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Childhood obesity and school nutrition are hot topics these days. I have been a proponent of changing cafeteria food being offered in schools ever since I began my own awareness of its shortcomings after viewing the movies Food Inc. and Two Angry Moms. The first movie exposed the sorry state of our national food industry and the second inspired in me the desire to make some changes at a local level.

What can YOU do to help the cause? I’m glad that you asked!

1. Get educated! Watch the movies listed above, really look at the menus being offered to your kids in school cafeterias and restaurants, read the book Free for All: Fixing School Food in America.

2. Eat lunch with your child in the fall in the school cafeteria. Actually buy the lunch. Decide whether the food served was nutritious, fresh and enticing to eat. Notice the waste. What is being thrown away? What are the kids drinking? Are whole fruits being tossed out? Does your school’s kitchen have actual pots, pans, cooking utensils or ovens? Does your child’s school offer knives? Do kids have access to lunch food extras such as ice-cream, cookies and chips ?

When I started to really pay attention to what my kids were eating at school and how they were eating at school, it really opened my eyes. Why do my kids use their fingers to push food onto their forks? Maybe because at school they don’t have knives to reinforce proper knife use. I began to notice that much of the lunch time food options were all “side of the highway” finger junk food. The cafeteria claims not to fry anything, but the processed food often already comes pre-fried so the schools just need to reheat. Often whole fruit is tossed away as kids don’t have the time to eat a big piece of fruit. Research has shown that cutting up FRESH fruit and making it finger and mouth friendly makes a huge difference in consumption.

3. Check to see if the school’s health program has a nutrition segment. If so, does it carry over into the cafeteria? Who teaches the curriculum and can you work with them to make changes in the cafeteria? Can you implement the same program ideas at home?

Our school district uses a program called GO, SLOW, WHOA! The nurses teach this nutrition curriculum stressing what types of food you can eat anytime like fruit and vegetables, what food you can eat but with less frequency and what food is a special treat and should not be eaten more than once or twice a week. We are trying to link the program to what the kids eat and see in the cafeteria. Children can see the dual messages and it is confusing. Creating an awareness is the first step. Once a parent or child is aware of the system, then they can decide what should be bought that week. The world is full of choices. We need to teach our kids how to live in this world of choices.

4. Say no to corn syrup and trans fats. Start to read labels and have your kids read them too. There are many great substitutes for regularly eaten food that are healthier. You do not need to eliminate chips, cookies and ketchup from your child’s diet but switch to a brand that has natural ingredients and no corn syrup or trans fats.

The government’s new focus on childhood obesity and nutrition makes it the perfect time as parents to make our voices heard. Take a step to help kids stay healthy. Now is the time.

Links of interest:

Nourishing Thoughts

Farm to School Program Changes Kids’ Views on Food

Healthy Schools Campaign

Action For Healthy Kids

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How?

1) Check out my latest blog post.

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4) Write a comment about healthy snacks.

What?

A random winner will be chosen and sent a package of Matisse and Jack’s Chocolate Chip Power Snacks.

Who?

The lucky person will be disclosed next week.

Photo by Sharon D. Pruitt

I am always trying to find healthy snack options for my kids. I love to eat nuts for my between meal munchies. A small handful or an almond or peanut bar really helps to stop the hunger because of the protein and good fat. But my son is allergic to nuts and doesn’t have this healthy option. I don’t keep a lot of packaged foods in the pantry. We have microwaved popcorn, light fruit cups, a variety of crackers for dipping in humus. I have bought Kashi bars but find that the kids devour them at a pace that cannot be healthy so now only purchase them occasionally. I know… I am the meanest mom in the world.

When the kids get home, my stomach clenches as the shouts for food enter the door before I even see their smiling faces. What will I offer them today? Ugh. Actually, it is not very different as to how I feel when I pack them their lunches every morning. It is hard to be healthy and original.

Snack ideas:

Fruit Options: I always have a bowl of fruit on the table. It is amazing how many oranges we go through when they are just sitting there. Some other fruit ideas are cheese and grapes, smoothies or parfaits packed with yogurt and fruit and toppings, cut up fruit to make kebabs with yogurt dip and cereal toppings and cut up fruit to make fruit faces or mosaics using graham crackers (great recipe here) as the platform.

Veggies: My kids often will not go for veggies right after school, but when the before dinner hunger strikes I set out cut veggies and dip and let them nosh. It is always surprising how quickly they disappear. I feel great knowing that they are getting their 5 a day in before we even sit down for dinner.

Nachos: I know. Doesn’t sound right does it… Pre-cut wheat tortillas into triangles and toast them up with some olive oil and salt. Bake. Add some cheese, beans, tomatoes, avocado and corn. You have a very satisfying snack. This one is great before a practice or game supplying carbs, protein and fat. A snack with staying power.

Pita Pizza: Add some low-fat cheese, tomato sauce and veggies to whole wheat pitas, english muffins or mini-bagels and heat until melted.

Matisse and Jack’s Bake-at-Home Snacks: Now I admit to only trying the Chocolate Chip Power Snacks (and truthfully, my son can’t eat them as they are processed using the same equipment as nuts). But the idea is great and there must be some homemade nut allergy safe options out there. The bars are packed with whole grains including oats, oat flour, flax seeds and soy. There are chocolate chips, soy protein and wheat gluten added. All you need to do is add applesauce, two tablespoons of oil and some water. The packaging has add-on options such as yogurt, buttermilk or peanut butter.

These treats are chock full of health—protein, omega-3s, calcium, iron and fiber. A small square really packs in the flavor and nutritional qualities of an energy bar. I would serve these for breakfast with a glass of milk.

These bars do not have the consistency of a typical power bar but they are real food with real nutrition. I thought that they tasted great and my daughter (and surprisingly husband) loved them even though I could detect the flax seeds in a bite or two.

I will let you know how the other varieties (granola bites, cocoa squares and cranberry power snacks) are after trying them.

Contest!

Subscribe to my blog and enter a comment about your own snack ideas to win a box of Matisse and Jack’s Chocolate Chip Power Snacks. The winner will be announced next week.

I’m on a food kick. I admit it. I have been enlightened by the movie Food Inc. which focuses on our country’s food industry and it has started leading me in interesting directions. I am suddenly more attuned to the goings on in our media and schools in regard to food and health. I feel inspired to help our children get back to healthier ways.

Rant #1:

I realize that McDonald‘s supports the Olymipcs and the company’s money must help tremendously to pull off this enormous endeavor. However, I find the McDonald’s commercials aired during the Olympics completely insulting. Are the top athletes of the world really eating chicken McNuggets and McDonald’s food as part of their training diet. Really? My husband said that the commercial should actually say something to the effect of  “Let’s face it you’ll never be an Olympic athlete so you might as well eat some McNuggets”.

As an endurance runner and triathlete, I know that what I put into my body affects my training. What I eat before, during and after each workout will affect my next workout,  my energy, my muscle recovery and my sleep. It seems unethical to make the claim that McDonald’s is the type of food that champions eat. Is it not the same as the cigarette industry using actors smoking in movies as a method to promote its product to kids? It seems wrong.

I suppose that the athletes that sign these sponsorship deals are also partially to blame though they are young and perhaps vulnerable to the sudden limelight. Which leads me to my second rant that also involves the young and vulnerable.

Rant #2:

My children’s elementary school is most likely not very different than yours. The school lunches are really just fast food. The kids have a mere 20 minutes to wolf down their lunch. The cafeteria menus are filled with Tyson chicken products, pizza, burgers and hot dogs—basically your standard highway stop food. I am not sure if this is the case in other states or schools, but at our elementary school the kids can also buy extra items besides the entrees like pretzels, chips, ice cream, fruit roll ups and gummies to name a few. Is it really OK to give your children this option at such an impressionable age when they don’t have full impulse control.

The way our school handles lunch is to hand the children pre-paid lunch atm cards. The website MyNutriKids.Com helps a parent track the money their child spends and it allows parents to see, to a limited extent, what is being purchased. Would you as a parent ever give your child of 5-11 years old a credit card and let them go into a store to buy whatever they want? That is what we are doing; sometimes on a daily basis. Not only do we give our kids free reign to buy whatever they want but we are introducing them to buying things on credit (yes, it is a debit card but the point is that money is not being exchanged and they have no way to connect their purchases to the money on their cards). In my school district, you can get back some control of the situation by calling the cafeteria or school lunch director to request specific food items to be forbidden for your child to purchase. I wonder how many parents take that step.

Rave #1:

The chef Jamie Oliver has won a TED award for trying to change the world by attacking childhood obesity. Watch his incredible video here.

He has been making strides to change school lunches in both England and American, he has started a tv series called “Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution” which debuts on Friday March 26th on ABC. Check out his website to see what you can do to help.

Rave #2:

There is a huge drive to connect children with food and where it comes from and how it’s made which is a good step in creating healthy eaters and bodies. In the above mentioned speech by Jamie Oliver, he went into a school in West Virginia and the kids could not identify vegetables. It was astounding. Like Oliver, another notable chef, Alice Waters, has made strides in food education. She began a program called the Edible Schoolyard which educate students in all aspects of growing, harvesting and preparing seasonal produce. Watch her inspiring video and see how you can make a difference in your community.

As consumers and parents, I believe it is our responsibility to make our voice heard in the realm of our children’s health. The market is dictated by the consumer and we can make a difference if we educate ourselves and the generations to follow and by putting our money where our mouths are.

Photo by Janie Jones

Yoga parties are a healthy and creative way to celebrate a birthday. I can bring the yoga party to your location or schedule parties at Breathe yoga studio in the village of Pittsford. Either way the kids get a unique, active and fun yoga hour to mark their happy day with friends.

For this event it was decided weeks beforehand that the birthday girl wanted a dog theme for her yoga party. I offer many themes for parties, as well as, customized party ideas and this puppy party was going to be fun to create from scratch. For each theme, the different elements of the party (group intro game, breath work, warm ups, pose concentration, yoga games and guided relaxation) change to fit the theme.

Group Game

In all of my classes and parties, I begin with a group game to help create a connection. The birthday girl requested the “alphabet name game” which gets everyone moving and warmed up for more fun. In this game, we go around the circle and create a pose using the first letter in each name. Each child shares a pose or makes one up and then the whole group does the pose. Each new pose is followed by the preceding poses creating a very dynamic flow.

Breath Work

I then introduce some breathing exercises. For the puppy party, I combined the traditional bunny breath with a lion breath and created the “dog breath”. You begin by inhaling through your nose and then you stick your tongue out and pant 4 times. We do this three times. I then showed them a fun snake breath which is done by inhaling raising arms into the air and then exhaling with a hiss as your arms slither down to heart center. This breath starts the kids linking breath with movement.

Yoga Warm Up

I customized a theme based doggie warm up. For the dog party, we took our puppies on a nighttime adventure. The dogs followed moths into the woods, barked at owls flying in pursuit of mice, encountered snakes slithering through tall grass, happened upon a horse farm and fell into a pond filled with frogs. Finally our puppies chased some cats home, where exhausted by their adventure, lay down on their backs to rest.

We also worked on our down dogs using the song “Who Let the Dogs Out”. The kids did some strenuous yoga while in their down dogs. Lifting legs to shake their tails, flipping their dogs into wild dogs and alternating between howling up dogs and barking down dogs. Within all of the fun is some serious yoga!

Pose Concentration

We then took out bean bags and practiced balance poses . We worked on balancing on one leg in flamingo pose, tree pose and eagle all while trying to keep those been bags from falling.

As all dogs love balls, we took out our big red bouncy ball and played “Catch the Cat”. Sitting in boat pose, you begin to pass the ball around the circle using your feet. This is the dog. Once the dog is half way around the circle, the cat comes out. I use a smaller ball for the cat. The dog ball tries to catch the cat ball. No one notices how hard they are working their cores as the laughter ensues.

We also used our balls to practice plow pose. I place the ball between a girl’s feet. She then lifts her hips up and over her head to either drop the ball in her outstretched arms or (if there is room) to the feet of another girl behind her.

Final Game

For this final “dog show” game which is variation of musical chairs, I printed out dogs doing various activities. Many of the activities are poses that we reviewed during the party. Some were new. After reviewing all of the poses, I  placed the dog cards on all of the mats. I turned on music and the group walked around the mats. When the music stopped, the girls get on a mat and do the designated pose. Each time the music stops, the girls must find a pose that they did not do. I try not to do any games where people get “out” to keep yoga non-competitive.

Savasana

For savasana I usually provide breathing buddies for the class to place on their stomachs to help them focus on their breath. For this party the birthday girl’s mom wanted to treat each girl to a dog Webkinz. After the initial excitement of receiving this new toy, the girls quieted down to some guided relaxation.

The party was a success. Smoothies and veggies and dip were enjoyed. What a great way to begin a new year!

Photo taken by AriCee

I have been battling yet another cold. I realize that teaching kids does come with the added bonus of germ contact, however, being active, using hand sanitizer religiously, eating healthily and getting good sleep should be helping my body fight these buggers. What’s going on!!

Here is a list of some things that I have incorporated into my newest staying healthy initiative:

1. I love this yoga sequence that I found last year in Yoga Journal called “Immunity Boost“. My plan is to wake up and start my day with some immune boosting yoga.

2. I have started using this great product called Amazing Grass Superfood. It is a powder that contains an amazing (hence the name) amount of vegetables and fruits. Each packet serving is the equivalent of 3 servings of fruits and vegetables.

Here is a list of ingredients in the chocolate powder: organic wheat grass, organic barley grass, organic alfalfa, asparagus, lima beans, green peas, kale, kiwi, organic spinach, organic broccoli, brussle sprouts, green beans, zucchini, apricots, organic carrots, mangoes, pineapple, sweet potatoes, tangerines, yellow squash, pomegranates, raspberries, guavas, cranberries, red cabbage, cherries, tomatoes, beets, plums, purple grapes, blueberries, organic oat fiber, organic soy milk powder (organic soy beants, organic cane juice), organic cocoa, FOS (from chicory root), butch cocoa, natural vanilla, apple pectin fiber, carrageenan, sea salt, silicon dioxide (anti-caking).

I blend my packet with bananas and chocolate milk. Yummy! My six-year-old loved it. I feel healthier just writing about the drink!

3. Regular exercise can help your body fight the negative effects of stress on the immune system. There is even research that says that exercising with a cold will due no harm and actually might make you feel better. I love being active and generally do some form of exercise everyday. Now that it is winter I’ll be heading outdoors for some snowshoeing and skiing—getting some vitamin D and fresh oxygen in my body.

4. Research proves that lack of sleep will breakdown your immune system making one susceptible to illness. I am a morning person. My husband is a night owl. I do TRY (not always successfully…) to stay up to have time with my man after the kids are in bed. When I feel myself losing ground on the cold front, I head to bed earlier to help my body rest.

5. I am around essential oils a lot being a yoga teacher and often find the different aromas very soothing. Try bergamot, grapefruit, lavender, lemon, myrrh, rosemary, tea tree, and thyme to help aid the immune system. I love the company Natropatch of Vermont. They make patches of essential oils that you wear for energy, sleep help, aches and pain, PMS and stress release. I recently used the stress release patch on a 7 hour family car trip and must claim that I was very relaxed throughout. The eucalyptus patch is specific for repairing and healing one’s body from colds and coughs.

I wish everyone a healthy and happy holiday season. In honor of the holidays, I would like to announce Karma Spot’s first ever contest…

I would love to hear what you do to keep healthy during the Winter months. Write a comment to enter yourself to win an Ana Brett Kundalini Yoga video. The randomly picked winner will be announced next Sunday the 20th of December.

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During my kid’s yoga camp, I decided to use the snack portion of the day to share my love of healthy fun food.

On Monday we made fruit smoothies. The children helped to cut and measure the fruit and other ingredients and we feasted on frothy and filling protein boosted mixed berry smoothies. I found the recipe on Chow.

On Tuesday we used left over fruit to make towering fruit kebobs on wooden coffee stir sticks. I also added cups of yogurt and some granola and dried cereals to dip the fruit into. Cereal on a stick. The kids enjoyed the different configurations of shapes and colors they assembled.

On Wednesday I cut up melon into a small dice and added mandarin oranges, grapes, kiwi and berries to the mix. We slathered strawberry cream cheese and a vanilla variety that I whipped up onto graham crackers to make edible fruit mosaics or mandalas (the theme of the day).

And on our last day we assembled fruit faces onto our plates which followed the theme of the day of self-portraits and self-awareness. The banana noses, grape and blueberry eyes, apple and orange section lips and pretzel hair were a hit on the plate and into their bellies. Laughter erupting as each feature was consumed.

The kids loved snack time and we felt energized and refreshed after eating which lead to great spirits and moods for the rest of the camp day.

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Current Classes:

MIDTOWN ATHLETIC CLUB

Mondays:
6-7:15am Power Vinyasa (H)

Thursdays:
6-7am Power Vinyasa

Story Time Yoga
1-1:45pm

Sundays:
5-7 year olds
9:45-10:30am
8-11 year olds
10:45-11:30am

STUDIO MOVE!

Wednesdays:
10:30-11:30 Power Vinyasa

Fridays:
Yoga for Athletes
9-10am

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