‘Tis the season to take note of your hunger cues

Did you know it takes about 10 minutes once we have started eating for our bodies to notice the change? It’s important to eat slowly enough to give ourselves time to adjust. Our bodies send signals that we have had enough, like our belly actually feeling a bit more filled up. If we eat too much too fast we can’t notice those cues.

‘Tis the season to enjoy parties, family gatherings and lots of food, but with a little help, you can help your kids from eating too much during the holidays. Here’s a simple way to gauge before, during and after eating what state we’re in. Ask yourself, or your kids, how do I feel:

  • Pretty hungry, my stomach feels empty
  • Just right! Not too hungry or too full; satisfied
  • Too full, I ate too much

Remember, being hungry is different from a craving and we can teach ourselves to better listen to our body to know the difference. This is an important habit that can make a difference in your child’s future health. Check out our “How Hungry Am I?” and “What’s My Portion Size?” lessons for more information. Establishing good, life-long, health habits starts now!

Are your kids getting enough sleep?

Everybody needs sleep. Adults generally require about seven to nine hours of sleep, newborns need more than 16 hours per day. Children fall somewhere in between, with teens needing nine to 10 hours per day and preschoolers 11 to 12 (this amount can include naps).

Sleep plays an important role in healthy growth and development. Our body needs the deep rest it gets during sleep. It helps prevent injury and illness and helps our brain develop well.

Sleep also helps us remember what we’ve learned, it helps us pay attention and concentrate, solve problems and think of new ideas. Studies show that people can focus better when they’ve had enough sleep, that’s especially important for kids during school. Having enough sleep simply makes us feel better during the day.

Here are some things that can help anyone get into a good sleep routine:

  1. Go to sleep at about the same time every night.
  2. Do the same relaxing activities every night, like brushing teeth and reading a story. These activities will help you calm down.
  3. Avoid drinks that have caffeine in them, such as coffee or cola.
  4. Get some exercise every day (but not too close to bedtime).
  5. Take a nice warm bath or shower before bed.

Setting the stage for good sleep now is an important habit that can make a difference in your child’s future health. Check out our “Super Sleep” lesson for more information. Establishing good, life-long, health habits starts now!

What you need to know about food allergies

Kids with food allergies often have anxiety about food. They may feel left out at meals or parties, or get teased or bullied because they are different, yet it’s actually fairly common to have a food allergy. In fact, one in 13 kids under the age of six has a food allergy, which equals about two kids in every classroom.

As Halloween approaches, it’s a good time to review food allergy information. While any food can cause an allergic reaction, the most common reactions come from peanuts, tree nuts, milk, eggs, wheat, soy, fish and shellfish. Symptoms of an allergic reaction may range from minor such as itching and hives, to anaphylaxis, a whole-body reaction that can include stomach pain or cramping, trouble breathing, confusion, cough, diarrhea, trouble swallowing, fainting, nausea, vomiting and more.

If a person is having a food allergy reaction, they need help right away. Depending on the symptoms they may need an antihistamine or epinephrine.

As you prepare to celebrate holidays and special events, here are a few considerations: 

  1. Hold the chocolate. Add some chocolate-free, peanut-free treats to your bowl. Nearly all chocolate treats on the market are made on equipment shared with peanuts and tree nuts (and are unsafe for those with milk allergy). Take a look at the chocolate-free options – such as Dum Dums® suckers, DOTS® and Smarties®. (Remember to always read labels and check with parents before giving any food to children with food allergies.)
  2. Mix it up! Change the focus to non-food treats, such as holiday-themed pencils, notepads, stickers, goofy erasers or fun rings.
  3. Wash your hands! If students with food allergies come in contact with food from sticky fingerprints, it can make them sick, too. Washing hands after you eat is a great way to prevent unsafe foods from getting on shared tables, desks, school supplies, and toys or games.

Help the kids in your life be aware of their own – or a friend’s – food allergies and check out our “Food Allergy Awareness” lesson.  Establishing good, life-long, eating habits starts now!

Keeping your food safe

We’re all enjoying our fair share of BBQs, picnics and summer outings. But are we – and our kids – aware of how to keep our food safe? Do we really know how long to grill those kabobs? Many of us could use a refresher on safe ways to handle and prepare food.

When we eat foods that have harmful bacteria or germs, we are susceptible to food poisoning. You can’t see, smell, or taste harmful bacteria that may cause illness. Most of the germs that can cause food poisoning come from animals, such as meat, eggs, milk, shellfish, raw foods and unwashed produce.

While some bacteria can be good for us, there are many things to do to prevent us from getting sick from the foods we eat. When you prepare food for yourself and your family, use these tips to help ensure that it’s safe to eat.

Wash your hands before and after handling food.

  • Wash counters and food preparation areas with soap and water before cooking.
  • Wash fruits and vegetables before eating.
  • Only eat foods that are cooked right – if it doesn’t look done, don’t eat it.
  • If a food smells or looks different than it normally would, the food might be spoiled and you shouldn’t eat or drink it.
  • Keep leftovers only 3 to 4 days in the fridge and heat them up well before eating.
  • Check expiration dates and use the food before it expires. Don’t eat if it is after the expiration date.
  • Germs grow best at room temperature, so cover and refrigerate food right away to keep the bacteria from growing out of control.

Before you prepare your next meal, take a look at our, “Safe food is good food,” lesson to help teach your kids how to keep their food safe.  

Looking for healthy recipes to share? Check out our Healthful Recipes board on Pinterest!

Summer sun protection

Whether you’re hitting the beach, playing at the park or grilling in the backyard, outdoor activities mean lots of sun. Before your little ones head outside on the next warm day, make sure they are fully protected against the sun.

As the body’s main source of Vitamin D, everybody needs some exposure to the sun. However, most people do not need a lot of sun exposure to get the vitamin D that they need. In fact, too much unprotected sun exposure can cause damage to the skin, eyes, and even cause skin cancer. Without proper sun protection, kids can end up with a painful sunburn today that may lead to some serious problems in the future.

While outside, kids should wear a sunscreen with a SPF (sun protection factor) of 30 or higher. They should also be especially careful from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. when the sun is the strongest. It is important that sunscreen is reapplied often, especially after getting the skin wet. It may be helpful to wear long sleeves and a hat to protect the skin from overexposure.

If the skin does burn, there are some things you can do to make it feel better.

  • Take a cool bath.
  • Apply pure aloe vera gel to any part of the skin that is sunburned.
  • Use a moisturizing cream to rehydrate the skin to treat itching.

Before your next summer outing, take some time to look at our, “Safe and Fun, In the Sun”, lesson to help the kids in your life stay safe in the sun.

Snacking made easy!

School’s out and it finally feels like summer. That means more activities like baseball, soccer, swimming and playing at the park to name a few – and that adds up to hungry kids! When a snack-attack hits, you want to be ready with healthy choices that give your kids the energy they need to run, swim and play on a summer day.

Kids often view snacks as a bag of chips, cookies or candy. In doing so, they are missing an opportunity to get much needed nutrients through a healthful snack choice. Snacks should be part of a healthful diet and help kids refuel between meals to satisfy hunger.

When we think of healthful snack choices we should look to the five food groups – vegetables, fruits, grains, dairy and protein. For example, string cheese (dairy) and carrot sticks (vegetable). Potato chips may start out as a healthful vegetable but after processing, it becomes high in calories, fat and sodium.

Before your next outing, take some time to look at our kid-friendly recipes on Allinahealth.org. Also check out our “Smart Snacking”, “Create Your Own Healthful Snack” and “Power Up with Snacks” lessons to help the kids in your life eat right and stay healthy.

Knowing what matters can help you destress

Spring has finally sprung. You and the kids are getting outside for some fresh air and it feels great – but you’ve noticed your commitments are starting to pile up and it’s causing some anxiety. If you’re feeling stressed, it’s likely your kids are feeling it too. That’s why it’s important to recognize those feelings and take some time to find balance.

A lot of people talk about “finding balance” in life. For adults, it’s usually work-life balance. For kids, it usually means having a good mix of school, activities, time with friends and family, and time to just relax.

What sometimes gets missed in this conversation is talking about values. Values are really the foundation for how we can find balance in life. If we know what’s important to us and make decisions about how to spend our time based on that we’ll be more likely to feel at ease, successful, happy and well.

Be sure to check out our “Know What Matters to You”, It’s All in the Breathing and “Guided Imagery for Younger Children” lessons to help the kids in your life de-stress and stay balanced.

You may also be interested in learning how mindfulness can help you rediscover joyful living. According to Maureen Doran, RD, LD, Mindfulness Training facilitator, Penny George Institute for Health and Healing – Abbott Northwestern Hospital, “Many of us are in a state of ‘continuous partial attention’. In fact, we are taught to splinter our attention and focus on many things at one time.”