6 Ways to Eliminate Trans Fats in Your Family’s Diet

By Vanessa Chrisman, clinical dietitian at CHOC Children’s

Trans fats, found in processed foods, are an inexpensive way to extend the shelf life of foods. While trans fats have been helpful for food manufacturers, they’re considered harmful for humans—which is why it’s so important to eliminate trans fats in your family’s diet. They are unnaturally produced through the process of hydrogenation, where hydrogen is added to liquid vegetable oil. This process converts the oil into a solid fat at room temperature.

Trans fats are most often found in fried foods, savory snacks, frozen pizzas, baked goods, margarines, ready-made frosting, and coffee creamers.

Consuming trans fats has been linked to increased levels of “bad” LDL cholesterol, lowered levels of “good” HDL cholesterol, and increased plaque in blood vessel walls. This increases the risk for developing heart disease. the leading cause of death for both men and women in the United States.

In 2015, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration determined that these partially hydrogenated oils are not safe for human consumption. Earlier this year, the FDA ban on trans fats began. The FDA has estimated that this ban on trans fats may prevent as many as 20,000 heart attacks and 7,000 coronary heart disease deaths in the U.S. annually. The World Health Organization has called for a worldwide ban of artificial trans fats by 2023.

While the ban on trans fats has already begun in the United States, manufacturers in some cases have been given an extension on the compliance date to 2020.

Below are some ways to avoid eating foods that contain trans fats:

  1. Eat more whole foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, lean meats, fish, nuts, and lean poultry. Shop the perimeter of the grocery store and avoid inner aisles where you’re more likely to find processed foods that may contain trans fats.
  2. Cut back on consumption of processed foods. Eat these foods less often and in smaller portions.
  3. Not all processed foods contain trans fats. When you do eat processed foods, avoid processed foods known to contain trans fats such as chips, cookies, donuts, icing, cakes, biscuits, microwave popcorn, crackers, fried fast foods and frozen pizzas.
  4. Read food labels and avoid foods with partially hydrogenated oil listed as an ingredient.
  5. Avoid stick margarine and vegetable shortening. Swap this for olive oil, grape seed oil, canola oil, soybean oil, corn oil, or sunflower oil when baking or preparing meals at home.
  6. Whether dining in or out, avoid fried foods. Choose foods that are baked, steamed, broiled, or grilled.

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Intermittent Fasting: Is it Safe for Kids?

By Leah Blalock, clinical dietitian at CHOC Children’s

Over the years you’ve heard different forms of fasting, including intermittent fasting, promoted for weight management and disease prevention, but do these techniques work and are they safe for children? Studies have shown that reducing typical calorie consumption, usually by 30-40 percent, extends the lifespan by a third or more in many animals. When it comes to calorie restriction in humans, however, the jury is still out. Even if calorie restriction does not help anyone live longer, a large portion of research has supported the idea that limiting food intake reduces the risk of diseases common in old age and lengthens the period of life spent in good health.

Intermittent fasting (IF) may be an alternative to traditional dieting for adults but has not been studied in children. However, research results on benefits of intermittent fasting has not been consistent. While some studies have shown potential benefit, others have shown no difference with regards to weight loss/weight maintenance, blood sugar control, and blood lipids.

Three methods of intermittent fasting

Research does suggest that the timing of the fast is key. There are three kinds of intermittent fasting, all of which involve splitting the day or week into eating and fasting periods. The 16/8 method or time splitting method, involves skipping breakfast and restricting daily eating period to 8 hours, (such as from 1 p.m. to 9 p.m.). Then there is then a 16 hour fast in between. The Eat-Stop-Eat or “alternate day” method involves fasting for 24 hours, once or twice a week. The 5:2 method allows 20-25 percent of estimated caloric needs on fasting days and unrestricted intake on non-fasting days.

How effective is intermittent fasting?

One trial which involved randomly assigning participants into alternate day fasting, caloric restriction, and control groups showed the alternate day fasting group had a high dropout rate. There was no significant difference in weight loss, blood pressure, heart rate, triglycerides, fasting glucose, fasting insulin, and insulin resistance between the fasting and restriction group. In addition, The LDL cholesterol (“bad” cholesterol) rose significantly in the fasting group compared to the restriction group.

A recent study involving adults with type 2 diabetes compared the 5:2 diet to caloric restriction and found that both interventions had similar improvements in hemoglobin A1C (a marker of blood sugar control), fasting glucose (blood sugar) levels, and lipid levels. The safety of intermittent fasting for a person with diabetes depends on their medications and risk for hypoglycemia.

Intermittent fasting does not appear to offer superior metabolic or short-term weight control advantages compared to caloric restriction. However, some people may find intermittent fasting easier to maintain. Those with a history of disordered eating should not attempt any sort of fasting diet. When restricting food, there is an increased release of dopamine in the brain when you do eat. This could increase the likelihood of a binge.

Recent studies continue to show that despite similar calorie intake, physical activity, and sleep, those who skipped breakfast more frequently had higher body mass than those who eat earlier. High caloric intake at breakfast instead of dinner has also been associated with improved weight loss/weight maintenance. Skipping breakfast for children is not recommended because they have already fasted overnight.

Research studies suggest that circadian rhythm fasting combined with a healthy diet and lifestyle can be an effective approach to weight loss. Research also supports adequate sleep as a tool for health (which consists of an overnight fast of 8-12 hours). Improving sleep quality and quantity may improve metabolic health. It is important to focus not just on what we eat, but also when we eat. Limiting food intake in the evening and at night may have beneficial effects on glucose control and energy balance.

Is intermittent fasting safe for kids?

There is not enough evidence in humans to recommend IF at this time. There have been no studies in children and, current studies in adults lack long-term intervention and follow up period.

Intermittent fasting is not recommended for those in periods of rapid growth, such as children and adolescents. IF is also not recommended for people with diabetes on medication, people with a history of eating disorders, and pregnant or breastfeeding women.

An intentional approach to eating is recommended for children and adolescents. Follow these tips for helping your child manage a healthy weight:

  • Use planned meals and snacks timed throughout the day to help manage hunger and achieve portion control.
  • Minimize or eliminate sugary beverages.
  • Consume nutrient dense foods including at least five servings of fruits and vegetables daily.
  • Cut back on processed and fast foods.
  • Mindful eating is also key to promoting a healthy relationship with food. Mindful eating is eating with intention and attention.
  • Take the time to eat at the table as a family.

Let’s not forget the importance of activity. Exercise is a vital component of any child’s development. It helps to reduce overweight and obesity, increases strength in muscles and can improve concentration at school. Limit screen time and encourage outside play. Families can exercise together to meet the recommended 60 minutes per day.

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Tips for Healthy Grocery Shopping

By Alyce Watanabe, Dietetic Technician, Registered at CHOC Children’s

Preparing a healthy meal can be next to impossible if you don’t have the right ingredients in your kitchen. Going to the grocery can feel like a burden if you are not prepared. However, with a little preparation, shopping for healthy foods can be a breeze and save you money in the long run.

Do some prep work before you get to the store to keep from having to go back for forgotten items and to help you focus on finding nutritious foods.

  1. Clip money-saving coupons from weekly ads or use coupon apps on your smartphone.
  2. Create your menu for the week and grocery list before going to the store. Stick to your list.
  3. Shop the store perimeter first. That is generally where fresh foods, such as fruits and vegetables, meat and fish, and dairy, are located. Processed foods that often contain added salt, sugar and fat are usually found in the center aisles.

Minimize distractions to make healthy choices.

  1. Try to avoid peak hours when stores are busy. Crowds and stress often cause people to make quick choices instead of taking the time to find the healthiest option.
  2. Avoid shopping when you are hungry. A growling stomach can make it tough to resist some of those tempting treats!
  3. Consider leaving young children at home if possible. A tired or hungry child may make it challenging to take the time to read labels. Often, less-healthy items with packaging that appeals to children are kept on shelves at their eye level, making it easy for them to grab and toss in your cart.

Take time to read labels. A quick glance can help you decide between similar items.

  1. Look for whole foods as much as possible. Choose whole fruit over juices to provide fiber and help you feel full for longer.
  2. Consider canned or frozen fruits and vegetables. They last longer than fresh items and because they are picked and canned or frozen at peak ripeness, they may contain more nutrients. Watch the sodium content of canned vegetables.
  3. Foods with fewer additives, in their more natural state, tend to be healthier. Many people look for foods with a maximum of five ingredients.
  4. Watch the portion size on the package. Sometimes foods are listed as two or more servings even when you would probably eat the entire package in one sitting.

Aim for variety and try something new! 

  1. Make trying new foods fun for your family by selecting a new or unfamiliar fruit or vegetable each week. Search online to learn about the food and find recipes.
  2. Substitute something for your usual routine. Consider using sweet potatoes instead of white potatoes for a new flavor and for extra fiber and vitamin A.
  3. Familiarize yourself with the USDA MyPlate guidelines to make sure you are getting foods from all food groups. While you are planning meals and shopping, think about the foods that will be on your plate.
The MyPlate model shows a great visual way to balance our food groups.

Some hints for a healthier table:

  • Balance Calories
  • Enjoy your food but watch portion sizes.
  • Foods to Increase
  • Make half your plate fruits and vegetables.
  • Choose 100 percent whole grains whenever possible.
  • Children under age 2 should receive whole milk because they need the fat for brain growth and development. However, children over age 2 and adults can switch to fat-free or low-fat milk.
  • Choose lean sources of protein such as lean meats, chicken, fish and beans.
  • Foods to Reduce
  • Compare labels for processed foods such as canned soups and frozen meals. Choose those with lower amounts of sodium (salt).
  • Drink water instead of sugary drinks.

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Related posts:

  • 6 Ways to Eliminate Trans Fats in Your Family’s Diet
    Trans fats, found in processed foods, are an inexpensive extend the shelf life of foods. While trans fats have been helpful for food manufacturers, they’re considered harmful for humans—which is ...
  • Intermittent Fasting: Is it Safe for Kids?
    Over the years you’ve heard different forms of fasting, including intermittent fasting, promoted for weight management and disease prevention, but do these techniques work and are they safe for children? ...
  • Breastfeeding: A Foundation for Life
    A lactaction consultant discusses the benefits of breastfeeding, including preventing disease and other lifelong benefits.

Breastfeeding: A Foundation for Life

By Alana Salcido, registered nurse and lactation consultant at CHOC Children’s

If you were to ask me back in nursing school what kind of nurse I wanted to be, I guarantee I never would have said I wanted to become a lactation consultant. I honestly didn’t even know this was a specialty at that time. Helping other moms succeed with breastfeeding is my way of giving back and my way of changing the world, one couple at a time.

World Breastfeeding Week 2018

Today kicks off World Breastfeeding Week, an annual observance to bring awareness to the importance of human milk and to offer education and encouragement to mothers, health care providers, and the community.

Breast milk is constantly changing

A mother’s milk is constantly changing. Her milk will actually change from feeding to feeding, day to day, month to month as her baby grows. For example, the first milk, known as colostrum, is rich in components that prevent and protect the newborn from common and potentially serious infections. Breastfeeding not only provides exceptional nutrition but it also promotes lifelong health benefits.

Benefits of breastfeeding: preventing disease

Breastfeeding is the most economical solution to the biggest threat against children’s health worldwide: malnutrition and preventable diseases. In developing countries, human milk can mean the difference between life or death in children under five because a mother’s milk provides necessary nourishment for babies.

Breast milk-fed infants have significantly lower rates of illness—even in industrialized countries. The longer a mother breastfeeds, the more infection fighting antibodies are passed to her infant through her milk. Just as the womb protected and nourished the developing child during pregnancy, the body was preparing to protect and nourish her baby after birth by stimulating milk production as early as 12-14 weeks gestation.

Lifelong benefits of breastfeeding

Research has shown that babies who receive breast milk have a lower risk of hypertension, type 1 and type 2 diabetes, allergies, cancer, asthma, intestinal and respiratory infections, and obesity both during childhood and adulthood. Health benefits occur not only for the baby, but for the mother as well. Breastfeeding helps reduce the maternal risks of diseases such as hypertension, type II diabetes, high cholesterol, osteoporosis, breast cancer, and even Alzheimer’s Disease. Research has shown that the health benefits, for both mom and baby, are dose dependent. This means that the longer a woman breastfeeds the greater the health benefits she and her baby receive. Because of this, the WHO (World Health Organization) recommends breast milk in a child’s diet for the first two years of life (with the addition of appropriate complimentary solid foods beginning at 6 months of age).

Lactation consultants can help mothers provide the benefits of breastfeeding

Some mothers who wish to breastfeed their babies face challenges. Statistically, 75 percent of moms in the U.S. start out breastfeeding. By the time babies are six months old, only 44 percent are breastfed.

CHOC Children’s has a team of registered nurses who are international board-certified lactation consultants. We work closely with medical teams to provide support to mothers who need assistance in producing lifesaving breast milk for children. We can also help them achieve their lactation goals which may be different for each mother and could include pumping milk for the first six months, or it might be to exclusively breastfeed until the baby is a year old. We want every child at CHOC to receive optimal nutrition. For the newborn, infant and young child, we support breastfeeding and breast milk use. We firmly believe it when we tell our families that breast milk Is medicine.

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Answers to Parents’ Most Common Questions on Healthy Eating for Kids

By Vanessa Chrisman, clinical dietitian at CHOC Children’s

Healthy eating for kids is an essential part of their overall healthy lives. For children, it’s especially important because their growth and development depends on it. Parents play a large role in providing a healthy diet for their children, as well as establishing lifelong habits when it comes to food. In today’s world of fad diets and conflicting headlines about nutrition and health, it can be confusing for parents to navigate how to feed their children appropriately. Here are some of the most common nutrition questions I get from the parents of my patients.

My child wants to eat the same food every single day. Is this okay? How do I handle this?

Typically, toddlers are the ones who go on food jags – wanting to eat the same food at every meal, day in and day out. It often is a show of independence. This can happen with older children too. While it’s okay to eat the same healthy food every day, it’s the parents’ job to choose what foods to offer at meals. As an example, maybe your child wants cereal at every meal. Rather than provide this, offer other healthy foods and tell your child that she can have cereal for breakfast the next day. Your child then gets to choose whether she eats what is offered at that meal. If she doesn’t, don’t worry. Simply be patient and wait until the next snack time to offer more food. When your child becomes hungry, she will most likely eat what is offered.

My child is a picky eater. How can I convince him to eat more fruits and vegetables?

Start by serving a fruit and a vegetable with every meal. Serve the foods that he already accepts and eats. Introduce one new fruit or vegetable at a time. Make new foods more appealing by cutting them into fun shapes and sizes. Vegetables can be spiralized to look like pasta. Fruits can be cut into stars or dinosaurs with cookie cutters. Set a good example by eating fruits and vegetables regularly as a family. As parents, you are powerful role models for your children who are always watching and listening. Let your child help pick out fruits and vegetables in the grocery store as well as wash them at home. Fruits can be added to smoothies and yogurt and cereal. Vegetables can be cooked into spaghetti sauce or added to stir-fried rice or soups. Sometimes children will want to try new fruits and vegetables if you serve them with a favorite dip or sauce. Consistently serve fruits and vegetables at your meals and be patient. Limit grazing between meals to build hunger and avoid preparing a special meal for your picky eater. Eventually your child will come around and try some of these new foods. Praise the behaviors you want to encourage and give less attention to the pickiness or refusal to try new foods.

I don’t think that my toddler eats enough protein. How much is enough?

Many parents worry that their toddler is not getting enough protein in their diet. The truth is that it is quite easy for a toddler to meet his protein needs. Toddlers ages 1 to 3 need 1.2 grams of protein for every kg of body weight. This means that a healthy 2-year-old boy who weighs 27 pounds (or 12 kg) needs about 14-15 grams of protein per day. His protein needs could be met simply by: drinking eight ounces of one percent milk (eight grams protein) and eating two tablespoons of ground turkey or one large egg (seven grams of protein) in a day. If he drinks sixteen ounces of milk, his daily protein intake increases to 23 grams of protein, which is 150 percent of what he needs. Unless a toddler is eating a very restrictive diet, it’s rare for him to consume a diet low in protein.

My child loves to drink juice and soda but barely drinks any water. How can I get her to drink more water?

This is a challenge that many parents face. The first step is to cut back on the amount of juice or soda that is offered and consumed. Ideally, cut out soda and dilute juice with water. Limit juice to eight ounces or less per day. Provide your child with their own special bottle or cup. Consider using a special straw that they can pick out for themselves. Infuse the water by adding sliced lemons, limes, cucumber, berries, or mint to make a “spa water.” Keep water cold in the fridge. Try using frozen berries instead of ice cubes. Be a role model and carry a water bottle around for yourself. Offer stickers as an incentive for every time your young child drinks a cup of water. On a typical day, kids up to age 8 should drink the number of 8 oz. cups of water equal to their age. For example, a five-year-old should drink five 8-oz. glasses of water every day.

My child is underweight so I let her snack all day long. This will help her gain weight faster, right?

While some parents assume that their child will gain more weight if they are eating all day long, this is not often the case. For underweight children, there can be a tendency for parents to offer food to the child all day long, as well as allow them to ask for food whenever they want it. This does not allow for natural hunger or appetite to build. Instead, the child grazes on food throughout the day, often eating enough to tame hunger but not enough to truly feel full. The best approach is to follow a feeding schedule with planned meals and snacks every two to three hours. Only water should be consumed in between eating times. This helps build hunger. To help with weight gain, added fats and high calorie foods can be offered or used with meals. Sometimes an oral supplement is needed as well if the child is unable to consume enough food to fuel healthy weight gain. Speak with your child’s pediatrician and a registered dietitian for more individualized advice.

My child says he isn’t hungry in the morning and refuses to eat breakfast. How do I get him to eat?

This is a common challenge for many parents. Often, their child isn’t hungry or doesn’t have enough time to eat before heading off to school. To minimize the morning rush and make time for a healthy breakfast, prepare the night before. Close the kitchen by 8:00 p.m. to prevent unneeded late-night snacking. Make sure that your child goes to bed on time so that it’s easier for him to wake up in the morning. Have quick, healthy options on hand like low-sugar cereals with low-fat milk, fresh fruit and string cheese, whole grain muffins, or whole grain toast with peanut or almond butter. Consider offering non-breakfast foods as another way of enticing your child to eat. For those who don’t want to eat, sometimes drinking a fruit and yogurt smoothie works instead. For teens who skip breakfast in the hopes of losing weight, let them know that people who skip breakfast tend to gain weight, not lose. If all else fails, send your child with a healthy snack to be eaten at school.

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