December 2014 | | 1-888-376-7136

[Volume 6, Issue 12]

Kids Getting Too Much Caffeine

Energy drinks are all the rage right now – with colorful cans and revved up names. The main “energy” ingredient is caffeine, which has been around for a long time, and although it’s safe in adults, it’s not clear how safe it is for kids.

What we do know is that kids who regularly drink energy drinks are taking in too much caffeine. One problem is that energy drinks aren’t well regulated for caffeine content like normal beverages.

Many children, adolescents get too much caffeine from energy drinks

This news story published by Science Daily says that a fair number of kids are drinking energy drinks and taking in too much caffeine. While the study looks specifically at Denmark, I think it’s safe to assume that consumption is high in the U.S. as well.

What happens with too much caffeine? Feeling anxious and jittery are two symptoms. Plus it can also make it more difficult to get a good night’s sleep – that’s a bad thing for kids who need their rest.
Poor Kids Eat Better at School

Here’s one reason having a healthy school lunch program is so important – for some kids, these meals provide the most nutritious foods they’ll eat all day. Some kids just don’t have access to fresh fruits and vegetables and whole grains at home.

Poor students eat healthier foods at school, study finds

This news story from HealthDay talks about how poor kids eat better at school than they do at home. Researchers at Dartmouth took a look at fruit and vegetable consumption of 1,900 middle school students in Vermont and New Hampshire. And clearly, having fruits and vegetables at school is good for kids who need them the most.

What to do at home and school:

  • Talk about fruits and vegetables – they’re delicious and good for you.
  • Serve fruits and vegetables in an attractive easy-to-eat fashion – sliced apples are more appealing than whole.
  • Be a role model – whether you’re a parent or a teacher, make sure the kids see that you’re eating a healthy lunch as well.
Eat More Nuts

Nuts are such a good thing – they’re good for your heart and your brain because nuts contain healthy omega-3 and monounsaturated fats. But, according to the CDC, less than half of us are eating enough.

Only 4 in 10 Americans eat heart-healthy nuts each day, CDC says

Here’s another news story from HealthDay. It describes a new study that finds that nut consumption is too low – or less than one and one-half ounces per day that’s recommended by experts.

There is some good news, however. Nut consumption has gone up over the past five years.

What to do at school:

  • Have students look for healthy recipes featuring nuts and seeds.
  • Talk about the health benefits of nuts in health class..
  • Have young kids make posters featuring their favorite healthy nuts.
Timing and the Foods You Eat

It’s not always easy to make the healthiest choices when you’re looking for something to eat. It’s all about self-control and how quickly your brain factors healthfulness into your decision.

Cake or carrots? Timing may decide what you’ll eat

This news story from ScienceDaily describes a research study that examines the ability to exert self-control when it’s time to choose snacks.  It looks like the brain thinks about taste before it thinks about health – and if it takes too long to think about healthfulness, then you’re going to reach for the cake instead of the carrots.
Kids Aren't the Only Ones Staring at Their Cell Phones

I think we’ve all seen kids sneaking a peak at their cell phones during dinner. But it’s not just kids who get distracted by mobile devices – moms do too, and a new study says that makes it more difficult to connect with the kids.

Mom, put down that smartphone at dinner

One more story from HealthDay takes a look at moms who use smartphones and tablets at dinner time. They found that the use of these devices was associated with 20 percent less talking and 40 percent less non-verbal communication.

What to do at school:

  • Teach kids about cell phone etiquette.
  • Talk about communication and why it’s important for a healthy family.
  • Send information home with students along with helpful cellphone etiquette tips.
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When and What to Eat
Before you Exercise

It's best to eat a small snack before your exercise session, but don't overdo it. You don't want to have a full stomach when you work out, but you don't want to be hungry either. If you eat a large meal just before strenuous physical activity, you may experience nausea, feel sluggish or end up with muscle cramps.

This happens because your body needs energy to digest the foods you eat. Blood flow to your digestive system is increased just when your muscles need it the most. But exercising on an empty stomach isn't good either. Skipping meals can cause you to fell sluggish, weak and light-headed. Eating a light snack before exercise may actually increase your fat-burning potential. Pick a small snack like piece of fruit, a sports beverage or some 100-percent fruit juice.

If you eat a large meal, wait about four hours before you exercise. If you eat a regular meal, you only have to wait about two hours to start your workout. Your body prefers to use carbohydrates as fuel, so your pre-workout meal should include plenty of complex carbohydrates from 100-percent whole grain bread or pasta, and plenty of fruits and vegetables. You don't need to avoid protein and fat, however don't choose large portions of meats and fat foods if you will be exercising with the next hour or two.
After Your Workout

Eating after exercise is important as well. Your muscles need the raw materials to recuperate after a heavy workout, such as carbs, protein and electrolytes including potassium and sodium. A light meal or snack within two hours after exercise is perfect.

This post-work out meal should contain some protein, some complex carbohydrates and some healthy fats too. Try a Balance Bar or a lean turkey sandwich on 100-percent whole grain bread. According to some experts, chocolate milk has the best proportions of carbohydrates, protein and fats for recovering after a workout.
Drink Plenty of Water
Hydration is important too. Exercise will cause a depletion of water when you sweat. Drink a glass of water an hour or so before your workout and again after your workout. You can also sip water throughout your workout. Carry a water bottle with you or look for the drinking fountains.
More About School Lunches, Nutrition and Healthy Kids

School cafeterias try haute cuisine

Weight gain carries risks, no matter your weight

The myth of comfort food

For young kids, too little sleep linked to later obesity

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.