Sugar: trick or treat?

Is sugar bad? Should events like Halloween be embraced or shunned?
Sugar

One of my favourite memories of my grandmother nearly didn’t happen because I used to be very anti Halloween.

To Halloween or not to Halloween, that is the question?

I completed dietetics when pregnant with my first son. I wanted to use all the knowledge I had just gained and feed him as nutritionally as possible. On the surface he looked like a “great” eater. As he grew, his food world expanded beyond our four walls. We never participated in Halloween as I thought it just an excuse to overeat sugar, who needs that right? Plus I thought he was not “good” at handling sugar. And what happened? He was that child at a party who never left the food table. He would take handfuls upon handfuls of ‘sweets’ if offered and eat them at light speed. Was he addicted to sugar? Not at all. Were my actions in trying to make him “healthy” leading to him becoming preoccupied with sugar? Mmm….

As I grew as a mother and dietitian, I realised how food is many things beyond nutrition and how restriction doesn’t work. That being overly obsessed with health, was not ‘healthy’ either. So we embraced Halloween. I saw it as an opportunity to be less restrictive. Go nuts.  And if the children “overate”, well there was a great lesson in that too.  But the thing is, one or two opportunities isn’t enough to overcome restriction. And all or nothing attitude is not healthy either. Plus children don’t need to be preached to all the time about food, it doesn’t always have to be a lesson. If they eat beyond comfortable fullness (and this can happen for many reasons, with any food, at many times and many stages of life), they don’t need a lecture as they can feel it themselves (treat them and yourselves with compassion at times like these).

You see, food and nutrition is not black and white. And as much as we would like it to be, it isn’t. Healthy is personal. It is not a destination, it is not a weight. It is not ‘doing’ or not ‘doing’ Halloween.

Now we participate in Halloween because it is fun. Because we meet our neighbours. Because we like to dress up. Now, I’m not saying do or don’t Halloween, that’s up to you entirely. But please make your decision on more than just sugar.

And without embracing Halloween, I wouldn’t have this memory…

My favourite Halloween memory has nothing to do with sugar

For the two years my grandma was in care, before we headed out trick or treating ourselves, we would go and visit my grandmother.  We would dress up and knock on each door in the age care facility, We said “trick or treat” and gave them a chocolate (we checked with the nurses first).

Each resident’s eyes lit up when the children came in. And it wasn’t about the chocolate. It was seeing the children dressed up. It was thinking someone cared enough to bring them a small gift. It was receiving a visitor. It was fun. And the smiles we received from residents warmed our hearts.

If I never embraced Halloween, I never would have these memories.

It’s not just Halloween that makes me think of my grandma. Red currents in jelly, matzo balls and baby carrots. The other day I bit into a baby carrot that reminded me just of her (baby carrots, dark rye, Swiss cheese and salami on a platter was a classic lunch at her place).

Now back to Halloween…

Sugar tricks

Here are some common sugar myths.

  • MYTH: Sugar is addictive

We are genetically programmed to enjoy sugar. You child is not strange for liking sugar, they are human! Humans like foods that taste sweet. And it’s our body’s favourite fuel. That doesn’t mean we are addicted to it.  Sugar does not have addictive properties.  Society’s  negative views on sugar is making us feel bad about about eating it, causing us to be more obsessed with it (oh man!). Sugar is NOT addictive. It’s just tasty.

  • MYTH: Sugar is bad?

The human body needs sugar. If you don’t consume it in your diet, your body will make it out of any food you provide it with. There are also many types of sugar, not just the white table sugar. Sugar is in lots of highly nutritious foods like fruit and dairy products. There is nothing inherently bad about table sugar either. It provides texture and taste to dishes. It provides our body with energy. Bad is a moral term, and just because sugar is less nutritious than other foods, does not make it ‘bad’.

  • Eating no sugar is healthy?

There are many recipes that are sugar free but contain honey, maple syrup, agave, rice malt syrup and nutritionally speaking they are all sugar. Choose the one you enjoy the taste of and the one that suits your budget most (note: honey is not suitable for children under 1).

Obsessing about sugar is not healthy for your mental health. Fear of sugar is not healthy. Overly restricting yourself or your child, does not make you a better person (sorry), but it does increase your child’s risk of struggling with food. And making peace with sugar and allowing yourself to enjoy some, doesn’t mean you will start to eat nothing but sugar all day (but it is scary I know).

But what about our teeth?  Well, that’s what tooth brushes are for. Also not grazing all day helps. Plus serving water with snacks and meals.

And it is often talked about that many people could benefit from eating less sugar, and whilst maybe this is true, I don’t think this is about the sugar. Would it be healthier for many of us to enjoy more veggies? Or increase our variety of foods eaten? Sure. But does eating less sugar equate to eating more veggies. Nope. And does making people feel bad about what they eat help? Nope! And does simply telling people what to do work? Nope.

  • Sugar makes kids go hyperactive

Well science says no! There have been many studies. In fact, one study found that parents blamed sugar for children’s behavior after being fed drinks that contained no sugar. So why do we often assume this? Is it cause we hype up the sugar and make it more exciting? Is it because children might be excited to be at an event where sugar happens to already be there. Is it cause everyone tells you?

My top tip for you this Halloween

Enjoy some candy/chocolate/sweets with your children. Don’t make a big deal of it.

Want more?

Need help finding peace with sugar? Want a little more support with helping your children navigate ‘treats’. We have an easy to follow and supportive Treats Guide in Foost Digital Membership. I created Foost digital membership so that your family can create happy food memories with all foods, rather than food feuds and fights.

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