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Food

Who Has Time For Nutrition? My Picky Eater Only Eats PB&Js and Chicken Nuggets!

By and February 22, 2016 1 Comment
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I’m not here to give you advice for how to convince picky eaters to eat.

You’ve probably heard enough tips and tricks, including all the magical ways you can hide fruits and vegetables in kid favorites, like those infamous black bean ‘brownies.’ Unfortunately, despite all of your begging, cajoling, and possible trickery, your kid is winning the battle. Sound familiar?

We all want our children to eat healthfully and get the vitamins and nutrients they need for their growing bodies. For all parents, this struggle is real, but even more so for parents of picky eaters. Parents of picky eaters know that good nutrition is difficult at best when their kids only eat dinosaur-shaped chicken nuggets and crust-less peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. So let’s set good dietary nutrition aside for a moment – and look at nutrients. Inline image 1

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Categories: Ages + Stages, Food, Nutrition, + Infant Feeding, School-Aged Children, Toddlers + Preschoolers, Tweens + Teens

When NOT Washing your Hands Is a Crime: What We Can Learn From The Chipotle Sanitation Nightmare

By January 18, 2016 2 Comments
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Chipotle touts organic and fresh ingredients, making it a fan favorite for many parents, but perhaps not anymore, given the terrible year that the fast-food chain is struggling to recover from. 2015 ended poorly for Chipotle, with at least five viral or bacterial outbreaks in various branches of their restaurant chain between July and December. Three of those five outbreaks were associated with naturally occurring bacteria in food (Salmonella and E.coli) and possible food mishandling; the other two outbreaks were directly linked to sick employees (who had the norovirus) who spread their illness through improper hand-washing. These type of issues are both a public health and a parenting nightmare, since the spread of those three contagions are enough to make anyone violently ill, and for children, dangerously so. And soon, it seems, spreading the latter through poor hand hygiene in the workplace could be considered a crime. 

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Categories: Food, Nutrition, + Infant Feeding, Infectious Disease + Vaccines

Turkey Day Safety: Preventing Foodborne Illness this Holiday Season

By November 23, 2015 No Comments
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Lately, my husband and I have taken to calling our son “Turkey.” I can’t really pinpoint what started it, but he’s at that age (almost 2) where the nickname just fits (parents, you know what I’m talking about). Speaking of turkeys, those majestically hideous yet delicious birds, there’s nothing that would ruin a good post-feast coma like my little Turkey spewing masticated turkey all over his mother (ahem, me). Fortunately, there is a cornucopia of tips, tricks, and guidelines all over the interwebs for preparing a safe (and delicious) holiday spread.

Foodborne illness (or colloquially, “food poisoning”) can happen any time of the year as a result of improper production, manufacture, preparation, cooking, or storage of any number of foodstuffs. Using the Center for Disease Control’s Foodborne Outbreak Online Database, one can see that foodborne illness outbreaks linked to various preparations of turkey have been significantly higher in the months of November and December, and that’s no coincidence since it is the holiday season where turkey dinners are a mainstay. Among the bacterial culprits involved are Campylobacter jejuni, Clostridium perfringens, and several species of Salmonella. We can, however, take the following steps in our own kitchens to prevent post-turkey trauma by these little terrors through the proper storing, prepping, and cooking of those holiday meals, and by an appropriate storage of leftovers:

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Categories: Food, Nutrition, + Infant Feeding, Infectious Disease + Vaccines

The 3 Most Common Arguments Against the WHO’S Findings on Bacon and Cancer…and Why They’re Wrong

By November 3, 2015 No Comments
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Last week, when the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) announced that processed meat should be classified as a carcinogen, the internet went crazy. From passionate vegans to bacon lovers to WHO conspiracy theorists, almost everyone had a strong reaction to this (heart) breaking news. However, the three most common responses, both pro and con, to this story aren’t supported by scientific fact at all, they’re supported by our own cognitive biases.

In scientific terms, the jury is still out as to whether or not there is a causal relationship between consuming processed meats in moderation (as the majority of us do) and cancer.  One thing is for sure, it’s generally not a good idea to eat processed meats on a daily basis over a long period of time.  But chances are, eating bacon with breakfast every once in a while, or a hot dog at the ballpark likely won’t do you any harm.

But I’m not going to get into the science or the nitty-gritty of how the IARC came to their conclusions, because that’s been discussed to death on the internet over the last week.  What I am going to discuss are the logical fallacies that both sides are using to support or tear down the WHO’s findings.

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Categories: Food, Nutrition, + Infant Feeding, Science 101 + Mythbusting

Kids and Energy Drinks – 3 Things Every Parent Should Know

By October 7, 2015 6 Comments
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Headlines like “Energy Drink Consumption on the Rise in Kids, Teens,” appear frequently in the news, a somewhat alarmist reaction to data released last year which measured caffeine consumption in minors over a ten year period. That study in question, published in Pediatrics in February 2014, showed how children’s caffeine habits changed from 1999 to 2010.

However, those headlines aren’t quite accurate, particularly with how they allude to it being an issue that is “out of control.” Unfortunately, this is just one of the latest examples of how the wrong details are emphasized in energy drink news stories, even in publications as reputable as Time magazine. There are three major details often left out of these conversations on caffeine which could dramatically boost our efforts to keep ourselves and our kids healthy and safe.

Caffeine Consumption in Kids and Teens is Not as Bad as it Seems

Taking a closer look at the Pediatrics study, it’s not surprising that energy drink consumption among minors has increased since 1999 – energy drinks such as Monster Energy and Rockstar didn’t exist back then! What is surprising is despite these reports, the total amount of caffeine consumed per day per person didn’t change after the energy­ drink boom.

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Categories: Ages + Stages, Food, Nutrition, + Infant Feeding, School-Aged Children, Science 101 + Mythbusting, Tweens + Teens

More On Milk: Cows, Goats, and Plants, oh my!

By August 5, 2015 No Comments
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The days when cow’s milk dominated the dairy aisle in the grocery store are long gone.  Now you can expect to see a wide variety of milk-by-name-only beverages crowding the shelves. In a previous article for The Scientific Parent, I addressed the nutritional differences between organic and regular milk. Today, setting aside the fact some people are allergic or intolerant to dairy, I’m going to look at the nutritional difference between cow and goat milks, as well as some popular plant and nut-based beverages sold in your local dairy case as “milk.”

For a basis of comparison I looked at and compared unflavored milks.  All amounts listed below are per an 8 ounce glass. Of course, due to the variety of products and brand differences from region to region, there may be variations in amounts listed below versus the ones available at your local supermarket, but I believe this gives a good baseline for discussion:

  • Cow (2% fat) – 122 Calories, 8 g Protein ,5 g Fat,11 g Carbohydrates (11 g Sugar), 285 mg Calcium
  • Goat (Meyenberg) – 140 Calories,8 g Protein,7 g Fat ,11 g Carbohydrates (11 g Sugar),300 mg Calcium
  • Soy (Silk) – 110 Calories,8 g Protein,4.5 g Fat ,9 g Carbohydrates ( 6 g Sugar),450** mg Calcium
  • Almond (Silk) – 30 Calories,1 g Protein,2.5 g Fat ,Less than 1g Carbohydrates (less than 1 g Sugar,450** mg Calcium
  • Flax Milk (Good Karma) – 50 calories, 5 g Protein, 2.5 g fat, 2 g Carbohydrates (0 g Sugar), 300 mg **Calcium
  • Coconut (Silk) – 80 Calories, Less than 1 g Protein, 5 g Fat ,7 g Carboydrates (6 g Sugar),450**  mg Calcium

** Calcium carbonate or Tricalcium Phosphate has been added to these milks to increase the calcium amount

There are a few things to consider when you select a beverage of this nature:

The protein amount: While milks from cows, goats and soybeans all have naturally occurring protein, the nut-based or plant-based milks are typically quite low in protein. Newer products have been introduced with added protein but seldom naturally have the same amount as you would get from the cow, goat or soy milks.

Additives: Read the ingredients and see what’s been added to the product you’re choosing. From salt and sweeteners, to vitamins, minerals, and gums aimed at thickening the consistency of the liquid, many of these plant or nut-based milks have to add in a number of ingredients to make it palatable. Don’t be surprised to see a fairly long list of ingredients in these products.

It’s also worth nothing that there’s a recent lawsuit alleging false advertising on the part of almond milk marketing campaigns, regarding the actual amount of almonds in almond milk.  Some sources say that the amount of almonds in almond milk may allegedly be only be about 2%.  

Price: Typically cow’s milk remains the most cost effective way to get the maximum amount of protein and calcium in an 8 ounce/1 cup serving of this entire grouping.

So what’s the bottom line?

With so many different options in the dairy case, it comes down to a combination of these qualifications and your personal preference. Just be sure you are making the best choice for your nutritional needs,  personal and taste preferences….and of course, your wallet!

 

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Categories: Food, Nutrition, + Infant Feeding

What’s the Difference Between Organic and Conventional Milk

By July 21, 2015 3 Comments
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This post was written in response to a question from TheScientificParent.org reader, Andrea.

It’s tough being a parent these days. Sometimes I think it was easier for our parents and grandparents before the internet when they didn’t have so many mixed messages thrown at them. Today we are bombarded with all sorts of messages about food and nutrition. Every day we’re told what to eat or not eat. What food or ingredient might be “toxic”, or which are the “superfoods”. Attractive food bloggers, svelte trainers, celebrity chefs, and even TV doctors all have something to say about what you and your family should be eating and if we don’t follow their advice we’re told that we’re poisoning our children.

On most shopping lists you’ll find written “milk”. In the 80s and 90s your decision about milk usually came down to 2% or skim, but now the sheer number of options make it even make more confusing and overwhelming, so does the sometimes misleading marketing. Milk cartons read, “organic,” “antibiotic free,” and “hormone free.” What does all of this mean and does it make a difference when it comes to nutrition?

Before I go on, I want to disclose that I work for a supermarket chain that processes and sells both organic and conventional milk, so I know this issue rather well.

What does “organic” mean?   The use of the word “organic” and the USDA organic symbol is regulated by the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) and means that products must conform to certain standards set by the National Organic Program (NOP). In dairy farming these standards have to do with type of feed (it must be organic), access to outdoors and grazing, and treatment of the animal not necessarily with the quality of the milk itself.

What about taste and nutrition? If you read the NOP standards for dairy farmers it mentions nothing about taste, because how things taste can depend on the individual. Some consumers find that organic milk tastes better, but perhaps it’s the marketing that’s lead them to believe there’s a taste difference.

The NOP standards also don’t mention nutritional standards. The way organic milk has been marketed has lead consumers have been led to believe that organic milk is nutritionally superior to conventional milk. The jury is still out on this topic. One meta analysis found that organic milk is higher in protein and omega 3 fatty acids, but if you were to compare their nutrition facts panels you would find that generally in terms of calories, fat, protein and calcium there is little or no difference between conventional and organic cow’s milk.  A recent meta analysis looked at over 200 published studies and found that the nutritional quality of a cow’s milk was not as much due to the fact that the cows were on a conventional or organic dairy farm but a multitude of factors including the breed, age and the health of the cow and what they are being fed or were grazing on.

What about antibiotics? Dairy farmers, both organic and conventional, do not routinely give their cows antibiotics. The NOP prohibits the use of antibiotics, unfortunately that messaging that may lead some to assume that conventional dairy farmers routinely give their cows antibiotics but this is not the case.

On a conventional farm antibiotics are only administered when cows are sick, usually with an infection that human mothers are familiar with: mastitis. The antibiotics are prescribed and administered after the cow is examined by a veterinarian. Antibiotics can be expensive, which makes their routine use simply not financially feasible for dairy farmers.

Beyond this there are regulations regarding the use of antibiotics known as the “withdrawal time” which is the time after a cow is given an antibiotic that their milk can be used commercially. Additionally all milk is tested at the farm and at the milk bottling plant for the presence of antibiotics. If antibiotics are detected the milk cannot be used for human consumption.

What about hormones? All milk has hormones – even organic milk! Think about it, in order for a cow to produce milk they must have the right hormones that occur naturally in their bodies, just like in a nursing human mother.

But that’s not what most people are referring to when they talk about hormones, they usually mean artificial growth hormones (rbST & rbGH). Artificial hormones are used to increase a cow’s milk supply and they are not permitted in organic farming.

Many conventional farmers do not use artificial growth hormones, but some do. It is important to note that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not consider these hormones to be dangerous to humans since they are broken down during digestion and not absorbed in the body.

What about the size of the farm – aren’t organic farms smaller? The size of the farm has little to do with the quality of the milk, the treatment of the cows, or whether the farm is organic or conventional.   The majority of U.S dairy farms (74%) have less than 100 cows. The majority of U.S dairy farms (97%) are family owned and operated. In 2008 less than 2000 dairy farms in the United States were classified as USDA organic.

So what’s the bottom line? It’s your choice whether you want to buy milk that comes from organic or conventional dairy farmers, just make sure you’re doing it for the right reasons. Personally, I buy either conventional or organic milk regularly (it depends what’s on sale) and I drink milk daily.

 

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Categories: Food, Nutrition, + Infant Feeding, Science 101 + Mythbusting

How Did E. coli Wind Up in Bottled Water? Spoiler Alert: Poop

By July 14, 2015 No Comments
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Just as summer started in late June, officials from Niagara, LLC initiated a large recall of their bottled water due to evidence of E. coli at the company’s spring water source. This was cause for concern for many people, including parents, as summer is when bottled water is a regular go-to and most in demand, and of course because E. coli has earned a (rightfully) bad reputation.

It may make your skin crawl to think about it, but on and in just about every living thing, there’s a whole host of naturally occurring microbes. This includes humans. That’s right, naturally occurring microbes have taken up residence in your skin and gut and you need them to live.

Eschericia coli or more simply E. coli is a naturally occurring and very important microbial resident in the digestive tracts of cattle, ruminants (sheep, goats and deer), mammals and birds. People often think that E. coli is a single type of bacteria, but in fact it’s a large and diverse group of microbes.

In animals, E. coli is classified as a commensal microbe, which means that the bacteria lives within these animals without causing disease and helps the animal’s digestive tract extract important nutrients from food. These bacteria, like the ones that live in our guts, eventually they die and are shed when the animal defecates (see: poops).

So, if E. coli is a naturally occurring bacteria why is it a problem when it gets into the human food supply?

In 1982, a new subtype of E. coli was discovered in cattle that were very distinct from the standard E.coli shed by animals for the benefit of their health. This new subtype named 0157:H7 still lived in the animal’s gut and was shed through the same method (see: poop). In 1993 the new subtype was identified as the cause of a large outbreak of an illness that caused hemorrhagic diarrhea, kidney failure and even death. The common thread among all of the victims were that they’d consumed undercooked beef from a large fast food restaurant.

So if E. coli 0157:H7 lives in the guts of animals, how did it get into hamburger meat in 1993 and how did it get into the Niagara, LLC bottled water supply?

In 1993 the outbreak was traced to meat processing plants that lacked protocols to ensure that bacteria from the animal’s gut didn’t contaminate the meat used for human consumption. In terms of the issue with Niagara, LLC it comes down to how we handle poop: our own and that of animals.

Humans have built intricate sewage systems that handle our waste en mass, but the same cannot be said for animals such as cattle. During periods of heavy precipitation or snowfalls, E. coli can potentially be washed into bodies of water used for swimming and drinking. Another potential source for E. coli are from raising cattle. Human farming practices such as irrigation can carry animal waste from fields into close contact with crops and potentially into bodies of water used by humans.

E. coli infections with the serotype 0157:H7 are the most common cause of disease via the production of a shiga toxin. The toxin and the resulting disease can infect almost anyone but the very young and the elderly are most at risk. The primary symptoms are abdominal cramps, vomiting and bloody diarrhea. These populations can develop hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS), which can lead to kidney failure and death.

Niagara LLC acted very responsibly after learning that the potential for infection was present and began the recall. Their products reach a very wide customer base in multiple states through a number of retail outlets. Prevention is typically the best method of reducing chances of infection and these preventative methods are usually very simple.

  1. Wash your hands after going to the bathroom, prior to and after preparing food and after changing diapers.
  2. Avoid swallowing water when swimming in lakes, rivers and kiddie pools.
  3. Properly handle and cook meats.
  4. Do not consume raw milk or unpasteurized juices.
  5. If you suspect that you or your child is sick, consult with your health care provider immediately.

These outbreaks do not occur as often but when they do, the effects have a major impact on the population at large. As consumers, we have to be very prudent in the choices we make and using the prevention methods at hand to keep our families safe. – Edited by Leslie Waghorn

 

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Categories: Food, Nutrition, + Infant Feeding, Infectious Disease + Vaccines