Most of us enter the grocery store with good intentions: to leave with nutritious food. But when you read the packaging on your average grocery store items, it seems like everything is “good for you;” Organic crackers, grain-infused waffles and vitamin-loaded breakfast bars are just some of the packaged foods that boast healthful benefits. But how can you tell which products are good choices vs. those that are just junk food in disguise?
It boils down to two things: knowing the difference between healthy and sneaky ingredients, and then seeing where they fall on the ingredient list.
The biggest trend right now are packaged foods that tout whole grains, like crackers, bars, cookies, pancakes and pizza, according to Sara Yen, registered dietician at Children’s Hospital Boston’s Martha Eliot Health Center. The caveat is in the ratio of whole grains (or lack thereof) in relation to the rest of the ingredients.
Know what regulations mean. Yen points out that according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, any cereal that claims to be a “good source of whole grains” has to have 8 grams of whole grains per serving. Cereal that has an “excellent source of whole grains” contains 16 grams per serving.
What takes some detective work is finding out how big the serving is, and what else you’re eating in order to obtain the whole grain benefits. “Having 8 grams of whole grains in a 50-gram serving isn’t getting the biggest bang for your caloric buck,” says Yen. “Consider the ratio of what you’re eating—what are those other 42 grams made up of?” …
Other stories we’ve been reading:
There’s more bad news for soda – a new study links it to pancreas cancer. [Read what Children’s obesity expert has to say about artificially sweetened beverages.] There are federal efforts to ban junk food from schools. [Read about junk food advertisements on kids’ websites.] The FDA wants nutrition information labels on the front of food packages. Junk food is getting the spot light in many movies.
Children born early in the year are more likely to be athletes. Obese children are more likely to die young. There’s a link between children with a super sweet tooth and alcoholism. Can you really tell if you’re child will be obese by age 2?
Depression during pregnancy could result in an antisocial teen. A pregnant woman can decrease her baby’s risk of schizophrenia later in life by increasing her iron intake. Obese moms put their newborns at risk for a number of health risks. Older women are more likely to give birth to a child who develops autism. Extremely premature babies show a higher risk for autism.
Obesity surgery may be the best solution for overweight teens. Early language problems may hinder adult literacy. There may be a genetic cause for your child’s obstructive sleep apnea. Childhood cancer survivors are at an increased of dying from a heart-related condition. Reading fiction may be the key to teen girls properly managing their weight.
Media expert Michael Rich, MD, MPH, director of the Center on Media and Child Health at Children’s Hospital Boston, answers your questions about media use. Last week, he discussed the effect of movies on babies.
Here’s this week’s question:
Q: My 7-year-old son is extremely good at navigating the Internet. In fact, he’s taught me almost everything I know about using the Web. I have software that blocks him from everything except kid sites like PBS, Nickelodeon, Disney, and the Cartoon Network, where he has spent a lot of time and they seem harmless enough, but recently I’ve been hearing about junk food ads on websites. I don’t think he looks at them, but I’m wondering whether that’s a problem anyway. Am I missing something?
–Websurfing in Washington, DC …