Friday, October 15, 2010

"Clean Your Plate" Is Not The Way For Healthy Kids

Healthy Eating Habits Take a Childhood to Learn and a Lifetime to Live

According to the researchers, a deficiency in healthy eating has caused obesity in the U.S. to more than double among pre-school children and young adults and more than triple for kids aged 6-11 during last 30 years. Obese children have a higher risk of health problems such as diabetes and heart disease and often develop other problems into adulthood.

So how can parents help children develop healthy eating habits?

Talk to your children's pediatrician, your family doctor or dietitian to determine the healthiest target weights for every member of the family. From that, make a plan to solve the problem with a better diet and generally healthy eating.

Follow these tips to help you develop healthy eating habits in your family until you can have those conversations with your doctors of choice.

Healthy Eating Tips

  • Eat at least one meal together every day at regular intervals to prevent snacking. It not only is this a healthy eating habit, but a good source of emotional health, too.
  • Prepare healthy meals for the whole family, not just particular foods for overweight children. If your weight-challenged child has to eat food he or she doesn't like, so do you.
  • Never use food as a reward, comfort, or punishment.
  • Watch portions. "Clean the plate" is not the way to go. If that's how you grew up, consider that portion sizes and what we consider appropriate over the years has increased dramatically.
  • Eat slowly. It takes almost 20 minutes to register in the brain that the body is full. If you're eating quickly, you will end up eating too much.
  • Encourage water or skim milk instead of high calorie, sugary drinks. Doing so will also help keep teeth healthy.
  • Convincing a child to eat at least five servings of fruits and vegetables every day is not easy, but focusing on the colors can make it fun when they're young (wouldn't recommend this tactic with teens).
  • Use the low-fat or fat free versions of mayonnaise and other dairy products at home as if they were the tasty full-of-fat versions. Your children will take cues. Ask for the same on the side when eating out.
  • Take the stairs. When you go shopping, park farther from the store and walk. If you take a cruise, everything is withing 4-6 flights, most likely; why take the elevator? (We lost weight on our honeymoon with that strategy) This tip may not be directly related to healthy eating, but physical activity is a must to maintain a healthy lifestyle.
  • Limit television, video games, and computer time. Less time in front of a screen is more time face-to-face with the world, which is better physically, emotionally, and socially. Again, not directly related to healthy eating habits, but a lesson that, when learned, pays off well.
  • Replace mayonnaise and cheese on burgers or sandwiches with ketchup, mustard, or barbecue sauce.
  • Stick with items that are baked, broiled, steamed, or poached. Avoid fried foods. To make it easier for yourself, convince yourself that the smell of raw meat cooked in oils and fats is disgusting. Shouldn't be that hard if you are committed to healthy eating.
  • Ask for nutrition information at restaurants so you can make healthy eating decisions when eating out, too.
  • Get beyond the children's menu, which is often limited to fried, high-calorie foods that are also high in fat. Instead, split a healthy meal between two or more people.
  • Ask for a takeout container and put away some food before eating.
  • Ask that the bread, drinks, and tortilla chips be served with the meal, not before.
Parents can help their children develop healthy eating habits by first choosing to make healthy changes at home and, second, to teach children what to do without. Healthy eating habits do not happen overnight, but children take cues from their parents and learn good (or bad) behaviors over time.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Name-Brand vs. Store-Brand

Time's are tough these days. That's not the first time you've heard (read) that phrase and it certainly won't be the last. I have yet to meet someone who has not been affected in some way by the dwindling economy whether it be job, school, house, children, marriage, or leisure activity-related. My husband and I are, by choice, living on one income. It means the world to me to be able to stay home with my children. It is not, however, always easy to figure out where and how to cut costs so that we don't dig ourselves even deeper into the black hole known as DEBT.

Before having children, I never considered myself to be a label or brand-name kind of person. I bought clothes that made me feel good and it didn't matter to me that Mr. No Name had designed them. I've never owned a Coach bag, Seven jeans, Manolo Blahnik heels, or anything that would make decent money if I were to sell it on Ebay. In a silly way, I'm actually proud of that fact. There really is some truth in the saying, "More money, more problems." I feel that by living a more simplified lifestyle, I might be able to better appreciate that which is truly important in this world...

After having children, however, I quickly realized that I am, in fact, a label snob when it comes to a certain topic; food. I used to go grocery shopping and throw my favorite foods into the cart without thinking about it. I didn't compare prices, clip coupons, or buy what was on sale. I was working, after all, so I had enough money to spend on food. Now that I am not working and there are more mouths to feed, I have had to rearrange my priorities. I won't lie; at first it was quite painful.

I was convinced that the brands I bought were the ultimate in flavor, taste, texture, and overall quality. How in the world would I be able to settle for anything less? After taking my husband's advice (with minimal kicking and screaming), I have come to find out there are less expensive versions of food and drinks that actually taste good! And they're often on sale! Imagine my excitement when I was able to cut our grocery bill almost in half by buying the store-brand items instead of name-brand items. It was pure bliss. :) I figure when we hit the lottery (or when I go back to work, whichever happens first), we can once again by the pricey, name-brand marketed-around-the-clock by XYZ celebrity products. The question is, however, will I still have a taste for them by then?

Here are some of the items I used to buy but have since switched to the Shop Rite brand:

Jif peanut butter
Welch's grape juice
Mott's applesauce
Betty Crocker cake mix
Barilla pasta
Dole canned fruit
Nabisco crackers
Land 'o Lakes American cheese
Campbell's soup
Quaker oatmeal
Quaker rice cakes
Tropicana orange juice
Eggo waffles
Smuckers grape jelly
Orville Redenbacher popcorn
Hunts ketchup
Kellogg's corn flakes

I encourage you to try it for yourself and see how much money you save. If you find that you MUST stay with a certain brand name on a specific product, see if you can buy the store brand version of something else. Any little bit helps. And if you happen to hit the lottery before we do, maybe you could send me a bucket of Jif. I wouldn't know how to contain myself. ;)

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Two Thumbs Up for Junglerrrific!

As a stay-at-home mom, I am constantly searching for new and exciting places to take my kids. I get antsy if I'm stuck at home too long and there are only so many times in a week we can visit the library, Shop Rite, Pet Smart, and Walmart. Most of my friends live over an hour away so visits to see them are limited to a few times a month. A lot of the local play groups seem to meet during my son's naptime, leaving me the option of either bringing him when he's tired and cranky (gotta love being THAT parent), or not going at all and missing out on the opportunity to meet new people. You can guess which option I choose.

So imagine my delight when I stumbled upon Junglerrrific in Howell, NJ. A new place! I'd passed by several times but never noticed this particular play area at the far end of a popular strip mall. It was love at first sight. The owner greeted us warmly at the door. There were cubbies for shoes/coats and a faint smell of bleach in the air. I'm a stickler for cleanliness at these types of play areas because who enjoys having to deal with a sick child following every visit? Junglerrrific has a huge coffee bar/internet area for the parents complete with a massage chair. There are pay-to-ride cars and horses for the kids along with an enormous tube contraption to climb through and hundreds (I'm not exaggerating) of toys that actually WORK when you turn them on! There are also video games, a puppet show area, a separate toddler section with age-appropriate toys, and a birthday party room. Junglerrrific has weekly story time and special holiday events which I'm able to read about via email because I put my name on the owner's list. I already have the information about birthday parties and my son doesn't turn three until April!

We have now been to Junglerrrific many times and my son always smiles from ear to ear when I tell him where we're headed. Every time he leaves, the owner gives him an animal sticker which he wears proudly for the rest of the day. I think the only animal he still needs is the bear and he will have collected the entire jungle set. At four thirty a woman comes in and completely disinfects each and every toy there. I've actually seen her do it. My son has yet to develop a cold after playing at Junglerrrific. The price is very reasonable as well; $6.95 per kid and non-walkers are free.

I'm beyond impressed with this facility. It is extremely obvious that the owner takes great pride in his establishment. I know I sound like I'm trying to market the place or something but in all honesty, it's difficult to find a clean, safe environment in which my children can play and I can relax (a little at least). When I do come across something, I feel it's my duty to pass along the information to all the other parents out there. I wonder if Junglerrrific gives "refer-a-friend" discounts... ;)

In case you're curious-

Friday, October 1, 2010

The Peter-Pan Syndrome by Proxy

When our oldest son was just 6 months old, about 2 years ago this month, we had him baptized in the Church. We also first introduced solid food the previous week--just some basic cereal. Around that same weekend, we moved him from the co-sleeper attached to our bed into his crib in his own room.

After putting him down in his new sleeping area for the night, Chanel came downstairs in tears, recounts these major developments to me and says, "This is a lot for me!" The little guy was taking it all in stride: didn't cry during baptism, slept well in the new bed, even initially ate pretty well. Mommy, on the other hand, was having difficulty with her little boy growing up. Was I sympathetic? Absolutely. We hugged; I comforted her; we moved on.

At the time I was reminded of Marlin in Finding Nemo, "I'll never let anything happen to you."

Tonight, after realizing that his pacifiers have holes in them from the way he chews them (picture a child version of Hannibal Smith of the A-Team), I showed him the hole and told him how I didn't want to give it to him, that we need to get new ones tomorrow. While Chanel was putting the littler guy to sleep, I managed to move Boy #1 from the bath to the bed without it. I even managed to escape the room before he started calling for it. After a quick return to tell him that I'd come back with it, he settled down and I went to straighten up the living room. In the past, he has fallen asleep after we told him we'd come back for one reason or another.

Chanel came downstairs and we remembered that we wanted to move him to his new big-boy bed. But now we couldn't, even though he was still awake and talking to himself. When she learned he didn't have a pacifier? Oh no, we could not start weaning him this weekend. 

"Peter-Pan Syndrome" is a Pop-Psychology term that describes a man who has not emotionally grown up and socially matured. I'm thinking that "by Proxy" could be appended to define a situation in which a child's growth and maturation process is restricted in some way. I don't mean to suggest that what Chanel does with our children would qualify--not at all. She is protective of our children to an appropriate degree with an occasional funny moment of being uncomfortable at not being able to be as protective as she is inclined to be. I do, however, suspect that there are mothers out there who take the protecting their children mentality to an extreme. 

Coming from an unqualified amateur psychologist, it's quite possible that a similar pathology could exist that parallels Muenchausen Syndrome by Proxy; the people inclined to exert this kind of force on their children will either gravitate to granting them things in the form of problems and illnesses or the form of postponing things like milestones and depriving them access to events and actions that may be considered rights of passage. The case may be able to be made that the latter is often present where the former is observed.

In my limited parenting experience thus far, children are amazingly resilient. They learn things at such incredibly young ages and understand our conversations long before we know they do. They can adjust rapidly to changes like their sleeping arrangements, the style of their eating utensils, their clothes/shoes, etc, if we only talk them through it ahead of time and let them know that a change is going to happen. Perhaps the greatest challenge to parenting is being ready for the changes that your child doesn't tell you are coming. Whether it's walking, dating, or whatever, parents need to be prepared for it with little to no warning. Even if we were given advance notice, I'd wager we wouldn't be as adaptive as our children are when we let them be.