Being a health-conscious food lover, it's hard to believe what my eating habits were growing up. As a child, I used to drink a soda for breakfast every day, followed by three more before 7 PM. Yes, I know; you're judging me. And I'm not proud of what I ate. In fact, I'm pretty embarrassed to admit it, but the truth is, I didn't know any better.
Nowadays, we all acknowledge that soda is laced with sugar, and we have seen its damages: tooth decay, weight gain, and hyperactivity in children, among other things. But you may be eating foods that are just as bad as soda. And even worse, you may be feeding it to your kids. Do you know what is in bread, cereal, peanut butter, processed meat, juices, and almost all kid friendly snacks? Sugar. And lots of it. Have you ever checked the labels or familiarized yourself with what a gram of sugar represents? I didn't. My parents didn't. We didn't check. We didn't even care. If a label said 23g of sugar per serving, it was meaningless. We were married to sugar, for better or for worse.
If you actually pay attention to labels, you will see that almost everything has added sugar. Even foods that don't need sugar have added sugar. And in case you were wondering what the big deal is, sugar kills. Maybe not today. Maybe not tomorrow. But it's proven that eating sugar in excess will lead to dangerous health risks, including diabetes, heart disease, skin disorders, mood disorders, and even cancer. It is not a coincidence that people suffer from more chronic diseases today than we ever have before. And I'm not only talking about people who are overweight! Getting your kids addicted to sugar at a young age will more than likely cause them to continue the eating habit well into adulthood with the inability to stop. Trust me, I know. I am an example of one of those people.
There is a huge misconception that we need sugar to fuel our bodies. We are taught this by large corporations that want us to eat their processed foods so they can make money at any cost. Simple carbohydrates, which turn into glucose too quickly, are often recommended for people who need that extra energy boost to get through their day. Who can forget the Snickers slogan, "Hungry? Grab a Snickers."? The myth that eating sugar is the best method for energy has been debunked, and it is proven that what we need to fuel our bodies is in fact healthy fat and protein as well as complex carbs! A low carb, high protein diet has actually been shown to reduce disease and supply plenty of energy throughout the day.
As a kid, I was very active playing sports and I had a high metabolism, so eating all that sugar didn't seem to matter. I looked and acted healthy so my parents didn't care about all the typical foods that were really just sugar vehicles. After all, they made me happy--to love and to cherish--and that's something I'm sure parents take into consideration. "My child loves cookies. Loves juice boxes. Loves cereal. Loves cake. Why should I not allow them when my kid is healthy?" If these statements sound familiar to you, I ask that you rethink what enters your mind and plan for the long term. You are setting your child up to fail in his or her food choices in the future because of a lifelong addiction to sugar.
It took me a long time to break up with sugar. Despite researching and knowing the truth about its addictive properties, I was in denial. I was hooked. My body needed sugar and it was almost impossible to give it up. I became extremely moody when I didn't have it, and the withdrawal symptoms were almost unbearable at first. But as I watched many people around me develop illnesses that were eventually cured by changing their diets, I knew I had to do something before my health took a turn for the worse. My body needed to become my priority. When I finally looked for healthy alternatives, I started to stray from the foods I once loved, and my separation from sugar began.
I know cutting out sugar is hard and I'm not suggesting you give it up altogether. But I am suggesting that you get rid of foods that provide no nutritional value whatsoever. It will be a struggle for you, just as it was for me. But there's still time to regulate what you are feeding your kids. I caught up with my addiction in time, but there are many people my age who have not, who will not, and who cannot. I can only hope that the next generation will learn from our mistakes, and as parents we will not unwittingly force our kids into an arranged marriage with food. If we are mindful of what we put in front of our children, they may actually have a shot at "happy and healthy forever."