After reading Tony’s blog last week, I started to think about how serious Childhood Obesity is and what other factors contribute to it. When researching what effects children’s health the most, the one thing I kept finding was SUGAR. Sure, being an adult I know that sugar isn’t the best for you, but I never really took into consideration the domino effect that it has on us internally, especially when you are young.
The top five sources of calories for children are grain-based desserts such as cookies, pizza, soda, yeast breads and chicken, adding up to about 40 percent of the diet, according to a study, published in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association. This study additionally suggests that children consume more than 11 % of their calories from sugary drinks. These “empty calories” consumed from sugary drinks are doubly problematic as they fail to satisfy hunger which in essence cause children to consume even more calories in total. Individuals who consume high concentrations of sugary drinks are prone to excessive weight gain, which consequently place them at greater risk of developing childhood obesity. Once an individual has developed childhood obesity they then increase their chances of developing type II diabetes and early cardiovascular disease.
No one ever thinks about what it does to our bodies inside and out. Some of the psychological effects of sugar on our bodies include mood swings, irritability, confusion and difficulty with short-term memory that produces a feeling of hitting a brick wall. Sugar, in the form of glucose, enters the brain and affects the hippocampus, which is crucial for processing short-term memory items. That part of the brain needs time to recover between sugar highs and lows in order for it to process information effectively.
Then it hits the internal organs. The ingestion of high-sugar intake for those with type 2 diabetes is detrimental to health. Not only will high-sugar intake create vision problems, continued use is linked to an increased risk for heart disease. High blood sugar can also cause kidney failure for those with diabetes. Side effects of sugar are not only cause for concern for those with type 2 diabetes; over consumption is a health concern because the intake of empty calories from sugar do not contribute to, or support, a healthy immune system.
Since sugar wreaks havoc on internal organs, the side effects of sugar on our bodies are visible. Sugar creates conditions for tooth decay and weight gain. The domino effect of weight gain and continued use of sugar create negative effects on self-esteem and health risks caused by obesity.
I am sure you are asking yourself, like I did, “How can I cut sugar out of my kid’s diets? That’s impossible!” It is hard to even imagine going to the grocery store to try to find something other than what they normally eat. Today’s food market highlights foods that aren’t nutritional and are full of sugar. When trying to think of creative foods that were healthy for kids, I found some really neat recipes that will still taste yummy but give them a heafty helping of nutrients!
Decadent chocolate pudding
Mash one avocado with a fork.
Add 1/4 cup of carob powder, 1/4 cup of raw cocoa powder, and about 10 chopped honey dates.
Either mash everything together with a fork or mortar and pestle, or – the quick way – mix it all in a blender or food processor.
Add enough water to get a smooth, pudding-like texture.
Better than orange juice
Juice one orange, 3 apples and 3 carrots.
For a healthy start to the day, add leafy greens and half a cooked beet.
Tip: *Beets are very sweet naturally, and also make a great sugar alternative for sweet and savory veggie dishes.
Best ever cinnamon truffles
In a food processor or high-speed blender, combine 1 cup of dates and 1 cup of raw pecans or walnuts.
When the mixture has become a sticky ball of “dough”, take it out and roll it into little balls.
Dust a plate with cinnamon and have the kids roll the truffles in the cinnamon.
Experiment with cocoa powder or sesame seeds instead of cinnamon.
Chocolate nut milk
Soak 1 cup of almonds with 3 cups of water in your blender overnight (you can also try other nuts, hemp seeds or pumpkin seeds).
In the morning, blend with a bit of sweetener (natural sugar alternatives).
Add a little vanilla to taste.
Strain the milk*, then blend it with raw cocoa powder to taste.
*(Set aside the mush left behind when straining the milk to use in the coconut truffle recipe below).
Nutty coconut truffles
Use the mush leftover from the nut milk recipe (above).
Add 1 cup raw shredded coconut, a few tbsp of lemon juice, and enough sweetener (like agave or raw honey) to make it sticky.
Let your kids help you roll the mixture into little balls.
The important thing is that when you think about your children and what they are eating, try to steer them in the right direction to make the right choices. It not only teaches them to try different things, but it also teaches them that there are a lot of healthy foods out there that are not as “yucky” as they seem. Feel good about the fact that you are doing your part to influence healthy decisions in your child’s life. After all, we play a big role in Shaping their Future!
Jay Swisher is the Operations Manager of the Department of Parks and Recreation. He can be reached at 703.335.8872 or via email at email@example.com
Community Matters is a blog created by the City of Manassas Park Department of Parks and Recreation. The blog features program updates, announcements of new services, special event notices, or information of general interest.