What Happened to Oranges?


Somewhere between 1979 and 2013 things changed in kids’ sports. Being able to participate in team sports has always been a joy, a privilege and a right of passage for most children. Friendships were formed; lessons and life-skills were developed.

However, I have noticed a new, undesirable lesson that is being taught inadvertently to our kids.  It happens week after week, from soccer season all the way through to baseball season.

The lesson:


I know I am not alone in the disappointment, frustration and bewilderment I feel when the snack presented to the kids post-game is a sugar-filled piece of junk.  I asked some parents to let me know precise examples of what has been given to their kids at the end of games. Here are just a few:

  • Timbits and doughnutswagon wheel
  • Candy bags filled with Tootsie Rolls, sours, gummy bears
  • Cupcakes
  • Rice Crispy Squares
  • Chips Ahoy Cookies
  • Wagon Wheels
  • Jumbo Freezies
  • Gatorade
  • And the ubiquitous juice box

Is this really the message we want to send our kids? That they deserve a reward for participating in sports?

Isn’t participation in the game the reward in itself?soccer ball kick

If any doubt remains about the evils of sugar consider the following.

The average sugar intake in children aged between 4- 8 years old is a whopping 21 teaspoons of sugar per day. The American Heart Association recommends that children of this age intake no more than 3 tsp per day (12-15 grams).

 So how much is that?

  •  1 single Chips Ahoy cookie = over 3 tsp of sugar
  • 1 single  Wagon Wheel cookie = over 4 tsp of sugar
  • 1 medium cupcake = between 4-6 tsp of sugar
  • 1 juice box = 4.5 – 5.5 tsp of sugar

Many children are becoming addicted to sugar and eating way beyond the recommended amount. This over-consumption can lead to weight gain, obesity, type 2 diabetes and even early signs of heart disease. In children? I hear you ask. Yes, in children.1,2

I can remember the days when kids would not come in for dinner because they were too busy playing, be that kicking the ball around, playing back- alley hockey or simply climbing trees with friends after school. Food was secondary to play. Now it seems that in order to play, there must be some sort of food or treat involved.

As parents we enroll our children in these team sports as we are aware of the benefits and may have wonderful memories of playing on a team ourselves in our youth.

sports oranges

Aside from the obvious physical benefits of sports, such as cardio fitness and development of physical skills the other benefits of sports include:

  • Learning the three “Ps”… practice, patience, and persistence.
  • Forming friendships and camaraderie
  • Breeding resilience
  • Building cooperation, teamwork and leadership skills
  • Providing a sense of belonging
  • Increasing self-esteem and self concept
  • Helping overcome shyness
  • Instilling respect towards peers, referees and sports officials

If you ask your child why they like soccer or basketball or softball, the usual answer is:  “because it’s fun”.

 It’s fun.

They do not need the treats.

They have become accustomed to a sugary snack post-game and now it is expected. However, if we as parents, coaches, managers and league organizers, take a stand and introduce a  Fruit Only Policy we can bring back the focus of the game to FUN and not FOOD.

Recipe of the week: Oranges cut oranges

  • Cut into segments.
  • Serve.



1. Kosova EC, Auinger P, Bremer A. The relationships between sugar-sweetened beverage intake and cardiometabolic markers in young children.J Acad Nutr Diet. 2013 Feb;113(2):219-27. doi: 10.1016/j.jand.2012.10.020. 

2. Obesity, Insulin Resistance, Diabetes, and Cardiovascular Risk in Children. An American Heart Association Scientific Statement From the Atherosclerosis, Hypertension, and Obesity in the Young Committee Julia Steinberger, MD; Stephen R. Daniels, MD, PhD http://circ.ahajournals.org/content/107/10/1448.long 

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Are These Foods Genuinely Nutritious?

You may have seen my short segment with CTV Morning Live discussing foods that ctv morning live picappear healthy; but on closer inspection may be just the opposite. Here’s a link to the clip:


A five minute segment doesn’t allow me the time to adequately explain why some things that appear healthy are anything but and how to decipher the truly nutritious from the truly awful.


I mentioned that natural, plain, unsweetened yogurt was your best bet to ensure you are maximizing the health benefits of this food while avoiding the excessively high sugar. All yogurt and blueberries_goodyogurt will have some sugar in it as there are natural sugars, called lactose, in all dairy products. However, one serving should provide no more than 4 – 5 grams of sugar. There should be no sugar listed in the ingredients.

One of the reasons why unsweetened yogurt has great health benefits is because it provides us with a source of probiotics. Probiotics, in particular Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium, have a plethora of benefits:

  • they help complete digestion and promote regular bowel movements
  • they support our immune system
  • they reduce symptoms of IBS (irritable bowel syndrome)
  • they inhibit the growth of colon cancer cells
  • they play a role in detoxification
  • they help treat – diarrhea, lactose intolerance, Crohn’s and ulcerative colitis and if taken by pregnant mothers can reduce the incidence of allergies or eczema in the child

“Health” Beveragesvitamin water

The savvy marketing of the beverage industry regularly astounds me.  They promise to boost energy, cure hangovers, help focus, revive, glow, among others. The serving sizes are often extra-large and some even some give a “prescription” on how many bottles to drink in one day.

These beverages are NOT healthy. As I mentioned in the clip, some have up to 37 grams of sugar in one serving. This is over 7 teaspoons of sugar! They contain zero fibre and zero protein. I don’t care if there is 60mg of vitamin C added. There is over 80mg of vitamin C in one orange, with only 11 grams of natural sugars and 3 grams of fibre.

Further, some products, like Vitamin Water, contain cyrstalline fructose which is a processed sweetener from corn that is approximately 98% fructose. By comparison, high fructose corn syrup is about 55% fructose and 45% glucose. The problem with fructose is that it is metabolized into fat by the liver. It raises LDL (bad cholesterol), increases triglyceride levels, contributes to fatty liver disease and increases one’s risk of cardiovascular disease.

These beverages are perfect examples as to why it is essential that you “drink water for thirst and don’t drink your calories”.

Granola & Granola Bars

Oats, nuts, dried fruits, sounds great doesn’t it? And it should be great! But many products out there have so much added sugar they turn your healthy breakfast into a bowl of halloween candy.

The best choice is to make your own granola so you can be sure there are no added sugars and unpronounceable ingredients. If you do choose to buy a packaged product, this is where your label reading will come in handy. Let’s tackle the ingredients list first. One thing to be aware of is the cunning use of multiple descriptive terms to describe sugar.

For example, here is the ingredients list for an Apple Cobbler Nutri Grain Bar:applecobbler_packshot


All those ingredients in red are different forms of sugar. They amount to 15 grams of sugar or 3 teaspoons. That’s a hefty load of sugar for an ostensibly “healthy snack”. Other names for sugar include: corn syrup, dehydrated cane juice, barley malt syrup, fruit juice concentrate”. The ingredient in blue (partially hydrogenated oils) should be avoided at all costs. Partially hydrogenated oils form trans-fats which are extremely damaging to our heart health and may have adverse effects on our cells membranes and immune system.  Oh and in case you are wondering what TBHQ (Tertiary Butylhydroquinone) is, well, it’s a preservative made from butane. Bet you’re not hungry anymore.

When reaching for a box of granola or granola bars, aim for the following:

Sugar: no more than 5-6 grams

Fibre: equal to or more than sugar (eg 5-6 grams)

Protein: equal to or more than sugar (eg 5-6 grams)

The protein and fibre will slow the absorption of sugars into your blood stream ensuring you avoid a blood sugar spike. When blood sugar rises too fast, it also falls too fast shortly afterwards. This leads to feeling famished, irritable, shaky, fatigued and hankering for more sweets.

In addition to the short-term ill effects of spiking our blood sugar, the long term effects are Three cubes of white sugar on spoonparticularly damaging. Repeatedly consuming high glycemic foods, like the beverages mentioned above, sweet granola bars with low fibre, sugar-added yogurts and the processed fruit bites and strips mentioned in the clip, can lead over time to loss of sensitivity to insulin. Insulin is the hormone needed to drive the sugar into our cells for use as energy. Losing sensitivity to insulin is called “insulin resistance” and is associated with abdominal fat, obesity, high blood pressure, elevated triglycerides and an increased risk for type 2 diabetes.

The Bottom LineCrate of mixed vegetables

  • Eat natural, unprocessed, unsweetened foods.
  • Drink water for thirst.
  • When you do purchase a packaged item, read the label to ensure your healthy choice is genuinely healthy
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