March is National Nutrition Month

March 19, 2018
Bre Lynch, Registered Dietitian at MMP
Photo by Sharyn Peavey Photography
March is National Nutrition Month and Let’s Go! teamed up with Maine Medical Partners to celebrate! We’re on Facebook all month long to answer your nutrition questions. As a mom to two boys, Bre Lynch, Registered Dietitian at Maine Medical Partners, wants to help families keep their energy up through good nutrition. Answers to your questions can be found below and will be updated weekly.


Is Kombucha just a trend, or something I should consider more seriously?

Kombucha is a fermented tea that has a sweet, vinegary taste with just a little bit of naturally occurring fizz. It’s made with a few key ingredients: black (or green) tea, sugar, and scoby. Scoby is culture of bacteria and yeast that eats up the sugar and ferments the tea. There is so much online about the benefits of kombucha, but the reality is that there haven’t been any human studies to show that these benefits are real and until there are, we can’t say that it’s going to help you lose weight or aid in digestion or increase your energy levels. What I can say is that kombucha tends to have a good amount of probiotics and if you check out the question I answered last week, there is some potential! If you’re looking for a low calorie, fizzy drink, give it a try. It may not solve all your health woes, but if you sip on a lime coconut kombucha and close your eyes, it’s almost like you’re on a tropical island instead of waist deep in snow.

How do I get my selective eater (age 3) to eat the meal I prepare for the family? I want to get away from making multiple meals.

Feeding a 3 year old….. seems easy, right? You make dinner, cut it up, put it on their little divided plate and they eat it… except when they don’t. Ages 2-5 are typically when you see a child going through a “picky” phase. When you used to have an adventurous eater, now you’re stuck with a kid who requests mac and cheese and nuggets only. Here are some key tips to get you through this phase (and trust me, for the vast majority of kiddos, it’s just a phase!):

  1. Eat meals together, at a table (any will do!), with no distractions. Turn off all screens and implement a no electronics at the table rule, this includes the adults! Just like adults, kids should focus on the food they are eating, how it tastes, what they like or don’t like, if they are full or still hungry, and all of this is tough if Paw Patrol is on.
  2. Make sure there is something on their plate they like. Maybe tonight you’re hoping to try a new recipe, but think there’s no way your 3 year old will eat it. Make the recipe! But make sure there’s a side you know they love, so that when they look at their plate, they don’t just see new foods but something they know they will eat. This will relieve anxiety from them (“mom wants me to eat this, but I don’t want to") and anxiety from you (“there is nothing she will eat, she’s going to go hungry”) Plus, even if she doesn’t try it tonight, she’ll see everyone else eating it and maybe next time will be the time she’ll surprise you and give it a try!
  3. Make meals stress free. Throw out the old mantra that they have to eat everything on their plate before they can leave the table. For those of us who were told that as kids, does that bring up warm and fuzzy feelings about vegetables (let’s be honest, it’s always the veggies)? Or do we think, “I hated green beans then and I still hate them now!” Telling kids they have to eat everything served, or clean their plates, only creates stress between the kids and the adults in their lives. Put all parts of the meal on the plate, give them the expectation of trying it, show them you eat it, and if they still refuse, then maybe they will try next time. Stress around food only equals negative feelings towards that food, and if the goal is to get your kiddo to eat a healthy meal, than we want them to leave with a positive feeling!

What is your favorite oil to cook with, and why?

I have a number of cooking oils in my pantry. My go to is Extra virgin olive oil. It is high in monounsaturated fats, which are the heart healthy kind! We use it to sauté at medium heat, or drizzle over veggies with some salt and pepper to roast them. I also have vegetable oil that I use to bake with. If you have a favorite baked good recipe that calls for oil, try using half vegetable and the other half unsweetened applesauce. I do this when I make my mom's world famous banana bread and no one realizes it's actually healthy! If you're looking for an oil to fry or stir fry with at high heat, make sure to use an oil with a high smoke point, such as vegetable oil or sesame oil. I get lots of questions these days about coconut oil, which is solid at room temperature and has more saturated fat than butter. There is no evidence that coconut oil is in some way healthier than olive oil, so while very tasty, I would recommend using sparingly in your cooking.

What are some snack ideas my kids will love to eat, but will also provide the nutrition they need?

When planning out your kids snacks for the week, think about balance! All too often, kid’s snacks tend to be all about the carbs (fruit snacks, goldfish, chips) and are totally missing the healthy protein and fats that keep our kids full and satisfied until the next meal. Some of the old school basics are great, like apple and peanut butter or whole grain crackers and a cheese stick. Looking to expand your family's palate? How about some edamame pods? Or, try bringing your kids to the grocery store with you and letting them pick out ingredients for a homemade trail mix, a nut/seed, unsweetened dried fruit, and maybe some dark chocolate chips! Other ideas? Lemon hummus with mini cucumbers, frozen Maine blueberries with plain yogurt and a drizzle of local maple syrup.

Can you explain what probiotics are, and if they can help keep me healthy during cold & flu season?

Probiotics are live, active microorganisms that can positively change the microbiome (the microorganisms in a particular part of our body) of our gut. The gut microbiome is where all good and bad microorganisms live in our gastrointestinal (GI) tract.

There are many types of probiotics, such as Lactobacillus, Bifidobacterium, and streptococcus. Probiotics are found naturally in some fermented foods like yogurt, sauerkraut, tempeh, and kefir. You might also see probiotics advertised in places you wouldn't expect, like flavored water, burritos, and chocolate bars! Although a lot of research is still going into probiotics, what we know so far is that if you are suffering from Irritable Bowel Syndrome, or if you or your child has diarrhea caused by antibiotics, than a probiotic supplement is probably for you! If you are looking to boost your immunity this cold and flu season, the evidence isn't certain that probiotics will help. If you'd like to give it a try anyway and the foods listed aren't your favorite, go ahead and try a probiotic supplement. Look for a product with at least 1 billion - 5 billion CFU (colony forming units) and with the Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP) seal. Products with multiple types of probiotics are also best, but don't go over the 5 billion, you may have some negative GI side effects!