Sam Beau Patrick has been working with children and health since ’87. As a specialist in nutrition, she loves educating children and their parents about the power of food and self-nourishment – and one of her favorite lessons started with a bottle of Coke.

In 2016, I was on an outing to Wet’n’Wild when I noticed the over-the-top promotions for Coke. It wasn’t just the ads – I saw a child, aged around two, drinking a bottle of Coke, as were all of his siblings. He acted out, the result of an obvious sugar surge, and his mum started yelling obscenities. One of her biggest threats: “I’m not going to give you any more Coke.”

I became determined, in my own little ripple pond of influence, to show parents and kids that the sugar in Coke is crazy high – way too high to be given to children.

Coke and other soft drinks like it can lead to a surge in blood sugar levels, and a corresponding surge in insulin. It can also lead to an increase in testosterone, fat, irritability, brain fog, aggression and acne, among other things. Sugar can cause hormone imbalances.

So, when I was asked to talk about food with my son’s class, I decided to conduct a little experiment.

It was quite insightful to see how wriggly nine to 10-year-olds are in the morning. Their beautiful teacher said, “they are a very enthusiastic bunch and often call out. Please forgive them.”

I asked my first big question of the day: “What did everyone have for breakfast? CALL IT OUT! “

I was bombarded with:

  • Weetbix
  • Eggs on Toast
  • Toast
  • Pizza (three children had this)
  • Cereal
  • Chocolate
  • MacDonalds
  • And nothing….

So, with such a wide range of carb-rich foods ingested and such a wriggly bunch of children, I set to work.

I wanted to demonstrate through exploration – their own exploration – that many foods have hidden sugars. And when we eat lots of sugar at once, we must burn it off with exercise, otherwise, it makes us wriggly, irritable, demanding for more and can ultimately get us into trouble.

“Who wants to know more?” I asked. Surprisingly, everyone did.

We discussed the good effects of sugars (carbs) and the negative ones: irritability, sleepiness, cloudy thinking, low energy, weight gain. Then, we set to work measuring the sugar in foods.

I explained the food ingredients label, how to read the amount of sugar per serve and per 100g. They all got it.

Then I explained that one teaspoon equals five grams of sugar, and we split into groups. With two to three pupils in each group we counted the amount of sugar in each product.

We measured carrots, muffins, broccoli, popcorn, Snickers bar, an apple, and a can of Coke.

They had strict instructions to handle the “white poison” sugar with care.

Meticulously – at least, as much as nine-to-10-year olds’ fine motor skills would allow – the children measured out the sugar in each product. We swapped around and tried a few others.

The kids were like popcorn.

“Oh WOW, check out the coke. It has 13 teaspoons of sugar!”

“Check out the carrots, they only have one teaspoon! I am going to eat these all the time!”

The unprompted responses were great.

After our experiment we talked more about sugar and ideal foods for ‘brain break’ (like morning tea).

Carrots, broccoli sticks, snow peas are all better choices for brain break, while muffins, Coke and chocolate should be eaten WAY less, they decided.

WOW. My job was done.

 

How can you teach your kids about nutrition at home? Try these ideas from around the web…

Super Healthy Kids turns a nutritious snack into a fun game with this ‘roll the dice’ approach to making a healthy smoothie // try it here

Introducing children to the idea that our dental health is directly influenced by our nutrition is no mean feat, which is why we love this game by Fairy Poppins so much // try it here

Craftulate shares this simple game for introducing children to different fruits and veggies – because they’re more likely to try them when they know what they are! // try it here

Sugar, Spice and Glitter make trying new, healthy foods into a fun competition with this board game // Try it here

Put the decision making power into your children’s hands with this idea from True Aim Education // Try it here

 

For more from Sam, head to www.sambeaupatrick.com.