10 Tips to Help Kids Eat Healthy

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Creating a Healthy Home can be easier than you think.

Creating a nutritionally healthy home is one of the most important steps you can take to ensure the health of your child. To start, make smart food choices, and help your child develop a positive relationship with healthy food. Your children will learn their food smarts from your example.

Here are the top 10 tips for getting children to eat healthy food:

1Do not restrict food. Restricting food increases the risk your child may develop eating disorders such as anorexia or bulimia later in life. It can also have a negative effect on growth and development.   Also by restricting food you will actually increase the risk of overeating later in the day which will cause weight gain.

2Keep healthy food at hand. Children will eat what’s readily available. Keep fruit in a bowl on the counter, not buried in the crisper section of your fridge. Remember, your child can only choose foods that you stock in the house, by limiting junk food you will, by default, teach your child how to choose healthier foods.

3Don’t label foods as “good” or “bad.” Instead, tie foods to the things your child cares about, such as sports, academics and hobbies. Let your child know that lean protein such as turkey and calcium in dairy products give strength to their sports and academic performance, the antioxidants in fruits and vegetables add luster to skin and hair and the carbs in whole grains will give them energy to play.

4Praise healthy choices. Give your children a proud smile and tell them how smart they are when they choose healthy foods. Kids thrive on positive reinforcement!

5.  Don’t nag about unhealthy choices. If your child chooses unhealthy foods infrequently, ignore it. However, if your child always wants fatty, fried food, redirect the choice. You might try roasting potato sticks in the oven (tossed in just a bit of oil) instead of buying french fries. Or, if your child wants candy, you might make fresh strawberries dipped in a little chocolate sauce. Too busy? Then keep naturally sweet dried fruit at home for quick snacks.  With consistent effort taste buds change and soon your child will be craving healthy foods.

6.  Never use food as a reward. This could create weight problems in later life. Instead, reward your children with something physical and fun — perhaps a trip to the park or a quick game of catch.

7.  Sit down to family dinners at night.  If this isn’t a tradition in your home, it should be. Research shows that children who eat dinners at the table with their parents have better nutrition and are less likely to get in serious trouble as teenagers. Start with one night a week, and then work up to three or four, to gradually build the habit.

8.  Prepare plates in the kitchen. There you can put healthy portions of each item on everyone’s dinner plate. Your children will learn to recognize correct portion sizes.  Too often people go for seconds and even thirds just because the food is right there.  You might notice that you need less food to feel full!

9. Give the kids some control.  Ask your children to take three bites of all the foods on their plate and give it a grade, such as A, B, C, D, or F.  When healthy foods – especially certain vegetables — get high marks, serve them more often. Offer the items your children don’t like less frequently. This lets your children participate in decision making. After all, dining is a family affair!

10.  Consult your pediatrician.  Always talk with your child’s doctor before putting your child on a diet, trying to help your child gain weight, or making any significant changes in the type of foods your child eats. Never diagnose your child as too heavy, or too thin, by yourself.  If weight change is recommended seek the help of a professional Dietitian.

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Outsmart Holiday Weight Gain

T’is the season for weight gain!  Along with all the delicious food around at this time of the year, comes the added pressure to over eat.  The holidays also place extra demands on our time, and more often than not, eating out of convenience ends up being the choice for many.  So let’s face it, nobody expects to lose weight during the holidays, it’s impossible and will only add extra stress.  But we can be proactive by doing some damage control before the damage actually happens, this entails planning and awareness.  According to the experts, the key to avoid any holiday weight gain is portion control.  It’s ok to indulge in the foods you enjoy as long as you are aware of how much you are eating and are staying within your daily calorie allowance.  This way you can enjoy the festive treats without the associated guilt.

Be your own Scrooge when it comes to calories.  Try these practical tips on outsmarting your cravings and avoid over indulging this holiday season:

  1. Workout Before the Event Try to sneak in a workout before the event.  Burning off some extra calories will help create ‘room’ for the calories you may end up consuming at the buffet table.  But more importantly, after a workout session, you may not want to sabotage your efforts by overeating.  A  heightened awareness in your physical well-being comes from endorphins (‘feel good’ hormones) that are released during exercise.  These hormones leave you feeling energized, optimistic, and confident.  You are in a far better position to make sensible food choices when you feel good about yourself.
  2. Eat Before Arriving Never arrive on an empty stomach, it’s simply a recipe for disaster.  Instead, have a healthy snack beforehand, or if that’s not possible, a glass of water will also do the trick.  The idea is to curb your appetite.
  3. Do a Walk-By Before grabbing a plate take a moment to simply walk by the buffet table and check out the offerings.  This is a form of planning, it allows you to scan the situation and narrow down your choices before deciding.  Instead of trying a little of everything (which can add up to a whole lot of calories!), you will, more likely, only choose the foods that interest you the most.
  4. Step Away From the Food People naturally seem to congregate around food because food is festive.  But the party shouldn’t just be about the food.  Make it a point not to focus on the food and explore your surroundings.  You’ll find that when food is not the focal point, you’ll naturally find other distractions.  Enjoy the company of friends.  Conversation and laughter are a great distraction from mindless eating.
  5. Bring Your Own Healthy Snack Offer to bring something.  Not only is it gracious, but it’s a way for  you to have a healthy backup plan just in case you don’t see anything else worth trying.
  6. Wear Something Body Hugging This one is for the gals.  Wear a body hugging outfit and you’ll automatically be more conscious of how much you are eating.  This works every time!
  7. Use a Smaller Plate Instead of the regular dinner size plate, opt for the smaller appetizer size plate.  Do not pile up your food, keep your selections to a single layer.

Avoid Long Weekend Weight Creep

After weeks or months of marking X’s on the calendar, the long weekend is finally here. If you’ve been diligently sticking to your fitness and nutrition plan, then there is no reason why you can’t let loose a little. The key here is to let loose ‘a little’ and not go overboard. You don’t want to sabotage all the progress made so far. Spending time with family and friends almost always involves food and lots of it. It’s easy to eat mindlessly when you’re in good company and there’s a smorgasbord of goodies all laid out. The calorie count can rack up real fast! Let’s not forget all the liquid calories we consume in sugary alcoholic beverages.

Here are some tips on how you can keep the long weekend festivities from destroying your efforts in the gym:

#1   Squeeze in a quick workout to allow for the extra calories and to keep the metabolism revved.

#2   Be mindful of portion sizes

#3   Choose healthier foods rather than calorie-dense foods. It’s ok to have a cheat day but even that should be within limits.

#4   Drink responsibly and wisely. Alcohol packs a double whammy, not only is alcohol high in calories but it also impairs your body’s ability to burn fat as efficiently. So, choose low-calorie alcoholic drinks and try to avoid sugary mixers.  Cheers!

#5  Have fun!

Happy long weekend everyone!

Stay Leaner and Fitter Throughout the Years

We’re all getting older, it’s a fact of life we don’t necessarily like to think about.  But we must think about it, that is, if we want to age gracefully and healthily and maintain our ideal healthy weight.

As the years go by, our body composition continually changes.  After the age of 35 we start losing 5% of lean muscle every 10 years.  After the age of 40, we lose 1% of lean muscle every year!  As the body loses lean muscle mass, it starts to increase fat stores.  This is why people start looking flabby and soft as they get older.

To top it all off, women have hormones to deal with.  Women’s hormones are constantly changing with every stage of life starting with puberty, pregnancy, and all the way to menopause.  During the menopausal years, low levels of estrogen account for the increased weight gain around the belly.  Losing weight can be extremely challenging at this time.  In general, many women notice an increased amount of belly fat as they age, even if they aren’t gaining any weight.  The natural aging process, hormones, and of course, our genetics, all play a contributing role in this shift from lean mass to fat mass.  Although these factors are all naturally occurring and we have no control over them – there is still a way to fight back! 

Exercise is one of the greatest defenses against age.  One of the reasons the body stores more fat as it ages is because the metabolism starts to slow down.  When we are young, the body has more lean muscle, and muscle requires more energy to maintain.  Muscle is our metabolism.  The more lean muscle we have, the more efficiently our metabolism runs, simple as that.  Aging replaces muscle with fat and therefore, has a halting effect on our metabolism.  The only way to fire up the metabolism is to maintain muscle mass with regular exercise and strength training.

The American Council on Exercise has published an article called, “Is it true that metabolism decreases with age?“.  Dr. Digate Muth provides an expert explanation of the effects of our metabolism on age-related weight gain.

In the end, it all boils down to one simple fact – in order to fight the effects of aging and related weight gain, we must make regular exercise and physical activity part of our lifestyle.  This is what I consider to be the “fountain of youth” and we all have access to it.

Get Motivated!

“People often say that motivation doesn’t last. Well, neither does bathing – that’s why we recommend it daily.” ~ Zig Ziglar

It’s going to happen!  You might as well be ready for it!

Most people struggle with their motivation when it’s regarding exercise or eating healthier.  There may be times when your motivation will seem as far-fetched as six-pack abs.  This is completely normal and anyone striving to make lifestyle changes should have a coping strategy in place  to deal with this situation when it arises.

The key to gaining better control and mastering your motivation is to understand what motivates you.

Our natural instincts move us towards pleasure and away from pain. It’s that simple.

By human nature, we will do more to avoid pain. It’s a fact that most people react rather than act, meaning, they first need a wake-up call or some sort of “pain” (ex:  heart attack, diabetes, etc.) before moving into action.

Motivational experts skillfully associate pain and pleasure and use them in behavior modification.  Whether it’s the words they use, the thoughts they think, the images they visualize, or the actions they take … they stack up pain deliberately to discourage undesirable behaviors, and they promote pleasure to encourage new desirable behaviors, or to reinforce good habits.

Here are 8 Strategies you can use to keep yourself motivated and on the track to getting real results.

1. Find Your Reasons Why

You need to figure out a compelling purpose.  For example, if your goal is to lose 25 lbs, you need to identify WHY that’s important to you.  Is it to feel sexier for your spouse, fit into that old pair jeans, or feel more confident?  Once you identify your initial reason, keep asking “why?” to dig deeper and finally come up with true reason that will motivate you!

2. Connect to Your Core Values

This is the ultimate secret. If you can connect the process (ex. exercise and eat healthier) to your core values, even in small ways, you can change your game.  For instance, some core values might include freedom, happiness, love, connection, family, or growth.  Figure out what matters most to you and work from there.

3. Change Your Mindset

You can instantly find more enjoyment in exercising by shifting your mindset from “having to workout” to “getting to workout”.  Often, people say, “I’ve got to workout!”.  This phrase leaves the person feeling compelled and thus less empowered.  Instead, consider adopting the phrase, “I get to workout!”.  Now, all of a sudden, this puts the person in a state of gratitude instead of obligation. Big difference!

4. Find your Happy Place

Remember how good it feels after you’ve had a great workout session or you’ve eaten a healthy meal.  Find a way to anchor that feeling within yourself so that anytime the going gets tough, you can easily revert back to your “happy place” to remind yourself why you do this.

5. Use Reference Points From Past Successes

Sometimes you might feel overwhelmed or unsure of your ability to achieve a good workout or prepare a healthy meal.  However, if you can think back to similar situations in the past where you were successful, then you can realize that it’s possible to do again. For example, if you were once able to do 12 push ups in a row, then draw from that experience and reassure yourself that you can or will be able to do it again.

6. Find a Visual Reminder

A visual tool such as a photograph or a piece of clothing can serve as a reminder of your weight-loss goals and your progress.  Find something that reminds you of why you began this journey and put it somewhere you can see it everyday.  This visual reminder can be a motivational phrase written on a piece of paper, a magazine photo of your ideal body, a photo of yourself when you were in better shape, a bikini or dress or pair of jeans you’d like to eventually fit into.  Whatever you choose, the important thing to keep in mind is that this visual tool must be realistic.  When the going gets tough, use this tool to pull yourself back on track.

7. The Buddy System

Pair up with someone who shares similar fitness goals as you and together, you can support and help each other through the rough spots. This is one of the greatest advantages of partner-training.  Training with a friend can take your workouts to a whole new level and save you both $$.

8. Take Action and Reward Yourself

Here’s a secret that once you know it and apply it, can change your life.

Action comes before motivation.

Instead of waiting to feel motivated to get started, go ahead and take action, the motivation will follow, especially if you have a reward waiting yourself.  You might not always look forward to your workouts and I’m sure there are a zillion excuses you could make for skipping out, but if you can push aside those negative thoughts and just get started, not only will you feel great about getting your workout done, but you’ll feel empowered and more confident for not giving in.  Once your workout is done, reward yourself with something that makes you feel good – and preferably not a piece of chocolate cake!

Try these Motivation Strategies and see how  they can empower you to take action and stick to it!  And remember, take it one day at a time.  Good Luck!

“Success is in the sum of small efforts repeated day in & day out” ~ Robert Collier

Weekly fitTip: Never Stretch Before a Workout

Every once in a while we all get these mysterious sprains or injuries from our activities of daily life or our regular workouts.  These so-called injuries can last anywhere from overnight or go on for days or even weeks.  Very frustrating and senseless as it’s often hard to pinpoint the actual cause.  Most people simply resolve to the fact that they probably didn’t warm up enough.

Well, the truth is, warming up can be a double-edged sword, not only can it prevent injury, but it can also be the cause of injury.

First of all, injuries can be pretty complicated and your lack of warming up may not totally be to blame, but one thing is for sure:  Warming up WILL help you reduce your risk of injury.  You need to get yourself moving and get that blood flowing to your muscles to properly prepare your body before you get all crazy with the dumbbells.

Problem is, most people have been taught that stretching is part of warming-up.  After all, isn’t that what all the fitness magazines suggest.  Well, that couldn’t be further from the truth and it’s exactly the kind of advise that initiates those senseless injuries.

Here’s why you should NEVER stretch before your workout:

#1 Stretching before your workout can increase your risk of injury:

There’s a common misconception that stretching reduces your risk of injury by “loosening” up your muscles.  Well, it’s not all wrong…static stretching can help elongate and relax your muscles, tendons, and ligaments.  But here’s the catch: static stretching reduces your muscles’ ability to contract.

And since your muscles need to be ready to contract (concentrically and eccentrically) at vigorous rates as soon as you start exercising, you want them to be ready for action — NOT in a long and relaxed state. You’re much more likely to pull a muscle when you suddenly try to exert force (like lifting weights) from a relaxed state.  This is why static stretching is not the activity of choice prior to working out.

#2 Stretching is NOT warming-up:

Your warm-up should be a lighter version of what your actual workout is going to be (I call it a “Dynamic Warm-Up”.  For example, if one of the exercises you plan on doing is lunges with dumbbells, then your warm up should be lunges without the weights.  You should do all the low-intensity versions of the exercises you’ll be doing in your workout to properly prepare your muscles, ligaments and joints.  This is why it makes all the difference to plan what you’re going to do before you go the gym.

The whole point of warming up is to get your heart rate up, get your blood flowing and pump more oxygen to your muscles so you can prepare to dive into your workout.  If you stretch during your warm-up, you’re going to let your heart rate back down and allow your muscles to relax…and “undo” what you were trying to accomplish in the first place!

When should you stretch?

Stretching is extremely important, but what’s more important is WHEN you stretch.  Never stretch before a workout, only AFTER your workout.  You want to have good flexibility because that helps reduce risk of injury, but it’s crucial that you don’t work on it until after your workout when you’re cooling down – that’s the right time to lengthen and relax your muscles.

Now, keep this in mind during your next workout and see if you experience the difference.  I can almost guarantee you won’t be getting anymore of those mysterious injuries.

Weekly fitTip: Eat More to Lose Weight

In order to lose weight faster and  more efficiently, you need to eat more.  That doesn’t make any sense, right?  It sounds too good to be true and it contradicts the whole concept of dieting, however, it’s a hard and proven fact.  But wait, before you start planning a binge, here’s the catch, you need to eat more of the good stuff.  Now, there’s no need to roll your eyes, it’s actually very simple!

Think about it like this, for a fire to keep burning it needs to be stoked every so often on a regular basis. much like our metabolism, which is our internal fat burning furnace.  Stoking your metabolism requires eating a small meal or snack approximately every 3 hours (like throwing a log on the fire).  Over the course of a day this will add up to 5 or 6 small meals (for example: breakfast, mid-morning snack, lunch, mid-afternoon snack, dinner, evening snack).  The size of the meals will depend on your total daily calorie allowance.

A general recommendation is that snacks should be between 100 and 200 calories each.  You’re probably wondering what types of snacks could possibly be 100 to 200 calories and still be satisfying?  It certainly rules out any sort of processed or junk food options, which are loaded with empty calories and next to zero nutrition.  Processed snacks are a waste of calories since they will not satisfy you for long. They generally cause a drop in blood sugar levels causing you to feel hungry again, which can then lead to unhealthy food cravings.  The key to avoiding this viscous cycle is to find foods that are naturally low in calories and nutrient dense (high nutritional value).

Here’s a list of 10 nutrient dense snacks that will not only keep you full longer, but will also satisfy the taste buds.  A good idea is to keep these items stocked in your fridge and pantry so you have them on hand for the next snack attack.  Many of these snacks are great for on-the-go or for at your desk at work, so keep a stash handy wherever you can.  This will take the guess work out of eating healthy and keep you on the right track.

Top 10 Nutrient Rich Snacks:

  • Nuts (almonds, walnuts, cashews, pine nuts)
  • Dried Fruit (raisins, dates, prunes, cranberries, cherries – unsweetened)
  • Veggies (baby carrots, celery sticks, sugar snap peas, etc)
  • String Cheese
  • Fresh fruit & Berries
  • Popcorn (air popped, unsalted, no butter or margarine)
  • Cottage cheese & fresh/frozen berries and honey
  • Whole grain cracker with Hummus, Peanut butter
  • Smoothie
  • Dark Chocolate

Portion control is very important even with healthy snacks. Measure out and pack proper portions in advance so they are ready when you need them, this requires a little planning and preparation, but is well worth the effort.  By having these healthy snacks readily on hand, you can avoid any dietary pitfalls and feel good that you are stoking your body’s fat burning potential.  Combine these healthy eating habits with a structured exercise regime and watch your body transform!