Food For Kids caught up with Sarah Wilson from I Quit Sugar, who has inspired many to take the leap of a sugar free life!
Sarah you are a picture of health – please tell our readers how your journey into healthy eating began and the ethos behind your extremely popular Australian (and now international) brand I Quit Sugar?
I have an autoimmune disease and had been told for years I should quit sugar. The idea was far too scary to contemplate, as it is for most. (Tell someone to quit, say, peanuts and they just don’t shudder in the same way). I then decided to experiment with the idea and quit for two weeks. I wrote about it for the newspaper column I was writing at the time. It felt so good, so right – I lost weight immediately and had much better energy – that I just kept going. And going. It’s been over three years now.
Your 8 week programmes and cook books have been huge. But what inspired you to write a cookbook for kids?
I’d be getting my hair cut, buying loo paper at the supermarket or climbing out of my local pool and a parent would come up to me to tell me how deeply concerned they are about their kids’ eating habits and the way sugar is impacting their health and behavior. Sometimes they were in tears, totally fed up and feeling like failures. It brought me to tears. These interactions inspired me to write my Kids Cookbook.
It sounds right – quitting sugar, but what are the facts? What are the benefits of avoiding sugar?
Kids can benefit in the following ways –
- They’re less likely to suffer from mood disorders. Kids who eat diets high in refined sugar are more likely to suffer from depression, anxiety and mood disorders.
- They’re less likely to be fat. 25 per cent of Australian children are overweight or obese. (That figure is similar too in the UK)
- They’re less likely to have behavioural problems. High sugar diets inhibit the body’s ability to absorb vital nutrients, resulting in the body being deficient in micronutrients. These deficiencies (particularly iron) have been linked to behavioural disorders – like ADHD – in young children.
- They’re more likely to have a strong immune system. Sugar destroys the functions of bacteria, fighting white blood cells and wreaking havoc for up to five hours after ingestion. It also interferes with the absorption of Vitamin C, one of the essential nutrients for immune function.
- They’re less likely to be aggressive. Research has found the more sugary drinks a child consumes, the worse their behaviour is likely to be. Coincidence? No. A two-month study was done on five-year-olds, monitoring how many sugary drinks they had a day, as well as how their behaviour was over the same period.
- Almost half of the 3000 children involved drank one can of soft drink a day.
- More than 120 had four – or more – glasses of the toxic stuff each day.
- The link between soft drinks and aggression was cited as “strong and consistent.”
- Quitting sugar rejuvenates the palette. Studies have shown that sugar strips the body of vital nutrients, and in particular zinc. Zinc is essential in the development of taste and palette in young children.
Wow the benefits are massive. We really need to take control of what we are feeding our families and ourselves!
Sugar intake is highly topical over here in the UK – do you think a diet totally free from sugar it is realistic for the majority of people or is it an ideal to work towards?
You’re asking… should kids have “some” sugar, as opposed to adults?
Well. Know this.
The American Heart Association recommends kids aged four to eight should be consuming no more than three teaspoons of sugar a day. That sounds reasonable, and manageable, right?
Here’s the scary truth.
- A glass of apple juice contains 8-10 teaspoons of sugar (the same as a can of Coke).
- The average bowl of cereal has three teaspoons of sugar.
- A slice of white toast with jam has four teaspoons of sugar.
Our kids are eating 3-4 times the recommended daily intake, and that’s before they leave the breakfast table! One in four Australian children are overweight or obese increasing the likelihood they’ll suffer from diabetes, heart disease and other illnesses. Cutting, or limiting, kids sugar intake will drastically reduce the likelihood that they will suffer from life threatening illnesses.
Parents often find it hard to control what their children eat – school meals, kids parties etc.. do you have any advice for navigating these situations?
Our motto is that it’s always better to replace rather than restrict.
Talk about food as fuel to keep bodies healthy, rather than referring to food as “bad” or discussing restrictive eating.
When all else fails, appeal to your kids’ imagination by giving fun names to their meals or telling them their greens will make them strong like the Hulk and other superheros. Focus on fun, not “bad foods” and “should nots.”
We love your positive approach Sarah and totally agree with you.
What top food and nutritional tips would you give parents who aren’t confident in the kitchen?
My biggest tip is to Just Eat Real Food (JERF). To JERF is to eat simply. It allows us to go back to a grass roots way of eating. It’s also what’s at the heart of the I Quit Sugar message. You see, when you quit sugar, you cut out the crap. Choose foods with the least amount of ingredients, avoid sauces, eat what you can see and name and avoid packets with numbers on them.
When you aren’t busy working, what do you like to do to relax and unwind?
Bush walking. You can follow my adventures on Instagram (check out the hashtag #bushexcursion). And eating. I spend a lot of time cooking and thinking about food!
Are you working on any exciting projects that you can reveal?
Yes, I’m currently working on my third print book out next year.
What is your kitchen gadget that you can’t live without?
I can’t live without my slow cooker, I’m obsessed. I find it’s the easiest way to eat simply and sustainably.
What’s your motto?
#JERF – Just Eat Real Food.
A huge thank you to Sarah for taking time to chat to us, you really are such an inspiration. Many have said this before, and I can totally vouch for it – you really are just gorgeous and hugely inspiring! Please do check iquitsugar.com for more family friendly recipes and to see Sarah’s popular sugar-free programmes.
Sarah is kindly going to be sharing a few of her recipes with us – watch this space!