Posts Tagged ‘ children’s health ’

How My Family Is Paleo (in Our Own Way)

Wednesday, March 18th, 2015

We are a Paleo family. Paleo is such a trendy diet that admitting it makes me cringe a bit inside. It sounds as if I’m also the type who has a teacup pig as a pet that I carry in my LV backpack. But the truth is that I have been Paleo (or a version of it, which I will explain) since my son was born six years ago. And I have learned a lot from trying to feed a family of four healthfully when the whole world is tempting me (begging me?) not to. I’ve had to bend some of the rules of Paleo, which if you follow the hard-core definition includes no dairy, no legumes, no grains, no alcohol, all-free range meats, pro-organic and anti-GMO everything, and no processed foods whatsoever (cereal, bread, pasta, condiments, etc). I’m sure that the Paleo Police will put me in jail (what would they serve if not bread? nuts?) if they read this, but it’s how I manage it. (btw: we never went this far; yikes!) And honestly, it’s not that difficult after you get in the hang of it.

If you are looking for a way for your family to be healthier without going all whole 30, give my Paleo Light rules a try:

1. Only control what the kids eat in your own house. Outside of a few key things that I note below, we try to be strict within the walls of our own home. We eat homemade meals made from as little processed foods as possible (i.e., store-bought ketchup is allowed in the meatloaf, but no noodles in the lasagna). But I can’t control the outside world and I’ve stopped trying. Paleo is not like an allergy. It’s not going to kill my kids to eat “regular” food. So when they go to other kids’ houses, birthday parties, soccer games, Girl Scouts, and pretty much every other child-focused activity or event known to man they can eat the cookies, crackers, pop-tarts, cereal or whatever other crap is on tap. (I use to hold out hope that they’d resist, but let’s face it: What kid can say no to Oreos?!) When other kids come to our house? They get apples, clementines, dates … and if they are really lucky homemade almond crackers. (please don’t roll your eyes!)

2. Value your own sanity. Like any parent, I struggle to pack a healthy lunch every day. So much so that about two years ago, I passed the job off to my husband, who was the Paleo pioneer in our house. (“You want them to eat Paleo? You pack their lunch!”) And even he struggled to make a lunch without sliced bread. So now wheat bread is in the house for lunches. And peanut butter, too. But I check the product labels so sugar isn’t in the ingredients or is as far down the list as possible (quite a challenge!). I also cook from regular cookbooks — How to Cook Everything is still my bible — and adjust where necessary (skip the sugar in the pasta sauce, sub almond flour for bread crumbs, pureed cauliflower for mashed potatoes, etc). Having to use only Paleo-specific recipes can be exhausting. And no, I don’t use coconut sap. But I do try to use maple syrup, agave or honey instead of white sugar when I have to use sweetener.

3. Don’t buy all organic. My son alone will eat 2 dozen apples in a week if I put them all out at once after a Cosco run (which I’ve learned not to do). And the trouble with apples? They are always on the EWG Dirty Dozen list, so I suck it up and buy them organic. But there are a lot of fruits and veggies you can skip the organic markup (pretty much anything with a tough skin like watermelon, bananas, pineapple, etc.) And while I try to buy free-range eggs and meat and line-caught seafood, I can’t do it at the Farmer’s Market or even at Whole Foods even though I wish I could. Instead, I stock up when I can find these foods at Cosco and Trader Joe’s. (TJ’s is a Paleo Mom’s best friend; the cheap bags of almond flour alone is reason to go.)

4. Bake in Exceptions. Every Tuesday is Pizza Day at my kids’ school and they get to forgo their Paleo Light packed lunch and partake just like everyone else. (And Dad gets a day off packing it). Every Thursday is Pancake Day with maple syrup and yogurt (even though they are made with almond flour!). And on the rare occasion we go to Smash Burger the kids eat burgers and hot dogs with the buns (I do insist on subbing in sweet potato fries). All birthdays get a cake with real flour and (horrors!) white sugar. Except for my husband who prefers a flourless chocolate cake (you should try it; it’s amazing).

My own concession? I may skip the pasta, the bread basket, and the rice (and oh do I miss it all), but I will never rule out wine or my favorite cocktail. I mean, there have to be limits to everything. Seriously.

Nutrition Labels: 3 Things To Avoid
Nutrition Labels: 3 Things To Avoid
Nutrition Labels: 3 Things To Avoid

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The Letter About Vaccines I Didn’t Expect

Tuesday, March 10th, 2015

I was confused to receive a letter from my daughter’s pediatrician last month. My first thought: was there some bill I overlooked?

But when I opened the envelope I was surprised to see a letter from the practice that included its new vaccine policy statement. The note accompanying the policy statement offered a sneak preview: “By June 1, 2015, any family that has decided not to vaccinate will be asked to find another health care provider.”

I was instantly intrigued. My husband and I have always vaccinated our now 9 year-old daughter as a matter of course. And, I have long been frustrated by some parents’ reluctance to vaccinate their children, despite any supporting evidence. I just can’t understand why moms and dads listen to Hollywood personalities or other so-called “experts” instead of their own doctors on this incredibly important issue.

But, then I read a story that said most doctors give in to parents’ wishes to delay vaccinating children in order to “build trust with families and avoid losing them as patients.” It seemed like our doctors—Edna Pytlak, Brianne O’Connor, and Erin Dalton—saw things differently. I continued reading.

The enclosed Vaccine Policy Statement opened with the doctors’ belief in the safety and effectiveness of vaccines, and continued, “Because of vaccines, most people have never seen a child with polio, whooping cough, measles, mumps, rubella or meningitis. … Over the years, many people have chosen not to vaccinate their children. … We as practitioners find this unacceptable.”

The doctors offered to answer any questions about vaccinations and address any concerns. The policy even states they may adjust the vaccination schedule in some cases, although they strongly advise against it.

But in the end, not vaccinating is not an option. “Finally, if you refuse to vaccinate your child despite all our efforts, we will ask you to find another health care provider who shares your views. We do not have a list of such providers nor do we recommend any.”

I loved it. I realized I had been craving some straight talk, some boldness in this whole vaccine controversy. I had been waiting for someone to just say the equivalent of “Enough talk. Vaccinate your kids already!” Although they said it in a much nicer and more educational tone, the doctors at this practice drew a line in the sand. There would be no lip service (no matter how genuine) to the importance of vaccines, but then acquiescence to parents’ wishes regardless of the dangers to their and other children.

I was inexplicably proud to receive this letter, proud to have chosen such proactive and smart doctors, proud that at least some of the physicians in our community were stepping forward to declare that not only do they believe in vaccines, they are translating their beliefs into action.

Jenna Helwig is the food editor at Parents and the author of Real Baby Food. She believes in the power of fruits and veggies to help kids grow up healthy and strong, but thinks that broccoli is no match for measles, mumps, and whooping cough. Follow her on Twitter.

Vaccines for Babies and Older Kids
Vaccines for Babies and Older Kids
Vaccines for Babies and Older Kids

Image: Childhood immunization via Shutterstock

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Are You an Emotional Grown-Up?

Monday, February 23rd, 2015

I can’t stop thinking about the inspiring talk I heard recently by Robin Berman, M.D., author of the book Permission to Parent: How to Raise Your Child With Love and Limits.  One of the most challenging parts of parenthood, she said, is being an emotional grown-up.

It’s hard enough to deal with all the practical and financial aspects of adulthood. But when you’re tired or stressed or frustrated, it can take a lot of self-control not to have your own meltdown. Or to say something critical or sarcastic or insensitive that you’ll regret later.

Of course, the opposite of acting like a grown-up is acting like a child. While it’s perfectly normal for a little kid to be moody and self-centered and out-of-control sometimes, it’s our job as parents to put our own needs and issues aside and focus on what’s best for our kids. That doesn’t mean we should be selfless or indulge their every whim, but we have to be mature enough to take the high road, to think before we speak, and to not expect our kids to make us feel better.

I’m sure you can tell plenty of stories about other parents you know who’ve taken the low road. However, we all have moments when we’d like a Mommy do-over.

Just one of my own examples: My 10-year-old has been having nightmares lately, and she’s been calling for me repeatedly through the night. She gets truly frightened, and I have to sit with her and help her do breathing exercises and visualize happy scenes instead of scary ones. But we’ve both been losing a lot of sleep. There have been nights when I’ve seemed angry about being woken up (again), and I hate that. So I’ve apologized. The nightmares aren’t her fault. I want her to know that I have faith that she will get through this rocky patch and that I’m here to support her.

“No parent ever gets it right the first time…parenting is the ultimate in on-the-job training,” writes Dr. Berman. “Lucky for us, kids are very forgiving. “

Here are some other quotes that have stuck with me:

“Parenting is a divine invitation to be your best self.”

“You wouldn’t cough on your child without covering your mouth. So make sure your unresolved issues don’t infect your children.”

“If you feel your control or patience waning, remind yourself of the role you want to be remembered for: hero, not villain; protector, not persecutor.”

“Why is it we pay more attention to recharging our smartphones than to recharging ourselves? If we were smart, we’d pay attention when our battery light started flashing ‘low.’”

“No matter what difficulties you run into with your children, keep imagining them at their best. Believing things will get better gives you both something to hold on to until they do.”

Dr. Berman is the newest member of our expert Board of Advisors, and you’ll be hearing more of her voice in our pages. Treat yourself to a copy of her book.

Diane Debrovner is the deputy editor of Parents and the mother of two daughters. 

Parenting Style: Positive Parenting
Parenting Style: Positive Parenting
Parenting Style: Positive Parenting

Photo of mom and daughter with painted faces via Shutterstock

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One Mom’s Christmas Wish for Her Daughter With Rare Disorders

Thursday, December 25th, 2014

This is a guest post from Nicole Burns D’Angelo, whose daughter, Ella, has rare brain and intestinal disorders. She’s been treated at the two top children’s hospitals in the country—The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and Boston Children’s Hospital. I first learned of her story because some friends posted on her Facebook site, Team Ella. Nicole’s Christmas wish is to spread Ella’s story so that families with children also facing the same challenges can connect. 

I gave birth to a beautiful baby girl in April 2012. Our joy soon became fear. Ella wasn’t able to eat. We rushed her to The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia where many test were performed. Ella wasn’t thriving and we needed answers. After countless test we finally received the news that Ella had an extremely rare brain disorder called Congenital Bilateral Perisylvian Syndrome or CBPS. A brain disorder so rare our likelihood of meeting someone else with the same disorder were very slim. CBPS consist of feeding difficulty, partial paralysis of the facial and throat muscles as well as hard to control epilepsy. There’s no cure. It was all so hard to understand we just kept asking why. It didn’t end there.Soon following Ella’s brain diagnosis, her intestines stopped functioning properly. There we were back again having test after test. Ella was diagnosed with Enteric Neuropathy, a disorder that effects the nerves in her entire intestinal tract. Ella is surviving off of TPN (IV nutrition) which she receives through a central line in her chest. IV nutrition can only help her for so long. It can not be a long-term plan. IV nutrition can affect major organs one being the liver causing failure. We spend a lot of time at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, but we make the most of every moment. Ella is the happiest 2 -year-old despite her struggles. She faces everything with a smile.

The holidays are here, and we hoping for a Christmas miracle. The miracle of a cure, a promising treatment, or even a family we can talk to who are facing our same battle. Our Christmas wish is to spread her story. We want other parents to know they are not alone, never give up, and always have hope!

How to Make an Angel Christmas Ornament
How to Make an Angel Christmas Ornament
How to Make an Angel Christmas Ornament

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Protecting the Planet From Pollution for Our Children’s Future

Friday, June 6th, 2014

Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman SchultzEditor’s Note: This guest post was written by Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, who  is also the Chair of the Democratic National Committee. She has been working to help implement he President’s new Environmental Protection Agency regulations on carbon emissions, in order to reduce child asthma that has resulted from carbon pollution. 

As the mother of three children, there is nothing more important to me than ensuring that we leave the next generation a world that is safe and prosperous. Making sure that our children have clean air to breathe is an essential part of that mission.

This week, the Environmental Protection Agency took an important step in the right direction. Under President Obama’s Climate Action Plan, the EPA released new guidelines that will, for the first time ever, limit carbon emissions from existing factories. While the EPA has regulated dangerous toxins like arsenic, mercury, and lead for years, they still allowed power plants to release as much carbon pollution as they wanted. That was not responsible, and it was not smart.

Illnesses like asthma that affect millions of children are aggravated by air pollution, and in the past three decades, the percentage of Americans with asthma has more than doubled. For any mother who knows how helpless it feels to see her child struggling to breathe during an asthma attack, it is encouraging to know action is being taken to help alleviate this health crisis. The rules will help us avoid up to 150,000 asthma attacks in children by 2030.

Hundreds of scientists have made clear that climate change is no longer a distant threat but an imminent and dangerous reality. These tough new rules will regulate the sources of carbon emissions that not only pollute the air we breathe, but contribute to climate change. If there is something we can do to prevent our children from getting sick, to reduce the number of times they end up in a doctor’s office or emergency room, and to mitigate the devastating effects of climate change in their lifetimes, then we have a moral obligation to do it.

There is no question that now is the time to act.

The common sense changes will put us on the right track towards a cleaner and brighter future for generations to come. However, if we are serious about leaving our children a planet that’s not polluted or damaged, we must recognize these new EPA rules are just the beginning. We must do more.

Addressing the biggest challenges we face as a nation, and as a planet, requires bold solutions. And yes, bold solutions can be difficult; they require tough choices, and there will always be those that oppose progress and the change that comes with it.  But as a Member of Congress, and more importantly, as a mother, I am committed to doing what is necessary and what is right for our children. As President Obama said, we must work together towards “a future where we can look our kids in the eye and tell them we did our part to leave them a safer, more stable world.”

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