December 2013 | | 1-888-376-7136

[Volume 5, Issue 12]

Kids Movies Glamorize Unhealthy Eating

Both cartoons and live action movies are guilty of glamorizing unhealthy eating habits. Maybe they always have – but it might matter more these days when so many children are overweight and obese.

Kids' Movies Deliver Mixed Messages on Eating, Obesity

This news story from HealthDay tells about a new study that finds a large number of kids’ movies make unhealthy eating habits look cool and awesome, but they also condemn obesity.

This might be confusing for young kids who like to emulate their favorite movie characters, but also have to deal with the humiliation that can happen when weight problems are mocked.

Things to do at school:
  • Habits can be broken by repetition. Discuss the importance of healthy foods with your students frequently.
  • Offer fresh fruits and vegetables or whole grains as snacks and at lunch.
  • Don’t forget about physical activity. Have students keep track of their time after school. How much of their time is active (sports and outdoor activities) and how much is sedentary (TV, video games, reading and studying)?
Acne Usually Not Related to Diet

Most teens and even many grown ups have to deal with acne. It’s mostly due to hormonal changes, but some people think that it’s caused by certain foods. It’s possible that dairy or carbohydrate-rich foods might contribute a bit, but it isn’t completely clear.

Acne a Common Problem in Teens, but Diet Usually Not the Cause

This article from the Mayo Clinic and Chicago Tribune discusses the causes and treatments for teen acne.  Mostly it involves good skin care, topical and oral creams, and antibiotics or other medications if it’s bad enough.
Frozen Vegetable Nutrition May Be Better Than Fresh

Freshly harvested fruits and vegetables are at their peak nutrition-wise, but some of those nutrients get lost with storage time. A news study says that frozen fruits and vegetables may be better in the longer run.

Which Has More Vitamins, Fresh or Frozen Fruits and Veggies?

According to this news story on Southeast Farm Press, the new study compared the nutritional content of several fruits and vegetables in both fresh and frozen forms five days after purchasing them in a grocery store. 

It turns out that some vitamins and minerals degrade more rapidly in fresh produce than in frozen. So…

Things to Think About:
  • Buy fresh fruits and vegetables if you can use them within a day or two.
  • Choose frozen vegetables and fruits if they’re needed for later.
  • Freeze your own fruits and vegetables.
US Health Improving

According to America’s Health Ranking report, the overall health of the US is improving. Smoking is in decline, physical activity is increasing and it looks like the obesity epidemic is leveling off.

USA's Health Improving; Hawaii Ranks First, Miss. Last

USA Today reports on the recently released report and finds that the country’s made a notable shift towards better health. This was the first year since 1998 that obesity rates didn’t increase, which is an encouraging sign.

The experts know this is more work to do, but maybe things are looking up. Hopefully we’ll see even more improvement in 2014.

Body Image and Relationships

Women who are happy with how their bodies feel and look also tend to have happier relationships, a new study finds.

Women who go on weight loss diets frequently tend to be unhappy – not only with their weight, but with their romantic relationships as well.

Good Body Image Goes Hand in Hand With Happier Relationship

This news story from HealthDay takes a look at a new study from the UK that finds correlations between body image and relationship issues. These types of studies don’t establish cause, just the correlations, but it’s sad how so many women (and girls) suffer from body image issues.

Talk to your students:

  • Explain how images of models are enhanced – even the models don’t look like that in real life.
  • Explore the differences between losing weight for health and losing weight just to improve your looks.
  • Talk to kids about self-esteem and how to feel good about yourself without focusing on foods.
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What Exactly Are Sugary Foods?

When diet and nutrition experts talk about sugary foods, we usually mean foods that contain lots of added sugar as opposed to something that tastes sweet. Regular soft drinks sweetened with sugar or high fructose corn syrup are sugary beverages. This includes soda, lemonade, sweetened ice tea, fruit drinks, and many sports drinks and energy drinks.

Frosted or pre-sweetened breakfast cereals, candies, sweetened-yogurt, cookies, cakes and pies are sugary. Ice cream and frozen yogurt are usually sugary, although you can find some made with non-caloric sweeteners. 
Diet soft drinks are not sugary. They're sweetened with non-caloric sweeteners -- usually aspartame, but you can sometimes find soft drinks sweetened with sucralose.

The Problem with Sugary Foods 
Sugar provides energy (i.e. calories) but no additional nutritional value. So, a little bit might be fine, but a lot of sugar leads to weight gain.

I know there are people who believe high fructose corn syrup is worse for your health than regular sugar, but there isn't enough credible scientific evidence to back that claim. They're both made up of a similar combination of glucose and fructose and both have the same effect on the body. 

The problem with sugary foods is eating or drinking too much of it. When you eat too much sugar, there's a good chance you're going to gain weight because they're high in calories. Plus, sugary foods aren't usually nutritious, or at least they don't have enough vitamins and minerals to make up for all the extra sugar.

What About Natural Sugars?
Fruits and fruit juice are naturally sweet -- they don't need any added sugar in most cases. They may be sweet, but they're not considered sugar foods. Unless they're turned into a fruit drink like most cranberry juice beverages that are a combination of fruit juices with sugar and water. 

Here's the thing with natural sugars. Fruits and 100-percent fruit juice are not sugary foods, but you may need to watch the calorie count. A glass of fruit juice may have as many calories as the same size glass of a sugary soft drink. But, that fruit juice also has vitamins and minerals that the soft drink doesn't have. 

Is Honey Any Better?
Honey is about the same as sugar or high fructose corn syrup -- foods made with honey are still considered sugary. Technically, honey does contain some nutrients, but it's just a tiny amount  -- not enough to improve your diet.

But I Love Sugar -- What Do I Do?
Eat less of it. 

Some foods don't need the extra sugar -- they can be sweetened naturally. Yogurt is one example. You can buy sweetened yogurt that's full of sugar or you can buy plain yogurt and add fruits or berries. If that's not sweet enough for you, you can add a little honey or sugar -- but be careful. A tablespoon of honey has about 60 calories and a tablespoon of sugar has about 50. It can add up quickly.

Same with breakfast cereals. The presweetened kinds usually have lots of sugar. Look for brands that have less than 5 grams sugar per serving, and choose the brands with the most fiber. Or make your own oatmeal or plain unsweetened cereal and add fruits and berries, or just a little sugar on top.

Zero-calorie sweeteners can take the place of sugar in some foods and beverages, but they'll alter the flavor -- some types more than others.

If you can't do without your favorite sweets, just be sure to watch your intake. About 100 to 200 calories per day is about all you should consume.

More About School Lunches, Nutrition and Healthy Kids

Does Guilt and Worry After Eating lead to Weight Gain?

Study: Playing with Food Can Help Your Kids Learn. Playing with Food Helps Kids Learn the Names of Harder-to-identify Nonsolid Foods

Local Expert Warns of Underage Drinkers Consuming Cooking Wine

Health Disparities 'could Be Eliminated in a Generation': Study

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 at the University of Bridgeport in Connecticut.