Image by Julien Bizat
Yesterday I was talking with my mother in law about sugars in our diet. Being the mother of two, this is a topic i am constantly researching. And while I am not an expert on the subject, I am very passionate about it. The conversation inspired me to dig a little more.
It is no secret that excessive sugar consumption is extremely detrimental to our health. But exactly how much is too much is not common knowledge. This is unfortunate since everyone is affected in one way or another by the adverse effects of sugar. The World Health Organization recently lowered the daily sugar allowance from 10% (of your daily calorie intake) to 5%! That is a significant reduction, that should show you how big the problem is. For an average adult (in fairly good shape) that translates to 25 grams a day or 6 teaspoons. Just so you know, a can of soda contains about 40 grams of sugar. For children the American Heart Association recommends no more than 3 teaspoons that is 12 grams. Keep in mind if your child is over weight or very sedentary the amount should be a lot less.
You might not see it this way but sugar is very similar to drugs. It is highly addictive , considered toxic by health experts and can have catastrophic consequences for you and your family. But unlike most illegal substances it is readily available in almost everything we put in our mouth. And it is distributed to our children indiscriminately. Sometimes by ourselves. This leads me to my next point. We have trained ourselves and our children to become sugar addicts.
I will not go into how excessive sugar intake can lead to weight gain, chronic disease, hormonal problems, depression, liver damage, neurological decay etc, etc, etc. (Research it, Im not making these things up this is one useful link) But I do want to raise a very important point that is often overlooked. Consuming sugar indiscriminately destroys your palate. And this starts at infancy. So while it might be an uphill battle for you to rid yourself or a nasty sugar addiction, you can spare your child. It is up to you.
It is not your child’s fault if he cringes when you offer him a glass of water or a carrot. If your child will refuse to have pancakes that are not soaked in syrup. If she will only drink milk that is chocolate. You have to know, this is your doing. I know how hard it is to be a parent, but enough with the excuses. You are the adult, so lets start taking responsibility for our choices.
You might think a serving of all natural, organic fruit juice a day is not only harmless but healthy, it really isn’t. And let me briefly explain why.
A child’s (4-8 years) daily added sugar allowance is about 12 grams a day. Here is the sugar content on a few juice brands:
Apple and Eve 100% juice, no sugar added 6.75 oz (a juice box) 21 grams
Honest Kids organic grape juice, no sugar added 6.75 oz 9 grams
Capri Sun with 25% less sugar that other brands (as marketed by Capri Sun) 6 0z 16 grams
Motts Original 100% apple juice 8oz 29grams!!!!!!!
Now add a cookie, some ketchup or some flavored yogurt or milk. Do you see the problem? Keep in mind that most kids have at least one serving of this or any type of juice a day. According to the American Heart Association after a child is 1 year and a half fruit consumption declines to the point where one-third of 19- to 24-month-old children consume no fruit, whereas 60% consume baked desserts, 20% candy, and 44% sweetened beverages on a given day. Which means most children in America consume high levels of sugar on a regular basis. What makes my blood boil is that these products are marketed as wholesome and healthy. I mean with two servings of fruit per serving, it has to be good for them, NOT!
I know you would never purposely hurt your child, and there is so much information out there it can be very confusing. But doing something as simple as reading the sugar content on the label of products you are feeding your child might save your child from an array of health issues and a spoiled palate.
Now, I’m not a sourpuss I promise :), so let me offer you some alternatives or ideas to start detoxing your child from sugar overload.
1. Substitute juices with fruit flavored water. Add some fruit slices to a pitcher of water and refrigerate.
2. Try to substitute packaged snacks for sweet veggies like carrots, snap peas, cherry tomatoes or peppers you can pre-cut and pack in advance so they are available.
3. Offer snacks that are high in protein and healthy fats, avocado, celery with peanut butter (the kind that only contains peanuts not sugar), a hard-boiled egg, plain whole fat yogurt with berries and a touch of honey, organic cheese, a handful of nuts. These types of snack will keep them full for longer and provide them with the energy they need.
4. Read the sugar content on the nutrition label, and stick to the recommended daily allowance for your child or lower. Keep in mind some children are not very active and spend most of the day in front of the tv, in these cases their sugar allowance should be a lot lower than 12 grams a day.
5. Don’t buy treats that are high in sugar, if they are not available it is easier to refuse. But make sure to stack up in healthier alternatives like berries, watermelon or other fruits your kid likes.
6. If you have some time bake your own treats, do it :). Make it a once in a while event so they understand it is a special treat and not a daily occurrence. There are so many helpful sites, with great recipes that are low in sugar and delicious. Do a little digging. I really enjoy wellnessmama.com
7. Introduce your child to new vegetables or fruits on a regular basis. Encourage them to try new things, if they don’t want to the first time, try again at some other time. It can take multiple tries, especially if your child is already hooked on sugar or not used to eating this way.
8. Try not to feed your child on the car. I know its hard but if they get used to eating at the table, or designated location :), you can present foods in a special way that might strike their fancy. Like making faces out of vegetables for example.
9. Talk to your children about why you are making these changes. We constantly underestimate our kids, they are smarter than you think.
10. Be the change you want to see in them! Work on your sugar addiction (if you have one) and be open to trying new things. Incorporate more whole foods into your routine, and reduce the fast foods and heavily processed foods.
I know making changes can be daunting, children are creatures of habit after all. So make new habits. Make better choices and inform yourself.
Don’t be discouraged. Remember, parenting is not a burden, it’s a challenge! Visualize yourself as a super hero, chances are YOU ARE!
Here are some great links with useful information:
Sugar in children’s cereal
Your recommended sugar intake
USDA National Nutrient Database