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Diet ’ Category
Wednesday, October 23rd, 2013
If the mere thought of having barrels of candy to dole out, sort through, and be tempted by on—and after—Halloween makes you break into a sweat, have no fear! Here you’ll find 22 expert tips and tricks to help you put all that candy in perspective (and keep your nutritious diet intact). Although some of the tips contradict one another—even nutrition pros don’t always agree—choosing several of them are sure to help you and your family eat better and still have fun before, during, and after Halloween.
1. Procrastinate. If you wait to buy candy until the day of or day before Halloween, you’ll minimize temptation to bust into it before you need it.
2. Minimize. Buy bite-size or “minis” candies instead of larger pieces; that way, if you have leftovers, the portion sizes will automatically be small.
3. Go beyond candy. In addition to buying a few favorites for the candy bowl, add to your bowl or bucket some sugar free gum, stickers, tattoos, pencils, and erasers (little kids especially love these).
4. Think outside the bar. Instead of offering ho-hum chocolate candy bars, offer KIND Healthy Grain bars* (in flavors like Peanut Butter Dark Chocolate)—they’re made with 100% whole grains and 3 grams of fiber to fill you up. KIND Nuts and Spices bars*, also made with all-natural ingredients, are a good source of protein and have 5 grams of sugar or less. They’re available in indulgently delicious flavors like Dark Chocolate Cinnamon Pecan.
5. Add some fun. Candy is not the only option to hand out to trick-or-treaters. Kids also love bouncy balls, festive stickers or glow sticks—they can even use these to walk around the neighborhood with!
6. Trade up. Instead of offering sugary, fruit-flavored snacks, opt for options like Trader Joe’s Organic Fruit Wraps. They’re 100% fruit and low in sugar (with no added sugar), and are free of artificial flavors and preservatives.
7. Forget “one for you, one for me.” Instead of grabbing something for yourself each time you pass out candy, plan ahead and make sure to eat a real meal before the trick-or-treat hours. If all else fails, chew gum to avoid temptation to ‘just have one’ when you have to reach repeatedly into that oversized candy bowl.
8. Set rules ahead of time. To reduce the risk of having a Halloween food fight, decide before you and your kids head out the door how many treats they can have that night. After they choose their treats, put the rest on a high shelf that only mom or dad can reach.
9. Stay fueled. Follow your normal eating pattern on Halloween to reduce your risk of being starved—and tempted to overindulge—when you’re faced with all that candy. Be sure to include at least half a plate of fruits and vegetables to fill up at each meal.
10. Eat before you trick or treat. Choose some protein-rich foods like cheese, turkey, chicken, nuts or hummus; a whole grain from bread, a wrap, pasta or crackers; fruits and/or vegetables from fruit salad to crudité to stay energized throughout the afternoon and evening.
11. Enjoy trick-or-treating without eating. Wait until you get home to go through the loot. Allow each child to choose one or two treats to enjoy and savor on Halloween night. Put the rest in a candy jar and enjoy one or two small treats a day thereafter.
12. Go for a pop. Lollipops take a long time to eat, so they’re a good, relatively low-calorie option for when you’re tempted while passing out or sorting candy.
13. Sort first, then eat. Instead of allowing your kids to eat candy on the go, check it over at the end of the evening to make sure it looks safe to eat (eg wrappers aren’t torn, the candy looks fresh). And if you have more than one child, let them trade what’s left so they can have more of their “favorite” things to save for another day.
14. Have a teachable moment. Having a big bag of candy in the house at the end of the day actually presents a great time to talk with your kids about treats—what a reasonable portion for candy is, and how they can fit it into an otherwise balanced diet.
15. Let them be in charge. If you allow your kids to eat as much candy as they want on Halloween night, and they overeat, they can learn an important lesson. That stomachache may teach them how important it is to pace yourself when indulging in sweet treats.
16. Use the 3-D approach: Devour: Halloween is a special day that comes only once a year, so don’t be a curmudgeon. Allow your kids to have some of their candy that night –just not all of it. A single candy feast won’t have a lasting impact on health. Divide: The day after, have each child divide the candy into the ones he/she likes and the ones he/she doesn’t care about. Give or throw away the latter. Divide the rest of the candy into small zip snack bags and store in your pantry or freezer. Distribute: Let each child have a small snack bag of candy each day along with a nutrient-rich food like milk, yogurt or fruit.
17. Pick 3. After you trick or treat, each family member can pick three treats to eat slowly and mindfully. Describing why you choose each piece and how each piece tastes can help you indulge more consciously and feel the power of your food choices.
18. Make your own 100-calorie packs. Pre-portioning leftover candy can help you feel satisfied without going overboard. Examples of homemade 100-calorie packs include 4 Hershey Kisses, 2 Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups miniatures, 2 mini Nestle Crunch bars, 4 Tootsie Roll midges, 4 rolls of Smarties, 3 Laffy Taffy candies, 2 fun size Milk Duds, 2 mini York Peppermint Patties, or 4 Jolly Rancher hard candies.
19. Buy it back. You can buy your kids’ candy, discard the non-freezable items, and freeze the chocolate candy. Then dole out a piece or two in their lunch boxes, or for dessert after dinner.
20. Stash it. After Halloween, put the leftover and collected candy in an out of sight location (like a hard to reach cabinet or in a closet); if you don’t easily see it, you won’t mindlessly eat it. After a few days, you may even forget about it altogether!
21. Pay it forward. You can send leftover candy to the troops via Operation Gratitude or call local nursing homes, food pantry’s, women’s shelters, or a Children’s hospital. Some libraries even have drop-offs for extra candy donations.
22. Become an artist. If you have older children in the house, visit Candy Experiments for safe science experiment ideas using all kinds of leftover goodies. This is a great way to make not eating candy fun!
Image of trick or treat Halloween candies in the barn with orange pumpkins via shutterstock.
Sources: Neva Cochran, MS, RDN, LD, (Tip 16); Melissa Joy Dobbins, MS, RDN, CDE, Spokesperson, Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (Tip 18); Suzanne Farrell, MS, RD (Tips 1, 3, 7, 14, 20); Angela Ginn, RDN, LDN, CDE, Spokesperson, Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (Tip 9); Carolyn Suerth Hudson, RD (Tip 19); Lyssie & Tammy Lakatos*, RDN, CDN, CFT, authors of The Nutrition Twins’ Veggie Cure (Tips 4, 6); Angela Lemond, RDN, CSP, LD, Spokesperson, Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (Tips 2, 15); Jessica Fishman Levinson, MS, RDN, CDN, co-author of We Can Cook: Introduce Your Child to the Joy of Cooking with 75 Simple Recipes and Activities (Tip 11); Danielle Omar, MS, RD, (Tips 5, 21, 22); Hemi Weingarten, CEO, Fooducate (Tip 8); Victoria Shanta Retelny, RDN, LDN, author of The Essential Guide to Healthy Healing Foods (Tips 10, 17); and Zari Ginsburg, MS, RD, CDN (Tip 13).
*Lyssie and Tammy Lakatos are compensated spokespeople for KIND.
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Saturday, October 19th, 2013
During the recent government shutdown, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) warned the public of an outbreak of foodborne illness that had been reported in 18 states (primarily California). As I wrote about the public health alert in a recent Scoop on Food post, it was clear that the government shutdown could potentially harm the health—in this case, contribute to the development of foodborne illness if the outbreak spread any further—among consumers.
Because the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is responsible for tracking the occurrence of foodborne disease and investigating outbreaks (which includes managing the DNA “fingerprinting” network for foodborne illness-causing germs in all states to detect outbreaks), the government shutdown affected the ability of the agency to protect the public.
After an article on Wired.com suggested that the shutdown left the CDC unable to conduct multi-state outbreak investigations, I tried to get in touch with the CDC. I wanted to ask about this latest outbreak and how the organization was (or wasn’t) handling it. When I finally spoke with a CDC employee after several failed phone calls, a CDC employee provided me with a CDC email address to which I could send my questions. For the time being, he said, consumers with food safety questions or concerns about should contact their local and state health departments.
Earlier today—to my surprise and delight—the CDC emailed me. Finally back in action—along with the rest of the government—the agency responded to my concerns. As you’ll see in their email to me (as below), the CDC is now working at full capacity, therefore able to better protect us, after facing several challenges during the last few weeks.
CDC’s disease detectives for foodborne illness and outbreaks are happy to be at work in full force after the furlough. For example, in our CDC Reference Laboratory for Enteric (intestinal) Diseases, our nation’s top laboratory that helps states identify foodborne germs that make people sick, all 80 staff are back on the job. During the furlough, a skeleton crew of four people was overseen by Dr. Collette Fitzgerald (seen in photo), a world-renowned microbiologist who has been at CDC for 15 years. Dr. Fitzgerald’s three children (including twin boys), did not see much of her during the 16 day furlough. Instead, with her small team, she oversaw all the incoming samples of enteric pathogens, including those from the ongoing outbreak of Salmonella from Foster Farms, that proved to be resistant to several commonly prescribed antibiotics.
“We won’t really know the full impact from the furlough for a couple of weeks, when the lab has caught up,” say’s Dr. Fitzgerald. “There was a gap in receiving and processing samples during this time. Analyzing samples can provide the first signal in determining if people and pathogens are linked during an outbreak. Last year, during this same time frame, we received almost 700 samples from states. During the furlough, we received about one-sixth of that number because we requested that states temporarily stop shipment. States held the samples, or we stored them if they were already shipped. Now that we are back, we are ramping up. But that takes time. When responding to outbreaks, timing is everything. We have no idea what we are missing right now; outbreaks could be missed.”
How will this affect you as parents and consumers? “There was definitely a gap in our detection,” says Dana Pitts, communications lead, “but the good thing is that we should have the ability to recreate most of what we missed using CDC’s full force of laboratory and disease experts. They will live up to CDCs’ reputation—working 24/7. It is important that not only in this outbreak, but every day, parents be especially careful preparing food for those at greatest risk for Salmonella food poisoning, including children under 5 years old, those in poor health, and older adults. We know that foodborne illness is common and can happen to anyone. But these groups of people have a much higher risk for infection from Salmonella.”
The CDC also told me they just released a statement to update consumers about the Salmonella outbreak; as of October 18, 2013, 338 people with seven outbreak strains of Salmonella Heidelberg have been reported from 20 states and Puerto Rico.
I don’t know about you, but I’m certainly glad the furlough has ended, people can get back to work, and we can all rest a bit easier knowing that the government is doing what it can to protect the safety of our food supply to keep us healthy.
For more information about food-borne illness risk and what you can do to stay safe, check out the following resources:
Are You At Risk for Foodborne Illness?
Foodborne Illness: Especially Dangerous for the Vulnerable
Making Food Safer to Eat
Recipe for Food Safety
For help with safe home cooking, use our free Roasting Guide.
Image of Dr. Collette Fitzgerald via the CDC.
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Wednesday, October 16th, 2013
My recent Scoop on Food Post, No More Soda in Kids’ Meals, sparked considerable online conversation and debate. As a registered dietitian nutritionist and mother of two, I support any attempt by a fast food company—or any restaurant—to offer smaller portions, or more healthful fare. I am also in favor or limiting the marketing of nutrient-poor foods to children who are quite vulnerable to the impacts of advertising on their eating choices and habits. Although I intuitively thought that most parents would support the move by McDonald’s to not offer soda with Happy Meals, many said it crosses a line when it comes to freedom and personal choice. And even though the federal government had nothing to do with the McDonald’s decision, many commented that they don’t want the government dictating what they should or shouldn’t eat or feed their families.
Here’s just a sample of some reader comments when asked if they agree with the change McDonald’s is making on the Parents Magazine Facebook Page:
Heidi M. Fanning I think that this is great! My kids enjoy a happy meal as an occasional treat and they always pick the milk anyway. I like that soda will no longer be MARKETED to children, even though their parents are still free to buy them soda if they so choose.
Erica Lopez Just because it is not listed does not mean you cannot get it. Personally, I feel as though it is a good thing that McDonald’s wants to encourage parents not to serve their children soda. There are not enough children who appreciate and drink water.
Shawn-Joy Martin …I don’t agree with the change. How about a little personal responsibility? Don’t get your kid a Happy Meal 5 days a week and then if they want a soda with it, it won’t be such a big deal.
Diane Pumpido Pallini …It’s not McDonald’s or the government’s or anyone’s business to tell me what I can and can’t order for my kids. This nonsense is going too far.
Ashley Howerton I think it’s crap. My kid very rarely gets a Happy Meal, but when he does, if I as the parent choose to let him have a tiny (because let’s be honest, those cups are tiny) cup of Root Beer, that’s my choice. I’m the parent! I’m so sick of people thinking they have a right to bully businesses into limiting my options as a parent.
Amber Loyd Has this group taken into consideration that they are making it more difficult to practice moderation even when occasionally splurging diet wise…we are raising our son that nothing is off limits but everything in moderation, which is why I support the fact that happy meal fries are smaller and there are apples included now…but now you are telling me that when I do occasionally treat my son to a happy meal and he wants a soda with it I’m forced to buy him a larger size and then fight the battle of not having a “full” cup… I won’t be spending my money at McDonald’s anymore, period.
Breanna Stephens Sure, you can still add a soda for a dollar if you’re really insistent on giving your child that. It’s not taking away your choice just taking it out of a kids’ meal to encourage better choices for our children. We all know it’s not good for them or us. I’ve never allowed my kids to have soda because to me it’s an unnecessary indulgence…It’s each family’s personal decision but I think logically this makes sense.
Victoria Wieting I wish parents were smart enough to not give kids soda on their own but since they are not and I often see kids as young as preschool drinking it, then it’s about time the policy changed.
Amy Sage NO, because it is one of the few times I allow my son to have soda. It’s called “Happy” meal for a reason, it makes kids HAPPY!
Katie Haynie Guess what? Parents who want to get their kids soda will still get their kids soda, but it will be a small instead of the kid size, which means it will be bigger. This whole thing is stupid. What are they going to do next, arrest you for giving kids soda?
Lorisa Griffith It still is not going to solve a thing and all the hype has gotten out of control. If you don’t want your kid drinking soda then don’t buy them soda. Stop dictating how businesses operate because you are too scared to tell your kids no. What’s next? No cookies or cupcakes or Dairy Queen?
Heidi M. Fanning I find it odd and silly that people are complaining that it should be their choice and not McDonald’s choice whether or not their child has soda, because IT STILL IS the parent’s choice! McDonald’s will still sell you a soda to give to your children if that is what you want to do, it is just not part of the Happy Meal. Seriously, no one is taking your precious soda away.
Cathy Vo What gives McDonald’s the right to decide if my child should have a soda or not? Getting my kids a Happy Meal was always an infrequent special treat that included the soda as a special treat, since I don’t buy soda to keep in the home! A stupid/unfair decision on their part!
I have no doubt this debate will continue, especially since similar nutrition and health initiatives by fast food and other companies will likely follow as obesity, type 2 diabetes, and other diet-related diseases remain prevalent in our society. For now, I agree with Margo Wootan, the Director of Nutriton Policy for the Center for Science in the Public Interest. She says, “Taking soda off the Happy Meal section of menu boards at McDonald’s is an important step toward healthier kids meals and healthier children. It doesn’t much matter to me why they are doing it—just that it is good for kids and will make it a bit easier for parents to feed their children healthfully.”
What’s your opinion? Should companies have a say in how you should feed your children?
Image of cola in glass via shutterstock.
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Tuesday, October 15th, 2013
We all know breakfast may very well be THE most important meal of the day, especially for growing children. But lunch is also important. Having a well-balanced lunch not only provides kids with an opportunity to meet daily food group and nutrient goals, but it helps kids stay energized. It also provides an important opportunity to get key food groups and the nutrients they provide into a kid’s day (not to mention his or her stomach as well).
A lot of parents send lunch with their kids to school daily—either out of need or to provide an alternative to lunches provided there. And oftentimes, they think these lunches are healthy. Many may therefore be surprised to learn that there’s at least some evidence that lunches brought from home may have a lower nutritional quality than lunches provided at school. A study published in Childhood Obesity found that children who ate lunches brought from home were less likely than those who ate a school lunch to have fruits, vegetables, and dairy for lunch. They were also more likely to have snacks that were higher in sugar and/or fat at lunch.
Fortunately, a little planning and nutrition know-how can go a long way to help you pack a healthy lunch. So before you pack your kids lunch to bring to school, daycare, or even for travel or a weekend outing, check out these 5 tips (and quick ideas) for fun, tasty, nutritious lunch box options from registered dietitian Holley Grainger. They take 5 minutes or less to prepare and are sure to please toddlers and school aged kids—even those with temperamental palates.
1. Get Creative with Veggies.
Don’t get discouraged if the raw baby carrots you pack for lunch day-in and day-out continue to be sent home untouched. Studies have found that children are more likely to eat their vegetables when offered with a dip, so pack some guacamole or hummus alongside raw veggies and see what happens. Also, consider your preparation method. Is your child more likely to eat grilled or roasted veggies versus raw? Try preparing foods like spaghetti sauce and meatloaf with shredded or diced carrots, onions, peppers and celery mixed in and send leftovers in the lunchbox.
Quick ideas: corn kernels/corn on the cob; raw broccoli florets with hummus/roasted broccoli/steamed broccoli with cheese sauce; baked sweet potato sprinkled with cinnamon/oven-baked sweet potato fries; oven-roasted potato wedges/potato cakes; raw zucchini rounds with ranch dip/zucchini bread.
2. Keep Your Child Hydrated.
Staying hydrated throughout the day is critical to maintain concentration and energy levels. If you’re worried your child doesn’t drink enough water at school, make sure to include water-packed foods in the lunchbox. You can also start the morning by offering oatmeal or ready-to-eat cereal made with milk and topped with fruit.
Quick ideas: watermelon, strawberries, pasta, salad greens, rice, cucumbers, grapes, bell peppers
3. Think Outside the Sandwich:
Sandwiches with lean, low-sodium deli meat are an easy way to boost protein in the lunchbox. But if you need to break out of the sandwich rut, consider some of the following protein-rich foods to keep your child feeling satisfied all afternoon.
Quick ideas: edamame, hummus, hard-boiled eggs, Greek yogurt, cheese, beans, lentils, quinoa, roasted chickpeas, nuts, cottage cheese, tofu cubes, smoothies made with yogurt or silken tofu, and nut or seed butters
4. Pack the Power Trio: Fiber, Protein, and Healthy Fat
Three nutrients—fiber, protein, and healthy fat—have “staying power” to keep your child feeling energized throughout the day and boost his or her daily nutrient quotient. When packing a lunchbox, choose foods that hit these target nutrients.
Quick ideas: whole wheat tortilla spread with nut or seed butter, topped with banana slices and flax seed and rolled up; leftover grilled chicken sandwich with spinach, grilled veggies and hummus; low-sodium turkey pita with tomatoes, cheese, arugula and a smear of fresh avocado; egg salad made with canola mayo or Greek yogurt atop salad greens with whole wheat crackers
5. Make it Fun
Just because you’re packing a nutritious lunch doesn’t mean you can’t offer healthier alternatives to the sweet or salty treats your child craves. Consider making some of the traditional favorites yourself so you can oversee the ingredient list and remember to keep portions in check. You can also pack stickers, notes, and small toys to keep lunch interesting and fun.
Quick ideas: trail mix with whole grain cereal, nuts and chocolate chips; baked potato chips; dark chocolate square; whole grain pretzels; mini whole grain muffin; yogurt-covered raisins
Use our Food & Recipe Guides to pack a healthy lunch
Image of turkey rolls in hummus, kiwi, cheese, and milk via Holley Grainger.
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Friday, October 11th, 2013
The Washington, D.C.-based consumer advocacy organization, Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), is smiling wide today. That’s because McDonald’s has decided to phase out listing soda on the Happy Meal section on menu boards.
As described in my recent Scoop on Food post, Will Fast Food Ever Be Health Food?, McDonald’s pledged to—among other things—offer a choice of water, milk, or juice instead of soda as the beverage of choice in kids’ Happy Meals. This pledge was the outgrowth of a partnership the fast food giant recently created with the Alliance for a Healthier Generation designed to help families make informed choices in the context of balanced lifestyles. Despite the promise, CSPI detectives noticed in the fine print of the agreement that soda could still be listed as an option on Happy Meal menu boards.
Known to not let such transgressions go unnoticed, a press release by CSPI’s Nutrition Policy Director Margo G. Wootan accused both McDonald’s and the Alliance of misleading the public and the media. In the press release, the CSPI also vowed to monitor the fast food chain’s practices. They’d even consider suing McDonald’s if it found soft drinks were mentioned in the Happy Meal section of menu boards or if employees offered soft drinks as an option with kids’ meals.
Fortunately, the CSPI won’t be calling a lawyer to sue McDonald’s anytime soon. In a new statement , CSPI explains that after discussing concerns with McDonald’s, its CEO agreed that listing soda on the Happy Meal section of menu boards wasn’t consistent with McDonald’s commitment.
We all know Americans guzzle down lots of soda and other sugary beverages. A new study published in American Journal of Preventive Health suggests that we may even consume more calories from added sugars in beverages than previously thought. The study estimated that Americans aged 2 and older consumed 171 calories (about 8% of total daily calories) per day from added sugars in sugar-sweetened beverages; soda, fruit drinks, tea, coffee, coffee, energy/sports drinks, and flavored milks were the top sources. Extra calories from soda can be a problem not only because they provide few nutrients, but because they leave less room in the diet for nutrient-rich foods and beverages that are needed in adequate supply to help kids grow.
To add insult to injury, a recent analysis of 32 studies—including 20 in children—published in American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that intake of sugar-sweetened beverages (including soda) promotes weight gain in both children and adults.
Although soda will still be widely available, not having it promoted directly to kids and having other options at fast food restaurants will likely move us in a better direction when it comes to feeding kids. It may even help kids consume fewer calories and more nutrients depending on what beverage they choose in place of soda when they have fast food. If this initiative leads other fast food companies to follow suit—as encouraged by CSPI—this baby step may become a broad step to help kids improve their diet and reap the subsequent benefits.
Image of no soda zone via shutterstock.
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