Sugar is everywhere and I don’t want my daughters eating it. I have my reasons for believing sugar is making people unhealthy (science has reasons for it too).
The teachers at school hand it out. The bank has a bowl of it. The physical therapist has a bowl too… Seriously I can’t think of many events- even small ones- without sugar. A few days ago we went for our weekly swim at the YMCA and they had a table full of cupcakes and cookies for sale. It’s everywhere.
We eat some sweets- as you might have noticed on my blog. But we keep the sugar content low and use less processed sweeteners (like honey). And the kids don’t have treats everyday. Currently I am nearly sweetener free altogether and feeling great (more on that another day).
So, at first I packed my daughter alternative treats, always had some handy, to be sure she wouldn’t be “left out”. That seemed like a good idea at the time and I still plan to do it for special occasions like birthday parties.
But here is the thing… The question I asked myself: Do I want to teach my daughters that fitting in is important? Do I want to teach them that they must have a treat every time someone else does? Or every time a treat is offered? For me the answer is NO to all of those! I would love for them to be confident enough to NOT do what everyone else is doing. To look after their own health above social acceptance. And I hope that gentle lessons now will translate in other peer pressure situations as teenagers.
People have said to me, “She is going to get older and eat whatever she wants soon enough.” (Their point: Why bother restricting now?) Well, do you just hand your 13-year-old a pack of cigarettes because soon enough they will sneak off and smoke with their friends? I hope not! Of course my daughters will eat how they please later in life. Now is my chance to influence their tastes, share my beliefs, and feed their growing bodies the best that I can.
Will I deliberately make my kids social outcasts? Of course not! But in small ways I hope to show them that it is OK to be amongst other people and not be the “same” as those people.
I know I am not perfect, and I certainly don’t mean to imply that other people are parenting “wrong” if they do things differently. Really I want to point out that it is our (parents) opportunity to teach our small children the beliefs we hold dear. Sometimes we get off track by peer pressure too. I am reminding myself that it is OK to NOT “fit in”.
How you are raised sets you up for your life choices later on. They girls might indeed go exploring with their tastes but you will be surprised at how the food that they were raised on will be their norm. Only a good mother would care enough to make sure that her children had healthy foundation blocks before they got that right to choose. So many children these days don’t get that privilage.
So true! I went off and ate a bunch of sugar as a teen, but my mom raised me on mostly no sugar (as a small child). Obviously I came around sooner than later!
I was raised on good home cooking and did the same with my children and now that they are adults they are very experimental cooks (my daughters are going through a Korean phase at the moment) that cook healthy veggie rich food. I really think it comes back to what you give your children when they are young and you have been setting your children an incredibly positive foundation no matter what they choose to eat as they get older…their foundation blocks will be healthy :)
Hi Dawn. I could not have said this better myself. I agree with everything you said. I feel the same exact way…100%. Really and truly. Let me just say, I do now allow my daughter (or son) to eat the sugar laden candy that others around her are eating. This is how it’s been her entire life. And at almost 7 years old, she knows. She does not know deprivation (because I always have healthy, homemade, cane-sugar treats on hand) – what she does possess is the power of choice and why those choices are important. She knows to look me to first when someone hands her candy, and politely decline. She knows I don’t allow desserts before meals such as lunch or dinner. She has learned, not only these behaviors, but WHY they are important. She understands at 7 years old that sugar (white, refined sugar found in most products) is not a good choice for her body. Because she is empowered with information, she knows she is not being left out for some arbitrary reason, she knows she has access to so many treats at home, in her lunch,when she goes on play dates. But she also knows that she might NOT always have something when someone else does. At only 7 she is making great choices and I am so proud of her. I used to feel like I was being a bad mom, like I was not allowing my children the “joys in life” like a candy bar, a dairy laden milkshake, skittles, etc. But the reality is, and like you, I am instilling some major life lessons and good habits in my children. I am over feeling like an anal mom. I know I’m not – and I know you are not. It’s nice to connect with others that share the same convictions about food. It’s nice to feel understood. I respect your philosophy and I wish more people were as diligent about teaching their children about food…and at an early age. My son, at almost 4, had learned to wait! When everyone might be eating gluten pretzels, or a big gluten, dairy, and sugar laden cookie, he has learned to wait. Wait until we get home to have one of his treats. He might have a little cry, but then he is over it, and I will hand him a banana. You know kids are always snacking….always eating. And they like to share. My son is slowly learning that he may not eat from others. It’s as simple as that.
I am deathly allergic to peanut butter/peanuts and I remember having to pass things up ALL THE TIME as a child. I did not feel jilted. I had never tasted it before (a snickers bar, for example), so I didn’t know what I was missing…but I did know that I would be sick as a dog and end up in the hospital with a bunch of shots if I ate it. I just ate other things. When all my friends has pb&j’s, I had a turkey sandwich. I don’t think we, has humans, feel deprived or envious when we have alternatives available, or a good understanding about why we can’t have what’s in front of us. It’s not a punishment if it’s from a place of goodness and caring. I think that’s a big difference. I say all this because I’ve had strangers say, “Oh that’s so sad, poor thing,” when I say my kids don’t eat (or can’t have) candy. Poor thing! Are you freakin’ serious. So, you feel sorry for my kids because I am not giving them toxic candy full of food dyes, refined sugar, preservatives, and chemicals. This is what we are up against. I say, keep fighting the good fight and stand up for what you feel is right. My children are exceptionally happy, loved, healthy and thriving…and their well being is directly related to their diet. :-)
Okay, wow, this was long. But I feel like this subject is so near and dear to my heart, Dawn, and so thank you for writing this post. I want to close with one final thought. I choose to surround myself with friends and families with similar values about food. So this eases a lot of the stress. I hang out with other families that don’t allow their children to eat candy on Halloween, or drink coke, or eat fast food, or consider Oreos a healthy snack. It really helps.
Keep up the great work, Dawn. You are doing a great service to your children. They will be healthier and smarter for it!!!
Amber thanks for all the love! My favorite quote from you, “Poor thing! Are you freakin’ serious. So, you feel sorry for my kids because I am not giving them toxic candy full of food dyes, refined sugar, preservatives, and chemicals.”
Dawn, thanks so much for this! You are so right about sugar being everywhere. We say: every family is different, and in our family we eat these instead. Many (most) children have some way that they are different (family composition, race, income, handicap, appearance), so that food is just another. One reason that sugar is everywhere is that it is cheap (due to govt subsidy) and people believe it to be an easy expression of love. I had rather enjoy my love and food in other more life-ful ways. I agree that having delicious treats at home really helps and know that teaching good taste at an early age is a real gift to my child.
Now, how to get this across in my kindergarten class. The students are exposed to so much unhealthy food (either from home or the cafeteria) and we struggle as teachers to educate them and their families but the diversity of life styles is HUGE! I want healthy and vibrant students who can learn the basics of nutrition and the fun of healthy life styles, that’s all, really! Given the right diet, learning everything else comes easily and happily! Hats off to the parents who, like you, really show they care. I must confess to salivating when I see the amazing lunches of select students – I will be promoting your book and blog, believe me – and thanks to you and your bloggers!
Thank you very much for your comment. It is great to know that teachers like you are out there- caring about what the kids eat! I admire anyone who can wrangle a room full of 5-year-olds. My younger daughter’s first day of Kindergarten is next month!