Categories Advice, Food, Health, How To, Nutrition

Healthy eating strategies for kids: How to encourage the best choices.

It’s back to school time. Hectic schedules, homework, and organized sports can make it extremely challenging for kids to eat well, stay focused, and perform at their best. Here are a few strategies to encourage healthy food choices for your child.

Get plenty of protein: While kids tend to gravitate towards carbohydrate rich meals and snacks, teach them that healthy proteins are a must. Protein will keep kids fuller longer and will help them to stay focused in the classroom. It will also support muscle growth. Protein choices include lean chicken, eggs, turkey, tuna fish, canned salmon, beans, dairy or dairy substitutes, nuts, nut butters, seeds, tofu, and edamame.

Make fruit and vegetables a dietary staple: Teach your kids to include rainbow of colors. A variety of colorful fruits and vegetables will provide them with vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and fiber. Fruits and vegetables will also keep them fuller longer.

Include health fats: Healthy fats support brain development, eye health, and like protein, will help kids stay fuller longer. Fats will also help kids to better absorb certain vitamins such as A, D, E and K. Healthy fats include things like nuts, seeds, nut butters, olives, avocado, and olive oil.

Reduce sugar intake: While occasional treats are always fun, children who consume large amounts of sugary foods may find it harder to stay energized and focused throughout the day. Refined carbohydrates and starches will raise a child’s blood sugar initially, but will then cause a sudden drop in blood sugar as their hormone insulin responds. When blood sugar drops, children will feel tired, hungry or ‘hangry’. I recommend that kids avoid starting the day with sugary cereals, pastries, and other common breakfast foods and instead include protein at breakfast. This will prevent them from being hungry by mid morning. Apply this same approach after school in order to keep them focused on homework and activities.

Read labels: Strive to provide your children with foods that are low in preservatives, additives and colors. Although a bit controversial, there have been studies which have shown that additives in food can contribute to hyperactivity in children.

Drink water: Choose water over sugary sports drinks. Water is always the best choice. Encourage this habit early on. Teach your child to carry a water bottle to school and to drink water before during and after sports practice.

Teach them how to balance their plate: Instill the habit of eating at least 3 food groups at meals. Food groups include protein, fruit, vegetables, starches, fats, dairy or dairy substitutes. A lunch might look like this: Chicken strips, broccoli, strawberries, whole grain crackers and a piece of cheese. This will offer a more balanced diet and provide essential nutrients.

Practice Division of Responsibility: This means that as parents, you are responsible for what time of day your child eats and what choices are offered. They are responsible for how much (or how little) they eat. This encourages kids to build confidence with their food choices and to remain in tune with their hunger and fullness cues.

Encourage family meals: Family meals are a time for connection, sharing, and listening. Studies show that kids who engage in family meals perform better in school. Make family meals a regular part of your schedule. If dinner is too hectic of a time to sit down together, try another meal such as breakfast.

Encourage participation and involvement with food choices:  Whether it’s packing lunches, preparing after school snacks, helping to prepare dinner, or tagging along when grocery shopping, getting your kids involved with the planning and preparation of meals will help them develop healthy eating habits and will encourage mutual respect in terms of food choices.

For more tips like these or to schedule a time to meet with me personally, click here.

Categories Advice, Exercise, Food, Health, How To, Nutrition, Weight Loss

12 Ways To Eat Healthy While On Vacation

It’s summer! Are you planning a fun vacation or getaway? Nervous it will derail your eating plan? I often get asked by clients what they can do to stay on track with healthy eating while they are traveling. It can be a real challenge for some, but it doesn’t have to be. Here are some key tips that I recommend:

  1. Plan your day. Begin with a healthy breakfast that includes plenty of protein to keep you fuller longer. Resist the temptation to begin your day with a sugary breakfast that will induce cravings later and make it harder to stay on track. Plan or pack your lunch and snacks and get some physical activity in – whether it be extra steps, a swim in the pool or ocean, hiking, running or biking. This will allow you to create a calorie deficit. By doing this you can relax and enjoy your evening. You are on vacation after all! This approach works because it’s a good balance of staying in control but also allows some amount of indulgence. 
  2. Set an exercise goal for the week and stick to it. Set a goal for walking, running, a travel workout, or whatever you enjoy. Aim for a set number of workouts per week. Track your workouts in an app or post on social media for accountability and positive reinforcement.
  3. Increase fruit and vegetable intake. Add vegetables to snacks, sandwiches, your morning eggs etc. Opt for fruit as a snack as well. They are lower in calories and really filling. Happy hour on the beach? Pack an assortment of plant based snacks to accompany the beverages. Click the link here for my blog post on healthy snacks when traveling.
  4. Drink (more) water. This is a must. Strive for a goal of half of your body weight (in ounces) or more, especially if you are in the sun most of the day and/or consuming alcohol. 
  5. Focus on protein intake. This can really help to keep you full, deter you from eating heavier carbs, and keep you on track. Aim to have protein at every meal and snack. You can even pack your favorite protein powder or bars to have throughout the week. 
  6. Will you have a kitchen at your vacation destination? If so, shop ahead and stock it with your favorite items. This is one thing I do often when traveling locally. I pack enough for breakfast, lunch and snacks. It definitely saves money and helps me feel more in control. If this isn’t a possibility, shop on the first day that you arrive at your destination. If cooking in, prepare some fun and healthy recipes. Use your favorite websites, blogs, or  grocery store magazines for ideas. Many have really good summer editions right now with some fantastic looking recipes. 
  7. Use a food tracker. This is a personal decision and I’ve seen it done a variety of ways. Some people like to let go of their food journal when on vacation, others feel this is a slippery slope and will make things harder for them when they return. You know yourself best and what works for you. You can also do a partial food journal where maybe you track your water, your workouts and the majority of your day up until dinner. Then, for dinner and beyond you can relax a bit and let it go. It’s completely up to you, but if you feel you would still like accountability while away, a tracker can work. 
  8. Set (gentle) boundaries. This looks different for everyone. It might be setting a limit of eating out 1x per day or getting ice cream 2x per week or choosing alcohol vs. a dessert. Decide what it could look like for you and stick to it.
  9. When dining out, choose which items on the menu you will skip, sample, and enjoy. For example, maybe you will skip the bread basket and dessert, sample the appetizer, and enjoy the entrée
  10. Be mindful of alcohol intake. The average serving of beer or wine is about 150 calories. Mixed drinks and flavored cocktails can be even higher. If you have factored this into your day, great. If not, be aware that this can add on a lot of unwanted calories and sugar, and it for some it can be a trigger for eating larger portions of foods that they would normally avoid.
  11. Adopt a “Maintain Don’t Gain” philosophy. Set a goal of maintaining your weight but don’t stress about trying to lose while you are away. 
    Walk, walk, walk, and walk some more. Being on vacation is a great way of getting plenty of walking in. Whenever possible opt to walk instead of drive. Track your steps daily and see how much you can get in by the end of the trip. 
  12. Walk, walk, walk, and walk some more. Being on vacation is a great way of getting plenty of walking in. Whenever possible opt to walk instead of drive. Track your steps daily and see how much you can get in by the end of the trip. 

For more tips like these or to meet with me personally, contact me here

Categories Advice, Food, Health, How To, Nutrition, Weight Loss

10 Tips For Meal Planning

Do you struggle with planning your weekly meals? Does your goal of healthy eating become sabotaged by last minute food choices?

Meal planning is key for maintaining a balanced diet. Here are some simple tips that will set you up for success and help you to stay focused on your nutrition goals.

1. Block off time on your calendar to plan your menu for the following week. It is recommended to plan your meals on a Thursday or Friday, so that you can grocery shop and prep over the weekend. Organize your list by food group: Fruits, vegetables, proteins, starches, dairy/dairy subs, and healthy fats. Strive to make as many foods as possible whole real foods with minimal ingredients.

2. Determine the number of dinners you have in your meal plan. If you double the portions, you will have enough for leftovers. Remember the phrase “cook once, eat twice”. Leftovers can be used for either lunch the next day, or for dinner later in the week. This will significantly reduce the number of meals you need to prepare each week.

3. Make a list of all ingredients needed to create the meals. Ideally, do this while you are at home so that you can take inventory of what you already have. Cross off the items you do not need to purchase. This will help you to greatly reduce costs for unnecessary items.

4. For an additional means of cost cutting, scan store apps, circulars and newspapers for coupons. If you can’t find coupons for the foods in your meal plan, try using coupons for other household goods such as paper products, cleaning products, and personal items.

5. Don’t be afraid to repeat what works. If everyone loves Mexican, keep a Mexican dish on your list each week but just vary what you serve (fish tacos, bean burritos, chicken enchiladas etc).

6. Try using a weekly template. Here’s an example: 2 nights per week poultry; 2 nights per week fish, 1 night per week beef or pork, 1 night per week vegetarian, 1 night per week dining out. Another way to plan a template is by theme: Meatless Monday, Taco Tuesday, Crock-Pot Wednesday, Stir-Fry Friday, etc.

7. Got picky eaters? Try stations or “bars” that provide variety but also satisfy individual preferences. Examples include: Salad bar, taco bar, pizza bar, potato bar etc. Each family member can customize to their hearts delight.

8. Stumped for ideas? Get the family involved. Ask each family member to help you come up with 1-2 meals each week. For kids, have them pick the night of the week the want “their meal” served. Take it one step further and have them help you prepare and serve the meal. This is a great way to get kids more involved in the kitchen.

9. Keep an inventory of meals that are family favorites. Ideally, build this up to 15-20 recipes. You can pull from this inventory each week to allow for non-stressful meal planning.

10. Stock your freezer and your pantry. Load up on beans, whole grains, healthy oils, frozen vegetables, fruits, and proteins. Set aside 1-2 days per month to make and freeze meals. This will really come in handy during busy times when you may not have been able to effectively meal plan.

SAMPLE MEAL PLAN:

SUNDAY: Baked cod, asparagus, sweet potatoes

MONDAY: Broccoli, red pepper, garlic frittata, salad, roasted potatoes

TUESDAY: Fish Tacos (use leftover cod from Sunday), salad (leftover from Monday)

WEDNESDAY: Roasted chicken, broccoli, butternut squash

THURSDAY: Leftovers from Wednesday’s dinner

FRIDAY: Beef stir fry with veggies and rice

SATURDAY: Dine Out

Suggestions like these can make meal planning easy and fun. For more ideas or to book a private session, contact me here.

Categories Advice, Health, How To, Nutrition, Sleep, Stress, Weight Loss

8 Steps to Better Sleep

Ahh, sleep. How many of us out there wish we could get more of it? We know we should be aiming for 8 hours per night, but an estimated 33% of the population falls short of that goal. Hectic schedules, chronic stress, anxiety, excessive screen time, and alcohol consumption can all contribute to regular amounts of sleep deprivation.

Poor sleep leads to poor health outcomes. According to the CDC, individuals who achieve less than 7 hours of consistent sleep per night – meaning you fall asleep easily and stay asleep – are at a higher risk for weight gain, obesity, insulin resistance, pre-diabetes, diabetes, anxiety, depression, heart disease, stroke, asthma, and cancer.

So what can you do to improve your sleep? Here are 8 quick and easy steps to show you how.

  1. Strive for a consistent bedtime each night. The more consistent you can be, the better. Your bedtime should allow you to achieve 7-9 hours of sleep per night and ultimately should occur during our prime sleep hours (10pm-7am).
  2. Unplug all electronic devices 2 hours prior to bedtime. The artificial blue light from these devices will lower the hormone melatonin. Melatonin is needed to help you fall asleep. Devices are also a trigger for stress and emotions. Give yourself plenty of downtime in order to ready your body for sleep.
  3. Practice stress relaxation techniques. A warm bath, reading, journaling, listening to soft relaxing music, prayer, meditation, yoga poses, whatever you like. Implement one of these strategies each night as you ready yourself for sleep.
  4. Keep your room dark and cool. Avoid having any devices or electronics near your bed that can emit light. Use room darkening shades if necessary.
  5. If you are a light sleeper, consider using deep breathing or meditation techniques to achieve deep sleep. Another thing that can help is a sound machine that will generate white noise. 
  6. When possible, expose yourself to sunshine or daytime light upon waking either by going outside or opening a window. This will support healthy melatonin levels throughout the day.
  7. Consume dietary sources of Melatonin. These include eggs, fish, pistachios, mushrooms, oats, black rice, organic cow’s milk (if tolerated), green beans, cherries. You can also consider a melatonin supplement.
  8. Eat plenty of magnesium rich foods such as bananas, almonds, spinach, cashews, black beans, peanut butter, and avocado, or take a magnesium supplement if needed. Magnesium can help your body relax and achieve restful sleep throughout the night.

Set a goal to implement these strategies in order to enhance your sleep. Along with proper diet and exercise, quality sleep can help you to significantly improve your health. For more information, contact me here.

Photo by Vladislav Muslakov on Unsplash

Resources:

https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/12114-causes-of-sleep-problems

https://www.cdc.gov/sleep/data_statistics.html

https://www.cdc.gov/media/releases/2016/p0215-enough-sleep.html

Ferreira, S. (2018). A Dietitian’s Guide to Assessing and Treating Fatigue.

Categories Advice, Exercise, Fitness, Food, gym, Health, How To, Nutrition, Sleep, Weight Loss

How To Get Back On Track With Healthy Eating

I had a great Easter holiday. We spent a couple of days at the Jersey shore, and I’m not ashamed to admit that I indulged in some of my favorite treats. Pizza on the boardwalk, salt water taffy, fudge. Yes, that’s right, I’m guilty. But I loved every minute of the time I was able to spend with my family, away from the day to day stress of life in general. If felt really good to relax and just enjoy myself.

But now it’s back to reality.  Those few days of letting go and giving in to temptation were fun, but it’s time to get back to eating healthy again.

Have you ever found yourself in a similar situation after a vacation or a holiday? If so, recognize that for the most part this is normal. And while for some, it can affect morale and leave you feeling unmotivated to get back to your routine, it is possible with a few easy tips.

Hold yourself accountable – Accountability is one of the best ways to get motivated and stay on track with your goals. One of the easiest ways is to track your food intake. Whether it be through an app or a traditional food log, food tracking works. It can be a real eye opener in terms of calories, fat, and sugar consumed. If food tracking just isn’t your thing, you can still find other ways to be held accountable. Write down your goals, tell a friend, share your progress on social media, or work with a dietitian. Once the accountability is there, you will be much more inclined to stick to a plan.  

Exercise – Get back to your favorite activities. Whether it be the gym, yoga class, walking, golfing, tennis or gardening just make the time to move your body. Commit to 3x per week minimum. Exercise releases endorphins and endorphins make you happy. Exercise will also help you to have more energy, lose weight, and feel great.

Drink more water – One of the simplest things you can do to get back to a healthy routine is to drink more water. Drinking water will help control your appetite and reduce calories if you are using it to replace sugary beverages. Aim to consume half of your body weight in ounces per day. Use a reusable water bottle, have a glass or two in the morning before your first cup of coffee, keep a water bottle  in your car, drink water before your main meals, or plan it into your schedule (Example: Drinking a set amount at the gym) and stick to it.

Double up on the vegetables– Veggies are packed with vitamins, minerals, fiber, and they are low in calories. They are truly your best defense in terms of maintaining a healthy weight. Plus they are delicious! Start out by filling at least half of your plate with vegetables, which is equivalent to two servings. Include a serving or two as a snack and you will be well on your way to meeting the recommended goal of 5-7 servings per day.

Up your protein – I always recommend spreading your protein throughout the day by including protein at each meal – especially breakfast. Protein helps you to feel fuller longer and crave less. It also helps to build and maintain muscle. Strive for at least a quarter of your plate to include protein, which is about 3-4 oz or the size of the palm of your hand.

Get back to meal planning – Plan at least a weeks worth of meals. One simple tip is to prepare 3-4 meals but make double the portion so that the recipe yields leftovers. This will cut your meal planning for a week in half.

Go to bed earlier – Restful sleep promotes hormone balance, which will help you to crave less. Aim for 7-9 hours of sleep each night. If this is something you struggle with, set a goal to go to bed 30 minutes earlier for one week. You’ll be amazed at how much better you feel, and how much easier it is to stick to a healthy eating routine.

To sum things up, we all have those moments in life where we let go, relax, and indulge. I support this in moderation. We need to live life!! But if you find this derails your progress and your motivation know that you are not alone. Let go of the guilt and tell yourself it’s time to get back on track and continue forward with your goals.

For more tips and support, contact me here.

Photo by Peter Bravo de los Rios on Unsplash