“I guess. Go ahead.” I tell him, acutely aware that I have only myself to blame.
Long ago, in a kitchen not so far away, I started the nasty habit of bribing my slow-eating, ever-picky kids to finish their meals with promises of dessert. I did it because it worked. “Ah, it’s just a sweet treat. So long as they eat a balanced meal, a little sugar isn’t going to hurt them,” I thought.
Only, a daily dessert isn’t “just a little sugar,” now is it? When combined with all the kid-friendly and consumer-friendly foods we eat, sugar is everywhere. It’s in my pantry, my fridge, all over my kids’ school (Hey, it’s [insert random no need to celebrate occasion]! Let’s celebrate with a sugar-filled class party!), the haircut place, my bank branch, and the local businesses we frequent. Everywhere we go, strangers and non-strangers alike are offering my kids candy. And that’s just the obvious dessert fare. Can we talk about the added sugar that exists in the foods we consume that aren’t even sweet? Gah!
Center for Disease Control (CDC) findings suggest that 16 percent of our kids’ complete caloric intake comes from added sugars gulp! That’s nearly one-fifth of our children’s diets! Once we allow that cavity-inducing statistic to sink in, we begin to wonder what all that added sugar actually means. The Mayo Clinic warns that added sugar equates to empty calories, putting our kids at an increased risk for obesity and other health problems, such as cardiovascular disease and other scary conditions that can present themselves at an early age.
If reading all this makes you sick, then you understand how wife and mother of two, Eve Schaub felt. Sick, tired, and sick of feeling sick and tired, Schaub set off on a family adventure to give up added sugars for an entire year, writing about her experiences on Everyday Health.
First, let’s talk about what Schaub learned:
1. Sugar is added to nearly everything.
Like for serious, you guys, sugar be everywhere. Schaub recounts, “Once we started looking we found sugar in the most amazing places: tortillas, sausages, chicken broth, salad dressing, cold cuts, crackers, mayonnaise, bacon, bread, and even baby food.” While it seemed that avoiding added sugars was going to be harder than previously thought, Schaub and her family remained committed to the cause, cutting out absolutely anything that contained added sugars and sweeteners. Before you start thinking about sweet cheats around the no-sugar clause, you ought to know that the Schaubs also cut out artificial sweeteners and sugar alcohols. Schaub said, “Unless the sweetness was attached to its original source (e.g., a piece of fruit), we didn’t eat it.” We’re talking the real deal here, folks.
2. Avoiding sugar equates to more energy.
Schaub found that giving up sugars allowed her energy level to be restored over time. And I’m talking real sustainable energy, not the “Snickers satisfies” kind of energy that skyrockets you up and crashes you down to the depths of human wasteland a mere 30 minutes later. Be honest, kids, how many times have you reached for that candy bar or soda to combat the dreaded 3 o’clock slump? We all do it, and even though we know the fix is a temporary one, we do it anyway. Sweet, sweet Lord, why?
3. The exception proved the no-sugar rule.
When Schaub’s family embarked on their sugar-free experiment, they decided to allow themselves to indulge in one dessert containing sugar per month, but guess what happened? Not only did Schaub begin to enjoy the monthly indulgence less and less (Bleh! Toooooo sweet!), the sugar-containing treats actually began making her feel sick! As in head-pounding, heart-racingly ill. Heck, if I’m going to feel that ill, I better have more than a few chocolate crumbs to show for it. But that was just Schaub’s experience, click here to read about the amazing impact her family’s year without sugar had on her children!
Now that you know the risks of excess sugar and have learned all about the benefits of a year without the sweet stuff, do you think you and your family could go a year without it? I can tell you the no-sugar rule would be a hard sell for my family. I’d be met with opposition at every turn, with my own sweet tooth leading the resistance. But maybe when it comes to making healthier decisions for my family, I ought to begin with baby steps.
Perhaps it’s a matter of looking at the ingredients in the foods we consume; cutting out excess sugar where it’s not needed or even tasted. Maybe it’s a smaller daily dessert or no dessert at all, or educating my family about added sugars and the risks associated therein. Perhaps it’s all of these things that will amount to a greater understanding of the role that sugar plays in our diets and in our collective consciousness. While I’ll never be able to fully control the sweet threats of sugary abundance outside my home, I’m thinking small changes within it can yield a positive difference.
What are your thoughts on sugar?
Image credit: Flickr/Melissa Weise