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Building a Smarter Child

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Smarter Child

Every parent wants to believe that their child is a genius or has the genius potential.  While intelligence clearly has a genetic component, there are some things you can do to boost learning and intelligence in your child.

Play brain games – Games like chess, cryptograms, riddles, and crosswords all train the brain to perform harder than other games.  These games promote strategic thinking, problem-solving, and complex decision making.  If you keep these games on hand and challenge your children with them you will help boost their intelligence… in a fun way.

Encourage them to play an instrument – While the early days of your child learning an instrument may not be the most pleasing to the ears, by encouraging your child to take up playing an instrument they learn to utilize their right brain more than others who do not play an instrument.

Avoid junk food – Cut out (or significantly reduce) the amount of sugar, trans fats and other junk food in your child’s diet and replace them with high-nutrient alternatives for early childhood mental and motor development.  Pay attention to what your child is eating and good grades will come in time!

Encourage curiosity – Allow children to explore new ideas and become interested in different hobbies and interests to foster intelligence.  Ask your child about their interests and allow them to try a number of different hobbies and activities throughout the course of their childhood.

Read – While this method often gets lost in today’s hi-tech world, reading to your child and/or encouraging them to read may be the oldest, easiest and one of the most effective ways to boost your child’s brain power.

Farmers’ Market Facts: What You Need to Know Before You Visit Your Local Farmers’ Market

farmers market
Everywhere you look these days farmers’ markets are popping up… and their popularity is going up as well.  The number of farmers’ markets has increased by 60 percent over the past five years and for most people farmers’ markets are their sole source of obtaining fresh, local produce.

But not all farmers’ markets are the same… and not all farmers’ markets are offering the fresh, local produce that you are expecting.

Here are some facts about farmers’ markets that you need to know before you head out to your next market.

  • There are typically two types of markets – a true farmers’ market and a “farm market” where people resell produce that they purchased at a wholesale market.  At a “farm market” the produce is typically not producing locally but instead comes from faraway states or countries.  Look for “producer-only” farmers’ markets to make sure that you are shopping at the real deal.  Ask the market director if you are not sure if the place you go to is “producer-only” or not.
  • Local doesn’t always mean organic.  Local farmers that aren’t deemed certified organic can and will use some of the same harmful pesticides that other produce chains use.  Farmers must be certified by the USDA and keep very accurate records in order to be considered organic.  Some farmers choose not to go through the lengthy certification process so they are not legally allowed to say that they are organic.  If a farmer is not certified but claims to be organic, ask them how they their weeds and insects are kept under control to determine if they conduct organic practices.
  • Food straight from the farmers’ market may look so good and ripe for the eating on the spot, but you really shouldn’t eat something directly at the farmers’ market.  Consider all of the “dirty hands” that may have come in contact with your produce before making its way to the farmers’ market shelves and bins.  Fight the urge to pop those berries or cherry tomatoes right in your mouth and be sure to wash them thoroughly before you eat them.  The best (and cheapest) way to clean any produce is by using this solution: In a spray bottle, mix 1 tablespoon lemon juice, 2 tablespoons distilled white vinegar, and 1 cup cold water.  Shake it well and spray it all over your produce.  Rinse your produce well after spraying and enjoy!
  • Don’t be “bugged” out by the bugs on your produce at your local farmers’ market.  Bugs in store-bought processed foods are definitely a bad thing, but bugs on produce at a farmers’ market are actually a good thing.  Biodiversity is a practice often used on organic farms, so if you see a worm or two on your apple be grateful knowing that you are getting something that is straight off the farm and truly organic.

Giving Your Child the Essential Vitamins They Need


When given the chance to choose their own meals, many children would opt for foods that don’t necessarily make a complete meal with all of the vitamins and nutrients that they need.

That’s why as parents we need to make sure that they are getting all of these important vitamins when we are choosing their daily meals.

Besides giving your child a daily multi-vitamin keep these tips in mind when label reading to make sure that they are getting all that they need from their food:

• Calcium: Getting enough calcium is important to everyone, especially children. That’s why children require at least 800 mg of calcium for children ages 4 to 8, and at least 1,300 mg of calcium for children 9 and older.

• Iron: Many multi-vitamins do not contain iron, so be sure to supplement your child’s meals with iron-rich foods to be sure they get the recommended 10 mg of iron a day.

• Folic Acid: Important for so many reasons, including the production of red blood cells and healthy skin, hair and gums, a typical child’s dose of folic acid is 75 to 150 mcg daily.

• Vitamin C: Especially during cold and flu season, be sure to increase your child’s daily intake of Vitamin C to at least 1 gram per day.

• Vitamin D: Children’s growing bones require plenty of Vitamin D, so many pediatricians recommend that children take a supplement with 800 to 1,000 IU of Vitamin D daily.

• Vitamin A: Vitamin A is also important for a growing child’s body, but too much Vitamin A can also be toxic, therefore many pediatricians suggest increasing your child’s beta carotene intake, which is converted into Vitamin A in the body.

While these are just some of the main vitamins that your school-aged child needs on a daily basis, be sure to check with your own pediatrician to see what vitamins and minerals they suggest specifically for your child.

Make sure that your child is eating balanced meals and taking a daily multi-vitamin and your child will be well on their way to healthy lifestyle.

Sugar Hangover: Tips for Parents and Children to Avoid Sugar Overload this Halloween


Long gone are the days when young trick or treaters travel from door to door getting fruit and popcorn from their neighbors. Instead, the new “normal” is to give out as much candy as possible and at the end of Halloween night the children’s bags are chock full of sugar-filled, unhealthy items.

Nutrition experts (and dentists) cringe every time October 31 rolls around, but this year parents can not only do their part in giving out healthier treats, but they can also be sure to monitor what their children are eating, too.

We all know that too much sugar is bad for anyone, but do we know what effects too much sugar can have on our children? Nutrition experts offer the following points:

• Children that consume too much sugar and too many carbs, can suffer from hypoglycemia causing fatigue, poor concentration, mood swings and frequent illness.

• Too many “empty calories” can mean that children aren’t getting the nutrients they need on a daily basis.

• A new diabetic is diagnosed every 8 minutes, a threefold increase in the past 5 to 6 years when a new diabetic was diagnosed every 23 minutes.

• Recent research has shown that more than 20% of school-aged children are obese and more than 50% are overweight.

• Too much sugar can cause chronically elevated blood insulin levels triggering inflammatory problems and elevated cholesterol.

Now don’t get us wrong, this Halloween doesn’t have to be all “doom and gloom” when it comes to having a few treats.

Parents need to be very careful in monitoring what their child puts into their mouth and how often they are turning to sugary items.

Ration the sugary products over a longer period of time and incorporate them with a protein snack.

Having a protein, especially before the sugar snack, will slow and reduce the rate and quantity of insulin secreted by the pancreas, thereby reducing many of the risks stated above.

Here is to a Healthy and Happy Halloween. Enjoy!

Tips for Packing Nutritious School Lunches


Today’s parents constantly worry that their children aren’t getting the right foods in their lunch. That’s why the right lunch begins well before noon. The right lunch begins at the grocery store and carries over in every meal they eat. Here we breakdown the grocery store for you section by section.

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 juice instead. Be a label reader and avoid juices with high-fructose corn syrup, artificial colors and artificial flavors.

• 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 trans-fats, choose whole-wheat over non-whole grain snacks, grab some all natural granola bars that offer whole grains, nuts and pieces of fruit all in one snack.

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.

Additional Good Grocery Shopping Tips

Shop the perimeter of the grocery store, where fresh foods like fruits, vegetables, dairy, meat, and fish are usually located. Avoid the center aisles where junk foods lurk.

Choose “real” foods, such as 100% fruit juice or 100% whole-grain items with as little processing and as few additives as possible.
Stay clear of foods with cartoons on the label that are targeted to children. If you don’t want your kids eating junk foods, don’t have them in the house.

Avoiding foods that contain more than five ingredients, artificial ingredients, or ingredients you can’t pronounce.

Prepare Yourself for Cold and Flu Season: Dos and Don’ts


Now that the kids are back in school and the weather is starting to change, it’s time to start worrying about the cold and flu season. By keeping the following dos and don’ts into consideration you can better protect your family and yourself.

Do use hand sanitizer – Carry a pocket-sized hand sanitizer with you at all times and use it generously whenever you are in public places. Germs are everywhere and on everything and by using hand sanitizer you are protecting yourself from bringing home these flu viruses.

Do wash your hands frequently – It may seem like the simplest thing to do, but be sure that you are washing your hands frequently with warm water and soap, and for at least 15 to 20 seconds. Teachers are now telling students to sing the ABC’s or Happy Birthday to themselves while they are washing their hands to be sure you are washing for a full 15 to 20 seconds.

Do sneeze into the crook of your elbow – By sneezing into your elbow, you are avoiding transmitting flu viruses to your hands and will keep you from passing the virus to others. It may seem socially awkward at first, but soon you will see more and more people doing this when they sneeze.

Don’t shake hands – To keep from transmitting germs, avoid shaking hands with people when you greet them. Try a head nod, waving or smiling instead to greet someone. If you can’t avoid shaking someone’s hand, then be sure to use your hand sanitizer following the hand shake.

Don’t use someone else’s phone or computer mouse – Phones and computers harbor some pretty heinous germs for hours. Avoid sharing someone else’s phone or computer mouse if at all possible. If you do have to use someone else’s phone or computer wipe it down with an alcohol swab prior to using it.

Don’t change a diaper without washing your hands immediately afterwards – This should be a given at all times and not just during the flu season. Stool harbors gastrointestinal bugs that cause diarrhea, vomiting and upset stomach. It may also contain H1N1, so anyone changing a diaper needs to be sure that they are washing their hands (for 15 to 20 seconds) following the changing.

Simply Spinach


Ever since we saw Popeye take out that can of spinach to help make himself super strong, we have known about the nutritional benefits of spinach. But there are plenty of other benefits of spinach that maybe even Popeye was not aware of.

Leafy, green vegetables, like spinach, provide more nutrients than any other food. Researchers have found at least 13 different flavonoid compounds in spinach that have been known to act as antioxidants and as anti-cancer agents, combating specific cancers like ovarian and prostate cancer.

The vitamin K in spinach provides 200% of the daily value in fresh spinach and nearly 1000% of the daily value in boiled spinach.

Spinach is an excellent source of vitamin C and vitamin A, folate and magnesium.

Cooked spinach is a great source of iron, and is totally fat free.

Spinach has been known to protect against osteoporosis, heart disease, arthritis and many other conditions.

So maybe Popeye was really onto something …

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


As parents and their children enjoy their last month 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, 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. 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.

• Create a bed time routine that is relaxing for your child, instead of stressful.

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.

Back to School 101: Tips to Keep Your Children Healthy When Heading Back to School


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:

• 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.

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

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

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

• 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.

• 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.

• 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.

Avoid the Sting This Summer: Dealing With Insect Bites and Stings


Just like we have been cooped up all winter, so have been a number of those creatures that we’ve come to despise: insects.

With summer in full bloom, insects are also in full swing and are ready to attack when necessary. So, what do you do to avoid these nasty creatures biting you? Environmentalists suggest that the best way to deal with insect bites and stings is to prevent them before they happen.

Preventing bug bites includes:

• Applying repellents to exposed skin. Do not apply repellents directly to your face, instead spray the repellent into your hands and apply to your face that way.

• Wearing shoes when walking around outdoors. Avoid going barefoot whenever possible.

• Do not swat or attempt to hit a flying insect. This will only make them mad and attack you more frequently.

• Covering food when it is outdoors. Insects flock to food and the less chance you give them to get to the food, the greater your chance of avoiding them all together is.

• Avoiding bright colored clothes when you are outdoors for extended periods of time as insects are attracted to bright colors.

• Trying not to wear heavy smelling perfumes outdoors as insects are also attracted to the smells.

Keep these tips in mind before you head outdoors and you won’t be dealing with insects biting or stinging you this summer.