Posts Tagged ‘
Thursday, September 12th, 2013
In a new campaign called “Drink Up,” Michelle Obama and Partnership for a Healthier America are encouraging people to take a simple action to improve health—to drink water. With help from celebrity endorsers, talk shows including The View and Katie, and bottled water and other companies like Evian, Nestle Waters, and Brita, the new campaign is likely to make a real splash (sorry, I couldn’t help myself).
What I like most about the campaign is that its message is simple and doable. It takes a positive—rather than a punishing—approach to behavior change by telling Americans what we can do rather than what we should not do to live more healthful lives.
In short videos done in both English and Spanish and promoted on the campaign web site, the First Lady explains that the body is about 70% water. She also says that when you’re running low, a glass of water will recharge your body.
As I discussed in a recent Scoop on Food post on hydration, water is a vital nutrient. Found in so many body parts including the brain, heart, lungs, skin, and even bones, water helps control body temperature, supports healthy digestion, brings wastes out of the body, and even helps prevent constipation. Although water is an essential part of the daily diet and something kids—and all of us—need to get more of, a recent study published in Nutrition Journal found that at least 75% of children between the age of 4 and 13 failed to meet the Institute of Medicine Dietary Reference Intake values for daily water intake (about 7 to 10 cups water from all fluids and beverages). Researchers also found that, on the two days surveyed, 28% of children failed to consume any plain water (tap or bottled).
Although ‘Drink Up’ doesn’t mention other beverages, it implies that while it’s up to us to choose our beverages, drinking water is a better option. I concur! But I also think it’s important to include nutrient-rich beverages such as low- and nonfat milk, fortified soy beverages, and 100 percent fruit juice to hydrate and meet needs for protein, calcium, vitamin D, and other key nutrients.
If you want to help your child ‘drink up,’ here are four Stressipes* that can help:
1. Start ‘em young. According to Bridget Swinney, RD, author of Eating Expectantly and Baby Bites, “Healthy kids under the age of four need about five cups of total fluid a day—at least one cup of that will come from food in the diet, depending on how many fruits and veggies a child eats. Kids who spend time in warm, humid weather will need more fluid.” She recommends encouraging kids from late infancy on to learn to love plain water by teaching them that when you’re thirsty, you drink water. “For babies one year and up, milk is a given, but be sure to give additional fluids—mostly plain water,” Swinney says. She also supports recommendations by the American Academy of Pediatrics that call for limiting fruit juice to no more than 4 to 6 ounces a day for children aged one to six.
2. Spruce it up. If the thought of plain water makes your child gag, Swinney recommends adding some fun by letting him or her pick out a special cup or silly straw reserved for drinking water. “Adding ‘floaties’ like cucumber, kiwi orange, lemon, or lime slices, or making ice cubes with water and bits of orange, apple, kiwi, strawberry, raspberry or blueberry and using them to put in plain water can also help,” Swinney adds.
3. Drink before you eat. Because emerging studies suggest that consuming water may prevent weight gain in children, offering even small amounts before or with meals or snacks is a good rule of thumb. Instilling such a simple habit in children will likely help them continue to ‘drink up’–and reap the many benefits of staying hydrated—well into their teen and adult years.
4. Think before you drink. According to registered dietitian Kate Geagen, author of Go Green, Get Lean, “I love that the ‘Drink Up’ campaign promotes zero-calorie beverages, but parents can take it one step further to make it zero-impact for the environment as well.” She urges parents to fill and refill BPA-free water bottles with tap water, which is more regulated than bottled water. She adds, “In an economy where every food dollar counts, I rather parents use the money they’d spend on bottled water to invest in more water-rich fruits and vegetables and other nutritious foods they can feed to their families.”
*’Stressipes’ are tips or solutions to help you eat and live in a more healthful way.
How do you help your family drink more water?
Image of child with glass pitcher water via Shutterstock.
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Tuesday, July 9th, 2013
It’s always important for kids to meet their daily fluid needs. But with temperatures soaring into triple digits in some parts of the country, staying adequately hydrated has become even more important for kids. According to the U.S. Geological Survey’s Water Science School, about 65 percent of kids’ body weights are made of water. This vital nutrient is found abundantly in the brain, heart, lungs, skin, and even bones. Water is so essential for kids—and all of us—because it helps control body temperature, supports healthy digestion, brings wastes out of the body, and can even help prevent constipation.
Even if the weather outside isn’t brutal, spending a lot of time sweating while running around, playing sports, hiking, biking, or doing other active things makes it even more important for kids to get enough water. Kids also need more water when they travel by plane, and when they have a fever, vomit, or have diarrhea.
Unfortunately, there’s evidence that kids fall short when it comes to water intake. A new study published in Nutrition Journal looked at water and beverage consumption among 4,766 four to 13 year-old children in the United States. Researchers found that at least 75 percent of children failed to meet the following current Institute of Medicine daily intake recommendations (Dietary Reference Intakes (DRI)) for water:
- 4 to 8 year-olds: 1,700 milliliters (about 7 cups)
- 9 to 13 year-old girls: 2,100 milliliters (about 9 cups)
- 9 to 13 year-old boys: 2,400 milliliters (about 10 cups)
Because little kids especially don’t sweat as much as older kids and adults, you cannot always use sweat to gauge whether or not your kids are hydrated. If your child is thirsty, pale, tired, goes to the bathroom less often, or has concentrated urine (pee should be pale rather than bright in color), these are signs that he or she may need to drink up.
If you’re worried your kids aren’t adequately hydrated, here are four ways you can help them meet their daily water needs:
Go for water. Keep a refillable pitcher in your refrigerator. Enhance the taste of plain water by adding a splash of 100 percent fruit juice, or squeezing the juice of a slice of lemon, lime, orange or grapefruit into it. You can also add some fresh berries, cut up cucumbers, or even some mint to give plain water some bite. Or swap plain water for seltzer to give the drink a soda-like taste minus the added sugars or artificial sweeteners. When your kids head outside or are otherwise on the go, arm them with a BPA-free refillable water bottle—just make sure to clean it once daily.
Milk their diet. Offer kids one or two cups of milk—preferably low-fat and nonfat varieties to keep calories and saturated fat intake down—daily as part of main meals like breakfast and dinner. Milk not only helps kids meet their water quota, but provides protein, calcium, vitamin D, potassium, and other key nutrients to keep their teeth and bones strong. For kids who don’t drink milk because of an allergy or other reason, fortified soy beverages can provide valuable nutrients and water. Other so-called ‘milks’ like almond milk can also help hydrate kids, but they may not provide the calcium and other nutrients found in cow’s milk and fortified soy beverages.
Let them drink juice. Although whole fruit is more nutrient-packed than 100 percent fruit juice, having some orange, grape, apple, or cranberry juice solo or mixed with plain water or seltzer can help kids stay hydrated. It can also be a great alternative to soda or other sugar-sweetened, nutrient-poor beverages. It’s important, however, to keep portions to about 4 to 8 ounces daily for most kids to leave enough room for more filling fiber- and nutrient-rich whole fruit.
Push produce. Fruits and vegetables are rich in water content, and eating them—as well as oatmeal and other cooked grains, and vegetable and other broth-based soups—can provide about 20 percent of kids’ daily water needs. Keep fresh fruit in a bowl on your counter top, in-season vegetables in your refrigerator, canned, no-salt added vegetables in your pantry, and frozen unsalted, sugar- and fat-free fruits and vegetables in your freezer. Offer small portions of fruits or vegetables at most meals or snacks, or as part of dessert. Having these foods available and visible, and preparing them in an enticing way can do wonders to help your kids stay hydrated and meet their daily quotas for nutrient-rich produce.
How do you help your kids stay hydrated?
Image of little girl with glass of water via shutterstock.
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Monday, June 3rd, 2013
Should young children be steered far far away from sugary beverages towards good old H20?
Apparently they should according to Sugar Bites, a new anti-obesity social marketing campaign. Launched in Contra Costa County, California and co-sponsored by First 5 Contra Costa and Healthy and Active Before 5, the campaign targets parents of toddlers and preschoolers. The goal: to have parents offer to their young children water instead of soda, juice drinks, flavored milk and sports drinks.
The campaign claims that such beverages are “loaded with added sugars and calories with little nutritional value.” Although the campaign doesn’t label 100 percent fruit juice as a dietary devil, parents are urged to limit children’s fruit juice intake to four to six ounces daily as recommended for one to six year-olds by the American Academy of Pediatrics.
On the home page of the campaign website, an infographic outlines how many teaspoons of added sugar each of the sugar-sweetened beverages contain. It also says today’s kids drink twice as many calories from sugary drinks as they did three decades ago, and cites research that suggests sugary beverage intake significantly increases kids’ risks of obesity, type 2 diabetes and tooth decay.
As a registered dietitian and nutritionist and mother of two, I fully support the idea of teaching children from a young age to hydrate mostly by drinking water. I also encourage parents to offer their children fruits and vegetables early on and often. Repeated exposure to naturally water-packed foods not only helps children stay hydrated, but provides them with fiber and countless vitamins and minerals to keep them healthy. It also helps children develop their tastes and preferences for such foods. Research suggests that it may take up to 8 to 20 exposures before children accept and prefer a new food, so parents need to keep in mind that perseverance can pay off—eventually!—when feeding children.
It goes without saying that children should undoubtedly limit added sugars in their diet. And it’s clear sugary beverages contribute a good share of children’s total added sugar calories. Because young children require fewer calories than older ones, they have even less room in their diets for foods and beverages that offer a lot of calories with few nutrients. Instead, they need to fill their plates and cups with mostly nutrient-rich whole grains, fruits and vegetables, low fat dairy foods, and lean protein foods to grow and develop optimally.
Current government dietary guidelines and ChooseMyPlate call for reduced intake of added sugars among all Americans. Children can, however, safely consume about 10 percent of their total calories as added sugar. For a typical preschool child who consumes 1,000 to 1,200 calories, that’s 25 to 30 grams, 100 to 120 calories, or about 6 to 7.5 teaspoons of added sugar daily.
Although typical intake of added sugar among children continues to exceed current recommendations, the tide seems to be turning. A 2013 review of several national surveys show that intake of added sugars among children has decreased between the mid 1990’s and today. Perhaps Sugar Bites and similar initiatives will prove to further reduce added sugar intake among children.
While I generally support this campaign and appreciate its focus on early intervention and prevention, I think it unfairly lumps flavored milk with soda and other sugary beverages. They’re very different! While one cup or box of low fat chocolate milk provides some added sugar—10 grams, 40 calories, or 2.5 teaspoons worth—it also packs in tons of nutrients. As I’ve said in the past, milk is a good or excellent source of nine essential nutrients including calcium, vitamin D, phosphorus, vitamin A, and vitamin B12.
Still, it’s prudent for parents to introduce young children to foods and beverages made without added sugars. And when it comes to milk, I encourage parents to first offer plain white milk rather than flavored kinds to get children used to, and learn to prefer, its taste. But if after many tries your children refuse to drink plain low fat or nonfat milk—or even if they occasionally want a delicious low fat chocolate milk—parents shouldn’t feel guilty about including it as a sweet way to get important nutrients into their children’s diets. In my book, usual eating and fitness patterns matter more to the health and well-being of children than simply one food or beverage choice.
While I agree that there’s a lot of data that links sugary beverage intake with adverse health effects such as higher body weight, more obesity, and more type 2 diabetes, a lot more research is needed before we can definitively say that drinking sweet beverages causes all of these conditions. I won’t argue that sugar-sweetened beverages are healthy, and it’s very likely that a high intake of them in young children is linked with other less-than-healthful food and lifestyle habits. But flavored milk and even an occasional soda or fruity drink can fit into a child’s otherwise healthful diet. You may or may not agree. But I truly feel that not everything we eat and drink has to be nutritionally stellar. Sometimes it’s ok to have something simply because you want it and it tastes good. It’s when we have too much of these nutrient-poor beverages and foods too often in the context of an otherwise unhealthy lifestyle that it can becomes a problem we need to address.
What are your thoughts about this campaign?
Image of dietary warning of sugary drinks via Shutterstock.
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