Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Raising Vegetarian Children

Q: Is it possible to raise healthy vegetarian or vegan children?

A: A lot of parents think that a vegetarian or vegan lifestyle is appropriate for adults, but is an inadequate diet for children. The truth is that a thoughtfully planned vegetarian or vegan diet can meet the nutritional needs for pregnancy, lactation, newborns, toddlers and adolescents. The popularity for vegetarian and vegan diets is on the rise due to increasing concerns for the environment, food safety, weight loss and animal welfare. With this comes the decision on whether or not to raise your children to have a diet that is void of animals and their bi-products. 

The nutrition considerations of vegetarian infants is similar to that of an omnivore with a few exceptions and additions. Vegetarian women who are breastfeeding need to ensure that they are getting adequate amounts of vitamin B12 in their diet. All breast-fed infants should receive supplemental vitamin D within a few weeks after birth and iron supplements at 4 months. Soy-based infant formulas are available for vegetarian mothers who opt to not breast feed. After breastfeeding for at least one year, infants can be weaned to soy milk containing calcium, vitamin B12 and vitamin D. Low-fat or non-fat milks should be be used before the child turns 2 years old.

The normal sequence of food introduction is followed with an iron-fortified infant cereal mixed with breast milk, then the addition of puréed vegetables and fruits, followed by cooked pasta or rice, soft breads and crackers as the infant is ready. Well-mashed, cooked beans, mashed tofu and soy yogurt can be introduced at 7 to 8 months, and smooth nut and seed butters with bread or crackers after the first year. 

The most important thing to focus on when raising a vegetarian or vegan child is ensuring that he or she eats a variety of nutrient-dense foods with sufficient calories, protein, fat, calcium, vitamins B12 and D, iron, and zinc.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Which Milk does a Body Good?

Q: What is the healthiest milk option for my cereal?


A: The whirlwind of information on which kind of milk is most healthy can be dizzying. When choosing which milk is best for you, first decide what you want out of your milk. Are you looking for more calcium or more protein? Less fat and calories or more antioxidants? Unfortunately, there is not one type of milk out there that fits each void.

If calcium is your goal, I recommend soy milk. It is often fortified with even higher amounts of calcium than in cow's milk. There are concerns that drinking soy milk in excess will cause adverse effects from their estrogen-like properties. This is only a concern if you are taking high dose supplementation, which is often the case in research studies. It is highly unlikely to overdose in dietary intake.

If protein is your goal, then I suggest cow's milk, though it is only slightly higher than soy milk by about a gram or two. Almond milk is high in antioxidants and minerals and is low in calories, but it lacks the calcium of cow and soy milk and it is extremely low in protein. I would not recommend this as your sole source of milk.  If you really can't decide, keep two different kinds of milk on hand and alternate which milk you put on your cereal every other day.

An important thing to keep in mind when reading about nutritional information on the internet is the source. Sometimes companies are being paid to endorse a certain product. Make sure that the information is coming from a credible source. Often times this will help determine if the message has any credibility. Regardless, you're going to find conflicting information everywhere. That is par for the course in the field of nutrition.

In conclusion, choose which milk is best for you and  make sure that the other areas of your diet are nutritionally adequate.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Praise for Peanuts

Happy National Peanut Butter Day!

It is only right that one of my favorite nut butters has a day of its own for others to recognize its many benefits and deliciousness.

The health perks of peanuts include:

  • Rich sources of energy
  • High in monounsaturated fatty acids which help to lower LDL cholesterol increases HDL cholesterol
  • Highest amount of protein compared to other nuts
  • Excellent source of vitamin E, an antioxidant which helps maintain cell membrane integrity and protection free radicals
  • Packed with B-complex groups of vitamins such as riboflavin, niacin, thiamin, pantothenic acid, vitamin B-6, and folate, which contribute to brain health
  • Rich source of copper, manganese, potassium, calcium, iron, magnesium, zinc, and selenium

Whether you prefer it creamy or crunchy, natural or hydrogenated, on toast or on a spoon, take a moment today and enjoy all that the peanut has to offer.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Unorthodox Eating

 “What? That’s just crazy!” That is the response that I usually get when people learn of my typical night-eating pattern. For the past 4-5 years, I have not slept through the night. I habitually get up anywhere between 1:00am to 4:00am to have breakfast and then I go back to bed. Now, there are several reasons for this. One reason is that I am a morning runner and I feel very uncomfortable running on an empty or full stomach. Another reason is that I eat dinner early, around 5:00pm or 6:00pm. By the time 1:00am rolls around, it has been 7 hours since I last ate. For a runner with a revved up metabolism, that is a long time. Reason three is that I don’t eat enough during the day. This is doubtful the rationale for me because my meals are carefully planned out and nutritionally adequate. My last suggestion is that I love to eat. Running 70+ miles a week makes it difficult for me to think about much more than my next meal. So when I wake up at 2:00am and think, “I have to wait another 4 hours to eat my shredded wheat with soy milk!? Ugh!” I sleep much sounder if I just get up, eat it and go back to bed. The same problem occurs when I get up. It has been 4-5 hours since my bowl of cereal and my stomach is rumbling which calls for another breakfast or a snack.

Tastes even better at 2am!
There are health professionals who say not to eat after 6:00pm and not to eat and then go to bed. As a health professional myself, I disagree. Each body is different and responds differently to different stimuli. Don’t get caught up in the “rules.” Who says breakfast has to be eaten within a certain time frame? As an athlete, you need to be very connected to your body. The last thing you want to do is ignore signs of hunger just because it isn’t the “normal” time to eat.

I used to get upset over this unorthodox practice, but now I embrace it. This how I am wired and it works for me. I still get enough sleep despite my eating escapades and I enjoy the peace and quiet of the wee hours. It gives me time to catch up on the latest news and plan dinner.

Do you have a weird eating quirk? What is your body trying to tell you? Listen to it- It knows best.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Diet, Exercise & SLEEP!

On New Years Eve did you pledge to begin a new diet or start an exercise regimen to drop a few pounds? If so, you're not alone. Millions of Americans make resolutions regarding health. Well, I challenge you to add "sleep more" to your to-do list. Sleep is an essential factor that is often overlooked. Media and health professionals tell you to eat healthy diets and exercise, but often forget to stress the importance of sleep. Sleep deprivation is associated with everything from an increase in obesity to a decrease in work production. Sleep loss has been shown to affect hormones that regulate appetite. As a result, people who lose sleep may continue to feel hungry despite adequate food intake. Sleep loss may interfere with the body's ability to metabolize carbohydrates, which leads to high levels of blood sugar which can lead to the storage of body fat and insulin resistance, a critical step into the development of diabetes. Additionally, I notice that when I’m tired, my outlook on life is a lot more negative, tasks seem impossible to accomplish and I am overall more anxious.

Try following these tips for getting the most out of your ZZZ's:

  • Go to sleep and wake up around the same time every day, even on weekends, so that your body’s circadian rhythm can sync.
  • Avoid caffeine after 3 pm.
  • Sleep in a cool, dark and quiet. The optimum sleeping temperature is 68 degrees.
  • Create a bedtime ritual, do the same things each night to tell your body that it is time to wind down. This might include taking a warm bath or shower, reading a book, or listening to soothing music. Avoid any screen time before bed, as the bright lights interfere with sleep.
  • Limit naps to about 30 minutes in the afternoon. There are many new studies out saying that a 20 minute nap during the day increases productivity and overall well-being in office workers. Naps may need to be longer for athletes for sufficient recovery. 
  • Regular physical activity can promote better sleep, helping you to fall asleep faster.  Timing is important, though. If you exercise too close to bedtime, you might be too energized to fall asleep.
  • Manage stress so that it doesn't keep you up at night. Before bed, write down what's on your mind and then set it aside for tomorrow.

Here's to a good night's sleep!


Monday, January 14, 2013

Fight the Flu with Bok Choy?

The other night for dinner I had some bok choy, also known as Chinese cabbage or pak choi. It is a very mild green and so I was skeptical that it had much to offer me nutritionally. So I decided to do some research and was pleasantly surprised to discover that bok choy is part of the cruciferous vegetable family which includes broccoli, cauliflower and Brussels sprouts. These vegetables are known to be potent fighters of cancer and inflammation. Bok choy is a low-calorie, zero-fat vegetable that is rich in vitamin A, vitamin C and vitamin K. It is also high in folate and vitamin B6 which are essential for supporting your body’s metabolic rate, producing energy and aiding your body in fighting disease and infection.

Pair bok choy with the super foods garlic and ginger and you have a flu-fighting powerhouse in a bowl. Just cut off about an inch from the base and the leaves separate. Here is the great recipe that I had for dinner. I promise you will not be disappointed!