Health Tips: How nature nurtures your child

Dr. Mehmet Oz and Dr. Mike Roizen

In the animated film “Tarzan II,” young Tarzan (voiced by Harrison Chad) has to come to terms with his place in the family of apes that has adopted him and with his life in the jungle. After travels and tribulations, he does just that, thriving because of his happy relationship with the nature around him.

There’s a lot of research on the cognitive and emotional benefits to kids of regularly spending time in nature. They include better school performance, more creativity, improved fitness, less depression and hyperactivity, stronger bones, improved eyesight (less nearsightedness) and better sleep. But too many of today’s youngsters have what’s been called nature-deficit disorder. It’s a nonmedical term that describes behavioral and developmental/learning problems, from attention deficits to depression, that can arise when kids live indoors, staring at a digital screen five or more hours a day.

How do you change your video-gaming 12-year-old into a Tarzan too? A new study out of North Carolina State University says solitary activities in which your child is one-on-one with nature, such as fishing or hiking, are keys to building a strong love of nature, as are outdoor social activities, such as playing sports or camping. So head to a local, state or national park, take a drive in the country, and let your child explore and discover new and mysterious plants and animals. Remember, Mom and Dad, it’s a sedentary lifestyle that imperils your child’s health and happiness. (Psst! That’s as true for you as it is for your kids).

Making sure you have a healthy pregnancy if you are overweight

Singer Jessica Simpson acknowledges that she gained 50 pounds when she was pregnant with her daughter Maxwell in 2012. Years later, while going through old photos of her pregnant self, she recalls asking her husband, “Babe, why didn’t you tell me to put the brownie down?” 

So what should you do if you’re pregnant and overweight or obese? We know being overweight increases your risk for gestational diabetes, preeclampsia, sleep apnea, miscarriage and birth defects, but a 2015 metastudy published in PLOS One concluded that if overweight or obese women lose weight while pregnant, it increases the risk of complications and may harm the fetus. Instead, the focus should be on getting top-notch nutrition by eating a plant-based diet that eliminates highly processed foods, red meats and added sugars, and on enjoying daily physical activity. Remember: Consult your doc about nutrition and doing physical activity before making changes to your lifestyle.

Your goal is to gain about 2 to 4 pounds during your first three months of pregnancy and 1 pound a week for the remainder of the pregnancy -- perhaps less if you’re overweight. 

The best plan, however, is to lose weight before you become pregnant. Work with your doctor to determine how much weight you need to lose for maximum health and then how long -- losing 1 pound a week -- you need to achieve that goal. Once you hit that mark and maintain it for a couple of months, then you’re ready to move on to the next great event in your lives!

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