The Sugar Challenge – could your kids go without sugar for a year?

If you are as overwhelmed with the amount of sugar that creeps into your kids diets as much as we are, you might find this family’s journey pretty inspiring. We’re definitely hoping a bet will work with our kids too!

Raising Kids in a Sugar-Filled World

It’s possibly not until you become a parent do you realise how pervasive our sugar culture is. It’s almost impossible to get humans together to celebrate any milestone without sugar products being exchanged. This might be ok if it didn’t start so darn early and if people didn’t get so nasty about it.

It can be downright shocking how some people react if you say ‘no thank you’ to sugary treats, it’s almost like you’ve slapped their face.

We love challenges of all shapes and sizes in our household, betting each other to do this and that, so it seemed natural when my two boys (age eight and ten years) bet they could say no to sugar for an entire year without ‘caving in’ to anything sweet. When they did I was in full support of their choice. I don’t want to make sugar a villain but I was certainly in favour of bucking the sugar trend and shaking things up. I actually thought they’d last just a week so was pleasantly surprised and proud they made it through the whole year, it was actually a really tough challenge for them.

Naturally, being a writer I documented the whole year-long process. I asked them questions along the way and wrote down their replies. I documented which sugary situations we waded through, like parties, halloween and candy cane gifts pre-Christmas. And I took photos of everything. I asked everyone around us to give me their opinions, even when we were out for a family birthday dinner and my own father intimated I was being tough on them because my sons were missing out on slices of birthday cake, dessert or lemonade. I didn’t get mad, I just took my trusty pen and notepad out and noted the incident and decided to turn it into a book. And ‘voila’, The Modern Dilemma, Raising Kids in a Sugar-Filled World was born.    

I’m personally not a great cook nor a nutritional expert so I asked 13 nutrition and dental industry folks to add commentary after the Sugar Challenge about what I fed my boys for meals and snacks. They offered great alternatives to things i haven’t thought to feed them. They added a list of nutritionist-approved packaged snack foods and I sourced awesome resources like good snack storage and food carry items to keep food fresh for school.

During the Sugar Challenge our use of sauces got completely overhauled. We either cut tomato or bbq sauce completely or I made very basic tomato sauce from scratch. If we couldn’t find great swaps, like kombucha or lemon in water instead of juices or soft drinks, we cut them completely and just had water for drinks. We upped some good snacks like seaweed snacks, sushi and popcorn and chose plain flavours (for chips or beef jerky) where possible.

Some really surprising things came out of the experiment. I took the boys to the dentist at the end and he was unimpressed with their state of their teeth, we all felt a bit deflated.

...the experiment was the best thing ever for my boys to help them learn about themselves, learning what they’re capable of so they can apply it to other areas of their life.

In saying this however, the experiment was the best thing ever for my boys to help them learn about themselves, learning what they’re capable of so they can apply it to other areas of their life. I would never predicted I’d say that. I was worried I might make them anxious or stressed with all the peer group pressure  but it actually made them so much stronger. Most of the time the boys had a ‘meh’ attitude, nothing bothered them too much. It’s a little like being an adult at a party when you’re not drinking alcohol and people hassle you, it ends up reflecting poorly on the hassler and you get to see what society is really like and it doesn’t impress you. The experiment felt like it was equal to doing a year’s worth of martial arts. Their self-confidence and self-belief grew and really it was because they were saying no to people and going against the flow and realising that it's okay to be different. It was their ‘aha’ moment and so fantastic for them to experience it so young. It’s something you just can’t plan.

I thought this Sugar Challenge would be a great topic for a book as something to benefit humankind by getting people thinking about what goes in their mouth. It seems we all struggle with living in a sugar-filled world and it took two young kids to actually show us how it’s done.

raising kids sugar free book
snippet of book - sugar free

The best thing about the book is that once you download it onto your ipad, computer or laptop, you can talk about it with your kids, your class or your mother-in-law... or your aunty... Anyone in your life who you’d prefer not to keep showering your children in lollipops and ice creams but don’t have the heart to hurt their feelings because it’s love they’re showing your kids. It just sucks when you’re having your moment of truth at the dentist!

It’s not a book that judges people and their choices, it’s designed to fire up a conversation about healthy eating, provide heaps of healthy choices that don’t involve being a gourmet chef and empower kids to think they can take up any challenge, should they choose to do so. I really hope those who read it will hopefully have a few laughs along the way and enjoy the motivational quotes. I am a motivational quote ninja, I love them.


The book will be available in hard copy print soon but for the time being it’s available in digital form here. We've purchased it already, it's a great read and at only $4.99 it's cheaper than a chocolate muffin! Emma can be contacted for copywriting or public speaking opportunities at

Emma Wilson

Emma Wilson is a language teacher, writer, blogger and mum of three. She has a Masters degree in Asian Studies, Bachelors in Japanese language and Graduate qualifications in language, literacy and literacy. She lives on Sydney’s Northern Beaches and enjoys yoga and spending time with her family on the beach or bushwalking. Her mission is to equip her children with skills to be responsible and empowered global citizens with good mental health. And have a few laughs along the way.

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