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Daily Dose

Your Kids Need Protein!

1:30 to read

Nutrition and healthy eating habits are always a topic of discussion during my patient’s check-ups.  Interestingly, I hear many tweens and teens tell me, “I am now a vegetarian”.  While I am thrilled that my patients are developing an awareness about their nutrition, I am equally amazed by what they think a vegetarian diet is.

Many a parent has cornered me before their child’s check up concerned about their child’s recent announcement that they are vegetarians and it has actually caused some heated family discussions surrounding nutrition and dietary requirements. The parents say that their child just decided that they no longer wanted to “eat meat” and that they were vegetarians. 

So…many of these new “vegetarians” don’t even like vegetables, and a few are confused by the difference between a vegetable and a fruit. When I ask them if they eat broccoli, cauliflower, green beans, asparagus, eggplant and potatoes, I find that more than a few turn their noses up at most of those suggestions and simply eat potatoes as their vegetable of preference. They also eat avocados, and are surprised to find out that it is a fruit, but it is a good source of healthy mono unsaturated fats.  A few are a bit more adventuresome and actually eat a wide variety of vegetables including lentils and black beans as a source of protein.  

The same thing goes for fruits although for the most part they do admit to having a broader palate when it comes to fruits that they will eat.  Apples, bananas, berries, grapes are all favorites and many of these kids will eat fruit all day long.  Fruit is healthy for sure, but also contains sugars (far preferable to the sugar in the M & M’s I am eating while writing). 

The biggest problem with their “vegetarian diet”?   They just eat carbs! So I have coined the term “carbohydratarian” to describe them. Most of these patients are female and they eat carbs all day long.  They have cereal, toast, bagels for breakfast, followed by grilled cheese, french fries or a quesadilla for lunch and then dinner is pizza or pasta, and maybe a salad (lettuce only).  They like crackers, bread and almost all pasta (rarely whole wheat ). Rice is another favorite.

I too could probably eat a lot of these carbs every day….I think many people enjoy their carbs. But these kids are not meeting many of their nutritional requirements. They are getting very little protein! They are also growing…some at their most rapid rate during puberty. When I talk about adding protein to their diet they are often reticent to add eggs, fish or beans to their food choices. 

If your child decides that they want to change their lifestyle and might consider becoming a vegetarian or vegan, I would encourage you to have them meet with a certified nutritionist to explore their likes and dislikes as well as to educate them as to their nutritional needs.

I must say…..very few of these patients have maintained their vegetarian lifestyle, but if they choose to, they need to know the difference between a fruit and a veggie!

 

Daily Dose

Food Textures

1:30 to read

If you have a baby between the ages of 8-9 months and have already been offering them pureed baby foods it may be time to start some textures as well.  Many parents are a bit “wary” of offering any food that hasn’t been totally pureed, but it is important that your baby starts to experiment with foods that have different consistencies. 

Of course this does not mean you hand your baby anything that they could choke on like a grape, or piece of meat etc. But instead of totally pureeing carrots, why not cook them well, chop them up a bit and put them on the high chair tray. It is fun to watch how they touch and feel the carrots, before they “smoosh and moosh” them and get them to their mouths.   

There are so many foods that are easily offered to a baby to get them used to feeling different textures.  This is the very beginning of experimenting with finger foods, and this doesn’t just mean puffs or cheerios either. I like to encourage babies to feel cold, gooey, warm, sticky, all sorts of different textures which will ultimately help them become better and more adventuresome eaters as they get older.  

Unfortunately, I see far too many little ones (and not so little ones too) continuing to eat totally pureed foods and then becoming adverse to textures as they did not get the experience at an early enough age. 

It is also fun to watch your child as they begin to pick up foods that have been chopped and diced into small soft pieces. In the early stages they have to scoop and lick the food from their fingers and hands, but very quickly their pincer grasp takes over and suddenly they can pick up that well cooked green bean or pea!!  Such a feat and worthy of a home video to send to the grandparents for sure. 

So, put out some mushy food and let them play - I know it is messy but that is what being a kid is often about!

Daily Dose

Why Vitamin D is Important!

1:30 to read

As a follow up to the blog last week on children, calcium and vitamin D needs, a recent article in a Canadian Medical Journal reports that children who drink non-cow’s milk, such as soy, rice, almond and goat’s milk have lower serum vitamin D levels than those who are drinking vitamin D fortified cow’s milk.

This study looked at 2800 children between 1-6 year olds, and their consumption of either cow’s milk which is all vitamin D fortified and those who drank non-cow’s milk, in which case fortification is voluntary.  The researchers then looked at blood samples to measure vitamin D levels.

The researchers found that children who drank non-cow’s milk had nearly three times the risk for having low vitamin D levels.

So...bottom line...when I am discussing milk and dairy intake with families I am going to reiterate the need to drink cow’s milk, or children may need to continue vitamin D supplementation  and for most parents, including myself, it is hard to remember to give a vitamin or mineral supplement every day for a child’s entire life!).  A glass of vitamin D fortified milk at meals seems an easier choice in most cases.

Daily Dose

Preschool Nutrition Can Be Challenging

1:30 to read

Does your child eat three meals a day with healthy snacks along the way? I often find myself talking to parents about establishing healthy eating habits especially when you have a preschooler. Preschool children, specifically the two to five-year-old set are notoriously picky eaters, and parents need to recognize that this is developmentally appropriate, although frustrating for parents.

This is an appropriate time to begin teaching children the importance of healthy eating habits to encourage a lifetime of good health and prevent obesity. A good place to start to get information is “MyPyramid for Preschoolers”, a website sponsored by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. This website not only covers what your children should be eating, but also is full of good advice on handling picky eaters, how to monitor your child’s growth and ideas to encourage physical activity.

The website encourages parents to lead by example and let your children see you eating a wide array of foods including fruits, vegetables, and whole grains throughout the day. There are ideas for healthy snacks that can be eaten on the run, as you get back into carpools and after school activities. Even the toddler set is busy after school!

Remember: do not let food choices become a battle or an issue. Do not make negative food comments around your children, and keep trying new things. It may take up to 20 attempts or more before your child will try something new, but if you don’t keep trying you will never know if they might really like broccoli.

Also, no “yucky faces” for the adults and older children while at the table and eating their meal. That will only discourage your toddler from trying unfamiliar foods. Put on that happy face, even if it is not your favorite food, it might be your child’s.

The most important message is to make mealtime and snack time pleasant and healthy. Even a toddler can help with planning and preparing a meal. This website is really quite good and interactive as you can enter your child’s first name, age, gender and typical amount of activity and the site will generate a plan just for your child! Can’t be easier than that.

That’s your daily dose, we’ll chat again tomorrow.

 
Daily Dose

Healthier School Lunches

1.00 to read

With everyone back in school after a nice summer break, what better time to discuss school lunches, especially as they relate to healthy choices.  The USDA (Department of Agriculture) has just issued new national guidelines for school lunches which will begin this school year.  The new guidelines include calorie and sodium limits for foods served on the school lunch line and are age dependent.   

The new guidelines also include the recommendation for more whole grains, and dark green, orange or red vegetables (color on the plate). Students buying school lunches must choose at least one fruit or vegetable at every meal.  Portion sizes may also be smaller as well. 

These changes are all geared at helping students understand the importance of healthy eating and making good nutritious food choices.  It is hoped that as students get “used” to seeing and eating healthier school lunches, the choices that they make at home may become better as well.  

Students will also be able to choose from fat-free, low-fat and lactose-free milk and will be required to have 1 serving a day.  Flavored milk will be required to be fat free. 

Lastly, half of the grains served in a school lunch must be whole grain and by 2014 school year all grains must be whole grain rich. 

So, if you are planning on packing your child’s lunch this year, remember these guidelines as well. I think that a combo of packing healthy lunches on some days, while letting your child buy a school lunch on other days seems to be the perfect balance.  Let your children help pick out healthy food choices to put in their packed lunch and they might even pick up a few ideas from the new school lunches this year too. 

You can find the new guidelines at http://1.usa.gov/Qzd5Z7

 

 

Daily Dose

Sports Drinks or Water?

Does your child need a sports drink or water to hydrate? A new study reveals the best practices for your kids. The AAP Committee on Nutrition and the Council on Sports Medicine and Fitness just released a report outlining the use and misuse of sports drinks and energy drinks among children and adolescents.

While pediatricians have been effective in discouraging families from drinking full calorie carbonated beverages, and schools have phased out full-calorie soft drinks in cafeterias and vending machines, there has been huge growth in the sports and energy drinks market. It seems that these sports drinks are now the third fastest growing beverage category in the US, after energy drinks and bottled water. Many of these beverages are being marketed towards children and teens for a big variety of inappropriate uses. To begin with, sports drinks and energy drinks are really very different products. Sports drinks are flavored beverages that contain carbohydrates, along with minerals, electrolytes, and they should be used specifically for hydration in athletes. Advertisements would suggest that these products may optimize athletic performance and replace fluid and electrolytes lost in sweat during exercise. For the average child who is engaged in routine physical activity, the use of sports drink is really unnecessary, good old water will do the trick. It is important to teach children to hydrate with plenty of water before, during and after regular exercise. If doctors and parents are encouraging exercise as a means of improving overall health and wellness, providing sugary sports drinks seems counter intuitive. Some kids may not even burn as many calories with their exercise as they may receive from one bottle of a sports drink. In other words a child’s overall daily caloric intake may increase without any real nutritional value provided by a sports drink. Back to reading labels! For athletes who are participating in vigorous exercise, or in conditions of prolonged physical activity, blood glucose is an important energy source and may need to be replenished; in which case sports drink providing additional carbohydrate may be appropriate. But, different sports drinks contain differing amounts of carbs, anywhere from 2-19 grams of carbohydrate per 8 oz serving. The caloric content of sports drinks is 10 – 70 calories per serving.  You must look at the labels and judge the intensity and duration of exercise to decide which drink to use. With summer approaching, it is good to know that sports drinks really are not indicated for use during meals or snacks, and are not a replacement for low fat milk or water. Turn on the faucet and cut down on calories and cavities! That’s your daily dose for today.  We’ll chat again tomorrow. How do your kids stay hydrated? Let me know!

Daily Dose

Marketing Healthy Foods to Kids

1:15 to read

The marketing of foods to children continues to be a hot topic.  As any parent knows…by the time your child is 3, 4 or 5 years old…they can often point to the box of sugary cereal with their favorite cartoon character on it, or identify a sign (McDonalds, Chic-Fil-A, Pizza) although they are not yet reading.  Companies are very clever when it comes to marketing…especially to children who drive a lot of consumer choices.

But, a recent article in Pediatrics shows how marketing may also drive healthy food choices. The study entitled, “Marketing Vegetable in Elementary School Cafeterias to Increase Uptake”, looked at the number of students who chose fresh vegetables from the salad bar at 10 elementary school cafeterias in a large school district over a six-week period.

The study included four different groups. In the first group the schools displayed vinyl banners with branded cartoon vegetable characters. These banners were then wrapped around the salad bar bases. The characters displayed “super human” strength related to eating vegetables (the Popeye of my generation - with his spinach).  The second group of schools showed short television segments which had vegetable characters delivering healthy nutritional advice. In the third group of schools both the salad bar banners and TV segments were used to promote healthy nutrition and food choices.  The fourth group was the control group and received no intervention.  The intervention schools also had decals with the vegetable characters placed on the floor which directed the children to the salad bars.

The results?  Nearly twice as many students ate vegetables from the salad bar when they were exposed to the banners.  More than 3 times as many students who were exposed to both banners and TV segments went to the salad bar (more girls than boys ). Interestingly, the marketing campaign also increased the number of students who chose a vegetable serving in the regular lunch line as well. 

So, it seems that branded marketing strategies may be used in a positive way to promote healthier food choices among young children.  Now we just have to get the advertisers to change some of their branded messaging aimed at young children from the “junk” to the healthy foods, as we have data to show that kids will choose good foods…especially if their super heroes like it too!

Daily Dose

No More Food Battles

1.30 to read

Seems that I spend several times a day discussing “food battles” with my patients and their families.  I guess the longer I practice the more I don’t think we should even have to discuss how often parents “battle” with their kids about eating.  

From the early days of parenting when a baby is first offered either breast or formula, they are not asked “do you like this?”.  It is taken for granted that an infant will eat and grow and  there you have it.  The easiest days of parenting, correct? (except for a few months of sleep deprivation).  But once that baby begins to eat the discussions start about “he makes a face when he eats spinach”, or “she will only eat chicken tenders from Chik-fil-a”, or “he only likes pasta and won’t eat meat”, or even “I make 3 diferent meals for my 3 kids”.  If you have a child older than 9 months you understand what I am talking about. 

Food is necessary to nutrition, growth and health. But, with that being said, parents have to trust that a child WILL EAT when they are hungry.  Really, hunger drives us all to eat, eventually.  That bowl or cereal, or the steamed vegetables or even the dreaded chicken breast will get eaten if your child gets hungry enough. I remember reading somewhere that , “ a parent’s job is to provide food for their children at appropriate meal times, and child’s job is to decide if they will eat it.”  In other words, make the meal whether for your toddler or teen and “forget about it”.  Meal time needn’t be a battle but more a gathering to enjoy being together eating is just a bonus.  

As an adult, when you go to a dinner party, you don’t ask what they are serving before you accept, nor do you tell the host/hostess, I hate lamb!!  (my example).  You just smile and find something to eat and there is not a battle.  We all need to approach family meals as a dinner party. Our children are our guests, and sometimes they like what we fix and other times they push some food around their plate and choose not to eat.  The good news for most children is that there is another meal to follow. 

So, think about it and don’t let certain food likes and dislikes dictate mealtime. The more foods young children are exposed to the better chance they have of EVENTUALLY becoming a well rounded eater.  Children’s taste buds change with time as well, so you will find some foods that a 3 year old loved is no longer the favorite at 13 years of age.   

Well balanced, nutritious, colorful meals are the family goal and “food battles” can be left out of the vocabulary.   

Your Baby

Fish Oil During Pregnancy May Reduce Baby’s Asthma Risk

2:00

A Danish study’s results suggests pregnant women that take a fish oil supplement during the final 3 months of pregnancy may reduce their baby’s risk of developing asthma or persistent wheezing.

The study involved 736 pregnant women, in their third trimester. Half the women took a placebo containing olive oil and the other group was given 2.4 grams of fish oil. The women took the supplements until one week after birth.

Among children whose mothers took fish-oil capsules, 16.9 percent had asthma by age 3, compared with 23.7 percent whose mothers were given placebos. The difference, nearly 7 percentage points, translates to a risk reduction of about 31 percent.

In the study, the researchers noted that they are not ready to recommend that pregnant women routinely take fish oil. Although the results of the study were positive, several experts have noted that more research needs to be done before higher doses of fish oil supplements are recommended over eating more fish.

Researchers found no adverse effects in the mothers or babies, the doses were high, 2.4 grams per day is 15 to 20 times what most Americans consume from foods.

One in five young children are affected by asthma and wheezing disorders. In recent decades, the rate has more than doubled in Western countries. Previous research has shown that those conditions are more prevalent among babies whose mothers have low levels of fish oil in their bodies. The new large-scale test, reported in The New England Journal of Medicine, is the first to see if supplements can actually lower the risk.

Before doctors can make any recommendations, the study should be replicated, and fish oil should be tested earlier in pregnancy and at different doses, Dr. Hans Bisgaard, the leading author of the study, said in an email to the New York Times. He is a professor of pediatrics at the University of Copenhagen and the head of research at the Copenhagen Prospective Studies on Asthma in Childhood, an independent research unit.

Dr. Bisgaard said it was not possible to tell from the study whether pregnant women could benefit from simply eating more fish. Pregnant women are generally advised to limit their consumption of certain types of fish like swordfish and tuna because they contain mercury. But many other types are considered safe, especially smaller fish like sardines that are not at the top of the food chain and therefore not likely to accumulate mercury and other contaminants from eating other fish.

“It is possible that a lower dose would have sufficed," the Bisgaard team said.

The supplements didn't seem to affect the odds of a baby or toddler developing the skin condition eczema, or an allergy such as a reaction to milk or egg products, or a severe asthma attack.

An editorial in the same journal by an expert who was not part of the study praised the research, saying it was well designed and carefully performed. The author of that editorial, Dr. Christopher E. Ramsden, from the National Institutes of Health, said the findings would help doctors develop a “precision medicine” approach in which fish-oil treatment could be tailored to women who are most likely to benefit.

If the findings are confirmed in other populations, doctors could test to see who would mostly likely benefit from fish oil supplements. "The health care system is currently not geared for such," Bisgaard said. "But clearly this would be the future."

If you are considering taking fish oil supplements during pregnancy, be sure and check with your OB/GYN for a recommended dose.

All fish oils are not the same. Some brands of fish oil are of higher quality than others. A reputable fish oil manufacturer should be able to provide documentation of third-party lab results that show the purity levels of their fish oil, down to the particles per trillion level. Also, if the supplements smell or taste fishy, they shouldn’t. High quality fish oil supplements don’t. Avoid fish oils that have really strong or artificial flavors added to them because they are most likely trying to hide the fishy flavor of rancid oil.

Story sources: Denise Grady, http://www.nytimes.com/2016/12/28/health/fish-oil-asthma-pregnancy.html?WT.mc_id=SmartBriefs-Newsletter&WT.mc_ev=click&ad-keywords=smartbriefsnl

Gene Emery, http://www.reuters.com/article/us-health-asthma-fish-oil-idUSKBN14H1T3

http://americanpregnancy.org/pregnancy-health/omega-3-fish-oil/

 

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