Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Getting Tots to Eat Right

Power struggles at the dinner table can be avoided if you start early. Children's food preferences start early and habits are formed by the parents, good or bad, intentional or not.
Parents need to choose what, when, and where the child will eat. Let the child decide how much. They won't go hungry! A child who fills up on between-meal snacks will never eat broccoli or much of anything at dinner. Take control, but offer choices. For example, let them decide between 2 or 3 vegetable options that you choose for dinner. Don't allow french fries, for instance, to be one of those options! Also, don't be alarmed over an occasional lack of appetite. Pediatricians agree that it is normal for children to eat less during some stages of growth, and eating patterns vary from child to child. Toddlers are busy. They have a whole world to explore and it’s hard to sit for a meal. They need less food and are less interested in eating. You can keep them more focused on meals by keeping distractions such as loud noises, toys, and T.V. out of kitchen. Typically, a toddler of 6 months to 2 years needs about 40 calories a day per inch of height. And an average 2 - 6 year old requires almost 1300 - 1800 calories a day.
It is best not to use food as punishment or reward; this teaches emotional attachments to food. Explain to kids that treats are fine on occasion, and other foods are meant for meals.
Encourage kids to eat a wide variety of foods, and practice what you preach! You are their most influential example. Cooking together is a good way to encourage kids to try new things. Think bright colors and fun shapes. Like adults, toddlers eat with their eyes first. Use cookie cutters to make almost anything into an appealing shape. Make foods attractive and fun, and cut things in small pieces for young children. Although they may not eat perfectly every day, they tend to eat well enough over the course of several days or a week.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Weight Control Tips for Kids

Following the rapid growth phase in infancy, teen years are the fastest growth stage of life. A moderately active teenage boy requires about 2800 - 3000 calories per day, and about 2200 - 2300 for girls. Calories supply the energy needed for growth and physical activities. The healthiest way to control a child's weight is to serve foods with enough calories (but not too many) for normal growth and activity. Restricting calories for very young children is not advised since it can have a negative effect on growth and development. The best way to control weight gain is through exercise. Approximately 40% of all children in the U.S. are overweight and not physically fit. Let an overweight child "grow into their weight" by limiting empty calorie snacks and increasing physical activity. Typically, children ages 6 - 12 grow about 2 inches in height and gain about 5 lbs. per year. Teen boys can grow as much as 4 inches in height in one year.
To help your child to become more active, encourage them to walk to school and get involved in sports as well as limiting TV and video games. Active kids require 6 - 8 cups of water each day, in addition to fluids every 15 minutes during sporting events and physical exertion.
Even with some knowledge of nutrition, teenagers may develop poor eating habits due to peer pressure, busy schedules, and readily available fast foods. Poor food choices often lead to low amounts of iron and calcium in their diets, which are crucial for bone, muscle, and mental development. Low iron levels can especially be a problem for girls due to their menstrual flow. Encourage kids and teens to drink milk and calcium enriched orange juice instead of sodas. Iron rich foods such as red meats, poultry, shellfish, eggs, dark leafy vegetables, and fortified grains are good ways to increase iron intake. When you serve plant sources of iron, also serve foods high in vitamin C (i.e. orange juice) to increase the amount of iron your teen's body can absorb. Monitor what your child is and isn't eating. Seek professional help if you think your child is beginning to develop an eating disorder. Eating disorders are deeply psychological - not just an issue of food preferences or weight control.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Clinical Studies Reveal The Best in Weight Loss Plans

There is no better way to sort through the vast array of weight loss programs than with a long term medical study. They are the best sources of unbiased information on diet plans. Not all of the popular diets have been subjected to long-term clinical studies. In fact, most have not. However, there is solid research for the Atkins Diet, Weight Watchers, Rosemary Conley Eat Yourself Slim or Slim-Fast.
Most scientific studies show that the majority of mainstream diets will lead to short-term weight loss -- as long as you stick with them. A University of Surrey study published in Public Health Nutrition in 2009 followed 300 overweight or obese participants who were using the most popular diet plans. Over the course of six months, all the participants lost a similar amount of weight (from 11 to 19 lbs), regardless of the diet they followed. This confirms what diet experts have long suspected -- weight loss is a simple formula of calories in vs. calories out, so any diet that reduces calories will help you shed pounds. Exercise is also essential to keeping the weight off. The tricky part is following the diet until you get to your goal weight. That's why finding a diet you can stick with is so important. Dieters who engage in long-term support, either in person or online, have a better chance of maintaining their weight loss than those who do not. While websites like have features that provide support, Weight Watchers is king when it comes to face-to-face meetings, and clinical studies show that in-person meetings trump Internet-based support when it comes to initiating and maintaining weight loss. In research studies, Weight Watchers easily gets the best ratings for long-term success. That's not because its overall plan is significantly better or worse than others. Rather, Weight Watchers' foundation for group meetings and support leads to a far lower dropout rate, and its flexible eating plan allows participants to eat what they like in moderation. In repeated studies, participants were able to stick with Weight Watchers for a longer period of time.
The Atkins Diet is opposed by the American Medical Association, the National Academy of Sciences, the American Cancer Society, the American Heart Association and the National Institutes of Health. This is mainly because the Atkins Diet plan is far outside the realm of traditional dietary advice, and the long-term effects of a high-fat diet on cardiac health are still unknown. Plenty of experts now say that low-carb diets are safe, at least in the short term, except for people with kidney problems. In the long term, low-carb dieters, like adherents of other weight-loss programs, are just as likely to lose weight if they stick to their diet, and also just as likely to gain it back when they stop the plan. All of the medical studies concluded with the same advice: the best diet is one that you can stick to.
Diet pills are generally found to be ineffective.
~ The New England Journal of Medicine

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

The High Fructose Corn Syrup Debate

Is HFCS really the new crack of sweeteners that media contends, or is it a harmless natural product?
True, high fructose corn syrup comes from corn, and is roughly half fructose and half glucose - not unlike ordinary table sugar. It is quickly broken down in the body into - half fructose and half glucose. In recent studies, HFCS had the same impact on blood glucose as sugar, insulin, ghrelin and leptin (hormones that stimulates/curbs appetite).
However, that is not to say that HFCS is harmless. Like sugar, it undermines our diets because it supplies empty calories. The potential harm is in the fact that is included in almost every processed food item on the market - from crackers to cream soups, salad dressings, meat marinates, peanut butter, bagels, even whole grain cereals that claim to be "all natural"; not to mention the obvious - soft drinks and cookies. The use of HFCS jumped ten-fold from 1970 to 1990. Researchers suspect the increase in obesity and type II diabetes could be linked to the increased use of HFCS. Furthermore, these "hidden carbs" can often go unoticed to diabetics who are trying regulate their insulin, and people with sugar sensitivity as in Reactive Hypoglycemia.
Simple sugars do not provide lasting energy as do more complex carbohydrates. The brewing hysteria is over the fact that otherwise healthy food items or items that don't really need sweetened are now being laced with this sweetener. It undermines our efforts to make healthier food choices.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

The Skinny Review

Skinny B*tch was written by a former model and model's agent. The authors claim the book delivers the truth about food, allowing readers to make educated decisions. They contend it's not a diet, but more of an educational tool. This book takes a holistic approach to becoming "skinny." The authors insist on a totally organic, vegan diet. The foods are primarily brands only found in "natural" food stores.
The book devotes several chapters to conspiracy theories that challenge widely accepted and well-researched scientific guidelines set forth in the Dietary Guidelines for Americans and USDA's MyPyramid and National Organic Program. Further, the authors go against current scientific evidence in saying the ingredient list is the only thing that matters in the food we eat and the number of calories, fat and carbohydrates are not important for weight loss.
Most of the suggested meal plans are low in calories and will likely result in weight loss, at the risk of nutrient deficiencies.
The information and recommendations presented are not evidence-based, and the authors have no formal education in the field of science (biochemistry, physiology) and nutrition. Additionally, the average reader may find it difficult to adopt a vegan lifestyle cold turkey (no pun intended) to successfully find the suggested foods and to follow this plan long-term.

~ American Dietetic Association

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Fad Diets Debunked

It's that time of year when the weight-loss products hit the market in full force. Every year brings an amazing new diet that works like none usual, it's just too good to be true. Here is the low-down on one of the latest proclamations.

The 4 Day Diet claims to push your body to lose more weight because it varies the types and amounts of foods eaten as well as the kinds of exercise. Continually readjusting to new foods and exercises prevents the body from getting acclimated to any specific eating or exercise plan, which in turn will help to burn more calories and prevent plateaus.

A strength is the inclusion of both aerobic and strength-training exercise. Duh... Physical activity burns calories and possibly preserves lean muscle mass during weight loss. However, there is no scientific support for the theory that varying calorie intake and exercise style will result in weight loss more than steady calorie reduction and increasing physical activity. In fact, according to the National Weight Control Registry, consistent eating and fitness behaviors are characteristic of people who successfully lose weight and keep it off. The author also frequently refers to the Glycemic Index when discussing the types of foods recommended in the diet, but again, there is no evidence a G.I. diet causes significant weight loss or helps control appetite. The Glycemic Index is used to control blood sugar for people with various types of Reactive Hypoglycemia and Type II diabetes. Though many healthful foods are recommended, readers are at risk for consuming inadequate amounts of some nutrients. For example, most of the diet plan does not meet the 2005 Dietary Guidelines for Americans daily recommendations for whole grains or low-fat or nonfat dairy. Finally, none of the meal plans, recipes or snacks includes any calorie or nutrient information. Long-term weight loss (and good health) generally includes learning what you are putting in your body. Although there are many encouraging, healthful components to this diet, on some days it is too low in calories and skimps on key nutrients such as calcium and vitamin D. Following the modules may also prove to be quite cumbersome for some readers, while others may not respond well to the diet plan’s restrictive inflexibility.

Could this diet help someone lose weight? Yes, just as with any diet that reduces calories and increases physical activity. But at the very least, readers who want to try this diet should adjust it to include adequate amounts of whole grains and low-fat or nonfat dairy each day and meet with a registered dietitian to meet their daily nutrient needs.

~ Ian K. Smith, MD