Alternative Treatments for ADHD

I’ve covered why you should get your child evaluated for learning and behavior issues, who does the evaluations, and what the evaluation process involves in my previous posts. I’ve also covered specific diets and supplements. Today I want to talk about alternative treatments for ADHD. If parents aren’t ready to use medicines yet or if they want to supplement medications with additional treatments, there are many alternatives.

Natural treatments, psychological and occupational therapies, and complementary alternative therapy for the treatment of ADHD are available. Some of these are more effective than others.

Alternative Treatments

Nutritionalternative treatments for ADHD

Nutrition is very important for learning and behavior in all kids, not just those with a diagnosis of some sort. My next blog will be dedicated to more on components of nutrition and elimination diets, then the following blog will cover vitamins and supplements.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is a way to change thinking from negative to positive and focuses on finding solutions to current problems. It has been proven to be effective in the treatment of ADHD.

The first treatment for ADHD in children under 5 years should be cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) with a licensed therapist trained in this area.

CBT can help those of all ages learn techniques to control behaviors, screen thoughts before speaking, organize things, and more.

Studies show that the best benefits for ADHD are a combination of medication and CBT for those over 5 years of age.

Child or parent training

Parent skills training provides parents with tools and techniques for managing their child’s behavior. Behavior therapy rewards appropriate behavior and discourages destructive behavior.

This training has been shown to improve ADHD symptoms among children, but studies show it does not change academic performance when used alone.

social skills group

Many kids with ADHD struggle socially. They tend to lag behind peers by a few years developmentally. Their impulsivity and inattention leads to poor behavior and trouble making good friends. They may also have trouble managing their emotions.

Joining a professionally run social skills group can help kids learn and practice important skills for interacting with others. Some school counselors can do this during school hours and many therapists offer groups outside of school.

School resources

Schools have various abilities in helping kids with unique needs. They can offer special seating (or standing desks), extra time for tests, fidget items, and other accommodations. To learn more about school resources, Understood.org has much needed information about what is available and what you can do to legally get accommodations with IEPs or 504Plans.

Exercise

Getting kids outside and moving has many benefits for all kids – including those with ADHD.

First, they are off all screens, which have been shown to increase aggressiveness and impulsivity.

Second, they are getting exercise. Studies show that when kids play outside their focus, attention, and behavior improve.

Exercise helps to elevate the same neurotransmitters that are increased with stimulant medications, which helps with executive functioning skills (sequencing, working memory, prioritizing, inhibiting, and sustaining attention).

Any exercise helps, but studies show the best are martial arts, ballet, ice skating, gymnastics, yoga, rock climbing, mountain biking, skateboarding, and whitewater paddling (I know not all of these are practical on a regular basis, but most are). These activities require sustaining attention, balance, timing, fine motor adjustments, sequencing, evaluating consequences, error correction, and inhibition.

Sleep

Sleep problems are common in many children, especially those with ADHD. Fixing the sleep cycle can have extreme benefits in learning and behavior.

Sometimes it’s as easy as getting a routine for sleep to ensure the proper number of hours for a child, but often they suffer from insomnia, nightmares, sleep apnea, restless leg, or other medical conditions that impair sleep time and/or quality.

Symptoms of chronic sleep deprivation in kids are hyperactivity, poor focus, and irritability. There are many kids who can have all of their ADHD symptoms relieved when they simply get better sleep. I see this in many teens who suddenly “develop ADHD”- only it’s really not ADHD at all. They are running on 4-5 hours of sleep a night. If your child has sleep troubles not improved with these Sleep Tips, talk to your child’s doctor.

Occupational Therapy and Sensory Training

There are many kids with ADHD who benefit from using techniques that occupational therapists use with sensory processing disorder (SPD). In some kids, SPD might be the real diagnosis causing symptoms of ADHD, but in others they may co-exist.

Treating SPD is usually fun for the kids, and there is no harm in doing their techniques even if a child doesn’t have the disorder.

Schools have started integrating these ideas into their classrooms as needed, such as having kids sit on stability balls or using tactile objects at their desks.

Therapy for SPD involves playing in ways that use sensory input (such as with sand or play doh, rolling down a hill, manipulating tactile objects, and more).

For a great list of ideas visit Sensory Integration Activities, but working with an occupational therapist is recommended.


Biofeedback and Neurofeedback

Biofeedback and neurofeedback are often not covered by insurance due to inconclusive evidence that they work. Children and adults with ADHD often have abnormal patterns of brain electrical activity on electroencephalographic (EEG) testing. EEG biofeedback is aimed at normalizing EEG activity by correcting the brain’s state of relative under-arousal and optimizing cognitive and behavioral functioning.

Neurofeedback trains kids to become more aware of their physiological responses and improve their executive functioning. Each neurofeedback session lasts 30-60 min and children usually need 10-20 sessions. Patients wear a cap that measures their brain activities, and it helps them train their brain to maintain focus during video games specific to this purpose.

The significance of most findings on neurofeedback and EEG biofeedback is limited by study design flaws that include small study sizes, heterogeneous populations, absence of a control group, inconsistent outcome measures, self-selection bias, and limited or no long-term follow-up. While this doesn’t mean they don’t work, I would like to see more studies showing their benefit. You might invest a lot of time and money only to find out it doesn’t work.

Working memory training

Working memory training has been shown in studies to help with symptoms of ADHD, though there are some conflicting studies out there.

Cogmed is the company that has studies showing benefit. It’s a computer program that kids play like a video game, but it reportedly trains their brain to remember things. Cogmed is intensive: 1 hour a day, 5 days a week for 5 weeks, but can be done at home. It can be expensive and is often not covered by insurance. About 70-80% of children show improvement immediately after the training, and of those who improved, 80% maintained the benefit over a 6 – 12 month window. Cogmed is designed to be used with medication, such as stimulants.

Herbs and other supplements

There are some studies supporting nutritional supplements or herbal medicines for ADHD, but many reported treatments have not been found effective. I will cover these in a separate blog.

ADHD Coaching

Just like anyone who needs help improving a skill, working with a coach with experience helping others in that area can be a big help.

Working with an ADHD coach can help many with certain aspects of their life. ADHD coaches can help with organization, motivate a person with ADHD to finish tasks, or help them learn techniques that makes them more effective at life skills.

Coaches do not do psychotherapy or counseling. This can be beneficial for people who are against therapy but need help to improve their skills.

It does not work if the parent makes the child go. The child must be motivated to make changes in his or her life and be willing to work on things, then coaching can be great.

Tips on finding an ADHD coach can be found on PsychCentral.

Mindfulness

I recommend mindfulness for many issues, especially anxiety (which often co-exists with ADHD). Mindfulness is thought to help with ADHD as well. It is a process of being focused on the present moment and is more fully explained on Understood.org’s Mindfulness page.

There are many free apps that can help kids (and adults) learn mindfulness.

No evidence exists for these treatments

There are many alternative treatments out there that do not have scientific proof that they help. Many parents try these treatment programs in hope that their child’s symptoms will go away.

In general, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

Don’t be fooled into thinking “alternative” or “natural” treatments are without risk. There are always risks, including the lost time not being on a proven therapy, leading to a child falling further behind academically and suffering emotionally from symptoms related to ADHD.

“Train the brain” games 

There are claims that games designed to train the brain can improve memory, attention and other skills, but there is no research that supports this claim. Kids may get good at playing the game and seem to learn, but studies have found no improvements that generalize to their daily life or learning. For more, see what experts say about “train the brain games” for kids with ADHD.

Brain Balance has a center in our city, and I’ve seen more than a few parents who waste time and money on their program. I don’t know of any that noted significant and continued benefit. Although their website might look like there’s impressive evidence to use it, there really isn’t. Please see Science Based Medicine: Brain Balance for more information.

Caffeine

Caffeine is a stimulant but since it is available from grocery stores instead of pharmacies some parents feel more comfortable using it instead of a medication.

If you’re using it as a drug, it is a drug.

Whether it comes in a beverage or a pill, it is a chemical with properties that act like other drugs in our bodies.

Unfortunately studies don’t really support its use. It’s difficult to dose since it comes in so many forms, and most people develop a tolerance for it, requiring more and more, which can increase side effects.

For details, see Science Based Medicine: Caffeine for ADHD.

chiropractic medicine, Vision therapy, and Applied kinesiology

I have not been able to find any valid scientific studies for chiropractic medicine, vision training, and applied kinesiology for the treatment of ADHD.

Insurance usually does not cover these and they can be quite expensive. I do not recommend them.

Essential oils and aromatherapy

Essential oils are all the rage now. It seems they can cure everything if you do a quick online search. The problem is that research hasn’t shown that to be true. Dr. Chad Hayes does a good job of discussing what they are and why they aren’t recommended.

Remember…

There is no alternative medicine. There is only medicine that works and medicine that doesn’t work. ~ Richard Dawkins

If it stays alternative, that must say something. Once an alternative treatment is shown to work, it becomes a preferred treatment, no longer an alternative…

Things to consider when choosing treatment plans:

  • First, be sure your child is properly assessed to make the best diagnosis on which to base the treatment plan.
  • Natural isn’t necessarily safe. Evaluate all the risks and benefits known before making a decision. Even exercise (which is always recommended) comes with risks, such as injury and at times sleep problems due to scheduled activity times.
  • Talk with your doctor about any treatments you are doing with your child. Don’t forget to mention vitamins, supplements, herbs, brain training, therapies, etc.
  • Choosing one treatment doesn’t mean you are married to it. If response doesn’t prove to be beneficial, re-think your approach.
  • There is no cure for ADHD known at this time. If someone claims that they can cure your child, don’t buy into it.
  • Learn your costs. Does insurance cover it? Insurance companies often prefer certain treatments due to their cost and other factors. They also do not cover many treatments. Sometimes this is again due to cost, but other times it is because there is no evidence to show the treatment is effective. (Hint: This is a good clue to look at other treatments!)
  • Is the treatment something your child can do and is your family willing to put in the time? CBT is proven to help, but it doesn’t work if the child and parents don’t work on the techniques at home. Neurofeedback and Cogmed take many hours of treatment over weeks of time and are not guaranteed to work in all children.  Medications must be titrated to find the most effective dose that limits side effects. This requires frequent follow up with your doctor until the best dose is found.

Sources:

The ADDitude Guide to Alternative ADHD Treatment

WebMD: Attention Deficit and Hyperactivity Disorder: Alternative Treatments 

American Psychological Association: Easing ADHD Without Meds
Psych Central: Neurofeedback Therapy an Effective, Non-Drug Treatment for ADHD

Psychiatric Times: Integrative Management of ADHD: What the Evidence Suggests

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder: Diagnosis and Treatment in Children and Adolescents


 

Looking for more?

Many parents benefit from support groups to learn from others who have gone through or are currently going through similar situations, fears, failures, and successes. Find one in your area that might help you go through the process with others who share your concerns. If you know of a support group that deserves mention, please share!

ADHD

CHADD is the nationwide support group that offers a lot online and has many local chapters, such as ADHDKC. I am a volunteer board member of ADHDKC and have been impressed with the impact they have made in our community in the short time they have existed (established in 2012). I encourage parents to attend their free informational meetings. The speakers have all been fantastic and there are many more great topics coming up!

Anxiety

Many parents are surprised to learn how much anxiety can affect behavior and learning. To look for local support groups, check out the tool on Psychology Today.

Autism

The Autism Society has an extensive list of resources.

Dyslexia 

Dyslexia Help is designed to help dyslexics, parents, and professionals find the resources they need, from scholarly articles and reviewed books to online forums and support groups.

Learning Disabilities 

Learning Disabilities Association of America offers support groups as well as information to help understand learning disabilities, negotiating the special education process, and helping your child and yourself.

Tourette’s Syndrome and Tic Disorders 

Tourette’s Syndrome Association is a great resource for people with tic disorders.

General Support Group List 

For a list of many support groups in Kansas: Support Groups in Kansas .

School information

Choosing schools for kids with ADHD and learning differences isn’t always possible, but look to the linked articles on ways to decide what might work best for your child. When choosing colleges, look specifically for programs they offer for students who learn differently and plan ahead to get your teen ready for this challenge.

Midwest ADHD Conference – April 2018

Check out the Midwest ADHD Conference coming to the KC area in April, 2018. I’m involved in the planning stages and it will be a FANTASTIC conference for parents, adults with ADHD, and educators/teachers.

Midwest ADHD Conference
The Midwest ADHD Conference will be held in April 2018, in Overland Park, Kansas.


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Special Diets for ADHD

Most of us have heard of the claims of cures for all sorts of ills, including behavioral problems (especially ADHD and autism) with simple dietary changes (with and without supplements). This post covers some diets for ADHD that have been recommended as treatments. Supplements will be covered tomorrow.

Why talk about diets for ADHD?

ADHD elimination diet, vitaminsFears of side effects from long-term medication or a history of medication failures cause families to look for alternative treatment options for child behavior issues. Diet modification and restriction is intriguing for parents since it fits into the ideal of a healthy lifestyle without added medicines and their potential side effects. However, there is a lot of controversy as to whether these restrictions help except in a small subset of children who have true allergy to the substance.

In general if a simple solution through diet was found, everyone would be doing it.

That just isn’t happening.

I do think that we all benefit from eating real foods — the ones that look like they did when they were grown, not processed and packaged. Fruits, vegetables, protein sources, whole grains, and complex carbohydrates should be the basis for everyone’s diet. It’s just good nutrition. But the direct effect of special diets on learning, behavior, and conditions such as ADHD is limited.

Natural does not equal safe.

When my kids were young and picky eaters I never would have considered stimulating their appetite with organically grown marijuana. While it is all natural (even organic!) and it might increase their appetites, it would have risks, right? In this case I don’t think the risks would outweigh the benefits. But so often parents think that if it’s natural, it’s healthier than something made by man.

Drugs have been tested. They have risks too, but those risks are a known. Some natural therapies have not been as thoroughly tested and they are not regulated, so the label might not correctly identify the contents. For this reason, I think that healthy foods are a great option for everyone, but I hesitate to recommend a lot of supplements, especially by brand.

Elimination diets

Over the years there have been many foods or additives that have been blamed for causing learning and behavioral problems. Some of the proposed problematic foods:

  • food dyes
  • refined sugars
  • gluten
  • salicylate and additives
  • dairy products
  • wheat
  • corn
  • yeast
  • soy
  • citrus
  • eggs
  • chocolate
  • nuts

I’m sure the list goes on, but I’ve got to move on. I’ll discuss some of the specific elimination diets and what evidence about each says.

Food additives

Food additives have been blamed for learning and behavior problems for many years. In 1975, Dr. Ben Feingold hypothesized that food additives (artificial flavors and colors, and naturally occurring salicylates) were associated with learning disabilities and hyperactive behavior in some children.

Since then many case reports of similar claims have continued to surface, but those do not have the same weight as a double-blinded control study. Most studies done in a scientific manner have failed to show a benefit.

It never hurts to eliminate artificial dyes and additives in your child’s diet. If it helps, continue to avoid them. But if no change is noted, don’t continue to rely on dye avoidance as a treatment plan.

GAPS Diet

Another elimination diet is the GAPS (Gut and Psychology Syndrome) diet, designed by Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride.

She asserts that a wide variety of health problems  (autism, ADHD, schizophrenia, depression, and more) are from an imbalance of gut microbes. Not only has it not been proven to work, I worry that it restricts healthy foods, such as fruits, and kids will develop other problems on this diet.

I cannot go into details in this space, but for more information visit Science Based Medicine: GAPS diet.

Gluten

Gluten is in the news to be the base of many problems. It seems to be recommended to go gluten free for just about any ailment you can think of.

There are a subset of people who are really sensitive to gluten, and they benefit greatly from a gluten free diet.

But the large majority of people gain no direct benefit from this expensive and restrictive diet. One indirect benefit of the diet previously was that it was nearly impossible to eat pre-packaged and processed foods, which leaves real fruits, vegetables, and other high quality foods. As more people are going gluten free there are more pre-package products made gluten free. I wonder if the benefits people have noticed previously will wane when they eat these foods.

Talk with your doctor before deciding if going gluten free will work for your child.

Sugar

Sugar is often blamed on hyperactivity. By all means, no child needs extra sugar, so cut out what you can.

Well controlled studies did not find a behavioral difference in kids after refined sugars.

Interestingly, parents still perceived a change (despite researchers finding none) in at least one study by Wolraich, Wilson, and White. 1995.

Food allergies

Food allergies are now commonly thought to be related to behavior and learning problems.

In some children with true allergies, foods can affect behavior. However, most children do not have food allergies and avoiding foods does not alter behavior. It can be challenging to determine if there is a food allergy since some of the tests offered are not reliable.

Elimination Diets Final Thoughts

In a small subset of kids food avoidance helps, but in the large majority studies do not support avoidance of foods.

If you think your child benefits from avoiding one or two foods, it probably isn’t a big deal to restrict those foods.

But if you suspect your child is allergic to everything under the sun, you will need to work with your doctor and possibly an allergist and a nutritionist to determine exactly what your child must avoid and how they can get all the nutrients they need to grow and develop normally.

Next up: Supplements for ADHD

Stay tuned for a summary of supplements on ADHD – what’s been proven to work and what hasn’t!

Weight is Weighing on My Mind

Reports of increasing obesity levels have been circulating for years on the news. I see kids in my office regularly who are in the overweight or obese category and we all struggle how to treat this growing problem. Excess weight in childhood is linked to many health issues such as high cholesterol, diabetes, metabolic syndrome, and it can trigger earlier puberty – leading to overall shorter adult height. Not to mention the psychological and social implications of bullying, depression, eating disorders, and more.

Why is weight so much more of a problem now than it was years ago?
unhealthy foods
Childhood obesity is a growing problem. Kids need to eat healthy and move daily.

I think it’s a combination of what they’re eating and what they’re doing. Today’s kids are shut up in the house after school watching one of many tv channels or playing video games. Even those who are shuttled to activities get overall less exercise because it is structured differently than free play. They ride in the car to practice or class, then sit and wait for things to start. They might sit or stand while others are getting instruction.

Simply put: They eat a lot of processed and junk food and they don’t get to do active things at their own pace with their own creativity for as long as they want.

What to do???

On one hand kids need to learn to make healthy choices to maintain a healthy body weight for height, but on the other hand you don’t want to focus so much on weight that they develop eating disorders. I think this is possible if we focus on the word “healthy” – not “weight”.

Starting at school age I ask kids at well visits if they think they are too heavy, too skinny, too short, or too tall. If they have a concern, I follow up with something along the line of, “How would you change that?” I’m often surprised by the answers, but I can use this very important information to guide how I approach their weight, height, and BMI. We talk about where they are on the graph, and healthy ways to either stay in a good place or how to get to a better BMI. I focus on 3 things we all need to be healthy (not healthy weight, but healthy):

  1. Healthy eating (eat a plant and protein each meal and snack)
  2. Exercise (with proper safety equipment but that’s another topic!)
  3. Sleep (again, another topic entirely!)
Food is a part of our daily needs, but much more than that.

It’s a huge part of our lifestyle. We have special meals for celebrations but on a day to day basis it tends to be more repetitive. We all get into ruts of what our kids will eat, so that is what we prepare. The typical kid likes pizza, nuggets, fries, PB&J, burgers, mac and cheese, and a few other select meals. If we’re lucky our kids like one or two vegetables and some fruits. We might even be able to sneak a whole grain bread in the mix. If our family is busy we eat on the run– often prepared foods that are low in nutrition, high in fat and added sugars, and things our kids think taste good (ie things we won’t hear whining about). We want our kids to be happy and we don’t want to hear they are hungry 30 minutes after the meal is over because they didn’t like what was served and chose not to eat, so we tend to cave in and give them what they want.

We as parents need to learn to stop trying to make our kids happy for the moment, but healthy for a lifetime.

There’s often a discrepancy between the child’s BMI (body mass index) and the parent’s perception of healthy. The perception of calorie needs and actual calorie needs can be very mismatched. I have seen a number of parents who worry that their toddler or child won’t eat, so they encourage unhealthy eating unintentionally in a variety of ways:

  • turn on the tv and feed the child while the child is distracted
  • reward eating with dessert
  • refuse to let the child leave the table until the plate is empty
  • allow excessive milk “since at least it’s healthy”
  • allow snacking throughout the day
  • legitimize that a “healthy” snack of goldfish is better than cookies
Any of these are problematic on several levels.  Kids don’t learn to respond to their own hunger cues if they are forced to eat.  
If offered a choice between a favorite low-nutrition/high fat food and a healthy meal that includes a vegetable, lean protein, whole grain, and low fat milk, which do you think any self-respecting kid would choose?
If they’re only offered the healthy meal or no food at all, most kids will eventually eat because they’re hungry.
No kid will starve to death after 1-2 days of not eating.  
They can, however, over time slowly kill themselves with unhealthy habits.  

So what does your child need to eat?

Think of the calories used in your child’s life and how many they really need.  Calorie needs are based on age, weight, activity level, growing patterns, and more.
It’s too hard to count calories for most of us though.
If kids fill up on healthy options, they won’t be hungry for the junk.
Offer a plant and a protein for each meal and snack. Plants are fruits and vegetables. Proteins are in meats, nuts, eggs and dairy.
Don’t think that your child needs to eat outside of regular meal and snack times.
One of my personal pet peeves is the practice of giving treats during and after athletic games. It’s not uncommon for kids to get a treat at half time and after every game. Most teams have a schedule of which parent will bring treats for after the game.
Do parents realize how damaging this can be?  
  • A 50 pound child playing 15 minutes of basketball burns 39 calories.  Think about how many minutes your child actually plays in a game. Most do not play a full hour, which would burn 158 calories in that 50 pound child.
  • A 50 pound child burns 23 calories playing 15 minutes of t-ball, softball, or baseball.  They burn 90 calories in an hour.
  • A non-competitive 50 pound soccer player burns 34 calories in 15 min/135 per hour. A competitive player burns 51 calories in 15 min/ 203 in an hour.
  • Find your own child’s calories burned (must be at least 50 pounds) at CalorieLab.
Now consider those famous treats at games.  Many teams have a half time snack AND an after game treat.  Calories found on brand company websites or NutritionData:
  • Typical flavored drinks or juice range 50-90 calories per 6 ounce serving.
  • Potato chips (1 ounce) 158 calories (A common bag size is 2 oz… which is 316 calories and has 1/3 of the child’s DAILY recommended fat intake!)
  • Fruit roll up (28g) 104 calories
  • 1 medium chocolate chip cookie: 48 calories
  • Orange slices (1 cup): 85 calories
  • Grapes (1 cup): 62 calories
  • Apple slices (1 cup): 65 calories

So…Let’s say the kids get orange slices (a lot of calories but also good vitamin C, low in fat, and high in fiber) at half time, then a fruit drink and cookie after the game. That totals about 200 calories. The typical 50 pound soccer player burned 135 calories in a one hour game. They took in more calories than they used. They did get some nutrition out of the orange, but they also ate the cookie and fruit drink. The cookie has fewer calories than other options but no nutritional value and a lot of added sugars. The kids end up taking in many more calories than they consumed during play.

 

What’s wrong with WATER? That’s what we should give kids to drink at games.

They should eat real food after the game if only they’re hungry.  Snacks are likely to decrease appetite for the next meal, so if they’re hungry give a mini-meal, not a sugar-filled, empty calorie treat every game.

There are many resources on the web to learn about healthy foods for both kids and parents. Rethink the way you look at how your family eats.

Simple suggestions:

 

      • Offer a fruit and vegetable with a protein at every meal and snack. Fill the plate with various colors! (As I tell the kids: eat a plant and a protein every time you eat ~ meals and snacks!)
      • Picky kids? Hide the vegetable in sauces, offer dips of yogurt or cheese, let kids eat in fun new ways – like with a toothpick. Don’t forget to lead by example and eat your veggies!
junk food
Smiling boy eyeing a burger and candy
  • Buy whole grains.
  • Choose lean proteins.
  • Don’t skip meals.
  • Make time for sleep.
  • Get at least 60 minutes of exercise a day!
  • Eat together as a family as often as possible.
  • Turn off the tv during meals. Don’t use distracted eating!
  • Encourage the “taste a bite without a fight” rule for kids over 3 years. But don’t force more than one bite.
  • Don’t buy foods and drinks with a lot of empty calories. Save them for special treats. If they aren’t in the home, they can’t be eaten!
  • Drink water instead of juice, flavored drinks, or sodas.
  • Limit portions on the plate to fist sized. Keep the serving platters off the table.
  • Eat small healthy snacks between meals. Think of fruit, vegetable slices, cheese, and nuts for snacks.

 

Lead by Example

We’ve all heard the saying: kids will do what they’re shown, not as they’re told.

It’s so true. Think about all the times your kids are watching you. They are learning from you.

What can you do to help them have healthy habits?
  • Eat your vegetables.
  • Get daily exercise.
  • Wear your seatbelt.
  • Stop at stop signs.
  • Don’t use your phone while driving.
  • Wear a life vest near a lake or river.
  • Maintain your composure during times of stress.
  • No phones at the dinner table.
  • Don’t tell lies- even little ones.
  • Get enough sleep.
  • Be kind to others.
  • Call home- your parents and siblings would love to hear from you.
  • Don’t permit violence in your presence.
  • Give your time and talents to others.
  • Take care of your things.
  • Limit screen time.
  • Brush your teeth at least twice a day and floss daily.
  • Wear a helmet when on a bike.
  • Don’t mow the lawn without proper shoes.
  • Make time for family.

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helmets, exercise
Exercising together safely as a family sets great lifelong habits!

New Juice Guidelines!

The American Academy of Pediatrics is releasing new guidelines for introducing and giving fruit juice today.

Juice that comes from fruit is not the same thing as eating fruit. It’s missing the fiber and even the feeling of fullness that comes from eating foods rather than drinking. Too many kids drink excessive juice, which fills them with empty calories and can contribute to obesity and tooth decay.

How much juice should kids have?

  • Juice is not recommended at all under 1 year of age in the new guidelines.
  • Toddlers from 1-3 years can have up to 4 ounces of 100% juice a day.
  • Children ages 4-6 years can have 4-6 ounces (half to three-quarters of a cup).
  • Children ages 7-18 years can have up to 8 ounces (1 cup) of 100% fruit juice as part of the recommended 2 to 2 ½ cups of fruit servings per day.

General tips and tricks:

  • Offer only 100% juice if you’re giving juice at all. Fruit flavored drinks are not the same thing as juice.
  • Water is always healthy! If your kids want it flavored, cut up fruit and put it in the water. There are many recipes online to get ideas, but kids don’t need anything fancy – just put cut up pieces of their favorite fruit with water in a glass container. Put the container in the refrigerator for 2-4 hours and then pour the infused water into their cup without the fruit (which could pose a choking risk). The infused water will stay fresh in the refrigerator for up to 2 days.
  • Some kids like to start the day with a frozen water bottle. Simply put a 1/2 to 3/4 full water bottle in the freezer overnight – don’t fill it too much because ice expands! Add a bit of water in the morning to help it start melting so it’s drinkable when they want a sip. Adjust the amount of water to freeze as needed depending on how insulated your water bottle is.
  • If your kids demand more than the recommended amount of juice for their age per day, water it down. By mixing water (or sparkling water for a bit of zip) with juice, you decrease the amount of sugar in every serving. You can give 1/2 the recommended daily maximum amount of juice with water twice and still stay within the daily limit.
  • Never let kids drink juice out of a bottle.
  • Never put kids to bed with juice. They should brush teeth before bed and be allowed only water until morning.
  • Offer only pasteurized juice. Unpasteurized juice can cause severe illness.
  • Give kids real fruits and/or vegetables with every meal and snack.
  • Make smoothies! Putting fruits and vegetables in a blender to make a smoothie is a great way to give the full fruit or vegetable instead of juice. Consider adding plain yogurt**, chia, flax, oats, nuts, and other healthy additions to increase the nutritional components of the smoothie! **Flavored yogurts often have added sugars. Look for just milk and cultures in your yogurt.
  • Most juice boxes have more than a day’s supply of juice. Don’t use juice boxes. Offer juice in cups so you can limit to the age appropriate amount.
  • Organic juice is not healthier than other juice. Many parents presume it has less sugar or more nutrients, but it doesn’t.
  • Vegetable juices may have less sugar and fewer calories than in the fruit juice, but are often mixed with fruit juices so you must read ingredients. They also lack the fiber of the actual vegetable, so eating the vegetable (or pureeing veggies into a smoothie) is healthier.
  • Beware of labels that look like juice but aren’t 100% juice. The label might say “juice cocktail,” “juice-flavored beverage” or “juice drink.” Most of these have only small amounts of real juice. Their main ingredients are usually water, small amounts of juice, and some type of sweetener, such as high-fructose corn syrup. Nutritionally, these drinks are similar to most soft drinks: rich in sugar and calories, but low in nutrients. Avoid them.
  • Sports drinks are not healthy substitutes for water. They are sugar-sweetened beverages that contain sodium and other electrolytes. Unless one is doing high intensity exercise for over an hour (such as running a marathon, not playing in a baseball tournament), water and a regular healthy diet provide all the calories and electrolytes we need.
  • Water’s the best drink for our bodies. Buy fun reusable water bottles and challenge your kids to empty them throughout the day. The old rule of “8 cups a day” is outdated, but we should get enough water (from the water content in foods + drinks) to keep our urine pale. We need more water when it’s hot, when we exercise, when we’re sick and when the air’s really dry. Once we feel thirsty we’re already mildly dehydrated, so drink water to prevent dehydration.
juice guidelines
The AAP’s 2017 Juice Guidelines

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Nutrition for the Picky Eater

I am frequently asked about how to get kids to eat. In general, there are a few quick “rules”:
  • Don’t offer junk. Don’t make it easily available at home… most kids can’t drive to the store!
  • Hungry kids will eat what’s offered. Let them get hungry between meals. No grazing.
  • Not every food group will be eaten at every meal, so use the day to space foods to incorporate a range of nutrition over time. Think of snacks as mini-meals.
  • Keep meal time fun.
  • Offer a “plant and protein” every meal and snack to get kids to the 5 a day of fruits and veggies and to give a protein for “staying power”. This also fills kids up with the good things so they aren’t hungry for junk.
  • Enforce “Taste a bite without a fight” after 3 years of age.
  • It’s okay to be tricky and fun: add pureed vegetables to things, use yogurt or humus dips, put food on a stick, arrange food into fun shapes, be creative.
  • Juice is not a food.

This is my first attempt at adding video to my blog. I apologize for the tilted view… it looked straight on my camera! YouTube limits the length to 10 minutes, and I ended up at 11 minutes, so it is broken into two shorter segments.

Part 1:

Part 2:
Resources mentioned at the end:

My Pinterest page has several boards with recipes and nutritional information, in addition to other kid-friendly ideas! (Warning: if you don’t use Pinterest, it can be addictive. Tons of great project ideas and recipes, educational sites, and other time wasters…)

Kids Eat Right: The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics’ page on scientifically based health and nutrition information you can trust to help your child grow healthy.