Bonjour! So glad it’s Friday again! Last week was Safe Kids Week (Apr 26 – May 3). It is a good time to remind us of the very real risks of unintentional injuries to young children. Check out a short video on kids safety in this week’s Five for Fridays in addition to the usual nutrition-related stories. And of course, feel free to share your tips for safety especially in the kitchen.

Tips for kids safety

I was shocked to learn this scary statistic – there is one unintentional injury to a child every 12 minutes that is serious enough to require a visit to the ER. In recognition of this, Safe Kids USA along with its founding sponsor J&J is running an awareness campaign called Raising Safe Kids – One Stage at a Time focused on child development and injury risks to children 14 and under. Although their website has very useful information for various age groups, my interest was mainly in the 1-4 years old Stage (Little Kids). Here is a short video for this age group –

Burns in the kitchen or at the dinner table are among the 5 major risks identified by Safe Kids USA. Make sure the stove area is a “kid-free” zone. Use the back burners and turn the handles of pots and pans away from the front of the stove. When using the oven, be vigilant and do not allow children to get close because the oven door can get really hot. Use large bowls when serving hot foods like soup and allow it to cool down by stirring with a spoon before giving to your child. Cut meats and vegetables into small bite sized chunks – this will cool them down and also reduce the risk of choking. Knives and other sharp objects can also be dangerous and should be kept out of reach. Same goes for matches and lighters. The cabinet under the sink where you are most likely to keep dishwashing detergents and other cleaners should be locked. Consider getting a fire extinguisher and keep it in a safe, easy-to-reach place in your kitchen.

Here is an excellent report on kids safety which gives  a lot of handy tips.

Should junk food advertising aimed at children be banned?

Rising rates of childhood obesity in Australia have galvanized a few public health and consumer advocacy groups to kick-off the Burger Corp campaign against junk food advertising on TV during prime time. They want the Australian Communication and Media Authority (ACMA) to come out with tougher regulations this year once they complete their review. Ban the practice of giving out free toys with junk fast food; ban the use of popular cartoon or other promotional characters; regulate advertising beyond TV in print media and newspapers – in short ban! ban! ban! Although I certainly do not support excessive and misleading advertising aimed at kids, I am not a big fan of over-regulating our way out of this public health problem either.  There is also a role for parents, educators and community leaders to act as role models and to inform, influence and inspire young kids to make healthy choices, not just for food but for everything else that affects their health and growth. Removing ads from TV will not solve the problem of excessive TV watching. Banning free toys and promotional characters will not reduce the allure of inexpensive, great tasting junk food rich in salt, sugar and fat. Some regulations is needed; in my opinion it should be limited to restricting false and misleading claims. We should rather focus our resources on improving affordability of healthy options and increasing  awareness of the link between nutrition and long term health. What do you think?

Don’t take a multivitamin supplement on an empty stomach

Even though there is considerable debate and uncertainty about the effectiveness of multivitamin supplements, they are quite popular and many people, including me, take them daily. That is why this question about when and how to take vitamins on the Fitness and Nutrition section of the New York Times caught my eye. According to the experts, the time of the day you take the vitamins is not important. What is important is that you take them consistently and that you take them with food. The water soluble vitamins B and C can absorb well on an empty stomach, but the fat soluble vitamins A, D, E and K need some fat from food to absorb in the body. Of course it does not mean that you need to eat fatty foods in order to take your vitamins. Simply eating some food right before taking the pill should do just fine.

Second hand smoke linked to iron deficiency and low antioxidant levels in children

Exposure to second hand smoke is getting a lot of attention in the 2009 annual meeting of the Pediatric Academic Societies this week in Baltimore. In two separate studies, data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys (NHANES) for children under 18 years of age was analyzed. One study from researchers at the New York University School of Medicine reported a link between second hand smoke (estimated by blood levels of cotinine, a metabolite of nicotine), obesity and iron deficiency. The other, from researchers at the University of Rochester Medical Center concluded that second hand smoke reduces the levels of anti-oxidants in children. Anti-oxidants work to protect the cells in our body from damage by free radicals which are produced as part of normal body functions. Vitamin C is a good antioxidant; although the researchers did not clearly make a recommendation about supplements to counter the effect of second hand smoke. Bottom line – second hand smoke is bad, not just for your lungs, but also for your nutritional health.

Good nutrition strongly linked to education

A new study published in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association concludes that highly educated and affluent people are more likely to have a low energy density diet (lean meat, fruits and vegetables) compared to those on the lower income and education levels. I was not able to read the original article; still I found this summary very interesting. I am not surprised by it because we have all heard enough about affordability of nutritious food. I think that more than education, awareness and basic understanding of nutrition are more critical in making this choice. I know of many highly educated people who have very poor eating habits. And this is even when they know that salty, fatty and sugary foods are no good for their health. So there is still another factor that is critical – and that is a genuine desire to take a long term view of health and nutrition. And while it is true that low energy density, nutrient rich foods cost more, there are many ways to still have a healthy diet. As I wrote in last week’s Five for Fridays, simply by cutting down on packaged foods and preparing your meals at home, you can save a lot of money and improve your nutrition. You don’t need to be a rocket scientist or a genius – just have a desire, some knowledge of nutrition and cooking and be able to find some time to cook. Go for it!

Enjoy your weekend! And do share your opinion or recent nutrition related news you found interesting.

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