If you think you do have a sugar-sensitive child, or if you simply know that your child eats too much sugar, it’s time to do something about it. You don’t need to banish sweet tastes from your home, but be a little stricter about the processed stuff.
Children love sweet tastes, and that is completely natural. You can’t fight it. Sweetness itself isn’t bad. We are programmed to seek out sweet things as good sources of nutrients, and many whole foods have a sweet taste, complete with fiber and vitamins—fruit, some veggies, maple syrup, and grain-based sweeteners.
It’s not even the sugar cane plant that’s the problem. It’s what we’ve done to it.
Sugar has a whole-food form, although few people in the United States have probably ever seen it.
But sugar cane bears no resemblance to what most families keep in the sugar bowl, or what food manufacturers pump into their lab-formulated, processed products. We’ve changed the nature of this perfectly innocent plant, until it doesn’t even remotely resemble its natural form. Sugar cane goes through numerous processing steps to become the white crystals we know as sugar, and they are far from “natural.”
There are so many sweet treats out there that don’t contain white sugar or high fructose corn syrup. Go to the store and explore. Let your child help pick out treats, and show him how to read the labels to look for the poisons: high fructose corn syrup and sugar!
There are also a million different ways to make simple sweet treats at home. Here are just a few to get you started:
Slice a banana and drizzle with maple syrup and naturally sweetened or plain soy milk.
Freeze very ripe bananas (peeled), then put them in the blender with a little cocoa powder, agave syrup, and any kind of milk (I like coconut milk). Blend to make a delicious healthful milkshake or “ice cream.”
Make a parfait of plain non-dairy yogurt with fresh berries and agave nectar drizzled between the layers.
Sprinkle toast with cinnamon and “frost” with honey.
Serve real maple syrup over wholegrain pancakes or waffles. (Mix with regular “pancake syrup” to get your child used to the taste first.)
Try almond butter toast with a light drizzle of agave nectar, maple syrup, or even molasses or sorghum, if your child is adventurous.
Spread natural (unsweetened) peanut butter in a stalk of celery and top with a line of raisins for the classic “ants on a log” snack.
Freeing your child from sugar’s sweet embrace can feel like an insurmountable challenge at first, but it really only takes a week or two to break sugar’s grip. Soon, your child will actually be able to taste sweetness in so many other forms, from fruit to sweet potatoes to the natural sweetness in spices like cinnamon. And remember, moderation is key. For some children, banning something for all eternity is likely to result in rebellion, or at least in resentment. Better to leave the real sugar out there in the world where your child will occasionally encounter it. Let home be a largely sugar-free zone, and reap the health, weight, and behavior benefits. They are significant.
About the Author
Barbara Rodriguez is The Organic Nanny. She takes care of children as a profession, and many of those children have celebrity parents. She sees and works within a rich and privileged world, but believes all children can benefit from the changes she helps her clients realize. Those changes are all, at their essence, organic — organic food, organic relationships, and an organic connection with the earth. Please visit her website and signup for her monthly newsletter to get free recipes, tips and excepts from her new book The Organic Nanny’s Guide to Raising Healthy Kids.