Monday, February 28, 2011

Kids' Menus and Kid-Sized Plates

Deep fried chicken fingers, burgers and mac ‘n cheese are the usual food finds on children’s menus. But, a nationwide focus on obesity is prompting more chefs and restaurant owners to add healthier choices to kids’ menus. They are hungry for ideas.
At a recent Southeast Regional Conference of the American Culinary Federation held in Atlanta, I presented the basics on childhood nutrition and meal planning along with some comments on menu choices around the city. For instance, at Marlow’s Tavern families can start with a platter of raw vegetables and humus and parents can order their brood mini-burgers or kid-sized versions of entrees such as grilled salmon with a side of fresh fruit. Instead of sodas, ask for a blend of sparkling water with 100% fruit juice. Low fat or non fat milk is always a great choice too!
More restaurants are willing to serve smaller portions that fit smaller appetites; and that’s for all age groups! Another good trend for good nutrition, eateries are offering whole grain pastas and pizza crusts. California Pizza Kitchen has recently added a multi-grain penne pasta to their menu. Wherever you dine with the kids, watch out for the 3 “B”s: the bread, butter and beverages you consume before you get your meal can pile on 100’s of extra calories.

What Kids Need Children are not just small adults when it comes to nutrition. For instance, under age two, they still need the essential fatty acids in whole milk to ensure proper brain development.
After that the US Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend skim, 1 % or 2 % milk to get kids the calcium they need for strong bones without the added fat and calories they don’t need. More restaurants today offer low fat milk and skim. Growing kids need a variety of nutrients so it’s important that their daily calorie quota comes from a variety of sources.
Here’s the daily meal plan recommended for an active child: Active is considered 30-60 minutes of physical activity a day
1600 calories
Grain Group- 5 ounces (1ounce= slice of bread, ½ cup rice or 1 small roll)
Vegetable Group- 2 cups
Fruit Group – 1 ½ cups
Milk Group - 2 cups (1 cup = 1 cup milk, 2 pieces of string cheese or 1 cup yogurt)
Meat and Beans Group – 5 ounces (1 ounce = slice of cheese, ¼ cup beans or 1 ounce meat)

Small Measures How small is small enough when choosing restaurant portions for kids? Buying the small order of fries for the small fry in the family may actually be too large if you’re trying to follow the latest advice on childhood nutrition. A typical small sized order of fast food French fries contains about 230 calories and includes around 30 fries. If you’re counting these potatoes as a vegetable for your child; just 10 fries are considered a serving. Eating more protein than they need is common for American kids, too. Dr. Margaret Condrasky, professor of food science and nutrition at Clemson University, informed chefs attending the culinary meeting, “Adult males need only about 60 grams of protein per day. So children need far less. That’s why a proper portion for children can be two or three ounces of meat.” Condrasky added that kid-friendly foods such as peanut butter on whole wheat bread, macaroni and cheese as well as Mexican beans and rice offer vegetable sources of good quality protein for children, too.

The secret to seeking the best children’s menus at restaurants wherever you dine today may be to find the staff most willing to split adult sized entrees for the family to share or to serve just part of an entrĂ©e or pasta dish to a child and box up the rest in a take out container to enjoy at another meal.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Nutrition on Tap

A recent lunch at Local Three Kitchen & Bar got me thinking about the popularity of craft beer. This farm-to-table focused Atlanta restaurant boasts a beverage list with nearly a dozen craft beers on tap and two pages of bottled beers representing an impressive bevy of breweries from locally crafted to internationally known. Printed next to the name and origin of each lager, pilsner and ale is the percent alcohol by volume (ABV) contained within such as a Blanche de Bruxelles from Belgium with a demure 4.5% and to a Unibroue La Terrible from Quebec with a hefty 10.5%. (For comparison, wines range between 12 percent and 14 percent ABV.) In any potent potable as the percent alcohol content goes up so does the number of calories, so this got me wondering more about beer’s nutrition profile. Long associated with an unhealthy paunch –the beer belly - it turns out just the opposite can be true. Registered dietitian Andrea N. Giancoli who professes, “I love my lagers” says “Beer contains more water than wine so it’s more hydrating and fills you up so helps curb your intake. Dark beers are especially satisfying because they’re richer tasting.” Giancoli shares nutrition facts on beer’s health benefits in the Winter 2011 issue of the American Dietetic Association’s member publication, ADA Times. She says, “When it comes down to it, we’re a nation of beer drinkers so dietitians should know more about this popular beverage so they can better advise Americans.”

Heart Health and Beyond
Red wine often gets all the glory as a heart-healthy drink, but it’s the ethanol in all alcoholic beverages, including beer and spirits, that’s associated with a lower incidence of heart disease, gallstones, risk of type 2 diabetes and improved brain function in older adults. The recently released US Department of Agriculture’s 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans include a recommendation for moderate alcohol consumption: one drink per day for women, two drinks per day for men.
What’s a drink? Wine- 5 ounces, Beer-12 ounces, Spirits- 1.5 ounces.

With beer as your drink of choice, you’re downing more than ethanol for your health. “Beer specifically has been associated with additional health outcomes, including lowering the risk of kidney stones in men compared to other alcoholic beverages, possibly due to its high water content and diuretic effect,” Giancoli notes, “Compounds in hops may also slow the release of calcium from bone that is implicated in kidney stones. Additionally, beer drinkers seem to have a more protective effect towards greater bone mineral density due to the high content of the mineral silicone in beer.”

During an interview in Atlanta this week, when I told him of beer’s nutritional pluses, Kevin Concannan, who is the USDA Under Secretary for Food, Nutrition and Consumer Services (as well as a beer drinker) replied, “This is the best news I’ve heard in years.”

A Toast to Beer’s Many Boasts - Source of B vitamins including vitamin B12: One 12-ounce regular beer provides 3 percent of the recommended daily amount of B12 for adults. Source: USDA Nutrient Database
- Fluid fiber: While the USDA Nutrient Database currently lists beer’s fiber content as zero, Giancoli says recent research conducted by brewing chemists shows lager contains up to 2 grams of soluble fiber per liter, while dark beers can contain up to 3.5 grams.
- Protein in small amounts: One 12-ounce regular beer contains 1.64g protein
Source: USDA Nutrient Database

Co-owner of Local Three, Ryan Turner, who promotes artisan food and craft beer pairings on the restaurant’s menus reveals, “I didn't know about the protein, but I was aware of the nutrients and fiber. I need to justify my own consumption somehow with my doctor, so this is great to know.”

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Hearts & Health: Seeing Red for Valentine's Day

Seeing Red to Find Healthy Foods

From long stemmed roses to heart shaped cards and boxes of chocolates, red is the primary color for expressing sentiments on Valentine’s Day. So with hearts in mind here are a few reasons to seek out the red colored foods that promote heart health.
Blue, purple, green, yellow, orange or red; the natural pigments in foods are clues to the identity of nutrients that lie within. (This does not include the many colors of M & M’s.) The color map to good eating applies principally to plant based foods. The Produce for Better Health Foundation’s website includes a list of foods arranged by color. Since individual pigments are associated with different health promoting plant compounds called phyto-chemicals, it’s important to eat fruits and vegetables from each color group. That’s why it’s a good idea to eat a rainbow of produce to benefit from the unique array of vitamins, minerals, and fiber that each color group has to offer.
When you see red in fruits and vegetables it’s a sign that they contain the healthy plant compounds called lycopene and anthocyanin. These dietary good guys, classified as antioxidants, are associated with promoting heart health, memory function and a lowered risk of certain cancers including prostate cancer. Reddish orange tones in foods such as red peppers and tomatoes are an indication that beta-carotene, another potent antioxidant, is also in the healthy mix.

A Red Hot List of Healthy Foods


Red apples
Blood oranges
Red grapes
Pink/Red grapefruit
Red pears

Red peppers
Red onions
Red potatoes

Chocolate covered berries and cherries:

Sure these confections are a sweet indulgence but you can feel good about the fruit inside - if it’s a fresh cherry and not a maraschino- because cherries and strawberries contain anthocyanins, the mineral potassium, vitamin C, and fiber. Jumbo sized fresh strawberries dipped in dark chocolate are a delicious and nutritious choice for your Valentine. What about the chocolate? If it’s a dark chocolate then you’re getting the health benefits of even more antioxidants.