Youth, You Are What You Eat

March 10, 2010 in Blog Recipes, Diabetic Menu Item, Mediterranean, Nutrition, Psychology of Food, Whole Grains by Joyce Bunderson

Is there anything that we can do to help our young people (teens and young adults) eat healthy whole foods? This is definitely one of those sorts of problems like leading the horse to the water, but not being able to make it drink.. I think the only rational option for parents, other relatives and caring friends of young people is to model wise eating, and make good healthy whole food available. Don’t complicate the issue of eating healthy food by getting manipulative (like using parental authority to force finishing a plate of food, or rewarding with unhealthy food) – you could end up with an eating disorder, which will be even more difficult to deal with.

A good starting point is to model good eating habits – role models are a strong predictor of eating habits for teens/young adults. If the home pantry and refrigerator are stocked with healthy foods, they’ll generally eat what is there. Making a transition from a home stocked with unhealthy foods is the trick. If they try to tell you that it’s abuse, for not supplying the customary stash of junk food – don’t buy the argument! You’re doing what’s best for them. Certainly, many young people have access to their own money and can buy junk, if that’s what they’re set on. Peer pressure and learned craving for unhealthy eats are both alive and well.

Some young people, who really want to be thin and healthy, think that they can embrace the notoriously poor diets of their peers and just make up for it with supplements. They probably got the idea from popular media including the Internet, their parents (hopefully not), or the health food store. Most young elite athletes know they can’t cheat Mother Nature – they have been taught by coaches and informed parents, that all the nutrients are not available in any supplement; and they know if they eat right and work hard, it will spell ‘healthy strong body.’

Unfortunately, today’s young people have grown up in the age of supplements.  They may not be taking anabolic steroids; but many have turned to over-the-counter supplements. They believe that the supplements (which are as easy to buy as aspirin) give them an edge in sports. But not only has supplement taking not been proven to be beneficial, some have been proved to be out right dangerous. Because of dangerous ingredients found in some supplements, the FDA has recently prompted several major recalls of bodybuilding supplements and has warned consumers to avoid products marketed as alternatives to anabolic steroids.

There’s little evidence that legal supplements enhance performance; but there are real risks.  One of the risks is that some teens and young adults have the idea that protein is only good for bodybuilding, and never harmless. But too much protein can cause the loss of calcium, which can compromise their bone mass. Adolescents and young adults are at an age that is an important time to lay down bone, to build bone mass; this is one of the reasons that creatine, one of the most popular supplements, should not be used by those younger than 18. Science doesn’t yet know the long-term consequences of the use or effect of creatine on the heart, kidneys and brain.

DHEA (Dehydroepiandrosterone) is another supplement; it has been linked to prostate cancer, male breast development, heart problems and hormonal changes in both men and women. The FDA has recently recalled more than 70 dietary supplements that may contain ingredients that are classified as steroids.  Because the supplements are over-the-counter the athletes probably are not worried about the liver damage, kidney failure, male infertility, potential for short stature and increased risk of heart attack and stroke.

Real Foods Like Whole Grains

Because making whole grain products and using whole grains in creative and innovative ways is a personal hobby, I found myself drawn to a new study about the intake of whole grains by 792 Minnesota adolescents (mean age = 17.2 years) and 1,686 young adults (mean age = 22.5 years). The study was based on a questionnaire that was completed by the youth during the time period 2003- 2004.

The researchers found that the adolescents were eating about one serving of whole grains as compared with the 3 servings recommended for the prevention of type 2 diabetes, coronary heart disease and excess weight gain. Among the most important findings was that the availability of whole-grain bread to the young people and the preference for the taste of whole grain bread were very important in those who ate the most whole grains. And on the negative side of the study, they found that the more fast food they ate the lower their intake of whole grains. Well, no surprise there.

One goal is to provide young people with opportunities to taste a variety of whole-grain foods to enhance developing a taste preference for whole grains. In our large family of grandchildren, the Dr. Grandma’s pancakes and muffins have been a big hit with most of them. Parental attitudes can make a difference, but because they taste so good, there’s the grandchildren, younger and older, show no reluctance to eating the 100% whole grain items. Good taste; indeed, that intelligent yumminess we blog about, has been the design goal in the development of the Dr. Grandma products. If you get them started on the good-tasting products, maybe it will be easier to expand out and try additional healthy but yummy products.

I wonder if the young people know about the benefits to weight management for those who eat whole grains. I don’t think that they care so much about avoiding diabetes and heart disease, based on the studies of young people and cigarette smoking. The threat of lung cancer was not a motivator for smoking avoidance. The threat of not being socially attractive was much more powerful. So I’m guessing that even though there are numerous reasons to eat whole grains, the weight management aspect will have the most impact.

In that same train of thought, eating more vegetables and fruit, instead of fatty junk food and sugar laden soda pop, all assist greatly in weight management; so if weight management is what they’re motivated by, fruits, vegetables and whole grains should be a ‘shoe in.’ I’m not quite so worried about those who want to play sports, because they are more likely to know that the vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients in real whole foods are what gives them the edge. Still, some of them have developed strong craving for junk food items through frequency of use and habit.

If you didn’t get a chance to see the Dr. Grandma’s Blog post on February 3, 2010 on Snacks Can Be Healthy, you may want to look at the posting – there are several recipes and ideas for snacking and snacking is an important part of young peoples intake.

A few ideas from the Snacks Can Be Healthy blog link above are listed here: If your young people like humus and/or salsa, these healthy dips make a great medium for vegetable dipping (see the blog for Roasted Red Pepper Hummus). Carrots and celery don’t need to be the only vegetables; try some red peppers, jicama, cherry tomatoes, broccoli, snow peas, cauliflower, or whatever they enjoy. The mini colored peppers are often a hit. The little Laughing Cow soft cheese wedges (35 calories each) with whole wheat Triskets are a good choice for variety, but certainly you can’t eat Tristkets as freely as the vegetables, if weight management is part of the goal. Dr. Grandma’s Muffins Your Way is something that they can have fun making for themselves; it’s so easy. A drained 28 ounce can of peaches chopped up and the mix is all it takes for a whole wheat and fruit snack – that’s just one of the 22 recipe options printed in the included recipe booklet. There were also a few recipes included on the Snacks Can Be Healthy blog posting; I hope they give you some ideas for a place to start. I think the little pizza snacks would be especially well-accepted foods for the young people.

I recently took a bowl of Cuties (easy to peel mandarin oranges) and found that the kids seemed to inhale them. When I peeled oranges or had them already sliced it was the same – no encouraging was necessary. I’ve also discovered that including kiwi in a fruit tray or salad is another way to have the fruit disappear.

Remember to talk to your kids or young adults; they may be interested in being healthy and ahead of the pack. Diminish the potential for struggles by providing only healthy whole food.

Banana-Pecan Muffins - Perfect for any age.

Banana-Pecan Muffins - Perfect for any age.

I had a couple of ripe bananas in the fruit bowl - Grandpa loves banana, so Voila! Banana nut muffins. The recipe is on the website; I added a teaspoon of banana extract with the egg/water mixture. Easy and fast - good way to nourish and fill tummies on cold, almost spring days.

Hummm????  March 4, 2010 in the Mountain West.

Hummm???? March 4, 2010 in the Mountain West.

Adding kiwi to hot cereal may entice your family to stay for breakfast.

Adding kiwi to hot cereal may entice your family to stay for breakfast.