SUGAR AND YOUNG ATHLETE'S BODY
grew up in a household where my mother would said sugar was bad for the body, and this was years ago! We didn’t drink soda because of the sugar, we occasionally have candy, but not too much because of the sugar, cake was only eaten during birthday parties.
My mother told us in several occasions sugar was bad, but there was no explanation as to why it was bad; I didn’t ask to why, I knew she would just said “Because I say so”, yup, all I knew was that sugary treats were delicious but ‘bad’.
Fast forward a few years and two boys, I am repeating the same words my mom told us. My boys ask why is sugar “bad”? and do expect an answer. Now days, the famous phrase “because I say so” is not enough, well at least for my boys. They are two curious boys, and to be honest although sometimes I get overwhelmed with so many of their questions, I tried to answer them to the best of my ability and knowledge. The more they ask the more they learn, so I give them information as to why something might be or not be so healthy. This opens up their mind and start becoming conscious thinkers about what they put in their bodies.
So What Is Sugar???
Basically you can categorize sugar into two buckets, sugar that naturally occurs as in fruit and vegetables and add sugar that is so popular in our modern diet.
What is so bad about sugar?
Well, consuming too much sugar can result in numerous different health problems, including poor dental health, obesity, diabetes, heart disease, pre diabetes and different types of cancer.
The naturally occurring sugars in fruit and vegetables come along with fiber, water and other nutrients, these are the good sugars; the worst sugar we can possibly indulge in is the Added Sugars!
Added sugars are the ones that are added to foods, the most common seen on labels are sucrose and/or the worst of all, high fructose corn syrup (HFCS). Added sugars have empty calories that can lead to weight gain and obesity, they have no nutrients at all!
Unfortunately, added sugars in food and drinks seem to be too common. Most restaurants, schools, sports camps offer loads of sugar in the form of juice, chocolate milk or soda on the menu. If we pay close attention, even the sauces, the breads and the fruit, to mention a few examples, are also loaded with sugar. All these loaded with added sugar that does the young athlete’s body no good.
What about sports events, parks and fairs?
sports drinks, granola bars, cotton candy, caramel popcorn, caramel apple, frozen processed lemonade, ice cream, etc.. all are sugary snacks! Unfortunately the more young athlete’s are expose to it the more they want it. No wonder childhood obesity has more than doubled in children and quadrupled in adolescents in the past 30 years! It is likely that obese children and adolescents will remain obese as they grow and become adults bringing both immediate and long-term effects on their health.
It is interesting to note that NCBI published a study in which they explain that people can actually become addicted to sugar, study shows sugary foods stimulate the same areas in the brain as drug intake. Wow! Sugar as an addiction!
Want to know how many calories are in the food your young athlete eats?
Become a smarter shopper by reading nutrition food labels on food products and show your young athlete how. Click here to learn more.
What Can We Do to Reduce Sugar in Our Young Athlete’s Diet?
My young athletes consume sugar, but it is much reduced now. How do we do it:
- At birthday parties, they can either eat a cupcake/cake or a chocolate/candy
- We mainly consume water at home and at restaurants
- As dessert they can have one packet of Oreos or Gluten Free Organic Cholocate chip or dark chocolate ice cream or dried prunes or something else that has no added sugar or is low in sugar
- One yogurt per day
- Small hot chocolate with limited or no whip cream
- One glass of Almond chocolate milk
- ..and once in while they enjoy their dark chocolate ice cream at their favorite Gelato Store! or Frozen Yogurt
Read the Food Label!
The new food labels include added-sugars (those that don’t occur naturally in the food)! yay for that, finally. More about added sugar content on food labels.
Learn to recognize the names of sugar, and there are about 55 names of sugar last time I checked! (55+ Sugar Undercover Names List )
Stay away from food that has sugar mainly in the first 3 ingredients, although some food manufacturer’s labels have them toward the end to appear less significant.
Common foods and drinks with added sugar:
- Chocolate bars
- Granola bars
- Fuit Juices
- Ice creams
- Sport drinks
- Salad dressings
Some added sugar in the ingredients to look for are:
- Brown Sugar
- Corn Sweetener
- Corn Syrup
- Fruit Juice Concentrates
- High-Fructose corn syrup
- Malt Syrup
- Raw sugar
Alternatives for added sugar:
- Water, water, water!
- dark chocolate (limited)
Tips for having young athletes eat more fruit (from choosemyplate.org):
- Set a good example by eating fruit every day with meals or as snacks
- Offer them a choice of fruits for lunch
- Depending on their age, young athletes can help shop for, clean, peel, or cut up fruits
- While shopping, allow them to pick out a new fruit to try later at home
- Decorate plates or serving dishes with fruit slices.
- Top off a bowl of cereal with some berries. Or, make a smiley face with sliced bananas for eyes, raisins for a nose, and an orange slice for a mouth
- Offer raisins or other dried fruits instead of candy
- Make fruit kabobs using pineapple chunks, bananas, grapes, and berries
- Pack a juice box (100% juice) in their lunches instead of soda or other sugar-sweetened beverages
- Look for and choose fruit options, such as sliced apples, mixed fruit cup, or 100% fruit juice in fast food restaurants
- Offer fruit pieces and 100% fruit juice to children. There is often little fruit in “fruit-flavored” beverages or chewy fruit snacks