With school back in session, most of us were running around trying to find all of the supplies listed for the grade our child was entering, getting back into the weekday routine, dragging our children out of bed after a summer hiatus, and managing all of the normal day to day things we already do. In my home, we decided to add to the chaos by adopting another puppy. Nothing like a full house and lots of hair to keep you on your toes!
One task I choose to take on is providing home lunches for my daughter 4 days a week during the school year. Since the school has made a lot of improvements on their menu, like switching to more homemade foods and offering salads and veggie bars daily, I do let her pick one day a week to enjoy a school lunch of her choice. Most kids would pick “mac’n’cheese day” but her favorite school lunch has been Salisbury steak for 3 years running.
Among the stack of papers sent home this year in the first few days of school was a brochure about the new “Birthday Club” program. Basically it stated that no snacks are to be brought to school anymore on student’s birthdays and provided a list of nonfood items to be brought in and shared instead, such as pencils, glow sticks, or sticker books.
When I was in elementary school, we were allowed to bring in homemade baked items, years later they switched the policy to allow only store bought goodies for sanitation reasons. With the growing number of children with food allergies, this year our district decided to no longer allow treats of any kind to be distributed among the class. When I first saw this, I will admit I was shocked. Not because we could no longer bring in cookies or cupcakes, but because the food allergy epidemic is getting out of control. I remember there being maybe a handful of kids in my grade with any sort of allergy….now we are seeing 5+ kids per classroom!
As I thought about it a little more, I quickly realized what an amazing shift this is. Years ago the schools began removing sugar laden products from the vending machines, including soda and candy. Why it was there in the first place is beyond me. I think about it from two perspectives: the teacher and the student. Let me paint those pictures for you:
- The teacher is not only unpaid, but over worked. They are expected to produce a product that is acceptable and prepared for mainstream society one day. They have requirements and restrictions from the state and government on how they are to run their classrooms with no input from the teacher them self. They have 30+ students in most cases, many with attention and learning disorders. Add sugar to the mix, and now you have a classroom of children first bouncing off of the walls, then crashing and going through withdrawals of the “feel good” sensation that sugar delivers to their brain. And we expect them to be successful in teaching our children math and science in this condition?
- The child goes to school and knows that they are expected to learn, even when conditions make it hard to do that. Besides arriving with a tummy full of sugary cereals lacking the nutrition their growing minds need, now they are given juice at lunch (and are told it counts as a fruit), are rewarded with candy for answering the correct questions during a pop quiz, and walk past the school store full of junk in brightly colored wrappers. The child doesn’t finish their lunch because they want to make sure they have room for something sweet before returning to class. Their day is a constant roller coaster of sugar highs followed by crashes. Their attention is compromised, causing them to either miss the lesson or get into trouble for “screwing around”. If the teacher reprimands the child in front of the class, now we have a child feeing embarrassment and shame when they were simply responding to the sugar they have been fueled on since they woke up. And we expect our kids to retain the information they are taught during the school day? Wake up people.
This is not a battle against sugar. Do I give my daughter ice cream and treats from time to time? Of course. I’m not saying no sugar ever. I do not send those things to school with her though. I care too much about her education, and the teacher’s sanity to do that. Don’t know what I mean? Think about the time a friend or family member fed your kid a bunch of candy late in the day or evening and then went on their merry way only to leave you to deal with the monster that would unleash soon when all you wanted was a quiet and easy going night at home. See what I mean?
But won’t the kids just get overly defiant if they are told they can’t have sweets? Not necessarily. My daughter doesn’t feel deprived of the sweet stuff because each week when we go grocery shopping she has the task of picking out her own fruit and vegetable to be packed in her lunches. See? Kids love to feel like they have a choice. By involving them in this decision, they feel a sense of pride over what they are eating and enables them to keep making better judgements.
I cannot express how thrilled I am that our district made this incredible policy change. Besides the obvious effects of consuming too much sugar like cavities, weight gain, and attention issues, there are a list of other things we threaten our children with (and ourselves, for that matter) such as stressing out the liver with over-consumption that can ultimately lead to Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease. Sugar can also increase bad cholesterol and raise triglycerides, feed cancer cells, and ultimately hijacking the brain in an addictive response the same way that cocaine does. They also predict that 1 out of 3 people born after the year 2000 will be diagnosed with Type-2 Diabetes – 1 in 2 among minorities. I’m not just saying this… Google it if you want to see for yourself. It’s scary stuff, people!
At the end of the day, I think all parents want a better life for their children then they had. In a world where very few things are truly up to us, what we feed our families is something we have 100% control over. I encourage you to exercise this right and think about the effects down the road of allowing the little ones to suck on sugar all day long. Better yet, try taking it out of their diets for 21 days (the length of time shown to break old habits and develop new ones) and monitor the differences. This isn’t just a “health chick on a heath kick” rant. Jesse from Breaking Bad had it right when he said excitedly: “science, bitch”.
If you want to try a sugar detox, or have in the past, let me know! Comment and tell me what you noticed, how you felt, and what drove you to do it in the first place! Until next time, stick to fruit for your sweet tooth, and read your labels.
Xoxo – Ame