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.

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  • Potatoes: A Winter Comfort Food
    By Janelle Sanchez, RD, clinical dietitian at CHOC Children’s Whether they are mashed, roasted, baked, or served as pancakes, hash browns, or scalloped, potatoes are a delicious comfort food perfect for ...

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.

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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 Children’s, 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 CHOC Children’s 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.

Potatoes: A Winter Comfort Food

By Janelle Sanchez, RD, clinical dietitian at CHOC Children’s

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

Optimizing Your Omega-3 Intake

By Emily Barr, MS, RD, CSP, CLEC, clinical dietitian at CHOC Children’s

You’ve probably heard the many health benefits associated with eating omega-3 fatty acids, but it’s easy to be confused by each variety. Which one is the one you need? Where can you find it? And most importantly, how much? Let this be your guide to sorting out the confusion.

Essential Fats

Omega-3 fat is an umbrella term for the polyunsaturated fat family.  There are three main fats in this group:  Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), and alpha-Linolenic acid (ALA). These fats are essential because the body cannot make them on its own; it relies 100 percent on you to include these foods in your diet.  A small amount of ALA can convert into EPA and DHA in the body, but since the process is not efficient, it’s important to eat a variety of foods rich in omega-3s.

An Important Part of Heart Health

Omega-3 fats have anti-clotting effects that help prevent heart disease and stroke. They also help your heart keep a steady beat, preventing it from increasing in rhythm, which puts your heart at risk. These fats also help lower your blood pressure, keep your blood vessels healthier, and lower your triglycerides.

As an anti-inflammatory, omega-3s can reduce your risk of clogged arteries, as well as help with conditions like eczema and arthritis. Omega-3 consumption has also been linked to lower risks of cancer. DHA specifically provides additional benefits to your brain health and functioning.

Recommended Intake

The suggested daily intake for ALA varies between 0.7-1.6 grams per day depending on age and gender. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, the American Heart Association, and the World Health Organization agree that your diet should consist of 500 mg DHA/EPA per day, which is equivalent to eating fatty fish twice a week. The highest amounts of EPA and DHA are found in fatty fish including salmon, tuna, halibut, mackerel, cod, and if you dare, anchovies and sardines.

If fish is not on your weekly menu, you may want to consider some of the following sources of omega-3s. ALA are found in vegetarian fats, especially rich in vegetable oils (canola, flaxseed, soybean, and walnut oils), nuts, seeds (flax, hemp and chia seeds), and leafy vegetables including Brussel sprouts, kale and spinach.

Foods fortified with omega-3s include:

  • Eggs
  • Buttery spreads
  • Milk
  • Juice
  • Yogurt
  • Some bread and pasta

Introduce a few omega-3 rich foods into your diet, and in time you will be replacing unhealthy fats with healthy ones. Try the recipe below for an omega 3-rich smoothie as an easy way to start incorporating these essential fatty acids into your diet.

“Oh-MEGA-3” Fruit Smoothie

1 cup Mixed Frozen Fruit

1 Tablespoon Flaxseed

1 Tablespoon Hemp or Chia Seed

½ Banana

½ cup Milk or Omega-3 fortified Orange Juice

Blend all ingredients and enjoy!

Feeding Tubes and the Trend to Blend

Children with feeding tubes traditionally receive their nutrients from commercial formulas. Recently, dietitians at CHOC Children’s have begun working with families who prefer to feed their children blenderized tube feedings (BTF), which are real foods that are blended into a consistency similar to formula.

In this episode of CHOC Radio, registered dietitian Katherine Bennett explains:

  • The reasons families and dietitians are choosing blenderized meals over formulas
  • Concerns to keep in mind when preparing blenderized tube feedings, including food safety and how to balance the nutrients that a child needs
  • How CHOC supports families who are interested in trying this method for their children.

Hear more from Katherine in this podcast.

CHOC Radio theme music by Pat Jacobs.

December 14 is National Roast Chestnuts Day

By Jill Nowak, RD, CDE, clinical dietitian at CHOC Children’s

It’s that time of year we sing about “Chestnuts roasting on an open fire….” But, did you know that this delicious chestnut is packed with numerous health benefits?  They are moderately lower in calories and contain less fat than other nuts and seeds.  A 1 ounce serving provides 69 calories and 0.6g fat.  Sounds like the perfect snack this holiday season!

Chestnuts are the edible seeds of the chestnut tree.  The sweet, starchy seeds sit inside a prickly outer shell called the burr, which splits open as they ripen.  Chestnuts are in season and available in markets from October through March. Fresh chestnuts are often displayed and sold in the fresh produce section. You can also buy chestnuts dried, vacuum-packed, or canned.  To verify freshness look for creamy white seeds. Avoid a greenish, mold-like appearance. When preparing fresh chestnuts, they must be peeled and cooked before consuming.

Add cooked, peeled chestnuts to stuffing, rice or savory pie filling. Incorporate cooked chestnuts into soups, stews, casseroles, or vegetable dishes. Or add pureed chestnuts to mashed potatoes.

Here are additional health benefits from chestnuts:

  • Chestnuts are rich in vitamin C. They are the only nuts that contain this vitamin. They also contain B-vitamins and folate.
  • Chestnuts contain a rich source of mono-unsaturated fatty acid (MUFAs). MUFAs are part of a healthy diet and help to improve our lipid blood profile by reducing LDL (bad cholesterol) and increasing HDL (good cholesterol) levels.
  • Chestnuts are a good source of potassium, which helps in lowering blood pressure. In addition, they are good sources of copper, manganese, and selenium, which are all important components in the body’s antioxidant and anti-flammatory responses to harmful free radicals.

 Wild Rice with Water Chestnuts and Mushrooms

1 13 cup wild blend brown rice

2 23 cup 99% fat free chicken broth

1 8oz can water chestnuts (drained)

1 can (8 oz dry weight) mushroom pieces and stems (drained)

1 tbsp butter

Directions:

Cook rice in chicken broth – bring to a boil then simmer, covered for 45 minutes.  Sauté water chestnuts and mushrooms in butter. When rice is done, add together and stir well.

Nutritional Information:

Servings per Recipe: 5, Serving Size: 1 cup

Calories: 202, Total Fat: 3.9 g, Total Carbs: 41.9 g, Dietary Fiber: 4.5 g, Protein: 5.8 g

Source: www.sparkrecipes.com and http://www.healthcastle.com/chestnuts-food-month

Avoid Becoming Thank-“full” this Holiday

By Sarah Kavlich, RD, CLEC, clinical dietitian at CHOC Children’s 

Today, in many American households, the Thanksgiving celebration is centered on gratitude and sharing a bountiful meal with family and friends. The star of the Thanksgiving meal is arguably a stuffed turkey; and often times after a day of feasting, that may not be too far off from the way we feel. You and your family can avoid overeating this holiday season with these easy steps:

  • Eat breakfast! Although known as the most important meal of the day, it is often thrown by the wayside, especially when we anticipate a larger meal to come. Instead, have a light breakfast before your feast, which can help keep you from overdoing it later.
  • Use smaller plates. We eat with our eyes and when we see a large plate with a lot of empty space, our brain has a tendency to think we are still hungry once we are finished. Instead, serve your appropriate portions on a smaller plate. Once you’ve finished your meal, you’ll be able to listen to your stomach when it tells you you’re full.
  • Load up on non-starchy veggies like salad and green beans. These sides can offer plenty of fiber, which can fill you up with out adding extra calories. If you are the cook, try a new spin on green bean casserole (see below), with all of the traditional flavors but without all of the traditional fat.
  • Hold the gravy. Did you know that gravy alone can add up to 170 calories in a half cup? Try your meal without it this year.
  • Skip the seconds. Just because it’s a holiday doesn’t mean your health goals need to take a holiday too. Focus on visiting with friends and family and not just eating. If you are truly still hungry later in the day, have a light snack to hold you over.
  • Stay active. Use this opportunity to spend time with those you love by going on a walk together before or after your meal.

Green Beans with Shallots and Almonds
Salt
2 pounds green beans, cut into 1 inch pieces
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cups sliced shallots (about 4 large)
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup sliced almonds, toasted

Fill a large bowl with ice cubes and water. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add green beans to pot and cook until crisp-tender, about 5 minutes. Drain and plunge beans into an ice bath. Drain beans again and dry on paper towels.

Warm olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add shallots and sauté until softened and lightly browned, about 7 minutes. Add green beans and butter and cook until beans are heated through, about 2 minutes. Sprinkle with toasted almonds and serve.

Yield: 8 servings, 150 calories, 10g fat, 4g protein, 14g carbohydrate, 4g fiber, 8mg cholesterol, 164mg sodium. Source: Myrecipes.com

Learn more about CHOC Clinical Nutrition and Lactation Services.

Calories In, Calories Out? — May Not Always Be the Simple Equation to Weight Loss

By Jessica Brown, RD, CSP, CNSC, clinical dietitian at CHOC Children’s

The appreciation for bacteria living in our gut, and how it affects our health, is quickly gaining traction. Studies have shown that the 100 trillion microbes that live in and on the human body, called the microbiome, play an important role in overall health, including diabetes, celiac disease, allergy and autism.

Growing evidence over the past 10 years has even linked the gut microbiome to obesity. A study published in Science, a leading scientific journal, in 2013 contributed to this association. Researchers transplanted germ-free mice with fecal microbiota from obese and lean adult twins. They found that those mice transplanted with the obese gut microbiota had an increase in body mass and fat accumulation compared to those transplanted with lean gut microbes. One of the proposed theories is that obese microbiomes can harvest or release more energy from dietary components, such as non-digestible fiber, which contributes to weight gain. Further, this study showed that a lean gut microbiome can displace an obese one, preventing weight gain, if they consumed a healthy diet.

There are multiple influences to our microbiome at an early age, including what type of birth, (C-section versus natural birth), what type of feeding (formula versus breastmilk), and early exposure to antibiotics. Other influences include our environment and diet.

Eating a high-fiber diet, rich in fruits and vegetables and low in meats, refined carbohydrates, and artificial sweeteners has been shown to increase the beneficial bacteria in our gut.

Prebiotic foods such as asparagus, artichokes, garlic, leeks, onions, oats and lentils have been shown to keep our microbiome healthy. Fermented foods such as sauerkraut, kimchi and kefir are also beneficial.

A recent report published in the Diabetes and Metabolism Journal summarized multiple studies that demonstrate the potential benefits of probiotics – live bacteria and yeasts that are good for your digestive system — on the prevention and treatment of obesity and inflammation. It is important to realize that there are multiple strains of probiotics, and each strain has different effects. The effects of probiotics and obesity deserves further attention before specific recommendations can be made in the health care setting.

With the increasing prevalence in obesity, it is exciting that the manipulation of gut flora may be an integral part of weight loss and disease prevention in the future. So, it may not be just about how many calories you eat and how much you exercise that determines your weight, but what you eat and the health of your gut bacteria.

Learn more about CHOC Children’s Clinical Nutrition and Lactation Services.

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  • Overcoming the Struggles of Picky Eating
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Back to School Nutrition

By Janelle Sanchez, RD, CLEC, clinical dietitian at CHOC Children’s

Nutrition can improve your child’s academic performance, as well as provide the energy needed for an entire school day. Check out these helpful tips in planning for back to school lunches, or any meal!

  • Consider choosing the least busy day of the week to organize your menu for school lunches. This can help with dinner prepping too!
  • Shop together — choose a few healthy options for each food group. This is helpful to get picky eaters to try new foods, and actually eat the meals that you both picked together.
  • Prep ahead and give your child an age-appropriate task, such as washing and cutting up fruits and vegetables. Portion out items into baggies for easy grab and go items. Consider freezing some of the items the night before to act as an ice pack.

Here are some good examples of foods from each food group:

Protein

Turkey roll ups, chicken, eggs (try hard boiled), tuna salad, peanut or nut butters, beans, lentils, hummus, tofu and string cheese.

Protein is important for growing children as it is a building block for bones, muscle, cartilage, skin and blood.

Grains

100 percent whole grain bread/bagel/bun, tortilla, English muffin, rice, pasta, crackers, cereal, granola bars, rice cakes, pretzels and pita.

Compare food labels — Choose whole grains, items higher in fiber and lower in sugar for better nutrition and to keep your kids fuller longer, to prevent over eating.

Fruit

Fresh fruit (strawberries, watermelon, apple slices, orange wedges, peaches, grapes, pineapple squares, and kiwi), fruit leathers, packaged fruits in 100 percent juice, and 100 percent fruit juice boxes.

Fruit are important sources of many nutrients, including potassium, fiber, vitamin C, folate (folic acid) and phytochemicals. Choose whole fruits more often, and juice occasionally.

A good rule of thumb: Follow the MyPlate recommendations, selecting from all the food groups. Mix it up from day to day so lunch, or any meal, doesn’t get boring.
A good rule of thumb: Follow the MyPlate recommendations, selecting from all the food groups. Mix it up from day to day so lunch doesn’t get boring.

Vegetables

Carrot sticks, broccoli, sweet potato slices, beets, spinach, peas, bell peppers, cucumber, tomato and celery.

Choose red/orange vegetables containing Vitamin C. Green vegetables will boost your Fe intake. Blue/purple vegetables provide antioxidants that may protect against cancer and heart disease. Try adding a lower calorie dip (using yogurt, hummus, etc.) to pair with the veggies.

Dairy/dairy alternatives

Milk, soy milk, almond milk, cheese, yogurt, drinkable yogurt.

These are excellent sources of calcium and Vitamin D, important for building and maintaining healthy bones. Choose low fat or non-fat sources.

Fat

Avocado, olives, nuts, oils (olive oil, canola, vegetable, peanut), butter, margarine, mayonnaise, sour cream and salad dressing.

Be mindful on the portions of fat in the meals, as they are high in calories compared to protein and carbohydrates. Choose healthy fats (unsaturated fat- plant sources) instead of unhealthy fats (saturated- animal sources).

Extras/condiments: Help children learn to season foods without adding salt. Instead, try adding fresh garlic, or garlic powder, onion, cinnamon, basil, nutmeg, parsley, etc. Choose light mayo instead of regular.

Treats: Occasionally a cookie or brownie can fit in as well.

Lastly, although school nutrition programs are evolving, there is still some room for improvement. There can be a place for school meals however. Consider reviewing the meal options for the week with your children and pick the best options together.

We know that eating patterns and preferences can be influenced early in life and extend into adulthood. Let’s teach our kids what healthy meals look like to set them up for success. Visit www.choosemyplate.gov to learn more.

Related posts:

  • 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 ...
  • 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 ...