Category Archives: Healthy Kids

Is Your Child Overweight? How to Tell and What to Do

Babies and children need body fat to be healthy, nourish their brains, and develop normally. But when does baby fat turn into a problem? At what point are our children overweight and at risk for health problems down the road? The reality can be hard for parents to determine, but with an estimated 20-30% of American children suffering from overweight issues, it is a crucial task for all parents. Read on to determine whether your child is at a healthy weight, and if not, what to do.

Assess Your Child’s BMI
Doctors have long relied on growth charts to determine whether children are developing appropriately, but some now turn to the Body Mass Index, or BMI, which uses height and weight to approximate the level of body fat a person has. BMI is used as a screening tool to identify possible weight problems for children. CDC and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommend the use of BMI to screen for overweight and obesity in children beginning at 2 years old.
To calculate your child’s BMI, visit your doctor or use an online tool like this one at The result will tell you whether your child has an appropriate level of body fat based on his height, age, and weight. A score ranging from the fifth percentile up to the 84th percentile is considered a healthy weight. If your child’s BMI is over the 85th percentile, schedule an appointment with your doctor to discuss the results and determine what other factors should be considered.

Assess Your Child’s Caloric Intake
For a child who is growing and developing normally, it is usually unnecessary to count calories. Young children often self-regulate their own eating patterns and will not eat more than their bodies need or let themselves starve. However, knowing what the caloric needs are for children can be a helpful tool for determining whether your child is getting adequate nutrition. The USDA recommendations of calories for children can be found here. The next step is to ensure that the calories your child is taking in are of good quality.

Assess Your Child’s Nutrition
Children should not diet unless they are under the care of a doctor. Rather, children should eat just as their parents should, taking in a diet that is rich in fruits, vegetables, unrefined whole grains, and lean protein. Sugary snacks and beverages should be limited, as should trips to the drive-through. Important tools in helping to instill healthy eating habits for your child are to refrain from using food as a reward or bribe, avoid forcing children to eat all that is served to them, and to invite children to take an active role in selecting healthy food at the store and choosing menus for the week ahead. When children are involved in the process of becoming healthier, they will begin to adopt habits that will build the foundation for future health. Be a good example!

Get Moving!
All children, regardless of weight, should be active every day. It’s not necessary to sign up for a membership at the local gym, however! Playing sports, walking to and from school with adult supervision, and even playing interactive video games can all help children develop an appreciation for being active. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention recommend that children get at least 60 minutes of physical activity each day.  Limit television and computer time and spend time outside each day with your children, using these tips as a guide.  Read here for more family fitness ideas.

The health of our children has become a national priority. Don’t let your child become a statistic! Take steps today to determine your child’s health, calorie, and activity needs and if you are concerned about your child’s weight, meet with your doctor. It’s easy to set your child on a path to lifelong health, with you as their guide! Continue reading Is Your Child Overweight? How to Tell and What to Do

Mealtime Makeover: From Manic to Marvelous

“Ewwwww! I hate this!”
“This is so gross!”
“Mom, are you trying to poison us?”
These supportive words of affirmation are just a sampling of those heard around dinner tables every night, leaving mothers to wonder if they will ever prepare a meal that doesn’t inspire Oscar-worthy performances of spontaneous illness, pretend gagging, and sometimes even a dramatic death scene.  Sound familiar? You’re not alone!
These days, it is not surprising that for many families, “dinner” is more a random collection of food than a meal, with each family member eating something different. In fact, the Institute of Food Technologists reports that while more families are eating at home, nearly half of those meals are fast food, delivery, or takeout.
So how do we get everyone around the table, eating the same meal, and sending their compliments to the chef? Try treating your children as VIPs and remember to Vote, Involve, and Prepare.
Many times kids reject food because they perceive that they will not like it, so presenting something they have never heard of can be the fast track to disaster. Letting them “vote” on dinner can help. Assign each family member a night when they get to plan dinner. If this seems too risky for your family, make a list of mom-approved options and let them select one. Giving kids a sense of control at mealtime can help diffuse conflict and lead to increased confidence in decision-making later. You never know, pancakes and scrambled eggs might become a new dinnertime favorite!
Getting kids involved in the food they eat is a proven way to encourage an appreciation for healthy food. Weekends can be a great time to let kids try their hand at helping prepare a meal. Little hands can count bite-sized vegetables and sprinkle low-fat cheese atop a hearty hidden-vegetable lasagna. Kids can also be involved in preparing their snacks for the week ahead: assign the task of counting 15 crackers and 15 raisins to be packed into a lunchbox later in the week.  By involving the kids in the family’s food preparation, they are invested in the process and gain a sense of pride, which just might motivate them to actually eat the food they helped prepare!

It is said that success favors the prepared mind, so it is also important to prepare our minds with realistic expectations. Expecting every meal to be an idyllic experience of peace and tranquility may be unrealistic, but it is certainly possible that four out of seven meals could be free of meltdowns. In addition, prwhich reinforces the positive experience of being involved in meal planning.
Mealtimes can be stressful for a busy family. By slowing down the process and making meal preparation a family activity, mealtime can go from manic to marvelous! Bon appetit! Continue reading Mealtime Makeover: From Manic to Marvelous

How to Decode the Grocery Store Labels

Walk through any grocery store, and you’ll see bright packages boasting health claims on any number of products ranging from chocolate-coated breakfast cereal (made with whole grain!) to chicken (all-natural, raised without antibiotics!). Wander to the dairy case and find more confusing packaging: what is the difference between free-range eggs and conventional eggs? Are free-range eggs organic? Are organic eggs better? It can sometimes seem as if we need a new kind of dictionary to do our grocery shopping. Welcome to the world of eco-labeling.

Eco-labeling is a new trend that has been built on the foundation of greener living. As more families seek products that are environmentally friendly and healthier, food companies are responding by creating labels with terminology that sound eco-friendly. But what should a savvy shopper look for to make sure her shopping cart is filled with healthy products? Read on for definitions for the most common eco-labels.

Eco-Label: Organic
Savvy Shopper Should: Look for the seal.

For a product to be certified as organic, it must meet the following criteria:
·      meat, poultry, eggs, and dairy products come from animals that are given antibiotics or growth hormones.
·      food is produced without using most conventional pesticides; fertilizers made with synthetic ingredients or sewage sludge; bioengineering; or ionizing radiation.
·      a government-approved certifier inspects the farm where the food is grown to make sure the farmer is following all the rules necessary to meet USDA organic standards.

There are three categories of organic labels:
·      100% Organic: made with 100% organic ingredients.
·      Organic: made with at least 95% organic ingredients.
·      Made with Organic Ingredients: at least 70% organic ingredients are used, and the remaining 30% must be free of GMOs (genetically modified organisms)

Only those products with at least 95% organic ingredients can carry the Certified Organic seal.

Eco-Label: “All-natural”
Savvy Shopper Should: Read the label for the company’s definition of “natural.”
“All-natural” means that the product does not contain any artificial ingredients, colors, chemical preservatives, and is minimally processed. But, the definition of “minimal” is up to the discretion of the producer, who should explain what they mean on the label. Read the label to decide if it meets your personal standards.

Eco-Label: Certified Humane
Savvy Shopper Should: Follow your heart.
“Certified Humane” means that the animals used to produce that food have ample space, shelter and gentle handling to limit stress, have access to ample fresh water and a healthy diet of quality feed, and are not given antibiotics or hormones. Animals may not be caged or tied, and must be free to live a natural, instinctive life.  For example, chickens should have room and freedom to flap their wings and pigs should be give the space, time, and opportunity to move around and root.

Eco-Label: Free-Range
Savvy Shopper Should: Proceed with caution.
According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), free-range or free-roaming means that “producers must demonstrate to the Agency that the poultry has been allowed access to the outside.” However, the USDA only requires that animals receive five minutes of open-air access, and the living standards for these animals are largely left up to the individual farmer. If free-range status is important to you, consider buying dairy and meat products from a local farmer who maintains standards that meet your approval.
For a wider range of eco-labels and their definition, visit Consumer Reports’ Choices for a Greener Planet.

Striving for greater health through food is a rewarding and worthwhile effort, so don’t let confusing labeling make it a chore. Look for the organic seal, choose wisely, and remember: greater health is a journey of progress, not perfection! Continue reading How to Decode the Grocery Store Labels