All or nothing?

Some people have expressed concern to me that I’m punishing my kids by banning sweets. But the thing is, when I say I’m banning something, it does not mean I’ve literally banned something. I never take anything to extremes. I’m flexible with practically everything I do in my life.

So what does banning sweets mean? My kids still get sweets when they go to birthday parties (if the host provides them) and I still do home baking. I almost always have home-made muffins in the pantry (although not at the moment as we’re between homes right now) and when we eat out they sometimes get dessert. They also get treats from time to time like a slice of cake if we go out to a cafe or if it’s someone’s birthday. But we don’t have orange juice or ice-cream or lollies or chocolate in our house.

I also align myself with veganism but I’m not strict. If I go to someone’s house and they offer me a cup of tea with milk and a piece of cake with egg, then I’ll usually accept it. If someone cooks me dinner and it has cheese, then I’m not going to turn it down. Veganism, to me, is not about being militant about every little thing that passes my lips. It’s more about elevating the status of animals and then making choices, when we have them, that respect the rights of other animals. And I would say that almost all of the time, I get the choice to choose plants over animals.

I’m also a teetotaller but again, I’m not strict. Occasionally I will drink a beer. Or make my vegan ice-cream with cointreau recipe. Or try mead for the first time. I enjoy drinking alcohol but I don’t like the headaches that come with drinking too much and there’s also a strong link between alcohol consumption and breast cancer, even in moderate amounts. On the whole, I think the stuff is best avoided if you’re a woman, but again, I don’t adopt a militant approach to this.

I think having a flexible outlook for all these things and others makes them easier to maintain. I realise it doesn’t work for everyone and some people need to take a hard line or they fail. But I firmly feel that where veganism is concerned, it’s much easier to try your best and not get hung up on the small amounts of animal products that we might unintentionally ingest. I think many people are put off by what seems like an impossible task. But if you take a relaxed approach to it, then it really isn’t impossible at all.

21 thoughts on “All or nothing?”

  1. Thank you for a refreshing article. A reasonable approach is infinitely better than an all or nothing, black or white approach – and it is certainly easier on the people around you.

    1. I’m glad you liked it! It’s not just easier on the people around me, I like to think it also promotes something like veganism as an attainable choice and not something just for the highly disciplined.

  2. Great post. I can relate as well. We limit the amount of sugar we give to our 2 year old son. It’s hard because he doesn’t always understand that we are making the best choice for him long term. Sugar is a fleeting substance if you ask me. You eat it and the sugar rush is gone 30 minutes later. Was it worth it? Nope. My mom also doesn’t get why I limit the amount of sugar. Every Time she is with us she tries feeding him sugary shit. I get mad and now longer trust that she won’t do it if he is staying the night with her!

    1. That sounds frustrating. It’s hard when other people are judgemental about the choices we make for our kids when we’re just trying to do the best we can. And even worse when they don’t respect those decisions.

  3. The beautiful thing about banning sugar laden food is that your children will have sophisticated taste buds and learn to enjoy the real taste of food. Hopefully they will never be addicted as most people are. It seems no matter what you are addicted to,addicts always want you to join them :-).

  4. There is a point, with some people, where an ideology/principle becomes a weapon for the abuse of others. Flexible/tolerant and a respect for the views of others avoid that excess. A good attitude.

    I don’t think you’re punishing your kids any more than insisting that they cross the road safely. I any case the amount of refined sugar we consume is far in excess of our ancestors. We aren’t really evolved to cope with it in any way, including insulin production. If I might suggest, care with sticky carbs like crisps is also important although I would suppose that flossing takes care of that.

    I don’t think you can go wrong in erring on the side of caution with kids. They will pay the price of less care for a long time. 🙂

    1. I agree with the processed carbs. I’ve never bought crisps for my kids and ever since I was pregnant with my first son, I’ve been mindful of carbs like these. I had gestational diabetes and was not able to eat these things so I just stopped buying them then. My kids get crisps when they go to people’s birthday parties, but that’s the only time. We don’t buy them at home.

  5. I share your veganism practice and it works for me (~30 years as a lacto-ovo veg followed by the last ~4 as a vegan), but a fair number of people I’ve known haven’t been able to make it work due to what I suppose we might call the slippery slope problem. Relatedly, some seem to fail because they mistakenly think they can make a slow transition.

    Re chocolate, maybe try the super-high cacao content stuff (90-95% range) which has relatively little room for sugar, although it’s very unlikely your kids would find it palatable (too bitter). And of course you can bake with the pure stuff.

    1. Yes, I understand the slippery slope problem. I guess it depends how flexible you are. Take dairy as an example. I rarely consume milk these days that I now find the taste unpalatable. I will drink tea with milk in it when it’s made for me, but I don’t like the taste very much and if it’s full fat dairy, I actually find it a bit repulsive to drink. It tastes like a hairy cow. I think once your taste buds adapt to the different flavours and forget the old ones, then they become distasteful. At least they have for me.

  6. Well said! I totally agree with you. I tend to go with “everything in moderation” and instead of “clean eating”, I go for “less processed the better”. And I LOVE baking.

    1. Yes, there’s something to be said for less processed food. I saw a talk recently given by an anthropologist. She was criticising the fad cave-man diet (or paleo diet). I posted it to my blog if you want to watch it: Anthropologist debunks paleo diet.

      An interesting point she raises at the end is that there are some three we can learn from the paleo diet and these are:

      1) they ate fresh food
      2) they ate lots of different species of food – high species diversity
      3) they ate whole foods – no processed foods at all

  7. I think you’re being reasonable, and not that you’re being harsh. Sadly, there will always be someone that judges you, whatever you do. You don’t want to give too many sweets to your children? It’s only up to you. It’s your decision as a mum, and as it cannot be considered as neglecting your children, you should be left well alone. Plus, I’m sure your children will appreciate the sweets more when they don’t have them all the time. I’ve experienced that for myself. I had a real phase (as an adult – my parents only gave us the occasional treat back then) of bingeing on chocolate and sweets. It’s not good for you. It’s addictive, and it becomes a habit, more than something you enjoy once in a while. And it doesn’t do any good to your body, really. Or your soul, either. Everything in moderation is much better 🙂

    1. Thanks, Tidlidim. I completely agree. I feel better when I cut out the sugar from my own diet too. We have evolved to eat far less sugar than we do. My children understand and don’t complain about it at all. They know they get treats from time to time and I think they enjoy them all the more because they don’t get them so often.

  8. “Depriving” your kids of… something it is much better they do without anyway? I didn’t have sweets growing up much, Chinese people just don’t eat that much sweet stuff. It’s better to develop different tastes. They will make up their own minds when they are older, and better able to look after their teeth and more informed. We don’t *need* sugar and we have an odd society that equates sweetness and unhealthy food with needs. I think you have a sensible approach to veganism too.

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