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Health School Snacks


What foods cause tooth decay in children?

Many different types of food can cause tooth decay, not just candy. Foods that are high in carbohydrates, as well as some fruits, liquids, peanut butter, crackers and potato chips are culprits. Factors that cause tooth decay include the frequency in which the foods are eaten and the time they remain as particles in the mouth.

Can decay affect infants?
Yes. Tooth decay in infants and young children most often occurs in the upper front teeth, but also may affect other teeth. Sometimes parents do not realize that a baby's teeth can decay soon after they first appear. The decay may even enter the underlying bone structure, which can hamper development of the permanent teeth. This problem is frequently referred to as baby bottle tooth decay. This kind of decay is caused by long-term exposure of a child's teeth to liquids containing sugars. When a child consumes a sugary liquid, acid attacks the teeth and gums and causes decay.

Are children safe from soda and other beverages?
Dentists believe that kids who consume too much soda and not enough nutritional beverages are prone to tooth decay in addition to serious ailments later in life, such as diabetes and osteoporosis. Drinking carbonated soft drinks regularly can contribute to the erosion of tooth enamel. Soft drinks contain sticky sugars that bacteria in our mouths use as an energy source. They break down into acids and adhere to tooth surfaces.

How does bacteria hurt teeth?
Decay is caused by bacteria that feed on any food that contains sugars and carbohydrates. Decay occurs when solid or liquid food particles are left unswallowed and cling to the teeth or gums for long periods. Bacteria in the mouth use sugars to produce acid that attacks the enamel of the teeth, softening and then eroding them. Enamel breakdown leads to cavities. If erosion spreads beneath the enamel, pain and sensitivity may eventually result. This can cause nerve infection, which can result in the need for a root canal.

My children rarely drink soda. Are they still at risk for tooth decay?
Yes, any prolonged exposure to soda can cause damage. Sipping a soft drink all afternoon is more harmful to your teeth than drinking a large soda with a meal and then not drinking any soda for the rest of the day. While many dentists advocate drinking nutritional beverages, such as milk, many agree soda should be consumed from a can rather than a bottle with a replaceable cap to discourage prolonged exposure to soda.

How can children prevent damage to their teeth?
Children at school should rinse their mouth with water after meals, leaving their teeth free of sugar and acid. Children also should seek sources of fluoridation. If you purchase bottled water, be sure that it is fluoridated. Encourage children to drink tap or fountain water. Use a straw when drinking soda to keep sugar away from teeth. Remember, bottled juices are not a good alternative due to the high sugar content. Regular dental check-ups, combined with brushing with fluoride toothpaste also will help protect children's teeth.

How can you help your child prevent tooth decay?
Parents should take their infant to the dentist just after the first tooth appears. Brushing teeth after meals, regular flossing and fluoride treatments are the best ways to prevent tooth decay. Children should also be supervised as they brush. A good rule of thumb is that when children can dress themselves and tie their own shoes, then they are ready to brush unsupervised. Children should be supervised in proper flossing techniques until the age of 10. If you have any concerns about your child's dental health or want some tips on preventing tooth decay, ask your dentist.
The AGD 11/06

Children and Childhood Obesity Fact Sheets

The Obesity Fact Sheets contain results related to the obesity epidemic among youth. The YRBS results describe the problem by identifying the percent of high school students who are overweight, engage in unhealthy dietary behaviors, or are physically inactive. The Profiles results describe characteristics of health education, physical education, opportunities for physical activity, and the school environment among middle/junior and senior high schools that may help address the problem. AGD 11/06

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CDC Fact Sheets Dash by State

Eat Smart. Play Hard. Healthy Lifestyles

Welcome to the Eat Smart. Play Hard.™ Healthy Lifestyle! This site is specifically designed for parents and caregivers to provide information to help you eat better, be more physically active and be a role model for your kids. This site contains information and resources to:

• Help you get started,
• Help you make smart choices,
• Prepare quick, easy, and healthy meals that taste good and
• Provide you with tips on how to increase physical activity in your life.

In addition, you'll also find a handy Calorie Burner Chart, the My Pyramid Tracker and the ESPH Tracking Card. With all this information, you'll have all the tools you need to begin eating healthier and be more active every day....go to: www.fns.usda.gov/eatsmartplayhardhealthylifestyle

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Healthy Snack Ideas for Kids

Healthy School Snacks
Serving healthy snacks to children is important to providing good nutrition, supporting lifelong healthy eating habits, and helping to prevent costly and potentially-disabling diseases, such as heart disease, cancer, diabetes, high blood pressure, and obesity. Snacks play a major and growing role in children’s diets. Between 1977 and 1996, the number of calories that children consumed from snacks increased by 120 calories per day.

Fruits and Vegetables
Most of the snacks served to children should be fruits and vegetables, since most kids do not eat the recommended five to thirteen servings of fruits and vegetables each day. Eating fruits and vegetables lowers the risk of heart disease, cancer, and high blood pressure. Fruits and vegetables also contain important nutrients like vitamins A and C and fiber. Serving fresh fruits and vegetables can seem challenging. However, good planning and the growing number of shelf-stable fruits and
vegetable products on the market make it easier. Though some think fruits and vegetables are costly snacks, they are actually less costly than many other less-healthful snacks on a per-serving basis. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the average cost of a serving of fruit or vegetable (all types – fresh, frozen, and canned) is 25 cents per serving. This is a good deal compared with a 69-cent single-serve bag of potato chips or an 80-cent candy bar. Try lots of different fruits and vegetables and
prepare them in various ways to find out what your kids like best.
Healthy Eating Tip: serve snacks with fun plates, napkins, cups, or straws or have a tasting party where children can vote for their favorite healthy snacks.

Fruit is naturally sweet, so most kids love it. Fruit can be served whole, sliced, cut in half, cubed, or in wedges. Canned, frozen, and dried fruits often need little preparation.
Apples (it can be helpful to use an apple corer)
Blueberries Cantaloupe
Grapefruit Grapes (red, green, or purple)
Honeydew Melon Kiwis (cut in half and give each child a spoon to eat it)
Mandarin Oranges
Applesauce (Unsweetened), Fruit Cups, and Canned Fruit – These have a long shelf life and are low-cost, easy, and healthy if canned in juice or light syrup. Examples of unsweetened applesauce include Mott’s Natural Style and Mott’s Healthy Harvest line. Dole and Del Monte offer a variety of single-serve fruit bowls.
Dried Fruit - Try raisins, apricots, apples, cranberries, pineapple, papaya, and others with little or no added sugars.
Frozen Fruit – Try freezing grapes or buy frozen blueberries, strawberries, peaches, mangoes, and melon.
Fruit Leathers – Some brands of fruit snacks are more like candy than fruit, and should be avoided due to their high content of added sugars and lack of fruit. Brands to avoid include Fruit Rollups, Farley’s Fruit Snacks, Sunkist Fruit Gems, Starburst Fruit Chews, Mamba Fruit Chews, Jolly Rancher Fruit Chews, Original Fruit Skittles, and Amazin’ Fruit Gummy Bears. Try Natural Value Fruit Leathers and Stretch Island Fruit Leathers, which come in a variety of flavors and don’t have added sugars.
Fruit Salad – Get kids to help make a fruit salad. Use a variety of colored fruits to add to the appeal.
Popsicles – Most so-called “fruit” popsicles have added sugars and should be reserved for an occasional treat. Look for popsicles made from 100% fruit juice with no added caloric sweeteners, such as Breyers or Dole “No Sugar Added” fruit bars.
Smoothies – Blend fruit with juice, yogurt or milk, and ice. Many store-made smoothies have added sugars and are not healthy choices.
Deliveries – Deliveries of fresh fruit or platters of cut-up fruit are a convenient option offered by some local grocery stores.
Vegetables can be served raw with dip or salad dressing:
Carrot sticks orBaby Carrots
Celery Sticks
Peppers(green, red, or yellow)
Snap Peas
Snow Peas
String Beans
Tomato slices or grape or cherry tomatoes
Yellow Summer Squash slices
Zucchini slices
Dips – Try low-fat salad dressings, like fat-free Ranch or Thousand Island, store-bought light dips, bean dips, guacamole, hummus (which comes in dozens of flavors), salsa, or peanut butter.
Salad – Make a salad or set out veggies like a salad bar and let the kids build their own salads.
Soy - Edamame (pronounced “eh-dah-MAH-may”) are fun to eat and easy to serve. (Heat frozen edamame in the microwave for about 2-3 minutes).
Veggie Pockets – Cut whole wheat pitas in half and let kids add veggies with dressing or hummus.
Ants on a Log – Let kids spread peanut butter on celery (with a plastic knife) and add raisins.
Healthy Grains (bread, crackers, cereals, etc.)
Though most kids eat plenty of grain products, too many of those grains are cookies, snack cakes, sugary cereals, Rice Krispy treats, and other refined grains that are high in sugars or fat. Try to serve mostly whole grains, which provide more fiber, vitamins, and minerals than refined grains. In addition, try to keep the added sugars to less than 35% by weight. If a food manufacturer fails to provide the added sugars content of a food item, use the percentage of weight from total sugars (in place of the percentage of weight from added sugars), and exempt fruits, vegetables, and dairy foods from this total sugars limit. Note: Cookies, snack cakes, and chips should be saved for occasional treats, given their poor nutritional quality. trans fat low (i.e., less than 10% of calories, or about one gram or less per
Whole Wheat English Muffins, Pita, or Tortillas – Stuff them with veggies or dip them in hummus or bean dip.
Breakfast Cereal – Either dry or with low-fat milk, whole grain cereals like Cheerios, Grape-Nuts, Raisin Bran, Frosted Mini Wheats, and Wheaties make good snacks. Look for cereals with no more than 35% added sugars by weight1 (or roughly 8 grams of sugar per serving).
Crackers – Whole-grain crackers like Triscuits, which come in different flavors or thin crisps (or similar woven wheat crackers), Kalvi Rye crackers, or whole wheat Matzos can be served alone or with toppings, like low-fat cheese, peanut butter, or low-fat, reduced-sodium luncheon meat.
Rice Cakes - Look for rice cakes made from brown (whole grain) rice. They come in many flavors, and can be served with or without toppings.
Popcorn – Look for low-fat popcorn in a bag or microwave popcorn. Or you can air pop the popcorn and season it, e.g., by spraying it with vegetable oil spray and adding parmesan cheese, garlic powder, or other non-salt spices.
Baked Tortilla Chips - Baked tortilla chips are usually low in fat, and taste great with salsa and/or bean dip. Look for brands with less sodium.
Granola and Cereal Bars - Look for whole grain granola bars that are low in fat and sugars, like Barbara’s Granola Bars (cinnamon raisin, oats and honey, and carob chip flavors), Nature Valley Crunchy Granola Bars (cinnamon, oats ‘n honey, maple brown sugar, and peanut butter flavors), Nature Valley Chewy Trail Mix Bars (fruit and nut flavor), and Quaker Chewy Granola Bar (peanut
butter and chocolate chunk flavor).
Pretzels, Breadsticks, and Flatbreads - These low-fat items can be offered as snacks now and then. However, most of these snacks are not whole grain and most pretzels are high in salt. To calculate % sugars by weight for a food item, look at the Nutrition Facts label and divide the grams of sugars by the gram weight of one serving of the product and multiply this numberby 100.
WARNING: A small but growing number of kids have severe peanut and/or tree nut allergies. Before
bringing in peanuts, peanut butter, or other nuts as a snack, check to make sure none of the children has
an allergy.
Low-Fat Dairy Foods
Dairy foods are a great source of calcium, which can help to build strong bones. However, dairy products also are the biggest sources of artery-clogging saturated fat in kids’ diets. To protect children’s bones and hearts, make sure all dairy foods served are low-fat or fat-free.
Yogurt – Look for brands that are low-fat or fat-free, moderate in sugars (no more than about 30 grams of sugars in a 6-oz. cup), and high in calcium (at least 25% of daily value [DV] for calcium in a 6-oz. cup). Examples include Danimals Drinkable Low-Fat Yogurt, Go-Gurt by Yoplait, or cups of low-fat or
non-fat yogurt from Stonyfield Farm, Dannon, Horizon, and similar store brands. Low-fat or non-fat yogurt also can be served with fresh or frozen fruit or low-fat granola.
Low-Fat Cheese - Cheese provides calcium, but often its saturated fat price tag is too high. Cheese is the number two source of heart-damaging saturated gat in children’s diets. Even with low-fat and reduced-fat cheese, be sure to serve with other foods like fruit, vegetables, or whole grain crackers. Choose reduced-fat cheeses like Trader Joe’s Armenian Style Braided; Borden or Sargento Light Mozzarella string cheese; Frigo Light Cheese Heads; Kraft Twist- Ums; Polly-O Twisterellas; the Laughing Cow’s Light Original Mini Babybel; or Cabot 50% Light Vermont Cheddar.
Low-Fat Pudding and Frozen Yogurt - Low-fat or fat-free pudding and frozen yogurt should be served only as occasional treats, because they are high in added sugars.
Other Snack Ideas
Nuts - Since nuts are high in calories, it is best to serve them along with another snack such as fruit. A small handful of nuts is a reasonable serving size. Examples include peanuts, pistachios, almonds,
walnuts, cashews, or soy nuts. Look for nuts that are unsalted.
Trail Mix - Trail mixes are easy to make and store well in a sealed container. Items to include: low-fat granola, whole grain cereals, peanuts, cashews, almonds, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, and dried fruits like raisins, apricots, apples, pineapple, or cranberries.
Luncheon Meat – Choose lower-fat, reduced-sodium brands of turkey, ham, and roast beef and serve with whole wheat bread, pita, tortillas (as a wrap sandwich), or crackers. Cut sandwiches in half to make snack-sized portions.
Healthy Beverages
Water – Water should be the main drink served to kids at snack times. Water satisfies thirst and does not have sugar or calories. (Plus, it is low-cost for care-givers!) If kids are used to getting sweetened beverages at snack times, it may take a little time for them to get used to drinking water.
Seltzer - Carbonated drinks like seltzer, sparkling water, and club soda are healthy options. They do not contain the sugars, calories, and caffeine of sodas. Serve them alone or try making “healthy sodas” by
mixing them with equal amounts of 100% fruit juice.
Low-Fat and Fat-Free Milk - Milk provides key nutrients, such as calcium and vitamin D. Choose fat-free (skim) or low-fat (1%) milk to avoid the heart-damaging saturated fat found in whole and 2% (reduced-fat) milk. It is best to serve fat-free versions of chocolate, strawberry, or other flavored milks to help balance the extra calories coming from added sugars. Single-serve containers of chocolate or
other flavored whole or 2% milk drinks can be too high in calories (400-550 calories) and saturated fat (1/3 of a day’s worth) to be a healthy beverage for kids.
Soy and Rice Drinks - For children who prefer not to drink cow’s milk, calcium fortified soy and rice drinks are good choices.
Fruit Juice - Try to buy 100% fruit juice and avoid the added sugars of juice drinks, punches, fruit cocktail drinks, or lemonade. Drinks that contain at least 50% juice and no additional caloric sweeteners are also healthful options. To find 100% juice, look at beverage nutrition labels for the percentage of the
beverage that is juice. Orange, grapefruit, and pineapple juices are more nutrient-dense and are healthier than apple, grape, and pear juices. (See “Orange You Glad?” chart.) Many beverages like Capri Sun, V8-Splash, Tropicana Twisters, Sunny Delight, Kool Aid Jammers, Hi-C, or juice drinks from Very Fine, Welch’s or Snapple are easily mistaken for juice. However, those beverages are more like soda than juice -- they are merely sugar water with a few tablespoons of added juice. Fruit juice can be rich in vitamins, minerals, and cancer-fighting compounds. However, it is high in calories. The American Academy of Pediatrics 1% Water should be the main drink served to kids at snack times.,,,recommends that children ages 1-6 years old drink no more than 6 ounces (one serving) of juice a day and children ages 7-18 years old drink no more than 12ounces (two servings) of juice a day.
For more information, contact Dr. Margo Wootan or Joy Johanson at
the Center for Science in the Public Interest,
1875 Connecticut Avenue, NW, Suite 300; Washington, DC 20009.
Phone: 202-777-8351, Fax: 202-265-4954, E-mail: <jjohanson@cspinet.org>.

A note about sugary soft drinks (soda,sweetened tea, lemonade, and juice drinks): Children who drink more sweetened drinks consume more calories and are more likely to be overweight
than kids who drink fewer soft drinks. Soft drinks also displace healthful foods in kids’ diets like milk, which can help prevent osteoporosis, and 100% juice, which can help prevent heart disease and cancer. In addition, soda pop can cause dental cavities and tooth decay.

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 TV: Eating Up Family Meal Time

A generation of "TV-dinner" kids might be learning their eating habits from Homer Simpson, according to a recent CNRC survey of children's eating habits

Survey data showed that 42 percent of time that Houston-area middle-school children ate dinner at-home, they were parked in front of the "tube." Nearly 300 fourth- through sixth-graders took part in the one-week survey.

"Eating an occasional meal while watching television can be a fun treat for families," said Dr. Karen Cullen, a CNRC behavioral nutritionist and Baylor assistant professor of pediatrics. "But keep in mind that family mealtime is extremely important for children from both a nutritional and a developmental standpoint."

Survey results suggest that concern over these "TV-dinner" kids might be warranted. Overweight children reported eating nearly 50 percent more dinners while watching television than their normal-weight peers.

"We know there's a link between the number of hours children watch television and weight problems," Cullen said. "We also know that people who watch television while eating tend to tune out their natural hunger and satiety cues, which encourages overeating."

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Escalating TV-time can also increase the influence of television programming on children's food preferences.

According to Cullen, food commercials are designed to sell product. As a result, they tend to tie the use of a food to positive feelings, such as fun, physical attractiveness or popularity, rather than hunger or health. They also rarely show how the food fits into a healthy diet.

"Studies show that children tend to request those foods most frequently advertised on television," she said. "Unfortunately, the foods most heavily advertised tend to be low in nutritional value."

On the other hand, family-focused meals tend to have a positive influence on children's eating habits.

"Children whose families keep the TV off during mealtimes tend to consume more fruits and vegetable, less saturated fat and more of several key nutrients," Cullen said.

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Families that tune into each other instead of the TV during meals also gain an opportunity to talk and connect.

"Positive family mealtime conversations build children's self-esteem and foster trusting relationships, which can help families talk through tough issues when they arise," she said.

Research agrees. According to the White House Council of Economic Advisers, the more meals that teens eat with their families, the less likely they are to smoke or use alcohol or drugs.

"Family meals are key to helping children learn healthy eating and life skills," Cullen said. "Parents need to turn off the television during meals and engage their children."

Source: Carter JB, Cullen KW, Baranowski T.  BMI Related to Number of Meals Eaten Watching TV as Reported by 4TH  to 6TH Grade Students:  Demographic Differences. Abstract for the American Dietetic Association Meeting, Denver, CO, October 2000.

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The best mealtime ingredient: 

    Good conversation   By the time family members arrive home at the end of the day, they're often tired, hungry, and hassled -- hardly the frame of mind for great conversation.

To help jump-start dinnertime conversations, Dr. Tom Baranowski, a psychologist with the CNRC's Behavioral Nutrition section, offers these strategies:

  • If family dinners aren't now common, begin by scheduling just one family dinner per week, choosing a night when everyone can be present. Once family members begin connecting over dinner, increase the frequency.
  • Keep conversations interesting. Reciting a litany of work-woes or reviewing chore lists does little to build family ties or expand a child's view of the world.
  • Create conversation-starting rituals. For example, have each family member plan to share a statement, perhaps about something interesting they recently did or learned. Or, even a silly joke. To help children feel more comfortable expressing feelings and thoughts, parents should offer their statements first.
  • Keep comments positive and supportive. If children bring up problematic issues, suggest an after dinner talk to work out a solution together. This allows the child to save face and keeps the dinner table a safe place for children to bring up difficult topics.

USDA/ARS Children's Nutrition Research Center at Baylor College of Medicine

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Nutrition For Kids...excellent website


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