Monday, January 20th, 2014
American families are eating more meals at home, and those meals are healthier, a new study conducted by the U.S. Department of Agriculture has found. The findings include that Americans are consuming fewer calories overall, family meals are becoming more common, and more people are paying attention to the quality of the food they buy. More from Time.com:
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You can thank the recession, but when the economy started to sour in 2007, Americans stopped eating at restaurants and started to cook more meals at home. And most families have been listening to the onslaught of advice about how to eat healthier, since those meals were also respectably nutritious. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) report, adults born from 1946 to 1985 who were asked about their diets from 2005 to 2010 consumed fewer calories and less cholesterol and unhealthy fats.
“It’s good news for us,” said Kevin Concannon, USDA Under Secretary for Food, Nutrition and Consumer Services, in a press conference.
Concannon said that while meals at home still make up a minority of the average American’s diet, the trend is encouraging and hopefully represents the beginning of a shift in the way families eat.
Thursday, January 16th, 2014
A study of the factors that contribute to obesity among preschool-aged children has identified these three as the most predictive of whether a child will be overweight: inadequate sleep, parents whose body mass index (BMI) numbers classify them as overweight or obese, and parent-imposed restrictions on food that are intended to help them manage weight. Interestingly, the study, which was published in the journal “Childhood Obesity,” found that restrictions on both healthy and unhealthy foods were equal predictors of weight problems in kids. Researchers from the University of Illinois had examined 22 possible risk factors before making their conclusions. More from a press release from the university:
“What’s exciting here is that these risk factors are malleable and provide a road map for developing interventions that can lead to a possible reduction in children’s weight status. We should focus on convincing parents to improve their own health status, to change the food environment of the home so that healthy foods are readily available and unhealthy foods are not, and to encourage an early bedtime,” said Brent McBride, a U of I professor of human development and director of the university’s Child Development Laboratory.
The researchers reached their conclusions after compiling the results from an extensive survey distributed to 329 parent-child dyads recruited from child-care programs in east-central Illinois as part of the U of I’s STRONG (Synergistic Theory and Research on Obesity and Nutrition Group) Kids Program. The current research is based on the first wave of data generated in this longitudinal study, taken when the children were two years old.
The survey yielded wide-ranging information on demographics, health histories of both child and parent, and pertinent feeding practices. Research assistants also did home visits with each participant, checking height and weight and taking further information about the parents’ history. The data was then subjected to statistical analysis.
As a result of that analysis, McBride and U of I nutritional sciences graduate student Dipti A. Dev offer some recommendations for families.
Parents should recognize that their food preferences are being passed along to their children and that these tastes are established in the preschool years, Dev said.
“If you, as an adult, live in a food environment that allows you to maintain an elevated weight, remember that your child lives in that environment too. Similarly, if you are a sedentary adult, you may be passing on a preference for television watching and computer games instead of playing chasing games with your preschooler or playing in the park,” she added.
Consider too that restricting your children’s access to certain foods will only make them want those foods more, she said.
“If kids have never had a chance to eat potato chips regularly, they may overeat them when the food appears at a friend’s picnic,” McBride said.
Instead, work on changing the food environment in your home so that a wide variety of healthy choices such as fruits and vegetables are available while unhealthy options are not, he added.
“And remember that it takes a certain number of exposures to a food before a child will try it, let alone like it, so you have to offer it to them over and over and over again. And they have to see you eat it over and over,” McBride noted.
Don’t use food to comfort your children when they are hurt or disappointed, do allow your preschoolers to select their foods as bowls are passed at family-style meals (no pre-plating at the counter—it discourages self-regulation), and encourage all your children to be thoughtful about what they are eating, the researcher said.
Need some ideas to make school lunches or dinner healthier? Download our free chart to easily help substitute healthier foods into your family’s meals.
Image: Child eating, via Shutterstock
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Wednesday, January 8th, 2014
A Change.org petition appealing to Mars, Inc. to stop using artificial food dyes in their iconic M&M candies has garnered more than 145,000 signatures. In Europe, M&Ms are colored using naturally derived dyes, and some parents and scientists link artificial dyes to behavioral issues in kids. More on the petition from CNN.com:
[Renee] Shutters says her son Trenton showed noticeable improvements in mood and attention span after she removed artificial coloring from his diet a few years ago. M&Ms were his favorite candy.
“I just could not believe that something so small could make that big of a difference,” Shutters says.
European lawmakers moved to require warning labels on foods containing certain artificial colorings after a 2007 study found a slight increase in hyperactivity among children consuming a mixture of the dyes and a preservative.
The required label reads: “May have an adverse effect on activity and attention in children.”
The move came despite the European Food Safety Authority’s conclusion that the UK study “provides limited evidence” and “cannot be used as a basis for altering the (accepted daily intake) of the respective food (colors).”
Instead of adding the warning, most manufacturers voluntarily switched to dyes derived from natural sources, such as beets or annatto for red, carrots for orange and saffron for yellow.
In the United States, the Food and Drug Administration has declined to implement tougher regulations but acknowledged that “certain susceptible children with Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder and other problem behaviors” may have their condition “exacerbated by exposure to a number of substances in food, including, but not limited to, synthetic color additives.”
The effects on behavior “appear to be due to a unique intolerance to these substances and not to any inherent neurotoxic properties,” the FDA said in 2011.
Michael Jacobson, executive director of the Center for Science in the Public Interest, says the FDA and big business need to take action.
“The Food and Drug Administration should protect the public’s health by banning food dyes,” Jacobson says. “Companies of course could remove dyes voluntarily, switching to safer natural colorings, and a few big companies are beginning to do it.”
Image: Candy coated chocolates, via Shutterstock
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artificial coloring, attention, candy, Change.org, food dyes, M&Ms, Mars Inc., nutrition | Categories:
Child Health, Must Read, Parenting News, Trends
Friday, January 3rd, 2014
Teenagers who watch television or use electronic devices during family meals are more likely to experience problems ranging from poorer nutrition to impaired family communication, according to a new study published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. More from Reuters:
Experts have suggested turning the TV off at mealtime for years. But with the advent of cell phones and other handheld devices, kids can bring all kinds of media with them to the table.
“The findings of this most recent paper showed that mealtime media use is common among families with adolescents but that setting rules around media use at meals may reduce media use among teens and have other positive benefits as well,” lead author Jayne A. Fulkerson told Reuters Health in an email.
Fulkerson is the director of the Center for Child and Family Health Promotion Research at the University of Minnesota School of Nursing in Minneapolis.
“Parents who are having family meals with media could choose to make some rules excluding media at mealtimes to spend more quality time with their children,” she said.
Fulkerson and her colleagues asked more than 1,800 parents how often their adolescent children watched TV, talked on the phone, texted, played games or listened to music with headphones during family meals.
They also asked parents if they set rules on media use at mealtime and whether they felt family meals were important. Children answered questions about how well their families communicated, including how often they talked about problems with their parents.
Two thirds of parents reported that their teens watched TV or movies during family meals at least some of the time. One quarter said the TV was on frequently.
Texting, talking on the phone, listening to music with headphones and using handheld games were less common. Between 18 and 28 percent of parents reported those activities happened at mealtime, according to findings published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
Close to three quarters of parents said they set limits on mealtime media use.
Image: Family on cell phones at the dinner table, via Shutterstock
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Monday, December 16th, 2013
New scientific research conducted with mice may have major implications for how fathers think about their health before planning to have a baby. The study linked nutritional deficiencies in male mice with a higher risk that their offspring would be born with birth defects. The Washington Post has more:
The findings raise concerns about dads unknowingly passing on harmful traits through molecular markers on the DNA of their sperm.
These epigenetic markers don’t change the genetic information, but rather switch parts of the genome on and off. They are susceptible to environment and diet throughout fetal development, but were thought to be wiped clean before birth. New studies, including the one published online Tuesday in Nature Communications, have revealed that some of them may survive all the way from sperm to baby.
When analyzing the sperm epigenomes of the low-nutrition mice, the researchers found abnormalities in epigenetic markers that affected genes linked to development, neurological and psychological disorders and certain cancers.
“We should be looking carefully at the way a man is living his life,” said study author and reproductive biologist Sarah Kimmins of McGill University. “Environmental exposure is remembered in the developing sperm and transmitted to offspring.”
Since it takes human males about three months to produce fully grown sperm from stem cells, Kimmins speculates that men trying to have children could try cleaning up their diets even temporarily.
“If a man has been living a bad, unhealthy lifestyle, he will not only improve his own health but the health of his offspring,” she said.
Image: Man with healthy food in shopping basket, via Shutterstock
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