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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

Photo by Terry Langhorn

This week the American Academy of Pediatrics disclosed a study that linked pesticide ingestion to ADHD. In studying 1139 children ages 8 to 15 years old, the children with higher urinary levels of organophosphate metabolites (found in common pesticides) were more likely to be diagnosed with ADHD

Here are the 10 worst offenders. Write them down and carry the list with you to the store. Ignorance doesn’t equal safety (as said so well on the foodnews.org website).

  • Grapes (Imported)
  • Potatoes
  • Cherries
  • Kale/Collard Greens
  • Spinach
  • Sweet Bell Peppers
  • Nectarines
  • Blueberries
  • Apples
  • Strawberries
  • Peaches
  • Celery

Here are your top 10 with the least amount of pesticides:

  • Onions
  • Avocado
  • Sweet Corn (frozen)
  • Pineapples
  • Mango
  • Sweet Peas (frozen)
  • Asparagus
  • Kiwi
  • Cabbage
  • Eggplant

For the full list, click here.

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.

Photo by Joel Dinda

I have food issues. It started yesterday. I have been watching 30 minute snippets of the movie Food Inc. while on the treadmill and am just appalled by what I am learning about food in our country. This idea that our food comes from idyllic farms with cows and chickens grazing on green pastures is all an illusion. Our farms have turned factories and these factories are created to make a product at a profit. The health of the animals and the people that eat them and the safety of the farmers that tend to them are not as high on the priority list as making a cheap product. How the food that we eat and rely on for our nutrition and health has become an engineered product is frightening.

I will not go into the details of the film or book. I encourage people to investigate on their own. Personally, I will be making some lifestyle choices for myself and my family including making vegetables and fruit the focus of the meal with proteins as the side. The protein I use will be farm raised, free-ranged, organic and local (if possible). I will not be eating meat out at restaurants unless I know it is grown locally or free-range and organic.

My biggest frustration is that there is so much junk in school cafeterias. We see a rise in childhood obesity and allergies and yet still provide school cafeterias with Tyson brand chicken products, sugared up Intense Milk, and other equally unhealthy options. Tyson chicken might claim to be baked but it doesn’t get to the bottom of why this type of chicken isn’t good for us. Tyson is one of a few chicken “manufacturers” in the country. The power these companies yield is ridiculous. Again, investigate more about how these chickens (and the farmers that raise them) are treated. I don’t want to disgust anyone reading this so I will just send out the idea that it is worth looking into. More over, it is even more worthwhile to pack your kids lunches and take back control of what is feeding their brains and bodies. I don’t see an end to this injustice until the consumer makes a stand. Stop buying school lunches. Demand healthy and nutritious food in schools.

Being a runner and yoga teacher, I know first hand that what you put into your body and mind affects performance. Take a stand and have a food issue. It might just be what the doctor orders.

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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