Is candy bad for kids?

In many ways moderation is the secret to life, but when it comes to candy there’s a national movement about taking the chocolate bar out…
Is candy bad for kids?

Candy and kids.( Shutterstock)

In many ways moderation is the secret to life, but when it comes to candy there’s a national movement about taking the chocolate bar out of our kids’ hands and instead replacing it with an apple.

SEE ALSO: What parents should know about Halloween candy and sugar

The idea of collectively getting healthy, especially with our children, is a valiant quest but we all see how well that’s going for First Lady Michelle Obama. Nevertheless, VOXXI talked to Cleveland Clinic Children’s 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. “It’s not good for your teeth and can cause tooth decay. Also, it’s empty calories. It doesn’t really have any nutritional value and if you eat enough of it, it can lead to excess weight gain and obesity.”

Diabetes and children

Diabetes increasing among children. (Shutterstock)

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 don’t know if candy is a gateway food, but I would say it’s 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 they’re in the same category as candy. Furthermore, there’s a belief that an altered taste sensitivity can take place when kids eat too much.

“If it’s a habit – and I’d 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 children’s blood sugar, which most parents can attest leads to all too familiar hyperactive behavior. If that’s not bad enough, the spike is followed by a drop in the children’s blood sugar level, which then causes kids to be irritable and cranky. Sounds familiar?

As far as eating healthy, candy obviously isn’t 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 they’re 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 Snicker’s bar as a treat, that’s fine. It’s when there’s unlimited access where there’s 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 you’ll lose when the child or teenager is at school or out with friends making their own culinary choices.

“It’s important to start at an early age to kind of coach them on what’s healthy and what’s not,” Vargo said. “Present candy as a treat that is something we only eat in small quantities because it’s not good for us, not healthy for us when we eat large amounts. Hopefully, they’ll 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, they’re more likely to eat candy in moderation. The other thing, kids don’t do the grocery shopping, parents do. So if it’s not healthy, don’t bring it in the house.”

SEE ALSO: Vegan children: Is eating vegan safe for developing kids?