Friday, October 14, 2016

Salty Dog

Years ago, about 3 BK (Before Kids), my husband and I read an article in a cooking magazine written by a guy who loved to cook good food. He wrote about his kids going through the “hot dog years.” Oh, how happy he was when they got over it and could appreciate his scratch-cooked meals. We scoffed at this notion, confident that our children would never succumb to the Great Weenie. Instead, they would eat piles of organic, fresh veggies and locally sourced meats.

The Reality- don't worry, there
were carrots too!
The Vision

As with most things “parenting,” our lofty expectations didn’t exactly translate into reality. Despite our best intentions, my 7 year old son has been in the “hot dog years” for about 2.5 years now, and seems to be holding steady.
This is why I am so excited about the shift I’ve seen in the cooler section recently. I actually saw chicken hot dogs that are – dare I say –the healthiest I’ve seen! I’ve seen some healthier turkey and even beef options out there too. And I’ve noticed a lot more whole wheat buns, too. The food industry seems to be responding to the steady demand from consumers, public health organizations, and even federal regulations mandating healthier foods in schools.  

Healthiest hot dog I've seen
It is not just me noticing these changes: a recent study in American Journal of Public Health found that sodium levels dropped by about 7% in top selling packaged foods from 2009 to the beginning of 2015. The National Salt Reduction Initiative – a partnership of 100 city and state health authorities and national health organizations – has been working with industry partners to reduce sodium for about 6 years, and it appears to be working. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) took a big step forward in June 2016 to encourage the food industry to reduce sodium in their products by creating draft voluntary targets for sodium levels. 

Unfortunately, at least where I shop, the healthier hot dogs can be more expensive than the traditional high saturated fat, high sodium hot dog. And these healthy versions of convenience foods are not universally available. Although our food supply is far from perfect, I’m hopeful that we are seeing the glimpses of a future where lofty parenting expectations can be closer to reality – at least when it comes to healthy eating. As for my family, we’ll continue to limit hot dogs to no more than once a week – but in the meantime, it’s good to know there are healthier options out there.
More information:

Monday, February 8, 2016

Starting on the Path to Heart Health (Guest Blogger Marissa Floyd)

You are never too young, or too old, to take care of your heart. As a first time mom, I’ve become very aware of what I eat as well as what I feed my family. When my son was an infant, it was easy to give him milk, cereal, and pureed fruits and veggies. When he became a toddler, his palate changed. He would eat chicken nuggets for every meal if he could.

It wasn’t until the last year or so that I thought about the “health” aspect of eating healthy to help prevent heart disease and all cardiovascular diseases. High blood pressure, physical inactivity, and high stress levels are just a few of the risk factors I can change to prevent heart disease from affecting me and my family. Luckily, my blood pressure has been normal, but I think I can always add more physical activity to my day, which in turn, can help reduce my stress.

I’ve always felt that it’s easier to talk about eating healthy than to actually eat healthy. My son is my number one priority, so making his snacks and meals as healthy as possible is on the top of my list. When I make his snack baggies of fruits and veggies, I do the same for my husband and me. When I began doing this, I was surprised about how much of a difference it made in our meal planning and just all around eating healthier. I’ve become “that mom” who only lets her son drink water and milk and 100% juice on a rare occasion. I always have organic yogurt and fresh fruits and veggies as a snack ready to go at any playdate or outing. When you have baggies of fruits and veggies in the fridge, it is just as convenient to grab as any other “less healthy” option.

My son is now 2 ½ and he would rather eat fruits and veggies any day over a cookie or sweets. Having a healthy eating plan has broadened his palate and makes our time around the dinner table entertaining and enjoyable; like his mommy he is still not a fan of peas. I’ve also found that by having him help me shop for groceries and make meals, he is more interested in eating what is served. We are expecting our second boy in May, and I am excited that he will have a big brother that can teach him healthy eating habits; who knows, this baby might like peas. J I know that my future of chasing around 2 boys will increase my physical activity and my stress levels. . . well the jury is still out on how that will play out. Regardless, I am happy to be on the right path with my family to keeping healthy hearts. 

More resources on heart health:

Friday, January 15, 2016

Bringing Baby to Meetings (Guest Blogger Andrea Soll)

On a blanket on the floor, in my arms, in my co-workers arms, in the stroller, tight to my chest in the wrap…These are a few ways that baby Leo has slept during meetings I’ve taken him to over the past 2 months. You see, I am currently one of the lucky few people who are participating in the “Infants at Work” program at the Department of Health. 

The new policy was put into place while I was on maternity leave with my son, so the timing couldn’t have been better. It was hard to visualize what having my baby with me at work would look like before I came back, but all I knew was that having the opportunity to continue to bond with my baby all day even after my maternity leave was over, was too good to pass up!

Leo sleeps through some meetings, but has also been awake for plenty of meetings as well. When he is awake, those meeting participants are sometimes witness to a quick game of “bite your belly” or peek-a-boo” in-between coherent sentences about SharePoint! I know they don’t mind because I get nothing but soft eyes and approving looks during meetings when I bring my baby. My co-workers here at the DOH have been wonderful and accommodating and always willing to offer a hand (or arms for holding) when needed.