Posts Tagged ‘ junk food ’

Parent Stress And Childhood Obesity: One Obvious Link

Wednesday, November 21st, 2012

There are times when you read about a new scientific paper that was just published and think (or say) something like: 

“Duh. Who doesn’t know this? I can’t believe that money was spent on that!”

Well, this may be one of those studies. But the thing about science is that we don’t get to just think something is one way or the other – we have to prove it. And when the data support what we think – whether or not it’s obvious – it’s a platform for action. So here we go.

A recent study in Pediatrics reported a strong statistical association between levels of parental stress and childhood obesity – more stress was associated with a higher risk of obesity. Part of the reason for this was fast-food consumption – higher levels of parental stress were associated with greater consumption of fast food and higher rates of childhood obesity. And keep in mind the researchers controlled for a whole bunch of other factors.

Now, we all know that when we are stressed, we might be more prone to eat what we shouldn’t. Some of this is psychological – we might crave something that isn’t exactly healthy. We might also be pressed for time – and hence want something fast. The point of this study is that if there is lots of stress – on a daily basis – this can become a habit. And this habit contributes to the obesity epidemic.

Okay, you might be thinking we all know this. Maybe – but this study provided data to support the idea. It could have been that stress is just something that happens to everyone, and those moments of junky eating when highly stressed isn’t what contributes to obesity. But it does. And here’s the other thing about human behavior – even though we know things, that doesn’t mean we are good about acting on that knowledge.

So here’s a good take-home message. Stress happens to everyone – and some people have a lot of stress in their lives. It’s important to try to keep healthy foods within reach. Having good snacks in the car can help stave off the fast-food stress response. Consciously making a healthy choice in a fast-food restaurant – for yourself and your kids – can help too. The obesity epidemic is a real thing, and these kinds of behaviors contribute to it. They become habits, and habits are not easy to break. But becoming mindful of the need to change these habits – especially when supported by scientific studies – is a good step in the right direction.

Fast Food via Shutterstock.com

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5 Simple Ways To Promote Healthy Eating Habits In Your Kids

Thursday, October 11th, 2012

All parents want to make sure their kids have healthy eating habits. But it’s not easy to find simple ways to do this, given the hectic realities of modern day living. So how can you find a balance which gives your kids good basic habits without requiring a major life overhaul?¬†

To get some advice, I contacted Karen Avila. Karen is a registered dietitian with a Master’s degree in Dietetics and Food Administration, and also a Certified Personal Trainer. She is the founder of Healthy Karen where she specializes in medical, pediatric, and sports nutrition, along with weight management. In addition, as a busy mom to two boys, she has gone through her own trials and errors at home that have helped her figure out what works with kids – and especially what works on a regular basis. Here are her 5 most important simple ways to integrate healthy eating habits in your daily routine.

  • Make mornings count. Give your kid a healthy high fiber breakfast. Add sliced berries, bananas, or raisins to a high fiber cereal (good choices include frosted shredded mini wheats, Raisin Bran, and 100% All Bran). When selecting a bread, make sure that the first ingredient is “whole wheat or grain” – and choose a bread with the least number of ingredients. ¬†Another good quick breakfast is a smoothie with peanut butter and banana. Breakfast is really important for kids and you want to find something nutritious that they like and will eat on a regular basis. Click here for some great breakfast recipes and more advice on breakfast from Karen.
  • Limit juice and sport drink intake. These drinks are loaded with empty calories and kids often fill up on them rather than nutrient rich foods – and keep in mind that sports drinks are a leading cause of tooth decay in teens. As a compromise, you can at least water down your kids sport drink and/or juice. And try to promote some water drinking, especially when kids are thirsty (say after sports or dance). They’ll be happy to drink the water and it’s a way to get it into their daily routine.
  • Provide good tasting alternatives to junk food. You don’t have to completely eliminate junk food in the house. But, you can reduce how much your kids eat, and give them healthy alternatives that they will like. Put out veggies and healthy dips during snack time on a regular basis. Keep putting them out. Your kids will start eating them, especially if there is nothing else to choose from. Some other ideas – you can add ground flax to homemade brownies and baked goods, and substitute applesauce for vegetable oil to make a healthier version of your child’s favorite baked goods.
  • Have healthy snacks available in your car. With everyone’s busy schedules, parents and kids spend lots of time in the car. To avoid making a pit stop at a fast food joint a routine while on the road, pack healthy foods. These can include nuts, fruit, and whole grain crackers. You all can have a good snack and be ready for a healthy dinner later on.
  • Don’t forbid foods. All these tips are ways of encouraging healthy eating habits in kids. Actively forbidding foods always backfires – it just makes kids want these foods more. But practicing moderation and setting limits is very important. If your kids like sugary junk cereal, let them have a small box one morning on the weekend – as long as they eat their power breakfast during the week. By buying small boxes (let your kid pick it out) and making only one box available for that breakfast, you are helping your child understand how to have some of the junk food they like without eating too much of it, or eating it too frequently.

Lastly, Karen suggests that you should follow these guidelines as well for yourself. By being a role model for your child, and getting them started on healthy eating habits early in life, they will have a platform for good health that will have a huge impact on their future.

Mother and daughters cooking together via Shutterstock.com

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