Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Picky Eating Can Lead to Problems for Children

Eat your vegetables dinosaurs
Having trouble getting kids to eat their greens? You're not alone!
Image: Shutterstock
Conventional wisdom tells us that children are picky eaters. They don’t like vegetables, or they hate specific green foods or things that look or sound "gross." This conventional wisdom also states that this is a phase, and that it will end. It’s just how kids are. 
I know this to be largely true; I was one of those picky eaters as a child, as was my brother (to a much larger degree than me). I mostly liked fruit, so much so that I told my mom I wanted to become a "fruititarian." She said no. My brother liked only plain things, like hamburgers with only meat and bun or "spaghetti" with no sauce--just noodles.
Here's a sample list of what I didn't like as a child:
  • Tomatoes
  • Carrots (these were on-again off-again)
  • Mushrooms
  • Pork
  • Apple juice
  • Grape juice
  • Milk
  • Fish (of any kind)
  • Corn off the cob (but on the cob was fine, apparently)
  • Onions
  • Chunky bits of salsa or spaghetti sauce (but the juice part was fine)
Today, the only item solidly on that list still is mushrooms. I'm still not a huge fan of apple juice, pork, or fish, but I'll eat them in moderation.

Picky eating is hardly a rare problem, according to researchers at Duke University Medical Center. It's actually quite common among kids aged 2 to 6, but it can have some severe consequences. Twenty percent of children in this range qualified as selective eaters, while 18% were moderately picky, and 3% were severely selective. The differences between these categories can be hard to explain, but at the most severe end, children were such selective eaters that they couldn’t eat with others. 
Everyone knows somebody who would only eat hot dogs or something as a child; those kids were like severely selective. I'd say at least for a few years, my brother fit into this category (and maybe still does - today he is a vegan, but at least he's now selecting foods that give him nutritional value!).
Moderate or severely picky eaters showed symptoms of anxiety and other mental conditions, including a stronger predisposition towards depression and social anxiety. This is not to mention the obvious physical health problems that can be caused by too selective of a diet. On top of all of this, selective eating can strain the parent-child relationship, which can potentially damage the relationship later in life as well.
The problem is figuring out how to intervene and get kids to eat a wider variety of foods. Kids can have a number of reasons for being picky eaters, such as being hypersensitive to taste, or having had a negative experience with a specific type of food that makes them afraid to try new things. In any case, expressing this can be difficult or even impossible for children, so many are treated as if they’re just misbehaving, and begin to associate certain foods with punishment,.

On the plus side, being a picky eater can be a sign that something is wrong, which allows parents to seek help from their doctors before things get out of hand.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Zucchini for Days: What To Do When You’ve Got a Ton of Zucchini

bundle of zucchini
What can you do when you have too much zucchini? A whole lot, it turns out!
Image: Shutterstock
So. I have a teeny problem. Well, okay… a great big problem. You see, this year, I started my first in-earnest gardening season. I have three raised beds, and I’ve filled them all with what I hope will be delicious homegrown fruits and veggies. I’ve got beets, chard, onion, beans, peas, strawberries, raspberries, artichokes, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, peppers, tomatillos, blueberries… and WAY TOO MUCH ZUCCHINI!

You see, when I first moved in to my new place, I saw an adorable little broad-leafed seedling poking up amongst the weeds in the raised beds. One I pulled everything else out, I took (what I thought was) a close look at the little guy. Then, I went to the store and looked for a similar plant to see if I could figure out what it was. The answer, or so I thought: cucumber. I even found an old cucumber plant care tag in the soil.

“Perfect,” I thought. “I love cucumber! You know what else I love? Zucchini. Oh, look, I’ll buy this adorable zucchini plant to go with my cucumbers!” So I did. I planted the zucchini I bought and started caring in earnest for the rogue cucumber plant in the garden. Pretty soon, a second plant popped up. “Yay!” I thought. “More cucumbers! I’ll learn how to make pickles!”

This is where my problems started. You see, I had no idea how quickly both cucumber and zucchini plants go from tiny and adorable to taking up your entire garden. Lacking foresight, I planted lots of other things near the plants. When it became obvious the three large plants were too close to each other, I moved the zucchini over to the other bed. “Phew,” I thought. “Crisis averted!”

Then the blossoms started. They are so bright, enormous, and stunning when they bloom in the morning. But something wasn’t quite right. The cucumber plant was getting way bigger than it should have, and the cucumbers were looking rather large… and zucchini-like. Too zucchini-like.

And now you’ve guessed it – the “cucumber” plants are not cucumbers at all. They are also zucchini plants. And the problem with zucchini, besides how much space they take up? It’s how much zucchini just one plant will produce (especially in fertile soil). I’ve got at least 15 blossoms on each of the plants, and more pop up every day. That’s a heck of a lot of zucchini for three people to eat.

So, now I’ve been on the lookout for ideas on what to do with zucchini. Of course, I plan to freeze some, as well as give a lot of it to neighbors and coworkers—but I’m sure we’ll still have a ton of it all summer long.

Here are some of my favorite ideas for using up excess zucchini – just in case any of you have my same problem or just happen to love zucchini!

Did you know you can also make some pretty rad desserts from zucchini? Check out these magnificent sounding zucchini desserts:

Not seeing something you love? Check out some more options for zucchini at The Kitchn, one of my all-time favorite resources for recipes!

Friday, July 10, 2015

The New York Genome Center Uses DNA Research to Develop Personalized Cancer Treatments

human genome model, dna model for research
NYGC is at the forefront of research into the human genome, or the complete set of nucleic acid sequence encoded as DNA.
Image: Shutterstock
The New York Genome Center (NYGC) is at the forefront of research into the human genome. Leaders in technology, science, and medicine form this consortium. Their goal is to combine genomic data and industrial innovation into treatments for people suffering from serious disease. Business leaders like NYGC Board of Directors member William Ford, CEO of General Atlantic, provide the insight and experience required to discover, build, and maintain productive partnerships.

Each human cell contains our genome. Composed of DNA, the genome contains instructions for making our bodies. Strands of DNA form chromosomes, found in the nucleus of each cell. Our genes are sections of DNA within our chromosomes and control traits like eye color and height. The human genome is made of 3.2 billion bases of DNA. Enough data to fill a stack of paperback books reaching 200 feet high.

Vast amount of scientific research into cancer is being conducted and published each year. “The real challenge before us is how to make sense of massive quantities of genetic data and translate that information into better treatments for patients,” said Robert Darnell, M.D., Ph.D., CEO, President and Scientific Director of the NYGC.

Traditionally an oncologist searching for a DNA-based treatment for a patient’s specific type of cancer would have to invest crushing amounts of time and money coordinating reams of data to find the right treatment. Luckily the clouds have parted and there is hope on the horizon. That hope is based on the cloud computing capacity of IBM Watson working in partnership with the NYGC’s data. “Applying the cognitive computing power of Watson is going to revolutionize genomics and accelerate the opportunity to improve outcomes for patients with deadly diseases by providing personalized treatment.”

The Human Genome Project (HGP) completed the mapping of the human genome n 2001. This data provides detailed information about the structure and organization of a complete set of human genes. "It's a shop manual, with an incredibly detailed blueprint for building every human cell. And it's a transformative textbook of medicine, with insights that will give health care providers immense new powers to treat, prevent and cure disease," said Francis Collins, director of the National Human Genome Research Institute.

For more information about the New York Genome Center and the innovative work it does, visit

What She Learned from Being Sober for 2 Months

Young people drinking and celebrating
How would your life change if you stopped drinking?
Image: Shutterstock 
Today’s blog post is a guest entry from a friend. Earlier this year, this friend of mine did something a bit unusual for someone in their early- to mid-twenties: she intentionally gave up alcohol. This friend is someone who lives in a city with a vibrant nightlife, where going out and socializing with friends without involving alcohol seemed impossible.

Here’s what she had to say about her experience:

The older I get the more I realize there is more to life than just binge-drinking with random people and Sunday hangovers. So, I decided to give my body a break for two months and here is what I learned from my temporary sobriety.

1.     I learned how to go out and not always have a drink in hand. It’s okay to be “that girl” who sips on water with lemon, and I promise it’s not as difficult as it seems. Plus, you get to see how alcohol slowly begins to affect others. Words start slurring, people became more outgoing. You don’t notice these things when you are going through the same transition as everyone else.
2.     You learn how to socialize away from the bar. While being at a bar isn’t terrible, it shouldn’t have to be your first place for socializing. Yoga and coffee with friends became my favorite new socializing activities, and neither of them were a great leap from activities I already enjoy. You begin to remember what life is like without late nights and drunken conversations that don’t really mean much.
3.     No more drunk texting! You never will wake up and look at your phone only to discover how many apologies you’d have to make to all the exes and friends you called before bed.
4.     I realized that alcohol has the power to make me a negative, angry person. When I would drink, I relied on things like superficial gossip as my way of socializing. But when I didn’t have booze on the table, I wanted to discuss my goals, dreams and my friends’ futures.
5.     You learn how to have just a few drinks and then stop. You suddenly appreciate alcohol again and realize it no longer needs to be a lifestyle. I enjoy now having a drink or two with a friend, being in bed before midnight and enjoying all the time I now have in the next day – and I get to leave the hangover out of it.

Have you ever cut alcohol out of your social life? What did you take away from your own experience?

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Why I’m Still Struggling To Love My Body

self- love
Self-love is hard when self-hate is the norm.
I’ve been trying harder than ever these past few years to really love my body. And though I think I’m in a pretty good place right now, I still catch myself internally criticizing because I still don’t have a flat belly, nonexistent “muffin tops,” or a smaller chest.

I found myself puzzled time and again at how I could still be having toxic thoughts like that after all this time of positive thinking and research into nutrition and holistic health.

I thought back to try and pinpoint where these negative patterns of behavior might have started – and that’s when I realized that I’ve always had them. They were engendered in me from the moment I started comprehending language. These patterns of thought and behavior have been exemplified in nearly every aspect of my life—by my mother, sister, friends, exes, coworkers, celebrities, and people I have never even met.

If you asked me to, I probably couldn’t point to an example of a time when my mother didn’t think she was fat. I remember her gazing dreamily up at a photo taken when she was about 25 years old and in prime shape. Tall, thin, long-legged, and after her first child but before the next two. It was her “goal” picture. And though she has never met that goal, I have a feeling that even if she did, she’d still find something about herself to dislike.

I don’t really blame her; it’s hard not to pick apart your body when the beauty standards society throws in front of us have been made impossible by the magic of programs like Photoshop and the fact that most of our job descriptions don’t include hours a day at the gym or a personal nutritionist. We expect perfection of ourselves and others, but that’s an impossible goal.

Now more than ever, I notice my mother doing the same thing she’s always done every time I go home to visit. We’ll be chatting about something, and she’ll casually bring up how fat she feels, and how she needs to lose weight. It’s the same conversation we’ve had for years, no matter what type of shape my mother was in.

But now, my 6-year-old niece is there, listening quietly to the adults talk. Learning that tearing yourself down for being even a little bit imperfect is something that you’re supposed to do. It tears my heart in two

It’s not just at home, though. I experience this everywhere I go. Visiting friends, at work, and even while commuting, I hear women and men talk about how they need to lose weight, how they are on a new diet or cleanse, how they had a “bad” food day, or how if they just had so-and-so’s hair or waistline or eyes, they’d be so much happier with themselves. And if it’s not people talking about themselves, it’s people talking about others.

It’s insidious. It’s toxic. And it needs to stop.

How are we supposed to learn to love ourselves if everywhere we turn, the example is self-hate?