University of Maryland student athletes are mindful of their nutritional needs and the importance of exercise, but appreciate the benefits of having “cheat days” to partake in eating desserts.
Gymnast Leksana Andrews, a junior majoring in family science, said, “I think a number of foods can be considered a dessert. I tend to think of desserts as sweet treats that you don’t often eat.”
According to Dr. Walter Willet, chair of the department of nutrition at the Harvard School of Public Health, “studies have linked sugar, white flour, butter and trans fat to obesity and increased rates of type 2 diabetes.”
Former University of Maryland Professor of nutrition and PhD, Richard Ahrens, explains why desserts are an important part of the diet for one’s physical and mental health.
“I’ve been working with desserts all my life and people tend to associate desserts with weight gain, but it doesn’t have to be that way,” Ahrens said. “A dessert should be a small portion of something to highlight the meal where it won’t affect one’s weight.”
Desserts are not just a tasty treat, they are also a comfort food. Some people may associate desserts as a coping mechanism to handle mental health issues.
“Desserts should be a pleasurable experience for someone. Something to look forward to,” Ahrens said. “If you don’t have dessert then you are changing the whole nature of the meal experience.”
Too much of a dessert can be detrimental to a person’s health. Student athletes want to remain conditioned for their respective sports, but find eating desserts in moderation is paramount.
“My favorite dessert is ice cream. Definitely my go-to,” said sophomore gymnast and psychology major Sophia LeBlanc. “Everything in moderation is fine. It’s okay to have desserts here and there.”
When it comes to being a student athlete, it’s important to have a good and reliable support system.
Graduate student and Terrapin basketball player, Katie Benzan, does not worry about this. When at school or home she has the support of her mom to encourage her healthy eating.
“My mom and I have a great relationship in the sense that we are very honest with each other,” Benzan said. “She’s really good at keeping me honest and accountable with my eating.”
“I strive to eat dessert once a week. I am a big chocolate girl and love oreo ice cream, but homemade chocolate chip cookies are probably my go-to,” Benzan said.
Don’t be harsh on yourself. When eaten in moderation, desserts can not only improve your physical and mental health, but are also a pleasurable way to finish the day.