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!

6 Facts About Child Hunger in the U.S. + What You Can Do

6 Facts About Child Hunger in the U.S. + What You Can Do

We live in one of the wealthiest countries in the world, and yet, the U.S. is home to millions of children who go hungry every day.

If you’re able to put food on the table every day and never have to worry about feeding your kids, it can be really hard to wrap your head around this issue, as it was for me.

I wondered, what does it really mean when kids “go hungry?”

Living in a food insecure household can mean a family doesn’t have food in their home and not enough money to purchase it.

Some families may have food, but not enough to feed their families each month. As a result, parents may skip meals or cut back on their kids’ portions.

The reasons for food insecurity are complicated, but there are some important facts about child hunger you should know. Here are 5.

 

1. Children go hungry regardless of where they live

According to a 2017 report by No Kid Hungry, 1 in 6 kids in the U.S.— an estimated 13 million—face hunger. 

A misconception is that food insecure families only live in low-income areas. In fact, 93 percent of Americans don’t believe they know children in their neighborhood who go to school hungry, a 2019 report found.

Yet kids in affluent communities are certainly affected. According to a 2019 report by Feeding America, every U.S. county and congressional district has people who face hunger, at a rate that ranges between 3 to 36 percent for the overall population.

 

2. Child hunger has devastating health effects

Kids who go hungry have an increased risk for a host of chronic health conditions and problems including anemia, asthma, anxiety, depression, tooth decay, fatigue, headaches, stomachaches and more frequent colds. Hungry kids are also more likely to be hospitalized.

3. Child hunger affects school performance and behavior

Eating a healthy breakfast is important for a child’s overall health and academic performance, but sadly, 59 percent of kids from low income families don’t eat before school because of food insecurity and three out of four teachers say they have students who regularly come to school hungry.

As a result, teachers say students who are hungry lose their ability to focus, have poor academic performance and behavioral and discipline problems.

Kids from food insecure households are also more likely to have developmental delays, be held back, repeat a grade in elementary school, and drop out of high school.

4. Children are more likely to face hunger than the general U.S. population

The rates of children who are food insecure are higher than those of the overall population in the U.S., a recent report found. Although child hunger is a nationwide problem, rural and southern communities are impacted the most.

5. More kids go hungry during the summer

Kids who rely on free and reduced school lunch and breakfast are often left without meals during the summer months.

According to No Kid Hungry, only 1 in 7 kids who are eligible for free summer meals through the national Summer Food Service Program, aren’t getting them, either because families don’t know about the program or they don’t know where to find it.

To help a family in need, search the USDA’s meal service site finder tool or text ‘FOOD’ or ‘COMIDA’ to 877-877.

6. Children may not eat healthy, even when they have access to food

Local food banks can help to fill the gap for food insecure families, but they may not always have the healthiest foods.

Most food is processed and packaged food that have a long shelf life and tend to be made with refined carbohydrates like white pasta and rice, and high in sodium, like canned goods.

In fact, less than 10 percent of the food offered through food banks nationally is fresh produce, according to The New York Times.

What’s more, an April 2017 study in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics found diets of people who access food banks have low nutritional value, and inadequate amounts of fruits and vegetables, dairy and calcium.

Even when nutritional intake was sufficient, many did not meet the recommendations for vitamins A, C, D, and B vitamins, or iron, magnesium, and zinc.

The good news is that through initiatives like Feeding America’s National Produce Program, more food insecure families are getting the healthy food they need.

What you can do to help end child hunger

 

Childhood hunger is a widespread problem in the U.S., but there are several ways you can help.

Advocate

To help protect and expand federal programs like SNAP for food insecure families, contact your senators and representatives today.

Volunteer

Local food banks need volunteers to sort, stock shelves, pack and distribute food. Search Feeding America for a list of local food banks in your area.

If you’re looking to volunteer with your kids, it’s a great opportunity for them to learn about—and serve—others in need, but many food banks do not allow kids under age 10.

Check with your local churches, shelters, and community organizations, or search VolunteerMatch.org for other opportunities that you can do with younger kids.

Curb food waste

Despite the overabundance of food in the U.S., we’re a nation of waste. Homes and  businesses like grocery stores and restaurants are wasting more than 80 percent of food.

If you own or operate a food business, contact Meal Connect, an organization that accepts excess food and donates it to local food banks, food pantries and meal programs.

For tips for your home, read, 10 Tips To Reduce Food Waste When Feeding Kids.

Fundraise or donate

No Kid Hungry and Feeding America have information available for people interested in fundraising opportunities, special events, and ways to donate.

 

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.

[VIDEO] 5 Spring Activities That Will End Picky Eating

[VIDEO] 5 Spring Activities That Will End Picky Eating

When you have kids who are picky eaters, it can take months—even years—

to get them to try a bite of new, healthy foods.

You do your best to offer fruits and vegetables, try new recipes, different cooking methods or add butter or cheese to make them more appealing but nothing seems to work.

Picky eating is really frustrating and if you’re ready to throw in the towel, you’re not the only one.

According to a 2018 survey out of the U.K., half of moms and dads have given up persuading their kids to eat 5 fruits and vegetables a day.

Take heed—and stick with it.

With spring time in full swing, there is perhaps no better time of year to offer all the healthy superfoods the season has to offer and take advantage of fun activities that can get your kids out of their picky eating behaviors for good. Here are 5.

Short on time? Get 3 tips in this quick video.

1. Berry picking

Although my kids eat just about anything, they have fallen into picky eating patterns in the past.

Last year for example, the only types of fruits my older daughter would eat were bananas, mangos, watermelon and cantaloupe.

As a toddler, she used to eat berries by the handful but now it had become impossible.

It doesn’t sound like a big deal—she was eating fruit after all—but berries are high in fiber, a great source of antioxidants and low glycemic, so they don’t have as high of an impact on blood sugar as the types of fruits she was eating.

Kids have their own food preferences of course, so I didn’t push the issue. But my gut feeling was that it was a phase.

Everything changed when we visited my mother-in-law in Delaware and made an impromptu trip to a blueberry orchard.

Maybe it was the experience of berry picking (likely) or that her Italian grandmother, who can get her to eat just about anything, was there (even more likely).

But within seconds, my daughter was saying: “I love blueberries!” and “blueberries are delicious!”

As we continued to pick the blueberries, I shook my head. I couldn’t believe how one new experience could literally change her perspective in seconds flat.

One of my Instagram followers had a similar experience:

“… this is how I got my daughter [to] eat more fruit. We go pick fruit all the time! She loves it and most of the time more goes in her tummy than in the bucket.”

May is the season to pick strawberries, but keep up the fun throughout the summer by picking blueberries, peaches, nectarines and cherries as well.

2. Farmers’ market

Visiting your local farmers’ market is a spring activity that can put an end to picky eating.

Kids learn where food comes from and it’s a new way for them to be exposed to local fruits and vegetables.

Let your kids pick out something they’ve never tried before and prepare it together at home—it will make them feel empowered and more likely to eat it.    

3. Community Supported Agriculture (CSA)

A Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) farm allows you to purchase local, seasonal food directly from local farmers.

You purchase a “share,” usually a box of vegetables, but some CSAs also include other farm products like eggs and cheese, that you receive each week.

It may be a benefit or a drawback depending on how you look at it, but you’ll receive varieties of vegetables that you never tried or heard of before.

Some CSAs may also allow you to personalize your share and choose some of the produce that’s included.

If you’re not ready to commit to a CSA, then take a visit to a local farm. Many local farms host tours, cooking classes and special events that can encourage your kids to try new foods.

4. Plant a garden

Last year, 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.

A family garden is one of the best ways to encourage healthy eating. In fact, a September 2016 study out of the University of Florida suggests kids who garden are more likely to eat fruits and vegetables throughout their lives.

When kids learn how to grow their own food, they get really excited to see the fruits—and vegetables—of their labor and their perspectives can change overnight.

If you don’t have space for a garden, use small potted plants, grow herbs, sprouts or microgreens, or look for community gardens where you can plant your own food.

5. Have a picnic

Sometimes all it takes to get your kids out of their picky eating behaviors is a change of scenery.

Take advantage of the warmer weather and longer days and head out to the park, picnic grounds or even your own backyard for a picnic with your kids.

Pack foods you know they’ll eat in addition to some new, in-season foods, which they may be more likely to eat because eating outside is something different—and fun.

What are some of your favorite spring activities that have encouraged your kids to eat healthy? Let me know in the comments!

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.