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Bear Essentials Online - October 2010

Children's National Weighs in on Childhood Obesity

Children's National Medical Center discusses the challenges teens face when trying to lose weight and how parents can help them overcome these difficulties.Red Apple

It’s no surprise that childhood obesity is a serious health concern for many parents and their children. It's estimated that 35 percent of high school aged children in Washington, DC, are overweight. It also is estimated that roughly one million adolescents in the United States has a body mass index (BMI) greater than 35. This increases their risk for health problems such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and type 2 diabetes.

Oftentimes, when children and teens become obese, lifestyle modifications like eating healthier foods or incorporating exercise into their daily routine are made. For some however, weight loss surgery also is an alternative. Evan Nadler, MD, co-director of the Obesity Institute at Children's National, believes that getting children and teens to lose weight is a family effort. "A complete family commitment to overcome childhood obesity is needed, otherwise it won't be helpful to the child," said Dr. Nader.

He also notes that helping teens lose weight can be trickier than helping adults, because their psychological, self-esteem and fitting-in issues often add up to a "much more complicated mental-health situation." Dr. Nadler adds that weight loss surgery is by no means an "easy fix," and he usually recommends that patients try to lose weight through proper diet and exercise first.

Read more about Dr. Nadler's weight loss advice for adolescents in the Washington Post.

Want to help your kids lose weight? Request our toolkit to help your family "Lighten Up."

Evan Nadler, MD, is the co-director of the Obesity Institute at Children's National.

Tips for Keeping Your Little Monsters Safe This Halloween

Review these safety tips with your children before they go out for a night of trick-or-treating.

Be responsible and have some fun this Halloween by following these safety tips.

Pedestrian Safety:
  • Cross the street at corners using crosswalks and traffic signals.
  • Children younger than age 12 should cross streets at night with an adult.
  • Walk on sidewalks or paths. If there are no sidewalks, walk facing traffic as far to the left as possible.
  • Have kids carry glow sticks or flashlights for added visibility to drivers.
  • If older kids are trick-or-treating without adult supervision, parents should make sure they go in a group and stick to a predetermined route with good lighting.

Candy Safety:
  • An adult should check sweets for signs of tampering before children are allowed to eat them.
  • Remind children to only eat treats in original and unopened wrappers.
  • Throw away candies if wrappers are faded, have holes or tears, or signs of re-wrapping.
  • When in doubt, throw it out!
Have a safe and fun Halloween!


What Activities are Age Appropriate for Your Child?

Fitness levels change as children grow. Learn what activities are age appropriate for your child as they develop.

Fitness is an important part in everyone’s life, from the very young to the very old. Fitness can begin as soon as your child can walk, but activities should be limited to his or her developmental capabilities. An important rule to remember is that fitness should always be fun and your child should never be forced to participate in or do something that isn’t fun.

Toddlers use play and exploring as their form of fitness. Play can help toddlers learn how things work in the world around them and help them develop curiosity about their environment. Unstructured play is best for toddlers, including activities such as:
  • Running
  • Swinging
  • Playing in the park
  • Playing with other children around the same age
As children grow and develop, they can participate in more fitness-related activities. For example,4 and 5-year-olds can usually ride their bikes on training wheels. Remember, not all children develop at the same age, so if your child cannot ride a bike, don’t push him or compare him to other children.

Children six years and older can generally participate in a large number of sports, both organized and noncompetitive activities. Examples include:
  • Soccer
  • Swimming
  • Gymnastics
  • Basketball
  • Football
  • Softball/baseball
  • Hockey
Many communities have youth leagues that enroll kids in organized sports at a young age. As children get older, they can participate and compete in those sports on their school team.

It Isn't Easy Raising a Teenager - Let Alone One With Diabetes

Monitoring blood glucose levels is key to managing the disease, but getting your child to cooperate may be a different story.

Hormones, peer pressure, the media--these are all factors that may deter your teen from properly managing his or her diabetes. Monitoring levels can seem daunting or even annoying at times. "Kids are often resistant to testing because it takes them away from other activities, and sets them apart from kids who don't have diabetes," says Fran Cogen, MD, director of the Child/Adolescent Diabetes Program at Children's National Medical Center.

Managing diabetes can be easier with the right attitude and positive reinforcement. Try incorporating the following suggestions to support your teen:
  • Consider small incentives for monitoring glucose levels. Dr. Cogen recommends "retail therapy," such as buying an inexpensive accessory at the mall, an iTunes download or other object of value to the child or teen with diabetes.
  • Download a smartphone application to aid with everyday monitoring. There are many different types of applications that come with the ability to alarm, and allow for insertion of blood sugar results, carbohydrate counts, and insulin amounts.(see Dr. Cogen's blog on www.healthcentral .com). 
  • Create a positive atmosphere where your teen can feel comfortable coming to you with concerns or problems. Most of all, let your teen know that you're proud and supportive as he/she works toward becoming more independent to eventually take ownership of their diabetes--when they are ready!

Fran Cogen, MD, is the director of the Child/Adolescent Diabetes Program at Children's National Medical Center. Dr. Cogen also is a guest writer for, a web site specifically for teens with diabetes.

Introducing The Parent's Letter Project Videos

Some of the best advice comes from another parent.

Each day, many families face the challenge of having an ill child suffer from a health issue. Regardless of a child's condition, parents can learn from others' past experiences and arm themselves with the knowledge to make it through this challenging process - that's why Children's National created the Parent's Letter Project.

In addition to the parent letters, parents can now watch videos of featured letters on Watch as parents who have "been there" discuss their journey at Children's National Medical Center. No parent should embark on this road alone.

Scary Good Healthy Halloween Snack Recipes

These snacks may look scary but they’re fun and easy.

Apple Bites
Preparation time: 5 minutes

  • Apples
  • Slivered almonds
  • Peanut butter
  • Cut an apple into quarters. 
  • Cut a wedge from the skin side of each quarter.
  • Spread a small amount of peanut butter on the back of the slivered almonds, then press in place for teeth.
Serves: 1 (1 serving per apple)

Pizza Mummies
Preparation time: 10 minutes

  • Whole wheat English muffins
  • Pizza sauce
  • Black olives
  • Red or green pepper
  • Reduced fat string cheese
  • Heat the oven to 350º F. For each mummy, spread a tablespoon of pizza sauce onto half of an English muffin.
  • Set olive slices in place for eyes and add round bits of red or green pepper for pupils.
  • Lay strips of cheese (pulled-apart 1 centimeter wide strips of string cheese) across the muffin for the mummy’s wrappings.
  • Bake for about 10 minutes or until the cheese is melted.
Ghost Toasts
Preparation time: 5 minutes

  • 100% Whole wheat bread (1 slice per ghost)
  • Whipped, low fat cream cheese
  • Currants, raisins, or dried cranberries
  • Toast a slice of whole wheat bread and then cut a ghost shape from it using a knife, or a gingerbread-girl cookie cutter.
  • When the cutouts have cooled, spread a coating of cream cheese.
  • For eyes and mouths, add currants, raisins, or dried cranberries.
Serves: 1 (1 serving per piece of toast)


SIDS Awareness Month

October is Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) Awareness Month.


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