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Get the Family Healthy in 2014, Part 1 of 2

The New Year is here, and it’s a great time to make a resolution to get healthy. In order to stick to that New Year’s resolution, be specific about what changes to make. This can help your family execute a plan to ensure positive outcomes. Here are some specific changes that you as a parent can implement to bring about real change for your family’s health this year. I recommend choosing as many of these as you think are realistic to do in your household. Even one real change is better than a handful of half attempts that fail. Good luck!

Easy New Year Health Swaps for the Family:

  1. Replace the refined grains with whole grains. This advice might sound like a broken record, but based on the wide range of clientele I work with, this healthy change is not actually happening in real families. Whole grains maintain the natural fiber, vitamins and minerals that have been stripped from their refined counterparts. Whole grains include whole grain bread, oatmeal, whole grain pancakes, whole grain pasta, brown rice, quinoa, millet, and whole grain cereals. Refined grains are the “white” carbs, such as white bread, white pasta, and the wide variety of processed foods that are made from refined flours. Sometimes it is harder for parents to make this change than it is for the kids, since our generation was raised on refined flours. Trust me, you will get used to it and soon the refined stuff will taste bland and leave you hungry an hour or so after eating. Because whole grains have fiber, they take longer to digest (making you full sooner and longer). Whole grain fiber also plays an important role in binding and excreting fat, both in digestion and circulating lipids in the bloodstream. From the very beginning of feeding your kids as infants and toddlers, remember- kids do not need “kid food”, and they can enjoy whole grain pancakes and whole grain pasta just as much as the white stuff. Be a good example for your kids.
  2. Replace snack foods with fruits or vegetables. And while you’re at it, limit snacks to two per day (one mid-morning or before bed, and one mid-afternoon). This might be the most effective change you can make if you or your family members are big snackers and grazers. Your job is to make sure there are always plenty of fresh, colorful fruits and vegetables available to your kids. When it comes to produce, quality matters. Kids will more readily accept things that look and taste fresh, so choose wisely. Local and organic produce is usually more fresh and flavorful than something that may have traveled half way around the world and then sat frozen in a warehouse for months. Enforce this change by telling the kids what their snack options are, then encouraging them to go play or do homework before the next meal (or bedtime).
  3. Limit eating out to once per week or less. Although it is possible to eat healthy when eating out, often it is easier to make unhealthy choices and overeat when eating at restaurants. It may be even more difficult for your kids to eat healthy when eating out as many kids’ menus are limited to foods high in fat and sodium and low in fiber. This may be a challenge for the busy parent who is not used to cooking. If you choose this resolution, be prepared to plan, grocery shop, and cook. Cut corners by using time-saving and healthy cooking methods such as the slow-cooker and stir-frying lean meats and veggies. It may be a difficult change to implement, but it will be very rewarding from a health perspective (and on your budget).

Check the blog next week for more healthy New Year’s resolutions for your family!

Click here for more advice on how to set achievable goals for the new year.

Healthy Twists on Your Kids Favorite Foods

Let’s face it; kids have their favorite foods and those foods may not be the healthiest choices. Wouldn’t it be nice if we, as parents, could make healthier mango icecreamversions of foods that kids actually enjoyed? Well, you can! These recipes have been kid-tested and approved in my office (and home).

Below are a few ideas on healthy twists on your kid’s favorite foods:

Rice Cake Pizzas:

  • Brown rice cakes
  • Fat-free pizza sauce
  • Mozzarella cheese
  • Baby spinach, sliced tomatoes and/or diced green peppers

Take out one rice cake and place 1-2 tablespoons of pizza sauce on top. Sprinkle about ¼ cup of cheese and as many veggies as you can get on top. Heat in the microwave for about 20 seconds or until cheese is melted. One “pizza” is approximately 100 calories, which makes a great snack or part of a meal. These pizzas are also gluten-free.

Simple Homemade Mango “Ice Cream”:

  • 2 cups nonfat vanilla Greek Yogurt
  • 1 package (16 oz) of frozen mangoes

Let mangoes sit at room temperature for about 10 minutes to thaw slightly. Place all ingredients into a blender or food processor. Blend until smooth so that the consistency is similar to ice cream, or for about 5 minutes. Serving size is ½ cup, which is 100 calories. This is a great option for a healthy dessert. Mangoes are high in vitamin A and the yogurt is a great source of protein and calcium.

Kale Chips:

  • 4 large kale leaves, washed and stems removed
  • 1 tablspoon olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt

Preheat oven to 350. After washing kale and removing stems, tear kale into bite-size pieces (approximately 2 inches x 2 inches each). Put kale pieces into a large bowl with olive oil and salt. Toss to coat. Spread out on a rectangular cookie sheet and bake for about 10 minutes or until kale is crispy like chips. Recipe makes 3-4 servings;however, this snack is so healthy that there is really no limit to the serving! Kale is a superfood and is high in many vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients.

These recipes are all winners- for parents as well as kids. They are low in calories but high in nutrients, which is the best combination. What are some of your kid-approved healthy twists on recipes?  I would love to hear about your recipes in the comments section below!