You should not eat sugary foods. It’s that simple. Our bodies don’t
need them, our teeth don’t want them, and our brains go
haywire when we ingest them.
Still, we shovel in the sweet stuff. While the World Health Organization
recommends a diet in which only 5 percent of calories come from sugar,
Americans gets an average of
13 percent of our calories from glucose, fructose, honey and corn syrup.
Processed sugar is found in nearly three-quarters of packaged foods sold
in this country. And, as we know too well, many of those packages sport
cute little cartoon characters on them. Kids are targeted; and once they
get a taste, they’re hooked for life. Childhood obesity rates have
hovered at 17 percent for the last decade, putting a generation at a greater
risk of heart disease, cancer and other ailments than any generation that
So what can we do to get kids off the syrupy sauce? Again, it’s simple:
Don’t introduce sugar in the first place.
When babies start using sippy cups, excited parents want to fill that cup
with all kinds of exciting flavors: Apple juice! Grape juice! OJ! What
will baby love?
Water. Baby would love water. And, really, water is all baby needs. Juice
is just sugar, and babies don’t need it. (Yes, diluting it is better,
but it is still too much too soon.)
Babies also don’t need ice cream, cupcakes or cotton candy, no matter
how cute the Instagram pictures would be.
Instead of starting with sweet flavors, baby’s first foods should
consist of vegetables. The greener the better. By getting babies used
to broccoli, you cultivate the sense in them that food should taste healthy.
This is a lifelong gift that will serve them well into adulthood.
Once they get a taste for veggies, introduce sugar in the form of cut up
pieces of fruit. (Yes, they will look at you like, “Where have you
been hiding this stuff?” But they’ll forgive you.)
I am a mom myself. When I speak to parents, I know that buttercream frosting
and Capri Suns are in all children’s futures. And I don’t
believe in denying kids treats on special occasions, such as friends’
birthday parties (even if those parties seem to happen Every. Single. Weekend.)
What I advocate for is keeping kids away from sugar for as long as possible,
and then limiting sugar once it is introduced. My daughters know that
juice boxes are fair game at birthday parties. But the only drink they
bring to school is water. There are no cookies and candies in their lunchbox,
and afterschool snacks consist of fruits and veggies. Most nights, if
we serve dessert at all, we’ll serve applesauce.
How do we convince our kids that applesauce is a worthy dessert option?
Again, it’s simple: we’ve made it the only dessert option.
We don’t bake. We don’t buy ice cream or candy. There is no
soda in my house.
Some parents scoff at the suggestion that sugar should be scrubbed from
the home because they want sugar for themselves. But do they really? Aren’t
we all trying to be a bit healthier, fit into our clothes a bit better?
One of the reasons we adults are so addicted to processed foods and sugars
is that we grazed on the stuff growing up. If we delay babies’ introduction
to sugar and then limit their exposure during those critical cake-and-balloons
years, we have a fighting chance at dropping obesity rates and improving
the health care trajectories of our kids.
They might stamp their feet a bit now, but I’m confident they’ll
eventually toast our efforts to keep sugar at bay – by raising high
a refreshing glass of water.