Tag: healthy kids

Teach Your Children Well: Raising Kids Who Happily Eat Healthily

Strawberry Kid (2)

 

Whether you are a new parent hoping to prevent your child from becoming a fussy eater, or already dealing with a picky kid, there are ways to open up the sometimes particular palettes of the little people in our lives.

It isn’t always easy, but it can be done with diligence, patience and creativity—and with type 2 diabetes and obesity in children continuing to rise, it’s especially important to teach kids the value of good nutrition so they can grow up into healthy adults.

Below are some top tips to help children learn to enjoy a variety of healthful foods.

 

1. The Vegetables Stay in the Picture—

When babies begin their foray into the world of solid foods, we start them off with the healthiest, natural foods, such as pureed vegetables and fruits.

When they work up into being able to handle small pieces, we add whole grain cereal and chunks of fruit like bananas, strawberries and avocadoes. But often, as they become toddlers, processed foods such as frozen chicken nuggets and junky snack foods enter the picture.

One way to raise an older kid who loves vegetables and fruits is to never stop feeding them the healthy fruits and vegetables we use during their solid food introduction. Avoid the temptation of convenient processed foods, or use them in moderation.

 

2. Include Kids in the Gathering and Preparing Process—

You’d be amazed by how excited kids will get about healthy foods if they’re included in the acquisition and cooking of them.

If you have a local Farmer’s Market, this can be a great way to teach kids about where healthy, real foods come from, or better yet, plant a backyard garden and let them watch and harvest the circle of life themselves.

Including kids in the cooking of meals can be a fun family bonding activity that encourages little ones to want to eat their creations.

 

3. Add Vegetables to Favorite Foods—

If your child loves pizza, lasagna or macaroni and cheese, consider adding vegetables to these types of favorite foods to include them in a positive way.

Start slowly if you already have a finicky eater on your hands, and don’t be discouraged if they pick the veggies out the first few times you add them. They are still getting a small taste of the flavor every time, which has been shown to eventually help kids get used to new foods.

 

4. Follow Your Own Healthful Eating Rules—

If kids see their parents eating unhealthy junk food, they will assume this is the way they’re supposed to eat as well, making it very important to model healthy behavior in the kitchen.

To reduce temptation and set a good example, keep healthy snacks like broccoli florets, carrot and celery sticks and apples readily available.

Eliminating sugary or nutritionally empty snack foods from your pantry and refrigerator can also make healthful eating more convenient, and be sure to make fast food a rare treat rather than a lifestyle.

 

5. Don’t Have a Food Fight—

Sometimes when kids are pushed too much in a direction, they will dig in their heels and stubbornly refuse because they’re feeling pressure, rather than because of the actual issue at hand.

Many parents simply ask that their children try a new food once, and allow them to decide if they like it without pressure. It can take over 10 tries for anyone to decide if they enjoy a new food, so don’t give up if the first, second or even third time’s not the charm.

Be patient, introduce new foods slowly, and remain nonchalant to avoid pointlessly combatant refusal to try new things from kids.

 

6. Make Dinner a Family Affair—

Sitting together at the table to socialize and enjoy each other’s company while you eat will create positive associations with the healthy foods you’re serving, as well as keeping parents in touch with kids.

When kids watch the adults in their lives eating healthy foods while chatting and enjoying each other’s company, it demystifies vegetables and other nutritionally smart choices by taking the focus off the food and onto the fun.

 

Remember that baby steps and moderation are best when trying to improve the eating habits of a family, and that it’s okay to occasionally have foods from the naughty list. Depriving everyone completely can backfire, making kids and adults feel resentful about what they can no longer have, setting back your progress.

Use the tips above to gently guide your kids in the direction of better nutrition to set them up for a lifetime of good health.

Mind, Body and Soul: 8 Great Ways Martial Arts Benefit Kids

MartialArtsImage1 (2)

 

Martial arts training is a wonderful way to give kids who aren’t into team sports an opportunity to get some exercise and feel like a part of a social group.  No matter which practice you select, the general philosophy is one of non-violence, despite the fierceness often displayed by karate movies.

The true goal of self-defense training is to teach students to automatically respond to the threat of physical harm in a calm, controlled manner to keep violence from escalating. Teaching children martial arts can help them learn how to protect themselves from bullies, as well as giving them self-confidence.

Below are 8 great ways martial arts benefit kids:

 

1. Martial Arts Promote Physical Fitness—

Some kids simply aren’t team sports-minded, but all kids need to keep moving to stay healthy, making martial arts training an excellent form of exercise.

If you’ve tried soccer, baseball, football, or any other team sport, and your child didn’t seem to click with the concept of playing with a team, an activity like martial arts can give them the opportunity to work towards a goal without the pressure of a group setting.

 

2. Martial Arts Train Kids to Focus—

Kids with trouble concentrating will find that martial arts is extremely conducive to focus, as there are choreographed forms such as kicks, punches and intricate movements they will need to practice and perfect.

For this reason, kids with ADHD often greatly benefit from the structured concentration training necessary for this type of exercise, because it motivates them to pay attention, stand still awaiting the next instruction, and eliminates the distractibility factor of sports that move quickly.

 

3. Martial Arts Provides Catharsis—

Being a kid can be tough, and there’s something extremely cleansing about the emotional release to be found in kicking and punching.

While the main motivation of this practice is the avoidance of violence, there’s nothing wrong with using the kicking and punching parts to work out feelings of anger.

If your child had a tough day at school, they might be able to get the frustration out of their system at martial arts practice and sleep better that night, the same way adults use the gym to purge stress.

 

4. Martial Arts Boosts Self-Esteem—

Generally using a system of testing and differently-colored belts to reward kids for progression in the practice, martial arts can give kids the self-confidence that comes from working towards and achieving goals.

It is also empowering for kids to be able to physically defend themselves, and the knowledge that if a bully comes calling, they will be able to hold their own can give a child a sense of personal safety.

 

5. Martial Arts Makes Kids More Respectful—

Showing reverence to your instructor is king in every dojo, with kids expected to address him or her with a bow of honor.

Many parents will notice a change in the demeanor of their kids after a few weeks of practice, as kids learn to respect themselves and others, and to treat people as they would like to be treated.

 

6. Martial Arts Increases Flexibility—

This form of exercise involves kicks, punches, blocks and turns, all of which promote flexibility and range of motion, as well as balance and coordination.

Being limber can also prevent kids from getting hurt as often in the other activities or sports in which they engage every day.

 

7. Martial Arts Provides Socialization—

Many kids who don’t gravitate towards team sports find it hard to make friends without the group setting and multiple opportunities of such activities.

Martial arts allows for bonding and friendship with a smaller group, so children who are shy or easily overwhelmed by noise and crowds will find this quieter setting much more favorable to forming relationships.

 

8. Martial Arts is a Safe Exercise—

With more data constantly emerging about how head injuries sustained in school sports such as football and soccer can negatively affect kids, martial arts offers a safer way for children to get some exercise.

As they progress in certain martial arts practices, there may be sparring involved, which can increase the chance of injury, but there is no pressure to engage in physical contact if it isn’t wanted.

 

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends 6 as a good age to start kids in karate or martial arts classes, because at this age they have the muscle control to turn and punch safely. But it’s never too late for anyone to give this self-esteem, discipline and strength-building practice a try. Consider giving your kids—or even yourself—the many mind, body and soul benefits of martial arts training today.

Give Peas a Chance: 5 Fast Ways to Help Kids Learn to Love Vegetables

Macaroni and Cheese with Veggies Image 1 (2)

 

Maybe it’s because they have so many more meal options than we did growing up, or maybe they’re just being kids, but it seems like many children today have a very limited list of foods they’re willing to eat. Not only can this be frustrating for parents, it can be unhealthy for growing kids who need a variety of vitamins and minerals to grow.

While parents know we’re supposed to get a certain amount of healthy foods into our kids every day, it can be hard for vegetables to compete with comfort food favorites like chicken nuggets or macaroni and cheese. Luckily, there are things we can do to make the vegetables more kid-friendly, and we’re going to discuss them below.

Here are 5 easy ways to get kids to try (and maybe even enjoy) healthy foods:

 

1. Quietly Cauliflower—

The secret undercover agent of the vegetable world, cauliflower can be cooked, mashed and blended with butter or cheese to resemble and taste very similar to mashed potatoes.

Adults on low-carb diets already know about this amazing substitution for the starchier dish it so closely resembles, but children are used to seeing cauliflower on veggie trays in its raw and somewhat pungent-smelling form.

If your children are extremely particular, you can try blending mashed cauliflower half and half with potatoes to gradually get them used to the flavor. And don’t forget that this vegetable can be added to casseroles, or covered with cheese and baked to create a delicious cauliflower gratin.

 

2. Marinara is Magnificent—

With a strong tomato base to hide other flavors, shredded or pureed carrots, spinach, cauliflower, broccoli, squash, zucchini, peas, mushrooms, or any other vegetable that sounds good can be added to this popular red sauce (especially if it has ground turkey or beef added as well to hide the texture).

Pasta primavera is another tried and tested way to get children to enjoy vegetables, so don’t forget that a good, creamy butter sauce can also convince a picky kid to give veggies a chance.

 

3. Macaroni and More—

Macaroni and cheese sits firmly at the top of many people’s favorite food lists, but the deliciousness of this dish doesn’t have to stop with cheese, and neither does the nutrition.

This is because it’s easy to add finely chopped broccoli, steamed spinach, diced tomatoes, or any other vegetables you’d like, thanks to the strong cheese flavor that both covers and compliments pretty much anything you add to it.

Experts have discovered it can take more than 10 times of tasting a food to decide whether or not we like it, making macaroni and cheese a great way to help a child develop an appreciation for nutritious foods without even realizing it.

 

4. Meat You in the Garden—

Unless you’re a vegetarian, meat can be a great way to work vegetables into your diet via meatloaf, meatballs, and meat sauces.

Veggie burgers, either made entirely from vegetarian sources, or meat with pureed and finely diced vegetables mixed into the patties is another method used by resourceful parents to encourage kids to eat healthily.

The addition of a hamburger bun and condiments further serves to add to the illusion of an all-meat burger, allowing families to add baked fries and skip the fast food for a healthier homemade alternative.

 

5. The Secret Baker—

Everybody loves zucchini bread, right?  And carrot cake is a classic favorite dessert. So what’s weird about adding pureed cauliflower, carrots or spinach to chocolate cake or spice muffins?

Cauliflower is bland, carrots are a surprisingly sweet vegetable, and spinach has a mellow taste that goes unnoticed when paired with stronger flavors. Give it a try, get creative, and never fear: It can be a little secret between you and us, and we promise we’ll never tell.

Be sure to blend all well-cooked vegetables you’re adding to a baked good into a smooth paste to avoid textural discovery of your well-hidden nutrition, and nobody will ever know the difference.

 

The above tips are ways to disguise the flavor of vegetables and conceal them within foods kids already love in hopes that children will eventually grow to enjoy the flavors they’re subconsciously tasting.

But the best way to help kids learn to love vegetables is to lead by example; by eating them with meals openly and positively. By using the tips above, and making a point of enjoying them in front of your children, you can take the mystery out of these nutritional superfoods to help your children learn to love vegetables.

Safe Strength Training for Kids: 5 Tips to Make It Helpful, Not Hurtful

Young Boy Strength Training (2)

 

Most doctors generally agree that heavy-weight strength training and power lifting are not safe activities until after puberty, as they can damage growth plates in young bones, as well as harming joints and tendons.

But lifting light free weights, using resistance bands, and other forms of strength training have been shown to be highly beneficial for kids when properly performed. In fact, the American Academy of Pediatrics has deemed strength training for children to be safe after age 7 as long as children use light weights and get medical clearance from a doctor first. (Source: WebMD.)

In addition to helping kids maintain a healthy weight to avoid issues like type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure, carefully guided light resistance exercises can increase muscle strength, protect kids from sports injuries, improve balance, athletic performance and coordination. Many parents also notice a boost in self-esteem and increase in positive body image as kids begin to feel stronger and fitter.

If you’re considering strength training as a form of healthy exercise for your child, there are specific guidelines and rules to follow to ensure their well-being. Below are 5 tips from pediatricians and child fitness experts to help anyone develop a safe and effective strength training routine for kids.

 

1. Warm Up and Stretch—

It’s as important for kids to warm up before pushing muscles as it is for adults, so be sure children get aerobic exercise such as walking, jogging, biking, jumping rope or doing jumping jacks before lifting weights.

Stretching the muscles before strength training can prevent injury, and yoga poses or floor extensions can also be great for limbering up muscles and tendons.

 

2. Keep the Weights Light—

Until kids have gone through puberty, they are physically unable to pack on muscle like grown-ups, so don’t push them to lift overly heavy weights.

If the child can’t perform at least 12-15 repetitions of a weight-bearing exercise, it’s too heavy and can damage growth plates in the bones, making it crucial to keep weights light and repetitions high.

Sit-ups, push-ups and resistance tubing/elastic bands are all safe after age 7, so don’t forget that there are other strength-building options besides free weights.

 

3. Set Realistic Expectations—

Children are especially known for seeking instant gratification, so in order to avoid disappointment later, be careful not to give your child unrealistic expectations about what strength training can do for them.

Make it clear that they will not be able to achieve the muscles they see on movie superheroes, but they will be able to become stronger and more powerful.

Letting kids know that strength training may enable them to perform better in athletic activities such as sports is a reasonable potential outcome to give as well.

 

4. Proper Form is King—

As with adult weightlifting, it’s better to do 5 reps of an exercise with correct form than 15 reps the wrong way. Weight and resistance create potential for injury when strength training is done incorrectly, making it especially important to work out the right way when a child is involved.

If you are not already trained to do all exercises properly, research your regimen or consider hiring a personal trainer to guide you and your child until you both learn how to safely and effectively perform every movement.

Once you’ve achieved proper form in all exercises, it’s still important to supervise your child’s weightlifting activities to prevent “overconfidence injuries” caused by kids pushing themselves to lift too much.

 

5. Rest for Growing Bones—

Adult bones need frequent strength training and weight resistance to increase bone mineral density, but kids don’t require this, nor is it good for them.

Because the bones, joints and tendons used in strength training are still growing, it’s generally recommended that children participate in weight-bearing and resistance exercises no more than 3 times a week, with a day off between each session to heal.

It’s also important to have a cooling down session, light aerobic exercise, or stretching post-workout. This can prevent the muscles from tightening up or cramping, and help work lactic acid out of them for a pain-free next day.

 

Starting a child on the path to fitness early with an exercise program can instill healthy habits that will last a lifetime, and working out along with them sets a good example while providing excellent parent/child bonding time. If you’d like to include your child in your current workout, or start an exercise plan together, get the go-ahead from your child’s pediatrician, use the tips above, and get started today.