Nancy Dell: Healthy eating for kids; Genetically engineered salmon


1. I am concerned that my teenagers are gaining too much weight. What can I do to help them?
Karen, Internet

As a parent you cannot control exactly what your children eat or how much they eat. All you can do is set a good example by eating well yourself, buy healthy foods so they make better choices at home, and have family meals together.

So, avoid rewarding your children with sweets. Instead of baking with your children, cook meals together. If time is tight, even eating 1 or 2 meals together makes a difference. Researchers at the University of Minnesota and Columbia University looked at 10 years of data and found that 1 or 2 family meals a week significantly reduced a child’s risk of becoming overweight.

The researchers say that family meals provide opportunities for emotional connections among family members, the food is more likely to be healthful, and teens may see healthy eating habits in the parents and will follow suit.

Generally, parents shouldn’t say something to their children if they are concerned about their weight. Saying something may create closet eaters or make the kitchen a battlefield.

Parents can discuss it with their children if their children bring up the subject. Otherwise a parent’s job is to set a good example and make nutritious food available.

2. I hear some salmon may be genetically engineered. What is it and how will I know if the salmon I buy is genetically engineered?
Pat, East Longmeadow

Genetically engineered salmon is altered so a growth hormone gene will allow the fish to grow to full size in 18 months rather than the usual 3 years.

FDA approval has been pending since 1995. The makers claim that genetically engineered salmon is safe to eat and will enable more people to eat salmon. However, consumer groups are concerned that we do not know the long term effects on people and the planet.

One study found genetically engineered salmon can successful cross breed with brown trout and the resulting fish were better at competing for food than the wild fish. So, if genetically engineered salmon were to escape into the wild, the wild fish population may be reduced.

If genetically engineered salmon is approved hopefully it will be labeled as such but a decision is pending.

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