Jul 13 2011

7 Nutrients Even Healthy Kids Miss

Gina, who blogs over at Feed Our Families, has always fed her two kids a healthy diet — and they eat well, too. That’s why her pediatrician recommended she pass on the multivitamin. But after her youngest was chronically tired and sick, she had his nutrient levels checked. To her surprise he was anemic and deficient in vitamin D.

The moral of the story? Even kids who eat healthy are vulnerable to nutrition deficits. That’s why we are addressing the nutrients children are most likely to be short on — and why. Sometimes supplements are needed but many times tweaks in the diet are all it takes.

In this post we’re looking at the research to determine “nutrients of concern” for kids of all ages. And we have 7 winners (or should I say, losers):

Continue reading


Jan 18 2011

the myth that keeps you eating too much sugar

Agave nectar, sugar in the raw, organic sugar and even non caloric sweeteners are put on a higher pedestal than plain old sugar and high fructose corn syrup. I often hear parents say that they stay clear of what they believe are “bad” sugars in favor of more natural sources of the sweet stuff.

Now I don’t have a problem with choosing unadulterated forms of sugar but it’s the myth behind it that bothers me: the type of sugar matters more than how much someone eats.

I’m winding down my managing sweet series (still one more post). So far we’ve talked about how to feed sweets but I wanted to discuss what’s actually in the sweet foods your family eats. By answering these 5 myth-busting questions, I hope to reveal the real problem we all face.

1. What’s in Sugar Anyway?
Having a basic understanding of what’s in sweeteners is important (we are talking about “added sugars” here not the sugars naturally found in food). For example, the most common added sugars are sucrose (table sugar) and high fructose corn syrup. They both are made up of the smaller sugar molecules, fructose and glucose. Sucrose contains about half glucose and half fructose (50/50) while high fructose corn syrup has a ratio of 55/45.

The reasons these two sugars are used most often is they contain fructose which does a good job of sweetening. For example, lactose, a natural sugar found in dairy products, contains glucose and galactose (no fructose). And while milk is sweet, it’s not half as sweet as sugar-sweetened beverages.

Take agave nectar, the latest and greatest sweetener, it can contain as much 90% fructose and 10% glucose which means less can be used to sweeten. And artificial, non caloric sweeteners such as saccharin, aspartame (NutraSweet) and sucrolose (Splenda) are all much sweeter (200X or more) than sucrose. So a little goes a long way.

2. How much are we consuming?
From 1970 to 2005 sugar intake has increased by nearly 20%. According to the American Heart Association’s Report on added sugars, the average intake for sugar is 22 tsp/day. Here’s a quick breakdown by age group: 1-3 (12tsp), 4-8 year (21 tsp), males 9-13 (29tsp), males 14-18 (34tsp), females 9-13 (23tsp) and females 14-18 (25tsp).

That’s a lot more than the American Heart Association recommends for women (6 tsp) and men (9 tsp). The primary source of added sugars are soft drinks and other sugar-sweetened beverages.

During this same time period (mentioned above) the intake of high fructose corn syrup has gone up by nearly 1000 percent and has become the food industry’s sweetener of choice.

“As a liquid, high fructose corn syrup can be mixed into food without forming crystals,” says Dr. Richard Johnson, author of The Sugar Fix. ”That’s why food manufacturers prefer to use it.”

3. What are the health consequences of over-consumption?
Excessive sugar has been linked to nutritionally inadequate diets, obesity, diabetes, high triglycerides and hypertension. And while many rush to blame high fructose corn syrup, Johnson says that “sugar and high fructose corn syrup are not hugely different.” There may be problems with fructose and glucose not being bound together [in high fructose corn syrup], he explains, but more studies are needed.

While too much sugar can increase calories and displace nutritious foods in the diet, researchers are beginning to believe that too much fructose in general is contributing to health problems. Unlike glucose that goes into the blood stream to be used by cells, fructose goes directly to the liver where it is more likely to be turned into triglycerides (blood fat) and stored in the abdomen as unhealthy visceral fat.

Take a study published in the Journal of Clinical Investigations. Overweight individuals consuming a diet with 25% fructose developed insulin resistance, more visceral fat and high blood lipids than those who consumed the same diet with 25% glucose.

Of course studies like this give fructose at much higher-than-normal levels. ”Most people can handle 30-35g fructose without problems,” says Johnson. “To give you an idea a large cookie has 20g and soft drinks contain about 25g”

4. What’s role does the market plays?
The market is always responding to demand — especially the demonizing of ingredients and foods. When high fructose corn syrup started getting bad press products with “natural” sources of sugar skyrocketed. While these products may be marginally better, they often contain the same amount of sugar. And as we just pointed out, sugar and high fructose corn syrup are similar.

Artificial sweeteners were supposed to be the answer to the obesity epidemic. According to a recent review study published in Yale Journal of Biology and Medicine on artificial sweeteners, our bodies react strangely to sweetness without calories:

“Animals seek food to satisfy the inherent craving for sweetness, even in the absence of energy need. Lack of complete satisfaction, likely because of the failure to activate the post-ingestive component, fuels the food serving behavior.”

The theory is artificial sweeteners gives us the sweetness without the calories so the body is left wanting more.

Sometimes the alternative to a supposed “bad” item the market provides, is not all that much better. So check labels for all sources of sugar which come under many code names such as evaporated cane juice, corn sweetener, corn syrup, brown rice syrup and polydextrose (and other “ose” words). Grams of sugar also tell you how much is added, except in the case of yogurt, fruit and milk which have natural sugars.

5. Is sugar all bad?
According to the American Heart Association report, when sugar is added to milk, yogurt and cereals the diets of children and adolescents improve. Sugar can increase the palatability of nutrient-dense foods.

The truth is sugar is not bad, it’s just we are consuming too much of it, and kids are getting used to an extra-sweet taste world. Instead, we need to be picky about how much sugar we add (all types) in our family’s diets so that we consume enough to satisfy our sweet tooth while preserving good health.

References

Dietary Sugars and Cardiovascular Health, Report from the American Heart Association

Johnson RJ, Sanchez-Lozada, Nakagawa T. The effect of fructose on renal biology and disease. J Am Soc Nephrol. 2010; Dec;21(12):2036-9. Epub 2010 Nov 29. Review.

Stanhope KL et al. Consuming fructose sweetened, not glucose sweetened, beverages increases visceral adiposity and lipids and decreases insulin sensitivity in overweight/obese humans. 2009; J Clin Invest 119: 1322-1334.

Yang Q. Gain weight by “going diet?” Artificial sweeteners and the neurobiology of sugar cravings. Yale J Biol Med. 2010; Jun;83(2):101-8.




Maryann Tomovich Jacobsen is a registered dietitian, mother of two and creator of Raise Healthy Eaters, a blog that provides parents with simple and sound nutrition advice.

The Myth That Keeps You Eating Too Much Sugar is part 5 in a series Maryann has written in her Managing Sweets Series.


Sep 1 2010

5 nutrition must-haves for your kids school lunch


Getting kids back to school leaves parents scrambling — and that includes preparing nutritious and kid-pleasing school lunches. This is why Foodie-isms is bringing you the Love Box Love Series.  We know you put a lot of TLC into making your kid’s lunch. Unfortunately, the anxiety and self-doubt you also feel might be weighing you down.

Do you wonder if your little one is getting enough variety and nutrition?  Do you rack your brain trying to find ways to get them to eat something other than their favorite sandwich?  Are you searching for more healthy lunch box ideas?

This series is here to help you get more joy and peace of mind when it comes to packing lunches.  As a registered dietitian and mom of two, I’ve crafted an easy nutrition checklist for you to keep in mind as you  plan your child’s lunch.  Stephanie will follow-up with awesome meal ideas that are tasty, easy and nutritious.  I can’t wait to try them on my little preschooler.

So with that in mind, let’s talk nutrition:

New Nutrition Standards

Based on the 2009 Institute of Medicine (IOM) recommendations, new and tougher nutrition standards will be phased into school nutrition programs all over the country.  Yet parents packing their child’s lunch also need guidance about which key nutrients and foods to provide (and which to limit).

Source referenced.

A 2008 study published in the Journal of Human Nutrition and Dietetics found that while both school meals and packed lunches had similar amounts of calories and protein, packed lunches had 50% more sugar, sodium and saturated fat than school lunches. Packed lunches fared better in fruit, iron and calcium content but contained fewer vegetables.

Here is a general nutrition checklist based on the IOM’s recommendations for School Lunches:

1. Include at least one Whole Grain serving: The Dietary Guidelines recommend that half of grain servings be “whole,” about 3 servings per day.  Make sure to include at least one whole grain serving in your child’s lunch such as whole wheat bread, brown rice, quinoa, oats or whole grain crackers.  To find out the whole grain value in your favorite products look for the Whole Grain Councils stamped products (16g of whole = 1 serving)

2. Vary the fruits and vegetables: The biggest change to School Lunch nutrition standards is the variety and amount of fruits and vegetables offered.  IOM recommends 3/4 to 1 cup of dark green and orange veggies (high in vitamin A) and legumes (beans, lentils and dried peas). They also recommend 1/2 cup to 1 cup of fruit.

So include a fruit and veggie with most meals.  Experiment with broccoli, kale, romaine, spinach, carrots, sweet potatoes, winter squash and other colorful veggies instead of starchy white potatoes and corn.  Try vitamin-C rich fruits like oranges, strawberries, kiwi and cantaloupe.  And  substitute legumes for meat whenever you can (see below)

3. Make Room for Low Fat Dairy: To limit saturated fat the new IOM guidelines recommend offering kids1% milk or fat free instead of 2% or whole milk.

But how much is enough?  To meet calcium and other nutrient needs, the 2005 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends two cups of fat-free or low-fat milk or equivalent milk products (cheese, yogurt) a day for children ages 2 to 8 and three cups per day for individuals aged 9 and older.

It’s important for parents to understand how much calcium their kids need. 1-3 year olds need 500 mg per day, 4-8 year olds need 800 mg and 9-18 year olds need 1300 mg.  Check these charts for dairy and non-dairy sources of calcium so you can make sure your kids get the calcium they need to build strong bones.

non-dairy calcium sources
Referenced from the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services – Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2005.

diary source of calcium
Referenced from the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services – Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2005.

4. Choose satisfying meat or meat alternatives: Every lunch box needs some protein.  The IOM recommends at least 2 ounces of meat or meat alternatives daily. When choosing meat stick with lean options (3g fat or less) like turkey, chicken or ham.  Fish or canned tuna make great additions and are rich in omega-3 fatty acids DHA & EPA.  Don’t forget to go meatless with beans, cheese, edamame, eggs or tofu.

Remember that 1/2 cup of beans, edamame and tofu or one egg, 3/4 cup cottage cheese, 2 Tbsp. peanut butter or 1 ounce of cheese all are equal to one ounce of meat.

5. Watch for Extras. The IOM guidelines recommend limits for certain foods and nutrients such as saturated fat, sodium, calories and sugar.  The idea is not to eliminate them but to watch how excesses can creep into lunch boxes.  Let’s go down the list.

Fat: The IOM guidelines focus on the type of fat instead of total fat restrictions.  Fat is a rich source of calories that is important for kids growth.  So include plant sources of fat including nuts, seeds, olive and canola oil and avocados.  Go easy on saturated fats contained in high fat meats, full fat dairy, butter and processed foods.

Sodium: Sodium can become problematic when adding salt to foods, using packaged/canned items and utilizing cured meats in sandwiches.  IOM recommends limiting sodium to <636mg (5-10yo), <704mg (11-13yo) and <736mg (14-18yo). So check your labels.

Calories: I don’t recommend counting calories in your kids lunch but it’s good to have a general idea on calorie limits as you read labels.  IOM recommends no more than 650 calories for students in grades K-5, 700 for children in grades 6-8, and 850 for those in grades 9-12.

Sugar: According to a report by the American Heart Association, the average intake for sugar is 22 teaspoons per day with 14-19 year olds having the highest intake (34 teaspoons!).  Soft drinks and sugar-sweetened beverages are the main source of added sugars.  So stick with water or 100% fruit juices instead of “fruit drinks” and read labels on packages to keep added sugars to a minimum.  There’s nothing wrong with including a sweet treat in some of your kid’s lunches.  Moderation is key.

So there you have it.  Some guidelines to help as you plan nutritious lunches for your kids.  But knowing what to do is one thing, making it happen in a way your kids will like is another.

Stay tuned for tasty lunch box ideas from Stephanie. And let me know any nutrition worries you have in the comment section.


Maryann Tomovich Jacobsen is a registered dietitian, mother of two and creator of Raise Healthy Eaters, a blog that provides parents with simple and sound nutrition advice.


Check out Maryann’s latest series on how to turn picky eaters into healthy eaters.
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Lunchbox Menu Ideas For Everyday of the Week:

Monday’s Lunch Idea is featured in a lunchbox made by PlanetBox.
Tuesday’s Lunch Idea is featured in a lunchbox made by LapTop Lunches.
Wednesday’s Lunch Idea was provided by Super Healthy Kids.
Thursday’s Lunch Idea is featured in a lunchbox made by GoodByn.
Friday’s Lunch Idea is featured in a divided container made by LunchBot.


Aug 12 2010

how much love is in your child’s lunchbox?

As new and tougher nutrition standards are phased into school lunch programs all over the country, parents packing their child’s lunch also need guidance about which key nutrients and foods to provide (and limit).

In fact, a 2008 study published in the Journal of Human Nutrition and Dietetics found that while both school meals and packed lunches had similar amounts of calories and protein, packed lunches had 50% more sugar, more sodium and saturated fat than school lunches. Packed lunches fared better in fruit, iron and calcium content but contained fewer vegetables.

So to help parents pack tastier and more nutrient-rich lunches for their kids, I am partnering with Stephanie Holguin at Foodie-isms for a Lunchbox Love Series. As a registered dietitian, I will provide key information including a detailed “Nutrition Checklist” to help parents pack lunches that help their kids learn and grow. Stephanie will use her culinary expertise to provide tasty food options kids simply can’t resist.

Don’t miss our week long ‘Lunchbox Love’ postings which will start in early September.


Maryann Tomovich Jacobsen is a registered dietitian, mother of two and creator of Raise Healthy Eaters, a blog that provides parents with simple and sound nutrition advice.


Check out Maryann’s latest series on how to turn picky eaters into healthy eaters.