Child Doesn’t Eat Enough

Eating problems are common among people of all ages. One concern that a parent may have is that his or her child is not eating enough food. Let’s look at the reasons behind lack of appetite and learn what parents can do to help.

If your child doesn’t seem to be eating enough food, consider the following tips:

It May be a Matter of Perception
Sometimes the child’s food intake is actually fine, despite appearances to the contrary. In fact, sometimes parents argue over whether there is or isn’t an actual problem. The best way to clarify the issue is to seek a medical opinion. Your pediatrician will compare your child’s weight gain against those of his peers and also against his own developmental curve. Let the doctor know exactly what the child eats (and doesn’t eat). She’ll put all the facts together to determine whether the child is ingesting sufficient calories and nutrients. and to see whether further investigation is warranted.

Consider Possible Medical Causes
A consultation with a doctor is important because, in addition to ascertaining the existence and severity of an eating problem, the doctor can diagnose underlying medical causes.  For example, certain intestinal bacteria might be at the root of the problem. Thyroid conditions and other metabolic problems might exist, making it seem that the child is eating less than he or she actually is. Food sensitivities, mood issues, anxiety and other emotional problems can also play a role in low appetite.

Of course, it might turn out that there are no medical reasons for the lack of interest in food. Sometimes a child just doesn’t enjoy food all that much. In that case, the doctor can speak to the child about the importance of eating breakfast and/or other meals, or eating larger quantities of food or making higher calorie food choices – whatever needs to be addressed. Kids are much more likely to take the doctor seriously than to listen to Mom or Dad on this subject. Many doctors will also refer a child to a nutritionist for specific instruction and support. Nutritionists and dietitians can help design an individualized child-friendly menu plan that provides adequate nutrients and calories.

Consider Alternative Treatment
If the doctor gives the “all clear” parents may still want to enlist the help of an alternative health practitioner. Naturopaths, homeopaths, herbalists and other alternative healers have different methods of assessment and treatment. They may uncover a biological process that the regular doctor doesn’t consider. They also have their own methods of intervention. Sometimes this route can make a positive difference.

Make More Child-Friendly Meals
Even if the doctor doesn’t follow up with professional intervention around menu planning, it may be important for the parent to consider the role of food preferences in the child’s eating problem. Sometimes the child doesn’t like the menu offerings.  Maybe he’d be happy to eat brown-sugar maple-flavored oatmeal for breakfast, but Mom is serving the “healthier” plain oats with a bit of salt added. Or, he might be interested in french fries and burgers, but Dad is making baked potatoes and meatloaf. Let’s face it – almost all children enjoy a different menu than their parents do. If a parent makes sure to offer the kind of food that a child likes – he or she will eat more of it! That doesn’t  mean go ahead and serve generous helpings of junk food! Instead, try using spices and flavoring to make food more enticing. Parents can enlist the help of a dietitian themselves, in order to get ideas on how to make healthy food that kids will actually eat.

Minimize Attention to Eating Patterns
Although parents can make a “mental note” about their child’s eating habits, it’s usually not a good idea to let the child know that you have serious concerns in this area until AFTER a doctor has also expressed such concerns. When arranging for a medical consult for an older child or teen, a parent can just say something like, “I don’t know if it’s me or you – but I’m wondering if your eating patterns are O.K. We’ll let Dr. Smith decide. I’ve made an appointment for Tuesday at 4 p.m. ” Before Dr. Smith’s announces a problem, the parent can just keep records of the child’s eating habits without saying much to the child about it. Children don’t tend to respond positively to parental urges to eat more or differently.

Consider Other Lifestyle Issues
The less your child exercises, the less he needs to eat in order to maintain his weight. The truth is that your child will be more interested in food if he gets out to play some sports, go for a regular walk, ride a bike or otherwise move around at least 30 minutes a day. Turn off the T.V. and computers for a half hour each day and show your child where the skateboard is!

Consider Psychological Causes
If you suspect that your child doesn’t eat enough in order to round up some concern and attention from you, then experiment with giving that youngster more attention. However, give him or her attention for everything under the sun – except for not eating enough. (As mentioned above, be careful NOT to talk to the child about eating more. When you see him not taking food or not finishing food on his plate, DON’T encourage him to eat just a little more or clean his plate. You are accidentally reinforcing inappropriate behavior when you attend to it.)

Some psychological issues go far deeper than behavioral problems. If your simple behavioral interventions fail to have a positive impact, there may be something else going on. In this case, a mental health professional such as a child psychologist or a child psychiatrist is the best one to diagnose and treat the problem.

Keep in mind too, that all children’s problems are worsened by conflict at home. See if you can “de-stress” your marriage (or divorce) with or without professional help. Also check your parenting skills – if you know that you are expressing excessive anger, take serious steps to address that problem; anger doesn’t cause any one specific developmental problem but certainly contributes to every one. Children can have mental health problems for purely biological reasons, but the emotional environment at home can affect the intensity and course of the problem.

Refuses to Eat Breakfast

Breakfast is an important meal. For one thing, breakfast provides energy and nutrients for the first part of the day. Secondly, it’s a meal that comes after a long period of not eating (during sleep), so skipping it gives the body the impression that it is fasting and causes it to slow down its metabolism in order to preserve nutrients. This can result in weight gain! Health practitioners have always recommended making breakfast the heaviest and most nutritious serving of the day, instead of lunch, snacks or dinner since a person has time to use the nutrients and work off the calories of this earliest meal. After dinner, for example, many people are sedentary until they go to bed a short while later. There is certainly no need to ingest a large amount of food in order to sit around for a couple of hours and then go to sleep!

So what can parents when their child refuses to eat breakfast?

First, Determine Why Your Child Does Not Want to Eat
As with most things, an accurate diagnosis is half the solution. Could it be that your child doesn’t like the food you are serving? Or maybe he or she rarely feels hungry in the morning? It’s also possible that your child is always running late, and breakfast is a luxury he can’t afford (many adults have this problem too!). Knowing the specific cause of not eating breakfast can help a parent provide a tailor-fit response.

If what you put on the plate is the problem, maybe it’s time for a change in the menu. The good thing is, there are many high energy breakfast choices that a parent can choose from to break the monotony of cold cereal. Tasty muffins, fresh waffles, eggs and bagels, fruit breads, french toast, granola, various puddings, cheese and crackers, hot cooked grains, fresh baked scone, cottage cheese salads, and many other delicious and nutritious treats can be served up. If you bake them at home you can make sure that you use high protein, high fiber “ancient grains,” (like sorghum, amaranth, quinoa, etc.), nuts and nut flours (like almond flour), dried fruits, eggs and milk products. There are many cookbooks available today that offer you a wide range of nutritious options for breakfast. If time is short (as it is for most of us!), you will find many offerings in your grocery and local health food store – fresh and frozen (ready to heat & eat) wholesome breakfast foods – both ready-to-make mixes and ready-to-pop-in-the-oven prepared foods.  Of course, you can also spice up old traditional offerings — perhaps you can add fruit to that pancake, or serve non-traditional breakfast foods such as meat, poultry, salads or whatever else your child might be willing to eat.

If the problem is that your child doesn’t feel hungry in the morning, then you might consider some extra interventions. Waking a child earlier usually helps address this problem, as hunger usually take some time to kick in after rising. Give your child a small drink of lemon-water (water to which you’ve added a bit of lemon juice and optional sweetener) to wake up the digestive tract and stimulate appetite. Eliminating midnight snacks and 3 am kitchen outings will also help. You may also cut back on dinner portions, or take dinner earlier, so as to give more room for breakfast in the morning.

If constant rushing is the reason kids skip breakfast, then the solution is to make sure your child gets up on time and moves efficiently! In the meantime, prepare a packed sandwich or fruit that they can eat on the bus or while walking to school. Taking a meal on the road may not be ideal practice, but it’s better than letting your child skip the most important meal of the day. Alternatively, make a quick, nutrition-packed breakfast smoothie by blending together milk or milk substitute, fresh or frozen fruit, protein powder and optional “extra’s” like chia seeds (for fiber and nutrients), yogurt, kale, flavorings and sweeteners.

If Possible, Eat Breakfast as a Family
Never underestimate the influence of a family routine. If you establish breakfast early on as a family affair it can encourage life-long breakfast eating – a healthy practice.

Eats Too Much

The epidemic of obesity and weight-related issues among young people has reached alarming heights. Around 25 million children below the age of seven are believed to be overweight. Experts blame the modern lifestyle of fast food and computer games for the phenomenon, alongside the phenomenon of overworked parents who lack the time and energy to pay close attention to the food they are serving their kids, or those who simply cannot afford to do so. No matter what lifestyle factors are at play, the bottom line is that when kids eat more than they can properly burn off, they will weigh more than they should.

Eating too much can lead to being a little overweight or significantly overweight. The term “obese” normally refers to a person who possesses a gross excess of fat in the body. Obese children often suffer harassment at the hands of their peers who may mock or tease them. This experience alone can leave emotional lasting scars. However, obesity also puts youngsters at risk for many serious and even potentially fatal diseases. According to the World Health Organization, childhood obesity increases the likelihood of premature death and disability during adulthood. Obese people are more likely than normal weight people to suffer heart attack, stroke, liver problems, diabetes, osteoarthritis and even cancer. Obesity is also linked to mental health issues, such as low self-esteem, depression and anxiety disorders.

What can Parents Do?
Some children are food addicts. Despite their parents’ best efforts, the children eat too much and too often – with weight issues being the result. Nagging children does not cure their addiction – it just annoys them and makes them feel shame and guilt. Criticizing your child for his or her eating habits will likely just be a waste of time and can even damage the parent-child relationship. So what can parents do?

Avoid Strict Diets
Efforts to strictly limit caloric intake can backfire, turning kids into food thieves and/or rebellious eaters. It’s better to help kids learn to enjoy the right foods in the right amounts. Parents can refrain from serving foods that are rich in fat and sugar such as french fries, fatty cuts of meat, cakes and sodas and other white flour and white sugar products, replacing them with delicious foods that are healthier and less calorie dense. In fact, parents can offer vegetables, fruits, nuts, lean meat, dairy products, legumes and grains – but only when they are prepared in such a way that the kids will actually enjoy them. Foods that are real foods are much more difficult to consume in excessive quantities: they are naturally satisfying and filling. It is far easier to eat too many potato chips than it is to eat too many roasted baby carrots!

Many parents have discovered the secret power of spices: children will actually enjoy healthy foods when they are skillfully spiced; it’s the bland foods that lack appeal. Many international cuisines use spices that may not currently be in your cupboard but that are easily available in your local supermarket. Home-made desserts can be made with nut flours and coconut flours – products that are so nutritionally enriched that they actually reduce cravings. Borrow a few cookbooks from your neighborhood library, look online to get some new ideas for enhancing the flavor of your foods or take a cooking class – do whatever you need to do to introduce your children to nutritious AND delicious foods. If you are short on time (and who isn’t?), you can find amazing food that takes only a couple of ingredients and a couple of minutes to make. You can prepare meals in a crockpot that will cook throughout the day and be ready when you come home from work. The health food store may also carry some ready-made foods – but do read the ingredients; being sold in a health food store does not guarantee that the product is calorie wise or even nutritious.

Everything in the Right Time
In addition, try serving your children junk foods and sugary treats (pastries, sugar cereals and candies) in small quantities and ONLY on specific regular occasions (i.e the weekend or better yet, only on one day of the weekend!). Allowing kids to have a little bit of these treats helps reduce feelings of deprivation. No child should have to feel that any one food or one kind of food is too “fattening” to enjoy on occasion in small portions. Remember: feelings of deprivation tend to sabotage any healthy eating plan,leading to eventual weight gain.

Offer Them a Drink Before Meals
One way to get a child to eat a little less during meal time is to give him a tall glass of water five minutes before eating. The extra fluid can make him feel fuller even before he takes a bite. You may also consider giving a healthy snack before bigger meals in order to lessen your child’s appetite.

Serve Smaller Portions
Although there is no need to have your child track his or her calories, there is also no need to serve enormous quantities of food to your family. Kids get used to whatever their parents provide. Try shifting from the buffet, help-yourself style to fixed servings, preparing small portions already set for each member of the family. Or, go with the buffet style but encourage your child to notice how many servings he has had and how large they are. You can say things like, “You can have as much as you want, but just notice how many helpings you’ve taken,” or “Take as big a serving as you like, but just notice how much of your plate it covers – 1/4 or 1/2 or almost all of it.” Asking the child to notice what he is doing gives him the beginning of inner control. Often “mindless eating” – that is, not noticing – is the culprit behind unwanted extra pounds. You may also encourage your child to chew slower and take his time eating. Research has shown that it takes a while for the “stomach is full” message to reach our brains, so chewing slowly can help this message get to the brain before a person takes the next spoonful. Pausing between bites and waiting a bit between courses also allows the “full” message to get to the brain in time to stop a person from grabbing more food.

Exercise and Movement is Also Important
Try to get the family moving. If possible, enroll the kids in physical activities after school – swimming, karate, gymnastics, dance class, hockey and so on. Or, take them to the park to run around and play. Walk around the block with them if possible; walk wherever you can with them instead of driving. Don’t let them just sit in front of a screen all day. Provide a model for them as well: let them see you doing your stretches and exercises in your home. Remember – don’t nag your child or fight with him or her as this can lead to stress – which in turn leads to over-eating. Try to make physical activity fun and normal rather than some sort of punishment for a child who needs to lose some weight.

Consider Mood and Anxiety Issues
Is the increased appetite new for your child? If so, consider the possibility that your child is using food as a way to manage emotional issues. Perhaps the child is going through a stressful transition. Or perhaps she feels insecure about something. Understanding emotional triggers to eating can help parents manage their child’s eating habits by addressing the root causes. In some cases, psychological counseling may be more appropriate than a diet.

Get a Physical Check-up
Increased appetite can be a sign of an underlying medical condition; perhaps the body is starving for a particular vitamin or mineral. Consider taking your child to both a medical doctor and a naturopath for a thorough assessment. Dealing  with physical triggers to excess eating as early as possible may  help prevent more serious health issues from developing.

Your Child Needs Your Help
Kids cannot solve their overeating problems on their own. Their parents must help them – not only because the children may already be “food addicts” overwhelmed by their own cravings, but also because they lack skills, knowledge and ability to manage their own weight loss program. It is up to parents to become knowledgeable – whether that is through self-education or through the assistance of weight loss professionals like pediatric specialists or obesity specialists. You are also the one to see to it that your child gets the help he or she may need. If your own interventions are not helping, try to get your child professional help. Possible sources of help include your child’s doctor, a dietician, a nutritionist, a child psychologist or weight-loss clinic that treats kids and teens.

Getting Your Kids to Eat More Greens

Today, many parents are interested in learning how to serve nutritious, organic, and natural leafy meals to their families. Some children really enjoy this kind of food, but many prefer ketchup-coated white noodles for breakfast, lunch and dinner! Making kids love green and healthy dishes can seem to be an impossible task.

If you would like to get your kids to eat more greens, consider the following tips:

Start Early
Establish preferences by serving veggies and other nutritious foods right from the beginning. Allow your baby to enjoy the taste of food without added salt and sweeteners. Encourage your toddler to start meals with a vegetable entree, a lightly seasoned salad or wholesome grain dish. Use spices instead of sugars to enhance the taste of bland food. Whatever a child gets used to ends up tasting good. If your child is already used to junk food, don’t pull the plug all at once. Instead, start adding spicy dishes to the menu. Vegetables that are colorful and nicely seasoned can be as appealing as candy. (But try to avoid plain boiled fare because kids (and adults) are unlikely to enjoy veggies prepared this way.) Gradually your child’s taste buds will begin to change.  After awhile, cut down on the sugary, fatty foods and replace them with truly flavorful healthy alternatives. No child is going to enjoy plain oats or unseasoned fish but most kids can learn to look forward to oats with seeds and natural, low glycemic index sweeteners and fish that’s been drenched in lime and salsa seasonings.

Transition the Taste Buds from All-Meat to Healthier Meals
If the kids are used to only a carnivorous diet, consider marinating chicken, turkey, beef, other meats and fish with herbs so that your children can get used to the warm, earthy flavor. Then you can start adding seasoned vegetables to complement the taste of the high-protein meals.

Search for Good Recipes
The internet is a treasure trove of great-tasting recipes, and you can even find the amount of fat and calories in each dish! With just a little experimentation you may come up with a new, healthier but just as tasty way to feed your family. Keep in mind that we’re not born knowing all there is to know about preparing delicious food. The popularity of cooking shows and cook books attests to the fact that people can spend a lifetime learning new ideas and ways to incorporate healthy (and delicious!) food into their diets.

Limit Sugars and Junk Food Treats
Sugar can “spoil” the appetite. Dowsing food with ketchup practically ensures that your child will be a junk junkie. Everything has to taste sweet or it doesn’t taste good. It only takes a week for taste buds to re-group. When you start to seriously decrease the sweets in your child’s diet, expect complaints for the first days. However, after only a short time, your youngster will actually begin to enjoy the taste of real food – believe it or  not! After decreasing sweeteners for awhile, you can remove them altogether except for special days (birthdays, visits with grandparents and so on) and weekends. Weekday meals can consist of proteins, grains, fruits and vegetables. Leave out the desserts! Kids can learn to LOVE eating this way. If you want to add snacks for school, either serve veggie sticks, purchase healthy treats or make your own healthy cookies and crackers. Allowing your child to have a small amount of non-nutritious foods (i.e. cookies when visiting at a friend’s house, cake on the weekend) helps to prevent a desperate craving for junk food. Unfortunately, parents who insist that their child eat ONLY nutritious food all the time, often discover that their kids will go to all lengths to have some of the candy and donuts that other kids routinely devour – stealing them if necessary! There’s no need to become overly strict. A generally healthy diet helps to ensure that your kids will enjoy the good stuff and only want the bad stuff in small doses. Real sugary foods don’t taste good to those who consume them only minimally.

Concoct Yummy Fruit Shakes and Yogurts
Instead of buying fast food milkshakes and ice-cream, why not blend a watermelon and kiwi cooler in the kitchen? Or mix fruits with yogurt and protein powder to make a great-tasting breakfast or snack. Homemade smoothies and soda’s can be both delicious and health enhancing. There are lots of good recipes for these, so go ahead and experiment. You’ll find that herbs (like peppermint and aniseed) can enliven beverages as can frozen fruit, powdered carob and other tasty and nutritious ingredients. Kale and pineapple juice work together to create a magical green smoothie.

Managing Diabetes

Diabetes is a disease characterized by the body’s inability to produce or metabolize the hormone insulin. Insulin is critical in processing the sugars in our body. People with diabetes can suffer from high blood sugar, unless they pay careful attention to their daily sugar intake. High blood sugar (also called high glycemic index or high GI) can lead to many health complications, including heart and liver disease.

If you’re a parent with diabetes, or your child has this condition, consider the following tips:

Manage Carbohydrates in Your Meals
For most people, sugar refers only to the sweet crystals from the sugar cane plant, the one we add to our coffee and tea. Thus, when asked to limit sugar intake, they only avoid these sweeteners. But the fact is, our body transforms almost all of the food we eat into sugar. If you want to be able to manage your blood’s glycemic response, you have to be aware of what foods contain natural sugars.

Know that foods rich in carbohydrates and starch are rich in a type of sugar called glucose. Thus, people with diabetes, whether it’s Diabetes Type 1 or Type 2, should limit their intake of breads, pastries, pastas, rice and starchy vegetables like potatoes. Heavily processed foods, such as those which underwent various treatments to be better preserved, can release these sugars quickly into the bloodstream and must be avoided at all cost.

Contrary to popular belief, people with diabetes are not required to abstain totally from sugar. After all, our body gets energy from carbohydrates. The critical thing to remember is to eat only enough to maintain normal blood glucose levels. If one is taking insulin injections, then it’s important to match one’s carbohydrate intake with insulin dose. Hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) must also be avoided. To get the exact amount of carbohydrates and sugar you should consume in a day, it’s best to consult a licensed doctor and dietitian for advice.

Fiber and Water
People with diabetes are encouraged to include in their diet rich sources of fiber. These foods include whole grain and whole grain products, fruits and vegetables. These natural products are less likely to impact the body’s glycemic level. More so, they provide vitamins and minerals integral in over-all health.

Liquids are also important in helping manage our blood sugar. Aside from the recommended 8 glasses of water a day, people with diabetes are advised to have more, especially if they just ate sugar. Drinking lots of fluids can help flush down the sugar in one’s system.

Consider Artificial Sweeteners
Having diabetes need not necessarily mean that a person has to totally avoid sweet food and food products like cakes and soda. Today, there are many artificial sweeteners that can provide flavor to many meals, and thus create sugar-free options. Many of these sweeteners are approved by the Food and Drug Authority. Note though: the label “no sugar added” is different from “sugar-free.” If there are natural sugars in a product (like orange juice which naturally contains sugar from the orange fruit), “no sugar added” simply means that there’s no additional sugar than what’s naturally found in the product. To be safe, always read the nutritional information on product packages.

Regulate Protein Intake
How about protein, such as those found in beef, pork, mutton, fish and poultry? Do diabetics have a restriction regarding including these meals in a diabetic’s diet? The good news is: there are no recommended restrictions on protein-rich foods for diabetics, no more than the restrictions imposed on people without diabetes. The usual dietary allowance of protein, around 20% of the person’s total source of energy, is recommended for diabetics. Make sure though that fat intake is limited to what is called good cholesterol as hypertension and obesity are additional health risks for people with diabetes.

Helping Your Child with Diabetes
While parents can understand the need for nutritional control in managing diabetes, many children cannot! They want to eat what they want to eat and they want to eat what their friends are eating. Parents can help reduce resistance to dietary management by showing understanding and empathy. “I know it’s hard and frustrating. It seems so unfair.” By acknowledging the child’s feelings out loud, parents can help the child release those feelings and move on. Parents need to be aware that because children lack maturity, they will often be tempted to “cheat” on their dietary restrictions. Because teens perceive themselves as invincible, they will do the same. Parents need lots of patience! Realize that this is all a normal part of life for diabetic youngsters. Eventually they will come to terms with their health condition and learn to be responsible for themselves. Meanwhile, parents can try to guide their children without resorting to heavy duty criticism, supervision or scare tactics. If necessary, have your pediatrician or nutritionist speak to your child directly. Sometimes the authority of a medical health professional is more powerful than the coaxing of a parent.

What to Eat When You are Pregnant

Taking care of a baby begins way before an infant is born. By eating right and keeping physically fit, expectant moms can already ensure that their child’s development starts on the right track.

The following are some tips on eating when you’re pregnant:

Have a Nutritional Chart Handy When Planning Your Meals
What constitutes a healthy diet for a pregnant person is basically the same as what constitutes a healthy diet for anyone. It’s that “unpregnant” people harm only themselves when they ignore the basics of sound nutrition, whereas a pregnant woman hurts both herself and her baby. Moreover, it is the baby who is at greatest risk because he is in a crucial developmental phase. Good nutrition at this stage of life can make the difference in some cases between healthy and unhealthy development. For instance, the consumption of excess alcohol can permanently damage a fetus. While a healthy diet does not ensure a healthy baby, it is just one step that mothers can take. So now is the time to pay greater attention to lifestyle and nutrition than ever before.

An RDA (Recommended Dietary Allowance) chart for expectant mothers can help you plan your menu. Your obstetrician or a licensed dietitian should have a copy. You want to stack up on the basic requirements: protein, carbohydrates, calcium, and essential vitamins and minerals.

Lean meats, fishes and poultry are excellent sources of protein. For your and your baby’s daily energy needs, rice, starchy vegetables like potatoes, whole grains, breads and cereals are excellent sources of carbohydrates. Milk, milk products like cheese and yogurt, as well as most leafy vegetables are good sources of calcium. Most meat products, fruits and vegetables are great sources of vitamins and minerals. Enjoy nuts, seeds, soy snacks, natural sweetners, herbal teas – there’s plenty of delicious and nutritious offerings in our stores today.

As much as you can, stay clear of overly processed products such as commercial cakes and pastries, or microwavable meals. At their safest, they contain empty calories and high sugar: stuff that you and your baby do not need. At worst, the chemicals used to preserve them can be harmful to your baby. Eating foods high in preservatives, as well as eating hot meals in Styrofoam or plastic plates should be avoided.

Make Sure You Get Folic Acid
Folic acid or vitamin B9 has been found to be critical to fetal development. Folic acid is especially important during the first weeks of pregnancy, when the brain, the skull and the spinal cord are developing. Inadequate folic acid during pregnancy can result into serious fetal problems, including neural tube defects, spina bifida and anencephaly.

An expectant mother is advised to take 400 mcg of folic acid until the twelfth week of pregnancy. Folic acid can be found in green vegetables such as spinach, most lentils, fortified grain products like cereal and pasta, as well as liver and liver products. There are also folic acid supplements available in the market, just make sure you get your doctor’s advice before making any purchase.

Stock Up on Iron
When a person is expecting, she has around 50% more blood than she usually does when not pregnant. This means that pregnant women would need significantly more iron in their system — the nutrient essential in the production of hemoglobin, that part of red blood cells that distribute oxygen across all parts of the body. Iron is also critical in the development of the baby during the second and third trimesters of pregnancy.

Iron can be found in abundance on red meat, green vegetables and fortified green products. There are also iron supplements available in most drugstores.

Know What to Avoid
Pregnancy is notorious for giving women cravings. Giving in to cravings is generally okay, most of the time they are a result of the hormonal imbalance that naturally occur during pregnancy. But it helps to be reminded that not all cravings are healthy for the baby.

Alcohol, for example, should be avoided. Drinking excess alcohol can result in a condition called fetal alcohol syndrome – a huge umbrella of irreversible mental and physiological defects in an infant. Check with your doctor regarding acceptable levels of alcohol.

Caffeine must be avoided as well, or at least taken in very, very small amounts. Taking caffeine, which is found in most coffee, tea and sodas while pregnant can result into low birth weight and even miscarriage.

Expecting mothers are advised to be careful as well of unpasteurized cheeses (e.g. feta cheese, blue cheese) as they can often contain microorganisms that can be life threatening to an unborn child.

Expectant mothers should avoid consuming anything known to be toxic. This would include second hand smoke (and of course, smoking is contra-indicated as it compromises oxygen supply to the baby), certain legal and ilegal drugs and certain herbs and vitamins. Check with a qualified naturopath before consuming natural products as some are contra-indicated in pregnancy.

Keeping Your Child Healthy

Parents are responsible for their children’s well-being. This means that they must take steps to prevent, assess and treat health conditions. This can sometimes be frightening for parents, especially when a child is dealing with real health issues.

If you are a parent responsible for keeping your child healthy, consider the following tips:

Do What is Normal and Reasonable
Taking care of a child’s health does not mean putting him in a protective bubble where no germs, illness or accidents can occur. Life happens and parents don’t have complete control over circumstances that can affect their child. In fact, it is not a parent’s job to ensure that the child never experiences illness or pain, because this task is just not possible. What IS possible, however, is feeding the child a decent diet that provides necessary elements of nutrition, seeing that the child gets fresh air and exercise, dressing the child appropriately for various weather conditions and taking the child to his doctor for routine wellness checkups. Other than that, parents can and should allow their child to do what other kids in the neighborhood do: go swimming, have occasional junk food, skip bath night once in awhile, or even go outdoors for a short time despite having a very minor fever. In other words, there is no need to be hypervigilant. Kids are not that fragile. A germ or two might, according to some opinions, actually help build the immune system. People in this school of thought believe that over-protection actually makes the child more vulnerable to disease and accidents. Use common sense. This isn’t an invitation to send the child out into the cold night in nothing but his pajamas! However, it IS an invitation not to get hysterical if the child refuses to wear a scarf on a cool day. Do your best but be normal. Excessive fear on your part may cause the child to become fearful as well. Interestingly, fear does NOT prevent illness and if anything, may actually weaken the immune system.

Develop Healthy Routines
Although there is no need to be “germ phobic,” you can certainly help minimize contagious conditions like colds, flus and viruses in your home. Teach your kids basic hygiene. For instance, show them how to sneeze onto their sleeve rather than into their hand. When someone is sick, make sure that person has his or her own towel and cup. Even if you don’t normally use antibacterial products, this may be the time to do so. Consider spraying the living area with a mixture of essential oils that prevent germs from spreading (speak to an aromatherapist to learn how to do this). Teach your kids to wash their hands before eating, especially if they’ve been playing outside. Teach kids to brush their teeth twice daily. Help children get the right amount of sleep each night.

Do Not Give Special Attention to Sick Children
Make sure you give special attention to your healthy child! Being sick should not earn extra quality time or special privileges. You don’t want your child to learn that there is a payoff for being ill because this can lead to an increase in psychosomatic illness as well as “pretend” illness. A child who must stay home from school due to illness should NOT receive a free play day filled with treats and fun activities. Rather, he or she should be encouraged to rest and recover. Let school be more interesting than a day at home. Instead of encouraging children to get sick in order to get a day off of school every once in awhile, just offer them “mental health” days a couple of times a year – days when they are perfectly healthy and are taken out of school for quality time. Doing this one one or two days a year teaches children that it is possible to manage stress levels WITHOUT getting sick to do so.

Attend to Your Own Fears and Anxieties
If you find that you get very worried every time you or a family member has a bump, cough, pain or other physical distress, seek professional help. The right kind of help can reduce or even eliminate this kind of fear and help you enjoy life much more. Children get all sorts of symptoms, ranging from inconsequential to serious. You and your child will both cope better if you are able to maintain a calm state of mind. Many people have serious fears about illness, fearing that every minor symptom (in themselves or in someone close to them) indicates a deathly illness. This condition is called hypochondriosis. It can be treated by a mental health professional.

How to Burp Your Baby

Babies can suffer from the effects of gassiness whether they are being breast or bottle-fed. It happens because infants who are not yet skilled in nursing, tend to swallow air along with their milk. This is why feeding time should always include burping time. Burping releases the air that infants swallow. The process helps prevent the accumulation of gas in the baby’s stomach, which can result to gas pain, irritability, spitting up and feeding fussiness.

The process of burping a baby is relatively simple. In fact, it can be as easy as holding your baby upright against your chest, their chin on your shoulder, while you gently rub or pat their back. Just being help upright can help the air come up after feeding. You have to mind possible milk spits though when you burp a baby. Spitting milk is normal and doesn’t harm the child. A parent, on the other hand, may want to have a towel over their shoulder handy just in case.

There are also other ways of burping a baby aside from holding them against your chest.

Some parents prefer to lap-burp. In this method, babies are placed on their stomach in a parent’s lap, their tummy’s against the parent’s thigh for gentle pressure and their head supported so that it’s higher than the body. Again, gentle patting or rubbing of the baby’s back can get the child to burp. If the child doesn’t burp immediately, just be patient. The process can take as long as ten minutes.

Another method of burping a baby is by sitting them upright on one’s lap and cradling their chin gently using the palm of one’s hand. Gently lean the baby forward while applying gentle pressure on the tummy. A parent’s partner can also pat the baby’s back while this is happening to facilitate burping.

How often burping is required differs from baby to baby. Typically, once after every feeding is adequate. But like adults, different babies have different styles of nursing, which is why some kids are more prone to gassiness than others. Bottle fed babies also tend to have more gas than those who nurse from their mother’s breast. For babies who tend to accumulate gas more frequently, burping twice — once within the feeding session, and one more after getting fed — is recommended.

Babies with colic need to be burped more often than those without the condition as well, as prolonged crying can cause them to swallow air. Burping a colicky baby after a crying session is recommended.

What You Need to Know About Heavy Metals

By Brenna Leah Cashman BHSc., sildenafil RNCP

Recent concerns about the lead content in many toys and the safety of plastic food packaging and containers have highlighted the dangers of environmental toxins. For parents, the news can sometimes seem frightening and overwhelming. Is everything in the home a potential source of harm? Do we need to rid ourselves of every modern convenience?  Can we protect our children from all the toxins out there?

Parents may have difficulty finding clear answers to these questions. As more research is done new information often reveals that products that seemed to be safe are not necessarily so. Foods that were seen as healthy may actually contain dangerous levels of contaminants. Product safety standards are not always enforced. A changing environment and increased industrialization affects nearly everything we come in contact with.

Despite these factors though, most of us will go through life without seeing any direct adverse effects from environmental toxins. So it can be tempting to ignore the news reports and assume that they are overly dramatic and not of any real concern. Certainly, a healthy level of skepticism is good. Not every report is accurate and not every product is as dangerous as it is portrayed. The informed parent will realize, however, that there may be certain toxins that do indeed present a threat and that some foods and products should be limited or avoided entirely.

Heavy metals such as arsenic, lead, and mercury are minerals that are found naturally in the environment. Until recently however, they were only found in minute amounts. Technological advancements and increased industrialization have lead to our frequent exposure to these metals. Toxic metals now pollute the water, soil and food chain.

The body is designed to filter out toxins and as such, absorption of these metals is usually fairly low. But when the body is faced with increased exposure or reduced means of elimination, the metals can create problems by displacing related minerals that are needed for essential bodily functions. For example, lead can replace calcium in the bones and tissues of the body, preventing calcium from carrying out its jobs.

So Where are These Metals Found and How Does One Avoid Them?
For some time now, lead has been recognized as one of the worst and most wide-spread pollutants. Prior to the 1970s, lead was routinely used in paint and many older homes still contain leaded paint. Older pipes may also contain lead, causing it to leach into the water. Recent concerns about lead in children’s toys are especially significant as children are more sensitive to the effects of lead. Lead can also be found in food, cosmetics, cigarettes, pottery, and some pesticides.

It may be easy to overlook symptoms of lead toxicity, as they are fairly vague. Headaches, constipation, vomiting, anemia, anorexia, fatigue and muscle pain are some of the early signs. Other symptoms include irritability, poor coordination, memory loss, depression, hyperactivity and poor brain function. Children with learning disorders may have a problem with lead intoxication.

The best way to reduce lead contamination is to limit exposure. Diet also has an effect. Calcium inhibits lead absorption and vitamin D increases body levels of calcium. Vitamin C can help improve the elimination of lead and other toxic metals. Iron, copper and zinc can also help to reduce lead contamination.

Another heavy metal that has recently gained more attention is mercury. Common sources of mercury are dental fillings, cosmetics, fungicides and pesticides, and fish. Families who are trying their best to eat well may be unknowingly consuming excessive quantities of mercury by eating too much of the wrong kind of fish. Fish that contain high levels of mercury include swordfish, shark, and fresh tuna. Children and pregnant women should be particularly careful to avoid these types of fish.

Symptoms of mercury toxicity depend on the type of mercury one has been exposed to. A child’s developing nervous system is particularly sensitive to the effects of methyl mercury. Excessive levels can lead to a decrease in I.Q., delays in walking and talking, blindness, lack of coordination and seizures. In adults, too much mercury may lead to personality changes, memory loss, intellectual impairment, changes in vision and deafness.

While this may seem like enough reason to avoid fish altogether, it is important to remember that fish is good for you. Fish like salmon, sole, tilapia, and whitefish are still good choices. Canned light tuna is a better choice than fresh or even canned albacore tuna. The site contains excellent information about the toxicity of different kinds of fish and recommendations on safe fish consumption. Fish has many health benefits and is an important source of essential fatty acids so it should be a regular component of the diet.

 All of us will be exposed to heavy metals one way or another. The important thing to remember is that our bodies can generally filter them out.  Our job is to limit exposure and do our best to avoid foods and products that may be heavily contaminated. As more research is done it will hopefully become easier to recognize what we really need to avoid. Increased safety and environmental standards should also help to provide our children with safer living conditions. Until then, parents can help protect their families by following sensible safety precautions and staying up-to-date on the latest research. A little extra awareness can go a long way to keeping your family healthy and well.

Spices for Health and Flavor

by Brenna Leah Cashman BHSc, drug RNCP

Sugar and Spice and Everything Nice
The wafting scents pulling you towards the simmering pots on the stove may be doing more than just awakening your taste buds. The tantalizing aromas of the spices filling your house may be tempting you with their health benefits as well.

Some of the most commonly used spices can offer more than just good taste. Cinnamon, ambulance for example, has been shown to have insulin like properties. Using just a ¼ teaspoon a day can help lower the risk of high blood cholesterol and triglyceride and glucose levels, thereby lowering the risk of type 2 diabetes and heart disease.

Even the mere scent of cinnamon can be beneficial. Some studies have demonstrated that sniffing the spice can increase alertness and mental function. Drivers appear to be more alert and less frustrated after smelling cinnamon. Cinnamon can help improve scores on tasks such as memory, recognition, co-ordination, and attention.

Ginger, often used in Chinese cooking, has long been used to treat nausea, morning sickness, and vomiting. It is also used as a digestive aid, making it the perfect addition to a heavy meal. Think about the lovely scent of gingerbread or the extra zing a little ginger can add to stir-fry. It not only tastes and smells good, it’s helping out your digestive tract as well.

Like your food a little spicier? Cayenne pepper is viewed in many cultures as a medicinal substance. Like cinnamon, it lowers cholesterol and triglyceride levels. Its stimulant properties make it excellent for the treatment of poor circulation and cold extremities. It has been shown to act as an analgesic, which explains why it is used topically for arthritic joint pain.

After a meal, a cup of peppermint tea can do wonders for your digestion. It can be used for simple stomach upset, nausea, vomiting, and colic. Children generally like the taste of peppermint, making it an appropriate remedy for sore little tummies. And if you find yourself feeling lousy with a cold or flu, a little peppermint tea can help lower fever and reduce headaches.

It many countries cooking with a variety of spices is the traditional way of preparing food. In India, there is cumin, cardamom and tumeric. In Mexico, hot chilies and peppers are standard fare. Spices were once so valued, that European explorers raced off to new continents in an effort to find faster routes to the spice countries.

Did earlier generations know that these spices were doing more than just making their food taste good? It’s quite likely. Spices were valued partly for their role in preserving food. In pre-freezer days, anything that could keep food from going bad was to be celebrated. Researchers today are looking at the anti-microbial properties of spices such as garlic, rosemary, cloves, thyme, and sage. We don’t need them to preserve our food anymore, but their anti-microbial qualities may help us in other ways.

So next time you prepare a meal, think about which spices your body is in need of that day. Add cinnamon to your morning coffee for some mental alertness. Throw some cayenne pepper into your soup on a cold winter day. Make a gingery stir-fry if you’re feeling a bit queasy. The many health benefits of spices are wonderful and surprising, not to mention tasty. And thankfully, we no longer have to travel half way around the world to add some spice to our diet.