Top 5 reasons to eat sugar before additives

A question that I hear often is – which are worse – additives or sugar? This was discussed recently in the Additive Free Kids private Facebook community group. There was unanimous consensus that additives are worse than sugar. I will take you through my top five reasons why I would eat sugar before I ate additives.

I need to clarify what I mean when I say the word “sugar”.  There are so many different types of sugars.  Last I saw, there were over 60 of them!  Some of them include:

– high fructose corn syrup

– dextrose

– maltodextrin

– sucrose

– fructose

These are highly processed sugars and I would recommend avoiding them for sure. When I say that I would eat sugar any day over additives, the sugar, is natural sugar. Sugar that has been through minimal processing. Examples include:


Rapadura sugar / Panela

Pure juice extracted (pressed) from the sugar cane. Cooked to evaporate the water, whilst stirred with paddles. Then sieve ground to produce a grainy sugar. No chemicals, no anti-caking agents.

Coconut sugar

Made from the sap of flower buds from the coconut palm tree.  The sap is boiled over moderate heat to evaporate most of its water content.  The final product is coconut sugar and tastes like brown sugar.


Straight from the bee hive. 

Maple syrup

Straight from maple trees.  The sap is boiled to evaporate most of its water content to leave maple syrup.  

Sugar in its natural form isn’t inherently bad, as long as it is consumed in moderation. 

The problem is that, as a society we are consuming too much sugar.  Too many highly processed sugars are in everything we eat.   You will find sugar in sauces, condiments, dressings, treats, anything. 

We need to remove these highly processed sugars from our diet, without question.  If we talk about minimally processed sugar, I would choose this any day over additives. 

Here are the reasons why:

1. The effects of additives are long lasting in comparison to sugar.

Sugar will give the kids a buzz, they will have some increased energy for a short period of time. They will burn it off very quickly. When it comes to additives, everyone is different. With some kids, additives could wear off in a day. In other kids it may last up to 3 days. For my family, our kids usually have a 3 day impact.

2. Additives can cause varied symptoms

There are so many different additives in our food supply.  Each category of additive can have different symptoms.  If your kids are sensitive, they may experience any of the following:

– aggressive behaviour

– allergic reactions

– asthma

– behavioural issues

– depression

– gastrointestinal ailments

– headaches and migraines

– hyperactivity

– learning difficulties

– eczema

– hives

– rashes

– sleeping issues


Sugar can give you a surge of dopamine and can impact your moods.   Remember that we are still only talking about the minimally processed sugars.  The highly processed sugars could also give you some of the symptoms listed above. 

3. Additives are approved on an adult’s body mass

The acceptable daily intake of additives are set based on the projected adult intake. What does this mean for our kids? They are getting a much higher dose of additives for their size. 

4. Additives are not tested in combination

Additives are tested in isolation. The reality is, additives are more often than not, eaten in combination. We have no idea what the impact of these additives are in combination or how they might react with each other.

5. We don’t know the long term impacts of these additives on our bodies

When additives are tested, they are tested for major physical changes.  The testing doesn’t look for neurological impacts or impacts on learning and behaviour. 

We are now starting to see studies linking additives to changes in our gut health, obesity and cancer.  I expect in the coming years we will see a lot more. 

Sugar takes the blame for additives

I can’t tell you how many times I have heard parents comment – “the kids have had too much sugar’ after a kid’s birthday party.  The kids are running wild, aggressive, melting down and hyperactive. 

Parents may not realise, but their child has just consumed a HUGE intake of additives TOGETHER with the sugar. 

If we think about a few simple examples:

– simple jelly snake – has preservatives, flavours and colours

– bbq chips – has MSG, flavours, antioxidants

– cake (store bought) – has emulsifiers, stabilisers, thickeners and flavours

I could go on and on. This is an example of only 3 items and already you can see how the amount of additives add up.


The kids aren’t suffering the effects of sugar. They are suffering the effects of additives in combination on their tiny bodies. Additives that were approved based on the acceptable daily limit of an adult. Additives that haven’t been tested in combination.

I have hosted plenty of birthday parties (with 5 boys I have had plenty of practice!!) There has been plenty of sugar at those parties. Some times I have cringed with the amount of sugar I used in a mud cake (in the early years of my additive free journey).

There would have been an array of cupcakes, honey joys, chocolate crackles. Popcorn, chocolate and birthday cake. Soooo much sugar! There was a difference though. The kids were all very calm and happy. Yes they had extra energy. There was no aggressive behaviour. No hyperactivity. Only good old fashioned fun.

Parents would comment after how strange it was.  They didn’t understand how having consumed all that sugar there were no meltdowns.  The difference?

Their kids had avoided a HUGE exposure to additives.

Sugar takes the rap for the effects of additives all the time.

Food is more than nutrition 

I have gone back and forth with the sugar debate.  I  know in a perfect world, we are better not consuming sugar.  As I mentioned at the start, there are different forms of sugar.  I recommend that you definitely remove all highly processed forms of sugar. 

When it comes to minimally processed sugar options maybe this needs a rethink? Perhaps some in moderation is ok?

I am wanting to raise healthy balanced kids.  I am prioritising removing additives first.  Whist I would love our family to be 100% additive free all the time, the reality is different.  It is very difficult to be 100% additive free. 

Eating out and about you are likely to consume additives.  In time, when awareness grows, cafes, food trucks and restaurants will start providing additive free options.  We are additive free at home and we make the best decisions we can when we are out.  I will happily choose an option that contains sugar over additives any day. 

Every family is different 

Families that are sensitive are often sensitive to other things too.  We have managed so many sensitivities over the years.  The list was long: dairy free, gluten free, soy free, sugar free, salicylate free, fructose free, nightshade free and additive free.   It has been a long journey!  Thankfully we have come a long way and can tolerate many of these now.  It has been a lot of experimentation to try and find a happy balance for the whole family. 

I am happy to have minimally processed sugar in moderation for my family. 

Food is so much more than nutrition.  It is culture.  It is social.  It is memories.  It is bonding. It is love.  I love sharing with my boys recipes that have been passed down from Nonna to Nonna, to Mum to Me.  Those recipes have sugar.  The sugar is paired with other wholefood ingredients  – flour, eggs, butter.  They are full of flavour.  The recipes use real ingredients.  

Those recipes come with stories and memories.  They taste delicious.  They are a treat.  It is in moderation.  I would take this any day over the flavours, preservatives, emulsifiers and colours in our food. 

What did the Additive Free Kids Community think?


So when the question “Which are better- sugar or additives” came up in the Additive Free Kids community, here were some of the comments: 

“Additives are much worse for my kids. The effect of too much sugar wears off fairly quickly but additives mess with them for a couple of days.”

“Additives by far!”

“Additives for sure. At least we know the effects of sugar on our bodies, and we know we can burn it off. Half of the additives out there we don’t even know what they are doing to us”

“Additives…My son can have pure brown sugar for example if I am making a cake with eggs and butter… But if he has a store bought cake or slice I notice he goes off. “


I recommend that you experiment for yourselves and find the right balance for your family.  Pull out all the additives and introduce a baked muffin or cake that has sugar in it.  See what happens.  I would love to hear your experiences!

If you need help fast tracking removing additives from your life check out our Additive Free Advocates program.  You can make small incremental changes each month, where I do the hard work for you.  You get access to exclusive product reviews that help guide your decision making in the supermarket, access to supermarket shopping database, and much more.  Find out more here and register for the waitlist

Frankie Bell is the Managing Director of Additive Free Kids, a food coach, mentor and is one of Australia’s leading activists against additives in foods.  
Frankie is a mum to 5 boys and has personal experience working through the damaging effects of additives to resolve the multiple health issues and behavioural problems in her own children.  It became Frankie’s purpose to help other families achieve the same improvements for their families. 
These changes can be overwhelming, especially for time poor parents, Frankie has done all the hard work for families to ensure they have access to additive free food, anytime, anywhere.    Additive Free Kids specialises in assisting families to live healthy lives free from additives.  See how you can work together with Frankie here.