7 Healthy Memorial Day BBQ Ideas

7 Healthy Memorial Day BBQ Ideas

The Memorial Day BBQ is the unofficial start to the summer and whether you’ll be hosting or visiting family and friends, there will be plenty of food.

Yet between hot dogs and hamburgers, potato salad, coleslaw, chips and dip and your favorite red-white-and-blue dessert, Memorial Day is also one of the most caloric, high-sugar, fat-laden holidays of the year.

While I encourage my kids to try new foods and indulge on any holiday, I also worry that they’ll overeat, which in the past, have caused them to become physically ill.

Not only that, but I want to teach them healthy eating habits and how to enjoy food without going overboard.

Fortunately, you don’t have to sacrifice taste, forego your favorite summertime dishes or have “food rules” to strike a balance. Here are 7 healthy Memorial Day BBQ ideas that will allow your family to enjoy without getting too far off track.

Stay hydrated

Chances are Memorial Day will be a warm, sunny day and your kids will be running around so it’s important to encourage them to drink plenty of water.

Encourage your kid to stick with water throughout the day, instead of juice which is high in empty calories and sugar, spikes blood sugar, and may encourage cravings for other sugary fare.

If plain water is hard for your kids to swallow however, add sliced cucumbers or strawberries for some flavor. See also: How to Get Your Kids To Drink More Water

Since thirst can often be mistaken for hunger, drinking water before you arrive to your cookout can prevent overeating.

2. Offer veggies


The great thing about the vegetables served at Memorial Day BBQs is that they’re often kid-friendly.

Baby carrots, cherry tomatoes, brightly-colored sliced bell peppers, cucumber slices, broccoli florets and jicama “fries,” are often kid favorites and if they’re served with a dip, even better.

You can also set up a station with a variety of vegetables and have your kids make their own grilled veggie kabobs.

Although your kids may still not want to eat vegetables since other, tastier options will be available, do your best to get some on their plates since they’ll help to satisfy their hunger, fill them up, and prevent constipation.

3. Arrive hungry

Most nutrition experts advise people to have a small snack before they arrive at a party to prevent overeating, but arriving hungry may actually be a good thing for your kids.

By taking advantage of their hunger, you might have an easier time of encouraging them to make at least a few healthy choices.

Instead of filling up their plates with chips, which they’re probably going to eat anyway, you may be able to get them to eat fruits and vegetables first and have a more balanced meal.

4. Upgrade your protein

Most kids love hamburgers and hot dogs, but think about other protein options for you and them.

Instead of regular ‘ol hamburgers, make your own using grass fed beef. Or serve organic grilled chicken, shrimp or pull together a bean salad or lentil chili.

5. Include healthy dessert options

Kids should enjoy s’mores, ice cream or a festive Memorial Day dessert, but why not have other options available too to show kids that healthy food can be delicious.

Consider making a fruit salad with strawberries and blueberries, homemade fruit popsicles, or an almond butter fruit dip.

6. Pay attention to portions


When buffets, family style dining, and bowls of snacks are out for the day, it’s easy for kids to grab and lose sight of how much they’re eating.

Although I let my kids decide what they want to eat, I also help them make up their plate and keep portion sizes at bay.

7. Set up games and activities


There’s no doubt kids will be busy running and playing at their Memorial Day BBQ, but you can also set up games and activities that encourage them to move more. 

Think: ring toss, jump rope, hide and seek, tag, telephone or freeze dance.

What are some of your healthy Memorial Day BBQ ideas? Let me know in the comments!

5 Reasons Strawberries Are Healthy For Kids  The quintessential summer time fruit most kids love are super-healthy too.

5 Reasons Strawberries Are Healthy For Kids

The quintessential summer time fruit most kids love are super-healthy too.

There’s nothing better than the taste of fresh, sweet, succulent strawberries—the quintessential summer time fruit that most kids love.

In fact, 94 percent of U.S. households eat strawberries—nearly 5 pounds a year!

And 53 percent of young kids say strawberries are their favorite type of fruit.

The spring and summer months are prime time for picking strawberries, which is not only fun to do with your kids, but it can put an end to picky eating.

When it comes to choosing strawberries, organic is best since the Environmental Working Group (EWG)’s ranks them #1 on their Dirty Dozen list of fruits and vegetables highest in pesticides.

If organic isn’t within your budget however, the benefits of eating conventionally grown strawberries still outweigh the risks.

Here are 5 reasons strawberries are healthy for kids.

 

1. Strawberries are loaded with nutrition

 

Strawberries are one of the best superfoods you can feed your kids.

One cup of strawberries have nearly 150 percent of the daily value of vitamin C.

Strawberries are high in fiber and manganese, and a good source of potassium, calcium and magnesium.

Strawberries are also rich in antioxidants that have been shown to ward off certain types of cancer.

Studies show eating strawberries may reduce the risk for cardiovascular disease, stroke and hypertension.

 

 

2. Strawberries can prevent and treat constipation

Constipation is a common problems for kids. In fact, nearly 5 percent of pediatrician visits are because of constipation, according to a report in the Journal of Pediatric Health Care.

With 3 grams of fiber in every cup and a high water content, eating strawberries can help prevent constipation and get things moving again.

3. Strawberries might prevent type-2 diabetes

Rates of type-2 diabetes are on the rise in kids— a result in part, due to childhood obesity and diets high in processed foods.

Between 2008 and 2009, more than 5,000 kids were diagnosed with type-2 diabetes. Plus, and April 2017 study published in the New England Journal of Medicine showed the rate of newly diagnosed cases of type-2 diabetes in children between ages 10 and 19 increased by 4.8 percent.

Although kids should eat a wide variety of fruits to get the most nutrition, strawberries are healthy for kids because they have a low glycemic load—a measurement of a food’s impact on blood sugar.

In fact, a small study published in  February 2016 in the journal Molecular Nutrition and Food Research found eating strawberries may improve insulin resistance and prevent type-2 diabetes.

4. Strawberries support healthy eyes

Strawberries are one of the best foods to support kids’ eye health.

Vitamin C is necessary for proper eye function and their antioxidants may prevent cataracts and age-related macular degeneration.

These are not concerns when kids are young of course, but teaching kids healthy eating habits now will set the stage for healthy eating in the future.

5. Strawberries encourage healthy eating

Kids love their sweets but before you dish out candy, cake or cookies, try serving strawberries.

Strawberries can satisfy a sweet tooth and make for a healthy, delicious swap for a high-sugar dessert, even if your kids refuse to eat dinner.

What’s more, if you can add strawberries to the list of foods your kid will eat, he may be more likely to try and love other new fruits too.

Do your kids love strawberries? What are your favorite ways to serve them? Let me know in the comments.

Best and Worst Drinks For Kids

Best and Worst Drinks For Kids

Longer days and warmer temperatures mean more time for outdoor sports, bike riding, and playing at the park.

Since kids are usually more active this time of year than during the winter, getting them to stay hydrated is much easier but what they drink is key.

Most drinks marketed to kids and young athletes are loaded with sugar and artificial sweeteners, flavors and colors. Those so-called “healthy” kids made with ingredients like dairy and fruit? They’re no better.

So what should your kids drink to stay hydrated? Here, get a list of the best and worst drinks for kids.

Best Kid’s Drinks

Water

Water makes up 60 percent of a child’s body weight and is an essential nutrient, responsible for every function in the body.

Pure, simple H2O may not be their first choice, but it’s the best because it gives their bodies what they need and it quenches their thirst without any unnecessary calories, fat or sugar.

In fact, the American Academy of Pediatrics says water should be their main source of hydration.

Depending on their age, weight and sex, kids should get between 6 and 8 cups of water a day, although that can include drinking water and water from foods like fruits and vegetables.

If you have trouble getting your kids to drink enough water, here are 5 ways to encourage them.

Milk

My kids will drink cow’s milk from time to time, but overall, I’m not a fan of it.

Expert say drinking dairy isn’t necessary.

Although it’s been promoted as a food that builds strong bones, studies show consuming dairy doesn’t reduce the risk of hip fractures in men and women.

Consuming dairy has also been linked to increased risks for heart disease, cancer and death.

Besides, they get their calcium from other, better calcium-rich foods that aren’t dairy.

Still, if you decide to serve it to your kids, it does have some benefits. It’s a good source of protein, vitamins A, B6, B12, D (because it’s added), calcium, magnesium, niacin, riboflavin, selenium and zinc.

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), kids between 1 and 8-years old should get 2 cups a day of dairy or milk and kids 9 and older should get 3 cups.

Non-dairy milk alternatives

Almond milk, coconut milk and other non-dairy milk alternatives usually have less protein and calories than cow’s milk, but they can have as much, if not more, calcium and vitamin D.

Compare brands and read labels carefully. I like to steer clear of those that are high in sugar and instead choose those made without artificial ingredients and are non-GMO, like Califia Farms.

Worst Kids’ Drinks

 

 

 

Soda

It goes without saying that soda is hands down the worst drink for kids. Soda is high in sugar and artificial sweeteners, flavors and colors.

Soda and other sugary drinks are main contributors to the childhood obesity epidemic, and conditions like type-2 diabetes and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, which are also on the rise in kids.

Despite the health risks, 63 percent of kids consume a sugar-sweetened beverage on any given day, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

If your kids won’t drink plain water, serving sparkling water with cucumbers or strawberries, for example, for some sweetness is an OK substitute. 

The more you can steer them away from the fizzy stuff and encourage them to drink water however, the better the chances that they’ll stick with the healthy habit throughout their lives.

 

 

Flavored milk

It blows my mind that chocolate milk is an acceptable drink for school lunch and

it’s one of the reasons I’m trying to change my kids’ school lunch program.

Flavored milk may have calcium and protein, but the sugar content is way too high: a 1/2 cup of low-fat chocolate milk has nearly 25 grams of sugar

as much as a chocolate bar!

 

 

Juice

Kids love to drink juice, and juice boxes are really convenient especially when you’re spending time outside, but juice is one of the worst drinks for kids.

Juice lacks fiber and is high in calories and concentrated sugars.

Drinking too much juice can lead to cavities, weight gain and diarrhea, in babies and toddlers.

Surprisingly the claim “fruit juice from concentrate” is actually added sugar and even if the label says “100 percent fruit juice,” it can still be made with fruit juice from concentrate.

Learn more about why juice isn’t healthy for kids and how homemade juicing can fit into a child’s diet.

 

Lemonade

It may be the quintessential summertime drink, but both store-bought and homemade lemonades are high in sugar.

Since lemons are acidic, letting your kids sip on lemonade all day can also cause erosion, which leads to cavities.

Save lemonade for an occasional treat or for weekend barbecues and make your own. Try this recipe for healthy homemade lemonade.

 

Ice tea

Ice tea sounds like a healthy and benign choice—tea is high in antioxidants, after all, but sweetened ice teas are high in sugar.

With unsweetened ice tea, you won’t get the sugar but some brands also have caffeine.

As an alternative, you can brew a non-caffeinated herbal tea at home. Keep in mind  however, that some herbal teas aren’t safe for kids so read labels and when in doubt, check with your pediatrician.

 

Fruit smoothies

Smoothies are often seen as a health food, yet take a look at most bottled or restaurant smoothies—yes, green smoothies too—and you’ll discover most are filled with sugar thanks to ingredients like fruit juice, honey, raw sugar and loads of fresh fruit.

Sure, fresh fruit has natural sugars, but sugar is sugar.

If your kids like smoothies, make your own at home. Combine 80 percent vegetables and 20 percent fruit to keep the sugar low and pay attention to add-ins which can make a drink meant to quench your kid’s thirst, enough calories to be a meal.

 

Sports and energy drinks

Sports and energy drinks are heavily marketed to kids, particularly for those that play sports, but they’re a significant source of calories and sugar.

Energy drinks also contain caffeine, and other stimulants, which have been linked to harmful neurological and cardiovascular effects, according to the AAP.

The AAP says water is usually fine for kids playing sports but sports drinks can be helpful for young kids who are engaged in prolonged, vigorous sports. Energy drinks should be avoid altogether.

8 Health Risks of Childhood Obesity Every Parent Should Know

8 Health Risks of Childhood Obesity Every Parent Should Know

You already know the statistics: one-third of children in the U.S are overweight or obese and rates have more than tripled since the 1970’s.

Although we hear a lot about childhood obesity itself, what I think is often missing in the message is the why.

We talk a lot about eating right and exercise, which are of course, important to prevent childhood obesity, but what seems to be missing is a focus on the several long-term health consequences of childhood obesity.

Perhaps even more important is that many of the health risks of childhood obesity can affect kids both when they’re young and as adults.

Although many health conditions have physical symptoms and can be diagnosed, some are insidious and may not be detected until much later in life.

Here, read on for 8 health risks of childhood obesity—and why they matter. 

1. Type-2 diabetes

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), some of the immediate health risks of childhood obesity include higher than normal blood glucose levels (known as impaired glucose tolerance), insulin resistance, a condition in which the cells cannot use insulin effectively, and type-2 diabetes.

A condition previously only seen in adults, today, cases of type-2 diabetes in kids are on the rise.

According to an April 2017 study in the New England Journal of Medicine, the rate of newly diagnosed cases of type-2 diabetes in children between ages 10 and 19 increased by 4.8 percent.

2. Cardiovascular and heart disease

Children who are obese have risk factors for cardiovascular disease including high cholesterol, high blood pressure and problems with blood glucose tolerance.

In fact, a 2007 study in the Journal of Pediatrics of 5-17-year-olds found that approximately 70 percent of kids have at least one risk factor for cardiovascular disease and 39 percent had two or more.

What’s more, according to an October 2015 study in the New England Journal of Medicine, children and teens with the most severe obesity also had worse cholesterol and blood glucose levels.

3. Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease

Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, a build up of extra fat in the liver cells not caused by drinking alcohol  has become an epidemic among adults in the U.S.

Yet in recent years, more children than ever are also being diagnosed. Studies show up 38 percent of obese children have NAFLD, a 2.7 fold increase since the 1980’s.

NAFLD is also the most common cause of liver disease in children.

Although it’s unclear of the causes, NAFLD is associated with insulin resistance, type-2 diabetes and high cholesterol, and obesity is a risk factor.

Since NAFLD rarely has any symptoms, it’s been dubbed a silent killer. If fat continues to accumulate, it can progress to non-alcoholic steatosis

(NASH), which causes inflammation and liver cell damage, cirrhosis of the liver and liver failure.

4. Asthma

Approximately 9 million children in the U.S. have asthma, a disease which causes the airways to become sore and swollen and causes symptoms such as wheezing, coughing, tightness in the chest and trouble breathing.

Experts say childhood obesity may play a role.

In fact, a December 2018 study in the journal Pediatrics suggests childhood obesity increases the risk for childhood asthma by 30 percent. Kids who were overweight also had a 17 percent increased risk for asthma.

Although the study doesn’t prove that obesity causes asthma, research suggests weight loss can improve or reverse it. A January 2019 systematic review in the Annals of the American Thoracic Society found obese children who lost weight may improve their asthma.

5. Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA)

According to the National Sleep Foundation, between 1 and 10 percent of kids have obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), a condition that causes symptoms like snoring, restless sleep, pauses in breathing and bedwetting.

Left untreated, obstructive sleep apnea can lead to high blood pressure, heart trouble, poor weight gain, learning problems and behavioral problems.

There are several risk factors for obstructive sleep apnea, and one is childhood obesity. Studies show up to 60 percent of kids who are obese also have sleep apnea.

The reason is that the tonsils become enlarged from fatty tissues in the upper airway, and fat deposits in the neck and chest encourage the airways to collapse during sleep, Lisa Shives, M.D., said in this article.

6. Joint problems

According to the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons, kids who are obese can have problems with the growth and health of their bones, joints and muscles.

Excess weight can damage the growth plates, and alter the length and shape of the bones when they’re fully grown. Being overweight also ups the risk for premature arthritis, broken bones and other serious conditions.

In fact, an October 2018 study out of the U.K. suggests that raising rates of obesity are leading more teens to develop Slipped Capital Femoral Epiphysis (SCFE), a debilitating hip disease that requires surgery and can cause lifelong disability.

7. Mental Illness

In the U.S., mental illness is a serious issue for all kids, but kids with obesity in particular  are more likely to be at risk for emotional problems that last into adulthood.

In fact, a 2006 study in the Journal of Pediatric Health Care found obese teens were more likely to have anxiety, depression and low self-esteem than those who had a normal weight.

Of course, the stigma associated with being overweight, social discrimination and bullying all impact an overweight child’s self esteem and confidence.

8. Obesity into adulthood

There’s no question that kids who are obese are more likely to stay overweight into adulthood and face the same heath risks, but those risk factors are also likely to be more severe

Although there’s a clear link between obesity and cancer, research suggests that childhood obesity rates are also causing more young adults to get cancer.

According to a March 2018 study in the journal Obesity, certain types of cancer that were previously seen in adults over 50 such as breast cancer, ovarian cancer and thyroid cancer, are now being diagnosed in younger adults (as young as 20), and childhood obesity rates may be to blame.

5 “Healthy” Kids’ Foods That Are Actually Desserts and Treats

5 “Healthy” Kids’ Foods That Are Actually Desserts and Treats

Go to any grocery store and you’ll find dozens of store shelves lined with so-called “healthy”  kids foods that you think are good choices for your family.

Maybe they have whole grains, are made with real fruit, are high in fiber, gluten-free and have no high-fructose corn syrup.

The healthwashing practices companies use are deceiving and can make you feel really good about buying their products for your kids.

After all, they’re not the potato chips, cookies and candy you already know to avoid.

Yet there are some foods that you’re probably feeding your kids every day, which although they may seem like good choices, are actually desserts and treats in disguise—and something kids should eat occasionally. Here are 5.

1. Dried fruit

My daughter loves to eat raisins and I used to be OK with her eating a handful with oatmeal or mixed with sunflower seeds since they’re a good source of fiber, iron (she was anemic), and calcium.

After a while however, I found that she was asking for them all the time and eating them like candy—and I can’t blame her.

Raisins, and other types of dried fruit, are really high in sugar. One small box of raisins has 25 grams of sugar—as much as a Hershey’s chocolate bar!

Dried fruit has more nutrition than candy of course, but it’s better to serve fresh, whole fruit whenever possible and reserve dried fruit as a treat.

2. Trail mix

Trail mix has traditionally be seen as a healthy food, but most types are packed with salty nuts, seeds, dried fruit (see #1), “yogurt-” covered raisins, chocolate chips and M&Ms.

Trail mix is also high in calories: one ounce has 129 calories—it doesn’t sound like a lot, but because of its salty and sweet combination, it’s easy to keep snacking.

Nuts and seeds can be a healthy snack especially because they have the healthy fats kids need in their diets.

But if you want to serve trail mix, make your own because you get to control the ingredients and the portion size.

3. Cereal

Cereal is an easy option for breakfast especially when you’re rushed and running out the door in the morning—which if you’re like me, that’s every morning.

Yet most cereals are low in protein and fiber, filled with artificial ingredients and loaded with sugar.

In fact, a May 2014 study by the Environmental Working Group found kids who eat a bowl of cereal every day for a year get a whopping 10 pounds of sugar in their diets.

And I’m not only talking about the cereals that have bright, artificial colors, marshmallows and favorite characters on their boxes—so called “healthy cereals” aren’t always the best option either.

Cereal can be an OK breakfast option, but it’s probably best to serve it every once in a while, or as dessert.

Instead, serve eggs, oatmeal and even leftovers, which have the nutrition your kids need to stay focused until lunch.

 Need more ideas? Check out my blog post, 5 Tips For a Quick and Healthy Breakfast and How To Pick a Healthy Cereal For Your Kids.

4. Goldfish crackers

When I ask my kids what their classmates bring for snack time, most of them bring processed, packaged foods.

One of the most popular of course, are Pepperidge Farm’s Goldfish crackers. Suffice to say, most parents have packed them in their kid’s lunch box or served them as after-school snacks—my daughter even gets them at church.

In fact, a 2018 survey found 2.63 million people ate 8 or more bags of Goldfish within the last 30 days!

Kids love the taste, but Pepperidge Farm also does a great job of marketing them as healthy. Some of their health claims include:

  • Baked with real cheese
  • No artificial flavors or preservatives.
  • Colors sourced from real plants.

 True, they have varieties made with whole grains and organic wheat, but Goldfish can’t compare to serving up fresh, whole foods like fruits and vegetables.

If you want to take a deep dive into why these snacks aren’t something you should be feeding your kid everyday, I encourage you to read Megan Telpner’s very comprehensive blog post, Why Golfish Crackers Don’t Belong in A Lunch Box.

5. Pre-made smoothies

Smoothies are often seen as the quintessential health food, especially because they’re made with good-for-you-ingredients like almond milk, yogurt, chia seeds, and fruit.

Yet take a look at most bottled or restaurant smoothies—yes, green smoothies too—and you’ll discover most are filled with sugar thanks to ingredients like fruit juice, honey, raw sugar and loads of fresh fruit.

Sure, fresh fruit has natural sugars, but sugar is sugar.

Take Smoothie King’s Apple Kiwi Bunga, one of their kids’ blends, for example. It sounds really healthy—it has kale—but with apple juice and an “apple juice blend,” this smoothie weighs in at 30 grams of sugar.

Store bought yogurt smoothies aren’t the best option either.

Stonyfield Organics’ low-fat strawberry banana smoothie is made with organic strawberry juice from concentrate. And the second ingredient? Cane sugar.

With 15 grams of sugar per serving, it’s not the worst smoothie you could feed your kid, but it’s better as a treat.