When I was pregnant with my first child, I was determined I was never going to let her eat sugar. Ever. And I didn’t just mean the straight-up, white, grainy variety – no, my daughter was not going to be tricked into consuming it through seemingly harmless cereals, fruit drinks and snacks. I figured if she never tried it, she’d never want it.
For the first six months of her life it was easy for me to keep my holier-than-though approach to all things sweet as she lived on a diet of milk alone. Once solids were introduced, I gave myself (sugar-free) brownie points as I watched her happily eat pureed broccoli, zucchini and other vegies she won’t touch now.
I would ‘tut tut’ quietly to myself as I saw other mums feed their under-ones Arrowroot biscuits. I’d recoil in horror when the friendly man at my local corner store would offer my six-month-old a chocolate frog. ‘She hasn’t even got teeth!’ I’d exclaim. He’d just shake his head, mutter ‘poor thing’ and give my baby a sympathetic look as though she had a life of misery ahead of her.
As my daughter approached her first birthday, I knew a cake sweetened with apple juice and topped with cream cheese wasn’t going to cut it. Instead, like a kid in a candy store (so to speak), I packed 12-months worth of the sugar into her birthday cake. My daughter loved it. And to be honest, I loved her loving it. It was pure joy to watch her grab two handfuls of sponge at a time, smear pink icing over her cheeks and her eyes grow wide with each mouthful. It was a rush, a high, an ‘I want more of this’ experience for both of us.
From that day forth, I figured a little bit of sweetness here and there was fairly harmless. But gradually the once-a-week treat was becoming an almost daily event. It was impossible to queue at the supermarket and not give into the lollypop request or to say ‘no’ to the marshmallow that came with her babycino. Later in her toddler years, when she starting asking for lemonade at breakfast time – and I considered saying ‘yes’ - I knew we’d both gone to far…
It was time to make like Sarah Wilson and quit sugar! Like many addictions, the best approach was to go cold turkey. I began to use the lolly-free aisles at the supermarket, babycino dates were off the cards and the fridge became a soft-drink free zone.
And while I braced myself for a serious meltdown from my child, she was actually quite fine about it. If anyone felt any loss, it was me. I missed seeing the joy on her face when I bought her a lollypop. I missed the cuddles we’d share eating donuts together. I missed the cuteness of her little face all covered in ice-cream on a hot day.
But then I realised that life has plenty of joyous, cuddly and cute moments that don't require a sugar hit. Pushing her on swing, reading her a book, playing dress ups… all certified sugar-free goodness.
And best of all, these days when I do buy her the occasional treat, it is all the more sweeter – for both of us.