Archive for the ‘
Health ’ Category
Saturday, December 7th, 2013
This is a guest post from Sharon Palmer, The Plant-Powered Dietitian™
More and more families are now beginning to turn to plants, rather than the typical beef, poultry, fish, or pork options when choosing “what’s for dinner.” This is certainly a step in the right direction for the health of our children. In a nation-wide poll conducted among 2,030 adults in U.S., it was found that 47 percent of the population eats vegetarian meals a significant amount of the time.
But, one area where even vegetarians can fall short is getting enough veggies every day. As a plant-lover and plant-based advocate, it makes me sad to say that children and their parents are crowding out health-promoting, energy boosting vegetables to make room for overly-processed snack foods and soy-based meat substitutes on our dinner plates. Only 26 percent of adults eat a full serving of vegetables three or more times a day. That’s a pretty alarming statistic for a food group so well touted for such powerful disease fighting properties – especially considering that children lead by the example of their parents. And the studies prove it. According to a 2009 study by researchers at Ohio State University, only 22 percent of children between the ages of 2 to 5 years meet government recommendations for veggie intake.
In fact, the United States Department of Agriculture advises that half–yes, half–of your child’s plate be filled with fruits and/or vegetables at each meal. This certainly leaves less room for the overly processed microwavable meals that tend to crowd their dinner plates. Keep in mind that the “whole” point of a plant-based diet is to reap the nutrition rewards of whole foods. So, load your child’s plate with veggies, fruit, whole grains, nuts, seeds, legumes and simply pass on the faux, overly processed chicken nugget.
Here are 5 plant-friendly and kid-friendly ways to prove that eating vegetables is not only easier than you may think, it’s also delicious, and even fun!
1. Breakfast is an easy one. Pass on the sugary breakfast cereals, frosted breakfast pastries, and overly sweetened “fruit” punch. Instead, mix onions, mushrooms, and bell peppers into a morning veggie omelet or breakfast pita, prepare a homemade black bean burrito with salsa and avocado, or toss in a few handfuls of spinach into your little one’s morning fruit smoothie. The options to go “veggie” for the first meal of the day are endless.
2. Stock your fridge. Store pre-cut veggies in your fridge. Many vegetables are nature’s perfect finger foods –and when paired with hummus (see my recipe here), guacamole, or even a peanut butter yogurt dip, they make for a naturally delicious, filling and convenient snack.
3. Experiment. Make it a habit with your kids to experiment with one new vegetable each week. It could be as simple as baking sweet potato fries, roasting Brussels sprouts, or as bold as stuffing a winter squash with whole grains, herbs and chopped nuts.
4. Change the plate. Rather than centering your child’s meal on the protein component, focus on the veggie first. Load up their plate each night with two different kinds of vegetables. If you prepare more vegetables, everyone at the table will be more likely to eat them.
5. Transform your family favorites. Do your kids love pizza? Load up on the veggie toppings, such as arugula, tons of marinara sauce, or even broccoli. Is spaghetti night a hit in your household? Add spinach or mushrooms to your homemade tomato sauce. And move over plain ol’ macaroni and cheese. Add peas, cauliflower, or even kale to your favorite recipe.
How do you encourage your kids to eat their vegetables?
Check out our food guide full of nutritious recipes and fun tips! Then see the 20 fail-proof snacks that kids love.
Image of mother teaching daughter to cut cucumber via shutterstock.
Add a Comment
Sesame Street Lessons: Advice for Picky Eaters
Tuesday, December 3rd, 2013
In recent years, there’s been an upward trend in the incidence of type 2 diabetes among children and adolescents. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), type 2 diabetes begins when the body becomes insulin resistant and can no longer use insulin properly. As insulin needs rise, the pancreas gradually loses its ability to produce enough insulin to regulate blood sugar.
Although type 2 diabetes is caused by a variety of factors, having a family history of type 2 diabetes, being obese, and being inactive put children and adolescents at increased risk for what used to be thought of as an adult disease. Although diabetes can strike anyone, those who belong to non-white groups—especially American Indians—are at greatest risk.
Because type 2 diabetes may present with few, if any, symptoms, it may go undiagnosed in children. But if your child experiences increased hunger, thirst, or urination, weight loss, fatigue or other unusual symptoms, it’s worth a visit to the pediatrician to discuss these and get to their root.
To help your child ward off diabetes—and eat and live better—here are 5 tips from two pros—Toby Smithson, RDN, CDE, founder of DiabetesEveryDay.com and coauthor of the new book, Diabetes Meal Planning and Nutrition for Dummies® and Hillary Wright, MEd, RD, author of the new book, The Prediabetes Diet Plan.
1. Eat at home. According to Smithson, “Fast food equals more calories and fat, less fiber and nutrition. Eating at home offers opportunities to teach kids about cooking and also offers great communication opportunities.” Wright adds, “Sharing healthy meals as a family is critical to balancing out the non-stop messaging kids are exposed to outside the home encouraging them to buy junk food and eat on-the-fly. Kids learn by example, so demonstrating what healthy eating looks like while they’re living under your roof is a critical self-care skill they’ll need for life.”
2. Snack smarter. When it’s after-school snack time, Wright urges parents to offer their kids a variety of colorful fruits and vegetables, yogurt, or cheese sticks instead refined crackers or nutrient-poor packaged snack foods. She says, “Hungry kids may be more willing to try something new, so take the after-school time to introduce new foods to your kids since they may be more receptive to them then.”
3. Plan it, buy it. Encouraging your child to plan a meal (like dinner), write a grocery list for the items needed and then selecting those items when at the grocery store can be very empowering for children, says Smithson. She adds, “Giving them a say in what’s served, and in what new foods they (or the family) should try may make it more likely that they’ll take a taste when dinner time comes around.”
4. Help them read between the lines. Smithson says it’s key to teach kids, even from a young age, to be food media literate. “It’s important for parents and children to understand food advertising and to take a stand against it by not always giving in to it, Smithson says. Because children are exposed to thousands of hours of targeted advertising for fast food, snacks, and sugar-sweetened cereal, Smithson urges parents to help their kids read between the lines of food marketing strategies. (You can learn more about food marketing and children by checking out Food Marketing to Youth and other info from Yale Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity.)
5. Play Actively. Wright says it’s key to keep your kids moving throughout the day as much as possible (and to join in on the fun when you can). She says, “Physical activity naturally stimulates chemicals that help clear glucose out of the blood and prevent diabetes.” Smithson agrees, and encourages kids not only to increase play time, but to make sure it’s active play. She says, “By increasing play time, kids are more apt to be physically active which will help balance their energy needs.” For most kids, 60 minutes or more of physical activity is recommended daily. (For more ideas to help your kids—and entire family—stay fit, check out Making Physical Activity a Part of Your Child’s Life by the CDC and Tips for Getting Active by the National Heart Lung, & Blood Institute (NHLBI)).
NEXT: Find out if your child’s growth is on track.
Image of woman at the supermarket with her son buying groceries via shutterstock.
Add a Comment
Sesame Street Lessons: Healthy Eating
Thursday, November 7th, 2013
Artificial trans fats—fats that are created during hydrogenation (a process in which hydrogen is added to vegetable oil to make it more solid)—are once again making headlines. That’s because the Food and Drug Administration announced today that it no longer considers partially hydrogenated oils (PHOs)—the major dietary source of trans fat in processed food—to be safe. They came to this conclusion citing a link between trans fat intake and an increased risk of coronary heart disease.
Previous public health concerns about trans fats led the FDA to propose in 1999 that manufacturers be required to list trans fats on Nutrition Facts labels. Seven years later, that requirement became effective, though many food companies had stepped up to remove trans fats prior to then—a move that many consumers (including my dad who once even made his own t-shirt that said NO TRANS FATS on it to taunt his dietitian daughter) appreciated. In their announcement, the FDA also cites the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimation that taking steps to reduce trans fat in the food supply even more can prevent an additional 7,000 deaths from heart disease each year and up to 20,000 heart attacks each year.
According to the FDA announcement, if their preliminary determination that PHOs are no longer “generally recognized as safe” is finalized, PHOs will become food additives and would require premarket approval by the FDA. Foods containing unapproved food additives would then be considered adulterated and could not be legally sold.
Hailed by the nonprofit Center for Science in the Public Interest as “a major step in protecting consumers from artificial trans fat, a potent cause of heart disease,” the FDA announcement is likely to send food manufacturers who haven’t already done so to remove trans fats from their product lines.
Although fat has important functions in the body—it helps insulate and cushion your vital organs, and carries around important vitamins (including vitamins A, D, E and K) so that they can be better absorbed and used by the body—too much can contribute to excess calorie intake and promote heart and other diseases. While eventual removal of unhealthy trans fats from the marketplace can be a step in the right direction, here are 5 tips to help you and your kids be more fit when it comes to your fat intake right now:
1. Follow the rules. According to current dietary guidelines for Americans, children and adults aged 2 and older should aim for no more than 20 to 35% of their total calories from fat. For a child who consumes 1,400 calories daily, that’s about 31 to 54 grams. For an adult who consumes 2,000 calories daily, that’s about 44 to 78 grams.
2. Emphasize healthful fats. Use olive oil, canola oil, and other vegetable oils that are rich in monounsaturated fat to make popcorn* or to otherwise cook with; add avocado to salads or sandwiches or use it to make a dip for vegetables or whole grain crackers; and have nuts* and seeds* as part of a snack (with dried fruit and whole grain cereal, for example) or add them to oatmeal or low fat yogurt.
3. Skim the fat. Too much saturated and trans fats can increase heart disease risk—especially if that means you’re consuming more total calories than you need for growth (in the case of children) or weight management (in the case of adults). To limit total fat, saturated fat, and cholesterol, choose low- or non-fat dairy foods, lean meats, skinless white meat poultry, and fish prepared in healthful ways (rather than battered and/or fried). Limit or avoid fried potatoes and other fried foods (choose roasting or baking instead). Limit portions and the frequency with which you eat high fat foods (fatty meats, margarine, fatty snack foods like chips and popcorn, and baked goods like cookies and cakes). Eating out less often and choosing appetizer-size portions or meals from so-called healthier menus can also save you some fat and calories.
4. Become label savvy. Learn to read Nutrition Facts Panels and ingredients lists on food labels. A food that’s low in fat has 3 grams or less per serving; a food that’s low in saturated fat has 1 gram or less per serving; and a food that’s really free of trans fat free has 0 grams listed on the Nutrition Facts Panel AND does not list any “partially hydrogenated oil” on the ingredients list.
5. Buyer beware. Just because a food does not have trans fats does not mean it’s low in fat or that it’s healthy. That’s why it’s important to read between the lines, especially when purchasing packaged and processed foods. If it’s hard for you and your kids to identify which food group an item comes in (as an example, think of your favorite donuts or cookies), it’s likely this food should be thought of as an occasional or once-in-a-while treat rather than a dietary staple.
*These foods are choking hazards for children under age 5.
Check out the 20 Best Snacks for Kids (and parents), then download our Homemade Baby Food Guide to make meals for her at home.
Image of chocolate chip cookies via shutterstock.
Add a Comment
Tuesday, November 5th, 2013
Despite the widespread availability and excessive marketing of highly palatable, nutrient-poor food in America, there are some signs that the times are, indeed, changing. And that help from consumer-driven petitions, parents (including the First Mom) and even puppets are leading the charge towards healthier options and better eating habits for our children.
Recently, the Associated Press reported that Kraft announced its plan to unveil in early 2014 several macaroni and cheese varieties made without controversial artificial dyes. Instead of having Yellow 5 and 6 as ingredients, the revamped Kraft products (minus the popular elbow-shaped “original” macaroni and cheese) will instead get their characteristic orange-yellow color from paprika and other spices. And to boost the nutrition of their macaroni and cheese products, Kraft will also add some whole grains and slash some sodium and fat in each serving. Although not conceded by the company, it’s likely this change is in part the result of a petition created by Vani Hari (also known as The Food Babe). In her petition, Hari asked the company to remove artificial food dyes from their macaroni and cheese products. Posted on Change.org, the petition garnered hundreds of thousands of signatures and most likely nudged the company to make the change.
In another recent move, the White House announced a two-year partnership between the Sesame Workshop (led by Elmo and Rosita), the Produce Marketing Association (PMA) and Partnership for a Healthier America (PHA) (for which First Lady Michelle Obama is the honorary chair). The campaign which has been written about in another Parents blog, Sesame Street Brings Fun to the Produce Aisle, is designed to promote fresh food choices and make more nutritious selections a little easier for busy parents and families to make.
I know that while these food developments aren’t solely going to magically improve the health and wellbeing of children, they’re a step in the right direction. Even Michael Moss, the Pulitzer Prize-winning New York Times journalist and author of the highly acclaimed book, Salt Sugar Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us, is encouraged. When asked about the removal of food dyes from some Kraft products, Moss said, “There’s no question that the food giants will respond to public pressure, especially if that pressure causes even the slightest drop in sales.” And while Moss does not view food companies as evil empires setting out to make us sick but as “companies doing what companies do to make money by selling products that meet people’s needs,” he says it’s important for people to act on their food-related concerns to facilitate healthful change in the food supply and eating habits.
And when it comes to pushing produce, Moss, a father of two sons aged 9 and 14, is excited by the prospect of Elmo being a driver and habit changer. In his recent New York Times article, Broccoli’s Extreme Makeover, he argues that promoting fruits and vegetables based on their health virtues alone hasn’t—and most likely won’t ever—encourage people (including children) to eat them. The article also suggests that changing the way we market produce may be what’s needed to move the needle. In his article, he sums this up beautifully with a quote by Jeffrey Dunn, a former president of Coca-Cola who now works for Boathouse Farms, a baby-carrot producer:
“We must change the game. We can help solve the obesity crisis by stealing junk food’s playbook, by creating passion for produce, by becoming demand creators, not just growers and processors.”
What do you think it will take to move the needle to help out kids eat better and enjoy a more healthful lifestyle?
Image of child with group fruit and vegetable via shutterstock.
Add a Comment
Wednesday, October 30th, 2013
Described by Columbia University researchers as a “global problem that’s on the rise in many parts of the world,” eating disorders are not a uniquely “Western” problem that affect only Caucasian, adolescent or young adult women from high-income Western countries, according to a new study published in Current Psychiatry Reports.
Although not nearly as prevalent as obesity and overweight, eating disorders such as anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, and binge-eating disorder are on the rise among children and adolescents. A review in Pediatrics suggests that eating disorders affect more kids at progressively younger ages. A new study in Current Psychiatry Reports also notes an increase in prevalence of eating disorders among 15–19 year old girls.
Even more disturbing, a recent analysis found that between 1999-2000 and 2008-2009, there was a 72% increase in hospitalizations from eating disorders among children under the age of 12. Although the increase wasn’t as substantial, hospitalizations for 12- to 19-year-olds for eating disorders rose by 6% during the same time period. Although these numbers certainly raise a red flag, eating disorders expert Jessica Setnick, MS, RD, CEDRD says it’s unclear whether the upward trend is due to better recognition and assessment of or an actual increase in cases of eating disorders.
Described by the National Institutes of Mental Health as illnesses that cause serious disturbances to the everyday diet—for example, eating extremely small amounts of food or severely overeating—eating disorders are caused by a variety of genetic and environmental factors. And they can take a severe toll on both physical and mental health, and also affect the family dynamic and relationships. At worst, eating disorders can increase death risk in those afflicted.
According to Setnick, author of The Eating Disorders Clinical Pocket Guide, 2nd Edition, while there is no known method proven to prevent eating disorders, parents can take the following 7 steps* to reduce some of the factors that can predispose kids to develop an eating disorders:
1. Don’t make disparaging comments on weight, body shapes, or food. Teach children that bullying is unacceptable and if bullied to report it to an adult.
2. Don’t keep a scale at home and only have children weighed at medical check-ups.
3. Guide children to follow their own body’s signals for when, what, and how much to eat. Teach them to say “No, thanks” to food that is offered when they’re not hungry. Do not coerce or bribe children to eat. If you are genuinely worried that a child is not eating enough, consult a doctor or a registered dietitian.
4. When a child or teen announces a decision to change their eating, investigate further. Listen for any ulterior motive that is not food-related, such as “So I’ll have more friends,” or “So I’ll do better in school.”
5. When children are feeling down or disappointed, never suggest dieting or weight loss as a solution to problems. Instead, encourage healthy methods of expression, such as talking, writing or art.
6. Alert your child’s pediatrician if you have had an eating disorder so that he or she will be alert for any signs exhibited by your child.
7. Seek professional help for any child or teen struggling with weight or eating, and for yourself if you know you need to make changes in order to be a healthy role model.
For more information on the prevention or treatment of eating disorders, visit the National Eating Disorder Association, Something Fishy, and the Eating Disorders and Education Network.
*Adapted with permission from The Eating Disorders Clinical Pocket Guide, 2nd Edition.
Use our Food & Recipe Guides to find easy and healthy recipes for the whole family.
Image of mother and children preparing a meal together via shutterstock.
Add a Comment