Sugar Free Kids


When Ezekiel was a baby I was adamant that he would not eat candy or processed sugar.  Most people thought I was nuts, extreme and unrealistic (and still do to some extent!).  I received so many comments and questions when I would talk about our (mostly my) decision to not introduce sugar into Ezekiel’s diet and those comments and questions were not always positive.  Regardless (and maybe in spite of those people) I maintained Ezekiel’s sugar free diet for a long time.  I would make him treats at home that were made with honey, maple syrup or coconut sugar.  At parties my friends always had healthier options and those are what I would offer to him to eat (before he could really understand what cake/candy was). Sometimes they would even have a whole section just for Ezekiel with dried fruit and nuts – yes I do have the best friends ever!

Over the last couple years sugar and treats slowly entered into our house and Ezekiel’s diet.  It started with my husband bringing home “treats” or buying Ezekiel treats when they went out together and those treats always involved sugar.  Then he would bring home bags of treats (gummy bears, marshmallows etc) and I began allowing a treat a day after quiet time.  These past 3-4 months it started to become an expectation in Ezekiel’s brain that he needed a treat and instead of correct that expectation we just gave into it.  When we were out he would start to demand a treat, when my husband would come home the first question Ezekiel had was if he had brought home a treat.  Then a few weeks ago Ezekiel started waking much earlier than he had ever woke, he started having trouble calming down for quiet time, his behaviour though not awful was out of character for him.

None of these things are inherently bad and can easily be explained away by Ezekiel getting older and hitting different stages of life but I had this nagging feeling in the back of my mind that something else was happening.  Two weeks ago I just got fed up with the constant questioning for treats, with the inability to listen to my instructions, with the lack of awareness of his behaviour and really just his expectation that he deserved a treat.  He was beginning to act entitled and that was REALLY bothering me.  It probably bothered me the most because I was the person to blame for that behaviour.  In some ways I felt helpless to change it.  I wasn’t sure how I could correct that behaviour through my parenting in a way that Ezekiel would understand.  Then one day I had a lightbulb moment – maybe sugar was to blame for some of this behaviour!

It’s no secret that sugar is bad for us – and I’m not talking about fruit or naturally occurring sugars but those sugars that are added to all our foods, those manmade sugars that tell our brain we need MORE MORE MORE. I could sit and read and write about the impact of sugar on our bodies all day – the topic is complex and has so many variables to it but the bottom line is that too much sugar has negative effects on our bodies in many ways.  Of course our bodies do need sugar to function and as a form of energy but the sugar that is added to packaged food and that is made by “man” is probably not going to do anything good for your body.

So, arming myself with this knowledge and allowing my frustration with myself and our situation with Ezekiel to be known I sat down with my husband and just said no more sugar – don’t bring treats, and start saying no more often and let’s see how this helps our situation. Now let me be clear that if you were to spend a day with us and observe Ezekiel you probably would not have picked up on the subtle little behaviours.  Overall he was still a very well behaved child because that’s his demeanour.  His nature has always been calm, he has always had an inclination to be obedient, he has always been very rational and for that I am eternally grateful.  Regardless, I knew that something was off and I knew that I needed to try my hardest to correct it now rather than wait.  So we completely cut out sugar about two weeks ago and I’m telling you the change has been drastic for us!

I sat down with him and we talked about his behaviour and about how sugar in certain treats can be bad for us by making us act in a way that isn’t the best.  We talked about how we were going to stop eating treats but that we could bake something that he would like using something sweet that wasn’t as bad for us.  We talked about balance and food and growing big and strong by eating food that would give our bodies the things it needed.  These were all conversations we had been having with him for a couple years but I took it one step farther by saying we were getting rid of all treats (for now).  He grasped the main concepts and for about a week we continued the conversation as he processed it.  The way he processes is by thinking about it and then bringing up little things that he’s been thinking about several times over a period of time.

The first couple days he asked for treats, then he stopped asking for treats and began asking for a muffin, then he stopped asking for anything sugar related at all.  This in and of itself was a HUGE win but it wasn’t the only change we’ve seen.  He started to say please and thank you unprompted, he started to offer to help in every situation (did you spill mom? Let me clean that up for you).  Although he still has energy and loves to bounce around, play and sing, he’s not so out of control when he’s running around playing.  Quiet times are now just that, instead of jumping up and down and roughing housing with toys he’s sitting quietly reading books or building with his blocks and sometimes even falling asleep again.

Perhaps the most surprising for me because I didn’t attribute this behaviour to sugar is that he is far less anxious about being alone on any level of our house.  For quite a few months he’s been crazy about always needing someone on the same level as him.  He would refuse to go up and down the stairs unless there was someone with him. It was something that was incredibly frustrating for us because he would desperately want something from a different level we were on but refuse to go alone to get it and then if we were busy and couldn’t help him he would have an emotional meltdown.  Even if you started to go down the stairs before him he would burst into tears – no exaggeration – the moment you stepped on that first stair.  It was bizarre and I kept blaming my husband because he used to play hide and seek with Ezekiel and then jump out and scare him (something I actually enjoy doing to my husband lol).  When we stopped sugar he began going upstairs and playing by himself for BIG chunks of time – praise the LORD! When I go down the stairs he’ll stay upstairs and play.  When Eden needs to be fed or changed in the middle of our meal he is 100% OK to stay and finish eating while I take care of Eden.  It is truly incredible and has really solidified my belief that sugar and kids are a bad idea.

Now, is it totally sustainable? I know that’s a question people are going to ask and going to challenge because it’s one I’ve been confronted with before.

Here’s my answer.

When you can connect actions with behaviours in a way that is easy to understand your child can begin to grasp consequences.  We’ve been talking about food with Ezekiel for a long time, it’s something we deeply value and so it’s a constant conversation in our house.  I think because of this constant discussion Ezekiel finds it easier to grasp the concept that there are foods that are really good for us and there are foods that are not so good for us.  He understands that we try and eat the majority of good food and rarely eat the food that isn’t as good.  I also believe that this constant ongoing discussion will help Ezekiel to make good decisions for himself when we are not with him as he grows older.

We’ve already seen this in action.  The other day Ezekiel was looking in the freezer to get some frozen mango – his treat of choice lately – and found a stray gummy bear that fell from the top of the fridge before I threw them away.  He asked if he could eat it and in a moment of weakness (I really didn’t want to have an argument in that moment) I agreed.  The resulting behaviour over the next 2-3 hours was crazy.  In a period of 20 minutes he had burst into tears 4 times! I sat down with him and we talked about how sugar was making him feel and he was able to grasp the concept a little bit more than before.

So, will we be a strict 100% no sugar, no candy family?

No we won’t, but those instances will be few and far between and they will be reserved for very special occasions.  When Ezekiel asks for candy in a store we will stop and talk about how candy makes us feel and brainstorm something else we might like to eat instead that will nourish our bodies and minds.

It won’t be perfect – life never is, but I will strive to provide my kids with the best possible food so that their bodies can be as healthy as possible.

Putting Food By 2016

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My biggest gardening adventure this year was to be able to can enough tomatoes to get us through to next years harvest.  I was able to harvest 136 lbs of tomatoes, and the majority of those were processed into tomato sauce and canned into jars.  I did give some away and we ate some of them but mostly I spent A LOT of time in the kitchen processing the tomatoes.  In the picture above you can see the second shelf is full of jars of tomatoes, and we have already used more than 10 jars of tomatoes, that’s a lot of jars!

We chose to only can tomato sauce for a couple of reasons.  First is that it’s just plain easier than blanching and peeling 136 lbs of tomatoes and then dicing them up and packing them in jars.  Second because we aren’t too fussed about the texture of the tomatoes we cook with. With that decision made I experimented with three slightly different ways of making the sauce.

  1. Mill them raw then cook them down.  I did this with probably over half of the tomatoes, and it works well but it wasn’t my favourite.
  2. Cut them up throw them in a pot to cook a bit and soften to make it easier to mill them.  Then mill them and cook it down a bit more.  This was the worst way ever, mainly because I burnt them and now have 7 jars of smoky tomato sauce.  It works well in chilli but otherwise I don’t enjoy the smokiness.
  3. My favourite way is to cut them in half lay them skin side up on cookie sheets and roast them in the oven until the skins are charred.  Next mill them into a sauce, depending on your preference and the types of tomatoes you use you may not need to cook the sauce down at all.  I found this to make a nice, rich, thick tomato sauce and it was the easiest way I found.

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I did some other canning this year as well.  Every year Heritage Park here in Calgary, AB has a Harvest Sale with 100% of the proceeds being donated to the Alberta Children’s Hospital Foundation.  The produce is often marked down and so it’s a great affordable way to put food by for the winter months and I really love that all my money goes towards charity.  I bought a box of apples and pears that were made into Apple Pear Sauce that my toddler takes in his lunches daily and loves.  I also bought a box of peaches, they weren’t great peaches, in fact I couldn’t eat them as is but I did find an amazing recipe for Honey Peaches on the Food In Jars blog.  The best part is that they don’t need to be peeled (are you sensing a laziness theme here?) and honestly, I am devouring them! I eat them almost daily with plain yogurt and granola.  I also did a few jars of peaches packed in fruit juice but haven’t tried those yet.  The last thing I canned this year (not pictured) are three large jars of pickled beets which I’m excited to dive into.

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It’s been a lot of work to put food into our pantry for the year, but honestly the feeling of providing for my family in this way is amazing.  The tomatoes are obviously my pride and joy and I get happy just looking at that shelf of jars.

Did you do any canning this year? I’d love to hear some new recipes, and if you ever want to try your hand at canning next year I highly recommend that peach recipe!

My Food Journey

Tea and Peaches

I thought I’d write a bit about food and my evolving philosophy and relationship with it.

I love food.  Always have. Always will.

I grew up in a meat and potatoes household.  Being the daughter of a farmer and a nurse I always had good food on the table.  We never had many treats in the house, and always had our fill of fresh food.  As I got older and when I graduated and was responsible for feeding myself it was clear I still had a lot to learn.  At my heaviest I was around 220 lbs and I knew that I needed to change something so I began tracking everything I was eating and making sure that I wasn’t exceeding my calorie goal but that was the extent of it. I didn’t focus on nutrition, just on calories.  It was a few years of trying and failing, and then right before I got pregnant I got serious about it, I lost about 40 lbs.

Then I got pregnant and gained that 40 lbs back.  After having Ezekiel I dropped 30 lbs in the first 6 weeks, and then Ezekiel was having some digestive issues and in a desperate attempt to fix it, I began the elimination diet.  Basically I eliminated anything that could possibly be causing him problems, which left me with very, very few options for food.  For 2 weeks I basically ate vegetables, fruit, and chicken.  Slowly I reintroduced each item I had eliminated to see if I could figure out what was bothering Ezekiel.  It ended up being gluten, so I went gluten free and at this point I was still tracking calories.  Ironically I was tracking the calories to make sure that I was eating enough to sustain myself and Ezekiel.  At this point I also became very interested in nutrition and how best to fuel my body and provide good nutrition for Ezekiel.  From January to June the weight just melted off, I wasn’t actively trying to lose weight, but I was actively pursuing the best way to fuel my body.  My goal was to feel good, and eating well was helping me to feel good.  I hit my all time goal weight in June and I’ve held that weight since.

I’ve dabbled a bit in every corner of the nutrition world.  Gluten free, dairy free, vegan, vegetarian, vegan before six, protein powders, raw food – you name it I’ve probably tried it for a couple days or more.  Today I’m more interested in fueling my body with real, unprocessed food than I am with the calories I am consuming.  About 6 weeks ago, right around the time I started this blog, I stopped tracking calories and deleted my calorie counting app to simplify my life a bit more, also to unchain me from my phone.  I began a journey of letting go of the control of counting calories and freeing myself to eat how I wanted.  I also wanted to make sure I was still fueling my body with food that was going to make me feel good.  Once you stop tracking each morsel it can be a dangerous spiral downwards if you are not careful.  It’s easy to stop paying attention to the food you are putting in your mouth if you aren’t writing it all down.

There’s been ups and downs and a lot of learning but I’m still enjoying this process.  I’m learning a lot about what my body needs and wants.  I guess this way of eating is called Intuitive Eating but I didn’t know that was an actual thing until a few days ago.  You can learn more about it here.  For me it’s not only about feeding myself, but feeding my family and it’s definitely a journey that isn’t even close to being done.  We are always tweaking our diets here and there but I’m thankful my husband is pretty open minded.  He takes a while to arrive at a conclusion about certain foods (white sugar is his latest – he’s switched entirely to organic coconut sugar) but once there he believes wholeheartedly and changes his diet.

When it comes down to it we are both passionate about nurturing Ezekiel.  We want our diets to reflect how we want Ezekiel to eat.  We want to teach him how to eat well, and why he should eat well.  We want him to understand why he should choose the banana over the chocolate bar.  We want him to love fruits and vegetables and understand that a treat is a treat and not a daily part of his life.  We want him to eat good wholesome food and so we also want to eat good wholesome food.

Since starting this intuitive eating process I have learned that gluten definitely does not agree with my body, that white sugar wreaks havoc on my body and that one cup of coffee is my limit (but I still drink more).  I’m learning that stress and exhaustion go hand in hand with terrible eating and I’m learning strategies to combat that.  I’m filling my freezer with baking that is gluten free and refine sugar free so that when I’m wanting that bit of comfort I can have it without feeling terrible afterwards.

I’m learning that eating enough fruits and vegetables in a day will make the next day much better.  I’m learning that if I don’t drink water I will have a huge headache the next day.  I’m learning that if I eat brown instead of white (rice/bread/pasta) I won’t feel as sluggish.  I’m learning that I don’t need huge helpings or seconds or thirds.  I’m learning that just because it tastes fantastic does not mean I need to over indulge, I just need to enjoy that moment fully.

This life is a journey, and we are all life long learners.  This is just a small excerpt in my journey but I’m fully enjoying it.

What’s Up

I read quite a few blogs and there’s a few that do a bit of a round up weekly about what’s going on in their day to day lives (Elise Cripe, Ali Edwards, A Beautiful Mess to name a few) .  Those are my favorite posts, so I’m doing my own version.

Here’s what’s up:

Fresh AirWe’re taking lots of walks to distract us from short naps and new teeth.

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I’m also drinking lots of coffee to get me through.

Back to Work Meal Planning

I’m starting to organize freezer meals for when I return to work.

Portuguese Salad

We’re eating lots of Portuguese cuisine and for the last little while it’s usually prepared by my husband.

Birthday Bouquet 1 Birthday Bouquet 3 Birthday Bouquet 2 Birthday Orchid

I’m enjoying new plants and fresh flowers given to me as gifts.

Birthday Deliveries Birthday Greetings

Celebrating my birthday, but more importantly celebrating that I have fabulous friends.

Ezekiel Canvas

I’m already crushing this years goals and finishing projects.

Walking and Learning Crawling Baby

Ezekiel is running in his walker, learning animal noises, crawling under the coffee table and getting into everything.

It’s been a busy week and I’m so thankful for each moment.