Friday Finds: Sugar-Free?

by Maggie on May 28, 2010

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It seems as though sugar-free is all the rage in the blogging world.

Many of my blogging friends regularly post recipes that are sugar-free and it’s so fascinating to see their creations and how they live and bake without refined sugar.

But there’s one thing standing in the way of me and “sugar-free”.

I have a really lovely and out-going sweet tooth.  She’s not at all afraid to speak her mind and it seems my children have been blessed with wee versions of my sweet tooth.  Isn’t that sweet?

But I am interested in limiting our sugar intake and trying to use more natural sweeteners (honey and maple syrup are my favourites) in my baking.

You might remember a Friday Finds from a couple of months ago entitled Friday Finds: Your Green Baby.  I introduced you to a friend of mine who is  a Certified Nutritional Practitioner. Kim is raising a vegetarian, gluten-free, and sugar-free babe and running a really cool business called Your Green Baby

Kim has so much to share so I asked her about sugar.  I’m really excited to share her post with you.

Sugar Free Kids?

I am trying, with my husband, to raise a sugar free kid, yes I admit it, and it is not easy.

From strange looks, to comments from others and hidden sugars in many foods, including multivitamins – it is not easy trying to raise a sugar free kid and that is why I know I need to lower my expectations a little and just do the best I can to reduce my little guys exposure to sugar.

Many people comment on our decision to limit the sugar in Reece’s diet, but I can usually bring them around to my point of view with a few tidbits of information I will share with you today.

1. The average Canadian consumes 2lbs of sugar per week, yes 2lbs of sugar per week!

2. Sugar increases insulin levels which in turn inhibits the release of human growth hormone needed for growth and healing and repair of muscle and tissue, which in turn suppresses our immune system, making us more susceptible to colds and the flu – urrrrgh!

3. Sugar provides no nutritional value at all to growing bodies, and is not necessary for their survival

4. We must use minerals from our own bodies to digest sugar, as they have all been stripped away during processing

5. Increased intake of sugar is linked to cancer, diabetes and obesity

6. Sugar is a main factor in tooth decay

7. Sugar is the #1 food additive

8. 2/3 of refined sugar used is added to manufactured goods – it is hidden in many for the food you may buy at the grocery store

9. Sugar impairs the immune system function by decreasing the effectiveness of white blood cells

10. Sugar is linked to cardiovascular disease – excess insulin leads to elevated triglyceride levels and promotes fat storage

So as a parent what are you to do?

First I think it is important to understand a little bit about how sugar works in the body.

When we eat sugar our body turns it into energy, energy for our muscles, cells and brain, this energy needs to be used up. If there is too much energy (sugar) and not enough activity to burn it up (as is the case with many of our children and youth today) the sugar that should have been used for energy gets stored in the body as fat. As the fat builds up we end with children that have weight issues including obesity, which in turn leads to a host of other health issues – diabetes, insulin resistance, cardiovascular disease, cancer, etc.

The other big issue with sugar is that when children consume too many sugary foods they tend to do so at the expense of other foods, foods that are necessary to provide optimum nutrition for their growing and developing minds and bodies. Studies show children consuming a diet high in sugar are less likely to meet their needs for grains, vegetables and fruits.

So how can you cut back the sugar in your child’s diet without feeling like you are the sugar police? Here are a few tips:

1. Read labels. Take a look to see how many grams of sugar there is in the products you purchase. For example I took a look at a bottle of Gatorade one of my young dance students had at class this evening – 42 grams of sugar. One teaspoon of sugar is equal to 4.2 grams; therefore that bottle of Gatorade had 10, yes 10 teaspoons of sugar! Way too much, especially when two of my students drank the whole bottle during their two hours with me. This would be equal to their recommended daily intake of sugar.

2. Find added sugar on ingredient lists. Sugar comes in many forms and manufacturers will try to hide it so you can’t find it. Look for the following – dextrose, glucose, fructose, high fructose corn syrup, corn syrup solids, maple syrup, honey, molasses, fruit juice, maltose, turbundo sugar, corn sweeteners, brown sugar, raw sugar, evaporated cane juice, organic sugar – these are all sugars, yes some are more natural and less processed, but they are all sugars.

3. Be a wise consumer. Check labels on children’s multivitamins, yes multivitamins, most have sugar, it is necessary to make them taste good for little ones, but choose ones with less sugar – 1 gram of sugar or less per vitamin. And just because you can purchase yummy sweet treats at a health food store doesn’t mean they are good for you or your kids. Again check that nutrition and ingredient label – how much sugar is really in there? Once you know how much sugar is in a product you can then make an informed decision about including it in your child’s diet.

4. Reduce fruit juice consumption. The easiest way to do this is to cut fruit juice with water, start slowly and gradually increase.

5. Don’t buy sweets. If sweets are not in the house your children can’t eat them.

6. Focus on eating a nutrient dense whole foods diet. Have fruit on the counter for older kids to snack on, have fruit and vegetables cut up and in the fridge at eye level for younger children, and provide toddlers with cut up fruit for snacking. Provide a variety of vegetables at each meal; your child may not eat every one each time, but by presenting it and offering them the opportunity to try it you are exposing them to it – and one day they will give it a taste, it just might take a while.

By focusing on tip #5 above, making nutrient dense whole foods the majority of your child’s diet, a little bit of sugar in moderation won’t hurt. The key is moderation and allowing your child the time to burn off the excess sugar. Get them outside, build activity into their day, let them run and play and a little bit of sugar will be just fine.

Thanks so much Kim for another informative post.

You can read Kim’s blog or check out some of the cool workshops she offers.  And if you do that twitter thing you can follow Kim’s twitter feed .


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{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Ricki May 28, 2010 at 8:14 am

Thanks for this–I love to see how people are moving toward no sugar! I haven’t eaten refined sugar in over a decade. Natural sweeteners like maple syrup, agave nectar, yacon syrup, dates, etc. can all produce desserts that are just as good as those with sugar–better, actually, as they taste the same and provide more nutritional value (and don’t usually cause the same reactions that sugar does). Layer cakes, buttercream frostings, pies, brownies, cookies, etc. can all be made with natural sweeteners (and without other problematic ingredients such as milk or eggs). In the past year, I’ve been experiementing with stevia in desserts as well. :) It may require buying a few new ingredients and learning how to substitute, but it’s well worth it!

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Alisa May 28, 2010 at 10:52 am

I have to confess, it actually frustrates me how the term “sugar-free,” is now being used. I like to use honey and maple syrup for sweetening whenever I can (I really do like them!), and having tried coconut sugar it is a new favorite on my list … but these are still sugars. When I see sugar-free, I expect to see recipes sweetened with fruit or not sweet at all (hopefully no fake sweeteners – but these are of course popular).

It causes frustration and time for me when I am seeking truly sugar-free recipe ideas, but keep popping up with recipes that do use some form of straight sugars … since I don’t consider recipes made with honey or agave to be sugar-free (they are still 100% sugars even if they have some added natural benefits that can’t be found in refined sugars). They are refined sugar-free for sure though! That I do like.

Great post though – I am with you on trying to reduce overall sugar intake, but it is a tough one! And Ricki is the goddess of both refined sugar-free AND sugar-free recipes!

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Shirley @ gfe May 28, 2010 at 11:38 am

Awesome post, Maggie! I love all the facts you share. As you know, I’m one who is purusing the no refined sugar way of living. For me, the only way to do it is cold turkey with no refined sugars. The moment I eat them I want more … and more … and even MORE. I feel like I become possessed. And, when I’m eating sugar I see all its other negative effects, too. Sluggishness (well, not wanting to do anything really), brain fog, sudden energy and then “collapse,” etc.. When I stop eating sugar and focus on honey, maple syrup, and stevia, suddenly I feel like a sane person and I have so much energy I can’t believe it. And, of course, the weight drops off, my belly flattens, I sleep better, etc. I wish I’d been raised and learned to eat differently, but now I just must stick to no sugar and not worry about the past. There’s no doubt it’s challenging, especially at first, but the rewards are huge. I applaud you for doing your best to raise your kids sugar free. The child who doesn’t expect refined sugar sweetened beverages and sugary treats 24/7 will be a much healthier, happier child and adult.

Thanks again for this post!

Shirley

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Iris May 29, 2010 at 7:24 am

This is a great post! Like Shirley, I’m trying to cut sugar out of my diet, but not just refined sugar. And Alisa, I agree with you about the term sugar-free. Most of my recipes that say sugar-free are just sweetened with fruit to avoid confusion. But Honey, molasses, maple syrup…they all seem to have the same effect on me as refined sugar. Like Shirley said, I feel possessed! I haven’t done it yet, but I’m going to have to cut it all out cold turkey soon.

And Maggie, I grew up with parents who raised us super healthy. We had sprite and doughnuts or ice cream cakes at our birthday parties, but the rest of the time, none of that stuff was in our house. I walked around snacking on dulse at home! I remember being little and having snack time at school. The other kids would trade their nutter-butters but no one wanted my fruit leather. Here’s the thing though…I have never wished to have been raised differently and I’ve been so grateful because I’m a much healthier, more adventurous eater as an adult because of it. I think if children are allowed to have treats in moderation but grow up mostly eating a healthy, low-sugar or sugar-free diet, they’ll only thank you for it.

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