Nutrition for Parents

...now browsing by category

 

A game of tag each day keeps the doctor away

Monday, May 11th, 2015

untitled (10)   Man, I love the game of tag. And I’m not talking about tagging myself in Facebook photos.  I’m talking about that classic game that involves one or more players chasing other players in an attempt to “tag” or touch them with their hands. Once tagged, that player is now “It” and responsible for chasing someone else down to tag.  Growing up without playing tag is, to me,  like going to Paris and not seeing the Eiffel Tower – simply sacrilegious.  While traditionally thought of as a playground game for children, there are so many benefits to this simple game that it’s a great way for the entire family to get moving.  

Requiring no equipment, no teams, and no score keeping, tag can be played quickly and almost anywhere without preparation. The start and stop motion of the game also results in tremendous aerobic benefits and improvements in speed, agility, and endurance.  The fast pace of the game can be tiring in just 15-20 minutes. And, the fun of the game satisfies even those who dread the chore of just running.

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention recommends 1 hour of physical activity each day for children and adolescents.  Adults need 150 minutes per week of aerobic activity. Get some of those needed physical activity minutes from a family game of tag.  Get creative and make safe zones or bases. Try some of the variations below to mix it up:

 

Categories. The “It” chooses a category. Players can avoid being tagged by sitting down on the ground and shouting an item that fits in that category just before being tagged.  For example, if the category was “fruit”, a player would avoid a tag by sitting on the ground and saying “apples”. Players are safe as long as they are on the ground but they can only sit on the ground for 10 seconds and can only shout a category and sit on the ground when “It” is 10 feet away or closer.

Freeze Tag Just like regular tag except that when someone is tagged, they are frozen and can’t move. There are many variations as how to get unfrozen – getting tagged by another player that isn’t “It”, having someone crawl between their legs, etc. Once someone has become frozen three times, he or she becomes the new “It”.

Bumper Tag Just like regular tag except that instead of tagging with hand, the “It” must tag with his or her hips.  Remind players that all that is needed is a little bump. Nobody should be purposefully knocked to the ground.

Blob Tag Requires multiple people. When tagged, the player joins hands with “It” to create a large blob.  Once the blob has 4 people, it can split into groups of two only and may split into groups of two any time thereafter.  The person left without being tagged is “It” and the game starts again.

Fainting Goat Tag In this version, the “It” is called the Shepard.  Whoever the Shepard touches becomes the new Shepard.  The other players are “goats” and they can fall to the ground to avoid being tagged but they are only safe on the group for up to 10 seconds. The goat can only fall to the ground when the Shepard is 10 feet away or closer.

Dead Ant Tag Requires at least 6 players. In this version, once tagged, the player must lay down with both hands and feet sticking straight up, like a dead ant.  In order for the dead player to come alive, four people must tag one limb each. Once a person has been a dead ant three times, he or she is now “It”.

Shadow Tag Instead of tagging the person, “It” tags someone by stepping on the shadow of other players. When a person’s shadow is stepped on, they are frozen until another player steps on their shadow.

Hug Tag Just like regular tag except that players can be safe from being tagged if they are hugging someone else.  They can only remain in a hugged position for 5 seconds.

Werewolf Tag One player is selected to hide. The other players search for the player.  When one of the players finds the hiding player, they scream out “WEREWOLF!” The werewolf comes out of hiding and chases after all the other players.  If caught, that person becomes a werewolf as well.  The last person not tagged becomes the werewolf for the next round.

Family that jogs together, lives longer together.

Tuesday, April 28th, 2015

jogging   Try this idea to get the whole family moving – create a family jogging club.  Keep members motivated by creating a card for each child that can be used to track the number of loops they complete on a designated loop course.  use card stock and let the kids decorate their own card (added bonus – arts and crafts project! Glue, glitter, and stickers can entice many a munchkin). Give a hole punch for every lap completed. Once a member’s card is full, give a small prize or reward. *Keep in mind that prizes don’t have to cost money. Kids can be very motivated by cost-free prizes such as choosing the dinner menu, getting an extra book from the library, or having a sleepover.

To milk or not to milk? And if you milk which milk? Those are the questions.

Sunday, February 1st, 2015

nondairy milkWorking in a pediatricians’ office, I find that I am often asked the same questions by different parents, showing that there are pretty common concerns amongst parents. One frequently asked question is which type of milk should I give my child? Living in the state of Vermont (aka Cows-R-Us) and with the strong marketing presence from the New England Dairy Council, dairy remains a strong part of the American diet. However, over the past few years, there have been a growing number of milk alternatives on grocery shelves, offering parents an option other than cow milk.  When choosing a type of milk and when ethics are not a deciding factor, it is important to understand the different nutrients found in each type of milk.  Some children, such as toddlers, require a higher fat content in their diet and benefit from a milk with a higher fat content.  As always, the best foods tends to be the ones with the least amount of added ingredients, particularly added sugars.  Also, supplementing a food with nutrients does not appear to be as beneficial as ones in which the nutrients are naturally found.  Use the chart below to help understand the different nutritional composition from the various “milks” in the food supply.

Milks compared

Frequently Asked Questions: Talking weight

Friday, August 15th, 2014

Scales  Q: How do I talk to my child about his or her weight?

A: Each child has a unique genetic blueprint. This blueprint dictates the bone structure, body size, and shape for your child. There is no way to know what these will be. Nor can we know the ideal weight for a child. Thus, the pattern of your child’s growth, both in height and in weight, is almost more important than the number itself. Health providers consider whether your child’s growth matches the expected pattern of growth, regardless of whether your child is considered “skinny” or “fat”. If the growth patterns don’t match, there may be an underlying issue that is affecting your child’s health status. Be sure to speak with your doctor if you have concerns about your child’s growth.

Talking about weight can be a sensitive topic for people  of all ages. Even though weight and body size receive a lot of attention in the media and in society, there is still a lot of misunderstanding. Here are some tips for talking about weight with your child.

1. Talk less about weight and more about health. Using the word “healthy” instead of emphasizing physical appearance can promote a positive body image. Avoid weighing your child at home. Review with your child the benefit to being healthy, which extend beyond changes in body appearance. Being healthy can help your child do better in school, run faster, fight colds, and have more energy.

2. If your child voices concern or makes body image comments, talk about weight without judgment. This can avoid causing guilt or placing blame. Be available to help and talk honestly if you child asks about his or her weight.

3. Use the word “we” so your child knows that every family member is involved. Avoid comparisons to other siblings or children. Being healthy shouldn’t single out one family member. Everyone needs to be healthy and active every day.

4. Keep it positive. Encourage positive body talk by your child, another family member, or yourself, no matter whose body is being discussed.

5. Reassure your child – over and over again – that you love him or her for their internal qualities, such as their goofiness or caring nature.

Frequently Asked Questions: Packing Vegetables in Kids’ Lunches

Wednesday, August 6th, 2014

half plate vegetablesQ: Whenever I pack a vegetable in my child’s lunch, it comes home uneaten. Should I just stop sending it? What’s the point?

A: Vegetables are one of the most important food groups and one that is too often missing from mealtime. Less than 5% of Americans under the age of 50 are getting the recommended amount of vegetables. Here are two reasons why it is important to include vegetables at meals even if you think without a doubt that your child (or significant other) will pass them by. First, it may be the day that they don’t pass them by and actually decide to eat the vegetables. Assuming that meal patterns and preferences will remain the same is just that, an assumption. Try to increase the likelihood of vegetables being eaten by double checking the other items in the lunch bag. Make sure you aren’t giving two foods from the same food group or too large of a serving of one particular item.

A second reason to send vegetables every day is for the message you are sending in the form of those vegetables. Your child will indirectly learn that vegetables are to be included at meals because they are an important part of being healthy. This is an invaluable lesson for your child about meal planning.

A common misconception about vegetables in that they are too expensive. Actually, when considering the nutritional value of vegetables, vegetables are very cost-effective. Meal planning may sound time consuming but it is one way to decrease food costs.  Approach food costs from a difference perspective and look for other areas of spending that you can decrease to free up money. Can you spend less on impulse purchases such as beverages and snack items? Does you family only eat when actually hungry or could food be disappearing due to mindless eating related to feelings such as boredom?  Prioritizing vegetables often leads to creative solutions around food costs.

Dietitians NEVER eat bad food. Ever. Right?

Tuesday, September 24th, 2013

oreos   I heart double stuff Oreos. And – are you ready for this – I also eat them. Shocked?? Many people are often quite shocked to hear that a dietitian would consume Oreos and, that said dietitian would also admit to this in written print. It is true that Oreos are a pretty sugary, processed, nutritional zero of a food, one of those types of foods often referred to as “bad” or “junk” food. That being said, allowing oneself to include foods such as Oreos in the diet, is a key element to healthy, functional eating because there are no bad foods, only bad amounts.  Whole foods with minimal processing tend to be more nutrient dense and should make up the vast majority of the diet. If this is the case, adding the occasional less nutritious food won’t throw off the overall average intake. For example, a bad amount of Oreos would be to eat them many times a week or in large quantities, particularly if not physically hungry.  Teach your child this tidbit of nutritional wisdom to help them understand the concept of moderation.

Dinner Grab Bag

Wednesday, May 29th, 2013

man reaching into grab bag Here’s a way to get out of that dinner slump, in which you find yourself serving up the same 7 meals on a weekly rotation and hearing complaints from the kids because they don’t like what’s for dinner.  Create a recipe grab bag and solve those dinnertime blues.  First, write down each meal you can think of on small, individual sheet of paper.  Consider also writing down “new recipe” or “dinner out” as well on extra sheets of paper.  Next, gather all slips of paper and place them into a bag or bowl.  Recipe grab bag is complete.  Now, each Sunday night, have family members take turns drawing a slip of paper from the bag and (ta-da!) the meals have been chosen for the week. I like to add a drum roll when the kids are drawing slips – give a touch more jazz to the event, like adding sprinkles to ice cream. Consider drawing only 5 meals out to leave days open for leftovers.  Add new ideas to the grab bag over time and soon your dinner grab bag will be chock-a-buck full of ideas. 

The Gift of Physical Fitness

Tuesday, November 27th, 2012

 Children, on average, spend 6 hours each day in front a screen, be it a computer, television, hand-held device, or video game. That is waaaay above the recommended limit of 2 hours or less per day of screen time for kids above the age of 2 (the recommendation is no screen time for kids under the age of 2. Why the pooh-pooh on screen time?  For one, screen time has been linked to problems with behavior and aggression and the simultaneous visual and auditory stimulation provided by these screens may make it hard for your child to function in an environment with less stimulation, such as school.  Screen time should also be limited because it takes away from time that could be spent doing something active. 

If your family exchanges gifts in the coming holiday season, opt for ones that will help your child add more activity to their day. Here are a few ideas:

  • Sports gear such as footballs, soccer balls, lacrosse sticks, basketballs, goals, or cones
  • Snowshoes, sled, hockey gear, skates
  • Frisbee, jump rope, balance board, Wave board, scooter, pogo stick, Skip Bo, stomp rocket, hacky sack
  • Sport classes, gym membership, day passes (homemade ticket) to gym or local pool
  • Games such as Table Top Ping Pong, Twister, indoor bowling set, Hullabaloo, Elefun
  • Mini trampoline, floor keyboard
  • For those that just can’t seem to stay away from video games, at least purchase ones that require no contact between butt and sofa, such as Dance Dance Revolution

What other great gift ideas do you have for parents?

 

Getting your kids off their keister

Wednesday, September 26th, 2012

 Take advantage of these fabulous fall days to get outside and get moving!  The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends (how many times have you heard this??) at least 60 minutes of activity each day.  No one argues that it can require some effort and creativity to get in the full 60 minutes some days BUT the benefits and importance of staying active should push this up the priority list.  Setting limits on sedentary behavior, such as video games, computer, and television time can help open up more time for staying active.  Use reward charts to help motivate your children to do something active without nagging.  Be a good role model yourself and encourage your children to join in if they are able.  Remember, staying active doesn’t just mean going to the gym.  Play tag or monkey in the middle, kick around a soccer ball, find some youtube videos that can teach some new dance moves and get your groove on, squeeze in an after dinner family walk, bike or walk to the store instead of taking the car – get moving!

Legalize it

Sunday, September 16th, 2012

    Peter Tosh once sang a song entitled, Legalize It, and while he himself may not have been referring to anything related to nutrition, the term itself does illustrate a key concept to healthy eating. 

All foods have a place in a healthy diet.  There are no “good”foods, no “bad” foods, no “forbidden” foods.  Some foods have more nutrients and should be eaten more often, and  there are some foods that have less nutrients and should be eaten less often.  But all foods are “legal.” Having “illegal”, forbidden foods, often results in the attachment of feelings to food.  For example, if all foods are ok, there is no reason to feel guilty for eating a “bad” food or disappointment from eating foods that aren’t “treats.”  Eating a forbidden food may become alluring and extra exciting to a child and make that food very valuable.  When feelings become attached to food, physical hunger becomes muddled with emotional hunger.
Teach your children the basics – eat when hungry, stop when full.  Let them eat unhealthy foods every once is a while. Legalizing it is not the same as encouraging it.