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Archive for March, 2011


Do you ever wonder what kids think about food? While kids are certainly swayed by commercials, taste and catchy ads, I think some kids are becoming more savvy about food and the foods they choose to eat.  Good news, yes? Here’s an opinion, written by an 11 year old, for a 5th grade class assignment, regarding the issue of “junk-food” and the commercials that surround them. Read on for an opinion from a future adult…

Junk-food commercials persuade children to nag their parents to buy them, which may lead to childhood obesity; therefore junk-food commercials should be limited. Childhood obesity is a big problem in America. I think commercials are a big part of it. Millions of American children and adults are obese.

Junk-food commercials bother health experts because they encourage children to nag their parents. Children eat and buy too much junk-food. We need children to live a long, healthy life. To make that happen, children need to eat healthy. Most people don’t. They should eat wheat bread instead of white bread. People should put healthy food commercials on air, not junk-food! If you put junk-food commercials on air, most likely people will buy the junk-food and eat it almost every day.

People say commercials don’t make a difference; I think it makes a huge difference. Other people say people should not eat whatever they want. I agree but children will still eat whatever they want, even if their parents say not to.

Children in America should be healthy. Children should also eat right. They should be active every day; they shouldn’t be sitting inside watching junk-food commercials!

One thing that I know from working with children every day–they do have opinions about food and nutrition–it’s up to us (adults) to cultivate healthy opinions that lead to healthy actions and behaviors.

Have you listened to your child’s opinions about food and nutrition lately?

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This year’s National Nutrition Month’s theme, Eat Right With Color, suggests eating a variety of colorful foods promotes good nutrition and health.  Vitamin E, found in foods of countless colors, is featured in this part of the Alphabet Soup Vitamin Series.

When vitamin E was discovered in 1922, it was called the “fertility vitamin.”  Researchers found that lab rats fed a diet deficient in vitamin E became sterile and only regained their fertility after consuming vitamin E.  A few years after its discovery, vitamin E was scientifically named tocopherol from the Greek word tokos meaning childbirth, and phero meaning to bring forth, defining its role as an essential dietary substance in normal fetal development.  Interesting, huh?

Even though its name makes it sound like a single substance, vitamin E is actually a family of essential vitamins that include both tocopherols and tocotrienols.  Naturally occurring vitamin E exists in eight chemical forms that have varying levels of biological activity.  Alpha-tocopherol is the only form that is recognized to meet human requirements.  Vitamin E is a fat-soluble nutrient, meaning it needs to be consumed with fat to be properly absorbed.

What does Vitamin E do?

It works as an antioxidant in the body protecting cell membranes from free radicals that damage cells and which have been linked to the onset of premature aging, cancer, cataracts, and many degenerative diseases.  Furthermore, vitamin E protects the skin from ultraviolet radiation and has been shown to aid the immune system, helping to prevent infections.

Inadequate vitamin E can cause neurological problems and anemia.  Deficiency is rare in humans, however, it is seen in people who cannot absorb dietary fat, has been found in premature, very low birth weight infants and occurs in those with rare disorders of fat metabolism.

So how much Vitamin E do children need?

The Dietary Reference Intakes (DRI) for children are:

Recommended Dietary Allowances (RDAs) for Vitamin E (Alpha-Tocopherol) **

Age Males Females Pregnancy Lactation
0-6 months* 4 mg
(6 IU)
4 mg
(6 IU)
7-12 months* 5 mg
(7.5 IU)
5 mg
(7.5 IU)
1-3 years 6 mg
(9 IU)
6 mg
(9 IU)
4-8 years 7 mg
(10.4 IU)
7 mg
(10.4 IU)
9-13 years 11 mg
(16.4 IU)
11 mg
(16.4 IU)
14+ years 15 mg
(22.4 IU)
15 mg
(22.4 IU)
15 mg
(22.4 IU)
19 mg
(28.4 IU)

*Adequate Intake (AI)

**Adapted from The NIH Office of Dietary Supplements

What foods are good sources?

Wheat germ oil is the most abundant source of vitamin E; other sources include nuts, broccoli, peaches, salad dressings, and whole grain cereals just to name a few.  Did you know that eating just 1 cup of raisin bran with 1 ounce of almonds meets 100% of the Daily Value for an adult or child 4 years of age and older?  Have a look at the facts about a few foods that contain E:

Selected Food Sources of Vitamin E (Alpha-Tocopherol) *

Food Milligrams (mg)
per serving
Percent Daily Value (DV)
Wheat germ oil, 1 tablespoon 20.3 100
Almonds, dry roasted, 1 ounce 7.4 40
Sunflower seeds, dry roasted, 1 ounce 6.0 30
Sunflower oil, 1 tablespoon 5.6 28
Safflower oil, 1 tablespoon 4.6 25
Hazelnuts, dry roasted, 1 ounce 4.3 22
Peanut butter, 2 tablespoons 2.9 15
Peanuts, dry roasted, 1 ounce 2.2 11
Corn oil, 1 tablespoon 1.9 10
Spinach, boiled, ½ cup 1.9 10
Broccoli, chopped, boiled, ½ cup 1.2 6
Soybean oil, 1 tablespoon 1.1 6
Kiwifruit, 1 medium 1.1 6
Mango, sliced, ½ cup 0.9 5
Tomato, raw, 1 medium 0.8 4
Spinach, raw, 1 cup 0.6 4

*Adapted from The NIH Office of Dietary Supplements

Research shows no toxicity from consuming vitamin E in food alone, however, supplements taken in very high doses have been proven to have toxic effects such as hemorrhaging.  The Tolerable Upper Intake Level (UL) for Vitamin E applies to supplemental vitamin E only, so unless a child is taking vitamin E supplements, there is no need to worry about them getting too much vitamin E from food.  Check out the ULs for Vitamin E for children:

Tolerable Upper Intake Levels (ULs) for Vitamin E*

Age Male Female Pregnancy Lactation
1-3 years 200 mg
(300 IU)
200 mg
(300 IU)
4-8 years 300 mg
(450 IU)
300 mg
(450 IU)
9-13 years 600 mg
(900 IU)
600 mg
(900 IU)
14-18 years 800 mg
(1,200 IU)
800 mg
(1,200 IU)
800 mg
(1,200 IU)
800 mg
(1,200 IU

*Adapted from The NIH Office of Dietary Supplements

This National Nutrition Month, Eat Right With Color and savor foods rich in vitamin E!

Contributing Author:  Katherine Fowler, MS, RD, LDN

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Preparing Shamrock Crispy French Toast with Green Fruit is a simple way to add a St. Patrick’s Day touch to your breakfast table and Eat Right with Color, this year’s National Nutrition Month theme.  No green food coloring is required, so you can serve this guilt-free and clean up is a cinch!  Kicking off the St. Patrick’s Day festivities with this wholesome and enjoyable breakfast will get your entire family in the Irish spirit!

You will need:

  • 6 slices whole wheat bread
  • 1/2 cup reduced fat or skim milk
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1/4 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • Cooking spray
  • Shamrock cookie cutter (optional)
  • Pure maple syrup
  • Sliced Granny Smith apples
  • Sliced kiwi
  • Green grapes
  • Sliced honeydew melon

How to prepare the fruit:

Slice or purchase pre-sliced Granny Smith apples and combine with sliced kiwi, green grapes, and honeydew melon.  Prepare as much fruit as you think your family will eat!

How to make the French toast (this recipe serves three):

Beat the eggs. Add milk, sugar, and cinnamon and mix together. If you have a shamrock-shaped or other festive cookie cutter, you can cut its shape onto each slice of bread.  If you want to involve your kids in the fun, ask them to help with cutting the shapes.  Use a fork to dip each slice of bread into the mixture one at a time. Dip each long enough to soak well, but not too long.  You don’t want the bread to break apart.

Spray a hot griddle or skillet with cooking spray (in lieu of cooking spray, you may use oil or butter); heat over a medium-hot burner.  Cook bread for 2 to 3 minutes on each side. Use a spatula to gently press down so your French toast is crispy and golden in the center.

Top the French toast with a desirable amount of pure maple syrup and serve with side of green fruit and milk to drink.  Top o’ the morning to ya!

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Happy Registered Dietitian Day (today, March 9th) and Happy National Nutrition Month! March is a special time of the year to bring increased attention to food and nutrition, and Janet Helm from Nutrition Unplugged has put on her party shoes and is hosting a blog carnival. The price of admittance is a blog post…so, Janet, here’s my ticket.

What will it take to get America’s kids to eat right?

As a parent-focused family blog, you can see that ‘what parents can do’ is on the top of my list.  But, it doesn’t end there. Parents don’t operate in a vacuum–they have many partners when it comes to raising kids who are healthy, and these partnerships are highlighted here as well. It will take a ground-swell of effort from all partners to make a lasting impact on getting kids to eat right.

What Parents Can Do:

Get Educated: Parents get a lot of information about feeding their babies in the first year, but after that, nutrition information becomes a hodge-podge of confusing contradictions and changes, leading to fear and confusion.  There is a lot to know. Registered dietitians who are trained in the science of food and nutrition are your trusted resource– find one near you to answer your questions.

Be Committed to Feeding your Kids Well: Plan, procure, and prepare good meals–this is your #1 job as a parent.  Yes, feeding is a commitment, a job, and can lack reward sometimes, but I am here to tell you, getting this part right is so worth it. Healthy kids, who enjoy food and who learn how to feed themselves well for life come with lasting rewards.

Enjoy Food: Food is not ‘good’ nor ‘bad’–it just is. We all need to eat, and admittedly most of us need to pay attention to eating better–but we don’t have to be perfect, nor do our kids.  Enjoy! Eating is one of life’s greatest pleasures.

Set the Example: Behave the way you want your kids to–eat well and move. Parenthood is full of opportunities to show your kids a positive attitude about food, how to eat well and take care of your body through exercise. Your little monkeys will “ape” you all day long–make sure they see the good stuff.

FEED RIGHT!: We are bombarded with messages that focus on eating right–I’m unsure if this is an effective message for kids.  My advice to parents is this: Shift your efforts to “feeding right” and the “eating right” will follow.

What Pediatricians Can Do:

Educate Early: Anticipatory guidance is the buzz word for prevention. As pediatricians are the first filter for families, it’s critical that they lead the conversation about nutrition, and provide referrals and resources promptly.

Intervene Early: Give parents the resources they need the first time they ask. Screen for variations in growth and refer to other health care professionals (like a registered dietitian) who can address problematic behaviors quickly, before they get out of control. Give parents the tools (and confidence) to overcome nutrition challenges.

Focus More on the Health Benefits of Good Nutrition: Traditional medicine is reactive; build more health and nutrition education into your practice and it will help parents prioritize nutrition appropriately.

What Educators/Schools Can Do:

Integrate Nutrition in the Curriculum: It’s true: nutrition can be incorporated into everyday school subjects. Really. And frankly, nutrition is more interesting to children when it is presented in this manner, rather than as a core subject.  Think about cups and teaspoons in math class, reviewing the latest nutrition research in writing class and nutrition ethics in speech and debate courses. And what about bringing back Home Economics? While perhaps boring for the teen, school-age children are at a perfect developmental age for this!

Serve wholesome food: Get the cafeteria food right. ‘Nuf said.

Elevate Physical Activity to a Required Part of the Day: If you have read Spark by John Ratey, you understand the powerful impact exercise has on the brain, among other benefits. Our country focuses on activity as a means to correct our obesity problem, but the reality is, there are many other compelling reasons to bring exercise back into the school curriculum. For one, regular exercise may foster improved academic performance.

What Food Manufacturers & the Media Can D0:

Stop Selling Empty Health: Is it me, or is the word “healthy” becoming an empty promise? Many people are lured to the cash register by the promise of this word on food packages. Over-used and under-performing, “healthy” is a term to ingest with a grain of salt.

Shift the Target Market: Leave the little ones alone. Parents have a hard enough time getting nutrition right, and enticing kids at every media interaction with food ads isn’t helping.

Change the Conversation: The ‘all or nothing’ approach to nutrition and “good/bad” food confuses parents and loads them with guilt for not getting it right. Guilt = failure = giving up. Parents who throw in the towel aren’t helping their kids eat right. Cultivate messages that couple healthy behaviors with eating well, and we may get more kids eating right and moving more.

What do you think it will take to get America’s kids to eat right?

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Weight is a hefty matter for America’s kids.  One in three kids is overweight or obese. Although normal growth is a reality for the majority of our nation’s children, it is easy to have a distorted view of what normal child growth looks like.

Growth is the hallmark of good nutrition in children.  Let’s face it, those bambinos are TINY when born!  When you first hold a newborn, you cannot help but appreciate how small they are–and wonder at the enormous task ahead–evolving into an adult.  It seems insurmountable…and unbelievable.  But it happens, and in a very natural way.

Regular visits with your pediatrician will help you know if your child is growing normally. At that time, your child will be weighed and measured and his growth will be plotted on a growth chart. Typically, children follow a predictable channel of growth (which appears as a curve that mimics the percentile channels) for height and weight throughout childhood. If your child’s growth changes 2 growth channels in either direction, this may be a sign that abnormalities in growth are occurring.  Your child may be gaining weight too fast, losing weight, or not growing in height properly.

Childhood growth is divided into 4 major phases:  infancy, preschool years, middle childhood, and adolescence.

During infancy (0-2 years), a baby experiences rapid growth, unlike any other time in life.  By the end of the first year, a baby triples his birth weight.  That’s exponential!  Babies are born with an inner sense of hunger and fullness and this makes them good at self-regulating food and liquid intake, promoting normal (and fast) growth.

The preschool years ( 3 – 6 years)  and the middle school years (7 – 10 years) are a time of stabilized and steady growth.  You may notice the body changes between boys and girls at about 10 years.  Girls begin to outpace boys in growth, due to the onset of maturation.  In fact, at 10 years, girls are approximately half an inch taller and 2# heavier than their boy “friends”.  Not for long, though.

Enter adolescence.  It is a long, drawn out period in a child’s (and parent’s!) life.  It generally begins at 11 years and continues until age eighteen.  Between 11-14 years, most girls are experiencing their adolescent growth spurt, and starting to develop into women.  Boys, on the other hand, continue to hang out for a couple of years before they begin their growth spurt (13-16 years).  That’s why we have that awkward time frame when the girls are bigger and act older (and moodier) than the boys. Alas, boys get their spurt too–and their spurt lasts longer and their growth is greater, compared to girls.  During the teen years, girls add more body fat than boys, and boys develop more muscle tissue than girls.

At the end of all this growing, your newborn has evolved into a man or woman.  An incredible, dynamic evolution.

What do you notice about your child’s growth?

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