Battling The Sugar Monster

 
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My kids are not sugar free but we are getting there. It’s not because I don’t want them to be and it’s not for my lack of trying. The truth is that my kids, like most, are already sugar addicts. One day I opened my eyes to all the sugar in my kid’s lives. I looked closely at what they were eating, even the “healthy” stuff. I turned the labels around and quickly realized just how much sugar they were actually getting in a day. Suddenly I realized even though I was trying my best to raise healthy children I had already fallen into the sugar trap and my kids were hooked.

SUGAR IS IN JUST ABOUT EVERYTHING. I was giving my kids a little juice in the morning, then maybe a banana, then some vanilla yogurt with strawberries in it, and if they really made a fuss maybe a little more juice. Right there they had consumed more sugar than a person should have in a two week time period, at least. The school lunch I made my 4 year old consisted of PBJ (I have always used almond butter but that didn’t matter since it was on bread), some organic cheddar bunnies, again it only made it slightly better being organic, an applesauce (unsweetened still has quite a bit of sugar), and maybe some raisins (which are basically just sugar). Then there were the snacks, apples (ok, it’s fruit but it still has a lot of sugar), more raisins and so on… do you see what I’m getting at? I thought I was feeding them healthy foods but in actuality I was feeding them a bunch of sugar with a tiny bit of nutrients.

Sugar can creep up on us. It is literally added to almost every product in the grocery store. Deli meat, soup, chips, most prepackaged lunchbox snacks, granola, and so on. Because sugar is added to almost every manufactured product in a grocery store, most people eat a lot more sugar than they realize.

So how is sugar bad for us and our kids? For years I have heard “don’t feed them too much sugar because they will get hyper and out of control”! I heard my parents and grandparents say that to me growing up. Now, as a parent, I have been guilty of saying the same thing, but excess sugar consumption is much more harmful than unruly or hyper behavior.

Studies show that sugar is more addicting than cocaine.

“Sugar is the ultimate gateway drug. We now have research showing that exposure to sugar early in life has lasting effects on the brain that can make us more prone to developing chemical dependencies. When researchers gave young rats a steady supply of chocolate Ensure, they found that “daily consumption alters striatal enkephalin gene expression.” In other words, the study rats had been programmed to consume substances that stimulate their opiate receptors. Sugar acts as a powerful epigenetic instructor, telling your child’s genes to construct a brain with a built-in hankering for drugs.”

Dr. Cate Shanahan from her book ‘Deep Nutrition.

5 WAYS SUGAR CAN HARM OUR KIDS

1.If we know that sugar can possibly predispose childrens’ brains toward chemical dependency as an adult then it might be wise to try and give them as little sugar as possible while they are developing.

2.Sugar disrupts how hormones work, most importantly, insulin. This can lead to all sorts of issues. The most critical is one we have discussed before, insulin resistance. There are many adults these days who are insulin resistant, a large portion of the population in fact. This is attributable to a lifetime of excessive sugar consumption that begins with persistent high sugar doses during childhood. Are we raising our children to be insulin resistant already? If they are getting as much sugar as my kids were getting before I decided to directly attack their sugar intake, the answer is most likely, yes.

3. Sugar can block sex hormones in children during puberty. This can lead to all sorts of developmental issues, one being the shape of their body. These sex hormones are what give women their voluptuous curves, which is a true sign of healthy development in a woman. Today, less than 10 percent of women develop voluptuous curves. Is this due to the large amounts of sugar in our diets, coupled with the hazards of vegetable oils? Dr. Shanahan and other experts think so, and so do I.

4. Sugar weakens the circulatory system. Sugar prevents nutrients from exiting the bloodstream. Sugar also prevents white blood cells from moving correctly throughout the body and getting where they need to be, thus weakening the immune system.

5. High sugar consumption can destroy brain dendrites in adults, which aids in memory, thinking, and processing emotions. Imagine how sugar can affect a developing brain in a child.

These are just a few ways that sugar negatively affects our bodies and our growing children. There are many other dangers, such as childhood obesity, which is greatly on the rise.

SO HOW DO WE GET OUR KIDS OFF SUGAR???

I wish there was an easy answer, but there isn’t. Chances are if you are like me and your kids are already throwing themselves on the floor for more juice, ice cream, crackers, waffles, and so on, they are already hooked, but just because there isn’t an easy way to cut the sugar doesn’t mean there isn’t a way at all.

In our home this is how we are overcoming these sugar addictions.

1. Persistence. Persistence. Persistence. Just stop giving it to them and endure the tantrum. Give them foods higher in healthy fats so they are fuller and don’t have the sugar cravings as bad. Even children can and will go through a sugar withdrawal when you take it away. Just stick with it and don’t give in! AND STOP BUYING PRODUCTS WITH SUGAR. MAKE SURE YOU DON’T HAVE THEM IN YOUR HOUSE AT ALL. This way you have no immediate option to give in. It took us a few weeks before my kids stopped asking for waffles and syrup. We are currently working on the last and most difficult sugar agent; morning orange juice. A little OJ to start, sometimes cut with water, is ok. But OJ round #2, #3, #4…… must be stopped!

2. Don’t reward with “treats.” When they win something, clean their room, or act well in church, reward them with anything but sugar (or even food at all)! We don’t want to teach them that every time they accomplish something a sweet treat is the prize. Give them a hug and a high five, spend some time with them, it’s much more supportive and loving. This can be especially difficult when dealing with grandparents. Most of us have grown up knowing that we can get anything we want from our grandparents, but getting them on board with our sugar-free goal is crucial.

THAT’S IT. Those are the 2 things we do to battle the sugar monster. If you have other ideas I would love to hear them. Those 2 approaches have been our most effective. There isn’t a magic potion or magic spell to combat the sugar beast, you just have to face it head on and resolve to be stronger.

 
Kate Bowman