My son came bounding up to me with a smile. “Mommy, can I have another box of juice?,” he asked. I looked at the packaged box of 100% apple juice that one of my fellow church goers had brought for the kids. “No, son. That’s full of sugar,” I replied.
Another mom nearby interrupted, “No, there’s no sugar in that. It’s 100% juice.” If my attention hadn’t have been divided between my three month old daughter, my 6 year old son, and a conversation with friend that my son had interrupted, I might have corrected the well-intentioned mother. 100% juice is still full of sugar (in the form of concentrated fructose), even if it has no refined sugar added to it.
These days, people’s definitions of “sugar” and “sweets” are strangely warped.
I’ll give another example. We’re sitting at booth in one of my favorite local restaurants (one of the few nearby places that serves real butter, organic dairy, local produce, naturally-raised meats, and yard eggs with startlingly orange yolks) when the waitress places a plate full of steaming hot biscuits on our table. My oldest son gobbles one up, and within seconds he’s asking for another.
“No, son. I don’t want you to get full on biscuits.” I say.
“It’s because it’s sugar, isn’t it?”
White flour biscuits don’t taste all that sweet. But they’re sugar all right. They’re a pure refined carbohydrate, digested just like refined white sugar and just as responsible for spiking insulin levels.
Here’s one final example. This morning I slept in while my boys woke up early and prepared themselves morning snacks. When I woke up, I asked them what they’d eaten already. I expected them to tell me they’d had some cheese, grapes, or nuts (the only easily available snack foods I’d left out for them).
“We had that,” my oldest son said, pointing to a glass of dark amber liquid on the table. I racked my brain trying to figure out what beverage I had that looked like that. All I had in my fridge were raw milk and kombucha. This mysterious liquid was neither.
“And what exactly is that?” I asked.
“Maple syrup!” my son answered gleefully.
I’ll pause here and let you stop laughing. Not long afterward, they were buckled into their grandmother’s car, on their way to a community bible study. As I gave them their final kisses and goodbyes, I turned to my mother-in-law and said, “Since they sneaked maple syrup for breakfast (which they know is a no-no), can you tell their teachers to not let them have anything sweet?”
“Oh,” she said, “they never serve anything sweet in class. Sometimes they give them cookies, but they’re not sweet. They’re like animal crackers. And last week, when they did Joseph’s coat of many colors they made an edible one out of fruit roll ups, but that’s fruit.”
Since she was driving away, I let it slide and figured I’d bring it up again later.
But cookies, fruit roll ups, fruity gummy bears, and other fruit-flavored “fruit snacks” really are sweets. Whether you think of them that way or not, that’s how your body digests them.
When did our definition of sweets get so warped? Since when are fruit juice, fruit roll ups, and animal crackers NOT considered “sweets”?
When my boys got home I asked what they’d eaten for a snack in class.
“Chocolate Cheerios, Mommy!” His grin was ear to ear.