May 2013 | | 1-888-376-7136

[Volume 5, Issue 6]

Food Allergies

Getting the diagnosis of a food allergy can be daunting and confusing, for parents and children. A lot of dietary changes may have to be made and not everyone gets how serious an allergy can be. I think maybe a story of one family’s experience with food allergies might be informative.

Food Allergy Diagnosis: What Parents Should Know

This article by Mireielle Schwartz (for CNN) describes her lifelong experiences with food allergies. She had to deal with them as a child, then again as an adult when her daughter was diagnosed.  

Here are a few ideas to help your students understand
more about food allergies:
  • Teach kids about food allergies -- how many people have allergies, what are the most common allergens, and what are the symptoms?.
  • Explain how people with allergies can cope with them by avoiding foods, and taking medications.
  • Have kids come up with a list of ways to make food allergy avoidance easier at home and when you’re traveling.
Remodeling the Cafeteria

It’s not surprising that our surroundings make an impact on how we eat, both at home and at school. I teach for a small university that recently overhauled it’s cafeteria, and not only did it go from drab to fab, it seems to me I see a few more students choosing salads and healthful foods than I did before. I thought it was all in my head, but maybe it’s true.

Fighting Childhood Obesity One School Cafeteria at a Time

You’ve probably heard of schools and classrooms being redesigned to enhance the ways students can learn. This article by ABC News describes efforts to change school cafeterias to promote healthier eating, with the hopes of fighting obesity and getting kids healthier.

Here are some of the things I love:
  • Gardens located under cafeteria windows so kids can see what their food looks like while it’s growing.
  • Composting centers and recycling centers to build awareness of sustainability.
  • Attractive water fountains (at my university, fresh water is served in large containers with pieces of fresh fruit).
Simple Superfoods

The term ‘superfoods’ came into being several years ago. The idea is that superfoods have more health benefits than just vitamins and minerals (I co-wrote one of the books about superfoods). The thing is, people tend to search for the next great superfood, and it’s always exotic and expensive. But, believe me, it doesn’t have to be that way. We included one chapter on exotic superfoods, but it was important to me that most of our book be made up of foods you can find in your grocery store any day of the week. So I smiled when I saw this article:

All Fruits, Veggies are Superfoods

Registered Dietitian Alexandra Economy explains why all fruits and vegetables are superfoods. I agree with her. Carrots, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, apples, peaches, pears... all of them are super. They’re high in nutrients and contain other phytochemicals (plant chemicals) that have potential health benefits. They’re mostly low in calories, too, except for the starchier vegetables. That is, as long as you don’t cover them with cheese and heavy sauces.

Teaching students about healthy eating and superfoods:
  • Use foods and cooking classes to learn about fruits and vegetables. Which ones have the most vitamins and minerals? Which ones have the most research behind them?
  • Look at ways to serve fruits and vegetables in your cafeteria. Apples are only super if the kids eat them. Display them prominently.
  • Teach kids about Have kids design healthful meals with superfoods.
Too Many Calories at Both Subway and McDonalds?

I travel frequently, so that means I eat in a lot of different places. Most of the time, I look for nice little restaurants, but sometimes I’m stuck with fast food. Subway is near the top of my list since they offer pretty good stuff. One thing that has always bothered me, though, is the giant size of their sandwiches. Even healthful foods pack on the pounds when you eat too much.
Teens Ate ‘Too Many Calories’ at Subway and McDonalds, Study Says,0,606061.story

This article from the Chicago Tribune discusses a study that found teens who ate at McDonalds and Subway restaurants consumed about the same number of calories. In both cases, the meals were around 1,000 calories. That’s quite a lot for one meal.
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Superfoods- Berries

I know changing old, bad dietary habits is tough, and it takes a long time for new eating habits to become permanent. But don't make it too complicated - here are five easy things you can do right now to improve your nutrition.

Add an Extra Vegetable to Your Next Meal
I don't care if your next meal is breakfast, lunch or dinner, you can improve your diet instantly by eating an extra vegetable. Pick one that's green or brightly colored for maximum nutritional benefit. Steam some broccoli to go with your sandwich at lunch, and make two vegetable sides for dinner instead of one. Or eat a bigger salad. This even works for breakfast -- add spinach to your scrambled eggs or make a green smoothie.

Eat a Piece of Fresh Fruit
Next time you're in line at the lunch counter, grab an apple or pear instead of a cookie or piece of cake. Or, if you're eating dinner at home, enjoy a bowl of berries for dessert. Actually, you don't have to give up your dessert if you're used to a nightly bowl of ice cream. Just cut back - serve up about half the amount you normally eat and fill the rest of the bowl with fresh fruit such as strawberries, blueberries, or sliced peaches. By doing that, you cut back the calorie count of your dessert, plus you get better nutritional value. And it still tastes awesome.

Drink More Water
A lot of excess calories from sugar and fat come from the beverages you consume. Drinking more water might help help you lose weight if you drink it in place of sugary soft drinks. And if you drink alcohol, add in a glass of water between drinks. If you really hate the taste of water, you can disguise it with a slice of lemon, lime, cucumber or fresh pineapple.

Make Your Next Grain a Whole Grain
Whole grains are higher in fiber than regular refined white grains, and since most people could use more fiber, it might be time to switch. The next time you eat bread, choose 100-percent whole grain or 100-percent whole wheat bread. If it's time for breakfast, swap out your sweet cereal for a bowl of oatmeal or a 100-percent whole grain cereal. Choose brown rice or whole wheat pasta for dinner.

Pay Attention to Portions
There's an old saying about your eyes being bigger than your stomach. Although technically that's certainly not true, it's easy to load up a bigger portion of food than you really need, especially when you're hungry. So, at your next meal, stop for a minute to think about how much you're eating. Your protein source (meat, poultry, fish, etc.) should take up about one-quarter of your plate, and any starchy foods like potatoes, rice or pasta, should only take up another quarter. The other half of your plate can be filled with nutritious low-calorie fruits and vegetables like tomatoes, broccoli, cauliflower, asparagus, peas, green beans, or a garden salad. That will probably be enough to fill you up, but it if you're still hungry, go for more vegetables.

More About School Lunches, Nutrition and Healthy Kids

Could eating walnuts be the key to good heart health?

Can foods keep you healthy?,0,1004861.story

The lowest cost to eat well; Hidden sugar

Food dye possibly linked to ADHD

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.