...an eye-opening article that caught our attention this week.
It was written by Yoni Freedhoff, a Canadian doctor, who discusses how overconsumption of sugar has become a completely normal part of our culture.
Let's face it, the world is one giant candy store and we are surrounded by "sugar-pushers" every single day.
While we should only be consuming 6 to 9 tsp of added sugar each day, this can seem impossible when candy, cookies and other sugar-laden foods are put in front of us all day long! In this article, a family tried to track how much sugar was being "pushed" on their kids over the course of a year. And, this was in addition to their typical birthday and holiday celebrations. The sugar sources included family, friends, neighbors, coaches, teachers and others. The numbers were absolutely shocking...over 40 lbs. of sugar across more than 900 offerings! They estimated these offerings totaled 4,600 added teaspoons – or about 97 cups – of sugar!
These "sugar-pushers" are everywhere:
- Our schools, rewarding our kids for a good grade or good behavior.
- Our sports teams often serve up sugary drinks or processed snacks after the games.
- Our girl scout and cub scout troops offer cookies and other treats (and who can say no to an adorable decked-out girl scout selling Thin Mints?!).
- Our churches serve donuts and other sweet treats after church services and programs.
- Amazingly, some of our doctors' offices hand out candy as a reward for surviving a shot or an office visit.
- At family gatherings, sugar-pushers, also disguised as Grandma and Grandpa, load the grandkids up on sugary snacks to show their love.
More harm than good.
Each of these may have good intentions but collectively they are doing more harm than good. And, it's a reflection that we have created a society that has normalized the distribution of sugar and junk food to reward and show love to our kids. Of course, getting frustrated is not the solution, because those who give candy as a reward aren't intentionally harming our kids…they are doing it because it works and everyone does it.
If you think about it, we are all likely responsible for being sugar-pushers. Reading this article, guilt swept over us and we immediately realized that we are sugar-pushers too, especially when we hand out chocolate kisses or Smarties at the end of our 1st grade church class each week. Of course, we are not advocating that we need to eliminate all sugar, but it's too easy to rationalize "this one time won't hurt." Unfortunately, all those "one times" that occur throughout the day contribute to sugar consumption well beyond the recommended 6 to 9 tsp.
And, here comes the holiday season...the most sugar-filled season of all!
We all know Halloween is the unofficial kickoff for several weeks filled with parties and a frenzy of holiday eating that includes Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years. So, it's always a good time to remind ourselves that it is possible to enjoy the holidays without going overboard!
Especially during the holiday season, it's incredibly important to remember that added sugar is hiding in more foods than many of us realize.
And, too much sugar leads to many health issues such as excess weight, heart disease, stroke, diabetes, various cancers and other illnesses. See our coaching tip for more about added sugars and how to manage it!
So, what can we do to enjoy the holidays healthfully and NOT be a sugar-pusher?
The best place to start is at home:
- Read ingredient labels! Be aware of added sugars and questionable ingredients in foods you typically keep on hand…and look for healthier alternatives. Check out our coaching tip for great-tasting snack ideas!
- Limit the temptations you keep in the house. You can also store them in the back of your pantry or fridge, making the healthier choice the more convenient one.
- Be even more diligent about keeping healthy choices readily available. Keep your family and friends filled up on healthy foods so there is less room for the not-so-healthy options.
- Talk with your family about the importance of enjoying the holidays without going overboard. If you talk to them about eating just one dessert at the upcoming party, do this a day or two before the event so they can be thinking about what choices they are going to make.
And, how do we survive the food frenzy of the holidays?
- If you are hosting the party, check out these tips!
- If you are attending a party, be mindful of how much you are eating, mingle AWAY from the food, and give yourself limit on how much you will eat or when you will stop eating!
- Take delicious healthier food options to parties! Consider veggie trays, salads (the Christmas Quinoa Salad is always a hit), or dips such as hummus (Roasted Beet Hummus is vibrant and ideal for the holidays -- your friends and family will love it!).
- When you receive gifts of candy and sweet treats, allow yourself to indulge in small quantities or, better yet, share with others (encouraging them to indulge in small quantities)!
- For more helpful tips specifically for the holidays, check out our Holiday Survival Plan coaching tip.
We obviously aren't intentionally trying to harm our loved ones, but that may indeed be what we are doing with foods we put in front of them.
Being mindful – especially during the holiday season – is just the beginning.
Do you have a unique idea to avoid being a sugar-pusher?
How do you enjoy the holiday season without going overboard?