Archives for February 2012

Looking Beyond the Label: Family Health & Nutrition

When you are shopping for food and snacks for your family, do you see words like “pure” and “natural” and “contains real fruit” and toss it in the cart, thinking it’s a healthy choice?

Don’t be so quick to judge a package by it’s label! Many of these appealing descriptions are simply misleading, and it’s always advisable to get out  your reading glasses and try to decipher the list of ingredients on the back of the package (they do put some of those lists in tiny letters, don’t they?!).

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While the labels usually don’t outright lie, they can use tricky terms that stretch the truth more than you’d believe. As a parent it’s especially important to ignore the hype and be aware of the following trendy terms:

  • Pure: Well, you don’t want contaminated food, do you? But “pure” actually has no regulated meaning in food labeling and doesn’t tell you about things in the package that perhaps should not be there.
  • Natural: It sounds so appealing, but is probably the least trustworthy term. Consumers think it means that this food is as good as freshly picked off the tree… but it really says nothing about the nutritional quality or safety of the food.
  • Made From… The food may have started out with whatever is printed on the label, but who knows to what extent the food is then diluted, processed, or hydrogenated. It may be quite far removed from the actual food it is originally “made from.”
  • Made with real fruit/veges: The law does not require the label to say how much real fruit is in the product. So you may have a tiny percentage of fruit in a product that is mostly sugar.
  • Made with whole grains: Check the list of ingredients and you may be surprised to see that the product contain mostly refined flour with just a small amount of whole wheat added.
  • Fat Free: Suppose a food is labeled 95 percent “fat-free.” This means that five percent of the total weight of the food is fat, (which may not seem like much), yet a single gram of fat contains nine calories – compared to four calories in a gram of protein or carbohydrates. Five grams of fat in 100 grams of dark-meat turkey represents one-fourth of the calories in that serving.
  • Enriched: This often means that after doing something to the food that removed many of it’s nutrients, another process was required to put some of the good stuff back in. For example, enriched white bread is not as healthy as its whole wheat counterpart.
  • Smoked: This term legally describes the flavor of the food. So while you might imagine your food being smoked in an old-fashioned smokehouse, it could actually be artificially or chemically smoked, or just contain smoked flavoring.
  • Fruit drinks: These may contain little or no real fruit juice, and might be mostly sugar and water. If it says “high in vitamin C,” it may have added vitamins but still be a long way from real orange juice.
  • Organically grown, organic, pesticide-free, all natural, and no artificial ingredients: None of these terms say much about the nutritional value or safety of the product. Trust only labels that say “certified organically grown, which means that the food was grown without chemical fertilizers and pesticides, in soil free of these substances.

For more information on family nutrition and being label-savvy, visit AskDrSears.com, or click on one of the following links!

Energizing Foods for Pregnancy

Being pregnant… it’s exhausting! And in the early months, when there’s not much to show for it, your hard-working body may not get much appreciation or relaxation.

But what is making you so tired? How can that tiny little growing being inside you be sapping so much of your energy? To fuel the baby-making, your body is producing more blood, your heart rate is up, your metabolism is working overtime, and you’re using up more nutrients and water. It also takes four months until the baby’s placenta  is complete. So it’s no wonder you are always fighting fatigue!

So when a nap is not an option, and the show must go on, what kind of energy boost can you hope for?  Sugar and caffeine may give you a temporary high, but after the initial surge in blood sugar you’ll plummet lower than before. What you need are some nutritious, energy-boosting foods to help you get through the day.

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image credit: all diets review

Grazing (eating 5 or 6 small meals instead of 3 big ones) may be the best way to eat while pregnant. You’ll keep your energy levels even and avoid the nausea that may accompany a too-large meal. And be sure to drink plenty of water.

And while you’re not literally “eating for two,” your body does need about 300 extra calories per day.  Bon appétit!

Protein: Recommendation for pregnancy: 75 grams of it per day. Helps keep you energized and aids in the development of your baby’s rapidly reproducing cells.

  • milk, cheese, and yogurt
  • eggs
  • lean meat and poultry
  • fish and seafood
  • beans, lentils, split peas
  • quinoa
  • nuts and seeds

Complex Carbohydrates:

  • whole-grain breads, crackers, and cereals
  • fresh, dried, and frozen fruits
  • fresh vegetables
  • baked potatoes with skin
  • dried beans and peas

Iron: Fatigue can be related to iron-deficiency anemia, especially in pregnant women. Iron-rich foods will keep your irons stores elevated and help pump up your energy level.

  • dried fruit
  • spinach
  • soy products
  • lean red meat
  • duck
  • cooked shellfish
  • cooked dried beans
  • oatmeal
  • iron-fortified cereals

Putting it all together: Here are just a few meal and snack ideas to help you get that little extra energy-lift.

  • Sandwiches of whole-grain bread filled with grated cheese, tuna, lettuce and tomatoes.
  • Salads with fresh veges and feta cheese
  • Low-fat yogurt with dried fruit and granola
  • Hummus with bread or vegetable sticks
  • Fresh fruit
  • dried fruits and nuts
  • Hearty soups with veges, beans, legumes, chicken or meat
  • Oatmeal or unsweetened breakfast cereals
  • Fruit-shakes and fresh-squeezed juice
  • Chicken breast with baked potato and steamed veges
  • Whole-grain pasta topped with grilled veges and salmon

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