Is Your Child Too Energetic? Check Out the Caffeine!

If your child seems a bit too “energized”, you might want to throw out the theory that it’s simply overstimulation from sugar. Instead, give some thought to hidden caffeine-like compounds in the diet. While Johnny may not be drinking Starbucks with you in the morning, there are actually plenty of opportunities for kids to get caffeine-like compounds into their bodies. Caffeine, and another dietary compound called theobromine, are commonly found in foods we give our kids.

Common food sources of both caffeine and theobromine

Beverages 

Lemonade, bottled teas, non-cola soda, vitamin water, hot cocoa, chocolate milkshakes, and energy smoothies can all contribute varying amounts of caffeine-like stimulants. While your 5-year old may not be consuming energy drinks, your teen probably is, and these beverages are loaded with excessive caffeine. Because these beverages may be hidden sources of caffeine or other stimulants, read any available labels of all beverages you provide to your child and teen.

Noting that a standard cup of drip coffee has about 150 mg of caffeine, check out how some of these common beverages stack up with regard to caffeine content:

  • 8 ounces of most popular energy drinks range from 80-300 mg
  • 12 ounces of Coke Zero, Classic Coca Cola, Diet or Regular Dr. Pepper, Sunkist Orange Soda- 30-45 mg
  • 12 ounces of Diet or Regular Mountain Dew has 55 mg
  • Diet Snapple Tea-42 mg
  • White Tea or Green Tea-15 mg-25 mg

Foods

Foods may contain either caffeine or the caffeine-like stimulant theobromine. Chocolate flavored cereals, desserts, ice cream, and candy may have theobromine. Coffee ice cream and yogurt could contain varying amounts of actual caffeine and should be discouraged for children. A 6-ounce serving of Dannon Coffee Yogurt contains a whopping 36 mg of caffeine. And, Starbucks Coffee Ice Cream has 50-60 mg of caffeine per one cup serving.

You won’t find the caffeine content of these foods listed on any Nutrition Fact Panel, so all you can do is be aware of the potential foods containing caffeine or theobromine.

Medications

Certain adult medications may contain caffeine which speeds pain relief. Examples of non-prescription pain relievers containing caffeine include:  Excedrin, Anacin, and Dristan. Parents should avoid these medications and choose medications that are caffeine-free. Another medication an adolescent female might take which does contain caffeine is Midol for relieving menstrual cramps.

While a little caffeine will not harm your child, if your kid is bouncing off the walls or having trouble sleeping it’s wise to assess if he or she is consuming too much “hidden” caffeine.

Thoughts on how else caffeine gets into our kids’ diets?

Crustless Pumpkin Pie & Minestrone Soup: Fall Recipes

crustless pumpkin pie recipeToday, some major plans fell through, and I very unexpectedly have the whole day free to tackle my kitchen and food preparation. With the fall chill in the air and mums on the front step, I am in the mood to make some of my favorite “fall” foods. These incude my crustless pumpkin pie and super effortless minestrone soup!

For a healthier sweet tooth fix, consider making crustless pumpkin pie. In my family, we eat crustless pumpkin pie all year-not just during the holidays. This is a slimmed down version, with literally half the calories of traditional pie The trick is to get rid of the crust calories, but still have the pie hold its shape. Using Bisquick mix (and you can use the reduced fat version), you will decrease the calories by 50%. This is a healthy dessert, full of anti-oxidants. You might even want to consider eating this for breakfast! My family uses this as breakfast food all the time.

Slimmed Down Pumpkin Pie Recipe (1/8 pie has about 100 calories)

15 oz. Can pumpkin pie

1 can evaporated skim milk

¾ cup Splenda or 1/2 cup sugar

2 large eggs or 1/2 cup egg substitute

1 tsp. ground cinnamon

½ tsp. ground ginger

½ tsp. ground cloves

½ tsp. salt

½ cup Bisquick mix

Mix all the ingredients in bowl. Use baking spray and coat a glass pie pan. Add the mixture and bake at 425 degrees for about 15 minutes, then turn down the oven temperature to 350 degrees, and continue baking approximately 45 additional minutes.

Soups are another fall favorite recipe. Soups are wonderful in that most can be frozen very well and then pulled out of the freezer for a very quick dinner when time is tight. A favorite soup in our family is quick minestrone. It takes virtually no time to assemble my version of this recipe. This is a true family favorite, and all of my adult children and daughter-in-law really enjoy this recipe. I hope you do as well.

 Very Quick Minestrone Soup (1.5 cup serving has about 200 calories)

1 cup carrots, thinly sliced

1/2 cup celery, diced

1/2 cup onion, chopped

1 small zucchini, sliced

one large can (28 ounces) of low sodium chicken broth

1 can light kidney beans (15 ounces), rinsed and drained

1-2 cans of stewed tomatoes

1 cup medium pasta shells, uncooked

1 cup frozen peas or Italian-style beans

1 teaspoon dried oregano

1 teaspoon dried basil leaves

Parmesan cheese to top soup (optional)

Directions

Toss all ingredients into a stockpot. Bring to a boil and simmer until all the vegetables are tender. Sprinkle each serving with parmesan cheese if desired. Serve with whole grain bread and a light salad. This is a meal rich in anti-oxidants and fiber. And, serve some pie along with it.

Enjoy the autumn along with these favorite fall recipes.

Heartburn: Food and Lifestyle Fixes

 

how to halt heartburn

Managing heartburn

Recently a student in a college nutrition class I teach raised her hand to contribute to a discussion on heartburn. She indicated that her doctor told her to drink whole milk to help her heartburn. She stressed that the doctor noted it HAD to be whole milk. Since she was not interested in drinking whole milk, this recommendation was not followed through on by the student. The recommendation was neither realistic for her, and probably not really the best advice to take anyway with regard to managing heartburn. And, she’s not alone in trying to control heartburn. Surveys suggest 25-40% of the population experience heartburn on a monthly basis and 7-10% have the problem almost daily.

You know if you have suffered from heartburn. Symptoms include a burning sensation in your chest, mouth, or both. You may actually have a burning sensation in either your chest, mouth, or both areas. Your throat may be sore and you may even vomit food and bile.

Common factors contributing to heartburn include: pregnancy, smoking, certain medications, obesity, and alcohol.

Food factors to consider for control

Certain foods are known to aggravate heartburn. Take a look at the following list of foods and evaluate if your symptoms are worse when you eat these foods.

  • Citrus fruits (limes, lemons, oranges, grapefruit)
  • Spicy foods
  • Chocolate
  • Caffeinated food (coffee, soda pop, tea)
  • High fat foods (salad dressing, oil, butter, margarine, fried foods, rich desserts)
  • Raw onions and garlic
  • Tomato based foods
  • Peppermint or spearmint oils (sometimes recommended for irritable bowel syndrome)
  • Lots of sugar

Lifestyle factors and heartburn

By manipulating your daily habits, you can help to decrease your heartburn symptoms.

  • Make sure you eat a low fat diet. Fat triggers the sphincter muscle to relax, and allows stomach acid to more easily reach the esophagus.
  • Avoid alcohol as much as possible.
  • Mange your weight and lose weight if you are overweight.
  • Avoid overly large meals-instead eat smaller meals more frequently.
  • If necessary, prop your head up with multiple pillows at night. This makes it a bit more difficult for the acid to back up into your esophagus.
  • Drink liquids between meals, instead of with your meals.
  • Wear loose clothes.
  • Wait several hours to lie down after a larger meal.

Taking these first steps to halting heartburn can be very effective. You can always consult with a dietitian as well. If your symptoms persist even after diet and lifestyle adjustments, you should see your physician for medical management of your problem.

 

The Meatless “Revolution”: A Health Savvy Trend

 

I just heard the term “meatless revolution” coined on an evening news program. Being a dietitian who is both professionally and personally a big fan of good nutrient dense carbohydrates-white potatoes, sweet potatoes, lentils, fruits, and vegetables- I am ecstatic to hear this is becoming a mainstream trend.

Apparently, US meat consumption has declined 30%, so my hope is this trend continues as it is good for our health and good for the planet.  Dietitians have been promoting this concept for decades. The USDA plate reinforces this eating “revolution” as well.

Why to eat less meat

So why should we cut down on meat consumption?  For dietitians, the answers are obvious:  this decreases total fat, saturated fat, and allows for calories to come from other food sources such has complex carbs which provide specific nutrients to the diet that would be lacking in a heavy meat diet.  Eating less meat is also a good way to decrease inflammation and cancer risk in some people.  Eating and growing more plant-based foods also consumes less energy and pollutes the environment less.  For every pound of bread made, one pound of grain is needed.  But for every pound of beef weight, eight pounds of grain are needed.  And, let’s not forget that cows pollute with poop.  It has to go somewhere, and often ends up contaminating our water and soil.

To embrace this so-called meatless revolution, start with:

  • Having a meatless meal a few times per week.  Try a lentil soup with whole grain bread or a vegetable topping pizza every Friday.
  • Making a conscious decision to decrease your animal protein servings to the size of a deck of cards; this is the portion size you should be eating, but many are eating 2-3 times that amount.
  • Substituting plant-based protein for meat options.  Try peanut butter in place of cold cuts on whole wheat bread for a hearty sandwich or lentils and beans in soups and stews to replace some of the meat the recipe calls for.

How do you downsize your meat?

 

Weighing in on Doctor Refusing 200 Pound Patients

As I turned on the morning news the other day, the attention grabbing “teaser” headliner was about a physician in Shrewsbury, Massachusetts who refused to treat anyone weighing more than 200 pounds (link below). If you haven’t heard it, the recap is that an internal medicine physician has decided to reject all new patients weighing over 200 pounds. She indicates that her staff has been “hurt” by handling these heavier people (not sure what she means by this), and that those patients already in her practice and weighing 200 pounds were grandfathered in. She  notes that some of these grandfathered patients proceeded to lose weight after her office policy was implemented. The physician further states that there is an excellent university affiliated medical facility nearby which is better suited for treating patients.

This scenario seems to beg the question, “is this a new trend in the medical profession?”  Will the United States evolve to medically managed weight loss centers for all people classified as obese?

Who should take responsibility?

Mayor Bloomberg restricts soda pop. Michelle Obama encourages us to plant vegetable gardens. But what can individuals and society really do to take responsibility? This will become even more pressing of a concern to individuals if primary care physicians begin to refuse treating heavier patients on a wider scale. If those heavier people are required to find access to health care in settings equipped to handle their special needs, this could also potentially handicap the weight loss process even more-if possible.

Failing at weight management

Right now, we are clearly failing in managing our weight as a nation. We did not come to this point because of one problem. As a society, we are not inclined to move. For safety reasons, we may stay inside (dodging bullets). We sit in front of computers all day, play video games rather than dodge ball, and we eat out constantly. While eating out is a great treat, doing so too often really insures your energy intake is too high which translates to weight gain. Unless you are training for a marathon or triathlon, you still need to critically manage your energy intake if you are going to manage your weight. All too often, those that workout regularly still forget the energy content (meaning calories) of the food they consume. So, again, what are some solutions?

What’s the societal solution?

I do not have a simple solution because there is not necessarily a simple solution to a laundry list of factors causing this national crisis. Our current societal complexities seem to set us up for obesity at this point. Both physicians and patients need to take responsibility for slimming down the nation.

Apparently, it is perfectly legal for this physician to screen her patients according to weight limits. If this is her prerogative (and it’s her practice), she should make a point of offering some other options. While she was relying on a nearby medical facility affiliated with a teaching hospital, she and other physicians have other options. How about business cards of dietitians, therapists, and trainers and refering to those professionals! And, patients need to take responsibility as well. There is no magic solution here. The message to move more and eat less is perceived as “boring” by many. And to many, this simple message is not really simple.  After all, how much should one really eat and move in order to both prevent and manage obesity?

What can we do as a nation? Please provide input to this question directly on my blog.  I look forward to your comments.

A bit more on this story.

 

 

6 Starter Steps to Tame Your Triglycerides

 

I recently had a client come to a nutrition consultation for a severely elevated triglyceride level. While his elevated triglyceride level was a challenging and depressing situation for him personally, it was what his cardiologist told him to eat which was really depressing! His physician actually told him to “eat grass and cardboard.” Obviously, this doctor was being sarcastic, but the comment implied that the diet needed to be overly restrictive. As is often the case with nutrition advice, this particular advice was misleading, incomplete, and inappropriate in terms of helping the patient improve his medical outcome.

6 ways to decrease triglycerides without eating grass and cardboard

Maintain or get to a healthy weight.

Triglyceride and cholesterol reduction may result from losing weight if overweight. Maintaining an ideal weight is important for all aspects of health, including triglyceride reduction.

Increase physical activity

Aerobic exercise can aid with weight loss and decrease triglyceride levels at the same time.Triglyceride reduction occurs with short bouts of aerobic exercise as well as long-term repetitive exercise. Most studies support doing 30-45 minutes of moderately intensive exercise five times a week. Have your doctor sign off on your exercise if you have been inactive!

Cut down on carbs

Carbohydrates are basically divided into two categories: simple and complex. Simple carbohydrates tend to be sweet, such as soft drinks, desserts, candies, and syrup. Bread, pasta, rice, fruits, and vegetables are sources of complex carbs.

It is generally recommended that people with high triglycerides avoid simple carbohydrates. Some people are so sensitive to sweets that their triglyceride levels increase drastically when they eat too much sugar. In any healthful diet, complex carbohydrates should be in the 45-65% of overall calorie intake, but even too much high-fiber, nutrient-dense complex carbohydrates can aggravate triglyceride levels when eaten in amounts exceeding 60% of total calorie intake.

Limit alcohol

According to the American Heart Association (AHA), even small amounts of alcohol can increase triglyceride levels. For some people, cutting out alcohol can elicit a marked decrease in their triglyceride levels. In the case of my patient, his triglyceride decreased a whopping 90%.

Choose fats wisely

Up to 30% of the calories you get from fat should come from foods higher in monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids, according to the AHA.

Eat more fish

Most health experts also recommend eating more fish because of the omega-3 fatty acids found in fish, which have been associated with decreased triglyceride levels. Omega-3 fatty acids also help make the blood less sticky, so it is less likely to forms clots that contribute to heart attacks. Fatty fish like sardines, herring, and salmon are good sources of omega-3 fatty acids. Other good sources of omega-3 fatty acids include: tofu, soybeans, flaxseed, nuts, and green leafy vegetables.

While these are steps to start you off, a licensed dietitian can personalize your food plan to meet your goals. You do not need to eat cardboard and grass!

What’s on your plate to lower triglyceride levels?

Healthy Eating Confusion? 5 Easy Tips to Start!

healthy eating confusion

Wondering how to Eat? Follow 5 steps to clear up healthy eating confusion!

If you are confused about how to eat, you are far from alone. We are a society on ”nutrition” overload. Messages reach us each time we turn on the ten o’ clock news or boot up the computer. Eat eggs, don’t eat eggs, do this, don’t do that-and consumers feel messages conflict and constantly spin a one-eighty every other week. No wonder the public is unsure about what to eat or who to take advice from! With that in mind, here are 5 tips to clear up healthy eating confusion. These tips can help most people improve their overall health status.

5 important and easy tips to clear up healthy eating confusion

Decrease your animal protein consumption

This will decrease your saturated fat intake, keep your calories in line, AND decrease your carbon footprint on our dear planet earth.

Eat more plant-based foods

The upside of this, is simply, more anti-oxidants, more fiber, fewer calories, and less of a carbon footprint on planet earth.

Focus on unprocessed foods as much as possible

The less processed the food, the more nutrient dense the food. When the food is molded, distorted, manipulated, or redesigned, the nutrition composition is most likely altered, and not usually for the better!

Don’t be afraid of bread

Whole grain breads are a rich source of B vitamins, iron, magnesium, zinc, and fiber.

Cast a wide net on the variety of foods you eat

No single food is a magic health bullet. Eating a variety of foods keeps your taste buds happy and also increases the likelihood that you are getting more and varied nutrients into your diet.

Some people should not follow these suggestions due to specific medical concerns. But  for most people, this is an excellent start to eating a better quality of diet. If you need to omit food groups or implement special diet therapy, consider consulting with a Registered/Licensed Dietitian to design a food plan that works for your health goals.

Bon Appetit!

 

Are You a Nutrition “Purist” or “Realist”?

dietitian commentary are you a realist or puristIt seems as though these days everyone has an opinion about the field of nutrition.There is a an old saying that “some people think they are experts on eating, because they eat.”  So, that could mean the whole human race perceives themselves as nutritional experts! For me, it seems that is the case sometimes! Of course, some of those people are experts with years of college level education under their belts, but some are simply uninformed, uneducated, or misdirected, but very interested in the field of nutrition. That begs the question about being a  nutrition “purist” or “realist” in terms of professional conduct.

What I know for sure is that more people in more and varied fields are now providing nutritional advice to the American consumer. And, more nutritional advice is rapidly and readily available these days at the touch of our fingers as well as from “doc google.” So, this blog is about how those of you that give nutritional advice handle the words you choose while guiding those you are attempting to help with nutrition. It is also meant as food for thought for the consumer who is seeking nutritional guidance. So let’s take a look at nutrition “purist” or “realist” thinking!

Nutrition Purists

It seems as though some of those disseminating nutritional advice are best described as purists. Insisting on great precision or correctness in a particular discipline is a purist. It seems that, more and more, those that are guiding consumers are often leaning to what I call this purist mentality. This purist mentality is along the lines of “the diet must be perfect, no junk, sugar, fat, and so on.”  I must add at this point that I would love my clients to eat only at home, eat only healthy unprocessed foods, and in the correct portion sizes. With that stated, my experience tells me the purist mentality does not necessarily fit all people.

Nutrition Realists

A realist is a person who accepts the world as it is. Then, deals with it, but realistically. This appears to be the case for those practitioners who have counseled for a long time. I tell my clients that I can design what I feel to be the  “perfect” eating plan. However, if they cannot follow it long enough to help their health, then what good is it?

I’m a realist. I would be happy to have my clients switch to a flavored green tea rather than a Starbucks Frappuccino! That’s right, the flavored green tea might not have the same nutritional edge as plain green tea, but it’s a start in the right direction! That’s what I want from my clients-to move in a better dietary direction.

One size does not fit all, especially when telling people how to eat. The concept of tailoring a diet to an individual means that like a pair of slacks or suit, the “diet” can be tailored with time. As the person’s nutritional requirements and acceptance of dietary change evolve, so can the diet.

How do you choose to counsel your clients?  And consumers, what nutritional guidance has worked for you?

 

“Great” Green Tea: What’s in it For Your Health?

Green tea health benefits and how to prepare

Green tea is probably the one beverage I can think of that can be deemed completely healthy and almost without any controversy!  A search on pub med today just yielded 4688 scientific/medical journal abstracts on green tea. I am not aware of any studies that are critical of green tea regarding health, and scientists have been interested in the potential health benefits of green tea for many decades.

Key anti-oxidant in green tea that promotes health

The compound epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG) is found primarily in green tea, and it is the compound that appears to confer the significant health benefits of green tea. This compound is one of four prominent compounds which are strong anti-oxidants present in green tea. Some of the health benefits of green tea include: interfering with cancer cells, lowering lipids, decreasing inflammation, decreasing the risk of blood clots and stroke, and fighting tooth decay.

Caffeine

Many people assume green tea has a lot of caffeine and they opt for decaffeinated green tea. A cup of regular brewed green tea has less than 30 mg of caffeine while a cup of regular brewed coffee (not Starbucks) has 95 mg or more. So, if you are highly sensitive to caffeine, go for the decaffeinated version. But if caffeine sensitivity is not an issue, even the regular green tea is still low in caffeine. Choose decaffeinated teas that remove caffeine with carbon dioxide rather than chemicals. Use of chemicals for decaffeinating may actually destroy the anti-oxidants.

How to brew green tea

Green tea can be brewed as loose leaves of tea or using a tea bag. Use one tsp. loose tea or one tea bag per serving. Using bottled water rather than tap water for brewing may improve the taste of the tea. Steep your tea in water which has just reached the boiling point of 160 degrees. Turn the heat off and steep the tea for 2-4 minutes. Limiting the steeping time to 2-4 minutes will allow for optimal anti-oxidants and decrease the bitterness and caffeine content. Steeping tea for 4 minutes will actually increase the caffeine content to 40-100 mg of caffeine per 8 ounce serving.

Flavored teas and tea products 

Flavored teas will be lower in anti-oxidants. The flavoring added to the teas reduces the actual tea percentage and therefore the anti-oxidants. Nonetheless, flavored teas and already prepared tea products can still be a source of anti-oxidants. You can also brew your own tea, and add your own flavorings such as mint, lemon, or ginseng.

With the summer heat wave sweeping the entire country, consider making your green tea into a pitcher of iced tea. You’ll get the health benefits of green tea along with hydration!

Do you have a favorite green tea brand or recipe to share on this blog?

Is There a Weight Loss Bullet?

Actually, there are three weight loss bullets-food documentation, limiting restaurant food, and regular eating.  Dietitians have been aware of this information for decades, and a new study out this month supports these tried and true tactics for successful weight loss. 

Here are my thoughts on the subject:

  • Food documentation:  Food documentation can happen on a smart phone with numerous apps, desktop computer, or iPad.  I have clients who also mix it up a bit and even revert back to an old-fashioned small notebook and pen which is easy to carry around.  It does not matter how you document, because the fact that you document your food means you are not shoving food into your mouth without paying attention. You cannot “run and hide” from your calorie consumption, and the sheer act of “facing” those calories gives you a winning edge on successful weight loss because pretending you did not eat those calories is accomplishing nothing!
  •  Limit Restaurant Food:  Chances are pretty good that the meal you ate out for lunch or dinner contained many more calories than had you eaten at home.  Making a conscious choice to dine at home rather than away from home will increase the likelihood you will succeed at weight loss. Those that think otherwise are either in denial about the calorie content of standard restaurant cuisine or uninformed.  Remember the greasy bun you did not expect to come with your overly large burger or the really large serving of fries you probably would not have eaten at home? And, the cocktail and desserts typically not available at home but that you consumed while dining out are not helping your waistline either.  Try as you may, it is an extreme challenge to constantly dine out and manage your weight.  It is the first lifestyle change I recommend with new weight loss clients!
  • Eat Regularly: Even a hungry dietitian can walk into the kitchen and want to eat everything in sight if she or he went too long without eating! Eating on a regular schedule keeps your blood sugar up and your hunger down.  Going for very long periods between meals and snacks paves the way for a binge.  Intentional stockpiling of calories to save for later in the day usually backfires as well.  You will, in all likelihood, be so ravenous your guard will be down and you will overdo those calories and do so in a hurry as soon as you can eat.

No one ever said losing weight was easy.  But facing your eating and lifestyle behavior are half the battle in this process.  Being accountable, calorie savvy, and nourishing yourself on a timely basis will help make the weight loss process happen. 

What tools do you use?