Tag: healthy

The Sweetest Holiday Gift of All

The “Sweetest” Holiday Gift of All

by Dr. Patricia Donnelly, Founder-Little Golf T.R.A.I.N.


It’s that time of year—the holidays, when sugary treats and sweet, sweet food are all around us. And they are oh so tempting for children, who are “dancing with sugar plums in their heads.” What is a responsible adult to do? Did you know that:

Children in Turkey learn to love eating ghash – a dish made up of stewed cow’s feet and head?

Children in Japan learn to love eating tuna eyeballs?

Children in Africa, Asia and Europe learn to love eating black pudding (blood sausage), which is blood cooked up with various natural flavorings, thickening agents like suet and breadcrumbs and stuffed into a sausage skin…  

My point is, children will love to eat what they are taught to eat. So why then are so many of us teaching our children to not only love, but to become addicted to, sugar?

The statistics are grim… 

  • There has been a more than 1,000% increase in type 2 diabetes in children over the last two decades. Tragically, one in three children born today will have diabetes in their lifetime.
  • Fifteen years ago 3% of new cases of diabetes in children were type 2 diabetes. Now it is 50%
  • Forty percent of American children are now overweight, and 2 million are morbidly obese, exceeding the 99th percentile for weight.
  • One in seven kids has Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD), often caused by a high-sugar, nutrient-poor diet. You’ve probably seen a child bounce off the walls after eating too much sugar.

So How Much is Too Much?

The American Heart Association 2016 guidelines say:

  • Children between two and 18 should eat fewer than six teaspoons of added sugar per day. That’s about 25 grams of sugar or 100 calories.
  • Keep in mind, a typical can of soda contains 40 grams of sugar.
  • Children under the age of two should not eat or drink anything with added sugars, including sugar-sweetened drinks

It’s not easy but here are some ideas to help…

The nutritional principles that we follow at Little Golf T.R.A.I.N.™ (the N stands for Nutrition) are designed to keep children from becoming dependent on sugar. One reason so many of our children are consuming way too much sugar is that it is all around us. Children have nearly unlimited access to sugar and processed food. It’s not just desserts – let’s start with breakfast, which in many cases is actually dessert.

Healthy-sounding Quaker Oats & Honey natural granola (one cup) is loaded with 26 grams of sugar. That’s right, 1 gram over the suggested daily dose of sugar!




  • Chobani Blueberry Fruit On The Bottom Yogurt (1 serving) contains 15 grams of sugar.
  • A 6 oz. glass of apple juice is brimming with 19 grams of sugar – that’s about 1 gram less than soda.
  • Going out for breakfast? At IHOP, where dessert for breakfast is rampant, you will find New York cheesecake pancakesor raspberrywhite chocolate chip pancakes, which come with a whopping 83 grams (nearly 21 teaspoons) of sugar. And that doesn’t even mention the high-sugar syrup that’s on the table.

As children grow up, the influences around them — their peers, their experiences, their siblings and parents, what they see on television, etc. — determine their food likes and dislikes.

What can you do?  Lots!!


• Be aware that sugar calories act differently in the body, driving biology toward diabetes. Carrots, for example, aren’t addictive, but sugar is.


• Read labels — not the front, where often there are false and misleading claims, but the nutrient chart.


• Look out for the large amounts of added sugar that are hidden in foods such as bread, canned soups and vegetables, frozen dinners, and fast food. In fact, about 75% of packaged food in the U.S. contains added sugar.


• Food Label Ingredient List Trick: Look for words on a food label such as glucose, sucrose, dextrose, high-fructose corn syrup, raw sugar, rice syrup, corn sweetener, fruit juice concentrate, brown sugar, corn syrup, can juice, can sugar, crystalline fructose, beet sugar, caramel, and barley malt to indicate sugar in a packaged food product.


  • Remember that children tend to reject unfamiliar foods on the first few tries.
  • Beware of sugar-free foods. Artificial sweeteners, even natural ones like stevia, which comes from an herb, are hundreds, sometimes thousands, of times sweeter than sugar. (Even if the artificial sweeteners have zero calories, your body still releases insulin as if you’d eaten sugar, leading to blood-sugar spikes.)

But it’s the Holidays!

Yes, and there’s a way to enjoy holiday treats without children overloading on sugar.

Don’t ban sweets entirely. Having a no-sweets rule is an invitation for cravings and overindulging when given the chance.

Give recipes a makeover. Many recipes taste just as good with less sugar.

Avoid sugary drinks. Instead, try adding a splash of fruit juice to sparkling water or blending whole milk with a banana or berries for a delicious smoothie.

Create your own frozen treats. Make frozen fruit kabobs using pineapple chunks, bananas, grapes and berries.

When you must eat sugary foods, eat them after the meal. Sugar does less damage when eaten after a good meal. It actually affects the body differently than when eaten between meals.

So the “sweetest” gift of all is to give your child or the children you work with treats that are not overloading them with sugar, allowing them to sidestep diabetes, obesity and so many other avoidable perils.

Here are some more ideas that are not full of sugar:  

  • Plain Greek Yogurt
  • Cheese Sticks
  • Hard-boiled Eggs
  • Hummus
  • Chickpeas (try roasting for extra flavor)
  • Nuts (unflavored)
  • Natural Peanut Butter
  • Pretzels (check the food label because some brands have added sugar)
  • Wasa Crackers (I like these with hummus or cheese spread on top!)
  • Popcorn (unsalted and only for older children when choking is no longer a risk)
  • Roasted Sweet Potato Cubes
  • Homemade Salsa
  • Cucumber Slices
  • Carrot Sticks
  • Celery and cheese


And here are a couple of healthy recipes:


Blueberry-Walnut Pancakes




• 3 large omega-3 eggs

• 3/4 cup almond milk (unsweetened)

• 1/2 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice

• 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

• 1/2 cup coconut flour

• 1/2 teaspoon baking powder

• 1/2 teaspoon baking soda

• pinch of sea salt

• 1/4 cup roughly chopped walnuts

• coconut oil, for greasing the skillet (about 1/4 cup)

• 1/2 cup arrowroot powder

• 1 teaspoon of cinnamon

• 1 pint fresh blueberries



Step 1

In a large bowl, whisk the eggs and then add the almond milk, lemon juice, and vanilla. Whisk until well blended.

In a separate bowl, mix together the coconut flour, cinnamon, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and arrowroot.  Add the dry ingredients to the wet mixture, 1/4 cup at a time, while continuously whisking. Once combined, gently fold in the walnuts.

Step 2

Grease a large skillet and place over medium heat. Once the skillet is hot, use a ladle to pour 3-inch pancakes onto the skillet. Cook until bubbles appear, then flip. The pancake should cook on each side for about 2-3 minutes. Repeat with rest of the batter. Add a tablespoon or more of coconut oil to the hot griddle, as needed.

Step 3

Make a blueberry sauce by simmering the blueberries in a small saucepan with 2 tablespoons of water for 10 minutes before serving.

Step 4

To serve, place 3 pancakes on a plate and top each stack with the blueberry sauce.

Nutritional analysis per serving:  Calories 423 • Total Fat 19g • Protein 12g • Fiber 14g • Sugar 14g • Sodium 416mg



Chocolate Truffles with Coconut Oil




(This version is vegan, gluten-free and has the benefits of coconut oil)



• 12 ounces unsweetened dark chocolate, chopped

• ¼ cup Nutiva Virgin Coconut Oil

·• ¾ cup coconut milk (full fat) or coconut cream

• 1 teaspoon alcohol-free vanilla extract

• ¼ teaspoon sea salt

• Stevia, honey or maple syrup to taste

For the coating:

• ½ cup cocoa powder OR coconut flakes OR slivered almonds (optional)


Step 1

Using a double boiler, melt the chocolate and coconut oil together, stirring continuously. Add the coconut milk and whisk until smooth.

Step 2

Remove from heat, then add the vanilla, salt, and a little bit of the recommended sweetener.

Step 3

Chill mixture for 2 hours or until set.

Step 4

Using a tablespoon, scoop a spoonful of the mixture, roll into a ball and then roll in coating of your choice.

Step 5

Return finished truffles to the refrigerator and chill truffles for at least 10 minutes, then serve.

Step 6

Store in a cool place.

Nutritional analysis per serving (per 1 serving without sweetener or coating)

Calories 96 • Fat 10 g • Fiber 6.9 g • Protein 2 g • Carbohydrate 5 g • Sodium 22 mg



Ludwig DS, Ebbeling CB. Type 2 diabetes mellitus in children: primary care and public health considerations. JAMA. 2001 Sep 26; 286(12): 1427-30.
Murtagh L, Ludwig DS. State intervention in life-threatening childhood obesity. JAMA. 2011 Jul 13; 306(2): 206-7.


Pinhas-Hamiel O, Zeitler P. The global spread of type 2 diabetes mellitus in children and adolescents. J Pediatr 2005; 146:693-700