Top 4 Reasons to Decrease Sugar Intake and Healthy Snack Alternatives

Dr. Kristin Schnurr, ND

Changes in food processing over the past 30 years, particularly the addition of sugar to a wide variety of food, has resulted in an increase in a number of very preventable health conditions. Here are the top 4 reasons to work on getting sugar out of your child’s diet:

  1. Sugar consumption seriously inhibits immune function:
    Almost 25 years ago, an article in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition reported that ingesting as little as 3 teaspoons of sugar in one sitting significantly inhibits the ability of white blood cells, which are the basis of the immune system, in destroying bacteria and viruses.  This applies to all sugars, including fruit juices.  This immune suppression starts about 30 minutes after the ingestion of sugar and can last up to five hours.    This immune suppression leaves us more vulnerable to opportunistic infections, which our immune systems normally keep in check.
  2. Sugar and Behavioural Problems
    Most parents, teachers and pediatricians notice that sugar ingestion has a significant effect on children’s behavior and mood.  Several research studies have supported these observations.  Foods high in sugar and refined carbohydrates increase adrenaline levels.  Adrenaline increases anxiety and irritability and reduces our ability to concentrate.  
    Sugar is also connected to Attention Deficit Disorder and Hyperactivity.  In one large study, 74% of the “hyperactive” children were unable to properly digest and assimilate sugar and refined carbohydrates.  Within three weeks of a low sugar diet, their hyperactivity disappeared.
  3. Sugar and Nutrient Deficiency
    Numerous studies have been done showing a deficiency in blood content of minerals with as little as two teaspoons of sugar ingested.
    Sugar intake directly coorelates with a decrease in Zinc, Magnesium and Vitamin C.   Sugar can also satisfy hunger while providing no nutritional benefits.  Studies show that children who consume the highest amounts of sugar get far less protein.
  4.  Sugar and Childhood Obesity
    The dramatic increase in childhood obesity over the last 50 years is linked to the increase in the use of refined sugar in prepared foods, especially breakfast cereals and snack foods such as granola bars.  Refined sugar adds empty calories, not nutrients.  Artificial sweeteners are not the answer as they increase the cravings for sugar.

It is not difficult to understand why decreasing or eliminating sugar from your household is beneficial.  But, as any parent knows, planning healthy snacks for children takes a bit of effort.  This is especially true if you are raising a picky eater.

As a Naturopathic Doctor with many pediatric patients and a mama to one young girl, I am constantly searching for creative ways to get veggies, fruits, healthy fats and protein into children.

Here are some of my favourites:

  1. Almond butter and apple slices.  Can also use pear or other fruit. Cut pieces into shapes to keep 'em coming back for more!
  2. 2) Raw cocoa energy balls. 1 cup almonds, ¾ cup medjool dates, ¼ cup raw cocoa powder, 1/8 cup dried coconut. Add into food processor or blender in multiple layers then blend and press into balls. Store well in the fridge. Delicious!
  3. Ants on a log. Celery topped with almond butter and raisins.  For a variation of an old favourite, you can also use dried currants, cranberries, blueberries, or chopped dried apricots in the place of raisins. Also try guacamole or hummous instead of nut butter and top with finely minced tomatoes, spinach, or olives.
  4. Veggies and dip in a cup.  In a short transparent cup or glass, place tzatziki or hummous at the bottom. Stand brightly coloured veggies tall inside the cup. Kids will love the look of it!
  5. Smoothies – the options are endless!  Add spinach, chard, or kale to fruit smoothies to get more leafy greens into those wee picky peeps.   These can travel to school in a small thermos, and make a quick and easy snack.
  6. Popsicles made from smoothies. Can sneak in all kinds of wonderful nutrient packed foods  (ie: kale) this way. These are great in the summer.
  7. Cheesy kale chips. Tear kale into 1 to 2 inch pieces and combine in a bowl with olive oil, tamari nutritional yeast, and ground cashews.  Spread on a baking sheet and pop into the oven at 250 degrees F for 40 mins or even better, use a dehydrator – a great way to make additive free dried fruit too. Check on them periodically, bake until crisp.
  8. 8) Seaweed snacks. You can tear nori sheets/wraps into small pieces and add to a mix of dried fruit or nuts/seeds for an iodine-rich trail mix.

Happy sugar free snacking!


Dr. Kristin Schnurr, ND runs a family oriented family practice and also coordinates the Family Naturopathic Clinic, a free Naturopathic Clinic serving low-income young families in Victoria.  For more information: www.drkristinschnurr.com