*Please keep in mind that the information on this site does not constitute medical advice. Before making any dietary changes, you should consult your doctor.
Kid's Nutrition? (4 Questions)
1. Is it true that children who eat breakfast do better in school? What is a good breakfast?
It has been proven that children who eat breakfast do better in school, among other benefits. In a review article in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association published in 2005, Registered Dietitian and researcher Gail Rampersaud and her colleagues noted that children who eat breakfast also have better school attendance, behavior and energy levels, and eating breakfast may be associated with less risk of becoming overweight. A healthy breakfast includes several food groups, such as whole grains, protein and fruit to start kids’ days with a nutrient-dense, satisfying meal.
2. Is fiber important in a child’s diet? How much fiber does a toddler, pre-teen and teen need in their diet?
Fiber is important in preventing constipation, enhancing the sense of fullness of a meal and can even help with lowering blood cholesterol levels. The American Heart Association offers the following fiber recommendation for kids:
- 19 grams of fiber per day for children ages 1-3
- 25 grams per day for children ages 4-8
- 26-31 grams per day for children ages 9-13
- 29-38 grams per day for children 14 and up
These fiber needs can be met by offering whole grain foods at each meal, and plenty of fruits, veggies and nuts.
3. Is it true that foods might trigger a food allergy with my child? Can delaying the introduction of solid foods decrease the likelihood of food allergies?
For years the position of the American Academy of Pediatrics was to hold off on offering certain highly allergenic foods such as milk, eggs, nuts, fish and shellfish. While it isn’t recommended to give children cow’s milk until age 1, (it can limit iron absorption and doesn’t have proper nutrient ratios for infants) at this point, professionals are re-thinking their beliefs about introducing other foods. The most current scientific literature suggests that if a child is going to have an allergy to a food, they will develop the allergy whenever the food is introduced. And waiting to introduce certain foods may increase the risk of having more severe reactions! Currently the only food that has been studied extensively enough to recommend timing is wheat. The best time to introduce wheat in the form of infant cereal is between 4-6 months to possibly decrease the risk of having sensitivities to wheat later in life. Other foods, as long as the texture is right, can be introduced as you feel comfortable.
4. How do I know if my child has a food allergy?
Allergic responses can differ- they can be immediate or latent, mild or severe in nature. The best way to know if your child has a reaction to a particular food is by only offering 1 new food each 4-7 days. Symptoms can vary- they may manifest as a rash or irritability or stool changes or be as extreme as breathing difficulties (which are quite rare, but serious and require immediate medical attention). If you have a personal or family history of food allergies and want more specific answers, ask your child’s pediatrician or get a referral to an allergist.
What's In Food? (5 Questions)
1. Where can I get information on the level of calories, fat, protein, vitamins and minerals in various foods?
2. What is the difference between calories and kilocalories?
The "calorie" we refer to in food is actually kilocalorie. One (1) kilocalorie is the same as one (1) Calorie (upper case C). A kilocalorie is the amount of heat required to raise the temperature of 1 kilogram of water one degree Celsius. Please visit USDA's Nutrient Data Laboratory for additional information.
3. Is the USDA Database for the Added Sugars Content of Selected Foods still available?
The USDA NDL has removed the USDA Database for the Added Sugars Content of Selected Foods from the NDL website. This is due to constant changes in formulations for commercial, multi-ingredient foods, the primary contributor of added sugars to the diet. NDL is not recalculating added and intrinsic sugars at this time, in part, because brand name market shares and ingredients are changed so rapidly that these estimates are more a temporary cross-section in time than fixed values. No method can analyze for added sugars so their amounts must be extrapolated or supplied by food companies, many of which are not willing to make public such proprietary information. The Agricultural Research Service provides additional information about this decision.
4. Where can I find a chart or list of foods with calcium?
Find the calcium content in common foods by using the USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference Nutrient Lists. You can create a list, sorted either alphabetically by food description or in descending order by calcium content in common household measures.
5. Is there a law that requires food labels to list ingredients that commonly cause food allergies?
The Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act of 2004, which went into effect January, 2006, requires that food labels identify in plain English if the product contains any of the eight major food allergens - milk, eggs, fish, crustacean shellfish, peanuts, tree nuts, wheat and soybeans.
Nutrition? (11 Questions)
1. I heard that MyPyramid has been replaced. Is that true?
Yes. The MyPlate food guidance system replaced MyPyramid. MyPlate focuses on portion control and using the food groups to create a balanced diet.
2. What is a "healthy diet"?
A healthy eating pattern is one that provides enough of each essential nutrient from nutrient-dense foods, contains a variety of foods from all of the basic food groups, and focuses on balancing calories consumed with calories expended to help you achieve and sustain a healthy weight. This eating pattern limits intake of solid fats, sugar, salt (sodium) and alcohol. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans consumer pamphlet, Let's Eat For the Health of It, provides guidance for creating a healthy eating pattern to reduce the risk of chronic diseases such as diabetes, cancer, and osteoporosis. Additional information on the Dietary Guidelines for Americans is available at www.dietaryguidelines.gov.
3. How can I find the newest Dietary Guidelines for Americans?
The 2020 - 2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans were released, and will serve as the current dietary guidance through 2025. You can read the full policy document, Selected Messages for Consumers, the Executive Summary, and more.
4. I would like to get advice about my eating habits. Who should I talk to?
Registered Dietitians (RD) are health professionals who are trained to provide counseling on nutrition and eating habits. An RD can provide personalized dietary advice taking into consideration your health status, lifestyle, and food likes and dislikes. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics has a Find a Registered Dietitian online search tool that allows you to locate an RD in your geographical area. Be advised that this list may not include all RDs in your area.
5. How many servings from each food group do I need each day?
The number of servings you need each day from each food group depends on your calorie needs. To determine your calorie needs and find the number of servings that is right for you, please visit the MyPlate Daily Food Plan.
6. What are RDAs and DRIs?
- From 1941 to 1989, the Institute of Medicine's Food and Nutrition Board (FNB) released the Recommended Dietary Allowances or RDAs. The RDAs are a single set of nutrient specific values. During deliberations in the mid-1990's, the FNB decided to replace this single set of values with multiple sets of values, including: Estimated Average Requirements (EAR), Recommended Dietary Allowances (RDA), Adequate Intakes (AI), and Tolerable Upper Intake Levels (UL) for designated age groups, physiologic states (for example, pregnancy), and by sex. These values are collectively referred to as the Dietary Reference Intakes, or DRIs. To view the DRI tables, please click the appropriate link below:
- Vitamins and Elements (minerals)
- Macronutrients (protein, carbohydrates, fat, cholesterol, and energy)
- Electrolytes and Water (electrolytes include minerals sodium, potassium, and chloride)
Visit the Food and Nutrition Information Center to access the full DRI reports here.
7. How much of a nutrient is too much?
The Food and Nutrition Board defines the Tolerable Upper Intake Level (UL) as the highest level of daily nutrient intake that is likely to pose no risk of adverse health effects to almost all individuals in the general population. This level is different for each nutrient. To view the UL for Vitamins and Elements (also referred to as minerals or electrolytes), please visit the tables from the Food and Nutrition Board (FNB).
8. I've heard that people should cut back on how much trans fat they eat but I'm confused about what trans fats are and what foods have them.
Check out the following resource from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) that discusses trans fats and how to identify which foods contain them:
Trans Fat Now Listed With Saturated Fat and Cholesterol on the Nutrition Facts Label . Also available in Spanish.
9. I know there are different types of fiber in foods and that they have different effects on the body. Can you tell me about them? How much fiber should I eat?
Yes, the fiber in foods is generally broken down into two broad types - soluble (also called "viscous") and insoluble. Both types have important health effects. According to the DRIs, the recommended intake for total fiber for adults up to 50 years of age is 25 grams per day for women and 38 grams for men. For those over 50, the recommended intake is 21 grams for women and 30 grams for men. See the DRI Macronutrient table.
To learn more about the types of fiber, their functions in the body, and food sources, check out these resources:
10. How is food digested?
Digestion begins in the mouth, when we chew and swallow, and is completed in the small intestine. Digestion involves the mixing of food, its movement through the digestive tract, and the breakdown of food into smaller molecules. The digestive process varies for different kinds of food. The National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse webpage, Your Digestive System and How It Works, explains how food is digested and why digestion is important. This resource is also available in Spanish.
11. How do I know if nutrition information I find on the internet is reliable?
National Breakfast/Lunch Program? (5 Questions)
1. Is the school district required to meet any nutritional guidelines?
The federal government requires that meals served in our cafeterias meet specific guidelines regarding portion size, food choices, and content (protein, carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals, and fat).
2. Who determines what food choices will be available on the daily menu?
The reimbursable menus are planned to meet the federal nutrition guidelines, while considering the preferences of the students.
3. What is a reimbursable meal?
Only meals that meet the government requirements for meal patterns are subsidized. We follow the Nutritional meal pattern from the USDA, to meet the nutrition standards when averaged over a school week. USDA established a nutrient standard, for nutrient and calorie levels and maximum fat and saturated fat levels for each age or grade group used in menu planning.
4. What efforts are made to keep foods at the correct temperatures?
Hazard analysis and critical control point (HACCP) procedures are followed to verify that food is cooked or held at safe temperatures. Therefore, temperatures are monitored during receiving, storage, preparation, cooking, cooling, reheating, holding, assembling, packaging, transporting, and serving.
5. Why is there a cost for adult meals?
Federal regulation prohibits us from giving free lunches to adults or from utilizing program funds for the purpose of subsidizing adult meals.