Archive for the ‘ The Scoop on Food ’ Category

Do Kids Need To Drink Milk?

Tuesday, March 31st, 2015

I can’t seem to get through my Facebook newsfeed these days without seeing a reference to milk—either somebody denouncing it as a health hazard or extolling the virtues of whole, pastured, raw milk. Granted, I follow a lot of food bloggers and opinionated types. But there seems to be a definite uptick in the chatter from people at both ends of the spectrum, leaving a lot of people in the middle awfully confused.

And speaking of the middle, that’s exactly where I come down on it. Here’s my two cents:

Do kids need to drink milk?

Yes and no. It provides a really nice package of a lot of nutrients kids need, including calcium and vitamin D that are important for building bone. Milk is also an easy way to get filling protein and much-needed potassium. But if your child doesn’t like it, there’s an issue of allergy or intolerance, or your family follows a vegan lifestyle, a well-planned diet can provide these nutrients too.

Do I have to buy organic?

No. Some parents choose to spend their organic dollars on milk because their kids drink a lot of it, and they feel better knowing the cows weren’t given hormones or antibiotics and didn’t eat feed treated with pesticides. But if you can’t swing it, know that research hasn’t found significant differences in hormone levels between organic and conventional. You can also look for conventional cartons labeled “rBST free”, which means the cows weren’t given any synthetic growth hormones.

Is whole healthier than skim?

No. They are both good sources of calcium, vitamin D, and potassium—all nutrients many kids don’t get enough of. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends fat-free or low-fat for kids older than two, and it’s smart to check in with your pediatrician about your child’s exact needs. If your kids really like whole or two-percent and weight is a concern, I’d first look for other places in the family’s diet (like desserts and fast food) to trim and be sure you’re offering water throughout the day as well. If your kids (over age two) prefer skim or one-percent, that’s fine too. I know there’s a growing trend to return to full-fat foods, but I don’t see evidence that the saturated fat in dairy and meat has health benefits like the unsaturated fat in avocados and nuts does.

Is chocolate milk okay if my child won’t drink white?

Yes—with a few caveats. There are about three teaspoons of added sugar in a serving (ideally, children should get no more than 5-8 teaspoons per day). Personally, I think of chocolate milk as a sweet treat, albeit a nutritious one. So if my kids get it at school, I don’t pack any sweets in their lunchbox. I also don’t stock it at home since they may have it at school or occasionally at restaurants. If your child doesn’t like white milk there are other ways to get calcium too, like yogurt and cheese, and it’s found in smaller amounts in foods like almonds, kale, and edamame.

Is it possible for kids to drink too much?

Yes, especially for toddlers and preschoolers who drink milk all day long (more than three cups). They run the risk of becoming low in iron because their little bellies are too full at mealtime for actual food, and milk is naturally low in iron. According to the USDA, children ages 2-3 need two servings per day of dairy (such as milk, yogurt, cheese, or calcium-fortified non-dairy beverage), children age 4-8 need two and a half, and kids 9 and older need three.

Are non-dairy milks okay for kids?

Yes (though never as a substitute for infant formula!). Keep in mind they’re not one-for-one swaps with regular dairy. For instance, almond and rice milk have just one gram of protein per serving, compared to eight grams in cow’s. When choosing a non-dairy milk, make sure it’s fortified with calcium and vitamin D, and remember that homemade versions won’t have those nutrients in abundance. Shake fortified beverages well before serving, because the calcium can settle on the bottom. And look for varieties labeled “unsweetened”. One brand of “original” almond milk contains almost two teaspoons of added sugar per cup!

What about raw milk?

I know it has its (very passionate) supporters, but I can’t get behind it. Flame me if you want, but I worry about bacterial contamination—especially for young children.

For more about milk, listen to this episode of my podcast The Happy Bite, with food sociologist Dina Rose.

Sally Kuzemchak, MS, RD, is a registered dietitian, educator, and mom of two who blogs at Real Mom Nutrition. You can follow her on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram. She is the author of Cooking Light Dinnertime Survival Guide, a cookbook for busy families. In her spare time, she loads and unloads the dishwasher. Then loads it again.

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

Image: Boy holding milk via Shutterstock

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When Should You Introduce Gluten to Your Baby? Well, It Depends.

Friday, March 27th, 2015

One of my baby’s favorite first foods, alongside steamed broccoli and fruit puree, was bread. The toasted sandwich variety or sourdough ciabatta, she seemed to love it all. Armed by the research findings linking a lower risk for Celiac disease to early introduction to gluten while still breastfeeding, I felt comfortable feeding my baby gluten-containing grains like wheat, rye and barley. But was it a good decision?

Since the prevalence of Celiac disease, an autoimmune disorder affecting about 1 percent of the population, has quadrupled in the last few decades, it is not surprising that parents are looking for ways to reduce their babies’s chances of developing it in the future.

Until recently, all we had was data from some observational (not experiment-based) research suggesting that there was a window of opportunity somewhere between four and seven months when babies were more likely to develop tolerance to gluten.

But in October 2014 two respectable journals published intriguing results of two experimental, randomized controlled studies. The studies were performed independently in different parts of the world and reached very similar conclusions.

One of them looked at 700 infants in Italy who were at risk for Celiac disease due to family history. The infants were randomized into two groups, one of which received gluten-containing foods at six months and the other at 12 months. The groups were followed up periodically over a period of 10 years. Children who were introduced to gluten at six months were more likely to have Celiac disease at two years of age but there was no difference between the groups at the five-year check up. At 10 years, those children who had higher genetic risk for Celiac disease were more likely to have it, regardless of when gluten was introduced. Breastfeeding while introducing gluten did not play any role in reducing the risk.

For the other randomized study, Dutch researchers enrolled just under 950 infants at high risk for Celiac disease from seven countries and divided them into two groups. Parents from both groups were instructed to start gradually introducing gluten at six months of age. Infants from one of the groups were also receiving 100mg of gluten every day from four months while the other group was getting placebo. By the three-year follow up, about same number of children from both groups developed Celiac disease and researches found that breast-feeding was not protective.

So it looks like neither introducing gluten between four and six months nor breastfeeding seems to be protective from Celiac disease for babies at high-risk. And while delaying gluten till 12 months does not help to prevent Celiac disease it may delay its onset for a few years.

If you are feeling a little confused, you are not alone. It does not look like we will be getting definitive answers to this question very soon, at least not until more randomized controlled studies are conducted. But the good news is that nutritional research is moving forward and we are now learning more about Celiac disease prevention than ever before.

To summarize, here are some points to consider when deciding when to introduce gluten to your baby’s diet:

  • There is no conclusive research on the best time to introduce gluten in order to reduce risk for Celiac disease in the future.
  • If your baby is at high risk and you can wait until she is 12 months before introducing gluten, you may delay the potential onset of celiac disease. Talk to your doctor to determine your baby’s genetic predisposition for this disorder.
  • No solids including those containing gluten should be introduced before four months.
  • Allow 2-3 days before introducing a new food to allow time to spot signs of a possible allergic reaction.
  • In the case of a strong history of Celiac disease in family, consult with your doctor before giving your baby gluten containing foods
  • If you are breast-feeding, continue as long as you can, preferably until your baby is at least one year old. Even though breastfeeding does not seem to help reduce risk for Celiac disease, it has many other benefits to mother and baby.

Know though that if your baby isn’t at high risk for celiac disease there’s no evidence at this point that delaying the introduction of gluten will be beneficial in any way.

To answer my own question whether or not I should have waited to introduce gluten to my baby until she was older, I think I made the decision that worked for me.

Our family has no history of Celiac disease so her risk of developing it was pretty low to begin with. Also, we like the baby to share meals with us and since we are a family of bread lovers, trying to come up with alternatives would have been more work for me. And finally, seeing her happy face gnawing with gusto on a piece of toast first thing in the morning was too precious to miss!

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.

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

Image: Homemade bread via Shutterstock

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Healthy Food IS More Expensive. So Now What?

Tuesday, March 24th, 2015

Whenever I hear someone claim that healthy foods don’t cost more than unhealthy ones, I can only shake my head. And take a bite from the $1.50 organic honeycrisp apple that I accidentally bought at the farmer’s market. I don’t know about you, but the more I focus on buying fresh, minimally-processed foods, the more money I seem to spend.

Luckily there are people at Harvard to back me up. A 2013 study from Harvard School of Public Health found that eating a healthy diet (rich in fruits, vegetables, fish, and nuts) cost about $1.50 more per day per person than eating an unhealthy diet (the kind full of processed foods and refined grains). Sounds like pocket change, but that’s an extra $2,200 per year for a family of four.

Here’s what gets me: I spend a lot more on a pound of fresh fish than I would for a box of fish sticks. I could easily pay $1 for a single orange. Organic chicken is $2-3 more per pound than conventional. Whole wheat spaghetti is more expensive than white. And the dyed, sugary kids’ cereals seem to be the only ones that are ever on sale.

Maybe the problem isn’t that healthy food is expensive—but that hyper-processed, sugary, salty, additive-laden food is so cheap. And of course, eating a healthy diet could mean lower health care costs down the road, so maybe a healthy diet is a money-saver after all.

In the meantime, though, I’m focused on our bottom line. And since feeding my family healthy food is important to me, I’ve accepted that I have to pay more for certain foods. But I still need to keep spending in check. If you’re in the same boat, here are some ways to do that:

  • Try not to get overwhelmed. I work hard to quiet the swirling worries in my head as I shop (is this organic? GMO-free? dye-free? local? fair trade? sustainable?) because it’s enough to make me crazy. Instead, I focus on the big picture: Am I buying lots of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains? Do fresh foods outnumber packaged? Read more about how I stopped stressing out about grocery shopping here.
  • Pick and choose where you spend your organic dollars. I simply don’t have the budget to buy all organic. So I compare prices for organic and conventional fruits and vegetables, especially the ones that tend to have higher pesticide residues (see the Environmental Working Group’s lists here). I tend to go organic on spinach, lettuce, and berries when I can. I go conventional on fruits that have a thick rind I’ll be discarding, like cantaloupe, pineapple, and watermelon.
  • Prioritize. Buying local or organic meat, milk, and eggs is important to me. I have concerns about usage of hormones and antibiotics, as well as humane treatment of animals. But since organic and local are more expensive, I have a bunch of items that I DON’T prioritize, like spices, baking staples, and grains like pasta and rice, so I buy all of those at a discount grocery store. Everyone’s priorities are different, and that’s okay. The point is to decide what your priorities are, put your focus there, then find ways to save on the other stuff.
  • Meal plan. This is by far the biggest way I stay on budget. I make my meal plan at the beginning of the week as I’m making my grocery list. My ultimate goal: No repeat trips back to the store. (Because how many times have I run in for “just an onion” and come out with $50 worth of groceries? Too many.) For a free, one-page meal planning worksheet that includes space for a shopping list and a week’s worth of dinners, go here.

How to YOU save money on healthy foods?

Sally Kuzemchak, MS, RD, is a registered dietitian, educator, and mom of two who blogs at Real Mom Nutrition. You can follow her on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram. She is the author of Cooking Light Dinnertime Survival Guide, a cookbook for busy families. In her spare time, she loads and unloads the dishwasher. Then loads it again.

How to Buy Baby Food on a Budget
How to Buy Baby Food on a Budget
How to Buy Baby Food on a Budget

Image: Grocery shopping via Shutterstock

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The Great Kraft Singles Debate

Thursday, March 19th, 2015

American cheeseThe Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics has approved Kraft Singles as the first product to incorporate its new “Kids Eat Right” label on its packaging. The label displays the logo of the “Kids Eat Right” nutritional education program run by the Academy’s foundation.

The announcement of this approval has raised some concerns with consumers who believe processed food should not bear a label that appears to be a nutritional stamp of approval. “Kraft is a frequent target of advocates for better children’s nutrition, who contend that many of its products are over-processed, with too much fat, sodium, sugar, artificial dyes and preservatives,” reports to the New York Times. One registered dietitian even created an online petition in protest of the nutritional seal appearing on Kraft Singles.

On the other side of the debate, the ADA denies that the label is an endorsement of Kraft Singles’ nutritional value. “The Kids Eat Right” logo on Kraft Singles packaging identifies the brand as a proud supporter of Kids Eat Right,” said Mary Beth Whalen, the academy’s executive director. “It also serves to drive broader visibility to KidsEatRight.org, a trusted educational resource for consumers.”

The label, which will appear on packaging for both the regular and 2 percent milk versions of Kraft Singles, is only the beginning of a three-year collaboration between the ADA and Kraft.

This news also comes after Kraft voluntarily recalled millions of boxes of mac and cheese earlier this week.

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

Cheese During Pregnancy: Safe or Not?
Cheese During Pregnancy: Safe or Not?
Cheese During Pregnancy: Safe or Not?

Image: American cheese slices via Shutterstock

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

Why I Don’t Make My Kids Take “Just One Bite”

Tuesday, March 17th, 2015

When we only had one child, we had the “one bite rule” at mealtime: You had to try at least one bite of new foods. At the time, we called it the “No Thank You Bite,” and it worked well. My son, an easygoing kid with that first-born drive to follow rules and stay in line, complied. Sometimes he even took two or three bites to decide if he liked something. We thought we had it all figured out.

Then along came son #2, who was stubborn and contrarian and didn’t like to be told what to do, especially at mealtime. A request to take a bite of new foods was met with anger and tears and enough negative energy to suck all enjoyment out of family mealtime. Not only would he not take a bite of new foods, he also wouldn’t eat the familiar foods either. You know, just to spite us.

I learned a few important things from this: First, if you think your parenting is brilliant because your first-born excels at sleeping/eating/behaving/potty training, your second child will come along to prove that you actually know nothing. Second, as food sociologist Dr. Dina Rose pointed out to me, the “No Thank You Bite” actually implies that your child won’t like the food and won’t possibly want a second bite (duh, why hadn’t I thought of that?). And lastly, the “one bite rule” can work—for some kids.

The logic behind the rule makes sense. It encourages kids to taste foods instead of rejecting them outright—and if they don’t like it, there’s no pressure to eat a bunch of it (or secretly feed it to the dog under the table). It can open kids up to discovering new favorites and expanding horizons. But temperament plays an important role too. If your child sees this rule as a threat to her independence, it may create a negative association with that particular food and with trying new foods in general.

So I scrapped the “one bite rule” at our table. I still casually say “Why don’t you try it?” when serving a new food. My older son usually will. My younger son usually won’t because, as is his personality, things have to be on his own terms. That’s okay. I keep offering different foods and striving for a positive, pressure-free vibe at the dinner table. And sometimes we play games that secretly advance the cause. When my younger son was a toddler and preschooler, we turned the bite rule on its head and teased him with the very earnest plea, “Oh no, don’t you dare eat that!” which made him giggle—and then take a bite (read more about it here). These days, I sometimes enlist them as “recipe reviewers,” asking them to rate recipes on a scale of 1-5 for taste, appearance, and aroma. And I take their feedback to heart: If a recipe gets a low rating on appearance, for instance, I might try serving it in a different way next time.

If you like the concept of the “one bite rule,” a fun re-branding might encourage your kids too. Check out Aviva Goldfarb’s list of ten alternatives to the “No Thank You Bite,” including the “Adventure Bite” and “Touch It With Your Tongue”.

Do you have the “one bite rule” at your table? Does it work well with your kids?

Sally Kuzemchak, MS, RD, is a registered dietitian, educator, and mom of two who blogs at Real Mom Nutrition. You can follow her on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram. She is the author of Cooking Light Dinnertime Survival Guide, a cookbook for busy families. In her spare time, she loads and unloads the dishwasher. Then loads it again.

Manners & Responsibility: Teaching Table Manners
Manners & Responsibility: Teaching Table Manners
Manners & Responsibility: Teaching Table Manners

Image: Young girl eating via Shutterstock

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