It's that time of year again when our normal sugar (over)consumption is going full throttle - say hello to Easter with all its sugar traps!
I always have to smile when people say: "But it's only one day, Bettina."
Well, if that were really the case, I wouldn't have a problem at all.
Unfortunately, it is more the case that vast amounts of sweets that children are given for holidays like Easter cannot even be eaten up in one day by the most ambitious sweet tooth. Believe me, I’ve tried…
Rather, it is the case that the leftover sweets are consumed for months to come.
Plus, sugar lurks in so many unexpected places like tomato sauce, ketchup, bread, cereal, seasonings, baby food, flavored yogurt, jam and beverages (just to name a few).
The main problem is that all the sugar adds up!
It wasn't until I became a mom that I realized that the big holidays always seem to revolve around food!
And not just any kind of food…junk food, of course.
Building family traditions around specific meals is invaluable to me.
However, I often wish the holidays weren't so focused on foods containing white flour and sugar — or worse — store-bought candy.
My son is now old enough and has been seeing the department store shelves filled with Easter treats for months.
Although I have a certain toughness when it comes to the topic of snacking and really don't let myself be persuaded easily, I find it difficult to simply ignore the bright eyes of children who wish for one (or more) chocolate bunny from the Easter rabbit.
Of course, as a mom, I'm totally conflicted.
Because on the one hand I don't want to put sweets in the Easter basket, but on the other hand I don't want to disappoint my child either...
By the way, it's not like I don’t give my son candy for these holidays.
It's just that he not only gets them from me but also from kindergarten, grandma, aunts etc. who don't consider the health consequences this has for our children.
Why do children like sweets so much?
Children quickly develop a taste for sweet treats.
That's why I always tell my baby-moms to keep their babies and toddlers away from sweets for as long as possible.
The fact is, if we didn't stop our kids, most of them would eat sweets out of measure.
In this context, I often get the question:
"If children have an innate ability to choose the food their body needs, why are they so hell-bent for these unhealthy snacks?"
In fact, we must turn our attention to the theory of evolution to answer this question.
Sugar or glucose is a vital nutrient for our body because our brain feeds exclusively on sugar.
In other words, we need sugar to develop and survive.
However, refined sugar is not well suited to do the job. Why this is the case provides enough topics for another blog article, but would lead too far here.
But now back to our ancestral baby, let's call it "baby Flintstone".
Baby Flintstone grew up without sugar, chocolate or other “junk food”.
The sweetest thing that was available to baby Flintstone was mama Flintstone's breast milk.
And that sweet flavor imprints in our babies.
The sweet taste is the first thing a child gets to know and is therefore always associated with security and trust.
Other natural sources of sugar were fruits and, in rare cases, honey.
Fruits gave the prehistoric people valuable vitamins and thus a survival advantage.
Consequently, an innate fondness for sweets helped our ancestors choose a diet that ensured their survival.
We still carry this legacy of taste preferences within us, but it no longer makes much sense or rather tempts us to eat unhealthily.
Long story short: Unfortunately, you can't rely on your child's instincts when it comes to sweets.
However, if you offer them a selection of healthy foods, they may very well make the right choice.
Sweets make your child sick
In my work as a pediatric health coach and TCM practitioner, I always see an increase in upper respiratory and other ailments right after the holidays.
I blame it on over snacking on sweets during the holidays because sugar is a huge immune suppressor.
Did you know that within 30 minutes of eating sugar, your white blood cells' ability to "eat up" viruses and bacteria trying to get into your body decreases by 50%?
And this effect lasts for at least 5 hours!
For children with healthy immune systems, the occasional consumption of sugar is not a problem.
For children whose immune systems are already weakened or depressed, in example children who suffer from asthma, allergies, skin problems, or digestive problems, overindulging in sweets during the holiday season can lead to a flare-up of symptoms that lasts for weeks.
Eating sugar in bulk like most kids do during the holidays is a really BIG strain on the little ones' bodies!
The pressure that's put on parents for not allowing their kids to eat sweets and junk food is the other side of the problem.
That's when you get accused outright of depriving your kids of childhood fun and joy of the holidays!
It is particularly difficult when this comes from your own partner or family members!
But honestly, is it fun to spend the day with your child in front of the inhaler?
Or staying up all night with a coughing child?
Or having itchy, scratchy skin?
Or spending hours massaging your child's aching stomach?
You're the one who stands by your suffering child when they're sick - not the aunt who put the twentieth chocolate chip cookie in their mouth at the family gathering.
We all know the long-term consequences of excess sugar consumption, the reasons why sugar is bad - tooth decay, diabetes, obesity, behavioral problems, etc.
But did you know that consuming high amounts of sugar can have immediate negative effects on your child's health?
- Decreases their resistance to infections
- Increases inflammation in their body
- Negatively affects the good bacteria in their gut
- Feeding intestinal diseases like Candida (a powerful trigger for asthma and allergies, by the way)
All of that can trigger or worsen symptoms!
Plus, sugar is addictive - even more addictive than cocaine!!!
So how can you have a healthy Easter?
- Limit sugar first!
- Use small amounts of sugar alternatives (coconut sugar, real maple syrup, honey, stevia, agave syrup, and molasses)
- Clear the house of leftover candy right after the holidays
- provide healthy desserts to satisfy their sweet tooth (muffins, cakes, cookies, waffles,...)
- do a 48 hour sugar detox after the holidays
- put more focus on getting back into healthy foods once the holidays are over
Can Easter be fun without candy?
Now please don't get me wrong. I also appreciate the occasional sugary treat.
The only problem I see with that is the wide range in defining "occasionally."
For some parents, that means once a week, for others once a day, and for others it means after almost every meal.
Easter can still be fun without the sugar overload. Create your own Easter traditions that don't revolve around sweets.
You're not a bad mother if you don't shower your child with sweets at Easter.
So have fun together – and feel good about it!
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