Are you instilling bad habits through baked goods and sweets?

Posted · 40 Comments

Fancy French pastry shop in Dakar

Most of us can agree that we wouldn’t buy a dessert from this pastry shop every day let alone for our children.  We’d be plagued with sugar highs, cavities and obesity (oh wait, we already are).  From that statement alone it’s quite evident that in the United States we have an epidemic.  A sugar epidemic.

In no other country do we like our sweets as sweet as we do.  It’s always evident right away when I visit Spain and walk into one of their pastry shops filled with luxurious eclairs and chocolate covered torts.  The only difference is when you bite into one they’re not sweet.  Ask any American traveling abroad and one of the first things they notice is the sweets in other countries are bland.

My question is are other countries sweets bland or are ours ridiculously sweetened?  According to our weights and statistics, we are consuming too much sugar and our taste buds have adapted to the latter.

Here in this country we are used to eating cookies, brownies, ice cream, cake and pie on a daily basis.  What I’ve noticed is that it’s not just people eating a Standard American Diet but people eating a Real Food Diet as well.

Baked goods and sweets should be just that… special treats.

Even in the real food movement we are addicted to sugar and sweets. Nourishing brownies, nutrient dense chocolate chip cookies, oh so good for you velvety ice cream swirl and, don’t forget, taste just like the real thing coconut flour raspberry cake.

Even though a pastry is made with wholesome sweeteners and nutrient dense ingredients they are still made up of too much sugar and shouldn’t be a regular staple in our kitchen.

One thing I would encourage you to think about… Did you grow up in an environment filled with these type of pastries? Now, regardless if they’re made with nutrient dense ingredients or not, are you passing down this sort of “habit” to your children?

To a child a cookie is a cookie. A piece of cake is cake. A brownie is a brownie. Our little children are becoming used to eating these types of foods and will crave them as yes, they are sugar. When they grow up, will they take on your habits and continue to crave these foods? Are you 100% positive that when they get older they will bake or make these foods themselves or do as most Americans do and buy them… processed and all.

It’s these questions we need to ask ourselves in order to realize the power of influence we have on our children right now and how we are directly shaping their tastes and taste buds for the rest of their lives.  I am so blessed that my mother didn’t bake sweets.  Believe it or not, not seeing my mother bake growing up has made it very easy for me not to bake.  I do bake bread but I never have a craving to bake treats.  I didn’t grow up in that environment so it wasn’t instilled in me.

Instead of sweets give your children (and yourself) nature’s candy… raw fruit!

nehe

My kids love fruit.  Why?  Because it’s their only option.  Of course fruit does contain sugar and fructose, however, it also contains natural fiber and antioxidants which help regulate our blood sugar levels.  Fruit, organic, is a truly nourishing option.

I stock up on seasonal fruit every week as they are my families treats.  Currently I’m buying 18 bananas, 16 oranges, 5lbs of clementines, 3-4 mango’s and 3 lbs of organic fuji apples a week.  We’re also snacking on frozen blueberries.

Since my children are used to eating fruit every day, they crave it.  When my son wants a snack, he asks for an orange not a cookie or ice cream.   He was thrilled to discover blood oranges.  His new “favorite.”  My youngest is constantly asking for bananas and mangos.   However, you had better believe that if I have cookies in the house my children will choose that over fruit.  A good reason to keep it out!

A tip: Keep your fruit visible.

If you keep your fruit in the crisper, you’re more likely to forget about it and when wanting something sweet, you’ll crave a baked good.  Instead, keep it on your dining room table.  If you start to crave something sweet, you’ll see it and reach for a piece of fruit. A much better option.

Yes, we do eat treats

Just because I don’t keep baked goods or sweets in the house does not mean we do not consume them. However, they become just what they were intended to be… special treats.

My kids get excited when we go out and they get to have a cookie or doughnut. It becomes special and they enjoy it. I don’t deprive them of a special treat as I know at home where they are the majority of time, they don’t have that option.

My eldest son and I have a special bond. We love cooking together and shopping at the farmers market. He’s so excited for the market to start up again in May. However, before we hit up the market I make a special stop to buy him a doughnut. He gets so excited and I know that for the rest of his life he will remember his days at the market with mama and his doughnut.

Unfortunately, many children in the United States are used to these sort of treats and they are no longer special. They are normal. I truly believe it’s that system of thinking, that training that we have instilled into our children that we need to break.

Are you instilling bad habits through baked goods and sweets?

What are your thoughts on this subject? Have you grown up in an environment of baked goods and sweets? Do you feel we need to start thinking a bit more before we bake? Is baking a hobby for you?

I would love to hear your thoughts.

40 Responses to "Are you instilling bad habits through baked goods and sweets?"
  1. I once lived in the States for 2 and a half months and I could hardly stand eating a pie or cake. Cloyingly sweet for Spanish palates.

  2. Sofia Reino says:

    I ABSOLUTELY could not agree with you more. I too being from Portugal yet living in you neighboring state (actually also lived in IA for a number of years!) Did notice the same thing. We always have a bowl filled with fruit at home, therefore that is the first “sweet” our daughters and their friends go to. We like to bake and make sweet “treats” but as as you said, they are treats only. Not a daily thing. Now is it just me or have you also noticed that Nutella and coke is sweeter here than back in Europe?

  3. Diana:
    …must be a theme… I am from Italy and was sugar-shocked when I first moved here. I tend to reduce the amount of sugar a recipe calls for by at least 1/4th, if not more.
    Growing up my mom had special ways of making treats for us, for example she would make “crema” (which is custard with a tad of lemon peel) with lots of good milk, fresh eggs and a pinch (I mean a pinch) of sugar, and then serve it with strawberries or other fruit. So it felt like a dessert but it was more nutritious than not.
    You touched on a very sensitive spot here though…being a food blogger I find that making dessert is a very fun thing to do in the kitchen and share not only with my family but with the online community: who does not have a sweet tooth! I almost like making dessert more than eating it though.
    One thing I have been working on lately is using more unrefined sugars in my baking: demerara, turbinado, agave, honey, natural fruit juice, applesauce, rather than pure white sugar.
    I also have a mile high stand in the kitchen with easily accessible fruits. And in our house we call fruit “dessert” and serve it after dinner.
    Thanks for the thought provocative reminder to think twice before serving up sugar to the kids!

    • Diana Bauman says:

      Hi Amelia!! So glad you stopped by, mwah! Crema… yes, we love it! It is definitely a sensitive spot but one I wanted to touch on because like you many in the real food movement are doing the same. Making desserts with unprocessed, natural sweeteners. However, it’s this trend that I have been noticing that I wanted to touch on since many that read can become confused and start to think that since the desserts are made with “real” sugar which does contain more minerals and nutrients that they can continue to eat them and that they are actually “healthy.” Nutrient dense or not, they still contain a lot of “natural” sugar and are honestly still calorie dense. Making sweets is definitely fun and we can still do so for those special treats. It’s the every day that we need to be concerned about.

      • Meg says:

        This crema – barely sweetened – sounds very appealing with fruit. Berries will be here before we know it, too! Can’t wait for spring and summer to be here for the amazing fruit during that time.

  4. Great article. I grew up in a house with occasional treats and they were truly treats. We do the same thing in our house today. There are very rarely sweet treats here and dessert is a few times a month if that. Now fruit on the other hand is something frequently consumed and always offered for a sweet alternative.

  5. Sarah says:

    You’re so right on the copious amounts of sweets most Americans expect, even Real Foodies. We generally limit sweets/ baking to Sundays only and we limit fruit as well. My kids don’t seem to self regulate when it comes to fruit, any more than they do with baked sweets, so we only buy apples about 1 lb /week / kid. Sometimes we do frozen fruit or bananas for smoothies but I, like you, really do not want to promote a culture of constantly expecting sweet things in my children. And the cool thing is that when you don’t have overly sweet tastes as the norm, you can really taste how amazingly sweet things like vegetables and milk can be as well on their own!

  6. This is an inspirational post! I agree there is too much focus on sweets and sugar. I love to bake, and am always trying to think of ways I can bake without using much sugar, but I’ve developed a love for cooking over the years because it’s hard to bake without using sugar!

  7. sonia says:

    I always eagerly wait for ur inspiring posts. This one is too good, will execute your piece of advice.

  8. Stephanie R. says:

    I completely agree! I’ve cut way back on the sugar in my life, and suddenly the sweetness of fruits has become heightened. It amazes me now that I ever found blueberries bland, or grapefruits strictly sour!

  9. annie says:

    I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately as we try to get pregnant and I examine our life for things that need to change. I don’t make a lot of sweets and when I do I half the sugar at least and use rapadura. Although I’m a native Texan, I find American sweets inedibley sweet. However many of my friends and family don’t like my sweets because they’re not sweet enough. (No one ever asks me to bring the cookies to a party!) Anyhow, while we don’t eat a lot of sweets I want to cut back even further so that my kids grow up with fresh fruit as their primary sweet experience except, as you say, for special occasions.

  10. You really got me thinking girl. Growing up sweet bread was an everyday staple. And I will dare to say there is still a lot of people in my country that still have for dinner a cup of cafe con leche and a sweet bread.

    Hard to kick those habits.

    Happy day!

  11. Andrea says:

    I agree with fruit being a good treat. We always have bananas and apples sitting on the counter for the kids to grab. We never keep sweets in the house.

    The interesting thing is that I don’t agree with the comments about the baked goods and soda being sweeter in the USA. We lived in Germany for 2 years (non-military, so no access to American food). I thought the cookies and tortes were just as sweet as they are in the USA. We did a lot of our grocery shopping in France as we lived right on the border and I thought their sweets were equally as sweet. I thought the soda, specifically Sprite and Coke, was much sweeter tasting in Europe, disgustingly sweet really. I always assumed that was because they used real sugar rather than HFCS but I never verified that.

    I definitely noticed that portion sizes were about half the size of an American portion.

    • Diana Bauman says:

      That’s interesting Andrea. I’ve never been to Germany or France. However, I’ve heard now from other people in other countries that yes, things are sweeter here. Specifically the coke. Thanks for sharing that!

  12. Jessie says:

    great post! really a kick in the pants for me! I actually have greatly reduced my sugar (natural & otherwise) consumption. But I had gotten it down super-low. Maybe one treat on Sundays, but not necessarily every week. I really need to get back to that. At work yesterday someone made a homemade chocolate cake for birthdays. I had a piece – oh, my word, my heart was racing afterwards & I didn’t think it tasted that sweet. So I need to just give it up, I think.

    • Diana Bauman says:

      Thanks for the comment Jessie. You know, I think it’s all about moderation. I’m going to be writing up another post on what it means traditionally and in other cultures to feast. I think we were meant to partake of everything, including sugar but in moderation. Have a great day!!

  13. Diana, I don’t mean to offend you, but I do think this form of anti-sugar puritanism is wrong – as is any form of puritanism. I have never been to Spain, but I come from Azerbaijan where sweet are very sweet and delectable and not particularly forbidden, but everything is made with love and from scratch and no corn syrup can be found anywhere, let alone corn. I take pride in the incredible, decadent sweets I throw together with white sugar but completely from scratch and with organic ingredients, as I do with nearly 100 percent of my food, and I take pride in my children getting to enjoy them with some degree of regularity, though not daily. The reason people are fat (and you surely know that) is because hidden sugar/corn syrup sugar is packed into everything, and because most people don’t make their food from scratch, and, as a result, they are exposed to high percentage of it, and this is done to benefit the corn syrup producers. I believe that demonizing sugar in and of itself is bad and could hurt your children when they grow up. If you don’t teach them to consume those in moderation now, you may well be facing them loading on sugar when they grow up and move out. As a parallel, I will never forget this one family who was really anti-gun and wouldn’t buy toy guns for their boy, and he would eat his toast into the shape of a gun and play with that.

    • Diana Bauman says:

      Sofya, thank you so much for your comment. I’ve been meaning to let you know that I have recently met a woman in my web class from Azerbaijan! She’s going to be teaching me some of your dishes including desserts!

      I am by no means demonizing sugar at all. As I’ve written above we definitely eat treats and for special holidays and birthdays I love to make sweet desserts! Polvorones are made almost entirely of sugar, sweet and delicious. I couldn’t imagine a Christmas without them.

      What I am referring to is the excessiveness of treats eaten in the U.S. I wasn’t going into obesity or why we’re fat because it’s well known that most Americans eat processed foods. I’m speaking about the constant array of “treats” in our pantries. Weekly cookies, brownies, bars etc… There’s no need for that and it causes bad habits and over indulgence. Give them fruit, that’s what I say :D

      So yes, I am also against any form of puritanism and I express that in my posts. In moderation, home cooked… even baked is fine ;)

      Thank you Sofya!!

  14. IAMSNWFLAKE says:

    I could not agree more. Every time we visit the USA we are surprised at the sweetness of Coke and cookies (… and the extra size up for everything). And every time we have visitors from USA down in Buenos Aires we hear the opposite: great food but lacking in sweetness. I guess it’s time to turn “mediterrenean”, eating healthier, walking more, taking time to sit down, savour and enjoy food while cutting back on sugar and sizes.

  15. Hola chica! Good post. It created some interesting comments from your readers! I have to agree with you… I am finding that my palates do not like really sweet things anymore since I’ve been slowly cutting back on everything sweet since Naomi was born. I still make homemade ice cream once or twice a week because that’s how I can get my girls to eat more raw milk and eggs ;) I don’t make a lot of baked desserts anymore, even though my blog has quite a few :) Baked goods has become more of a special thing around here now… I consider it somewhat of a luxury. Jon’s birthday was on the 5th of March and I asked what he would like me to bake for him… he requested Black & Blue Berry pie with Dark Chocolate Ice Cream. LOL! I, of course, made it with lots of love and very moderate amounts of sweetener. Thankfully the berries were very sweet that I only needed just a little bit to mellow out the sourness. Plus, with Dark Chocolate… you don’t want to sweetened it too much or it won’t be dark anymore :o)

    OH! I gotta tell you a great example of my girls not liking super sweet stuff. Here in Honduras… their baked goods are super sweet… I don’t know if they are as sweet as the states (because I pretty much never eat sweets outside of the house, because it is TOO sweet! LOL). Anyway, it is still waaay too sweet for me. For my birthday, one of the gals in our church bought us a birthday cake. She said it was from one of the best bakeries in Tegucigalpa. I took one look at it and knew I wasn’t going to eat any. We had a group with us and they ate it up. Well, they were serving it up and gave small slices to my girls. Normally, I would never allow them to have it… but I decided to let it go and see what happens. They were sooo excited to have cake. They each took one bite and their faces turned from happy delight to “yucky!”. They both turned to me and said, “Mommy, the cake tastes yucky! Its too sweet!!”. I was laughing with glee. The group with us were very surprised by their reactions. Of course, the cake went straight into the garbage and they asked for fruit and homemade ice cream instead :) Yeaaaa!!

    • Diana Bauman says:

      Thanks for sharing Mare!! A good ice cream is like a good crema, nourishing :D Great story about the girls!! One question, maybe on your next visit you can make me ice cream… now I want some, lol!!

  16. Thank you, thank you for writing this post! I’m still not sure how people can eat so much sugar, and with all of the baking blogs out there and the elaborate and diverse range of sweets, I was under the impression that cakes, cookies and other super sweet confectionary were just part of America’s everyday diet. I would balloon and feel horrible if I had a dessert everyday or every other day. I’m glad to receive affirmation of a different perspective.

  17. Ginny says:

    Great post! I completely agree! My grandmother lived with my family while I was growing up. Each week, she would bake 2-3 pies, dozens of cookies, cinnamon rolls, cakes, etc. It’s no wonder I gained 15 pounds when she moved in! As much as I loved those treats, I make sure that foods like that are special and not regular, now that I’m an adult. My kids love it when we have plain yogurt with berries, and maybe a touch of honey for dessert. It’s really hard when we visit other houses and they are giving the kids handfuls of candy, brownies and juice boxes!

    One quick example: My young son and I were having lunch with a friend and her son. In order to get my son to finish his food, I told him that I would give him my strawberries, if he could just take a few more bites. I gave the same offer to my friend’s son. My friend just laughed at me and said, “Yeah, right! Like that’s going to work!” and proceeded to tell her son he could have ice cream if he took some more bites! My son was so happy with the idea of having extra strawberries, UNTIL she offered her son the ice cream, and then that’s what he wanted, too. Ugh!

  18. Elisa says:

    People are usually amazed at the things my boys will eat. Liver, butter, carrots, whole cucumbers. “Mom, can I pleaaaase have a tomato?” Whatever you oo and ahhh about to your kids, they will usually like, especially when they’re little. My mom did this for me, and it is much easier for me than for others to not pig out on sweets…

    I hope I can give my kids a good start nutritionally, and teach them to appreciate the non-sweet flavors in food. (And yes, we have sweets once in awhile, but I always regret it because, due to some intestinal issues, it completely changes my kid’s temperament and makes them VERY difficult to deal with!)

  19. Our fruit is our treat here. My kids are allergic to corn products and b/c I have been nursing for the last four years and can’t eat corn I can no longer digest corn anymore. We literally can not have anything sweet when we are out unless it is organic but it has to have less than 2 tsp of sugar per serving as that is all your body can really tolerate at one time without sending your hormones into overdrive. We are incredibly sugar sensitive here. Sugar becomes addictive very easily, especially white sugar which is often laced with MSG to make even more addictive.

    I have to disagree on one commenter take on making sugar off limits as a bad thing. I teach my children why we do something a particular way, not just tell them “no” without offering an explanation. My children regularly pass up things like ice cream without blinking even while everyone else is eating it because they know the harmful effects it can have on ones body. I ask them if they feel left out or if they feel like I would get mad at them if they ate it(which I wouldn’t). Their response is no, they neither feel left out or feel like I would get mad at them if they chose to eat it. They say it makes their heads feel fuzzy and they have a hard time making good decisions.

    This is one of my favorite quotes:
    William Dufty in his book Sugar Blues writes:

    “After all, heroin is nothing but a chemical. They take the juice of the poppy and they refine it into opium and then they refine it to morphine and finally to heroin. Sugar is nothing but a chemical. They take the juice of the cane or the beet and they refine it to molasses… and then they refine it to brown sugar and finally to strange white crystals.”

  20. You are so right! I lived in Japan for a year and the ice cream there (even at Baskin Robbins :-)) tasteful dreadfully bland. I hate to admit that when my sister came to visit, we would purchase ice cream and a bag of cookies and then crush the cookies up into the ice cream in order to make it close to what we were used to in the US. What a sugar a holic I was.

    One point that I will make is that I am learning that even the sugar in fruit can be overdone. This is controversial, but I doing a lot of work on our family’s mineral balance, metal and toxin removal as well as sugar metabolism improvement and for me, using a safe sugar alternative in a baked good make with healthy grains and seeds / nuts is a better choice for us as far as our overall health is concerned. The motto: everything in moderation.

  21. Great post, Diana! I agree with every point you made. We recently did a sugar free/sweetener free diet for 30 days at our house. It is amazing how going off of sugar for an extended time will drastically change your palate. Many things that used to be favorite treats of ours can no longer be tolerated because of how very sweet they are. We just went out for a special treat this past weekend to get milkshakes from a place that used to be our favorite. We ended up throwing the shakes away and still feeling sick afterwards from the small amount that we did have.

    I think that in general, America has such a sweet tooth and most people don’t see a problem with that. We were recently at a family function where one of the kids barely touched his food, but finished off the whole (big) container of M&M’s. He was telling everybody that the M&M’s were “vitamins” and his parents just laughed and thought that it was cute. My husband and I were amazed that no one besides us saw a problem with this. Yes, as you have said, there are times for treats – but not everyday and certainly not when they entirely replace a nourishing meal!

  22. Janeen says:

    Before all of the attention towards childhood nutrition and obesity I used to make or purchase a “sweet treat” for the weekend. Perhaps cinammon rolls or danish. But, I began to realize that they weren’t that big of a treat as my children were receiving sugary foods in their school provided breakfast and lunch. Yes, they had come to expect their sweets. Thank goodness for farmers markets and the invention of the smoothie. I now focus on healthier choices and desert in not an everyday occurance.

  23. Winnie says:

    This is such a great post Diana. Honestly I don’t think most food blogs help in this regard…I am astonished by all the posts I come across for absolute junk. Beautiful pictures of absolute junk! I hope food bloggers who post that stuff constantly don’t feed it all to their kids. Then again, it would make me sad if they just through it away, too. Sigh.

  24. I am American, but I find sweets here are WAY too sweet. I always seek out bakeries that make European style baked goods and I make my own at home. But in general, desserts here are yogurt with fruit and homemade granola.I find that even when I make real food cookies, cakes, etc, that we don’t eat it fast enough before it goes bad, so I have learned to freeze half right away.

  25. DebbieM says:

    I used to live in Spain as a child and I have a fondness for “things Spanish or European”. :-) One thing, like you said the treats aren’t as sweet. Much to be preferred in my opinion.

    We like to collect old cook books and one from the 50 – 60’s has a section of “party foods” for kids. Chips, hot dogs, ice cream, cake, candy, soda, etc. Everyday fare these days, unfortunately.

  26. Darlene says:

    Amen! The amount of sweets kids eat on a daily basis is amazing. We stopped buying baked goods and if we want something special, I make it. I work full time, I don’t have a sweet tooth and I didn’t grow up baking, so we don’t do it often. Otherwise it’s fruit or yogurt with fruit if we want something sweet. Normally our snacks are more savory, like cheese or hummus.

    I know that baking is a way for parents to get their kids into the kitchen and spend quality time together, but there are other alternatives. My son and I have started making homemade pasta together. We also have a small urban garden that he helps with. Most of what we plant are items he picked.

  27. tufanua says:

    It’s so hard to change your thinking about food when you weren’t educated about food to begin with. I didn’t start learning about food until in my 30’s and it’s so hard to change mine (and my families) diet, when what we thought was healthy all along wasn’t. I basically have started from scratch, being very overwhelmed and not really understanding why the food changes I was making for my family were so important, but knowing inside that I was doing the right thing. It’s still a struggle sometimes since as you said even my house hold is used to eating way more sugar that we should. But slowly we have been making the changes needed. The more I learn about food the easier it makes it to make those decisions because I care so much what goes into my little ones bodies and how it effects them. It’s still a journey none the less…

  28. Lisa says:

    This has definitely given me something to think about. I am one that tries to reduce sugar and use natural sweeteners, but I think having treats has become more of a norm than an exception around my house recently. My kids love fruit and have two to three servings a day, but there is often a small treat tucked in there somewhere as well. Thank you for pointing out the need for caution. My children are still young, and you’re right, their tastes and habits are being formed now.
    Oh, and I love the story about you and your son going to the market together. What a special tradition to have. :-)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>