Healthy Dining | Kids LiveWell Program

This July, the National Restaurant Association partnered with Healthy Dining to form Kids LiveWell.  This is a new program that highlights meals available at participating restaurants that are considered healthy meals for children.  The healthy meals will have an apple icon next to the item, in order to alert parents to healthy meal options available for their children.

In order for a meal to be consider a healthy option in the program, it must contain:
* a beverage,
* 600 calories or less,
* less than 35% calories from fat,
* less than 10% calories from saturated fat,
* less than 0.5 grams trans fat, &
* less than 35% of calories from sugar, &
* less than 770 milligrams sodium.

Participation in the Kids LiveWell program is voluntary.  Participating "inaugural" restaurants include Au Bon Pain, Bonefish Grill, Burger King, Burgerville, Carrabba's Italian Grill, Chevy's, Chili's Grill & Bar Restaurant, Corner Bakery Cafe, Cracker Barrel, Denny's, El Pollo Loco, Friendly's, IHOP, Joe's Crab Shack, Outback Steakhouse, Silver Diner, Sizzler, T-Bones Great American Eatery, & zpizza.  The Healthy Dining company states more restaurants are expected to join with an expanding list of healthy dining options for children.

If you click the restaurant logos on the Healthy Dining website, the nutritional values of foods are listed.  And the National Restaurant Association also provides nutritional information on healthy dining for kids in their in the Kids LiveWell program.


Early Diagnosis Lazy Eye Helps Vision

Amblyopia, common referred to as lazy eye, is an eye whose vision is diminished.  As a result, the brain begins to favor the "good" eye; it ignores the vision from the lazy eye.  As a result, vision in the lazy eye progressively worsens and could lead to blindness in the lazy eye.  Early detection is crucial.  Once the diagnosis is made, the lazy eye can be strengthened either by patching the "good" eye, thereby forcing the brain to use the lazy eye or through the use of corrective lens or glasses.  If detected early, the brain will adapt and vision will improve.  If not caught by about 7 years old, the vision learning centers in the brain do not mature.  Therefore, the weaker "lazy" eye stays with diminished vision forever.  Simply put, if you don't use it, you lose it.

A recent multi-study review showed that with treatment, vision gains are significantly greater in children that were between 3 and 7 years old than those that were between 7 and 13 years old.  The younger a child is diagnosed and treated, the greater the vision gain. However, it is interesting to note that the multi-study review also revealed that there are some vision gains with treatment beyond age 7.

For more information about multi-study review regarding amblyopia or lazy eye vision problems, please go to http://reut.rs/nKo31m.


Shriner's Ends Free Health Care

As of July 31, 2011, Shriner's Hospitals for Children will start collecting copays and billing insurance companies for the health care they offer at their hospitals. They have an agreement with the Federal government to waive copayments for those on Medicare and Medicaid.

Sadly, Shriner's is no longer able to provide free medical care for all. This is a great health care institution consisting of 20 hospitals in the United States. Their services have included orthopedic, burn, cleft lip and palate, and spinal cord injury care. For the past 89 years, they have provided free health care to over 1 million children under the age of 18.  However, due to the economy, decreased donations, and less return on their endowment's investments in the stock market, Shriner's has decided to change their billing practices. 

Shriner's hospitals for Children is based in Tampa.  Hence, I have had several patients benefit from their care throughout the years.  It is sad that this noble institution has fell on hard times.  They should be lauded for all of their good works.  Change is necessary for this institution to not only survive, but to thrive, and offer more health care to those needy children.

For more information about or to donate to Shriner's Hospitals for Children, please visit http://www.shrinershospitalsforchildren.org/.


Creative Play | Disney Cars Toys

Okay, so I admit it. I have an addiction to Disney Cars & Cars 2 toys. My husband has told me, "You know you have a problem." My response continues to be, "Yes, I know. I started buying them for him. But I can't help it, I love them too. At least we play with them, not just collect them."

This started with the Disney Cars movie toys & now has progressed with the Cars 2 toys. The toys in the picture are Siddely Spy Jet, Secret Spy Attack Finn McMissle & Stephenson Spy Train. (Yes, I've memorized their names.) These toys bring out such creativity in our son. Oh, the stories he tells. He doesn't just repeat the storyline. He creates new adventures for the characters to play out. He uses unique voices for each of them. And I get to play along too. How can I resist?

In the latest creative play, our son has dubbed himself "Finn McMissle", my husband as "Professor Z", and me? ... I'm "Holley Shiftwell," of course. It's incredible fun. Professor Z always seems to be out to get Finn & Holley. Miraculously, we usually escape without a scratch. Occasionally, we (by we, I mean the cars we hold & our literal bodies) "crash" on the floor. During creative play, my son & I have British accents. And my husband? Well, I think it's a German accent, not quite sure.

In a world where structured play is lauded, creative play is needed too. The American Academy of Pediatrics and many other pediatric institutions recommend unstructured creative play. The benefits of creative play include family bonding, children's ability to control their environment, decision making, leadership roles, freedom of expression, and relaxation. The parent can often learn more about their child's needs during creative play. This ultimately will help children in their adult life. So much is accomplished with creative play. Best of all, it is fun!

For more information regarding the multiple benefits of creative play, please read more at http://bit.ly/r8W0HQ.


Sports | Children in Fencing

Two weeks ago, I had the opportunity to visit an dear friend of mine.  We've been friends for almost 20 years.  Alex and I became friends when we were fencing in college.  He and his wife own the Peekskill Fencing Center in Peekskill, NY (http://www.peekskillfencing.com/)..  It's a lovely facility doing wonderful things for children. 

When I reminisce on fencing, I am filled with joyous memories.  Fencing was wonderful.  It gave me so much; confidence, camaraderie, friendship, physical activity, and so much more.  Little did I know that years later, the family would have a fencing club.  I am so proud of them for taking a chance to run a business and help children in the process.  It is difficult to be in business for oneself.  And they are succeeding, despite the current economy.  And after spending time at the Center with Alex, I can see why.  Children need to believe in themselves.  Fencing offers them that.  This small club does so in particular.

I had never really seen a child fence before.  A student of his came to practice.  It was amazing to see this 7 year old fence.  He had skill & grace.  He has much to learn in fencing & in life.  And it showed, in the best way ever.  He was a bit cocky before practice started.  He told me how easy it was.  This little boy further explained that he had already won a competition.  Then, practice started.  The layers peeled away.  Alex was gentle & a gentle and excellent teacher.  At the end of the short lesson, the little boy took off his mask.  His tired face revealed it all to me.  It wasn't easy; it was false bravado.  At 7 years old, he already has to keep up a front.  The amazing thing is that fencing is teaching him little by little to break down the protective wall and build a solid foundation within.  He doesn't even know it yet, but that is what he's doing.  And that is the gift of all sports for children - physical & psychological strengthening.  I never realized how important that was until that moment ... mask off & all.

The benefit of fencing is that small clubs all over the country offer the intimacy that other large sports may not.  They offer one on one attention.  Consider fencing for your child.  It offers so much.  It's cool.  And it's really, really fun!

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