Archive for the ‘ Diet ’ Category

Should Your Baby Eat Peanuts? Research Says…

Tuesday, February 24th, 2015

peanut butter spoonIn the US, roughly 2 percent of children have peanut allergies—a rate that has quadrupled in less than two decades. So it’s no surprise that many parents still fumble with the decision of whether or not to introduce their infant to foods containing peanuts.

New research should put an end to any of those doubts—the New England Journal of Medicine released a study yesterday that suggests peanut allergies can be prevented by introducing peanuts at a young age.

The study observed 4 to 11 month old infants who were at a high risk for developing a peanut allergy, and followed them until the age of five. All 530 infants were predetermined to be at a higher risk of developing an allergy because of severe eczema, egg allergy, or both.

The participants were split into two groups: half consumed six grams of peanut protein per week, while the other group avoided the consumption of peanuts altogether. Once the children turned five, they were given an allergy test—and the results were dramatic.

“Only 1.9 percent of those who were fed peanuts were allergic to them, compared with 13.7 percent of the children in the group that avoided peanuts,” reports the New York Times.

Despite the significant findings, there are always more questions to consider: Would the same conclusions be made for children who are not at a high risk for peanut allergies? And what if the children participating in the study no longer received regular feedings of peanuts, would they begin to develop an allergy?

Dr. Gideon Lack, the leader of this study and a professor of pediatric allergy at King’s College London, and his team are currently seeking these answers. The group of children who consumed peanuts were told to cease feedings at the age of five, and are being observed for another year.

Rather than introducing peanuts, which could be a potential choking hazard, parents are encouraged to introduce foods like peanut butter mixed into fruit or vegetable purees to their young children.

This new research may be the first concrete step in overturning beliefs that have been ingrained in many parents’ heads over the years.

Caitlin St John is an Editorial Assistant for Parents.com who splits her time between New York City and her hometown on Long Island. She’s a self-proclaimed foodie who loves dancing and anything to do with her baby nephew. Follow her on Twitter:@CAITYstjohn

When to Worry: Food Allergies
When to Worry: Food Allergies
When to Worry: Food Allergies

Image: Peanut butter on spoon via Shutterstock

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Tags: | Categories: Diet, Health, The Scoop on Food

How to Eat Well on a Tight Budget

Thursday, February 12th, 2015

Grocery ShoppingLet’s face it. Feeding your family well can be hard. You have to balance nutrition and deliciousness, obviously, but also ease of prep, and remembering which foods you should buy organic. Plus, there are environmental factors (was my sugar sustainably farmed?) to think about and even workers’ well-being (was this tomato harvested by an exploited worker?). Oh, and that one little thing that often trumps all other factors: budget. But, thankfully, help has arrived.

The Environmental Working Group is a non-profit organization that’s goal is to protect human health and the environment. Just recently, EWG launched a new campaign to solve a problem that so many families face— finding “Good Food on a Tight Budget.”

The organization has created a free 32-page comprehensive guide filled with tips and tools to help every family find healthy food within their price range. And the best part is—you can print it right from your computer!

Here are some of the highlights:

  • Categorized lists of grocery items containing the most nutrition for the least cost—everything from vegetables to spices.
  • 15 recipes from crunchy peanut slaw to turkey chili with veggies—including tips on how to get your family involved in the preparation and how to best keep leftovers.
  • Sample Shopping List to properly break down your weekly budget.
  • Meal planner to schedule what you prepare each week for all three meals so you can save money when you shop.
  • Price Tracker to record food prices when you visit different stores, so you’ll know when you find the best deal.

If you want to improve your family’s eating habits, EWG will guide you toward a more nutritious lifestyle, and before you know it their tips will become second nature.

For even more healthy recipes, click here!

Caitlin St John is an Editorial Assistant for Parents.com who splits her time between New York City and her hometown on Long Island. She’s a self-proclaimed foodie who loves dancing and anything to do with her baby nephew. Follow her on Twitter: @CAITYstjohn

Nutrition Labels: 3 Things To Avoid
Nutrition Labels: 3 Things To Avoid
Nutrition Labels: 3 Things To Avoid

Image: Mother and daughter grocery shopping via Shutterstock

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Tags: | Categories: Diet, Health, Meals, Nutrition, The Scoop on Food

Attention Girls! Here’s Another Reason to Avoid Sugary Drinks

Friday, February 6th, 2015

FColaor years, experts have suggested that we avoid sugary drinks to combat the growing obesity problem in our country, especially among children— but new research provides another reason why young girls may want to avoid sugar-filled refreshments.

Researchers found that frequent consumption of sugary drinks may cause girls to start their menstrual periods earlier—and early menarche has been linked to an increased risk of breast cancer.

The study, which was published in Human Reproduction, followed 5,583 girls between the ages of 9 and 14 for a total of five years. Each participant filled out questionnaires at various points of the study to determine how frequently they drank different types of sugary drinks: including regular and diet soda, non-carbonated fruit drinks (like lemonade or fruit punch), and sweetened iced tea. The study found that girls who consumed more than 1.5 servings of these drinks in a day had their first period 2.7 months earlier than those who drank two or fewer per week, according to Science Daily.

The risk of breast cancer is increased by five percent when menarche occurs one year earlier, according to the study’s authors. Therefore, a 2.7 month decrease in age will not have an overwhelming impact—but it is an impact nonetheless. “The average age of the first period among girls consuming the most sugary drinks was 12.8 years, compared to 13 years for those drinking the least,” reports Science Daily.

The science behind all of this is that sugar’s high glycemic index causes a rapid increase in insulin concentrations in the body, that increase can then cause higher concentrations of sex hormones, which has been linked to periods starting earlier.

But no need to worry! Removing soda entirely from your child’s diet is not the only solution. It’s important to find a balance that works for everyone—and that just might prevent binging when mom and dad aren’t watching.

Caitlin St John is an Editorial Assistant for Parents.com who splits her time between New York City and her hometown on Long Island. She’s a self-proclaimed foodie who loves dancing and anything to do with her baby nephew. Follow her on Twitter: @CAITYstjohn

How to Eat Healthy: Raising Nutrition-Smart Kids
How to Eat Healthy: Raising Nutrition-Smart Kids
How to Eat Healthy: Raising Nutrition-Smart Kids

Image: Pouring Soda via Shutterstock

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Tags: | Categories: Diet, Health, Nutrition, The Scoop on Food

Should Kids Pass on Pizza?

Sunday, January 25th, 2015

According to a recent article in the Atlantic, the U.S. pizza industry serves about 100 acres of pizza daily. That’s enough pizza to fill about 77 football fields.

Of course the popularity of pizza among grownups and kids alike is no surprise. Not only does the concoction of dough, sauce, and cheese taste great, but it’s such an easily accessible food—something we can easily grab and go with (no utensils required). And as any parent or child knows, pizza is probably the most popular staple at kids’ birthday parties and other celebrations at school or otherwise.

Despite its popularity, some researchers believe that pizza is something that should be limited in kids’ diets. According to a new study in Pediatrics, national survey data revealed that although total calorie intake from pizza has declined 25 percent from 2003-2004 to 2009-2010, on days kids ate pizza they also consumed more calories, saturated fat, and sodium that they did than on days they didn’t down the doughy delight. The study also found that on pizza-eating days, children 2- to 11-years old consumed an extra 84 calories, 3 grams of saturated fat, and 134 milligrams of sodium than they did on non-pizza-eating days.

Researchers also found that having pizza as a snack or consuming pizza purchased at fast-food restaurants had the greatest impact on total calorie intake.

Because of the possible adverse dietary effects of pizza intake, the researchers recommend curbing pizza intake and improving the nutrition content of the beloved dietary staple.

I love pizza as much as the next parent and give it to my kids, usually once or twice weekly. In my opinion, the key to consuming pizza is to keep an eye on portion size. Less is more, and pairing a fast-food pizza slice with a colorful salad (with a tablespoon or two of an oil-based dressing), steamed or lightly sautéed vegetables (on the side or on top), or a reduced- or low-sodium soup are great ways to limit any possible perils associated with pizza intake and to help kids increase their intake of fruits and vegetables.

Blotting pizza is also a good way to make it less oily—it may even save some calories without taking away from the nutritional value of the meal. And instead of eating pizza by folding it in half, slicing it into two halves or cutting it into small bites and eating it with a fork also can help kids eat more slowly and mindfully and pace themselves better at their meal.

Limiting intake of pizza you order or take out from anywhere—a restaurant, a movie theater, a ballpark—and making it a once- or twice-a-week or once-in-a-while treat probably not a bad idea to help kids eat less and better. Making it more often at home can also help you have more control over portion sizes. Using more nutritious ingredients e.g. whole grain dough, low- or no-sodium sauces, and lower fat cheeses and having your kids help make the pizza can also help your kids not only eat better but have fun with you in the kitchen.

Perfect pizza toppers

According to culinary nutritionist Rachel Begun, MS, RDN, “Roasting vegetables brings out their sweetness, which kids particularly like.” Some of her favorite “sweet” toppings include roasted garlic and peppers, roasted squash or sweet potatoes (with sautéed spinach). She also recommends tasty herbal combinations to top pizza including pesto sauce with roasted tomatoes, or a bruschetta sauce made with tomatoes, onions and herbs, like cilantro or basil. And for kids who want the meaty, salty, crunch of bacon bits atop their pizza, Begun recommends this alternative which tastes remarkably similar: Thinly slice cremini or shiitake mushrooms, coat with olive oil, soy sauce and sweet smoked paprika, and bake at 375 degrees Fahrenheit until the mushrooms are browned and have shrunk. Let them cool for a few minutes until they are nice and crispy. Add them to your pizza in the last few minutes of cooking.

“I love to top pizza Roman style—with eggs,” says culinary dietitian and cookbook author Jackie Newgent. For simplicity, she suggests frying them separately in a little grapeseed oil and then adding on top of cooked pizza. She also likes to top prepared pizza with Haas avocado cubes, a squirt of lemon juice, and an optional sprinkling of organic bacon bits. And when it comes to white pizza—the kind made without red sauce—Newgent suggests black sesame seeds as a topper. “They act as “confetti” on pizza and give it extra crunch,” she says. An added bonus: kids can have fun shaking the seeds on. According to Newgent, a little bit of orange zest (grated orange peel) also works great as a flavor accent on white pizza. “Think of it like you might sprinkle on parmesan cheese, but it’s fresher and fruiter,” she adds.

Cookbook author and culinary instructor Robyn Webb also recommends the following combinations to give a spin to pizza: caramelized onions (in the smallest amount of olive oil) with walnuts (see photo); arugula with chopped tomatoes and parmesan shards; or roasted red, yellow and orange peppers with fresh thyme.

How often do you eat pizza with your kids, and what are your favorite toppers? 

Image of caramelized onion and walnut pizza via Robyn Webb.

 

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Is BPA Less Dangerous Than We Thought?

Tuesday, January 20th, 2015

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently reaffirmed its position on Bisphenol A (BPA), stating that the chemical—a structural component in polycarbonate beverage bottles (e.g. reusable water bottles) and a component in the coatings of metal cans—is safe at current levels that occur in foods. The FDA asserts that, based on its ongoing safety review of scientific evidence which included a four-year review (completed in the Fall of 2014) of more than 300 scientific studies, the available information continues to support BPA’s safety for currently approved uses in food containers and packaging.

In response to two petitions, the FDA recently amended its food additive regulations to no longer provide for the use of certain BPA-based materials in baby bottles, sippy cups, and infant formula packaging because these uses have been abandoned. According to the FDA, amending such regulations is not based on safety, but is based on the fact that the regulatory authorization is no longer necessary for the specific use of the food additive because that use has been permanently and completely abandoned.

Not everyone agrees that BPA is safe. According to the Environmental Working Group (EWG), BPA is a synthetic estrogen that can disrupt the endocrine system, even in small amounts. The EPA asserts that BPA has been linked to a lot of ills including infertility, breast and reproductive system cancer, obesity, diabetes, early puberty, behavioral changes in children and resistance to chemotherapy treatments. In a recent article, the EWG criticized the FDA for its reliance on traditional methods of studying the toxicity of chemicals like BPA. It also asserted that the study upon which the FDA based its recent safety determination “suffered from methodological problems and unintentionally exposed its control animals to low doses of BPA, making it impossible to draw any conclusions about the safety of everyday BPA exposures for Americans.” (To read more about the EWG’s position on this, click here.)

As mentioned in a previous Scoop on Food post, recent studies suggest that BPA exposure in childhood can contribute to health risks including obesity in girls and accelerated growth in some young children. Being exposed to BPA prenatally also has been linked with diminished lung function and wheezing in young children as well as with increased behavior problems in school age boys. Another study posited that prenatal exposure to BPA and high-molecular-weight phthalates—chemicals used in hundreds of products including plastics—might also increase the risk of asthma symptoms and respiratory tract infections throughout childhood.

Although the FDA vows to continue to learn about BPA and to consult with federal agencies including the EWG, the National Institutes of Health (and the National Toxicology Program) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as well as international regulatory and public health counterparts, as a parent you may very well have concerns about BPA, especially when it comes to your children  We have a lot left to learn about BPA and its potential effects and it’s prudent to at least be aware of its presence in food packaging and to limit the exposure our families—especially growing children—have to it.

To reduce exposure to BPA, the EPA recommends the following:

  • Buy baby formula in plastic, glass or other non-metal containers. When possible, choose powdered formula because the packaging contains less BPA and because the powder is diluted with fresh water. If your baby needs liquid formula, look for brands sold in plastic or glass containers.
  • Limit intake of canned foods, especially if you are pregnant. If you do buy it, look for cans labeled as BPA-free or buy food packed in glass jars or waxed cardboard cartons. A few small companies sell cans lined with non-BPA alternatives (although findings from a recent animal study suggest that BPA-free products are not necessarily safer).
  • Repurpose old hard plastic containers including baby bottles, cups, dishes and food containers marked with the letters “PC,” for polycarbonate, or recycling label #7. (Not all #7 products are polycarbonate, but they may be.)
  • Do not microwave food in plastic containers.
  • Because store receipts can contain BPA, say no to them if possible. If you do keep receipts, put them in an envelope and don’t allow kids to hold or play with them. Wash hands before preparing or eating food after handling receipts. And don’t recycle receipts and other thermal paper to avoid contamination of recycled paper with BPA residues.

The FDA also recommends not putting very hot or boiling liquid that you intend to consume in plastic containers made with BPA since levels of the chemical rise in food when containers/products made with the chemical are heated and come in contact with the food. The agency also suggests discarding all bottles with scratches, as these may harbor bacteria and, if BPA-containing, lead to greater release of BPA.

Do you avoid BPA?

Image of BPA sign via shutterstock.

 

 

 

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