Somedays I feel as though the world (well modern society) is conspiring against my aim of a healthy, toxin free diet for my family and I. I generally pack lunches and snacks for us all to save money and to make sure we have something good to eat, but when we are out with the kids there is temptation at every turn – babycinos that come with not one but two marshmallows, offers of free fairy floss and lolly pops, cupcakes at every cafe and at the moment a visiting Nanny who shares her milkshakes, fruit toast and orange juice.
There’s several things at work that result in it being an uphill battle to keep the kids sugar free:
-other people think they are being nice by giving the kids sugar, they want the kids to like them so they ‘spoil’ them or ‘treat’ them
-other people not understanding that foods with added sugar (like fruit toast, muesli and other cereals or frozen yogurt) or foods that are naturally high in sugar (like juice) are extremely unhealthy for the kids
-corporations deliberately marketing high sugar foods to kids (like kids yogurt – hate that stuff!)
– cafes/shops displaying lots of sugar filled, gluten containing treats because that’s what they think people want.
There’s also the kids themselves making it hard:
-once they know what sugar containing foods are, they want them – of course they do, they often taste great and are addictive
– like adults, kids have ‘food with no brakes’. Case in point, our 5 year old ate a second bowl of ice cream after dinner when it was offered by her grandmother even though she was full and she subsequently felt really sick. Things like this have happened a few times with Lou, she doesn’t remember to tune in to her tummy if there high carb, high sugar food around. And humans evolved to prefer calorie dense food, we are naturally attracted to high carb and high fat food so that we can build up our reserves to survive famines (See this). It’s no wonder then that kids and adults alike can’t control themselves with this type of food.
If you add all this together, what does it show? It’s f*cking impossible to keep your kids sugar free! It kind of makes me angry, but not everyone lives in the weird ancestral health bubble that David and I do.
For ourselves (the grown-ups), we’ve been doing a version of ‘cheat day’, as suggested in the Four Hour Body, for a while now. While it’s supposed to be a no holds barred type of thing, we tend to still not eat gluten, sugar and soy, though sugar we cheat with sometimes (85% chocolate etc.). We do eat things like hamburgers with gluten free bread and chips, primal/Paleo type pancakes, muffins etc and big milky coffees. Cheat day works pretty well psychologically, as if you really crave some sort of crappy food, you can think in however many days I can eat that!
So lately we’ve been doing what we are calling ‘Treat day’ (generally saturdays) for ourselves and the kids, where the kids can have an ice-cream (preferably one without sucrose, even on Treat day, unlike in the example below!) or some hot chips, and we can have cider, dark chocolate and corn chips. Rather than just vaguely saying sugar is a ‘sometimes’ food and then loosing track of how much they actually eat, this system gives us and them clear rules. And if they ask for something like a cupcake we can say remember it for treat day and this seems to help them not to ask 50 million times and get 50 million no’s!
In an ideal world, they wouldn’t eat much besides vegetables and meat, but our society is sooooo far from that ideal at the moment that enforcing that on them and us seems superhuman. We aren’t hemits – the kids see other kids eating ice blocks on hot days and chips at the pool. Treat day allows them to still be part of society, but in a somewhat controlled way. I’m not sure if it’s ultimately the best approach, but it’s our system for now, and at least it is something we’ve consciously chosen.