How to Keep Kids Away from Bad Sugar

Just a few weeks ago I spoke with Carola van Bemmelen about the harmful effects of sugar and how to do without. She returns today to talk about her new book: 100% Sugar-free For Kids.

04-04-2016 -  by Kevin Van der Straeten

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Just a few weeks ago I spoke with Carola van Bemmelen about the harmful effects of sugar and how to do without. She returns today to talk about her new book: 100% Sugar-free For Kids.


Hi Carola, welcome back to our studio.  




A few weeks ago we talked about how harmful sugar is for our body. That we can live without. Now you've written a new book: '100% Sugar-free For Kids', for children. Do children eat so much sugar that there was a need to write a book specifically for them?  


Yes, as a matter of fact children eat more sugar than grown-ups. They eat about... If you see that a grown-up eats around 30-35 sugar lumps. 1 sugar lump is about 4 grams, so it's 130-135 sugar grams a day. And children eat between 35 and 45 sugar lumps a day. And according to the World Health Organization they only need 3 sugar lumps a day, or 10-15 grams of sugar a day. It's what their body can cope with. So they eat a lot more than they actually can have in their bodies. So it's harmful. 


Where do they get all those sugars? 


Well the most sugar comes from what they drink: The cokes and the soda's and the juices and the fruit juices and the lemonades. All that kind of stuff. Because we think that they don't want to drink water. Actually water is much better than all those sweet drinks. And another big part comes from desserts: from yogurts, from fruit desserts, from what we in the Netherlands have: vla. That's typically Dutch, I believe. But that's also a big part of sugar consumption. And they get a lot of sugar with that as well. So those are the two main sources of sugar for kids, for children. And if you eliminate those two and replace it with water and plain yogurt with fresh fruit, for example, then you will at least halve the sugar consumption. 


Okay, but how do you tell children that they can't have their lemonades and sweets anymore? 


Yeah, well of course it's something that we think that children would like to have. But lots of children don't want to have it, but they cannot avoid it, because we are in an environment full of sugar, filled with sugar: it's everywhere. And what I see with our children is that they often don't want to have sugar. For example my son Joshua. He's now fifteen years old and they get cooking lessons at school. And they put sugar in everything. So he had a real discussion this week with his teacher. And he said: "why do you put sugar in everything?" And she says: "well, that's easier. And we don't have much time to cook". And he says: "well, that's not a reason to put sugar in it". And he doesn't want to have it but he has to eat it because they cook with it and they teach the children to cook with sugar. So that's where it starts: in the school canteens. It's everywhere. It's in the supermarket, it's at children's parties... Everywhere you go that has something to do with children there's sugar. 


But then you start applying some rules at home: "Okay, we will replace the soft drinks with water". It doesn't make you popular, or does it? 


Well, it depends on how you do it. And Ester and I... Because I wrote this book together with Ester Wiemer, she's also a professional coach. We've done this for some years now with our families, and if you involve the children in it and explain what you are doing, why you are doing it and what it's doing for them, they can choose perfectly well for themselves. And of course they sometimes crave for cola and they sometimes want an apple juice, and we don't say no to everything. But what we see is that they actually drink water as well and that they like it. And that they don't want to have it (sugar). It's more or less that we think it's a pity for them when they cannot drink something sweet. We think it's boring to drink water, but for a child it's just what you teach them, and if you teach them that water is boring, then they will think it's boring. But it isn't actually. It's the best thing that you can have for your child and for your body.   


If you create a sugar-free world at home, they will still have the grandparents and all those other people around them who will... 


The grandparents genes, eh?  


Yeah, how do you deal with that? Do you need to convince the grandparents to stop feeding the sugar or just let it be? 


I think just let it be, let them be grandparents. Inform them about what sugar does to your child. Let them read the books so that they see what it can do, what the effects are of too much sugar. And accept that it is what it is. Try to make rules together about how and which and when and where with sugar. And if they don't want to cope with that, to coordinate or to work with you on that, well you have to let it go, because otherwise it's no life. It's not for you and not for your children and not for the grandparents. But I still hope that more and more grandparents... Because grandparents are the worst thing I think. Grandparents and the school. Yeah, grandparents is something... I don't know what it is but as soon as people turn to grandparents, then there are some genes that are turned on, those sugar genes. I don't know how you call them, but it's candy everywhere and it's ice-cream and it's pancakes. Everything that contains a lot of sugar, when you go to your grandparents. I don't know what your experience was, but it was mine. 


It's quite the same. 


Yeah, but I see it with my parents as well and I've now written six, almost seven books about sugar. 


They don't read your books? 


They haven't read them, no. So I just let it be. It was frustrating enough but they just don't want to read them, so I just let it be. 


You were just talking about the impact of sugar on children specifically. What does sugar do with those children? 


In a children's body sugar does the same thing as in an adult body. But children are much smaller, so they have less mass to bring with them. So the sugar cannot be divided that good in the body as in our bodies. And also children are new. Their bodies function much more effective and much more efficient than our bodies. So as soon as you put sugar in a child's body, it reacts really quickly. Much more quickly than we do, and it's much more intense than the reaction that we have with sugar. So it's the same as with alcohol. When you give 1 glass of alcohol to a child, it's completely drunk. Most adults can have more. Not everybody, but most adults can have more. 


I always thought it was a matter of training, but... 


Yeah, that's true too. So I think that when you give children more and more sugar, they need more and more sugar to have the same effect. But in the beginning they react much more quickly than we do. So it's kind of like: they get hyperactive, they get all signs and symptoms that we say: "well, they need Ritalin and all those medicines". But what would happen when we quit sugar for those children? Would they still need it or would they be quiet and could they connect much better? I don't know. That's what it's about. 


Carola, thank you very much for your time.  


We'll keep in touch, thank you. 


And you at home: thank you for watching our show. I hope to see you next week!