Avoid­ing the crash

Un­der­stand­ing and stop­ping the ups and downs of the dreaded sugar rush

The Kids Post - - Nutrition - By Mira Saraf

We’ve all seen kids ex­pe­ri­ence a burst of sugar- fu­elled energy fol­lowed by a crash a short while later. In a class­room, that crash can cause a lack of fo­cus, which will pre­vent the stu­dent from soak­ing up the lessons.

We have a vague idea of the causes, but many of us aren’t aware of sim­ple preven­tion strate­gies.

Cut­ting out pro­cessed foods might seem daunt­ing, but it’s not as hard as you think. Danielle Turk, a Toronto-based nu­tri­tion­ist and meta­bolic life coach, shares a sim­ple rule for iden­ti­fy­ing health­ier op­tions: If it’s made by na­ture, it’s prob­a­bly low in sugar; if it’s made in a fac­tory and has a la­bel, it’s pro­cessed and high in sugar.

“When you eat pro­cessed, re­fined foods, they raise blood sugar lev­els above nor­mal range, and then you get that roller­coaster kind of re­ac­tion,” says Turk.“Your sugar lev­els ac­tu­ally dip even lower than nor­mal, and that is a sugar crash.”

It’s tough to know if you’re buy­ing healthy. “Par­ents are gen­er­ally well-in­ten­tioned,” says Elke Seng­mueller, a GTA-based reg­is­tered di­eti­tian. “The prob­lem is that mar­keters can be pretty clever and fool par­ents into think­ing they’re pro­vid­ing some­thing on the health­ier end, when it isn’t.”

“If ce­real has got ground up whole grains mixed with corn­starch, it’s quite dif­fer­ent than if you were to eat steel- cut oat­meal,” says Turk.

The dairy aisle of­fers another ex­am­ple. “Yogurt in it­self is an ex­cel­lent food. The prob­lem is they have taken yogurt and added a lot of stuff,” she says. “Some­times it’s potato starch, some­times it’s corn­starch, some­times it’s dex­trose and dif­fer­ent forms of sugar.”

Bev­er­ages that seem healthy can also be a prob­lem. “Juices that come in a pack­age are highly pro­cessed, packed full of sugar and have neg­li­gi­ble vi­ta­mins and min­er­als,” says Greg Wells, as­sis­tant pro­fes­sor of ki­ne­si­ol­ogy and phys­i­cal ed­u­ca­tion at the Univer­sity of Toronto.

Sports drinks are full of salt and sugar, so it’s bet­ter to eat high– wa­ter con­tent foods to re­hy­drate.

Seng­mueller rec­om­mends in­cor­po­rat­ing mul­ti­ple food groups: “If we have some­thing in our gut to slow that ab­sorp­tion down, like a fat or pro­tein or another nu­tri­ent, we don’t get that sugar peak and crash quite as dra­mat­i­cally.”

With the re­turn of the school year, it can be daunt­ing for kids to nav­i­gate the school cafe­te­ria. “These days, most cafe­te­rias will have some health­ier choices,” notes lead­ing health ex­pert Rose Reis­man. “But more of­ten than not, your chil­dren will be at­tracted to the un­health­ier op­tions that are ei­ther loaded with fat, salt or sugar.”

Easy things for kids to avoid in the caf in­clude sand­wiches made with white bread and pro­cessed deli meats such as salami or bologna. Reis­man sug­gests tuck­ing into wraps that boast roasted meats (tur­key or chicken) in­stead. Veg­gies and real cheese slices are al­ways great op­tions, and kids need not shy away from hum­mus, pesto or mus­tard when it comes to add-ons. Pizza is al­ways hard to re­sist, es­pe­cially when peers are tuck­ing in. Kids should avoid pep­per­oni or stuffed crust, in­stead reach­ing for chicken and veg top­pings.

Reis­man’s cater­ing com­pany has launched an ele­men­tary school lunch pro­gram for time-pressed par­ents, serv­ing up healthy kid­friendly meals.

Ul­ti­mately, it’s pos­si­ble to avoid the sugar crash by pro­vid­ing a healthy bal­anced diet for your child.

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