Archive for February, 2011

Three Simple Things Parents Can Do to Help Their Children Lose Weight

More children than ever before are overweight or obese. Overweight children are prone to being teased and ridiculed at school. They’re also susceptible to many more illnesses and health conditions. Helping a child lose weight is one of the best things a parent or adult can do. It helps the child live a longer and hopefully a happier life.

There are many things a parent can do to help a child lose weight. In this article we take a look at three very simple but powerful strategies.

#1 Get rid of the junk

A child, any child, will inevitably choose junk food over a healthy snack. If junk food is in the house, you can bet your child will find it. To help your children lose weight, get rid of the junk food. Get rid of the soda. Throw out the sugary drinks. Toss the cookies, cakes and ice cream. Get rid of the candy. Throw away the sugary cereals,  chips,  and pizza rolls. Throw away the junk foods and don’t buy it any more.

Replace the junk food with healthy snack options. Seriously, if it’s in the house and children are hungry they’ll eat it. Good snack options include cheese, fruit, whole grain crackers and pretzels. Popcorn, low fat and low sodium, is a good snack option too.

Fill your refrigerator with easy to use vegetables and dip. Low-fat dip or hummus works best. Buy your children low-sugar oatmeal and low-sugar cereals and give them fresh fruit to put on it. You’re not going to be able to completely wipe out their sweet tooth. However, they can satisfy it with fruit instead of sugar and white flour.

#2 Get active

Children’s bodies are meant to be active and in constant motion. If your child isn’t involved in any after school or extracurricular sports, sign them up. If they’re not interested in sports, then get outside with them and get active. Ride your bikes together. Go for walks or hikes together. Make sure your child does something active every day. Sign them up for a break dancing or martial arts class. Support them to join a sports league or take lessons in an individual sport like tennis.

The more active your child is, the more calories they’ll burn. It may be difficult at first. Overweight children may experience physical discomfort. Be patient. Help them gradually increase the intensity of their activity. Many children who are overweight are uncomfortable with their bodies. They fear ridicule and would rather stay inside their home. Help them get over any embarrassment they have.

#3 Be a good role model

If your child is not allowed to eat junk, then you’re not either. If your child is supposed to be active, then you need to be too. Children learn by the actions and behavior of the adults around them. Yes, it may be difficult at first. If you’ve been living an unhealthy lifestyle there will be some discomfort. Change isn’t always easy. But it does get easier. Support your child to live a better, healthier life, by living a better and healthier life yourself.

Childhood obesity is at an all-time high. It’s up to parents and the adults to help children overcome weight problems. Teach children about healthy eating when they’re young so they can grow into strong and healthy adults.

Healthy Homemade Treats for Kids – Quick and Easy Baking Strategies to Reduce Calories and Stay Healthier

Kids love to snack. Who doesn’t? Snacking is fun and it feels like a special treat. Snacking also helps keep blood sugar levels even so children have energy all day. However, snacks and treats can also be jam-packed with sugar. Too much sugar wreaks havoc on blood sugar levels. Behavior issues pop up. Children start feeling poorly and their long-term health can be affected.

Too much fat and enriched white flour are also unhealthy options that are prevalent in baked goods. However, they’re options you can change with a few alterations and substitutions. The answer to healthier baked goods may be to make healthy homemade treats at home.

#1 Lower sugar – Muffins and other baked goods can be high in sugar, particularly when you buy them from the bakery or store. However, when you make them at home, you can reduce the sugar or sweeten them with fruit juices, Stevia, or even fruit preserves.  Fruit or some vegetables can be added to muffins and baked goods as well.

#2 Low-fat substitutes – Did you know you can replace the oil in many baking recipes with apple sauce? You can! Additionally, you can use lower-fat products when baking. For example when a recipe calls for whole milk you can substitute low-fat or fat-free milk. If it calls for eggs you can use egg substitute. Take a look at the ingredients in a recipe before you bake and make low-fat substitutions when available. You can even find low-fat chocolate chips.

#3 More whole grains – Children generally seem opposed to whole grains. They prefer the fluffy goodness of enriched white flour. However, you can make small substitutions of whole grain flour to help your children develop a healthier palate. For example, when a recipe calls for two cups of all-purpose flour, use one and a half cups of all-purpose flour and a half cup of whole wheat flour. They?ll hardly notice the difference.

It should be noted that whole wheat, oat and other whole grain flour can taste sweeter or nuttier. Keep that consideration in mind when adding sugar to recipes where you’re making substitutions.

#4 Adding protein – Protein powder is a wonderful thing. A little protein added to a chocolate chip cookie recipe doesn’t change the flavor but it does increase the nutritional value. A child eating a homemade cookie with a little extra protein will digest that cookie more slowly. The sugar will enter their bloodstream more slowly and they won’t experience a sugar rush. Nuts are another easy way to add protein to baked goods.

With a few simple changes, baked goods can be both healthy and delicious. Take a look at the baked treats you make at home. How can you make them better? Can you replace the fat with low-fat options? Can you reduce the sugar? Can you add whole grains? Can you add protein? Simple substitutions can make your homemade baked goodies healthy and nutritious.

Preventing Childhood Obesity – Seven Simple Tips and Strategies

The number of obese children has tripled over the past thirty years. The reasons are twofold: poor diet and an inactive lifestyle. The good news is that childhood obesity can be reversed and prevented. Here are seven simple tips and strategies to help children stay healthy and active.

#1 Limit sugary drinks and snacks. Make them a treat rather than the norm. Aim for one sugary drink or snack each week. Take care to not make sugary snacks a reward. They can be part of a celebration or a special tradition. However, when food becomes a reward it sends the wrong message to a child.

#2 Limit the time a child is allowed to look at or sit in front of a screen. That includes televisions, computers, handheld games and iPods. Electronic devices have become part of society. However, they don’t need to dominate a child’s day. If you don’t want to struggle with arguments, consider getting a device that limits the time your child can watch television.

Move the computer to the center of the home, and keep all electronic devices in a central location. Make children sign their electronics in and out.

#3 Find an activity the child loves. There are so many fun things a child can do that gets their body moving and their blood pumping. Take a look at what’s offered in your community. Explore teams, classes and lessons. Take a look at some ” out of the box” ideas like ice skating, skate boarding, rock climbing, dancing, and Thai kickboxing or jiu jitsu.

#4 Provide your child with a variety of fruit and vegetable options. Ideally your child will eat five fruits and vegetables each day. Support them to try new foods. It may take some time for their taste buds to appreciate some vegetables. Be patient.

#5 Be a good role model. Your child will emulate your behavior. Eat a healthy diet and live an active lifestyle. Honor your body and your health and your child will too.

#6 Eat as a family. When families sit down together for mealtime, children tend to develop a different appreciation for food. Also, get active together. Take family hikes. Play family games outdoors. Go for bike rides together. Play football or go skiing or sledding.

#7 Eat in more often. Restaurant food is generally high in fat, salt and sugar. Eating at home gives you and your family more control over what you put into your body. You know what is in the food you’ve prepared. Eating at home is generally healthier than eating out.

Living a healthy lifestyle isn’t difficult. However, it does take attention and planning. Plan activates for your family. Pay attention to your child’s activity level and screen time. Plan meals and help your child learn to make healthy choices for life.

Easy Five-a-Day Strategies

It’s tough for parents to make sure their children get all the nutrients they need. This is particularly true if you’re the parent of a picky eater. Picky eaters rarely like fruits and vegetables. Here are five tips and ideas to help you get more fruits and veggies into your child’s body.

#1 Smoothies – Children love smoothies and milk shakes. You can add fruits and even vegetables to a child’s smoothie without them knowing they’re drinking their fruits and vegetables. Bananas, berries, carrots and even apples and celery can be added. You can also add leafy greens like spinach but the green color of the smoothie will be a dead giveaway. You may want to introduce leafy greens later when your child is accustomed to smoothies.

#2 Snacks – It’s amazing what happens when you place a tray of vegetables and dip on the table during snack time. When children don’t have to eat their vegetables they’re more likely to enjoy them. A low-pressure snack with celery, carrots, cucumbers and other child-friendly vegetables is a great way to get a few more vegetables into their diet. Good dips to consider include ranch dip and hummus. You can also switch it up with an occasional fruit and cheese tray.

#3 Purees – Okay, it’s sneaky but it works. You can add vegetable purees to just about anything. You can add them to spaghetti, muffins, brownies and even taco meat. Squash makes a great puree but so, too, do vegetables like cauliflower, broccoli, carrots, and even beans.

#4 Serve two vegetables at mealtime – One great way to get more vegetables into your child?s diet is to serve two vegetables at mealtime. Serve a cooked vegetable and a salad, for example. If you’re also being sneaky and placing purees in your food, then your child may be getting three servings of vegetables at dinner time.

#5 Serve salsas, sauces, relishes and dips – Any sauce or dip that’s made from a vegetable helps you get more veggies into your child’s diet. Serve salsas and sauces at mealtime when appropriate. For example, salsa with scrambled eggs or hummus with celery stalks. Even apples and peanut butter can get a serving of fruit into your child.

With a little planning ahead, a bit of sneakiness and a commitment to five a day, you can get more fruits and vegetables into your child’s diet. It’s important to take a relaxed approach to eating. If you force a child to eat veggies, they’re likely to resist. Instead, ask them to try their fruit and veggies.

Children have different taste buds than adults. It may take a few “tastes” for them to learn to like a fruit or vegetable. Of course, don’t reward them with dessert if they don’t eat their vegetables, but forcing it may result in a backlash. Provide your child with plenty of opportunities to eat fruits and vegetables and they will develop healthy eating habits.

Common Childhood Obesity Treatments and Recommendations

If your child or someone you know has been diagnosed as obese, there is good news. Childhood obesity can be reversed. A diagnosis from your doctor will likely result in several treatment options and recommendations. Here’s what you can expect.

Obese Children Under 7 Years

If your child is under seven years old, then your doctor may recommend helping your child maintain their weight. The key will be to help them stay the same weight as they grow in height. In a few years their height and weight will balance out. They will have reached a healthy BMI or body mass index. The reason behind this is that dieting can be difficult if not a bit traumatic for young children who may not understand that their body weight is an issue.

It’s important to know that maintaining weight is still quite challenging for an obese child. Dietary and lifestyle changes will have to be made.

Obese Children Over 7 Years

If your child is over seven years a doctor will recommend a weight loss program. The recommendation will range from losing one pound a week to one pound a month depending on circumstances.

It’s important to note that losing weight does not mean going on a diet. It means changing eating habits and lifestyle. The difference is significant. A diet is a short-term solution. Children often return to their old eating habits and lifestyle afterwards. Dieting as a child sets them up for a life of yo-yo dieting. This is hard on a body and on a person’s self-confidence.

Other Recommendations

There are many common sense strategies to use. Here are some of the lifestyle changes your physician will recommend regardless of the child’s age:

* No more sugary drinks
* Replace sugary and high white flour snacks with fruits, vegetables and protein
* Eat as a family
* Monitor serving size
* Eat home-cooked meals rather than fast food or restaurant meals
* Limit time with electronics to two hours or less each day
* Help your child find activities they enjoy. For example, ice skating/hockey, swimming, dancing, martial arts or team sports. Emphasize fun and activity rather than exercise.

Much of the burden to reverse childhood obesity is placed on the parents. This is because parents buy the food, make the meals, and give permission to turn on the television. As a parent the responsibility rests with you to be a good role model and to help your child learn to make healthy choices. With patience and determination, childhood obesity can be reversed.

Tame that Sweet Tooth

Sugar is a habit that can be tough to break. In fact, many people don’t realize just how much sugar they eat every day. It’s often worse for children who tend to eat things parents are unaware of. That makes it even more important for parents to be vigilant at home. You need to tame your child’s sweet tooth.

Track What They Eat

The first step to taming a child’s sweet tooth is to actually take a look at what they’re eating. You may be surprised to learn how much sugar is in the foods they eat. Cereal, ketchup, bread and of course snacks are all full of sugar. Track what your child eats and read the labels. Make notes of how much sugar they eat and begin to plan how you can make changes.

Tame It Slowly

Sugar is actually something that many people, children included, are addicted to. Our bodies become reliant on the sugar for energy. You experience highs and lows in your blood sugar. When the low sugar levels hit, you crave more sugar. It can be a never-ending cycle. If your child consumes a lot of sugar, they may be addicted. That means if you simply eliminate the sugar, they’re going to experience withdrawal.

Sugar withdrawal can include a number of symptoms. They include insomnia, stomach distress, headaches and fatigue. It can be quite unpleasant. And chances are you’re going to see some very unpleasant behavior changes while your child is going through withdrawal. It’s tough!

Instead of going cold turkey, start making small changes to your child’s diet. Gradually decrease the amount of sugar in their diet. Replacing sugary foods with low-sugar substitutes is much easier. Simple things like replacing jam or jelly with peanut butter or buying bread without added sugar are a great start. Replace juice and soda with water.

Notice the Change

As your child consumes less and less sugar, you’ll notice a difference in their health and behavior. They may even notice a difference. They may feel more energetic. They may feel more in control of their emotions and they may be able to focus for longer periods of time. It’s definitely motivation to continue reducing sugar in their diet.

Children may be resistant to the idea of reducing sugar. You may have to be covert about your sugar reduction plan. Take an inventory of what your children eats on a regular basis and how much sugar they’re consuming. Make a plan to gradually replace sugary foods with healthier ones. Little by little you can tame your child’s sweet tooth and help them toward living a longer and healthier life.

Obesity and Your Child

Childhood obesity is on the rise. In fact, many experts consider it an epidemic. If your child has been diagnosed as obese, it’s not too late. There are a number of things you can do as a parent to help your child turn their life around. In fact, this may be the most powerful lesson you can give your child.

Goal Setting

One of the most difficult aspects of obesity to manage is the fact that it feels like an overwhelming problem. Children have a lot on their minds. They have peer pressure and pressure to perform at school. They’re dealing with hormones, learning about themselves and the pressures of home. It’s a lot to handle. Top it off with a weight problem and it can be too much.

This is a great opportunity to teach your child that they’re in control and how to set goals. The key is to sit down together and create visionary goals supported by achievable goals. Visionary goals are goals that look to the future. They’re the “Where would you like to be in two years, five years, ten years from now?” question.

However, visionary goals are just dreams if they don’t have supporting goals that are achievable. For many children, the supporting goals have to be small. They need to be goals like, “lose five pounds in thirty days.” These supporting goals are essential because they’ll teach your child that they can accomplish anything. They establish a pattern of success. As your child becomes confident in themselves and their ability to achieve success, they’ll set harder goals. It’s a great process to watch.

Once your child has created their goals, your job as a parent is to guide them to create processes to succeed. Ask them how they’re going to lose those five pounds in thirty days. Maybe you can work together to lose it. You can ride bikes together or cook healthy meals together. Children need to learn they can accomplish anything but they need their parents for guidance and support.

Positive Daily Habits

One of the best ways to support your child to turn their obesity around is to embrace positive daily habits. It’s difficult to eliminate a bad habit if you don’t have a positive one to replace it. Focus on one small habit at a time. For example, if your child always has a bowl of ice cream when they get home from school, replace that with a healthy snack and a good conversation.

It usually takes three to four weeks for a new habit to take hold. Be supportive and be present. Once your child has mastered one new positive habit, create another one together. Eventually, your child will be spending their days focused on good habits. All the unhealthy habits will have been replaced.

Find Time for Fun

It’s a sure bet that if overcoming obesity is all work and no fun, your child is likely going to give up. We all need to have fun. That means playing, laughing, and having the occasional food treat. The ultimate goal is to teach healthy habits and moderation. That doesn’t mean your child can never have a bowl of ice cream ever again. Help them learn how to have fun, how to make healthy decisions and how to gain control over their life.

It may take a while to reverse obesity, but the lessons your child learns along the way will be powerful life lessons they’ll have with them always.

How to Talk to Your Child about Healthy Eating without Pressure

It’s tough as a parent to instill healthy eating values in your child. At school and around their friends they’re surrounded by mixed messages. Additionally, children tend to rebel if a message is pushed too heavily. Here’s how to talk to your child about healthy eating.

#1 Look for teachable moments – If you’re constantly drilling your child with why it’s important to eat healthy, they’re going to block you out. However, when you discuss healthy eating during key teachable moments, it can really have an impact.

For example, you’re at the store and another child’s face is covered with sticky goo. The child is misbehaving and having a real meltdown. You can quietly explain to your child that sometimes too much sugar makes a person not feel right. When young children feel like that they usually lose control of their emotions and can behave poorly.

Or if your child doesn’t eat a healthy breakfast and then comes home feeling poorly, you can explain that if they’d eaten better, they’d probably feel better. Then together, you can make a plan to eat a better breakfast the next day.

Children often listen when they have an example or experience to relate the conversation to. Waiting for those teaching moments can have a far greater impact than a lecture about healthy eating.

#2 Show, don’t tell – It’s important to be a good role model. If you preach about the dangers of sugar and then your children see you eat a bag of cookies, you’re not practicing what you preach. Instead, eat healthy yourself and explain to your children why you choose to eat healthy. Make sure it’s about health and not body image or weight. Children get enough pressure to look perfect without it coming from their parents.

#3 Media – There are positive media messages to be experienced. When someone your child respects or trusts is discussing health, share that message with your child. Perhaps a book on taking care of themselves is a good gift, or share appropriate movies with them. The movie “Super Size Me” is a good movie for middle aged children to watch.

Be sure, when talking about healthy eating to your children, that you leave room for fun. Children understand the benefits of fruits, vegetables and whole grain. They also know they like cookies, candy and snacks. Help guide them to make smart decisions by allowing the occasional treat. They’re more likely to grow into healthy adults if they’re allowed to enjoy food and appreciate its many benefits.

How to Create a Positive Self-Image In Children

With all the media messages surrounding our children, it’s amazing that they grow up to be healthy. And children today are exposed to more media messages than ever before. They watch more television, see more music videos and advertisements and they play more video and computer games. It’s tough to develop a positive self-image when you’re constantly looking at perfection. It’s the job of parents to help their children feel good about themselves. Here are a few tips to help you navigate these often difficult waters.

#1 Be a good role model. There’s nothing harder on a child than hearing a parent berate themselves for the way they look. It’s important that parents at least put up a good front and demonstrate a positive self-image. Children learn by example. If you love your body and are content with the way you look, your child will be more likely to follow your example. They know they come from you and if you’re happy with your appearance, then they should be too.

#2 Show them reality. More and more models are standing up and saying, “We’re airbrushed.” They’re providing real life photos and allowing comparison to the magazine photos. This is a great teaching moment. Young children, girls and boys, look up to their role models. Help your children understand that what they see on television isn’t reality. It’s great lighting, professional make-up and clothing, plastic surgery, and little photography tricks called filters and airbrushing or editing.

Boys are just as much at risk as girls. Boys often worship or look up to professional athletes. It’s important to explain to boys that in addition to the magazine photos being emphasized, painted and airbrushed, many athletes take unnatural measures to achieve their physical results. These unnatural measures, like steroids or working out eight hours a day, are not normal or healthy.

#3 Help your child find what’s beautiful about them. We all likely have something we’d like to change. Maybe it’s our nose, our hair or our height. However, we also all have things we like about ourselves. Help your child find what they like about themselves. Maybe they like their eyes, or their smile, or their beautiful red hair. Help them focus on the positive things about themselves and to forget about the rest. Everyone is perfect just as they are.

When children can realize that they’re perfect exactly the way they are, they’ll grow up to be strong and confident adults. They’ll be able to manage the occasional bumps and bruises to their ego because they know that deep down, they’re beautiful.