Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Just Say No to Agave

Since the FDA makes no effort to enforce food-labeling laws, consumers cannot be certain that what they are eating is what the label says it is. New sweeteners like agave syrup were introduced into the market to make a profit, not to make consumers healthy. Clever marketing has led mane consumers to believe that the high level of fructose in agave syrup makes it a safe and a natural sweetener. Agave syrup labels do not conform to FDA labeling requirements, thus deepening the false illusion of an unprocessed product. As we have demonstrated here, if a sweetener contains manufactured fructose, it is neither safe, nor natural, especially at levels up to 70 percent.

Agave syrup is a manmade sweetener which has been through a complicated chemical refining process of enzymatic digestion that converts the starch and fiber into the unbound, manmade chemical fructose. While high fructose agave syrup won’t spike your blood glucose levels, the fructose in it may cause mineral depletion, liver inflammation, hardening of the arteries, insulin resistance leading to diabetes, high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease and obesity.

If you want something sweet, eat a piece of fruit, not a candy bar labeled as a “health food.” If you want to create something sweet, use sweeteners that are known to be safer. For uncooked dishes, unheated raw honey or dates work well. For cooked dishes or sweet drinks, a good organic maple syrup, or even freshly juiced apple juice or orange juice can provide delicious and relatively safe sweetness; dehydrated cane sugar juice or maple sugar may be used in moderation in cookies and desserts that contain nutritious ingredients and good fats such as butter, egg yolks and nuts.

However, to be healthy, we cannot eat sugar all day, no matter how natural the form. One should limit total sweetener consumption to less than five percent of daily calories. For a diet of 2500 calories per day, that’s less than three tablespoons of honey, maple syrup or dehydrated cane sugar juice, or several pieces of fruit. And many people do best by avoiding sweeteners completely.

The lack of standards in the health food world comes as depressing news; but let this news encourage you to consume more pure and unrefined foods and sweetener sources. Good health depends on wise food choices, and wise food choices depend on constant vigilance.

Dawn Lerman, MA, CHHC, LCAT
magnificentmommies .com

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Healthy Winter Snacks for Your Tweens!

What is a snack? A snack should be just be a mini meal containing a protein, a fat and carbohydrates. As the mother of two and lecture circuit health educator, I live by the proverb, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” Our children’s health is being greatly compromised by sedentary lifestyles, electronic environments, and most of all, poor snacking choices.

Snacking has become a major pastime for many tweens. It occurs when they’re least supervised and vulnerable to advertising’s trances. Snacks curb hunger and provide energy and nutrients when meals are not an option but the quality of those snacks are key.

You'd be amazed at how many mothers I counsel in my practice who remain unaware of the damage junk food does to their children’s bodies and minds. Over-processed snack foods loaded with sugar, salt, partially hydrogenated oils, antibiotics and other unpronounceable food additives are linked to allergic reactions, mood swings and obesity.

While intelligent media is now focusing on tween obesity, this is just one aspect of what poor quality food does to our bodies. Compared to 20 years ago, kids today are at greater risk for developing asthma, allergies, behavior and skin problems, and even cancer. These health issues are definitively connected to poor quality food and snacking choices. You might say it's the by-product of "convenience.”

Our grandmother’s old saying, “you are what you eat,” has never been more true and vital! What we eat does matter. While every individual is unique and there’s not one diet that suits everyone, what holds true is that our health greatly improves when we make some simple, organic, wholesome dietary choices.
While revolutionizing our children’s snacks may seem time-consuming and inconvenient, with proper planning and a couple of easy tricks, transitioning to a healthy lifestyle can be fun and easy.
Here are some tools and suggestions for healthy snacks to keep your body nourished between meals.
Bring your tween to the grocery store when you're selecting snacks and ingredients; make them part of the shopping plan.
Have your tween help prepare their snacks in advance.

Below are a few of my kids favorite snacks:
  • 1. Yummy homemade muffins sweetened with fruit juice
  • 2. Trail mixes, ie: dried fruit, nuts, honey-sweetened granola, goji berries
  • 3. Cheese sticks and apples with almond butter
  • 4. Apples dipped in peanut butter cinnamon and flax seeds
  • 5. Peanut butter, a banana, flax seeds
  • 6. Grilled cheese, on whole grain bead with tomatoes and avocados
  • 7. Peanut butter and jelly on with flax seeds whole grain bread
  • 8.Whole Grain Pretzels and carrots sticks dipped in hummus
  • 9. Smoothie: milk or yogurt, protein powder, fresh or frozen fruit
  • 10. Ants on a Log: celery, cream cheese and raisins
Tip: flax seeds, usually available ground, are an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids which help the brain function, aid immunity and make the skin glow. All with a delicious nutty taste!

Winter Banana Oatmeal Cookies
3 cups oats
1/2-teaspoon salt
dash of Cinnamon
1/4-teaspoon baking soda
1/4-cup raisins or cranberries
3 ripe bananas

1/4-cup applesauce

A little butter in mixture and on baking sheet
Mix all ingredients together-- roll them into balls and bake
on 350 degrees for 15 min or until crispy.

Tip: proper Snacks help maintain a healthy weight and immune system. Kids who snack do better in school and are more likely to participate in physical activities. They tend to eat healthier overall and keep their immune systems strong.
Dawn Lerman, MA, CHHC, LCAT
magnificentmommies <http://www.magnificentmommies.com/>