Dad and I were standing next to the cake and candy table at my cousin Leah’s wedding, watching the couple’s first dance.
Two little boys about 5 and 8 came up and frantically scanned the glass candy bowls. But all of the candy was gone.
The 5-year-old spun around and stared up at us. “Where are the sugar sticks?”
“Sugar sticks?” I asked.
“What?” Dad asked the boy.
He mumbled and looked back at the table.
“Maybe he means rock candy,” I said.
“Oh, yeah, probably.”
Dad and I smiled at the boys.
“There’s no more candy,” Dad said.
The boys looked back at the table and then again at us. The 5-year-old, seemingly stunned by the reality of no more candy, wandered away in a daze.
The older boy made a grunting noise and jumped up and down a few times. “I need sugar so I can feel real!” he said.
Dad and I looked at each other with horror and confusion.
“What did he say?” I was sure I heard the kid right, but I couldn’t believe it.
“I think he said he needs sugar so he can feel real.”
“That’s what I thought.”
“Sam, why don’t you tell him what you think about sugar.”
“Oh, you mean that sugar is pure evil?”
We had a good laugh.
The sad thing is, I’m right—but not about sugar being evil in and of itself. Are the food industry producers evil? Perhaps some or even all of them are, but they’re only doing it because it’s super addictive. And why is that? Because it literally makes us feel good. What a cruel joke.
At least candy doesn’t try to pretend it’s something it isn’t; it has never claimed to be good for you. Unfortunately, sugar hides in a lot of other foods considered to be healthy, like yogurt. Americans eat a lot of sugar, and no wonder: Go through your grocery store aisles and look at the nutrition labels. I’m willing to bet a life-time supply of rock candy that sugar is in most of it.
Could all of this added sugar be creating young addicts? Way back in 1948, Harold Lee Snow, MD, among others, warned of the dangers of sugar. In “Refined Sugar: Its Use and Misuse,” Snow writes, “Some parents who are horrified at the idea of having a drunkard in the family think nothing of allowing their children to become habituated excessively to candy, chewing gum, soft drinks, ice cream, pie, cake, jam, and jellies. Many of these children grow up and transfer their sugar habit over to that other carbohydrate, alcohol, which has most of sugar’s bad effects in addition to its own peculiar ability to cause drunkenness and insanity. Children are not benefited by eating sweets.”
Those boys at the wedding seemed like little addicts to me, but I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt. Maybe they never get to eat candy. Maybe their parents make it a rare treat. And that’s good. Unfortunately, they’ll continue to consume sugar in everything from cereal to juice to spaghetti sauce to yogurt, and all the while, their parents will think they’re feeding their kids a healthy diet just because they don’t let them eat candy all the time.
Do you need sugar to feel real? Don’t become a sugar addict. Take a closer look at those nutrition labels. Add up the sugar your family’s eating on a daily basis. Then try some alternative sweeteners, avoid the grocery store pitfalls, and get some guidance on healthy food shopping.