My grandmother and I were talking about sugar yesterday, and she said that she used to make dessert for her skinny, skinny family every day. I make dessert about twice a week, I said, which caused my oldest child, Miss Snortypants, to guffaw.
"Twice a week?" she said. "Nuh-uh. More like twice a MONTH. Or TWICE A YEAR."
The poor little thing. Her mother never makes dessert. Or what SHE considers a dessert: chocolate cake with lavish fudge frosting, chocolate brownie cobbler with chocolate sauce, slabs of homemade brownies studded with white chocolate chunks… Those are somewhat rare, occurring once a month or so, while we do have frequent servings of less thrilling desserts – fruit crisps, oatmeal cookies, and lots of sometimes-successful gluten free experiments.
I was sitting beside another mother a few months ago while our sons were attending swimming lessons, and chatting casually with her while adding a few things to my week’s menu plan. She was reading it over my shoulder and pulled a face when she saw how many desserts where on the list.
"That’s a whole lot of sugar!" she said. And then her kid waddled out of the pool and she gave him a can of pop. I AM NOT KIDDING.
One can of pop has a quarter of a cup of sugar. If your kid drinks two cans of pop a day, your child is drinking HALF A CUP OF SUGAR A DAY. That is CRAZY. Add in fruit juice – which I think is nutritionally a terrible idea – sweetened fruit drinks, freshy (or "fleshy", as The Baby called it this weekend), sweetened iced tea, and you have a ridiculous amount of sugar and empty calories being consumed by most children every single day. (and their mothers – a very popular Canadian coffee chain’s Iced Cappuccino has 17 TEASPOONS of sugar in it and 700 calories. Gah.) Add to that the sugary boxed cereals, prepackaged lunchbox snacks, canned soups, granola bars and all of the rest of the average Canadian child’s diet, and you have a nation of kids who are swimming in cheap, over-processed sugar.
So instead of all of that, my kids get bowls of oatmeal or homemade granola or fruit smoothies, homemade cookies in their lunchboxes, and the occasional homemade dessert (more frequently than ONCE A MONTH, twerpy Daughter!). It takes a bit of planning and a bit of effort – but neither as much effort or planning as you might think – tonight, I’m experimenting with making rice pudding in our rice cooker, which is an idea that occurred to me over the weekend – we’ll see how it goes, although I’ve had so much luck with adding in ingredients in the rice cooker that I’m pretty confident that it will be tasty.
Sugar is not the enemy. The enemy is our unthinking overconsumption of sugar and the way that we’ve all cheerfully accepted these shelves full of nutritionally terrible foods as part of our everyday diet. No matter how well I think we might be doing, however, my children’s quiet griping suggests that all is not well at my house, that they feel shortchanged. (which seems ridiculous to me, but there you have it.) How do you balance your children’s desires for the foods that they see advertised and see their friends’ eating with their need for a healthy diet?