Archive for the ‘ Diet ’ Category

This State May Ban Sugary Drinks from ALL Kids’ Meals

Friday, March 13th, 2015

Boy drinking sodaMaryland legislators have proposed a bill that, if passed, will determine which beverages dine-in and fast-food restaurants can offer with their kids’ meals. “The law, proposed last week in an economics committee meeting by Delegate Cheryl Glenn (D-Baltimore City), would limit drink options in children’s meals to bottled water, low-fat milk, or 100 percent fruit juice,” reports Yahoo Parenting. If a restaurant fails to comply, they could face up to $1,000 in fines and 90 days in jail—although who would actually go to jail is unclear.

In the past, dining out tended to be a special treat, so when parents let their children indulge in a sugary drink on these occasions it wasn’t detrimental. But now, families are choosing to eat out far more frequently, which makes the consumption of these less-than-healthy drinks even more likely. According to Sugar Free Kids Maryland, just one 8-ounce sugary drink per day increases a child’s risk of obesity by 60 percent.

Those who oppose the bill believe it crosses a line and is an attempt at parenting someone else’s children. “What if my child is underweight? What if he needs high calories? Who is the state of Maryland to tell me I can’t give him whole milk — or a milkshake — at dinner?,” said David DeLugas, executive director and general counsel for the National Association of Parents.

To be clear, though, parents would still be able to buy their children a soda or a milkshake; they just won’t be listed as options on kids’ menus.

And Maryland might not be completely wrong in trying to dictate children’s consumption of these drinks. A recently released survey concludes that many parents don’t realize how unheathly sugary drinks actually are. More than a quarter of parents who participated in the study published in Public Health Nutrition, considered fruit drinks (like Capri Sun and Sunny D) and sports drinks a healthy option.

Maryland’s proposed bill is not the first time soft drinks have made headlines this week. Burger King announced its decision to remove soda from their kids’ menu displays on Tuesday—lagging slightly behind Wendys’ and McDonalds’ earlier announcements.

Banning sugary drinks—or taxing them like one California city is—may not be the end-all, be-all solution to childhood obesity, but it is definitely a step in the right (more healthy!) direction. Avoiding these beverages, increasing activity, and educating children on their eating habits will together make for more healthy kids.

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

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

Trying to Get Your Child to Eat Vegetables? Here’s Why You Shouldn’t

Friday, March 6th, 2015

Child Picking at VegetablesIf you Google “how to get a child to eat vegetables,” your browser will come back with about 36 million search results, from expert articles on eating behavior to elaborate recipes requiring numerous cookie cutters and some serious art talent.

Obviously, there are many of us looking for ways to improve our children’s eating habits by finally getting them to eat their peas. But this approach may be wrong.

Eating healthy foods cannot be a goal of food parenting. Rather, it is a possible consequence of using the right feeding strategy with your child.

Please don’t get me wrong. Vegetables are wonderfully nutritious, and I personally happen to think (my kids do not always agree) that they taste pretty good. But, after years of working with families as a pediatric dietitian and parenting my own kids, I know that when eating vegetables is viewed as a determinant of healthy eating habits, or, worse, parental worth, things can get very emotional and complicated.

A big focus on vegetables is a danger zone where children keep asking, “How many bites of broccoli before I can have dessert?,” and parents are tortured by shame and guilt when they see other people’s offspring piling up spinach on their plates.

But here is a thought. Instead of putting all our efforts into micromanaging every single bite why not to look at a bigger picture? By investing our time and effort into helping kids develop a healthy relationship with food, we can build a scaffolding that will enable them to eat better for many years to come even when we are not there to count bites or bribe with dessert.

Here are some of the questions we can ask ourselves to help our children feel good about eating, and eat in a more balanced way eventually.

Would it be ok if my child never touches vegetables? As a dietitian, I can assure you that normal growth and development are possible without eating ANY vegetables EVER. Before you learn to truly accept your child with all his quirky eating habits, it is hard to refrain from pressure and judgement at mealtimes and therefore, difficult to change the situation for better.

Do I want my child to feel good about enjoying lots of different foods or treat healthy options as a chore? If a variety of foods is what you are after, just keep serving meals, eating together as a family, and enjoying what is on your own plate. It is the easiest way to provide your child with neutral exposure to all the foods you want him to eventually start eating.

How can I strengthen my child’s innate ability to self-regulate? Small kids are the best at determining how much food they are hungry for. These two extra bites of broccoli you are pushing do not add lots of calories or nutrition. But they may teach your child to ignore their fullness signals. The beautiful thing about being attuned to one’s body is being able to stop when full, whether eating cauliflower or cookie.

Do I give even more power to already irresistible sweets and treats? Is getting treats contingent on how many bites of “healthier” foods your child takes at meals? In this case, it is time to turn the tables and start serving a small dessert with meals, not after. This will help neutralize the appeal of sweets and hopefully elevate the status of the food you made for dinner.

Finally, is the dinner table a place where everyone is treated with respect and positive attitude? Make sure each meal includes at least one food he is able to handle and then relax about how much and what he is eating. Instead of controlling each bite, start a non-food related conversation or ask everyone to share a story from their day.

With so much societal pressure to raise little foodies who cannot get enough of beets and prefer carrots to a carrot cake it is easy to overlook many other aspects of healthy eating, including feeling good about eating and trusting yourself around food. A more holistic, pressure-free approach to feeding is a better way to ensure a healthy diet for your child for many more years to come!

Natalia Stasenko MS, RDN is a registered dietitian and recognized pediatric nutrition expert. A mother of three, she uses evidence-based and always practical strategies to foster parents’ confidence and skills in feeding their children right. To read more of Natalia’s articles, visit her website, or follow her on Facebook, Twitter or Pinterest.

Strategies for Picky Eaters
Strategies for Picky Eaters
Strategies for Picky Eaters

Image: Picky eater via Shutterstock

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

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

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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