I have discovered that my 10 year old son is "sneaking" sweets;he leaves some in the container (I suspect he might eat it all if he thought it would go unnoticed). He does eat dessert daily-usually dark chocolate, TJs chocolate chips or homemade raw milk ice cream and also at functions/parties etc. When I realized what he was doing I put the treats on top of a cabinet and started sending the dessert to school in his lunch (he does feel somewhat deprived as I don't send the brand name junk food the rest of his class is eating though I will send olive chips, olive oil popcorn etc). Then I discovered he was climbing onto the counter tops and standing up to reach them! When I first discovered it and asked him if he thought he had a problem and if he could stop himself, he denied it being a problem. Then my husband bought some Newman-Os and then found almost the whole bag eaten (I don't know if all at once or not). When my husband asked him if he thought he had a problem, he said yes (but he may have said so to avoid getting in trouble from dad). I also just found out that he was bringing money to school to buy snacks in the cafeteria.
Does anyone have any advice on how I can ascertain whether this is a budding eating disorder, a sugar addiction or just normal kid behavior for child rebelling against a healthy diet (truth be told, even with the "bingeing", he probably does not consume more sugar than a child eating the standard american diet) ?
Also, if it is an eating disorder or sugar addiction, where could I seek outside assistance? I am concerned if I took him to an eating disorder counselor or traditional dietician, they would not understand why I won't buy him nutritionally bankrupt foods with gmos, additives, preservatives, msg, transfats etc. Would it make sense to bring him to a functional nutritionist instead??
Any advice would be appreciated!
I'm going to go with normal behavior. It's hard for us to not eat sweets and salty snacks and double hard for kids. We limit all that in our house but if they're at a friends it's exciting to drink juice out of a box or spend 50 cents on a brownie at school.
I have a sugar addiction. My mom is obese and we ate 5 to 8 servings of junk a day when I was growing up (and it was truly junk, a lot of hostess products, cheap ice cream, potato chips, and Pepsi.) I still have lots of trouble with controlling sugar intake.
We limit our little kids to one sugary treat a day with the hope that it will teach them good habits. I don't know if that's the best choice or not since I wasn't raised with healthy eating so it's the best I have come up with. I'm just too afraid to let them eat as much as they want since that strategy didn't work for me. Then again, I had a really bad role model with easy access at home. Maybe if I'd seen my mom using self-restraint and it was harder to come by junk I would have done well self-regulating.
Either way there comes a point when you have to let kids make choices for themselves. It sounds pretty stifling at your house. Maybe let him have more freedom to choose. He's getting older and you've chosen to send him to school where he is surrounded by a different culture than what you live in. Of course he's going to pick up that culture to some extent.
Perhaps this article will give you some thoughts. http://www.swissarmywife.net/2011/10/halloween-candy-help/ Like I said, I don't know if I believe this or not, but I think I'd rather have my kid eat lots of sugar than to learn to sneak behind my back. He's going to eat the sugar no matter what you do. I'd rather he learn to be honest with me.
Created an instant family (7/89 and 5/91) in 1997. Made a baby boy 12/05 adopted a baby girl 8/08. Ask me about tandem adoptive nursing. Now living as gluten, dairy, and cane sugar free vegetarians. Homeschooling and loving it. See me at
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It sounds like normal kid behavior. When i was his age I used to do stuff like that (my mom was a total health nut and we never were allowed treats really). One time I even crawled on the counter to stick my finger in the sugar bowl!! It's hard because we want to keep our kids from eating crap, but if we're too controlling they end up having to sneak around behind our backs.
Maybe just ask him to tell you when he's really craving something and then you can figure out if there is a healthy "treat" that he could have instead. I'm in the same boat with my DS (5 and a half). His friends have so much sugary treats all the time and sometimes I think he resents me for trying so hard to limit it. It's really tough..
I think it's normal. I did have to move sweets - including the sugar bowl - to hidden spots for a while, because mine were sneaking from there too. Mine also were leaving plenty of evidence (wrappers & containers) around, and DS will fully admit that it's hard to control temptations.
I find that more protein earlier in the day can help with cravings (for me & them!). I try to make things like whole grain, healthy muffins, with reduced amounts of sugar, but still some sweetness so they feel like it is a "treat", or fruit/yogurt smoothies if the are wanting something sweet. We also do "dessert days" where the kids can choose 2 weekdays and one weekend day to have a dessert of their choice (and I do also pack a very small sweet most days with lunch for my 8 y.o. who eats lunch at school). The dessert days allow them the control of when they want to have desserts, and I think makes it easier for them to make the choice to save their dessert for another day, if they are going to a b-day party or have something else special planned.
I also try to involve them with discussions about nutrition - why different foods are healthier, what are "growing foods" vs. extras, whole grains vs. white, etc. I always ask my son to read the grams of sugar in cereal or sweetened drinks (when we have them on occasion when we buy lunch out) or other things so he is involved in the process of learning about how much sugar is actually in things.
That being said, now that he sometimes has access to desserts when we're not around, he tends to overload (but then he tells us about it...lol). They had a party at school where he indulged in way more sweets than he would ever be allowed to eat. But I am hopeful that healthy eats habits established early on will stick eventually!
Thanks for all the input! It's interesting-for dessert today I went out to grab a bag from our garage fridge of a new product from Trader Joe's( peanut butter chocolates) that I had previously bought but not opened yet. I could not find it and asked my son about it and he said he had found it and eaten it all. I did not give him dessert then as I told him that he had already eaten the whole bag of what I was planning to serve (he normally always has dessert daily). I noticed he ate peanuts instead but went back to the jar several different times, which was fine with me but did make me wonder if he is trying to satisfy an urge to just plain eat not related to hunger (I can certainly relate to that urge!)
I also grew up in a house where there was always junk food and dessert on the counter. I was allowed to eat what I wanted and I remember eating homemade cookies by the stackful and store bought cookies by the row in the package. I gave up sugar several years ago because I can't stop eating it once I start. I think having easy access and having restrictions both lead to problems in susceptible people. There must be a happy medium but I am not sure what it is!
From my own experience as a sugar addict I'm concerned about the typical behaviors we have ascribed to ourselves as being so fond of sugar. I assume Lisa and I aren't the only ones who have been caught not being able to stop eating sugary treats once we've started. I grew up in an American household where sugar was in every meal (in processed cereals or breads, salad dressings, even spaghetti sauce, steak sauce, and ketchup!) Now everyone in my family is overweight or obese. Back then I never thought of sugar being the culprit to my obesity; I always chalked up being fat as due to overeating.
As an obese college student, I did everything in my power to lose weight, but as much as I worked out at the gym and ate small meals and "healthy" snacks* throughout the day, I couldn't shed my weight and keep it off. Years later and after living in China for two years (and losing nearly fifty pounds), I realized that my weight and eating behaviors had a strong relationship with my sugar intake.
The typical behavior that I find in Americans exhibiting a sweet tooth is not familiar for the Chinese, who find American foods and snacks to be too sweet and even off-putting. In China, a diet typically is composed of fresh and natural foods rich in vitamins and minerals, and food is considered on par with medicine and illness with regards to the therapy or the harm it provides when eaten (for example, bitter melon eaten in the summer can cool the body internally, but eaten in the winter can cause aches).
I can see that American's predilection for processed foods makes us susceptible to the sugar add-ins offered by the majority of the food industry. Over the last three generations, these foods have taken their toll on our bodies, minds and view of societal norms. We were programmed for nearly a century with media campaigns and family consumer habits spooning the sugar right into our innocent mouths. So is sugar seeking normal behavior for a child? No, unless you consider a nation of sugar-addicted people to be normal.
Get your self and your family help now if you or your loved ones have a "fondness" for sugar. The less you eat of it, the more you can benefit**.
Thanks for reading!
*I've seen many of the "healthy" processed snacks being marketed by companies (like Kelloggs for example) still contain relatively high amounts of sugar, granted the number of calories in each serving are low. The marketing of such snack foods misleads people into believing their snacks are helping dieters when in fact they are just sneaking in more sugar!
**An excellent book I'd recommend about learning how to benefit metabolism through diet is Ultrametabolism by Dr. Mark Hyman. He touches on some of the damage sugar does to the metabolic events occurring in the body.
My own son was displaying signs of sugar addiction-would sneak drinks of OJ at night, would cry if he couldnt have more OJ for breakfast, would sneak chocolate, would binge on sugar in containers at cafes....
I took him off gluten and it all went away in a matter of days. It turns out that gluten sensitivity can mask itself as sugar addiction and dairy sensitivity. Im not sure of the exact mechanism of this, but it might be worth looking into...
Thanks so much for your post. Wow, what a huge change in such a short amount of time!
My other son is gluten intolerant so I don' t generally buy wheat. My son does have other grains that may be contaminated with some gluten (oats, millet etc) and I don't restrict his wheat when he eats elsewhere;so I guess he is "gluten-light" I did have him tested and he does not have celiac but I am starting to think that none of us can truly tolerate gluten well.
lao i am trying to understand what happened.
you son no longer has that craving? what did you do?
i wonder if it is developmental related.
dd went through a huge sugar phase right before she turned 10 and since turning 10 she has become more sensitive to sugar. in any form. if she eats too many oranges she'll get severe tummy aches. or too many apples. it makes no difference to her if sugar is in the form of candy, soda, or healthy sugars.
dd is also sensitive to gluten and dairy and we've pretty much taken both those off her diet.
at ten now she self regulates.
My son still does. He has dessert daily after dinner. If he finds something sweet at home or elsewhere, he will binge. He does not usually feel sick from it. Since giving up sugar, I can't tolerate it all-I will get sick.
Do you think the stomachaches are what led to your daughter self-regulating??
sorry - looking back i will say sugar does not give her stomach aches. sugar makes her have tantrums and rude behaviour that hurts her friends. gluten gives her tummy aches and dairy gas. but sugar turns her into this brat.
part of it at 10 is also a knowledge of good nutrition and making a personal choice (through her dad and me she has learnt about the various sugars and at present she and he are experimenting to see how dextrose affects her - even though its corn sugar, not high fructose corn syrup). i have been volunteering with nutrition programs since dd was a toddler so she has grown up with the knowledge. she also grew up volunteering at an organic farm as well as attending summer camp there and understanding what it takes.
she chose for instance to be a vegetarian and i would say vegan too - but with everything its really hard - so she chooses to eat a little eggs and butter around friends. she does not like typical children's food and at sleepovers diet becomes an issue (it isnt an issue at asian houses as they most do rice and no dairy). dd loves, loves, loves asian food and doesnt miss pbj or pasta or bread. she grew up on pasta till i realised gluten affected her.
however i have never held back sugar from her. she has a sweet tooth like her father. so i allowed her sugar from about 2 years onwards. it was an occasional treat but she got it whenever she asked. sometimes she had icecream for bfast, but its because i knew she would eat her proper bfast after that.
i am surrounded by people - including dd who enjoys a little sweet something after food. and she has always had that.
HOWEVER since we are not a dessert eating family we rarely have anything in the house. on top of that dd doesnt like all desserts. so a hershey's bar will never be eaten but ghiradeli will be gobbled up. we never really ate sweet bfast foods - like muffins or cereal
but with halloween candy she gets to eat as much as she wants the first night. then after that she really forgets about it. every year i end up giving her candy away.
even today i warn her about stomach aches but dont stop her.
However i will also add her good friend probably has the same issues - but she puts up with the pain and refuses to change the diet.
also dd gets a lot of plant protein in various forms. sometimes sugar can be a substitute for protein.
i will also say i have let dd binge on chocolate cake once at 4 and once at 5 and she has never binged again. that made her sick - throw up and stomach aches. she has never binged ever again till recently and it had the same effect. throwing up and stomach cramps.
hmmm. i wonder what the relations between diabetes and sugar binging is. could low blood sugar levels make him binge because it cant process the sugar already in the blood? i wonder if you could do a fasting at home test and see how low or high it is and then perhaps go to a regular doctor. if u have access to the finger prick test.
My dd has issues with sneaking sugary treats and I have a hard time understanding it.
We limit what we bring in the house and don't have dessert every day. Dd doesn't really consume sugar to a level that concerns me nutritionally but she sure can't control herself much.
Dd can ask for one thing from the grocery store once a week and that includes a bag of candy if she desires it. She knows this. I have also told her to just ask and not eat the whole of something if it is meant to be for everyone. She will still sneak sweets even though she doesn't have to.
I don't have much of a sweet tooth, btw, so it doesn't seem normal behavior to me but maybe it is if you really like sweet foods.
Kim ~mom to one awesome dd (12)
I would err on he side of caution and suggest it may be an issue. First,consider the effect sugar has on the brain...easily and heavily addictive.
Second, I am a nanny for a family whose child is mid teens. He sneaks sweets, hides them and goes through them non stop. On Friday, as per the family shopping list, I stock the house with food...including one family size pack of cookies, a pack of 24 ice cream sandwiches, Gogurts and 10 pack of ice cream cups...not to mention the chips. Once before leaving for the night I went to rearrange a shelf and noticed the cookie box was lighter. 1/3 of the cookies were gone. When I went in to say goodnight to the child, he was eating an ice cream sandwich and in his trash bin were 2 Gogurt wrappers, 2 snack sized Pringles containers and empty twizzlers wrapper. ALL of those foods (except the twizzlers) were purchased just 3 hours prior.
Since that incident, I have been hiding food and lying and saying the store was all out of some items. Why take this course, because I can't enforce something part of the time that parents won't back me up on full time.
This case is definitely more extreme than the one that was originally written about but I wonder if there was more sweets in the house if her son would eat more of them?
It is certainly not up to me to call her child's behavior addictive but I see first hand how a sweet tooth has evolved into a full blown problem. Hiding food in a home is not a normal behavior.
As well, we've just learned that he also buys things from the snack counter at school and he hasn't been eating his lunch. He also is often tired at home and very moody...perking up when he has had a snack.