Old Lyme Children’s Learning Center
57 Lyme Street • Old Lyme CT 06371 • (860) 434-1728
The Earthy Kids initiative at the Old Lyme Children’s Learning Center promotes health and wellness in our children by encouraging healthy eating and lifestyle habits. Earthy Kids will encourage children to explore fresh, wholesome foods that are minimally processed and retain most of their original form (Earthy!). Focusing on foods that are in their most natural form allows kids to avoid dyes, preservatives, saturated fat, excess sugar and other chemicals that many in the health care field find counter-productive to the health and well-being of children. Earthy Kids will also encourage healthy habits that kids can use throughout their lives, helping them on their journey of being happy, productive and healthy adults. Each month Earthy Kids will promote an Earthy Kid Initiative, provide informative articles and tips for parents, and perhaps a recipe or two. I hope the latest installment, The Flu and You, will help you through flu season.
Feel free to leave me any questions or comments at the Center in my mailbox. In future installments I would love to answer your questions.
Alison Ritrovato, APRN
Old Lyme Children’s Learning Center
Happy New Year and Happy Flu season! According to the CDC the flu has arrived a little early and with a vengeance this year. As of mid-January, Internet news sources have reported 1,676 confirmed cases of the flu in Connecticut compared with 595 confirmed cases for the whole season last year! I have also heard of many people in our community with pneumonia and the stomach flu. Here are some ways to help keep yourself and family well.
1. Get the influenza vaccine. It’s not too late if you haven’t gotten your flu shot! Flu season arrived early, so there’s it still a lot of time to become infected. Even if you have already had the flu, there are many strains of the flu and you can get more than one kind. The vaccine may prevent you from getting another version. Pregnant women can get the vaccine so speak to your doctor about it. I’m happy to report that Rite Aid in Old Lyme just got more vaccine in.
2. Wash your hands often, especially before you eat, every time you enter your house, and after bathroom use. Please supervise children when they wash their hands. I’ve watch hundreds of children wash their hands as a school nurse in Region 18, and very few do it correctly. Try teaching this technique: wet and soap hands, turn off the water, sing the happy birthday song while scrubbing, turn the water back on, and rinse. Be sure to show your child how to scrub both the top and bottom of hands. Another tip I’ve learned is to have kids turn off the water because the first thing they all do after putting soap on is promptly rinse it off. Doing that doesn’t allow the soap to do its thing.
3. Keep your hands away from your face. Germs are transmitted from our hands to our mouth or nose as well as from our mouth and nose to our hands and onto surfaces that we (and subsequently others) touch.
4. Stay home and keep your kids home until you are well for 24 hours. Not only does this prevent others from getting sick but also it allows your immune system time to get back on track, preventing secondary infections. Don’t be afraid to call your doctor for advice and help, especially for children. This prevents ER visits, and most ERs are overwhelmed right now. You doctor should be able to handle all of your needs and will send you to the ER if necessary. Remember, you may recover easily from the flu but you may spread it to others who don’t recover well. Staying home really does help!
5. Disinfect all surfaces in your home frequently. Open the windows now and again to help exchange and refresh the air in the home.
Alison Ritrovato, APRN
Packing lunches can be a chore especially when you want to offer a lot of healthy choices. By this time of the year you may be out of ideas and your child might be really bored by what you’re packing. So, how do you keep your child’s lunches interesting and chock full of nutrients? Here are some ideas:
Keep portions small: For this age group ¼ to ½ a sandwich is more than enough for lunch along with ½ cup of fruit or/and ½ cup of veggie, and a drink.
Sandwich change-up: Sandwiches can become boring so change them up with these ideas: a banana with nut or sunflower butter; hard boiled eggs; hummus with a whole wheat pita; whole wheat tortilla with a favorite filling rolled and cut into pinwheels; ants on a log: celery stuffed with nut butter or cream cheese and raisins on top.
Make a snack mix: Mix together whole grain cereal, raisins or other dried fruit, nuts or seeds, a few chocolate chips for a fun lunch. Round it out with some fruit or veggies and lunch is served!
Cereal bar alternative: Most cereal bars like FiberOne and Nutrigrain bars are basically just cookies. Kids often choose to eat that part of their lunch first and then are too full to eat the more nutritional items in their lunchbox. If you must send cereal bars, try Clif Kid Z Bars, Cascadian Farms Granola bars, or Kind bars. You can cut them in half and place a half-portion in a baggie to cut down on the serving size.
Alternative to lunchmeat: Most lunchmeat, bacon, and sausage have nitrates (a known carcinogen) in them. Keeping in mind that children are still growing and less apt to clear toxins from their body, it is a good idea to limit nitrates in their diet. Good news: Applegate Farms brand lunchmeat, sausage and bacon are all nitrate-free. You can find most of the products at Big Y in the deli section. The sausage is sold at Foodworks. Big Y also sells a nitrate-free chicken sausage by Al Fresco in the meat section.
Alternative to prepared baby or toddler food: Once your child is able to chew it’s best to move away from baby food or toddler meals so that he/she develops mouth muscles by chewing food. However, there are a few baby food products that are simply pureed vegetables that are quite healthy. Using these occasionally in conjunction with foods that your child can chew is fine. Keep in mind that baby food in a kindergartener’s lunch box will not go over big with classmates—kids can be rough! If your child really likes his/her smooth fruits and veggies try using a juicer for the whole family. People swear by it!
Alternative to Goldfish crackers: Oyster crackers are definitely an improvement over Goldfish, which are packed with sodium and MSG (autolyzed yeast). Read food labels and find a cracker with the fewest ingredients—simple is best. If you like the bite-size idea try a giving your child healthy cold cereal in a baggie. Most cold cereals are lower in sodium but, again, be sure to read food labels.
Alternative to chewy fruit snacks: While convenient, packaged fruit chews (i.e. Welch’s) are processed foods. Dried fruits (like apricots, raisins, Craisins) and fresh fruits, are better for your child and yummy too!
Fun in the lunch: No fun left in the lunch, you say? Fun can mean a sticker of the day, or my kids’ favorite, a note from mom or dad. Non-readers love a funny drawing on a Post-it—it beats a cookie every time!
Hi Families! I am happy to report that the kids love all the changes in our snack program. The teachers report that the majority of the kids are trying new fruits and veggies and asking for more! The teachers are having fun thinking up new and different foods for all to try!
Along with healthy eating habits, exercise should be a regular part of your child’s day. Not only does exercise tire your child out (a bedtime bonus!) but it also helps him or her develop hand-eye coordination, balance, and physical endurance After a long day at work it is hard to get motivated to exercise but we all know that we feel better when we get some fresh air and sunshine. Here are some tips and activities to help you get moving:
+ Make a reasonable family goal for daily exercise. For instance, “I will play 10 minutes a day with my child”. As it becomes more of a routine, you can extend your time.
+ Turn off the TV and turn on the music. Most kids love to dance to some tunes.
+ Set up an obstacle course: have your child scramble over cushions, crawl under a table, hop over a book, etc.
+ Have your child walk on a taped or chalked line. This is great for balance. You can even make a low balance beam with a sturdy board and some bricks.
+ Play chase or tag in the yard.
+ Sit on the floor and roll a ball to each other. This builds coordination.
+ Take a walk or ride your bikes. Stroll on the beach.
+ Put markers like Frisbees or Hula Hoops in the yard and hop to each one.
+ Don’t forget to join your child in the games. You will feel better, sleep more soundly, and provide your child with a wonderful lifetime role model for a healthy and active life.
+ Now let’s get moving!
Here at OLCLC, we encourage all families to eat before they arrive so everyone is ready to start the day. We know how much better our bodies function when they are well-fueled. But the morning rush, sleepy kids and the “to-do list before I get out the door,” can really hamper our ability to get something to eat in the morning. Here are some Earthy Tips to make it easier for your family to eat breakfast.
Plan ahead: Get breakfast ready the night before. Cut up fruit, hard boil some eggs, make oatmeal in the crock-pot (see recipe below), set the table, pre-make the coffee, set out tea, make extra batches of pancakes or French toast over the weekend and freeze for use during the week.
Fast breakfast ideas: Try to set out a fruit/veggie, a grain, a protein and a fat. Some ideas are leftovers, crock-pot oatmeal, sandwiches, whole grain toast with a nut-butter or sunflower butter, fresh fruit and plain greek yogurt drizzled with real maple syrup, fruit smoothie (try adding an avocado, nut butter, organic whey protein powder, or silken tofu).
Sit and eat with your kids: Remember it is your job to set out a healthy variety of food and your child’s job to choose the food and whether or not to eat it. Sitting down with him or her and modeling good eating habits and providing pleasant conversation is all you need to do. For little ones, this is a good time of day to keep the mood calm and relaxed by reading them a short story. Keeping the TV off helps everyone focus on each other and the yummy food in front of us.
1 cup steel cut or regular oats (NOT Quick Oats)
4 cups water
½ cup milk or similar
1 tsp cinnamon
½ cup chopped dates (for fiber and sweetness)
1 chopped apple
Combine all ingredients in a crockpot and cook on low for 8 hours.ﾠ Serve with milk and cinnamon sugar.
+ Add up to 1 cup raisins or other dried fruit before cooking.
+ Top with fresh fruit (in season) or canned fruit (drained).
+ Add a pat of butter or a dollop of jam/preserves.
+ Drizzle with real maple syrup.
All snacks provided should be as close to their original form as possible and minimally processed. Try to buy organic whenever possible to reduce the amount of pesticides the children ingest, especially produce that cannot be peeled.
The following is a list of ideas:
Any fruit or veggie: bananas, grapes, strawberries, pears, apples, kiwi, fresh pineapple, blueberries, clementines, oranges, pea pods, carrots, celery, salad, pepper strips, broccoli, cauliflower, avocado
Dairy: cheese, plain greek yogurt topped with a some all-fruit jam, cottage cheese, farmer’s cheese. (Sweetened and dye-filled yogurt is not the best choice).
Other: beans, hummus, homemade guacamole, toasted oat cereal (i.e. Big Y Full Circle organic), Triscuits (preferably Hint of Salt type).
+ Eating foods that require chewing is important for children. It helps to develop and maintain the muscles in the mouth that they use for speech. Once a child is old enough to graduate away from softer foods, soft foods should become a smaller portion of their daily intake. Example: give them an apple rather than applesauce.
+ Shop the perimeter of your grocery store. It is here you will find foods in their most pure form.
+ Purchase certified organic foods whenever possible. This will help to reduce the amount of exposure to pesticides and antibiotics.
+ Use your child’s imagination to help you to encourage them to try new foods. Carrots can be bunny food that help you hop like a bunny; broccoli are trees that you can devour like a monster; make faces out of food on their plate, etc.
+ Let children help plan and prepare food with you. Children will feel invested in the food and will be more likely to try new foods.
+ Be a good example. Children are more likely to model your behavior more than to follow what you say. Show them how you try new foods, talk about how good you feel with healthy foods in your tummy etc.
+ Keep portions small for children so that they are more likely to fill up on a variety of foods. Kids have very small stomachs and serving sizes for kids are quite small. For 1 to 3 year olds, a serving size for bread would be ½ slice, a serving of veggies/fruits is ¼ cup, and one serving of dairy is ½ cup. For children 4 to 5 years old, servings are only slightly bigger.
+ Put food in front of kids in small amounts. Most children find it unappealing and overwhelming to have a large lump of food in front them.
+ Think outside the box. Try almond milk instead of cow’s milk (for kids not allergic to nuts); eat a vegetarian meal at least once a week, focusing on vegetables as the main part of the meal; sneak grated veggies (i.e. carrots, zucchini) into muffins, pancakes and breads; reduce the sugar in your recipes by half (it tastes just as good). For birthday celebrations at school, ask for an extra recess instead of bringing in sweets.
+ Feel empowered to make the changes to become a healthy and fit family. You can do it one step at a time to gradually introduce healthier choices.
Smoothies are great for snacks, dessert or even breakfast. Kids think they are eating ice cream.
1 bag of frozen organic fruit
½ cup plain Greek yogurt (add more if you like)
½ cup milk or almond milk (add more or less, depending on how thick you like it)
Place all in a blender or food processor and blend until smooth. If the fruit is not very sweet, like raspberries, add a small amount of organic raw agave to taste. (My kids have adjusted to having things less sweet so I do not add any agave. As you reduce sugar the kids lose their taste for it.)
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