This morning my munchkin and I went on a little outing to our local wildlife park. And as the early spring weather proved rainy and cold, we spent much of our time exploring the delightfully warm reptile pavilion. We happened to time our arrival perfectly to attend the reptile show, the highlight of which was a large python that the children were given the opportunity to touch. Now, I’ve never been one to run away screaming at the sight of a spider or even to harbor any real fear of snakes. But when the zookeeper approached with that big, slithery python, my stomach did a couple of nervous little somersaults, and my first instinct was to take a step back. But holding my daughter in my arms, I watched as she turned to me for reassurance, and forced myself to stand there and smile. And much to my surprise, my teeny tiny little two-year-old then confidently reached out and patted the snake, saying, “Hello python. It’s very nice to meet you!”
Delightful story, but what on earth does it have to do with sweet treats, you might ask. Actually, more than you might think. Watching my toddler confidently patting a python, I was reminded of how very responsible we are for setting the tone for our children. Instinctively, they look to us for guidance, and rely on us to help them as they form their outlook on the world. What a gigantic responsibility that puts on us as parents! And while they still look to us, how important it is that we not squander the opportunity!
Several months ago, my hubby became quite ill and we now observe a very strict new diet in our home. One of the things we’ve eliminated from the menu is all refined sugar – initially a seemingly insurmountable task, as I am a self-proclaimed sugar fanatic. But as the months have progressed, I’ve begun to miss sugar less and less. And when I sneak a little “treat” from time to time, I end up feeling so dreadfully ill that I often regret my choice. It is amazing the negative effect that sugar has on our bodies – an effect that often can only be really noticed when we stop pumping our bodies constantly full of junk.
It has been a powerful wake-up call for me. If refined sugar has that sort of effect on my body, imagine what it must do to the body and mind of my tiny, still developing child. I have no intention of entirely banning her for life from every sugary snack. But I am making an even-more-conscious-than-ever effort to redefine the meaning of “treat” in our household. Cutting down on sugar doesn’t mean depriving your sweet tooth. The world is full of naturally sweet, healthy options that don’t contain any refined sugar, and will leave mommies, daddies, and little ones feeling so much better about themselves. Here are a few yummy ideas to replace those sugary snacks…
- Try baking with maple syrup or honey rather than white or brown sugar (brown is just as processed and just as bad for you, contrary to popular belief). To use honey in place of sugar, use 7/8 cup for every cup of sugar, and reduce the liquid in the recipe by 3 tablespoons. To use maple syrup in place of sugar, use 3/4 cup of maple syrup for every cup of sugar, decreasing the total amount of liquid in the recipe by 3 tablespoons. These substitutions work particularly well when baking muffins, loaves, and hearty cookies (such as healthy oatmeal raisin cookies).
- Give your traditional peanut butter and jam sandwiches a healthy makeover. Replace peanut butter with almond butter with no sugar added, and replace jam with thinly sliced bananas or apples, or a little pasteurized honey.
- Say goodbye to Aunt Jemima and switch to pure maple syrup when indulging in a pancake breakfast. Switch to whole wheat flour and throw some fresh blueberries into the batter, and pancakes become a healthy, wholesome meal!
· If your child is a juice junkie, think about investing in a juicer and making your own healthy juices at home. Store bought juices are often full of sugar and artificial flavours and colours, and even the “healthier” juice options are really devoid of most of their nutritional value by the time they hit your child’s juice cup.
· Don’t forget the best sweet treat of all – lots of healthy fresh or frozen fruit. With the money you’ll save when skipping the snack food aisle, you’ll have lots of room in the family budget for more vitamin-packed fruits and veggies!
Happy healthy snacking, Joyful Mommies and tots! And stay tuned for some of my favourite “no-junk” treat recipes….