A Teaspoon of Sugar – the Effects of Sugar on our Body

It’s been almost 2 years since we eliminated sugar from our home and about as long that I have been blogging about it, sharing recipes, and talking about alternatives. What I realized the other day is I have not shared the background, the proven effects, scientific research and studies that sugar has on our bodies and why it is so bad for us. I feel that it is important to not only share what we did it but the why behind it (otherwise I just feel like someone up on their soapbox telling you it’s bad and not telling you why).

It’s one thing to think that it is a good idea to take it out but if you are like me, it also helps to have the research to back up your decision from the experts and medical professionals. Because unfortunately we live in a world where a lot of people won’t believe or validate what you are saying/ doing without it. Plus I also believe it is important to be educated about what you are doing in order to make informed choices.

I read an article the other day by Carol Galanty, Natural Foods Chef, titled “Are you a Sugar Addict” where she talks about sugar being an addiction as well as the effects it has on both our physical and emotional bodies. It has been proven that things such as weight gain, mood swings and premature aging are all effects of consuming sugar and that is just the tip of the iceberg.

In my further exploration of refined sugar and it’s effects, I discovered studies conducted in London and Yale University proving these effects and more. The London study was with children who exhibited ADHD symptoms, where they disguised foods that had sugar in them as ‘natural’. The goal of the study was to learn whether how a food looked made a difference in how our bodies processed it. They observed that regardless of how it was presented that all the children exhibited hyperactivity immediately after consuming the sugary foods.

We have all seen examples of this in our lives. In classrooms, where kids are calm and functioning rationally, then they have a class party, which usually includes treats and the kids go haywire soon after; no longer able to focus or listen well. I have observed this with my LIT group when we have a celebration with sugary snacks, the energy level goes up tenfold as well as the chatter and inability to focus. At Halloween we decided to have a no sugar party and the event went quite differently, we did not send wired kids home to parents and the evening was much calmer and more ‘even’ for everyone (and I would even venture to say much more pleasant).

In the University of Yale study they measured children’s adrenaline levels before and after consuming sugar. The amount of adrenaline after consuming sugar was 10 times higher then before! Adrenaline being the chemical in our body that moves us into fight or flight mode – a state where we act on instinct and survival – if it is 10 times higher then no wonder children are difficult to deal with after consuming sugar as they are on heightened defense! It puts them into a state where they cannot rationally respond or make good choices. They also found that after consuming sugar children were irritable, anxious and had difficulty concentrating.

Other university studies have also found links between sugar consumption, aggressiveness and antisocial behaviour.

Now you might say well I eat sugar all the time and I don’t notice these things or my kids seem ok. Do you notice those times of day when you feel sluggish or tired for no apparent reason? Do you ever feel irritable for no reason? Those are the down swings, coming off the sugar high. Now food does affect each of us differently, so one person might be more sensitive or reactive than another. As a result, symptoms may appear to be more extreme in one person than another, and for some they may say they do not really notice.

You also need to keep in mind that we (as a society) are eating sugar all the time, it is in our bread, our concentrated orange juice, various canned goods like tomato sauce, salad dressings, ketchup, not to mention the cakes, muffins, donuts and cookies. Our bodies adjust, get used to it, but it still doesn’t mean that it is not affecting us or harming our bodies.

As an experiment go without sugar for a day, just one day and notice how you feel. Notice your energy levels, your moods, etc. If you don’t notice much the first day, try 2, then 3. By day 3 you will begin to notice changes in your body (whether it be mood swings, irritability or headaches to name a few). With our son Matthew, his moods became calmer, more consistent and stable, and his sleep drastically improved. Some of these changes we noticed right away and some took longer; with his sleep it was almost 3 weeks before we really noticed the difference.

This was due to the fact that Matthew was going through withdrawal and his body needed to readjust. What I think many of fail to realize is that sugar is highly addictive (which our family doctor avidly confirmed this morning), it is like a drug, one as addictive and as harmful as cocaine. Therefore when we reduce or eliminate sugar intake our bodies go through and experience symptoms of withdrawal. These symptoms include anxiety, restlessness, depression, irritability, headaches, poor concentration, headaches and insomnia (which in children often gets diagnosed as ADD or ADHD). So there is going to be a period where one may experience and go through these symptoms until the substance is completely out of the body’s system.

These facts alone are enough for me to stay the course with our decision to eliminate sugar. We have found lots of healthy and natural alternatives to still enjoy our sweet treats. And I believe in eliminating it completely not just reducing it. It’s like to the drug addict who says well I’ll only have a little bit. Really are you free of it’s effects and/ or the harm it has on your body?

Imagine if the whole world moved towards eliminating sugar how do you think that would look? Our classrooms would be calmer with children more engaged and focused, our moods more stable, our level of peace more present and consistent. So why are we not doing it, because it is what we are used to, there is a huge industry out there, and we are all addicted to it and addictions are not always the easiest to break.

I believe we can get there and are moving towards it. Years ago people who chose gluten free or dairy free did not have a lot of options nor was it well accepted in the ‘outside’ world, such as restuarants and schools. But now there are many restuarants who offer gluten free menus and dairy free options. So it’ll come, in baby steps. It takes people to educate, be informed and live that lifestyle and it’ll become more accepted in this world.


Activities and Projects for Remembrance Day

Remembrance Day is something that we celebrate every year, remembering and recognizing the veterans who fought and died in the wars to enable us to enjoy the freedoms that we have today.

Growing up, Remembrance Day was just another day off school to me. Yes we would do the crafts or projects in school leading up to the day and we usually had a Remembrance Day assembly of some kind where we had a veteran come in and talk to us about his/ her experiences. Honestly, it meant nothing to me, I was a kid, and though they were teaching me and telling me about I didn’t understand.

Over the past couple of years due to the involvement with my own children and the Leader in Training program that I volunteer with at the YMCA, I have learned and discovered the depth of what Remembrance Day really is and what are some of the things that we can do to celebrate and recognize it.

Each year we have been doing a Peace Project with the Leaders in Training. Last year we had the kids write postcards to those who were serving overseas, thanking them for their service. This year we shared the story of Sadako, a young Japanese girl who was only 2 years old when the atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima, and had them make paper cranes to fill up a jar that we then displayed on the counter at Member Services. We also had a wonderful guest speaker, Brent Harris who works for Veterans Affairs, come in and do a scavenger hunt with the kids all through the YMCA. It was a great way for the youth to learn about the wars and the impacts and importance of Remembrance Day.

There are many other projects that can be done as well. Crocheting hats and scarfs for veterans, donating to the Veteran’s Food Bank. There is something for everyone to help with or contribute too.

I think that it is important for us all to do something, even if it is as simple as wearing a poppy or doing a craft with the kids. The kids may not get it or understand it when they are younger but they will know and recognize that something of importance is going on, and it may take them, like me, until they are adults to really understand and appreciate Remembrance Day, but we can still teach them about it and do things in and around this day. And the more we do the more impact it will have on future generations.

So take the family this Remembrance Day and participate in a community event or create a project at home. At the very least have everyone wear a poppy and show that you remember and are thankful for your freedom in this beautiful country we live in.

Homemade (Sugar Free) Apple Pie

apple pie

It was a busy weekend at our house with the Fall activities beginning, soccer evaluations, Ju Jitsu and Leaders in Training. Rallying the kids, getting them ready and myself ready was quite the challenge, but we managed to get it all right. Well almost all. Somehow we mixed up the times for Matthew’s Ju Jitsu grading and unfortunately he missed it. He was pretty upset and now can’t grade until December, but his Dad ended up taking him for a motorcycle ride to ease his disappointment and they had a glorious time! It was a gorgeous warm, fall afternoon, with bright sunny blue skies.

In the midst of all this activity, I still had a huge basket of apples in my kitchen, and though we were diligently eating them, there were still quite a few. So Saturday afternoon while Matthew was out I decided to make apple pie. I had yet to try a sugar free version of this pie but was fairly confident after the success I had with the cherry pie in the summer (see earlier post for Sugar Free Cherry Pie recipe).

I had pulled my pie crust from the freezer earlier that morning. (I make a it from scratch, simply using the recipe on the Tenderflake® box, making a whole batch at once which is six pie crusts, and freeze it for later). This makes it a lot easier and quicker to make a pie when the crust is ready. Plus I make a killer pie crust, even my sister, who loves to cook and bake, is envious of my crust as she cannot make one as light and flaky as mine 🙂 I simply roll it out, prepare the filling with the pie in the oven within 15-20 minutes.

I used my apple peeler corer slicer once again to prepare my apples, also a great time saving device as you can peel, core and slice an apple in less than a minute. Mixed up the filling, estimating the amount of honey to substitute for the sugar, poured it over, put the crust on top and placed it into oven.

sugar free apple pieWhen substituting honey for sugar you reduce the amount of honey by 1/2 to 2/3 of the amount of sugar. Honey can be is 2-3 times sweeter than sugar so you don’t need to use as much. The amount of honey you will use will depend on the kind of honey you’re using (as some flavors are sweeter than others), and how sweet you like things. I found that using 1/2 cup of honey for the pie worked really well. Not too sweet that it overtook the flavour of the apples, but nice enough to sweeten it up a bit.

The pie turned out beautifully. Matthew jumped for joy when he came in from his ride and saw it on the counter. The twins, who were dubious at first, wanted apple crumble, not understanding or knowing what apple pie was, as they had never had it before.

Chloe especially insisted that she have crumble, but once she tasted her pie, she was sold and had 2 pieces! In fact, everyone loved it, ooed and awed and almost polished off the the whole pie! We had one piece leftover, which Matthew was lucky enough to take in his lunch to school.

I managed to put a good dent in my apples but I still need to make a few more things to use them up. I’ll make applesauce for the kids, but I may have to make another crumble or a pie…

Apple Pie

apple pie2 – 9 inch pie crusts (store bought or make your own)

5 c. apples (6-8 medium apples)

1/2 c. honey

2 tbsp. flour


Roll bottom pastry and fit into a 9 inch pie plate. Let excess drape over the edge of plate.

Peel, core and slice apples and put into pie plate, arranging evenly. Sprinkle apples with cinnamon, to taste.

Mix honey and flour together. Pour evenly over apples. Roll out top pastry, dampen edges with water and place top pastry covering apples. Press and crimp edges together, then cut off excess pastry. Cut several slits in the top to allow steam to escape.

Bake in 350 F oven until apples are tender, about 45 minutes. Serves 6-8.



Fall Activities for Kids

Fall is my favorite time of year. The vibrant colors, the leaves changing on the trees. I often find a sense of renewal and excitement in the fall. Change and new beginnings, an expectation of things to come. Now I know that spring is typically the time for renewal and new things but for some reason this applies more to me in the Fall. There is just something about the energy, the way the warm sun glints through the trees, the crisp cool mornings, and the cozy afternoons. It’s magical, inviting and I look forward to it every year.

Pumpkin Spice Latte

I also enjoy all the activities that you can do in the Fall with the kids, the Fall recipes like warms hearty stews, specialty coffees like Pumpkin Spice Lattes, the bonfires, the festivals. It creates a warmth, a coziness and welcoming feeling that I love. It’s the time of year that I start to light more candles and fill my house with scents of pumpkin, cinnamon and cloves. It’s also a great time of year to be outside enjoying the warm sunny autumn afternoons.

One of my favorite things to do in Fall is to just go for a walk, letting the kids explore and play in the leaves. The leaves are the best part of Fall. Whether we are kicking them up and dancing with them as they blow in the wind or gathering them for crafts and decorations for later. And I still love jumping in them! When I was growing up my sisters and I would love raking up the leaves, piling them high and jumping in them. Now as a parent and adult I love to jump in the leaves with my kids.

Taking the kids out for a walk is a great opportunity for them to not only have some fun but to teach them to learn about and appreciate their natural environment. There are lots of simple activities you can do while you’re out with very little equipment. If you bring a few items with you such as a magnifying glass, some paper, crayons, pencils and a cloth bag, this will get you started.

Many of these activities will engage kids of all ages. Here are some of my favorites:

Tree & Leaf Rubbings

Leaf Rubbings

Have the children pick a tree, then take a piece of paper and a crayon. Put the paper up against the bark of the tree and then gently rub over the paper with their crayon. Younger children may need assistance holding their paper. Once they are finished they can leave the tree rubbing on it’s own or then add to it and make it part of another picture. They can also do leaf rubbings with leaves they have found on the ground, but will need a flat surface to do the rubbing. If there is nothing close by then take the leaves home and they  can do the leaf rubbings there.

More Leaf Fun…

Have the kids gather a variety of leaves, different shapes, sizes and colors. (Please note to get the children to take the leaves off the ground not off the trees!) The kids will love gathering them and it is an easy way for them to explore and teach them about the different kinds of trees. Take a moment to help them figure out which leaves belong to which trees. If you aren’t familiar with which trees are which, you can get a tree identification book from the library. With young children only talk about one or two, with older more.

With their gathered leaves they can also make a bouquet to put in a vase and use as a centerpiece on your table, or cut a circle out of cardboard and glue the leaves on to make a  leaf wreath.

They can trace their leaves on construction paper using different colors, cut them out then decorate their room or a part of the house. Also using construction paper they could make their own Autumn tree by cutting out a trunk and glueing the leaves on the branches or creating leaf people out of their leaves. Younger children may need help with cutting.

Find a Tree

This is an environmental game that I do with all ages of children, from my 2 year old twins to the Leaders in Training who are 12-14. You can adjust it accordingly depending on the age of the children but the premise is the same. In partners, one is blindfolded and the other leads their partner to a tree. While blindfolded they explore the tree using their other senses. Touch, smell, etc. Once they feel that they have explored the tree thoroughly then the partner takes them back to where they started, removes the blindfold. The blindfolded partner then goes and sees if they can find their tree. With younger children use a small area with only a few trees to choose from with older you can use a larger area to make it more challlenging.

Fall Festivals

On the Jumping Pillow at the Calgary Corn Maze

Many communities Fall Festival celebrations, from pumpkin patches to hayrides, corn mazes and barbeques. We have a variety here in Calgary, from the Calgary Corn Maze, where they have a petting zoo, jumping pillow and corn cannons; to events at Heritage Park such as the Harvest Sale and Railway Days. Check out your local community events to find something that speaks to you.

Other Crafts and Activities

Twig Fairy

There are so many materials in the natural environment, especially in the Fall, to create all kinds of wonderful crafts and activities. When gathering materials for crafts please encourage the children to take things from the ground (whether it be leaves, pine cones, etc.) and not from the live trees and plants as this could damage or kill them. There are great crafts such as twig fairies, autumn looms (to display all the natural treasures they find), word searches and coloring pages. Just GoogleFall Activities and Crafts’ and all kinds of great websites will come up. Some of my favorite sites are Enchanted Learning and Family Fun.

Fall is a beautiful season, so get out and explore it, let the kids fill a bag of goodies (natural items) and then come home and see what you can do with them. Encourage the kids to create their own crafts and games from what they have found. It is a wonderful time to be creative and use their imagination and they’ll be learning about the natural world and all she has to offer at the same time!