How to handle your leftover Halloween candy

Halloween can be a tricky holiday for those of us trying to maintain healthy eating habits – from the bags of candy purchased in advance for trick or treaters to the leftovers and/or candy our kids come home with. And, when you think about it, Halloween is kind of a kick off to a whole season of sweet temptations leading up to the New Year. But, let’s start with what to do with that leftover Halloween candy, because these are strategies you can use for other occasions as well.

1. Out of sight, out of mind

If we’re being realistic here, it’s not as simple as just dumping the candy in the garbage, especially if it’s your child’s hard-earned haul. Studies have proven that we are more likely to eat treats if they are visible and readily accessible to us, even if we have healthy options in front of us, too. So store those candies away out of your sight so that they’re not constantly staring you in the face and tempting you. Somewhere like the back of a cabinet you rarely open or behind some healthier snacks are good places. This might cut down on how often your children beg for that candy as well….maybe…possibly…

2. Set limits

Having clear boundaries is critical for success in almost any situation. So set those boundaries for yourself and your family. I recommend agreeing to only keep the candy in the house for a week and then disposing of the leftovers by donating them for care packages, etc. I also strongly recommend setting limits for daily candy consumption as well. For the “fun size” candies, I suggest a limit of two per day for that week.

Now, the thing with boundaries is they only work if you stick to them. So it’s important to set those boundaries, make them clear from the outset, and stick to them, especially if your children give you pushback. Think of this as an opportunity to teach your kids about balance.

3. Donate the leftovers

If throwing out the leftovers doesn’t sit well with you (and I totally get that), find a way to donate that candy. In many communities, there are collections for military care packages, etc. Or maybe your college alumni association puts together final exam care packages for current students and they could use the candy. Lots of options out there beyond tossing it in the bin. An added bonus to donating leftover candy after a week is it’s a great chance to teach your kids about sharing and charity. Here is a listing of North Shore donation spots for your candy this year. 

4. Don’t beat yourself up

Most importantly, if you do overindulge, don’t beat yourself up about it. Getting down on yourself is a recipe for a downward spiral and kicking your own butt at the gym isn’t going to undo it – that’s just not how the human body works. The best thing you can do for yourself in situations like that is to own that you didn’t do what you had hoped you would and resolve to do better going forward. This is important not just for yourself but for your kids who, whether you know it or not, watch your every move and hear your every word. This is a chance to teach them how to love themselves and have a healthy relationship with food. Here are some more tips on what to do after you overindulge.

Bonus Advice: How to Talk about Food Choices with Your Kids

While we’re on the topic of setting an example for our kids, watching the language that you use around food is also really important. Dubbing some foods “bad” or saying they’ll “make you fat” can really hurt your child’s relationship with food going forward and can create feelings of shame or guilt around eating. At the same time, it is important to convey that some foods are healthier choices than others. So when you’re talking to children about why you’re giving away the leftover candy or limiting how much you eat, I suggest using language along the lines of:

This isn’t everyday food so we are only going to have a little and then share with some other people. Foods like fruits and vegetables help keep us from getting sick and help us do better in school, but candy doesn’t do any of those things for us so we don’t need to eat a lot of it. Instead we have a little and we focus on eating more of the foods that help us grow bigger and smarter.

Notice that the above example does not say that candy is bad for you or candy will make you sick, etc. It just says that we don’t need it and that other foods do more for us. So we can have a little but should focus on the things that help us the most.

Beat the Bloat

I think it’s safe to say that we’ve all experienced that awful feeling after a day when we’ve overindulged: your belly is distended and feels like it’s been pumped overfull with air, your clothes feel too tight, it’s uncomfortable to move around, and all you want to do is cover up with some baggy sweats. It’s a horrible feeling and, when it happens, it can’t be over soon enough. The good news is that there are ways to expedite that process.

1. Hydrate

Drink plenty of water. That will help your body flush everything out.

2. Get moving

Walking, yoga, or other gentle exercise can help get things moving for you, especially if you are experiencing constipation or gas.

3. Get back on the healthy eating wagon as soon as you can

When we feel awful, we tend to want to curl up and comfort ourselves however we can and sometimes that means continuing those same eating habits that got us where we are. Put an end to the cycle by avoiding simple carbohydrates and sugar as well as excess sodium. This means no soda, juice, or other carbonated or sugary beverages, avoid alcohol, avoid sweets and salty snacks, and try not to add much salt to your food. This will help cut down on gas and water retention.

4. Have a cup of tea

Peppermint and chamomile tea both may help alleviate symptoms of gas and bloat. Enjoy a cup or two of these to help you get more comfortable.

5. Avoid healthy foods that can cause bloat

If you’re already feeling bloated, you may want to avoid certain healthy foods that may worsen your situation…at least until it’s cleared up. These include cruciferous veggies such as broccoli and brussels sprouts as well as dairy and beans.

6. Avoid sugar-free foods

In the wake of the backlash against artificial chemical sweeteners, many sugar-free foods now contain sugar alcohols instead. These ingredients, while not linked to the same health concerns as chemical sweeteners or sugar, have been known to cause gastric upset for many. Skipping out of these ingredients will help you avoid uncomfortable gas and bloating.

 

What to do if you are dealing with chronic bloat

1. Journal it

Begin to keep track of the foods you’re eating and how you’re feeling before and after. This can help you determine if you’re sensitive to certain foods so you can avoid them later.

2. Work with a nutrition professional for an elimination diet

A nutrition professional can help you remove common problem foods from your diet to test your reactions to them.

3. Work with your physician to diagnose any underlying medical causes

Chronic bloating can be caused by a number of conditions, including IBS, Crohn’s, and Celiac. Only your physician can diagnose these conditions so, if bloating and gas are commonplace issues for you, I suggest speaking to your physician about it.

 

How to Support Healthy Habits for Your Children

As a parent seeking to support your child’s health, you have quite a lot to work against: clever advertising of sugary foods, video games that all their friends are playing, and handheld devices that make it all too easy to sit and watch a show any time any where, just to name a few. Fortunately, there are a few simple, concrete things you can do starting right now to help support your child’s health even in the face of these obstacles.

1. Make a pick plate

Each day set out a plate of cut veggies, fruit, and nuts and leave it out in an accessible place so that your kids can grab from it as they come and go. You could also put some dips out to entice them further, like guacamole, hummus, salsa, or peanut butter. Having those healthy foods visible and accessible makes it more likely that they will eat them. Ideally, they will fill up with these and not even ask for the less-than-healthy snacks later. But, even if they don’t, at least they are eating more fruits and veggies than they were before. Further, the more they eat these healthy foods, the more of a taste they will develop for them.

2. Get the whole family active

Find some fun active activities your whole family can do together, like hiking or biking. For indoor active time, try heading to your local trampoline park together or pick up the game Hyperdash to play inside and get everyone moving (according to some reviews, parents enjoy it for their solo workouts without their kids as well!).

3. Talk about food choices in the positive

We now know the potential harm that using the wrong language and pressure around food choices can cause to children as they grow older, particularly in a world where we are constantly bombarded by images of what we ideally should look like. Instead of focusing on foods that your child shouldn’t or can’t have, focus on what they can have. Use the word “we” as much as possible when describing eating habits to create a sense of unity around those habits and to take the focus and pressure off your child and their eating habits. For example, “we eat grilled chicken because it makes us stronger” or “we eat vegetables at every meal because they help us not get sick.” This type of language used regularly normalizes healthy eating even when TV commercials are screaming about snacks loaded with sugar and artificial dyes.

4. Get the kids involved in food prep

Young children tend to be much more enthusiastic about things they’ve played a role in, especially if they see that task as being “grown-up” or important. Try to get your kids involved in the groceries and meal prep as soon as you’re able to. In the grocery store, let them make decisions by giving them choices, like blue potatoes, orange potatoes, or white potatoes; yellow string beans or green string beans; long squash or round squash – you get the picture. This gives children a sense of control over decisions and they’re more likely to eat something they chose. When it comes to dinner prep, give them age-appropriate tasks to do to help you cook, like rinsing spinach, breaking the tops off the green beans, or helping you measure out ingredients with measuring cups and spoons. You could even get your children their own kid-friendly cookware sets like these.  When kids play a role in cooking (something very “adult”), they are really proud of that and are more likely to eat the food they prepare. This also provides you with valuable bonding time and helps kids get more familiar with different foods.

5. Don’t give up

According to current data, it takes a child  being exposed to a new food about 12 times before they are willing to even try it. Be patient and just keep re-exposing them to that food. Continue to put healthy snacks into their lunches, but don’t be surprised or upset when those snacks come home at the end of the day. Keep putting them back in there.

6. Find opportunities to work in more vegetables

I’m not necessarily saying to be sneaky and hide veggies in your kids’ food. What I’m saying is that there are foods out there that are great opportunities for enriching them with even more vegetables and it won’t be a big deal in terms of flavor or texture. For example, pasta sauce can be loaded with different veggies, like peppers, mushrooms, even carrots and broccoli, and you can always toss it in a blender if it’s too chunky with those veggies added. Another great option are sweet potato brownies. You cut down on the sugar and flour and use sweet potato instead – it creates a brownie that is always fudgy in texture and your child gets to eat lots of fiber and phytonutrients. Here is my favorite sweet potato brownie recipe.

7. Eliminate sugary beverages

Perhaps the greatest thing you can do for your child’s health is to eliminate soda, juice, and other sugary beverages from their diet. Yes, even juice. When you juice a fruit (or a vegetable) you are destroying the fiber in it and that leaves little to nothing to buffer against the sugars in it. So essentially you end up with a glass of sugar with some nutrients in it. The American Heart Association recommends that children ages 2-18 consume no more than 25 grams of added sugar per day but the average American child consumes over 75 grams of added sugar a day and soda and fruits drinks are 2 of the biggest contributors to that. Without going into scare tactics, we know that excess sugar consumption as a child leads to chronic health conditions like obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and hypertension just to name a few. Instead of sugary drinks, try giving your child water with fresh or frozen fruit in it or seltzer instead of soda. And, if you are going to allow them to have soda or juice, make sure that it is on a very rare occasion.

How to Motivate Your Family to Be Healthier

It’s a tale as old as time. One parent wants to start eating healthier, maybe lose some weight, get more active, etc. but they’re thrown off track time and time again because the rest of the family isn’t on board. Maybe the problem is that you have to keep a package of certain cookies in the house for your partner. Maybe it’s that you’re tired of preparing 2 dinners, one for you and one for everyone else. Maybe you’re missing your after-dinner walks because everyone would rather watch TV and you don’t want to miss out on valuable family time. Whatever the big issues are, it can make it very challenging to work on your healthy habits when the rest of the household is not working on theirs. So what can you do?

Start Small

You can’t expect everyone to jump right on whatever plan you have right off the bat. Instead, start small. Maybe find an outdoors activity your whole family enjoys doing together, like bike-riding or hiking. Maybe you can get your kids to choose a healthy recipe and cook it with you. Maybe you can swap out those favorite store-bought brownie bites for some homemade ones with less sugar and some sweet potato in them. The easiest way to create big change is to start with little ones.

Use that Team Mentality

It may sound silly but language is super important. It can help unify your family around your goals. Practice using “we” and “our.” For example, “these are the foods we eat,” “we like to get moving outside,” “we are taking good care of ourselves.” This is especially important when it comes to your kids.

Use Relatable Justifications

Telling a child that they should eat broccoli because it’s good for them will get you nowhere fast. You know this. “Good for you” means nothing to a child. The same goes for “healthy.” But, if you can relate the benefits of that health food to something your child wants or enjoys, then you may be in luck. For example, instead of telling your child to eat the chicken because they need the protein, explain to them that eating chicken will help them get stronger and better at biking. Or instead of telling them that their vegetables are good for them, tell them eating vegetables will make them run even faster at their soccer game. Or their avocado will make them do well on their test tomorrow because it makes their brain grow.  These are relatable things that makes sense in a child’s mind.

Clearly Communicate Why these Changes are Important to You

Your partner needs to know how important these changes are to you so that they can support you. Really get down to your big WHY about these changes and share that with your partner. Knowing how important getting healthier is to you makes it more likely that they will be more supportive of your efforts.

Keep It Collaborative

Unilaterally taking certain foods away or trying to secretly swap them out for healthier ones can be a recipe for disaster and meltdowns. Try allowing your family to pick a food they are willing to try a healthier option for and let them choose a substitution from a small selection. Remember to only incorporate one food swap at a time so that you’re not overwhelming them with overhaul and creating pushback and resentment.

Make Healthy Foods More Accessible than Unhealthy Ones

You may find that if you leave a plate of cut veggies and fruits out and ready, your family will be more likely to grab those as they are right out in front of them than to hunt around for or demand junk food snacks. Once they start eating healthier foods, they will begin to become part of the routine.

Model the Behavior You Want to See

Lead by example. If your family perceives that you are not taking these changes seriously, then they won’t either.

Have you ever struggled to get your family on board with healthier habits? What techniques worked for you? Share them in the comments below!

 

What to do when you don’t have time to workout

Even the most dedicated gym junkies can have days where they are just flat out and can’t make it to the gym. That’s OK! No one is ever going to get their routine perfect 100% of the time. Period. However, even on those days where you’re stuck in the car or in back-to-back meetings, there is a lot to be said for getting a little movement in. So what can you do on those days where your calendar simply doesn’t allow for your 3 mile run?

1. Stretch it out

If you’re spending a lot of time behind the wheel or at your desk, some stretching will go a long way to help you feel better, keep your muscles limber, and get you a little more energized. Try opening up your chest to counter hunching by clasping your hands behind your back and pressing them away from you. Stretch out those hamstrings by extending your legs and reaching for your toes (you’ll get a little lower back release as well!). Or try a seated twist to give your spine some lovin’. Here are a few more examples of exercises you can do at your desk. 

2. Find the opportunities for movement that you can

Every little bit helps, so find those opportunities to get your blood flowing when you can, even if it’s just little things. Try taking the stairs instead of the elevator. Try parking a little further than usual to get a little bit of a walk in. Or set a reminder to get up and take a quick spin around your office every hour or so. This will give you a few extra moments to recharge and re-energize.

3. Work your legs

If you have a little bit of time for a workout but aren’t sure what to do, working your legs will help you get maximum burn for what little time you have. Your legs contain one of the biggest muscle groups in your body and bigger muscles mean more calories burned because it takes more to move them. Working some squats, lunges, and resistance band exercises will get those legs moving and those calories burning.

Getting even a little bit of movement in will help you de-stress, feel better, and have better energy. It will also help counteract some of what sitting all day can do to our bodies. So move when you can and don’t stress about your missed workout.

Don’t Do These Things

Don’t – Try to compensate by eating too little

Skipping a meal or two to compensate for a missed workout is not going to achieve any good. If anything, it will leave you cranky, tired, and less able to recover from your regular workouts. Yes, you do not need to consume as many calories on days when you’re not working out. So be mindful and pay attention to your hunger cues instead of trying to overcompensate. Eat healthful foods when you’re hungry and stop eating when you’re satisfied. I can promise you that the impact of one skipped workout is not as drastic as you may worry it is.

Don’t – Try to make up for it with an excessive workout the next day

This just isn’t how our bodies work. You can’t make up for a missed workout by pushing yourself too hard the next day. All that’s likely to get you is injured or too sore to workout the next time. Just pick back up where you left off.

Don’t – Beat yourself up about it

Like I said before, no one will ever get their routine perfect 100% of the time. We are human and life happens. Be gentle with yourself and don’t let this missed workout derail your efforts. Just assure yourself that you’re getting a break today and you will get back into your routine tomorrow. The wonderful thing is, you can always start back on your routine. 

Back to School Immune System Support

Somehow it’s already that time of year: the kids are head back to school and they are bringing a whole lotta germs back home with them at the end of the day. We’ve all been there. We hear that one student has a bug and the next thing you know, it’s gone through the class and their families like wildfire. That first whisper of illness doesn’t need to be a cause for panic, though. Here are some of my best tips as a health and nutrition coach to support your immune system for greater health this fall.

1. Practice good hand washing for the whole family

Why it’s important. It seems that everyone loves their hand sanitizer these days, and I get it – it’s convenient, it gives you peace of mind, it can be effective. However, there are numerous drawbacks to regular hand sanitizer use: dry skin, increased bacterial immunity, damaged skin cells, exposure to excess chemicals with unknown long-term results, and even a weakened immune system (our immune system works based on remembering exposures). Further, there is little to no evidence that hand sanitizers are any more effective than good old soap and water. In fact, they may be less so in some instances.

What you can do. Given all of that, I encourage you to keep the sanitizer use to a minimum and focus on hand washing and good hygiene habits. Teach your kids to wash their hands before eating, keep their hands away from their face and mouth before washing, and turn hand washing into a routine – maybe as soon as they get home from school, before every meal, and before bed. This will help keep immune systems healthier and germs to a minimum.

2. Get enough sleep

Why it’s important. Getting enough sleep is critical to maintaining good health, proper body function, growth and development, and normal energy levels. Without enough sleep, we are more susceptible to bacteria, viruses, and pathogens. Children require more sleep than adults do because they are building and growing little bodies into big bodies plus staying active and constantly learning and acquiring new skills. Sleep requirements will vary depending on how old your child is. Here is a great resource on children’s sleep needs.

What you can do. Keep your kids on a regular bedtime every night preceded by a bedtime routine. The regular bedtime will help them get in the habit of sleeping at that time. Having a bedtime routine focused on winding down will help your kids relax and they will come to associate it with preparing to sleep, making bedtime a little easier. It’s important that this routine: 1.) be low-key, not energizing, and 2.) not involve ipads, smartphones, or TV as blue light disrupts our natural sleep patterns. Some ideas: start with teeth brushing and a warm bath, incorporate story time in the child’s bed, keep bedroom lights low, give your little one a little soothing back rub.

3. Eat the Rainbow

Why it’s important. Eating as many different fresh fruits and vegetables will help keep your immune system healthy. Brightly colored plants contain phytonutrients – special defenses plants have evolved to protect themselves that can protect us and keep us healthy as well when we eat them. Different colored produce contains different phytonutrients so it’s important to eat a variety.

What you can do. We all know kids aren’t always the most open to new foods, vegetables in particular. Try these tips to help: 1. Make eating these foods as interesting and interactive as possible. Kids love color. Ask them what color string beans they want or challenge them to get as many colors onto their plate as they can. 2. Don’t make a big deal of them not eating the foods on their plate; this is not helpful and can create more issues. 3. Just keep on putting the foods in front of them time after time and eventually they will try them.

4. Spice It Up

Why it’s important. Most herbs and spices contain antioxidative compounds that can help support our immune systems, such as thyme, oregano, cinnamon, and rosemary.

What you can do. Don’t be afraid to get “spicy” in the kitchen. Sprinkle some cinnamon onto apple slices for a snack (or onto your coffee grounds before brewing!), sprinkle some fresh herbs onto your chicken, or stick a big sprig of rosemary into your bottle of olive oil to infuse it.

5. Stay Active

Why it’s important. Regular exercise or physical activity is also a great way to keep your immune system working well. The increased blood flow created by exercise massages the lining of your blood vessels, prompting them to release more compounds that act as natural “medicines” to keep us healthy.

What you can do. Make sure that your kids get plenty of opportunity for active playtime. This can mean taking them to the playground, signing them up for sports, letting them play in the yard, taking family walks regularly, or taking up family activities together like hiking, biking, or skiing. When the weather is poor, a game of charades or Hyperdash are great options. Our bodies were made for movement and it’s especially important that we move enough as growing children. Keeping active also means keeping screen time to a minimum.

6.  Stay hydrated

Why it’s important. Our bodies depend on water to stay optimally functional. Being hydrated helps keep our muscles lubricated and moving, helps us absorb water-soluble nutrients from the foods we eat, helps keep our bowel movements regular, and helps flush out our bodies.

What you can do. For children, the current recommended water intake is 1 ounce of fluid per pound of bodyweight per day. For adults, it’s 1/2 ounce of fluid per pound of body weight per day. This can be asking a lot, not just in terms of consuming that much, but time spent eliminating that much as well… if you know what I mean. What I advise is: 1. drink before you’re thirsty, especially if you’re sweating or active, 2. make water the number one option for beverages, and 3. in general, if your urine is clear and light yellow in color, you’re in good shape for hydration. You can encourage kids to drink more water in a number of ways: give them a fun cup or straw they like to drink out of, toss some fresh or frozen fruit in it, and keep soda and juice out of the house.

Healthy Dorm Room Essentials

It can be a challenge to keep health a priority in college with so many demands on your time and energy. So today I wanted to share with you some of my favorite products that will help make staying healthy easier.

  1. This sleep mask that is super comfortable and provides complete blackout

We all know that sufficient sleep is critical for our health, but between night owl roommates and screens casting blue light all around us, there are so many sleep disruptors in college. This sleep mask can solve many of them! The eye pads are adjustable to any face so they provide complete blackout without putting pressure on your eyes. It’s also comfortable regardless of sleep position and stays in place. Plus, it comes with a set of ear plugs and a handy travel case that also keeps it intact in the washing machine.

manta sleep

2. These resistance bands that will make it easy to squeeze in a workout in your dorm room

I love these loop bands because they are compact and portable and allow you to get in a highly effective strength or resistance workout anywhere at any time. The variety of resistance levels means you get to choose the challenge of your workout. If you’re short on time, you could even use them while you’re studying!

resistance bands

3. This durable water bottle that will help keep you hydrated on the go

The water bottle will withstand being bounced around, dropped, and who knows what else a busy college student will throw at it. That’s what I recommend this water bottle to help you stay hydrated anywhere you find yourself.

hydroflask

4. These slider disks will help you get a core-burning workout in your dorm room

When I teach barre classes, I incorporate sliders into most of them because for something so simple, they are crazy effective. If you’ve been too busy to make it to the gym, you can get an intense core workout in just a matter of minutes with these sliders. Plus, they take up next to no space even in the smallest dorm rooms. A strong core is critical for good posture, which is especially important when you spend a lot of time seated at a desk.

sliders

5. These nutritionist-developed snack bars

There are 2 things I know to be true: 1. eating healthy is really difficult in college, and 2. most snacks bars have a weird texture and taste like crap. Plus, a lot of popular “health” bars are actually not really healthy. As a health coach, I love Zing bars because they are a nutritionally balanced AND tasty option for snacking on the go.

Zing Bars

6. This pretty yoga mat

I think everyone needs a good yoga mat, even if you just lay on it while you’re reading. I like this mat from Gaiam because it is thick and durable and it comes in a variety of great patterns.

gaiam mat

7. This set of stainless steel food containers with leak-proof lids

Don’t skip a meal because you have a paper to turn in. Grab your dinner before the dining hall closes in one of these containers and take it to go. Or you can pack up some snacks and take your studies on the go to the library or the grass in the Quad. The leak-proof lids are key and the stainless steel means there are BPA free and you don’t have to worry about them shattering like a glass set could. It also means easy cleaning.

stainless food containers

8. This amazing, aluminum-free deodorant

I have tried A LOT of natural deodorants with one of two outcomes: a. they don’t work or, b. I have a painful, irritating reaction to the baking soda in them. After seeing a bunch of ads and reading some testimonials, I decided to give Lume a try and I’m so happy I did. This deodorant is free from aluminum, parabens, and phthalates as well as baking soda so you are not rubbing chemicals on your body right near some very important glands and you are also not risking a skin irritation either. The other thing I like about Lume is that a little bit goes a long way and it even lasts up to 72 hours – that’s nuts.

Lume

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Please note that this page does contain affiliate links and, as such, I may receive some compensation for purchases made through these links.

This made me so angry

The other day I was scrolling through my Facebook feed, as one does, and I came across a post that made me stop and say out loud, “are you kidding me?” It was a post by a parent looking for some advice and it included a screenshot of the snack list that their child’s summer camp sent around to parents in case their child has food allergies, etc. This is that list:

snack list

As a certified health coach, when I look at this list I see:

Sugar, artificial colors, chemicals, trans fats, and more sugar.

Presumably, the children at this camp will be spending their days and doing activities inside and outside. These are not foods that will nourish and support these busy growing bodies. These are foods that are high in calories but very, very low in nutrition. They are deliberately designed to be hyper-palatable (in other words, super duper tasty to our human senses) so we want more. This hyper-palatability and lack of nutrition make it very easy to overeat these foods. Beyond that, more problems have been associated with these food ingredients, including tooth decay, attention problems, hyperactivity problems, hormonal issues, chronic illness, and obesity (for more on the link between food and childhood behavioral issues, check out The NDD Book by Dr. William Sears). These are not foods I want to see fed to children 5 days a week.

That’s not to say that I’m a fanatic – anyone who knows me will tell you that I am the exact opposite of a fanatic and the first one to dig into a bag of salt and vinegar potato chips. Are these foods OK to eat once in a while as a treat? Absolutely. Once in a while is perfectly fine. It’s when these foods are routine that we really have a problem.

What struck me about this list is that there is not a single healthy option on the list – even the “alternative” snacks are questionable (not to mention, what child is going to be OK with having plain Cheerios while their friends are having bright orange Cheetos? Show me one…I’ll wait.)

So if you disagree with this diet as a parent, your options are to send your kid with an alternative snack and a. listen to your child push back about how none of their friends have to eat that and they feel left out, b. your child gets picked on by the other kids for bringing their own healthy snacks (and we know kids tease each other about the most menial things), and c. be labeled the fanatical, overbearing parent.

While I have not reached out to the camp as I don’t know which camp it is, I assume that their argument in favor of these snacks is what we hear time and again about healthy food: budget.

OK. Here’s the thing: you can buy a box of Zebra Cakes for $2.25 and that gives you 10 mini cakes (5 packages of 2). Most kids are going to want both cakes, so you’re only feeding 5 kids with that box. You can buy a 2-lb bag of carrots for $1.50 and feed around, oh say, 10 kids. You can use the cost savings there to buy a jumbo tub of dip (like hummus) for the carrots… The budget argument doesn’t really hold up, huh? To do it even cheaper, you could turn making hummus to dip the carrots into an educational activity for the kids and have them make their own with a can of chickpeas and some oil. (More more information on eating healthy foods on a budget, check out this video of my workshop on it).

The old adage is “healthy habits start at home.” This is absolutely true; but, if your child is then being fed unhealthy foods by their care providers 5 days a week, that can really undermine all of your efforts at home. It’s like you, as a parent, teaching them “please” and “thank-you” at home and then having them taught “now” and “give me” 5 days a week at school.

I know for a fact that most in-school, after-school, and camp programs operate on a very tight budget and I am 100% sympathetic to that. And I understand that the government has massively rolled back any healthy food initiatives for school lunches. This is a huge issue but I don’t think the situation is completely hopeless. My impression is that many of the decision-makers for these programs are going into planning under the assumption that healthy foods are simply unaffordable. But there are many, many ways to get and prepare healthy foods on the cheap.

Do you know of any camp programs with menus like this one? I would love an introduction to try to begin to have conversations with directors about how healthy menu changes can be implemented. Please send me an email at wellandsimplehealth@gmail.com.

On a personal note, are you a parent who has been struggling to get your children to eat healthier foods? If so, we should talk. Please feel free to email me at wellandsimplehealth@gmail.com.

 

Further reading:

If you want to learn more about the effects of manufactured foods on our brain, check out The Hungry Brain by Stephan J. Guyenet.

If you want to learn more about the links between food additives and sugar and childhood attention and behavioral issues, check out the NDD Book by Dr. William Sears.

Morning Health Mistakes You Might Be Making

It seems like every blogger, influencer, & self-help author has some morning habit that you simply MUST adopt to become the healthiest version of you. And that advice is put out there with the best intentions. But are these habits truly all they’re cracked up to be? Here are some popular morning habit mistakes that you could be making.

1. Going overboard with your smoothie

Smoothies can be a great option for breakfast on-the-go and for getting some added fruits and veggies in. But it is very easy for that smoothie to get out of control. Excessive fruit and fats and servings that are too large are very common pitfalls. Another issue is making your smoothie too thin to be satisfying so you become ravenous later and derail your healthy diet.

Instead: Keep your smoothies to just 1 cup of fruit, add some veggies, and keep your portions on the smaller end of things.

2. Skipping breakfast

Breakfast really is the most important meal of the day because it provides you with the nutrients you need to get your day going at your best and can help keep your body’s cortisol levels (“stress hormone”) closer to their normal range. Studies have also shown that people who eat breakfast are more likely to weight less than people who skip it because it helps keep your hunger more manageable throughout the day.

Instead: If you’re not a breakfast person, try to just have something small but healthy to hold you over until you can have something more substantial. Some almonds or a slice of whole grain toast with peanut butter are good options.

3. Taking a something-is-better-than-nothing mentality towards breakfast

While whether or not you eat breakfast is important, WHAT you eat for breakfast is just as important. Starting your day with a sugary donut is going to spike your blood sugar levels and it won’t keep you feeling full for very long.

Instead: Focus on eating whole foods that are high in fiber and protein. This will keep you feeling full longer.

4. Reaching for some juice

It’s made from fruit, so it must be good for you, right? Not so fast. Juice is fruit without the fiber. So, yes, you’re getting some of those nutrients, but you’re also drinking a big glass of sugar with no fiber to buffer it. That can add up to blood sugar issues and weight gain over time.

Instead: Have some water and put some fruit in it to infuse it with the flavor, like lemon, lime, or berries.

5. Having a bowl of “healthy” cereal

Here’s the thing about cereal, most options have too much sugar and not enough fiber and protein in them to be worth it.

Instead: Try some oatmeal (unflavored) with plain yogurt and fruit instead.

The Truth about Juice Cleanses and Detoxes

Juice cleanses and detox programs are still all the rage – with nearly every holistic company pushing one and even local cafes creating their own. They claim they can help you lose weight, rid your body of toxins, restore your pH, give you more energy and help you sleep better, make you stop craving junk food – the list goes on and on. But are these (often really expensive) programs all they’re cracked up to be?

The short answer is “no.” Living off of juice for a week is not going to result in any lasting improvements to your help. On the contrary, it could actually do more harm than good.

The Problem with Cleanses and Detoxes

The first issue with juice cleanses is that they’re juice. When you juice a fruit or vegetable, you eliminate all of the fiber in that plant. That leaves you with very little if anything to buffer against all of the sugar in it. Essentially, you’re drinking straight sugar with some vitamins and minerals added to it. Subsisting off of this alone and not balancing it with food containing protein and fiber can result in unhealthy spikes in your blood sugar that stress your body out. Sustained high levels of your body’s stress hormone, cortisol, have been linked to a host of health problems, not to mention retention of abdominal fat. Add to this the fact that, since juice does not satisfy hunger,  you are likely to over consume it when you’re already taking in far more sugar in a glass of orange juice than is in one orange.

Another factor that makes these cleanses more of a problem than a solution is the impact they could have on your metabolism. While restricting calories in the very short term might make you drop a few pounds, over time severely restricting calories for a week or on and off again over time can slow down your metabolism, making it even harder to lose weight. Not to mention, many people will overcompensate by overeating once they are back on regular foods again, making them gain back what they may have lost and then some. I bet they didn’t advertise that on the box.

The final nail in the coffin for juice cleanses and detox programs should be that they are completely unnecessary and there is no scientific evidence to support their effectiveness. Your body already has a highly-efficient detoxification system built in. Your body is not a swamp full of toxins. You do not need to starve yourself for a week to help support your body’s detoxification system. On the contrary, doing so can deprive your body of the nutrition and energy it needs to do its cleanup job.

So What Should You Do?

If you truly want to support the health of your body and keep it as toxin-free as possible, eat an organic, plant-based, whole foods diet. Eat lots of plants, drink lots of water, avoid pre-packaged, processed foods, and, when you do eat meat, make sure it is clean, quality meat not treated with all kinds of antibiotics and hormones. Doing this will give your body the right kind of fuel it needs to support ongoing health.