Interviewing Joe Biden was only one reason I found myself in Washington, D.C., at the White House last week. Earlier that same day, I was among a group of digital editors there to discuss healthy eating and how people use the internet to find recipes for their families. We met with officials from the Partnership for a Healthier America (PHA), the Let’s Move! initiative that the First Lady launched, and other White House staffers who are involved in the effort to promote healthy eating habits (and feed the First Family).
The meeting marked the beginning of a partnership between Let’s Move!, PHA, and major magazine and web brands, including Parents and several of our sister brands at Meredith, such as Family Circle, Recipe.com, and AllRecipes.com. The aim is to grow awareness and use of the USDA’s MyPlate nutritional guidelines, and of course, to encourage families to eat healthier. As you may know, MyPlate replaced the classic Food Pyramid and offers a simple-to-use graphic depicting in clear terms the relative proportions of different food types that we should aim to eat. The message it–and this partnership–intends to send is that healthy eating doesn’t need to be more difficult, more expensive, or less delicious than eating unhealthily.
Through this collaboration, you’ll find many delicious, healthy Parents recipes pinned on MyPlate’s Pinterest boards, and you’ll soon see the MyPlate logo on some Parents.com slideshows, offering you an at-a-glance way to know that those recipes conform to these important guidelines for healthy eating.
While a handful of editors at the meeting got to continue the discussion directly with Michelle Obama afterward, the highlight of the event for the rest of us was a tour of the White House garden, conducted by the White House pastry chef, Bill Yosses. In the garden in back of the White House, the staff grows vegetables year-round, and in the middle of February it was amazing to see broccoli and spinach and other greens still growing.
Personally, I was most interested in the White House beehive–yep, their own natural honey machine. Yosses explained how eating locally produced honey can reduce allergies through its trace amounts of local pollen, which get your body accustomed to the allergens it faces in your area. It was also fun to pass by the Obama girls’ swing set!
See some photos from the day:
A shot of the White House garden
Bill Yosses, White House pastry chef, brings us on a tour of the White House garden.
A sign embedded in the garden, with a quote from Thomas Jefferson: “…the failure of one thing repaired by the success of another; and instead of one harvest, a continued one throughout the year.”
Charter Schools That Start Bad Stay Bad, Stanford Report Says
When it comes to charter schools, the bad ones stay bad and the good ones stay good, according to a report on charter school growth released by an influential group of Stanford University scholars on Wednesday. (via Huffington Post)
Greek Yogurt In School Lunches Introduced As Meat Alternative In USDA Pilot Program
The U.S. Department of Agriculture is launching a pilot program that could place Greek yogurt in school cafeterias across the country by April as a protein, or meat alternative, Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) announced Wednesday. (via Huffington Post)
Childhood Obesity Linked To Multiple Sclerosis
A new study has found an association between childhood obesity and the risk of multiple sclerosis (MS) in children and teenagers. Though still rare, pediatric MS is more common now than it was 30 years ago. (via Fox News)
EPA Moves To Ban Certain Rat and Mouse Poisons
The Environmental Protection Agency is moving to ban the sale of a dozen rat and mouse poisons sold under the popular D-Con brand in an effort to protect children and pets. (via Fox News)
Long-delayed School Snack Rules to Come Soon: Vilsack
After more than a year’s delay, American schools will soon see new U.S. government rules targeting the kinds of snacks sold to students, a move nutritionists say could play an important role in fighting childhood obesity. (via Reuters)
Language Learning Begins in Utero, Study Finds; Newborn Memories of Oohs and Ahs Heard in the Womb
Research led by Christine Moon, a professor of psychology at Pacific Lutheran University, shows that infants, only hours old showed marked interest for the vowels of a language that was not their mother tongue. (via ScienceDaily)
Circumcision On The Decline? What Parents Need to Know About The Procedure
Having your newborn baby boy circumcised used to be a common practice in the United States, but in recent years, more parents are opting out. According to Charge Data Master, newborn circumcision rates declined from 58.4 percent in 2001 to 54.7 percent in 2010. Yet these numbers don’t take into account circumcisions performed outside of the hospital – such as those for religious reasons. (via Fox News)
Ultrasound Parties: New Frontier in Pregnancy Oversharing
Thanks to improved ultrasound technology, parents-to-be can now invite friends and family to share in an intimate viewing of baby in utero. (via Today Moms)
Philadelphia School District Plans to Close Dozens of Schools
Now, facing deep financial problems, the Philadelphia School District has proposed an unprecedented downsizing that would close 37 campuses by June — roughly one out of six public schools. If the sweeping plan is approved, the district says it will improve academic standards by diverting money used for maintaining crumbling buildings to hire teachers and improve classroom equipment. (via New York Times)
More Food for Hungry Students: USDA Tweaks School Meals
Schools across the country continue to struggle with implementing the first new nutritional guidelines in 15 years governing meals served to nearly 32 million U.S. students every day. Some schools are finding it a challenge to meet the new requirements of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) National School Lunch Program, put in place in January 2012. Amid pressure from government officials, the USDA recently loosened up on some of its requirements on meat and grains. (via TIME)
Iron May Prevent Behavioral Issues in Small Babies
Iron supplements may help boost brain development and ward off behavioral problems in babies who are born a bit on the small side, a new study suggests. (via Reuters)
Could Kids’ Salt Intake Affect Their Weight?
Children who eat a lot of salty food also tend to down more sugary drinks — which, in turn, might be related to their risk of obesity, a new study suggests. (via US News and World Report)
School Lunches To Be Allowed Unlimited Meats, Grains, USDA Announces
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack told members of Congress in a letter Friday that the department will do away with daily and weekly limits of meats and grains. Several lawmakers wrote the department after the new rules went into effect in September saying kids aren’t getting enough to eat. (via Huffington Post)
ADHD Linked to Oxygen Deprivation Before Birth
Children who had in-utero exposure to ischemic-hypoxic conditions, situations during which the brain is deprived of oxygen, were significantly more likely to develop attention deficit hyperactivity disorder later in life as compared to unexposed children, according to a recent study. The findings suggest that events in pregnancy may contribute to the occurrence of ADHD over and above well-known familial and genetic influences of the disorder. (via ScienceDaily)
Oxytocin Produces More Engaged Fathers and More Responsive Infants
A large body of research has focused on the ability of oxytocin to facilitate social bonding in both marital and parenting relationships in human females. A new laboratory study has found that oxytocin administration to fathers increases their parental engagement, with parallel effects observed in their infants. (via ScienceDaily)
Based on the research, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (USDA) warned parents against giving OTC medication to kids of that age range. Despite the warning, a national poll conducted with 300 parents revealed that 61% were still giving OTC medicine to kids 6 months to 2-years-old. More than half of the parents also revealed their doctors saying the medicines were safe and effective for younger kids.
While the expertise of a medical professional is important, pediatricians and parents should take heed that OTC medication can be dangerous for younger kids. To medicate your child safely, always consult USDA guidelines or ask for prescribed medicine that’s not purchased over the counter.
The United States Department of Agriculture released new dietary guidelines today recommending that Americans eat more fish. This recommendation is particularly important for pregnant and breastfeeding women since new research shows that nutrients found in seafood play an important factor in babies’ brain and eye development.
Everyone one needs to eat at least 8 to 12 ounces of fish (that’s 2 to 3 servings) a week. The average American eats one serving of seafood a week and pregnant and/or breastfeeding women eat less than one half of a serving of seafood a week, according to the National Fisheries Institute .
Limiting or avoiding seafood during pregnancy can result in suboptimal brain development, slower eye development, and lower rates of positive birth outcomes, says Dr. J. Thomas Brenna, a professor of nutritional sciences at Cornell University. Mothers also benefit from eating 2 to 3 servings of fish per week, as some research shows that the nutrients can reduce pre-partum and postpartum depression.
However, these recommendations only apply to eating fish as a whole food, rather than substituting the food for a fish-oil supplement. Supplements lack the other nutrients found in fish.
Eating omega-3 fatty acids found in fish also decreases the risk of heart disease. “By giving people fish as food you’re doing so much more since you’re getting rid of foods that would have had a detrimental effect on cardiac disease,” says Dr. Louis Aronne, internist and director of Comprehensive Weight Program at Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center and clinical professor of medicine at Cornell University.
The Federal Drug Administration tells pregnant and breastfeeding women to avoiding eating fish like Shark, Tilefish, Swordfish, and King Mackerel that have higher levels of mercury. (Yet, Dr. Brenna says that those toxicological effects were hypothetical and we, as consumers, should be positive about encouraging more consumption of seafood.)
A quick and easy way to add seafood to your diet is to swap out the same old proteins in your favorite recipes.
Study finds toxic chemicals in pregnant womens’ bodies A new study shows the typical pregnant woman has dozens of potentially toxic or even cancer-causing chemicals in her body — including ingredients found in flame retardants and rocket fuel. Congress may need to pass tougher environmental laws to reduce their (pregnant women’s) exposure.
Maternity tummy tuckers? Spanx sucks in pregnant fans Spanx by Sara Blakely has launched a series of supportive, sucking-in tights, panties and leggings geared to the maternity market. There was also a recently launched a lower-priced collection called Assets Marvelous Mama at Target that includes maternity shapers, opaque tights and leggings.
Study: Babies may need more than breast milk Feeding solid food earlier and not relying solely on breastfeeding for the first six months might benefit babies, a team of researchers say in a new study. Introduction of tastes early on is essential because a delay may potentially affect later food preferences with influence on health outcomes such as obesity ,” the report said, quoting the study.