Archive for the ‘
Fitness ’ Category
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 DiabetesEveryDay.com 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.
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Sesame Street Lessons: Healthy Eating
Thursday, September 26th, 2013
When raising kids, many parents may feel it’s hard enough to feed them in a way that helps them meet their needs for growth and development, let alone prevent obesity, type 2 diabetes, and other diet-related diseases. But it’s so essential for parents to think big picture—and think prevention—when raising their kids. Although studies suggest that being overweight or obese, or having a disease or condition such as type 2 diabetes or high blood pressure as a child increases the risk of growing into an adult with a similar weight or health status, there are things we can do to turn the tide and help kids—and ourselves—do better.
If you want to know why it’s worth the effort—and what you can do—to protect yourselves and your children from the growing epidemics of obesity, type 2 diabetes and other health conditions, there are few who are better to call on than David L. Katz, MD. An expert in chronic disease prevention and weight management, Dr. Katz is the founding director of Yale University’s Prevention Research Center, and the Editor-in-Chief of the journal Childhood Obesity. He’s also the co-author, with Stacey Colino, of the new book, Disease-Proof: The Remarkable Truth About What Makes Us Well. Here are some highlights from our conversation.
EZ: Why is it essential to have a family approach—rather than an individual one—to eat better?
DK: The whole focus of Disease-Proof is on families. The advice for losing weight and finding health works just fine if you are on your own, but let’s face it—most people aren’t. Overwhelmingly, the people who go on diets or attempt to get healthy every year have families. When we leave families out of our effort to get to health, we ignore a very relevant adage: in unity, there is strength. That strength is apt to be the difference between success and failure. Besides, it simply isn’t responsible to go on some ‘diet’ to improve your own health, and leave your family behind. Your family needs you, and you need them.
EZ: What are your tips to help parents help their kids move towards healthful eating?
DK: With young kids, it’s pretty easy to just ‘be the parent.’ You make the decisions, and they need to come along. It’s hard for them to go too far wrong when you set a good example. To help parents feed their kids in a more healthful way, I recommend having only ‘good’ food options in the house. There are ‘good’ options in every category—including cookies and chips. If all your kids ever get at home are ‘good’ options, they don’t just come to accept them—they come to prefer them.
It’s also important to give kids’ taste buds time to acclimate. Many kids reject new foods because they are new and unfamiliar. Keep reintroducing healthful foods you want to be part of their diets, and little by little, they will accept them. It may take multiple tries, but consistency always wins out in the end.
EZ: Is it ever too late for parents—especially those with older children—to revamp their family’s eating habits? What would you say to a parent who wants to help their older children who has ingrained eating habits to help them gradually shift those habits without creating a battlefield?
DK: Tell kids ‘why’ it matters. Love is responsibility—for one another. Tell them you need their help to take care of your own health. Tell them you love them, and that there is nothing more important you can give them than the best possible chance for a long, healthy life. It’s amazing how far a little candor can take you!
You can also gradually help your kids improve their diet by trading up the options. Older kids will have a lot of foods they already know and love. Promise not to eliminate those foods. Instead, work towards trading them up. Offer better chips, better crackers, better cookies, etc. There are, indeed, better options in every food category. By making some trades, you’ll start to see dramatic improvements in overall diet quality. Another easy trade up is to work towards eliminating soda. Water works very well for thirst! Low-fat or nonfat milk are also healthful options. When making these changes, explain to your kids your motives, be prepared to make compromises with them, and commit to steady, incremental progress.
EZ: Nutrition and health experts—myself included—often talk about how vital it is for parents to be role models for their children. What’s your advice to for parents who don’t know where to start?
DK: You and your kids will get to health together—or probably not at all. ‘Do as I say, not as I do’ never works. If your kids respect you, they will do as you do. If they don’t respect you, they won’t. Make sure you and your spouse present a united front and that you both understand that this needs to be a priority. Then walk the walk before talking about it—and it won’t just be lip-service.
EZ: Besides diet, fitness and physical activity are so essential to grow healthy kids—and a healthy family—that’s less likely to develop debilitating diseases. What are your tips to help parents help their kids stay active and fit?
DK: Have physically active fun as a family. We consider ‘normal’ the things we do growing up. Make physical activity ‘normal’ for your kids by finding fun activities to do together often. This can include walking a dog, dancing, or wrestling on the bedroom floor. Being active together is fun—it’s good for both of you. And it establishes ‘motion’ as a normal part of the day.
How do you disease-proof your family?
Image of smiling family cooking together in the kitchen via shutterstock.
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Monday, September 2nd, 2013
When you think about raising healthy kids, is helping them prevent cancer when they’re older one of your motivators? Let’s be honest—most of us busy parents focus a lot more on making sure our kids eat enough so that they have energy and meet their basic nutrient needs. We also want them to grow and develop optimally without gaining an unhealthy amount of weight. But while all of these motivators for feeding kids well are important, so, too, is preventing cancer and other diet- and lifestyle-related diseases.
To help parents help their kids eat and live better and prevent future cancer, the American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) and SuperKids Nutrition, Inc. created a campaign called Healthy Kids Today, Prevent Cancer Tomorrow. To learn more about the initiative, I interviewed registered dietitian Melissa Halas-Liang, founder of SuperKids Nutrition, Inc. She’s thrilled to have teamed up with AICR to help parents help their kids eat and live better. Below are some highlights from our conversation.
EZ: Your enthusiasm for nutrition comes through in all the work you do with SuperKids Nutrition—but even more so with this new campaign. What excited you to be a key part of the Healthy Kids Today, Prevent Cancer Tomorrow campaign?
MHL: This campaign reflects why I went into nutrition. It’s about preventive wellness, healthy kids, and empowering people to make healthier choices. Personally, I’ve seen friends lose parents to cancer at an early age, and it’s awful at any age. Every child deserves a healthy lifestyle to protect him or her as much as possible from that scary six-letter word. I’m most excited to help families start cancer prevention now. I look at children and see their potential—if they’re nourished right, they can grow up to lead healthy lives and achieve their dreams. And it’s never too late to get started. I’m especially excited to work on this campaign with the AICR because their philosophy mirrors my own: food is powerful and essential to both daily and long-term good health.
EZ: I probably speak for many parents when I say that, except for making sure our kids wear enough sunscreen when they’re outdoors, we don’t think much about protecting our kids from future cancer. But we should, right?
MHL: Excellent question! The honest truth is, we should care, because how we raise our kids does matter when it comes to future cancer risk. Most parents may not know that cancer prevention starts at an early age. Research shows that about one in three cancers in the U.S. could be prevented every year if kids eat smart, move more, and stay lean throughout their lives. Just like parents teach children to look both ways before they cross the street for safety–we need to protect our kids from the danger of cancer with the foods they eat. That means promoting healthy foods, playing active games instead of sedentary video games, and teaching them how to cook. It may sound like a lot, but I promise that once you start showing your kids how to live in a healthier way, you’ll feel so good—and won’t go back to less healthful habits. Our campaign makes it fun and easy to eat better and move more to reduce the likelihood of future cancer.
EZ: Why is it so vital for parents to model healthful habits in order to raise kids who eat nutritiously and stay fit?
MHL: To put it bluntly, we need to model healthy habits because our kids look up to us more than you would ever believe. They want to be like us and will learn habits from us. They’ll also adopt our beliefs. For example, if we repeatedly say, “Veggies are gross,” or “I hate exercising,” or “I don’t like my fat tummy,” guess what? Our kids won’t want to eat veggies or do any exercise. Plus, they’re going to learn to hate their bodies. My biggest piece of advice to parents is to be the type of person you want your kids to be and work your best to increase the times you offer foods you know can protect their bodies.
EZ: What are some things parents can do to help their kids grow into healthier adults and reduce their life-long cancer risk?
MHL: Parents can encourage their kids to monitor their healthy habits. For example, they can track the different colors of healthy foods they eat or the whole grains they include at meals. They can also keep track of the activities they engage in each day. Making healthy habits objective and measurable helps kids stay motivated. Here are five things parents and their kids can do today to get on a healthier eating and fitness track:
- Think in color. Tracking your food colors (fruits, veggies, whole grains, beans, spices and herbs) with the Super Crew Colorful Food Tracker will help you eat at least four colors a day faster than you think.
- Pick plant foods. Make a delicious meal using plant-based protein a few times a week. It’s easy, filling and healthy.
- Just dance. Dance or play your way to an active you! Moving your body helps you think more clearly, play longer, and feel better! It also reduces cancer risk.
- Break it up. Find fun ways to get and stay active and grow strong by breaking up your 60 minutes of exercise into 15-30 minutes at time. Tracking your exercise can also help you stay motivated.
- Make your own takeout. Forget delivery for family pizza night! Have fun making your own–it’s more nutritious and can help you family stay healthy and happy!
- Set some goals. Commit to one to three healthy actions each month. Try a new recipe together, aim to eat more whole grains, or go on weekend family hikes—then build on these healthy new habits together as a family.
For more information about the Healthy Kids Today, Prevent Cancer Tomorrow campaign and to download free toolkits, visit SuperKids Nutrition and AICR.
Image of father and daughter playing in summer via Shutterstock.
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Monday, June 17th, 2013
Lately, there’s been a lot of talk about what kids should—and shouldn’t—drink, especially when they’re active. And with summer just days away, it’s likely your kids are spending a lot more time outdoors, running around and breaking into a sweat. But should sports drinks be part of their hydration equation?
As I wrote about in a recent parents.com post, a new health campaign in California aims to reduce intake of soda, sports drinks and other sugary beverages and increase water intake to reduce obesity.
And if you live in New York City, you’ve probably seen the latest incarnations of the “Are You Pouring on the Pounds” ad campaign, first launched by the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene in 2011. The new ads splashed across buses and featured on TV represent the latest attempt to inform consumers about the high levels of added sugar found in sports and energy drinks, fruity drinks, and sweet tea. The ads also warn consumers that although they sound healthy, sports drinks pack in a lot of added sugars that contribute to obesity and type 2 diabetes. On a positive note, the campaign encourages healthful replacements including water, seltzer and fat-free milk.
Any parent of an active child knows that blue, orange, and red sports drinks and vitamin waters are often the beverages of choice at practices and games. These beverages are popular not only because kids like their sweet taste, but because they’re available and advertised everywhere. A recent report by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation found that in 2010, Gatorade TV ads were ranked among the top five most-advertised products seen by children and adolescents. The fact that these drinks are also endorsed by athletes who many kids emulate only adds to their appeal.
The truth is, whether for sports or recreational activity, most kids don’t need sports drinks. They provide few nutrients and leave less room in the diet for more healthful foods and beverages. They also contribute to tooth decay and erosion of tooth enamel. The American Academy of Pediatrics says that while small amounts may be appropriate for children who participate in vigorous physical activity in hot, humid conditions for more than one hour, most kids who engage in routine physical activity for less than three hours in normal weather need only water. The Centers for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) also says sports drinks, which (like soda) are primarily sugar water, are not appropriate for school-age kids. The CSPI also notes these drinks provide added sodium—something many children over consume—and questionable ingredients such as artificial flavors.
So how can we parents help turn the tide, and encourage our kids to have more healthful drinking habits—especially when they’re active? We can take a stand against sports drinks and other sugary beverages by just saying no. We can offer water as the first—and best—hydrator when our kids are thirsty. We can add some flavor to water by infusing it with some fresh fruit slices or a splash of 100 percent fruit juice. In addition to water, we can offer our kids appropriate amounts of nutrient-rich beverages such as low- or nonfat plain milk, fortified soy beverages, and 100 percent fruit juice—options offered in MyPlate and current dietary guidelines.
But we also need to be realistic. We need to realize that we have a lot less control over what our kids drink when they’re away from home than when they’re at home. We can set a healthful example and encourage our kids to drink only water and nutritious beverages when they’re at home or on-the-go with us. But they may very well want to have one of those colorful beverages—or some soda, or a fruity beverage—on the ball field or when with friends who also drink them.
I tell my own children that unless they’re exercising for several hours at a time, water is their best hydrator. I tell them I rather them not consume sports drinks because of their high sugar content. But I also tell them that if they want a sports drink, soda or other sugary beverage once-in-a-while, it’s ok—as long as they count it as a daily treat as they would cookies or candy. Would I rather them avoid nutrient-devoid sugary beverages altogether? Absolutely. But I don’t think an occasional sugary drink is any worse for their bodies or their overall health than a handful or candy or a few cookies.
What are your thoughts? Do you think sports drinks are OK for kids?
Image of young sweaty red faced boy taking drink at halftime of soccer game via Shutterstock.
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