Friday, October 26, 2012

Myth: Candy is the best and cheapest treat for Halloween.

Answer: BUSTED!

It’s not just the one day of trick or treating that makes parents worry about Halloween treats. It’s that the candy haul sticks around for such a long time. The calories in candy add up fast. Fifteen pieces of candy corn is about 150 calories. A fun size candy bar can have about 2½ teaspoons of sugar. So if you are allowing your child to eat about 2 small pieces of candy a day, they are getting an extra 5 teaspoons of sugar. That’s like giving your child an extra half can of soda each day.

Choose fun (and cheap) non-candy treats* this Halloween. Dollar stores are a great source for these treats. Here are some ideas:
variety of small Halloween toys
  • Stickers
  • Bracelets
  • Small school supplies like erasers
  • Party favors
  • Crayons
  • Pencil sharpeners
  • Hair bows
  • Balloons
  • Marbles and pens or pencils come in quantities that make for a cheaper treat
  • Glow or rubber bracelets can also be purchased in larger amounts so they are not too expensive
  • Shoelaces are useful but also colorful and fun – this could be a new idea for a Halloween
  • Spider rings are a perennial favorite
  • And maybe after you price out all of these items, you might decide that giving out coins is the cheapest and best Halloween treat of all!

*See this link for information about product safety and choking hazards for young children when buying or going through treats at Halloween:

Contributor: Ellen Schuster, M.S., R.D., Associate State Specialist, University of Missouri Extension,, 573-882-1933

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Myth: My child needs a daily multivitamin to be covered nutritionally.

Answer: BUSTED!

Children who are growing normally do not need multivitamins. Eating a healthy balanced diet can provide all the nutrients most children need. While many young children are picky eaters, that doesn't necessarily mean that they have nutritional deficiencies. Many common foods are fortified with important nutrients, so your child may be getting more vitamins and minerals than you think.

If your child is a finicky eater, encourage (but don’t force) him or her to try a few bites of new, different, nutritious foods at every meal. It’s normal for kids to be introduced to a food 10 or more times before they feel comfortable trying it. Don’t give up after the first or second try! Additional tips can be found at

children's multivitamins
Talk with your child's doctor if you are concerned about whether your child is getting the recommended level of vitamins and minerals. If your child's doctor recommends a multivitamin, choose one that is designed for your child's age group and doesn't provide more than 100 percent of the Daily Value of vitamins and minerals. In addition, keep multivitamins out of your child's reach and make it clear that they aren't candy.

For more information on feeding young children, visit

Contributor: Damaris Karanja, MA, Nutrition and Health Education Specialist, St. Louis County, University of Missouri Extension,

Friday, October 19, 2012

Myth: Claims on dietary supplements are always accurate.

Answer: BUSTED!

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and Office of the Inspector General analyzed structure/function claims for a sample of 127 dietary supplements marketed for weight loss or immune system support. Claims may describe the role of a nutrient or ingredient and how it affects body structure, for example, “calcium builds strong bones” or how the ingredients maintain structure such as, “fiber maintains bowel regularity.”

Claims were reviewed to see how well they complied with Food and Drug Administration regulations. The report found that 7 percent of the supplements lacked the required disclaimer, and 20 percent included disease claims not allowed on their labels. These results raise questions about the truthfulness of these claims.

Dietary supplement, capsules
Read more of the report at

Visit for more information on choosing supplements.

Contributor: Ellen Schuster, M.S., R.D., Associate State Specialist, University of Missouri Extension,, 573-882-1933

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Myth: It’s normal for breastfeeding to hurt.

Answer: BUSTED!

The bottom line is that breastfeeding shouldn’t hurt. Some tenderness during the first few days of breastfeeding is fairly common; however, this should be temporary and last only a few days. This discomfort should never be bad enough to cause a mother to dread nursing. Any pain that is more than mild is abnormal and is almost always due to the baby latching on poorly. Any nipple pain that is not getting better by day 3 or 4 or lasts beyond 5 or 6 days should not be ignored. Consulting with a board-certified lactation consultant can help with these situations.

mother with newborn baby
Visit for additional information on the benefits of breastfeeding and feeding young children.

You can also contact a breastfeeding expert for more information.

Guest contributor: Danielle Pelham, Dietetic Intern MDHSS
Reviewed by: Damaris Karanja, MA, Nutrition and Health Education Specialist, St. Louis County, University of Missouri Extension,

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Myth: Many women do not produce enough milk to breastfeed.

nursing infant
Answer: BUSTED!

It is a common concern for many mothers that they aren't producing enough milk, especially during the first two weeks at home. However, most women produce more than enough milk. One reason that the baby does not get the milk that is available is that he or she may be poorly latched onto the breast. It is important to make sure that the baby is latched on properly in order to get the milk.

It is also important to know the signs to look for to make certain that your baby is getting enough. Some signs include:
  • Your baby has frequent wet and dirty diapers. The first few days after giving birth, your colostrum is low in volume but high in nutrients, so your baby will only have 1-2 wet/dirty diapers per day. After your milk supply increases, your baby will have 6-8 wet and 4+ dirty diapers per day until he is older than one month.
  • Your baby appears satisfied after feeding.
  • Your baby is gaining weight.

You may find it helpful to use a checklist about feeding and diaper changes. You should also have phone numbers of lactation consultants in your area that you can consult with to address your specific needs or concerns. You can also contact a breastfeeding expert for more information.

Visit for additional information on the benefits of breastfeeding and feeding young children.

Guest contributor: Danielle Pelham, Dietetic Intern MDHSS
Reviewed & submitted by: Damaris Karanja, MA, Nutrition and Health Education Specialist, St. Louis County, University of Missouri Extension,

Monday, October 8, 2012

Myth: The changes in the school lunch program were a result of politics.

students being served lunch in cafeteria line
Answer: BUSTED!

If you have a child attending public school, you have probably heard that school lunches have changed. Starting this year, new rules for school lunches went into effect as a result of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010. The last update to the lunch standards was more than fifteen years ago.

Why the changes? About 17 percent of U.S. children and adolescents aged 2-19 years (which is 12.5 million children) are obese. This is almost triple the numbers since 1980 according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The latest statistics show that 29 percent of Missouri high school students are overweight or obese compared with 28 percent nationwide. Since 2005, Missouri has moved from ninth to eighth in the country in obesity rates among high school students, as found in a survey by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In recent years, school meals have been blamed for helping contribute to childhood obesity. How much of this is true is still debatable, but almost everyone agrees something needs to be done to address the problem of childhood obesity. Since the National School Lunch Program is funded by taxpayer dollars it was felt that we should be spending our money on healthy foods.

Where did the new rules come from? The U.S. Department of Agriculture developed the requirements for the new school food program based on the 2010 Dietary Guidelines and recommendations from scientific experts at the Institute of Medicine. Some of the notable changes are:
  1. Student meals will have 1/2 cup of fruit or vegetables to count as a complete meal.
  2. Meals will have a caloric maximum based on age group.
  3. There are limits for how much meat and meat alternatives and grains may be offered.
For more information you can go to the website:

What are some concerns about the new rules? Complaints about the school lunch rules have been numerous and have included a humorous parody posted on YouTube. These complaints have ranged from not getting enough food to eat, not liking the food offered and being too expensive for school foodservice to manage. On the positive side, the new school lunch rules have encouraged school districts to team up with local chefs to upgrade their menus. The new rules have encouraged the food industry to offer more healthful, tasteful foods. Additionally, the new rules have introduced new healthful food choices to students that have not had that opportunity in the past. In fact, some school districts have reported an increase in meals consumed since the new changes.

What can I do if my child refuses to eat the new school meals? First, ask your child if the problem is with the choice of foods being offered or how the food is prepared. If the problem is with how the food is prepared, contact your school and see if changes can be made. Some school districts have cut back so much on their foodservice that they made need to hire extra help or current workers may need to have more training. If this is the case, there are resources that can help schools. If your child dislikes the food choices of more fruits, vegetables and whole grain products, then you may need to discuss with your child the health benefits of eating these foods.

Any time changes are made to something as personal as our food choices, it causes controversy. The new school meal requirements are no exception. While we may not be happy with some of the food choices, let’s not forget what the new requirements want to achieve. That is healthier children.

For more information about nutrition and health, please contact your local University of Missouri Extension office.

Contributor: Jim Meyer, Nutrition and Health Education Specialist, Ralls County, University of Missouri Extension,

Friday, October 5, 2012

Myth: My doctor told me I have high blood pressure, so all I have to do is cut back on salt.

Answer: BUSTED!

Blood pressure is the force against the arteries when the heart pumps blood through the body. Systolic pressure occurs when the heart beats and diastolic pressure occurs when the heart is resting between beats. Blood pressure is expressed as systolic/diastolic in millimeters of mercury (mm Hg).

High blood pressure or hypertension, left uncontrolled can lead to stroke, heart attack, heart failure or kidney failure. That’s why hypertension is known as the “silent killer.” High blood pressure is the number one controllable risk factor for stroke.

Most healthy Americans should consume less than 2300 milligrams of sodium, about 1 teaspoon of salt, per day. If you have hypertension or diabetes, if you are over the age of 51 or if you’re African American, you should only consume 1500 milligrams of sodium or less per day, which is about 2/3 of a teaspoon of salt.

salt shaker
If your blood pressure is high, cutting back on salt is one thing that may help lower your blood pressure. But there are other lifestyle modifications that are just as important. Some other things you can do to prevent or control high blood pressure are:

  • Follow a healthy eating plan — cut back on fats, eat more potassium-rich foods and eat less sodium-rich foods
  • Try the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) eating plan
  • Lose weight
  • Be physically active
  • Quit smoking
  • Limit alcohol intake
  • Manage stress
  • Take medication, if necessary

The bottom line: Have your blood pressure checked regularly and prevent hypertension with a healthy lifestyle.

Visit to find more information on health and nutrition.

Contributor: Karen Sherbondy, MEd, RD, LD, Extension Associate, Nutrition and Exercise Physiology, University of Missouri Extension, 816-655-6227

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Myth: All fats are created equal.

Answer: BUSTED!

Making decisions about what kinds of fat to eat can be confusing. Our bodies actually need some fat to carry fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K. Fat also provides energy for our body and plays a role in hormone production. However, some fats should be limited because they can raise cholesterol levels and increase the risk for heart disease.

We want to limit the amount of saturated fats and trans fats. These can contribute to higher cholesterol levels and put us more at risk for heart disease. Saturated fats and trans fats raise bad cholesterol (LDL) levels in your blood and increase the risk of heart disease.

Saturated fats
  • Usually solid at room temperature
  • Found in meat, butter, whole milk, palm and coconut oil

Trans fats
  • Foods containing partially hydrogenated vegetable oils usually contain trans fats.
  • Trans fats are found in many cakes, cookies, crackers, icings, margarines and microwave popcorns.

We want to eat more of the healthy fats – monounsaturated and polyunsaturated, and omega-3 fatty acids. Monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats can lower bad cholesterol levels and may be beneficial when consumed in moderation.

Monounsaturated fats
  • Typically liquid at room temperature
  • Found in olive, canola and peanut oil
salmon, walnuts, almonds, pine nuts, olive oil and fish oil capsules

Polyunsaturated fats
  • Tend to be liquid at room temperature
  • Found in soybean, safflower and corn oil

Omega-3 fatty acids
  • Fatty fish like tuna, mackerel and salmon
  • Walnuts
  • Flaxseed

Regardless of the type, you still don’t want to eat large amounts of fat. All fats have 9 calories per gram, so the calories can really add up. Check the food label for information on total fat, trans fat and saturated fat.

Make sure to choose the healthy fats most of the time and limit the amounts you eat to balance your caloric intake.

Visit to find more information on fats and health.

Contributor: Karen Sherbondy, MEd, RD, LD, Extension Associate, Nutrition and Exercise Physiology, University of Missouri Extension, 816-655-6227