Tips for Feeding Your Family Well in the New Year

kids cooking

If you’re like millions of others around the world, the start of the New Year marks a new or renewed commitment to healthier eating for you and your family. Here are some helpful, quick and easy tips to help make your resolution a reality that sticks.

8 Resolutions for Healthy Family Eating

1. Buy what’s in season

Fruits and veggies that are in season simply taste better and often have more nutrients than produce that’s traveled long distances to get to you. Using what’s in season – greens and citrus are in season now – is the best choice for you, your budget and your environment.

2. Cook quality in quantity

This goes for meals – such as making a big batch of veggie lasagna or a large pot of soup that provides enough for at least two dinners – and for making batches of dishes that can be pieced together for quick and easy meals throughout the week. Make a big pot of lentils, brown rice or any other grain when you have a spare minute, and keep it in the fridge along with fresh fruits and veggies you prep once and have at the ready all week.

3. Buy in bulk

Beans, nuts, grains and dried fruit can all be purchased from the bulk bins. They are hearty, reliable staples that can be turned into meals in minutes. Keep them on hand and you’ll always be ready to whip up something good for your family.

4. Eat less white, and fewer refined grains

If you haven’t already, make a commitment to switch to whole grain bread, pasta and rice. If you’re nervous about sneaking the change past your kids, try mixing brown rice with white, gradually adjusting the ratio of brown to white until the darker wins over.

5. Incorporate more texture and new tastes

If your kids are like ours, introducing them to new foods is often a recipe for disaster. No one wants to toil at a new meal only to have it met with great protest, aghast faces and turned up noses. Instead of throwing something totally foreign at your kids, start by introducing a bit of new texture and taste along with a tried and true meal. For instance, sprinkle some chia or flax seeds into the breading you use for chicken tenders, sneak some greens into a favorite smoothie, or simply add a new, in-plain-sight veggie to your child’s plate, casually suggesting she try your tasty new find.

6. Plan ahead

Nutritional experts say that meal planning is a crucial component to consistently providing your family with healthy, filling meals. Planning ahead is also friendly on the family budget. If you’d like someone else to do the planning for you, check out Yummly. Yummly lets you search through thousands of recipes based on super-specific filters like prep-time, flavor profiles, allergies, special diets, and more.

7. Commit to fewer restaurant meals

With restaurant meals, you never truly know what you’re getting. Chances are, the meals aren’t always as healthy as they are described on the menu, and chances are even greater that the kids’ meals are even worse. View dining out as a treat – book a babysitter and make a night of it – and keep a standby list of local restaurants that commit to healthy meals to call when take-out is your only option for getting food on the table.

8. Get your kids involved in meal planning and preparation

It’s true that kids are more likely to eat what’s on their plates if they helped to put it there. Start talking to your kids about good food and how it grows while they are young, and keep at it by starting your own garden, visiting farms and letting the kids help choose new fruits and veggies at the farmer’s market or grocery.

Remember that how you eat is how you live, and how you live is likely how your kids will live. Giving them good food and healthy habits now will be a gift that lasts their lifetime.

Search for babysitters and nannies who can help cook healthy meals for the kids at UrbanSitter.

5 Strategies for Prying Away the Halloween Candy

halloween candy haul

For children, Halloween is almost too good to be true. They simply show up at a neighbor’s door, dressed as their favorite character, and handfuls of candy are tossed into a bag that’s already bursting with sugary treats. For parents, it means days of fighting to keep their children from eating their body weight in sugary junk.

Veteran parents will tell you your best bet for dealing with Halloween candy is to let your little ones choose a few favorite pieces and hand over the rest of their bounty. To make the transaction go a little smoother (and to limit disappointment) try one of these proven strategies for getting kids to let loose of their Halloween candy without a fight:

1. Buy It!
Get your child to “sell” you his Halloween candy in exchange for something he really wants. If you prefer, call it a trade. You might offer a new toy or a special activity in exchange for the bag of candy.

2. Donate it.
Sell it to your child as helping others while also having fun in a reverse trick-or-treating kind of way. You can package the candy and make a few stops around town, donating it to those who could really use a treat. Good donation spots include shelters, a local Ronald McDonald house, nursing homes, and food pantries. There are also organizations who will ship the candy in care packages to US military troops away from home.

3. Become Mad Scientists.
If you haven’t yet stumbled on the very cool web site, Candy Experiments, pre-Halloween is the perfect time to check it out. It’s loaded with simple science experiments to do with candy in your own kitchen. Bookmark the link and do a little advance planning to make sure your kitchen and pantry are locked and loaded to turn into a fun science lab. You’ll quickly turn the sugary loot into a distant memory and have a great time doing it.

4. Get crafty.
What’s almost as good as eating candy? Playing with it! Here’s the perfect craft for turning candy into a mosaic.

5. Create a Halloween dessert
It sounds counterintuitive – offering yet another sweet extravagance, but it’s the perfect solution to doing away the candy without losing the treat. Young children won’t realize that it doesn’t take all their candy to create a fun Halloween dessert, and older kids will enjoy creating and consuming it to give much thought to the price they’ve paid. Start a fun tradition of making a Halloween dessert the day after trick-or-treating. Here’s a simple, satisfying salty sweet bark made with candy, pretzels and a bit of dried fruit.

Whatever your strategy, stick with it year after year and it’ll quickly become part of your family’s Halloween fun!  

What to Know About Drool Rash

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All babies drool, but saliva on skin can cause a drooling rash near the mouth. From symptoms to treatment, here’s what to know about drool rash.

What is Drool Rash?

Drool rash, also known as drooling rash or newborn rash, is a type of contact dermatitis caused by excessive drool settling on the skin and irritating babies’ sensitive skin.

Babies develop their salivary glands around 2 to 3 months, which is when drool rash can begin, and they typically stop drooling when they’re around 15 to 18 months old. However, drool rash is most common when babies are teething. Babies drool the most while teething because they have new teeth cutting through their gums.

Additionally, pacifiers and teething rings can increase the risk of drool rash since they cause contact between saliva and the skin.

RelatedTips for Helping Your Teething Tot

What Does It Look Like?

Drool rash often looks like a bumpy red rash, often around babies’ mouths, chins, and necks. This image via Medical News Today shows what drool rash around the mouth may look like. If the rash appears more severe, including oozing or blistering, you should contact your child’s doctor for treatment.

drool rash example

How Do You Treat Drool Rash?

Drooling is a natural part of growing up, so how can you prevent your baby from developing a drooling rash or help an existing rash clear up? The easiest way to treat it is to prevent further contact between saliva and the skin as much as possible. Putting your baby in an absorbent bib and changing it when needed, as well as wiping excess saliva from their mouths, is the most effective way to reduce saliva’s contact with the skin.

To help the rash heal faster, you can gently clean the irritated area with warm water and a washcloth twice a day, making sure to pat the skin gently rather than rubbing the rash. After cleaning, you can apply a barrier cream or ointment such as petroleum jelly to help the rash heal faster. Avoid applying lotions or products with fragrance, and ask your child’s doctor if you aren’t sure whether a product is safe for your baby’s sensitive skin.

Is Drool Rash Contagious?

It isn’t contagious, and it also isn’t connected with any underlying medical conditions.

Does It Hurt?

It may be uncomfortable and itchy for your baby, but it isn’t a serious medical issue.

Should I Contact a Doctor About Drool Rash?

While drool rash on its own is harmless, you should contact a medical professional if your baby shows more severe symptoms like these:

  • The rash lasts for more than a few days and isn’t responding to treatment.
  • The rash is cracking, oozing or blistering, which could indicate the rash is infected.
  • Your baby seems very uncomfortable with the rash.
  • Your baby has a fever.

A doctor will be able to prescribe a treatment like an over-the-counter cream that should clear up your baby’s drooling rash in no time.

In Short, What Should I Know About Drool Rash?

Drool rash is a bumpy red rash around babies’ mouths caused by saliva touching and irritating their skin, often when they’re teething. There are three easy ways to treat it. First, you can prevent saliva from touching the skin with an absorbent bib. Second, you can gently clean the area with warm water and a washcloth. Third, you can apply a barrier cream like petroleum jelly to the rash. It isn’t contagious or overly painful, but if your baby has more severe symptoms, you should contact their doctor for treatment.

Related: Tips for Helping Your Teething Tot

How We Wrote This Article

We wrote this article using trusted medical sources, including the American Academy of Pediatrics and Mount Sinai. The advice in this article should not replace expert medical consultation, and you should contact medical professionals for official diagnoses and treatments.

Sources we cited:
American Academy of Pediatrics, Drooling and Your Baby
Mount Sinai, Special Topic: Teething
Scripps Health, Baby’s Drool Rash: How To Treat and Prevent It

Keeping Families and Caregivers Healthy

Coronavirus and Urbansitter

Updated 3/25/20

Family and sitter health is a top priority for the UrbanSitter community.   With concerns over Coronavirus increasing coupled with school closures and geographic areas under “shelter-in-place” restrictions we would like to remind our community of the following: 

  • We encourage everyone to refer to the CDC and local department of health websites for specific instructions and restrictions, which may vary by city or county.
  • If your area has a “shelter-in-place” order in effect, check your area’s guidelines to understand any policies related to childcare.  For example, in the San Francisco Bay Area, where a “shelter-in-place” order is in effect, home-based care for seniors, adults or children is currently classified as an “essential service” and permitted in all seven impacted counties, as long as the care is performed in the family’s home. In Colorado, however, there are more restrictions and unless the caregiver is living with the family, providing medical care to the child or is providing care in order to allow parents/guardians to work for an Essential Business or perform an Essential Government function it is not permitted. All parties must comply with all other aspects of the shelter-in-place order. Regulations vary both by location and time period so please regularly check your local department of health websites.
  • We encourage open communication regarding family and sitter health status. So, as always, if a child, a family member or caregiver is sick or has a fever, please disclose this information, with symptoms and relevant doctor information, to the other party so that families and caregivers can make informed decisions about whether to cancel a job. Specific to the Coronavirus, the CDC recommends that people should self-quarantine for 14 days if you have been in contact in the last 14-days with someone diagnosed with COVID-19.
  • Jobs should be canceled if a caregiver or anyone in the family they are working for fits into one of the above categories. Jobs should not be posted and booking requests should not be sent if a family member fits any of those criteria as well. Click here for more information.
  • Families and childcare providers should continue to follow CDC guidelines for keeping homes safe.  This includes good hygiene practices such as washing hands upon arrival, before handling food and at regular intervals.

We also encourage creative solutions for childcare.   Anything we can all to do reduce the number of social interactions we’re having the better, so parents and sitters may start to see requests from each other such as:

  • Parents may start requesting remote sitting, using online video conferencing, to keep kids entertained and help with homeschooling.  These jobs might be for shorter increments of time. Sitters and parents can think creatively about virtual activities like storytime, charades and age-appropriate games like, “I spy…”
  • Parents who need in-home childcare and have a spare room may offer to have the childcare provider “shelter in place” with them.
  • Sitters may ask for a minimum number of hours per week with each family to be able to limit the number of families they are working with.
  • Sitters may ask for rides to and from work if they do not have cars, to avoid public transportation.

We hope everyone stays healthy.

Your UrbanSitter Team



(As of 3/13/2020)

Family and sitter health is top priority for the UrbanSitter community.   With concerns over Coronavirus increasing and school closures happening around the country, we wanted to remind our community of the following:

We are encouraging open communication regarding family and sitter health status. So, as always, if a child, a family member or caregiver is sick or has a fever, please disclose this information, with symptoms and relevant doctor information, to the other party so that families and caregivers can make informed decisions about whether to cancel a job.

Specific to the Coronavirus, the CDC recommends that people should self-quarantine for 14 days if:

  • You have been in contact in the last 14-days with someone diagnosed with COVID-19
  • You have traveled to a CDC-designated level 2 or 3 area in the last 14 days

Jobs should be canceled if a caregiver or anyone in the family they are working for fits into one of the above categories.  Jobs should not be posted and booking requests should not be sent if a family member fits any of that criteria as well.

The CDC also recommends the following steps to protect yourself and other family members:

  1. Get your flu shot to protect against flu or symptoms similar to novel coronavirus.
  2. Wash your hands with liquid soap and water, and rub for at least 20 seconds.
  3. Cover your cough or sneeze.
  4. Stay home if you are sick, and keep sick family members at home until symptoms resolve.

Additionally, here are some requests that both parties should expect to encounter when communicating about child care jobs and scheduling bookings:

  • Sharing information about any travel within the past 14 days
  • Request to take temperature before leaving for the job or upon arrival at the job (for both sitter and family)
  • Disclosing information about exposure to large groups, events or activities within the past 14 days
  • Request to wash hands immediately upon arrival

Here are the latest recommendations from the CDC on how to keep workplaces and homes safe.
As the situation is changing rapidly, the CDC and local department of health websites are great sources for the most up-to-date information and recommendations.

We hope everyone stays healthy.
Your UrbanSitter Team

How To Make Early Allergen Introduction Easy for Parents & Sitters

Special guest post from the allergen experts at Ready, Set, Food!

Did you know that every baby is at risk for food allergies?

New research shows that every baby is at risk for food allergies regardless of family history — in fact, over 50% of children with food allergies have no family history. In addition, 1 in 13 children suffer from a food allergy today, and the rate of peanut allergies has tripled over recent years.

The idea of your baby developing a food allergy can be really scary, especially because of how dangerous they can be. Parents with a food allergic child can attest to the daily stress and challenges that come with a food allergy. Thankfully, findings from recent landmark studies on food allergy prevention have changed the way we view food allergies in children away from a place of fear and toward a focus on prevention. These studies show that a baby’s risk of developing food allergies can be reduced by up to 80% through early and frequent exposure to allergenic foods, starting as early as 4-11 months.

This new research on food allergy prevention is exciting, but it can also be overwhelming for parents of infants to know exactly how to follow guideline recommendations. Having a sitter introduce allergens to your baby can also be scary, but it doesn’t have to be. Read on to learn about our tips for making early allergen introduction easy for both parents and sitters!

The Basics of Early Allergen Introduction

In order to help reduce your child’s risk of developing a food allergy, according to the landmark studies and medical guidelines, parents must follow early and sustained allergen exposure by:

  • Starting Early: Introduce allergenic foods as early as 4-11 months.
  • Introducing One Food at a Time: Following pediatric guidelines, only introduce allergenic foods one at a time every few days to determine how your baby is reacting to each new food you introduce.
  • Sustaining Exposure: In the clinical trials, infants were continually exposed to allergenic foods 2-7 times a week for at least 3-6 months. Participants who continued exposure were able to maximize their chance of reducing the risk of developing food allergies.
  • Managing Dosage: The PETIT study suggested that a stepwise dosing method is best to maximize safety and efficacy. This means starting with a small amount of allergenic food, and then gradually increasing that amount over time.

Yikes. The basics of early allergen introduction don’t seem so basic after all. Once you add in the challenge of feeding a baby new foods and different feeding routines for every baby into the mix–whew! To help make this process as easy and seamless as possible for busy families and their sitters, Ready, Set, Food! has compiled a cheat sheet of tips on early allergen introduction.

Tips for Easy Allergen Introduction for Parents & Sitters

  1. Find something that fits your baby’s feeding routine: Whether you’re exclusively breastfeeding, using formula, starting with purees, or following baby-led weaning, it’s important to find a way to introduce allergens to your baby. Note: there is a common misconception that breastfeeding is enough to introduce allergens, but unfortunately, there is inconclusive evidence that supports breastfeeding to prevent food allergies alone.
  2. Start Early: Studies recommend starting as early as 4-6 months to align with an infant’s critical immune window. This window gives your infant the best opportunity to develop a positive response to new foods.
  3. Pick the Right Time: Choosing the right time to introduce your baby to allergens is crucial. It’s important to talk to your pediatrician before introducing allergens, especially if your baby has severe eczema. Once you’re ready to start, make sure your baby is healthy and pick a time when an adult can watch your baby for at least 2 hours, just in case of a reaction.
  4. Don’t give up! Babies are often picky eaters at 4-11 months of age, and it’s hard to get them to consistently eat enough of anything. It’s important to not only introduce allergenic foods, but to also sustain exposure multiple times a week for several months.

It’s safe to say that early allergen introduction can be quite the challenge! Between starting at the right time and managing dosage, all while introducing allergens in a way that matches your baby’s normal routine. That’s why Ready, Set, Food! created an easier way to follow medical guidelines on early allergen introduction. They make it as simple as adding a pre-measured stickpack of organic, non-GMO peanut, egg, and milk to your baby’s bottle or food once a day. Ready, Set, Food! takes the stress out of introducing allergenic foods to your baby, for parents and sitters alike.

Ready, Set, Food! makes early and sustained allergen introduction easy for busy families! For a limited time only, get $20 off your Ready, Set, Food! subscription use code: URBANSITTER20.

All health-related content in this article is for informational purposes only and does not create a doctor-patient relationship. Always seek the advice of your own pediatrician in connection with any questions regarding your baby’s health. These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. Products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. If your infant has severe eczema, check with your infant’s healthcare provider before feeding foods containing ground peanuts.

7 Reasons to Book a Babysitter This Spring

Photo Credit: Mukumbura via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: Mukumbura via Compfight cc

Why is Spring is a great time to book a babysitter? Read on to find out:

1.   Spring cleaning. Think of all you could accomplish without your usual distractions. Not sure where to start? Check out Over 100 Spring Cleaning Tips and Tricks from How Does She? and the room-by-room checklist from the Huffington Post. You’ll have your digs sparkling like never before.

2.  Don’t give up on your new year’s resolution to get fit. Now is the perfect time to try that new exercise class… before bathing suit season comes knocking at your door.

3.   You don’t need a holiday party as an excuse to get out and enjoy your spouse. Plan a spontaneous date night just for the two of you. Make it dinner and a movie, or jazz it up to really reignite the sparks. Take a dance lesson? Relive your first date? Maybe tackle a tough hike or a long bike ride on an afternoon date that’ll make you feel like your pre-kid selves. Need more ideas? Check out our Pinterest Date Night Board.

4.   Throw open the windows and enjoy your newly cleaned home ALL BY YOURSELF. Remember how nice it is to be home alone? No? We didn’t think so. Send your babysitter and the kids on a fun spring outing while you have the place to yourself.

5.   Saturdays have never been busier. Does your Saturday to-do list look something like this:

    • Carpool to soccer game
    • Pick up dry cleaning
    • Stop at market for weekend necessities
    • Bring snacks to Little League
    • Buy treats and fill 24 plastic Easter eggs for class party
    • Take toddler to swim lessons
    • Drop off at birthday party (don’t forget to pick up a gift on the way)

Wouldn’t it be so much nicer if it read like this, if even just for one Saturday?

    • Hand over the kids to the babysitter on the way to grabbing coffee
    • Yoga
    • Lunch with pals
    • Shoe shopping
    • Cocktails with better half

Hire a babysitter to cover your duties for the day. The kids will enjoy mixing it up a bit, too!

6.   After you’ve cleaned out the closets and stashed the sweaters and boots, it’s likely there are a few holes to fill. We bet you’d rather Shop for Spring with a friend or go it solo – really, it’s unarguably no fun to shop with kids in tow. Better yet, if you’ve never had a shopping date with your oldest child, give it a go. He or she will adore having your undivided attention to pick out some new Spring favorites, and you’ll be feel refreshed after a day with just one child.

7.   Now that the holidays are over and before summer arrives, grab the opportunity to catch up those projects that always fall to the bottom of the list and are always hanging over your head. You know the ones – the baby book, photo album, family blog, school year scrapbook, or maybe you’ve Pinned a DIY project you’d love to try… if only you had the time.  Now you do.

Remember, it’s never been easier to find a babysitter to cover you no matter when or why you need one, whether it be for an hour, a day or even longer. Log onto UrbanSitter and find your new favorite.

10 Healthy On-the-Go Summer Snacks You Kids Will Gobble Up

The end of the school year doesn’t necessarily mean the end of rushing around. And on-the-go summertime families need quick, easy, healthy snacks to keep them energized as they dash from camp to playdates to the pool. “There are good and bad packaged options for your kids,” says Kimberley Grayson of the all-natural online shop, Abe’s Market. She’s helped us round up some of the best treats out there. They come in properly portioned sizes; contain wholesome mixes of fruits, vegetables, grains, and dairy; contain little sugar; and are non-GMO wherever possible. Happy snacking!

These toddler-friendly bagged snacks are “filled with 100% organic fruits and veggies in bite sized and easily dissolvable pieces,” raves Grayson. “The produce is harvested fresh and quick-dried to lock in essential nutrients. And the flavor combos contain just the right amount of natural sweetness and engaging color.” ($3.50, Abe’s Market)

Two varieties of granola—Caramel Apple and Chocolate Banana—are surprisingly light, easy-to-chew and not-too-sweet. Perfect for those busy mornings when your kid’s got to eat breakfast in the stroller or the car seat, since they’re delicious even without milk and provide plenty of fiber and carbs to get tykes fueled up on the fly ($4.50, Target).

What snack’s more classic than popcorn? If you don’t have time to pop it yourself, or just don’t feel like shaking a pot over a hot stove on a sweltering afternoon, grab one of these handy snack-size bags for a low-salt, high-yum treat ($5/bag of 6, available at Whole Foods).

Maybe you have time to spread some nut butter on a slice of toast; maybe you don’t. Either way, Justin’s has you covered with these 1.15-ounce squeeze packs that get some high-quality protein into your snack-needy child’s afternoon—even if it means squeezing them right into his hungry little mouth ($1.30, Justin’s).

This nutrient-packed bar will give kids and parents alike a wholesome, high-energy, low-calorie snack that’s also vegan, gluten free, organic, and non-GMO. All you’ll notice is its vanilla deliciousness ($22/pack of 12, Pure Bar).

Unlike certain yogurt tubes that shall here remain nameless, Siggi’s squeezable yogurts, in blueberry, raspberry, and strawberry, are low in both sugars and ingredients—no frightening-looking dyes, no weird fillers. And while they’re also low in fat, they sure don’t taste like it, thanks to the Icelandic method of straining yogurt into rich skyr. Also great frozen ($4/box of 8, available at Whole Foods).

Especially well-suited to tweens, these easy-pack bars are perfect for any time of the day and fit neatly into lunch boxes and glove compartments for after-camp pick-me-ups. Says Grayson, “Made with five wholegrain super-grains with mix-ins of flavors kids love, I am in love with the chewy texture and nutrition of these bars!” ($5/pack of 5, Abe’s Market)

These smart snacks were developed by two moms to make eating healthy a fun adventure while boosting the brain power of growing minds, according to Grayson. “As the world’s first fruit and vegetable smart cookies for kids, Bitsy’s provides new palette introductions while providing the nutrition active kids need,” she says. Bonus for kids with allergies: they’re also made in a nut-free facility ($6, Abe’s Market).

A sweet, chewy twist on that old nature-lover’s stand-by, gorp. A little bit sweet, a little bit salty, these little bars are the perfect tidbits to munch on as you make your way to all your kids’  summertime activities ($13/pack of 6, Amazon).

This is puffed fruit that crunches, in bite sized clusters active kids can snarf right from the bag.  “Here’s a snack that spans the ages” says Grayson. “It’s got fewer than 75 calories per serving and is made without refined sugars or preservatives. It can do double-duty as a yogurt or ice cream topper, and mixes well with nuts to create a custom-made snack of your own choosing.” ($5.50, Abe’s Market)

Start the School Year Right With an Eye Exam

By Dr. Gabriel Taub

The American Optometric Association (AOA) estimates that up to 80 percent of learning occurs through a child’s eyes. That’s why, as we find ourselves at the beginning of another school year, your child’s eye health should be as important as your annual visit to the pediatrician. An eye exam by an optometrist or ophthalmologist can help prevent potential vision issues that could impede your child’s progress both in school and during extracurricular activities.

With the amount of time children spend looking at smart boards, tablets, and computers, it is important to make sure that they entering the classroom without any vision issues that may prevent them from doing their best. Schedule regular eye exams just prior to the beginning of each school year—and if you haven’t made an appointment yet, don’t fret—it’s never too late to look after your kid’s eyes!

You should also schedule an eye exam at any time of year if you notice that your child is experiencing any of the following:

  • Squinting while reading or watching television
  • Losing his place when reading
  • Avoiding reading and other close-up activities altogether
  • Headaches
  • Blinking
  • Rubbing eyes constantly
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Redness and tearing of the eyes
  •  Tilting his head to one side when viewing something
  • Holding reading materials very close to his eyes

Some children might be stressed or frightened about a pending eye exam. Below are a few things you can tell them to expect, to alleviate some of their anxiety.

With a little knowledge beforehand about what is involved, eye exams don’t have to be stressful or scary for either the child or the parent. They should know that none of these tests are painful or difficult!

  • History:  This will cover any complaints and pre-existing conditions
  • Age-appropriate visual acuity testing: Using an eye chart, the doctor asks the child to read letters or name pictures
  • Cover testing: This test detects misalignment of the eyes. While the child focuses on a target, the examiner covers each eye one at a time to look for a “shift.”
  • Motilities:  The child is told to follow a target over a circular path.  Tracking problems and head movements are noted.
  • Stereopsis:  Testing the ability to see a 3-D image with polarized lenses.  A fun test that children enjoy that also reveals important information about their vision.
  • Color Vision Testing:  This is especially important for boys, since 8-10% of males have color vision deficiencies.  Less than 1% of females have such deficiencies.
  • Retinoscopy:  While the child looks at a far target (picture chart) the optometrist uses a retinoscope to measure the amount of myopia (nearsightedness), hyperopia (farsightedness) and astigmatism (an oval shaped cornea).

Finally, sports injuries resulted in 20 percent of emergency room visits for kids aged 5 to 9 and 41% of visits for children aged 10 to 14, according to a recent study.

Thankfully, protective eyewear can prevent 90 percent of eye injuries. Children’s sports glasses, which are traditionally made from impact-resistant polycarbonate lenses, feature a goggle shape in plastic or polycarbonate with padding to absorb impact. Be sure to ask your optometrist about options that are just right for your little sports star!

Dr. Gabriel Taub has practiced at Cohen’s Fashion Optical for 18 years. Throughout the month of September, the store is offering free eye exams to kids ages 5-16 at participating locations. 

Photograph by Ernst Vikne via Creative Commons

Kristin Groos Richmond of Revolution Foods is Recruiting Kids for a Healthy Eating Revolution

Kristin Groos Richmond, CEO and co-founder of Revolution Foods

By Dawn Van Osdell

On her early morning drive to her Oakland, CA, office Kristin Groos Richmond is already thinking about lunch. Not her own, but the more than 1.5 million fresh, wholesome meals her company will lovingly distribute throughout the week to schoolchildren across the country. She’s also thinking about the small details that make the difference between kids gobbling up the food or leaving it untouched on their cafeteria trays. Details like white cheddar rather than orange cheddar in a quesadilla, and the red kidney beans Louisiana kids expect to find in their jambalaya.

No one knows food and kids quite like Richmond and her business partner, Kirsten Saenz Tobey, two moms who met at the Haas School of Business at the University of California Berkeley 10 years ago and together co-founded Revolution Foods. Their now-burgeoning company, ranked #5 in food by Fast Company magazine in 2012, provides nutritious snacks and meals to schools and stores, often in communities where children have limited access to them.

Fresh lunches are made daily at Revolution Foods Culinary Centers

As if it weren’t hard enough to get wholesome food into the hands of these kids to begin with, the company also has to get them to eat it. “If kids are turning up their noses, we’re not doing it right,” says Richmond, explaining that they provide affordable meals using real foods with no artificial colors, flavors, or preservatives —and, just as importantly, educate kids about proper nutrition, helping them build healthy eating habits that will hopefully last a lifetime. The best way to do this, says Richmond, is to bring kids into the kitchen and into the discussion.

“We’ve found that when we not only give kids healthy food and tell them why it’s better, but also give them a voice, together we can come up with what works.”

— Kristin Gross Richmond

That discussion—or at least, the core values behind it—has its roots in her time volunteering with kids in New York while working in corporate finance, a career path she knew she wouldn’t follow forever. When a friend mentioned that she was starting a school in Kenya, Richmond, who grew up caring for animals on her grandparents’ cattle ranch in the hills outside San Antonio, TX, found herself quitting her banking job and signing on to head to the African savannah.

With her friend, she co-founded the Kenya Community Center for Learning in Nairobi and taught there for two years before her then-boyfriend, now-husband, Steve, finally talked her into moving to the Bay Area. There, working at the nonprofit Resources for Indispensable Schools and Educators (RISE), she heard teachers complaining repeatedly that their students didn’t have access to proper nutrition. That critical complaint stuck with her, all the way to the inception of Revolution Foods.

Today, Richmond lives in Mill Valley with her husband and her very own research and development team: sons Caleb, 8, and Watts, 5. “I am so lucky to get an inside look at what kids want and what they think,” she says, mentioning that Caleb and Watts have first tastes of just about everything Revolution Foods serves. “I ask them if the food is too spicy, too strong, about how the bread looks or how big a meatball should be.” Recently, Caleb asked, “Mom, do you really listen to everything we say about food?” Yes, she does.

Revolution Foods provides schoolchildren with delicious, healthy meals to fuel their growing minds and bodies

Richmond says her company prides itself on being culturally relevant. San Francisco has a large Asian population, as well as many Hispanic communities, and Revolution Foods also serves school districts in 11 states and Washington, DC.  Meeting local taste expectations is an important part of what Revolution Foods must accomplish.  And, she says, “We ask kids to help us get it right.”

Their culinary centers—really, massive commercial kitchens— are regionally located so food can be made fresh and sent directly to the 1,000-plus schools Revolution Foods serves. The meals they create must comply with the National School Lunch Program, a federal assistance program that subsidizes schools to provide low-cost or free school lunches. On visits to the culinary center kids can watch non-stop deliveries of fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and meat free of nitrates and nitrites, all of which is prepped and prepared by real people, not machines. “It’s important for kids to put faces behind food, so that they don’t think it just comes from packages,” Richmond says.

Kristin Groos Richmond at Revolution Foods headquarters in Oakland

Here, kids are allowed to get in on the action, chopping and mixing and creating their own healthy dishes in Iron Chef-like competitions in which they’re judged on taste, aesthetics, healthy balance, and nutritional content— even the name they create for their masterpieces. “It’s about making it fun, so they respect food,” Richmond explains.  Recently, kids at the culinary center in Oakland helped name an Asian-inspired breakfast bowl.

They can also help tweak dishes. For instance, Revolution Foods always uses brown rice in their many Latin-inspired meals— a healthier grain that’s new to many kids. “We get that it’s different,” Richmond’s team tells them, acknowledging the denser texture and nuttier taste. Then they ask the kids to tell them how to make the flavor of the overall dish more like what they’re accustomed to. “We’ve found that when we not only give kids healthy food and tell them why it’s better, but also give them a voice, together we can come up with what works,” says Richmond. It turns out, brown rice isn’t an issue for most kids when it’s colorful from a mix of minced veggies and seasoned the way they expect.

Across all markets, kids help to nix ideas, too—recipes made with good intentions but ultimately not what kids want to eat. They also have the power to vote on the best-of-the-best dishes, so the company knows what will work nationwide. Some kid favorites are unsurprising: whole grain spaghetti and meatballs, chicken tenders, oranges, kiwis, and pasta alfredo with white beans. A more unexpected hit: salads. Kids especially dig Revolution Foods’ chef, taco, and sesame chicken salads, proving that pushing the envelope really can pay off.

Fresh meals made by hand, not machine

The process of involving kids, Richmond says, means kids are eating better and educators are starting to see improved test scores, fewer behavioral problems, and declining obesity rates. Time-pressed parents can get in on the action, too. Revolution Food’s ready-to-eat lunchbox kits are now available in more than 2,000 stores like HEB, Safeway, and Fresh and Easy.

“One of the nicest surprises to come out of Revolution Foods has been the job creation,” says Richmond. Mostly at its local culinary centers, the company has created more than 1,400 jobs, hiring the fathers, mothers, uncles, and cousins of the kids they feed. “It’s not just about fresh food,” Richmond says, “but about how we can have an even bigger impact on the community.”

Photographs by Bonnie Rae Mills and courtesy/Revolution Foods.

Go Climb a Tree–It’s Good for your Brain!

Photo by  JimJarmo, via Creative Commons

By Lela Nargi

“Go climb a tree!”

Sound like something you’d say to get your kids out of the house and out of your hair as the summer lingers on and on? According to a new study by researchers at the University of North Florida, climbing a tree—as well as balancing on a beam, running barefoot, and navigating obstacles—is actually a great way to improve working memory. This is defined as the “active processing of information,” which we need in order to perform well on everything from grades to sports. The best part? The benefits can be seen in a short period of time: the researchers found that two hours of the above-mentioned physical activities increased working memory by 50 percent.

All this works, according to the study, because activities such as tree climbing and obstacle navigating, while physical, also have a cognitive component—namely, to accomplish them, we have to use our working memory to adapt to changing conditions and environments. Says one of the study’s lead researchers, Dr. Ross Alloway, a member of UNF’s Department of Psychology, “The research suggests that by doing things that make us think, we can exercise our brains as well as our bodies.”

So by all means, banish your children to the trees—and take yourself along with them! Your memories will thank you.