Monitor refined sugar


I have mentioned in the past that my eldest, William, has given me a run for my money. In addition to sensory processing disorder and food intolerances, William has unstable blood sugar levels. Essentially, he has undiagnosed hypoglycemia. I’ve heard it is often a symptom of gifted people. The giftedness is great, but the fact remains that we have to deal with the blood sugar instability.

I first started monitoring William’s blood sugar (I’ll tell you how in a bit) in the summer between his two years of pre-K. It was the summer he turned 5. When we went back to school (the same school and same teachers), they were floored by what a different child he was. The previous year, we had figured out the food intolerances, but monitoring his blood sugar made such a huge difference in his behavior. It still does (at age 7.5).

Before, William had extreme blood sugar fluctuations. He’d be bouncing off the walls one minute and on the floor crying for no reason the next. There seemed to be no rhyme or reason behind his “moodiness” and he would flip a switch at the drop of a hat.

Whenever a mom asks for advice with her child, one of the first things I recommend is eliminating food dyes and monitoring the child’s sugar intake. It’s really a no-brainer. If you want your child’s gentle spirit to emerge, you’re not going to get there if he’s hyped up on sugar or food dyes. Besides, they’re simply not healthy!

In fact, sugar can do more than promote tooth decay. There was an article published last April in The New York Times titled, “Is Sugar Toxic?” The following is from the article:

“’I have eliminated refined sugar from my diet and eat as little as I possibly can,’ Thompson told me, ‘because I believe ultimately it’s something I can do to decrease my risk of cancer.’ Cantley put it this way: ‘Sugar scares me.’”

So refined sugar can certainly have negative health effects (including obesity, diabetes, heart disease, certain cancers), but it’s almost indisputable that it negatively affects kids’ behavior.

I have been struggling in the mornings when getting my kids off to school, and finally I realized that sugar is largely to blame! For some reason, so many breakfast foods are high in refined sugar. So I’m cutting it out. My boys are eating plain Cheerios (with a spoonful of peanut butter for extra protein) or non-instant oatmeal sweetened with applesauce.

Understand that refined sugar and high fructose corn syrup have a worse effect than glucose you find in fruit. Fruit comes with fiber, which helps mediate the effect of sugar. And please don’t substitute sugar with chemical alternatives!

How we address blood sugar fluctuations
If you’re noticing odd moodiness in your child (or a Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde syndrome) you might need to address blood sugar. There are three components of food that you should concern yourself with: protein, fat and sugar. Balancing the three is important. Here are my rules for managing William’s blood sugar:

  1. He never starts his day with sugar alone. Tiding him over with a few raisins or a banana was a big mistake I realized too late!
  2. He eats 3 healthy meals and one snack at the same times every day.
  3. He starts every meal by eating protein first. If he’s got a plate of chicken, rice and fruit, he has to eat the chicken first.
  4. He never eats sugar without also eating protein. Nuts are a great snack.
  5. We check the protein and sugar content on every label. Plain Cheerios have 3g of protein and 1g of sugar. Awesome! Some yogurts have 12g of sugar and 1g of protein. Not good. Peanut butter has one of the best ratios. It’s usually 8g of protein and 1g of sugar. I’ve taught William to read these labels for himself.
  6. If he ever eats something that is high in sugar and low in protein, I add extra protein. My kids are often seen eating peanut butter off a spoon! I add peanut butter to foods like oatmeal, too.
  7. If he’s eating a meal high in protein and low in sugar, that’s great, but he still needs fat. He’s technically off dairy, but I allow him butter because it’s more important that he gets the fat. Or with a food like lentil soup, I’ll add some olive oil.

Now, do I ever break these rules? Rarely. It’s just not worth it. We’re actually on vacation right now, and it was a really warm day and we thought about getting a treat after a hike (but before lunch). I let him get lemonade, and I have to say his behavior was uncharacteristically hyper! Just the other day, his teacher was saying she’s never seen a child so affected by sugar. It’s true!

If you’re struggling to overcome behavior problems with your child, do all that you can to monitor his blood sugar and cut out refined sugar. It’s a relatively easy thing for you to do and will help ensure that you are dealing with your child’s true, gentle spirit.


  1. Hello!
    This is really interesting, we have just today started a no/low sugar lifestyle change! More so for my husband and I for health but also because I don’t want my children growing up addicted to sugar. We’re in australia but same deal so much of our processed foods have too much refined sugar added! (not to mention the colours and preservatives!) What do you and your family snack on this is something I’m finding a challenge. We do nuts and dried fruit, fresh fruit, crackers and cheese, air popped pop corn to name a few but I miss and my 3 year old asked for a muffin today… any sweet suggestions? This protein first thing, whats that about?? Just curious :)
    Loving your blog, I’m a baby wise follower from the word go with both my children (almost 3 and 9 months old) my little boy has followed it to a T (angel baby) but is more challenging now as he wants to ‘help’ mummy rather than independent play, I’m having to really amp up my first time obedience parenting skills!! My little girl is finally getting into a consistent great routine but took a lot longer than her older brother! All up though I love baby wise philosophy!!
    Will keep reading your blog!
    God bless


  1. […] If it’s “100% juice,” all of the sugar comes from the fruit’s natural fructose. But it contains none of the fiber that comes with a plain piece of fruit. If a juice is “10% juice,” most of the sugar comes from high-fructose corn syrup, which we all know is bad for you. The sugar in soda is high-fructose corn syrup. Read this post to learn more about refined sugar in children. […]