Sugar-free kids society messaging healthy eating

Let me set the scene for you. We arrived at the Esquimalt Lantern festival just after supper.  We’d been healthy and gentle on the environment by riding our bikes.  We were ready to enjoy some good community fun, and what was the first thing my twins see?

It wasn’t the beautiful lanterns on display.

It was a table laden with candy apples for sale.

And not just plain candy apples but fancy ones.  Caramel dipped ones with M&Ms and the traditional ones dipped into nerds.

I felt a dilemma coming on…

I could feel a little bit of panic rising.  I’m not going to pretend that telling my children that they can’t have whatever scrumptiously delicious, sugar-laden treat that they’re begging for is easy for me.  It’s a bit like torture.

I’m a self-professed sugar addict, after all!  I wanted the candy apples just as much as they did – and possibly even more.  But, I’m working on my sugar dependency, and I want to set a healthy example for my children.

Oh what to do?

I know for all of you out there, who are completely abnormal and can just walk by sugary things like they were your least favourite vegetables or those of you who crave salty things, this won’t even seem like an issue, but for me, the thought of those candy apples became like an obsession – I couldn’t stop thinking about them.

They were just sitting there on that table, calling to me.  They were so accessible.  I only had to walk about 10 metres to have one.

My husband, bless his supportive heart, was in the process of telling our twins that we didn’t need to have candy apples because they were very sugary, when I heard myself pipe up, “Of course we are getting candy apples,” like it was the most obvious and right thing.

Of course we're having candy apples

And my dreams of sugar-free children went right out the window.

I can’t even claim that we’d been angelic and sugar-free for a while, so that we could indulge without guilt, because on a whim last night, I decided we should have ice cream…

Maybe I need to examine who the biggest sugar saboteur in my life is. Click To Tweet

It’s OUR SOCIETY, that’s who.

I bet you thought I was going to say me.  Okay, so it is in fact me, but I don’t really want to face up to that, so let’s blame our society for a while.


How is my children devouring candy apples our society’s fault exactly?

I mean, they’re my children.  It was my decision whether or not they were going to be allowed to eat one of those scrumptiously enticing candy apples (well, me and my husband, but I’d overruled him).  Nobody said that we had to leave if we didn’t have a candy apple.  No one was going to mock us or insult us or pressure us in any way.

So how is it anyone’s fault but my own?

It isn’t.  It’s my fault.  There is no getting around that I was the one who said, “Yes.”

Except, it’s our society that put the temptation there.  It’s our society’s relationship with sugar that forced me into the position in the first place.  I had to find the strength (which on this occasion I didn’t) to deny my children’s request because our society celebrates sugar.

Companies add sugar to all sorts of things that have no need for sugar.  These companies do tricky things to downplay the amount of sugar in an item, if you check the labels.  Where’s the protest?  We’re just letting them do it, because, in our society, sugar is still considered to be fairly benign.

The thing is sugar is NOT good for us in large quantities.

Sure, our bodies need a certain amount of sugar to be healthy.  We need it for energy.  But, we don’t need it in the quantities that our society is consuming.  We can get all the sugar we need from healthy options such as fruits and vegetables.

To make it even worse, in our society we celebrate with sugar.  Try and think of just one holiday occasion or milestone celebration that doesn’t have some kind of sweet treat associated with it.  It’s impossible.


I grew up in this society.  I grew up celebrating with sugar.  The importance of sugar is basically imprinted on my DNA.  So when I don’t give my children pumpkin pie at Thanksgiving or confiscate their candy at Halloween, I’m not just saying ‘no’ to a sugary treat, I’m saying ‘no’ to my culture.

It feels like every time I turn around, there is another sugary treat on offer to my children that I have to find the strength to say ‘no’ to.  Most of the time, I will be in the minority when I do it – often my children are the only ones who are being cut off from the white stuff.  And I get tired.

I don’t want to see my children’s disappointed looks.  Just like every other parent, I want to give them an enriched and happy childhood.  But I also want my children to be healthy, including a healthy relationship with sugar.

Of course we're having candy apples

What I really need is for the sugar to disappear.  My children wouldn’t have thought to ask me for a candy apple, if they hadn’t been sitting there beckoning to us in all their sugary glory.  I wouldn’t have had to try and convince them that they’d be much happier eating the nuts that we’d packed for a snack, because let me tell you they’re smarter than that – they don’t blindly buy my insistence that they will feel much better if they have a ‘healthy’ snack instead.

It takes more than just me modeling sugar-free living to convince them to be wary of how much sugar they ingest; society’s messages glorifying sugar are all around us, and they’re louder and more colourful than anything I can say or do.

What I need is for more people to get onboard with banishing sugar – or at least most of it.  I need some support in keeping sugar out of my children’s mouths.

So you see when I caved on that Saturday night, I wasn’t solely to blame for compromising my ideals.

Every single day I have to talk myself out of indulging in some kind of sugary bliss, and it’s exhausting.  It would be so much easier if, when I went out to community events, the treats on offer were healthy; then I wouldn’t have to be so strong.  It would help if I wasn’t being bombarded with messages encouraging me to indulge my sugar cravings.

It would help, if our society shared my message, so that I didn’t have to stand alone.


Now that I’ve gone on my ‘sugar rant,’ you might be wondering how things went after I impulsively authorized the candy apples.

Well, after a quick questioning look from my husband, we enjoyed those suckers.  Once the decision had been made to indulge our sweet tooth, we immersed ourselves in the experience guilt-free.  The twins gladly shared bites of their candy apples with my husband and me, and I enjoyed it.

I have to say that I was very proud when they ate every single bite of their apples right down to the core.  Maybe, my message is getting through.

You can read my tips for keeping kids sugar-free here.

This time I gave in to the lure of the sugary treat, but maybe next time I’ll hold strong,





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