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Give Your Kids the Gift of Health: A Gift That Will Last a Lifetime

July 29, 2010 •  4 comments.

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By Marcia L. Schurer, Ed.D., Author FitDelicious™: Lose the Pounds, Not the Taste; Food Intelligence Tools for Healthy and Delicious Eating

Read the newspaper, flip through a magazine, turn on the TV or radio, or surf the internet and you’ll be bombarded with marketing messages, research studies, or statistics about your health and weight.

According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), two-thirds of the American adult population is now overweight or obese. That’s 127 million overweight adults, 60 million obese and 9 million severely obese. Equally disturbing are the one third or 26 million children who are also overweight or obese. Since 1980, obesity among children ages 6 to 11 more than doubled while the rate among adolescents aged 12 to 19 more than tripled to 17.6 %. In some states, the rate of childhood obesity has exceeded 20%.

Unfortunately just like adult obesity, childhood obesity increases the risk of obesity-related diseases (together now estimated at $147 billion annually) including type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, and bone and joint problems. Obese children are also more likely to suffer self-esteem issues and become overweight or obese adults. Even more alarming is the prediction that children born in the year 2000 and after will be the first generation in America’s history to die at a younger age than their parents!

WHAT CAN YOU DO? MAKE YOUR HEALTH AND YOUR CHILDREN’S HEALTH YOUR NUMBER ONE PRIORITY.
Healthy food habits start at home. Be a role model for more positive eating behaviors. Eat healthier foods. Healthy foods lead to healthy minds and bodies. Better nutrition leads to better academic performance too!

Start Now. Show your kids how eating healthier foods can be fun and delicious. Teach them to be TasteFit – how to master the art of tasting – to develop a discriminating and discerning palate, one that knows how to distinguish quality from mediocrity, authenticity from artificiality, and foods that deserve their calories and foods that don’t. The more you get your children away from processed foods (high in fat, sugar, and salt), the healthier they will be when they’re young and grown.

Teach them how to use and develop their five senses – taste, smell, sight, touch and hearing. Start with their taste buds, the 10,000 their given at birth. Teach them to become a connoisseur of great food instead of a collector of wasted calories. Select and prepare a variety of colorful foods that are sweet, salty, sour, fruity, spicy, and savory naturally, without added sugar, salt, fat or calories. Let your kids touch and feel the foods in their hands and mouths. Grill, roast, steam, stir-fry or sauté them and let the aromas and sizzling sounds fill your kitchen.

Show your kids how to make better food decisions. Take them to the farmers’ market or favorite food store when you go shopping. Let your kids choose a variety of brightly colored and textured fruits and veggies each week, ones that are grown locally, regionally, and from different parts of the country or from around the world. Train your children’s taste buds when they are young to love fruits and vegetables and they will love them for a lifetime. Buy an assortment of fresh fruits and vegetables to make sure they get their daily recommended servings — at least 5 servings daily or 1 – 3 cups veggies and 1 – 2 cups fruits daily; check www.mypyramid.gov for recommendations by age and sex — and vitamins, minerals, and fiber. Less than 25% adolescents eat enough fruits and veggies a day. Make sure to buy them when they are ripe and in peak season so they will taste their best.

Make food tasting a fun adventure. Have tasting parties with your kids, their friends and family. Taste testing is a wonderful way for you and your kids to explore and discover new foods to enjoy that can become part of your family’s daily meal plan. Experiment by tasting different fruits and vegetables raw, especially different varieties of the same food, like apples, pears, peaches, plums, grapes, tomatoes and peppers. Then prepare them using different cooking methods so they can taste the difference between ones that have been steamed, poached, grilled, roasted, baked, pureed or sautéed. Let them taste the food by itself and then in combination with other foods. Try popping their flavor with different herbs, spices, sauces and dressings that will add variety and taste without adding too many more calories. Broaden their horizons and experiment with ethnic and world cuisines. Keep test tasting activities to itty bitty bites and small sips to keep their calories in check.

Give your kids a vocabulary to describe the foods they taste. Or let them come up with their own fun descriptions. Words like crunchy, crispy, creamy, buttery, fiery, spicy, tangy, tart, fruity, smoky, fizzy, silky, smooth, mellow, sharp, lemony, and garlicky are just a few of the words that can make food tasting more fun and interesting.

Stock your home with healthy snacks and tasty, healthier foods. Be prepared and plan ahead. The best offense is a good defense. Keep your kitchen stocked with a supply of delicious, healthy snacks and foods to satisfy their taste. Keep on hand bowls of fresh fruits, peeled and cut veggies with healthy dipping sauces, and mixtures of dried fruits, nuts and seeds. Look for beverages made with low-fat or non-fat milk, soy milk, yogurt or 100% fruit juices. Beware of foods marketed as “healthy” or “better-for-you”. Read the list of ingredients and nutrition label carefully. ALWAYS check the calorie, fat, sugar and salt content and avoid foods with trans fats, high fructose corn syrup, additives, food coloring, pesticides and hormones. Read the FitDelicious LabelFit chapter to learn more. Avoid snacks that will pack on the pounds. Limit junk foods, fried foods, and foods low in nutritional value. Check the FitDelicious Healthy Snack Chart for recommendations or test drive and prepare the hundreds of FitDelicious recipes that are great for snacks, breakfast, lunch, dinner, and dessert too.

Make sure your kids eat breakfast. It’s one of the most important meals of the day. Short on time, try making some of the FitDelicious breakfast recipes the night before, refrigerate and reheat (microwave) in the AM for your kids or take the 5 – 10 minutes to make them fresh in the morning. Smoothies can be put in a cup to go, omelets wrapped in a tortilla or stuffed in a pita to take along.

Increase your Kid’s Activity Quotient. Make a list of fun “motion” activities to get your kids more active and fit. Don’t let them sit in front of a computer or TV when they could be active instead. Let them walk or ride their bike whenever possible. Find physical activities you can share together and ones they’ll enjoy. Get involved. Volunteer for school projects that will get your kids moving. There are plenty of schools and recreation centers that could use the extra help. Show your kids you care.

Remember, obesity prevention and eating healthy starts with you. Give your kids the best start in life you can give them. Feed them foods that will help them be fit, healthy, and smart!

Hate Brussels Sprouts?

July 28, 2010 •  no comments.

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Got some little people that loathe brussels sprouts? Me, too. Even my husband can’t stand the site of them. So when I suggested that we roast them on the grill, my entire family looked at me like I was absolutely nuts.

But after we crafted this recipe (though calling it a recipe is a bit of a stretch since it involves a grill and four ingredients), things changed. Big time. For all of us. Because like the rest of my family, I was a brussels sprout hater, too. Those dead green, boiled balls that I was forced to eat as a kid just held no appeal. But these are different. Sneak them onto a salad if you’re hesitant to expose them in their glory (and get back to us with your success stories, we love to hear them!):

ROASTED BRUSSELS SPROUTS:

Ingredients: I bag of brussels sprouts, olive oil, salt

•Turn on your favorite music
•Preheat the grill – hot!
•Wash brussels sprouts, removing any loose leaves, slice them in half and arrange in a single layer on a cooking tray
•Drizzle sprouts with olive oil and add a dash of salt
•Place sprout-loaded tray on covered grill for about 10 minutes

For those wanting to stir it up, add 1/4 cup grated cheese of your choice (depending, of course, on dairy sensitivities or allergies), or paprika pepper, garlic or 1 tablespoon of balsamic vinegar (and if you’ve got other ideas, we’d love to hear them!)

Cue PBS: “You are what you eat, from your head down to your feet”

July 27, 2010 •  no comments.

 •  Blog, News

Amidst eye-popping headlines about obesity, diabetes and cancer, there are awe-inspiring stories about farmers markets, entrepreneurs and the power of moms.

And through it all, one thing remains constant, as PBS told us as kids: You Are What You Eat.

And while industry funded research says it’s OK for us to be eating meat meat laced with residues of antibiotics, growth hormones and genetically mutated livestock feed, it may help to remember,

“You are what you swallow, so the next time you feel hollow,
Don’t fill your face with any old kind of treat!
This goes for any kid….or six foot athlete
All you really are is what you eat.”

Want to learn more about what’s in your food? Check out what our friends at the Environmental Working Group have to say and their Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides so that you can protect your family with what you eat!

Are You a “Change Agent”?

July 22, 2010 •  3 comments.

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Originally published on Original Thinking by Dennis Stevenson July 22, 2010

This morning I had breakfast with a friend who asked me “What is a Change Agent?” I’ll admit the question caught me by surprise. The bottom line is that I didn’t have a good “elevator pitch” to answer him, and I should have. A lot of “you should say…” thoughts ran through my head. But none of them were satisfying. So I’m returning to the question here in quest for redemption.

Firstly, I must say that I thing being a change agent is a noble aspiration. I assume, of course, that change is for the good, not purely destructive change. In my mind, change is akin to “making people better”. Which is something we should all strive for.

For a dictionary definition, I would say that a change agent is someone who “alters human capability or organizational systems to achieve a higher degree of output or self actualization.” Beginning with the end in mind, the goal of a change agent is obviously to make changes that stick. The result of change agent activity is to enable people to do more, or find a new and better perspective on life. Sometimes this latter idea is the foundation for future change which achieves outcomes that were previously not attainable.

Dictionary definitions are ok, I suppose. But in this case, I think it misses the essence of what it means to be a change agent. I think there is more to it than just understanding or repeating a definition. Change agent is as much about identity and character as it is any definitions. I offer the following explanations for how it feels to be a change agent.

* A change agent lives in the future, not the present. Regardless of what is going on today, a change agent has a vision of what could or should be and uses that as the governing sense of action. To a certain extent, a change agent is dissatisfied with what they see around them, in favor of a much better vision of the future. Without this future drive, the change agent can lose their way.

* A change agent is fueled by passion, and inspires passion in others, Change is hard work. It takes a lot of energy. Don’t underestimate this. I like to think about the amount of energy it takes to boil water. From 212 degree water to 212 degree steam takes a lot more energy than heating water from 211 degrees to 212 degrees. In my experience, without passion, it is very difficult indeed to muster up enough energy to assault the fortress of status quo that seems to otherwise carry the day.

* A change agent has a strong ability to self-motivate. There will be many days where everyone around does not understand and will not offer props. The change agent needs to find it within themselves to get up every day and come to work and risk being misunderstood and misappreciated, knowing that the real validation may be far in the future and may be claimed by someone else.

* A change agent must understand people. at the end of the day, change is about people. If you change everything but the people, I doubt you’ll be effective as a change agent. Change will really “stick” when people embrace it. Therefore, change is part sales, part counseling and part encouragement. It’s all about people.

As I read this post by Dennis Stevenson, I realized that at the end of the day, we are all entrusted with a very powerful lever for change – hope. With that lever, we can create remarkable change in our health, our families, our organizations and our country. But in order to do so, we need to embrace change and no longer fear it in order to be the change we want to see in the world. ~ Robyn O’Brien

Been There, Done That: 15 Tips to Green You, Your Nursery and Your Home

July 20, 2010 •  3 comments.

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Submitted by Rachel Sarnoff, Founder of EcoStiletto and MommyGreenest, July 20, 2010

Going green for your growing belly—or for when you bring that baby home—sounds good on paper, but is it doable in reality? I’ve been through it three times in 12 years (!) and became progressively more eco with each pregnancy. So even though my baby days are over (sniff), I put together 15 easy-to-follow tips—from what to look for at the market to how to create a safer nursery—to share.* Enjoy!

1. Target organics. The bad news is that most of us are carrying around a whole lotta toxins from chemically grown and processed foods, and these have been linked to health problems. The good news is studies have shown that eating organic for just one week can eliminate many of them. When it comes to organics, definitely opt for meat, milk products and delicate fruits like strawberries and peaches, which are typically heavily sprayed: Just one tiny blueberry can contain 48 different pesticides!

2. If you can’t find organic, opt for conventional fruits and veggies that you can peel, like oranges, watermelon, eggplant, avocados, corn, sweet peas and cabbage. Remove the outer skin, husk or leaves and you’re removing a significant amount of pesticide contamination.

3. Cook cleaner! When a pan is heated to high temperatures—like to make those quesadillas our pregnant friends are craving right about now—non-stock coatings such as Teflon break apart into potentially carcinogenic substances that don’t taste so good in the long run. Make your cook wear stainless steel, iron or copper coated—even if it means losing the 12-piece set and opting for a smaller number of new pots and pans.

4. Hydrate—the right way. Bottled water may be convenient, but it’s not exactly safe. Most plastic bottles contain BPA, a known hormone disruptor, which leaches into the water you drink. (Trust me, the last thing you want more messing with when you’re pregnant are hormones.) Plus, you may think it’s cleaner, but bottled water has tested positive for lead, copper, chlorine, mercury and—ick—giardia. A better bet is filtered tap water—even a pitcher filter will do—and a stainless steel reusable water bottle for when you’re on-the-go. Plus, avoiding bottled water can save your family $50 per month!

5. If you’re stocking up, make sure you buy bottles and sippy cups that are BPA-free. The U.S. government’s National Toxicology Program found infants and children at greatest risk of developing cancer from BPA exposure; Canada is considering banning the chemical altogether. It’s easy to find BPA-free bottles and cups at pretty much any store—make the distinction on your registry so friends and family follow your lead.

6. Okay, my last and final word on the subject of BPA: Please don’t microwave food—and later, your baby’s bottle or cup—in plastic containers. Yes, it’s quick and easy, but it also speeds up the migration of those cancer-causing and hormone-disrupting chemicals into your food. Glass or dishware is best for storing and heating food. (Can you tell I’m not a big fan of plastic?)

7. Mother doesn’t necessarily know best. Most of us clean our houses with the products that we remember from childhood—if it was good enough for mom, it’s good enough for us. But the chemicals in those products have been linked to serious illnesses. Clean greener with simple, chemical-free formulas based on tried-and-true cleaners like baking soda and vinegar (you can even make your own for pennies). These are the cleaners your grandmother probably used. Maybe Mom should have listened to her!

8. Open up! In several studies, the Environmental Protection Agency—not the most alarmist organization—found that the air inside the typical American home is actually dirtier than the air outside because of chemicals in our household cleaners and furnishings. One simple and easy thing you can do to create a clean environment for yourself and your growing baby is to open the windows. Even just 10 minutes a day can make a difference to your indoor air quality.

9. When the nesting instinct kicks in, one of the fastest and easiest ways to gratify it is to paint the nursery. Look for zero VOC paints—which means they won’t pollute the air you breathe with potentially dangerous chemicals. These types are paints are now easy to find: Most major paint lines now have zero VOC versions of their most popular shades.

10. Speaking of VOCs, these pesky polluters can also be found in conventional nursery furnishings. If you can’t afford environmentally friendly furniture that’s made without chemicals, try buying second hand gear. Over time, most VOCs are released into the environment to a point where they’re not so dangerous. But that doesn’t mean rescuing your neighbor’s creaky old crib—make sure the furniture meets today’s safety standards, too.

11. At the beginning, babies sleep about fifteen hours each day (and you’ll treasure every precious second). Create a toxin-free crib or bassinet that’s free of the flame-retardants found in most crib mattresses, which have been linked to autism and ADD, among other things. Yes, eco-friendly mattresses made from organic materials like wool or latex can be expensive. In lieu of a mattress overhaul, get a thick organic mattress pad to reduce your baby’s exposure.

12. Mr. Rogers was right—you should take off your shoes when you enter your home, as it reduces—by a full 85%—the amount of pesticides, insecticides and dirt on surfaces and in the air. This is good practice for when you have a little crawler, too.

13. Not to scare you or anything, but we absorb 60 percent of what we put onto our skin. The problem gets even bigger when you realize that the chemicals in our personal care products don’t just stop there: They wash down the drain, into the water system and up the food chain. (That fish you’re eating could, in essence, contain the same chemicals you or your neighbor sudsed up with. Ick.) As much as possible, buy USDA Certified Organic personal care products for your family—unlike other beauty products, which can be misleadingly labeled with words like “organic” or “natural,” these are governmentally regulated to ensure that they contain no dangerous chemicals.

14. If you can, make your layette organic: Most clothing and bedding is made of cotton, which is one of the most heavily sprayed crops in the world, accounting for 25% of the world’s insecticides and 10% of its pesticides. According to the EPA, five of the top nine pesticides used in conventional cotton production in the United States—like cyanide, propargite and trifluralin—are known cancer-causing chemicals; traces of these chemicals can end up on your baby’s bedding and clothes. Plus, with organic options everywhere from Barney’s to Wal-Mart, it’s easy to stock up on these essentials.

15. Preparing for a baby can be overwhelming, with so many must-haves to buy. Stow a rolled-up reusable bag in your purse, and another few in your car, to use everywhere from the supermarket to the mall. There’s a floating mess of plastic the size of two Texases in the Pacific Ocean because of all the plastic bags we toss each year. Who wants to add to that legacy for our children?

Finally, don’t be discouraged by all the doom and gloom of global warming: You can make a difference! Women make 85% of the household buying decisions: Buy an eco-friendly product and not only do you ban chemicals from your body, your baby and your home, you also take a dollar from a conventional company and give it to a green company, thus tilting the economic balance in favor of sustainable production. Your purchases may seem small, but stack them up with the hundreds that you make each year and the thousands made by the friends whom you talk to—get the picture? It’s like that old Faberge commercial: “She’ll tell two friends, and she’ll tell two friends”—it all adds up.

*Rachel originally wrote these tips for BabyZone.