September 26th, 2011
It’s been a little while since Ms. Mary Mack and I’ve had one of our pow-wows. But, after a summer break in August, we’re back-to-it, and just in time for back-to-school.
For those of you who don’t know MMM, she’s a friend and writer who authors an eponymous mama blog where, once a month, she and I have a food-focused conversation. With school—and other kids’ lunches, play dates, and more time away from home—on the brain, we got into it about sugar. Here’s how the conversation started.
The lovely Ms. Mary Mack emailed:
Back when The Youngster was in full-on parrot mode, I would often say, pointing at our candy jar in the foyer: “Candies are not for babies.” Funny to hear him repeat it, complete with serious face. But what’s more, I think the message kind of stuck with him. Even now as a 2.5-year-old, he’d rather you offer hime a dry cracker than a cookie. And he thinks chocolates/candies are tiny things you toss around like toys. No interest in eating them at all. Curious, how do you keep the sugar ship at bay in your household? I know it’s about setting examples + having good eating habits all your own, but I want to talk more practical stuff … like how do you get really young kids on the right foot about sugar and sweet treats?
Well, as you can imagine, I had an, ahem, opinion to share. And it goes a little something like this:
The sugar ship — ha! Love it. It’s a mighty ship, that one, very difficult to navigate. So difficult, in fact, that I suggest you find a place to dock and throw the anchor overboard. Your ship will surely sway with the tides, shifting this way and that, but it won’t go completely adrift. And that’s what you want to avoid because once you go adrift, it’s very difficult to find your way back to safe waters.
You’re right to make a distinction between fast food and sugar. They are different. First off, fast food is completely worthless edible non-food stuff. Natural, unprocessed sugar, on the other hand, has an important place in our diet. Secondly, though the golden arches can be found on all four corners of the globe, sugar is more ubiquitous. One recent study found that over 50% of packaged baby/toddler foods found in Canadian grocery stores had excessive sugar. In some products sampled, over 20% of the caloric content came from sugar. You can see this for yourself by looking at the shockingly high sugar content of most packaged breads, yogurts or tomato sauce. Avoiding sugar isn’t as simple as avoiding “sugary” snack foods, it’s about watching nearly everything you eat.
That said, my thinking on sugar is very similar to my thinking on fast food. Feeding is a parenting issue no matter what food you’re serving and, like all effective parenting, consistency is key. So, just like with fast food, when it comes to sugar I focus on managing what my kids eat while they are with me, managing what they eat while away from me for as long as I can and, then, letting go with confidence that our healthy eating habits have made a lasting imprint.
I could easily philosophize about this stuff for hours—as evidenced by our convo about Mickey D’s— but I know that you want to get down to brass tacks. Here are some of the ways that I manage sugar intake at home…
Hop on over to Ms. Mary Mack for my 10 best tips for managing sugar at home.
While those are sure to be helpful (promise!), I know that some of you are looking for a simple answer to the question: How much sugar should my kid take in per day?
Unfortunately, that’s not an easy question to answer since all sugar is not created equally. For example, a packaged granola bar may have dates packed with natural sugar and also added cane juice. While sugar needs to be limited overall, the cane juice is more of a concern and, sadly, there’s no way to tell how much of a food’s total sugar content is naturally occurring and how much was added processed sugar.) That said, at MMM you’ll also find my go-to way of calculating how much sugar is too much sugar.
Check out MMM for details, and poke around her site while you’re there. She’s a great writer and gets lots of other great writers to contribute, too. And let us know:
How do you manage your kids’ sugar intake? Any info or tips to share? Let us know!