Sugar and your kids – how to have a birthday party without toothache
How much sugar do your kids normally consume?
How much more do they consume at the average birthday party?
I’m going to hazard a guess a lot more at the latter! And you know what? That’s ok. Wouldn’t life be boring without treats that might not be good for us but, just occasionally won’t hurt. Most adults apply this to wine or their favourite rich chocolate pudding, and for kids it’s holidays, weekends and friends’ parties that they get access to the brightly coloured sugar bombs that most parents secretly despise giving their kids, but hey, we don’t want to be a party pooper.
So is sugar all that bad anyway?
We’re told on one hand that sugar is the root of all dietary (and dentistry) evil. Then we see ‘studies’ that ‘prove’ sugar doesn’t make children hyperactive and that they’re just hyped up from the fun of the party. So which is it?
We know how sugar works – it is the easiest food, being a very small molecules of carbohydrate, to digest, which means it gets into the bloodstream quickly, hence the sudden rise in energy, followed by ‘dip’ as blood sugar falls just as quickly, hopefully just in time to take the overtired little rascals home anyway. This process is scientific fact, yet the amount and speed blood sugar rises and falls will very much depend on the individual child’s metabolism and ability to handle sugar, and is most likely why not all parents think sugar makes their children hyper. Another factor is that some children appear to experience behavioural changes in response to certain E-numbers, the very ones found in artificial, brightly coloured foods aimed at children. Given this, in the average birthday party of school age kids, there will almost inevitably be some who will behave more like they’re at an 80’s acid rave than a Princess & Pirate bouncy castle party.
What can you do to minimise sugar mayhem?
- Firstly if you do buy pre-prepared foods look for ones which have no artificial ingredients added. Use your common sense – if it looks like ‘fake’ food, it IS fake food.
- Adjust the ratios of savoury food to sweet – more wholemeal ham sarnies and sausages, less Party Ring biscuits and jelly.
- Serve lots of child friendly vegetables and fruit. You’d be surprised how many children actually really love cherry tomatoes, blueberries, cucumber and brightly coloured strips of peppers.
- Be wary of dried fruit; removing the water makes them very concentrated in natural sugars which at the end of the day are still sugar – raisins in particular are very high in sugar.
- Make lower sugar cakes by halving the amount of sugar in the recipe (this is do-able in almost any cake recipe without anyone noticing) or replace some of the sugar with mashed banana or apple puree.
- Only put sweet foods on the table once everyone has filled up on plenty of healthier options first – pudding usually comes after the main course but for some reason this doesn’t seem to apply at birthday parties!
- If you serve squash to drink instead of water buy sugar free versions – it’s less sticky to clean up when spilt too!
Want to know the best party food I’ve ever served as voted for by all children and parents present? A Cucumber Crocodile!