Sugar Rules

tutorial for the perfect chocolate chip cookie

By Gabrielle. Image by Lindsey Johnson for Design Mom.

You may remember that months ago I mentioned the NY Times article about toxic sugar. The article really stuck with me — possibly because I have a long-standing passion for all things sugary. : ) Since then I’ve done more reading on the subject and the family has made several sincere (but failed!) attempts to eat less sugar. But our latest effort seems to be working. Granted, it’s a baby step, but I thought I’d share in case anyone else out there is trying to cut back.

We instituted a sugar-only-on-the weekends rule, and I think it’s a keeper. It’s quite loose, and non-stressful, and that’s probably why we’re having more success. Basically it works like this:

1) There are no treats around during the week, except fresh fruit. No treats includes no soda or juice. And I’ve tried to be really strict about finding products with no added sugar. Mayo with no sugar. Tomato sauce with no sugar. Hot dogs with no sugar. Bread with no sugar. Peanut Butter with no sugar. Chicken Stock with no sugar. Crackers with no sugar. (It’s challenging. Sugar is in everything!) If we go out to eat during the week, we don’t order dessert (or soda).

2) Saturday and Sunday are sugar freebie days. If we’re at the grocery store and the kids see Apple Jacks or Sour Patch Kids and make a request, our answer is, “Yum! Is that the treat you want to pick out this weekend?” Also, we love baking, so we save it for the weekend as well. This has been lovely. The kids really look forward to their weekend treats and no one seems to feel deprived.

3) If the kids have candy at school for somebody’s birthday or if there’s a popsicle fundraiser, that’s fine. We try to keep pretty loose about this outside of our house.

And it seems to be working! We’re eating less sugar overall, and when we do eat something sweet, it’s intentional — like a bowl of ice cream on Saturday afternoon, instead of accidentally having sugar in our bolognese sauce. It also seems like we’re craving less sugar overall.

As for health benefits, I honestly can’t say I’ve seen any differences at all! Hah! But I’m trying to keep the long view in mind — my father died of adult onset diabetes at age 52, and research shows the link between sugar and diabetes (and cancer, too) so clearly.

Have any of you tried to cut out or cut down sugar intake at your house? We’re total amateurs, but I’m sure some of you are pros! I’d love your tips and tricks.

P.S. — One more thing that’s helped us: We keep small bottles of sparking water in the fridge instead of pop. It satisfies that soda craving with out a bit of sugar!

92 thoughts on “Sugar Rules”

  1. I really like this post and all the comments! I totally share your concern and I unfortunately have a sweet tooth too. I always thought my parents played a bit of a role in it because I didn’t really grow up eating so healthily and therefore I have always struggled with my weight (not drastically but considerably).

    That’s why I wanted to make it better with my own kids. I also read once that your eating habits as a kid form your habits in later life! We all know how hard it is to change your habits… I have always looked out that our kids have very limited amounts of sweets. When they are small it’s relatively easy but ones they start kindergarden and school they are basically bombarded with sweets from all sides and it becomes quite hard I find. We live in a very French area of Brussels at the moment (for that reason I followed your time in France with great interest!). A lot of French families live in our area but still our kids are more or less “outsiders” when it comes to their lunch boxes and other kids sometimes comment or joke about the content of our children’s lunch boxes (which contain food like you suggested in recent posts, so nothing really so unusual). My kids tell me that other children very often have chocolate sandwiches in their lunch boxes… beside all the other treats they consume… Oh, I could write for hours about this subject but I don’t want to go on forever.

    I actually wanted to share a little tip I discovered for myself over the last months. Apart from eating really healthily (homemade fresh organic food, lots of vegetables and very little meat, etc.) I also have a sweet tooth (I enjoy baking as well) which I have been trying to control. I started to do one fast day per month (full moon is a good day for it even though it sounds a bit crazy). I just drink that day. It’s supposed to cleanse your body and also gives your digestive system a bit of a break. As a positive side effect I noticed that it moderated my appetite in general a bit and somehow made me even more aware of what is good for me to eat and what not. The first time it’s hard – especially if you still have to cook a meal for the whole family like me. But it gets easier and even gives you a little “high” at the end of the day!

    Good luck with your new routine and I look forward to reading more about this subject on your blog!

  2. This is a great way to manage a families habits! Our kids do well now but I can see how “weekends only” would provide manageable parameters as they grow older. We always have sparkling water on hand with a variety of fruit nectars and lemon juice for a splash of flavor. And I completely agree, it seems a must to read labels as everything has added sugars!

  3. G-I began taking an herb called Gymnema Sylvestre back in March after reading that (eastern) Indian mothers gave it to their children to cut their craving for sweets. I was facing a “pre diabetic” diagnosis and was willing to try anything.
    I can say for certain that it does indeed work. I have definitely reduced my cravings for sweets. The only negative is that it makes you VERY thirsty. Not just regular thirsty, but REALLY thirsty. I drink at least 80 oz or so of water a day.
    Try it, you may like it.

  4. I agree! This is really my philosophy, too — and one that I just find very easy to live by and we truly live by this… ( the only exception for us would be on a rare day (that we had the time!) and that we might have the chance to bake together on a weekday , I’d make an exception for baking something like an apple crumble especially if the kids have been a part of the full process — going to the orchard or to our trees to pick the fruit, planning the time, reading the recipe, etc then, I feel that the whole process changes the food …. but, never candy, soft drinks, etc. (Also, since the children have been raised with this philosophy, they’re sweet threshhold is very low! Although they love a dessert, in general I cut the sugar down from most of my American recipes to 1/4- 1/2 of the original amount called for or they feel that they’re too sweet … unlike their mother, who as I kid, was a true sweet tooth.)

    I’m just curious if you find that soft drinks were easier to avoid while living in Europe vs the US? In Sweden, I find soft drinks to really be a non-issue here (except parties) on weekdays and in our daily life but, I basically feel that the “cat leapt out of the bag” on soft drinks on visits to the US — I feel like they’re so much more common place on these visits – even TV ads under the blanket of action and sports — and I wondered if you experienced this, too? (Of course, another discussion altogether is pastries and chocolate in France that are common “goute” … but, the kids really understand how it works in our house and these “goute” items are just really pleasures of the weekend and trips to the bakeries on vacations to France — and Swedes, contrary to this, eat fruit as weekday snacks which is helpful support.)

  5. Pingback: monday: best of last week | The Misadventures of Kelly and Kelly

  6. Great Topic–
    I actually read parts of the National Geographic article aloud to my 12 year old daughter. She accumulates candy from friends.

    People who crave sugar are often not sleeping enough or well. Something to consider.

    People who skip meals or don’t have them on time often crave sugar.

  7. I am five month pregnants right now and until a few weeks ago I had a lot of trouble keeping any food in. I was fine in the morning and over the day I got sick and sicker until in the evenings I just felt like I had the worst hangover. Over weeks I tried to figure out what it was that affected me so badly, it was cleary something I ate, because eating always made it worse.

    What I finally did find out what caused my bad state: White Sugar. As soon as I stopped eating it, I felt so. much. better.
    I replaced everything with white sugar in it with something from the organic shop, which was sweetened with raw cane sugar, honey, etc. Did the trick. Than I started feeling not so good again. So I tried to eliminate the alternative sugars. Fine again. A few days ago I felt sick again after drinking a few glasses of orange juice (fruit sugar), so I am aware now of drinking smaller portions of it if I crave it.
    Eating fruit is fine, even very sweet fruits. I suppose, in fruits you always have a lot of fibers that keep the sugars from entering your body too fast.

    Parallel to that I replaced all the regular sweets in the house with organic ones (made with alternative sugars) for my 5 year old daughter. Here is what happened: She didn’t mind. Until now she doesn’t ask for the regular sweets at all. She asks MUCH LESS for sweets in general.

    So here are my conclusion (completely unscientific):
    White sugar is the worst. It also makes you want more of it all the time. Once you stop eating it, your body actually gets a chance to tell you, how much sugar and what kind of sugar you really want and can digest. My daughter now sometimes says stuff like: Don’t give me so many sweets, they make me sick. Or: This is too sweet to eat. And I myself notice that after 2 pieces of chocolat (with raw cane sugar), I feel oversweetened. Has never happened to me before with regular chocolat.

    I asked my gynecologist about it and she said: You seem to have a really smart body. Sugar is toxic.
    I know this post is a few weeks old, but I wanted to share this with you.
    Also, just to be clear: I used to eat tons of sweets and never felt like I wanted to stop it. I am healthy and not overweight and always called myself a sugar addict without any guilt. So I wasn’t anti sugar at all. And now that I have to, I found it easy and very benefiting.

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