Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Is It Possible To Eat Too Much Fruit?

Here it is.  The final blog post on our sugar series.  We've learned a lot about sugar, but one last question remains.  Fruit contains natural sugars.  Is it possible for kids to eat too much of it?  We go through a ridiculous amount of fruit in our house each week.  Could we be doing more harm than good?  

Our HKI Dietitian, Sarah Sturgill, gives great advice on this topic:

She says fruit is such a healthy option for children that the question of “too much?” rarely crosses a parent’s mind.  However, there are some circumstances where children may be eating too much fruit.

To be clear, fruit comprise a very healthy and vital food group.  Fruit are generally high in nutritive value since they contain fiber, vitamins, minerals, antioxidant flavinoids, and a number of other beneficial phytochemicals.  These nutrients can help ward off chronic disease, such as cancer, heart disease and other degenerative conditions, as well as promote normal growth and development. 

With benefits such as these, we certainly don’t want to discourage your children from including a variety of fruits in their meals and snacks.

The misconception exists that fruit is not healthy because it contains a high amount of sugar.  

As we explained in our previous blog, there are multiple forms of sugar.  Of the six types of sugar—sucrose, fructose, glucose, maltose, lactose, galactose—fructose is the form found in fruit.   Research has shown that naturally occurring fructose does not have the harmful effects of table sugar and that it is actually beneficial.  Antioxidant flavinoids are one of the main reasons that fruit intake can help prevent chronic disease.  However, without fructose, these flavinoids are poorly absorbed into the bloodstream.   Fructose stimulates the production of uric acid, which increases the capacity of our blood to absorb the antioxidant flavinoids.   

The danger in eating too much fruit comes when that is the only (or one of the only) food a child is served.  

Children need to be offered a variety of foods because it is impossible to get all of our daily nutrition from just one food group.

Fruit should be included every day, but it should never replace other foods like whole grains, vegetables, and high protein foods like lean meat, beans or legumes. 

So that's it in a nutshell. We have officially tackled sugar this month.  What an eye opening experience.  We hope you and your family are able to put some of the tips we've talked about into practice at your home.

Best of Luck.  We'll see you again next week.  

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Sugary Drinks - The Numbers May Startle You

Last week we shocked you with the “added sugar” recommended limits for kids- 12 grams/day.  Yikes!  It’s easy to see how some of our foods can contribute two and three times that daily recommended limit.  

Well, if you think the foods we eat are bad, you're in for another shocker when you see the sugar in the drinks we consume.  

Check this out.

12 oz can of Coca Cola
39 grams of sugar
20 oz bottle of Mountain Dew
77 grams of sugar
8 oz Glass of Simply Orange Juice
23 grams of sugar
22 grams
45 grams
14 grams

It’s easy to see why obesity is so prevalent in our society.  One bottle of Mountain Dew has 6 times the daily sugar recommendations, not to mention the foods we're consuming throughout the day to further add to the totals.    

This is one of the most important areas that we, as parents, can focus on to really help our children. 

If you're overwhelmed and confused about what's acceptable to drink, here are a few tips to help you on your next trip to the store.  

One important note:  these rules should apply to the entire family.  We can't expect our kids to make a change when we're still indulging in our sweet drinks.  
  • Water,Water, Water. The largest source of sugar comes from our drinks, even those that contain nutrients like Vitamin C.  Buy a trendy thermos, make flavored ice cubes, purchase mini bottles…do whatever it takes to get your family drinking water. 
  • 4 ounces of juice per day.  Yep, that's it.  The great news though, is that you can count any sugar coming from a 4-oz serving of 100% juice as a freebie since it can count as one serving of fruit for the day.  Even for this serving of juice, look for juice that’s lower in sugar, which is usually orange juice.       
  • Choose 100% juice.   So look for small juice boxes that contain 100% juice.  
  • Use water (not sports drinks) for hydration.  For older & more active kids, it’s important that they know that water is sufficient to keep the body hydrated. Sports drinks are only necessary when a person is engaging in continuous (non-stop) vigorous physical activity for more than one hour.   Running and cycling are good examples of continuous, vigorous physical activity.  Most children do not exercise at this level.  Even little league soccer and football do not count as “continuous” physical activity because children are given frequent breaks during practice and even during the game.  Water is sufficient for hydrating children and doesn’t contain all of the added sugars found in sports drinks.  
  • Use Caution with drinks claiming to be low in sugar.  Drinks promoting reduced sugar often contain artificial sweeteners.  While no research conclusively points to any physically harmful effects of artificial sweeteners, they still may present a danger to your child’s balanced diet.  First, many soft drinks made with artificial sweeteners also contain high levels of caffeine. In both children and adults, too much caffeine can lead to nervousness, upset stomach, headaches, difficulty concentrating, difficulty sleeping, increased heart rate, and increased blood pressure.  It doesn't take a lot of caffeine to produce these effects in children.  Second, artificial sweeteners are sometimes as much as 600 times as sweet as sugar.  Regular intake can increase our threshold for the sweet taste making it harder to satisfy a craving for “sweet” with healthful alternatives like fruit.  Some studies even suggest that artificial sweeteners increase our appetite for foods high in sugar and refined carbohydrates (i.e. white bread).
This sounds incredibly strict, but it's for good reason.  My friend recently suggested I check out some videos by Dr. Robert Lustig about the harmful effects of sugar.  If you're still not ready to ditch the sugar, check out this video to see firsthand the startling impact of sugar on our body.

Still one last blog in our sugar series.  Stay tuned next week for more information.  

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

How Much Sugar Can Kids Consume- You'll be Shocked!

Sugar gets a bad rap, and for good reason.  It is killing our bodies and contributing to numerous diseases.  It's hard to avoid sugar in our diets, especially when it comes to kid-favorite foods. Cereals, fruit drinks, ice cream, breads, flavored yogurts, ketchup, canned soups...the list goes on and on, and they are all full of sugar.

Here are the shock-and-awe stats that will have you rethinking your next trip to the grocery store.

It is recommended that children limit “added” sugar to 12 grams per day.  I know! Sounds nearly impossible, right?  Well before you throw your hands up in frustration, let me also note that not all sugars are created equal.

Added sugars (those that we should limit to 12 grams/day) should be considered separate from natural sugars.  Added sugars contribute no nutritional value and increase our sugar intake beyond what is healthy for our bodies.

Naturally occurring sugar found in food products like skim milk or fruit contribute to a healthy balanced meal because these foods provide a variety of nutritional benefits.  

Perhaps this guide will help you even more.  Here are just a few foods that hit the "added" sugar list:

Foods to avoid or limit (they contain “added” sugar- 
and remember your limit is 12g/day)
1 cup Fruit Loops
12 grams of sugar
2 Brown Sugar and Cinnamon Pop Tarts
30 grams of sugar
1 Strawberry NutriGrain Bar
11 grams of sugar
McDonald’s fruit & maple Oatmeal with brown sugar
32 grams of sugar
Turkey & Cheese Lunchable with Capri Sun and Reeses Peanut Butter Cup
28 grams of sugar

Now you can see why I waited so long to tackle this subject.  Added Sugar thrives in kid-favorite food  (and we haven’t even approached drinks yet).  What's a mom to do when everything we see on the grocery shelves is jam packed with sugar?  Here is a list of foods that are fine to eat because they contain natural sugars.  

Foods with natural sugars (ok to eat)
100% whole grain bread is good.  
Bread needs sugar in order to rise, so even the "sugar-free" breads include a sugar substitute.   One of the better brands is Nature's Own 100% whole wheat.  100% whole grain is also good.  Buy whole grain/wheat with 2g of sugar or less (anything more counts in the added sugar total)

Milk (no flavor added)
Plain Yogurt
Whole grain products.
Whole oats, brown rice, whole grain pasta, whole grain couscous- any whole grain product sold uncooked with no sauce or flavoring.

Fruits & Vegetables
In their natural form.  Frozen fruits and vegetables (with no sauce) are ok. Steer clear of anything canned.

So keep this guide in mind during your next trip to the grocery store.  And don't worry, we're not done talking about sugar.  There are still a lot of unanswered questions like- how does juice factor into all of this, can I successfully limit our diets to 12 grams sugar/day, and is there such a thing as too much fruit? 

Lots of great info to come.  See you back again next week.  

Sunday, April 22, 2012

We're Tackling Sugar- Get Ready!

Lately, I've found myself on a path of self discovery to learn about sugar, and it's impact on the body. Ignorance can be bliss...but not when it comes to sugar (or so I'm finding out).

I have quite a few reasons for going down this road.

My mother, who has had fibromyalgia for 22 years, suffers from incredible pain each and every day. We've tried every approach to improve her pain, but nothing helped....until she recently began to eliminate sugar from her diet. It turns out that she has an overgrowth of yeast and toxins in her body. Diets high in sugar feed the yeast making it even worse. The pain and fatigue, which has plagued her for half of her life, have drastically reduced simply from eliminating sugar. Follow her storyIt is quite intriguing.

I am a big fan of Dr Joseph Mercola- a physician that promotes alternative medicine and healing.  My good friend recommended his blog a year ago, and I can not wait every morning to receive his latest email post. Dr Mercola is highly controversial, but his research is so complete and compelling, that I find it hard to overlook. This article is a terrific overview of the implications sugar has on our body and our children. You may also see Dr Mercola occasionally on Dr Oz talking about natural health remedies.

The final straw however, came for me when I finished the book Sugar Blues. I was shocked to see sugar likened to nicotine and heroin in terms of its addictive nature. Obesity, fatigue, depression, could something so prevalent in our diets cause so many problems?

All of this is leading me to a series of posts over the next four weeks to answer some questions that I can't stop thinking about.

  1. We'll talk about the recommended daily sugar intake for kids and what an average day should look like to stay within those limits.
  2. Sugary drinks to avoid. You will be shocked at some of our most common drinks that contain high amounts of sugar.
  3. Natural sugars vs added sugars. Help!!!
  4. Is it possible for our kids to eat too much fruit?

Get ready for some shocking information.  See you back again next week.  

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Are you REALLY a Healthy Eating Role Model for your Kids?

As we wrap up National Nutrition Month, I pose one final question.  Are you really a healthy eating role model for your child?

In our house, my husband is an extremely picky eater.  He grew up with food allergies and a limited diet.  If it were up to him, the only vegetable served at dinner would be corn and potatoes (both of which are actually considered starches).

We knew that if we wanted to expose our children to more vegetables, it meant venturing outside of our comfort zone and trying new things.  While my husband doesn't love every vegetable we prepare, he certainly takes one for the team and gives it a shot.  In the last two years he has included over ten new vegetables to his diet.  It may just be a bite, but the kids take note of his efforts and quickly take their own bite too.  

So if you find yourself saying "eww" and "yuck to vegetables, purposely not cooking vegetables that you don't like, and expecting your kids to eat foods that you refuse to eat, then it's time for you to take a look at yourself.

As you prepare to embark on healthy eating (and you soon will), keep in mind that children follow your lead.  Sometimes that means taking one for the team.  Reserving our comments and even more, forcing yourself to take a bite of the food you detest. You won't have to do this forever, but it's an important step as you try to help your kids transition to healthier foods.

Ready to take your first step?  Here's an easy recipe for cooked carrots to experiment with.  Carrots are a great source of fiber, beta carotene and Vitamin A.   Enjoy!

1 bag carrots, 16oz bag 
1      tbsp extra virgin olive oil 
2      tbsp Honey, for glaze

  1. Either steam or cook carrots in boiling salted water for 8 minutes or until crisp-tender, remove and drain.  
  2. Heat oil in a pan over medium heat for 1 minute.  
  3. Add the carrots and honey  Cook for 2 minutes or until glazed.  Remove and serve.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Are You Too Exhausted to Battle Healthy Eating?

As we round out National Nutrition Month, let's talk about the effect that raising healthy eaters can have on us.

We're all in the same boat.  We're exhausted.  We are constantly torn between the convenience of fast food and healthy cooking at home.  Some nights the battle is just too big to fight.  And by the way, how long does that journey take?  If you embarked on a healthy lifestyle today, when would you see results?

These are tough questions, but perhaps I can share some insight based on my personal experience.  Raising healthy eaters is one of the most important things you can do for your kids.  Once you make the decision, give yourself a year to make the transition.  Within two years your kids will forget what the McDonald's drive thru looks like.

The problem with healthy eating is much like that of dieting.  We want instant results and often give up right before we start to see the successes.

Our family's journey toward healthy eating started out rocky.  I didn't know what to cook or how to cook it.  My time in the produce section consisted of bananas and strawberries - nothing else.  I had one cookbook - Betty Crocker.  I would occasionally try new recipes but the kids would never try it.  I felt alone and frustrated.

Within a year of starting the journey, we had cut our fast food bill in half.  We were planning out our meals.  Not every meal was a success with the kids, but we confidently added 20+ healthy recipes to our dinner plan and had phased out 75% of the processed and frozen food.

Within two years we had even more healthy dishes in the mix, the kids were helping in the kitchen, buying produce from the farmers market was a given, McDonald's didn't hit the radar, and most of our time was spent in the produce aisle at the grocery store.

Here are a few things that helped us in the first year:

  • Removed the junk food from the house.  Snack cakes, chips, and cookies are a thing of the past.  The kids now snack on fruit, popcorn, low sodium string cheese, and multi grain crackers.  
  • Pop Tarts and Fruity Pebbles are gone and over time have been forgotten.  Kids eat what you buy.   We just stopped buying sugary breakfast cereal.  We now do eggs, oatmeal, fruit, or plain cheerios.  
  • We transitioned from white bread to white/wheat bread and then eventually to whole wheat/whole grain bread.  This took a few months to complete. 
  • We made the move from Vitamin D milk to 2% and now 1%.  Surprisingly this had no impact on the kids.  Just took the adults a little getting used to.  
  • We stopped buying canned vegetables and invested in a steamer for fresh vegetables.  
  • Smaller juice boxes (4oz) were purchased and were limited to one or two a day.  We started to give new choices for drinks: water or milk.  I have found that having a choice is more important than the drink itself.  
  • Meal prep, planning, and organization became key.  I started to feel more confident and ready to tackle healthy dinners.  Unfortunately for us, there weren't a lot of tools to help so I spent a lot of time learning and experimenting on my own.  Hence our creation of Healthy Kids Inc so that you can effortlessly master this step.  

So if you feel like climbing Mt Everest may be easier than tackling healthy eating...think again.  You can do this.  Just give yourself some time and be patient.  Work to make one positive change per week- introduce a new food or switch to a healthier product.  Don't give up.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Are We Actually Creating Our Own Picky Eaters?

In week 2 of National Nutrition Month we pose the question:  Are we actually creating picky eaters?   If you have a picky eater, you would be the first to admit that this wasn't by design.  You hoped your child would effortlessly eat spinach, salmon, and cooked carrots.  Instead, your child eats only pizza, pasta, and vegetables loaded with cheese, butter, and salt.

How did it come to this?  

It probably started when your child (let's call him Charlie) first began eating table food.   Let's assume you tried serving him healthy food at the beginning.  After a few attempts he just didn't respond.  He has to eat, you say.  So you resort to typical kid-food and roll out the frozen chicken nuggets and macaroni and cheese.  That, along with a few other standard foods, worked.  Little Charlie was happy and eating and that was good enough for Mom.

A year passes and you decide it's time to try healthy foods.  Your child is still eating mac n cheese and chicken nuggets and by now refuses to venture out of his comfort zone.  You try a few new foods with no luck and chalk the failure up to him being a "picky eater."  Dinner time becomes nothing but battles and compromises.

This continues.  Out of frustration, you beg and plead with Charlie and constantly ask him why he's such a picky eater?  You talk about his picky eating habits every day at lunch and then again at dinner.  You feel like you're in the movie "Groundhog Day" and just can't seem to get out of this cycle.  

 It's a common story that you've probably experienced with at least one child at one point in time.

Could we have actually created this?

Indulge me while I get a little metaphysical and "law of attraction-like."  If little Charlie were told over and over that he was stupid (hang with me on this one), over time he would start to believe it and would probably stop trying to learn in school.  It's very subconscious but very real.

If Little Charlie is told over and over again that he's a "picky" eater, do you think the same thing might happen to him?  Over time his subconscious would start to believe it and little Charlie would soon live up to the expectation of a picky eater.

What if the word picky eater were completely taken from your, and his, vocabulary?  What if little Charlie is applauded every time he tries something new (even a bite) and is told that he's making progress and becoming a "healthy" eater?

Over time, this positive reinforcement would create more positive behaviors, which creates more positive reinforcement.  It's an amazing approach that really does work.

We're not quite done though.  Now Mom, what if you put the Laws of Attraction in place and approached dinner time with excitement and optimism?  You begin to pair some of his favorite foods with some new foods.  You proudly put dinner on the table and mentally prepare to celebrate even the smallest success.  It may just be one bite and that's ok.  Do you think little Charlie would soon follow suit and begin to enjoy dinner time too?

After a few months (yes- it may take that long), dinner time now becomes high energy and full of celebration.  Before you know it, you're serving less of his old favorites and more of his healthy new favorites.  It's an amazing shift in mindset that will transform your  family dinner experience.

Strangely enough, people have a way of meeting even our subconscious expectations of them.  If you change your thinking, you just may change your life... and little Charlie's too.  Give this a try.  You'll be happy you did!