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Should you indulge your child's sweet tooth?

Should you ban sweets altogether?

Unless there is a specific health risk, similar to nut allergies, the idea of banning sugar altogether is overkill. By doing so, you run the risk of creating an unnecessary temptation (and, honestly, who doesn't occasionally crave the very things we can't have). Instead, permit your children to enjoy the occasional treat, while supplementing their sweet tooth with a more nutritious and balanced diet.

At parties, where sweets are almost mandatory, make sure to have plenty of non-sugar-containing snack options for your guests. And while there is no proven link between sugar and hyperactivity, research shows that the "sugar rush" and "post-sugar crash" phenomenon are a reality. The reasons are fairly straightforward: Consuming too much sugar prompts the body to produce insulin, which initially prompts a "sugar rush," but eventually results in a drop of blood-sugar levels. That can leave your child feeling lethargic or listless. It can also encourage your child to eat more sugar, creating an unwanted cyclical effect.

The best approach, say nutritionists, is to provide balanced snacks along with the sweets, and ration just how many sugar-based snacks are available. Frozen fruit smoothies are a terrific alternative, provided you make them yourself, and control the amount of sugar used. Store-bought, prepared smoothies might look the same, but like any pre-packaged product, they can have a much higher sugar content.

Lastly, set a good example in your own daily eating habits. And don't worry about enjoying the occasional sweet with your children -- if you don't make a big deal of it, your kids won't either. However, make sure you enjoy those treats within reason. Your children will learn that lesson as well.

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