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Sugar fixation

We were standing in line on the Staten Island Ferry, New York City, land of great street food, and all my daughter wanted was a soda.

How did this happen?

My kids know the lecture: There are three reasons the American population has gotten so fat. One is screentime, which leads to lack of exercise. We took care of that one very early by cutting out all TV watching in our house. These days, we’re so used to it, we forget to watch TV! Reason two is packaged food full of processed ingredients. In this case, we all love to cook and eat really great, healthy food, so the only problem we have to watch is my daughter’s love of crackers. The third reason is soda.

So there we were, standing in line behind a young man well on his way down the road to obesity, and she’s asking for a soda. I can’t remember the day it started, but it probably went something like this. She asked for a Snapple. I really wanted a Snapple. Darn it, occasionally a woman deserves a big hit of sugar and caffeine in the middle of a hectic day. So I said, OK.

She’s the sort of kid who watches for weakness in any structure, then pounces. She found a crack, and she dug a finger in.

Next we go visiting the relatives in New Jersey. At every stop: soda, juice. We allow her a cup of seltzer. Finally, friends in the old neighborhood offer ginger ale. The puppy eyes come out. “I’ve always wanted to taste ginger ale…. Pleeeeeease???”

Once the crack is opened, the flood of requests pour in, and I have to start up the propaganda machine again.

“Let’s start at the beginning. Do you remember why so many people in this country are fat, obese, and suffering from completely preventable diseases like Type II diabetes?”

She plays dumb, my kid who is so obsessed with the human body that she has a whole bookshelf of knowledge on why the body starts to need insulin injections to survive.

“It’s because of soda. Remember what happens when you put too much sugar in? Sugar gives us energy, but most Americans don’t use the energy they put into their bodies. So it gets stored as fat. They get fat and unhealthy. Then the functions in their bodies break down. Their bodies can’t process sugar correctly anymore. They have to inject drugs for the rest of their lives. They are the first generation of Americans whose life expectancy will be lower than their parents’.”

The size, sweetness, and saltiness of sodas keeps rising along with Americans' waistlines and diabetes-related deaths.

The size, sweetness, and saltiness of sodas keeps rising along with Americans' waistlines and diabetes-related deaths.

She actually got the short version of the lecture. I could have opened up Youtube on my phone and searched for Dr. Robert Lustig’s video on fructose that went viral last year. That’s fructose as in “high fructose corn syrup,” the major ingredient in American sodas. Fructose, which he calls “poison.” I could have reminded her about how we learned why sodas are so high in salt: they add all the salt to mask how sickly sweet the sodas are (all that cheap HFCS), and also to make us more thirsty. They don’t want us to drink just one soda, you know. That wouldn’t be good for business.

But I didn’t have time to go on. “We’re next!” my daughter announced bouncily, as the soon-to-be-obese young man stepped up to the counter.

“What’s your largest size of soda?” he asked.

“Twenty ounces,” the clerk said.

“Gimme one of those,” he said.

Apparently my lecture didn’t spoil his fun. My daughter, however, ended up sulking her way through a box of milk. She should be happy, though. All that healthy food gives her the brain development and energy to plot new ways to exploit the cracks in my health-conscious veneer.

Posted in Health, Parenting.


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