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Treat Boxes for Sugar-Free Kids ๐Ÿ˜

When my oldest started kindergarten, he’d never been around much refined sugar or artificial food dye. Most of our friends didn’t eat junk and if they did we brought something naturally sweet to eat. This was our norm. This all changed when Ben started school. Suddenly he was exposed to sugary food on a regular basis and we weren’t there to prevent him from eating it. We sent him with a packed lunch and snacks of course but what about all the school celebrations where sugar was served?

In my opinion, it is far trickier to keep kids away from sugar and artificial dye (Red #40, Yellow #5) than it is to keep them gluten-free or dairy-free. The fact that we were all 3 didn’t help matters and certainly didn’t make us the most favorite parents in the classroom. I struggled with how to communicate to the teachers in a way that they could understand that my child had special dietary needs and support him in a way that he did not feel excluded when such foods were served.

At first, I didn’t say anything. I watched him come home with a blue tongue from the popsicles being handed out at recess. I stood by as he got off the bus sucking on a neon green lollipop from the bus driver. One evening his class put on a stage performance and each child got a Hershey kiss for standing in line so straight and quiet. I knew that the homeroom teacher kept a desk drawer filled with packaged m&m’s and kit-kat bars to reward the kids for this or that. On Fridays they had ‘movie day’ and got microwaved butter popcorn with kool-aid.

I talked with other holistic parents and we met with the principal and individual teachers about how to handle sugar given at school and why kids are receiving artificial colors and sweeteners in a learning environment; foods known to cause an array of health issues such as attention deficit disorder and diabetes. To brainstorm how parents who didn’t want their kids exposed to sugar could remain in a school setting without being excluded. This was a lengthy conversation and the changes we hoped to see in place were not made. Many of the other parents ended up pulling their kids out of the system to home-school or pay for alternative education.

All the while Ben kept coming home full of sugar or with a sad face because he couldn’t eat the gluten cupcakes served. There seemed to be an endless stream of bday parties or holiday celebration or sugary rewards given left and right. If I knew about an event ahead of time I’d send in a cupcake he could eat or a special treat. But more often than not I didn’t know what was happening or when. I felt in the dark and frustrated.

I was seeing my son becoming more hyper by the day and turning up his nose at previously loved non-sugar desserts we’d always enjoyed together as a family.

After a few weeks I came up with the idea of making a Treat Box. Basically, this was a Tupperware container filled with goodies that we made at home or bought from the health food store. We decorated that box and filled it with fruit leather, chia seed bars, 50 cent pieces, tiny bundles of fruit-sweetened gummy bears, stevia chocolates, xylitol gum, cookies made with lakanto, packets of salty almonds, and roasted nori. I added in stickers, balloons and other trinkets to choose from. 

The next day we brought his Treat Box to school. The teacher was agreeable to keep it in the staff fridge and bring it out on special occasions for him to choose something from. My son loved his box and even came home one day excited to tell me that some of the kids were jealous and wanted one too ๐Ÿ™‚ I may not have been the teacher’s favorite parent but I felt understood enough about our dietary values to go about my own day knowing my child was in good hands and not running with the extremes. 

Now, when there’s a bday party or celebration or treat offered at school that he’s unable to eat, I know that he has the Treat Box to choose from. The teacher lets me know when it needs to filled or added to for more variety.  These boxes have allowed me to feel at peace, knowing my son is enjoying something special along with his friends. As you can imagine, this box has been a true life-saver over the schooling years.

May all bellies be happy!

Watermelon Popsicles for Fun

Basil Pesto (dairy-free & kid-approved)

Lakanto, a healthy sugar substitute

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1 comment to Treat Boxes for Sugar-Free Kids ๐Ÿ˜

  • Shirley Carpenter

    Tara, it is fun to see your fantastic childhood imagination evolve into the world of being equally creative in the world of food allergies. I am so proud of you growing so beautifully in this area. You are helping others learn skills and build confidence as they chew away (ha!) at their own food issues.

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