Skip to content


Instead Of Putting Kids On A “Diet,” Replace Their Soda With Water


Photo credit: Lin Pernille

A recent study suggests that a highly effective way to prevent childhood obesity is to replace soda and sweetened juices with water.

This should not come as a big surprise: a common advice from dietitians is that people who need to lose weight stop drinking soda - simply replacing soda with water, without changing anything else about one’s eating and exercise habits, can translate into a significant - and healthy - weight loss.

Soda is extremely unhealthy. It contains high fructose corn syrup, which increases fats in the blood’s triglycerides. Because it is a liquid, these fats also are absorbed into the blood stream faster than those that appear in solid food. This, coupled with the heavy amount of insulin production from the pancreas when soda is drank, can lead to type two diabetes. Soda also contains caffeine, and absolutely no nutrients which the body can use.

Children and teens in the United States drink, on average, 235 empty calories in sugar-sweetened beverages each day. When these drinks are cut out, the average child does not make up for them by eating or drinking more calories elsewhere, which means a key strategy to eliminating excess calories and prevent childhood obesity is eliminating sweetened drinks from kids’ diets.

Sounds impossible? Expecting the kids to rebel against the new rules? Don’t forget that kids adapt quickly to changes and that if you’re confident and show them that you’re not planning to change your mind, they’ll likely accept whatever you offer them. If there’s no soda in the house (you can allow it as a special treat when dining out) and if you don’t bring juice boxes to the playground with you, they’ll drink what’s available - and if what’s available is water, your kids will quickly get used to drinking that.


UpToUs offers online groups for parents, where parents connect and organize their kids’ activities. Visit our website today to start a community for your classroom, sports team or any other trusted group.

Posted in Diet, Health. Tagged with .

Teens Who Text While Driving Are Endangering Themselves And Others

Photo credit: ydhsu

Teens love to text: teenagers are sending 10,000 text messages every year and the numbers are growing. Many of them spend the majority of their spare time on the web, and are heavy users of social media websites.

While many argue that constant texting by teens is a waste of time, others say texting teaches them important life skills: technology, after all, is the future, and learning to manage it responsibly is an important lesson not just for the present, but also for the future.

However, many teens are so addicted to texting, that they text while driving.

According to a new study, (and hey, I could have told you the results without doing a study) driving while text messaging is extremely dangerous - even more so than talking on a cell phone.

The teens that took part in a series of simulated driving-while-doing-other-stuff  experiments drove badly, steering the virtual vehicles erratically, weaving in and out of lanes and running over virtual people.

Their driving was worst when they were texting, probably because texting forces people to look down in addition to moving their fingers.

The study authors are aiming to increase community awareness about this problem, especially since texting while driving is a rapidly increasing problem.

According to a recent study by the American Automobile Association, the risk of a car accident increases by 50% for people who text message while driving. A few states have banned texting while driving, “and they all should,” say the study authors.


UpToUs offers online groups for parents, where parents connect and organize their kids’ activities. Visit our website today to start a community for your classroom, sports team or any other trusted group.

Posted in Teens. Tagged with , , .

Spoiled Kids? It’s Not Too Late To Set Limits


Photo credit: Tina Keller. This photo is used here for illustration purposes only.

You’re not doing your kids any favors when you spoil them. Spoiled children are used to having their way. They are in fact little bullies. But even if they can bully you, they won’t be able to bully their friends. If you’re not teaching them limits, they will have to learn them the hard way.

How do you know if your kid is spoiled? That’s easy. Spoiled kids are rude and inconsiderate. They refuse to share, to listen and to follow instructions. They expect to get whatever they want, and if they don’t, they start a temper tantrum.

Of course, it’s better not to get to the point where your child is spoiled in the first place. But even if she is, you can still remedy the situation if you’re willing to survive a couple of tough weeks. Remember: by stopping this behavior, you are doing your child a favor. Research shows that when spoiled kids become teenagers, they are often self-centered, have control issues, and can suffer from anxiety and depression. As spoiled kids grow, they are simply not ready to handle life.

So what can you do?

1. Don’t be afraid to set limits. It will be hard at first, because your child will rebel and will keep testing you to see if you mean business. But if you keep insisting, for example, that they start cleaning their room, eventually they’ll respect the new rule.

2. Be consistent. Once you start a new rule, stick with it, no matter what. Tantrums, threats, crying fits, begging - none of these should influence you.

3. Be firm. When you tell your child to stop, mean it. Never use empty threats. If you state a certain behavior is going to lead to a certain consequence, you have to follow through.

4. Be brief. Don’t over-explain, resonate or beg. Lay out the rule (”clean your room”). Then briefly explain the consequences of disobeying and the logic behind them (”if you don’t clean your room, you won’t be able to have Katie over for a play date, since friends don’t enjoy playing in a filthy room”). Then follow up on the consequence (filthy room - no play date).

In order for this to work, you must first ditch your own guilt over setting limits. You need to realize that setting limits does not mean you’re depriving your child. On the contrary: children thrive when they have clear limits. They become scared and confused when they sense they are in control and you are not.


UpToUs offers online groups for parents, where parents connect and organize their kids’ activities. Visit our website today to start a community for your classroom, sports team or any other trusted group.

Posted in Parenting. Tagged with .

Kids and Nutrition: High Fructose Corn Syrup

High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS) is a highly processed sweetener that has replaced sugar as the sweetener of choice in many beverages and foods such as breads, soft drinks, yogurt, cookies, salad dressings and ketchup. Americans consume about 12 teaspoons per day of HFCS, but teens often consume much more than that. According to one study, the average American consumes nearly 70 pounds of HFCS a year, marking HFCS as a major contributor to the rising rates of obesity in the last generation.

Many studies show that HFCS should be avoided, but if you buy your groceries at a conventional supermarket, that’s nearly impossible. It’s EVERYWHERE. Manufacturers of processed foods prefer HFCS over sugar because it is somewhat cheaper, and also because it is easier to blend and transport because it is a liquid.

HFCS has been linked to obesity and to insulin resistance; Some say the body can’r process HFCS as efficiently as it does other sugars; soft drinks sweetened with HFCS are up to 10 times richer in harmful carbonyl compounds than a diet soft drink control. A recent study found that HFCS contains Mercury.

HFCS will very likely be banned at some future point, but right now, it is still everywhere. You need to read labels very carefully, try to buy organic when possible, and if you can’t buy organic, try to find a brand that uses sugar instead of HFCS. During a recent trip to the grocery store, it took me almost 15 minutes to find a bread that didn’t contain HFCS, but eventually I did.

Photo credit: lucianvenutian


UpToUs offers online groups for parents, where parents connect and organize their kids’ activities. Visit our website today to start a community for your classroom, sports team or any other trusted group.

Posted in Diet, Health. Tagged with .

Gardasil HPV Vaccine: Is It Safe?


Photo credit: BlueGoa

No one seems to know for sure.

Will I give it to my 9 year old daughter?

No. I plan to wait at least until she’s 11 or 12. Hopefully, by then, we’ll have some more information.

The vaccine is designed to prevent infection from the sexually transmitted human papilloma virus that causes cervical cancer. To be most effective, it should be given to girls before they have sex and may be exposed to the virus. The vaccine is routinely recommended for 11 and 12 year old girls, but can be given as early as age 9. It is also recommended for girls and women age 13 through 26 who have not yet been vaccinated or completed the vaccine series.

While cervical cancer is the second-most common cancer among women worldwide and the third-most fatal, causing 290,000 deaths a year, the disease is rare in the United States, where regular screening for adult women catches most precancerous cases. About 3,700 American women die of cervical cancer every year.

The HPV vaccine doesn’t guarantee that a woman won’t get cervical cancer or warts, but it protects against the two most common viral strains, which cause 70 percent of cervical cancer worldwide.

Some doctors are concerned about the vaccine’s safety because long-term side effects of the vaccine are unknown. In addition, no one knows for sure for how long the vaccine - which requires three shots - is effective. It seems to be effective for at least five years.

Research also hasn’t considered what effect the vaccine has on the remaining 13 strains of HPV that also cause cervical cancer. It’s possible that the remaining strains may fill the void left if the two most common strains are wiped out entirely, so that the vaccine might not make any difference on overall cervical cancer rates.

While the vaccine is considered safe, some serious side effects have been reported, including a severe allergic response (anaphylaxis); neurological conditions, such as paralysis, weakness and brain swelling; and death: 29 fatalities were reported in two years.

The National Vaccine Information Center, a private vaccine safety group, compared Gardasil adverse events to another vaccine, one also given to young people, but for meningitis. Gardasil had three times the number of Emergency Room visits - more than 5,000. Reports of side effects were up to 30 times higher with Gardasil.

The vaccine’s manufacturer, Merck, the FDA and the CDC question the value of the new analysis. They say they continue to review the data, maintain that Gardasil is safe and effective, and claim that its benefits outweigh the risks.

The CDC says on its website that as of December 31, 2008, more than 23 million doses of Gardasil were distributed in the United States. There were 11,916 reports of adverse events following Gardasil vaccination in the United States. Of these reports, 94% were reports of events considered to be non-serious, and 6% were reports of events considered to be serious.

The CDC concludes, “Based on all of the information we have today, CDC continues to recommend Gardasil vaccination for the prevention of 4 types of HPV. As with all approved vaccines, CDC and FDA will continue to closely monitor the safety of Gardasil. Any problems detected with this vaccine will be reported to health officials, healthcare providers, and the public, and needed action will be taken to ensure the public’s health and safety.”

What is your position on the HPV vaccine?


UpToUs offers online groups for parents, where parents connect and organize their kids’ activities. Visit our website today to start a community for your classroom, sports team or any other trusted group.

Posted in Health. Tagged with , , .

10 Simple Steps For Better Indoor Air Quality


Photo credit: monkeysox

If your child suffers from seasonal allergies, spring is a tough season for both of you to go through. One of the things you can do to improve your child’s quality of life during this season is to improve air quality in the home. Here are five tips for creating cleaner home air:

1. Don’t allow smoking in your house. Secondhand smoke can cause serious health problems, especially for children.

2. Good ventilation reduces indoor air pollution: open your windows as often as possible.

3. Keep humidity levels low with a dehumidifier or an air conditioner. Clean both regularly.

4. Install a good home air filter in your air conditioner. Pollen, mold spores, dust, dirt, smoke or smog and pet dander in the HVAC filter or furnace filter can cause expensive system failures. Upgrading to a “pleat guard” home air filter will keep dirt off the evaporator coil, keeping air flow moving, while improving cooling capacity.

5. When buying an air filter, look for one that holds the dust. An excellent quality HVAC filter is anti-mircobial and electrostatically charged - similar to when dust is attracted to a TV screen. This means airborne allergens smaller than one micron will be captured on the air filter - not by the human lungs - producing clean and pure HVAC air quality in the home.

6. Change the filter on your furnace or air conditioner every three months. Mark this on your calendar.

7. Clean regularly. Wash bedding in hot water. Consider replacing carpet with area rugs that can be washed often.

8. Use only “green,” non-toxic cleaning detergents.

9. Avoid using “air fresheners.” They mask bad odors, but home air quality pays a price.

10. Get rid of pests such as roaches and rodents. They are a major cause of asthma and allergies.


UpToUs offers online groups for parents, where parents connect and organize their kids’ activities. Visit our website today to start a community for your classroom, sports team or any other trusted group.

Posted in Health. Tagged with , , .

Is It Time To See The Orthodontist Yet?

I was surprised to learn that according to the California Association of Orthodontists, all children should get a check-up with an orthodontist no later than age 7.

The reason: orthodontists can spot subtle problems with jaw growth or teeth while a child still has baby teeth. It’s important to identify these problems as early as possible so that the appropriate care can be initiated at the appropriate time for each patient.

My kids are 7 and 9. They see their excellent pediatric dentist twice a year. Although he said they’ll both need braces eventually, he thinks it’s too early to send them to an orthodontist.

Of course, one would expect an orthodontists group to push for kids to see an orthodontists as early as possible.

Regardless of the exact age when your child should see an orthodontist for the first time, these are a few signs or habits that may indicate the need for an orthodontic examination:

• Early or late loss of baby teeth
• Difficulty in chewing or biting
• Mouth breathing
• Thumb or finger sucking
• Crowded, misplaced or blocked out teeth
• Jaws that shift or make sounds
• Biting the cheek or roof of the mouth
• Teeth that meet abnormally or not at all
• Jaws and teeth that are out of proportion to the rest of the face

My plan is to keep taking my kids to the pediatric dentist twice a year and follow his advice regarding the best timing of the first orthodontic exam. What’s your plan?

Photo credit: lanuiop


UpToUs offers online groups for parents, where parents connect and organize their kids’ activities. Visit our website today to start a community for your classroom, sports team or any other trusted group.

Posted in Health. Tagged with , .

Kids and Nutrition: Sugar

According to Consumer Reports, some breakfast cereals contain more than 50% sugar. “Americans are consuming about 15% more added sugars than they did 25 years ago, and over that time the percentage of overweight or obese adults has grown from 47% to 66%. During roughly the same time the number of overweight children in the U.S. has doubled.”

So, how bad is sugar for our kids?

Many parents believe that when their kids consume sugar, they become hyperactive. However, researchers say this is not the case.

Still, it makes sense to limit intake of simple carbs as much as possible while encouraging consumption of complex carbs. Children should never be placed on a low-carb diet (I doubt if adults should but this is beyond the scope of this blog). Children should eat plenty of whole grain breads, pastas and cereals, a variety of fruit and vegetables including potatoes and corn, beans, and brown rice (we have a strong preference for white rice in our house so that’s what we eat.)

Simple carbs, especially processed foods that contain added sugar such as cake, candy and soft drinks have little nutritional value and are not satisfying, which could lead to over-eating and unnecessary weight gain. Of course, they are also bad for teeth.

Being reasonable is important. Allowing a small treat once a day while keeping sugar levels down in other foods works well for us. In addition, as bad as sugar is for kids’ health, we all need to be aware that today there are far worse things to worry about in processed foods, namely High Fructose Corn Syrup. More on that in my next article.

Photo credit: Gaetan Lee


UpToUs offers online groups for parents, where parents connect and organize their kids’ activities. Visit our website today to start a community for your classroom, sports team or any other trusted group.

Posted in Diet, Health. Tagged with .

Kids And Nutrition: Food Colors


Photo credit: drcorneilus

A study published in September 2007 in the medical journal the Lancet confirmed that food dyes are linked to hyperactivity in children. The study’s researchers suggested that by removing these artificial colors from children’s diets, parents may be able to prevent or control hyperactive behavior.

Following the study, the UK’s Food Standards Agency asked food makers in 2008 to voluntarily recall six artificial colors in food by 2009. Most did. In addition, the European Parliament voted to add warning labels to products with those six synthetic red and yellow dyes. This caused large food manufacturers to reformulate their products so that they don’t include the questionable additives.

Indeed, A growing number of natural food dyes, such as caramel coloring and Annatto, are being commercially produced, partly due to consumer concerns surrounding synthetic dyes.

Not all experts agree that food dyes are a problem. Some say that more clinical data is needed before reaching final conclusions.

Artificial dyes are particularly prevalent in the sugary cereals, candies, sodas, and snack foods pitched to kids. Despite several organizations urging the FDA to ban these dyes, the FDA still considers the nine synthetic colors allowed in food as safe.


UpToUs offers online groups for parents, where parents connect and organize their kids’ activities. Visit our website today to start a community for your classroom, sports team or any other trusted group.

Posted in Diet, Health. Tagged with .

Obesity Poses Health Risks At Any Age


Young children should be active. Photo credit: di the huntress

New research shows that overweight children as young as age 3 can begin to show signs of cardiovascular disease risk factors.

Researchers analyzed levels of “good” cholesterol and of C-reactive protein, which is a marker for inflammation that can warn of cardiovascular disease, in children ages 3 to 6.

They found that children with high BMIs and large waist circumferences were more likely to have elevated levels of the protein and lower levels of good cholesterol than children of normal weight.

This means that even at this young age, being overweight increases cardiovascular disease risk factors.

In adults, the relationship between obesity and elevated bad cholesterol and C-reactive protein is well-established.

Researchers said that all children should have their BMI and waist circumference monitored, and if the numbers are going up, doctors and parents should intervene. They expressed concern, saying that since we have never had so many heavy young children, we don’t know the cumulative effect of many years of having all of your internal organs under stress from being overweight.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children as young as 2 start having their cholesterol levels screened if they have a family history of heart disease or high cholesterol, and that screening for all children should start no later than age ten.


UpToUs offers online groups for parents, where parents connect and organize their kids’ activities. Visit our website today to start a community for your classroom, sports team or any other trusted group.

Posted in Health. Tagged with .