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Beat the Heat with a Mango Smoothie

It's true— kids love smoothies! This refreshing and tasty recipe is rich in a number of nutrients, including fiber, vitamin C, folate and potassium.

1 cup. orange juice
1 medium mango, peeled, seeded and cut into cubes
1 small banana, sliced (or ½ large banana)
1 cup low-fat vanilla yogurt

Place mango cubes and banana slices in a sealed container or freezer bag and freeze for one hour. Place partially frozen fruit, orange juice, and yogurt in blender. Blend until smooth.

Yield: approximately 3 cups
Servings: 3

Nutritional Information Per Serving: 189 calories; 1 g fat; 5 g protein; 40 g carbohydrate; 53 mg sodium; 2.5 g fiber (10% daily value); 46 mg vitamin C (76% daily value); 583 mg Potassium (17% daily value); 41 mcg Folate (10% daily value)

Nutrition for Young Dancers

Writer and dancer Debbie Strong wrote a great article for DanceTeacher Magazine on how to incorporate positive nutrition messages into the dance experience for young children. Connie was interviewed for the article, located at the DanceTeacher Magazine website.

Eating Well on a Budget

Here are some helpful links on stretching your family's food dollar:

Supermarket Savings:16 Tips that Can Total Big Bucks, by Alice Henneman, MS,RD
Budget Boosters 35 Easy Ways to Stretch Your Food Dollars, by Joanne Camas

Try barley flour for a change

Erica Van Drunen, a dietitian from Canada, writes:

Hi Connie,

First of all- thanks for providing such reliable (& free) nutrition information. I have always found your website fantastic.

F.Y.I. I am not sure if your readers are interested in this topic or not, but I am always looking for ways to boost the nutritional quality, (while not sacrificing the taste & texture) of home-baked goods. A fellow RD from Calgary (Alberta) hooked me onto baking with Barley flour instead of whole wheat flour all the time. You can substitute 100% of the barley for all-purpose flour in most muffin & cookie recipes with very little difference in the texture & quality (but you may need a little more liquid-i.e. buttermilk- in muffins). It doesn't work so well in yeast-type breads because of its' low gluten content. The texture of baked goods is much more accepted by my kids (& husband) because they don't taste so "grainy" or "wheaty". Barley flour still provides the whole grain goodness and is a great source of soluble fiber too!

Thanks so much, Erica Van Drunen RD

Connie writes:

Thanks Erica! That's a great suggestion. You have motivated me to check it out. Locally (in the Pacific Northwest), we have Bob's Red Mill and I noticed on their website that they do feature Barley flour (as well as some recipes).

The Alberta Barley Commission is also a great resource for information and recipes.

Note: Although Erica mentions that barley has less gluten than wheat, it's important to note that barley is NOT a gluten-free grain and is not appropriate for those who follow gluten-free diets.


Eat close to home with a backyard garden

Now is the time to make plans for growing fruits, vegetables and herbs

With all the news and discussion about choosing locally grown food, the backyard gardener is way ahead of the curve on this emerging trend. March is a great time to order seeds and plants, build garden beds, plant cool weather crops (depending on your growing zone), and start warm weather seedlings indoors (e.g. tomatoes, peppers, eggplant). Apartment dwellers can look for resources on community garden plots in their area or research container gardening.

It's interesting to note that during world war II, the government push to grow "victory gardens" resulted in a significant contribution of fresh produce to the family table. According to the USDA Cooperative Extension Service, an estimated 15 million families planted victory gardens in 1942, and in 1943 some 20 million victory gardens produced more than 40 percent of the vegetables grown for that year's fresh consumption.

A few sites to get you started:

Abundant Life seeds
Seeds of Change

Just go play!

New report stresses play for healthy child development

A new report from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) says free and unstructured play is healthy and - in fact - essential for helping children reach important social, emotional, and cognitive developmental milestones as well as helping them manage stress and become resilient.

The report, "The Importance of Play in Promoting Healthy Child Development and Maintaining Strong Parent-Child Bonds", is written in defense of play and in response to forces threatening free play and unscheduled time. These forces include changes in family structure, the increasingly competitive college admissions process, and federal education policies that have led to reduced recess and physical education in many schools.

Whereas play protects children's emotional development, a loss of free time in combination with a hurried lifestyle can be a source of stress, anxiety and may even contribute to depression for many children, the AAP report states.

To access the report, visit the AAP website at http://www.aap.org/pressroom/play-public.htm

Foods marketed to kids full of hype, not health

A study by Agricultural Research Service (ARS) nutritionist Sarah Colby showed that more than half of kids' foods that feature nutrition claims were high in saturated fat, sodium and/or added sugar.

Colby and colleagues surveyed nearly 57,000 food labels from the major grocery stores within the Grand Forks, North Dakota metropolitan area. Of those, 9,105 were perceived to be marketed toward children, based on qualifiers such as graphics, lettering and promotion designs.

Sixty percent of the kid-oriented foods that were packaged with nutrition marketing—about 4,370 foods—were also high in saturated fat, sodium and/or added sugar, when compared to the levels recommended in the 2005 Dietary Guidelines for Americans.

Food advertising is completely "out of balance"

It's little wonder that any messages about healthy eating are getting through to our children. Consumers Union (CU), the nonprofit publisher of Consumer Reports, recently published the report Out of Balance which analyzes data from the advertising industry. Among the findings, CU found that food, beverage, candy, and restaurant advertising expenditures weigh in at $11.26 billion in 2004, versus a mere $9.55 million to advertise the Five A Day campaign, which promotes eating five or more servings of fruits and vegetables daily. For the complete report, click here.

2005 Dietary Guidelines for Americans Released

On January 12, the 2005 U.S. Dietary Guidelines were released. Revised every five years, the guidelines are designed to help Americans choose diets that will meet nutrient requirements, promote health, support active lives and reduce risks of chronic disease. The guidelines also form the basis for U.S. food policies that affect nutrition programs such as USDA's School Meal and Food Stamp Programs, and the WIC Program (Supplemental Food Program for Women, Infants and Children). Published jointly by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), the guidelines will form the basis of the new food guidance system, slated to be released later this year.

The full report, including the consumer-friendly version, can be found at http://www.healthierus.gov/dietaryguidelines.

Key Recommendations for the General Population, Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2005 :


  • Consume a variety of nutrient-dense foods and beverages within and among the basic food groups while choosing foods that limit the intake of saturated and trans fats, cholesterol, added sugars, salt, and alcohol.
  • Meet recommended intakes within energy needs by adopting a balanced eating pattern, such as the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Food Guide or the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) Eating Plan.


  • To maintain body weight in a healthy range, balance calories from foods and beverages with calories expended.
  • To prevent gradual weight gain over time, make small decreases in food and beverage calories and increase physical activity.


  • Engage in regular physical activity and reduce sedentary activities to promote health, psychological well-being, and a healthy body weight.
    • To reduce the risk of chronic disease in adulthood: Engage in at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity, above usual activity, at work or home on most days of the week.
    • For most people, greater health benefits can be obtained by engaging in physical activity of more vigorous intensity or longer duration.
    • To help manage body weight and prevent gradual, unhealthy body weight gain in adulthood: Engage in approximately 60 minutes of moderate- to vigorous-intensity activity on most days of the week while not exceeding caloric intake requirements.
    • To sustain weight loss in adulthood: Participate in at least 60 to 90 minutes of daily moderate-intensity physical activity while not exceeding caloric intake requirements. Some people may need to consult with a healthcare provider before participating in this level of activity.
  • Achieve physical fitness by including cardiovascular conditioning, stretching exercises for flexibility, and resistance exercises or calisthenics for muscle strength and endurance.


  • Consume a sufficient amount of fruits and vegetables while staying within energy needs. Two cups of fruit and 2½ cups of vegetables per day are recommended for a reference 2,000-calorie intake, with higher or lower amounts depending on the calorie level.
  • Choose a variety of fruits and vegetables each day. In particular, select from all five vegetable subgroups (dark green, orange, legumes, starchy vegetables, and other vegetables) several times a week.
  • Consume 3 or more ounce-equivalents of whole-grain products per day, with the rest of the recommended grains coming from enriched or whole-grain products. In general, at least half the grains should come from whole grains.
  • Consume 3 cups per day of fat-free or low-fat milk or equivalent milk products.


  • Consume less than 10 percent of calories from saturated fatty acids and less than 300 mg/day of cholesterol, and keep trans fatty acid consumption as low as possible.
  • Keep total fat intake between 20 to 35 percent of calories, with most fats coming from sources of polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fatty acids, such as fish, nuts, and vegetable oils.
  • When selecting and preparing meat, poultry, dry beans, and milk or milk products, make choices that are lean, low-fat, or fat-free.
  • Limit intake of fats and oils high in saturated and/or trans fatty acids, and choose products low in such fats and oils.


  • Choose fiber-rich fruits, vegetables, and whole grains often.
  • Choose and prepare foods and beverages with little added sugars or caloric sweeteners, such as amounts suggested by the USDA Food Guide and the DASH Eating Plan.
  • Reduce the incidence of dental caries by practicing good oral hygiene and consuming sugar- and starch-containing foods and beverages less frequently.


  • Consume less than 2,300 mg (approximately 1 teaspoon of salt) of sodium per day.
  • Choose and prepare foods with little salt. At the same time, consume potassium-rich foods, such as fruits and vegetables.


  • Those who choose to drink alcoholic beverages should do so sensibly and in moderation—defined as the consumption of up to one drink per day for women and up to two drinks per day for men.
  • Alcoholic beverages should not be consumed by some individuals, including those who cannot restrict their alcohol intake, women of childbearing age who may become pregnant, pregnant and lactating women, children and adolescents, individuals taking medications that can interact with alcohol, and those with specific medical conditions.
  • Alcoholic beverages should be avoided by individuals engaging in activities that require attention, skill, or coordination, such as driving or operating machinery.


  • To avoid microbial foodborne illness:
    • Clean hands, food contact surfaces, and fruits and vegetables. Meat and poultry should not be washed or rinsed.
    • Separate raw, cooked, and ready-to-eat foods while shopping, preparing, or storing foods.
    • Cook foods to a safe temperature to kill microorganisms.
    • Chill (refrigerate) perishable food promptly and defrost foods properly.
    • Avoid raw (unpasteurized) milk or any products made from unpasteurized milk, raw or partially cooked eggs or foods containing raw eggs, raw or undercooked meat and poultry, unpasteurized juices, and raw sprouts.

"MyPyramid" replaces the Food Guide Pyramid

Click here to download a mini-poster with food groups and more detailed information

The Food Guide Pyramid, released in 1992, has been updated and revised. The revision has paralleled and been coordinated with the development of the 2005 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, which USDA and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) released in January 2005.

According to the USDA press release, a child-friendly version of MyPyramid for teachers and children is being developed. This version of MyPyramid is intended to reach children 6 to 11 years old with targeted messages about the importance of making smart eating and physical activity choices. Additional information about USDA’s MyPyramid is available at MyPyramid.gov.

The 2005 Dietary Guidelines for Americans and consumer brochure are available at www.healthierus.gov/dietaryguidelines.

New study shows less milk, more soft drinks for children

North Carolina researchers recently published a study in the October 2004 issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine which confirms what many already suspected: kids are drinking more sweetened drinks and less nutrient-rich milk.

The study, conducted at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, showed that energy intake from sweetened drinks in the United States increased 135 percent between about 1977 and 2001. Over the same span, energy intake from milk -- a far more nutritious beverage -- dropped 38 percent.

Between 1977 and 2001, researchers found that:
  • Total energy derived from soft drinks each day rose on average from 2.8 percent to 7 percent, nearly a tripling of calories.
  • Energy intake from fruit drinks per person grew from 1.1 percent to 2.2 percent.
  • Milk supplied 5 percent of energy for all age groups, down from 8 percent over the 24 years.
  • Changes in intake of other beverages such as tea, coffee, alcohol and fruit juices were minor for all age groups.

"The largest drop in milk consumption, from 13.2 percent of total energy to 8.3 percent, occurred in 2- to 18-year-olds," said Dr. Barry M. Popkin, lead researcher of the study.

The new study corroborates earlier research showing that soft drink consumption is rising and is a significant contributor to total caloric intake, Popkin said.

Emphasize healthy habits, not dieting

In a new study of 5-9 year-old girls, the children at risk for becoming overweight as five year-olds fared much worse if they and their families attempted to restrict their diet. The girls who attempted to diet actually put on more excess weight by the time they reached nine.

The study authors emphasize that a healthful environment, not restriction and dieting, are the keys to promoting a more healthful weight in young girls. They conclude:

"Providing positive strategies for promoting healthful weight control among parents is particularly critical because parents serve as models for young children’s developing eating and activity patterns, and parents also structure children’s eating and activity environments in ways that can either support or undermine the development and maintenance of healthful weight status in children."

Shunk JA, Birch LL. Girls at risk for overweight at age 5 are at risk for dietary restraint, disinhibited overeating, weight concerns, and greater weight gain from 5 to 9 years. J Am Diet Assoc. 2004 Jul;104(7):1120-6.

Middle School Snack Bars Contribute to Poor Nutrition

Can one grade really make that much difference in how kids eat? Apparently so, if the move is from elementary to middle school. A recent study in Texas(1) showed that as kids moved from fourth grade elementary school to a fifth grade middle school, they ate fewer fruits, non-fried vegetables and less milk while guzzling 62% more sweetened drinks and 68% more french fries.

The culprit? By far, the biggest negative contibutor to children's nutritional downfall in middle school was the snack bar. In fact, more than one-third of middle school students in the study ate only snack bar foods during the two-year period of the study. The students who ate meals served as part of the National School Lunch Program ate more fruits, non-fried vegetables and milk.

Study Recommendations:
  • Future research should focus on ways to increase fruit and vegetable availability in schools.
  • Fruits, vegetables and milk should be promoted in school cafeterias and snack bars.
  • Healthy food choices and school food policies should be supported to improve the availability of healthier foods on school snack bars.
1. Karen Weber Cullen and Issa Zakeri Fruits, Vegetables, Milk, and Sweetened Beverages Consumption and Access to à la Carte/Snack Bar Meals at School Am J Public Health, Mar 2004; 94: 463 - 467.


There is a distinct relationship between academic achievement and physical fitness, according to a recent study by the California Department of Education. In the study, reading and mathematics scores were matched with fitness scores of 353,000 fifth graders, 322,000 seventh graders, and 279,000 ninth graders. The key findings:
  • Higher achievement was associated with higher levels of fitness at each of the three grade levels measured.
  • The relationship between academic achievement and fitness was greater in mathematics than in reading, particularly at higher fitness levels.
  • Students who met minimum fitness levels in three or more physical fitness areas showed the greatest gains in academic achievement at all three grade levels.
  • Females demonstrated higher achievement than males, particularly at higher fitness levels.

Tips for Teens

Take charge of your health: A Teenager's Guide to Better Health is a site devoted to providing teens with ideas for making positive health changes. As part of the weight-control information network, the site emphasizes exercise, healthy food choices and includes a section on further reading and resources. Check it out at http://www.niddk.nih.gov/health/nutrit/pubs/winteen/index.htm

Teaching Teen-to-Teen

The paradox of adolescent nutrition: At a time when nutrition needs are at a lifetime high, diet quality and nutrient intake are often at a lifetime low.

Anyone who spends much time around teens understands that they are focused on their peers and easily turned off by adults. That's why it makes a lot of sense to utilize peer-based instruction to convince adolescents to eat better. Research with 1000 seventh-grade students in eight schools showed that peer-led nutrition education was an effective and feasible method of getting across the message of healthy eating (1).

Educators as well as school nutrition staff can take an active role in eliciting feedback from teens and promoting peer education. An active "nutrition advisory council" (NAC) in middle and high schools can give teens a voice in both their nutrition environment and classroom education.
A few tips on involving teens:
  • Provide quality training for teens who want to be peer leaders. Offer topics in tune with teens' interests, such as sensible weight control, nutrition for sports/fitness, on-the-go eating, body image/eating disorders or vegetarian diets. Consider inviting high-energy local experts to participate in the trainings.
  • Encourage teens to be creative when presenting to their peers. Teens may want to focus on informal small-group interaction, perform skits, offer contests with rewards or offer nutrition training to the school athletic teams.
  • Give teens a say about the foods served in the cafeteria. The odds are good that they will accept more healthful foods if they are decision-makers regarding the menu.
  • Realize that teens' tastes are highly variable and subject to change. This week's smoothies may give way to next weeks decaf espresso. Be adventurous and keep up with trends by conducting frequent student surveys. Visit the food court at the local mall to see what teens are buying. Re-create these foods, modifying for health as necessary.
1. Story M, Lytle LA, Birnbaum AS, Perry CL. Peer-led, school-based nutrition education for young adolescents: feasibility and process evaluation of the TEENS study. J Sch Health. 2002; 72 (3): 121-127.

Parents' Actions, Not Words, Key to Better Nutrition for Kids

If parents ate more fruits and vegetables, so did their daughters, researchers found in a study of 200 5-year-old girls and their parents.

Parents who pressured their daughters the most about eating fruits and vegetables were those who consumed the least of these foods. Their daughters ate 1.6 fewer servings of fruits and vegetables a day than the daughters of parents who used less pressure.

The researchers recommend that parents set a good example by eating plenty of fruits and vegetables and by not nagging.

Scientists at the ARS Children’s Nutrition Research Center at Baylor College of Medicine and colleagues at Pennsylvania State University conducted this study.

Source: Journal of the American Dietetic Association (vol. 102, pp. 58-64, January 2002)

Make an Edible "Work of Art"

Not only do fruits taste good, they are also pretty to look at. Encourage your children (at home or in groups) to design a beautiful fruit plate, suitable for parties, special occasions or just for fun!


  1. Decide which fruits you want to use on your fruit plate. Some examples include sliced bananas, melon balls or wedges, pineapple tidbits, blueberries, grapes, apple slices, orange wedges, kiwi slices, apricot halves, sliced strawberries, papaya chunks and slices of pears. [HINT: For fruits that brown quickly such as apples, bananas and pears, soak 5-10 minutes in pineapple juice]
  2. Draw a circle that represents a plate. Make a diagram of how you will arrange your fruit on the plate. Experiment with different patterns, design a face or create a picture.
  3. Gather the ingredients you need. Wash and prepare. Make your fruit plate.
  4. Smile and say "thanks" when everyone says "WOW!"

OPTIONAL: Make a yummy fruit dip by blending reduced fat cream cheese and fresh strawberries.

Breastfeeding Builds Better Bones (For Mom!)

Researchers at the Children's Nutrition Research Center (CNRC) in Houston found that breastfeeding may offer moms a unique opportunity to "remodel" their bones.

Lactation is known to cause bone loss in fracture-prone areas such as the hip, wrist and spine. The good news, however, is that this "lost" bone is completely replaced with fresh, new bone within two years of delivery, according to researcher Dr. Judy Hopkinson, a CNRC lactation physiologist.

Hopkinson found that this bone loss/bone-recovery cycle, called remodeling, provides a lactating mother the unique opportunity to repair tiny flaws known as microfractures, which are thought to contribute to serious fractures later in life.

For more information on this study, see the latest issue of the CNRC publication "Nutrition & Your Child" which can be found online at http://www.bcm.tmc.edu/cnrc/consumer/nyc/vol2-01.htm

Can Breastfeeding Make Your Child Smarter?

Researchers have long known that breast milk provides superior nutrition matched precisely to a growing baby's needs. A study out of New Zealand finds that breast milk may also make children smarter. This is the first study to look at academic achievement in more than 1000 children from birth to age 18. The researchers conclude that "breastfeeding is associated with small but detectable increases in child cognitive ability and educational achievement." The full study is reported in the Journal Pediatrics and can be obtained at http://www.pediatrics.org.

SANDWICH ART: Make a hoagie sandwich that looks back at you!

Source: How to Teach Nutrition to Kids


  • hoagie buns
  • sliced lowfat cheese
  • lean luncheon or deli meat
  • shredded carrots, lettuce, or sprouts
  • olives
  • cherry tomatoes
  • miscellaneous condiments (mustard, reduced fat mayonnaise, etc)
  • toothpicks (or broken spaghetti pieces)
  • clean work surface and hands

DIRECTIONS: Make hoagie sandwich, using desired ingredients. On one end of the sandwich, use toothpicks or broken spaghetti pieces to position olives for eyeballs and cherry tomato for nose. Arrange shredded carrots, lettuce, or sprouts on top for hair. If desired, stick a small piece of lunch meat out of the "mouth" for a tongue.

NOTE: Be sure to remove all toothpicks before eating!

Too much soda may increase bone fracture risk in teen girls

Carbonated beverage consumption is on the rise among teen girls and many experts believe it is at the expense of more healthful beverages such as lowfat milk, water and 100% fruit juices. A new study out of Harvard indicates that carbonated beverages, especially colas, may increase the risk of bone fractures in teen girls. The risk was the highest in the girls who were the most physically active. While more research is needed to study this link, it appears that the high phosphorus content of soda pop coupled with a low calcium intake may be creating a calcium-phosphorus imbalance that could make girls more susceptible to fractures.

Family Meals = Better Nutrition for Teens

Want your teen to eat better? Try sitting down to family meals more often. A recent study published in the Archives of Family Medicine showed a connection between family meals and the quality of the diet. The kids and teens who ate with their families on a more frequent basis had higher intakes of several nutrients, including fiber, calcium, folate, iron, vitamins B6, B12, C and E.

The study also showed that as children get older, they eat fewer meals with their family. While more than half of the 9-year-olds ate family dinners every day, only about one third of the 14 year-olds did. A shocking 17% of the children in this study reported that they rarely ate dinner with their families.

February is National Children's Dental Health Month

Nutrition plays an important role in the development and continued health of the teeth and gums. Listed below are some facts and advice for dental-friendly eating.

  • Fluoride, in the form of drinking water, supplements, toothpaste or rinses, is the major factor responsible for the phenomenal decline we have seen in tooth decay among children over the past thirty years. All children should receive a routine source of fluoride. Check with your pediatrician or pedodontist regarding the best source of fluoride for your child.
  • Both the form and frequency of carbohydrates play an important role in acid production. Foods that stick in, around and between the teeth — whether raisins, cornflakes, animal crackers or gumdrops — produce more acid than foods that quickly leave the mouth. Eating sticky foods rich in carbohydrates sets off an acid attack in the mouth, leaving teeth susceptible to erosion and decay.
  • "Baby bottle tooth decay" is a classic example of how constant exposure of teeth to carbohydrate can result in severe decay. Youngsters who continually suck small amounts of milk, juice or sugared beverages from a bottle, especially throughout the night, often experience significant decay of their baby teeth (and, in extreme cases, damage their erupting permanent teeth).
  • Foods high in acid also contribute to dental downfall, especially if they are consumed frequently. Sugared soda pop strikes a double blow to teeth with its high-acid and high-sugar content, Even diet pop, rich in phosphoric and citric acids, has been reported to erode teeth when sipped excessively.
  • Not all foods are foes when it comes to dental health. Researchers have pinpointed certain "protective" foods, which seem to counteract acid-producing bacteria in the mouth. Cheeses, especially the aged varieties, peanuts, eggs, meat and sugarless gum have all been found to neutralize acid in the mouth when consumed close to the time when carbohydrates are eaten.
  • So, how does a "dental smart" kid go about avoiding the evils of cavity-producing carbos? The first line of defense is to brush sticky foods out of the teeth. At the very least, rinse mouth with water, take a few bites of cheese er nuts to neutralize acid, or chew sugarless gum. The greatest harm occurs within the first 20 minutes of eating a fermentable carbohydrate, so quick action is needed to combat cavities.

Encourage Kids to Eat More "Candy from Nature"

Ripe, sweet and juicy, fruit has been called "Nature's Candy." Surprisingly though, only 18% of children age 7-10 consumes the minimum recommendation of two daily servings of fruit*. Kids seem to especially shy away from the more nutrient-packed varieties such as citrus fruits, melons and berries.

Also of note, Children seem to get the majority of their fruit from fruit juice. While fruit juices (especially citrus) provide important nutrients, little fiber is left once the fruit is processed into juice.

*Lino, M., Gerrior, S.A., Basiotis, P.P., Anand, R.S. Report card on the diet quality of children. Nutrition Insights; U.S. Department of Agriculture, Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion. Insight 9, October 1998.

USDA Continuing survey of Food Intakes by Individuals, 1994-96.

Restricting food choices may do more harm than good

The old adage that we most want what we can't have apparently applies to food intake among young children. A recent study* found that restricting young children's access to foods they want leads to over-indulgence when they are free to make their own food choices.

Researchers from Penn State University selected two snack foods typically offered to a group of preschool-aged children in a daycare environment. Children were freely offered both foods during their snack time for several weeks. Then the researchers restricted children's access to one food while providing the other in unlimited quantities. The restricted food remained visible in a jar and the children were aware that they were not allowed to have that snack.

When the "forbidden food" was again made available, children took larger portions and ate more than normal as compared to the initial study period when the food was freely offered.

According to Jennifer Orlet Fisher, lead author of the study, "This research does not imply that parents should let children have whatever they want whenever they want it. Structure is as important in child feeding as it is in any other aspect of parenting. Parents should provide children with a variety of nutritious foods and with enough guidance to help their children make reasonable decisions about what and how much to eat."

*Fisher, JO and Birch, LL. Restricting access to palatable foods affects children's behavioral response, food selection, and intake. Am J Clin Nutr 1999;69:1264-72. The study can be found on the web at http://www.ajcn.org/cgi/content/abstract/69/6/1264

Wrap up! 10 Ideas for "wrapping up" healthful foods

Wraps are a fun, portable way to roll up food combinations into tasty snacks or meals. Kids enjoy getting in on the action and are amazingly creative at coming up with their own concoctions.

Start with a wrap such as a plain or flavored tortilla (try spinach), thin pita, or even a crepe or pancake. Try some of the following combinations or create your own!

  • Cooked apples, cinnamon and cream cheese
  • Peanut butter, banana slices and a dab of honey
  • Grated cheese and salsa
  • Caesar salad with chunks of tuna or chicken
  • Grilled vegetables
  • Scrambled eggs, hash browns and onions
  • Pasta sauce, grated mozzarella and black olives
  • Black beans, corn and salsa
  • Shrimp or Crab, cream cheese, cocktail sauce
  • Red beans, rice, chopped tomatoes and a drop of Tabasco sauce

Kids Not Eating Veggies

Current government statistics* indicate that American children are not eating enough veggies. Only one in five children consume the minimum recommendation of three daily servings of vegetables.

Of the vegetables eaten by children ages 6-11, approximately 55-60% come from either potatoes or tomatoes. (READ: french fries and ketchup). Children have especially low intakes of the extra nutrient-rich dark green leafy and deep yellow varieties.

*Lino, M., Gerrior, S.A., Basiotis, P.P., Anand, R.S. Report card on the diet quality of children. Nutrition Insights; U.S. Department of Agriculture, Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion. Insight 9, October 1998.

USDA Continuing survey of Food Intakes by Individuals, 1994-96.

Folic Acid for Healthy Babies

Why don't more women know? In spite of years of research, many women are not aware that the B vitamin folate plays an important role in the prevention of the class of birth defects known as neural tube defects.

Neural tube defects are among the most common serious birth defects. Early in pregnancy, a flat sheet of cells rolls up and seals to make the neural tube. If this tube is not properly formed and closed, the development of the brain, spine, and spinal cord is affected. The diseases caused by neural tube defects include spina bifida (exposed spine), encephalocele (exposed brain), and anencephaly (incomplete development of the brain).

Many experts recommend that ALL women of childbearing age consume 400 micrograms of folate daily. The need for folate is most urgent in the first weeks of fetal development, typically before women realize they are pregnant.

A few good sources of folate are listed below:

Spinach (1/2 c. cooked) -- 130 micrograms
Broccoli (1/2 c. cooked) -- 39 micrograms
Peas (1 c. cooked) -- 101 micrograms
Lentils (1 c. cooked) -- 358 micrograms
Cold Cereal (1 ounce) -- 100-400 micrograms (check labels)
Orange Juice (1 c.) -- 109 micrograms

Pour it in!!!

As the heat pours on this summer, be sure to "pour in" the fluids. Water is by far the most important nutrient and a deficiency can seriously hamper summer fun and play. Water transports essential cargo - nutrients and oxygen - to even the most remote body locations, even as it carries out and excretes waste products. Body water protects organs, lubricates joints, regulates temperature, and provides the backdrop for the body's many chemical reactions.

Drink a minimum of 8 cups each day, more if you are active or out in the heat.

If you ever had a doubt about the importance of breakfast...

If breakfast for your children scores low on the priority scale, you'd better grab a bowl of whole-grain cereal and listen up. An extensive review of the impact of breakfast on children's health found compelling reasons to make sure a morning meal is always on your family's to-do list.

Reporting in the May 2005 issue of the Journal of the Dietetic Association, researchers summarized 47 studies examining the association of breakfast with nutritional adequacy, body weight and academic performance in children and adolescents.

Among the findings:

  • Kids who eat breakfast take in more nutrients over the course of the day than their breakfast-skipping peers.
  • While breakfast eaters generally consumed more daily calories, they were less likely to be overweight.
  • Eating breakfast may improve cognitive function related to memory, test grades and school attendance.

    Source: Rampersaud GC, Pereira MA, Girard BL, Adams J, Metzl JD. Breakfast habits, nutritional status, body weight, and academic performance in children and adolescents. J Am Diet Assoc. 2005 May;105(5):743-60.

Mix & Match Breakfast Menus

While breakfast is a proven brain booster for kids, families often lack the time and organization to ensure kids eat properly before they head off to school.

To make it easy on time-pressed parents, the table below provides simple "mix and match" menus packed with nutrient-rich foods that are favorites among kids. Variety is the key when designing a breakfast that will supply enough energy to last throughout the morning. Kids need a balance of nutrients, so include sources of carbohydrate, protein, fat and nutrient-boosting fruits or vegetables as part of the breakfast plan.

With your child's help, choose a food from each column to build a menu with the the perfect mix of nutrients.





Peanut Butter

100% fruit juice (try different varieties)

Whole wheat toast

Low fat yogurt

Apple slices

Toaster waffle (try topping with peanut butter or yogurt)

Milk (1% or nonfat)

Pineapple chunks

Low fat muffin

String or sliced cheese

Mandarin orange slices

Toasted Pita Bread


Banana chunks

English muffin

Lean sausage

Dried fruit

Ready-to-eat cereal (aim for the low sugar varieties)

Refried Beans




Cherry tomatoes

Bagel (try a whole grain variety)


Fresh melon or berries (in season)

Breakfast -- Fuel for Brain Cells

To achieve more in the classroom, find time for breakfast every day. Whether you eat at home, at school, or munch on a banana and bagel at the bus stop, morning fuel will supply your brain cells with the energy to think and learn!

Ideas for quick breakfasts include whole-grain toaster waffles, English muffins, yogurt, string cheese, fresh fruit, a sandwich, or leftover pizza.


Hungry children in our own back yard?

Many Americans may be surprised to know that hungry kids don't just reside in third world countries. According to data from the Community Childhood Hunger Identification Project (CCHIP), 4 million American children do not get enough nourishing food on a regular basis. Another 10 million children are at risk for hunger because of poverty.

A study in last month's scientifc journal Pediatrics reports that children defined as hungry by CCHIP measures were also more likely to show behavioral, emotional and academic problems. In a nutshell, hungry kids have trouble learning. Perhaps when we talk about "back to basics" in education, we should also consider one of the most basic needs of all -- nourishing food.

The complete study can be found at http://www.pediatrics.org. For more information on how you can become involved in hunger issues in your community, visit the "Bread for the World" site at http://www.bread.org.

Are Couch Potato Parents Raising Little "Tater Tots?"

A report published in the January 1998 issue of the medical journal Pediatrics looked at the prevalence of overweight preschoolers in the low-income U.S. population. Just as growing numbers of adult Americans are "growing" in size, this study showed the trend is beginning even among children under the age of 5. The percentage of overweight preschoolers increased from 18.6% in 1983 to 21.6% in 1995. The study can be found at the Pediatrics web site located at http://www.pediatrics.org.

Does this mean we should be putting young children on diets? ABSOLUTELY NOT! Even overweight children need adequate calories and nutritious foods in order to grow and develop normally. Young children learn best about health and fitness when healthful habits are role-modeled at home and at school. Families should be encouraged to participate in fun fitness activities on a regular basis. Food habits should emphasize whole grains, fruits, vegetables, lean protein sources and dairy foods. Restrictive diets rarely work and are not appropriate for children, even those deemed "overweight."

Teach Students Nutrition a Nibble at a Time!

Educators can provide a daily dose of good health by taking advantage of "teachable" nutrition and fitness moments. Discuss the latest nutrition stories in the news, rate the nutrition content of morning snacks brought from home, discuss the day's school lunch menu, poll students to see if they ate breakfast, take an aerobic classroom walk or prepare and taste foods from different countries.

If you have ideas or tips for teaching nutrition in your classroom or home, mail them to info@nutritionforkids.com and put "Teaching Tip" in the subject area. Answers will be posted here over the next few weeks.


Giving Kids Control

Children do best when they have a choice about their eating. They develop the ability to respond to their body's cues about hunger and fullness when they are allowed control over the types and amounts of foods they eat. Given a selection of healthful foods, most kids have an amazing ability to self-regulate their diet. In spite of good intentions, adults often throw children's eating habits out of whack when they attempt to over-control food intake.


Presweetened Cereal OR "Sugar With Cereal Added?"

The biggest problem with too much sugar in our diet is that it replaces more nutritious ingredients. A good example is ready-to-eat breakfast cereal. Some are made primarily from grain and are high in complex carbohydrate and fiber. Others have nearly as much sugar as they do cereal.

To learn more, evaluate Nutrition Facts labels from a selection of cereals, both presweetened and lower sugar varieties. Compare similar varieties such as Cheerios and Frosted Cheerios, Wheaties and Frosted Wheaties or Shredded Wheat and Frosted Mini-Wheats.

Compare the total weight of one serving of a cereal (listed in grams) to the number of grams of sugar in that cereal. What percentage of the cereal is sugar?

Next, take a look at how much fiber one serving of cereal contains. What percentage of the cereal is fiber? Is there a relationship between the amount of sugar and fiber in a cereal?

Food Safety in the News

We've heard the news about recalled hamburger patties and tainted strawberries. Questions surrounding the safety of the U.S. food supply have splashed across headlines throughout the country in recent weeks.

While issues of safe food production, processing and transportation must be dealt with on all levels, consumers should also realize that one of the biggest contributors to foodborne illness are actually poor handling practices once the food is brought home.

Careful hand washing, proper cooking, maintaining foods at the proper temperature, and avoiding cross-contamination of raw meat, chicken or fish with fresh foods lowers the risk of foodborne illness. For detailed information on how to keep your kitchen a "safe zone," visit the Food Safety Site for Families from Iowa State Extension.

Keep supplements out of the reach of children

Because children's vitamin/mineral supplements are often colorful, fun-shaped and taste good, kids can be tempted to take several at a time. But when taken in large doses, many of the nutrients in these supplements can be very toxic to young bodies.

A spokesperson for the Oregon Poison Center reports that each year there are more than 1000 calls reporting children who helped themselves to nutrient supplements. In the past three years, 40 U.S. children have died from accidental overdose of iron supplements.

Making Changes

Changing your diet? The best way to succeed is to make changes slowly, one at a time. Make a plan, set a goal and reward yourself when you succeed. Examples of weekly nutrition goals might be to substitute a baked potato for french fries, drink nonfat milk instead of pop, eat fruit instead of candy or to eat an extra serving of vegetables each day.

Powerful Girls, Powerful Bones!

The National Bone Health Campaign (NBHC), Powerful Bones. Powerful Girls,™ is a multi-year national campaign to promote optimal bone health in girls 9-12 years old, and thus reduce their risk of osteoporosis later in life. The goal is to educate and encourage girls to establish lifelong healthy habits, especially increased calcium consumption and physical activity, to build and maintain strong bones.
Be sure to visit http://www.cdc.gov/powerfulbones/. This fun and engaging site helps girls become more powerful and build powerful bones. Girls who visit the site learn easy ways to get more calcium and be more active, while applying the information with their own sense of style.

Calcium the Bone Builder!

To build a strong, healthy skeleton that will last a lifetime, kids should be sure to "bone up" on calcium. From ages 11-24, children have the opportunity to maximize their bone density, filling their bones to "peak capacity." The best sources of calcium are lowfat dairy products like yogurt, nonfat/1% milk and lowfat cheese, calcium-fortified soy milk and tofu, calcium-fortified orange juice, sardines or salmon with bones and broccoli.

New Recommendations for Dietary Calcium


Recommended Calcium (milligrams)

1-3 Years


4-8 Years


9-18 Years


19-50 Years


51+ Years



Involve Children in Food Activities

Children learn important nutrition concepts through daily experiences involving food. Shopping for food, comparing labels, taste testing new foods, cooking, creating simple recipes and analyzing food ads are just a few of the many ways kids can begin to discover the wonderful world of food!


Pre-Dinner Snacking

A 5:00 P.M. "snack" of cut-up fresh fruit or crunchy veggies does dual-duty for hungry tummies and busy, tired parents. This nutritious pre-dinner appetizer will stave off hunger and reduce stress while the evening meal is being prepared.

Apple, peach or orange slices, banana or pineapple chunks, baby carrots, fresh whole pea pods and broccoli or cauliflower florets are all great choices.

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