Sugar Sugar Sugar And Children
Why does one decide to write about sugar?
Maybe it is because I have three gorgeous children just getting to the age where they say
" Why don't we have sports drinks like my friends? Why don't we have chewing gum? Why don't we have lollies in our lunch boxes?"
It is very easy to bring up children before the age of three, sugar and junk food free, then you start kinder and the parties start or fairy bread is handed out and "BANG" all of your hard work has been sabotaged! I do not believe children need to be deprived of treats but I do believe treats should not be everyday foods.
Children need to be educated so that they can make healthy choices and know what is a treat and what is not a good choice.
Up until 10 years of age it is best to help educate and make the choices for your children as much as possible. It is important to do this whilst they are young, it is crucial to be consistent and to fully explain your reasons so that they do not feel it is simply a deprivation of treats.
I have personally found that once children reach 10 years of age they want to experiment and try eating things that we do not have in the house. If you keep up the denial they may choose to sneak things and do it anyway. We have found it best to be 'up front' and on the 'front foot' so that they learn to make choices. They may at first not be the choices you would like but they need to learn.
Recently my 10 year old brought home chewing gum and hid it under his pillow. In finding it we discussed it and I said " You are old enough to read the labels of things and learn more about this, so let's go and try to find some healthier chewing gum, healthier lollies and read the ingredients in the sports drinks and chips". So he read my handouts on label reading and sugar and then we went to the supermarket. As we were going to the movies I gave the two boys some money to choose some yummy things to take. I wanted to empower them to make choices and learn at the same time.
Dr. Professor Robert Lustig speaks of sugar being literally the same as alcohol for an adult. It is an energy source with out nutrition. all it leads to is metabolic syndrome and ill health.Recently inAmerica it is now a ruling to not have soft drink in children hospitals. This is a breakthrough. Sugar is found in 56 name's for sugar:
Black Strap Molasses
My ten year old son was fascinated and so surprised at the trick marketing. One chewing gum had "multivitamin gum" on the front but it contained an artificial sweetener called neotame (a derivative of aspartame). My seven year old being a bit young was simply just excited to buy lollies!!
This activity was so educational and I know my children will try lollies throughout their lives but at least in our house they get consistent low sugar and healthy foods and know a treat is a treat. They also tell me they do not feel great when they eat sugary and processed foods and this awareness is all I ask.
As a family we also went on to watch "That Sugar Film" which I highly recommend for all families to help consolidate and educate them on the effects of sugar.
Prehistorically men were hunters and collectors. Historically we collected our food from the environment and ate things as they were found. Our diet consisted of fruit, seeds, meat, eggs and vegetation.
Making flour from wheat grain was once a laborious process but now we have the technology to process many foods and as a result have a vast variety of food choices. However, our bodies are not necessarily designed to digest this extremely processed food easily.
Carbohydrate breaks down in the body to sugar. Carbohydrates are found in sugar, honey, maple syrup, mollasses, golden syrup, bread, biscuits, fructose, dried fruit, cereal, pasta, rice, coconut sugar(from the sap of the coconut tree), agave syrup, date sugar, rice syrup, pastry, potato and sweet fruit like banana, mango or grapes. This is not to say that we should all cut out rice, good quality bread or banans for instance but it is good to be aware of what is carbohydrate and not. For children growing having protein is important and good quality carbohydrates just avoiding the refined sugars. Another thing to remember is that when you consume refined sugar on its own without protein they enter the blood stream in a rush causing a sudden increase in blood sugar levels. We think of health foods as being the best option but even a museli bar, sauces, fruit juices and yoghurts can be packed with added sugar. As pointed out in "That Sugar Film" even juicing a sweet fruit like an apple means the juice is full of fructose, so even a home made apple juice is a sugar hit. By juicing you consume far more apples at a time than if you ate a whole apple with it's skin and natural fibre. Apples are designed to be eaten not juiced.
Looking at the average diet, it is cereal for breakfast, sandwiches for lunch, biscuits or chips for an afternoon snack and then meat with vegetables for dinner, many people include potato as one of their vegetables. Another carbohydrate, pasta, has also become a popular meal choice. Carbohydrates in a wholesome way can be fantastic for providing energy, however, in general people are consuming too many refined carbohydrates and therefore too much sugar. Too much sugar can lead to obesity and early Type 2 Diabetes.
People are often not getting enough protein, an important nutrient for brain development, body growth and repair. It also helps to keep the immune system strong. During a growth spurt our energy goes into growing and not into repair. Growing periods can be times when infections are more prevalent. Protein is found in eggs, meat, chicken, turkey, buckwheat, beans, nuts and seeds (avoid nuts and seeds if allergic).
Clients often ask me "What alternative is there to sugar?". My answer is that there really isn't a good alternative to sugar and I cannot emphasis enough that artificial sweeteners are WORSE for you than sugar and sugar replacements are still sugar I am afraid.
Here is a list of some common sugar replacements in our food:
- Saccharin - This was one of the first artificial sweetners
- Aspartame 951- I strongly suggest to completely avoid this artificial sweetener. Read more
- Neotame 961- This is a deriviative of aspartame so should be avoided!!!
- Stevia - Is a sweet powder made from a South American herb. A pinch of stevia is as sweet as a teaspoon of sugar but it is not absorbed into the bloodstream. It is an alternative to artificial sweeteners. I still recommend this in moderation. Of these choices Stevia is the best option
- Xylitol is classified as a sugar alcohol, it does contain calories but less than sugar. It can upset the bowel flora and can cause diarrhea and wind. A benefit of Xylitol is that it can prevent tooth decay. Zylotol is probably one of the safest of the sweeteners
- Sucralose (Splenda) - This is a chlorinated artificial sweetener in line with aspartame. The theory was that this was safe as it passes through the digestion system without absorption but it can also affect the absorption of nutrients and medications. If you bake with it it releases toxins called chloroproanois. Sucralose upsets the bowel and increases inflammation. Avoid this one please as mentioned in the 'Journal of Toxicology and Environmental Health' sucralose reduces good bacteria in the gut by 50 percent. It also increases Ph level within the intestines.
Aside from artifical sweetners the next group of sugars to treat with respect or avoid are high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) and agave syrup. The interesting thing is that HFCS is 55 percent fructose whereas Agave Syrup is 70-97 percent fructose. For fructose info read more.
If you are serious about your own or your family's health and you want to avoid diseases like cancer, diabetes, alzheimers, heart disease and obesity, then I encourage you to keep sugar to limited treats only and be aware of the type and amount of sugar that you consume.
For some people it is easier to go cold turkey and stop all sugar consumption but for others it is better to only allow sugar as weekly/fortnightly treats within reason. The only reason I say this is that for some people to go cold turkey it might mean that they focus too much on what they can't eat and so they end up binging on sugar. If allowed a treat on some occasions and focusing on it being an educated choice as opposed to a forbidden food can give the person/child more personal power.
It is great to discuss and teach the family to read labels carefully and talk to practitioners if you have any questions. Remember the more sugar you consume the more you will crave it. Sugar is addictive.
Ideas that may help:
- Choose foods with a good glycaemic index as this will ensure your energy stays up for longer and does not drop you flat or set off more cravings.
- AVOID High Fructose Corn Syrup and Agave Syrup
AVOID artifical sweeteners
- Do NOT emotionally eat sweets
- Cut out or down on sugar in recipes
- Read labels carefully and assess how much sugar is consumed even in what you assume is a health food
- Make sure protein is in each meal
- EXERCISE daily
- Discuss with your practitioner dietary plans/ solutions for cravings.
"True health is living well as well as living longer"