Archive for August, 2010

Back to School: Planning Healthy Lunches for Your Child

Your child’s healthy lunch doesn’t begin at noon when they join their friends at the cafeteria and sit down to enjoy their meal. Instead, a healthy lunch begins with the trip to the grocery store to purchase the best foods to create a nutritious and well-balanced lunch.

Supermarkets are filled with nutritious choices nowadays and by enlisting the help of your child when shopping for their lunch foods, he or she can learn how to make the best choices as they grow up and create meals of their own. Be sure to check out the following areas of your supermarket and your child’s lunch will not only be filled with great tasting foods, but it will also create a healthy lunch.

• The Produce Section: The produce section is always a good place to start when it comes to a healthy lunch. Choosing fruits and vegetables that your child enjoys and even some they may have never tried is a great idea and is always a good place to find those important vitamins and minerals that every child needs.

• The Drink Aisle: While many children would love to enjoy a sugary soft drink with their lunch, a better option is a 100 percent fruit or vegetable juice, low-fat milk, water or lightly sweetened tea instead. Be a label reader and avoid juices with high-fructose corn syrup, artificial colors and artificial flavors.

• The Bakery Section: According to, sandwiches are a popular choice for school lunches but instead of white bread try whole grain bread, wraps or pitas. If your child resists whole grain breads, use bread that is made with whole grain but still has the flavor and texture of white bread.

• The Dairy Section:
The dairy section is also an area where you can find some great foods. Try low-fat dairy options, like cottage cheese, string cheese and yogurt.

• The Snack Food Aisle:
Many parents would avoid this aisle completely, but there are still some great lunch items that can be found in the snack food aisle. Be on the lookout for baked and not fried snacks, avoid Tran’s fats, choose whole-wheat over non-whole grain snacks, and grab some all natural granola bars that offer whole grains, nuts and pieces of fruit all in one snack.

Here are some other ideas for healthy snacks that you can easily send your child to school with:

• Send a salad in a small plastic container. Keep the dressing on the side in a separate smaller container.
• Cheese sticks go well with sandwiches and are a good source of calcium.
• Whole grain snack crackers add a nice crunch and lots of healthy fiber.
• Make a fruit salad with grapes, melons chunks, and blueberries.
• Dried fruit, like raisins, dried cranberries or banana chips
• Nuts like almonds, cashews, or walnuts
• Pack a cold pasta salad, cole slaw, or potato salad.
• Baby carrots with a small container of vegetable dip
• Crunchy raw green beans with a small container of ranch or French onion dip
• Prepackaged, flavored low-fat yogurt

Just by paying some attention to the labels and what is going into your child’s lunch each day; your child will have the nutrition and energy necessary to get through his or her day, the healthy way.

Back to School and Back to Sleep: How to Get Your Child Back on a School Sleeping Schedule

As parents and their children enjoy their last few weeks of summer, school is looming right around the corner. Now is the time to get back into a school sleeping schedule, after having such a lax sleeping schedule over the summer months. According to the Federal Citizen Information Center, adequate sleep will boost your child’s energy and enthusiasm and can also help your child learn more easily and may reduce behavioral problems. Children between the ages of 6 and 9 require at least 10 hours of sleep per night and older children require at least 9 hours.

Here are a few ways to get your child in the school sleeping schedule:

• Create a regular bed time and make sure you and your child stick to it.
• Make sure your child avoids eating a heavy meal before their bed time.
• Make sure your child avoids caffeine at least 6 hours before their bed time.
• Allow for play and relaxation time before their bed time. However, make sure this a calm and relaxing time, meaning no TV or video games
• Set up a bedtime routine possibly including a bath, a snack, or a bedtime story. According to, laying out the next day’s wardrobe could also be a part of the routine.

It’s also helpful to realize that each child’s approach to sleep is different. Some take extra time to fall asleep, while others may wake more during the night. After a little trial and error you should be able to successfully find the sleep routine that best suits your child and family.

All of these pieces of advice will help to make the transition to a school sleeping schedule a smooth one for you and your child.

Straight from the Headlines…New Cancer Warnings for Tanning Beds

For years and years, experts have been warning us of the dangers of using tanning beds, but it seemed that many people still chose to ignore those warnings … that is until recently.

In a report published in the May 2010 issue of Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention, people who use tanning beds to keep that year-round glow are dramatically increasing their risk for developing melanoma, the deadliest of skin cancers.

According to, a new study shows that the more you tan and the longer you tan, the more the risk increases. Researchers found that the risk of melanoma was 74 percent higher in persons who tanned indoors than in persons who did not. In addition, they also found that people who tanned indoors a lot (a total of at least 50 hours of tanning bed exposure, or more than 100 sessions, or at least 10 years of regular tanning bed use) were 2.5 to 3 times more likely to develop melanoma than people who had never tanned indoors.

In the study among 1,167 people with melanoma, almost two-thirds (63 percent) had used tanning beds and among those who used tanning beds, the risk for developing melanoma rose 74 percent.

Lead researcher DeAnn Lazovich, an associate professor at the division of epidemiology and community health at the University of Minnesota was amazed at how consistent the results of the tests were and noted that the danger is particularly acute amongst young women who seem to have a penchant for indoor tanning.

“Indoor tanning is an underappreciated problem, especially among young women. More young women tan indoors than smoke cigarettes, and melanoma is the second most common cancer diagnosed in young women,” she said. “And there is evidence that the incidence of melanoma is increasing in young women. It’s time to pay a little more attention to this as a risk factor that is avoidable.”

In March, international cancer experts reported that the ultraviolet radiation from tanning beds is now among the top cancer risks – ranking as high and lethal as arsenic, cigarettes and mustard gas. As a result, an advisory panel to the U.S Food and Drug Administration recommended that the agency add bolder warning labels to tanning beds, change how they are regulated by the FDA and require parental consent for users aged 18 and under

Since the study has been announced, a number of tanning salons have noticed a decline in memberships and many young people have decided to forego using tanning beds on a regular basis.

Back to School 101: Ten Back to School Health Tips

It’s already that time of year again when your children will be heading back to school. While it may be a time of relief for parents, it can also be a time of stress when you are dealing with all of the illnesses and germs that children are susceptible to at school.

So, how can you help keep your child healthy throughout the school year? Follow these tips to keep your child in school and out of the doctor’s office:

1. Remind your child of the importance of washing their hands, not only before lunch and after using the rest room, but also when they get home from school.

2. Remind your child to keep their fingers and hands out of their mouth. So many germs are spread this way and infections could ensue.

3. According to an article found at, make sure you child is up to date on all shots. Review your child’s shot records as there are several immunizations that are elective that a parent should look into getting for their child. One such elective is the Hepatitis A vaccination.

4. Make sure your child gets a physical before the school year starts. This will help to target any health problems prior to the start of the school year.

5. Give your child a daily vitamin. This will help them to build their immune systems and fight infections better.

6. Remind your child not to drink from other children’s cups or use their utensils.

7. Instruct your child not to use other people’s combs/brushes. While sharing is a great concept to be taught, children should not use their friends’ combs or brushes as this can cause the spread of head lice.

8. Do not send your child to school with a fever. Even if your child is feeling fine, a fever is an indicator that their immune system is trying to fight something off and they are at their most contagious when running a fever. This puts all children and adults around your child at risk.

9. Make sure that your child gets 8 to 10 hours of sleep each night. Getting the right amount of sleep is important to keeping your child healthy.

10. Make sure to feed your child a nutritious and balanced diet each day. Getting the appropriate vitamins and minerals in their diet will also aid in building their immune systems and will lead to an overall healthier child.

Backpack Safety: Take a Load off Your Child’s Back with the Right Backpack

It’s almost that time of year again….back to school! As the new school year approaches, parents and students shopping for back to school supplies are urged to keep backpack safety in mind.

As a child I remember lugging a backpack full of books as well as my cello six blocks to and from school (up-hill both ways of course) without even realizing that this type of weight and stress could have resulted in back-related injuries spanning my entire life.

According to, each year about 6,000 children in the United States experience back-pack related injuries.

At the start of the school year last year, the popular magazine Consumer Reports sent a survey team to a number of schools to find out how much weight kids were lifting … in their backpacks. Parents were shocked to learn that of the students surveyed, the average weight hauled by second-graders was 5.3 pounds, fourth-graders carried 4.6 pounds and sixth-graders averaged a whopping 18.4 pounds.

To help alleviate some of the back pain and stress on your child, suggests that instead of going the “cheap route” or choosing a backpack by the character on it, parents should instead keep the following factors in mind when choosing a backpack:

• Choose a lightweight backpack that doesn’t add too much to your child’s load. The pack should have two wide, padded shoulder straps and a padded back that will improve comfort and protect your child from being poked by the sharp points and edges of pencils, pens, rulers and other objects they need to carry.

• Shoulder straps anchors should be about 1- to 2- inches below the top of the shoulder and the bottom of the backpack should go along the curve of the lower back. The backpack itself should not fall more than 4 inches below the waist.

• Check for good stitching that is able to hold a decent amount of weight.

• Select the proper size backpack for your child. It should cover no more than three-quarters of the length of your child’s back.

• Load backpacks carefully. The maximum weight of a loaded pack should not be more than 15 percent of a child’s body weight. Place the heaviest books closest to the back as they require the most body support. If a child has to lean forward to carry a pack, it’s too heavy.

• Have your child wear the pack correctly. He or she should use both shoulder straps. Carrying a backpack on one shoulder puts too much strain on one side of the upper body. The straps should be snug, but not too tight. If a backpack has a waist strap, use it to help better support the load.