Now is the time for your Easter bunny detox
Whose bright idea was it to have Easter and April Fools’ all on the same day? I woke up to maple syrup in the toothpaste, cling-wrapped toilet seats and a whole load of other jokes, courtesy of Chloe, prankster extraordinaire.
I wish I’d realised it was April Fools’ too, I would have filled every single egg with a Brussels sprout instead of the usual combination of chocolate and toys.
I did risk filling a couple with pistachios in an attempt to offset the sugar rush — both the children were seriously unimpressed though!
I don’t really blame them … come on, the Easter bunny, what were you thinking?! Easter is hardly the day to start being angelic. But I’m always torn — let them go for it and get all the sugar over and done with, or take a more measured approach?
This year, I just let them go for it. There wasn’t all that much really and I’d gone the usual dye-free path. And it was interesting, because one of my girls self-limited (she realised she was starting to feel crappy so stopped all by herself) and the other …. just kept going.
The one that kept going has had major sugar cravings this week too. She eventually said, “You know what the problem is mummy? I don’t have A sweet tooth, I have all sweet tooths.” Hmmmm, I think that’s pretty accurate!
Did you know there’s actually a gene associated with having a sweet tooth? We test for it in the clinic alongside other interesting obesity and cardiometabolic risk factors. The science behind it is certainly solid, but whether or not that gene is expressing itself is interestingly variable. It goes to show what an impact nurture has on dietary patterns too.
It’s perfectly possible for someone without the gene to have a raging sugar addiction, usually because they’ve grown up on a diet of refined carbs (that cause blood sugar to ricochet, with the lows triggering cravings).
Also, if you’ve grown up with a pattern of being comforted with sweet food (when you trip and hurt yourself as a kid, or when your heart is broken as a teen), then that sets the stage for a life full of sugar too.
Helping children get a handle on sugar early on in their lives is one of the best gifts we can give them. And if your child has slid down a super-sugary slope this Easter, then we probably need a little detox!
When they’re young, it’s difficult for children to apply the logic of the long term (disease prevention and longevity) when sugar tastes so good today.
We’re all familiar with the thought that we can start being healthy tomorrow, right? So it’s up to us to help them reset.
There’s certainly no harm in gently pointing out the life lessons around us. Bermuda has the highest rate of amputations due to diabetes in the world — and that’s a sobering thought.
If your child asks why someone has a limb difference there’s no harm explaining some of the possibilities, including (without assuming) the complications of diabetes. However, there are three practical things you can do without all the doom and gloom. The idea is to help them grow up with habits they can easily maintain as teens, without feeling as if they are missing out.
1. Your body is like a race car
In our summer camp, we use this analogy for children. The better the fuel, the better the performance.
This means they can run faster, be stronger and feel more comfortable (steady energy and mood) if they put good quality food into their bodies. We use a traffic light system to help broadly categorise foods for them. Green light foods are “go” foods that they can eat all the time: fruit, vegetables, wholegrains, good quality (preferably organic) animal products, beans and lentils, nuts and seeds.
Yellow light foods are “sometimes” foods: a chocolate chip cookie you have made at home from scratch, or a small glass of 100 per cent juice. Red light foods are “avoid” foods: everything that’s highly processed, full of chemicals and poor quality animal products too.
Things like sodas, Skittles, Froot Loops, Blow Pops, regular hot dogs and Pop Tarts. It’s not that they can never have them, but 1) understand that it’s not food in the traditional sense (ie not something that nourishes or does any good) and 2) it’s a good idea not to have those things often.
2. Learn how to read sugar labels and pick lower sugar options
Understanding grams of sugar is tricky, because who knows what 64g of sugar actually looks like? It’s better to convert grams to teaspoons, so they can understand how much they’re eating.
Here’s how to do it:
• Look for the “sugars” content on the label
• Know that 4g “sugars” is 1 teaspoon of sugar (approximately)
• Check the portion size. “Sugars” will be listed per portion, but is the portion realistic? If you are going to eat a double portion, you need to double the sugars.
• Divide the total “sugars” by 4, which gives you the approximate number of teaspoons of sugar you’ll be consuming. For example, if a drink has 30g sugars per serving and they will be drinking two servings, the total sugars is 60g. To turn that into teaspoons, divide 60 by 4 which comes to 15 teaspoons of sugar. With me?
Some good lower sugar choices (that don’t include artificial sweeteners or sugar alcohols) are: Ruby Rocket Popsicles, Made Good granola bars and Siggis yoghurts. Older children can compare these labels to more mainstream versions and see how the sugar content varies. Know that 2g sugar (half teaspoon) is a little and 10g sugar (two-and-a-half teaspoons) is a lot.
3. Pair sugar with fibre (at least) and preferably with quality protein too
Fibre and protein slow the release of sugar into the bloodstream, which should mean less pressure on the insulin response and more sustained (longer-lasting) energy release too.
So picking an option with fibre (think a granola bar versus a straight-up bag of candy) would be a better choice. Even better, add some protein too. So if you’re having a little chocolate, have a small handful of nuts as well.
When you’re baking, try replacing some of the flour with Linwoods ground seed mix (Supermart). This works really well in my Nutrifit banana bread recipe, and is good in cakes/muffins in general. I’ll pop the recipe up on social media this weekend as a reminder!
The advice given in this article is not intended to replace medical advice, but to complement it. Always consult your GP if you have any health concerns. Catherine Burns is a fully qualified nutritional therapist trained by the Institute for Optimum Nutrition in the UK. Please note that she is not a registered dietitian. For details: www.natural.bm, 236-7511, Facebook, Natural Nutrition Bermuda and Instagram: @naturalbda
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