Everything you need to know about sugar (the quick version) and the Healthy Little Changes approach

So what’s the deal with sugar? Is it really as addictive as it’s made out to be? What does it do to children other than just rev them up a bit? Can it really be that bad?

These questions and more are answered in this fabulous article “How to teach your kids about sugar” published to the Washington Post by Casey Seidenberg, co-founder of Nourish Schools, a D.C.-based nutrition education company. Some of the questions she tackles:

  • Why do I like sugar so much?
  • What actually happens to my body when I eat sugar?
  • What short- and long-term effects does it have?
  • Will a little sugar hurt me?
  • How does sugar make me fat?
  • And what can I do about it?

While it may be directed at children and teenagers, it’s really a message everyone needs to hear and understand. It’s a quick read but one that will no doubt help you wise up, or at least get you thinking. Click on over and check it out.

oreo cookies


by Casey Seidenberg for the Washington Post

The Healthy Little Changes Stance on Sugar

I believe everything Seidenberg says about sugar is true, not just because she said so but because I’ve read the same research (and others) and I’ve felt its effects in my own life. However, does that mean I’m completely off sugar and happy about it? Nope.

In truth, I wish I was, and it’s something I’m working toward. At various points I’ve been off all processed sugar and I felt great. But this is difficult for a lot of people for various reasons, only one of which I’ll talk about today, and that is the social aspect of food.

Email BoxSugar is ubiquitous in American society, and it’s become a central part of the way we celebrate. It is possible to completely avoid sugar (and is certainly a worthwhile endeavor, especially if you have diabetes or a propensity for a sugar addiction), and it’s easier than you might expect thanks to the availability of no-sugar-added whole foods recipes. But for parents of small children, we need to accept the fact that sugar is everywhere and it will be given to our kids more often than we’d like. The question then becomes how do we decide what an acceptable amount is — and how do we teach our kids to make good decisions for themselves when we’re not there?

As I state on my Nutrition page:

“Food plays an important social and emotional role in our lives. Humans thrive on community. We love getting together with friends and family, and enjoying great food is a large part of social gatherings. We all have a need to fit in; no one wants to be ‘that weird friend’ that nobody can feed or go out to eat with, and we certainly don’t want our children to be perceived that way. On an emotional level, food is comforting, pleasing to the senses, and immensely enjoyable. If we take the pleasure out of eating, we’re leaving those emotional needs unmet. These factors contribute to a lot of our hangups with food and can often lead to the tug-of-war of cravings, addictions, binges, and eating disorders, distorting the role food plays in our lives and destroying our health and happiness.”

This is why for now, I’m content to take a moderate stance on sugar for myself and my family. I want to be able to enjoy a little dessert at family gatherings or take my kids out for a special treat on occasion, but I don’t want to crave it daily like I used to when the sugar was free-flowing around here. Most of all, I want my children to feel that they can enjoy food just for the fun of it and not feel singled out as “that kid who couldn’t have ice cream at the birthday party” — but most importantly of all, I don’t want my children to struggle with an addiction of any sort, especially one that I have direct control over.

Maintaining that balance for us is actually easier than it sounds. First and foremost, I rarely if ever buy anything with sugar in it. It’s hard to become addicted to something or feed an addiction if that substance isn’t readily available. If candy is given to my child as a gift, we say thank you and let him enjoy it, but we just eat half and save the rest for later. Usually this means it’s forgotten and I can sneak it into the trash in a few days, but really the point is to teach moderation and self-discipline over treats. If my son ever goes nuts and gorges himself on candy (say, he sneaks into the Halloween bucket or finagles extra helpings of dessert at a party), he inevitably tells me he doesn’t feel good and we can talk about why and explain the connection between what we eat and how it makes us feel. Because of these conversations and others my 4-year-old knows that sugar is not good for us, and he knows all the ways it can make him sick. It doesn’t stop him from asking for it and certainly not from loving it, but he also doesn’t throw a fit when I say no at the grocery store or tell him we can only have one small piece of cake at the party or just one cookie. Instead, he says to me what I’ve taken the time to teach him: “Yeah, because sugar is not good for us. As long as we have just a little teeny bit and just sometimes, not all the time, it’s OK.”

What’s your approach? How do you handle sugar in your life?


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