We often talk about Mindful Eating in this blog. For those of you new to the topic, mindful eating is simply thinking about what you put in your mouth before you do so. When you really think about what you’re about to eat, it’s amazing how many times you’ll switch to something else. But why is mindful eating so important to Bellamy’s Organic?
Diet and Obesity
We have a major problem with obesity in Australia. It’s estimated that two thirds of the population are at least overweight. The problem is that what a mother eats is critically important to the development of and the future life of, her unborn child.
It turns out that our diets alter what is known as our epigenome. Epigenetics is the study of changes in gene expression caused by mechanisms other than changes in the underlying (genetic) DNA sequence – hence the name epi.
The nutrients we extract from food enter our metabolic pathways where they are manipulated, modified and molded into molecules the body can use. One such pathway is responsible for making “methyl groups” – important epigenetic tags that silence genes. Familiar nutrients like folic acid and B vitamins are key components of this methyl-making pathway. Diets high in these methyl-donating nutrients can rapidly alter gene expression, especially during early development when the epigenome is first being established.
A mother’s diet during pregnancy and what mothers feed their infants can cause critical changes that stick with them into adulthood. Animal studies have shown that deficiency of methyl-donating folate or choline during late fetal or early postnatal development causes certain regions of the genome to be under-methylated for life. For adults, a methyl deficient diet still leads to a decrease in DNA methylation, but the changes are reversible with resumption of a normal diet[i].
Nutrients that positively affect our epigenome and the sort of foods that they come from can be seen in the following table.
Enzymes transfer methyl groups from SAM directly to the DNA
Egg yolks, liver, soy, cooked beef, chicken, veal and turkey
Methyl donor to SAM
Wheat, spinach, shellfish, and sugar beets
Break down the toxic byproducts of SAM synthesis
Removes acetyl groups from histones, improving health (shown in lab mice)
Soy, soy products
Increased methylation, cancer prevention, unknown mechanism
Increased histone acetylation turning on anti-cancer genes
A compound produced in the intestine when dietary fiber is fermented
Increased histone acetylation turning on ‘protective’ genes, increased lifespan (shown in the lab in flies)
Diallyl sulphide (DADS)
Increased histone acetylation turning on anti-cancer genes
If unborn children don’t get enough of the right kinds of foods because of parental diet, this can lead to obesity for future life.
So baby food starts before you have your baby, it seems. Women who are thinking about pregnancy should try to ensure that they eat enough of the sorts of foods on the list above.
Obviously plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables are the go and few of us eat enough of those no matter who we are.
When your child is small and you are introducing solid meals, the idea of Mindful Eating can be applied to them too. Organic Ready to Serve meals, like the new Bellamy’s Organic range, available in all Chemist Warehouse stores and our online store, are a great way to serve them wholesome fruit and vegetables. The idea is to offer good nutrition instead of snacks with “hollow calories”. If you feed your children fruit and vegetables when they’re young, that’s what they’ll grow up to eat.
A recent survey of mothers in Melbourne* showed not only their concerns and pressures about diet and the effect of the “bogeyman of obesity” on their children, but also their lack of understanding of what constitutes a healthy diet for toddlers and young children.
Participants consistently acknowledged the importance of a healthy diet for their children. However, although fresh, home-cooked, protein, vegetables and water were identified as good food, healthy diets were often seen as simply avoidance of bad foods: high fat, sugar and carbonated drinks.
Few participants understood the nutritional content of certain foods and portion size in particular was not well understood. Some mothers talked about healthy foods having no upper limit and only a few described a sense of a toddler-size portion.
While many older children choose over-sized portions and overeat, toddlers often have the exact opposite problem. They may eat what parents think are small portions and may not even eat three meals a day. One reason that parents often think that their toddler’s diet isn’t good enough is that they overestimate how much they should be eating at each meal.
The NSW Population Child Health Survey* report established that it is essential to prevent and manage obesity in toddlers as there is a high possibility the problem will persist into adulthood. Obese children have a 25-50 per cent chance of being obese adults.
What is a portion size?
The Australian Government is encouraging kids to “Go for 2&5” – two serves of fruit and five serves of vegetables, but just how big is a serve?
Examples of what a serve means for each food group
1 serve of bread or cereal = 2 slices of bread, 1 cup of cooked rice, pasta or porridge
1 serve of vegetables = 1 cup of lettuce or salad vegetables or 1/2 a cup of green leafy vegetables, such as broccoli or spinach, or 1 medium-sized potato
1 serve of fruit = 1 cup of canned or chopped fruit or 1 medium fruit such as an apple, a banana or 2 smaller pieces of fruit such as apricots or 1-1/2 tablespoons of dried fruit
1 serve of milk = 1 cup (250ml) of milk or custard, 1 small tub of yoghurt
1 serve of meat or alternative = 65-100g of cooked meat or chicken, 2 eggs, 1/2 a cup of cooked beans
How do I get my toddler to eat?
Don’t insist your toddler eats everything on the plate or use threats like “you’ll get it cold for breakfast tomorrow” or “you’re not leaving the table until it’s all gone”. Children need to learn to respond to their body’s natural signals of fullness and hunger in order to develop healthy eating habits and be able to control their food intake.
Refrain from using foods as bribes. For example, don’t say “No ice cream and jelly unless you finish everything on your plate”. This will make dessert more desirable and what’s left on the plate less desirable. Don’t force it. The old adage “they’ll eat when they’re hungry” really does apply, but make sure when they come to the table it’s for wholesome foods, not a high-carb snack. The biggest influential factor in any toddler’s eating habits is whether or not you lead by example.
Given the health of the nation depends on a healthy eating, almost everything about food is being re- evaluated—from where and how it is grown, reliance on processed versus whole foods, biotechnology versus organic farming and the impacts of added fat, salt, and sugars.
But how can we compare foods holistically? How can you know that you’re giving your baby or toddler good nutritional value?
Here’s a quick quiz:
Which fruit delivers the most nutrition per 100 calories?
Does a 100-calorie serving of watermelon deliver more nutritional value than a Big Mac and cheese?
Does a 100-calorie serving of watermelon deliver more nutritional value than a salmon steak?
Not sure? Read on and then check the answers below?
Well now there’s a proposed method for measuring the nutritional quality of a typical serving of food, or 100-calories of one food compared to others. The Organic Center’s Nutritional Quality Index (TOC-NQI) is one such tool. It provides a comprehensive, data-driven measure of the nutritional benefits of individual foods, meals, and daily diets. It is the only nutrient profiling system that estimates the overall nutritional quality of a food or meal based on their content of 27 nutrients, including phytochemicals.
A smart food choice is one that:
Pleases the palate,
Delivers healthy portions of essential nutrients at a relatively low caloric cost and within a family’s budget,
Avoids pesticide or animal drug residues, and artificial food additives, and
Avoids baggage that can erode health, e.g. added sugar, salt or saturated fat.
Now we didn’t make up that list but at Bellamy’s it’s what we try to achieve in all our baby and toddler foods and we think that’s the sort of food that provides not only a pure start to life for babies but also a great way to engage in mindful eating as an adult.
As it happens, fresh vegetables deliver the greatest nutrient bang per calorie. A 100-calorie portion of the top 10 most widely consumed vegetables delivers an average TOC-NQI of 0.25, or 0.25 “nutrition units.” So, very roughly speaking, if all 27 nutrients were distributed exactly in line with RDAs/AIs across four different vegetables, just these four 100-calorie portions of vegetables could provide adequate amounts of the nutrients needed by a person in a given day (and at the “expense” of only about 18% of daily caloric intake)!
So, what are the answers to the quiz?
Strawberries deliver the most nutrition per 100 calories!
The watermelon delivers five-times more nutritional value per 100 calories than a Big Mac and cheese!
The salmon steak delivers about 50% more nutrients per 100 calories than the watermelon.
So you can see that whilst all calories are the same in as much as they are a measure of energy, equal intake of calories does not give you equal nutrition. This is why Bellamy’s are so passionate about the need for Mindful Eating – thinking about what we eat to keep healthy.
It’s hard to believe, I know, but yes, someone has put forward the outrageous idea that if we want to lose weight, we could eat less!
This is what researchers had to say:
“Up to 33% of people ordering at a fast-food Chinese-style restaurant in the U.S. accepted an explicit offer to be served smaller portions of starchy side dishes, according to a team led by Janet Schwartz of Tulane University. Those who accepted the smaller portions didn’t compensate by ordering higher-calorie entrees. Activating consumers’ self-control in this way was more effective in reducing diners’ intake than mandated calorie labelling.”
Of course it’s human nature to want to get around this simplest of notions that losing weight means eating less – permanently. And it’s great the way we kid ourselves – how many times have you seen an office worker with a large bag of chips and a diet cola? Any amount of money is spent on diet products that have little nutritional value with no thought given to simple mindful eating. But here’s the funny thing. To lose weight on a diet program requires the same willpower as losing weight by cutting out high GI carbs and excess fat. Perhaps that’s what the researchers above wanted to demonstrate! The dieting process can give you a good kick-start for sure, but that’s the period in which you need to re-adjust your eating habits. What you eat on a regular basis after your diet program must be different, and less, than what you ate before you started. If not, you’ll just gain weight. No tricks, it’s just simple arithmetic. If you eat more calories than you burn in a day, you tend to gain weight.
Eating wholesome nutritional food, like organic cereals and fruits, really makes a difference. Today’s over-processed foods with heaps of “added goodness” don’t stack up against an organic apple. That’s why we try to give babies and toddlers a pure start to life with our 100% certified organic fruit snacks and cereal range, because good eating habits start early.
If you’d like to know more about Bellamy’s Organic baby formula, cereals and our other products click on this link. It will take you straight to our on-line store.
I love cupcakes. My daughter loves them too. I bake and she decorates. On Valentine’s Day I posted on Facebook a picture of letters spelling out “I love you more than cupcakes”. We get it. They’re special.
So, what is it that is so appealing about a cupcake (as if I had to ask)??
Its individuality; its unique decoration of jewels and glitter; its references to fairies and parties;
beautiful and potentially elaborate packaging; colour and novelty – and it tastes delightful! Fluffy, spongy base with buttery, sugary topping… (nope, can’t be good for you).
Cupcakes are fun, they’re pretty and they make great tea parties. Even Nigella loves a cupcake and who can argue with The Domestic Goddess?
So, how can we take those attractions – those highlights of the cupcake experience – and apply them to healthy children’s meals? – put your skeptical expression away!
How about stuffing an organic tomato or squash, or teeny tiny pumpkin?
These too can make healthy little treasure boxes, full of colour, different every time, and packaged beautifully and uniquely. Just think – what would Heston do??
A simple method is to make an organic chicken and rice mix, scoop out the insides of a few small tomatoes and fill them with the chicken rice mix. Bake them in the oven with their caps on. Try different fillings each time!
Delight their eyes and their senses at meal times with the natural explosions of colour and flavour of nutritious organic food, and you may even distract them from the temptations of the cupcake!