At Issue: Should Sugar Be Banned In Schools?

sprinkles-339270_640The war on sugar is full force. It seems impossible to turn on the news, stroll the supermarket or host a playdate without the topic of sugar rearing its head. In particular: kids’ consumption of sugar.

Recently a neighbourhood school has made a push to greatly reduce the amount of sugar permitted. Let’s face it, any time someone talks about banning, prohibiting, eliminating . . .people get feisty.

Efforts to reduce sugar in schools has been around for years, and in the case of a Georgia school, more than a decade. Proponents cite better overall health, fewer behavioural problems, and increased concentration to name just a few of the benefits. Principal of sugar-free pioneer school Browns Mill Elementary School said that within 6 months standardized test scores increased and behavioural incidents decreased. In time, students came to learn how to make good food choices and now broccoli is a favourite in the cafeteria. Advocates know that this is a huge undertaking – but they are playing the long game; quick to point out those efforts to reduce tobacco use in younger people has been successful over decades.

Nonetheless there are several opponents of the idea to limit sugar in schools, including researchers who report findings that suggest banning sugar in schools has little long term effect on a child’s overall sugar consumption and that changing attitudes in the home have a more lasting impact. In fact, Dr. John Sievenpiper says that negative messages like “don’t eat fat”, “don’t eat salt”, and “don’t eat sugar” may be doing more negative than good. He goes as far to blame the “don’t eat fat” message that was sweeping the nation in the 80s and 90s as one of the reasons for the current obesity epidemic. MaryAnn Tomovich, MS., RD agrees and believes that banning any specific food group creates a culture of fear and does nothing to ultimately educate our children. She, along with Dr. Michael Alderman, is a fan of the U diet: the basis being healthy, nutritious foods but allowing for some indulgences.

I am no health expert and my statistics grades will attest that a profession as a researcher is not in my future, but I do know parents. And I know how to quickly polarize a group of them.

So what do you think? Should schools ban all sugar? Are vending machines ok to get the heave-ho but school birthday cakes allowed? If a teacher gives out lollipops after a test or uses candies in a counting lesson, should they be reprimanded? Classroom parties: yay or nay in the presence of anything other than pretzels and veggie platters? What about fundraising? Fun Fairs? Bake sales? Is water the only acceptable beverage in the lunch bag?

Where is the line drawn and furthermore, who decides?

This week 4Mothers offers up our opinions and on Friday we’re joined by the dynamic duo Leigh and Meg of the blog Me and Meg.

As always we want to know that you think. What’s going on at your child’s school? Are you in favour of an all-out ban, gentle moderation or leaving it up to a parents to decide what is and isn’t too much sugar?

Join the conversation by leaving a comment on the blog, Facebook or Instagram.

For more reading:

(2014) Why Our Low-Fat, No-Sodium, Ban-Sugar Society May Be Making Us Fat

(2011) Banning Sugared Drinks in Schools Doesn’t Lower Student Consumption

(2011) Why Banning Foods In Schools Sends Kids the Wrong Message

(2008) 10 years later, school still sugar free and proud

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Beyond the Detox: the Bigger Picture of Diet

vegetable-755723__180There’s a difference between diet (the food that one eats) and dieting (restricted intake of food).  I haven’t tried the latter since I was 16 years old (lasting about 2 weeks), and I don’t pay much attention to other societal dictates around female beauty (fashion, cosmetics, hair, pedicures, the spa). But I am very interested in diet in terms of what I’m consuming, and how it affects me and my environment.  I am not at all casual about food.

So it bothers me when I do not follow my better intentions around eating.  I eat quite healthfully, but often to the point of being stuffed, and I’ve often wondered if I’m just plain addicted to sugar.   I sometimes don’t even enjoy or really taste the big bowl of chocolate almonds or ice cream that I’ve been reaching for on a regular basis:  I’m just downing them.  I know why I do it:  misplaced gratification, pacification, fatigue.  And habit, especially habit.  I’ve been on a bit of a downward spiral that’s been hard to stop.

I decided to do something about it.  Take ownership, if you will.  There are many roads to Rome, but for me, a general desire to eat sensibly most of the time, and consciously enjoy occasional treats, just wasn’t taking hold.  I needed a jumpstart, more structure, something with a little flair.  I needed a tool. So I’m doing (currently on!) my very first detox.

I’m in the first week (of four), and have been eliminating alcohol, caffeine, gluten, dairy and sugar.  I was most worried about giving up my sugar, but actually it’s the gluten I’m missing the most – I really love a good bread and it’s wonderful filling feeling.  But when I feel limited, I think about what I can eat:  rice, corn, potatoes, eggs, seafood, meat (although I don’t), nuts, legumes, quinoa, soy, all fruits and vegetables (and I am eating plenty of all of this – no calorie reduction here), and at this point the concept of deprivation becomes a bit absurd.  (I just read The Little House Cookbook after Nathalie recently mentioned it on our blog, and the book is an eye-opener on what a restricted diet actually means.)

In addition to creating a sharp break in the habit of crappy eating, I wanted to see if the detox could reveal anything about how my body responds to certain foods, so I really like the idea of eliminating certain foods for a short period (2-3 weeks) and re-introducing them one by one.

I am in good health overall, but I no longer have the bravado of my 20s (when I was really quite fit and eating well) nor the nonchalance of my 30s (when I was riding the coattails of my 20s).  Why is it that my knees hurt as much as they do?  Is mental alertness a thing of the past?  More basically:  why don’t I feel that good most of the time?

I actually suspect that sleep and lack of exercise have more to do with the way I feel than the five foods I’m eliminating for three weeks.  In a nasty flashback to baby/toddler days, my 7 year old woke up every hour or so last night for no better reason than a common cold.  But this I don’t have much control over, unlike the foods I put in my mouth, many of which haven’t been helping matters.

I used to feel really good.  I remember the vitality of that.  I’m not a believer in turning back time, but I want some of that energy again and know with some work that I can have it.  I also really, really want to avoid finding myself in a medical office of the future, beseeching some doctor to take care of my body when I haven’t done so myself.

Focusing energy into one’s diet and well-being can be a liberating thing.  Liberating from old habits, a slump, and if you really do have an intolerance, from a lifetime of discomfort or worse.  I see the detox as an invitation to help me live closer to my intentions – there’s a bigger picture to the smoothies.  I’m not talking about manipulating myself toward some skinny idyll in the media (which I hardly tune into).  I’m talking about feeling great in my own body.  Diet is a necessary part of this goal, and I’m in.