From the writers at mindbodygreen.com…
At left you see my memory of animal crackers. They came in a cardboard box shaped like a train car. It had a little white string handle that you could use to carry the box. And if I was VERY good at the store, there was a shot I could score a box of my very own. Flash forward approximately eight thousand years….
At a recent school event, the kids were offered a choice of a bag of animal crackers, a bag of animal crackers with icing, and a bag of animal crackers with icing and sprinkles…. in case you’re wondering, both of mine looked at me to see if I would stop them, and then went for the whole freaking hog. The terror I’d been watching on my son’s face at the prospect of joining the big kids next year had completely paralyzed me… and so they ate animal crackers with shapes and sprinkles. We sat down with our future fellow kindergarteners and they downed as many as they could while I checked out the nutrition information. They surrendered their ill-gotten booty gracefully about halfway through the bag, without seeming to have enjoyed them overly much. It was the thrill of the bag and the sprinkles, in my opinion.
While I’ve always enjoyed dessert, I have come to realize that compared to others, my sweet tooth is, in fact, reasonably tame (my salt and fat teeth are different stories). Lately, however, I’ve been overwhelmed by sugar cravings. I don’t understand it really. I’ve not gone on a sugar binge (what usually gets these things going) or purchased a whole bunch of sweet treats to tempt myself into the sugar pit… and yet, I can’t seem to get sweet things out of my head. Having completed their school year, my children are with me much more of the day, and they too, seem to be suffering from sugar deprivation… In order to continue on our current chosen culinary path, it is critical to prevent a sense of continual deprivation And so, I return to my quest to find sweet treats that we can munch on periodically without any appreciable spike (and subsequent crash) in energy and without worsening our current cravings…. I also want to help my kids to appreciate the yum that can be found in simpler treats, without all of the high fructose corn syrup bells and whistles. As usual when I’m seeking healthy culinary inspiration, I turned to my sister.
While we were at the beach, Big Sis shared her awesome brownie bites which my husband and I and we both LOVED them but my children, not so much. Too dark chocolatey tasting. Just didn’t work for them. Knowing they would only serve as an adult decadence, I whipped up a batch of brownie bites for my husband and myself to enjoy (and wow they are SO good), and quickly cleaned out the food processor. I stared at my counter where the ingredients were still strewn and decided to use the brownie bite as a template, and vowed to keep it as simple in taste as possible. Thus was born the Oaty Bite.
Oaty Bites - makes about 15 bites, unless you’d rather have many small bites or a few big honkin’ bites
- 16 dates
- 1T plus 1t maple syrup
- 1T plus 1t water
- 1t vanilla
- 1/4 c hemp seeds (or whatever nut or seed you prefer)
- 1.5 c rolled oats, plus a handful for rolling
In a food processor, combine the dates and the liquids. Process until as smooth as you can get it. Add the hemp (I chose hemp because of the nutritional boost and the relative small size to prevent picky kid rejection) and the oats and process until a ball forms and the mixture is sticky but not too terribly wet to the touch. You should be able to form shapes with it. If it seems to sticky, add some more oats. Form into balls and roll in oats. We prefer ours cool and so keep them in the fridge. There. Voila. Done. No stinkin’ icing. No flipping’ sprinkles. Just simple ingredients with a sweet touch. Perhaps next time I’ll add a little cinnamon and try to shape one like a gorilla. Delish.
It’s astonishing what can happen on vacation. Two days ago I found myself asking what day it was – on Monday of a weeklong trip that started on Saturday. This is unprecedented. Typically, my uncertainty about the day is a sure sign that I have “vacated;” I have become untethered from my everyday life enough to truly rest in some way. It’s interesting that this trip is the one that has made me fell so rested so quickly. We are a large group. We are a noisy group. We are a diverse group in terms of our vacation wants and wishes. We accommodate one another, to be sure, but I don’t think that’s what is doing it.
I think part of my relaxation stems from being with a group of people who will NOT ask me why I won’t let my kids have cupcakes for lunch every day, or how I could possibly give up fast food, or why I would bother to cook from scratch when there’s so much good food already made in the stores. I am in my home food community. I am not subjected to TV ads, radio ads, bulletin boards for stuff I shouldn’t, and don’t particularly want, to eat. The beach that I’m visiting has no boardwalk, and therefore no french fries (for which I admit an overwhelming weakness), cotton candy (which I find repulsive), or any of hundreds of non-food items for sale just steps away from your towel. For our merry band, beach snacking is not about a tasty treat you can only get at the beach, but about grabbing a bite between dipping your feet in the ocean, playing a quick game of football, and digging for sand puppies and shells.
For us, snacking on the beach looks merely like a more portable version of snacking at home. It’s not a bag of chips (although I admit that I do love chips); it’s not a bunch of juice boxes and a package of cookies. It’s a handful of items (some a little salty, some a little sweet) that might actually stand a chance of nourishing the weary sandcastle builder. A box of Triscuits (Big Sis and I giggled to discover we had both brought MANY Triscuits with us for just this purpose), a mess of almonds, and a container of pecans and raisins. To drink? Cold water. Yes, we are on vacation. Yes, that means it should be special. To me, this has come to mean that I should not have to end the day feeling sick from eating everything I’ve ever craved or move toward bedtime resenting my children for having their 10th meltdown of the day when their sugar induced highs come to an abrupt end. Sitting with this group and watching our children snack on this pristine beach, I’ve been thinking a lot about snacking and how snacks, perhaps more than any other category of foods seem to have left the purpose of nourishment behind altogether.
Our snacks are supposed to be tasty, a treat, delicious, creamy, gooey, colorful, salty-fatty good; if they are for kids, they are also supposed to be fun, silly, packaged individually, strewn with characters from movies and television shows, and downright entertaining to eat. Good grief. What if a snack was just a snack? What if a snack was simply a small amount of food that kept you reasonably satisfied until the next meal? What if we began to think of our snacks as nourishment rather than seeing them as entertainment?
On our beach outing, my daughter expressed an objection to the snacks I had available (shocker); I pointed out to her that we were not at home and that my beach bag is not a restaurant. This is what I have; these are your options (only a slight variation from my usual snack time response to picky eater grief). ”Choose one so you can finish up and we can look for shells.” And she did. A handful of almonds, two crackers and a couple of glugs of water later, we returned to our oceanside fun. Nourished, refreshed, and ready for plenty more family beach business, which really is the point, isn’t it?
Happy day after Mother’s Day! I was planning to give you a garden tour this morning to celebrate the new plantings that were part of our Mother’s Day festivities, but the rain has chased me inside… well, okay, I never made it out. A garden update is in our future, and it’s very exciting, at least in my humble opinion. Dead seedlings were replaced and the garden is exploding, and when the sun comes out, I’ll show you.
In the meantime, I’ve been thinking a lot about lunch. Okay, I think it’s pretty clear to all of you that I’m thinking about food most of the time, but lunch has been on my mind ever since I registered my wee ones for kindergarten in the fall. I have already resigned myself to packing lunches daily, a plan that was reinforced when I looked at the school lunch menu – but that’s another post for a day when I’m already in a bad mood, because it will have a pretty high percentage of rant in it. For this gentle rainy morning, I just want to explore a trend that has emerged in yummy, nutritious, fun lunches for me and my little people. I’ve stumbled upon a recurring theme. Small bites.
In Big Sis’ discussion of Lunchables (Lunchables are also a zen threatener for me, so I’ll be brief here), she conceded that the packaging of these products (many of which have as much sugar as a Snickers bar, BTW) is kid-sexy. Little compartments, small amounts, a variety that they can choose from, assemble, control. The bento box craze reveals some of the same appeal. Compartments that contain small amounts of various bits that they can choose between, manipulate, control. Honestly, this has also been one of my favorite things about eating Ethiopian food or tapas: variety, tastes, experiments.
So with these thoughts in mind, I decided to put a lunch together that really offered as many different bites a I could fit on the plate, a strong element of choice, some possibilities for assembly and experimentation. I included one new food, and some things they’ve been reluctant to eat in the past as well as some old standbys. This was not revolutionary; I’ve offered my kids strange little collections of food before, but I’ve not been this deliberate about it, nor have I ever watched and listened as carefully while we ate. I tried to be quiet (this is hard for me) and see what choices they would make without pressure. This lunch was remarkably successful. Was it the quantities? Was it the variety? The fact that they couldn’t help but have a healthy lunch if they ate any two of the items on the plate? I have no idea; what I DO know is that they both ate most of it. And my little picky one ASKED about 2/3 of the way through the meal if she could skip the rest of the celery if she ate all the other veggies, because the flavor of celery is okay, but she doesn’t like the way it feels in her mouth…. If you’ve eaten with my daughter, you know this is not the way our meal conversations usually go. Delightful. And Daddy and I got to finish the dip which they liked with the apples and on the bagel, but not on everything else. My preference was to have it with the celery and banana.
Nutty Lunch Dip
- 4 T peanut butter
- 4 T plain yogurt (I used almond yogurt)
- 1/2 t maple syrup
- generous shake cinnamon
Ready for another miraculous cooking procedure? Put all those bits in a bowl and stir them thoroughly to make smooth yum. Adjust ingredients to taste. If it seems like a little more sweet would be good, try a little more cinnamon first; you may be surprised. When you’ve got it tasting the way you want, dip a few things in it. Let your inner five your old take control of the lunch plate. Pretend you don’t already know what tastes good together; you just might find something new hiding in the guise of an old trusted and predictable vegetable. Nutty small bites for all! Delish.
I have a secret. I’m taking a dance class. Ok, so I guess it’s not a secret anymore, but I’m still taking a dance class. It has been approximately 8 million years since I last took a dance class and that particular class was modern dance. This class is tap and ballet. I am really reaching here. I am pretty far out of my comfort zone, although my classmates are all really nice and the instructor is WONDERFUL. But even with all of the discomfort at being completely lost for much of the class, there’s this familiar joy that comes from just being in that space, in front of those mirrors, working those muscles. Laughing and groaning with the other students. I am stretched, but I am reveling in it, especially the ballet, which is a little more familiar, and so far, well slower.
That’s all well and good… isn’t this about food? Well, yes. It occurs to me that like my decision to take this dance class (which is surely a good one), sometimes our greatest joys can be found by stepping outside of our comfort zones. We cannot grow if we stay inside the lines, can we? The same holds true for our relationsihip with food. Now and again when circumstance and opportunity present themselves, our food experience needs room to grow – we need to explore that area outside of our comfort zones.
We were presented with such an opportunity this Easter. In the past, we have always gone to my mother’s house for Easter dinner, but alas, this year my poor Mom had a fever and was coughing up a storm, and because she remembers what it was like to have a house full of sick children, she kindly suggested that we delay our Easter celebration. While I was in no mood to run out an pick up a ham at the last minute, I did feel like we ought to do something a little special for dinner. And so, my extremely talented husband and I decided that we would have our usual Sunday pasta because it is homemade pasta, it is delicious pasta, and because we all love pasta. BUT in celebration of Spring and all things green, and a particularly large mound of spinach in the fridge, we would holiday it up by making spinach noodles.
Aren’t they beautiful? We loosely followed the recipe from emmycooks.com. I say loosely because, as I’ve admitted before, I am nearly incapable of reading all the directions, and my husband is nearly incapable of following a recipe to the letter. Fortunately his results are such that this is a good quality.
Homemade pasta is no small undertaking, so I’m not recommending it as an easy approach to anything, but it is a glorious undertaking for those who like to cook, and for those who think they love pasta, but have never had homemade. Our experience, however, got me to thinking about a technique that we’ve used with our kids, and honestly with ourselves, when it comes to improving the health of our plates – a favorite dish with revision, a step outside of the comfort zone, but with the familiar joy of a favorite flavor. Our family loves pasta, so our children had absolutely no objection to trying Daddy’s pasta with several cups of spinach ground into it. Would they eat pasta with spinach on it? No. Do they eat cooked spinach side-dishes? No. Will they eat spinach salad? No. I think you get the point. Their love of the pasta overruled their disdain for spinach and they happily jammed it into their mouths with glee; they didn’t even realize they were outside of their comfort zones! How wonderful!
How might this apply if you don’t make your own pasta? The best pasta revision that I have ever made is to substitute whole wheat noodles for semolina when cooking boxed pasta. I did this at the behest of my beloved Big Sis who suggested (in response to some questions that I asked about eating better and dropping a few pounds) that since we LOVE (and eat a lot of) pasta, this one switch could add up to a big difference for us. If you’ve not made this switch, you may not know WHY it could really add up…. I’ll show you.
I have on my lap two packages of dried pasta. One is 100% whole wheat chicciole (giant puffy elbows), the other is 100% semolina ziti (purchased for necklace production last summer). Let’s compare the nutrition low-down. Nutritional info is based on a 2 oz serving in both cases.
100% Whole Wheat 100% Semolina
Calories: 180 Calories: 210
Total Fat: 1.5g Total Fat: 1g
Total Carbohydrate: 35g Total Carbohydrate: 42g
Dietary Fiber: 6g Dietary Fiber: 2g
Sugars: 1g Sugars: 3g
Protein: 7g Protein: 7g
Nutritionist Joy Bauer explains the benefits of whole wheat pasta: “A 100 percent whole-grain pasta includes all three layers of the wheat kernel: the bran, the germ and the endosperm. Because nothing is removed during processing, whole-grain pastas contain more natural fiber and micronutrients than their white, refined cousins. And thanks to the extra fiber, whole-grain pastas tend to be more filling than traditional white pasta. What’s more, regularly choosing whole-grains over the refined type is associated with numerous health benefits, including lower blood pressure and reduced risk of many chronic diseases, including type 2 diabetes and heart disease. ” As you can see the whole wheat pasta also contains less sugar. The difference in fiber, sugar, and micronutrients is what Big Sis was thinking of when she said one change could add up to big benefits. BIG BABY STEP MOMENT HERE, FRIENDS. If you still eat semolina pasta, give whole wheat a try. If you are skeptical, start with a blended pasta. These have more whole grains than straight semolina, but less than 100% whole grain pasta. Take the pasta dish your family enjoys the most, and make a relatively small change that can add up to big benefits.
Already eat whole grain pasta? And you or your crew are pasta fanatics? Maybe you can take advantage of that pasta love to introduce a whole grain. What would happen if you used bulghur with your pasta? How about quinoa primavera? How about substituting a vegetable for those noodles? Another recent twist of ours was built around cauliflower which, ironically, my picky eater loves and my omnivore is reluctant to consume.
Whole Wheat Bowties With Roasted Cauliflower inspired by Average Betty’s Roasted Cauliflower
- 1 batch roasted cauliflower, as described above
- 1 pound whole wheat bowties
- 1 Tbs olive oil
- 3 Tbs capers
- 1/3 c chopped fresh parsley
- salt and pepper to taste
- parmesan for garnish
As soon as cauliflower goes in the oven, set water on to boil for bowties. Assemble all other ingredients and place in large bowl. When cauliflower and bowties are done cooking. Add to bowl. Toss. Yes, that’s it. And yes, he ate the cauliflower. Pasta Revision Method successful! Delish!
Favorites with a twist give us a great opportunity to stretch ourselves with optimism, explore the edges of the comfort zone without losing all that is familiar, ensuring a little joy, the same familiar joy I feel when it’s time to change from our tap shoes into our ballet slippers.
Alright friends, hopefully you’ve had time to recover from our last sugar extermination project, because today we march forward again… toward a pantry of naturally sweet goodness and away from factory hidden sugar poo. We continue our Sugar Busting Series (or Easter recovery period) by revisiting the Twinkie as the sugar bar beyond which no reasonable food item should pass. Hmmm, a Twinkie, that friendly little gooey yellow cake that, at least in my day, wore a cowboy hat on the package (because?). I remember wanting a Twinkie, a LONG time ago. I REALLY don’t want a Twinkie anymore (and I can’t emphasize that sentiment enough), but more to the point, if I’m going to have that much sugar, I sure as heck don’t want it to come from my pasta sauce. So today we’re going to revisit that list of 8 Twinkie exeeding sugar traps. Last time we discussed substitutions for some of the biggies: boxed cereal, pre-made smoothies or smoothie mix, fat free salad dressing, and sweet yogurt. What remains? Tomato sauce, granola bars, canned fruit, and muffins. Let’s knock them out, in order of ease.
Muffins. Try a slice of whole wheat bread or toast with a little nut butter and a small amount of jelly, raisins, or sliced bananas. WAY cheaper, more satisfying, and far less sweet than a store bought muffin or a muffin made from a mix (which I like to call a cupcake). Bang, done.
Canned Fruit. I don’t imagine you actually need my help on this, do you? The obvious solution is to use real, fresh fruit. If the only way you like peaches is to eat them canned in heavy syrup, eat an apple instead. As you eat less sugar overall (and your taste buds begin to adjust to a reasonable expectation of sweet), try a fresh peach and see how you feel then. If appeasing a child is the issue, perhaps offering the little one the opportunity to choose some fresh fruit will make the syrupy fruit easier to give up. If you ABSOLUTELY must have canned fruit, you want to avoid the word syrup on the can; buy it canned in its own juice. If you’re choosing canned because of the shelf life, take a look at the freezer section and see if there is an option there that will serve your needs. Frozen fruit is not stored in syrup. Bang, done.
Granola Bars. The right substitution for a granola bar depends in part on why you like granola bars. If you are looking for a more wholesome snack than a cookie that is still sweet, I’m gonna refer you back to and amazing snack Big Sis shared: Lemon Kissed Cashew Hemp Bars. If portability is your thing, and you like the crunch of a traditional granola bar, I’m going to suggest one of our favorite snacks, cereal trail mix. While this began a a kid snack, I confess that I regularly raid whatever container they are munching from. This particular version has a handful of 5grams of sugar cereal mixed with a handful of 1gram of sugar store brand Cheerios, a handful of dried cherries and a handful of cashews. It’s more or less a cereal bar without all the sugar poo to hold it together, which my five year olds seem to be able to handle, so long as I provide them with a lid. Bang, done.
And finally, the biggest surprise on this list, and the one that saddens my heart the most… tomato sauce. Let me tell you, we eat some tomato sauce around here. While there is no evidence of an Italian gene anywhere in the family DNA, you’d never know it from watching our table. We swore off jarred pasta sauce years ago because I felt that I could make something tastier for less money (true), but I understand the convenience that a jar of tomato sauce may represent in your house. The truth is, however, simple tomato sauce is just not that difficult to make, and if it saves you all that sugar (and a lot of fat in many cases), why not give it a go? We have come to love Deborah Madison’s version of simple tomato sauce because it has a minimal number of ingredients, is quick to prepare, freezes beautifully (time saving score) and is very adaptable. It is also extremely low in sugar. Deborah Madison’ version includes canned (or boxed) tomatoes, onion, garlic, olive oil, salt and pepper. In my house, we add basil and oregano because we can’t live without it.
SIMPLE TOMATO SAUCE adapted from Deborah Madison Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone
- 2 Tbs olive oil
- 1/4c chopped onion
- 2 cloves garlic, small (however you like to do it)
- 1 28 ounce can (or box) diced tomatoes (drained if you like really thick sauce)
- 1 tsp dry oregano
- 1 Tbs fresh or 2 tsp dry basil
- salt and pepper to taste
In a large skillet or pot, warm the oil over medium heat and saute onion for about 5 minutes. Add garlic and cook until fragrant (about 30 seconds). Add tomatoes and simmer for 15 minutes or until the sauce is a thickness that suits you. Stir in oregano and basil (if dry) and simmer for and additional 5 minutes or so. If using fresh basil, add just before serving. Salt and pepper to taste. Run through blender or food processor if you like smooth sauce. We like it chunky. Serve over your favorite pasta, rice, quinoa, bulghur, any other grain you can think of. It’s easy; it’s awesome and it does NOT have anywhere near as much sugar as a Twinkie. Bang, done.
So there you are, 4 more foods that won’t add much to your sugar count for the day. Not sure where to start? Feeling overwhelmed? Just pick one, any one, and start there. Maybe one food swap isn’t going to get you where you want to be, but isn’t it good to at least be moving forward (one teaspoon at a time as Big Sis would say)? Food changes that contribute to your health bear their own momentum. Starting is the hard part; hopefully somewhere in our Sugar Busting Series, you’ve been able to find first (or 12th or 50th) step that is not only easy, but delish.
We all know, when we look at that darling chocolate bunny with his sweet little food coloring eyes, that we are staring at the face of sugar. We probably don’t always realize just how much sugar is in many of the other foods that we eat. Hidden sugar is something that deserves a great deal of conversation because SO many of the processed foods available in American supermarkets are chock full of sugar. Big Sis gave you a list of the names of sugar so that you can start to look for it on labels. The nice folks at Huffington Post have put together a short list of foods that have more sugar than a Twinkie. That’s right a Twinkie, the centerpiece of the Twinkie defense, a junk food diet that interacted with depression in such a negative way that the accused was driven to double murder. In case you are too young to remember this, the accused was found to be incapable of premeditation because of his psychological condition, which had something to do with Twinkies…. No, I am not making this up.
Regardless of how you feel about the Twinkie defense, I think we can all agree that Twinkies are clearly on the high end of the sugar scale. The foods in the Huffington Post list have MORE. And they are (in no particular order): single serving yogurt cups, tomato sauce, granola bars, fat-free salad dressing, muffins, canned fruit, pre-packaged smoothies or smoothie mixes, and…. if you don’t guess it I’m going to be mad…. boxed cereal!!! Now, it is important to point out there are likely examples within all of these food categories that have less sugar than a Twinkie; the point here is that one might not expect to find that much sugar in these foods and yet many brands DO have an extraordinary amount of sugar in them. Check that label, and as the article points out, be sure to look at the serving size. If you use a quarter cup of tomato sauce on your pasta, I say you’re missing out on some tomato goodness. How much sugar would be in YOUR serving rather than the one the manufacturer analyzed? One solution to this particular hidden sugar problem is to read labels carefully and choose brands accordingly. The other solution is to make some swaps.
We’ve already covered cereal (mix it, raw oatmeal, Crock Pot oatmeal, cold overnight oats). You also know that you don’t need smoothie mixes because you can make your own flippin smoothies, thank you very much; and Big Sis gave you a superb dressing recipe. But WAIT you say, that is not FAT FREE dressing, and the one in the article is FAT FREE. OK, we’ll have a discussion about diet food at some point, but in the interest of giving you a swap that will fit that particular constraint AND drop your sugar, I’m going to give you another dressing recipe. Here it is:
FAT FREE SALAD DRESSING
- Rice Vinegar
- Soy Sauce
Yep, that’s it. No, it doesn’t matter what brand. Yes, you can use Bragg’s Aminos instead of soy sauce (and I would encourage that). Procedure? Bring the bottles to the table and shake a little of each on the salad. Done. Fat free dressing for less than a penny. No sugar. No, well, hardly anything really. NONE of the 8 skillion ingredients in most dressings. So if you haven’t taken a step yet, please, this is a baby step that does a lot. AND it saves you money – all the cheapskates say “Holla.” “HOLLA!” Pardon, there’s an active audience in my head.
Alright, so of the eight more sugary than a Twinkie foods that Huffington Post identifies, we’ve got three covered; I’ll give you one more today so we can call it half done. Deal? For our final trick today, we’re going to get you off candy yogurt. There are a couple of ways to do this. You can, as I mentioned in the beginning of the article, do a lot of label checking and simply find the one with the lowest sugar content. If you’re already there, or you are committed to a particular kind of yogurt, you’re going to want to choose Plan B – the mix it plan. Sound familiar? It’s exactly the same thing you can do to wean yourself or your children off of sweet cereal. So get the kind you or your kids like, and if you usually get yogurt cups because of a mobility situation, get yourself some kind of container that will seal in yogurt. There are plastic re-useable deals with screw on lids OR save a few condiment jars and use those. Mix that stuff. If you can, stop buying the mini containers of yogurt. Buy big ones; tell them it’s cheaper (which it IS) and slowly increase the ratio of plain yogurt to sweetened yogurt poo. Find a comfortable mix or take it all the way and eat it plain with a little fruit. Delish.
There 50% of that nasty sugar list done. Baby Steps all over the place. Wahoo!!
Looking around the blogosphere, it seems like sugar is on everybody’s lips… and no, I don’t mean they all just ate powdered donuts (please don’t do this). I guess what I should say is that sugar is on everybody’s mind; according to a growing number of doctors and research scientists, sugar is also on our hearts, our arteries, our cancer cells, our livers, our EVERYTHING. If you didn’t watch it, or haven’t seen it on some other blog since Sunday, here’s Dr. Sanjay Gupta’s story on sugar as a toxin. This is 60 Minutes, folks. Not a guru in Big Sur (no offense, California because I love you, this was useful as hyperbole only) describing his cosmic understanding of sugar. This is a conventional news outlet running a story on what many doctors think is the biggest health problem in the United States.
If you have the stomach for it, the 60 Minutes website has a few links to off-air conversations about sugar. The lead doctor interviewed, Robert Lustig, also has a longer documentary about the toxicity of sugar in the diet. There is a shorter version, with the a great explanation of the science for non-science folks by Underground Wellness. If you find ANY of these remotely convincing, you’ll be wanting to decrease your sugar intake pronto. So, we’ve decided to become a little more focused (say WHAT?!) in our posts for the next several days to offer some simple strategies to cut sugar in your diet. Not enough on their own, but baby steps are, in our collective experience, a good place to start.
So we began our Sugar Busting Series this morning with Big Sis’s post about the ease and wisdom of brewing iced tea for the road when traveling rather than guzzling sugar poo from a convenience store. In a perfect celebration of the upcoming calvacade of candy that is Easter in the U.S., we will be offering several more posts about increasing the natural sweetness of a less sugary life.
So I attended the twins’ pre-K Easter party today. Mercy. I actually really enjoy rooms full of pre-schoolers because I’m weird like that. I do have to admit, however, that my enjoyment becomes somewhat strained when we give them all a plate full of “treats” to eat and then set them loose on the world. The volume increase alone can be staggering. In my attempts to reinforce my kids’ good eating habits I usually feel like a Scrooge at all holiday affairs. Don’t get me wrong, I let them partake, but do a fair amount of talking beforehand and whatever meal they have before an event like this is exceptionally nutritious and my expectations for their participation in consuming that meal are very high. While the table of offerings at their parties have, thankfully, decreased a bit since the parties at the beginning of the year, it is still chock full of nibbles that my kids don’t usually get (including candy) and each of these parties includes some kind of take-away that also includes candy. … See, you’re even thinking I sound a little mean. And maybe I am, but I just don’t think a 5 year old needs to consume the sugary equivalent of a King Sized Snickers bar (and even I can appreciate the wonder of a King Sized Snickers bar) as an afternoon snack to celebrate Easter.
So in my concern about these dietary issues, I’ve assumed that I am alone, that the other parents think this is fine and dandy, and that I am the only one who thinks this whole equation doesn’t add up. But today I listened. Each of the parents that came to help was coaching children to take some of the healthy choices, pushing grapes and carrots and popcorn, eagerly offering water over juice boxes, placing limits on the time and amount of take away candy consumption that would occur. Sighing and shaking their heads as they watched the escalation begin. So I left wondering why, if we all think this is a bit much (as we seem to), we continue to do it this way? These kids are 4 and 5 year olds; wouldn’t now be the easiest time to train them NOT to expect all of the junk? Wouldn’t now be the time to develop family and community traditions that don’t require us to walk around harping after our children and thinking we didn’t pull it off anyway at the end of the day? Let me be clear; I am not suggesting that we stop having parties. And you should know from my earlier posts that I am also not suggesting that we ban chocolate. I just want to explore the scale. So many of our daily dietary choices are based on habits, and often on habits that are not particularly healthful. Do we continue to binge and to teach our children to do the same out of habit? And do we then grimace at the amount of noise and the tears that follow 40 minutes later when they crash?
Lest you all think that you should send my children Easter treats in the mail, I should tell you that next weekend, they will get Easter baskets and that those baskets will have some candy. A chocolate bunny, some mini chocolate bars, and some lovely white Jordan almonds. No high fructose corn syrup (which wasn’t THAT hard to do) and none of the food colorings that are on the Center for Science in the Public Interest’s “Food Additives to Avoid” list (this was harder). Their baskets will also have a small toy (thank you Legos). As for eggs we will, at some point, be dying eggs… I have yet to decide HOW we will be dying them as all of the “kits” also include “Avoid” colors. I am sure, however, that I will be able to convince my children that any method we choose for coloring eggs is fun. What 5 year old doesn’t want to do a messy art project as a family?
Should you do what I do? That’s not what I’m saying. Is all candy bad? I have NO idea (except about chocolate, which is good, plain and simple). I do know that for ME responsible parenting means trying to bring as many days as possible into some kind of alignment with my fundamental beliefs. I fundamentally believe that the additives in much of our food are cumulatively harmful; I actively stress the importance of teaching our children to eat better than we do. Celebrating a holiday does not mean giving up who I am, and who I want us to be. Separating our harmful habits from our cherished traditions may well help us to enjoy our holidays and celebrations even more, as ourselves, and as who we want to be.
So that’s my plan for the upcoming holiday. What’s yours? Is it what you want it to be? Are you celebrating by habit or by design? And, more selfishly, if you do something cool and food safe with eggs, do tell. Yes, there are millions of things out there on the web… Which are your favorites?