Lunch Box News

Candy May Not Make You All That Fat, Study Says

Candy makes kids fat, right?

Ha! Wrong, Captain Tofu!

Candy May Not Make You All That Fat, Study Says
Revenge could be sweet for the candy crowd. The Vancouver Sun reports a new study finds kids who eat candy weigh less and are less likely be overweight than their counterparts munching on carrots.

This revolutionary study was funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and a big chunk of the funding came from the National Confectioners Association. You know, the people who make candy.

Great, so this may be a little like the International Brotherhood of Heroin Pushers Local 839 funding a study that concludes heavy narcotics are essential for building strong bones and teeth.

Still, data is data.

Researchers at Louisiana State University (hardly puppets of Big Chocolate) found kids who ate candy were 22 percent less likely to be overweight and 28 percent less likely to be obese.

So stick that in your bean curd, and do whatever is you do with bean curd. (What? You eat it? Gross!)

Carol O'Neil, a registered dietitian and professor at Louisiana State University's Agricultural Center, led researchers in tracking the eating habits of kids ages 2 to 17 between 1999 and 2004.

While chocolate is indisputably the food of the gods, O'Neil tells the Vancouver Sun she is not suggesting parents fill the family swimming pool with M&Ms in lieu of dinner. In fact, even though young candy eaters aren't getting fat, she still called their their diets "abysmal."

"Children need to eat better than they are eating now," O'Neil tells the Sun. "Candy can certainly be used as some sort of celebratory treat or an occasional treat."

Her study, she adds, is not "a hall pass to eat what you want." is Now Open

We have now started our soft opening of our store -

Surviving a Family Road Trip: Top 5 Tips

Planning for a family road trip can feel like planning for a major military operation -- all that laundry and packing, plus all those lists and tasks, can make you long for a vacation from your vacation. Not to mention all those small voices whining, "Are we there yet?"

Surviving a Family Road Trip: Top 5 Tips
But there are ways to make getting away as a family a less daunting task. We asked parents and experts for their top tips for surviving a family road trip, and, with their help, you really can make getting there half the fun.

1. Prepare, prepare, prepare. Before you even leave the house, make sure you've made your lists and checked them twice -- or even three times. Amy Kossoff Smith, a mom of three boys, all younger than 14, says planning ahead is the best way to stave off any on-the-road hiccups.

"Do everything in advance," the Maryland resident tells ParentDish. "(Have a list) of your itinerary, your snacks, your activities, everything."

She writes everything out to the letter, and says she also includes a back-up plan for the inevitable times when things don't go exactly as planned. Additionally, Smith keeps a separate list of "don't forget" items.

"I'm queen of the Post-It note on the counter for the last-minute items," she says. "There are always things you need the night before but may forget in the morning, so make a list as you pack so you don't forget (like your) toothbrush, contact lens cleaner, etc."

2. It's about the journey. Everyone is eager to get to the final destination, especially when you're headed out for an exciting vacation. But you can make the journey, itself, almost as interesting, says Jill Parvin, a mom of two daughters, ages 18 and 4, from Vista, Calif.

"We did a 2,000-mile road trip last summer, and the most important thing I did was plan stops every three hours to explore," she tells ParentDish.

Parvin adds that she did her best not to drive for more than eight hours at a time, so she and her girls didn't get stir crazy.

Author and father Jeff Siegel agrees. His new book, "RelationTrips," was inspired by a 10-year quest to see every Major League Baseball stadium in the United States with his son, Spence.

"Take the opportunity to explore new destinations along the way," Siegel tells ParentDish. "Pick out two or three new places to stop while in transit, such as a new landmark or roadside restaurant."

3. Let the kids take control. Siegel also advises parents to turn the wheel over to the kids for a day or two. Choose one or two days during your trip, he says, and let the young ones decide how to spend them.

"Let your children research and plan all the activities. Encourage them to create an agenda that includes a theme and soundtrack for the day," he suggests.

Families with more than one child can either make it a joint effort, or assign each kid their own day or a portion of a day to plan.

4. Go for gadgets. When we were kids, entertainment on the road mean counting license plates and playing "I Spy." These days, there are plenty of gadgets to keep the wee ones quiet for at least a few hundred miles.

Parvin made packing her teen's mp3 player -- and a pair of headphones -- a top priority. She also packed a small electronic game for her younger daughter. Even the preschool set has access to hand-held gaming systems these days, along with headphones designed for even the littlest bodies.

If electronics aren't your thing, Coco Peate of Westlake Village, Calif., suggests making a run to the dollar store to get a grab bag of inexpensive toys to surprise your kids with.

"Consider packing a bag for each child where you can hide his surprise toys among his own toys from home, snacks, crayons, coloring books, etc.," she says. "They'll each have their very own goody bag with their own toys and treats, which will hopefully prevent fights and provide hours of fun."

5. Snack attack. Nothing soothes the savage beast like a good snack -- and it prevents meltdowns and unnecessary stops along the way.

"Take more food than you think you'll need," says Lisa Cottrell-Bentley, author of the "Wright on Time" series of children's chapter books about an RV-living, homeschooling family who travels the United States. "Food always gets eaten."

Cottrell-Bentley, a mom of of two from Sahuarita, Ariz., suggests packing non-perishable things such as nuts and fruit leather.

"The more food you take with you, the less you'll need to buy on the road," she tells ParentDish.

Just remember to choose healthy items. The occasional treat is fine, but you don't want to risk getting sick on your vacation by going too far astray from your usual good eating habits.

Cottrell-Bentley also suggests getting your kids to help with the selection.

"Have the kids help pick out the items," she says. "They're more likely to eat what they've helped to purchase."

Most Popular Italian Baby Girl Names

Italian baby names can bring centuries of tradition and history into your child's life, and also usually carry an air of the exotic and mysterious, especially if you're working on the perfect name for your new baby girl. We've assembled a highly unscientific rundown of the five most popular Italian baby girl names, their translations, and meanings.

Most Popular Italian Baby Girl Names
Of course, if you really are Italian, or want to follow the traditions of their great culture for your own reasons, your daughter's name has already been chosen. For generations, many Italian families have named the firstborn female after the paternal grandmother, the second after the maternal grandmother, and subsequent daughters after a favorite aunt or saint.

If you decide to go with an Italian baby girl name, keep in mind that Italians celebrate both the child's actual birthday and her name-day, or "onomastico." Since a large majority of Italian baby names are descended from the name of a saint, there is typically a day on the calendar earmarked to celebrate that saint, and by extension, anyone carrying that name. Italian baby girls can even look forward to getting presents on their name-day!

So what are the five most popular Italian baby girl names?

Adriana: A form of the Latin name "Adrienne," Adriana means "dark" or "rich." The name also refers to a province in Northern Italy, home of the beautiful Church of Santa Maria Assunta della Tomba. Currently celebrities sharing this name include model Adriana Lima, and in the fictional realm, Drea de Matteo's lovely but doomed "Sopranos" character Adriana La Cerva.

Angela: This is a very popular name across the world, especially when you count its many variations (Angelica, Angeline, and about 40 others.) In its original form, Angela derives from Greek origins, and means "messenger" or "messenger of God". Of course she'll be your angel from heaven, and she'll share good company with a wide range of stars of screen including Angelina Jolie, Angie Harmon and Angie Dickinson.

Rosa: We'll give you one guess what beautiful flower this Latin-derived Italian baby girl name descends from. Yes, it's the rose! As with Angela, there are many variations of this Italian baby girl name available, Rose being the English version, and Charo, Rosabel, Rosalie and many others preferred in different cultures.

Anna: The second most popular Italian baby girl name is a Latin variation of "Hannah." The name originated from the bible in the form of a devout woman who saw the infant Jesus presented at the temple in Jerusalem. If names are any indication of future success, your daughter could be a famous ballerina (Anna Pavlova) or tennis player (the lovely and talented Anna Kournikova.) As with most of these Italian baby names, there are tons of variations: Ann, Annamarie, Annika and many others.

Maria: The most popular Italian baby girl name is another Latin name, this one meaning "star of the sea." This popular name has taken many forms across the world; with Mary proving the most popular English form and Marie ruling French culture. The ballad "Maria" from the popular musical "West Side Story" gave this name a huge boost a few generations back, and it continues to reveal new popular variations, such as pop singer Mariah Carey.

Burger King, Chili’s, IHOP Will Make Kids Menus Healthier

Parents seeking healthier restaurant meals for their kids can start to look beyond chicken nuggets and macaroni-and-cheese.

At least 19 large restaurant chains - including Burger King, Chili's, IHOP and Friendly's - plan to announce Wednesday that they will include healthier options on their children's menus. At least 15,000 restaurant locations will focus on increasing servings of fruits and vegetables, lean proteins, whole grains and low-fat dairy. The items will have less fats, sugars and sodium.

Healthy EatingLess healthy foods like burgers and fries will still be on the menu, but the restaurants say they will do more to promote healthier options. Chili's, for example, will highlight a chicken sandwich with a side of pineapple or mandarin oranges on their kids' menu. Burger King has recently reformulated children's chicken nuggets so they include less sodium, and employees taking orders will ask if customers want healthier apple fries instead of the standard "fries with that?"

The effort is part of a new National Restaurant Association initiative to give kids more healthy options at restaurants and to make it easier for parents to find those options. Some of the items are already on menus, but restaurants will advertise them more prominently and flag the healthier menu items to make ordering easier.

To be part of the program, restaurants must include at least one kids' menu item that is 600 calories or less and meets other nutritional requirements. A side dish worth less than 200 calories must also be included.

"This could provide a great push toward healthier offerings at restaurants," said Robert Post, the Agriculture Department official in charge of developing the department's dietary guidelines, which came out earlier this year. Those urged Americans to eat less salt.

"We hope this is a trend toward new items and voluntary reformulations," Post said.

The companies signing up for the initiative are Au Bon Pain, Bonefish Grill, Burger King, Burgerville, Carrabba's Italian Grill, Chevys, Chili's, Corner Bakery Cafe, Cracker Barrel, Denny's, El Pollo Loco, Friendly's, IHOP, Joe's Crab Shack, Outback Steakhouse, Silver Diner, Sizzler, T-Bones Great American Eatery and zpizza.

Joe Taylor of Chili's said the company has responded to consumer demands for healthier foods. While diners looking for a healthier meal used to have to ask for substitutions, they now have more options.

"We've seen our guests customize their meals to a greater degree when they are looking to hold the mayo or add the broccoli," Taylor said.

Patrick Lenow of IHOP said the restaurant will add two new children's menu items because of the effort, including pancakes with fruit and scrambled eggs with fruit. The company had already limited everything on their children's menu to under 600 calories and made fruit a default side, instead of fries - a change that has dramatically increased fruit consumption at the restaurants, Lenow said.

Several restaurant chains haven't committed yet to joining the effort. Maggiano's, owned with Chili's by Brinker International, is not part of the program. Neither is McDonald's, the world's largest burger chain.

Dawn Sweeney, president and CEO of the National Restaurant Association, said the group is hoping to add additional restaurants to the effort in coming months.

First lady Michelle Obama last year attended a National Restaurant Association meeting in Washington and pleaded with them to take a little butter or cream out of their dishes, use low-fat milk and provide apple slices or carrots as a default side dish on the kids' menu. She said Americans eat a third of their meals in restaurants, which have long been seen by many as the worst offenders in terms of nutrition.

Many restaurant companies are starting to reformulate menu items and add new healthier sections to their menus, however, as consumers have shown a heightened interest in nutrition.

The federal government will also soon require restaurants to post calories on their menus. FDA guidelines will require chain restaurants with 20 or more locations, along with bakeries, grocery stores, convenience stores and coffee chains, to clearly post the calories.

John Dillon of Denny's said the company recently took photos of French fries off their menus.

"Where before we may have been concerned about not having French fries pictured on our menu, we're now finding that has actually helped our business," he said.

 Original AP article appeared on

Chicago Considers Tightening Curfew For Kids Under 12

Chicago is a toddlin' town, but if you're under 12, some city officials want you toddlin' off by 8:30 p.m. weekdays and 9 p.m. on weekends.

Public Safety Committee Chairman Michelle Harris, Aldermen Toni Foulkes and Lona Lane want to ratchet back the city's curfew for the under 12 crowd. It currently stands at 10 p.m. weekdays and 11 p.m. weekends for all kids under 17.

Chicago Considers Tightening Curfew For Kids Under 12
Curfew used to be a half longer until it was trimmed by then Mayor Richard M. Daley two years ago. More trimming is needed for younger children, according to Harris, Foulkes and Lane.

Some parents, however, are telling them to mind their own bee's wax.

"It's an attempt for the city council to parent," mother Karen Hobbs tells the Chicago Sun-Times. "It's up to parents to parent. I don't think setting an arbitrary curfew at different ages is going to solve the problem."

Another parent, Toseima Jiles, tells the paper the curfew is necessary -- especially when parents don't take their responsibilities seriously.

"We're at a point where we have to be more conscious of where our children are," she tells the Sun-Times. "When was growing up, your parents knew where you were, the neighbors knew where you were. I think we're getting away from that."

Alderman Harris tells the Sun-Times if the extended curfew saves even one young life, it will be worth the criticism.

"I grew up in a community where the standard rule was children had to be in by the time the street lights came on. I'd be lucky if my parents let me out of the house when dinner was over," Harris tells the paper.

"It wasn't that our communities were so terrible," she adds. "It's just that our parents knew how to protect us. This gives police another tool to help those parents who, maybe, don't have the best parenting skills or understand that pulling a child off the street at a certain time is a protection. Many times, children are just in the wrong place at the wrong time. That child should be in the house."

Foulkes added that "kids in our neighborhoods are out at all times of night" and it's time city officials protect younger children.

"What happens to the 8-year-olds? They had the same curfew as the 17-year-old. If they're walking on the street at night, they can be recruited by gang members," Foulkes tells the paper.

But is a tougher curfew really getting to the heart of the problem?

"The city needs to give children more things to do rather than force them into confinement," Julie Woestehoff of Parents United for Responsible Education tells the Sun-Times.

A stricter curfew must be coupled with programs that teach better parenting skills, adds Philip Jackson, the executive director of the Black Star Project.

"I can live with a lower curfew for children under 13 as being part of a comprehensive fix," he tells the paper. "But if all you're talking about is a tougher curfew for 12-year-olds, that's not going to fix anything."

Summer Fun and Games: You Could Be Your Kid’s Favorite Toy

Most children would do anything to have their busy parents get on the floor and play with them, especially in their early years. Credit: Getty Images

Pop quiz: What toy does your child most want to play with this summer?

It's a trick question.

Summer Fun and Games: You Could Be Your Kids Favorite Toy
"Believe it or not, you are your child's favorite play toy," family therapist, blogger and mother of two Amy Wickstrom tells ParentDish.

Wickstrom, a contributor to Working Mother, OC Family and more, also writes the blog More Than a Toy. She tells ParentDish it is important for parents to play with their children, especially during the summer when kids have more time and their hands and are crying out for parental interaction.

"Most children would do anything to have their busy parents get on the floor and play with them, especially in their early years," Wickstrom tells ParentDish. "Take 10 or 15 minutes to give them your undivided attention and interact with them and the toys they are playing with."

Need some suggestions?

"Do a family craft," Wickstrom suggests. "Run to your local craft store and pick out a craft to do with your child (such as building a bird house). Build enthusiasm for it by including your child in choosing what the craft will be, picking out the supplies together, learning about it more (for example, if doing a bird house, research different kinds of birds with your child and find out which birds visit your yard, etc.) and determining the time you will do it (simple crafts can be done in one sitting, but other crafts, such as building a model plane, could be done over several weeks during the summer)."

Some of the simplest games create the most lasting memories, she adds, such as hide-and-go-seek.

"One of my favorite memories as a child was playing kick the can and hide-and-go-seek with the other kids on my street," Wickstrom tells ParentDish. "Sadly, our age of technology often squelches a child's natural tendency to be outside and play with other children. Simple, all-time favorite childhood games are disappearing."

You can help combat that trend with a trip to the library, she says.

"Parents can take their kids to the local library to pick out a book and read it together there," she says. "Many libraries have special rooms just for children that are filled with toys and sometimes a stage with props for story time. This helps engage children in their imagination, have quality time with a parent and develop their reading skills. It also keeps them accustomed to old fashioned books instead of eBooks.

Websites such as have some other low-cost ways to build lifelong memories. Here are a few:

1. See a $1 movie. Many theaters offer summer movie programs for kids. If you're not so lucky, consider a movie day at home with a rental or streaming online video.

2. Hold Sprinkler Day. Delay your sprinklers for one day so they come on a little later in the morning. Then everyone can get in their bathing suits and jump through the sprinklers on a hot day. This also conserves water and reduces utility costs.

3. Go fly a kite. Check the 10-day forecast and look for a windy day in the coming week. Pick up a cool kite for the kids.

4. Make homemade Play-Doh. It's basically just water and flour. There are all sorts of recipes available online.

5. Build a "fort" in the living room. You remember this from when you were a kid. All it takes are some cushions and a sofa. If you want to get all fancy, you can use some large boxes and (with parental supervision, of course) some box cutters.

6. Go bowling. Bowling alleys often have special rates for families and will put out the bumpers so kids don't roll gutter balls.

7. Have a water pistol fight. Water pistols are often no more than $2. Pick up a couple and have a duel. If you want to make it a teachable moment, read up on the history and etiquette of dueling and make that part of the experience.

8. Hold Pajama Day. Stay in your pajamas all day.

9. Spend a day volunteering. There are lots of places you can volunteer and teach kids the importance of helping out. One idea might be the local Humane Society.

10. Have your kids come up with their own shirt designs, then have a custom T-shirt printing service print them up.

It’s So Hot Outside: Tips on Keeping Kids Safe in the Summer Heat

Yep, we know: It's hot out there. Like, really, really hot. Like, so hot you really don't want to step outside of your air conditioned bubble. But how much TV can you allow your kids to watch before you just break down and decide to brave the heat index and head outside?

Be sure you follow some expert advice on keeping your kids as cool as possible, WGN in Chicago reports.

It’s So Hot Outside: Tips on Keeping Kids Safe in the Summer Heat
"Young children are especially vulnerable to heat because they produce more heat at rest, they have a higher body surface area to mass ratio and they absorb more heat," Dr. Karen Sheehan of Children's Memorial Hospital, tells the TV station. "They don't sweat as well as adults. An adult and adolescent who are healthy, it takes about four days to get used to this type of weather, but for a kid it's about two weeks and that puts them at much more risk."

First up: the car. Just don't leave your kids in there. Even for a few minutes as you run into the store.

"We've only had our in-car thermometer in for about 20 minutes, if that," Jessica Choi of Safe Kids Illinois tells WGN. "We've already got a difference of 10 degrees. Its 10 degrees hotter in the car than it is outside."

Next: Keep kids away from open windows, especially on upper level floors.

"If you need to open windows, open from the top down," Amy Hill, injury prevention manager at Children's Memorial, tells WGN. "Also, move furniture away from the windows so kids can't crawl on top and fall out. That's what happens most often, people don't think about the couch being near the window. They crack the window for some circulation and the kid climbs up and falls out. It's a huge problem in Chicago."

And, as always: Don't take your eyes off a child playing in a swimming pool.

"It's important for parents and caregivers to remember that babies and toddlers can drown in one inch of water," Hill tells WGN. "Empty all buckets, containers and wading pools immediately after you are done using them."

Kids Eating More and More Meals Away From Home

People used to complain that kids eat too often in front of the television instead of at the family dinner table.

Have no fear. Researchers have found kids rarely eat at home at all.

They get their nutrition (if you use the word "nutrition" loosely) from fast-food restaurants. And they're going for the large fries.

Kids Eating More and More Meals Away From Home
Coincidentally, there seems to be this obesity epidemic in the United States.

Research in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association points to the increasing amount of food kids take from fast-food restaurants, as well as food that comes fully prepared at grocery stories.

"Overall, this study highlights the continuing rapid shifts in the sources of food for children in the United States -- both where it's eaten and where it's prepared," Barry Popkin, a professor of nutrition at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, tells Medical News Today.

"These results underscore the need to deepen our understanding of food preparation and consumption patterns, and further pinpoint where research and programmatic activity should focus," he adds. "The differences in energy intake by eating location revealed in this analysis demonstrate that eating location is an important factor in the diet of American children."

Popkin says American children increased their daily calorie consumption by 179 calories between 1977 and 2006.

His study found that it is linked to a rise in calories consumed away from home -- estimated to be an increase of about 255 calories per day.

In 1977, he estimates kids consumed 23.4 percent of their daily calories away from home, compared with 33.9 percent in 2006.

5 Summer Vacations Your Tween Won’t Hate

What tween wants to go on a family vacation when she could stay home and text her pals? Not to mention, avoid the sheer humiliation of being seen with her parents in public.

But we asked travel experts to offer up trips that will guarantee even your hardest-to-please tween will crack a smile -- or two. We've got five options to consider when planning your next adventure.

1. Pick a theme, any theme. Tweens like to feel as if they have control over their own destiny, and letting them choose a vacation itinerary that appeals to them makes everyone happier.

Jeff Siegel, author of "RelationTrips," the true story of his quest to see every Major League baseball field in the country, along with his son, tells ParentDish choosing a theme for your trip that interests both you and your child can not only reduce the number of complaints you hear, but also will bring you closer together during this dicey phase of their lives.

"Brainstorm about common interests shared by family members," Siegel advises. "This can take a few hours or a few weeks. Consider surfing the Web for ideas or placing a suggestion box in the kitchen. Then hold a meeting to choose the official theme."

2. Get on your bike. Biking is experiencing something of a Renaissance these days, and, thanks to the Tour De France, your tween is certain to love the idea of a trip that not only taps into a popular sport but also allows for a lot of room to change your mind -- for which tweens are notorious.

"The days are designed for ease and flexibility, so each member of the family will enjoy the perfect amount of activity," Dede Sullivan of DuVine Adventures, a company that arranges bike tours abroad, tells ParentDish.

3. Take them on the grand tour. Gone are the days when parents used to send their children on a grand tour of every country in Europe, but, with planning, you can still take your kids abroad for a week or two.

Tweens are the perfect age to deal with the air travel required to get to the Continent, and they are also ripe to get the most out of their exposure to other cultures.

"In our experience, kids ages 7 to 16 are ideal for traveling on family adventures (abroad) that include everything from hiking and biking to river rafting and sea kayaking," Edward Piegza, president and co-founder of Classic Journeys, a tour company, tells ParentDish. "And right in the middle of that ideal age spread? The what-have-you-done-for-me-lately tweens."

Piegza says part of the equation for happy family travel is making sure the plan includes something for everyone -- even the grown-ups. After all, it's your vacation, too.

"As a parent, I personally can vouch for the joy of sharing hydrofoil rides and peering into a volcano alongside our tween sons on the Amalfi Coast," he tells ParentDish. "But that's not to say my wife and I don't welcome the chance to spend time with the other grown-ups on tour, whether it's lingering over a gourmet meal or wine tasting or taking long, leisurely walks that would only make the kids antsy."

4. Pitch a tent. There's just something special about sleeping under the stars. Going into the wild for family fun ensures that you have to unplug from all your phones and gadgets and actually talk to one another.

You don't have to limit your trip to a tent and a campfire, either. With a little research, you can plan a trip that includes plenty of outdoor adventures, from whitewater rafting to ziplines in the forest to rock climbing and hiking.

5. The last resort. When all else fails, even the grouchiest tween will have a hard time resisting the idea of an all-inclusive tropical resort. Pools, beaches and all the tropical mocktails you can drink make for a relaxing vacation for the whole family.

A resort vacation also lets tweens have plenty of alone time, without causing too much angst for their parents. Kids can wander the confines of the resort to their hearts' content without getting into trouble.

Some resorts, such as the Montage Laguna Beach in California, even offer structured fun for your tween -- sans parents. Activities including kayaking, snorkeling and extreme scavenger hunts make the days fly by -- and they let you relax poolside while someone else entertains your kid.

Original article appears on