My one indulgence when doing laundry. . .and sometimes the reason I’m okay doing laundry. . .is that I get to catch up on some Netflix viewing. A couple of nights ago while folding sheets I started watching the documentary, Fed Up. The premise of the documentary is that the reason we have an obesity epidemic, especially for our children, is that we’ve let large food manufactures basically have a blank check on what they can put into their processed foods, how those foods are labeled and how they are marketed to our children. The main culprit to obesity is sugar, the experts argue, and the amount of sugar our children ingest on a daily basis is staggering. And, just because our children might not be outwardly obese doesn’t mean that they that they aren’t developing body fat internally and around vital organs.
One of my favorite food writers, Michael Pollan, weighs-in throughout the documentary. (I love how he can take a complicated issue and provide seemingly simple solutions.) He says that to combat obesity we need to do one thing: serve more homemade meals that are rich in veggies and fruits and lean protein. In other words: we need to be making more of our own meals rather than relying on processed foods.
For some reason, though, food manufactures have us convinced that we don’t have time and children won’t eat unless it is the highly processed foods that they concoct. We have been sold the belief that we are wasting time and money and food by feeding children things that aren’t processed because they won’t eat those things and they will still be hungry and we will have failed as parents. And, as parents we think, “Well, they need to eat something.”
Believe me, I get it and me and my family have not been immune to the assertion that our children need to eat at least something. Here’s an embarrassing example: For the entire school year Will ate Honey Bunches of Oats every morning. And, although I would beg him to eat something else, Scott and I would think, “Well, he’s not going to school with an empty stomach.” But Will, and maybe because he tends to be addicted to processed foods and sugar, is also my child that takes sugar dives and who becomes a complete and impossible bear when those dives occur. His world crashes around him and everything is awful and miserable and no body likes him. Feed the child and viola he is back to baseline.
At the beginning of the summer, I decided to stop buying that cereal because sugar was the SECOND ingredient. Amazingly, the child is still with us and he is doing fine in the mornings. Marc was grounded the other day for having three sodas at a friend’s house. (Do you know that one soda contains TEN TEASPOONS of sugar?! So three sodas meant THIRTY TEASPOONS OF SUGAR!)
I think of my own struggles with losing the fifth baby baby weight. I’ve tried to work it off. . .but in reality I’m as addicted to sugar as my children. Maybe I don’t have three (or any) sodas. . .but it is in my diet and after a particularly veggie laden meal I absolutely CRAVE something sweet. If as an adult I can’t resist sugar. . .how can I expect my children to do so?
So, I’m trying. When I hit an after noon lull yesterday I thought I would just grab a spoonful of peanut butter–a protein pick-me-up. And, then after I indulged in that delicious, creamy spoonful I looked at the ingredients and WHAT? dextrose was the SECOND ingredient.
Have you ever looked at a food label and noticed that across from the word “sugar” in the nutritional guide, there is no a percentage of daily allowance? You can thank the lobbyists from the food manufactures for that huge omission.
So how much added sugar should you allow yourself or your family members to ingest per day? (I say “added” because I’m not including sugar found naturally in whole fruit–not fruit juices–which also contains fiber.) Keep in mind that one teaspoon is equivalent to 4 grams. So, for women it is 5-6 teaspoons (20-24 grams) and for men it is 9 teaspoons (36 grams). The American Heart Association recommends that up to age 8 children should only have 3-4 teaspoons of added sugar (12-16 grams) per day. Older children are recommended to have no more than 5-8 teaspoons of added sugar (20-32 grams).
Can I get an OMG from the choir? So, Will, just for an example, started his morning with 12 grams (3 teaspoons)of sugar followed by a peanut butter and jelly lunch that had another 12 grams of sugar (3 teaspoons). If that was all he ate (and I won’t even mention what else might have been in his lunch. . .) that was 24 grams (6 teaspoons) of sugar before he came home from school. Add a birthday celebration at the end of the day which the favorite treat is a glazed donut and add another TEN GRAMS of sugar (2.5 teaspoons). By the end of the day. . .and we aren’t even adding in the sugar that is hidden in salad dressing, granola bars, tortillas or whatever else non-farm based item the boy chooses. . . Will was ingesting 34 grams (nearly nine teaspoons) of PROCESSED SUGAR.
So I’m trying. . .and I’m trying to be as vigilant for my family as well. I cook dinner nearly every single night, which helps, but it is also not enough when I’m a mom against the additives, the advertisements, and the culture that pushes all of these products onto our families.
I encourage everyone to watch Fed Up. Think about your own food habits and beliefs and start adding up the amount of added sugar your family ingests per day. You might be as shocked as I was. My children. . .my family. . .is way too sweet.