Digital Detox: Can you do it?

Could you go screen-free for a week? Could your family unplug for seven days?

Image from: www.screenfree.org

In today’s society this may not be a realistic feat, nor a beneficial one, but it is certainly something to consider. In 1994, the Center for Screen-Time Awareness (CSTA) initiated a National Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood. More than 20 years ago researchers were keen on the dangers of excessive screen time. Today, “screens” have been embedded into our society so much so that it may be detrimental to say good bye to screens for a whole week. The “screen” environment makes our lives more efficient, interactive and can improve communication. Nevertheless, the research remains that when we turn off screens, we “turn on life.” Therefore, the choice is yours; are you all-in to pursue a digital detox for seven days? Or, are screens (smart phones, tablets, computers, TV, etc.) so critical to livelihood that perhaps only turning off recreational screens for a week is suitable? Either way, the challenge is on.

In the month of May, groups nationwide will encourage millions to turn off their televisions, tablets and gaming systems and go Screen-Free for 1 Week. This impetus will foster a digital respite and encourage entertainment found in reading, playing, daydreaming, exploring the outdoors and spending quality time with family and friends. On average, preschool children spend four-plus hours each day consuming media from screens and this only escalates as we age. Older children spend seven or more hours daily and adults consume an average of 10 hours of screen time daily, albeit it is not all recreational usage. There’s no doubt that there is a place for screens in our lives but too much of a good thing can certainly be a bad thing.

Excessive screen time is linked to a number of learning and health problems for children and adults, including obesity, difficulties with attention and focus, sleep disturbances, behavior problems and poor performance at school.  The health risks have become so great that the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) issued a statement in 2016 with screen time rules, by age:

  • Less than 18 months of age: No screen time
  • Children 2 to 5 years: Less than one hour daily
  • Children 6 years to adulthood: Less than two hours daily

Ideal forms of media for children include those that are educational and limit commercials. Commercials have found to over-stimulate young children, and they often lack the cognitive skills to truly understand the messaging.

So, what can you, and your family, do with the extra 14-50 hours each week? The possibilities are endless!

  • Go on a family walk, hike or bike ride.
  • Put a puzzle together.
  • Play a board game or charades.
  • Turn on music and have a dance party.
  • Read a book or look at a family photo album.
  • Go to a local park.
  • Go to the library.
  • Explore free community events.
  • Work through homework together.
  • Write a story as a family.
  • Tackle that to-do list.

After screen-free week has come and gone, keep the habit going! Honor the time with friends and family as well as your health, and consume media just like those sweet treats – in moderation.

Let’s Deskercise!

Today’s workforce finds themselves either standing for the majority of the day as a result of their occupation (wait staff, cashier, cook/chef, hairdresser, etc) or seated for the majority of the day. Many have found themselves either seeking opportunities to stand and move throughout their day or grab a chair to rest. It appears that there are health consequences for prolonged sitting and standing; Are we darned if we sit and darned if we stand?

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Standing for 30% or more of the workday, or 2 ½ hours in a row without a movement break, can have health complications comparable to those of sedentary lifestyles. Prolonged standing- in the same position- can lead to issues within the circulatory, musco-skeletal and endocrine systems. More specifically:

  • Pain and swelling in the legs and feet from reduced circulation
  • Varicose veins leading to backflow of blood
  • Achilles tendonitis
  • Heel problems, Plantar fascitis
  • Lower back pain from compression of the lumbar spine
  • Heart and circulatory problems due to the body attempting to push blood against gravity (venous insufficiency)

However, don’t let this scare you into sitting. Research has unveiled that long periods of sedentary time can result in obesity and metabolic syndrome. Metabolic syndrome is a disease state where an individual has three or more of the following: high blood pressure, high blood sugar, low HDL cholesterol, high triglycerides, or excess body fat around the waist (visceral fat). Excess sitting can also increase risk of death from cardiovascular disease and cancer. So, how much is too much?

The aforementioned risks of prolonged standing appear to arise with daily standing exceeding 4 hours. The research on sitting is mixed but appears to be about the same. Sitting for more than 4 hours without movement breaks each day can lead to additional health risks. Additionally, a daily trip to the gym does not appear to reduce the risk of excessive sitting. So, change is still warranted even if you work out and then head to your desk or easy chair for the remainder of the day.

The solution is a mix and balance of sitting, standing, moving and stretching. If you are seeking ways to get moving, consider taking 3; Sit for 60 minutes and then move for 3 minutes. During the 3-minute movement break one could:

  • Walk to grab a drink of water.
  • Walk to a co-worker versus sending an email.
  • Stand and stretch.
  • Walk up and down a few flights of stairs.
  • Step outside- or stay inside to walk around the building.

This break will provide the heart-pumping activity your body is looking for.

If you are a stander, needing to work in opportunities to sit, consider standing for an hour and then sitting for 30-60 minutes. After the 1 to 2 hours, take 3 and engage in any of the above movement break activities mentioned above.

Whether you are a sitter or a stander, everyone benefits from deskercising! The following are some suggested exercises to enjoy at your desk.

Cardio

Give your heart rate a boost by:

  • Perform 20 jumping jacks.
  • Jog or march in place for 1 minute.
  • Wander the cubicles for a few minutes.
  • Celebrate a success with a few squat jumps.

Lower body

Wake up your booty and legs by:

  • Removing your chair and performing wall sits for 30-60 seconds.
  • Perform a few sets of calf-raises while waiting for that 100-page document to print.
  • Tone up your seat by squeezing your buttocks for 10 seconds then release. Repeat this 3-5 times.
  • Lunge or Squat up and down every time you use the phone.

Upper body

Loosen up your neck and shoulders and practice proper posture by:

  • Swimming laps; pretend to be swimming while performing arm circles.
  • Release steam or rock out with a few fist pumps over 60 seconds, then switch. Whether your boxing or clubbing, your arms will appreciate it.
  • Practice 15 tricep dips by placing the heels of your hands on your desk and lowering your body up and down.
  • Shoulder shrug with a pencil pinch can correct your posture. Shrug shoulders up and then roll them back while attempting to pinch a pencil between your shoulder blades. Hold the pinch for 10 seconds and repeat.
  • Wall push-ups can give you an aerobic lift while loosening your chest after a prolonged sit.
  • Look around to stretch your neck. Intentionally look up as far as you can, down as far as you can, to the left and then to the right and repeat this circuit as many times as you wish.

Don’t hesitate in incorporating these tips but, consider starting small and slow. Your effort will not be in vain. The impact of the rest and intentional physical activity that you will provide your body throughout the day will be profound!

You Are What Your Mom Ate

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The study of fetal origins is relatively young but is a robust field of research involving epigenetics, developmental biology, nutrition and public health. The fetal origin research is composed of two hypotheses focused on the: 1) Developmental origins of health and disease and 2) fetal origins. The first is different because it focuses on the fetal environment and the environment within the first days of life. The fetal origins hypothesis focuses solely on gestation and its impacts on health at birth on into adulthood. This research is fascinating because it demonstrates the impact of maternal stress, health nutrition on the unborn child or children.

The Thrifty Gene

How we respond to our food environment may start very early. The “Thrifty phenotype” hypothesis suggests that poor fetal nutrition followed by abundance may lead to an increased risk of chronic disease later in life due to the metabolic adaptations made in utero. For example, lack of nutrients in the wombs may make permanent changes in the body’s insulin and glucose metabolism, which could make a person more susceptible to insulin-related disease states in adulthood, including obesity, type 2 diabetes, hypertension, elevated cholesterol, or metabolic syndrome. This hypothesis is the product of research on populations where mother’s experienced nutritional abundance, followed by famine, and then abundance again. Today, it is applicable to those with food insecurity where maternal malnutrition is prevalent. Thus, the infant will be biologically programmed to handle scarcity and then born into an environment with a plethora of caloric options. This equation sets an individual up for combatting chronic disease for the remainder of their lives.

Interestingly, this hypothesis may not be applicable to twins and high order multiples. Some assume that since twins share an energy source and are typically small for gestational age (SGA) that they have an even greater risk due to the metabolic modifications in utero. However, this may not be the case because twins have a different pattern of fetal growth from their singleton counterparts. There is evidence that twins down-regulate their growth early in gestation (first trimester) to protect against growth retardation caused by the lack of nutrition and cramped quarters in later trimesters. This action protects the baby from the associated metabolic disease states and risks later in life, including hyperinsulinemia and diabetes. This is refreshing news to this mother of high-order multiples.

Taste Buds

An infant’s taste buds are developed as early as the 14th week of gestation and completely by the 7th month of gestation. This means they are learning to love and understand food before they experience life outside of the womb. Therefore, a mother’s dietary choices have potential to teach a child which foods are safe. For example, if a mother enjoys a plethora of bitter vegetables (broccoli, brussel sprouts, kale, etc) and potent flavors (onion, garlic) their child will learn that these flavors are safe to consume despite being programmed to “know” that bitter equals poison. This foundational palate can lead to an adventurous eater versus battle-after-battle with a picky eater later in life.

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Don’t fret if your in-utero diet was far from healthful. There are strategies for saving those taste buds from becoming boring.

  • Don’t be a short-order cook. Prepare one healthful meal and inform the family that this is what is for dinner. They can choose to enjoy it with the family or forego the meal. Be courageous and know that children will not suffer if they refused a meal or two.
  • Celebrate salt-free flavors. Children have a very delicate palate and are ready to explore a variety of flavors outside of sweet and salty. Champion aromatic vegetables, fresh herbs and spices. Find out your family’s favorite flavors to spice up the day-to-day meals. If this sounds like too much. Consider a little garlic powder, which to a child will be a whole new experience.
  • Make meal time, family time. Create a sacred space at meals to not only enjoy food but emotions and conversation. Families that eat together, stay well together.
  • Take the emotion out of trying new foods. Trying new foods can be quite scary, especially since we are programmed to avoid bitter foods. Individuals with sensory processing issues can truly experience scary internal feelings when they encounter a taste or texture they don’t like. Therefore, get to the bottom of the picky eating. When trying new foods, try to take it at their pace, in a safe space and without emotion.

We know that a baby’s palate is shaped before birth. What our mothers chose to eat and drink has forever imprinted our brain with food memories which may influence our faves and dislikes. Therefore, we need to slow down, think twice and put our best fork forward.

Parents Beware of the Kids Menu

unhappy_meal_sqA recent article hit our news feeds this last week highlighting the need to pay closer
attention to our children’s plates when dining out. The research team called restaurateurs to action and encouraged a revamp of children’s menus at favored chains to provide entrees, sides, desserts and beverages that fall in-line with a child’s energy needs versus their desires. These modifications would allow youth the opportunity to select any item from the children’s menu and award parents the satisfaction that their child would not be exceeding their needs. But, as it stands children’s menus are not so kid-friendly when it comes to providing age-appropriate portions.

This issue would be trivial if dining out were a special occasion, but that is not so. Today, over one-third of our daily calories are spent away from home along with over 50% of our food dollars. Since the prevalence of eating outside of the home is more frequent, dining out behaviors have the potential to influence a family’s overall health and contribute overweight, obesity and chronic disease in our youngsters. Until restaurants respond to this public health call to action, families have to be on-guard and mindful of their choices when dining out.

Families can make dining out a healthful experience by:

Encourage children to order from their menu

Most restaurants try to provide more age-appropriate portions on the children’s menu so that menu is the best place to start. If healthful options are hard to find on the kids menu, know that you will need to reduce the adult portions by one-half or more.

Practice the plate method

Ask your child to select a meal that has at least three of the five food groups, ideally protein, whole grain or potato and vegetables. Redistribute the meal when it arrives to reflect the MyPlate diagram. If there’s extra, tuck it away in a take-home container.

Forego sweet drinks

Skip the sugar-sweetened beverages and enjoy still or sparkling water or unflavored milk. Sweetened drinks can pack in 6 to 9 teaspoons of added sugar which is 2 to 3 times their daily allowance.

Make dessert a family occasion

If your family likes to indulge in a sweet treat when dining out, consider ordering one dessert and splitting it.

Portion sizes

Portion sizes inside and outside of the home remain a major catalyst of the perpetual childhood obesity epidemic and a parent’s desire and willingness to monitor their children’s food choices when dining out remains a significant challenge in America. However, modifications that would make portions age-appropriate and guidance from parents when dining out could both make a major impact. This responsibility cannot fall on the child because most children under the age of 12 years do not have the cognitive or developmental capacity to limit their portions when over served. Additionally, satiety cues- often not recognized or easily over-ridden- are not strong enough to guide a child to healthful choices when dining out.

So, gear up before dining out and approach this effort as a team

Trick, Treat, or Teaching Opportunity?

Halloween can be a scary time for more reasons than the goblins and spooky ghosts. Halloween seems to kick-off the season of treats beginning with the tempting sweets that line the grocery store aisles. Many parents dread Halloween due to the amount of candy that their child drags home after a long night of trick-or-treating.  However, I am looking forward to this teaching opportunity.

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Many of you know that food, nutrition and overall wellness are near and dear to my heart. I love equipping and empowering people in their health pursuits… especially my children. Trick-or-treating is a great time to teach moderation. There is a growing body of research that encourages families to mark no food as forbidden. Ellyn Satter encourages parents to help their children to, “Learn to manage sweets and to keep sweets in proportion to the other food [they] eat.” Moderation can be a difficult concept to grasp, but it is a lesson worth learning. According to research, treat-deprived children often end up weighing more later in life due to hoarding forbidden foods. I appreciate these findings but also recognize that these lessons need to be age-appropriate.

At three years young, my kiddos still are led by their frontal lobes (aka Impulsivity) therefore, we have tailored the moderation conversation to one of “wants” versus “needs” and “wants” have a time and a place. Since candy and sweets are unnecessary “wants,” my children have never had any. We don’t have any in the home so, if they encountered a candy bar on the street they wouldn’t know what it is. This is intentional because I know the power of sugar and I also know the consequences. Sugar is a sweet and silent killer that is a great contributor of morbidity and mortality around the world. Because of this I often associate excess sugar with excess alcohol or even smoking. As parents, we are guides and guardians for our children. We are blessed with the opportunity to guard their hearts, minds, bodies and souls until they are able to “digest” the media and message and then tasked with helping to guide them through this muddy world.

This does not mean my children will never have the pleasure of candy; recall those that are deprived often become the secret hoarders. Instead, we will continue to be intentional about when, where, why and how we introduce these types of foods and experiences. I also feel led to set others up for success that is why we will continue to be the weirdo house on the street that does not handout candy, but rather an allergen free snack. There are also a host of other food and non-food alternatives including…

Non-Food Alternatives:

  • Stickers
  • Glow sticks
  • Play dough
  • Rings
  • Toothpaste/Floss/Toothbrush
  • Pencil/Erasers
  • Seasonal Post-it’s
  • Bubbles

Food Alternatives:

  • Gum
  • Granola Bars
  • Pretzels/Crackers
  • Popcorn or Puffed Corn

So, with moderation in mind may the force be with you as we forge into the season of sweets and continue to guard and guide our children in the days to come!

Kurious about Vitamin K?


Infographic created by MultivitaminGuide.org

Back 2 School: Eat Well 2 Learn Well

ten-creative-brown-bag-lunches-that-kids-and-adults-will-loveIt’s time to start thinking about back to school routines.  Good nutrition is another school supply for insuring your child’s success this school year.  Researchers support the fact that children and teens that eat well also learn well.

Avoid Brown Bag Boredom

Build an appetizing meal with at least 3 food groups. Ditch the sandwich and explore other options for whole grains such as pita, tortillas, sandwich thins, or rice-like grains such as quinoa, farro, and wheat berries. Load up on lean protein to make the energy last longer with fresh turkey or chicken, low-fat cheese or yogurt, peanut or almond butters and boiled eggs. Add fiber to stay satisfied with raw vegetables (carrots, cucumber, bell pepper, jicama, grape tomatoes) and fresh fruit. Enlist the troops and invite the family to build their own lunch by choosing 1-2 servings from each food group.

Tips for Building a Smart Snack

Keep ingredients for smart snacks on hand. A smart snack has 2 food groups: a source of energy (carbs) and a stabilized (fat or protein). Ideal snacks for younger children are small, nutrient-dense and fun! Think fruit, vegetables and protein!

Ideas:

  • Fruit Kebabs with yogurt dip
  • Ants on a Log
  • Veggie Faces

Ideal snacks for older children are also small, nutrient-dense and portable. Think complex carbs for lasting energy and protein!

Ideas:

  • Fruit (apple, orange) + Cheese Stick
  • Trail Mix (nuts + dried fruit)
  • Raw Vegetables + Hummus or Peanut Butter

See these tips in action via my latest newscast: http://www.channel3000.com/health/Healthy-options-for-feeding-hungry-kids/34841178

Bottom Line: Help your families to achieve balanced energy for working, learning or playing by building balanced meals and smart snacks!

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