What is High-Fructose Corn Syrup?

What is High-Fructose Corn Syrup?

As a parent, you’re always hearing about the laundry list of ingredients and toxic chemicals you should avoid in your kid’s diet.

Things like artificial food dyes, GMO’s, pesticides, antibiotics, arsenic and one of the worst offenders: high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS).

But what is high-fructose corn syrup? And is it really that bad for your kid’s health? Here are answers to those questions and more.  

 

What is High-Fructose Corn Syrup?

In recent years, there’s been a lot of buzz about HFCS, but the artificial sweetener made from processed corn starch has actually been in use since 1967, when it was first introduced.

Like table sugar (sucrose), HFCS is made up of two sugar molecules: glucose and fructose.

Regular sugar is broken down by the enzymes in our digestive tracks and then absorbed into the body.

HFCS is also made up of glucose and fructose but since the two molecules are unbound, they don’t have to be digested and they’re absorbed into the body at a much faster rate, Mark Hyman MD, states in this article.

Enzymes are added to HFCS to convert some of the glucose into fructose so it has a higher fructose-glucose ratio, making it even sweeter than sugar.

High fructose corn syrup is big business in the U.S.

Since high fructose corn syrup is government subsidized, it’s cheap to make and profitable. According to a 2018 report by Zion Market Research, the global market for the sweetener is expected to be worth more than $5 million by the year 2024.

Manufacturers also use the sweetener since it offers more flavor, stability, freshness, texture, pourability, color and consistency in foods than sucrose, according to one study.

 

Which foods contain high-fructose corn syrup?

High-fructose corn syrup is used in sweet foods, processed foods and surprising foods you’d least expect, including:

  • Cereals
  • Canned fruit
  • Condiments
  • Desserts
  • Granola bars
  • Ice cream
  • Juice
  • Salad dressings
  • Sodas and sweetened beverages
  • Sports drinks
  • Soups
  • Yogurt

Is high fructose corn syrup bad for kids’ health?

Research suggests foods that contain high-fructose corn syrup can spike the blood sugar, lead to inflammation, type-2 diabetes, weight gain and childhood obesity, high triglyceride levels and heart disease.

A landmark April 2004 study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition was the first to show a link between HFCS consumption and the obesity epidemic.

Yet a few years later, Barry M. Popkin, one of the study authors, pulled back on his theory, The New York Times reported.

Then in 2008, the American Medical Association (AMA), also came out to say that it’s unlikely that high fructose corn syrup contributes more to obesity or other health conditions than regular sugar, and there’s insufficient evidence to limit it or use warning labels on food.

Still, the debate around high-fructose corn syrup and its health effects persisted.

According to a February 2010 study out of Princeton University, rats with access to HFCS gained significantly more weight than those with access to table sugar, despite consuming the same amount of calories.

The same study also found that long-term consumption of HFCS led to abnormal increases in body fat, especially abdominal fat, and an increase in triglycerides, or fats that circulate in the blood stream.

Studies also suggest the ingredient is harmful to the liver.

According to a May 2017 study in the Journal of Hepatology, obese children and teens who had diets high in foods that contain fructose like soda, sweetened beverages and processed foods, had an increased risk for non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.

What’s more, 38 percent also had nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH), a more chronic and severe form of fatty liver disease.

Does high fructose corn syrup contain mercury?

Studies show some foods with high-fructose corn syrup also contain mercury.

A January 2009 study in the journal Environmental Health found toxic levels of mercury in food samples containing high-fructose corn syrup.

Yet just a few months later, the Corn Refiners Association (CRA) announced that independent testing and expert review showed no detectable levels of the toxin in food samples with the sweetener.

The World Health Organization (WHO) classifies mercury, a toxic metal that has been linked to a host of health problems and can have adverse effects on a child’s nervous, digestive, and immune systems, as one of the top ten chemicals or groups of chemicals that are a public health concern.

Should you avoid high fructose corn syrup in your kid’s diet?

Although much debate continues to exist around HFCS and its harmful effects on our health, there’s no question that limiting any type of added sugars in our—and our kids diets—is ideal.

The demand for high-fructose corn syrup has been on the decline in recent years is promising, but it seems that we’ve replaced it with sugar. 

According to a 2017 report by the USDA, between 2015 and 2016, consumption of refined sugar increased by 6 percent.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) say kids should get less than 10 percent of their total daily calories from sugar, yet most kids are getting much more.

Since foods that contain high fructose corn syrup also lack the nutrition kids need to grow and develop at a healthy rate, it’s one more reason to limit or avoid the sweetener altogether.

By focusing on real, whole, healthy foods instead, you can ensure your kids are getting the nutrition they need to be healthy now, and throughout their lives.

 

 

9 Healthy Holiday Tips for Your Family

9 Healthy Holiday Tips for Your Family

With countless opportunities to enjoy sweet, savory and decadent dishes at family gatherings, holiday parties and special events, combined with treats tempting us at virtually every store (food or otherwise), it’s no wonder most people overindulge during the holidays.

Blame it on food marketing, the societal draw or stress, but 87 percent of Americans say they have an increase in food cravings this time of year and 75 percent experience guilt after giving into their cravings, a recent poll found.

The holidays are meant to be enjoyed and food is a big part of that enjoyment, but overindulging from now until New Year’s Eve can cause weight gain, affect mood, interfere with sleep and make your family more likely to get sick.

With a bit of planning and some simple strategies however, you can enjoy all the season has to offer without all the pitfalls. Consider these 7 healthy holiday tips for your family.

 

1. Don’t arrive hungry

If you know your family will eat a large holiday meal later on in the day, you might be tempted to skip meals.

If you arrive feeling famished however, you’ll be more likely to overeat when the meal is served.

Skipping breakfast in particular is a mistake. Studies show people who eat breakfast, especially one that’s high in protein, eat less calories throughout the day.

Do your best to serve healthy meals and snacks at the same times you and your family usually eat.

The same goes if dinner will be served in the middle of the day, although you may want to have a snack instead of a meal. A combination of protein and fiber like celery sticks and hummus or an apple with almond butter is ideal.

2. Bake healthy

Between pumpkin pie, eggnog and all those Christmas cookies, there will be plenty of sweets to go around, but that doesn’t mean everything you make has to be high in calories, fat and sugar.

With a few simple substitutions, there are several ways to bake healthy during the holidays and still enjoy all the desserts.

Check out my healthy holiday baking tips here.

3. Bring a healthy dish

If you’ll be attending a holiday event at someone else’s home, offer to bring a healthy dish that everyone can enjoy.

If your kids have food allergies or someone in the family has specific dietary restrictions or preferences, bringing a healthy dish is also a great way to keep them safe and ensure they have something to eat as well.

4. Model healthy eating habits

You can teach your kids how to enjoy all the delicious food without going overboard by taking small, healthy portions, making choices about what goes on your plate and enjoying everything in moderation.

When most people are reaching for second and third portions, you can show your child that it’s possible to enjoy the food without stuffing your face.

5. Get moving

To help burn off excess calories, combat stress and keep everyone on an even keel, carve out time before or after a holiday celebration to do something active.

This can be as simple as a walk around the neighborhood, a game of catch in the backyard, an indoor dance party or a game of Twister.

6. Make sleep a priority

Irregular schedules and later-than-usual bedtimes can throw everyone in the family off schedule.

Without enough sleep, everyone will be more irritable and more likely to reach for food and make unhealthy food choices.

In fact, an August 2018 study in the Journal of Sleep Research found that kids who regularly fell asleep after 11pm were 2 to 3 times more likely to eat junk food at least 5 times a week.

8. Give kids a kids-sized plate

Kids don’t need the same size dinner plate as adults, and may end up eating more because of it.

Make sure your kid has a kid-sized plate or an appetizer plate to keep portions healthy.

9. Pay attention to hunger and fullness cues

When food is in abundance during the holidays, it’s easy to overeat. Paying attention to your hunger and fullness cues however, can prevent you from reaching for seconds.

If your kids tend to overeat on special occasions too, depending on their ages, you can talk to them about eating when they’re hungry and to stop when they’re not hungry.

Sure, there’s always room for dessert but teaching them how to recognize their hunger and satiety cues can prevent them from eating just because the food is there.

10, Strike a balance

Raising kids to be healthy eaters includes teaching them how to enjoy delicious food, not be deprived of it.

Allow treats, but also strike a balance by serving plenty of healthy, whole foods including plenty of vegetables when you’re not celebrating.

10 Ways To Deal With Picky Eaters When You’re Fed Up

10 Ways To Deal With Picky Eaters When You’re Fed Up

Having a kid who is a picky eater is one of the most frustrating parts about being a parent—right up there with potty training, sleepless nights and meltdowns.

Chances are, you’re already doing your best to offer plenty of healthy foods.

But try as you might, you can’t seem to put an end to the picky eating.

When you’re at your wit’s end and you’re ready to pull out your hair, it’s definitely easier to open up a box of mac and cheese and call it a day.

Yet raising healthy kids who will try, accept and even crave healthy foods isn’t something that happens overnight.

With some simple strategies however, it can be done. Let’s get started.

1. Recognize picky eating for what it is 

Many parents label their kids as picky eaters, but just because the behaviors are frustrating, that doesn’t mean it will be that way forever or that they have to define your child.

Picky eating is only a small, short-term obstacle to healthy eating.

Look at the bigger picture and realize that kids who eat healthy now are more likely to be healthy eaters throughout their lives, so it’s well-worth the effort.

 

2. Bring kids in the kitchen

When my kids are having meltdowns and it seems that no matter what I do, doesn’t work to get them to calm down, its extremely frustrating.

But when I’m empathic, hear them out and offer a hug, things usually get better.

Sometimes kids just need their cups refilled with quality time so rather than battling it out at the dinner table, try coming together in the kitchen.

Cooking with your kids is one of the best ways to teach them about healthy eating and it might be the way to end picky eating for good.

Empower your kids with choices: let them find a new recipe, then shop and cook the meal together.

At the very least, cooking can diffuse some of the frustration at the dinner table, create a positive environment around food, and slowly encourage your kids to be more adventurous eaters.

 

3. Have a play date

Children are more likely to do what other children do, and that includes eating.

According to a May 2016 study in the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior, preschoolers who saw a video of their peers eating a bell pepper ate more peppers themselves a week later and said they were more likely to eat the vegetable again.

If one of your child’s friends is a healthy eater, arrange for them to have a play date. Your kid might be interested in what his friend is eating and more likely to take a bite too.

This strategy can also work well with other family members, especially grandparents, who are skilled at getting kids to try just about anything they offer.

 

4. Serve bites, not portions

Studies show it can take serving small portions of the same food 15 to 20 times, before kids will even take a bite.

Instead of overwhelming your child with an entire plate, or even a portion of vegetables, try serving a tiny amount, such as a broccoli floret, a bean, or a piece of a shredded carrot.

 

5. Let kids play with their food

Kids who play with their food are more likely to try new flavors and a wider variety of foods, a July 2015 study in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics suggests.

Rather than pressuring your child to take a bite or bribe them with dessert if he eats his vegetables, encourage him to touch, smell, and even play with his food.

Talk about the shapes, colors, texture and aroma of the foods on his plate. If he takes a bite, that’s great, but the goal is to let him explore his food without feeling pressure to eat it.

6. Change the scenery

 Sometimes moving your meals to a different environment can make mealtimes more interesting and less stressful.

Try packing a picnic lunch and head to the park, eat on the patio instead of the dinner table or take lunch to a friend’s house.

7. Let kids choose what they want to eat

 When kids feel they have a say in what’s being served, they’ll be more likely to try it.

At dinner, serve a salad and a cooked vegetable or put out a buffet of leftovers and let your kids decide what they want on their plates.

Or take a trip to the farmers’ market and let you child choose a new vegetable to try.

8. Take stock of your kid’s diet

If kids are loading up on snacks throughout the day, they probably won’t be hungry for meals.

Snacks like crackers, chips and cookies—even those that are gluten-free, organic and have healthy ingredients like fruit and nuts—can crowd out the calories they should get from healthy foods.

Also, feeding kids processed snacks that are high in sugar and sodium train their taste buds to prefer those foods over healthy, whole foods, so it’s best to limit them as much as possible.

9. Talk to an expert

When you feel like you’ve done all you can to get your kid out of his picky eating habits, consider getting help from an expert.

A pediatric registered dietician nutritionist (RDN) will work with you to understand your child and your family and address all the factors at play. They can also help you set realistic goals and offer strategies and meal ideas to help your child try and eventually accept new foods.

To find an RDN, ask your pediatrician to make a referral or search the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics’ site, EatRight.org.

10. Stick with it

 It might seem that your kids will be picky eaters forever, especially if you have toddlers who are inherently picky, but most kids can become healthy, adventurous eaters.

The key is to continue to offer healthy foods and teach healthy eating habits every day. This simple shift in mindset can help you muster up the energy and dedication to stay the course and raise healthy-eating kids.

7 Healthy Holiday Baking Tips

7 Healthy Holiday Baking Tips

I love baking anytime of year, but during the holidays, it’s even more special.

As a child, I have fond memories of making chocolate-coconut Christmas cookies and these Betty Crocker candy cane cookies with my own mom.

Now that I have my own kids, I love holiday baking even more.

This year, my daughters and I will make Skinnytaste’s pumpkin pie for Thanksgiving and my grandmother’s famous cheesecake for Christmas (it’s a secret recipe). We’ll also make coconut macaroons and a few varieties of cookies for their teachers, bus drivers and volunteers at our church.

During the holiday season, it’s inevitable that your kids (and you!) will eat sugar.

The great thing about baking however, is that you can often make simple swaps and substitutions in your recipes that cut down on the calories, fat and sugar, add some nutrition and don’t change the taste much at all.

Here, read on for 7 healthy holiday baking tips to make your recipes even sweeter.

1. Upgrade your flour

White, refined flour lack nutrition and fiber and spikes your blood sugar, so I tend to avoid using it.

Since my kids eat a mainly gluten-free diet anyway, I usually swap all-purpose flour for gluten-free oats that I grind up in the food processor.

True, sometimes only all-purpose flour will do, but when it’s not going to change the taste or the texture, try oat flour, coconut flour or almond flour, all of which have more fiber.

Almond flour, in particular, is a good source of protein—7 grams in about a cup—, as well as vitamin E and healthy, monounsaturated fats.

In some recipes, you can swap in the same amount of flour, but others may require a different ratio of liquids. Try to find recipes that call for the specific type of flour you want to use or find out how to adjust your ingredients.

2. Cut down on sugar

 

Sweeteners like coconut sugar may have a lower glycemic index than table sugar, and less of an impact on blood sugar, but it’s not as low as say, broccoli.

What’s more, just because these sugars and others like honey are naturally derived, they’re still considered added sugars and should be limited in our diets.

Of course, the holidays are a special occasion so I don’t see a big deal in indulging in sweets. But if you’re planning back-to-back holiday events or you’re looking to cut back, you can cut the amount of sugar in a recipe by a 1/4 or a 1/3, which probably won’t make that much of a difference in the taste.

While pies, cakes and cookies usually need sugar to taste sweet, adding dried fruit like dates, raisins or cranberries to bread or muffin recipes can be a healthy, delicious substitute for sugar.

3. Make mini versions of your holiday favorites

 

One of the best ways to keep portions healthy for everyone is to create miniature cookies and desserts. Try mini muffin tins, mini loaf pans or ramekins for smaller, healthier holiday treats.

4. Mix in vegetables

Pureed or grated, vegetables like zucchini, carrots, beets, squash and pumpkin all add fiber, vitamins and minerals and antioxidants to a holiday dessert otherwise devoid of nutrition.

Vegetables also add flavor and moistness to breads, muffins and cakes.

5. Substitute avocado for butter or oil

While you’re adding vegetables, try fruit too—with an avocado.

Avocado is one of the healthiest foods you can feed your kids, especially because it’s high in fiber, has 20 vitamins and minerals and healthy, monounsaturated fats.

Avocado is also an easy, 1 to 1 substitute for butter or oil. I’ve found that it often makes cookies or muffins have a greenish hue, which isn’t a big deal if you’re enjoying them at home, but it might be if you’re giving them as gifts or bringing them to a party.

6. Add chia seeds

High in fiber, omega-3 fatty acids, potassium, iron and calcium, chia seeds are a super food.

When you’re baking, chia seeds can easily be incorporated into cookies, muffins, breads, pancakes and cakes. They don’t change the taste or the texture but you may have to add additional liquid ingredients because they can thicken up the batter.

7. Swap cream for Greek yogurt

When a recipe calls for cream cheese, sour cream or buttermilk, try using full fat or low fat Greek yogurt which is an excellent source of protein, vitamin B12 and potassium and helps to cut down on some of the calories and saturated fat.

7 Healthy Kids’ Birthday Treats That Aren’t Cupcakes

7 Healthy Kids’ Birthday Treats That Aren’t Cupcakes

In recent years, an increasing amount of schools in the U.S. have banned cake, cupcakes and other treats for kids’ birthday celebrations all in an effort to curb childhood obesity and keep kids with food allergies safe.

If your child’s school allows you to bring in treats however, why not forget the cupcakes and bring in something healthier and more interesting?

Not only will you feel good about serving up a treat with some nutrition, but it’s a great way to show your kids and their classmates that healthy food can be amazingly delicious.

Here, check out 7 healthy kids’ birthday treats from my fellow bloggers that are healthy and delicious—and so much better than cupcakes.

1. Easy Chocolate Covered Strawberries

When one of my daughters celebrated her birthday in preschool, I didn’t feel good about serving up cupcakes or another dessert at 10am in the morning, so my husband and I whipped up a batch of chocolate covered strawberries instead.

Strawberries are a good source of vitamin C, folate, potassium and fiber, and when they’re matched with chocolate, they have just the right amount of sweetness kids crave.

This recipe for Easy Chocolate Covered Strawberries from Jamielyn Nye, founder of I Heart Naptime, are healthy and delicious and with a drizzle of white chocolate, they’re extra special for kids’ birthday parties.

2. Fruit Wands

I had the pleasure of interviewing Catherine McCord, founder of Weelicious, several years back. In fact, her insight about why parents should avoid sneaking vegetables into meals was part of my inspiration for starting this blog.

So when I came across her recipe for Fruit Wands, I couldn’t wait to share it.

With seven different types of fruit, these treats are bursting with nutrition and color. They also give kids plenty of choices—which is one way to encourage healthy eating—and are a fun, creative way to serve up fruit. I also love that they’re safe for kids with food allergies—a win-win for kids and schools.

3. Cinnamon Glazed Popcorn Mix

Whole grains like those found in popcorn give kids plenty of fiber which satisfies their hunger and prevents spikes in blood sugar.

Plain popcorn is one option for kids’ birthday treats, but this Cinnamon Glazed Popcorn Mix from Lisa Leake of 100 Days of Real Food is a bit more special and the perfect mix of salty and sweet.

With cashews, which add protein and fiber, and cinnamon and ginger for natural flavor, this treat is healthy, delicious and easy to pull together.

4. Donut-Shaped Apple Snacks

A great source of vitamin C and filling fiber, apples are also a rich source of quercetin, an antioxidant flavonoid that studies suggest may boost brain health.

I’ve been a loyal fan of Gina Homolka’s Skinnytaste since I lost weight years ago on WW, so I was thrilled to find these Donut-Shaped Apple Snacks on her blog. They’re festive, super easy to make and a fun way to teach your kids how to make healthy, delicious fare.

 

5. 3-Ingredient Chocolate Avocado Pudding

 
An excellent source of fiber, potassium, vitamins C and K, and folate as well as healthy fats, avocado is one of the best superfoods you can feed your kids.

Avocado also contains lutein and zeaxanthin, carotenoids or plant pigments found in the eyes that can improve memory and processing speed, one study found.

Another one of my favorite bloggers, Megan Gilmore, founder of Detoxinista, offers up this easy, 3-Ingredient Chocolate Avocado Pudding. Without any added sugar but plenty of nutrition and flavor, it’s one of the best kids’ birthday treats you can serve and it only takes 5 minutes to make.

6. Yogurt Parfait For Kids

Yogurt is a good source of protein, calcium, potassium, magnesium and vitamin B12 as well as probiotics, the healthy bacteria that boost kids’ gut health and strengthens their immune systems.

If you know how to choose a healthy kids’ yogurt, it can also be a healthy treat for your child’s celebration.

That’s why I like this Yogurt Parfait for Kids recipe from Jodi Danen, founder of Create Kids’ Club. With plain yogurt, fresh berries and granola, you have a healthy, fiber-filled, and delicious treat that can be pulled together in no time.

7. Easy 5 Ingredient Vegan Caramel Dip

 
Kids love to dip just about anything and this Easy 5 Ingredient Vegan Caramel Dip from Kiran Dodeja Smith, founder of Easy Real Food, is the perfect non-cupcake treat for school birthday celebrations.

With plenty of plant-based protein that satiates kids’ hunger, and no refined sugars, this dip is satisfying, sweet and super easy.