Posts Tagged ‘Healthy Eating’


Tips for Healthy Halloween Treats

Tuesday, October 24th, 2017

Children eagerly await their halloween treats

Halloween and sweet treats are practically synonymous. While sweets aren’t bad in limited amounts, it is all too easy for one night of Halloween treats to balloon into a week-long sugar spree.

Between the piles of trick-or-treat candy (that might hang around well into November) and the various Halloween parties and events a child may attend in the days leading up to October 31st, it is especially important to cut through all that sugar with some nutritious substitutes that will appeal to kids.

Here are some tips for creating healthy treats that aren’t loaded with added sugar and still evoke the fun spirit of Halloween. Teachers and educators can serve these in class or recommend them to parents.

A Fresh Face for Familiar Foods

These snack ideas don’t require much assembly time; perfect for the busy teacher or parent. The fun Halloween theme comes from arranging them properly on the plate.

These are great for classroom parties and gatherings because it’s easy to scale the amount of food up or down, depending on how many people you’re feeding. You can make an individual plate for one person (after-school snack, anyone?), or a big platter to feed an entire group of hungry little monsters.

All of the recipes below are vegetarian and can be made vegan depending on the ingredients used in the dip. Remember, presentation is key to give these snacks the Halloween look and feel.

Veggie Skeleton

Serve up a nutritious skeleton made out of vegetables. Use a small, round cup of healthy veggie dip (such as hummus or a yogurt-based dip) as the head. Construct the rest of the skeleton’s bone structure from slices of various veggies. Straight veggie sticks, such as carrots and celery, work well for arms, legs, and a nice bony spine. Curved bell pepper slices are perfect for representing ribs.

You can even sneak in a lesson about how eating healthy food helps keep your bones strong — so it’s cute and educational!

Veggie Spiders

Even simpler than the veggie skeleton, this spider’s body is formed by a round bowl (or large round scoop) of veggie dip or black bean hummus. Simply arrange veggie sticks strategically around the dip to form eight legs (carrots and celery are excellent for this one).

Veggie Pumpkin Patch

Spread your choice of veggie dip or hummus on a plate (or large platter, for a group setting). Slice large carrots into round slices and set them upright in the field of veggie dip. The effect works best if you use a green dip, such as one with spinach or kale in it, to evoke the vines in the pumpkin patch — or, add leaves of fresh baby spinach amid your hummus ‘field.’

Bugs on a Raft

This snack gives a Halloween spin to a classic favorite: Ants on a Log. Instead of a log of celery, this treat features a raft made out of an apple. Cut an apple into round slices. Spread the round apple slices with nut butter, then add raisins or seeds (such as pumpkin or shelled sunflower seeds) to represent bugs. Get the kids involved in making this one, by letting them add their own bugs to your ready-made rafts.

Snacks in Costume

Halloween is all about playing dress-up, and dressing up healthy food can make otherwise boring snacks feel extra special. It can also help to get kids in the mindset of thinking of these nutritious food choices as fun treats.

Some of the following suggestions require a little more time and effort than the quick ones above, but we promise, the results are worth it. Depending on the age of your children, they may be able to help decorate and assemble their own snacks!

Clementine Pumpkins

This is an easy one to do with students during class, or at a children’s Halloween party. Let kids use markers to decorate the peel of a clementine with a jack o’ lantern face (oranges and tangerines work just as nicely). Or, decorate them yourself ahead of time and arrange them as a basket of jack o’ lanterns.

Alternatively, you can peel the clementines and stick a piece of celery in each as a stem, to make “pumpkins” before serving.

Fruit and Veggie Jack o’ Lanterns

These are a bit more labor-intensive, but the results are downright adorable. Carve a jack o’ lantern face into a small fruit or vegetable, such as an apple or bell pepper — treating it like a tiny pumpkin. For a group, you can make several ahead of time and present them on a platter for the kids to admire before slicing them up to share.

Super Fruit Heroes

Using paper templates, trace and cut out small masks and capes from colorful construction paper that can be assembled and placed around an apple or similar fruit. This could be a fun classroom project to encourage students to bring home a superhero costumed apple — maybe it’ll steer them away from binging on too much candy after trick-or-treating.

Boo-nanas and Ghostly Graveyard Cups

Turn peeled bananas into tiny ghosts. Peel and cut a banana into segments about three inches long. Form a ghost face at the end of each banana segment, by pressing miniature chocolate chips to create two eyes and an open mouth. Set each boo-nana in an individual cup of healthy yogurt, add small chunks of chopped fruit if you wish, and serve with a spoon!

We hope these ideas spark your imagination, inspire sensible snacking, and help your students to have a happy and healthy Halloween!

9 of Our Best Posts About Food and Nutrition

Thursday, October 19th, 2017

Children eating healthy food in cafeteria

The world of physical education is about much more than just exercise — physical education programs also teach students how to eat well and take care of their bodies by making nutritious choices.

Healthy eating boosts physical and mental health, so an emphasis on good food is an important habit for any family. Kids who eat nutritious diets perform better on exams and show improved attendance over kids whose diets are lacking in nutrition.

We’ve posted a lot of blog entries about healthy eating and nutritional foods — because we know how important it is for our children to learn healthy eating habits as they grow!

Here, we revisit some of our best blog posts that highlight food and nutrition, from snacks to meals and healthy eating on special occasions.

Snacks for Kids

 

Healthy Snacks to Beat the Heat

When the summer sun is blazing, serve your kids treats that help them remain hydrated and get essential nutrients. From frozen juice pops to refreshing guacamole, these healthy snack ideas will satisfy your kids while providing vitamins and protein. Read on for summer snacking inspiration.

Summer Treats to Beat the Heat: 6 Healthy Snacks Your Kids Will Love

Healthy Pinwheels for Healthy Kids

This scrumptious tortilla and veggie pinwheel recipe was posted as a holiday snack idea for little ones, but it can be served year-round. Have your kids help you make pinwheels for the next holiday occasion, serve them at your child’s next birthday party, or prep them for sleepover snacks instead of ordering pizza.

Holiday Pinwheels Recipe from Healthy Kids Challenge

Adding More Veggies to the Snack Routine

One of the biggest challenges as a parent is actually convincing your kids to eat more healthy food,  especially when it comes to veggies! Consider asking them to pitch in when creating meals — when you get your kids involved in the grocery shopping and cooking process, they often get more excited about trying new things. Read our post for more ideas to help boost your kids’ love for this nutritious food group.

The 5 Best Ways to Get Your Kids to Eat More Vegetables

Holiday Eating

 

6 Healthy Recipes for the Holidays

The holidays can be a nutrition landmine, with platters of sweets and indulgent plates available around every corner. Seasonal festivities make it hard for kids and parents alike to stick to healthy food choices. The next time you invite friends and family to gather around your table, wow them with these six dishes that are just as delicious as they are calorie conscious.

Stay Fit and Festive with 6 Healthy Holiday Recipes

Learning What to Take Off the Holiday Menu

While you’re adding nutritious foods to your holiday menu, consider removing some of the worst offenders. Dishes like stuffing, pecan pie, and green bean casserole are tasty favorites — but they’re also high in calories and tend to be eaten in large quantities. Think about taking one of these five dishes off the table, or making low-fat ingredient substitutions in your recipes.

5 Dishes to Consider Removing From Your Holiday Dinner Plans

Stop the Halloween Binge in Its Tracks

It’s not just the holidays with big family gatherings that can get us in trouble — Halloween is one of the most difficult holidays for healthy eaters! Halloween candy can feel downright addictive. Kids and adults alike find themselves drawn to the plastic pumpkins filled with sugary treats. Read our post with tips to help you stave off a late-night Snickers binge, or a post-Halloween sugar coma.

4 Ways to Avoid Halloween Candy Overload

Meal Tips for the Family

 

Starting the Day with a Healthy Meal

Begin your day together with a healthy family meal. Not only does a hearty breakfast — with a balance of fruit and protein — support better concentration throughout the morning, but sitting down together allows you to set the tone for the day with some family bonding time.

3 Reasons Why Breakfast is the Most Important Meal of the Day for Kids

Protein-Rich Foods for Your Kids

Any parent knows it’s hard to find time to cook up a well-balanced, nutritious lunch everyday. Most parents rely on easy, on-the-go lunch solutions. But just because you’re making a quick lunch doesn’t mean it can’t be filling. With these kid-friendly protein-fueled food ideas, both you and your kids can have a healthy packed lunch.

6 Ideas for Protein-Packed, Kid-Friendly Food

Making Easy and Nutritious Meals

Amending family favorites like quesadillas and sloppy joes by using low-cal ingredients is easy. You can whip up something for the entire family that you can feel good about – and they’ll love. These popular recipes include a mix of protein, vitamins, and healthy grains.

5 Dishes to Consider Removing From Your Holiday Dinner Plans

Tuesday, December 20th, 2016

holiday dinner

Holiday seasons are the perfect time to have fun, bond with family members, and of course, eat. Most people use the holidays as an excuse to ditch their diets in favor of calorie-laden delicacies. After all, Thanksgiving is America’s “Biggest Cheat Day.”

Unfortunately, because of the season and the desire to enjoy the holiday, people tend to overlook the after-effects of gorging themselves on indulgent dishes. Most foods on the holiday dining table, regardless of how tasty they are, are bad for you if eaten mindlessly. The problems compound if you normally follow a strict health-related diet.

Luckily, being conscious with regards to the foods you prepare for your holiday dinner doesn’t mean dishes have to be bland and boring. Healthy options can taste just as good as diet hazards.

If you need some guidance as far as dishes to consider removing from your holiday dinner plans, you’ve come to the right place. Here’s what to cut down on, and how to replace them!

1.Mixed Nuts

Nuts are a favorite snack at every holiday party. They have a lot of health benefits:

  • Rich in Calcium and Vitamin E
  • Good source of folate
  • Contain heart-healthy fats

The problem is not the quality of nuts, but the quantity most people eat. Once you start eating nuts, it’s hard to stop. Most people munch on them until they’re gone. A couple handfuls of nuts can equate to 450 calories with 40 grams of fat.

If you’re not willing to remove nuts from your menu, consider creating a small batch of spiced-nut mix. The preparation will feel more like a treat and less like a snack. By serving spiced-nuts in small bowls, you’ll reduce overall snacking and make sure guests still have room for dinner!

2. Pecan Pie

The problem with nuts runs deep. Pecan pie is a dessert, which automatically gives it the “unhealthy” label. Unfortunately, pecan pie can be a worse dessert choice than others, despite it’s lack of candy coating!

Like other nuts, pecans can be a good source of nutrients, but are calorie bombs in large quantities. When you make a pecan pie, you’re also adding in large quantities of sugar, butter, and corn syrup. Depending on how generously you cut your pie, one slice of pecan pie can contain over 500 calories with 37g of fat and 26g of sugar.

But during the holidays, it seems almost sacrilegious to ditch dessert altogether. You can still have your pecan pie, and eat it too! A few suggestions to make it a little healthier:

  • Give yourself a smaller serving
  • Create a healthier pecan pie with low-fat butter, egg whites, and lighter corn syrup

Alternatively, you can opt for a healthier pie that still fits the season. Apple pie has less than a quarter of the fat per slice of pecan pie, and also offers a serving of fiber thanks to the inclusion of apples!

3. Stuffing

During the holidays, one of the must-have dishes on every table is turkey with a side of stuffing. Just think carefully before getting stuffed with stuffing! The standard preparation can destroy anyone’s diet.

Stuffing consists mainly of bread, butter/margarine, and sausage, and contains about 175 calories per cup. If it contains sausage, stuffing can reach up to 400 calories per cut with 26g of fat.

For a healthy stuffing alternative, substitute whole wheat bread for cornbread, replace sausage with cranberries, or try a gluten-free recipe.

4. Green Bean Casserole

This dish to consider removing from your holiday dinner plans might throw you off a bit. After all, green beans are a vegetable. Aren’t they supposed to be healthy?

On their own, green beans are nutrient-packed greens. It’s the ingredient additions to this classic holiday dish that move it into a different category.

Green bean casserole is calorie-packed, with loads of sodium thanks to cream of mushroom soup, fried onions, butter, and cheese. One serving has at least 230 calories and 500mg of sodium. Incredibly, a full batch has 785 calories and 4,128mg of sodium!

Skip your stretchy pants and make this holiday dish work for you. A lighter preparation of stuffing (with fewer calories and less salt) might include broccoli and water chestnuts.

5. Spinach and Artichoke Dip

Spinach and artichokes are two types of vegetables you probably wouldn’t suspect of being unhealthy. But just like all the other healthy ingredients that have been mentioned, it’s the add-on ingredients that make this one of the dishes to consider removing from your holiday dinner plans.

Spinach and artichoke dip includes large amount of mayonnaise, sour cream, and cream cheese. A half-cup serving is almost 300 calories – and that’s without the chips to pair with it!

Like many of these other holiday favorites, there are healthier ways to prepare this dish. Alternatively, you can reduce your calorie intake with raw veggies to dip, or salsa as a dip alternative.

Did we miss any of the major dishes to consider removing from your holiday dinner plans? We’d love to hear how you’re making the holidays healthy, yet delicious, in the comments below!

The Jekyll and Hyde Holiday Dilemma: How to Prevent Unhealthy Habits

Thursday, December 15th, 2016

holiday eating

The holidays are a time of year to gather round the table, spend time with family — and potentially break every promise you’ve made to yourself to maintain a healthy lifestyle.

Who doesn’t love an extra helping? A little more eggnog? You’ll be sure to burn all those calories off during January, right? The truth is, you probably won’t. When you fall out of your good habits, it’s not just the extra calories that get to you; it’s the fatigue and the procrastination that set in from a period of overindulgence.

Half the battle of defeating poor decision-making comes down to identifying your own behavioral tendencies. If you don’t take the time to understand why you’re doing something, you’ll end up with your own personal version of the Jekyll and Hyde dilemma: “Part of me wants to keep up my exercise routine and my low-sugar diet, but the other part of me is saying to skip the treadmill and try some of Aunt Pam’s cookies!”

With a little foresight and advanced planning, you can nip the bad habits early, before your own personal “Mr. Hyde” gets the best of you. Here are some simple things you can do to catch yourself in the moment, and overcome these common holiday bad habits.

Mr. Hyde’s Holiday Mistake: Eating Until You’re Overstuffed

Dr. Jekyll’s Solution: Drink More Water

You should be drinking a healthy amount of water throughout the year, but this is especially important during the holidays. We’re ready to smother everything in gravy and butter. We all want that piece of pie and cobbler, and a few scoops of ice cream. If you’re going to enjoy these indulgences, do one easy thing to help counter that icky overstuffed feeling, and the extra calories. Drink more water.

Have a glass of water for every glass of wine, or beer. Carry your water glass around with you throughout the evening. Consciously try to drink more water during your holiday mingling. Sounds pretty simple, right? You’ll be surprised by how much better you feel. Plus, when your body is well hydrated, you feel less hungry — so, you’ll end up eating less while still satisfying your cravings.

Mr. Hyde’s Holiday Mistake: Overdoing it on the Gravy – or the Pie

Dr. Jekyll’s Solution: Eat Balanced Meals

Imbalance is really at the center of almost all food discomfort (aside from allergies). Even as young children, we learn that no one food group is the best or worst, because our bodies need a balance of all food groups in order to stay healthy. “Macro imbalance” is a technical way of describing how well fats, carbohydrates, and protein in your food are balanced for your body’s needs.

There is a lot of conflicting evidence about how many meals per day are best for you, but all nutritionists agree on one thing: it’s not a great idea to binge on one massive meal, or to eat from entirely one food group. It’s easy to get carried away with extra helpings of your favorite foods, leaving little room on your plate for much else. To help you eat balanced nutritional meals, make a point to grab equal portions of a vegetable dish and lean meat — along with a (smaller) treat to satisfy your sweet tooth. This is a great time to be a role model for your children, and encourage them to mix a balanced variety of foods on their plates, just like you.

Mr. Hyde’s Holiday Mistake: Napping Before (and After) Dinner

Dr. Jekyll’s Solution: Exercise, Exercise, Exercise

New Year’s resolutions are right around the corner, but why wait until January 1st? Now is a great time to get started (or to continue) with some healthy behaviors. Of course, the holiday season isn’t a convenient time to join a CrossFit gym, or a Zumba class. A much easier solution would be to a take a walk in the morning with the family, to socialize and get some cardiovascular activity in; perhaps do the same post-dinner, before you sit down for a nightcap, or some dessert.

Go for a stroll before and after meals, do 10 crunches at night before bed, read your holiday books or magazines on the treadmill — whatever you do, make a point to participate in some form of physical activity every day. Do some power walking laps around the shopping mall, if you like. Regular physical activity will help prevent unintentional overeating, give you more energy throughout the holiday festivities, and pay real dividends for your overall health as you head into the new year.

Mr. Hyde’s Holiday Mistake: Taking a Break from “Everyday Life”

Dr. Jekyll’s Solution: Maintain Your Routine

Other than excess calories — and a propensity for becoming a permanent resident of your couch — what often suffers the most during the holidays is your daily routine. Family comes into town, or perhaps you go out of town to visit them; and like hurricane-force winds, you feel forced to drop all of your usual day-to-day habits.

Maintaining a sense of normalcy is important for both mental and physical well-being; this is especially true if you have children. If you are used to getting up every morning and having a cup of coffee, then do so — even if you’ve got a few extra members around the table, or you have to learn to use Aunt Beth’s new coffee maker. If you are used to taking some alone time to decompress at the beginning or end of your day, schedule the time — even amid the trips to the mall, the extra baking, and the wrapping of presents. Try to keep your children as close to their usual routine as possible. That means getting them to bed at a decent hour, eating meals when you normally would, and not skipping out on your usual bedtime story or afternoon walk around the block. Your family will thank you; your mental health will thank you too.

4 Lunch Mistakes to Avoid (and What to Serve Instead)

Tuesday, December 29th, 2015

Packing lunches for children is always a challenge. However, it is important that parents look out for items that sound healthy, but are not healthy at all. By making a few substitutions and changes, parents are able to create healthy and interesting lunches that children of all ages can enjoy. Below are some foods to avoid and what to use instead.

healthy lunch

Fruit Snacks

Fruit snacks are loaded with sugar and dyes. Because they are sticky, they can also remain on the teeth and cause tooth decay.

What to use instead: Actual fresh fruit provides the sweetness with additional fiber and nutrients. Dehydrated fruit, such as raisins, is another option that can be a little more shelf-stable if there are no refrigeration options.

Juice or Soda

Juices and sodas are more culprits in bringing in additional sugar. Additionally, these drinks can provide a large amount of unneeded calories. In particular, juice boxes also create a lot of waste.  Remember, most children only need about three or four teaspoons of added sugar a day. Even juices marked as “100% juice” end up stripping fiber and other beneficial nutrients from the fruit.

What to use instead: Consider packing filtered water or milk in a stainless steel canteen. Diluting juice with water, or adding just a splash of juice to mostly water, creates a drink that has flavor and sweetness without extra sugar and calories. You can also consider juicing whole fruits, which keeps more of the nutrients and fiber of the whole fruit.

Pre-packaged Meals

These kinds of meals seem convenient, but they are packed with sodium and artificial ingredients.  Furthermore, they can be expensive without supplying much nutrition. Like the juice boxes, these also create a massive amount of waste.

What to use instead: Using leftovers of a family dinner is one way to meet these needs. You can also dress up leftovers in new ways. For example, if you have spaghetti and meatballs for dinner, you can use the meatballs in a meatball sub the next day.

Processed Deli Meats

Much like the pre-packaged meals, these also contain loads of sodium and artificial preservatives. These chemicals have been linked to a number of diseases, including heart disease and cancer.

What to use instead: Cutting up meat at home or choosing preservative-free meat at the deli is a small change that create a much healthier lunch. If you are using meat you prepared at home, think about grilling or baking meat instead of frying.

Other Lunch Ideas to Remember

  • Think about what and how your children eat at home. Chances are, if they do not like something at home, then they will not eat it at school.

  • If there are certain things your children like, you can try similar things. For example, a child who likes crackers might also enjoy naan or pita bread.

  • Get your children involved in picking out things for lunches. Being involved in the process makes them feel more at ease with food and can allow for parent-child bonding.

  • By cooking extra at home, you can control the ingredients. For example, you can use less sugar or add pureed vegetables in a dish for your own nutritional needs.

  • Think about your children store their lunches. If there are cubbies, but no refrigeration, make sure you freeze a water bottle or bag of fruit to keep food cold.

Conclusion

Packing healthy snacks and food for your children seems like a daunting task. However, making a few substitutions and slight changes to existing recipes can keep a lunch not only healthy, but interesting to your children.

Healthy Thanksgiving Leftover Recipes

Wednesday, November 25th, 2015

After the holiday feast is over, you’re not just left with full bellies; you’re left with a fridge full of leftovers. Unfortunately, most people don’t want to eat turkey and stuffing for a week straight. Even so, it may surprise you that, according to the USDA, Americans throw away 35 percent of edible turkey meat.

turkey wrap

But you don’t have to stick with the traditional holiday recipes; opt for a variation once your feast is over. To make the most out of your leftovers, consider these tasty recipes you can enjoy the week following a holiday feast.

Turkey Noodle Soup

When you’re unsure of what to do with your mounds of leftover turkey, indulge in a non-traditional take on chicken noodle soup. Slice up your extra turkey and toss it into a pot of stock (which you can make from the turkey carcass) and fresh noodles. Then, add leftover veggies like potatoes, corn, and carrots. Throw in some fresh veggies like celery if you have them in the fridge. Serve with buttered dinner rolls if you have any remaining from your big meal.

Sweet Potato Biscuits

If your family didn’t manage to gobble up your candied yams or sweet potatoes, you can use them in this ingenious recipe. Start with your sweet potato casserole (the kind with marshmallows on the top), or use good old mashed sweet potatoes and add a couple of tablespoons of brown sugar. Then, mix these ingredients together in a food processor:

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour

  • 1 teaspoon salt

  • 3 teaspoons baking powder

  • 1 teaspoon baking soda

  • 4 tablespoons cold butter, cut into pieces

  • 1 cup left over sweet potatoes

Add 1/8 to ¼ cups milk as needed. Then, roll your biscuits out, cut them to size, and cook at 450 degrees for 9-10 minutes.

Turkey Avocado Wrap

When you’re looking for a tasty turkey treat to take to work the Monday following Thanksgiving, consider stuffing your leftover turkey into an avocado wrap. Start with a flour tortilla—choose whole wheat for a healthier option—and then add turkey, avocado, lettuce, ranch dressing, and whatever other toppings you like. Food Network suggests mixing your ranch dressing with chipotle salsa and grated orange zest.

Thai Curry Turkey

If you need a change of pace to the traditional holiday flavors, switch it up with Thai curry turkey. This recipe will use up leftover turkey and sweet potatoes. Plus, when you use coconut milk instead of oil, you’ll be slashing calories for a healthier supper. To make, boil 1 cup light coconut milk, ¼ cup chicken broth, 1 teaspoon green curry paste, 1 tablespoon fish sauce, and 2 tablespoons brown sugar. Then, add 1 ½ cups leftover sweet potatoes, 2 cups leftover turkey, and ¾ cups green peas. Serve over rice and garnish with cilantro and red pepper strips.

Turkey Pot Pie

This recipe will help you use up any extra veggies and meat you have in the fridge. Start with the linked recipe as a guide, or get creative and make up your own recipe. The key is to get a thick turkey/veggie mixture using chicken or turkey stock as a base. Pour that into a prepared pie crust and cover with the second half of your pie crust. Food Network suggests cooking your pie at 350 degrees for 30 minutes or until crust is brown.

Open-Faced Turkey Sandwiches With Cranberry Chutney

When you’re looking for a recipe that will help you use up your extra cranberry sauce, this recipe is perfect and fairly light—great for a quick lunch. Start with two slices of whole wheat bread. Spread each piece with mayonnaise and Dijon mustard. Add spinach, turkey, and a slice of Swiss cheese. Broil your sandwich in the oven for two minutes before adding a scoop of cranberry chutney to top it off.

Which one of these recipes will you try this holiday season?


Tips for Heart-Healthy Children and Families

Tuesday, February 25th, 2014
February is American Heart Month, and we want to take some time to focus on how parents can promote their children’s heart health.
When it comes to raising healthy children, efforts should start at home, with parents and other immediate family members that have so much impact on kids during their formative years. The efforts extend into the community, where school officials, coaches, and so on help mold the youth into healthy, responsible adults. As they say, it takes a village to raise a child, and when we work together everybody wins.
Keep reading for some tips you can implement at home to help your children create heart-healthy habits.
Making Time for Healthy Habits
The first step is to make time to incorporate healthy habits. And while it seems like there already aren’t enough hours in the day, the secret is that you don’t have to find more time—you replace time spent on not-so-healthy habits with time spent on better-for-you ones. Try these ideas:
Schedule TV and Other Types of Screen Time
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children younger than two years old have no screen time and older kids have one to two hours of screen time per day with high-quality content. But children now spend an average of 7 hours per day in front of the TV, iPad, laptop, and/or gaming system.
One way to cut back is to schedule screen time. Try these:
Make a list of the family’s must-see programs—these are the ones you can watch together or separately, but do keep the list to a minimum.
Turn the TV only on a few minutes prior to the start of the shows, and turn it off immediately after. No channel surfing, no mindless watching.
Schedule a game night or award “time tickets” to allow your kids to get their video game fix without spending endless hours glued to the screen and controllers.
Track Your Meals
How often do you stop at the drive-through on your way to or from activities? You may not realize just how often you grab dinner to go or reach for processed convenience items unless you keep track for a couple of weeks.
The problem is that most of these items contain overly processed simple carbohydrates (such as sugar and flour) and oils high in omega-6 fatty acids (like sunflower, soybean, and corn oil)—huge culprits of inflammation. While the debate of whether inflammation or cholesterol is the direct cause of heart disease is still in progress, it is certainly a big cardiovascular health risk factor.
Curb fast food eating, and learn how to make better choices when hitting the drive thru window.
Making healthy meals at home is easier than you think. For example, heart-healthy meals can be slow-cooked in a crockpot so they are ready when you are, you can make homemade freezer meals that just need to be popped in the oven.
Replace certain ingredients in your pantry. Rather than all-purpose white flour, go with 100% whole wheat baking flour and flour products. Instead of butter, shortening, and margarine, try extra-virgin olive oil, which features heart-healthy fatty acids. Instead of canned or jarred fruits, choose fresh or frozen. Instead of sugary sodas and juices, try mixing 100% juice with water—even a splash makes for a refreshing treat.
Track Your Time
Being constantly on the go is stressful for you and your children. Extra-curricular activities are a good thing for children, but as they say, you can have too much of a good thing. A recent NPR story highlighted the new levels of stress children and teens are experiencing today have a negative impact on health. As too much continual stress has been identified as one of the causes of heart disease, it’s imperative that families come together and decide where to cut back on obligations and commitments.
While stress management techniques, such as yoga, deep breathing, and meditation, are great, healthy activities for everyone to practice, learning where to cut back and focus energy where it really counts is the first step.
Getting More Active at Home
After creating room in your lifestyle for healthy habits, fill it with fun activities at home! Why zone out or complain about boredom when there are so many valuable and fun activities you can do at home?
Become a Clean Machine
Getting everyone involved in household tasks and chores makes the work easier, faster, and healthier. And you can even make housework more fun!
Put sticky notes on everything that needs attention: Dust me, pick me up, sweep me, clean me, etc. Then race around the house to see which family member can acquire the most sticky notes and get the job done properly.
Put some tunes on the stereo and limit each household task to a certain number of tracks—3 for washing the dishes, 2 for scrubbing the bathtub, 4 for dusting the living room, etc. Get your toes tapping and the house clean all at the same time.
Go Green in the Garden
Backyard agriculture is all the rage these days, as we have rediscovered the joys and benefits of growing our own food. Gardening is also a great way to get, and stay, active. Those seeds and plants need planting, watering, weeding, and tending to. The fruits of your labor need to be harvested and prepared for storage and meals. Branching out to incorporate backyard chickens, rabbits, or other small livestock creates another dimension to your activity (and learning) time.
Besides the boost in physical activity, growing your own food is often healthier, cheaper, and more fulfilling than relying on the grocery store.
Take a hike
Or walk the dog, visit the neighborhood park or playground, play some hoops, go for a swim, set up the net and have a rousing game of volleyball in the backyard, and so on. Just get outside and get moving! Turning a lazy Saturday, Sunday, or weekday evening into a fun activity builds heart health, good habits, and memories, all of which can last a lifetime.
Doing What You Can
The easiest and most effective way to develop healthier habits as a family is by taking it one step at a time. No one said you had to do it all at once or all by the end of the month. Just start. Do what you can, when you can. Grow from there. When built upon and sustained over time, these habits will evolve into a full-blown heart-healthy lifestyle that will last you and your children a lifetime.

February is American Heart Month, and we want to take some time to focus on how parents can promote their children’s heart health.

When it comes to raising healthy children, efforts should start at home, with parents and other immediate family members that have so much impact on kids during their formative years. The efforts extend into the community, where school officials, coaches, and so on help mold the youth into healthy, responsible adults. As they say, it takes a village to raise a child, and when we work together everybody wins.

Keep reading for some tips you can implement at home to help your children create heart-healthy habits.=

Making Time for Healthy Habits

The first step is to make time to incorporate healthy habits. And while it seems like there already aren’t enough hours in the day, the secret is that you don’t have to find more time—you replace time spent on not-so-healthy habits with time spent on better-for-you ones. Try these ideas:

Schedule TV and Other Types of Screen Time

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children younger than two years old have no screen time and older kids have one to two hours of screen time per day with high-quality content. But children now spend an average of 7 hours per day in front of the TV, iPad, laptop, and/or gaming system.

One way to cut back is to schedule screen time. Try these:

  • Make a list of the family’s must-see programs—these are the ones you can watch together or separately, but do keep the list to a minimum.
  • Turn the TV only on a few minutes prior to the start of the shows, and turn it off immediately after. No channel surfing, no mindless watching.
  • Schedule a game night or award “time tickets” to allow your kids to get their video game fix without spending endless hours glued to the screen and controllers.

Track Your Meals

How often do you stop at the drive-through on your way to or from activities? You may not realize just how often you grab dinner to go or reach for processed convenience items unless you keep track for a couple of weeks.

The problem is that most of these items contain overly processed simple carbohydrates (such as sugar and flour) and oils high in omega-6 fatty acids (like sunflower, soybean, and corn oil)—huge culprits of inflammation. While the debate of whether inflammation or cholesterol is the direct cause of heart disease is still in progress, it is certainly a big cardiovascular health risk factor.

  • Curb fast food eating, and learn how to make better choices when hitting the drive thru window.
  • Making healthy meals at home is easier than you think. For example, heart-healthy meals can be slow-cooked in a crockpot so they are ready when you are, you can make homemade freezer meals that just need to be popped in the oven.
  • Replace certain ingredients in your pantry. Rather than all-purpose white flour, go with 100% whole wheat baking flour and flour products. Instead of butter, shortening, and margarine, try extra-virgin olive oil, which features heart-healthy fatty acids. Instead of canned or jarred fruits, choose fresh or frozen. Instead of sugary sodas and juices, try mixing 100% juice with water—even a splash makes for a refreshing treat.

Track Your Time

Being constantly on the go is stressful for you and your children. Extra-curricular activities are a good thing for children, but as they say, you can have too much of a good thing. A recent NPR story highlighted the new levels of stress children and teens are experiencing today have a negative impact on health. As too much continual stress has been identified as one of the causes of heart disease, it’s imperative that families come together and decide where to cut back on obligations and commitments.

While stress management techniques, such as yoga, deep breathing, and meditation, are great, healthy activities for everyone to practice, learning where to cut back and focus energy where it really counts is the first step.

Getting More Active at Home

After creating room in your lifestyle for healthy habits, fill it with fun activities at home! Why zone out or complain about boredom when there are so many valuable and fun activities you can do at home?

Become a Clean Machine

Getting everyone involved in household tasks and chores makes the work easier, faster, and healthier. And you can even make housework more fun!

  • Put sticky notes on everything that needs attention: Dust me, pick me up, sweep me, clean me, etc. Then race around the house to see which family member can acquire the most sticky notes and get the job done properly.
  • Put some tunes on the stereo and limit each household task to a certain number of tracks—3 for washing the dishes, 2 for scrubbing the bathtub, 4 for dusting the living room, etc. Get your toes tapping and the house clean all at the same time.

Go Green in the Garden

Backyard agriculture is all the rage these days, as we have rediscovered the joys and benefits of growing our own food. Gardening is also a great way to get, and stay, active. Those seeds and plants need planting, watering, weeding, and tending to. The fruits of your labor need to be harvested and prepared for storage and meals. Branching out to incorporate backyard chickens, rabbits, or other small livestock creates another dimension to your activity (and learning) time.

Besides the boost in physical activity, growing your own food is often healthier, cheaper, and more fulfilling than relying on the grocery store.

Take a hike

Or walk the dog, visit the neighborhood park or playground, play some hoops, go for a swim, set up the net and have a rousing game of volleyball in the backyard, and so on. Just get outside and get moving! Turning a lazy Saturday, Sunday, or weekday evening into a fun activity builds heart health, good habits, and memories, all of which can last a lifetime.

Doing What You Can

The easiest and most effective way to develop healthier habits as a family is by taking it one step at a time. No one said you had to do it all at once or all by the end of the month. Just start. Do what you can, when you can. Grow from there. When built upon and sustained over time, these habits will evolve into a full-blown heart-healthy lifestyle that will last you and your children a lifetime.

4 Ways to Avoid Halloween Candy Overload

Thursday, October 24th, 2013

With Halloween just a week away, kids and parents are gearing up for the spooky festivities and sugary gorge-fest. It’s not only children who become increasingly excited as the end of October looms near—retailers and manufactures are also preparing for a big Halloween sales. The National Retail Federation estimates total Halloween spending in the U.S. to reach $6.9 billion. Of that spend, $2.08 billion is expected to be on candy alone, proof that we in the United States take our yearly Halloween candy binging rites seriously.

For kids, the goal is simple: visit as many houses as possible, filling up a giant knapsack with the largest amount of candy that you can manage to carry. Parents, on the other hand, have things a bit more complicated when it comes to Halloween. Yes, making sure your kids have a wonderful, memorable Halloween experience is important, as is keeping them safe while they are out there trick-or-treating.

What is also important is trying to curtail the ongoing consumption of tooth-rotting sweets that can last for weeks, or even months, after Halloween has come and gone. Not only is managing children’s candy intake necessary to avoid cavities, belly aches, hyperactivity, and future health issues—it’s also essential to avoid the inevitable glucose crash that follows an assault on the trove of Halloween riches.

So how do you go about helping your kids avoid the adverse affects of binging on Halloween candy? After all, they are sure to be up to their eyeballs in candy at every turn: at home, at school, and out in public. To start, it’s best to lay out a few ground rules: how much they’ll be allowed to eat and how much will be donated, saved for later, or set aside for ‘inspection’ by Mom and Dad. In addition to establishing rules, here are a few more ideas to help avoid Halloween candy crash.

1. Have Healthy Snacks on Hand

In the days following Halloween, it’s easy for kids to reach for that pillow case bulging with candy when they need a snack. One way to avoid this is to make sure you have other, healthier snack options readily available. While choosing a carrot over a chocolate bar isn’t likely to be your child’s first instinct, providing them with healthier food options—and helping them make the right choice—is key to avoiding candy binging. It helps make their Halloween candy stash last longer too.

2. A Little Goes a Long Way

Instead of giving your kids free reign over the now-overflowing candy jar, restrict candy intake to a few, or even better, one, piece of candy each day. To children, this might seem like a drag, but one way to make the process go more smoothly is to make a small ‘event’ out of it. Establish a set time each day, and encourage your kids to choose their daily candy very carefully. Tell them to eat their candy slowly and enjoy it rather than shove the entire thing in their mouth before running off. If you can manage to slow the process down enough, you will effectively bypass binge candy eating, while also teaching your kids the importance of savoring their food to avoid overeating and increase satisfaction and appreciation of food and treats.

3. One for Me, One for You

After the trick-or-treating has been completed, sit down with your children and take inventory of what they’ve managed to bring home. With all of the candy laid out, tell them that they need to decide which candy to keep, and which to set aside. In this way, you are allowing kids a certain level of control over selecting their favorites, but also cutting their candy total in half. Once they have chosen the candy they will keep for themselves, you can collectively decide what to do with the rest: donate it, share it among friends, or allow Mom and Dad to have some treats of their own.

4. Have a Plan for Leftover Candy

Aside from donating candy to troops overseas, selling it, or giving it away, having a few other ideas in place for leftover Halloween candy is a good idea to ensure it doesn’t go to waste. Of course, you can always freeze some of it, eating it later or using it as an ingredient in a frozen treat. You can also bake certain candies into cakes, use them in trail mixes, or even put them in a gift basket for Christmas. There are a ton of resources to help you with ideas for leftover Halloween candy, some of which even include healthy options!

Good luck managing that candy stash, and have a happy Halloween!

The Top 5 Worst Kids’ Lunch Foods

Thursday, May 30th, 2013

When it comes to providing kids with the best nutrition to keep them going strong, traditional PE programs alone may not suffice. Since kids are notorious for being picky eaters, this can make it difficult as a parent or after school program coordinator to find foods that kids will enjoy eating and that are healthy for them as well. Teaching healthy eating habits is just one of several elements of a coordinated school health program. Whether it’s the ingredients, labeling, or nutritional value, learn why each of the popular kids’ foods listed below that can actually do more harm than good in fighting childhood obesity.

Top 5 Worst Lunch Foods

New Obesity Statistics Widget

Friday, February 11th, 2011

prevent-obesity-net-obesity-statistics-widgetAbout PreventObesity.net: The United States is facing a child obesity epidemic and now, more than ever, needs people and organizations to step forward to change our path of self destruction. The technology exists to focus the world’s talents, creativity, and expertise on solving the problem that has cost our nation trillions of dollars over the past decade in health care costs. The combination of a grassroots movement and innovative ideas for reversing obesity will save our country money, lives, and keep our kids healthy. (Image from PreventObesity.net)

New Widget: PreventObesity.net just released their newest tool to help stave the obesity situation. The free widget can be placed on any website or blog and provides a quick view of what obesity has and will cost our country. It shows an adult obesity rate of only 13% in 1960 costing the nation $46 billion in health care; in 2008 the numbers skyrocketed up to a 34% adult obesity rate, costing us $120 billion. The popular widget also shows the number of annual heart attacks and how many days obesity takes off of your expected lifespan. The widget is based on substantial research, looking at the implication of obesity on our nation. Having the numbers easily available for people to see creates a sense of urgency to fix the situation. This widget can easily spread the word of how serious the current issue is and hopefully get people motivated to join our cause.

Join the Movement: Reversing the negative effects obesity has on our children and nation is a monumental task that requires a lending hand from people like you. Everyone has seen firsthand how obesity can affect someone’s life; do not accept the same outcome for you and your family. Our nation will suffer when the next generation of obese children age and require substantial support. If you are interested in protecting our health and economy, take a stand and join in our movement against obesity. You can make small contributions or lead the way, every helping hand counts. To join the movement, connect with other motivated people by adding yourself to our map. PreventObesity.net provides free services to support leaders, organizers, and even businesses looking to make a difference.

Steps to Take

  1. Widget: Post the brand new widget on your blog and website. Show others that you care about the current obesity situation and let them see the numbers for themselves on your site. Many people do not realize how serious the issue has become in the United States. Seeing the actual impact in dollars and lives posted on your website will help bring them on board the cause.
  2. Map of the Movement: Add yourself to the map and then ask your friends and employer to join the cause. The more you spread the word, the more influential the free support from PreventObesity.net will be. Take a leadership role in one of the most important causes of this generation by adding yourself to the map.