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Nutrition advice: 10 tips for back-to-school and fall health

Monday, September 24, 2012 - 8:08 am

Here are the Diet Detective's 10 back-to-school and fall health tips:

Get your kids to try new foods

It's a new season — what a great time to make a deal with your kids to try new foods, and I'm not talking about snack foods here. Vegetables and fruits are the foods that are most lacking in children's (and adults') diets. Keep in mind, it takes at least 10 times before you get used to a new food. Keep trying.

Say no to junk food before an exam

Want to make sure that your kids get the highest grades possible? Avoid simple carbs (such as candy, bagels, cookies and baked goods) and anything with a lot of sugar, including soda, before taking an exam.

Studies show that the quick spike in blood sugar results in an equally quick dip in mood, alertness and energy. Plus, junk foods are filled with unhealthy fats that make your organs work harder and your energy drag. Last, make sure your kids don't stuff themselves — it can make them sleepy.

Eating for alertness is all about slow delivery and gradual elevation of blood sugar and brain chemicals. Feed your kids 3 to 4 ounces of lean protein such as fish, chicken, low-fat cottage cheese or an egg-white omelet and add one slice of 100 percent whole-grain bread or some brown rice and a cup of fruit or vegetables.

Don’t let your kids sacrifice sleep to study

Research conducted at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) that appeared in the journal Child Development found that failing to get a good night's sleep in order to get in those extra study hours is actually counterproductive. Kids who do that do worse on tests than those who get a good night's sleep.

“Academic success may depend on finding strategies to avoid having to give up sleep to study, such as maintaining a consistent study schedule across days, using school time as efficiently as possible, and sacrificing time spent on other, less essential, activities,” said the researchers.

Try a mobile app to help improve your family’s health

The National Institutes of Health Office of Research on Women's Health (ORWH) created an app called “52 Weeks for Women's Health” that provides a year's worth of health information “week-by-week” and includes a personal health section for recording medications, medical conditions and disabilities as well as goal-setting capabilities. Content is also accessible without the use of a handheld device at http://52weeks4women.nih.gov. In the near future, NIH will launch an app for men's health with similar features.

To protect your kids, learn more about college drinking

Most people know that college drinking is a problem, but I'm not sure they know how bad it is. Check out the website created by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) called Welcome to College Drinking: Changing the Culture. Here are a few of the NIAAA's tips for parents:

•Pay special attention to your son's or daughter's experiences and activities during the crucial first six weeks on campus.

•Find out if there is a program during orientation that educates students about campus policies related to alcohol use. If there is one, attend with your son or daughter if possible, or at least be familiar with the name of the person who is responsible for campus counseling programs.

•Inquire about and make certain you understand the college's “parental notification” policy.

See: www.CollegeDrinkingPrevention.gov.

Watch a documentary with your kids

HBO, known for some pretty amazing programing, teamed up with the Institute of Medicine (IOM) and several other organizations to create an amazing four-part documentary series called The Weight of The Nation. The documentary features a complete overview of obesity, including case studies, interviews and profiles of families. The best part is, you can watch it online for free at: http://theweightofthenation.hbo.com/films.

Get your kids to eat healthier with a sticker

According to researchers from Cornell University, using a sticker of a popular children's character can influence choice. The study allowed children ages 8 to 11 to choose either a cookie or apple with or without a sticker of Elmo. The researchers found that almost twice as many children chose the apple when it was stickered with a familiar children's character and the cookie alternative did not have a sticker.

Start a yoga program this fall

The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine has created a video showing the scientific evidence of how yoga can help you improve your health and control symptoms like chronic low-back pain. Check it out here: http://nccam.nih.gov/video/yoga.

Also, check out free yoga videos at www.yogajournal.com.

Make cooking fun with global eating

What a great idea for a cookbook — travel the world from your very own kitchen with “The Healthy Voyager's Global Kitchen: 150 Plant-Based Recipes From Around the World,” by Carolyn Scott-Hamilton. It's a great way to talk with your kids about different regions of the world while eating wonderful healthy foods. The recipes include vegan, gluten-free, low-fat and others.

Feed your children healthy food, and they’ll have a higher IQ

Here is yet another reason to feed your children healthier foods. According to researchers from the University of Adelaide in Australia, feeding children healthy food from birth to 2 years old (when the brain is developing) increases their IQ at the age of 8.

The study, which looked at the diets of more than 7,000 children, found children who “were breastfed at 6 months and had a healthy diet regularly including foods such as legumes, cheese, fruit and vegetables at 15 and 24 months, had an IQ up to two points higher by age 8. Those children who had a diet regularly involving biscuits, chocolate, sweets, soft drinks and chips in the first 2 years of life had IQs up to two points lower by age 8.”

Charles Stuart Platkin is a nutrition and public health advocate and founder of DietDetective.com.