The holidays are just around the corner. This means a battle with my will power and the endless sweets available.
My kids are just like me. They eat too much sugar. They crave it during the day. They think about how to get more of it, either by baking themselves or raiding the cupboards when I am not looking. Funny, I tried to teach them to curb the sweets all their life. The holidays are an excuse to overindulge.
Now battling cancer for so many years, I am not supposed to have any sugar. I go through months without even fruit. Then I breakdown and binge on sugar (honey, agave or organic cane sugar) for a weekend or a couple of weeks. I know I shouldn’t, but honestly, it is really hard.
Sugar is so bad for me – for all of us. We all know it. In fact, cancer feeds off sugar. One reason we love it is because sugar activates the reward centers of our brain. This releases feel-good neurotransmitters, like dopamine and endorphins. Sugar also helps shuttle the amino acid tryptophan into our brains that is converted into serotonin – this helps us feel calm. No wonder when I am stressed with the kids or having an argument with my husband, I reach for a muffin or a scone!
I know I crave sugar when I should really be searching for the Lord in these situations. I have uncovered a life-long idol in my life. Food takes the place of God.
My kids are learning and watching me. So we have an open dialogue about sugar and eating healthy. You would think because I eat healthy my family does, too. When I am struggling with my health, sometimes the easiest food is not the healthiest. However, looking back over the last four years, I can see the changes I have made with our food choices. I am really in charge of the food they eat, for the most part. I shop. I cook. I am in charge of their daily food.
My kids all eat a variety of vegetables and fruit each day. They will drink smoothies, eat seaweed and take their supplements. But cutting out sugar continues to be a challenge. I am taking an honest look at the holidays and putting into practice the steps here to help my kids eat less sugar starting with Thanksgiving.
Obviously, we can’t change all the parties and the feasts that happen this time of year, but we, as the moms, can change what we are doing at home. We can open the lines of communication and help them see how much sugar is “allowable” for our bodies.
Here are a couple of practical tips for this time of year and for the new year to reduce the amount of sugar in your family’s diet.
• Read the nutrition labels
When buying food, check out the labels. Try to buy things with 3 grams of sugar or less. If you have an option, go for the one with the less grams. Kids should try to stay under 50-70 grams a day. A big glass of 100% juice can be as much as 28 grams of sugar, so try to just be aware of how much sugar your kids are consuming. We try to limit the kids’ drinks to one juice drink a day and go for water the rest of the time. Sodas are allowed only once in a while, when we are out. I never buy them for the house.
• Learn sugar’s aliases
Sugar can be listed under a variety of names. High Fructose corn syrup, honey, cane syrup, molasses, brown rice syrup, agave and maple syrup are all SUGAR! Many processed foods will use a couple of these ingredients. We have to be the detectives. Fake sweeteners are associated with weight gain and feed our desire for sweets. They are also carcinogenic and do not belong in our kids’ food. Leave those items with fake sweeteners on the shelf.
• Opt for unsweetened or less sweetened.
You are in charge of holiday baking. Buy ingredients that are labeled “no sugar added” or “unsweetened”. Applesauce, baking chocolate, canned fruit, non-dairy milk (coconut, almond, etc) and nut butters are all available in unsweetened versions. Also when baking, add less sugar than the recipe calls for.
•Be prepared for the parties
I try to feed my kids before we head out for a holiday event. This way they will be less likely to eat a bunch of junk. Sure, I know they will still have the holiday cookies, but instead of eating 10 for dinner, they will only eat two because they are full. I also bring snacks to eat in the car when we are running between events for the same reason. If I have to bring something to the party, I bring a healthy, fun option. If you look on Pinterest or Google, there are plenty of healthy, fun options for the holidays.
•Don’t bring the junk into the house
I am so nostalgic. I see snowman shaped cookies and I think how much fun it would be for the kids to eat them. I have to remind myself that they are going to eat PLENTY of fun food this time of year. If I can establish a one sweet a day rule, then the kids can decide what they would like to have. Most of the time, my kids like to wait for dessert after dinner.
As I look over this list, I think it is a good list of guidance for all of us, not just for the kids. We don’t need to gain weight during the holidays, if we are just a little prepared and if we just exert a little self-control, we too can eat less sugar at the holidays this year.
“He will eat . . . honey at the (right) time. He knows enough to refuse evil and choose good. Isaiah 7:15
~ Jeanna Young
When Jeanna is not writing, speaking, event planning, or homeschooling, she can be found scrapbooking her life, redecorating her home, loving on her husband, planning fun events for her kids or eating healthy to stay cancer-free!