Poolside popsicles, amusement park funnel cake, shopping mall lollipops, camp cupcakes – these are just a few of the many treats that parents enjoy giving their kids as a celebration of special Summer family time. Though your intention is to show your children you love them, indulging in these sweets can damage their health. I have some suggestions on how you can enjoy Summer without all the excess sugar.
Sweet treats, here and there, may not cause a much of an issue to your family’s health. My son has treats too – he is definitely NOT deprived – and he’s still pretty healthy. But I am one of those sometimes-unpopular parents who tries to enforce rules around sweets, regardless of the season, because I’m all too aware of what happens to a young body long-term with excess sugar.
What’s Wrong With Having Too Much Sugar?
None of us want to intentionally harm ourselves or family members by:
- causing metabolic dysfunction
- increasing internal inflammation
- fueling addiction
- depleting beneficial gut flora
- feeding harmful gut flora
- lowering the body’s immune defenses
- setting up for food sensitivities and autoimmune disorders
- increasing the risk of diabetes, obesity, heart disease, and cancer
However, these are the inevitable effects that sugar has on our bodies, young and old. Even just indulging over the Summer, you will likely find that your child is sick a lot in the Fall. And short-term, most of us have experienced the craziness of a child on a sugar high and the subsequent crash (or meltdown). It’s too much for me to take.
Our human genes are not accustomed to us eating a lot of sugar. We can’t purposely ignore this fact and then be surprised by the consequences.
Now that you’re aware of how sugar affect our bodies, are you willing to make changes in your family’s diet?
It IS possible to be the fun parent, to have an enjoyable Summer, have sweets, AND protect your child’s health.
Here’s how you can enjoy your Summer without the excess sugar, in just 3 steps:
1. Substitute in fresh fruit for refined sugar & artificial ingredients, but in moderation
The quality and quantity of sugary treats are both concerning.
Artificial colors and flavors have been shown to increase hyperactivity and cause behavioral issues in children. Plus, when a food has artificial colors & flavors it’s a pretty good indication that what you’re eating is not nutritious, but just a sugary laboratory concoction.
You can satisfy cravings for sweets by eating nature’s candy: FRUIT. And in the Summer, here in California, we are blessed with some of the best tasting, local, fresh fruit in the country.
You CAN get too much of a good thing though. When your diet is high in fruit, grains, and other carbohydrates (especially refined carbs), the non-beneficial gut bacteria in our bodies start to proliferate and crowd out the beneficial species. This can result in leaky gut and a weakened immune system. Our children do not need this challenge – we want them to grow strong and thrive!
2. Eat more fat
Consuming a lot of sugar can also lead to hypoglycemia and insulin resistance (Diabetes). But if you increase your fat intake with treats (and every meal, really), blood sugar remains stable. You avoid excess secretion of insulin and tap into glucagon stores instead.
You don’t want to eat just any fat though. Try to eat saturated fats from pastured-raised animals, coconut oil, olive oil, macadamia nut oil, or avocado oil. Processed oils can increase inflammation and lead to chronic disease.
Fat has earned a bad rap over the years, but in the last decade many studies have been done to show that traditional high fat diets of our ancestors do not cause high cholesterol & heart disease (as our governments has told us) but instead supports a healthy gut and growing body.
We all need more fat in our diets, especially kids, and especially if they’re eating a diet high in sugar!
We’ll explore more on fat here in a few weeks. But this article on Good Fats, Bad Fats by the Weston A. Price Foundation can help clear up a few myths that you may have been believing until now.
3. Enjoy treats with probiotics
Because sugar can wreak havoc on our precious gut flora, it’s important to stay ahead of this game by supplementing with double-encapsulated, high quality probiotics.
You can also have probiotic-containing foods as treats! Yogurt, creme fraiché, kefir, and kombucha can all be sweetened with fruit or honey, and make wonderful desserts!
It may take some time for you and your kids to make adjustments to your dessert habits. It’s much easier to control if you’re making these treats at home instead of consuming them in public places.
Nutrient-Dense Desserts to Balance Excess Summer Sugar
Lassi: India’s Delicious Yogurt Drink
from the Healthy Home Economist
Makes 2 servings
- 1 cup yogurt or kefir preferably raw
- 1/2 cup milk preferably raw
- 1 cup fresh fruit
- 2 tsp raw honey (optional)
- 2 drops stevia extract (optional)
- 1 cup ice (optional)
- Pour yogurt into clean, wide mouthed, quart sized mason jar
- Add milk, fresh fruit of choice (eg. raspberries, mango, peaches or strawberries), and the optional honey or stevia or ice to the mason jar.
- Blend for 15 seconds with a hand-held immersion blender.
- Serve immediately. Refrigerate leftovers.