Children's in the news

Have you heard about the new kids’ book, “Maggie Goes on a Diet”? It’s basically a retelling of the age-old ugly ducking fable, but with a modern twist. In this reenactment, the duckling is a 14-year-old girl who goes on a diet, and with a little hard work goes from being an overweight, self-conscious kid to a star soccer player and the most popular girl in school.

The book may stress the importance of healthful eating and exercise, but many people are finding fault with the author’s emphasis on the thin = happy storyline, instead of focusing on the importance of health.

Among the critics is our own Dr. Claire, who was on New England Cable News this morning to talk about Maggie, childhood obesity and how to send kids the right message about health and weight.

Echoing many of the points made by Dr. Claire, thriving contributor Dr. David Ludwig recently spoke with the Boston Globe and offered a few pointers of his own on how parents can get their kids to eat better. Here’s a quick sample of his advice.

David Ludwig, MD, PhD

Don’t be scared of fats

“Many of us have been told that all fats are unhealthy,” Ludwig said, “But healthful fats such as olive oil, avocado, the fat in fish and nuts, are among healthiest nutrients we can eat. And they don’t promote obesity.” Ludwig said these healthy fats helps us stay full longer, which reduces the chance your child will feel starving in the late afternoon. Ludwig’s suggestion for a sandwich with healthy fats: Whole grain bread, slices of vegetarian deli cuts, avocado or guacamole as a spread and piece of fruit as a side dish.

Use “stealth health” if you have to

“There are many ways to use “stealth health.” Almost every kid likes pasta, so add pureed spinach or zucchini into the tomato sauce,” Ludwig said. “Then kids won’t even recognize that they’re eating vegetables.”

Involve your children

“There’s a simple rule: if kids help select it or cook it, they’ll eat it,” Ludwig said. “Give them a choice and involve them, but guide their choices We live in a fast food culture that tries to get everyone — especially children — to eat the lowest quality, highest calorie foods. They are going to make bad choices without guidance.”

For more great ideas on getting kids to eat better, check out the whole article here.

And while they may not seem to have much in common, sleep and diet are a lot more alike than you may realize. After all, they’re both activities that every single kid does, and each one can have a tremendous impact on health. A full night’s rest is especially important for success in school, but summertime sleep habits can be hard to break, making the first few weeks back at school difficult for kids and parents. To offer tips on making the transition easier, Dennis Rosen, MD, associate medical director of the center for pediatric sleep disorders at Children’s recently spoke with Globe reporter Deborah Kotz.

Like many parents, I’m wondering what I should do to get my kids back to their earlier schedules during the days before the school year starts. Dr. Dennis Rosen, associate medical director of the center for pediatric sleep disorders at Children’s Hospital Boston, gave me some helpful advice.

First off, he told me, I have to progressively march back their wake-up time rather than howling at them to go to bed earlier. “Give it at least a day for every hour that their bedtime is off,” Rosen advised. “If they’ve been waking up at 9 a.m. on a regular basis and they need to wake up at 6 a.m. for school, you’ll need three days to get them back on track,” waking them an hour earlier each morning for three consecutive days.

Kids will be less cranky if you shift them even more gently, by 15- to 30-minute increments each day — if you have the time before the school year starts. “Consistency is really important,” said Rosen. “Don’t want to fall into the trap of letting teens go to bed late and sleep in on the weekends” either or after the school year starts.

Dennis Rosen, MD

One day of sleeping in here and there won’t mess up sleep habits too much, but two or three days in a row can have a similar effect of traveling time zones leaving kids feeling jet-lagged at the beginning of the school week.

In setting an earlier wake-up time, parents need to make sure their kids are really awake — not lying in bed in a half-groggy state or dozing in front of the TV in a darkened den. “They need bright light exposure in the morning to give their brains a wake up cue,” said Rosen. Morning light passes through the eyes and shuts down the brain’s production of the sleep-inducing hormone melatonin.

Read the full article here.