Posts Tagged ‘ healthy living ’

Lessons From A Day of No Sugar

Friday, April 11th, 2014

Table-SugarWe did it! We survived a day of no sugar. Inspired by Eve Schaub’s new book Year of No Sugar, several of my colleagues and I shunned the sweet stuff on Wednesday, part of a national #NoSugarChallenge. That meant no table sugar, honey, agave, maple syrup, or any sugar in packaged foods. Sweet fruit and vegetables were still on the table.

While Eve and her family gave up sugar for an entire year, one day seemed like a manageable goal. But, for many of us, it was a tougher challenge than we anticipated, primarily because sugar is in so many foods—80 percent of products found in the supermarket in fact.

• Learn more about identifying added sugar and cutting processed food from your diet.

Here are our reports on what was easy, what was hard, and what we learned:

Laura Fenton, Lifestyle Director – So, I failed straight off the bat: I forgot it was no-sugar day and poured myself a bowl of cereal for breakfast (looking at the label after work, I saw that the brand contains both honey and molasses, a.k.a. sugar). But once I got to work and remembered my mission I had a steely reserve to resist sugar, including: Bagels, cookies at my cube mate’s desk, and jelly beans at my other cube mate’s desk. When I went for lunch, I actually looked at the label for the salad dressing to make sure it was sugar free (it seemed to be!) and said “no thank you” to the roll that was offered with my salad that was likely made with sugar.

Alexandra Johnston, Assistant Photo Editor – I thought by biggest struggle would be handling my after-lunch sweet tooth, but my sugar-free banana chocolate “ice cream” was amazing and it actually felt very indulgent. The rest of the day proved to be more difficult. I didn’t realize how many condiments and packaged ingredients actually had sugar in them. While I won’t be making this a permanent change at this time, it did open my eyes to the problem and I will be checking the labels more closely in the grocery store from now on.

Rheanna Bellomo, Editorial Assistant – I made it through breakfast, lunch, and dinner by making all my own fresh food (nothing processed) and snacking on a mango in the afternoon. What I found so funny was that once I settled in for the night with my book, the challenge completely slipped my mind and I had a piece of chocolate. It was so mindless! That’s what really stuck with me: the need to be more thoughtful about food.

Karen Cicero, Contributing Food and Nutrition Editor – It was a lot harder than I expected—and we are really careful about added sugar to begin with. Breakfast was easy (eggs & fruit), but when packing lunch, I remembered that our whole-wheat bread has one gram of sugar per slice and the peanut butter has a gram per serving. I couldn’t do much about that last minute so Katie had three grams of added sugar in her lunch. I had a salad for lunch, and made my own balsamic vinaigrette so it would be sugar-free. But I blew my sugar-free day when I mindlessly tried a piece of a granola bar that came in the mail for an upcoming story—that was about three grams of sugar. For dinner, we had whole-grain pasta with a fresh sauce I made with heirloom tomatoes and red onions. Overall, it was a really good reminder about how pervasive added sugar is in foods that don’t taste at all sweet, and how deliciously sweet and satisfying fruit is. I’m going to try to do it once a week–a la Meatless Monday, maybe this is Sugar-Free Sunday. Starting the week after Easter, of course!

Allison Berry, Editorial Assistant – My goal of cooking vegan was unsuccessful (I didn’t realize how complicated some of the recipes could be!), but I was able to eat vegan for the day, which I loved! The hardest part was passing up a morning bagel and cream cheese, but I was surprised to find that during the workday especially, my sugar-free snacks of fruit, almonds, and tea kept me going between meals. After dinner did get hard for me, seeing as a lot of the snacks I go for after dinner have added sugar in them. If definitely opened my eyes to what even having a cookie after dinner can do to your sugar intake. The habit I’ll definitely continue is snacking on almonds and fruit through the workday. I bought a 1 bag of almonds at the drug store and they’ve kept me full and lasted all week.

Sherry Huang, Features Editor – The two toughest times of the day were the afternoon (when I usually eat a sugary snack) and the evening (when I usually have dessert after dinner). After eating a few Craisins by accident (shoot, added sugar!), Jenna rescued me with a no-sugar-added protein bar for a snack. Dessert was a little pitiful – plain saltine crackers and natural peanut butter. I did feel slightly more alert and energetic throughout the day, so that was a bonus. Overall, the challenge was slightly easier than I anticipated, in part because it was just for one day, and there were no tempting treats lying around the office! I do confess to waiting until midnight to eat some cake, but I’d be willing to try avoiding sugar for a few more days…but maybe not consecutive ones.

Ruthie Fierberg, Editorial Assistant – It took some planning, but turns out I have a good amount of meal options that I typically eat anyway that are sugar-free. The main component of my meals didn’t deviate from my norm (eggs over spinach with some nuts for breakfast, a salad with black beans and an apple for lunch, banana for an afternoon snack, chicken and rice and a small salad for dinner with blackberries for dessert). What DID surprise me is how many of my condiments had sugar in them. I couldn’t have my usual salad dressing – I opted for lemon juice instead – and I couldn’t have barbeque sauce on my chicken – that actually has a LOT of sugar in it. I think in the future I will pay more attention to the “sugars” listing on nutrition labels and opt for things with less sugar, but I have no plans to go sugar-free for good. I like my whole wheat pastas and multigrain breads and even that barbeque sauce. The challenge was certainly interesting and eye-opening!

Madeleine Burry, Associate Managing Editor – The best part of the sugar-free day was the need to be thoughtful about what I eat: Does that salad dressing have sugar added? What about that bottled tomato sauce? I prepped for the day with lots of tiny containers of fruits and veggies (apple slices in one, cut up cucumber in another, and grapes in the last little tupperware), and was able to escape the kitchen without trying the cookies temptingly laid out on the counter, and make it through the treacherous three to five p.m. window, when I’m most vulnerable to lure of the sugary snack. Will I quit sugar forever? No way! I quit sugar for a month once, and midway through, life felt dark and dreary. A little sweetness is a good thing, and sometimes an apple just doesn’t cut it. But I will definitely try to be more mindful when eating, especially about the presence of sugar in foods I don’t think of as being sweet (like ketchup, instant oatmeal packets, dried fruit, and salad dressing).

For my part, feeding my daughter sugar-free meals turned out to be the toughest challenge. She usually has a low-sugar cereal for breakfast, but we decided on eggs and whole grain crackers for breakfast—not something I’d want her to have everyday. I left a list of sugar-free snacks for the babysitter, and it was a little humdrum: dried plums, more crackers, fruit, milk.

Participating in this challenge made me realize just how hard it is to not eat sugar throughout the day, especially for kids. Since all the grams of sugar – in cereal, chocolate milk, yogurt, and granola bars – add up, even if I feel like I’m feeding my daughter a “healthy” diet, it is still very sugary. My new goal is to step up my game and find some delicious, sugar-free options for her everyday diet.

Could you or your kids ever go sugar-free—even just for a day?

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Nutrition Labels: 3 Things To Avoid
Nutrition Labels: 3 Things To Avoid
Nutrition Labels: 3 Things To Avoid

Image: Sugar on wooden table via Shutterstock

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Parents Tackles A Day of No Sugar

Wednesday, April 9th, 2014

Zero. Zilch. Nada. Today, a few of us here at Parents are going sugar-free. That means no table sugar in our coffee, honey in our tea, or syrup in our oatmeal. It also means saying no to any processed foods that contain sugar, high-fructose corn syrup, brown rice syrup, cane sugar, fructose, evaporated cane juice, agave, or molasses, just to name a few of sugar’s aliases.

But, just because we’re saying no to a lot of foods, there are many others we can still say “yes” to including naturally sweet fruits and vegetables.

Many of us are also enlisting our families in this experiment. We were inspired by writer Eve Schaub’s new book Year of No Sugar, in which she, her husband, and her two small children cut out sugar – for a whole year. Schaub has declared today, Wednesday, April 9, the Day of No Sugar Challenge.

Why are we doing this? We each have our own reasons, but the fact is that Americans are drowning in added sugar. According to Robert Lustig, M.D., about 80 percent of items in grocery stores contain added sugar. We now consume an average of 22 teaspoons of sugar a day, about double what we should be eating.

• Learn more about identifying added sugar and cutting processed food from your diet.

Here is what my colleagues are saying about giving up sugar tomorrow:

Ashley Oerman, Assistant Editor: I’m doing this because I think I might actually be addicted to sweets. I think it would be a great exercise in impulse control (a study I just read said this could be genetic. I blame my ice cream-aholic dad).

Sherry Huang, Features Editor: I have an irrational fear that I am addicted to sweets or the taste of sweetness. When I wake up in the morning, the first thing I crave is something sweet. When 3 p.m. rolls around, I need a sweet snack, and after dinner, a meal is never complete without dessert (who cares about a cheese plate?). I would like to make (more of) an effort to curb the craving and resist my pull toward eating an excess of sugary, processed foods so I can start to gravitate toward more healthy, natural foods.

Karen Cicero, Contributing Food and Nutrition Editor: For my daughter, no chocolate milk in her lunch—water instead. No cookie or small piece of candy after dinner; it will be fruit! And I’ll be sure to make dinner since you don’t know what’s in the restaurant food!

Ruthie Fierberg, Editorial Assistant: So I’m a pretty healthy eater anyway – lots of fruits and veggies. I’d say it’s most likely going to affect breakfast the most – since I won’t be having cereal or oatmeal and probably opt for something more protein-y like eggs. In general, it will be tough not to eat processed foods. I sometimes eat a frozen meal or a veggie burger or salad with salad dressing for lunch, so I’ll have to check on that. But I really don’t eat too much sugar, so I’ll be surprised if one day of this is crazy challenging. (Famous last words.)

Laura Fenton, Lifestyle Director: A sugar-free day wouldn’t be a big challenge for most of my meals, but it would be difficult for me to pass up on treats, if they came in my path. I almost never say no to a cookie or a sweet, if it’s offered. [And, here at Parents, they’re offered a lot!]

Allison Berry, Editorial Assistant: Since I’ve always been curious about going vegan, I’m using this as a chance to try a couple of sugar-free vegan recipes I’ve pinned! Fingers crossed the goodies in the Parents kitchen don’t get the best of me…

Alexandra Johnston, Assistant Photo Editor: I’ve always been pretty good about not adding sugar to drinks or fruit but boy do I have a chocolate sweet tooth. Especially after lunch and dinner, I always love a bite (and sometimes more) of chocolate to feel like I’ve completed the meal. Tomorrow I’m hiding the cookies and candy and trying a Pinterest recipe of a frozen banana mashed with a bit of cocoa powder. I’m hoping the result will curb my appetite for chocolate!

Personally, I am going to miss sugar in my coffee the most. And, I’m nervous about finding a sugar-free breakfast my 8 year-old will like (I’m thinking of giving her a smoothie with milk, Greek yogurt, unsweetened almond butter, frozen grapes, and a banana). But, I’m excited to choose from all the delicious, sugar-free foods at our disposal: hummus and veggies, apples with unsweetened peanut butter, roasted sweet potatoes, pasta with quick homemade marinara, and chicken noodle soup, just to name a few.

Tomorrow or Friday we’ll report back and let you know how we survived our day of no sugar.

Will you say no to sugar with us today? Give it a shot, and let us know how you’re doing by tweeting us @parentsmagazine using the hashtag #NoSugarChallenge.

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Nutrition Labels: 3 Things To Avoid
Nutrition Labels: 3 Things To Avoid
Nutrition Labels: 3 Things To Avoid

Image: Year of No Sugar book cover courtesy of Sourcebooks, Inc.

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Could You Give Up Sugar for a Day? Join Us As We Try

Monday, April 7th, 2014

A couple years ago writer Eve Schaub, her husband, and their two small kids stopped eating sugar — for a whole year. Not only did this mean no cookies, candy, or ice cream, they also discovered that many of their favorite everyday foods contained hidden sugars including some brands of bacon, crackers, yogurt, salad dressing, pasta sauce, chicken broth, tortillas, and even ketchup.

Schaub learned that the sweet stuff is everywhere, often lurking on food labels under names like high-fructose corn syrup, agave nectar, maple syrup, honey, brown rice syrup, cane sugar, fructose, dextrose, glucose, evaporated cane juice, or molasses.

She chronicled her family’s journey in the upcoming book Year of No Sugar. And, now she’s organizing an event for the rest of us to test our sugar-free mettle, for one day only (phew!). Schaub has declared Wednesday, April 9, the Day of No Sugar Challenge. Several of us here at Parents are going to participate, and we’d love to have as many of our readers as possible join us.

But, first of all — why give up sugar at all?

To be clear, not all sugar is “bad.” Natural sugars in fruit and vegetables are fine. Because your apple contains fiber that counteracts its sugar content, your body remains balanced. But, dig in to packaged applesauce with its heaping teaspoons of sugar, and your body must produce insulin to battle it. All too often, this can lead to a number of problems ranging from sluggishness and irritability to diabetes and heart disease.

The World Health Organization recommends limiting daily sugar intake to 9 teaspoons for men, 6 teaspoons for women, and 4 teaspoons for children. A typical breakfast of cereal and juice can rack up 11 teaspoons—that’s nearly four times the amount your kid should have in an entire day! Clearly, we need to cut back.

On top of this, sugar does not satisfy hunger. Instead, it can make you hungrier (or “HANGRY”) and more moody once your blood sugar drops.

So how did sugar get in virtually everything we eat in the first place?

Sugar used to be a condiment, sprinkled lightly onto food. Now, sugar has become our food. According to Robert Lustig, M.D., about 80 percent of items in grocery stores contain added sugar. This is because a majority of the food we eat is processed, which requires refined sugar to be palatable.

One of the best examples of this is flavored yogurt. Often considered a health food, yogurt can actually be pit of hidden sugar. Traditional yogurt is strained, sour milk—it’s supposed to be tangy. “Who gave us the notion to add fruit-flavored syrups to make it sweet? The food industry, which wants to sell more,” says Dr. Lustig. “No doctor would suggest that.”

Learn more about identifying added sugar and cutting processed food from your diet.

I’m already thinking about what my 8 year-old daughter and I will eat on Wednesday. Surprisingly, I think breakfast will be the toughest challenge. With no honey or maple syrup, oatmeal just won’t be the same. The vast majority of packaged cereals are out. Virtually any bread I buy at the grocery store has sugar in it, so no toast. I will probably make us a smoothie with milk, banana, unsweetened yogurt, frozen fruit, and unsweetened peanut butter. Eggs are another possibility.

Does this one-day experiment seem like more trouble than it’s worth? For a minute. But, then I remember that sugar doesn’t really belong in every single food we eat. I’ve come to crave the taste so much that any meal without something sweet seems like it’s missing something. I want to prove that I have power over my cravings. Because, really, we should be able to make it through just one measly day without sugar. Right?

Would you ever give up sugar, even just for a day? If you’re game, join us on Wednesday: Tweet to @parentsmagazine using the hashtag #NoSugarChallenge.

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Nutrition Labels: 3 Things To Avoid
Nutrition Labels: 3 Things To Avoid
Nutrition Labels: 3 Things To Avoid

Image: Year of No Sugar book cover courtesy of Sourcebooks, Inc.; close up on fruit salad via Shutterstock

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How to Raise Healthy Eaters

Thursday, March 20th, 2014

Kids and VegetablesWe all want to raise nutrition-smart kids, but where do you begin? Does a kindergartner need to know the difference between organic and processed foods? Aren’t babies just supposed to have breastmilk? And what about toddlers? Can we get them to do anything?

The good news is parents don’t need to go it alone in the quest for a healthier lifestyle. Local programs like The New York Foundling in New York City can help provide nutritional guidance.

“At The New York Foundling we empower our families by educating them on easy ways to incorporate healthy eating and the importance of nutrition,” said Bethany Lampland, COO, The New York Foundling. “We believe this is the most important step in enabling smart choices for years to come.”

To celebrate Nutritional Awareness Month, The New York Foundling’s Carlye Waxman, RD, CDN offers her tips on how and when to introduce healthy nutrition at different stages of a child’s life. And if you’re making feeding mistakes, don’t worry. There are easy fixes.

Prenatal: During pregnancy babies need vitamins, minerals and nutrients to develop properly. Get enough calcium by having 4 servings of dairy per day. Easy ways to do this – start your day with a yogurt (non-Greek has more calcium), have skim or low-fat milk as a snack, add cheese in your sandwich and have low-fat ice cream for dessert.

Babies: When your baby is around 6 months old, he or she can have more variety than just formula or breast milk. Introduce yogurt and cheese for necessary fat and calcium. Vegetables are important at this stage as well, not just for the nutrients they provide, but to encourage children eat their vegetables in the future. Be sure to introduce only one new food every few days to check for allergic reactions or intolerances.

Toddlers: Trying new foods may be a challenge if your toddler is choosy. Don’t force a new food if your child won’t accept it, but do try several times and don’t give up. Your child is also following your example, so eating healthy foods yourself will help him learn without even knowing it.

Kindergarten: This is the time to start involving your child in meal planning. Take her to the grocery store and ask her which vegetable she wants with dinner (present her with two or three options so she don’t get too confused). Serve foods that the rest of the family is eating as much as possible so they can learn by example. Don’t use desserts as a tool for children to eat their vegetables at this stage, or they may start to think of vegetables as bad or boring and simply a means to get to the real “delicious” foods after.

Tweens: The old adage is true: breakfast is the most important meal of the day. It can influence test scores and help increase learning throughout the day. If you’re on-the-go a simple breakfast can include a slice of whole grain toast, low-fat milk with cereal and a banana. For mornings that you can prepare foods, try making oatmeal with low-fat milk. Buy plain uncooked oats and sweeten them yourself with natural sweeteners such as fruit and honey.

Kids of All Ages:  Routinely have dinners at home as a family. Dinners together provide a balance of home-cooked nutrients, and serve as a time to talk about the day, the food or the meal prepared. Aim to include three things in your meal: a lean protein, a whole grain starch and a plethora of vegetables. Children will learn what constitutes a balanced, filling meal and take that knowledge with them as they grow up.

Take a look at our Food & Recipe Guide for healthy (and delicious!) recipe ideas.

How to Eat Healthy: Raising Nutrition-Smart Kids
How to Eat Healthy: Raising Nutrition-Smart Kids
How to Eat Healthy: Raising Nutrition-Smart Kids

Image: Happy Kid with vegetables and fruits sitting at the table via ShutterStock

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Alison Sweeney Takes “One Giant Pledge” to Eat More Veggies

Tuesday, October 9th, 2012

On October 2, actress and The Biggest Loser host Alison Sweeney joined Green Giant in New York City’s Grand Central Terminal to take a pledge for veggies!

Sweeney promised, on behalf of her family, to eat just one more vegetable per day–and encouraged all of the young school students in attendance to do the same.

(Families can also take the pledge on Green Giant’s Facebook page.)

Parents.com had a few moments to chat with Sweeney, mom to Ben, 7, and Megan, 3, about how she helps her kids make healthy food choices.

How do you encourage your kids to eat their vegetables?

We always come up with new, different ways to be healthy, like trying different recipes. There are a lot of ways to be creative and include vegetables. There’s the French fry approach, where I let them eat green beans with their hands and sometimes we dip them in stuff.  Some veggies are great raw. My son doesn’t like bell peppers when they’re cooked, but he loves them raw.

What are some veggie meals you make that are good for kids?

I love to make a veggie stir-fry for my kids because I think it’s a great way to get tons of vegetables in a meal. People always think they need a cup of rice for every stir-fry portion, but it doesn’t have to be that way. I think people’s proportions get all skewed. You can do a quarter cup of rice, have mostly veggies, and add a protein. Stir-fry is also good because it can be made with whatever vegetables happen to be in the fridge, so I pull out what I have in the freezer and my kids love it.

What do you make stir-fry with?

I stick to a healthy oil, like a safflower oil or something light. I do find healthier stir-fry sauces and ingredients, but as long as kids are getting their veggies, keep sauce to a minimum for just enough flavor.  A lot of the time parents end up making bad choices. When you’re tired or the kids are tired, you don’t want arguments about dinner, so kids end up getting used to eating delicious but bad-for-you food. I can’t just let kids eat chicken fingers or Pop tarts every day. My kids do eat mac ‘n’ cheese, but in smaller portions with a lot of veggies.

You mentioned your son loves bell peppers. Are there any other vegetables that are great for kids?

Carrots, snap peas, and peas. Also broccolini and broccoli. (Green Giant has a great vegetable medley that kids love.) My kids love edamame. The veggies that are hard to sell kids on are asparagus and Brussels sprouts.  My son’s teacher told me that it takes 10 tastings for someone to get used to a flavor, to know whether he likes something, so I’m still working on 10 tries for some veggies.

Do you have any tips for parents of picky eaters?

Picky eaters are a really hard thing, but you can use hunger as your ally. It’s okay to let them get a little hungry so they’re more likely to eat. Then you only offer them veggies. Kids are not going to starve. Also offer veggies as a snack when your kids get home from school, and have them prepared and ready to go in little bags. There are great reusable bags now at Pottery Barn Kids; I stuff them with carrot or bell pepper sticks and sugar snap peas.  You really have to set boundaries on what’s allowed. With my kids, we work with set rules. We have Mac ‘n’ Cheese Monday, so they get mac ‘n’ cheese only on Monday. For Taco Friday we do taco wraps. My kids love using lettuce as wraps. You just have to put the taco mix inside. Often we think kids need basic or bland foods, but it’s really not the case. I put cinnamon in my kids’ oatmeal when they were around 6-8 months old and they loved it. I don’t want them getting used to tasting really starchy, bland food. I want them to expect flavor and texture. I use agave nectar with carrots and a little rosemary, and it’s delicious and sweet. I think there is a world of options out there.

What are other things you do with your kids to promote healthy living?

I think it’s super important to let your kids know that you’re active, too. You have to practice what you preach. I’ve been super successful at explaining why I need to work out. I tell my kids, “Mommy needs to get her exercise and go to the gym.” They see me making exercise a core part of my life, so that’s going to help them down the road. We do a lot of stuff that’s active as a family, like going on hikes with our dog, flying kites, and running into the ocean. I burn a lot of calories swimming with my kids and playing baseball with my son. With my daughter, we run around and dance. We have so much fun. You can find ways to be challenged by your kids and encourage them in the process. You have to commit to it.

What’s the best or worst parenting advice you’ve ever received?

The best advice I got when I had my first child was: Imagine if you were holding an 18-month-old child when you hear your other child, an infant, crying. You would have to do something, but you can’t just drop your child and run to the baby. You would have to put your kid down, give him a toy or something to do, and then go tend to your infant.  There’s no need to panic.  Just take a breath instead. So many new parents feel everything is very high-stakes, that they have to run off to the infant, but it’s good to just wonder, what if there was a sibling already? It’s okay to just take a minute, take your time.

What inspires you as a parent?

My kids’ smiles inspire me every day. When you become a parent, all your decision-making changes.  Every decision I make now is based on how it will affect my children. Sometimes it means having to discipline them or to make tough choices that will make them unhappy, but I have to do what is best for them their whole life.

For more about healthy eating and living, check out the following on Parents.com:

Image: Alison Sweeney, center, poses with stilt walker Michael Schruefer, left, and Sprout at the Green Giant event. Courtesy of Green Giant.

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