A couple of weeks ago, research journal Nature posted a scathing report on the evils of sugar and went as far as to recommend that sugar be regulated in a similar way to alcohol and tobacco products. I posted a couple of twitter links to National Post columns, one arguing in favour of the report’s findings and the other coming to sugar’s defence.
Both are great columns and while they focus a little more on the “regulatory” implications of the report, I wanted to (as a dad of two young girls, one who LOVES sweets), dedicate a little space for my own thoughts on the topic of sugar and kids.
In general, I’m not an alarmist and I don’t take extreme positions on things. I try my best to get information from credible sources, understand both sides of an issue and make my best decision.
I am no scientist, to be sure. And there’s been a lot of information over the years about sugar and it’s effects, particularly when it comes to kids, obesity, hyperactivity and other health issues like diabetes. We try our best to read the latest information and make informed decisions on what’s best for our kids.
However, in addition to reading information, we also take cues from real-life and (we like to think) common-sense. We’ve all heard about the studies that conclude sugar doesn’t lead to hyperactivity in kids. Uhh, yeah. In a lab, maybe. Funded by the Sugar Lobby. Staffed by Dr. Sugar, from Sugarville. The rest of us live in the real world where if you feed your kids a tower-sized piece of cake and ice-cream before bedtime, they’re not going to sleep anytime soon. We’ve seen it, time and again. I don’t care what your study says. (I said I wasn’t extreme. Cynical, maybe)
Having said that, our kids of course, eat sugar in various forms. Some natural (fruit, maple syrup), some – not so much (cookies, “treats”, etc). I don’t think it’s realistic to ban all sugar products from your kids (as some parents do) and neither do I think that kids should have free rein on snack and dessert choices. (hello, obesity). So that pretty much leaves moderation (I know, what a concept). “Moderation” of course, is the great, gray area where all of the liberties are taken. To the sugar-free family, one cookie a week could be “moderate” where the family with a freezer full of ice-cream figures a bowl-a-day is moderation. Size does matter, too – are we talking about a two-inch cookie or one the size of a dinner plate? (It’s still just one cookie!). Extreme examples, of course but you get the picture.
We do our best to give our kids a balanced diet of healthy, scratch-made foods every day. Our older daughter (6) will also have a couple of sweet-things daily, whether it’s Gram’s cookies, a bit of chocolate or some ice-cream. Of course, there are occasions when there’s a party, Christmas or Halloween where the sugar factor is ramped up and she’ll have more than what she would on a “normal” day. We don’t sweat it too much because we know that day-to-day, she’s a pretty healthy eater.
What it comes down to for us is that we don’t hold ourselves to “absolute” rules. We have a general philosophy – in this case, “Sugar is not great for kids” and we do our best to balance healthy eating with “moderate” servings of sweet-treats.