I’m a nationally published sleep expert, journalist, and the mom of three young kids. I’ve been helping tired families sleep since 2007 (more about me here). Subscribe to The Well Rested Family for fresh news and tips on keeping your bunch happy and healthy. Thanks for stopping by!

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Entries in nutrition (2)

Tuesday
Feb072012

Sugar Shakeup: Should Sugar Be A Controlled Substance?

Because this is a blog about family health, occasionally I’ll post about topics besides sleep. As a journalist I’ve written about family nutrition for a number of publications, and I’m always searching for ways to keep my brood well-fed and healthy. With a cookie-loving toddler and a highly picky 5-year-old, that can be quite a challenge.

When my first daughter started eating solid food, it seemed like we entered the world of sugar. And I got a new role: Chief of the Sugar Police. Cookies at the grocery store, lollipops at the dry cleaners, candy machines lining the entrances of every store and restaurant—it seemed like sugar was constantly on offer, and believe me, she noticed. Every day, I’d keep a mental tally of the healthy foods she’d eaten to determine whether she could have the treat she wanted. I said no more than I said yes. But I still said yes more than I wanted.

So I was interested to see the recent news that scientists are recommending societal control of sugar. Researchers would like to see sugar regulated like tobacco and alcohol, to raise public awareness of the risks of over-consumption, and to ease the public burden of obesity and chronic illness.

I’m not sure how I feel. On one hand, I believe that sugar is addictive and that our kids eat far too much of it. Tighter regulations on sugar might make people think twice about soda, candy, and other empty calories that contribute to the exploding diabetes epidemic. Here are some scary stats: According to 2011 US government reports, 35 percent of adults 20 and older and half of adults 65 and over have prediabetes.

On the other hand, I think the burden to make healthy, informed choices rests with the consumer, not with the government. More education, less access to sugary foods in school lunches and vending machines, and a greater emphasis on low-sugar snack choices for kids would be good first steps.

For more information on breaking your family’s sugar habit, see my article Beat the Sweets in Carolina Parent magazine. It features some tips from TODAY show nutritionist Joy Bauer and other experts on slowing shutting off the sugar tap in your home.

What do you think? Should sugar become a controlled substance?

Thursday
Oct062011

Kids, Caffeine, and Sleep

Bad news for parents: kids who sip caffeine sleep less According to the National Sleep Foundation, 65 percent of women rely on caffeine to make it through the day. I plead guilty to daily coffee consumption—after all, I live in Washington, where espresso shops seem to outnumber people—but I’m as strict and strict can be when it comes to caffeine and my kids. These days, many kids are drinking energy drinks when they’re barely old enough to read the can: another recent study found that 75 percent of kids 5-12 drink caffeine daily.

This study, published in The Journal of Pediatrics, reported that the more caffeine kids consume, the less they sleep. That’s bad news, because sleep troubles in children are linked to everything from insulin resistance to irritability to impaired school performance.

Caffeine is tricky to track, because it’s not listed on nutrition labels.  So kids who drink coffee, soda, and energy drinks can exceed safe caffeine limits quickly, easily, and legally.

In their October 2011 article on caffeine, Consumer Reports recommends that children shouldn’t drink more than 45-85 milligrams per day. Many sleep doctors, however, will tell parents to aim for an even lower caffeine intake: zero. Kids shouldn’t drink caffeine, period. Especially if they’re experiencing any type of sleep problem.

Here are some quick caffeine facts:

  • Did you know Barq’s Root Beer contains caffeine, and A&W Root Beer doesn’t?
  • Did you know Diet Coke has more caffeine than Diet Pepsi?
  • Did you know that Starbucks drip coffee has more caffeine than Dunkin’ Donuts?

For more information, including hard-to-find information on the amount of caffeine in popular foods and drinks, check out the CR article. And join me in my fervent hope that caffeine will be listed on nutrition labels soon. It wouldn’t solve the caffeine-and-kids problem, but it would be a start.