Summer Friends: Flavor and Nutrition

Summer is here—the season when multiple studies tell us that schoolchildren gain the most weight. I can’t understand why: my kids are doing all the same things I did—running, swimming, playing soldier in the woods—just on their iPhones. That must be why they have so few mosquito bites.

David Hill, MD

David Hill, MD

But if summer activities have moved indoors, summer treats haven’t budged from the pantry. As parents, there’s a lot we can do to help our kids eat healthier diets without sacrificing fun. It’s all about balance!

For many years, dietary advice has sounded suspiciously like those dubious online advertisements: “Never eat these five foods!”Over time, the list of banned ingredients has shifted from cholesterol to fats to the current favorite, sugar. This, however, is not how experts like dietitians and pediatricians think.

In fact, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics prefers an “all foods fit”approach to eating—a concept the American Academy of Pediatrics echoed earlier this year in its policy statement, “Snacks, Sweetened Beverages, Added Sugars, and Schools.” We should consider foods as a whole. Sugars and fats taste good; if they help make nutritious food palatable (like a pat of butter on whole grain bread), great! If the entire food is made of sugar and fat (e.g. a doughnut), then it should really be a rare treat.

The United States Department of Agriculture has identified four nutrients many Americans are lacking: potassium, fiber, vitamin D and calcium. Milk is the top dietary source for three of these nutrients: potassium, vitamin D, and calcium. Flavored milk does include a small amount of added sugar, but it’s in the range of 3% of the added sugar in a typical child’s diet, compared to 45% from sodas and fruit drinks. Fun and nutrition don’t have to be enemies. In the meantime, get those kids outside. If they see a mosquito, they can always squash it with their iPhones.

– Guest poster: David Hill, MD

Dr. David Hill is the author of “Dad to Dad: Parenting Like a Pro,” the Chair of the American Academy of Pediatrics Council on Communications and Media, and a managing partner of Coastal Pediatric Associates in Wilmington, NC.