Wow! This week has been full of schedule changes and new beginnings with the kids getting back to school.  With so many activities to keep track of, new schedules to adjust to, things to remember, and exhausted little ones, the whole week has left me feeling like my head is spinning.  Without a doubt, if it is tough for the kids to adjust to these changes, it is also tough for me.  

On the way to school one morning the boys and I were discussing milk, which is always on sale for the students to have during school lunch or snack.  I ask the boys to always choose the white milk, as students have the option of chocolate milk as well.  My kids endure a lot of "health food talk" from me, so they understand that I do not want them having the extra refined sugar in the chocolate milk.  What is really hard for them, and I understand when they express this to me, is that while they are drinking white milk they watch so many kids around them drinking chocolate milk.  I tried to explain the dangers of a diet high in refined sugars, but I have a feeling that for now it might be lost on them.  It might sound extreme, but I even likened refined sugar habits to cigarette smoking, to which one child responded, "Yeah, but I don't know what cigarettes are like." That's right, mister, don't you ever! His point was not lost on me, though: all he knows is that sugar tastes good.

Frankly, I have to agree with him.  I fight sugar addiction on a daily basis, especially during weeks like these when I feel tired and stressed.  No time for a run, but plenty of brownies to buy in the cafeteria at work! Some may say I am taking this a little too far with my claims to addiction and comparison to cigarettes, but consider this: eating refined sugar leads to craving more sugar, and abruptly ending sugar consumption makes you suffer headaches, mood swings, cravings and fatigue- a.k.a withdrawal (credit due to Joshua Rosenthal, founder of Institute for Integrative Nutrition).  Sugar is an addictive substance which is craftily added to many processed foods and that is no mistake.  How profitable for the companies who manufacture those foods, you literally cannot quit them.  Even some foods one would not expect to find added sugars in are loaded with them, like baby foods or foods advertised as healthy.  

Yet, I know there are people out there who will roll their eyes over denying my children chocolate milk.  What exactly is the concern? First, refined sugars, unlike the natural sugars found in sweet vegetables and fruits, carry absolutely no vitamins, minerals, enzymes or protein.  In fact for your body, or your child's body, to process refined sugars it must use stored minerals and enzymes, creating a deficiency.  All that hard work coaxing your kid to eat his broccoli is down the drain! Of more concern: the rapid rise in the rate of what used to be known as adult-onset diabetes, or Type 2 Diabetes.  In Type 2 Diabetes the body's cells become immune to insulin, the substance responsible for letting the right amount of glucose in from blood to cell.  It is the 6th leading cause of death in the U.S. (again credit to Rosenthal) and the rise in diagnosis in both adults and children proves just how addicted this country is to refined sugars.  After all, we are the largest consumers of sugar in the world, averaging about 100 pounds of sugar eaten per year.  100 pounds- thats more than twice the weight of my dog and pretty darn close to my own.

Even for me, already knowing the dangers of refined sugar in the diet, reading these facts was a wake-up call.  I would never knowingly feed my children an addictive, disease-inducing substance, but that is just what sugar is.  Sugars are laced in our children's breakfast cereals, drinks, snacks, daily meals, and obviously  their desserts, but in general our country seems to be blind to the dangers of this.  My question is, are we blind to it, or are we as adults also just too addicted to want to change things? I know for now I might get some funny looks for not wanting my son to partake in chocolate milk or in every birthday cupcake shared in his classroom, but I hope that eventually there is a new trend- a trend away from rising rates in diabetes and towards a decrease in the amount of refined sugar Americans are consuming each day.  

What do you think? Hippie hype or fair fight? As usual I welcome your thoughts!


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    Jennifer Loebel