How to Manage Sugar Rushes in Children?

As parents, we have to use strategies to manage sugar rushes in children. Its short- and long-term effects demand it. Keep reading.
How to Manage Sugar Rushes in Children?

Last update: 08 July, 2023

Bad mood, extra energy, hyperactivity? It may be all or some of these reactions that our children experience when they eat a huge load of sugar. And, although sugar rushes remain a myth, anecdotal observation tells us that behavioral changes do occur.

In any case, we’re interested in knowing how to manage sugar rushes in children to avoid their extreme reactions. Although it’s a much-discussed phenomenon, it’s undeniable that excessive sugar consumption has long-term health consequences.

For that reason, in this article, you’ll learn what a sugar rush is, its consequences, and the tools we as parents can implement to control it.

Assorted candies.

What’s said about sugar rushes?

“Sugar rush” is a term used to describe the acute effects that sugar can have on children’s behavior and energy.

But why is it controversial? Well, despite the popular belief that sugar causes hyperactivity in children, there’s not enough evidence to support it.

Critics of the theory linking hyperactivity to sugar consumption explain that this extreme behavior in children is due to a rapid increase in blood glucose, followed by a rapid decrease in blood glucose when it’s used up immediately.

As the cells run out of fuel (glucose), other mood changes may occur, e.g. tiredness, irritability, and hunger.

In other words, it’s not the sugar itself that causes behavioral changes, but the rapid drop in blood glucose, especially if the child hasn’t eaten anything before the sweets. The hyperactivity may be due to the euphoria of wanting to eat more sugar rather than to the act of having consumed them.

In this regard, a meta-analysis reported in the journal Neuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews in 2019, suggests that high sugar consumption is associated with fatigue and lower alertness one hour after consumption. It’s not hyperactivity after ingesting sugar that’s the main change observed in children!

The speed with which these changes appear depends on whether the stomach is full or empty

For example, if accompanied by protein or fat, sugar will take longer to reach the blood, maintaining the energy supply. But if the stomach is empty, the effect happens in a short time.

In addition, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) also remind us that an exaggerated consumption of sugar has long-term costs, such as obesity and diabetes. That’s why they recommend no more than 10% of daily calories from added sugar in children over 2 years of age.

For these reasons, it’s necessary to know how to manage sugar rushes in children. We’ll tell you how right away.

Strategies to manage sugar rushes in children

When faced with a sugar rush, our strategy is to avoid it at all costs. For this, you need to adjust some dietary tips to help prevent the absence of sugar in the blood after it’s metabolized. Here are our recommendations.

Include foods rich in protein, fat, and fiber

If your child has a birthday party or a get-together with friends, you have to prepare them for the explosion of sugar.

So, you have to satiate their stomach shortly before the fun or combine sweets with foods that slow down the digestive process. This is where protein foods come in, such as meats, chicken, turkey, legumes, or nuts.

Healthy fats are also an excellent option, as their satiety power is high. Olive oil, peanut butter, avocado, canola oil, and fatty fish such as salmon or mackerel are recommended.

Fiber is also necessary in the child’s diet. It’s not digestible and it slows down the whole process. So, combine whole fruits, vegetables, and whole grains that provide insoluble fiber. They not only help in digestion but also prevent constipation.

At the same time, as reviewed by the specialist staff of the Mayo Clinic, soluble fiber, such as oats, legumes, barley, granola, and other vegetables, regulate sugar absorption.

Add probiotics to the diet

The consumption of beneficial bacteria for health is a good card to play during sugar binges. And, for this, we can use probiotic foods. These strengthen the gut microbiota, which are trillions of healthy bacteria living in the gut.

A study reviewed in the journal Diabetology in 2022, emphasizes that excess sugar modifies the composition and functionality of the gut microbiota, altering its balance. This can affect the intestinal barrier and the body’s defense system.

Yogurt is the easiest probiotic option, and you can mix it with nuts or fresh fruit. Probiotic supplements are also a good option, but check with your doctor first.

Eat to strengthen the immune system

Several studies point to the negative effect of excessive sugar consumption on the immune system. One of them is the review by Shomali and their group of researchers in the journal Biotechnology and Applied Biochemistry in 2021.

Excess sugar can reduce the body’s ability to fight disease, so consume more antioxidants such as vitamin C, vitamin A, and zinc. These vitamins are part of the fresh, colorful fruits and vegetables recommended for children.

For example, before a birthday party, include kiwi, strawberry, orange, grapefruit, guava, papaya, and carrot juices in your meals.

Prepare pumpkin, broccoli, and animal-based protein foods. Legumes and nuts also provide enough zinc.

Fruit and smoothies.

Encourage good eating habits

Learning from modeling is one of the most effective ways of learning for the little ones at home. If we encourage them to consume natural foods with less sugar together, we teach them to eat healthier.

We should also teach them from an early age to check product labels for added sugars and encourage them to have a critical attitude toward the advertising gimmicks of unhealthy foods.

It’s also important to explain to them that excess sugar could have a negative effect both in the short and long term. Obesity, diabetes, tooth decay, hypertension, and fatty liver, among others, are some of the health problems that excessive consumption of sugars can lead to.

Allow some sweets from time to time, without putting their health at risk

Our children have the right to have fun and treat themselves from time to time. Candy, cookies, cakes, and so on are among their favorites. And, while sugar rushes are an issue that’s still debatable, what’s clear is that after a sugar binge, mood swings occur in children.

Fortunately, we can counteract the mood swing by eating a healthy diet before, during, or after sweets. It should be full of fresh fruits and vegetables, healthy fats, lean proteins, whole grains, probiotics, and natural antioxidants.

By encouraging good eating habits, we can raise awareness of the risks to their health.

Also, remember that when it comes to sweets, you can make your own healthy treats, using fruit sugars such as jams or strained or canned fruit. You can also consult a nutritionist about the use of natural non-caloric sweeteners recommended for children.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.