Friday, March 19, 2010

New York City Ban on School Bake Sales--Moms Say "No Fair"

Today moms held a "bake-in" recently in New York City to protest the ban on the selling of home baked goods at school. In an effort to curb rising childhood obesity rates, NYC banned the sale of home made desserts. Moms say this is an important way for PTA's to raise funds to help with school arts programs and other needed projects that schools can't pay for. On the other hand, packaged snacks that meet certain nutrition criteria (such as no more than 35% fat) can be sold.

Is the NYC restriction on bake sales pushing kids in the wrong direction--towards packaged snacks instead of home made food? In my opinion--YES! I sit firmly on the mom's side in this debate. However, I do understand what the officals are thinking--they can control food intake if they know what's in the food--which you can do more easily with a packaged food that has a label.

In fact, I crafted a "Healthy Snack Guidelines" for the El Paso ISD, as the chair of the School Health Advisory Council. In Texas, the school day is already well regulated--no sodas in elementary or middle schools and part of our health policy allowed kids to buy water any time of the day. What I had a problem with was what was sold after school--it was a junk food free-for-all! Kids could buy candy, soda, chips--any of the food not allowed during school--once the bell rang and school was out. I saw this as a mixed message to students--the PTA is raising money to do plenty of good things--but they are doing it at the peril of student health. The guidelines are to help PTA's find healthier snacks--to steer clear of sodas, candy etc---but it doesn't regulate bake sales, which don't happen that often anyway.

The sad thing about the NYC ban is this: Cooking is a lost art and many kids never get the pleasure of smelling a cake baking or the joy of eating a freshly baked chocolate chip cookie right out of the oven. Bake sales give kids an opportunity to taste "real food." The point of school is to educate children--bake sales teach kids what wonderful things you can do with a few ingredients and a little motivation. Sure, they have sugar and fat but let's face it--don't we all like to indulge occasionally. Besides teaching our kids to read the label on packaged snacks, it's also vital that we teach them to enjoy high quality food--but to eat it in moderation!

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Three Healthy Habits that Say No to Childhood Obesity

In health, as in life, sometimes the formula for success is simple. In this case, it's about some family routines that are fairly easy for most families:
  • Eat together as a family
  • Sleep enough
  • Have minimal of screen time
These three habits may be important in preventing childhood obesity. In the March 1 issue of Pediatrics, a study which looked at over 8000 children found that the 4 year old children who were regularly exposed to 2 or 3 of the routines were about 40% less likely to be overweight than those children who had none of the routines.

Did the routines have to be practiced to perfection? No. With regularity? Yes. They looked at eating together as a family 5 nights a week, the preschooler sleeping 10.5 hours and having less than 2 hours of combined screen time. These are practical targets for most families and simple enough.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Childhood Obesity Prevention: Start before Pregnancy

A new study in Pediatrics highlights some of the risk factors for childhood obesity that begin during pregnancy or the two first years of life:

  • depression during pregnancy
  • more rapid weight gain during first 6 months of life
  • introduction to solid foods before 4 months
  • more restrictive feeding practices
  • television sets in a toddler's room after 2

There are other risk factors during and even before pregnancy that increases a baby's risk of being overweight:

  • Being underweight or overweight before pregnancy
  • Not gaining enough weight--or gaining too much weight during pregnancy
  • Having gestational diabetes--or abnormal blood glucose levels during pregnancy
I believe that to really halt childhood obesity, we need to start before pregnancy--and at the very least early pregnancy. Women often don't see their health care provider right when they learn they are pregnant. This is a missed opportunity for education about health habits and weight gain, that could help a mom have a healthier pregnancy and a smaller chance of a newborn who will grow up to be overweight.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Six Baby Products I wish I'd Had!

I've "been there, done that twice"--had babies, that is. But lots of cool products have come out since the days my boys were crib-size. Here's my wish list of things I wish I'd had--but it's not too late for you to try them!

  1. Diaper Wipe Warmer: yep that sure would have come in handy in Colorado, where I lived when my kids were born. But no matter what climate you live in, those wipes ALWAYS seem to be cold!
  2. Baby Bath with attached spray head. Ok, let's just call it a baby spa!
  3. Bottle that's more breast-like. I'm impressed with the look of the Tommee Tippee Closer to Nature bottle, which looks more like mom's breast. My youngest had the hardest time drinking from a bottle--this may have done the trick. I'd love to know what moms out there think of it.
  4. The Boppy Pillow--with it you don't have to pile up a bunch of different sized pillows to get the right effect!
  5. Organic Infant Formula--my boys were mostly breastfed--but when they did have formula it would have been great to have a pesticide-free choice.
  6. Video Baby Monitor; no more guessing is he waking up or just making noise?