Thursday, March 29, 2012

What are your kids drinking?

As the weather heats up and the kids go back to playing outside, it is important to keep them hydrated. But do you know what is in your family's favorite beverages? According to the Center for Disease Control, sugary beverages are the biggest contributor of empty calories and sugar in children's diets, and those sugary drinks have been linked to weight gain, Type 2 Diabetes, and heart disease in both children and adults.

Sodas contribute vast amounts of calories and sugar to the American diet. The picture below shows just how much sugar is in a regular coke. In just a 12 oz can there are 39 grams of is recommended that children get no more than 12 grams of sugar per day!

While most people know that soft drinks are packed with sugar, many other beverages contain almost as much sugar, but are considered "healthy choices". Juice drinks, such as Hi-C, Sunny D, and Hawaiian Punch contain as little as 5% juice, and are high in calories and sugar. A Hi-C juice box contains 90 calories and 25 grams of sugar...more sugar per ounce than in a regular Coke.

Instead of juice drinks, opt for water, calorie free flavored water, or a splash of 100% juice added to a glass of water. Even 100% juice can add calories and extra sugar to your child's diet, so limit juice to no more than 6 oz/day.

What about sports drinks? Sports drinks like Gatorade and Powerade typically have about half as much sugar as a soda, however the portions are much larger, and people tend to drink more of these beverages than they would a soda. A 32 oz Gatorade has about 220 calories, all from sugar. For most kids, even those who play sports, plain water is sufficient for hydration. If your child is vigorously active for more than 60 minutes at a time (i.e. cross country running) then a low calorie sports drink may be a good choice to replenish electrolytes.

The bottom line? Low fat milk (at least 3 servings per day) and water are the best choices for your kids to build strong bodies while limiting excess sugar. Make sure that you have plenty of cold water on hand during the summer months to make sure your kids stay well hydrated.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Coco Nuts

As the weather warms up many of us have thoughts of tropical vacations sitting under palm trees and sipping pina coladas. It's a relaxing image, but are those coconuts in the frozen cocktails doing us harm?

Coconuts have become a sort of nutrition trend recently, and all kinds of new products are popping up on grocery store shelves. With the slew of new products come health claims by manufacturers touting the health benefits of these products. Many of these products, however, are marketed as nutrition supplements, and don't require the same federal regulation applied to foods. So how do you know what you are getting?

Coconut Water is the liquid found in the center of a young coconut. Coconut water is very high in potassium, has some carbohydrate (sugar) and is low in sodium. It has been marketed in the U.S. as "nature's sports drink" and many celebrities have been spouting its health benefits. Some of these claims include the ability to control diabetes, fight viruses, speed metabolism, treat kidney stones, smooth your skin, stop dandruff, or prevent cancer. All of these claims are unsubstantiated.

The Verdict: Coconut water does provide hydration, however it does not provide the correct balance of electrolytes after a particularly strenuous workout. If you are a serious athlete, stick to a conventional source to replenish electrolytes. Unlike water, it does contain calories (65 calories/12 oz), so be mindful of the extra calories to maintain a healthy weight. If you like the taste, coconut water is fine, but don't expect any health miracles from drinking.

Coconut Milk is thicker and richer than coconut water, and is produced from pressing the meat of the coconut to obtain a liquid. It is used by those who are lactose intolerant, vegans, and in cooking. Traditional coconut milk — the kind that comes in a can — has 550 calories per cup and provides more than 250% of the daily recommended limit for saturated-fat intake, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Coconut milk has been marketed as a "fat burning" weight loss supplement.

The Verdict: Saturated fats are the fats that increase cholesterol in the body, and research shows that saturated fats should be avoided. There is no evidence to support the claims for fat burning or increased metabolism after consuming coconut milk. Coconut milk should be used very sparingly.

Coconut Oil
is produced from the meat of mature coconuts. Coconut oil contains very high levels of saturated fat. Health claims for coconut oil include stress relief, maintaining cholesterol levels, weight loss, increased immunity, proper digestion and metabolism, relief from kidney problems, heart diseases, high blood pressure, diabetes, HIV and cancer, dental care, and bone strength.

The Verdict: Coconut oil should be avoided due to the high saturated fat content.

Overall, coconut may have its place in the diet in moderation, but offers no exceptional health benefits and the fat may be harmful in large quantities. So enjoy that pina colada, but don't go overboard on the coconut trend!

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Spring Fever

Spring brings us dozens of fresh and delicious produce options and tempts us to get outside and enjoy the weather before the heat and humidity become overwhelming. We are also reminded that bathing suit season is just around the corner!
This month also happens to be National Nutrition Month. Celebrate the changing of the seasons and National Nutrition Month by eating fresh, delicious spring fruits and vegetables and enjoying this beautiful weather while getting some exercise.
Look for strawberries, navel oranges, bananas, pineapples, mangoes, kiwi, lemons and limes. These fruits are fresh and in season now, and pack a punch of vitamins, minerals, and fiber. Artichokes, sugar snap peas, asparagus, green onions, sweet peas, broccoli, spinach, mushrooms, and red potatoes are at their best in the spring and require little prep and cooking to make them taste great. Take advantage of Spring’s bounty and aim to get at least five servings of fruits and vegetables each day.
Make it a point to incorporate some exercise into your schedule most days of the week. Take advantage of the nice weather and daylight savings time to get in a nice walk or bike ride after work. Try to get at least 30-45 minutes of exercise 4-5 days a week.
Embrace spring and enjoy some of the best produce and weather the Gulf Coast has to offer! What better way to celebrate National Nutrition Month!