Unhealthy Stuff that is Fed to Most Kids

Unhealthy Stuff that is Fed to Most Kids

Happiest Mother’s Day, moms!  In honor of the theme of today, which is being a momma, I feel there is some clarification needed in society on what is “healthy” when it comes to feeding our kiddos.  Nearly every single TV commercial I see that is marketing something “healthy for kids” is really NOT HEALTHY at all.  I’d like to give you some insight.

Here are some of the most irritating items marketed toward the feeding of our littles (in no particular order except how they popped into my mind):

  1. Choosy moms would NOT choose JIF peanut butter (if they read the ingredients).
    • Many/most popular peanut butter brands have far more than just peanuts in their peanut butter.  You’ll often find Crisco (partially hydrogenated oil) and a bunch of sugar, among others (NOT GOOD if you’re wondering).
    • Good quality peanut butter has two ingredients: peanuts and salt.  It comes in generic versions and brand names.
    • You may have to stir it a little, but I’m sure you can handle that.  After you stir it up, it won’t separate again if you keep it in the fridge.  And, it tastes AMAZING without all the added crap.
  2. Fruit snacks do not count as nourishing. Stop it.
    • Fruit snacks are no different or better than feeding your kids candy throughout all hours of the day.  Yes, I know you can buy 700 of them for cheap at Costco; but just because you can doesn’t mean you should.
    • Even as an adult, those little things are addicting.  That is not a joke.  They seriously are addicting, as are many fake-food-mostly-sugar products.
    • Fruit snacks contain not only added sugar and zero nutrients (until they throw in a shot of vitamin C…whoopidydoo…), but also petroleum-based artificial food dyes. (NOT GOOD if you’re wondering).
    • I know they are convenient and all; but convenient doesn’t beat out the nasty consequences of eating fake foods often found much later in life.
    • Furthermore, they are the opposite of satisfying (for adults or kids) because of their fake-ness; therefore, those eating them will often end up MORE hungry than they were before they ate them.
  3. Goldfish crackers do not satisfy the quota of “eat fish twice a week” that dietitians recommend.
    • Goldfish crackers are made of processed, refined carbohydrates, fake cheese flavor, and zero fiber or real nutrients (besides those that were added to the flour after it was stripped of anything nourishing).
    • There are some other versions of Goldfish crackers that at least make an attempt to not put so much fake junk in there and an attempt to use at least a bit of 100% whole grain flour in the production.
  4. Juice is not healthy.  Yes, you can reread it but it remains a fact.  Be mad if you want; argue if you want; but that fact doesn’t change.
    • I do not recommend juice for anyone.  Juice is a processed form of a fruit.  Juice does not make us full, so we can consume it nearly endlessly to quench our thirst, all the while spiking our blood sugar to the moon all. day. long.
    • I’ve heard all the arguments, such as “but my juice is fresh-squeezed” or “there is no added sugar” or “mine has lots of pulp.”  Those arguments don’t change the fact that you (and the kiddos) should be drinking water as a main beverage, and eating whole fruits.  What kids do early in life in terms of habits are what they will typically do as adults.  Teach them now to love healthy foods.
    • If you can absolutely not imagine life without juice, I strongly recommend to limit consumption to no more than 1 cup (8 ounces) in an entire day, and even less for kids.
    • Never ever ever ever drink sugary beverages, including juice, to quench thirst. If you must have them, have them because you simply enjoy the taste rather than thirst.  If you drink juice to quench thirst, your health will suffer over time.
  5. Hot dogs are not food.  I know they are convenient and cheap, but they are not nourishing your kids in any way except filling up the precious real estate in their bellies that is supposed to be filled with vitamins, minerals, fiber, fat, protein and things to build healthy bodies and brains.
    • Hot dogs contain everything from nostrils to hooves.  If you are disgusted by that, you should be!  Seriously!  Bologna is about the same, just flatter.
    • I’ve also heard the argument “but mine are organic” or “these are 100% beef.”  Well, I still don’t love the idea of organic eyeballs or cow buttholes any more than the alternatives…so?  Really?
  6. Nutella is cake frosting.  Seriously, it is just like cracking open a can of cake frosting and spreading it on your kid’s toast in the morning.
    • I can’t stress enough for you to read ingredients.  You will really open your eyes to the value (or lack thereof) of your food.  The calories, fat, sodium…none of that matters at all if you are eating fake, sugary food!
    • The main ingredient in Nutella is SUGAR, not hazelnuts.  There are other versions of similar product who actually make hazelnuts more of the focus, and reduce the sugar substantially.  You’ll often find them in the same section as Nutella.


Ok, so, if you are wondering what exactly you could use in place of many of these foods, I hope I can convince you to think outside the box.  I’ve written some meal planning posts, snack ideas, breakfast ideas, etc. that I hope will help guide you.  Eating healthy doesn’t have to be difficult or expensive (I wrote about that already too).

Your children’s genetic expression, regardless of family history, is influenced by their lifestyle from birth.  What you feed them controls their health future in a sense.  You’ll hear far more about the concept of nutrigenetics in future years…but I can assure you that what those little people eat from infancy to adulthood can influence the functioning of their bodies substantially.  We should be proactive in preventing diseases and illnesses, not reactive (as in waiting until we have something wrong to finally start changing our habits to be healthier).

If you teach your kids to love water, they will be adults that love water.  If you teach your kids to make vegetables a significant part of every meal, they will be adults who continue that practice.  If you teach your kids to only drink sugary beverages (including juice) and that chicken nuggets can be consumed daily, they will be adults with a limited palate and a list of chronic health conditions when they are 50 years old.  (It’s starting earlier…little tiny kids are now being diagnosed with type 2 diabetes at an alarming rate!)  Please do not make these kids have to relearn how to take care of their bodies as adults, because the damage will have already begun.

If you absolutely must buy convenience foods, read the ingredients!  You can find frozen fish nuggets/sticks that don’t have 8,000 ingredients (i.e. aren’t full of artificial crap).  You can find boxed mac and cheese that uses 100% whole grains and non-fake ingredients.

We are all a victim of marketing to some extent.  We’ve all seen the Kellogg’s breakfast commercials where the kid had a HUGE glass of OJ, a HUGE bowl of cereal, some fruit, some toast, and a grand total of way too much to eat.  But we learn from that.  We learn from the commercials for Pediasure that somehow drinking a bottle of corn-syrup-flavored synthetic vitamins is miraculously going to be better than feeding our kids real food (NOT).  Remember, the people who write those commercials and ads in magazines are paid very well to sway you into buying their products, whether right or wrong.  I am not paid at all to teach you here with professional guidance.  Not one cent.  Remember that.  My only vested interest in teaching you the right way to live is that I believe so strongly in the evidence to do so.

I’m not saying I’m some kind of whip-cracker at my house either.  My kids have had juice, albeit on special occasions like 2-3 times a year.  My kids sometimes have cookies, or candy, fruit snacks or whatever junk food.  The key is making those things special, infrequent treats.  When something is done daily, it is routine.  Don’t make it hard; it isn’t.

Email me for more insight or clarification if you want 🙂

xoxo – Casey

Why the Term “Carb Counting” is as Outdated as a Flip Phone

Why the Term “Carb Counting” is as Outdated as a Flip Phonebake bread

I have to be honest, I’ve been dying to write this because of all the allied health professionals that consult me to “teach [their patients] carb counting.”  No, no, and no I will NOT teach that.  About half of those of you reading this are like “Yeah! Preach it!” and the other half of you are offended.  Whichever side of the fence you are on, I hope you’ll keep reading!

This post is relevant to those with or without diabetes, but “carb counting” seems to be most often heard in the context of diabetes management.  However, everything I’m about to tell you applies to “counting carbs” as well as “counting macros” for you gym dudesSame poor advice if you ask me…

**Disclaimer #1**
Most of this post is geared toward healthy people trying to prevent type 2 diabetes and those who already have type 2 diabetes.  The only place that “carb counting” is actually very useful and necessary is in the case of type 1 diabetes.  Insulin dosing in type 1 diabetes largely depends on the amount of carbs consumed.  When I say “carb counting” is outdated, I am not referring to the type 1 diabetes population.  HOWEVER, some of the information later in this post on quality of carbs (and overall food quality) consumed is relevant to the type 1 diabetes population (and all other humans too).

First of all, there is NO SUCH THING as a “diabetic diet.”  If you are a healthcare professional, PLEASE stop telling patients that.  If you are a person who has been told that, I’m sorry.  Here’s a thought-bomb for you:  what if the same exact strategies that help prevent diabetes also helped manage them?  Seriously, think about that.  If you develop type 2 diabetes, it’s not as though suddenly you have been given a life sentence in the prison of eating healthy.  It’s just that eating healthy becomes a little bit more critical to your life.


**Disclaimer #2**
Some individuals develop type 2 diabetes despite living a pretty healthy and active lifestyle.  But the literature supports that those individuals are the exception, not the rule.  If you’re a super-healthy person and out rock-climbing and such, but still developed type 2 diabetes, I’m not talking about you; relax.  I’m talking about the other 95% of type 2 diabetes cases that arise from a breakdown in the metabolic system that results from lifestyle patterns over many years.

Ok – so here it goes.  Sure, reducing overall intake of carbs can help a person with (or without) diabetes achieve better blood sugar levels and often weight as well.  But let’s say that a person is given the common 45 grams of carbs/meal guideline that, admittedly, I used to often teach patients myself years ago.  That means that I could simply have 1.5 refined hot dog buns for dinner and be “right on target.”  How much nutrition would a dinner consisting of 1.5 hot dog buns be?  Seriously?  If we have a reductionist method of solely focusing on QUANTITY but not QUALITY of carbs/fat/protein/whatever, our long-term health inevitably suffers.

Our bodies are marvelous systems of inner machinery that requires nutrients to run much like a car requires gasoline.  No matter how precise we are about “counting carbs,” we still need adequate fiber, magnesium, potassium, chromium, thiamine, B-vitamins, and many other vitamins and minerals in order to properly utilize insulin, blood sugar, and overall metabolism.

We need protein and fat to slow digestion (in a good way) to prevent blood sugar spikes; but we also need the NUTRIENTS provided from the foods rich in protein and fat (magnesium, selenium, iodine, zinc, copper, vitamin A, omega-3 fats, vitamin D…etc.).  We need fiber to slow digestion (again, in a good way) to prevent blood sugar spikes.  But we also need the NUTRIENTS that fiber-rich foods provide, and we need fiber for healthy gut tissue.

Our gut health is the center of our universe.  If we don’t take care of our intestinal tract, we are more likely to have increased systemic inflammation, difficulty with managing weight, depression, and fatigue.  Sound familiar?  Those symptoms should sound familiar because they are ALSO major issues associated with those who have type 2 diabetes.  Hmmm…

So what does all this mean?  Can you have carbs or not?  Well, yes, you can have carbs.  But mainly a small quantity of good quality carbs is the goal; and the amount of carbs is nearly irrelevant if you’re not consuming adequate protein/fat/fiber.

Tips for those of you who are air-breathing kids or adults; healthy, or not-healthy; and those of you with no diabetes, prediabetes, or diabetes:

  • Make your plate mostly non-starchy vegetables, some protein, and some fat.
  • Reserve about ¼ of your plate for fiber-rich carbs, milk, and/or yogurt
    • Fiber-rich carbs includes things like 100% whole grains, whole fruit (not juice), and starchy vegetables (like potatoes, corn, peas, beans, etc.)
    • Remember, all of our carbs are competing for that little ¼ plate space; you might benefit more from trading one for another instead of having two options, for example.
  • Drink water as your main beverage. Some plain coffee and/or tea is fine too!
  • Make sure you’re choosing real foods.
    • Real foods are those that have very minimal ingredients and have had the least amount of processing possible.
    • Real foods mean the difference between orange juice (processed, even if fresh-squeezed) and an actual orange (real food).
    • Real foods means having bone-in, skin-on chicken rather than boneless, skinless chicken breasts. (We need fat, collagen, lysine, proline, etc. from the chicken; “fat-free” is NOT health.)

As usual, there is so much more to say, but I will digress for now.  Writing this is such a weight off my mind’s shoulders, as this topic has been ruminating in my head for quite some time now.  Today the straw simply broke the camel’s back, as I read one too many chart notes indicating “carb counting” (and not even accurate advice anyway).

As always, please consider arranging an appointment with a registered dietitian nutritionist for more individualized, comprehensive advice on healthy eating in general, health conditions, sports nutrition, or any other nutrition-related topic of interest.


PS – I won’t be mad if you share this J


Why Your Low-fat Diet is Killing You.

Ok that was a bit dramatic, but still…it’s true.

Why Your Low-fat Diet is Killing You.

If you’ve been following this blog for some time, you might think I’m a little obsessed with dietary fat.  You’re right.  I think – no, scratch that – I know that the past several decades of advice to eat a “low-fat diet” are inherently flawed.  My last post was also about fat, and you can read that here.  However, there is still more to say on the matter…hence today’s post!

I have been inspired to write about a few specific conditions today:  non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), high triglycerides, prediabetes, gout, and heart disease.  I’ve been inspired because if I hear one more medical professional recommend a “low-fat diet” as a therapeutic intervention for any of the conditions I just mentioned, I might actually lose my mind.  We’ve all heard that advice at some point throughout the past 30 years, I’m certain of it.  But it is wrong…so wrong.

First of all, the common denominator in NAFLD, high triglycerides, prediabetes, gout and heart disease is a dysfunctional metabolism.  In fact, when several of these conditions are found congregating in one individual, the diagnosis is often called “metabolic syndrome.”  These conditions all manifest in slightly different ways, but they all indicate that the individual’s system is not functioning as it should.  It could be said that the biggest contributor to ALL of these conditions is insulin resistance.  Guess what the biggest cause of insulin resistance is?  You’re right!  It’s poor eating habits!  Let’s dive into why.

Insulin has multiple important jobs in our body, but the two we’re going to focus on today include blood glucose (sugar) management and fat metabolism and storage.  Think of insulin like a key that unlocks all of your body’s cells so that glucose has a way in.  Glucose needs to get into your cells, because it is fuel for your metabolism to function properly.  One of insulin’s best friends is an enzyme called lipoprotein lipase (LpL).  LpL is like the gatekeeper for your fat cells.  When insulin in the bloodstream is elevated, that signals your fat cells to lock up tight, as your body does not need to burn any fat (it senses it has plenty of sugar to supply energy).  LpL also helps to break down triglycerides for transport into your fat cells for storage.  However, the fat cells have already been locked-up because they were told they don’t need to release any fat, and they aren’t taking in any new fat for storage.

So what now?  Well, if we are insulin-resistant, and when we eat too many carbohydrates, we have some serious issues.  We end up with a surge of blood glucose, a surge of insulin, and a bunch of triglycerides – all of whom don’t have anywhere to go but our bloodstream.  Eventually our liver becomes a dumping ground for all these triglycerides that don’t have a home, hence the development of “fatty liver.”  Those elevated blood sugars that are stuck in our bloodstream because insulin is not working properly lead us toward prediabetes (and eventually type 2 diabetes).


Excessive carbohydrate consumption doesn’t just affect our weight, blood glucose, or our liver; it affects our entire blood vessel system and is one of the main contributors to gout.  I know, everyone with gout has been taught to “avoid purines, especially from beer and red meat.”  This advice, although partially true, is going to fail you if you have gout.  Gout is a painful arthritic condition that is caused by the accumulation of uric acid crystals in joints, most often one’s big toe, and most often in men (but also in women).  Fructose, a type of sugar, is a major contributor to the production of uric acid.  I’m not talking about fructose from whole fruit; I’m talking about fructose from added sugar – high-fructose corn syrup, plain ol’ table sugar, sugary beverages, and honey (yep, seriously).  Too much sugar, too much beer, and/or not enough fiber-rich vegetables (inadequate antioxidant intake), and omega-3 fatty acids are the biggest pathways toward developing gout.

Heart disease is not caused by cholesterol.  Ok, don’t have a heart attack from what I just said.  Cholesterol is guilty by association when it comes to heart disease.  Having cholesterol in our bloodstream is not independently why we get clogged arteries.  Having damaged arteries and damaged cholesterol is why we get clogged arteries.  I will attempt the best analogy I can think of to explain what I mean, next.

Imagine your arteries are like a big sewer drain, the kind you see all the rainwater and leaves and gook and stuff go into on the side of the street in the curb.  Typically, the sewer drains are designed to expect a decent amount of water, leaves and gook; and when it rains a lot, everything just dumps in there and travels…well somewhere…(I don’t know exactly where it goes, but stay with me here!).  Think of the sewer drain pipes as your arteries, the water as your blood, and the leaves and gook as your cholesterol.  Even when there is a ton of leaves and gook, the sewer drain somehow seems to gather it all up and it flows nicely.  But when a twig or something gets caught in a little crack or something in the sewer drain, now all the leaves and gook are collecting around that twig.  Sometimes so much leaves and gook collect around that twig, or around many twigs, that the sewer pipe flow slows down and eventually can get backed up.  That twig is like a little damaged area of your artery.  Without the twig in the sewer pipe, the leaves and gook wouldn’t have gotten stuck; without damage to your artery, the cholesterol wouldn’t have gotten stuck.

So…it’s not the presence of cholesterol that causes heart disease; sure, too much cholesterol is like too much leaves and gook in the sewer:  it increases the likelihood of clogging if damage occurs.  But, if you’re tracking here, the real problem is the damage itself.  What causes this damage in our arteries?  Many things do, but in the context of today’s discussion, it’s inadequate omega-3 fatty acids, inadequate fiber and antioxidants, too much refined/processed carbohydrate, and inadequate exercise mostly.  Antioxidants are pretty important in the case of preventing damage to our arteries, because antioxidants sort of neutralize the “bad stuff” that damages our cholesterol and our artery walls.  When we have high cholesterol, we are given medications to reduce the cholesterol; but that doesn’t solve the real issue.  Even people without high cholesterol have heart attacks.

Thanks for sticking it out this far, I’m impressed you’re not asleep!  Despite all this wordswordswords today, I am doing my absolute best to oversimplify things for the sake of explanation.  What should you do with all this info?  Well here are the major take-aways:

  • Insulin-resistance is the #1 contributor to many of our major chronic conditions, especially NAFLD, high triglycerides, prediabetes, gout, and heart disease.
  • Reducing intake of carbohydrates, especially white [enriched] flour, white rice, white pasta, sugary foods, sugary beverages, and fruit juice is critical.
    • You don’t have to completely give up carbs, just stop having them be the center of your universe.
    • Some carbs that can and should be included in your mealtime delight in very small portions are:
      • Whole starchy vegetables including white potatoes, sweet potatoes, corn, peas, legumes (kidney beans, pinto beans, etc.), and winter squash
      • 100% whole grains like whole grain bread, whole grain crackers, quinoa, brown rice, etc.
      • Whole fruits like apples, bananas, berries, pears, etc.
    • Eating vibrant, copious amounts of whole, non-starchy vegetables is critical to good health.
      • The pigments that make those plants so vibrant and beautiful are antioxidants.
      • We must have antioxidants to prevent damage to our bodies, especially our arteries.
      • Examples include dark leafy greens, tomatoes, bell peppers, carrots, and beets.
      • Just because a non-starchy vegetable may not be vibrant doesn’t mean it lacks antioxidants; the vibrancy is only one indicator.
        • Examples of pale, but antioxidant-rich vegetables, include onions, cauliflower, jicama, and daikon radishes.
      • We have to, have to, have to consume omega-3 fats.
        • The BEST sources include wild-caught fatty fish, especially salmon (even canned), tuna, sardines, halibut, and mackerel.
        • Some other good sources of omega-3 fats include flaxseed and walnuts.
        • If you truly cannot handle eating fish or flax, you really should be taking an omega-3 fish oil supplement (but that is a last resort – real foods always prevail).

Low-fat is not the answer to improving health; in fact, eating a moderate amount whole-food-based fats, especially things like avocados, olives, nuts, seeds, and fatty fish, can help you to have a more stable appetite and subsequently help you to lose weight over time if done right.  Saturated fats like butter, ghee, and coconut oil are resistant to damage from heating, and therefore less likely to contribute to damaging your arteries than oils (vegetable aka soybean oil, canola oil, corn oil, etc.).  Extra-virgin olive oil and avocado oil are some helpful fats, but best when NOT heated.

Eat real foods.  A healthy diet is one that is high in vegetables, moderate in fruits, moderate in fats, moderate in protein, and low in carbohydrates (the right kinds).  Don’t overcomplicate things.  See a registered dietitian nutritionist (especially those involved in integrative and functional nutrition) for an individualized plan of action.

xoxo – Casey