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rich fruits and vegetables, plus lower amounts of unhealthy fats, sugar and sodium, says Keith-Thomas Ayoob, Ed.D., a registered dietitian and asso- ciate clinical professor in the Depart- ment of Pediatrics at Albert Einstein College of Medicine, in New York. A supporting study published in


the Journal of the American Dietetic Association confirmed that tykes that took in fewer family meals (and watched more TV) were more likely to be overweight. University of Minne- sota researchers found that adolescent girls that ate often with their family were less prone to use cigarettes, alco- hol and drugs. Try this: Commit to a sit-down meal most days of the week, suggests Registered Dietitian Brenda J. Ponich- tera, author of Quick and Healthy Recipes and Ideas.


Don’t overlook breakfast as potential family time as well, counsels Ayoob. “Kids that eat a well-balanced breakfast do better in school, have im- proved vitamin and mineral intake and are more likely to maintain a healthy body weight.”


Liquid calories Today’s average American household obtains more than 20 percent of its daily calories from beverages; on aver- age, soft drinks alone account for 8 percent of adolescents’ calorie intake. The rise in beverage consumption


has mirrored the country’s slide toward rounder body shapes. “Satiety is less when you drink calories versus eating the same calories in foods, because drinks empty from the stomach quick- er,” advises Phillips. “The extra calories from liquids can easily exceed what the body can use.”


The worst culprits are “liquid candy” such as soda and energy, sport and sweetened fruit drinks. In a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Harvard research- ers confirmed that a greater intake of these beverages leads to weight gain in adults and children. “Plus, most sweetened drinks don’t have much nutritional value,” says Ayoob. Although they contain important vitamins, even fruit juices, such as orange, cranberry and apple, still pack a lot of concentrated sugars. Try this: Phillips recommends limit-


ing empty-calorie sweetened beverages and replacing them with unsweetened choices like low-fat milk, homemade iced tea and filtered water jazzed up with lemon or lime. Keep daily intake of fruit juice between four to eight ounces, and focus on eating whole fruits, instead. “You can also freeze natural fruit juice in ice-cube trays,” says Phillips. “Pop these into [a glass of] water for a hint of sweet flavor.” Send children to school or camp with a reusable, BPA- free water container (stainless steel


works well) so they get in the aqua- drinking habit. Also consider stocking the fridge with refreshing, potassium- rich coconut water.


Chicken again?


Never before has such a variety of foods been more readily available. Still, too many families fall into the trap of preparing the same familiar eats—like spaghetti, chicken, and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches on white bread— week in and week out.


When children are repeatedly


presented with the same foods, they don’t learn to appreciate new flavors and textures, which reinforces a picky palate and a fear of unfamiliar dishes, says Ayoob. From a body weight stand- point, an article published in Science suggests that when the brain isn’t grati- fied by food—which can happen when the family eats roast chicken for the fourth time in the same week—people are more likely to make midnight kitchen raids and add to their total calorie intake. Try this: Once a week, have a new-food-of-the-week meal, featuring healthy ingredients such as quinoa, lean bison or kale, paired with fam- ily favorites, to encourage branching out. “Don’t throw in the towel if your child emphatically refuses it at the start. Research shows that it can take 10 or more times before a new food is accept- ed by a finicky eater,” advises Phillips, a


natural awakenings


April 2013


17


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