Category Archives: Food & Nutrition

Sugar Monsters



I want to start off with a hilarious but also slightly tragic video..

Hello. My name is Genevieve and I’m the mother of a sugar addict.

My 11 year old daughter has always been completely infatuated with sweets even though I didn’t keep them in my home. Somehow, even though I kept sweets out of our normal routine, just the treats that she came across at school during breakfast (yes.. kids had a choice of cocoa puffs or frosted flakes at public school breakfast – that’s another topic that I will write on later) and during parties and at her friends homes, she became addicted.

I recently found this hilarious journal entry that she wrote unbeknownst to me, several years back. I was cleaning out my office and found an old notebook and thumbed through it before tossing it. This had me in stiches, but it was also a stark reminder of how serious the addiction can be!

g journal

I was lucky enough to grow up with a mom that was a former hippie and although I hated never having cereal sweeter than plain shredded wheat biscuits, the lack of sugar in my diet allowed my taste buds to develop in a much healthier way, without the desire for a lot of sweets. I had (and still have) a genuine love the unaltered taste of all kinds of foods in their natural state. There’s something incredibly beautiful about the array of flavors, colors and textures that nature gives us. To instill a true love of healthy food is one of the best gifts we can give our children, one that will bring positive benefits to them throughout their lives.

What many people don’t realize is that many foods we don’t associate with as being sweet will react in the body the same way that plain table sugar will. Simple carbohydrates like white bread, many cereals, donuts, basically anything made with plain flour, will turn to sugar in the blood and cause severe glucose spikes. Glucose levels in the blood spike then drop suddenly, resulting in low blood sugar. This is what causes a sense of fatigue, tiredness, lethargy or irritation after consuming a large quantity of carbohydrates. It is variously described as a sense of tiredness, lethargy, irritation, or hangover.

What is happening is that the rapid rise in blood glucose leads to a quick insulin secretion, which in turns leads to rapid glucose uptake by tissues. The consequent fall in blood glucose is what causes the negative symptoms.

Here are some symptoms of low blood sugar in children:

  • has trouble concentrating
  • is easily frustrated
  • is more irritable than usual
  • gets angry unexpectedly
  • is restless and can’t keep still
  • becomes almost irrational and cannot be talked out of it

It all starts with breakfast

Refined carbohydrates include sugar, honey, all kinds of flour, maple syrup, corn syrup andeven fruit juice. In fact, the typical “healthy American breakfast” tends to be the meal that is highest in refined carbs and lowest in protein—waffles, muffins, toast, instant oatmeal, cereals, bagels, orange juice, etc.  Making changes to breakfast is the most important place to start for families, but most children eat far too much sugar all day long.  Contrary to popular belief even pure fruit juice is not a healthy choice verses eating the fruit. Many other breakfast options such as chocolate milk, granola bars, most boxed cereals, home-made desserts, whole-grain muffins, and fruit juice-based candies are not healthy foods for children. All of these foods are very high in sugars, which are strongly associated with high insulin levels and inflammation throughout the body, not to mention tooth decay and attention and behavior issues.

To summarize why limiting sugar is so important:

  1. Sugar causes tooth decay by feeding bacteria that cause cavities.
  2. Sugar causes behavior problems due to rapid rises and drops in blood sugar causing erratic insulin releases that leave children feeling extremes between shakiness and lethargy, along with irritability and the craving of more sweets.
  3. Sugar causes obesity. Sugary snacks and drinks along with breads, pastas and other simple carbohydrates, are packed with calories and very little to no nutrition.
  4. A high sugar diet increases the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes or insulin resistance.


Here are some simple ways to limit your child’s sugar intake:

  1. Limit, or do away with altogether, sweet drinks. Never feed your child sodas or soft drinks and limit their intake of fruit drinks, fruitades and so-called sports drinks, which have high caloric content in the large quantities that kids will consume when they are physically active. Most sports drinks that you think are a single serving are actually 2-4 servings. That quadruples the sugar and calories.
  2. Cut out processed carbohydrates whenever possible. Feed your child more “real” food like fresh whole fruits and vegetables. Have your child help prepare snacks and come up with fun ways of serving raw fruits and veggies. Presentation is EVERYTHING!! (see recipe ideas)
  3. Make sure your child is consuming plenty of healthy fiber. Again, whole fruits and vegetables are the healthiest forms of fiber, they stabilize blood sugar and keep the body from spiking.
  4. Shop on the outside of the grocery store. Produce, meats, nuts & seeds and some dairy (see article about milk alternatives) should make up the majority of your families diet. Stay away from the inner isles that are filled with process boxed foods.
  5. Consider alternative diet lifestyles such as Paleo.

How to transition Toddlers & Preschoolers to a Paleo diet

kids paleo


Have you decided to transition your toddler or preschooler to paleolithic nutrition and are wondering where to start?  Making any diet changes at this age has some special challenges.  Aversion to unfamiliar food is hardwired into a child’s brains at this age.  And when you add refusing to eat for days, temper tantrums until they puke or pass out, and/or restless sleep because they didn’t eat well at dinner into the mix, it can feel like an insurmountable challenge.  I can speak from personal experience here:  sometimes it feels like it just isn’t worth it.

But it is worth it.  Children who follow paleolithic diets (or lacto-paleo diets with grass-fed dairy) tend to sleep better, tend to get sick less often, tend to pay attention in school better, tend to have more energy to play, and tend to have more even moods.  So, where do you start?

Start with familiar foods:  Focus on what foods your child already likes that are paleo or lacto-paleo.  Does your child like raisins?  bananas? While transitioning your child, offer these foods freely.

Next, look at “almost paleo” foods:  What foods does your child love that can be easily made paleo with a simple ingredients switch can make a food paleo.  Maybe it’s switching out almond butter for peanut butter.  Maybe it’s switching to grass-fed meat and dairy.  Maybe it’s using arrowroot starch/flour as a thickener instead of corn starch.  Maybe it’s buying grass-fed no filler hot dogs (US Wellness Meats has 3 different kinds to choose from!).  Does your child love meatballschicken fingers, or fish sticks?  The paleo versions are easy and taste great.  My paleo muffins and cookies also tend to be a hit because they just aren’t that different tasting from a wheat-flour based muffin.  Whatever paleo versions of these foods you find that your child likes, offer them often.

Then, look at sorta familiar and new foods:  By “sorta familiar” foods, I mean things that might be a bit harder to present as an old favorite, like paleo bread (see all my bread recipes) or paleo crackers (see all my cracker recipes).  They’re yummy but they also look a little different and taste different than the conventional version of these foods.  Try them, don’t force them, and you might get lucky.  Don’t make a battle out of the food, but try and encourage your child to taste it more than once.  And as you are trying new paleo recipes for the family, offer them to your child (rather than relying on things you know they will eat).  However you normally present meals, keep your rules the same (if you normally enforce a “eat what the rest of us are eating” rule or if you normally cook a different meal for your kids that you know they like), and don’t make a battle out of food.

Allow some wiggle room for gluten-free treats:  Just like adults are allowed an occasional gluten-free cheat, so are kids.  Maybe you want to buy some gluten-free waffles (my toddler loves the Trader Joe’s ones) or allow some mashed potatoes from time to time.  This might increase the variety your child is eating and help you get through the transition.

Give kids choice:  Children this age thrive on simple choices.  Offer them 2 or 3 different things (but only foods you’re willing to give them).  Depending on your child’s age and personality, you may need to offer foods right at meal time, meaning you’ll have to prepare food that might go into your fridge as leftovers.  Or, you may be able to offer a choice before you start cooking (which is simpler from a food prep standpoint, but then your child may be choosing dinner for the whole family).

Don’t have foods you don’t want them to eat in the house:  Purge your fridge, freezer and pantry of anything you don’t want your kids to eat.  You decide where the line is.  In my house, we have some gluten-free foods just for the kids (like Chex cereal and gluten-free waffles).  It makes it a lot easier to refuse giving a specific food to your child if you just don’t have any.

Involve them at the grocery store and in the kitchen:  This is similar to giving a child a choice of meals, but goes one step farther.  Let your child put food into your shopping cart (maybe let them pick which apples to put in a bag, etc.).  Maybe let your child pick out some new (paleo) foods that aren’t part of your family’s normal meals (maybe your child is attracted to the color of a melon you’ve never tried or thinks that the word halibut sounds funny).  Let your child flip through (paleo) recipe books and suggest new recipes to try.  Get your child to help you cook.  Children generally show more interest in trying new foods when they’ve had a hand in choosing and preparing them.

Talk to them about food in simple, general terms:  Depending on the age of your child, having some dialogue about family food choices can be very helpful.  Keep it simple and undramatic.  Please don’t say things like “gluten will kill you!” or “peanut butter will make you sick!”.  You don’t need to scare them into eating this way!  And a sensitive child may make leaps of logic that you aren’t anticipating (“Grampa eats bread so he’s going to die soon”).  I try and focus on the positives “we eat these foods because they help make us grow up big, strong and healthy” or “we choose these foods because they’re better for our tummies” or “we choose these foods because they give us lots of energy and help our brains get extra smart”.  Sometimes I just say “I learned to eat this way because it makes me feel so good and I want you to feel this good too!”.

Don’t make a big deal of Neolithic foods when you’re out of the house:  Okay, let’s be specific here.  I don’t mean that fast food is okay just because you are pressed for time.  I mean that if your child wants a piece of birthday cake at a friend’s party or gets offered a piece of pizza at a playdate, don’t make a big deal of it (especially if you have no control over the food choices).  As long as they don’t have allergies or strong food sensitivities, a little won’t hurt.  When you can, keep it gluten-free.  When you can’t, just do your best.