Wednesday, August 26, 2015

WELLNESS WEDNESDAYS: Building a Better Breakfast

“When you wake up in the morning, Pooh," said Piglet at last, "What's the first thing you say to yourself?" "What's for breakfast?" said Pooh.  "What do you say, Piglet?" "I say, I wonder what's going to happen exciting today," said Piglet.  Pooh nodded thoughtfully, "It's the same thing," he said.
                                                                      –A.A. Milne, The House at Pooh Corner

I have always enjoyed having a good breakfast.  When I was a little girl, our family would drive from Sacramento to Long Beach, California several times a year to visit my aunt, uncle and cousin.  My uncle was a coach for Long Beach State College and he always believed that breakfast should be the biggest and most important meal of his day.  Our breakfast choices always included eggs, fresh squeezed orange juice, pancakes, oatmeal, and sausage.  No matter what, we always ate breakfast together, talking, laughing, and sharing. 

Are YOUR kids getting a good breakfast?  How about YOU? Here are 4 breakfast tips to inspire you:
  1. Breakfast gives your kids (and you) the energy to make good decisions and to be alert. 
  2. Having breakfast is one of the secrets to staying at a healthy weight and having a healthy metabolism.  People who skip breakfast are more likely to overeat when they do eat. 
  3. Plan breakfast to include protein (eggs, cheese, milk), some high-fiber carbs (steel cut oats, beans, fresh seasonal fruit, whole grain toast or tortillas), and a little fat (nuts, nut butter, coconut oil, avocados). 
  4. Having a good breakfast is one of the secrets to longevity, as documented in The Blue Zones by Dan Buettner.  “In the Blue Zones, the biggest meal of the day is typically eaten during the first half of the day.”* 

Here’s one of my favorite breakfast ideas: scramble an egg in a little coconut oil, slice half an avocado, squeeze a little lime on the avocado, and wrap it all in a gluten-free tortilla (my favorites are made by Toufayan Bakeries).   If you have any baked potatoes or sweet potatoes leftover from the night before, you can add a little when you scramble the egg! 

Another great breakfast idea is to cook several servings of steel cut oats on Sunday to eat in the first part of the week.  Let the kids add their favorite toppings such as:
  • chopped pecans or walnuts
  • dried fruit (raisins, craisins, or cherries)
  • cinnamon
  • ground flax seeds, sunflower, or chia seeds
  • fresh fruit (sliced banana, peaches, or strawberries)
  • soy or almond milk
  • honey or chopped dates (for a little natural sweetener)

For more great breakfast ideas, check out Nourish and Flourish:  Kid-Tested Tips and Recipes to Prevent Diabetes available at amazon.

In gratitude, 
Nancy Heinrich
Founder, Growing Healthy Kids, Inc.

*The Blue Zones is the term for regions around the world where people live the longest.  

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

WELLNESS WEDNESDAYS: Sleeping for Good Grades and Good Health

“Getting enough sleep is important for students’ health, safety, and academic performance.”                --Anne Wheaton, Ph.D., lead author and epidemiologist in CDC’s Division of Population Health

All About Sleep
August is when America’s kids go back to school.  That is why it's a great month to teach parents skills that can improve their children’s health, safety, and academic performance.  The quote (above) is from a recent CDC press release entitled, “Most US middle and high schools start the school day too early”.  If you have a child in middle or high school, you already know this.  

When my son, Edward, was in high school, his classes started at 7:05 AM.  It always felt like the school board was torturing parents and kids.  We (I) would have to be up at 5:30 AM so that Edward could be at the bus stop by 6:05 AM.  The bus came this early so that kids on the free and reduced meal program could get to school in time to have breakfast before classes.  I saw first-hand how destructive such an early start time is for families and for kids. 

The fact is that kids need lots of sleep.  Most don’t get enough.  High school kids need 8.5-9.5 hours a night.  You do the math. For my son to get up at 5:30 when he was in high school, he needed to be in bed at 8:30 PM to get 9 hours a night.  Since he was in the marching band, band practice was 2 nights a week until 9:00.  Makes no sense to start classes at 7:05.  He never got 9 hours of sleep a night and waking him up after a night of not enough sleep became one of my most dreaded tasks as a parent.  If you have kids in any after school activities, I know you can relate.

In the recent CDC press release, it states that “insufficient sleep is common among high school students and is associated with several health risks such as being overweight, drinking alcohol, smoking tobacco, and using drugs as well as poor academic performance.  The proportion of high school students who fail to get sufficient sleep (2 out of 3) has remained steady since 2007, according to the 2013 Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance Report.”

The evidence is clear that not getting enough sleep is a risk factor for poor academic performance in addition to being overweight.  Giving kids some boundaries about bedtimes that ensure they are getting enough sleep most nights is a big Back to School Tip for parents. 

If adults are overweight or obese, one question to ask is, “Are YOU getting enough sleep?”  Once you start getting an adequate amount of sleep, many people find it is easier to lose weight.  How about that for a sleep fun fact? 

Let’s be good role models and make sure that WE are getting enough sleep.  Then families can have a conversation about this topic.  Make it cool to talk about sleep at your family dinners.   Your children will thank you.  Maybe not this school year, maybe in 5 years. Remember, as parents we are investing our time and efforts into the present and future lives and health of our children.  Can life get any better than this?

To read NIH's article about the relationship between brain health and sleep, click here. Lots of valuable information.  Health is wealth.  Sleep is brain power.  

In gratitude,
Nancy Heinrich

Founder, Growing Healthy Kids, Inc. 

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

WELLNESS WEDNESDAYS: Back to School Tips for Parents

 “There is nothing more important than a caring and empowered parent.”
                                                     --David Lawrence, Jr., President of the Early Childhood Initiative Foundation and former publisher of the Miami Herald

Image result for pictures of kids at school

This week friends have been posting adorable pictures on social media of their little ones all dressed up in new school outfits with big smiles and lots of excitement about the new school year.  One picture just cracked me up:  a friend’s son insisted she take a picture of him with his back to the camera showing off his new Spiderman backpack.  Love it! 

The success of our kids in school depends on teachers, principals, and most importantly, parents.

Here are 5 Back to School Tips for Parents that can make a difference in your child’s school year:

1.       Help your kids get a great start to each day by ensuring they get enough sleep at night with non-negotiable bedtimes.
2.       Make sure your kids have a good breakfast each day.  Kids need protein, some good carbs, and a little fat for breakfast.  Steel cut oats (cook it the night before) with a little almond milk and fresh seasonal fruit like blueberries, ½ cup Greek yogurt and fresh fruit on a whole grain waffle or scrambled eggs with a little cheddar cheese wrapped in a whole grain tortilla are 3 suggestions for healthy breakfasts for growing healthy kids. 
3.       Plan to have lunch with your child at least once in the first 2 weeks of school.  This is an especially important tip if your son or daughter has a school-prepared lunch.  Watch to see if your child is throwing away most of the lunch or eating most of it.  See how much added sugar is in the flavored milks, if that is what they are choosing.
4.       Fill a large bowl with fresh fruit to keep on your dining table within the kids’ reach.  Fresh fruit makes a great after school snack. 
5.       Set aside a special area at home for your kids to do their homework.  Make sure they have a glass of cold water to drink to ensure that they are properly hydrated.  Most kids (and adults) do NOT drink enough water.

Dare to care enough to give your kids bedtime boundaries, access to fresh whole foods, and lots of love. Be empowered.   None of us received an instruction manual when we had kids.   Being a parent, however, is the most important - and best - job we will ever have! 

In gratitude,
Nancy Heinrich

Founder, Growing Healthy Kids, Inc. 

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

WELLNESS WEDNESDAYS: Healthy Lunch Box Ideas

"Feeding kids healthy foods is not debatable."  --Chef Ann Cooper, the Renegade Lunch Lady

Mixed Nuts Fruits Veg
Last weekend I had fun watching kids pick out their new school backpacks and lunchboxes.  There is so much excitement around the first day of school and the new school year.  Kids need brain foods to help them power through the day and long-lasting energy and good mood foods.  I hear from parents all the time that they don’t know what to put into their kids’ lunchboxes. 

Here are some practical AND economical ideas for making healthy lunch boxes for your kids (and for you, too): 
  1. Shop for a couple of cool reusable BPA-free containers.  Let your kids choose them!   Look for great containers at places like TJMaxx and Home Goods for under $3.00 each.  
  2. Buy several reusable ice packs to keep foods safe and fresh. 
  3. Make a chart with 4 columns for lunch choices:  protein, fruit/veggies, healthy carb snack or dessert, and a drink.  Ask your kids to help you make the chart.  Let them decorate it and name it:  “My Healthy Lunch Chart”.
  4. Buy a supply of paper napkins and reusable utensils (let the kids pick them out).  
  5. Set aside a shelf in your food pantry or a cabinet that is accessible to the children for storing their lunch boxes and supplies.
  6. Shop for whole grain bread that meets “The Nancy Rule”:  Buy breads with 4 or more grams of dietary fiber per slice AND the first ingredient includes the word “whole”.   Once you find a bread that meets “The Nancy Rule”, write down the name and brand of the bread on your child’s chart.  Fiber is what fills us up and helps regulate the blood sugar.
  7. Keep almond or peanut butter in the pantry, along with your child’s favorite flavor of jam. Choose nut butters without added fats, salts, and sugar.  Nothing beats a PB and jam sandwich on whole grain bread!
Here are two of MY favorite lunch box ideas:
  1.  a small container of homemade hummus with cucumber slices, sliced red peppers and baby carrots.  This colorful lunch will have other kids asking your kids to trade! 
  2. Fresh seasonal fruit in one container and a small serving of nuts in another.     
To learn more about making healthy lunches for your kids this school year, click here to read the latest from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.  

Eat real food.  Buy from your local farmers.  Give lots of hugs.  Be kind. 

In gratitude,
Nancy Heinrich

Founder, Growing Healthy Kids, Inc.