June 2014 | Hotlunch.com | 1-888-376-7136

[Volume 6, Issue 6]

Too Little Sleep Linked with Obesity in Kids

Kids need more sleep than adults. As a faculty or staff member, you’ve probably seen that kids who don’t get a good night’s sleep don’t do as well in school. But, there’s also an association between the number of hours a kid sleeps and whether or not he or she’s obese.

Too little sleep may make children obese, a new study finds

This Health and Science news story from the Washington Post briefly describes a study that takes a look at sleep habits and body composition measurements of kids.

It turns out that the kids who got the least sleep were 2 ½ times more likely to be obese by age seven. It's important to understand that the study doesn't show that lack of sleep makes kids gain weight, but there's a correlation there. It could be that the lack of sleep messes with the body or it could be that kids who don't get enough sleep also eat poor diets for whatever reasons. Still it's good evidence that kids need to get the right amount of sleep at night to be healthy.

Things to do at school:

  • Talk about sleep– how much kids need at every age and why.
  • Discuss ways to sleep better at night– turn off the TV and go to bed at regular hours.
  • Reinforce the importance of eating healthy foods in the right amounts.
Food Villains? Not So Much

I’ve been writing about nutrition and health for over ten years, so yeah, I know how opinions and dietary advice changes over time. But there are a few foods that have been blamed for a variety of health issues that probably don’t deserve their bad reputation.

Eggs, gluten, coffee, red meat, potatoes: Do they deserve the insults?

This article from the L.A. Times takes a look at some of fairly innocent foods that have been victimized during the past decade or so. In reality, eggs, red meat and potatoes can be incorporated into healthy diet as long as they’re eaten in moderation and prepared properly; gluten problems may be overhyped unless you have celiac or allergy; and coffee isn’t bad – just watch that caffeine buzz.

Mediterranean Diet for Kids

The Mediterranean diet is rich in fish, fresh vegetables, nuts, whole grains, healthy fats and fresh fruit. There are many research studies that show this type of a diet can help adults have healthier hearts, brains and may even have longer lives. So it shouldn’t be a surprise that it’s also good for kids.

Mediterranean diet may keep kids slimmer

This news story from HealthDay talks about a study that reports that European kids who follow a Mediterranean type diet were less likely to be overweight or obese compared to kids who didn’t follow that diet.

Why does it work? Probably the rich mix of healthy and fresh foods, though it’s possible those same kids tended to be more active as well. Or both.
Older Kids: Focusing on Healthier Snacks

Snacks can be good for a kid’s diet, or bad. Fruits, fresh vegetables, nuts, and whole grain snacks are great, while processed ‘treats’ really need to be avoided. Many adults think the focus needs to be on the little kids, to make sure they get that message, but according to a new study, the little kids may be getting it right.

Kids' snacking gets less nutritious as they age

This news story from HealthDay describes findings of a new study from Brown University. The researchers looked at the snacking habits of some low-income kids near Boston and found that a substantial portion of calories comes from snacking and that the elementary kids chose the healthier snacks.

What to do at school:

  • Create healthy snacks in foods classes.
  • Talk about what snacks are good for classroom breaks.
  • Teach kids how to choose healthy snacks from vending machines or snacks.
School Lunch– Pictures Tell the Tale

The USDA requires your lunch program to include fruits or vegetables with every meal served. But, of course, that doesn’t mean kids eat them, and researchers want to know what’s going in the bellies and what’s going in the garbage.

Science of school lunch: Pictures tell story about lunch policies, healthy consumption

This news story from Science Daily describes a new study method for learning about what kids eat at lunch time. The researchers use cameras to take pictures of meals before and after lunch time, then they compare the before and after shots. So, not only do they know how much food the kids are eating – they know what kinds of fruits and vegetables are being served.

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Foods That Help You Sleep

The foods you eat (or don't eat) might help you get a better night's sleep.
Caffeine is the first thing to consider -- if you're drinking more than a cup or two of coffee a day, you might want to cut back, especially if you're drinking a lot of that coffee in the afternoon.

Quitting the caffeine habit isn't easy or comfortable. Many people suffer from withdrawal symptoms such as headaches, drowsiness, flu-like feelings, irritability and lack of concentration when they give up caffeine cold turkey.

You can avoid those symptoms by gradually withdrawing. Try blending decaffeinated coffee with regular coffee. Increase the amount of decaf over a few weeks time.

But the relationship between your diet and sleep doesn't end with caffeine. 

1. Avoid heavy or spicy foods.

Or any foods you know that may cause heartburn, which can cause you to lose sleep.
2. Don’t drink too much alcohol.

Although alcohol may make you drowsy, over-consumption of your favorite adult beverages may cause a very restless uncomfortable night.


3. Eat cherries.

Cherries contain melatonin, a substance also found in the human body that helps regulate sleep. Eating fresh or dried cherries before you go to bed at night may help you sleep better.


4. Enjoy a light bedtime snack.

Have a small bowl of cereal and milk. Carbohydrates make it easier to fall asleep and dairy products contain tryptophan, which may also help. Bananas, oats, and honey also contain tryptophan.


5. Don't eat an excessive amount of fats.

But, do get enough omega-3 fatty acid each day -- because eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) has a role in sleep induction in your brain.
More About School Lunches, Nutrition and Healthy Kids

Pack summer menus with salads

19 foods you should always have in your kitchen

Empowering kids to eat smaller portions

Fast weight loss may mean muscle loss

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 at the University of Bridgeport in Connecticut.