Monthly Archives: September 2016
Forcing children to eat food doesn’t work. Neither does forbidding foods. When children think that a food is forbidden by their parents, the food often becomes more desirable.
It’s important for both children and adults to be sensible and enjoy all foods and beverages, but not to overdo it on any one type of food. Sweets and higher-fat snack foods in appropriate portions are OK in moderation.
The following is information about fat, sugar, and salt and dietary recommendations based on recommendations from the US Department of Agriculture and the US Department of Health and Human Services.
Encouraging Healthy Eating for a Healthy Heart
Childhood is the best time to start heart healthy eating habits, but adult goals for cutting back on total fat, saturated fat, trans fat, and cholesterol are not meant generally for children younger than 2 years.
Fat is an Essential Nutritent for Children
Fat supplies the energy, or calories, children need for growth and active play and should not be severely restricted.
Dangers of High Fat Intake
However, high fat intake—particularly a diet high in saturated fats—can cause health problems, including heart disease later in life. Saturated fats are usually solid at room temperatures and are found in fatty meats (such as beef, pork, ham, veal, and lamb) and many dairy products (whole milk, cheese, and ice cream).
For that reason, after age 2 children should be served foods that are lower in fat and saturated fats.
Healthier, More Low-Fat, Low-Cholesterol Foods for Children Over Age 2:
- Lean meat (broiled, baked, or roasted; not fried)
- Soft margarine (instead of butter)
- Low-fat dairy products
- Low-saturated fat oils from vegetables
- Limiting egg consumption
The General Rule on Fats
As a general guideline, fats should make up less than 30% of the calories in your child’s diet, with no more than about one-third or fewer of those fat calories coming from saturated fat and the remainder from unsaturated (polyunsaturated or monounsaturated) fats, which are liquid at room temperature and include vegetable oils like corn, safflower, sunflower, soybean, and olive.
Some parents find the information about various types of fat confusing. In general, oils and fats derived from animal origin are saturated. The simplest place to start is merely to reduce the amount of fatty foods of all types in your family’s diet.
Note: Whole milk is recommended for children 12 to 24 months of age. However, you child’s doctor may recommend reduced-fat (2%) milk if your child is obese or overweight or if there is a family history of high cholesterol or heart disease. Check with your child’s doctor or dietition before switching from whole to reduced-fat milk.
Serve Children Foods Low in Salt
Table salt, or sodium chloride, may improve the taste of certain foods. However, researchers have found a relationship between dietary salt and high blood pressure in some individuals and population groups. High blood pressure afflicts about 25% of adult Americans and contributes to heart attacks and strokes.
Take the Salt Shaker Off the Table
The habit of using extra salt is an acquired one. Thus, as much as possible, serve your child foods low in salt. In the kitchen, minimize the amount of salt you add to food during its preparation, using herbs, spices, or lemon juice instead. Also, take the salt shaker off the dinner table, or at least limit its use by your family.
Good nutrition—it’s not just for breakfast anymore. It’s for growth of a young body, preventing diseases, maintaining healthy functioning tissues of the body all the way to your cells, and fueling the body involved in exercise activity. Daily proper nutrition helps sustain and support exercise demands on a regular basis. If your child participates in competitions or sporting events, there are some more basics to cover
Remember that the days leading up to an event or practice are important to keep fuel and energy stores full with good sources of complex carbohydrates. Fats are slow and difficult to digest, so they should be avoided for the few hours before an event. Choose good sources of nutrition that the body can use quickly without the danger of a sugar crash. A donut with a candy bar chaser is not the way to go—but don’t think I haven’t seen it. Maintaining excellent hydration is also key to prevent going into an event already dry.
Fluids such as water and sports drinks are important to maintain energy and hydration. If the event lasts for hours with breaks between competition, light carbohydrate snacks such as fruit, natural yogurts, or concentrated gels can be used along with water and sports drinks. Highly caffeinated drinks or high-sugar soft drinks are not recommended because these pull fluids away from tissues that need them.
This is a very important aspect to recovery that many kids overlook. The amount of energy spent needs to be replaced to allow the body to be ready for the next training session or exercise bout. Your child’s muscles are like wide receivers just waiting to restore what they have used up. The ability to soak up muscle carbohydrate like a sponge is best during the first 30 to 60 minutes after exercise, and the process seems to work better with a little protein. This restoration process has important implications. If your child uses up more stored energy than she replaces, you can see that the storage unit will slowly get emptier over time. Inability to completely and properly replenish carbohydrate stores can lead to a progressive decline in performance, exercise staleness, overtraining, depression, and immune system malfunction.
Nutritional sources are not only important for carbohydrate replacement, but also for antioxidants that are critical for providing the clearing machinery necessary to get rid of free radicals and other chemical by-products of exercise and keep the immune system andother cells healthy.
Rehydration must also occur to make up for sweat losses and heat exposure. Remember that having a poor thirst drive is a developmental problem with youngsters. They also base their intake on taste. These characteristics show the importance of having mandatory drink breaks and also determining the best way for your child to want to have adequate fluid intake. Water is usually great, but kids often will not like it because it has no taste. It will suffice for short events, but if there are longer situations, your child may need something different to keep her adequately hydrated. Some of the electrolyte sports drinks taste better to them, which helps them drink more, and those drinks also help keep the thirst drive stimulated because of the electrolyte effects.
The basic 4 components of performance are genetics, equipment, training and technique, and nutrition. Because genetics cannot be controlled and equipment can be equalized, it boils down to training and nutrition, which are intimately connected. Your youngster may train for hours, but without the right nutrition, training cannot be supported optimally. Kids have the added need to provide calories for both growth and exercise energy. Good nutrition is not limited by age and developmental boundaries, so proper nutritional practices can and should be started from birth.
A food allergy happens when the body reacts against harmless proteins found in foods. The reaction usually happens shortly after a food is eaten. Food allergy reactions can vary from mild to severe.
Because many symptoms and illnesses could be wrongly blamed on “food allergies,” it is important for parents to know the usual symptoms. The following is information from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) about food allergies and how to recognize and treat the symptoms. There is also important information about how to keep your child safe and healthy at home and in school if he has a food allergy.
Symptoms of a food allergy
When the body’s immune system overreacts to certain foods, the following symptoms may occur:
- Skin problems
- Hives (red spots that look like mosquito bites)
- Itchy skin rashes (eczema, also called atopic dermatitis)
- Breathing problems
- Throat tightness
- Stomach symptoms
- Circulation symptoms
- Pale skin
- Loss of consciousness
If several areas of the body are affected, the reaction may be severe or even life-threatening. This type of allergic reaction is called anaphylaxis and requires immediate medical attention.
Not a food allergy
Food can cause many illnesses that are sometimes confused with food allergies. The following are not food allergies:
- Food poisoning—Can cause diarrhea or vomiting, but is usually caused by bacteria in spoiled food or undercooked food.
- Drug effects—Certain ingredients, such as caffeine in soda or candy, can make your child shaky or restless.
- Skin irritation—Can often be caused by acids found in such foods as orange juice or tomato products.
- Diarrhea—Can occur in small children from too much sugar, such as from fruit juices.
Some food-related illnesses are called intolerance, or a food sensitivity, rather than an allergy because the immune system is not causing the problem. Lactose intolerance is an example of a food intolerance that is often confused with a food allergy. Lactose intolerance is when a person has trouble digesting milk sugar, called lactose, leading to stomachaches, bloating, and loose stools.
Sometimes reactions to the chemicals added to foods, such as dyes or preservatives, are mistaken for a food allergy. However, while some people may be sensitive to certain food additives, it is rare to be allergic to them.
Foods that can cause food allergies
Any food could cause a food allergy, but most food allergies are caused by the following:
- Cow milk
- Nuts from trees (such as walnuts, pistachios, pecans, cashews)
- Fish (such as tuna, salmon, cod)
- Shellfish (such as shrimp, lobster)
Peanuts, nuts, and seafood are the most common causes of severe reactions. Allergies also occur to other foods such as meats, fruits, vegetables, grains, and seeds such as sesame.
Food additives, properly used, allow us to enjoy a variety of wholesome foods in every season. Many people, wary of additives, believe that they are toxic chemicals brewed up in laboratories. Such fears are groundless. The great majority of the 3,000 or so additives allowed by the FDA are foods or normal ingredients of foods.
Additives help keep our food healthful in at least 5 important ways.
- They retard spoilage.
- They improve or maintain nutritional value.
- They make breads and baked goods rise.
- They enhance flavor, color, and appearance.
- They keep flavors and textures consistent.
Additives listed on food labels under their chemical names seem less intimidating when you know their everyday equivalents. For example, salt is sodium chloride, vitamin C is ascorbic acid, and vitamin E is alpha-tocopherol. Not every additive has a familiar name, but it’s reassuring to remember that all food is made up of chemicals, just as our bodies are. Regulations known as good manufacturing practices limit the amounts of additives that may be used in foods. Manufacturers use only as much of an additive as is needed to achieve the desired result.
The additives most widely used are salt, sugar and corn syrup, vitamin C, vitamin E, and butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA) and butylated hydroxytoluene (BHT). These substances prolong shelf life, stop fats and oils from turning rancid, and prevent discoloration and changes in texture. Additives are also used in packing materials and must be approved for this purpose.
Additives That Enrich and Fortify
Additives used for enriching and fortifying foods are particularly beneficial. Enrichment restores essential nutrients that are lost during the processing of raw materials. For example, white flour and rice are enriched with B vitamins that are removed when the grains are milled. As a public health measure, certain foods are fortified with important nutrients to make sure people consume enough to stay healthy. Vitamin D, for example, is added to milk; vitamin A to margarine; and iron and folic acid to flours and cereals.
Additives Don’t Appear to Influence Hyperactivity
Years ago, Dr. Benjamin Feingold, a pediatric allergist, claimed that the behavior of hyperactive children improved dramatically when they followed a diet that eliminated additives, including artificial colors and flavors, as well as naturally occurring salicylates in fruits and vegetables. But when tested scientifically, the Feingold diet had no favorable effect. Some children, however, appeared to benefit from the extra parental attention.
In other cases, belief in the diet’s efficacy seemed to bring about an improvement similar to the placebo effect sometimes seen with medical treatments. In one study, the behavior of a small group of children with more severe hyperactivity changed for the worse when they were given food spiked with huge doses of artificial colors. However, the doses were many times greater than children would normally consume, and the findings, therefore, do not apply to usual situations.
Nevertheless, it is possible that a child may be unusually sensitive to a particular ingredient or food. If you are convinced there’s a connection between your child’s behavior and his diet, talk to your pediatrician, who may perform sensitivity testing or recommend cutting out an offending food and finding alternative sources if essential nutrients are involved
There are currently no cures for a food allergy. Management is based on avoiding the food and being prepared to treat an allergic reaction should the food be eaten accidentally. Anti-histamines can help mild symptoms such as itching and hives, but an epinephrine injection is necessary for severe symptoms or breathing difficulties (eg, throat swelling, wheezing). If epinephrine needs to be given, the child should be immediately taken for emergency medical care, or if necessary, 911 called.
If your pediatrician believes there is any risk that your child could have a severe allergic reaction (an anaphylactic reaction) to food, your pediatrician will recommend that you—and your child, when old enough to use it by himself—always carry an epinephrine autoinjector device in case of an accidental ingestion of the food. It is essential that you review with your doctor how and when to use this medication. The devices are easy to use and the medication is safe, but it is important to be familiar with the device being prescribed so that there are no delays in providing emergency treatment. A child at risk for anaphylaxis should also wear medical identification.
There’s only one sure way to prevent food allergy symptoms, and that’s to avoid the problem food altogether, in all forms, at all times. Sometimes this is easier said than done. Product labels must be read carefully each time to ensure the allergic food is not an ingredient. Read the label each time because ingredients may change. This is extremely important for patients with severe food allergy. At home, avoid cross-contact of safe foods with an allergen. For example, a knife used in peanut butter and then in jelly may leave peanut residue in the jelly jar that could cause a reaction when the jelly is used another day. Similarly, be careful when preparing foods and using cutting boards, mixing spoons, and heating surfaces. In restaurants, have a careful conversation with the waiter to be sure that the allergen is not an ingredient or contaminant of your child’s meal, although this may not be guaranteed. For school, bringing safe foods from home may avoid problems with cafeteria meals, although many schools can provide safe foods with proper preparation. Strict no-sharing policies must be followed to prevent accidental ingestions. Also avoid using food products in craft and science projects to steer clear of accidental exposures.
It’s a fairly simple matter to keep a problem food away from a very young child who eats meals and snacks under the watchful eye of parents or caregivers. However, it is more difficult with an older child who has less supervision while eating. Not only your child but also his friends and their parents should understand how serious the condition is and how important it is to avoid the allergen in any form. Above all, children should be warned never to share or taste another child’s food.
Be sure to provide full information about your child’s food allergy to school and camp personnel and child care providers. Update information regularly at the start of each school year and as new facts become available. In this regard, it is important to report accurate information, ie, definite food allergies, not minor food sensitivities.
Food Allergy Myths and Misconceptions
- Food allergy affects behavior. There is no convincing research results showing that a true food allergy causes problems such as attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder or autism. Some studies show that chemical preservatives or dyes, presumably through a pharmacologic rather than allergic mechanism, might contribute to these problems, but the evidence is weak and not widely accepted by experts.
- Sugar allergy causes behavioral problems. Parents may blame high-sugar foods for unusual behavior. However, the results of several carefully controlled studies of preschool and school-aged children showed sugar or artificial sweeteners had no effect on behavior.
- Each allergic reaction gets worse. It is not automatically the case that each subsequent exposure to the food will result in a worse allergic reaction. The severity of a subsequent reaction is not easily predicted and can be worse, the same, or milder than previous reactions.
- Peanut-allergic children should avoid all kinds of nuts. Peanut is a legume and not of the tree nuts family. Many children with peanut allergy can tolerate tree nuts, and vice versa. However, some children can be allergic to multiple different foods, including peanut and certain tree nuts. Make sure you are clear what the situation is with your child.
Nearly 1 in 3 children in America is overweight or obese. Despite all the focus on kids being overweight and obese, many parents are still confused, especially when it comes to what kids eat. How much does your child need? Is he getting enough calcium? Enough iron? Too much fat?
Whether you have a toddler or a teen, nutrition is important to his or her physical and mental development. Here’s what children need — no matter what the age.
During this stage of life, it’s almost all about the milk — whether it’s breast milk, formula, or a combination of the two. Breast milk or formula will provide practically every nutrient a baby needs for the first year of life.
- At about six months most babies are ready to start solid foods like iron-fortified infant cereal and strained fruits, vegetables, and pureed meats. Because breast milk may not provide enough iron and zinc when babies are around six to nine months, fortified cereals and meats can help breastfed babies in particular.
- Once you do start adding foods, don’t go low-fat crazy. Although the AAP guidelines state fat restriction in some babies is appropriate, in general, you don’t want to restrict fats under age two because a healthy amount of fat is important for babies’ brain and nerve development.
Toddlers & Preschoolers
Toddlers and preschoolers grow in spurts and their appetites come and go in spurts, so they may eat a whole lot one day and then hardly anything the next. It’s normal, and as long as you offer them a healthy selection, they will get what they need.
- Calcium, the body’s building block, is needed to develop strong, healthy bones and teeth. Children may not believe or care that milk “does a body good,” but it is the best source of much-needed calcium. Still, there’s hope for the milk-allergic, lactose-intolerant, or those who just don’t like milk. Lactose-free milk, soy milk, tofu, sardines, and calcium-fortified orange juices, cereals, waffles, and oatmeal are some calcium-filled options. In some cases, pediatricians may recommend calcium supplements.
- Fiber is another important focus. Toddlers start to say “no” more and preschoolers can be especially opinionated about what they eat. The kids may want to stick to the bland, beige, starchy diet (think chicken nuggets, fries, macaroni), but this is really the time to encourage fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and beans, which all provide fiber. Not only does fiber prevent heart disease and other conditions, but it also helps aid digestion and prevents constipation, something you and your child will be thankful for.
It isn’t uncommon for a 6- or 7-year-old to suddenly decide to be a vegetarian once they understand animals and where food comes from. This doesn’t mean your child won’t get enough protein; animal tissue isn’t the only place we get protein. Rice, beans, eggs, milk, and peanut butter all have protein. So whether your child goes “no-meat” for a week or for life, he or she will likely still get sufficient amounts of protein.
Areas that might be a little too sufficient are sugars, fats, and sodium.
- This is a time when kids first go to school and have a little bit more choices in what they eat, especially if they’re getting it in the cafeteria themselves. Cakes, candy, chips, and other snacks might become lunchtime staples.
- The body needs carbs (sugars), fats, and sodium, but should be eaten in moderation, as too much can lead to unneeded weight gain and other health problems.
- Packing your child’s lunch or going over the lunch menu and encouraging him or her to select healthier choices can help keep things on track.
Preteens & Teens
As puberty kicks in, young people need more calories to support the many changes they will experience. Unfortunately, for some, those extra calories come from fast food or “junk” foods with little nutritional value.
- Some adolescents go the opposite way and restrict calories, fats, or carbs. Adolescence is the time kids start to become conscious of their weight and body image, which, for some, can lead to eating disorders or other unhealthy behaviors. Parents should be aware of changes in their child’s eating patterns and make family dinners a priority at least once or twice a week.
- Like calories, calcium requirements are higher. Calcium is more important than ever during the tween and teen years because the majority of bone mass is built during this time. Encouraging kids to have milk, milk products, or calcium-rich alternatives, should help them get more calcium.
- Your child’s gender may play a role in whether he or she needs more of a particular nutrient. For instance, teen girls need more iron than their male counterparts to replace what’s lost during menstruation, and males need slightly more protein than girls.
Although getting your child to eat healthy — regardless of his or her age — can be a constant battle, its one well worth fighting. A healthy child becomes a healthy adult, and only with your support and guidance will your child be both.