Incorporating Quality Carbohydrates

Encouraging healthier eating for you and your family includes eating a healthy and well-balanced diet that incorporates foods high in carbohydrates. When consumed, carbohydrates are broken down into glucose (sugar), which provides the body with energy to support physical functioning. Therefore, it is important to eat carbohydrates in a healthful diet, but some types of foods rich in carbohydrates are better for our bodies than others.

The healthiest sources of carbohydrates come from unprocessed foods like vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and beans. These types of carbohydrates support optimal health by supplying the body with vitamins, minerals, and fiber, and important phytonutrients, like antioxidants and beta-carotene. Furthermore, the proposed benefits of phytonutrients, such as increasing immune system performance, enhancing vision, decreasing cancer risk, improving heart health, and lowering cholesterol, suggest these natural chemicals play a significant role in overall human health.

Adding quality carbohydrates to your family’s diet can be easy! Try some of the following:

Choose vegetables and fresh fruit.

When eating meals or snacks, concentrate on filling at least half of your plate with fruits and vegetables. Fruits and vegetables are associated with a reduced risk of many chronic diseases (e.g., arthritis, asthma, cancer, diabetes).

Incorporate whole grains into the first meal of the day.

Purchase whole grains like old-fashioned oats or cereals that list a whole grain as the first ingredient. Oats and oatmeal have been shown to promote weight loss, lower blood sugar, and reduce the risk of heart disease.

Use whole-grain bread.

There are many types of bread to choose from and picking the right one can be challenging. Look for a bread that is made entirely from whole grains or one that lists the first ingredient as whole grain.

Include whole grains, like quinoa.

Quinoa is naturally gluten-free and is an edible seed that contains many key nutrients, like fiber, protein, and B vitamins, and important minerals, like iron. Replacing gluten-free ingredients with quinoa can help increase your nutrient value and antioxidant intake.

Substitute beans for potatoes.

Potatoes have been associated with weight gain, so substituting potatoes with beans and other legumes, like chickpeas, can provide your body with carbohydrates that also offer protein.

Additional Resources:

U.S. Department of Agriculture. (n.d.). My Plate. https://www.myplate.gov/

References:

Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. (n.d.). Carbohydrates. https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/carbohydrates/#:~:text=Carbohydrates%20are%20found%20in%20a,sugars%2C%20fibers%2C%20and%20starches

U.S. Department of Agriculture. (n.d.). Phytonutrients. https://www.nutrition.gov/topics/whats-food/phytonutrients

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (n.d.). 2020-2025 Dietary guidelines for Americans. https://health.gov/our-work/nutrition-physical-activity/dietary-guidelines

 

 

 

Talking to Children about Germs, COVID-19, and Practicing Proper Hygiene

With the recent outbreak of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19), many children may have questions about the virus or germs in general.

What are Germs?

Germs are everywhere! They are small and can enter our bodies without us knowing. Some germs can live on surfaces (e.g., doorknobs, countertops) for a short period of time. Once they invade a human body, however, they can make a person sick. The easiest way to prevent the spread of germs is through handwashing!

Bacteria are tiny cells that obtain nutrients from their environment, which in some cases may be the human body, and can reproduce either inside or outside of a human body (KidsHealth, 2018). Ear infections, strep throat, and pneumonia are all examples of illnesses that can be caused by bacteria. Antibiotics can be used to help kill unwanted bacteria inside the body. However, not all bacteria are bad. Some bacteria are good and help to keep our bodies functioning normally!

Viruses need to be inside living cells to reproduce (KidsHealth, 2018). A virus cannot survive long outside of a host, like a human or an animal. Viruses can cause the common cold; the flu; sinusitis; bronchitis; or other diseases, such as COVID-19. Antibiotics cannot be used to kill viruses; however, antiviral medications and vaccines can help to fight viruses or even prevent viruses from making a person sick.

How to Talk to Children about the COVID-19 Virus

The Center for Disease Control (CDC) (2020) has developed some general principles for how to talk to children about the COVID-19 virus.

  • Remain calm and reassuring.
  • Make yourself available to listen and to talk.
  • Avoid language that might blame others and lead to stigma.
  • Pay attention to what children see or hear on television or media outlets.
  • Provide information that is honest and accurate.
  • Teach children everyday actions to reduce the spread of germs.

How to help Children practice Good Hygiene

Parents can help children prevent the spread of germs by teaching children specific manners to be used when they are sick and showing them how to maintain proper hygiene. According to the CDC (2020), some ways parents can teach children everyday actions to reduce the spread of germs are as follows:

  • Remind children to stay away from people who are coughing or sneezing or who seem sick.
  • Remind children to cough or sneeze into their elbow or a tissue, and then throw the tissue into the trash.
  • Get children into a hand-washing habit.
    • Teach children to wash their hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after blowing their noses, coughing, sneezing, going to the bathroom, and before eating or preparing food. Have them sing the Happy Birthday song twice while they wash their hands; that will equal 20 seconds!
    • If soap and water are not available, teach them to use a hand sanitizer. Hand sanitizers should contain at least 60% alcohol. Supervise young children at home, school, and child care facilities when they use a hand sanitizer to prevent them from swallowing the product.

For more information about COVID-19, please visit the CDC’s website at https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/

References

Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). (2020, March). Talking with children about coronavirus disease 2019: Messages for parents, school staff, and others working with children. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/community/schools-childcare/talking-with-children.html

KidsHealth. (2018, July). What are Germs? Retrieved from https://kidshealth.org/en/kids/germs.html

Let’s go camping!

Summer has finally arrived, and it is time for everyone to go outside and enjoy some outdoor family fun! Camping is a great summertime activity, and it offers opportunities for your family members to explore nature and escape the “noise” (e.g., televisions, tablets, social media).

Outdoor activities, like camping, hiking, fishing, and biking, can provide many health benefits such as increasing Vitamin D intake, improving overall mood, improving concentration, and decreasing stress (Harvard University Medical School, 2010). Sharing outdoor activities while camping can also offer unique opportunities for your family to connect to and learn about each other.

The first time you go camping you may experience some uncertainty. However, careful planning, especially if you have younger children, can help ensure you have a successful camping experience.

Practice Inside

  • Practice camping in your home. If you have enough space, set up a tent inside and decorate your campsite – remember to be creative (e.g., make smores in the microwave, string up lights to simulate stars, play nature sounds).

Practice Outside

  • If you’re unsure of how your children may react to camping, or sleeping outdoors, set up a small campsite in your backyard. Backyard camping can offer your family a similar experience and allow you to understand what may be needed when (or if) you decide to take your camping a bit farther from home.

Create a List

  • As part of the planning process, create a list of camping essentials that you will need, like a tent, blankets/sleeping bags, pillows, food, water, sunscreen, fire starters, medication, and appropriate clothing, but remember some specialty items that might bring comfort to your children like a favorite blanket or a special toy. To learn more about camping essentials visit https://www.myopencountry.com/camping-tips/

Include your Children in the Planning Process

  • Children like to be involved, so it’s important to talk to them about what camping is, why you want to do it with them, and what they can expect. Be sure to address any concerns they raise and come up with solutions to any expressed concerns as a team.

Measure Your Skills

  • If you’ve never been camping yourself, you may want to look for a campsite that is located on resort property or a campsite that has amenities (e.g., public restrooms, on-site store) close by. Remember, even if you’re an experienced camper, your children might still be new to camping, so you may want to consider choosing an area that’s challenging but not too much for them to handle.

Take Precautions

  • If you are a bit skeptical about venturing out alone, invite some additional family members or friends to join along in the fun.
  • Many campsites have restrictions, like burning fires or bringing pets. Be sure to carefully vet the camping locations you’re interested in and keep a detailed list of any regulations.
  • To help your children avoid getting lost, teach your children the buddy system. Younger children should team up with an adult, and older children can get together with a peer.

Camping can be an enjoyable activity for your family and a way for you to create special memories together. Your children will benefit from being outdoors and finding ways, places, or things to explore. Who knows, it may become your family’s favorite vacation getaway!

 

Resources

Baer, T. (2019, June 24). 30+ tips on camping with kids, from parents who have been there. The  Dyrt Magazine. https://thedyrt.com/magazine/lifestyle/camping-with-kids/

Conghalie, B. (2021, March 8). Camping hacks and tips from fire to shelter. My Open Country. https://www.myopencountry.com/camping-tips/

Reference

Harvard Medical School. (2010, October 12). A prescription for better health: Go alfresco. Harvard Health Publishing. https://www.health.harvard.edu/newsletter_article/a-prescription-for-better-health-go-alfresco

Digital Empowerment Resource

Media has become an integral part of everyday life for youth and families. Media habits that youth develop at an early age may continue through adulthood. Providing support to children to navigate the digital world responsibly – enhance the positive attributes and cope with the challenges and dilemmas – at a young age may increase their abilities to have respectable, meaningful interactions with others through constructive online engagement. Online platforms can offer youth and children a vast virtual world, which increases their exposure to a variety of topics and diverse individuals – good and bad. Professionals and parents serve as the cornerstone to teaching the fundamental skills of digital citizenship to youth and empowering youth to be good digital citizens by helping them understand the virtual world and helping them know how to keep themselves safe within that world. To aid in the healthy development of youth, the Clearinghouse for Military Family Readiness at Penn State (Clearinghouse) partnered with the Department of Defense’s Office of Military Community and Family Policy (MC&FP) to create a Digital Empowerment Resource to provide support to professionals and parents as they educate children about what it means to be a good digital citizen and empower them to positively participate in the virtual world.

The Digital Empowerment Resource offers activities and resources that can be used to speak with children and youth about media use and communicate the importance of good digital citizenship. Activities have been developed to make it easier for the professional to identify appropriate material to use in daily lesson planning with children who are 5 to 10 years old and adolescents and teens who are 10 to 18 years old. In addition, resources are provided that offer supplementary support to the professional on specific digital citizenship topics. Furthermore, resources include posters that can be printed and placed in facilities, parent handouts, and family activities that can be used to engage the entire family in practicing good digital citizenship habits.

Podcast

Representatives from the Clearinghouse recently spoke with the Military Family Learning Network about the Digital Empowerment Resource. A podcast recording can be found here: https://militaryfamilieslearningnetwork.org/podcast/exploring-the-thrive-initiatives-digital-empowerment-resource-for-parents-and-professionals-anchored-episode-23/

Digital Empowerment Resource

The Digital Empowerment Resource is available at no cost and can be downloaded directly from the Thrive Website: https://thrive.psu.edu/for-professionals/resources/

 

Nutritional Health before and during Pregnancy

During pregnancy, your body is your baby’s first environment. Just as you would prepare the outside world for your baby by purchasing a baby crib, installing a car seat, or prepping your home for safety with outlet plugs, you should also prepare your body for pregnancy by maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Eating nutritious foods and avoiding other foods and substances is important for you and your baby. Remember, many factors, including your own health, safety, and the choices you make, affect your body and your baby.

If you are considering conception, planning for the pregnancy, and preparing your body can improve your chances of having a healthy full-term baby. Eating a healthy, balanced diet can increase your overall health and improve your chances of conception. Research indicates diets high in folic acid, polyunsaturated fats, and plant-based foods can positively impact fertility (Panth, et al., 2018). If you are planning to become pregnant or if you are already pregnant, you may want to consider some of the following nutritional health tips.

Learn what to eat. Eating nutritious foods and learning about appropriate food choices during pregnancy is essential for your health and the health of your growing fetus. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) recently released the 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGA), and these guidelines offer information about healthy foods you may want to consider eating while you are pregnant. Some of those foods include the following:

  • Dairy products are sources of calcium, protein, vitamin D, and phosphorus. These nutrients are essential for your baby’s developing bones, teeth, heart, and nerves:
    • milk, cheese, yogurt.
  • Protein can positively affect the growth of fetal tissue and the brain, and it can increase the mother’s blood supply:
    • beef, pork, poultry, seafood, eggs, beans, nuts.
  • Carbohydrates are a source of energy, so they help the mother support and grow the baby:
    • whole-grain bread and pasta, rice, oatmeal, corn, potatoes.
  • Healthy fats, which are called unsaturated, monounsaturated, and polyunsaturated fats, help improve the heart and how it functions:
    • olives, nuts, avocados, meats (HHS, 2020).

Know the benefits. There are many benefits to consuming nutritious foods and eating a balanced diet of protein, fat, and fiber while you are pregnant. Eating healthy foods can help you maintain your health; give you more energy; help reduce stress, either while trying to conceive or during pregnancy; and help decrease fatigue, nausea, or anemia. Eating the appropriate foods can help ensure a healthy birth weight for your baby and support his or her brain development and reduce birth defects (HHS, 2020).

Follow safe food practices. Pregnant bodies are more sensitive to food-borne illnesses. Good food safety practices should be followed and include the following:

  • Ensure food has been cooked to safe minimum internal temperatures.
  • Wash all fresh produce.
  • Avoid raw dairy and eggs and raw sprouts.
  • Check that food like milk, cheese, and juice say pasteurized on the label.
  • Consume fish with some caution. Fish can have mercury, which is a heavy metal that can make you sick and harm your baby’s development. Shark, swordfish, tuna, and marlin often contain mercury. Smaller fish like sardines, cod, flounder, tilapia, and canned light tuna are nutrient-dense and provide many benefits.
  • Avoid raw fish and raw shellfish.
  • Stay away from deli luncheon meats, and hotdogs should be reheated to steaming hot to kill Listeria (a foodborne illness that can be serious during pregnancy).
  • Avoid organ meat, like liver, as it may have too much vitamin A.
  • Minimize your caffeine intake. A little caffeine is fine but aim for no more than 300 milligrams or 2 to 3 cups of coffee a day.
  • Avoid sweetened beverages and junk foods. These foods are not nutrient-dense, and they contain significant added sugars or sugar substitutes.
  • Avoid alcohol; there is no known amount of alcohol that is considered safe during pregnancy (HHS, 2020).

Some pregnancies may have more health challenges than others. However, you can improve your baby’s first environment by making healthy nutrition choices and regularly visiting your pregnancy healthcare provider. Preparing your body, making appropriate food choices, and maintaining your overall health will help you give your baby the best start possible.

Visit your healthcare provider if you plan to become pregnant or if you are pregnant and talk about your health history and your partner’s health history. You and your partner may need to make changes to your nutrition, medications, and lifestyles. Healthychildren.org provides additional tips (e.g., exercise, stress reduction, family planning, healthy relationships) on taking care of yourself before and during pregnancy.

Resources

American Academy of Pediatrics. (2021). Prenatal decisions to make. Healthy children. https://healthychildren.org/English/ages-stages/prenatal/decisions-to-make/Pages/default.aspx

U.S. Department of Health and Human Service. (2020). Dietary guidelines for Americans 2020-2025. https://www.dietaryguidelines.gov/sites/default/files/2020-12/Dietary_Guidelines_for_Americans_2020-2025.pdf

References

Panth, N., Gavarkovs, A., Tamez, M., & Mattei, J. (2018). The influence of diet on fertility and the implications for public health nutrition in the United States. Front Public Health, 6, 211. https://www.doi.org/10.3389/fpubh.2018.00211

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (2020). Dietary guidelines for Americans 2020-2025. https://www.dietaryguidelines.gov/sites/default/files/2020-12/Dietary_Guidelines_for_Americans_2020-2025.pdf

 

Outdoor Safety

In spring, the weather is getting warm, and you and your family can go outside and be physically active. Whether you go biking, geocaching, hiking, walking, or swimming, you should consider some safety measures. Following safety measures like wearing helmets and sunscreen are essential to protect you and your family while you enjoy the outdoors. Here are tips to keep you and your family safe during outdoor activities:

  • Wear helmets correctly. Helmets can protect you and your child while you participate in activities like baseball, rollerblading, and bike riding. Helmets should be well maintained, age-suitable, and appropriately certified for use, and they should be worn regularly and correctly. Learn about helmets and how to make sure you are wearing them properly at HEADS UP.
  • Drink water and stay well hydrated. Water is healthy and has zero calories and no added sugar. Water is essential for the body – drinking it helps keep joints, bones, and teeth healthy; allows the blood to circulate; and may improve your mood. Drinking water keeps us hydrated while we engage in outside activities. When you sweat, you need to replace the water your body has lost. During activities like running, biking, and playing soccer, your child should drink water before, during, and after the activity. Hereis more information about the benefits of drinking water and staying hydrated.
  • Wear the proper footwear. Biking in flip-flops, hiking in high-heeled shoes, and playing soccer in slippers are not recommended. Wearing the right shoe for the activity can decrease your chances of injury. Proper fitting shoes cushion and support the foot, feel comfortable, and fit well. You can learn more about safe footwear from the American Orthopedic Foot and Ankle Society here.
  • Use sunscreen. Sunburns and skin damage can happen even on cloudy days. Try to put on sunscreen at least 15 minutes before going outside. Use an SPF of 15 or higher. Remember, reapply sunscreen after swimming, sweating, or toweling off. You can find additional sun safety tips from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention here.
  • Limit cellphone distraction. Research says that most playground injuries happen when parents focus on cell phones instead of watching and playing with their children (Lemish, 2019). While playing with your child outside, try to use your cell phone on a limited basis and only as needed.

Getting outside and getting physical activity can be an enjoyable experience for you and your family. Just remember to be safe and have fun!

 

Resources

American Orthopedic Foot and Ankle Society (2021). How do I choose shoes for my child? FootCare MD. https://www.footcaremd.org/resources/how-to-help/how-to-select-childrens-shoes

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2020). Heads-up helmet safety. https://www.cdc.gov/headsup/helmets/index.html

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2020). Sun safety tips for families. https://www.cdc.gov/cancer/skin/basic_info/sun-safety-tips-families.htm

Healthy Children (2020). Choose water for healthy hydration. https://www.healthychildren.org/English/healthy-living/nutrition/Pages/Choose-Water-for-Healthy-Hydration.aspx

Reference

Lemish, D., Elias, N., & Floegal, D., (2020) Look at me! Parental use of mobile phones at the playground. SAGE Journals, 8(2), 179-187. https://doi.org/10.1177/2050157919846916

 

 

Healthy ways to celebrate National Nutrition Month

We all know we should practice healthy eating habits for our general health and well-being. Parents want their children to be healthy, so they follow healthy eating habits with their children throughout the year – but March is National Nutrition Month, so parents can use March to dedicate extra time and attention to nutrition! Here are a few ideas to inspire you and your family to focus on good nutrition and healthy eating for National Nutrition Month!

Try choosing one of the following healthy eating challenges during the month of March!

  • Make your own taste test kitchen at home and try new foods! This is one way to introduce your children to foods that they may normally refuse to try or maybe never have had the opportunity to try. Think outside of your regular food items and explore different spices and tastes together. For example, you might try kiwi or star fruit, or even foods made with saffron and cardamom or other spices from different parts of the world.
  • Try to eat breakfast as a family. Eating a healthy, well-balanced breakfast can be a good way to begin your day together. MyPlate is a resource for information on what constitutes a well-balanced meal.
  • Try limiting sweetened beverages by drinking water with slices of lemons or limes and play an educational game! Rethink Your Drink demonstration is a fun way to teach your children about healthy beverages choices.
  • Teach your children how to read a nutrition facts label. This can be an activity for the whole family. Look through your pantry or cupboards for grocery items, read the labels, and talk about the ingredients. Make a game out of it, like the person who finds the label with the least number of ingredients gets to pick the dinner menu for Friday night.
  • Use the MyPlate website to find games and activities for children of all ages. Get creative!

Any small change that you make to improve the nutrition of you and your family this month is a big success!

 

Resources:

Action for healthy kids. (n.d.). Rethink your drink [Activity]. https://www.actionforhealthykids.org/activity/rethink-your-drink/

U.S. Department of Agriculture. (2021) Myplate.gov. https://www.myplate.gov/life-stages/kids

 

References:

Action for healthy kids. (n.d.). Celebrate National Nutrition Month. Healthy Kids Blog. https://www.actionforhealthykids.org/activity/celebrate-national-nutrition-month/

 

 

Children under 24 months are sweet enough without adding sugar!

Dietary guidelines for Americans are issued every 5 years by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Department of Health and Human Services. The 2020-2025 guidelines include updated information about added sugar for children younger than 24 months and recommend these children do not receive any added sugars. In addition, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has updated labels to include information on whether a food has added sugars and how much. 

Read the labels

The biggest sources of added sugars in the typical American diet are soda and other sugar-sweetened beverages, desserts, snacks, and candy. An example of information about added sugar in packaged foods is now available on the “Nutrition Facts” label (FDA, 2021).

What is added sugar?

Many foods or beverages have extra sugar and syrups added to them when they are processed or prepared. These added sugars have many different names, such as brown sugar, corn sweetener, corn syrup, dextrose, fructose, glucose, high-fructose corn syrup, honey, lactose, malt syrup, maltose, molasses, raw sugar, and sucrose (FDA, 2021).

Here are a few ideas for how you can help your family reduce added sugar intake:

  • Read nutrition facts labels carefully (CDC, 2020). Many foods now list whether a food has added sugar and/or the amount of added sugar. You also can find information about added sugar by reading the ingredients. Avoid serving foods and drinks with added sugar to children under 2 years old. Learn more about nutrition facts labels here (Healthy Children, 2020).
  • Serve water and milk. Avoid serving soda, sports drinks, sweet tea, sweetened coffee, and fruit drinks. Milk is a good beverage choice, and it contains natural sugar (lactose) and provides calcium, protein, vitamin D, and other nutrients children need.
  • Limit fruit juice. Fruit juice has more sugar per serving than whole fruit. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no more than 4 ounces of 100% fruit juice a day for children ages 1 through 3 years old. It is recommended that you do not give fruit juice to infants under 1 year old (Healthy Children, 2020).
  • Go fresh and limit processed, pre-packed food and drinks. Sugar is often added to processed and pre-packaged food items while they are being made or at the table. For example, there are hidden sources of added sugar in processed foods like ketchup, dried cranberries, salad dressings, and baked beans (CDC, 2020).
  • Satisfy your child’s sweet tooth with whole fruit (Healthy Children, 2020). Keep bananas, oranges, or grapes in your young child’s line of sight, and offer these and other fruits regularly.

By limiting sugar and avoiding added sugars in your child’s diet, you are helping to ensure proper nutrition and a healthy beginning for your child. An app is available through the USDA My Plate Campaign to help you follow the new guidelines available on the My Plate website (USDA, 2021).

 

References:

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2020, December 17). Food and drinks for 6 to 24 months old. Nutrition. https://www.cdc.gov/nutrition/infantandtoddlernutrition/foods-and-drinks/foods-and-drinks-to-limit.html

Healthy Children. (2019, March 25). How to reduce added sugar in your child’s diet: APA tips. The American Academy of Pediatrics. https://www.healthychildren.org/English/healthy-living/nutrition/Pages/How-to-Reduce-Added-Sugar-in-Your-Childs-Diet.aspx

U.S. Food and Drug Administration. (2021, January 4). Changes to nutrition facts labels. https://www.fda.gov/food/food-labeling-nutrition/changes-nutrition-facts-label

U.S. Department of Agriculture. (n.d.). What’s on your plate? MyPlate. https://www.myplate.gov

U.S. Department of Agriculture and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (2020,

December). Dietary guidelines for Americans, 2020-2025 (9th ed.). https://www.dietaryguidelines.gov/sites/default/files/2020-12/Dietary_Guidelines_for_Americans_2020-2025.pdf

Don’t let the juice loose!

The increasing rates of childhood obesity are alarming. Studies have shown that what children drink can play an important role in maintaining children’s health and, ultimately, children’s weight (Cleveland Clinic, 2019). The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), warns that excessive daily sugar intake may lead to obesity and type 2 diabetes. Therefore, the AAP recommends aiming for less than 25 grams (about 6 teaspoons) of added sugar per day for children 2 years of age and older.

Many parents and caregivers offer children fruit juices and fruit drinks and may think they are giving their children needed vitamins or nutrients, but this may not always be the case. Nutrition facts can be found on the back of the juice packaging (e.g., bottle, box), and parents/caregivers should look carefully at the ingredients and at the amount of sugar per serving in the drink.

Here’s a closer look at how much sugar is in popular children’s drinks. Each teaspoon of sugar is equal to 4 grams (remember, aim for less than 25 grams of added sugar per day) (Penn State Extension, n.d.):

Drink Serving Size Amount of sugar
Soda 8-ounce cup 26 grams (less than 1 can) = 6.5 tsp.
Fruit punch juice drink 8-ounce cup 30 grams = 7.5 tsp.
Fruit punch cocktail 8-ounce cup 34 grams = 8.5 tsp.
100% juice (no sugar added) 8-ounce cup 26 grams = 6.5 tsp.

Best practices for beverage consumption according to the AAP (2017) are as follows:

  • Water: Available from household water faucets or in bottles or cans, and often a child can access water independently
  • Fruit juice: Offer only products that are 100% juice; limit to no more than 4-6 ounces per day per child and
    encourage parents to support this limit (keep juice from getting on the loose!)
  • Sugary drinks: Never offer these drinks (includes fruit drinks, sports drinks, sweet tea, and soda)
  • Milk: Serve only 1% or non-fat (skim) milk to children 2 years and older (unless otherwise directed by the child’s health provider)

According to the AAP (2017), even 100% fruit juice, while there is no added sugar, is simply sugar from the whole fruit, and the juice lacks the fiber and some nutrients that are found in the whole fruit. Research suggests that drinking juice may lead children to develop a taste for sweet things, which could be detrimental to children’s overall and continued health. In addition, the AAP recommends that fruit juice not be given to infants under 12 months of age since it offers no nutritional benefit to babies in this age group. After 12 months of age, infants may have limited amounts (see recommendations below) of 100% fruit juice daily (APA, 2017). Remember, just because a drink claims to be 100% fruit juice doesn’t mean it’s a healthy option for children (Eichberger, 2018).

Key tips regarding fruit juice follow:

  • Fruit juice offers no nutritional benefits over whole fruit. Whole fruits also provide fiberand other nutrients. Infants should not be given fruit juice at bedtime or as a treatment of dehydration or management of diarrhea.
  • For children ages 1 to 3 years old:Limit fruit juice consumption to no more than 4 ounces each day.
  • For children ages 4 to 6 years of age:Limit fruit juice consumption to 4 to 6 ounces each day.

Additional resources:

Clearinghouse for Military Family Readiness at Penn State. (2017, July 11). 5210 Make your own sugar bottle display. https://5210.psu.edu/toolkits/

Penn State Extension. (n.d.). The best drinks for kids. Better Kid Care. https://extension.psu.edu/programs/betterkidcare/early-care/tip-pages/all/the-best-drinks-for-children

References:

American Academy of Pediatrics. (2017). Fruit juice and your child’s diet. Healthy Children. https://www.healthychildren.org/English/healthy-living/nutrition/Pages/Fruit-Juice-and-Your-Childs-Diet.aspx

American Academy of Pediatrics. (2017). Where we stand: fruit juice. Healthy Children. https://www.healthychildren.org/English/healthy-living/nutrition/Pages/Where-We-Stand-Fruit-Juice.aspx

Cleveland Clinic. (2019). Parents: Regular milk and water is best for kids. Health Essentials. https://health.clevelandclinic.org/parents-regular-milk-and-water-is-best-for-kids/

Eichberger, S. (2018, August 27). Is fruit juice healthy for kids? Michigan State University Extension Food and Health. https://www.canr.msu.edu/news/is-fruit-juice-healthy-for-kids

Penn State Extension. (n.d). The best drinks for kids. Better Kid Care. https://extension.psu.edu/programs/betterkidcare/early-care/tip-pages/all/the-best-drinks-for-children

Influenza and Children: Your child may benefit more than ever from an Influenza (flu) shot this year!

This year’s flu season will coincide with the ongoing spread of the COVID-19 virus. As a result, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) are cautioning the occurrence of a “Twin-demic.” That is when two diseases spread at the same time. Yes, you can contract Influenza and COVID-19 at the same time, which could overwhelm our healthcare systems.

In children, the flu illness is more dangerous than the common cold. There are more than 200 different viruses that cause the common cold, which is an upper respiratory virus that usually only causes symptoms in the nose and throat areas. Rarely does the common cold cause fever or serious complications for children. Influenza or the flu is a lower respiratory infection that attacks the lungs and our oxygen exchange system. The flu commonly causes fevers and reduced oxygen levels, which can lead to very serious and life-threatening illnesses for children, like pneumonia (CDC,2020).

There can be some confusion surrounding the flu shot and how it actually works in our bodies. The flu shot is a vaccination made up of three to four different kinds of influenza virus strains. This year, the flu shot contains the H1N1, Type A, and Type B strains (CDC, 2020). The flu shot has only pieces of the viruses and does not cause the flu. It takes about 2 weeks for the immune system to create antibodies from the flu shot.  Every year, scientists decide what are the best viral strains of the flu to use in the annual flu vaccination, and these strains, on average, have a 45% rate of accuracy (CDC, 2020). Any flu antibodies your body creates will lessen the symptoms and severity of the flu, and you may be better off than if you had not been vaccinated at all (Arriola, 2017).

The flu shot offers several benefits to your child, such as the following:

  • Reduce the spread of flu to others.
  • Reduce flu illnesses and make them shorter and milder if you do get them.
  • Reduce doctor’s visits.
  • Reduce the number of missed school days.
  • Reduce the risk of flu-related hospitalization and death.
  • Provide preventive care for children with chronic health conditions.

The flu shot is very important for children and teenagers who are at high risk of complications from the flu, including those who have the following characteristics:

  • Are between 6 months and 5 years of age.
  • Have chronic heart or lung disorders.
  • Have chronic conditions that weaken the immune system.
  • Have diabetes.
  • Have chronic kidney disease.
  • Have chronic anemia or a hemoglobin disorder.
  • Have a chronic neurological disorder.
  • Are severely obese (body mass index ≥40).
  • Need to take acetylsalicylic acid (ASA or Aspirin) on a daily basis.
  • Live with another child or adult who is at risk of complications from the flu.

In addition to children, pregnant women and individuals and caregivers who care for children less than 5 years of age should also receive the flu shot (Thompson, 2016). Given during pregnancy, the flu shot helps to protect the baby from the flu for several months after birth, which is a time when he or she is not old enough to be vaccinated (Benzowitz, 2010).

 

Additional Resources

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2020, August 31). What are the benefits of flu vaccination? https://www.cdc.gov/flu/prevent/vaccine-benefits.htm

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2020, September 11). A strong defense against flu: get vaccinated! https://www.cdc.gov/flu/pdf/freeresources/general/strong-defense-against-flu.pdf

 

References

Arriola, C., Garg, S., Anderson, E. J., Ryan, P. A., George, A., Zansky, S. M., Bennett, N., Reingold, A., Bargsten, M., Miller, L., Yousey-Hindes, K., Tatham, L., Bohm, S. R., Lynfield, R., Thomas, A., Lindegren, M. L., Schaffner, W., Fry, A. M., & Chaves, S. S. (2017). Influenza vaccination modifies disease severity among community-dwelling adults hospitalized with Influenza. Clinical Infectious Diseases, 65(8), 1289–1297. https://doi.org/10.1093/cid/cix468

Benowitz, I., Esposito, B., Gracey, D., Shapiro, D., & Vázquez, M. (2010). Influenza vaccine given to pregnant women reduces hospitalization due to influenza in their infants. Clinical Infectious Diseases, 51(12),1355-1361. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/21058908/

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2020, August 31). What are the benefits of flu vaccination? https://www.cdc.gov/flu/prevent/vaccine-benefits.htm

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2020, September 11). A strong defense against flu: get vaccinated! https://www.cdc.gov/flu/pdf/freeresources/general/strong-defense-against-flu.pdf

Thompson, M., Kwong, J., Regan, A., Katz, M., Drews, S., Azziz-Baumgartner, B., Klein, K., Chung, H., Effler, P., Feldman, B., Simmonds, K., Wyant, B., Dawood, F., Jackson, M., Fell, D., Levy, A., Barda, N., Svenson, L., Fink, R., Ball, S., Naleway, A. (2016). Influenza vaccine effectiveness in preventing influenza-associated hospitalizations during pregnancy: A multi-country retrospective test negative design study. Clinical Infectious Diseases, 68(9),1444–1453. https://doi.org/10.1093/cid/ciy737