Category Archives: vegetables

A Diet for Kids that Promotes Bone Growth, Not Fat

Dark-green vegetables, such as the broccoli above, and deep-yellow vegetables are part of a diet that can promote bone growth while attenuating fat accumulation in children.

“Eat your dark-green and deep-yellow veggies and limit fried foods” is the message for parents who are interested in promoting bone growth, not fat, in their children according to findings of a study published online June 2, 2010 in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.  The study collected data on a total of 325 children (ages 3.8-7.8 years) over a 4 year study period during which measures of body weight, body composition, dietary patterns, physical activity levels, and time spent watching television and playing outdoors were assessed.  The researchers found that those children who consumed diets that were higher in dark-green and deep-yellow vegetables and lower in fried foods had higher bone mass and lower fat mass than those children whose diets lacked these characteristics.

Some interesting findings came out of the study.  The researchers found that even when total caloric intake was the same, a higher consumption of fried foods was associated with a greater accrual of fat mass.  The investigators speculate that hormonal shifts which favor fat growth, as opposed to lean mass development, may be a factor; but, they note that more research is needed.

The findings of the study also indicated that a high consumption of processed meats combined with the consumption of dark-green and deep-yellow vegetables was related to the development of greater bone mass.  They believe this increase is linked to protein which, according to data from previous studies, has been shown to play a role in enhancing bone mass in adults.  And, in this particular cohort of children, processed meats were a major source of protein in their diets.  However, the investigators stress that they do not advocate processed meats to be a mainstay in children’s diets due to the high sodium and saturated fat contents of these products.  The researchers believe that the role of dark-green and deep-yellow vegetable consumption has in promoting greater bone mass is related to the presence of alkalizing minerals, such as potassium, in these foods.

The investigators conclude that their findings have great implications because it is the study is the first of which, to their knowledge, to show that a certain combination of foods can promote bone mass while attenuating fat accumulation in children.  Many parents are aware of the health risks that children now-a-days are facing at increasing rates as a result of a poor diet.  Obesity and osteoporosis are two conditions in which their origins may be rooted in childhood dietary practices.  The challenge for parents is to provide their children with healthy eating habits that promote the growth of bone while reducing the risk for accruing high amounts of body fat.  There is limited information available to parents and caretakers as to what constitutes a diet that can achieve both of these goals.  The findings of the current study show promise that diets can be manipulated to optimize growth and development in children.

Suggested Dark-green and Deep-yellow Vegetables to Serve:

  • Spinach
  • Romaine lettuce
  • Broccoli
  • Carrots
  • Sweet potatoes

Does your child have a favorite dark-green or deep-yellow vegetable?  How do you prepare it?  Share with us, we want to know!

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Filed under children, diet, obesity, osteoporosis, vegetables

Could these Nutrients be Lacking in your Child’s Diet?

If your child’s diet consists mostly of fast food meals, processed and refined products, and soft drinks, then he or she may not be getting enough of 5 nutrients that play a necessary role in the proper growth and development of his or her body.  The essential nutrients that could be lacking include: fiber, magnesium, potassium, vitamin E, and/or calcium.  An “essential nutrient” is a nutrient that your body needs to function properly, but can only be obtained from food sources.  Essential nutrients cannot be synthesized (made) by the body and so an adequate diet must be consumed to prevent deficiency.

How do these nutrients effect the growth and development of your child?

Fiber: Plant-based foods are the only natural source of fiber.  Fiber is needed to regulate digestion and to prevent constipation.  It also plays a role in the management of cholesterol levels and in reducing your child’s risk for developing type 2 diabetes and heart disease later in life.  Whole grains (e.g., oatmeal, brown rice, bulgur/cracked wheat, etc.,), beans and legumes, nuts, seeds, and fruits and vegetables are all sources of fiber.  Note, if your child’s current diet is lacking in fiber, you will want to introduce high-fiber foods gradually to avoid gastrointestinal discomfort.  Start by offering a high-fiber snack after school, such as carrots and bean dip or by providing cooked whole oats at breakfast.  Make sure your child drinks plenty of water as you increase the fiber in his or her diet.

Magnesium: Magnesium has many roles in the body.  It fosters bone and teeth growth; maintains proper functioning of the heart, muscles, and the nervous and immune systems; and, it promotes energy production.  If your child consumes a lot of processed foods, he or she could be deficient in magnesium, because most of this nutrient is removed during processing.  Dark green vegetables (e.g., spinach), almonds, pumpkin seeds, whole wheat, and milk can provide your child with magnesium.

Potassium: Potassium maintains fluid and mineral balance in the body.  In addition, it promotes strong bones, plays a role in energy production, regulates heart and muscle function, and aids in the transmission of nerve signals (impulses).  Some food sources that contain potassium include bananas, avocados, lima beans, and cantaloupe.

Vitamin E: Vitamin E is a powerful antioxidant that provides protection against free radicals which can cause damage to cell membranes.  Your child needs adequate amounts of vitamin E to build a strong immune system.  Good food sources for this essential vitamin include: wheat germ, sunflower seeds, almonds, and filberts.

Calcium: Commonly known for its role in promoting strong bones and preventing osteoporosis, calcium also helps to regulate heart rhythm and muscle function. Low-fat and/or flavored milk, yogurt, fortified juices and soy/nut milks, canned fish, cheese, collard greens, and broccoli are some sources of calcium.

By providing your child with a diet that is rich in fruits and vegetables; whole grains; lean meats, fish, and poultry; and low-fat/nonfat diary products, you can increase his or her chances of developing a healthy and strong body. Get your child involved in the decision making process by having him or her help you choose the recipes for family meals, purchasing the ingredients at the store, and with meal preparation.  As a result, you will increase your child’s awareness of the importance of making healthy food choices.  For more information about the food sources and recommended intake levels for fiber, magnesium, potassium, vitamin E, and calcium, visit MyPyramid.gov.

Why do you think children may be lacking in these essential nutrients?  What can be done about it?  Who is responsible?  Share with us, we want to know!

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Filed under children, diet, essential nutrients, fruit, health, healthy food, nutrition, vegetables, vitamins and minerals

Putting it on the Plate with PICKKA

Welcome to the first Putting it on the Plate with PICKKA posting here at the Health and Food Forum’s Blog.  As a new regular feature, Putting it on the Plate with PICKKA will show you how easy it is to put a healthy meal on the table by using Evincii/PICKKA’s Eat This? and Shop to Lose apps for the iPhone.  A question that I am often asked is “Can a healthy diet include prepackaged foods?”  Yes, when the right choices are made.  This answer, I realize, may sound as if a lot of work and time is involved in order to decipher the nutrition labels; however, the “Eat This?” and “Shop to Lose” apps take the frustration out of the decision making process for you.  Both apps allow you to enter your health goals, then they do the work to find the right products for you.

Recently, I used my “Eat This?” app to help me find healthy, prepackaged foods that would allow me to provide a quick, nutritious meal for my family.  Time has been short these last few weeks and will be until the school year has ended for my children.  Therefore, I need to be able to prepare fast dinners without cutting short on health.  Here is how the “Eat This?” app helped me:

I entered my objectives (healthy eating, weight management, pre-diabetes, and high blood pressure).  Then, I started scanning products.  Based on the results from “Eat This?”, I was able to find products that mostly fell within the “Very Good Choice” range – in fact, I even got a “bravo” from my “Eat This?” app which made me quite happy.  What meal did I prepare?  Low-fat pierogies topped with low-fat sour cream and fat-free cheddar cheese with a side of mixed vegetables.  And, because I bought prepackaged and frozen foods, I was able to prepare the meal in under 20 minutes.

The "Eat This?" app for the iPhone helped me find healthy prepackaged and frozen foods to make a quick, nutritious meal.

Are you interested in learning more about these apps?  Click the respective links to start your healthy shopping adventure today:

How do you prepare quick and healthy meals for yourself or your family?  Share with us, we want to know!

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Filed under Eat This?, health, healthy food, nutrition, Shop to Lose, Uncategorized, vegetables, weight management

Your Guide to Shopping at the Farmers Market

Fresh, locally grown produce is sold at farmers markets.

I love to shop at farmers markets.  I have visited many in the different communities throughout my state, as well as, some in other states while I have been vacationing.  I look forward to the experience every season.  Why?  The atmosphere is wonderful.   The sweet scent of the fresh produce and flowers is intoxicating.  And, the predominance of smiling faces is uplifting.  From my experiences, I have learned a few things that have helped me to get the most out of my visits to farmers markets.  Here is what I have learned:

What to expect: Anything and everything.  Farmers’ markets are typically known for their wide arrray of fresh, in-season produce, homemade baked goods, and flats of flowers and other plants from local farmers.  Larger markets may offer craft goods made by local artists, as well as, flea market items – such as used books and toys.  Depending on the community, you may find entertainment, such as music from “garage” bands and magicians who entertain children.  Many farmers markets are open-air entities, however, some are enclosed.  Although each community offers its unique approach to the farmers market, you can rest assured that you will find smiling, friendly faces who are eager to share their expertise and experiences with you.

What to bring:

  1. Reusable bags with handles.  Few vendors have bags for purchased items; and, when they do, the bags are typically plastic and flimsy.  Reusable bags are eco-friendly and tend to be stronger, thus reducing the risk of breaking under the weight of the fresh produce.
  2. Small containers with lids.  Many vendors use the containers for display only and do not give them to you as part of the purchase, hence, your pint of loose blueberries may get squashed in your bag.  Small containers from home that are used to store leftovers can help solve the problem.
  3. A wagon or mini cart.  During one of our first farmers market experiences, my family and I got carried away with our purchases and had no means of which to carry them.  Luckily, a vendor was selling small wheeled carts.  We purchased one and have taken it with us on many subsequent outings.
  4. Bring a cooler with ice packs.  A cooler will help to keep your purchases fresh until you can take them home and prepare them.
  5. Cash.  Some vendors accept personal checks and/or credit cards, but many do not.  Using cash to purchase  your items will also speed up the checkout process.
  6. Comfortable walking shoes, clothes for the weather (e.g., rain coat), sunscreen, sunglasses and/or hat, etc,.
  7. A sense of adventure.  You will never know what you will find.  Keep an open mind and try a new fruit or vegetable that the vendor has for sale.  Sometimes, just by letting your senses be the guide, you may find a new favorite that you can make part of a healthy diet.

Best time to go:

  1. Early if you want the best selection.
  2. Late if you want the best deals.

Shopping strategy:

  1. Make a list of what you need to buy, however, don’t let it limit you.  Although you will want to have  a general idea of what you want to buy, a farmer may be offering something that is not on your list, but looks particularly fresh.  Don’t hesitate to buy it if you think you could use it in a recipe for that week.
  2. Plan to spend some time at the market, especially if it is a large one.
  3. Do an initial assessment.  Take a stroll around the market first to get a feel for what vendors are offering.  Make a mental note of items of interest and see how the prices for similar products compare between vendors.
  4. Ask the farmer/vendor questions.  Does he or she have recipes or tips on storing, preparing, and cooking the produce?  Were conventional farming methods used or organic?  What produce does the farmer think he will bring next week?

Farmers markets are a wonderful way to support your community and to be eco-friendly at the same time.  Buying locally produced products is cost-efficient and reduces the ill effects on the environment that occur with transporting these goods across the country.  Produce from farmers markets tend to be fresh and many individuals who patron these markets claim that their purchases taste better.  To find a farmers’ market near you, click here.

Do you shop at farmers markets?  What has your experience been?  What are your favorite finds from a farmers market?  Share with us, we want to know!

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Filed under eco-friendly, fruit, green eating, green living, health, healthy food, organic, sustainable, vegetables

ADHD Linked to Pesticides – Another Reason to go Organic

Yesterday’s release of scientific data that links Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) to pesticide exposure supports the case for going organic.  The study, published in the May 17, 2010 online version of Pediatrics – The Official Journal of The American Academy of Pediatrics, found that out of 1139 children ages 8-15 years, those whose urine samples contained higher levels of organophosphate metabolites were more likely to have ADHD.  Previous studies have shown a correlation between markers of organophosphate exposure and impaired neurodevelopment (e.g., behavioral problems and reduced cognitive function) in children living in environments with high exposure (e.g., living on a conventional farm).  However, the recent study is the first to see a correlation in the general population for whom no particular exposure has occurred.

Most of the children (93.8%) had some detectable markers of organophosphate exposure in their urine.  Depending on the marker of organophosphate exposure, there was a 55-75% increase in the risk for developing ADHD for each 10 fold increase in urinary concentration of the metabolite (dimethyl alkylphosphate levels). The researchers note that because organophosphates are typically eliminated from the body within 3-6 days, their presence in most of the children studied indicates continued exposure.

Besides being present in the environment, residue of organophosphate metabolites has been found on fruits and vegetables, such as frozen blueberries.  Investigators highlight that there are several limitations to the study and that there is a need for further investigation to determine if the link between pesticide exposure and ADHD is causal.

The current study’s findings highlight the importance of Americans to be aware of their food source and what they are putting into their bodies, as well as, their children’s bodies.

What do you think?  Does this study support the case for eating only organically farmed fruits and vegetables?  Can rinsing conventionally grown fruits and vegetables eliminate the risk?  After reading this report, will you make the switch to organic foods?  Share with us, we want to know!

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Filed under diet, eco-friendly, fruit, green eating, green living, health, healthy food, organic, sustainable, Uncategorized, vegetables

Simply Sunday

Welcome to the first Simply Sunday post here at the Health and Food Forum’s Blog (HFF).  Every Sunday the HFF’s Blog will provide you with some “food for thought” – bite-sized pieces of information and little morsels of ideas that get you thinking about nutrition.  Below are some statistics from the CDC’s website for the National Fruit & Vegetable Program for you to ponder throughout the day and the upcoming week.

  • Slightly less than 25% of Americans consume 5 or more servings of fruit and vegetables per day.
  • Thirty-percent of American adults over the age of 65 consume at least 5 servings of fruit and vegetables per day.
  • Thirty-eight percent of American adults ages 18-24 years eat only 1-2 servings of fruit and vegetables per day.
  • Individuals who eat a greater number of servings of fruit and vegetables per day have a lower risk for developing type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, some forms of cancer, and cardiovascular disease and stroke.
  • Your daily fruit and vegetable requirements depend on your age, gender, and activity level.  Click here for more information.
  • Daily fruit and vegetable requirements are measured in cups.  To determine what counts as a cup click here.

How many servings of fruit and vegetables do you consume per day?  What are your favorites?  Share with us, we want to know!

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Filed under fruit, health, healthy food, nutrition, vegetables