10 Tips for Getting Your Kids to Eat Healthily

Healthy KidsAs hard as it is to fight your junk food urges, if you have kids, you probably know that getting Junior to make smart food choices is triple the challenge. It’d be excellent if you could just yell, “Hey, you! Eat your spinach!” But you can’t. As is the case when dealing with most aspects of a child’s life, it takes commitment, patience, and some serious cunning to steer them down the right path. If you’ve watched the “Healthy Eats” disc of the ChaLEAN Extreme® program, you know that Chalene and her husband Brett made a commitment to teach their son Brock and daughter Sierra the benefits of a solid diet. Here, in Chalene’s words, is a little insight on how they did it.

1. Portion control
Digging into the entire box of goldfish crackers, or any other kid’s snack, is a bad idea. So it’s a good idea to empty out that box into smaller ziplock bags, for better portion control. Do this the moment the treats are pulled from the grocery store bags! This helps children understand what a healthy portion looks like. Meals and portion sizes have increased nearly 40 percent over the last decade. As parents, we have to teach our children that it’s not deprivation—it’s proper nutrition.

2. Sneak in the whole grains
Use whole-grain pasta and brown rice, but don’t tell your kids. They’ll never know the difference. No one, especially children, likes change when it comes to food. I like to use the “stealth” approach, i.e., fly low under the radar! When I switched my kids from regular pasta to whole-grain, whole wheat pasta, I did it in stages. First, I added just a 1/4 cup of the healthier noodles. Each time I added more, until eventually they were eating the whole-grain stuff and had no idea! They still have no idea! We had spaghetti at a restaurant the other night (the enriched-flour kind), and the kids said the restaurant pasta was “weird . . . kinda slimy!” How fantastic is that? The key is making the changes gradually and not making a big deal about them.

3. Lead by example
If you’re giving your kids apples but you’re eating Snickers, it’s never going to work. Following a healthy diet needs to be part of the commitment of good parenting. Never use the “D” [“Diet”] word in front of children. When you do, and they see you eating healthily, they assume that healthy food is something you’re forced to eat as a punishment. Lead by example. Say, “Mommy is eating this for more energy and to be stronger.” Make negative comments about food without nutritional value. For example, when I do have the occasional “treat,” I will often say, “Wow, that piece of cake gave me a sugar crash and a headache. Now I feel so sluggish!” Use positive comments about healthy food without reference to weight. Try, “I feel so much stronger when I eat fruit for a snack!”

4. Make food fun
Taste is something that changes over time. Our taste buds actually change as we age; this explains why some children will eat broccoli and green beans and others find the smell and taste worse than starvation! Continually introduce healthy food and find unique ways to introduce the food in stages. For example, your children might try a small amount of broccoli mixed in with their mac and cheese. Once you’ve gotten them to accept that as a regular staple, transition to broccoli with a creamy cheese soup. Eventually, your children may acquire a taste for steamed broccoli! Can you imagine the day? But starting right out of the gates with a big plate of steamed broccoli in front of a child who doesn’t eat green things is asking for a battle! Baby steps!

5. Don’t pressure kids to eat
Present the food, but don’t force kids to eat it. Making demands will just polarize your kids, while letting them eat healthy foods on their own terms leads to healthy habits. If your first attempt doesn’t work, don’t take it personally or assume that this is a life-or-death situation. Take a deep breath, let it go, and try it again another day—try serving those healthy foods prepared in new ways. It often takes several times before your child will decide to try something new. Oh, and I don’t know if this works for everyone, but I find that my children will often try new food with their grandparents and at their friends’ houses, foods that they won’t try with me! Ask what new foods they tried and then offer to prepare them, and get excited about their willingness to try new foods.

6. Be careful what you say
Everything a woman says about her body is like writing on the slate of her female child’s self-esteem. I volunteer to teach exercise to children of all ages in the public school system. I have personally heard children as young as 6 say, “I’m fat!” Or, “I have a big belly like my mommy.” Or, “My mommy doesn’t want you to see her because she got fat.” Seriously! Not only do kids hear what you’re saying on the phone to your girlfriend, but they are projecting those negative images on themselves. It’s unhealthy for you and your young children to be thinking anything other than positive thoughts about this amazing body that God gave you! Do your best to serve as a positive role model by speaking lovingly about your body and your journey to health!

7. Relax!
Food shouldn’t be a source of angst for your family. Try to get your kids to eat healthier, but be creative, consistent, and calm. The bigger you make the issue of eating healthy foods, the more resistance you may feel. Play it cool. There are many studies proving that you can place salad on the table 10 to 15 times before a child will decide to try it. Remember that “insanity is doing the same thing repeatedly and expecting a different result.” If it didn’t work the first time, try a different approach, a new way to prepare and disguise the food, and, again, remember the importance of doing this in slow, small steps.

8. Get kids involved
Let them help cook meals and learn to read food labels. Teach them what’s too much sugar and what’s an appropriate amount of fat. Teach your children what purpose carbohydrates serve in moderation and what they turn into when we eat them in excess. Pick one item and just find that on your labels. For example, this week my children have been looking at the sodium content on labels. They get a kick out of trying to find the canned soup with the lowest sodium content or shocking each other by reading a label with an off-the-chart level of sodium. Food shouldn’t be a mystery. I meet adults every day who have no idea how much sodium, carbs, or protein they should be consuming, let alone how many calories. Let’s create a more educated generation when it comes to food!

9. Think daily
Young children have shifts when they are hungry. A child will not starve himself or herself. We are so focused on eating huge portions three times a day, but naturally, most children will eat one full meal and graze at other meals. Avoid the bad habit of saying, “One more bite,” or, “Clean your plate.” These phrases teach our children that they are good if they eat more, when what we want to teach our children is to respond to their bodies when they feel full. Young children eat to provide themselves with energy. Eating to soothe sadness, eating to stuff ourselves, or eating because it’s simply that time of the day are all bad habits we pass along to our children.

10. Read up on nutrition
Read books about food. Explain where it comes from. I highly recommend Eat This Not That! for Kids!: Be the Leanest, Fittest Family on the Block! It has giant pictures of common kid foods. It’s fun to make a game out of learning which foods are best! Also, check out CalorieKing.com, which lists the calories for most every food you can imagine, not to mention the nutritional information for nearly every restaurant in America!

7 Common Factors of Successful Weight Management

Weight Management
These days, the topic of what’s in food is probably less important than what youYou’re working hard to lose the weight and get in shape. You bought a Beachbody® workout program. For some people, the results they’ve worked so hard for slowly disappear as bad habits return. Some wonder how “those thin people” can stay that way all the time.

In 1993, the National Weight Control Registry (NWCR) was founded to study the behaviors of “successful losers.” Those studied lost an average of 72 pounds, with a minimum weight loss of 30 pounds, and were able to keep the weight off for at least 5 years. Looking at various studies on obesity, the researchers found 7 common factors among those who were successful in maintaining their weight loss.

1. Eating a low-calorie, low-fat diet
Those studied ate an average of 1,385 calories per day (plus or minus 557), with an average of 26.6 percent coming from fat. Although 26.6 percent from fat may seem high to you, it is lower than the typical American’s diet, which consists of simple carbs and ready-to-eat, low-cost processed food. Also, the researchers found that fast food visits were limited to less than ONE per month (step away from the fries!).

2. Participating in a high level of physical activity
Those studied burned an average of over 2,600 calories per day. This calorie burn came from doing normal, everyday physical activity, including a lot of walking. In fact, over 75 percent of the participants included walking as a form of exercise, with 48 percent of the total participants adding walking to other forms of exercise. Think it can’t be done? The next time you go somewhere, try parking a little farther away and walking, take the stairs instead of the elevator, get off the bus or subway one stop sooner, or walk the dog around the block the next time you want to reach for a snack. It’s a great way to get in a little more exercise time.

3. Limiting TV viewing
I heard something great the other day. Someone said that they had always made excuses about not having enough time to exercise. Yet, they always fit in 3 hours of TV viewing every night. Instead of plopping down in front of the TV at night, try to find other things to do. Why not take this time to pop in your favorite exercise DVD? Take a walk with your kids, read a book, or take a class. Not only will it get you moving, it also stimulates your brain in a way that TV viewing can’t. It can also kill that urge for mindless snacking while watching TV.

4. Eating breakfast
Those studied rarely skipped breakfast. After “fasting” all night, your body actually needs the energy that a healthy breakfast can provide. Eating breakfast makes you less likely to grab that pastry in the kitchen at work or run out for fast food at lunchtime. It also keeps your metabolism going, so that your body doesn’t shift into the “protect and conserve all fat” mode.

5. Maintaining dietary consistency
To the successful weight losers (or winners!), “diet” is not a bad word. They are always consistent with how many calories they are eating. There is no “cheat” day or falling off of the wagon during holidays or vacations.

6. Maintaining a high level of dietary restraint
This goes along with factor #5. Those who are successful at weight loss are always conscious about the types of foods that go in their mouths. When you are trying to maintain your hard-deserved weight loss, be conscious of the types of foods you are eating. One hundred calories of your favorite candy treat are not the same as 100 calories of a protein shake. But, if you “mess up,” don’t beat yourself up. Those who are successful at keeping the weight off jump right back in where they left off, which leads us to the last common factor . . .

7. Frequent self-weighing
Seventy-five percent of those looked at by the NWCR weighed themselves at least once a week, with almost half (44 percent) weighing in every day. This allowed them to keep track of any weight gain (or loss) and to address it before it became a “big” problem. Also included in this self-monitoring behavior was the continued counting of calories and fat grams. This continued “reinforcement” goes a long way toward keeping you on track for a slimmer today and healthier tomorrow.