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DINA ROSE, PhD is a sociologist, parent educator and feeding expert empowering parents to raise kids who eat right.
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Dinner Together Building Healthy Families One Meal at a Time.

Food Politics Marion Nestle's intelligent take on the politics of food and nutrition.

Fooducate Like Having a Dietician on Speed dial.

Hoboken Family Alliance A terrific resource for people living in the great city of Hoboken, NJ.

The Lunch Tray Everything you need to know about improving school lunches.

Parent Hacks Forehead-Smackingly Smart Tips

Raise Healthy Eaters One of the best blogs (other than my own) for learning to raise healthy eaters.

Real Mom Nutrition Tales from the Trenches. Advice for the Real World. From a mom-nutritionist who knows!

Stay and Play The best indoor playspace on the East Coast. Oh yeah, and it happens to be owned by my brother.

weelicious Great Recipes for Kids 

Entries in Sugar (64)

Thursday
Apr072016

Healthy Snacks for Kids: Bars vs Cookies

In the spirit of Eat This, Not That!, I've done a series of posts over the years pitting foods against each other.

But rather than assess the nutrition, I compare how different foods influence habits. Here I discuss bars and cookies.

source: yacobchuk1 /depositphotos.comFrom a Habits Perspective, if a bar seems like a cookie, then it is a cookie. And so...

  • If you wouldn't give your kids cookies every day, then don't give them bars every day. 
  • And if you give your kids a bar one day, don't give them cookies that same day.

Think of this as the if-it-quacks-like-a-duck argument. This is especially true when toddlers are just learning to eat right. 

From a habits perspective, bars and cookies are equivalents.

The only key difference between a bar and a cookie is that people don't generally polish off a box of bars, but a box of cookies? So, from this angle, and pretty much only this angle, bars beat cookies. (Though I do admit, this is a pretty big advantage!)

From a nutrition perspective, many cookies and bars are also equivalents.

Yes, some bars are healthier than others. And I'm sure you're home made bars certain are. But in general, cookies and bars are essentially equivalent.

For instance, compared to a Kashi Soft-Baked Ripe Strawberry cereal bar, a Kashi Soft-Baked Oatmeal Raisin Flax cookie has fewer calories, less sugar and the same amount of protein. The cookie even has one extra gram of whole grains.

Yes, I cherry-picked, but only to get two products that are kind of middle-of-the-road. But the nutrition argument is essentially splitting hairs. I guarantee that for every super-healthy bar out there we could find a cookie equivalent.

In the January/February issue of their Nutrition Action Healthletter, the Center for Science in the Public Interest, rated bars: nut, protein, granola...

"Let's be clear. Even the best bars don't hold a candle to fresh fruit, vegetables, plain Greek yogurt, or a handful of unadorned nuts. (That's why we awarded no Best Bites, just Better Bites.) If none of those will do, a bar could work in a pinch. But are you getting a decent snack or a glorified cookie?"

If you want to read CSPI's nutrition comparisons of all the major bars, consider subscribing to their healthletter. It's a wonderful resource.

In the meantime, make sure you "use" baked goods as if they're cookies.

Sweet beverages as if they're soda. Muffins as if they're donuts. Pretzels as if they're chips. I think you get my point.

And for fruits and vegetables, plain yogurt, etc. for most snacks!

And now, check out these other posts. 

~Changing the conversation from nutrition to habits.~

Thursday
Oct222015

How to Stop Stressing About Halloween Candy

It's time for the Halloween hysteria to begin: What should you do with all that Halloween candy?

 

I've written about this a lot. Every year, in fact. And I always say pretty much the same thing:

  • Take this as an opportunity to teach your kids some healthy eating habits.
  • Rather than stress out about how to get rid of the candy, why not use some smart strategies for lightening the load.
  • Hiding, dumping, buying back, and switch-witch'n are all ways to teach your kids the wrong lessons.

All the stress about Halloween highlights the mixed messages our culture sends our kids about the role of sweets and treats in their lives.  

Show of hands: How many people delighted in the theirs baby's first birthday cake? I just saw a video declaring, "Smash cakes are all the rage!"

How many parents give their kids the chocolate cake "look"—I know you know what I mean—every time they bring out sweets and treats?

Or say to their kids, when the ice cream they order is bigger than their bodies, "Can't wait to see you eat that!!!"

And how many of us talk up the Halloween candy in advance, only to talk it down the morning after?

It's a little crazy, our culture glorifies, then vilifies, sweets and treats. Halloween is just one example of this phenomenon.

Here an inventory of my past Halloween posts to help you cope

  • Lighten the Halloween haul so you don't have to resort to dumping: Halloween Candy
  • How to avoid the hidden problem with Halloween—it teaches kids to eat what they have, not what they want: A Better Buy-Back

And just because the Halloween "problem" is not limited to Halloween...

Is it fair to dump your kids' candy if they've "earned" it? I doubt my answer will surprise you: All's Fair...In Love, War and Feeding Kids!

~Changing the conversation from nutrition to habits.~

Wednesday
Sep022015

The Power of "Fruit"

Q1: Which contains more fruit, Strawberry Pop-Tarts or Mott's Apple Juice?

Think that's a trick quesiton? Tempted to say, "neither?" Well here's the shocker: the Strawberry Pop-Tarts win because they have trace amounts of dried strawberries, dried pears, and dried apples. The Motts Apple Juice? Nada.

Source: depositphotos

  • Of course, the Pop-Tarts are loaded with sugar. My quick count reveals at least 4 different kinds of sugar. 
  • But here's the thing: the Mott's Apple Juice contains only water, sugar and Vitamic C. In other words, it's vitamin-fortified sugar water. Read Water vs Punch and Soda.

Q2: Which is healthier, Strawberry Pop-Tarts or Mott's Apple Juice?

If you're like most people, you'll say it's the juice. And on some dimensions, you'd be right. After all, the Pop-Tarts are loaded down with preservatives.

But here's something else....

Research shows people think products that contain "fruit sugar" otherwise known as "fruit concentrate," are healthier than products that contain plain old sugar. It's the power of symbolic wording.

Here's one study.

Participants were asked to evaluate two children's cereals that were identical in every way except:

  • One label said "sugar." 
  • The other label said, "fruit sugar." 

(The study was conducted in a German-speaking part of Switzerland where they call fruit concentrate fruit sugar.)

Participants consistently evaluated the "fruit sugar" cereal as healthier than the "sugar" cereal. Even people who were rated as being health conscious were just as susceptible to this belief.

You know the power of marketing. And that marginal foods can benefit from the health halo emanating from healthy foods.

The health halo isn't limited to fruit. For instance, adding yogurt to raisins, nuts or pretzels can make them seem healthier. In reality, though, that yogurt coating is some combination of partially hydrogenated palm kernel oil, whey powder, yogurt powder and sugar. YUM! Read Is "Yogurt-Covered" Really Yogurt?

But consider this...

One reason consumers are swayed by the fruit health halo is the pressure to get fruit into our kids makes us do crazy things.

Use "Fruit" To Teach Your Kids Healthy Eating Habits

1. Talk to your children about food in terms of the kinds of food they are and the habits they produce, not what ingredients they contain.

In this model, muffins are cake, juices are sugary beverages, fruit strips are candy.

2. Don't ban muffins (or cakes), juices (or sugary beverages) or fruit strips (or candy).

Think about proportion (how often your kids eat different kinds of food). Teach your kids to eat these treats infrequently. (Yes, that daily muffin habit has got to go.)

3. Stop talking "up" fruit. Just start eating it.

The real stuff. And the more often, the better.If you must talk it up, talk about how tasty it is, not how healthy it is. Read Fruits and Vegetables at Every Meal and Every Snack--Every Darned Day.

4. Educate your kids about the health halo marketing strategy.

Research shows that parents can disrupt (though not eliminate) the influence marketers have on our kids. Read Revealing the Truth in Advertising.

~Changing the conversation from nutrition to habits.~

Source: Sutterlin, B. and M. Siegrist. 2015. “Simply Adding the Word "Fruit" Makes Sugar Healthier: the Misleading Effect of Symbolic Information on the Perceived Healthiness of Food.” Appetite 95: 252-61.