Avoid TV HEADS! by Two Peds in a Pod

We love our friends at Two Peds in a Pod! They always offer such valuable content to parents and kids fitness professionals! Below is a great article they wrote on how to limit screen time in your home! ENJOY!

We know that winter break often finds kids spending more time in front of screens: watching TV, playing video games, or surfing the internet. Today we repost our suggestions to help limit screen time in your home.
Drs. Kardos and Lai

“Mom, can we do screen?”

My kids ask me this question when they are bored. Never mind the basement full of toys and games, the outdoor sports equipment, or the numerous books on our shelves. They’d watch any screen whether television, hand-held video game, or computer for hours if I let them. But I notice that on days I give in, my children bicker more and engage in less creative play than on days that I don’t allow some screen time.

Babies who watch television develop language slower than their screen-free counterparts (despite what the makers of “educational videos” claim) and children who log in more screen time are prone to obesity, insomnia, and behavior difficulties. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no more than two hours of television watching a day for kids over the age of two years, and NO television for those younger than two.

Over the years, parents have given me tips on how they limit screen time in their homes. Here are some ideas for cutting back:

  • Have children who play a musical instrument earn screen time by practicing music. Have children who play a sport earn screen time by practicing their sport.
  • Turn off the screen during the week. Limit screen to weekends or one day per week.
  • Set a predetermined time limit on screen time, such as 30 minutes or one hour per day. If your child chooses, she can skip a day to accumulate and “save” for a longer movie or longer video game.
  • Take the TV, personal computer, and video games out of your children’s bedrooms. Be a good role model by taking them out of your own bedroom as well.
  • Turn off the TV during meals.
  • Turn off the TV as background noise. Turn on music instead.
  • Have books available to read in relaxing places in the house (near couches, beds, etc.). When kids flop on the couch they will pick up a book to relax instead of reaching for the remote control.
  • Give kids a weekly “TV/screen allowance” with parameters such as no screen before homework is done, no screen right before bed, etc. Let the kids decide how to “spend” their allowance.

Not that I am averse to “family movie night,” and I understand the value of plunking an ill child in front of a video in order to take his mind off his ailment. In fact, Dr. Lai lives in a house with three iPod Touches, two iPhones, a Nintendo DS and three computers. But I do find it frightening to watch my otherwise very animated children lose all facial expression as they tune in to a television show.

For more information about how screen time affects children, see the American Academy of Pediatrics web site (www.aap.org) and put in “television” in the search box.

Learn more from our friends at Two Peds in a Pod at www.twopedsinapod.com

Julie Kardos, MD and Naline Lai, MD
© 2010 Two Peds in a Pod®

Feeding Picky Eaters

We just love the articles and insights from Two Peds In a Pod. So much that we had to share this one because it hits home with all parents at some point in time.

You just don’t appreciate a picky eater until you have one. ”–Overheard at Dr. Lai’s dinner table.

Picky eaters come in two major varieties. One kind is the child who eats the same foods every day and will not vary her diet; for example, cereal, milk, and a banana for breakfast, peanut butter and jelly with milk or juice for lunch, and chicken, rice, and peas for dinner. This diet is nutritionally complete (has fruit, vegetable, protein, dairy, carbohydrate) but is quite “boring” to the parent.


The other kind of picky eater is the child who either leaves out entire food groups, most commonly vegetables or meat, or leaves out meals, such as always eats breakfast but never eats dinner.


My own children range from the One Who Tries Anything to the One Who Refuses Everything (these are my twins!). My oldest child lived on cheerios and peanut butter and jelly for about two years and now eats crab legs and bulgur wheat and other various foods. My point: I know where you’re coming from, I feel your frustration, and I will give you advice that works as well as optimism and a new way of thinking about feeding your children.


Fortunately, from a medical point of view, toddler/child nutrition needs to be complete as you look over several days, not just one meal. For example, if every 3 days your child has eaten some fruit, some vegetables, some protein, some dairy, and some complex carbohydrates, then nutritional needs are met and your child will thrive! See our post about a very simple way to look at complete nutrition.


Twelve ways to outwit, outplay, and outlast picky eaters


1) Never let them know you care about what they eat. If you struggle with your child about eating, she will not eat and you will continue to feel bad about her not eating. Talk about the day, not about the food on the table. You want your child to eat for the simple reason that she feels hungry, not to please you or anyone else, and not because she feels glad or mad or sad or because of what you the parent will feel if she eats or doesn’t eat. Along these lines, NEVER cook a “special meal” for your toddler. I can guarantee that when she knows how desperately you want her to eat your cooking, she will refuse it.

2) Let them help cook. Even young children can wash vegetables and fruit, arrange food on platters, and mix, pour, and sprinkle ingredients. Older kids can read recipes out loud for you and measure ingredients. Kids are more apt to taste what they help create.

3) Let them dip their food into salad dressing, apple sauce, ketchup etc., which can make their food more appealing or interesting to eat.

4) Let them pick their own food. Whether you grow your own foods, visit a farm or just let your kids help you in the supermarket, kids often get a kick out of tasting what they pick.

5) Hide more nutritious food in the foods they already like (without them knowing). For example, carefully mix vegetables into meatballs or meatloaf or into macaroni and cheese. Let me know if you want my recipe for zucchini chocolate chip muffins or Magic Soup.

6) Offer them foods that you don’t like—THEY might like it. Here’s an example: a few years ago, my children were decorating Easter eggs with Dr. Lai’s children. My kids asked if they could eat their decorated hard boiled eggs. Now, hard boiled eggs are one of the few foods that I do NOT like. I don’t like their smell, their texture, and I really don’t like the way they taste. Yet, all three of my kids, including my pickiest, loved those hard boiled eggs dipped in a little bit of salt. Go figure. Now I have an inexpensive, easy, healthy protein source to offer even though I can’t stand the way my kitchen smells when I cook them… but hey, if my kids actually will EAT them…

7) Continue to offer foods even if they are refused. Don’t force feed; just have them on the table. It could take 20 -30 exposures before your kids might try them so don’t despair. It took eight years of exposure to brocoli until two of my three kids decided they loved it. 

8) Hunger is the best sauce. Do not offer junk food as snacks. Pretzels, crackers, cookies, candy, and chips have NO nutritional value yet fill up small bellies quickly. Do not waste precious stomach space with junk because your insightful child will HOLD OUT for the junk and refuse good nutrition if they know they can fill up on snacks later. Along these lines, never bribe food for food. Chances are, if you bribe eating vegetables with dessert, all the focus will be on the dessert and a tantrum will follow. You and your child will have belly aches from stress, not full bellies.

9) It is okay to repeat similar meals day after day as long as they are nutritious. We might like variety as grownups but most toddlers and young kids prefer sameness and predictability.

10) Turn off the TV. Trust me and trust numerous scientific behavioral studies on this, while it sometimes works in the short term, it never works in the long term. In addition, watching TV during meals is antisocial and promotes obesity.

11) Do not become a “short order” chef. If you do, your child will take advantage of you and likely will not end up eating anyway. When your child says, I don’t want this dinner/lunch/breakfast, I want something else,” you say “The meal is on the table.” 
One variation of this that works in some families is to have one back-up meal that is the same every day and for every meal and must be completely non-cook and nutritious, for example, a very low sugar cereal and milk, peanut butter and jelly sandwich, or yogurt with nuts or fruit mixed in it, etc, that you agree to serve if your child does not want to eat what the rest of the family is eating.

12) You can give your child a pediatric multivitamin. This tactic is not “giving up,” nor is it cheating, and it can give the Parent as Provider of Nutrients peace of mind. You can either give a multivitamin every day or just on the days that you are convinced that your child has eaten nothing.

If all else fails, your consolation is that your child will likely become a parent of a picky eater too, and she will ask you how to cope. You’ll be able to tell her what worked for you when she was a picky eater.

Julie Kardos, MD with Naline Lai, MD
©2013 Two Peds in a Pod®
Originally posted on July 24, 2009, with modifications

How Best to Hydrate Your Sporty Kid!

Saturday morning at my home this past weekend. Three sets of misplaced shin guards. Three new coaches to remember. Three kids running in different directions.  And nearly forgotten as we fly out the door… three water bottles.  Forget the balls, forget the money for pictures, even forget the coaches’ names. But even in this beautiful cool autumn air, don’t forget the water bottles.

We are all accustomed to reminding our children to hydrate well during summer sports, but when the weather grows cooler we sometimes let our guard down.  Because thirst does not always correlate with dehydration,  children often misjudge their own hydration status.    Teach your children to recognize  headache and nausea as one of the first symptoms of dehydration.  If  they “just don’t feel right ,” take a break.

Don’t depend on the coach.   Learn to recognize when your child needs to rest and hydrate.   A mother I met at field hockey Saturday says she can always tell if one of her girls needs a break because a subtle white ring appears around her mouth.

For hydration outside of sports, the best liquids for kids over two years old are skim milk and water.  Reserve juice for constipated children or the picky eater who will not eat fruit.  Even then, limit juice to once a day.  Consumption of sweet beverages multiple times a day encourages a sweet tooth and gives only empty calories.  Also, even juice diluted with water has the power to decay teeth- just ask my nephew who had over ten cavities filled two days ago.

Drink water up to half an hour prior to a sports activity.  For young children who only play for an hour or so, water is a good choice for hydration.  Enforce drinking approximately every 20 minutes.   For the more competitive players who churn up a sweat, electrolyte replenishers such as Gatorade and Powerade  become important.  After 20-30 minutes of sweating, a body can lose salt and sugar.   At that point, switch to rehydration with electrolyte replenishers.   My sister, an Emergency Medicine doctor,  tells the story of a young woman played ultimate frisbee all day, and lost a large amount of salt through  sweating.  Because she also drank large amounts of water, she “diluted” the salt that was still in her blood and had a seizure.  If your child plays an early morning sport, start the hydration process the night before so that they don’t wake up already behind on fluids.

Avoid caffeine which is found in  some sodas, iced tea and many of the energy drinks.   Caffeine tends to dehydrate.  Alcohol also dehydrates (think of the copious amount of fluid lost in urine after consumption of beer).

So, before your kid’s next sports activity, remember the helmet, remember the shin guards, remember the padding and remember one of the most protective pieces of equipment  of all – the water bottle.

Naline Lai, MD with Julie Kardos, MD
Updated June 3, 2012, Two Peds in a Pod®


Organic Fruit and Veggies: Health or Hype?

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Nutritionists are urging parents to feed kids one and one-half cups of fruit and two and one-half cups of vegetables daily and the American Academy of Pediatrics suggests whole fruit rather than juice to meet most of the daily fruit requirements. 

Nutritionists are urging parents to feed kids one and one-half cups of fruit and two and one-half cups of vegetables daily and the American Academy of Pediatrics suggests whole fruit rather than juice to meet most of the daily fruit requirements. 

OK, so that’s fine, but why spend a lot more money to buy those fruits and veggies labed organic? Are they worth it? Will non-organic produce harm your kid? No easy answers here. American consumers demand a bountiful supply of blemish-free, perfect fruits and vegetables. We want unspotted shiny red apples, brightly colored large oranges and arrow-straight asparagus. Farmers want to give us just that. Since pests attack crops causing blemishes, worms, blight, and other forms of costly crop damage, farmers have been using pesticides for years to increase crop yield, profit, and visual marketability. 

The US Dept of Agriculture (USDA) regulates the agricultural procedures and labeling that use the buzz word organic. Obviously every business wants to put that word on their product if it means consumers will run out and buy it. The USDA will certify farms that use organic methods. But even the USDA’s definition of organic allows a percentage of synthetic chemicals to be added to products labeled organic. Also organic does not mean that the food contains increased amounts of essential minerals and vitamins or is more nutritious for you. And remember that organic produce doesn’t necessarily come from small, cuddly, local, family-run farms. Most large, international agribusinesses are touting organic foods for sale these days.

Well over one billion pounds of pesticides, according to the Department of Agriculture, are used on American crops annually. And pesticides tend to be nasty chemicals—otherwise they wouldn’t kill bugs. In large amounts, some types can cause seizures or coma in people. However, all foods , whether organic or non-organic, must contain pesticide residues well below the standard that the government considers safe. Not every piece of non organic fruit even contains a residue; it’s hit and miss.

But what about the long-term safety of pesticides in trace amounts, the amounts barely present as micro-grams or nano-grams? The fact is that no one knows the safety for sure. The science just isn’t there yet. Some dispute the government’s definitions; arguing that children don’t eat the same market basket as adults (they eat more fruit). They reason that using adult pesticide residue standards may not protect children. Recently some scientists did a study where they measured pesticide residue in the urine of school-aged children who were fed regular, market-basket produce, and then measured again after they switched them to organic-only fruits and vegetables. Guess what—kids fed organic foods excreted less pesticide residues in their urine. There’s a powerful argument for organic. But does it matter for their long-term health? Who knows? 

One thing that everyone agrees with—wash all of your fruits and vegetables after you buy them and before anybody in your family eats them. And that means soap and water, not just a quick rinse. Also keep in mind that infants and children are resilient even in this modern age filled with all sorts of hazards. Kids and adults are armed with marvelous defense mechanisms that prevent chemicals from doing bodily harm. Even if a chemical does cause some injury, the body has remarkable mechanisms that repair the damage in a hurry. No need to be “chemical phobic;” you can’t keep your kids in a bubble.

That being said, you still need to be cautious. In pediatrics we often invoke the “precautionary principle.” The idea is that if you don’t exactly know what a chemical will do to a child’s health because there aren’t enough scientific studies out there, then you assume that what it is capable of is bad and so, if possible, try not to expose them, just as a precaution. 

When you can, buy from local farms or stands where you can ask them their growing practices, or else just grow your own. If you decide to buy organic foods, you should eat them right away. They may not stay edible as long without preservatives. Again, no matter what type of food you buy, wash, wash, wash.


Finally, alternative “greener” farming techniques, integrated pest management (IPM), and more resistant varieties of plants have increased crop yields, in many cases without using as much pesticide. That’s good news for all of us. Breeding of genetically-engineered plants require less use of pesticides, but they may not be acceptable to most consumers. That’s a whole column in itself!

The bottom line: My wife and I will try to buy organic foods when we think of it, but we don’t obsess over it when we forget. 

Alan Woolf, MD, MPH, FAACT, FAAP

Director, Pediatric Environmental Health Center, Children’s Hospital Boston

© 2010 Two Peds in a Pod℠