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Nutrition Month: Sugary Drinks
last updated:
Mon, 3/04/2013 9:52 AM

March is National Nutrition Month. In honor of this designation, Katelyn Wolfe, MS, RD, CSP, LDN, a clinical dietitian at Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital, shares some helpful tips for parents about sugary drinks. Here’s what she had to say:

With the rising trend of obesity, diabetes and heart disease, Americans should continue to be smart about the foods we eat. But, it doesn’t stop there. Many extra calories we take in come from our beverages.  The culprits that cause our diet disaster are often those sweet drinks that are easy to slurp down in minutes.  Let’s take a look:

  • Regular cola: 140 calories; 39 grams of sugar per 12 oz.
  • Apple juice: 110 calories; 26 grams of sugar per 8 oz.
  • White grape juice: 160 calories; 38 grams of sugar per 8 oz.
  • Regular chocolate milk: 200 calories; 25 grams of sugar per 8 oz.
  • Lemonade: 110 calories; 28 grams of sugar per 8 oz.
  • Sweet tea: 150 calories; 36 grams of sugar per 16 oz.
  • Hawaiian Punch: 70 calories; 17 grams of sugar per pouch
  • Gatorade: 80 calories; 21 grams of sugar per 12 oz.
  • Caramel Frappuccino: 200 calories; 32 grams of sugar per bottle

A child who drinks just two cups of regular chocolate milk each day would take in 146,000 extra calories per year just from chocolate milk. Research shows that it takes 3,500 calories to make one pound. Knowing that, the two cups of regular chocolate milk would lead to 41.7 pounds over the course of one year.

What about soda?  Drinking just one 20 oz bottle of regular soda per day would add up to 25 pounds over one year. For someone who drinks one 20 oz bottle of regular soda per day, that would equal 25 pounds over one year.  And let’s be honest, most soda addicts drink more than 20 oz per day.

Have no fear, sweetened drink fans.  There is a solution to this problem.  We simply need to make some beverage swaps to save our health and our waistline. There are many new options for sugar-free drinks now on the market, and they contain sugar substitutes that are “GRAS” or Generally Recognized as Safe by the FDA.

  • Water: zero calories; zero sugar per any size
  • Diet or zero cola; zero calories; zero sugar per 12 oz.
  • Crystal Light: 10 to 20 calories; 3 grams sugar per 1 packet
  • Powerade Zero: zero calories; zero sugar per 12 oz.
  • Tea made with Splenda: zero calories; zero sugar per 16 oz.
  • Light Hawaiian Punch: 10 calories; 2 grams sugar per 8 oz.
  • Diet Ocean Spray: 5 calories; 2 grams sugar per 8 oz.

*tap or bottled water does not contain any sugars or sugar-substitutes

If a regular soda fan drank who drank one 20 oz bottle per day made the switch to the diet or zero version of the soda, he or she would cut down on 25 pounds of calories taken in over one year. 

With these sugar-saving changes, what is your family waiting for? Make the switch today and be a smart-sipping household!

Healthy Habits for Families
last updated:
Thu, 1/17/2013 2:48 PM

The beginning of the year is a great time to start anew. Start 2013 by cleaning up your family’s diet, encouraging exercise and ultimately reducing your child’s risk for diseases linked to obesity.

Childhood obesity is a major issue in our region. More than 30 percent of all children in the Mid-South are overweight or obese, and obesity is linked to a number of health issues, including diabetes, high blood pressure and joint problems, says Jon McCullers, MD, pediatrician-in-chief for Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital.

“To me, pediatric obesity is the No. 1 problem in Memphis with our kids because it drives so much of the chronic disease in terms of high blood pressure, diabetes, sleep apnea, joint orthopedic problems and so on,” said McCullers.

Ensuring your children are eating healthy foods and getting proper nutrition is one of the most important steps you can make. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, most children in the United States eat a diet that is 40 percent empty calories – calories that provide no nutritional value. Approximately half of these empty calories come from six sources: soda, fruit drinks, dairy desserts, grain desserts, pizza, and whole milk.

To encourage healthy eating habits, parents should:

  • Choose low-fat or non-fat milk or dairy products, instead of whole milk options.
  • Choose lean meats like chicken or fish, instead of beef.
  • Encourage your family to drink lots of water, and limit sugary beverages like juice or soda.
  • Serve reasonable portions at meals, and include vegetables and whole grains.

Families should also limit the time kids spend playing video games or watching TV. Encourage physical activity. Even 30 minutes of moderate activity is beneficial, so take a brisk family walk, play a game of tag or turn up the music and start dancing.

School Lunches: Changes To Come
last updated:
Mon, 1/30/2012 2:07 PM

On Jan. 26, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), with the aid of First Lady Michelle Obama, announced new requirements for the National School Lunch Program that feeds millions of children in U.S. schools each year.  We asked Le Bonheur Clinical Dietitian Katelyn Wolfe, MS, RD, LDN, to weigh in on the new requirements. Here’s what she had to say:

The new regulations will increase of the availability of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and fat-free and low-fat fluid milk in schools. It will also reduce the amount of options high in sodium, saturated fat and trans fat.  Such changes help to align the National School Lunch Program standards with the Dietary Guidelines for Americans by providing nutrient-dense but lower-calorie meals.

These changes aim to help combat the increasing rate of childhood obesity.  According the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), approximately 17 percent of children ages 2-19 are obese, a rate that has almost tripled since 1980.  A child that is obese is at an increased risk for chronic diseases such as hypertension, diabetes and heart disease. Because so many children participate in a school lunch program, the mid-day meal becomes a crucial point for intervention in the obesity crisis.

Currently, the healthfulness of school lunches may vary greatly between grades, school districts and states due to broad regulations at the national level and a varying degree of regulations at the state and local levels.  For example, one elementary school may offer whole milk and the option of one fruit or one vegetable, while another elementary school may offer fat-free milk or 2 percent milk and both a fruit and a vegetable.  This inconsistency should disappear when the new regulations go into effect as soon as July.

So what will the meals look like after the change?  Read a sample meu that compares meals before and after the new regulations are in place.  Kids will see more colorful vegetables and fewer potato-based vegetables as well as more whole grains, lean protein sources, more fruits and healthier options for dairy and condiments.  It may be a great contrast to what a child was eating the previous school year. 

Changing the school lunches is only one part of promoting a healthy lifestyle for our children.  What goes on at home also plays a huge role in a child’s health.  For ways that you can become more involved with your child’s health or the health of children in your community, check out our previous post Obesity Awareness.

Obesity Awareness
last updated:
Mon, 9/26/2011 3:31 PM

In honor of National Childhood Obesity Month, Katelyn Wolfe, MS, RD, LDN, a clinical dietitian at Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital, shares some ways to help encourage your child to live a healthy lifestyle.

September 2011 has been proclaimed by President Obama to be National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month.  Why raise awareness for obesity?  More than 23 million children ages 2 – 19 in the U.S. are obese or overweight.  In fact, childhood obesity has increased more than fourfold among those ages 6 – 11 in recent years.  Obesity puts children at an early risk for diseases like Type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease and even stroke.

So, what is obesity?  For adults, a math equation that considers a person’s weight and height is used to determine a body mass index, or BMI.  The BMI number indicates if a person is underweight, normal, overweight or obese.  For children, the same math equation is used, but then the number is plotted onto a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) growth chart to determine what percentile the child is in relation to other children of the same age and sex.  For example, if a 6-year-old boy plots on the 75th percentile, that means his BMI is greater than 75 percent of all U.S. boys that are 6 years old and lesser than 25 percent of U.S. boys that are 6 years old.  To be considered obese as a child, the BMI must plot greater than or equal to the 95th percentile on the growth chart. 

Parents and community members can help to change the trend toward obesity in our community.  Try implementing these tips to fight or prevent childhood obesity:

  • Start the day with breakfast.  Research shows that those who eat breakfast are more likely be a healthy weight.  Whole grain cereal with low fat milk and a piece of fruit provides a satisfying meal that is easy to prepare.  If your family already eats breakfast, try to limit high-fat breakfast meats like sausage and bacon to no more than once or twice a week.
  • Focus on vegetables and fruits.  Veggies and fruits should make up half of our plates at meals.  Check out http://www.choosemyplate.gov/ for more about food groups. Try to serve a variety of colors each week, as different colored fruits and veggies provide different nutrients.
  • Be picky with beverages.  Kids need two to three glasses of low-fat or fat-free dairy daily.  Select milk and water over juices, sodas, tea or punch drinks.  If you serve juice, look for 100 percent fruit juice, and limit it to six-ounce daily for children younger than 6 and eight-ounce daily for children ages 6 and older.
  • Snack smartly.  Many snacks like chips, cheese crackers and candy provide calories but lack vitamins and minerals.  Consider snacks such as low-fat yogurt, string cheese, “light” popcorn, fruit or veggies with a dip to provide a tasty treat with important nutrients.
  • Get moving.  Kids need at least 60 minutes of physical activity daily as party of a healthy lifestyle.  Activity can be “structured” like soccer, karate, track, swim practice or tee-ball or “unstructured” like playground time, tag, hula-hooping or bike-riding.  Either way, encourage your kids to play.  Make sure that your children are always safe and supervised.
  • Limit screen time.  Instead of TV or video games, encourage your family to get outside and be active.  If the weather is bad, do an indoor activity – be creative!
  • Set the example.  We cannot expect our children to try a new food like whole grain pasta or go for a walk instead of watching another hour of TV if we as parents and family members do not do so ourselves.  Lead by example for a healthy lifestyle.

Do you wonder if your child is overweight or obese?  Your primary care provider can assess your child and refer him or her to Le Bonheur’s Nutrition Clinic if your child needs nutrition counseling.

Puberty Too Soon?
last updated:
Mon, 4/18/2011 12:56 PM

Girls are starting puberty earlier – some as early as age 7 – according to a study published in the journal Pediatrics. In fact, the American Academy of Pediatrics study found that 15 percent of American girls now begin puberty by age 7.

So what does this mean? Robert Ferry, MD, medical director for Endocrine Services at Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital, shares his expertise on the recent trend.

What factors contribute to early puberty?
No one really knows why girls are starting puberty earlier, but some think it could be because girls are getting better nutrition. Obesity is a factor for some girls, but mainly girls are better nourished now than they were years ago. Some suspect hormones in the environment could play a roll, but it’s not been proven.

What advice can you offer parents who are concerned that their girls are going through puberty at such a young age?
See your child’s doctor who can run some tests like an X-ray of the hand to determine something called bone age. Bone age is the degree of maturation of the bones. During puberty, bone maturation accelerates.

Is there anything they can do to prevent it from happening too early?
There are medications to prevent its onset if it’s pathological, but most girls don’t need treatment.

Should parents be worried? Are there negative effects if a girl starts puberty early?
No. Some girls might be shorter if they start menstruation at an early age. Because early puberty can be awkward for girls, it can lead to social stress as well.

Most of the time, girls will be on the same track for menstruation and puberty as their mothers. If your daughter is going through puberty the same time you did, it’s normal.


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Le Bonheur Children's Medical Center is a leading children's hospital in the Mid South, providing pediatric care to children from 95 counties in six states.
50 N. Dunlap Street, Memphis, Tennessee 38103 • (901) 287-KIDS