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What shades are in your shopping cart? What is the actual colour of your food?
In the kitchen and on your plate, everything looks better in colour. I’m thinking field greens, delicious tomatoes, yellow peppers, blueberries, raspberries, cantaloupe and so on. I am not referring to neon-coloured food products and beverages like blue power drinks, though. As you reach for coloured foods, consider how they artificially colour and flavour that stuff.
For decades, there have been studies about food dyes and their link to cancers, allergies, and behavioural issues in children, not to mention their affect on our world in production alone. The results and linkages are astounding, and regardless of the ability for companies to claim that they are safe, you are still taking a risk on your body and on your kids’ bodies that you might not want to take.
In the EU and UK, the big companies have already started phasing dyes and other toxins out of their products…because their population has demanded it. Remember, we might expect to find toxic stuff in junk food (candy, cakes, cocktails), but it’s important that you read up on your yogurt, cheeses, vitamins, and even crackers…be your own best advocate and read the label every time. You will surprise yourself!
These are the colourings that I deem acceptable for my family:
These are the absolute “not in my shopping cart” ingredients:
Although I encourage you to be colourful, don’t paint your plate by number, use your own palette.
When it’s time to introduce your baby to solids, there is no need to feel overwhelmed. Regardless of whether it’s your first or your fourth time, you can make it fun, and it doesn’t hurt to review these simple steps.
What to Feed?
This tends to be the biggest question of all, and recommendations vary widely on what to start with. Iron-fortified rice cereal is the most common recommendation, because it is least likely to cause allergic reactions.
Where to Feed?
This is much more important than you think. You are teaching good eating habits which begin with structure in a common ‘eating’ area. Babies and children like to know what to expect. When they are at the kitchen table, they will learn what to expect and what is expected from them.
When to Feed?
Pediatricians now recommend introducing solids at six months. This is to encourage breast-feeding for longer periods, and research shows that it’s not necessary to introduce solids earlier. Speak with your family doctor, pediatrician or a dietitian if you need some guidance.
How to Make?
Make your own, buy jarred or frozen baby food as you feel comfortable. Give your baby a spoon, too, so they feel they are a part of the experience. Think calm, quiet and consistent:
Introducing solids definitely has its challenges, but by setting proper expectations for both yourself and your baby, you will have more success in the long run.
Regardless of whether your child is a picky eater or an over-eater, there are key nutrients that your child needs on a daily basis. These include Protein, Carbohydrates and Good Fats.
In an ideal world, each meal and snack should consist of the following:
By following these nutritional guidelines right from the start, you can create healthy eating habits for your child that last their lifetime.
“What’s for breakfast?” “What’s for lunch?” “What’s for dinner?”
Sometimes you can’t believe yet another meal for the kids is just minutes away. ‘Back to reality’ brings enough to-do’s on our list while we’re worrying about the next healthy meal that even ‘ants on a log’ (read: cream cheese with raisins on celery sticks) seems ambitious when you’re looking for new sneakers, signing forms and registering for soccer.
Some strategies to help you are:
How do you plan your meals?
Do you have a picky eater you’re trying to feed? Do you worry they’re either going to die of malnutrition, or from choking as you force food down their resisting throat?
Here are 10 tips that should help:
Many mothers worry that their children are not eating enough. While this is a concern for many moms throughout the growing years, it is particularly true during the toddler and preschool years—sometimes referred to as the ‘picky eating’ years. It is important to remember that what may seem like a little bit of food to an adult is often quite a lot of food for a toddler.
When placing meals or snacks on your toddler’s plate, try serving a smaller portion than you would typically have, then if they would like more to eat they can always ask for seconds. Some appropriate serving sizes for young children include:
Keep in mind that toddlers like to graze, and what may seem like a very small amount of food actually adds up over the course of the day. In Better Food for Kids we give examples of a ‘picky eating’ day and you can see the calories really add up.
Sample Menu for a Picky 3 Year-Old
This provides approximately 1000 calories and 44 grams of protein and meets more than 50% of iron requirements.
Source: Better Food for Kids, page 25
Always remember that growth is the best indicator for whether or not your child is getting enough. Ask to see your child’s growth chart at your next visit to the family doctor to see the pattern of your child’s weight gain.
Obesity in children is an ongoing concern today. There are many contributors to this, but the main reasons include too much food and calories, and not enough activity or exercise. This creates an imbalance where energy input exceeds energy output, even in a growing child. Excess calories are stored as fat, resulting in overweight or obese children. Poor food choices (ie processed foods high in salt, fat and calories) and less activity due to more screen time (TV, computers and electronic devices) are responsible for this energy imbalance.
But how do parents know if they are over-feeding their kids? First, it is important to make sure you are offering kids healthy meals and snacks that are well-timed throughout the day. Generally, young children should be eating every few hours (about 3 meals and 2 snacks daily). Try to ensure that snacks do not fall too close to meal times or else kids may not be hungry for dinner.
Consider portion size—an appropriate serving size for a young child is half to a whole small apple or banana, ½ cup of berries, 1 cup or less of milk, ¼ cup of crackers, dry cereal, unsalted nuts or 1 to 2 small cookies. Limit the amount of snacks that provide little nutritional value such as foods that are highly processed with lots of added sugar, salt and empty calories. Something to remember—hunger may actually be mistaken for thirst—offer water as a thirst quencher versus sugary beverages or juices. Water and milk are recommended as beverages of choice for younger and older children.
Next, don’t force your kids to eat. Forcing a child to finish their plate rather than listening to their own hunger and fullness cues can create a pattern of over-eating. If children have been offered healthy meals and snacks in age-appropriate portion sizes, then we need to listen as parents when they say they have had enough to eat. Better to offer small quantities of food and let them ask for seconds if they wish.
Growth is always the best indication for whether or not your child is getting too much or not enough. Ask your doctor at the next appointment to see your child’s growth chart and ensure that your child is growing at an appropriate rate.
In terms of exercise and activity, the Canadian Society for Exercise Physiology recently released new guidelines for the amount of activity kids should get every day. They suggest a minimum of 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous activity daily. Examples include biking, skating, running and rollerblading.
Healthy eating with appropriate portion sizes, and daily activity and exercise should be a family affair.
It’s barbecue season and what could be faster, tastier and healthier than a little something grilled? From tofu and veggies, to burgers and dogs, anything on a bun is beloved by our backyard and cottage culture. You carefully choose the leanest meat and whole grain bun, but what you top it with could be a slather of unsuspecting empty calories. Here is your condiment guide in order of worst to best: choose wisely and slip back into your skinny jeans come the fall. Heed not and risk looking like the sausage yourself.
Worst to Best Burger Toppers
Mayonnaise (or anything made with mayonnaise)
All commercial mayos are made by thickening some kind of liquid fat into a solid. Either the traditional whipping of oil into eggs is used, or the lower fat treatment of using a corn or seaweed derived thickener, the concept is still the same: fat. Delicious, creamy fat that will cost you about 100 calories per tablespoon, no matter which brand you buy. Tartar sauces and ‘sandwich spreads’ are no better; they deliver no nutrients and too many calories. If you simply must have your mayo, opt for President’s Choice Blue Menu mayo or Hellmann’s Half the Fat because either will cut your calories down to half. Heed this, though, even then, they are more caloric than the next worst spoonful. (Yogurt makes for a decent substitute.)
This bold bounce to your bun packs a punch, but most formulations begin with sugar and water. Mixing in a proprietary blend of tomato sauce and spices makes each version a flavour all its own and everyone has their favourite. Offering almost no nutritional value for its 300–400 mg of sodium (almost 1/3 of a healthy day’s dose) in one tablespoon is a crime before you even consider the 30–40 calories. There is one on the shelf that provides the taste without all the calories, and that’s Kraft Calorie Wise at a decent 10 calories per tablespoon. It uses more water and corn-thickeners to reduce the load but keep the consistency. You don’t get a break on the salt, though.
Treasured by children and loved by all as the condiment of choice for just about everything, ketchup takes the middle spot for the fact that it relies upon one of earth’s healthiest vegetables. Albeit, this is a high-salt, high-sugar way to get that vegetable, but still. Most formulations do start with tomatoes or tomato paste that is thinned down with vinegar and water and seasoned up with salt, spices and sugar. The top few brands weigh in at about 20–25 calories per tablespoon delivering about 10–15 % of your healthy day’s amount of salt. The No Name brand is a little lower, though the formulation looks about the same, so expect it to be a little thinner (higher in water). Heinz has a low-sodium version that will save about half the sodium and PC Blue Menu has one that uses sucralose to reduce the sugar (and that has its downsides too!). Even with the ‘improvements’, this red spoonful is still middling at best.
Now we are moving to the better side of the bun. Not all relish is created equal; you can still stumble if you choose sweet green, zucchini or chili. All offer little nutritional benefit and about 15–25 calories per tablespoon, which is about the same as ketchup. But there is a rising star here that can deliver huge taste for a mere four calories per tablespoon: Bick’s Dill Relish is the pick of pack. It does dose with the same kind of sodium found above, but for much fewer calories in the end.
Mustard – Best in Class!
All you have to do is avoid the honey mustards and mustard blends and you can’t go wrong. Each and every mustard on the shelf is lower in calories than anything else you are going to squeeze on your dog. And they are little superheroes packing much more than they seem—made from mustard seed, which is a high antioxidant spice that has anti-inflammatory properties. If it is colored at all, it is usually with trace amounts of turmeric which is another potent anti-cancer spice. Rarely made with sugar (thus the ‘avoid the honeyed versions’ note) and only mixed with vinegar, and very little salt, it offers a zing for a caloric pittance. There are some outstanding gourmet formulations on the market that are truly worth trying, but even the cheapest brand of yellow ballpark mustard is worth adding.
In my house THEY ARE NOT CALLED LEFTOVERS! Cooked food that is ready to be re-purposed is a gift to our hungry tummies and our overstuffed schedule. They are planned for, warmly welcomed and used wisely.
There are some rules to be followed to make sure that second suppers happen safely. They are:
Meat, chicken, fish, eggs:
Soups and stews:
Now that we have that out of the way, the possibilities are endless.
It’s an age old question with no clear cut answer. For some, having 3 square meals is their preferred route but for many, smaller meals eaten and a couple of smart snacks help keep energy levels strong and blood sugar levels even. Simple enough, right?
But what snack and for how many calories? How do you assess a snack? It is always best to grab a piece of fruit or a handful of veggies, no doubt! That way, you are not creating landfill waste, and no matter which you choose, you are sure to come out ahead with nutrients. But, we are an on-the-go nation who loves our packaged convenience. So here’s a rundown of the best healthy habits options that are low cal, still feel like a treat, and won’t do damage to the bottom, er, bottom line.
Time for a dip?
Full disclosure: I like Popchips so much that I became their nutritional spokesperson.
But the government regulates the information on the label, right? I mean, they can’t put it on there if it isn’t true?
There are things you need to know about what’s missing or misleading on a food label that could be affecting your health. Knowing what to look for and carefully comparing products that look similar, but are very different, will stand you in good stead.
What goes into the belly at lunch predicts the afternoon’s behaviour and focus. It is just that simple. The wrong lunch can make the blood sugar soar and then plummet which means mood swings. Nutrition aside (I mean, everyone knows to avoid sweets and stock up on veggies, right?) there is a whole bunch of in-between that you can do to be sure each day is productive. Not just for the kids (and their teacher’s sanity) but for you too.
A good breakfast that contains protein and fibre [http://www.myfriendinfood.com/2011/01/20/best-foods-ever/] will set up a blood sugar level that is sustainable. By lunch, the body wants fuel or it will get sleepy. Sleepy kids turn into either crabby kids or hyper kids, you know which was yours is (could be both). Lunch needs to focus on two things in order to prevent that
Protein provides calories that burn slowly and sustain energy levels. It will also help slow down the body’s uptake of other foods like bread, treats, juice that can cause a blood sugar spike. Here are some good choices:
The rush obtained from a cookie or juice will quickly dissipate and behaviour won’t be far behind. I am always surprised to hear parents say that they never made the connection. A blood sugar crash is biologically present to turn the body into a bear on the prowl. It is intended to increase the desire to hunt/search/pick food above all other tasks. The trouble is that we don’t cognitively know that’s what we are supposed to do so we just get randomly nasty.
To avoid the crash:
If your child is sensitive, or has behaviour issues at all think about avoiding food colour. Well, really, there is no need to be consuming it at all for any of us but the studies do show that these substances may negatively affect behaviour in specific people.
Avoid any label that contains the word ‘colour’.
In Canada that could mean any one of a number of natural or artificial food colours that have been linked to hyperactivity in children, asthma, skin rashes, and migraines and have been banned in Denmark, Switzerland, Sweden, Norway, Belgium and France. Tartrazine is
one of the specific ingredients that you want to avoid and it may not be listed as such. It is often used to create that yellow or orange tinge in many baked goods.
In other countries including the US, each specific dye that is used needs to be named but right now. In Canada, the legislation does allow just the category ‘colour’ to be listed.
Do you have any success stories to share (or nightmares!) about how a change in diet has affected your child’s behaviour?
Your poor liver never gets any attention; it is a total wallflower who just quietly takes what you have to dish out. Overlooking this gem is a big mistake because it supports you in more than 500 ways. You can’t live without it and living with a clean liver gives you more energy, helps control your weight and cholesterol levels plus makes you look and feel better. On top of that, it regulates sex, thyroid and stress hormones. Fear not, some of the things that you can do to protect this critical organ are already things you are doing to protect your heart. That said,
some of the ‘don’ts’ may surprise you, but they are as easy as pie (or, for clarity, easy as avoiding pie).
The liver acts like a filter in a fish tank. Have you ever seen a fish tank that has been neglected? The water is murky, filled with detritus and it smells. Everything that you eat, every medication that you take, every breath of toxic air and, yes, sip of alcohol you take has to go through the liver to be processed and eliminated.
Here are the top do’s and don’ts to keep your liver working at peak performance.
What to Avoid:
There is good news about beautiful food that can protect and prevent liver damage. It’s not all about avoid, avoid, avoid…
What to Enjoy:
When you take a step back and look at it, these tips make good old common sense and good eating. The difference is that now you know what they are doing for you in addition to making dinner more pleasurable.
Who knew common sense was just the thing to cure ADHD? A study done at the Children’s Memorial Hospital found just that as reported in MedPage Today. There is much debate about how to help these kids with their behaviour though behaviour modification techniques, supplementation, medication and diet. I will admit that my opinions on the subject are formed at a professional distance as I did not have a child with attention issues. I have, however seen the impact of this diagnoses on children I love as well as on many classrooms the children I love have been in. I know it is not easy.
But I also know for a fact that every cell in a body is made from the fuel (food) that goes in to it. If we accept that ADHD is a founded affliction of the cells in the brain that can be modified by drugs, it follows that they can be modified (for better or worse) and/or supported by food. Since I am willing and able to make dietary modification for each and every person in my home, it makes sense to me that one would start there.
And sure enough, it is known that diet is an established contributor and that the “development of ADHD was significantly associated with Western diets.” I am just surprised that this is news. Is it really? Do people still not know that food can affect your mood and energy level? Why would it be any different for a child?
“Simple diets low in fats, high in whole grains, fruits and vegetables are the best alternative to medication for ADHD”. How is food an “alternative”? Isn’t it the foundation? It is understandable that a parent would want to help their child as quickly and fully as possible. ADHD can affect every facet of childhood going well beyond the obvious of socialization and learning. But shortcuts almost always net shortcomings.
To boot, the above “diet” is also controlling for diabetes, heart disease, cancer, hypertension… Why wouldn’t it be the thing to start with to control ADHD symptoms? I have seen behaviour issues rise and fall with blood sugar. It turns out that these studies confirm that the issue isn’t the “sugar” itself. Avoiding blood sugar spikes with simple, healthy snacks ought to be standard to get the best out of the brain’s ability to focus. Study away if we must but teachers have been telling us for decades that well fed kids do better and are easier to handle.
For the record, three other findings were mentioned:
The ‘earth is flat’ food battle of our time is being fought and it’s called ‘nitrates are bad for you’. On the one side is the 10 year-old theory that nitrates in food mix with the bacteria in your gut to create nitrosamines which can lead to cancer. The new science refutes that claim and posits that more than 90% of the nitrates consumed come from otherwise healthy plants (leafy greens are a particularly rich source). If the old theory is true, the new science says it means that the very things meant to protect us from cancer are capable of causing it. But that can’t be right. It’s a head scratcher.
Professor Andrew Jones presented his findings at a food science conference about a year ago. This exercise physiologist explained how nitrate from beetroot juice widens blood vessels, reduces blood pressure and allows more blood flow. (It was verified, by the way, by isolating the nitrate in the juice and retesting. The nitrate-free juice did not have the same effect). They are now studying the effects of this isolated nitrate as a—get this—performance-enhancing drug. Well, that’s a game changer. What about the link to cancer?
The problem with science is that it doesn’t jive with human nature. The scientific method poses a theory and tests it. The conclusions must be retested by other scientists to either prove or disprove the findings, but once a theory is entrenched in the human lexicon, it is almost impossible to remove. The layperson just throws up his hands and says “First you said this, now you say that?! Forget it. I don’t want to listen anymore”. But we have to keep listening and keep letting the new information in if we are going to move ahead. (Just like any other effective relationship.)
The studies on nitrates and their link to cancer are in that process right now. The story is moving in slow-motion, but the questions being raised make enough sense for us to hit pause and listen. If nitrates exist in soil and plants, then why don’t we all have stomach and colorectal cancer? The epidemiological studies based on self-reported diet history indicating that high levels of processed meat consumption and colon cancer cannot prove cause and effect. (The self reporting alone is a terribly flawed way to assess data. It’s that human confounder again.) Epidemiological studies can only raise enough questions that need to be further investigated.
What heats the whole debate up is the use of said nitrites, and nitrates are in deli meats. And no one wants to listen to the producers of ‘Big Food’; we are certainly not going to get our health news from THEM, but they should get a voice in the conversation too. Know that nitrites, as a preservative, are mandated for use in deli meats. In other words, if you make and sell deli meats in Canada, the government says you must use them in your product to prevent other, more pressing problems like deadly bacteria. They can choose from a synthetic source or from a natural source like the vegetables stated above.
As a follower of the story, you want to find the best course of action. It’s more about what you DO in the meantime that matters. Vitamin C in plants helps to prevent the conversion of nitrates to the risky and suspect nitrosamines. Smoked and cured meats have been consumed for millennia and they taste good, nitrites/nitrates and all. So, if you are going to continue enjoying these meats, do so wisely. Choose the best one you can find that has managed the other factors that such a food comes with. Specifically, find the leanest, lowest sodium option made with the highest quality ingredients you can find. Enjoy it in moderation, and eat it with lots of fresh fruit and vegetables (and keep reading to figure out whether the earth is round or flat…again).