It’s white (or brown), it’s sweet and it’s lurking in places that you would least expect it. From sodas and candy bars to even hamburger buns and pasta sauce, sugar lines our grocery store aisles, pantry shelves and, by extension, intestinal linings. 

According to the Canadian Sugar Institute, the average person consumes 63 grams of sugar each day from packaged foods, meaning 12% of their daily calorie intake comes from sugar before they’ve even stirred it in their coffee or sprinkled it on their cereal. 

Our kids suffer the most

And the kids may be the ones suffering the most. A 2004 Canadian Community Health Survey showed that Canadian children ages 4-18 were getting 22% of their daily calories from foods labeled as “other,” meaning processed, sugary junk foods. Since little tummies can be more sensitive and become full faster, filling up on these junk foods may mean that children and teens aren’t getting enough of the fruits, vegetables, whole grains and healthy fats their bodies need to grow and thrive.

While sugar can lead to the obvious, immediate side effects in children such as hyperactivity and sugar highs and crashes, the long-term effects of over-consumption can be even more devastating. From obesity to diabetes to cancer to heart disease, not to mention dental disease, sugar is a culprit and every scenario.

Fighting the sweet tooth

Plus, Nancy Appleton writes in her book Lick the Sugar Habit that sugar leads to a suppressed immune system, increases bad cholesterol while decreasing good, suppresses adrenal gland function, prohibits absorption of Vitamin E, and can increase the risk of Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, gout and alcoholism. (Alcohol is just another form of sugar, after all.) Basically, it’s a little white nightmare, and while no one should be overindulging, it’s especially important to set a good example for children so that they don’t grow up addicted to the stuff too.

I’ll be the first to admit that I have had my run-ins with sugar. I love chocolate and, at one point in my life, realized that I was eating it every day and having sugar cravings all the time. The good news is, it’s a habit that’s relatively easy to break. If you can take the first step, by completely eliminating excess sugar for two weeks, focusing on healthy, whole foods, not “other” foods, you will begin to realize that you no longer crave sugar. I know, I know, it seems impossible, but it’s true!

Making the right choices

If you don’t want to take such a drastic step right away, start out by focusing on what you are bringing into your house. If you can say “no” to soda, candy bars, dessert cakes and other sugary, processed foods while you’re in the store, you won’t have to say “no” to them again once their in your house. Let’s face it, if it’s in the pantry, you’re probably going to eat it.

Start checking the labels on your food, as well, not just for calories and fat but also for sugar. Check out Heart & Stroke Health Check’s website, an affiliate of Canada’s Food Guide, for a great chart detailing how much sugar is too much in the grocery store items that are hiding sugar behind their colorful packaging.

If you are really serious about eliminating sugar, though, try to stay away from processed, packaged foods as much as possible, focusing on fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean meats and low-fat dairy. And check back later this week for more sugar news and some yummy, healthier substitutes for the white, refined sugar in your pantry!

You can get Nancy Appleton's book "Lick the Sugar Habit" at Amazon. 

Kristy Harvey

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