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Eat These, Not Those: The Toddler Edition

When you think of the typical diet of a toddler, there are some common foods come to mind; however, the food industry has created many toddler-suited kids with cupcakes foods that may not always have a toddler’s nutrition needs in mind.For every not-so-great toddler food, there is a better choice.

Below is a list of toddler foods that have more nutritious alternatives:

  • Say no to: Flavored yogurts packaged for on-the-go.
    • These may contain artificial food coloring and some have up tp 20 grams of sugar or more per serving.
  • Instead, tryPlain yogurt with fruit and a little maple syrup or honey stirred in. Only feed honey to kids that are older than 1 year of age.
  • Say no to: Fruit snacks.
    • These often have artificial food coloring and minimal nutritional value as they are made of sugar or corn syrup, gelatin and other chemicals.
  • Instead, try: Dried fruit. Dried fruit is a great source of fiber. Try a variety, such as cranberries, blueberries, mangoes, strawberries, cherries and peaches.
  • Say no to: Processed meats.
    • These are often high in sodium and most have nitrates. Nitrites used as preservatives can form carcinogenic compounds during digestion.
  • Instead, try: Nitrate and Nitrite-free hot dogs and lunch meat. High quality products that are made of 100% meat without additives are a better alternative to processed meats. You may also forgo the processed part and stick with whole, cooked meats.
  • Say no to: Juice, especially if it is not made with 100% juice.
    • Kids do not need juice every day for nutrition. Drinking juice displaces room for other healthy foods.
  • Instead, try: Plain milk with meals and water throughout the day.
  • Say no to: “Puffed”snacks.
    •  Again, these snack foods often do not offer much nutrition and can take-up room for other more nutritious foods.
  • Instead, try: Whole grain crackers, brown rice cakes, or whole grain cereal pieces.
  • Say no to: Processed cheese.
    • If cheese comes in a package, read the label and take caution if there is anything other than milk, salt and enzymes.
  • Instead, try: Real blocks of cheese, grated or sliced by yourself or by the deli.
  • Say no to: Peanut butter products.
    • Read labels. If you see the words “hydrogenated” or “partially hydrogenated”, the peanut butter includes trans-fats. These are particularly unhealthy fats that are highly susceptible to oxidation in the body, which leads to generation of free radicals that can contribute to cardiovascular disease and cancer.
  • Instead, try: Peanut butter or other nut butters that have only nuts listed in the ingredients.
  • Say no to: Cereals, specifically those with 10 grams of sugar or more.
    • The sugar content of some of kids-themed cereals should ultimately be categorized within the dessert aisle, rather than the cereal aisle.
  • Instead, try: Whole grain cereals with less than 5 grams of sugar per serving.
  • Say no to: Fast food, specifically the burger, French fry and chicken nugget variety.
    • Fast food, especially fried fast food, is high in sodium, calories and saturated and/or trans fats. Fast food is often chosen out of convenience.
  • Instead, try: Packing a lunch from home when you know you will be on the go.
  • Say no to: Candy, especially when given as a reward.
    • Many parents use candy as a bribe for potty training, for eating vegetables or for staying quiet in the shopping cart at the grocery store.
  • Instead, try: Dried fruit or a non-edible reward like stickers, stamps, crayons or hildren’s books.

It is the caregiver’s responsibility to make good nutrition choices to offer to children. Children, as they mature,  will then choose foods from the foods they are most often exposed to from an early age.  For more information on feeding toddlers or how to manage picky eating, contact one of our registered dietitians to schedule an appointment.

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Sugar Not to Blame for ADHD

Sugar has been hypothesized for years as being a major culprit in the rise of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder.

In fact, this notion was so popular and accepted that it was actually paired as the correct answer to the statement, “The major cause of hyperactivity in North America” on the Kid with junk foodtelevision show Jeopardy in January of 1987 (Barkley, 2000). It is surprising that such claims have been made and still held onto today even though not a single scientific study has supported them.

Why people blame ADHD in children on sugar:

Why do parents and many practitioners hold on to such claims then? Why is the idea that sugar will make you hyper so popular? One suggestion has been postulated by two psychologists from the University of Kentucky in a study published in 1994 is the power of psychological suggestion.

In this study, the authors created a condition in which the mothers of several boys who rated their children as being “sugar sensitive” were instructed that their child was either given a drink with sugar or a sugar free drink; when in fact none of the children were given any sugar in the drinks. The mothers were then asked to rate their child’s behavior after they were given the drink.

Results indicated that the mothers who thought their children had ingested a sugary drink rated their children as being more hyperactive.

The mothers were also:

  • More critical of their physical activities
  • Maintained closer physical proximity to their children
  • Talked more frequently to the children then the parents who thought the child consumed the sugar free drink.

What this study indicates as pointed out by Barkley (2000) is that “what parents believe about a dietary cause of hyperactivity (e.g. sugar) not only can bias their reports but also can change the way the parents treat their children.”

Causes of ADHD:

So, sugar does not cause ADHD, but what does?

What numerous research articles have indicated is that both genetic and environmental factors produce the cluster of symptoms that make up the condition. What is known is that genetics has(have) the largest factor in the expression of ADHD. Research has indicated that up to 80% of the variance in the expression of ADHD symptoms is directly related to genetics (Marks, Trampush, & Chacko, 2010).

Beyond genetics, research has demonstrated the importance of two major neurotransmitters in the expression of the condition: dopamine and norepinephrine. Thus, it comes as no surprise that majority of stimulant and non-stimulant pharmacological interventions for ADHD target these two neurotransmitters.

Overall, much hype has been made regarding the impact that sugar has on the expression of ADHD; specifically many individuals hold the notion that sugar increases hyperactivity. Not a single empirical research study has supported that notion. What research has supported is that the cause of the disorder is the same cause of the majority of mental health disorders; a combination of genetics and the environment.