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The 10 best back-to-school foods to give kids a boost

  • Written by ARA
As children head back to school, it is important to arm them not only with the newest backpacks and pencils, but also with a nutritious diet. While the lure of fast food and quick meals can be enticing, fueling kids with healthy foods and a well-rounded diet can be easier than parents think.

“A new school year provides a great opportunity for parents to teach their kids how to make nutritious choices throughout the day,” says Dr. Alan Greene, a pediatrician and author of “Feeding Baby Green.” “Whether starting the day off with organic milk or packing school lunches with lots of fruits and veggies, making a conscious choice to focus on nutrition as kids return to the classroom can start with a few simple choices at the grocery store.”

To help parents get their children off to a nutritious start this school year, Horizon, the leading milk brand in the U.S., has partnered with Dr. Greene to develop the following list of the 10 best back to school foods:

The back-to-school top 10:

1. Organic milk

With some studies indicating that only one in 10 girls and one in four boys meet their calcium needs, it’s important to keep calcium-rich foods front and center in kids’ diets. Organic milk, which is produced without the use of antibiotics, toxic synthetic pesticides or artificial growth hormones, is a great choice for lunchboxes and breakfast time. Horizon makes convenient single serve milk boxes that pack perfectly into lunchboxes and provide a nutrient-rich alternative to juice drinks and other nutrient-poor beverages. In addition, Horizon organic milk with DHA omega-3 is a good choice for breakfast beverages or paired with low-sugar, whole grain cereals. DHA omega-3 has been shown to support brain, heart and eye health.

2. Whole grain bread

The new U.S. Dietary Guidelines recommend that at least half of our grains be whole grains, so choosing whole grains for lunchbox sandwiches and wraps is a smart strategy to boost fiber and other important nutrients. One good choice is Rudi’s Organic Bakery’s 14 Grain bread. With just three slices you get the daily recommended allowance of whole grains.

3. String cheese

Cheese is a good source of calcium and protein. If your child isn’t a meat-eater, cheese is another high-protein option for lunches and snack time. String cheese is a great way to help your kids play with their food by pulling apart the cheese — and they will love munching on it too. Horizon has a variety of cheeses that are great for snacking. Mozzarella String Cheese and Colby Cheese Sticks are both kid-approved favorites.

4. Trail mix fixings

A variety of dried fruits (cherries, cranberries, raisins, dates), nuts (almonds, peanuts, walnuts, pistachios) and cereal (look for those high in fiber and low in sugar) can combine into one hearty snack for on-the-go kids. Plus, you can make an activity out of letting your kids create their very own one-of-a-kind mix.

5. Nut butter

Peanut butter, almond butter, hazelnut butter - they’re all great for lunchtime sandwiches or on toast for an after-school snack.

6. Hummus

This protein-packed spread comes in a wide variety of flavors and even in single-serve packs for kids on the go. You can try it as a dip for veggies and whole-grain crackers or as a spread on wraps and sandwiches as a nutritious alternative to mayonnaise or dressing.

7. Granola bars

Granola bars can be a lower-sugar, higher-fiber alternative to cookies and candy bars. They are also great as after-school or after-sports snacks. Look for granola bars made with whole grains and with 10 grams of sugar or less. One bar that fits these criteria is Annie’s Organic Berry Berry Granola Bars. Each bar is packed with 8 grams of whole grain per serving, is certified organic and contains no artificial ingredients, preservatives or high-fructose corn syrup. They’re a perfect snack to replace high sugar treats.

8. Turkey breast

Turkey breast is low in fat and high in protein, and it can be a crowd pleaser in the lunchroom. You can also get creative with turkey as part of after-school snacks - think turkey and cheese roll-ups.

9. Fruit

Apples, cherries, bananas, oranges, grapes — fruits are an important part of a well-balanced diet. Try and vary what you offer. Different fruits provide different nutrients. When looking for organic fruit options, check out Earthbound Farm, which offers a number of organic fruit products nationwide, ranging from apple slices to strawberries to grapes, citrus and blueberries.

10. Veggies

Veggies like carrot sticks, celery, cucumbers, pea pods and cherry tomatoes are all great for lunchboxes and after-school snacks. Remember, the darker the veggie, the more nutritious it tends to be. To spice veggies up, you can think about serving them with a low fat salad dressing or hummus as a dip. In addition to organic fruit, Earthbound Farm also offers a full range of organic veggie products.

For more tips from Dr. Greene, you can visit www.horizondairy.com.

School Sports: Tip to identify and treat concussions

  • Written by ARA

12817_B12_rgbThe crunch of pads followed by a tweet of a whistle, the thump of a basketball with a staccato of footfalls to accompany it and even the thwack of a hockey puck against Plexiglass means one thing: School sports are in season.

Coaches, parents and players are all getting ready for the game and practices are hard and grueling. But many sports involve contact and potential injuries, so coaches and parents need to educate themselves about serious injuries like concussions.

At the professional level, more and more attention is being paid to the hard hits players are taking. The NFL is changing rules on helmet-to-helmet contact in hopes of reducing the number and severity of concussions suffered by players. But, head injuries also happen at much lower levels of play, and can be very serious.

“Coaches and parents need to understand the extreme care that is needed when returning younger athletes to a game or practice who may have experienced a sports concussion,” says Dr. Jeffrey Kutcher, chair of the American Academy of Neurology’s Sports Neurology Section and also director of the University of Michigan’s Neurosport program.

Signs of a concussion that can be observed during a game or practice are:

• Behavior or personality change

• False or imagined memories

• Loss of consciousness

• Empty stare

• Disorientation

Athletes may also report the following when suffering a concussion:

• Blurry vision

• Confusion

• Dizziness

• Feeling hazy, foggy or groggy

• Headache

The American Academy of Neurology’s website at www.aan.com/concussion offers two online safety courses created by the University of Michigan Neurosport program and endorsed by the Academy to help high school and youth coaches recognize the signs of concussion and what to do if a player gets a head injury during a game. Each 20-minute safety course is free and a printable certificate is available after passing the online quiz.

Coaches Cards are also downloadable from the Academy’s website providing easy-to-access information on how to spot a concussion and what to do if a player experiences one. Coaches and players are encouraged to keep these cards with their athletic gear for easy access.

Some states have passed laws on managing concussions. If you are a coach or parent of a younger athlete, make sure you educate yourself on the laws and concussion signs to keep the athlete safe.

“If for any reason you suspect an athlete has a concussion, remove the athlete from play and be sure the athlete is carefully evaluated by a person trained in concussion management, such as a neurologist,” Kutcher says. “Rushing this part of the process may lead to a serious setback, or worsen the injury.”

High school and youth sporting events are meant to get athletes playing the games they love. But, a head injury needs to be addressed very carefully in order to ensure the athlete returns to the field safely for many more games to be played, both now and well into the future.

Dinner makes a difference in fighting childhood obesity

  • Written by ARA
13608_B226_rgbAs families have gotten busier, traditional mealtimes have become more of a novelty than a necessity. While careers and activities keep many away from the family dinner, missing those meals is leaving more of an impact than many suspect.

While many acknowledge that sitting down to eat creates family bonds and opens lines of communication, many don’t realize that missing those meals can contribute to childhood obesity.

The most recent data from the Centers for Disease Control shows that more than a third of U.S. adults are obese. Perhaps more alarming is that the number of obese children has tripled in the past 30 years, to 17 percent. Because of all of the associated health risks of obesity, it is possible that the current generation of children may be the first generation whose life expectancy will not be greater than their parents.

"In terms of healthy eating habits, family meals are one of the most powerful tools available. Research has consistently shown that children and adolescents who eat more family meals are less likely to be overweight or obese. In addition, children who eat dinner with their families consume more fruits and vegetables than those who don’t," says Sherry Rieder, Ph.D., an obesity expert and assistant professor in Argosy University’s College of Psychology and Behavioral Sciences online programs. "If children learn about realistic food portions and healthy food options from a young age at family dinnertime, they are more likely to carry these habits with them into adulthood."

In addition, regular and routine family meals add needed structure to a child’s day. "In my family, we have a designated dinner time," says Victoria Hooker, assistant director of Culinary Arts at The International Culinary School at The Art Institute of Dallas, a branch of South University. "There’s no snacking before dinner, which means I know my family will be ready to fill up on a good meal as opposed to eating junk food. Family meal time is something parents can do now to fight childhood obesity. What’s best is that they can do it without any outside advice or help."

Rieder agrees and adds, "Getting kids involved in preparing food is a great way to teach them about healthy and balanced eating. Children are far more likely to eat food that they helped prepare — so get them to help prepare vegetables. Focus on consuming fruits and vegetables whenever possible and avoid sweetened drinks like sodas and juices."

For busy families who may not have much time to cook, a little planning can go a long way. "Even if the whole family cannot sit down at one time, eating home made meals is often a better alternative than eating take out food," says Rieder. "One trick is to try to stock up on some easy-to-prepare meals at home for those evenings when everyone is running late and feeling the stress of a long day. Another alternative is to prepare extra portions when cooking meals and freeze half."

When you simply can’t be home for dinner, Hooker advises families to plan and pack food ahead of time. "With today’s busy lifestyles, it is almost impossible to eat at home seven days a week, but families can make it a priority to eat at home five nights a week. When you do have to eat on the run, make healthy choices. Institute family rules like fried food only once a week," she says.

Oh, My Aching Eyes

  • Written by Kerri W. Scarbrough, OD
School is back in swing again, and eyestrain is often close behind. During the summer children’s vision doesn’t have to be subjected to the endurance tests that come with long hours in the classroom, computer use, homework, and less sleep.

Eyestrain in technical terms is called asthenopia, or vague symptoms of eye discomfort. The history is very important in these cases.  Children experiencing eyestrain may complain of headaches, double vision, watery eyes, light sensitivity, seeing spots, or falling asleep while reading. Some relief can be found by closing one eye, laying the head down while reading, or turning the head to the side, effectively blocking the vision in one eye. This keeps the eyes from having to coordinate their movements.  Signs and symptoms such as these should prompt parents to make an appointment for a thorough eye examination.

Vision has two parts:  clarity and comfort. Vision may be clear but not comfortable and effortless. During an examination the doctor will not only check the clarity of the vision for 20/20 in each eye, but will also test eye coordination. Covering and uncovering the eyes, measuring depth perception, looking for a head turn or tilt, measuring eye drift, observing a chin lift or depression, or seeing squinting are all means of detecting adaptations to eyestrain. Attention spans can be directly related to the amount of effort it takes for a child to read or perform near activities. If a child is uncomfortable, no amount of coercion can generate increased effort.

Often eyestrain in children or adults is eased quickly and effectively with appropriate glasses.  Because the visual demand increases up close, glasses are usually needed only for reading or computer.  Sometimes bifocals are prescribed so one does not have to remove the glasses for mixed-distance activities. Wearing glasses does not increase a person’s dependence on glasses or change the ultimate need for them in the future. The ideal situation is that the sufferer reaches for the glasses before the onset of a headache or eyestrain rather than waiting until he is miserable.

Ergonomic changes such as increased lighting, better posture, eye lubrication, and print quality and size can make substantial differences in overall visual load.Be prepared with samples of difficult tasks. For accuracy ask someone else measure the working distance from the computer or the book and bring that information to the eye examination.

Eye exercises, too, can in some cases ease eyestrain, but only as long as they are done properly.The easiest thing to do is 20/20/20 — every twenty minutes take a twenty second break by looking 20 feet away. This can eliminate eyestrain and discomfort in many cases. Also moving the body around, shrugging the shoulders and blinking the eyes several times can break up the lactic acid which accumulates in muscles held stationary too long.

Eyestrain can be difficult to pin down but once addressed can bring great relief and increased stamina. Get a thorough eye examination, address ergonomic challenges, wear lenses specifically geared toward the cause of the eyestrain and many happier work hours are in store for you.

Kerri W. Scarbrough, OD is the owner and doctor at Eagle Eye Vision Care in Woodinville.

Are everyday activities costing you your hearing?

  • Written by ARA
 What have you done today to damage your hearing? You might think that you haven’t done anything that would put you at risk, but a surprising number of everyday situations and common actions can have a lasting impact on your ability to hear. Being aware of the damage you can do to your hearing every day is essential — when you know where the risks lie, you can take action to prevent or mitigate further harm.

Renewed concerns about hearing loss arose with a 2010 study by the Journal of the American Medical Association that showed increased incidence of damage in young people. While some were quick to attribute that trend to loud music and listening to it on headphones, other risks in our environment can accumulate and result in gradual hearing loss.

The National Institutes of Health says that noises louder than 85 decibels can damage your hearing. Since many common activities fall into that dangerous range, it’s important to equip yourself with protection. Starkey, a leader in hearing technology, offers protection products that allow you to enjoy fun activities and get the necessary tasks done without putting your hearing in jeopardy.

Consider these activities that most people are exposed to, and which can pose a risk:

• Mowing the lawn. At 90 decibels, this simple chore could be taking a toll on your hearing. It’s important to not simply shrug it off as something that you’ve always done. Wear hearing protection like over-ear headphones to muffle the sound and keep it to a lower level.

13617_B17_rgb• Listening to headphones. While it’s not the only factor in hearing loss, listening to loud music on your headphones definitely poses a risk, as noise levels can easily ring in at 100 decibels. Parents should talk to children and teens about appropriate volume levels and instill good habits for listening to music.

• Sporting events. Indoor or outdoor, the cheering, rousing fight songs and play-by-play announcements add up to a very noisy environment, sometimes nearing 100 decibels. For anyone attending a sporting event, wearing hearing protection, like ear plugs, is important. If your kids are joining in on the fun, it’s essential that they wear appropriately-sized ear plugs.

• Concerts. With sound levels often reaching 120 decibels, rock concerts can have a serious effect on your hearing - in fact, according to the hearing experts at Starkey, at those sound levels, there’s potential for damage in just seven minutes. You should always bring hearing protection to concerts, and if your kids and teens want to go, start teaching them early on that there’s nothing uncool about wearing ear plugs to protect their hearing.

As hearing impairment starts showing up in younger generations, it means that they will have to live longer with the problems it causes. Those with damaged hearing might feel the effects in different ways; it can have an impact on learning, work performance, earning power and social interactions.

Because hearing loss is often cumulative, building up over the years, it’s important to start preventing damage as soon as possible. Using hearing protection products like those from Starkey, you don’t need to completely avoid the fun, noisy activities that can be a problem. By wearing ear plugs, keeping the volume down and protecting yourself, you’ll be able to keep on enjoying life for years to come.