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.

Click here to listen on iTunes

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


5 Healthy Fuel Ideas for Active Kids

With the arrival of spring sports comes a renewed fury for the so-called “soccer snack moms.” For the one hour that kids run loose on the field, whole committees of moms are organized around the snacks. There are even families with whole coolers ready with grub for the game.

Now, let’s be honest. While there are plenty of youth athletes that need serious fuel for elite sports, most of our kids would be fine on the field with a small, healthy snack (or no snack at all!). And none of our kids are better off eating more calories than they burn during practice or games.

Here are 5 healthy ideas to keep everyone energized and happy.

  1. Stick to water. Sports drinks and juices are rarely necessary for kids’ sports and add unnecessary calories. All that hype about electrolytes? Your kids will be fine without it. Water quenches thirst just as well.
  2. Team snacks are great, when they’re healthy. No doubt one of the challenges of packing healthy snacks for kids is when yours is the only one eating healthy. Coordinate with like-minded moms to pack healthy food for the whole group. Some teams are even able to work with a local produce store to deliver a box of fruit at games for a very reasonable price. When it’s your turn, pack fruit. It’s hydrating, has natural sugars and electrolytes (quick energy) and is low calorie. You won’t be the most popular, but guess what? If they’re hungry, they’ll eat it!
  3. Pack popcorn. Healthy varieties of popcorn are a great sports’ snack that nearly all kids enjoy.
  4. Eat well before the game. Sports nutrition, especially for serious athletes, starts the day before the big game or race. Coming to game day well nourished means less room and need for junky snacks.
  5. If all else fails, get creative. While you don’t have to be a food artist to get your kids to eat healthy food, a little ingenuity can’t hurt. Pinterest is chock full of healthy snack ideas that are not time consuming.