Q&A with Nutrition for Kids’ Connie Evers


Is tuna still ok for kids? There’s been lots of controversy about the government repeatedly downplaying the hazards of mercury in fish, yet tuna is still being marketed to kids with ol’ cartoon Charlie. Is it safe or not?

Also, is Trix toning down their dyes? Find out in this short Shaping Youth Q&A with nutritionist Connie Evers. But first! Kids’ food marketing in the news:

The FTC now says it will step up efforts to study junk food ads targeting children. (Finally, folks.)
Sure hope best practices apply to the internet, because this newest CNN newsreel on kids’ advergaming is a doozy. It’s well worth two minutes of your time for a wow-pow visual on the obesity issue and toxic food marketing to children.

They flag the latest Kaiser Family Foundation data with Vicky Rideout herself speaking on cam. Couldn’t have produced a better clip myself for poignant connect the dots visuals. Powerful media. Bravo!

I’ve written several similar advergaming articles on the insidious tactics in corporate junk food marketing and am about to release a new one on the webisodes, product placement in gaming, teen targeted SMS texting, integrated multiplatform site links, and how they’ve literally ‘got kids’ number’ when it comes to mobile media marketing and horrid nutrition. Stay tuned.

Finally, some good news/bad news in kids’ health studies this week: The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation announced Multidisciplinary childhood obesity prevention shows promise, but also that kids’ abdominal obesity is on the rise. Meanwhile, Yale obesity experts call for curbing the stigmatization of being overweight, as their new study shows it only makes the matter worse.

Here are those questions in a Q&A kids’ nutrition thread that Shaping Youth started with Connie Evers, M.S., R.D. on the Kaboose forum’s “Ask an Expert” message boards. Connie’s site is Nutrition for Kids with a ‘Just for Kids’ activity section featuring puzzles and games to encourage healthier choices.I’ve embedded links within our postings based on context references, & replies.

Question Posted by: ShapingYouth 2006-11-07 01:08:41 26 views

Stymied by seafood: kids & tuna

In light of all the recent press on seafood collapsing by 2048, with overfishing, pollution & such, do you see tuna sandwiches being nixed for kids?

My daughter LOVES it, eats the spring water chunks (not albacore) and I try to limit it due to mercury fears & such, but will it get worse to a point where kids shouldn’t touch tuna at all?

What about children’s intake of other kinds of fish? Shellfish? Clams? Prawns?

Reply by: Connie_at_Kaboose2006-11-09 12:07:44

Re: Stymied by seafood: kids & tuna

Great question — it’s frustrating when a nutritious food that your child likes is suspect.

Sometimes the press is rather alarmist about these things. This recent report you refer to was definitely a worst case scenario in terms of what could happen. But that’s another issue.In terms of mercury in seafood, this is a real concern, particularly for children (under age 6, especially) and pregnant women.

I recently wrote an article on this topic which appears on my website. The Chicago Tribune has an excellent site which they developed after an indepth investigative report.

The best part of it is the calculator which tells you how much of varying seafood you can eat weekly based on your weight.

Fish to avoid altogether for young children include Shark, Swordfish, King Mackerel, or Tilefish.

You are correct that albacore tuna is much higher than yellowfin so limit to 6 ounces or less weekly. Shellfish and small fish with short lives tend to be the safest so salmon, tilapia, shrimp and clams are good low-mercury choices.

Connie Evers, M.S.,R.D. Child Nutrition Consultant/Author

Question Posted by: ShapingYouth 2006-11-07 01:28:58 34 views

Trans-fats & childhood obesity

Lots of press about banning trans-fats (french fries etc.) can you share info on key foods in the kids’ category that have hidden trans-fats or sat fats? (cookies, crackers, etc.)

How much of it (intake wise) is acceptable/tolerable in the food chain before obesity issues kick in?

I’d like to hear about trans-fats in the kids aisle of the GROCER, as I just blogged about trans-fats & fast food trends in kids’ meals.

Reply by: Connie_at_Kaboose 2006-11-09 12:10:31

Re: Trans-fats & childhood obesity

I think the biggest source of trans fats in a child’s diet has to be fried food from the various fast food restaurants that have not made the change.

Trans fat comes from vegetable oil which has been “partially hydrogenated.” The reason they do this is because it greatly increases the stability of the oil. So you can see why restaurants that do a lot of deep-frying want a more stable oil. It has also been used a lot in baked goods for the same reason (to increase shelf life).

It’s actually easier now to detect trans fat in the foods you purchase because of the change in the U.S. labeling laws. (I need some help here, Canadians — do you have trans fat listed on your food labels?). The only tricky part is that you still need to look at the ingredient label to detect “partially hydrogenated …” ingredients. A label can list 0 trans fat if the amount per serving is less than .5 grams.

It’s also important to look at saturated fat. Saturated fats are not chemically produced but they still contribute to an increased cholesterol and higher risk of heart disease. So you want to watch for the products with “no trans fat” that now have higher levels of saturated fat. Still not good!

As far as trans fats and obesity, there is really no caloric difference between trans fats and other types of fats (all register around 9 calories/gram). The so-called “good” fats just have a healthier profile in terms of preventing disease. Examples of better fats include olive oil, canola oil, nuts, and avocados.

>There have been a few very preliminary studies linking trans fats/sat fats to an increase in abdominal obesity, but the jury is still out on that one…>

Connie Evers, M.S.,R.D.Child Nutrition Consultant/Author

>UPDATE FROM SHAPING YOUTH: The jury is now IN, 65% increase in abdominal obesity hot off the press in the Nov. issue of Pediatrics, see link above!

Question Posted by: ShapingYouth2006-11-07 01:14:46 31 views

Are food dyes kid friendly?

Seems the neon yogurts have toned down lately to a more palatable color.

Are there kids’ foods on the market that you’d stay away from due to all the additives and dyes? (Trix used to look particularly toxic, and IT’S even toned down; was this mandated by research, or a shift toward more natural fare?)

Reply by: Connie_at_Kaboose 2006-11-09 12:08:43

Re: Are food dyes kid friendly?

That’s an interesting observation. I’m not sure if food companies have “toned down” their coloring or not — certainly not in the case of candy! This is an issue that has been debated for many years.

In well-controlled, double blind studies, researchers have been unable to conclusively link food dyes with hyperactive behavior in children but some parents do report an improvement when they restrict foods with these dyes.

The Center for Science in the Public Interest has a guide to food dyes you may find interesting. There are also cases (though rare) of allergies to certain food dyes.

What I think is most interesting is that the foods naturally colorful are also the most nutrient and antioxidant rich foods. So it is puzzling why we “color” foods with chemicals that we do not need.

If children are eating mostly whole foods from nature, there is no reason to promote the products with food dyes and other additives. I often wonder if the parents who report improved behavior are just seeing the effects of better overall nutrition when they switch to less processed foods.

Bottom line — if foods with artificial coloring are only an occasional part of your child’s diet, I wouldn’t worry too much.

Connie Evers, M.S.,R.D., Child Nutrition Consultant/Author

For more of Connie Evers’ replies, visit the Ask the Expert Kaboose Forum on Family Nutrition. Connie’s website is Nutrition for Kids; she has a new book just out in partnership with Disney called “Good for You.”


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