TheTimesTribune.com, Corbin, KY

Neighbors

July 30, 2010

Make school lunches and snacks nutritious and fun

CORBIN — Neighbors, July 31, 2010

As kids head back to school, parents are faced with the dilemma of finding foods to pack for lunch and snacks that kids want to eat and that are good for them. Most snacks available in the grocery stores are full of fat, sugar and/or salt with little nutritional benefit, so finding healthy choices that kids are willing to eat isn’t always an easy task.

Luckily, many food and beverage manufacturers are beginning to make this task a little bit easier by adding ingredients with a variety of health benefits to many foods popular with kids. These ingredients are often called functional ingredients. Most kids know what they like when it comes to food choices, so the most successful functional ingredients are those that add nutritional benefits without changing the taste, texture or quality of the food.

One issue being addressed with functional ingredients is bone health. While many parents may think of bone health as an issue for older adults, taking care of kids’ bones while they are young can help prevent problems like osteoporosis later in life. This is particularly important during the preteen and teen years, when bones are growing fastest. By the time teens finish their growth spurts around age 17, 90 percent of their adult bone mass is established, according to the National Institutes of Health.

The primary nutrient involved with bone health is calcium. And, while milk is an obvious choice when it comes to calcium, not all kids like milk. And some are lactose intolerant. Food and beverage manufacturers are making the job of choosing calcium-rich foods easier by adding certain calcium-rich functional ingredients to food products that are already popular with kids.

One such functional ingredient that has been getting a lot of attention recently is calcified minerals. The main benefit of calcified minerals is their ability to enrich calcium content to enable food manufacturers to make claims like “good source of calcium” and “excellent source of calcium.”

Aquamin(R) calcified mineral source, which is offered by GTC Nutrition, a leading provider of functional ingredient solutions, is one calcified mineral source being added to foods and beverages to enrich calcium content.

Unlike dairy-based sources of calcium, Aquamin is harvested from a particular type of red seaweed found in the North Atlantic Ocean, which picks up multiple minerals from the local clean sea water. As a result of this process, Aquamin is a composite of more than 70 minerals, with calcium and magnesium being the two most predominant minerals present. Additionally, the ingredient has a variety of other minerals including magnesium, boron, copper, fluoride, iron, manganese, phosphorus, potassium and zinc, that are potentially beneficial for bone health, according to The National Institutes of Health. To learn more about Aquamin, visit www.gtcnutrition.com/EN/products/aquamin/index.php.

“Calcified minerals are a great alternative source of calcium, particularly for kids who don’t like or can’t tolerate dairy,” says Dr. Anne Birkett, nutrition science manager with GTC Nutrition. “Parents looking for products fortified with Aquamin or other calcified mineral sources should look for magnesium, calcium carbonate or magnesium carbonate on ingredient labels.”

In addition to packing lunches and snacks rich in calcium, Dr. Birkett offers these three simple tips for parents when they choose lunch foods and snacks for their kids:

* Always try and include at least one fresh fruit and vegetable when packing lunches. The USDA recommends 2 1/2 cups of vegetables and 2 cups of fruit each day. To help ensure fruits and vegetables you pack actually get eaten, try and rotate between your kids’ favorites.

* When it comes to breads and other grain products, try and include as many whole grains as possible. Whole grains have been shown to have a variety of health benefits, including reducing the risk of heart disease.

* Mix it up. Kids can get bored if they are packed the same thing every day. Experimenting with different healthy food options is a great way to help your kids figure out what they do and don’t like and encourages them to have an open mind when trying new foods.

Courtesy of ARAcontent

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