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Kids Are What They Eat

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Parents need to set nutritional parameters

by reviewing school menus with their children

and helping them to make healthy choices.

 

Kids are What They Eat
Teaching children to eat well is essential to instilling good dietary habits that will last throughout their lives.

With obesity and diabetes in children at an all-time high, the debate over school lunch is as hot as ever. Some experts say that it’s not always the lunch on the menu that causes poor eating, but the a la carte offerings.

“It is not healthy for a child to choose a pretzel or a slice of pizza every day if they’re buying lunch at school, and that’s often what happens,” said Mary Gavin, M.D., medical expert for KidsHealth.org and a pediatrician at the Weight Management Clinic at the Alfred I. duPont Hospital for Children. “Parents have to make sure their kids follow the rules: If they’re going to buy the school lunch, then buy the school lunch. It’s not a good idea for a child to have pizza for lunch five days in a row.”

Schools have to meet federal dietary guidelines to receive federal funding for meal programs. No meal can consist of more than 30 percent fats. Still, that’s a lot. It’s important for parents to set nutritional parameters now, so they need to review the school’s menu with their children.

“Some days’ menu offerings are better than others,” Gavin says. “If the child is going to buy hot lunch, then stick with that plan and steer them away from pizza and hot dogs.”

Parents need to understand why their children don’t make healthy choices. Peer pressure is one, Gavin says. Elementary students are concerned with what looks cool, and image-conscious middle-school students are more concerned about not being made fun of.

Second graders, for instance, think pre-packaged Lunchables and fruit gummies are coolest of cool. So Gavin suggests making an outing to the grocery store with young children to pick items for their own “lunchables,” such as whole wheat burritos and low-fat turkey for turkey wraps, and string cheese, and get a compartmentalized lunch box to pack it all in.

“Good nutrition takes careful planning,” Gavin says. That may mean cutting up the week’s fruits and vegetables the weekend before, or making trail mixes of nuts and dried fruits in individual bags. And pack those lunches the night before school. “Parents should teach their children at a young age how to choose the appropriate foods for a healthy, balanced diet. Good nutrition needs to be a part of a family’s regular conversations as the children grow up.”

 

 

Making Change
Making a contribution to a charity at  year’s end makes a positive impact on the beneficiary while creating real practical value for the donor at tax time. And it’s easier than ever to do.

Gifts of stocks and bonds make wonderful gifts to charitable organizations, and the cost to you is tax deductible. Always check with your intended beneficiary to determine if it has a brokerage account to handle gifts of stock and bond transfers.

Life insurance policies are also nice gifts. To deduct a premium as a charitable contribution, contribute that sum to the charity with the stipulation that it is to be used for insurance. The charity will then pay the premium and become beneficiary of the policy. (You can retain ownership of the policy for the charity, but you will have to pay the premiums directly to the insurance company.)

Cleaning house? If you intend to donate your old clothing and household items to an organization such as Goodwill or the Salvation Army, make sure they’re clean and in good condition: The IRS can deny deductions for items of minimal value.

There are, of course, exceptions. “A deduction may be claimed for an item that is not in good used condition if the deduction claimed is more than $500 and the donor includes a qualified appraisal with the tax return,” says Wendy Hassiepen, CPA, president of the Cornerstone Group, LLC, in Newark.

If you’re over 70½ years old, the Pension Protection Act of 2006 allows you to make a charitable contribution of no more than $100,000 directly from your individual retirement account to qualified organizations until December 31. 

Beware: Those qualified charitable distributions must be made directly from your IRA. Funds that are withdrawn separately, even when donated to a nonprofit, are included in the donor’s gross income, thus subject to taxing.

“Charitable deductions are not allowed because it would be a double benefit,” says Hassiepen. “But the gift amounts will also not be included in a donor’s gross income, so it is a win-win situation for everyone, the donor and the charity.”

Whenever giving to charity, it is easier for a charity to process a check, though many are equipped to handle gifts charged to credit cards.

In all cases, charities must provide reliable written records of contributions in order for donors to claim them as tax deductions.

 

 
These books might help to make your holidays more
meaningful and less stressful.

Holidays the Way They Were Meant to Be
Overwhelmed by how commercial and indulgent the holidays have become? Would you rather spend holiday time with friends and family, drinking a good cup of coffee or glass of wine, and making a difference in a way that’s more meaningful than simply giving extravagant presents?

The holidays should be sacred. They should be full of joy, low on stress. So before you start working through your gift list, consider reading two books: “Simplify Your Christmas,” by Elaine St. James, and “Hundred Dollar Holiday,” by Bill McKibben. 

The former has many helpful, thoughtful suggestions for keeping the holidays simple and meaningful—and for cutting down on the stress they bring. The latter is a beautifully crafted essay on how to cultivate more joy in the holidays by spending less money.

The following are some wonderful suggestions from “Simplify Your Christmas” that you can start now, then practice throughout the year:

• Choose a piece of earth and take care of it by cleaning it up regularly. Clean a roadway, a parking lot.

• Use recycled goods for cards and wrapping paper.

• Don’t use your car for a week.

• Make a contribution to charities that improve the earth, benefit children and education, and help the poor.

• Observe a night of silence.

• Return Christmas to its humble beginnings.

• Rethink the Christmas card tradition. If you send Christmas cards, maybe cut down on the list. It saves paper, postage and time.

• Cut back on the number of gifts you give your children.

• Teach your children to give.

The holidays are all about love and time, and you can’t put a price tag on those.

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