Archive for the ‘ Fitness ’ Category

11 Tips to Nourish Active Kids

Sunday, February 16th, 2014

With the Sochi Olympics in full swing, what better time to provide top tips from a few nutrition pros to help active kids meet their nutrient needs?

Although a 2013 JAMA Pediatrics study that looked at national survey data of more than 1200 children aged 6 to 11 found that 70% of them met federal Physical Activity Guidelines—at least 60 minutes daily of moderate- to vigorous intensity aerobic activity (like brisk walking or running)—you likely have or know plenty of kids who spend more than seven hours a week participating in organized sports and other competitive activities including ranging from basketball, baseball, crew, soccer, dance and swimming to gymnastics, cheerleading, wrestling, tennis and squash.

While all this activity is great for our kids’ hearts and other muscles, staying fueled and energized with nutritious foods and beverages is essential to help them perform their best—not only on the field or on the court, but in the classroom too. As sports nutritionist Tara Gidus says, “You wouldn’t think of letting your kids play football without a helmet, right? Just like they need the right equipment on the field, they need the right nutrition to support their activities on and off the field.”

Whether your kids are going for gold, or simply engaging in various physical activities for the fun of it, here are 11 tips from Gidus and five other top RDs to help them nourish their active lifestyles.

Batter up with breakfast. While it may sound cliché, children who eat breakfast get better nutrition overall than those who skip this vital first meal. Eating a nutritious and filling breakfast may also help kids keep their cool even when other players, parents, coaches or referees lose theirs. If you’re short on ideas beyond that usual bowl of cereal, here are 20 breakfast ideas.

Eat like a champ. Kids can fuel their active muscles well beyond breakfast by having lunches and dinners that provide carbohydrates, protein and healthy fats. Some ideas for lunch and dinner include a turkey breast sandwich on whole grain bread with avocado, sliced and spread (or a bit of mayonnaise) and a piece of fruit or half the sandwich with a bowl of low-sodium vegetable soup; peanut butter and jelly on whole-wheat bread, a banana and cup of nonfat milk; cold pasta salad with deli turkey slices; whole-wheat pasta with lean beef meatballs and marinara sauce; or salmon served with quinoa and spinach.

Power up with produce. Eating fruits and vegetables boosts kids’ immune systems to help them stay healthy and active. Let them pick out a few of their favorites—like carrots, broccoli, asparagus, grapes, watermelon, strawberries or bananas—each week at the grocery store, and offer small amounts of these and others you buy at each meal and snack. Getting kids involved in grocery shopping and giving them a say empowers them, helps them take ownership of what they eat and also helps them meet their daily quota for produce.

Snack smart. Like meals, snacks should provide carbohydrate—the main energy kids’ brains and body needs—and some healthy fat and protein. Examples include whole-grain graham crackers with peanut butter; an apple or other fruit of choice with low-fat string cheese; reduced or low fat cottage cheese topped with cinnamon and chopped pears; cucumbers with hummus, nuts (like cashews or almonds) and a clementine; Pistachio Chewy Bites (a combination of whole pistachios and dried cranberries); or a container of low fat or nonfat Greek yogurt, a natural beef jerky and a piece of fruit (like watermelon or an apple). Fresh or unsweetened frozen fruit also work well in snack-time smoothies.

Change the rules after school. Calling an “afternoon snack” a “second lunch” instead can help kids think more about having a sandwich, burrito, bowl of cereal, hummus and carrots on pita or other “real food.” It can also reduce their intake of so-called snack foods like candy, chips and cookies. Having a hearty second lunch can also help kids be less hungry for dinner—but that’s OK because they’ll be better fueled when they need it most for afternoon play and sports.

Milk it after practice. Low fat flavored milk—like Organic chocolate milk—has a 3:1 ratio of carbohydrate to protein; that makes it a smart choice for athletes recovering from a long practice or event. Shelf-stable single serving portions are available and make a great recovery beverage within 30 minutes of practice or competition.

Move meals. Don’t be afraid to move mealtimes. Young athletes spend the entire day in school and often come home hungry. Rather than waiting until 6 PM for a full meal, consider moving mealtime to earlier in the day. Depending on the age of the child, kids often benefit from two dinners—one after school and one three or four hours later.

Don’t forget fluids. It’s always key to make sure active kids stay hydrated throughout the day. Send your child to school or sports with a water bottle. If you know they’ll be playing for more than an hour or hour and a half, it’s OK to give them a sports drink to prevent dehydration and providing essential electrolytes. The fluid paired with the fuel from food will keep them hydrated and energized.

Make a mini-cooler a must. Young athletes are often on the go; that means food is as well. Think of a mini cooler as part of your equipment and make sure the kids have one to take to practice and to sporting events to help them stay nourished and at the same time keep food safe for consumption.

Boost their energy at half time. To nourish, hydrate and cool off sweaty kids, offer orange slices, grapes and/or strawberries at half time. Or they can sip on a water bottle with fruits like orange slices, cut strawberries, and raspberries throughout the game.

Fuel often—but not excessively. It’s important to keep kids fueled at regular intervals. Because many children, especially younger ones, get so engaged in what they are doing and don’t always want to stop to eat, it’s important to build in breaks to refuel. At the same time, parents should be mindful about how much kids are eating in relation to their activity level. It’s easy to think that kids need a lot more calories if they’re being active, but unless kids are participating in competitive athletics for several hours on most days, most kids take in enough calories during the day to offset their exercise.

How do you fuel your active kids?

Need more food inspiration? Check out our food and recipe guides!

Healthy Breakfast: 3 Quick Meals for Kids
Healthy Breakfast: 3 Quick Meals for Kids
Healthy Breakfast: 3 Quick Meals for Kids

Image of happy smiling little boy holding prize cup via shutterstock.

Sources: Tara Gidus, MS, RD, CSSD, Board Certified Specialist in Sports Nutrition; Nancy Clark, MS, RD, CSSD, Board Certified Specialist in Sports Nutrition and author of Nancy Clark’s Sports Nutrition Guidebook; Heather R. Mangieri, MS, RD, CSSD, Spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and Board Certified Specialist in Sports Nutrition; Heidi Skolnik, MS, CDV, FACSM, coauthor of Nutrient Timing for Peak Performance; Mitzi Dulan, RD, CSSD, Board Certified Specialist in Sports Nutrition; and Jessica Fishman Levinson, MS, RDN, CDN.

*Full disclosure: Dulan is a current spokesperson for Setton Farms for Pistachio Chewy Bites, and I am a current spokesperson for the Got Milk? campaign.



Add a Comment
Back To The Scoop on Food

For Parents Only: Making Mindful New Year’s Resolutions

Thursday, January 2nd, 2014

If you’re a regular reader of The Scoop on Food, you know that most of my posts are focused on kids’ nutrition and health. For the last seven months during which I’ve had the privilege of writing this Parents blog, I’ve covered topics ranging from fast food and food safety to cutting back on empty calories and simply helping kids eat better. While the intent of this blog has always been—and will continue to be—providing you with up-to-date nutrition, diet, fitness and health information that empowers you to raise healthy and fit kids, in the words of Barry Manilow I decided that this one’s for you.

If you’re like many parents, you make New Year’s resolutions. Of course the road to making these declarations about how you’ll eat better, move more or kick a bad habit to the curb is often paved with good intentions. But no matter what those intentions are—to lose a few pounds, to enhance heart health, to reduce blood sugar or blood cholesterol level or to simply fit better into clothing—our kids see and hear about what we do, for better or worse, and internalize the messages of those actions.

Although some experts aren’t a big fan of making New Year’s resolutions, I see absolutely nothing wrong with using January 1st as a start day to turn that intention to join a gym (or to simply get to the gym more often), to eat more fruits and vegetables or to quit a vice (like that usual late-night pantry raid, that sipping all day on soda habit, or that habit of mindlessly grazing on empty-calorie foods) into action. But I’m a big advocate of framing those resolutions in a positive way. If we say to our kids, “I’m trying to help my heart work better,” or “I want to have more energy” they’re more likely to see our changes as proactive and productive ones. We will too! If, on the other hand, we frame resolutions in negative ways by saying things like, “I hate the way I look and need to get into shape once and for all,” or “I need to lose all that weight I gained over the holidays” to justify or explain our actions in front of or to our kids, the message we’re likely sending to our kids (even though that’s not our intent) is that these healthier habits—eating certain so-called “healthy” foods or exercising—is some sort of punishment for our failures.

When we as parents make resolutions that include going on some sort of popular or restrictive diet (here’s a roundup of several from 2013 according to this, it’s important to think twice about doing so—after all, losing weight, if that means losing our health along the way, doesn’t really make sense, now does it? But it’s also important for us to be mindful about the messages those resolutions and the subsequent eating habits we practice send to our kids. For example, if we encourage our children to eat more fruits and vegetables but, at the same time, we eliminate certain fruits from our own diets, or if we give our children whole grain cereal, pasta and potatoes with their meals but ban these or other carbohydrate-rich foods (not for legitimate health or medical reasons but because it’s required by the new diet we’re following), what message does that send our kids about what comprises a healthful diet? Seems like a mixed message to me.

Parents are people too. Sometimes we are going to eat and live differently than our kids for one reason or another. And because we’re grown-ups we really don’t need to justify any of our actions to our kids. But because one of our goals as parents is to raise kids who eat well (at least most of the time) and who are active and fit and feel good about themselves, shouldn’t we try to do the same ourselves in order to set a positive example? Nourishing, caring for and respecting ourselves by making realistic and science-based behavior changes that we can maintain long-term helps us set a far healthier example to our kids than constant dieting or starting and stopping our gym membership or active lifestyle. Won’t finding a lifestyle that unites us rather than divides us from our families help us be better role models for our kids, especially little ones who are so impressionable?

My wish for all parents in the New Year is that when you make New Year’s resolutions they include small goals that encourage you to take small steps rather than big ones that require you to completely overhaul your diet and life. All those tiny tweaks will add up over time to help you achieve and maintain a healthier, happier and more vibrant you. You may think that slow and steady is boring and trite, but in the end it ultimately does win the race. None of us is perfect, and we will all make mistakes and will continue to when caring for ourselves and when raising our kids. But trying to live and show our kids a more moderate and sensible approach to eating and living well will likely pay long-term dividends for the whole family. When we show our children that we can create realistic resolutions that morph into sensible and sustainable behaviors that help our clothes fit us more comfortably, that help our abs be leaner or our biceps stronger or help us simply have more energy to play ball or dance with our kids, they’ll likely internalize—and may even try to mimic—those better-for-you behaviors. How’s that for a healthy start to a New Year?

How do you model healthy habits—and provide positive messages—to your children?

Image of apple wrapped in tape via shutterstock.

Find healthy finger food recipes for your tot here.

Sesame Street Lessons: Healthy Eating
Sesame Street Lessons: Healthy Eating
Sesame Street Lessons: Healthy Eating

Add a Comment
Back To The Scoop on Food

Helping Kids Have Healthier Habits

Monday, December 30th, 2013

In response to the current epidemic of obesity and a disturbing increase in eating disorders among children, registered dietitian Laura Cipullo has created a new healthy eating and exercise book called Healthy Habits. In the book, Cipullo aims to teach children how to develop positive relationships with eating and neutral relationships with food. Designed as a guidebook for parents or child educators, Healthy Habits provides lesson plans with hands-on activities with positive rather than good-or-bad messages—something I think is terrific and very useful. After all, shouldn’t we teach our children to enjoy just enough (but not too much) food with enjoyment instead of guilt or shame?

I interviewed Cipullo to learn more about her timely book and philosophy. Below are some highlights from our conversation.

EZ: What are some of the benefits Healthy Habits can provide for parents, coaches, teachers and others who work with children?

LC: Because not everyone can afford to personally employ a registered dietitian or nutritionist, purchasing a book or downloading a PDF can be a much more financially reasonable solution. As such, I wanted to create a user-friendly program that would be accessible and understandable to a wide audience. I also sought to spread the message (as I do in my private practice) that nutrition information should be shared in a positive tone—and relate specifically to health promotion, not weight loss! So, beginning with a program that I’d originally created for registered dietitians and once taught to my clients, I created Healthy Habits. I adapted it to appeal to parents and educators alike who could easily teach the program to one or more children (or even just read it). An individual simply reading Healthy Habits gains a greater understanding of what to say, what not say, and how to talk about nutrition with children from birth through adulthood. The 8 nutrition lessons are meant to be neutral in tone and to aid in learning/teaching about eating all types of foods since all types of foods are available.

EZ: You describe Healthy Habits as a “how-to” book for parents and teachers. Please describe what they should expect to find in the book based on your experiences working with families and individuals.

LC: Healthy Habits is designed to give adults the tools they need to teach nutrition to their children and/or students using encouraging tones and encouraging frameworks. The positive and empowering lessons were developed as an outgrowth of my 15 years of work with clients in the areas of family nutrition, eating disorders, weight management and diabetes. When I started my career, I knew diets didn’t work: deprivation caused binging and external weight emphasis resulted in yoyo weight cycling. Healthy Habits features “how-to” nutritional guidelines that do work; it’s based on real science, my knowledge as a diabetes educator, my experience as a certified eating disorder specialist and what has truly worked for my clients…and even my own family. Lessons discussing internal regulation, using an “everyday”/“sometimes” determination for food choices, and ridding food of moral or value labels form the learning foundation of Healthy Habits.

EZ: How do you suggest parents and educators use the 8 nutrition lessons that make up Healthy Habits most effectively?

LC: There’s no one simple answer to this. I personally prefer using books as references rather than reading them from cover to cover. And that’s why Healthy Habits keeps everything short and simple in an easy, usable format. A parent can choose a lesson and then perhaps just read about what carbohydrates are. Or he or she can actually complete the lesson handout with their children to learn and teach what carbohydrates are. A teacher can gather a group of students after school and implement an 8-week-long health program using the facilitator guides, handouts and child/parent homework assignments. Or a coach can combine Healthy Habits’ 8 lessons with exercise classes. The “how-to” guides are self-explanatory within the setup of the program—there are actual lesson plans to follow and even a free video tutorial.

EZ: What do you think sets Healthy Habits apart from other family and/or child nutrition books?

LC: Healthy Habits was created to prevent eating issues as well as eating disorders before they happen! The nutrition education offered is unbiased—it’s not focused on “good” or “bad” labels. Concentration is placed on how children feel when they eat or when they exercise. Many people use a 90%/10% approach to eating but I personally find this to be too restrictive for my clients. I prefer using a 75%/25% approach to healthy eating utilizing an “everyday”/“sometimes” determination for food selection. As parents, we definitely do not want our children creating food hierarchies or thinking of foods as treats or rewards. So many moms email me about their kids sneaking food and even hiding cookie and candy wrappers. And I have so many adult clients who remember feeling the need to do this when they were children because they weren’t allowed to have the “junk” food or “bad” food. We need to create an open and honest food environment. Our kids need the tools to learn how to eat all foods because, even if you don’t buy a particular food for your home consumption, I can guarantee it will be available to your children somewhere else! I’m especially proud of the video tutorial that now comes free with the purchase of the book. It provides a valuable extra benefit via its concise introduction to the entire program—easing the reader into this new positive food philosophy.

To learn more about Healthy Habits, click here; to purchase the PDF version for download, click here.

Image of a smiling girl eating apple via shutterstock.


Add a Comment
Back To The Scoop on Food

12 Healthy Feeding (and Living) Gifts for Parents

Monday, December 16th, 2013

If you’re still looking for that little something to gift a parent you love (or even yourself) to feed kids well and promote a healthy lifestyle during the holidays and beyond, look no further. The 12 items below are likely to fit the bill. They are registered dietitian-approved, and they’re just the kind of gifts that—you guessed—keep on giving! Enjoy!

Get slicing

A favorite new gadget that Sharon Palmer, RD loves is a mandolin vegetable slicer. She says, “I use an OXO® Handheld Flat Slicer and love it. It doesn’t take up much room in the kitchen, it’s under $15, and you can easily slice vegetables, and even create ribbon salads with it. It’s also great for when you want a large amount of vegetables thinly sliced for something like stir-fry, but you don’t feel like getting out the food processor and cleaning it again.”

Wok this way

Dana Magee, RD loves the T-fal Nonstick Jumbo Wok to make stir frys. According to Magee, “You may think this is a one-trick product, but by varying ingredients, sauces and protein-rich foods in your stir-fry you could easily use the wok once a week! Stir-frys are a great meal staple to use up any produce in your fridge that is remaining from meals throughout the week or are nearing the end of their shelf life. You can easily use the wok to stir fry use chicken, lean beef, tofu, or shrimp. Other uses include making scrambled eggs and omelets or sautéed pasta dishes.”

Go for a spin

According to McGee, “When you get a salad spinner like the Zyliss Smart Touch Salad Spinner (my favorite), you’ll wonder how you ever lived without a salad spinner! A salad spinner gives you the ease of rinsing lettuce and drying it efficiently. No more soggy salads! Drying lettuce can be a lot of work and may be deterring you from creating a host of leafy green salads that can be used for simple pairings with lunch or dinner or stand-alone entrees with some lean protein foods. I like to wash a head of lettuce in the beginning of the week and store in a gallon sized Ziploc® bag in the fridge for easy access (eg to add to salads). Other uses for the salad spinner include drying kale or fresh basil leaves, or using the spinner as a colander to rinse grapes to name a few!”

Do a freeze dance

Registered dietitian nutritionist Kate Myerson recommends re-purposing ice cube trays to freeze a batch of rice, quinoa, beans, or lentils. “When you need to throw a quick meal together, grab a few cubes and add to any meal. You can even microwave individual portions as a quick side so everyone gets what they want,” she says. Myerson’s trays of choice are the No-Spill Ice Cube Trays by OXO® that have tops for freezing and storing multiple batches.

Get the dish

Registered dietitian nutritionist Catherine Hains loves Fresh Baby My Plate Dinnerware Sets for kids. Each colorful plate contains 4 divided sections that are appropriately sized for fruit, vegetables, protein foods and grains. According to Haines, “The plates make learning how to eat nutritiously educational and fun! And they’re not just for toddlers…even my 11-year-old likes them.”

Get drinking

Julie Swift, MPH, RDN, CDE loves the Thermos Foogo Phases Leak Proof Stainless Steel Straw Bottle (10-ounce). She says, “This straw cup is great because it keeps beverages cold for about 8 hours. It also won’t leak while closed, which is a big plus.”

Read ‘em (without weeping)

To help parents raise healthy eaters and help their kids develop a healthy relationship with food, registered dietitian Michaela Ballmann recommends an all-time RD-favorite book, Secrets of Feeding a Healthy Family: How to Eat, How to Raise Good Eaters, How to Cook by Ellyn Satter. As noted in the book’s description, “Secrets of Feeding a Healthy Family demonstrates Satter’s dictum that “your positive feelings about food and eating will do more for your health than adhering to a set of rules about what to eat and what not to eat.” Amen to that!

Registered dietitian Melinda Hemmelgarn highly recommends Sylvia’s Spinach by Katherine Pryor. According to Hemmelgarn, “Sylvia’s Spinach is about a little girl who doesn’t like to eat spinach until (of course) she plants her own in a school garden. The book made me both laugh and cry, and this is a book for kids! And the illustrations really make the story come to life.” Hemmelgarm also recommends several books by registered dietitian Connie Evers including Nutrition Fun with Broc & Roll. “It’s great for parents and teachers alike,” she says. (I personally love all of Evers’ work and recommend checking out her fantastic website, Nutrition for Kids.)

Feel the pressure

Last year, registered dietitian Hope Warshaw received a Fagor Pressure Cooker as a holiday gift to help her realize her healthy eating goal of both eating/feeding more beans and using all dry beans as our source of beans. She stays inspired and motivated to use it (as does another dietitian, Tammy Sakanashi) by using a book by Jill Nussinow called The New Fast Food: The Veggie Queen Pressure Cooks Book. According to Sakanashi, “This book introduced me to pressure cooking…and I love it! Our family has been eating so many more legumes now that I can make them so quickly. I’ve even mastered using the pressure cooker on our electric stove. I especially love the white bean soup recipe—and have already made it twice!”

Use a kit to get fit

I’d be remiss to not mention at least one item for your holiday gift list to keep your family fit! FitKit is a great fitness find for families. This all-in-one fitness solution is portable and easily fits into your overnight bag or suitcase for your family’s weekend getaway or extended vacation. Each FitKit includes exercise bands, a jump rope and a pedometer—all the tools needed for a complete full-body workout parents and their older kids (aged 5 and up) can enjoy. The website also provides a 250+ exercise library for strength, cardio and flexibility.

Download our guide for Baby’s first solid foods and finger food recipes. Then, learn how to make homemade baby food!

Choose a Baby Food Maker
Choose a Baby Food Maker
Choose a Baby Food Maker

Image of many colorful gift boxes with ribbon bows via shutterstock.

Full disclosure: I received a FitKit from its co-creator, Amie Hoff, several months ago with no promise of a review or mention. I received no other products or goods or financial compensation for mentioning any of the products in this post. Happy holidays!

Add a Comment
Back To The Scoop on Food

5 Diet and Lifestyle Tips to Reduce Diabetes Risk

Tuesday, December 3rd, 2013

In recent years, there’s been an upward trend in the incidence of type 2 diabetes among children and adolescents. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), type 2 diabetes begins when the body becomes insulin resistant and can no longer use insulin properly. As insulin needs rise, the pancreas gradually loses its ability to produce enough insulin to regulate blood sugar.

Although type 2 diabetes is caused by a variety of factors, having a family history of type 2 diabetes, being obese, and being inactive put children and adolescents at increased risk for what used to be thought of as an adult disease. Although diabetes can strike anyone, those who belong to non-white groups—especially American Indians—are at greatest risk.

Because type 2 diabetes may present with few, if any, symptoms, it may go undiagnosed in children. But if your child experiences increased hunger, thirst, or urination, weight loss, fatigue or other unusual symptoms, it’s worth a visit to the pediatrician to discuss these and get to their root.

To help your child ward off diabetes—and eat and live better—here are 5 tips from two pros—Toby Smithson, RDN, CDE, founder of and coauthor of the new book, Diabetes Meal Planning and Nutrition for Dummies® and Hillary Wright, MEd, RD, author of the new book, The Prediabetes Diet Plan

1. Eat at home. According to Smithson, “Fast food equals more calories and fat, less fiber and nutrition. Eating at home offers opportunities to teach kids about cooking and also offers great communication opportunities.” Wright adds, “Sharing healthy meals as a family is critical to balancing out the non-stop messaging kids are exposed to outside the home encouraging them to buy junk food and eat on-the-fly.  Kids learn by example, so demonstrating what healthy eating looks like while they’re living under your roof is a critical self-care skill they’ll need for life.”

2. Snack smarter. When it’s after-school snack time, Wright urges parents to offer their kids a variety of colorful fruits and vegetables, yogurt, or cheese sticks instead refined crackers or nutrient-poor packaged snack foods. She says, “Hungry kids may be more willing to try something new, so take the after-school time to introduce new foods to your kids since they may be more receptive to them then.”

3. Plan it, buy it. Encouraging your child to plan a meal (like dinner), write a grocery list for the items needed and then selecting those items when at the grocery store can be very empowering for children, says Smithson. She adds, “Giving them a say in what’s served, and in what new foods they (or the family) should try may make it more likely that they’ll take a taste when dinner time comes around.”

4. Help them read between the lines. Smithson says it’s key to teach kids, even from a young age, to be food media literate. “It’s important for parents and children to understand food advertising and to take a stand against it by not always giving in to it, Smithson says. Because children are exposed to thousands of hours of targeted advertising for fast food, snacks, and sugar-sweetened cereal, Smithson urges parents to help their kids read between the lines of food marketing strategies. (You can learn more about food marketing and children by checking out Food Marketing to Youth and other info from Yale Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity.)

5. Play Actively. Wright says it’s key to keep your kids moving throughout the day as much as possible (and to join in on the fun when you can). She says, “Physical activity naturally stimulates chemicals that help clear glucose out of the blood and prevent diabetes.” Smithson agrees, and encourages kids not only to increase play time, but to make sure it’s active play. She says, “By increasing play time, kids are more apt to be physically active which will help balance their energy needs.” For most kids, 60 minutes or more of physical activity is recommended daily. (For more ideas to help your kids—and entire family—stay fit, check out Making Physical Activity a Part of Your Child’s Life by the CDC and Tips for Getting Active by the National Heart Lung, & Blood Institute (NHLBI)).

NEXT: Find out if your child’s growth is on track.

Image of woman at the supermarket with her son buying groceries via shutterstock.

Sesame Street Lessons: Healthy Eating
Sesame Street Lessons: Healthy Eating
Sesame Street Lessons: Healthy Eating

Add a Comment
Back To The Scoop on Food