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Justification for a Family Vacation–and Great Disney Deals from Pixie Vacations!

October 25, 2013 by  
Filed under J.Bright

by Mommy MD Guides blogger Jennifer Bright

This is the third and last blog in a series on Disney World travel. Yes, I’m in a Disney frame of mind! I’m always either planning a trip, on a trip, or scrapbooking a trip. My life is one big Walt Disney World Vacation! (And below you’ll find some great Disney deals from my friends at Pixie Vacations.)

Writing these blogs got me thinking: What’s my justification for a family vacation? I believe that happy memories are the glue that holds us together. I’ve seen firsthand how my sons made great leaps in maturity and also intellectually on our family trips. It was on a Disney trip when my older son really “got” the idea of reading. He went from barely reading to noticing words and language everywhere, thanks to Disney signs that are everywhere. As my kids get older, they express more and more that they don’t get to spend enough time with me. On a trip, I’m focused on them 24/7, and we all love that.

According to a study conducted by Kelton Research, quality family time increases while on vacation, and both parents and children say they’re more likely to learn something new about one another during this time. The study found that family vacations made people more excited (77 percent), relaxed (75 percent), silly (68 percent), calm (54 percent), and affectionate (54 percent). That sounds so great that I can hardly wait until our next family vacation!

And now about those deals!

Play, Stay & Dine at Disney World & Save Up To $600

Booking Dates:
October 8 – December 31, 2013

Travel Dates:
For Stays most nights January 5 – March 5, 2014

Walt Disney World vacation packages are here for 2014 travel.  You can save $600* on your family vacation by booking this offer.  Here are the details:

Purchase this Walt Disney World Vacation now through Dec. 31, 2013 for stays most nights Jan. 5 – March 5, 2014 at select Walt Disney World Resort hotels. Save $600* (based on a family of four) on a 5-night, 6-day Plus Dining Disney Vacation Package at select Disney Moderate, Deluxe and Deluxe Villa Resorts. Or, save $400* (based on a family of four) on a 5-night, 6-day Disney World Vacation Package Plus Quick Service Dining at select Disney Value Resorts.

Booking Window:
Oct. 8 – Dec. 31, 2013

Travel Window:
For stays most nights Jan. 5 – March 5, 2014

Don’t delay! With savings this huge, rooms will fill up fast! If you are interested in this offer contact Pixie Vacations today.

Save Up To 35% – Select Walt Disney World Resort Hotels

You can save up to 35%* at select Walt Disney World Resort hotels with this offer.

Booking Window:
Book Oct. 8 – Dec. 31, 2013

Travel Window:
For stays most nights Jan. 5 – March 5, 2014 and March 14 – April, 12, 2014:

Save up to 35% at
Disney’s Yacht and Beach Club Resorts,
Disney’s Beach Club Resort Villas,
Disney’s BoardWalk Inn & Villas,
Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge (standard/pool view rooms),
Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa,
Disney’s Polynesian Resort,
Disney’s Saratoga Springs Resort & Spa,
Disney’s Old Key West Resort,
Disney’s Contemporary Resort
Disney’s Wilderness Lodge (standard/woods view)

Save up to 25% at
Disney’s Coronado Springs Resort,
Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort,
Disney’s Port Orleans – Riverside
Disney’s Fort Wilderness Cabins

Save up to 20% at
Disney’s All-Star Sports Resort,
Disney’s All-Star Music
Disney’s Pop Century Resort

How to Book:

Contact Pixie Vacations
Call 678-815-1584
Email: Info@PixieVacaitons.com
Get a Quick Disney World Quote

Disney World Christmas 2013 vacation packages from $118 per person

Spend the Holidays at Walt Disney World with this special vacation package offer from our friends at Pixie Vacations.

Booking Window:   10/10 – 11/18/2013
Travel Window: 12/18 – 12/25/2013
You must stay the night of the 18th, you can extend past the 25th based on availability.

Package for 5 nights / 6 days at select Disney Value, Moderate, or Deluxe Resorts
and get a FREE Disney Water Park or DisneyQuest Ticket for each person in your party.

This Exclusive Holiday Season Disney World Vacation Package Includes:


  • Accommodations
  • Magic Your Way Base Ticket
  • Disney’s Plus Dining**
  • A Free DisneyQuest or Disney Water Park Ticket

Spend Christmas at Walt Disney World.
Available Disney Resorts for this Disney Holiday Special Vacation Package are:



To Book:

Click this link to get an online quote: Christmas at Disney World Vacation Quote
Ask about packages available in other resort categories and for other lengths of stay.

Phone: 678-815-1584
Email: Info@PixieVacations.com

Get a Disney Vacation Quote Now For Your Travel Dates.

Note: I was compensated by Pixie Vacations with a Mickey Mouse Santa Hat and Minnie Holiday headband. However, I love talking about and planning Disney World vacations and feel passionate about helping families make magical memories and I would gladly have written it anyway!

Bio: Jennifer Bright is a mom of two sons and coauthor of The Mommy MD Guide to Losing Weight and Feeling Great. Next to her home in Bethlehem, PA, Walt Disney World is her favorite place on earth!

Halloween Safety Tips

October 22, 2013 by  
Filed under Uncategorized

by Mommy MD Guide Jennifer A. Gardner, MD

We want our little ghouls, ghosts, and goblins to have fun, but we also recognize that even simple pleasures like pumpkin carving and dressing up while roaming door-to-door pose some risk. These practical tips make it easy to plan ahead for safety to ensure the fun goes from here to November!

Dressing for Fun and Safety

  • Wigs, masks, large hats, and costumes that cover the face can impair vision. Avoid masks and opt for painting the face instead (look for nontoxic face paints).
  • Light-colored clothing has the best visibility, especially at night, but isn’t always practical. In this case, use strips of reflective tape (front and back) to increase visibility.
  • For extra visibility at night, have your child carry a flashlight or glow sticks (have extra) or wear a glow-in-the-dark necklace.
  • Consider using a brightly colored goodie bag. You can also put reflective tape here, but don’t make this the only thing that is visible as it could be lost.
  • Costumes that are baggy or too long can pose a tripping hazard. So do large shoes and high heels.
  • Any props kids carry, such as magical wands and fantastic swords, should be flexible and blunt. Remember, tripping is not uncommon when kids are hurrying along on sidewalks, so avoid anything that could cause an eye injury.
  • Look for flame retardant costumes. Jack-o-lanterns with candles inside can be an unintentional fire hazard.
  • Be sure your child has a costume that is an appropriate weight. Nothing ruins trick-or-treating fun like being too hot or cold.
  • For younger children, label the inside of the costume with your phone number.


Rules of the Road

  •  If your child will be trick or treating without you (generally safe around age 10), plan the route out in advance and set well-recognized limits surrounding busy roads or isolated stretches.
  • Provide clear guidelines on what time your child should return home.
  • Have your child carry a cell phone and be sure your child can call 911 for an emergency.
  • All kids should know their phone number in case of separation.
  • Only trick-or-treat on streets with sidewalks, and avoid busy roads altogether.
  • If possible, only trick-or-treat at homes in your own neighborhood.
  • Teach kids to cross the street only at crosswalks and to never assume that vehicles will stop at intersections or stop signs.
  • Teach kids not to enter a home to collect a treat.
  • Have children trick-or-treat (and stay) in groups. Remember, safety in numbers.
  • Kids (as always) should not talk to strangers, especially masked individuals.
  • If trick-or-treating at night, only trick-or-treat on well lit streets and only approach well lit homes.
  • Be sure your child will not be returning home alone. If this is the case, arrange to pick up at a friends.
  • Teach kids to throw away any candy that looks tampered with (unwrapped or opened, small holes, or a seal that looks glued).
  • Protect little ones from choking hazards like gum, hard candy, and popcorn. Do not allow children to walk with lollipops in their mouths. (As a pediatric ER doc, I have seen the dangers first hand.)


Careful Carving

Never allow children to handle a sharp knife. Even kids experienced with using knives will find it difficult to cut through pumpkins, and may exert too much pressure, resulting in injury.

  •  Instead, have them draw the shapes on the pumpkin and let a responsible adult do the carving.
  • If kids want to be more involved, allow them to remove the seeds and guts with a large spoon.
  • Once carved, use flameless (battery operated) candles for safer illumination.
  • You can also have them paint the pumpkins instead of carving them.

And Remember, Keep Kids Safe as They Approach Your Own Home!

  • To avoid trips and slips, remove rakes, hoses, children’s toys, bikes, or anything that might occlude the walkway.
  • Remove any wet, slippery leaves.
  • Make sure your house is well lit.
  • Keep pets way from trick-or-treaters (upstairs or in the back of the house). Even if pets are dressed for Halloween fun, many children may be scared or allergic. Remember, a costume could also frighten a normally friendly pet.
  • And of course, pets around candy is a bad idea. Chocolate can be fatal for doggies, so keep candy out of reach!

Dr. Gardner is a mom of a three-year-old son, a pediatrician, and the founder of an online child wellness and weight management company, HealthyKidsCompany.com, in Washington, DC.

Want to read more blogs by Mommy MD Guide Jennifer A. Gardner, MD? Here’s her recent blog about making sure your kids eat healthy meals at school.

Catching Up with Melina Jampolis, MD

October 3, 2013 by  
Filed under J.Bright

by Mommy MD Guides cofounder Jennifer Bright

I have one of the best jobs in the world. I get to meet and talk with fascinating people and share their tips and experience with other moms to help them lead healthier, happier lives. Recently, I had the opportunity to talk with Melina Jampolis, MD. Dr. Jampolis is one of those people who does it all—so well. She’s a mother, physician, author, and entrepreneur. Here’s our recent chat.

How did you decide to specialize in physician nutrition?

When I finished my residency, I became very disillusioned with the practice of medicine. I felt that I spent 90 percent of my time putting patients on medications. I was making pharmaceutical companies money, but not doing a whole lot to impact patients’ health.

I took a position doing physicals at a weight-loss clinic, and I suddenly discovered that by helping people learn more about nutrition and better  manage their weight, I could profoundly change people’s health—and their lives. It was a “light bulb” moment for me.

Your book, The Calendar Diet, looks terrific! How did you come up with the idea for it?
I took some time to think about what I do that’s most successful in helping people to lose weight. I realized that it’s my month-by-month coaching, where I talk with people about the challenges they face at different times of the year and we brainstorm ways to meet those challenges.

Plus, I look at ways that you can work with the seasons to make weight loss easier, such as eating fruits and vegetables that are in season and combating winter cravings in a satisfying way.

I combined these healthy eating tips with cutting-edge exercise ideas, such as high-intensity interval training. The Calendar Diet isn’t a fad diet; it’s a lifestyle.

Your Dr. Melina Bars look great; I love that they have no trans fats or HFCS. Can you tell me more about them?

As a busy doctor, I find myself constantly suggesting that busy people eat protein bars as between-meal alternatives. But I couldn’t find the perfect bar on the market to recommend!

So I went to a food science lab and explained the bar I wanted to create. After months of trying different formulations, we came up with a great snack that keeps hunger at bay and blood sugar levels stable. The bars contain no trans fats or artificial sweeteners. My son loves to eat them too!

My coauthor and I are big believers in the importance of omega-3 fatty acids. I see you recommend Omax-3. What makes it unique and recommended?
While it is not always true with supplements, with omega-3s, you get what you pay for. Omax-3 has both purity and potency. For purity, it’s a pharmaceutical-grade, easy-to-swallow soft gel dietary supplement that delivers the highest omega-3 purity levels available

For potency, Omax-3 delivers 91 percent pure omega-3 content, as compared to many over-the-counter omega-3 capsules, which deliver only 30 to 50 percent purity—and mostly fillers.

Omax-3 also has a unique ratio of EPA to DHA, which has great health benefits. For example, it’s been shown to help reduce inflammation, an important contributor to diseases including diabetes, Alzheimer’s, arthritis, skin aging and heart disease, as well as maintain healthy triglyceride and cholesterol levels.

It’s ironic that I’ve spent much of my career taking people off of the medications and supplements that they were taking, but omega-3s—in the right purity and potency—can really make a difference in people’s health.

What are you looking forward to in the future?

I’m very excited about the concept of food as medicine. I look forward to learning more about how foods work on a cellular and molecular level. I’m also interested in the idea of nutrigenomics, which is learning more about gene-food interactions. We are moving toward people being able to have more personalized nutrition recommendations. This will help people to learn the optimal diet for them. That is really going to take “food as medicine” to the next level.

Answers about Vitamin D

September 24, 2013 by  
Filed under Uncategorized

by Mommy MD Guide Sonali Ruder, DO

Q: I was recently diagnosed with vitamin D deficiency. How can I get more vitamin D, and are there any foods that I should be eating?

—Lyz from N.Y.

A: This is a great question because vitamin D deficiency has become more prevalent in recent years. Just last year, the National Center for Health Statistics published data showing that 33 percent of Americans were at risk of vitamin D deficiency or inadequacy based on serum blood levels. Vitamin D is sometimes referred to as the “sunshine vitamin” because our bodies make vitamin D naturally from sun exposure to the skin. Exposure to ultraviolet rays specifically triggers the conversion of cholesterol in the skin to vitamin D3, a form of vitamin D. We’ve all been taught to use sunscreen to prevent the harmful effects of exposure to UV rays, but all of this sunscreen use has led to another problem—vitamin D deficiency. Sunscreen blocks the absorption of UV rays; correctly applied sunscreen reduces our ability to absorb vitamin D by more than 90 percent.

Most of us recognize vitamin D as being important for bone growth, which it is. Vitamin D aids in the absorption of calcium, helping to form and maintain strong bones. When you don’t get enough vitamin D, it puts you at risk for diseases such as rickets in children and osteomalacia in adults. That’s why the government started fortifying milk with vitamin D in the 1930s—rickets was a major health problem at the time. But vitamin D is not just important for healthy bones—it actually has several other important functions in the body, including maintaining a healthy immune system and modulating proper cell growth. Recent studies have linked vitamin D deficiency to cardiovascular disease, osteoporosis, autoimmune disease, and several types of cancer.

So how much vitamin D do we need? Currently there is a lot of scientific debate over what the optimal amount of vitamin D is. The official Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) in adults is 600 International Units (IU) per day and 800 IU for those over age 70. But many groups including Harvard’s School of Public Health are recommending much larger amounts based on the most current research.

What are the best ways to get an adequate amount of vitamin D? The best way is through exposure to sunlight. Just 10 to 15 minutes of sunlight exposure can provide 3,000 to 20,000 IU! The problem is that the amount of vitamin D that we get from sun exposure varies considerably, depending on several factors, including geographic latitude and skin color. Sunlight is generally weaker in northern latitudes, leading to less vitamin D synthesis. Also, people with darker skin tones generally need a lot more sun exposure to synthesize vitamin D because melanin reduces the skin’s ability to produce vitamin D from sunlight. Of course, it is also important to protect your skin from the harmful effects of sun exposure, which leads to millions of cases of skin cancer every year in the U.S.

To further complicate the issue, there are relatively few natural food sources of vitamin D. The best sources are fatty fish such as salmon, tuna, sardines, and mackerel. Canned fish generally has more vitamin D than fresh. Small amounts of vitamin D are also found in egg yolks, beef liver, and some cheeses. In fact, a new analysis done by the USDA found that eggs contain 64 percent more vitamin D than the last time they were analyzed by the government in 2002. This increase is probably due to changes in the diet of chickens by egg producers. In addition to natural food sources, many cereals, milk, and dairy products are also fortified with vitamin D. The U.S. also mandates the fortification of infant formula with vitamin D. Mushrooms also can be a source, especially if treated with UV rays during growth. Here are some specific levels taken from the N.Y. State DOH website:

Natural Sources:

Herring: 1,383 IU per 3 ounces

Salmon, canned: 530 IU per 3 ounces

Cod liver oil: 450 IU per teaspoon

Mackerel: 306 IU per 3 ounces

Oysters: 272 IU per 3 ounces

Shiitake mushrooms, dried: 249 IU per 4

Sardines, Atlantic, canned in oil: 203 IU per ½ cup

Tuna, canned in oil: 200 IU per 3 ounces

Large egg: 41 IU (new data)


Fortified Sources:

Tofu: 120 IU per 1/5 block

Cow’s milk: 100 IU per 8 ounces

Soymilk: 100 IU per 8 ounces

Orange juice: 100 IU per 8 ounces

Cereal: 40 IU per serving

If you are concerned that you are still not getting enough vitamin D through sun exposure and food sources, you can always take a vitamin supplement. Most multivitamins provide about 400 IU of vitamin D.

So what’s the take-home message with vitamin D? Vitamin D is very important for the body, and the more we learn about it, the more true this seems to be. If you’re concerned about vitamin D deficiency, consult your physician and get tested. Try to get brief periods of sun exposure daily, but after 5 to 15 minutes, make sure you apply sunscreen. To get the rest of your daily needs, incorporate natural food sources into your diet and, if needed, add a vitamin supplement.

Dr. Ruder is a mom of a two-month-old daughter, an emergency physician at Coral Springs Medical Center near Fort Lauderdale, FL, and a recipe developer and blogger at TheFoodiePhysician.com.

Want to read more blogs by Sonali Ruder, DO? Here’s her recent blog about the importance of eating breakfast.

Breakfast is the Most Important Meal of the Day

September 12, 2013 by  
Filed under Uncategorized

by Mommy MD Guide Sonali Ruder, DO

We’ve all heard the old adage, “Breakfast is the most important meal of the day,” but how many of us really follow it? On weekdays, I’m usually rushing out the door with only a cup of coffee to sustain me until lunchtime, by which time, I’m usually starving. Of course, I’ve always heard about how important eating a good breakfast is, but I never really thought it was a realistic goal for my lifestyle.
So why is it important to eat a nutritious breakfast? Studies show that people who eat a good breakfast end up eating fewer calories throughout the rest of the day. Eating a good breakfast keeps you feeling fuller longer so that you will avoid overeating later in the day. Although you may think that skipping breakfast will help you lose weight by cutting calories, it actually increases your risk of obesity. Eating breakfast boosts your metabolism, which makes you burn more calories throughout the morning rather than storing them.

Eating breakfast also helps boost your intake of important nutrients such as vitamins and minerals. People who eat breakfast are more likely to eat a healthier diet overall, including less fat and cholesterol, which is good for your heart and helps to maintain a healthy weight. Also, eating breakfast gives you more energy, which translates into increased concentration and productivity throughout the morning.
So what exactly constitutes a healthy breakfast? A good breakfast includes a balance of complex carbohydrates with protein, fiber, and just a small amount of fat. This combination will keep you feeling full for many hours as opposed to the high-carbohydrate breakfasts that we sometimes grab in a rush, such as muffins, bagels, and sugary cereals. These foods give you a short burst of energy, but in no time, you’ll be left feeling tired and hungry all over again. These are the components you want to include in your breakfast:

• Whole grains
• Lean proteins
• Low-fat dairy or soy products
• Fruits and vegetables

If you include foods from all of these categories in your meal, you will be eating a healthy, well-balanced breakfast. Need some examples? Here are some specific examples of healthy breakfast ideas that are quick and easy to prepare:

• Bowl of whole-grain cereal (watch the sugar content) with berries and skim or soy milk
• Whole-grain toast with peanut butter and sliced apples
• Whole-grain waffle topped with almond butter and sliced strawberries or banana
• Bowl of oatmeal with fresh or dried fruit and/or chopped nuts (apples, walnuts, and cinnamon are a great combination; another good combo is blueberries and almonds)
• Whole-grain toast with low-fat cottage cheese and sliced peaches or pineapple
• Parfait made with layers of fat-free Greek yogurt, fresh fruit, and chopped nuts or whole grain cereal
• Smoothie made with strawberries, blueberries, bananas, fat-free yogurt, and flaxseed
• Whole wheat pita topped with low-fat cottage cheese or part-skim ricotta cheese and sliced tomatoes; serve with fresh fruit or a glass of fruit juice on the side
• Whole-grain English muffin with lean ham or turkey, reduced-fat cheese, and sliced tomato
• Homemade breakfast burritos (see recipe below)

My Jump-Start Your Day Breakfast Burritos are a hearty and nutritious meal to jump-start your day and set you on the right path for healthy eating all day long. And the best part is that if you’re not a morning person, you can prepare a whole batch of them ahead of time and freeze them. Then when you want to eat one, you just unwrap, pop it in the microwave, and take it to go!

Jump-Start Your Day Breakfast Burritos
Makes 6 burritos
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 small yellow onion, chopped
1 red bell pepper, chopped
Kosher salt and black pepper
1 cup canned black beans, drained and rinsed
1 teaspoon chili powder
6 whole eggs plus 6 egg whites
½ cup shredded reduced fat Cheddar cheese
6 (9-inch) whole grain wraps (I used La Tortilla Factory Smart Delicious Whole Grain Soft Wraps)
¾ cup salsa
¼ cup sliced scallions
Hot sauce (optional)

Heat the oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and pepper to the skillet and season them with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, for 7 to 8 minutes. Stir in the beans and chili powder, and cook for 2 to 3 minutes until heated through. Pour the contents of the skillet into a bowl and set aside. Wipe the skillet clean.
Whisk the eggs and egg whites together in a large bowl along with ½ teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon black pepper. Spray the skillet with nonstick cooking spray and heat over medium heat. Add the eggs and cook them, stirring occasionally, until soft curds form. Stir in the cheese and cook 1 minute until melted. Remove from the heat.
Spread each tortilla with equal amounts of the veggie/bean mixture and top with the scrambled eggs. Spread 2 tablespoons salsa, some sliced scallions and hot sauce (if using) on top. Roll the tortillas up burrito style—fold the side closest to you over the filling, then fold both sides in toward the center and roll up. Serve alone or with reduced-fat sour cream, if desired.
If not eating right away, wrap each burrito in plastic wrap or aluminum foil and freeze. To reheat, unwrap and microwave until warm, about 2 minutes, turning over halfway through. For a crispier wrapping, heat in the microwave, then bake in a 450° oven for 5 to 10 minutes.

Dr. Ruder is a mom of a two-month-old daughter, an emergency physician at Coral Springs Medical Center near Fort Lauderdale, FL, and a recipe developer and blogger at TheFoodiePhysician.com.

Healthy Food Is on the Menu at School

September 4, 2013 by  
Filed under Uncategorized

by Mommy MD Guide Jennifer Gardner, MD
Happy New (School) Year!

The new school year is just that, a new year, so we think this is the perfect time to institute some new “school year” resolutions. One great place to start is in the school lunchroom. If your kids are attending school full time now, then they will be eating at least one meal away from home.

If your kids buy lunch from the school cafeteria, this may be the first time that they will get to choose their food without your direct input. But you can still exert some direct control over their meals if they brown bag their lunch (but recognize that they still might trade it). Each provides a great opportunity for you to teach your kids about healthy food choices and the importance of food. Below are some helpful guidelines for getting your kids to eat healthier at school.

Don’t Forget to Have Your Kids Eat Breakfast

Regardless of what you make for lunch or what the school is serving, please make sure that your kids have a nutritious breakfast before they leave the house in the morning. This will assure that they have the nutrition and calories they need to focus on their school tasks and to last until lunch. Breakfast really is the most important meal of the day!

Brown-Bag Lunch

Parents have many options for sending their kids off to school with a healthy lunch. It is all about balance and variety. Each lunch should include a healthy combination of lean protein, low-fat dairy, whole grains, and fruit and veggies. Whatever you choose, be sure to include your kids in the process of making the meal. Discuss with them the importance of nutritious and healthy meals and the right portion sizes, and have them help you pack the meal. This will help ensure they eat what you pack!

Classic sandwich choices include PB&J or PB & banana, chicken salad, tuna salad, egg salad, sliced chicken, or turkey. When sandwiches are on the menu, make sure that you use whole grain bread or pita, and mustard or low-fat mayonnaise when appropriate.

To vary things, you might want to try a pita packed with hummus and vegetables, sliced hard-boiled eggs, nut butter, avocado, or any other favorite protein. A whole grain tortilla loaded with beans, cheese, and favorite grilled veggies is another option. Sandwiches are an obvious way to add some veggies. Tomatoes, onions, lettuce, sprouts, cucumber, and sliced or shredded carrots are a great place to start.

You should also include one of the following in the bag: some whole or cut up fruit, dried fruit, a small salad, assorted veggie sticks, single serving applesauce, yogurt, nuts, seeds, or popcorn to round out the meal. And remember, once in a while, it is okay to send them with a small bag of potato chips, corn chips, or cheese puffs to avoid feelings of deprivation or envy!

Alternatively, you can pack a bento box full of food from home. Almost any leftover is a great option (meatloaf or meatballs for a sandwich, lasagna, omelets, quiches or frittatas, baked chicken nuggets, mac and cheese, BBQ or baked chicken, tacos, quesadillas, burritos, stir fries, sloppy Joes, salmon or crab cakes, pot pies). You can also include a salad, hummus, cut fruit, sliced veggies with dip or guacamole, cubed hard cheese, yogurt, trail mix, nuts, homemade pumpkin bread, or many other choices too numerous to list here. Kabobs are also fun in bentos and can be made from chicken, beef, or shrimp plus veggies. Or why not try fresh fruit or fresh veggie kabobs? Lastly, consider hearty soups, stews, and chilies (especially inviting when summer fades into a fall chill).

Avoid sending your kids off to school with prepackaged lunches such as Lunchables. Also limit the amount of highly processed deli meats (salami, bologna, ham, liverwurst, or deli “loaves”) by choosing whole roasted turkey, chicken, or roast beef. Processed deli meats are very high in salt, fat, sugar, additives, and preservatives. Plus, they are not cost effective. We also recommend that you avoid packing a dessert for most lunches. But of course, occasionally send them off with a cookie, pudding, or brownie!

Tips for Packaging a Safe Lunch

We want to pack healthy school lunches for our children, but we must also make sure that they are safe. Since your kids’ lunches usually remain at room temperature for several hours, you should take steps to minimize bacterial contamination and growth. Here are some steps you can take:

  • Seems obvious, but you should always wash your hands before preparing the meal.
  • Use insulated lunch containers over a brown bag if you’re serving perishable items (such as mayonnaise-based sandwiches or salads, dips, and dressings).
  • Use an icepack to keep food at a safe temperature.
  • Alternatively, you can put frozen juice or (preferably) water in the lunch bag. The drink will thaw by lunchtime, so this can be used in place of an ice pack. (You can also freeze a yogurt stick to use as an ice pack.)
  • Use a thermos to keep hot things (soups, stews, chilies, casseroles) hot and cold things cold.
  • Store the lunch bag in a cool area, away from sunny windows or heat vents. Use a refrigerator if available.
  • Keep all lunch boxes, bento boxes, bags, and thermoses clean. Wash with warm soap and water after each use and dry thoroughly.
  • Make sure your kids wash their hands before eating. Alcohol gels or wipes can be used in a pinch. (If you’re storing these in the lunch container, use wipes, not gels.)
  • Teach kids that they should not trade items in their lunch (and then keep your fingers crossed that they follow your instructions).

To compete with cafeteria lunch options, keep foods colorful and interesting (use cookie cutters to make sandwiches into fun shapes, leave lunch notes for little ones, pack in a favorite lunch box, or occasionally include an unexpected favorite breakfast food such as waffles with Nutella and bananas).

Cafeteria Lunch

When a homemade lunch is not an option, your kids can choose from the menu at school. Many schools now serve healthier items, such as grilled chicken and salads. But some choices still contain unhealthy amounts of fat, salt, or sugar.

Most schools also now post the weekly menu online or make it otherwise available to parents so they can see what is on the menu. Some even allow parents to check what the child has purchased!

If your school is among them, take advantage of this to discuss with kids the importance of healthy eating and nutritious foods. Ask which meals they particularly like or want to try. Make sure to point out what is the best choice, and once in a while, let your child pick out what he or she wants despite your input! Just let them know that the healthier foods will give them more energy for the rest of the school day and for after-school activities.

Counsel your kids to choose meals that contain fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean meats. Advise them to avoid fried foods (chicken fingers, french fries, fried chicken or fish) and heavily processed foods (hot dogs, lunch meats, processed cheeses, potato or corn chips, and commercial baked goods). They should also avoid sugary drinks, including fruit juices and sweet teas, and drink water or low-fat milk instead.

But at the same time, let them be kids too. Remember to allow them to make their own choices from time to time. Otherwise, they will feel stifled and rebel entirely against your efforts to help them build healthy eating habits!

Alternate bagged lunch days with cafeteria lunch days to maximize variety while still retaining significant control over what your kids eat. Done well, your kids will internalize the lessons they learn from you and from the choices they make on their own. This will help them be healthy for life.


Dr. Gardner is a mom of a three-year-old son, a pediatrician, and the founder of an online child wellness and weight management company, HealthyKidsCompany.com, in Washington, DC.


Infectious Diarrhea

August 12, 2013 by  
Filed under Uncategorized

by Mommy MD Guide Stacey Ann Weiland, MD

Infectious diarrhea is one of the most common childhood diseases worldwide, particularly in babies between the ages of 6 and 18 months. While it can be deadly in developing countries, even in the Western world, infectious diarrhea can sometimes be serious enough for parents to seek the advice of a physician, or even require hospitalization for their child.

About 70 percent of all cases of infectious diarrhea are caused by viruses. The most common of these is the rotavirus, which is responsible for 40 percent. Less common, but sometimes more serious, are the bacterial-induced cases, which account for 20 percent, while parasites cause fewer than 5 percent.

Although episodes of infectious diarrhea can occur throughout the year, rotavirus outbreaks show a seasonal pattern in temperate climates, with infections peaking during the winter months.

Generally, the most serious complication of infectious diarrhea is progressive dehydration. Infants may suffer major fluid losses from a combination of continuous watery stools, vomiting, and fever. Infants who develop mild to moderate dehydration may be more agitated or irritable, have diminished tear production, dry mucous membranes, decreased skin turgor, sunken eyes, and decreased urine output. More severe dehydration can lead to lethargy, fast heart rate, deep breathing, cold limbs, and a near absence of urination.

Early and adequate oral rehydration with a glucose-electrolyte solution is the best prevention for complications of infectious diarrhea and hospitalization. Over-the-counter oral rehydration solutions (ORS), such as Enfalyte or Pedialyte, are recommended over and above cola drinks, sports drinks, or homemade mixtures of juice, sugar, salt, and water. Colas contain an excessively high concentration of sugar and little sodium and potassium. Home remedies may lead to severe alterations in a child’s fluid and electrolyte status.

ORS is best given in multiple divided doses over 3 to 4 hours. For infants between 5 and 9 kilograms (11 to 20 pounds), 2 milliliters can be given every minute (120 milliliters /hour). For infants between 9 and 12 kilograms (20 to 26 pounds), 2.5 milliliters can be given every minute (150 milliliters /hour). For infants between 12 and 15 kilograms (26 to 33 pounds), 3.0 milliliters can be given every minute (180 milliliters /hour). If there is no associated vomiting, larger volumes can be given at longer intervals (10 to 15 milliliters every 5 minutes, or 20 to 30 milliliters every 10 minutes). Even for hospitalized children, oral rehydration has proven superior to intravenous therapy.

Breast feeding, formula, and solid food should not be withheld from a child with infectious diarrhea, and should be restarted within 4 to 6 hours after rehydration is started. Further, parents should not switch formulas, change to lactose free, or soy, etc., because this may lead to future food intolerance.

Toddlers should be reintroduced to foods appropriate for their age, starting with complex carbohydrates such as bread, noodles, potatoes, and rice. Juices with a high fructose content, such as apple and pear juice should be avoided.

Probiotics have shown some efficacy in reducing the duration of diarrhea, particularly compounds containing the Lactobacillus species. Antibiotics are generally unnecessary except in certain bacterial- or parasitic-induced cases of infectious diarrhea. Zinc supplementation has undergone intensive investigation in both the treatment and prevention of infectious diarrhea. While recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) since 2004 for children living in developing countries, results in the Western world remain equivocal.

Perhaps the best treatment for your child’s infectious diarrhea is prevention. As with many other infections, breastfeeding has been shown to protect against acute infectious enteritis. Good hygiene also has major benefits. Parents should always wash their hands after diaper changes and before handling food. Consumption of incompletely cooked meats, raw eggs, and unpasteurized milk also increase the risk of infectious diarrhea.

The rotavirus vaccine became available in the United States in February of 2006. Its introduction has led to a dramatic reduction in hospitalizations and emergency treatment due to rotavirus infections. Two different vaccines are currently licensed for infants in the United States, RotaTeq® (RV5) and Rotarix® (RV1). Both varieties can be given in combination with other vaccines and are often paired with the DTaP, Hib, Hepatitis B, Polio, and Pneumoccus vaccinations. The rotavirus vaccine is not a shot, but is given orally at 2, 4, and sometimes 6 months (depending on which vaccine is used).

Want to read more blogs by Mommy MD Guide Stacey Weiland, MD? Here’s her recent blog about raising children to be healthy eaters.

Would the Bloomberg Soda Ban Unfairly Target Poor People?

July 15, 2013 by  
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by Mommy MD Guide Ayala Laufer-Cahana, MD

Portion sizes have grown and so have we. Today’s kid-size soda at McDonalds (12 ounces, 110 calories) is 70 percent larger than the regular size (7 ounces) of the ’50s, and 32-ounce big gulps (310 calories) and food buckets wouldn’t have been fathomed several decades ago.

Are portion sizes to blame for our overeating? The obesity epidemic has multiple roots, but there’s very little doubt that when presented with larger portions, people tend to eat more, and that social norms affect what we perceive as acceptable behavior. So yes, most experts do see portion sizes and their attractive prices as culprits in the obesity crisis.

Last year, in an effort to shift the default portion size to something a little more logical, New York City proposed to cap the size of sugary drinks sold in food service to 16 ounces. It’s been a bumpy road for this proposed law, which was blocked this spring a day before it was supposed to take effect.

The free-choice and stay-out-of-my-business opposition to the proposed law is understandable, and I’m not going to get into it here. Will the cap reduce waistlines? If such a law ever passes, we’ll get to see if the predicted reductions in consumption play out.

The interesting question a new study set out to answer focuses on the argument that the so-called soda ban isn’t fair because it disproportionately affects low-income people.

Soda cap would target the overweight.

The new study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition from the Columbia University School of Health looked at the dietary records of almost 20,000 people, and found that about 60 percent of people consume sugary drinks on any given day, and of those, about 7.5 percent order a larger than 16-ounce cup. Two thirds of the large-size cups are bought at fast food restaurants.

The large-size purchases were more common in teens, young adults, and overweight and obese people. Although low-income people did buy more sugary drinks, they weren’t more likely to buy large ones.

This analysis suggests that capping soda at 16 ounces could disproportionately affect young people who are overweight or obese. The researchers calculated that if the cap led 80 percent of the people who order larger drinks to downsize to a 16 ounce, it would shave about 60 calories daily.

They, of course, don’t have to. Under the NYC proposal, anyone’s free to order as many 16-ounce drinks as they wish. The cap would just change the beverage landscape a little bit, and give people pause to consider whether the second 16 ounce is addressing thirst or habit.

Then, of course, even without the law in place, the endless debate and uproar against it is already doing that, so even without passage, the sugary drink cap is, I think, already a success.

Is There Scientific Basis for the Blood Type Diet?

June 14, 2013 by  
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by Mommy MD Guide Ayala Laufer-Cahana, MD

Why are so many of us struggling with our weight and suffering illness? According to naturopath Dr. Peter D’Adamo, knowing your blood type, and eating and exercising according to it, is the key to avoiding health and weight problems. His bestseller, Eat Right for Your Type, which was published in 1996, has been translated to more than 50 languages and has 7 million copies in print.

I know my blood type only too well. The Red Cross is extra excited with my O-negative donations (people with O-negative blood are considered universal donors), but as a pregnant woman, I had the pleasure of receiving plenty of shots to prevent hemolytic disease of the newborn.

So how should I be eating? “Type Os thrive on intense physical exercise and animal protein,” according to Eat Right for Your Type. Uh-oh! Although I exercise regularly, I’ve never run a marathon, and I’m a vegetarian; I eat lots of grains and legumes, which, according to Dr. D’Adamo, contribute to weight gain in my type. According to his diet, I should eat a lot of lean meat, which I don’t, and avoid gluten, oranges, mushrooms, cauliflower, coffee and tea, black pepper, all vinegars and beans, which I certainly don’t. I thought I was doing fine, but imagine how much better I could be feeling.

The science behind blood type diets

Blood types are perfectly scientific. There are about 30 different antigens than can be present or absent on the surface of a red blood cell. The ABO system for typing blood, which deals with just two of these antigens (A and B), is the most well known and useful, since ABO compatibility is the most important for blood transfusion—getting incompatible blood can be fatal. Most people have never heard of other blood types such as M, N, and Kell.

But do blood types really inform about our disease susceptibility and gastrointestinal fitness?

The book offers plenty of anecdotal “evidence” of people whose symptoms improved when they learned to eat for their blood type. Stories of success sound very convincing, and nothing makes as memorable an impression as personal testimony. But anecdotes are not proof.

A new study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition assessed the evidence for blood type diets in the scientific literature. The researchers looked for studies that grouped people according to blood type and studied whether adherence to a certain diet made a difference. Combing the entire life science and biomedical databases, the researchers could not find even one study showing an association between ABO blood type diets and health-related outcomes.

Not even one!

Is it possible that blood type affects susceptibility to disease and should predict your optimal diet? It is also perfectly possible that eye color and the curliness of hair could be associated with certain dietary outcomes, and that these traits are inherited together with traits that affect gastrointestinal differences. Much like the belief that blood type is predictive of personality, the notion that blood type affects metabolism and should determine your optimal diet is a belief, in this case, based on no facts whatsoever.

I have not given birth to any children of my blood type—a bit of good news. According to D’Adamo, my kids can thrive as vegetarians; so after proving I’m too lazy for “intense physical exercise,” you won’t be surprised that I’m also too lazy to cook separate, individual meals for my husband and three kids.

Growing Healthy Eaters

May 30, 2013 by  
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by Mommy MD Guide Stacey Weiland, MD

Getting our kids to eat right is no easy task. Our schedules are tight, and we are constantly driving from one activity to another. Poor food choices are readily available, and are often just easier to prepare. The last thing we as parents of today want to deal with is our child refusing to eat something we have put together.

We know what our kids are supposed to consume. According to the American Heart Association, children between the ages of 2 and 3 should have 2 cups of milk or dairy, 1 cup of fruit, 1 cup of vegetables, 3 ounces of grains, and 2 ounces of lean meat or beans daily. Fats should be limited to 30 to 35 percent of all calories.

Probably the most difficult food on the list is the vegetables, particularly the dark-green varieties. According to the 2004 Feeding Infants and Toddlers Study, children typically eat more fruits than vegetables, with 25 percent eating less than one vegetable per day.

Why is it so difficult for us to get enough vegetables into our children? Some hypothesize that our preference for sweet- over bitter-tasting foods is evolutionary in nature. Sweet flavors connote the presence of sugar, a quick form of energy, while bitter-tasting foods may harbor the presence of toxic substances or poisons. In fact, studies demonstrate that a person’s preference for bitter foods (e.g., dark-green vegetables) and beverages (e.g., coffee) are largely learned.

Putting our children on the path toward healthy eating may begin even before birth. A child’s prenatal exposure to certain food flavors have been shown to lead to greater acceptance and enjoyment of these foods during weaning. In a study by Mennella et al, published in the Journal of Pediatrics in 2001, infants whose mothers drank carrot juice during the last trimester of pregnancy were more likely to enjoy carrot-flavored cereals than those infants whose mothers did not drink carrot juice or eat carrots.

Food ingested by mothers who are breastfeeding also has an impact on a child’s later diet tendencies. A variety of food flavors are transmitted to human milk. Breastfed infants tend to be less picky, are more willing to try new foods, and tend to consume more fruits and vegetables compared with formula-fed infants.

Transitioning babies to solid foods is the first real opportunity that children have to taste these foods for themselves. It is generally recommended that babies be given yellow vegetables first, followed by green vegetables, and then fruits. One interesting study by Forestell et al, published in the Journal of Pediatrics in 2007, found that children who were fed peaches shortly after they were given green beans, during the first 8 days of exposure to green beans, tended to be more accepting of this dark-green vegetable later on. Associating the bitter food with sweetness appeared to make this food more palatable.

Repeated exposure and modeling are also very important. Children tend to be more accepting of foods if they are offered it on multiple occasions. Don’t forget that you as a parent need to eat healthy, too. Your child is constantly watching you. Good habits in eating are learned not just by what you say, but by what you do.

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