Cruel to ban my kids from sweets? I've saved them from obesity and tooth decay

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Banning your children from eating sweets is like having a guilty secret – if you tell anyone, you’ll be met with horrified judgement.

It’s as if you’ve said you smack them or make them sleep in the shed. What a terrible mother I must be. I was even called “wicked” by another mum for it.

But here’s the sweet truth, or should that be tooth…I don’t like my kids gorging on sweet stuff and I shouldn’t be ashamed of it.

Sugar causes obesity and tooth decay and I’d rather they had neither, thanks very much.

So when I heard schools could become sugar-free zones under plans to beat decay, I was thrilled.

Since my children Josh, seven, and Leah, five, have been at school, I’ve been horrified at the constant barrage of sugar-laden treats heading in their direction.

Teachers sometimes give them out in class for good behaviour.

What happened to gold stars? Next thing, they’ll be giving out chocolate buttons for turning up.

Sara’s orthodontist dad Colin Wallis with her son

h decay has reached epidemic proportions. We are seeing more and more children needing extractions of permanent teeth that have decayed.

As a grandparent, I’m shocked at the amount of sweets given out at schools and at parties.

Despite considerable resistance from relatives and friends, we didn’t let Sara or her brother have sweets or fizzy drinks regularly – and neither has fillings.

There are healthy alternatives, it’s not about depriving kids.

The problem with sugar at school and nurseries is it is on the teeth for hours. It also gives kids a sugar rush.

The trauma of doing a filling on a four or five-year-old is something you wouldn’t want a child or parent to experience. I’ve got young patients needing root canal treatment.

I fully support making schools sugar-free – they are there to educate children, not ruin their teeth. Schools can help by interacting with dental practices to educate about diet and tooth care. Teeth are for life.

 

Chocs and lollipops are constantly doled out as prizes at school discos and events. Cakes and biscuits are requested for end- of-term parties. This sugar fest is not necessary. Parents should be in control of how much sugar their kids eat, not schools.

Every time there is a birthday the kids run out of the school gates with their hands already deep in a packet of Haribo given out by some well-meaning parent.

I tend to swipe them away, stick them in a cupboard “for the weekend”, then throw them away once forgotten. The same thing happens at Halloween and Easter. Shame on me.

At a PTA meeting I nervously suggested banning sweet treats. Parents and teachers shot me down in flames straight away.

Teachers worried about backlash from parents while one mum blasted me as “really mean” for not allowing Josh to hand out sweets on his birthday. “How can you do that to him?” she pleaded, aghast.

Josh gave out novelty pencils instead and I swear the kids were perfectly delighted. Sweets, dare I say it, are dull.

Schools profess to promote healthy eating, so why not be consistent? I refuse to give out sweet cones at parties – guests instead get books or games.

Party bags my two bring home from friend’s birthdays are emptied of the sweets. They can keep the toys. If they are handed a lollipop at a party, restaurant or shop, we smile and say thank you, then they go straight in the bin.

Josh and Leah know the drill – it will be something to tell their therapists when they’re older.

Once Josh did say: “Mummy, no one really ate your cake at the school bake sale. They preferred the cookies with dolly mixture on top.” Funny that.

The PTA should have been grateful it was a normal cake, not the sugar-free banana muffins I gave Josh on his first couple of birthdays.

I’ve had plenty of abuse for my view – called “over-the-top”, “neurotic” and on a couple of occasions, yes even “wicked”.

I’ve had to ignore plenty of eye rolling and peer pressure from relatives and friends.

Some people genuinely think I’m giving my kids a terrible childhood, deprived of all joy. As if sweets represent the peak of all happiness. As if my children are weeping into their pillows every night, wondering what they ever did to deserve such punishment.

But please don’t feel bad for them. No need to call social services. As the daughter of a dentist, I was rarely allowed sweets and my parents and I are still just about on speaking terms.

“You’ll thank me one day,” my dad always said. He was right.

But it’s not a total ban. Now they are older I no longer switch blueberries for birthday cake at pals’ parties or water for squash.

But treats are not a daily occurrence. We don’t have squash at home and their teeth always get a good brush after the odd packet of sweets, chocolate, seaside ice cream or sugar-hyped party.

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If children are not used to inhaling a packet of Jelly Babies after school every day, they really won’t miss it.

A horrifying 23% of five-year-olds have tooth decay. Is it not worse to have to watch your child have a filling? To put them through a general anaesthetic and having their teeth drilled?

I’m always astonished people don’t seem to make the link between constant sugary foods and a visit to the dentist.

Dental surgeons demand sugar-free rules at schools and I’m all for it. Guidelines drawn up by the Faculty of Dental Surgery at the Royal College Of Surgeons also call for stronger action on packed lunches and a price levy on harmful fizzy drinks.

British Dental Association chair Mick Armstrong says: “It’s a scandal tooth decay remains the number one reason for child hospital admissions.

“We will not see real progress until ministers start going further and faster on prevention.”

So no, tooth be told, I won’t feel bad about my hatred for Haribo (other brands are available). I’ll just brace myself to be condemned at the school gates.

The kids will thank me one day.

 



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