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How to Reduce Gratuitous Sugar at Social Events

Posted by Didi Gorman on

Does the prevalence of unnecessary sugar bother you?

The sugar frenzy on Halloween, birthday parties loaded with candy and juices, social gatherings with cookies and cupcakes, hot chocolate at the annual winter festival, and the aisles and aisles of cakes and sweet pies at the local food bazaar during holiday season.

I could go on and on, but I’m sure you get the point and can probably think of plenty of other examples.

Too much sugar -especially in its refined and processed form- is costing us our health and can trigger an addictive response in our brains which makes us crave it. Diabetes is no joke and nor is obesity, and both have been alarmingly on the rise in recent years.

Why we keep on consuming a substance which is detrimental to our health is a subject all by itself, but is not in the scope of our post today.

Today we’ll focus on reducing gratuitous sugar at social events.

I have decided to take on the topic of excess sugar at social events because I’ve noticed that even for those who carefully limit their sugar intake at home, the ubiquity of sugar outside of home poses a real challenge.

For clarity’s sake, I will use the terms ‘social events’ and ‘social gatherings’ to include any kind of get-together where sugary treats are usually offered.

I hope to show you in the following paragraphs that a party can be a lot of fun even without all that sugar.

I will take the opportunity to thank friends and readers who have graciously shared their ideas with us.

Without further ado, let’s look at how to reduce sugar at social events:

1. Introduce fresh fruit 1 and fresh veggies as healthy snacks for birthday parties and playdates, and whenever you’re asked to bring a snack to a potluck. 

You can keep it really simple by making a platter with an attractive array of bite-size fruit.

The tray you see in the picture was chugged in no time at all by our kiddos and their friends at a birthday party at our place. 

You can also make some really cool designs, such as fruit skewers which are always a hit. (or fruit ‘flowers’, or fruit ‘faces’, or watermelon ‘pizza’ which is sticking small fruits in a slice of watermelon)

Important tip:
If this is a birthday party, serve the fresh fruit BEFORE the cake and candy, and make sure this is the ONLY snack on the table. 

2. Your local Dollar store will provide you with tons of inexpensive non-food alternatives for party bags, birthday pinyatas, Halloween, Christmas / Easter / Valentine’s day’s perks:  small toys, small gifts, balloons, pencils, erasers, stickers, cards, notebooks, candles, soaps, whoopee cushions, heart-shaped thingamabobs for Valentine’s day, Easter gifts, Christmas thingies, and many, many more.

3. Teach your kids to limit the quantity of sugary snacks they consume at birthday parties. Teach them to say ‘no, thank you’ if offered more than the allowance.

To make it easier, here’s a useful tip: make them something healthy and filling to eat before they go to the party, to curb their need to binge on snacks. Apply this tip to yourself too.

4. Instructors, teachers, youth club leaders: looking to treat your youth to something fun at the end of a meeting?
How about a non-food perk? See point number 2
If you absolutely must provide a food reward, can it be fresh fruit or a non-sweet snack?

5. Teaching kids how to bake?  
Try bread and buns instead of cookies and cupcakes.

6. You love baking and want to surprise someone with your home-baked creation?
Delight them with a savory pie, freshly baked bread, or a basket of buns.

7. Food bazaar?
Go for savory baked goods rather than sweet.

8. Fruit flavored water is a fun refreshing beverage and could easily replace sodas and juice boxes (which often taste like liquid candy).

We’re going for DIY here. It’s a breeze to make. Just cut up some fresh fruit into a pitcher of water. That’s it, job done.

I got this lovely idea at the annual winter sports day at our local school. They were serving something very similar to what you see in the picture, and the kids just loved it!

Come to think of it, everybody was so hot after playing outside in the snow for so long, that no one wanted the hot chocolate. They were thirsty and wanted something refreshing. In the dead of winter! (Yes, that’s right. I’m hinting we don’t need that over-sweetened hot chocolate during winter activities)

9. Looking for an alternative to a birthday cake?

This might sound a bit crazy and daring, but once you’ve tried it you may never go back to cake.

Find out what the birthday person likes to eat (healthy please), and make it for them. Then place the candle on top of that food.

Who said it’s got to be sweet? How about a steak? A gorgeous mozzarella sandwich? An exquisite omelette? A steamy baked potato?

You’re smiling? I’m totally serious. Can you guess what we do in our family?

We stick a candle on top of an apple in the midst of a superb, lip-smacking, drool-worthy, yummylicious, homemade fruit salad!

It’s been years and years that we haven’t served cake on birthdays, so no one really expects it.

10. Halloween party at school (or any other party):

Can a party be fun without candy?
Isn’t the music, the get-together, the hanging out with friends and the funny Halloween costumes, what it’s all about? Do we absolutely have to have candy?

I understand though that for many, candy is kind of hard-wired into a Halloween party, so we’ll have to work with that.

How about candy will not be given for free, but sold?

How about, instead of having volunteers walking around offering candy to everybody, we set a table in a corner (not in a central location), and sell the sugary snacks there?

This way, those who choose to have sugar can do so, while others will have the option of deciding whether they allow their children to have candy or not, rather than find out, often too late, the kids had already been offered free candy by the handful. 

We’re touching on the notion of accessibility here, and our strategy is to make unhealthy stuff a little less accessible.

11. Social event at your youth club?

I often wonder why we feel a need to reward our youth with a little sugary treat at the end of meetings, especially before the holidays.

Wasn’t the activity itself the real reward? Wasn’t the activity fun enough, that we somehow feel compelled to reward the kids with ‘a little treat’?

On practical terms, the kids are probably not that hungry, since your club’s activity is right after suppertime / lunch / breakfast. But if the kids are very hungry indeed, I’m pretty sure they’ll go home and eat. My question again, why do we feel compelled to reward them with food during our club’s activity?

That was my list. I’m sure there are many other ideas which I haven’t even thought about. Feel free to share them with us on our Wise Choice Market Facebook page.

If you’re concerned you’d be looked at because you offered something other than sugar, know that for the most part, whenever I tried something from the list I was usually pleasantly surprised. It seems many of us understand the importance of limiting sugar consumption but don’t know where to start and are probably uncomfortable with the idea of swimming against the current. I totally understand.

It’s also important to remember that the reason we wish to reduce gratuitous sugar is because we care. We care about our children’s health as well as our own. And we shouldn’t underestimate the power of both healthy and unhealthy food choices.

True, on some occasions my fruit platters stood by themselves amidst the many sugary treats, but I noticed quite a few people enjoyed the fruit and later told me how much the appreciated it and wished there was more of the fruit and less of the other stuff. It left me with the impression I made a difference and opened the door for awareness and change. Most importantly, I stayed true to what I believe.

You need to know however, that some people will not be willing to do what you’re willing to do, and that’s ok. But who knows? Perhaps the next time you bring a veggie platter to a party they’ll try some and love it. And maybe that will inspire them to bring a veggie platter to the following get-together? Who knows?

Wishing you a wonderful weekend filled with good health and joy,

Wise Choice Market

Click here to read the post Are Your Kids on a Sugar Overdose. It’s about the staggering sugar consumption among children. 

This article represents its author’s opinion, and is not a medical, nutritional, or professional advice.


1. Sugar in fruit: 
Fresh fruit is a wholesome food, which among other wonderful nutrients, vitamins, enzymes, fiber, and water, contains NATURAL sugar, which is much ‘friendlier’ towards our body -if I may use my own phrasing- and not as concentrated as refined processed sugar found in so many commercial edibles such as sodas, cereals, granola bars, flavored yogurts, store-bought fruit juices, ready-made desserts, and many more. And let’s not forget that the quantity you consume matters, and also which other foods you eat. That said, if you’re seriously sensitive to sugar, you might need to watch your fruit intake. ‘All in moderation’ is a good general guideline, I find.

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