Whitney: Feeding Sugar Kitty

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(HOST) This holiday season, commentator Diana Whitney has been contemplating both the highs and lows – of parenting and sugar.

(WHITNEY) My four-year-old darts up to me like a hummingbird high on nectar.  She’s raided her Christmas stocking and scarfed down another chocolate Santa.  Eyes too bright, grinning ear to ear, she zooms past and screams, "SUGAR KITTY!"

This is my silly pet name for her when she’s jacked up on sugar, which happens with increasing frequency.  During her babyhood, we avoided most refined sweets, but on her first birthday she plunged both hands into the carrot cake and licked them clean.

Sugar is the current pariah in the world of nutrition.  A few decades ago, it was salt, then fat, and today we’re warned off anything with a high glycemic index.  The naturopaths advise using honey, maple syrup, Stevia, or anything besides refined white, whose bleached crystals lack all nutritional value.

Sugar’s pure energy comes with a cost.  A holiday party on an empty stomach is unpleasant for children and parents, producing wild behavior with an inevitable crash.  (A high-protein snack like peanut-butter before the party can help.)  Chocolate makes my daughter particularly feral, altering her personality.

As with many of us, her taste buds are simply primed for sweet.  This comes in part from our evolutionary craving for quick carbs, which helped prehistoric humans survive times of starvation. But my child’s penchant for treats also runs in the family, because I too am a dessert fiend.  Many days I indulge in a fresh-baked chocolate-chip cookie, which comforts me with its gooey sweetness before it lets me down hard.
I know parents who’ve successfully delayed giving their children ice cream until their third birthday.  What resolve – to keep sugar out of the house and resist it in public!  One friend periodically gets off the Sugar Train and takes her family with her.  By day three, the preschooler stops asking for lollipops, and a calm descends on the house. 

Sometimes I too long for the even keel of a life without sugar – stable moods, enhanced immune function, and healthier teeth.  But especially during the holidays, enforcing sugar abolition seems too stressful… joyless… even downright antisocial.  Holiday events often revolve around sweets, and our recent family celebrations have involved giving, swapping, and eating cookies.
Maybe I’m just rationalizing my own addiction, but this year, I resolve to relax and walk the Middle Path.  Moderation seems the key to most things anyway.  So for now our household will enjoy a few treats in our (mostly) balanced diet, with occasional permission to over-indulge.  It’s a healthy release for the whole family to celebrate together – and when Mama stops being Sugar Watchdog and starts playing Sugar Kitty, everyone has more fun.  MEOW!

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