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Body Weight and the Young Athlete

Body Weight and Young Athletes

Coach encouraging you to lose or gain some weight for performance? This episode features youth sports dietitian, Melanie Battaglia, discussing nutrition and body weight amongst young athletes. Betsy and Jen ask some pointed questions about when it is or is not appropriate for an athlete to gain or lose weight for their sport, and whose discretion is appropriate to make that determination.  

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Athletic Kids, Food Fads and Sports Supplements

Athletic Kids, Food Fads and Sports Supplements

Feed to Succeed sports dietitian, Melanie Battaglia, joins the pediatric nutrition program with Betsy and Jen to discuss the use of performance enhancing supplements and food fads for young athletes. Do your teenage or elementary age children face frequent diet challenges, opinions and even pressure from coaches, peers and other well-intended people? This podcast is for you. 

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vegan protein for kids

Let’s Talk EdaMOMe!

In this week’s kids’ nutrition Ask Amanda column, pediatric dietitian Amanda Gordon answers the question: Hi Amanda, what are the best protein alternatives for kids that are not meat and dairy?

This is a great question. Protein is important for all children. It plays an essential role in the body by ensuring that muscles, organs, hair and nails grow and work properly.  Protein, along with carbohydrates and fat are the macronutrients that children need to get from their food for growth and development.  Carbohydrates are the preferred energy source for kids. Protein and fat are also important because they help children stay and feel full. 

Nut butters can be a great source of protein for kids. Peanut butter is often a crowd-pleaser, however almond butter is another good protein source. Nut butters also contain fat and help with satiety. Almond butter can have a thinner consistency than peanut butter and some children prefer this.  Almond butter spreads on whole grain waffles well for meals or snacks, it also blends into oatmeal well for a meal or snack.  

Edamame is another good protein source for healthy kids. Shelled edamame (either steamed or roasted) can be a great snack or side dish at meal times. Edamame can also be blended into a spread and made into a dip or hummus.  

Vegetable and non-animal protein foods are great additions to healthy diet, but many are not complete protein sources, meaning they don’t have all of the needed amino acids. Vegetarian and vegan diets are suitable for growing children, however careful attention should be paid to ensure that children get all the amino acids they need. Our Feed to Succeed dietitians are always available to help families figure this pediatric nutrition and diet out! 

Ask Amanda is a weekly column from Feed to Succeed dietitian Amanda Gordon. Have a question? Email Amanda and let her know or submit an “Ask Amanda” question for a future column.

when weight issues are related to hormonal imbalances

When Weight Issues Are Related to Hormonal Imbalances

On this week’s pediatric nutrition podcast, p\Pediatric endocrinologist, Dr. Stephanie Drobac, discusses the role of hormones and weight/growth in children. How often is the thyroid to blame? What is the role of insulin in weight issues? Registered dietitian Betsy and Jen ask these questions and more during this interesting segment about the endocrine system and children.

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When is low weight normal?

When is low weight normal?

On this week’s pediatric nutrition podcast, Registered Dietitian Betsy Hjelmgren and Jen Karakosta discuss low weight for kids. Did you know a child can be thin and healthy, and totally fine; or can be thin and healthy, and malnourished? Do you know how to tell the difference? Join Jen and Betsy in this interesting interview with pediatrician Divya Gupta, MD, as they discuss and explore the difference between being thin and being underweight, and what to do if you are a concerned parent.

Physical Activity and Healthy Weight

A weighty subject: Mental health and body image

Kids and teens are under more stress than ever before, and development of a healthy self-image can be challenging. Join this informative discussion with Betsy and Jen, and special guest – licensed counselor and social worker, Lynn Zakeri, who shares from her years of experience helping people with body image concerns. Great episode for parents looking for guidance on how to have healthy body conversations with their kids and teens. Don’t miss it!

Click here to listen on iTunes

Physical Activity and Healthy Weight

Physical Activity and Healthy Weight

Kids and teens are under more stress than ever before, and development of a healthy self-image can be challenging. Join this informative discussion with Betsy and Jen, and special guest – licensed counselor and social worker, Lynn Zakeri, who shares from her years of experience helping people with body image concerns. Great episode for parents looking for guidance on how to have healthy body conversations with their kids and teens. Don’t miss it!

Click here to listen on iTunes

high iron food for kids

How Much Iron Does a Toddler Need?


Ask Amanda Question for this week: My 22 month old toddler does not eat much meat.  He takes a multivitamin supplement with iron, but does he need a separate iron supplement?

He is likely getting enough iron between his diet and his multivitamin with iron.  Many toddlers don’t eat much meat and often get the iron they need from other foods.

Iron comes from “heme” sources or animal sources like meat, seafood and eggs.  Iron also comes from “non-heme” sources including fortified breakfast cereals and grains, oatmeal, breads, green leafy vegetables, beans, nuts, nut butters and dried fruit.  

Children ages 1-3 need 7 mg of iron a day.  

What does 7 mg of iron a day looks like? Here’s an example:  ¾ cup of Cheerios, 1 egg, 1 slice of bread with peanut butter, ½ cup of cooked rice with canned tomato sauce and 2 oz of cut up chicken.

Low iron levels in toddlers and kids can cause low energy levels, fatigue, and poor appetite.  If you are concerned about any of these symptoms or that your child may have low iron levels, check with your doctor to see if a blood test is needed. If iron levels are low and your child is recommended to take an iron supplement, make sure to recheck with your doctor within 3 months. Iron stores in kids replete quickly and iron supplementation is often not needed for the long term.

Ask Amanda is a weekly column from Feed to Succeed dietitian Amanda Gordon. Have a question? Email Amanda and let her know or submit an “Ask Amanda” question for a future column.

how to plan a garden for kids

How to Plant a Garden

There are so many reasons to plant a garden. There’s nothing like gardening in your backyard or even in your kids’ school, to foster teamwork and bring people together. Plus, it should come as no surprise that vegetable gardening can lead to healthy eating habits–store-bought veggies are no match for homegrown tomatoes picked right off the plant.

And besides, how hard can it be? Everyone knows the basic science of growing plants: soil+sun+water=healthy plant. Right? That is, until you get to the garden store with plans to replicate that science yourself.

All the sudden, you’re faced with mounds of every kind of dirt, hummus, compost, mulches, plant feeding systems and more. And that’s assuming you’ve already figured out what you’re planting and what container you’re using: the ground, raised beds or pots.

So, let me make this as simple as possible. Because, really, I promise it’s simple.

1. Decide how to plant your garden.
If you have a sunny patch of dirt already dedicated to gardening, use that. If you’re a beginner, and you don’t have land dedicated to gardening, use pots. If you have grass, but you are committed to gardening for years to come, consider raised beds. This will save you the trouble of digging out sod and conditioning bad soil.

The amount of sun on your garden will determine what you plant. If you have full sun, you can knock yourself out and plant all the sun-loving tomatoes, peppers and cucs you want. If you have partial shade, though, focus on the greens. You’ll be enjoying lots of salad because of it.

2. Build your soil.
The most promising raised beds are filled with pre-mixed organic soil, like Organic Miracle Grow. It costs a fortune, but it makes plants huge. A cheaper option for raised beds is to fill them with dirt (bags are less than $2) and compost (free if you make your own). To make it really simple, you can fill pots or raised beds with about 85% dirt, 10% compost and 5% peat moss all stirred together.

For in-ground gardens that you have never used, till the soil (which basically is like stirring with a shovel) to break up the ground. Remove as many roots and rocks as you can. Add about 3 inches of compost to the entire top of your garden and stir it up again. Then rake it out so it’s flat.

For compost, you can buy mushroom, cow manure or chicken manure. The latter two smell pretty bad, but if you bury it, it’s not as bad, and the smell is gone within a day or so. It’s certainly the cheaper option. The free option is to make your own compost from your vegetable scraps and yard waste.

3. Choose your seeds and plants. Your better off using a combination of seeds and plants. Seeds are significantly cheaper, but some plants are just not worth planting from seeds unless you start indoors in the late winter. From seeds, it’s easy to plant lettuce, spinach, swiss chard, peas, beans, potatoes and carrots. (A potato seed is actually just a piece of potato with an eye on it. Bury it, and it will actually grow a whole plant). Plant seeds continuously throughout the spring and summer so that you can keep harvesting them. (Lettuce and peas won’t grow well in the extreme heat of summer, though.) For plants, you might want to just buy tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, squash, kale and herbs.

4. Plant.
Planting is the easy part, so don’t worry about doing it wrong. Both plants and seeds come with directions, so simply follow them. With seeds, you can plant more of them than the package advises if you’re using raised beds, though. Put your short plants in front of the sun and your tall ones in back.

5. Determine your defense strategy.
Know your enemy and prepare to fight back! Squirrels will tear out your plants before the roots even settle. If they’re really bad, consider caging up your with a wooden frame and chicken wire (leave openings so that you can unhook to enter). You can put chicken wire over pots, too. For bugs, plant marigolds, which are supposed to deter them and scatter onions and garlic plants around the garden as well. When all that’s done, pray for the best.

6. Water every day.
Expect to water every day unless it rains. If a day is especially hot, you might even need to water twice. Water in the mornings, instead of midday when much of your water will evaporate. Same goes for watering your grass. To check if your plants need water, dig down with your finger to see if the soil is moist.

Finally, check out a book or two from the library. A favorite is Your Farm in the City.

Raising Healthy Eaters

I cannot count how many times I have heard, “My kids do not like to eat fruits and vegetables! They are so picky! How can I fix this?!” So, you can imagine my excitement when I stumbled across a newly published study that looked at fruit and vegetable intake and neophobia (fear of new foods). The researchers found two conclusions that may help answer the question: “How can I fix this?!”

First they found “…lower child food neophobia was significantly related to enjoyment of tactile play…”. In translation, allowing kids to get messy and explore foods with their hands and face can lead to an increase in the likelihood they will try new foods. Many parents feel anxious over the mess this will cause, but it is important to allow kids the opportunity to familiarize themselves with new foods. In addition, it can take up to 15-20 attempts (!) with a particularly picky eater before they will accept the food. Persistence and “messiness” seem to be key!

The second finding was “…child F/V* consumption was associated with parental F/V consumption…” . Translation? If you want your kids to eat fruits and vegetables you and your spouse need to eat fruits and vegetables! Kids learn by example and love to copy their favorite role models (you!). The more fruits and vegetables you incorporate into your diet and eat in front of them, the more likely they are to increase their intakes. Exactly how many fruits and vegetables should kids eat every day? The recommendation ranges from 1-2 cups of fruits/day and 1-3 cups of vegetables/day (depending on age).

The bottom line is that if you want your kids to eat new foods, you need to be persistent and ready for a mess! If you want your kids to eat fruits and vegetables or increase their consumption, you need to be willing to do the same!

*= F/V = fruits and vegetables

  Age Vegetables Fruits
Children 2-3 years old 1 cup 1 cup
  4-8 years old 1 ½ cup 1 to 1 ½ cups
Girls 9-13 years old 2 cups 1 ½ cups
  14-18 years old 2 ½ cups 1 ½ cups
Boys 9-13 years old 2 ½ cups 1 ½ cups
  14-18 years old 3 cups 2 cups