Good Reasons Why You and Your Kids Should “Eat Your Colors”

Last updated on March 24th, 2014 at 10:25 am

There are at least 2 good reasons to talk about nutrition this week…one is that this is National Nutrition Month. The other is that spring officially starts tomorrow, March 20th! Any signal that this challenging winter is coming to an end is welcome, and now we can start thinking about the good tasting and healthy abundance of fresh produce that will soon come available locally.

Now I’m not a nutritionist, but as part of my studies for a Masters degree in Public Health, I have done in-depth research on the benefits of fruit and vegetable consumption, and have made significant – but not always successful – efforts to increase the amount and variety of produce we eat in our family, as a result of what I’ve learned.

Guidelines for Fruit and Vegetable Consumption

Many people recall earlier public health nutrition campaigns for “5 a Day” servings of fruit and vegetables. But the new MyPlate recommendations call for greatly increased servings of produce: to about 3 cups a day for older children (equivalent to 6 servings under the old system) and 4-5 cups for teens, women and men – equivalent to 8-10 of the old fruit and veggie servings! There are now also weekly guidelines for different classes of vegetables, such as dark green, red/orange and starchy, since emerging research suggests eating a variety of vegetables gives added benefit.

So why the big change?

Data Behind Increased Recommendations

When guidelines are issued to the public, they are “mostly” frozen in time. Yet research continues to advance. And significant evidence from numerous studies around the world has been growing to suggest that with fruit and veggies….more is better!

A 2012 paper which integrated the findings from over 200 studies of the impact of low produce consumption on risk for a range of diseases, found a probable link for obesity and cancer; and a convincing link for high blood pressure, heart disease (number one killer worldwide) and stroke. Fruit and vegetable intake had a possible link with a whole host of diseases, from rheumatoid arthritis to asthma to cataracts and dementia. Stronger assessments for these diseases were not feasible due to the number and type of studies conducted to date.

To add a little more punch to these findings, a 2006 paper reported that across 9 research studies, each additional serving of fruit and vegetables eaten per day decreased heart disease risk by 4%. A recent study that followed participants for 13 years found that the overall mortality rate decreased in a step-wise fashion for each increase in daily produce consumption – with an average 3-year difference in lifespan between the lowest and highest produce consumers!

And these results are not limited to adults. A study published in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association in 2009, showed that the impact of fruit and vegetable consumption on blood markers for heart disease could already be identified in teens from 13 to 17 years of age. Takeaway message: there’s no time like the present to boost your family’s fruit and vegetable intake!

Addressing the “How” Challenge

As with so many things in life, the “how” of helping one’s family to eat more fruit and veggies is the real challenge…dealing with everything from kid (and adult) resistance to simply buying and preparing so much produce day in and day out! Here are a few ideas and resources to help support your efforts and engage your kids in “eating your colors.”

For Parents

  • Produce delivery companies – Farmer’s markets are great sources of fresh produce, but check to see if you have any organizations that deliver local or regional produce right to your door. Here in Indiana (and several neighboring states) we have a great company called Green BEAN Delivery who source locally and beyond to get the best quality and value fruit and veggies.
  • Mix in long lasting produce – root vegetables like beets, carrots and turnip – along with winter squash and citrus fruit tend to last longer than other varieties – so you can always keep some on hand
  • Fruit/Vegetables at every meal – try to have some produce for breakfast, lunch and dinner – even just some berries or some tomato wedges – and aim for different colors to get a variety of nutrients (MyPlate recommends that fruit and vegetables make up “half your plate”)
  • Plan/Prepare ahead – we prepare and cook vegetables on the weekend and keep them in the fridge to microwave and use during busy weeknight dinners
  • Use a tracker – resources like USDA’s SuperTracker and the MyFitnessPal app can help you keep track of what you are eating – including fruit/vegetables. These are probably too complex for kids, but might be of interest for teens as well.

For Kids

  • Produce calculator – the CDC has an easy calculator to show how many servings of fruit and veggies a person should eat based on age, gender and activity level. Anyone can use this, but I found it helpful with my 11yr old son to show him how much produce he really should be eating. Then for fun we started counting at meals to see how well he could do to reach the target.
  • Fun food sites and games
    • BAM! Body and Mind (from the CDC) – the Dining Decisions game is good for younger kids, and the site has other information for kids
    • Nourish Interactive has a range of Chef Solus games and other great info for kids and parents
    • Fuel Up to Play 60 – from the NFL and National Dairy Council, with the USDA
  • Recipes – try kid-friendly cookbooks (we have the Disney and Harry Potter cookbooks) and these recipes from Kid’s Health. BAM! Body and Mind also has easy kid recipes.

Child Health & Safety News Roundup: 03-10-2014 to 03-16-2014

Last updated on March 2nd, 2018 at 02:18 pm

twitter thumbWelcome to Pediatric Safety’s weekly “Child Health & Safety News Roundup”- a recap of the past week’s child health and safety news headlines from around the world.

Each day we use Twitter to communicate relevant and timely health and safety information to the parents, medical professionals and other caregivers who follow us. Occasionally we may miss something, but we think overall we’re doing a pretty good job of keeping you informed. But for our friends and colleagues who are not on Twitter (or who are but may have missed something), we offer you a recap of the past week’s top 20 events & stories.

PedSafe Headline of the Week:
An Unexpected Danger for Baby’s Hearing: sleep monitors pose a surprising risk

Children and Accidental Poisonings: What You NEED to Know

Last updated on August 30th, 2015 at 06:00 pm

?????????????????Keeping your children safe, this is the goal of every parent. We all want to keep our children safe and secure and help them live to their full potential but with over 300 children a day in the United States ages 0 to 19 being treated in emergency departments, and two children dying, as a result of being poisoned, the concerns of children and accidental poisonings are more prevalent than ever. These concerns are always the topic of extended discussion during our training classes both here at the fire department and in our community training classes and come down 3 main points.

  1. Precautions
  2. Identification
  3. Action


Taking the steps before something bad happens is always the first step in any plan to keep children safe. Children are naturally curious and don’t yet know the dangers involved with chemicals and may easily confuse a glass cleaner or floor cleaner with their favorite drinks as well as confusing medicines and pills for candy. Properly Storing and locking away chemicals and medicines in special child safe storage containers is one of the best ways to keep naturally curious children away from these dangers. Along with securing chemicals, knowing who to call in an emergency is key as well. Placing emergency numbers around all phones and in all cell phones is a great precaution to take as well. 9-1-1 is always an easy number to remember but placing the number for the national poison control centers 800-222-1222 and any other numbers and information is advised as well.


Identifying the signs and symptoms of a child that has a definite or suspected poison ingestion are of the upmost importance. Some of the signs of poisoning: Besides finding an open container or bottle, look for these signs if you suspect your child has swallowed something dangerous:

  • Burns or redness around the mouth and lips (a sign your child drank something caustic)
  • Breath that smells like chemicals
  • Burns, stains, and smells on your child, her clothes, or elsewhere in the house
  • Vomiting, difficulty breathing, sleepiness, confusion, or other strange behavior
  • Drowsiness, Dizziness, or weakness
  • Breathing problems
  • Rashes
  • Blue Lips or Skin ( cyanosis )


If your child is awake and stable:

  • Remain Calm.
  • Don’t give ipecac syrup or try to make them throw up — doctors say this can do more harm to your little one. Instead, call the poison-control center at 800-222-1222
  • Tell the person who answers as much information as you know: What you think your child swallowed, when, and how much. (It helps if you have the bottle that contains the poisonous substance.) Then follow instructions on what to do.
  • If the poison-control expert tells you to go to the ER and you have the substance container, then take that with you to show the ER doctor exactly what your child ingested. Calling 9-1-1 is recommended in an emergency, driving to the ER is not recommended in an emergency due to the lack of focus on the road and the increased possibility of accidents.

 If your child is unconscious and not breathing:

  • Call 9-1-1 and give the information requested
  • Start CPR and wait for Emergency response.
  • Do NOT attempt to drive to the ER.

There is no way to prevent every possible scenario, but it is possible to be prepared in case of an emergency and as always, a little preparation goes a long way.

Be Safe


An Unexpected Danger for Baby’s Hearing

Last updated on March 2nd, 2018 at 02:22 pm

How often do you think about the impact on your hearing from listening to music on your iPod, maybe a little too loudly? Do you wear hearing protection when mowing the lawn? What about hearing protection for your baby or child? When is that needed?

Certainly that was a concern for me and my husband when we started taking our son to a local air show when he was a toddler. The sounds of the jets were unbearable at times – even for me. And Elliott certainly let us know it was an issue for him, so we got big over-ear protectors that made a real difference.

So, if a sound is loud enough to harm our child’s hearing, we will know, right? The baby will cry. The toddler will cover his ears.

Well, not so, according to a new study by researchers at the University of Toronto. A review of popular baby sleep machines – such as the Graco Sweet Slumber Sound Machine and Baby Einstein’s Sea Dream Soother – found that, set on maximum volume, all of these machines exceeded recommended decibel levels for hospital nurseries – and a few exceeded workplace safe hearing limits for adults. You can read more about the findings of the study in this New York Times article.

The authors point out that these machines, which emit white noise or nature sounds to soothe babies to sleep, can mostly likely be used safely by keeping the machine at a lower volume and away from the baby, and also limiting the duration of use. But the thing that is so concerning is how widespread the recommendations to use these machines have become, without a proper understanding of their potential impact. We certainly used something like this – and never dreamed it could have negative effects on our son. These findings should also raise the question for all parents about other potentially damaging noises for babies. One example that comes to mind is the sound level of music at a church I’ve been to on occasion. The music was so loud that it actually hurt my ears. Although babies in the congregation were napping or playing – clearly this isn’t an all-clear signal that the noise level is safe.

The article also got me thinking about hearing protection as children age. One of the most common concerns is with tweens and teens and loud music – particularly when using ear buds. But there are other concerns as well, like loud sporting events and power tools at home. Some great advice on these and other hearing concerns for kids can be found at It’s a Noisy Planet, a program of the National Institutes of Health. And you can click here to download a brief Noisy Planet tip sheet, Sound Advice on Hearing Protection for Young Ears.

How to Become a Better Parenting Team!

Last updated on March 17th, 2014 at 11:49 pm

You don’t like the kids watching TV on school nights; your guy lets them turn on the Disney Channel after dinner. You think his punishments are too harsh; he thinks you’re too easy. If you two don’t see eye to eye when it comes to parenting style, you’re not alone! Here are some expert parenting tips to help bring your parenting team together.

“Most couples have different philosophies about childrearing based on how they were raised,” says Michele Borba, Ed.D., author of The Big Book of Parenting Solutions. “Almost inevitably, one parent is more lenient than the other about everything from allowance and curfews to electronics, homework, behavior and chores.” These differences in parenting style can lead to arguing — and worse. “Fighting creates tension in a marriage, which often leads to a persistent anger that erodes intimacy,” says Fran Walfish, Psy.D, author of The Self-Aware Parent.

Different parenting styles also affects the children. When kids know that Mom and Dad don’t agree on parenting issues, they may try to manipulate them in order to get their way – which only makes things worse and leads to problems later on. As Dr. Walfish notes, “If kids are allowed to overpower their parents, they may develop an attitude of entitlement that will not serve them well in school, work or life.”

Here are four parenting tips to help you move from parenting adversaries to parenting partners:

Get a reality check. Have an honest talk with your husband or partner about how your disagreements affect your family. First, accept that you won’t agree on everything and try to understand where your partner is coming from. Then pledge to stop fighting about parenting in front of your kids. “Children respect parents who offer a mutually aligned message,” Dr. Walfish says. “Not only do they lose respect for parents who openly diminish and blame each other, but fighting opens the door for them to try to pit one parent against the other.”

Start small. Find one thing you agree about – whether it’s a 9:00 bedtime or a homework-before-electronics policy – and enforce that rule over a set period of time. By being consistent, you’re likely to get the behavior you want from your child, which will make it easier to come together on stickier issues now and in the future, according to Dr. Borba.

Give notice. Tell your kids that you’re presenting a united front – and then put it into practice. “It’s helpful to post a list of house rules on the refrigerator. When your child tries to wear you down, point to the list and say, ‘Mom and Dad agree that you cannot watch movies on a school night’ or ‘We agree that you must write thank-you notes for gifts,’” Dr. Borba advises. Or come up with sayings that are easy to remember – “We eat our dinner before dessert” – and cheerfully repeat them to reinforce the message. At first, expect some big-time resistance from your kids – and lots of “but whys?” Keep your explanation simple and speak in one voice: “This is what Mom and Dad think is best.” Period.

Reach out for assistance. If the two of you can’t come to terms, consider a parenting skills class or consult an objective third party, such as a counselor, pediatrician or clergyman. Parenting challenges don’t get any easier as the years go on, so the sooner you make parenting a team sport, the better your odds of making it to the finish line!

Child Health & Safety News Roundup: 03-03-2014 to 03-09-2014

Last updated on March 2nd, 2018 at 02:25 pm

twitter thumbWelcome to Pediatric Safety’s weekly “Child Health & Safety News Roundup”- a recap of the past week’s child health and safety news headlines from around the world.

Each day we use Twitter to communicate relevant and timely health and safety information to the parents, medical professionals and other caregivers who follow us. Occasionally we may miss something, but we think overall we’re doing a pretty good job of keeping you informed. But for our friends and colleagues who are not on Twitter (or who are but may have missed something), we offer you a recap of the past week’s top 15 events & stories.

PedSafe Headline of the Week:
Exposure to parental smoking adds three years to the age of a child’s arteries