My fight with sugar, gluten and a paleo mother’s guilt.4 min read

I have struggled lately with the question “What is the lesser evil, sugar or gluten?” As a paleo mother do you sometimes feel guilty when your kids have sugar or gluten?

I do. But I came to a new realisation recently while I was talking to someone about an incident we had one afternoon after school. This is how it all went down…….


I would like to preface this by saying that the children (Mac 5, and Rae 7) involved in this “incident” have totally different health issues. We believe that Miss Mac is at the least severely gluten intolerant, if not coeliac. Other health issues have meant that she also has issues with lack of quality sleep which sometimes makes life difficult for all of us.

Even though I don’t like to have the kids have either sugar or gluten in any situation, sometimes I do have to decide between the “lesser evil.”

The “incident”

This ‘incident’ happened at the end of last year. One of the student teachers was finishing up for the year, and had made some wonderfully coloured cupcakes for the kids. Miss Mac walked out of the classroom asking if she was allowed to eat her cupcake. Picture a tired, hot and bothered child who isn’t a great sleeper……impending screaming!

I said “No, lets just wait and talk about it when we get to the car.”

She totally `lost it’, but, because it started pouring rain, I was able to get her to the car with not too much more of a fuss. (See, Melbourne weather can be good for something!)

What to do….

I was left with the offending cupcake, an upset child, and another child holding two chocolate Freddo’s (there’s those Freddo’s again). Lots of crying happening….what to do? So, we went with a lesser evil. I told her she could lick the icing off the top of the cupcake, but….. she wasn’t to eat the cupcake, and on the way home I would get her something else. Problem solved, right?

Not really!!

The problem in Miss Mac’s mind was “Who is going to eat the cupcake?” Because if she wasn’t going to eat, it then someone else was! Wrong! I got her to hand it over and it went into the bin! (Sorry to the teacher who spent all that time cooking, but I wasn’t going to be able to survive my child’s tantrums.)

Next problem: What to buy? What to BUY!

At this point I am still left with one child holding….. nothing (icing all licked), and one having downed her chocolates. Miss Mac lost it again and was only pacified with the promise of having some chocolate of her own. Now those that know Mac know that she was NOT going to let this go….EVER. I couldn’t get away with just driving by the shop. So off to Coles we went. It’s still bucketing down at this point, but I wasn’t able to use that as an excuse.

What I was left with…..guilt!

I was left with that horrible feeling that I had stuffed things up when it comes to the “no processed sugar” rule. The usual mother’s guilt!

Then during a conversation with my chiropractor about the incident, he reminded me that at least the sugar is out of your system quicker than the gluten. That you can flush sugar out of the system in around 24 hours, but it takes up to 6 weeks for the gluten to get out of your system.

Of course both sugar and gluten have an inflammatory response, so sugar is still not a good option.

What I came away with was that even though sugar is well and truly far from the best, at least its a little better in the system than gluten.

Now I have said that, I have to be careful NOT to abuse this realisation. I don’t want to find that sugar has crept back into our diet again. At the moment it’s pretty much gone, so I want to keep it that way. I still have raw sugar and rapadura sugar in the house for my water kefir, but beyond that we might use the alternatives to sugar (eg. honey) once a week or so….maybe. It really does depend on birthdays and the like.

Hopefully this next thing will remind me NOT to eat refined sugars…… As I am writing this I am actually nursing a headache from eating a chocolate bar. In a weak moment yesterday I had one, and I have suffered since. It was silly as I don’t crave it or even miss it anymore.

Anyone else have this problem with sugar now they don’t have it anymore? Or, do you still crave sugar?



  1. Great story can so relate, my dd 8 is exactly the same , we are also paleo but she is addicted to sugar & carbs it’s such a battle . She also lacks self control so one is never enough ? Any ideas as I am at the end of my tether , oh she is pyroluria & suffers with lack of sleep to!!!

    1. I have been (and still am to a point) at the end of my tether too.

      It is a hard one. Especially when you give them the right choices and they lack the self regulation. Amey (9) is fine at home, mainly because there is nothing in the house she can’t have. So the carbs and sugars are ‘Paleo safe’.
      But when she is out and she’s left to her own devices its not as easy to keep an eye on and self regulation is an issue. Eventually (of course) she has to make their own decisions.

      Here are some of the things I do:

      Making sure the carbs and sugars are good nutrient dense at home is a good start. We still have bits and pieces in the house that my DH has but all in the one place and the girls know they are off limits.

      Talking about what foods make you feel good. The “why’s” to why you eat this way. Also when I notice a reaction (usually behavioural for us) to a food, talk about what makes them feel bad/sick. So there is the connection. This helps with the next part. But more focus on the good food “crowding out” the bad.

      When the kids are faced with a food that isn’t Paleo I always ask them “how will that make you feel.” If there is a more healthy choice they will more than not go with that. Sometimes (as we all can do) they will say “I don’t care” and eat the other option. Every so often I generally don’t mind. They are pretty strict Paleo so it usually comes back to “bite” them. But then we all need that reminder sometimes I think 😉

      With the pyroluria if your not already, I suggest a good naturopath (I have a good one if you live in Melbourne).

      I would be stripping it back to basics and work out what the biggest issue is for you and your family. By the sounds of it sleep!? I can relate to that one. I spent the first 5yrs of Macs life majorly sleep deprived. That was my biggest issue so I worked on the why/cause (bringing us to Paleo).

      Then it was me….I function so much better as a person now. I felt guilty to start with but it’s been worth it.
      At the same time building on the better sleep for Mac (sleeps like a log a complete turn around.)

      Now we are going further and working on Macs other underlying issues one at a time. It’s been hard work and lots of reading and research but its been worth it.

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