Archive for the ‘Healthy Kids’ Category

What Are Your Children Eating?

There are alarming statistics concerning the number of overweight kids. The fast food industry and TV food ads tend to get blamed for the over-sizing of America.

English: Child eating a veggie burger at a fas...

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According to a group of physicians, voluntary guidelines for reducing ads on TV have not been effective. They say it’s time to get tougher with the food industry about not advertising junk food to young children. The assumption here is that young children often can’t tell the difference between ads and programming. If fast food ads were banned, they say, this could decrease obesity and overweight by 17 percent.

Looking at the bigger picture though, we can see it is not only the food industry’s problem. It is one for all families. Studies show that one in five children (ages 2 to 5) is overweight or obese before entering kindergarten. These children aren’t even in school yet. It appears the school lunch program is not the problem at this early age.

That places much of the responsibility of providing healthy foods on parents and caregivers. It is  their job to decide what foods are served, when they are served, and where they are served. They are the ones in charge. For families with small children, they determine what their children eat. Therefore, they need to know what foods children need and in what portion.

With all the media talk and nutrition information available, it would appear that everyone should know what to eat to stay healthy and maintain weight. But people are still confused about what constitutes valid information, or they choose to ignore it.

Children need to be exposed to fresh, less-processed foods at an early age. Their appetite and palate should adapt to healthy real foods before they are exposed to hamburger, chicken nuggets, soda pop, sweets, and other empty calorie foods. Children need to be educated in knowing and believing real food is the natural way to eat, rather than highly processed packaged foods.

Here are suggestions for promoting good food habits in and out of the home:

  • Don’t use food as a reward or punishment. Proper food and nutrition is much too important to be a bargaining tool in the lives of children.
  • Plan meals that are rich in plant-based foods such as fruits and vegetables.
  • Clear the kitchen of sugars, processed foods, soda pop and any energy drinks. Water, the best choice of beverages, can be flavored with lemon or other fruits and/or juices.
  • Take children grocery shopping and talk about healthy and less-than-healthy foods.
  • Try to buy organically grown fruits and vegetables when possible.
  • Look for the words “Whole Grain” as the first ingredient on breads and pastas.
  • Cook with your children. Show them cooking is a part of normal life, is fun and creative, and does not need to be a burden. Involve them in cooking with real food and help them know where their food comes from.
  • Sit down together as a family to eat.
  • Be a good role model and eat healthy. Yes, that means eating your fruit and veggies at every meal.

Healthy kids don’t just happen. Parents have the responsibility of setting the stage for good food habits and helping their children understand the importance of healthy food for healthy bodies.

Go to the top of this page and get your Free Cooking Report or click here.

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Get the Sugar Habit Under Control

After all the Christmas goodies, it is hard to get back into a schedule of healthy eating. Our bodies may be so attuned to eating foods with a high sugar content that the craving for sugar continues.

Just as with any other addiction, sugar craving needs to be controlled. This includes cutting out artificially sweetened foods as well. Getting the sugar habit under control is especially important for children for health reasons as well as weight control.

How can we help get the sugar habit under control?

  • First of all, those desserts and holiday candies need to be out of the house by now. As the expression goes, “Out of sight, out of mind.” Stock your cabinets and refrigerator with fruits and vegetables instead of chips, cookies, and candies. Yes, fruits are a source of sugar but they also provide vitamins necessary for good health.
  • Start your kids off with a good breakfast. This doesn’t  mean a bagel or bran muffin, but foods more nutritious such as a vegetable omelet, some oatmeal with chopped almonds, and fresh fruit.
  • If you are the chief meal planner and one who prepares the meals, eliminate sugars and any sugar derivatives (honey, molasses, corn syrup, high fructose syrup and the like) from the menu. Plan  meals in advance, shop intentionally, based on what you need, and prepare the meals at a set time.
  • Pack the meals with plant-based foods from the vegetable group, the fruit group, small amount of grains, beans and legumes, and high-quality protein sources from animal or plant protein sources such as seafood, poultry and lean meats.
  • Set a good example by not eating foods with sugar. This means eliminating any “diet” soft drinks and other processed, sugary foods as well.
  • Take your kids shopping and ask them to help you make dinner or prepare their school lunch. Praise them for their good choices.
  • Have pitchers of water handy so your kids can drink this anytime. Kids should drink water rather than any soda or other sweetened drink.
  • One of the biggest helps is for parents to teach kids the value of staying active and exercising. When they are playing baseball, hiking or biking they are not as apt to want a piece of cake. Then, have some healthy snacks when they are through, such as nuts or peanut butter sandwiches on whole wheat bread, carrot sticks, etc.
  • Your child may be tempted to eat sweets, just as you, perhaps, are tempted. Try to get past the temptation by focusing on another activity. Perhaps on some hobby you have, or a pleasant experience you had.

Some like to use visualization when this happens. They imagine and visualize how much healthier they will be without the sugar, or they will see a firm, slender body if they don’t indulge. Sometimes it helps to just tell our body what we need and what we don’t need.

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Food Facts Essential for Safety


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Have the summer doldrums got you down? Is it you or is it the food you are eating (or not eating)?  Here is a “must” article to read to stay healthy. Take a couple minutes and take a look:

To your health,

Lee Jackson, CFCS
Food and Nutrition Consultant

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Can you Eat Healthy When Eating Out?

Good eating habits are often forgotten when eating out. Even parents sometimes forget they are setting examples for their children by what they order in restaurants. Here are some tips to help parents and children keep healthy eating in mind when eating out.

–  Bread or rolls are often brought first to the table. Ask for whole wheat breads, if possible. When you add the butter and/or oil, you increase the fat and calorie intake. Eat in moderation.

–  When you choose a soup, remember that cream- based soups are higher in fat and calories than other soups.  A soup can be a great appetizer, as most are low in calories and you have a feeling of being full quickly.

–  If you’re looking to eat less, order two appetizers or an appetizer and a salad as your meal.

–  As key ingredients to your meal, choose dishes with fruits and vegetables.  Both fruits and vegetables are great sources of dietary fiber as well as many vitamins and minerals.

–  Order salad dressings or sauces on the side.  This way you have control over how much you add to your food.

– Ask to have fish and chicken grilled rather than fried. Request that food be grilled without butter or oil, or prepared with very little.

–  Always look for food on the menu that’s baked, grilled, broiled, poached, or steamed.  These cooking methods use less fat in the cooking process and are usually much lower in calories.

–  If you get a choice of side dishes, get a baked potato or steamed vegetables instead of French fries.

–  When ordering a baked potato, ask for salsa instead of sour cream, butter, cheese, or even bacon.  Salsa is very low in calories and provides a healthy alternative with plenty of flavor and spice.

–  Choose foods made with whole grains. In addition to whole wheat bread, look for dishes made with brown rice and whole wheat pasta.

–  When you order pasta dishes, order tomato-based sauces instead of the cream-based sauces. Tomato-based sauces are much lower in fat and calories and you can count this as a vegetable!

–  If you crave dessert, look for something with low fat, such as berries or fruit.

–  If you order dessert, share with a friend. Half of the dessert will equal half of the calories.

–  Drink water or tea instead of soda or other sweetened beverages. Sodas are loaded with sugars and not healthy for young or old. Avoid artificially sweetened drinks as well.

–  When you are full, stop eating.  Listen to your body and what it tells you.

–  When you are full, take home what you have left. This part of your meal can serve as a second meal, or part of a meal, later.  You will get almost two meals for the price of one.

– Always remember not to deprive yourself of the foods you truly love.  All types of foods can fit into a well balanced diet.

Eating healthy while eating out can be challenging, but it can be done and enjoyed. You will thank yourself later.

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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.

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.

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.