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Artificial sweeteners, spice, and everything nice.

2007-11-08 - 2:07 p.m.

I know there are a lot of diet Coke drinkers out there in my blogosphere, so I hope you guys donít take todayís entry personally, but todayís entry is about artificial sweetners, the evil of.

I had J pick me up a Happy Meal for lunch the other day. Hey, I was sick and the bland, greasy, salty combo that is a Mickey Dís fries and burger is one of my preferred comfort foods. This particular mealís theme was centered around the Bee Movie coming out. Fine. We got the ďunder 3Ē toy for Grommet, and a nifty box which she happily demolished. In said box, however, was a honey-flavoured ďSipahhĒ straw. Hunh, I thought to myself, kinda neat I suppose. Then I noticed it was sweetened with sucralose.

Thatís right, a product aimed at children, put right into a childrenís meal, that has artificial sweetener in it.

Now, I myself donít even believe in artificial sweeteners for adults who are not diabetic. If I want less sugar Iíll drink more water and eat less sweet food. If I want my kids to consume less sugar Iíll have them do the same. To take what essentially makes food food out, and substitute artificial chemicals instead seems just plain wrong to me. And over the years Iíve stuck with ďreal foodĒ instead of substitutes (for example, Iíve never gone with margarine over butter) and Iíve never regretted it and the science has usually come along eventually that backed me up.

I donít want my kids to become used to the taste of highly-sweet foods or drinks. I donít want them to think thatís how things should taste. Weíve all heard of the studies that show that use of artificial sweeteners do not help people lose weight because the body starts to lose its ability to judge the calories in an item based on its sweetness, so they end up taking in more calories from other sources Ė thatís not a trend I want to start in my kids. But itís not just that that gives me pauseÖ

When I became pregnant with Grommet, my doctor told me not to take Advil Ė Tylenol was the only pain medication allowed Ė because it hadnít been around long enough to know what the long-term effects might be on a developing fetus. Seems to me that artificial sweeteners Ė some of which come from coal-tar, believe it or not Ė fit that same bill. I donít even chew gum with artificial sweeteners when Iím pregnant.

And thereís something a lot of people seem to forget: children need calories. They need fat for healthy brain development and they need carbohydrates to fuel all the running around they do. The calories should be consumed via foods that also provide other nutritional benefits Ė empty calories are good for no one Ė but you canít put them on a low-fat, low-calorie diet and expect them to thrive.

I know that obesity in both adults and children is becoming a global problem. I cannot, however, support using artificial sweeteners as a tool to try to combat this, particularly in children. My job as a parent is to do whatís best for my kid: not what they like, not what would make me ďfunĒ or ďpopularĒ, but whatís actually best for them. To me this includes giving them healthy food and teaching them to actually enjoy food that is good for them.

Granted, Grommet does not eat enough vegetables, but weíre working on that. Sheís not two yet and doesnít have the reasoning power to think ďI might not like this much, but Iím going to eat it because itís good for me.Ē So, what I can do as a parent is continue to present her with healthy options and try to teach her to make good nutritional choices. She still doesnít get cookies or candy or chocolate, but even when the day comes that I allow her to have this stuff, I will never give her artificial sweeteners (barring, of course, her becoming diabetic). I donít think itís right and I really believe it is immoral to market these products with children as the target consumer.

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