As a nursing student I had to sit through more than one nutrition class and frankly, I found them boring. I know healthy nutrition is important and understanding about all the different components of food and how they affect the body is a part of learning to make wise nutritional choices. But still, I wished for a better, more entertaining way to learn about eating healthy foods versus eating junk foods and what makes a food healthy or bad for you.
Enter a new app from Field Fresh Apps, LLC called My Food Fight!
The Field Fresh Apps website describes their new app this way:
“MY FOOD FIGHT!® is a fun interactive journey to combat the health enemies that we each encounter daily. Focused on nutrient density in food, players are rewarded for their consumption of high nutrient dense and organic foods.”
Great for kids and adults alike, this app is a game that rewards healthy food choices and makes learning fun! The creators, Eric Quick & Roger Cardoza wanted kids to learn how food affects health and impacts our lives. What better way to make it interesting and entertaining than to create an educational game app? Best of all, it’s free!
Currently the My Food Fight! app is only available for Apple devices but I believe they are working on an Android version too. Check it out and let me know what you think. And if your kids are getting bored during summer vacation, give them this game and they’ll be having so much fun they won’t even know they are learning!
“Runny noses, coughs and intermittent fevers can all be soothed at home,” says Dr. Ben Lee, a hospitalist at Children’s Medical Center of Dallas and an assistant professor of pediatrics at University of Texas Southwestern, in Dallas. “The old adage of a bowl of chicken noodle soup does have some truth, as it provides necessary fluids and calories to help kids feel better.”
There are other options too. Here are a few unexpected, inexpensive and tasty treats to have on hand for your kids this cold and flu season.
Every mom knows that extra sleep is key for sick children, but getting an unhappy child to climb into bed is seldom an easy task. Oats contain high levels of tryptophan, the amino acid best known for making you feel sleepy after eating a big turkey dinner on Thanksgiving. A bowl of oats may be a bit heavy on the stomach, especially for a sick kid, but eating one or two oatmeal cookies will produce the same effect and help kids settle down and get the rest they need to feel better.
100 Percent Juice Drinks
It’s normal for most kids to become mildly dehydrated while sick with the flu. Watch for signs, which include a dry or sticky mouth, dry skin, irritability and dizziness. “Liquids are important to prevent dehydration,” says Lee.
The right liquids make all the difference, though. Avoid caffeinated beverages and hydrate kids with 100 percent juice. All-natural juice drinks are fat-free and nutrient-dense, and are loaded with vitamins and immunity-boosting antioxidants that many of their sugary counterparts lack. If the juice is too sweet or strong, mix it with an equal amount of water to dilute the taste without washing away the nutrients. Kids younger than 1 year should hydrate with a beverage that contains electrolytes.
Ginger Ale or Ginger Candies
Many studies have shown that ginger curbs nausea and alleviates an upset stomach. The trick is to find foods and beverages that actually contain pure ginger. Look for the words “ginger” or “ginger extract” on the ingredient list. Some sodas, especially those available in natural food stores, are going to be your best bet. Ginger candies made from real ginger can also help provide relief for older children.
A cool ice pop can numb irritated nerve endings to help soothe an inflamed sore throat and provide fluids to quell dehydration. Seek out ice pops made from 100 percent juice or fruit puree, and avoid unnecessary artificial sweeteners and additives. Ice pops made from 100 percent juice are loaded with healthy antioxidants, and those fortified with extra vitamins and minerals can give added boost to the immune system to help speed recovery time.
Honey is extremely effective at soothing coughs, according to research from Penn State College of Medicine. In fact, a small dose of buckwheat honey before bedtime reduced the severity and frequency of coughs and provided significant relief to participants in a recent study.
“Honey has been reported to reduce coughing by coating the throat to help reduce irritation,” says Lee. One to two teaspoons thirty minutes prior to bedtime should do the trick, he says. An important warning: Children under 2 years old should avoid this sweet soother to prevent the risk of a botulism infection.
This past Monday marked the beginning of National School Lunch Week (NSLW) 2011. According to Sarah Fudin, Social Media and Outreach Coordinator for MAT@USC (the Master of Arts in Teaching program for the University of Southern California), “it’s important that we help students understand where food comes from and the nutritional benefits that go along with the food they consume. During National School Lunch week, the School Nutrition Association, as well as teachers, parents, community members and educators around the country will help highlight to students the benefit that school lunch can provide for kids to grow strong and healthy.”
According to the School Nutrition Association, this year’s NSLW theme, School Lunch – Let’s Grow Healthy provides an opportunity for schools to try something new while promoting locally sourced foods. “From a harvest-of-the-month menu to a school garden to a meet-the-farmer educational presentation, there’s a farm-to-school model or activity that can fit the needs of any school or district!”
In support of the School Lunch – Let’s Grow Healthy theme, MAT@USC has created an infographic on childhood obesity with statistics sharing lifestyle, nutritional, activity-related and consequential facts relating to children. It is an easy to read (and pretty disturbing) cause and effect diagram that shows how we got here and what can happen if we continue.
I think it’s time we started paying attention to childhood obesity… What do you think???
Brought to you by MAT@USC Masters in Teaching
About one out of three American children can be considered overweight at this time and that rate is growing very rapidly. The causes are multiple and are most likely societal in nature and not caused by a health condition. Most parents who realize that their child is overweight come to the Doctor to have “their glands checked”. It seems just about everyone knows someone who has a thyroid or other glandular condition that has been blamed for that person being overweight. In fact, a medical problem in kids is one of the least likely causes for obesity.
If one takes time to carefully dissect our current society one would easily be able to notice the low rates of exercise in children and the high rates of sedentary activities. The television and the computer now rank among the chief contributors to the increase in overweight children. In addition, local budget cuts have resulted in elimination of some physical education and intramural sports. And yet another reason for obesity in our kids may be the result of the busy lifestyle of some dual working parents who have very little time to prepare healthy foods- so it‘s fast foods for the night, and it is easy to find the root causes for obesity in this country. As easy as it is to pinpoint some of the reasons for obesity, it is extremely difficult to do something positive about it.
Not only is it time consuming to prepare healthy meals but it is more expensive to buy than a typical American diet and in this economic slump it might not be the first place people wish to spend their money.
On top of these reasons there are certain environmental and familial factors that will contribute to overweight children. If the familial body type is not thin and wiry, this trend will tend to continue through generations and it becomes easy to “blame” the overweight problem on “genetics”. In fact most overweight kids have overweight parents who just do not recognize the “problem” in their children.
What to do
Again, the first thing to do if you think your child is overweight is to take him or her to the primary care provider for an evaluation, looking for the rare and very unlikely medical cause. The diplomatic nature of the approach your Doctor may take to this problem might belie the serious nature of the issue. Beware, it is very serious! The use, by your health care provider, of graphs and charts in the office at the time of the discussion can be very helpful to you, pay attention.
Your Doctor may discuss in front of your child and in a very frank manner, all the medical repercussions of becoming an overweight adult: high blood pressure, increased rates of diabetes, heart disease and strokes just to mention a few. Your child will probably be asked to help resolve this problem. That is very important because without his/her help any attempts will probably fail. After all, you can only control what your child eats when he/she is in the house: once out of the house for the day, it’s all on him or her- that’s tough!
The following are some ideas I believe can help when approaching your overweight child.
Diet related issues
Before you begin to count calories there are some simple mechanisms to put into place.
- Feed your child on a smaller plate than usual but fill the plate- the visuals help to keep the total intake down.
- Do not allow “seconds” and desserts should consist of such dishes as fruits and low fat products.
- Watch out for the “innocence of toppings”. These may carry the majority of calories in the dish you are preparing: low fat or no fat substitutes can now be found in your supermarket for salad dressings etc. You can probably eat a pound of potatoes and gain somewhere near a pound, but if you add the butter, cream and bacon that usually accompany those dishes all bets are off as to the accumulated weight gain.
- Begin to become aware of the information on the labels of just about all foods.
- This is not a bad time to institute low fat and low cholesterol “diets” in hopes of altering adult behavior in the future as this is a major contributor to poor cardiac health in this country. In particular, stay away from foods containing, transfats, unsaturated and polyunsaturated fats as these can contribute to plaque buildup in arteries beginning at a young age; concentrate instead on fruits, vegetables and fiber.
- Rid your house of all snack foods, whole milk and carbonated drinks as this must become an entire family affair.
- While I approve of skim milk after the age of 2 years old I do not approve of artificial sweeteners for children, as many of the past artificial sweeteners have fallen into disrepute at one time or another, and carbonated drinks and juices are generally “empty calories” devoid of anything nutritionally useful except for sugar which he/she does not need.
- Remember, the object of a “diet” is not necessarily to lose weight initially but to begin to alter life styles as your child grows into adult hood. Weight loss is a bi product or “collateral damage”, if you wish, of the particular “diet” you chose.
- When you begin to concentrate on weight loss you should aim for no more than 1 – 2 pounds per week as anything faster has a high likelihood of failing.
- Let your child enjoy an occasional birthday party filled with cake, ice cream, candy etc. Total abstinence will breed discontent.
Don’t forget exercise
The flip side of the coin is, of course, exercise: a reasonable diet without exercise or, vice versa, is like one hand clapping. Family endeavors will be most likely to generate the best results. Encourage sports of all kinds as this not only yields some of the exercise component but builds a sense of belonging and responsibility.
Build in “rewards” to recognize your child’s effort in trying to adhere to this new life style. You might very well encounter resistance at your initial efforts to begin this program but stick with it as it will greatly improve the quality of life for the entire family.
I recently learned that October 5th, today, is International Walk to School Day. Originated in the UK, the day is now celebrated annually in over 40 countries around the world, including the US.
A day to celebrate walking to school??? When I was a kid that was the only way to get to school. But now, according to the US Walk to School site, only about 10% of US children walk to school on a regular basis. While that may be driven by larger distances between home and school, only 25% of children living within a mile of school walk regularly. I’ve seen that in my own town, where the schools started busing kids within a mile radius of schools last year.
There are several reasons why walking to school – or more walking in general – can be beneficial: everything from air quality and reduced traffic congestion to a greater sense of community. But one of the most pressing reasons has to be the increasing epidemic of obesity in this and most developed countries; a critical issue even among children. Data from Health, United States, 2010 from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) show that rates of obesity in children 6-years and older are approaching 20%. If you break down the statistics further you see rates for some minority children (such as Latino boys and African American girls) at nearly 30%!
Obesity is a potential health issue at any age, but it is particularly concerning among children. Obese children are more likely to become obese adults, and the negative health effects of obesity are thought to increase the longer a person is obese. So we are seeing children with weight issues begin to develop diseases typically only seen in adults, such as Type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease, and the impact of these diseases on their health may be much worse than what we see in individuals who develop these conditions later in life (source: CDC).
In her writings on population health, Pamela Russo MD, MPH – a Senior Program Officer with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, whose mission is to improve the health and health care of all Americans – cites several factors (many that developed for perfectly rational reasons) that have “conspired” to produce the epidemic of obesity:
The higher density of fast food restaurants in low income neighborhoods (which offer high calorie, high fat, low nutrient, super-sized meals at very low prices)
The presence of vending machines in schools (selling high calorie soft drinks as a source of needed revenue for the schools)
Subsidized school lunches (containing high caloric and fat content)
The decrease in physical education classes and near-elimination of recess periods (due to shrinking school budgets and a narrow focus on meeting academic test score requirements)
Fewer children and adults walking or bicycling to school or other destinations (due in part to the lack of sidewalks, safe pedestrian crossings, and bicycle lanes)
Increased busing of students (due to liability concerns)
In urban, low income neighborhoods, few places to play or walk (due to unsafe playgrounds, crime, and violence)
A lack of grocery stores with healthy food options, such as fresh fruit and vegetables in many neighborhoods (related to their higher cost and lower profit margins)
As we can see by the bolded items, many of these factors are very much related to the mission of the Walk to School movement, which is to create awareness of the importance of walking and physical activity – and the need for our communities to be walkable. I’m thankful that we live in an area and school district that still supports and promotes lots of childhood activity – including regular gym classes, recess and great local parks. But until recently we had limited sidewalks and bike routes outside our neighborhood – and my son does take the bus every day. Though he would like to walk home from school on occasion, when I’ve tried to arrange it I’ve met some resistance and concern from school organizers, especially since it seems no one else is walking. While safety is important, we may also have to address some new cultural barriers to kids walking.
The US Walk to School website provides information on the benefits of walking and has some great checklists for assessing the “walkability” and “bikeability” of your community – including concrete steps you can take to make improvements. The site also provides ideas and resources for local events you can organize – and an opportunity to register and highlight your efforts – all under the 2011 slogan “Hike it. Bike it. I like it!” Although it’s a little late to organize something for October 5th (I’m planning just to walk to school with my son today), many events are taking place throughout the month of October. Events can be throughout the community – or even just on school grounds.
In addition, through the National Center for Safer Routes to School, which maintains the Walk to School Program (with funding from the US Department of Transportation and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), communities can develop strategies for increasing the walkability of their neighborhoods year-round. And they can access grants through the 2005 legislation that created the Federal Safer Routes to School program.
So, there are lots of reasons to get up, and get walking! If you don’t make it this year, be prepared for International Walk to School Day 2012 – scheduled for October 3rd!