Shannon Schafer, B.S., N.E. Certified Nutritionist
Shannon Schafer, BS, NE
Shannon is a certified Nutrition Educator and graduate of Bauman College of Holistic Nutrition and Culinary Arts in Berkeley, California. She works individually with clients to develop nutrition programs appropriate to their needs. Helping clients find a natural path to well-being and radiance is a strong passion of hers. After overcoming her own health issues by embracing a whole foods diet, she can relate to many client's concerns. Shannon specializes in digestive health, calming allergies, and building the immune system. She is dedicated to helping people look and feel their best!
Watch episodes of my online show Dishin Nutrition for whole food recipes and healthy tips.
Available by appointment only
Children at High Risk!
Changing American Children's Diets
Today American children are at serious risk of obesity. Twenty-five percent of U.S. children are overweight or obese (Robins 2001, 58). Over consuming empty calories, fat, cholesterol, salt and sugar contribute to obesity. Parents set dietary examples and over the last century the quality of food intake has worsened. Simple sugar consumption accounts for over half of daily calories in the American diet. Meanwhile, unrefined complex carbohydrates intake has decreased significantly. Increases in meat consumption and decreases in vegetables also contribute to dangerous American eating habits (Murray 2005, 7).
The standard American diet is saturated in pesticides, food additives, and processed foods. These toxins are particularly harmful to children because they consume more food in ratio to their body size than adults. Pesticides are laden in common foods of children such veggies, fruits, and juices. Exposure to these pollutants may lead to cancer and damage to the nervous system (Murray 2005, 20-21). Neurological conditions in children are on an alarming increase. Learning disabilities, autism, and attention disorders are increasing in American children. Developing brains of children are sensitive to environmental toxins (Schettler, Protecting Your Health, 2007).
There are several factors that shape American children's diets outside of mimicking their parent's habits. School lunches greatly contribute to their daily food intake. According to the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine
(PCRM), many school lunches are overwhelmed in saturated fat and cholesterol,
while very low in fiber such as whole grains, and minimal in nutrient dense fruits and vegetables. The USDA, which supports the meat and dairy industry, contributes to the state wide lunch programs, supplying processed beef, pork patties, chicken nuggets, and hot dogs at low prices. These commodity food contracts make it difficult for school districts to provide healthy alternatives at the same price (PCRM, Healthy School Lunches, 2006).
Also sold in schools are addictive sugar drinks. Daily intake of soda's high refined sugar content can lead to diabetes, addiction, obesity, neurological disorders, nutritional deficiencies, and tooth decay. The average American boy's soda intake has tripled, and girls' intake has doubled, since 1978. This is due to large marketing campaigns aimed at children. Coca-Cola targeted the Boys and Girls Clubs, paying the organization $60 million to only market their products in 2000 plus locations. Junior and high school students are marketed to through Channel One commercials daily (Healthy Child).
Between marketing overload, poor school lunches, and declining food quality at the masses, children are hardly developing quality eating habits. Several changes need to be made to increase the quality of well being in American children. Ed Bauman, M.Ed., Ph.D., holistic nutrition leader and creator of the 'Eating for Health' nutrition system, recommends children and parents maximize their intake of nutrient-rich food and minimize their intake of nutrient-poor foods. Bauman believes that over fifty percent of a meal should be fresh, seasonal, organic fruits and vegetables (Bauman College, 2007).
Elizabeth Lipski, Ph.D., CCN, expert in healthy digestion, advises increasing daily dietary fiber through whole grains, legumes, fruits, and vegetables. She believes these high fiber foods lead to the production of short chain fatty acids. Grains, nuts, and seeds are recommended to obtain essential fatty acids, especially omega-3's. Essential fatty acids are necessary for growth in children. These good fats also aid the nervous systems of developing children (Lipski 2005, 4-5).
Michael Murray, N.D., author of over twenty health and diet books, suggests eating smaller size wild-caught fish to obtain sufficient omega-3 fatty acids. He states that smaller fish have a shorter life span and less accumulated toxins. He urges only high-quality proteins to be eaten two to three servings daily. Intake of red meat should be limited. Poultry and eggs are also suggestions for achieving high quality protein that is low in fat (Murray 2005, 14-15).
All three experts' suggestions are key to balanced diets for children. I highly stress organic produce. Organic produce contains higher density of nutrients than conventional and lowers risk of toxicity in children. I also feel that a wide variety of fruits and vegetables is necessary to obtain a broad range of nutrients. Processed foods should be eliminated and replaced with whole grains. Sugar intake should be minimized to fresh fruits and fresh juices.
Many of these suggestions will be a drastic shift in diet for an average American child. It is important to educate children about foods and how they help our bodies grow and maintain health. It is essential to have easy unprocessed low sugar snacks on hand for children. Cut fruits and vegetables are the quickest and most colorful snack food. Oatmeal, quinoa, and amaranth are hearty substitutes for breakfast cereals that kids are accustomed to eating. Add colorful fruits, nuts, and seeds to enhance the flavor. Replace sodas with sparkling water and fresh fruit juices. Other refined sugar intake must be minimized. Fruit is always a great alternative. Whole granola sweetened with raw honey and whole grain muffins are healthy alternatives to typical refined desserts. Make eating fun and educational by allowing children to help in the preparation.
Robbins, John. The Food Revolution. York Beach: Conari Press, 2001.
Murray, Michael, J. Pizzorno, and L. Pizzorno. Healing Foods. New York: Atria Books. 2005.
http://www.protectingourhealth.org/newscience/learning/learningknow.htm (Protecting Your Health, 2007).
http://healthyschoollunches.org/reports/report2006_intro.html (Healthy School Lunches, 2006).
http://healthychild.com. Soft Drinks: America's Other Drinking Problem (Healthy Child).
http://www.baumancollege.org/. Ed Bauman, 2007 (Bauman College).
Lipski, Elizabeth, Ph.D. Digestive Wellness. New York: McGraw-Hill, 2005.