Childhood Obesity

Hidden Sugar in Kids’ Foods

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I read the label on the bottle of chocolate milk and saw that it had 22 grams of sugar. That can’t be good.


1. Look for cereals with less than 5 grams of sugar per serving. Better yet, go with homemade oatmeal or porridge (Lisa’s suggestion!)

2. Look for canned fruit packed in water or rinse out your syrup packed fruits.

3. Low-fat peanut butter. Lots of peanut butters have tons of sugar. (I actually go with the natural peanut butters myself and make sure there isn’t any added sugar.)

4. Skip the flavored yogurt and go for plain and put in your own fruit.

5. No fruit leathers. They have corn syrup, artificial flaors and partially hydrogenated vegetable oils which should be avoided.

Yummy, Healthy Pancakes for Kids?: No Problem!

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What’s better on a Saturday morning than a nice plate of pancakes? Nothing, I say! But, they must be healthy now that I’m raising a little body that is growing like a weed.

Typically I’ll start out with a high quality pancake mix that already has whole grains in it. Then I start adding stuff – it’s different every time, depending on what I have on hand. Here’s what this morning’s pancakes looked like.

I started out with the Arrowhead Mills Multigrain Pancake and Waffle Mix.

Multigrain Pancake and Waffle Mix

And went crazy from there.

Here’s all that went into my pancakes:

1 cup Arrowhead Mills Multigrain Pancake and Waffle Mix
2 frozen bananas from the freezer
1/2 cup of fresh blueberries
1 container organic pureed pears
1 container organic pureed harvest veggies with grains
1 container organic pureed carrots
1 container lunch box sized apple sauce
1 Tbs whole wheat bran flakes
1 Tbs seven grain hot cereal
1 Tbs ground flaxseed
2 Tbs oil
Enough milk to bring it to pancake mix consistency. Since you’re adding all of these other wet ingredients you don’t really follow the package anymore.

I didn’t have any eggs but normally I would put one or two eggs in the mix as well.

1) The containers of fruits and veggies (except for the applesauce) were all Gerber SmartNourish Organic baby food. Besides the ones listed above I will also use squash or sweet potato. This is just what I happened to have on hand. I usually try to mix up the sweet with the savory. I have also used the pumpkin pancake mix from Target and have added in sweet potato because the flavors are so similar. They are always good.

I have actually found some of these organic baby foods at the Dollar Store (2 containers for a dollar= 1 pack). At Walgreen’s they are $1.79 a pack. Not sure about the regular grocery store. Probably somewhere in the middle.

2) When bananas start to get old I throw them in the freezer. Yes, they will get black but that’s okay. They are still good. I put them in a pitcher or bowl of warm water to thaw them out. After a few minutes of soaking the skin comes right off. They were still a little frosty when they went in the mix this morning but I was able to mash them with a fork and mix them into the pancake mix just fine.

3) Ground flaxseed, wheat bran flakes, wheat germ are all ingredients that you can keep in a tupperware or glass container in your fridge to throw into any baked goods you are making–cookies, brownies, banana bread. No one will ever know they are there and they bump up the fiber in your final product. You don’t even have to measure them. Just sprinkle about a tablespoon over your mix and stir.

4) If you have the time and feel like it, you can also chop up some nuts really fine and throw them in for a little crunch and protein. I like walnuts or pecans.

These pancakes, despite the zillion ingredients, are really super easy and quick to make. There’s nothing to measure; just throw in one or two containers of fruits and veggies, sprinkle in whatever dry goodness you have in the fridge and off you go.

Oh, and another God-send for pancake making? The electric griddle. Here’s one at Target for around $30.00. They are great because you can put six pancakes on at a time and cut your standing around in the kitchen time in half. Plus, more pancakes make it to the plate hot at the same time.

Overall, my pancakes are always a hit! They get rave reviews from both kids and adults alike and no one is the wiser as to what is in them. Today the pancakes mostly tasted like good blueberry sweetness. I was a little nervous when I threw in the carrots because they can have such a strong flavor, so then I specifically chose the pears to offset that possibility. When I realized I had pears, apples, blueberries and bananas in them, I knew I could get away with the pureed veggies, no problem. And I did.

I’m assuming I can also wrap them up and send them in the lunch box as part of a healthy lunch. They are probably still good cold.

Excuse me while I go warm up a pancake! Yum!

Related Posts:

Six Week Bran Muffin Batter 

Extended Bottlefeeding and Obesity

Does Extended Bottle-Feeding Really Cause Obesity?

July 20, 2012
With research you have to remember that it’s not every single person that will have the outcome that they predict. What the researchers are saying is that for those babies that drank out of a bottle longer, more of the babies were likely to be obese later on. This not a direct cause and effect, meaning that it does not mean your baby will be obese if she is still using the bottle at 36 months. I have a child who is a perfect example of that. Three years, two months old, loves the bottle, skinny as a rail. But there is something to the research and the underlying reasons are what need to be examined. Are the babies who drink from a bottle as an older child also getting sugary cereals and breakfast bars instead of fruits and vegetables? This are things to examine and look at.


The following is reposted from:

Even though she’s now 23 months old, my daughter Maya still really likes hitting the bottle. It’s a ritual—the first bottle of the morning, and a request when I get home from work. She sits on my lap, we cuddle, and she relaxes, her body growing less tense. In the evenings, I don’t give her much because it will ruin her dinner. We both know it’s the pose that matters, and that little time for reconnection.

So of course I was immediately concerned when my pediatrician abruptly told me to stop using bottles “cold turkey” because they are linked to obesity. She was right that a new study from last year connected bottle usage to obesity, and it sure made for some frightening headlines when published, like this one: “To Avoid Adult Obesity Stop Bottle-Feeding at 18 Months,” from Medical News Today. The article began by intoning darkly:

If you want to reduce your baby’s chances of becoming an obese adult you should not continue bottle-feeding him/her beyond 12 to 18 months.

Who wants a fat kid, really? Or this one, from U.S. News, “Prolonged Bottle Feeding Boosts Kids’ Obesity Risk,” which began:

Nearly one-quarter of 2-year-old bottle feeders were obese at age 5, researchers say.

Well, I suppose that seems clear enough. But what did the research really say? Here’s more detail:
The prevalence of obesity at 5.5 years was 17.6, and 22.3 of children were using a bottle at 24 months. The prevalence of obesity at 5.5 years was 22.9% (95% CI, 19.4% to 26.4) in children who at 24 months were using a bottle and was 16.1 (95% CI, 14.9% to 17.3%) in children who were not.

Prolonged bottle use was associated with an increased risk of obesity at 5.5 after controlling for potential confounding variables (sociodemographic characteristics, maternal obesity, maternal smoking, breastfeeding, age of introduction of solid foods, screen-viewing time, and the child’s weight status at birth and at 9 months of age).

I was struck by several things here. First, although nearly 23 percent of bottle-feeders were obese at the age of 5 1/2, 16 percent of the rest of the population (i.e., not bottle users) also were, which is only a 7-point difference.

Second, the sample size is on the small side — i.e., 22 percent of the sample used a bottle, 23 percent of whom ended up overweight. That’s a total of 341 kids. If we subtract the 16 percent that represents the background obesity rate, there are only 55 kids whose habits are driving the conclusions (because they make up that 7-percent spread). The authors say that is a statistically significant number, though, so I also took a gander at their assumptions.

They used a data set with limited inputs, certainly. First, the study did not account for what was actually in the bottles. Yet it seems to me that this could matter a lot. Apple juice, for example, is high in calories and does not fill you up, yet creates a taste for sugary drinks, making it easy to consume to excess. While whole milk may be higher in calories, it offers a host of essential fats, vitamins and calcium, and is denser and harder to over-consume. Water, obviously, has no calories. Formula, which is loaded with sugars that stimulate appetite, unsurprisingly is also linked in previous studies to obesity.

As children are frequently given juices (or even worse, Kool-Aid), given the small number of families driving the conclusions, this seems like an important caveat, and one notably missing from the official conclusion or coverage. Instead, the authors publicly suggest the opposite, where one of them claims that the study accounted for “feeding practices during infancy.” But this is misleading. After all, what a child is actually consuming has just got to be more important than whether it’s being delivered by bottle or cup.

Second, the study did not measure the kind of bottle being used, whether glass or plastic. Before you think I’ve gone off the deep-end on this one, consider that studies have shown that Bisphenol-A (BPA) likely plays a significant role in obesity, both by making our bodies produce insulin as though we are consuming twice the calories we actually are, and by helping to flip a genetic switch that predisposes us to be fat.

The study’s data-set spans 2001 to 2006, when most parents were unaware of the BPA issue and most bottles still had BPA in them, and in which plastic bottles were typical, as they are today. But the analysis simply ignores the possibility of harmful chemical influences.

Third, the authors’ don’t recognize any benefit at all from using a bottle:

Rachel Gooze notes that weaning children from the bottle by the time they are 1 year of age is unlikely to cause harm and may prevent obesity.

I beg to differ. Research shows that strong bonding is essential to healthy brain development, particularly in children ages 0 to 3 years. While extended use of a bottle is not an essential part of creating these bonds, the act of feeding a child is intrinsically a nurturing moment, and so it may not be irrelevant either. The researchers should have at least considered the possible emotional downsides.

For our family, my daughter never breastfed, and so our bonding over a bottle has replaced a rather fundamental missing piece. I’m not eager to let this go based on one study showing she could, maybe, have a slightly greater chance of being obese four years from now, especially given the care I take with her overall diet. For example, she almost never has juice, or really concentrated sugar of any kind.

If using a bottle appeared to be causing cavities or hampering her speech development, that would be another issue, and is a legitimate concern raised by dentists (those sugary beverages again!) and speech pathologists. My daughter now uses (I would guess) about 600 words and more every day. She’s also never been very interested in a pacifier or thumb-sucking, either of which can also be a speech development blocker.

Moreover, she eats a wide variety of fruits, proteins and vegetables, uses both sippy cups and regular cups, and is learning to use a straw, as speech experts advise. The bottle is just a break, and I assume will drop away sometime when she’s no longer needs that daily form of checking in. If not, we’ll ease it out of use and replace it with some other bonding ritual we invent.

In the end, I’m not convinced at all by this study, and disappointed that both my pediatrician and the press apparently take its conclusions as gospel. Advice from doctors rarely seems to take account of the havoc that would be wreaked on families’ lives by following their rigid approach. The costs of this in terms of both family peace and pediatric credibility are high. And the concerns around obesity have now reached such a fever pitch that it seems we’re able to be bossed around on “slim” evidence indeed.

In the end, it seems to me, we all would benefit from trusting our instincts about what’s right for our child–for others besides my daughter, taking the bottle out of circulation may be no big deal. For the rest of us, we probably just need a moment or two to relax in a day, and so do our kids.

How does your family come down on this issue? Am I just making up excuses because I don’t want to face the music (or really, screaming)?

Did I miss something important about the study or its implications? Or do you agree with me that this is just another in a too-long line of simplistic anti-obesity messages that fail to grapple with the real issues?

Laura MacCleery is a non-profit lawyer, mom and squeaky wheel in search of a spoke. Read more of Laura’s writing on her blog, Laura’s ‘Rules’.

School Lunches? What to do? HELP!

Starting in three months I have to pack a lunch for a three year old! I’m at my wits end! I have no clue how to make a quick and healthy meal for my child that won’t take a lot of time every night before we go to bed. I want to be able to prepare a week’s worth of lunches in about an hour on Sunday afternoon. I then want to be able to grab them out of the fridge and toss them in her super fancy kid lunch bag that makes her look like she’s carrying very nutritous food.

At her current Spanish immersion daycare they provide her with warm organic lunches every day. She’s currently eating better than I am with meals like rice and oranic veggies, taco roles, veggie soup. Her lunches look a little like this:

I need the help of all the seasoned momma and dadda lunch packers out there otherwise my little girl’s lunches may well end up looking like this, where the tator tot serves as the veggie:

Please post a reply with your best quick and easy school lunch menus and tips. What lunches have you found to be good? I’m particularly interested in menu ideas for lunches that can be prepared in bulk and then just thrown in the lunch bag.

I’ve never had to do this so I’m soliciting ideas from all of you out there. I tried looking for a good blog on kids’ lunches but all I found was mother’s complaining about how much they hated making lunches.

The one ideas I’ve had so far is:

Lentil soup: heat a bowl up in the am and throw it in the thermos. Toss in a piece of whole wheat bread and butter and some apple slices. I think I can handle that. Now what about the other 364 days?

After I get a number of suggestions I will create a new post with a list of the ideas.

The only restrictions are that they cannot include making cute, tiny faces out of food objects;


and they cannot involve writing love notes on pieces of fruit.

No offense It’s cute but as a single working mom, I just don’t have the time for that!

I’ll be looking forward to all of your great ideas….yum, yum!

Children and Screen Time

The other day I caught my two year old holding my cell phone in her hand as if she were playing a video game and I felt my heart sink. I know technology is in the world but I would like to shelter her from it as long as possible. Despite this, we are no strangers to t.v., computers or smart phones in our household. In the mornings I will oftentimes let her watch a few minutes of “Spider”, or “Charlotte’s Web”, as it is more commonly referred to, while I get ready for work. On the smart phone she talks with her grandmother and looks at pictures we have taken together. However, the questions in my mind about technology and screen time run rampant as she is at a very tender age of development and I only want what is best for her developing brain and personhood. Ask any parent about screen time and their children and more questions than answers will arise. In addition, opinions vary widely, ranging from ‘computers are good for your children’, to ‘I would prefer if my child never interfaced with a screen again’.

Recently, I have written about my own personal beliefs regarding children’s use of technology. I have mentioned that I believe technology interferes with socialization, relationships, and that it is much more important for children to be interacting with other human beings and with nature than with screens.

I have grappled with the question as to why children explicitly should not be exposed to technology and how to respond to the argument that technology is educational.

Given my ideology, how do I respond if a parent says to me, “Yes, I let my child use the ipad and the computer during the day. It’s educational.” Can I say, no, it’s not educational? Of course not. But the following is what I can say.

Children and Technology

Experiential learning, meaning hands-on learning, results in better  problem solving skills, creativity and imagination than technology.

  1. Because technology plays such big role in our lives today, children are often engrossed in two dimensional visual experiences. During that time children are being taken away from the more important, three dimensional, hands-on experiences, social experiences, and experiences in nature.
  2. The gains that can be made through a computer or an iPad can just as easily be made through some other experience. For instance, counting or the alphabet can be learned by use of a computer, but they can also be learned through experiences that involve interacting with another human being or with objects that they can touch, feel, and experience.
  3. The rise in technology is resulting in a decrease in the amount of time children spend in nature.
  4. Children’s brains are not designed to handle the fast moving pace of many cartoons and “children’s” television shows. Slow moving shows like Sesame Street are more appropriate for the child’s developing brain.
  5. Nature is by far much more important developmentally to children than technology.
  6. Technology, such as smart phones or computers, are addictive. The more your child plays with them, the more they will want to play with them. Think about your own experience with computer games or your cell phone.
  7. Children start to rely on technology when they get bored rather than on social relationship and their imagination.

Do the gains made by having your children play with an iPad or a computer outweigh the gains that can be made by having your children engage in imaginative or creative play, in a social experience or in nature? Let’s find out.

Detrimental Effects of Screen Time

According to the Mayo Clinic (2011), too much screen time is linked to the following:

  • Obesity. Children who watch more than two hours of TV a day are more likely to be overweight.
  • Irregular sleep. The more TV children watch, the more likely they are to resist going to bed and to have trouble falling asleep.
  • Behavioral problems. Elementary students who spend more than two hours a day watching TV or using a computer are more likely to have emotional, social, and attention problems.
  • Attention problems. Exposure to video games increases the risk of attention problems in children.
  • Bullying. Children who watch excessive amounts of TV are more likely to bully than children who don’t.
  • Impaired academic performance. Elementary students who have TVs in their bedrooms tend to perform worse on tests than those who don’t.
  • Violence. Too much exposure to violence on TV and in movies, music videos, and video and computer games, can desensitize children to violence. As a result, children may learn to accept violent behavior as a normal part of life and a way to solve problems.
  • Less time for play. Excessive screen time leaves less time for active, creative play.

Recommendations for Screen Time and Children

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has made very specific recommendations for children in regards to screen time.

For children under the age of two, the AAP recommends NO screen time including background television intended for adults.

  • For children over the age of two, AAP recommends limiting a child’s use of TV, movies, video and computer games, to no more than one or two hours a day.
  • The AAP states that there are no known positive effects of screen time for children younger than 2 years and potentially negative effects. (D’Arcy, 2011)

In her Washington Post article, D’Arcy (2011) goes on to summarize the AAP’s stance on children and screen time by highlighting that “parents are usually fooled into thinking certain materials are ‘educational’ when there’s no evidence to support that.” She states that the AAP finds “unstructured playtime . . . more valuable for the developing brain than any electronic media exposure.” From a pediatrician’s standpoint, according to D’Arcy, unstructured playtime is “more beneficial for children to develop creativity, problem-solving and reasoning skills . . . . and better for developing motor skills.”


Although there is likely nothing WRONG with allowing your child to watch an hour or so of T.V. a day, or play with your ipad for awhile, the question remains, what is your child missing out on? Why not encourage your child to grapple with finding a way to spend an hour of down time? Why not take the extra-time to find a way for your child to expand their creativity and problem solving skills? It will be worth the effort in the long run.

References and Further Reading

Black, R. (2012).

D’Arcy, J. (2011).

Manjoom, F. (2011).

Mayo Clinic Staff. (2011).

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