Following my previous post about nutrition, I thought it would be in place to write a bit more extensively about the excessive consumption of sugar I see around every day.
During the time I studied for my degree in nutrition, we were told, of course, that sugar is unhealthy, that it is “empty calories” and that we should minimize its consumption. However, I believe it wasn’t emphasized enough just how much havoc sugar wrecks within our systems, nor how strictly it should be limited especially in children and teenagers. A lot more hours were dedicated to scary propaganda against natural products such as eggs and butter, whose saturated fat and cholesterol, as we were told, cause heart disease and diabetes.
Recently, a mother of an overweight child, while discussing the child’s nutrition with me, asked me whether it’s alright to give her daughter one egg per day, or whether eggs should be limited to three per week to avoid excess fat and cholesterol consumption. At the same time, she showed little to no concern about the fact that the child consumed candy as usual between-meals fare. I told her that I see absolutely no way that a normal active child would be overweight on good hearty satisfying foods, and advised her instead to eliminate all the anti-nutritious junk, without touching natural, wholesome, unprocessed food such as eggs, which contain valuable protein and fat-soluble vitamins. I explained to her that low-fat diets are harmful to children, not to mention that they do not satisfy the hunger and therefore lead us to eating more.
When I look at supermarket shelves and at stuff that makes its way into people’s shopping carts, and eventually onto their tables, I am horrified by the sheer amount of added refined sugar, especially and particularly in products aimed at children. And I’m not even talking about the price of all this colorful junk.
I see preschoolers returning home, and nearly the first thing their parents do is stick into their hands a bag of chips or a popsicle. Parents are essentially making their children used to eating a lot of sugar, and then complain they eat nothing but sweets. The consumption of such zero-nutrition junk comes at the expense of other, healthier snacks that a child could be eating at that time, for example fruit or assorted vegetable sticks with a cream cheese or tahina dip. The damage it does to children at the peak of their growth and development, when they are in such need of extra nutrients, can hardly be overestimated.
I’m not saying we never eat refined sugar in our home. But when I bake, for example, I try to reduce the amount of sugar in cakes and cookies to the minimal level which would still be palatable. If you try to do the same thing, you will eventually see that commercial products become too sweet for your taste. I also try to make my baked goods as nutritious as possible, to make up for the sugar addition, and go for things like carrot cake and oatmeal cookies, and that only occasionally.
Perhaps the preparation of healthy meals and snacks takes a bit more time, but it’s so worth it when it comes to the well-being of our families.