School Lunches Work to Reduce the Salt, Sugar, Fat-Conditioning

Here is a new announcement about an important topic:  kids’ school lunch programs. See the article at Putting Real Food in School Lunches.

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There is still some industry-sponsored congressional meddling, but the plan is much improved from previous years.

It has been found that nearly 40 percent of the calories American children eat come from empty calories – cookies, sodas, pizza and the rest. This has resulted in paving the way for “picky eaters” with dull palates.

One of the big problems will be getting the kids to eat the healthier food unless it is reinforced on the home front. If children eat healthier at home then the changes in the school lunch program will go much smoother.

To healthy kids,

Lee Jackson
Child Nutrition Advocate

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Kicking the Sugar Habit After the Holidays


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After all the Christmas goodies, it is hard to get back into a schedule of healthy eating. Our bodies may be so attuned to eating foods with a high sugar content that the craving for sugar continues.

Just as with any other addiction, sugar craving needs to be controlled. This includes cutting out artificially sweetened foods as well. Getting the sugar habit under control is especially important for children for health reasons as well as weight control.

How can parents help their kids get off the sugar train?

  • First of all, those desserts and holiday candies need to be out of the house by now. As the expression goes, “Out of sight, out of mind.” Stock your cabinets and refrigerator with fruits and vegetables instead of chips, cookies, and candies. Yes, fruits are a source of sugar but they also provide vitamins necessary for good health.
  • Start your kids off with a good breakfast. By this, I don’t mean a bagel or bran muffin, but foods more nutritious such as a vegetable omelet, some oatmeal with chopped almonds, and fresh fruit.
  • If you are the chief meal planner and one who prepares the meals, eliminate sugars and any sugar derivatives (honey, molasses, corn syrup, high fructose syrup and the like) from the menu. Plan  meals in advance, shop intentionally, based on what you need, and prepare the meals at a set time.
  • Pack the meals with plant-based foods from the vegetable group, the fruit group, small amount of grains, beans and legumes, and high-quality protein sources from animal or plant protein sources such as seafood, poultry and lean meats.
  • Set a good example by not eating foods with sugar. This means eliminating any “diet” soft drinks and other processed, sugary foods as well.
  • Take your kids shopping and ask them to help you make dinner or prepare their school lunch. Praise them for their good choices.
  • Have pitchers of water handy so your kids can drink this anytime. Kids should drink water rather than any soda or other sweetened drink.
  • One of the biggest helps is for parents to teach kids the value of staying active and exercising. When they are playing baseball, hiking or biking they are not as apt to want a piece of cake. Then, have some healthy snacks when they are through, such as nuts or peanut butter sandwiches on whole wheat bread, carrot sticks, etc.
  • Your child may be tempted to eat sweets, just as you, perhaps, are tempted. Try to get past the temptation by focusing on another activity. Perhaps on some hobby you have, or a pleasant experience you had.

Some like to use visualization when this happens. They imagine and visualize how much healthier they will be without the sugar, or they will see a firm, slender body if they don’t indulge. Sometimes it helps to just tell our body what we need and what we don’t need.

To your success,

Lee Jackson

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Choose Wisely When Food Shopping on a Budget

Grocery Shopping

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With a little planning and effort, choosing foods at the grocery store can be simplified while still saving money and keeping nutritional values up.

Food for the week (or more) depends on how wisely you choose at the grocery store. The first step is planning nutritious menus before you go to the store. Make sure you keep in mind store specials and any coupons you use. Decide on the amount of money to spend based on your budget or food plan.

Then the next step is shopping carefully to assure that what you will have at home is nutritious, tasty, and stays within your allowance – this is no small task.

  • Try to shop only once a week or less frequently. The more you go to the store the more you will likely spend on food and other products.
  • Don’t go to the store hungry. You will probably buy much more than you need. Try to leave young children in the care of others while you shop.
  • Compare the cost of small and large containers of the same product. In most cases the larger size will be more economical. However, it will be more expensive if you won’t use it or don’t have room for it.
  • Consider the cost of convenience foods, that is, foods that are already prepared versus those you have to prepare yourself. For example, can you season the rice at home rather than buying packaged herb rice?  On the other hand, some foods such as cake mixes may be cheaper when found on special than making a cake from scratch. However, look at the ingredients and see whether any food coloring or additives are included, which are less desirable.
  • You gain a great deal of information by reading labels. The ingredient list will give you information about a product’s sugar, sodium, and fat content. Ingredients on labels are listed in descending order according to weight. Therefore, if sugar is the first item on the list, you know it is high in sugar.
  • Choose whole-grain bread and cereal products over white bleached flour products.
  • If you are buying canned fruits, buy those in their own juice rather than those with sweetened juice.
  • Make sure fruit juices are 100 per cent juice. Fruit drink and punches have too much sugar added.
  • Many canned soups, sauce mixes and packaged entrees have high sodium. Do you really need them?
  • Nobody needs pop or soda or cola, or whatever the regional dialect calls it – too much sugar!
  • Encourage the drinking of water. Flavor it, if necessary, with lemon or other fruits.
  • Choose a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables. They are usually less expensive in season and are higher in quality. If you can’t choose these fresh, then buy them canned or frozen. If possible, compare the cost of fresh, frozen, canned, and dried forms of the same food.
  • Many snack foods are high in calories, fat, sugar, and sodium.  See whether you can find lighter versions that contain less of these components. Or, just eliminate them from your shopping. If they are not in the house, they won’t be a temptation.
  • Try the “Meatless Monday” schedule for awhile. This promotes healthier eating by emphasizing fruits, vegetables and alternative sources of protein such as beans and lentils that are free from saturated fats. Reducing meat consumption has been shown to provide many benefits, including limiting cancer risk, reducing risk of heart disease, as well as helping to fight obesity and curb diabetes. Chances are, you will not miss having meat at your meals for one day. Besides, meats are usually the most costly foods in a meal and make a huge ecological imprint on our planet.

When you shop for food you have lots of important decisions to make. Wise shopping is not just a matter of spending as little as you can. It means getting the most value for your money while keeping the health benefits of foods at  center stage.

To your good health and that of your family,

Lee Jackson, CFCS
Food and Nutrition Specialist

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What Influences Your Food Choices?

Food 4 Less grocery store in Hollywood, California

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What has the most influence on your food choices and/or the food you prepare for your family? Do your food choices depend on how much money you have to spend on food?  Are they about how close you live to supermarkets? Does it have anything to do with how close you are to fast food restaurants?

There has been a correlation made between not having a close-by grocery store where one can purchase healthy food and the population’s weight gain. It was believed that people who didn’t have a grocery store in their area tended to eat fast food more frequently and therefore tended to not eat healthfully and were more prone to gain weight. Take a look here at what researchers are finding out:

Decisions about what food to eat, when, and where helps determine our quality of life. These decisions are not to be made lightly.

To your healthy and that of your family,

Lee Jackson, CFCS
Food and Nutrition Advocate

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How Jamie Oliver is Raising Health Awareness

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Jamie Oliver and his Food Revolution are on a mission. I invite you to read this article by  Everyday Health expert, Jillian Michaels as she finds out why he is so passionate about what he does.

Have you and your family changed any food habits because of watching his TV shows?  Do you still order chicken nuggets?

To your good health and that of your family,

Lee Jackson, CFCS
Food and Nutrition Advocate

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Eating “Real Food” and Making Healthier Choices for Kids

Percent of people per state with a BMI greater...

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More than one in six children and teenagers are obese according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.  All we need do is look around and see the re-sizing of America.

There was to have been a voluntary ban on fast food ads on TV as these were said to be helping super-size young children. Has this happened? And if it did happen, would it help matters?

According to a group of physicians, voluntary guidelines have not made a difference in reducing ads placed on TV. They say it’s time to get tougher with the food industry about not advertising junk food to young children. The assumption here is that young children often can’t tell the difference between ads and programming. If fast food ads were banned, they say, this could decrease obesity and overweight by 17 percent.

Looking at the bigger picture, we can see it is not only the food industry’s problem. It is one for all families. Studies show that one in five children (ages 2 to 5) is overweight or obese before entering kindergarten. These children aren’t even in school yet so the school lunch program can’t be at fault. So obesity isn’t only the school lunch problem.

That places much of the responsibility on parents and caregivers of young children. They are the ones in charge of the food that goes on the table. And for families with small children, they are in charge of what their children eat. They need to know about healthy eating and portion size for themselves as well as their children.

With all the media talk and writing about good nutrition, you would believe everyone would be well aware of what constitutes healthy eating. But I still find it hard when I go to the grocery store to see all the processed food, soda pop, and other less-than-desirable food going into grocery carts, often, too, of those who need it the least. I often wonder whether anyone is eating “real food”.

Parents – do you know what your children are eating?

To the good health of you and your family

Lee Jackson, CFCS
Food and nutrition advocate and author

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Drinking your Calories

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With summer approaching (hopefully), kids will be in and out of the house looking for something cold to drink. Will your refrigerator be stocked with sodas and sport drinks, or other? Today we have a guest writer with some great insights into what type of drinks are best for kids.

By Anne Kolker MS Registered Dietitian

The options for drinks seem to be at an all time high with energy and sport drinks, new flavored sodas, tropical fruit juices, fancy vitamin water, and even water with protein appealing to all ages. Sodas and sport drinks, however, can have as much as 13 teaspoons of added sugar. It is especially important to look at the serving size on the nutrition label. So if you quickly read that a beverage bottle says 80 calories, you may need to look again. For example, if the serving size states 2.5 servings/bottle, you need to do the math. In this case, the 80 calories beverage actually contains 200 calories. Similarly, not all fruit juice is alike. Many do provide 100% juice but be careful of marketing. SunnyD® may look like orange juice and sell you on it’s 100% vitamin C, however it’s second ingredient is high fructose corn syrup as well as other ingredients not found in juice.

So what is a parent to do? Certainly, 100% fruit juice can be counted as a serving of fruit in a child’s diet. Just be careful of portion sizes. Offering OJ in a small glass (4- 6 oz) is great at breakfast but shouldn’t be the main choice of the day. Orange slices would be a great option, providing beneficial fiber and phytochemicals. If the soccer moms are bringing in sports drinks, you may need to be the one to point out that water is just fine. Sport drinks can be useful for the athlete who vigorously exercises for more than an hour, but isn’t necessarily needed for kids, teens, or adults. It is more important that you child is hydrated. Have your son or daughter drink water at least a half hour before his/her practice. Bring a water bottle to ensure he can drink during breaks in the game. Offering watermelon after the game is great as it contains 90% water. Finally, most adults and kids get plenty of protein (think cheese, milk, peanut butter, chicken, tofu, etc). Adding protein to a beverage just comes down to marketing again. Similarly, children consume plenty of vitamins in real food as well as fortified cereals and bread. Drinking vitamin water adds no real health benefit.

When you are out and about doing errands with the kids, it is quite convenient to just purchase sodas, Slurpies ® and even a Jamba Juice® for you family. Again, it is all about portions. A 16 oz Jamba Juice ® Mango-A Go Go has 300 calories. Ask for an extra cup and split it up between your kids or just ask them to only fill it up half way (it is hard to stop halfway once it is in your cup). Even for yourself as you drop in to Starbucks for a 12 oz pick-me- upper café mocha (with whip cream, of course) you’ll be drinking in 260 calories. Having young children have sips of your frosted mocha is not a great idea because caffeine can have more of an effect on children whose body weight is much less than an adults. Caffeine can cause upset stomachs and disrupt sleep.

The concern in our society today it that these sweetened beverages become the norm or daily beverage choice. Certainly, a decaffeinated soda at a pizza party once in awhile really won’t do that much harm to your child, however, if you go home and add in the ice cream that day, and the high sugar cereal from the morning and the hard candy sweet form at quick stop at the store, you have a lot of empty calories and sugar being consumed in just one day. Also, remember if you are drinking soda throughout the day, eventually your teenage will do so, too (role modeling does have a huge impact).

Kids do need calories. For example a 10 year old girl may need 2,000 calories. Of course, if she is on the petite side or isn’t very active, she’ll need less calories.

Most of these sweet drinks provide very little nutrition. It can either fill the child up so he doesn’t want to eat later, missing out on other beneficial food like sliced fruit, or it can actual add unnecessary calories. For a child or even an adult needing to lose weight, this can be easy just by changing beverages. It is possible to fall back on good ol’ water. Many companies now offer flavored water such as lemon and raspberry. At home, add fresh mint or sliced oranges or cucumbers into a glass of ice water. For a special event, serve club soda with sliced lemons. The best benefit of water – there are zero calories.


  • There are flavored water or club soda with zero calories that are better options.
  • Start your young kids off right when they are little. Avoid offering children soda and punch.
  • Limit juice but do offer two cups a day of non-fat or 1% milk. It’s great for children older than two to provide calcium and vitamin D (whole milk is fine from ages 1 to 2).
  • Do offer water through out the day
  • (try a keeping cold pitcher in the frig).
  • Add slices of lemon or squeeze a little bit of fresh orange juice to add some flavor.

If your child plays sports like volleyball, basketball or soccer, it is important to drink water 20 minutes prior to your practice or game. Their body sweats off fluid to keep cool. So, if your children are super active and/or it is really hot, remember to have them drink every 20 minutes or so including after their game.

This family wellness article is provided by Nourish Interactive, visit for nutrition articles, family wellness tips, free children’s healthy games, and tools.  Available in English and Spanish.

Article provided by Copyright ©2009 Nourish Interactive – All Rights Reserved.

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Are You on a Sugar High?

Easter is over, but are you still on a sugar high from the chocolate bunnies and eggs?  These holiday sweet treats  can be highly tempting as well as addicting.

Here are 5 tips you can use now to cut back or eliminate sugar:

  • When the urge hits to have a candy or sweet, have a drink of water or brush your teeth.
  • When you have the craving, wait 10 minutes, then wait 20 minutes, then see whether you have defeated it.
  • When a candy attack hits, say to yourself, “I only eat foods that are healthy for me,” or other saying that reinforces your will to stay away or cut down on sugar.
  • Exercise helps to keep you focused. Go for a walk, ride your bike, or shoot some baskets. Do anything active that will push your sugar thoughts into the background.
  • If you don’t have candy, cookies, and cake in the house, you won’t binge on them.

I hope these tips help you if you or those in your family struggle in their relationship with sugar.

Are you looking for a quick and easy way to encourage kids to get interested in food? Sign up for the Free report here at the right and turn your kids into inquisitive kitchen scientists through these fun and educational food activities.

To your health and that of your family,

Lee Jackson, CFCS
Food writer, author

Review of Study on Food Dyes and Children’s Behavior

The results of the study by the Food and Drug Administration advisory panel, made up of doctors, scientists and consumer representatives, meeting recently to study  a possible connection between food dyes and hyperactivity in children, indicated through a vote of 8-6 that food packages don’t need warnings about food colorings but that further study is needed. Their recommendations will be further reviewed by the FDA, who will then decide what action, if any, to take.

This issue has been debated for more than 30 years. During this time the use of dyes, especially for foods marketed directly to children, has increased. Artificial colors are in nearly everything, including chewable vitamins for kids, which I find very ironic. Sometimes their presence isn’t that obvious, such as in juices and other foods.

Recently I was having company and wanted to make a cake using a prepared mix. This was going to be a yellow cake made with mandarin oranges. I looked at all the different brands of yellow cake mix in the grocery aisle and all contained either yellow or red or blue dyes. I finally settled for a butter pecan cake mix, which didn’t have any dyes, but it also didn’t have any real pecans.

On the same trip, I looked for vanilla pudding mix. This, too, had the colors yellow 5 and 6 in it. I decided I didn’t need it. I have made vanilla pudding from scratch before, without using any food colorings. Real eggs give it a nice yellow color.

Most commercial food coloring is derived from coal, petroleum or from insects. With the pressure on food companies to abandon artificial dyes, we may see an increase in the use of natural food colors—the most popular, I understand, is cochineal, a dye made from insects that are ground up and added to foods to give them a rosier color. Cochineal, often known as carmine, has already been found in yogurt, waffles, lipstick and many other products. This is not the “natural food color” I want in my food, either.

Being concerned about the health of families, it only makes sense to monitor and help control what your children eat. This is just as important as controlling what they watch on TV or on the internet. Read labels. All packages must list the food colorings in the food.

Whether or not you believe food dyes affect behavior, food products that include dyes created from a petroleum base or other un-natural food substance should be questioned. Simply avoiding many processed foods and eating more whole foods is a good way to stay away from artificial colors.

To you and your family’s health,

Lee Jackson, CFCS
Food writer, author

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Do Food Dyes Link to Health Problems?


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Colored Easter candy is flooding store shelves, ready to fill children’s baskets. Other colored foods are in most every aisle of the store – breakfast cereals with their rainbow of colored pops and grains, yogurts with their multicolor blends, even Fido the dog has colored treats available. And, are there really strawberries in strawberry milk, or is it Red 40 and Blue 1 food dye?

We are seeing an increase in the amount of artificial dyes in our foods. They are used mainly to trigger that part of our brain that says “this is good, buy me”.

Making food more appealing to the eye through dyes has been used by foodmakers since early times. Whether it was healthy, is very questionable. For example, pigments made from lead and copper were used on food in the early 1800’s. Then there were artificial dyes made from coal tar. The advent of margarine had consumers mixing in the supplied dye to give the yellow color of it’s pretender, butter.

The connection between artifical dyes and health problems has been controversial for many years. Now federal regulators from the Food and Drug Admninistration are meeting this week to discuss whether there is a link between synthetic color additives in food and adverse effects on behavior.

In the past, the FDA has been quite clear in stating that studies do not substantiate a link between the color additives that were tested and behavioral effects. Congress passed several major acts concerning artificial dyes and their relationship to the health of consumers. In early 1960, about 200 color additives were placed on a “provisional list” when Congress called for a ban on foods that cause cancer in laboratory animals.

In 1990, the Food and Drug Administration banned some uses of the color additive Red 3 saying studies have shown that in very high doses it causes cancer in laboratory animals. The use of this additive was not allowed in cosmetics such as lipsticks, shampoos, powders, skin care products, puddings, processed fruits and juices and some other products. It was still approved for candy, breakfast cereals, juices, meat products, chewing gum, maraschino cherries, icings, cakes and other products. Often pressure from industry groups and members of Congress causes the reluctance to impose a ban on various products.

Some studies have found that children given foods that were artificially dyed showed signs of hyperactivity. Studies found that even children with no known behavior problems became hyperactive and inattentive. Others have indicated it is very difficult to say with certainty that food color dyes change behavior.

Another big concern about the use of food coloring and dyes, in addition to the fear of being possibly toxic and detrimental for proper health and development, is the entire concept of how food is perceived. Will children be drawn to the brightly colored processed food instead of eating wholesome, more nutritious food?

Whole foods are brightly colored by nature and do not need any artificial coloring. Many of the dyed processed foods are high in calories and low in nutrition. This continues to add to the obesity problem in children and adults, with over 2/3 of our population overweight.

Some companies are starting to cut down on the use of artificial dyes, partly because of consumer demand. They are using other more natural products to help give color and flavor to the foods, such as different fruit juices and vegetables.

No matter what happens at the FDA meeting, consumers need to read labels and recognize the potential dangers in artificial food colors such as Red 3, Red 40, Yellow 5, Yellow 6, Blue 1, Blue 2, Green, etc. Teach children to read labels and help them make good decisions about their health. Another suggestion is to stick with whole foods, which do not require any food coloring as they are beautifully colored by nature.

To you and your family’s health,

Lee Jackson, CFCS
Food Writer, Author

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