Food Additives: What Parents Should Know

Food additives have been used for thousands of years, ever since people realized salt could keep meat from spoiling. Today, there are more than 10,000 additives approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to preserve, package, or modify the taste, look, texture, or nutrients in foods. But increasing evidence suggests some chemicals used as food additives should be avoided―especially for children.

Food Additives Effects on Kids

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) policy, “Food Additives and Child Health,” explains that a rising number of studies suggest some food additives may interfere with hormones, growth, and development Some may also raise a child’s risk of obesity. Children may be particularly susceptible to the effects of these additives, given that they have more exposure than adults due to their size and dietary intake.

Below is a list of the most commonly used food additives and the current health concerns. This list includes indirect additives, which are used in processing or packaging, as well as direct additives that are put directly into foods.

How to Reduce Your Family’s Exposure to Food Additives

  • Buy fresh or frozen. It’s best to buy and serve fresh or frozen fruits and vegetables when possible.
  • Eat fewer processed meats. Try to avoid processed meats, such as hot dogs, ham and meats in pre-packaged meals, especially during pregnancy.
  • Wash plastic food containers and utensils by hand, rather than in the dishwasher. Heat can cause plastics to leak BPA and phthalates into food. Avoid microwaving food or beverages―including infant formula and breastmilk―in plastic, if possible.
  • Use glass and stainless steel. Especially when cooking or serving hot foods, use alternatives to plastic, such as glass or stainless steel, when possible.
  • Learn plastic recycling codes. Look at the recycling code on the bottom of products to find the plastic type. Try to avoid plastics with recycling codes 3 (phthalates), 6 (styrene), and 7 (bisphenols) unless plastics are labeled as “biobased” or “greenware,” which means they are made from corn and do not contain bisphenols.
  • Wash your hands. Because chemicals from plastics are so common in items we touch throughout the day, be sure to wash your hands thoroughly before and after handling food.
  • Speak out. Join the AAP and other organizations calling for more research into food additives’ safety, including improvements to the U.S. food additive regulatory program and retesting some previously approved additives. A recent review of nearly 4,000 food additives showed that 64% of them had had no research showing they were safe for people to eat or drink. While some change to the current law could be achieved by the FDA, some may require congressional action.

Common Questions from Parents About Food Additives

How do I find out which additives are in foods? Additives that are put directly in foods are listed on ingredient labels, but often with their chemical names. For example, salt may be listed as sodium chloride, sugar as sucrose, vitamin C as ascorbic acid, and vitamin E as alpha-tocopherol. Artificial colors are usually listed by their numbers, such as Blue #2 or Yellow #5. However, there are also indirect additives from processing or packaging materials that are not listed on the ingredient labels. These can include chemicals from plastic, glues, dyes, paper, cardboard, and different types of coatings.

Are additives a problem in any baby products? The FDA recently banned BPA from baby bottles and sippy cups, but the chemical is still used in some food and beverage containers. Many companies have voluntarily removed BPA from their products, but in many cases replaced it with chemicals such as bisphenol S (BPS) that may have similar health effects. In 2017, the Consumer Product Safety Commission banned the use of some phthalates in child-care products such as teething rings.

Do artificial food colors cause childhood hyperactivity? More research is needed to better understand how artificial food colors (AFCs) may or may not impact a child’s behavior. This is because much of the original research on these additives were animal studies that did not include behavioral affects. For some children with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and other problem behaviors, the AAP says that until we know more, it may be helpful to eliminate AFCs from their diet if they seem to worsen symptoms.

The Future of Food Additives

Many new techniques are being researched that will improve how additives are produced. One approach is the use of biotechnology, which can use simple organisms to produce food additives. These additives are the same as food components found in nature.

Remember..aAlthough there are ways to limit the amount of potentially harmful food additives in your family’s diet, stronger federal food safety requirements will help keep all children healthy


Last Updated 7/23/2018. Source: American Academy of Pediatrics (Copyright © 2018). The information contained on this Web site should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your pediatrician. There may be variations in treatment that your pediatrician may recommend based on individual facts and circumstances.


5 Great Reasons to Cook with Your Kids

When it comes to raising an adventurous eater, it is not just about coaxing kids to eat their veggies. Bringing up a child who can enjoy a cantaloupe as much as a cupcake takes patience and persistence, but it does not have to feel like a chore.

Kids may need to have frequent joyful experiences involving food to overcome the anxiety they may have around tasting the unfamiliar. Over time, cooking with your children can help build that confidence—and provide rich sensory experiences.

Here are five ways to enjoy cooking with your children while raising an adventurous eater along the way.

  1. Engage other senses. For a hesitant eater, tasting an unfamiliar food can sometimes be intimidating. You can help your child explore foods when cooking using other senses besides taste. This helps to build positive associations with food. Kneading dough, rinsing vegetables, and tearing lettuce all involve touching food and being comfortable with texture. The complex flavors we experience when eating food come from both taste sensations from the tongue AND smelling with the nose. While cooking with new ingredients, some children may feel too overwhelmed to taste. If this happens, you can try suggesting smelling a food first; this may provide a bridge to tasting in the future.
  2. Use cooking to raise smart kids. There are so many lessons that can be taught while cooking. Math concepts like counting, measurement, and fractions naturally unfold when navigating a recipe with kids. Explaining how food changes with temperature or how certain foods can help our body be healthy provide great lessons in science. While cooking with your child, practice new vocabulary as you describe how food looks, feels, and tastes. Following a recipe from start to finish helps build the skills for planning and completing projects.
  3. Make cooking part of the family culture. The family meal can start in the kitchen as you cook together. Family meal preparation is an opportunity to celebrate your cultural heritage by passing down recipes. Help your kids find new, seasonal recipes to add to your repertoire and family cookbook. Cooking together and prioritizing health over the convenience of processed food are great ways to lead by example and help your children buy into a culture of wellness. Building daily and seasonal traditions around cooking together helps strengthen your family’s commitment to a healthy lifestyle.
  4. Keep it safe. Teach kids the importance of staying safe while cooking by showing them how to hold kitchen tools safely, how to use oven mitts to protect hands from heat, and how to turn appliances on and off safely. Always supervise children when cooking to ensure they are sticking with safe and age-appropriate tasks. The best way to keep cooking safe is to know your child’s abilities and his or her stage of development. A four-year-old child, for example, may not be ready to sauté vegetables over a hot pan, but may have the fine motor skills to rinse fruits or tear salad leaves. Keeping safety in mind, it is not difficult to get kids—even toddlers—involved in the kitchen.
  5. Ask for input. Children feel more included in mealtime when they are asked to be a part of meal preparation. Collaborate with your kids when selecting recipes for main dishes or sides. Let them help you make the shopping list and find groceries in the store or farmers market. When cooking together, let children offer a critique of the foods you are preparing. Together you can decide what ingredients you should add to enhance the flavor. Talk about how people enjoy different tastes, and share your preferences with each other. Letting children be “in charge” of details like how to set the table will help them feel invested in mealtime.

Over many years, cooking as a family will help develop a happy, adventurous eater with some pretty valuable life skills—and plenty of happy memories in the kitchen. With enough practice, your child will someday be able to cook YOU a delicious meal!


Author: Nimali Fernando, MD, MPH, FAAP. Source: American Academy of Pediatrics (Copyright © 2016). The information contained on this Web site should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your pediatrician. There may be variations in treatment that your pediatrician may recommend based on individual facts and circumstances.


March is National Nutrition Month

Choosing nutritious foods and getting enough physical activity can make a real difference in your health. For National Nutrition Month® 2019, in March, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics encourages people to make informed food choices and develop sound eating and activity habits.

Each March, the Academy focuses attention on healthful eating through National Nutrition Month®. “Through the campaign, we share good eating tips such as how to keep nutritious meals simple, the importance of making food safety a part of your everyday routine, the value of preparing meals with foods you have on hand to avoid wasting food, and how to select nutritious food options when dining away from home,” says registered dietitian nutritionist Robin Foroutan, a New York-based spokesperson for the Academy.

“Eating right doesn’t have to be complicated,” Foroutan says. “Think about what you want your plate to look like and ask if it’s incorporating all the major food groups. Select a mix of lean protein foods, vegetables, whole grains and fruits to enjoy a healthful meal.”

The Academy recommends balancing nutritious foods with physical activity most days of the week. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ physical activity guidelines, adults should participate in at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity per week, including at least two days of muscle-strengthening activities. Being physically active up to 300 minutes per week has even greater health benefits.

“Look into incorporating physical activity into your daily routine,” Foroutan says. “Walk to work or take a walk during your lunch hour. Do something physical during the weekend, such as playing basketball with your kids or going dancing with your friends. The goal is to get moving; every little bit helps.”

Initiated in 1973 as National Nutrition Week, National Nutrition Month® became a month-long observance in 1980 in response to growing interest in nutrition.

As part of National Nutrition Month®, the Academy’s website includes articles, recipes, videos and educational resources to spread the message of good nutrition and the importance of an overall healthy lifestyle for people of all ages, genders and backgrounds.

Consumers can also follow National Nutrition Month® on the Academy’s social media channels including Facebook and Twitter using #NationalNutritionMonth.

Teaching Children Cultural and Racial Pride

​For generations, immigrant parents in this country have taught their children to love their roots. They have passed down their language, their values, their beliefs, and traditions to their children with the same love they were passed down to them.

WATCH: In this video, click here, AAP Pediatrician Edith Bracho-Sanchez, MD offers important advice to parents about the importance of teaching children to honor differences in others, and to celebrate the way in which we all contribute to American society. 9

LISTEN: Teaching Empathy & Compassion

Empathy starts with understanding other people’s emotions and feelings. Kids have to get in touch with their own emotions and feelings first. You can’t understand emotions unless you communicate face-to-face. Talk through what could help others feel better so your child understands how others feel. Then, expand your child’s experiences through travel and reading, and encourage community involvement.

Want to learn more? CLICK HERE to listen to podcast with host Melanie Cole, MS.

 

Talking to Children about Racial Bias

By Ashaunta Anderson, MD, MPH, MSHS, FAAP & Jacqueline Dougé, MD, MPH, FAAP

Given the tragic and racially-charged current events, many parents are wrestling with their own feelings, the hopes they have for their children, and the difficulty of helping those children thrive in a world full of racial bias.

Parents may better face today’s challenges with an understanding of how racial bias works in children, as well as strategies to help them deal with and react to racial differences.

How Do Children Learn Racial Bias?

Children learn about racial differences and racial bias from an early age and learn from their first teachers — their parents — how to deal with and react to these differences.

The process of learning racial bias is a lot like learning a new language (e.g., a child raised bilingual vs. a child who starts learning Spanish in junior high). Biology determines a critical early learning period as well as a later window where learning is much harder.

  • As early as 6 months, a baby’s brain can notice race-based differences.
  • By ages 2 to 4, children can internalize racial bias.
  • By age 12, many children become set in their beliefs—giving parents a decade to mold the learning process, so that it decreases racial bias and improves cultural understanding.

But like language immersion, children exposed to society will gain fluency in racial bias even if their parents do nothing.

Strategies to Help Children Deal with Racial Bias

There are three strategies that parents can use to help their children deal with racial bias:

  • Talk to your children and acknowledge that racial differences and bias exist.
  • Confront your own bias and model how you want your children to respond to others who may be different than them.
  • Encourage your children to challenge racial stereotypes and racial bias by being kind and compassionate when interacting with people of all racial, ethnic, and cultural groups.

How Parents Can Confront Their Own Racial Bias

Parents must first confront their own biases, so that their example is consistent with messages of racial and ethnic tolerance.

  • Be a role model. Identify and correct your own racially biased thoughts, feelings, and actions. If you want your children to believe what you preach, you have to exhibit those behaviors as well. Your everyday comments and actions will say more than anything else.
  • Have a wide, culturally diverse social network. Encourage your children to have diverse circles of friends, as well. This lends itself to engagement in multicultural activities and experiences.
  • Travel and expose your children to other communities. This can help them understand that there is diversity in the world that might not be represented in the community that you live in.
  • Do not reverse stereotype police officers and other groups or talk about law enforcement in a negative way.
  • Get involved in your child’s school, your place of worship, and politics. Parents who are involved in this way are better able to advocate for fair treatment of racially marginalized groups and raise awareness of race issues in other groups.

Tips for Talking About Racial Differences & Racism

Talking about race is not racist. It’s OK—and important. From a young age, children may have questions about racial differences and parents must be prepared to answer them. But, it’s important to keep your child’s developmental readiness in mind.

  • For preschoolers: At this age, your child may begin to notice and point out differences in the people around you (i.e., at the grocery store, at the park, etc.). If your child asks about someone’s skin tone, you might say, “Isn’t it wonderful that we are all so different!” You can even hold your arm against theirs to show the differences in skin tones in your family.
  • For gradeschoolers: This is the age that is important to have open talks with your child about race, diversity, and racism. Discussing these topics will help your child see you as a trusted source of information on the topic, and he or she can come to you with any questions. Point out stereotypes and racial bias in media and books such as villains or “bad guys” in movies.
  • If your child makes comments or asks you questions about race based on school incidents or something they read or watched: Further the discussion with questions such as, “How do you feel about that?” and “Why do you think that?” This is also helpful if your child heard something insensitive or if your child experienced racial bias themselves. Before responding to his or her statement or question, figure out where it came from and what it means from his or her perspective.

These conversations begin to lay the groundwork for your child to accept and respect everyone’s differences and similarities. As children mature, the answers to questions will become more complex. These are moments to learn what your child understands or is struggling to understand about racial bias.

Remember:

To create a culture of inclusiveness, we all must look at and acknowledge our biases, so we can do something about the ones that are unfair or cause harm to others—like racial bias. Understanding the way people feel about and behave toward those outside their own group can help communities heal after a tragedy, as well as prevent future ones.


Author: Ashaunta Anderson, MD, MPH, MSHS, FAAP & Jacqueline Dougé, MD, MPH, FAAP. Source: American Academy of Pediatrics (Copyright © 2016). The information contained on this Web site should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your pediatrician. There may be variations in treatment that your pediatrician may recommend based on individual facts and circumstances.


Heart Disease: Reduce Your Child’s Risk

Heredity is clearly an important risk factor for conditions such as heart disease, cancer, and diabetes. However, researchers are steadily gathering strong evidence about how diet influence development of diseases. Experts agree that healthy eating habits from an early age can lower the risk of developing several deadly diseases later on. A diet designed to lower the risk of heart disease, diabetes, and other serious diseases is one that benefits the whole family, adults and children alike.

Risk Factors for Heart Disease
Heart disease is the number one killer of men and women in the United States and most industrialized countries. The chief risk factors are:

  • Smoking
  • High blood pressure
  • Diabetes
  • High blood level of cholesterol
  • Physical inactivity
  • Obesity
  • Family history of early-onset heart disease

Following a Heart-Healthy Diet From an Early Age
American children and adolescents, on average, eat more saturated fat and have higher blood cholesterol levels than young people their age in most other developed countries. The rate of heart disease tends to keep pace with cholesterol levels. One study found early signs of hardening of the arteries (atherosclerosis) in 7% of children between ages 10 and 15 years, and the rate was twice as high between ages 15 and 20.

According to the American Heart Association, a heart-healthy diet from an early age lowers cholesterol and if followed through adolescence and beyond, should reduce the risk of coronary artery disease in adulthood.

All children older than 2 years should follow a heart-healthy diet, including low-fat dairy products. For children between the ages of 12 months and 2 years with a family history of obesity, abnormal blood fats, or cardiovascular disease, reduced-fat milk should be considered.

Is There a Family History?
When you and your children first saw your pediatrician, you were probably asked if there was a history of heart or vascular disease in your family. If your children were young, their grandparents were probably relatively young as well and may not have had a heart attack or stroke (even though they may have been headed for one). If heart disease in the grandparents becomes apparent later on, be sure to bring it to your pediatrician’s attention at the next checkup.

Cholesterol Testing for Adopted Children
Complete biological family medical histories are not usually available to adopted children and their parents, even for those adopted in open proceedings. To prevent the development of diseases linked to high blood cholesterol levels, adopted children should be screened periodically for blood lipid (fat) levels throughout childhood.


Source: Nutrition: What Every Parent Needs to Know (Copyright © American Academy of Pediatrics 2011). The information contained on this Web site should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your pediatrician. There may be variations in treatment that your pediatrician may recommend based on individual facts and circumstances.

Protecting & Preparing Children for Life’s Lessons

You can both protect your child from life’s dangers and prepare him or her for life’s challenges.

In this video, pediatrician and adolescent specialist Ken Ginsburg, MD, FAAP discusses boundaries, how to “get out of the way,” and how to guide your child to thinking through situations wisely and safely.


Source: Building Resilience in Children and Teens: Giving Kids Roots and Wings, 3rd Edition (Copyright © 2015 Kenneth R. Ginsburg, MD, MS Ed, FAAP, and Martha M. Jablow) The information contained on this Web site should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your pediatrician. There may be variations in treatment that your pediatrician may recommend based on individual facts and circumstances.

How to Have a Family Meeting

Weekly family meetings are an effective and pleasant way to bring the family together, to improve communication, to set weekly goals, to recognize and reward progress, and to determine each member’s needs and feelings.

  • The meetings should occur at a regular, pleasant time—for in­stance, after dinner, with dessert.
  • Parents can serve as discussion leaders and make sure that any ground rules are clearly explained and understood.
  • The meetings should emphasize both individual and family needs, goals, and accomplishments and discuss positive events and efforts. During the meeting parents can give allowances and praise and reward behavior progress and changes. They can also share other relevant family information, such as an up­coming family vacation or school event to prepare for.
  • Each family member should be allowed to speak without criti­cism or interruption, to share his or her thoughts, feelings, achievements, and hopes.
  • The meeting is not a time or place to scold, punish, recall past mistakes, blow off steam, or single out a particular person. Those issues should be taken up separately and individually.
  • The meetings should last no more than twenty or thirty min­utes unless the family wants to continue.
  • Everyone should understand and accept that parents have the final word in difficult decisions.
  • A record should be kept of the main points, rewards, progress toward goals, new goals and agreements.
  • Before the meeting ends, anyone who wants to should have a chance to say how he or she thinks the meeting went, and what might be done to make the next meeting better.

Source: Caring for Your School-Age Child: Ages 5 to 12 (Copyright © 2004 American Academy of Pediatrics). The information contained on this Web site should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your pediatrician. There may be variations in treatment that your pediatrician may recommend based on individual facts and circumstances.


Communicating Beyond the Family

The communication skills your child learns will affect the way he interacts not only with you but with the world at large. These skills will help your youngster to negotiate, solve problems, and learn from others. Communication can also be used to praise, punish, express feelings, and provide insights and under­standing.

The way you communicate is part and parcel of what you communicate. Done well, communication is how you convey love, acceptance, respect, and approval to your child. Providing praise, for example, is not just saying words. It requires that you understand how your child thinks about himself and his behavior, and knowing when and in what way you can share with him your pride, so that he is best able to hear you and accept what you are trying to say. Successful communication is a two-person process, not merely one person saying something to another. If you consistently communicate well with your child, he will know that you think well of him. Not only will this nurture your relationship with him, but it can help him grow, develop, and live up to his ca­pabilities as a person.

Unfortunately, too many parents do a poor job of expressing this accep­tance. They may think: If I tell my son that in my eyes he is just fine the way he is, he won’t be motivated to work harder and do better in life. But in fact, chil­dren do better once they feel relieved of the pressure of having to win their parents’ approval. Rather than constantly judging and criticizing your child, let him know that you accept and love him. In turn, he will begin to like him­self more, and his self-esteem will grow.

Make an effort to communicate this acceptance through both words and ac­tions. Yes, you can demonstrate your feelings in nonverbal ways through your body language, including your facial expressions, hugs, and gestures. But you also need to say it.

Too often, parents choose ineffective, nonaccepting ways to communicate verbally with their children. They might give commands (“You’re going to do it as I say or else!”), lecture (“When I was a boy, I had twice as many chores as you”), or preach (“You must never behave that way again”). Or they might crit­icize (“You are doing everything wrong today”), ridicule (“You looked silly when you struck out”), or belittle (“Someone your age should know better”).

Be positive and accepting in the way you talk with your child. Offer praise often and be as specific as you can (“You did a wonderful job solving that dif­ficult problem in your math homework tonight”). Let him know how much you appreciate him as he is, without his having to struggle to resemble your own preconceived notions of how you want him to be (“I was so proud just watch­ing you run in the track meet today”).

You can also demonstrate acceptance by not involving yourself in some of your child’s activities. For example, if you just let him paint without giving him advice on what colors to mix together, this will convey the message that he is doing just fine on his own. In much the same way, you can listen quietly to your child at times, without interjecting your own thoughts and comments that might contradict or correct him.



Source: Caring for Your School-Age Child: Ages 5 to 12 (Copyright © 2004 American Academy of Pediatrics). The information contained on this Web site should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your pediatrician. There may be variations in treatment that your pediatrician may recommend based on individual facts and circumstances.