4 Simple Steps to Break Your Kids' Sugary Snack Habit

Sweets disrupt the mix of bacteria in their digestive tract, which leads to learning and memory problems as adults.

4 Simple Steps to Break Your Kids' Sugary Snack Habit

There's nothing sweet about offering your children sugar-added foods and beverages. According to new research, the sweets disrupt the mix of bacteria in an adolescent's digestive tract, which then leads to learning and memory problems as adults!

U.S. kids drink an average of 30 gallons of sugary drinks a year and take in even more added sugar from processed foods. That's enough to cause widespread cognition problems down the road, according to researchers who did a lab study on the long-term effects of consuming a lot of sugar during adolescence. The study, in the journal Translational Psychiatry, showed that the sugar bomb increased levels of one particular gut bacterium. That interfered with cognitive development in the hippocampus — a part of the brain that is still undergoing changes in adolescents. And that dims the future adult brain.

So here are some easy ways to break your kids' sugary snack habit.

4 Tips for Parents

1. Never give your children sugar-added beverages (that's where the bulk of kids' added sugar comes from) or foods.

2. Tell them why you are concerned: It can damage their brain.

3. Set a great example by ditching all sugary beverages yourself, including sports and energy drinks.

4. Teach them to read ingredient labels (and do it with them, too!) so everyone knows to avoid any foods that include these sugars:

  • dextrose
  • fructose and high fructose corn syrup
  • glucose
  • lactose
  • maltose sucrose
  • beet sugar
  • cane sugar
  • corn syrup and other syrups
  • maltodextrin
  • molasses.

Give your child a fighting chance to be his or her healthiest, most successful self. That's the sweet thing to do.

Q: I end up overeating because it makes me feel better and I never really get full. I'd like to lose weight but this makes it hard. Any suggestions?

A: Being persistently hungry can cause big trouble. So can overeating for comfort/pleasure. These two behaviors, say researchers from Baylor University's Children's Nutrition Research Center, are controlled deep within your brain by serotonin-producing neurons, but operate separately from each other — one in the hypothalamus, the other in the midbrain. They both can, however, end up fueling poor nutritional choices and obesity.

Eating for Hunger

When hunger is your motive for eating, the question is: "Does your body know when you've had enough?" Well, if you are overweight, obese or have diabetes you may develop leptin resistance and your "I am full" hormone, leptin, can't do its job. The hormone's signal to your hypothalamus is dampened, and you keep eating.

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