! Son Full of Energy, Needing Sugar Free Advice

Updated on June 03, 2012
W.M. asks from Murfreesboro, TN
19 answers

Hi ladies! My son will be 9 soon. Over the last few months he has been FULL of energy. the kind that keeps him moving even when he is sitting. He is either moving his hands, his feet, etc He has even started having an attitude towards his sister that he hasn't had up until lately. I figured it was a phase or his age but after talking with a few moms about cutting sugar from their kids diet, it got me wondering if that is my son's problem. With all the chemicals put into food lately, I am starting to worry that maybe it is affecting him and causing some sort of ADD. If I start to cut sugar out of my children's diet, what are some good ideas for snacks, desserts, etc? I can do breakfast, lunch, and dinner but our kids always get dessert after dinner and they like a icee or candy snack occasionally throughout the week. I thought that giving them one piece of candy daily or one icee a week was ok but now I am starting to pull back. I have even heard of moms taking color products out of their kids diet...like the red dye found in drinks, etc I would like some advice, suggestions, and ideas for snacks and desserts. Thanks moms!

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So What Happened?

Hi ladies! I sent this once and it seemed to have deleted it so I am having to write it again..ugh. so if you get it twice, I apologize.
Thanks so much for all of your advice. I do know now that my son does NOT seem to have ADD and I have learned from you that sugar cannot induce ADD. Thank you! I have also learned to cut out dyes....any suggestions on food ideas would be so helpful so I don't have to read ALL labels..unfortunately the labels I have read all include some form of dye!!! It is hard AND pricey to eat healthy! Please send me food and snack ideas that do not have dye if you can.....

I must also add that when I said my kids had dessert everynight, it is surely not cake, pie, etc Sometimes it is one cookie, one starburst, one push up popsicle, etc It gives them the incentive to eat more dinner and it is never too much sugar. They eat healthy during the day with a piece of candy or gum at times so I don't mind them having dessert. My fear was that a Capril Sun a day or piece of candy might have been making my son so jumpy. I think it is more habit, he seems to do something once and then continue. He is habitual, maybe that is my quest to conquer..... I am relieved that he does not seem to have ADD and I thank you for making me feel better. I will ask his doc at his 9 yr appointment his thoughts. Thanks so much ladies!

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answers from Miami on

If you are giving desert after dinner are you taking them out for a quick bike ride around the block? its not so much sugar as processed and corn syrup. The commercials are completely wrong how the body cannot tell the differene. I can tell the difference on how my daughter reacts. Make homemade cupcakes and cookies from scratch. Or Breyers ice cream that has sugar not corn sugar. Look at the ingredients. lemon Icee's are good also.. Also what do they drink with dinner? No soda I hope. Soda is that absolute worsed

3 moms found this helpful

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answers from Dallas on

Seriously look up the Feingold diet. We've been on it for 5 weeks and I have seen a lot on improvement with my 4 year old. Once you realize about the awefulness of all this processed, dyed, artificial food that we are feeding our kids, you might change your mind about the Trix you bought them yesterday. I have switched to mostly organic, dye-free, preservative-free, etc. Just look up Feingold and you'll find a TON of info about how bad these things can be for our kids and ourselves and how overwhelmingly easy it can turn out to be to feed our kids better. It's been a process of worrying about cost, etc. but I've found that I really don't spend any more on groceries. Check it out at least.
As far as Dr. Feingold, sugar is NOT the issue. It's the artificial coloring, artificial flavors, preservatives and additives that are to blame. Don't buy anything that says "sugar free". All that means is that it has aspertame which is also an ingregient that may cause hyperactivity.

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answers from Dallas on

Instead of sugar free have you thought about staying away from processed foods instead? Sugar free is hard to do...think about it; no breads, no pasta (carbs are sugar), no peanut butter, no fruit. I am not certain sugar free is really possible with kids, but maybe you can avoid processed sugars.

Processed foods are full of corn syrup, chemicals and dyes. Some kids are affected by these things. I am not suggesting you go completely organic, just be mindful of what you eat. Think about it. You can give your kids an icee. Loaded with corn syrup and dye. OR you can make a frozen fruit sorbet or popsicle instead. You can still have cake, but instead of buying it at a grocery store or getting a box make it from scratch. You can lower the sugar content and oil content and still have a tasty treat.

If you are looking for some more "natural" desserts. We make our own ice cream and sorbets. THe kids love to help. We like to grill things like peaches and pineapple with some brown sugar. Add a little whipped cream or ice cream. Fruit crisps and cobblers. Sometimes we simply have a bowl of fruit.

As for snacks. Fruits and veggies are always a choice. Natural peanut butters are available for sandwiches and snacking. Granola. Nuts. Seeds Dried fruits. Cheese. Hard Boiled eggs. Popcorn (get an air popper instead of microwave popcorn). Hummus.

I would also suggest that dessert not happen every night. Maybe just occasionally. My kids rarely know ahead of time if there will be dessert. It is always a nice surprise for them. And it keeps up from bribing the kids to eat. If they don't eat well or their behave badly, they may not get dessert, but they also never knew that was an option. It takes some of the bribery out of our dinners. Your kids will balk at the idea at first, but will eventually get used to it.

Good luck mama!

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Williamsport on

Don't think of it as removing these things. Think of it as though the things never should have been present, but have been added, so now they need to go. Which is true. Sugar intake should be reasonable real fruit servings per day. Popsicles can be real juice frozen on sticks. Anything with chemicals or colors on the label should not be purchased.

This leaves SOME wiggle room for the occasional sugary natural granola bar, sugary Kashi cereal, birthday party treat, square of dark chocolate (my kids actually get that most days), small piece of candy here and there (once or twice per week), but the day to day food should not be sugary, chemically enhanced or colored. Buy natural versions of your cereal, bread, etc. Shop the produce aisle and make your food from scratch with real veggies, whole grains, etc. There is lots of natural food to eat when you leave that other stuff out. I wouldn't even know how to add it in. Just read labels. Red dye in drinks???! What kind of drinks? Don't purchase those drinks, and limit them out at other people's houses. Watered down natural juice, milk and water are all my kids ever drink, an they're fine with it. The occasional natural juice box is no biggie even though it's way too much sugar, I just make sure they don't have them often.

With each meal, the fruit on the plate is my kid's dessert or "treat". Once in a blue moon we go out for ice cream. Get them used to not having dessert EVERY night. It makes it more special when they have it. Same with candy. They'll enjoy holidays and candy more when they get it more rarely. Dark chocolate is actually natural and healthy in small amounts though, and it doesn't wire out my kids. It sounds like your kids don't eat THAT much sugar actually. My nephew naturally needed increased discipline at 9! I'm skeptical when people say, "My child was out of control, and as soon as we changed their diet, they were angels". Maybe that's true if they were eating TONS of artificial stuff and sugar..which I guess some kids do. My kids are definitely wired after sugar (grapes especially), so I let them run wild for a while after each meal (we call it the after meal energy boost they always get), but general rules are still maintained the traditional way regarding having attitudes and such. Most importantly, boys this age need EXERCISE EXERCISE EXERCISE. Be sure to let him run off every meal. Get him a mini tramp for winter. :)

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Houston on

ETA: I completely disagree with Gamma G. We are not talking about going sugar free as in substituting sugar for fake/chemicals sugars. We are talking about not giving sugar. My kids do it. We occasionally eat sugar...today at their cousins birthday party they will have cake. One slice. And then low sugar again until the next birthday party or event. But they wont get sugar at home, and not just because we have a play date and little Johnny has a fruit roll up or some other type of crappy useless snack in his lunch box. My kids eat plenty of fruit. Its a naturally occurring sugar. But too much overloads the liver, so we limit it. Paleo/Primal is not necessarily low carb. We eat plenty of carbs through veggies too. We just dont eat (or rarely eat) grains.
As for the study that she spoke of, I can show you many studies that show that sugar IS related to hyperactivity. Long term too. We aren't talking about a spike in blood sugar, and then the crash a few hours later. We are talking long term effects on mood & behavior that are separate from blood sugar effects. Sorry, not trying to be rude at all...I'm just very passionate & informed on this subject :)

When I stopped eating wheat (over a year ago), I calmed down a lot. I was sort of irritable before & had a temper. I'm much calmer & happier now. I also eat WAY less sugar. It's amazing the kind of effect that food has on emotions & behavior. The Paleo/Primal lifestyle is awesome & should provide tons of helpful info for you, even if you only cut out sugar. Eat Like A Caveman is an excellent book for kids :)

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answers from Chicago on

Here is the thing, my son has ADHD, I find that if he has too much refined sugars his attitude becomes the problem, not so much his body control or hyperactivity. During the "crash" period after a sugary treat such as ice cream or cake (think birthday party) he begins to become defiant becuase his body is all shades of funky now due to the overload/quick burst/crazy behaivor sugar can do. His actions are temporary and once he is allowed to balloon out and calm down he is just fine, this is why in a more controlled setting we do give him more refined sugar than other days (birthday party example again). On a daily basis, it is wise to keep any adult below 30grams - I would try to cut that for a kid in half.

I find that cooking for yourself vs packaged foods helps control the addatives in foods (linked to behaivor issues) and keeps the bodies healthier. There are a number of moms on here with differing opinions, statistics and studies to back those opinions, do not allow yourself to become overwhelmed. Do as I have and figure out what works for YOU and YOUR home. Do little "tests" where you give certain foods that you think could be the "culprit" of odd/negative actions and take notes on when given and how he/they act and for how long. Then remove the foods (1 week on 2 weeks off) and take the same notes to see if it is worth the extra efforts. For some homes gluten free is worth it, some reduce sugars (of all kinds), others remove dyes or even do all of the above - are any of them right or wrong? So long as their kids are getting the proper nutrients - nope, none are wrong and none are universally right either. This is such a personal thing, good luck figuring out the right balance - honestly for my home it is simply smart eating and smart living.

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answers from Minneapolis on

I try to make the sugars in my kid's diet be mostly from fruit and I don't mean the "fruit snacks" sold in every shape under the sun. Fruit strips that are made only with chopped fruit, Lara Bars (ground nuts + fruit) make a great treat and have much more nutrition.

When my son does have candy I have found that chocolate has much less of a sugar rush.

We do desserts very rarely. If you keep dessert in the menu make homemade carrot cake cupcakes with cream cheese frosting so at least you control the ingredients and it has a little nutritional value. Or the all-fruit popsicles (check for added dyes or make your own). The choices for drinks in our house are milk, water, or the juice made by Naked or Odwalla that is just pureed fruit with no sugar or dyes. And because the juice is relatively expensive, we all limit our intake to make it last more days. We NEVER have juice drinks, soda pop, or energy drinks in the house. We carry reusable water bottles whenever we leave the house.

Start reading labels...you will be surprised the things that have dye added to them (some pancake mixes for example!)

Snacks: string cheese, plain yogurt with a little jam, or vanilla yogurt with fresh fruit chopped up in it, whole grain crackers with cheese and/or deli ham, carrot sticks with peanut butter, celery sticks with peanut butter/raisins (note natural peanut butter does not usually have sugar added), a vegie tray with favorites (cherry tomatoes, carrots, jicama, and whatever else your particular kids will eat).

My son and I are going to visit an Asian market next weekend so he can pick out some different exotic fruits/vegies to try.

When your kids start begging for a particular food in the store ask them to read the ingredient list. If there are words they can't pronounce say NO; if there is artificial dye say NO; if sugar, high fructose corn syrup, or the hundred other names for sugar are in the 1st 3 ingredients say NO. That is a good start. Challenge them to find new things that meet the new requirements.

I see a lot of parents make the mistake of not changing their own diet. They say no to the kids but the parent still keeps a cache of their own cravings foods/drinks. If you don't want your kids to eat/drink it, don't have it in the house!

Sugar is addictive. So withdrawal can be hard...

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Sherman on

you Always have dessert after dinner? that seems like kinda allot.

i havent found solid links between the sugar and food coloring with ADD, but we have decided to limit it anyway. (ADD has risen so sharply in the last generation or so that i have just looked at things that have become more prevalent during that time period)
she almost never has any artificial dyes. unless we are at a birthday party or something.
for a SUPER special treat, i give mine a small piece of nice dark chocolate instead of a candy. it may have some sugar, but it is not void of good qualities as well. mine is younger, so i have also convinced her that dried cranberries and cherries are candy. and fresh fruit makes a great dessert.

try to avoid the impulse to just switch to artificial sweeteners. they are fine on occasion, but not good for little kidneys on a regular basis.

he also might be a little stir crazy, does he get enough "run around and be crazy outside time"? burn up some of that energy and maybe he will tease sis a little less.

the thing to keep in mind with sugar is that it is addictive. the more you have the more you crave.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Cumberland on

try making your own fruit sorbet sweetened with a little Agave-it hits the bloodstream at a slower rate.

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answers from Minneapolis on

Here in Minnesota, we expect this behavior in our kids each year and we call it "Spring!" ;-)

I agree with some other posters that cutting out all sugar is unreasonable, but cutting out most processed food with lots of artificial ingredients can help some kids' behavior. We are working in our home to stick to fresh ingredients and not packaged foods.

And, of course, 9 year-olds need a LOT of physical activity and outdoor time. I hope your son gets that each day.

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answers from Los Angeles on

add isnt a result of food they consume. its a brain dissorder. i would first have him evaluated. start offering them healthier snacks. dessert can be pudding, fruit (fresh), popcicle etc. it doesnt have to be ice cream or candy.

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answers from Portland on

A lot of people have made good points here:

We have three 'treat days' in our household a week, Tues, Thurs and Sat. In our home, a treat can be pretty simple, like a bowl of frozen mixed berries and yogurt (I do use the organic, sweetened, but about 2 TB as opposed to the whole cup.) Smoothies are a treat; we can freeze them and make popsicles which are always a huge hit.

One way your son might buy into this is let him help to plan his own smoothie pops.:)

Nine is typically a tough year for kids. Have you seen how many questions start with "my nine year old"? Attitude--big time-- is a defining characteristic of this age. (DO the Google search and please believe me!) Definitely UP the opportunities to run and play outside. Also consider some things to make his wiggling acceptable, like an inflatable seat disc for him to wobble on when he needs to be sitting. Not exactly what you are asking for, but making some wiggle room for busy kids that isn't in conflict with what's supposed to be happening will help.

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answers from Augusta on

ADD or ADHD is not caused by sugar. It's caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain.
Now it can be exagerated by sugar, the crash off the sugar causes HORRIBLE attitude , defiance, just plain nastiness.
My kids rarely get sugar. I buy sugerfree treats. I check the sugar content in EVERYTHING. I use splenda when making sweets instead of sugar.
Your child won't react to dyes unless they are actually allergic to them.
My daughter is ADHD and is insane crazy everywhere without sugar, but we get the added push if she has sugar.
I initially didn't give my kids sugar because I have a family history of bad teeth , I , my mom , both of my grandparents on that side all have bad teeth .
My biggest fear with sugar is cavities.
For desserts my kids have access to things like fruit, or cheese, or they even choose chips . Dessert does not have to be a sweet.
You can also get sugar free ice cream and popsicles.

But with him being 9 you are going to have trouble making the switch, he will definately fight the change, but you can do it . just don't buy the sweets. no cookies , candies , sweets. instead buy fruit, fresh or dried.

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answers from Pittsburgh on

There is ZERO scientific evidence that sugar or food dyes cause ADHD or other behavioral problems. However, it is a MAJOR contributor to childhood obesity and lifelong poor eating habits. For those reasons we have very little added sugar in our diets (naturally occurring fruit sugars are handled differently than added sugars and are not a concern).

Why don't you just substitute fruit for an unhealthy dessert. There is fairly good evidence that artificial sweeteners do not trigger satiety so while you avoid the calories in those particular foods, they do not result in an overall decrease in daily caloric intake. Because of that I don't use them or add
them to my son's diet. If you really want to continue doing ices - you can simply puree whole fruit and freeze it in popsicle molds. What is an icee? If your kids are drinking sugar filled drinks with red dye - I would just switch to water.

You son is 9 and is more than old enough to understand what a healthy balanced diet is and to be a participant in making good food choices..

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answers from Salinas on

While I wouldn't let them have dessert every night, his behavior may just be developmental. While my girls weren't hyper nine was a transition year for both and they were not their usual peaceful selves. Just when I was wondering what happened to my little angels they came back.

Cutting back on sugar is a good thing for many reasons and dessert eveynight just sets up a bad habit in my opinion. They won't always burn off those extra calories when they get to be adults;)

Just feed him well, stick to a high standard of behavior and hang in there. He may just grow up and out of this high energy phase.

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answers from Grand Forks on

Sugar does not cause hyperactivity or ADD! Sugar does cause obesity and diabetes and heart disease if you get too much of it. Sugar is healthy, in moderation. If you cut it out all together, you are going to create problems associated with any forbidden substance, such as sneaking and binging etc. Dessert everyday is a bit excessive, unless you are talking fresh fruit, yogurt, or applesauce. Avoid sugar substitutes, and avoid sugary drinks (including juice). Does your child get enough exercise? At least an hour a day of moderate to intense physical activity is recommended. If he is having trouble settling, send him out for a run, or a bike ride. It is pretty normal for a nine year old to have an attitude, especially towards his sister!

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answers from Phoenix on

Anything new lately...such as new medications? I know certain allergy meds do this to my son.

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answers from Dallas on

Sugar free jello ROCKS! Sugar free puddings are also a staple in my house. Can you make your own treats (cookies, cakes, etc.) with a sugar substitute? If you don't have enough time for that, check the diabetic area in the grocery store. The sugar free turtles are just too good to be true, and frankly the rest of the sugar free candies are just yummy.

Can you phase out the candy and offer fruit instead? Summer fruit is amazing...and FUN...What 9 year old wouldn't love to eat a watermelon while spitting the seeds at people?



answers from Charlotte on

Really pay attention to what SB is saying about the processed foods. If you do this, he'll get plenty to eat, PLUS you can see if your theory holds true. Plenty of water too, foods with plenty of calcium and protein, and not too much dairy.

Good luck!

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