Archive for October, 2011

3 Tips for Healthy Meals: School Breakfast

Monday, October 17th, 2011

Do your kids eat breakfast before school? Maybe sometimes they grab something on the way out the door. Or maybe they eat breakfast at school. With bus schedules and work commutes and everything in between, sometimes “healthy” gets overlooked and “convenient” wins the race. The fact is, kids’ brains and bodies need breakfast to “break” the overnight “fast.”

Whether breakfast comes from home, or at school, kids need to be well-nourished so they can perform well everywhere they live, learn, and play. So here are 3 tips for healthy school-year breakfasts – at school and at home.

1) GO Power! Eating breakfast helps wake you up and gives energy to keep you going!

Drink a small glass of orange juice at home. Take along whole grain cereal squares in a baggie and a low fat yogurt container with a spoon to eat as you go.

2) BRAIN Power! Eating breakfast wakes up your brain to make school easier!

Try a whole grain bagel half spread with peanut butter and a banana.

3) HEALTH Power! Breakfast eaters have better intake of nutrients – to stay well and feel great!

Try low fat string cheese, whole grain crackers and an apple.

For more ideas like these, see Quick & Easy Breakfast Ideas

Tips for Parents Looking to Encourage Their Kids to Be More Physically Active

Wednesday, October 12th, 2011

kids-jumpingPersonal health: we talk about how important it is, we praise its benefits, we even toast to it. These days, however, health tends to fall by the wayside more often than not. Sometimes, that might just be due to a full schedule. Where can you fit in a workout when you work overtime on a regular basis? Other times, health is just ignored out of pure negligence.

Kids don’t have much of an excuse either way, but they seem to be suffering even worse than adults. Childhood obesity is a rampant issue. About one third of the children in the nation are overweight. Obesity puts kids at risk for numerous medical problems, including asthma, high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, and even cancer, not to mention low self-esteem and low self-confidence.

As a parent, your job is to keep kids from reaching that point and ensuring that they stay healthy and physically active. I know, this isn’t an easy task, so here are some tips to encourage kids to lead an active lifestyle and help them prioritize health.

Keep It Simple

Many kids spend their time after school playing video games, watching TV, or sitting in front of their computers, which isn’t entirely wrong. Kids, like adults, need to unwind. However, children need about an hour of physical activity each day to stay healthy.

Remember that simplicity is often the best avenue. Not every kid needs to be a superstar or Olympic-level athlete, and not every child will necessarily enjoy organized team sports. Whether it’s jogging, biking, shooting some hoops, or just playing outside with friends, there’s something for everyone.

Breaking It Up Into Parts

With school, homework, and extracurricular activities, kids’ schedules can often fill up quickly, so 60 consecutive minutes of exercise is not always easy or plausible.

To simplify things, make sure your kids are accumulating 60 minutes over the course of the entire day. Walking 10 minutes in the morning, riding a bike around town for 20 minutes after school, and then ending the day with a half hour of basketball or tag after dinner.

Breaking things up into smaller increments ensures that your kids get enough exercise without interrupting their normal schedules. This also works for the adult with a busy schedule looking to get some exercise.

Get Involved

As a parent, you are the role model. If you lead an active life, your kids are sure to follow suit. Even better, you should try to get involved in your child’s physical activities. There are all sorts of simple, fun activities that you and your kids can do together.

Something as simple as a walk in the morning or evening is enough to impact a child and push him or her to stay active. This is great motivation and a great chance to get in some exercise for yourself, not to mention the quality time you will get to spend with your kids.

Going from Point A to Point B

If you are like any other modern family, chances are you get to places by car, which makes sense. It’s convenient and saves time. However, when time isn’t as much of an issue, schedule to walk or bike on various errands. This will add a sense of adventure to a simple, everyday errand.

Furthermore, we all know that gas prices are through the roof. Walking, biking, or rollerblading will save you some money and help benefit the environment.

Monitors and Limits

The best way to encourage kids to stay active is to closely monitor the time they spend doing sedentary activities.

Sedentary activities are perfectly fine for those times when your mind and body are just too pooped out, but you should definitely make sure to limit the time your kids spend watching TV or playing video games. Both tend to rot the brain and are not especially conducive to health. Experts suggest no more than two hours a day of TV and video games.

Try not to be too restrictive or domineering, but make sure your kids understand the importance of physical activity. Stay positive and supportive of your kids and they will soon enjoy the fruits of playing outside.

Healthy Snacks to Pack Your Kids for School and Family Outings

Monday, October 10th, 2011

Carrots and Celery for SnackFood keeps us going. We need it to survive, grow, and stay energized. We eat to live, though some of us live to eat. Whether you are a gourmand with a well-trained palate or just an Average Joe who enjoys burgers and fries, there’s no denying the communal joy of good food.

Kids probably have the most discerning palates. If there’s something a child does not like, they will make it known. Unfortunately, parents often inundate kids’ diets with excessively salty meals and sugary treats. Aside from completely ruining the tastes buds, most of these foods don’t contain the necessary vitamins and nutrients that a child—or any human being—needs.

This, unfortunately, leads to overweight or even obese children. Believe it or not, one in three kids in the United States is overweight. Obesity puts kids at risk for asthma, diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, and cancer. Furthermore, obesity often causes low self-esteem and low self-confidence.

Snacking between meals is completely fine and, at times, necessary, but there are right and wrong ways to provide your kids with snacks. Here are some tips for healthy snacks to pack your kids for school and other fun outings.

Smart Snacking

First off, look through your pantry and clean out all those unhealthy junk foods. Throw out the cookies, chips, candy, and soda pop. Sugary, high-fat junk foods are just that: junk. They don’t provide any health benefits and are overall detrimental to a child’s insides.

When done smartly, snacking is a great strategy for introducing nutrients into a child’s diet as kids have smaller stomachs and often have trouble finishing large meals. Healthy snacks give kids energy between meals and help focus attention and regulate mood.

As bad as junk food is, under certain circumstance, it’s okay to indulge, but this should be a rare treat.

Fresh Fruits and Vegetables

This should be your main focus and the crux of the snacking menu. Buy raw vegetables, clean and cut them, and keep them in your fridge for easy access.

Fruits don’t need much preparation. Just make sure to buy organic fruits that are in season. For even more flavor, you can slice up apples or bananas and serve them with almond or peanut butter for dipping. However, make sure to read the labels on peanut butter jars. Many peanut butters contain excess sugar or preservatives—look for “all natural” variations that contain just peanuts—no sugar, hydrogenated oils, etc.

Fruit smoothies are delicious and healthy, making them perfect alternatives to sodas and overly sweet drinks. Don’t forget about water. Let your kids choose their own reusable water bottle that they’ll be excited to use. Add a splash of 100% juice such as apple or orange to add refreshing flavor.

Include your kids in the process. Teach your kids to make healthy vegetable dips, hummus, and salad dressings. When visiting your local grocery store or farmer’s market, have your kids pick out a new fruit or vegetable that they would like to try.

Lean Proteins

Of course, even with all those fruits and veggies, your kids still need some protein, but chicken nuggets and hot dogs are not the healthiest options.

For kids on the go, low fat cheese sticks make a great, pre-portioned snack. Serve yogurt topped with low sugar cereals or fresh fruit bits. Low fat sliced deli meats can be wrapped around a breadstick or stalks of asparagus. Have your kids make their own trail mix with different assortments of nuts and dried fruits.

Healthy Grains

Rounding off the healthy snack diet are the grains. As with all other snacks, stray away from junk foods. Most junk foods—chips, pretzels, cookies, and such—are made up of refined grains. The calories from refined grains can stack up very quickly, while the lack of fiber will keep your kids looking for more snacks. There’s nothing good about any of this.

Healthy grains give your kids tons of fiber, vitamins, and minerals and consist of foods like:

  • Whole wheat bread or English muffins
  • Whole wheat tortillas
  • Rice cakes
  • Popcorn
  • Cereal

When it comes to popcorn, avoid those heavy in butter and salts. As for cereals, keep away from the sweet stuff. Cereal should not taste like candy.
A fun, healthy snack for kids is English muffin pizzas. Top whole wheat English Muffin halves with tomato sauce, low fat cheese, and their favorite vegetables. Your kids won’t even know that they’re eating healthy.

3 Tips for Healthy Meals: School Lunches

Thursday, October 6th, 2011

Whether you send lunch from home or your kids eat school meals, you know how important it is that kids’ brains and bodies get healthy meals at school. In the morning rush, sometimes “healthy” gets overlooked when packing lunch at home, and “convenient” wins the race. Or you’re just plain out of ideas!

Consider this: with new healthy guidelines for school meals, and chef-inspired recipes being cooked up, now is the perfect time to have your kids check out the school meal program. Whether lunch comes from home, or at school, kids need to be well-nourished so they can perform well everywhere they live, learn, and play. So here are 3 tips for your kids to try from a school meal OR from home for lunch:

  • Veggies – The Tasty Way. Most kids need to eat more veggies, so send low-fat ranch for dipping. Ask the school meal program director if they offer or will offer any kind of dip when they serve veggies.
  • Fantastic Fruits – Every day. Apples, bananas, and oranges are nature’s fast food! The school meal program always provides at least one serving of fruit so why not give it a try? When shopping buy fruit that is in season, and on sale, and include some peanut butter or yogurt for dipping.
  • Drink Think. Encourage kids to drink only water or milk every day at lunch. All schools now offer water in the cafeteria during lunch, as well as low-fat and fat free milk. If you send drinks from home, remember the best thirst quencher is water!

Congratulations to the 2011 PEP Grant Recipients!

Tuesday, October 4th, 2011

Each year, the Carol M. White Physical Education Program (PEP) awards millions of dollars to schools and community-based organizations to initiate, expand, and improve physical education programs. The winners for the 2011 Pep Grant  were just announced… congrats to all who won!

Here’s some information for 2011 PEP Grant Winners:

  1. New: Resource Guide for PEP Winners Click Here
  2. SPARK alignment with national & state standards Click Here
  3. PECAT Reports for SPARK K-8 PE  Click Here
  4. SPARK Assessment Tools Click Here

Also, we’re proud to share the story of Denver Public Schools, a previous PEP Grant recipient. Through the use of their PEP Grant funds they were able to implement programs that resulted in the following improvements (Click Here to read how they did it):

  1. Class time spent in activity increased from 29% to 66%
  2. Fitness scores increased
  3. Percentage of students active during class time increased
  4. Significant increase in the # of teachers that encouraged students to be physically active outside of class

Other Recent PEP-Related News:

  • $2.2 million PEP Grant helps Pittsfield Public School (Massachusetts) SPARK-Up their Physical Education program! Click Here…
  • Washington DC Public School District uses PEP funding to implement SPARK across all K-12 schools district-wide! Click Here…
  • Want to hear how Colorado is using PEP funds to get kids active? Listen to this podcast by Colorado Public Radio: Click Here…