Tag Archives: nutrition

New school nutrition guidelines issued

First Lady Michelle Obama teamed up with Rachael Ray to unveil the biggest overhaul on school meals in more than 15 years. There will be more whole grains, less salt and a wider selection of fruits and vegetables and all milk must now be low fat. But the new rules do not go as far as the Administration had hoped. Continue reading

Kids’ snacks CAN be healthy and inexpensive

It’s well-documented that healthy foods such as fresh fruits and vegetables tend to cost more than “junk” foods such as chips and cookies, a phenomenon that’s often cited as a contributing factor to the U.S. obesity epidemic. But a new study conducted in YMCAs found that healthy snacks aren’t always more expensive, and in some cases are even more economical. Continue reading

Pediatric Study: ‘Healthy’ Diet Best for ADHD Kids

Fast foods, sodas, and ice cream may be American kids’ favorite menu items, but they’re also probably the worst for those with attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), a new literature review suggests.

According to two researchers from Children’s Memorial Hospital in Chicago, a relatively simple diet low in fats and high in whole grains, fruits, and vegetables is one of the best alternatives to drug therapy for ADHD. Omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acid supplements have also been shown to help in some controlled studies, they noted.

This state-of-the-art review suggests dietary interventions for children with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) if:

  1. medications are ineffective,
  2. parents or children wish to try dietary approaches, or
  3. mineral deficiencies were present.

Diets to reduce symptoms associated with ADHD include sugar-restricted, additive/preservative-free, oligoantigenic/elimination, and fatty acid supplements.

The authors write, “In practice, additive-free and oligoantigenic/elimination diets are time-consuming and disruptive to the household; they are indicated only in selected patients.”

Protein or carbs? It may not matter!

The Wall Street Journal reported on a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association suggesting that a person’s total calorie intake, regardless of the nutritional source of the calories, determines how much fat accumulates in the body. Continue reading

DASH diet helps lower risk of cardiovascular diseases

The Detroit Free Press discussed the advantages of healthy eating and exercise. “The American Heart Association says cardiovascular disease is the No. 1 cause of death in the US. Changing what you eat can help get you off medications and improve your cholesterol and blood pressure numbers.” Continue reading

US replaces food pyramid with nutrition plate

The US Department of Agriculture recently unveiled the long awaited replacement for the food pyramid, the triangle of nutrition introduced back in 1992. And I, for one, think it’s a great change! Continue reading

First Lady, Wal-Mart to fight childhood obesity

Here’s a shout out to Mrs. Obama. News reports say that the First Lady and Wal-Mart have forged an agreement geared at preventing childhood obesity. Media sources generally characterized the move as a victory for Mrs. Obama’s signature campaign and I would agree.

ABC World News reported, First Lady Michelle Obama “announced that Wal-Mart, which sells more groceries than any market in America, is going to change what’s on its shelves.”

On the CBS Evening News the First Lady was shown saying, “I am thrilled about Wal-Mart’s new nutrition charter.”

NBC Nightly News said that Mrs. Obama “has announced she’s working with the nation’s largest retailer, Wal-Mart, which promised today to cut prices on fresh fruits and vegetables and to reduce fats, sugars, salt, eliminate transfats in some of its own store brands by the year 2015.”

The AP reports, “Wal-Mart … says it will reformulate thousands of products to make them healthier and push its suppliers to do the same, joining first lady Michelle Obama’s effort to combat childhood obesity. The first lady accompanied Wal-Mart executives Thursday as they announced the effort in Washington.”

Wal-Mart “plans to reduce sodium and added sugars in some items, build stores in poor areas that don’t already have grocery stores, reduce prices on produce and develop a logo for healthier items.”

The Washington Post reports, “Just a few years ago, President Obama refused to shop at Wal-Mart. But his wife now has other ideas.”

The First Lady said, “When I see a company like Wal-Mart launch an initiative like this, I feel more hopeful than ever before. … We can improve how we make and sell food in this country.”

If your family is wrestling with childhood or overweight, consider ordering a copy of book I’ve written specifically to help you and your family: SuperSized Kids: How to protect your child from the obesity threat. You can find them on sale at my book Web site. The hard cover is available for $3.99 (plus shipping) here, and the soft cover for $1.99 here.

SSK cover

Give Thanksgiving leftovers a healthy and delicious overhaul

One of the wonderful things about Thanksgiving dinner is there are often lots of delicious leftovers. You can just warm up a few of your favorite dishes or make a simple turkey sandwich. But for healthful alternatives, USA Today asked the Food Network’s Ellie Krieger, the editors of EatingWell and Cooking Light to share some nutritious recipes that use Thanksgiving leftovers. I hope you try them out.

Greek salad pitas with feta spread and turkey

Ingredients:

  • 3 tbsp non-fat plain yogurt
  • 1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • 2 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 tsp finely grated lemon zest
  • ¼ tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 whole-wheat pita breads
  • 4 large pieces of romaine lettuce, torn in half
  • 1 English cucumber, sliced into half moons
  • ¼ cup lightly packed fresh mint leaves
  • ¾ lb. thinly sliced roasted turkey breast

Directions:

In a medium bowl, combine the feta cheese and yogurt with a fork, mashing any large chunks of cheese. Stir in the lemon juice, oregano, lemon zest and pepper. The spread will keep for up to five days in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

To make a sandwich, cut a pita in half to form two pockets. Line each pocket with a half of a lettuce leaf. Spread two heaping tablespoons of feta spread into the pocket.

Then fill each pocket with about six cucumber slices, four or five mint leaves and two or three slices of turkey.

Servings: 4, two pockets

Nutrition information per serving: 360 calories; 9 grams of fat; 5 grams of saturated fat; 32 grams of protein; 40 grams of carbohydrate; 6 grams of fiber; 80 milligrams of cholesterol; 700 milligrams of sodium.

Source: So Easy: Luscious, Healthy Recipes for Every Meal of the Week by Ellie Krieger

Creamy carrot and sweet potato soup

Ingredients

  • 3 tbsp butter, divided
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • ¼ tsp ground cinnamon
  • ¼ tsp ground nutmeg
  • 4¾ cups cubed peeled sweet potatoes (1½ pounds)
  • 3½ cups water
  • 3 cups fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth
  • 3 cups chopped carrots (about 1 pound)
  • ¼ cup half-and-half
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ¼ tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • ⅓ cup reduced-fat sour cream
  • 2 tbsp chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

Directions

Melt 1 tablespoon of butter in a large Dutch oven over medium heat. Add onion to pan; cook 4 minutes or until tender, stirring occasionally. Stir in cinnamon and nutmeg. Cook 1 minute, stirring constantly.

Move onion mixture to side of pan; add remaining 2 tablespoons of butter to open space in pan. Increase heat to medium-high; cook 1 minute or until butter begins to brown. Add sweet potatoes, water, broth and carrots; bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 35 minutes or until vegetables are tender.

Place half of soup mixture in a blender. Remove center piece of blender lid (to allow steam to escape); secure blender lid on blender. Place a clean towel over opening in blender lid (to avoid splatters). Blend until smooth.

Pour into a large bowl. Repeat procedure with remaining soup mixture. Stir in half-and-half, salt, and pepper. Ladle about 1 cup soup into each of 8 bowls; top each serving with about 2 teaspoons sour cream and ¾ teaspoon parsley.

Servings: 8, about one cup each

Nutrition information per serving: 173 calories; 6.7 grams of fat; 4.1 grams of saturated fat; 3.6 grams of protein; 25.7 grams of carbohydrate; 5 grams of fiber; 18 milligrams of cholesterol; 415 milligrams of sodium.

Source: Cooking Light, November 2009 (MyRecipes.com)

Cream of turkey and wild rice soup

Ingredients

  • 1 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 cups sliced mushrooms (about 4 oz.)
  • ¾ cup chopped celery
  • ¾ cup chopped carrots
  • ¼ cup chopped shallots
  • ¼ cup all-purpose flour
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • ¼ tsp freshly ground pepper
  • 4 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 cup quick-cooking or instant wild rice
  • 3 cups shredded cooked turkey or chicken (12 oz.)
  • ½ cup reduced-fat sour cream
  • 2 tbsp. chopped fresh parsley

Directions

Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add mushrooms, celery, carrots and shallots and cook, stirring, until softened, about 5 minutes. Add flour, salt and pepper and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes more.

Add broth and bring to a boil, scraping up any browned bits. Add rice and reduce heat to a simmer. Cover and cook until the rice is tender, 5 to 7 minutes. Stir in turkey (or chicken), sour cream and parsley and cook until heated through, about 2 minutes more.

Ingredient note: Quick-cooking or instant wild rice has been parboiled to reduce the cooking time. Conventional wild rice takes 40 to 50 minutes to cook. If you can’t find the quick-cooking variety, just add cooked conventional wild rice along with the turkey at the end of Step 2.

Servings: 4, about 1¾ cups each

Nutrition information per serving: 354 calories; 9 grams of fat; 3 grams of saturated fat; 36 grams of protein; 27 grams of carbohydrate; 3 grams of fiber; 87 milligrams of cholesterol; 378 milligrams of sodium.

Source: EatingWell magazine; eatingwell.com

Comparing Weight Loss Plans, Dollars Per Pound

Well,  it’s the day after Thanksgiving, and there are at least two or three things on most people’s minds: (1) Black Friday shopping, (2) Football, and/or (3) Weight Loss. Have you ever wondered which of the weight loss plans cost you the most for each pound dropped? Well, here you have the answer, provided by ABC News:

  1. $500 per pound with Liposuction
  2. $300 to $400 per pound with Gastric Band Surgery
  3. $235 to $353 per pound with Duodenal Switch Surgery
  4. $237.56 per pound with One-on-One with Jenny Craig
  5. $173 per pound with Non-prescription Weigh Loss Aids when paired with a Low-Fat Diet
  6. SAVE $12.50 per pound by just Kickin’ It Old School

Here are the details:

1) One-on-One With Jenny Craig

Bottom-Line Estimate: $237.56 per pound for one-on-one weight loss support and special food products

Jenny Craig is a weight-loss program that centers around an individualized diet plan, pre-prepared foods, and one-on-one support from a consultant either in person at one of their centers, or via phone or internet communication.

Jenny Craigers are told that they can expect an average weight loss of one to two pounds per week, a figure Jenny Craig spokesperson Cheryl Overton says is derived from third party analysis. A recent study of women on the Jenny Craig in-centre program, subjects saw a more modest average weight loss per week of about three quarters of a pound in the first six months. Soon after six months, weight loss generally plateaued but maintained over the next year and a half.

Though participants in the study received the program and food for free, lead author Cheryl Rock, professor of family and preventive medicine at University of California, San Diego, lays out the estimated cost to consumer of a year on the program: Enrollment fee for a year runs $359 plus the cost of special Jenny Craig food — the average participant spends about $100 per week. Given an average 23.4 pounds lost over the course of a year, this works out to $237.56 per pound.

A bit pricey, but Rock points out that the program does a good job of training people in the habits that will help them maintain the weigh loss, which most study participants did over the course of two years.

2) Going Under the Knife: Weight Loss Surgery

Bottom-Line Estimate: for the surgery alone, anywhere from $235 to $400 per pound if paying out of pocket.

When other diet plans fail and excess weight becomes a pressing health concern, thousands of consumers a year are turning to weight loss surgery for help. These surgeries shrink the digestive track using a gastric band, which pinches off a portion of the stomach, or by removing a portion of the stomach and sometimes the small intestines. After surgery, the amount of food the patient can physically eat in one sitting will be significantly reduced.

These surgeries are only recommended for those with a BMI of 40 and above or those with a BMI of 35 and above who have health complications due to excess weight. The surgeries can run anywhere from $15,000 to $35,000 if paid out of pocket, though under many insurance policies, those that qualify for surgery will have full or partial coverage of the procedure. The most common weight loss procedure is gastric banding. According to the website for Lap-Band, the top selling adjustable gastric band system, the procedure costs $15,000 to $20,000, and the average patients loses one and a half to two pounds per week post-op. Patients generally lose about 50 percent of his or her excess weight, says Dr. John Morton, director of Bariatric Surgery at Stanford University.

Duodenal switch is a less common but more effective procedure, according to Dr. Mitch Roslin, a bariatric surgeon at Lenox Hill Hospital. The procedure involves cutting away a portion of the stomach and small intestines while preserving the duodenal valve that is the gateway between the stomach and the intestines. Roslin says that with a duodenal switch, patients lose 85 percent of excess weight by three years out.

For a 250 pound patient whose ideal weight is 150, a 50 percent excess weight loss with the band would be 50 pounds, which works out to $300 to $400 per pound. A duodenal switch is generally $20,000 to $30,000 so for a 85 percent excess weight loss in the same 250 pound patient, that would work out to $235 to $353 per pound.

Considering post-operative costs of medical care, cost of food, and varied insurance coverage, however, it’s nearly impossible to assign a cost per pound for weight loss surgeries.

3) Liposuction: Sculpting Out Fat

Though liposuction is not a weight-loss technique by any means, it does provide a means for getting rid of fat from targeted areas.

Bottom-Line Estimate: $500 per pound.

With some diets, especailly any diet that leads to more than two pounds a week, weight loss is in part the result of a loss of other things besides fat, such as water or muscle mass, says Dr. Keith Ayoob, director of the Nutrition Clinic at Albert Einstein School of Medicine. With liposuction, up to six to eight pounds of fat can be removed immediately from specific areas on the body, for the purpose of body contouring.

The average cost of procedure runs around $4,000 and up depending on which areas are worked on. Given a low price estimate, that works out to $500 per pound.

The downsides of liposuction, as compared to losing weight naturally, are many. While the fat removal takes place in one sitting, the full results of the procedure take months to see.

“Most patients will see 90 percent of their ultimate liposuction results with in one to three months after surgery. For the first few weeks after surgery there is postoperative swelling. When the surgeon closes the incisions with stitches, swelling usually resolves within 8 to 12 weeks,” according to Liposuction.com, a consumer information website.

Patients can also be left with an irregular skin surface or dimpling following the procedure and as with any surgery, there are medical risks such as blood clot and in rare cases, death, associated with going under the knife.

4) Non-prescription Weigh Loss Aids — Adding Oomph to A Diet

Bottom-Line Estimate: $173 per pound when paired with low-fat diet.

When paired with a calorie-restricted diet and exercise, some diet pills can boost weight loss. Unfortuantely, most of the diet pills on the market have not been evaluated and approved by the Food and Drug Administration. In fact, the only FDA-approved over-the-counter diet drug at this time is GlaxoSmithKline’s Alli, a lower-dose version of the prescription weight loss drug Xenical.

Orlistat, the chemical name for the active ingredient in both Xenical and Alli, works by attaching itself to enzymes in the digestive tract to stop about 25 percent of the fat intake from each meal. That fat later passes through the body undigested, which can lead to gastrointestinal problems such as diarrhea.

At its prescription strength, clinical trials show that Orlistat helped those on a fat-restricted diet lost 13.4 pounds over the course of a year compared with 5.8 pounds in those who only dieted. That makes for twice the weight loss, but only a real increase in loss of about eight pounds. Non-prescription strength Alli provides half the dose of Xenical, but comparable results with those using the product experiencing a similar doubling in weight loss compared to those on placebo.

Alli costs about $1.20 per pill, or $1,314 a year if taken with every main meal. Given given Orlistat’s 7.6 pound average increase in weight loss in a year, that works out to $172.90 a pound.

Alli’s side effects should be taken into consideration: users can experience “gas with oily spotting”, “loose stools”, “difficulty controlling bowel movements” according to the product website. A recent FDA safety review has also found that Orlistat can lead to severe liver damage in rare cases. The company advises that those who experience yellow eyes or skin, dark urine or loss of appetite should stop taking Alli because of possible liver damage.

Alli and Xenical also absorb some necessary fat soluble vitamins from each meal, which can result in nutritional deficiency.

5) Kickin’ It Old School

Bottom-Line Estimate: You SAVE $12.50 per pound you lose.

Losing weight the old fashioned way, by just eating less, is the cheapest “diet plan” yet. Though most diet plans are geared towards limiting certain foods and boosting other, healthier options, you can also lose weight by simply eating a bit less of what you already eat, diet experts say.

Nutritionist Mark Haub, an associate professor of nutrition at Kansas State University, proved this point recently when he experimented with limiting his caloric intake while incorporating snack cakes such as Twinkies and Nutter Butters in his daily fare. Even with two to three sweet treats a day alongside things like steak, whole milk, fruits and veggies, he made sure to eat only 1,800 calories a day and he lost 15 pounds in a month.

That’s not to say that “simply” eating less is a simple feat, but if you can manage it, you could actually save money by dieting. Haub’s Twinkie-heavy dietis not recommended, but as long as you cut back on what you normally eat by about 25 percent, you can expect to lose about a pound a week, says Ayoob.

“A pound of fat is 3,500 calories so to lose a pound of week, you’d need to trim off 500 calories a day from what you eat. Based on the standard 2,000 calorie intake per day, that would amount to a 25 percent decrease in caloric intake overall,” Ayoob says.

While you may choose to eat healthier food, which could make your grocery bill a little higher, if you’re cooking at home as opposed to eating out and overall buying less food, this would be the cheapest diet yet, he adds. In fact, that diet could actually pay you to be on it.

For a rough estimate: The Consumer Expidenture Survey estimates that the average U.S. consumer spends about $50 a week on food. So if you cut your caloric intake by 25 percent, you could be spending about 25 percent less on food in general (if you’re buying less of the same stuff), so you could save $12.50 a week, or $650 a year! If you stick to the plan and lose a pound a week, this works out to being paid $12.50 per pound you lose.

How to help kids follow a healthy diet even over holidays

This is a reprint of one of the more popular blogs I posted last year. It’s adapted from an AP story on how we, as parents, can help our children with more healthful nutrition during the holidays. I also have a ton of tips in my book, SuperSized Kids: How to protect your child from the obesity threat which in on sale in both hardback and softcover at my DrWalt.com book store. Better yet, they’re autographed:

SuperSized Kids - .161 MB JPEG copy

Many parents are trying to figure out how to have a healthier holiday without depriving their kids of holiday treats. About a third of American kids are overweight or obese, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates.

Studies show Americans gain about a pound between Thanksgiving and New Year’s; people who are overweight or obese are at risk of gaining five pounds, said Dr. Susan Z. Yanovski, an obesity expert at the National Institutes of Health. She said the weight gain is slight, but it accumulates over time.

During the winter holidays many children are “indulging in their favorite foods and sitting around with nothing to do,” said Dr. Joanna Dolgoff, a pediatrician and author of the forthcoming Red Light, Green Light, Eat Right: The Food Solution That Lets Kids Be Kids.

“Then there’s the fact that kids realize it’s the holiday season,” she said. “‘I deserve to indulge. How come everyone else is indulging?’ They start to feel resentful and entitled.”

Dr. Goutham Rao, clinical director of the Weight Management and Wellness Center at Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh, said some of his patients gain five to seven pounds for that very reason. They see the holidays as a time to unwind and treat themselves. Some aren’t even thinking about their weight, said Dolgoff, promising to get back on track when school starts.

“If they say, ‘I’m going to start in the new year,’ they have given themselves free rein to eat anything and everything in sight,” she said. “That’s unfortunate. They wind up gaining more.”

Children face a greater challenge when it comes to holiday eating than adults, said experts. They have less impulse control — they see tempting sweets and want them without thinking of the consequences, said Rao. Many are unsure which items are healthy and what an appropriate portion size is.

Tracie Brosius, 46, of Greensburg, Pa., said she tries to keep the goodies in her house to a minimum. Her 17-year-old daughter, Torie Washington, is down 22 pounds since enrolling in Dr. Rao’s program 1 1/2 years ago.

She said last Christmas Torie ate whatever she wanted, especially pizzelles — Italian cookies. This year she is more focused, wanting to slim down for college next year.

“We don’t deprive her of anything,” said Brosius, who works for an insurance company. “If you are really craving something, you have a little bit of it.”

That’s a good strategy, according to Dr. Thomas Robinson of Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital at Stanford, who warns parents not to be the food police. He suggests parents and kids work together to prepare healthier holiday meals.

Vetter said her son has since calmed down. They went out for a sushi dinner on Thanksgiving — California rolls, Yellowtail, Spanish Mackerel — and he loved it, she said.

“We are still on track for more fish and we don’t have the sweet carbs sitting around the house,” she said. “Now my son wants sushi for Christmas.”

Go healthy, not hungry for Thanksgiving dining

The holiday season means you’ll be faced with a seemingly endless buffet of food temptation. While some people simply give in and eat too much, others deny themselves any holiday treats.

But there are ways to navigate between overindulgence and deprivation, according to Julie Redfern, manager of Nutrition Consult Services at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston. She offers the following advice in a report by Health on the Net Foundation:

  • Eat a light snack before you go to a holiday party. That will prevent you from arriving hungry and overeating or gobbling down foods high in calories and saturated fat.
  • When you’re invited to a party, offer to bring a healthy food dish.
  • Research how you can use healthy ingredients in your favorite holiday recipes. For example, using 1 percent milk instead of whole milk and cream in a traditional eggnog recipe can save almost 200 calories and 20 grams of fat per serving.
  • Wear tight clothes, such as form-fitting slacks, to holiday events. People who wear loose clothing tend to overeat without realizing it.
  • Staying away from the food table at gatherings will help you resist the urge to eat.
  • Carrying a clutch or handbag will keep your hands busy and reduce the likelihood that you’ll reach for every treat that passes your way.
  • Use a small plate or no plate. You’ll eat less if you have to walk back and forth to get food.
  • Keep portion control in mind. A dinner plate should be half vegetables, a quarter protein, and a quarter carbs. Avoid going back for seconds and thirds.
  • You can have dessert, but keep the portions small.
  • Beware of high-calorie holiday drinks such as eggnog and apple cider. Have only a small cup.
  • Plan to go for a family walk after your main holiday meal.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

Three Meals A Day May Beat ‘Mini-meals’ For Weight Loss

Sitting down to eat a real meal three times a day may be a better strategy for weight loss than grazing on several smaller “mini-meals,” new research shows. Here are the details in a report from Reuters Health:

Overweight and obese men on low-calorie, high-protein diets felt more satisfied and less hungry when they ate three times a day compared to when they ate six times a day, Dr. Heather J. Leidy and colleagues from Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana, found.

“There’s a lot of lay press about eating frequency,” Leidy, who is now at The University of Missouri in Columbia, told Reuters Health.

While there’s a widespread perception that it’s better to eat little meals more often, she added, “these mini-meals everyone is talking about don’t seem to be as beneficial as far as appetite control.”

Studies on whether eating frequency affects appetite control have had “conflicting” results, she and her colleagues note in the journal Obesity. To investigate further, they randomly assigned 27 men who were overweight or obese to eat either a high-protein diet or a normal-protein diet for 12 weeks.

Diets contained 750 fewer calories than each man needed to maintain his current weight. Starting at week seven of the study, the men either ate their assigned diet in three meals spaced five hours apart, or in six meals eaten every two hours, for three days in a row. The study participants then switched to the other eating pattern for an additional three consecutive days.

Men eating the higher protein diet (25 percent of total calories from protein) felt fuller throughout the day, didn’t want to eat as much late at night, and were less preoccupied with thoughts of food than the men who were consuming 14 percent of their energy as protein. While eating frequency didn’t influence appetite in the men on the normal-protein diet, the researchers did find that men in the high protein group felt fuller in the evening and late at night after eating just three meals a day.

It’s already been established, Leidy said, that high protein diets are better for appetite control. The diet men followed in her study “is not Atkins by any means,” she added. “We very clearly want people to know that this is not an Atkins-style diet. You’re still getting an adequate amount of fiber and fruits and vegetables with these diets.”

Keep Health in Mind When Planning School Day Menus For Your Kids

As a parent preparing for your child’s school day, it may be helpful to remember that healthy meals and snacks are essential for learning. Here are some helpful tips from the experts at HealthDay News:

“Parents can make the school day easier for their children by providing nutritious and yummy breakfasts, lunches and snacks that promote optimal learning. Everyone is in a rush in the morning, but it only takes a few minutes on Sunday to plan healthy meals to fuel your child’s week,” Karin Richards, director of the Exercise Science and Wellness Management program, and director of Health Sciences at the University of the Sciences in Philadelphia, said in a university news release.

Richards offered the following advice for parents as they plan breakfast, lunch and snacks for their school-age children:

  • Include at least three types of foods into each meal, making sure to include some type of protein and complex carbohydrates, such as whole wheat bagels or pasta. The complex carbohydrates will provide energy while the protein will satisfy your child’s appetite for a longer period of time.
  • Bring your child to the market with you and let him or her choose one fruit or vegetable each week. Encourage kids to try new and interesting produce such as kiwi, papaya and edamame.
  • Monitor portion size. Three to four ounces of meat (about the size of your palm) is plenty. Adjust the amount based on your child’s age and activity level.
  • Add more vegetables into your child’s diet, even if you have to sneak them in. For example, try zucchini bread, veggies with low-fat dip, or shred carrots into tomato sauce and soups.
  • For beverages, suggest no-fat milk or water. If you child prefers juice, make sure it’s 100 percent juice.

Many types of standard lunch fare are packed with calories and fat. But there are healthier alternatives that can make for a more nutritious lunch. The Nemours Foundation suggests these healthier lunch options:

  • Turkey and other low-fat deli meats.
  • Whole grain bread — instead of white — spread with mustard or light mayo.
  • Vegetables and dip, air-popped popcorn, and trail mix or baked potato chips, in place of fried potato chips.
  • Fresh fruit or packaged fruit in natural juices, instead of syrup.
  • Yogurt or a homemade fruit-filled muffin, in place of packaged cakes or cookies.
  • No-fat milk or water, in place of sodas or sugary fruit drinks.

For More information From The Nemours Foundation About Children And Healthy Eating click here.

Parents Beware: Cartoon Characters Sell Kids on Unhealthy Foods

Using the likes of Shrek and Dora to market treats should be banned, researcher says. Why? Because popular cartoon characters are negatively influencing the taste preferences of very young children, and not in a positive way, a new study suggests.Here are the details from HealthDay News: —

Researchers found that the branding of American food product packaging with characters such as Dora the Explorer drives preschoolers to choose higher-calorie, less healthful foods over more nutritious options.

“The bottom line is that when kids are presented with a choice of graham crackers, fruit snacks or carrots, and the only difference is that one package has a licensed character on it, they actually think that the food with the character tastes better,” said study author Christina Roberto, a doctoral student working at the Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity at Yale University in New Haven, Conn.

The findings, reported online June 21 in Pediatrics, reflect on the food preferences of 4- to 6-year-old boys and girls who found foods tastier when the packaging bore the likenesses of beloved TV and movie characters.

The authors looked at 40 preschoolers — described as “ethnically diverse” — attending four child-care centers in New Haven. Over the course of two visits, the team presented the children with samples from three different food types: low-nutrient/low-energy graham crackers; low-nutrient/high-energy gummy fruit snacks; and high-nutrient/low-energy baby carrots.

All the foods were packaged with the same color, shape and design, with one brandless and one branded example from each food category. Branded versions bore the likenesses of eminently recognizable cartoon characters: either Scooby Doo, Dora or Shrek.

By the study’s conclusion, all the children had sampled each type of food, both with and without character branding.

Overall, the children perceived foods that had character branding as being tastier than those that didn’t, the researchers found.

However, the character branding of carrots, the healthiest option, was not quite as persuasive at driving taste as it was for the two less healthy options. This, the authors suggested, could be because healthy foods are character-branded much less often than junk foods.

“We think what might be going on with that is familiarity,” Roberto theorized. “Which means that kids are simply really used to seeing characters on foods that are processed. And those foods are also more palatable, so the effects might be accentuated.”

Roberto and her colleagues think the findings highlight the need to restrict the use of character licensing on certain unhealthy foods.

“We restrict this kind of cartoon marketing of cigarettes to kids because it’s a public health issue,” she noted. “We want to protect our children. So I think there’s a great parallel there.”

“So the priority should be first to get these characters off of unhealthy foods,” she added. “And then as a goal ultimately to get them actually put on the packaging for healthy foods. But first we have to focus on dealing with the unhealthy options, because I don’t think slapping them on healthy foods while they’re still on unhealthy foods is going to work.”

Rahil D. Briggs, director of Healthy Steps at Montefiore Medical Center in New York City and an assistant professor of pediatrics at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York City, agrees that combining popular imagery with unhealthful foods is problematic and likely contributing to the obesity epidemic.

“What is unique about children at this age is that although they have fairly advanced cognitive skills and short-term and long-term memory in place, they do not have the ability to be skeptical about the messages they are receiving,” she said.

“So what we, as adults, think of as advertising — and we know how persuasive it can be — it is not different to them than simply choosing the Dora the Explorer coloring book over a random coloring book. They identify with the coloring book, and they want everything Dora, from soup to nuts.”

It follows then, Briggs added, “that when in the grocery aisle with Mom absolutely they will choose the Dora cereal to complement the rest of their Dora collection.”

She noted that the alarming increase in obesity among very young children — rates have more than doubled since the 1970s, she said — correlates with a parallel spike in the amount of money that the food industry spends on targeting advertising to very young children.

“So when you pair the very sweet foods with the character brands, it’s almost too powerful for parents to battle,” she concluded. “It’s like a one-two punch.”

I’m having a sale that’s designed to help your child and your family become more highly healthy. My book, SuperSized Kids: How to protect your child from the obesity threat, has been drastically marked down at my online bookstore.

You can read more about this amazing resource at SuperSizedKids.com.

The book explains, in a step-by-step manner, how you as a parent can work to avert the childhood obesity epidemic from hitting your family (or, how to reduce overweight or obesity in your family if it’s already there).

The evidence-based, easy-to-do family program can help you and your family take control of the weight challenges facing every member of your family.

But hurry. Supplies are limited.

Kids Like Cartoon-Branded Snacks Better

A new study is showing that children find foods taste better if the packages feature popular cartoon characters. Once simply the world’s best-known cartoon, canine detective Scooby-Doo is now also a popular pitchman for pasta, cookies, “fruit” snacks, and other foods marketed to young children. And, SpongeBob SquarePants, Shrek, Dora the Explorer, and many other cartoon characters also do double duty selling junk food and sometimes healthy foods to kids, and this new research clearly shows why manufacturers use them.

The study found that foods packaged with popular cartoon characters really do taste better – or at least they do to 4-, 5-, and 6-year-olds. The effect was not as great with carrots as with less healthy fruit-flavored gummies and graham crackers, but more children said they preferred the taste of all three snacks when the foods bore the image of a familiar cartoon face. Here are the details from WebMD:

Cartoon Branding Is Big Business

Food and beverage companies in the U.S. spend close to a billion dollars each year on marketing aimed at children under age 12, according to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). An FTC investigation found that in 2006 alone, food product cross promotions involved about 80 movies, TV shows, or animated characters that appeal primarily to young children.

Although the selling power of these cross promotions is well known within the food industry, the impact of such marketing on children’s food preferences and food choices has not been widely investigated elsewhere. The newly published study was paid for by the nonprofit group the Rudd Foundation, which funds the Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity at Yale University.

“Obviously the food industry has studied the impact of character branding, but those studies are proprietary,” Yale doctoral candidate and study researcher Christina A. Roberto, tells WebMD.

The Yale study included 40 children aged 4 to 6 attending day care centers in New Haven, Conn., and their parents. It appears in the July issue of Pediatrics.

Kids Preferred ‘Scooby’ Snacks

Parents completed questionnaires designed to establish how much time their children spent watching TV or movies.

In the experiment phase of the study, each child was presented two separate packages containing the same snack. The packages were identical except for one thing: one had a sticker bearing the likeness of one of three cartoon characters — Scooby Doo, Dora the Explorer, or Shrek.

The children were asked to taste each identical sample and tell the investigator if the two samples tasted the same or, if not, which one tasted better. They were also asked if the loved the food, liked it, disliked it, or hated it.

The experiment was conducted three times with each child: once with graham cracker sticks, once with gummy fruit-flavored snacks, and once with organic baby carrots.

As expected, more children said they preferred the taste of the graham crackers and gummies when the packages bore the likeness of one of the cartoon characters. More kids also said they preferred the taste of the cartoon-branded carrots, but the effect was weaker and failed to reach statistical significance.

SpongeBob Soybeans OK, Advocate Says

The Yale researchers say the findings confirm that branding food products with characters children recognize influences taste preferences, especially for high-calorie foods with little nutritional value.

They conclude that the use of licensed characters on such foods should be restricted, arguing that this would be more likely to improve the diets of children than using the familiar likenesses to sell healthy foods.

TV network Nickelodeon has licensed many of its most popular characters, including SpongeBob and Dora the Explorer, to several fruit and vegetable companies. In recent years their images have appeared on packages of fresh and frozen spinach, carrots, clementine oranges, and edamame (soybeans).

Margo Wootan, DSc, of the nutrition research and advocacy group Center for Science in the Public Interest, says she sees no problem with putting the familiar cartoon images on these foods and other healthy foods kids should be eating.

The problem, she says, is that advertising budgets for such foods are small compared to highly processed foods like gummy fruit snacks, which she calls candy marketed as fruit.

“If the fruit and vegetable industry had more money to market their foods to kids, I would be very happy,” she says. “Junk foods are marketed in such sophisticated and persuasive ways, it is no surprise that these are the foods kids want to eat.”

The food industry trade group Manufacturers Association did not respond to a request for comment on the study from WebMD in time for publishing.

If you’d like to learn more about how to improve your and your family’s nutrition, consider ordering a copy of my book, SuperSized Kids: How to protect your child from the obesity threat. Autographed hard cover and soft cover copies are available here.

Indulging in four unhealthy behaviors ages the average individual by 12 years

It is generally understood that being inactive, eating poorly, smoking, and drinking too much are bad – very bad – for your health. Now, a newly published study assesses and quantifies those behaviors. In short, “combine all of the above and you’ll end up seeming 12 years older than people your age who do none of the above.”

That assertion is based on a study in which investigators “tracked nearly 5,000 British adults for 20 years,” the AP reports.

“Overall, 314 people studied had all four unhealthy behaviors.” That is, they smoked tobacco, had “more than three alcoholic drinks per day for men and more than two daily for women,” attained “less than two hours of physical activity per week; and” ate “fruits and vegetables fewer than three times daily.”

As a result, they “were 3.49 times more likely to die over the course of the study than their countrymen (and women) who practiced clean living,” the Los Angeles Times “Booster Shots” reported.

“That included a 3.14 times greater risk of death from cardiovascular disease; a 3.35 times greater risk of death from cancer; and a 4.29 times greater risk of death form any other cause.”

Conversely, “96% of those with healthy behaviors were alive at the end of the study, compared with 85% of those with the worst health habits,” according to the data in the Archives of Internal Medicine.

Lead investigator Elisabeth Kvaavik, PhD, of the University of Oslo, also pointed out that “also having, for instance, two poor and two healthy behaviors, doubles the risk of dying compared to having only healthy behaviors,” the CNN blog “Paging Dr. Gupta” reported.

Still, “modestly changing behaviors can have a big health impact.”

In fact, such modifications “‘are likely to have a considerable impact at both the individual and population level,’ the study authors write,” according to a report from Medscape.

Thus, “developing more efficacious methods by which to promote healthy diets and lifestyles across the population should be an important priority of public health policy.”

More than that, it shoud be an important priority for you and your family.

10 Best Foods for Your Heart

As we head into the Easter weekend, I wanted to offer you some blogs on healthier nutrition choices. Here are ten choices that you can make that will be heart healthy and are adapted from an article at Health.com.

1) Oatmeal

Start your day with a steaming bowl of oats, which are full of omega-3 fatty acids, folate, and potassium. This fiber-rich superfood can lower levels of LDL (or bad) cholesterol and help keep arteries clear. Opt for coarse or steel-cut oats over instant varieties—which contain more fiber—and top your bowl off with a banana for another 4 grams of fiber.

2) Salmon

Super-rich in omega-3 fatty acids, salmon can effectively reduce blood pressure and keep clotting at bay. Aim for two servings per week, which may reduce your risk of dying of a heart attack by up to one-third. “Salmon contains the carotenoid astaxanthin, which is a very powerful antioxidant,” says cardiologist  Stephen T. Sinatra, MD, the author of Lower Your Blood Pressure In Eight Weeks. But be sure to choose wild salmon over farm-raised fish, which can be packed with insecticides, pesticides, and heavy metals. Not a fan of salmon? Other oily fish like mackerel, tuna, herring, and sardines will give your heart the same boost.

3) Avocado

Add a bit of avocado to a sandwich or spinach salad to up the amount of heart-healthy fats in your diet. Packed with monounsaturated fat, avocados can help lower LDL levels while raising the amount of HDL cholesterol in your body. “Avocados are awesome,” says Dr. Sinatra. “They allow for the absorption of other carotenoids—especially beta-carotene and lycopene—which are essential for heart health.”

4) Olive oil

Full of monounsaturated fats, olive oil lowers bad LDL cholesterol and reduces your risk of developing heart disease. Results from the Seven Countries Study, which looked at cardiovascular disease incidences across the globe, showed that while men in Crete had a predisposition for high cholesterol levels, relatively few died of heart disease because their diet focused on heart-healthy fats found in olive oil. Look for extra-virgin or virgin varieties—they’re the least processed—and use them instead of butter when cooking.

5) Nuts

Walnuts are full of omega-3 fatty acids and, along with almonds and macadamia nuts, are loaded with mono- and polyunsaturated fat. Plus, nuts increase fiber in the diet, says Dr. Sinatra. “And like olive oil, they are a great source of healthy fat.”

6) Berries

Blueberries, raspberries, strawberries—whatever berry you like best—are full of anti-inflammatories, which reduce your risk of heart disease and cancer. “Blackberries and blueberries are especially great,” says Sinatra. “But all berries are great for your vascular health.”

7) Legumes

Fill up on fiber with lentils, chickpeas, and black and kidney beans. They’re packed with omega-3 fatty acids, calcium, and soluble fiber.

8) Spinach

Spinach can help keep your ticker in top shape thanks to its stores of lutein, folate, potassium, and fiber. But upping your servings of any veggies is sure to give your heart a boost.  The Physicians’ Health Study examined more than 15,000 men without heart disease for a period of 12 years. Those who ate at least two-and-a-half servings of vegetables each day cut their risk of heart disease by about 25%, compared with those who didn’t eat the veggies. Each additional serving reduced risk by another 17%.

9) Flaxseed

Full of fiber and omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, a little sprinkling of flaxseed can go a long way for your heart. Top a bowl of oatmeal or whole-grain cereal with a smidgen of ground flaxseed for the ultimate heart-healthy breakfast.

10) Soy

Soy may lower cholesterol, and since it is low in saturated fat, it’s still a great source of lean protein in a heart-healthy diet. Look for natural sources of soy, like edamame, tempeh, or organic silken tofu. And soy milk is a great addition to a bowl of oatmeal or whole-grain cereal. But watch the amount of salt in your soy: some processed varieties like soy dogs can contain added sodium, which boosts blood pressure.

So, use these tips to have a happy and highly healthy Easter … and make it a heart healthy one at that.

Go Healthy, Not Hungry for Thanksgiving Eating

The holiday season means you’ll be faced with a seemingly endless buffet of food temptation. While some people simply give in and eat too much, others deny themselves any holiday treats.

But there are ways to navigate between overindulgence and deprivation, according to Julie Redfern, manager of Nutrition Consult Services at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston. She offers the following advice (in a report by Health on the Net Foundation):

  • Eat a light snack before you go to a holiday party. That will prevent you from arriving hungry and overeating or gobbling down foods high in calories and saturated fat.
  • When you’re invited to a party, offer to bring a healthy food dish.
  • Research how you can use healthy ingredients in your favorite holiday recipes. For example, using 1 percent milk instead of whole milk and cream in a traditional eggnog recipe can save almost 200 calories and 20 grams of fat per serving.
  • Wear tight clothes, such as form-fitting slacks, to holiday events. People who wear loose clothing tend to overeat without realizing it.
  • Staying away from the food table at gatherings will help you resist the urge to eat.
  • Carrying a clutch or handbag will keep your hands busy and reduce the likelihood that you’ll reach for every treat that passes your way.
  • Use a small plate or no plate. You’ll eat less if you have to walk back and forth to get food.
  • Keep portion control in mind. A dinner plate should be half vegetables, a quarter protein, and a quarter carbs. Avoid going back for seconds and thirds.
  • You can have dessert, but keep the portions small.
  • Beware of high-calorie holiday drinks such as eggnog and apple cider. Have only a small cup.
  • Plan to go for a family walk after your main holiday meal.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

For Kids’ Sake, Make Family Meals a Habit

Listen up, kids. Sitting down to eat with your parents night after night might seem like a drag, but over the long run, it’ll be good for you, a new study says. Regular family meals improve diet quality during the transition from early to middle adolescence, researchers report. And a good diet could be habit forming and carry over into adulthood.

More Information: Continue reading

Parents are beginning to clean up their kids’ nutrition acts

USA Today also reports that parents are beginning to clean up their nutrition acts when it comes to the snacks they serve their children.

Fruit is the most common snack for children under 6, and cookies are second. In 1987, cookies ruled and fruit ranked second, according to findings from the NPD Group, a market research firm. Continue reading