Tuesday, February 8, 2011

A Healthy Start Part 1: Sugar

Ever since I have become a mom, I am much more aware of food, what it contains, and where it came from. I have always been a fairly conscious eater, which explains why I stopped eating meat when I was 12, but as I have gotten older, I have learned more and more about some of the less talked about issues, which has drastically altered my view on food. Now that I am a mom I am especially conscious. I know that I don't always eat the healthiest that I can, and I know that this in part has to do with the junk food I have eaten over the years. My body craves it now. I wish that more than anything, my children will never have to feel this way. I know that all people don't have strong cravings like I do, but it has been scientifically proven that many substances like sugar, cheese, caffeine etc, are strongly addictive, and can be a hard habit to break. I believe that if we can give our children a good start in life, free of these addictive substances, along with a good knowledge base of why these things are unhealthy, they will stand a better chance when they get older. I believe that a large part of the problem with parents, is that they just aren't aware of the dangers. People are raised a certain way, and think that is the right way, or the only way. They don't question what the media or food companies are telling us. I question EVERYTHING. I know that it can be a little annoying to some people, but raising my son is the most important job that I have ever had, and I am not going to let other people's opinions affect my judgement.

What I really want to talk about is sugar. This is probably the most overlooked, widely accepted but dangerous "food" that we feed our children.White, refined sugar, contains no nutritional value at all. It has been stripped of all of the minerals that naturally occur in it, and because of that, it can actually strip your body of essential minerals. Your body needs these minerals to perform vital functions such as transmitting nerve signals, bone formation and oxygen transport. Sugar spikes the blood glucose levels, and then crash shortly after. This creates highs and lows, and can drastically upset our energy levels, and leave us feeling lethargic. Excess sugar can lead to diabetes, obesity and heart disease, just to name a few. Sugar hides in so many foods.... many that we would never suspect. Obvious sources are candy, pop, cakes, cookies, granola bars etc, but pre-packaged foods such as juice, canned sauces, dry cereals, soups, canned fruits, jam, etc are the culprits that people might not think of. Sugar can be listed as corn syrup, dextrose, fruit juice concentrate, glucose, high-fructose corn syrup, maltodextrin, maltose, and sucrose, amongst others. Children don't know what sugar is until they are exposed to it. They will never demand it or crave it, if they have never been exposed to it. Of course in a perfect world, we would be able to shelter our children forever, but unfortunately that isn't the case. They will at some point be exposed to it, whether it is at daycare, school, or at extracurricular activities that they attend. That is why it is important that we teach them healthy habits early on. Give them the tools so that they can make good decisions when the time comes. I have been accused of depriving my son because I don't feed him sweets or give him juice, and I think that is so ridiculous! Seriously? Don't get me started... haha. I also want to point out that just because you child isn't overweight, doesn't mean that they are healthy. I've known quite a few people who are skinny as a rail, but have super high cholesterol levels, high blood pressure, or diabetes.
So all in all, I just want people to become more aware of what they are feeding their children. I know that raising kids can be stressful, and you don't always have all the time that you'd like to. The best thing that you can do is feed your children whole foods. Cook from scratch whenever possible. Get rid of most of the pre-packaged stuff in your cupboards, read ingredients labels, get informed!  Plan ahead, and have healthy ingredients on hand so that you can make healthy meals. Avoid giving your kids cookies and candy, and give them healthy alternatives like fruit, nuts, raw veggies, and even home made "treats" that you have made, and know exactly what is in them. You can sweeten home baked goods with things like brown rice syrup, maple syrup, agave nectar and applesauce etc, and serve them in moderation. Set a good example for your kids. You'll be amazed at how they will follow your lead. I can honestly say that Hudson (my son), has never tasted a chocolate bar, cake, candy, pop, etc, and has only had juice (pure fruit juice of course), when he was sick, and couldn't eat. That earlier you start, the easier it is! You can do it! :)

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