Number of Gender-Diverse Teens Grows

The number of American children who identify as a gender other than male or female appears to be increasing, a new study in the journal Pediatrics reports.

In 2017, a CDC survey asked high school students if they considered themselves to be transgender and found 1.8% said yes. But a doctor at the University of Pittsburg Medical Center wondered if the way the CDC survey was structured didn’t capture all kids who were “gender diverse.”

Kacie Kidd, MD, instead turned to a diverse Pittsburg public high school and asked more than 3,000 students two questions:

“What is your sex (or, your sex assigned at birth, on your birth certificate)?”
“Which of the following best describes you (select all that apply)?”
The available options were “girl,” “boy,” “trans girl,” “trans boy,” genderqueer,” “nonbinary,” and “another identity.”

The study says 9.2% of kids responded that they were gender diverse in some way.

The results of the study come as singer Demi Lovato came out as nonbinary and uses the pronouns “they” and “them.”

“This has come after a lot of healing & self-reflective work,” Lovato said on Twitter. “I’m still learning & coming into myself & I don’t claim to be an expert or a spokesperson.”

Finding people on and off the binary definition of gender is not difficult in any society, Jules Gill-Peterson, PhD, associate professor of English and gender, sexuality, and women’s studies at the University of Pittsburgh, told CNN.

“Regardless of what kind of sex and gender system existed in a particular society at a given time, there are pretty much consistently always folks who stray from those norms,” Gill-Peterson said. In many of those cultures, “It’s culturally sanctioned and celebrated for certain people to live lives differently than what we might call the gender they were assigned at birth.”

‘Black fungus’ and COVID-19: Myths and facts

The human body is not the usual habitat for fungi that belong to the order Mucorales, which includes species typically found in soil, dust, decomposing vegetation, and animal dung.

Our immune system is usually more than a match for the fungi, but an “unholy trinity” of diabetes, COVID-19, and steroid treatment can weaken a person’s immunity to such an extent that these microorganisms can gain a foothold.

Diabetes not only increases a person’s risk of severe COVID-19 but also provides conditions in which fungal infections can thrive. To make matters worse, both COVID-19 and the steroid dexamethasone, which intensive care doctors use to treat it, suppress immunity.

The ensuing infection, known as mucormycosis or zygomycosis, spreads rapidly from the nose and sinuses to the face, jaw, eyes, and brain.

On May 26, 2021, there were 11,717 confirmed cases of mucormycosis in India, which has more peopleTrusted Source living with diabetes than any other country in the world, except China.

Even before the pandemic, the prevalence of mucormycosis may have been 70 times higher in India than the overall figure for the rest of the world.

The fungus blocks blood flow, which killsTrusted Source infected tissue, and it is this dead, or necrotic, tissue that causes the characteristic black discoloration of people’s skin, rather than the fungus itself.

Nonetheless, the term “black fungus” seems to have stuck.

Prof. Malcolm Richardson, a professor of medical mycology at the University of Manchester in the United Kingdom, told Medical News Today that the name is “totally inappropriate.”

“The agents of mucormycosis — Rhizopus oryzae, for example — are hyaline (transparent),” he wrote in an email.

“From a mycological point of view, the term ‘black fungus’ (or ‘black yeasts’) is restricted to fungi called dematiaceous, which have melanin in their cell walls. Many people have tried to correct this on Twitter but to no avail.”

He said the media in India were now using the similarly misleading terms “white fungus” and “yellow fungus” to describe supposed variants of mucormycosis.

Fatality rates
Without immediate treatment with an antifungal medication and a surgery to remove necrotic tissue, mucormycosis is often fatal.

Before the pandemic, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported an overall mortality rate of 54%Trusted Source.

A 2021 systematic review of all COVID-19-related cases published in the scientific literature found 101 cases: 82 of them in India and 19 from the rest of the world. Among these cases, 31% were fatal.

Dr. Awadhesh Kumar Singh and his co-authors report that around 60% of all the cases occurred during an active SARS-CoV-2 infection and that 40% occurred after recovery.

In total, 80% of the patients had diabetes, and 76% had been treated with corticosteroids.

Myths about transmission
Several theories about the source of mucormycosis infections are circulating on social media, many of them unfounded.

Person-to-person transmission
Crucially, mucormycosis cannot be transmitted from person to person, so there is no need for people to isolate — unless, of course, they have an ongoing SARS-CoV-2 infection.

Rather, the source of infection is environmental, from airborne spores produced by the fungi.

Fungi growing in water, oxygen cylinders, humidifiers
Some media pundits have concluded that the fungi must be growing in dirty water in hospital oxygen cylinders or humidifiers. However, there is no evidence that this can occur, and mycologists have pointed out that fungi cannot produce spores in fluid.

What is more, the pure oxygen stored in cylinders is likely to be detrimental to the growth of microorganisms of all kinds.

Face masks harbor black fungus
This is a myth. There is no evidence that face masks can harbor the fungi.

Onions are to blame
Another popular theory is that the black mold sometimes seen on onions in refrigerators is Mucorales fungus and, therefore, a potential source of infection.

As we have seen, the species in question are not black. In fact, the black mold found on onions and garlic is usually the fungus Aspergillus niger.

In a 2019 paper, Prof. Richardson and his co-author explain that Mucorales fungi grow on moldy bread, decaying fruit and vegetables, crop debris, soil, compost, and animal excreta.

He points out that they have a high moisture requirement and are unlikely to survive on common building materials, such as wood, painted surfaces, and ceramic tiles. He concludes:

“All of these observations suggest that house residents are not generally exposed to zygomycetes in their home environment, apart from mould-contaminated food items, such as bread and fruit.”

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Possible routes of transmission
Published evidence points to several potential sources of the infection in hospitals, but it does not mention oxygen tanks, humidifiers, or face masks.

Two studies — published in 2014Trusted Source and 2016, respectively — implicate hospital linens from poorly managed laundries as a source.

A 2009 review of research into hospital outbreaks identifies ventilation systems, wooden tongue depressors, adhesive bandages, and ostomy bags as other possible sources of infection.

Pathologists at the University of Kentucky in Lexington reportTrusted Source that another possible transmission route is the inhalation of spores in dust from nearby building works, or contaminated air-conditioning filters.

They also highlight the importance of infection through the skin, for example via burns, catheter insertion sites, needlestick injuries, insect bites, and stings.

Proven treatments
A video doing the rounds on social media proposes that a concoction of mustard oil, potash alum, rock salt, and turmeric can cure mucormycosis.

In reality, the only proven treatments are surgery to remove necrotic tissue, and the antifungal amphotericin B. However, India now faces severe shortages of the drug.

Just as importantly, doctors are advised to address the underlying causes of impaired immunity, especially poorly managed diabetes and overzealous use of corticosteroids.

In their recent review, Dr. Singh and his colleagues conclude:

“An unholy trinity of diabetes, rampant use of corticosteroid in a background of COVID-19 appears to increase mucormycosis. All efforts should be made to maintain optimal glucose and only judicious use of corticosteroids in patients with COVID-19.”

New discovery shows human cells can write RNA sequences into DNA

Cells contain machinery that duplicates DNA into a new set that goes into a newly formed cell. That same class of machines, called polymerases, also build RNA messages, which are like notes copied from the central DNA repository of recipes, so they can be read more efficiently into proteins. But polymerases were thought to only work in one direction DNA into DNA or RNA. This prevents RNA messages from being rewritten back into the master recipe book of genomic DNA. Now, Thomas Jefferson University researchers provide the first evidence that RNA segments can be written back into DNA, which potentially challenges the central dogma in biology and could have wide implications affecting many fields of biology.

“This work opens the door to many other studies that will help us understand the significance of having a mechanism for converting RNA messages into DNA in our own cells,” says Richard Pomerantz, PhD, associate professor of biochemistry and molecular biology at Thomas Jefferson University. “The reality that a human polymerase can do this with high efficiency, raises many questions.” For example, this finding suggests that RNA messages can be used as templates for repairing or re-writing genomic DNA.

The work was published June 11th in the journal Science Advances.

Together with first author Gurushankar Chandramouly and other collaborators, Dr. Pomerantz’s team started by investigating one very unusual polymerase, called polymerase theta. Of the 14 DNA polymerases in mammalian cells, only three do the bulk of the work of duplicating the entire genome to prepare for cell division. The remaining 11 are mostly involved in detecting and making repairs when there’s a break or error in the DNA strands. Polymerase theta repairs DNA, but is very error-prone and makes many errors or mutations. The researchers therefore noticed that some of polymerase theta’s “bad” qualities were ones it shared with another cellular machine, albeit one more common in viruses — the reverse transcriptase. Like Pol theta, HIV reverse transcriptase acts as a DNA polymerase, but can also bind RNA and read RNA back into a DNA strand.

In a series of elegant experiments, the researchers tested polymerase theta against the reverse transcriptase from HIV, which is one of the best studied of its kind. They showed that polymerase theta was capable of converting RNA messages into DNA, which it did as well as HIV reverse transcriptase, and that it actually did a better job than when duplicating DNA to DNA. Polymerase theta was more efficient and introduced fewer errors when using an RNA template to write new DNA messages, than when duplicating DNA into DNA, suggesting that this function could be its primary purpose in the cell.

The group collaborated with Dr. Xiaojiang S. Chen’s lab at USC and used x-ray crystallography to define the structure and found that this molecule was able to change shape in order to accommodate the more bulky RNA molecule — a feat unique among polymerases.

“Our research suggests that polymerase theta’s main function is to act as a reverse transcriptase,” says Dr. Pomerantz. “In healthy cells, the purpose of this molecule may be toward RNA-mediated DNA repair. In unhealthy cells, such as cancer cells, polymerase theta is highly expressed and promotes cancer cell growth and drug resistance. It will be exciting to further understand how polymerase theta’s activity on RNA contributes to DNA repair and cancer-cell proliferation.”

This research was supported by NIH grants 1R01GM130889-01 and 1R01GM137124-01, and R01CA197506 and R01CA240392. This research was also supported in part by a Tower Cancer Research Foundation grant.

Vegetarians Have Better Cholesterol Than Meat Eaters

Vegetarians have better cholesterol and other measurements of heart health than meat eaters, according to the largest study of its kind to date.

Researchers compared 19 health measures related to diabetes, blood pressure, heart disease, cancer, liver and kidney function in 178,000 study participants who said they had followed a vegetarian or meat-eating diet for at least the last 5 years. They presented their results at this year’s online European Congress on Obesity.

The health benefits the researchers found for vegetarians were consistent despite different levels of obesity, sociodemographic factors and related lifestyle factors, said senior author Carlos Celis-Morales, PhD, of the University of Glasgow in Scotland.

Total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol concentrations for vegetarians in the study were 21% and 16.4% lower than in meat eaters. But some biomarkers considered beneficial, including vitamin D, were lower in vegetarians, while some considered unhealthy — including triglycerides and the kidney function indicator cystatin-C — were higher.

The study’s findings clearly confirm the importance of not looking at any health measurement in isolation, said John C. Mathers, PhD, of the Human Nutrition Research Centre at Newcastle University in the U.K.. “Health is complex and individual markers tell you just part of the story.”

Mathers says a vegetarian diet can be nourishing but cautioned that “just because someone excludes meat from their diet does not mean necessarily that they will be eating a healthy diet.”

The results support previous evidence from large studies, said Jose Lara Gallegos, PhD, senior lecturer in human nutrition at Northumbria University in the U.K., which showed that a vegetarian diet is associated with a lower risk of heart disease.

Strictly restricted diets could also lead to certain nutritional deficiencies, Gallegos said. “Other, less restrictive dietary patterns, such as a Mediterranean diet, are also associated with…health benefits.”

Many people, whether vegetarians or meat eaters, follow short-term diets, for example, the Atkins or the 5:2 diet, and often switch from one to another, or stop dieting altogether.

Metabolic markers tend to show clear improvement at around 3 months of adopting a particular diet, Celis-Morales said, but improvements in disease outcomes take a lot longer to become evident. In a separate study published last December, he and colleagues found that vegetarians have a lower risk than meat eaters for heart attacks and other heart disease over nearly a decade of follow-up.

Celis-Morales and his team are also looking at the data to understand if the vegetarian diet also brings a lower risk of cancer, depression, and dementia compared with meat-eaters.

Novavax COVID-19 vaccine more than 90% effective in U.S. trial

Novavax Inc (NVAX.O) on Monday said its COVID-19 vaccine was more than 90% effective, including against a variety of concerning variants of the coronavirus in a large, late-stage U.S.-based clinical trial.

The study of nearly 30,000 volunteers in the United States and Mexico puts Novavax on track to file for emergency authorization in the United States and elsewhere in the third quarter of 2021, the company said.

The protein-based vaccine was more than 93% effective against the more easily transmissible predominant coronavirus variants that have caused concern among scientists and public health officials, Novavax said.

Protein-based vaccines are a conventional approach that use purified pieces of the virus to spur an immune response, such as those used against whooping cough and shingles.

While the trial was being conducted, the virus variant first discovered in the United Kingdom and now known as the Alpha variant was the most common circulating in the United States, the company said.

The concerning variants first identified in Brazil, South Africa and India were also detected among the trial’s participants, Novavax’s head of research and development, Dr. Gregory Glenn, told Reuters.

The vaccine was 91% effective among volunteers at high risk of severe infection and 100% effective in preventing moderate and severe cases of COVID-19. It was roughly 70% effective against virus variants that Novavax was unable to identify, Glenn said.

“Practically speaking, it’s very important that the vaccine can protect against a virus that is wildly swinging around” in terms of new variants, Glenn said.

Vials labelled “COVID-19 Coronavirus Vaccine” and syringe are seen in front of displayed Novavax logo in this illustration taken, February 9, 2021. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic
Novavax said the vaccine was generally well tolerated. Side effects included headache, fatigue and muscle pain and were generally mild. A small number of participants experienced side effects described as severe.

Novavax remains on track to produce 100 million doses per month by the end of the third quarter of 2021 and 150 million doses per month in the fourth quarter of 2021, the company said.

Chief Executive Stanley Erck told CNBC on Monday it is possible the United States could donate the 110 million shots Novavax has agreed to supply to the U.S. government to the COVAX program that provides COVID-19 vaccines to poorer countries.

The Maryland-based company has repeatedly pushed back production forecasts and has struggled to access raw materials and equipment needed to manufacture its vaccine.

However, in a May investor call, Erck said major manufacturing hurdles have been cleared and that all of its facilities can now produce COVID-19 vaccine at commercial scale.

Erck said Novavax has begun its regulatory filing in India in partnership with the Serum Institute of India (SII), which is contracted to make Novavax shots.

Erck said his understanding is that SII is no longer constrained by raw materials shortages.

SII had said in March that U.S. restrictions on exports of supplies used for vaccines were limiting its ability to scale up production.

Novavax shares were off 3% in midday trading.

Pulses: The Great Plant Protein Already in Your Pantry

With so much focus on plant protein as a sustainable swap for meat, foods like quinoa are hotter than ever. But there’s another protein source, probably already in your pantry, that has even more protein, boasts a low carbon footprint, and costs pennies per serving. It’s a group of foods called “pulses.”

Pulses include four crops that you’re probably well familiar with: dry beans (like black, pinto, and kidney), dry peas (like split and black-eyed), chickpeas (also called garbanzo beans), and lentils (like green, brown, and red). They’re harvested dry and sold either dry or canned. The latest Dietary Guidelines for Americans defined pulses for the first time, and they’re unique because they “count” as either a vegetable or a protein source on your plate.

Nutritionally, pulses are hard to beat as a plant protein. A one-half cup serving has more potassium than a small banana, four times more fiber than brown rice, more iron than a 3-ounce portion of flank steak, and twice as much protein as an equal amount of quinoa. All for about 10 cents per serving (versus nearly $1.50 per serving for beef).

There’s also increased buzz around pulses because they’re a sustainable crop. They need less water to grow than many other crops. They also take nitrogen from the air and fix it into the soil, naturally restoring nutrients to the soil and lowering the need for nitrogen fertilizers. They’re also less likely to be wasted since they last for years on shelves, dried or canned. (Here’s a quick primer on cooking dry peas, beans, and lentils.)

Unfortunately, most Americans aren’t eating pulses very often. The Dietary Guidelines recommends at least 1 1/2 cups per week in a typical diet, and most adults get less than a cup. Here are some easy ways to eat more of them:

Stretch ground beef with mashed black beans or ground turkey with chickpeas when making taco filling.
Combine cooked lentils with ground beef when making meatballs and meat sauces (tip: if you’ve got lentil-wary eaters, red lentils tend to dissolve when cooked while green and brown hold their shape).
Roast canned chickpeas (season them with taco or curry spices) to sprinkle onto salads, serve in rice and veggie bowls, or eat as a crunchy snack.
Blend 1/2 cup cooked cannellini beans into a smoothie for a thick, protein boost
Add beans to homemade soups and chili.
Puree cooked chickpeas into quick hummus (here’s my easy recipe) and serve with pita bread and raw veggies.
Beat the liquid from unsalted canned chickpeas (called aquafaba) with a hand mixer for several minutes, adding a few tablespoons of sugar as you mix, to make a foamy vegan whipped topping.

Is a Plant-Centered Diet Better for Your Heart?

More evidence suggests the long-standing belief that eating low amounts of saturated fats to ward off heart disease may not be entirely correct.

A new study that followed more than 4,800 people over 32 years shows that a plant-centered diet was more likely to be associated with a lower risk of future coronary heart disease and stroke, compared with focusing on fewer saturated fats alone.

“It’s true that low-saturated fat actually lowers LDL [or bad] cholesterol, but it cannot predict cardiovascular disease,” says lead study author Yuni Choi, PhD, postdoctoral researcher in the Division of Epidemiology and Community Health at the University of Minnesota. “Our research strongly supports the fact that plant-based diet patterns are good for cardiovascular health.”

To assess diet patterns of study participants, the researchers conducted three detailed diet history interviews over the follow-up period and then calculated scores for each using the A Priori Diet Quality Score (APDQS). Higher APDQS scores were associated with higher intake of nutritionally rich plant foods and less high-fat meats. While those who consumed less saturated fats and plant-centered diets had lower low-density lipoprotein (LDL) levels, or lower levels of “bad” cholesterol, only the latter diet was also associated with a lower risk of heart disease and stroke over the long term.

Choi said targeting just single nutrients such as total or saturated fat doesn’t consider those fats found in healthy plant-based foods with cardioprotective properties, such as avocado, extra virgin olive oil, walnuts, and dark chocolate. Based on study results, she recommends those conscious of heart health fill their plates with vegetables, fruits, whole grains, nuts, legumes and even a little coffee and tea, which were associated with a low risk of cardiovascular disease.

“More than 80% should be plant-sourced foods and then nonfried fish, poultry, and low-fat dairy in moderation,” she says.

“I think in focusing just on nutrients, we oversimplify the heart [health] diet hypothesis and miss the very important plant component,” says research team leader David Jacobs, PhD, professor, Division of Epidemiology and Community Health at the University of Minnesota. “If you tend to eat a plant-centered diet you will tend to eat less saturated fats because that’s just the way the plant kingdom works.”

Following a plant-centered diet is consistent with the American Heart Association’s (AHA) existing recommendations to minimize saturated fats and emphasize fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds, says Linda Van Horn, PhD, professor, and chief of the Department of Preventive Medicine’s Nutrition Division at the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago, and a member of the AHA’s Nutrition Committee.

“There is no question that current intakes of plant-based carbohydrate, protein and fat are below what is recommended and moving in that direction would be a nutritious improvement,” she says, noting, however, that this doesn’t necessarily mean everyone needs to be on a vegetarian or vegan diet.
Given that plant-centered diets have been associated with lowering the risk of other diseases, the researchers are now looking to better understand how APDQS scores impact chronic conditions such obesity, diabetes, and kidney disease. They’ll also be researching how diet affects gut bacteria as they expect eating plant-based foods provides more fiber and promotes healthy microbiomes.

“I think that diet patterns provide a really solid base for the public and policy makers to think about what a healthy diet really is,” Jacobs says.

Ballet-Inspired Barre Classes

How It Works
Pliés, relevés, and sauté jumps don’t just look graceful, the ballet moves also lengthen and strengthen muscles and burn calories.

Ballet-inspired classes like Pure Barre, Bar Method, and Balletone are a popular workout trend that incorporates moves from ballet, Pilates, and yoga to upbeat music.

Many gyms offer ballet-inspired fitness classes, and barre studios offer classes for overall conditioning as well as targeted workouts for abs, thighs, or glutes. There are even “barre light” classes for beginners.

You don’t need a tutu or ballet slippers. Instead, dress in comfortable workout clothes and show up to the 60-minute classes prepared to use the ballet barre to do the movements your teacher shows you.

Some classes also use small balls, resistance bands, and hand weights to do floor work. The low-impact workout focuses on proper alignment.

The classes blend cardio, strength training, flexibility, balance and core conditioning in a total body workout that targets the hips, glutes, abs, and arms.

Intensity Level: Medium
The emphasis on proper alignment, balance, and core engagement means the classes move at a slower pace. You might not leave a ballet-inspired class drenched in sweat, but you’ll feel the burn after a class thanks to moves that target specific muscle groups.

Areas It Targets
Core: Yes. You’ll do a combination of ballet positions and Pilates moves to target the abs.

Arms: Yes. Classes include exercises like military presses, lateral arm raises, and triceps lifts to work the arm muscles.

Legs: Yes. Expect to perform movements like pliés, dégagé, leg lifts/extensions, and other ballet-inspired moves that target the legs.

Glutes: Yes. Targeted moves like glute raises help tone the backside.

Back: No. Ballet-inspired workouts target the whole body but do not target the back muscles, except for those that are part of your core.

Flexibility: Yes. This ballet-inspired workout will gently improve your flexibility.
Aerobic: No. The barre moves are too slow to give you an aerobic workout. So unless you’re in a class that includes exercises off the barre that gets your heart rate going, don’t count this as cardio.
Strength: Yes. Some ballet and barre classes use weights and resistance bands, and others use your body weight to strengthen and tone.

Sport: No. It’s not a sport.
Low-Impact: Yes. There is no jumping or bouncing in barre classes, so the workout is easy on the joints.

What Else Should I Know?
Cost: You’ll need to sign up for classes through your gym or a barre studio.

Good for beginners? Yes. Ballet-inspired classes are good for beginners who want to try a new workout.

Outdoors: No. Classes are done in a studio with ballet barres.

At home: Yes. There are DVDs for ballet-inspired workouts that can be done at home.

Equipment required? Yes. Most workouts include a barre, weights, resistance bands, and balls that are provided by the fitness studio. You may need to buy some of those things for at-home workouts.

What Dr. Michael Smith Says:
Barre fitness is ideal if you’re just getting into exercise. The classes will improve your balance, build strength, make you more flexible, burn calories, and improve stability through a stronger core.

As you get more comfortable and fit, you can ramp up the intensity by adding weights and more challenging moves. If you have more experience and are looking for something new to challenge yourself, advanced barre classes can do the trick.

It’s challenging for men and women alike. These moves are a lot harder than they look and can help anyone take their fitness to the next level.

Is It Good for Me If I Have a Health Condition?

Barre exercises are often gentle on the joints and can be an excellent choice if you have arthritis or joint problems. You’ll also build stronger muscles, which gives more support to your joints and lessens pain.

But certain moves can put added stress on your joints. For example, turning out your legs may not feel good on your knees, especially if you’re turning out from your feet, rather than from your hips. Ask your instructor how to adapt moves that don’t feel good, and to show you good form.

When recovering from a back injury, you want to focus on building a stronger core. Barre fitness can help you do that.

If you’re looking for exercise to help control your diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, or heart disease, there are better options for you. Look for fitness options that involve more cardio exercise.

If you’re pregnant, barre classes are a perfect choice. You’ll burn calories and keep your muscles strong and flexible without putting unneeded stress on your body. You will need to change some of the moves as you get further along in your pregnancy. Avoid any moves that make you unsteady on your feet.

Slideshow: Quick Tips for Feeding a Picky Eater

Problem: One-Food Wonder

Your child may happily eat some foods and toss others on the floor. Is it just a phase, and how long will it last? What do you do in the meantime: Give them what they want, or hold your ground?

Solution: Don’t Fight It

Don’t turn mealtime into a battle of wills. Keep offering a variety of good-for-you foods, even if your kid rejects it at first. Many kids take their sweet time before deciding they like a new food after all, so keep trying. Offer fruit, vegetables, and even “grown-up” food, without pressure. Your child may surprise you with what they like.

Problem: Won’t Eat Their Veggies

Does your child say they hate asparagus, even though they’ve never tried it? It happens a lot. Many vegetables have a strong smell and taste, especially when cooked. Be patient. They may want to see it and smell it before they’ll taste it, and even then they may spit it right back out. Take a breath and try it again another day.

Solution: Give Them Choices

Many children warm up to veggies when they’ve helped pick them out, whether at the store or at meals. If green veggies turn them off, try orange or red ones instead. Or offer them raw with a dip like ranch dressing or hummus. Although hiding vegetable purées in foods like baked goods or pasta sauce is a short-term fix, it doesn’t teach them to like those veggies when they are out in the open.

Problem: Drinks Their Calories

Does your child drink so much milk or juice during the day that they are not hungry at mealtimes? It can be a problem if they drink so much it makes them miss meals.

Read more…

Slideshow: A Day of Healthful Choices for the Whole Family

6:30 a.m. Fuel Up First Thing

If you’re just waking up, you probably haven’t eaten in at least 10 hours. Don’t head out before fueling up! A healthy breakfast can give you and your kids a sharper mind, more energy, and better total nutrition for the day. A balanced breakfast includes protein, carbs, and fiber. Try spreading peanut butter or melted low-fat cheese on a whole-wheat English muffin.

7 a.m. Get Moving

Before heading out for the day, take a brisk 30-minute walk around your neighborhood. You’ll feel invigorated, and you’ll chip away at the 150 minutes of moderate-intensity activity that we need every week. Morning exercise may help you lower your blood pressure and daily levels of triglycerides (unhealthy fats) in your system. As a bonus, you may sleep better at night, too.

7:30 a.m. Protect Your Skin

Don’t leave home without it — sunscreen, that is. Sunscreen isn’t just for the beach and the summer. Even in winter — and even when it’s cloudy — UV rays can penetrate and sear your skin, particularly exposed areas like faces, ears, and the backs of the hands. Those are the areas dermatologists treat most for skin cancer.

7:45 a.m. Travel Light

Overloaded backpacks and purses can strain or injure muscles in the neck, shoulders, and back. Backpacks shouldn’t contain more than 10% to 15% of the wearer’s weight. Look for one with wide padded straps. Wear it on both shoulders to distribute weight evenly. Look for lightweight purses, briefcases, and totes, and pack only what you need. Alternate shoulders or the hand you carry it in. You can also try a wheeled bag and roll it on the ground.

8 a.m. Get More from Your Commute

Do you live within a couple of miles of work or school? Then ditch the car and try a walking commute. You’ll save on gas, keep the environment cleaner, and start your day with a healthy glow. Be sure to wear supportive walking shoes. If you have to use a car, drivers and passengers — even kids in school buses — should buckle up or use an appropriate car seat, no matter how short the trip.

10:30 a.m. Snack Smart

Dump the doughnut tray before your next office meeting! Instead, serve healthier options like fresh fruit platters, mini muffins, whole-grain bagels, or yogurt. Maybe you don’t need to serve food at your meeting at all. Maybe you can motivate your colleagues to attend by another method.

Read more…