In many ways moderation is the secret to life, but when it comes to candy theres a national movement about taking the chocolate bar out of our kids hands and instead replacing it with an apple.
The idea of collectively getting healthy, especially with our children, is a valiant quest but we all see how well thats going for First Lady Michelle Obama. Nevertheless, VOXXI talked to Cleveland Clinic Childrens Pediatrician Dr. Karen Vargo in hopes of getting a better handle on whether or not candy is bad for our kids.
Candy itself is so available and pervasive, I think from the get-go parents should teach their kids that a little bit of candy as a treat is OK but lots of candy is not good, Vargo said. Its not good for your teeth and can cause tooth decay. Also, its empty calories. It doesnt really have any nutritional value and if you eat enough of it, it can lead to excess weight gain and obesity.
Type 2 diabetes
Speaking to the latter, the other conversation to have regarding candy is its relation to type 2 diabetes. Vargo said childhood and teenage obesity and diabetes rates have skyrocketed, but candy is only part of the problem when coupled with diet and lack of exercise.
I dont know if candy is a gateway food, but I would say its a symptom of an unhealthy diet, Vargo said. I suspect that kids eating a lot of candy are also drinking a lot of fruit juice, eating a lot of chips those are empty calories.
Speaking of fruit juices, which is a misnomer considering the sugar and candy-like flavors available on the market, nowadays theyre in the same category as candy. Furthermore, theres a belief that an altered taste sensitivity can take place when kids eat too much.
If its a habit and Id put fruit juice in the same category as sugary beverages where you develop a taste for that, it becomes something you expect, Vargo said.
In terms of behavior, she said ingesting large quantities of sugar causes a spike in childrens blood sugar, which most parents can attest leads to all too familiar hyperactive behavior. If thats not bad enough, the spike is followed by a drop in the childrens blood sugar level, which then causes kids to be irritable and cranky. Sounds familiar?
As far as eating healthy, candy obviously isnt the answer. However, Vargo stressed it does play a role.
I think everything in moderation, Vargo said. If parents want to give a little treat when theyre potty training a kid, like one M&M is fine but not the whole bag. Like if you eat a healthy dinner and want to have a Snickers bar as a treat, thats fine. Its when theres unlimited access where theres a problem.
The answer to whether candy is bad for kids is a simple one to which we invariably already know the answer. Basically, something you eat in small quantities is fine. The other side of that coin is forbidding candy with your children, which then becomes a power struggle that ultimately youll lose when the child or teenager is at school or out with friends making their own culinary choices.
Its important to start at an early age to kind of coach them on whats healthy and whats not, Vargo said. Present candy as a treat that is something we only eat in small quantities because its not good for us, not healthy for us when we eat large amounts. Hopefully, theyll carry that message throughout their life.
The big thing is to present them with alternatives like healthy snacks. When kids are filling up on healthy snacks, theyre more likely to eat candy in moderation. The other thing, kids dont do the grocery shopping, parents do. So if its not healthy, dont bring it in the house.