Exercising with asthma

Asthma is one of the most common conditions impacting children today. In fact, asthma accounts for a loss of more than 10 million school days and costs parents more than $700 million due to missed work each year.

Many parents worry about their children with asthma participating in exercise. As a result, these parents limit their children’s physical activity. The truth is, asthma diagnoses often are misunderstood. Having asthma should not keep children from exercising.

To better control asthma triggers, follow these steps:

  • Ask your child’s health care provider for an asthma action plan that will help you control your child’s asthma.
  • Teach your child use the proper medication to manage the condition.
  • Encourage and promote an active lifestyle.
  • Make sure your child exercises in a controlled environment (clean space or outdoors) and always has his or her asthma medication readily available.
  • Educate your child on what to do if an asthma attack occurs, so he or she knows how to react quickly.
  • Talk to your child’s health care provider if current medication is not helping and your child is having symptoms on a regular basis.

For fun ways to increase your child’s physical activity with controlled exercise, visit the Centers for Disease Control. Information for parents can be found at the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute.

~ Michele Polfuss, APNP, Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin

4 Ways to Tailgate to Health

April may bring showers, but it also brings the smell of charcoal grills and tailgating for the boys (and girls) of summer. This baseball season, be sure to balance your kids’ favorite tailgate classics with some healthy options.

Explore new options. Your local grocery story has lots of tailgating alternatives to plain hamburgers, brats and hot dogs. Try introducing your kids to turkey or chicken brats. Or, scour your freezer section for great meat alternatives like black bean burgers. I personally enjoy the Gardenburger® Black Bean Chipotle Veggie Burger. Even hot dogs have gone healthier. Now, there are many brands with less fat and fewer calories than the dogs we grew up with. If you do choose hamburger, make sure you choose a leaner variety. 

Be sure you pair your meat with a bun that contains at least 3 grams of fiber. I like to use Healthy Life® Original Wheat Sandwich Buns. They have more fiber, fewer calories and can be cheaper than other buns.

Don’t skimp on the sides. While your meats are sizzling on the grill, offer your guests fiber-packed fruits and veggies with dip. In need of a healthy potato salad? Try Chef Wayne’s spicy summer potato salad. Chef Wayne’s healthy baked beans also is a great way to fill up on fiber. Chips can add a nice crunch, but look for baked chips or offer corn chips with salsa. Whole-wheat crackers with hummus can also be a hit, even a home run!

Watch out for liquid calories. Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin’s NEW (Nutrition, Exercise and Weight Management) Kids™ Program recommends water instead of sweetened beverages. Because kids get dehydrated in the hot summer sun even faster than adults, water always is the best option. If your kids want something with more flavor, choose beverages that have 3 grams or less of sugar per serving.

Practice portion control. Watching the game isn’t as much fun with an overly full belly. Make sure your kids fill up on fruits and veggies while going easy on the meats, cheeses and crackers. Peanuts and popcorn are ballpark favorites, but watch the portions. Eating a whole bag of peanuts and popcorn simply is too much for anyone, especially kids.

Now, let’s play ball. Go Brewers!

~ Heather Fortin, RD, CSP, CD, is a dietitian at Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin. Wayne Roe is the executive chef and manager of Nutrition Services at Children’s Hospital.

Celebrate with the chef: National Nutrition Month

As a chef at Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin, I see how hard it is to get kids to eat the right foods. Because of this, I created the Chef-to-child Program. This program promotes healing and wellness for our long-term patients by allowing them to choose a healthy diet from a variety of special menu options.

These patients have diseases ranging from diabetes to cystic fibrosis and cancer, and they need to meet and maintain weight goals. It is especially important to help these kids find something they like to eat, that’s also good for them.

The theme for this year’s National Nutrition Month is “eat right with color.” This will encourage children (and adults) to choose a variety of different fruits and vegetables to make each meal fun and colorful – and nutritious. Listed below are just a few benefits from these colorful foods.

• Red: tomatoes and red pepper. Red foods contain lycopene, which may help prevent certain cancers.
• Green: zucchini and green pepper. Green foods contain beta-carotene, which aids in better vision.
• Purple: eggplant. Purple foods contain anthocyanins and phenolics, which have antioxidant and anti-aging benefits.
• White: onion and garlic. White foods contain allicin, which has numerous health benefits.

Using these colorful ingredients, I created a delicious recipe that follows this month’s guidelines of color.

Italian Rainbow Ratatouille
makes 8, six-ounce servings

–    One five-by-six tomato cut into 10 wedges, lengthwise.
–    One medium red pepper cut wide julienne, lengthwise.
–    One medium green pepper cut wide julienne, lengthwise.
–    One medium eggplant, with skin, largely diced (one and a half inch by one and a half inch).
–    One medium yellow onion, largely diced.
–    One tablespoon minced garlic.
–    One ounce fresh basil, chopped (yes, you can use the stems too).
–    One teaspoon dry oregano.
–    Four ounces of a quality olive oil.
–    Salt and cracked black pepper to taste.

This is a simple and fun dish to cook. Sauté the vegetables in the olive oil, either separately or all at once. The veggies should have some color to them when done. Place the sautéed veggies in a baking dish and add the herbs and spices. Cover the dish and bake for 15 minutes at 400 degrees. Serve and enjoy.

Please post a comment or share your recipes if you have any suggestions to make our March menu a more colorful, nutritious one.

~ Wayne Roe, executive chef, manager, Nutritional Services, Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin

Good choices lead to rich benefits: The affordability of eating well

Buying healthy foods and eating well don’t have to break the bank. Eating well is about making sensible choices, watching our serving sizes, checking labels, knowing what foods give us the healthy advantages and even clipping coupons – for the right foods.

Read labels and remember what you’ve learned
Taking time to read and understand food labels will help keep us on the right path to nutrition. Teaching children what to choose will lay the foundation for them to make healthy choices throughout their lives.

Coupon clipping can lead to great savings, but you still need to make healthy choices. Many grocery stores offer great savings on a variety of items, and they even include recipes that help you create filling and nutritious meals your family will enjoy. Still, check the labels. If fruits and vegetables are canned in their own juices or water, you’re in business. Try to avoid vegetables preserved in extra sodium. If you select a product with sodium, make sure the label says low sodium or drain and rinse the product to remove the extra salt. It’s much the same with deli meats and cheeses. Look for a reduced-fat option and pick up the low-sodium pack.

Don’t forget how easy it is to prepare, serve and enjoy frozen vegetables and fruits. If you can, buy frozen veggies in bulk and use a bag of corn, peas or mixed veggies as a side with dinner. Frozen food is just as nutritious as fresh food because it retains most of its nutrients.

Sensible choices make a positive impact
Convenience in snacking always is tempting, but when we turn to the vending machine or packaged treats, we’re paying extra for that convenience. Not only is there an added cost, vending machine items are less likely to provide us with the nutrients our bodies need.

Growing children, especially teenagers, need to snack to meet the demands their bodies put on them. Providing them with easy-to-eat options like nuts, fruits or string cheese not only will give them healthy building blocks for their diets, it also will save money and teach them just how easy it is to turn a healthy choice into a habit early in life.

~Amber Smith, RD, CD, is a clinical dietician at Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin

If you liked this blog, you may want to read Money saving tips for gluten-free families.

Five snack tips to keep kids healthy

Snacking can lead to unhealthy eating habits that last a lifetime. Keep these tips in mind when making decisions about the snacks you and your children eat.

  1. Snacks are optional. 
Kids don’t always need to eat a snack between meals – and neither do you. Teach your kids to listen to hunger signals and snack between meals only if they feel hungry.
  2. Snacks are not meals.
 Keep snacks small. A snack should consist of just one serving each of one or two food groups. Snacks should be eaten about 90 minutes to two hours before the next mealtime. When kids are allowed to snack endlessly, they may not eat many of the healthy foods served at mealtimes. To help control portions, you can use a small snack bowl or snack bags.
  3. Snacks don’t have to be snack foods.
While crackers, cookies and other prepackaged items often are marketed as snack foods, they are not always the healthiest choices for kids. Use the opportunity when kids are hungry between meals to encourage healthy foods – fruits, veggies, whole grains and low-fat dairy products.
  4. Snacks should be limited.
 Kids often get hungry again quickly when they eat the wrong kinds of snacks. In order to make snacks filling, include one food that contains fiber (fruit, veggie or whole grain) and one food that contains lean protein (nuts, peanut butter, low-fat cheese, yogurt, low-fat milk or lean meat). Some great combinations of these foods can be found at 25 Healthy Snacks for Kids.
  5. Snacks should be served at the table.
Kids often overeat when they are sitting in front of the TV or playing video games. Like meals, snacks should be served at the table with the TV off. This helps kids avoid distractions and concentrate on eating.

Learn more about healthy snacks at Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin.

~Jennifer Crouse, RD, CD, Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin

Folic acid and a healthy pregnancy

October is Spina Bifida Awareness Month


Having a healthy baby means making sure you’re healthy, too. One of the most important things a woman can do to prevent serious birth defects is to get enough folic acid. It’s important to take folic acid before you get pregnant and during early pregnancy. Studies show women who get at least 400 micrograms (mcg) of folic acid before and during pregnancy reduce the risk of having a baby with neural tube defects (serious birth defects involving the incomplete development of the brain and spinal cord) by up to 70 percent. These defects happen during the first 28 days of pregnancy, usually before a woman even knows she’s pregnant. Only half of all pregnancies are planned – so any woman who could become pregnant should make sure she is taking enough folic acid every day.

What is folic acid? How much do you need?

Folic acid is a water soluble B vitamin found in green vegetables like spinach and asparagus as well as in orange juice and enriched cereals and breads. Water soluble means it does not stay in your body for very long, so it needs to be taken every day. For most women, eating the right foods isn’t enough. To get the recommended level, you probably need to take a vitamin.

During pregnancy you require more of all the vitamins and nutrients than you did before you became pregnant. Most nonprescription prenatal vitamins contain 500 to 800 mcg of folic acid. A prenatal vitamin shouldn’t replace eating a healthy, well-balanced diet, but it does ensure you’re getting the recommended amount of folic acid every day.

If you’ve already had a pregnancy that was affected by a neural tube defect, make sure you talk about it with your health care provider. You may need to increase your daily intake of folic acid before getting pregnant again to lower your risk of having another baby with the same defect.

Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin has a long history of caring for children with neural tube defects. There are programs available for your child with Spina Bifida and other special needs. For more information on these programs, visit chw.org.

Deb Walbergh, RN, BSN, is a graduate student in Nursing in the Spina Bifida Clinic at Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin.

Eating fresh and local: Children’s Hospital farmer’s market

Every Tuesday, Chris and Nancy Simon of Simon’s Gardens in Mukwonago, Wis., bring a truck loaded with fresh fruits and veggies to Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin in Milwaukee. They set up tables and tents near the Children’s Hospital Clinics Building with sweet corn, musk melons, beets, potatoes, peppers and more, all picked earlier that day.

The farmer’s market is sponsored by Children’s Hospital and Health System’s Employee Health and Wellness team. It provides employees, as well as patients, their families and other employees at the Milwaukee Regional Medical Center, with easy access to farm-fresh produce.

Stop by the Children’s Hospital farmer’s market every Tuesday from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. through late September.

Check out this video to see more of the advantages of buying produce from local growers:

How Children’s Hospital helped my son lose weight and feel great

My son, Gaige, came home from school one day very sad because some kids kept telling him he had a big belly. My heart broke for my little 4 year old. At this young age, my son weighed 66.3 pounds and was 45 inches tall with a body mass index of 22.7. A normal BMI for kids my son’s age is 14.

As a mom, I truly believe we don’t see flaws in our children that others may see. I knew Gaige was bigger than most kids his age. I didn’t really see how much bigger he was. With a desire to fix the problem, I made an appointment …Click here to continue reading

Make healthy eating easier for Wisconsin kids

When it comes to healthy eating habits, not everyone makes the best choices every day. Sure, sneaking in an ice cream cone or fast food once in a while can’t hurt, but only if you remember to eat your vegetables, too.

Tomorrow, legislators are voting on important legislation that will make healthy eating habits easier for Wisconsin kids. The Farm to School program is a step in the right direction to reducing obesity and giving healthy options to our kids.

Why is this important and what does it do?

Farm-to-School programs provide locally grown food to schools. In addition to supporting local farmers, these programs get fresh fruits and vegetables to kids.

…Click here to continue reading

The choice is yours – live healthy

Kohl's Healthy Kids:  It's Your Move is an exhibit at the Betty Brinn Children's Museum in Milwaukee.

It sounds simple, but talking to your kids about eating healthy works. A recent poll found that 82 percent of Milwaukee kids who talk with their families on a monthly basis about eating healthy eat more fruits and vegetables and drink more water. Overall, they’re more likely to eat healthy foods. I recommend following the tips to help foster your child’s healthy habits today.

Serve a variety of healthy foods. Eating a variety of healthy foods helps us get the nutrients our bodies need. Take your child to the grocery store to see the number of fruits and vegetables available. I often let my daughter pick out one or two I normally wouldn’t buy. Together, we create healthy snacks with our choices.

…Click here to continue reading