Sunday, February 7, 2010

No Sugar for the Baby, Thanks!

The other day, Kaya's ever-extending reach nabbed him a small chocolate from the kitchen bench. Unfortunately he'd gobbled most of it before I had a chance to confiscate it. After a year of vigilantly keeping him away from sweets, he finally got his first taste of chocolate (besides the piece of chocolate cake he ate at his birthday party). It was quite a big deal for me and I mentioned it to a few people. Some of the reactions I received were mystifying. Most people were absolutely shocked that we didn't give Kaya sweets. I got the impression that some people dismissed me as being silly and needlessly over-protective by being so strict about this. Other people told me straight that there is absolutely nothing wrong with giving babies lollies. And yet other people told me I was mean to not let Kaya eat sweets!

Ever since we moved into this small isolated community that is our “Lojman” it has been a battle for Murat and I to keep Kaya sweets-free. Even when he was just 3 months old, other mothers would offer him chocolates and lollypops and sweet breadsticks. When he was 4 ½ months old, one mother even offered him bubble gum?!?!? After almost a year of politely telling everyone “no, thank-you” the offers have not subsided. In fact, the mothers offering the sweets have now become a little bit aggressive, telling me firmly that there's no problem in giving Kaya sweets as they push the offending item towards his mouth. Not only do I not understand why the mothers here don't respect my decisions about how to mother my own child, but I also don't understand why they all seem to think it's quite okay to give their babies sweets at all. I can't count how many times I watched in horror as mothers and fathers fed their babies sweet pudding for dinner or bread covered in chocolate spread for breakfast. And I'm not talking about kindergarten or school-aged kids. I'm talking about little tiny babies. Babies so small they haven't even developed the skill of sitting up on their own yet. Often times these children would be crying in refusal of the food these parents shovelled into their tiny mouths. I just can't understand it. I wish I had the language skill to be able to ask these parents what they're thinking. Really, what are they thinking?

Let me ask you. Would you feed your child poison? Of course not! Would you allow your child a little taste of poison if she asked for it? No way! What if she loved that poison and cried and begged you to give her some? Definitely not! How about if that poison produced no immediate side effects? Would you let her have a little bit then? No, no, no! Poison is poison whether it's a sip or a gulp. You'd take that poison and put it out of reach. You'd explain to your child that it's a poison and she mustn't eat it, she mustn't touch it, ever!

But what about lollies and cakes...? Would you give your little one sweets?

Sweets are called sweets because they contain lots of sugar, but sugar is a poison. Really! The refined sugars found in lollies and cakes and biscuits and desserts is poisonous. It contains no vitamins or minerals of any kind and other than providing calories, it has no nutritional benefit whatsoever. Instead, it causes damage, disease and addiction. In fact, not only does it provide no nutritional advantage, but in order for the body to process the sugar, a lot of other nutrients are required – it actually depletes the body of nutrients!

I think most of us know it's better to NOT offer sweets to our babies and children. But I also think many parents believe it's okay to let our little ones indulge in a sweet treat occasionally. I wonder, if we all really understood all the negative effects sugar has on the body, would we knowingly offer sugar to our loved ones. I hope we'd rethink the type of treat we offered.

I know some of you are thinking I'm exaggerating. You know sugar is not the healthiest choice, but surely it's not as bad as I say. Afterall, we all ate lollies as kids and we're still alive. Well, in response to that statement I want you to think about all those niggling health issues you've lived with for years – the high blood pressure, the occasional mood swings, the lower back pain, the lethargy, the gastro-intestinal problems, those extra kilos, the headaches, all those colds and 'flu's... When you learn all the ways sugar can negatively affect your health, I think you will come to realisation that sugar is very often to blame for almost all our health concerns.

Here are a few reasons to avoid sweets, especially for our children.

  • Eating habits and tastes are learned early. The foods offered to your child now will affect his food choices for the rest of his life. This is the time to set the stage for a lifetime of nutritious eating. So withhold those sugary sweets and offer a wide variety of healthful foods instead.

  • The sugar in junk food is very often to blame for hyperactivity and mood swings experienced by your little one. And this is why. Sugar, especially the refined sugars found in commercial foods require very little or no digestion in the gasto-intestinal system which means they immediately enter the bloodstream. Sudden high blood sugar (hyperglycaemia) triggers the pancreas to release insulin to transport the sugar molecules into the body's cells. This happens quickly causing the blood sugar levels to drop quickly … The sudden low blood sugar level (hypoglycaemia) then causes the pancreas to release stress hormones to convert stored sugars in the liver (glycogen) into blood sugar which brings the body back into balance (homeostasis). The ups and downs of sugar in the bloodstream directly causes ups and downs in the child's behaviour.

  • Sugar causes tooth decay. And tooth decay can lead to other problems such as gum disease and eventually even heart disease!!

  • Eating sugar reduces white blood cell count for several hours after digestion. White blood cells are essential for fighting off infectious diseases and foreign “bugs” that have entered the body. Therefore, sugar compromises our immunity.

  • Sugar makes us fat. Excess sugar is stored in the liver but the liver's capacity is limited and when it can hold no more, the excess sugar is moved to other parts of the body to be stored as blubbery fat!

  • Sugar is extremely addictive. In fact, studies have shown that refined sugar is actually far more addictive than cocaine!!

  • Cakes, lollies, biscuits, ice-cream, chocolate and other sweets usually contain other nasties in addition to refined sugar. These ingredients cause cancer, disease, behavioural problems, tumours and all kind of other symptoms we wouldn't wish on our worst enemies. The worst of these ingredients are:

       - high fructose corn syrup
       - trans fats (hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oils)
       - artificial colours (especially Blue 1, 2; Red 3; Green 3; Yellow 5, 6)
       - BHA (butylated hydroxyanisole) and BHT (butylated hydrozyttoluene)
       - MSG (monosodium glutamate)
       - artificial sweeteners (aspartame, Acesulfame-K, saccharine, sucralose)
       - refined soy
       - propyl galate
       - sodium chloride (salt)
       - enriched or bleached flour

    Later on, I'll explain in more detail why you should avoid these ingredients at all costs, but I hope this list gives you a heads-up on what to look out for at the supermarket.
I hope this list inspires you to throw away the lollies, but if you're still not convinced, take a look at this link:  

As parents, I think it's our primary parenting responsibility to do everything we can to help our children reach their potential. And one of the most important things we can do to help them along their way is to keep them as healthy as possible by providing them with good food choices.  Desserts, cakes, biscuits and lollies are not good food choices. 

A nutritionally rich diet is essential in childhood to ensure optimum development at a time of rapid growth. Nutrition is a such an important factor in the growth, development and overall wellbeing of children. Good nutrition provides the necessary goodness to support physical, emotional and cognitive development. And continued healthy eating practices throughout childhood and into adulthood can prevent disease and support a lifetime of good health. In fact, good nutrition is critical to optimizing each child's life potential.

And this is why I refuse to give Kaya sweets.

Watch this space for details about the types of foods you should be offering your child instead of sweets.


israelits said... [Reply]
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israelits said... [Reply]

well said! I fully agree, and I hope many mums and dads will be reading this!