Archive for the ‘
The Scoop on Food ’ Category
Tuesday, November 26th, 2013
If your seasonal plans include traveling by plane, train or automobile, it’s likely you and your kids will experience at least a few moments when you’re hungry but find that the pickings (let alone nutritious ones) are slim.
Of course it’s always wise to plan ahead and arm yourselves with at least a few smart, portable, non-perishable travel snacks to have in-between meals (or just in case). A few better bets include nuts and nut butters; unsweetened dried fruit; high fiber, lower sugar whole grain ready-to-eat cereals; whole grain crackers; and low sugar granola and snack bars. But when it’s time for a real meal—and for those times when you find fast food to be among the few (if any) options—how do you help your kids choose the most nutritious, energizing picks?
The following restaurants participate in the Kids LiveWell Program, a collaboration between Healthy Dining and the National Restaurant Association. The program works with restaurants to provide more menu options that emphasize lean proteins, fruits, vegetables, whole grains and low-fat dairy and that meet stringent nutritional criteria. Each full kids’ meal (includes an entrée, side option and beverage) includes items from at least 2 food groups and meets the following Healthy nutrition criteria defined by the Kids LiveWell Program: 600 calories or less; ≤35% of calories from total fat; ≤10% of calories from saturated fat; <0.5 grams trans fat (artificial trans fat only); ≤35% of calories from total sugars (added and naturally occurring); and ≤770 mg of sodium. Each side option must represent 1 food group and meets the following Kids LiveWell nutrition criteria: 200 calories or less; ≤35% of calories from total fat; ≤10% of calories from saturated fat; <0.5 grams artificial trans fat; ≤35% of calories from total sugars (added and naturally occurring); and ≤250 mg of sodium.
The good news is that dozens of chains including Wendy’s®, Burger King® and Au Bon Pain® participate. Here are some the better-for-you bets if these outlets are among your options:
- Kids’ Meal that includes a Grilled Chicken Go Wrap served with Apple Slices and TruMoo Low Fat White Milk.
- Kids Meal that includes a Kids’ Hamburger served with Apple Slices and TruMoo Low Fat White Milk.
Other side options available include Juicy Juice® Apple Juice and Nestle® Pure Life® Bottled Water.
You can learn more about Wendy’s nutrition here.
- Kids’ Meal Breakfast Oatmeal with BK® Fresh Apple Slices and Fat Free Milk
- Kid’s Hamburger with BK® Fresh Apple Slices and Fat Free Milk
Other available side: Apple Juice
You can learn more about Burger King® menu items and nutrition here.
Au Bon Pain®:
- Egg Whites and Cheddar Breakfast Sandwich
Other side options available include: Oatmeal, Fruit Cup, Grapes or Watermelon.
Visit the Au Bon Pain® menu here.
Although McDonald’s is not part of the Kids LiveWell Program, it recently announced (as I covered in a recent Scoop on Food post) it’ll offer a side salad, fruit or vegetable option in place of French fries in value meals and will promote and market water, milk, and juice instead of soda as the beverage in Happy Meals. Also notable is that Happy Meals now include apple slices. McDonald’s also offers some favorites under 400 calories. Options your kids might like include:
- Fruit and Maple Oatmeal (I recommend asking for it made without brown sugar or light cream)
- Fruit ‘N Yogurt Parfait—a low fat vanilla yogurt layered with blueberries and strawberries and topped with granola.
- Premium Caesar Salad with Grilled Chicken, served with Newman’s Own® Low Fat Family Recipe Italian Dressing (You can save some fat and calories by using only a half packet of dressing).
Visit the McDonald’s® menu here.
Subway® offers Fresh Fit for KidsTM meals that pair Turkey Breast, Veggie Delight, Black Forest Ham or Roast Beef sandwiches with fresh apple slices and a 12-ounce bottle of low fat milk. They also offer 100% juices including apple and orange juice. There are also Fresh Fit® choices (options that can work for older kids with bigger appetites and adults) certified as heart healthy by the American Heart Association. You can see the Subway menu here.
Last but not least, there’s Dunkin Donuts®. Although pickings are indeed slim at the popular donut/bagel chain, Dunkin Donuts® may be (somewhat) worth the trip because of their DDSmart and Fewer Than 400 (calorie) options including:
- Egg White Veggie Wake-Up Wrap
- Egg & Cheese on English Muffin
You can see their complete menu here.
To make better fast food selections all around, you can download the Kids LiveWell App (it’s free) here. It features more than 4,000 menu items served at more than 60,000 participating restaurants across the country.
And for more tips to save money when you shop for healthier fast food, check out this video with Parents health director Kara Corridan.
What’s your favorite nutrient-packed (or at least not-so-bad-for-you) fast food meal?
Image of mother and son having a meal in the airplane while flying via shutterstock.com.
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Tuesday, November 19th, 2013
Because it’s almost Thanksgiving–and Thanksgivukah (that rare day that combines both Thanksgiving and Chanukah)—it’s likely many of you have turkey, stuffing, cranberries, and maybe even potato latkes on the brain. I know I do! And if your family is anything like mine, you make way more food than you need to feed others over the holidays. Talk about leftovers!
When it comes to leftovers, does simply heating them and eating them come to mind? Why not get your kids in the kitchen to turn those ho-hum leftovers into something with a little more sizzle.
Here are 6 ways some of my favorite top chefs like to liven up leftovers:
Go Italian. Robyn Webb, cookbook author and culinary instructor, likes to give leftover turkey an Italian twist. Her idea:
Take leftover turkey and cube or slice into strips. Sauté 1 small onion in olive oil for 6 minutes. Add 2 minced garlic cloves and the cooked leftover turkey and sauté for 1 minute. Add 1-1/2 cups of your favorite marinara sauce, a splash of red wine or balsamic vinegar, 2 teaspoons drained capers, and 6-7 sliced black pitted olives. Simmer 10 minutes. Add in 1/2 cup chopped basil and freshly ground black pepper. Serve over whole wheat pasta.
Wrap ‘em. Jackie Newgent, MS, RD, culinary dietitian and author of 1001 Low-Calorie Recipes, likes to use leftover turkey to make delicious wraps. Her idea:
Quickly heat leftover turkey (shredded into pieces) in a skillet with a generous amount of pico de gallo (chunky fresh salsa). Roll in a whole wheat tortilla with lettuce and guacamole and serve.
Make a cake. Webb takes leftover mashed potatoes and turns them into potato cakes. Her idea:
Sauté 1/2 cup onion in olive oil for 4 minutes. Add 1 tsp fresh minced rosemary, 1/4 tsp each salt and fresh ground black pepper. Add to a bowl and add leftover mashed potatoes. Mix well. Spread whole wheat panko breadcrumbs on a flat plate. Form the potato mixture into cakes, about 1/2 cup each. Coat both sides of the cakes with the crumbs. Coat a large skillet with cooking spray. Add 1-1/2 Tbsp olive oil to the skillet over medium heat. Add the cakes in one layer, so do in batches if necessary. Sauté the cakes for about 3-4 minutes per side or until golden brown.
Go sweet with soup. “I like to transform those leftover yams and sweet potatoes into soups,” says Susan Irby, aka “The Bikini Chef.” Her idea:
Make a sweet potato soup with nutmeg and ginger by pureeing the potatoes with vegetable stock. Add a pinch of nutmeg and sea salt, if needed, and a little orange zest and a 1/2 teaspoon of fresh ginger root. Heat and serve.
Have stuffing for breakfast. Newgent suggests combining leftover stuffing with eggs. Her ideas:
Cut leftover bread stuffing into rounds with a biscuit cutter. Cook rounds in a skillet until crisp on both sides and heated through. Top each with a fried or poached egg. Alternatively, bake desired amount of stuffing in individual ramekins or baking dishes until hot, then top each with an egg. Enjoy for breakfast.
Make a colorful chutney. For leftover cranberry sauce (preferably canned), Irby suggests making chutney. Her idea:
Add orange zest, a few diced fresh pears and a pinch of cinnamon to leftover cranberry sauce to make cranberry pear chutney. Use as a spread on toast or breakfast biscuits, or serve a small dollop with leftover potato pancakes.
If all else fails—and if you and your family want to share the love (and delicious food)—why not give the leftovers away at the office, or to neighbors or friends. Bonnie Taub Dix, author of Read It Before You Eat It, says, “Those who don’t celebrate Chanukah or Thanksgiving will get the chance to enjoy your dishes, and those who do will get a chance to taste your unique recipes.”
What’s your favorite way to prepare your holiday leftovers?
Image of homemade turkey Thanksgiving dinner with mashed potatoes, stuffing, and corn via shutterstock.
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Monday, November 18th, 2013
It makes perfect sense that kids who sleep well perform better, whether in the classroom, on the ball field, or simply throughout the day. There’s evidence it can even help them eat less and weigh less. In a 3-week study published in Pediatrics, researchers looked at how changing the amount of sleep 37 8- to 11-year-old kids got affected their reported food intake and body weight. During week 1, children slept their usual amount at home. Then they were randomized to either increase or decrease their time in bed by 1.5 hours each night for 1 week. Then they did the opposite over the third and final week of the study. Researchers found that when kids increased their sleep time, on average they decreased their daily calorie intake by 134 calories. Their weight was also 0.22 kg (almost half a pound) lower during the increase sleep than the decrease sleep condition.
According to Chantelle Hart, PhD, the lead author of the Pediatrics study, “We know that a good nights’ sleep is associated with a number of benefits for children across domains of functioning, including memory and learning, mood and behavioral disturbances.” Hart also says the study findings suggest that a good night’s sleep may confer other benefits to children in terms of eating and weight regulation.
Hart, an associate professor of public health at the Center for Obesity Research & Education at Temple University, suggests that parents help their kids keep a similar sleep schedule throughout the week and on weekends, and to have a consistent bedtime routine each night. She adds, “Limiting screen time and caffeine prior to bed are also recommendations we provide to families.”
Although the role sleep plays in food intake and body weight has yet to be deciphered, any parent knows how vital it is for kids—and for them—to get adequate sleep. Here are some suggestions for parents to help kids get the sleep they need, when they need it, from David Katz, MD, Editor-in-Chief of Childhood Obesity journal, author of Disease Proof and father of five:
1. Be the parent. What if your kid REALLY wanted to try cocaine, or play in traffic? As parents, it’s our job to make and enforce rules that protect our kids. The only reason we find it hard to do this with regard to sleep, food, or exercise, is because we are ambivalent. If these are priorities for us, and we consistently treat them as such, our kids no more need to argue with us, let alone win, than they would about drugs, or skipping school, or…whatever.
2. Be reasonable. Younger kids need rules and guidance; older kids need options so they feel they are getting the respect they deserve and autonomy they need. Our teens always stayed up very late and slept in on weekends; we let them choose the pattern that suited them best—with a different pattern on school nights. Make and enforce the rules you need and avoid rules you don’t need so that your kids know (A) the rules are reasonable, and (B) when there is a rule, it IS a rule, and has to be treated as such.
3. Allow for experimentation. I had a poster in my dorm room in college: good judgment comes from experience, and experience comes from bad judgment! There is no substitute for experiential learning. Our job as parents is to protect our kids from bad judgment with irrevocable consequences—but allow for dabbling in using bad judgment vital to learning. So, we would let our kids have an occasional night to stay up as late as they wanted—and get way too little sleep—and see how they felt the next day. The experience of feeling exhausted and cranky said more about the importance of sleep than we could. That becomes a ‘see, I told you!’ kind of teachable moment, and makes the case better than words can.
4. Leave room for negotiation. As kids grow, there will be a lot of negotiation—and that’s OK. We parents have to decide where to give more ground, and where to give less. Any set of rules is easier to enforce if your kids know your rules aren’t arbitrary, and that you are prepared to negotiate in good faith, taking their priorities into account. Whenever my kids have disliked a rule of mine, I have found it very helpful to be able to say: we both know I listen to you, and often give in. When I don’t give in, it’s because I think it’s really important. If that give-and-take is combined with ‘being the parent,’ it’s a pretty tough formula for a kid to renounce.
For more expert tips to help your kids get more—and better—sleep, check out my previous Parents.com post.
How do you help your kids get the sleep they need?
Image of girl studying at the desk being tired via shutterstock.
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Thursday, November 14th, 2013
We all know French fries and potato chips—unless you make and bake them in the comfort of your own kitchen—are typically loaded with calories, fat and sodium. But did you also know they can be a source of acrylamide?
First detected in food in 2002, acrylamide is a chemical that forms when sugars and asparagine (an amino acid) that are naturally found in plant-based foods including potatoes combine when those foods are fried, baked or boiled at high temperatures. Acrylamide formation can occur in foods prepared at home or at restaurants, or when foods are prepared commercially.
Scientists believe that high levels of acrylamide cause cancer in animals and may prove to do the same in humans as well. In fact, the National Toxicology Program (NTP) characterize acrylamide as “reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen.” The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) and the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) also believe acrylamide is a “probable human carcinogen.”
Besides potatoes, sources of acrylamide in the diet include cereals (and cereal-based foods), coffee, crackers or breads, and dried fruits. According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), acrylamide does not form, or forms at lower levels, in dairy, meat and fish products.
To help growers, manufacturers, and food service operators reduce acrylamide in products that are susceptible to its formation, the FDA issued draft guidance. And sometime in 2014 they plan to release data on how much acrylamide is found in food to help both food manufacturers and consumers have a better sense of where it lurks and to how to reduce exposure when eating and creating foods.
In the meantime, if you want to reduce your child’s exposure to acrylamide (not to mention your own), here are some recommendations* from the FDA:
1. If frying frozen French fries, follow manufacturers’ recommendations on time and temperature and avoid overcooking, heavy crisping or burning.
2. Toast bread to a light brown color rather than a dark brown color.
3. Cook cut potato products such as frozen French fries to a golden yellow rather than a brown color.
4. Keep potatoes outside the refrigerator in a dark, cool place, such as a closet or panty. (Storing potatoes in the refrigerator can increase the formation of acrylamide during cooking).
5. Follow current Dietary Guidelines for Americans by including in the diet plenty of produce, whole grains, far-free or low-fat milk products, lean meats, poultry, fish, beans, eggs, and nuts. And choose foods low in saturated fats, trans fats, cholesterol, salt and added sugars.
Until we know more about which foods in the food supply contribute any—or a lot of—acrylamide, it’s wise to be prudent when trying to minimize exposure to it and to enhance the overall quality of your child’s diet. As I always say in The Scoop on Food, mixing up the foods you offer your family can maximize nutrient intake and minimize any potential negatives associated with specific foods. Offering plenty of fresh, whole foods that are healthfully prepared and choosing fast food French fries, potato chips and other nutrient-poor foods on occasion rather than often can also help. It’s also important to use more healthful, lower fat cooking methods in general, and to use less heat to cook potatoes and other foods. (Cooking meats, fish and poultry at lower temperatures—but safe temperatures at which they’re fully cooked—and for less time can help minimize the formation of cancer-causing chemicals like heterocyclic amines and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons.)
*Source: FDA Consumer Updates.
Image of stack of potato chips on white background via shutterstock.
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Tuesday, November 12th, 2013
Although fast-food is often blamed for contributing tons of empty calories to kids’ diets, it’s just one source. A new study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine reveals that while 34.6% of calories consumed by kids from fast-food restaurants (including pizza home delivery, restaurant food, and food from vending machines and sports/recreation facilities) did, in fact, come from solid fats and added sugars (collectively referred to as SoFAS), foods consumed from stores (including supermarkets, grocery stores, and convenience stores) and schools (including school cafeterias and child-care centers) were similar to fast foods in their SoFAS content, with SoFAS contributing 33.2% of calories from stores and 31.2% of calories from schools. These findings came from an analysis of national survey data of dietary intake collected between 1994 and 2010 from more than 22,000 children aged 2 to 18.
In another study published in Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, the same researchers from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill analyzed the dietary intake of more than 3,000 children aged 2 to 18 in 2009-2010. Similar to the findings from the 1994-2010 analysis, this study revealed that empty calories account for 35% of kids’ calories from fast-food restaurants, 33% of calories from stores, and 32% of calories from schools. Interestingly, store-bought foods contributed significantly more daily empty calories (an estimated 436 calories) from sugar and solid fat to kids’ diets than either school foods or fast foods. The researchers explained that the highest calorie load derived from store-bought foods was due to the fact that almost all kids reportedly consumed them daily, whereas only 32% or 24% reported they consumed fast food or school food, respectively, on any given day.
When they looked at the biggest contributors of empty calories in kids diets based on location, the researchers found the top sources derived from stores were sugar-sweetened beverages, grain desserts, and high-fat milk. High-fat milk, grain desserts, and pizza were the top empty calorie contributors at schools, and sugar-sweetened beverages, dairy desserts, French fries, and pizza were the top sources derived from fast-food restaurants.
According to the researchers, “Efforts to reduce children’s consumption of empty calories must be made across multiple locations—not just at fast-food restaurants, but also at stores and schools.” They also single out high-fat flavored milk, grain desserts, and pizza as foods—top contributors of empty calorie intake by kids when they’re at school—that should be targeted as the new federal nutrition standards for school meals are implemented.
To help kids eat better, it’s important for parents to empower them to make more healthful choices—especially because they increasingly make food choices on their own when they’re away from home. Teaching kids how to read food labels and to identify—and choose—appropriate food portions to meet, but not exceed, their needs can also help. It’s also important to teach kids which foods and beverages can be considered everyday foods or dietary staples, and which ones should be considered as occasional or once-in-a-while foods. Eating as a family at home more often, modeling healthy eating habits and food choices, and offering a variety of options prepared in an appealing way—and getting kids involved in grocery shopping, meal planning and food preparation or cooking often—can also help. Being exposed to nutritious foods and learning to prefer such foods, especially from an early age, can help them want to make better and more informed decisions down the road— whether they’re at school, at the deli, at a fast-food restaurant, or at a stadium to watch their favorite basketball team in action. Setting them up for success won’t guarantee they’ll always make the most nutritious choice, but it will point them in a more healthful direction.
How do you help your kids cut some empty calories from their diets?
Find healthy finger food recipes your tot will actually eat with our easy guide. Plus, learn how to make baby food right at home!
Image of happy lovely baby in shopping trolley via shutterstock.
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