I grew up in a household where we didn’t drink soda because of the sugar, we didn’t have candy because of the sugar, cake was only eaten during birthday parties and not a lot because of the sugar. I knew sugar was bad, that is why my mother told me in several occasions, but there was no explanation as to why; all I knew is that sugary treats were delicious but ‘bad’.
My boys asked, so why is sugar “bad”? Now days, the famous phrase “because I say so” is not enough, well at least for my boys. They are two curious little boys, and to be honest although sometimes I get overwhelmed with so many of their questions, I tried to answer them to the best of my ability and knowledge. The more they ask the more they learn, so I give them information as to why something might be or not be so healthy. This opens up their mind and become conscious thinkers about what they put in their bodies.
So what is sugar???
There is sugar that naturally occurs as in fruit and vegetables and there is the added sugar so popular in our modern diet. Consuming too much sugar can result in numerous different health problems, including poor dental health, obesity, diabetes, heart disease, pre diabetes and different types of cancer.
Sugar is a carbohydrate.
The naturally occurring sugars in fruit and vegetables come along with fiber, water and other nutrients, these are the good sugars; the worst sugar we can possibly indulge in is the Added Sugars!
Added sugars are the ones that are added to foods, the most common seen on labels are sucrose and/or the worst of all, high fructose corn syrup (HFCS). Added sugars have empty calories that can lead to weight gain and obesity, they have no nutrients!
Unfortunately, added sugars in food and drinks seem to be so common. Most restaurants and schools offer juice, chocolate milk or soda on children’s menu, and if we pay close attention the sauces, the breads, the fruit (to mention a few examples) are also loaded with sugar. All these with added sugar that does the body no good. What about family events, parks and fairs? cotton candy, caramel popcorn, caramel apple, frozen processed lemonade, ice cream, etc.. sugary snacks are all around us and the more our children are expose to it the more they want it. No wonder childhood obesity has more than doubled in children and quadrupled in adolescents in the past 30 years! It is likely that obese children and adolescents will remain obese as they grow and become adults bringing both immediate and long-term effects on their health.
It is interesting to note that NCBI published a study in which they explain that people can actually become addicted to sugar, study shows sugary foods stimulate the same areas in the brain as drug intake. Wow! Sugar as an addiction!
What can we do to reduce Sugar in our children’s diets?
My boys consume sugar, but it is much reduced now. How do we do it:
- At birthday parties, my boys can either eat a cupcake/cake or a chocolate/candy
- We mainly consume water at home and at restaurants
- As dessert they can have one packet of YumEarth Gummy Bears or Gluten Free Organic Cholocate chip or dark chocolate ice cream or dried prunes or something else that has no added sugar or is low in sugar
- One yogurt per day
- Small hot chocolate with limited or no whip cream
- One glass of Almond chocolate milk
- ..and once in while they enjoy their dark chocolate ice cream at their favorite Gelato Store!
Read the food label!
Food labels do not currently include the added-sugars (those that don’t occur naturally in the food), although the FDA is pushing for added-sugar label on food.
So in the mean time, we just need to learn to recognize the names of sugar, and there are about 55 names of sugar last time I checked! (55+ sugar list )
Stay away from food that has sugar mainly in the first 3 ingredients, although some food manufacturer’s labels have them toward the end to appear less significant. Bottom line,be aware of more than one type of sugar as well.
Some added sugar in the ingredients to look for are:
- Brown Sugar
- Corn Sweetener
- Corn Syrup
- Fruit Juice Concentrates
- High-Fructose corn syrup
- Malt Syrup
- Raw sugar
Common foods and drinks with added sugar:
- Chocolate bars
- Granola bars
- Fuit Juices
- Ice creams
- Sport drinks
- Salad dressings
Alternatives for added sugar:
- Water, water, water!
- dark chocolate (limited)
What are your thoughts on Sugar?
Sources: NCBI: Evidence for sugar addiction
Source: Childhood Obesity Facts