Tuesday, July 13, 2010

~ Are We Setting Our Kids Up To Fail? ~

Welcome to the July Carnival of Natural Parenting: Let's Talk About Food
This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama. This month our participants have written about their struggles and successes with healthy eating. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.
Our gentle walk to a whole foods diet was turned into a sprint when we learned that our daughter was allergic to corn based products. Having to cut out the corn meant we needed to be reading labels and we were astonished at how many things had high fructose corn syrup in them, almost everything. The yogurt that we thought was really good for them with the live active culture - high fructose corn syrup. The granola bar with fruit that we thought was a great afternoon snack - high fructose corn syrup. It happened time and time again and I asked myself - WHY? Why do we have so much fake food. I started to read through my mom’s old cookbooks, ones that I would never have fathomed she would have because our running joke when I was in high school was "What do you want from the frozen food section".

I had read the book the Maker's Diet by Jordon Ruben before I had my daughter and my interest was piqued and I had begun making some minor changes to our diet. After the allergy was discovered I read through For The Love Of Food by Jeanne Martin and Laurels Kitchen and what an eye opener that was. We went from the typical, eat as cheap as you can, white bread and white sugar diet to a whole foods diet made from scratch in under two weeks and the most amazing thing happened. Our older boys behavior improved to the point to where family members asked what we were doing. They were not terribly behaved children before. We used the typical parental excuse for when their behavior was less that desirable such as, "its been a long day" or "they are coming down off of their ‘sugar high‘, lol". What we didn't realize is that for some kids, sugar highs are as severe as a drug addict coming down off of their high. Our second son had severe reactions to his MMR shot turning a happy go lucky kid into a tantrum nightmare over such things as not getting to touch the door first or if we drove the "wrong way" on the way home from preschool. He didn't want to be touch and had turned into a carbo loading junky which only further fueled his unknown sugar addiction. He went from a fully potty trained two year old to a child with severe digestive/bowel issues. The hardest part as we eliminated corn syrup from out diet was those family members and people that just didn't understand why my kids couldn't have a treat. I was viewed as the mean mom who wouldn't even let her kids have a cupcake at the birthday party or candy at the 4th of July Parade, both of which are loaded with corn syrup and artificial food dyes. It was like everything we did for fun and a treat we could no longer do.
That got me thinking even further.

Why must something that is loaded with sugar, a toxic substance to our bodies, be called a treat? From then on we changed our definition of a treat. A treat became fresh fruit with real whipped cream on top. A treat became fresh peas right from the vine. But it wasn't until I read the book Little Sugar Addicts that I became a bit crazy about sugar. My husband casually said one afternoon "You are so far in the deep end of the pool that you aren't even in it anymore". Hardy-har-har, honey. As I read the book I had to keep reminding my wholefoods self that the book is written primarily for those who are still eating the Standard American Diet (SAD). I do not consider a hot dog a good choice because of where I am in my food journey, but to someone who is just starting out in their no sugar/wholefoods journey is it an acceptable high protein food choice. I just hope that you don't stay there and find even better foods that offer the protein without all the chemicals. My boys soon started reading labels before they asked for something at the grocery store. If they couldn't pronounce something, they put it back with a very emphatic "YUK". A no sugar, high protein diet along with naturopathic healing has helped our second son become a happy functioning child again. He fully realizes that sugar makes his brain feel fuzzy, his words not mine and that high amounts of sugar or HFCS cause GI discomfort. Now that my boys are older (7 & 8), I let them make their own food choices. Nine times out of ten they will politely decline whatever is being offered and I am incredibly proud of them. That tenth time is a total disaster with tears, meltdowns, fights, and behavior that is totally uncharacteristic of my children. I, myself, am a sugar addict. One small piece of chocolate as a child would send me airborne for hours and then crash land into a pile of tears when the sugar wore off. I still fall into the sugar trap and it changes my whole demeanor. I become crabby and not the person I would like to be as the sugar wears off. Sometimes I am smart enough to realize I have slid head first into the sugar bowl and can run for the protein before I am totally submerged. Sometimes it takes my husband’s "gentle" reminder to kick the sugar and eat some protein before I turn into a green eye monster. We still have cookies and "extras" as we call them, but they are made from scratch with whole wheat flour and half the sugar called for. We replaced white and brown sugar with raw honey or real maple syrup. We still slip up now and again, mostly when we are out and about and fail to get the kids some good food to keep their blood sugar level and brains running at optimum levels.

 Education is the key. We need to change our thinking, the terms we use with our kids and the foods we feed them. We need to learn how our bodies run and make food choices accordingly, because we all know that kids do what we do and not as we say. Teach them about their bodies, what food does to them and why certain foods are better than others. You truly are what you eat. Many times people will ask/tell me that everything in moderation is key. My response is no, everything in moderation is not key. There is no okay amount of trans fats and I don't believe there is any acceptable level of refined sugars and carbohydrate. Sadly, those three things are found in the majority of our food in the US. Our bodies were not meant to run on refined foods, the current obesity and diabetes epidemic is proof of that. There are over 30,000 different food additives that are put into wholesome, nutritious food to make it shelf stable. Shelf stable = fake food. What saddens me more are the children who are labeled as problem children in their classroom but have cereal and a pop tart for breakfast. The average kids breakfast cereal, such a fruit loops or golden smacks has around 15 teaspoons of sugar in one serving, HFCS and artificial food dyes. A pop tart has no real fruit in it last time I checked and is also loaded with HFCS and artificial food dye. These kinds of breakfasts have no protein whatsoever. No wonder they are bouncing off the wall and crash just before lunch which in most schools is the equivalent of eating fast food.
The average American is on seven to ten prescription drugs and it isn't necessarily in old age. We have got to change the way we think about food in this country and we have to do it quickly. Our kids are depending on us. So, my challenge to all of you loving parents with awesome children, is to learn how to make good food choices and then teach your children how through example. We either pay now or pay later. Set them up for success, not failure.
Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaVisit Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!
Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:
(This list will be updated July 13 with all the carnival links.)


  1. Thank you for this wonderful post! I feed my kids a mostly whole foods vegetarian diet and while we do pretty great to stay away from anything processed I have a sweet tooth that I know I have passed down to my kids and I would really love to get out of the trenches. I did for awhile (two months) last year and it was great, but then along came Halloween. They don't even get to eat all of their candy but even a couple chocolate bars ruiend the lot of us. I think my problem is that I think it WILL be okay in moderation, but it's not. Our sweet tooth food only consisits of homemade baked goods (w/ half the sugar) and ice cream, but one day when I get the motivation back, I'd like to go sugar free again. Really loved this post.

  2. That is incredible! I am such a sugar addict myself, but you've almost convinced me (once again; I am so stubborn about this!) to kick the sugar habit and see how it affect my own and my family's behavior and well-being. What a transformation for your one son in particular! And it's so great that he knows now how different foods will make him feel.

    Thank you for sharing your journey!

  3. I wish I had you here to hold my hand as I changed our family's diet! You are so incredibly knowledgeable! It is so hard to break eating patterns that were drilled into me when I was a small child - I just don't want the same thing for Kieran.

  4. I know I'm a sugar addict. The scary part is that as a recovering addict of other substances, I've learned that my brain (and most likely, that of my kids) is geared to react more to sugars because of this. Thanks for writing this. I'm trying to curb the corn syrup addiction here, though it is hard to do.

  5. What a great post!! I just heard some where that some problem kid school change the diet of kids lunches and they all the sudden were much more behaved. It's interesting that you saw the change too!
    I'm enjoying reading blogs like yours with older kids. It gives me motivation to keep up the healthy diet

  6. What a powerful post! I am a bit of a sugar addict myself but have been trying REALLY hard to keep refined sugars away from my son. I always look like a party pooper when the grandparents want to give him a "treat" of a few animal crackers or a piece of store bought cake. It can be hard to hold my ground, but your post makes me realize how important it is!

  7. Yes yes yes! Wonderful post!! I too am a sugar addict - it's terrible, I crave it, and when I go off of it it takes about a week of severe cravings and some grumpiness before I feel cleared - and I do, feel clearer, better, cleaner (but sadly it's a cycle, I fool myself into believing in moderation and bam! right back at square one.)

    I also very much agree with our skewed idea of what a "treat" is. I've already made a promise to myself along with my husband, that in our family, treats will be an extra story or special mama or daddy time. I do not want to tie food, especially sweets, with good behavior - that is not a path I want for my kids.

  8. Great post!
    My naturopath recommended I cut out refined sugar and increase protein when I was trying to get pregnant, and I got pregnant that cycle. It was amazing and it didn't take long to make me a believer! You are right. Our bodies are not meant to eat refined/processed foods. They don't work properly when that's their fuel. It would be great to see many more positive changes in the near future!

  9. Amazing post; most of all because I could have written the exact same thing. I keep my daughter off sugar for health reasons, but I feel like I'm against the rest of the world who tell me, who tell ME, the mother of this child that "a little sugar doesn't hurt" or "she'll run it off" or simply look at me with a withering look that suggests I am depriving her of something amazing or a bit of an OCD myself.
    Well done mama for exploring this issue and for doing what you know to be right. I just wish you were my neighbour and our kids could hang out together!

  10. Thank you all for your kind comments.

    Dionna - you are doing great, no hand holding required. The fact that you are aware of your food is about 100 steps ahead of the general population.

    mrs.green - we are very lucky to be able to have friends that eat and think the same way we do about food. My parents are very good about food, but my extend family not so much. They are getting better as time goes by, especially since my kids now turn down the offers for a "treat". My daughter(3.5) had one mini candybar when no one was looking at the last family gathering, she broke out in huge hives and her face turned bright red, it took about a week and a half for them to fade.