Empty Calories Taste Good but Have No Nutrients

Empty calories are calories that don’t give us the nutrients we need. Here is what MyPlate.gov. a division of the Dept. of Agriculture, has to say about foods that taste good, but contain empty calories.

picture of sweet treats that have empty caloriesMany of the foods and beverages Americans eat and drink contain empty calories. These are calories that come from solid fats and/or added sugars. Solid fats and added sugars add calories to the food but few or no nutrients. For this reason, the calories from solid fats and added sugars in a food are often called empty calories. Learning more about solid fats and added sugars can help you make better food and drink choices.

Solid fats are fats that are solid at room temperature, like butter, beef fat, and shortening. Some solid fats are found naturally in foods. They can also be added when foods are processed by food companies or when they are prepared. Added sugars are sugars and syrups that are added when foods or beverages are processed or prepared.
Solid fats and added sugars can make a food or beverage more appealing, but they also can add a lot of calories. The foods and beverages that provide the most empty calories for Americans are:

  • Cakes, cookies, pastries, and donuts (contain both solid fat and added sugars)
  • Sodas, energy drinks, sports drinks, and fruit drinks (contain added sugars)
  • Cheese (contains solid fat)
  • Pizza (contains solid fat)
  • Ice cream (contains both solid fat and added sugars)
  • Sausages, hot dogs, bacon, and ribs (contain solid fat)

These foods and beverages are the major sources of empty calories, but many can be found in forms with less or no solid fat or added sugars. For example, low-fat cheese and low-fat hot dogs can be purchased. You can choose water, milk, or sugar-free soda instead of drinks with sugar. Check that the calories in these products are less than in the regular product.

In some foods, like most candies and sodas, all the calories are empty calories. These foods are often called “empty calorie foods.” However, empty calories from solid fats and added sugars can also be found in some other foods that contain important nutrients. Some examples of foods that provide nutrients, shown in forms with and without empty calories are:

Food with some empty calories Food with few or no empty calories
Sweetened applesauce (contains added sugars) Unsweetened applesauce
Regular ground beef (75% lean) (contains solid fats) Extra lean ground beef (96% or more lean)
Fried chicken (contains solid fats from frying and skin) Baked chicken breast without skin
Sugar-sweetened cereals (contain added sugars) Unsweetened cereals
Whole milk (contains solid fats) Fat-free milk

Making better choices, like unsweetened applesauce or extra lean ground beef, can help keep your intake of added sugars and solid fats low.

A small amount of empty calories is okay, but most people eat far more than is healthy.

It is important to limit empty calories to the amount that fits your calorie and nutrient needs. You can lower your intake by eating and drinking foods and beverages containing empty calories less often or by decreasing the amount you eat or drink.

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Keeping Your Child Safe From Heat Stroke, Exhaustion and Cramps

heat

It is still hot in many parts of the U.S., and heat illness is a health concern, especially for children.

The following press release speaks to protecting your child from heat induced illnesses.

Source Newsroom: Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center

Doctors at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center want parents and guardians to know how they can keep their kids safe during the hot weather.

Dr. Eric Kirkendall, Hospital Medicine, Cincinnati Children’s, explains that there are three major illnesses that heat can trigger. “Heat stroke, heat exhaustion and heat cramps are reactions caused by exposure to high temperatures combined with high humidity. The most serious of these is heat stroke.”

Heat stroke symptoms include hot flushed skin, high fevers (over 104° F), and altered mental states such as confusion. It can be accompanied by seizures. It is a life-threatening emergency, and needs to be treated promptly.

Heat exhaustion is less severe, but is still dangerous and requires medical attention. Symptoms include pale skin; profuse sweating; nausea, dizziness, fainting, or weakness.

Heat cramps are most common in the abdomen and legs, especially the calf or thigh muscles. Tightness or hand spasms can also occur, but none of these symptoms are accompanied by a fever.

Dr. Kirkendall advises that parents and caregivers should limit outdoor play time when it is extremely hot outside to early morning or late afternoon. “Keep children well hydrated with water, and take frequent breaks to allow them to come inside and cool off.”

Treating Heat Stroke

• Call 911 immediately.
• Cool the child off as rapidly as possible while waiting for Emergency Medical Services to arrive. Move the child to a cool shady place or an air-conditioned room; sponge the entire body surface with cool water (as tolerated without causing shivering); and fan the child to increase evaporation.
• Keep the feet elevated to counteract shock.
• If the child is awake, give him as much cold water to drink as he can tolerate.
• Fever medicines are of no value for heat stroke.

Treating Heat Exhaustion

• Put the child in a cool place. Have him lie down with the feet elevated.
• Undress the child (except for underwear) so the body surface can give off heat.
• Sponge the entire body surface continuously with cool water without causing shivering. Fan the child to increase heat loss from evaporation.
• Give the child as much cool, not cold water to drink as is tolerable until he feels better.
• Move the child to a shaded area.
• For persistent or severe symptoms, take the child to be seen by a physician.

Avoiding Cramps

• Monitor the child’s physical activity and make sure that he does not overly exert himself.
• Make sure the child drinks plenty of water and rehydrates often.
• Encourage frequent breaks from physical activity so the child can cool down and gently stretch his muscles.

About Cincinnati Children’s Hospital
Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center ranks third in the nation among all Honor Roll hospitals in U.S.News and World Report’s 2014 Best Children’s Hospitals. It is also ranked in the top 10 for all 10 pediatric specialties. Cincinnati Children’s, a non-profit organization, is one of the top three recipients of pediatric research grants from the National Institutes of Health, and a research and teaching affiliate of the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine. The medical center is internationally recognized for improving child health and transforming delivery of care through fully integrated, globally recognized research, education and innovation. Additional information can be found at www.cincinnatichildrens.org. Connect on the Cincinnati Children’s blog, via Facebook and on Twitter.

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Digital Eye Strain is Often the Result of Over Exposure to Digital Devices

According to the American Optometric Association (AOA), parents severely underestimate the time eyetheir children spend on digital devices. What follows is a press release issued by AOA that speaks to the need to monitor your child’s use of digital devices and suggests the guidelines to help prevent or reduce eye and vision problems associated with digital eye strain.

AOA Survey Report on Digital Eye Strain

ST. LOUIS — An AOA survey reports that 83 percent of children between the ages of 10 and 17 estimate they use an electronic device for three or more hours each day. However, a separate AOA survey of parents revealed that only 40 percent of parents believe their children use an electronic device for that same amount of time. Eye doctors are concerned that this significant disparity may indicate that parents are more likely to overlook warning signs and symptoms associated with vision problems due to technology use, such as digital eye strain.

Symptoms of Digital Eye Strain

Eighty percent of children surveyed report experiencing burning, itchy or tired eyes after using electronic devices for long periods of time. These are all symptoms of digital eye strain, a temporary vision condition caused by prolonged use of technology. Additional symptoms may include headaches, fatigue, loss of focus, blurred vision, double vision or head and neck pain.

Optometrists are also growing increasingly concerned about the kinds of light everyday electronic devices give off – high-energy, short-wavelength blue and violet light – and how those rays might affect and even age the eyes. Today’s smartphones, tablets, LED monitors and even flat screen TVs all give off light in this range, as do cool-light compact fluorescent bulbs. Early research shows that overexposure to blue light could contribute to eye strain and discomfort and may lead to serious conditions such as age-related macular degeneration (AMD), which can cause blindness.

Protecting Your Eyes Against Digital Eye Strain

When it comes to protecting eyes and vision from digital eye strain, taking frequent visual breaks is important. Children should make sure they practice the 20-20-20 rule: when using technology or doing near work, take a 20-second break, every 20 minutes and view something 20 feet away. According to the survey, nearly one-third (32 percent) of children go a full hour using technology before they take a visual break instead of every 20 minutes as recommended.

Additionally, children who normally do not require the use of eyeglasses may benefit from glasses prescribed specifically for intermediate distance for computer use. And children who already wear glasses may find their current prescription does not provide optimal vision for viewing a computer screen. An eye doctor can provide recommendations for each individual patient.

AOA Recommendations

The AOA recommends every child have an eye exam by an optometrist soon after 6 months of age and before age 3. Children now have the benefit of yearly comprehensive eye exams thanks to the Pediatric Essential Health Benefit in the Affordable Care Act, through age 18.

“Parents should know that vision screenings miss too many children who should be referred to an optometrist for an eye examination to correct vision,” added Dr. Roberts. “Eye exams performed by an eye doctor are the only way to diagnose eye and vision diseases and disorders in children. Undiagnosed vision problems can impair learning and can cause vision loss and other issues that significantly impact a child’s quality of life.”

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Adults Also Need Shots

Get Important Shots

shotsAdults need to keep up on their shots. The Dept of Health and Human Services(HHS) wants every adult to speak with his or her physician and review the dates of their inoculations. Many adults fail to get booster shots. Also, their are now several new shots to prevent serious illnesses. 

HHS recommends that the next time you get a checkup, talk with the doctor or nurse about getting these important shots.

  • Get a Td booster shot every 10 years to protect against tetanus (“TET-nes”) and diphtheria (“dif-THEER-ee-ah”).
  • If you are under age 65 and haven’t received it yet, get the Tdap shot instead of your next Td booster. Tdap protects against tetanus, diphtheria, and whooping cough (pertussis).

Be sure to remind grandparents about keeping up with their shots:

  • If you are age 60 or older, you may need a shot to prevent shingles. Shingles causes a rash and can lead to pain that lasts for months or years. There is a new vaccine for preventing shingles. It is administered in two separate injections, given a few months apart.Your local pharmacy carries it, and the pharmacist can administer the shingles vaccine.
  • If you are age 65 or older, get a pneumonia shot. This shot is sometimes called PPSV. Most people only need to get the shot once.
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What About Those Other Foods?

foodsa

 Many of us are good at reading the nutritional labels on the foods we buy, but what about the other labels that some foods carry. What about labels such as “fat-free,” “reduced calorie,” or “light.”

Here are some definitions from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office on Women’s Health that might be helpful:

Calorie terms:

  • Low-calorie – 40 calories or less per serving
  • Reduced-calorie – at least 25 percent fewer calories per serving when compared with a similar food
  • Light or lite – one-third fewer calories; if more than half the calories are from fat, fat content must be reduced by 50 percent or more

Sugar terms:

  • Sugar-free – less than 1/2 gram sugar per serving
  • Reduced sugar – at least 25 percent less sugar per serving when compared with a similar food

Fat terms:

  • Fat-free or 100 percent fat free – less than 1/2 gram fat per serving
  • Low-fat – 3 grams or less per serving
  • Reduced-fat – at least 25 percent less fat when compared with a similar food

Remember that fat-free doesn’t mean calorie free. People tend to think they can eat as much as they want of fat-free foods. Even if you cut fat from your diet but consume more calories than you use, you will gain weight.

Also, fat-free or low-fat foods may contain high amounts of added sugars or sodium to make up for the loss of flavor when fat is removed. You need to check the food labels carefully. For example, a fat-free muffin may be just as high in calories as a regular muffin. So, remember, it is important to read your food labels and compare products.

Finding the nutrient content of foods that don’t have food labels:

When you get a pound of salmon in the meat department of your grocery store, it doesn’t come with a Nutrition Facts label. The same goes for the fresh apples or eggplants that you get in the produce department.

How do you find out the nutrient content of these foods that don’t have food labels?

You can use the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) National Nutrient Database. This is a bit harder than using the Nutrition Facts label. But by comparing different foods you can get an idea if a food is high or low in saturated fat, sodium, and other nutrients. To compare lots of different foods at one time, check out the USDA’s Nutrient Lists.

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