There is little argument that sugar is bad for you. Eating sugar (especially refined sugar and carbohydrates) spikes blood sugar levels, which raises insulin levels that help your body store carbohydrates as fat. Unless you’re planning to hibernate for the winter, this is bad! Those same spikes in blood sugar can cause irritability and problems concentrating. In children, this can contribute to behavioral problems such as attention deficit and hyperactivity. Sugar is also linked to other health problems such as internal inflammation and skin problems.
It’s no surprise that we crave sugar. Our bodies still have built-in mechanisms that helped our ancestors survive regular cycles of feast and famine. Those mechanisms now tell us to shovel in the sugar. When we do, our brains reward us with a release of beta endorphins, which makes us feel good. We then crave that good feeling sugar gives us and the cycle repeats. The craving-reward cycle turns into an addiction, not unlike smoking or alcohol abuse.
You can break this sugar cycle, but not overnight. Simply swapping out fruit for Oreos is likely to cause rebellion in your household. Done gradually, reducing your family’s consumption of sugar using the tips below can get your kids to reach for fruit and healthy snacks without them even noticing.
Read food labels. Mayonnaise has added sugar. Ewwww… Why?!?!?! There is sugar in a lot more food items than you may realize. Reading labels will help you know what foods are adding to your family’s sugar consumption. Look for things like sugar, high fructose corn syrup, dextrose, glucose, etc… Consider cutting down on those foods or making them yourself so you can control the ingredients.
Make more things from scratch– especially food items that normally contain a lot of sugar, like cookies, cereal, granola and other treats and desserts. Making thses items from scratch help you control exactly what’s in the foods your family eats.
Reduce the amount of sugar in recipes. If a recipe calls for 1 cup of sugar and you cut that down to 3/4, in most cases, no one will even notice. There are ways to make EVERYTHING with less sugar that will still make your family smile. Slowly cutting down on the amount of sugar and sweetener will get your family’s taste buds reset so items with less sugar will taste just as sweet.
Use healthy sugar substitutes. Natural substitutes like fruit juice, stevia and agave can be used along with or combined with sugar to create treats that are amazingly delicious without adding tons of sugar OR chemical sweeteners.
Substitute healthy treats. Once your family starts getting used to foods that are less sweet, fruit will taste much better. Try combining fruit with your treats to get your family used to eating fruit again.
When you’ve cut down on your family’s sugar consumption you’ll be rewarded by knowing you’re helping them be their best and live long, healthy lives.