Children and Vitamins

children's vitamins, gummy bear vitamins in a glass bottle.

As a parent, you know it’s important to feed your kids fruits and vegetables to maintain a healthy lifestyle.  The vitamins and minerals your child needs can be found in a well-balanced diet—there is no need to run to the drug store and purchase a bottle of every vitamin on the shelf. In fact, your body only needs a certain amount of vitamins to function properly, and the rest are flushed out of your system.

For those picky eaters or those prone to sickness, a dietary supplement could greatly benefit them. Some pediatricians will recommend children take a dietary supplement, especially if they have a dietary restriction that may be preventing them from getting the vitamins they need. Before you start worrying about the uphill battle it can be to get your kids to swallow a pill every day, know that there are many chewable vitamin supplements out there.

Try prioritizing which vitamins to purchase based on what they normally receive from meals. Then, determine what vitamins they are lacking based on their dietary restrictions.

Know Your Vitamin ABC’s… and More

Vitamin A | Healthy growth, vision, and skin

Vitamin A helps promote healthy vision and skin, and enables your heart, kidneys, lungs, and other organs to work properly. Vitamin A can be found in both plant and animal sources; foods include milk, cheese, butter, carrots, pumpkins, and apricots.

B vitamins | Healthy nerve function

This vitamin promotes cell growth and expansion by assisting your body in making more cells. Foods rich in vitamin B include meats and dairy such as poultry, liver, fish, cheese, and yogurt.

Vitamin C | Healthy immune system

A cold’s worst enemy! This vitamin helps fight illness by overpowering viruses. Citrus is rich in vitamin C, though this vitamin can also be found in vegetables such as broccoli, tomatoes, and spinach.

Vitamin D | Healthy bone structure

This vitamin can help make you stronger. Vitamin D promotes the absorption of calcium, which is great for your bone health. It can be found in milk, cheese, egg yolks, and fatty fish.

Iron | Blood production and building of muscles

Especially important for children’s growth spurts, children struggling with iron deficiencies may show symptoms of irritability, depression, or an increased susceptibility to infection. The best way to get your iron intake is through beef, turkey, pork, and kale.

Calcium | Healthy bone development

Everyone needs an adequate amount of calcium in their diet for healthy bone development and to help prevent diseases like osteoporosis. Foods most rich in calcium include low-fat milk, cheese, yogurt, and dark leafy greens.

Healthy Teeth and Your Child’s Diet

Child with Healthy Teeth

You make sure your children brush their teeth twice a day, but what about the health of their teeth for the rest of the time? Parents tend to underestimate the danger that sugary food and drinks pose to their child’s teeth. Sticky sugar-filled foods and sippy cups filled with juice could be causing cavities faster than you may think.

Here are our tips on how to cut down on sugar and promote dental health:

1. Make vegetables obligatory
Vegetables can be the last thing kids want to eat when given the choice. Kids are naturally drawn to sweeter foods, so in order to combat a penchant for sugar, make vegetables their main options. Make sure your kids understand from a young age what is expected of them at the dinner table.

2. Choose healthier sweets
Healthy eating doesn’t have to be a nightmare. Choose between a variety of bitter and sweeter vegetables to balance your child’s diet. Think about what your child might choose: sweet potatoes or russet potatoes. Also consider the types of sweet treats you give your kids. Avoid the sticky ones that’ll get stuck in their teeth for hours.

3. Brush after sticky foods
If your child does get their hands on a sticky sugary snack, explain to her why it’s important to brush right after eating. Getting them into this habit while they are young can help them avoid problems with cavities throughout their lives.

4. Cut down on TV
Children are inundated with commercials for sugar-filled foods while they’re watching television. Limit the amount of time they are exposed to that messaging, as it can have profound effects on the way they think about healthy eating.

5. Be cognizant of what you keep in the house
If your child sees you indulging in unhealthy sugary snacks, they’ll begin to question your restraints on their diet. The first step to keeping this from happening in your house is to keep those products out. Dried fruits are a good substitute if you have a sweet tooth that you’re not willing to part with.

6. No juice in sippy cups
Fruit juice can begin as a tactic to slip vitamins into your children’s diet, but end up causing them cavities. Prolonged exposure to fruit juice can lead to cavities whether or not there’s added sugar, as sugar is naturally occurring in fruit. Kids tend to take their time with what’s in their sippy cups, so limit fruit juices to mealtime only.

 

Helping Hungry Families

Many families across America struggle with providing food for their families. Financial needs prohibit them from being able to provide nourishing food for themselves and their children. Too often families are obligated to go without food to be able to afford other life necessities like medicine.

Unfortunately, in America, a portion of perfectly good food is being thrown into landfills, when that food could have gone to a family in need. People should consider redirecting the unspoiled food to local food-donation centers in their community to help them save money, help the environment, and most importantly help a family in need. Food pantries, soup kitchens, and food banks are often located in your local supermarket for you to conveniently donate.

What to donate
Food pantries will except non-perishable and unspoiled perishable food. Bank donors are typically found in large supermarket chains, wholesale stores, organized community food drives, and so on. It is smart to check with your local food bank or organized donation drop-off to see what food they will accept or what food they are still in need of.

Some non-perishable foods include: nut butters, pasta, soup & stews, canned vegetables, canned fruit, juice, dried fruit, or baby formula. Do not forget about the ingredients such as canola oil, honey, or broth. Most donation drop-offs will also accept cleaning supplies, paper goods, and other household items. Try to avoid food packaged in glass and do not donate foods that are past the expiration date.

Donating healthy food
Food pantries accept all-types of non-perishable food. However, starchy and high-sugar foods are most common. While these are all needed and gratefully accepted, please remember that recipients need healthy food. Some healthy options they could really benefit from include nuts, beans, low-sodium vegetables, canned tuna, powered milk, whole grain pasta, low-sugar cereals, granola bars, or quinoa.

Also, keep in mind that food allergies are becoming more common. Consider donating gluten free or lactose free options.

Getting your kids involved
It is important to make your kids aware of how fortunate they are to have food on the table every day. They get to eat until their bellies are full, not just enough to get by. And they get to enjoy their favorite foods.

Ask them to think about what kind of food they would like to receive. Would it be peanut butter, pasta, applesauce, or popcorn? Share their favorite Thanksgiving food; is it cranberry sauce, carrots, or stuffing? Ask them what food they would want to donate to a child in need.

Find your local food bank
Food banks and donation drop-off locations are available across the country to help give back to those in need. Food banks can distribute food to hungry families in many different ways such as soup kitchens, youth or senior centers, shelters, etc. Ask your local drop off where donations typically go.

Unsure of a donation location? Visit http://foodbankofhudsonvalley.org/agency-list/dutchess/ for a food bank near you (search by County).

How to Get Fit as a Family

Family Fitness Children's Medical Group Hudson Valley Pediatrician

Starting an active lifestyle doesn’t have to be difficult. Small changes lead to bigger changes, and when the whole family is involved, everyone can motivate each other to be the best version of themselves. Here are our tips on how to get fit as a family:

  1. Have Fun
    If you’re not a family that typically leads an active lifestyle, starting at a gym might not be the best option. Start with a fun activity like family bike rides or play a soccer game against each other. Endorphins are naturally released in the brain after physical activity, an addictive chemical which is known to improve mood.
  2. Challenge Each Other
    Take everyday opportunities to choose a healthier route. If you’re given the choice between stairs or elevator, try racing each other up the stairs! Choose to walk places instead of taking the car whenever possible. The more often you do this, the sooner it becomes your family’s new normal.
  3. Make It Routine
    Whatever stage you’re at in becoming fitter, make an effort to get physical once a day for at least 20-30 minutes. Physical activity should become another part of the day, like combing your hair and brushing your teeth.
  4. Watch Less Television
    The time spent watching TV as a family doesn’t need to go away altogether. The time you spend exercising should replace about a half hour of time in front of the television. You can also challenge each other to push up or sit up contests during commercial breaks.
  5. Practice Mindful Eating
    Eating a balanced diet should support an active lifestyle. Encourage your family to eat less junk food and find healthier snacks that can become staples in your house. There’s no shame in indulging once in a while, so it is important to keep the term “balance” in mind. It’s also a great idea to try infusing water with fruit instead of buying artificially sweetened fruit juices or sodas. Many people drink their calories without realizing it.

 

Vitamin D

Vitamins and minerals are important for maintaining our body’s nutritional needs. Often, that comes from a healthy, balanced diet and exercise.

When you think of strong bones and teeth, usually calcium comes to mind, but calcium needs Vitamin D to be most effective. Vitamin D is a fat-soluble hormone that the body needs to absorb calcium. We need this teamwork for strong, healthy bones and teeth.

When you are deficient in vitamin D, it can lead to bone fractures, muscle weakness and eventually other problems, so it’s important to pay close attention and make sure that we are giving our children’s bodies (and our own) what they need to stay healthy and strong.

How do you make sure your child gets enough Vitamin D? Sun exposure helps, but sadly much of it is blocked when you wear sunscreen, and going without sunscreen can cause a whole host of other problems. The other logical option is to get vitamin D from food.

Vitamin D is found in natural and fortified foods such as:

  • dairy products
  • orange juice
  • fish like tuna, sardines, and salmon
  • eggs
  • some mushrooms

However, consuming foods high in vitamin D is sometimes not enough to get the recommended daily allowance, so supplementation with vitamins may be needed.

Here are some quick tips from the American Academy of Pediatricians:

  • Children who drink less than 32oz of vitamin D-fortified formula or milk every day should receive a vitamin D supplement of 400 IU a day.
  • Adolescents who do not get 600 IU of vitamin D per day through foods should receive a supplement containing that amount.
  • Children with an increased risk of vitamin D deficiency may need a higher dose of vitamin D. Speak to your pediatrician.

Bioengineered Foods and Allergies

These days, it’s especially important to know what is in our food and how it’s made or grown. Reading labels, asking questions and staying informed are the best ways to feel secure about what you and your family are consuming.

Food that is bioengineered is a little more difficult to track since it may or may not be labeled. Though the practice of bioengineering food is ancient, cross-breeding of various plants and vegetables produce foods that can resist certain insects, create seedless fruits, have a certain taste or texture, and so much more. On the other side, bioengineering also can cause irritations, allergies, and reactions when foods are cross-bred with peanuts, wheat, or other allergy-prone foods. Not knowing what was done on a molecular level before the food was grown makes it hard or impossible for those with serious food allergies to avoid them. One misstep can trigger a reaction with a devastating effect.

Some of the most bioengineered foods are:

  • Corn
  • Tomatoes
  • Soy
  • Apples

…just to name a few. These are all edible, of course, but the controversy is alive and well, with many people concerned about the side effects and interfering with Mother Nature.

The FDA (Federal Department of Agriculture) uses its power to remove any foods that are deemed unhealthy for the American public and the CDC (Center for Disease Control) is commissioned to track all foods, including bioengineered foods. Both entities have declared that bioengineered food is safe for public consumption, but neither has addressed the allergy issues.

Hitting the Market

Doing the weekly shopping is sometimes the most tedious item on our to-do list, but it must be done. So how do we avoid the pitfalls of poor shopping decisions when life moves so fast? With a plan! Keeping a running list of household items as they run out helps save time and energy. Planning out meals ahead of time and jotting down what is eaten most often will also help you stay focused when you’re are inundated with so many choices.

The old adage of not grocery shopping when you’re hungry is still great advice. It’s just too hard not to over buy when everything on the store shelves looks delicious!

Here are a few quick tips and reminders:

  • Spend the time to make a complete list of what you need before you venture out to the market and do your best to stick to it.
  • Plan out the weekly meals so you have all the ingredients you need written down ahead of time.
  • Don’t get sucked into the deals and specials unless it’s really something that you need and will eat.
  • Concentrate first on those outside aisles – that’s where the freshest items are! You’ll generally find fresh fruits and vegetables, dairy products, and meat on the outside, while those interior shelves may be full of packaged items, which may be higher in calories.
  • Check the expiration dates on perishable items like dairy and meats when you add them to the cart.
  • Bring your kids with you so they learn how to shop smart. But don’t let them talk you into filling the cart with deliciously naughty things. They learn good food habits from you and this is the best place to start.
  • Pay attention to the ingredients listed in packaged food. Older children can learn about reading the nutrition labels and be active participants in choosing healthy foods! For example, have the kids check the sugar content for each item before it enters the cart. New FDA nutrition label requirements start in 2018 that details how much added sugar is in it vs. what is naturally occurring, as well. This will help train your children to make informed choices.
  • Double check your cart against your list before you get in line and see if you have everything you need. Also check if you’ve tossed in a few things that you don’t really
  • Don’t forget your reusable bags!

Remember, making smart shopping choices is only the first step. You still need to prepare the food! In the kitchen, trim visible fat from meat and remove the skin from poultry before cooking. Use lower fat cooking techniques such as roasting and steaming, and choose healthy oils like olive oil over butter and margarine where you can.

A Healthy Family is a Happy Family!

Making Fitness a Way of Life

Yes, it can be really challenging to stay on the fitness track, but there is power in numbers, so consider creating good fitness habits and rituals together as a family. If you’re able to add 30 minutes of fitness to your day, you will make huge strides in very little time.

The hardest part is getting started so here are a few tips that might help:

  • Sit down together as a family and talk about the benefits of a healthier lifestyle.
  • Try to stay away from negative terms or language that includes “fat” or “diet” because your aim is to get fit and healthy. Remember, there are plenty of thin people who are not healthy.
  • Come up with a game plan and a schedule for fitness time.
  • Be sure to include physical activities that everybody in the family wants to do, so everyone should help choose the fitness activities.
  • It’s imperative to be practical. White water rafting when you live nowhere near a river is not as feasible as planning a hike or bike ride.
  • Create a chart to track your progress and encourage you to continue. Then post it somewhere that everyone can see and easily update it.
  • Acknowledge that it can be tough to stick to a routine in the beginning, but remind each other that you can do it!

It can be especially hard to get kids who are normally less active to become an athlete overnight; frankly it’s hard for anyone, but the advantages of kids getting into shape are essential for them short and long term. Below is a quick list of just some the benefits of children exercising just 30 minutes a day.

  • Stronger bones and joints
  • Greater muscle strength
  • A decrease in body fat
  • Improved flexibility
  • A healthier cardiovascular system, which can reduce the risk of developing heart disease and high blood pressure
  • A reduced likelihood of developing diabetes
  • More energy
  • A greater ability to handle stress
  • Improvements in self-confidence and self-esteem
  • Greater social acceptance by physically active peers
  • Opportunities to make new friends
  • Better concentration at school

Parents can also greatly benefit from a fit lifestyle with more energy, stronger bones, better circulation, muscle strength, and less body fat. Working out is also a huge stress reliever and as we age, we need to keep our minds and body in top shape.

All family members should have a say in the fitness plans and then rotate activities so that everyone gets to do something they like and potentially try something new.

Here are a few family-friendly fitness ideas:

  • Bike riding
  • Swimming
  • Hiking
  • Running/jogging
  • Trampoline (seriously, this is hard stuff but crazy fun!)
  • Soccer or football
  • Rollerblading/roller skating

A healthy diet will only benefit your fitness results and making a few simple dietary changes can increase your energy to get out there and work up a sweat. Check in with your doctors and pediatricians and let them know the game plan and ask for any needed suggestions or advice.

The TV is On, Pass the Food!

Childrens Medical Group TV and Snacking

 

There are many reasons parents may limit the amount of television their children watch.  Excessive television watching can lead to attention problems, school difficulties, and irregular sleep patterns. It can also lead to eating disorders and weight gain.

Numerous studies have shown that excessive TV watching is associated with overweight children.  Watching television is often associated with eating fewer vegetables and fruits. It also leads to consuming more soda, candy, and fast food.  Some studies even show a correlation between television-watching and skipping breakfast (still the most important meal of the day)!  Finally, other studies have monitored the steady stream of ads for high-sugar, high-fat foods aimed directly at children and how that changes their eating habits.

One of the best ways to avoid childhood obesity is to limit how much television your child watches every day.  Most experts say it should be limited to 2 hours.   Parents and guardians can also follow these tips:

  • Don’t use the television as your babysitter.
  • Children under two should watch little to no television.
  • Make sure you place healthy foods near your children while they watch TV.
  • Develop a “no television” rule during meal times.
  • Serve meals in your kitchen or dining room, not in front of the TV.
  • Discuss the ads on TV and how they encourage unhealthy eating habits.
  • Stay firm when children beg or plead for unhealthy food items shown in advertisements.