#331 Fighting the Obesity Trend!

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10 Ways to Fight Obesity

By Steve Edwards

Most of us are aware that we're in the midst of an obesity epidemic. And while we can't open a newspaper or turn on a computer without a reminder, the problem is still continuing to grow. A recent article in the UK newspaper, The Guardian, predicts that two-thirds of children and nine out of 10 adults will be obese by 2050 in the UK. As the statistical leader of this growing (pun intended) trend, what does that say about the United States?

A Kid Becoming Obese

Critics may call those projections inflammatory, but looking at even the most conservative numbers should cause concern. Obesity rates, nationwide, range between 17 and 30 percent, with some demographics exceeding 40 percent. Estimated health care costs of this epidemic range in the billions. Life expectancy rates for our youngest generation are lower than those of their parents for the first time in recorded history. The leader of the epidemic, the USA, has seen its status fall from one of the world's healthiest countries to the least healthy country in the developed world. We're far beyond a time when bickering about statistics and numbers even matters. One look around at a mall, an airport, or a school informs us that things aren't as they should be. There is no longer a question of whether it needs national attention. We need to reverse this trend ASAP. But we can't change what we don't understand, so let's examine the major questions and concerns we have about obesity. Then, we'll take a look at what we can do about it.

Is the problem exercise or diet related?

Big GulpIt's both. There is no question about obesity following the pattern of fast food dispersal; all you have to do is look at a map to see that the trend follows these restaurants. However, the latest studies are showing that even with the addition of Big Macs and Big Gulps, caloric consumption is not going up as much as exercise levels are coming down.

Recent studies by British medical journal The Lancet, the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine, the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, and the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition have all consistently shown that exercise is the central determinant of whether children are overweight. The figures show that kids are consuming approximately 3 percent more calories than they did in the 1970s but getting a whopping average of 20 percent less exercise. And obese kids are 70 percent more likely to become obese adults.

Coca-ColaBut even though lack of exercise takes the brunt of the responsibility, it doesn't mean that dietary habits should be ignored. The increase in the number of calories eaten doesn't reflect the type of calories that are consumed. For example, various studies estimate that soda makes up around 15 percent of the caloric intake of teenagers and around 10 percent that of adults in America. The health implications of these statistics are dire, as this habit makes it nearly impossible for a person's diet to be balanced—and that's before we even consider how much calorie-free soda is being added to the mix (see "Artificial Sweeteners: How Harmful Are They?" in Related Articles below).

The following study exemplifies the solution, which requires changing both our exercise and dietary habits. In Colac, Australia, 1,800 children, aged 2 to 12, followed a program that included a restricted diet (no carbonated drinks or sweets) and increased exercise. Results included a 68 percent increase in after-school activity program participation, a 21 percent reduction in television viewing, and an average 1 kilogram weight reduction compared to the control group.

For richer and for poorer

Parents with Kids on the BeachHistorically, only lower-income groups had a major problem with obesity. This statistic is rapidly changing. In the early 1970s, 22.5 percent of people with incomes below $25,000 were obese, while just 9.7 percent of people with incomes over $60,000 were obese. Obvious contributing factors were education, more involved parenting, and having the means for being proactive toward child care. Today, however, the obesity rate is growing the fastest among Americans who make more than $60,000 a year.

Since higher-income groups tend to eat "healthier," or at least can afford to change their diets more easily, this is another signal that our exercise habits have become dangerous. Some telltale signs of this reversal of fortune are based around money. Kids with the greatest access to TV, computers, and video games have more excuses not to get outside and move. Another curse of the privileged is the declining number of children who walk or bike to school. There's nothing like trading in a couple hours of movement each day for playing with a Game Boy in an idling SUV for regressing a child's metabolic process. In addition to a declining number of recess periods and poor school lunch programs, we're setting our children up with an ideal recipe for type 2 diabetes.

Kid Eating Junk Food While Watching TVThe number of obese children is still rising among all socioeconomic classes, and it will keep growing unless lifestyle changes are made and people become more aware of the situation. No economic class is immune to obesity. Especially hard on the lower classes is the fact that the least healthy foods also tend to be the cheapest, making it very difficult for children from that socioeconomic background to eat properly. Cheap foods tend to have a higher sugar content than natural, healthy food. There is only one way to combat a high-sugar diet, and that's with a lot of rigorous exercise.

It's about more than a ripped body

It's not just about looks, as obesity affects more than your physique. It increases your risk for a number of diseases, including diabetes, stroke, insulin resistance, and hypertension. Obesity carried into midlife may also have damaging effects on the brain.

HeartAccording to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, an estimated 61 percent of obese young people have at least one additional risk factor for heart disease, such as high cholesterol or high blood pressure. Additionally, children who are obese are at greater risk for bone and joint problems, sleep apnea, and social and psychological problems. Obese young people are more likely than children of normal weight to become overweight or obese adults and are, therefore, more at risk for associated adult health problems, including heart disease, type 2 diabetes, stroke, several types of cancer, and osteoarthritis.

10 solutions for obesity

  1. No bottles before bed. In fact, no bottle at all seems like a better bet, as kids who are breast-fed are less likely to be obese. A bevy of recent studies, which show infant obesity rates as high as 44 percent in some demographics, has linked a large part of the problem to sending infants to bed with a bottle. Not only is the child getting more calories, it's creating a learned response to eat before bed that is hard to reverse as the child gets older. Infants should have some body fat, but an obese infant is more than twice as likely to grow into an obese adolescent, who is more than twice as likely to become an obese adult.

  2. A TV Turned OffTurn off the TV. The American Journal of Public Health published a survey stating that 59 percent of children watched between 2 and 4 hours of television and an additional 22 percent watched 5 or more hours of TV per day. That's a lot—let me say it again, A LOT—of TV and this, apparently, didn't account for time in front of a computer. Chances are that turning off your TV isn't going to sit well with your kids, so here is some ammunition that will make it easier on both of you.

    Staying thin will increase your child's confidence level. Researchers surveyed 1,520 children, ages 9 to 10, with a 4-year follow-up, and discovered a positive correlation between obesity and low self-esteem. They also discovered that decreased self-esteem led to 19 percent of obese children feeling sad, 48 percent of them feeling bored, and 21 percent of them feeling nervous. In comparison, 8 percent of normal-weight children felt sad, 42 percent of them felt bored, and 12 percent of them felt nervous.

  3. Walk to school (or at least some of the way). This alone could make one of the biggest differences in activity levels. A generation ago, most self-respecting parents would laugh at their child's suggestion to drive them to school. Nowadays, lines of SUVs stretch out for blocks around campuses filled with kids burning nary a calorie while waiting to be dropped off on the front step of the school. In some neighborhoods, this lost time alone is plenty to fill the child's exercise requirement.

    Lack of busing can shoulder some of the blame, but the primary reason seems to be fear. The world has gotten scary, or so we think, and parents drive their kids to keep them safe. In reality, the damage done from lack of activity is putting them at far more risk. According to former Department of Justice statistician Callie Rennison, our fears are mainly based on sensationalism in the media, which indicates that child abduction plays well in the ratings. "99.9 percent of child abduction cases are family related," she states. "Statistically, our kids are much safer in public than they've ever been."

    Numbers aside, most parents will likely balk at the idea of making their kids the lab rats in some "walking to school" experiment. But, at least, you can drop them off close to school. The last part of the commute, the part while you're waiting in line, is a place where your kids could be moving in what is probably one of the safest situations imaginable—a line of cars filled with highly protective parents.

  4. RecessFight for recess. As schools' budgets dwindle because "results" are based on test scores, "optional" classes like recess are being cut. But it can be argued that recess is one of the most important classes your child has. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Department of Health and Human Services, it's not just how much children exercise that counts but how long they exercise that's important. Kids should not exercise for prolonged periods of time. They benefit far more from short bursts of exercise throughout the day. This is the reason that recess periods have been included throughout a typical school day—those recess periods that are now being threatened if they aren't already gone.

    Besides the obvious positive effects of recess, it has also been shown to reduce stress. And stress can influence a child's eating habits. Researchers tested the stress inventory of 28 college females and discovered that those who were binge eating had a mean of 29.65 points on the perceived stress scale, compared to the control group who had a mean of 15.19 points.

  5. Reform your school lunch program. Brown bagging is back, at least until you can fix your school cafeteria. Having your child bring his or her lunch from home can ensure that they're eating well. School cafeterias have been getting progressively worse. Despite the huge successes enjoyed by some that have switched to healthier menus—for example, check out what happened at one school in "We Are What We Eat" in Related Articles below—most feel too restricted by budgets and bottom lines not to farm out their concessions to the lowest bidder.

    We tend to forget that parents have some say in this. Whether your child goes to public or private school, each school is accountable to its community base. Parents have banded together in many communities to change their school's nutritional structure. You can too.

  6. SleepGet more sleep. A Northwestern University study indicates that inadequate sleep has a negative impact on children's performance in school and on their emotional and social welfare, and increases their risk of being overweight. This study was the first nationally represented, longitudinal investigation on the correlation between sleep, body mass index, and being overweight in children between the ages of 3 and 18. The study found that an extra hour of sleep lowered the children's risk of being overweight from 36 percent to 30 percent, while it lessened older children's risk from 34 percent to 30 percent.

  7. Stop drinking sugar. The American Academy of Pediatrics reports that many children get most of their calories from beverages, when they'd be better off getting them from fresh fruit and other healthy solid foods. Most of these calories come from soda, but some of the blame lies with other healthier-sounding beverages, like juice and sports drinks. Take a look at the orange juice label. This former icon of a nutritious breakfast, which is still praised in some less-enlightened cultures, is mainly sugar. The refining process has leeched most of its useful ingredients and all of the fiber, turning a perfectly healthy food, an orange, into little more than a sugar rush. Sports drinks can be beneficial when you're playing sports, but, at any other time, they're about the worst thing you can consume. Our nutritional needs change during exercise, when we need a lot of sugar and salt. When we aren't exercising, those nutrients in excess are dangerous.

  8. Kid Playing SoccerSign up for something. Our bodies are meant to move, and nothing makes this as easy as doing something fun. Not all of us are good at sports, but almost everyone has an aptitude for some physical activity. Start children early by allowing them to experiment with different activities. The more they try, the easier it will be for you to see which activities they excel at and which they don't. A more benign approach to the old East German method of finding athletes at a young age, it's a great parenting tool because it helps you guide them into things they'll do well at. They get exposed to different things, get some exercise, and, in the end, you'll probably find something they'll be good at—or at least decent—which will help their self-esteem as they develop. It's hard for kids to understand why they're bad at something. This tactic can help them see how the human body is designed and why it's normal to be different. We can't all be the star quarterback, but we can all be the star something, which will be a lot easier to achieve if you're aiming for something you have an aptitude for.

    Don't be afraid to think outside the box here. Martial arts, snowboarding, swimming, dancing, gymnastics, cycling, and rock climbing are all just as effective as football and soccer for building healthy bodies.

  9. Get outside. Besides chasing fast food distribution, an easy way to map the obesity trend is to follow demographics indicating that we spend less and less time outdoors. Nature forces us into action. It expands our minds to the world around us and teaches us to be less fearful. Shoot, just standing around outside burns calories, especially as the weather changes.

    There are an endless number of outdoor activities you can choose from, but the simplest, hiking, is one of the best activities you can do. Not only does it force you to learn more about your world, it's great exercise, especially if you live around hills or mountains. It builds motor skills because you climb on rocks and trees, etc. For your kids, it's a learning tool because you'll encounter the natural world and, most likely, develop an interest in the way it works. You don't need to have Yosemite in your backyard to enjoy hiking. Any city park will do. Natural wonders abound in all settings.

  10. Kathy Smith's Project:YOU! Type 2™Get a home fitness program. We even know where you can find some. Nothing beats home fitness in both cost and time efficiency. From Kathy Smith's Project:YOU! Type 2™ to Hip Hop Abs® to 10-Minute Trainer® and P90X®, there's a home fitness solution that will fit your lifestyle like a glove. Most home fitness programs allow you to finish your exercise requirement in less time than it would take to drive to a gym. A proper program is researched to be time-efficient and will also come with dietary suggestions to match the program. No other option comes close to home fitness when you need to squeeze a lifestyle change into an already booked schedule.

Related Articles
"Artificial Sweeteners: How Harmful Are They?"
"We Are What We Eat"
"8 Ways to Know If You're Fit"

Got something to say? Chat with the writers and other readers this Thursday, November 6th, at 8:00 PM ET, 5:00 PM PT in the Beachbody Chatroom!

Steve EdwardsIf you'd like to ask a question or comment on this newsletter article, click here to add a comment in the newsletter review section or you can email us at mailbag@beachbody.com.

Check out our Fitness Advisor's responses to your comments in Steve Edwards' Mailbag on the Message Boards. If you'd like to receive Steve Edwards' Mailbag by email, click here to subscribe to Steve's Health and Fitness Newsletter. And if you'd like to know more about Steve's views on fitness, nutrition, and outdoor sports, read his blog, The Straight Dope.

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9 Healthy Snack Ideas for Kids

By Joe Wilkes

When I was growing up, a common refrain was "no snacking between meals" or "you'll spoil your dinner." Today, nutritionists are saying just the opposite is true. For kids and adults, it's recommended that we all eat five or six smaller meals spaced out over the day instead of the three traditional pig-outs. This is especially true for children, who, if they haven't already succumbed to obesity, have much smaller stomachs than adults. What this means is that kids don't— and shouldn't—eat as much as grown-ups at breakfast, lunch, and dinner. And their fast-burning little metabolisms will make quick use of what does fit in their stomachs at lunch, which means they're going to have to refuel before supper time rolls around. So snacking is a good thing, but, of course, not all snacks are good.

Vegetables, Fruit, Nuts and Raisins, and Fruit Yogurt

The two most important things to consider regarding snacks for kids (and for us adults, for that matter) are variety and portion size. A good rule of thumb is to try incorporating two different food groups into any snack and to keep the portion size between 100 and 200 calories. The required amount of calories will vary depending on your child's age and activity level, but a snack should ideally be a small energy booster to help him or her make it until the next meal—a snack should not be a meal in itself. Hopefully, it'll be a quick bite on the way outside to play and/or exercise, and not a side dish for a TV or video-game marathon. Other things that make good snacks are foods high in nutrients, fiber, and protein and foods low in sugar, sodium, and saturated and trans fats. And bad news for the culinarily impaired: If it's prepackaged, processed food, it's unlikely that it will be a healthy choice for your "young 'un." But the good news is that children have simple tastes, which usually translates into food that's simple to prepare. Here are some ideas for when your munchkins get the munchies, plus, for the first time ever, my mom's nutritious pancake recipe!

  1. VegetablesVegetables. I know what you're thinking—"Great! I get to force-feed my kids two more times a day!" It's true—vegetables are usually the diciest component of kid cuisine. But it's worth the effort, because veggies give you more nutritional bang for your buck than any other food group. And if you get creative, you can usually find a way to get your kids to eat them without too much emotional scarring. Many dinner table disputes are about kids trying to assert their independence. You can get around this by letting your kids assist in the selection and preparation of the vegetables. If you take them to the farmers' market and let them pick out the vegetables, learn about how they're grown, etc., you're more likely to get more buy-in back home when it's time to eat the vegetables. You can also give them choices, like celery sticks or baby carrots. But don't use dessert as a negotiating tool, as in the old standby, "No dessert until you eat all your vegetables." You just end up vilifying the vegetables and glamorizing empty calories—and those are values they'll take into adulthood. Talk up the veggies, and let kids know about all the health benefits they'll get from eating them. If you have a little extra time, try carving or arranging the vegetables on a plate to make faces or something more decorative and fun. You can also try serving veggies with a low-fat yogurt or cottage-cheese dip. Read "4 Hearty and Healthy Dips" in Related Articles below for some dip ideas.

  2. FruitFruits. Fruits are a marginally easier sell than vegetables. They're sweeter and appeal more to kids' palates. Although, one thing to watch out for is fruit juice. A lot of people make the mistake of thinking a serving of fruit and a serving of juice are interchangeable. In fact, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends limiting juice for kids to a couple of drinks a day, as juice is a contributing factor to dental cavities and gastrointestinal problems. Whole fruit, on the other hand, provides tons of fiber and other nutrients, and kids can partake of it quite freely, without any adverse effects. As with vegetables, if you have the patience and the knife skills, fruit can be carved into fun shapes or you can make fruit kabobs. You can also come up with low-fat healthy dips like yogurt that kids can dunk their fruit into. Try freezing some grapes or bananas as an alternative to a mid-afternoon Fudgesicle. With both fruits and vegetables, you might consider setting up a big "snack bowl" in the kitchen. Let the kids help choose which fruits and veggies go in the snack bowl, and then give them permission to grab what they want from the bowl whenever they're hungry. This will help them feel like they're in control of what they're eating, but without giving them carte blanche to hit the sugar or the chips.

  3. CerealCereals. Kids love cereal, and the good news is that a lot of popular commercial cereals have made the switch to whole-grain flour. However, as nutritionist Marion Nestle said in a recent interview, whole wheat Cocoa Puffs are still Cocoa Puffs. If the whole grains are largely serving as a matrix to deliver a ton of sugar to your child, they're not worth eating. On the other hand, there are a lot of cereals, like Cheerios and the Kashi line, that have a lot of whole grains and not so much sugar. So check the label and try to choose cereals that have a high-fiber, low-sugar content. Cereals create another opportunity to reinforce good lifelong eating habits. Try to discourage your kids from eating directly from the box. In fact, here's a way you can replicate the convenience of prepackaged foods right in your own home! Just get some resealable sandwich bags or a bunch of small sealable containers. When you buy a big box of cereal, pour snack-sized portions into the bags or containers. You can even stuff the bags back in the box for storage. This is great for last-minute lunch packing, or your kids can grab a cereal snack for themselves. This will help fight against the temptation for unlimited munching from the open cereal box. Plus, who knows where those little hands have been? When they're elbow-deep in the communal cereal, it's pretty gross when you think about it.

  4. Peanut ButterPeanut butter. One of the best protein sources is a kid favorite—peanut butter. With 8 grams of protein in a 2-tablespoon serving, peanut butter's a winner. Again, portion size is key since peanut butter is fairly high in calories (188 per 2 tablespoons) and fat (16 grams per 2 tablespoons)—2 tablespoons will usually suffice for a snack. Try making that old party favorite—ants on a log. Fill a stick of celery (the log) with peanut butter; then embed raisins (the ants) in the peanut butter. When choosing your peanut butter, try to find brands that only contain one ingredient—peanuts. Some stores even let you grind your own peanuts. Many brands contain so much sugar, you might as well be giving your kid frosting.

  5. SandwichProtein. Lunch meat is a great snack, but don't be lured into the sinister den of the Lunchables. You can read more about what makes them bad in "9 Foods Not to Give Your Kids" in Related Articles below. Sliced turkey and chicken are great lunch meats to have on hand. Stay away from processed meats, like bologna and salami, though. You never know what you're getting, and often you're getting a lot of fat and sodium. If you can't sell a sandwich on whole-grain bread, try making a turkey roll-up—stack a slice or two of turkey, cheese, lettuce, tomato, and a low-cal condiment like mustard and roll everything in a whole-grain lavash, stuff it into a pita, or skip the bread and roll it up on its own. Tuna and salmon are also really healthy and can be doctored in a salad with some yogurt instead of mayo. Check with your doctor about how much tuna and other types of seafood your child should consume. There is a greater risk of mercury poisoning for younger children, so some limits may need to be observed.

  6. Trail MixTrail mix. This is another great way to involve your children in their own diets. Gather a selection of healthy snacks, like unsalted peanuts, walnuts, almonds, pecans, sunflower seeds, unsalted popcorn, raisins, dried berries, dried apricots, oats, healthy cereal, and anything else crunchy or chewy and healthy that you can think of that your kids will like. Despite their availability in commercial trail mixes, chocolate chips and marshmallows should probably be kept off the list. Put out the ingredients and let your kids choose which of their favorites they're mixing up. For younger kids, you can even present it as if they're making a magic potion or something. By letting them be involved in the creative stage, you'll hopefully get better results in the eating stage. After all, they made it—who are they going to complain to? Some store-bought trail mixes and granola bars are also pretty decent. Just check the labels carefully. Some less-scrupulous companies pack their "health" foods with sugar and saturated fats, like coconut and palm oils.

  7. PizzaPizza. While most delivery and frozen pizza is packed with fat and calories, pizza can actually be pretty healthy. It's basically a bit of bread, some tomato sauce, some cheese, and healthy toppings. And yet again, it can be a meal and an activity for your child. If you don't have the time to make the full-on dough from scratch, you can make pizza with a lavash or a low-fat tortilla, or you can make mini pizzas with whole wheat English muffins. Add a dollop of sauce, and let your child choose toppings from a variety of healthy ingredients: mushrooms, peppers, onions, eggplant, and veggie or turkey pepperoni—the sky or the structural integrity of your crust's the limit. Sprinkle some low-fat mozzarella on top, and stick it in the oven or toaster oven until melted. Read "Guilt-Free Pizza" in Related Articles below for some more pizza tips.

  8. SmoothieSmoothies. A lot of kids will refuse to eat any fruits or vegetables unless a massive amount of processing has been undertaken. Here's where the blender or food processor can be your best friend. By keeping a few bags of frozen fruit on hand, you and your little kitchen helper can make your own smoothies. Just pick a combination of your favorite fruits. Add a little plain, nonfat yogurt, some ice, some banana slices, or some peanut butter, and blend until smooth. It's a sweet, cool treat that gives your kids all the fiber and nutrients from fruit that a lot of fruit juices miss.

  9. Convenience StoreHealthily packed cooler. The holidays are approaching, which means it could be time for a road trip to spend the holidays with family. Hopefully, and especially for those of you with longer road trips, you'll have room in the car for a cooler packed with healthy snacks like the ones mentioned above, but occasionally, the siren song of the roadside mini-mart or vending machine is too much to resist. You can read more of the best and worst gas station cuisine in "Best and Worst Gas Station Cuisine" in Related Articles below. Also, the Center for Science in the Public Interest recently released a list of commercially available snack foods that are relatively decent. The list includes applesauce cups; Chex mix, traditional flavor; fruit cups; low-fat/low-sugar granola bars; and raisins. But save some money and save some calories. Pack a cooler.

BONUS: My Mom's Pancake Recipe

PancakesLike so many of my family's "secret" recipes, this one began life on the side of a food package—in this case, a carton of eggs (no surprise when you see the second ingredient). But this is a pretty good way of sneaking extra protein into your kids' diets—it'll definitely get a better reaction than a hard-boiled egg and a scoop of cottage cheese on a Saturday morning. For the grown-ups who are watching their cholesterol, my brother came up with a variation—substituting six egg whites and half an avocado for the six eggs. The pancakes turn out a bit green, but if you can get past that, they're quite tasty. You can top them with your favorite fresh fruit. If you can't live without maple syrup, go for grade B or grade C. They contain more of the natural minerals that the grade A syrup filters out. And they're cheaper!

My Mom's Pancake Recipe

1 cup fat-free cottage cheese
6 eggs
1/2 cup whole wheat flour (or 1/4 cup whole wheat and 1/4 cup barley flour)
1/4 cup vegetable oil
Pinch of salt
Dash of vanilla extract
1/4 cup milk

Blend or food process first six ingredients on high until smooth. Add milk slowly to reach batter consistency. Cook on a hot, nonstick griddle. Number of pancakes vary by size. Serves 6.

Preparation Time: 10 minutes

Nutritional Information: (per serving)
Calories: 225 Protein: 13 g Fiber: 1.5 g
Carbs: 9 g Fat Total: 15 g Saturated Fat: 3 g

Related Articles
"4 Hearty and Healthy Dips"
"9 Foods Not to Give Your Kids"
"Guilt-Free Pizza"
"Best and Worst Gas Station Cuisine"

Got something to say? Chat with the writers and other readers this Thursday, November 6th, at 8:00 PM ET, 5:00 PM PT in the Beachbody Chatroom!

Joe WilkesIf you'd like to ask a question or comment on this newsletter article, click here to add a comment in the newsletter review section or you can email us at mailbag@beachbody.com.

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Test Your Child Safety and Protection IQ!

By Monica Gomez

November is National Child Safety and Protection Month. Test your knowledge on keeping kids safe, and healthy.

True or False?

  1. Kid Wearing a HelmetTrue: In a bicycle-related accident, wearing a bicycle helmet reduces the risk of brain injury and head injury by as much as 85 to 88 percent. However, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), estimates suggest that only 25 percent of children ages 5 to 14 actually wear a helmet while bike riding. And for teenage riders, the percentage is close to zero. The NHTSA advises that children not only wear helmets while riding bicycles but that those helmets are properly fitted to ensure children's safety. A properly fitting helmet should fit snuggly; it should not rock back and forth. The NHTSA states that a helmet should sit level on the head and low on the forehead, one or two finger-widths above the eyebrow. The NHTSA also advises that a helmet be replaced when it's damaged or when it's been involved in an accident. Of course, lead by example. Wear a helmet every time you ride a bike. Model safe bicycle behavior for your child, and he or she will naturally follow.

  2. False: Children from birth to 6 months only should ride in rear-facing car seats. Actually, children from birth to at least 1 year old and weighing at least 20 pounds should ride in rear-facing car seats. Children should be placed in forward-facing toddler seats in the back seat of a car from age 1 and 20 pounds to about age 4 and 40 pounds. Children should be placed in booster seats in the back seat of a car from approximately 4 years old to at least 8 years old, unless the child is 4'9''. Safety belts can be used when a child is 8 years old and older or taller than 4'9''. However, all children 12 years old and younger should ride in the back seat. Considering that motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death among children ages 2 to 14—"due in large part to the nonuse or improper use of child seats and seat belts," according to the NHTSA—it is important to understand how to properly use and fit a child into a car seat and car safety belt. Besides the tips listed above, the NHTSA also provides a great resource for parents unsure of how to use, or fit a child into, a child safety seat. Their Web site offers the Child Safety Seat Inspection Station Locator; enter your zip code for the inspection location nearest you.

  3. Kid at Dentist's OfficeTrue: By 8 years old, approximately 52 percent of children have experienced tooth decay. And by 17 years of age, that percentage jumps to 78. In fact, dental decay is one of the most common chronic infectious and preventable diseases among U.S. children. That's according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Given these numbers, how early should a child begin brushing his or her teeth to prevent tooth decay and other oral health problems? The American Dental Association (ADA) suggests that you begin brushing your child's teeth with a bit of water as soon as the first tooth appears; though you should consult your dentist or physician if you consider using toothpaste before the child is 2 years old. Flossing should begin as soon as any two teeth touch, by using either floss or an interdental cleaner, according to the ADA. And a child's first visit to the dentist should take place by the time he or she is 1 year old.

  4. True: Children under 15 years old accounted for 42 percent of fireworks-related injuries in 2007. According to a U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission staff report, "2007 Fireworks Annual Report: Fireworks-Related Deaths, Emergency Department-Treated Injuries, and Enforcement Activities During 2007," children were a major component of the total fireworks-related injuries. "Children and young adults under 20 had 54 percent of estimated injuries," states the staff report. Children ages 5 to 14 experienced an estimated 2,200 injuries, or about 35 percent of all fireworks-related injuries, the highest percentage experienced among children and young adults. Sparklers accounted for the highest number of injuries among this same 5-to-14 age group, 900 sparkler-related injuries, followed by small firecrackers at 600 total injuries. Going to a public fireworks display, at your local park or local high school, is the best way to ensure that your children are safe from fireworks-related injuries.

  5. Kid Being TeasedFalse: Twenty-four percent of children 8 to 11 years old say that bullying and teasing happen at their school. Actually, that number is 74 percent, according to the National Crime Prevention Council. Estimates suggest that 160,000 children miss school because they are scared of bullying. Bullying includes name-calling; teasing; fighting; threatening; an imbalance of power (whether because of differences in physical size or popularity); and other such physically and emotionally damaging behavior that is intended to torment and harm the victim. Strategies to help children deal with bullying can include telling an adult, whether a teacher, the principal, or a parent, and not reacting in anger or with violence. Communicating with your children is key to helping them deal with these situations.

If you'd like to ask a question or comment on this newsletter article, click here to add a comment in the newsletter review section or you can email us at mailbag@beachbody.com.

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