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nutrition basics

A few weeks ago we did an online chat with our mamas on (the Modern Mama message board) about toddler foods, picky eaters, and more.  Through the one-hour chat we came up with some questions as a group and then asked our perks partner, Wholesum Nutrition to answer them for us.  So here you go …. five questions you won’t see out there anywhere else, answered by the experts:

Can a person eat tuna too often?

Almost every type of fish contains mercury, a naturally occurring metal. When consumed in high quantities, mercury can cause nervous system malfunction. Tuna safety relates to the amount of mercury found in the fish. However, the nutritional benefits of eating fish, including heart health, brain/eye/teeth development and proper body function, outweigh the risks. Health Canada advises that most people can eat up to 150 grams of certain fish per week, including fresh and frozen tuna. Canned tuna tends to contain lower levels of mercury than fresh and frozen tuna because different species of tuna are used for canning. These species tend to be smaller and therefore have lower accumulations of mercury.

Children and women who are pregnant, may become pregnant, or are breast-feeding are advised to reduce consumption:

  • Children 1 to 4 years old: no more than 75 g per month
  • Children 5 to 11 years old: up to 125 g per month
  • Women who are or may become pregnant or who are breast-feeding: up to 150 g per month

Recommendations for canned albacore (white) tuna differ:

  • Children 1 to 4 years old: no more than 75 g per week (1/2 can of tuna)
  • Children 5 to 11 years old: up to 150 g per week (1 can of tuna)
  • Women who are or may become pregnant or who are breast-feeding: up to 300 g per week (2 cans of tuna)

It is important to note that canned albacore tuna is not the same as canned light tuna. Canned light tuna contains other species of tuna such as skipjack, yellowfin, and tongol, which are relatively low in mercury. Canned light tuna also tends to be lower in cost relative to albacore tuna. Based on lower mercury levels, Health Canada does not consider it necessary to offer any consumption advice specific to canned light tuna.

References: Health Canada – Mercury Exposure Through Consumption of Fish Health Canada – Canned albacore tuna

Is it safe to raise your child vegetarian?

Children need many nutrients, in the right amount, to grow and develop. Like any diet that doesn’t include certain foods, some vegetarian diets make it harder to get enough energy, protein, and certain nutrients. With careful planning, vegetarian diets for infants and children can be nutritionally adequate. For vegan infants who are not breastfed, commercially prepared soy-based infant formula is recommended during the first 2 years of life to provide adequate nutrients and energy for growth and development. For

older infants, a carefully selected vegetarian diet can meet all the requirements of a growing child.  Some nutrients—like vitamin B12—are only found in animal sources, such as cow’s milk. Iron, which is very important for babies and children, is more easily absorbed by the body when it comes from meat. So if your child’s diet doesn’t include animal foods, you’ll need to ensure these nutrients come from other sources. Parents who feed their infant vegan diets in the first 2 years of life may benefit from consultation with a dietitian or nutritionist to ensure the adequacy of their infant’s food (nutrient) intake, and to assess the need for nutrient supplements.

References: Canadian Pediatric Society Community Pediatrics Committee website: position statement on vegetarianism Health Canada – Nutrition for Healthy Term Infants – Statement of the Joint Working Group: Canadian Paediatric Society, Dietitians of Canada and Health Canada

Can cow’s milk do more harm than good (hormones etc.) and is goat’s milk a good alternative?

It is important to know that growth hormones to stimulate milk production are not approved for sale or permitted for use in Canada. To maximize milk production, producers make sure that their cows are healthy and well-nourished. In Canada, no cow can be given artificial hormones to increase its milk production. This means that no milk, cheese or yogurt produced in Canada contains these hormones. Growth hormone is legal for use in the U.S. and other countries.

Non-pasteurized cow’s milk is not recommended for anyone (adult or child) due to the risks of infection. Any consumption of cow’s milk should be pasteurized milk.

Skim milk is an inappropriate milk choice during the first two years. It provides no essential fatty acids and has a very low energy density. Therefore, while whole cow’s milk (3.25% butterfat) continues to be recommended for the second year of life, 2% milk may be an acceptable alternative provided that the child is eating a variety of foods and growing at an acceptable rate. Cow’s milk has a low iron content and the iron is poorly absorbed. To lower the risk of iron deficiency anemia, cow’s milk is not recommended before 9 to 12 months of age. For the same reasons as cow’s milk, pasteurized goat’s milk is not an appropriate milk choice for infants before 9 to 12 months of age. Unlike cow’s milk, goat’s milk may or may not be fortified with vitamin D (fortification will be indicated on the label). Because of cross-reactivity, infants who are allergic to cow’s milk protein are also likely to have an allergic reaction to goat’s milk. After 9 months of age, full-fat goat’s milk may be used as an alternative to cow’s milk. If partly skimmed or skimmed goat’s milk is ever used, a product with added vitamin A as well as vitamin D should be chosen.

References: Health Canada Nutrition for Healthy Term Infants – Statement of the Joint Working Group: Canadian Paediatric Society, Dietitians of Canada and Health Canada Dairy Farmers of Canada

Are there any popular toddler foods with no nutritional value that moms would be surprised to know had no nutritional value?

The development of healthy eating skills is a shared responsibility: parents and caregivers provide a selection of nutritious, age-appropriate foods, and decide when and where food is eaten; toddlers decide how much they want to eat and, at times, even whether they eat. No single food, even if it is perceived as nutritious and healthful, should be consumed in excess.

A recent study by a University of Calgary researcher in the Journal of Public Health found that 63% of baby/toddler food products have either high levels of sodium or an excessive proportion of calories coming from sugar. Over 12% of products had moderate or high levels of sodium; over 53% of products derive greater than 20% of their calories from sugar. Baby and toddler foods were not found to be nutritionally superior—in terms of sodium or sugar—to their adult counterparts.

Baby and toddler foods studied with the highest percentage of calories from sugar:

  • Graduates for Toddlers Mini Fruit, Apple, by Gerber, 80 per cent
  • Little Fruit, Strawberry Banana, by Parent’s Choice, 80 per cent
  • Organic Apple Banana Prune Blend for Toddlers, by President’s Choice, 80 per cent
  • Organic Unsweetened Apple Apricot Blend for Toddlers, by President’s Choice, 80 per cent
  • Toddlers 100% Real Fruit Snack, Banana Mango, by President’s Choice, 80 per cent
  • Unsweetened Apple Pear Blend for Toddlers, by President’s Choice, 80 per cent
  • Fruit Medley Dessert, by Gerber, 75 per cent
  • 100% Fruit Bites, Banana Strawberry, by Heinz, 69 per cent
  • 100% Fruit Bites, Tropical Blends, by Heinz, 69 per cent
  • Apple Plum and Raisins, by Heinz, 69 per cent

Health Canada’s Nutrition For Healthy Term Infants promotes healthy eating as being important in the second year to: (a) provide the energy and nutrients needed to grow and develop; (b) develop a sense of taste and an acceptance and enjoyment of different foods; and (c) instill attitudes and practices which may form the basis for lifelong health-promoting eating patterns.

References: Journal of Public Health, Health Canada Nutrition for Healthy Term Infants – Statement of the Joint Working Group: Canadian Paediatric Society, Dietitians of Canada and Health Canada

Are there any particular foods high in Iodine [that might affect a childs thyroid?]?

Before the 1920s, iodine deficiency was common in most of Canada. Treatment of iodine deficiency by the introduction of iodized salt has virtually eliminated the “goiter belt” in Canada and the U.S.  

In Canada, the salt used by food processors usually does not contain iodine, while the salt we buy in food stores for use in cooking and at the table is usually iodized. All pregnant and breastfeeding women should take a multivitamin containing at least 150 μg iodine per day because iodine deficiency can be harmful to the developing baby. There are few foods that are considered “high” in iodine. Of those that do contain iodine (particularly dairy products, seafood, meat, some breads, and eggs, and multivitamin containing iodine), it is difficult to assess how much iodine is in food as the nutrition label often does not list iodine content. It is important to note that iodine deficiency is rare in Canada according to experts at Health Canada.  Taking too much iodine can also cause problems. This is especially true in individuals that already have thyroid problems.

References: American Thyroid Association

A special Thank you to Wholesum Nutrition for being a fabulous perks partner.  Visit their site and call today for your nutritional consulting needs.

Register for a Modern Mama event today!  We have cooking classes, babysitter events, beauty days, pin-up sessions and childcare choices events coming up this month!

One Comment to "nutrition basics"

  1. Awesome post. I couldn\’t agree more with what you said.

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