4 Ways to Make Dinnertime Work

When you arrive home after a long workday, your mind is on your family … plus the stack of bills to pay, the pile of laundry to do and the list of phone calls to return. But dinner? It’s tough to imagine how you’re going to make this meal happen at all, let alone make it healthy, tasty and maybe even fun. But believe it or not, you can. Here’s how:

1. Get the Kids in on the Action

“Parents often park their children in front of the TV, then rush around making supper. Why not get the kids to help?” says Miriam Weinstein, author of The Surprising Power of Family Meals: How Eating Together Makes Us Smarter, Stronger, Healthier, and Happier (Steerforth Press). “Making kids part of the effort gets them invested in what you’re cooking together, so they’re less likely to complain about it later.”

Younger kids can:The family that cooks together...

  • Get out the ingredients
  • Pour them into pots or bowls (you measure, they pour)
  • Wash fruits and veggies
  • Tear lettuce for a salad

Older ones can:

  • Chop fruits and vegetables
  • Toss and dress the salad
  • Make pasta or rice
  • Measure and mix ingredients

2. Get Ready, Get Set …

To make fast, enjoyable meals each day that are still healthy, you have to prepare, and sometimes cook, in advance. For starters, buy extra of things you use often so you always have staples on hand. Choose dishes that don’t require you to stand at the stove: stews, roasts, casseroles that can be assembled the night before. While they are cooking or reheating, you can take the time to sift through your mail, check your child’s homework, or return phone calls or emails.

Things to do the night before:

  • Make the sauce
  • Chop the vegetables
  • Sautee the onions
  • Marinate the meat
  • Wash the lettuce (store in a plastic container in the fridge)

3. Double up

Rather than making just one meal at a time, try doubling recipes when you cook. Freeze whatever you don’t use for a later dinner that can be reheated easily.

4. Commit to the Ritual

Studies show that eating together as a family reduces the risk of obesity and encourages children to try new foods. It also helps kids learn good manners. But the biggest benefit to having family dinner is that it brings everyone together — for perhaps the only time during the day. It provides a regular opportunity to connect: to ask your kids about their days, joke around or make family plans.

“Eating together is a gift you give yourself and your family,” says Weinstein. “It doesn’t matter if the food is perfect — just that you enjoy it together. Then mealtime becomes a chance to feel good about your family instead of just one more chore.”

iPad Helps Autistic and Special Needs Kids

As you start shopping for those back to school supplies you might want to add one other item to the list – an iPad. iPad for kidsTherapists and caregivers nationwide are reporting that autistic and special needs kids are taking to the large screen and colorful icons, using educational apps and even communicating – sometimes for the very first time. The IPhone and iPod Touch are also big hits as well as great tools for many special needs individuals. The devices show videos and play music, all great distractions for avoiding meltdowns. Schools are beginning to use the iPad as a teaching and therapy tool, and insurance carriers are debating covering the technology in the future. Read a great article on the iPad and autistic kids here.

To find a local Apple store near you, find your town here.

Should Your Child Wear a Mouth Guard?

Playing team sports are a wonderful experience for children. There are many physical and mouthguards mean safe teethemotional health benefits.

There can also be safety and protection issues. Any sport can increase head and mouth trauma. Injury can not be completely eliminated but damage can be lessened. Mouth guards can decrease the potential for harm by up to 60%.

Besides preventing permanent loss or disfigurement of the most visible, front teeth, mouth guards can prevent a concussion.

The younger your child starts wearing a mouth guard, the more likely they are to continue wearing it through their sporting career. Custom fitting mouth guards allow your child to speak and breathe more comfortably, performing with the greatest confidence.

Benefits of a mouth guard:

  • You increase the chance of damaging your teeth 60x if you don’t wear a mouth guard while playing spots
  • Injuries to your teeth can result in permanent disfigurement of your most viable front teeth
  • It is estimated that a lifetime dental costs to a tooth that is knocked out can be up to $20,000

As stated earlier, the habit of wearing a mouth guard is developed at an early age. Make sure you talk to your dentist about the best type of mouth guard for your child. There are several different types available to you.

Be safe this sports season!

The Big O – Part II

This is called the Big O part two because I previously wrote a post about the growing problem of obesity in the US- including among our children. Now the recent headlines are about young girls reaching puberty as early as 7 or 8 years old. Like ‘normal’ age onset, early puberty brings forth a surge of hormones. The result of Choices matterthese hormones is an early interest in and sexual activity.

In addition to this horrible thought, early onset puberty has additional risks including increase rates of breast cancer as well a confusing self image issues among an age group already confused about what a good or normal self image is.. There is nothing good about this trend. As doctors and scientists look for a specific cause, the thought right now is that this is a byproduct, a symptom of childhood obesity.

In my first ‘Big O’ post I introduced First Lady Michelle Obama’s program called, “Let’s Move” that provides information and support to help get the entire population up and moving, exercising and getting healthy. This site also offers healthy recipes from some of today’s top chefs.

The Food Network site also has a section about healthy eating. Eating Well also has a section for healthy kid recipes. There is so much about body measurements to determine health and obesity including BMI, waist to hips ratio and now neck measurements. When it comes to this- if you are concerned take your child to his or her pediatrician and be willing to have a frank and honest discussion. You are the parent.

In rare circumstances there is an underlying disease. In most cases it’s about consuming fewer calories than you burn in a day- or burn more calories than you take in. Its why get up and move and healthy nutrition are key. Get help, talk to grandparents. Join forces with other parents.

Really- puberty and sexual activity at seven due to obesity? Diabetes, unpopular, greater risk of cancer? Step up now for our kids.

PS Don’t forget to lead by example.

Pediatric nebulizers help the littlest patients relax

pediatric_bear_nebulizerModern Oxygen offers pediatric compressor nebulizer systems in fun designs like fire trucks, panda bears and building blocks that appeal to children and help reduce the anxiety of treatments. The building block model also helps keep the child sitting still and entertained for the duration of the treatment. Priced at $75 and eligible for insurance reimbursement, these machines can help manage your child’s condition in a fun way. There is even a pacifier model for the youngest patients. Modern Oxygen offers free delivery in the Los Angeles area and ships nationwide. You can reach Modern Oxygen at 818-344-3434 or 888-77-OXYGEN (776-9943).

An Important Story – Must See for Parents

Napping in the back seatOn yesterday morning’s edition of the “Today Show” there was a very important and very well done piece on the devastation caused when children are left, even inadvertently in a hot car. Also featured are many inexpensive solutions. It also begs the age-old question; why are such devices not regulated and required.

Please click here to watch.