5 Tips on How to Raise a Sugar Free Kid

There have been mixed reviews on NYC’s recent ban on the sale of sugary drinks larger than 16 oz.  Although, I personally never understood how someone could drink more than that anyway.  You probably won’t believe this, but….my 6 ½ year old daughter Journey has never had soda.  Not even a sip.  She also has never had ice cream, cake and most other sugary snacks that most kids (and adults) eat.  How is this possible?  Simple.  I never gave it to her.

This journey began with a comment from Journey’s pediatrician during her 4-month check up.  She mentioned that conventional carrots carry high levels of pesticide residue and suggested that I feed her organic carrots instead.  The comment triggered something in me and I started making her baby food.  Initially, I would alternate homemade food with jarred organic.  Until I did some research and learned that most jarred baby food has a shelf life of 2 years!  Realizing that Journey could be eating food that was older than she was grossed me out!  And I never gave her food from the jar again.  (Although if it were today, I might not feel the need to make all of her food since there are so many more fresh organic options in stores.)

Keeping refined sugar out of Journey’s diet has been a challenge, but not impossible.  If you are willing to commit, follow the 5 tips below and you can eliminate (or at least lower) sugar from your child’s diet in no time.

1.    Don’t feel the need to introduce sugary snacks 

Contrary to what most Americans think, sugar (refined sugar, that is) is not a dietary requirement!  You would be surprised how many people kept asking me when I was going to give her sugar, like they were annoyed by my effort.  As if eating cake and candy is a rite of passage.  There are plenty of great snacks that don’t contain refined sugar.  To jump-start your effort, I have posted a few tips, snack ideas and easy baby food recipes.

2.    Realize it takes a village

One of the biggest reasons this experiment has worked is because our entire family participated.  Everyone respected our decision enough not to undermine our effort.  Most parents that I talk to about this say they started out trying to do the same thing but a family member—father, grandma, aunt—introduced candy or the like.  Explain to your family that you have made a decision about your child’s diet and that they need to honor your choice if they would like to spend unsupervised time with your child.  Be specific in what foods you do not want your child to eat.  Provide alternative snacks so that there is no stress about what snacks are appropriate for your child.

3.    Encourage your child to “lead” not “follow”

As your child gets older, they may wonder why they are not eating the same foods as the other kids.  This is a great opportunity to reinforce that being different is what makes you special and that it’s ok not to do what everybody else is doing.  Explain that some children eat differently because of food allergies (there is always one), religion, etc.   You can also discuss the difference between good (natural) and bad (refined) sugar, and the effect that sugar has on your body (see link to articles below).

4.    Be willing to adjust your eating habits

I openly admit that I am addicted toissugar, which is why this whole effort is very important to me.  I’m sure Journey will probably eat sugar eventually, but maybe—just maybe she won’t have the sweet tooth that I do.  But it’s kind of hard to keep eating as much sugar as I did—okay do—while listening to her tell me how unhealthy it is (thanks to tip #3).  There is no greater motivator than guilt! So now, I read more labels (wow, sugar is in everything!), use more natural sweeteners, eat much less processed food, and try very hard to eat less sugar.

5.    Don’t make a big deal about it

At just about every turn, your child will be offered sugary snacks.  Initially, it’s not a problem when they are younger and if you follow the advice above.  However, there will come a point when your child will have to make their own decision about whether or not to accept.   They should never feel like they are being “denied” anything.   That can open up a whole other can of worms by creating an unhealthy relationship with food.

When Journey is offered candy or sweets, she asks, “Does that have sugar in it?”  If the answer is yes—which it usually is—she replies, “No thank you.”  Halloween, parties, it doesn’t matter, she always declines (again, thanks to tip #3).  Although this summer, temptation got the best of her.  I pulled up to car pool after camp and there she was with a lollipop in her hand.  She gets in the car and says, “Mommy, I tried the lollipop!”  “Did you like it,” I asked as if it were no big deal.  “I loved it!”, she exclaimed.  “You can have it,” she said and gave it to me.  I breathed a sigh of relief.  Even though she claimed she loved it, she had no real desire to eat it.  I guess she just wanted to see what all the fuss was about.  She hasn’t mentioned candy or asked for it since.   Although, Halloween’s just around the corner so I guess we’ll have to wait and see…

More info about the effects of sugar:

Kids and Sugar: Is Your Child Addicted to Sugar

Sugar and Children

Health Effects of Sugar on the Body

A Few Quick and Easy Baby Food Recipes

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Below, I shared some of Journey’s favorite baby food recipes that are easy to prepare.  I have many more to share, so please post a comment if you would like me to add more. Continue reading

Great Alternatives to Sugary Snacks for Kids

Snacks don’t have to be super sweet for kids to enjoy them.  Here are some of Journey’s favorite snacks:

GoGo squeeZ Applesauce

Annie’s Homegrown Whole Wheat Bunnies (crackers)

Horizon Organic Cheese Sticks

That’s It Fruit Bar

Gnu Flavor & Fiber Cinnamon Raisin Bar

Popcorn (plain)

Fage 2% Plain Yogurt (tip: Add fresh fruit and a bit of honey or agave nectar to naturally sweeten)

Fresh fruit

Nature’s Path Organic Apple Cinnamon Toaster Pastries

Vruit Apple Carrot Blend Juice (tip: Be sure to dilute any natural fruit juice with 50% water to cut the amount of natural sugar)

Keeping It REAL Goes WRONG…again!

The X Factor debuted last week with the usual cast of characters auditioning to be the next BIG thing.  And as usual, more than half of them show up with at least one person to cheer them on.  This blog is about that person.

  • The person that answers “no” when your friend asks, “Is this dress too short?”
  • The person that says “he’s just scared of how deep his feelings are for you” when your friend tells you she hasn’t heard from the loser she’s dating in two weeks.
  • The person that says “fab” when your friend asks you how her makeup looks (when she has clearly put on way too much blush).
  • The person that says ”you nailed it” when your friend screeches through his rendition of Alicia Key’s “Fallin” and sounds—as Simon Cowell said “like a mouse trying to be an elephant.” (One of his best lines thus far, by the way!)

When you show up to the audition blindly agreeing with your friend who swears she sounds just like Mariah and is going to win the whole competition, know that the folks at home are judging you even more than your friend.  What we really want to know is why the hell you (or anyone else for that matter) has never had the balls to tell your friend, daughter, cousin, niece, nephew, sister or brother that they CANNOT SING???!!!  Or at least not well enough to enter into a competition.  And when they finally get the unanimous “HELL NO” from the judges (which always shocks them because no one has ever bothered to tell them how much they suck) it’s the perfect opportunity for you to gentle suggest that maybe they give up the dream of becoming a pop star and seriously start pursuing other ambitions.  But what do you do instead?  Tell them how the judges are just jealous of them, how they don’t know talent, how they’ll be sorry—REALLY??

While I know you may be thinking, “Who am I to crush someone else’s dream?” understand there’s a difference between being a dream killer and a voice of reason.  And that doesn’t mean you’re a hater, it means you cared enough to be honest (although, most will still call you a hater).  So the next time you find yourself in the awkward position of lying yet again or telling the truth, stop fantasizing about sitting in the front row at the Grammy’s and tell the truth.  But…then again, with some of the crap that passes for music these days—you never know!

The Politics of Parenting: Kids Have a Voice Too

After two weeks of political conventions, I have found myself talking to my daughter a lot about why voting is so important.  “So your voice can be heard” was one of the many reasons that I gave her.

As I explained it to her, I started to think about what it really means to have a voice.  And I realized that having your voice heard goes well beyond casting a ballot.  Your voice is the most powerful communication tool that you have.  It communicates your strength, your weakness, your knowledge, your ignorance, your passion, your convictions and your fears.

How do you use your voice?  More importantly, what cues are you giving your child about how to use their voice?  There are 2 things that you can do to help them realize the power of being heard.

Let your child’s voice be heard at home

I was raised during a time when children were meant to be seen and not heard.  We were not really allowed to expressed emotions like anger and frustration—at least not toward our parents!  I think that’s when I began to suppress emotions and internalize feelings.   As a result, I still struggle with outwardly expressing my emotions at times.

That said, Journey is allowed to express whatever emotion she is feeling—as long as it done in a respectful manner.  And believe me, she does!  When she’s upset with me, I know it.  She tells me, we discuss it—and sometimes I even find notes about it.  (I admit, the first note crushed me, but I have since developed thicker skin.)  Because we have established such an open line of communication already, I am hopeful that it will continue to get stronger–especially when we hit the teenage years when it will matter even more.  If I’m lucky, she won’t feel the need to hide her teen angst and all that comes with it.  And I am certain she will carry these communication skills into her personal and professional relationships for years to come.

Let your child’s voice be heard in public

All too often, I see children of speaking age that are just plain rude.  They don’t say hello when spoken to, they don’t say excuse me, please or thank you.   And their parents don’t seem to require it.   And what do you think happens when these rude children grow up?  It’s so important that you require (yes require) your children to speak when spoken to and to say please and thank you.   Not only does it show respect for others, it also builds their confidence.

As soon as Journey could speak, she began placing her order in restaurants.  When we go to the doctor and they turn to me to ask what the problem is, she jumps right in and tells them.   They are always taken aback by her ability to articulate her thoughts and feelings so clearly.  Journey already understands that if she wants something, she has to ask for it; if she wants to be heard, she has to speak up; and that no matter how young or old she is, her voice deserves to be heard.

Be a Hostess, not a Hostage: Get Out Of The Kitchen & Enjoy The Party

stress party

It’s the end of the summer.  You decide to throw your final soiree of the season.  Nothing fancy, just the usual backyard barbeque menu.  Chicken, hot dogs, burgers, potato salad, baked beans, corn on the cob, and the like.

You only plan to have a couple of people over, so no need to do any real planning.  As the week goes on, you have invited a few more people (and some have invited themselves), but the menu is simple so it’s not a big deal.  You decide to clean up a bit the night before and now you’re tired.  So you’ll go to the grocery store first thing in the morning, after all, you don’t need that much.

You decide to set up the tables and put out the chairs before you head to the store.  Ugh! It’s 10am already!  By the time you get back from fighting the crowd at the store, it’s 12pm and you haven’t even fired up the grill yet!  Guests start arriving and you’re working frantically to get everything ready.   Your guests are having a good time, but you aren’t aware, because you can’t get out of the kitchen!!

If this is not you, I’m sure you’ve been to this party before.  So, I offer a few tips to help you or someone you know become a better hostess and stop letting the kitchen hold you hostage.

1.  Know your strengths, accept your weaknesses

I have a friend that lives by the mantra, “I am a party goer, not a party thrower.”  She clearly accepts that she is not interested in dealing with the details that come with planning events.   While I know Martha Stewart makes everything look easy, everyone does not have a penchant for entertaining and planning parties.  And if you’re in this category, that’s okay.  Instead of spending hours trying to channel your inner Martha Stewart to plan a 5 course dinner party, make reservations and spend the rest of the time shopping for something to wear to dinner.

If sweets are your thing, suggest a progressive dinner party and host the dessert course at your home.  This will allow you to prepare items that you enjoy and eliminate the stress of planning a full-blown event.

 2.  Share your kitchen

I admit, I am definitely guilty of this one.  But most of the time, it’s because by the time my guests arrive, I am already putting the food on the table to be served.  It’s okay not want help in the kitchen, but make sure you have appetizers, snacks or something for your guests to nibble on until the main course is served.  The worst is when the host tells you to go on and enjoy the party while she is just starting to season the chicken.  We are offering to help you because we are hungry!  We want to eat dinner some time before breakfast!!  So please, take the hint and take the help.

3.  Small or large, you still need a plan

The main reason most people have anxiety about hosting events is because they get overwhelmed.  And they usually get overwhelmed because they did not have a plan.  Although planning is a party is not hard, it does require the skill of time management.  Whether you are having a few people over for a barbeque or planning your parents’ anniversary party, you need a plan.  Making a list of what needs to be done along with a timeline will help you feel less stressed and overwhelmed.

I always start with my guest list.  This helps me to make sure that the theme, menu and all my ideas will work in the location I have chosen.  Sometimes after you create the guest list, you realize that the small and simple gathering you had in mind is really much more complicated than you thought.  Having a plan will help you make adjustments before you realize you have more guests than you have space.  It will also help manage your budget and your to-do list.

And remember, just because you have a plan doesn’t mean you have to do it all by yourself.  If you don’t like to cook, hire a caterer.  Want to serve a signature cocktail, ask a talented friend to serve as your mixologist.  Stick to doing what you do best!  And in the end, if all you truly want to be is a hostess—hire a party planner like me :)

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