Is Lack of Sleep Making You Fat?

August 4, 2017 by  
Filed under Dietary Patterns, Obesity

If you’re feeling a little sluggish in these dog days of summer, here’s a pretty good reason to start getting more sleep: a new study suggests that skimping on sleep certainly adds pounds.

The study – published in the journal PLOS One – looked at over 1,600 adults in the United Kingdom and found that not getting enough sleep basically makes you gain a clothes size.

Those who got only 6 hours per night had waist measurements that were 1.2 inches greater than those who slept 9 hours per night.

Additionally, the light sleepers also had less favorable lipid profiles, suggesting a metabolic effect in addition to weight when not getting adequate sleep.

So how much sleep should we be getting? Experts don’t EXACTLY agree on a set number, but it’s certainly more than 6! The Mayo Clinic says healthy adults need somewhere between 7-9 hours per night.

Think about turning in early tonight – your gut and your heart will thank you!

World Breastfeeding Week

August 1, 2017 by  
Filed under baby food, Child nutrition

It’s World Breastfeeding Week, and a new report out from The Global Breastfeeding Collective finds that as a planet, we’re not doing so well when it comes to exclusive breastfeeding goals.

The World Health Organization recommends exclusive breastfeeding (meaning nothing other than breastmilk given to baby) for the first 6 months of life.

Breastfeeding, which helps lower infant mortality rates and increases optimal development in infants, also brings huge economic benefits to families and the countries they reside in.

But currently none of the countries evaluated – rich or poor – are doing enough to help encourage exclusive breastfeeding for the first 6 months.

A few sobering statistics from the report:

  • Only 40% of infants are exclusively breastfed for 6 months per the WHO recommendations
  • Increasing that to 50% by 2025 would save the lives of more than 500,000 young children
  • Highest exclusive BF rates at 6 months are in Rwanda and Burundi at 87 and 83%, respectively
  • Lowest exclusive BF rates at 6 months are in Chad and Djibouti at 0 and 1%, respectively

Here in the US, only 25% of babies are exclusively breastfed.

Authors of the report recommend a number of ways to increase global breastfeeding rates. These include cracking down on advertising of infant formula which supplants breastfeeding and advocating for paid maternity leave for parents.

To learn more about the positive impact that breastfeeding can have on individual children, their larger families and communities and countries, check out the UNICEF page that promotes exclusive breastfeeding here.

Baby-Led Feeding, Fussiness and Weight

July 24, 2017 by  
Filed under baby food, Child nutrition

 

There are a lot of ways to feed a baby…and one of the more popular approaches is modeled on the philosophy called baby-led weaning. With baby-led weaning, you bypass spoon-feeding of pureed food and encourage babies to self-feed age appropriate foods.

Although the practice of allowing a baby to self-feed has been around for generations, the term was only recently coined by British feeding expert and author of the Baby-Led Weaning Book, Gill Rapley, PhD. Proponents of this approach say it encourages independence, helps babies respond to their hunger and fullness cues and decreases picky eating later in life.

But as with any claim you want to make in the health and wellbeing space…you better have some data to back it up!

A new study published in the journal JAMA Pediatrics found that a baby-led approach to complementary feeding resulted in children who had less food fussiness (i.e., picky eating) – a finding also replicated in previous studies. This new study also found that these self-fed babies also did not exhibit any signs of growth faltering – meaning that a baby-led approach to feeding can likely meet a healthy baby’s nutrition needs.

Some proponents of the baby-led approach to feeding maintain that it leads to healthier weight and can help prevent overweight and obesity down the line (compared to spoon-feeding). This particular study indicated that a baby-led approach to complementary feeding does not appear to reduce risk for overweight compared with traditional feeding practices (although it didn’t increase risk of underweight either!)

The study was part of the 2-year Baby-Led Introduction to Solids (BLISS) randomized clinical trial and it included 206 women followed from pregnancy in New Zealand. Although this particular study was small, it is an important contribution to the growing body of literature that supports a baby-led approach to feeding as a viable and safe alternative to spoon-feeding.

Kids Favor Fruit Over Veggies

There’s not always a ton of good news on the kids nutrition front. But here’s a little bright spot: according to the USDA, more kids are eating fruits and vegetables.

While the majority of kids still don’t meet the recommended number of servings of fruits and vegetables consumed per day, at least intake levels are on the rise.

Not surprisingly, on a daily basis, kids do eat more servings of fruit than they do vegetables. Based on a recent analysis of data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (2009-2010), here’s what’s happening:

  • 77% of kids aged 2–19 years ate fruit on a given day
  • Almost 92% of those aged 2–19 years ate vegetables on a given day.
  • Nine out of 10 kids aged 2–5 years consumed fruit, while only 6 out of 10 adolescents ate fruit on a given day.
  • More children aged 2–5 years than adolescents consumed vegetables on a given day.

So if you have kids at home, be sure to include at least one fruit or vegetable at each meal…and more if possible!

Babies, toddlers and young children who are exposed to a greater variety of foods are more likely to continue those patterns into adolescence and adulthood.

Should You Be Gluten Free?

July 17, 2017 by  
Filed under Gluten Free

Seems like everywhere you turn these days, there’s more and more gluten free foods for sale.

In fact, Mintel estimates that the gluten free market was worth $10 billion in 2013. An interesting statistic when you consider that only about 1% of the population truly has celiac disease.

Celiac disease is an autoimmune disease characterized by the inability to tolerate gluten, the protein found in wheat, rye and barley.

The only therapy for celiac disease is lifelong adherence to a gluten free diet. But many people choose to follow a gluten-free diet, even if they don’t have celiac disease.

Some claim going gluten-free helps increase energy, might promote weight loss or helps them deal with gluten sensitivity issues…although there is not a consistent body of research to support all claims.

But just because a food is gluten free does not necessarily make it a “health food”. Actually, according to Food Navigator and flour milling company Ardent Mills, about 43% of the new gluten free foods introduced in 2013 were for gluten free snack foods like crackers, cookies or chips.

These highly processed snack foods – gluten-free or not – are foods we shouldn’t be eating that much of to begin with. Eating more cookies, cakes, crackers or chips is not going to help improve your health – no matter what your individual situation is!

So if you’re considering going gluten-free, make sure you don’t replace unnecessary calories from processed snack foods with gluten-free versions of the same!

A better approach is to look for and include foods that are naturally gluten-free, like whole grains, fruits and vegetables, lean protein and dairy. For some good resources about gluten-free gains, check out the Whole Grains Council page on the topic here.

What’s Up with Milk Substitutes?

Cruise the dairy aisle of your nearest grocery store and the “milk” aisle will blow you away.

Most likely because there’s a decreasing amount of conventional cow’s milk available for sale but a LOT of milk alternatives.

So what exactly is a milk alternative – and who might benefit from drinking one?

Milk alternatives are non-cow’s milk beverages that provide some (or in some cases, all) of the nutrient benefits of milk.

These includes foods like almond milk, soy milk, coconut milk and rice milk.

But you have to be careful when it comes to milk substitutes because not all of them are created the same.

Calcium

Cow’s milk is hands down the best source of dietary calcium. It is very well absorbed and found in higher quantities in dairy foods than in any other food category.

But some people can’t handle cow’s milk, either because of allergy, intolerance, or personal preference.

Most milk substitutes today do contain calcium – but always check your labels. There’s no point in drinking a milk substitute if it is not fortified with calcium.

Protein

Cow’s milk is a great source of protein, with about 8 grams per cup of cow’s milk. Many milk substitutes do contain protein, but some don’t have as much as you would think.

A good example of this is almond milk. Almond milk (even though it comes from high protein almonds) retains very little protein after processing.

You’re likely getting enough protein elsewhere in your diet, but especially for children you want to make sure that almond milk is a good fit (by checking with your primary care practitioner or dietitian) if you’re withholding cow’s milk for whatever reason.

Sugar

Cow’s milk contains 12 grams of sugar per cup – but it’s naturally occurring milk sugar, lactose.

Many milk substitutes have added sugar in the form of vanilla or other flavoring. Nobody needs to be getting added sugars from their milk substitutes, so look instead for plain or unsweetened versions if you’re looking at a substitutes.

The bottom line is: milk alternatives can be a good way for a person who doesn’t drink cow’s milk to get some important nutrients. You do have to be an educated consumer though, and read those labels, to make sure you’re really getting the best bet when it comes to an alternative.

Can Vitamins Help Your Hair, Skin and Nails?

Sounds pretty simple: take a “high potency” vitamin cocktail and your hair, skin and nails will magically start to shine.

But is there any truth to the claims that dietary supplements can help improve hair, skin and nail health?

In short: no.

You see, the B vitamin biotin is associated with nail (and even a bit of hair and skin) health. But that’s when a diet includes an ample amount of biotin.

Having a sub-par diet and then topping it off with a biotin pill chase, isn’t going to do the trick.

A diet that is inadequate in biotin will result in poor hair, skin and nail health (as will a diet that has inadequate dietary fat).

But bulking up on biotin supplements will not make your hair, skin and nail health better.

Your best bet is to round out your diet with foods that are natural sources of biotin like nuts, eggs, avocados, vegetables, meat and fish.

Let the food based source of biotin work its magic, and save your money from those supplements, which in this case don’t do any good!

Cutting Boards 101

Ask yourself:

How many cutting boards are in your kitchen right now? (Come on…be honest!)

And for about how long have they been there?

Cutting boards are one of those things we take for granted. You buy a few, keep them forever, and don’t really think about what they represent.

A great cutting board review article in USA Today recently summed it up best, saying, “If you think about it, cutting boards are kind of doomed from the start; they’re the crime scene for pretty much every meal you make in the kitchen.”

That’s right, you dissect meat, you carve up vegetables, you splatter food all over your cutting board…and they never fight you back.

But….do they?

Cutting Board Safety

You see…you have to be careful when it comes to cutting boards. Cross contamination of foods can lead to food borne illness, and cutting boards don’t keep forever.

Here are a few tips on cutting board cleanliness:

  • Use two cutting boards: one for raw meat, poultry and seafood and another for ready-to-eat foods such as fruits and vegetables
  • Wash all cutting boards thoroughly in hot, soapy water
  • Throw out cutting boards that have visible cracks, crevices or knife scars since harmful bacteria can live here

If you’re looking for a reason to swap out some of your kitchen gear, cleaning up your cutting board game might be a good first place to start!

 

 

 

National Nutrition Month: Put Your Best Fork Forward

March is National Nutrition Month and this year’s theme is Put Your Best Fork Forward.

So how exactly can you go about leading with your best fork?

Small shifts in your food choices add up over time. So don’t stress if you don’t have a “perfect” diet – just work to make small changes that move you in the right direction!

Here are the key messages for this year’s month-long celebration of nutrition:

  1. Create an eating style that includes a variety of your favorite, healthful foods.
  2. Practice cooking more at home and experiment with healthier ingredients.
  3. How much we eat is as important as what we eat. Eat and drink the right amount for you, as MyPlate encourages us to do.
  4. Find activities that you enjoy and be physically active most days of the week.
  5. Manage your weight or lower your health risks by consulting a registered dietitian nutritionist. RDNs can provide sound, easy-to-follow personalized nutrition advice to meet your lifestyle, preferences and health-related needs.

For more great information about National Nutrition Month, visit the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics’ NNM website.

 

Can Giving Babies Peanuts to Prevent Peanut Allergy

March 8, 2017 by  
Filed under Uncategorized

If you’re a parent with a baby, you might be pondering about peanuts.

You see, the guidelines about introducing peanuts to babies recently changed.

It used to be that the American Academy of Pediatrics and other nutrition authorities recommended that parents hold off on introducing peanuts until a baby was well beyond his first birthday.

But a new set of guidelines from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) has reversed course, and now recommends earlier introduction of peanuts.

Based on a body of research, it appears that earlier introduction of peanuts helps prevent peanut allergy, especially in babies who are higher risk of peanut allergy (such as those with a family member with peanut allergy or a baby who already has egg allergy or severe eczema).

Here’s the breakdown of the new guidelines:

  • Guideline 1 – If your baby has severe eczema, egg allergy, or both (conditions that increase the risk of peanut allergy), he or she should have peanut-containing foods introduced into the diet as early as 4 to 6 months of age.
  • Guideline 2 – If your baby has mild to moderate eczema, he or she may have peanut-containing foods introduced into the diet around 6 months of age to reduce the risk of developing peanut allergy.
  • Guideline 3 – If your baby has no eczema or any food allergy, you can freely introduce peanut-containing foods into his or her diet.

Bottom line is, earlier introduction of peanut allergy appears to be protective against peanut allergy infection.

 

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