Sugar. Addicted. Kids.

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What a sad state of health we are creating for our children. There are as many poor attitudes towards sugar (lollies, sweets, treats) and childhood as what there are junk food options in the supermarket. I see it all the time. Family can be the worst (no offence family – I love you….but) “sugar” represents memories, moments, emotions and happiness to people because it is wrongly (or not always consciously) used to gratify “occasions”.

It is used to celebrate winners, to compliment competitions, to share in the moment because that is what being an uncle/aunt/grandparent does. We spoil our children with sugar. We reward them by offering them sweets or junk food in a bid to win their affections. And kids dig it. Why wouldn’t they?

But it changes them, it affects their neurophysiology, it inflames their gut lining, promotes disease and infection, and most importantly ‘sugar’ saturates their taste receptors leaving children desiring more and more of the sweet stuff and less inclined to taste and appreciate ‘real’ food. That is the trap!

I hear it often. I see it all the time. And you know what? The kids are not to blame. Grown ups are. Especially when children are young, too young to make their food choices yet. I am not a purist. My kids eat (un-processed) sugar too. But I do not use it as an emotional reward. The greatest gift to your children is your affection, love and attention. Then comes the other stuff. Refined-Sugar-Free.

I have chosen to walk a road of well-being with my children. I choose to arm them with a food consciousness that will enable them to resist the lure of processed garbage that food manufacturers are selling for profit. More than that, I want them to taste food. Real food. I want them to appreciate the benefits of good food and why it is important to them. I encourage them to connect the food they eat with how their body grows. How it moves; runs and how they feel on the inside. In fact it is a conversation we have most nights at our dinner table. I do not hound my children to eat their vegetables. I speak of where the vegetable has come from, and that the Earth has made it. I speak of how it may help their skeletons to grow strong, their feet to run faster and their brains to learn how to read and write great stories one day. My role is to inspire their imagination and respect for that kind of food. Healthy food.

It is about attitude too. Healthy attitudes. And if I know one thing it is this: Children mimic our Attitudes – about almost everything, but especially food. If you want your child to love good food, then start eating it, and don’t just eat it, savour it! Visually enjoy it. They will want some too.

One of my most successful tips for introducing a new food to a toddler is simple:

Wait Till They Are Hungry.

You know yourself, that if you have been snacking all afternoon, dinner will not taste too great.

Now imagine being busy all afternoon and coming home to the most delicious new meal that smells great and looks mouth-watering. Even better everyone at the table enjoying it too!

Talk with them about the flavours, tastes and about how it was cooked and grown. Kids. Dig. That.

If grown-ups choose to feed their children processed, sugar laden, treats often enough it is all that child will desire and taste. Our collective physiology is changing right now. We are less physical and much more overweight. We are creating whole new disease syndromes in our bodies by the way we eat, when we eat, how often, and why. These are nutritional diseases of the 21st Century. We can change this. And it starts with us. You. Your children. In children’s lunch boxes. Their treats. Their rewards. Their emotional needs and how they are met.

Then there are the sports sponsorships. Imagine my grief when I saw that McDonald’s was sponsoring my son’s Under 6 soccer team with free Happy Meal vouchers. But that’s another story, for another day……….

Melanie Robinson is a Naturopath BHSc and a mother to 2 healthy little boys. She is presenter at Ignite 2015 and writer for Nurture Magazine. 

*This article was originally posted online by The Natural Parent Magazine, April 2013

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