January 2013 | Hotlunch.com | 1-888-376-7136

[Volume 5, Issue 1]

How To Talk To a Child About Weight
Parents may know they have an overweight or obese child, but they may not know how to talk to the child about the situation. It’s not an easy subject to tackle because parents don’t want to hurt the child’s feelings or single him or her out from the rest of the family. And, from the kid’s point of view, being put on a diet at a young age can feel like punishment.

Dietitians dish: Childhood obesity a touchy subject

This article from The Victoria Advocate offers some advice for adults who need to talk to their children about overweight and obesity.  Key tips include getting the whole family involved (don’t single out the overweight child), and treat the necessary dietary changes as a healthy new lifestyle rather than a weight-loss diet.

Prepare materials for parents– the school nurse or nutrition coordinator can help - include:
  • Healthy kid-friendly recipes and food preparation tips.
  • Reminders to use positive reinforcement and encouragement, rather than punishing a child when he or she makes a poor dietary choice.
  • Lists of physical activities that kids can do at home.
Bullied By Parents
It’s no surprise that overweight and obese kids are teased and bullied by other kids, but what about by adults? Even well-meaning adults can make kids feel bad when they tease kids about their weight.

Feeling bullied by parents about weight

This article from the New York Times Well Blog talks about teens who have been bullied by their parents or other adult relatives. Usually the adults think they’re just teasing their kids or they believe the cold-heart comments will help the teens change their behavior. But what really happens? The kids feel bullied, picked on, and miserable.

A little awareness may go a long way. Talk to parents and explain that their kids may not respond to verbal bullying at home. Tips for parents:
  • Don’t blame kids for being overweight – it doesn’t help, and don’t treat the child like he or she is the problem.
  • Take a look at yourself. Do you have some biases regarding overweight or obesity? Get over it - that bias is only hurting your child.
  • Don’t let others bully your kids –talk to family members and tell them to stop the verbal assault.
Increasing Fruit and Vegetable Intake

Some kids just don’t like fruits and vegetables, which is upsetting to their parents. Family dinners can quickly devolve into family food fights when parents beg, plead or bribe their picky eaters, or when they just give up and let the kids eat what they want.  

Get kids to eat veggies without nagging or bribing

Seems like parents and teachers are always on the lookout for tips for getting kids to eat their vegetables. This article from the Fredricksburg Free Lance-Star serves up 36 tips for getting kids to eat better.

Here are some of my favorite tips from the article:
  • The first tip encourages parents to serve vegetables with water or milk instead of sweet soft drinks or juice. Apparently sweet drinks make the vegetables unappealing.
  • Cook with your kids. Getting your children involved with the food preparation and cooking is a good way for kids to feel more comfortable trying new foods.
  • Using a little marketing magic. Add stickers to apples and rebrand your vegetables. Broccoli may not sound like much fun to kids. Brain Boosting Broccoli sounds much more interesting.
  • dd new vegetables to current favorites. Some ideas: cooked cauliflower in mac and cheese, red and green peppers in spaghetti sauce and broccoli or spinach on a pizza.
Texting Health Info To Teens

Teens (and many adults) love to text. The average teen receives over 100 text messages every day. Since teens prefer this type of communication, is it possible to use it to encourage them to make healthier choices?

New study highlights effectiveness of healthy lifestyle text messages for teens

This article by Medical News Today explains how text messaging should be used to inform and motivate teens. Researchers in Arizona found that teens respond best to messages written in an active voice and include specific advice. It also helps if nutrition professionals send the messages.

How About a Little Good News About Fruit?

Americans may still be struggling with the idea of eating more vegetables, but according to a research-marketing firm, fresh fruit is a popular snack. In fact, if the marketing firm is correct, fresh fruit is more popular than chocolate or potato chips.
Believe it or not, report says fresh fruit is #1 snack in America

This article from the Los Angeles Times describes the findings. Maybe we really are becoming a nation of healthy snackers. The article includes a few nice tips for serving fresh fruits as snacks.

My fruit faves:
  • Serve a bowl of berries with a little whipped cream and nuts.
  • Make your own portable snack by combining almonds, walnuts, peanuts, raisins, dried cranberries and banana chips.
  • Slice an apple and drizzle some caramel syrup over the top. Add a few pecans.
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What Is Monosodium Glutamate?

Monosodium Glutamate (MSG) is used as a flavor enhancer in a variety of processed foods and restaurant items. MSG enhances your ability to taste a flavor called umami, which is the savory flavor found in protein-rich foods like fish, meats and milk.

Since MSG enhances the flavor of protein-rich foods, it may be beneficial for people who don't have strong appetites or who have lost some of their sense of taste. Using MSG can help improve the taste perception in the elderly, many of whom suffer from malnutrition because they no longer enjoy eating. For those of us with normal tastebuds, the MSG adds to the intensity of the flavor.

The United States Food and Drug Administration states that MSG is safe in the amounts typically found in American's diets. Under current FDA regulations, MSG must be identified as "monosodium glutamate" in a food label's ingredient list. You may also find small amounts of monosodium glutamate in foods that contain hydrolyzed vegetable proteins, which are also used for enhancing flavor. Hydrolyzed vegetable proteins are broken down pieces of proteins called amino acids, including glutamate, which can combine with sodium to form MSG. Food manufacturers will list hydrolyzed vegetable protein in the ingredients, but do not need to state the presence of MSG.

Monosodium Glutamate Sensitivity
There were many anecdotal reports of adverse reactions to MSG in the 1980s and 1990s, however research has produced mixed results. It is unclear how much of an effect MSG has on allergies and asthma, however reactions attributed to MSG include headache, flushing, sweating, nausea, numbness, tingling or burning in or around the mouth, weakness, rapid heart beat, chest pain and shortness of breath.

The reported reactions to MSG are usually mild, although some people claim their symptoms are much more severe. It is difficult to pin the reactions directly on MSG because many people experience the adverse affects several hours after eating -- it may be that the symptoms are coincidental with the use of MSG rather than caused by it.
More About School Lunches, Nutrition and Healthy Kids

Hot Chocolate Tastes Better In An Orange Cup

Instead of dieting, eat mindfully

Gradually introduce more fiber into kids' diets

FTC: Snacks marketed to kids showed ‘minimal or no improvements in nutrition from 2006 to 2009’

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 About.com (http://nutrition.about.com), is co-author of Superfoods for Dummies (http://www.wiley.com/WileyCDA/WileyTitle/productCd-0470445394.html) and Clinical Anatomy for Dummies (http://www.wiley.com/WileyCDA/WileyTitle/productCd-1118116437.html). She also teaches Evidence Based Nutrition to nutrition graduate students and fundamentals of nutrition to undergrads at the University of Bridgeport in Connecticut.