Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Sitting is The New Smoking: Get Up Off Your Seat!

By: Jenn Ripepi, MD, Choosy Pediatrician

You may have heard that "sitting is the new smoking" in the last few years. What is meant by this is that sitting for long periods is bad for our health in many ways. We are meant to move and do it frequently. So what does this mean for our children and their futures?

Sitting decreases our need to breathe deeply, to have our muscles contract and demand increased blood flow. That is the opposite of aerobic exercise. Aerobic exercise is the kind that improves your blood flow and helps to prevent plugged arteries. When we walk, run, swim, and bike or do other activities which get us to breathe harder and our hearts to pump faster, it helps to keep our arteries clear. When we sit we are not using our muscles and letting our blood vessels keep opened up as much as when we move. Over time, that that adds up.

Sit Up Straight

Teaching children to have good posture is important, especially in the pre-school years. Children grow at a rapid pace during their first four years of life and there is an increase in postural responses. It then regresses until adult postural reflexes are reached sometime between 7-10 years of age. So as professionals see it, the most “training”, or using correct sitting/standing positions in static posture and its dynamic reflexes occurs during the early pre-school years of life.

Our overall posture is affected by sitting for long periods. We tend to let our heads drop and that in turn leads our shoulders to hunch forward and our lower backs to curve forward. Our core muscles in our abdomen and lower back get weak. We end up with lower back problems and the whole host of other spinal problems like headaches. For our children who have developing skeletons this is a stress that may force their posture to be permanently impacted. That leads me to the next point.

Build Strong Bones

Strong bones are built not just from calcium and phosphorus but by being used. We have learned from the astronauts in space for long periods that their bone mass decreases when they are out of Earth's gravity. That led others to look at what happens here on the Earth's surface in a number of situations. People have more bone mass when they are physically working against gravity in what we refer to as weight-bearing exercise. That means walking, running, jumping, climbing---moving your body against the Earth's gravitational pull. If children are not moving, they are not building the strong bones to carry them through their lifetimes.

Muscles Matter

Muscles are meant to be used! Our bodies have been built for walking, running, climbing and jumping. If we don't use our muscles, they tend to become weak. Weak muscles can be built up but it takes a lot more work to build strong muscles when someone has not been used to using them. Ask anyone who has gone through physical therapy after an injury and a period of rest. They likely will tell you it was difficult to get started but got easier as their therapy progressed.

Get Moving!

You wouldn’t believe how often I heard in my practice as a pediatrician that kids are tired all the time! Then I'd ask what they "did" all day and they'd answer that they spent most of their time sitting! Not really "doing" anything! They were bored! Our minds need physical as well as mental stimulation. 

A few years ago I read a study about recess in schools and children's performance. Children who had recess with active free play did better in afternoon classes and with their behaviors than children who did not have that opportunity. Children are in classrooms for hours and are kept sitting for that time. They sit on the bus. They sit to do homework. Then many sit in front of a television or video games or other device when they get home. And don’t forget, when they are sitting, they should be at least practicing proper posture or they may have issues down the road.

What Can We Do As Child Advocates?

It is important to help young children learn that when their heart beats faster because they are moving, it is actually healthy and good for them. Help them identify if their heart is "resting," happy, or very happy based on sensing their heart rate. Continue to reinforce the idea of happy, healthy hearts for the entire family. Make everyone’s hearts happy in your family and engage in active movement together. 

At home, keep active not only to help your children but to help yourself. Less screen time and more active time as a family. If you and your children are watching a television show or engaging in technology of some kid, have frequent movement breaks to encourage blood flow and muscle use. 

Music is also a great tool to get our hearts beating. There are many different types of music that enable children to expand upon their listening horizons, imaginations and movements. Allow your children to listen to a variety of music and dance and sing along with them.

When you are on the go, free play outside stimulates big movements and strength and allows children to explore their surroundings. The fresh air and open spaces allow those big, deep breaths we need to keep up with our bodies' demand for oxygen. 

When children are required to sit in school, ask the teachers how they build movement into their lessons. Ask how recess is spent during inclement weather and advocate for active play indoors in a large open space when possible, if the students cannot go outside frequently. (You may be able to let the educators know that they'll have more alert and better behaved children when they allow recess.) 

Try to observe how long children sit when you are with them. A little activity break during homework time can help their concentration. Additionally, try to avoid the command to sit still except when it is really needed (like mealtimes, religious services, haircuts, etc). As we as a society begin to relearn that we are meant to move frequently, we can let our children lead us naturally in movement. All we have to do is follow their lead!

How do you help your children stay active and moving, rather than sitting all day? 

About the Author: I have been a pediatrician for over 25 years. My husband and I have been privileged to raise 4 bright and healthy children. I have tried to gather wisdom from the families I have been blessed to meet during my journey. I believe in practical and flexible parenting to help raise healthy adults. I love to garden, hike, travel and cook and I am looking forward to hearing from Choosy followers.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Choosy Kids in the Kitchen

In honor of #kidstakeoverthekitchen day, some of our Choosy Kids staff have shared favorite recipes from their childhood. It allowed us to take a trip down memory lane, and even give our parents a call to get the recipe! If there is a recipe from your childhood that you love, and you don't have it written down, put it in a cookbook because it may become a favorite of your child's and will forever be in their recipe book to share for generations!

Brianna Robins: Banana Bread

2 cups flour
1 cup sugar
1 stick of butter
1/2 tsp salt
1 teaspoon of baking soda
3 rotten bananas
 2 eggs

Melt the butter and add the sugar along with the eggs (already beaten). Then add the dry ingredients with butter, eggs, sugar, and bananas. Cook at 350 degrees for about 45-60 minutes. Insert toothpick, once the toothpick is dry, voila!

Christine - The Choosy Mommy's Meatballs 

1 pound ground beef
1/2 cup dry bread crumbs
1/4 cup milk
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 small onion, chopped (about 1/4 cup)
1 egg

Heat oven to 400 degrees. Mix all ingredients. Shape into 20 1 1/2 inch meatballs. Place in rectangular pan, 13x9x2 inches. Bake 20-25 minutes or until no longer pink inside.

4+ servings.

The Choosy Mommy tip: I put my meatballs into the microwave for 5 minutes prior to the oven. This helps to keep them in ball form and helps with the cooking process.

Paige Powers: Chicken, Broccoli and Rice Casserole

I actually had to call my mom and discuss what some of my favorite recipes were as a child. She said all I ever wanted to eat was cheesy potatoes. She also said she was pretty basic and made the same things every week for the most part: a meat, a vegetable, and a carb. She did point out one recipe that I liked and here it is:

2 boxes Uncle Ben's Broccoli Rice Au Gratin
1/2 cup celery (optional)
1/2 cup onion (optional)
Side note: She never put either in when I was young because I hated both of those veggies, especially onions, haha!
1 can chicken broth
1 can cream of chicken soup
2-3 chicken breasts
1 bag frozen broccoli

Cook Uncle Ben's rice per directions on the box
Cook chicken how you prefer (boiling works) and cut up into small pieces
Mix all of the ingredients together
Bake 1 hour at 350 degrees!

Pretty simple recipe, but it was one of my sister and I's favorite recipes!

Marianne Jenkins: Cheese Lasagna

As a kid, my siblings and I always enjoyed watching our parents cook, and as we got older, there are a few recipes that are still family favorites! Below is a lasagna that puts a spin on traditional sauce-lasagna.

1 bag of flour
1 1/2 jar of cheese sauce
2 1/2 cups water (for noodles)
4 cups of shredded mozzarella cheese
Seasonings of your choice (we always used salt, Italian seasoning and black pepper)
Vegetable oil or butter

Heat oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl mix even amounts of flour and water (we never mixed all the ingredients at once, instead we did small batches of dough at a time, this helped to ensure we didn't make too many noodles) until the mixture is in a dough form. Add seasonings and knead. Then place flour on counter (to avoid dough from sticking), and lay the dough out. With a rolling pin, flatten the dough to be a desired thickness of noodle. Cut even strips.

Bring water to a boil in a large deep pan and place the strips into the boiling water (we always did a handful of noodles at a time). Use oil or butter to help noodles from sticking to the bottom of the pan. Once noodles float (around 3-5 minutes), carefully bring them out and put them in strainer. Once all noodles are done (this process of making small amounts of dough, flattening, cutting, and boiling can take around 15-25 minutes), begin assembling the lasagna.

Using a large glass rectangular pan, place a thin layer of cheese sauce at the bottom to ensure the noodles don't stick. Then begin the lasagna by placing one layer of noodles, followed by  thin layer of cheeses sauce, and a thin layer of mozzarella cheese. Continue this until you have layered the lasagna to the top of the pan.  Bake 10-15 minutes or until sides of the top layer are crisp.

10+ servings.
Tip: To make it a healthy Choosy plate, be sure to serve with fresh veggies or a salad.

Do you have a favorite childhood recipe? Is it written down for your children? And remember to check out this month's free song download from Choosy Kids called My Choosy Plate!

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Serving Size vs Portion Size: Do You Know the Difference?

By: Dr. Linda Carson, CEO, Choosy Kids

Healthy eating includes making choices. In recent years, making decisions about how much is on our plate, at home or especially in a restaurant, has become increasingly more difficult. This is because the new normal for portions consumed has become increasingly larger. Sometimes meals served to one person to eat is enough for two or more people! Even how we talk about these issues has changed over the years. It can be confusing because serving size and portion size mean two different things, yet they are often used interchangeably as if they are the same.

Serving Size

A serving size is the amount of food or beverage listed on a product’s Nutrition Facts label. A healthy serving size is the measured amount of food recommended by health agencies or allied health professionals, and so the amount is determined.

Portion Size

A portion size is how much I decide to eat for a meal or a snack, therefore the amount can vary. Sometimes food or beverage is sold as a single package (or portion) yet it contains several servings. Some meals could actually meet or exceed a whole day’s worth of recommended calories, fat, sodium, or sugar. When eating out, buffet style eating is the most challenging for keeping portion sizes under control.

Choose My Plate

If you have children or work with them, a great resource for learning about healthy eating, food groups, activity sheets, kid-friendly recipes, and tips for picky eaters is ChooseMyPlate.gov. The Choose My Plate image is becoming increasingly more popular as a tool to remind us of how foods should distributed on our plate.

For an inexpensive way to reinforce this at home, download the image of the plate, print, cut, and tape it to the under-side of a clear plastic plate and cup. This way your child (why not the entire family) can see how foods are recommended to be distributed on your plate at meal time.

Here is another concept to consider: the Choose My Plate image is a proportion plate suggesting to us how the various food groups should be on our plate in proportion to each other. While this visual is a very important and helpful reminder, we could still eat portions piled high that stay inside the proportion lines.

Child Size

Parents of young children often question how much is the recommended serving size for their preschool child?

Serve child-sized portions and let the child ask for more if still hungry. A general rule of thumb is that a serving size is about 1 tablespoon of food for each year of age up to five years. So using a tablespoon as your serving spoon can really help. As your young child grows, you can use a measuring cup for your server. Four tablespoons equal a quarter cup. Research shows young children can regulate their food intake even better when they dole out their own portion right into their own dish. So provide your child with either a tablespoon and count out the servings based on the child’s age or with older children use the ¼ cup measuring cup as the “serving spoon.”

The child’s age, gender and activity level determine the exact amounts needed. To have fun with music and nutrition, listen to the song, What’s On My Choosy Plate.

Another important nutrition concept is “division of labor” at mealtime. There are strategies for parents to help guide our youngest children into being empowered to be more in charge of their eating behaviors, or division of responsibility.

Choosing nutritious foods and keeping portion sizes sensible will help keep your family at a healthy weight. Using simple rule of thumb guidelines will be a great place to start.
How have you guided your child’s eating behaviors? Share your tricks or tips.

About the Author: Linda Carson, Ed. D, is the founder and CEO of Choosy Kids, LLC, and the Ware Distinguished Professor Emerita at West Virginia University. An award winning, nationally recognized expert, Dr. Carson has devoted her career to promoting healthy preferences for young children and the adults who make decisions on their behalf. Click here to learn more about Linda.

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