5 Whole Grains to Keep Your Family Healthy

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Next time you go shopping, help keep your family healthy by choosing whole grains over refined grains. Whole grains (such as buckwheat, brown rice, hominy and oatmeal) are more nutritious than refined grains because they contain the fiber-rich outer bran layer, the nutrient-packed germ and the starchy endosperm. Refined grains (such as white bread, white pasta and white rice) contain mostly the endosperm. In the past, whole grains were thought to provide mostly fiber to promote digestive and heart health, but newer research has revealed that they provide additional vitamins and minerals, plus high levels of antioxidants and other healthy plant-based nutrients. No matter which whole grain you prefer, make sure the ingredient list includes whole grains or that the label reads “100-percent whole grain.”

Amaranth

Gluten-free amaranth is considered a complete protein because it contains all of the essential amino acids in proportions that humans need, including lysine which other grains tend to lack. Additionally, it’s a good source of minerals such as iron, magnesium and zinc, plus it offers some calcium and potassium. In South America, amaranth is popped like miniature popcorn. “Most kids love pasta, and amaranth can be used as a substitute for couscous or orzo,” said Nancy Z. Farrell, MS, RDN, who is a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. “Use amaranth flour to make tasty baked products like zucchini bread, carrot cake or blueberry muffins and pancakes.”

Barley

Barley is a fiber powerhouse. Hulled barley has more fiber-rich bran than pearled barley, “but both contain beta-glucan soluble fiber that slows the absorption of glucose, and helps to keep blood sugar levels stable, thus providing sustained energy throughout the day,” says Farrell. Barley also contains selenium, a powerful antioxidant. Barley is great added to soups or used to make a pilaf. It can even be made into a hot breakfast cereal. Hulled barley will take more time to cook than pearled barley, about 50 to 60 minutes.

Oats

Oats also contain beta-glucan fiber which can lower cholesterol and help strengthen the immune system. Oats boast polyphenol compounds that have antioxidant and anti-itch properties. Besides the age-old favorite oatmeal for breakfast, oats can be added as a binder to meatloaf and burgers. Oats also work well in baked goods including oatmeal cookies, as a crunchy topping to crisps and crumbles, and even in casserole dishes.

Quinoa

Like amaranth, quinoa contains all nine essential amino acids and is gluten-free. Moreover, quinoa is an excellent source of magnesium and a good source of zinc, iron and folate. “Quinoa is easy to make,” said Farrell. “While not required, toasting quinoa before boiling it in liquid enhances flavor, as does cooking it in vegetable or chicken broth.” Quinoa can be made in a rice cooker, as well. Before cooking, use a fine mesh strainer to rinse the quinoa and remove the outer coating, called saponin, which can give the quinoa a bitter taste. Quinoa is fun for kids because it pops in the mouth when chewed and comes in several colors: beige, red, black and even purple. Mix quinoa with beans or nuts for a tasty side dish, or add to salads and stir-fries.

Teff

Of these five grains, gluten-free teff is highest in calcium and protein. Teff also is a rich source of fiber, iron and thiamin. Teff grains are tiny and have a mild nutty flavor. It’s an indispensable grain in Ethiopia where it’s used to make the traditional flat bread, injera, and it’s grown in the United States in Idaho. Cook the grain into a creamy hot cereal or a tasty polenta. You can also mix teff with veggies for a side dish.

Adapted from: Andrea Giancoli, MPH, RD

Nutrition Tip of the Day

Keep tomatoes on the counter, out of direct sunlight, so they stay fresh and flavourful.

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Preschoolers benefit from peanut allergy therapy

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Peanuts are one of the most common causes of food allergies. Allergic reactions to peanuts can be mild, but they may also be severe and lead to a life-threatening allergic reaction called anaphylaxis. Peanut allergy usually starts in early childhood and lasts a lifetime. Avoiding exposure is the best way to prevent an allergic reaction. However, steering clear of peanuts is difficult, since it can be in foods you may not suspect.

Recent studies have shown that an experimental treatment called oral immunotherapy can reduce allergies to some foods, including peanuts. A team of researchers led by Dr. Wesley Burks at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill tested the approach as an early intervention in preschool-age children newly diagnosed with peanut allergy. The work was partly supported by the National Institute of Health’s (NIH) National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) and National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences (NCATS). Results were published online in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology on August 10, 2016.

The team enrolled 40 young children (9 to 36 months old) newly diagnosed with peanut allergy. The treatment involved eating small, gradually increasing amounts of peanut protein each day. Participants were randomly assigned to either a high-dose (target daily dose of 3,000 milligrams peanut protein) or a low-dose regimen (target dose of 300 milligrams). Data from a group of 154 peanut-allergic children who had received standard care and avoided peanuts were used as a control.

Nearly all treated participants experienced some side effects, such as abdominal pain. These were generally mild and required little or no treatment. Three people withdrew from the study because of adverse effects. Two others withdrew for other reasons.

After receiving treatment for 29 months on average, participants ate a peanut-free diet for 4 weeks and then were evaluated for their ability to eat 5 grams of peanut protein. Almost 80% of treated participants had no allergic response. There was no significant difference between the low-dose and high-dose arms. In comparison, only 4% of the control group successfully introduced peanuts into their diet. These results are substantially better than those in older children who had a longer duration of peanut allergy.

“This study provides critical evidence supporting the safety and effectiveness of peanut oral immunotherapy in treating young children newly diagnosed with peanut allergy,” says NIAID food allergy expert Dr. Marshall Plaut. Researchers continue to monitor the participants to assess how long the treatment effects may last. Scientists note that this experimental therapy is still being tested in clinical trials and should be given only under medical supervision. Consult with a doctor before giving peanut products to an allergy-prone child.

Vickery BP, Berglund JP, Burk CM, Fine JP, Kim EH, Kim JI, Keet CA, Kulis M, Orgel KG, Guo R, Steele PH, Virkud YV, Ye P, Wright BL, Wood RA, Burks AW. J Allergy Clin Immunol. 2016 Aug 4. pii: S0091-6749(16)30531-0. doi: 10.1016/j.jaci.2016.05.027. [Epub ahead of print]. PMID: 27522159.

Nutrition Tip of the Day

Having trouble getting kids to eat vegetables? Try changing the shape. Grate carrots, make cucumber ribbons with a peeler, and cut peppers into stars using scissors. Give them creative names too — kids eat more power peas and X-ray vision carrots than plain ol’ peas and carrots.

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4 Infant Supplements to Ask Your Pediatrician About

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Starting your baby on solid foods is exciting — and messy! Most babies start with a very small amount of solids at around 4 to 6 months old, slowly increasing their portion size. Then, at around 9 to 11 months old, you may start noticing a dramatic drop in how much breast milk or formula your baby drinks as he or she starts getting more nutrition and calories from solid foods.

Because of their changing dietary needs over this transition, it is important that infants get the nutrition they need to grow and develop. For some children, this means filling nutritional gaps with carefully chosen supplements.

Iron

Babies are born with a store of iron that lasts them for about 4 to 6 months. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that full-term infants who are exclusively breast-fed be given an iron supplement starting at 4 months of age. Talk to your pediatrician to see if your infant needs an iron supplement. Children born premature or with a low birth weight may have reduced iron stores. If so, your pediatrician will probably recommend iron supplements until your baby’s first birthday. Formula is generally iron-fortified, which means formula-fed babies rarely need an iron supplement.

As infants begin to eat more solid food, serving them iron-rich foods such as iron-fortified cereal, meat or beans at least twice a day will help them meet their iron needs. But, if your baby is over 6 months old, is breast-fed and is not eating iron-rich foods, your pediatrician may recommend an iron supplement. To promote iron absorption from plant foods, combine iron-rich solid foods you serve to your child with vitamin C-rich foods in one meal. For example, pair a bean and rice puree or finger food meal with tomato sauce, fruit or a fruit puree.

Vitamin D

Vitamin D is important for healthy bones and prevention of chronic disease. Because low levels of vitamin D are so common, the American Academy of Pediatrics says all breast-fed infants — and formula-fed infants who drink less than 32 ounces of formula per day — should take a supplement. When starting solids, you can mix vitamin D drops in purees as well as add them to formula or water.

Fluoride

Before you determine if your baby needs fluoride, which is important for cavity prevention, you need to know levels of fluoride in your local water supply. Fluoride supplements are only available by prescription, so discuss this with your pediatrician.

Vitamin B12

Vitamin B12, which prevents anemia and supports healthy neurological function, is found in animal products such as meat, fish, eggs and dairy, and is not a concern for most children. However, if you plan to introduce only plant-based foods into your child’s diet, he or she may need a B12 supplement. Formula-fed vegan babies can get their vitamin B12 from a special fortified formula, most often soy-based. Vegan mothers who exclusively breast-feed should be sure to consume adequate vitamin B12 through fortified foods and supplements in order to provide ample B12 to her baby via breast milk.Vitamin B12 is typically included in most over-the-counter infant vitamin drops and many ready-to-eat cereals and milk substitutes.

Before giving your infant any supplements, always consult with your pediatrician. Not all infants automatically need supplements when starting solids. Make sure to introduce your baby to a variety of foods in order to develop his or her palate and meet nutritional needs.

Adapted from: Natalia Stasenko, MS, RD, CDN

Nutrition Tip of the Day

Put meat and poultry into containers on the bottom of the fridge so juices won’t drip and contaminate other foods. Split bigger packages and freeze in meal-size portions for easy defrosting.

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4 Strategies for Smarter Toddler Snacks

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Toddlers are notorious nibblers. Their small bellies mean they can’t eat a lot at one time, and their go-go-go nature means they don’t want to sit at the table too long. Snacking can help add needed nourishment into a toddler’s day — as long as it’s done right. Here are four strategies to be smarter about snacks.

Strategy 1: Snacking on the Go

Many parents carry an arsenal of munchies to dole out when they’re on the go. But too often, snacks are given to distract or occupy kids while running errands or on long drives, not because the kids actually need food. Grazing on the go also makes it hard for children to focus on their food and listen to their internal signals of hunger and fullness. Eating in the car can also be risky. If your child chokes, you may not be able to help right away.

Smarter Strategy: Carry one or two small and easy snacks — such as a banana or small container of whole-grain crackers — in case hunger strikes while you’re out. Try other distractions first (such as a book or small toy) when you need to buy time.

Strategy 2: Timing Is Everything

It’s frustrating when toddlers come to the table at mealtime and don’t want to eat. It’s true that their appetites tend to fluctuate day to day, but snacking also may be to blame. Snacks before mealtime can make kids less receptive to trying new foods at meals. Toddlers also may learn to prefer “snack foods” — such as pretzels and gummy fruit snacks — over “meal foods,” which can make things even tougher.

Smarter Strategy: Avoid snacks in the hour before meals. If your toddler’s hunger doesn’t seem to match up with your mealtimes, consider moving meals earlier or serving your child a portion of the meal, such as the veggies, while you finish prepping.

Strategy 3: Make Snacks Nutritious

Many snack foods that are marketed to kids are full of refined flour, added sugar and salt. Those foods are OK to eat occasionally, but they don’t provide the nutrients your child needs the most (such as calcium, iron and fiber) and they teach kids to associate “snack” with “treat.”

Smarter Strategy: During most snack times, serve the same kinds of foods you serve at mealtime, such as fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains including whole-wheat tortillas or bread as options, sources of protein such as hard-boiled eggs and hummus, and dairy foods such as yogurt and cheese.

Strategy 4: Establish a Snack Schedule

Letting kids nibble all day not only ruins mealtime appetites, but also can set up unhealthy habits. Like adults, kids can learn to snack out of boredom. Mindlessly munching also can lead to a pattern of overeating.

Smarter Strategy: Establish scheduled snack times. Most toddlers can go two hours between meals and snacks, so a mid-morning, mid-afternoon and evening snack may work well. Asking your toddler to wait may be tricky at first if munching on demand is the norm. By sticking to dependable meal and snack times, your child will feel reassured that there are plenty of opportunities to eat.

Adapted by: Sally Kuzemchak, MS, RD

Nutrition Tip of the Day

If You Have Excess Belly Fat, Get Rid of it! Not all body fat is equal. It is mostly the fat in your abdominal cavity, the belly fat, that causes problems. This fat builds up around the organs, and is strongly linked to metabolic disease. For this reason, your waist size may be a much stronger marker for your health than the number on the scale. Cutting carbs, eating more protein, and eating plenty of fiber are all excellent ways to get rid of belly fat.

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Happier Meals for Kids at the Drive-Thru

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You’ve got hungry kids in the car and you need food pronto, so you pull into the drive-thru at a fast food restaurant. We’ve all been there … but, hopefully, not too often. A 2013 study in JAMA Pediatrics found that teenagers and younger children who eat fast food consume more calories than at home. In addition to excess calories, a steady diet of fast food — heavy on fat, sugar and sodium and low in fiber, vitamins and minerals — may contribute to nutrient deficiencies.

Fast food meals for kids have gotten more nutritious, but these quick-serve food establishments remain a minefield of less-than-desirable choices. While parents don’t need to enforce a complete ban on fast food, make sure to choose the most nutrient-rich options in kid-appropriate portions.

Set Limits

The wafting smells of French fries or fresh doughnuts can play havoc on your resolve to order smart, so be clear about your rules for fast food before ordering. For example, let your kids know you want them to sip milk instead of soda or have a fruit or vegetable with their meal. Allow them to choose between apple slices or a salad, not between a salad and French fries.

Arm Yourself with Information

Many quick-serve establishments list nutritional content online, so take a few minutes to study the best choices at a variety of fast food joints before you hit the road. When you don’t have the time to check facts, avoid fried anything or any food smothered in cheese or other sauces, and keep these lighter choices in mind:

  • Salad with grilled chicken
  • Grilled chicken wrap or fresh turkey wrap
  • Plain, kid-sized hamburger
  • Low-fat yogurt
  • Apple slices
  • Bean burritos or tacos
  • Chili
  • Large fruit cups
  • Small roast beef sandwich
  • Fat-free or low-fat milk

Mind the Portions

Order appropriate child-size meals for youngsters and resist supersizing meals for older kids, unless two or more children are splitting it. It’s good to know that adults can order kid-sized meals, which often automatically come with fruit and low-fat milk and supply about half the calories of a meal you would order off the regular menu.

Rethink Your Drink

Younger children should drink milk or water most of the time. Teenagers, who may be able to eat more calories because they are active, may request regular soda or blended coffee beverages that are loaded with sugar and might displace more nutritious calories coming from milk or food. Instead, steer them toward the smallest size possible or have them split the smallest drink on the menu.

Plan to Avoid Fast Food

Planning for hunger can help you avoid the pull of the drive-thru. Keep tasty and nutritious foods in the car, including dried fruit, natural applesauce in single-serve containers and nuts. On longer trips, take a small cooler or refrigerator bag stocked with fresh fruit, string cheese, low-fat yogurt, milk boxes, whole-grain crackers, nut butters or hummus and fresh veggies to tide you over or to supplement a fast food meal.

Adapted from: Elizabeth M. Ward, MS, RD

Nutrition Tip of the Day

Don’t Eat a Lot of Refined Carbohydrates! Not all carbs are created equal. Refined carbs have been highly processed, and have had all the fiber removed from them. They are low in nutrients (empty calories), and can be extremely harmful. Studies show that refined carbohydrates are linked to overeating and numerous metabolic diseases.

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TV Ads and Posters Really Do Make Kids Eat Their Veggies

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Kids eat more vegetables when exposed to ad campaigns portraying them in a positive light, according to a study published online in Pediatrics. Researchers developed salad bar banners and television ads that portrayed vegetables as cartoon characters and placed them in elementary schools. Over 90 percent more students exposed to the banners chose options from the salad bar while over 200 percent more students exposed to both media techniques visited the salad bar, compared with students in schools that did nothing. These findings support previous research suggesting ads influence children’s school lunch choices, and researchers encourage food service operators to develop effective marketing campaigns to promote healthful eating habits.

Hanks AS, Just DR, Brumberg A. Marketing vegetables in elementary school cafeterias to increase uptake. Pediatrics. Published online July 5, 2016.

Tip of the Day

Eat Fatty Fish! Pretty much everyone agrees that fish is healthy. This is particularly true of fatty fish, such as salmon, which is loaded with omega-3 fatty acids and various other nutrients. Studies show that people who eat the most fish have a lower risk of all sorts of diseases, including heart disease, dementia and depression.

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End Mealtime Battles with One Question

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If you have picky eaters in your family, you already know the signs of when they dislike a meal: a blank stare, a turned-up nose, the plate pushed away. Instead of getting upset with their pickiness and falling into familiar mealtime battles, try a new tactic. Ask: “How can I make that better for you?” This question seems simple, but it can work like magic to open lines of communication between you and your children, and can give kids a feeling of control to make the meal more enjoyable. It also may take the pressure off you, since you won’t have to guess what they want — which changes frequently, anyway.

Phrasing is key. Instead of a negative question — such as, “Why don’t you like it?” — a positive question allows for constructive problem-solving and innovative solutions that you create as a team.

Make It Better

The first time you ask “How can I make that better for you?” your child may not know how to answer. That’s OK. Here are some common complaints and suggested solutions (note that nuts and seeds are choking hazards for children under 4):

  • “The food is too hot.”
    Put the plate in the fridge for a few minutes or add ice to hot soup.
  • “The food is too cold.”
    A quick zap in the microwave or a few minutes under the broiler will help.
  • “The food is plain.”
    Use “sprinkles” to add pizzazz to plates: flax seeds, sesame seeds, slivered almonds, fresh mint, shredded coconut, nutritional yeast, cinnamon, or shredded Parmesan or cheddar cheese.
  • “The food is boring.”
    Add a dip such hummus, guacamole, mild salsa or a yogurt-based tzatziki. A dollop of dip adds flavor and fun.
  • “The food is too crunchy.”
    Lightly steam vegetables or add a sauce or spread to crackers or toast.
  • “The food is too creamy.”
    Add texture to soup or yogurt with nuts, seeds, panko breadcrumbs, croutons, granola, diced vegetables or fruit
  • “The plate has [fill in the blank] on it, and I don’t like it.”
    Something as simple as a speck of green herbs or a bit of diced red pepper can be enough to ruin an entire dish for a child. Give your child permission to put the offending food to the side of the plate.

Be warned: The solution that works today may not work tomorrow. The answer to “How can I make that better for you?” will often change but it will always lead to some answer. Whether it’s a sprinkle of cheese or removing the “green stuff,” a simple question can save you from troublesome mealtimes and ensure everyone enjoys what they are eating.

Adapted from: Cara Rosenbloom, RD

Tip of the Day

Jot it down! Before making a grocery list, write down meals you want to make for the week. Shopping for the week means you’ll make fewer trips to the store and buy only the items you need.

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