Just like so many people, I was unaware of the harmful effect of sugar. I knew that sugar was unhealthy and didn’t add any nutrition to my child’s diet but it was just something at the back of my head. You know it but you really don’t take any action about it till it becomes really needed.
So, that is the way it was in my household too. In 2015, all of us had just turned vegan in my house and we were off dairy and other animal foods but still have the occasional biscuits, cakes, chocolates etc. My mom also used to love making sweets for him as he had a sweet tooth so it was sharing of mutual love through sweets between grandparent and child.
Eczema and ear pain
When he was 7, my son started to develop occasional ear pain. This used to be like an every month affair. The doctor did not have any diagnosis and just suggested that it could be wax. Cleaning of the ear with a water gun at the doctor’s used to happen but that would cause ear and skin infections and would last a week.
I started thinking about this deeply and decided that sugar should be one item which should not be part of his diet anymore. Many articles on the web had mentioned a link between sugar and ear infections. This was a tough one. No sugar in a child’s diet? How would this work out in real life? What about social situations like birthday parties, what about grandparents and relatives.. how would I handle his demands during shopping and day outs? And above all this, he loved sweets. How could I deprive him of them?
Truthfully, I didn’t have the answers for everything but I knew that if I did not start and experiment, I would never know.
I read up about how to make healthier sweets using alternatives like dates, jaggery, raisins etc. I experimented with small batches of recipes every week just to see what he would like
I was really shocked to see how many things we had to eliminate due to them having sugar – Many brands of biscuits (even savoury ones), chocolates, packaged juices and plant milks, noodles, sauces and ketchup etc was all out. I thought good riddance anyway and learnt to bake and make many of these items. My son was initially upset but soon started enjoying my bakes and other items.
My son is 11 years now. We noticed that incidence of ear pain started decreasing and for almost a long time now he has had no pain. Sometime when he has some processed food which sugar, his ear starts paining and his skin breaks out. So he has made the connection on his own.
I started realizing that though baking was helping, it was not really an answer to better health. After all, baking requires baking powder/soda, oils and fats etc. After a bit of RnD and talking to experts in natural health, I decided to increase his uptake of fruits. Fruits are nature’s readymade foods, high in natural sweetness when fully ripened, so many colours and taste and a ready pick me up snack for hungry tummies.
I started to offer fruits to him first whenever hungry instead of something cooked or baked. This rewires the brain so now he himself picks up fruits when hungry. There are always fruits displayed at eye level at home.
Fruits really help in taking care of sugar cravings. As a healthy gut is built with good quality ingredients, cravings fade.
Stopping sugar opens up our tastebuds to enjoy more varied, subtle flavours. I am grateful he likes eating all kinds of vegetables and greens, just that they should be prepared as per his instructions.
Handling social situations
It is indeed tough for a child to attend birthday parties and not eat all that has been offered most of which is with sugar. I used to check with the host about the menu beforehand, explain to them that he has an allergy and recreate as best as possible similar stuff at home, pack it in a goody bag and send it with him. An example could be a chocolate cupcake, some cutlets with homemade tomato sauce and dry fruit laddoos. Initially, his friends used to stare at his food and ask him but nowadays they themselves say that it looks yummy and ask him what it is made of.
Even my mom has kind of come around and makes traditional Indian jaggery based sweets like kheer, coconut barfi, etc with jaggery or dates.
Buying from the store when pressed for time
I am not a purist and sometimes opt for store-bought stuff when life gets in the way. Some easy hacks are jaggery peanut bites, NAKD brand of healthy bars, raw sugar-free cakes at some vegan restaurants, dry mango or apple slices etc. He is happy with them.
Last year I celebrated his party with a few friends. The menu was a home baked cake, beetroot burgers, and coconut milk payasam.
This year was even better and I made it grain free - Raw carrot cake, potato ‘cheesy bites’ and veggie barbecued skewers. It was a hit with all. Next time he is asking for the same menu!
I make dry fruit and nut laddoos which stay for sometime or carry along some homemade nut butters. Fruits are always carried. I also bake some potato wedges or pack some fresh juices. When he feels like indulging we eat at raw food restaurants or we buy dry mango or apple slices, date and nut bars etc. It keeps him happy.
As he has grown older, we discuss a lot about the good and bad of off the shelf products, how they are made, how it affects health etc
It does not come easy, it Is a balancing act. Most of the days he is co-operative but sometimes when he is tired, he gets cranky and unreasonable. A quiet talk with him away from other adults around and promising him healthy treats later works.
Each child is different and you have to figure out what works with your child. If you child has asthma, allergies, frequent coughs and colds, attention issues it is very important that you start cutting down on sugar. Catching them young is important and it becomes easier to manage them. Even if your child is healthy, it is important to curb this habit because we all know the toughest habits to break are the ones we had from childhood.
I don’t know about the future. As he grows older, he will make his own choices. He may or may not be adhering as strictly as now. As a mother, I can only hope that I have given him a taste of the sugar-free life, the healthier alternatives and hope he chooses the better option.
Disclaimer: The health journeys, blogs, videos and all other content on Wellcure is for educational purposes only and is not to be considered a ‘medical advice’ ‘prescription’ or a ‘cure’ for diseases. Any specific changes by users, in medication, food & lifestyle, must be done under the guidance of licensed health practitioners. The views expressed by the users are their personal views and Wellcure claims no responsibility for them.