Refresh Your Child’s Diet with Low-Sugar Options

Many families look to the new year as a time to reset their eating habits and focus on making healthier choices. However, adults aren’t the only ones who could use a menu refresh as children may also need to focus on healthier food choices.

A study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention revealed children consume an unhealthy amount of added sugar every day. Researchers found nearly all of the toddlers in their study ate an average of 7 teaspoons of added sugar daily – the equivalent of a candy bar. Additionally, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics, excess sugar consumption can lead to an increased risk of obesity and type 2 diabetes.

“Small children have small stomachs,” said Courtney Hines, a nutritionist for KinderCare Learning Centers, which care for more than 165,000 children around the country every day. “You want them to fill up on nutrient-dense foods, not empty calories in the form of added sugar. When children consume lots of sugar, their palates get used to overly sweet flavors. They may not accept other, less sugary flavors or learn to appreciate the natural sweetness of a piece of fresh fruit.”

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends against the consumption of added sugar for children under the age of 2. Children ages 2-18 should aim for less than 25 grams, or 6 teaspoons, of added sugar per day.

For families that want to cut down on the amount of added sugar in their diets, Hines recommends cooking more at home, relying less on processed, packaged foods and serving only water or milk for beverages.

Consider these low-sugar ideas for meal and snack times to help control the amount of added sugar you and your family consume.

Dip Smart

Herbs, spices, citrus and fresh fruit add flavor without relying on the added sugars found in many popular sauces and dips. Consider making your own low-sugar alternatives at home so your family can still enjoy favorite flavors like these:

  • Ranch Dressing – In a bowl, combine mayonnaise, buttermilk, parsley, garlic powder, onion powder, salt and pepper for a kid-tested, nutritionist-approved take on a favorite dip. Serve over salad or as vegetable dip.
  • Honey Mustard – Popular on a variety of sandwiches and as a dip or salad dressing, combining plain yogurt with milk, honey and regular or Dijon mustard can create a more family-friendly version.
  • Teriyaki Sauce – Perfect for serving with healthier options like lo mein, chicken wraps or fried rice, a homemade version can be created using water, soy sauce, honey, ginger, garlic powder and cornstarch slurry.

Swap Out Syrup

Pancakes are a popular breakfast option at KinderCare centers and in many homes, but even the healthiest whole-grain pancake becomes a plateful of sugar if it’s doused in syrup. Hines recommends these toppings that are sweet and savory without the added sugar:

  • Nut butter or seed butter (such as peanut, almond or sun) and banana slices
  • Warm fruit compote (mix of warmed berries)
  • Applesauce (no-sugar-added variety) and cinnamon
  • Nut butter swirled into plain yogurt; mix in 1-2 teaspoons vanilla extract to add a sweet flavor

Snack Sweet

Opting for less added sugar doesn’t mean avoiding sweet snacks altogether. These alternatives can still help satisfy those cravings:

  • Applesauce with baked cinnamon pita triangles for dipping
  • Toast topped with nut or seed butter, smashed banana and sprinkle of cinnamon
  • Frozen fruit smoothies
  • Plain yogurt topped with granola, nuts, seeds or fruit
  • Apple slices with nut or seed butter

For more ideas to introduce your children to healthy habits from a young age, visit (Family Features)


Psychiatrist’s 8 Tips to Reducing Holiday Stress

The festive season is so much fun for many people. However, for some, family get-togethers, festive season shopping, cooking, and more make them feel stressed and anxious. Festive season stress is a real thing and it’s something that mental health professionals help their patients with during November and December. How can you help yourself feel better?

Vinay Saranga, M.D.

Vinay Saranga, M.D.

Vinay Saranga M.D., is a psychiatrist and founder of Saranga Comprehensive Psychiatry (

He offers these tips:

  •  Breathe: One of the best ways to reduce stress and anxiety is to slowdown your breathing. When we are stressed, overwhelmed, worried or something is bothering us, our breathing tends to get fast and shallow. This actually makes us feel worse than we are already feeling. Focus on slowing down your breathing. Breath in through the diaphragm (stomach area), hold for a few seconds, and slowly exhale through the lips.
  •  Mindfulness: When you start worrying about preparing Thanksgiving dinner, shopping for gifts, or uncomfortable topics of conversation coming up with family you don’t see that often, practice mindfulness. This is the act of being present and immersing yourself in the present moment. It’s easy to dwell on the past and worry about the future, but being in the present moment is the best place to focus your energy.
  •  Take a break: The festive season can be overwhelming for many people. It’s okay to take a break. Go for a walk. Take a drive and turn up the tunes. Hit the gym. Surf the web. Go to your favorite place and just people watch. It doesn’t matter what you do. If you feel your anxiety levels rising, take a break from what you’re doing and connect to something that makes you feel good.
  •  Avoid controversial issues: There’s nothing like a heated debate over things like sex, politics or religion to ruin what should be a nice family together and stress you out. If a topic feels too far out there, or if you know that people have very differing points of views, stay away from it. Focus conversations around TV shows, movies, music, books, reliving memories and other fun and interesting topics.
  •  Get outdoors: It’s easy to get stuck inside watching the parades and footballs games, but getting some fresh air and a little activity can be good for everyone. Think of games to play outside. Go for a bike ride or a walk around the block. Watch the kids get involved in an activity. A little fresh air can relieve stress and holiday tension.
  •  Comfort yourself: Whether you don’t like the family get-togethers or large gatherings just stress you out, be kind to yourself with the language you choose. Remind yourself that it’s only a few hours and you can get through it. Spend time around the people with whom you have the most in common or the ones who don’t stress you out as much. Remember to smile as this not only makes you appear to be enjoying yourself, it really will help you feel better.
  •  Stay on your meds and keep doctor appointments: The festive season and long family get-togethers can be tough for many people, but even more so if you are suffering with a mental health condition. The holiday season is not the time to come off your medication. Remember to keep all doctor appointments and stick to your therapeutic routine. 
  •  Take a trip: If the festive season really stresses you out that much, there is no shame in telling people that this year you are getting away and taking a family vacation. Going on a cruise, heading to the mountains or whatever you choose to do is perfectly acceptable. You are not being selfish by putting the needs of you and your family first and foremost.

Keep Up with Your Cat’s Health

(Family Features) Despite the fact that cats are more prevalent as pets than dogs, only about one cat per every five dogs receives regular veterinary care. In fact, some research suggests that as many as 50 percent of cat owners don’t take their cats to the vet.

There are a number of factors that contribute to limited veterinary visits for cats. According to a survey by Royal Canin, two-thirds of cat owners simply believe cats have fewer health issues than dogs. However, according to the American Association of Feline Practitioners (AAFP), routine check-ups are vital for giving cats long, happy and healthy lives.

Cats age more rapidly than humans, and they are quite adept at hiding sickness and pain, making it difficult to know if there is something wrong that requires veterinary attention. Hidden diseases commonly go untreated for this reason, which is why the Take Your Cat to the Vet initiative was created to spread awareness about the importance of preventative feline veterinary care.

For example, up to one-third of cats over the age of 12 have some form of kidney disease. Managing the progression of the disease, if caught early, can be accomplished with a proper diagnosis and reduced-phosphorous diet. Your veterinarian may recommend an option like one of the Royal Canin Veterinary Diet® Renal Support formulas as part of a treatment program.

Obesity is also a common problem for cats that can lead to more severe health issues down the road. In fact, multiple studies indicate that more than half of the nation’s domestic cats are carrying more weight than they should. A veterinarian can help with dietary recommendations and other suggestions to help trim your cat’s waistline, along with screening for the onset of secondary complications.

Another common cat ailment is urinary stones, which can be extremely painful and cannot normally be detected without professional evaluation. Regular visits to the vet can help assess your cat’s risk for developing stones and determine nutritional changes that may help prevent a problem.

Vet visits are also an opportunity to let your veterinarian know about any behavior changes and implement preventive care measures, which can be more effective than reactive care once a problem is revealed.

However, the very act of getting to the vet can be traumatic for cat owners and cats alike. Repetition is likely to help alleviate those concerns as your cat becomes more accustomed to the process, helping to put you at ease as well. In honor of the Take Your Cat to the Vet initiative, consider these tips and tricks from the experts at Royal Canin and the AAFP to make your cat’s visits to the veterinarian easier:


1. Get your cat familiar with a carrier. Getting your cat into the carrier is often the most difficult part of getting him or her to the vet. Start by leaving the carrier out at all times and make it a safe place by placing food or a cozy towel inside. Using a secure, stable, hard-sided carrier that opens from the top and the front that can also be taken apart in the middle is best. When traveling, it’s also a good idea to place your cat in the carrier rear-first, cover the carrier with a blanket and avoid bumping into things while carrying it.

2. Make the vet visit a positive experience. It’s easy to imagine that vet visits can seem scary to a cat. Feeding your cat veterinary-approved treats from carrier to clinic can help create a positive connection with the trip and distract your pet from the busy waiting room or examination.

3. Take advantage of slow times at the clinic. The waiting room of an animal hospital can be loud and full of unfamiliar animals and smells, making it a chaotic and overwhelming environment. Ask if certain days or times are slower than others. Scheduling appointments at those times may help your cat feel less overwhelmed by a new environment.

4. Give your cat practice exams. In the examination room, your vet will give your cat a full examination. To make your cat comfortable with being touched in such a manner, consider giving him or her practice examinations at home and positively reward your pet for letting you look at and touch his or her stomach, feet, face and ears.

5. Talk to your vet. Your veterinarian is your best partner to help your cat feel comfortable inside and outside the clinic. Discuss with him or her other ideas to help make visits less stressful.

To learn more about the importance of taking your cat the vet, visit

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