The War on Sugar-AHHHHHH By Guest Bloggers, Leigh and Meg

lollipops-602441_640Our guests this week are Leigh and Meg from the popular motherhood blog, Me and Meg. Leigh and Meg blog about ups and downs of motherhood with just the right amount of snark. They are witty, humble and kick-ass at Cross Fit (and other fitness-y things!). Think you’ve heard of them? I wouldn’t be surprised because they are contributors to Global Morning Show, Parentdish.ca and “What She Said” Canada Talks on SiriusXM Radio.

Thank you ladies for giving us your two cents on this topical issue.

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The War on sugar is real! We fight it daily with our kids. Our war consists mainly of our kids asking for some sugar-laden snack and us saying “no”.  We are very conscious of how much they consumer daily. That means water is what you can find in their bottles always and they rarely get anything at the arena snack bar – we are real drags as mothers.

It doesn’t stop at sugar, what about preservatives! There is a whole world of bad food out there worth avoiding….

What we have seen happen in our children’s school is an increase use of candy as a reward in class, quite the opposite of a sugar ban.

With so many “fads”  one can prescribe to now and ever-changing research on the food industry it’s difficult to say what is the right choice or the “most” healthy for our children – just ask a vegetarian or talk to someone who adheres to a paleo diet. Could you find a larger chasm in what is nutritional and optimal for our health than that? Recently we read that it’s not sugar itself that is the nasty school yard
bully but sugar and fat TOGETHER. Right okay. Like ice cream, give us some. Our kids go crazy over it too. Do we think it’s bad for their overall health? No.

Do we think a world where schools do not allow sugar is the right choice? No, that’s ludicrous. The path to a healthy lifestyle involves moderation, which means having the odd juice box, and treat. We are better off teaching our kids what healthy choices are and empowering them to make well-balanced decisions.

The schools should focus on a holistic approach to health, remember getting changed for gym class? We do. Our kids don’t do that. Let’s bring back physical activity EVERYDAY in our schools and not make any one food forbidden.

As for the  birthday treats at school-we say skip those too.

Banning Sugar In Schools Doesn’t Teach Healthy Habits

cake-pops-684163__180Not that long ago there was some discussion at the neighbourhood school my boys attend, how to greatly reduce the amount of sugar the students were consuming while on the premises.

A naturopathic doctor, also a parent to two young boys, gave a compelling presentation about the health and behaviour benefits to cutting back the white stuff, and successfully riled up the parent population with suggested action items.

I don’t know much, but I do know this: one sure-fire way to ignite controversy and polarize a group is to change-up the status quo.

Back when I was a kid, we’d walk the ten minutes to school in the pouring rain toting our umbrellas and like a growing snowball collect kids along the way and after school we’d knock on doors, ride bikes and play a good old fashioned game of kick the can. Not really, but you get the picture. We weren’t developing carpel tunnel syndrome by age 12 and taking selfies to document every minute of teenage angst.

When I was growing up sugar wasn’t the evil, it was fat and cholesterol. A few spandex clad mothers could be heard espousing the benefits of the 20-minute work-out, Jane Fonda and the AB Roller while pouring a healthy dollop of Lite salad dressing over iceberg lettuce. Butter, eggs, oils, red meat, all of it was eschewed until the mid 90s when Barry Spears revolutionize the diet world with The Zone and all of a sudden steak and eggs reclaimed their clout in the grocery cart.

As a kid I enjoyed donuts, candies and cupcakes.   Mrs. Dickson used to make the best cupcakes, with lots of icing and sprinkles so when it was her son’s birthday and she came into the classroom, I made sure to not be the last in the line-up. When a French teacher would toss out mini-sized chocolate bars for correct answers, we’d know that she was in a good mood and Mr. MacDonald used to let us pop balloons for prizes: a weekend with the class budgie, an afternoon in his chair, giant, over-sized chocolate bars our parents would never buy.

I used to peddle my bike to the corner store (about 15 minutes away and across a busy intersection) with my friends. We’d return our books to the library and then go the Village Market, to see how many Hot Lips and sour keys our change could buy us. A lot more than today’s pennies, that’s for sure.

But now I am a grown-up and I am the one making the decisions.

Do you want to know something? My shoulders are sore from the burden of expectations.

I have come a long way with not caring what people think about my parenting. The proof is in the pudding, I like to say, and I am playing the long game. I don’t always choose the healthiest or freshest or more local foods for my kids. In fact, last night they ate an entire party-sized pizza while they watched TV, and I basically ignored them to read the latest issue of Vanity Fair.

We have a treat bucket overflowing with candy and there it stays. My boys choose something from it once a day, but they could take it or leave it.   Sunday afternoons I bake something – cookies, brownies, macaroons, Hello Dollies – whatever the request but after the initial fanfare that accompanies the trays being pulled from the oven, the cookies will remain in the jar. Nibbled on, but never gorged. The piano teacher, friends popping by and play date guests are usually the ones to grab at the goods. For my kids, it’s part of the landscape, like the wallpaper. It’s just there.

Have you heard of Snowplow Parenting? If Helicopter parent was the term of yesteryear, then Snowplow parent is the term for now.

Snowplow parents: defined by some of the extremes they take in their children’s lives. When you take the snowplow route, you are teaching your child that someone will always step in to make things right, and therefore no initiative is required on the kid’s end.

That’s how I feel about removing sugar from schools. It doesn’t teach children how to make good choices it simply removes the obstacle for them. I am a believer that diets need to be balanced and healthy, and that includes sugar. It doesn’t mean scarfing down an entire box of Krispy Kremes (guilty!) on a regular basis but having a lollipop while watching a movie, is ok in my books.

It does get tricky in schools when parties and birthdays are celebrated with food, but that’s a learning opportunity in itself. Instead of banning sugary treats empower children with decision-making.  With parents and schools being more aware of and considerate of allergies, replacing birthday cupcakes for an non-edible treat (pencils, erasers, etc) is an obvious option.  There is also the option of a paper crown and singing Happy Birthday.  Simple.  But it’s about learning when and how to celebrate with treats.

It saddens me to see so many grown women (and some men) with unhealthy relationships with food, swinging from fad diet to fad diet, depriving themselves of food groups, binge eating; all of these behaviours leading to body image issues.

Here’s my question: With as much emphasis we’re placing on reducing sugar and getting our children active, why isn’t there more of an uproar over cut PE classes and revoked recesses (as punishment or to pack in more instructional time for core subjects)? Why do high school students only need one PE credit to graduate?

If I had things my way, we’d focus on healthy living where exercise is valued for more than just fitting into skinny jeans, where real food was consumed more than “fake food” and we would all chill out!

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

A Gingerbread Misstep

train09

One more on gingerbread, yes?

This year, for the first time, I made a gingerbread house with my kids.  In my dreams, I imagined making the gingerbread house from scratch.  But when I looked into the details of this, I quickly realized that this is a serious endeavour, and it never happened.

The only gingerbread house-making they’ve had was at their grandmother’s house.  She considerately asked first, knowing that I watch how much sugar is eaten around here, and seemed almost a bit surprised when I said yes.  But I thought it could be a fun tradition and wanted the boys to have time with their grandmother too.

The other day, my boys saw a gingerbread train kit in the store and asked to make it.  Again, I thought it would be fun, and knew I wasn’t going to make one from scratch, and I said yes.  I envisioned making it, looking at it for awhile, breaking it and eating a piece, and saying goodbye to the rest.

It kind of happened like that.  We made it, and the boys each were allowed a piece of candy or two while making it.  They asked to sprinkle sugar all over it to make snow, so we took a cup of sugar and did that.  I put it on the counter and we looked at it.

But then my husband complained that there was sugar on the floor, and that he thought the kids, including the baby (with the aid of a step-stool) were picking at the sugar of the train.

I moved it to the mantle.

But then my husband found our middle son up there, with the aid of the step-stool.  Our kids have had a run of illness in the past week or two, and my husband said he thought it was because of the sugar (known to depress immune systems).

I walked to the mantle and looked at our little train.  The sugar snow had been dipped into, and some pieces of candy had been taken off the train and eaten.  This surprised me, as the older boys know not to eat candy like that.  My guess is that my older one can look at it and wait to get a piece, but that for my four year old, it’s too much temptation.

I picked up that train, complete but for the missing candies, and threw it out.

Interestingly, my kids are unperturbed by the loss.  My oldest was upset for a moment, as he hadn’t eaten any.  But I explained the trouble, said that he can still have some if he ends up making something with his grandmother.  And that was it.

And then I came across this, a video message by a doctor about the misleading information and the food industry.  I didn’t think there was any nutritional value in that gingerbread house, but thought this message was worth sharing all the same.  What do you think?