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Parenting Tips/Research and Discoveries

How to Make a Balanced Meal

Jun-29, 2020

food, school lunch, lunch box, balanced meal

When it comes to nutrition and our kids, it seems like everyone has an opinion! Fortunately, there are plenty of qualified pediatricians, nutritionists, and food scientists studying children’s nutrition every day and providing us with good advice. As a parent, creating a healthy relationship between your child and food is a high priority. So, let’s take a whole plate approach to our children’s nutrition.

Calories vs Servings

When it comes to your toddler, a serving-based approach tends to be better than counting calories. Toddlers are notoriously picky eaters, so keeping track of the categories of food they eat is much healthier than just trying to hit a number goal and potentially loading them up on sugary, salty snack foods. A typical serving for a toddler tends to be between a ¼ and a ½ cup, or 1-2 oz. Avoid over-feeding little stomachs, and pace meals and snacks throughout the day. This avoids battles during mealtimes and the expectation to clean the plate.

Food Groups

We all remember the food guide pyramid from our school days, and the wisdom of eating from different food categories hasn’t changed much since. Every food group contains different nutrients needed for healthy development, and eating a wide variety of foods eliminates the need in most cases for supplemental nutrition like multivitamins or fortified nutrition shakes. Of course, if they’re doctor prescribed, they should be integrated into your child’s meals. So how much of these food groups should our kids be eating? When it comes to grains and vegetables, between 4-6 servings of both groups each day is ideal. Milk, fruit, and meat should all be represented between 1-3 times per day. Remember, serving sizes change as kids grow up, so adjust accordingly.

Combining Food aka A Well-Balanced Plate

When it comes to combining food, there are a lot of myths. But science tells us that eating any combination of foods has no negative effect on weight or health. In fact, well-rounded meals which combine carbohydrates, fats, and proteins are essential, not only for our enjoyment, but for our nutrition. Since we process carbs faster than fats and proteins, eating a well-balanced meal can give us the boost of energy we need, and continue to sustain us comfortably until we get hungry again. So, get creative with your kids in creating cool, colorful, and eclectic meals. Here’s a couple of our favorites!

The Californian

  • 1 serving of soy-garlic marinated boneless skinless chicken breast
  • 1 serving of guacamole
  • 1 serving of cherry tomatoes
  • 1 serving of pita chips
  • 1 clementine or half an orange

The Toast with the Most

  • 1 large piece of multigrain toast (or oat nut toast for older kids)
  • 1 serving of nut butter on the toast
  • Sliced banana to cover nut butter
  • Drizzle of honey on top, cut toast into planks
  • Serve with 1 egg mixed with sautéed spinach and chopped broccoli on the side and a sprinkle of cheddar cheese

The Not-So-Square Roots

  • 1 serving of sweet potato, beet, and parsnip hash
  • 1 serving of orange juice glazed pork
  • 1 serving side salad with sliced radish, carrots, and a lemon vinaigrette

What kind of balanced combos can you make at your house today? Let’s get cooking!

How Much Sleep Does My Child Need?

Jun-22, 2020

mother and child, bed time, sleeping, parenting

Sleep is important at any age. But how much should we let our kids sleep? Is going to bed and sleeping the same thing, health-wise? How effective are naps? Let's learn more about how much our kids need to sleep.

How does age effect sleep?

Newborns and infants need a lot of sleep. Children under the age of 2 should be getting between 11 and 17 hours of sleep depending on age, with newborns closer to 17 and 2-year-olds closer to 11. By preschool ages, 3-5 years, aim for 10-13 hours of sleep per day. School-aged children should be getting 9-11 hours of sleep. Teenagers, despite their busy schedules, also need a full night's sleep. Kids ages 14-17 years should still be getting 8-10 hours of sleep per night. We all know as adults how beneficial 8 solid hours of sleep can be, so it's even more vital that older teens are allowed that time to rest and recharge.

How important are naps?

Turns out, napping is an important part of a child's sleep schedule. For parents, the goal becomes transforming the sleep patterns of a newborn over time into a reliable nap schedule, and finally a normal sleep schedule. By the time children reach preschool age, naps should be built around their school schedule. No naptime in kindergarten? Make sure your child is getting extra sleep at night to make up for the adjustment. These are the years when it is important to create an optimal sleep environment. Try to avoid nightlights if possible, opting instead for white noise machines to comfort a young sleeper. Just being in bed and actually sleeping are two different things, so avoid sending kids up to bed with their tablet or phone.

What makes a fussy sleeper?

Believe it or not, research shows that a fussy sleeper and a fussy eater can go hand in hand. The key seems to be structure. Enforcing routines with plenty of small indicators is the best way to keep children on a schedule that works for them. Have rituals and routines that lead up to sleep and meal times so that transitions are not jarring. Another tip for fussy sleepers: they might be too hot! Ditch the flannel pajamas, heavy blankets, and bed warmers for a simple sleep shirt, turn on a fan (bonus white noise), or turn up the AC before bedtime. Children tend to sleep better when they are on the cool side, so see how that works for your child!

Science-based tips!

It's rare for anyone to sleep through the night, and this includes children. Kids may wake up several times in the night, and that’s okay. Teach kids how to deal with waking in the night without having to get up from bed, thinking it means they can't sleep, or sneak out for a snack. Encourage drinking water, stretching muscles, and changing position before laying down again to fall back asleep untroubled. Also, it's very natural for children to want to sleep near parents, in safe spaces, or with one another. Having a positive attitude to this impulse helps soothe anxiety. Being understanding of your child's natural tendencies also makes sure your child is getting the sleep they need and keeps your relationship with your children strong.

Bedtime resistance is a very common problem reported to pediatricians, and can affect your entire day with your children. Being patient, paying attention, and creating a solid plan for your kids is the best way to transition them into being good sleepers who are healthy for years to come.

Five Facts About Volcanoes

Jun-15, 2020

plant science, caterpillar, twig, leaf, forest

When we think of the raw, untamed power of the Earth, what better way to portray this than an erupting volcano? Whether symbolized by the fearsome Te Ka from Disney's Moana, or the volcanic explosions of Anger in Pixar's Inside Out, the volcano means rage and destruction for many of us. But volcanoes also provide a vital life force to the Earth as well. Let's learn five cool facts about volcanoes together!

  • While we tend to associate volcanos with hot, tropical climates like Hawaii, volcanos are present on every continent on Earth, even Antarctica. In fact, the largest concentration of volcanos in the world is found on the frozen continent, 138 in total, all lying dormant under the ice. Will they ever erupt again? Scientists are monitoring the situation every day!
  • While Maui might like us to think that he pulled islands out of the sea with his magical fish hook, the truth is that many, many islands around the globe were actually made from underwater volcanoes erupting over time. Additionally, the shifting of tectonic plates can create a column of lava shooting into the water and hardening into a volcanic island. But it's okay, you can still say you're welcome!
  • We tend to think of volcanic eruptions as giant sprays of lava, but many volcanos around the world are much calmer with a lower output. In fact, some volcanoes have been steadily streaming for decades. What's the longest recorded lava flow That's still going today? That would be Mount Yasur in Vanuatu in the South Pacific. This volcano has been erupting several times an hour for 111 years! that's older than Mickey Mouse, Band-Aid brand bandages, and Oreo cookies!
  • Due to how lush and habitable volcanoes can make an area, it isn't surprising that human populations tend to cluster around active and dormant volcanoes alike. Cities like Legazpi City in the Philippines, Shimabara in Japan, Mount Etna in Sicily, and Auckland in New Zealand are all "hot" tourist destinations in part due to their nearby active volcanoes. Don’t worry though, humans have been coexisting with volcanoes for thousands of years, and thanks to modern science, there are many, many plans in place to keep everyone safe!
  • You might think Earth is the only place in our solar system you would find an active volcano, but it turns out that we aren't alone. Some of the moons of Jupiter, Saturn, and Neptune all have active volcanoes, viewable by our space probes as they float on by. Could a future space colony set themselves up around an active volcano, just like we have on Earth? Time will tell!

Volcanoes are beautiful, life-giving, natural wonders. Volcanology, or the study of volcanos, is an important part of science, not only to learn how our planet works, but also to keep people safe from unexpected eruptions. Would you like to be a volcano scientist? You'd always have a place to cook up s'mores!

Outdoor Scavnger Hunt

May-29, 2020

child girl explore trees with magnifying glass in forest

As the weather gets warmer and circumstance prevents us from spending time together, it can be a challenge to figure out how to make time spent outdoors fun. Today, we have a suggestion for you: An outdoor scavenger hunt!

Scavenger hunts are fun for kids of any age. They’re engaging, exciting, and encourage healthy competition when they are run as a contest. Scavenger hunts encourage both the designers and the players to think outside the box, to look at their surroundings in a new way, and to really explore the world around them. The rules of a scavenger hunt are simple. Each participant has a list of items they must find. Sometimes there are clues instead that can lead players from one place to another. Sometimes the item requires participation or is some kind of action. You can get really creative with a scavenger hunt!

To plan your scavenger hunt, go to a place where your child can safely explore, like a local park. Maybe choose one that your family doesn’t normally visit. Then, go around the area looking for unique items to find. It could be a statue, a particular color of a flower, or fountain. It could also be a category of items that your child needs to find a certain number of, like three nests or two spider webs. While you’re looking, take into account the eye line and abilities of your child. A child who likes to climb might enjoy things that they need a high vantage point to see. Children with mobility issues should be looking for things close to paths and walkways.

Once you’ve compiled your list, it’s time to give it to the kids and get exploring! And though we may be apart, there’s no reason why they can’t compete with their friends. Share your scavenger hunt list with parents and arrange different times to explore the park. Take photos of your child next to the items on their list as they are found. Whoever can find the most items wins!

Keep checking the Best Brains Blog all summer long for more fun ideas like this!

Breakfast Solutions: Sheet Pan Pancakes

May-13, 2020

pancake fruits Serving tray

Photo created by KamranAydinov

Whether you call them flapjacks, griddle cakes, or pancakes, everyone gets excited for this breakfast staple. Pancakes turn breakfast into a special occasion, but they can also be a lot of work. Between making the batter, adding special ingredients, and usually cooking one at a time, pancakes can be a time-consuming meal that’s hard for the whole family to enjoy at once. But no fear, there is a solution: sheet pan pancakes!

Unlike pancakes cooked on the stovetop, a sheet pan pancake is cooked in the oven, much like a very thin cake. Not only do these cook quickly as compared to a normal cake, they are also very easy to customize. Similar to a build-your-own pizza, all members of the family can add special flavors to their section of the pancake. And since the pancake finished cooking all at once, the whole family can sit down together and enjoy their special breakfast without any hassle.

What do you put on a sheet pan pancake?

Any topping you enjoy on a regular pancake can go on a sheet pan pancake. Fruits like blueberries, sliced strawberries, and sliced bananas are all great choices. You can also add crushed nuts like pecan, walnut, or macadamia. Morsels and swirls are also a sweet addition to the sheet pan pancake. Try peanut butter (chips or spread), cinnamon sugar, chocolate chips, or fruit jelly. Since sheet pan pancakes aren’t cooked by direct heat, you can even try ingredients that might burn in a pan like mini marshmallows. And if you’re craving the distinct flavor you get from fried bananas or nuts, you can always give those a quick toss in the pan before adding on top of your batter.

How to make sheet pan pancakes:

Preheat oven to 425° F. Line your sheet pan with parchment paper and coat with melted butter. Mix up your favorite pancake batter and spread evenly in the pan. We recommend adding an oven liner or tray to catch potential spills the first time you try this recipe. Add your toppings to the batter and bake for 5-7 minutes, and then broil the top for 1-2 minutes.

Practice makes perfect with this recipe, but the whole family will love joining in for that practice. Be sure to show us your pancake creations on the Best Brains Facebook page!

Tags Food

Five Facts About the Moon

May-07, 2020

Night sky Fully moon

“When the moon hits your eye like a big pizza pie, that’s amoré!” While there is a lot to love about our beautiful moon, there is still so much to learn about our celestial companion. Let’s learn more about the Moon together!

  • While there are several theories as to where the Moon came from, the most popular theory is quite volatile. Scientists hypothesize that a Mars-sized mass collided with the newly formed Earth, hurtling debris which, over time, formed what we call the Moon. This would explain what the Moon is made out of as well as where it sits in its orbital path. However, there is no consensus on this hypothesis yet.
  • While many people today equate the moon with more feminine qualities, that wasn’t always the case throughout the world. Ancient Egyptian, Hindu, Babylonian, and Nordic traditions all characterize the god of the moon as male.
  • There have been 24 astronauts who made it to the moon, and of those 24, 12 of them have actually walked on its surface. Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin were the first to ever walk on the moon, while Eugene Cernan and Harrison H Schmitt were the last. No woman or person of color has ever orbited or walked on the Moon. Yet.
  • Our expeditions to the Moon have left behind several items. The Soviet Union actually did land an unmanned probe called Luna 2 back in 1959. Since then, other probes and spacecraft vehicles sit on the Moon’s surface. Some things were brought specifically to leave on the Moon, most notably two medals commemorating Soviet cosmonauts Yuri Gagarin and Vladimir Komarov, who perished in an accident furthering the study of space travel. Additionally, the NASA Apollo missions used their different moon landings as a way to get rid of their trash so that they could lighten their ships and make the trip home easier. Interplanetary littering!
  • While our moon is the largest moon in the solar system relative to its planet, it’s only the fifth largest over all. (Ganymede, Jupiter’s largest moon, is big enough to be considered a planet if it orbited the Sun!) The Moon’s size means that its gravity is only a sixth of Earth’s. So, if something weighted 6 lbs. on Earth, it would weigh only 1 lb. on the Moon. The effect of the Moon’s gravity on astronauts has inspired both moon bounces and moon boots, both designed to make you jump with serious airtime!

We’re still learning things about our beautiful Moon. Selenography, or the study of the Moon, still occurs to this day. Will you be the next person to find some new lunar secrets? If so, you know where to start looking!