Nutrition

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Fresh, Frozen or Canned Fruits & Vegetables — Which is the Best Choice?

All are good! There are many ways to purchase and store fruits and vegetables, and none is considered “the best.” Frozen, canned and dried fruits or vegetables can be as nutritious as fresh produce, and in some cases, when produce is frozen right after it’s harvested, it can have more nutrients than when fresh. Frozen and canned options can also be cheaper than fresh fruits and vegetables. When you do choose frozen, canned or dried products, choose those without added sugars, sauces or seasonings. Buy canned fruit that is packed in its own juice, or if purchasing fruit packed in syrup, be sure to drain and rinse it to remove added sugars. Purchase canned vegetables that are low in sodium or say “no salt added.” Avoid cans with dents, bumps or holes to be sure that your food will be safe from bacteria that could be harmful to children .

How do I know which vegetables fit into the specific groups?

There are 5 vegetable subgroup categories: starchy vegetables, dark green vegetables, red & orange vegetables, beans and peas, and other vegetables. Vegetables are grouped by their coloring and a list by color can be found on www.fruitsandveggiesmorematters.org and www.choosemyplate.gov.

What if my child doesn’t like any fruits or vegetables?

Taste buds develop over the course of a lifetime, so it is important to keep introducing children to healthy foods. Although children may not like a food the first time they try it, after several times they may acquire a taste for it. Provide multiple opportunities for a child to try a new, healthy food to increase the chances that he will enjoy it. Children will sometimes like a food cooked a certain way as well. If they don’t liked the cooked version, try it raw with a dip (e.g.; carrots and light ranch dip). It may take 5 – 20 tries for a child to determine whether he likes the food or not. Remember not to force a child to try something new, but to let him discover the food on his own, praise his exploration of new foods and let him see you eating healthy foods happily.

What is a whole grain?

Whole grains consist of the entire grain seed, usually called the kernel. The kernel is made of three components — the bran, germ, and endosperm. To identify whole grains, look at the ingredient list, not the front of the package. For example, “Whole wheat flour” or “100% whole wheat flour” should be the first ingredient listed.

I’ve Heard Carbs Cause Weight Gain—Should We Be Limiting Them?

Carbohydrates are a key part of a healthy diet and are the main source of energy for the body. They can be divided into two categories: simple and complex carbohydrates. Complex carbohydrates are good to eat since they are digested slowly and release energy over time; examples include whole grains and vegetables. Simple carbohydrates, found in table sugar, high fructose corn syrup and other sugars that are added to foods and beverages should be limited since they provide little nutritional value. Frequently, foods with added sugar are high in calories but lack other important nutrients. To keep children’s diets healthy, make sure they eat plenty of fruits, vegetables and whole grains, but limit foods and drinks with added sugar.

Is all fat bad?

Not all fat is bad! In fact, some fats are healthy and required by your body to function properly. All humans need to eat fats to survive, but most of us are eating unhealthy fats rather than the good ones. Polyunsaturated fats and monounsaturated fats are good to eat and should be included in the daily diet. They are found in foods such as nuts and fish. However, trans fats and saturated fats, which lead to overweight and other health problems, should be limited. These fats are found in animal products (e.g. bacon and sausage), fried foods (e.g. French fries and mozzarella sticks) and commercially packaged foods (e.g. chips, pork rinds, and many desserts). Parents and caregivers need to make sure children are eating the right kinds of fats for brain and nervous system development. Use MyPyramid.gov to determine how much fat should be included in a child’s diet.

What advice do you have for people who can’t or don’t drink milk?

For those who are lactose intolerant or sensitive to lactose, lower-lactose products are available. Hard cheeses and yogurt generally contain less lactose than milk and may be more easily tolerated. Some people may also try smaller portions of lactose-containing products (e.g., 4 ounces of milk) and/or combining the product with another food (e.g., having milk with cereal). Lactose-free milk is also widely available. Fortified soymilk (soy beverage), which has a similar nutrient profile to cow’s milk, is another option within the Dairy Group. Calcium-fortified products such as juices, cereals, breads, almond drink, and rice drink can also be good sources of calcium.

What are the best beverage options for children?

Water and fat-free or 1% (low-fat) milk are the best drink options for children. Soda, sports drinks (e.g. Gatorade®), sweet teas and powdered drink mixes (e.g. Kool Aid®) usually have added sugars which can greatly increase a child’s caloric intake. This can lead to overweight, obesity and tooth decay. Drinking four ounces of 100% juice per day can count as a serving of fruit or vegetable. However, fruit juice should be limited to one serving per day because it is high in fructose – a naturally occurring sugar in fruit. Other juice products, such as juice cocktails and concentrates, contain added sugars and should be avoided. Regular soda should be served rarely or not at all, since it is also high in calories and added sugar. Water is most effective for quenching thirst and should be available to children at all times. It represents a “second best” choice for children during meals and snacks, after fat-free or 1% (low-fat) milk.

What is the difference between a food allergy and food intolerance?

For someone with a food allergy, proteins in certain foods trigger an abnormal immune response. Common food allergies include those to milk, eggs, fish, crustacean shellfish, tree nuts, wheat, peanuts, and soybeans. In comparison, food intolerances are due to the inability of the body to digest or metabolize a food component. For example, lactose intolerance is caused by a deficiency of the enzyme lactase that breaks down the sugar lactose in milk and milk products. Because food allergies and food intolerances can cause some of the same symptoms (stomach cramps, vomiting, and diarrhea) they are often mistaken for one another. Those who think they may have a food allergy or intolerance should see their doctor. Most people who have a food allergy need to completely eliminate the offending food and ingredients that contain the food’s protein from their diet. However, for some food intolerances, like lactose intolerance, smaller portions (e.g., 4 ounces of milk) or a modified version of the offending food (e.g., lactose-reduced or lactose-free milk, yogurt, or cheese) may be well tolerated.

If my child has diabetes, celiac disease (gluten intolerance), food allergies, gastric bypass surgery, etc., how can I modify the MyPlate to fit their specific needs?

For children who have special dietary needs, it is best to consult your pediatrician. They can refer you to a dietitian who can create a meal plan that is best suited for your child’s nutritional needs based on age, sex, height, and any other disease-specific considerations. This is important to ensure they are still receiving all the calories and nutrients they need for growth and development.

Should my child be taking a daily multivitamin?

Taking a daily multivitamin does not replace a healthy, balanced diet. It is important to get nutrients from food, rather than pills or other supplements. Fruits and vegetables contain nutrients, such as fiber, that aren’t included in multivitamins. If children are given vitamins, make sure they don’t exceed the Dietary Reference Intake (DRI) for the child’s age and that the bottle is kept out of reach.4

Is organic more nutritious than non-organic foods?

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, due to insufficient research, at this time it is unclear whether organically-grown food contains more or better nutrients than conventionally-grown food . Therefore, when it comes to providing food for your children, it is not necessary to buy organic. Instead, focus on conventionally-produced items that are fresh, locally-grown and free of bruises, cracks or dents.

My child is vegetarian, how do I know if they are receiving enough nutrients for them?

A vegetarian diet can still provide well-balanced nutrition through choosing foods wisely. Look to add options such as nuts and nut butters, hummus, whole grains, and milk to children’s’ diets to ensure they are receiving enough calories without excess calories and fat.

Are artificial sweeteners safe for children?

There have been many debates and studies on artificial sweeteners. There is limited evidence about the effects of these sweeteners in the long-term. Currently, there is no research that shows that artificial sweeteners are harmful for children. With this said, they are often added to foods with little or no nutritional value that should be limited in a child’s diet. In other words, sugar should be limited in a child’s diet, no matter if it is table sugar or a sweetener .

Nutrition Resources:

 Healthy Eating

Educational Videos for Healthy Eating: Fruits, Veggies, & Grains

MyPlate: Learn About The Building Blocks For A Healthy Diet

Reflect, Replace, Reinforce: A process for improving your eating habits

What Exactly is a “Serving?”: Suggested servings from food groups 

Salty Six: Common Foods Loaded With Excess Sodium

Eating at a Restaurant Does Not Have to Sabotage a Healthy Diet if You Follow these Tips

Here are Some Tips to Help You Be Heart-Smart at the Grocery Store and Choose Good-For-You Foods.

Label reading: Here are Some Tips for Making the Most of The Information on the Nutrition Facts Label 

Women’s nutrition: Nutrition Plays Different Roles During Different Stages of a Women’s Life

 

Weight Management

Maintain A Healthy Weight With These Lifestyle Changes and Weight Management Tools

How Can I Tell If I’m at a Healthy Weight?

Losing Weight: What is Healthy Weight Loss?

Tips For Preventing Weight Gain 

Cutting Calories: Here are Some Examples to Get You Started

 

For Parents & Children

Go-Slow-Whoa: A tool to guide children & families to make healthful food choices

Learn About Your Child’s School Health & Wellness Policies With These Resources

Tips for Parents – Ideas to Help Children Maintain a Healthy Weight 

Encouraging Your Child to Make Healthy Choices at School

 

For Health Professionals & Community Activists 

Nutrition Resources for Health Professionals: Research Based Weight Management Articles

Tools for Health Professionals: Assessing Your Local Food Retail Environment

Overweight and Obesity: What Can Your Local Worksites, Schools, Hospitals & Neighborhoods do to Help?

 

Recipes & Meal Planning

Delicious Recipes for Healthy Eating

Planning Meals is a Good Place to Start Improving Your Food Choices

Healthy Recipes for a Healthier You