Category Archives: Buying Healthy Foods

7 Ways to Teach Your Children to Eat Healthy

Eat Healthy
Image by monkey_business

It is so frustrating.  I want my children to eat healthy, but the only vegetable Johnny will eat is raw carrots.

My youngest wants chocolate, chocolate, chocolate.

I try to get my kids to eat more fruits and vegetables, but it seems like an uphill battle.

I talk to them about eating right all the time, but they just don’t seem to listen.

Children are visual learners — they watch, they see, they do.

So . . . let them “DO.” Turn your kitchen into a “learning lab.”

Cooking with Mom or Dad can be one of the most fun and educational experiences possible for children. And . . . it will create memories that last a lifetime.

Once you get them started, my guess is they will want to do a lot of cooking on their own.

My mom was a great basic cook — and never used a recipe (at least not that I can remember). It was her ability to cook delicious meals so effortlessly that inspired me to develop my own skill set.

Her gift to me was free rein in the kitchen to experiment and cook as often as I wanted. That freedom developed my passion for the art and an appreciation of what it takes to create good meals for the family.

If you want your children to enjoy long, healthy lives that are sustained by healthy eating habits, now is the time to start them on the right path.

Seven Ways to Inspire Them

One-on-One Time

Work with one child at a time. Let him/her be your partner in planning a healthy balanced dinner. When you finish planning, make a list of the groceries needed and take him/her shopping with you.

Shopping provides a first-hand experience for buying healthy foods like organic produce, pastured eggs, and grain-fed beef. They can also learn how to read labels to avoid dangerous additives (If they don’t know what it means, or can’t pronounce it, don’t buy it.)

Keep a Stool in the Kitchen

Invite the children to watch while you cook. In the beginning, you can explain what you are doing, why you chose the foods you are using for good nutrition and how the flavors and textures make more interesting meals. Make the explanations fun and interesting.

Let them help whenever possible — reading the recipe, helping you measure, mixing dry ingredients together, tossing the salad, etc.

Kids are also great taste testers, which is a smart way to get them to sample new foods.

Start Them Early

How early? As soon as they show interest. Many four-year-olds love being in the kitchen.

Start with fun, easy foods like healthy snacks, breakfast meals, and sandwiches. Making cookies was a family favorite for my kids. Even with desserts, you can impress on them the importance of making foods from scratch — so they have control over the ingredients.

Depending on age and ability when preparing full meals, let them do as much as possible. Teach them how to peel and cut up vegetables, break lettuce leaves for the salad, combine and toss the salad, place chopped veggies in the steamer, wash the potatoes for baking, layer the foods for a casserole, etc.

As early as possible, teach them how to use knives safely. The younger ones can use kitchen scissors. It is easy to teach kitchen safety when they are cooking with you.

Introduce them to healthy cooking techniques: steaming, sautéing with healthy oils, baking, roasting, and broiling.

Family Night Cook-Off

This can be a wonderful family activity. One night a week have everyone help prepare dinner.

Each week have a different family member (including mom and dad) plan the menu, which must include a main dish, a vegetable, and dessert.

There should be no restrictions as long as the dishes are made from scratch with healthy ingredients**.

Before you start preparation, be sure everyone is clear about his/her responsibility. (Don’t forget setting the table, and clean up.)

A Family that Eats Together . . .

Always sit down together for dinner (and for breakfast as often as possible) The old adage, “A family that eats together, stays together” is still very true.

Sitting down to a healthy, delicious family dinner every night to eat, talk, and laugh is a powerful glue for holding the family together.

This has never been more important than it is today. Unfortunately, eating together is becoming less and less common. Don’t let that happen to your family.

Be Subtle When Introducing Habit Change

We live in a world of “super-sized” everything and frequent mindless eating, which makes portion contol more difficult.

Over the years, the average size of a dinner plate has increased from seven or eight inches to 12 inches.

Rather than preaching portion control that may or may not work, buy and use smaller plates (nine inches max) for your meals so the plate looks full, with less food.

You will probably have to buy “lunch” plates in order to get a smaller size. They can be purchased on Amazon and Target.

It would be wise to fill the plates and serve (rather than having people serve themselves). Keep the serving sizes reasonable — leave a little white space around the portions — avoid stacking.

Also, discourage mindless munching of unhealthy snacks when sitting at the computer or while watching TV.

Always have healthy snacks available. For example, fresh fruit (washed and ready to eat), plain yogurt topped with fresh berries and drizzled with a little honey, or real cheese and 100% whole-grain crackers.

Create Eating Adventures

Introduce new foods often. Make it fun. This helps develop a willingness to try new foods.

If you have a picky eater, adding something new to the menu with foods they already like can increase their repertoire of nutritious foods.

The rule in our family was they must each one bite of everything served. It worked most of the time. As adults, three out of four of my children eat almost everything.

If over time there are foods that several family members really dislike, don’t worry about it. There are enough healthy foods available they can still maintain a healthy, balanced diet.

The habit of healthy eating begins early — at home. As a parent, it is important to take every opportunity to help your children develop a positive attitude toward healthy eating so they can live long, productive lives.

Final Factors to Consider

Are you setting the example you want your children to follow? What changes do you need to make?

By implementing any or all of the above suggestions, you will be helping you children to enjoy preparing and eating healthy foods. 

Adventures in the kitchen and eating well will become family traditions. 

**When you prepare meals from scratch, you have full control over the ingredients and you know that your family is getting the nutrients they need for healthy growth and development.

We recommend TWEENS and TEENS, A Cookbook to Get You Started, as a useful tool to use with those just learning to cook.

Related Article:  Stock Your Kitchen with Healthy Foods

8 FOODS THAT ACCELERATE AGING

Eating is such a pain – especially when you live alone.

It’s too much trouble to cook; McDonald’s or Taco Bell and quicker and easier.

You are a little concerned about your choices, but millions of people eat fast food.  It can’t really be that bad. 

Does It Really Matter?

According to Timothy Harlan, MD, Assistant Professor of Medicine at Tulane University School of Medicine, “Aging is basically a chronic inflammatory state. Can you look older because you’re eating crap? Absolutely.”

You are living in a time of unprecedented medical advances and healthy food options. You are  aware of how diet impacts your quality of life and the aging process. Yet, you continue to eat “crap” as Dr. Harlan calls it. WHY????

It’s Hard to Resist

Part of the problem is the heavy marketing by food manufacturers that bombard you with “pretend” healthy foods, when in fact they are not healthy and accelerate aging.   

To protect yourself from this ever-present danger and to control the aging process, you must do the following:

  • Be a conscious consumer
  • Educate yourself
  • Pay attention to your food choices
  • Always read labels
  • Buy and consume foods that are as close to their natural state as possible.  

What if you are already old?

I have friends who say,  “I’m so old, I have earned the right to eat whatever I want.” That may be true but, age is also supposed to bring wisdom. Eating crap is not wise!

Today, I am offering a list of eight foods types you should not eat if you want to age well.

I’m guessing with almost 100% certainty that many of you are consuming something on this list without realizing how bad it is for you.  

Processed Meats

Any meats that are not fresh are processed.

This includes many of your favorites such as hot dogs, bacon, pepperoni, sausage, corned beef, beef jerky, canned meat, meat sauces, and most packaged lunch meats. (Read labels carefully)

Processed meats are usually high in saturated fats and filled with nitrates. The preservatives promote the formation of free radicals, which damage DNA and accelerate aging.

Also, avoid smoked meats which contain pro-carcinogenics that can cause cancer.

Trans Fats

This is the worst type of fats for your health.

Trans fat, is a type of unsaturated fat that occurs in small amounts in nature. They are found in animal-based foods, such as steak and milk. The quantities are small and not dangerous to your health.  

Artificial trans fats, also known as trans fatty acids, are very dangerous to your health.

We first saw them in the 1950s when food manufacturers started converting vegetable oils into solids.

They are still used regularly in many processed foods.  For example, margarine and other artificial spreads, snack foods, packaged baked goods (pies, cakes, cookies), and for frying fast foods (French fries, Churros, doughnuts, etc.)  

Partially hydrogenated oils are a common source of trans fats. It can be found in the list of ingredients on many food labels. Always read labels carefully.

Be aware that labels can list the trans-fat content as 0, even when there are 0.5 grams per serving. Because of the unreliability of that system, it is better to look for partially hydrogenated oils on the list of ingredients.

Trans fats raise your bad LDL cholesterol levels while lowering the good cholesterol, HDL. These fats increase risks for heart disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes.

Fatty Meats

These are also high in saturated fats. You can eat them occasionally, but it would be smart to limit your consumption. 

The best practice is to buy only leaner meats such as tenderloin cuts. Use 95% lean ground beef, or go with either ground turkey breast or ground chicken breast as healthier options.

Processed White Flour 

Refined white flour has been stripped of its nutrient value with virtually no vitamins, minerals, or fats.

It is used for commercial baked goods because it is light, airy, and cheap, but it is harmful to your health.

  • Most of your favorite junk foods are made from white flour.  Examples – white bread, pasta, cookies, cakes, pies, doughnuts, pretzels, chips, muffins, crackers, pizza crust, pie crust, and breakfast cereals.
Eat Whole Grains Instead

There are many rich and delicious whole grains available that curb inflammation – and slow down aging. You can choose from oatmeal, whole wheat bread and pasta, brown rice, and quinoa. 

These grains are also filled with B vitamins like thiamine and riboflavin that are particularly good for your skin – an important element in controlling signs of aging.

Vegetable Oils

These are advertised as healthy. But, corn and un-pure canola oils, have undergone thorough processing and refinement, using many toxic chemicals such as hexane in the process. The result is polyunsaturated fats that are heavily prone to oxidation when eaten.

The result? Increased inflammation in the body that speeds up aging and creates a sharper decline in health.

The best alternatives are extra virgin olive oil, avocado, flaxseed and grapeseed oils. (Again, be sure to read the labels to check for purity and additives)

Pastries, Sweets, Cookies, etc.

Pastries are often consumed for breakfast or snacks because they are easy to eat on the go and easy to carry. But, pastries are the perfect storm of health-sapping nutrients, containing both high quantities of saturated fats, trans fats, and sugars. All of which speed up your body’s natural oxidative processes, making you look older, more prone to illness, and susceptible to weigh gain.

Don’t forget that extra weight accelerates aging.

If you want to be healthy and slow down the aging process, you must eliminate sugar and sweets from your diet. At the very least, they should be limited to an occasional treat or for holidays and special occasions.

This is a tough one to control, but critical to your health.

Salty Foods

Yes, salt is necessary to make foods tastier and  more appetizing. Unfortunately, the amount of sodium the average American consumes is extremely high and far beyond safety levels for the body. 

The FDA recommends adults consume no more than 2,300 milligrams daily. The average consumption is 3400 milligrams.

Sodium dehydrates the body and increases urination as a way to normalize electrolyte levels. This leaves you thirsty and craving more and more wate – not the way the body was meant to function.

Excess sodium intake can also compromise kidney health. It causes the accumulation of toxic waste material, and may even interfere with normal bone metabolic processes.

And . . . let’s not forget the one you probably already know. High sodium intake can cause high blood pressure, a major risk factor for heart disease.

Is it worth the extra salt added to your meals – or the excessive amount of sodium in fast foods and salty snacks? Again – the choice is yours.

Alcohol

With the rise in popularity of the Mediterranean Diet, the possible health benefits of a single glass of red wine daily have been making the rounds. Sadly, the suggestion has not been kept in perspective, at least when it comes to quantity.

Many people do not have one glass per day. Instead, they opt for 3, 5 or 10. This is where things get bad. Alcohol taxes the liver more than any other substance. When the liver  is overwhelmed by processing the aldehydes from excessive amounts of  alcohol, it is unable to process real toxins and the body suffers.

Alcohol also has a pronounced effect on elastin and collagen in the skin, making it appear listless and saggy – indications of aging that no one wants.

When alcohol is not moderated, it causes a variety of chronic conditions that not only affects aging but also can result in premature death.

No Excuse for a Bad Diet

With the availability of healthy foods today, there is no excuse for a bad diet. It is the result of not caring, too lazy to change, or denial that how you eat affects how you look and feel.

Foods that accelerate aging
Image by Lightsource@Stockfresh

However, the “truth is out there” and you know the difference. 

Making a change in your eating patterns may be challenging, but it is worth the effort.  It leads to longer, healthier, happier lives. 

Choosing a healthy diet is a choice to protect yourself and your family from premature aging, susceptibility to health problems and not feeling your best.  

My challenge for you is to eliminate foods that accelerate aging – and start today!

I know you can do it. 

Related Article:  5 Simple Guidelines for a Healthy Diet

 

5 Simple Guidelines for a Healthy Diet

How would you rate your eating habits?  Good? Bad? Or somewhere in the middle?

Are you willing to change your habits to ensure a healthy, nutritious way of eating?

If so, you are in luck – below are 5 simple guidelines for a healthy diet.

Rule #1

First and foremost . . .  buy all-natural, whole, unprocessed foods. Avoid packaged, prepared foods that are loaded with additives, fillers, and preservatives.

Guidelines for a Healthy Diet
Image by Tijana

Rule #2

Cook from scratch using high-quality, fresh ingredients. Instead of spending your hard-earned money on instant foods and packaged meals, learn to create dishes using fresh and healthy ingredients.

Prepare highly nutritious dishes without all the harmful additives, excessive sugars, and fats.

For example – Create casseroles using brown Basmati rice, low-fat milk, fresh vegetables, and lean meats or chicken. I guarantee there will be fewer calories (and no additives).

Yes – cooking from scratch takes more time to prepare and requires developing a rhythm for creating healthy dishes on a regular basis.

With practice, you will become more and more efficient and dinners will go together quickly.

You need to be on the lookout for tips and tricks on how to cook ahead (making a portion or all of the meal the night before – or cooking several meals on the weekend that you can freeze.

Then, you can have dinner on the table in under an hour. (A good place to start is with my book, Cook Ahead – Freezer to Table,)

Rule #3

Keep only healthy desserts and snacks in your pantry and fridge.

Children (and adults) love a tasty snack after school (or work).

  • Keep a freezer full of frozen snacks such as fruit juice popsicles and frozen fruit – blueberries and grapes are especially good.
  • Always have a bowl of fresh fruit on the counter (or in the fridge) – ready for kids to grab, peel and eat.
  • Place a bowl in the fridge of sliced fresh fruit or vegetables – with a dip. Low-fat sour cream and powdered sugar ready for sprinkling (or vanilla Greek yogurt) are great for fruit; and guacamole or hummus for the veggies.
  • Have cans or bags of nuts available for little hands to grab and eat.
  • Offer string cheese to nibble on. This provides quick protein for energy and calms the appetite until dinner.

Rule #4

Buy lean meats – Leaner cuts of meat are the best choice. Always cook a little more than your family will eat and use leftovers for healthier lunches and to create new dishes for an easy weekend meal.

Rule #5

Use healthier oils – My preference is olive oil, which is great for making salad dressings and also for cooking (but not for baking) – use pure canola oil for baking, when required.

If you are watching calories try scrambling eggs or sautéing foods, with cooking sprays. (My preference is PAM® Cooking Spray.) But, having said that, a little butter goes a long way and is much tastier.

There you have it – five simple guidelines for a healthy diet.

All you have to do is choose to follow them, and you will be on your way to a healthier, happier life.

You will look forward to each day with greater enthusiasm, you will have the energy to meet the demands of your busy life, and you will enjoy a wonderful sense of well-being.

The next post will include more specific suggestions on types of foods  to fill your pantry that will make eating healthy easier. 

 

How to Reach Your Weight-Loss Goal

Reach Your Weight-loss Goal
Image by graphit

Deciding to go on a diet is easy, but sticking to a diet is not easy! So, when facing that challenge, it is important to know how to reach your weight-loss goal.

Of course, you have to decide you want to lose weight and be committed to doing so; then, you must stick to your guns and stay motivated or the goal will never be realized.

There is no magic bullet, but there are two important tips that can help you reach your weight-loss goal.

#1 – Take It a Week at a Time

You must break your ultimate goal into smaller chunks and have bench marks that will indicate you are moving in the right direction.

According to the Mayo Clinic, Over the long term, it’s best to aim for losing 1 to 2 pounds (0.5 to 1 kilogram) a week.”

When you have a realistic weekly weight-loss target, you will be more confident in your efforts and you will know exactly what you are going to measure at the end of each week.

Your long-term goal may be 40 pounds, but take it “one week at a time” (1 to 2 pounds/week = 20 to 30 weeks)

In addition to choosing a healthy diet that fits your lifestyle and current health conditions, plus a solid commitment to stay with it, don’t forget to get plenty of rest and exercise. .

Image by tashatuvango
Image by tashatuvango

BUT . . .  the primary target should be the number of pounds you plan to lose each week. That target should be clear – and realistic. If it is, you should be able to stick to your weight loss program and enjoy success week after week, after week. AND, feel good in the process.

If you are not hitting your target, be willing to look closely at what you are doing, or not doing – and figure out why you are not reaching your weekly target.

Maybe the target you set was not sensible or reasonable; or, maybe you are putting too much pressure on yourself.

Honest introspection is a good way to see what you are really capable of doing and then, you can develop or choose a plan that is suitable for your unique lifestyle.

#2 – Be Patient with the Process

This is a critical factor in being successful in anything that you choose to do in life. It is also one of the hardest things to sustain. You have to be patient in order to get the things that you want.

It is easy to forget that when you gained the weight you so dearly want to lose, it did not happen all at once. It took days, weeks, months, even years for the weight to compound and settle in. That should help you understand why it will take you days, weeks, months, even years to lose it all.

Patience Is Critical

We all want to believe that there is a “quick fix” that will make it possible to radically change our appearance. We want to believe that it will only take a couple of weeks or at most a couple of months to make the weight magically disappear; but, the reality is very different.

If you have enough free time and money to hire a personal trainer who will work out with you for several hours every day; plus hire a cook to prepare and serve healthy, nutritional meals, your weight loss journey will be much easier and a lot shorter. But, those options are not within the reach of most people.

For the majority, losing weight has to be built-in to daily life that is filled with lots of responsibilities connected to families and work. So, it must be well-thought-out and planned over the long-term.

Successful weight loss comes from setting long-term goals, taking things slow and easy, and moving at a pace that fits your personal lifestyle. By spreading your weight-loss target over a longer period of time, you have time to adjust your eating and exercise habits and ease into the life changes that will move you toward your ultimate goal.

Taking it slow and easy is actually a very good thing! The slower the weight comes off, the more likely it will stay off permanently.

Setting realistic targets for a week at a time and being patient with the process are two important and helpful practices that will ensure that your weight loss journeys is happy and successful.

Mediterranean Diet Is Not for Everyone

For the past few weeks I have been talking about the merits of the Mediterranean Diet. However, I have to acknowledge that no diet is perfect for every single person and Mediterranean diet is no exception to that rule. The Mediterranean Diet is not for everyone.

There may be some people who find that they have negative reactions to some of the foods on the diet – others may find that it simply is not suitable for their lifestyle.

Excellent Choice for Most People

Explaining the Mediterranean Diet
Image by karandaev

However, it is an excellent choice for most people because the health benefits are tremendous. Lower blood pressure, reduced cholesterol levels, reduced risk of diseases such as cancer, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, diabetes and much more.

The diet is based on consuming wholesome fresh foods in their natural state and by cooking them in a healthy ways.

Red meats are eaten only on occasion; sugar, processed foods filled with additives, fast foods, and junk food, which are the cause of so many illnesses in today’s world are simply not eaten.

It should not be news that most health problems in the US can be attributed to a poor diet and a sedentary lifestyle.

The Mediterranean diet solves both problems, if you let it. It provides the healthy nutritious foods your body needs for energy and well-being; plus, it incorporates exercise to solve the sedentary lifestyle issue.

Potential Difficulties

Let’s look at some of the potential difficulties.

1. The diet can be expensive.

When you eat primarily fish, fresh (preferably organic) fruits and vegetables, nuts, etc. you will find that they are more expensive than grabbing a cheeseburger from a fast food joint or buying junk food from the vending machine at work.

But . . . if you consider the health problems you may endure in the future and the cost of health care that goes with those problems, you may want to think twice about the actual cost. The healthy foods on the Mediterranean diet may not seem so expensive after all.

2. Possible food allergies.

It is possible that some people may have allergic reactions to some of the foods in the Mediterranean diet. Olive oil may not agree with their digestive system, etc. It happens. If you have serious reactions to any of the foundational foods of the diet, you would probably want to choose another diet – just make sure it is a healthy one.

3. The toxicity of fish.

The Mediterranean diet is rich in fish and is one of the most toxic foods on the market today because of pollution in the world’s waterways

Educate yourself and find out which fish are richest in healthy omega-3 fatty acids, lowest in mercury contamination, and sustainably produced. According to the Environmental Working Group (EWG) there are better (and worse) choices when buying fish.  Check out their website for details on how to buy fish – The EWG’s Seafood Guide.

You can also get your omega-3 fatty acids from sources such as flaxseed, walnuts and Brussel sprouts.

4. Cost and availability of fruits and vegetables.

It may not always be easy to obtain fresh seasonal produce and some of the more common choices in the Mediterranean Region may not be available in your area – or the cost will be prohibitive – especially for organic.

Easy to Adapt?

Will it be easy to adopt the Mediterranean Diet with a full commitment?  Maybe not.  It may take some serious adjustment and determination to stay with it.

As Americans we are used to eating whatever we want, whenever we want it. If we are feeling hungry or blue – grab that tub of ice-cream. When we are bored, frustrated or angry, we reach for comfort foods like a bucket of fried chicken with mashed potatoes and biscuits form KFC.

Food has become far more than sustenance for many people. It is frequently used as a form of ‘medication’ for emotional problems. It that plays into your eating patterns, staying with any diet will be challenging.

When you start the Mediterranean Diet it can take time to adapt to the practice of thinking about what you are eating and being willing to make healthy choices. Eating fried chicken and mashed potatoes with thick gravy is not encouraged. The tub of ice cream should be replaced with a bowl of sweet, healthy fruit that is preferably high in fiber.

Such dramatic changes in your approach to food and eating habits may not sit well with some people. It may be too different and troublesome. Maybe that will be the case initially. But, you know that anything worthwhile often has challenges that must be faced. Major accomplishments rarely come easily.

Adopt the Mediterranean Diet!  Give it your best shot (including your time and energy), keep a positive attitude no matter what, and you may be surprised at how fast you realize that this is diet you want to stay with the rest of your life.

Your body and health will reflect the benefits of this diet in time . . . give it a real chance!