While I was never one to pass up a decadent after dinner treat, I never really craved sweets. Not until I had a baby, that is. Now I’m a sugar gremlin. I want it. I want it all the time and I want it now.
Maybe it’s the stress of being a new mom. Maybe it’s the sleep deprivation. Maybe it’s not eating enough protein. Maybe it’s having things to worry about besides what’s going in my mouth. I consider myself lucky if I actually get to eat something that hasn’t already been half-chewed or pawed at by grimy banana-covered baby hands. I tell myself I don’t have time to consider the sugar content.
But I should be worried. Research has shown that sugar is as addictive, if not more addictive, than cocaine. I would never in a million years consider doing cocaine, especially now that I’m a mom and have a precious charge to care for every day. You probably wouldn’t either. So why do we continue to find it acceptable to load ourselves up with this other powdery white substance we innocently call dessert? More importantly, why do we brush it off as “okay” for our kids?
The evils of sugar are just as damaging as illicit drugs, although maybe not as immediate or dramatic-sounding: obesity, type 2 diabetes, brain fog, fatigue, depression, metabolic syndrome, tooth decay, and more. It goes beyond the occasional post-dinner cookie. Sugar is a sneaky little thing. It’s lurking in the most unsuspecting products, like ketchup, yogurt, instant oatmeal, salad dressing, spaghetti sauce, and even bread. The best way to cut those pesky cravings for sweets is to avoid sugar, but it’s hard when it’s hiding around every corner, escaping even the keenest of eyes.
According to the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), the average American consumes an average of 23 teaspoons of added sugar per day. And that’s just added sugar sugar that has no business being there in the first place. That’s a far cry from the American Heart Association’s recommended 6 teaspoons a day for women and 9 teaspoons a day for men. That’s 130 pounds of sugar, per person, per year. I can think of plenty of ways I’d rather fill my calorie quota than with an extra 385 calories per day from added sugar alone. I used to exclude myself from those scary statistics, but the truth is I’m a complete hypocrite. I snub my nose at prepared oatmeal or certain brands of Greek yogurt because they have inexcusable amounts of added sugar, but then I go and eat an entire sleeve of refrigerated sugar cookie dough. (What food poisoning warnings?)
Recent studies have shown that sugary drinks in particular might be to blame for a shocking 25,000 American deaths each year. CSPI states that 49.7% of added sugar consumption comes from sugary drinks like soda and sports drinks. To me these numbers are just unacceptable. The next time someone tells me “it’s just one cookie” when it comes to feeding my son, I might have to tell them to think twice. Perhaps it’s time I reign in my own cookie monster and start setting the right example before it’s too late.