Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Have A Happy, HEALTHFUL, Fun and Safe Halloween!

All year we try help our children choose health-promoting food... more antioxidants, more Vitamin D, less HFCS, no trans fats, and on and on.  We read labels and cook so we can eat family meals.  We look for deep reds and dark greens to provide vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients.  We steam, we bake, and we don't fry. Then why do we abandon all our efforts on Halloween? 
Before we think about WHAT we can do instead of having candy, candy and more candy, let us find motivation for making change from research about food colorings and refined added sugars.  Research published in the Lancet, a British medical journal, in recent years indicated that food colorings and the food additive sodium benzoate led to an increase in hyperactive behavior in both preschoolers and school age children.  Most food with added colors generally are NOT essential (or necessary in any way) for health. This includes candy-especially vibrant colored candy such as lollipops, Starbursts, Skittles, M&Ms, etc  (It’s amazing to think how many different candy kids will accept and how few veggies some are willing to accept- many the same color!)  This year as you begin to purchase your halloween costumes and decoration, rethink what you can give out as "treats"... kids LOVE non-food items as much as candy!  (see side bar for ideas) or more healthful choices like pretzels or graham crackers. 

Research regarding sugar and hyperactivity has never been conclusive.  The most solid research suggests that the issue is the relationship of sugar (carbohydrate)  to protein in the diet.  Too many carbs and not enough protein leads to hyperactivity.  But even if you pile on the chicken, beans, eggs or peanut butter before Trick-or-Treating, you will not reduce the health risks of sugar.

The American Heart Association, a very conservative, mainstream non-profit organization recently recommended no more than 6 teaspoons a day of added sugar.  A lollipop has two teaspoons of sugar; Reese's, Snickers, Kit Kat all have 2 ½ teaspoons; 3 teaspoons in a Milky Way or Junior Mint.  

A little bit doesn't hurt, or does it? Remember that chronic disease starts in childhood and it is not just Halloween night but the weeks after, followed by the December holidays, Valentine's Day and then Easter! Excessive sugar intake is related to obesity (between 30-40% of our American kids are obese) and all of the weight related disorders such as cancer, heart disease, high blood pressure and diabetes.  Even skinny kids eating an excess sugar are at risk for heart disease as sugar increases triglycerides and may also increase blood pressure.  And we can't forget sugar's contribution to dental caries.

So let's redefine what Halloween “treats” are and find some satisfying alternatives that keep us and our kids healthy.  Remember you are your kids most influential role model.  Be a good one! 

Alternative Halloween "Treats":
-Pencils, erasers, crayons
 -Memo pads, coloring books
-Individual packs of pretzels, animal cookies, dried fruit, gum
-Rings, necklaces, bracelets
-Individual packs of Playdough
-Little cars, plastic animals 

Remember, there are a lot of children with food allergies and other medical issues that prevent them from being able to eat candy, so offering non-food goodies allows everyone to take part in this fun day!

Be Well, Be NutritionWise
Nicole Meadow, MPN, RD, CSP, CLC

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Monday, December 24, 2012

Cook with your Kids this Holiday Season

The holidays are a fantastic time to get kids involved in cooking and learning about nutrition.  Research shows that kids who are involved in the cooking and preparation process, are more likely to try new foods.  Let them help wash, peel, sort, measure, mix, stir (the opportunity in the kitchen is endless and also depends on their age).  Let them get dirty and above all else... HAVE FUN!  That's what it is all about.  See this article from Kids Eat Right for more ideas and information: Kids Eat Right.  Happy Holidays!

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Veggie Kids

More and more children today are vegetarians either by having parents that raise them vegetarian or by choosing the lifestyle themselves (sometimes at a very early age!).  There is plenty of research which shows that a vegetarian lifestyle has enormous health benefits.  Vegetarians tend to consume more fiber, vitamins and minerals from a variety of sources. They also have lower cholesterol levels, and less likeliness of developing chronic illnesses such as obesity, atherosclerosis, asthma, and diabetes. Vegetarian foods are a more efficient energy source than animal products as they are easier for the body to break-down and leave a smaller carbon footprint.  There are often concerns about children being able to receive the nutrients that they need for proper growth and development when omitting meat from their diet.  Essentially, without meat, poultry and fish, we need to ensure that a child receives sufficient protein, iron and zinc.  There are plenty of veggie based protein and iron rich foods like tofu, lentils, chickpeas, beans and  zinc can be found primarily whole grains, wheat germ, lima beans, soy, and nuts.  As with all children, offer your veggie loving little ones 3 meals and 2-3 snacks daily so that they have many opportunities to receive the nutrition that they need.  If there are any concerns about growth or nutritional intake, discuss it with your child's pediatrician or pediatric dietitian.  

Friday, November 30, 2012

It's Friday Try-day!

It's "FRIDAY TRY-DAY!"  Time to be adventurous and try something new.  How about a PARSNIP (a close relative of the carrot).  Parsnips are a great source of fiber and potassium.  Try this:  peel and cut 1 lb of fresh parsnips.  Toss lightly in a drizzle of olive oil or flavored oil of your choice (the possibilities are endless).  Roast 20-25 minutes at 425 degrees. Season with salt and pepper to taste.  You can also add parsnips to soups/stews, or use them in your mashed potato recipe for a unique spin on a traditional favorite.  Enjoy!!

Friday, November 9, 2012

*Tips to Stay Fit and Healthful This Thanksgiving*

Did you know that at the Thanksgiving meal, the average adult eats approximately 2000-3000 calories! Try the following strategies to make your meal more healthful (and less caloric):

• Do not come to the Thanksgiving table starving! Make sure to have a healthful breakfast and lunch before arriving at dinner. When you are extremely hungry, you eat very fast and tend to overeat.

• Make time for exercise, especially on Thanksgiving Day. Try starting a family routine like going for a bike ride, hike or for a long walk.

• Fill your plate with salad and veggies first and then leave a small amount of space for higher calorie options like stuffing, mashed potatoes, green bean casserole, etcetera. Do not deprive yourself of your favorite dishes, think in terms of moderation!

• Distance yourself from the hors d’oeuvre table… munch on fresh fruits and vegetables (preferably organic) instead of high fat appetizers.

• Drink plenty of water to keep your body hydrated, many of the foods served on Thanksgiving are high in sodium.

• Go skinless… most of the fat is in the turkey skin. Have your turkey breast, leg or thigh without the skin to trim major calories and fat.  (Have you ever thought of trying a vegetarian Thanksgiving?  It's a radical concept for many- but the idea of the holiday should be about family and giving thanks not just about what is on your plate). 

• Eat slowly… put your fork down every few bites and drink water. Your brain will have time to catch up with your stomach and you will find that you are satisfied with less food!

• If you are the host, try making healthful alternatives such as steamed green beans with a drizzle of olive oil and almond slivers (instead of green bean casserole) and baked sweet potatoes (instead of baked yams with butter and marshmallows) to decrease calories and fat and increase nutrient density!

• Most importantly… enjoy yourself. Be thankful and gracious to those around you…enjoy the spirit of the holiday and what it means to you. Visit a local food bank and help those in need. 

Stay tuned for future posts with vegetarian Thanksgiving recipes!

Be well,

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

GMO's... no, no, no!

Is our food really food anymore?  How do we know?  Experts estimate around 70% of the food sold in grocery stores contain genetically modified organisms (GMO)- yet this is not required to be on a label so we do not know if a product that we are purchasing contains a GMO.  Although it’s still unclear if GMOs actually pose real health risks, over 90% of Americans agree that they should be identified on food packages and that they as consumers have the right to know what is in the food that they are purchasing.
This growing demand has lead to several initiatives to spread awareness about GMOs and in strong support of labeling legislation. This labeling legislation is known as Proposition 37 and if passed this November in California, Proposition 37 would require packaged food companies to label genetically modified food in their products by January 2014.  It is our right as consumers to know if there are GMOs a food so we can make the decision as an educated consumer as far as what products we want to purchase (or NOT purchase).  Research has shown that if given the choice, many Americans would not choose products that contain GMOs.  Would YOU???  

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Pass on the E Coli this Fourth of July

Happy and healthy Fourth of July!  With BBQ's a few hours away I wanted to share a great resource for food safety tips as food borne illnesses skyrocket on this holiday (especially this year with temperatures reaching record highs in many parts of the country).  Have fun, make healthy choices, and be safe.