Sunday, May 31, 2015

How can you get kids to eat more fruits and veggies?

So many kids’ diets today are lacking in fruits and veggies.  A lot of greasy fries but little or no fresh fruit and veggies.  A simple goal for all of us, but especially for kids is “5 A DAY”.  At least five servings of fruit and veggies a day.  I say at least, because I’ve always taught “5 A DAY” but one of my students thought eating 6 a day was too much.  Not true.  In fact, the World Health Organization recommends 9 servings a day.  But aiming for at least “5 A DAY” is a good start.   CDC has a good fact sheet and recommendations, let’s look at some of them. 
  1. Make it easy - Keep a bowl of fresh fruit on the counter.   Also, refrigerate cut up fruits and vegetables in small bags for easy snacks.  So much fresh produce is available right now. Keep it visible.
  2. Serve fruits and vegetables at every meal.  Fruit for breakfast, 2 servings of fruit/vegetables at lunch and dinner.  Add veggies to foods by grating or cutting up vegetables and adding to entrees, soups.  Top cereal off with fruits.   Add some frozen fruit like strawberries or blueberries to smoothies.
  3. Be a good example – are you eating “5 A Day”?  Let your kids see you snacking on fruit, low-fat salads, vegetable sides (not French Fries).   Choose fruit and veggies when eating out.
  4. Pack the Fridge – when your kids open the fridge are there fruits and veggies to snack on?  Many kids like raw veggies and Ranch dressing.  Have the veggies cut up and ready to eat. 
  5. Take the Challenge – challenge family members to reach the “5 A Day” challenge.  The winner can be rewarded with a small prize (not candy).
  6. Promote fruit and veggies at school functions – orange slices at soccer games, more fresh fruit at school functions.  One school put bags of cut up carrots in the vending machine and sold them for 50 cents. These were a hit among students.
  7. Let kids choose – one kindergarten teacher in our area promotes a vegetable a week.  One child asked their mom why they never ate zucchini, the vegetable promoted that week.  The mom was shocked her child knew what zucchini was.  So take the kids to the farmer market, take them to pick strawberries, raspberries, let them help prepare the corn, other veggies for dinner.
  8. Make them fun – kids love smiley faces made from fruits and vegetables.
  9. Keep trying – kids may not like a food on the first try.  Maybe serve it a different way, but try again on another day.
  10. Encourage others  - your friends, relatives to offer your kids fruits and vegetables.
For more ideas on getting kids to eat more fruits and veggies, see the fact sheet:  10 Ways to Help Kids Eat More Fruits and Veggies.   For great snack suggestions and pictures of how to make snacks fun for kids, go to: Snack Ideas for Kids.  

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Whole Grains and a Longer Life

So many people “avoid carbs” and avoid grains.  The latest diet craze is to go low carb.  Is that the healthiest choice for a longer life?  Are some carbs healthy?  Absolutely.   If you are watching carbs, you should watch to see you add whole grain carbs to your diet.  Whole grains aren’t carbs to avoid but to add to your diet.  A recent Harvard study on Whole Grains found that people who ate whole grains lowered their risk of heart disease.
 How much whole grains did they eat to lower their risk of heart disease?  The more they ate they lower the risk
  • 5% lower risk of heart disease for those eating 1 ounce a day (1 slice of whole wheat bread)
  • 8% lower risk for those who replaced one serving of refined grains with one serving of whole grains every day 
  • 20% lower if a serving of red meat was replaced by whole grains

Whole grains contain all parts of the grain including the bran.  The bran is rich in B vitamins, antioxidants and fiber.  It is the bran that seems to be the most beneficial in reducing heart disease risk.

What are whole grains?  If you go to, they have a list of foods that are whole grains.  MyPlate recommends at least half the grains you eat each day should be whole grains.  Whole grains include:
  • Whole wheat flour, whole wheat bread, whole rye flour - but whole rye bread is hard to find.  I found some at World Market
  • Cereals that are whole grain like oatmeal, Cheerios
  • Whole cornmeal (Most cornmeal is not whole, need to read the ingredients)
  • Brown rice, wild rice
  • Quinoa
  • Buckwheat – like buckwheat pancakes
  • Whole wheat pasta – if you don’t like the taste, try 25% whole wheat pasta and 75% regular pasta
  • Barley
  • Whole grain crackers
  • Whole grain chips, Sun Chips, Food Should Taste Good  Multigrain chips,
  • Whole grain corn – popcorn is whole grain

Note:  “multi-grain”, “stone ground”, “cracked wheat”, “bran” – are usually not whole grain products.  Read the label as some foods like the Food Should Taste Good Multigrain chips are whole grain but many “multi-grain” breads are not whole grain. 

Add some whole grains to your diet for a longer life. 

Sunday, May 17, 2015

How to feed your brain?

Wouldn’t it be nice if there was “brain food”?   Just eat a few foods and be smarter, more alert, improve your memory?  Well, apparently there are foods you can eat to improve your memory and learning.  A recent article in Environmental Nutrition, 5 Steps for Feeding Your Brain, lists a number of foods and steps to feed your brain.    
      1.   Foods rich in Phytonutrients – these aren’t vitamins or minerals but plant nutrients that have health benefits to plants and to us.  There are many phytonutrients, the one called flavonoids, are good for brain health.  These promote memory and learning.  Whole plant foods are better than processed so choose:
        a.       Citrus fruits – whole orange vs. orange juice, grapefruit, slices of lemon in ice water     
        b.      Broccoli – microwave it, steam it or eat it raw with lite Ranch dressing  
        c.       Soybeans   

      2.  Unrefined Carbs – have you ever heard people say, “Watch your carbs”?  Not sure what they are watching them for.  Yes, you should limit refined carbs, but unrefined carbs are great for your health and for your brain.  Refined carbs, like refined sugars, promote stress in the body so avoid foods with added sugars and refined white bread and white flour.  Choose instead whole grains, oatmeal, Cheerios, whole grain breads, whole grain crackers, Sun Chips.  Beans and legumes also promote brain health.  Unrefined carbs don’t spike your blood sugar levels but promote steady blood sugar which supports attention and memory.   
      3.   Omega-3’s – a good fat.   So much has been written about bad fats like saturated fats.  But there are good fats like Omega-3’s.  Good for you heart and good for your brain.  Seafood, salmon and tuna, supply 2 types of Omega-3’s, DHA and EPA – both brain food.  Another omega-3 is found in walntus and flaxseed.  Sprinkling some flaxseed on your cereal or in your smoothie is a good choice.  Avoiding saturated fats in not only good for your heart but also protects your brain.  Diets high in saturated fats are associated with mental decline.  
     4.  Fried foods are bad foods – many people are surprised by this. Many think fried chicken nuggets are healthy because they are made of chicken.  Not true.  Fried foods contain a substance called AGE that is linked to memory decline as we get older.  So cut back on fried foods.         
      5.   Healthy Weight – maintaining a normal weight is good for your heart, your brain and overall health.  Studies have linked obesity to less brain function as we get older.  Physical activity is linked with improved brain function so go for that swim, a walk or bike ride.
Brain Foods – to feed your brain enjoy some brain foods:
Apples, eggs, figs, green tea, pomegranate, salmon and tuna, strawberries and blueberries, walnuts

Source:  5 Steps for Feeding Your Brain , Image source: Brain food

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Nutrition in the News

Good news for consumers.  Many manufacturers and fast food restaurants are making healthful changes in their food offerings.   In the last few weeks, Kraft, Chipotle, and Pepsi have made announcements about upcoming changes.  What drove these changes?  You the consumer, did by requesting healthier options.   It is usually the government forcing manufacturers to make changes and now with social media, the consumer is in the driver’s seat.  So what is changing?
Macaroni and Cheese:   has announced it is going to make macaroni and cheese without the synthetic colors or artificial preservatives. 
This change won’t take place until early 2016, but is good news for consumers.  Last March, a petition requested Kraft remove dyes from its mac and cheese.   This petition garnered over 365,000 signatures so carried a lot of weight with the company.  Before complying, Kraft went to the streets and met with families in their homes, talked to people in grocery stores. 
Dyes – yellow numbers 5 and 6 will be removed.   These will be replaced with paprika, annatto and turmeric to help keep the yellow color.
Capri Sun – Kraft has already replaced high fructose corn syrup with sugar in their Capri Sun products.  Healthier?  Maybe but Capri Sun isn’t a healthy choice.  Better to have 100% juice than Capri Sun.

Chipotle has removed genetically altered ingredients.  Since 2013, Chipotle noted which items contained GMO’s.  Is Chipotle GMO free?  Not exactly as some soft drinks contain sweeteners with GMO corn, and some of its meat and dairy still come from GMO grains fed animals. 

Pepsi – for those who enjoy Pepsi, this summer look for changes.  Pepsi announced it will replace the high fructose corn syrup with sugar.  Probably a move because soft drink consumption is on the decline.  But also because of growing consumer concerns about high fructose corn syrup. 

Panera Bread – I like Panera bread.  One can get a reasonably priced and healthy meal at Panera.  So what changes are they planning?  By 2016, they are dropping 150 artificial ingredients  like  saccharin, aspartame, maltodextrin, Azodicarbonamide,  Ethoxyquin. 

High Fructose Corn Syrup – probably good that manufacturers are replacing this in foods.  I have always tried to avoid it as much as possible.  A recent study has shown that drinking beverages sweetened with high fructose corn syrup can increase cholesterol and triglycerides in only two week.  The lead author noted, ” It was a surprise that adding as little as the equivalent of a half-can of soda at breakfast, lunch and dinner was enough to produce significant increases in risk factors for cardiovascular disease,” said the lead author, Kimber L. Stanhope, a research scientist at the University of California, Davis. (High Fructose Corn Syrup)

Sources:  Kraft, Chipotle, Pepsi, Panera, High Fructose Corn Syrup Image source:  Kraft

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Are Carbs Good or Bad? By Nicole Hamby (Guest Author)

So many myths about carbs.   Are carbs good or bad for your health?  A student in my class, Nicole Hamby, has been asked to be a guest author on this blog site.  Her paper on Good vs Bad Carbs is below. 
     Carbohydrates have been given a very bad reputation. However, it is not the actual carbohydrate that is bad, but what we have created them into with all of our processing. Instead of eating brown rice or whole wheat bread, Americans have chosen to consume the refined processed versions. Not only do these processed foods now lack essential nutrients but some of them can contribute to obesity and type II diabetes. Perhaps instead of grabbing a handful of jelly beans, which contains refined simple sugars, a piece of fruit would be much more beneficial to help prevent some of these diseases. While fruit may contain some simple sugars, it is natural, unrefined, and packed with vitamins your body needs. Whole grains, which are complex, are also an excellent source of good hearty carbohydrates. They are full of fiber and provide long lasting energy. Whole grains also put hunger at bay and have been shown to help prevent heart disease.                                         
Imagine that you have a nice new sports car. It requires premium gasoline; however you choose to always put regular gasoline in it because it’s cheaper and doesn’t really seem to make a difference anyways. Before long you begin to notice your car isn’t running as well and everything begins to slow down. Like a nice sports car your body also needs the right fuel to work properly. Without food like whole grains, legumes, and other plant foods, you will feel slow and probably pretty tired. White refined sugars like candies, cakes, and doughnuts might give you a quick spike in energy but soon enough you will crash and your body will be lacking the nutrients it needs. So the next time you go to the grocery store go for the natural process free foods and put down those simple refined sugars.
Sources: Not All Carbs Are Created Equal,  Image Source:  Fitness