As we get older and our palette expands, we fall out of our juvenile obsession with sweets, and instead begin to see them as a guilty pleasure. The idea of starting your day with a chocolate bar sounds pretty unappealing to most adults, but that doesn’t mean we’re off the hook when it comes to sugar.
Certainly, adults have swapped bags of lollies for coffees and soft drinks, with the latter notorious for its high sugar content and ability to wreak havoc on our teeth. This has seen a demand for ‘no sugar’ or ‘diet’ drinks that use artificial sweeteners in place of sugar, substances that have their own health concerns attached to them.
There’s also certainly plenty of hidden sugar in a lot of places we don’t normally associate with treats, such as in burger buns and salad dressings. This has prompted a surge in people exploring ways to make cooking healthy meals at home more convenient, one of which is a focus on quick, easy to prepare dishes like those seen on the expansive HelloFresh recipes page.
But where does this cultural dependence on sugar begin? The logical first place to look is at the average Aussie childhood where the trope of parents rewarding their little ones with high-sugar treats is still very much the norm.
In many ways, society reinforces the notion that sweet foods like candy and ice cream are inherently more appropriate for children than adults. Even the phenomenon of getting a ‘sugar high’ is treated jovially as a normal experience for children to have.
Take a cursory look at the packaging of most sweets and you can easily see an extreme focus on framing these products as fun snacking experiences for children. A lot of them will feature cartoon characters, with some even going as far as to have small toys hidden inside as an added bonus to make kids want them even more.
While high sugar treats are very much considered a ‘sometimes food’, especially in the wake of an increased focus on the public health issue of obesity, many would argue that they are still consumed far too much by the average family. While the frequency at which parents present their children with a block of chocolate may be quite low when compared with previous generations, the prevalence of sugar in the average child’s life is still very high.
This can be seen in advertisements for fast food brands where children are rewarded with a trip to the drive thru after a sports game. This is reinforced by sponsorships with sports teams designed to frame fast food as having a place in an active lifestyle.
This fits in with a suspected push by elements of the sugar industry to convince consumers that obesity is caused by failing to live an active lifestyle. This is considered by many to be misleading as new evidence shows that no amount of exercise will offset a high sugar diet.
The narrative advocated by those with vested interests in perpetuating sugar consumption is that you’re obese because you’re lazy and/or eat high fat foods, not because of the normalisation of their highly addictive products. This can be seen in parts of the weight loss industry where a huge focus is placed on cardiovascular exercise as necessary for ‘shedding the kilos’, when in reality the vast majority of weight is lost through dietary intervention.
Many weight loss success stories are associated with hard work and determination in the gym, rather than simply a change in eating behaviour. It can be a depressing thought to consider how many overweight people are running for long periods on treadmills thinking that it’s having a significant impact on their weight loss.
As a society, we should make the conscious push to become more educated about the truth behind sugar and its grip on our culture. Armed with the facts, consumers can see through the deliberate misdirection of the sugar industry and push for regulation similar to that governing tobacco products.