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Challenge Your Kids to a Sugar-Free Summer

Last summer, I wanted to see if I could kick sugar.  I was tired of the spikes and lulls in mood and energy.  I was feeling pudgy and sluggish, and thought it might be a good idea to reset my body to a more natural eating regime, one not so laced with over-processed, refined ingredients.

Of course, being a self-declared sugar addict, I was dubious about the idea.  Sugar found it’s way into most of our meals, not to mention the fact that I’m not much of a role-model for self discipline.  I’d need some serious team support.   So, I asked my ten-year-old son if he’d want to try to be sugar free with me for the summer.  I offered him sixty-dollars in exchange for seventy-five, sugar-free days.  He was wary about the idea, until the three younger siblings got wind of the idea.  “We want in!” they chanted.  And before I knew it, I’d pledged two-hundred and forty bucks if all four of my kids could withstand the temptations of sugar for a whole summer.

Whatever doubts I had about my own self being able to resist sugar for ten weeks, were multiplied and tripled for my kids.  There was no way I’d have to pay up, I thought.  But then, something happened.  My kids caught the vision, held true to their resolution, and absolutely amazed me with their inner strength.  They went 100% sugar-free for the entire summer, and your kids can too.  Here’s how…

The most important part of kicking off a Sugar-Free Summer Challenge with your children is preparation.  You’ll need to appropriately prepare them for the first day off of sugar, and the first few weeks of no sugar.  You’ll need to be prepared throughout the summer when the afternoon snackies hit.   And you’re going to have to be prepared to pay up.  Because, chances are, you’re children are a lot more capable of meeting this challenge than you might ever imagine.

(1) Begin your Sugar-Free Summer by discussing it with your children. Sit down, make a plan, make it a big deal.  For most parents and children, giving up sugar will be a drastic change to their diet.  You don’t want to go about it cold turkey.  Discuss the benefits of being sugar free, talk about the motivation behind setting such a goal, and express your confidence in their ability to stay true to the task.

(2) Make a plan. The two most important aspects of your Sugar Free Summer plan are determining the dates your family will be sugar-free, and deciding the specifics of your eating plan.  When we kicked off our 2009 Sugar Free Summer, our family chose to be sugar-free from  June 1 until August 15th.  We also chose to refrain from all artificial sweeteners (no Splenda, aspartame, etc.) because I felt that the benefits of dropping sugary treats from our diet would be diluted if we could just replace them with other over-processed food.  After doing a bit of research, we did choose a few natural sweeteners to include: agave, pure maple syrup, and small amounts of honey were okay.  I know there are varying opinions on these natural sweeteners.  When deciding what your family will eat and avoid, be sure you read  up on all of the available options, and choose those that most closely reflect your intent.

(3) Clean out the cupboards.  Then restock them the right way. No matter how strong your intent, if you’ve got a pantry full of junk food, it’s going to be difficult for your kids to stick to the no-sugar regime.  We found great success in clearing our fridge, pantry, and cupboards of any sugar-laden snacks, then shopping for sugar-free replacements.  This initial  trip to the store also offered a valuable opportunity to scan the grocery store for treats we all liked that were healthy and appropriate for our summer goal.  Don’t miss the opportunity to take your kids shopping with you!  It may, at times, feel inconvenient, but shopping together offers vital teachings moments, and allows your children to begin talking about, thinking through, and making good, healthy choices.

(4) Teach Your Kids the Sugar Buzz Words. Learn what words mean sugar or a form of sugar, and show them how to read the ingredients.  Corn syrup, fructose, organic dehydrated cane juice are just a few of the ingredients you’ll want to teach your children to avoid.  It amazed me when I’d see my six-year-old turn a cereal box around, locate the list of ingredients, then start to scan the box for the sugar buzz words.  “Oh!  This one has corn syrup, mom.  Let’s throw it out,” my six-year old daughter announced at the start of our sugar-free summer.  She did this a lot through the summer.  It was as though, instead of feeling imprisoned by the sugar ban, it offered her the chance to be an in-home expert on what was appropriate fare for our family.  It was truly remarkable watching all four of my children feel empowered to read the labels on their favorite snacks, then set them willingly aside.

(5) Practice fun ways of saying no to sweets. As we’d drive in the car last summer, we’d come up with all sorts of silly things to say when it was time to turn down sugary treats.  “No thanks, sugar makes my toes blow up”  or “I’m Sugar-Free…wheeee!” were some of my kids favorite tag phrases in the early days.   It’s okay to make the process fun, but be sure you don’t make fun of your children.   Don’t tempt or tease them with snacks or sugar.  Express your support and pride for their difficult decision.  The act of learning self-mastery and self-discipline is serious business;treat is as such.

(6) Don’t make exceptions. During our  final sugar-free week last August, our family attended an ice cream party with dozens of other children.  We were so close to the end of the no-sugar road, why not let the kids have an ice cream? I was sitting on a lawn chair, about to open my mouth and lift the sugar ban.  But then I heard my eldest daughter say to our host, “Oh, no thanks.  No ice cream for me.”  She grabbed her sister’s hand, and off they ran toward the trampoline, where they jumped joyfully while the other kids sat on the grass, tethered to their ice cream cones.  Your kids are strong.  Let them be.

(7) Do it yourself. Whatever strength your children have they’ve learned from you.  Don’t doubt your own ability to be sugar-free.   Make the plan, stick to it, don’t cheat, and prepare to amaze and be amazed.  You’re going to love what a sugar-free summer does for your body, your mind, and for your family.

Our Family’s Favorite Sugar Free Snacks:

  • Frozen Strawberries, Grapes & Melon Slices
  • Maple syrup sweetened cream cheese with fresh blueberries on top
  • Plain Greek Yogurt with fresh raspberries and a drizzle of honey
  • So Delicious Chocolate Covered Vanilla Ice Cream Bars
  • Panda Licorice
  • Maple-syrup & chopped peanut dipped frozen banana’s
  • A Spoonful of Natural Cashew or Almond Butter
  • White Grape Juice Jello (made with Knox gelatin)
  • Cinnamon Sprinkled Applesauce
  • Homemade fruit juice popsicles
  • FruitaBu Fruit Rolls
  • Fresh Fruit Smoothies with banana’s, orange juice, almond milk, and a drizzle of honey.
  • No Sugar Banana Bread (recipe HERE)
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