Ask a bunch of parents this question and most likely the answer will be, categorically, bad.
But is it really so cut and dried?
To understand if sugar is *good* or *bad*, we need to understand the context in which the child is eating it.
Isabel Foxen Duke has a list of brilliant questions in this article here, to show how context matters, when it comes to deciding whether something is healthy or not. I’ll paraphrase her questions below to apply specifically to children.
…are they only eating sugar? Or are there other ingredients that might shift the effect on their blood sugar – protein or fibre or fat?
…is eating the sugar a pleasurable, enjoyable experience?
…have they been sick and lost weight and need to get their weight back up?
…are they at a birthday party? Or are they celebrating a graduation or a big win in the weekend?
…are they diabetic and going hypoglycaemic?
…did they just learn to bake and have they made something they’re proud of?
…are they an athlete in need of energy for a game?
…have they got ‘hangry’ and need a quick something to help the discomfort while they wait for dinnertime?
…how are you defining the “health” of your child? (Disease free? Good quality of life? Longevity? Resilience and self respect? Their ability to contribute, connect with others or participate in their social world?)
We have come to a juncture in time where we are encouraged to put food into neat little, binary, boxes. Good, bad. Healthy, unhealthy. But in truth, we cannot understand if a food is healthy for a child to eat, without considering the context in which it’s being consumed.
It could also be argued, and is perhaps more helpful, that health resides in the human being, not in the food they are eating.
In other words, it’s not as simple as sugar is good or bad for kids. It’s a more nuanced & complicated answer than that.
Like what you’ve just read? Get the free Raising Body Confident Kids 3 part audio training (5 mins each), plus weekly-ish coaching emails.