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 .