Start The New Year Right – Make Soup!

By: Jan Skaar, RD, CSP, CNSC, CLE, clinical dietitian at CHOC Children’s

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Are you tired of overindulging in the abundance of holiday cakes, pies and cookies during the last month? Are you thinking it’s time to give your waistline and your wallet a break? There’s no better time than January, National Soup Month, to try making one of the many delicious, healthful, and economical soup recipes that abound, for your family.

Soups have been a dietary staple for centuries in many different cultures. The word soup comes from the word “sop,” meaning a broth or liquid eaten with a piece of bread to “sop” up the liquid. Soups all have similar basic ingredients; are often easy to prepare; are high in nutrients; and they won’t break your food budget! Here are four steps to making a great soup:

1. Choose a base. Whether you are a vegetarian or meat eater, you can choose a broth or stock for the liquid foundation of your soup. Homemade is great, but if you need to save time like most of us, choose a prepared broth or stock from your favorite grocer. Many are available in low sodium and non-fat versions.  Stock has a more intense flavor compared to broth.

2. Choose your vegetables, herbs, meats or protein sources. Dried peas, beans and lentils are inexpensive, in comparison to meats, chicken and fish. They are high in protein, iron, fiber, and low in fat. This makes them excellent nutritional choices, and will stretch your food dollar.

3. Develop the flavor. Sauté or brown the meat or vegetables in a small amount of oil or use cooking spray. Some soups need an acidic ingredient such as wine or vinegar. These are used to deglaze the pan after sautéing the meat and vegetables, bringing out the flavor of the browned bits in the pan. The broth or stock is added next, becoming infused with flavor as your soup simmers.

4. Choose your texture and garnish. Soups can be pureed for a smooth appearance and texture. Leave your soup chunky for a more rustic look. A light sour cream or shredded cheese can help balance a spicy soup; fresh lime juice or chopped herbs can compliment a soup’s complex flavors.

You can find a plethora of great tasting soup recipes at or Check out the nutritional information listed for each recipe. Try Golden Winter Soup, made with butternut squash, russet potatoes and leeks. It tastes great with a tossed salad and a slice of French bread and Gruyere cheese!

And don’t forget, there are many soup recipes that do well in a slow-cooker, which can be a godsend for the working parent or just those of us who are too tired to cook at the end of the day. A great cookbook series for slow-cooker recipes is “Fix It and Forget It” by Phyllis Pellman. It is available in low fat, diabetic and 5 ingredient versions.  Try Chicken Tortilla Soup, a family favorite!  With a little planning, you can avoid the fast food habit and start your way to a healthier and budget-wise New Year!

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20 Resolutions for Kids to Start 2012 Right!

The new year is only a couple days away! While many adults will be busy making new year’s resolutions, how about coming up with some fun, healthy resolutions with your kids — for them!

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) suggests the following kid-friendly resolutions, that are sure to help you and your family start the new year right.

What are some of your family’s new year’s resolutions?

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Celebrating the Holidays Means Celebrating Healthy Habits!

The consumption of special holiday foods combined with festive gatherings and vacation time do not have to be temporary distractions from practicing healthy habits. Dr. Chris Koutures, a pediatric and sports medicine specialist at CHOC Children’s, offers several easy ways for families to stay active during the holiday break. Dr. Koutures’ tips are a great way to promote good tidings and cheer!

• Light up your day. There are many wonderful holiday light displays around the area. Rather than drive through them, park or leave the car at home and take a stroll on foot. Walking will give you more time to appreciate the beauty and also burn a few extra calories.

• Become a mall walker. Malls and stores are more crowded this time of year, as are their parking lots. Take advantage of this – avoid the crowds looking for a closer parking spot and find those lonely spots farther away. The extra steps will be good for you! Once inside, make a plan to take the stairs, walk around or plain “window shop” for 10-15 minutes before stopping and making purchases.

• Give the gift of movement. Strongly consider gifts that involve and encourage activity.  Even video games now have more interactive components that keep kids jumping, turning and breaking a sweat.  Outdoor play toys and games are also a big hit with our consistent good weather, local parks and fields.

• “Pre-load” before a big party. Having a small meal before a big holiday party or gathering may reduce the temptation to overeat. At the party, remember sensible portion sizes (size of your fist is a good guide)and include healthy foods., Supervise younger children so they don’t have unlimited access to all the specialty holiday foods.

• Save some for later. Don’t be afraid to store away or freeze holiday candies or other sweets for later in the year. This will help reduce the risk of overeating and provide a special surprise months later, extending the good feeling of the holiday season.

• Don’t forget the “Big Five!” Make the commitment to include at least five fruits and/or vegetables a day. We are blessed in this area to have an ample selection of colorful, healthy foods that will complement the wonderful colors of the season.

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New Car Seat Law Beginning Jan. 1st

Have you heard? Beginning January 1, 2012, a new law in California will require all children under 8 years old to ride in a car or booster seat in the back seat of a motor vehicle.

Children 8 years or older may use a vehicle seat belt if it fits properly with the lap belt low on the hips, touching the upper thighs, and the shoulder belt crossing the center of the chest. If children are not tall enough for proper belt fit, they must ride in a booster or car seat. The new law imposes fines and penalties for violations.

California joins more than 37 other states with strict booster seat laws. The law mirrors the recommendations of the American Academy of Pediatrics and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, among other agencies.  Car crashes are the leading cause of death for children ages 4-12 and one of the leading causes of injury and disability. For your and your family’s safety, please remember to have everyone buckle up!

Learn more about car seat guidelines from the American Academy of Pediatrics. 

For more information, please contact a certified child passenger safety technician in CHOC’s Community Education Department, by calling 714-509-8887. A free child passenger safety class and a low cost car seat program (in English and Spanish) is available.

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Surviving the Christmas Crash

Get little ones involved in the kitchen.

It’s that time between Christmas and New Year’s Day when the kids are all at home…a.k.a. the Christmas crash! The toys have been unwrapped and the kids are slowly coming down from the days-long sugar high.

Many parents work full time and many daycare facilities are closed between holidays. So for those parents that are off during the holiday break, they will get to spend all day, every day with their kids!

With so much together time, it’s easy for tempers to flare and kids to get testy. If you find yourself with a house full of antsy children, here are some tips for surviving the Christmas crash.

  • Stick to your regular schedule. Keep kids on track, even for meals and naps. It’s easy for things to go haywire without a regimented routine. And scheduled naps for kiddos means a downtime for parents.


  • Cook up a storm. There are plenty of kid-friendly recipes that can get the whole family involved. Let them help you stir and decorate. Studies show that kids are much more likely to eat healthy snacks if they help to prepare it.


  • Clean out the toy chest. With so many new toys around, it’s easy for things to become crowded. Make room for new gifts while teaching your kids about giving. Help little ones sort through old toys and clothes and select items to donate to charity. Then, let them go with you to make the donation.


  • Build a fort. With a sheet and some chairs, make a fun hideaway for the kiddos. Let them fill it with blankets and pillow. It’s a perfect place to watch movies and read books when the weather is dreary.


  • Go to the park. Better yet, pack a lunch. A picnic at the park is a fun deviation from the norm.  Don’t forget the sand toys and sweaters in case it gets chilly.


  • Hit the road. Pack some snacks and supplies and hop in the car. Take an impromptu trip to the beach or other favorite spot and take in the scenery.

When it comes to keeping the kids entertained, a little preparation goes a long way.


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Talk With Your Kids About Inappropriate Cell Phone and Internet Use

In a study released this month by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), an increasing number of adolescents participate in “sexting,” which can include sending sexually explicit images of themselves or other minors by cell phone or the Internet.

Over 1,500 Internet users, ages 10 through 17, were surveyed about their experiences with appearing in, creating or receiving sexual images or videos. The study found that 2.5 percent of youth surveyed have participated in sexting in the past year. If sexting is defined as transmitting sexually suggestive images, rather than sexually explicit images, that number increases to 9.6 percent. Most kids who have participated do so as a prank or while in a relationship, and a significant number of the incidents included alcohol or drug use.

Study authors recommend that more young people are educated on the consequences of possessing or distributing sexually explicit images, which is currently treated as a criminal offense.

Experts agree that talking openly with your kids is a great way to learn how much your kids know about the topic, and an opportunity to discuss with them the potential consequences. Express how you feel in an age-appropriate, non-confrontational way. An ongoing, two-way dialog can go a long way in helping your kids understand how to minimize legal and social risks.

In many cases, kids are acting this way in response to peer pressure, in a form of cyberbullying or pressure from a boyfriend or girlfriend. Sometimes it’s impulsive behavior, blackmail, or flirting. Make sure they understand that sharing these type of images should be avoided via email and the web too – not just their cell phones. Let your kids know that in any case, this is activity they should not participate in or support.

For more information on kids and cell phones, please click here:

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Enjoy a Safe Time on the Slopes

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With abundant snow on our local mountain tops, many families will be hitting the slopes this season!  To ensure you and your family have a fun and safe time, check out the following tips recommended by Dr. Francois D. Lalonde, orthopaedic surgeon at CHOC Children’s:

  • Stretch:  Proper conditioning can minimize the risk of injury and optimize performance. Make sure your family is warmed up. This can be as simple as walking, marching in one place, or doing a few jumping jacks.
  • Use proper safety gear:  The lack of proper gear is a common factor in sports injuries. Make sure your children use a helmet, wrist and elbow guards, knee pads, goggles, boots, and the appropriate snowboard or skis.
  • Dress appropriately:  Make sure your family is wearing the right amount of layers to match the weather and each person’s activity level. Wear a hat or helmet liner and gloves. Also, be sure to wear sun protection, even on cloudy days!
  • Get proper instruction: Take a lesson from a qualified instructor before you hit the slopes. Ensure that your children know how to properly use the equipment.
  • Follow the rules:  Children should be supervised at all times. Make sure your family understands and obeys posted warning signs. Avoid icy slopes. Do not go off-trail.
  • Ski or snowboard with a friend:  Pre-arrange a meeting place in case you get separated. Use walkie-talkies if possible. Make sure your children have the name and phone number of your hotel.
  • Take a break:  Lots of energy is being used while gliding through the slopes. Take a moment to rest. While resting, make sure you have something to eat or drink.

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Tips to Prevent the Flu This Season

Tis the season for winter fun…and the flu bug? The flu season typically starts in October and lasts through April. That’s when people tend to spend more time indoors and in school, close to others who may be infected. Although the flu does seem to be going around a lot right now, we are still a few weeks away from the peak of the flu season, which is in January or February.

One way the flu spreads is when an infected person coughs or sneezes. A person might also get the flu by touching a surface or object that has the flu virus on it and then touching their own mouth or nose.

Signs of the flu include fatigue and weakness, a high fever, severe aches and pains, headache and a cough. With a cold, on the other hand, your child might have a stuffy, runny nose, a sore throat, a hacking cough or sneezes frequently.

While there’s no real protection against every germ, there are ways to reduce the risks. Remind your children to wash their hands often. Place travel-size hand sanitizer in their backpacks. Postpone play dates with sick kids. Remind your children not to share linens, utensils and dishes with those who are sick.

In addition, consider getting your child a flu shot. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends yearly flu shots for all children ages 6 months and older.

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Type 1 Diabetes – Early Detection is Key!

National Diabetes Awareness Month may be over, but the fight against this serious condition in children is not. To learn more about Type 1 diabetes and its symptoms, please see below.

When a child is diagnosed with diabetes, life immediately changes for both the child and the family. Diabetes is a condition which affects the body’s ability to utilize blood glucose for energy. The increase in diabetes among children has been an ongoing trend for years, with the risk of developing type 1 diabetes being higher than virtually all other severe chronic diseases of childhood. An alarming new prediction indicates that Type 1 diabetes among children under the age of 15 will increase by 70% by 2020. Type I diabetes (juvenile-onset diabetes), is an immune system disorder that inhibits the body’s ability to produce insulin. The anticipated increase in Type 1 would represent a drastic lifestyle change for millions of children since it requires daily injections of insulin to manage the condition.

Dr. Susan Clark, director of the CHOC Division of Endocrinology and Diabetes, and her team of clinical experts are passionate in providing the best care for CHOC’s diabetes patients. From carb counting to insulin pump training, the diabetes team focuses delivering family-centered care, through specialized diabetes treatment and education to patients and families. In particular, for Type 1 patients, education is key. According to Dr. Clark, with proper medical care, clinical therapies, diet, hygiene, and exercise, a child with diabetes can live a full and normal life.

Type 1 diabetes often appears suddenly – often resembling the flu in children. According to Dr. Clark, the following are the most common symptoms for type 1 diabetes:

• unusual thirst
• frequent urination
• extreme hunger but loss of weight
• blurred vision
• nausea and vomiting
• abdominal pain
• extreme weakness and fatigue
• irritability and mood changes

The U.S. News and World Report recently recognized CHOC’s diabetes and endocrinology program as one of the top in the country. Regionally recognized for patient care excellence, CHOC’s Endocrinology team provides comprehensive diagnosis and treatment of endocrine disorders and offers several innovative specialty programs and outpatient clinics designed to enhance quality of life for patients.

To schedule an appointment with a CHOC Children’s Endocrinologist, please call (714) 509-7982.

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Give Back This Holiday Season

Doing good for others is a great way to spend time together and bring your family closer during the holidays. Volunteering can also help children learn kindness and compassion.

CHOC Children’s has dozens of ways for your family to give back to the community. Learn more about ways to support CHOC. 

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