May 2014 | | 1-888-376-7136

[Volume 6, Issue 5]

Too Much Sugar in Cereal

Sugar is basically nothing more than calories - it provides energy, but it's easy to eat too much and you're body's good at converting any extra energy to fat and storing it. But, sugar tastes good and kids (and adults) love sugary sweet cereals. But our kids are eating too much sugar.

Breakfast cereals loaded with too much sugar for U.S. kids: report

This news story from the Chicago Tribune describes a new report written up by the Environmental Working Group out of Washington DC. According to the report, the average kid eats more than 10 pounds of sugar every year if they eat a bowl of cereal every day.

Both Kellogg and General Mills have cut some of the sugar from it’s kids’ cereals, but the Environmental working Group says that cereals with more than 6 grams of sugar shouldn’t be marketed to kids.

Things to do at school:

  • Compare Nutrition Facts labels in health classes – which cereals have the most and least amounts of sugar?
  • Create healthier breakfasts in foods classes.
  • Check out your own cafeteria—what’s being served at breakfast?
Rates of Diabetes Going Up in Kids

The decade has seen a big uptick in the number of kids being diagnosed with diabetes -- type 2 diabetes is up by 30.5 percent and type 1 is up by 21 percent since 2001. The biggest problem is that experts aren’t completely sure why.

Kids' diabetes rates up dramatically in 8 years, study finds

According to this news story from HealthDay, the increase in type 2 diabetes is probably due to obesity, but there may be other reasons. Itís less clear why the number of diagnoses of type 1 diabetes have risen, but the increase seems to be seen mostly in teens.

Animal-Based Food and the Environment

The foods that leave the biggest mark on our environment – meat and other animal products – also tend to be some of the most expensive. The most nutritious and best for the environment are fruits and vegetables, but they’re also expensive.

Less nutritious foods take heavier environmental toll: study

This news story from Reuters Health talks about a new study that examines the environmental impact of foods as well as the nutrient density and price. The researchers found say that reducing consumption of foods of animal origin could help the environment.

Dangerous Supplements and Regulation

Some of the most dangerous dietary supplements are weight loss aids and ‘body building’ pills because they often contain ingredients that shouldn’t be there. But getting rid of them is complicated and takes much longer than it should.

Meanwhile, they sit on the shelves where anyone – including kids – can buy them.

Why dangerous supplements linger on store shelves

This blog post from the New York Times describes the process behind removing dangerous dietary supplements. Part of the problem is that no one knows there’s a problem with the supplements until side effects are reported to doctors or poison control centers – and it takes even longer before the FDA learns about it.

Stop Food Shaming

Making someone – your kid, your spouse, a neighbor, or a student – feel bad about the foods they eat is no way to teach them how to eat healthy.

Food shaming,; or why guilt is bad for dieting

This news story from the Washington Post discusses why telling yourself or others what you should eat – which is the food shaming – is harmful. The deprivation or guilt if you eat what you ‘shouldn’t’ can reduce self-esteem and in the long run, increases the likelihood of choosing foods that are less healthy.

What to do in school:

  • Talk about those foods that aren’t so healthy – can they be incorporated into a healthy diet, as treats?
  • Discuss why it’s not okay to make fun of someone or hurt them for any reason, including the food choices they make.
  • Instead of focusing on ‘bad’ foods to avoid, hype up the healthy foods – play up the benefits of healthy eating.
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5 Tips for Buying Supplements

Dietary supplements are everywhere -- you'll find them in the grocery store, drug store, convenience store and the big box stores. And there's lots of them. Multivitamins, single nutrients, fiber, minerals, fatty acids, antioxidants, extracts, weight loss aids -- even energy drinks and protein powders are classified as dietary supplements. 

So how do you know which ones to buy?

It's not easy. Although supplements are regulated to some point by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, it's up to the supplement manufacturers to supply safe products. The FDA mostly steps in after a problem's been identified.

Be a smart shopper. Here's my top five tips for choosing dietary supplements.

1. Know why -- or if -- you need them.


Dietary supplements are best used to ensure you're getting an adequate intake of specific nutrients -- there's a number of multiple vitamins that will do the job nicely.

But there are times when specific supplements are used to help treat specific health issues -- like taking calcium and vitamin D for osteoporosis or iron for anemia. In cases like this, your health care provider has probably already explained how much to take and what to buy.

If you think you might have health reasons to take specific supplements, then you need to speak with your health care provider -- don't diagnose yourself based on a self-help book or fall for miracle cures you might find on a website.

And finally, if your goal for taking supplements is to prevent illness, then you might want to reconsider your plan -- research studies don't usually find supplements to be helpful in this way. They probably don't hurt either, but the foods you eat (or don't eat) probably have a bigger impact on your health risks.
2. Brush up on your label reading skills.

Labels are designed to catch your eye so you'll buy the product. And although supplement manufacturers have to follow specific rules about health claims, you might find yourself looking at a product that says it can do more than it can. 

Don't believe it -- when it comes to supplements and health claims, if it sounds to good too be true, it probably is. At best you'll waste your money and at worst you'll end up with something dangerous.

Look past the claims on the front of the label and look at the Supplement Facts chart and ingredients -- that will give you an idea of what's in the bottle and how much to take. You should also find the name and contact information for the manufacturer.

3. Keep it simple -- avoid the mega doses and extra ingredients.

So let's say you want to buy a bottle of vitamin C, so you go to the store and you see vitamin C, vitamin C with immune-supporting herbs, and a bottle of vitamin C with this, that and the other thing. 

Those extra ingredients may seem like a good idea, but the more ingredients, the higher the likelihood of having some unwanted side effect. Start with just one or two ingredients (unless you're buying a multiple vitamin). Don't buy more than you need.

Also, follow the dosage instructions on the label. Although dietary supplements are generally safe, taking too much can be bad for you. I know that some people endorse mega-doses of supplements for various health reasons, but please don't.

4. Choose a respected brand.

You know there are some brands of vitamins you've seen for years -- they've been around for a long time, so they probably offer a decent product. If you're shopping at a drug store or a health food store, you should be able to ask someone for advice. But if you're going to the grocery store or the big box store -- well then you're on your own.

In that case, look for products that have been certified by ConsumerLabs, The U.S. Pharmacopeial Convention, or NSF International. These organizations don't guarantee a product is safe or effective, but they indicate that it's undergone testing for quality.

5. Buying on the Internet? Evaluate the site!

Searching the web for supplements will turn up all kinds of sites, from official supplement company sites to cut-rate cheapo sites, to websites that sell products that are worthless or worse. Don't fall for products that promise cures for diseases, extreme weight loss, or um, impressive sexual prowess.

Look for sites that offer current sound information (with references), include easy access to contact information. The National Network of Libraries of Medicine has tips for evaluating health websites.


Finally -- Speak to Your Health Care Provider If:

  • You're pregnant or breastfeeding
  • You're going to have surgery
  • You have any health conditions
  • You're taking any prescription medications
More About School Lunches, Nutrition and Healthy Kids

Severe Obesity in Teens Tied to Possible Kidney Problems

School nutrition, wellness program improves eating habits, lowers BMI

Health promotion efforts in schools really do improve health

Gastro Woes More Common in Kids With Autism: Review

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.