Nutrition Advisory Board Member Spotlight: Erin Palinski-Wade, RD, CDCES, CPT
This month, we’re delighted to feature registered dietitian nutritionist and mom of three, Erin Palinski-Wade, RD, CDCES, CPT. Erin is a nationally recognized nutrition & diabetes expert who shows busy moms how to make time for health, even when they feel like they have no time for themselves. She owns a private nutrition practice and is the author of multiple publications including the “2 Day Diabetes Diet,” “Love Your Age” (Prevention/Rodale), and the “Belly Fat Diet For Dummies.” As a media go-to source, she regularly contributes to outlets including Parade and EverydayHealth, and has made appearances on “The Dr. Oz Show” and “The Doctors.” Erin also shares nutrition tips & recipes on her blog & social media channels “Healthy Mom, Happy Family.” Learn more about Erin and Orgain’s other seven nutrition advisors here.
1. We would love to hear about your journey toward being a RDN. Why did you decide to pursue this profession?
I became a dietitian almost by accident. My original plan when I entered college was to study Physical Education and coach gymnastics with my long-term goal of opening my own gym and training high level athletes. Luckily, my freshman year I took a sports nutrition class and fell in love with it. So, I asked my college advisor how I could teach people about nutrition and that’s when I learned about the career of dietetics!
2. What is the most rewarding part of the work you do?
I absolutely love seeing the impact a few small dietary changes can make on someone’s overall health and well-being. Seeing a person with diabetes finally have more energy by just making a few adjustments at meals to bring blood sugar down or watching a former picky eater try new foods and love them…. That’s what is the most rewarding part.
3. What is one of the most frequently asked questions you receive from parents or caregivers on adequately nourishing their school-aged children and what are some of your recommendations?
One of the biggest questions I get from parents is, “How can I make sure my child gets in the nutrition they need every day when they aren’t consistent with what or how much they eat?” And I get their frustration because kids tend to love one food today and not be interested in it tomorrow or eat a whole meal one day and barely take a bite of food the next. So, the most important thing I stress to parents is to look at the big picture. Look at what your child eats throughout the week, not just one single day. And focus on your responsibility as the parent: you are in charge of what food is served, when it is served, and where it is served. The rest is up to your child. So, let them determine how much, if any, of the food they will eat. But continue to be consistent in your offerings of nutrient-rich foods.
I also encourage parents to increase exposure to nutrient-rich food as much as possible, since increased exposure often leads to acceptance of the food over time. Involve your child in age-appropriate ways as much as possible in food shopping, food prep, cooking, and even meal planning. It goes a long way in improving their wiliness to try new foods.
4. Can you please share any advice for healthcare professionals in counseling their parents or caregivers on preparing meals and snacks for busy school schedules?
The busier we are, the more planning ahead is essential. And meal planning is no different. To keep it simple, I like to use my ‘sticky note meal planning’ strategy. On seven sticky notes, write down seven different meal ideas for your family. Then stick them onto a calendar to plan out your meals for the week. From there, you can quickly build your shopping list and determine what needs to be prepped in advance. The best part about this strategy is how easy it makes it to meal plan for the following week. All you have to do is rotate the sticky notes and you are ready to go, and you can even reuse last week’s shopping list too!
For back-to-school season, having make-ahead breakfasts on hand is a great way to ensure your family has the fuel they need in the morning to start the day off right without added stress. Taking time one day per week to prep breakfasts in advance with options like egg muffins, Greek yogurt pancakes, or even my family’s favorite breakfast cookies can ensure you have a filling, nutrient-rich meal ready to go in just minutes.
Helping clients with simple meal planning strategies that take only a few minutes along with sharing simple make-ahead meal options is one of the best ways to help them succeed during this busy time.
5. What interested you in becoming a member of the Orgain Nutrition Advisory Board?
I have always been a big fan of Orgain’s product line for myself, my family and my clients. I love their high-quality ingredients and also love how easy they make it to take nutrition with you on the go. So, it was a natural fit for me to partner with them since I already loved the company and was recommending it to my clients! I am so honored to be part of the Orgain Nutrition Advisory Board and am thrilled to be able to share my love of the company with a wider audience.
Optimizing Cognitive Capacity in Children Through a Nutrient-Rich, Balanced Diet
Nutrition and exercise play an important role in a child’s cognitive function. The brain goes through many changes in early childhood, and this is a critical time to support optimal brain development through adequate nutrition. In fact, by the time a child reaches preschool age, the number of synapses per unit of cortical tissue, also known as synaptic density, has reached the same level as adults. Myelination, the process of insulating lipids laid down on brain axons, continues well into adolescence. The myelination process helps improve the conduction speed of fibers that interconnect areas of the brain, and myelination of the dorsal regions of the brain is important for higher cognitive functions.¹
While cognitive development is influenced by many factors, nutrition during early to middle childhood years plays a crucial role in the protection of the brain, brain synaptic development and myelination, and nutritional deficiencies contribute to impairments in neurodevelopment during this time.3,4
Poor cognitive function in childhood can have long-term negative effects as it is linked to obesity and poor socioeconomic status later in life.3,5,6 Protein, vitamin B12, iron, and DHA are key nutrients that support brain health and development in childhood, and adequate exercise is linked to improvements in cognitive function.
A healthy dietary pattern including vegetables, fruits, berries, high-fiber grains and fish, and low amounts of fast food, saturated fat, and refined carbohydrates is associated with better cognitive function and academic achievement.4 In fact, healthier dietary patterns pose an advantage for cognitive function in children. A population-based cohort study of children following a dietary pattern including more rice, salad, pasta, fish, and fruit at 3 years old was associated with a higher IQ score on the WISC-III (Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children) when the children were tested again at 8.5 years old.13 Too much saturated fat and refined sugar can impair certain memory functions.14 A cross-sectional study on schoolchildren aged 6-7 showed decreased non-verbal IQ with increased consumption of refined carbohydrates.15
When it comes to breakfast, one systematic review on the effects of breakfast on cognitive performance of children aged 4-18 found that breakfast eaters had fewer errors on attention tasks when compared to non-breakfast eaters.11 Low glycemic index (GI) breakfast foods, e.g. muesli (GI 55) versus corn flakes (GI 81), show a benefit for the ability to retain acquired information and use stored information.12
A randomized controlled trial examined the effects of a food supplement (NEWSUP) containing plant polyphenols, omega-3 fatty acids, a variety of micronutrients, and a high amount of protein given to children <4 years old 5 days per week for 23 weeks. The control groups received either a soy and corn blend formula, widely used as a supplement in international food assistance programs, containing about 16% of the recommended daily micronutrients, or a traditional breakfast of rice containing about 1% of the recommended daily micronutrients. Among other nutrients, the NEWSUP version contained 255 mg DHA not found in either of the other formulas, more than 3 times the amount of protein, more than twice the amount of vitamin B12 and more than 4 times the amount of iron when compared to the soy and corn blend formula. The NEWSUP group showed an increase in oxygen metabolism and cerebral blood flow, supporting improvements in neuronal activity and working memory, respectively. The largest changes were noted in the prefrontal cortex, an area of the brain that is vulnerable to adverse childhood environments.9
Food insecurity affects the quantity and quality of food available to certain populations. This may contribute to a lack of adequate energy and nutrients, including protein, vitamin B12, iron, and omega-3 fatty acids, which are connected to neurodevelopment in childhood.3,4,7,10 School-age children in food insecure households are at risk for both academic and behavioral problems that can extend to a lifetime of low socioeconomic positioning, and poor academic and cognitive function. This can increase risk of unemployment and obesity in adulthood.3,5,6
Key Nutrients for Brain Development
A deficiency of vitamin B12 has been associated with demyelination, which is linked to delays in cognitive development, but more research is needed to determine the role of vitamin B12 in neurodevelopment and its connection to academic performance.3,16 A randomized controlled trial examined 1,000 children aged 6 to 36 months old who were provided with vitamin B12 and folate supplements for 6 months. After 6 years, the children, then ages 6 to 9 years old, were re-enrolled for cognitive assessments. The follow-up evaluation revealed that early supplementation showed no persistent long-term benefits on cognition, suggesting limited benefit of supplementation with vitamin B12 and folate on the developing brain.16 A small study showed that a higher vitamin B12 status during pregnancy positively influenced cognitive performance of children at 9 years old.17 With many families following plant-based eating styles, there is a risk of low intakes of vitamin B12 due to limited intake of animal products. Therefore, supplementation with vitamin B12 is recommended for children who have inadequate intakes.18
Iron is a nutrient essential for oxygen delivery to all tissues in the body, especially the brain, and is necessary for myelination.3 While babies are born with iron stored in their bodies, young children require a steady amount to help meet their needs during growth and development. Iron deficiency is one of the most common nutrient deficiencies in school-aged children in the US, especially in girls.10 Deficiency in iron can lead to a decrease in mental concentration and cognition.7 One way to help prevent iron-deficiency in children is by serving iron-rich foods. Animal proteins (heme iron) are very good sources of iron, and plant sources (non-heme iron), such as spinach, peas, soybeans, and lentils, are naturaly high in iron, too. Iron is best absorbed into the body when eaten along with foods that are rich in Vitamin C, including tomatoes, kiwi, peppers, and oranges. Also, the availability of nutrition programs, such as the school breakfast program, has been shown to increase the likelihood of meeting the recommended amounts of iron.7
Docosahexaenoic Acid (DHA)
Essential fatty acids play a critical role in brain tissue as components of neuronal membranes and modulators of certain membrane functions.2 The omega-3 fatty acid DHA, is the predominant essential fatty acid found in the brain that affects neurological functions. DHA is critical during brain development and maturation from gestation through adolescence. The frontal lobe of the brain is used during executive and higher-order cognitive functioning including planning, sustained attention, and problem solving, and this area of the brain is highly responsive to the supply of DHA during this period of development and maturation.19 DHA is necessary for myelination and other brain functions.19 Despite the necessity of DHA, studies show that the effects of supplementation on cognition are mixed, with some studies showing improvement in verbal learning and memory and other studies reporting no effects on tests measuring general intelligence and attention.20,21
The Role of Exercise in Childhood Cognitive Development
A systematic review of physical activity in children found that physical activity in early, mid, or late childhood improved cognitive functions including working memory, visuospatial memory, and cognitive flexibility. The review proposed that physical activity elicits changes in certain brain structures leading to improvements in cognitive control and memory function. Almost all the studies examined in the systematic review (Bizdan-Bluma 2018) indicated the effectiveness of various types of exercise including aerobic exercise, afterschool physical activity programs and a short physical activity break.22 In an innovative randomized controlled trial, researchers examined 499 children over 2 years using physical activity during math and language lessons. When compared with the control group, those participating in the physically active lessons had 4 months more learning gains in spelling and math achievement.23
Application for Healthcare Professionals
As healthcare professionals, we know the important role that nutrition plays in childhood growth and development. Choosing nutrient-dense foods, such as those that contain iron, vitamin B12 and DHA, as part of balanced diets is one way to optimize learning during the developmental years. The Orgain Kids Organic Plant Protein Nutritional Shake supplies 30% of the daily value for iron and 25% of vitamin B12, and the and Orgain Kids Protein Organic Nutrition Shake supplies 6% of the daily value for iron and 25% of vitamin B12. These shakes are an excellent way to improve overall nutrition intake for children as they supply 8 grams of protein and are a a good source of vitamins and minerals. Registered Dietitian and Orgain Nutrition Advisory Board Member, Erin Palinski Wade, RD, CDCES, CPT shares her expert opinion on these products, stating “I love keeping Orgain Kids Shakes and bars on hand for nutrient-rich, on-the-go snacks and meals for my family. Research shows that a balanced breakfast, along with adequate nutrition during the day, has a positive impact on learning along with behavior and performance at school. Since school mornings can be especially busy, I love that my kids can reach for a Orgain Kids Shake or bar and I know they are giving their body what it needs to perform at their best.”
1 Toga AW, Thompson PM, Sowell ER. Mapping brain maturation. Trends in Neuroscience 2006; 29(3) 148–159. doi:10.1016/j.tins.2006.01.007
2 Nyardi A, Jianghong L, Hickling S, Foster J, Oddy WH. The role of nutrition in children’s neurocognitive development, from pregnancy through childhood. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience 2013; 7(97). doi: 10.3389/fnhum.2013.00097
3 John CC, Black MM, Nelson III, CA. Neurodevelopment: the impact of nutrition and inflammation during early to middle childhood in low resource settings. Pediatrics 2017; 139(Suppl 1). doi:10.1542/peds.2016-2828H
4 Naveed S, Lakka T, Haapala EA. An overview on the associations between health behaviors and brain health in children and adolescents with special reference to diet quality. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health 2020; 17(953). doi:10.3390/ijerph17030953
5 Kokko K, Pulkkinen L. Aggression in childhood and long-term unemployment in adulthood: A cycle ofmaladaptation and some protective factors. Developmental Psychology 2000; (36) 463–472. DOI: 10.1037/0012-36.4 463
6 Alatupa S, Pulkki-Råback L, Hintsanen M, Elovainio M, Mullola S, Keltikangas-Järvinen L. Disruptive behavior in childhood and socioeconomic position in adulthood: A prospective study over 27 years. International Journal of Public Health 2013; (58) 247–256. DOI 10.1007/s00038-012-0408-3
7 Frisvold DE. Nutrition and cognitive achievement: an evaluation of the school breakfast program. Journal of Public Economics 2015; (124) 91-104. doi:10.1016/j.jpubeco.2014.12.003
8 USDA. Food and Nutrition Service. US Department of Agriculture. School Breakfast Program. Available at: https://www.fns.usda.gov/sbp/school-breakfast-program, accessed 7/6/2021.
9 Roberts SB, Franceschini MA, Silver RE, Taylor SF, Braima de Sa A, et al. Effects of food supplementation on cognitive function, cerebral blood flow, and nutritional status in young children at risk of undernutrition: randomized controlled trial. British Medical Journal 2020; (370)m2397. doi: 10.1136/bmj.m2397
10 Best C, Neufingerl N, Miller Del Rosso J, Transler C, van den Briel T, et al. Can multi-micronutrient food fortification improve the micronutrient status, growth, health, and cognition of schoolchildren? A systematic review. Nutrition Reviews 2011; 69(4) 186-204. doi:10.1111/j.1753-4887.2011.00378.x
11 Hoyland A, Dye L, Lawton CL. A systematic review of the effect of breakfast on the cognitive performance of children and adolescents. Nutrition Research Reviews 2009; (22) 220-243. doi:10.1017/S0954422409990175
12 Micha R, Rogers PJ, Nelson M. Glycaemic index and glycaemic load of breakfast predict cognitive function and mood in school children: a randomised controlled trial. British Journal of Nutrition 2011; (106) 1552-1561. doi:10.1017/S0007114511002303
13 Northstone K, Joinson C, Emmett P, Ness A, Paus T. Are dietary patterns in childhood associated with IQ at 8 years of age? A population-based cohort study. Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health 2012; (66)624e628. doi:10.1136/jech.2010.111955
14 Beilharz JE, Maniam J, Morris MJ. Diet-induced cognitive deficits: the role of fat and sugar, potential mechanisms and nutritional interventions. Nutrients 2015; (7) 6719-6738. doi:10.3390/nu7085307
15 Abargouei AS, Kalantari N, Omidvar N, Rashidkhani B, Rad AH, et al. Refined carbohydrate intake in relation to non-verbal intelligence among Tehrani schoolchildren. Public Health and Nutrition 2012; (15) 10 1925–1931. doi:10.1017/S1368980011003302
16 Kvestad I, Taneja S, Upadhyay RP, Hysing M, Bhandari N, et al. Vitamin B12, folate, and cognition in 6- to 9-Year-olds: a randomized controlled trial. Pediatrics 2020; 145(3):e20192316
17 Bhate V, Deshpande S, Bhat D, Joshi N, Ladkat R, et al. Vitamin B12 status of pregnant Indian women and cognitive function in their 9-year-old children. Food and Nutrition Bulletin 2009; 29(4) 249-254. doi: 10.1177/156482650802900401
18 National Institutes of Health Office of Dietary Supplements. Vitamin B12 Fact Sheet for Professionals. Available at: https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/VitaminB12-HealthProfessional/#h10, accessed 7/5/2021.
19 Weiser MJ, Butt CM, Hasan Mohajeri M. Docosahexaeonic acid and cognition throughout the lifespan. Nutrients 2015; (8) 99 doi:10.3390/nu8020099
20 Richardson AJ, Burton JR, Sewell RP, Spreckelsen TF, Montgomery P. Docosahexaenoic acid for reading, cognition and behavior in children aged 7–9 years: A randomized, controlled trial (the DOLABstudy). PLoS ONE 2012; (7) 9. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0043909
21 Bizdan-Bluma I, Lipowska M. Physical activity and cognitive functioning of children: a systematic review. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health 2018; (15) 800; doi:10.3390/ijerph15040800
22 Bizdan-Bluma I, Lipowska M. Physical activity and cognitive functioning of children: a systematic review. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health 2018; (15) 800; doi:10.3390/ijerph15040800
23 Mullender-Wijnsma MJ, Hartman E, de Gree JW, Doolaard S, Bosker RJ, et al. Physically Active Math and Language Lessons Improve Academic Achievement: A Cluster Randomized Controlled Trial. Pediatrics 2016; doi: 10.1542/peds.2015-2743
New Product Alert!
Orgain Kids Plant Protein Shake
With a taste kids love, and a list of ingredients parents can get behind, our organic protein shakes for kids offer delicious nutrition that the whole family can agree on. With 8 grams of plant protein and 23 vitamins and minerals in every serving, these shakes are perfect for growing kids ages 2 and up. Available in two delicious flavors, chocolate and vanilla, try them as a convenient on-the-go meal, a lunch box beverage or a snack before or after sports.
Orgain’s Healthcare Professional Catalog
We’re pleased to share the updated Orgain Healthcare Professional Catalog. It includes our latest products and reflects any important updates in the nutrition facts panel and/or ingredients. This resource can help you to identify the Orgain products that best meet the nutritional needs and dietary preferences of your patients and clients.
Upcoming Live Webinars by
Subject Matter Experts
Register below for upcoming Orgain webinars or view our current library of on-demand webinars at your convenience on our recently revamped webpage: Orgain Professional Education Series.
David L. Katz, MD, MPH, FACPM, FACP, FACLM
Approved for 1.0 CPEU for RDNs and DTRs
September 9, 2021 at 2pm EDT
Beryl Krinsky, MBA, MS, RD, LDN
Approved for 1.0 CPEU for RDNs and DTRs
October 7, 2021 at 2pm EDT
Angela Manderfeld, MS, RD, CDCES, BC-ADM
Approved for 1.0 CPEU for RDNs and DTRs
November 11, 2021 at 2pm EDT