, milk, and cereals can be packed with hidden added sugars that often go undetected.

Go for healthier alternatives like plain yogurt. Kick it up a notch by topping with fresh fruit, granola, and honey. Check each food to see how many grams of added sugars there are. 

Natural sugars are better because they’re usually offset by natural fibers. For example, although berries and fruit are high in natural sugars, the fiber content helps burn off the sugary energy during the digestion process. Moderate added sugars like high fructose corn syrup.

Find a Balance

Let’s be realistic. A restrictive diet (i.e., one without any sugary foods) isn’t necessarily viable. Let the kids be kids and enjoy that sweet treat or sugary drink every once in a while. Life is about finding that balance between healthy foods and the occasional indulgence.

Pay attention to what your child eats, but let them have a little bit of freedom. Completely forbidding sugar is a fast track to rebellion – which can backfire and cause more harm than good in the end.

Conclusion: Protect Your Child’s Health With a Balanced Diet

Sugar can do crazy things to a child’s developing brain and body. The effects of sugar on children range from long-term health implications to dental cavities. A healthy, balanced diet includes whole, unprocessed foods and the occasional sweet treat. There’s no need to completely eliminate all sugary foods. You can easily support their cognitive development and keep those bones and teeth healthy by moderating their sugar intake.


Note: You should always discuss dietary changes with your trusted pediatrician. This article was written to help you understand the potential health effects of a sugar-filled diet.