Dispelling nutrition myths, ranting, and occasionally, raving

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The latest villain in childhood obesity? Summer break

Summer Treat Bookmarks

Now that summer vacation is underway for students, the latest topic of conversation is recent research showing that children actually tend to gain more weight over summer months than they do during the school year. While I don’t have reason to dispute this, I am concerned about how this information may be utilized.

The argument goes like this: kids are gaining more weight when they’re at home (or at least not at school) so why are we bothering with school nutrition policies? Obviously, the food provided at schools is not the cause of childhood obesity. Obviously, we’re doing just fine as we are. The thing is, we’re not. Even with school nutrition policies there’s a plethora of “junk” food served to students on a regular basis. Some of these “healthy” foods fit nutrition policy guidelines others are available at special events, school trips, birthdays, school meal programs, etc. Even if these foods aren’t necessarily making children overweight it doesn’t follow that we¬†should¬†be serving them. School nutrition should not be solely focused on weight. Providing children with the best possible nutrition is essential for them to grow, develop, and learn. We have a duty to provide children with the best possible tools in life. Those tools include an understanding of nutrition and how to obtain and prepare healthy food. Why would we feel that it’s essential to provide every student with a computer or iPad and not a basic nutritious diet?

The other issue I wonder about is if this weight gain is necessarily indicative of overweight and obesity. Last time I checked, children were still growing. Couldn’t some of this weight gain be linked to growth spurts and healthy childhood development? Since the study mentioned focused on children in kindergarten and grade one, this seems even more plausible to me. Children often put on weight at about 6 years of age, prior to a growth spurt, and parents may mistakenly believe that their child is getting “chubby”. Yes, it’s a little odd that most of this weight gain occurred over the summer months but without a follow-up another couple of years down the road, I’m not convinced that summer eating is necessarily contributing to childhood obesity.

Yes, in a way, I agree with the final comment from one of the studies that, “Perhaps healthful policies in school, they wrote, should address the summer months as well.” I think that we need to to a better job of educating parents about the importance of good nutrition and a balanced diet. We also need to do a better job of educating students so that they’re better equipped to make healthy choices when they’re outside the confines of the school environment.


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The new ice

Well, it seems like in Nova Scotia, we’re getting more summer this year than we did in probably the last eight years combined. All I can think about is the heat. I love it, I wish my flat would get down below 30 degrees Celsius, but I really do love it.

If you’re also experiencing a super hot summer and also lack air conditioning or cross breeze, or any sort of relief, a nice cold drink may be just what you need. A great way to keep your drink cold is to jazz up the standard ice-cube. Try freezing coffee in your ice-cube tray and using it in milk or nut milk or in cooled coffee. Add frozen fruit to your water (still or sparkling). Try grapes, cubed melon, mango, or berries.

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Summer drink make-overs

What with the fact that we actually seem to be getting summer in Halifax this year, I keep being asked about healthy summer beverages. If you’re taking advantage of a patio downtown or sitting out on your deck at home, or like me, simply sweating in the sauna that your flat has become, you probably want a nice cold refreshing beverage to enjoy. A lot of these beverages can pack in a lot of calories. Obviously your best bet is to go non-alcoholic but if that’s not really your thing, there are still ways to make your drink a little healthier. If you’re using hard liquor check the “proof”. The lower the number, the lower the calories. It’s not a huge difference (97 calories in 80 proof versus 110 calories in 90 proof) but it’s still a difference.

Traditional Mojito:

Mint, limes, simple syrup or superfine sugar, rum, club soda

Made-over Mojito:

Mint, limes, rum or vodka, club soda (try experimenting with muddling different kinds of fruit, any sort of berry is yummy, plus if you eat the muddled fruit you get the added nutrients from it).

Traditional Pina Colada:

Rum, cream of coconut, pineapple juice, crushed ice

Made-over Pina Colada:

Rum, light coconut milk and coconut water, pineapple juice, crushed ice. Try upping the ice content and reducing the coconut milk and juice content.

Traditional Margarita:

Tequila, lime juice, orange-flavoured liquor, ice, rimming salt.

Made-over Margarita:

Tequila (use less!), lime juice, try using a dash of orange extract instead of the orange-flavoured liquor, bump up the ice content, forego the rimming salt.

Traditional Sangria:

Cabernet sauvignon, white zinfandel, orange juice, pineapple juice, sprite, grand marnier, fruit chopped or sliced (e.g. oranges, apples, pears, limes, plums, pineapple, pretty much anything goes).

Made-over Sangria:

Cut back on the wine and juice and replace the sprite with an increased quantity of club soda (sodium-free). Serve over plenty of ice. I like to use so much fruit in my sangria that people ask if I’m drinking fruit salad. Make sure you actually eat the delicious fruit.

Traditional Shandy:

Beer mixed with some kind of pop, usually citrus-flavoured or gingerale.

Made-over Shandy:

Beer mixed with soda water (again, low or no sodium) and lemon and/or lime wedges.

I really don’t want to get into messing with beer and wine (beyond the suggestions above, obviously). You all know that there are low-calorie beers available, right? Try a few varieties, see if you like them. With wine, make sure that your glass is not actually 2-3 glasses in one. A serving of wine is only 5-oz. That’s a little over 1/2 cup. Many wine glasses hold much more than that and should only be filled about a third of the way for one serving. If you’re drinking a full large glass of wine don’t kid yourself into thinking that you’re only having one glass.

For every drink that you have, drink a glass of water either before or after. Keep in mind that current health recommendations are that women have no more than two drinks per day, men no more than three. If you do over-indulge please, please, PLEASE don’t drink and drive!