10 Easy Ways To Slash Sugar From Your Kid’s Diet

Homemade cookies, your hometown ice cream shop and trick or treating on Halloween are what childhood memories are made of.

But let’s face it: kids can get sweets almost anywhere whether it’s the school cafeteria, on the sports field, in your local bank or in your own pantry.

What many parents don’t realize however, is that it’s not only the sugar that shows up in desserts or treats that are problematic, but also the sneaky sources that are in everything from cereal to yogurt.

Diets high in sugar are proven to lead to weight gain and obesity, type-2 diabetes, fatty liver disease and heart disease—all conditions that can follow kids throughout their lives.

The U.S. Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend we limit sugar to no more than 10 percent of our total calories for the day.

For kids, that works out to be about 30 to 35 grams of added sugar for little ones who get between 1,200 and 1,400 calories a day, according to Jessica Cording, a registered dietitian-nutritionist in New York City.

Yet studies show most kids—even babies and toddlers—are getting much more than that.

The good news is that even cutting out small amounts of sugar can make a dramatic difference in your child’s health.

According to a February 2016 study in the journal Obesity, obese children who reduced the amount of sugar in their diets but didn’t change the amount of calories they consumed had improvements in their blood pressure, triglycerides, and LDL “bad” cholesterol after just 10 days. Researchers also saw significant improvements in their blood glucose and insulin levels.

So how do you slash sugar from your kid’s diet? Here are 10 ways.

1. Become an avid label reader

With more than 60 names, sugar is seriously sneaky and can hide in places you’d least expect it, such as:

 

  • Cereal
  • Yogurt
  • Instant oatmeal
  • Granola
  • Barbecue sauce
  • Ketchup
  • Salad dressings
  • Sauces
  • Dips
  • Granola, protein and cereal bars
  • Canned fruit and fruit cups

When you’re grocery shopping, make a habit of reading labels and comparing brands to ensure you’ll make the best choice.

 

2. Forget juice

Although juice has historically been seen as a healthy food for kids, it’s anything but.

 

Juice is high in empty calories, sugar, and carbohydrates, and drinking it can lead to weight gain, cavities and diarrhea.

 

The American Academy of Pediatrics says if you’re going to give kids juice, limit it to between 4 and 8 ounces a day depending on their ages while infants under 1 should avoid it altogether.

 

Another option is to make homemade juices at home with 80 percent green leafy vegetables and 20 percent fruit, but still watch the portion sizes.

 

Although the sugars in homemade juice are natural, the calories and sugar can add up fast and they’re also processed in the body the same way as added sugars.

 

3. Cut sugary drinks too

Soda, sweetened ice teas, lemonade, sports and energy drinks, fruit punch, apple juice and chocolate milk make up a majority of the amount of sugar kids get in their diets.

In fact, between 2011 and 2014, 63 percent of kids consumed a sugar-sweetened beverage on any given day, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

 

Water is the best beverage to offer your kids but if they have a hard time giving up the sweet stuff, start by diluting their drinks or gradually replacing a few with water until you’ve completely eliminated them from their diets.

 

Or, serve water with slices of cucumber or strawberries for a hint of natural flavor and sweetness.

4. Serve kids real, whole foods

The more sugar your kids eat, the more they’ll crave.

 

What’s more, foods made with white, refined carbohydrates including flour, white breads and pastas, and white rice can spike your kid’s blood sugar and lead to sugar cravings.

 

To curb their preference for sweet foods, serve healthy, whole foods at every meal and snack.

Focus on protein and healthy fats, green leafy vegetables and fruits, including those with a low glycemic load like apples, pears and strawberries.

Depending on their ages, kids need just as many, or more, servings of vegetables than fruit.

 

5. Add healthy fats to your kid’s diet

Healthy fats found in foods like eggs, salmon, olives, avocado and coconut oil help kids feel satiated and curbs their sugar cravings.

 

Despite what we’ve been told for years, fat doesn’t lead to high cholesterol, heart disease, type-2 diabetes or obesity.

 

Need more proof? I recommend you read Food: What The Heck Should I Eat by Dr. Mark Hyman.

 

6. Ditch the dried fruit

Dried fruit can be a convenient, portable snack but they’re little sugar bombs kids don’t need.

Fresh or frozen whole fruit is always better and lower in sugar. Save the dried fruit for the occasional treat or dessert instead.

 

7. Purge the processed foods

Processed kids’ snacks, kid-friendly frozen meals and soups—even those that are organic, gluten-free or “made with real cheese”—may seem healthy but many have added sugar.

The only way to avoid these sneaky sources of sugar is to purge your pantry and replace your child’s meals with real, whole foods.

 8. Make homemade treats

I don’t think kids should be deprived of desserts, but making your own homemade versions helps you to control the ingredients and the amount of sugar.

With upgraded ingredients like oats, applesauce, pumpkin, nuts and seeds and cacao nibs, you can make healthy, delicious treats for your kids.

And if you let your kids bake with you, even better. Cooking with your kids teaches them about healthy foods and how to prepare healthy meals.

9. Curb “natural” sugars that are actually added sugars

Agave, honey, and maple syrup might be natural, but once it’s separated and added to a food as a sweetener, it’s actually an added sugar.

In fact, the FDA may even require companies to list honey and maple syrup as an added sugar by 2020.

Although I don’t see anything wrong with enjoying a drizzle of pure maple on pancakes, for example, keeping tabs on the overall amount of sugar in your kid’s diet will ensure he’s not going overboard.

Replace sugar with natural sources of sweetness

To slash sugar from your kid’s diet, choose whole foods that add flavor and sweetness.

Add fresh or frozen vegetables to plain, unsweetened Greek yogurt or apples, cinnamon and vanilla extract to oatmeal, for example.

Roasting fruits like apples or pears also brings out their natural sweetness and is a healthy and delicious dessert your kids will love.

 

How To Choose A Healthy Kids’ Yogurt

How To Choose A Healthy Kids’ Yogurt

Whether you serve it for breakfast, as an after-school snack or add it to smoothies, yogurt can be a healthy food in your kid’s diet.

Yogurt is an excellent source of protein, which promotes satiety and can prevent weight gain. It’s also a great source of calcium, potassium, magnesium and vitamin B12 as well as probiotics, the healthy bacteria that boost kids’ gut health and strengthens their immune systems.

Studies show kids who eat yogurt may eat healthier overall too.

According to a January 2018 study in the European Journal of Nutrition, compared to kids who don’t eat yogurt, those who eat 60 grams of yogurt a day have healthier diets and higher intakes of key nutrients like calcium and iodine, lower levels of hemoglobin A1c, a marker of diabetes, and lower blood pressure.

Yet not all yogurts are created equal, however. Many are too high in sugar, have artificial ingredients and may not be the best source of probiotics. Here, learn how to sift through all the choices and choose a healthy kids’ yogurt.

 

 

Taste and try

In recent years, Americans are eating more yogurt than ever before. According to a 2018 report by ResearchandMarkets.com, sales of yogurt in 2017 reached nearly $9 billion.

It’s no surprise then, in order to meet consumer demand, there are dozens of different brands and types of yogurt on grocery store shelves.

Choosing between the different types of yogurt is usually a matter of preference. For example, Skyr yogurt is thicker and creamier than traditional, unstrained yogurt.

Organic yogurt is always a good idea because you won’t get the nasty antibiotics and hormones, but grass-fed yogurt, which has a better make-up of fats and nutrients than cows who feed on soy, corn and grains, is ideal.

According to a February 2018 study in the journal Food Science and Nutrition, cows fed a 100 percent organic grass and legume-based diet produce milk with higher levels of omega-3 and conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), which can reduce the risk for cardiovascular disease, obesity and diabetes.

Grass-fed yogurt is also a good choice for pregnant and breastfeeding moms, babies and children since omega-3 fatty acids play a role in the development of the eyes, brain and the nervous system.

If your kids are lactose intolerant or vegan or you don’t do dairy because of concerns regarding cow’s milk, there are plenty of non-dairy yogurts made with almond milk, coconut milk and soy.

 

Read labels

When it comes to sources of sneaky sugars, yogurt is one of the worst offenders.

According to a September 2018 study in the journal BMJ Open, of 900 yogurt brands in the U.K. tested, only 9 percent, and less than 2 percent of kids’ yogurts, were low in sugar.

The American Heart Association says kids should eat less than 25 grams of added sugar a day, but studies show most kids—even babies and toddlers—eat too much.

As the new Nutrition Facts labels, which include a line for added sugars, continue to be rolled out this year, it will be much easier to choose a healthy kids’ yogurt.

For now, read labels and keep in mind that sugar can go by hidden behind at least 61 different names like fruit juice, cane sugar, sucrose and high-fructose corn syrup.

Consider low fat vs. full fat

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommend kids consume non-fat or low-fat dairy products, but many of these types of yogurt contain more sugar than their full fat versions.

Full fat yogurt is also more satiating, which staves off kids’ hunger and can prevent weight gain. What’s more, studies prove that fat isn’t the demon it’s been made out to be.

In fact, a September 2018 study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found no link between dairy fat and heart disease and stroke and the fats in dairy may even be protective against these conditions.

Make it your own

Yogurts with blended fruit, pretzels and crushed cookies can help persuade picky eating kids to eat yogurt, but these yogurts are so high in sugar they’re better served as dessert.

A healthier option is to choose plain yogurt and add your own fresh fruit like raspberries, which are high in fiber and low glycemic so they won’t spike your kid’s blood sugar. You can also add cinnamon, nutmeg or vanilla extract for extra flavor.

Think twice about yogurt tubes

Yogurt tubes are really convenient especially for school lunches, road trips and when you’re on the go, but many of these yogurts marketed to kids are loaded with sugar, and have artificial colors and flavors.

Although yogurt tubes are kid-friendly, it’s not a healthy, natural way for anyone to eat. Not only is using a spoon a fine motor skill, but instead of tasting and savoring each spoonful, squeezing food into their mouths creates an unhealthy mindless eating habit.

If you do opt for yogurt tubes however, look for those that are made with real ingredients, and are high in protein and low in sugar. Chobani and Siggi’s are two brands I like.

Look for yogurt with live and active cultures

For yogurt to be considered yogurt by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), it must contain two types of probiotics, S. thermophilus or L. bulgaricus.

Yogurts marked with the National Yogurt Association’s live and active cultures seal from means the yogurt has at least 100 million cultures per gram when it’s manufactured.

Yet those probiotics may not be present by the time they hits store shelves. In fact, an April 2017 study out of the University of Toronto found many types of probiotic yogurts had levels of probiotics too low to provide the health benefits found in clinical trials.

To fill the void, serve naturally fermented vegetables, miso, tempeh, Kimchi and Kefir, which are better sources of probiotics.

 

8 Tips For Teaching Kids How To Cook

8 Tips For Teaching Kids How To Cook

One of the best ways to get your kids to eat healthy now and throughout their lives is to teach them how to cook healthy meals.

My kids have been helping me in the kitchen since they were toddlers and we all have a lot of fun cooking and baking together.

I don’t want to give you the impression that I’ve got the cooking chops of Martha Stewart and my kids are little chefs who follow suite, however.


Not even close.

 

Most of the time when we cook together, I try to strike a balance between teaching and keeping them busy and avoiding messes, mishaps and meltdowns.

Last week, I even let my 5-year-old use a vegetable peeler and pairing knife to prepare carrots for a large family dinner.

I nearly had a heart attack worrying that she might lose a finger, but I showed her how to cut away from her fingers and I watched carefully.

Benefits of Cooking With Kids

 

When kids learn how to cook, it’s an invaluable—and one might argue—essential life skill.

Kids not only learn how to prepare meals, they also learn about nutrition, portion control, math, science, and food safety.

Cooking improves their literacy, critical thinking and fine motor skills.

Studies show people who cook at home eat healthier, eat less, and have better control of their weight, so it’s also a healthy habit to teach now.

 

Need more reasons? Check out  5 Surprising Benefits of Cooking With Your Kids.

Tips To Teach Kids How To Cook

Cooking with your kids can be a fun, valuable activity for the whole family. Here are some tips to help you make the most of it.

1. Review the safety rules

Before you can teach your kids how to chop vegetables, sauté garlic and beat eggs, they’ll need to learn some food and kitchen safety rules.

Make sure they wash their hands thoroughly with warm water and soap before prepping food and after handling raw meat, poultry and fish.

Teach them to avoid eating uncooked food (licking the spatula counts!) and putting their hands in their mouth.

Lastly, teach your kids to be careful around knives and kitchen appliances with sharp blades, use caution around a hot stove and oven, use oven mitts and how to hold a pot handle.

2. Keep it age appropriate

When teaching your kids how to cook, think about their age and maturity level.

Three to 5-year-olds can help pour and mix, turn on the food processor, wash produce and add seasonings, while older kids can break eggs, peel and chop vegetables, measure ingredients, read recipes, stir food on the stovetop and put food in the oven.

3. Let them choose

When kids feel empowered to make their own food choices, they’re more likely to eat healthy.

When you’re not in a rush to get dinner on the table and you have time to experiment, let your kids pick out a new recipe or decide on the type of meal they’d like to make.

Make a list of ingredients and go grocery shopping together, which teaches them all the steps that are required to pull a meal together.

4. Make it more fun

Professional chefs are creative, know how to experiment, and problem solve in the kitchen—skills you can teach your kids no matter how inexperienced you think you are.

Try new recipes, swap an ingredient, substitute a spice or change the cooking method. Your kids may surprise you with new ideas too.

5. Clean up together

Teaching kids how to properly clean the kitchen is just as important as teaching them how to cook.

Little kids can (gently!) put bowls and cooking utensils in the sink, while older kids can load the dishwasher, wash and dry pots and pans and clean and disinfect cutting boards and countertops.

6. Get some cool gear

You can make cooking even more fun but buying your kids their own aprons, kid-sized cutting boards and utensils or a colorful stool to reach the counter.

7. Spread the joy

Cooking will bring your family together but it’s also a good opportunity to teach your kids about contributing to a family meal and helping others.

Let them help you prepare Thanksgiving dinner, bake treats for the school fundraiser or cook a meal for a friend in need.

They’ll feel so proud that they had a hand in making the meal and making others happy. Of course, the memories you’ll make will be priceless.

8. Let it go

 

Cooking with your kids will definitely take longer than when you cook alone and you’re guaranteed a mess afterwards.

I’ll admit, this is a #momfail for me. I like to clean the kitchen as I go, and when something spills, I sigh.

When I relax however, and don’t make a big deal when soup splatters or some flour spills on the floor, it’s a much more enjoyable experience for everyone.

Feeding Toddlers: What, When and How Much To Feed 1- to 3-year-olds

Feeding Toddlers: What, When and How Much To Feed 1- to 3-year-olds

Your toddler is walking, running, climbing—and growing by leaps and bounds every day.

As you continue to introduce table foods and he gets to explore new, exciting textures, flavors and tastes, you probably have a lot of questions about feeding toddlers such as what your toddler should eat, how often and how much.

If your toddler is a picky eater (most are and it’s completely normal) you’re probably concerned about whether he’s eating enough and if he’s getting the nutrition he needs.

On the other hand, if your toddler is eating too much, that might also be a concern especially because nearly 1 in 4 children start kindergarten overweight or obese, a January 2014 study in the New England Journal of Medicine found.

Here, learn everything you need to know about feeding toddlers, including the foods to focus on, the right portion sizes, and when to offer healthy meals and snacks.

How much should my toddler eat?

After their first birthday, toddlers’ growth isn’t as rapid as it was during the first year of life. Still, they continue to grow at a slow, steady rate.

Despite their increased activity, their appetites may also slow down. Since they’ll be busy with more exciting activities, they may also not be interested in eating.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) says toddlers should eat approximately 40 calories per inch of height. Depending on your child’s age, size and activity level, that can vary between 1,000 and 1,400 calories a day.

How often should toddlers eat?

Toddlers should be offered three healthy meals and two healthy snacks a day but it’s OK if your child isn’t interested in eating or refuses to eat.

A toddler’s appetite can change day to day and persuading or pushing your child to eat is a bad habit to teach. If he eats when he’s not hungry, he won’t learn when he’s actually hungry or full.

Without the ability to recognize his hunger and satiety cues, he may grow into an older child and adult who overeats.

Pushing your toddler to eat when he’s not hungry can also make mealtimes a negative, unhappy experience for you and him, so it’s best to let him decide if he wants to eat and how much.

When should toddlers eat?

Be sure to have a schedule of regular meal and snack times with some flexibility built in. Toddlers should eat approximately every 3 hours but again, if your tot isn’t hungry, it’s OK.

Not only is routine good for toddlers, but eating regularly prevents their blood sugar from crashing and ensures they’re never overly hungry.

Teaching your child to eat regularly is also a healthy eating habit you’ll want your toddler to have throughout life.

What are toddler portion sizes?

It can be tricky to figure out healthy portion sizes for toddlers and easy to overestimate how much food to serve.

When my kids were toddlers, I never really knew how much they should be eating. Although I never pushed them to eat, looking back, I realize their portion sizes were way too large.

Portion sizes for toddlers are much smaller than you may think. For example, the AAP says one serving of vegetables is equal to one tablespoon for each year of age.

A good rule of thumb is to serve your toddler a quarter of what a healthy portion is for an adult.

What foods should toddlers eat?

The AAP has general guidelines for the types of foods and portion sizes toddlers should consume each day.

Just as their appetites can change however, so can their food preferences so don’t stress if you don’t meet all of these requirements all of the time.

Vegetables and fruits

2 to 3 servings of each a day.

Grains

6 servings a day, at least half of which should be whole grains.

Milk/dairy

2 to 3 servings a day

Protein (meat, fish, poultry and tofu)

2 servings a day

Legumes (peas, lentils and beans)

2 servings a day

What foods should toddlers avoid?

The toddler years are an important time to expose children to a wide variety of new, healthy foods.

Although a baby’s food preferences actually start to form during pregnancy, the foods they like and dislike continue to develop throughout the toddler years.

Unfortunately, for many toddlers those opportunities are too often being replaced by foods that lack nutrition and are high in sodium and sugar.

In fact, a June 2018 study led by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found toddlers between 19 and 23 months consumed an average of 7 teaspoons of added sugar on any given—that’s more sugar than a Snicker’s® bar!

Stick with whole foods, instead of fast food, processed, packaged and prepared foods and limit sodium, saturated fats and sugar.

Tips for Feeding Toddlers

When it comes to food, the toddler years can be tough. Your child may have willingly accepted a variety of fruits and vegetables when he was a baby, but getting him to take a bite of broccoli now is proving more difficult.

My advice: stick with it.

So many parents say their kids are picky eaters and turn to quick, easy, processed foods and frozen kid-friendly meals just so their child will eat.

But this habit actually reinforces picky eating because kids don’t have the opportunity to eat real, healthy, whole foods.

The key is to continue to offer healthy foods and the right portion sizes and let your child feed himself, whether he wants a small bite, the whole meal or nothing at all.

Teaching toddlers what to eat, when to eat and how to have healthy eating habits will help to ensure they’ll grow into healthy, lifelong eaters.

How To Prevent Cavities At Halloween

How To Prevent Cavities At Halloween

There’s no getting around it: if your family celebrates Halloween, your kids will have candy— and lots of it.

Between trick-or-treating, Halloween parties and school events, kids consume up to 3 cups of sugar, or a whopping 7,000 calories on Halloween, a poll by discount site Coupon Follow found.

Of course, with all that sugar, kids are at risk for cavities, gum disease and even tooth loss.

If you plan ahead of time however, there’s a lot you can do to prevent cavities at Halloween and keep your kids’ teeth healthy and strong.

Set limits

My kids usually come home with a ton of candy especially because many of our neighbors let them take two pieces at a time—that’s in addition to the candy they bring home from school.

I want my kids to enjoy Halloween but they don’t have to overindulge to do so.

In fact, teaching kids how to be healthy eaters includes showing them how to balance healthy fare and treats.

When we return home from trick or treating, my kids get to pick about 10 to 15 pieces of candy to keep, eat a few pieces that night and the rest gets donated.

Last year, I donated the candy to Operation Gratitude but you can also search for a local Halloween buy-back drop off location here.

Police stations, firehouses and churches may accept candy donations or try your school’s parent-teacher organization who may welcome the candy for special events.

You can also set limits on Halloween candy by using smaller treat bags and visiting fewer homes.

Be picky

When you get home from trick or treating and start to sort through all of your kids’ candy, you’re probably not going to say no when they want the Swedish fish or jawbreakers.

But these types of candy and others like gummies, bubble gum, caramel and sour candy are some of the worst because they’re more likely to stick to the small grooves and crevices in their teeth, even if they brush right away.

Do your best to encourage your kids to pick chocolate instead, which melts and leaves the mouth quicker than sticky or hard candy.

Dark chocolate in particular, has antioxidants that can prevent bacteria from sticking to the teeth and cause cavities and gum infections.

Eat Halloween candy at the right time

Instead of skipping dinner, serve a healthy dinner and let your kids eat their candy afterwards.

Saliva production increases during meals, which helps to weaken the acids that cause cavities and rinse food particles away.

Brush and floss

Good oral hygiene is a no-brainer but it’s especially important after overdosing on sugar on Halloween.

After your kids eat their treats, make sure they thoroughly brush all surfaces of their teeth and floss in between each tooth, making sure to get below the gum line.

Swap candy for healthier treats

If you’re having a Halloween party or are asked to bring in a treat for a school event, choose healthier options that are lower in sugar.

Surprisingly, kids may actually enjoy a healthy treat on Halloween. According to a survey by GoGo Squeez, 63 percent of 6 to 12-year-olds said they would actually be happy with getting fruit while trick-or-treating or at a Halloween party.

Some healthier Halloween treats include trail mix, popcorn, pretzels and fresh fruit dipped in chocolate.

Strawberries in particular, are some of the best foods for kids teeth, because the vitamin C they contain can help fight bacteria that lead to cavities and gum disease.

Don’t graze on Halloween candy all day

When Halloween is over and you still have candy left in the house, it can be tempting to add it to your kids’ lunch boxes, let them eat it after school (or sneak a few for yourself!)

Yet letting them snack on candy all day can lead to cavities.

Instead, let them have one piece of candy at home and then brush and floss right away.

11 Easy Food Safety Tips For Moms and Kids

These food safety tips can help to prevent food poisoning and keep your family healthy.

Whether you buy organic, local, non-GMO or local, and shop at Whole Foods or the famers’ market, you and your kids can still be at risk for food poisoning.

According to the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 48 million people each year get sick from foodborne illness from exposure to germs like norovirus, salmonella, E. coli and listeria.

Pregnant women and children under age 5 in particular, have some of the highest risk for food poisoning.

Kids’ immune systems are still developing so they can’t fight off germs and illness as well as older children can. Food poisoning is also a particular concern for young kids because diarrhea and dehydration can land them in the hospital.

When it comes to pregnant women, they’re 10 times more likely to get a listeria infection than women who are not. Pregnant women who are Hispanic are 24 times more likely to be affected.

Contamination can happen at any time along the food journey to your kitchen table, but there are several ways to prevent the spread of germs.

Here, learn about the food safety tips that can prevent food poisoning.

1. Check restaurant health ratings

According to a 2018 poll conducted by C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital at the University of Michigan, one in 10 parents say their kids have gotten sick from spoiled or contaminated food and 68 percent attributed the food poisoning to eating out in a restaurant.

One of the best ways to prevent food poisoning when eating out is to check health inspection ratings—something only 25 percent of parents do, the same poll found.

To review health inspection ratings, check with your local or county health department or try the What The Health app.

2. Clean out your refrigerator

Before you leave to go to the grocery store, go through your refrigerator and throw out food that has gone bad and shouldn’t be eaten.

Food that has mold, smells unpleasant, or whose color or texture has changed should be tossed.

Leftovers that have been cooked should be thrown away after 4 days and raw chicken and meat after 1 to 2 days.

It’s also a good idea to know what the dates on food packaging mean to prevent food waste.

3. Do grocery shopping in this order

When you run errands, try to do all of your regular errands first and leave your grocery shopping until the end so you can take your groceries home immediately and prevent food from spoiling.

Also, consider bringing an insulated bag with an ice pack to transport cold, perishable food items.

4. Keep meat and fish separate

At checkout, place raw meat and fish in plastic bags to prevent spreading germs to other foods.

When you arrive home, store these foods on a plate or in a shallow pan on the lowest shelf of the refrigerator and away from ready to eat foods.

5. Wash your hands before preparing food

Before you handle food, be sure to thoroughly wash all surfaces of your hands with warm or hot water and soap for at least 20 seconds.

After handling raw chicken, wash your hands before moving on to other foods to prevent the spread of bacteria.

6. Use designated cutting boards

It’s a good idea to use one cutting board solely for fruits and vegetables and one for raw meat, poultry and fish.

7. Wash and sanitize cutting boards

Scrub cutting boards after each use with hot, soapy water, especially after preparing raw meat, fish and poultry.

To deep clean cutting boards, scrub them with a paste of baking soda, salt and water and wipe them with full strength white vinegar to disinfect.

Rubbing a sliced lemon on the boards also helps to sanitize them and remove odors.

8. Always rinse fruits and vegetables

Always rinse fresh fruits and vegetables under running water and consider using a produce brush to remove dirt and debris.

If you plan to peel fruit, you should still rinse it before eating it to prevent germs from contaminating the inside flesh.

Ready to go, pre-chopped produce like bagged salad and cut up vegetables that aren’t labeled pre-washed should always be washed at home.

9. Defrost foods properly

Never leave food out on the kitchen countertop or in the sink to defrost.

Instead, thaw frozen foods in the refrigerator on the bottom shelf on a plate or a shallow pan. You can also defrost foods in the microwave but they should be cooked right away.

10. Cook foods thoroughly

Instead of making a judgment call about whether meat, poultry and fish are ready to eat just by looking at them, use a food thermometer to ensure they’re thoroughly cooked.

Unsure of the right temp? NSF International has a handy chart.

11. Serve food at safe thermometers

Cold foods should be served at 40º F or below while hot foods should be stored at 140ºF or above.

When foods are left out and in the “danger zone” range between 40º F and 140º F, they’re only safe to eat for 2 hours or 1 hour in temperatures above 90 degrees.

Is Your Kid An Extreme Picky Eater?  Some kids who are extreme picky eaters may have an eating disorder known as Avoidant Restrictive Food Intake Disorder (ARFID)

Is Your Kid An Extreme Picky Eater?

Some kids who are extreme picky eaters may have an eating disorder known as Avoidant Restrictive Food Intake Disorder (ARFID)

If you have a kid who is an extreme picky eater or selective eater, you know how frustrating it can be.

You do your best to serve a variety of healthy foods.

You beg, plead and negotiate.

You try hiding vegetables in meals but your kid is onto your sneaky tactics.

Although most kids’ extreme picky eating behaviors are considered normal, for some it’s not and they may have an eating disorder known as Avoidant Restrictive Food Intake Disorder (ARFID).

Here, learn what ARFID is, the signs to look for and what you can do about it. 

What is Avoidant Restrictive Food Intake Disorder?

Previously referred to as selective eating disorder, ARFID is an eating disorder in which there’s a limit in the amount or types of foods kids consume.

“Their food repertoire is so limited that they can’t maintain their body weight, [and], they have health issues,” Dr. Jocelyn Lebow, a child psychologist at the Mayo Clinic stated in this article.

Unlike kids who are only picky eaters, a child with ARFID doesn’t consume enough calories to grow and develop properly, which can result in weight loss, weight gain that’s stopped or slowed and stunted growth.

Kids with the disorder have a lack of interest in eating or food and can flat out refuse to eat a lot of the time.

These kids often have challenges at school or in other environments where food is involved like a kid’s birthday party, family gathering or social event. Unlike anorexia nervosa or bulimia nervosa, kids with ARFID don’t have the same problems with body shape or weight and don’t try to lose weight.

They may also need to rely on nutritional supplements or a feeding tube to get the nutrition they need.

How common is Avoidant Restrictive Food Intake Disorder?

Kids (and adults) of any age can be diagnosed with the disorder and although there’s not a ton of research, experts say ARFID is relatively rare.

A few studies found that of kids who were admitted into a pediatric inpatient eating disorder program, between 5 and 14 percent were diagnosed with ARFID, while of those in an eating disorder day treatment program, up to 22 percent were found to have the disorder.

According to an August 2014 study in the Journal of Eating Disorders, the average age of kids with the disorder is 11-years-old. Females are also much more likely than males to have the disorder (79 percent versus 20 percent).

Avoidant Restrictive Food Intake Disorder: Signs and Symptoms

Avoidant Restrictive Food Intake Disorder was only recently recognized in 2013 when the DSM-5, the handbook by which healthcare professionals diagnose mental disorders, included the eating disorder.

Aside from the extreme picky eating behaviors, two of the most obvious signs that a child may have ARFID are significant weight loss and a downward trend of their normal growth curves.

Not only do kids with the disorder refuse to eat, they may even gag or choke at meal times.

Other symptoms like constipation, abdominal pain, lack of energy and concentration, dizziness and sleep problems may also be a sign of ARFID.

Without treatment, the disorder can cause severe nutritional deficiencies that can lead to serious, even deadly health consequences and impact a child’s social functioning with family and friends.

Avoidant Restrictive Food Intake Disorder: Risk Factors


Experts aren’t sure what makes one child over another at risk for the eating disorder, but some risk factors have been identified. These include:

1. Kids with Autism Spectrum Disorder, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder

(ADHD) or intellectual disabilities have a higher risk.

2. Kids who don’t outgrow the normal picky eating behaviors that most kids experience, especially during the toddler years.

3. Kids with other mood disorders, anxiety disorders, cognitive impairments, pervasive development disorder (PDD) and learning disorders are likely to also have ARFID, according to the same study in The Journal Of Eating Disorders.

Is ARFID the same as picky eating?

ARFID and picky eating are not the same. Kids with ARFID have dramatic weight loss and nutritional deficiencies.

Picky eating usually involves only a few foods, and a child’s appetite, how much they eat, and their growth and development are normal.

Kids with ARFID are not interested in food and eating and typically avoid food because of a color, texture, smell, taste or temperature.

Avoidant Restrictive Food Intake Disorder: What You Need To Know

If your child’s extreme picky eating behaviors don’t seem to improve, he has any of these symptoms or you’re concerned about his health, a good first step is to make an appointment with his doctor to look at how his growth is charting.

If there are concerns about his weight and nutrition and your doctor suspects ARFID, a child psychologist who specializes in eating disorders can help.

Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is typically the treatment of choice to help kids eat in a more normal, healthy way and overcome their fears and anxieties about foods.

Treatment will also likely include a specific diet plan with calorie goals, multiple food exposures and regular monitoring.

For more information and to find help, visit the National Eating Disorders Association.

10 Things I Do To Keep My Kids Healthy + Prevent Childhood Obesity

10 Things I Do To Keep My Kids Healthy + Prevent Childhood Obesity

With more than one-third of children who are overweight or obese in the U.S., obesity and obesity-related chronic health conditions will be a lifelong reality for our children if we don’t do something about it now.

Although my kids are healthy, we have relatives on both sides of the family who are overweight or obese.

There’s also a strong family history of hypertension, high cholesterol, heart disease and stroke, insulin resistance, type-2 diabetes, anxiety, depression and mental illness, so taking steps to keep my kids healthy is one of my priorities as a parent.

Here’s a list of things I do to keep my kids healthy now and throughout their lives. One word of caution: these ideas are meant to inspire you, not make you feel like a failure.

1. I cook and eat with my kids

Cooking breakfast, lunch and dinner (yes, seriously), is perhaps the best way to keep my kids healthy.

I know exactly what goes into their meals and how the meals have been cooked and I can better control how much they eat than when we eat out.

I also cook with my kids, which has made them more likely to eat healthy and try new foods.

In fact, a November 2014 study in the journal Preventing Chronic Disease found kids who took cooking classes or cooked at home ate more fruits and vegetables, were more willing to try new foods, and had an increased confidence in their ability to prepare meals.

Studies show eating family meals together—something we do every night—is also positively associated with kids who eat healthy and maintain a healthy weight.

2. I serve vegetables at most meals and snacks

Look in my refrigerator and you’ll find plenty of vegetables: broccoli, cucumber, celery, peppers, asparagus, and salad.

Veggies have filling fiber that satisfy kids’ hunger, balance their blood sugar, and take up space in their bellies to keep them feeling fuller longer.

Eating vegetables at every meal and snack is also one way to prevent them from gaining weight.

My kids eat salads and vegetables for lunch and dinner, they often have a fruit and vegetable smoothie for breakfast and munch on carrots and cucumbers for snacks, for example.

3. I watch their portion sizes

Although my kids eat a healthy diet, they often eat too much. They frequently ask for seconds or for fruit after dinner.

Fruit isn’t a big deal of course, but I try to teach them about portion sizes so they will learn healthy eating habits.

One way that helps them understand healthy portions is to encourage them to use a measuring bowl or cup.

When I allow them to have a packaged snack, I also talk to them about reading food labels. I explain the serving size and servings per container so they know how much they can eat and how much they have to save for another time.

4. I don’t buy a lot of processed, packaged foods

Crackers, cookies and granola bars are really easy and convenient, but most are high in calories, saturated fat, sodium, and sugar, all of which can negatively affect their health and lead to weight gain.

Many of the kid-friendly foods and snacks are mostly refined carbohydrates, which lack fiber, spike their blood sugar and increase their sugar cravings.

When my kids are allowed these snacks, they know it’s a treat and not something they’ll eat every day.

5. I read labels and watch sugar

Like most parents, I watch my kids’ intake of obvious sources of sugar like cookies and candy but sugar is sneaky and can show up in surprising places like cereal, yogurt and barbecue sauce too.

Kids should consume less than 25 grams of added sugars a day and with the new Nutrition Facts labels being rolled out this year, it will be easier than ever to decipher between natural and added sugars.

I make it a point to read labels and check the added sugars, but I’m also cognizant of natural sugars, which can be concentrated in foods like dried fruit, for example.

6. I get my kids moving

I’ll admit it: making sure my kids get the recommended 60 minutes of exercise every day is one area that’s challenging for me.

Between working full-time, school, homework, after-school activities and other obligations, it’s hard to carve out time.

Although it’s not ideal, my daughters take gymnastics class 1 to 2 times a week and then I find opportunities to get them up and moving.

For example, we’ll take a walk before dinner or go on a bike ride. When it’s raining or cold, we might play a game of Twister or have an indoor dance party.

7. I limit screen time

Much to my chagrin, my kids love the iPad just like every other kid in America. “I hate those iPads!” is something you’d hear me say if you were a fly on the wall.

Screen time makes my kids tired and irritable and they get addicted to it.

Studies also show too much screen time is linked to sedentary behaviors, which can lead to childhood obesity and other chronic health problems so I often set a timer and set limits.

In fact, a January 2014 study in the European Journal of Preventative Cardiology found teens who spent more than 2 hours a day behind a screen had a higher body mass index (BMI) as well as metabolic syndrome, a cluster of conditions that increases their risk for heart disease and stroke.

In August 2018, the American Heart Association released a scientific statement about the issue and strongly suggest parents limit all screen time to 1 to 2 hours a day.

8. I prioritize their sleep

Making sure your kids get enough sleep is just as important as eating healthy and exercise.

Without enough shut-eye, their hunger hormones can get all out of whack and make them more likely to reach for junk food and skip breakfast, one study found.

I do my best to make sure they’re in bed every night at the same time or within a half hour. If that means that our reading time is cut short, so be it. Sleep is too important.

9. I don’t serve juice and sugary beverages

Consuming fruit juice, soda, sports and energy drinks and sugar-sweetened beverages can easily spike a kid’s blood sugar and lead to weight gain.

According to a January 2018 review in Obesity Facts, 93 percent of studies found a positive association between sugar-sweetened beverages and obesity.

I let my kids have juice or lemonade for a special occasion like a friend’s birthday party, but otherwise they only drink water, homemade green smoothies or green juices.

10. I lead by example

I eat healthy and exercise for my own health and well being but it’s a really important way to keep kids healthy.

Although they don’t always like that I leave every morning for the gym, they know that it makes me healthy and happy, which makes me a better mom.

 

What are some habits you have to keep your kids healthy? Let me know in the comments!

[Video] 6 Health Benefits of Eggs for Kids + How to Serve Them

[Video] 6 Health Benefits of Eggs for Kids + How to Serve Them

Eggs are one of the healthiest foods you can feed your kids and many experts even call them a perfect food for babies, toddlers and big kids alike.

Since they’re high in fat and cholesterol however, you might be wondering if kids can eat eggs everyday or even twice a day.

Here, read about all the amazing health benefits of eggs for kids, how much is too much and how my kids eat eggs.

1. Eggs are packed with protein

One of the primary health benefits of eggs for kids is that they’re high in protein.

One large egg has more than 6 grams of protein as well as all 9 essential amino acids, the building blocks of protein that the body cannot make and must come from food.

Protein helps to satiate your kids’ hunger, balance their blood sugar, give them energy for school, sports and play, and prevent weight gain.

Protein is also vital for your kids’ growth and development. According to a June 2017 study in the journal Pediatrics, babies between 6 and 9 months of age who ate an egg a day had a 47 percent reduced prevalence of stunted growth.

 

2. Eggs are rich in choline

According to the National Institutes of Health, choline is an essential nutrient that plays an important role in your child’s brain development and function, memory, mood and metabolism.

Studies also suggest low levels of choline during pregnancy can increase the risk of neural tube defects.

What’s more, an April 2016 study out of Sweden found that higher levels of choline in teens were associated with improved academic performance.

3. Eggs have healthy fats

Not only does fat from food promote satiety but kids need fat in their diets.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) says fat is an essential nutrient, it provides the calories and energy kids need for their growth and active play and it shouldn’t be severely restricted.

One large egg has 5 grams of fat, 1.5 grams of saturated fat and 2.6 unsaturated fat.

4. Eggs support eye health

Eggs are a good source lutein and zeaxanthin, carotenoids or plant pigments found in the eyes that can prevent macular degeneration, cataracts, and improve memory and processes speed, one study found.

5. Eggs help support a strong immune system

It’s inevitable that your kids will swap germs all day with other kids at daycare and school, but eating eggs is another way to boost their immune system.

Eggs are high in vitamins A, B12 and selenium, all nutrients that support immunity.

6. Eggs are rich in omega-3 fatty acids

Eggs are an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids, which support kids’ brain and eye health.

Look for omega-3 eggs, which are typically fortified with flaxseed and have even higher levels.

 

Can Kids Eat Eggs Everyday?

For many years in the U.S. experts said we should limit the amount of eggs in our diets because the saturated fat they contain was linked to an increased risk of cardiovascular disease.

Experts now agree, and studies (here and here) show that there’s not enough data to support that theory.

Studies also show that dietary cholesterol doesn’t have much of an effect on blood cholesterol either.

A January 2015 study in the American Heart Journal found eating up to one egg per day is not associated with an increased risk of coronary heart disease and stroke.

Despite the health benefits of eggs and the low risk of ill effects, eating several eggs a day probably isn’t the best idea. Instead, feed your kids a variety of protein-rich and other healthy foods to ensure they get the vitamins and minerals they need.

[VIDEO] How to Serve Eggs To Kids

Scrambled eggs take minutes to make and most kids love them but if you’re looking for other ideas about how to serve your kids eggs, watch this video for 3 ways I serve them up.

Do your kids eat eggs? How do you serve them?

10 Non-Sneaky Ways to Get Your Kids To Eat Vegetables  Stop hiding vegetables or making them into a work of art. These non-sneaky ways will get your kids to eat vegetables in no time.

10 Non-Sneaky Ways to Get Your Kids To Eat Vegetables

Stop hiding vegetables or making them into a work of art. These non-sneaky ways will get your kids to eat vegetables in no time.

Every time I read an article telling parents about all the amazing, sneaky ways to serve vegetables, I cringe.

Sneaky strategies like pureeing vegetables, creating animal shapes with vegetables or hiding vegetables in kid-friendly foods may help in the short-term but if you really want to raise kids who eat healthy, they need to eat—and learn to love—food in its whole form, not kids who grow up consuming vegetables only in a sauce or a smoothie.

But how can you get your kids to eat vegetables without being sneaky?

Here are 10 strategies to try.

1. Eat healthy yourself

You can’t expect your kids to eat their vegetables if they don’t see you eating them.

I’m convinced that my kids love to eat salads because it’s what I eat for lunch every day.

Eating family dinners together and snacking on vegetables can also go a long way in getting your kids to eat them.

2. Offer a variety of vegetables

When kids feel like they’re in control and are empowered to make their own decisions, food battles get easier.

Try putting out a buffet of vegetables at mealtimes and let your kids choose what they want to eat.

At dinner, serve a cooked vegetable and a salad or make one vegetable you know your kids will eat and one new vegetable they can try.

In the beginning, the goal isn’t necessarily to get them to eat, but to give them choices.

The more consistent you are, the more apt they’ll be to try vegetables and eventually love eating them.

3. Add grass-fed butter.

Butter is delicious and a non-sneaky way to get your kids to eat vegetables.

If you’re unsure about the fat and cholesterol however, a small amount of butter on vegetables isn’t going to make your kids fat or sick.

Although saturated fat was previously thought to increase the risk for heart disease, recent studies show that’s simply not the case.

A March 2010 meta-analysis in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found no link between saturated fat in the diet and coronary heart disease and stroke.

Another meta-analysis in March 2014 in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine also found there’s not enough evidence to advise limiting saturated fat to prevent heart disease.

The fat in butter also helps the body better absorb and utilize vitamins.

Opt for grass fed butter, which is a better source of vitamins A, E and K than butter from grain-fed cows.

4. Roast vegetables

When you roast vegetables, they turn out sweet, savory, and delicious—even those your kids are least likely to eat like.

Roasting vegetables couldn’t be easier or quicker and you can make large batches to use in several meals throughout the week.

You can roast almost any kind of vegetable but use an olive oil mister to prevent dousing them with unnecessary calories.

5. Put vegetables out in plain sight

One of the best non-sneaky ways to get your kids to eat vegetables is to put them front and center—and then stand back.

Every time I cook vegetables and leave them out to cool, whether it’s a type I make every week or something new, I find that my kids always ask to try them.

Another way to make vegetables visible is to wash and cut them and store them in clear glass containers in the refrigerator.

6. Get your kids in the kitchen

Shopping and cooking vegetables with your kids helps them to feel empowered to make healthy choices.

When they’ve had a hand in making a meal, they’ll be more likely to eat it.

In fact, according to an August 2014 study in the journal Appetite, kids who cooked with their parents ate 76 percent more salad than those whose parents prepared the meal alone.

When you go to the grocery store or the famers’ market, let your kid pick out a vegetable they love or a new type they want to try.

When you come home, try a new way to cook the vegetables or a new recipe and make them together.

7. Pick vegetables from the garden

This past spring, our family planted our first vegetable garden and my kids were thrilled to pick and eat the salad, tomatoes, eggplant and peppers that we grew.

Whether you plant your own vegetable garden or volunteer at a Community Supported Agriculture farm, kids get really excited to see the fruits—and vegetables—of their labor.

8. Make sure your kids are hungry

Taking advantage of your kids’ hunger is a non-sneaky way to get them to eat vegetables.

When your kids are likely to be really hungry, whether it’s when they wake up in the morning or right before dinner, is the time when they’ll also be most likely to eat vegetables.

Try incorporating (not hiding) vegetables into omelets or serve them as an appetizer before meals.

9. Add a dip

Kids love to dip their food so serving vegetables with a dip can encourage them to eat.

In fact, according to an August 2013 study in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, adding herbs and spices to a reduced fat dip increased preschoolers’ willingness to taste, like and eat raw vegetables.

10. Have a play date or a date with grandma

If your kids have friends who are healthy eaters, arrange a play date or a dinner date.

It may take a few tries and your kids may not eat an entire plate of vegetables, but they may be more willing to at least take a bite when they see another child doing the same.

This can also work with grandparents if they eat healthy. I’ve found this to be true with my own kids who have eaten cucumbers and Swiss chard all because it was served at their grandparent’s house.

Childhood Obesity: Are Parents to Blame?

Childhood Obesity: Are Parents to Blame?

Childhood obesity continues to be an epidemic in the U.S., with more than one-third of kids who are either overweight or obese.

The World Health Organization (WHO) says childhood obesity is one of the most serious public health challenges of the 21st century and overweight and obese children are more likely to stay obese into adulthood and suffer from diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

Although the nation has made inroads in creating awareness and affecting some change, parents will always be their children’s primary influence in all areas of their lives.

But when it comes to childhood obesity, are they to blame?

Pediatricians’ part in childhood obesity

For most parents, pediatricians are the first people they turn to when they have questions about their kids’ health. Pediatricians also play an integral role in preventing childhood obesity.

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP):

Even when families have sufficient knowledge of healthy behaviors, they may need help from pediatricians to develop the motivation to change, to provide encouragement through setbacks, and to identify and support appropriate community resources that will help them successfully implement behavior changes.”

The AAP says pediatricians should encourage parents to be healthy role models, encourage a healthy lifestyle by offering healthy foods, having family meals and persuading kids to increase their physical activity and reduce their screen time.

Despite the responsibility pediatricians have however, the education and tools around childhood obesity are lacking.

According to a September 2010 report by the Association of American Medical Schools, U.S. medical schools offer an average of only 19.6 hours of nutrition education within 4 years of medical school.

That’s not even a day devoted to learning about the one thing that can make or break kids’ health.

And considering most pediatricians only have between 11 and 20 minutes to spend with parents, they’re extremely limited in the knowledge and guidance they can offer.

Despite all this, some physicians say parents are ultimately responsible for childhood obesity.

According to an August 2015 poll by SERMO, a social network for physicians, 69 percent of doctors think parents are either completely or mostly to blame for childhood obesity.

According to one pediatrician:

Clearly, parents need to shoulder some of the responsibility, and the blame. As parents, we have to set an example and to promote within our families healthy eating and healthy exercise. 

However, children are beset on all sides by their non-parental environment as well, which includes access to cheap, high-caloric foods; glitzy advertisements; a raft of screen and video entertainment; low-nutritional value school lunches; and on and on. Parents can be perfect role models, and still lose in this effort.

But at least they stack the odds more favorably for their kids.”

Is childhood obesity genetic?

When a child’s parents, grandparents and other family members are also overweight, it’s natural to chalk up childhood obesity to genetics and studies show there’s some truth to that theory.

According to a February 2017 in the journal Economics & Human Biology, 35 to 40 percent of childhood obesity is inherited from parents. The more overweight parents are, the more overweight their children are likely to be, the same study found.

It seems however, that what the study authors dub “intergenerational transmission,” is a combination of both genetics and food environment.

Experts say that although genetics play a role in our propensity for many diseases including obesity, we can also “turn on” and “turn off” our genes with diet and lifestyle.

According to the Harvard School of Medicine:

“…genetic factors identified so far make only a small contribution to obesity risk-and that our genes are not our destiny: Many people who carry these so-called “obesity genes” do not become overweight, and healthy lifestyles can counteract these genetic effects.”

Parents influence their child’s obesity risk

The healthy choices parents make also have a significant impact on their child’s risk for obesity, and research backs it up.

Take a July 2018 study in the journal BMJ, which included data from the Nurses’ Health Study II (NHSII), one of the largest prospective investigations that look at the risk factors for major chronic diseases in women.

The study, which included more than 24,000 children, showed 5.3 percent of children became obese within 5 years, between ages 9 and 14.

Children whose mothers had a normal body mass index (BMI), participated in moderate to vigorous physical activity for at least 150 minutes a week, didn’t smoke and drank alcohol in moderation, were 75 percent less likely to become obese than children of mothers who didn’t have those healthy habits.

What are we feeding your kids?

Food environment, including the foods that parents bring into the house, pack for school lunch, order at restaurants, serve for family gatherings, and bring on play dates, to the park or for after-school sports also play a role in the childhood obesity risk.

This is particularly important when kids are young and can’t purchase food at the store on their own or eat out with their friends, for example.

Kids who have access to plenty of fruits and vegetables, are much more likely to eat healthy than those whose pantries are filled with processed junk food.

In fact, an October 2014 study in the Journal of The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics found that encouraging and modeling healthy eating, setting limits on foods, and having healthy foods available at home are all positively associated with kids’ diets and their weight.

Studies also show that eating family meals together increases the likelihood that kids will eat healthy and may reduce their risk for childhood obesity.

Regardless of how diligent we are at feeding our kids healthy, food is everywhere and it has created an “obesogenic” environment that’s hard for any parent to contend with.

The food industry alone spends $10 billion dollar a year on food marketing. Brands use bright colors and recognizable characters on their packages and target kids on social media.

Supermarkets strategically place kid-friendly foods in locations where kids are most likely to ask for them.

Fast food restaurants include toys in their meals and restaurants host “kids eat free” nights.

Schools serve cookies, ice cream and potato chips in the cafeteria and have food available in vending machines, school stores and in the classroom.

Food also shows up in the least likely of places at places like convenience stores, bookstores, museums, banks, the dry cleaners, and even at church.

Food is just one part of the puzzle

Parents also teach and influence their kids in habits that have nothing to do with food but still contribute to childhood obesity.

For starters, we know physical activity plays a part in preventing childhood obesity but studies show most kids don’t get the recommended 60 minutes of exercise a day.

Other habits like allowing kids to eat in front of the TV, have their devices at the dinner table or eat in the car—even if it’s on the way to practice—can also affect their weight.

Blaming parents isn’t the answer to childhood obesity

There’s no doubt that parents play a significant role in preventing childhood obesity. Regardless of how strong outside factors are, the onus is still on them to offer healthy foods and teach their kids healthy habits.

Positive change cannot occur however, if we blame parents.

Shaming parents for not reading to their kids, playing with their kids “enough” or even yelling when their kids misbehave, isn’t necessarily going to motivate them to be better parents.

Childhood obesity is a complex problem and the individual factors that affect a child’s weight can vary family to family.

For example, parents can eat healthy, exercise and encourage their kids to do the same, but if their kids are teens and would rather read a book, parents are limited in how much change they can affect in their kids.

Parental stressors may also affect a child’s risk for childhood obesity. According to a November 2012 study in the journal Pediatrics, multiple parental stressors such mental illness, employment status and financial strains are directly associated with a child’s risk for obesity.

When it comes to childhood obesity, I believe the solution is multi-faceted.

It starts with parents who want their kids to grow up healthy, know how to eat healthy and have healthy habits.

By educating ourselves, becoming aware of all the factors at play, seeking support from a pediatrician, a registered dietician nutritionist or a therapist, if necessary, we can stay the course and prevent childhood obesity.

When it comes to parenting, nothing is easy, straightforward or perfect, but it’s our job to stick with it.

What do you think: are parents to blame for childhood obesity?

10 Reasons Kids Should Eat Healthy That Have Nothing to Do With Childhood Obesity

10 Reasons Kids Should Eat Healthy That Have Nothing to Do With Childhood Obesity

If you’re a parent, you know your kids should eat healthy, but have you ever thought about the why?

Maybe it’s because you know a healthy diet is vital for their growth and development.

Or perhaps you’re sick of their picky eating behaviors and you want meals times to be peaceful.

If you’re an emotional eater and struggle with your weight, or have family members who do, you’re probably concerned about your child becoming overweight too.

With more than one-third of children who are overweight or obese, childhood obesity is definitely a good reason for your kids to eat healthy.

But fat or skinny, all kids should eat healthy. Here are 10 reasons why.

1. We’re a nation of (very) sick people

In the U.S., we’re facing a health crisis and 50 percent of Americans have at least one chronic health condition, mental disorder or substance use issue, a September 2016 study in the journal Psychology, Health & Medicine found.

We’re facing skyrocketing rates of:

  • ADHD and ADD
  • Allergies
  • Alzheimer’s disease and dementia
  • Anxiety and depression
  • Arthritis
  • Autoimmune diseases
  • Cancer
  • Heart disease
  • Hormonal imbalances
  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
  • Menstrual disorders
  • Obesity
  • Reflux
  • Skin problems
  • Thyroid dysfunction
  • Type-2 diabetes

Perhaps the most compelling reason kids should eat healthy is because food can prevent them from getting sick.

In his book, Food: What The Heck Should I Eat?, Dr. Mark Hyman states:

“Food is the most powerful drug on the planet. It can improve the expression of thousands of genes, balance dozens of hormones, optimize tens of thousands of protein networks, reduce inflammation, and optimize your microbiome (gut flora) with every single bite. It can cure most chronic diseases; it works faster, better, and cheaper than any drug ever discovered; and the only side effects are good ones—prevention, reversal, and even treatment of disease, not to mention vibrant optimal health.”

 

2. Mental Health

According to a 2017 report by World Health Organization (WHO), depression affects a whopping 322 million people worldwide.

As someone who has struggled with both anxiety and depression since childhood, I won’t tell you that nutrition is a cure-all for all people with depression and anxiety.

Food cannot override low levels of neurotransmitters, genetics, past trauma, low self-esteem and stress, for example.

But it can make a huge difference to improve mental health as it has done for me.

For some people, diet alone is enough.

Studies suggest nutrients like vitamin B12, omega-3 fatty acids, and vitamin D can support mental health.

In fact, a September 2014 study in the journal BMJ Open found consumption of fruits and vegetables was associated with mental well being in both men and women.

3. Boosts Brain Power

You can hire a tutor and encourage your kids to study harder, but for kids to learn, concentrate, and excel in school, they need to eat healthy.

Foods high in omega-3 fatty acids like fish, chia seeds, flaxseeds and walnuts are important to focus on.

According to a December 2017 study out of the University of Pennsylvania, kids who eat seafood at least once a week have higher IQ scores that are 4 points higher on average than kids who eat fish less frequently or not at all.

What’s more, a healthy diet is important for kids’ brain health when they’re young and throughout their lives.

In fact, a July 2015 study in JAMA Internal Medicine found in older people, a Mediterranean diet with foods like fish, nuts, olive oil and avocado is associated with improved cognitive function.

4. Sports and Athletic Performance

Playing multiple sports and joining travel teams are all great, but without the right nutrition, your kids won’t fuel their bodies with what they need to build muscle, strength and endurance.

Without a healthy diet, they’ll be sluggish and their athletic performance can suffer.

An April 2013 article in the journal Paediatrics Child Health states the right amounts of macronutrients (protein, carbohydrates and fat), micronutrients (vitamins and minerals) and hydration are essential for young athletes’ growth, activity and athletic performance.

5. Gut Health

A healthy gut is linked to a strong immune system but leaky gut syndrome or “intestinal hyperpermeability” is something that can develop over years due to a poor diet.

Although controversial in the Western Medicine world, leaky gut syndrome is believed to occur when the tight junctions or cells that line the inside of the intestines open up and allow undigested food particles and pathogens in, which causes problems in the gut and throughout the body.

Experts say a diet high in processed foods, sugar and synthetic food additives, which disrupt the balance between good and bad bacteria in the gut can leady to leaky gut.

6. Sleep

Sleep plays an important role in kids’ health and affects their overall function, mood and behavior, school and athletic performance.

But it’s an often-overlooked factor when it comes to eating healthy. Eating foods low in fiber and high in saturated fat and sugar is associated with lighter, less restorative sleep and more awakenings at night, a January 2016 study in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine found.

Without enough sleep, kids are also more likely to make unhealthy food choices. Studies show the less sleep they get, the more likely they are to make unhealthy food choices.

In fact, an August 2018 study in the Journal of Sleep Research found that kids who regularly fell asleep after 11pm were 4 to 5 times more likely to eat less than three breakfasts a week and 2 to 3 times more likely to eat junk food at least 5 times a week.

7. Eye health

A healthy diet can keep support your child’s eye health.

For example, vitamin A helps the eyes see in low light conditions and keeps the cornea healthy and lubricated.

Omega-3’s can prevent dry eye syndrome, often a result of too much screen time.

Research suggests lutein, a carotenoid or plant pigment found in pumpkin and green leafy vegetables could improve learning, memory, focus and concentration.

A healthy diet can also prevent cataracts and age-related macular degeneration later on in life.

8. Prevents some types of cancer

Cancer isn’t something any parent should have to worry about but laying the foundation for a lifetime of healthy eating can prevent certain types of cancer into adulthood.

A June 2017 review and multiple meta-analyses in the journal Nutrition Reviews found a healthy diet can reduce the risk of breast and colon cancers.

9. A longer life

It’s no surprise that eating healthy can prevent disease and extend your life.

But a March 2014 study in the Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health found people who eat 7 or more servings of fruit and vegetables a day cut their risk for premature death by 42 percent.

10. Your future grandchildren

What your kids eat now can set the stage for the way they eat throughout their lives and those choices can affect their fertility, whether they’re male or female.

What’s more, 2015 guidelines from The International Federation of Gynecology and Obstetrics state that not only is optimal nutrition before and during pregnancy important for women but it can affect their future generations as well.