Category Archives: Feed Your Family Well

7 Ways to Teach Your Children to Eat Healthy

Eat Healthy
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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

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. 

 

Nine Healthy Drinks for a Successful Diet

There are plenty of lower calorie, healthy drinks that can satisfy your taste buds and battle the bulge.

Losing weight doesn’t mean you must sacrifice all beverage-based enjoyment. Even an occasional not-so-healthy favorite is acceptable, as long as it isn’t a frequent occurrence.

Low Calorie Drinks That Are Good for You

Green Tea

Green tea contains valuable antioxidants that supercharge weight loss benefits. Extract from green tea is one of the most common ingredients added to fat burning supplements. Tea leaves contain many antioxidants such as catechins, which may help decrease body weight.4

Matcha is a Japanese green tea with higher concentrations of catechins.6

Caffeine, also in many green teas, may help support weight loss, as well.7 In one study, people who consumed extra caffeine were able to more effectively maintain their weight loss.8

If you’re feeling “hangry,” brew yourself a cup of healthy green tea to keep you on track.

Black Tea

Black tea contains polyphenols, micronutrients from plant-based foods, which may help prevent obesity. The polyphenols in black tea promote weight loss through calorie reduction, increased fat breakdown, and increasing friendly gut bacteria.9

Who would have thought the humble cup of tea could be a health drink?

Coffee

When we think “coffee” we think “caffeine” – the most widely-used nootropic in the world. There are millions who use coffee to increase energy and productivity.

Perks of Drinking Coffee

Healthy drink - cup of coffee
Credit: amenic181@iStock

It was widely accepted for many years that coffee was a contributor to heart disease and high blood pressure. Today, there is some disagreement with that conclusion. Recent studies suggest that coffee may actually help prevent chronic diseases such as type 2 diabetes and liver disease.10

Coffee help with weight loss because it can work as an appetite suppressant; plus, caffeine users are more successful at weight maintenance.8

Water

The body is 60% water and 71% of the Earth’s surface is water. Our lives depend on it.  And, yet, most people do not drink enough water to ensure a long, healthy life.

Staying well-hydrated is critical to your well-being . . . and it helps with weight loss.  While it seems counterintuitive, the body can retain water if not properly hydrated. The water weight can add extra pounds on the scale.

The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine determined that an average adequate daily fluid intake [for daily life (not on a diet)] is:

  • About 15.5 cups (3.7 liters) of fluids for men
  • About 11.5 cups (2.7 liters) of fluids a day for women

Specific water requirements for your body depend on many factors – body weight, activity level, health condition, age, climate in which you live, etc.

As a general rule – eight glasses of water daily is the minimum you should be drinking while dieting.

People often mistake thirst for hunger and eat when they should drink Healthy Drink - Bottled Waterwater.

A glass of water before each meal can help control the appetite. It was found that overweight adults who drank 17 ounces of water before a meal lost 44% more weight than the control group.13

Drinking water can also increase resting energy expenditure (REE) the amount of calories consumed at rest. A study of children showed an increase of REE up to 25% for 40 minutes after consumption.14  This seems to hold true for adults, as well.

I’ve heard people say, water is boring – although personally, I love it. There is nothing more refreshing. If you don’t enjoy water, maybe you should spice it up a bit. Add a slice of lemon to a glass of ice water. Or, add lemon juice or mint leaves to hot water for your morning wake-up drink.

Drinking water, especially warm water, first thing in the morning can flush the digestive system and rehydrate the body? Try it – it’s good for your health, and your diet.

Vegetable and Fruit Juices

Consuming whole vegetables maximizes nutrient intake; plus, they have a heavy water content. But, preparing vegetables takes time, which is a limited resource for many.

Eating enough greens can be challenging. You would have to be a rabbit to eat several cups of spinach, broccoli, carrots, and kale in one sitting. An easier option is to make green smoothies –or fruit and/or vegetable smoothies with added greens. All you need is a good blender or juicer.

Packaged fruit juice is not a good option. It is almost like flavored sugar-water – high in calories (because of the sugar content) and low in nutrients. Freshly-made fruit juice is the only option – or eat the whole fruit, which may be easier. The water content still counts.

Healthy Drink - Veg/Fruit Juice
Credit: pilipphoto@iStock

People tend to overcomplicate juicing recipes by requiring unusual ingredients. Use simple combinations like the following:

  • 2 cups of spinach
  • 4 stalks of celery
  • Handful of kale
  • 1 cup of blueberries
  • Lemon juice to taste

To make it easy on yourself, get my book, JUICING for LIFE on Amazon.  It will make healthy juicing a breeze.

You may also want to check out this excellent article 25 Green Smoothie Benefits You Can Never Ignore.  

Out of the Box Options

There are a few less common healthy drinks you can try that may help with weight loss. Water should be first on your list, but we wanted to be sure you were well-informed.

Apple Cider Vinegar

Many people have apple cider vinegar in their pantry, but should you drink it?  Recently there has been hype about it being helpful in weight loss.

It contains acetic acid, a compound linked to decreased belly fat and reduced accumulation of fat in the liver.

In a study performed on rats, apple cider vinegar helped prevent obesity in those with type 2 diabetes.15 In another animal study, it also reduced body weight in obese mice.16

The research on apple cider vinegar performed in humans is limited, but some research suggests it may improve metabolic health in humans.17,18 Consuming two tablespoons of ACV per day resulted in decreased body weight, waist circumference, and body fat compared to a control group.19

Some articles suggest that drinking apple cider vinegar on an empty stomach may help improve digestion; consuming it after meals may improve insulin sensitivity and help lower blood sugar levels.20  Does it work? There is no solid evidence that it does.

Electrolyte Drinks

Electrolytes are often referenced in connection with athletes, but everyone needs them to function properly. They are important for maintaining proper fluid balance in the body.

Electrolytes are lost in sweat during workouts. Sports drinks have added electrolytes to counteract the loss. The drinks may also have a high calorie count because of the sugar content.

Remember – every calorie counts on a diet. Be sure to read labels. Low-calorie electrolyte drinks can help maintain a proper electrolyte balance without the extra sugar.

Liquid Meal Replacements

These have been popular in America for decades. People like the convenience.

Meal replacements remove the hassle of meal preparation. You simply drink your breakfast, lunch, or dinner. These products usually have a well-rounded macronutrient profile and fewer calories than a normal meal.They may also be fortified with extra vitamins and minerals.

Word of cautionread the label. They may contain additives.

Meal replacements can keep the calorie-count low; but, they may not satisfy your hunger like solid food would. The average “shake” has ~200 calories and 20 grams of protein. A small chicken breast with a side of veggies would have a similar calorie count and be more filling.

We don’t recommend using meal replacements as substitutes for solid meals. Use them for emergencies.

Liquid Cleanses or Detox Diets

These are popular because of the promises of fast weight loss.

They deliver on the promise for two reasons.

  1. During the cleanse, your calorie intake is minimal – far below the daily recommended allowance, even for dieting. It is an extreme form of crash dieting and should never be used more than a few days. Follow the instructions carefully and let your physician know you are doing it.
  2. A cleanse diet has laxative powers, as the name implies. They are designed to make people lose water weight and gut fiber weight as opposed to true fat loss. The weight loss is short-term. The only time a cleanse diet should be used is to “kick-start” a healthier weight-loss diet.

Check out my book titled, DETOX, on Amazon. It will help you make an informed decision regarding a cleanse diet. Be sure to check with your physician, as well.

What kinds of beverages are you consuming each day? Are they helping you lose weight? Or, are they causing you to plateau, or even gain weight?

Answer the questions honestly and make the necessary adjustments. Choosing low-calorie, healthy drinks can make a significant difference in your diet results.

See you next time for Segment #3 – “Drinks You Should Avoid for a Successful Diet.”

Adapted with permission from the original article published on HVMN by Ryan Rodal.

Note:  This was a long article originally that I am posting in segments for easier reading. If you want more information on the research, click on the numbered links in the posting. They will take you to the references in the original article. 

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 Food Pyramid

Since grade school we have known about the food pyramid, but the food pyramid I want to discuss today is quite different: The Mediterranean Food Pyramid.

Mediterranean Food Pyramid

The pyramid is used by countless health organizations, clinics, doctors and many others to guide people to eat in a healthy manner. It is the standard to live by and health professionals unanimously agree that by following this diet pyramid, your health will benefit tremendously.

The pyramid is a wonderful synopsis of what the Mediterranean Diet entails. It shows four different food groups and the optimal number of servings of each group that should be consumed.

The pyramid was created based on research of the diet that the people in the Mediterranean countries consume. The area was selected as the model because of the low incidence of heart disease and high life expectancy found in the region.

One of the primary reasons for the healthy results of the diet is that the people not only use fresh, unadulterated ingredients, they also cook their meals in very healthy ways.

They are among the minority of the world’s population that have not embraced the fast food culture that dominates the US and Australia. It should be noted that both countries are battling an obesity epidemic.

You Will Eat Fresh, Healthy Foods

There are no processed foods, colas, white flour products, pizzas or any unhealthy food in the food pyramid. There are only categories of fresh, healthy foods: fruits and vegetables, nuts and grains, beans, fish and seafood, and healthy oils (primarily olive oil) – plus a little red wine.

Your fat consumption should be moderate along with consumption of dairy products such as yogurt and cheese. Eggs can be consumed daily.

Fish (seafood) is preferred over meat and should be consumed twice a week. Poultry is also preferred over red meat and should be consumed once a week. Red meat should only be consumed 3 to 4 times a month. The rest of the time, vegetables, legumes, and/or pasta should be the focal point of your meals.

Fruit and vegetables (7 servings) should be consumed daily.

Get rid of your salt shaker and start seasoning with fresh herbs and spices. Don’t forget the garlic and onions.

Cook primarily with olive oil. Butter should be used minimally, if at all.  NEVER use margarine or hydrogenated oil products.

The use of unhealthy hydrogenated oils is very rare in Mediterranean cooking – and they rarely eat red meat or sweets (other than fresh fruit)

Avoid all foods that contain processed sugar. That means chocolate, candies, and most rich desserts are to be consumed minimally.

One of the distinctive characteristics of the Mediterranean diet is red wine. This is not an open invitation to include all alcoholic beverages such as beer, vodka or bourbon in your diet. The Mediterranean diet advocates ONLY wine. About 1 glass for women and no more than 2 glasses a day for men and usually, consumption is after dinner.

The food pyramid is just a guideline to help you eat in a healthy way. You do not need to be overly strict and get upset if you do not follow it exactly. As long as you eat the foods on the pyramid and stop eating the healthy damaging junk/processed foods that are typical on the American diet, you will be doing well. If you make those changes, you will be giving yourself one of the greatest gifts possible: Good Health!

Photo from: https://www.unitypoint.org/madison/filesimages/News%20Article%20Images/mediterranean-diet-pyramid.jpg

From the same site, check out the 7-day Mediterranean Menu (Autumn/Winter).  Not only does it suggest full menus for all meals, it includes recipes and calorie count for the day.  ENJOY!