We have provided independent research, government research, quotes from popular books, and YouTube
lectures on children’s nutritional needs and healthy diet information. We’ve also included links to websites that describe the exact meaning of organic, natural, cage-free and many other terms. You will also find the unfortunate modern statistics on childhood obesity and related illnesses.
We hope some of this will be helpful to you and your family, perhaps aiding your understanding of your current food and health choices or providing tools and information that will bring more healthy changes. Lifelong eating habits are developed early, and enjoying healthy meals together can be a joyful time for your family.
Food and Drug Administration (FDA)
According to the FDA, too much fat or cholesterol in the diets of children has been linked to an increased risk of heart disease. Too much sodium can heighten the risk of high blood pressure. The recommended allowance of sodium should be less than 2400 mg per day. (Writer’s note: Many school lunch programs and pre-packaged lunches have almost 1300 mg of sodium. That is more than half of the recommended allowance in just one meal. Saturated fats in many school lunches and pre-packaged lunches are also too high, some with more than half of their calories from fat. Added fats and sugars certainly contribute to obesity and diabetes, which are at an all-time high in the US.)
Based on 2000 calories per day for children over the age of four, here are the recommended amounts of some of the most important components of children’s meals. All recommended quantities should be less than the following:
From How To Get Your Kid To Eat, But Not Too Much, by Ellyn Satter
Getting most of your caloric needs from grains, vegetables and fruits is also beautifully illustrated in Ann Cooper’s meal wheel at: http://www.lunchlessons.org/html_v2/meal_wheel.html. You can read more about Ann Cooper’s work below.
The American Medical Association (AMA) Guide to Prevention and Wellness
In Chapter 21, “Keeping Children Healthy”, this guide states, “It is especially helpful to develop healthy habits at a young age, especially eating, activity and sleeping. (These habits will help older children) to resist alcohol, tobacco, and drugs and help make good choices to keep themselves healthy and safe.” In this book, you will also find illuminating information on physical activity and sleep, as outlined below.
FOODS AND FOOD ISSUES THAT ADVERSELEY AFFECT HEALTH:
- too much fat, sugar and salt and not enough fruit, vegetables, whole grains and fiber
- skipping breakfast
- some colorings and a common preservative, SODIUM BENZOATE were shown to increase hyperactivity behavior and to decrease attention span, according to a new study.
Doctors currently recommend one hour of physical activity for children most days of the week. In a new report, 90 minutes of daily exercise is recommended to avoid heart disease risk factors. Walking and playing will do, as long as children are moving. The exercise habit helps kids stay physically active into adulthood, further reducing the risk of heart disease.
Sleep is linked to ability to learn, create, and solve problems – even to our moods. Insufficient sleep can cause fatigue, irritability, easy frustration and difficulty regulating emotions. Daytime sleepiness interferes with a child’s ability to learn and perform well in school. Chronic sleep deprivation can make a child appear overactive, causing some children to be mistakenly diagnosed with attention deficit disorder or learning disabilities. Evidence shows chronic lack of sleep increases risk of developing obesity, diabetes, and heart disease.
If your child or children have sleep issues, you may benefit from reading current studies on effective means to overcome sleep issues, or obtaining those studies or consultation with a leading Bay Area children’s sleep consultant, Dr. Noelle Cochran (www.symbiosf.org).
Ann Cooper, well-known former executive chef, and current Director of Nutrition Services, Cooking and Gardening Classes, Berkeley Unified School District. Ann has several books, Lunch lessons, Changing the Way We Feed Our Children and Bitter Harvest – How Our Food Makes Us Sick, as well as a very helpful website:
Some of Ann’s enlightening information about feeding children and about foods to avoid in the US food supply is outlined below. Use this link to hear this entire talk that was given to the Google, Inc. staff.
Ann Cooper’s vision is to teach every child to seek, grow, prepare, and eat nourishing, delicious, and sustainably grown food, empowering them to make choices that have a positive influence on their personal health, family, community, and surrounding environment.
One key emphasis is on eating regional food. Most food travels 1,500 miles before we eat it. That is bad for taste and bad for the environment. Industrial agriculture uses more fossil fuel than any other part of our economy in the US, or 17% of the fuel consumed in the US. Most children can identify over 1,700 commercial products but cannot identify what is grown and produced locally.
Her second area of study is in herbicides, and the millions of pounds of insecticides, chemicals, and pesticides used on foods in the US every year. US conventional agriculture uses 1.2 billion pounds of pesticides each year. That means that each person in the US is consuming an average of 5 pounds per person per year of pesticides. That is how much we consume and feed our children every year.
Diseases like foot and mouth, mad cow, and salmonella only got into food supply after we began mass producing foods. Mass produced foods come from companies like Monsanto and William Morris, who arguably may be more focused on profit than on your family’s health.
Statistics on antibiotics in our foods is also staggering. Antibiotics are fed to livestock daily so that they will gain weight faster. 70% of antibiotics in this country are consumed in animal husbandry. That means that we eat or drink our antibiotics in our food and in our water. With so many antibiotics in our systems, we have become resistant to their benefits, with 75% of antibiotics in this country having become ineffective against many diseases. E.coli is resistant to almost all antibiotics. On top of that, irradiation is used as a matter or course, to get rid of salmonella.
There are no labeling requirements or policies around genetically modified organisms (GMOs), so we don’t know how and if they are making us sick.
With $20 billion spent every year in advertising non nutritive foods from McDonalds, Kraft and other companies, we have to counter that influence by giving kids healthy food choices. We know those choices need to contain less sugar, fat and salt. But one quarter of meals in America are fast food meals, and are consumed in a car.
Our government’s focus is not currently on children’s health. For example, the state of California spends $9 billion every year on prisons, and by comparison, the entire United States spends just $7 billion on school lunches.
What does this mean to our children’s health? The CDC (United States Centers for Disease Control) reported that for every child born in the year 2000, 1 in 3 Caucasians, and 1 in 2 African American and Hispanics will have diabetes in their lifetime, most before they graduate high school. Within 10 years, 40-45% of children will be insulin dependent. The CDC reported that because of this health change, this will be the first generation to die at a younger age than their parents. In the past two and a half decades, obesity in children has risen by 100% and in teens by 200%. 65% of Americans are overweight, 35% of children are overweight, and of those overweight children, 25% are obese and 12% have type 2 diabetes.
Let’s end with a more uplifting definition. Ann Cooper’s definition of sustainable food is: a way of producing and serving food that promotes the long term health and viability of the earth, farmers and farm workers, restaurants and restaurant workers, and all those whom we nurture with food including our guests, friends and families.
Eat, Drink and Be Healthy, the Harvard Medical School Guide to Healthy Eating recommends:
- cutting back on saturated and trans fats
- increasing good fats (monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats)
- eating a variety of color as well, so “Eat your fruits and vegetables!”
Painting your diet with bold colors of ripe red tomatoes, crisp orange carrots, creamy yellow squash, emerald green spinach, juicy blueberries, indigo plums, violet eggplants, and all the shades in between not only makes meals more appealing, but also ensures that you get a variety of beneficial phytonutrients.
Fruits and vegetables work well against heart disease, cancer, and a host of other chronic diseases – better than any vitamin pill. It comes from a combination of compounds working together, that when delivered in unnatural proportions in some vitamins, creates an oversupply of one carotenoid or phytochemical that could block the activity of others.
When you eat a tomato or carrot, the different carotenoids it contains eventually work their way into different types of cells and different parts of each cell. This offers antioxidant protection throughout the cell and to a wide variety of cell types.
This book recommends a diet rich in fruits and vegetables in order to:
- decrease chances to have heart attack or stroke,
- lower blood pressure,
- help avoid constipation and diverticulitis, and
- help feel full with fewer calories, thus controlling weight.
In The Spectrum, A Scientifically Proven Program to Feel Better, Live Longer, Lose Weight, Gain Health, Dean Ornish, M.D. outlines the amazing results from his 30 year scientific studies. His two new published studies show for the first time, that when you change your lifestyle, you actually change your genes. Changes in diet and lifestyle, such as better nutrition and moderate exercise, can make a powerful difference to our health and well-being. The studies have also shown how quickly these changes may occur, sometimes within a few short weeks or months.
Dr. Ornish states that his nonprofit Preventive Medicine Research Institute has proven that his health program works to help prevent, and to slow, stop, and even reverse the progression of the most common and most deadly diseases, including coronary heart disease, prostate cancer, diabetes, hypertension, obesity, elevated cholesterol levels, arthritis, and many other chronic diseases. His studies have changed the way the medical profession looks at health, especially considering the new knowledge that lifestyle changes can lengthen your telomeres (that determine the length of your life).
This is the single most scientifically documented alternative medical approach and is highly regarded. In late 2008, Congress passed legislation providing increased Medicare coverage for his program. This is something you may want to pass along to seniors in your household. However, these studies do not just benefit older people. If we offer healthy guidelines for our children, our hopes can be high that they may enjoy long and healthy lives.
Cooper, Ann. Lunch Lesson: Changing the Way We Feed Our Children. New York: HarperCollins, 2006.
Satter, Ellyn. Getting Your Kid to Eat, But Not Too Much, From Birth To Adolescence. Boulder: Bull Publishing Company, 1987.
Ornish, Dean, M.D. The Spectrum, A Scientifically Proven Program to Feel Better, Live Longer, Lose Weight, Gain Health. New York: Ballantine Books, 2008.
AMA. The American Medical Association (AMA) Complete Guide to Prevention and Wellness. New Jersey: John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 2008.
Good, Phyllis Pellman. Fix-It and Enjoy-It Healthy Cookbook, With Nutritional Expertise from Mayo Clinic. 2009.
Mayo Clinic. Healthy Meals for Hurried Lives. Mason Crest, 2002.
Editors of Readers Digest, Foods That Harm, Foods That Heal. 2004
Balch, Phyllis. Prescription for Nutritional Healing, 4th edition. New York: Avery, 2008.
Arsenault, Anne. Real Solutions to Children’s Health. Bloomington, Indiana: AuthorHouse, 2006
Weissbluth, Marc, M.D. Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child. New York: Ballantine Books, 2003.
Kingham, Karen. Eat Well Live Well With Growing Children; Healthy Kids’ Recipes and Tips. British Colombia, Canada: Whitecap Books, 2008.
Willett, Walter, M.D. Eat, Drink and Be Healthy: the Harvard Medical School Guide to Healthy Eating. New York: Simon and Schuster Adult Publishing, 2005
Or for alternative health:
Douillard, Dr. John. Perfect Health For Kids, Ten Ayurvedic Health Secrets Every Parent Must Know. Berkeley, California: North Atlantic Books, 2004.
Chopra, M.D., Deepak. Perfect Health. The Complete Mind/Body Guide. New York: Three Rivers Press, 2000.
Books for kids to read:
Sears, M.D., William; Sears, R.N., Martha, Watts Kelly, Christie. Eat Healthy, Feel Great. Singapore: Sears, 2002.
Graimes, Nicola (nutritionist). Kids’ Fun and Healthy Cookbook. New York: DK Publishing, 2007.
The Nemours Foundation, an award winning nonprofit devoted to children’s health. Here you can see basic nutrition, fitness and weight information, how to motivate kids, and good descriptions of organic, sustainable, natural and many other terms used in food labeling.
Information or consultation by one of the Bay Area’s foremost children’s sleep experts, Dr. Noelle Cochran, PSYD and her partner, LeLe Diamond, MFT. Together they have helped thousands of San Francisco and Bay Area families with key issues for infants, toddlers and young children including: sleep, cognitive and emotional development, discipline, and conflict within the home.
Ann Cooper’s website (Director of Nutrition Services, Berkeley Unified School District), complete with healthy foods wheel for kids, all of her menus and loads of other recent nutrition information
Ann Cooper on YouTube
This is a fascinating lecture by Ann Cooper, full of information about feeding children and about what to avoid in the US food supply. Use this link to hear this entire talk that was given at Google, Inc.