“Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.”
– Michael Pollan
I sometimes think “Raising Sugar Free Kids” should have been called “Raising Kids to be Low Sugar by Emphasising Savoury Over Sweet But Not Totally Depriving Them of Sugar and Sweet Things So That They Get Hooked On It By Sheer Rebellion”, but it just didn’t quite have the same ring to it!
Although we are aiming to keep our children free of sugar addiction by focusing on getting them to love vegetables first, whole grains, good fats, meats, fish and fruit, we do occasionally allow them sweet things for two reasons:
1) We believe that totally forbidding children sugar often simply serves to make them want it more!
2) We are not looking to totally deprive them of the joys of sweet things…just the bad side!
As a result our food philosophy looks something like this:
We prioritise veggies
Vegetables make up the majority of our diet. I try and add leafy greens to almost every meal (even breakfast if possible!), and try to make sure that there is a rainbow of colour in most meals too, as this promises to provide the most nutrients. I love to add create “vegetable-packed” meals (a term you will find often in the recipes throughout this site), sometimes through stealth, but mostly letting the kids know they are there so they learn to genuinely love vegetables and their flavour rather than not know they are enjoying them!
We avoid white as a colour as much as possible
Unless it’s cauliflower, white is often the least nutrient-dense colour when it comes to food. Plain flour is often combined with or swapped entirely for wholemeal plain, wholemeal spelt flour or nut/oat/grain flours in our house. Using whole grains like quinoa, buckwheat, bulgur wheat, millet, and other such items are a great way to up the goodness in a meal. We prioritise high fibre or wholegrain pasta over normal. We are not anti-carbs, and do not advocate cutting out any food groups from your diet (sugar is not a food group I’m afraid!), just limiting the more refined, processed carbs and choosing wholegrains over them as often as possible.
Even with these choices, however, we try to make sure the grains and carbohydrates are a smaller part of the meal, along with protein and fats. Speaking of which…
We eat good fats
Fat has had a bad rep over the last couple of decades, but it is suddenly being vindicated in both science and the media. We believe that a moderate amount of good fats are an essential part of a well-balanced diet. Good fats include things like avocados, nut and olive oils, coconut oil/milk/cream, organic eggs, full-fat organic or free-range dairy, ghee, seafood (particularly oily fish) and grass-fed (preferably organic) meats.
Calling them good does not give us a license to gorge on them of course, but we usually eat the now-being-recommended 3-a-day dairy (often full-fat milk, yogurt and cheese), cook or dress foods with a little oil or grass-fed butter, eat oily fish and seafood often and eat grass-fed (free range) meat several times a week without worrying too much about trimming fats!
We live by the 80/20 rule
With this rule, we basically say that we will try our best to live a low sugar lifestyle, but we appreciate that there will be times when we are eating with friends or family who do not choose the same lifestyle, or we might be in a difficult season and need a little more take-aways and treats, or maybe we just give in occasionally and have a sugar-heavy day or week.
Instead of beating ourselves up over this, we try to pick ourselves up and start over. Maybe that might require another sugar detox or mini-detox (we usually do a mini one after the Christmas period each year), or maybe it’s just as simple as getting back on the wagon the next day.
This rule also means that we relax our rules a little more at the weekends. I usually do some baking at the weekend with my daughter. We tend to use natural fructose-free sweeteners or seriously reduce the amount of sugar in a recipe (this is when the dessert recipes come out), but it is our time to have some pudding that isn’t just a square of dark chocolate, some fruit or some yogurt (our usual mid-week choices if we fancy something sweet after dinner). Once every week or two, the croissants come out of the freezer for a treat breakfast. And if we go out and fancy a slice of cake at a coffee shop, we get one to share and often end up realising it is actually too big and too sweet for us now, which serves as a good reminder! 🙂
A low sugar lifestyle doesn’t mean constantly denying yourself and eating nothing but salads. It is about enjoying real, low sugar foods most of the time, and not feeling bad when you have something sugary because you know it is a genuine occasional “treat” rather than a daily habit.