Raising a Traveling Tribe: What does your country say about kids & sugar?

by Tina on August 26, 2013

in Food, Raising a Traveling Tribe

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I have always advocated moderation and believed that giving my kids a little sugar was okay, but soon after we arrived in Denmark it was very quickly brought to our attention that Danes in general have a different perspective on sugar.

After sending a cookie to school in my daughter’s lunchbox, I received a note from the teacher asking us not to send any sugar to school.  Despite feeling a little embarrassed, I began to ask myself if I agreed whether it was inappropriate to send a little sweet treat in my child’s lunchbox or if I was going to have to politely disagree with this new cultural norm.

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It’s not that Danes hate all sugar.  In fact, every week the grocery ads have “Friday Candy Specials” because the Danes love to splurge on their Toms candy and licorice in any variety over the weekend!  It is just that sugar is reserved for special occasions and a little treat over the weekend rather than a constant flow of Cap’n Crunch and Fruit Snacks.

In the defense of the Danes I will say that since moving here we have dramatically reduced the amount of sugar we eat and we feel so much better without it!  I still love to bake, A lot, but we have been inspired to eat a lot less sugar overall.

I wonder… How do you feel about the amount of sugar kids should have?  

What is the general cultural attitude towards sugar where you live?

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{ 24 comments… read them below or add one }

Maja August 26, 2013 at 12:46 pm

Norwegian kids have only sweets at saturdays…lørsdagsgodteri is it called and norwegian adults have only alcohol at weekends (friday and saturdays)…coincidence? I think its weird…I like to drink a glass of whine during the week with my lunch in the evening ( I mostly cook italian dishes like Pasta, Risotto and Pizza, so I need whine, otherwise it tastes not like Dolce Vita!…and my kids are allowed to eat sweets during the week too….but they have NO sweets in their lunchboxes…

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Amanda @ Marocmama August 26, 2013 at 4:17 pm

Well I think you’ll agree that it’s a different story in Morocco. Last night my sister in law gave my son milk, with 3 sugar cubes, and coffee at 9pm…..there’s no concept of too much sugar here (at least from what I can tell). Kids and adults eat sugar and hlwa all day long. It’s too much!

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Sandra August 26, 2013 at 4:33 pm

No sweets allowed in the lunchboxes at my son’s school here in Hamburg (Germany), too. But once or twice a week they get some cake or a sweet after lunch at school. On any other days they get all kinds of fruits. At kindergarden it’s the same. At home my kids are allowed to have some gummibears or chocolate when they ask, but I wouldn’t offer it to them.

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paperella August 26, 2013 at 4:59 pm

Well… don’t get me started, lol! I’ll only tell you that both in Uruguay and Bolivia I’ve seen Coke on baby bottles. And of course, marshmellows and any kind of sugary treat is the way to go to make a toddler stop crying :(
In Montevideo restaurants, they brought several times a little glass of Coke to our table as a welcome drink to Rodrigo, who was around 1 year old at the time. I still can’t believe it, and Bolivia is pretty much the same. Does it say enough about sugar around here? Lol! I am proud to say though that to this day my son, who will turn 6 this Wednesday, doesn’t drink any kind of soda except the ocassional orange drink in birthday parties, where he is the only one who asks for water when he’s thirsty. He loves candy, like any kid, but he knows it’s only for special occassions, and he gets daily fruit for his sweet cravings. Sometimes it’s not easy, because all the kids take candy to the school and he feels a bit bad about the banana I pack for him when the other kids get sugar sugar and more sugar. But he’ll thank us someday, ha! Sending hugs, Tina, and thanks for another great post!

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Celena August 26, 2013 at 5:10 pm

We live in Canada and I think that the sugar things is a bit too much here (I cringe at holiday time or lootbags!). I have gone back to our Swedish/Danish background and try to limit sweets to “Loerdags godis”. I don’t mind serving home baked goods so much during the week (at least there is SOMETHING good in the calories) but the straight-out-sugar-high in candies is for a more “special” time.
Funny, I had the same experience with my son’s vuggestuen but with yogurt (?). I thought that was a bit strange….

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Tina August 26, 2013 at 6:59 pm

@Maja I guess mom and dad need a little something to get through the weekend! :-)

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Tina August 26, 2013 at 7:00 pm

@Amanda The mint tea alone is enough to keep them sugared up all day! I always thought it was so amazing to watch moms give it to babies before they could even walk!

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Tina August 26, 2013 at 7:01 pm

@Sandra Germans make such amazing cakes, so it’s no wonder that they let them have just a little every now and then! :-)

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Tina August 26, 2013 at 7:03 pm

@Paperella Yes! I believe it because when we were in Spain with Hailey as a baby she was constantly being offered hard candies by well intentioned strangers on the street. Ice cream, though? No, that would freeze the throat and cause a cold, but sugar? definitely! :-)

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Tina August 26, 2013 at 7:05 pm

@Celena I was surprised when yogurt was offered as “dessert.” My mom always MADE us eat our yoghurt because it was healthy! LOL! Mine only eat candy if someone brings it from the US or we go to the movies.

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Marina August 26, 2013 at 9:54 pm

We have a low-sugar-tolerance for our son ;) As he is a high-sensitive boy, sugar is one of the things that are worse for his sensitivity. But to skip it complete from his menu is not possible. We can replace a lot of sweet etc in a sugar free versions with a lot of taste!! So why not try to replace this for every child? But for some moments like a birthday party, we let it allgo….otherwise a party is for a kid no party anymore.

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Celena August 26, 2013 at 9:59 pm

Tina, my mother also made us have yogurt and I grew up thinking that it was pretty healthy (=putting it into my finicky kid’s lunch!). Funny thing is that in DK yogurt seems to be the only thing that they have 100 kinds to choose from ;)

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Robyn August 26, 2013 at 10:04 pm

I have a 28 year old daughter that didn’t have any sugar until she was 3 years old. She survived quite nicely and has a hard time eating one candy bar in a sitting!

I on the other hand was given what was known as “sugar tit” which was a piece of fabric with a mound of sugar in it and tied up with a rubber band and I had it to suck on at bedtime because I was one of “those children” that didn’t go to sleep well! The results are a sweet tooth that won’t quit and crazy amount of dental issues.

I make the right decision for my daughter to this day neither of us have a regret that she doesn’t enjoy sweets that much, and she has a beautiful smile.

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Tina August 26, 2013 at 10:20 pm

@Marina Of course if your child is sensitive to sugar, you definitely have an even greater reason to monitor his intake, but it’s nice that you let him splurge at parties. I’m sure he loves it! :-)

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Tina August 26, 2013 at 10:21 pm

@Celena I’ve heard (I can’t eat dairy anymore) that the yoghurts here have a lot less sugar than the US/Canada. I know the ones in Spain contained a lot more sugar, but my husband says they are his favorite. :-)

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Tina August 26, 2013 at 10:24 pm

@Robyn wow! That is crazy! Sounds like you made a great choice for your daughter. My two older kids have a real sweet tooth because we let them have more sugar when they were little but my littlest literally won’t eat most forms of sugar!

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Karla August 27, 2013 at 4:32 am

In Pakistan like in Morocco love sweets very sweets. Although I loooooove sweets (cookies specially) but even juices are hyper sweet in Pakistan. I have never been able to drink a whole glass of juice without stopping to water it down. We don’t often offer sweets to our daughter but we have offered her home-made Popsicles and cupcakes made with lots of good stuff in it and lots of fruits.
She has been my inspiration to skip two or three isles in the supermarket and just go for more healthy sugars.

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the F girl August 27, 2013 at 9:17 am

Sugar in yoghurt? We eat it pure here, as desert indeed, sometimes with fruit. Delicious! But there is no sugar in there.

Here in the Netherlands I think children start to eat more and more candy than they did before, at parties, when playing with friends etc. But in the schools it is indeed forbidden. And even when they are having their birthday and can bring a treat for their classmates, it is asked that you bring something sort-of healthy, so no candy.

Our children didn’t get any sugar or candy until they were going to pre-school. My eldest didn’t like candy for years. People always thought I was a very strict mom when he refused a candy when given, thinking I forbid it, but I didn’t. He just didn’t like it and I wasn’t planning on teaching him as well :-)

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Tina August 27, 2013 at 9:23 am

@Karla I think our time in Morocco is what made us think we were ULTRA health nuts because our friends ate sugar in everything and the sweets! All that honey! Yum, but I think some of my Danish friends would go into cardiac arrest! :-)

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Tina August 27, 2013 at 9:27 am

@ the F girl I think sugar is put into SO many things in the US that most of us don’t even think about it! I grew up eating sugary cereals, donuts, and other sugary breakfast foods and never thought about it, but I can’t eat any of them without feeling sick now!

Even if only for the sake of kids’ teeth, I think it is good for them to go without candy as much as possible. I do not serve very much sugar at our kids’ parties anymore because I’m worried that I will make the kids sick. Instead, I let them have a piece of cake and then they can take a little treat bag home for their parents to give to them when it is okay.

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simplystylishmom August 27, 2013 at 10:29 am

I have never been a big user of sugar in cooking (i prefer honey/agave etc) but I do find the Danes view of sugar and treats is a bit mixed up – my son got in trouble at school for bringing a whole wheat zucchini muffin to school but the teacher said that a rice cracker or rugbrod with a thin layer of chocolate on it was ok?!? I do agree they are very pro-healthy but the good thing is that they know how to enjoy sugary treats outside of school time!

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annmucc August 27, 2013 at 12:59 pm

Wow. OK. I got the opposite impression of Denmark…Last week I learnt about ‘Friday candy’, when visiting friends, and I was surprised that the kids get candy every single Friday! Cannot imagine that happening in my house when growing up. As simplystylishmom also said: chocolate on bread? That would have been a ‘we are at camp’ treat with Nutella, i.e. once a year at most. I must admit that I really did grow up in a family with very limited sugar intake, which is why I so don’t have a sweet tooth and feel like ‘bouncing off walls’ and agitated when I get some sugar (especially creamy cakes here!). Probably this explains my opposite point of view.

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Camryn August 30, 2013 at 3:19 pm

I don’t think I would have handled it so graciously, if a note had been delivered home with my child asking me to not pack a cookie in my kid’s “madpakke.” :) You’re a champ! But like the last two posters mentioned – annmucc and simplystylishmom – my impression of Denmark’s sugar/child policy is a little less savory. To me, it smacks more of cultural/familial encroachment. I have never understood the fredag-slik-trend (Friday candy bag) that is a cultural norm in Denmark, but I respect those who love and live by it. On a personal level, in my family, that kind of candy-binge would have been seen as excessive and therefore, extremely rare (think Halloween, once a year!). But the occasional cookie-in-the-lunchbox was something my mom allowed from time to time. My 3 sisters and I were raised with minimal sugar (no sugar cereals, donuts, and twice a year – we could SHARE a can of soda). When we craved sweets, we got banana chips. But everything in moderation, as my mom said. She set the terms as to what we would eat – and I’m glad it was her, and not the headmaster.
If I raise school-age childred in Denmark, it may be a bitter pill for me to swallow, knowing that I don’t have The Choice of opting out of “fredag-slik”, in favor of a cookie in the lunchbox. While I applaud the effort to keep kids healthy, I find the intrusion into family’s food habits…not so delicious.

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Ari Barcelona November 18, 2013 at 11:43 am

Not sure what the general thought is here, since I see many children eating industrial pastry all the time, but my daughter’s dentist has forbidden us to give her any sugar during the day -even honey, which she loves!-, only when she will be brushing her teeth immediately after.

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