5 Foods to Stop Eating After the Age of 10

While driving to work the other morning, I heard the radio DJ announce that there was a certain restaurant that doesn’t serve ketchup to individuals over the age of 10. Of course it was a steak restaurant and we all know the unspoken rule that you should never have to order ketchup when having a good steak. As comical as this was, it got me thinking… “Shouldn’t there be a list of other foods we should stop eating after the age of 10?” Here is where my thoughts took me.

Child at Breakfast

  • Lucky Charms and other “kid-friendly” cereals: This sugar-sweetened, low-fiber cereal may taste great, but it may require three bowls to fill you up. Plus, consuming this amount of simple carbs in one sitting will not only spike your insulin levels in the morning, it will often lead your body to crave more carbs later on in the day.
  • Spaghetti Os: This canned spaghetti meal became famous in the 1960s and it hasn’t lost any popularity points since. While the low-fat nature of the pasta may seem appealing, don’t be fooled by the fact that you are really just eating a can of processed carbs. Besides, who really wants to eat pasta that was canned 5 years ago?
  • Chicken Nuggets: This is a powerhouse in the diets of most American children, yet still quite appealing to most adults. One of the biggest downfalls when it comes to chicken nuggets is the fat content. Good, healthy sources of fat can be a part of anyone’s diet, but this is referring to the fats found in nuts, seeds, avocados, oils…not the ones from these little chicken bites. The other negative side of chicken nuggets is the fact they are very processed when compared to a natural piece of chicken.
  • Mac n Cheese and Hotdogs: I can recall one summer where I had this meal almost every day for lunch. When you put two processed foods like this together, you get high carbs, high fat (not the good kind), and high sodium. While this meal is simple to make, it is quite low in nutrients and often displaces opportunities to consume fruits and veggies.
  • Lunchables: The always-classic Lunchable is of course the meat, cheese and cracker combo. However, this has also been expanded to include nachos, tacos, and make-your-own pizza kits. The ones targeting older-aged children generally include a sub sandwich, chips and Capri Sun. Again, the main problem is that all of these food items are highly processed. Sugar-sweetened beverages and high-sodium sides are replacing nutrient-dense fruits and vegetables.

While many of these foods may bring back some fond memories of your childhood eating habits, the bottom line is that they are very poor sources of nutrients, regardless if you are an adult or child. Just because we don’t consume most of these items as adults doesn’t necessarily make them appropriate for our kids, especially since childhood obesity rates are at an all-time high.

Water A few simple tips for helping your children form better eating habits and becoming healthy adults:

  • Pack water bottles instead of Capri Suns or juice boxes for beverages in lunch boxes.
  • Include at least one fruit and one vegetable in all lunches. Try to keep your starches to just one item per meal (bread, crackers, potatoes, pretzels, cereal, granola bar, pasta).
  • Choose snacks that include a protein component: cheese, cottage cheese, nuts, peanut butter, Greek yogurt. Even better, pair the protein with a fruit or veggie serving: cottage cheese + pineapple, peanut butter + celery, cheese stick + grapes.
  • Limit consumption of meals that come from a box and practice making more meals from fresh, wholesome ingredients.
  • If you do purchase packaged food items, try to choose those with 5 ingredients or less. At least be able to pronounce and understand all ingredients listed.
  • Don’t purchase food from the same place you get your gas.


Assorted fruit

Fruit: Is there really a good and bad choice?

fruit_woman_iStock_000019680537XXXLargeWhen it comes to fruit, numerous patients have asked me if there is such a thing as good and bad fruit. Many will read on the internet that bananas are bad for you and grapes are too high in sugar. Messages like this can be quite confusing because after all, isn’t fruit supposed to be good for you?  The perk of eating fruit is that it is low in calories and contains a bundle of vitamins and minerals. The downfall of fruit is that it also contains natural sugars and like we know, too much sugar (even natural) is not a good thing.

I don’t really like to say that there are good fruits and bad fruits, but I do try encouraging some fruits over others based on their glycemic index. Glycemic index is a value assigned to foods that indicates what type of affect that food may have on one’s blood sugar and insulin level. A low glycemic food such as broccoli will have a minimal effect on blood sugar and insulin whereas a high glycemic food like a white potato will make both levels skyrocket. This information is especially important for someone who is diabetic or even pre-diabetic. In fact, a recent meta-analysis in the American Journal for Clinical Nutrition suggests that high intakes of foods with a high glycemic index can greatly increase one’s risk for developing diabetes. Elevated levels of insulin can also increase LDL (the bad cholesterol) as well as promote fat storage. It is understood that elevated insulin levels can make it more difficult for the body to burn stored fat; therefore, choosing foods with a lower glycemic index can help reduce insulin levels and thus, may help the body burn more fat and promote weight loss. Other consequences of chronically elevated insulin levels can include increased sugar cravings, elevated triglyceride levels and hypertension.

The glycemic index is a scale of 0-100. Foods with a score of 70 or higher are considered high glycemic foods and are encouraged to be limited. Foods with a medium score of 50-70 are considered moderate glycemic foods and should be eaten in moderation while foods with a score of less than 50 are lower on the glycemic index and should make up the bulk of one’s dietary choices. Below is a list of common fruits and their GI values.

Where does your favorite fruit fall on the list?

Fruit GI Value
Cherries 22
Grapefruit 25
Prunes 29
Apricot, dried 30
Apple 38
Pear, fresh 38
Peach, canned in juice 38
Plum 39
Orange 40
Peach, fresh 42
Grapes 46
Mango 51
Banana 52
Fruit Cocktail 55
Papaya 56
Raisins 56
Apricots, fresh 57
Kiwi 58
Figs, dried 61
Cantaloupe 65
Pineapple 66
Watermelon 72
Dates 103

Remember, just because a fruit has a high glycemic index doesn’t mean that you have to cut it completely out of your diet. It’s perfectly fine to enjoy some of these fruits from time to time guilt-free but at least try to mix up your choices with a variety of GI values.

Stick With It

Tropical beach scene on a sunny day in Oahu, HawaiiFor many of us, summertime is when we generally stick to our healthy habits a bit better. The days are warmer and longer so more people are walking outside for exercise. Fruits and vegetables are in season making them more flavorful and less expensive. However; vacations, social gatherings and even stress can tempt us with too many less-healthy menu items.

Here are a few tips for sticking to your clean eating and exercise habits for making 2014 one of your healthiest summers yet!
• Take a picture of yourself with you when grocery shopping. I actually heard this tip on the radio one day. It sounded a bit kooky, but made total sense. Looking at photographs of yourself can be very motivating. It can help you reminisce on a time where you made healthier choices or it could also provide motivation to march right on past the ice cream aisle.

Leave yourself positive notes. Put up little sticky notes around the house, in the car, at the office. Sometimes these little messages are all it takes to brighten your mood and help you stay on track with your health goals. Here’s one to get you started, “Nothing is impossible. The word itself says ‘I’m possible’”.

• Ask yourself what are the benefits and the consequences of consuming a certain food. If you’re debating on whether to have a certain food or not, it may be beneficial to ask yourself a few questions about consuming that item. Am I going to enjoy it? Will I feel too guilty about myself if I do eat it? Can I stick to a proper portion size? By eating this, will it help me reach my goal faster? Even I do this from time to time. Like a lot us, I tend to crave sweets at night. Sometimes, I indulge and other times I stick to a handful of trail mix or an apple + almond butter to satisfy my sweet tooth. One thing that helps me make the healthier decision is asking myself, “Will this Reese’s help me achieve my strength goals at the gym?”

• Get back on track as quick as possible. It’s happened to all of us; we have a bad weekend or maybe just a bad week of eating. Don’t throw in the towel after little slip-ups like these. They happen and the best approach to follow is to just get back on your healthy eating schedule as quick as possible.

• Monitor calories. Summer time is filled with fun food opportunities. There are fairs, carnivals, drive-in movies and vacations, all which can be accompanied with their share of less healthy food items. It’s not my practice to tell someone they can never enjoy a corn dog at the fair or popcorn at the movies; however, too much indulgence can lead to unwanted weight gain during this festive season. Simply tracking one’s calories can help you find a better balance between small summer indulgences and day-to-day eating. Two great calorie counting resources are www.myfitnesspal.com and www.loseit.com

Couple Bicycling on Rural Road• Find a buddy. Holding yourself accountable for healthy habits day-to-day can be difficult. Having a buddy to go to the gym with or to make sure you both pack healthy snacks and lunches for work can be very motivating for staying on track with being healthy this summer.

New Dietary Approaches for Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)

digestivesystemToday, I am addressing a topic that can be very difficult for many to talk about…Irritable Bowel Syndrome or IBS. Individuals who suffer from IBS have symptoms of bloating, constipation, gas, abdominal pain and diarrhea on a chronic basis. Many of my patients that have IBS state that they have dealt with their symptoms for years even decades without any real symptom relief. What many don’t know is that the food you eat or even the supplements you take that are supposed to help with diarrhea/constipation may actually be making  problems much worse.

In the past, diarrhea and constipation were treated with one dietary approach: fiber. Today, we are learning that some of these fiber sources can actually make symptoms more severe or prolong them. A more modern approach to treating IBS is following a low FODMAP diet. FODMAP is an acronym that stands for: Fermentable Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides and Polys. Basically this is a fancy way of saying “specific types of carbohydrates found in certain foods”. These types of carbs are often poorly absorbed, highly osmotic and rapidly fermented by bacteria in the gut that results in gas, bloating, abdominal pain and you got it-diarrhea and constipation. Eliminating these problematic foods has shown to have as high as an 86% success rate in decreasing symptoms in those with IBS.1

The list of foods that are high in FODMAPs is quite extensive and to be perfectly honest, it is also very overwhelming. FODMAPs can occur in almost all foods from fruits to vegetables, grains, dairy and beans. Even though this list encompasses practically all the food groups, there is still a wide variety of choices within these foods groups that are lower in FODMAPs and therefore, make suitable alternatives. For example, apples contain a high amount of fructose which can cause GI irritability in some individuals. However, blueberries and pineapple are two fruit choices that can be much easier on the digestive system.

For individuals with severe symptoms, following a full elimination trial of all the high FODMAP-containing foods can be very beneficial. Foods may be reintroduced one at a time back into the diet after about 6-8 weeks of the elimination phase to identify which specific foods are the ones that cause the onset of GI symptoms. Many find that there are only a few specific foods that cause their symptoms and thus, these foods should continue to be avoided. Individuals may also find that they can tolerate FODMAP-containing foods in small amounts but their symptoms can quickly develop if they consume quantities that surpass their threshold.

There are some more common FODMAP foods that typically affect most individuals with IBS. Engaging in a partial elimination of only the most common high FODMAP foods has also shown to provide relief for patients.These most common foods include:

  • Wheat, rye (bread, pasta, crackers, cookies, cakes, pizza crust, etc)
  • Garlic, onions, artichokes
  • Apples, pears, watermelon, mango and high fructose corn syrup
  • Milk
  • Sugar-free gum/mints, mushrooms

Nutrition facts.

There is no universal safe food or specific meal plan for individuals with functional bowel disorders. Some trigger foods or chemicals are considered more common allergens than others; however, our individual immune systems and gut flora will have the final say-so to what one’s personal inflammatory triggers are. For more information on following a low FODMAP diet, please schedule an appointment with your Springfield Clinic dietitian.

1. Staudacher HM, Whelan K, Irving PM, Lomer MC. (2011).Comparison of symptom response following advice for a diet low in fermentable carbohydrates (FODMAPs) versus standard dietary advice in patients with irritable bowel syndrome. J Hum Nutr Diet.;24(5);487-495.


Dinner’s Ready

Dinner time is often the one chance for everyone to sit down together, share a meal and discuss life’s events that day. However, in today’s busy world, this Norman Rockwell scene often is replaced with everyone jammed into the car and going through a drive-thru window. Did you know that families who sit together at home for three or more meals per week are more likely to consume:Norman-Rockwell-Freedom-from-Want-1943

  • More fruits and vegetables
  • Less fried food and soda
  • Less saturated fat and trans fat
  • More fiber, calcium, iron and vitamins B6, B12, C and E

When you think about these facts, it makes perfect sense that a home-cooked meal is going to be more nutritious than one purchased from the fast-food, drive-thru window. Most fast-food purchases include fried foods (chicken nuggets or chicken tenders, fries, fish fillets, onion rings) and a sugary-sweetened beverage, resulting in meals that are loaded with saturated and trans fats, sodium and added sugars. When meals are prepared at home, they are more likely to include a fruit and/or vegetable, a lean protein that has been grilled or baked, a whole grain product and either water or low-fat milk to drink.

Two nutrients that most American kids do not consume enough of are dietary fiber and potassium. Additionally, we are not getting enough plant-based foods. Eating more plant-based foods can help easily increase both dietary fiber and potassium intake. Foods that are excellent sources of potassium include: acorn and butternut squash, avocados, baked beans, bananas, broccoli, cantaloupe, mushrooms, nectarines, kiwi, spinach, sweet potatoes, white potatoes, oranges, tomatoes. Dietary fiber can be found in whole wheat bread and whole wheat pasta, nuts and seeds, beans (all varieties), berries, apples, pears, oranges, oats and peas to name a few. Adding these foods to familiar recipes or serving them by themselves is a wonderful way of improving nutritional intake at the dinner table.

Eating together as a family not only sounds like a great idea, research is showing that there are both social and health benefits that can be experienced by all family members.1 Additionally, children and adolescents who share family meals three or more times per week are2:

  • More likely to be in a normal weight range
  • Have healthier eating patterns

Additional benefits of family meal times include:

  • Better academic performance
  • Better connectedness and communication at home
  • Better language and communication skills
  • Opportunities to model healthy eating habits
  • More family time

As our families grow and take on more extracurricular activities, it can be more difficult to have everyone sit down at the same time for dinner. Making time in everyone’s schedules for a family meal has benefits that go beyond nutritional health. In a report published by the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University, 2011, they found that teens who consumed dinners with their families 5-7 times per week compared to those who sat down with the family less than 3 times per week were3:

  • 4x less likely to use tobacco
  • 2x less likely to use alcohol
  • 2.5x less likely to use marijuana

To limit distractions, make mealtimes a no-phone zone and turn off the television. Remember to make family meal time fun! Discussing bad grades or negative events should not occur at the dinner table. Positive family talks can be stemmed from questions like:

  • What was the best thing that happened today?
  • What was the funniest thing you saw or heard today?
  • Did you learn anything new today?
  • If you could eat the same vegetable every single day, what would it be?
  • What has been your favorite memory so far this year?

1.Family Dinner and Diet Quality Among Children and Adolescents. Arch Fam Med. 2000;9:235-240.

2.Is Frequency of Shared Family Meals Relate to the Nutritional Health of Children and Adolescents? Pediatrics, Official Journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics. May 2011.

3.The Importance of Family Dinners VII. The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University. September 2011.

Grilling, Baking, Marinating — OH MY! Part 1

pork chop peachesWhile I just earned 50 brownie points from my sister for making a Wizard of Oz reference, for many people, food preparation, especially grilling, can be as scary as flying monkeys.(That’s another 50 points!)

Grilling is most commonly associated with the meats: chicken, burgers, steak and hotdogs. But did you know, this cooking method is also a wonderful opportunity to prepare fruit and vegetable sides too! And, summer is one of the most bountiful seasons for produce, making it easy to purchase fresh, colorful additions to your meals.

For vegetables, all you need is three simple ingredients: olive oil, a pinch of sea salt and pepper. Zucchini, sweet potatoes, mushrooms and asparagus make excellent choices for first-time vegetable grillers. Simply brush a little olive oil on the vegetables, add your seasonings and in less than 10 minutes, your vegetables should be done! Adding fruits and vegetables to your grill plate has benefits of color, nutrients (vitamins, minerals and fiber) and they help make up a well-balanced meal.

Too often, I see grilled items being served with potato salad, beans and mac n cheese. While potatoes are a vegetable and beans are a good source of fiber, all three of these items are starches. A well-balanced meal should only contain no more than one starch item and most of the time, that role is filled by the bun (preferably whole wheat) used for meat.

When you grill fruit, you often intensify its flavor. Peaches, pineapple slices and apples are some of my favorite fruits to throw on the grill. They make fantastic additions to meals or add a new twist to healthy desserts. Season apple slices with cinnamon and nutmeg, grill and serve with 1 ½ cup scoop of frozen Greek yogurt for an instant hit with the family. Kabobs can be created using fruits or vegetables. Try marinating vegetable kabobs in Italian dressing or drizzle a little bit of chocolate sauce over cooked fruit kabobs.

Serving food on a stick is another secret weapon for getting kids of all ages to eat their fruits and vegetables.

This Lemon-Mint Pork Chop and Grilled Peach recipe is an Olympic Gold Medalist at our household.

  • ½ cup fresh lemon juice
  • ¼ cup finely chopped fresh mint
  • ¼ cup finely chopped fresh parsley
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • ½ tsp sea salt
  • ½ tsp ground pepper
  • 4 boneless pork chops
  • 1 small red onion, cut into wedges
  • 2 peaches, halved, pitted and cut into 1 inch wedges

1. Combine all ingredients except for peaches in a large Ziploc bag. Shake ingredients and marinate in the fridge for at least 2 hours (or overnight, preferred).

2. Grill pork chops on medium-high heat for 3-4 minutes on each side, turning only once.

3. Place onions and peaches on grill and cook for 4 minutes, turning frequently until crisp and tender.

4. Divide among 4 plates and serve with a couple leaves of mint and parsley for garnish.