Easter is a special time of year when children anticipate the Easter Bunny, religious devotees celebrate ‘new life’, and a well-earned holiday is had by all. However, as many parents are well aware, happy children often face the ‘sugar blues’ after eating Easter delights.
The ‘sugar blues’ refers to that ecstatic state your child enters shortly after eating sweet foods, which is closely followed by irritability, tantruming and dismal deeds! Inasmuch as, we, parents love to surprise children with Sunday morning revelations of Easter Bunny gifts, I’m sure most would agree that the behavioural lows that follow the sugar highs can be equally as dramatic!
So let us explore how sweet foods manipulate our child’s usually angelic demeanour to one of opposing calibre.
Long ago, our ancestors carried about their daily activities with bodies fuelled by collected plant material: vegetables, leaves, roots, bark, nuts and fungi were common fare, and milk and meat if they were lucky. In most ancient civilisations, the possession of honey, fruits, sweet plants, and insects such as ‘honey ants’, were a rarity and a treat. The scarcity didn’t matter though: people’s bodies functioned well and children were never without abundant energy.
Please understand that humans are designed to primarily function on the simple sugar called glucose; however, it isn’t necessary to eat sweet foods frequently to obtain glucose. There are specialised functions within the body dedicated to supplying this energy source from the diet: complex carbohydrates, and sometimes fats and proteins, are broken down and converted into a steady flow of blood glucose. People are also equipped with energy storage areas, such as glycogen and fat, to draw upon in times of need.
Fast-forwarding throughout history, a few hundred years after the first Easter early, historical recordings reported ‘a reed which gives honey without bees’: cane sugar.
It took centuries for the fame of sugar to spread throughout the old world. When agriculture expanded during the industrial era, cane sugar became readily accessible and cheap to buy. It quickly evolved from being an occasional condiment to a regular participant in many contemporary food recipes. However, there is a sinister reason why its popularity bloomed at an insatiable rate. It has to do with a biochemical reaction affecting the human body: sugar is addictive.
There is a neurological pathway from the mouth up to the brain’s ‘happy registry’, also referred to as the ‘pleasure centre’ or the ‘reward centre’. Drugs find their way there unaided; sugar forges a highway along the same route.
When consumed, blood glucose levels dramatically rise and the brain’s ‘pleasure centre’ is stimulated, resulting in energy, exuberance and a sense of gratification. But soon these levels fall to a significantly lower point, leaving people reeling (and children squealing) for more. This emotional cycle creates a physical routine of people ‘fixing’ with sugar foods to avoid feeling low. It is commonly understood that most habits start early in life, so it is of interest that scientists record children’s tastebuds perceive sweetness more quickly and of higher intensity than adults.
Parents, for your information: alcohol is just sugar.
The human body is not designed to process sugar in large quantities on a regular basis. Eventually, the systems controlling energy conversion within the body can become exhausted, and the long-term effects are dysfunctions such as diabetes, obesity, premature aging, immune suppression, depression, and ADHD symptoms.
Investigate the ingredients labelled on your current food items; you may be surprised to find savoury foods, such as potato chips and rice crackers, often include sugar. Be aware of the many names for which sugar is disguised: corn syrup, dehydrated cane juice, dextrose, fruit juice concentrate, glucose, high-fructose corn syrup, honey, invert sugar, lactose, maltodextrin, malt, maltose, maple syrup, molasses, raw sugar, rice syrup, saccharose, sorghum syrup, sucrose, syrup, and treacle.
One may ask then, if we should deny children the pleasure of Easter eggs and other sweet treats? I would think not. Though to promote good health, restrict sweet foods to a very limited consumption.
Here are some handy tips to beat the ‘sugar blues’ this Easter:
- Provide your child with a meal (or at least a healthy snack) before eating Easter eggs. This is because the complex carbohydrates, proteins and fats contained in the meal will help slow down the rate at which sugar enters the bloodstream.
- Replace solid chocolate gifts with other Easter treats containing less sugar and healthier ingredients (perhaps one of the Coast Kids recipes).
- Consider a non-confectionary Easter treat, such as a soft toy bunny or Easter stickers.
- Ensure children have full tummies before indulging in Easter eggs so as to limit how much chocolate they can physically eat!
- Reduce the actual quantity or size of chocolate treats purchased for your child this Easter (I promise you, they will survive without the excess!)
Food in Focus: Eggs
Eggs (from hens, not Easter bunnies) are nuggets of power, containing vitamins, minerals and essential elements. They are an ideal source of protein, which is why the addition of eggs to sweet recipes can help slow down the release of sugar into kids’ bloodstreams. Interestingly, the humble ‘googy egg’ or ‘cackle berry’ is also one of the only foods containing the sunshine vitamin, Vitamin D, necessary for strong bone growth.
- Tap a small hole into the top of an egg’s shell with a pointed knife. Gently peel away the shell until approximately a 10-cent hole is exposed. Turn out contents and then rinse shell.
- Cut off 4cm strips of tin foil, and then halve the strips. Fold lengthways and turn over the rim of the eggshells to protect the edges. Additionally, you may wish to help children decorate the eggshells with non-toxic and heatproof materials.
Strawberry Mousse Eggs
300g fresh strawberries (or thawed, frozen strawberries)
4 egg whites (keep yolks for the Hatching Chickens recipe)
½ lime or lemon, juice
½ cup of coconut cream or thickened cream
1/3 cup rapadura sugar
pinch sea salt
Blend strawberries, juice and sugar together. Beat coconut cream until frothy or beat thickened cream until firm. Add to berry mixture. Beat egg whites and salt until stiff. Gently fold the berry mixture into the egg whites. Spoon mousse into eggshells and refrigerate for two hours.
4 egg yolks (keep whites for the Strawberry Mousse Eggs recipe)
½ cup self-raising flour
½ cup coconut cream
1/3 cup agave syrup
1 tsp vanilla essence
pinch sea salt
Beat egg yolks, and then combine with salt, coconut cream, agave syrup and vanilla essence. Beat in flour. Pour into eggshells up to the foil rim. Bake at 160°C (fan forced) for 20-25 minutes. Mixture should rise out of the shell to create a ‘head’. After baking, allow the cakes to rest in for 10 minutes before removing. When cool, help children remove the shells to reveal fluffy chicken bodies. Place on side, add currents or choc chips for eyes, shape a white yoghurt button for a beak, and broken skewers for legs.