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Families rarely eat dinner together. The amount of time they actually spend around the dinner table has decreased in the last decade. The average family dinner is about 8 minutes which leaves little time for conversation, let alone eating. Instead of rushing out the door to the next activity or allowing the kids to leave early to get homework done, try picking at least one night per week to have a longer two or three course meal for dinner. 

Experts say that staging the meal like when you're out to eat can help increase the amount of time you're spending at the table. This allows for more conversations and potential time for bellies to feel full.  

Get your kids involved in the dinner prep and post processes as well. Having kids take ownership even at younger ages can help get them agreeable to staying longer at the table and being part of the fun. Older teens may feel they don't have the "time" to help out due to homework, sports and socializing, but if you give them ownership of the meal, they may feel obligated to participate or maybe inspired.

Research from Cornell University found that children who engaged in family dinners are 35 percent less likely to engage in an eating disorder, 24 percent more likely to eat healthier foods and 12 percent less likely to be overweight. This will help manage the family health and reduce stress as well. 

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Photo Credit: Funny or Die

Michelle Obama has been actively campaigning to promote healthy lifestyles since becoming the First Lady, but it seems President Obama's wife has taken to more creative measures to get the message out there. The mother of two recently slow danced with Sesame Street's Big Bird in a grocery store because comedian Bill Eichner told her to do it - but it was all for a good cause, of course.

While the video, which involves The First lady playing a quick-fire style game called 'Arianna Grande or Carrot', is fun to watch, there is in important message behind the festivities. Obama is promoting The Eat Brighter campaign which shows the Sesame Street characters being encouraged to eat healthy fruits and vegetables, to encourage young children to make the same healthy choices.

In the video, comedian Bill Eichner quizzes Michelle Obama on what goes on when she and President Barack Obama finally get to rest after a busy day at work. Do they watch DVRed episodes of Hot in Cleveland?

"A lot of Sports Center going on in our house," she told him in the video. "If I want to talk to him, I've got to know a little bit about football, basketball or whatever it is."

However, Eichner was keen to ensure the important message made it across in the video, going on to say, "We are here for a very important reason. As we all know, other than texting funny GIFs, one of the first lady's priorities has been to raise awareness of healthy eating and exercise for young kids and parents alike," Bill explained. The Eat Brighter campaign sees the fresh produce industry and Sesame Street team joining forces to help encourage families to incorporate more fruits and vegetables into their daily diets. "We're bribing kids to eat fruit!" Eichner yelled.

According to The Eat Bright campaign, nearly one in three children in America are overweight or obese with childhood obesity ranking as the number one health concern among parents in the United States, topping drug abuse and smoking.

Watch Michelle Obama and Big Bird slow dance and talk about the Eat Bright campaign in the video below.

 

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With the recent outbreak of measles, experts are trying to instill the importance of vaccinations, arguing that vaccines should be as nonnegotiable as seat belts. 

"We have seat belt laws,” says Patsy Stinchfield, director of Pediatric Infectious Disease Services at Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota. "We would never think to just lay that newborn baby down in the front seat and say, ‘I don’t really believe in car seats,’ or ’I don’t really want to buckle my child up.' ...We should have the same kind of vigor when it comes to protecting children from vaccine-preventable diseases.’”

Besides the experts, we’ve been seeing plenty of public figures, from comedians to columnists to President Barack Obama, calling on parents to vaccinate their kids. Additionally, a recent poll done by Pew Research indicates that while a majority of Americans are in favor of mandatory childhood vaccines, 30 percent say it should be left to the parents to decide.

Experts say it’s difficult to put a mandatory status or implement policies that affect a person’s freedom of choice. 

Arthur Caplan, a medical ethicist at NYU Medical Center, says in the past, it's taken two instances to inspire a national change when it comes to public health: either a serious outbreak of disease or a national tragedy.

"You usually have to have an epidemic or a disaster or some demonstration of harm before you take away individual choice," said Caplan. "That cultural stance is not unique to vaccines. Freedom has come before public health, every single time.”

In 2014, there were 644 cases of measles, the highest since 1994. Now, in January alone, there have been 102 reported cases of measles in 14 states.

Do you think vaccines are a personal choice or should be mandatory and required by law to get? Share your thoughts with us on Twitter and Facebook

 

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Photo Credit: Cooking Light 

Among many things, Michelle Obama is famed for her passion for a healthy lifestyle. And it seems the first lady has turned her attention to food; in particular, eliminating processed foods from her family’s diet.

In an interview with Cooking Light magazine, Mrs Obama says she’s been on a nearly decade-long mission to banish processed foods from the White House.

The prompt to rid the family of processed meals came from the family’s chef Sam Kass, who reportedly took a stand against ingredients such as processed powdered cheeses, typically found in boxed mac and cheese. While Kass isn’t against the creamy pasta dish per se, he did tell the magazine: "There's nothing wrong with mac and cheese, but it's got to be real food."

Obama took an usual approach in convincing the children that they should re-think their diets. Rather than simply telling the children to cut out certain foods, she gave daughter Malia, who was 8 years old at the time, a block of cheese and challenged her to turn the fresh block of cheese into powder.

"She sat there for 30 minutes trying to pulverize a block of cheese into dust," Mrs. Obama says. "She was really focused on it and it just didn't work, so she had to give up. And from then on, we stopped eating macaroni and cheese out of a box because cheese dust is not food, as was the moral of the story."

The family went on to eliminate all traces of processed foods from their diet. It wasn’t just the boxed mac and cheese that was no longer on the Obama’s shopping list - "All those packaged lunches and all of the canned juices (went too)" she said.

Michelle went onto explain that the family now prefers to opt for freshly-squeezed juices and aims to drink more water each day.

This isn’t the first time that Michelle Obama has vocalised her thoughts on the importance of good diet and exercise. In addition to her recent Let's Move campaign, Obama was also responsible for the creation of a vegetable garden at the White House

 

measles-outbreak-in-california-continues-to-soarHealth officials say that the measles outbreak in California is soaring. In just nine days, the number of people infected has gone from 59 cases to 91. The total is small but in just one week, the case numbers increased by 54 percent. 

Most of the cases are linked to an outbreak at Disneyland in December. Health officials said 40 of the cases were employees or park patrons, and 18 of the cases were secondary infections.

The new cases include two in Marin County, near San Francisco where a parent of a 6-year-old has asked school officials to bar any children who have not been vaccinated for measles, mumps and rubella (MMR).

"Fortunately, there is no need to exclude any students from a Marin County school at this time as there is no evidence for school-based exposure," the county public health office said in a statement.

The two measles patients are siblings and both are not vaccinated. They are not going to school and are not in the county. The health department has reported that 63 percent of the people with measles are over 20 years old.

What is Measles and How to Stay Healthy 

Measles is a highly communicable respiratory disease caused by a virus and spread through the air. The disease starts with a fever, runny nose, cough, red eyes and sore throat. The CDC recommends that children get two doses of the vaccine beginning at 12 months, and a second dose between 4 and 6 years old. 

Measles was declared eliminated in the United States in 2000, but continues to be brought in by international travelers. Measles is highly contagious, so not only is it important to get vaccinated, it's also important to isolate yourself from someone who is sick.
 

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