Hot Topic: Energy Drinks

During my time in schools I often get questions from teachers and parents about the safety of energy drinks and how they can affect children. My most common response is to encourage kids to quench thirst with water, 100% fruit juice or milk, and to keep energized with a variety of foods from Canada’s Food Guide. Ensuring they are eating a well balanced diet can keep energy levels up throughout the day rather than the “quick fix” of energy drinks. Here’s a bit more info on the basics of energy drinks:

What are Energy Drinks?

Energy drinks are beverages that claim to stimulate and energize the user. They contain high amounts of caffeine, a central nervous system stimulant that makes the user more alert and delays sleep.

Examples of energy drinks include:

Monster ®

-Red Bull Energy Drink ®

Red Rain ®

Rockstar ®

Why should I be concerned about Energy Drinks?

Research has indicated that children and teens are the main consumers of energy drinks. The primary reasons students gave for drinking energy drinks were to increase energy, improve athletic performance and because of the taste, peer pressure and attractive packaging.

Teachers and school administrators are concerned about the consumption of energy drinks because students who drink them have increased behavioral problems and are unable to concentrate in class.

What are the health risks of too much caffeine?

Over consumption of caffeine through beverages such as energy drinks can cause the following negative symptoms:

Anxiety                                        – Nausea and vomiting

– Dehydration                                – Rapid heartbeat 

Electrolyte disturbances             – Restlessness

Excessive urination                    – Sleeplessness


As mentioned, encouraging a healthy balanced diet from Eating well with Canada’s food guide would be my recommendation for providing adequate energy to school aged children, rather than the potentially high sugar high caffeine “quick fix”.

References: Dietitians of Canada, Energy Drinks – Do they have a place in the diet of Canadians. 2005. Health Canada, It’s Your Health. Safe Use of Energy Drinks. 2005

Kristin Harris is a registered dietitian with Kids Eat Smart Foundation Newfoundland and Labrador.

Dessert hot off the Grill

Try out this fresh desert packed with antioxidants to finish of your next family BBQ. This simple dessert is a crowd pleaser! Including fruit as a dessert option more often allows us to get those recommended servings of fruit each day.

  • 3 medium ripe peaches, halved and pitted
  • 1 cup fresh blueberries
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice


  • Place two peach halves, cut side up, on each of three double thicknesses of heavy-duty foil (12 in. square). Top with blueberries, brown sugar, butter and lemon juice. Fold foil around mixture and seal tightly.
  • Grill, covered, over medium-low heat for 18-20 minutes or until tender. Open foil carefully to allow steam to escape. Yield: 3 servings.

Recipe sourced from:

Kristin Harris is a registered dietitian with Kids Eat Smart Foundation Newfoundland and Labrador.

Loading up on Antioxidants

The word antioxidants has been a nutrition buzz word from quite some time now but do you still find yourself wondering what it means? Here’s some background on what it means and how it’s good for our body’s.

What are antioxidants?

Antioxidants are naturally found in foods. An antioxidant can be:

  • A vitamin such as vitamins A, C or E
  • Plant chemicals like flavonoids and carotenoids
  • A mineral such as selenium

Antioxidants protect your body’s cells from damage that can occur our body. Cell damage happens naturally as you age or can happen when we are exposed to things like pollution or cigarette smoke. Cell damage can lead to common diseases like heart disease and diabetes. A diet rich in antioxidants can help lower your risk of these diseases

What foods have antioxidants?

Vegetables, fruit, whole grain bread, pasta and cereal, beans, lentils, nuts, seeds, vegetable oils, garlic, and green tea have antioxidants.

Tips for getting more antioxidants

Vitamin C:

  • Add broccoli, spinach, Brussels sprouts, potatoes and red, yellow or green peppers to stir fry dishes or serve them with a low fat dip.
  • Add strawberries and raspberries to yogurt or a smoothie or mix them into a fruit salad.
  • Enjoy tropical fruit such as papaya, kiwis, grapefruits, guavas and mangos.

Vitamin E:

  • Sprinkle almonds and sunflower seeds on salads or add them to granola and cereal.
  • Add avocadoes to salads, sandwiches and wraps, smoothies or make a guacamole dip.
  • Choose fish at least twice a week. Mackerel, herring, salmon, halibut and tuna are good sources of vitamin E.


  • Choose green tea more often.
  • Add blueberries, raspberries and strawberries to cereal, yogurt, salads, low fat frozen yogurt or cottage cheese.
  • Add apples and red grapes to a green salad or fruit salad.


  • Make a mixed bean salad for an appetizer.
  • Bake fish like tilapia, cod, haddock or salmon in the oven.
  • Include meat, fish, shellfish, poultry, eggs and nuts throughout the day.


  • Have tomato sauce on top of whole wheat pasta or brown rice.
  • Roast or bake carrots, sweet potato and squash in the oven.
  • Make a tossed salad with spinach, kale and dark leafy vegetables.

Antioxidant info sourced from:

Kristin Harris is a registered dietitian with Kids Eat Smart Foundation Newfoundland and Labrador.

A Fresh Summer Snack – Kiwisicles

This fresh summer treat couldn’t be easier! Have the kids help out in the kitchen to make these delightful snacks. Have a summer party or BBQ coming up? – these can be fun for the kids to enjoy while playing in the hot summer sun.

What you will need:

Kitchen Gear: Vegetable peeler
Cutting board
Sharp knife (adult needed)
Wide plastic lid (such as a yogurt or Tupperware lid)
4 wooden ice-pop sticks

1 -kiwi

1.Peel the kiwi and cut it into 4 thick slices
2.Push a wooden stick into each slice and lay the “pops” on the lid. (Because the lid is flexible, you can bend it to pop the pops off!)
3.Freeze until solid, about 2 hours. Enjoy!

Sourced from:

Kristin Harris is a registered dietitian with Kids Eat Smart Foundation Newfoundland and Labrador.

Try Local Fresh Fruit in Season

Summer provides a wealth of locally grown fruits. At my trip to the Lester’s Farm the weekend I took note of fresh fruit in season and hope to get back to purchase them each month.

Take advantage of the fresh taste that produce in season can provide with these SEASONAL suggestions!

• Fresh summer berries such as blackberries, strawberries, raspberries and blueberries make an elegant and tasty dessert with a dollop of low-fat whipped topping.

• When grilling outside, don’t forget the fruits! Summer fruits such as peaches, nectarines and plums can all be sliced and grilled to bring out wonderfully different flavors and textures.

• For your summer family gatherings bring iced melons to cut and serve on site for a refreshing snack! Summer melons include honeydew, cantaloupe, and watermelon.

• Farmers market, community gardens, and local produce stands are getting ever more popular in our province. Look around your community for local access to healthy, tasty produce.

The growing season in Newfoundland and Labrador is very short but all the sweeter for it. Check out the list below our province’s fruit in season:

APPLES, August through October


BLUEBERRIES, late July through August

CANTALOUPES, August and September

CHERRIES, June and July

CRANBERRIES, October through December

MELONS, August and September

PEARS, August into October

RASPBERRIES, late July through early August, second crop at the end of September

STRAWBERRIES, end of June into July

WATERMELONS, August and September

Sourced from: and

Kristin Harris is a registered dietitian with Kids Eat Smart Foundation Newfoundland and Labrador.

Starting Healthy Habits At Home

We have all heard the saying “Monkey see monkey do” – I use this saying quite often to explain the importance of teaching kids healthy eating at home.

Kids learn what healthy eating is at a young age and most often they learn what healthy eating is from their parents. It’s important for parents to show kids what healthy eating is by having regular meal times and having balanced meals throughout the day which include foods from Eating well with Canada’s Food guide.

I am frequently in schools and community centres throughout the city and teach kids about healthy eating and am glad to report kids are learning about healthy eating both in school and at home! From K-12 they are learning about Canada’s Food Guide and are quite knowledgeable about what healthy eating is.

Parents can try some of the following things to help encourage healthy eating habits at home:

  • Most importantly, be a role model. Try new foods with the kids.
  • Be creative. Cut fruits into fun shapes using cookie cutters.
  • Add variety. Variety in food helps make sure that children get the vitamins and minerals they need.
  • Involve children in grocery shopping and meal planning.
  • Promote a healthy attitude towards eating and exercise.


Kristin Harris is a registered dietitian with Kids Eat Smart Foundation Newfoundland and Labrador.

Fruit Cubes for your Water!

Try this cute idea to amp up the fruit in your kids diet in a fun way! You’ll love how easy they are to create and the kids will love the idea of a frozen treat. Add them to water to create a refreshing natural fruit flavored drink on those hot summer days.


To prepare ice cubes, simply choose a favorite fruit, peel, pit and add to blender, puree, and your done! If the fruits you are pureeing seem quite thick, add just a touch of 100% apple juice to the blender, just enough to thin it out.

No special equipment (other than a blender and an ice cube tray) is needed to make these flavored fruit cubes.  Just puree the fruit, pour it into a standard ice cube tray, freeze, and pop into a drink whenever the kids are looking to cool down.  It’s good idea to have a different fruit cube for each drink to allow for a more distinct flavor in the water. There’s no faster, or healthier way to turn a drink from everyday to gourmet!

Sourced from:

Kristin Harris is a registered dietitian with Kids Eat Smart Foundation Newfoundland and Labrador.