For the Love of Sugar, Let’s Stop Getting So Upset About Sweets!

I first noticed it after my son’s third birthday party. I had gone a little overboard with the party planning, and we ended up with one dozen extra cupcakes after the big day was over. I thought it would be nice to bring them to church in the morning and have my son share them with his Sunday School friends. They could have a second mini celebration right there in class, singing the birthday song to him and everything!

I couldn’t have been more wrong. 

When I came to pick up my son after church that morning, I found that all 12 cupcakes remained in their clear plastic container and were sitting on a table outside of the door. One of the Sunday School volunteers shrugged at me apologetically and said, “One of the moms asked that I remove these from the room. She didn’t think it was a good idea.” I didn’t even understand the problem at first. Did the mom think that they were full of eggshells? Laced with poison? The cupcakes were not homemade — they had come from a local bakery and they looked beautiful. What was the issue?

You may have already guessed it, but the issue was sugar

As I skulked down the hallway towards the parking lot, I could feel the other moms giving me the side-eye and practically shielding their children from seeing the sinfully sweet contraband I carried in my hands. I tried in vain to find a few people willing to take a cupcake or two off of my hands, but I may as well have been peddling illicit drugs or pornography right there within the walls of the church. I went home feeling defeated and abashed. But what exactly was I feeling ashamed about? Ashamed that I had tried to share some treats with our church friends?

The war against sugar only got worse once preschool started. My son came home with a note from the teacher explaining that they love recognizing birthdays throughout the year, and any student who would like to celebrate in class with friends is welcome to bring a fruit tray or perhaps a non-food treat like stickers. A fruit tray?! Where would they put the candle?

A second realization about just how far the saccharin spite extends came later, when I was unpacking my son’s lunchbox at the end of the day. Each day I kept packing him a Little Debbie brownie as a treat to eat after his lunch, and each day it was being sent home in his lunchbox. “Does he not like Little Debbies?” I wondered. When I asked him about it, he seemed unaware that he had even been carrying a dessert around. My suspicions were confirmed when I picked him up early from school one day, right as they were finishing their lunch. The brownie wasn’t even on the table with the rest of his food! His teacher had seen it in his lunchbox and decided to keep it hidden away.

Why is my son not allowed to eat a treat that I packed for him myself? When does the madness end?!

My family and I are not obese people. We like to eat, and we probably over-indulge at times, but we are also very active and we eat a balanced diet. My three-year-old son has more energy than anyone I’ve ever seen. He burns approximately 9,000 calories a day, and I’m not particularly worried about a brownie or a cupcake sticking to his hips. In fact, if there is ever a time in a person’s life when they can load up on sweets without any consequences, childhood is it! As he gets older, my son’s metabolism will change, and he’ll start to face the unpleasant reality of adults — that we are what we eat. He has plenty of time later for counting calories and worrying over whether his food is organic, free-range, and grass-fed. But right now he’s only three. Shouldn’t he be allowed to eat the brownie?

I picked up my son from preschool a few days ago, and an elderly teacher assistant was there — one I hadn’t met before. Our first conversation consisted of her fussing at me about my son’s knowledge of sweets. She told me that when she polled the class, he was able to list more types of junk food than any of his fellow classmates. She tsk-tsked me about how junk food is bad for heart health, and shared her concerns about his diet. To my embarrassment, as this conversation was unfolding, my son was poking around in my bag and found a Saran-wrapped cookie that I had bought for him to eat on our way home in the car. “Oooh…what’s this?” he asked, holding it up proudly. From the look on his teacher’s face, you would have thought he was brandishing a gun. I just shrugged my shoulders and said, “I bought you a treat today for being such a good boy.” Teacher was shocked. I don’t care. 

For now, I’m in charge of my son’s dietary decisions, and I’ve decided that a little bit of sugar is nothing to get so upset about. 

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41 Responses to For the Love of Sugar, Let’s Stop Getting So Upset About Sweets!

  1. Teena Cone February 10, 2018 at 10:18 am #

    We do tend to celebrate with food in our family, but life is too short to avoid everything that taste good and has sugar in it! We eat healthy most of the time, but like a good dessert sometimes! Nothing wrong with that I say!

  2. Rachel DeAngelis February 10, 2018 at 1:41 pm #

    Haha. Thanks, Mom! 🙂

  3. Jessica February 16, 2018 at 8:11 am #

    Sugar is hard. Technology and sugar are my only addictions. I used to wake up at 3am craving sugar. It’s highly addictive and completely legal, so curbing the addiction is almost entirely impossible for me. My toddlers have pony sweet tooth as well and we’re trying to keep the junk out of the house and save it for holidays and parties as special treats. I completely see why most ppl don’t think sugar is a problem, but I applaud the schools for making an effort to keep it out. Good luck!

    • Rachel DeAngelis February 18, 2018 at 9:02 pm #

      Thanks for your comment! I have been hearing from people on here and on Facebook who have dealt with very real sugar addictions, even as children, and it’s something that I hadn’t really thought about. I don’t feel like I have a problem with sugar, and my son doesn’t either at this point, though it’s something that we definitely enjoy. But I can see why sharing sugary treats with the entire class could become an issue. Thanks for your perspective!

  4. Kristin February 17, 2018 at 9:18 pm #

    This whole article is a disappointment. I guess it’s easy for a parent to say my child burns 9,000 calories a day so he can eat all the treats he wants but whose to blame when these terrible habits follow him into adulthood? The truth is that this child will likely end up with diabetes, heart disease, obesity, or worse. This appears to be an article from a parent who found it easier to reward with treats rather than fostering a healthy lifestyle. Furthermore it shows a lack of nutritional knowledge or care about how sugar changes and impacts children. Come on Knox city moms blog you can do better than this! We are not in the 80’s anymore. Know better do better! Especially for our precious children.

    • Andrea Monk February 18, 2018 at 12:35 am #

      Such a rude comment! You can disagree with an article without being so nasty about it and making assumptions about her child. That’s uncalled for.

    • Rachel DeAngelis February 18, 2018 at 9:06 pm #

      It’s upsetting to read your prediction that my son will turn out to be obese or have diabetes or heart disease. I certainly hope that’s not the case. You may be picturing our household as the likes of Mama June and Honey BooBoo, but that’s not how we are. We enjoy sweet treats at our house, but we also understand portion sizes and how to balance out junk food with healthy food. I feel like I’m raising my son (nutritionally speaking) the same way that I was raised. When I was growing up, organic-everything wasn’t a trend. I ate a good mix of veggies/fruits, good home-cooking, and sweet treats. I haven’t ever suffered with obesity, diabetes, or heart disease, and I hope that my son doesn’t either.

  5. Andrea Monk February 18, 2018 at 12:38 am #

    Personally, I try to limit my children’s sugar intake because I am very addicted to it and I am hoping they won’t grow up to be like me. I’ve struggled with my weight since I was a small child and I’m hoping to help them avoid that future. However I do give them dessert after dinner almost every night and of course when we visit Memaw they eat enough candy to hype them up for hours. I don’t think you did anything wrong by sending cupcakes to church, but I also understand why other parents didn’t think it was a good idea. If my son had a cupcake during Sunday School, he’d be bouncing up to the ceiling for the next two hours.

    • Rachel DeAngelis February 18, 2018 at 9:10 pm #

      Thanks for that perspective, Andrea! I definitely have learned since that incident to be more cautious about treats. This past week, I made sure to ask my son’s preschool teacher if he would be allowed to distribute candy with his valentines for his classmates, and she allowed it. I know that every parent is different on this issue, so when it comes to bringing treats to share with an entire class, I’ve learned that I just can’t make any assumptions!

  6. Serena February 18, 2018 at 12:41 pm #

    Kids get a lot of sugar every day already – naturally occuring sugars in fruit are one thing, but then you add a yogurt cup and they are near the limit of added daily sugars. I do not want my child being fed a cupcake at school. That is not what he is there for. There are healthier ways to celebrate birthdays, such as bringing a favorite book or sitting in a special chair during lunch. Food used as rewards are not appropriate and can lead to disordered behaviors with food later in life.

    • Rachel DeAngelis February 18, 2018 at 9:19 pm #

      I understand your perspective of not wanting cupcakes at school. I was looking at the “birthday wall” in my son’s classroom, and I realized that there were multiple birthdays listed for most months. Some months had four or five birthdays, and if those kids bring in treats for each of their days, that adds up to a lot of cupcakes at school. I even feel birthday overkill in the workplace sometimes—it seems like there is always cake in the break room, and that can be an unnecessary temptation sometimes. But cake is the traditional way that we like to celebrate birthdays, so there has to be some sort of appropriate venue for it—at the birthday party at the very least.

      I don’t necessarily agree that food as a reward is a bad thing. When we started out potty training my son, the most sure-fire way to convince him to use the toilet was to offer him some M&Ms. Once he started getting the hang of it more, and I realized that he was going to be eating way too many M&Ms all day long if we kept it up, I switched to a sticker chart. He would get one sticker for each successful go, and after he accumulated 5 stickers, he would get some kind of treat. I feel like that’s reasonable, and I don’t feel like I’m creating a monster by allowing him to indulge in treats for good behavior, as long as treats aren’t the ONLY reward.

  7. Elizabeth Wright February 19, 2018 at 5:02 pm #

    I just finished a fascinating book called In Defense Of Food. I felt wonderfully vindicated in my opinion that there really aren’t too many real foods that are bad. We just 1) eat too much! 2) eat processed food!-too much-! Sugar is not the devil, just as fat is not the devil. Too much is the problem. Americans suffer from an over abundance of just about everything…

  8. Jennifer February 20, 2018 at 12:23 pm #

    I feel the same as you about occasional sugar, but with childhood obesity on the rise, I think it is important to be aware and respectful of other parents’ goals to limit their child’s sugar intake. You never know what kind of predispositions they’re already trying to prevent.
    Studies have shown just how addictive sugar is and when I looked at my own family, it was alarming just how addictive it really is.

    • Rachel DeAngelis February 22, 2018 at 9:09 am #

      I definitely didn’t want to step on other parents toes the day that I brought those cupcakes to Sunday School! I wanted to a) give my son a chance to celebrate with some of his church friends who couldn’t make it to our party and b) get those cupcakes out of my house so that I wouldn’t eat them all. I think I was just surprised that I WAS stepping on toes, because I hadn’t even considered it! Lesson learned!

  9. Teresa February 20, 2018 at 12:25 pm #

    We all have the right to teach our children what we wish about nutrition and to feed them as we see fit. A treat now and then is no big deal. But I also want to be the one to provide the treat from time to time and sometimes it feels like i can’t blink without someone else giving my kids junk food. When my oldest started kinder, there were 20 plus kids in a class bringing birthday treats and multiple teachers that would hand out candy. Not to mention “snacks” after sports that are often cookies or cupcakes after 15 minutes of actual exercise. It all gets to be a little much. I couldn’t have been happier when the school put an end to the birthday treats. Yes, sugar was much less regulated when we were kids, but now we know better. There is solid research on the risks of high intakes of sweets and other highly processed foods as well as the consequences that can arise from too many food based rewards. As a society, we are not doing too well with promoting good health for ourselves or for our children and our history of food as the way to celebrate and reward ourselves isn’t helping. So feed your kid however you want but don’t be surprised if others don’t share your views.

    • Rachel DeAngelis February 22, 2018 at 9:11 am #

      If there is one thing I was sure of, it was that other people may not share my views from this post. 😉

  10. Melissa February 20, 2018 at 1:25 pm #

    “Sometimes it feels like I can’t blink without someone giving my kids junk food.” That is one of the best comments I’ve seen.
    Our society constantly rewards kids (and adults) with treats. When I go to a bank or dry cleaner, and they offer my kid a sucker for walking inside…Makes me want to scream, they don’t “need it”.

    • Rachel DeAngelis February 22, 2018 at 9:13 am #

      My child’s first sucker was after getting a hair cut, when the stylist just unwrapped it and handed it to him without even asking me. I felt like I lost my chance to decide, because of course, he just popped it right into his mouth.

  11. Molly February 20, 2018 at 1:26 pm #

    We still do birthday cupcakes at my children’s school, and we LOVE it!!! If you can’t have a cupcake on your birthday when can you??? Yes, I agree, we shouldn’t eat cake everyday, but we need to teach moderation and not avoidance. My preschoolers and I talk about how we need protein for our muscles and fruits and veggies for nutrition. I don’t believe in avoidance, that’s how in the most extreme cases end up with eating disorders. Our goal as parents is to raise smart, healthy, loving adults. And teaching about nutrition and exercise and celebrating in moderation is all a piece of that.

  12. Kasey February 20, 2018 at 2:16 pm #

    Thank you Rachel for your posting. Being transparent and accountable in your article. I feel as we “society” have taken the joy out of life especially for children. I also disagree with random individuals making assumptions about your personal choices and your children’s future. Why do individuals decide they should treat other parents as their children and scold you for your parent choices. There is no way to predict with 100% correlation that your child will end up with “diabetes, heart disease, obesity, or worse”.

    I think this author was trying to reflect in her article that she has the ability to make the choice if her son gets to enjoy a cookie or brownie and not someone else.

    • Rachel DeAngelis February 22, 2018 at 9:16 am #

      I just get tired of the mom guilt sometimes. It’s easy to let people get into my head. :-/

  13. Andrea R February 20, 2018 at 3:44 pm #

    Let’s flip the other side of this coin. Let me first say that we have very similar philosophies on junk food. My kids get dessert after a meal many days of the week and *shocker* we’ll use dessert as a bribe to get that spinach off the plate and into bellies. Having said all that, I have a slightly different perspective. Myself and my kids will have celiac disease, which means we can’t have any gluten. Not by choice, because let me tell you it took a year to mourn the loss of my favorite chocolate chip cookies after our diagnosis. When someone brings treats unannounced to class, it means my child is left out. When I know in advance, I provide an alternative or similar treat that is safe for them to eat. Food allergies are very isolating both for children and adults and are becoming more prevalent. I can’t tell you how many girls nights I’ve gone to where there’s not a single thing on the table I can eat. Granted, I never expect people to make special accommodations for me or my kids, and we always plan ahead, but it’s still hard. So for me the issue is not the sugar, but more the lack of notice. Just something to consider next time anyone wants to bring treats to class.

    • Rachelle P February 20, 2018 at 11:54 pm #

      Our family is also gluten-free, along with several other restrictions. It’s tough. My son was 9 years old when we had to completely change our lifestyle relating to food. I always appreciated a heads up when treats were given in school.

      Now that he’s almost in high school, it doesn’t bother him anymore. So what if he doesn’t get a cupcake – he can get a treat at home later. Pizza party for a friend’s birthday? He takes a lunchbox with safe food for himself. All of his friends know, it’s no big deal.

      The world won’t cater to food allergies or restrictions. We can’t expect to be included. We can just hope to find others that understand.

    • Rachel DeAngelis February 22, 2018 at 9:19 am #

      At least gluten-free is becoming more and more common. I have a friend who has been gluten-free since her college days, and when she first figured out that she needed to change her diet, she had no idea where to even start. She felt really limited (especially in college, when everyone is indulging) on what she could eat. But it has changed so much in the past several years. I feel like now, everywhere I go, there are gluten-free sections in the grocery story and gluten-free options on restaurant menus. But I didn’t think about a gluten-free kid in my son’s class who may feel left out when the birthday treats are passed around. Thanks for your perspective!

  14. Kerry February 20, 2018 at 4:19 pm #

    I liked this post and I think if you want to pack a treat in your kids lunchbox, you should and they should let him have it! You are his Mom!
    On the other hand, I wish my kids schools had some limitations on all the sweets. I like to be the one that gives them a treat here and there but with ALL the birthdays, and ALL the parties, and ALL the rewards, I feel like I never get to do that. They would be getting a “treat” every day and I personally don’t like that for my kids or our family.

    • Rachel DeAngelis February 22, 2018 at 9:20 am #

      I suppose if my son’s school was sending him home sugared up every day, then this might have been an entirely different post, LOL. So maybe I should be glad they are concerned about his diet, even if I think they’re a little overbearing sometimes…?

  15. Shannon February 20, 2018 at 5:57 pm #

    We choose to limit sugar in our house, but we do love to celebrate- and that usually includes sweets! My issue is how dare these teachers usurp your authority as mom! They can certainly have their opinions, but to basically tell your child that his mom is making bad choices is unbelievable. Really, that’s the part of all this that makes me sick.

  16. Katie K February 21, 2018 at 3:19 pm #

    Research has shown that when we limit and restrict foods from our kiddos (and as us adults!) then they will overeat it when given a chance! Think of any diets where you restrict a food (sugar, carbs, etc)…what’s the only thing you can think of and obsess about and eventually over eat when you break your diet? That exact food you have made “forbidden”. My child is an intuitive eater, she knows her body and I trust her with her choices! We always offer a variety of foods and allow her to listen to her body. I don’t want her to mistrust her body by me forbidding a food. I always provide nutritious foods, but play foods are allowed! No food is good or bad, let’s stop making a moral issue over what we eat! Thank you for writing this!

    • Rachel DeAngelis February 22, 2018 at 9:23 am #

      I have a friend at church who is a nutritionist, and she has said a lot of the same things that you’re saying. I think she refers to healthy food as “growing food,” and explains to her children that they need “growing food” to get big and strong. But she still lets them dictate what they spoon onto their plates at dinnertime.

  17. Jennifer February 21, 2018 at 9:43 pm #

    interesting to find the school wants you to send fruit when lots of kids have fruit allergies now a days. My school only
    Requires they are not home made. They say cupcakes OR other treats of parents choice. They do ask we tell then ahead of time Incase someone else is planning to bring treats. You shouldn’t feel bad that you wanted to share the treats with ylye church or school
    It’s ridiculous people have become so rude. Don’t want yours kid to eat sugar? Tell someone no thank you. And how’s dare the teachers remove treats you send for your child it’s not their place. We try to limit sugar to one treat: cookie, candy or such to once a day because I have struggled with sugar addiction all my
    Life but I’m not going to take it away from my children’s I’m going to teach moderation instead.

    • Rachel DeAngelis February 22, 2018 at 9:24 am #

      That was the confusing thing for me. I brought treats to share, but then I felt guilty for bringing them…like I had done something wrong. I guess I didn’t realize at that point what a controversial topic sugar can be!

  18. Gina Sutterley February 22, 2018 at 6:14 am #

    Such a hard topic is sugar. My daughter has ADHD. A cupcake for her would mean hours of potential off the wall behavior (her brain just can’t handle it). We go into birthday parties aware and knowing it is what it is and praying for the best. Those are the planned exposures to sugar. The unplanned are challenging. So while I would never intentionally throw another mom a sideways look (no judgement zone here – every family is different and we ALL are working towards a common goal of survival and raising awesome kids), I may be that mom that inwardly groans knowing the after effect of such a yummy treat!

    • Rachel DeAngelis February 22, 2018 at 9:25 am #

      Thanks for the mom-to-mom solidarity! We’re all parenting differently, but we all have the same basic goals for our children. Safe, loved, and healthy!

  19. Ali haugo February 23, 2018 at 10:44 am #

    I believe in teaching our children balance. This is the way I grew up and all 5 of my siblings are of good health average weight. I remember school friends whose households were very strict with sugar intake- they were the ones who went crazy when given the opportunity! Sugar is a delicious treat that I think we and our children should enjoy occassionaly. I don’t let my kids have any more junk food than I do as I feel that sets them up for a lifetime of health, and they are growing and need healthy food to do that right. I have no problem with special birthday or holiday sweets, but don’t really like it when parents hand out snacks at every kid activity either (mine are young and with me during those times). I’m against the idea that they need a juice box and crackers to get through soccer practice as that makes it a little tough to get them to eat their dinner an hour later. Sad to hear your cupcakes were such a flop. I would feel the same way.

    • Rachel February 25, 2018 at 10:10 pm #

      I do get annoyed with treats that spoil supper. And you’re right…if I ever do want my son to cut down on sugar in the future, it’s going to have to start with me and my diet as a good example.

  20. Lydia February 23, 2018 at 11:18 am #

    Thank you for writing this. I couldn’t agree more. I eat sugar and I’m not overweight, I’m not addicted to it, I just LIKE it. It’s not killing me. It won’t kill my kids. Brownies, cookies, cupcakes… all great treats, in moderation. And not Satan. Though from the comments above, it’s clear there are hard-liners on sugar. I’m happy to say that I’m not one of them! Pass the brownies. 🙂

    • Rachel February 25, 2018 at 10:10 pm #

      Yay! Someone else who is a fan of sugar. Someone must be eating all of these gorgeous desserts that are getting pinned on Pinterest. Am I right? 😉

  21. Amanda February 23, 2018 at 2:15 pm #

    I’m middle of the road on this topic. My little one is only 2 so we have tried to avoid sugar as much as possible while we still can up until recently. I don’t think sugar is the devil but also think kids and adults consume way too much. We do give treats and I’ve been known to offer a cookie in exchange for eating all the broccoli, but I also feel like I have to shield my daughter from the constant offers of sugar. We all need to be mindful that to us it’s just one treat but how many other “it’s just one treat” have been offered already. No need to side eye anyone over birthday cupcakes but we also all need to be more conscious of how many treats and snacks are being passed out constantly. I know from doing childcare that one kid having a Little Debbie can make all the other kids request the same thing and it can create a stressful situation for the teachers. Preschoolers don’t understand why they don’t get one too. So maybe keep the Little Debbie as an after school snack when you get home.

    • Rachel February 25, 2018 at 10:11 pm #

      That’s true. I didn’t think about the fact that when I pack a treat for my son in his lunch box, his classmates might be getting jealous. Thanks for that perspective!

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