Carbohydrates and Sugars 101: Necessary Fuels for Your Child’s Development
Have you noticed how many programs and efforts are being made in this country to reduce childhood obesity? And it's for a good reason, folks! According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “In 2008, more than one third of children and adolescents were overweight or obese.” This fact hurts my heart because, as a mother, I want to see my son outside with other kids, running around, playing sports, and being active, and not feel winded afterwards! How awful it must be for the children who are unable to climb on the monkey bars, because they can't hold their own weight. Or a boy who can't play tag, because he has a hard time breathing. Or a girl who doesn't want to go swimming, because she hates her body in a swimsuit. Kids who just can't socialize with other kids, because they're so uncomfortable with the way they look.
Parents, it's not too late to help your children! There are simple facts you should know about carbohydrates and sugars to reduce the chances of childhood obesity and promote a healthy lifestyle.
Carbohydrates and Sugars 101
Carbohydrates are found in a lot of food, which is then broken down (by your body) into sugars, creating a major source of energy for the body. Carbs=Energy. It's important to know the two types of sugars carbohydrates provide. They are simple sugars and complex sugars.
Simple sugars are found in healthy foods, such as milk and fruit. These are the best options for simple sugars because they don't have any added sugar (like refined white sugar), and they do have nutrients and vitamins. These nutrients and vitamins will boost your child’s energy. (Think of Mario Brothers getting that star and doubling in size and speed. Simple sugars, plus vitamins, plus nutrients equals super fuel! ) Do not confuse this with candy and “garbage” food. Yes, a candy bar has simple sugars. But it does not have any nutrients or vitamins. Therefore, simple sugars from garbage food equals short-term energy, which then turns into fat cells, stored in the body indefinitely. Fruit and Milk are good; Candy and Garbage are bad.
Complex sugars are also known as starches. Starches are found in grains, pasta, rice, crackers, fiber-enriched foods, and bread. Remember that not all starches are good. The ones to stay away from are processed starches, like white flour and white rice. If you see the word “processed” or “refined” on any food label, stay away! “Processed” and “refined” mean they have been stripped of nutrients or fiber. Our bodies need these good and unrefined starches because they are a major part of our digestive system; when working properly, they will make us feel full. And when you're full, you're less likely to rummage for more food to eat.
As parents, it's our responsibility to be accountable for what our children eat. If you think you can sit on the couch eating Cheetos while your son eats an apple, think again. It's a lifestyle change that every family needs to make, even if they aren’t struggling with obesity.
My hope for our children's future is the same as First Lady, Michelle Obama, who said, “We can make a commitment to promote vegetables and fruits and whole grains on every part of every menu. We can make portion sizes smaller and emphasize quality over quantity. And we can help create a culture — imagine this — where our kids ask for healthy options instead of resisting them.”