Kids Can’t Eat What is Not There

The last few months I have noticed a down hill spiral of eating habits in our house. Breakfasts and snacks became a free for all of low nutrient, high fat, high calorie foods. (Lunches were packed healthy, and dinners became the only really healthy meal that the kids would eat at home) I was guilty of buying too many snacky foods, which became the kids first choice. This of course led to lots of battles.

I decided to throw out every snack food that was unhealthy and replace everything with healthy choices. Not a single unhealthy snack left in our house. But, I did tell the kids that they can have one day a week where they can choose a treat.

It is going on three weeks now, and the kids have not complained once about their snacks and food options. I am kind of surprised, as I thought for sure I would hear a lot of whining about nothing “good to eat”. The best part is that the kids are chowing on all the healthy stuff and loving it.

Kids, especially younger ones, will eat mostly what’s available at home. That’s why it’s important to control the supply lines — the foods that you serve for meals and have on hand for snacks. Kids can’t eat what is not there. A side bonus is that you will not be tempted by your kids snacks.

Here are some basic tips that are great for kids but also for parents:

1. Work fruits and vegetables into the daily routine, aiming for the goal of at least five servings a day. Be sure you serve fruit or vegetables at every meal.

2. Make it easy for kids to choose healthy snacks by keeping fruits and vegetables on hand and ready to eat. Other good snacks that my kids love include low-fat yogurt blended with some low fat milk to make a shake/smoothie, peanut butter and capples or celery, or whole-grain crackers and cheese.

3. Serve lean meats and other good sources of protein, such as fish, eggs, beans, and nuts.Choose whole-grain breads and cereals so kids get more fiber. Don’t be fooled by kids’ cereal marketing. Read the ingredients.

4. Limit fat intake by avoiding deep-fried foods and choosing healthier cooking methods, such as broiling, grilling, roasting, and steaming. Choose low-fat or nonfat dairy products.

5. Limit fast food and low-nutrient snacks, such as chips and candy. But don’t completely ban their favorite snacks. Instead, make them a special treat, so kids don’t feel deprived.

6. Limit sugary drinks, such as soda, juice, and fruit-flavored drinks. Serve water and low-fat milk instead

Tricks To Combat Mindless Eating

You have probably heard the term mindless eating. It actually refers to findings from scientific experiments showing that people make almost 20 times more daily decision about food than they realize – approximately 250 decisions each day.

Mindless Eating suggests that a considerable part of our hunger is psychologically-driven, which leads us to be easily driven by tiny cues around us, such as family, friends, packages, names, labels, lights, colors, smells, shapes, distances, containers, cupboards, and distractions. Is it possible that we are not calibrated well enough to know when we are full or to know when we are hungry?

The gist of the study goes like this:

Endless bowl group – participants ate from a bowl that automatically refilled from the bottom. The participants did not know this was happening.

Normal bowl group – participants ate from a bowl that did not automatically refill. As they ate, they could see there was less food left on the bowl.

Those in the endless bowl group ate 73% more food until they thought they were full, compared to those in the normal bowl group. This confirmed scientific hypothesis — that our eyes are the main factors in determining when we think we are full.

Obviously, mindless eating can lead to unhealthy habits and weight gain. However, mindless eating can also be used to your favor, so that your habits become healthier.

Some easy fixes or tricks are to get smaller plates and bowls. This works great with kids too. I actually just did this with all my kiddie plastic bowls. Now with smaller bowls, I don’t hear whining complaints like “that’s all I get?” or “that’s not enough!” when I pour an appropriate amount of food into the bowl. Reducing the number of times you look at unhealthy snacks is also key.  Either don’t buy them at all or keep them out of sight. You can move healthier foods to eye-level in the refrigerator or pantry. And of course, food should be eaten in the kitchen, rather than in front of the TV.

Most of us have too much chaos going on in our lives to consciously focus on every bite we eat, and then ask ourselves if we’re full. The secret is to change your environment so it works for you rather than against you.

Food Labels – How To Keep Your Facts Straight

Get the Facts on Food Labels

There is a lot of press right now about food labeling and advertising. It can be overwhelming and confusing, to say the least. But, if you want to eat healthier it is critical to become a smart shopper by reading food labels to find out more about the foods you eat. The Nutrition Facts panel found on most food labels will help you:

1. Start with the Serving Size

• Look  for both the serving size (the amount for one serving), and the number of servings in the package.

• Remember to check your portion size to the serving size listed on the label. If the label serving size is one cup, and you eat two cups, you are getting twice the calories, fat and other nutrients listed on the label.

2. Check Out the Total Calories and Fat

Find out how many calories are in a single serving and the number of calories from fat. It’s smart to cut back on calories and fat if you are watching your weight!

3. Let the Percent Daily Values Be Your Guide

Use percent Daily Values (DV) to help you evaluate how a particular food fits into your daily meal plan:

• Daily Values are average levels of nutrients for a person eating 2,000 calories a day. A food item with a 5% DV means 5% of the amount of fat that a person consuming 2,000 calories a day would eat.

• Remember: percent DV are for the entire day — not just for one meal or snack.

• You may need more or less than 2,000 calories per day. For some nutrients you may need more or less than 100% DV.

4. The High and Low of Daily Values

• 5 percent or less is low — try to aim low in total fat, saturated fat, cholesterol, and sodium

• 20 percent or more is high — try to aim high in vitamins, minerals and fiber

5. Check the Ingredient List and then check it again

Foods with more than one ingredient must have an ingredient list on the label. Ingredients are listed in descending order by weight. Those in the largest amounts are listed first. Effective January 2006,manufacturers are required to clearly state if food products contain any ingredients that contain protein derived from the eight major allergenic foods. These foods are milk, eggs, fish, crustacean shellfish, tree nuts, peanuts, wheat and soybeans.

6. What Health Claims on Food Labels Really Mean

FDA has strict guidelines on how certain food label terms can be used. Some of the most common claims seen on food packages:

• Low calorie — Less than 40 calories per serving.

• Low cholesterol — Less than 20 mg of cholesterol and 2 gm or less of saturated fat per serving.

• Reduced — 25% less of the specified nutrient or calories than the usual product.

• Good source of — Provides at least 10% of the DV of a particular vitamin or nutrient per serving.

• Calorie free — Less than 5 calories per serving.

• Fat free / sugar free — Less than 1/2 gram of fat or sugar per serving.

• Low sodium — Less than 140 mg of sodium per serving.

• High in — Provides 20% or more of the Daily Value of a specified nutrient per serving.

• High fiber — 5 or more grams of fiber per serving.

New food labels may be arriving soon. Here are two links that describe the new and improved labels.

http://berkeley.news21.com/foodlabel/

http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/07/28/designing-a-better-food-label/

Low Calorie Cocktails – Welcome to Summer

If I have said it once, I have said it a thousand times. Don’t drink your calories.  Well, I actually don’t mean never ever. If you like to socialize over drinks, but don’t want to blow your diet, you should know which cocktails make better friends than others. Beware of margaritas! Sweet and sour mix plus a couple shots of liquor, no matter how delicious, yields a calorie explosion. Avoid cocktails made with dark liquors, sour mixes, cream, and high quantities of liquor.  Clear or light-colored liquors, such as vodka or rum (about 65 calories per ounce), with low to no calorie mixers are the best way to go.

 One of my favorite finds is a drink called the Stoley Doley.  I had one, or two, no; maybe it was three, at the Capital Grille bar.  The bartender was nice enough to share the recipe.  It is kind of complicated, so you may want to take notes.

 

 

Ingredients:

Vodka – the good stuff

Fresh pineapple spears

Recipe:

Arrange pineapple spears in a jug, jar, or pitcher

Pour Vodka over pineapple spears. Put in fridge for 2 weeks.

 Okay, maybe not that complicated, but talk about a low cal cocktail.  So in the spirit of welcoming summer vacation, we have planned a vodka tasting party.  Each couple will be bringing their own infused vodka.  We have had ours brewing in the fridge for the past two weeks.  On the menu is also lime/raspberry and cocoa/espresso.  Except I have just gotten word that a taste test of the lime/raspberry went awry, and that vodka is all gone. 

So I am hoping that this is the solution to low cal cocktailing… instead of low cal mixers, no mixers at all.  At the very least it is a great excuse to get together with friends. I will let you know how it all tastes next week.

For more GREAT tips, check out The Greatist guide to healthy drinking.

Understanding Why Protein is Important to Weight Loss

Protein, protein, protein.  It seems like so much advice out there tells us to eat more protein if we want to lose weight.  This is actually great advice, but some of the articles make my eyes glaze over with all the technical reasons for WHY.

 I recently read an article on Fitbie.com that explained the ins and outs of protein, and you don’t have to have a masters in nutrition to understand it. 

 At any given moment, even at rest, your body is breaking down and building up protein, says Jeff Volek, PhD, RD, nutrition and exercise researcher. Substitute the word “muscle” for “protein,” and you quickly understand just how dynamic your body is, and how your muscle content can change considerably in the course of just a few weeks.

 Muscle doesn’t come just from pumping iron.  Muscle buildup is triggered by eating protein. In fact, every time you eat at least 10 to 15 grams of protein, you trigger a burst of protein synthesis. And when you eat at least 20 grams, that period of synthesis lasts about 3 hours—and that means even more muscle growth.

 Here’s a quick look at what those numbers translate into when they actually hit your plate.

 20-30 Grams of Protein

1 4-ounce ground beef patty

1 large chicken breast

1 4-ounce sirloin steak

1 large egg vegetable omelet with 3 strips bacon

20 large peel-and-eat wild shrimp

1 haddock fillet

1 6-ounce pork chop

1 6-ounce serving tempeh

10 to 15 Grams of Protein

1 fruit-and-yogurt parfait with granola

2 medium carrots with 1/2 cup hummus

3/4 cup chili con carne

1 serving spaghetti with meat sauce (10 ounces)

1 pouch chunk light tuna

1/2 cup oatmeal with 1 cup 2% milk

12 ounces low fat chocolate milk

6 ounces Greek yogurt

2 Tbsp peanut butter on whole wheat

 Most people end up eating the majority of their protein at dinner. That means you might be fueling muscle growth for only a few hours a day, probably watching TV before you go to bed. The rest of the day, you’re breaking down muscle because you don’t have enough protein in your system.

The single most important diet upgrade for people who want to lose weight is to eat protein for breakfast.  More on that in my next post.

Your FIT Plan

Eat protein at all three meals, which can include meats and eggs or other options such as cheese and milk. If you can boost your protein intake to between 0.5 and 1.0 gram per pound of body weight, this will preserve your calorie burning muscle mass. That means aiming for approximately 20 grams of protein at your main meals, with options like a chicken breast, a hamburger, or a fillet of fish. For each snack, eat at least 10 to 15 grams of protein, such as two hard-boiled eggs, an order of rice and beans, or even a classic peanut butter sandwich on wheat bread. And when in doubt, reach for milk or cheese.

 When it comes to snacks, we don’t usually carry around a grilled chicken breast, and the best sources of protein—fish, meat, dairy, and beans—aren’t quick and convenient to eat. When you’re on the go or too busy to cook, reach for one of these great “grab and go” protein snacks: 

Jerky

Raw Almonds

Protein Powder

Hard Boiled Eggs

String Cheese

Yogurt

Cottage Cheese

 Make a commitment to include protein in EVERY SINGLE MEAL, and you will start to really preserve your calorie burning muscle mass.

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