Sunday, May 30, 2010

A spoonful of .....salt!

Salt is back in the news and worth reading about. Thirty years ago, clear links were made regarding salt and high blood pressure. At that time greater regulation of processed foods, which accounts for 80% of salt intake, was fought by large food companies. New research has confirmed past research and efforts are being directed again toward regulating salt.

Why regulate? Because between high salt intake and the rising incidence of obesity, high blood pressure is being seen at an increasing rate in children and reducing salt intake could save 150,000 lives per year.

You may have put your salt shaker away but the food industry has not. Just one cup of canned chicken soup has more sodium (salt) then you should have in a day. Just one cup! Adding salt to food influences flavor and texture. It allows cheaper, less flavorful ingredients to be used.

So what can you do?
1. Read the label of any processed food, you do want to have more than 1500 mg of sodium per day, the lower your intake the better. Processed food includes canned foods as well as crackers, cookies and breads.
2. Look for fresh, minimally processed food for snacks and meals. Think about fruit (dried or fresh), veggies, roasted nuts and seeds. When buying any processed or canned foods, look for the unsalted or low sodium options.
3. Make your own whenever possible. Invest in a air popper for popcorn so you can control your salt. Try your hand at making soup and freeze extras to use later. Use marinades made from simple ingredients rather than packaged or jarred marinades ( check out our newsletter archives, July 2009, for a marinade recipe).
4. When salty foods are eaten, make sure you monitor how much- don't eat from the bag, put some in a cup. Reduce the amount by mixing unsalted foods (nuts,tortilla chips, dried fruit) with the salted chips or nuts.
5. Use some flavorful substitutes for salt: paprika is great sprinkled on popcorn, add some fresh dill to stews and soups, a splash of balsamic vinegar wakes up roasted veggies.

Salt and sugar are primal tastes. We all are drawn towards these flavors. Although we naturally like salty foods, by avoiding or limiting highly salted foods, our kids will learn to prefer appropriately salted foods and ultimately enjoy the taste of real food- not the salt.


Wednesday, May 12, 2010

What IS a food allergy?

The New York Times, May 11, 2010, published a great article highlighting the lack of consensus about what IS a food allergy. The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases have organized an expert panel to "impose order on the chaos of food allergy testing". The goal of the panel is to clarify diagnosis, definition and testing. Conclusions of the panel will be presented by the end of June 2010.

Until then, some interesting information cited by the panel include:
  • People who test positive for allergies either by skin prick or blood test have less then a 50% chance of actually having an allergy!
  • Having IgE or IgG antibodies does not necessarily mean you are allergic to specific foods. The presence of the antibodies can be transient and rather meaningless.


Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Baby led weaning... what's for lunch?

Your six to nine month old is starting to enjoy food! But she wants to feed herself, what to do?
Find soft foods to grab and enjoy. Steam up some sweet potato, carrot, broccoli and cauliflower. How about some dissolvable crackers like graham crackers or Ritz crackers (try the whole wheat). Cheerios or other cereals such as Chex, Shredded Spoonfuls or Mighty Bites are fun, avoid the sweetened varieties. Summer fruits are also good choices- apricots, peaches, nectarines and plums. Remember to buy organic when buying soft skinned fruits. Noodles are good choices and can be finger foods. Toss the noodles in a little pesto or olive oil for flavor.

What NOT to have for lunch? Avoid sweetened foods and salty foods. Highly processed foods don't belong in a baby's diet.

The following are "choke" foods, meaning due to their size and texture they can be dangerous to kids under 3.
Avoid or CLOSELY supervise grapes, olives, hot dogs, pickles, popcorn, nuts, chewy meats, spoonfuls of peanut butter (peanut butter should be mixed with applesauce, smashed banana or spread thinly on bread/crackers). Cut all round food lengthwise. Avoid hard candy.

And remember to include your baby in family meals as much as possible.