Sweet Food for Thought
I’ve recently watched the documentary Fed Up. I rented the movie knowing that it deals with increasing child obesity, sugar addiction and how bad processed foods are for us in general. As these topics concern Yumbox mission of promoting healthy eating habits a lot, I was already well informed about the subject matter. Still, I walked away from the movie thinking… is my family eating too much sugar as well?
I am a working mom, who also likes to cook. I’m alert to what and how much we consume on a daily basis. Yet, I realized that sugar intake is sometimes hard to visualize today. Fruit juice has it, so does pasta and white rice and the ketchup that your kids like to use. And it all adds up!
US studies found that an average person’s daily sugar intake was around 19 teaspoons, whereas the American Heart Association (AHA) recommends that the maximum amount should be 9 teaspoons for men and 6 for women (2008 study). Children under 10 should consume less than 4 teaspoons per day. But AHA studies show that children as young as 1-3 already surpass the daily recommendations. In fact a typical 8 year old consumes up to 21 teaspoons a day. That is “only” quintuple the recommended amount.
Why is High Sugar Diet bad for you?
High sugar diet will not only increase your family’s weight, it has been also associated with obesity, type II diabetes, cardiovascular disease, certain cancers, tooth decay, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease and many other medical conditions. For those reasons alone, I think we should make an effort to reduce sugar in our daily diet.
Ways to Reduce sugar in your family’s diet
Sugar is not something that can be plausibly removed entirely from the diet, but should be consumed in moderation because it is a source of empty calories. There are many ways to reduce your family’s sugar intake - small changes that might take a bit of taste adjustment, but will probably become a norm once your family adjusts to the sugar smart way of eating. Here is a list of common sugar culprits and suggestions on how to replace them with the healthier alternatives:
- Soda: A can of Coke alone is equal to over nine teaspoons of sugar. So you definitely do not want to make this into a daily habit. Ideal substitution is water, water with a slice of lemon or even herbal iced tea without any added sugar.
- Juice: This was a surprise for me. You think you’re being healthy by drinking juice, but actually juice itself is almost as bad as soft drinks. Juice lacks the fiber of whole fruit and is therefore quickly transformed into sugar. Follow the same substitution as with soft drinks, or dilute 100% pure juice with water.
- White Rice or Pasta: Here we have a real hidden culprit. When you see rice or pasta you don’t really think SUGAR. Yet, as per Alissa Rumsey, R.D., a nutritionist at New York-Presbyterian Hospital, in New York City: "White rice is digested much faster and converted into sugar in your blood much quicker, so your body puts out a lot more insulin in response to white rice. Whole grains like brown rice are broken down into glucose a lot slower." Ideal and very tasty substitution here is brown rice or whole grains like quinoa or bulgur. For pasta opt for the whole grain version. And please do not buy sugar and preservative loaded pre-made spaghetti sauces. It’s just as easy to make your own, like in this Annabel Karmel Quick Tomato Sauce recipe.
- Canned Fruit: It might sound like a healthy option, but canned fruit often has added syrup packed with sugar. Ideal substitution is fresh fruit. Or purchase canned fruit in natural juice.
- Flavored Yogurt: Kids like them because they are sweet. And their sweetness is often produced by scary sounding ingredients. It’s fine to offer your children a sweetened yogurt, but make it sweet yourself by adding a teaspoon of honey, fresh fruit or even a sprinkle of sugar, that way you know exactly how much sugar has been added.
- Cereal bars and granola: Recent research shows that most cereal bars are rich in fat and sugar and have more calories per 100g than a bar of chocolate, averaging between 2 to 4 teaspoons of sugar per bar. We’re so careful about not giving our children candies and chocolates, yet granola bars somehow get the healthy pass. Instead, how about preparing a little bag of flavored popcorn like in this recipe shared with us by the Lunchbox Doctor?
- Condiments, like ketchup and BBQ sauce: My kids love ketchup. There seems to be nothing wrong with it. In fact, some countries even classified it as a vegetable by the school lunch standards! Yet, ketchup is loaded with sugar. Imagine a quarter of your ketchup bottle being just sugar. BBQ sauce is even worse. Like everything in life, don’t deny your children the ketchup pleasures, but teach them moderation. And even better, follow this Home Made Sugar Free Ketchup recipe and make your own!
- Low fat products: There is so much written about the subject, so we won’t even discuss it further beyond - don’t buy low fat products for your kids. They are loaded with sugar and preservatives. Children need good fat. Focus on serving the right portion sizes and creating a balanced diet and there is no need for special low fat products in your family’s diet. Good substitution is full fat products, but in smaller portion sizes.
We can inspire each other to eat less sugar on a daily basis! Yumbox has teamed up with the Lunchbox Doctor, Jenny Tschiesche, to host a Yumbox Sugar Smart Challenge (#YumboxSugarSmart). We know that cutting out sugar completely is not very appealing or a reasonable thing to expect. But we also believe that we should inspire each other to cut down our consumption. The Yumbox Sugar Smart Challenge has been created to support each other in our efforts to pack healthier lunches and snacks.
Yumbox Sugar Smart Contest Guidelines
Pack 5 healthy low-sugar lunches or snacks in a Yumbox;
Post 5 photos of those healthy lunches or snacks on your website, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter or Pinterest page and tag #YumboxSugarSmart for each entry;
Optional: tag Yumbox and LunchboxDoctor on all your posts;
Describe the contents of your healthy lunch for each photo and what swaps you’ve made to ensure that you are decreasing your sugar intake.
How to Enter
Leave a comment on this blog letting us know your username and where your photos can be found. Only publicly available photos are eligible.
Example: I'm Sarah Smart and I'm taking the Yumbox Sugar Smart Challenge. Follow me on Facebook and Instagram user name Sarahsmartmom
The contest is open to US residents only. Meals must be packed in a Yumbox. Contests runs from September 22nd to October 10th. Only photos tagged #YumboxSugarSmart during this period will be eligible. The Lunchbox Doctor will select a winner from all the entries on October 13th. Winner receives a free Yumbox and a $100 Visa Card. Good Luck!
Yumbox affliates are encouraged to take the Yumbox Sugar Smart Challenge but are not eligible for prizes.
Sugar Smart Challenge Winner!!!! Chosen by the Lunchbox Doctor Jenny Tschiesche
"I have had a look at all the entries. What a great competition! I have struggled to find one outright winner. However, I know I have to. I have decided that the winner is @healthylucyo
This particular winner has been very consistent in keeping the Yumboxes loaded with a variety of nutrients and flavours. I would particularly like to highlight the two boxes from 7 days ago. The winner has packed a home-made pumpkin bread cake and popcorn, providing energy, some lean chicken for protein which helps with concentration, broccoli which is not only a source of immune-boosting nutrients but also calcium which people often think has to be provided by dairy products. The grapes give a little extra sweetness. Great flavour combinations are not lost in the bid to make these lunchboxes sugar free either. Congratulations @healthylucyo!"