The connection between blood sugar and behavior seems obvious right? You give a kid a bunch of sugar and they go bouncing off the walls i.e. their behavior changes. But did you know that blood sugar can affect your child’s development, mood, behavior, and even mental health? Blood sugar instability affects all kids, especially if they struggle with issues like inattention, hyperactivity, anxiety, irritability, and behavior issues in general.
How blood sugar works
Unstable blood sugar levels happen when we consume foods like processed bread, candy, juices, etc. that either are made of sugar or quickly break down into sugar in the body. These foods cause blood sugar levels to rise quickly, our body and brain burn through them rapidly, and then levels fall about 60-90 minutes later. This puts us on the “blood sugar rollercoaster” where our levels quickly go up and down throughout the day, and our mood, anxiety, focus, attention, energy, and behavior go right along with it!
Many kids eat in ways that keep them on the blood sugar rollercoaster all day long, and this has a major impact on their development, mood, and behavior. In fact, research studies have linked these spikes and crashes in blood sugar levels to all kinds of mental health symptoms. Our goal should be to help kids have more stable blood sugar levels throughout the day. That supports focus, energy levels, and emotional and behavioral regulation.
It’s not just candy and soda that cause blood sugar spikes
You might think it’s just things like candy and soda you need to be concerned about, and those are definitely foods to avoid for blood sugar stabilization. But many foods that kids commonly eat can cause blood sugar instability if they are heavily processed and have poor nutrient density. Eating a lot of carbs that aren’t balanced out by proteins and healthy fats is also an issue.
Some specific strategies that help stabilize blood sugar:
- Provide more nutrient-dense foods
- Avoid added sugars in foods/drinks
- Prepare snacks and meals with a balance of carbs, proteins, and healthy fats
- Drink water instead of sugary beverages
- Eat consistently throughout the day
While feeding children in a way that supports stable blood sugar levels won’t eliminate every symptom, it’s an important foundation. As always, focus on progress and not perfection!
In the video above, I will go into more detail about which foods cause these blood sugar spikes and how to choose foods that help stabilize blood sugar. Fruit juice, bars, and yogurt are some of the big sugar culprits because they are packed full of sugar even though they are advertised to be healthy.
Here’s an easy recipe for a well-balanced and yummy snack Energy Bites – A Healthy Breakfast or Snack For Kids. My kids loved these! If you’d like to see more video on this topic, head to my Youtube channel or Instagram.
Have you noticed a connection between blood sugar and behavior with your child? What questions do you have? Share with me in the comments so I can support you!