Posts Tagged ‘convenience’

Food for Julia – Breast is best

October 8, 2010

Baby Julia was born 2 weeks ago on September 23rd. In honour of my beautiful new niece I have decided to write a blog about breastfeeding.

We have often heard the phrase ‘breast is best’. It’s been around as a promotional message for quite a while now. In fact, the World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends exclusive breastfeeding for the first 6 months of the infant’s life, with continued breastfeeding along with appropriate complementary foods up to two years of age or beyond.

The list of benefits of breastfeeding is constantly growing.

Well-known benefits for the infant include that breast milk:

  • Comes at the right temperature and consistency for the child
  • Provides the right balance of nutrients to help an infant grow into a strong and healthy toddler
  • Has disease-fighting antibodies that can help protect infants from several types of illnesses, such as ear infections, diarrhea and certain lung infections
  • Reduces the risk that the child becomes overweight as it grows older
  • Reduces the risk that the child suffers from type 2 diabetes, eczema, and leukemia as it grows older.

Some recent research also suggests that breast milk contains two amino acids (protein building blocks) which help an infant’s brain develop and also increase the infant’s cognitive skills. These amino acids are not normally added to formula milk available commercially.

But the benefits of breastfeeding do not pertain to the infant only. The mum stands to gain a lot too. Benefits we are all familiar with include:

  • The emotional bonding with the infant
  • The cost savings
  • The convenience
  • The mother regaining her pre-pregnancy weight and figure more quickly
  • A natural method of birth control.

Interestingly, a number of recent scientific research studies are suggesting that there are even more health benefits for mothers if they breastfeed. For example:

  • Women who breastfeed for at least 24 months over the course of their reproductive lifespan have a lower risk of developing heart disease. Researchers suggest that this could be due to the beneficial effects that breastfeeding has on the body’s metabolism of sugar and fats, and on decreasing visceral fat—the dangerous kind that collects around the abdominal organs.
  • Mothers who breastfeed also have a lower risk of type 2 diabetes. Research has found that women who breast-fed for less than a month had nearly twice the risk of developing type 2 diabetes decades later in life compared to those who breast-fed for longer, or those who never had children. A possible explanation is that lactation makes cells more sensitive to the hormone insulin. (Notably, diabetic mothers who breast-feed usually require less insulin whilst they are nursing.) It could also be due to breastfeeding’s effect on where fat is stored: on the hips and thighs rather than on the abdomen. Excess visceral fat, frequently accumulated during pregnancy, is a key risk factor in adult diabetes.
  • Breastfeeding for 6 months or more helps protect against breast cancer in women who have their first baby after age 25, or who have fewer than four children (two risk factors for breast cancer). Prolonged breastfeeding also lowers a woman’s lifetime risk of ovarian and endometrial cancer. This could be because breastfeeding suppresses ovulation—and the ovulatory hormones that play a role in these cancers—during those first few months that the mother is breastfeeding exclusively.
  • A number of studies have linked breastfeeding to protection against rheumatoid arthritis, possibly due to breast milk’s impact on the levels of female sex hormones, like oestrogen and certain androgens, which are thought to play a role in this debilitating condition.

The WHO has a very simple yet interesting slideshow called ‘10 facts on breastfeeding’ which summarises the above.  Click http://www.who.int/features/factfiles/breastfeeding/facts/en/index9.html to access.

So calling all new mums! Remember…You are a very special person because you can make the food that is uniquely perfect for your baby. Do your best to breastfeed for at least the first 6 months of your baby’s life. Invest the time in yourself and your baby – for both your sakes!

“Tasty and crunchy please” children say

May 1, 2010

As part of my doctoral research I studied  how Maltese and Gozitan children prefer their fruits and vegetables. A recent study with children from the Netherlands has found some similar results.

From my research it was clear that children’s attraction to fruits and vegetables depended on such factors as taste, texture, temperature, aroma and colour.

Some of the specific features in these categories were common promoters or barriers to consumption for both vegetables and fruit.

For example, attributes such as ‘sweet’, ‘flavoursome’, ‘fresh’,  ‘juicy’ and ‘red colour’ attracted children to both food groups; whereas attributes such as ‘soft’, ‘soggy’ and “full of seeds” were barriers to consumption for both food groups. 

These were the key findings:

Features in vegetables and fruits which attracted children

Flavour: Pleasant, flavoursome, sweet, vinegary flavour, fresh, “special”

Texture: Thin”, “light”, creamy, juicy, crunchy, hard

Colour: Red, violet

Size: Small

Shape: Round

Convenience: Easy to peel or divide

Enjoyment value: Fun to eat (e.g. globe artichoke leaves) or to make funny faces with (e.g. cherry tomatoes in cheeks)

Features in vegetables and fruits which were less attractive

Flavour: Unpleasant, strong, bitter, sour

Texture: Dry, soft, soggy/ “squashy”, chewy, full of seeds

Convenience: Difficult to pick up from plate, difficult to keep on fork, dribbles 

The Dutch study found that the majority of children liked steamed or boiled vegetables best, and attributed this to the fact that the carrots and beans used in the study retained their original taste, colour and crunchiness. These findings were pretty similar to  those for Maltese children.

For more on the Dutch study read here:

http://uk.reuters.com/article/idUKTRE62N1EY20100324

Do your experiences with children tally with the above?

What do you do to attract children to eat fruits and vegetables?