The Problem With Sugar



Growing up I ate a lot of processed food. “TV dinners”  were a staple in our house (we thought they were healthy because they were made by Healthy Choice) and most things I consumed were in a package. Dinner time meant all of us sitting in the family room, in front of the TV, usually watching our favorite show “Married with Children” (gotta love Al Bundy!). I was raised with not the healthiest food habits, but we sure thought we were being healthy by eating and drinking things that said “fat free”, “low fat” or were sweetened with artificial sweeteners. Candy and junk food wasn’t really in our house often, but when it was, we would either eat it in hiding or consume it so fast that it was finished in one sitting. Our household sure loved carbs, especially bread and pasta! I was always involved in sports, dance and loved to exercise so I wasn’t too overweight. In no way do I wish to disrespect my parents on how they raised me, I grew up in such a loving and wonderful home and I am forever indebted to my mom and dad! I went through many years of yo-yo dieting, Weight Watchers, Jenny Craig etc. In college I became pretty “crunchy” and started to better understand food and nutrition (I was a “hippy” vegetarian at that point).After college I had a profound understanding of my sugar addiction when I decided to spend 3 months not eating any sugar, artificial sweeteners or wheat. The first two weeks were rough but I soon stopped craving sugar and found that I was able to have more control over my compulsive overeating. I lost thirty five pounds in three months and it felt amazing.

     I now have a much healthier relationship with food. My husband and I eat mainly organic, nutritious, home made meals in our house. It sure helps that he is an amazing cook (and food blogger www.thisamericanbite.com).We are dairy free in our house and only cook/bake with whole wheat and whole grains. We rarely use sugar but if we do we use molasses, maple syrup (grade B) or honey.  In fact, most things we eat are gluten free and the majority of our diet are vegetables. We eat meat twice a week, so during the weekday we have mainly a vegan diet. My husband and I recently got into juicing and make one for breakfast almost every morning. Believe me, we are not complete health nuts (or I would be a lot thiner than I am) and we certainly have our issues with portion control that we are trying to work on. We decided that when we had our first child, it was important to us that we would sit down at the table for dinner as a family every night and that we wouldn’t feed our son white flour, sugar (except for fruit), processed food, dairy, food coloring or high fructose corn syrup. He is two and a half years old and thus far we have been able to maintain this healthy lifestyle for him. He loves food, especially vegetables and is far from a “fussy eater”.  His favorite food is sushi and he loves food with spices, like curry. Many times he will say, “Mommy, more spicy,peez”.
Baby Led Weaning
     The sad thing is we are looked at by many as outliers for not giving processed food and sugar to our toddler. Up until now we would provide healthy snack alternatives to sweets at his preschool, friend’s house, synagogue or birthday parties so he wouldn’t feel left out. He never noticed that the kids were eating something different, as long as he had something to put in his mouth. In the past month that has changed and he now wants what the other kids are having. In no way did we think we could maintain this type of diet forever for him. We just wanted to give him a healthy start and feel that as long as we are eating wholesome nutritious food in our home, then the  occasional processed snack or dessert wouldn’t kill him. I don’t want him to feel left out or start eating in hiding because he isn’t allowed to have those kinds of food. But at the same time, why do  parents, schools, day cares, places of worship, society feel the need to give sweets and junk to young children? It frustrates me so much! I get it that children enjoy and respond positively to sweets and it’s cheap. But that doesn’t make it good for them (or anybody for that matter) or right. There are other ways to invoke positive feelings in children, as a teacher for many years I know this to be true. It drives me crazy how much junk food, lollypops, ice cream, candy etc. are around my two year old at his preschool and synagogue.  Do I just bite my tongue and accept it or take a stance against it and try to get other parents involved in changing this mindset? Do I run the risk of alienating my fellow friends by “preaching” healthy eating for our children?
     We just have to take a look around us to see that something is not right with the way we are feeding our children in this country. Nearly 14% of American preschoolers (age 2-5) are obese…how scary is that! The American Heart Association found children as young as 1 to 3 years old consuming around 12 teaspoons of sugar per day. By the time a child is 4 to 8 years old, sugar consumption jumps to an average of 21 teaspoons a day.
     I feel healthy food habits start with how we introduce foods (we followed a wonderful theory called “Baby Led Weaning”) to our children and especially how we feed them in these early years. Is it weird to want your child to have healthy food habits so that they don’t get sick, unhealthy and overweight? I don’t want to be the “crazy one” but I also don’t want to sacrifice my children’s health.