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How To Encourage Healthy Eating Habits In Your Children

26 Oct

Lead By Example – your children will love eating the same foods as you, so make sure you are practicing what you preach.  It is many times harder to get a child to eat a food that you yourself will not eat.

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CAMExpo 2010: Children’s Health – The Power of Nutrition

25 Oct

I’ve spent this past weekend in London at the CAMExpo 2010, a dedicated complementary healthcare event.

The event featured  discussions, lectures, workshops and stalls.  It was a great opportunity to connect with people within the CAM industry and learn and refresh my knowledge, as well as re-affiriming my belief in the huge power of nutrition.

One lecture I attended was led by Alison Peacham of the ION, on Children’s Health – The Power of Nutrition.  I wanted to attend this lecture as a nutritionist and as a mum, and I’m very happy to share my notes from that lecture here with you.

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Children Who Eat Vending Machine Food Prone To Chronic Health Problems

7 Sep

School children who consume vending machine food are more likely to develop poor diet habits, leading to obesity and a greater risk of chronic health problems including diabetes and coronary heart disease.

In a study by the University of Michigan Medical School, 22% of children studied purchased a vending machine snack on a typical day.

This study is the first to focus on vending machines amongst this age group, rather than on the USDA lunch program and found that vending machine users had higher sugar intakes and lower intakes of fibre, B vitamins and iron than non-consumers.

Interestingly, there was no significant difference in vending machine consumption based on family income, face or ethnicity.

Even more interesting, and worrying, is how commonplace vending machines have become within the school setting.  The study found that vending machines were present at 16% of elementary schools, 52% of middle schools and 88% of high schools.

Simply by being present and offering a food alternative that is popular, highly marketed, and a poor nutritional choice, schools are assisting children – and teenagers – in developing unhealthy diet habits.  And, as we know, the bad habits formed in childhood can take a lifetime to break.

As a parent to a daughter who is just a few years away from school, this topic scares me.  I work hard to instill a good diet for her, and her tastes at 18 months are directed towards healthy foods – don’t you dare eat a grape without offering her!  But, I have to wonder: how effective will this good start be when she begins school and sees friends choosing soda and crisps?  Why are our schools not helping educate children about the importance of good diet, and instead are facilitating access to unhealthy snacks?

I would love to hear your views on this!

High Meat Diet Causes Girls To Enter Puberty Early

21 Jun

UK researchers have found that high-meat diets in childhood are linked with early puberty for girls.

The study, published in Public Health Nutrition, found that meat consumption of 8 portions per week by age 3, and 12 portions per week by age 7 was strongly linked with the early start of menstruation.

The 3,000 girls who were included in the study were 75% more likely to have begun their periods by the age of 12 if they were eating a high-meat diet when they were 7 years old.

While this study isn’t necessarily evidence to cut out meat completely from a child’s diet, as it is a good source of zinc and iron, I would suggest that parents limit the amount of meat their children consume.

It is also worth noting that girls who begin their periods at a young age have been shown to be at an increased risk of developing breast cancer in later life, likely due to the increased oestrogen presence.

If you are concerned about your child’s diet, and would like advice, contact me.

Too Much Fruit? How About Too Many Quavers?!

17 Jun

Aspen

Excuse me while I rant a little.

I’m the proud mummy of the beautiful little girl in the picture – she is 15 months old and her name is Aspen.  There are some things everyone knows about Aspen: one being that she is the smiliest baby you can imagine, and another being that she eats anything and everything and loves fruit.

Today, we were in a cafe and she was eating some fruit after her lunch – a mix of kiwi, banana and apple.

On the next table, a stranger with her own two children, who were eating not one but two packets of Quavers each.

Out of nowhere, this woman decided to lean over towards me and warn me against allowing my daughter to eat too much fruit, “because it’s full of sugar you know”.

Oh, really?

I’m not in the habit of writing blog posts about random annoyances, but this exchange seemed to me to be pretty typical of the way some people view healthy eating.

We gotta have some perspective, guys.

Is fruit sweet?  Of course.  Full of natural sugars?  Yes.  Should you make sure the fibre from fruit is balanced by fat intake?  Definitely.

But this is just one example of how some people focus on criticising healthy food options while excusing unhealthy ones.

The lady today, for example, had fed her children the two packets of Quavers each as their lunch, while my daughter had had a homemade lunch of Moroccan lamb with cous cous, followed by a selection of fruit.

It doesn’t take a genius to work out which diet wins on every nutritional issue.

This woman is representative of the people who eat crisps every lunch time but worry about switching to nuts because, well, “aren’t they kind of fattening?”

Or the people who I tell to switch just half of their oven chips at dinner for a warm salad who say “avocado has a lot of calories, right?”

Can I get something straight right now?  Healthy eating does not mean that you starve yourself of calories and avoid all sources of fat.  Not all sugars are bad.

So please, don’t fall into the trap of defending unhealthy food choices by attacking the healthier options available.

And if you see a woman feeding her children multiple packets of crisps as a meal, you better not be eating a banana!

Comments?  Questions?  Let me know what you think below:

Drinking Soda In Childhood Affects Diet In Later Life

10 Jun

A Penn State study has found that drinking soda in childhood affects diet in later life.

The study, which followed 170 girls for a period of 10 years, found that those who drank soda at age 5 were more likely to fail to meet nutritional requirements throughout the course of the study.

They also found that the girls who drank soda consumed less milk, which contains all of the nutrients they were deficient in (except fibre).

While the girls who did not drink soda also failed to meet some nutritional requirements, their overall diets were healthier.

The soda drinkers were on average deficient in Vitamin C, with an intake of 55 milligrams daily, while non-soda drinkers exceeded the 65 milligram recommended intake by averaging 70.5 milligrams daily.

Also interesting to note was that soda drinking had increased across the board by age 15, but the girls who were drinking soda at age 5 were consuming double the amount of soda each than the girls who drank no soda at age 5.

The study also found that parents of early soda drinkers had higher body mass indexes.

This study, along with others like it, clearly show that eating habits are established early in childhood, and that drinking unhealthy beverages does impact on nutritient intake and overall diet.

It would be interesting to have a follow-up to this study conducted to see how the girls’ health in later life relates to what they were drinking at age 5.

What are your thoughts on this?

How To Help Your Baby’s Constipation

13 May

As a parent, there’s nothing worse than seeing your little one in pain.  Your heart breaks for them and you just want to do whatever you can to take their suffering away, which is often not easy since your baby doesn’t have the ability to tell you what’s wrong.

My daughter Aspen – above – is 14 months old as I write this and has been suffering from constipation.  In a post that she will not thank me for writing in around 12 years’ time, I want to offer some help to other parents experiencing similar with their babies.

Firstly, a definition of constipation:

“a condition of the bowels in which the feces are dry and hardened and evacuation is difficult and infrequent”

Constipation amongst babies isn’t unusual, and is usually linked to solid foods or cow’s milk being introduced to their diet.  Breastfed babies rarely suffer from constipation as breast milk is almost 100% digested and used by your baby’s body.  Breastfed babies often have infrequent bowel movements but this alone does not constitute constipation.

If your baby is suffering from constipation, here are some things that will help:

  • Positions – as an immediate help when your baby is passing a painful bowel movement, try moving their position.  Your baby may get into the most comfortable position, such as being on all fours, or standing up.  Removing clothes and their nappy often makes the bowel movement easier to pass, and providing plenty of encouragement and affection will also help.  Your baby may want to literally cling to you, so offer your finger to hold.  Other practical things to do when your baby is experiencing constipation include simple tummy massages, and warm baths.  Baby yoga offers many positions that may help with constipation.
  • Cow’s milk – when switching from formula (or breast) milk to cow’s milk, make the change gradually.  Offer one bottle of cow’s milk a day to begin with and slowly increase this and reduce the formula or breast milk given.  This transition can take weeks to complete this way but it will be the easiest change on your baby’s delicate digestive system.
  • Fibre – a diet high in fibre will help reduce your baby’s constipation, so ensure they are having plenty of bran, wholewheat pasta, avocados, prunes, peaches, plums, pears, dried apricots, baked beans, jacket potatoes, peas, spinach and broccoli in their diet.  Generally, all fruits and vegetables are sources of fibre but those mentioned are the best sources.
  • Dairy – excessive amounts of dairy can cause or worsen constipation, so make sure your baby is eating a balanced diet and not relying solely on milk, cheese and yoghurt.  A balanced diet is pretty obvious advice, but it’s surprising how often fussy babies are given endless yoghurts as it is often one of the things they will always eat.
  • Foods to avoid – the most common foods that contribute to constipation in babies are rice cereals, bananas, and apple sauce.

If following these tips does not help your baby’s constipation, or you feel the symptoms are severe, please consult your doctor for further advice.