The Hidden Sugar in Food

The Hidden Sugar in Food

A couple of days ago, I posted about how sugar consumption by kids actually causes addiction.  Unfortunately, it is actually a really difficult thing to keep your kids away from sugar.  It seems to be in everything today!  I am constantly reading labels so I can be aware of exactly what my kids are consuming.

Food producing companies try to get kids addicted from a young age. Almost every baby food and snack I look at has sugar added to it. And just because it is “fructose” from fruit or it is “pure cane sugar” does not make it any better! It’s still processed, added sugar – and it’s getting your kids addicted.

There is no reason for sugar to be added to baby food, ever. Fortunately, new movements led by mums like you and me have led to new brands and food products being offered.  Today, you are more likely to find sugar-free baby food than even 2 or 3 years ago.

This is the good news: If we keep up the pressure, companies will produce less and less sugary products.

In fact, so much sugar is added to all our food that as adults we are not even aware of it. Our taste buds have been desensitized so that we get our “fix” without even knowing it. From mayonnaise to peanut butter, there is added sugar in it. There is no reason why the tomato sauce for our pizza or the dressing for our salad should contain so much sugar. Except that we – and our children – are addicted.

Cheerios nutrition facts and ingredientsUnfortunately, many parents don’t even realize how much sugar is in the cereal they give their kids!  Pull out a box of cheerios. The ingredients list reads:

Whole grain oats, modified corn starch, corn starch, sugar…

Sugar is, essentially, the third ingredient on the list!  Rice Krispies? No better.

Ingredients[edit] Rice, sugar, salt, malt flavoring, iron, ascorbic acid (vitamin C), alpha tocopherol acetate (vitamin E), niacinamide, vitamin A palmitate, pyridoxine hydrochloride (vitamin B6), riboflavin (vitamin B2), thiamin hydrochloride (vitamin B1), folic acid, vitamin B12, vitamin D.

The second ingredient is sugar! And there’s malt flavoring in there, too. Malt is made by a process that turns the starch in barley into sugar, so that’s also a hidden sweetener.  And these are just two of the simplest, “healthy” cereals, think about all the other foods your kids are eating.

And sugar comes in many forms. Simple carbohydrates like white rice and white flour break down directly into sugar in our bodies. That’s why your child probably prefers white bread over whole wheat – it is sweet – it fuels his addiction. A diet high in carbohydrates changes the biochemistry in your child’s brain in just the same way drugs do.*  Which is, incidentally, exactly the same way the brain reacts to added, processed, refined sugars.

If we want to be aware of the sugars we are feeding our kids, there is only one thing we can do: Resort to reading labels.

*Spring B, Chiodo J, et al. Carbohydrates, tryptophan, and behavior: A methodological review. Psychological Bulletin, Vol 102(2), Sep 1987, 234-256.

Keeping Kids Away from Sugar: Dealing with Criticism

Keeping Kids Away from Sugar: Dealing with Criticism

One might think it’s common knowledge that sugar is bad for kids, whether in terms of health, behavior, or teeth.  As such, one might expect that keeping kids away from sugar would be something to be lauded and admired.  But if you have decided to keep your kids away from this powdery white drug, you’ll soon find you were mistaken.

As a mum who keeps sugar completely out of her kids’ diets, I can tell you I’ve encountered my fair share of criticism.  My brother-in-law has even made a huge scene in front of my husband’s family when I refused to allow my toddler, who had only just turned 2, to chow down on chocolates and candies.  Sometimes criticisms like this are made loudly and publicly, which could lead to some embarrassment.  If you decide to cut sugar from your kids’ diets, make sure you know your facts and feel confident in your decision, as you should!

Remember, you are their parent and you have the right to make parenting decisions for your kids!  As I told my brother-in-law (in front of his entire family, no less), when he has his own kids, he can choose to feed them whatever he wants.  But he has no right to say anything about the way I choose to raise my children.  I carried them in my womb for 9 months and since the birth of my first son, I have not had even one single day off from being a mum.  Nobody on this planet can possibly care about my kids more than I do and nobody has the right to tell me that by choosing not to give them sugar, I am doing something wrong.

After all. the most common criticism I get is that I am depriving my kids. Of course I am! But depriving them of what?  When people say that I am depriving my kids, they think that because my kids don’t get store-bought candies, cookies, and cakes, I am somehow taking something away from their childhood.  And they’re right – I am taking something away.  Quite a few somethings. I am taking away disease. I am taking away tooth decay. I am taking away uncontrollable bad behavior. I am taking away addiction.

If anybody ever tells you that by disallowing your kids sugar you are depriving them, tell them they are right! And make sure they know exactly what your kids are missing out on.

People also often seem to think it’s wrong for kids to see other people eating something and for them to be told by a parent that they cannot have it.  In this day and age, this is the criticism that baffles me most.  After all, allergies and dietary restrictions have become commonplace.  You won’t hear someone criticized for not allowing their celiac child to have bread when all the other kids are eating sandwiches!  I also get this criticism a lot when it comes to me not allowing my kids to eat meat.  But I never get this criticism when it comes to my decision to keep kosher.

There seems to be a strange dichotomy when it comes to food choices that are bound by religious or allergy restrictions versus those choices bound by, well, choice.  My motivations all have to do with health.  For me, deciding to do something to stay healthy is a motivation that should really be respected.  I mean, don’t we all want to be healthy? Don’t we all want to keep our kids healthy?

I’ve thought about this for a long time and I’ve come to the conclusion that it has to do with a certain human psychology of judgment.  I’ve seen it a lot in other situations and the connection here is clear as day to me.  When someone does something that you know, deep down, you ought to be doing, you feel guilty, bad, or wrong for not doing what you know you should.  Those are uncomfortable feelings to confront and the vast majority of us do not want to own those feelings and that space.  The natural reaction, then, is to lash out at the cause of our discomfort: the person who is doing the thing we see as judgmental.

Take the example of my brother-in-law, for instance.  He doesn’t always eat the healthiest diet and he isn’t in the best overall health for his age.  On the other hand, my husband (his brother), myself, and our kids are all in fantastic health, largely due to the incredibly healthy diet we all maintain.  Perhaps when I refused to allow my toddler to eat sugary candies and chocolates, he saw it as a judgment of his own poor diet.  He knows he shouldn’t be shoveling down the chocolates, but he’s doing it anyway.  Even though judging him for his behavior never entered my mind for even an instant, it did enter his mind, and that’s what counts.

Is this fair? Well, perhaps not, but it is normal and it is the way of the world.  It’s the reason why a friend eating a fatty unhealthy steak dinner almost invariably pokes fun of my healthy salad for dinner.  It’s the reason why as someone who is religious I have been put down by secular people for my beliefs.  Virtually all of us do this in some arena or another.  When we feel insecure and we know we are not doing what is best for us to do, we feel confronted when we see someone doing something that takes courage, verve, and confidence we simply do not have.

I find that when I am criticized for my decisions to keep my kids healthy, whether that means keeping them away from sugar or keeping them away from meat, I keep this understanding of basic human psychology to the forefront of my mind.  The criticism does not mean I am doing something wrong – to the contrary, criticism means I am doing something right.

How to Get Kids to Eat Healthy on the Holidays?

How to Get Kids to Eat Healthy on the Holidays?

Oh, the holidays…!  A wonderful time filled with family, presents, and lots and lots of food.  Is it even possible to keep kids eating healthy when they’re surrounded by constant Christmas treats?

The first thing to consider is what you have control over.  If your child is in school or going to friends’ houses you have less control, so the best thing you can do is to educate them.  Sit down and talk to them about the holidays and the challenges they might face with unhealthy food being constantly on offer.  Ask them how they feel about it and make sure they understand how those foods affect them.  You can discuss things such as examples of how those foods make them feel or how those foods cause them to behave.

The next strategy is simply to compromise.  It’s important to make sure your kids are eating healthy food, but you also do not want them to be unhappy or resentful.  The goal is to inspire your kids to want to eat healthy food.  If you talk to them and rejecting all those sweets at school and at parties is something they really cannot or do not want to do, try your best to come to a compromise both of you can handle, such as only having one small piece of cake or one small piece of candy each day.  Most kids during the holiday season are stuffing their faces with special treats, so finding a limit you both can live with is really the best way to go about it.  Of course, the obvious goal is to have a child who doesn’t want to eat these foods, but let’s be realistic!

You can also find alternative treats.  For instance, I make my own ice cream and sorbet at home.  I can make a fantastic frozen yogurt with no added sugar and my kids will be happy and won’t ask me for other ice cream.  I also make healthy oatmeal cookies and banana cake.  By making (or buying) healthy alternatives to the usual sweets, your kids can enjoy something special on the holidays while you don’t have to worry.

Finally, pay attention to what you’re eating.  Are you wolfing down chocolates when you think nobody is looking? Do you have sweets and cakes in the kitchen or around the house “for guests”?  If so, your kids will notice and want some, too.  But if you just do not have unhealthy stuff in your house and your kids don’t see you or your partner eating them, they are less likely to want them.  Remember, you are your child’s biggest role model.

I wish you all happy holidays and healthy, inspired kids!