5 Ways to Reduce Intake of Food Additives

By Jessica Brown, registered dietitian at CHOC

When buying packaged products, it’s important to limit our consumption of common food additives. Direct food additives are natural or synthetic substances added to foods during processing to help enhance flavor, texture, appearance or nutrition, or to extend shelf-life.

Well-known additives include high fructose corn syrup, a sweetener; sodium nitrates, a preservative; and monosodium glutamate or MSG, a flavor enhancer. However, there are nearly 4,000 direct food additives registered on the Food and Drug Administration database.

Food additives to look out for include:

Humectants and Anticaking Agents

  • What they do: Stabilize foods through moisture control to maintain texture, reduce microbial activity, and prevent clumping.
  • Commonly added to: grated cheese, marshmallows, baked goods, baking powder, flour and cake mixes.
  • Examples include: Sugar and salt are commonly used humectants. However, most anticaking agents are made from synthetic substances such as silicon dioxide and aluminosilicates.

Emulsifiers

  • What they do: Prevent separation, provide a smooth texture, and extend shelf-life.
  • Commonly added to: mayonnaise, salad dressings, peanut butter, chocolate, and ice-cream.
  • Examples include: Egg lecithin, monoglycerides and diglycerides (naturally present in seed oils), guar gum, and carrageenan. Synthetic forms include carboxymethyl cellulose and polysorbate 80.

Stabilizers, Thickeners, and Gelling Agents

  • What they do: Provide a consistent texture and mouth-feel.
  • Commonly added to: jams, yogurts, soups, sauces and dressings.
  • Examples include: Cornstarch, pectin, and lecithin. Although synthetic versions exist such as carboxymethyl cellulose and methyl cellulose.

Color Additives

  • What they do: Enhance the natural colors in a food, compensate for color variation in foods, or add color to an otherwise colorless food.
  • Commonly added to: candies, breakfast cereal, beverages, and snack foods.
  • Examples include: Synthetic colors such as Yellow No. 5 and Blue No. 1. Plant, animal or mineral colorants are also added to foods such as grape skin extract, annatto, beta-carotene, or cochineal extract.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recently published a policy regarding the emerging child health concerns related to the direct and indirect food additives.

5 tips to reduce your family’s intake of food additives

Read ingredient labels

  • Compare products while at the grocery store. Many manufactures are making comparable products with less food additives.
  • Identify hidden sources of food additives such as silicon dioxide in spices or polysorbate 80 in dairy products.

Decrease intake of processed foods

  • Choose fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts and seeds, and animal products with minimal processing.
  • Make dishes from scratch when feasible to control which ingredients are incorporated into your food.

Eat locally

Farmers markets or CSA (community supported agriculture) deliveries are a wonderful way to reduce food additives not only by choosing fresh fruits and vegetables, but in local canned and bottled products too.

Make simple swaps

  • Make air-popped popcorn in place of microwaved popcorn
  • Swap blocked cheese for shredded cheese
  • Choose butter instead of margarine
  • Use maple syrup or honey in place of pancake syrup
  • Incorporate fresh herbs and spices instead of marinades and sauces
  • Choose plain chips and crackers more often than flavored options
  • Swap plain yogurt for flavored varieties and add your own toppings

Get creative in the kitchen

  • Make your own salad dressing, dips, or taco seasoning
  • Use fresh citrus or herbs to flavor sparkling water
  • Use natural ingredients to decorate your cookies this holiday season. Use beet juice or powder for red icing, and wheatgrass juice or matcha powder for green icing

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration offers additional information on food additives.

Healthy Eating Tips for the School Year

It’s time to head back to school, and with that comes a fresh opportunity to establish new habits with children and teens. As your family falls into a routine around the school day, be sure to incorporate healthy eating into the mix to ensure everyone has a strong year.

Tips for School-Age Children (Ages 6-12)

School-age children need healthy foods and nutritious snacks to fuel their busy bodies. They have a consistent but slow rate of growth, requiring them to eat four to five times a day (including snacks). Eating healthy after-school snacks is important, as these snacks may contribute up to one-third of the total calorie intake for the day. Remember that school-age children may also be eating more foods outside of the home.

Many food habits, likes and dislikes are established during this time. This makes it a perfect time to experiment with new foods, as school-age children are often willing to eat a wider variety of foods than their younger siblings.

Follow these seven tips to ensure good nutrition habits for school-age children:

  1. Always serve breakfast, even if it has to be “on the run.” Some ideas for a quick, healthy breakfast include fruit, milk, bagel, cheese toast, cereal, peanut butter sandwich and fruit smoothies.
  2. Take advantage of big appetites after school by serving healthy snacks, such as fruit, vegetables and dip, yogurt, turkey or chicken sandwich, cheese and crackers, or milk and cereal.
  3. Make healthy foods easily accessible.
  4. Allow children to help with meal planning and preparation.
  5. Serve meals at the table, instead of in front of the television, to avoid distractions.
  6. Fill half of the plate with colorful fruits and vegetables.
  7. Provide calorie-free beverages (water) throughout the day, to avoid filling up on non-nutritive calories.

healthy eating tips

 Tips for Adolescents and Teens (Age 13 and Up)

During adolescence, children become more independent and make many food decisions on their own. Many adolescents experience a growth spurt and an increase in appetite, and they need healthy foods to meet their growth needs. Adolescents tend to eat more meals away from home than younger children. They are also heavily influenced by their peers.

Discuss these nine healthy eating tips with your adolescent to ensure he or she is following a healthy eating plan:

  1. Have several nutritious snack foods readily available. Oftentimes, teenagers will eat whatever is convenient.
  2. If there are foods that you do not want your teens to eat, avoid bringing them into the home.
  3. Drink water. Try to avoid drinks that are high in sugar. Fruit juice can have a lot of calories, so limit your adolescent’s intake. Whole fruit is always a better choice.
  4. When cooking for your adolescent, try to bake or broil instead of fry.
  5. Make sure your adolescent watches (and decreases, if necessary) his or her sugar intake.
  6. Eat more chicken and fish. Limit red meat intake, and choose lean cuts when possible.
  7. Arrange for teens to find out about nutrition for themselves by providing teen-oriented magazines or books with food articles and by encouraging them and supporting their interest in health, cooking or nutrition.
  8. Take their suggestions, when possible, regarding foods to prepare at home.
  9. Experiment with foods outside your own culture.

Get more tips for establishing healthy eating habits with kids.

Related posts:

  • 5 Ways to Reduce Intake of Food Additives
    What exactly are food additives anyway, and how can you help your family avoid them? A CHOC registered dietitian explains.
  • Overcoming the Struggles of Picky Eating
    Picky eating is very normal for children, particularly in toddlers who have a natural fear of new foods. In fact, research shows that most kids get appropriate nutrition regardless of ...
  • Warning Signs of Eating Disorders
    Parents encourage their children to develop healthy eating habits, but extreme changes in a child’s behavior or attitude towards food could be a warning sign of an eating disorder. In this ...

Overcoming the Struggles of Picky Eating

Picky eating is very normal for children, particularly in toddlers who have a natural fear of new foods. In fact, research shows that most kids get appropriate nutrition regardless of their eating habits. But that may not ease the minds of parents who struggle daily with a picky eater or who worry their child isn’t getting the right nutrition.

In this episode of CHOC Radio, clinical dietitian Jessica Brown and social worker Leigh Volker explain:

  • When picky eating is normal and when it is cause for concern
  • How parents can make sure their children are meeting their nutritional needs
  • Techniques for getting kids to try new foods
  • How to make meal times less of a struggle
  • Ways to overcome eating problems that remain after a related medical condition is resolved.

Related articles:

  • 5 Ways to Reduce Intake of Food Additives
    What exactly are food additives anyway, and how can you help your family avoid them? A CHOC registered dietitian explains.
  • Healthy Eating Tips for the School Year
    It’s time to head back to school, and with that comes a fresh opportunity to establish new habits with children and teens. As your family falls into a routine around ...
  • Warning Signs of Eating Disorders
    Parents encourage their children to develop healthy eating habits, but extreme changes in a child’s behavior or attitude towards food could be a warning sign of an eating disorder. In this ...

Warning Signs of Eating Disorders

Parents encourage their children to develop healthy eating habits, but extreme changes in a child’s behavior or attitude towards food could be a warning sign of an eating disorder.

In this episode of CHOC Radio, Dr. Wayne Nguyen, director of psychiatry at CHOC, and Dr. Alexandra Roche, a pediatrician in CHOC’s Eating Disorder Clinic, discuss:

  • Warning signs of eating disorders
  • What to do if you suspect a family member or friend has an eating disorder
  • How the CHOC multidisciplinary team approach to treating eating disorders benefits CHOC patients and their families
  • How CHOC’s Mental Health Initiative will further support adolescents who are struggling with an eating disorder

Hear more from Dr. Nguyen and Dr. Roche in this podcast.

If you have concerns regarding your child’s eating habits and/or weight, talk to your pediatrician. Ask about the possibility of an eating disorder, and request a referral to a psychologist. CHOC partners with a number of organizations to make sure all our patients’ and families’ needs are met.

CHOC Radio theme music by Pat Jacobs.

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Potatoes: A Winter Comfort Food

By Janelle Sanchez, RD, clinical dietitian at CHOC

Whether they are mashed, roasted, baked, or served as pancakes, hash browns, or scalloped, potatoes are a delicious comfort food perfect for this winter season! Today the potato is produced in more than 100 countries and is the fourth largest food crop worldwide, following wheat, corn, and rice.

With more than 4,000 potato varieties, the debate continues as to which is the best.

Russets are classically used for baking, french fries, hash browns, mashed potatoes, and potato pancakes because of their ability to hold together. Waxy potato varieties are best for making chowder, potato salad, and scalloped potatoes. Learn more about cooking with different varieties.

You may be asking, “Are potatoes healthy?” Of course they are! Let’s take a look at their composition:

  • Carbohydrates– Despite the common misconception that carbohydrates make you gain weight, we know a balanced diet without excessive intake of any food or food group is healthy. That being said, potatoes are primarily composed of carbohydrate, your body’s most important source of energy.
  • Potassium– Potatoes with skin are packed with potassium, an essential element your body needs. Diets high in potassium may reduce the risk of hypertension and stroke.
  • Vitamin C– This is important for healthy skin and gums, and may also help support the body’s immune system.
  • Vitamin B6 –Some of the functions in this extremely versatile vitamin include converting food into glucose to be used for energy, maintaining normal nerve function, and contributing to protein metabolism.
  • Antioxidants Substances like carotenoids and anthocyanins help prevent the damaging effects of oxidation on cells throughout your body. It is best to include an assortment of colors and kinds of potatoes in your diet, as the amount and types of antioxidants are dependent on the potato variety.
  • Calories vary depending on the potato variety. For example a large russet potato provides about 300 calories, versus a large sweet potato at 160 calories.

There are a few ways to create a health-conscious potato dish. Choose to bake instead of fry those sweet potato fries, french fries and tater tots. Brush potatoes with a little olive oil and seasonings or herbs to flavor instead of butter. When picking out toppings or additives, select low-fat or nonfat dairy products including cheese, sour cream, cream cheese.

Try these tasty recipes for a healthy way to incorporate potatoes into your family’s diet.

Out with the French Fries, in with the Oven Fries:

Ingredients:

  • 2 large Yukon Gold Potatoes, cut into wedges
  • 4 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil (just enough to lightly coat)
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon dried thyme

Preparation:

  1. Preheat oven to 450°F.
  2. Toss potato wedges with oil, salt and thyme (if using). Spread the wedges out on a rimmed baking sheet.
  3. Bake until browned and tender, turning once, about 20 minutes total.

Nutrition

Recipe makes servings. Per serving: 102 calories; 5 g fat (1 g sat, 4 g mono); 0 mg cholesterol; 13 g carbohydrates; 0 g added sugars; 2 g protein; 1 g fiber; 291 mg sodium; 405 mg potassium.

Source: www.eatingwell.com

Warm up with a bowl of Healthy Potato and Vegetable Soup:

Ingredients:

  •  1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 2 ounces pancetta, chopped
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 cups cubed peeled acorn squash
  • 2 cups diced peeled red potato
  • 1/2 cup chopped celery
  • 1/2 cup chopped carrot
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 (28-ounce) can whole tomatoes, drained and chopped
  • 2 (14 1/2-ounce) cans fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth
  • 4 cups chopped kale
  • 1 (15.5-ounce) can navy beans or other small white beans, rinsed and drained

Preparation:

Heat oil in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add pancetta; sauté 3 minutes. Add onion and garlic; sauté 3 minutes. Add squash and next 6 ingredients (squash through thyme), stirring to combine; cook 4 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Add tomatoes; cook 2 minutes. Stir in broth; bring to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer 8 minutes. Add kale; simmer 5 minutes. Add beans; simmer 4 minutes or until potato and kale are tender.

Nutrition:

Recipe makes 4 servings. Per serving: 349 calories; 10.4 g fat (3.3 g sat, 4.6 g mono, 1.4 g poly); 10 mg cholesterol; 55 g carbohydrates; 14.4 g protein; 10.5 g fiber; 405 mg potassium

Source: www.myrecipes.com