From the category archives:

Childhood obesity

Renee Shutters is a mom with a mission. She has teamed with the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CPSI) on a petition to M&M’s maker Mars, Inc., requesting the company remove artificial dye from the iconic candy. She noticed her 9-year-old son’s hyperactive behavior improved after she eliminated foods containing artificial dyes from his diet. Now, she wants Mars to use natural dyes in M&M’s.

It seems like a bit of a bold request—until the candy maker’s European formula is revealed. On the other side of the pond, Mars nixes the petroleum-based dyes it uses in the U.S. and replaces them with natural dyes. Otherwise, the European Union would require Mars to package Euro M&M’s with a label that warns the candy “may have an adverse effect on activity and attention in children.”

Aaron Bernstein, MD, MPH, pediatrician at Boston Children’s Hospital, thinks the petition may be on the right track. Available evidence suggests that artificial dyes carry the potential to increase hyperactivity in any child, says Bernstein.

But the focus on food coloring masks a far bigger problem, says Bernstein. “Kids (and their parents) are being bombarded with foods specifically intended to lure them in.” Nearly every store in the U.S. immerses consumers in a sea of cheap, unhealthy and supersized junk food, he continues. Candy marketing follows a seasonal cycle from Valentine’s Day to Halloween.

Every fall, the trick-or-treat ritual generates a massive candy crush; Americans purchase 600 million pounds of candy for Halloween. Full story »

Leave a comment

The scales may not be tipping quite so precipitously for some low-income preschoolers. So says a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Nineteen states saw small decreases in obesity rates among preschoolers between 2008 and 2011, while rates held steady in another 20 states. Is this cause for celebration, cautious optimism or concern?

Perhaps all of the above, says David Ludwig, MD, PhD, director of the New Balance Foundation Obesity Prevention Center Boston Children’s Hospital. “The report is a small, but encouraging, sign after nearly half a century of bad news.” The latest data, along with several other reports, suggest the era of continually rising obesity rates may be drawing to a close.

That’s the good news. But most epidemics aren’t halted by a crook in the prevalence curve. In fact, containing the obesity curve will require more muscle from federal decision makers. Full story »

Leave a comment

Have a heart healthy July 4th!

by Tripp Underwood on July 4, 2013

Happy Fourth of July from Boston Children’s Hospital! If you’re planning on firing up the grill and inviting family and friends to join you for a backyard barbeque this afternoon, why not create a few menu items that are both delicious and heart healthy? The following recipes were complied by the staff at Boston Children’s Heart Center, each a healthy twist on a traditional BBQ favorite. Enjoy!

Appetizer:  Low fat deviled eggs

Serving deviled eggs? Try low-fat cottage cheese for healthier take on a sinful treat.


  • 12 large hard-boiled eggs, peeled
  • 1/3 cup nonfat or low fat cottage cheese
  • 1/4 cup low-fat mayonnaise
  • 3 tablespoons minced fresh chives or scallion greens
  • 1 tablespoon sweet pickle relish
  • 2 teaspoons yellow mustard
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • Paprika for garnish


  1. Halve eggs lengthwise with a sharp knife. Gently remove the yolks. Place 16 yolk halves in a food processor (discard the remaining 8 yolk halves). Add cottage cheese, mayonnaise, chives (or scallion greens), relish, mustard and salt; process until smooth.
  2. Spoon about 2 teaspoons yolk mixture into each egg white half. Sprinkle with paprika, if desired.

Tip: To hard-boil eggs, place them in a saucepan and cover with water. Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to low and cook at the barest simmer for 10 minutes. Remove from heat, pour out hot water and cover the eggs with ice-cold water. Let stand until cool enough to handle before peeling.

Recipe originally found here.

SIDE DISH: Red, White and Blue Potato Salad

Mayonnaise may be a key ingredient in most potato salad recipes, but this heart-friendly version substitutes the mayo with olive oil—without skimping on taste.


  • 2 pounds baby potatoes, a mix of white and blue (or purple)
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • Freshly ground pepper to taste
  • 3/4 cup chopped roasted red peppers, rinsed
  • 4 scallions, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh herb (parsley, cilantro or mint)


  1. Place potatoes in a large saucepan or Dutch oven and cover with lightly salted water. Bring to a boil and cook until tender, about 15 minutes. Drain and rinse with cold water. Transfer to a cutting board. Let cool for 20 minutes.
  2. Whisk lemon juice, oil, salt and pepper in a large bowl. Cut the potatoes in half, add to the bowl and toss to coat.
  3. Just before serving, add peppers, scallions and mint to the salad and toss gently.

TIP: Finish Step 3 just before serving. Add more lemon juice and/or salt to taste.

Recipe originally found here.

SIDE SALAD: Romaine, grilled avocado and smoky corn salad with chipotle-Caesar dressing

A refreshing side salad is a healthy alternative to potato chips and other junk foods. This salad is perfect for outdoor eating on a hot summer afternoon.


  • 1/4 cup grated parmesan
  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup fresh lime juice
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 1 tablespoon minced canned chipotle chiles in adobo
  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 2 ears of corn, shucked
  • 2 firm-ripe 6-to 8-ounces avocados, halved and pitted but not peeled
  • 1 head romaine (1 pound), tough outer leaves discarded and head quartered lengthwise, then cut crosswise into 1-inch strips


Prepare grill for direct-heat cooking over hot charcoal (high heat for gas). Put parmesan in a medium bowl and add olive oil in a slow stream, whisking. Whisk in lime juice, garlic, chipotles, and 1/4 teaspoon each of salt and pepper. Rub vegetable oil on corn and cut sides of avocados, then season with 1/8 teaspoon each of salt and pepper. Grill avocados, cut sides down, and corn, covered only if using a gas grill, turning corn occasionally, until golden-brown, 3 to 4 minutes. Peel avocados and thinly slice. Cut corn kernels from cobs. Toss romaine with dressing and serve topped with avocado and corn.

TIP: Corn and avocados can be grilled, in batches if necessary, in a lightly oiled hot grill pan over medium-high heat.

Recipe originally found here.

MAIN DISH: Lean Turkey Burgers

Turkey or chicken burgers can be up to 90% leaner than beef and often contains less fat. But just because it’s leaner doesn’t mean it needs to be any less juicy or tasty.

INGREDIENTS (makes 4 burger patties)

  • 1 pound of ground turkey
  • 1 (1 ounce) package of ranch dressing mix
  • 1 egg
  • 3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • ¼ cup Worcestershire sauce
  • Salt and pepper to taste


  1. Preheat an outdoor grill for medium-high heat and lightly oil the grate.
  2. Knead together the turkey, ranch mix, egg, garlic, Worcestershire sauce, seasoned salt and pepper in a bowl until evenly combined; divide into 4 equal portions and form into patties.
  3. Cook on the preheated grill about 5 minutes per side for well done. Add any veggie toppings you’d like. Try it on a whole-wheat bun with some fresh tomatoes, onions and lettuce.

Recipe originally found here.

Dessert: Flag Fruit Kabobs

Show your patriotic spirit with a healthy, flag-themed fruit spread.


  • Fresh strawberries
  • Fresh Blueberries
  • Fresh Bananas
  • Kabob sticks


Wash fruit and place on a paper towel to dry. Cut the stems off the strawberries, slice the bananas into sections of 5-6 pieces. Using a kabob stick, slide the fruit onto the stick—placing equal amounts of blueberries at the top of 5 kabobs—and arrange on a platter.

Recipe originally found here.

Leave a comment

Obesity: Disease? Condition? Should we care?

by Claire McCarthy on June 20, 2013

Should we call obesity a disease—or a condition?

This is a question that has become really controversial. This week, the Council on Science and Public Health of the American Medical Association (AMA) put out a report saying that obesity shouldn’t be classified as a disease. The next day, the AMA’s House of Delegates disagreed, saying it should be.

You know what I think? I don’t care.  Full story »

Leave a comment

New Studies Give Us 4 Ideas for Fighting Childhood Obesity

by Claire McCarthy on April 11, 2013

When it comes to fighting childhood obesity, what we really need are some practical ideas. By practical ideas I mean ones that families can implement easily, without spending money or missing work or having big arguments with the kids. The latest edition of the journal Pediatrics has not just one but four practical ideas. Full story »

Leave a comment

Kevin Ware- Picture from USA Today

Last week, sports fans collectively gasped with sympathetic pain when Kevin Ware, a 20-year-old basketball player from the University of Louisville, suffered a devastating leg injury during a nationally televised NCAA tournament game. In an attempt to block an opponent’s shot, Ware leapt into the air and landed in such a way that shattered two bones in his leg—the tibia and fibula—just below his right knee.

The tibia break was especially gruesome, with the bone not only breaking, but ripping through his skin and protruding outward. (An injury known as a compound fracture.) In addition to being very painful, compound fractures can be harder to treat than typical breaks and carry an increased risk of infection.

“Anytime you have a fracture there is the risk of infection,” says Boston Children’s Hospital’s Division of Sports Medicine doctor Michael Beasley, MD, who along with thousands of other people watched the injury live on television last Sunday. “But when that fracture also breaks the skin the risk of infection to the surrounding muscle and tendons increases. You also significantly increase the risk of infection in the bone, which can be very troubling if not caught early.” Full story »

Leave a comment

The OWL team rowing at Agganis Arena

When it comes to achieving a healthy weight, nutrition is only one part of the process. Adding exercise to the mix helps build heart health and strength, and—perhaps of equal importance—it also helps build self-confidence.

While regular exercise is paramount, it’s not always easy for a teenager to join their high school’s competitive teams to stay in shape. “It’s hard to tell a kid to join something like soccer if they’ve never done it before, and their peers have been doing it since they were toddlers,” says Sarah Picard, MA, Med, physical activity specialist at Boston Children’s Optimal Weight for Life (OWL) Program.

This year with the help of the New Balance Foundation Obesity Prevention Center, Picard created a solution to that problem, and established OWL on the Water—a joint program with Community Rowing Inc. that allows OWL patients to form an exclusive rowing team, thereby providing habitual exercise and promoting teamwork. Full story »

Leave a comment

Seatbelts and bans on big sodas: laws that save lives

by Claire McCarthy on March 13, 2013

I’m sad that a New York judge struck down the 16-ounce size limit for sodas and some other sweet drinks.  I think Mayor Bloomberg had the right idea.

I get that whole personal freedom argument (although the court just said that it was arbitrary and out of Bloomberg’s purview), that this was a “Nanny State” idea. But honestly, when it comes to obesity, we may need nannies to save ourselves—from ourselves. Full story »

Leave a comment