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.

Gluten-Free, Guilt-Free Oatmeal Muffins

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Now there’s absolutely no excuse for skipping breakfast!   These muffins are like a portable bowl of oatmeal. The fruit is even included.  AND… they are kid-tested and approved!

This is a great base recipe.  Make it your own, play with it, use your creativity.  I often add walnuts, flax seeds, cranberries (dried or fresh), chocolate chips, any kind of fruit, whatever is in season.  This is good clean eating.  Enjoy!

Banana Oatmeal Muffins
Yield: 12 large
Bake: in 400ºF oven for 20 minutes

1 1/4 cup rolled oats
1/2 cup yogurt, plain low-fat
1/2 cup milk, low-fat
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup brown sugar  (or any natural sweetener of choice)
1/3 cup oil, sunflower or vegetable oil
2 bananas, large, ripe, mashed
1 egg, large, lightly beaten
1 1/2 cup oat flour  (just grind 2 cups oats in blender)
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda

Instructions
In a bowl mix together rolled oats, yogurt, milk, and vanilla. Let soak for 10 minutes.
Mix oat flour, salt, spices, baking powder and baking soda in a bowl.
Add brown sugar, mashed banana, egg and oil to rolled oats mixture. Mix well.
Add dry ingredients to the rolled oats mixture. Mix well. Fill greased or paper lined muffin cups 2/3 full.

Bake for approximately 20 minutes.

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.

For the Love of Pancakes! A Healthier Take

When I think of ‘healthy’ pancakes, certain images come to mind, that of the flat, rubbery, grainy variety.  Over the years, I’ve experimented with many different types of flours to come up with a healthier version of the traditional white-flour pancake.  I’ve tried whole wheat, buckwheat, oat flour, and even combining these in varying proportions.  Some turned out better than others, but in general, the end result was always the same,   disappointing to say the least.  Good nutrition is definitely important, but it doesn’t always make for a great experience, for that we also need great taste.  I never settle for any recipe simply for the nutritional benefits, it must also be great tasting.  I test all my recipes against some of the toughest critics I know ….my kids!

I recently discovered brown rice flour while trying to find healthier alternatives for white flour (other than whole wheat flour).  Brown rice is one of my favorite staples, so the thought of incorporating it in other forms was intriguing.  I bought a bag of Bob’s Red Mill whole-grain brown rice flour not yet knowing what I would do with it.

When researching different uses for brown rice flour, I came across a recipe for gluten-free brown rice flour pancakes.  The fact that it is gluten-free made me think it might require special unconventional ingredients, however, this recipe is simple and straight forward.  I had everything on hand and after making a few changes and tweaking a few ingredients, I got ready for another pancake-experiment.  The brown rice flour batter is a little thicker than normal pancake batter, but a lot easier to manage.  The pancakes were perfectly golden and so light and fluffy in texture.  Their taste and texture are very much like the traditional white-flour pancakes, but these pancakes are packed with nutritional goodness.  Since they are made with high quality whole grain brown rice, they are rich in fiber and will keep you satiated a lot longer.  So, they taste great and are great for you, sounds like I found a keeper, right?  WRONG!

Before being officially passed, these pancakes must meet one more challenge … my critics.  It didn’t take long to get enthusiastic thumbs-up and big smiles from both kids.  The fact that I shaped them into teddy-bear faces with chocolate chip eyes and strawberry mouths, may have earned me extra brownie points!

Gluten-free Brown Rice Flour Pancakes

  • 1 1/2 cups brown rice flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 t sea salt
  • 1/4 t cinnamon
  • 2 t raw sugar (or any sugar substitute)
  • 1 1/4 cups milk
  • 2 T apple cider vinegar (or white vinegar)
  • 1 egg
  • 3 T canola oil

In a small bowl, mix together milk and vinegar, and let sit a few minutes to thicken.  Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, mix together the dry ingredients.

Add egg and oil to the milk/vinegar mixture and combine well.  Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients and mix until combined.  Do not beat for too long.  It’s ok if the batter is lumpy.

Pour on to a greased non-stick pan on medium heat.  Flip when pancakes start to bubble on top.

Enjoy with maple syrup or any toppings of your choice.

Makes 10 – 12 medium pancakes

Super Healthy Homemade Hummus – Easy and Diet Friendly!

Healthy Homemade HummusThis homemade hummus is packed with healthy goodness.  Don’t let the calories scare you!  These are nutrient rich calories, the kind we all need.  The high-calorie ingredients in hummus are the tahini (or sesame butter), and extra virgin olive oil which can be substituted for lighter alternatives, but in my opinion, these greatly contribute to the flavor, richness, authenticity, and nutritional content of the dish.

The word hummus means chickpea in Arabic, which is the primary ingredient in this ancient dish.  Chickpeas are a great source of fiber which helps reduce levels of LDL cholesterol (bad cholesterol).  When served with a grain, such as pita, it’s a complete-protein food and extremely low-fat.

Tahini or Sesame ButterTahini is a paste made by grinding up sesame seeds and dates back as far as 1600 BC.  Tahini contains a lot of natural oil, almost 50%, which gives it a high fat content.  The oil, however, is mostly in the form of monounsaturated fat which is beneficial for the body since it contains increased levels of HDL cholesterol (good cholesterol).  Tahini is a nutritional powerhouse, packed with a multitude of vitamins and minerals.  Antioxidants along with vitamin E in tahini reduces the aging of body cells which helps slow down the aging process.  Tahini is an extremely rich source of calcium, one of the best sources, even better than dairy (which is hard for the body to digest).  And finally, it is also one of the richest sources of protein, being almost 20% complete protein, it beats out milk, soy beans, most nuts, and sunflower seeds.

Extra virgin olive oil contains extraordinary amounts of antioxidants that fight everything from fat buildup, cravings, inflammation, to helping boost your metabolism.  It is also an extremely rich dietary source of monounsaturated fat containing oleic acid, which is a proven fat loss agent when combined with a low-calorie diet.

This goes to show that you can’t always judge a food simply based on the calorie content.  The focus should be quality over quantity, when it comes to calories.  The high-calorie ingredients in hummus are also high quality, and the health benefits they offer are worth the extra calories.  Having said that, you should still exercise portion control.  According to this recipe, one serving of hummus is 2 tablespoons per person.  Use instead of mayo on sandwiches or in wraps.  Makes a perfect mid-day snack with some veggies.  Is also great in salad dressings.  The possibilities are endless!

Ingredients

    1 can Chick Peas (15.5 oz)
    2 T Tahini
    2 T Extra Virgin Olive Oil
    ½ cup Low Fat Yogurt
    ½ Lemon, juiced
    1 t Lemon zest
    1T Flaxseed meal
    1 garlic clove
    1 t sea salt
    ½ t ground cumin
    ½ t ground coriander seeds
    ¼ cup fresh cilantro leaves, chopped

Directions

Blend all ingredients in a blender or food processor until a creamy consistency.  If too thick, add 2 tablespoons of water and mix.

Makes 12 servings

Nutrients per serving: 76.4 cal, 4.4 g fat, 7.2 g carbs, 2.3 g fiber, 3.1 g protein

Weekly fitTip: Make ‘Room’ for Treats

Now that Halloween’s come and gone, what’s left behind is the hoard of candy and the daily temptation that comes with it.  An ideal solution would be to get rid of it by giving it away, sharing it, or just throwing it out.  In reality, that’s just not going to happen!  Whose going to take your candy when everyone’s got tons of their own.  Throwing it away seems a little extreme and irrational, I mean, why take it in the first place to throw out in the end?

The reasonable solution is what I like to call, “making room”.  Allowing yourself a treat is fine, even if it is daily, but you need to compensate for that treat.  In order to ‘fit’ that treat into your diet, you’ll need to make room in terms of calories.  Give up some extra calories during the day, like a soda, latte, cookies, or chips, to make an allowance for the treat calories.  I emphasize giving up ”extra calories” because these are calories that you could otherwise do without, as opposed to nutrient rich calories which are a necessary part of your daily dietary requirement.  By practicing ‘making room’,  you can enjoy your treat guilt-free without consuming extra calories or packing on extra pounds.

Be sure to watch the portion size of your treat and avoid over indulging.

Wake Up Call! Snacking can Sabotage Your Weight Loss

Yes, snacking can absolutely kill all the hard work you do at the gym.  Unless of course, you are snacking wisely.  Eating smart or eating healthy is not always easy.  We often have the best intentions to stay true to our goals, but for whatever reason, there are times when cravings override sensibility.  But why does this happen?  Why do we crave unhealthy foods?  Why do we consciously make poor food choices and then feel guilty about it?  How can we stop this cycle of sabotage?

The answer to the first three questions is lack of planning.  Without proper planning we will often make poor food choices out of convenience, when a healthier alternative is not easily available or when lack of time is a factor.  A little planning can go a long way and can keep you on track with your weight loss goals.  Plan out an entire week of meals and snacks over the weekend, and prepare a shopping list so you have everything on hand.  At first this may seem time consuming, but the more you do it, the easier it gets.  This step will keep you from sabotaging all your hard work at the gym.  Having supportive meals and snacks on hand takes the guess work out of eating healthy.

Remember, guilty snacks are high in calories but offer no real nutrition, these are known as empty calories.  These snacks may taste great but will not keep you full for long, you’ll be fighting a snack attack a short while later.  Healthy snacks, on the other hand, are much lower in calories and are full of nutrition.  They taste great while keeping your blood sugar levels stable, which means you’ll be satisfied longer without having cravings.    Once you compare the nutritional information on the packages of each, you will no doubt make the smart choice.

Here are top 7 guilty food cravings and their healthier smart alternatives.  Make every calorie count, choose the smart snack and stop the viscous cycle of sabotage!

If you’re craving this – instead eat this:

Instead of cookies, go for all natural granola bars.

 

 

 

To satisfy a sweet tooth,  choose dates or dried fruit (no sugar added)

 

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Pass on the donuts and pastries,  choose fresh fruit.

 

 

 

Instead of potato chips, Soy Chips are the way to go.  One serving of these is only 90 calories with 6 gms of protein, and 0 saturated fat or cholesterol!

 

 

 

Water or Crystal Light is always a better option than pop.  The zero calorie pops are full of artificial sweeteners and chemicals.   Sparkling water with a wedge of lemon or lime is just as refreshing and hydrating.

 

In recent research, it’s been proven that coffee contains antioxidants and other agents that help reduce the risk of various diseases.  Does that mean coffee is good for you?  Not necessarily, it also contains caffeine which is know to raise blood pressure and elevate levels of epinephrine (also called adrenaline).  Green tea is high in antioxidants, especially a particular one called EGCG (epigallocatechil gallate), which inhibits cancer cell growth.  The healing and preventative benefits of green tea cleanses the body of disease causing toxins.  People generally feel energized and refreshed.

 

Frappuccino or Fruit Frapps pack a lot of calories, especially if topped with whipped cream.  Choose a real fruit smoothie or
fruit bottom yogurt which are packed with nutrition.

 

 

Weekly fitTip: Know what’s in your food

Whether you are uninformed or misinformed, not knowing the contents of the foods you eat will sabotage your weight loss efforts.  Packaging of food products can be deceiving and don’t really convey the healthfulness of the product.  Manufacturers use packaging as a marketing tool for the sole purpose of sales.  They want you to believe in the healthfulness of their product so that you will purchase it, mission accomplished!  Regardless of whether the package states (example: 0 Trans Fats, Low fat, Reduced Sodium, Reduced Fat), it is your responsibility to yourself to find out exactly what the specific ingredients are.

Read food labels
Food labels turn knowledge into action.

Solution:  Read nutritional labels on the package

Food labels contain a wealth of information and at first glance, can look intimidating. You don’t need to be a nutritionist to make sense of it, you just need to be able to pick out the pertinent information.

Food Labels 101

First off, start with the list of ingredients.  If the list of ingredients looks more like a short story, then there’s a good chance the product is highly processed and contains high quantities of chemicals and preservatives.   You may want to choose a healthier alternative, one with a shorter ingredient list.  The ingredients are listed in order of quantity, the first ingredient being the highest.   It’s important to scan the list to see what the first few ingredients are because that’s what the bulk of the product is made of.  Common sense plays a big role here, if you don’t know what a particular ingredient is or you can’t pronounce it, then it is probably a chemical or additive.

Next look at the calories, grams of fat (specifically saturated fat), cholesterol, sodium, sugars;  these are the enemies, so, try and eat less of these.  Foods containing high amounts of these can be harmful to your overall health and can contribute to conditions like heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes.  Simply choose foods with a low % Daily Value of these nutrients.

Lastly, make sure the values for protein, dietary fiber, and vitamins are high.  These are beneficial to your health and well- being.  Protein is important for repairing and building muscle, however, protein from animal sources (lean meat, fish, poultry) also contains fat and cholesterol so eat smaller amounts of these.  Other sources high in protein are low-fat or skim milk, yogurt and cheese.  Vegetable proteins like beans, seeds, nuts, and whole grains are considered super foods because they are also high in dietary fiber and other minerals.

However, if all this is still too confusing or overwhelming, there is the NuVal™ Nutritional Scoring System that can take the guess-work out of making healthy food choices.

So there you go, food labels in a nut shell!  This basic information should be empowering and should help you make healthy food choices that will support your fitness efforts.

Top 10 ‘Skinny’ Foods for Healthy Weight Loss

Losing weight is about eating clean and eating smart, it is about being aware and accountable for everything we put in our bodies.  Those who are looking for a quick fix will be disappointed.  There is no “secret” to losing weight, nor is there a magic diet…sorry!  It all boils down to what we put in our mouths.  The age old saying, “you are what you eat”, is exactly right, 75% (if not more) of the weight loss battle is related to food.  By initiating small changes to your regular diet, eliminating certain foods and incorporating healthy alternatives, you will notice the weight dropping off in a short time.  The other 25% of the equation is exercise.  In order to achieve optimum results, a healthy diet and regular exercise go hand-in-hand.

Here are Top 10 Super Foods that will keep your metabolism revved so you will burn more fat.  Try to incorporate as many of these as you can into your diet immediately:

Oatmeal - the breakfast of Champions!1.    Oatmeal – is a great way to start the day.  Oats, in any variety (quick, rolled, old-fashioned, steel cut, but not instant), are high in fiber providing your body with a steady source of fuel while keeping your blood sugar level stable.  It keeps you full longer so you won’t crave that mid-morning sugar fix.

2.    Egg Whites – When compared to the whole egg, the whites are     definitely the healthier choice.  One egg white contain 17 calories, 0.1g fat, 0g saturated fats, 0mg cholesterol, and 5g protein.  The egg yolk, on the other hand, contains a whopping 55 calories, 4.5g fat, 1.6g saturated fats, 210mg cholesterol, and 2.7g protein.  The numbers speak for themselves.

3.    Grapefruit – They are delicious, juicy, fragrant and a powerful weight loss agent.  The grapefruit diet has been around for years and has avid supporters, but now, there is actual research that proves grapefruits promote healthy weight loss.  Red grapefruits, in particular, have an insulin reducing property which aids in weight loss and improved health.

4.     Nuts – Nuts are calorie rich and high in fat, so how are they a ‘skinny’ food?  Nuts are mostly unsaturated fat, which is good fat; they lower LDL cholesterol (bad cholesterol) and have shown to aid in healthy weight loss when consumed in moderation.  The high fat content can prevent cravings, which lead to unhealthy food choices.  Nuts are packed with powerful nutrients and make a great on-the-go snack, but portion control is the key.

5.    Fresh Produce – Fresh fruits and vegetables make up the largest portion of your diet.  Most vegetables, particularly the green leafy variety, are naturally low in carbs, high in antioxidants, and very low in calories.  It is recommended to include produce in all varieties and colors into your diet.  Increasing your daily consumption of produce will decrease your overall caloric intake, leading to healthy weight loss.

6.    Yogurt – Research has found that eating low-fat yogurt daily significantly increases fat burning potential.  This particular study found those who ate low-fat yogurt daily lost on average 22% more weight, 61% more body fat, and 81% more belly fat!  Beware of the sweet fruity yogurts, they are usually higher in calories and sugar, and avoid those sweetened with artificial sweeteners.  Low-fat Greek yogurt is an excellent choice and can be sweetened with honey or agave.

7.    Brown Rice – Brown rice is a nutrient rich whole grain.  Among the many other health benefits of brown rice, the high fiber content is what makes it such an excellent food for weight loss.  High fiber provides bulk that keeps you full a lot longer, preventing sugar cravings that lead to poor food choices.

8.    100% Whole Grains – For the same reasons as brown rice, whole grain pastas, breads, cereals are the recommended choice for healthy weight loss.  Sprouted grain breads are my recent discovery; they are a complete protein that is digested by the body more efficiently.  The low gluten content of sprouted grain breads makes them an excellent food for a flat belly.

9.    Beans and Lentils – Beans and lentils (also called legumes) are a power food.  They are high in protein, high in soluble fiber, and have a low glycemic index which makes them the perfect food for weight loss.

10. Green Tea – Certain compounds in green tea have shown to aid in weight loss.  High concentrations of catechin polyphenols along with other chemicals in green tea increase the body’s fat oxidization and thermogenesis.  In other words, green tea helps rev up your metabolism and increase your fat burning potential.  Green tea has many more health benefits and is recommended as part of a healthy diet.

SOURCES: Zemel, M. International Journal of Obesity, April 2005; vol 29: pp 391-397. News release, General Mills.