24, August 2016 10:39 AM

Time for children to head back to schoolAs families everywhere stock up on supplies for back-to-school, don’t forget two healthy habits to help ensure academic success. A good night’s sleep and a healthy breakfast are simple, but sometimes overlooked, school supplies that can really have a positive impact on student performance. 

Adequate sleep (nine to 11 hours for school-aged children) provides children with the energy needed to concentrate, think creatively, problem solve and retain information. And numerous studies show children who eat breakfast have better attention, memory and overall academic performance compared to those who miss out on breakfast. 

Start the day with a healthy breakfast Parents can help children get enough sleep by incorporating effective strategies into the evening routine:

  1. Allow “wind down” time after a family dinner. Once the dishes are put away, allow time for children to transition into a quiet activity, which will help him fall asleep easier.
  2. Establish a consistent bedtime routine. Put together a predictable sequence of events that is followed each night. The process might include taking a bath, putting on pajamas, brushing teeth and reading a story or listening to some relaxing music. 
  3. Set a specific bedtime and stick to it. Give children cues as to when the bedtime routine is starting. For example, running the bath water, putting away toys or playing soothing music can serve as a signal that it's time to start the getting ready for bed.

Establishing and sticking to a bedtime routine sets up an easier start to the morning. Well-rested children tend to wake up earlier and easier, allowing time for breakfast. Another useful tip is to plan breakfast the night before. Involve children in choosing breakfast options the night before to simplify morning decisions and preparation. 

Whether breakfast is consumed at home, in the car or on the bus, try to combine at least three food groups (see our "3 out of 5" breakfast formula) to ensure a healthy balance of nutrients. Try our kid-friendly breakfast recipes to add variety, and use these easy breakfast tips to help scholars get a healthy and successful start this school year. 

Sometimes even the best plans and strategies go awry, so check into options for breakfast at school. In many districts, breakfast is available in the cafeteria, sometimes in the classroom or even "after the bell." 

By stocking up on healthy habits like a good night's sleep and a healthy breakfast, children will be well-supplied for learning this school year. Here are more great back-to-school success tips from the U.S. Department of Education. 

Basch CE. Healthier Students Are Better Learners: A Missing Link in Efforts to Close the Achievement Gap. New York: New York. Columbia University; 2010. EquityMattersVol6_Web03082010.pdf Accessed February 26, 2014.

Kleinman RE, Hall S, Green H, Korzec-Ramirez D, Patton K, Pagano, ME, Murphy JM. Diet, breakfast, and academic performance in children. Annals of Nutrition & Metabolism. 2002;46(suppl 1):24–30.

Taras, H. Nutrition and student performance at school. Journal of School Health. 2005;75(6):199–213.

Tags: back-to-school breakfast family meals Healthy eating healthy eating for kids healthy habits
Categories: categoryHealthy Eating for Kids

03, August 2016 8:00 AM

Leaky Gut Diet and Health GuideWe recently met to discuss The Complete Leaky Gut Health and Diet Guide by Dr. Makotto Trotter, a naturopathic doctor and Doug Cook, a Registered Dietitian. This book is similar to a book we reviewed in 2014, the Inside Tract.

The Complete Leaky Gut Health and Diet Guide is centered around the theory that a “leaky gut” can trigger inflammation and result in symptoms of fatigue, migraines, mood disorders, food sensitivities, diabetes, chronic infections and asthma. An elimination diet, nutritional supplements and lifestyle changes are recommended as the primary treatments. 

It is important to note that Leaky Gut Syndrome (LGS) is not taught in medical school. Rather, it is a condition acknowledged in emerging research associated with inflammatory bowel disease, irritable bowel syndrome and celiac disease.1

Healthy Lifestyle Habits: Good for the Gut

The health plan recommends many sensible lifestyle modifications that have strong evidence for improving health, regardless of leaky gut status. For instance, the book includes 150 recipes that encourage at-home cooking. Several of our book club members noted that some of the recipes look quite good! Additionally, the plan encourages cooking with whole, anti-inflammatory foods while reducing overly-processed foods. Clearly these are lifestyle modifications that most dietitians would encourage as part of a healthy, balanced diet.

Other recommended lifestyle changes include reducing stress, slowing down eating by chewing food thoroughly, exercising regularly, reducing caffeine and alcohol intake and improving sleep habits. Again, all of these recommendations have strong support among health professionals and are consistent with the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. They are good recommendations for all adults and individuals experiencing gastrointestinal symptoms should begin with these strategies and see if their symptoms improve.

Our Gut Reaction: Unsupported Claims Go Too Far

However, our registered dietitian nutritionist book group took issue with the authors' liberties in extrapolating the known link between gut-brain axis into statements that are not supported by peer-reviewed nutritional science. Some of these unsupported claims include: 

  • “Eczema may be a sign of unexpressed agitation and anger coming out on your skin”
  • “An autoimmune disease may indicate a state of extreme pressure on yourself and excessive self-analysis and self-criticism”
  • “Leaky gut may mean you are not establishing adequate healthy boundaries in your life and in your relationships, which is manifesting as multiple stressors” 

Even with qualifying statements like "may be a sign of" or "may mean," our book club members thought these statements were unfounded and possibly harmful.

Trust Your Gut: One Size Does Not Fit All

Beyond the exaggerated and unfounded claims listed above, our book club members' biggest criticisms of the book are its "one-size-fits-all" approach and the extremely restrictive diet. As mentioned above, most people will experience improved gut health by changing the quality of the food they eat and addressing lifestyle issues. Others with very damaged intestinal tracts will need an elimination diet in order for healing to begin.

Although the book recommends an individualized approach with guidance from a health professional, we could envision a consumer attempting the weekly meal plans on their own. Unfortunately, what works for one individual may not work for another, and unnecessary elimination of foods or food groups should be avoided whenever possible to maximize the nutrients attained from foods versus supplements.

Bottom Line

As recommended by the authors, individuals experiencing gastrointestinal symptoms should talk to their healthcare provider about any symptoms before attempting any LGS treatment.

Health professionals should work hard in listening to client concerns! Too often, clients turn to unproven alternative health care solutions when they do not feel heard and respected by nutrition and medical professionals. It is important to remember that their experiences and symptoms are real and deserving of treatment. 

Finally, nearly anyone can improve their health by making positive lifestyle changes that include a healthy, balanced diet and exercise. Registered Dietitian Nutritionists are uniquely qualified to help develop healthy eating plans that enable individuals to navigate dietary modifications necessary after medical diagnosis.

Maureen Bligh, Registered Dietitian Nutritionist


1. E.A. Stewart, Leaky Gut Syndrome — Learn About the Causes, Associated Conditions, and Treatments under Research, Today's Dietitian, Vol. 18 No. 1 P. 46 2016, January 2016.

Tags: Dietitians Book Review Healthy eating Maureen Bligh nutrition research
Categories: categoryNutrition Education

01, August 2016 9:00 AM

A gust of wind might be a welcome relief from the sky high temperatures in store for this August. Lucky for us, high heat means plenty of summer treats from the farmers' markets and backyard garden. 

As you and your family start to examine your back-to-school schedule, don't forget that a good night's sleep and a healthy breakfast are just as important as new backpacks when it comes to school supplies. We'll help remind you to plan on regular family dinners and back-to-school breakfasts with recipes that kids can help make.

Be sure to visit the Family Meal Planning page for more information, tips and resources. 

August Family Meal Recipes

Farmers' Market

Grilled Eggplant Panini with Sweet Potato Salad and Roasted Peach Sundaes; plus Zesty Vegetable Salad, Spinach-Stuffed Green Peppers, Chicken-Pasta Salad with Blueberries and Balsamic Vinegar Tomatoes.

Zucchini Surprise

Zu- Canoes with Ranch Chicken and Peach Glazed Pie; plus Black Bean, Corn and Zucchini Enchiladas, Chocolate Zucchini Cake, Pasta Ratatouille and Cold Zucchini Soup.

Back to School Breakfast

Grab-and-Go Breakfast Bites with Bran Muffins and Grapefruit with Yogurt Dip; plus Spinach Pie, Mini Maui Pizza Pies, Refrigerator Oatmeal and Fruity Yogurt Parfaits.

Go Bananas

Roasted Bananas with Chocolate Yogurt Cream with Scallops with Citrus and Quinoa and Fresh Vegetable Salad; plus Banana Bread Oatmeal, Banana-y Chocolate Freezer Pops, Spicy Lamb Chops with Tropical Salsa and Lanai Pasta Salad.

Family Meals Cooking with Kids

Tortellini Primavera with Popeye's Spinach Salad and Strawberry Orange Cups; plus Top Your Own Tacos, Something's Fishy Wraps, Oh Boy, Squash! and Kiwi-Lime Frozen Yogurt.

Tags: balanced meals healthy eating for kids healthy eating for kids
Categories: categoryHealthy Eating

08, July 2016 9:42 AM

Tammy Anderson-Wise, Dairy Council of CA CEO enjoys a summer mealAcross California and the country, schools, community centers, libraries, parks, churches, even apartment complexes are serving free meals for all children ages 1-18 with no paperwork or documentation required. Here, USDA’s Summer Food Service Program is coordinated by the California Department of Education and promoted by a wide range of organizations like United Way and Dairy Council of California (CA). 

Finding a local summer meals site is as simple as texting "Food" or "Comida" for Spanish to 877-877, dialing 2-1-1 in most cities or visiting Summer Food Rocks.

(Above, Tammy Anderson-Wise, CEO of Dairy Council of CA enjoys a summer meal with community members at the Sacramento kickoff event.)

Why is the summer meal program so important? 

Children shouldn't go hungry just because school is out. According to the Food Research and Action Center report, over 80 percent of the 2.4 million California children who participated in the National School Lunch Program during the 2014-2015 school year missed out on the free healthy food provided by USDA's free Summer Food Service Program. 

Nationally, only one out of six children who receive free or reduced-price meals during the school year continue to receive meals during the summer months. Missing out on balanced meals over the summer can put children's health and academic achievement in jeopardy.

Summer Lunchbox Image

What kinds of food are served in the summer meal program?

All summer meals served through the Summer Food Service Program must meet USDA nutritional guidelines and include all of the following:

  • 1 serving of milk
  • 2 servings of fruits and/or vegetables
  • 1 serving of grains
  • 1 serving of protein

How has Dairy Council of CA helped promote summer meals? 

Because summer meals are an underutilized resource to help keep children healthy in California, Dairy Council of CA teamed up with United Way, USDA, CDE, school districts and community groups to raise awareness for summer meals statewide. Through involvement with the Sacramento Summer Meals Collaborative, we helped develop the Sacramento Summer Lunchbox, an online resource kit filled with promotional and educational resources for summer meal sites that can be used across the state. 

Sandip Kaur and Jose Alvarado promote summer meals in Fresno

"Students need to eat nutritious food all year round to succeed in school. During the summer, some children may have their access to food curtailed. That’s why I am so pleased that the Sacramento Summer Meals Collaborative is providing summer meals sponsors with help in managing their programs and in getting word out about these free summer meals,” said State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson in a partnership news release about the Collaborative's work.

Additionally, Dairy Council of CA joined San Diego, Fresno and Twin Rivers Unified School District Food Service Departments to coordinate community kickoff events to raise awareness for these free summer meals. Special thanks go out to these departments and districts, as well as the CDE, USDA, CDFA and United Way staff who helped make them so memorable to all children and parents who participated. 

While these kickoffs were great successes, the number of children accessing summer meals tends to drop off after the Fourth of July holiday. Dairy Council of CA is also planning a mid-summer SPIKE event with Natomas Unified School District later this month. 

(Above, Sandip Kaur, Director of the Nutrition Services Division of the California Department of Education and Fresno Unified School District Food Service Director Jose Alvarado pose in front of Mobile Dairy Classroom during the Fresno summer meal kickoff event.)

How are you promoting summer meals in your community?

Share your story in the comments section or on our Facebook page

Tags: balanced meals healthy eating for kids healthy eating for kids
Categories: categoryHealthy Eating for Kids

01, July 2016 9:00 AM

This July, celebrate your independence from a steamy, oppressive kitchen with seasonal recipes that come together quickly, are served cold or can be prepared ahead of time- like at night when it's not so hot. Spend more time with your family and less time preparing meals this July.

Be sure to visit the Family Meal Planning page for more information, tips and resources. 

July Family Meal Recipes

Salad Days

Quinoa Salad With Apples and Kale with Apple and Horseradish Glazed Salmon and Blueberry Blackberry Gratin; plus Cabbage and Cherry Salad with Ginger Lemon Dressing, Black Bean and Rice Salad, Asian Beef and Noodle Salad and Potato, Bean and Chile Salad.

Pack a Picnic

Italian Vegetable Hoagies with Cucumber and Tomato Salad and Minted Fruit Salad; plus Apple Yogurt Coleslaw, Pulled Pork with Caramelized Onions, Chicken Crunchers and All-Natural Oatmeal Banana Cookies.

Enjoy Avocados

A.B.C.T. Salad with Zesty Ranch Chicken and Mexican Rice; plus Hip Huevos with Avocado, Chicken with Oranges and Avocados, Shredded Turkey and Pinto Bean Burritos and Southwestern Cheese Panini.

High Heat—Cool Eats

Garlic-Basil Tomatoes with Mozzarella with Chicken Wrap with California Dried Plums and Apples and Limeade Milk Chiller; plus Watermelon and California Feta Salad, Apple Tuna Sandwiches, Cucumber and Tomato Tangy Yogurt Salad and Turkey, Veggie + Cheese Pitas.

Tags: family meals food group foods Healthy eating make ahead meals recipes
Categories: categoryHealthy Eating

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