Posts Tagged ‘
Tuesday, October 29th, 2013
From television to cell phones, iPads, and social media, media use has become a key part of most people’s lives in recent years. For many (myself included, I hate to admit), cell phones and other devices have practically become appendages—and our use of them somewhat addictive. As reported recently in the New York Times article, Baby’s First iPhone App, even toddlers are getting in on the act by playing with their parents’ devices—and in some cases, getting their own as a birthday or holiday gift!
In a follow up to a 2011 survey by the same name, Zero to Eight: Children’s Media Use in America 2013 was conducted between May 20 and June 12, 2013 with 1,463 parents of children age 8 and under. According to the survey, children’s access to mobile media devices is dramatically higher than it was two years ago. In fact, the survey reveals a fivefold increase in ownership of some type of “smart” mobile device. Whereas only 8% of families reported they owned one in 2011, a whopping 40% report they owned one in 2013. And while only about half of the children had access to a device in 2011, three quarters have access in 2013.
The survey also finds that children between the ages of 0 and 8 spend an average 1 hour and 55 minutes in front of a screen—that’s 21 minutes less than in 2011. But while total screen time decreased, time spent using mobile devices like cell phones and iPads is just about triple what it was in 2011. Thirty eight percent of children used mobile devices to play games, watch videos, or use apps in 2011; that number jumped to 72% of children 2013. And while only 10% of children under the age of 2 used a mobile device for media in 2011, that number has jumped to 38% in 2013.
According to the survey, TV is still at the center of kids’ media lives. Of the 1 hour and 55 minutes spent in front of any screen, 57 minutes is spent in front of a TV screen. The remaining 68 minutes is spent watching DVDs, using computers, playing video games and using mobile devices like smartphones and tablets.
Older kids spend substantially more time in front of screens. According to the 2010 Kaiser Family Foundation Study, kids between the ages of 8 and 18 spend about 7.5 hours a daily watching TV and movies, and using computers, video games and cell phones.
Of course technology use can’t be all bad—and it can have its perks. And of course we all know how much fun it can be as well! According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), media literacy and prosocial uses of media—traditional forms like TV and “new media” like cell phones, iPads, and social media—may enhance knowledge, connectedness, and health. But the APA also says media contribute substantially to various risks and health problems and that children and teenagers learn from, and may be negatively influenced by, the media.
For example, there’s evidence that screen time (TV time in particular) can interfere with sleep and contribute to the development of obesity among children. A new study of almost 3,000 Australian children followed from 4- to 5-years-of-age until 8- to 9-years-of-age found that short sleep duration at 4- to 5-years-of-age was significantly associated with higher body mass index at 8- to 9-years-of-age. Researchers suggested that this result was due, at least in part, to increased TV viewing at 6- to 7-years-of-age.
A previous study published in Appetite surveyed the parents of more than 9,000 Australian children about their children’s eating and TV viewing habits. Researchers found that those who watched TV were more likely to gain weight, and individuals who were heavier were also more likely to watch TV. They concluded that sedentary behaviors—particularly when paired with unhealthy dietary habits—significantly increase the risk for excessive weight gain in early childhood, and that it’s important to have interventions to help parents help their young children develop healthy TV viewing and eating habits.
Technology is here to stay, and as I often say when talking to other parents—whether they’re friends, family, or Parents readers—we need to learn as we go since there’s no handbook for how to raise children to use technology in a way that enhances—rather than sabotages—their physical and emotional health. To provide some guidance, a new policy statement by the American Academy of Pediatrics called Children, Adolescents, and the Media suggests the following recommendations for parents:
- Parents can model effective “media diets” to help their children learn to be selective and healthy in what they consume. Take an active role in children’s media education by co-viewing programs with them and discussing values.
- Make a family media use plan, including mealtime and bedtime curfews for media devices. Screens should be kept out of kids’ bedrooms.
- Limit entertainment screen time to less than 1 or 2 hours per day; in children under 2, discourage screen media exposure.
I don’t know about you, but I’m going to try to follow and implement the above guidelines in my home. I’ll report how it goes in a future Scoop on Food post. Please email me if you’d like to join in and keep in touch with me along the way.
Check out these 10 guilt-free apps for preschoolers. Then, find out if your little one is too sick for school by taking our quiz.
For more information, check out Kids & the Media by the American Psychological Association.
Image of baby boy with cell phone via Shutterstock.
Add a Comment
Saturday, October 19th, 2013
During the recent government shutdown, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) warned the public of an outbreak of foodborne illness that had been reported in 18 states (primarily California). As I wrote about the public health alert in a recent Scoop on Food post, it was clear that the government shutdown could potentially harm the health—in this case, contribute to the development of foodborne illness if the outbreak spread any further—among consumers.
Because the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is responsible for tracking the occurrence of foodborne disease and investigating outbreaks (which includes managing the DNA “fingerprinting” network for foodborne illness-causing germs in all states to detect outbreaks), the government shutdown affected the ability of the agency to protect the public.
After an article on Wired.com suggested that the shutdown left the CDC unable to conduct multi-state outbreak investigations, I tried to get in touch with the CDC. I wanted to ask about this latest outbreak and how the organization was (or wasn’t) handling it. When I finally spoke with a CDC employee after several failed phone calls, a CDC employee provided me with a CDC email address to which I could send my questions. For the time being, he said, consumers with food safety questions or concerns about should contact their local and state health departments.
Earlier today—to my surprise and delight—the CDC emailed me. Finally back in action—along with the rest of the government—the agency responded to my concerns. As you’ll see in their email to me (as below), the CDC is now working at full capacity, therefore able to better protect us, after facing several challenges during the last few weeks.
CDC’s disease detectives for foodborne illness and outbreaks are happy to be at work in full force after the furlough. For example, in our CDC Reference Laboratory for Enteric (intestinal) Diseases, our nation’s top laboratory that helps states identify foodborne germs that make people sick, all 80 staff are back on the job. During the furlough, a skeleton crew of four people was overseen by Dr. Collette Fitzgerald (seen in photo), a world-renowned microbiologist who has been at CDC for 15 years. Dr. Fitzgerald’s three children (including twin boys), did not see much of her during the 16 day furlough. Instead, with her small team, she oversaw all the incoming samples of enteric pathogens, including those from the ongoing outbreak of Salmonella from Foster Farms, that proved to be resistant to several commonly prescribed antibiotics.
“We won’t really know the full impact from the furlough for a couple of weeks, when the lab has caught up,” say’s Dr. Fitzgerald. “There was a gap in receiving and processing samples during this time. Analyzing samples can provide the first signal in determining if people and pathogens are linked during an outbreak. Last year, during this same time frame, we received almost 700 samples from states. During the furlough, we received about one-sixth of that number because we requested that states temporarily stop shipment. States held the samples, or we stored them if they were already shipped. Now that we are back, we are ramping up. But that takes time. When responding to outbreaks, timing is everything. We have no idea what we are missing right now; outbreaks could be missed.”
How will this affect you as parents and consumers? “There was definitely a gap in our detection,” says Dana Pitts, communications lead, “but the good thing is that we should have the ability to recreate most of what we missed using CDC’s full force of laboratory and disease experts. They will live up to CDCs’ reputation—working 24/7. It is important that not only in this outbreak, but every day, parents be especially careful preparing food for those at greatest risk for Salmonella food poisoning, including children under 5 years old, those in poor health, and older adults. We know that foodborne illness is common and can happen to anyone. But these groups of people have a much higher risk for infection from Salmonella.”
The CDC also told me they just released a statement to update consumers about the Salmonella outbreak; as of October 18, 2013, 338 people with seven outbreak strains of Salmonella Heidelberg have been reported from 20 states and Puerto Rico.
I don’t know about you, but I’m certainly glad the furlough has ended, people can get back to work, and we can all rest a bit easier knowing that the government is doing what it can to protect the safety of our food supply to keep us healthy.
For more information about food-borne illness risk and what you can do to stay safe, check out the following resources:
Are You At Risk for Foodborne Illness?
Foodborne Illness: Especially Dangerous for the Vulnerable
Making Food Safer to Eat
Recipe for Food Safety
For help with safe home cooking, use our free Roasting Guide.
Image of Dr. Collette Fitzgerald via the CDC.
Add a Comment
Wednesday, October 16th, 2013
My recent Scoop on Food Post, No More Soda in Kids’ Meals, sparked considerable online conversation and debate. As a registered dietitian nutritionist and mother of two, I support any attempt by a fast food company—or any restaurant—to offer smaller portions, or more healthful fare. I am also in favor or limiting the marketing of nutrient-poor foods to children who are quite vulnerable to the impacts of advertising on their eating choices and habits. Although I intuitively thought that most parents would support the move by McDonald’s to not offer soda with Happy Meals, many said it crosses a line when it comes to freedom and personal choice. And even though the federal government had nothing to do with the McDonald’s decision, many commented that they don’t want the government dictating what they should or shouldn’t eat or feed their families.
Here’s just a sample of some reader comments when asked if they agree with the change McDonald’s is making on the Parents Magazine Facebook Page:
Heidi M. Fanning I think that this is great! My kids enjoy a happy meal as an occasional treat and they always pick the milk anyway. I like that soda will no longer be MARKETED to children, even though their parents are still free to buy them soda if they so choose.
Erica Lopez Just because it is not listed does not mean you cannot get it. Personally, I feel as though it is a good thing that McDonald’s wants to encourage parents not to serve their children soda. There are not enough children who appreciate and drink water.
Shawn-Joy Martin …I don’t agree with the change. How about a little personal responsibility? Don’t get your kid a Happy Meal 5 days a week and then if they want a soda with it, it won’t be such a big deal.
Diane Pumpido Pallini …It’s not McDonald’s or the government’s or anyone’s business to tell me what I can and can’t order for my kids. This nonsense is going too far.
Ashley Howerton I think it’s crap. My kid very rarely gets a Happy Meal, but when he does, if I as the parent choose to let him have a tiny (because let’s be honest, those cups are tiny) cup of Root Beer, that’s my choice. I’m the parent! I’m so sick of people thinking they have a right to bully businesses into limiting my options as a parent.
Amber Loyd Has this group taken into consideration that they are making it more difficult to practice moderation even when occasionally splurging diet wise…we are raising our son that nothing is off limits but everything in moderation, which is why I support the fact that happy meal fries are smaller and there are apples included now…but now you are telling me that when I do occasionally treat my son to a happy meal and he wants a soda with it I’m forced to buy him a larger size and then fight the battle of not having a “full” cup… I won’t be spending my money at McDonald’s anymore, period.
Breanna Stephens Sure, you can still add a soda for a dollar if you’re really insistent on giving your child that. It’s not taking away your choice just taking it out of a kids’ meal to encourage better choices for our children. We all know it’s not good for them or us. I’ve never allowed my kids to have soda because to me it’s an unnecessary indulgence…It’s each family’s personal decision but I think logically this makes sense.
Victoria Wieting I wish parents were smart enough to not give kids soda on their own but since they are not and I often see kids as young as preschool drinking it, then it’s about time the policy changed.
Amy Sage NO, because it is one of the few times I allow my son to have soda. It’s called “Happy” meal for a reason, it makes kids HAPPY!
Katie Haynie Guess what? Parents who want to get their kids soda will still get their kids soda, but it will be a small instead of the kid size, which means it will be bigger. This whole thing is stupid. What are they going to do next, arrest you for giving kids soda?
Lorisa Griffith It still is not going to solve a thing and all the hype has gotten out of control. If you don’t want your kid drinking soda then don’t buy them soda. Stop dictating how businesses operate because you are too scared to tell your kids no. What’s next? No cookies or cupcakes or Dairy Queen?
Heidi M. Fanning I find it odd and silly that people are complaining that it should be their choice and not McDonald’s choice whether or not their child has soda, because IT STILL IS the parent’s choice! McDonald’s will still sell you a soda to give to your children if that is what you want to do, it is just not part of the Happy Meal. Seriously, no one is taking your precious soda away.
Cathy Vo What gives McDonald’s the right to decide if my child should have a soda or not? Getting my kids a Happy Meal was always an infrequent special treat that included the soda as a special treat, since I don’t buy soda to keep in the home! A stupid/unfair decision on their part!
I have no doubt this debate will continue, especially since similar nutrition and health initiatives by fast food and other companies will likely follow as obesity, type 2 diabetes, and other diet-related diseases remain prevalent in our society. For now, I agree with Margo Wootan, the Director of Nutriton Policy for the Center for Science in the Public Interest. She says, “Taking soda off the Happy Meal section of menu boards at McDonald’s is an important step toward healthier kids meals and healthier children. It doesn’t much matter to me why they are doing it—just that it is good for kids and will make it a bit easier for parents to feed their children healthfully.”
What’s your opinion? Should companies have a say in how you should feed your children?
Image of cola in glass via shutterstock.
Add a Comment
Tuesday, October 15th, 2013
We all know breakfast may very well be THE most important meal of the day, especially for growing children. But lunch is also important. Having a well-balanced lunch not only provides kids with an opportunity to meet daily food group and nutrient goals, but it helps kids stay energized. It also provides an important opportunity to get key food groups and the nutrients they provide into a kid’s day (not to mention his or her stomach as well).
A lot of parents send lunch with their kids to school daily—either out of need or to provide an alternative to lunches provided there. And oftentimes, they think these lunches are healthy. Many may therefore be surprised to learn that there’s at least some evidence that lunches brought from home may have a lower nutritional quality than lunches provided at school. A study published in Childhood Obesity found that children who ate lunches brought from home were less likely than those who ate a school lunch to have fruits, vegetables, and dairy for lunch. They were also more likely to have snacks that were higher in sugar and/or fat at lunch.
Fortunately, a little planning and nutrition know-how can go a long way to help you pack a healthy lunch. So before you pack your kids lunch to bring to school, daycare, or even for travel or a weekend outing, check out these 5 tips (and quick ideas) for fun, tasty, nutritious lunch box options from registered dietitian Holley Grainger. They take 5 minutes or less to prepare and are sure to please toddlers and school aged kids—even those with temperamental palates.
1. Get Creative with Veggies.
Don’t get discouraged if the raw baby carrots you pack for lunch day-in and day-out continue to be sent home untouched. Studies have found that children are more likely to eat their vegetables when offered with a dip, so pack some guacamole or hummus alongside raw veggies and see what happens. Also, consider your preparation method. Is your child more likely to eat grilled or roasted veggies versus raw? Try preparing foods like spaghetti sauce and meatloaf with shredded or diced carrots, onions, peppers and celery mixed in and send leftovers in the lunchbox.
Quick ideas: corn kernels/corn on the cob; raw broccoli florets with hummus/roasted broccoli/steamed broccoli with cheese sauce; baked sweet potato sprinkled with cinnamon/oven-baked sweet potato fries; oven-roasted potato wedges/potato cakes; raw zucchini rounds with ranch dip/zucchini bread.
2. Keep Your Child Hydrated.
Staying hydrated throughout the day is critical to maintain concentration and energy levels. If you’re worried your child doesn’t drink enough water at school, make sure to include water-packed foods in the lunchbox. You can also start the morning by offering oatmeal or ready-to-eat cereal made with milk and topped with fruit.
Quick ideas: watermelon, strawberries, pasta, salad greens, rice, cucumbers, grapes, bell peppers
3. Think Outside the Sandwich:
Sandwiches with lean, low-sodium deli meat are an easy way to boost protein in the lunchbox. But if you need to break out of the sandwich rut, consider some of the following protein-rich foods to keep your child feeling satisfied all afternoon.
Quick ideas: edamame, hummus, hard-boiled eggs, Greek yogurt, cheese, beans, lentils, quinoa, roasted chickpeas, nuts, cottage cheese, tofu cubes, smoothies made with yogurt or silken tofu, and nut or seed butters
4. Pack the Power Trio: Fiber, Protein, and Healthy Fat
Three nutrients—fiber, protein, and healthy fat—have “staying power” to keep your child feeling energized throughout the day and boost his or her daily nutrient quotient. When packing a lunchbox, choose foods that hit these target nutrients.
Quick ideas: whole wheat tortilla spread with nut or seed butter, topped with banana slices and flax seed and rolled up; leftover grilled chicken sandwich with spinach, grilled veggies and hummus; low-sodium turkey pita with tomatoes, cheese, arugula and a smear of fresh avocado; egg salad made with canola mayo or Greek yogurt atop salad greens with whole wheat crackers
5. Make it Fun
Just because you’re packing a nutritious lunch doesn’t mean you can’t offer healthier alternatives to the sweet or salty treats your child craves. Consider making some of the traditional favorites yourself so you can oversee the ingredient list and remember to keep portions in check. You can also pack stickers, notes, and small toys to keep lunch interesting and fun.
Quick ideas: trail mix with whole grain cereal, nuts and chocolate chips; baked potato chips; dark chocolate square; whole grain pretzels; mini whole grain muffin; yogurt-covered raisins
Use our Food & Recipe Guides to pack a healthy lunch
Image of turkey rolls in hummus, kiwi, cheese, and milk via Holley Grainger.
Add a Comment
Tuesday, October 8th, 2013
If you think the shutdown of the federal government won’t have a ripple affect on our health and well being, think again. For one, it might very well make it harder for us to protect ourselves and our kids from illness caused by contaminated food.
On October 7, 2013, The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) issued a public health alert to warn of an outbreak of foodborne illness. According to the alert, an estimated 278 illnesses caused by strains of Salmonella Heidelberg have recently been reported in 18 states (primarily in California).
Although the alert indicates the FSIS can’t yet link the illnesses to a specific product and a specific production period, it says investigations conducted by local, state, and federal officials show that the likely source of the outbreak is chicken produced at Foster Farms. Although the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and state health departments are monitoring the outbreak while the FSIS continues its investigation, an article on Wired.com quotes a CDC staffer who said that while the federal government is shut down, the agency won’t be able to conduct multi-state outbreak investigations.
According to the CDC, an estimated 1 in 6 Americans (or 48 million people) get sick, 128,000 are hospitalized, and 3,000 die of foodborne diseases each year. While consuming undercooked ground beef, chicken, and eggs can contribute to outbreaks of foodborne illness, other foods including fruits and vegetables and can also become contaminated or harbor pathogens that lead to illness.
Although symptoms of foodborne illness vary depending on the cause, common symptoms that can be mild or serious and can last anywhere from a few hours to several days include vomiting, diarrhea or bloody diarrhea, abdominal pain, fever, and chills. Young children are among the more vulnerable populations and are more likely to develop foodborne illnesses, experience dehydration or other severe complications, or even die from them.
Hopefully, the federal government will reopen soon so the workers who protect the safety of our food supply can help prevent a further spread of foodborne illnesses. In the meantime (and always), there are several measures we can take to protect ourselves and our children from foodborne illness. Here are four core practices recommended in the FightBac! program by the Partnership for Food Safety Education:
1. Clean –Wash hands and surfaces often. Simply washing your hands with soap and water in the time it takes to sing “happy birthday” can cut your risk of getting sick from food by 50%.
2. Separate—Don’t cross contaminate. Keep raw foods away from cooked foods and separate raw meat, poultry, seafood, and eggs from other foods in your grocery cart and in your refrigerator.
3. Cook—Cook to proper temperatures. Using a meat thermometer—not eyeballing foods for doneness—is essential to make sure foods are cooked to safe internal temperatures.
4. Chill—Refrigerate promptly. Keep your refrigerator set to 40 degrees Farenheit or below and never let perishable foods sit out for more than 2 hours—or more than 1 hour outside when the temperature exceeds 90 degrees Farenheit.
To learn more, check out the Food Safe Families Campaign Toolkit or visit foodsafety.gov.
Image of mother washing kid’s hands via shutterstock.
Add a Comment