Healthy Thanksgiving Tips

Well, the holiday season is officially here! As you and your family get ready for Thanksgiving, keep in mind these helpful tips to get your kids involved, and to ensure you have a fun and healthy holiday.

Involve Kids In Preparing Dinner – They can…

• Help find items on the grocery list

• Help set the table

• Wash vegetables and fruits

• Help measure and mix ingredients

• Help make fun Thanksgiving decorations

• Help come up with games or activities for the other kids that may be visiting

Holiday Healthy Habits – To help keep you on track…

• Don’t forget breakfast!

• Don’t starve. Avoid trying to save your appetite for dinner or you will tend to overeat.

• Cook with natural ingredients.

• Cook healthier, low calorie seasonal vegetables such as squash, carrots, turnips, and pumpkins, for a nutrient packed dinner.

• Serve in smaller serving dishes to encourage smaller portions.

• Plan for leftovers to reduce the chance of over-eating.

• Drink plenty of water.

• Enjoy desserts however, slice them into thin slices if possible and use nonfat whipped cream.

• Most importantly, enjoy!

From our CHOC Family to yours, have a wonderful, healthy Thanksgiving holiday!

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Kangaroo Care: A Special Bond Between Premature Babies and their Parents

In honor of Prematurity Awareness Month, please take a moment to learn about one of our beloved, family-centered care techniques practiced in our Neonatal Intensive Care Unit – beneficial for babies, mommies and daddies alike.

Kangaroo care is the practice of giving a sick or premature baby skin-to-skin contact — usually against a parent’s chest. The practice has been adopted worldwide because of the significant advantages for premature babies. Studies show this kind of bonding has many health benefits for these babies, including assisting in maintaining an infant’s body warmth, higher blood oxygen levels, improved sleep, improved breast-feeding and improved weight gain.

It’s good for parents, too. Kangaroo care promotes bonding and boosts parenting confidence. Mothers showed improved breast milk production. CHOC Children’s NICU experts at both hospital campuses, promote skin-to-skin contact with even the most fragile little patients, including extremely low birth weight babies and those on ventilators.

There is no doubt there have been many advances in the care of sick and premature babies, not just in technology and medicine, but also in meeting their special emotional and developmental needs. Kangaroo care is one more technique contributing to a supportive environment that helps premature babies mature and develop as they would in their mother’s womb.

To learn more about our caring for babies in the NICU please visit our CHOC Children’s Pediatric Health Library at: .

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    Celebrate Veterans Day With Your Kids

    Veterans Day is a great time to educate your children about this important holiday and the sacrifice of our U.S. veterans. Here are a few, fun ideas to share with your family:
    1. Have your kids write a poem, or draw a picture about what the holiday means to them.

    2. Have your kids create a colorful thank you card or poster for a veteran you know, such as a relative, neighbor or teacher.

    3. Find an age-appropriate, educational program on T.V. about the history behind this holiday and watch it with your kids.

    4. Make a dessert together using patriotic colors — share with family, or veterans in local nursing homes.

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    Getting to Know Diabetes

    By CHOC Children’s Clinical Dietitian Specialist, Leah Ballamy MS, RD, CSP

    November is National Diabetes Awareness Month! Did you know that every 17 seconds someone is diagnosed with Diabetes? Diabetes is a condition which affects the body’s ability to utilize blood glucose for energy.  There are several types of Diabetes, but the most common are Type 1 and Type 2 Diabetes.

    Type 1 Diabetes inhibits the body’s ability to produce insulin, and can be managed with insulin injections, diet and exercise. It’s anticipated that Type 1 Diabetes will increase by 70% by 2020.  Research suggests that unlike Type 1 Diabetes, it may be possible to prevent or delay Type 2 Diabetes, which impairs the body’s utilization of insulin. The prevalence of Type 2 Diabetes is expected to exceed Type 1 Diabetes within 10 years and currently accounts for 90% of Diabetes cases. Studies show that just 30 minutes of moderate physical activity daily and a 5-10% reduction in body weight can reduce the risk of Type 2 Diabetes by 58%.

    Know the signs and symptoms of Diabetes. Early diagnosis saves lives!
    -Excessive thirst
    -Frequent and excessive urination
    -Weight loss

    Treatment and prevention includes:
    -Avoid concentrated sweets and sugary beverages such a regular soda, juice and sport drinks.
    -Consume an average of 45-60g carbohydrates per meal and 5-15g carbohydrates per snacks (50-60% total calories).
    – Eat every 3-4 hours. Avoid skipping meals and eating late at night.
    -Eat more fiber from whole grains, fruits, vegetables and legumes.
    -Decrease saturated fat (7-10% total calories) and total fat (25-30% total calories). Choose lean meats, low-fat dairy products and low-fat snack foods.
    -Exercise 60 minutes daily
    -Moderately reduce usual food intake by 250-500 calories, which should promote weight management/slow weight loss
    -Check blood glucose and take medication as instructed

    Where to find more information about Diabetes:  (Pediatric Adolescent Diabetes Research Education) (Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation) (American D iabetes Association)  (family  support network)

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    November is Prematurity Awareness Month

    In recognition of Prematurity Awareness Month in November, please check out some of the life-saving treatments and care being offered at CHOC Children’s to babies, including some of the tiniest of them all!

    The nursery at home may be prepped; prenatal classes passed with flying colors; and mom’s bags packed and ready to go for baby’s delivery.  But, all the planning in the world rarely prepares parents for having their precious newborn admitted into a Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU).  For families in Orange County and beyond, the CHOC Children’s NICU provides leading-edge care in a family-centered environment dedicated to securing healthy futures for the community’s youngest, most fragile children.

    CHOC’s 54-bed Level IIIC NICU – the only one in the region – offers the highest level of neonatal intensive care available.  Providing world-class expertise and cutting-edge technology to treat the most complex conditions affecting newborns, the unit features a two-bed Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation (ECMO) unit. Often used for infants suffering from respiratory or cardiac failure due to birth defects or a severe infection, ECMO is a life-saving therapy that mimics the natural function of the heart and lungs, allowing the patient to rest while natural healing of any affected organs take place. CHOC’s ECMO unit is the only one of its kind in Orange County.

    CHOC’s NICU is the first hospital in the region to offer the Olympic Cool-Cap System to prevent or reduce the severity of neurological injury associated with moderate or severe hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy (HIE). (HIE is damage to the brain and spinal cord as a result of inadequate oxygen.)

    Clinical trials have shown that temporarily lowering brain temperature by 2 to 5 degrees Celsius within six hours of birth may reduce the risk of death or disability in infants with moderate or severe HIE.  CHOC experts utilize the cool-cap technology to cool the newborn’s brain for 72 hours and then slowly re-warm the patient for an additional four.

    CHOC also opened a special unit within the NICU that focuses on caring for the unique needs of the smallest and sickest babies. The Small Baby Unit, staffed with highly-trained staff, is designed for babies born at less than 28 weeks gestation or who weigh less than 1,000 grams, and is the only one of its kind in the Southern California area.

    The unit has been designed to be as womb-like as possible to aid in an infant’s development. The lighting is dimmed, and voices and other noises, including the hospital’s overhead paging system, are reduced to “library level.” The unit has noise-absorbing tiles on the floor and ceiling. Even the walls curve away from each other in order to deflect sound.

    CHOC understands the fear and anxiety experienced by parents of NICU patients.  It’s one of the reasons mom and dad are part of the care team, and are encouraged to spend as much time at their baby’s bedside as possible.  Parents are also encouraged to provide skin-to-skin “kangaroo care” – even in the Small Baby Unit – as soon as it’s safe for the baby.

    No parent wants to imagine a baby in a NICU.  But, if a newborn requires life-saving neonatal care, there’s no place like CHOC.


    To learn more about the NICU at CHOC Children’s, please click here:

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    Tips for Preventing Scary Tooth Decay this Halloween

    Halloween sweets don’t have to wreck havoc on the teeth of your little trick-or-treaters.  Children can enjoy some Halloween candy and still avoid sugar-related tooth decay. The key to preventing tooth decay lies in limiting the amount of candy children eat, and reducing the time sugar remains in the mouth.

    Brushing teeth as soon as possible after eating candy may keep harmful bacteria from developing.

    Children and parents can take additional steps to protect their teeth:
    • Parents should examine their children’s candy and remove anything they consider unacceptable before allowing their kids to eat it.
    • Avoid candy that is too tacky or gummy, which can stick to teeth and cause decay.
    • No matter what time of day children eat candy, they should remember to have good dental hygiene.
    • Before Halloween rolls around, a dentist can put sealants into the grooves of children’s teeth to protect them against corrosion caused by too much sugar.   Ask your pediatric dentist if sealants would be good for your child.

    For more information from the American Dental Association, visit

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    CHOC Expert Discusses Support Services For Down Syndrome Patients

    Ira T. Lott, M.D. is a Pediatric Neurologist at CHOC Children’s. His research has focused on the many aspects of Down syndrome, most recently on the relationship between aging and development. Dr. Lott serves as Chairman of the Scientific Advisory Board of the National Down Syndrome Society in New York.

    Down syndrome is a genetic condition that occurs in one in every 691 births, according to the National Down Syndrome Society (NDSS). The NDSS asserts that individuals with Down syndrome learn and develop at their own rate and in their own way, just like all people.  However, they face medical challenges that can include heart defects, digestive diseases, as well as skin, hormone and vision problems. These unique health care and developmental concerns often require integrated services from a multitude of health care, social and educational services.

    To address these concerns, Dr. Lott recommends a child with Down syndrome undergo a general evaluation to determine their specific needs. Then, a bridge must be created between the primary care physician and the specialty care providers. Collaboration within the various providers is needed to ensure the patients reach their potential as they join community life and go through school. The following support services are recommended to ensure a Down syndrome child’s needs are being met:

    • Comprehensive medical assessment, from birth to age 18, including continued follow-up care coordinated with between the providers and the patient’s family
    • Referrals, as required, to other sub-specialists and ancillary services as identified by the primary care physician and specialists
    • Supplementary medical care and case management services should complement primary care physician efforts

    Although people with Down syndrome experience cognitive delays, the effect is usually mild to moderate and is not indicative of the many strengths and talents that each individual possesses. Children with Down syndrome learn to do most activities a child without the condition would, only somewhat later.

    “I find children with Down syndrome a joy to work with – they are very social and have a positive effect on the healthcare provider,” says Dr. Lott. “Many do great in the Special Olympics and even become big T.V. stars.”

    For more information please visit the National Down Syndrome Society at

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    Less TV Time Is Still Best For Kids

    A recent article by The New York Times, titled “Parents Urged Again to Limit TV for Youngest,” reminded parents of infants and toddlers to limit the time their children spend in front of the TV, computers, and self-described educational games, as recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).

    While the topic of the effects of media exposure on children may be old, pediatric experts continue to educate the public on new guidelines, especially in this highly-digital dominated time.

    According to the AAP, video screen time provides no educational benefits for children under age 2 and leaves less room for activities that do, such as interacting with others and playing. So far, there is no evidence that exposure to these mediums causes long-term developmental problems, experts said. Still, research shows that young children learn more from real interactions than from situations appearing on video screens. Some learning can take place from media, but it’s a lot lower, the article said.

    Recently in a separate AAP study, where over 200 middle school students were surveyed, the results showed a direct link in the viewing of media with high profanity and subsequent aggression. Moreover, the findings provided continued support for ratings and content warnings surrounding profanity use in the media.

    Check out the following tips on media exposure, from the experts at CHOC:
    • Encourage alternative activities for entertainment for children (reading, drawing, outdoor games).
    • Decrease the dependence on television as a babysitter.
    • Identify normal media habits for your family (hours, usage and monitoring).
    • Praise children for making good viewing decisions.
    • Discuss non-violent problem solving techniques (talking, walking away).
    • Limit using TV or other electronic gadgets as a reward for good behavior. Instead, try a trip to the park, or a visit to a friend’s house.
    • Be a good example to your child by not watching too much TV, or over-using your cell phone and computer. Be involved in other activities, such as reading or walking. Read to your kids.


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    An Open, Honest Discussion Is Best To Ease Kids’ Fears

    As the community continues to try to make sense of, and mourn the lives lost in the recent Seal Beach shooting, many parents may be left with questions about how to talk to their kids about such a tragic event and help them ease their fears.

    In a recent Orange County Register article, Dr. Mery Taylor, pediatric psychologist at CHOC Children’s, addressed this topic and suggests talking openly with your children about what they’ve heard and how they feel, and assuring them that their feelings are normal. She recommends limiting their exposure to media coverage and answering their questions honestly and in an age-appropriate manner.

    Parents should also watch for signs that their kids are distressed, irritable or aggressive. Read the full story.

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    Keep Your Little Ghosts and Goblins Safe This Halloween

    Halloween is just a few weeks away! Have you gotten your costumes? This is such a fun time of year, and to help ensure your kids have a safe holiday, please check out the tips below recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and CHOC Children’s.
    • Plan costumes that are bright and reflective. Make sure that shoes fit well and that costumes are short enough to prevent tripping, entanglement or contact with flame.

    • Because masks can limit or block eyesight, consider non-toxic makeup and decorative hats as safer alternatives. Hats should fit properly to prevent them from sliding over eyes.

    • If a sword, cane, or stick is a part of your child’s costume, make sure it’s not sharp or too long.

    • Obtain flashlights with new batteries for all children and their escorts.

    • Candlelit pumpkins should be placed on a sturdy table, away from curtains and other flammable objects, and should never be left unattended.

    • To keep homes safe for visiting trick-or-treaters, parents should remove from the porch and front yard anything a child could trip over such as garden hoses, toys, bikes and lawn decorations.

    • A parent or responsible adult should always accompany young children on their neighborhood rounds.

    • If your older children are going alone, plan and review the route that is acceptable to you. Agree on a specific time when they should return home.

    • Only go to homes with a porch light on and never enter a home or car for a treat.

    • Remain on well-lit streets and always use the sidewalk.

    • Never cut across yards, use alleys, or cross between parked cars.

    • Wait until children are home to sort and check treats. An adult should closely examine all treats and throw away any spoiled, unwrapped or suspicious items.

    For more Halloween safety tips, please click here:

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