Many Addictive Added Sugar Habits Start in Childhood
Twenty years ago, my oldest son and I were enjoying the warmth, and carefree innocence of play on a beautiful spring day.
We sat down for a quick snack on the playground when I noticed another woman and her child a few feet away.
Stunned, I watched as the mom opened a can of Coca-Cola®, and handed it to her preschooler.
What are you doing? The added sugar in that beverage will harm your child’s health.There are 39 grams of added sugar in that 12 oz can of Coke!
It took significant restraint to refrain from saying something. Obviously, this was none of my business.
Yet, I felt sad. Children need the best dietary start possible, and what I had witnessed was anything but optimal.
But as the years passed, I observed other activities that enabled too much added sugar in beverages and foods.
First, we had the myriad children’s birthday parties, both in school and out, that included sugary treats and sugary juices.
Then, we had youth sports events that always wrapped up with sugary snacks and sugary sports energy drinks.
As a mom and nutritionist, I did my best to deflect the onslaught of added sugar in beverages and foods. My goal was to provide healthful alternatives for my children and others at as many “sugar events” as possible.
Consistently though, I was alarmed at how many appearances sugar made in our children’s lives.
Added Sugar May Lurk Undetected in Beverages and Foods
As children enter college, the abundance of added sugar continues.
Unfortunately, the majority of college campuses don’t focus on healthful food. Breakfast bars brim with sugary cereals. For lunch, French fries often accompany burgers and sandwiches; these white potatoes represent an unhealthful heaping portion of starchy carbs deep-fried in saturated fat. As for dinner, well there’s nary a good-looking, good-tasting vegetable to be found.
Here’s what happened when my two sons left the nest. One lived in an off-campus apartment, and ate healthful gluten-free, home-cooked meals.
The other matriculated at a university where an experiment was underway to improve the nutritional quality of cafeteria food. This move toward healthful meals resulted in great-tasting menu options that included lots of fresh fruits and veggies, small plates for all entrees, and tiny dessert portions.
I was ecstatic, but my happiness was a bit premature.
Because college-town was a whole different story.
Ice cream. Delicious and unusual flavor combinations just a few blocks away. Full of added sugar.
Boba tea. Also, in close proximity to campus.
“What is boba tea?” I asked.
“It’s this cool tea, Mom, with little balls on the bottom,” my son said.
Turns out, this beverage packed a sugary punch.
Excess Added Sugar Undermines Optimal Health
Those little balls in the boba? They are pearls of tapioca starch – full of sugar and carbs. Bubble tea has an alarmingly high level of added sugar, as much as 50 grams. Not to mention too many empty calories.
After my boba-loving son’s freshman year, he went for a routine doctor’s visit.
Unfortunately, my son’s lab work indicated that he was prediabetic.
That scary medical diagnosis rocked my world. And my son’s, too, especially since he was thin and athletic.
The good news is that you can reverse a prediabetes diagnosis with a concerted effort to eat wholesome, healthful food.
And that’s exactly what my son did when I formulated his new and improved dietary plan.
Throughout that summer, and his subsequent college years, he paid close attention to what he ate, and where added sugar and simple carbohydrates might be hiding. As for his boba tea consumption, that became a distant memory. Ice cream was relegated to an occasional treat.
My son’s college story reinforces the importance of being mindful of added sugar consumption. And how regular consumption of just a few high sugar drinks or foods can cause significant health problems.
Too Much Added Sugar Increases Vulnerability to Illness, Especially During the COVID-19 Pandemic
As I write this, we are in the midst the COVID-19 pandemic.
Many of us feel fearful of a virus that can cause severe symptoms or even result in death.
How do we take back some control?
One important step (in addition to washing our hands regularly, wearing a mask in public, and keeping physically distanced from each other) is to invest in ourselves by bolstering our immune system. Making wise decisions about what we eat daily is the most powerful way to support our health.
As we strive to eat better, we need to acknowledge that sugar consumption has become an increasingly significant problem over several decades, especially in the United States.
We’ve been led astray by the U.S. sugar lobby and big food companies. Both have funded influential research to downplay the potential link between excess sugar consumption and obesity, heart disease, Type 2 diabetes, some cancers, and most recently, Alzheimer’s.
Excess added sugar has also been shown to alter brain chemistry, and to produce heightened cravings for more sugar, similar to drug addiction.
Regardless of where you are in your relationship with added sugar, the time is now to decrease your vulnerability to illness through a reduction in sugar consumption.
The mission of Lady Moxy is to shine a spotlight on added sugar and simple carbohydrates as some of the biggest culprits of poor health. In addition, I aim to be a trusted voice amidst misleading industry-funded research, and misinformed nutrition coaches, celebrities, and influencers.
In the months ahead, Lady Moxy will deliver a weekly newsletter to your inbox, and share information in five areas:
- Busting food myths
- Identifying what’s inside your food
- Losing weight successfully
- Sharing wellness information on topics like prediabetes, Type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and Alzheimer’s
- Exploring family health
I hope you’ll join me on this journey to improve your wellbeing.
I also look forward to working with you personally to stir up healthy change in your life.
P.S. If you haven’t already downloaded it, here’s your Free Guide on How to Stop Sugar Cravings.