Parenting Teens & Tweens

Sugar Shock: Here’s Where Your Kids Are Getting The Sweet Stuff

Written on January 7, 2014 at 12:00 pm , by

Last month, our guest blogger Melissa Halas-Liang, RD, founder of the wellness group SuperKids Nutrition, shared five ways to keep your child healthy for life! This month, she reveals the surprising place your kids are overdoing it when it comes to sugar and smart ways to get them to stop.

When you’re not catching someone’s hand in the proverbial cookie jar, rely on numbers. Numbers don’t lie. And research shows that teens consumed on average 442 calories (boys) or 314 calories (girls) a day from added sugar alone. A majority of those calories (59%) come from food, but beverages aren’t too far behind at 41%.

Now here’s the real surprise. Guess what parents? Teens consumed most of that added sugar, not when out and about with friends, but while at home! That’s right: reaching into your fridge, opening up your cabinet and pulling out your drawers at home.

We all rely upon a balanced, nutritious diet to remain in good health. However, teens must go above and beyond to obtain the nutrients their bodies require during this age of intensive growth and maturation. Sadly, the reality is that the food and snack choices teens are making fall short of the nutrients needed to build healthy, strong bodies. Support your kids and make the healthiest food choices the easiest choices.

Here are 8 easy ways for teens to cut down on the sweet stuff:

1. Choose cereals with less than 6 grams of sugar per serving. If your kids prefer the sweeter cereals with honey, no problem. Tell them to mix it with equal part of plain cereal.

2. Buy sugar-free crackers. Briefly explain how sugar makes starchy foods addictive, so you overeat them and then return to the store to buy more. But, fear not, because you can outsmart the marketers! Here’s a helpful guide to buying crackers.

3. Read the ingredient list. Find options for foods like pretzels, breads and chips without added sugar.

4. Cut back on the sugar-laden condiments. Serve low-sodium or homemade salsa or tomato sauce instead of ketchup.

5. Choose naturally lower-sugar yogurts. Some Greek yogurts offer less added sugar and pack in additional protein! Just be sure to choose true Greek yogurts—not those have added fillers. Also encourage them to sweeten yogurt with fresh fruits like baked apples or warmed frozen cherries or with dried fruit and nuts.

6. Keep fresh fruit out where your kids can see it. Teens will choose the easy option! If the fruit is washed, ready to eat, and within reach, they’ll grab it!

7. Buy 6-ounce juice glasses. They’re smaller and encourage ideal portion sizes. When drinking juice yourself, lead by example and dilute the juice with water.

8. Make it easy. Teens aren’t eating enough fruits. In fact, 28.5% of high school students ate fruit less than once per day and 33.2% ate vegetables less than once per day. So, choose fruits with minimal prep required washed and ready to eat in the fridge like grapes, Clementines or apples. Keep bananas out on the kitchen table. Decrease the barriers getting in the way between teens and their fruit!


One more thing: When you talk to your teen about cutting back on sugar, focus on healthy eating and physical activity, not on “dieting.” If you focus too much on weight loss, you increase the risk of developing a distorted body image or an eating disorder, particularly for teenage girls. In fact, roughly 70%-80% of teen girls perceive themselves to be too fat. You want to encourage your teen to eat right to prevent further weight gain and teach life long habits. But most importantly, you want your teen to feel his or her best inside and out. If you do think weight loss must be addressed, check out our tips here and be sure to seek your healthcare provider’s advice before you put your teen on a calorie-restricted meal plan.

How do you keep the amount of sugar your kids have to a minimum? Post a comment below and tell us!


Melissa Halas-Liang, a mom, registered dietitian and certified diabetes educator, is founder of, which provides nutrition and health content, curriculum and workshops to parents and educators nationwide. She is author of the Super Crew books Super Baby Abigail’s Lunch Time Adventure and Havoc at the Hillside Market.



Taking One for the Team

Written on January 6, 2014 at 4:24 pm , by

Written by Catherine Holecko, family fitness expert at

I’m seven hours into an eight-hour bus ride that started at 4 a.m. I’m wedged into a seat that has half the legroom of coach class on a discount airline. My overstuffed purse is on my lap, and the bag containing breakfast, lunch and snacks for myself and my kid is squeezed into the few inches between my feet and my knees, because the overhead compartment is about six inches high.

Adam Sandler is bellowing from the bus’s DVD players while 26 tween girls giggle and shriek in the seats behind me. Tomorrow I’ll be confined to an ice rink for the entire day and some of the night. And let’s not forget how much this weekend of skating team travel is costing—all for three minutes of actual competition time.

If you’re questioning my sanity right now, I understand. At times like these, I question it too! Being a member of a travel team means a lot of sacrifices, for athletes and their families. Even setting aside the costs, which are significant, there’s the time commitment. Skating practices eat up a good portion of our Saturdays and a few evenings a week. We schedule our holiday plans around team obligations. Trips like this one usually require my daughter to miss a day of school, while I take time off from work and have to skip some of my younger child’s events and activities. Pulling off these trips requires a huge amount of volunteer effort from parents—they’re the ones who put in hours of advance planning, making intricate schedules and figuring out how to house, feed and transport more than 100 skaters, coaches and parent chaperones over the course of one long (really long) weekend.

So I get how unreasonable this all sounds, and yes, I do sometimes ponder why we do it. But then I sit in the stands with the other parents who have become good friends (how could they not, after all this togetherness?) and watch my daughter skate with her team. I watch the three other teams her coach oversees. When they succeed—when they skate a clean program, with straight lines, big smiles and no one falling on the ice—I can’t help but tear up. When they falter, I tear up too, because I know how hard they’ve worked and how badly they want to do well. When they medal, I burst with pride. When they don’t, my heart breaks for them. And I can’t help it: I look forward to the next trip so I can watch them all over again.

Catherine Holecko is the family fitness expert at She lives in Wisconsin with her daughter, son and husband.

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Who Could You Forgive Today?

Written on December 27, 2013 at 9:00 am , by















Years ago, I found myself carefully counting my dog-eared dollars and placing them into a clearly disinterested clerk’s hands to pay for one package of hot dogs and buns. As I glanced at the towels in the backseat of my old Chevy, I excitedly thought how much fun this afternoon would be. First, we’d go swimming at my neighborhood pool. Then we’d grill lunch. Great plan, one problem: The two young brothers I’d arranged to take out of the city and into the country for the day never showed up at our agreed-upon pickup place. Calls from a nearby telephone booth went unanswered. I waited for an hour and a half, then dejectedly drove home.

I was so disappointed.

As I racked my brain to understand what happened, my sadness turned to anger. How dare they blow me off? Their disappearing act turned personal. All I could think of was confronting them.

Then something happened: I forgave them. A conscious mind-set of forgiveness slipped in and took over. Actually, it started with forgiving myself. Instead of blaming them and myself, I let it go.

While forgiveness is a powerful individual act, it can also lead a community to a deeper level of awareness. The recent death of Nelson Mandela and the dialogue that followed about his decision to leave behind the pain of 27 years of suffering in prison began with one word: forgiveness. “I had given [them] enough…I couldn’t give them my mind and my heart,” he said. Mandela used his personal convictions to lead a divided nation to truth and reconciliation.

Teaching our children to forgive may be one of the best lessons we can give them. Instead of fostering destructive competitive practices, think about the power of forgiveness. As an alternative to time-outs and harsh disciplinary words or actions, perhaps we should teach our children about expressing empathy—feeling what others are feeling. Maybe we can educate them on the art of offering an apology and accepting one with a sincere “I forgive you.”

We often hold on to old pain and negativity like an invisible shield to protect us from future hurts. What we don’t understand is that our power doesn’t emerge from the past. It comes from the ability to be fully present and say, “It really is okay. I forgive you.”

Is there someone—even yourself—you could forgive today? Post a comment below and tell me who it is.

Janet Taylor, MD, MPH, is a mother of four, a psychiatrist in New York City and director of guest support for The Jeremy Kyle Show. Follow her on Twitter @drjanet.

Got a question for Dr. Janet? Email her at

A Little Procrastination Goes a Long Way

Written on December 26, 2013 at 10:30 am , by

Written by JM Randolph, the accidental stepmom

The Forbidden City

A respected student organization invited my middle stepdaughter on a summer trip to China. I’m not sure if you’re aware, but China is on the other side of the planet. It’s 7,400 miles away, or, as I like to think of it, 1/32 of the distance to the moon.

Since the cost of the trip was greater than our annual New Jersey property taxes, she needed to do some serious fundraising. This was a great opportunity to teach her that the biggest factor in achieving a goal is your own belief it will happen. Secretly, though, in my own head, it was still a maybe. As long as that was the case, I didn’t have to think about her actually being in China. We still had nine months.

She talked the owner of our local coffee shop into hiring her at just 15. She did odd jobs for relatives and sold candy bars. Before long, she’d raised a significant amount of money. She even made sure we got her passport application in on time, a miracle in itself.

The organization sent out an email for prepaid international cell phones. It sounded like a good idea but we didn’t need to think about that yet. Every time I thought about China, I had visions of her falling off the Great Wall or getting attacked by a rogue panda.

Because the group met on Saturdays, when my husband and I work, our babysitter went with her to the meetings. The students did presentations and had to take quizzes online. The cell phone option was discussed, but we still had time.

Our babysitter took notes and knew exactly what to expect in China. Our kid, however, apparently spent most of that time texting her friends. Despite her impressive ambition for fundraising, she turned out to have an equally impressive ability to procrastinate. I can’t imagine where she got that.

Two days before departure, we got home from work at midnight to find her hovering over the babysitter’s laptop trying to pump her for answers to the quizzes she still had to complete. There was an empty suitcase in the living room with a laundry basket of wadded-up clothes nearby. She had lost the checklist, as well as the first three days of the itinerary.

Meanwhile, my husband and I had missed the deadline for the cell phone. Also for the reloadable Visa card. I went to the bank at the last possible minute to exchange her pocket money for yuan.

Just like that, she was off to China for 17 days.

During the twenty-two hours it took their flight to land 7,400 miles away in Beijing, I deeply regretted not getting the phone, not being at the meetings, not forcing her to be more prepared, not being more prepared myself.

When she called on a leader’s phone to tell us she forgot to get a calling card, she said she’d walked the Great Wall. “It was amazing! You can’t even imagine it from the pictures.”

She said most kids didn’t have cell phones. The ones who did were constantly answering texts from their parents; everyone else was just…being in China. Doing exactly what they should be doing: reveling in a completely different culture, without their parents, on a once-in-a-lifetime trip.

A little procrastination goes a long way. Sometimes, all the way to China.


JM Randolph is a writer, stagehand, and custodial stepmom of five. She lives in New Jersey with her family and blogs at





Holiday Traditions in Blended Families

Written on December 18, 2013 at 10:00 am , by

Written by JM Randolph, the Accidental Stepmom

There are two kinds of traditions: intentional and accidental. I believe that every family should have both. Accidental ones take care of themselves; you really don’t have to worry about them. Anybody who performs just one tipsy, alternate rendition of ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas discovers soon enough that they’ve signed up for life.

However, intentional traditions in a blended family can be a minefield. When you start your own family from scratch, you get to set the traditions from the beginning. When you step into someone else’s family, your ideas may or may not fly. Everyone arrives with their own set of beliefs and agenda about how to properly celebrate a holiday. (Have you seen Marney’s Thanksgiving Letter?)  Kids, especially teens, tend to keep these rules secret…right up to the point when someone unknowingly breaks one of them.

I grew up with rich holiday traditions, particularly for Christmas. All through December we made cookies, went to church, sang carols, opened Advent calendars and were visited by the elves. Yes, long before the Elf on the Shelf, the elves hung out at my house. They brought little gifts when they caught us being good. When we were acting out, my mother would say, “The elves are watching!” and look around the room. For the longest time, I thought the elves were a pair of German beer steins.

I introduced the elves to my stepkids just after the first Thanksgiving we had together as a family. They accepted them without question. Other attempts to share my traditions have had different results.

Getting them interested in baking Christmas cookies has been like trying to spark an interest in cleaning grout. It is significant to note that four-fifths of these kids also don’t like peanut butter or pie; you can never entirely let your guard down around kids like that. They much prefer store-bought sweets laden with chemicals. When I bake, I end up with a pile of amazing cookies that, once again, only my husband and I will eat, creating the need for what I call January Pants.

When I was a child, we opened one gift on Christmas Eve just before bed: the “toe” of the stocking, i.e., the biggest of the little presents. Never in a hundred years would I have dreamed that a kid would resist this concept, but I had two who did. That whole not liking peanut butter and pie thing should have tipped me off. Of course, this first year, I had five identical gifts chosen. I improvised on the spot for three different gifts, so as to keep the peace and not reveal that particular surprise early for the two who were opting out.

Sometimes you make traditions by taking them away first. My husband made Yorkshire pudding for Christmas dinner every year but none of the kids would touch it. After three years, he gave up. The next year, the kids all asked, “Where’s the Yorkshire pudding?” One year of it being gone made it everyone’s favorite dish.

My favorite traditions are happy accidents. One Christmas Eve when we couldn’t agree on church, we drove around the neighborhood looking at all the decorations. Suddenly we saw, very clearly, a family obliviously eating dinner in their dining room while a Santa was trying with some difficulty to get in their sliding glass back door. Now we have a Christmas Eve tradition of trying to catch Santa breaking into someone’s house.

If you can let go of needing holidays to play out in a specific way, you’ll open yourself up to a lot of light and laughter.


JM Randolph is a writer, stagehand and custodial stepmom of five. She lives in New Jersey with her family and blogs at


The Aggravation of the Common Application

Written on December 12, 2013 at 10:30 am , by


If you thought getting into college was hard, try applying. This fall, many of the high school seniors who gave me editorial assistance on my recently published book, Masterminds and Wingmen, took me up on a promise I’d made: work hard and I’ll write you a college recommendation. Little did I know I was about to join the thousands of people tearing their hair out as they tried to work with the “Common App,” the general application form that high school students increasingly must use to apply to college.

I began filling out a recommendation for Ethan Anderson, a high school senior in Colorado, in mid-October. As of yesterday, it has taken me 12 hours, 15 attempts and 10 emails to the “help center” to successfully submit it.

At first glance, this may not seem like such a huge deal. Sure, it adds even more stress to the students around the country who are filling out these applications, but eventually those kids will get those applications in, right? But it is a big deal and here’s why.

Basically, it’s another example of adult hypocrisy. We demand that students apply to college by correctly filling out forms and submitting them by a certain deadline. In sum, we expect them to be responsible and hold themselves accountable. In contrast, representatives from The Common Application, the organization that administers this process, have been extremely slow to admit they even had problems, let alone that the problems came from their side. Only after extensive reporting from national media outlets and complaints from educational advocacy organizations did they begin to respond. Even then, their emphasis was on the idea that the program was working overall and they did not issue a direct apology. Meanwhile, several colleges and universities have extended their deadlines to accommodate the problem.

But worse, one of the central missions of the organization, the reason the Common App was created in the first place, was to make it easier for students to apply to college, especially those students with fewer educational and/or financial resources or those who may not have educators who can act as advocates for them as they navigate this process—which is difficult under the best of circumstances.

Take the example of getting someone to write you a recommendation. Even if the student knows someone they can ask for a recommendation, it can be hard to get up the nerve to ask them to write it.  Then if the recommender, who is usually incredibly busy, runs into problems as I did, they may give up. When the student finds out that the recommendation isn’t there, she has to go back to the person and figure out what happened. Many students won’t press the issue. Maybe the recommender tries a few more times, runs into more problems and just can’t spend any more time on it.  The result is that the recommendation isn’t included in the application. In my case, Ethan wanted me to write a recommendation for him because he had helped me design a book cover and he was applying to a university that specializes in graphic design. Without my recommendation, his application wouldn’t have included the fact that he was a principal design contributor to a best-selling book.

But I made a promise to him, so I started researching what was going wrong and whether it was possible to reach the people behind the problem. Because the Common Application’s website states that it won’t answer applicants’ questions by phone, I tweeted and Facebook messaged the staff. I didn’t get a response. In mid-November, I looked up their office address and called but the number was disconnected. Two weeks later I searched for an office number again, found another number and left a message. That was the first time I identified myself and stated I was going to write about my experience.

That’s when I got a response. And while that response was professional and apologetic and the timing could have been coincidental, it’s a little hard to believe. I spoke to Scott Anderson, the senior director for policy at The Common Application, and shared my frustrations and concerns. I asked him about what his responsibility was to all students but in particular to students who don’t have advocates and resources. What happens to the kids who can’t prove they did what they were supposed to but the Common App dumped their information? What if they don’t have a college counselor who can directly contact their counterpart at the university if the Common App fails them? What if these students are working a job after school so they don’t have all the time in the world to figure out how to get someone from Common App to get back to them?

Mr. Anderson responded that students who experience these problems should send another complaint through the website. When I reminded him that I had repeatedly done so with no success, he repeated that the student should try again or talk to a college counselor. After our conversation, he followed up with this email:

I’d like to return to your thoughtful final question about what students should do in the unlikely event that they have trouble reaching us through the Help Center. While I do not think it is inappropriate to suggest that they try again, I agree that such a response is insufficient if it ends there. As a next step, I would advise a student to seek the assistance of a school counselor or other school official who can advocate on his or her behalf. And while we do not rely on social media as a primary means of support, we do read private messages on Facebook and respond accordingly.

Again, the reality is that many students don’t have a school official who can advocate on their behalf. Some don’t even have college counselors. My posts on Common App’s social networking sites were not answered. So, I have a different idea. Mr. Anderson and his staff should stop putting the burden on the students’ shoulders. They should issue a clear apology that doesn’t also include how great the program is working for other students. They should post on their Facebook page and every social networking platform they use that their phone lines are open, give out their individual work emails and state that they’re ready to do whatever is necessary to get a student’s application successfully submitted.

Our children should be rewarded for their hard work and judged on their merits. We don’t need to make it harder for them to get the opportunities they deserve. And they certainly don’t need yet another example of adults holding them to standards that we ourselves can’t or won’t follow.

Has your child had problems using the Common Application? Post a comment and tell me about it here.

Rosalind Wiseman is the author of the new best seller Masterminds and Wingmen as well as Queen Bee Moms & Kingpin Dads. For more info, go to Do you have a parenting question? Email



Re-gifting from the Heart

Written on December 11, 2013 at 12:00 pm , by

Written by Rachel Macy Stafford

From a very young age, my older daughter, Natalie, has been a gift giver. Like most children’s, her offerings consisted of items that adults wouldn’t ordinarily classify as gifts. Broken seashells, traumatized frogs, dying weeds and misshapen rocks were often presented in small, dirt-laden hands beneath a wide smile. In the past two years Natalie’s gift-giving practices have moved up a notch. Gifts are no longer found in nature; they are found in our home.

Yes, it’s re-gifting at its best—wrapping barely used items and presenting them with great love.

Although highly practical and earth-friendly, this gift-giving practice brought to mind words like “tacky” and “cheap.” But for some reason, I had enough sense to stand aside and let my child give as her heart dictated.

Last Christmas Eve, Natalie spent hours wrapping barely used bottles of lotion, tiny hotel shampoos and gently used books. She then declared she wanted to distribute the colorful packages to homeless people in the downtown area. Her very first recipient was a frail, elderly woman with sad eyes who clutched her life’s possessions in a ripped trash bag. It wasn’t until I watched this woman’s face completely transform at the mere sight of my pint-size gift-bearer that I got over myself.

Shortly thereafter, Natalie thought it would be nice to create a care package for a family in India with whom we’d connected through Operation Christmas Child. On top of the new pajamas, packaged toothbrushes and pristine white socks, she placed two hairbrushes that she and her little sister had used for almost a month. Natalie was adamant that the brushes must be included. It wasn’t until we received a thank-you note with this picture that I vowed I would never cringe at her gift-giving practices again.

In fact, when the mood strikes and a present is needed, I thoroughly enjoy watching Natalie search the bottom of her messy closet for the ideal gift. I am now quite certain there is something miraculous in the way my daughter gives—in the way all children give.

Children remind us on a daily basis that our most precious gift is when we stop in the midst of our busy lives and give a piece of ourselves—our undivided attention, a lingering embrace, a word of encouragement, snuggles in bed, one-on-one time or a helping hand. This season, consider giving like children do. Rather than spending hours at the mall shopping for the “perfect” gift, remember that what your loved ones want most this year is you.

If I had to give a name to such heartfelt gift giving, I would call it “hands-free”—letting go in order to give the gift that really matters. And you can’t put a price on it.

Just ask a child.


Join Rachel on her journey to let go of distraction, perfection and societal pressure to grasp what really matters by visiting or “The Hands Free Revolution” on Facebook. Rachel’s book, Hands Free Mama, is currently available for pre-order and hits shelves on January 7.


Happiness vs. Lasting Joy

Written on December 6, 2013 at 12:30 pm , by

Written by Glennon Doyle Melton 

All I want for Christmas is for my kids to be happy, but too often I forget that the kind of happiness I can buy them at the mall doesn’t last. That kind is superficial and fleeting, and we shouldn’t teach our kids to rely on it. Because if our kids learn that joy comes from things they can write on a list, things they don’t already have, any sort of things, they will become the kind of adults who believe that joy is elusive—outside of themselves, something that only materially blessed people have—which we know is simply not true. Joy is within the grasp of each and every one of us. Joy is looking around at what we already have and counting it all as miraculous. The only lasting joy is gratitude.

This year, I’m going to spend some energy teaching my kids about lasting joy. A good holiday season is not about making lists of stuff we wish we had. It’s about making lists of what we already have and love. We just started a Holiday Gratitude Journal with our kids. Every night we sit together and write down three things each of us is grateful for. That’s my kind of list! I share more about how our family learned to make room for gratitude in the December issue of Family Circle.

Glennon Doyle Melton is the author of the New York Times best-selling memoir Carry On, Warrior, and founder of the online community


The “Knockout Game”: 2 Ways to End Horrifying Childish Assaults

Written on December 5, 2013 at 10:00 am , by


By now you’ve probably heard about the “knockout game,” in which a young person targets an unsuspecting victim and punches them as hard as possible. However, out of respect for the victims worldwide—one of whom died—you won’t see any images of those assaults here. And in an attempt to deter copycats, you won’t be able to click through to any links to videos of those attacks here either.

I’m of the opinion that repeated viewing of these antics can minimize the horror because we watch them and then turn off the TV or move on to the next news story. What’s missed are the aftereffects: the perpetual trauma experienced while innocently walking down a street with the purpose of getting home or to work or school after having been blindsided by a vicious blow to the head. It’s unfathomable.

Anyone who excuses such horrifying behavior as a childish prank is grossly mistaken. There is a huge difference between pranks that embarrass and surprise folks and the knockout game—meant to intentionally cause bodily harm for the sake of a laugh or screen shot.

Violence is not a game. The recent sickening posts involving ruthless, immature hooligans who target innocent men, women and children for assault and videotaping are criminal acts and should be dealt with accordingly. Media outlets should stop the distributing videos of the attacks. I am certain the victims are further traumatized by the repeated airing.

There’s work for parents to do as well. Unsupervised teens who hang out in groups are more likely to be involved in questionable activity. If their destructiveness is born out of boredom, let’s increase volunteer opportunities in environments that promote self-esteem and compassion for others. Parents should also be held to a higher standard for the untoward behavior of their children. Something has to change.

What do you think? Post a comment below and let me know.

Janet Taylor, MD, MPH, is a mother of four, a psychiatrist in New York City and director of guest support for The Jeremy Kyle Show. Follow her on Twitter @drjanet.

Got a question for Dr. Janet? Email her at


5 Ways to Keep Your Child Healthy for Life

Written on December 4, 2013 at 12:00 pm , by

Recipes get passed down through the generations and so do healthy eating habits. Our guest blogger Melissa Halas-Liang, RD, founder of the wellness group SuperKids Nutrition, explains how diet can create a better destiny for your kids—and your whole family.


As parents we strive to raise our children to be the healthy adults of tomorrow. When they’re young, we teach them to apply sunblock, brush their teeth and look both ways when they cross the street. However, the relationship between our children’s current health and the risk for disease (type 2 diabetes, cancer and heart disease) is easy for even the most diligent of parents to miss.

I recently spoke with a well-educated mother who said the fight against childhood obesity doesn’t apply to her family. To this I replied that objectivity is a challenge, because parents often compare their kids to the heaviest child in class, distorting the degree of relative risk.

Don’t let yourself fall into this trap! As it turned out, this mother was intrigued by our conversation and checked her children’s body mass indexes (BMI), as I suggested. She emailed later to inform me her daughter in fact was considered overweight for her age and her son obese. Many parents are just not aware.

Here a few things to know about three diseases we should all be aware of.

Cancer: Did you know that one in three cancers are preventable through lifestyle, aka good nutrition and fitness? Recent research in the field of epigenetics reveals that children’s diet and fitness level will influence genetic behavior later in life. Many of the foods children eat today are cancer-promoting, not cancer-preventing. The American Institute for Cancer Research offers kid-friendly, fun, tasty recipes and other family resources for cancer prevention.

Heart Disease: Perception of body weight is too often skewed. In a recent study, only 10% of adults believed their children ages 6 to 19 were overweight when in reality 33% were overweight or obese. Even the youngest Americans have precursors to heart disease: 61% of overweight children 5 to 10 years of age had at least one major risk factor for heart disease, and 26% had two or more!

Diabetes: “Type 2 diabetes in children and adolescents already appears to be a sizable and growing problem among U.S. children and adolescents,” per the Centers for Disease Control. Children with a family history of type 2 diabetes or insulin resistance and a BMI at or above 95th percentile are at increased risk. Kids’ eating habits now impact their habits later, which can increase their risk at age 20, 30 or 40.

Prevention of all three diseases is possible, and it must start today! So, how do we slow down our children’s risk for developing these chronic diseases? Here are 5 simple steps to get you started.

1) Check your child’s BMI. Weight is a sensitive topic that is too often ignored. Ask your pediatrician to discuss healthy eating with your child. Before the appointment, visit the CDC website to check your child’s body mass index.

2) Evaluate your family’s diet. Scan your refrigerator, freezer and pantry. If you see fresh, frozen or canned fruits and vegetables, and whole grains, beans, nuts, spices and herbs, then you’re golden. If the items are mostly overly processed, with 10-plus ingredients, then start subtracting. Add more whole foods to your shopping cart on your next trip to the supermarket.

3) Cook with your kids. Find a healthy recipe and set aside some time to cook together. Show your children how to make veggies taste good! Include raw and crunchy or lightly steamed/sautéed veggies in your meals. The veggies can be shredded, chopped, minced, bite-size or finger-size. Try out a variety of textures and temperatures.

4) Cut the sweets in half. Special treats can add up quickly, especially when consumed in addition to highly processed snack foods like chips.

5) Empower your children. Children will eat more healthy and colorful foods when given a choice. Offer your children two types of fruits or vegetables and let them choose the one they prefer. Track your colorful healthy foods together and see who gets the most color with the Super Crew Color Tracker.

How do you instill healthy eating habits in your children? Post a comment below and tell us!


Melissa Halas-Liang, a mom, registered dietitian and certified diabetes educator, is founder of, which provides nutrition and health content, curriculum and workshops to parents and educators nationwide. She is author of the Super Crew books Super Baby Abigail’s Lunch Time Adventure and Havoc at the Hillside Market.












Can We Please Be the Adults Our Kids Deserve?

Written on December 3, 2013 at 4:39 pm , by

Draped across almost every school entrance in this county are slogans like “The Bobcats/Lancers/Eagles stand for Respect! Integrity! Honor! Honesty!” Down the hall are variations on the theme: “Make good choices!” “Doing the right thing is never easy!” “Be the change you want to see!” And there’s always a poster telling the kids to report bullying to an adult.

But in my 20 years of working with schools, my experience has been that most students believe those are superficial slogans that have little to do with how people actually treat one aother in the school community. In fact, the slogans serve as a constant and visible reminder of adult hypocrisy, particularly in a school where one group of students has tremendous social power. Adults are either too scared or too aligned with those who have status to ever help those who don’t. They often give the powerful free rein to do whatever they want and even protect them from any consequences.

The recent indictments of Steubenville superintendent Michael McVey; principal of the elementary school, Lynnett Gorman; football coach Michael Belardine and wrestling coach Seth Fluharty are a rare example of adults being held accountable. The specific charges concern underage drinking, failure to report child abuse or neglect, and obstruction. But what those adults really did was contribute to an overall school culture where every student knows that if you have power in that community you can abuse it. You can hurt others and you will be the one protected.

Let’s be clear about the Steubenville case: The boys who committed sexual assault should be held accountable for their actions. But in my experience, and unfortunately I’ve had a lot, the vast majority of these assaults take place specifically because some combination of parents, coaches and administrators nurture, condone and support the entitlement these boys feel to use other people for their own entertainment and exercise of power.

Further, when the boys’ actions are somehow exposed and could have consequences that negatively impact their collective reputation, the adults actively collude to discredit the victim and discourage anyone else from supporting him or her. I’ll never forget a conversation I had with a parent whose 17-year-old son was sexually assaulted in a high school locker room shower. She told me that a booster club mom had called her to try to convince her family to keep quiet: “Do you really want everyone to know that your son was sodomized? Wouldn’t that be embarrassing? Anyway, it was just horseplay that got a little out of hand.”

The bottom line is: Adults have little to no credibility for many young people. My students are never surprised when an adult acts cowardly or hypocritically. Sadly, when an adult stands up for a deserving student, many are shocked. When young people see an adult protect a student who doesn’t make them look good, come from the “right” family or have some kind of social status, they are amazed and it profoundly matters to them. They desperately want adults they can believe in.

For every case like Steubenville, where the adults are found out, there are many, many more where the adults continue to hold positions of authority over our children and get away with the same unethical behavior. Young people’s deserved cynicism has broad implications. We say we want kids to be contributing members of our communities. We say we want them to be truthful and to stand up for what’s right. Then we’re shocked when they aren’t and they don’t, and shake our heads at the morality of today’s youth.

The best way to prove to young people that adults can be taken seriously is to hold one another accountable. That’s a powerful life lesson. Can we please be the adults our kids deserve? How many of these cases could be avoided if adults took the messages on those banners to heart and acted accordingly?

Have you seen a recent example of an adult behaving cowardly? Post a comment and share it here.

Rosalind Wiseman is the author of the new best seller Masterminds and Wingmen as well as Queen Bee Moms & Kingpin Dads. For more info, go to Do you have a parenting question? Email

How Teens Are Standing Up to Adult Bullies

Written on November 21, 2013 at 1:26 pm , by


People have described teens to me with words like “terrifying,” “apathetic,” “hormone-crazed,” “entitled” and “naive.” Add that to the general assumption that teens use social networking only to say “Hey! What’s up?”, relentlessly bully one another or send inappropriate pictures to each other, and it’s easy to think the younger generation can’t be counted on to make the world a better place.

Not true. I recently came across two examples that show how often teens are standing up against bullying and using the Internet in positive ways. The challenge for us is admitting that often the people they’re standing up to are bullying adults.

Last week, the Richardson High School PTA in Dallas sponsored motivational speaker Justin Lookadoo to advise the students on dating. One piece of advice that he shared with the Richardson female students, which can also be found on his website with co-author Hayley DiMarco, was:

Be mysterious. Dateable girls know how to shut up. They don’t monopolize the conversation….The sexiest thing on a girl is happiness. Dateable girls aren’t downers, they love life. 

Here’s Lookadoo and DiMarco’s advice for male students:

Dateable guys know they aren’t as sensitive as girls, and that’s okay. They know they are stronger, more dangerous and more adventurous, and that’s okay. Dateable guys are real men who aren’t afraid to be guys.

Mr. Lookadoo and Ms. DiMarco base their advice on their Christian faith. Having worked with many wonderful people in Christian communities who would never agree with this kind of teaching, it’s incredible to me that a school would allow someone to share a message that girls should “shut up,” and if they do speak, to express only “happy” opinions, while telling boys to be more “adventurous” and “dangerous.” This advice is exactly the kind of message that sets up the dynamic where girls are taught to say nothing when they’re in a sexual situation that they don’t want to be in and gives boys permission to run roughshod over those girls—which is exactly how rape between acquaintances often occurs.

Many teens were outraged by Mr. Lookadoo’s comments and confronted him during the assembly. But they also used Twitter to share their feelings about his message and the frustration they felt toward the school for bringing him.

Here is Aisleeen Menezes’ tweet: I refuse to listen to the enforcement of stereotypes and gender roles.

Another student, Meg Colburn, tweeted: I love that RISD has a no-tolerance on bullying and they brought in a bully to motivate us.

And even better, other students, parents and alumni are supporting those that spoke out. You know who are the only ones sending disrespectful responses to these students? Adults…whom the kids don’t know.

Across the country, in Washington, D.C., another incident took place. I grew up in the nation’s capital and spent most of my career there as well, so it was inevitable that I would learn that one of the best high school newspapers in the country was Annandale High School’s The A-Blast. Last week The A-Blast again showed how good reporting and a civil, measured response can make a difference. Here’s what happened.

Last Friday night, the Annandale football coach bullied his own school’s marching band off the field during halftime, with some vocal support from the football parents. In response, A-Blast reporters wrote an article protesting the marching band’s treatment, concisely articulating the problems and asking for an appropriate administrative response. My favorite part of the article is when the writers ask the administration the larger question of what the school values—not in words but in actions:

Under the direction of Coach Scott, the football team has won one game throughout their 2013 season while the band received Virginia State Champions and won a National award for their “III-Open” class (which is the hardest competition division). And all the while, the band stands proud with the football team through every loss and through every win. Since when has administration asked the football team to support the band by going to a competition, whether we win or lose?

The result was swift. Again, students, parents and alumni supported the marching band; the principal apologized to the student body and requested that the football coach do so as well. I hope the coach takes this opportunity to role-model what a person should do when he makes a mistake and needs to make amends. But in the meantime, as we wait for adults to do the right thing, let’s not forget that young people often can show us the way.

Have you seen a recent example of young people standing up to adult bullies? Post a comment and share it here.

Rosalind Wiseman is the author of the new best seller Masterminds and Wingmen as well as Queen Bee Moms & Kingpin Dads. For more info, go to Do you have a parenting question? Email