Purging Sugar Part 3: Kick Your Kids’ Sugar Habit

Now that you’ve identified how much sugar is in your life, and how you plan on changing that fact, it’s time to focus on getting kids off sugar.

I know that some people might read this and say “well kids like sugar, kinda silly to deny them that” and I would agree, to an extent. Sugar is ubiquitous to childhood – birthday parties, Halloween, Easter, Christmas cookies, endearingly watching Willy Wonka’s near-murder of 4 random children – sugar is everywhere to a kid. But all of those things existed 30 or more years ago, so why is the childhood obesity rate nearly three times what it was in 1970?

It’s a complicated topic and there’s no clear one answer. Factors include:

  • A trend towards a more sedentary lifestyle
  • Less school time focused on play and exercise (many schools around the country have cut recess and PE in favor of spending more time devoted to passing standardized testing to improve grant funding)
  • Less families are spending time cooking and eating together, two factors that absence of which leads to more fast-food eating, more overeating, and less attention to nutritional emphasis versus simply eating to have eaten
  • More processed food consumption, which means more processed carbohydrate and sugar consumption
  • Little-to-no nutritional education in schools at any level, and misguided or unclear governmental information on the nature of healthy eating (emphasizing grains over proteins and healthy fats, for instance)
  • Massive funding put into advertising garbage food towards kids, as well as the part food lobbies play in what your kids eat at school. In particular, comparing the average American school lunch to that of a peer in another country provides a stark contrast in nutrition-density, variety of foods, and the amount of processing involved.
sugar-free kids, low carb parenting
Luckily, my daughter doesn’t seem to like sugar much. My son, on the other hand…

 

There’s more to it – studies indicate children with parents who example unhealthy behaviors will adopt unhealthy behaviors themselves, but it’s not good to get defensive or hard on yourself for anything you’ve done in the past. The whole point of this series is to change not only your life but that of those around you who look to you for guidance; wife, husband, children, parents, neighbor, dentist, that shady guy down the street who always seems to have candy. Er, maybe not the last two.

I digress.

BUT as long as I’m on a tangent, I might as well keep going for a second and tell a story:

My Nickname Was Fat Tony (Because I was Italian, A Tony, But Yeah, Also Fat)

I was a fat kid from about 4th grade until now-ish. I didn’t have a lot of nutritional guidance and what I did have was terrible, aiming me towards plain carbs because fat is evil. My mom and grandma were convinced that I needed to exercise more, so I did and I never lost weight. In Health class we were made to believe that eating too much fatty food was the problem, so it was dry turkey sandwiches on wheat bread for lunch and cereal for breakfast, complete with the spit-in-God’s-eye that is skim milk. Nope, still fat (and angry). Finally my senior year of high school, I got a car, a gym membership, and just kind of stopped eating breakfast, cut down my lunches, and I don’t know what I did for dinner. Regardless, the combination of weight lifting, fasting, and just less calories in general helped me go from 300lbs down to 265 when I graduated high school. I wasn’t quite sure what it was that worked, so I kept it all up until a depressive period saw my weight SOAR to 450. But when I finally discovered Atkins and keto 10 years after high school and really started to analyze my eating (and losing weight), I looked back and realized why I was likely fat:

There was sugar in EVERYTHING, EVERYDAY. My mom and grandma never wanted me to drink soda, but I drank probably 50+ ounces of fruit juice daily. I had skim milk – usually several glasses – with every meal at home. I had a binge-eating disorder that caused me to cram cookies and candy down my gullet whenever I was by myself, but even aside from those events, I still had peanut butter bars, cookies, whatever at my disposal all the time. Pop tarts or cereal for breakfast (because I couldn’t eat more than 2 eggs a week due to cholesterol!) When I was in high school, I worked at a fast food Italian place local to Springfield, and I remember subbing their plain, sweet, white bread for garlic bread when I ate my MASSIVE bowls of rigatoni with marinara because the meat sauce had a lot of fat in it and WHY WASN’T I LOSING WEIGHT GOSH.

Point is, carbs were everywhere. I was drinking them, I was eating more of them so that I could “eat healthy”, and at a certain point I’m sure they were scurrying into my mouth as I slept. It’s no wonder I wasn’t losing weight.

This is a good time to mention that childhood diabetes rates are at an all-time high. In a journal published in Diabetes Care in 2011, it’s stated before 2001, only 3% of new childhood diabetes cases were type 2. For the record, type 2 diabetes is insulin resistance – your body stops reacting to insulin, causing chronic high blood sugar levels. This is opposed to type 1 diabetes, which is from a damaged pancreas and a non-production of insulin. For what it’s worth, type 2 diabetes used to be called “adult-onset” but that term has lost its meaning. Now over 45% of new childhood diabetes cases are type 2, and that number is growing. It’s projected that as many as 1/3 or even 2/3 children born in America will suffer from diabetes at this rate, and that’s pretty insane. For the record, diabetes is (type 2 anyway) completely preventable.  There’s not much out there about getting kids off sugar, because the understanding that sugar is the leading problem here isn’t widespread yet, but it needs to be.

If you’re not frightened at the prospect of the social impact of being obese for your child, consider the very real health ramifications of being obese, such as:

  • Significantly increased risk of lifelong obesity
  • Significantly increased risk of heart disease when diabetes occurs before the age of 20
  • Significantly increased risk of fatty liver disease, kidney disease, dislypidemia, polycystic ovarian syndrome, several types of cancer, stroke, diabetes-related amputation, etc.
  • Attention-related disorders
  • Mood swings, depression, tooth decay
  • I could keep going but I feel like the only thing worse than this stuff would be it literally turning your child into a bunch of snakes or pudding or something

Point is, you should be scared of these things. They’re very real – doctors are seeing cardiac patients in their twenties or teens for high blood pressure who have no family history or genetic component.

Make A Change

Fit2Father: One man's journey towards a healthier life and better parenting

I am not 100% advocating a keto lifestyle for your kids. It’s pretty hard and I’d no more recommend a nearly dogmatic approach to your children’s nutrition in keto than I would veganism or something. The main thing is assessing your kids’ diet – is it mostly processed? Is there just an insane amount of sugar? Do your kids have behavioral problems that aren’t quite clinical but are enough that you notice them?

Start by:

  • Do a journal – log your kids’ foods, at least what you can. Obviously older kids will be harder to pay attention to but the best bet would be to make this change while their young. Making notes about mood, activity, personality, etc will help you track changes that food makes in your kid.
  • Introduce healthy food slowly – make swaps. For our kids, we started small with swapping out their peanut butter (a go-to favorite snack) with plain, “natural” types that had literally nothing but peanuts and salt. They took to it just fine. Fruit replaced some candy and while fruit is pretty sugary, it’s 100% better than candy (in most cases).
  • Dilute fruit juices or try to phase them out altogether. Drinking calories is never productive. The same goes with pre-packaged “smoothies” – toss em.
  • Keep treats as treats. When your kids have candy every day, or cookies, or ice cream, it takes away from their special nature.
  • If you want some more tips, sign up for my email list and I’ll send you my “Breaking Kids’ Sugar Habit” download for free. It’s full of tips, tricks, and swaps to get your kids off their sugar addiction (and it might help you, too).

It’s no small feat getting kids off sugar, but every little bit you cut is a step towards better health for you and your family. Make the effort, get help, and change your life for good.

 

 

6 Comments

  • Stacey W Reply

    These are good tips. My son is a picky eater so we struggle with a lot of things. Thankfully he likes fruits and carrots. He has even been requesting strawberries for snack rather than junk food.

  • Wendy Reply

    Good tips.. I wish I’d known more when my son was younger but there’s still time to change habits. I’d like to sign up for your email list but not sure how. I’m on mobile so your site could be showing up differently.

    • Monechetti Reply

      That’s how I feel, Wendy – we were SUPER strict about our kids not having sugar, then we got a little more lax, and now our son LOVES sugar. Our daughter is far less inclined to eat it, but they’re still little, so there’s time to wean them from it.

      As for the email list, there should be a pop-up window that allows you to opt-in, but it might not show up on mobile. That said, this is the link to sign up: https://ambertemerity.leadpages.co/leadbox/143bbcd73f72a2%3A1263fbb32746dc/5717271485874176/ You can also download my free hormone hacking worksheet when you sign up; it’s good for getting a better understanding of how hormones play a role in body weight regulation.

  • Molly Stevens Reply

    You are so right in blaming sugar for the obesity epidemic and excessive consumption of sugar is proven to cause tooth decay, diabetes, heart disease, fatty liver and obesity. There are other conditions that are being studied such as cancer and dementia. I agree that in small quantities it is okay but Americans consume an average of 20 teaspoons a day which is toxic for humans. The worst offender is sugary drinks including so-called healthy juice. I love what you are doing with your children and how you have turned your life around. I try to keep my sugar intake low too but it is a challenge! I don’t eat much processed food and don’t drink soda or juice so that’s a big start. Great post, Tony. You cracked me up with your description of skim milk.

  • Silly Mummy Reply

    I have to admit that I don’t really worry about this with kids. I’m careful with salt, and I’m careful about them drinking water rather than juice for the sake of their teeth. I dont give them sweets, but I let them eat chocolate and biscuits. They eat lots of fruit, but preferably don’t drink it. Obviously I don’t let them drink fizzy drinks. I do agree that there are increasing problems with obesity, but I don’t believe that sugar, or carbs more generally, are the issue really. I think it is less active lifestyles and overconsumption. Children’s appetites tend to be geared towards the sweet and the carbs, and I think there is good reason for that. They need a lot of energy comparative to their size. Of course, it is preferable for them to be eating filling, slow burning carbs, but I don’t deny them treats (mostly for my sanity!), and I don’t worry that much one way or the other as long as they are active and their teeth are brushed. In my mum’s post war generation, the parents were advised to give babies and toddlers condensed milk! But people were much more active, and I think that is significant. What actually bothers me more, personally, is that in this drive to reduce sugar for kids over here (don’t know if you have the same there) they have started putting artificial sweeteners in so many things for kids instead of sugar. That really annoys me. I would far rather my kids have real, natural sugar than artificial sweeteners. Do you find that issue in the US? I agree about trying to reduce the processed foods – I tend to object to them more for high salt and often poorer nutritional value than fresh foods, but still reach the same conclusions about them.

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