There's a plethora of evidence indicating that sugar has little nutritional value, yet for many of us (myself included) it remains our absolutely favorite "food group." To make matters worse, my old friend sugar can contribute to a wide range of health challenges no one wants to face, from unhealthy crescendos in energy levels to cavities and diabetes. For me, the combination of sugar with fats and salt is almost completely irresistible; that means the newly popularized addition of sea salt to everything from chocolates to ice cream may prove to be the coup de grace that makes my last remaining shreds of self-discipline a thing of the past. I do manage to pull my act together every Lent for six weeks, when I give up everything that pleases my taste buds the most; but it is clear to me that sugar's addictive properties are deeply embedded in my taste buds and brain cells.
In an attempt to do what I truly believe is in the best interests of our students, I'd like to suggest a slow but steady decline in the amount of sugar we all make available to the kids. This is not a ban on sugar; but rather, it's a moment to reflect on how we might take a healthier approach to our daily lives.
First, when you celebrate birthdays in our classrooms, please bring the smallest-sized cupcakes you can find. When I see Kindergartners devouring enormous cupcakes with enough frosting on each one to decorate a half-dozen such treats, I realize we are about to experience a sugar high that will drive the teachers to distraction; but it's the internal physical reaction in those precious little bodies that concerns me the most.
Second, in order to grow a generation of healthy food choosers, please send in one or more healthy treats along with the usual heaps of sugar-filled desserts when you have a birthday to celebrate. Consider a veggie tray or "bumps on a log" made with celery, raisins and peanut butter. Bring some big juicy apples, or those fabulous seaweed treats so many of our kids already love.
Third, I would ask that you bring only water for then kids to drink rather than washing down the cupcakes with lemonade or fruit drinks containing additional sugar.
No one is going to be taking notes on your compliance with these suggestions; and no one will criticize you for the individual or family choices you make regarding sugar. But as a community we do need to stop and reflect on how we can extend the lives and promote the overall health of these children we love so dearly. This is my small contribution to that cause.