Health & Fitness

Getting kids to eat vegetables is child’s play

When Lisa Simpson persuades her family to eat an all-vegetable meal, everyone except Lisa gets sick. Bart’s reaction? “From now on, I’m only eating food that I know had a soul!” Cartoon Bart thinks he’s funny, but in the real world, it’s important, for body and soul, for kids to eat more vegetables.

A third of North American children are overweight or obese by age 9. Eating a healthy amount of vegetables daily is an effective weapon in the fight against obesity and premature health problems, like elevated LDL (lousy) cholesterol, high blood pressure and Type 2 diabetes. Unfortunately, 93 percent don’t get the daily recommended amount.

Well, we might learn a trick or two from the French, where the rate of obesity is one of the lowest in the developed world. (France was ranked No. 128 by World Health Organization; America is No. 9; Mexico No. 19 and Canada No. 35.) Seems when French moms wean children from breast to bottle, they introduce produce to their kids by adding vegetable puree to milk. New North American moms, you may want to make that part of your game plan. But if you’ve missed that window, it’s not too late to increase kids’ veggie intake.

Step 1: Eat your veggies, and eventually your kids may be curious enough to try them.

Step 2: Get kids cooking those green beans and baked apples. They love to taste the results of their hard work.

Step 3: Even for older kids, sneak pureed veggies into spaghetti sauces, stews and soups.

Spice it up

When the Spice Girls got together in 1994 (Posh, Scary, Baby, Sporty and Ginger), they served up music so popular that they became one of the top-10 best-selling female groups of all time. But the effect of those five Spices doesn’t compare to the spicy and healthy power of a blend of rosemary, oregano, cloves, paprika, turmeric, ginger and black pepper, or to cinnamon and garlic.

A new study in Nutrition Today concludes that cinnamon helps lower cholesterol in folks with diabetes, while eating garlic daily is associated with a 30 percent or more decrease in the risk of heart problems in people 50 and older. The study also researched the effect of the combination of rosemary, oregano, cloves, paprika, turmeric, ginger and black pepper on the blood fat triglyceride.

Researchers divided their test subjects into two groups and prepared folks identical meals – except one group got 2 tablespoons of the blend of spices. The result? The super-spice group amped up antioxidant levels in the blood by 13 percent and reduced triglyceride levels by up to 30 percent. (Elevated triglyceride levels make your arteries older and can trigger heart attack, stroke, ED and wrinkle formation, not to mention memory loss.)

So spice up your life. Combine cloves, cinnamon and ginger with a dash of pepper for a tasty dish of chickpeas; put rosemary, garlic and paprika on skinless roasted chicken; and turmeric, cloves and ginger are really great sprinkled into soups or onto poached fish or roasted veggies. You can even add them to a hot cup of mulled wine. Cheers!

RA and BMI

Rheumatiz Gulch, Ore.: Hearing the name makes your bones ache, doesn’t it? And if you’re one of the 1.5 million folks who have rheumatiz … er … rheumatoid arthritis, you want to get rid of any struggles with pain and restricted mobility. Well, it turns out you can avoid your own walk into Rheumatiz Gulch by controlling modifiable risk factors that trigger pain, such as extra weight and lack of physical activity. Unfortunately, around 66 percent of people with diagnosed arthritis are overweight, making every step more painful than it needs to be. And 44 percent of folks with arthritis say they get no leisure-time physical activity.

According to a recent study, a body mass index that’s below 18.5 or above 25 can make pain more likely and physical activity more difficult and infrequent. In this study, the folks who were underweight tended to be smokers and had a lot of inflammation, and those who were overweight were older, female and had poor functioning.

However, for folks with RA, movement makes your ability to achieve remission more likely. That’s why it is essential to find ways to stay active. So if you’re diagnosed with RA, work with a nutritionist and a physical therapist to develop a diet and activity plan that helps you achieve your optimal healthy weight. You’ll reduce body-wide inflammation, your joints will thank you, and you’ll have less pain. It’s not easy, but it is that simple.

Home remedies for winter scalp snow flakes

Snow is piling up across parts of North America, and you shoulder it pretty well. But this season also ushers in flakes of another – and far less appealing – kind: winter dandruff. Luckily it doesn’t take a shovel and snow blower get these flakes off your shoulders. In fact, there are some very easy-to-use home remedies.

Let’s start sweet. Try rubbing a solution of 90 percent honey, 10 percent water into your scalp for two to three minutes. Leave on for up to three hours and then rise off with warm water. Repeat daily. One study found that honey relieves chronically itchy skin in two weeks – and when followed up with once-a-week treatments, prevents relapse. Honey’s healing power comes from amino acids, vitamins, enzymes, magnesium, iron, zinc, manganese and the antibacterial and probiotic compounds it contains.

Next, go sour. Mix 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar and 1/4 cup of water in a spray bottle. Twice a week after shampooing, apply the mixture. Let sit for 15 minutes; rinse.

Go tropical. Coconut oil smells great and helps heal dry hair and scalp. Warm it up and apply it to your scalp for an hour. Rinse it off and then shampoo. Or (this remedy has been around for centuries) rub it into your scalp before bedtime (might want to sleep with a shower cap). Bonus: Coconut oil can help prevent or smooth split ends. Repeat as often as you like. And as Shakespeare would say, “All’s well that ends well.”

The real ‘Toy Story’

According to a new study, from 1990 to 2011 more than 3.25 million kids ended up in the emergency room because of toy-related injuries – half of them younger than 5. And recent years have seen a 40 percent bump in those stats.

So as you give toys as gifts this year, remember:

▪ Kids 3 and younger are at risk for choking on small parts of toys. (Magnets are especially harmful.) About 14 cases a day are reported. Avoid giving these troublemakers to older kids too, so you won’t expose younger siblings to a second-hand risk.

▪ Foot-powered scooters account for 28 percent of injuries to kids younger than 5 and 42 percent of injuries to older kids, 5-17. It’s estimated that an ER-worthy scooter injury happens somewhere in North American every 11 minutes. Remember: Always give helmets as a present when you give any scooter, trike, bike or skates. Train all kids, and supervise kids 8 and younger. (Avoid trampolines altogether, please.) And have them use knee and elbow pads.

▪ Check to see if you’ve got toys that have been recalled. Then you can have a truly happy holiday season.

Mehmet Oz, M.D., is host of “The Dr. Oz Show,” and Mike Roizen, M.D., is chief wellness officer and chair of Wellness Institute at Cleveland Clinic.