When he was small, my youngest son had a habit of filling his pockets with treasures he encountered in his daily adventures. I didn't always understand the value he saw in his chosen objects -- really, how many rocks and sticks could one boy keep? In his eyes, though, each one was beautiful and important. Life is just like that on a larger scale, isn't it? We gather up the precious bits of our experiences and save them all to learn from and enjoy later. Perhaps you'll find a little something here that you'd like to keep in your own pockets. Thanks for visiting.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Sugar overload

I've spent much of the last few days lying around my house sleeping or reading stuff, thanks to some nasty virus that has left me feverish, headachey, coughing violently, and completely wiped out.  Today I started feeling somewhat alive again, and an article I read on the CBC News site titled Kids are becoming candyholics, and adults are to blame has motivated me to share my own thoughts about our society's relationship with sugar.

Grocery store shelves today are lined with a multitude of sugar-laden foods (not just candy) that appeal to kids, both in taste and in packaging, and it seems as parents we have to work harder and harder to limit our children's consumption of these items to a reasonable amount.  Even parents who are very conscious of making healthy food choices for their families find their children bombarded with excessive sugar in the form of cupcakes, cookies, chocolate, pop, and candy given to them at school, during team activities, at parties, at the homes of relatives or friends, at the barber shop, and in any number of other places on a very regular basis.  While the notion of giving children a treat for a special occasion or activity is a nice one (and one I don't have an issue with), it seems to me that somehow EVERY occasion or activity now calls for A WHOLE BUNCH of treats, and it's not so special any more at all.

As an example, I spent this past Saturday at a First Lego League provincial tournament with Noah and Will and their team. It was a long and exciting day (we were there from about 7am until just after 6pm), and the kids needed to eat at regular intervals to keep their energy up.  I had packed a variety of healthy snacks and lots of water for the boys, and a lunch of pizza, cookies, and sweetened fruit flavoured drinks was provided for them by the tournament organizers.  I was fine with the boys having some items in their lunch that I wouldn't normally choose for them because I knew it was a rare occurrence, and I knew they'd be eating well the rest of the day.  But I wasn't fine when the treat total for the day started piling up dramatically. Throughout the tournament, the teacher coach and the parents of some of the other team members provided all of the kids with chocolate muffins, ice cream sandwiches, bags of chips, timbits, and handfuls of gummy worms. The kids also collected various mini chocolate bars and cookies from other teams who were giving these items away as a friendly gesture.  Will couldn't eat most of these things, thankfully (that's a whole other issue, by the way -- the feeling of being left out that kids with food sensitivities often experience when every activity these days seems to revolve around food treats), and I was glad to see that Noah, without any prompting from me, stopped accepting these treats after the first few because he realized he had had enough for one day.  But many of the other kids ate everything offered to them, a fact that wasn't surprising, really, since many of us adults even have difficulty saying "no thanks" when our sweet tooth calls out for more. Given the rise in health issues in children in recent years that have been attributed to excessive sugar consumption (tooth decay, hypertension, and obesity, to name a few), isn't it up to us adults to be more responsible about how much sugar we're collectively offering to kids (and to teach them about moderation by setting a good example ourselves?)

On a recent trip to the grocery store, I noticed a display table near the bakery department that was aimed at making people aware of how much sugar there is in some common foods found on the store's shelves. There were a variety of packaged food items arranged on the table, and beside each one was a clear plastic container that held a pile of sugar cubes that illustrated the amount of sugar found in that particular package.  It was a very effective visual demonstration, I thought, and I'm guessing many people who saw it would have been surprised to realize how much sugar they actually eat on a daily or weekly basis when they saw it presented that way.  I wonder, if we created a similar visual display of the amount of sugar our kids collect and consume in their various activities throughout a week, if we'd still think it was okay to let them have so many treats?

I think most of us, myself included, would agree that well-chosen sweet treats in moderation is good and healthy. Unfortunately, in a society where everything is super-sized and our appetites for consumption keep growing and growing, it seems to me that the definition of "moderation" has been inflated to really unhealthy proportions.


  1. Hear, hear. Great piece, Lisa. I'm on day 13 of a horrible flu, which I kept telling myself was a cold/bronchitis. I hope your is shorter-lived than mine. I was caught off guard, too. I don't normally get sick in the winter either.

    1. Thanks, Louise. And oh gosh, day 13!! You poor girl. :( I hope you are starting to feel a little better each day. The flu is not fun at all (and it gets tiresome pretty quickly when you can't function in the ways you need to!). I saw your photo on Facebook of all of the books you had read recently -- I am following your lead and using this down time to dive into some great reads. Silver linings, right? :)

  2. It is amazing how it can all add up. I struggle with finding the balance for sure with B. His friends at school have Bear Paws and all kinds of snacks like them and I always feel bad when I send him with brown rice cakes.

    1. That definitely is a challenge, when kids notice what treats their friends are bringing to school and start asking if they can eat those, too. I think it opens up an opportunity for great conversations with our children, though, about why we eat the way we do, and a chance for them to understand that each family/individual makes choices based on what they feel is best. I think it's good for kids to be in situations that allow them to realize they don't need to be the same as "everyone else" -- it can build character and self-confidence. :)

      That being said, I do make healthy baked goods that my boys really enjoy, and I send them to school with something homemade every day. That way they can have "cookies" or "granola bars", too, but they're ones I can feel good about sending with them. Win win! :)