Common Health Myths Busted
The internet can be a great resource, but when it comes to your health or the health of your family, searching the web is sometimes like sifting through a sea of misinformation. A quick browse might lead you to believe that gluten is at the root of all that ails you, or that unless you instagram your kids drinking a green smoothie, it didn’t really happen.
TulsaKids spoke with two local experts, Dr. Robert Hudson, a pediatrician and clinical professor who specializes in behavioral and learning problems in children, and Miranda Brown, a licensed dietitian who takes a holistic approach to helping families make healthy choices. We asked them to help us separate health myths and internet diet-hype from what the science really says.
Diet does not cause behavior problems in kids: FACT
The connection between sugar and hyperactivity has never been proven. According to Dr. Hudson, sugar could actually have the reverse effect physiologically. He explains that a child’s natural temperament and his or her environment are the more likely culprits. “Generally where kids get a lot of sugar, it’s a birthday party,” Hudson says. “It’s not the sugar, it’s the environment where the sugar is given.”
Snacking is good: FACT
Brown, who wrote her entire thesis on how snacking actually prevents weight gain in kids, is a big proponent of healthy snacking. She says that an organized snack, between 100 and 200 calories, can keep kids from overeating at dinner. “I like to encourage a macronutrient trifecta (a little carb, protein, and a little fat).” Brown says. “If you just eat a handful of crackers you’re hungry in an hour because you don’t have protein to slow down the digestion.”
A behavior problem is just a phase: MYTH
Kids aren’t intentionally driving you crazy when they misbehave. “Behavior is really powered and controlled by the wiring of your brain and executive functions,” Dr. Hudson says. “If a child is having issues, it’s not because they’re spoiled and just want their way.”
Temper tantrums past the age of 3, however, aren’t normal, and if meltdowns are happening more than a few times a week, Dr. Hudson recommends seeking help from a behavior expert.
A serving of 100% juice is as healthy as fruit: MYTH
According to dietician Miranda Brown, a serving of juice is as unhealthy as a sugary soda. “It’s a myth that giving your children juice is like a serving of fruit — It’s a serving of sugar,” Brown says. She tells her clients to avoid juice, even 100%, and to always opt for whole fruits instead.
Vegetarian diets can provide adequate protein: FACT
A well-rounded plant-based diet that does not include meat but does include, eggs, milk and legumes can provide adequate protein for kids and adults. Brown, however, advises against going vegetarian strictly for health reasons, since plant-based proteins are harder for the body to access. “I support a mostly plant diet, but meat is a wonderful source of protein and iron,” she says. “Unless you’re against animal processing or don’t want to eat animals, you don’t need to start restricting meat from your diet.”
Anyone can benefit from a gluten-free diet: MYTH
Unless you’ve been diagnosed with celiac disease, an autoimmune disorder that keeps your body from digesting gluten (the protein in wheat, barley and rye), there’s no reason to eliminate whole grains from your diet. Brown is a huge supporter of whole, minimally processed foods, but she says eliminating wheat isn’t necessarily healthier. “That’s eliminating a whole set of nutrients, like B vitamins, that you need for mood and energy processing,” she says.
You can eat healthy when eating out: FACT
With a little planning, Brown says it’s possible to have a healthy meal when you’re on the go. She tells her clients to picture the government’s MyPlate graphic, which teaches you to fill half your plate with fruits and vegetables, a quarter with grains or starch, and a quarter with protein. “Vegetables and fruit are lower calorie no matter where you are,” Brown says. She recommends swapping fries for apple slices in kids’ meals, or loading a small sub sandwich with extra veggies for a healthier meal.
Seeing green is always bad: MYTH
Seeing green after blowing your nose into a tissue doesn’t always indicate a sinus infection, contrary to popular belief. “First thing in the morning, it will look green.” Dr. Hudson says. “It doesn’t necessarily mean that you have an infection. It needs more than just being green.”
Being “regular” means going every day: MYTH
Everybody poops, but not necessarily every day. “If you’re going regularly every two days, that’s normal. Most kids don’t go every single day.” Dr. Hudson says.
Milk is a healthy drink option for kids: FACT
Both of our experts agreed that a glass of milk is much better than a glass of fruit juice for kids. “Science shows that it’s a wonderful source of calcium and protein and that kids will usually drink it,” Brown says. Typically, kids can switch from whole milk to 2% around age 3. But be wary of flavored milks, which are loaded with added sugar. Dr. Hudson also advises against drinking too much milk and limiting intake to 6 – 8 ounces a day. As to whether milk increases phlegm production, Dr. Hudson says that’s a myth.
Kids are just picky eaters: MYTH
According to Dr. Hudson, picky eating has more to do with a child’s personality and willingness to try new things than it does with their taste buds. “If they’re a super cautious kid, they’re going to reject a food until it’s not new,” he said. He recommends introducing a new vegetable slowly over the course of several days. The first few days, just ask the child to smell or look at the vegetable on their plate. On the last day, you can ask them to actually taste it.