Archive for May, 2010

The right state of mind is important in making better dining decisions.  Try teaching your kids the techniques below to help them develop healthy habits that will last a lifetime.  And adopting them yourself will make you an even better role model for better living.

Become a Food Group Guru.  Learning the foods that your children should be eating each day, and their appropriate portion sizes, will help them make healthier choices at any meal, anywhere, anytime.  Arm them with nutrition knowledge!

Moderation, Not Deprivation.  It is okay for kids to have their favorite tasty treats every now and then.  Order small portions of the most indulgent foods and larger portions of healthy ones to provide balance to their meals.  Shoot for 90% healthy foods and 10% “fun” foods.

Break Bad Habits.  Ask your children if they are really hungry for their usual after-dinner chocolate or mid-afternoon soda, or if they’re just used to having those foods at that time every day.  If not, then encourage them to pass on the treat, or suggest replacing it with healthier habits. 

Think Ahead.  Many restaurants have menus available on-line, often with nutrition information.  Identifying the better options at your family’s favorite restaurants will give them flexibility with healthy limits. 

Slow and Steady Wins the Race.  Help your children start actively listening to their instinctual hunger and fullness cues to avoid overeating.  An intuitive eating approach can help your child self-regulate their eating.

The Power of Positive Thinking.  Focusing on the healthy foods that your family enjoys is much more productive than dwelling on the ones that you think you can’t have.  A “glass half full” mentality will make a healthy lifestyle easier to maintain long-term.  Also try to avoid labeling foods as “good” or “bad”, as this can distort your child’s view of them.

The Satisfaction of Sharing.  Treats, such as decadent desserts, can be shared with the whole table so that everyone can indulge without overindulging.  Some restaurants even offer family-style dining, which is an optimal feeding method for raising healthy eaters.

Dear Diary.  Food journaling is a great way to put your child’s eating habits into perspective, for you and them.  It can also offer some accountability.  Write down their food intake, physical activity, and thoughts and moods throughout the day for some insight into the impact their lifestyle has on their wellbeing.

Enjoying food in a healthy way is all about finding a balance that works for your family.  Balancing immediate pleasure with long-term health.  Balancing healthy foods with the occasional treat.  Balancing calories eaten with calories burned.  Balancing food groups at each meal.  Balancing restaurant dining with home cooking.  Balance in any area is the key to maintaining your child’s happiness and wellness throughout life– body, mind, and soul. 

Contributing Author:  Cami Ruark


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Dining out as part of a healthy lifestyle is often difficult for most people.  But, it doesn’t have to be impossible.  Try some of the tactics below the next time you are at a restaurant.  Your body, and your taste buds, will thank you!

Cancel Your Membership to the Clean Plate Club   Most restaurants, with very few exceptions, serve at least double or triple the recommended portions for every food item.  Divide your plate in half before eating, and take the rest home for a second meal. 

The Lighter Side of Lunch Portions    Many restaurants offer smaller lunch-sized portions or “small plates” in addition to the full-sized meals.  But, they may not offer this up as an option unless you request it.  Be sure to ask if a smaller portion is available.  Just keep in mind that it still may be more food than recommended for one meal.

Modify Your Meals    Invisible fats, such as butter and oil, are often added to dishes without the diner even knowing it.  Even vegetables are not immune.  Don’t be afraid to be a little picky when it comes to how your food is prepared.  Butter and oil can be left off of vegetables and meats without sacrificing flavor.

Don’t Fall Into the Salad Trap    This menu item can be somewhat of a wolf in sheep’s clothing. Salads are often among the most fat-laden items on most restaurant menus.  You can’t make a meal healthy simply by putting lettuce under it.  The toppings make all the difference.  And they can add up quickly, especially if creamy or other high fat dressings are used.  At the very least, dressing should be served on the side and toppings chosen in moderation.

Don’t Blow it with Beverages   It is all too easy to double the calories in a meal by drinking soda instead of water or unsweetened tea, especially with unlimited refills.  And the caffeine in soda actually makes you thirstier, so you drink even more.   Keep in mind that water is a beverage, and soda is a treat that you drink.

Avoid the Appetizers (or eat your own)    Free baskets of food aren’t free of calories.  Pass on high fat items, or enjoy a little if you like. Having a small snack of fruit or nuts before leaving home is also a great way to control poor choices caused by hunger.   

Careful with Condiments    These “little” additions can pack a big punch.  If used inappropriately, they have the ability to turn a healthy meal into an unhealthy one.  But, chosen wisely and used sparingly, they can be wonderful flavor enhancers.  Try low-fat options, like mustard or salsa.

Work It Off By Working Out    To maintain a healthy weight, you have to use up as many calories as you take in through physical activity.  That’s the bottom line.  Think about how much you are willing to work before eating something.  You can decide whether or not it is worth the extra effort, and budget accordingly.

Healthy eating in any situation is simpler with the right tools.  Knowing what to do and how to do it is important, but implementation is key.  How effectively, and how often, you use them will determine the overall impact on your health.  Even small changes can add up over time.  So take action now.  Don’t put off until tomorrow what you can do today.  Conscientiousness, commitment, and consistency will get you a lot further in your healthy life than contemplation.

Contributing Author:  Cami Ruark

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The culmination of a few events led me to being a bread baking advocate.  The early conversations about baking bread led me AWAY from taking on this endeavor, such as the exchange with an old boyfriend who once mentioned that his mother was a baker…”and you should see her forearms!”, he said.  Large forearms from endless kneading?  Seemed like something I definitely had no interest in considering, let alone do. 

Flash forward 15 years later to 2006, when my family relocated to Indiana, and I reconnected with an old college friend, who was a bread baker.  Visions of large, bulking forearms entered my head.  Flour swarming in the kitchen, footprints on the tiles, signs of flour-steaked hair…or was that grey hair?  Bread baking–really??!!  Are you kidding? 

My girlfriend had 4 young, healthy, beautiful children who were involved in sports, school, church and community volunteer efforts, you name it–they were busy!  Where did she find the time?  And why bake bread?  She shared that her youngest daughter had become allergic to many foods and because of this, she began to bake her own bread…in a breadmaker.  Well, I too, have a family member with food allergies, and coupled with a keen desire to improve the staples in our family diet, baking bread was an intriguing option for me.

A breadmaker?  I had one of those, which I received as a wedding gift, and discarded 5 years later.  Hers was the “Rolls Royce” of breadmakers, she claimed.  A Japanese version with all the electronic innovations, including the capability to make a loaf that looked like a real loaf of bread, the ability to pre-program your own homemade recipes, and a delayed start so that you could wake to the smell of fresh bread in the morning.  She had me in the palm of her floury hand.

I became convinced that I would be able to commit the brief time and effort to prepare my own bread.  Obviously, this machine required very little manual operation– layer the ingredients in the pan and push the little button.  Voila!  Fresh bread in under 3 hours.  My dietitian-mom brain started weighing the benefits of homemade bread, and the drawbacks.  I could make whole wheat bread!  The bread would have no preservatives, would use all natural ingredients, and would be hearty and filling.  But, would my kids even like it?

I have been baking my own bread for about 4 years.  In that time, I have bought a loaf of bread only in times of emergency.   I bake a honey-whole wheat bread, which is our family’s “everyday bread”.  I bake a loaf about every 3 days.  My children love it, and so do their friends.  They ask for it, especially if we have bought “emergency bread” at the grocery store.  Our bread is part of our meals, and sometimes part of our snack.  My children don’t eat too much bread, because our bread is whole grain bread, and very filling.  I have been known to bring a fresh loaf to Girl Scout meetings, as a class snack, and as a house-warming gift.  I give bread away to celebrate an event, as a gift, or to families in need. 

Homemade bread is special, whether it is kneaded by hand or baked in a modern breadmaker.  Baking bread can be easy, quick, and another way to build good nutrition and improve the quality of your family’s diet.  The appreciation for good bread is widespread–why not bake bread?

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