Content provided by: Tiffani Ghere, Clinical Pediatric Dietitian


Q. My child has a food allergy. Can she still buy lunch with Sapphire at School?
Absolutely! SAS uses not only fresh, whole foods which won’t have any “hidden” allergens in them, but the chefs give special care to avoid any cross contamination when preparing meals for the kids and schools they serve. Notify the SAS manager of your child’s dietary needs and meals may be modified to provide the nutritional integrity you desire without the worry of an allergic reaction.

Q. My child or teen won’t drink milk. What can I do? Does she need a supplement?
 Many kids don’t like or tolerate milk but can have a good amount of success with other dairy products such as yogurt, cheese, creamy soups or OJ with calcium. Milk provides not only Vitamin D and Calcium for bone health, but is a good source of protein for growth. Non-dairy sources of calcium include tofu, leafy green veggies, kale, broccoli and Blackstrap molasses. If you have concerns about your child’s intake, consult your pediatrician about a supplement. For teens, 500-800 mg of calcium is usually dosed and 400-800 IU of vitamin D.

Q. I’ve heard a lot of people talk about BMI. What is it and what does it mean for my child?
BMI stands for Body Mass Index which is a marker for human body fat based on an individual’s weight and height. It does not measure % body fat. Children who measure >85th %ile are at risk for being overweight and those >95th%ile are considered overweight.

BMI= Body Wt (kg) / Ht (m2)       

BMI calculator link

Q. How do I get my child to eat his veggies or try new foods?
First, know that this is a common concern for many parents and be patient. Often it is the temperature or texture of the food and not the taste that is the turn off. Try the same food in new forms- raw vs cooked, shredded in baked goods, soups. Set a good example with your own behavior and praise him for any attempts with a good attitude. Keep putting it out there - you will succeed. Many students within the Sapphire at School program try disliked foods because it is prepared differently and the presentation may be different than what they are use to.


Q. My child doesn’t eat fruit but drinks juice. Is that good enough?
There is no nutritional need for juice. It is a concentrated sweet and a dense source of calories. Juice causes a quick spike in blood sugar resulting in big drop that follows. Natures way of protecting us against these sugar swings it to provide fiber in whole fruit. Fiber slows down the blood sugar spike and stretches out the energy release. Encourage whole fruits and help kids to understand that juice is OK once in a while but not necessary for good health. Dilute juice whenever possible and consider trying a spritzer with sparkling water and a splash of juice.

Q. I’m worried my child isn’t eating enough. What should I do?
First, remember that your child’s appetite and needed serving sizes are much smaller than yours. For young children up to age 6, a serving can be the number of bites per years in age. If your child is growing adequately when you go for your well doctor visits, then he is likely getting enough calories for growth. If you and your doctor discover he is falling away from his growth curve, then there are interventions you can make to increase calories and protein for adequate growth.

Q. My son is an athlete and needs a high protein diet. What are some good sources of protein?

A.The chart below reflects some excellent sources of protein:

Food                            Serving size         Protein in grams

Egg                                  1                                    6

Meat/Fish                         3 oz                               21

Nuts                                 1/4 cup                          7 

Beans and lentils             1/2 cup                          8

Tofu                                 1/2 cup                          10

Soy beans                       1/4 cup                           7

Quinoa                             1 cup                             8

Milk                                  8 oz                               8

Soy milk                           8 oz                               8

Yogurt                              6 oz                                5

Greek yogurt                    6 oz                               16

Cheese                            1 oz                                7

Cottage cheese               4 oz                                14

Q. My daughter is a vegetarian. Will this hurt her nutrition or ability to grow?

Plant-based diets are not only good for you, they are nutritionally adequate. Plant oils such as avocado, olive oils and nuts and seeds are excellent sources of calories loaded with nutrients. Lacto-ovo vegetarians consume eggs and dairy products and usually need no special dietary supplementation. If no dairy is eaten, tofu and dark leafy greens can provide good sources of calcium. Vegans omit dairy and eggs from their diets which can create a deficiency in vitamin B12 which would need to be supplemented. Talk with your daughter about what she eating and why she is eating it. Vegetarians need good food and variety too. One cannot live on french fries, peanut butter and ice cream!

Q. My high school son likes to drink coffee. Won’t this hurt him?
Usually when people ask about coffee, they are asking about caffeine intake. An 8 ounce cup of brewed coffee contains around 130 mg caffeine where a 1 oz shot of espresso averages 40 mg caffeine. This is higher than the soda counterparts like coca cola which has 35 mg and tea with 53 mg. Energy drinks like Red Bull and Monster have less at 80 mg per 8 oz but may contain additional additives like and quantities of these ingredients can be inconsistent or unknown (see related article) . Caffeine is a stimulant, can be habit forming, and may cause anxiety and trouble with sleeping.  Another big concern with caffeine-containing drinks and fancy coffees, is the sugar content and caloric density of the drinks. These drinks can also have a diuretic effect on the body, so the demand for water can be increased and hydration needs to be considered. It is generally not recommended that children or teens consume energy drinks and caffeine intake should be limited as much as possible.                                                                                         Article from ADA on Energy Drinks:

Q. I’ve heard I should avoid trans fats in foods for my family. What is a trans fat and why is it bad?
A trans fat is usually made through a process called hydrogenation. An unsaturated fat (ex. vegetable oil), which is usually liquid at room temperature, is altered to behave like a saturated fat, which is solid at room temperature (ex. butter). This promotes a longer shelf life in foods and is very appealing to food manufacturers. Unfortunately, because these fats behave like saturated fats in the body, they can increase bad cholesterol (LDL) and decrease good cholesterol (HDL) and thereby increase risk for cardiovascular disease. Oils naturally occurring in nature and derived from plant sources, contain good fats like omega-3s that protect the body from inflammation and provide nutrients like vitamin E.