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How Can My Allergic Kid Join In When It’s All About the Food

Parents of food allergic children dread anything that has to do with food. This includes group activities, crafts that involve food, birthday parties, recipes for school classes, holidays at the family’s house and on and on. It’s stressful for the parents and it can be stressful for the child with food allergies. It’s a simple thing that we all enjoy, that symbolizes family tradition and warmth and comfort. Except, for those with food allergies, it does but it doesn’t. And yes, many parents have been heard asking “Why does everything have to revolve around food?!” but at the same time, realistically, so much actually does.

Let’s look at this as simply as we can. Regardless if you have a food allergy or not, typically we are a society that involves food in many aspects of our lives. Consider some of your early childhood memories- do you remember a special snack or the smell of a favorite food that sticks with that memory? It was a food that offered comfort. Not because it was meant as something to taunt those who can’t have it or to punish people with food allergies- it’s simply a food connected to something within a space in time. As anyone with food allergies can tell you, most of those special foods can easily be substituted using other ingredients. The memory can be shared, continued and enjoyed safely for everyone. Isn’t that what everyone would like to do- share that amazing moment with everyone?

Food is very often involved in crafts as well. Whether it be a cut out cookie, an adorable edible craft or some type if holiday –themed whatever, parents and their children have done this as a bonding experience for a long time. Teachers in school have asked class mothers to help them do this during class festivities as a way to teach the children different ways to use their foods but also to enjoy their foods. Parents have seen how happy their child is when they use their own hands to create these items- the look of being able to do something with little or no supervision, while enjoying their food craft full of creativity. The flip side- a food allergy parent has also seen their child’s face when this happens and they were not given information about it. These parents don’t always get to see the happy face. Most often, it’s the face that makes their heart bleed for their child. It’s the face of a child that is not included, was not able to touch the food or taste the food. For those parents, that is not the tradition or memory that they want their child to remember.

Logistically, replacing an allergic food with a safe, allergy-friendly food very often takes the same amount of time as it does when following the original recipe. All that it takes is for someone to help with replacement ideas.

Help for Parents

  • For those who may get frustrated, wondering why they cannot send a peanut butter and jelly sandwich to school – we have great news! You can just as easily send a SunButter and jelly sandwich or a turkey sandwich. Both take the same amount of preparation but one food poses risks whereas the others may be safe for most everyone. We understand the daily struggle for lunch ideas and sometimes having very little time to plan meal items. If you consider that utilizing the same time may actually help a child avoid a life-threatening allergic reaction, this may give you a bit more of an incentive to consider the options that we provide to you.
  • If you are someone who has a picky eater who “must pack that food” because your child will not eat anything else for lunch, please reach out to the parent that has an allergic child and ask them for ideas. They are masters of finding foods for children. They are a wealth of information and they can offer you ideas on many levels, not just foods. You just need to ask them. Even children with food allergies are picky eaters. Sometimes it takes another person to show you some easy ways to introduce different foods to your child, why not give it a try?
  • Get your own children involved. As parents, we already try to teach them the values of food and how long it takes to prepare meals so why not start with their own lunch? Have them make a list for the food store, ask them if their foods are safe for their friends and if not, help them research some new foods. The more your child is a part of the process, the more likely they are to eat what they asked to try.

Help for Teachers

  • What happens when you plan those fun school crafts that use a food item? Most every food item can be replaced with an allergy-friendly food. Please don’t hesitate to ask the parents of those who have food allergies- they are also there to help you teach what you need to teach.
  • Unless you have food allergies yourself, food allergy parents understand that you may not know what food replacements are safe to use. Ask a food allergy parent to be a class parent to have that extra level of safety on your side. This also gives you a second set of eyes and a built-in helper for that activity.
  • An added bonus- not only are you sharing the food lesson but your class can learn about the foods on a new level that will better educate them for future friends with food allergies.

Lastly, as I always say – food is something that should bring us together, not tear us apart. Children especially are so receptive to learn about their friends, especially if they are different from the other children. Think about how amazing it would be for your child to have a lifelong memory of how they met their best friend because of a food rather than how they were not able to make a new friend because of a food. In my experience as one of those food allergy parents, children are immediately drawn to wanting to learn more about what they can eat to be able to sit with their friends. They are amazed when food allergic children bring in delicious foods and are willing to let them taste it. Even though society tells us the opposite, parents need to listen to their children more often. They need to think about how their behavior is impacting their child’s behavior. Because in the end, if you choose to close that door, it will most likely be your non-allergic child that will be arriving home with the same disappointed look on their face but it will be because they were not able to be included with their friends who have food allergies. Inclusion and exclusion works both ways …because it IS about the food.

Why You Need to Stop Giving Energy and Sports Drinks to Kids

First let’s differentiate between these two popular drinks.  Sport drinks have water, sodium, potassium and sugar (among other things), while energy drinks include caffeine or other stimulants. For the most part, after moderate exercise, only water needs to be replaced and free access to water is key to training athletes.  While large amounts of water can be lost in highly trained athletes, younger children will probably not lose an exceptional amount of anything, and water is the only thing necessary.  Even in adult trained athletes, the amount of sodium and potassium lost through sweating is probably negligible; again water is the vital component needing replacement.

Also included in these drinks is a significant amount of calorie- containing sugars; highly trained athletes who have depleted their sugar resources might benefit from this addition as an immediate energy boost, but in younger children and non-training athletes, this only adds to the sugar intake and can contribute to childhood obesity and dental cavities.  These same stimulants can be found in coffee and colas, also to be avoided in younger children.

The use of stimulants in children probably has more unwanted side effects than the possibility of any positive effects. Jitteriness, poor sleep, elevated blood pressure, and increased  risk of dehydration through the diuretic effects of caffeine and other stimulants, can be just a few of these negative effects.  Depending on the quantities consumed, it can even lead to cardiac irregularities with other potentially serious consequences resulting from that

Unfortunately, these products are promoted in every form of advertising by highly popular athletes in high profile positions and many parents have gotten the idea to have these drinks readily available for their children.  Children may actually prefer this substitute fluid in place of other drinks during meals and other snack times.  Milk and some juices are still important to the growing, developing child and should not be forgotten.  By far the most important ingredient remains water and parents should promote it as the primary source of fluid intake.

Energy or health bars create the same dilemmas for parents and children and may also contain sugar, stimulants, fats, and vitamins and minerals that may not be appropriate for children or may be over the daily recommended intake for children since most are developed for adults.

Always read the labels carefully

Binge Eating Disorder: Warning Signs & How to Get Your Teen Help

Binge eating disorder involves regularly eating large portions of food all at once until you feel uncomfortably full, and then often upset or guilty.

Binges are often planned in advance and the person may buy “special” binge foods. Men and women of any age can get binge eating disorder, but it typically starts in the late teens or early 20s.

Symptoms of binge eating disorder

The main symptom of binge eating disorder is eating very large amounts of food in a short time, often in an out-of-control way. But symptoms may also include:

  • eating very fast during a binge
  • eating until you feel uncomfortably full
  • eating when you’re not hungry
  • eating alone or secretly
  • feeling depressed, guilty, ashamed or disgusted after binge eating

People who regularly eat in this way may have binge eating disorder.

Warning signs of binge eating disorder in someone else

The following warning signs could indicate that someone you care about has an eating disorder:

  • eating a lot of food, very fast
  • trying to hide how much they are eating
  • storing up supplies of food
  • putting on weight – though this doesn’t happen to everyone with binge eating disorder

Getting help for binge eating disorder

If you think you may have binge eating disorder, see your GP (*physician) as soon as you can.

They will ask you questions about your eating habits and how you’re feeling, and will check your weight and overall health.

If they think you may have binge eating disorder, or another eating disorder, your GP should refer you to an eating disorder specialist or team of specialists.

It can be very hard to admit you have a problem and to ask for help. It may make things easier if you bring a friend or loved one with you to your appointment.

You can also talk in confidence to an adviser from eating disorders charity Beat (in the UK**) by calling its adult helpline on 0808 801 0677 or youth helpline on 0808 801 0711.

Getting help for someone else

If you’re concerned that a family member or friend may have binge eating disorder, let them know you’re worried about them and encourage them to see their GP. You could offer to go along with them.

Read more about talking to your child about eating disorders and supporting someone with an eating disorder.

Treatment for binge eating

With the right treatment and support, most people recover from binge eating disorder, but it may take time.

The main treatments for binge eating are:

  • guided self-help programmes – involves working through a book about binge eating and having sessions with a therapist to support you
  • a type of talking therapy called cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) – in group sessions or individual (one-on-one) sessions

Binge eating disorder often causes weight gain (though not always), which can lead to other health problems.

You shouldn’t try to diet while you are having treatment as it can make your binge eating worse.

Read more about treating binge eating disorder.

Causes of binge eating

We don’t know exactly what causes binge eating disorder and other eating disorders. You may be more likely to get an eating disorder if:

  • you or a member of your family has a history of eating disorders, depression, or alcohol or drug addiction
  • you have been criticised for your eating habits, body shape or weight
  • you are overly concerned with being slim, particularly if you also feel pressure from society or your job – for example, ballet dancers, jockeys, models or athletes
  • you have anxiety, low self-esteem, an obsessive personality or are a perfectionist
  • you have been sexually abused

Editor’s Note:  

* Clarification Provided for our U.S. Readers

** Resources Outside the UK:

 

NHS Choices logo


From www.nhs.uk

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How to Raise Healthy Vegetarian and Vegan Children

How Can I Raise A Healthy Vegetarian or Vegan Child?

If you’re bringing up your child on a diet without meat (vegetarian) or without any food from an animal (vegan), they’ll need two or three portions of vegetable proteins or nuts every day to make sure they get enough protein and iron.

Don’t give whole nuts to children under five years old as they could choke. Grind nuts finely or use a smooth nut butter.

Read Food allergies for important information about peanut allergy.

Weaning your vegetarian baby

The advice on introducing solids at about six months is the same for vegetarian babies as for non-vegetarian babies. However, as your child gets older, there’s a risk that a vegetarian or vegan diet may be low in iron and energy and too high in fibre.

You can make sure your child gets enough iron by giving them:

  • fortified breakfast cereal
  • dark green vegetables
  • bread
  • beans and lentils
  • dried fruit, such as apricots, figs and prunes

Vitamin C in fruit and vegetables helps the body to absorb iron, so include these at every mealtime.

You can help ensure that your child gets all the nutrients they need by giving them smaller and more frequent main meals, with one or two snacks in between, and making sure they eat a good variety of foods. You’ll also need to make sure they get enough calcium, vitamin B12 and vitamin D.

The Department of Health recommends that all children aged six months to five years are given vitamin supplements containing vitamins A, C and D every day.

It’s also recommended that babies who are being breastfed are given a daily vitamin D supplement from birth.

Babies who are having more than 500ml (about a pint) of infant formula a day shouldn’t be given vitamin supplements because formula is fortified with certain nutrients and no other supplementation is required.

Read more about vitamins for babies and toddlers.

Vegan diets for children

If you’re breastfeeding and you’re on a vegan diet, it’s important that you take a vitamin D supplement. You may also need extra vitamin B12.

Take care when giving children a vegan diet. Young children need a good variety of foods to provide the energy and vitamins they need for growth.

A vegan diet can be bulky and high in fibre. This can mean that children get full up before they’ve taken in enough calories. Because of this, they may need extra supplements. Ask a dietitian or doctor for advice before introducing your child to solids.

Energy

Young children need lots of energy to grow and develop. Give vegan children high-calorie foods, such as hummus, bananas and smooth nut and seed butters (such as tahini and cashew or peanut butter). They still need starchy foods. However, don’t give only wholegrain and wholemeal versions to children under five years old because they’re high in fibre. For extra energy, you could add vegetable oils or vegan fat spreads to foods.

Protein

Pulses and food made from pulses are a good source of protein for vegan children. Nut and seed butters also contain protein. Always use smooth versions for babies and children under five years old. Breastfeeding until your child is two or more, or giving them soya-based formula milk if they are vegan, will help ensure they get enough protein.

Ask your GP for advice before using soya-based formula.

Calcium

Fortified soya drinks often have added calcium. Some foods are also fortified with calcium, so check the label.

Vitamin B12

Fortified breakfast cereals and some yeast extracts contain vitamin B12. Your child may also need a supplement.

Omega-3 fatty acids

Some omega-3 fatty acids are found in certain vegetable oils, such as linseed, flaxseed, walnut and rapeseed oils. However, these are chemically different from the long chain omega-3 fatty acids found in oily fish. Evidence suggests that these short-chain fatty acids may not offer the same protection against heart disease as those found in oily fish.

Editor’s Note: from PedSafe Expert, Pediatrician Dr Joe:  The question “how can I raise a healthy vegetarian or vegan child is a challenging one”.  Technically speaking, UK and US recommendations for vitamin supplementations are fairly similar.  However, having read this article you’ll note that there is a significant responsibility passed onto the parents to know the exact content of every food in their childrens’ diets and look for any specific deficiencies based on all vitamins and minerals. This is a Herculean task as there is a plethora of information and disinformation out there that must be evaluated by parents.  Therefore I would ask parents to seriously consider their reasons for adopting a diet like this for their children, and to discuss all food choices and diet changes with their pediatrician to ensure their child is maintaining a proper nutritional balance.





How to Boost Your Child’s Bones for Lifelong Health

Children’s bones keep growing throughout childhood. They grow fastest of all very early in life and when children go through puberty.

The bones keep getting denser until they reach what’s known as “peak bone mass”. This usually happens between the ages of 18 and 25.

boost-your-childs-bone-healthThe denser your child’s bones are at the time of peak bone mass, the greater their reserves of bone to protect against the fragile bone disease osteoporosis later in life.

“The reserve of bone you establish during childhood and the teenage years is with you through early adulthood,” explains Dr Paul Arundel, a consultant in paediatric metabolic bone disease at Sheffield Children’s Hospital. “We all start to lose bone mass later in life. If you are starting from a low baseline you are more likely to develop osteoporosis sooner.”

The good news is that you can protect your child’s bone health with some simple lifestyle measures.

Your Child’s Bone-friendly Diet

Building strong bones in childhood requires a range of vitamins and minerals. A healthy, balanced diet will provide this. That means a diet that includes:

  • fruit and vegetables – at least five portions every day (but no more than one 150ml – *about 5 oz – glass of fruit juice)
  • carbohydrates – such as potatoes, pasta, rice and bread (preferably wholegrain)
  • protein – such as meat, fish, eggs, beans, nuts and seeds
  • dairy products – such as milk, cheese and yoghurts

There are a couple of nutrients that are particularly important for building strong healthy bones.

Calcium for Healthy Bones

Our bodies contain about 1kg (*about 2.2 lbs) of calcium. About 99% of this is found in our bones and teeth – it’s what makes them strong and hard. Most of this calcium is laid down during childhood and the teenage years.

Calcium is particularly vital during puberty when the bones grow quicker than at any other time. Puberty takes place over a number of years, typically sometime between 11 to 15 for girls and 12 to 16 for boys.

The recommended calcium intake for children and young people aged from 11 to 18 is 800-1,000mg compared with 700mg for adults. But research shows that, on average, children and young people in this age group don’t get enough.

“Teens need more calcium because they’re growing,” says Dr Arundel. “People don’t think about bone health in teenagers as much as they do with toddlers, but teenagers are growing a lot more.”

Foods that contain lots of calcium include dairy foods such as milk, cheese and yoghurt, but also tinned sardines (with the bones in), green, leafy vegetables (but not spinach), peas, dried figs, nuts, seeds and anything that’s fortified with calcium, including some soya milks.

Vitamin D for Kids’ Bone Health

Vitamin D is important for bones because it helps our bodies to absorb calcium.

Our main source of vitamin D is sunlight. Vitamin D is made by our skin when it’s exposed to sunlight during the summer months (late March/April to the end of September).

There are only a few foods that are a good source of vitamin D. These include oily fish, eggs and foods that have been fortified with vitamin D, such as fat spreads and some breakfast cereals. Read Food for strong bones.

To ensure they get enough vitamin D, the following groups should take daily vitamin D supplements, to make sure they get enough (*US recommendations are similar – click here):

  • All babies from birth to one year of age (including breastfed babies and formula fed babies who have less than 500ml a day of infant formula)
  • All children aged one to four years old

Everyone over the age of five years is advised to consider taking a daily supplement containing 10 micrograms (mcg) of vitamin D.

But most people aged five years and above will probably get enough vitamin D from sunlight in the summer (late March/early April to the end of September), so you might choose not to take a vitamin D supplement during these months.

It’s important never to let your child’s skin go red or start to burn. Babies under six months should never go in direct sunlight. Find out how to get vitamin D from sunlight safely.

Find out more about who should take vitamin D supplements and how much to take.

If you receive benefits, you may be eligible for free Healthy Start vitamins, which contain vitamin D. Your health visitor can tell you more, or you can visit the Healthy Start website.

Bone-strengthening Exercises for Children

Daily physical activity is important for children’s health and development, including their bone health.

Try not to let your child be sedentary for long periods. You can do this by reducing the amount of time they spend sitting down, for example, watching TV or playing video games.

Children under five who aren’t yet walking should be encouraged to play actively on the floor. Children who can walk on their own should be physically active daily for at least 180 minutes (three hours) spread throughout the day. This should include some bone-strengthening activities, such as climbing and jumping.

Children aged five to 18 need at least 60 minutes (one hour) of physical activity every day, which should include moderate-intensity activity, such as cycling and playground games.

To strengthen muscles and bones, vigorous-intensity activities should be included at least three times a week. This could be swinging on playground equipment, sports such as gymnastics or tennis, or hopping and skipping.

See 10 ways to get active with your kids.

Eating Disorders and Bone Health

Eating disorders affect people of all ages, both male and female. But girls and women are more likely to be affected and anorexia most commonly develops in the teenage years.

The bones are still growing and strengthening at this time and eating disorders like anorexia can affect their development. Low body weight can lower oestrogen levels, which may reduce bone density. Poor nutrition and reduced muscle strength caused by eating disorders can also lower bone density.

If your teenage child has anorexia or another eating disorder, it’s important to seek medical advice about their bone health.

Editor’s Note: *clarification provided for our US readers.





How to Avoid Your Child’s Advertising-Fueled Nag Factor

I’ll admit it—the first brand name my son recognized was Starbucks. This probably says something about the coffee habits in our family. However, it also says something about the advertising and branded world we live in. At the time of this recognition my son was about 2 or 2.5 years old. It just goes to show how powerful branded messages and advertising are for even the youngest members of our society.

After reading this disturbing article that explained that the 0-3 year old age range is now the prime target for advertisers, I started to delve more into the research on advertising to children.

kids advertising and the nag factorWhat I found was not encouraging. It seems clear that advertisers focus a lot of their time and money on ads for food products targeted to kids, most of which are quite unhealthy. A study released by the Kaiser Family Foundation showed that advertising on children’s television (aimed at kids under age 12) had the highest proportion of food ads (50% of all ads) compared to all other genres of TV. What types of foods do these ads promote? Much like you might expect, these food ads targeted toward children primarily focus on candy and snacks (34%), cereal (28%), and fast food (10%).

Unfortunately, this type of advertising works. Studies show that children who watch more ads for food products on television are much more likely to prefer unhealthy foods when offered a choice.

So why is this advertising to children so effective? One factor, of course, is the advertisers are smart—they have harnessed the knowledge of psychology and marketing to be able to market products (especially food) to children in just the right way to make it very appealing to little minds.

Additionally, as we all know, children are relatively impressionable. Young children, in particular, have very little power to resist advertising when they see it. They do not yet have the skills to understand the advertisers’ persuasive tactics.

Lastly, and perhaps most disturbing, advertisers are aware of and have harnessed the power of “the nag factor.” We all know what that means. Kids nag their parents incessantly for products that they’ve seen advertised, usually on TV. One recent study looked at the “nag factor” and found that kids who are more familiar with commercial television characters are more likely to nag their parents for the products associated with those characters.

For me, one of the most problematic aspects of all this advertising to children is that the advertisers are really trying to indoctrinate kids into the idea that life should be all about purchasing and getting material things.

The good news is that parents are not helpless in this battle with advertisers for their children’s minds (and stomachs). Although advertising, particularly related to food items, is very persuasive to children, parents can be quite persuasive too as long as they promote a constant message of healthy food choices.

In a new study just published, several researchers considered the role of parents’ messages in the food choices made by children ages 3-5 just after watching advertising for food products. In one part of the study, children watched a commercial for French fries and were then given the option to choose French fries or a healthier food option for a snack. Parents looked on and one group was told to encourage their children to make the healthier choice, while the other group of parents was told to remain neutral about the food choice. When parents remained neutral, 71% of the children chose the French fries over the healthy option. However, when parents encouraged a healthier choice, the percentage of kids choosing French fries dropped to 55%. While this is not a dramatic drop, it does show that parental influence does have power, even in light of direct advertising for unhealthy products.

I think it’s unlikely that this type of marketing will end or even slow down, but this research offers encouragement that we as parents can influence good choices by our children, as long as we adhere to a clear, consistent message. It is obvious that advertising has a strong impact on children, so limiting children’s exposure to commercials will most likely make your children’s choices better in the long run and perhaps your life a little easier as a parent (e.g., less nagging).

Additionally, as children get older, I could see it being helpful to explain to them how advertisers play their game. If kids can understand why and how advertising is so persuasive, they might be more likely to resist it.

With my older son, I have begun explaining how some things we see on TV or the internet are a “trick.” The people making the product are trying to “trick” us into spending money on something that is either unhealthy or useless (like a junky toy). I have been reminding him of times when he bought a cheap toy and was bored with it after a day or two. These lessons are starting to sink in but it is an ongoing battle with advertising.

Here are some good resources available for helping kids learn media literacy:

 

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