Tag Archive | healthy eating

Cooking With Kids: Healthy Eating Starts in the Kitchen

by Susan Bowerman, MS, RD, CSSD, FAND

Cooking can instill a sense of pride in kids.

Kids love to cook—and it might help them to make better food choices, too.

I think it’s fair to say that most kids—given the chance—like to spend time playing around in the kitchen. And why not? Cooking is creative and messy and fun, and it tickles all the senses. On top of that, your efforts are rewarded with something that’s (hopefully) delicious to eat. But cooking can deliver some additional benefits, too—spending time in the kitchen can help kids to develop an appreciation for healthy foods, and foster better eating habits, too.

RELATED ARTICLE: 12 smart tips for getting your kids heart healthy

The significance of this really shouldn’t be overlooked. In the last few decades, obesity and overweight rates among American kids have risen dramatically—a reflection, in part, on a diet that includes too many calories and nutrient-poor foods, and too little in the way of fruits, vegetables, whole grains and calcium-rich dairy products.

And eating out is a contributing factor. Meals eaten away from home are higher in calories, fat and saturated fat—and provide less calcium and fiber—than home-prepared meals. On the other hand, eating more meals at home is associated with a higher intake of fruits, vegetables and dairy products, with less fat and calories.

Cooking with Kids: The Many Benefits
    • Cooking at home and eating together helps kids develop an appreciation for healthy foods. When parents serve as good role models with their food choices, kids develop a similar appreciation for healthy foods. And, the comfortable, supportive environment of home helps to reinforce these healthy behaviors.
    • Kids enjoy eating what they’ve prepared. When kids are involved in the selection of ingredients and preparation of foods, they’re more likely to try their creations.
    • They’re more likely to try new foods. Even if kids decide that they don’t particularly like what they prepared, the cooking experience will help to cultivate an open mind when it comes to trying new foods.
    • Kids derive a sense of pride and independence when they cook. Kids love to boast that “I did it all myself!” When they are able to prepare something on their own—no matter how simple—and serve it to family, it instills a sense of pride and independence. Help your kids by guiding them toward age-appropriate recipes.
    • Cooking is creative. Once kids have some basic skills and learn to follow recipes, they should be encouraged to get creative. You can start with a very simple basic recipe—for example, a smoothie made with flavored protein powder and milk—and allow them to experiment by adding different fruits, vegetables, spices or extracts. Once they’ve come up with their own recipes, many kids enjoy creating their own recipe file.
    • Cooking together can be fun, quality time. Spending time together in the kitchen can be fun and relaxing for both kids and adults. Many kids don’t need much coaxing to join you in the kitchen, so use this time to simply enjoy each other’s company and talk about how good—and good for you—your meal is going to be.

Susan Bowerman is Director of Nutrition Training at Herbalife. Susan is a Registered Dietitian and a Board-Certified Specialist in Sports Dietetics.

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Family Fitness: Raise Healthy, Active Kids

by Samantha Clayton, AFAA, ISSA

Get active with your kids.

Whether you want to raise superstar athletes or just emphasize the importance of physical fitness in order to raise healthy, active kids, it’s never too late to get started on a family fitness journey.

There’s never been a better time to get active with your family! If you’re looking to change your children’s current lifestyle and make healthier choices, then I have six great tips that may help you get or stay on a path to raising healthy, active kids. An active lifestyle is a great family goal that can be achieved with a few creative changes.

Related Article: Design Your Own Healthy, Active Lifestyle Plan

1) Talk to your child’s physician

I always advise that you talk to your child’s doctor about what kind of fitness is right for them —especially if it’s a drastic lifestyle change. The words ‘active’ and ‘kids’ used to go hand in hand, but in today’s modern world, many kids hardly ever run around or play sports. Going from complete inactivity to a sudden active lifestyle can be a shock to the system. All changes in physical activity should be gradual. Checking your kids’ health before making any lifestyle changes should be the first step to achieving your family’s fitness goals.

2) Create a routine

The best way to get going on your family fitness journey is to write out a schedule and pick two activity days per week. Consider planning outdoor activities such as hikes, bike rides or sports to make it feel less like a duty and more like playtime. The more you can involve your kids in the planning process, the more enthusiastic they will be about the change.

3) Embrace modern technology

If you have children that are reliant on modern technology such as computers, video games, and tablets, you might face a full-blown rebellion if you try to swap gadgets for family fitness time. Instead, you can embrace modern technology and ease into an active lifestyle with fitness games and challenges. There are many dance, fitness and activity games available that combine technology with simple tasks to help entertain kids into getting active. This tip shouldn’t take away from traditional outdoor activities, but it’s a step in the right direction.

4) Go back to basics and keep it simple

Remember how much fun it was to play a simple game of catch with your friends when you were younger? As you move towards more traditional fitness-based activities, focus on fun coordination and body awareness moves. Kids have developing nervous systems and would benefit greatly from engaging both small and large motor skills. These activities include kicking, catching and hopping, and they could feel more like a game rather than fitness.

5) Be smart about fitness

Children get so many ideas of what think they can do. Your child may see photos in the media of other kids lifting heavy weights. In reality, it’s not a good idea for children to be doing heavy lifting. There are differing opinions on the correct age that children should start lifting weights, and it’s a decision that should be discussed with your child’s physician. I believe doing exercises that use your body weight are a perfect way to build strength for kids and adults. I started my weights program at the age of 15. My husband started using weights at the age of 17, and we’ve both been successful in the fitness world. My children will be well into their teens before they touch a weight. Until then, they’re going to have fun with squats, pushups and playing on the monkey bars!

6) Lead by example

The greatest gift you can give your children is to lead by example by practicing healthy habits. Try popping in a fitness DVD or follow a fitness routine on the computer to set an active example. If your young children want to join in, you should let them! Just make sure they stay away from the equipment, especially weight machines and treadmills. A fall on a moving treadmill can cause permanent scarring and burns (I know this from personal experience – you don’t need to make the same mistake!).

We can all make healthier choices to lead our children down a healthy, active path. If you keep it fun for them, you can set them up for a lifetime of being active.

Written by Samantha Clayton, A.F.A.A., I.S.S.A. Samantha is Sr. Director of Fitness Education at Herbalife.

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12 Smart Tips to Get Your Kids Heart-Healthy

by Louis Ignarro, PhD

Encourage heart-healthy choices for your kids.

Moms and dads have dozens of concerns each day, ranging from their child’s performance in school to emotional development and happiness. Perhaps one of the biggest questions is: Am I doing enough to keep my child heart-healthy?

At the base of your child’s success and well-being is a healthy body. And one of the most important focuses of health—especially in children—is the heart. Here are twelve tips for helping your kids lead a heart-healthy life:

#1 Change things up

Children enjoy exploring different environments, so take your child to a local playground or indoor activity center to simply play. Being in a new, fun space encourages imagination and creativity, while giving your child the opportunity to get active and maybe even make new friends.

#2 Join in

Perhaps the greatest gifts you can give your child are your time, energy and attention. Instead of watching them play, join in. Not only will you be encouraging your kids to get and stay active, but you’ll be building your relationship, too.

#3 Sneak in healthy foods

If you have a picky eater, find ways to sneak into their meals and snacks some healthy foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains and low-fat dairy. Top whole-grain pasta with tomato sauce loaded with vegetables, make a delicious whole-fruit smoothie, or melt some low-fat cheese over assorted vegetables as a side with dinner. Replace white bread with whole-grain bread and swap cookies with sweet fruits like mango or pear.

#4 Make it a competition

Most kids love competing. Some families compete by having each member wear a pedometer, and then they tally up their weekly steps to see who “won” that week. You can even have prizes for winning, such as a special (healthy) lunch out with Mom or a pass on washing the dinner dishes for a night.

#5 Sleep more

Sleep is important for memory, concentration and general wellness—and it’s also necessary for keeping the heart healthy. Stick to a schedule, even on the weekends, to help encourage healthy sleep.

Suggested sleep times1:

– Toddlers (ages 1 to 3) should get 12 to 14 hours of sleep daily

– Preschoolers (ages 3 to 5) should get 11 to 13 hours

– School-age children (ages 5 to 10) should get 10 to 11 hours

– Teens (ages 10 to 17) should get 8.5 to 9.25 hours.

#6 Supplement a healthy diet

Your child might have additional nutritional needs that aren’t being met through diet. A health care provider should be able to help determine if your child is getting all of the nutrients he or she needs. If your child is falling short, a nutritional supplement may be a good option to support a heart-healthy life.

#7 Turn it off

Television takes up too much precious time. Each minute your kids sit in front of the TV is a minute they’re not being physically active. Limit screen time to encourage your kids to get moving.

#8 Use the screen wisely

If you own a video gaming system, you can opt for games that encourage movement. Join in the fun as your child dances, skis, bowls or plays another activity-based video game.

#9 Walk or pedal

Choose activities nearby so you can commute by foot. If that’s not an option, choose family outings that involve movement. A nice greenbelt stroll is free and fun. If it’s cold in your area, bundle up and enjoy nearly empty trails or walking paths.

#10 Keep it calm

Like adults, kids can get stressed out, too. Low stress levels are important for maintaining a heart-healthy lifestyle, so make sure your child isn’t overloaded. While organized activities are important, it’s also good for your child to have down time. Read a book together, go on a leisurely walk, or play outside with the family dog.

#11 Cook together

Involve your child in cooking a healthy meal, and explain what each ingredient is and why it’s going into the dinner. Let them help mix, measure and prepare a heart-healthy family meal—chances are, they’ll be more likely to eat it.

#12 Inspire by example

Whether you know it or not, your child is watching your every move, learning how to interact with the world and developing habits that could extend for a lifetime. When you lead a healthy lifestyle, you are subtly encouraging your child to do the same. As you make good choices, discuss why you’re making your decisions. They really are listening!

***

By helping your son or daughter develop healthy habits, you are giving the gift of lifelong vitality. Start encouraging heart-healthy habits when they’re young by working in healthy lifestyle choices—including good nutrition, regular physical activity, plenty of sleep and low stress levels. And do the same in your own life!

Written by Louis Ignarro, Ph.D.  Dr. Ignarro is a member of both the Editorial and Nutrition Advisory Boards of the Herbalife Nutrition Institute and receives compensation for his endorsement of Herbalife® products. 

[1] http://www.sleepfoundation.org/article/how-sleep-works/how-much-sleep-do-we-really-need

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Clean Up Your Diet – Clear Up Your Skin

by Susan Bowerman, MS, RD, CSSD, FAND

Good nutrition means good complexion.

So many changes take place as kids move from childhood to adolescence that it’s hard to keep up. For one thing, their diets – which you might have had a little more control over when they were young – now leave a little something to be desired. At the same time, pimples and breakouts start to literally rear their ugly heads. So it’s no wonder that the food-pimple connection seems to be a no-brainer.

Pimples and acne are largely due to hormonal changes, but that’s not to say that diet doesn’t play a role. The latest research tells us that there is a likely connection, but one that’s a bit more complicated than most people think.

Related Article: Healthy Skin Care for Teens

Common wisdom has pointed the finger at greasy, fried foods – stuff that isn’t usually lacking in a typical teenager’s diet, like chocolate, pizza and French fries. But when it comes to connecting any of these individual foods to breakouts, studies have come up short.

The focus has shifted instead towards the overall quality of the diet – in particular, the relationship between skin eruptions and a diet heavy in refined carbs and sugars. And it looks like a diet that’s heavy in these ‘bad carbs’ – ‘white’ foods like white bread, pasta, potatoes, white rice and sweets – may be partly at fault.

When the diet is overloaded with refined carbs, it can lead to a condition of persistent, but mild, system-wide inflammation – a kind of slow simmering fire in the body that has been linked to all kinds of problems, including pimples and acne.

So it’s not simply the French fries that are the problem – it’s the fries coupled with the white bread burger bun and the sugary soda that lead to a heavy carb burden on the system.

Turning down the heat is pretty easy, it just requires a good nutritional offense. The focus should be on two things: healthier carbohydrates, and more anti-inflammatory omega-3 fats.

Clear out the refined ‘white’ carbs and sugars as much as possible. Occasional desserts are fine, but encourage your kids to cut down on sweets, especially sodas that dump tablespoons of sugar into the body in one gulp. Keep more of the ‘good’ carbs around – like fresh fruits and veggies, and whole grain bread, pasta, crackers and cereals instead of the usual white ones.

Kids can get their omega 3s from tuna – the one fish that many of them will actually eat.

Written by Susan Bowerman. Susan is Director of Worldwide Nutrition Education and Training at Herbalife. Susan is a Registered Dietitian and a board-certified Specialist in Sports Dietetics.

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Need More Vitamin A? Here are Five Ways to Get Your A’s

by Susan Bowerman, MS, RD, CSSD, FAND

Get your vitamin A from orange squashes.

Vitamin A is a critical player in the health of your eyes, skin, bones and more. Here are five colorful ways to get enough of this important nutrient.

It’s safe to say that vitamin A is a real multi-tasker. Most people know vitamin A for its role in vision, but it also plays a role in the health of your skin, bones and teeth, and it supports reproductive and immune system functions, too.

Related Article: What to eat for healthy skin

You can get your vitamin A from both plant and animal sources, but in slightly different forms. Preformed vitamin A – found mostly in animal foods like liver, fish, milk or eggs – is the active form of the vitamin. That means that once it’s absorbed, it’s ready for your body to use.

But you can also turn to all kinds of plant foods for your vitamin A, too. Many plant foods contain compounds called carotenoids – including beta carotene, lycopene and lutein.

These carotenoids themselves are not active vitamin A, but your body can convert them into the active form of the vitamin whenever the need arises.

Carotenoids contribute orange, red and green colors to plant foods, so it’s a pretty safe bet that if a fruit or vegetable has a deep, rich color, it’s likely to be a good source of one of these important compounds that your body can transform into vitamin A.

Here are five colorful, tasty ways to get you’re A’s:

  • Carrots have so much beta carotene that a single carrot can provide more than twice the vitamin A your body needs for the whole day. They make great snacks on their own, or you can simply grate raw carrots into soups and salads for a healthy, colorful boost. Cooked or raw carrots are also delicious when added to a vanilla protein shake with a dash of cinnamon.
  • Orange squashes like pumpkin, acorn and butternut also contain lots of beta carotene. Roasting brings out the naturally sweet flavor of squash and makes for a nice alternative to more traditional vegetable side dishes. Or, try blending cooked squash with some flavorful broth to create a base for a tasty soup.
  • Spinach contains a carotenoid called lutein, which contributes much of the green color. Fresh spinach is a natural in salads, and frozen spinach is convenient for adding to soups, pasta sauces and other mixed dishes. If you find the taste of spinach too strong, try baby spinach leaves – they’re usually more tender and milder in flavor.
  • Peppers of all colors contain a variety of carotenoid pigments – which explains why they come in so many colors that range from green to yellow, orange, red and even deep purple. They’re great sliced into salads, or used as vegetable dippers with a bit of hummus or avocado dip for a snack.
  • Tomatoes get much of their red color from the carotenoid called lycopene. Fresh tomatoes are great in salads, or simply on their own with a drizzle of flavorful olive oil and a dash of salt and pepper. Canned tomatoes, tomato sauce and tomato pastes might work better for you if you don’t care for fresh tomatoes – you can work some of these tomato products into sauces, stews or soups.

Susan Bowerman is Director of Nutrition Training at Herbalife. Susan is a Registered Dietitian and a Board-Certified Specialist in Sports Dietetics.

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Tune Up Your Immune System With Healthy Nutrition

by Susan Bowerman, MS, RD, CSSD, FAND

Fruits and vegetables promote a strong immune system.

When my kids were little, I always braced myself for the ‘back-to-school cold’ that swept through the house during their first week back in the classroom. With the new school year upon us, kids are going to be bringing home more than just homework and new friends – they’re sure to bring home plenty of germs, too. Even if you don’t have kids at home, you’re still more likely to get sick as the weather turns colder – so now is a good time to look at all you can do nutritionally to help keep your immune system running in tip-top shape.

Despite what your parents or grandparents might have told you, you don’t catch cold from being out in the cold air (or, as my mother always insisted, from going outdoors with wet hair). But when the weather turns chilly, we spend more time indoors. That means we’re in closer contact with more people and there’s less air circulating, so we’ve got more exposure to the germs that can make us sick.

Related Article: Healthy Digestion, Healthy You

Your body has a built-in defense, of course – your immune system. It’s your own personal army of ‘soldiers’ that protects your body by identifying anything foreign – from a virus to a bacteria to a parasite – and then seeking it out and destroying it. Your body does rely on good nutrition and a healthy lifestyle to keep your defenses up. For one thing, if you eat a healthy diet and take care of yourself, you’re more likely to maintain your good health.

Fruits and vegetables are key players because they provide an abundance of phytonutrients – natural compounds found in all plant foods that help to promote health by serving as antioxidants. You need antioxidants to balance out the processes in your body that cause oxidation. Oxidative processes are a normal part of metabolism, but oxidation can run rampant in cells if it’s not kept in check. And that can weaken the body’s ability to fight illness. So, your body relies on a steady source of antioxidants from fruits and veggies to reduce this oxidant stress and, in turn, help to support immune function.

Your immune system also has some ‘special forces’ in the form of white blood cells. These cells produce specialized proteins called antibodies that seek out and destroy invading viruses and bacteria. Since antibodies are proteins, you need adequate protein in the diet to ensure you’ll be able to manufacture the antibodies your body needs. Healthy protein foods – like fish, poultry, lean meats, soy foods and low-fat dairy products – provide the building blocks that your body needs to make these specialized proteins.

Keeping your digestive system healthy is also important in supporting immune function. Your digestive tract is home to trillions of bacteria that have numerous functions in promoting health. Some strains of bacteria help you digest the fiber in your foods, others consume intestinal gas, while others produce vitamins, like vitamin K and vitamin B12. When your system is populated with these ‘good’ bacteria, they also serve to ‘crowd out’ the potentially harmful bacteria that might enter your digestive tract. Some of the best sources of these friendly bacteria are cultured dairy products – like yogurt and kefir.

Eating well really does pave the road to good health. To help your body in the fight against foreign invaders, your internal ‘army’ needs the best nutrition possible. So, call in the troops – and dry your hair.

Written by Susan Bowerman. Susan is Director of Worldwide Nutrition Education and Training at Herbalife. Susan is a Registered Dietitian and a board-certified Specialist in Sports Dietetics.

 

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3 ways to help your fruit and vegetables pack a nutrient punch!

by Susan Bowerman, MS, RD, CSSD, FAND

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The way you select, store and prepare your fruits and vegetables can go a long way towards locking in the most nutrition – and will help you get the most nutritional benefit from the fruits and vegetables that you eat. This week, I’m looking at how you can lock in the nutrients in fruit and vegetables.

In order to keep the most nutrients in your fruits and vegetables, it’s sometimes helpful to understand how those nutrients can get lost in the first place. Fruits and vegetables can lose some of their nutritional value if they’re not properly handled.

For example, exposure to air, light and water can cause the loss of some nutrients, while short cooking times at moderate temperatures helps to keep nutrients in. And, in some cases, the way you prepare your foods can even make nutrients more usable by the body.

How to Shop for Fruits and Vegetables to Keep Nutrients In

Choosing the freshest fruits and vegetables is the first step in making sure the nutrients are locked in. The freshest fruits and vegetables are easy to spot – they’re free of blemishes and soft spots, they’re firm, and their colors are bright rather than dull. And, the freshest fruits and vegetables will have had the least exposure to air, light and water – all of which can cause nutrient losses.

Buying fruits and vegetables in season is a good idea, too. When you buy fruits and vegetables out of season, they’ve had a long way to travel from the farm to your fork – time in which valuable nutrients can be lost. If you’re fortunate to have a farmer’s market available to you, try to take advantage. In most cases, the fruits and vegetables are fresher and more locally sourced, which means less chance of nutrient losses.

When fresh fruits and vegetables aren’t available, keep in mind that frozen fruits and veggies actually retain their nutrients quite well – in some cases, frozen produce may actually offer more nutrition than fresh. For one thing, fruits and vegetables that are headed for the freezer case are usually picked at their peak of ripeness – a time when they’re most nutrient-packed. And they’re processed very quickly after picking and then flash-frozen, which locks in freshness and nutrients.

How to Prepare Fruits and Vegetables to Keep Nutrients In

When it’s time to prepare, lightly wash – but don’t soak – your fruits and vegetables. If the first utensil you tend to grab is your peeler, you might want to reconsider. The skins and peels of fruits and vegetables are good sources of vitamins, minerals and fiber. There’s no need to peel foods like apples, potatoes, carrots and cucumbers – and even foods that we usually do peel, like eggplant or kiwifruit – have edible skins. With citrus fruits, grate some of the tangy zest into salads and cooked vegetables to get a healthy dose of antioxidants, and don’t pare away the spongy white interior of the citrus peel – it’s full of water-soluble fiber.

Watch what you cut away, too. There’s more vitamin C and calcium in broccoli stems than the florets, more nutrients in asparagus stalks than the tips, and the hard center core of a pineapple has the highest concentration of bromelain, a natural enzyme which aids digestion.

Some nutrients – particularly, a group of antioxidants known as carotenoids – are more available for the body when foods are lightly processed through chopping or cooking.

The carotenoid lycopene for example – which gives tomatoes their red color – is more readily usable by the body when it’s obtained from cooked tomatoes than it is from raw. And your body will take up more lutein (a carotenoid that gives the yellow-green color to foods like spinach and kiwifruit) from chopped spinach than it will from whole spinach leaves.

A tiny amount of fat helps with the absorption of carotenoids, too, so a few slices of avocado in your spinach salad, or a little olive oil in your tomato sauce will boost your uptake.

How to Cook Fruits and Vegetables to Keep Nutrients In

When it’s time to cook vegetables (or fruits), the key to retaining nutrients is to use methods that require the least water. Steaming is one of the best techniques. Since the food never comes in contact with the water, steaming helps to preserve precious water-soluble B vitamins and vitamin C.

Microwaving also uses very little water and – despite popular misconception – microwaving does not destroy nutrients. With either method, use as little water as you can. The other advantage to these methods is that they’re quick – shorter cooking times help preserve nutrients. For this reason, stir-frying your vegetables is also a good option to lock nutrients in.

Pairing your seasonings with your vegetables can boost nutrition, too, since the thousands of different antioxidants in plant foods work together to protect your health. So add garlic to your broccoli, lemon peel to your green beans, or parsley to your carrots. Along with a flavor boost, you’ll get more nutritional value from your vegetables, too.

Susan Bowerman is Director of Nutrition Training at Herbalife. Susan is a Registered Dietitian and a Board-Certified Specialist in Sports Dietetics.

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