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Coping with post-Halloween candy madness

Halloween is only one day out of 365…so what’s wrong with a few pieces of candy? Absolutely nothing…and this is coming from an unofficial ‘food cop.’ Halloween is fun – for children and adults. A few sweet treats won’t do much harm. The problem isn’t just about ‘one day.’ It’s about the days after….when all of the leftover candy you have in your home is staring you in the face – from the stash you doled out to neighbors to the bucketful your little ghost brought home. If you are like most American adults, you buy what you love…just in case there are a few pieces of candy leftover. I mean, you wouldn’t want to be stuck with candy you don’t like! These strategies work great for kids but also can be modified for ‘adult children…’

The best strategy when it comes to dealing with your child’s Halloween ‘earnings’ is to have him/her pick out their absolute favorites. Of course, you should have a (limited) quantity in mind ahead of time. These treats can be doled out carefully, prudently and sparingly after meals over the next few weeks. Just limit the quantity. If you have generous neighbors that gave out large candy bars, unwrap them, cut them into small pieces and freeze them. They’ll last and defrost in a lunchbox. In general try to avoid hard nougat, toffee and taffy candies that grind into teeth and are ‘sticky’ as they are prime cavity-causers. Best bet: dark chocolate pieces which offer some antioxidant benefits and less butter-fat than milk chocolate.

Just because your child doesn’t like all of the candy he/she was given doesn’t mean they’ll part with it easily! Offer something better. This might even work with the beloved candies. Use pieces as ‘currency.’ Set a price (pieces of candy) to purchase or trade in for a new game, toy or even an outing (such as a bowling party with friends). If your child wants a treat for a treat…have him trade in a few pieces for a better choice that you buy, such as a Nabisco 100-calorie packs® (portion-controlled). Oreo Thin Wafer Crisps™, Honey Maid Cinnamon Thin Crisps™ and Chips Ahoy! Thin Crisps™ are reasonable options. Make sure to serve a snack pack with something healthy, like a glass of milk or a piece of string cheese.

To keep things in perspective, all of these treats (in quantity listed) provide approximately 100 calories:

  • 15 jelly beans/22 jelly bellies®
  • 1-oz licorice
  • 25 plain M&Ms®
  • 1 Kudos® 100-calorie bar
  • 2 Tootsie pops®
  • 5 Werther’s Original® candies
  • 13 gummy bears®
  • 10 York Peppermint Patty® bites
  • 16 pieces of candy corn
  • 4 bite-sized 3-Muskateer® candies

When planning your ‘treat’ (or your child’s treat) keep calories in mind, and in control.

Childhood Obesity Prevention: Healthier School Lun...

Childhood Obesity: Significance

There are several national health observances for the month of September. Of these, childhood obesity awareness may be among the most significant and timely in our society today. In terms of numbers, or prevalence of childhood obesity, one in three, or approximately 1/3 of American children fall into an overweight or obese (weight) category.

Unfortunately, malnutrition is common in the U.S., includes both over- and under-nourishment. The most common form of malnutrition (‘mal’ means ‘bad,’ ‘wrongful’ or ‘ill’) is obesity. Malnourished children are not necessarily ‘thin.’ In a world full of extremes, there are many children, of all shapes and sizes, not eating well enough for optimal growth, development and disease prevention.

Childhood Obesity: Awareness and Education

A First Lady must have her cause … for Michelle Obama it’s childhood obesity prevention. By drawing attention to the topic and being a self-nominated spokesperson, she can use her influence to encourage funding/program development. Her claims to fame include the “Let’s Move” and “We Can!” campaigns.

Childhood Obesity Prevention: Healthier School Lunches

The National School Lunch Program (NSLP) is making some strides. Schools across the country are incorporating vegetarian meals (more veggies in general) into their lunch menus. The San Diego Unified district started a ‘meatless Mondays’ program. They offer garden veggie burgers, sunflower seed butter and jelly sandwiches and fresh salads.

In 2012, the USDA introduced new standards for American school lunch offerings to combat malnutrition and childhood obesity. School lunches should now feature whole grains, low-fat milk, more fruit and a healthier mix/selection of vegetables.

Based on results of a survey from 2005, serving more fruits and a healthier vegetable mix did slightly increase students’ vegetable consumption, although total consumption was still too low.  Availability of alternatives (choices) mattered in this survey – students at schools without à la carte options and those with only healthy à la carte options, had higher intakes of dark green vegetables.

Other good news: the percentage of school districts that allowed soda/soft drink advertising dropped significantly, 13%, from 2006 to 20012. In addition, the percentage of districts that prohibited junk food in vending machines (over the same time period) increased by about 14%. Soft drinks and junk foods in schools are less prevalent nationwide.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the amount of nutrition-related information sent home to parents (on caloric content of foods available to students, etc.) is up as well as the overall nutritional standards in schools. Perhaps not ‘groundbreaking’ but certainly good news in the fight against childhood obesity.


Vitamin Supplements for Baby Boomers

The oldest ‘Baby boomers’ are now turning 65! Among other major life changes, such as retirement and Medicare enrollment, those aged 60+ years have nutrition needs different from those in their 20s, 30s and even 40s.

Nutrients of Concern

Those aged 65+ are at increased risk for nutrient deficiencies, particularly water (yes, water is an essential nutritient), vitamin 12 and folate; vitamin D, calcium and zinc. As you age, your organ function begins to decline, resulting in an increased risk for developing chronic health conditions, such as high blood pressure. A healthy, nutrient-dense diet is essential. As your body’s own natural antioxidant system becomes less effective, you need to increase your intake of antioxidant vitamins, such as vitamin A (in the form of beta-carotene, vitamin E and C).

General Dietary Supplement Criteria – Choosing a Vitamin

Among those MVIs marketed toward the ’50+ crowd’ look for options that offer 100% of the RDA or AI (recommendation) for vitamins C, E, B12, B6 and folic acid, as well as for the minerals selenium and magnesium. Many MVIs fall short on magnesium. Look for one that contains at least 100 mg (25 to 33% of your daily requirment). There is evidence that vitamin K may be important  for older Americans, so look for a MVI that offers about 25 mcg (except if you take Coumadin or another blood thinning medication). Vitamin K interferes with blood-thinning medications. The nutrients mentioned above are especially important for bone health, heart health and energy metabolism.

Potassium and Other Minerals

Choosing foods rich in potassium, such as many fruits and vegetables, is important because potassium (along with calcium and magnesium) may reduce blood pressure and potassium is a major mineral, needed in large quantities. While widely found in the food supply, it is the #1 nutrient deficiency in the U.S. Vitamins and minerals are best absorbed and used by your body when obtained from whole foods. However, if you wish to take a multi-vitamin/mineral (MVI) supplement, choose wisely.

Vitamin D and Calcium

In most cases, you shouldn’t rely on your MVI dietary supplement to meet your needs for calcium and vitamin D. There isn’t enough room in the pill itself for the calcium required for most Americans. Choose a calcium + vitamin D supplement and take it separate from a multi-vitamin. The recommended dosage is at least 1,000 mg calcium and 400 I.U. vitamin D but most research has indicated that the vitamin D recommendation may be too low, especially if you do not get adequate sun (UVB) exposure; about 15 minutes per day of direct sunlight.

Vitamin A and Iron

Vitamin A intakes in the elderly are generally below the current standard of 800 – 1,000μg per day. Despite these low intakes, liver stores of vitamin A are well preserved with advancing age so supplementation would be more detrimental in elderly persons than in younger persons because of a diminished ability to clear this vitamin from the body, leading to potential toxicity (hypervitaminosis A). Nowadays, the majority of the vitamin A in most MVIs is in the form of beta-carotene (about 75% of the vitamin A), a vitamin A precursor found in abundance in your orange and dark green veggies and some fruits. In addition, MVIs designed for this age typically contain little or no iron as this mineral can be stored in the liver. Iron overload is known clincally as hemochromatosis.