Jul 22

Have you noticed the numerous commercials that run during child television programming? It is reported that children are exposed to over 30,000 advertisements for sugary foods and drinks per year. That’s pure brainwashing at its best. Do you also notice that candy and sodas are also strategically placed right by the checkout in grocery stores? Sugar is dominant in our society; however, there is bad and good about it. So how do you know the difference and how much is okay?

Bad vs. Good Sugars

Refined sugar is a simple carbohydrate, which is often found in some cereals, sodas, fruit drinks, candy, and baked goods. Glucose delivered in these simple carbohydrate forms is often referred to as “empty calories” due to their lack of nutritional value. Natural sugars, or complex carbohydrates, found in fruits, some vegetables, and whole grains are healthier for children due to its nutritional value that outweighs the sugar. Approximately 40% of your child’s diet should come from complex carbohydrates, which is easily digestible and contains fiber for satiety.


Health Related Problems in Children

You probably have heard, since your own childhood, “Don’t eat too much candy otherwise you are going to have cavities”. You probably even told that to your own child. This is true, but refined sugars do more harm to your young child than you may be aware of:

  • Weakens Immune System – As your child’s immune system is weekend, he or she will be more prone to developing diseases ranging from skin disorders (warts and psoriasis) to cancer. The white blood cells’ ability to fight disease decreases by 40% with a high intake of refined sugars.
  • Causes Obesity – The average child consumes about 16% of his or her daily calories from sugar. With 1 gram equal to 4 calories, that is almost an extra 350 – 700 calories a day. Recent studies in American report that 1 in 3 children are considered obese. In addition, the excess sugar that can’t be broken down and used is stored as fat in the body. Obesity leads to other health issues.
  • Delivers Poor Nutrition –High levels of simple sugar inhibits a child’s growth rate and development. It fills children up with “empty” calories, hindering children from eating wholesome, high nutrition foods needed for evolving into a healthy adult.


Good Sugar Substitutions

It is not possible for you to completely eliminate sugar in your child’s diet, but you can offer your child natural sugars so they still receive the necessary glucose for energy. In addition, you will be providing your child with proper nutrition for overall health. Reduce simple sugar consumption with these options:

  • Yogurt – Sweet treat with high calcium
  • Fruit – Bananas, apples, and oranges are the best choices and most favored by children
  • Vegetables – Baby carrots and sweet potatoes make great snacks and side dishes
  • Whole Wheat Grains – Slower to digest and most accepted by the body’s cells
  • Honey – Sweeter than table sugar, so less is needed. Use in moderation.


You can’t be constantly watching what your child eats or sheltering him or her from sugary treats, but you can teach your child good habits at home. There is no magic number of how much simple sugar is safe for children, so the key is limiting refined sugar consumption when your child is with you for better health. How do you do this? Simple! Don’t buy the sugary refined and processed foods so they are not available to your child at home. Guaranteed success rate – if your cabinet and refrigerator are filled with healthy food options, your child will eat it. After all, they can’t buy their own groceries.

How do you creatively watch and limit your child’s intake of sugars? Share your ideas with us!

May 17


Does this sound familiar on occasion – rushing to drop off your child at day care then rushing to get to work on time? Then in the afternoon rushing to pick up your child from day care then having to run some errands before heading home and before you realize it, it is already 6:30 p.m.? The first thing you hear from your child? “I’m hungry!” It’s late. There is absolutely no time to prepare a meal today, so what do you do? This is when you say YES to fast food. Feeling a little guilty? Don’t be.

Making Healthy Fast Food Choices

Yes, healthy fast food does exist. Triggered by the astonishing amount of overweight and unhealthy people in certain countries, many fast food chains revamped its menus to include healthier options. You now can choose foods that represent the main macronutrients needed by your child – Protein, Carbohydrates, and Fats, without guilt. Here are some kid favorites with healthy choices:


  • Single Hamburger – Beef provides protein that children need. A plain hamburger without cheese has less calories and fat, but if your child wants cheese – that is fine. Cheese is filled with calcium that your growing child needs for bone strength. Stay away from the McDouble from McDonald’s, Wendy’s Triple Burger, or the full-size Whopper at Burger King. Opt for the plain or cheese single hamburger, and not the extra-large versions.
  • Grilled Fish Sandwich – Grilled fish sandwiches are healthier than the deep fried frozen variety. Grilling means less fat, fewer calories, and lots of protein. Stay away from McDonald’s Fillet ‘o Fish or any other fried options that are loaded in saturated fat. Grilled fish can also be found at Burger King and Jack ‘n The Box.
  • Grilled Chicken Sandwich – Always choose the grilled variety that is available at McDonald’s, Burger King, Jack ‘n The Box, and Wendy’s. Don’t be confused with the fried version that is loaded with extra fat that your child does not need.
  • Fresh Deli Sandwich – Subway has the easiest and fastest healthy sandwich options. Choose whole wheat bread with roasted turkey, grilled chicken, or tuna with fresh vegetables. Skip on the oil option. The oils just add unnecessary fat to a healthy sandwich.
  • Chicken Nuggets – White chicken breast nuggets are healthier than the earlier versions of this food. McDonald’s led this change with its McNuggets, decreasing the calories and increasing the protein. Burger King, Jack n’ The Box, and Kentucky Fried Chicken have also followed in offering whole white meat nuggets. Stick with the 4-piece selection; otherwise, the fat starts to outweigh the protein.


Complete Meal Options

You can complete your meal with a healthy side dish. Many fast food restaurants now offer side salads, yogurt, or apples to complete your meal. Avoid the highly saturated fat served in greasy french fries. This is one of the worst fast food options you could choose. Your child is probably thirsty as well, so instead of reaching for the soda or other sugary fruit punch drink, choose pure fruit juice, milk, or bottled water. Now you have a complete meal.


How Often is Okay?

Fast food options are great for those days when you have just run out of time. It is always best to cook meals in advance and freeze them for options during the week; however, when you will be arriving home late and your child is screaming with hunger, you can save your sanity and choose the right fast food. Fast food is okay in limited amounts, not to exceed once a week. Fast food only becomes a health issue if it is eaten three or more times a week combined with unhealthy meal choices.


Your life is hectic. Choosing fast food is not all bad in moderation, so the next time your day is frantic and you don’t have leftovers, treat your children to a fast meal. Try the healthy options – it promises to relieve you from additional stress and satisfy your child’s hunger without the worry that you are feeding your child “bad” food. Haven’t you already had enough stress for the day?

Feb 04

You’ve heard the news reports. Child obesity is on the rise. Children are developing diabetes that was once primarily seen in adults. Then on the opposite end, you may have read reports emphasizing that young children need fats for their development. There is little mention of eating whole foods. So how do you beat childhood obesity and diabetes, but still provide for your child’s developmental needs?

First Introduction to Food

At around six months of age you may begin introducing solid food to your child. Here we go …You may either choose to purchase your baby food or process your own. If you purchase the ready-made” baby food, ensure that the ingredients are natural. What is the trick to knowing this? If you don’t know what the ingredients are, don’t buy it!

This is where healthy eating habits begin. Start with one type of food source at a time to ensure your child doesn’t have any food allergies. You may choose avocados, bananas, sweet potatoes, and pears to start. As your child is still drinking milk, most of the protein and fats will be received in that form. A few months later you then may begin introducing protein from meat or vegetarian sources. So far, it’s pretty simple, right?

As Your Child Grows

Deciding on a healthy diet for your toddler is most likely going to be based on your eating habits. They mimic what they see, so be careful. Whether you are a vegetarian or a meat eater, it doesn’t matter; your child will eventually pick his or her own path. What matters now is providing your child adequate fat and protein for brain and overall development, as well as whole foods to prevent diseases. Avoid those sugary fruit snacks and opt for healthy choices:

  • Fat and Protein – Red meat, eggs, fish, milk, or vegetarian choices. Remember your child needs good fats when making your choice of protein.
  • Vegetables – Tomatoes, spinach, peas, and carrots are the top choices
  • Fruits – Choose only those in season to ensure freshness
  • Unprocessed foods – Whole grains and whole wheat

Continuing the Path to Health

Once establishing healthy eating for your child, he or she will most likely continue on this path. Yes, other children or adults will introduce your child to candy and the greasy fast foods like hamburger, but having a good foundation is what builds a healthy child. Your child will eventually make his or her own decision on what type of food to eat – but a healthy foundation is never forgotten. And the biggest trick to healthy eating for children – NEVER deny them something they want to try. Let them try the food they desire, but explain to them what they are eating. Try it. It may shock you when your child reaches for the apple on the counter, and not the candy brought home from some birthday party…!


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Feb 04

Valentine’s Day is just around the corner – there always seems to be some holiday or other where cookies and the like begin to sprout out from every corner!

As the obesity epidemic increases in our society among the children, we as parents are responsible for what our children consume. We make them breakfast. We pack their lunches. We cook their dinners. We do the grocery shopping for snacks. We are in control of keeping our toddlers and young children on the healthy path of good eating. After all, what they are allowed to consume now will determine how they will eat and how much excess body fat they will carry as adults.

Even if you have been preparing healthy meals and snacks for your toddler or young child throughout the year, the holidays have a way of sneaking in and sabotaging healthy eating habits. It becomes a season of baking, and cookies are often the choice of food related gifts. Of course, you can’t control what others give you. What you can control is your whether your child will eat these items.

Eliminate ingredients with no nutritional value in your baking

You can take mostly any recipe, and make it healthier for your little one. By having healthy treats available, your child will be satisfied and not beg for the unhealthy “treats” in the gift bags of nice red heart-shaped wrappings.

Natural sugars are already something found in your little one’s diet, so the last thing you want is to intentionally add more sugar to their tiny bodies. Additional sugars will only begin the process of multiplying the amount of fat cells that their body has. This is something that will affect them now; as they grow, and even as adults. So the choices we make for our little ones now can determine not only their adult weight, but their future health as well!

Another item you want to eliminate is processed and high fat ingredients. Processed food, as the name implies, is processed and not natural to your child’s body. These foods contain chemicals that are known to cause heart problems and cancer, so why would we want to predispose our precious children to this?

Substituting unhealthy ingredients for healthy ingredients

With all that in mind, here are some few changes that can increase the nutritional value of the cookies you bake:

  • Take out the white baking flour and replace with whole wheat flour
  • Use unsweetened applesauce instead of white or brown sugar
  • Use unsweetened applesauce to replace oil and/or butter
  • Use organic, raw, natural peanut butter for peanut butter cookies
  • Use vanilla for extra flavor when replacing sugar
  • Use cacao nibs in place of chocolate chips

These cookies will not only be healthy, but your child (even your significant other) will not know the difference – honestly! The cookies may be a little bit moister than cookies made with hardened oil, but who says cookies have to be crispy? Your child will love it – and you will love yourself more for giving your child the best start in life. Do you have other healthy recipes? Share them with us!

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Nov 16

By now, most of us have heard about the new government initiative, Let’s Move! Launched by First Lady Michelle Obama, this comprehensive efforts was created to put into place better options and solutions for eliminating childhood obesity. Ultimately, Mrs. Obama believes if we can raise a healthier generation, we’ve made the first big step in finally eradicating this growing epidemic in the U.S.

Let's MoveThis is a powerful effort, but what’s so impressive is the common sense that’s a hallmark of the program. It’s not overwhelming, but rather, a simple and straightforward effort that puts our children on a much healthier path and it all starts with parents and other adults in the child’s life. It’s about providing healthier environments where choice is encouraged, but healthy habits are instilled in the process. It’s about healthier foods in school classrooms around the country and better solutions for child care providers and just as importantly, ensuring families can afford these healthier choice.

“In the end, as First Lady, this isn’t just a policy issue for me. This is a passion. This is my mission. I am determined to work with folks across this country to change the way a generation of kids thinks about food and nutrition.”

- First Lady Michelle Obama

The Task Force on Childhood Obesity Presidential Memorandum was signed by President Obama, further cementing his family’s dedication and commitment to our nation’s young people. Mrs. Obama has said she hopes one good decision will encourage more good decisions. With attention paid on what families choose for their nutrition, she hopes it will encourage those families to introduce daily exercise into their lifestyles, as well.

Mrs. Obama, along with the task force, have identified five pillars that define the initiative:

Creating a healthy start for children

Empowering parents and caregivers

Providing healthy food in schools

Improving access to healthy, affordable foods

Increasing physical activity

We’re excited to play a role in these efforts and we invite all of our readers to visit the official let’s Move! site where parents and child care providers can find a host of resources to help them define their own game plan.

What kind of changes have your family made? If you’re a child care provider, have you introduced any elements to the First Lady’s initiative? Share your story with us.

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Sep 28

It’s every parent’s challenge: ensuring the lunch box that’s packed with wonderfully nutritious food actually comes back empty. And to make sure it comes back empty because our little ones actually ate what we packed versus trading it out or worse, tossing it on the way out of the lunchroom.  So how can we make sure that happens, especially when we’re not there to see it with our own eyes? Here are a few back to school tips that can help the little ones stay focused on what’s in their lunch boxes versus the cafeteria line.

There’s been a growing concern that the lunch “hour” is shrinking and that it’s occurring earlier than ever in elementary schools. It’s not at all uncommon for lunch time to happen before 11 a.m. and to last for less than a half hour. In fact, a recent survey revealed the average lunch time for elementary and middle school kids to be just 25 minutes. That means kids might be eating before they’re hungry, they’re having to consume their food faster and worse, many say they’re hungry again before the end of their school day. This doesn’t bode well for a teacher who’s trying to keep the attention of a classroom full of kids whose tummies are signaling it’s time to eat.

The goal is to find foods that will stay with our little ones longer and that don’t compromise nutrition.

One way to meet those challenges is by including the kids in meal planning. Kids are far more likely to eat what they’ve helped choose and prepare. There are so many great options out there that are designed for that very purpose.

Want the kids to eat those apples? Cutting the apple up for them is a surefire way to make that happen, but then, kids are sometimes turned off by the natural browning of apples that begins as soon as they’re cut. Try cutting up an apple during a typical Saturday afternoon and before calling the little ones down, allow the apple to show a bit of the natural browning. Call them to the table to color or talk or any other activity and once they see you eating the “imperfect” fruit, they won’t feel as though there’s anything wrong with it and if they do ask you, just say it’s the pectin in the apple doing exactly what’s it supposed to do.  Once they see there’s nothing wrong and even better, they see Mom eating it, they’re not going to think twice when they see it in their lunch box. Also, consider the nifty compartments in today’s plastic bowls. Cut the apple up and put in the other compartment a nutritious dip.

Another great idea is to define a new family tradition on Sunday afternoons. A couple of hours spent making banana bread, chicken salad and other foods for lunch that week also reinforces those great eating habits. The healthier the choices, the fuller the little ones will feel, which will serve them well if they do have an early lunch. Plus, they’re more likely to eat it because they helped make it.

Don’t underestimate leftovers, either. Cut the leftover chicken in to bite sizes and send Ranch dip in their lunch boxes the next day. Heat the leftover chili up in the morning before school and put it in a thermos so it’s still warm and delicious by lunch time – which, by the way, is a great choice for those winter days. Send crackers too for a hearty winter lunch. Even if leftover spaghetti is too messy, take the meatballs and cut them up into bite size pieces.

The goal is to bring the little ones into the decision making process and eliminating the rush of driving them to school and hurriedly encouraging them to eat the food you’ve packed instead of trading it. A little preparation is the best ally in your efforts of encouraging better eating habits for the little ones when you’re not there.

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Aug 02

Over the years, experts, including pediatricians, have differed on the benefits of over-the-counter vitamins for kids. Are they necessary? Or are our children better for the more natural method of vitamin intake? One thing’s for sure: pediatricians and other experts agree that regardless of the source, the end goal is what parents should have in their crosshairs. Take a look as we delve into this subject a bit further.

Disclaimer: This information is provided to present differing opinions and latest information on this topic. Parents should always consult and defer to their family physicians and/or pediatricians for medical advice.

It does appear there’s been a shift in the past few decades over whether or not vitamins for kids are necessary. Experts have long since insisted a healthy and balanced diet is the best way to ensure our little ones are getting all of the nutrients they need. There began a turning of the tides, so to speak, as more realized the traditional family life of dinner at five, with a well balanced meal was becoming increasingly rare as both Mom and Dad worked outside the home , and everyone’s schedules varied greatly. This introduced that age old question as to whether multi vitamins for kids would benefit their health.

The FDA has its own advice in terms of which kids might benefit most from a multivitamin or mineral supplement:

  • Children who don’t eat well balanced meals at regular intervals
  • Children who are picky about what they eat
  • Children with medical conditions – including digestive problems and even breathing problems like asthma*
  • Kids who often “eat on the run” via fast food restaurants
  • Children who are being raised in a vegetarian or vegan home
  • Kids who are involved in physically demanding sports
  • Kids who drink a lot of sugary sodas

*Always consult your child’s doctor before deciding to add any kind of supplements on top of medications.

In order to ensure your children are getting as many vitamins and nutrients the traditional way, incorporate dairy products, such as milk and cheese; fresh fruits and vegetables; plenty of protein found in chicken, tuna, eggs and meat; and whole grains that are found in oatmeal, cereal and rice.

So which ones are crucial for children’s healthy growth? According to the FDA, vitamins A, B (including B2, B6 and B12), C, D and calcium are an absolute necessity.

  • Vitamin A is found in dairy products and orange or yellow veggies, such as carrots and squash.
  • Vitamin B family can be found in nuts, dairy products, soybeans and chicken
  • Vitamin C is found in citrus fruits and green veggies
  • Vitamin D is found in dairy products – and sunlight, which is healthy in moderation; and, of course
  • Calcium, which is also found in dairy products

And speaking of moderation, when it comes to vitamins and minerals, there is such a thing as “too much of a good thing”. This is only one more reason why consulting with your child’s doctor is your first best measure for keeping your little ones healthy and happy.



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Jun 14

There’s a new movement in the U.S. designed to bring parents, educators and child care providers together with the shared goal of ensuring healthier foods are available for children at every meal and regardless of where the meal is served.

What makes this federal effort different from others is the all-inclusive nature of it. It provides definitive solutions for the adults responsible for nutrition in a child’s life. In many ways, it’s inviting parents, child care providers and other educators to come together with a shared goal of instilling better food habits. It’s also kid friendly with rhyming or “sing song” jingles that kids love to memorize: “Go lean with protein” and “Vary your Veggies”.

Child care providers are discovering “activity parties”. These parties serve a host of purposes. From burning off that restless energy kids are known for to encouraging sportsmanship, it allows little ones to burn off some of that restless energy while also encouraging sportsmanship. Some child care providers have even introduced relay races or other age-appropriate competitions, complete with a prize, in order to further their efforts.

Child care providers have always encouraged parents to send healthier snack choices. The worst thing a child care provider wants to deal with is a group of four year olds who have just consumed an overload of sugar. Now, these same providers can take a pro-active approach when looking for cooperation from parents. There’s even a colorful flyer available for download on the government site nutrition.gov. Approaching parents can sometimes be a challenge, and certainly when broaching certain topics. These flyers eliminate much of that discomfort.

From the parent’s perspective, there are specific tips and recommendations for raising healthier children. New guidelines also encourage frozen, canned and dried fruits when fresh choices aren’t available. There was a time when many in the medical community thought canned fruits offered no nutritional benefit. Now, though, nutritionists say canned is fine when fresh fruit isn’t available. For parents, there’s a fantastic source of information on the site, Especially for Moms. It’s informative, current and can be a powerful tool for moms and dads looking to ensure life long healthy eating habits.

The bottom line is we have one shot at raising healthy kids who, in turn, raise their own healthy kids. The decisions parents and child care providers make today will have life-long effects.

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