Posts Tagged ‘iron’

I am a personal fan of hot dogs, but I know how unhealthy they can be. I see parents every day feeding their children hot dogs because they don’t have time to cook or their child tends to be a picky eater. Each year between Memorial Day and Labor Day, Americans consume 7 billion hot dogs (that’s 818 every second!), according to the National Hot Dog and Sausage Council. One-third of all U.S. children are overweight or obese, according to the TeensHealth web page. The main cause is overeating, with little regard to the actual nutrition offered by the food. Changing eating habits is not easily done, but minor changes in the type of food consumed can quickly reduce the amount of calorie intake each day. Eliminating the worst foods is one way to improve kids’ nutrition.

A hot dog slathered with ketchup may be your idea of a tasty meal for your kiddo, but there are very few benefits to eating this food on a regular basis. The USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service reports that hot dogs can be made from beef, pork, turkey, chicken or a combination of these types of meat. The meat on its own supplies some vitamins and minerals, but the other ingredients put into hot dogs cause this food to be mostly detrimental to your health and to your diet.

One of the only redeeming qualities of any type of hot dog is that they supply protein. MayoClinic.com reports that protein is important for growth and development, and also supplies energy. Between 10 and 35 percent of your daily calories should come from protein foods, and a hot dog can help you reach that recommendation. According to Livestrong.com, “A beef hot dog contains 6 g of protein, a turkey dog has 5.5 grams, a chicken hot dog supplies almost 7 grams. A pork hot dog has the most protein with 9.74 grams.”

Other positives of hot dogs? IRON

Another positive effect of eating hot dogs is that you will consume a small amount of iron. Including iron in your diet helps boost your immunity, and also enables your body to circulate sufficient amounts of oxygen.

Fat content
When thinking about feeding your children hot dogs often because it can be easy after a busy day or even just a “picky-eater child” – keep in mind that the amount of fat in most hot dogs works to cancel out the positive benefits of the protein and iron by making your meal too high in saturated fat. MayoClinic.com reports that eating large amounts of saturated fat may cause you to be at an increased risk for Type 2 diabetes and heart disease. According to Livestrong.com, “A pork hot dog has the most saturated fat with 6.6 g per dog. A beef hot dog has 5.9 g and a low-fat hot dog still contains 2.1 grams. Turkey dogs have 1.8 g of saturated fat and chicken hot dogs contain 1.7 grams.”

Hot dogs are high in fat and sodium and loaded with preservatives such as nitrates. The average dog has 464 calories with 32 percent of the daily fat, 15 percent of the cholesterol and 44 percent of the recommended daily sodium. This is balanced against the positive nutritional facts of 16 grams of protein and 8 percent of the daily dietary fiber. There are better alternatives for protein and fiber.

Crazy fact?
A hot dog can contain between one-quarter and one-third of the 2,300 mg of sodium you need for an entire day.

Scary fact?
Most hot dogs contain nitrates and nitrites, which are additives that help preserve the shelf life and achieve their pink color. According to Livestrong.com, “If your favorite dog contains either nitrates or nitrites you should know that they have been linked to cancer, particularly childhood cancer.” The Cancer Prevention Coalition notes that children who eat 12 or more hot dogs a month have a nine times higher risk of developing leukemia. Some brands of hot dogs do not contain nitrates and nitrites and they are better options for your health.

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AppleWe have all grown up hearing “An Apple a Day keeps the Doctor Away!”  Now, as a mom, I am focused on providing the right nutrition for my daughter so she can grow up strong and healthy.  I began by asking myself ‘What are the rules that we should be nutritionally living by?’  I know that healthy habits should start early, beginning with exercise, portion control and choosing the ‘right’ foods – these habits will set the stage for the rest of her life.  Children learn by observing their role models – mostly family – so I did some research to educate myself about the necessary nutrients needed to make our entire family healthy.  Here is a list I’ve complied – it is just what the doctor ordered!

Calcium is crucial for bone mass development, but a third of 4 to 8 year old children don’t get enough.  A bonus is that many high calcium foods are also high in Vitamin D – helpful for preventing Type 1 diabetes. Foods rich in calcium and Vitamin D include milk, cheese, yogurt (excellent but watch the sugar), fortified cereals, soy products and some juices.

Iron is essential – it helps red blood cells carry oxygen to cells throughout the body, directly affecting brain development.  Studies show that up to 20 percent of kids are not getting enough Iron.  If this deficiency is left unchecked it can lead to learning and behavioral problems. Some of the best sources of Iron are lean meats including shrimp, beef, and chicken. If your child is a vegetarian or doesn’t care for the taste of meat try beans, lentils, and chickpeas. Although Iron from plant sources is not absorbed easily by the body, Vitamin C based foods can increase the absorption level.  Foods high in both Iron and Vitamin C are broccoli, Swiss chard, and other dark green leafy vegetables.

preschool lunchVitamin E:
What is important about Vitamin E? It is an antioxidant that protects our cells from damage. It is estimated that 80 percent of children under the age of 8, and more than half of preschoolers, are lacking sufficient amounts of the vitamin. To my surprise, eating fat free foods, since they generally lack essential oils, is part of the problem. Make sure your child’s diet includes small amounts of nuts (if no allergies,) avocado, tomato sauce, wheat germ or spinach.  Fortified cereals may have Vitamin E but all-natural cereals do not. 

This seems to be a buzzword for adults, but it keeps children regular, fills them up and may help protect them from other illnesses later in life. An easy way to establish a goal for grams of daily fiber is to add the number 5 to your child’s age.  It’s ideal to have at least one high-fiber food at every meal. Cereal can be a great way for your child to obtain fiber – just make sure it has 5 grams or more per serving. Other great sources of fiber are fruits, beans, lentils, chickpeas, whole-grain breads, oatmeal, nuts, sweet potatoes, popcorn and green beans. My daughter LOVES hummus and just 2 tablespoons has as much fiber as a half cup of brown rice.

Bananas…and last but not least, Potassium:
Potassium is the main contributor to maintaining healthy muscles that contract and maintaining beneficial fluid balances and blood pressure. Most kids are getting slightly more than half of the recommended dose needed. Remember getting a muscle cramp as a kid and hearing your mom say, “Eat a banana!?”  She was right!  Bananas are one of the best sources of potassium, along with oranges, dried apricots, cantaloupe, honeydew, sweet potatoes, fish, and tomatoes.

As the mom of a two year old girl I know it can be difficult to get all of these needed nutrients into your child!  Fortunately many of these suggested foods, like beans or nuts, can serve a dual purpose. If you have a finicky eater you may want to talk to your pediatrician about adding vitamin supplements, but IT IS possible to get all they need by eating the right foods.

I found something that was interesting and fun…the US government has a food pyramid and website just for kids with lots of helpful hints about their health – Check it out!

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