Bad Sweets, Better Sweets

Sweets.  Dessert.  Ice cream.  Cake.  Cookies.  Pie.  Chocolate.  YUM.   I looove sweets.  I have a real sweet tooth. Do you love sweets too?  I think mankind in general has a love affair going with sugar.   In the United States each person consumes something like 200+ pounds of sugar EACH YEAR.  Who knew that “just one cookie” translated into more than 200 pounds?  That’s because it’s never just one.  Think about how much sugar your child gets in one week:

            *”just one” piece of candy after ballet

            *”just one” piece of candy after piano

            *”just one” sweet snack after ball practice

            *”just one” sweet snack after the game (that doesn’t include the sno-cone, bubblegum, and sweetened sports drink during the game)

            *”just one” piece of candy after mid-week Bible class

            *”just one” piece of candy during Bible class for knowing a correct answer

            *”just one” piece of candy from a well-meaning older person

            *”just one” piece of candy from the drive-thru bank teller

And this list doesn’t include the so-called “fruit snacks” that are marketed as healthy juice snacks but are really loaded with high fructose corn syrup, nor does this list include the other snacks your child eats through the week that also include corn syrup, and also don’t forget the “occasional” soft drink and fast food meal – both of which are heavily laden with sugar in many processed forms.  And don’t forget birthday parties and class parties where treats are a pre-requisite to having fun.  Also consider how many nights per week you feed your children dessert.  Or allow a sweet after-school snack.  Then on top of all of that, remember Halloween where children are allowed to have at it under the false assumption that “we don’t eat much sugar at our house so this one time a year is ok.”  And just a few weeks later the Thanksgiving and Christmas parties begin where we sweetly smile and say, “It’s just once a year.”  But right after that comes Valentines’ Day and more parties.  All of this in addition to the regular daily and weekly “just one time” treats.

  

OK so you are getting the picture – each one of us is easily consuming more than 200 pounds of sugar every year.   And yes this includes your family – the family that claims “we really don’t eat much sugar.”  Yes, you really do eat much more sugar than you realize.  It is time to put the brakes on the sugar consumption.  The future of your family is at stake.

 

ALL BAD

 

Sugar is just plain bad for you.  We all know that eating a lot of sugar can lead to diabetes and obesity but did you also know that sugar gives your immune system a big punch in the gut?  Yes – for a full 24 hours after consuming sugar, your immune system is not functioning at its peak level.  This is really bad news because for most of us our immune system is already in a weakened state so sugar gives it an even bigger blow.  Ever since I learned that sugar weakens immunities, I have paid close attention and mulled it over quite a bit.  Think about this:  when is the biggest cold and flu season in our country?  It starts somewhere in October and typically slows way down in January.  Right smack during three of our most major holidays:  Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas.  Sugar consumption is at an all-time high.  And so is the flu season.  How many families do you know who were hit hard with a stomach bug over Christmas?  It seemed to me that there were more this year than ever, but I was paying close attention.  Then there are all those who have been hit repeatedly with nasty colds that won’t go away.  My opinion is that there is a direct correlation between the holiday indulgence in sweets and holiday-time sickness.

 

DOWNRIGHT DANGEROUS

 

Additionally, sugar harms your liver.  I am no scientist so I will do my best to explain it in laymen’s terms.  White sugar, brown sugar, corn syrup, high fructose corn syrup, etc., have zero nutritional value.  Therefore instead of being digested/synthesized through your digestive system, it goes straight to your liver and is synthesized there.  Because it is not a natural food (sugar cane is natural, sugar is not), it is very hard on your liver.  It strains your liver.   A lifetime of eating sugar may not make everyone’s liver quit functioning, but it will keep the liver from functioning as it should.  You will experience the results one way or another, whether it is in the form of high blood sugar, high triglycerides, depression, or some other new-fangled vague disease like fibromyalgia or chronic fatigue.  Or, eventually, liver failure.

 

UMMM…HELLO!?

 

So basically, grown-ups give kids sugary treats thinking they are being sweet or offering a reward but in reality they are making that child more susceptible to diseases of all kinds, liver failure, diabetes, cancer, and setting them up for a lifetime of sugar addiction – physically and psychologically.  We are raising our kids to expect sugary rewards whenever something good happens.  We are raising our kids to expect sugary treats whenever two or more are gathered.  How does this make sense?  How is this good?

 

IT’S NOT A FOOD GROUP

 

We all have a natural affinity for something sweet.  God created us that way.  But interestingly he didn’t create us so that our bodies require sugar; he just created us to like it.  And then he placed several wonderful, sweet foods amongst his creation for us to enjoy.  On occasion.  And, interestingly, unlike sugar, which has NO nutritional value, every sweet thing God created is nutritious.  That means that the type of sugar in fruit, maple syrup, or honey is good for you (in moderation).  Not only this, but it is NOT addictive.  Man-made, or processed, sugars ARE addictive.  Unlike natural sugars, processed sugars inhibit the body’s ability to say, “I’m full.”  Instead, they actually turn on a craving for more.   This is addiction, and addiction is sinful.  You may not believe that you are addicted to sugar but consider giving up processed sugar for forever and see what kind of emotions that brings.  Just try giving it up for a short time.  It will not take long to realize that, yes, you are probably addicted to sugar.  Remember that God would not create a food that caused you to sin.  God’s foods do not create addiction.  In fact, if you eat too much honey you will get sick.

 

NUTRITION AND PHYSICAL DEGENERATION

 

There are so many problems with processed sugars that I couldn’t begin to list them all.  But there is one other obvious issue that needs to be mentioned:  teeth.  Sugar is so bad for your teeth.  For one thing it just rots them straight out.  But something else you may not have considered is that your overall physical health is reflected in the health of your teeth.   If your body isn’t tip-top, your teeth will show it.  So poor dental health, reflected not only in tooth decay but also facial structure and jaw structure, is a direct reflection on your personal health deep down inside.  This has actually been proven through the studies of Weston A. Price, a dentist/physician in the early 1900s who searched the world over for cultures who were free from disease and tooth decay.  He found isolated groups of people in every area of the world who were in prime health, free from disease, living long lives, and totally free from tooth decay.   Yet they never brushed or flossed their teeth, and they sure weren’t having regular fluoride treatments (and it wasn’t in their water).  These people were isolated from modern foods – processed foods such as sugar – and ate only traditional foods.  When one person would leave their traditional foods and traditional food preparation for westernized food, that person would soon begin to experience disease and the very next generation of their children was born with facial abnormalities, dental malformation, and other problems.  Today modern medicine and modern dentistry make this a non-issue for many people so we are not experiencing the terrible pain these problems wrought.  It’s a good thing, yet it just makes us that more removed from the source of our health problems:  modern processed foods like sugar.  Dr. Price’s work is documented in his extensive book, Nutrition and Physical Degeneration and continues to be promoted today through non-profit groups such as the Weston A. Price Foundation and the Price-Pottenger Foundation.  But amidst all that bad news, there is some good news:  it only takes one generation to correct the problems.  That means that if you teach your children to abstain from sugar (and other processed foods) now, their children will be better for it.

 

JUST SAY NO

 

That was a very lengthy way of saying, “quit eating sugar.”  But I hope you see now why sugar is so bad.   And now you are faced with the problem of what to do about it.  Sweets and other sugary treats are just a way of life for our culture, especially children.  I want to help you learn to live in this culture without making your children feel deprived but without continuing to wreak havoc on their health as well.

 

First, if your children are very young, my best advice for you is “DON’T START.”  If they have not tasted candy and other sugary treats, they will not care about them.  When they do taste them, they may not like them and it will be easier to keep them from indulging too much.  Meanwhile you can start teaching them as a way of life that these foods are bad.  If your children are older and sweets are already a big part of their lives, you have your work cut out for you but it can be done.  Start today by teaching them the ugly truth about sugar.  Give them incentives to decline the sweets at birthdays and other parties such as a quarter, or a promise of something else yummy to eat that is healthy, etc.  Then whenever it is within your power, such as in your house where YOU buy the groceries, stop buying these “foods.”  If the children do choose to partake of the goodies at parties, don’t make them feel guilty or even make a stink about it.  Simply be that much more determined to make home a haven that is free of the junk.  As they grow, you can continue to talk to them about why this food is bad, and encourage them to have just one (as opposed to many).  Sometimes the kids just need permission to not get seconds or not finish their treat and to just throw it away when they have had enough.  My jaw hit the floor the time I realized my kid was hanging onto a ring-pop just because they didn’t know they could throw it away!  Now I remind them all to never feel obligated to accept or finish sweets!  You don’t want to create eating disorders.  You want to educate and make them wise.  So never make it an emotional or discipline issue.  Always let it be their choice. 

 

It has been my experience that the longer you go without processed sugar, the less desirable it becomes when you do have it.  First, you can taste the fake flavors.  Second, you notice how it makes you feel.  This is true for adults and children both.  I have used the above approach(es) with my children.  At first it felt like a losing battle but as they have grown they have begun to choose NOT to indulge on their own.  They don’t enjoy the taste as much, they don’t feel good after they eat it, and they also know why it is bad.

 

Additionally, I make sure we always have special treats at home.  My kids get birthday cakes, we make Christmas cookies, and enjoy sweet desserts during holidays.  They are soooo not deprived!  But I control the ingredients in all of these things.  And this is the next point I want to make.

 

Remember my recent post, “Nutrient Dense?”  Everything you eat should have some nutritional value.  Some real nutritional value.  Go back and read that post through, then come back here and finish reading this one.

 

All sweets, even the so-called healthy ones, should be a very minimal part of your diet.  In other words, you do not need sweets every day or week.  Maybe a couple times each month is good.  Never is best.

 

Discover the sweets that God has already put into his creation before you make your own new ones.  For example, a bowl full of fresh berries with fresh raw cream drizzled all over.  This was never something that made me too excited until I had the real stuff a few years ago.  Raw cream drizzled over fresh berries is AMAZING!  And the cool thing about it is that it is SATISFYING.  You have some and your sweet tooth is satisfied.  And what about watermelon?  There is nothing quite like a big slice of cold, juicy, sweet watermelon on a hot July night.  It’s thirst-quenching, and it’s satisfying.

 

Have you tried fresh dates?  A good friend recently introduced me to Medjool Dates.

 

 

These are not the dried up things from a grocery store.  These are fresh dates with the pits still in them.  Fresh, sticky, chewy, and so incredibly sweet … we eat them like candy.  Except that after two or three, our sweet tooth is satisfied.  They don’t call our name whenever we walk by, and we are not tempted to have several throughout the day, unlike candy.

 

Of course there are plenty of ways to combine fresh, whole foods and natural, un-processed sweeteners to make delectable treats that won’t contribute to a decline in your health.   Get adventurous and try something new, such as these fabulous chocolate balls:

 

 

These are made with coconut oil, honey, ground almonds, cocoa, and shredded coconut.  They are so simple and basic, yet they are actually bursting with nutrition.  Coconut oil supports your thyroid and all endocrine functions while raw honey is actually an anti-bacterial and anti-viral food.  I found the recipe on the web.  Again, after just a couple, our sweet tooth is satisfied.  We don’t crave more.

 

You can modify existing recipes by using fresher, whole ingredients and changing the type of sugar and flour used.   A great resource is the King Arthur Whole Grain Baking cookbook.

 

 

I tried these date squares over the holidays and was pleasantly surprised.

 

 

I used my fresh Medjool dates (which were easy to pit and chop up), freshly ground whole wheat flour, freshly rolled oats, butter, and unrefined sugar to make these.  Their rich, sweet, ooey-gooey buttery flavor was just right.

 

People often ask me what I do about birthdays.  The answer is simple:  I make cake and ice cream.

 

You’d never know this cake was 100% whole wheat.  The icing does have powdered white sugar, but it is combined with raw cream and raw butter.  There are actually nutritional qualities to this cake.  And the ice cream, well, it’s totally awesome made with my fresh raw cream and eggs, and organic maple syrup instead of sugar.

 

REAL SWEETENERS

 

I wrote about real sweeteners last year in my post, “Sweet To The Soul.”  In it I discussed using honey, maple syrup, and molasses to sweeten foods instead of sugar and corn syrup.  Several people have asked me about Agave nectar.  I really don’t know why we need a new sweetener in addition to the ones God has already provided.  Some of you might argue that Agave is not new and that it is all natural (that’s what the producers claim) but the reality is that Agave is a fairly new sweetener, and it is very highly processed.  Check out this excellent article from the Food Renegade, or this one from the Weston A. Price Foundation.  Other people have asked me about Stevia.  Personally I have never used Stevia because I just don’t need to – I have  honey and maple syrup.  But Stevia is an acceptable choice – it is simply an herb that has a sweet taste. 

 

By using less processed, more nutritious ingredients wherever I can, and by limiting sweets to only true special occasions, I am drastically cutting back on sugar intake for my entire family.   And we are healthier for it.

 

It’s time for you to re-think your family’s sugar consumption.  Make 2010 the year that you and your family resolve to kiss your sugar habit goodbye.

 

 

 

GUEST BLOGGER: A TESTIMONY OF FAITH, HEALING, AND HEALTH

 

Note from The Grain Girl:  Today’s post is written by my dear friend Cindy, who has poured out her heart and soul to share the story of her and her sons’ journey toward health – and healing – by simply eating “God’s food.”  Cindy’s testimony is powerful and I pray that everyone who reads it will be encouraged and motivated. I tell everyone who feels they don’t have time, money, or motivation to change their lifestyle that if my friend Cindy can do it, anyone can.  She has endured  an intensely difficult struggle, and won.  Praise God for her courage and faith in him!

Be sure to read through to the end so you don’t miss a word of her amazing journey.


Thank you, Cindy, for sharing your story, and for being an example, so that others may also find health and healing through God’s perfect provision.


A TESTIMONY OF FAITH, HEALING, AND HEALTH

Last night I had the opportunity to help a lady whom I had never met, but had spoken to on the phone, to try and show her some ways she could make a difference in her family by changing how they eat.  It made me think back to my journey in this area over the past 3 years.

During 2006, I was trying to figure out how to help my son who was having trouble at school.  I knew he had behavior issues before he started Kindergarten, but it eventually came to a head in 3rd grade.  Teachers would say things like, “He has a wonderful heart but he has sudden outbursts that go against his normal personality.”  These outbursts would sometimes involve pushing other kids.  They would just happen.  I had tried multiple different things trying to help him.  The school system even had him tested/evaluated for various things and were recommending I put him on prescription medications even though he was not diagnosed with anything –for this particular teacher her only solution was to give him a pill and it would make her life easier here at school.

November of 2006 was when I went to my knees in prayer (yet again) and cried out to the Lord to please help me know what to do for this precious boy.

I distinctly remember what I can only say was the Holy Spirit saying it’s the food.  I “Googled” diet and behavior and was amazed that one of the leading hits was a website that specialized in helping people take the “bad” stuff out of their food to positively impact children with ADHD and ADD (neither of which my son has by the way).  I learned that research has shown that the shift in America to processed food tracks consistently with lots of health problems, but very clearly tracks with the sky rocketing of behavior based health issues – ADD and ADHD to name a couple.

 

A few days ago when I mentioned to my son that I had been asked by a teacher at school to help a mom with a son having behavior problems similar to what my son used to have my son said, “Well you are the one to do that.”  The next day he asked if he could share his story with this mom when she came by.  He has never spoken to others about this journey we have been on; he likes to just say, “Mom has gone organic.” My son is now 11 years old and a 6th grader at our local public middle school.  He shared with this mom the following thoughts:

·      How he was in the principal’s office 3 times in the first half of 3rd grade year when all he was trying to do was get along with everyone

·      He felt yucky inside all the time

·      Nobody wanted to play with him

·      He would get angry and frustrated very easy

·      He never felt like doing anything but video games (which I had been limiting trying to help him)

He then proceeded to say that his mom, “decided to take out artificial stuff, ingredients we cannot pronounce, and things other people make in factories.”  He shared how it took about a year but then he had lots of people who would play with him at recess, he never went back to the principal’s office (except to give hugs), now feels good, ran on the middle school cross country team and, his quote “it’s all because we eat what God made.”

My precious son has Sensory Integration Disorder – basically his nervous system would not process input from the 5 senses at the same rate most others do.  This input would build up in his body and he was continually in a constant state of “on edge” – like you feel when you are under tremendous stress and it doesn’t take much to push you over the edge – which would happen routinely at school.  We hope and pray that this disorder is something he will out grow but it has been obvious it has not.  When I say obvious what I mean is I can tell he still has it when the following situation occurs:  well meaning people give him a bag of M&M’s as a treat, if he doesn’t have the willpower and decides to eat them then he has significant physical/emotional symptoms that are from the Sensory Integration Disorder.  Every time this happens, it reaffirms that what I am doing with our diet is critical to his health and wellbeing.

So my journey started November of 2006 by taking out all preservatives, artificial colors/flavorings and even some natural foods that could cause this behavior.  We had 6 weeks of “detoxification” while all of our bodies rid itself of these bad things.  After the 6 weeks, I could add back in things like apples/strawberries one at time and see if anything happened with him.  Today he (and we) eats anything made by God as close to that natural state that I can realistically make it.

Just so you know, I am a single working mom of 2 boys – age 11 and 8 — and yes, I make everything we eat. This is just how our family eats – not because of my son’s behavior but because I have been convinced that God knows our bodies best and we should eat what God provides.

“How do I do it” is a question I frequently get.  You know when something is a priority its amazing how you can find time to fit in the activity – that is how I look at feeding my family naturally without processed food.  It’s just how we have to eat.

One of my goals was to not have my children feel “deprived” so I promised them and myself I would learn how to make all their favorite things with “good” ingredients.  My children do not miss out – instead of those yuckily processed Cosmic Brownies that they used to eat, I make brownies from scratch.  By making everything I can control the ingredients.   Every once in a while the boys will say something like I wish I could have “x” and I will say okay let’s find a recipe and make it and we do.

My key kitchen tools are:  bread machine, grain mill, deep freezer, crock pot and my Kitchen Aid mixer. I make all of our bread (using a mill to grind wheat – it’s as easy as pour in the grain, turn on the mill and get freshly ground flour -MAGIC).   I love to make bread with my mixer and hand knead it but reality due to time constraints is that usually I rely on my bread machine – I can put in all the ingredients, press start and in 3 hours 45 minutes we have freshly made bread or I can set the timer and its ready for breakfast.

My crock-pot is a great friend so that the meat portion of dinner is ready – I have meat ready, bread ready and then all I have to do each night is come up with the healthy side dishes.  We eat rice a couple of times a week, fresh veggies, sautéed veggies and salads.  I also participate in a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) which is a program with a local farmer where I receive a box of locally grown vegetables every other week which keeps me well stocked with fresh veggies, helps us try new things and adds a ton of nutrition into our regular meals.  I minimize the use of veggies from a can since so much nutrition is lost in the processing process – trust me I know, my work takes me inside of manufacturing plants!

I make waffles, pancakes, tortillas, bread, and rolls; every time I make some I bag a few for the freezer.  That allows me to have some in the moments when I fail to plan for a meal.    I don’t write out a plan for the week but I have a general plan in my mind and I always know what tomorrow’s menu will be so I can plan ahead.  Not planning is the one thing that could cause me to feel like we have to go out to eat or drive thru somewhere.  I even take coolers of food to their soccer/flag football games so that we are not tempted to buy snacks there – I think every time I can provide healthy alternatives to nachos and hot dogs we are better off.

A few tips that work for me are:

·      Each Sunday the boys and I create a veggie tray that stays in the fridge all week

·      I keep apples, pears and strawberries in the fridge at all times

·      I make granola bars, cut them and put them in lunch baggies for those quick need to grab something as your go out the door

·      I make muffins once or twice a week for after school snacks and freeze the leftovers

·      I buy fresh lettuce from the local farmers market and keep it in the fridge in a large plastic bowl (lined with paper towels to minimize spoilage) for a quick salad

·      I have taught my boys if you cannot pronounce an ingredient we cannot eat it – they also know of a few other things we don’t ever eat even if they can pronounce it!

·      I keep the healthiest tortilla chips I can find so that they can take “chips” in their lunch for school (once again so they don’t feel deprived)

·      Each week I cook at least one new and different food to keep them trying new things – our latest favorite that yes 2 boys asked for as part of Christmas dinner is drum roll please brussel sprouts (I didn’t think I even liked them but we do)

·      I make bulk chicken stock and freeze it both in quart freezer bags and ice trays so that I can pop a cube of chicken stock into rice and other things to intensify the nutritional impact

Another question I get frequently is “Why don’t you just do this for your older son and let your younger son eat whatever he wants” – well the answer to that is my conviction that God designed us and designed our food and no matter what our physical make-up says what God made is what is best for us all.  But my younger son has experienced benefits too.  He used to require daily breathing treatments, but hasn’t had one in two years!  My younger son loves to eat – 5-6 times a day he is asking for fresh fruit, raw veggies, and healthy snacks like that as well as eating large servings at each meal.  His body craves the nutritional impact from our food and it shows in his growth, health and energy level.


It’s been a 3-year process but I wouldn’t trade it for the world.  For those of you who do not know me, I did not grow up eating this way.  We ate lots of  “easy cooking” and comfort foods so this has been a big change for me as well.  It has been amazing how much better I feel physically and I really do not feel deprived myself.  I’ve just found ways to have these things in a more natural God provided way.   Those times when I find myself eating some of the “old” foods I can always tell the difference later that day and the next day how I feel.  What we feed ourselves truly impacts our physical bodies.

My older son had been encouraging me for a long time to break one bad habit I had – my diet cokes.  I had changed everything in how we ate except I didn’t think I could give up my addiction to diet coke – I was drinking 6-8 cans a day.  This past summer I quit buying and drinking these (the local Sonic happy hour is wondering where I am!)  It was amazing in hindsight that an 11 year old could so clearly see the importance of this one item and not give up until he convinced me to quit.

As you can tell I am passionate about this lifestyle because I have seen so much good come from switching my family to a God-planned, nutritionally dense diet lifestyle.   My children have not been on antibiotics in 2 ½ years and my 8 year old 2nd grader hasn’t missed a day of school since starting at elementary school (2 ½ years now).   My 6th grader did miss the day after Thanksgiving break with a fever that lasted six hours, but I truly think it was because we were out of town for a week eating things we do not normally eat.

It’s interesting, but as Amy and I discussed this article, I realized how much I had forgotten about the difficulty I had those years before our lifestyle diet change.  The Sensory Integration symptoms began showing when my older son had just turned 2; it took two years after that to get a diagnosis and then the trial of  a variety of methods to help him – reflux medication since he gagged and threw up regularly (which he actually started taking at age 2 ½ before the diagnosis),  occupation therapy to calm his nervous system, physical exercise programs (because this also manifests itself with loss of gross muscle control/lack of coordination), behavior modification programs to just name a few things – all of this took place for 6 long and arduous years in one form or another before I changed what we put in our bodies.  By the way, the divorce occurred about 3 years into this 6 years of sensory integration running rampant with him – I think that is important to know since it wasn’t just the emotional impact of divorce manifesting itself thru these symptoms, it was much bigger than that.  I also thought you might like to know he now runs cross country for his school and plays flag football and basketball – all are things that come much easier to him these days without a drop of prescription medication. At the same time all of these issues were occurring with my older son, my younger son was dealing with constant asthmatic and upper respiratory attacks which, as I mentioned earlier, required daily breathing treatments.  My life was consumed with doctor appointments, meetings, tests, medications, and stress.  Today, my life is consumed with simply loving on and enjoying my healthy, joyful boys.

 

Another benefit that has occurred is that I also am off of a long term medication that my insurance did not cover.  I had been on anti-depressants since my younger son was born – between postpartum depression and the intense emotional situation of a divorce I thought prescription medication was the only way to manage life.  About a year into this way of eating, God put on my heart to trust him and trust the food I was putting in my body and quit taking the medication.  I quit and have been off of it for 2 years now. God’s way really worked for me.

All of these health improvements are an important benefit, but the biggest benefit is seeing the 180 degree change in my son and to hear him say “Just do everything my mom says about food and life becomes great.”

How excellent is thy lovingkindness, O God!  therefore the children of men put their trust under the shadow of thy wings.  They shall be abundantly satisfied with the fatness of thy house…

Psalm 36:7,8