Sugar makes my kids go crazy. Tantrums, obedience issues, whining, the works. Sound familiar?
Sugar also causes a reaction in my system, especially when pregnant.
Then there is the Katie Couric "Fed Up" documentary (get it on Netflix, or watch a 20 min. Australian version here). The research she and others did shows that we addressed obesity issue in the 1980s by cutting out the fat in everything, but then to make the food still taste good, we replaced the fat with sugar, actually making the problem worse, and correlating to an increase in fatty liver disease and type II diabetes in younger and younger children, even people who otherwise look normal and exercise a lot. Scary.
Sugar is present, often in large quantities, in just about everything now. For instance, there is as much sugar in a handful of candy as there is in low-fat yoghurt. True story. Sugar is present in canned tomatoes, ketchup, mayonnaise, almost all processed meats (try buying bacon without sugar!), and of course, almost any quick carb that comes in a bag, pouch, or box. Replacements, such as honey or high fructose corn syrup, have the same impact.
So...how do you cut sugar down or out completely? It's actually a daunting task.
I'd recommend starting simply. Here's how I've tackled the issue:
1) Cut out the obvious sugar fiends. Candy, fruit snacks, chocolate, etc.
2) Start reading labels. Once you have eliminated sugar with a capital "S", ease into label-checking. Some things are obvious - apple sauce with no sugar added, all natural peanut butter (the kind with one ingredient!), unsweetened milk replacements (we also don't do cow's milk, so this is a big one). Others, like pickles, Cheerios, bacon, sausage, even rotisserie chicken or boulion/stock, are trickier. Give yourself several grocery shops to identify everything. Ease into it.
3) Think outside of the box. Literally. Kids often need to eat on-the-go and their little bodies need frequent refueling. The easiest thing to do is reach for that box of Cheezits or Cheerios or crackers. Don't. Other things can be just as quick and so much healthier. Bunny carrots, sugar snap peas, salted roasted nuts, a can of olives, beans, or corn in a pop-top are all kid pleasers and super-fast food.
4) Replace sugary foods with fruit. Your child's palate will quickly adapt and they will be asking for applesauce, bananas, apples, and blueberries where they used to ask for fruit snacks or a treat. Be careful, though, as some fruits are more high on the glycemic index than others and where the naturally-found fructose in fruits is always more healthy than processed sucrose, fruits, especially alone or in big quantities, can have the same impact as sugar. A few slices of watermelon unaccompanied by any protein or fat will send my kids into a tizzy.
5) Always start with protein or veggies. I haven't read it, but I am an ardent adherent to the principles of Bringing Up Bebe: space meals out, if you can, four hours with no snacks in-between (my kids are so active in the morning, they can't make it!), serve in courses, and start with the veggie or the protein - I usually opt for the protein. My kids eat far more protein and vegetables this way, and the fat and protein helps to anchor my children's tummies before they eat a high GI carb or fruit so that the naturally-occurring sugar is digested over time.
We aren't perfect about no sugar- I'll still buy G the occasional ice cream cone or provide a bribe involving a treat if I'm super desperate. And though other things can cause the same behavior (like two-year-old molars!) as sugar, I've definitely seen an improvement in behavior AND eating habits. My kids are happier, and so am I.
I'd love to hear what you've seen and what you've done to address sugar intake. Tips? Tricks? Threats? :-)
* G has become really creative in his story-telling and even told a full tale to our babysitter, who asked him questions about different parts and wrote it down. Will need to include here once I get a copy. He'll often wake up as a different animal or motorized vehicle and only "talk" in the sounds they make. Lance was feeding him a snack the other day while taken up in one of these roles, and G responded quite matter-of factly, "Dad, dogs don't eat apples; they eat bones!"
* I will have G calm down from crying by taking deep breaths. He can barely get through one without bursting into fits of laughter. I have caught him often trying to calm himself down in this method, only to end up in giggles.
* G opened the front door after Lance's first ride on his new motorcycle (!) and said, "Cool ride, dad!"
* I have now worn holes in my slippers. Whenever she sees them, Esther will come up and say, "tickle, tickle".
* Esther has now joined the rostrum of family prayers, and will often say discernible things. It's darling. While singing songs, she will often call out "father, father!" demanding to pray. Took me off guard till I finally figured it out. She will often requests songs I have never song to her, like "prophet" for "Follow the Prophet" and "Beam" for "sunbeam" - figuring out those songs was a challenge!
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