Should you take a Vitamin D Supplement?

by Kenda Hettinger, an ASU nutrition communication student

According to the National Osteoporosis Foundation, about 54 million Americans have osteoporosis or low bone mineral density. They recommend not smoking, limiting alcohol, regular weight-bearing exercise, and getting the calcium and vitamin D your body needs daily.


But, should you be taking a vitamin D supplement?


Some surprising trial results were published in the American Medical Association Journal in August 2019. In the study, Effect of High-Dose Vitamin D Supplementation on Volumetric Bond Density & Bone Strength, Burt, L.A. et al. set out to assess the dose-dependent effects of vitamin D supplementation on bone mineral density. They studied 311 participants that started out with healthy bone mineral density. They came to the conclusion that vitamin D doses above the recommended dietary allowance, which is 400-800 IU daily, does not give you a greater bone mineral density. In fact, the individuals in the study who were taking the higher (4,000-10,000 IU) doses of vitamin D, had significantly lower radial bone mineral density. The researchers believe the higher doses of vitamin D may suppress the parathyroid hormone (PTH), which would decrease the PTH-mediated bone formation.


Some supporting evidence was published in 2016. Plante, L. et al., studied the effect of high-dose vitamin D supplementation on bone density in youth with osteogenesis imperfecta. They came to the conclusion, that higher doses of vitamin D results in increased vitamin D in the blood, but did not have a detectable effect on bone mineral scores in children with osteogenesis imperfecta.


The bottom line:


Livingston, K.M. states in a study published in the Molecular Nutrition and Food Research Journal in 2017, that vitamin D intake, supplement use, age, gender, season, sunlight exposure, physical activity, vitamin D axis genes, as well as supplement use are all predictors of vitamin D blood concentrations. This means that every person, in every area of the world is different.


My take away from this data is that you can not take any supplements under the notion that more is better. If you suspect or worry about a vitamin D deficiency, get a workup from your primary care physician. They should be able to guide you on what type and how much vitamin D you need to be getting.


In the meantime, continue to get your vitamin D from your food or the sunlight. Remember that you do not have to be in the sun for long and to always protect your skin. Dietary sources of vitamin D are seafood, mushrooms, eggs, and fortified cow milk, plant-based milk, and cereals.



Looking for more articles like this? Check out our Fill Your Plate Blog.  Check out the Find a Farmers Market tab to find a farmers market near you.




  1. General Facts. (n.d.). Retrieved from
  2. General Facts. (n.d.). Retrieved from
  3. Burt LA, Billington EO, Rose MS, Raymond DA, Hanley DA, Boyd SK. Effect of High-Dose Vitamin D Supplementation on Volumetric Bone Density and Bone Strength: A Randomized Clinical Trial. JAMA. 2019;322(8):736–745. doi:10.1001/jama.2019.11889
  4. Plante, L., Veilleux, L., Weiler, H., & Rauch, F. (2015). Effect of High-Dose Vitamin D Supplementation on Bone Density in Youth with Osteogenesis Imperfecta: A Randomized Controlled Trial. Faseb Journal, 29, Faseb Journal, 2015 Apr, Vol.29 Suppl 1.
  5. Livingstone, Katherine M., Celis‐Morales, Carlos, Hoeller, Ulrich, Lambrinou, Christina P., Moschonis, George, Macready, Anna L., . . . Mathers, John C. (2017). Weekday sunlight exposure, but not vitamin D intake, influences the association between vitamin D receptor genotype and circulating concentration 25‐hydroxyvitamin D in a pan‐European population: The Food4Me study. Molecular Nutrition & Food Research, 61(2), N/a.
  6. Photo by Michele Blackwell on Unsplash
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5 tips to Avoiding Allergic Food Reactions

Written by Kenda Hettinger, an ASU nutrition communication student

It seems like there are more and more people with food allergies these days. According to the American Academy of Allergy Asthma & Immunology, the following list are the most common foods to trigger allergic reactions.


  • Cow’s milk
  • Eggs
  • Fish
  • Peanuts
  • Shellfish
  • Soy
  • Tree nuts
  • Wheat


Symptoms of food allergies can range from eczema to the more severe anaphylaxis. For some people, food allergies can be life-threatening. Whether your allergy is severe or non-life threatening, it is important to learn to avoid your triggers. It is especially difficult when eating out or going to parties where food is served. The following tips will help you and your child stay safe.


  1. Prepare your own food as much as possible so that you know what is in it.
  2. Eat whole foods to avoid added ingredients.
  3. Read ingredients thoroughly.
  4. Make sure your child knows what foods to avoid and how to identify those foods.
  5. Make your allergy known to family, friends, and caretakers. Before school starts make sure you have appropriate school forms signed by a physician.


If you suspect a food allergy but have not been diagnosed, seek care by a specialist. An allergist can be found by doing a search on the website.



Browse the following links for some delicious allergen-free recipes.





“Bordet är dukat” by nillamaria is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

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The Switch Witch: How to maintain healthy habits during the season of tricks and treats.

By Kat Brown a Recent ASU Nutrition Student

Who can resist the opportunity to dress your little one up in an adorable costume and parade them around the neighborhood to show off their cuteness? Halloween is a magical time for both kids and parents, but how do you maintain your healthy eating habits and still partake in all the fun?

I think back to my days of trick or treating and dumping out a giant pillowcase full of candy onto the floor and beginning to take inventory of the sugar-laced treats that I had just spent hours collecting. I can only imagine the epic meltdown that would have occurred if my parents even attempted to tell me I couldn’t keep my hard-earned delicacies.

In fact, Jimmy Kimmel has even developed an entire skit around parents telling their children all of their Halloween candy is gone. So, when I saw Allison Sweeney from The Biggest Loser on Ellen talking about her tip to maintain healthy eating habits over Halloween I knew I would have to try this same tip. Allison told Ellen about how the Switch Witch visits their house every Halloween.

Here’s how it works, after enjoying all the fun of trick or treating kids come home and inventory their loot per usual. Then, they can decide how much of their candy they are willing to give up to the switch witch. The idea is that you present them with a sort of tiered reward system. The more candy they give up the better toy or gift they can receive. The switch witch wants as much candy as possible and the more you give up the better present you get. This allows children the ability to feel in control and also encourages them to make better health decisions on their own. A study done at Yale University with 284 children between the ages of 3 and 14 showed that children were just as likely to choose a toy when offered the option between toys and candy. They found that nonfood treats were easily linked with positive feelings. So begin the new tradition of the switch witch in your family today and start developing a healthy Halloween ritual! Plus, an added benefit is children learn how to bargain.

The Switch Witch!

Have YOU hear of the Switch Witch?

She’s hungry, fierce and fat!

She’s on the hunt for candy

To feed her naughty cat.

She likes the brightest lollipops

The green chews and the blue

And if you have some bubblegum

She’ll really want that too!

After trick or treating

Pick out some things to keep

And then put in a bucket

Sweets to swap in your sleep!

Only when you’re snoozing

The Switch Witch will drop-in

She’ll take out all the candy

And who knows what she’ll put in!

You might wake up and find a toy

Maybe some clothes to wear?

Something for your piggy bank?

Or a funny game to share?

So give the witch your brightest treats

For her cat instead

And in the morning you will find

A SWITCH on your bed!

To find a farmers market near you check out our website. For more fun articles and recipes check out the Fill Your Plate blog.

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5 things that gardening with a toddler has taught me…

By: Cecelia Wilken, a recent ASU Nutrition Student

Last year I made the executive decision to start a family garden. Initially, I started it for personal and honestly, somewhat selfish reasons. I wanted to get outside more, I wanted our household to be “greener” and reduce our carbon footprint, I wanted to eat more vegetables, I wanted to see butterflies and hummingbirds and I always dreamed of my backyard looking Pinterest perfect. While I had known about the benefits of introducing gardening to children at a young age, I never expected my own 3-year-old to be that interested in it, and it wasn’t something I was planning on forcing on her (as parents, we must pick our battles carefully).

However, much to my delight, my daughter has quite the green thumb and I’ve learned some things during our adventures in the garden together…

  1. Getting dirty is fun AND healthy!

There have been countless days where my daughter and I come out of the garden covered in mud and compost, with dirt under our nails and smeared on our faces, knees stained green from the grass. Some days my daughter eagerly helps me tend to the plants, carefully patting the earth with her tiny hands, pulling weeds from the ground, other days she makes mud snowmen and paints her clothes with dirt. Balance. Regardless, we both love getting dirty.

Society has taught us that cleanliness is important, and it is, but there are also real benefits to getting dirty! Studies have shown that playing in the dirt is beneficial to both physical and mental health. Certain microbes in the dirt and soil have been shown to improve cognitive functioning, reduce anxiety, lower the risk of allergies, asthma, and help improve immune systems, especially in young children¹.

  1. Bugs aren’t scary. (At least not all of them.)

Sure, some bugs are scary-looking (and dangerous). I’m personally not a fan of spiders or flying bugs. But my fearless toddler is constantly reminding me that, in her own words, “Bugs aren’t scary Momma, they’re our friends.” In the garden, we see all different types of bugs ranging from ants to caterpillars, to beetles, bumblebees, butterflies, wasps and yes, even spiders. We’ve even been blessed to watch a hummingbird hawk-moth come and take a drink from our flower garden. She’s learned so much about bugs from playing in the garden, how they are important for helping pollinate our flowers, fruits and vegetables and how they help break down the food scraps and plant clippings in the compost bin to help make more food for future crops. Every new bug that visits our garden is welcomed graciously by my daughter (even the caterpillars who destroyed my tomato plant).


Picture Courtesy of Cecelia Wilken

  1. Go outside. Even if you don’t feel like it.

There are days when I do not feel like doing anything, especially go outside and tend to the garden. However, my daughter holds me accountable for our daily routine. Her enthusiasm and eagerness to go check and water the garden usually motivate me to go outside. She squeals at the sight of new flowers and exclaims excitedly how much “bigger and stronger” the peppers have grown.

Some studies have found that a typical American spends as much as 90% of their time indoors². Those that spend regular time outdoors or participate in outdoor activities have been found to have lower rates of depression and anxiety³. Children are especially sensitive to I’m grateful that my daughter always encourages me to go outside, even if it’s only for a moment. Nine out of ten times, I feel better after spending some time outside.

  1. Try new things. Even if you’re unsure about it.

One day I will be grateful for my daughter’s confident and stubborn personality, as those are traits that will serve her well later in life. However, they work against me when I’m attempting to get her to eat the peas on her plate. Most toddlers react in disgust when vegetables or anything green is placed on their plate. Unfortunately for me, my strong-willed daughter is no different.


Pineapple tomatillos from the garden – Photo Courtesy of Cecelia Wilken

Imagine my surprise when we were in the garden and one day she took a bite of a tomatillo we just pulled off the vine. Even better yet, SHE LIKED IT! Now whenever we go outside, she walks on over to the vine, picks a tomatillo, and eats it right there in the garden. Since we’ve had the garden she has started trying and eating more fruits and vegetables willingly. She doesn’t always like what we grow, she wasn’t impressed with the cucumber, but she did love the carrots and cantaloupe. Hopefully one day she will start trying new foods beyond what we grow in our garden. Until then, I still call that a win.

  1. Mother nature is an irreplaceable teacher.

By exploring the garden my daughter has learned many new things. Not only about herself, but also about the world around her. Children learn valuable life skills when exploring their environments like practicing adult roles, gaining confidence and independence as well as developing their creativity and helping grow healthy bodies. Through playing outside in the garden, my daughter has conquered some of her fears, has learned responsibility and developed problem-solving skills. She becomes physically stronger, running around, digging in the earth, using tools and lifting heavy objects.

Our garden has also given my daughter and I another activity to do together and something to bond over. I love watching her explore and learn and she leaves the garden feeling accomplished and important for being able to help.

Photo Courtesy of Cecelia Wilken

While my garden and backyard may not look “Pinterest perfect” it has become something irreplaceable in our lives. My family has gained so much more from our garden beyond just what it brings to our plate. I look forward to our continued adventures in the backyard.


For more information on starting your own family garden check out this article or contact your local nursery for more guidance.



¹ Microbes, biodiversity and the benefits of getting dirty. (2015, Jun 02). Fox Creek Times Retrieved from

² Evans, G.W. & J.M. McCoy. 1998. When buildings don’t work: the role of architecture in human health. J. Environ. Psychol. 18(1): 85–94. doi:10.1006/jevp.1998.0089

³ Soga, M., Gaston, K., & Yamaura, Y. (2017). Gardening is beneficial for health: A meta-analysis. Preventive Medicine Reports5, 92-99. doi: 10.1016/j.pmedr.2016.11.007

Ginsburg, K. (2007). The Importance of Play in Promoting Healthy Child Development and Maintaining Strong Parent-Child Bonds. PEDIATRICS119(1), 182-191. doi: 10.1542/peds.2006-2697

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9 Tips to get your kids to make healthy food choices

by Kenda Hettinger, an ASU nutrition communication student

Did you know that the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends cholesterol screening starting at the age of 9? Heart disease starts with the diet you consume as a child, and therefore they recommend a diet low in saturated fat starting at the age of one. With a 5-year-old myself, I know how difficult it can be to get them to eat healthy foods. I found this particularly true once she started school and started watching how other children eat.

  1. Have family mealtimes. According to an article published by the Cambridge University Press in 2017, frequent family mealtimes are associated with better diet quality for the children.


  1. Get the kids involved in the cooking or preparing process. With the younger kids, this could be letting them prepare their own plates. For the older kids, this could be letting them help chop vegetables or cook some of the food.


  1. Buy fun shaped food cutters. Younger kids love using food cutters to make their foods into fun shapes. Almost anything can be made into a fun shape, veggies, fruits, and sandwiches are common foods people cut into fun shapes.


  1. Find out what they like and keep serving it. My daughter prefers her vegetables raw. She loves to eat raw carrots and cucumbers but prefers her broccoli steamed. So I try to incorporate these items, cooked (or not cooked) to her liking in each dinner.


  1. Put variety in the diet. Try to make a point to try a new vegetable or other healthy food once a week. Always serve it in addition to healthy food you know they will eat.


  1. Keep mealtimes relaxed. Putting pressure on kids to try new things or to “eat their veggies,” can create food aversions. It is always better to be encouraging and accepting when they refuse food. We all have days when we do not feel like trying new things and kids are no exception.


  1. Lead by example. According to a study published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics in 2016, there are strong associations between the quality of a child’s diet with the quality of their parent’s diet. This could be due to what is available in their environment, shared meals, or modeling their parent’s food choices.


  1. Put healthy food choices in areas where they can reach. Keep washed and pre-cut fruits, vegetables, and other healthy foods within reach for snacking. Children will naturally choose what is easy to grab.


  1. Be patient and trust the process. Over time your child will start to make healthy choices on their own.


When you teach healthy eating habits at home, they spill over to when they are at school, at friend’s houses, and into adulthood. Keep up the good work, parents!

Looking for more articles like this? Check out our Fill Your Plate Blog.  Check out the Find a Farmers Market tab to find a farmers market near you.

More about the author: 

Kenda Hettinger is a student at Arizona State University working on her bachelors of science in nutrition. She is also an allergy nurse and mom to a sweet 5-year-old girl. She became passionate about nutrition after being diagnosed with GERD and learning how the food was affecting her condition. Her food philosophy is that your meals should be centered around your vegetables.



“kids eating” by Pakus Futuro Bloguero is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Berge, J., Truesdale, K., Sherwood, N., Mitchell, N., Heerman, W., Barkin, S., French, S. (2017). Beyond the dinner table: Who’s having breakfast, lunch and dinner family meals and which meals are associated with better diet quality and BMI in pre-school children? Public Health Nutrition, 20(18), 3275-3284.

Robson, Couch, Peugh, Glanz, Zhou, Sallis, & Saelens. (2016). Parent Diet Quality and Energy Intake Are Related to Child Diet Quality and Energy Intake. Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, 116(6), 984-990.,-Ages-9-11,-Be-Screened-for-Cholesterol.aspx


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