Get the Family Healthy in 2014, Part 1 of 2

The New Year is here, and it’s a great time to make a resolution to get healthy. In order to stick to that New Year’s resolution, be specific about what changes to make. This can help your family execute a plan to ensure positive outcomes. Here are some specific changes that you as a parent can implement to bring about real change for your family’s health this year. I recommend choosing as many of these as you think are realistic to do in your household. Even one real change is better than a handful of half attempts that fail. Good luck!

Easy New Year Health Swaps for the Family:

  1. Replace the refined grains with whole grains. This advice might sound like a broken record, but based on the wide range of clientele I work with, this healthy change is not actually happening in real families. Whole grains maintain the natural fiber, vitamins and minerals that have been stripped from their refined counterparts. Whole grains include whole grain bread, oatmeal, whole grain pancakes, whole grain pasta, brown rice, quinoa, millet, and whole grain cereals. Refined grains are the “white” carbs, such as white bread, white pasta, and the wide variety of processed foods that are made from refined flours. Sometimes it is harder for parents to make this change than it is for the kids, since our generation was raised on refined flours. Trust me, you will get used to it and soon the refined stuff will taste bland and leave you hungry an hour or so after eating. Because whole grains have fiber, they take longer to digest (making you full sooner and longer). Whole grain fiber also plays an important role in binding and excreting fat, both in digestion and circulating lipids in the bloodstream. From the very beginning of feeding your kids as infants and toddlers, remember- kids do not need “kid food”, and they can enjoy whole grain pancakes and whole grain pasta just as much as the white stuff. Be a good example for your kids.
  2. Replace snack foods with fruits or vegetables. And while you’re at it, limit snacks to two per day (one mid-morning or before bed, and one mid-afternoon). This might be the most effective change you can make if you or your family members are big snackers and grazers. Your job is to make sure there are always plenty of fresh, colorful fruits and vegetables available to your kids. When it comes to produce, quality matters. Kids will more readily accept things that look and taste fresh, so choose wisely. Local and organic produce is usually more fresh and flavorful than something that may have traveled half way around the world and then sat frozen in a warehouse for months. Enforce this change by telling the kids what their snack options are, then encouraging them to go play or do homework before the next meal (or bedtime).
  3. Limit eating out to once per week or less. Although it is possible to eat healthy when eating out, often it is easier to make unhealthy choices and overeat when eating at restaurants. It may be even more difficult for your kids to eat healthy when eating out as many kids’ menus are limited to foods high in fat and sodium and low in fiber. This may be a challenge for the busy parent who is not used to cooking. If you choose this resolution, be prepared to plan, grocery shop, and cook. Cut corners by using time-saving and healthy cooking methods such as the slow-cooker and stir-frying lean meats and veggies. It may be a difficult change to implement, but it will be very rewarding from a health perspective (and on your budget).

Check the blog next week for more healthy New Year’s resolutions for your family!

Click here for more advice on how to set achievable goals for the new year.

Questions to Ask Your Pediatrician When You Suspect a Developmental Delay

Pediatricians oftentimes only have fifteen to twenty minutes with a child and family during a wellness visit.  Most of that time would bequestions to ask your pediatrician when you expect a developmental delay used to ensure the medical health of the child.  It is imperative that time also be spent on ascertaining information regarding the social, emotional, and behavioral development of the child.  I always recommend that parents bring with them a list of questions that they have regarding their child’s development.

Questions to Ask Your Pediatrician About Your Child’s Development:

  • Ask the doctor questions about his or her language development.   Is the child meeting necessary developmental milestones with regard to his or her speech and language?  Are there any concerns that might be addressed through speech and language therapy? Read more

How I Plan to Eat this Holiday Season without the Guilt Trip

Christmas and New Year celebrations are just around the corner and we’re bound to meet old friends, families, and enjoy good food. Yes, the holidays, especially Christmas and New Year is all about home-cooked meals—those scrumptious delights we’ve been hoping for throughout the year. But, we also feel guilty after eating these foods. So, how can we have fun, eat heartily, and live healthy? In this article, I’m sharing my plans to enjoy eating during the holidays, while also keeping lean.
tips to stay healthy for the holidays

Healthy Holiday Eating Plan:

Plan #1: Always Check Ingredients

Most people think that the food that they eat is what makes them fat. However, this isn’t entirely true: there are certain substances or “hidden ingredients” that can make you fat.  In an article for Save Our Bones; writer Vivian Goldschimdt, MA, warns people of these hidden ingredients:
  • Soybean Oil
  • Yellow # 5 (a food dye)
  • Propylene glycol alginate (E405)
  • Monosodium Glutamate (MSG)
  • Butylated Hydroxytoluene (BHT)
These ingredients have been found to cause nausea, heart irregularities, migraine, seizures, and skin rashes. Aside from these side Read more

Infant Feeding Series: Starting Solids

After the first several months of life, your baby is approaching that age when either of one of two scenarios occurs:

1. Baby is practically grabbing the spoon out of your hand when you’re eating and seems so eager to eat some of that!

2. Friends, family members, and even the pediatrician keep asking when you plan to start solids.

What is the right age, what is the right first food, and how exactly do you go from there? This blog covers a plan that is based on research, professional, and personal experience. The important thing is to follow your baby’s lead. It is up to your baby to learn to eat at his or her own pace, not up to you to make them eat.

What is the right age to start solids?

According to the current recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics, the age to consider starting solids is 6 months old. This is later than previous recommendations and probably later than our parents started feeding us foods. There are several reasons why this age is recommended, which include developmental milestones and readiness, digestive system maturity, and long-term studies looking at outcomes of risk for developing issues like food allergies, digestive disorders, obesity, diabetes, etc. In addition to watching the calendar for that 6-month birthday, watch your baby closely for signs of readiness as well.

Here are some things to watch for to make sure your baby is ready to transition to solids (and is more likely to be successful doing so):

  • Baby can sit with minimal support, and has very stable head control. Read more

Make Your Holiday Recipes Healthy for Hanukkah and Christmas

Potato latkes are a popular food prepared during Hanukkah. This dish combines two typically unhealthy foods- a white starch (potatoes) and oil for frying. To put a healthy spin on your latkes this year, try this recipe, which includes the healthiest oil options and extra vitamins and minerals.

Potato Latkes

Ingredients:
  • 4-5 cups of boiled and grated potatoes (4-6 large potatoes). Choose organic potatoes and do not peel the skin.
  • 2-3 Tablespoons olive oil, walnut oil, or canola oil, with additional 1-2 tablespoons added as needed when the pan dries out.
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 1/3 cup whole wheat flour
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 2 eggs Read more

10 Simple Ways to Show Gratitude

It’s been proven that the act of showing gratitude can lead to a happier, more fulfilling life.  The power of showing thanks lies in changing your internal focus from one of negativity (where you focus on the things you DON’T have) to one of positivity (where you focus on the things you DO have).  However, expressing appreciation for the things in your life is often easier said than done, especially on a bad day.  Read on for 10 simple ways to incorporate more gratitude into your day-to-day life.

10 Simple Ways to Be Thankful:

  1. Keep a journal.  At the end of the day, record five things for which you’re grateful in your journal.  Take time to look back periodically at what you’ve written to note the recurring themes. Read more

Family-Friendly Children’s Gross Motor Activities for Fall

Late-autumn is upon us, however, the cooler weather doesn’t mean your children are out of fun things to do outdoors. Gross motor skills are important for kids to improve upon, no matter their age or activity level.  These skills require engagement of the child’s big muscle groups to improve balance, coordination, and posture. In pre-school age kids, working on gross motor skills builds body awareness, helps them keep up with peers and perform better in school, and motivates them to engage more with others.   Below are some simple activities you can do with your children this season that will give them the opportunity to build their muscles and confidence-minimal equipment needed.

Dance

By dance, I don’t mean reviving your ball-room dancing days or enrolling the kids in ballet (though both are great routes to take).  What I mean is simple…be silly with your kids. Put on their favorite song and make up the moves as you go. There is a reason songs such as Hokey Pokey stayed so popular with toddlers and teachers for so long: they make it fun for kids to learn how their limbs work and how to engage their trunk. Tapping their feet to the beat works on coordination, shifting their weight works on their balance, and wiggling their hips works on their obliques and other parts of their core muscle groups.  Teach your child to skip around the room and she will learn to synchronize her opposite sides and build on her total body coordination. Learning to dance with a partner and imitating big movements will help your child tune into working with others, following directions, and use your child’s large muscles in a not so tiring way. Read more

Steps to Prevent Injury in Youth Sports

Winter is upon us and with it comes a new sports season. As your children prepare for the start of a new season, help ensure  them a season without injury. According to Campbell 2006, “Children need proper physiologic conditioning, strength and flexibility to participate safely in an organized or recreational athletic endeavor” (p 519)[1]. So what does this mean for your children when they’re playing sports?  Read on for tips to keep them injury free.

Tips to Prevent Injury during Kid’s Sports:

  • Proper Warm-Up: Ensure that your child warms up their muscles with a light jog prior to stretching. This ensures that they can get a good stretch, preventing  muscle strains and pulls. Read more

How to Talk to Your Kids about Weight and Healthy Eating

We all want our kids to be the healthiest they can be. In recent years, we are seeing serious health problems presenting in young kids and adolescents. An unhealthy diet and lifestyle affects kids’ quality of life, and this is often what hurts them most. Kids with weight issues may get teased at school or start to withdraw from activities that were once a big part of their life, such as sports. This can make the weight issues even worse for them.

If you find yourself in a position of having to talk to your child about his or her weight, consider some of the points below. These tips apply to both overweight and underweight issues.

Explain BMI and the importance of being in a healthy range.

BMI stands for body mass index. Your child’s pediatrician should be measuring your child at well checkups and plotting their BMI on a growth chart. You can explain BMI to kids by saying, “BMI is a measurement of how much weight is on your body for how tall you are.” Read more

Top Ten Family Friendly Runs in Chicago this 2013 Holiday Season

It’s the holiday season, and the kids will have plenty of time off. Wondering what you can get the kids involved in other than video games and holiday snacking? Surprisingly, Chicagoland has quite a few family-friendly races/walks that will get you and your family moving and off the couch. These fun runs will certainly warm up little bodies and little hearts in the chilly upcoming months.

1. Girls on the Run 5k – November 16th

Girls on the Run-Chicago (GOTRC) is a non-profit organization that teaches girls 8-13 year old important life skills through running activities to encourage positive emotional, social, and physical development.  This annual 5k is not just a run, but a morning full of fun activities, open to the public. If you have a child who can benefit from some encouragement and more involvement in physical activities to build their confidence, or if you want to introduce your child to the fun side of exercise, this is a great event for the whole family.  The runners are not timed, and everyone who crosses the finish line is a winner. Your little runner will get cheers from the crowd throughout the whole race. There will also be face painting and tiara decorating, in addition to a great post-run festival that features food, games and sponsor giveaways! Read more