December 2012 | | 1-888-376-7136

[Volume 4, Issue 12]

Can Salt Make Kids Fat?

Normally when you read about salt, you’re told to avoid it so you can keep your blood pressure at a healthy level. Which isn’t an easy thing to do. Sodium, one of the minerals in salt, is associated with elevated blood pressure. It’s also everywhere from table salt, to canned foods, frozen dinners and chips and other snacks. Some experts think it might be a factor in childhood obesity.

Is too much salt a trigger for childhood obesity?

This article from Time magazine discusses the possibilities that too much salt may trigger the eating habits that lead to obesity. Salt itself has no calories, but it’s got lots of flavor and that flavor may be addictive. The article points to a study that found a correlation between high salt intake and drinking more sugary soft drinks. If this holds true, salt may trigger a craving for sugar, which usually leads to excess calorie intake.

Things to think about:

  • Teach kids about sodium and salt and how it affects health.
  • Have students read food labels – how much sodium is in processed foods.
  • Research recipes in foods classes. What types of recipes are high in sodium and how can they be fixed?
Finals Week? Time for Brain food

Semesters will be ending soon in various parts of the country and even at the high school level, that often means a week of final exams. This can be an exhausting and stressful time as students stay up late to study and maybe more prone to follow some bad eating habits.

Buff bites: finals-friendly food

This article from the Colorado Daily offers some great tips for boosting brain power with healthier foods. It’s aimed at college kids (Buff is short for buffaloes, the University of Colorado nickname), but there’s plenty of good advice for high school students too.

Foods that may help kids prepare for finals:

  • Eggs are high in a substance called lecithin, which is good for the brain. Although they’re high in saturated fat, they’re a good source of protein and not too high in total calories.
  • Fish is rich in omega-3 fatty acids that your brain needs to function properly. Salmon and tuna are good choices, batter-fried fish sticks are not.
  • Whole grains are a good source of carbohydrates and fiber. Fiber keeps you feeling full and is good for digestive system function. Carbohydrates are broken down into glucose, which is the fuel your brain requires.
  • Fresh fruits and vegetables are low in calories and contain all kinds of nutrients that might help keep the body healthy during stressful times. Blueberries are especially good for the brain.
Heirloom Grains

There’s a new trend popping up in grocery stores and even some restaurants. So what’s new? Actually it’s something old – heirloom, or ancient, grains. Some say they have health benefits that modern day wheat has lost. Could that be true?

Eating like the ancients: heirloom grains return

This article by The Wall Street Journal describes some of the new, I mean old, grains that are showing up on grocery store shelves. Grains like teff, millet, sorghum and einkorn. Some of the interest comes from the desire to avoid gluten (a protein in wheat, barley and rye that causes problems for some people), but it’s important to realize that many of these grains are not gluten-free. So are they any healthier than regular wheat? Maybe, but probably not by much.

Dealing with School Lunch Rules

The new federal school lunch rules were pretty strict on how many servings of specific food groups could be served with any meal. And school kids across the country balked at the loss of they’re beloved peanut butter sandwiches. So the rules were changed.

Peanut butter, garlic bread back on school plates

This article from CNN reviews the school lunch policies governing things like the number of servings of grains and proteins allowed per meal. Students and administrators made complaint, and the rules were relaxed. How has this affected your school?
Kids' Obesity Rates Falling In Some Cities

This is good news. After years of rising rates of childhood obesity, they leveled off, and now some cities are seeing a decrease. Now, we need those rates to fall all across the country. Why? Because obese children usually become obese adults and obesity is a risk factor for disease like diabetes, cardiovascular disease and some forms of cancer.

Obesity in young is seen as falling in several cities

This article from the New York Times tells about various cities that are seeing a drop in childhood obesity rates. It’s only a little drop – like about 3 to 5 percent, but that’s just a start (and much better than seeing rates go up).

Obesity awareness:

  • Teach kids about the health problems associated with obesity.
  • Focus on fun physical activities kids can do at school during recess or at home after school.
  • Ask students to find healthier recipes and come up with substitutes for typical high calorie snacks – like eating an apple instead of a candy bar.
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Do Kids Need Dietary Supplements?

Kids who eat balanced diets probably get all the vitamins and minerals they need from the foods they eat, so supplementation shouldn't be necessary. Some kids, however, may benefit from taking kids' dietary supplements. Children who are extremely picky eaters may be missing out on some vital nutrients, and there is some research showing many children may not be meeting their vitamin D needs if they don't go out in the sun often enough. Omega-3 fatty acids may also be deficient. If your child doesn't eat fish and seafood, pumpkin seeds, flaxseeds, soy or walnuts, he or she may benefit from taking fish oil or omega-3 fatty acid supplements.

A few words about supplement safety. Although most multivitamins and mineral supplements designed for children are generally safe, you should speak with your health care provider before giving your kids any kind of dietary supplements, especially those that are formulated for adults. If you do give your kids any supplements, be sure to follow the label directions for dosages unless your health care provider tells you to do something different. Keep adult vitamins out of the reach of toddlers and young children.

Dietary supplement formulas and the ingredients are not standardized so quality is not well regulated by government agencies. Don't automatically believe any claims made by dietary supplement companies when they state things such as improves immune system function or increases brain function. These claims are almost always unsubstantiated. Don't attempt to treat any specific health conditions with supplements unless without the guidance of your health care provider. Some dietary supplements such as iron, selenium, and vitamins A and D can become toxic in large amounts and should not be given in large doses. Here's a list of foods high in iron.

Choosing fortified and enriched foods. Even if your kid is a picky eater, he or she may be getting enough vitamins and minerals. Some of the foods your child is eating are already be fortified or enriched with supplemental vitamins and minerals. Milk has vitamin D added to it, many breakfast cereals have a long list of added vitamins and minerals, most bread has extra iron and B vitamins, and orange juice is sometimes sold with added calcium.

Dietary supplements are substitutes for nutritious foods. If your kid is a picky eater, you should continue to encourage him or her to try new foods. Eventually, he or she will probably begin to eat a more balanced diet including plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, dairy products (or other calcium sources), and healthy fat sources such as olive oil, nuts and seeds.
More About School Lunches, Nutrition and Healthy Kids

Avoiding gluten is getting easier

Junk food taxes pay off, study finds

Fluid retention is often just an annoyance, but it can point to serious illness

Making comfort foods healthier

About Shereen Jegtvig
Shereen Jegtvig is a health and nutrition writer with two decades of experience counseling people on nutrition and diet. She has a master’s degree in human nutrition and is a member of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and the Association of Health Care Journalists.   Shereen writes about nutrition for the large website (, is co-author of Superfoods for Dummies ( and Clinical Anatomy for Dummies ( She also teaches Evidence Based Nutrition to nutrition graduate students and fundamentals of nutrition to undergrads at the University of Bridgeport in Connecticut.