Looking to Reduce Your Family’s Intake of Added Sugars? Here’s How

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High sugar intake has been linked to everything from dental cavities to obesity to Type 2 diabetes to heart disease to other health conditions, many of which last into adulthood. Minimizing added sugar is a priority for many parents, but it’s not as simple as trading cookies and soda for fruit and water. Avoiding obvious sources is one thing, but added sugar can be found in many foods where you may not expect it. According to the 2015 Dietary Guidelines, added sugars include sugars, syrups and other caloric sweeteners. Simply put, added sugars sweeten a food and although they add calories, they offer virtually no nutrition.

On a nutrition label, sugar may appear under many names, more than 50, actually. Some of the most common ones include cane sugar, evaporated cane juice, corn syrup, high-fructose corn syrup, raw sugar and crystal solids and, don’t forget brown sugar, honey, maple syrup and brown rice syrup. The 2015 Dietary Guidelines recommends Americans limit added sugars to no more than 10 percent of their daily calorie needs. That’s about 12 teaspoons (48 grams of sugar) on a 2,000-calorie diet. However, for kids, especially little kids, who may only need 1,200 to 1,400 calories per day, it’s even less but, rather than obsessing over grams and teaspoons, focus on reducing added sugar intake by limiting products that contain it.

Common Sources of Added Sugar

Some sources of added sugar are easy to spot, such as:

  • Sugary beverages (soda, fruit punch, sweet coffee and energy drinks)
  • Sugary cereal
  • Candy and chocolates
  • Flavored yogurt
  • Baked goods such as cakes, pastries and cookies

However, added sugar can hide in some surprising places, including:

  • Whole-grain cereals and granola
  • Instant oatmeal
  • Frozen foods
  • Granola bars, protein bars and cereal bars
  • Pasta sauce
  • Dried fruit, canned fruit, applesauce and fruit juices
  • Baby food
    Barbecue sauce, ketchup, salad dressing and other condiments

Tips for Avoiding Added Sugars

The first step in reducing your family’s added sugar intake takes place in the grocery store. Scan labels for added sweeteners and, instead, fill your shopping cart with healthier options. Sally Kuzemchak, MS, RD, a blogger and mother of two, recommends reaching for naturally sweet foods. Her favorites? “Fruit! Lots of veggies are naturally sweet too, especially bell peppers, carrots and sugar snap peas,” she says.

When it comes to beverages, Kuzemchak recommends water and milk. “Many other beverages have ingredients kids don’t need, like caffeine, added sugar and artificial dyes or sweeteners,” says Kuzemchak. You can also reduce added sugar intake at home by cooking from scratch. By making your own granola, pasta sauce and condiments and serving homemade baked treats, you are in control of the ingredients used. “With baking recipes, I frequently cut the sugar with no negative effect to the recipe or to how much my family likes it,” Kuzemchak says. “I usually start by cutting it by a quarter and go lower if possible.”

One common source of added sugar is flavored yogurt. You can start reducing added sugar intake from yogurt by mixing half a serving of flavored yogurt with half a serving of plain, unsweetened yogurt. This trick works with cereal too. As your family’s taste buds adjust, gradually use less and less of the sweetened varieties. Make a healthy relationship with food the overall focus instead of a completely sugar-free diet. Encourage positive associations with foods such as fruits and vegetables by playing up their good qualities and fresh taste and save the sweet stuff for special occasions.

Adapted by: Jessica Cording, MS, RD, CDN

Tip of the Day

Treat yourself! Are you looking to cut back on sweets for you and your kids? Fruit makes the perfect sweet snack or dessert. Serve baked apples, pears, or enjoy a fruit salad or serve yummy frozen juice bars (100% juice).

Daily Inspiration 

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Is Your Kid Over-Caffeinated?

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Sodas, coffee, tea, and energy drinks. Each of these is a source of caffeine. Approximately 75 percent of children, adolescents and young adults in the United States consume caffeine, a compound that stimulates the central nervous system. In small doses, caffeine may help people of all ages feel more alert, awake or energetic. But what if you have more than just a little? In large doses, caffeine may cause irritability, impaired calcium metabolism, anxiety, rapid heart rate, elevated blood pressure and sleep problems. In fact, one study found that kids who consumed the most caffeine slept the fewest hours.

Because caffeine is in common beverages like colas and teas, parents and others may unwittingly offer excessive amounts of caffeine to children. Teens often deliberately consume large amounts. Some teens find that caffeine helps them perform better in school and on tests, says pediatric specialist Angela Lemond, RDN, CSP, LD, spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. If your teen carries a heavy academic load, he or she may reach for caffeine-containing foods and beverages to improve concentration during school and then again at night to stay up late for studying. Unfortunately, this can push the teen into a cycle of being unable to sleep because of the effects of caffeine, consuming more caffeine to fight fatigue from lack of sleep and then having trouble falling asleep again.

How Much is Too Much?

The Food and Drug Administration has not set guidelines for safe caffeine consumption. The Canadian government, however, recommends the following daily caffeine limits.

Ages 4 – 6 years: 45 mg, about the amount in one can of cola
Ages 7 – 9 years: 62 mg
Ages 10 to 12 years: 85 mg
According to a study in the Journal of Pediatrics, American children consume more than the recommended limit in Canada.

Helping your Kids Limit Caffeine

If your kids act jittery or anxious, or if they have trouble sleeping, reducing their caffeine intake is a smart idea. Because coffee, tea and soft drinks contribute more caffeine to the diet than other foods and beverages, limiting these beverages is a good place to start. Lemond also recommends steering clear of foods with added caffeine such as energy drinks, jellybeans, gum and breath fresheners. Children and adolescents should completely avoid these products, she says. If it’s energy your kids are seeking, getting to bed earlier or taking a short nap is more productive than consuming caffeine that offers pep for a short time but may interfere with sleep later that evening.

Caffeine in Selected Foods and Beverages

Coffee, 12 fl oz, coffee shop variety: 260 mg
Energy drinks, 8 fl oz: 47-163 mg
Espresso, 1 fl oz: 64 mg
Candy, semi-sweet chocolate, 1 oz:* 18 mg
Hot chocolate, 12 fl oz, coffee shop variety:* 20 mg
Hot tea, 1 cup: 48 mg
Cola, 12 fl oz: 48 mg
*Chocolate and chocolate containing foods are not a major source of caffeine.

By Jill Weisenberger, MS, RDN, CDE, FAND

Tip of the Day

Stretch your food dollar! There are many ways to stretch your food dollar. Look for coupons in unexpected places-with your receipt, as peel-offs on packaging, and alongside items in grocery aisle shelves.

Daily Inspiration 

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How Sleep Habits Effect A Childs Healthy Weight

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If you think your child gets enough sleep, think again. According to the National Sleep Foundation, most children sleep less than their parents realize. And nearly 70 percent of children have some sleep problem such as waking during the night, sleeping too little or having difficulty falling asleep at least a few nights each week.

Sacrificing Sleep

Emerging research suggests that sleep is just as important as nutrition and exercise are to your child’s health and we’re talking about more than colds and the flu. Scientists aren’t sure why, but too little sleep is linked with both packing on extra pounds and developing Type 2 diabetes, explains Amy Jamieson-Petonic, RD, spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and director of coaching at Cleveland Clinic. Researchers have observed this weight effect in kids of all ages-even infants, toddlers and preschoolers. One theory for weight gain is that inadequate sleep disrupts hormone levels that regulate appetite and food intake. Thus, too little sleep means bigger portions of foods and more snacking, Jamieson-Petonic explains.

When kids are overextended in activities, weighted down with homework, constantly texting or plugged into the Internet and other technology, something has to give. Unfortunately, it’s frequently an hour or two of shut-eye that gets knocked from the priority list. Sleepy kids lack the energy and focus for playing outside and doing schoolwork. They’re more likely to sit in front of the TV where they burn few calories and challenge neither their minds nor their bodies, says registered dietitian Marilyn Tanner-Blasiar, spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

Set a Routine

The good news is that you can help them sleep better and longer. If they’re involved in too many activities, set priorities for young children and help your older children set their own. Limit afterschool clubs and sports to a manageable number. Finally, create a bedtime routine such as dinner, bath, massage and a story, urges Jamieson-Petonic. Routines help kids and adults ease into a night’s slumber. Bedtime routines should always include at least a few minutes of downtime such as reading a book or telling a story to small children. Older kids may enjoy reading to themselves or to you. Teens might like a few minutes chatting with parents or journaling about their day. As hard as it might be, keep the phone and texting out of bed; and avoid exercise, television and the Internet shortly before bedtime. Find the schedule that works for you and your children, and do your best to stick to it every night, urges Tanner-Blasiar.

This advice can ALSO be applied to us adults!

Adapted from Jill Weisenberger, MS, RDN, CDE, FAND

Tip of the Day

Look locally! Buying from your local farmer allows you to support your community. Purchase farm-fresh foods such as fruits and vegetables, eggs, honey, meat, or beans from a farmers market near you.

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6 Healthy Ways to Manage Weight for Sports

Sometimes an athlete needs to trim a few pounds to ready for competition, especially for sports such as rowing and wrestling which have weight classes. Cutting weight or dramatic weight loss in a short period of time is not a healthy way to reach this goal, and isn’t recommended for young athletes.

Dangerous Weight Loss Techniques

Some athletes believe that cutting weight will improve their athletic performance, but dramatic and fast weight loss has the opposite effect. Over-exercising to quickly lose weight uses up stored muscle fuel and may leave athletes depleted when it comes time to compete. Extreme dieting or calorie restriction makes needed nutrients, such as carbohydrates, sparse, and fasting or not eating for an extended period can lead to dehydration and loss of strength and stamina.

Other ways to hasten weight loss such as wearing a rubber suit, “sweating it out” in a sauna or taking diuretics may lead to dehydration. While dehydration will result in weight loss, it may also negatively affect athletic performance. Studies show that a 150-pound athlete who loses 3 pounds may experience cramping, early fatigue and blunted athletic performance.

Healthy Ways to Manage Weight

The secret to making weight cutoffs is staying at a healthy weight all season long. Follow these six tips to safely stay ready for competition.

Schedule Eating:

Believe it or not, the best way to keep an athlete’s appetite satisfied and provide important nutrients to muscles is to eat with a routine. Try to eat breakfast, lunch and dinner at about the same time each day, and work in healthy snacks in between. Never skip meals, as this may promote hunger and lead to poor food choices and overeating.

Balance the Food Groups:

A variety of foods are important to a healthy diet and peak performance. Make sure to include dairy or a non-dairy substitute, fruits, vegetables, whole grains and lean meats in your everyday eating and at each meal. Load up half your plate with fruits and veggies and you’ll naturally downgrade the calorie impact. Remember, a balanced diet not only offers up necessary nutrition, it may also help you feel more satisfied.

Trim Away the Fat:

Fried foods such as french fries and potato chips carry a lot of calories because they are high in fat. Instead, choose a baked potato and you’ll cut unneeded calories from your diet.

Tackle the Treats:

Foods such as soda, candy and other desserts with added sugars carry calories but few nutrients. While one or two of these items can fit into an active athlete’s diet each day, staying at a competitive weight means you’ll need to keep a cap on them, and if you’re trying to lose extra pounds, cutting back on treats will help you get the job done.

Eat Smart Snacks:

Foods that contain carbohydrates and protein are good bets for keeping your body fueled. If you are snacking more than once or twice a day, you may be getting too many calories from snacks. Be smart with snacks, let them top off your energy tank, offer important nutrition and, above all, don’t let them take over your diet. Try these healthy snack options: An apple and peanut butter; Greek yogurt; whole grain cereal and low-fat milk; a protein bar; or raw vegetables and cheese.

Watch Food Serving Sizes:

When you’re hungry, it’s easy to overeat. Test yourself and your portions by checking the suggested serving size on food packages. Staying in line with them will help you stay on track with your overall calorie intake.

Remember, if you’re carrying some extra weight, work on gradually losing it through the season rather than all at once before a competition or weigh in.

Reprinted from eatright.org

Tip of the Day

Choose lean cuts. Cuts of beef with less fat, such as round steaks, roasts, top loin, top sirloin, and chuck shoulder are all lean protein food choices.

Daily Inspiration 

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Get to Know Your School Lunch Program

The mention of school lunch conjures up all sorts of images. Whether it is a loveable lunch lady or a favorite or least favorite meal, we all have some sort of memory from our time spent in the school cafeteria. The National School Lunch Program as we know it today was established in 1946 to provide students access to nutritionally balanced meals. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) continues to fund the program and to assure that healthy lunches are affordable to all. Here’s what you need to know about today’s school lunch programs.

Who Makes the Rules?

Regulations regarding what kinds of foods should be served to students are prescribed by the USDA, and each state administers the program in its own schools. In 2008, the Institute of Medicine reported that children who ate school lunches consumed few fruits and vegetables and high amounts of saturated fat and sodium. The concerning state of affairs prompted changes in the program. The 2010 Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act mandated updates to the meal prescriptions, which now include more fruits, vegetables and whole grains and less calories and sodium.

Times Have Changed

Indeed, it does seem that despite initial resistance to updates in the program by some food service directors, parents and especially students, the tide of public opinion has gradually changed. A study published in the journal Childhood Obesity found that 70 percent of elementary school leaders said that students had warmed up to the new lunches and generally liked them. According Aliza Stern, RD, Mid-Atlantic Regional Dietitian for Chartwells K12 (a company that provides meals and dining services for school districts), the new norm of healthier eating is catching on in the schools she works with as well. “We are offering such a great variety of fresh fruits and vegetables these days, some even grown in gardens on school campuses, that kids are used to it, they get excited about it, and they are actually eating it,” she says.

The National School Lunch Program is touted as an important public effort to prevent obesity and improve children’s eating habits, but does it deliver? “I have worked with many parents who start out skeptical about school lunch because of their own experience from when they were in school,” says Stern. “Once they actually see what is being offered to our students, they are so pleased and eager to get their student to start buying lunch.”

Getting Help

If you’re having trouble paying for your children’s lunch, your family may be eligible for free or reduced cost lunch through the USDA. Income eligibility guidelines can be found on the USDA’s website. If your family meets the income guidelines and you have not yet filled out an application, be sure to request one from the school. For those with dietary restrictions, there are also provisions for schools to accommodate special, medically necessary diets. Talk to the food service director if your child needs these services.

Want to know more about what’s happening in your child’s school? Get to know your food service and nutrition staff!

Reprinted from eatright.org

Tip of the Day

For a healthier future, identify what you eat and drink now to see where you can make better choices in the future.

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Role of Registered Dietitian Nutritionists in Feeding a Growing World Population: Articles in Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics

Feeding a growing world population, especially in developing countries, will require advances in technology to support sustainable food systems and collaborations between the agriculture and food production industries, hunger relief professionals and health experts including registered dietitian nutritionists, according to two new articles in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. The articles are online in advance of their publication in the Journal in coming months: “Linking Agriculture, Nutrition and Health: The Role of the Registered Dietitian Nutritionist” and “Plentiful, Nutrient-Dense Food for the World: A Guide for Registered Dietitian Nutritionists.” Authors of the articles include Academy members and senior officials of the Academy, its Foundation and its Kids Eat Right initiative.

The Journal articles address what authors of one paper calls “one of the world’s greatest challenges of the 21st century … to sustainably feed the growing global population with increased demand for finite resources such as water, land and minerals.” The articles include summaries of two Academy-sponsored conferences designed to look at global issues of food production, malnutrition, food safety, population growth and agriculture innovation. “During the next 35 years, world food demand is projected to increase by about two-thirds,” according to the authors. “One-third of this increase will be due to the growing world population, which is mostly concentrated in developing countries; the other one-third will result from an increase in urbanization and economic growth in emerging countries. The global middle class is expected to increase from 1.8 billion (in 2009) to 4.9 billion in 2030 … As the world population grows, and more people achieve middle-class status, we will need to produce more nutrient-dense food without increasing our use of natural resources.” The articles spotlight the need for registered dietitian nutritionists (RDN) worldwide to serve as resources for feeding a growing population safely and sustainably. Existing Academy and Foundation resources include:

“Now more than ever,” the authors write, “it is imperative that RDNs and all nutrition and dietetics practitioners do more to contribute to healthy, sustainable food systems to ensure the best nutrition – beginning at the farm and all along the food supply chain.”

Tip of the Day

Feeling hangry? Don’t let hunger sneak up on you. Plan ahead by keeping ‘grab-and-go’ snack options on hand. Some tasty options include whole-grain crackers, unsalted nuts, or a piece of fruit.

Daily Inspiration 

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Breaking Your Gradeschooler’s Unhealthy Food Habit

Just like any good investment, teaching your child healthy habits now will pay off in the long run. Kids who nibble on nutrient-rich foods from a young age are more likely to maintain those good habits later in life. Research shows that children who become overweight are more susceptible to weight-related health issues as adults. Although it can be easy for families to slip into unhealthy food habits, with some practice, you can steer your child toward healthier choices.

Beyond Restriction

When you’re trying to break an unhealthy food habit, forbidding certain foods that are already in the home may lead to behavioral problems such as tantrums and sneaking food. “Research has shown that restriction can result in a child overeating the restricted food when it is offered,” says Keith Williams, PhD, director of the feeding clinic at the Penn State Hershey Children’s Hospital. He suggests keeping the foods you don’t want your child to eat out of the house altogether. If you still want to keep your favorite snacks around, don’t munch in front of your child unless he or she is allowed to have some, too. It’s always better to work on making healthy changes as a family. Your child should know that you’re all in this together.

Focus on Healthy Foods

When unhealthy food is missing, be sure to have plenty of healthful alternatives available. Wash and cut fresh fruits and vegetables into pieces ahead of time; then, place them within easy reach in the refrigerator. Gradeschoolers feel more independent when they have options, so try keeping a snack drawer of healthier items and let them choose a food from it every day. Keep the “sometimes” foods out of reach so that you can control when your child eats them. “The goal is to make it easier to obtain the healthy snacks you want your child to eat and more difficult to obtain the foods you don’t want him to eat,” says Williams.

Learning to Like New Foods

If your child is a picky eater and prefers unhealthy food, she will not be enthusiastic about having her favorite foods limited as you try to break the habit. A carrot is just not as exciting as a cookie-at first. But take heart, stick with the plan and celebrate small victories as you make gradual changes. “Repeated taste exposure is the most common method of developing food preferences,” says Williams. Once your child takes a bite of the new food, offer lots of praise and reward that taste with a bite of his favorite food. As a general rule, it may take 8 to 15 tastes of a new food before your gradeschooler willingly eats it.

As you make a commitment to healthier eating, you’ll reap some great benefits — both now and in the future. Setting your child up for a life-long habit of healthy eating will help her live a more productive and enjoyable life. She will probably even thank you when she’s older!

Tip of the Day

Buy in bulk. It is almost always cheaper to buy foods in bulk. Smart choices are family packs of chicken, steak, or fish and larger bags of potatoes and frozen vegetables. Before you shop, remember to check if you have enough freezer space.

Daily Inspiration 

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