14 Ways to Parent without Sugar.

6 minute read

Readers Share Their Best Ideas.

Ohhh, the constant constantness of parenting: a job so important and unrelenting it can feel like treading water with a brick over your head.

I get it. And so do you.

In this episode we round up some of the best ideas you submitted after my funny-but-not-so-funny post: Why I gave My Kids Sugar Sanity.

I’ve added a few more tips and tricks from our own household and some comments that came in via FaceBook. Thanks to everyone who contributed!

Just to recap: the idea behind Why I Gave My Kids Sugar Sanity was to vent a little and then crowdsource the question, "What do we do with kids and sugar?" Sugar is such an easy out, such a cultural crutch when it comes to rewarding our kids, or simply occupying them. So, I invited you to put your loving thinking caps on and help me think of a few creative alternatives.

What Readers Say.

First up, Rebecca from Eastern Oregon recommends giving kids the gift of engagement.

Engage them! Give time and attention to something they want to do, to who they are, to something you as a parent can do with them…involve yourself.

She also had a few things to say about sugar, herself:

With regards to the sugar: The drinks and snacks that kids will choose, usually are inundated with not only sugar but caffeine as well. This is a potent recipe for neurological stimulation, and addictive. By high school or college, most people are self-medicating with all of the above, and this is unfortunately considered Normal. Even without problems like migraine headaches or ADHD, this constant stimulation to a body can't be a situation in which we are likely to flourish. Rebecca

Great points Rebecca. Thanks for extending the discussion. You're right, sugar seems to gives manufactures “permission” to add other crazy-making ingredients like food dyes and caffeine. It's like, “Well, it's already got a ton a sugar in it, so what the heck.” And I really like the idea of just giving more time and attention to something your kids love to do—way more validating than sugar.

Next up, my good friend Daneen from California says:

I've been trying to do activities that my daughter likes with her. For example, I have never been that into crafts and art projects, but my daughter loves, loves, loves creating crafts and is always envisioning what she can make from items in the recycle bin. Little makes her happier than us all sitting down for an hour and crafting together—she feels so validated having us join her in her visions. Daneen.

I love it. Isn't the most heartwarming stuff always the simplest stuff? And yet the most difficult stuff to get your adult mind around? Because it takes time, for starters. And there's this temptation to think in your head, (quoting Brene Brown), “Neato for you. You do your A-R-T. I have a J-0-B.”

Our friends Les and Laura (who have their own podcast at marriagestartup.com) offer this:

The rewards our kids love the best are special focused parent time. Although, right now they are working toward a $10 reward for being consistent with their morning routines for an entire 30 days. Laura

I’ve found that money works for my 11-yr-old son. My 8-yr-old daughter on the other hand, well, she's still working on the whole money and delayed gratification thing. She’s actually much more excited about parent time. And frankly, my son is too. He loves it when I read to him in the evenings. (Right now, we’re going through the Lord of Rings—should keep us busy for a few thousand pages).

And FaceBook readers Gwenn and Cathy offer this advice:

Bowling, swimming, movie tickets, quality time together. Gwenn

And...

As a teacher, I see what happens to children who are high on sugar. If we know it’s bad for our adult bodies, why then would we feed it to our children? Yet we do. I’m guilty too. Teaching our children to be overcomers who endure in their struggles is a reward in itself. That feeling of accomplishment, of comprehension, is so empowering. Let’s empower our children with intrinsic rewards. Cathy


It’s interesting that nobody gave any suggestions about FOODS that might be rewarding, instead of sugar. Not even me.

Leave it to my wife to knock this one out of the park. Let's face it: moms really get badgered and beaten down for snacks. Sometimes it's all a mom can do to plug the gaping hole that is her child's mouth. But happily, it doesn't have to be sugar. Janine now has a few tricks up her sleeve that I just love:

Janine's Top 7 Alternatives to Sugary Snacks:

#1. Jilz Crackers.

We are in love with these crackers! Nobody does Gluten-Free like Jilz. The crackers come in 3 flavors. Tuscan is our favorite. It's great with guacamole, raw cheese, hummus, anything. And you gotta love this: almond flour has a glycemic load of about Zero. Win, win, win.

#2. Raw Cheese.

We don't eat a lot of dairy, but when we do, we choose organic, raw milk products, which contain intact proteins that have not been denatured by high-heat processing. Organic Valley produces a very satisfying raw cheese. It goes great with Jilz Crackers.

#3. Double Up on the Umami.

If you add some uncured turkey pepperoni slices to your crackers and cheese, you'll really take it to the next level. You'll essentially double the umami factor (umami means something like "savory-delicious" in Japanese). I've watched my kids forget all about their sweet tooth, when we hit the umami button.

#4. Have Hummus; Have Hope.

As long as you've got the crackers out, try some of this outrageous organic hummus by Hope Foods. Crazy good. Your kids will fist-bump over this (literally, they will bump each other's fists trying to be the first one to dip their cracker in).

#5. SeaSnax.

These are just thin wafers of organic seaweed, extra-virgin olive oil, and sea salt. As the package says, "strangely addictive". Don't knock it till you try it. It's another umami hit. Easy to get on Amazon
.

#6. Superfood Crumble.

Okay, we're moving into something a little sweeter here: Superfood Crumble, by Elemental. This is a new one for us. It's main ingredients are buckwheat, peanut butter, dark chocolate, flax, coconut, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, brazil nuts, sesame seeds, and vanilla bean. It does have a small amount of added sugar (honey). I almost didn't list it here, but its glycemic impact is fairly low due to the large amount of protein and healthy fat in each serving, which slows digestion and absorption of sugar. In fact, there is almost four times more fat and protein in this product than sugar, which is unusual for a sweet snack.

So I'd say Superfood Crumble is designed better than most products in its category. We have found that it delivers on its promise to supply sustained energy without crashes. Two thumbs up.

#7. Berry Good.

Of course, there's always fresh fruit. Especially berries. In fact, my daughter just cut these strawberries up this morning (Watch out. She has good knife skills for an 8-year-old).

A serving of fresh strawberries has a glycemic load of 1.0, as in one! If you want to know how comparatively low that is, check out my post, Carbs: The Good, The Bad, The Ugly.

Most fresh berries are very low glycemic; they make a fantastic alternative to any processed, devitalized, industrialized, stripped-down sugar product that any candy man could ever dream up. Willy Wonka, eat your heart out.

In closing then, I guess there are many ways to parent without sugar. If we kept at it, we'd be here all day. So the next time you reach for simple sugar, pause, and remember instead the simple pleasures of intrinsic reward, quality time, real food, fun, and love.

We can do this.

Yours in health and resilience,

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