I recently completed my fourth round of the Whole30. If you haven’t heard of it before, it’s an elimination diet that you do for 30 days to figure out what foods are causing inflammation and other bad stuff in the body. For 30 days, you abstain from: dairy, sugar, legumes, grains, soy and (this one hurts) alcohol. I always end up losing weight (5-10 pounds) but the real benefit is the increased energy that I feel when I don’t eat sugar.
On Day 29 of this last round, as I gave my son his fourth fruit snack before nap time, I started to wonder if my kids could benefit from less sugar. While clearly within the normal realm of toddler craziness, my kids’ moods do ebb and flow at a surprisingly dramatic pace. I strive to be an “everything in moderation Mom” and am not above bribing a child with a treat. However, I thought I was probably doing a good job as everything I gave them was organic and LOOKED healthy.
My curiosity sparked, I googled “how much sugar can toddlers eat”. According to this article from the American Heart Association, little people ages 2-18 should eat less than six teaspoons a day of sugar. That sounded like a lot to me, as I only put four teaspoons of sugar in the cornbread I make for football watching. I converted that number into grams and spent the next hour being horrified by the crap in my pantry.
The Z-bars that I gave to my kids when we were running late for school? 11 grams of sugar each. That’s almost half of their sugars by 8:30. The all-natural organic fruit strips I gave my son 4 servings of? 10 grams of sugar in every one. My apple juice lover was getting an astounding 28 grams of sugar in every serving of her organic healthy apple juice.
We needed to make a change.
I immediately purged the pantry of everything that had added sugars in it and threw out the juices. I went to the store and bought a TON of fruit – berries, pineapple, kiwis, and bananas. I explained to my toddlers that I discovered that certain foods were not very healthy for them and that we’d try to eat some other foods.
It’s been a week and our sugar detox is going pretty well. My daughter no longer asks for juice and is now enjoying her “Strawberry Water” (water with strawberries in it). Fruit snacks are a thing of the past, which has made my son’s nap time go much smoother. I might be crazy, but I swear they seem less moody and more stable. When we took a brief break for their birthday party and let them eat muffins and cake, I had to deal with epic meltdowns and a toddler brawl.
Sugar has been linked to obesity, diabetes, liver disease and heart disease. It does some pretty crazy things to your body and is also highly addictive. I have no illusions that my children will eat a TON of sugar in their lives, but I am glad to know what I do now about what is actually in the food that they eat and what is considered “safe”. Everybody deserves a treat now and then (especially a sucker or two) but check your labels and be mindful about hidden sugars in foods marketed as super healthy.