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How to set your kids up for a healthy year -pt. 2

September is National Childhood Obesity Awareness month, so I’ve been dedicating a few newsletters towards helping provide strategies for children to lead healthier lives.

Last week, I asked a friend and colleague of mine, Dr. Lynn Gettleman Chehab, to provide insight and strategies around the topic. She hammered home on the importance of sleep and its impact on performance. Today, Dr. C is back with another strategy.

Enjoy!

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Picking up where I left off last time, I’m going to provide a second key habit to begin implementing…

Healthy Habit #2: Decrease added sugars!

Too much added sugar can lead to insulin resistance, which in itself can set off a whole cascade of inflammation and metabolic disarrangement. Inflammation and insulin resistance are the root cause of many diseases. Decreasing added sugar helps with maintaining a healthier weight, can help with clearer skin, and can improve energy and mood. A big sugar load before a practice, game, or even a test, can lead to a crash of energy and hurt performance.

How much sugar is too much? A good place to start is to aim for no more than 24 grams in 24 hours. That is the budget—24 grams in 24 hours, and even less is better as there is no nutritional benefit to consuming added sugars.

Most labels now distinguish between natural sugar (which occurs in milk and fruit) from added sugars (which can be disguised under many names like high fructose corn syrup, concentrated fruit juice, rice syrup, maltodextrin, amongst many others). 24 grams is the same amount as 6 teaspoons of sugar. It gets confusing because we tend to think in teaspoons, but sugar is listed in labels as grams. When reading a label it is not only important to read the amount of added sugars, but also the amount of servings in the container. For example, a 99 cent can of Arizona Iced Tea contains about 25 grams of added sugar per serving—but there are THREE servings in that can! One can has three times the amount of your daily added sugar budget.

The easiest way to keep to your daily sugar budget? Avoid drinking sugary drinks. Your best bet for healthy beverages is always water and plain milk. We all know that soda contains unhealthy amounts of sugar (some 20 ounce bottles contain 77 grams of sugar). But many drinks that we think of as healthier—chocolate milk, sports drinks, sweetened coffees and teas, and concentrated juice contain more than the daily budget in a single serving container. And most sugary drinks also lack fiber—which means that there is nothing to slow its absorption leading to large spikes in insulin. So always choose a real piece of fruit over juice. And be mindful of other places added sugar can hide—sauces and dressings, flavored yogurts, and many “low-fat” processed products.

I’ll be back later this week to share the third and final habit!

– Dr. Lynn Chehab