Nutrition and Obesity

All Articles in the Category ‘Nutrition and Obesity’

Vilifying Food – How fad diets are affecting our children’s health

Young girl and cupcake

Fad diets have taken the U.S. by storm: Paleo, Mediterranean, the “Fast Diet” – even Gwyneth Paltrow has a new cookbook.  Just as quickly as one diet is “out,” another diet emerges to take its place. With so many options, celebrity endorsements and websites full of misinformation, how can parents know which diets are safe – especially for kids?

Celia Framson, MPH, RD, CD, and Mary Jones Verbovski, MS, RD, CD, clinical pediatric dietitians at Seattle Children’s Hospital encourage parents to keep kids in mind when evaluating a potential diet.

Read full post »

Healthy eating tips for babies and toddlers

For parents of little ones, the task of reinforcing healthy habits around the dinner table can cause a bit of apprehension: What foods are best? How do I get my kids to eat their veggies? How much is too much? Parents can find it hard to know if they’re encouraging healthy eating habits in their young children.

Mollie Grow, MD, MPH, pediatrician at Seattle Children’s Hospital – and the mother of two young girls – says that the old adage “you are what you eat” is pretty spot-on, even more so for young children whose growing minds and bodies depend on a number of different nutrients.

Nutritional recommendations have changed over time, but Grow says we now know the most we’ve ever known about nutrition.

“We’ve learned that fresh foods – especially fruits and vegetables – and variety in our diets provides the best nutrients our bodies need for optimal growth and performance,” she says. “All the different parts of our foods work together. For example, iron is needed for learning, calcium and vitamin D are needed for bone growth, vitamin B12 helps the blood grow and vitamin C helps the immune system and repairs soft tissues.”

Read full post »

Study shows diet can be major source of chemical exposures


Your water bottle may have a BPA-free label, and you try to avoid cooking food in plastic containers. But you may still be exposed to chemicals in the food you eat, even if you’re eating an organic diet and your meals are cooked and stored in non-plastic containers, according to a study published February 27 in the Nature Journal of Exposure Science and Environmental Epidemiology.

Read full post »

A Serious Warning: Energy Drinks for Children and Teens

We all want our kids to lead vibrant, active lives, because childhood is such a dynamic time of discovery and participation.

But there are healthy – and unhealthy – ways to ensure that this happens.

One of my concerns right now is that caffeine is playing an unhealthy role in the diets of too many children and adolescents. Teens, for example, shouldn’t consume more than 100 mg of caffeine per day. (The recommended caffeine ceiling for adults is about 400 mg per day.)

Unfortunately, there’s a problem with certain energy drinks that exceed the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA’s) mandated limit of 71 mg of caffeine for a 12-ounce soda.

Energy drinks are sold as nutritional supplements, so they’re not regulated as foods.  As a result, their labels often don’t reveal the exact amount of caffeine in each drink. And, in addition to caffeine, energy drinks may contain other stimulants, such as taurine and guarana, a caffeine containing plant.

Read full post »

Restaurant Environments Improve, Sort of, Under Nutrition-Label Regulation

Buy one, get one for 1 cent.  Be a hot tamale, eat a hot tamale.  Try our new salted carmel cake pop.

We see slogans like these on billboards and at restaurants on a daily basis.  Would a nutrition-labeling regulation that requires restaurants to post calorie counts help spur a reduction in the use of these slogans, which are known as “barriers to healthful eating?”  That’s what a research team, led by Brian Saelens, PhD, of Seattle Children’s Research Institute, set out to find. The study, “Nutrition-labeling regulation impacts on restaurant environments,” is published this week in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

Young man looks at the menu in a fast food restaurant

Read full post »

Six Nutrition Myths Debunked

It’s back-to-school time and back to heavily scheduled days of after-school activities, homework, sports, music lessons, and more. With all there is to juggle in a day, it’s tempting to believe some of the myths about nutrition that may promise to make it easier and faster to feed our children well.

We checked in with Seattle Children’s nutrition team to find out the truth behind some of the more common nutrition myths. Here’s what we learned:

Myth #1

My child takes a daily multivitamin, so they’re getting all the nutrients they need.


Multivitamins provide only some of the vitamins and nutrients a child needs for good health.  Multivitamins are intended to supplement a balanced diet, not substitute it. Children (and adults, too) need the nutrients found in fruits, vegetables, protein, and complex carbohydrates. And, certain nutrients, such as Vitamin C and Potassium, are easily found in fruits and vegetables, but not in significant amounts in a basic multivitamin.

What parents can do

Continue to give your child a multivitamin, but encourage them to eat a variety of foods. Use food color as a guide. Generally speaking, the more naturally colorful the food, the more nutrients it has. By keeping their diet colorful, you’ll not only give them the nutrients they need, but the variety will keep them interested in food. Think colorful vegetables such as carrots, spinach, broccoli, eggplant, and kale; fruits such as red grapes, oranges, mangoes, and apples; and lean meats, salmon, dark or yellow tuna, shrimp, and poultry for protein. Even snacks such as almonds, walnuts, and whole-grain crackers have more color than highly-processed chips.

Myth #2

If I give my child non-fat food, they won’t become overweight.


Our bodies need fat: it nourishes the developing brain and protects our organs. It also helps us feel satisfied after a meal. Fat is helpful in giving flavor and taste.  If your child doesn’t feel satisfied after a meal, they may consume more food that may be low in nutritional value and high in sugar and sodium to make up for it, which could lead to excessive weight gainSome examples of “good fats” include nuts, seeds, olive oil, and lean meats.

What parents can do

Stick to low-fat options rather than non-fat options, such as low-fat yogurt and milk. Many non-fat foods have added sugar and sodium to offset the loss of taste from the lack of fat in them.

Myth #3

My child plays a lot of sports so they need to have extra carbohydrates in their diet.


If your child has a well-balanced diet, then there is no need for them to change it while they’re training for a sport. It’s not necessary to load up on extra carbohydrates before a game that may last only an hour at the end of the day. If they’re participating in extended games, such as weekend-long tournaments where they’re playing for hours at a time, then adding extra carbohydrates to a meal prior to the game makes sense.

What parents can do

Make sure your child has a good mix of protein and carbohydrates throughout the day so they’re well-fueled for after-school and weekend sports. If they’re playing sports for hours at a time on the weekend, then adding more complex carbohydrates, such as pasta or potatoes, to their dinner the night before a game will help them sustain their energy throughout the game the next day. To help them maintain the energy they need to stay in the game, try the following:

  • Provide your child or teen with three meals and two-three snacks per day, especially on event days.
  • Bringing food from home can help eliminate the need for convenience and fast food at the last minute.
  • Teaming up with other parents can help ensure that there are plenty of well-balanced meals and snacks available for the team at longer events such as soccer tournaments and swim meets.
  • Provide your child or teen with plenty of water. Sports drinks such as Gatorade or Powerade should be used during play that lasts longer than 60 minutes.

Myth #4

I can’t control what my teenager eats; they’re old enough to decide for themselves what to eat.


Education about nutrition begins at home. As a parent, you can still control what they eat for breakfast and dinner. Yes, they are independent enough to make or buy their own lunch, but you can provide healthy choices for at least two meals a day.

What parents can do

Set an example for your child about how to eat a well-balanced diet. Studies have shown that children are more likely to develop good eating habits if their parents have demonstrated them at home. In addition to using color as a guide to choose foods, also keep in mind portions: fill one-half of your plate with fruits and vegetables and round out the other half with protein on one quarter and carbohydrates on the other quarter. Involve your teenager with meal preparation so they can see the fruits of their efforts and possibly develop an interest in food.

Myth #5

My child eats a good lunch and dinner, so it’s OK for him to skip breakfast.


Your child needs three meals per day that are a mix of protein and complex carbohydrates. This is especially true if your child plays sports. If they skip breakfast, they will not have the stamina and energy for a game late in the day.

What parents can do

If carving out time for breakfast seems just too much, consider having some quick, healthy protein on hand, such as hardboiled eggs or low-fat yogurt to pair with carbohydrates such as whole grain toast or plain instant oatmeal. Round it out with a piece of fruit or a small glass of juice.

Myth #6

Each of my children has very different tastes in food. I need to prepare multiple meals to get them all to eat!


Try to make one meal for the whole family.  With kids of varying ages and appetites it can be a real challenge to find a meal that appeals to everyone, but it can de done.

What parents can do

Don’t be a short order cook for your family!  Instead, prepare a meal (in this case, dinner) that has at least one food that each child likes. This may be a far cry from your current reality, but try it even one day a week to start; change takes time.  They don’t need to like everything on their plate, just one food item. One may like the chicken; the other may like the mashed potatoes. Regularly preparing only one meal for the entire family will make the transition to introducing new food to your children much easier in the long run. And remember, it often takes as many as 15-20 attempts before a child may try a new food. Stick with it!


Mission: Nutrition Brings Healthier Food and Drink Options to Seattle Children’s

“Food is your medicine – hence let your medicine be your food”  – Hippocrates, circa 400 BC

Hospitals are places where healing and wellness are promoted, yet the food and drink that are served at them may not always be the healthiest options for patients, their families and staff.  Seattle Children’s is tackling this challenge head on.

Today, Children’s announced the launch of Mission: Nutrition – a new initiative aimed at improving the nutritional quality of the food and drinks served at all Children’s properties. Improving our nutritional offerings will happen in several phases over time. Here’s a look at phase one improvements, some of which are already underway:

  • Deep-fat fried foods are no longer offered in the hospital’s cafeteria. Instead, french fries, onion rings, fish fillets, egg rolls, empanadas and other traditionally deep-fat-fried foods are now baked.
  • Beginning this month, all sugar-sweetened beverages in cafeterias, vending machines and gift shops will be removed – one of the more sweeping changes of the initiative.
  • Wild salmon with tomato pesto, cod fillet and country baked steak have been added to the cafeteria’s rotating menu as healthy alternatives.

Read full post »

Do Sports Derail Children’s Healthy Eating Habits?

A new study says “yes.”

University of Minnesota researchers interviewed the parents of 60 youth basketball players and found that the young athletes commonly had sweets, such as candy, ice cream and doughnuts; pizza; hot dogs; salty snacks, including chips, nachos and cheese puff and soda and sports drinks.

The parents also reported frequent visits to fast-food restaurants when their children were playing sports.

And, even though the parents agreed that these foods and beverages are unhealthy, they said rushing to practices and games made them rely more on these types of products due to their convenience. Read full post »