My daughter had a friend sleep over the other night. I'm not a big fan of sleepovers, so we don't do them very often. But this girl is one of my favorites of Sally's friends. We'll call her Peggy. She's a nice girl, low maintenance, no drama. It's hard to find those qualities in a 10-year-old girl nowadays.
Peggy brought a large bag of leftover Halloween candy with her. We were going to the movies, so her mom let her bring the candy to take with us. She also proceeded to eat a great deal of the candy, both before and after the movie. Then the following morning, she drank chocolate milk with breakfast and started back in on the Halloween candy by 10:00 a.m.
As a result, Sally wanted to eat just as much candy as her friend. I tried to be cool about it, but anyone who knows me knows I have "issues" with sugar.
You see, we as Americans eat too much sugar. It's as simple as that. So I try to limit the amount of sugar my kids consume on a daily basis. This is much easier said than done because sugar lurks in EVERYTHING they eat and drink!
I tried to explain this to Sally the other day. She had eaten two of those Nature Valley Oats and Dark Chocolate granola bars for breakfast. (Yes, I know it's chocolate for breakfast. I regretted it as soon as I let her have it.) They have 12 grams of sugar, which is the same amount that's in some breakfast cereals. The problem was that she was still hungry and wanted to eat two of the peanut butter granola bars, too. Those have 11 grams of sugar.
So I broke it down and did the math. If she ate the extra granola bars, she would have consumed 23 grams of sugar, which is more sugar than two Reese's Peanut Butter Cups! And it was only 9:00 in the morning!
When I pointed this out to Sally, she seemed to understand, and she agreed to eat some cashews instead. But a normal mom without a sugar obsession might not think twice about giving her child a couple of extra granola bars. This is why we have so many overweight, unhealthy kids.
I did some research, and the American Heart Association recommends that preschoolers consume about 4 teaspoons (16 grams) of sugar per day, children 4-8 should eat around 3 teaspoons (12 grams) per day, and preteens and teens can consume 5-8 teaspoons per day. So my daughter just about met her quota for the day on the first granola bars alone.
I often feel as if I'm fighting a losing battle. Sugar is everywhere! Our children are programmed to seek it out, and adults are programmed to give it to them. My mother is an expert at justifying giving my kids junk food.
She'll say things like, "Look, this pudding has calcium in it," or "At least frozen yogurt is healthy."
Sometimes I just need to lighten up and let my kids eat sweets, but someone has to be the voice of reason in this greedy, excess-driven world. I hope I'm not giving them eating disorders by making such a big deal about their sugar intake, but at the same time I don't want obese, cavity-infested kids, either. I suppose there's a balance to be struck.
As we finally say goodbye to the Halloween candy, we can now look forward to the gluttony of Thanksgiving and the greed of Christmas. Happy holidays!