I'm a pretty strict mother when it comes to sugar. I wasn't always this way. There was a time when I would, without a second thought, whip up a batch of brownies to satisfy my cravings and happily serve this to my children.
Ah, the good old days (smile).
The further we have journeyed in learning about our health and actually applying that learning to our living the more we have removed refined sweets - of any kind - from our usual diet. This includes white sugar, honey, molasses, brown sugar, sucanat, brown rice syrup, etc... (PS. some recipes you'll find in Vegan Eats & Health still feature these ingredients from when I used sweeteners on a more regular basis).
Foods made with refined sweeteners make it into our diet a couple times a week. Pancakes and maple syrup, a special outing to the bakery/craft co-op, a meal at friends, a pie prepared for a weekend celebration. Not all in the same week of course! Just giving some examples.
At their best, refined sweeteners don't have enough nutrition to justify eating them on a regular basis (or at all). Our goal is to maximize nutrition, to give our bodies the best possible fuel and keep healthy for the short and long term. At worst, refined sugars (and I don't just mean white sugar) suppress the immune system and promote inflammation, among other things. In short, they make us sick.
Even if half the bad claims about sugar aren't true, after all there are studies to support any theory, sugars just aren't nutritient dense enough to make them a part of our regular diet. So we don't. But man oh man, is it hard sometimes.
We don't raise our kids in a bubble and in years past, when they were really little and I wasn't as savvy about the connection between sugars and illness we participated (with sugar high glee!) in Halloween trick or treating. They know what Halloween, in our culture, is all about. It's simply an excuse pig out on sugar.
And so here I am stuck between a rock and hard place. I'm the mean mother who severely rations refined sugars in regular life - we eat whole food cookies and smoothies instead of baking and I've adapted favorite recipes over and over again to eliminate sweeteners. And dropped many old favorites all together.
But I don't always want to say no to my kids, you know? In our own home (when we aren't living with other people who have different ideas about sugar) I don't have to say no as often. It's just not in the house. That's the real key.
But saying no to Halloween is hard. Especially if I'm not willing to come up with some other cool alternative, and this season I was not. I'm also not willing to buy candy off my children (just to throw it away) or trade candy for goods. Trust me, they don't need more "stuff", including craft supplies, of any kind.
So I said yes to Halloween. Specifically, a party at a local church with games and activities. A good compromise I thought to cruising the neighborhood begging for candy. My kids LOVE to dress up and who wants to deny them that? They worked all week on their costumes and were so excited about that part. They were also admittedly excited about a temporary lift on the sugar ban.
The kids ate a surprisingly little amount of candy - a couple handfuls at the party. At the end of the festivities we let them bring home only what they could carry in one hand. And they didn't even push it.
They didn't eat much, compared to the good old days of a candy basket sitting for weeks on the counter, but it was enough. Brienne caught a bug from either the kids at the party or friends that came for supper the next night, and by early in the week she had a sore throat, that progressed to an ear ache that has now settled into a persistent cough. Lovely.
And so here's what really rips me off about sugar - I'm damned if I do, and damned if I don't.
We place firm dietary boundaries in our lives to protect our health and build immunity. If I never relax those boundaries for special occasions the kids will feel like they miss out on all the fun, or worse rebel. Sneaking sweets, lying, etc. I've seen and read about this kind of behavior. I don't want that.
The problem is, there are just so many damned special occasions in our society where people want to shove sugar in our faces. Yes, I feel very strongly about this, strong enough to almost swear. I'm holding it back so I'm not embarrassed when Celine reads this later.
I get tired of being the "no" mom.
Sugar is fun (at least it looks fun, all bright and shiny or dark and velvety - depending on your poison) and celebrations are fun.
But being sick is not fun. It wasn't fun for Brienne and it wasn't fun for me as her primary caregiver. Personally, I don't think it was worth the sugar-fest. I'm not sure what Brienne thinks (she has a serious sweet tooth) but you can be sure we'll be reminding her of this week when she pushes the sugar boundaries in the future.
What we eat affects our health. There is no way around this fact.
I'd like to conclude this little rant of mine with a few health related posts from my blog world:
- Firstly, we love Dr. Fuhrman's stuff. This man actually heals people from real diseases with diet and his teaching has changed our life, for the better. This Holiday Post from Disease Proof is a very thought provoking look at the holidays, when sugar consumption is at an all time high and we basically sabotage our own health and well being. And we wonder why we get sick in the winter? Hello!
- On a related note, we just bought for our Kindle the newly released book of Dr. Fuhrman's Super Immunity: The Essential Nutrition Guide for Boosting Your Body's Defenses to Live Longer, Stronger, and Disease Free. This will be a winter read for me. I need to read this.
- Jennifer at Kidoing recently posted a great sugar-free caramel dip recipe (yum) and pointed me to another resource - Bake With Dates. Hum... maybe I'll do some holiday baking after all. While we're talking about Jennifer's blog I love this Halloween Post-Mortem including a healthy hot cocoa recipe and these questions: "If we know something is not good for us, why do we think that “treating” ourselves to it is really a “treat”? Isn’t it more that we are “treating” ourselves poorly?" I LOVE these questions.
- Keeping your Family Healthy During Cold and Flu Season has some good herbal and nutritional strategies for keeping healthy, including avoiding sugar. See, I'm not the only crazy one.
- When Brienne started getting sick last week I went back to this article I bookmarked earlier this month, Natural Remedies for Cold and Flu Symptoms. In addition to my homemade herbal remedies we used salt water gargle and garlic. Lots and lots of garlic. Garlic oil for her ear (that part cleared up in one afternoon) and copious amounts of raw garlic in a pot of soup, which was no doubt good for all of us.
- This is my own Herbal Strategies for Winter Health post. I was glad I had elderberry syrup ready at hand.
As far as colds go, Brienne's was mild. But for a family used to excellent health, it was a pain in the butt. On those days when I just don't feel like cooking another meal, or washing greens I need to remind myself I'd rather spend time in kitchen than time treating illness.
How about you? How do you deal with living in a sugar-crazed society? What strategies do you use for keeping your family in good health through the holidays and winter?
If you are hard core I'd love to hear it. I need some support.