Sunday, March 29, 2015

Small Changes for a Healthier Child

Last week we talked about small changes you could make for a healthier you.  I had gathered some ideas from Jo-Ann Heslin, a registered dietitian.   I have adapted some of her suggestions for small changes families with children can make to be healthier. What are some small changes you as a parent can make for a healthier child?    
  1.  Eat together – in today’s go, go lifestyle so many families no longer eat together.  At least a few times a week plan a family, sit-down meal together.  Cornell University recommends eating together as a family at least 3 times a week.  Family meals means a focus on the family, so turn off the TV, the cell phones and focus on the kids.  According to Cornell University, (Do Famiy Meals Really Make a Difference?), family meals have huge health benefits:
          a.       Children are 24% more likely to eat healthier
          b.      Children are 12% less likely to be overweight
          c.       Children do better academically
          d.      Children have more positive family interactions   
   2.   5 A Day – many children aren’t getting five servings of real fruits and vegetables a day.  Sunny D and boxes of sugared drinks like Capri Sun juice drinks aren’t 100% juice and don’t count towards the 5 a day.  At meals, especially lunch and dinner, aim for 2 fruits and vegetables.  Make snacks of fruits or vegetables easy by having a fruit bowl on the counter, cut up vegetables ready to eat with  some Ranch dressing.    
   3.   Model Good Eating – a child that sees his mom or dad drinking milk with meals is more likely to drink milk with meals.  Kids like to copy you so are you modeling good eating habits?         
    4.  Breakfast every day – so many parents seem to forget kids need breakfast every day.  Not a Pop-Tart, Sunny D breakfast, but one of real food.  There are so many whole grain cereals to choose from, whole grain toast with peanut butter, milk, juice.  Breakfast also has many health benefits:
         a.       Better academic performance in school
         b.      More energy to start the day off right
         c.       Improved concentration
         d.      More strength and endurance
The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics has great ideas on Easy Breakfasts for Kids to Make:   
  • Cheese slices on whole wheat toast, 100% juice
  • Whole grain Cereals, milk, banana slices
  • Peanut butter on whole grain toast, waffle, or rolled inside a wheat tortilla, tangerine
  • Fruit – bananas, strawberries, raisins – instant oatmeal and milk
  • Cold pizza 
  • Apple and cheese slices on graham crackers or whole wheat crackers
  • Yogurt, fruit    
 5.  Sit Less, Move More  In the book, The Healthiest Kid in the Neighborhood, Dr. Sears has an excellent recommendation:  Time Sitting = Time Moving” .  He suggests kids earn their TV, video, screen time.  30 minutes of exercise earns 30 minutes of screen time.   Many studies have found that many Americans don’t necessarily eat too much but they move too little. 

So, what small changes can you make in your family to eat healthier?  Small changes can add up to a healthier you and healthier kids.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Small Changes for a Healthier You

   So many people think they have to make huge changes in their diet and lifestyle to be healthier.   Others think they have to give up all the “good” food they eat to be healthier or they have to join a gym to get exercise.  But small changes can lead to big benefits to your health.  Jo-Ann Heslin is a registered dietitian who focuses on making small changes to a better you.  I have used some of her suggestions and added my own.  So what SMALL CHANGES can you make for a healthier you? 
  1.   Sit Less, Move More    Many studies have found that many Americans don’t necessarily eat too much but they move too little.
  •  Less TV and more movement –  if you are watching TV, get up during every commercial and move around your home.   Cut back on how much TV you watch
  •  Walk more – going to the gym is great but a walk around your neighborhood is also healthy.  Start with 15 minutes and work up to a 30 minute walk each day.   
  •   Heslin notes that  21 minutes of walking equates to 2100 steps and can burn 150 calories.   
2.         Eat a handful of nuts each day.   We always have nuts in our pantry – mixed nuts, walnuts, peanuts.   Walnuts are especially good as they are anti-inflammatory and provide the good fat, omega-3’s which are a heart healthy fat.   Just an ounce a day can reduce your risk of cancer, heart disease and type 2 diabetes. 
3.       Eat a Rainbow of Fruits and Veggies Each Day – the rule is 5 A DAY, but more than 5 servings of fruits and veggies reaps even more health benefits.  Fruits and vegetables are not only loaded with vitamins, minerals and fiber but also antioxidants.  Different colors of fruits and vegetables have different antioxidants so varying the color and having a rainbow of  colors every day is good for your health.  (Read more about the health benefits of 5 A Day at:  5 A Day)  
4.       Whole Grains Every Day – So many American diets have little to no whole grains.   Skip the white bread, the white hamburger buns, and choose whole grain breads and cereals.  (Read more about whole grains at:  Are You Eating Whole Grains?)  
5.       Eat Potassium Rich foods – there is so much focus on cutting back on sodium and that is a good thing.  However, we should also focus on eating more foods rich in potassium.  While sodium is linked to raising our blood pressure, potassium helps lower blood pressure.  Potassium rich foods include:  potatoes, oranges, tomatoes, bananas, milk, yogurt, avocados and dark green leafy vegetables like spinach.  
6.        More fish – fish is brain food and helps your memory and your reasoning skills.  Fish is also rich in omega-3’s the heart healthy fat.  Add some fish, baked or broiled, to your diet at least once a week.
So, what small changes can you make in your diet and lifestyle this week?  Small changes can add up to a healthier you.
Sources:  Live Better  Image Source:  Healthy Eating

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Take the Sugar Challenge

A lot of experts are talking about the health hazards of eating too much added sugar.  And Americans love their sugar.  Who doesn’t love sweets and desserts?  However, added sugar is now in more and more processed foods and it is getting harder and harder to avoid added sugar.  A recent newsletter from Kaiser Permanente challenges their customers to take the 2 week Sugar Challenge.  Why?
  1. Most Americans eat a lot of added sugar every day, about 26.5 teaspoons for ladies and 33.75 teaspoons for guys.  That is a lot of sugar.
  2. How much added sugar is recommended?   The American Heart Association recommends we limit our added sugars to: 
  • Women   6 teaspoons a day
  • Men   9 teaspoons a day
Cut out added sugar and artificial sweeteners from your diet for two weeks.   Why?  Believe it or not, this will actually help you reset your desire for sugary sweets.  Foods will taste sweeter and you will have less of a craving for sweets.  The Kaiser 2 week sugar challenge: 
  1. Don’t add sugar or artificial sweeteners to your food or drink.
  2. Avoid teas, sodas, fruit drinks, sports drinks, energy drinks with added sugar or those that are artificially sweetened.  (Replace with mineral water, unsweetened teas, or add lemon, mint to ice water.) 
  3.  Cut out added sugar foods such as cookies, cake, candy, yogurt, soy or almond milk, breakfast cereals (with added sugar), specialty coffees (avoid those syrups). 
  4. Read food labels – aim for those foods with 5 grams or less of added sugar.
It is OK to continue to eat yogurt without added sugar, cereals such as oatmeal without added sugar, fresh fruit, milk.
Sugar = sucrose (white table sugar), honey, high fructose corn syrup, corn syrup, maple syrup, molasses, agave, evaporated can juice, coconut palm sugar, dextrose, barley malt, cane sugar, grape sugar, turbinado sugar, raw sugar, powdered sugar, brown sugar, brown rice syrup, date sugar.  

Even if you can’t give up all added sugars, can you cut back?  Can breakfast or lunch be added sugar free?  Take the sugar challenge and note how much sugar is being added to the foods you eat each day.
Sources:  Hooked on Sweets:  Take the sugar and artificial sweetener challenge,   Image source: 

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Organic Foods – why so expensive?

Ever try to go “organic” and buy some organic fruit, vegetables or milk?  Then you look at the price and say, “Oh, my” and wonder why organic costs so much more?  So what gives, why do you have to pay more for the healthier organic option? 
  • Chemicals, pesticides – one reason people buy organic foods is that they aren’t sprayed with all the pesticides and chemicals.  And organic farmers do raise their produce and products without the use of pesticides that are harmful to your health and harmful to the environment.  But this means farmers can lose more of their crop to insects, fungus and other plant diseases.  Also, without the chemical preservatives some foods won’t last as long on the shelf.   
  •  Hormones – many farmers use growth hormones or enhancers to make the animals grow faster and can go to market sooner.   Organic farmers don’t use these hormones but then spend the extra money as the animals like chickens take longer to reach maturity.        
  • Weeds – yes weeds make organic food more costly.  Rather than use chemicals to control weeds, organic farmers rotate their crops to maintain a healthy soil and to prevent weed growth.  Organic farmers also weed by hand, the old fashioned way, but more costly way to rid their fields of weeds.
  • Fertilizer – plants thrive on good soil.  Organic farmers don’t rely on chemical fertilizers but organic fertilizers which can cost more than the chemical variety. 
  • USDA Certification – to label their product “organic”, with the USDA Organic Seal, the farmer needs to meet strict standards.   To use this seal the farmer needs to ensure no antibiotics or pesticides were used.   USDA – accredited certifying agents verify the standards have been met. 
How do you know if a food is “organic”?
  • 100%  Organic - The USDA Organic Seal means the product is certified organic, and all agricultural ingredients are certified organic.  Product will use the USDA Organic Seal or state it is 100% organic.
  • “Made with Organic”:  at least 70% of the product is certified organic.  Product will not have the USDA organic seal on the package.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Healthy Kids Snacks

Who doesn’t love to snack?  Many people think snacks are bad for your health but they don’t have to be.  And for kids snacks are needed as they have small stomachs and really need to fortify themselves between meals.  A website called Zesterdaily has some good ideas for kids’ snack that are not only healthy but ones they can help make.  
      1.   GORP doesn’t sound appetizing but what kid wouldn’t want to make some GORP?  It seems to stand for “Good Old Raisins and Peanuts”.   Or you can say it is kids’ trail mix.   Easy to make and easy to take along on a car trip or hiking.
      a.       Basic recipe:
            ·   ½ cups roasted, lightly salted peanuts or whole almonds (or nuts you like best)
             ·   ½ cup raisins
             ·   ¼ cup dried cranberries or chopped dried apricots (or dried fruit your kid likes best)
              ·   ¼ cup Corn Chex, Rice Chex, Wheat Chex
              ·   ¼ cup toast green pumpkin seeds (also called pepitas)
2.  Hummus and veggies  
            a.       Hummus + cut up carrots (carrot chips work great), celery, zucchini, cucumbers
      3.   Make your own Parfait – a fancy parfait glass makes it extra special.  A great after school snack.
                a.       Layer yogurt, fruit (their favorite), granola    
       4.  Granola bars – a do it yourself granola bar.  Great to pack in a lunch, take to after school sports practice, pack for a picnic.  Kids will love to help mash the mixture into the pan.  Good idea to cover the mixture with wax paper and then let them mash it flat.  Let your kids help choose the ingredients they prefer.  Allergic to nuts?  Then choose sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds, or sunflower seeds.
       ·         ½ cup lightly roasted nuts (almonds, walnuts, pecans or a combination).  To toast, put
            on baking sheet, in a 350 degree oven for about 5 minutes. 
      ·         ¾ cup dried fruit – one or a combination of raisins, currants, dried cranberries, chopped
                  dates,  prunes, dried apricots, or/or dried peaches)
       ·         ¾ cup quick-cooking oats
      ·         ¾  cup crispy rice cereal
      ·         2 T.  unsweetened coconut (optional)
      ·         ½ cup almond or peanut butter
      ·         ¼ cup honey
      ·         ½ tsp vanilla extract
      ·         See the mixing directions at:  Granola - Energy Bars
       5.    Fruit Kabobs what  fun way to get kids to enjoy fruit.  Let them choose the fruit they want to put on their kabob stick, and then let them help prepare the fruit.  They can peel and slice the bananas, wash the grapes, wash and cut up strawberry halves, cut up peaches, apple slices and other fruit. 

Kids that help prepare a snack will be more likely to eat the snack.