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Entries in healthy eating (3)


No Juice? No Problem! Rethink Your Drink!

Most kids love juice and would gladly drink it any time it's offered.  Those same kids may eventually refuse milk and water, opting instead for that beloved juice.  But juice, in moderation, is harmless right?  Maybe not! 

Juice, even the 100% fruit juice variety, is loaded with sugar and extra calories that our little ones do not need. And the category of sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs) refers not just to juice, but also to soda, fruit-ades, and sports and energy drinks.  These SSBs are the largest source of added sugars and contribute a significant amount of calories to the diets of US children.  

Interestingly, a new series of studies published last month in the leading jourrnal Pediatrics shows that drinking juice as an infant primes these kids to crave sugary drinks and set the course for a lifetime of unhealthy choices.  Our taste preferences (in favor of sugary beverages or for or against fruits and vegetables) are set quite early when infants are first exposed to solid foods!  This finding emerged after looking at the results of 11 studies where investigators tracked the diets of approximately 1,500 6-year-olds, comparing their eating patterns to those observed in a study that followed them since their first birthdays.

This study found that babies who consumed any amount of sugar-sweetened beverages were twice as likely to drink them at least once daily at age 6. And another study found that infants ages 10 to 12 months who were given sugar-sweetened beverages more than three times a week were twice as likely to be obese at age 6 than those who consumed none as infants (17% risk for the juice drinks vs just 8.6% for those who were not served juice).

Not to mention the higher risk of cavities for children whose teeth are slathered in those sugary drinks daily.

The main point here is that juice offers no nutritional advantage over offering your child whole fruits (an actual orange instead of orange juice or a handful of grapes instead of grape juice) as the fruits offer fiber and other nutritional advantages compared to the sugary drinks. Also, fruit juice conspumption contributes to toddler's diarrhea (the most common cause of chronic diarrhea in preschoolers) .  And finally, many pickier eaters prefer to fill up on juice than to eat any solid foods and while these kids will still get a lot of calories, they will mostly be from sugars or carbohydrates, and not from the much needed fats or proteins that are required for a healthy diet for these growing children.

So rest assured, it's perfectly acceptable to only offer milk and water to your children.  In fact, not offering juice early on may just set them up for a healthier life long term.




Back to School: Packing healthy lunches!

Happy Back to School Day for Winston-Salem schools! As we say goodbye to lazy summer mornings and start getting back in the routine of the school year, it's time to start thinking about packing lunches again. If you're like me, I often feel like I get in meal "ruts" and need some fresh ideas. I've dug into the archives for this post, but it's been revamped with a few more links to check out with some great ideas. 

The kids are back to school this month, which means it’s time to start thinking about packing lunches again. Packing a healthy, nutritious lunch for your children provides them with the nutrients that they need to get through a long school day. Unfortunately, school lunches aren’t always the answer, as they are often high in calories and don’t meet nutrition guidelines. So, take matters into your own hands to ensure that your child gets the healthiest meal possible! Here are some tips for packing a healthy lunch:

Plan ahead: Weekday mornings are always hectic as you try to get kids up and dressed, lunches packed, and out the door. Make your life easier by packing lunches the night before. Also, consider taking the weekend as an opportunity to put bulk items (i.e. crackers, trail mix, pretzels) in baggies to grab and go during the week.

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Healthy Eating: Is Organic Always Better?

I think we all wrestle with this debate in the grocery store: is it worth the extra few bucks on the organic variety? Is it really healthier?

This week, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) helped to shed some light on the organic debate, ultimately suggesting that children eat a wide variety of fruits and vegetables, whether they are conventional or organic. The debate regarding which is healthier, however, remains inconclusive.

To start, it is important to understand what the term organic means. In general, it refers to a method of “growing crops and raising livestock  that avoids synthetic chemicals, hormones, antibiotic agents, genetic engineering, and irradiation” (Forman et al. Organic Foods: Health and Environmental Advantages and Disadvantages. Pediatrics Oct 2012). There are many standards that farmers must meet in order to earn the “organic” stamp of approval, which is what drives up the cost on these products.

The recently published article in Pediatrics discusses produce, milk, and meat separately, which I found helpful. Here are a few of the interesting points:

  • Produce: When comparing conventional and organic produce, both were found to have the same nutritional content. It is possible that conventional fruits and vegetables have had slightly more pesticide exposure, but the long term effects of this are still undetermined.
  • Milk: Conventional and organic milks both seem to contain the same nutrients, and conventional milk does not seem to have a significant increase in the amount of bacteria or growth hormone (interestingly, bovine growth hormone isn’t absorbed by humans anyway!). The AAP doesn’t seem to see a significant health benefit of organic over conventional milk. The most important consideration is that all milk is pasteurized. 
  • Meat: There is some concern that conventional meat is routinely exposed to antibiotics, which may ultimately lead to more human antibiotic resistance if these meats are continually ingested. Organic meats are antibiotic free, and thus are much less likely to be contaminated with drug resistant bacteria.

I’ll share a quick anecdote about organic produce that my husband and I found interesting. As we toured a banana plantation during a month practicing medicine in rural Costa Rica (see picture at right), we learned about the distribution process of bananas. We were surprised to see rolls of various different stickers (Del Monte, Chiquita, organic varieties, etc.) and asked how they determined which bananas got which stickers. The answer? The very same bananas got both conventional and organic stickers. The farmer said that all of their bananas were "organic," whether or not they were labeled as such. I can’t speak for all produce farms, but in this case, the products were all the same!

There is no doubt that there is a price to pay for organic products – in fact, they tend to cost about 40% more. Is it worth it? The reality is that we’re still figuring that out – organic farming is a relatively new concept, and there are many more long term studies that need to be done to help figure this out. Either way, I think the AAP is right to continue to recommend that children get a wide variety of healthy foods – conventional or organic – because these are better options that the processed alternative! We have a lot more to learn about organic products, but I think this is a start in trying to navigate where to spend the money and where to save.