Do your kids ask for energy drinks? Mine do! The main ingredient in energy drinks is caffeine.  Other substances such as guarana, which contains caffeine, may be present as well. Some energy drinks do label the amount of caffeine, however, when tested some drinks had more caffeine that the label stated. Some energy drinks can have as much caffeine as 9 cans of soda! Although caffeine is the world’s most widely consumed stimulant, it can cause nervousness, increased blood pressure, irritability, sleeplessness, a rapid heartbeat, and may worsen psychiatric conditions. The long-term safety of energy drinks is not known. The American Academy of Pediatrics stands firmly that they are not recommended for children. Even so, 30 to 50% of adolescents admit that they consume energy drinks. As parents, we need to say NO to energy drinks.

Sports drinks are not much better. Sports drinks were developed and intended for use in college athletics when practicing for long hours in the heat. Today kids think that they are good for everyday lunch purposes. They contain calories, carbohydrates, electrolytes and flavoring. These are not recommended for children on a daily basis, and should be reserved for prolonged vigorous physical exercise. 

Juice should be used sparingly and limited to 4 to 6 ounces per day. The extra calories from juice may contribute to weight gain, so that it may be best to eat the fruit and drink water. Instead of apple juice, offer a sliced-up apple. Instead of orange juice, try an orange. Instead of grape juice, have some grapes.

We all know that sodas aren’t the best for us. Yet, I must admit, I enjoy an occasional diet soda. According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, drinks that have been sweetened with non-caloric sweeteners can be used in a healthy diet to help improve the flavor of drinks. Also use of non-calorie sweeteners can help with weight control. Compared to the calories in soda or sweetened drinks, the non-caloric sweeteners offer another option for flavoring drinks while avoiding unnecessary calories. You can use non-caloric sweeteners to make lemonade or iced tea, which are both refreshing and delicious. Soda is not needed for a healthy diet and is not recommended, but if soda is offered, it should be given sparingly. The use of a diet soda would contribute fewer calories than a regular soda. Many sodas also contain caffeine.

The best drinks for children are low fat milk and water. Milk is available as 2%, 1% or skim. Any of those options are fine. Whole milk is only recommended for kids between 12-24 months. Milk contains essential Calcium and Vitamin D. Three to four cups of milk daily will provide the necessary requirements for children. If your child is not drinking the required amount of milk daily, or is lactose intolerant, then consider adding a supplement containing Calcium and Vitamin D.

Water is the best choice for quenching thirst and providing necessary fluid. Water should not be given to infants less than 6 months old, as they get enough fluid with formula or breast milk. Water may be flavored by slicing fresh fruit such as oranges, strawberries, or apples and letting the fruit infuse the water. No sugar is necessary to flavor the water as the natural sweetness of the fruit escapes. Cucumber slices give water a particularly crisp and refreshing taste. You can ask your kids for ideas to try new variations. A favorite is strawberry and blueberry water. It’s even more refreshing with a fresh sprig of mint. Making your own infused water is simpler than you think and much less expensive than the store-bought variety. Kids love it! Let them help with preparation and they will be more likely to try it.

Read more about this topic in my article “Beverage Buzz: Are Energy or Sports Drinks Good for Kids?” which is published in the Winter edition of Ready, Set, Grow Parenting magazine available at your pediatric office nationwide or online

Health issues are important for parents. We need to know what’s healthy for our children. Raising healthy children leads to longer, more active lifespans.

We want our kids to grow up to lead wonderful, productive lives. It starts now. Don’t wait to make your home, your life and your children healthier. Kids model what they see their parents do. Be a living role model for a healthy life.

Try to work on just one area at a time. Make improvements in your own health and your children will see improvements in their health because of you. If you want current health information for your family, subscribe for updates below.

If you have a topic that is important to you or that you are curious about, email me I may include your idea in a future segment! 

Our children are so precious to us. We love them with our whole heart. We want to be raising healthy, happy children. We need to stay informed and involved in order to be the best parents possible.


Are you sure that your car seat is protecting your child adequately? Did you know that 7 out of 10 children in car seats are not properly restrained? Are you aware that appropriately using child safety seats can decrease fatality by 71% in infants and 54% in children aged 1 to 4 years? 

Review these helpful tips to be sure that your car seat is the safest for your child’s age, weight and height.

  • Birth to age 2 years or until 35 lbs, use a Rear-Facing Child Safety Seat
  • Children age 2 years or older or until 60 lbs, use a Forward-Facing Child Safety Seat
  • When your child outgrows the limit of their Forward-Facing Care Seat: use a Belt-Positioning Booster Seat until the child is 4 foot 9 inches tall AND 8-12 years old.
  • When your child is at least 4’9″ AND is between 8-12 years of age: use an Adult Lap/Shoulder Belt.
  • The back seat is ALWAYS a safer place for your child, especially under 13 years of age.
  • An additional resource is or 1-866-SEAT_CHECK to find out how to get your child car seat inspected and to be sure it’s properly installed. Just enter your zip code to find a resource near you to inspect your car seat. They can help you install a car seat, usually at no cost to you.
  • Discount car seats can be found at AAA club, Police or Fire Departments, Health Department, and Safe Kids Worldwide. It is not recommended to use hand-me-down car seats.
  • Car seats are NOT optional. If the buckles are not on, the car does not go. Feel free to stress this point to your children.
  • Be a role model for your child, and ALWAYS wear your seat belt as well. Kids watch what we do more than what we say.
  • A car crash can happen anywhere and at any time. Most crashes occur nearby home. Don’t take any chances, always use appropriate car restraints!

As someone who suffers with food allergies, I understand that dining out sometimes feels like an obstacle course. Friends and family members may not understand the importance of allergy avoidance. You can plan ahead by alerting them to any food allergy that you or your child may have. You could say, “We are looking forward to joining you at the restaurant for dinner, but we want you to be aware that little Timmy has a peanut allergy. ” You may wish to contact the manager at the restaurant to alert them to your child’s allergen before arriving. Ask what options are available.  Realize that many people don’t realize that food allergies can be more than annoying, that they can in fact be life-threatening.

Some restaurants, like Red Robin, have an interactive allergen menu online to assist you in planning your menu before you arrive. This is very helpful when preparing your child for the meal. Have a serious talk with your child before arriving at the restaurant. Alert your child to the potential dangers of consuming their allergen. Be sure that they understand that they need to ask a parent’s permission before eating anything. Always carry your child’s twin-pack epinephrine auto-injector in case of accidental ingestion emergencies.

Alert your wait staff when you arrive as to your child’s allergen. You can ask them to alert you to any dishes that may contain the allergen. Keep your purse or bag nearby with your child’s epinephrine auto-injector at hand. Usually allergies cause mild symptoms such as a runny nose and itchy, watery eyes, but a food allergy exposure can cause a life-threatening anaphylaxis reaction. Symptoms can include shortness of breath, swelling of the tongue, lips or throat, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and even hives. Allergies to food, insect stings and medication can be associated with this type of anaphylaxis reaction. Take any exposure to your child’s allergen seriously.

The twin-pack epinephrine auto-injectors are designed to inject into the child’s thigh through clothing in case of an emergent anaphylaxis type reaction. After injecting the epinephrine, dial 911 for emergent help. Anytime epinephrine is used, 911 should be called. If the ambulance does not arrive within a few minutes and the symptoms of anaphylaxis return, use the second epinephrine injector in the same manner as the first.

Although food allergies are serious, with careful planning they can be avoided. Be prepared and alert your host. Enjoy dining out and keep your twin-pack epinephrine auto-injector handy!

If you are a busy mom like me, going to the grocery store is just one more chore in a busy week. But how to encourage healthy dietary changes? We need to make small cutbacks to our diet and lifestyle that can last. These should be practical changes that can benefit yourself and your family. Let’s start by discussing ways to reduce just 3 items in your family diet: sugar, salt, and fat.

Why should we make these dietary changes? We want to make better choices for ourselves and for our children. We know that childhood obesity is overwhelming America. More than a third of American children are overweight, and a third of those children are obese. A recent USA Today article referenced a Gerber Products study which found that more than a third of children eat no fruits or vegetables at all. Nine percent of children eat french fries daily. Many children eat hot dogs, sausage or bacon daily. 60% of children have desert daily. A third of children consume sugary fruit drinks daily. No wonder America is seeing increased childhood obesity. This is a desperate cry that we, as parents, need to take urgent action for changes. These changes must occur in our homes and on our plates as well.

Children learn what they live. Kids don’t need to be placed on a diet, but rather we all need to change the way we live and the way we eat.  They watch what we do as parents and imitate our actions. For our children to eat healthier, we need to eat healthier.

Plan that trip to the grocery store:

The first step we can take is to plan our visit to the grocery store. Plan your menu ahead of your shopping trip. It only takes five to ten minutes to sit down and make a weekly menu and shopping list. Your weekly menu should include healthy breakfast choices, easy and quick lunch choices, and at least six dinner choices. Include a vegetable and a fruit with each meal. Strive to eat five fresh vegetables and fruits each day. (Strive for five.) 

Stick to the list at the grocery store:

The next step is controlling what we purchase at the grocery store. Let your kids know that they need to help you choose healthier items. Stick to the list. Get them involved in reading labels. Teach them about the way the ingredients are listed, with the order of the ingredients listed in the amounts added. The largest amounts are written first. Show your child that if sugar is the first ingredient, that this is not a healthy choice. Watch the serving size. One bottle of flavored water may have 2 or 3 servings in one bottle. Watch for the amounts of sugar, salt (sodium), and fat on the labels.

Buy fresh whenever possible:

The healthiest foods have no labels at all. Buy more fresh fruits and vegetables. Purchase whole grains whenever possible. You want to purchase 100% whole wheat breads or cereals. Choose whole wheat tortillas instead of flour tortillas. Try the brown rice instead of white rice. Look for lean meats. Avoid processed meats. Consider adding fish or skinless chicken breasts. The more natural the food, the less the amounts of added sugar, salt, or fat.

Simple changes over the year can lead to a healthier you and a healthier family! Read more about this topic (entitled: Experiencing Cutbacks) in the spring edition of Ready, Set, Grow available in your pediatrician’s office or online

The simple fact is that our kids are so busy and so distracted that they often don’t get enough sleep. Are you aware that children need 10 hours of sleep each night? When they miss sleep then they tend to try to make up that sleep by napping or sleeping late on the weekend. We don’t want our kids to be falling asleep at school. When they don’t sleep properly they lose focus at school. It is even thought that a lack of proper rest can lead to weight issues, as they may use food as a way to keep going when they are fatigued. Sleeping is vital to health. Even the immune system can be affected by a lack of rest.

Let’s talk about ways to help kids get a proper night’s rest!

  • Get the electronics out of the bedroom. The bedroom should be a screen free zone. No TVs, video games, phones or iPad’s in the bedroom. Even when off, these items trigger our brain into thinking about the devices. Kids with devices in the bedroom tend to have lower grades in school and more sleeping problems. The bedroom needs to be a peaceful, quiet place to read and sleep.
  • If possible, have a quiet area for the child to study outside of the bedroom. That way the bedroom can serve only for recreational reading and sleep. We are hard-wired as animals, and need a quiet dark den to settle down after a busy day. If there’s a stack of books in their room, you can imagine that it may trigger anxiety about school. What if you had to sleep next to a pile of your work?
  • Teach proper sleep hygiene. By that I mean that you should encourage a regular schedule before bedtime, such as bath, book and bed. By doing so the routine allows for the child to anticipate the appropriate time to rest. 
  • Try to set regular and consistent times to get up and go to bed, even on the weekends. Being consistent helps kids to get into a rhythm.
  • When going back to school after a summer holiday, gradually increase the wake times by 15 to 30 minutes each day in order to prepare them to go back to school. For example, if your kids sleep until 9am during the summer, then wake them at 8:45 am, then 8:30 am, then 8:15am, etc. until they are back on schedule. Do the same for bedtimes.
  • Avoid caffeinated beverages, especially at dinner time or after. 
  • Discourage kids from sneaking into the parent’s bed. If they wake you with a bad dream, get up, hug them, and tuck them safely in their own bed before heading back to yours. Be consistent.
  • If your child needs to get up at 7am, then they need to be settling in bed by 8:30pm in order to be able to drift off by 9pm.
  • If your child struggles to get to sleep, talk to your pediatric health care provider about the use of melatonin. It comes in 3mg and 5mg and is an herbal substance which naturally relaxes and is thought safe for children. It is taken 1 hour before bedtime to aid sleep issues. Always discuss the use of any substance, even herbal substances, with your pediatric healthcare provider to see if it is safe for your child. 

Helping your kids get enough sleep will keep them healthier, happier and lots less crabby. It can also assist them academically in the classroom. It may be worth limiting their extra-curricular activities to be sure that they can get their proper rest. Just talking about it makes me tired…. goodnight!