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By contactus@priority-pediatrics.com
February 28, 2018
Category: Healthy Kids

8 Simple Rules for Raising a Healthy Kid

A doctor mom reveals the easiest ways to keep your little ones as healthy as possible. 

 

1. Offer lots of fruits and vegetables. Eating five servings every day is good for your heart and helps protect against cancer and prevent obesity. Unfortunately, kids facing, say, broccoli won't be particularly persuaded by a reference to the scientific literature. They often need to be taught to like fruits and veggies. When kids reject a food, it's often due to unfamiliarity, not true dislike. So offer the same food many times. While babies eagerly try new foods, older kids may need as many as 15 tries before they'll like or tolerate them.

 

2. Teach hand-washing. When I became a pediatrician, I was always sick. I assumed that exposure to kids' illnesses was part of the job. Although I washed my hands frequently, I eventually realized that I was inadvertently transferring germs from my computer keyboard to my mouth when I snacked between seeing patients. I stopped eating at my computer and I haven't had a stomach virus since! A group of researchers in London called the International Scientific Forum on Home Hygiene (IFH) tracked germ transmission through homes and found that people's hands are the number-one source for spreading infection. We may blame our pets, sneezing kids, and dirty shoes, but they're not the real cause. We transfer germs from our hands into our body when we touch our eyes, mouth, or nose. And young kids touch their face a lot: One study found that it's as often as 50 times an hour. The goal, then, is to reduce the number of germs on their hands. Certainly, door handles and toys are germ reservoirs, so wipe those down frequently. Other hot spots are the bathroom and the kitchen, which the IFH found to contain some of the most contaminated surfaces in the home.

3. Vaccinate on time. Children get up to 24 shots by age 2. With that number, it's no wonder some parents may be tempted to delay certain vaccines. I actually postponed my daughter's HPV (human papillomavirus) vaccine because we were too busy to schedule visits for all three shots, and protecting her from an adult disease when she was in 7th grade just didn't seem that critical. But after researching my decision, I was reminded that the vaccine schedule is meticulously designed to give immunizations when they are most effective. Babies and toddlers need to get their vaccines in the critical window that begins when their immune system is developed enough to respond but before they are at highest risk from the most dangerous diseases. Deviating from the schedule won't guarantee effectiveness, and delays may also contribute to more side effects. For example, measles-containing vaccines are twice as likely to cause a febrile seizure when given late, shows research from University of Washington in Seattle. Needless to say, we got my daughter back on schedule, and she finished her HPV series before she turned 13.

4. Brush teeth with fluoride. Even mild tooth decay can affect kids' health by causing pain, poor eating, and interrupted sleep. In one extreme case, I had an 11-year-old patient who spent a week in the hospital for a dental infection. Fortunately, simply brushing protects teeth—if you use f luoride. That's what builds and maintains the protective enamel on teeth. They need to "bathe" in fluoride for its magic to work. So as soon as your child has teeth, brush them with fluoride toothpaste at least twice a day. So-called "training" toothpaste doesn't contain fluoride. 

5. Enforce a regular bedtime (starting in toddlerhood). I have to confess, I've often delayed my kids' bedtime just to spend a little more time with them. But I'm not doing them any favors. Children who don't get enough sleep can become hyperactive, and their school performance suffers, according to a Pediatrics study. Sleep deprivation in kids may also impact the hormone leptin, which signals us to stop eating, and kids who don't get enough zzz's may be more likely to be overweight or obese than those who do. Make sure your child is going to bed early enough too. Research found that kids who regularly turned in after 9 p.m. also displayed more behavior problems. The good news is that the behavioral consequences of poor sleep are reversible once a kid switches to a regular, appropriate bedtime, no matter how old he is. Kids need far more sleep than many parents realize. Toddlers need 11 to 14 hours (including naps), preschoolers need ten to 13 hours, and after kindergarten, kids need nine to 11 hours. So set a regular bedtime routine and stick to it. If you read a book, cuddle, and tuck them in at roughly the same time each night (before 9 p.m.!), kids will find their natural rhythm and sleep the right number of hours. 

 

6. Insist on a helmet. We keep a dented helmet on a shelf in our pediatric E.R. with a note from a 13-year-old bike rider that reads, "This helmet saved my life when my head dented the hood of a car." It's a reminder that wearing a helmet can prevent serious injuries—yet less than half of kids wear one, and more than a third wear them incorrectly, according to Safe Kids Worldwide. Your attitude has the greatest influence on your kids' helmet use. So insist that your children wear helmets when they ride anything with wheels—and always wear one yourself. Kids often complain that a helmet is uncomfortable. Here's how to know it fits properly: It should rest two-fingers' width above the eyebrows and not slide around. Tighten the chin strap until it's snug; no more than one finger should fit under the strap. When your child opens her mouth wide, the helmet should pull down on her head. Adjust it so that the left and right straps form a Y below her ears.

7. Apply sunscreen, all year long. While sun exposure wreaks havoc on skin at any age, sunburn during childhood is particularly risky. The earlier in a child's life that skin cells become damaged, the greater his chance of developing skin cancer over his lifetime. Kids are especially sensitive to the harmful effects of ultraviolet radiationbecause their skin has a thinner outer protective layer than an adult's does. For kids over 6 months, apply sunscreen any time they're exposed to the sun. (Keep younger babies out of direct sunlight altogether.) In addition to sunscreen, protect kids with clothes that minimize exposure, a wide-brimmed hat, UV-protective sunglasses, and by keeping them in the shade as much as possible.

 

8. Use safety straps. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that three out of four kids aren't restrained properly in vehicles. Make sure you carefully follow the instructions on your child's car seat, booster seat, or seat belt so he is safe.

 
 

 

By contactus@priority-pediatrics.com
November 16, 2015
Category: Nutrition

More Fiber for Your Children?

Yes! Here’s Why and How.

Fiber is an important nutrient that most children (and parents) are not getting enough of each day. 

As parents, you do your best to feed your family healthy foods, but you may need help with choosing good sources of fiber. 

Read on for more information about fiber.

  • How much fiber do children need?
  • Why is fiber important?
  • What are some ways to give meals a fiber boost?
  • How do you read Nutrition Facts?

How much fiber do children need?

There are different fiber recommendations for children based on energy needs, age, or weight. 

Eat 5.

A simple way to make sure your children are getting enough fiber is by making healthful food choices. If your children are eating at least 5 servings of fruits and vegetables each day along with other foods that are good sources of fiber, there is really no need to count fiber grams. 

Add 5.

If you find it helpful to keep track of numbers, add 5 to your children’s age. For example, a 5-year-old would need about 10 grams of fiber each day. Note: The total daily recommended amount of up to 25 grams for adults can be used as a general guideline for children.

Why is fiber important?

Fiber helps make us full and keeps things moving in the digestive tract. A diet that includes good sources of fiber may help prevent constipation. These foods also are good sources of nutrients and vitamins that may help reduce the risk of heart disease, certain types of cancer, and obesity.

Good sources of fiber include vegetables, fruit, beans, peas, nuts, and fiber-rich whole-grain breads and cereals.

Did you know? 

Constipation is a common childhood concern. 

One symptom of constipation is abdominal pain (stomachaches, cramping, nausea). Constipation happens when stools (poop) become hard, large and sometimes painful to pass.

Bowel patterns vary from child to child just as they do in adults. What’s normal for your child may be different from what’s normal for another child. 

If you have any concerns about constipation, talk with your child’s doctor.

What are some ways to give meals a fiber boost?

There are simple ways to add fiber to your family’s diet. But getting your children to eat what is served may not be as easy. Keep in mind that it may take many tastes before children will like a new food. And even if they never learn to like broccoli, there are many other choices. 

Breakfast for starters

It’s important to start each day with a healthy breakfast. Breakfast gives children energy to carry through an active morning. Studies have shown that children who don’t eat breakfast have trouble staying alert and concentrating during the first hours at school.

  • Choose whole-grain cereals and other whole-grain foods that have at least 3 grams of fiber and less than 10 to 12 grams of sugar per serving. 
  • Add fruit to a bowl of fiber-rich whole-grain cereal.
  • Add vegetables to a breakfast wrap made with a whole wheat tortilla.

Top it off with fruit or nuts

  • Top salads with fresh fruit, nuts or dried fruit.
  • Top plain yogurt with nuts or fresh fruit. Fiber-rich cerreal also goes well with yogurt.
  • Top low-fat frozen yogurt or ice cream with nuts or fresh fruit.
  • Toss together a handful of raisins, fiber-rich whole-grain cereal, and nuts for an on-the-go snack.

Make it whole grain

  • Switch to foods made with whole grains. Or try to make half your grains whole grains.

Bring on the beans

Beans and peas are part of 2 food groups. They can be counted as a vegetable or protein. As a vegetable, they are sources of dietary fiber and nutrients such as folate and potassium. As a plant protein, they are sources of zinc and iron.

Beans and peas can be a main or side dish and added to soups or salads. They are low cost and add lots of nutrition, texture and taste!

Eat your veggies

  • Keep precut raw veggies like carrots, celery and broccoli on hand for snack. A little salad dressing on the side might make the veggies more appealing.
  • Add vegetables to pizza, salads, soups and sauces.

How do you read Nutrition Facts?

Nutrition Facts can tell you all about the nutrients and ingredients in a food. Nutrition Facts can help you choose foods that provide the nutrition that's right for you, including fiber.

Dietary Fiber is a nutrient listed under "Total Carbohydrate" on the Nutrition Facts label.

  • Excellent sources of fiber have 5 or more grams of fiber per serving.
  • Good sources of fiber have at least 3 grams of fiber per serving.

(If a food company makes a claim about the fiber of food, the grams of fiber must be listed under "Total Carbohydrate." "Whole grain" on a food label means that some whole grain is included. Remember to select foods with whole grains that are also good sources of fiber.)

Look at the list of ingredients if you want to know if a food is made with whole grains.

  • Not all foods labeled as "whole grain" are a good source of fiber. Grains vary widely in fiber content. For example, whole-grain wheat has more fiber than whole-grain brown rice or whole-grain oats.
  • The amount of fiber in a whole-grain food can vary by brand.
  • Whole grains include whole wheat, brown rice, bulgur, buckwheat, oatmeal, whole oats, whole rye, and wild rice.
 

For more information

If you want to know how much fiber is in a food that does not have a Nutrition Facts label, you can look it up on Nutrition.gov at www.nutrition.gov/whats-food

This information is from the American Academy of Pediatrics and Healthychildren.org.