Every parent, especially the parent of a young gymnast, wants to try and ensure that their child eats the healthiest diet possible. Great nutrition is a key component in the health and success of any athlete, but it is especially important when that athlete is young and still growing and developing.
Ask most health professionals, nutritionists and dietitians and they will tell you that added sugar is the single worst component of the modern child’s diet. It can lead to weight gain, even obesity, early onset Type II diabetes, an increased risk of heart disease and more. And worse still, it has absolutely no nutritional value to offset those excess calories. And yet as added sugar hides in all kinds of foods and beverages, and, let’s face it, most of us are very fond of at least the occasional sweet treat, can we really blame our kids who do too?
is there any way that we can allow a child – and ourselves – eat a ‘little bit’ of sugar as a part of a healthy diet or should we all just cut the sugar out of our kids lives completely?
Natural Sugar versus Added Sugar
There is of course such a thing as naturally occurring sugar. It’s what makes strawberries so wonderfully delicious, apples so refreshingly delightful. And natural sugars are OK. It is the added sugar in the 21st century daily diet that is the big problem. And unfortunately there is an awful lot of it, often hiding in places that you actually would never expect to find it, especially in the processed foods that are probably stacked up in your refrigerator, freezer and kitchen cupboards right now.
Tracking Down the Bad Sugars
Figuring out that there is lots of added sugar that your child does not need in cakes and cookies is easy. What is not so easy to determine, until you begin to do a little investigation, is where it is hiding in processed foods. Reading ingredient labels helps, but they rarely list ‘added sugar’
Instead it is disguised as sucrose, high fructose corn syrup, dehydrated cane juice, fructose, glucose, dextrose, syrup, cane sugar, raw sugar, corn syrup and even more. It does not matter what it is called though, it’s all added sugar and its only purpose is to add flavor, not any nutrient a kid’s body actually needs.
Ideally cutting all processed food out of a child’s diet and only eating fresh, organic products is the way to the healthiest diet of all and the easiest way to avoid added sugars Sadly however for many people that is simply financially and practically unrealistic. Therefore, when you are in the grocery store, get into the habit of reading those ingredient labels and if one of the sugars mentioned above is any higher than fourth on the list, put it back and choose something else.
But Isn’t a Little Bit of Sugar OK?
Life without sugar doesn’t sound like much fun though does it? According to the current general medical opinion up to 37.5 grams or 9 teaspoons of added sugar daily for boys and men and 25 grams or 6 teaspoons are for girls and women is ‘OK’ for the most part.
However, you also need to realize that for many kids, sugar is just as addictive as alcohol or tobacco is for adults, and sticking to those very low limits can be very hard. In other words, children can handle a diet with just a little bit of sugar, others cannot. Just remember, when it comes to added sugar less is better, and even less is great. You simply have to work out, and work on, what is right for your child in order to be as healthy as possible. And consider setting a great example for them to cut down on sugars by actually doing so yourself too.
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