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Archive for the 'children’s health' Category

Leaving the peanuts out of the lunch bag


The other day my youngest asked that I modify the lunch I pack her and leave out the chocolate peanut butter cup.

She doesn’t eat lunch in the cafeteria except on Fridays, so whatever I put in her brown bag is eaten in her classroom, she said, and she worries that someone in the class might have a peanut allergy.

“I know it’s my favorite dessert,” she said. “But I can’t be sure there isn’t someone nearby who might be affected. You can keep it in for Friday, though.”

I used to wonder what would be the upshot of all the health education and peanut-free table alerts and cutbacks in what you can bring into your child’s elementary school classroom for a birthday treat.

Now I know. It’s an awareness of others on a whole different level that I don’t think my generation had.

That strikes me as not being a bad thing.

Posted by Randi Weiner on Tuesday, November 18th, 2008 at 9:43 am |
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Nearly fat-free brownies


Last week, I interviewed Sandi Jeanette of Good Samaritan Hospital about a talk she was giving on kid nutrition, health and obesity at Pearl River’s recent Parent University.

During our chat, she mentioned she was handing out recipes for healthy snacks for kids (and adults) that didn’t have that ‘low-fat’ taste. She kindly faxed me a copy of Fudgy Buttermilk Brownies, reprinted with permission from the “New American Heart Association Cookbook, Second Edition,” printed in 2004.

I’m old enough to remember when Hidden Valley Ranch Dressing was only a packet of seasonings that you added to mayonnaise and buttermilk. I used to use it as a base to cook chicken.

I occasionally still use buttermilk in cooking, so I have it around the house. Don’t have buttermilk on hand? The easy substitute is to use a tablespoon of vinegar or lemon juice added to milk to make a cup. And for those who don’t cook regularly, confectioner’s sugar is another name for powdered sugar.

For this recipe, you’ll need a vegetable oil spray to grease the pan.

Here’s the recipe:

Fudgy Buttermilk Brownies

Serves 16: 1 brownie per serving. Can be topped with fat-free frozen yogurt.


1 cup all-purpose flour

1 cup firmly packed light brown sugar

1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

Whites of two large eggs and one large egg, or the egg white and an egg substitute equivalent of one egg

1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce

1/2 cup low-fat or fat-free buttermilk

2 teaspoons vanilla extract


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Lightly spray a 9-inch square baking pan with vegetable oil spray. In a medium bowl, stir together the flour, brown sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt. In a small bowl, lightly whisk the egg whites. Whisk in the remaining brownie ingredients. Whisk into the flour mixture until well blended. Pour the batter into the baking pan. Bake for 30 minutes. Let cool in the pan on a cooling rack. Cut into 16 squares.

My family normally doesn’t frost brownies. We just sprinkle them lightly with confectioner’s sugar. However, if you’d like to frost these brownies, here is the recommended topping:


1 1/2  cups sifted confectioner’s sugar

1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 to 3 tablespoons of fat-free milk


In a small bowl, stir together the confectioner’s sugar and cocoa powder. Stir in the vanilla extract, then gradually stir in the milk until the frosting is spreading consistency. Spread over the cooled brownies. Cut into 16 squares.

Nutritional analysis (per serving)

Calories: 148                    Carbohydrates: 34 g

Total fat: 0.5 g                  Fiber: 1 g

Sodium: 98 mg                  Sugars: 25 g

Protein: 2 g                        Cholesterol: 0 mg

(saturated, polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats, 0 g each)

Posted by Randi Weiner on Tuesday, November 11th, 2008 at 9:39 am |
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Weight, Weight…Don’t tell me!


At a recent visit with our children’s pediatrician for their annual check up, Grandma got an A+. Apparently, in the first month my mom spent with us, my 5-year-old son Krishna had gained 2 lbs. That might sound real easy for those of us with slow metabolic rates, but it’s not so simple when it comes to my fussy eater.

Her trick: Don’t take no for an answer. The doctor might tell you that they’ll eat when they’re hungry, and that as along as they are active, you’ve nothing to worry about.

But some kids NEVER get hungry. And the reason they eat, I have come to realize, is out of pity for their parents!

Now that the kids are home on their summer break, Grandma is on their case 24/7, and it seems to be working! Knock on wood!!!

Mothers, any tricks or tips ?

Posted by Swapna Venugopal on Wednesday, July 30th, 2008 at 4:58 pm |
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Hunger in the Lower Hudson Valley


One of the best and worst things about working as a journalist in a small, close-knit region like the Lower Hudson Valley is that you come in contact with representatives from many charitable organizations looking to raise awareness about their cause. Name a problem (affordable housing, hunger, health care and mental health issues, disaster relief, etc.) and chances are good that there is an organization of dedicated volunteers mobilized to try and help residents cope.

Since becoming a mother, however, I find myself getting more emotional when I think about those issues and problems that impact children. It’s especially upsetting to know that children in the Lower Hudson Valley go hungry on a regular basis, and the numbers will only grow as the economy falters. The anguish a parent must experience when they can’t provide this basic need or worry where tomorrow or next week’s breakfast, lunch and dinner will come from. It’s called food insecurity and the people who volunteer at regional food pantries will tell you that it’s much more prevalent than you might think.


Food pantries can be a lifesaver, literally. Most of them gladly accept donations of non-perishable foods, money or volunteer time. And they need to keep their shelves stocked all year ’round, not just at Thanksgiving and Christmas, when we traditionally think about food drives. Check the Web site or call for more information. Here are just a few in the region:

Community Center of Northern Westchester, Route 117, Katonah.

Food Bank for Westchester, 358 Saw Mill River Road, Millwood, 914-923-110.

Westchester Coalition for the Hungry and Homeless, 48 Mamaroneck Ave., White Plains, 914-682-2737.

Gilead Presbyterian Church, 9 Church St., Carmel, 845-225-4586.

People to People Inc., 121 W. Nyack Road, Nanuet, 845-623-4900.

Food Bank of the Hudson Valley, 195 Hudson St., Cornwall-on-Hudson, 845-534-5344.

The Rockland County Department of Social Services posts a list of food pantries and soup kitchens on its Web site.

Make a difference in a child’s life. Pick up an extra box of cereal or a few canned goods and donate today. A family will thank you.

Photo by Kathy Gardner

Posted by Tracey Princiotta on Thursday, May 15th, 2008 at 9:00 am |
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Soy … oh boy!!!


Several years ago, when I was living in California, I was a vegetarian. I ate tons of vegetables, rice and pasta. I was probably 30 pounds heavier too. My reason for turning to starch and greens was mostly because I didn’t like the way I felt after I ate beef.tjndc5-5b1cgcnvrpw10ddslnpe_original-2-2.jpg

Living in California, amongst the granola and shots of wheat grass , also played in part in my decision making. My diet began to change when I put fish back in my diet. Chicken followed and now I’ll occasionally eat a hamburger or steak. But one thing that I grew fond of during those years was tofu and stuff like soy-based hot dogs and cheese and soy milk. I’m sure I’ve elicited several ewws, but I like the taste and it’s also low-cal.

Which leads me to the point of this post.

I had these soy patties that I gave to Zyla, my one-year-old, the other day and she loved them.

Of course, she loves chicken and pork chops too. But when you surf the Internet about giving soy products to babies, there are several warnings that it can cause reproductive or developmental harm. While there is conflicting research about the health risks of soy, I’m left wondering if I should just leave it out of her diet.

But my gut feeling is that how could tofu be unhealthy?

1998 soybean photo by Larry McCormack, via Gannett News Service

Posted by Marcela Rojas on Wednesday, April 16th, 2008 at 2:05 pm |
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How the cost of food can make children less healthy


A few weeks ago, my husband came home from our local bagel store with horrible news: the price of bagels was going up.

tjndc5-5eg81s60c0h5jfqr41q_original-2.jpgThe cost of flour, the nice lady at the store had told him and Rafael, was going up from $25 to $50 in one leap and she expected it to go up another $10 any day.

The unfortunate side effect of her huge cost increase, naturally, was that our bagels now cost more.

They’re really good bagels and we only buy about a dozen a week, so we’re not feeling an extreme pinch.

But I had that in mind when I read an article by Associated Press business writer Ellen Simon (coincidentally, a college classmate of mine), about how increasing food costs are severely squeezing the poor.

It was this sentence, however, that really got my attention. It’s in reference to how the working poor may have to resort to methods to save even $5 a week that are not best for their children’s health. Of course, it’s still healthier for their children to actually eat rather than go hungry:

For the U.S. poor, any increase in food costs sets up an either-or equation: Give something up to pay for food.
“I was talking to people who make $9 an hour, talking about how they might save $5 a week,” said Kathleen DiChiara, president and CEO of the Community FoodBank of New Jersey. “They really felt they couldn’t. That was before. Now, they have to.”
For some, that means adding an extra cup of water to their soup, watering down their milk, or giving their children soda because it’s cheaper than milk, DiChiara said.

Of course, it’s very easy to sit where I do and reflect on how horrible it is that people would give their children soda instead of milk, but I’m fortunate enough not to know such financial pressures. To be sure, we’re not sitting on easy street by any means. But things aren’t so tough that we have to choose cheap soda over ever-more-expensive milk.

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Posted by Amy Vernon on Tuesday, April 15th, 2008 at 10:02 am |


Enemy vegetable


It seems a long time ago, but when my oldest son was going through his “I hate vegetables” phase, my husband decided to allow him one enemy vegetable. It’s good to give in once in a while, he said.

That is, until Billi decided he would change his enemy vegetable every day, depending on what was on the menu.broccoli.jpg

His aversion to vegetables changed when we started going to a Chinese restaurant in our neighborhood. The menu included a broccoli appetizer that had sauteed garlic sprinkled over it. Boy! Did he inhale that plate! Soon it was a staple when we ate at the resturant, along with Peking Duck.

Billi’s appetite for vegetables changed after that. His favorites are now spinach sauteed with garlic and dried red chilli peppers, grilled zucchini, and green peas with cilantro and ginger, all of which I happily cook at home.

That makes me wonder if our kids don’t like vegetables because we present them in such an uninteresting way. My theory is that in the West vegetables are an afterthought; something we throw in after we’ve decided what the main menu is. We eat it because its good for us. As adults we understand that, but do kids?

In many eastern cultures, vegetables are a big part of the diet. In India, where I come from, many people are vegetarians and therefore work to make vegetables interesting. We should, too. Maybe kids will then eat vegetables.

Wishful thinking, you say? Give it a try.

Photo by Carucha L. Meuse / The Journal News / LoHud.com

Posted by Hema Easley on Tuesday, April 8th, 2008 at 5:19 pm |
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Casa de old school


I’m all for doing things differently from how we were raised, revisiting how it used to be when kids walked to school in their barefeet through blizzards, uphill both ways.

Especially if I think my way is safer, better or just plain works for my family. Progress is good. Knowledge is power. Remember how we used to ride in the “way back” of a wood-paneled station wagon, unbuckled, face pressed against the back window?

But I’ve recently learned that old school is still sometimes the best school. Some readers will recall my vegetable-hating oldest, now 6. I’d hide bits of shredded carrots and zucchini in super sweet cinnamon muffins. I’d try every trick in the book for the teensiest taste. Some tips worked, others didn’t.

What do you do? Magazines and books are full of suggestions. Kids can be full of opposition. So I figured I’d just keep trying and wait for him to come to his senses. One day he’d wake up and discover the sweet comfort of roasted root vegetables on a cold winter night, the earthy goodness of asparagus in spring. Just you wait. And at least the younger two love their veggies.

But pre-K became K and K became first grade. It became increasingly clear that he was settling comfortably into his near vegetable-free existence. He was going to be like a college acquaintance who spent our semester abroad in London eating at the McDonald’s on Kensington High Street.

So the proverbial parental foot came crashing down. (And I’m in no way taking the credit here. My husband is the one who really took the big leap forward on this, though I certainly agreed it was time to do something.)

Vegetables would be eaten. No arguments, no pleading, no nothing. It was 1950 all over again. And as every parent knows, once you start, you can’t waver. Kids can smell a weakening resolve a mile away. They must believe you will keep them there all night until they finish. In his corner he gets to use a “strategy,” an amazing bit of parenting pixie dust my husband devised.

He’ll say, what’s your strategy? And they’ll work it out together. It might involve ketchup or eating the veggies together with something else on his plate. All fine by us. If it makes it into the stomach, it’s all good in the ‘hood.

The result? I won’t lie about the tears in the beginning. Change is hard for any kid, especially when we let them coast along thinking they’ve somehow landed on culinary Easy Street where the sidewalks are paved with chicken nuggets. But here’s a list of what is in his regular vegetable rotation now: corn, French cut green beans, peas, carrots, broccoli. He professes to hate them all, but that’s the least of my worries. He’s actually eating them.

My only regret? That we didn’t do it sooner.

(Photo credit: Mark Vergari / The Journal News)

Posted by Katie Ryan O'Connor on Monday, March 31st, 2008 at 1:16 pm |

The pesticides your children are ingesting


I’ve always wondered about organic food and whether I should make sure that’s what my children (and the rest of my family!) are eating.


We only buy organic milk for the tots because I’ve always figured that the ever-earlier puberty dates and skyrocketing “average” heights for children just might have something to do with all those growth hormones given to cattle. Organic milk is more expensive, but worth it, we figure.

But what about the fruits and veggies? The cereals and snacks? It sure does get expensive and, besides, how bad can “regular” foods be? Everyone else is eating it, right?

So then I saw this (very) recent article from the Seattle Post-Intelligencer about a study that said, well, I’ll let you read it for yourself:

The peer-reviewed study found that the urine and saliva of children eating a variety of conventional foods from area groceries contained biological markers of organophosphates, the family of pesticides spawned by the creation of nerve gas agents in World War II.

I did some hunting around and found the original study — you can download a pdf of it here or just check out the abstract here. The Environmental Working Group, “a nonprofit environmental research organization” also did a study, here‘s the pdf.

The bottom line? When the children ate organic produce and juices, the pesticides basically disappear. Chensheng Lu, an Emory University professor and principal author of the peer-reviewed study, told the P-I the change is actually that fast, a matter of eight to 36 hours, depending on how much of the pesticides was measured:

Once you switch from conventional food to organic, the pesticides that we can measure in the urine disappears. The level returns immediately when you go back to the conventional diets.

I could go on and add more tidbits, such as the fact that the children live in an area with twice the national median income and that no direct links have been proven between the pesticides and “adverse health outcomes.” But just go read the whole article.

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Posted by Amy Vernon on Wednesday, March 26th, 2008 at 5:42 pm |
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