Posts Tagged ‘ food ’

Marketing Junk Food to Kids

Tuesday, December 9th, 2014

In an effort to stop marketing unhealthy foods to children and curb childhood obesity in America, the Washington, D.C.-based Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) recently asked five candy companies including Tootsie Roll Industries, American Licorice Company, Haribo of America, Perfetti Van Melle, and The Topps Company to join the Children’s Food and Beverage Advertising Initiative (CFBAI).

According to CSPI, letters to the five candy companies were also signed by prominent organizations including the American Heart Association, the Campaign for a Commercial Free Childhood, The Yale Rudd Center, Prevention Institute, as well as other physicians and public health experts.

On the plus side, CSPI reports that three of the nation’s largest candy companies—Hershey, Mars, and Nestle—already belong to the CFBAI, a voluntary self-regulation program founded in 2006 and administered by the Council of Better Business Bureaus (BBB).

As described on the BBB website, the CFBAI “is designed to shift the mix of foods advertised to children under 12 to encourage healthier dietary choices and healthy lifestyles.” Currently, the three biggest candy companies in the United States—The Hershey Company, Mars, Incorporated, and Nestle USA—currently participate in the initiative. More than a dozen companies including The Coca-Cola Company and Burger King Corporation have also signed on.

According to Maureen Enright, Deputy Director, CFBAI, as part of the initiative, candy and other companies voluntarily agree to use CFBAI’s uniform nutrition criteria to govern what foods are in child-directed advertising (CFBAI covers advertising on TV, radio, print, on the internet, and in mobile ads and apps) or do no child-directed advertising. Currently, CFBAI participants that make candy, including Hershey, Mars, Nestlé and Ferrero, don’t advertise directly to children.

In a press release, CSPI notes that according to both the National Academies’ Institute of Medicine and the American Psychological Association, children under age eight aren’t mature enough to understand the persuasive intent of advertising. The press release states that, according to the Institute of Medicine, television food advertising affects children’s food choices, food purchase requests, diets, and overall health.

I fully support this initiative as well as the encouragement of CSPI to have candy companies (and all food companies, for that matter) to do more to protect the health and well being of children. I’m all for anything we can do to better the environment to encourage kids to eat more healthfully and moderately, especially since kids fall short on many foods including fruits and vegetables and whole grains and tend to over consume foods made with solid fats and added sugars (collectively, these are called SoFAS according to current dietary guidelines).

According to national survey data, kids’ between the ages of two and eighteen consume an average of 646 calories from SoFAS—or about one third of their total calorie intake. Current guidelines suggest up to five to 15 percent of daily calories from SoFAS. For a child or adolescent who consumes anywhere from 1,000 to 1,800 calories daily, that’s about 137 to 161 calories, the amount you’d find in 5 to 6 Hershey kisses.

Besides focusing on advertising of unhealthy foods to kids, I strongly believe that we have to rethink our ubiquitous access to such nutrient-poor foods. Why is it that so many checkout counters at places ranging from gas stations to electronic stores are decorated with shelves of candy wrapped in colorful wrappers? And what about all those coolers, many also at checkout counters, packed with sugary beverages? And vending machines…they’re everywhere, and they’re usually packed with a range of snack foods, many of which fare more like dessert (fortunately, those with 20 or more locations are now required to follow new federal calorie labeling guidelines).

It’s hard to resist the urge to buy impulse items, and what parent hasn’t given in to their kids’ demand for something at a checkout counter or vending machine at least on occasion? It seems to me that besides limiting or altogether obliterating candy and other nutrient-poor food advertisements, especially those that are geared to impressionable children, we also need to have rules about what and how stores sell food.

You might argue that businesses of all kinds have a right to sell what they want and to position such items where they want. But isn’t it wrong on some level to sell candy and other such items at a store that’s not really in the business of selling food? Or to sell food on low shelves, at eye level, where it entices kids? If we are going to make any progress in helping to teach our children to eat well, we need to create an environment—not just at home, but outside the home—that doesn’t sabotage practicing healthy eating and lifestyle habits and teaching them to our kids.

CSPI has been extremely successful in many of their initiatives, and I hope this latest attempt to get candy companies to step up to the plate to limit potentially harmful advertising of less than healthy foods to children catches on. I’m not sure the rules will ever become mandatory, but achieving this would at very least be a big step in helping our kids eat and live more healthfully.

What’s your opinion?

Image of chocolate bar with caramel via shutterstock.

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Cook Up Family Fun With The 52 New Foods Challenge

Monday, November 24th, 2014

As we inch closer to Thanksgiving and a new year, it’s likely you’re at least thinking about how to help your family, especially your children, eat better—and more nutritiously—after what will likely become an indulgent holiday season. To help you get your family into the kitchen to cook and prepare more healthful meals, the new book, The 52 New Foods Challenge: A Family Cooking Adventure for Each Week of the Year is here to help. Written by Jennifer Tyler Lee, creator of the award-winning nutrition game Crunch a Color and contributor at the Huffington Post, the book offers plenty of practical solutions to make meals fun, boost variety (and bust boredom) at the family table and to help families cook together (rather than having parents cook for their kids).

I had the pleasure of interviewing Jennifer Tyler Lee via email. Here are some highlights:

Why did you feel compelled to write The 52 New Foods Challenge?

JTL: This story begins at my family table. My daughter’s diet was dominated by white foods. How was I going to get her to eat anything other than pasta? Parents across the country struggle with this same issue, and it can be immensely frustrating. But this is part of a much bigger problem. We are in the middle of a massive health epidemic, and at the heart of it is nutrition. Home cooking is at an all time low, and processed food intake is at an all time high. Diabetes and obesity are rampant. Most troubling is how this trend is affecting our kids—one in three children are overweight or obese. This is of great concern because researchers have seen the diets of children being related to risks of cancer and other conditions later in life. We need to get kids to eat real food to set them up for a lifetime of healthy habits. But parents are overwhelmed. What they need is a simple plan to transform the way their families eat. The 52 New Foods Challenge is my solution to that problem.

How did you come up with the idea for this book?

JTL: Math is fun when it’s a puzzle. Reading is fun when it’s about decoding the words. Food is no different. I created a simple game with an easy to remember structure: try one new food each week. It’s manageable, which gets families to take the first step. The book is designed to change your family’s behavior the slow and sustainable way. It’s all about taking small steps to make big changes.

The idea of 52 new foods may sound like a lot to parents. Can those who find that number overwhelming encourage their kids to try fewer new foods and still provide them and their families with some nutritional and other benefits?

JTL: I suggest that parents start by trying one new food, and cooking it together. Don’t worry about how you’re going to get through all 52 weeks. Start with one. Let the seasons be your guide. Remember that “new” can mean a familiar food prepared in a new way, like something as simple as Baked Apple Chips.

What are your two top tips to help families get started on the challenge?

JTL: First, let your kids lead. Put your kids in charge of your new food adventure. Head to the market together and let them pick a new food that they would like to try. Together, choose an easy recipe that you can cook together. Then let them serve it. Second, focus on the fun of the adventure, rather than forcing tasters, and you’ll find that it’s easier to keep going. It’s about the journey the foods take you on.

How do you encourage your kids to eat their colors?

JTL: In the book I say, “Colors in your diet are like instruments in a symphony—the more you have, the richer the experience.” There are a couple of easy ways to boost color at your table. At the market, challenge your kids to fill the cart with color. Aim for five. Bonus points if one of your colors is a new food. It’s also helpful to set up a snack drawer for your kids, organized by color, to make it easy for them to grab healthy food even when it’s hectic (this works equally well for adults). Plan your meals to feature three colors. To make it easy, offer one cooked veggie, like Ridiculous Radicchio Chips, and one raw veggie, like rainbow carrots. Dessert can be colorful too—try seasonal fruit on weeknights, simple treats made at home on the weekend.

JTL: Can you share a recipe to please parents and young children alike? 

Brussels Sprouts Chips* (see recipe below) are the current favorite at our family table. The crispy, crunchy chips are delicious and the recipe is super easy to make. They will definitely be making an appearance on our holiday table.

Prep Time: 30 minutes

Cook time: 25 minutes

Serves 4


1 pound Brussels sprouts, trimmed (look for small, tight heads with no yellow or brown leaves)

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

¼ teaspoon kosher salt


1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

2. Using your fingers, peel away the leaves from the sprouts.

3. Place the leaves on a rimmed baking sheet. Add the oil and salt and toss to combine.

4. Bake for 10 minutes, then toss the leaves in the pan. Reduce the heat to 250 degrees Fahrenheit and bake the sprouts for 15 minutes more or until leaves are crispy and almost burnt. Let your kids watch closely to figure out the best timing for your oven.

Tip: The easiest way to peel the leaves is to cut off the ends, turn the sprouts over and gently pry the leaves away starting at the stem. Keep trimming off the ends as you go to make it easier to peel off the layers. This takes patience (and time), but it’s a fun activity for your kids. As you get closer to the center, the leaves will become too tight to peel, so simply save the small pieces to saute or roast.

*Source: The 52 New Foods Challenge.

How do you encourage your family to try new foods?

Image of Brussels Sprouts Chips via Chris Chowaniec.

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6 Ways Kids Can Deal With Tempting Foods

Monday, November 17th, 2014

If the upcoming holiday season gives you angst when it comes to food and all the temptations, this guest post by Elizabeth M. Ward, M.S., R.D. provides some great tips to help you and your kids eat better and still enjoy yourselves. Read on to see what Ward, my esteemed colleague and the author of My Plate for Moms: How to Feed Yourself and Your Family Better, has to say about how to navigate this time of year—and all year—without sabotaging your family’s healthy diet.

Healthy babies are born with the knack to regulate their appetite; they eat when they’re hungry and they stop when they’re full. But early in life, most of us learn how to override that inborn ability. We discover that brownies tastes better than broccoli, salty crackers trump fruit, and soda is more fun than plain milk, and we want more junk food whether we are hungry or not.

Sure, some kids (not my three!) naturally clamor for carrot sticks and hummus, and could care less about overdoing it on cookies, snack chips, and sugary drinks, but they are the exceptions. Truth is, many children, especially younger ones, lack self-restraint—putting the brakes on when they’ve had enough or avoiding a certain food altogether—in favor of instant gratification.

It’s really no wonder why self-restraint, a.k.a., willpower, is so difficult to practice. Restraint is pushed to the limits in a world where children and their parents are bombarded all day long with messages and opportunities to eat sugary and fatty foods, and lots of them.

As parents, we want to teach our children self-restraint (many of us parents would like to have more of it ourselves, at least sometimes). The trick is to help kids pay attention to their hunger without policing every bite they take and to avoid food fights. Excessive monitoring of a youngster’s food intake stifles his or her independence, and may lead to overeating when you’re not around.

How to Build Willpower

Self-control is a lot like a muscle; the more you use it, the stronger it gets, according to researcher Roy Baumeister, author of Willpower: Rediscovering the Greatest Human Strength. The authors of a recent study in Psychosomatic Medicine: Journal of Biobehavioral Medicine suggest that healthy lifestyle choices may help better preserve the part of the brain that governs self-restraint. The authors also theorize that certain environments help reduce the temptation to overeat.

Here are six tips to help you help kids limit their intake of junk food without becoming the food police:

• Plan to succeed.  It’s much easier to make poor food decisions when you’re famished.  Plan meals and snacks with adequate protein, such as dairy, lean meat, beans and eggs, and fiber-filled foods, including fruits, vegetables, and whole grains to help you and your kids feel fuller for longer. Don’t keep tempting foods like candy, cookies, and chips in the house (Note from Elisa Zied: If you do keep a few empty calorie, nutrient-poor treats in the house, store them on a high shelf behind closed doors to minimize mindless eating.)

• Sleep your way to self-restraint. Researchers suggest that when you’re well rested, it’s easier to walk away from that pint of premium ice cream that’s calling your name. It’s the same for children: self-restraint is more likely with a consistent pattern of adequate slumber. Show your children that you value sleep as part of healthy living.

• Model restraint. Actions speak louder than words. Limiting yourself to two cookies instead of gorging on six helps teach your children to better control themselves. In addition, by committing to modeling good eating habits for the sake of the kids by not overindulging, you strengthen your own willpower “muscle.”

• Create positive peer pressure. Other children and adults may play a role in what your child eats. For the most part, surround yourself with people who will make it easier for your child to consume reasonable portions of high-calorie foods on limited occasions. Take the lead by serving healthy foods and limiting treats when your children have play dates.

Recognize the limits of self-control. Willpower is a limited resource. All day long you and your child do things that sap your inner energy reserves, like get up early for work when you’d rather sleep in, or, in your child’s case, sit quietly at his desk when he’d like to be running around the playground. It’s much more difficult to control the urge to splurge when you’re feeling stressed, which makes it that much more important to organize your household and eating routine to reduce temptation.

• Trust your inner child.  Your internal hunger cues may have dulled with time, but there’s plenty of hope for your son or daughter’s (and yours!). Start today to trust your child’s instinct by not overfeeding them. Don’t use any food, particularly sugary or fatty treats, as rewards. The earlier in life you start to do this, the easier it will be to teach self-restraint in the long run.

To help kids eat less and better, check out a recent Scoop on food post here.

How do you help your kids eat less and better?

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 of willpower via shutterstock.

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Greek Yogurt Recipes Your Kids Will Love

Monday, November 10th, 2014

If you’re looking from some new, healthy, kid-friendly recipe ideas using the ever-popular Greek yogurt, you’ll enjoy this guest post by registered dietitian Toby Amidor. A mother of three, she’s the author of the terrific new cookbook, The Greek Yogurt Kitchen: More Than 130 Recipes for Every Meal of the Day. Read on to learn about the nutritional perks of this versatile, easy to use food and to find a few of Amidor’s delicious recipes to incorporate it into family meals your kids are sure to love.  

After writing an entire cookbook on Greek yogurt, my nine-year-old daughter is now obsessed with the high protein dairy delight. She was my avid taste tester for many of the recipes and now I seem to be preparing her favorites on demand! But if you think Greek yogurt is just a snack, think again. There are many other ways to enjoy it.

The Nutritional Benefits

Greek yogurt is less watery than traditional yogurt because it is strained to remove the whey. This results in a yogurt that has a thick, creamy consistency and rich flavor. Greek yogurt also has about 40% less sugar, 38% less sodium, twice the amount of protein, and less lactose than traditional yogurt. It also contains live and active cultures, many of which act as probiotics.

Incorporating Greek yogurt into your child’s healthy eating plan can help them meet the USDA’s recommendations to have 3 daily servings of dairy each day.

Oh, the Versatility

There are so many kid-friendly ways to enjoy Greek yogurt that go beyond the yogurt cup.

Blend It

Kids love smoothies, but oftentimes they don’t know how healthy the ingredients in their smoothie really are! Greek yogurt not only adds a ton of good-for-you nutrients, it also adds frothiness and a thicker texture kid’s adore.

Mama’s Berry Smoothie

Serves 1

Prep time: 5 minutes


1 ½ medium bananas, peeled and frozen

½ cup frozen raspberries

½ cup frozen blueberries

1 cup fresh whole strawberries

½ cup nonfat milk

¼ cup nonfat Greek yogurt

2 tablespoons honey


Place ingredients in blender; blend until smooth.


Serving size: 6-fluid ounces


Nutrition information per serving: Calories: 116; Total Fat: 0 grams; Saturated Fat: 0 grams; Protein: 3 grams; Carbohydrates: 27 grams; Fiber: 3 grams; Cholesterol: 0 milligrams; Sodium: 23 milligrams


Dip It

A 2013 study published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics found that kids were more likely to eat their vegetables when they dipped them first. The study looked at pre-school aged children who told researchers that they enjoyed eating their veggies when paired with a favorite flavored dip compared to eating a veggie without a dip or with a plain dip. The results found that 31-percent of kids liked a veggie alone compared with 64% who liked a veggie when it was served with their favorite dip.

Researchers from the Center for Childhood Obesity Research at Pennsylvania State University conducted a second experiment where they found that kids ate significantly more of a veggie they disliked or previously rejected when it was offered with a favorite reduced-fat herb dip compared to when it was offered without any dip.

Greek yogurt makes a delicious base for many dips, including my Mango Guacamole.


Mango Guacamole*

Serves 8

Prep time: 20 minutes


2 Haas avocados

Juice of 1 lime

1 serrano chile

1 clove garlic

½ medium red onion

½ medium red bell pepper, seeded

¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro

½ cup nonfat plain Greek yogurt

½ teaspoon kosher salt

¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 mango, peeled and cut into ¼-inch dice


Slice the avocados in half lengthwise and remove the pits. Scoop out the flesh and place it in a medium bowl. Add the lime juice.

Halve the serrano chile lengthwise. Discard the seeds and cut the chile into 1/8-inch dice. Mince the garlic. Peel and finely dice the red onion. Slice the bell pepper in half, discard the seeds, and cut into ¼-inch dice. Add the chile, garlic, red onion, red bell pepper, cilantro, yogurt, salt, and black pepper to the avocado in the bowl, and stir to combine. Using a sharp knife, cut the avocado into a small dice. Gently stir the mango, and serve.


Serving size: ½ cup


Nutrition information per serving: Calories: 116; Total Fat: 8 grams; Saturated Fat: 1 gram; Protein: 3 grams; Total Carbohydrates: 12 grams; Sugars: 6 grams; Fiber: 4 grams; Cholesterol: 0 milligrams; Sodium: 154 milligrams


Bake It

Better-for-you cookies, brownies, and muffins? Yes, it’s possible! Greek yogurt is a healthy substitute for butter found in most baking recipes. For each stick of butter a recipe calls for, use two tablespoons nonfat Greek yogurt and ½ stick of butter instead.


Trail Mix Cookies*

Makes 40 cookies

Prep time: 20 minutes

Cook time: 12 minutes


Cooking spray

1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/8 teaspoon kosher salt

½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted

¼ cup nonfat plain Greek yogurt

1 cup packed light brown sugar

½ cup granulated sugar

2 large eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats

1 cup seedless golden raisins

1/3 cup unsalted shelled sunflower seeds


Preheat oven to 350°F. Coat a baking sheet with cooking spray and set it aside.

In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt.

In a large bowl, whisk together the melted butter and yogurt. Add the brown sugar and granulated sugar and stir until smooth. Add the eggs, one at a time, whisking until each one is incorporated, and then add the vanilla extract. Whisk until the mixture is light brown and thoroughly combined.

Slowly add the dry ingredients to the wet, folding gently until combined. Using one ingredient at a time, fold in the oats, raisins, and sunflower seeds.

Scoop up 1 heaping tablespoon of the dough and drop it onto the prepared baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining dough, leaving about 2 inches between cookies. Bake until the cookies are golden brown and slightly firm to the touch, about 12 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow to cool for 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to finish cooling for at least 10 minutes before serving.


Serving size: 1 cookie


Nutrition information per serving: Calories: 97; Total Fat: 3 grams; Saturated Fat: 2 grams; Protein: 2 grams; Total Carbohydrates: 16 grams; Sugars: 10 grams; Fiber: 1 gram; Cholesterol: 15 milligrams; Sodium: 45 milligrams


*Recipes from “The Greek Yogurt Kitchen” by Toby Amidor. Copyright © 2014 by Toby Amidor. Used with permission by Grand Central Publishing. All rights reserved.


What is your favorite way to infuse Greek yogurt into meals?

Image of strawberry banana smoothie via shutterstock. 

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5 Advantages of Having a Picky Eater

Sunday, November 2nd, 2014

Think you’re raising a so-called picky eater? If the answer is yes (and if picky eating frustrates you) this guest post by Maryann Jacobsen, a registered dietitian, blogger and author of the new e-book, From Picky to Powerful: Transform Your Outlook on Picky Eating and End Food Battles Forever!, can help you out.

Have you ever noticed that books, articles and well-meaning friends and family seem to be on a crusade to fix picky eating? We know the advice all too well. Have them take a bite, serve one meal and get kids growing and cooking their own food. And there’s always the if-you-don’t-get-them-to-do-it-now-they-never-will sentiment as well.

As a result of this crusade, parents are left in a tough spot. They feel guilty when their actions don’t result in a child who eats willingly, and they often give up or feel like they are doing something wrong.

But what if I told you there are real advantages to having a picky kid? What if all those crusaders are, well, maybe a little off base?

Here are 5 advantages to having a child who is slow to warm up to food:

1. Food regulation: Excess weight, one of the biggest health issues of our time, stems from trouble regulating food intake, such as the inability to stop when full, etc. Normally developing picky kids (different from problematic picky eating I discuss here) tend to have low appetites, because their growth slows considerably after the first two years of life.

When you think about the health challenges your child is likely to face in the next 20 years, eating small amounts at dinner doesn’t seem so bad. I know from experience that parents who have kids who eat anything also have children with big appetites, causing them another type of worry. While that doesn’t have to be a bad situation either, it makes sense to look on the bright side of a child who doesn’t need a lot of food to be satisfied.

2. Discerning palate: Kids who are more cautious with food are often overwhelmed by different tastes and textures. We know this is why vegetables tend to be disliked–they are bitter. In fact, one study showed that 70% of preschool children are considered “tasters” of bitter compounds, also called 6-n-propothiouricil (PROP).

But this taste sensitivity mellows out over time and can turn into quite an asset. Having a discerning palate is helpful to chefs who refine recipes based on tastings. As long as parents keep serving a variety of wholesome food, picky kids can come to appreciate quality, the delicate balance of flavors and may even take an interest in cooking.

3. They challenge our cooking skills: Before I had kids, I cooked a handful of meals, but after having kids I can’t even count how many meals I’ve experimented with (and I’ve had more failures than I care to admit). I have attempted at least 5 different versions of macaroni and cheese. I have mastered easy meals in the slow cooker. I have discovered the beauty of roasting veggies which are great for kids because they are crunchy and less bitter. And I even came up with what I consider the best homemade chicken tender recipe.

Whether meals stick or not, cooking for choosey kids has enhanced my cooking for the better. But if my kids ate everything, I probably would still be in my rut.

4. They teach life lessons: Where do I start on the life lessons of dealing with picky eaters?  I’ve learned patience, how to put my own agenda aside and how to trust my kids instead of fight them. I simply cannot control what they eat or prefer but I can control the circumstances that help them eat well—meals, structure and how pleasant (or not) meals are.

But most importantly, I’m reminded of the small step-nature of lasting change and learning. There are no magic tricks to get kids to eat just like there are no quick fixes to obtaining good health. Kids are learning about food the same way they learn to read or write. We need to trust that they will get there in their own time and in their own way. Anything worthwhile is an investment and I am in this for the long haul.

5. Picky-ness is part of your child: My five-year-old son is very cautious and a late bloomer with everything, including food. I wouldn’t try to change this aspect of his personality because it is part of who he is. And I love him dearly.

Now that doesn’t mean I’ve given up. I just have accepted that his food acceptance will be slow and steady. And when you think about it, being extra cautious isn’t such a bad quality to have.

It’s time to start a whole new conversation about picky eating. Underneath the refusals and food requests, kids really do want to learn and grow with food. The advantages of having a picky kid are real, if you take the time to look at it—and your child—in a completely different light.

For additional tips to help feed ‘picky eaters’ over the holidays, check out a previous Scoop on Food post here.

Image of a young boy is making a funny disgusting face at a fork with a healthy piece of broccoli via shutterstock.

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