From Our Blog
A colleague sent me this great article from the New York Times about the Human Microbiome Project. The microbiome are the trillions of bacteria living on our skin and in our gut. This article is a little lengthy but Michael Pollan gives a fascinating and in-depth look at the importance of these inhabitants to our overall health. Learn how our microbiome may influence the development of allergies, asthma and other increasingly common health conditions. Could we be accidentally killing off one of our greatest defenses with the wide use of antibiotics? What is the long term impact? Are babies born by c-section at an increased risk for allergies? If so, is there anything we can do to prevent this? Pollan discusses all of this in the article. He also discusses how our microbiome could even be connected to obesity. I highly recommend taking some time to read it.
Zinc is and important yet often overlooked mineral. Along with iron, it's one of the most common deficiencies in kids' diets. Zinc is essential for growth and development but also plays a critical role in appetite and taste perception.
As nutritionist and author Kelly Dorfman points out in her book, "What's Eating Your Child?", kids with zinc deficiency typically present as picky eaters with poor appetites and poor growth (although not ALL picky eaters have zinc deficiency). Zinc is not a standard test on most pediatric lab panels so deficiency can easily go unnoticed. If your child has a lackluster appetite, picky eating and/or poor growth it's probably a good idea to rule this out.
Foods highest in zinc are beef and chicken. Interestingly, those with zinc deficiency are often turned off by meat likely due to altered taste. Other great sources of zinc include toasted wheat germ, pumpkin seeds and dark chocolate. Fortified cereals are a great source of zinc for kids. The #1 source of zinc (although not a realistic option for most kids) is oysters with 154 mg in a 3oz portion.
The daily recommendation for zinc is 3mg for 1-3 years, 5 mg for 4-8 years, 8mg for 9-13 years and 11mg from 18 years on. Zinc deficiency has been seen in patients with depression and eating disorders and according to psychiatrist James Greenblatt, MD, repletion may eliminate the need for drug therapy in some cases. For children with zinc deficiency, a therapeutic dose of 35mg a day is recommended.
Do you have picky eaters in your family? Are you concerned about their health but are unsure how to manage it?
Join Ashley Bade, RD, LDN, CNSD of Metrowest Nutrition, and Healthy Habits Kitchen, creators of ready-to-cook, nutritionally-balanced meal kits, to learn how you can ensure your picky eater is getting the right nutrition by establishing a meal and snack routine, providing balance and variety, setting expectations and much more.
Plus, you’ll sample kid-friendly HHK dishes and learn how MetroWest Nutrition’s new food delivery service can help you save time and achieve your goals.
This is a FREE event and will be held on Thursday, May 30th from 11:30-1pm. Feel free to come for the whole time or just drop in! Please register below so we know how much food to have available.
Protein Boosts for Gluten/Casein/Soy Free Diets
For children with multiple allergies or sensitities, getting adequate protein can be a challenge. Although the typical American diet includes plenty of protein, it's the protein in foods that cause allergic reactions and food intolerances. Take dairy for instance - there are 8 grams of protein in a glass of milk but only 1 gram in rice or almond milk. Protein is important for growth, brain function and energy. An average 2-3 year old needs 15-20g of protein. This is no problem for the adult who easily consumes this in a single meal. But for a picky toddler with food allergies, it's another story. Here are some easy ways to add a little protein to your child's selective diet. Note, I've included some food allergens so just focus on the items your child CAN eat.
1. Add peanut butter to smoothies, toast and homeade baked goods
2. Add egg white protein (Deb-El Just Whites) to milk alternative of choice, smoothies, coconut or almond milk yogurts
3. Substitute 1/2 the flour with chia powder in baking
4. Use almond or bean flour in baking
5. Opt for quinoa pasta which has 8g of protein per cup versus 2g in rice pasta
6. Make homeade snack bars with nuts seeds and high protein flours like this recipe for Gluten-free & Vegan Breakfast Bars
7. Brush egg white onto homeade pizza dough or bagels
8. Mix beans, pea protein or vegetable protein powder into pasta sauces, stir-fry or other mixed dishes
10. Make popsicles out of frozen fruits & juices blended with various milks and protein powder
Shoot for (2) 8g servings of protein a day for toddlers or check out this formula to calculate your child's individual protein needs How Much Protein Does Your Child Need?
Ashley Bade RD, LDN, CNSD
Children come with varying appetites; there are the big eaters that seem to be bottomless pits and the little eaters with small bites throughout the day. While it’s important to honor your child’s appetite, sometimes with children that are frequently seeking food it may be a sign of non-hunger eating.
Non-hunger eating can stem from a variety of sources such as boredom, emotional coping or just the enjoyment of the taste of food. At birth, we are all innately given the ability to regulate our intake based on hunger and fullness ques. This however can quickly go away as our relationship with food is formed in our younger years.
For children that may be exhibiting non-hunger eating, I like to introduce the idea of “belly hungry” versus “mouth hungry”. Belly hungry, I describe, is when your belly is growling and has space for food. Mouth hungry on the other hand is when our mouth wants to have a good taste in it, but there isn’t space in our belly. This is a simple concept that parents can use to defer non-hunger eating by little ones.
If you feel your child may be exhibiting non-hunger eating; here are a few tips for avoiding over-eating while nurturing a healthy relationship with food.
• Introduce the concept of belly hungry and mouth hungry to your child. Give examples of times when you personally feel belly hungry versus mouth hungry periodically and talk to them about what you do when you are mouth hungry. Bringing up personal examples from time-to-time can help to role model healthy eating behaviors to your child.
• The kitchen/pantry should not be a self-service operation for younger kiddos- try to keep your child on a meal and snack schedule with roughly 2 ½ to 3 hours in between food offerings. This can generate enough appetite to encourage good intake at the balanced meals and snacks you provide without leading to an overly hungry child.
• If your child is asking for food in between planned meals and snacks and you suspect it is non-hunger eating, ask your child if he is belly hungry or mouth hungry. If the answer is belly hungry- it may be best to offer a choice between a fruit and vegetable option. If he refuses the options given and requests a typical favorite food such as chips or cookies, keep with the options you offered and he will choose one if belly hungry.
• If your child is mouth hungry- have a plan of five different activities he can do instead of eating. With some of my patients it has been helpful if I have them come up with a list themselves with common activities like coloring, playing with a favorite toy or arts & crafts time on the list. By being able to offer a list of alternatives, you can quickly find something enjoyable for your child to pass the time with until it’s time for the next meal or snack when true belly hunger is likely to be there.
Here in the land of plenty, we have come to assume that nutritional deficiencies are a thing of the past. True, we aren't lacking macronutrients; we get plenty of carbohydrate, protein and fat. However, that doesn't ensure we aren't falling short in some other areas.
Our grocery aisles are lined with man-made, highly processed "food-like substances" as Michael Pollan would say; foods that have been stripped of most nutrition. Food companies will often enhance these same foods with labratory-produced nutrients but it's like replacing a hundred dollar bill with monopoly money; it may appear more or less the same but it's just not worth as much. In addition to being void of some critical nutrition, most of the foods in the typical American diet are high in omega-6 fatty acids and low in omega-3's, a combination known to aggrevate inflammation and possibly impact neurological function. Of course, what foods do most kids whose brains are still developing live on? Yup, you guessed it, those delicious, factory-produced foods loaded with artificial ingredients, corn products and soybean oil.
Last week, I attended a great seminar by well-known registered dietitian, Elizabeth Strickland, MS, RD who specializes in nutrition for autism. She makes a great case for how nutrition plays a large role in the cause and treatment of this growing epidemic. 1 in 88 kids (54 boys) is diagnosed with autism. There are a number of nutritional factors that likely play into this. Basicly, the combination of artificial foods, lack of essential nutrients, pesticides and other environmental toxins are wrecking havoc on our kids brains. All these artificial ingredients coupled with lack of protective nutrition create the perfect neurological storm. And what foods our kids get at school? Foods that are subsidized and approved by the USDA, the same organization that regulates the industry that produces the majority of our food-like substances.
Working with eating disorders, I've always aired on the side of liberal eating; incorporating ALL foods into the diet. I've informed clients that there are no "bad foods" and that everything fits. I've lived this way myself, in fact. In effort to help my kids shape a healthy, positive relationship with food and encourage them to take part in our social customs that revolve around food, I've been fairly permissive with (non)food. In fact, I will confess, a popular donut joint was a morning ritual during our kitchen renovation. To the point where we were all in withdrawal once the project was complete! I'm sure if you asked my son what his favorite foods are, he would answer donuts, cupcakes and pizza without hesitation. And who can blame him? They taste good. As humans, we're programmed to like foods that are high in fat, sugar and calories because they yield more energy, hence survival.
On the flip side, I've also heard my toddler refer to grapes as treats and watched him beg for an apple or carrot stick. When offered the choice, many kids will opt for a healthier option, especially if it's presented in an appealing way. Fruits and veggies are colorful and fun to eat and entirely worth the effort in preparation. Granted, there are kids out there who are pickier than most and they may need a more intensive intervention. A registered dietitian can certainly help with that.
Personally, I will continue to grapple with balancing my nutrition knowledge with the desire to maintain a flexible, enjoyable and inclusive relationship with food for myself and my family. I have no desire to uphold rigid "food rules" but also feel that no momentary pleasure from food is worth sacrificing my kids' neurological function and the joys in life that come from that. Hopefully, I can help my kids and my clients navigate this tricky line as well.
Jackie Ballou, MS, RD
To my delight, my boyfriend’s mother recently made me up a bag of fresh vegetables to take home. The delectable leaves, roots and flowers inside were anything but ordinary.
She told me one of the vibrant looking leaves was an herb called amaranth. I was surprised, for I knew amaranth to be a gluten-free, nutrition powerhouse of a grain (technically speaking, a seed), containing protein and fiber. What I was not aware of was the nutritional value and versatility of the leaves of this same plant, which produces the seeds I am more familiar with.
Upon doing a bit of research, I found out that amaranth leaves are an excellent source of vitamins A, C and K and are also a good source of the minerals, calcium and manganese. The leaves of this plant can be used as a substitute for spinach. The more mature leaves should be cooked (stir frying or sautéing with a olive oil and some garlic works well) while the younger, more delicate leaves may be used raw in salads. Similar to kale, it can also be added to soups and stews.
In admiring, learning about and tasting amaranth leaves, I got to thinking about the abundance of exotic plant foods found at farms and farmers’ markets. And furthermore, what an opportunity lies in exploring these treasure troves with kids. I can’t think of a better way for children to explore a new food in its entirety than picking out a new fruit or vegetable, taking it home, preparing it, and sampling it.
To plan your next fruit and veggie treasure hunt, find the closest farmers market or pick your own farm at mass.gov: http://www.mass.gov/agr/massgrown/index.htm.
Jackie Ballou, MS, RD
Eating dinner as a family holds benefits that go beyond nutrition. Kids who eat more family meals at home are more apt to have better quality diets than those who eat more meals out. Research shows that teens eating regular family meals at home are less likely to use drugs, experience better mental health and eat more fruits and vegetables overall. Studies indicate that television-free family meal times are opportunity areas for bonding and teaching kids about nutrition.
But, what about lacrosse practice, homework, and starving kids?
As a pediatric dietitian, I work with many families who are strapped for time. Parents often tell me how difficult it is to manage cooking healthy dinners amongst all the other priorities of a busy family.
Here are some tips along with some of my favorite resources.
Planning Ahead is Key
Create a weekly menu of dinners, and include the kids in the planning. That way, everyone has a “say” in what’s for dinner. Get ingredients for the week to make things easy when the dinner hour arrives. Need some inspiration? The Dinner Daily (www.thedinnerdaily.com) is a one-stop site dedicated to helping families with meal planning. For $5 per month, subscribers receive a week’s worth of kid-friendly, nutritious meal recipes, along with corresponding food shopping lists and a list of available savings and coupons at your local grocery stores.
Mix it Up
Invariably, it is easy to get stuck in a rut when it comes to changing up the dinner menu. But, trying new recipes is a chance to expand the family’s taste preferences and offer different nutrients. For a wealth of easy and nutritious recipes developed by dietitians for families, check out the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics’ Kids Eat Right website: www.kidseatright.org.
Use Technology to Your Advantage
You may be familiar with Real Simple Magazine, but did you know they have an app called “No Time To Cook”for the IPhone, IPad and Android? The app allows users to select ingredients they have on hand (poultry, beef or lamb, pork, seafood, pasta or vegetarian) as well as the time they have available for meal preparation (20, 30 or 40 minutes). The search compiles a list of several delicious recipes that meet the criteria entered. If desired, you can also filter the search further to suit your needs (“low calorie” and “family friendly” are a few examples). Food shopping lists are available for each recipe, and can either be texted or emailed. For more information go to: http://www.realsimple.com/work-life/technology/iphone-ipad/index.html.
Recently there has been a big push for nutrition education and physical activity in elementary and middle schools in effort to fight childhood obesity. The increase in obesity we're seeing in children is certainly a cause for concern and one that should be addressed on a public level. However, we need to be certain our efforts are helping not hurting. As we see a rise in obesity, we're also seeing a rise in the number of eating disorder cases in younger children. Parents are reporting more alarming eating behaviors in their kids and becoming more concerned about the messages they’re receiving at school. This article describes the potential deleterious effects of some of these obesity-fighting strategies.
The good news is that as a parent, you can take an active role in promoting positive body image and eating attitudes. here are a few simple tips:
- Involve kids in the kitchen. Show that food is a great way to spend time together
- Emphasize what healthy foods can do for their body, not that they can make them “skinny”
- Focus on physical activity as a way to spend time together and stay healthy, not to lose weight
- Monitor their eating habits and talk to them if anything concerns you; if it progresses further talk to their doctor.
- Model a healthy, positive attitude towards food and just as important, the joy of eating.
- Become aware of the nutrition/physical activity programs in place at your child’s school.