How to get your children to eat more vegetables

Give the vegetables cool names!

When 186 four-year olds were given carrots called “X-ray Vision Carrots” they ate nearly twice as many as they did on the lunch days when they were simply labelled as “carrots.”  The children continued to eat about 50 per cent more carrots even on the days when they were no longer labelled, according to a new study by researchers at Cornell University.

carrot varieties

“Cool names can make for cool foods,” says lead author Professor Brian Wansink of Cornell University. “Whether it be ‘power peas’ or ‘dinosaur broccoli trees,’ giving a food a fun name makes kids think it will be more fun to eat. And it seems to keep working – even the next day.”

Similar results have been found with adults. A restaurant study showed that when the Seafood Filet was changed to “Succulent Italian Seafood Filet,” sales increased by 28 per cent and taste rating increased by 12 per cent.

“Same food, but different expectations, and a different experience,”

said Wansink, author of “Mindless Eating: Why We Eat More Than We Eat More Than We Think.”

carrot-flowers

Although the study was conducted in pre-schools, the researchers believe the same naming tricks can work with older children.

“I’ve been using this with my kids,” said researcher Collin Payne, “Whatever sparks their imagination seems to spark their appetite.”

Here are some more ideas to tempt your children to enjoy the wonders of the fruit and vegetable world:

  • Ben 10’s Bionic Broccoli
  • Elastigirl’s Shapeshifting Strawberries
  • Hogwart’s Hufflepuff Herbs
  • Lady Penelope’s Pinky Peaches
  • Pokemon’s Powerblast Parsnips
  • Spongebob’s Squarepants Supersonic Squash
  • Thunderbirds’ Hypersonic Rocket Leaf
  • Wonder Woman’s Wicked Watermelon

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Obesity in children

Overweight and obesity among children is widely regarded as being even more serious than it is among adults, with a very rapid rise in prevalence in the last two decades. Child obesity is likely to continue into adulthood, and many of the problems linked to obesity are more severe if the obesity has been present for a long period. Adults with the highest risk of diabetes, cardiovascular disorders, liver malfunction and orthopaedic dysfunction, are likely to have the most extreme levels of obesity and to have been obese since childhood[i].

fat_kid

Projections of child obesity based on trends from the 1980s and 1990s indicate that the annual increase in child obesity prevalence is itself increasing[ii]. By the year 2010, some 26 million school children in the EU are expected to be overweight, of which 6 million will be obese. The numbers of overweight children will rise by some 1.3 million per year, of which the numbers of obese children will rise by over 0.3 million per year.

At a conservative estimate, over a million obese children in the EU are likely to show a range of indicators for cardiovascular disease, including high blood pressure and raised blood cholesterol levels, and to have three or more indicators of the metabolic syndrome[iii]. Over 1.4 million children could have early stages of liver disorder.

The costs of childhood obesity have not been estimated but should include lost educational opportunity. A study of children’s quality of life found the psychological effects of severe obesity to be equivalent to a diagnosis of cancer[iv].

Behaviour, learning and mental health problems in children are rising as fast as rates of obesity and diabetes. Food affects brains as well as bodies, and early malnourishment can have devastating effects on both. Conversely, improving nutrition can help reduce antisocial behaviour as well as symptoms of ADHD, dyslexia, depression and related conditions[v].

The only pan-European estimates of children’s food consumption patterns are from self-reported surveys of health behaviours of children aged 11-15 years[vi]. The most recent (for 2001-2002) found:

  • In virtually all countries fewer than 50 per cent of children ate vegetables every day. On average, 30 per cent of children said they ate vegetables daily, but the children in countries once famous for their Mediterranean diets reported lower than average levels, especially Spain, where vegetables were typically eaten daily by only 12 per cent of children.
  • In virtually all countries fewer than 50 per cent of children ate fruit every day. On average, 30 per cent of boys and 37 per cent of girls reported eating fruit daily, but in sixteen countries only 25 per cent of children were eating fruit more than once a week. Lowest levels of consumption were reported among children in Northern European countries.
  • Soft drinks and confectionery were consumed daily by about 30 per cent of children (over 40 per cent in some countries).

According to the last National Diet and Nutrition Survey in the UK[vii]:

  • 92 per cent of children consume more saturated fat than is recommended
  • 86 per cent consume too much sugar
  • 72 per cent consume too much salt
  • 96 per cent do not consume enough fruit and vegetables

Governments are trying to improve children’s diets, but young people’s exposure to marketing pressures in our time-poor, anxiety-ridden, media-driven society is at an all-time high.

Widespread action is needed to reverse current trends – and we all need to take responsibility for what we are feeding young bodies and minds.

In a Cooking for Health class focused on Healthy Cooking for Your Children, we look at:

  • The best and the worst food for children
  • Easy steps to free your child from food traps
  • Simple, child-friendly recipes
  • Practical tips to help your child make the best food choices

The class involves 100% hands-on practical cooking in a small, supervised group, combined with teaching of up-to-date information and research findings on the effects of diet on health. Clear, easy-to-follow presentations and handouts are provided with plenty of opportunity for questions and discussion.

References

[i] Policy options for responding to obesity. Summary report of the EC-funded project to map the view of stakeholders involved in tackling obesity – the PorGrow project. Dr Tim Lobstein and Professor Erik Millstone. http://www.sussex.ac.uk/spru/porgrow

[ii] Jackson-Leach R, Lobstein T. Estimated burden of paediatric obesity and co-morbidities in Europe. Part 1. The increase in the prevalence of child obesity in Europe is itself increasing. Int J Pediatric Obesit 2006;1:26-32.

[iii] Lobstein T, Jackson-Leach R. Estimated burden of paediatric obesity and co-morbidities in Europe. Part 2. Numbers of children with indicators of obesity-related disease. Int J Pediatric Obesity 2006;1:33-41.

[iv] Schwimmer JB, Burwinkle TM, Varni JW. Health-related quality of life of severely obese children and adolescents. J Am Med Ass 2003;289:1813-9.

[v] Richardson, A. They Are What You Feed Them. Harper Thorsons (5 Jun 2006)

[vi] HBSC. Young people’s health in context: Health Behaviour in School-aged Children 2001/2002. Health Policy for Children and Adolescents 4. C Currie et al (eds) Copenhagen: WHO Regional Office for Europe, 2004.

[vii] Gregory, J. et al. National Diet and Nutrition Survey: Young People Aged 4-18 years (The Stationery Office, 2000)

 

 

 

Turmeric – spice up your health

Turmeric (Curcuma longa) is a herbaceous perennial plant of the ginger family, Zingiberaceae.  It is native to tropical South Asia and needs temperatures between 20°C and 30°C, and a considerable amount of rainfall to survive.

Plants are gathered annually for their rhizomes.  The rhizomes are boiled for several hours and then dried in hot ovens, after which they are ground into a deep orange-yellow powder commonly used in spices and curries, for dyeing, and to impart colour to mustard condiments and butter.  Its active ingredient is curcumin, which has an earthy, bitter, peppery flavour and a mustardy smell.

turmeric

Turmeric has been used for at least 4000 years in Traditional Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine to treat a variety of ailments.

There are frequent media reports claiming medicinal properties of turmeric, some of which are supported by quality scientific data and some of which are not.

It is important to bear in mind that many studies have been done in test tubes and animals, and the herb may work differently or not as well in humans.

Furthermore, some studies have used an injectable form of curcumin, and the results may not relate well to the effects of oral ingestion of turmeric itself.

In spite of these caveats, there is promising evidence that turmeric may be helpful for fighting infections and some cancers, reducing inflammation, and treating digestive problems.

turmeric spice

The curcumin in turmeric has been shown to stimulate the production of bile by the gallbladder.

Curcumin is also a powerful antioxidant.  Antioxidants protect the body from the adverse effects of very reactive molecules called free radicals, which damage cell membranes and DNA, and may even cause cell death.

In addition, curcumin reduces inflammation by lowering levels of two inflammatory enzymes (called COX-2 and LOX) in the body and stops platelets from clumping together to form blood clots.  COX-2 is the target enzyme of the non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, so curcumin works in a similar way to these drugs, without the side-effects.

Indigestion

At least one double-blind placebo-controlled study has shown that turmeric was effective for treating people with indigestion, reducing symptoms of bloating and gas.  In Germany, turmeric has been approved for use in treating digestive disorders.

Ulcerative colitis

In one double-blind placebo-controlled study, people whose ulcerative colitis was in remission either received curcumin or placebo, along with conventional medical treatment for 6 months.  Those who took curcumin had a relapse rate that was much lower than those who took the placebo.

Stomach ulcers

Turmeric does not appear to be helpful in treating stomach ulcers, and there is some evidence that it may increase the amount of acid in the stomach, making existing ulcers worse.

Osteoarthritis

Turmeric may be useful for relieving symptoms of osteoarthritis due to its ability to reduce inflammation.  A study of people using an Ayurvedic formula of herbs and minerals containing turmeric as well as Withinia somnifera (winter cherry), Boswellia serrata  and zinc significantly reduced pain and disability.  Due to the study design, it is not possible to know if this effect is from turmeric alone, or the combination of herbs working together.

Atherosclerosis

In animal studies, an extract of turmeric lowered cholesterol levels and kept LDL or ‘bad’ cholesterol from building up in blood vessels, a process that can result in blocked arteries leading to heart attack or stroke.  Turmeric also stops platelets from clumping together, so may help to prevent build-up of  blood clots along the artery walls.  These findings need to be confirmed in clinical trials.

Cancer

There is substantial interest in turmeric’s potential anti-cancer properties.  Evidence from test tube and animal studies suggests that curcumin may help prevent, control or kill several types of cancer cells, including prostate, breast, skin and colon.  Curcumin’s effects may be due to its ability to stop the blood vessels that supply cancerous tumours from growing, and from its effects as an antioxidant, protecting cells from damage.  More research is needed in order to understand if turmeric is effective in preventing or treating cancer in humans.

Diabetes

When laboratory animals with diabetes were given turmeric, their blood sugar levels dropped, as did their cholesterol levels.  Researchers do not yet know if such effects will occur in human subjects with diabetes.

Bacterial and viral infections

Anti-microbial properties of turmeric have been observed in laboratory studies but there is little data available on similar effects in humans.

Uveitis

In one study of 32 people with uveitis, inflammation of the eye, curcumin appeared to be as effective as corticosteroids.

If a teaspoon of turmeric is added to the cooking water of brown rice, the rice becomes a bright yellow colour.  This yellow-coloured rice can then be used in dishes such as paella, kedgeree and rice salad, together with multi-coloured vegetables, such as red pepper, sauteed courgettes, diced carrots, peas and sweetcorn.  Children love the bright colours and this is a good way to tempt them to eat more nourishing whole grains and vegetables.

For recipe ideas, tips and information about following a plant-based diet please sign up for my free newsletter and check out my website.

You can also find me on FacebookTwitter and LinkedIn.

Jane Philpott

References

Ammon HPT, Wahl MA. Pharmacology of Curcuma longa. Planta Medica. 1991;57:1-7.

Arbiser JL, Klauber N, Rohan R, et al. Curcumin is an in vivo inhibitor of angiogenesis. Mol Med. 1998;4(6):376-383.

Asai A, Miyazawa T. Dietary curcuminoids prevent high-fat diet-induced lipid accumulation in rat liver and epididymal adipose tissue. J Nutr. 2001;131(11):2932-2935.

Blumenthal M, Goldberg A, Brinckmann J. Herbal Medicine: Expanded Commission E Monographs. Newton, MA: Integrative Medicine Communications; 2000:379-384.

Curcuma longa (turmeric). Monograph. Altern Med Rev. 2001;6 Suppl:S62-S66.

Davis JM, Murphy EA, Carmichael MD, Zielinski MR, Groschwitz CM, Brown AS, Ghaffar A, Mayer EP. Curcumin effects on inflammation and performance recovery following eccentric exercise-induced muscle damage. Am J Physiol Regul Integr Comp Physiol. 2007 Mar 1 [Epub ahead of print]

Dorai T, Cao YC, Dorai B, Buttyan R, Katz AE. Therapeutic potential of curcumin in human prostate cancer. III. Curcumin inhibits proliferation, induces apoptosis, and inhibits angiogenesis of LNCaP prostate cancer cells in vivo. Prostate. 2001;47(4):293-303.

Dorai T, Gehani N, Katz A. Therapeutic potential of curcumin in human prostate cancer. II. Curcumin inhibits tyrosine kinase activity of epidermal growth factor receptor and depletes the protein. Mol Urol. 2000;4(1):1-6.

Funk JL, Frye JB, Oyarzo JN, Kuscuoglu N, Wilson J, McCaffrey G, et al. Efficacy and mechanism of action of turmeric supplements in the treatment of experimental arthritis. Arthritis Rheum. 2006 Nov;54(11):3452-64.

Gescher A J, Sharma R A, Steward W P. Cancer chemoprevention by dietary constituents: a tale of failure and promise. Lancet Oncol. 2001;2(6):371-379.

Hanai H, Iida T, Takeuchi K, Watanabe F, Maruyama Y, Andoh A, et al. Curcumin maintenance therapy for ulcerative colitis: randomized, multicenter, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. Clin Gastroenterol Hepatol. 2006 Dec;4(12):1502-6.

Handler N, Jaeger W, Puschacher H, Leisser K, Erker T. Synthesis of novel curcumin analogues and their evaluation as selective cyclooxygenase-1 (COX-1) inhibitors. Chem Pharm Bull (Tokyo). 2007 Jan;55(1):64-71.

Heck AM, DeWitt BA, Lukes AL. Potential interactions between alternative therapies and warfarin. Am J Health Syst Pharm. 2000;57(13):1221-1227.

Johnson JJ, Mukhtar H. Curcumin for chemoprevention of colon cancer. Cancer Lett. 2007 Apr 18; [Epub ahead of print]

Kawamori T, Lubet R, Steele VE, et al. Chemopreventive effect of curcumin, a naturally occurring anti-inflammatory agent, during the promotion/progression stages of colon cancer. Cancer Res. 1999;59:597-601.

Kim MS, Kang HJ, Moon A. Inhibition of invasion and induction of apoptosis by curcumin in H-ras-transformed MCF10A human breast epithelial cells. Arch Pharm Res. 2001;24(4):349-354.

Lal B, Kapoor AK, Asthana OP, et al. Efficacy of curcumin in the management of chronic anterior uveitis. Phytother Res. 1999;13(4):318-322.

Luper S. A review of plants used in the treatment of liver disease: part two. Altern Med Rev. 1999;4(3):178-188; 692.

Mehta K, Pantazis P, McQueen T, Aggarwal BB. Antiproliferative effect of curcumin (diferuloylmethane) against human breast tumor cell lines. Anticancer Drugs. 1997;8(5):470-481.

Nagabhushan M, Bhide SV. Curcumin as an inhibitor of cancer. J Am Coll Nutr. 1992;11(2):192-198.

Phan TT, See P, Lee ST, Chan SY. Protective effects of curcumin against oxidative damage on skin cells in vitro: its implication for wound healing. J Trauma 2001;51(5):927-931.

Pizzorno JE, Murray MT. Textbook of Natural Medicine. New York, NY: Churchill Livingstone; 1999:689-692.

Ramirez-Tortosa MC, Mesa MD, Aguilera MC, et al. Oral administration of a turmeric extract inhibits LDL oxidation and has hypocholesterolemic effects in rabbits with experimental atherosclerosis. Atherosclerosis. 1999;147(2):371-378.

Sharma RA, Ireson CR, Verschoyle RD. Effects of dietary curcumin on glutathione S-Transferase and Malondialdehyde-DNA adducts in rat liver and colon mucosa: relationship with drug levels. Clin Cancer Res. 2001;7:1452-1458.

Stoner GD, Mukhtar H. Polyphenols as cancer chemopreventive agents. J Cell Biochem Suppl. 1995;22:169-180.

Su CC, Lin JG, Li TM, Chung JG, Yang JS, Ip SW, et al. Curcumin-induced apoptosis of human colon cancer colo 205 cells through the production of ROS, Ca2+ and the activation of caspase-3. Anticancer Res. 2006 Nov-Dec;26(6B):4379-89.

Verma SP, Salamone E, Goldin B. Curcumin and genistein, plant natural products, show synergistic inhibitory effects on the growth of human breast cancer MCF-7 cells induced by estrogenic pesticides. Biochem Biophys Res Commun. 1997; 233(3): 692-696.

White L, Mavor S. Kids, Herbs, Health. Loveland, Colo: Interweave Press; 1998:41.

Obesity begins at home

Researchers at the University of California have found that adolescents are more likely to eat at least five servings of fruit and vegetables a day if their parents do.  In contrast, teenagers whose parents consume fast food and fizzy drinks are more likely to do the same.

boy_with_vegetables

A survey of thousands of teenagers revealed that:

  • Teens whose parents drink soft fizzy drinks every day are nearly 40 percent more likely to drink fizzy drinks themselves than teens whose parents do not drink fizzy drinks
  • Teens whose parents eat five servings of fruit and vegetables daily are 16 percent more likely to do the same than teens whose parents who do not eat five servings a day
  • Nearly half of adolescents (48 percent) whose parents drink fizzy drinks every day eat fast food at least once a day, while only 39 percent of teens whose parents who do not drink fizzy drinks eat fast food once daily
  • 45 percent of teens whose parents do not eat five servings of fruit and vegetables daily eat fast food at least once a day, while only 39 percent of teens whose parents eat five servings a day eat fast food at least once daily

“The research shows us that one of the keys to solving the teen obesity crisis starts with parents, but we must also improve the abysmal food environments in many low-income communities,” said Dr Robert K. Ross, president and chief executive officer of the California endowment.  “While parents are the primary role models for their children and their behaviour can positively – or negatively – influence their children’s health, it is also essential that local officials representing low-income communities work to expand access to fruit, vegetables and other healthful foods”.

Educating parents about healthy food choices, as well as how to plan and prepare healthier meals, would help in rducing teenage obesity, according to the authors of the policy brief. 

They also recommend employment policies that promote a better work-life balance.  Given more flexible working hours, more families might have time to prepare food at home and engage more often in family meals – an activity that has been linked to healthier lifestyles.

For more information on courses available on choosing and preparing healthy food for your children see Healthy Cooking for Your Children.

Jane Philpott, Cooking for Health