Posts tagged ‘added sugar’

February 8, 2017

On Track For February

Let’s see if your eating plan is on track for February. If you made a resolution to eat healthier this year, are you on track? If you’re not sure, take a look at our January posts. We’ve been getting to know our food so that we can make a reasonable plan and stick to it. So far, we’ve covered the most commonly consumed breakfast foods.

Now it’s time to talk about the basics for lunch, dinner, and snacks. Before we get into specifics, it’s probably worth noting that some people need more protein and fewer carbs; some people need more carbs and less protein; some people need a perfect balance of protein and carbs. You may already know what works to keep you feeling your best. If not, keep a food journal for a few weeks and note how you feel each day. This can help you decide what your optimum combination should be.
Keep it fresh!

Fresh food prepared in interesting combinations is a great start for any meal. You don’t have to choose organic or grow it yourself. Just buy raw vegetables, fruit, meat, poultry, and fish at your local grocery store and prepare them at home.

Starting fresh has several advantages. Fresh food tastes better! If you’ve ever eaten a perfectly ripened fresh peach at a roadside stand, you know I’m steering you straight. With fresh food that you prepare, there’s no need to look for hidden ingredients or allergens. Fresh food retains its nutrients without sodium and other preservatives. Because you’re getting fresh flavor and full nutrients, there’s no need for chemical additives.

If you’re concerned that starting fresh will take too long, look around the produce section of your local store. These days you can buy fresh and still avoid much of the prep. Many stores offer broccoli, cauliflower, green beans, peppers, onions, spinach, kale, celery, squash, and carrots that have been cleaned and and/or chopped. You can also find pineapple, honeydew, or cantaloupe that has been sliced or cubed for your convenience.

It rarely takes more than 20 minutes to bake fresh fish so it’s always a good choice when you’re in a time crunch. Steak, pork chops, and chicken breasts are also quick and easy. Larger cuts of meat like beef or pork roasts can be made in advance and eaten over several meals.

Recent research from Vanderbilt University shows that most of us believe healthy food means more expensive food. The research also seemed to assume we would choose packaged convenience foods rather than fresh food.

If you think you can’t afford fresh food, be sure to look closely at the shelves in your store. The produce section of the largest local grocery chain where I live has a $1 rack in each store. Whatever has been grouped in a net bag and placed on the rack is $1. I recently bought a bag filled with 3 orange bell peppers. They were still fresh looking a week later and they were 33¢ each.

I check this rack on each shopping trip. I’ve bought eggplant, potatoes, apples, summer squash and bananas there. It’s not unusual to find other fresh produce marked down. I always check for manager’s specials. There are manager’s specials in the meat department as well.

veggie sticks
Keep it simple!

Instead of breading, frying, or creating casseroles, keep it simple. Steam, sauté, boil, or oven roast vegetables that are better cooked than raw. Bake, broil, or grill meat, poultry, and fish. Eat raw or dried fruit (no sugar added). Serve dry beans, lentils, rice, or quinoa in place of dinner rolls. Eat raw nuts, plain Greek yogurt, fruit, veggie sticks, hummus, and guacamole as snacks.

Of course it’s okay to add some cheese, butter, or sour cream to a dish. It’s okay to serve pasta with a sauce or make enchiladas with tortillas, cheese and sauce. Just let the vegetables or meat be the star most of the time. This will accomplish two things. It will make prep time faster, and you’ll end up with a higher proportion of vegetables and protein to creamy, cheesy sauces more often than not.

Keep it delicious!

I love tasty food, so please don’t think I’m recommending a bland diet with no personality and no treats! I just know that homemade cookies taste better than those from a package and fresh food eliminates many worries. When you salt your food, you don’t have to worry about hidden sodium. When you use olive oil, you don’t have to worry about trans fats. When you season your chili with salt, pepper, garlic, chili powder, and cumin you don’t have to read a label to see if the seasoning is gluten-free.
green beans
Keep it real!

Let me repeat. If a health plan isn’t sustainable, it won’t work. Rather than adopting drastic changes, find some small ones that you can make consistently. If that means eliminating soft drinks, that’s a great start. If that means having a salad with your burger instead of fries, that’s great! If that means eating eggs for breakfast rather than boxed cereal, that’s good too. If that means cooking in advance and freezing your entrees, get that freezer ready.

Everything you do to create a lifestyle that will support the healthy changes you want to make is a step in the right direction. Change is always made one step at a time. Change is sustained through a supportive lifestyle structure.

With knowledge and a willingness to experiment, you can find a healthy balance that’s right for you. Next week, we’ll explore specific lunch and dinner options.

January 24, 2017

Get to Know Breakfast for Kids

Before we leave the subject of breakfast, let’s get to know breakfast for kids. We’ve covered many popular breakfast foods for older children, but what about babies and toddlers? I’m thinking about this because we’re introducing foods to my 6-month-old grandson DJ. He stays with me 2 days per week, which means I am participating in this process.

DJMy daughter-in-law naturally compares notes with friends and co-workers who have babies about the same age. She reports that most of them buy baby food. Some start by introducing rice cereal, others begin with oatmeal. Some mix in bananas immediately. Others feed one food at a time. Most of her friends choose an organic baby food brand. Her family advises that she should add rice cereal to bottles, and begin introducing fruit juice. Sometimes she just stares into space when we talk about it. As a first time mother, it’s easy to be overwhelmed by all the advice and differing opinions.

DJ’s pediatrician says, “Asking me when it’s okay to start giving him juice is like asking me when it’s okay to start giving him Oreos.” He doesn’t think a baby needs all the sugar in fruit juice. He also says that as DJ gets older, we can use a little prune juice for constipation, but to buy the adult version and dilute it with water rather than pay more for baby juice.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends only breast milk for the first 6 months and continuing to breastfeed until 12 months – even after the addition of solid foods. The AAP owned website advises against adding cereal to bottles because it is a choking hazard. (Exceptions are sometimes made for babies with reflux.) Babies need to be able to sit in a feeding chair or seat with good head control before introducing solids.

In the site’s guide to starting solid foods, there is no recommendation for introducing any certain food first. It is suggested that you introduce one food at a time for a period of several days before introducing another food. With each new food, watch for signs of an allergic reaction like diarrhea, rash, or vomiting. In a few months, your baby should eat a daily variety of meats, vegetables, fruits, eggs, and fish along with breast milk. A new recommendation is to expose your child to peanuts within the first year.

What about cereals?

It is traditional to introduce cereals before vegetables and fruit. Most baby cereals are made from rice, oats, or barley. There is no reason to begin with cereals and several reasons not to. Amylase, the enzyme need to break down and digest complex grains is not present in babies’ salivary glands until they have molars. Digesting grains takes more energy for an immature digestive systems and food intolerance can result from introducing foods for which the gut isn’t prepared.
There are also concerns about the arsenic levels in rice.

In a family with a history of celiac disease, if a child becomes sick, tired, and grumpy after the introduction of wheat, rye, barley, or oats, it may be best to discontinue those foods. If the child then feels better, remove those foods from his diet. Removing wheat, rye, barley, and oats will allow your child to feel good while you take some time to consult a doctor who has expertise in gluten intolerance and celiac disease. That still leaves rice, quinoa, millet, and certified gluten-free oats as cereal options.

Okay, I’ve introduced my baby to a variety of solid foods, what should she eat for breakfast?

If your baby is less than a year old, one or two simple foods followed by breast milk will suffice. A combination of protein and carbohydrates from fruit will give him a good start for the day. Eggs, applesauce, and bananas are good choices.

Toddlers can also benefit from protein, carbohydrates from fruit and a small amount of carbohydrates from whole grains. They will enjoy eggs, plain whole milk yogurt, fruit, and unsweetened warm cereals made from rice and oats. Once your child is over a year old, you can offer a small glass of whole milk along with breakfast.

What about fruit juice or cold cereal?

As we saw a couple of weeks ago when we compared the nutrition value in store bought orange juice to that of an orange, the orange is superior in providing vitamin C and fiber in fewer calories. As DJ’s pediatrician notes, there’s no need for a child to drink juice. Providing your child fresh fruit is a better option.

If you feel strongly about offering juice, your child will get the most nutritional benefit if you make it yourself from fresh fruits or vegetables just before serving and do not use sweetener. In fact, there’s nothing wrong with feeding your baby fresh fruits and vegetables from the very beginning. With the help of a baby food grinder or processor, you can create your own baby food in a matter of minutes from the options you cook for the rest of your family.

Bananas can be mashed with a fork and diluted with breast milk. Steamed broccoli pureed in a food processor with a little added water is one of DJ’s favorites. He also likes acorn squash, avocado, sweet potato, and applesauce. We’re about to introduce peas followed by butternut squash, then potatoes. So far, we haven’t felt a need to buy baby food. We will avoid preparing spinach, beets, green beans, collard greens, and carrots for him until he’s a little older because of a concern about the nitrate content.

Boxed breakfast cereal is highly processed and high in carbohydrates from grains. Many brands and flavors are also high in carbohydrates from added sugars. None of us has a nutritional need for added sugar. If you are going to choose a boxed cereal, be sure to read the nutrition label. The best choices will contain whole grain, no added sugar, minimal sodium, no gums, minimal starches, and no artificial ingredients.

Can’t I just give the kids some toast & jelly?

Whole grain toast can be a good option as long as it’s not topped with something sugary. Starting the day with a meal high in sugar and carbs and low in protein can lead to sudden fatigue mid-morning.

Other breakfast choices that are high in added sugar include pancake syrup, chocolate hazelnut spread, jelly, doughnuts, cinnamon rolls, toaster pastries or strudel, chocolate milk, and some muffins.

It’s okay to think outside the box.

Although it’s traditional to eat bacon or sausage in the morning, there’s nothing wrong with beef, chicken or fish for breakfast. Your child doesn’t have the same sense of tradition that you do and may like those just fine. Vegetables are another good option.

We all want to give our children the best start on the day that we can, and the best way to know what’s in your child’s food is to prepare it from fresh ingredients. Keep it simple with eggs and fruit or leftover chicken and vegetables and you’ll still be out the door in no time.

For more information regarding gluten intolerance and celiac disease from an allergist, pediatrician and gastroenterologist, visit