05 September 2014

"Nigel Latta for Prime Minister!" (going sugar-free)

Nigel Latta rocks so much it's not funny. (Apologies to my non-New Zealand readers who haven't been able to experience the awesomeness of Nigel.) For those of you who don't know him, Nigel Latta is a down-to-earth New Zealand psychologist who has written brilliant, hilarious helpful books on parenting and fronted in-depth investigative TV shows on everything from NZ's criminal element to family violence to... sugar. He's not reactionary, he doesn't have an axe to grind, he understands humans and he just plain makes sense.

Hubby and I have been recording Nigel's latest (brilliant) series and watching it together. Last night's show rocked our world. It was all about how much sugar is in our food and the health effects and cost to the country of diabetes, tooth decay and obesity caused by the sweet stuff.
According to Nigel and the various health experts who shared their knowledge on the documentary, sugar is hidden in almost everything, because it's cheap.
The low-fat revolution made everyone want fat-reduced, but as Nigel's expert said, "When you take the fat out, stuff tastes like cardboard, so they had to add something. And what they added was SUGAR."
And sugar, apparently is way way worse than fat.
It's yummy, it's a treat, it's in all our favourites (chocolate, icecream, lollies) and it's addictive. (Our brain craves more and more of it).
Sugar has been added to tomato sauce, mayonnaise, yoghurt and baked beans. It's even hiding in Marmite!
Of course the worst culprit of them all is pretty obvious: Sugary drinks. Fizzy drinks. Coke. Cheaper than water, these fizzy drinks are easy to drink and cheap to buy. Kids love them, and they star at every birthday party (oops).
As a country we are fatter and unhealthier than ever before. 60% of New Zealand adults are obese and 30% of children! Eek!

Mr G has been niggling me about the amount of sugar in our kids' diet ever since a couple of our kids have been diagnosed on various spectrums (we have a crazy happy mix of aspergers, ADHD and dyslexia in our clown-house, something I have not blogged about because the kids don't want me to. I'm telling you this without naming names - and I'm on that list too).
Diet is something that can make a big difference, apparently. But I've been dragging my heels because the easy options are... easier. And I am not a fan of spending hours in the kitchen baking (you know that, right?)
I am not the mum who bakes her own bread (I have an abandoned breadmaker sitting neglected in my cupboard who will back me up on that). I pull out my favourite recipes for parties, I occasionally dabble in new recipes when entertaining, and I struggle to get excited about producing a nutritious meal every.single.night.
I follow lots of people on Instagram who are always baking and sharing their latest sugar-free, gluten-free, dairy-free efforts and I think, Wow, good on them, as the guilt taps me on the shoulder.
Being a self-confessed Lazy Mother is not a guilt-free state of mind. Shortcuts are not usually the best option for healthy living.


So when my hero NIGEL started shining the light on the hideousness of all that sugar in our diets, I started squirming a little.
Hubby was prodding me from the other couch: "Are you listening to this?" "Did you get that?"
Oh yeah, I did.

When the programme had finished and I sat reeling from the images of two-year-olds who had been bottle-fed Coke, having their teeth extracted under general anaesthetic ("Did you see that?" hubby said. "But our kids teeth are GOOD!" I replied)...
...after seeing Nigel himself fail a blood test when he considered himself a healthy eater who exercises regularly ("And you don't exercise," hubby reminded me "HMNFHHH!" I muttered.)
...after watching people who had gone sugar-free drop dozens of kilos and have loads more energy and still be able to eat delicious-but-healthy food, and seeing Nigel himself go sugar free and improve his blood results after three months...
...well I couldn't ignore it when Nigel said it, could I?

Hubby dragged me out to the kitchen and proceeded to quiz me on the contents of our pantry.
"How many teaspoons of sugar do you think is in this?" he asked, waving a yoghurt pottle.
"Um, three?"

"How many teaspoons in this?" (Up'n'Go liquid breakfast drink)

And so it went on.

Almost everything I thought was OK to put in the kids' lunch boxes (or give them for breakfast) is loaded with sugar.
The recommended healthy level of sugar is just seven teaspoons per day.
SEVEN! (and nine for adult males).

I'm in trouble here, people. Seriously big changes need to be made.
I'm going to have to research sugar-free recipes, natural sweetener alternatives and ditch the easy-option nasties.

I'd love to have your help, all you sugar-free health gurus, who make your own gluten-free bliss balls and homemade muesli bars. Sugar-free cookie recipes - do they exist?
Homemade yoghurt toppings (I'll be buying plain yoghurt from now on) - I need your recipes.

Please share your recipes with me and my readers! Leave a link to your healthy recipe blog posts on the linky or in a comment or email me (greatfun4kids@live.com). I will be eternally grateful.

P.S. I sure wish Nigel was standing in the election. I'd vote Nigel Latta for prime minister anyday.

10 Tips for Packing healthy School Lunches (on BlogHer)
Children's Breakfast Cereal Sugar & Health Guide (on The Parents Jury)

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