Tips on Getting My Child off of Sugar

Updated on February 22, 2012
J.C. asks from Blacksburg, VA
15 answers

Hi, Moms,
I'm thinking of taking my child off of sugar for a week. She is 3 YO and she has always been wild. I know people say it's just the age, but she seems wilder/wigglier than other kids her age. I thought I would try an experiment and take her off of sugar for a week to see if it makes a difference. She doesn't eat much sugar anyway, but I've heard that in kids who have a problem even a little can make a big difference. But I have some questions. First, can she eat fruit, or do I have to cut that out too because of the fructose? And is a week long enough to see a difference, if it's going to make a difference? And are there hidden sources of sugar that I should watch out for? Thanks!!

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answers from New York on

I agree with much that was already written below, but I want to add that weaning a child off sugar (who already eats it regularly) will take longer than a week. To really get it out of her system and get her blood levels to a comfortable place, will take some time. It will be hard for her (and you!) so I would expect to see changes over a months time.

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answers from Columbia on

You don't need to cut out sugar, you need to cut out the processed foods which contain processed sugars and carbohydrates.

Instead of buying boxed, processed foods, try only buying foods in their natural forms. Frozen, fresh, refrigerated. Avoid all the other aisles in the store. If it can't rot or spoil, don't buy it. If it has a shelf life of more than 1 month...don't buy it!

Best of luck!

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answers from Albuquerque on

I'm going to have to agree with everyone else. Sugar probably isn't the only culprit. Studies have shown that food dyes, preservatives and artificial sugars (HFCS, aspartame, etc.) make kids way more crazy than naturally occuring sugars, like in fruit. My brother had major ADHD -- still does as a 33 year old, actually -- and he could handle natural sugars, but processed food put him over the edge.

If it was me, I'd cut out all processed junk foods. Read labels. If you don't know what a word means, don't offer it to your child. For breakfast, offer a non-sugar cereal like Cheerios and milk plus a banana. Snack could be cashews and apple slices. Lunch could be a turkey sandwich with tomato and green beans on the side. Afternoon snack of pretzels and hummus. For dinner, offer chicken and rice plus carrots and strawberries. Those are all foods a three year old can eat. She'll get natural sugar from the milk, banana, apples, carrots and strawberries, but no preservatives or food dyes.

Try that for a few weeks -- it will take longer than a week, and see if her behavior changes.

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answers from Indianapolis on

My daughter is what I call active too. Sugar is not the culprit. She needs fruit so don't stop giving her fruit. I don't think there is much you can do. I try to keep my DD active in other activities. She takes gymnastics and loves it. She took gymnastics at 3 and I just started her again in January of this year, she is 5 now. At 3 she was also in dance and swimming. These activities will tire her out that day but you have the rest of the week to worry about.

We do things where I make her sit and concentrate like coloring. I buy activity books for preschoolers from the dollar store. We sit and work on those. There will be times that she will be able to sit still. She also takes piano lessons which she does well in. I thought my DD had ADHD, which people are quick to label, but she does not. She's just active.

Before doing anything drastic see if she can do certain activites where she can sit like the ones I suggested above. Buy crayons that have lots of colors. You can also buy markers that are washable in case she gets marker on her clothes, furniture and walls. Good luck.

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answers from Detroit on

I would think that fruit (especially higher-fiber fruit like fresh apples and pears) would be fine. But otherwise, be sure to read the labels on anything you give her that is packaged - some things that may have sugar sneaked in include applesauce, canned/packaged fruit, fruit-and-cereal bars, yogurt, flavored instant oatmeal, juice drinks (that are not 100% juice) and salad dressing. Remember too that "high fructose corn syrup" is basically more sugar! The more natural something is, and the less processed, the better!

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answers from Washington DC on

it's not sugar. It's the hormones and preservatives in the items we eat. The dyes in foods act as a stimulant to children - heck even adults.

Sugar is in almost EVERYTHING - it's a natural bi-product of food. It's a carbohydrate from pasta after it breaks down. It's a starch as a potato breaks down....see what I mean?

It's called moderation.

Learning what foods have in them. If you feed her soy milk - you will find that she will reach early puberty because of all the NATURAL hormones in it.

Read labels. Eat healthy - doesn't mean organic necessarily - but it does mean more fruits and veggies and less processed foods. You can learn to make your own breads and pastas. It's hard at first - but then after a while - you get the hang of it and it's easy!!

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answers from St. Louis on

Honestly, I believe we need to see an example of her day....before we can make recommendations! I would do not just sugar, but you may also want to consider food dyes.

All you need to do is eliminate any processed sweets, including juices.

Stick with all natural products: fruits & vegies, healthy snacks, & regular/balanced meals. No-sugar added juice is okay, but really try to pump the water.

No candy, cookies, etc.

Also increase her physical activity with other children. You will be amazed at what a little bit of play will do. :)

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answers from St. Louis on

Why are you taking her off sugar, that doesn't make kids hyper. People think sugar makes kids hyper because of their behavior at parties, where you get a lot of sugar. Nope it is the party and the people that make kids hyper, not the sugar.

I am ADHD, have been my whole life so I know hyper. Even as a kid I could eat a pound of sugar and it changed nothing other than I would be ill.

Don't put yourself and your daughter through this if it is just a matter of hyper because it will change nothing.

To actually take her off sugar we are talking no bread or bread products, no fruits, none of the usual offenders, some vegetables....getting the idea sugar is in nearly everything. If sugar made people hyper everyone would be hyper.

Food coloring can effect behavior. There was a red dye that I swear you could tick down the seconds till my oldest went nuts.

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answers from Washington DC on

a week isn't enough time to make a difference, i'm afraid, at least not one that you can really see and measure.
absolutely let her have fruit. fruit will be what saves your sanity as you try to wean a sugar-addicted toddler. the natural sucrose acts with other elements of the food and won't spike her insulin levels like added sugar. but do go very easy on fruit juice. if she loves it, cut it with water.
there are hidden sources of sugar EVERYWHERE but there's no need to get paranoid about it. do check labels of processed foods and avoid those with sugar or high fructose corn syrup as a main ingredient, but cutting down on processed foods would be a really great thing to do for your family. the 'hidden' sugars in fruits and veggies don't need to be avoided.
good for you for taking this important step while your child is so young!

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answers from Oklahoma City on

Sugar actually makes a person sleepy. It gives a super quick burst of energy then it is burned off and gone. The lasting effect is the drugged sleepy feeling. Simple sugars do not effect behavior. That study way back in the beginning of all the ADHD diagnosis era was de-bunked a LONG LONG LONG time ago. They fed the kids high sugar meals then turned them loose on the playground. They played outside for just a little bit. Of course kids go nuts when they first go outside, then after a bit they settle down to play games or do activities like swinging or bars.

If your child is wild then check ingredients like red dye's, caffeine, artificial fats and sweeteners, is often the artificial items that our bodies cannot process that effect behaviors.

Do not use artificial anything. Use real milk, real butter, real sugar, etc...the body knows what to do with this and it processes it the right way. It is when we go off the grid into the world of artificial that has an effect on moods and actions.

A serving of 100% juice for a day is 4oz. Not a glass full or even half a glass. It is 1/2 cup. It is healthy not bad, it's the over doing of it that is not healthy. I think having some OJ with breakfast is a great way to start out and that is the only juice serving they need. Otherwise a small glass about half full is it.

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answers from Minneapolis on

My 4 year old is very affected by what he eats as well. I avoid high fructose corn syrup and food colorings as much as possible. I also always make sure my boys eat protein at every meal so they aren't on carb overload. Yogurt is a big favorite. I don't think you'll be able to cut out sugar altogether but you certainly can limit it. My son gets 1 cup of juice in the morning and then milk or water the rest of the day. Hope this helps! Some kids just have energy and are more active but I do believe food can have something to do with it at times.

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answers from Atlanta on

I will echo what the other ladies have said. Don't only be wary of sugar -but food dyes, processed foods -and particularly non-organic, animal-derived foods. Dairy and meats can have all sorts of harmful additives and hormones in them.

It's VERY hard to completely ban sugar! It is sneaky! I would not take her off of fruit at all -just make sure it's fresh fruit and not canned or packaged in any sort of juice, dried fruit, etc. No fruit juices unless you actually squeeze it yourself, and be wary of white flour foods and heavy carbs. Our bodies turn these into sugars during digestion, and they're not good for us anyway. Look into high protein and natural sugar- again -fruits and veggies that are not processed in any way.Don't give her any sort of "bar" -granola, health, vitamin or otherwise. I guarantee it will have sugar in it (although if you just want to lower her sugar rather than eliminate it, there are some very low sugar bars). Be careful with cereals and pre-sweetened oatmeal -that sort of thing. Stuff that's NOT sweet, like crackers, can still have lots of sugar -so look at all the labels.

Stay away from fast food -completely. It's SO awful! There are a few types I will eat and allow my kids to eat, but not many. All fast food ground beef contains "pink slime" -an ammonia preservative that's made from the rakings and scrapings off the slaughterhouse floor. Be very careful with other restaurant offerings as well.

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answers from Chicago on

There are so many foods that contain sugar. I think it would probably be easiest to avoid most processes foods since so many of them contain sugar. Not just the obvious ones, like breakfast cereal, but also the less obvious ones like bread, pasta sauces, salad dressings and so many more. Check the labels and stick with items that are minimally processed.

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answers from Washington DC on

My 5 yo has always been a wild child. My husband blames sugar, but the doctor and I disagree. He is more wild when he is over tired, it is like watching a ball bounce off the walls, he just can't seem to turn it off until he crashes into bed. Where as most kids would get sleepy, he would be jumping off of furniture, throwing things, etc. The other thing we were told was that he has Sensory Integration Disorder, and kids with SID some how crave the activity. We are in the process of moving right now so I haven't had a chance to investigate treatments for that but an OT can see if that diagnosis fits. Although my son is crazy wild, he does not have ADHD. The doctor said he has no problem focusing one on one (in fact, his activity levels increase when there is a large group), so that diagnosis doesn't fit. You can test out the sugar theory, but I really haven't seen that it increases or decreases his hyperactivity.


answers from Norfolk on

Hi, Mom:
Are you feeding your child health food anyway?

I would suggest that you find ways to
actively engage her in athletics to burn
off that energy.
Plan your day with her.
Teach her jumping jacks, jump rope, running like on
a track, riding a tricycle.

Whatever you can think of to get her moving.
Good luck.

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