Your child has recently been diagnosed with sucrose intolerance, and now you may be totally confused about how to fit carbohydrates into their diets. You already know good nutrition during childhood is incredibly important since as kids need nutrients to grow and thrive. You also may be concerned about your child’s growth and weight, and eliminating an entire food group may be difficult. But you still want to provide the nutrients and balanced diet your child really needs.
A balanced diet includes the right number of calories, carbohydrates, proteins, and fats. But if your child has been diagnosed with sucrose intolerance, medically known as genetic sucrase-isomaltase deficiency (GSID), it may seem like many carbohydrate sources are restricted due to their sucrose content. However, even with this diagnosis, you can find plenty of carbohydrate sources to include in your child’s diet to provide needed energy and nutrients.
What Is a Carbohydrate?
Carbohydrates (carbs) are a nutrient that provides calories. Carbohydrates are found in starches, fruit, milk, and vegetables; but not typically in natural meats (as opposed to deli packaged meats) and fat. Carbs are necessary for energy and to power a growing brain.
Simple carbohydrates, like the sugars sucrose, maltose, fructose, and glucose, fuel quick energy. They are found in sodas, fruits juices, cakes, cookies, candy, and baked goods made with white flour. On the other hand, complex carbohydrates like nuts, seeds, legumes, whole breads and pastas, and fruits and vegetables, are long chains of glucose that are digested at a slower pace and provide a steadier sugar level. Some carbohydrates are also high in fiber, which helps regulate digestion, although a child with sucrose intolerance may not be able to tolerate certain high-fiber foods.
How Many Carbohydrates Does My Child Need?
Children have a lot of energy to burn, so they need an adequate amount of carbs in their diet. According to the Dietary Reference Intakes by the Institute of Medicine, 45 to 65 percent of a child’s calories should come from carbohydrates. The recommended amount after age one year is at least 130 grams per day although this amount may vary depending on the child, their activity level, their growth, and their weight or height.
What are the Best Sources of Carbohydrates?
A healthy diet for any age should be based around fruits and vegetables as the primary source of carbohydrates. Many fruits and veggies can be tolerated by people with sucrose intolerance, and you can find a detailed list here. Some kid-favored and usually tolerated carb sources like strawberries, pears, and green beans are good choices. Unfortunately, some common favorites – apples, bananas, oranges, and potatoes – are on the list of fruits and veggies to avoid.
Some people with sucrose intolerance can tolerate a certain amount of starches. Whole grains, such as brown rice or old-fashioned oats, seem to be better tolerated than refined grains like white bread. Adding some fat or protein to these starchier foods helps slow digestion and allow more time for these carbohydrates to break down. As children grow older, the amount of starches tolerated usually increases.
Unfortunately, processed foods with added sugar are not only a source of concentrated carbohydrates, they may also contain sucrose. High-sugar foods also usually provide little nutritional value and are not necessary for a balanced diet. Dr. Enrique Hernandez, a pediatric gastroenterologist, says, “Although children are naturally drawn to high-sugar foods, they are not necessarily an essential part of their diet. As a matter of fact, slow steady sugar levels provided by complex carbohydrates are preferred over high sugar peaks from simple carbohydrates such as sucrose.”
Dr. Hernandez also notes, “With time, it is possible to shift children’s preferences toward low-sucrose (but still sweet) foods such as strawberries and raspberries. In older children, a simple explanation mentioning that these sugars are the reason for them to be uncomfortable will help increase compliance with diet and medications.”
By focusing on low-sucrose fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, a child’s carbohydrate needs can easily be met.
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