I’ve had a life-long struggle with sugar – well at least since I was an adolescent – but being ‘sugar-free’ isn’t just about me and my ‘sugar addiction,’ I’m also trying to minimize the amount of sugar my kids eat. I’m trying to teach them to live a ‘sugar-free’ life. My ultimate goal is keeping my kids sugar-free.
I’m trying to make sugar-free (or at least low sugar) normal.
My hope was that if I started them out early on a ‘sugar-free’ path, maybe I could break the societal cycle of celebrating sugar – or just celebrating every aspect of life with sugary treats.
Yes, I recognize that this was a naïve goal. I mean, despite my own parents’ efforts to raise me on wholesome meals and minimize junk, I’ve had sugar issues that stretch back into my childhood. I can remember sneaking sugar to satisfy my intense cravings.
I remember eating the jam from the jar.
But I still think it’s important to try.
So, what’s my approach to keeping my kids sugar-free?
My sugar-free protocol for my kids is more of a sugar-limiting protocol. It was never my intention that they be fully sugar-free. They go trick or treating and eat SOME of the candy. They go to birthday parties and have cake. They visit their grandparents and indulge in the ‘sugary’ yogurt and the ‘fun’ cereals. They have regular, sugar-laden cake at their birthday parties (usually two because how do you make them pick the same cake? – another twin dilemma).
And this is all okay, because it isn’t every day. It’s a TREAT; the exact message that I’m trying to convey.
My goal is to make our daily eating habits sugar-free, so that they can indulge when we’re out with others – like a friend’s birthday party or visiting relatives.Sugar = celebration. I'm trying to break that. Click To Tweet
To try and break our society’s deeply ingrained connection between sugar and celebration, I try to construct our life moments around something else rather than focusing on a sugary treat.
8 STRATEGIES FOR BREAKING THE SUGAR-CYCLE:
Make sugar-free/sugar-reduced versions of your favourite treats
- Muffins are easily made with only fruit or veggies to sweeten them (and maybe a few dark chocolate chips to keep things fun).
- Even brownies can be made pretty low sugar, and if you add lentils or black beans they get a protein boost that further reduces the sugar impact (not to mention the fiber benefits).
- Dates, raisins, carrots and applesauce make great sweeteners. Make sure to check that the raisins and applesauce don’t have added sugar.
- I will keep posting my recipes, so stay tuned…
- Find My Fruit Sweetened Muffin Recipe here.
Buy the unsweetened version of things whenever possible
- For example, plain yogurt has no sugar added and tastes great with added fruit or plain. The higher the milk fat percentage the creamier it is.
- There’s hidden sugar in many things!
- Different brands and flavours of the same food have different amounts of sugar – sometimes quite a difference. For example: peanut butter chips have almost half the sugar of butterscotch chips.
- Be aware of serving sizes – beverages are particularly bad for this: what seems like a single serving is actually broken into two to make the sugar content look less.
No dessert or special fruit for dessert
- We rarely have a sugary dessert after dinner, but when we do want a special treat, we turn to fruit – mangos or pomegranate etc.
- Yes, fruit has sugar, but it also has fiber and nutrients; it isn’t empty sugar. Plus, it’s about mind set. Fruit doesn’t equal cake.
Water to drink
- When we have a ‘gathering’ or a birthday, we still only serve water for our kids.
- If they are at a friend’s party, they can drink juice if it’s there, but we rarely offer it at our house. And usually we don’t allow more than one serving.
- For a treat, I brew unsweetened herbal iced tea. The kids love it – we even make sugar-free ‘popsicles’ with it. The trick is to use herbal because it doesn’t get bitter like black tea does, so it doesn’t really need any sweetening. Plus it doesn’t have caffeine.
Pop is an adult drink
- We’ve told our kids that pop is an adult drink, and they aren’t allowed to drink it – ever.
Okay, I let them have ginger-ale once, when they were puking.
Downplay sugar during celebrations
- When we’re celebrating something, we try and come up with a fun activity rather than a sugary treat.
- Maybe we have a dance party in the living room where we crank the music and dance around.
- Or maybe we make popcorn and watch a movie.
- Or maybe we play board games.
- I’m not going to pretend we’re sugar ‘saints’ – sometimes we celebrate with ice cream or cotton candy or some other sugary treat that has no redeeming feature other than tasting great!
Keep ‘sugar celebrations’ outside of the house
- I try to minimize the amount of celebrating with sugar we do at home. By keeping the sugar out of the house, our house doesn’t become a trigger. This is probably more important for me than my kids.
- An example of this would be treating ourselves to a traditional sugary dessert when we‘re at a restaurant rather than when we’re having a home cooked meal.
- Another example would be letting the kids have the candy treat that comes with the kid’s pack at the movie theater, but when we watch a movie at home, we only have popcorn.
WHAT DO THE KIDS THINK?
My kids don’t really seem to notice. One of my twins definitely has more of a sweet tooth than the other, but they’re actually quite receptive to my efforts. Sometimes they even comment on whether or not something is sugary – gaining awareness?
I’ll admit minimizing the amount of sugar my kids eat is much easier than managing my own sugar intake.I’ll admit minimizing the amount of sugar my kids eat is much easier than managing my own sugar intake. Click To Tweet
It’s a lot easier to say “no” to their cravings than mine.
THE SURPRISE VARIABLE – Sugar sabotage
The process hasn’t always been as easy as I’d hoped; not because of my kids – they’re happy to eat sugar-reduced/eliminated versions of almost anything but, rather, because of SUGAR SABOTAGE.
I didn’t know that sugar sabotage was a thing. I didn’t know to expect it. I was completely surprised by it.
WHAT IS SUGAR SABOTAGE? It’s when adults knowingly feed my kids off-limits sugary sweets. I’m not talking about the treats at a birthday party or similar events or the ‘special’ treats they have at their grandparents’ houses or when out with family/friends.
What I’m talking about is people going out of their way to feed my kids sugary things to ‘save’ them from sugar deprivation or some such thing. It’s when they meet me at the door with a smug grin on their face, as they announce whatever ‘forbidden’ treat they’ve been feeding my kids.
Another version of sugar sabotage is bringing copious (and I’m talking about large amounts) of candy to give as a gift to my kids.
PLEASE DON’T GET ME WRONG – I’m not referring to someone innocently bringing a sugary treat for my kids. I’m really not super hard core and unbending in my approach. And I’m perfectly aware that this is considered thoughtful in our society – and it is.
I’m talking about those cases where the person is purposefully undermining my efforts. I’m talking about people who know my values and not only ignore them but also almost delight in ignoring them – it’s a strange phenomenon.
LET ME GIVE YOU AN ANALOGY: you’ve told your friend that you don’t allow your kids to play R-rated video games, but that friend let’s your kids play those games when your kids are at their house. And then, when you pick up your kids, they regale you with tales of all of the R-rated games they played with your kids – SUGAR SABOTAGE!
I don’t want my friends and family to stress about what they feed my kids.
Most of the time I’m fine with whatever’s going on, and I’m certainly not scrutinizing or agonizing over it – but there are those times when I just know in my gut that someone is working against me – and that’s tough. That’s sugar sabotage.
Keep your sugar plans to yourself. There are many people who aren’t receptive; they may even get defensive. Just quietly make choices for yourself and your kids.
WANT MORE TIPS?
This article by Julie Revelant on Fox News Health talks about the dangers and gives tips for eliminating/reducing sugar: 4 Shocking Ways Sugar Affects your kid’s Health.
For more information on raising kids sugar-free plus recipes to help you check out the Raising Sugar Free Kids blog.
Want more of my strategies? Check out: LIVING SUGAR-FREE: 5 Strategies for Waging the Sugar Battle.
HAVE I SUCCEEDED? ARE MY KID’S SUGAR-FREE?
Not even close!!
On a day to day basis, I think that I do pretty well keeping things sugar-free. But I’ll admit that I do slip up – sometimes I get excited and let my kids have a sugary drink such as juice or impulse buy cotton candy at the fair.
And it’s pretty much a guarantee that there’ll be sparkling juice on New Year’s Eve – sugar is, after all, ingrained in my collective memory, and I’m not perfect for sure.
Also, there are just days when I don’t have the energy to fight it, and it’s just easier to give in. Often my husband is the one who keeps us on track when I get ‘weak.’
There are many days that I look back and think that I could’ve done better, but my kids are healthy and that’s what matters – this is a process after all. We’re living life, and life should have some fun times and not be too serious.
I’ve made one amazing discovery in this whole process, however, and that’s how easy going my kids are about the whole thing. To be honest, it’s usually my weakness that sends us off track rather than theirs.
Take care. I’ve got unsweetened blackberry iced tea to drink with my kids,
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