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NIFS Healthy Living Blog

Safe Meals and Snacks for Going Back to School or Work

GettyImages-1257082950As many of us are confronted with the decision of whether to send our children back to school or continue with online learning, we are faced with many questions that we had never had to ask ourselves before. Breakfast, lunch, and often snacks are mainly consumed during these hours at school, so as we continue to see Indiana trying to return to normal and reopen, we might need to tailor our eating habits to ensure we are not risking unnecessary exposure to COVID-19 when refueling our bodies throughout the day. These ideas also work for adults who are returning to the workplace or have already returned to the workplace.

Keep in mind, you want each meal to be comprised of plenty of fruits and veggies (half of your plate), while one quarter of your plate is filled with a protein, and the remaining quarter is filled with a minimally processed grain like brown rice or whole-wheat pasta. Make sure to use leftovers to make the next day’s meal prep easy—think large-batch cooking. Snacks should have a protein (such as nuts, peanut butter, etc.) along with a high-fiber carbohydrate like a piece of fruit (think banana or apple) to keep you feeling satisfied throughout the day.

Tips for Safe Eating at Schools and Work

Here are some actions to consider when eating meals at work or school amid a pandemic:

  • Cut back on items that require heating up in the microwave to avoid touching a community microwave.
  • Use a thermos if you would like to take hot items (such as coffee or soup).
  • Pack a bottle of water (drinking fountains are likely to be closed).
  • Practice “hands-free” snacking. An example for kids: toothpicks already placed into small sandwich squares that they can pick up like an hors d’oeuvre makes for a fun and safe way to eat finger foods!
  • Use packaging to avoid touching food prior to ingesting food items.
  • Practice good hand hygiene. Scrub with soap and water for a minimum of 20 seconds and don’t touch other items prior to eating.
  • Bring your own utensils, napkins, and condiments.
  • Vary the times you visit the cafeteria if possible to avoid high-traffic times.
  • Keep your mask on as long as possible and try to sit at least 6 feet apart.

Meal and Snack Ideas

Take a look at some of these meal and snack ideas and give them a try. Keep in mind that these are suggestions, and I hope they provide inspiration. Although they don’t cut out your risk 100 percent, every little bit helps during this crazy time.

Breakfast Ideas

  • Smoothie: 1-2 cups of frozen fruit, a handful of leafy greens, a spoonful of peanut butter, and milk of your choice blended to your preferred consistency. Pack in a thermos and bring your own straw.
  • A banana and a squeezable almond butter packet (such as Justin’s).
  • Overnight oats: soak rolled oats in milk in the fridge overnight with a dollop of peanut butter. Add fresh or frozen fruit on top. Eat cold or throw in the microwave before leaving the house (it retains heat well!).

Lunch Ideas

  • Sandwiches on whole-wheat bread: wrap in parchment paper to avoid touching the sandwich when eating it. Skip the deli meats and try to load up on colorful and crunchy veggies with hummus in this option.
  • Pasta salad: bring your own utensils. Make a big batch of whole-wheat pasta and sautéed veggies and toss with balsamic vinegar and olive oil in the morning. Toss in a can of pinto beans or a handful of pine nuts for an easy protein.
  • Spinach salad: top with carrots, cherry tomatoes, walnuts, and chickpeas. Toss dressing on at lunch.

Snacks and Sides Ideas

  • Squeezable applesauce pouches
  • Larabars
  • Mamma Chia Squeeze pouch
  • Yogurt with a banana—I love the Silk soy yogurt for a dairy-free option
  • Individual bags of prepopped popcorn (try pouring it into your mouth straight from the bag—it might not look graceful at times, but it keeps your fingers out of your mouth!)
  • Precut fruit salad (apples, strawberries, blueberries, etc.)
  • Precut/bite-sized carrots, cucumber, and celery that you can easily stab with a fork or toothpick and dip into a little hummus

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While this is not an easy time for anyone, trying to keep up your routine in eating habits is important so that your body is properly fueled and healthy. Best of luck this year, and stay healthy!

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This blog was written by Lindsey Hehman, MA, RD, CD. To learn more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: healthy eating snacks lunch breakfast disease prevention kids school viruses covid-19 coronavirus pandemic

How Technology Can Promote Exercise for Today’s Youth

GettyImages-867856148We all know that physical fitness and wellness are prerequisites for a productive and healthy life. Exercise is good not only for the body, but for the mind as well. We want to ensure a future full of great experiences. For one population, our children, participating in physical activity may be becoming more and more challenging, whether it be from lack of interest, lack of support, or lack of funding for programs in their community. One area in which this population excels, however, is technology. Without a doubt, smartphone technology is a part of our current culture and most likely will be for a long time. For some older people, this might be a newer concept. At the moment, though, ensuring the future of physical fitness for the next generation will need to coexist with technology.

Can Exercise and Technology Coexist?

Being somewhat skeptical of the coexistence of exercise and technology, I, like some people, associate the latter with inactivity and laziness. In the past, this might have been the case; however, a new generation of technology is now capable of training children to be more active while using technology. This was evident with the evolution of video game technology such as Wii Sports and Microsoft Kinect games.

The next evolution, naturally, moved to smartphones. Nearly every person has a smartphone and spends hours and hours per week staring at their screens. Then apps were developed, and have built a new outlet for fitness that not only utilizes the strengths (technology) but the interests (fun and leisure) that really entice children to exercise without even thinking about it.

Smartphone Technology That Gets People Moving

Here are some examples where smartphone technology is positively impacting people’s lives with exercise (source: Wezift.com).

  • Pokémon GO: Users use an interactive app to walk to Pokémon sites. At that point, a virtual battle ensues. Afterward, the user tries to find the next real-world location for the next battle. Sometimes these sites are common areas where likeminded individuals can meet up and battle with friends. It encourages walking, a proven method of burning calories and promoting a healthy lifestyle.
  • NFL Play 60: The National Football League’s app, geared toward fighting childhood obesity through activity, specifically 60 minutes per day. NFL players get involved and help inspire the youth to be physically fit.
  • Kids Fitness—Daily Yoga: This app is geared toward the benefits of yoga, teaching children 10 basic poses and movements. This free app helps kids understand the foundational concepts of yoga.

Find the Exercise That Keeps You Engaged

Getting involved with exercise can come in many forms. There are thousands of ways to exercise with thousands of plans. The best one, however, depends on you. What will you do to exercise and keep exercising for a lifetime? That, my friends, is the best exercise in the world. Keep your eyes open for new ideas and concepts as the fitness world is ever-changing. At NIFS, we are dedicated to making sure you are connected with our staff through all forms of social media. Connect with a NIFS Health Fitness Professional to get started on your fitness journey today! Until next time, muscleheads rejoice and evolve!

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This blog was written by Thomas Livengood, NIFS Health Fitness Instructor and Personal Trainer. To learn more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: staying active Thomas' Corner kids technology apps fitness for kids

Meal Prep Made Simple…and Delicious!

GettyImages-95618113When I say “meal prep,” do you picture hours upon hours in the kitchen, a stockpile of containers, and food that you are sick of by week’s end? PAUSE right there! I am here to tell you that meal prep does not have to be that way. It does not have to be too time-consuming or hard, and you don’t have to eat the exact same meal over and over.

What Is Meal Prep?

For those new to meal prep, it is essentially precooking and preparing foods in advance so that you have less to do during your week, but still have your meals ready to go. The weeks get busy and tiring, especially when work picks up or the kids’ extracurriculars start. The last thing anyone wants to do after work is cook. So, if food is not prepped or the fridge is empty, we find ourselves ordering takeout for the third day in a row. Who can relate? My hand is up! Regardless of our busy lives, we still need to find a way to maintain a healthy nutrition regimen because doing so carries over into the rest of our lives. Meal prep is the key to helping you stay nourished even when life gets busy.

Meal prep is not rocket science, but it does require effort and is not the easiest thing in the world. After years of prepping for myself, husband, and even my family when I was younger, along with guiding my clients and patients, I can say there are ways to make meal prep simple and easy while still making enjoyable meals.

Meal Prep Cooking Tips

Here are my tips for you!

Make a Plan

It’s always a good idea to start with a plan. Benjamin Franklin said it best, “Failing to plan is planning to fail.” Take a few moments to plan and write out the menu for the week.

  • Consider the number of servings per meal you need, the budget, and food preferences.
  • How many meals and snacks will you be serving?
  • Look at your schedule to consider the obligations you have. It would be a waste to prepare food for an evening that you will not be home.
  • What are your health goals? Are there specific suggestions by your primary care provider or Registered Dietitian that you need to consider when planning your meals?

Think “Single Ingredients”

Prepare single ingredients, such as vegetables, proteins, and starches that can be used in a variety of ways. This can keep you from getting bored with the same meal over and over. For example, prepare a bulk batch of chicken. That one batch can be used for BBQ sandwiches alongside some steamed veggies, as a main entrée tossed in marinade with a veggie and starch of choice on the side, or thrown into a soup like chicken noodle or chicken chili. The same can be done with a starch, such as brown rice. Prepare the rice and use it for a stir-fry with veggies and protein of choice (tofu, chicken, or turkey are good options); a Tex-Mex bowl with rice, beans, lean protein, veggies, and guacamole; or alongside grilled teriyaki chicken. You get the picture.

Prepare Two Proteins, Four Vegetables, and Two Starches

This is a pretty good rule of thumb because all of these single ingredients can be combined in a multitude of ways to make different meals. Pick two proteins that you can use throughout the week, such as chicken, lean turkey or beef, tofu, beans, cod, or salmon. Cook them based on the meals you’ve planned. Maybe that means half of the chicken is boiled and shredded for BBQ sandwiches and your lunch salads, while the other half is tossed in marinade to be grilled, or cooked in the air-fryer or oven in the next day or two. Then, pick out four veggies that go with your proteins and that can be easily accessible for snacks, including salad mixes, roasted veggies, and cut raw vegetables. To balance out the meals, prepare two starches in bulk. Consider mashed or roasted potatoes, rice, or whole grains of some sort.

Add in Spices, Seasonings, Sauces, and Marinades

Now that you have prepped single ingredients, be sure to have spices, seasonings, sauces, and marinades on hand to pack the meal with flavor. On the stir-fry night, be sure to portion out your meal serving of rice, turkey, and veggies that you cooked in bulk. Then top with the stir-fry sauce. For the shredded chicken you prepared, be sure to mix a meal’s worth with a low-sugar BBQ sauce when the sandwich night rolls around. When you go to eat the veggies, use an Italian seasoning combo on spaghetti night but a garlic and pepper combination on the tofu and rice night.

When picking your sauces and marinades, be sure to watch for high sodium (if you have high blood pressure) and added sugar content. Sometimes those sauces will be packed with added sugars, fats, and sodium. Pick low-fat, lite, sugar-free, and low- or reduced-sodium options when available.

Try One-pan Meals, Air Fryers, Pressure Cookers, or Slow Cookers

The methods listed above are easy and still produce a delicious meal. Some of my favorite one-pan meals include chicken with peppers for fajitas, steak strips and sweet potatoes with broccoli, and garlic tofu with veggies. Toss the prepped raw veggies lightly in oil and place on a baking sheet alongside a protein, and then roast it all together. You can make these vegetarian friendly as well!

The air fryers, pressure cookers (such as Instant Pot), and slow cookers (such as Crock-Pot) are all appliances worth considering. My household loves marinating chicken and tossing it in the air fryer, along with sweet potato fries. While that is cooking, we throw a steamable bag of veggies in the microwave. Crispy chicken, fries, and veggies that are so nutritious; very little work; balanced and customized portions to meet our nutrition goals—easy peezy.

The Instant Pot and Crock-Pot come in handy when you want to throw things into an appliance and let it do all the work for you. We use the Crock-Pot for shredded chicken, chili, soups, slow-cooker lasagna, and so much more. Also, did you know there are Facebook groups, such as an Instant Pot Recipe group, that consist of people sharing recipes utilizing these appliances? That is where my sister found the protein bagel recipe that I adapted. 

Consider Pre-prepared, Precut Ingredients, and Steamables to Save Time

There is absolutely no shame in needing convenience. Grocery stores these days have raw and chopped vegetables, fruit trays, fresh salsa, premade guacamole, and more in the produce section. In the freezer section, you can find chopped onions, peppers, and celery for some of your recipes as well (because who has time to chop all those veggies…not I). You can also find steamable bags of rice, quinoa, and vegetables if you need a quick side to toss in the microwave or do not want to make these things in advance.

It’s Easy—But NIFS Can Help If You Need It!

Meal prep can be simple and not always keep you bound to eating the same meal over and over throughout the week. Once you get past that initial push to do it, the process becomes a habit and part of your weekly routine. Then, once you do it enough, the process will be faster and easier. It is worth the time and effort. I promise. If you still feel that you could use more help with meal prep, reach out to the NIFS Registered Dietitian for one-on-one nutrition counseling or join the NIFS Nutrition and Lifestyle Facebook group.

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This blog was written by Sabrina Goshen, NIFS Registered Dietitian. To learn more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: nutrition healthy eating kids cooking time management meal planning meal prep

Kids Confined: A Parent’s Survival Kit

GettyImages-1216458718(1)In one way or another I think it’s safe to say that the spread of this virus has affected all of us in the last few weeks. And for some, it has become life-changing! As parents of a school-aged kid, my husband and I have had some tough conversations with our kindergartener explaining why he won’t be seeing his friends or teacher at school for a while, if at all. Not only have we had to have tough talks, we’ve had to become pretty creative in how we keep him active and engaged.

Our son, Isaiah, is the definition of energy. In his words, “I’m 100%!” And he means it! He only knows one speed and that is fast. Not only does Isaiah’s energy require creativity, his appetite is comparable to a bottomless pit.

How Are We Thriving Through a Global Pandemic? Two Words: Consistent Creativity!

For a child that is used to having so much structure at school and thriving in that environment, how can you replicate that at home and maintain your “cool parent” status? Here are some tips.

Keep Them Engaged

Finding fun, creative, and engaging educational opportunities for the kiddos to remain sharp is only half the battle. Timing is also critical. Making sure that each day is a little more exciting than the day before is a great way to keep them engaged in learning and being active. 

Let Kids Help Choose Activities

Allowing involvement in the decision making of what we do has been a key as well. This is a great test to see what interests your kids have and what type of learners they are. Are they hands-on? Do they need to see the activity performed first a few times? Or maybe just once? I am learning each day just as he is. 

Build Structure and Choice into Snacks

Our son can eat. If we were to let him choose when and what to eat, he would eat us completely out of the house. Each day he has the choice of three or four snacks (such as fruits, vegetables, yogurts, jello cups, an occasional homemade cookie, a snack-size bag of chips, crackers, fruit popsicles, etc.) along with breakfast, lunch, and dinner. We’ve provided that structure and have allowed him the freedom to choose. We are, however, still trying to figure out exactly where he puts all the food.

Creative Ways of Getting Exercise

For an active kid such as him, we’ve had to get even more creative with how he gets his exercise (same goes for us). Some days it consists of timing him to see how fast he can run up the stairs to get a diaper for his sister. Days that the weather isn't cooperating with us, we’re firing up GO Noodle on the Apple TV and dancing to some Zumba. And when the weather is nice enough to be outside, we’re taking walks, running, playing basketball in the driveway, doing sidewalk chalk, or whatever else we can come up with to burn that energy.

We’re All in This Together

We’re all trying to navigate through this crazy time, and the most important thing we can hold onto is that we’re all in this together. I read an Instagram post from Reformed Sports Parent the other day that allowed me to cut myself some slack:

Don’t worry about them regressing in school. Every single kid is in this boat and they all will be okay. When we are back in the classroom, we will all course-correct and meet them where they are. Teachers are experts at this! Don’t pick fights with your kids because they don’t want to do math. Don't scream at your kids for not following the schedule. Don’t mandate 2 hours of learning time if they are resisting it. If I can leave you with one thing, it’s this: at the end of all of this, your kids’ mental health will be more important than their academic skills. And how they felt during this time will stay with them long after the memory of what they did during those 4 or more weeks is long gone. So keep that in mind, every single day.

Stay Healthy!

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This blog was written by Ashley Duncan, Weight Loss Coordinator and Program Coordinator. To learn more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: exercise at home snacks kids fitness for kids quarantine home learning

Meal Planning for Kids

GettyImages-526785155The kids and grandkids are home! With them being home, this means you are having to provide breakfasts and lunches. For those that relied on schools to provide these meals, this can be a stressor added to the day. Maybe your kids received meals for free or at a reduced price. Maybe you are being expected to work from home, all while attempting to help your kids through e-learning and cook them lunch. There are an abundance of reasons as to why this may be tough. You are not alone. We are in this together- as a community. We will get through this.

First, find some time to plan. Kids are used to having a structured plan during their school day- anything short of this will lead to stressed and irrational children (which makes your life harder). Make sure this plan includes when the kids will wake up, have breakfast, start school, get an hour of activity/play time, eat lunch, and conclude their school day. Knowing their schedule will help you prepare your schedule. Consider having your lunch break at the same time as theirs.

Second, plan for lunches and work with a "cycle menu." This means you determine 4-5 different lunches, then schedule one per day. Once you go through all 4-5, cycle back through them. This offers the kids variety but makes the planning, storage, and preparation easier on your part. To make it even easier, have the same meals they are having. There is no need for you to take time to prepare various foods.

Last, stick to the plan. Remember- you are in charge of WHAT and WHEN the kids eat; the kids are in charge of how much they wish to eat at a given meal.

If you are having a difficult time obtaining food for your kids, visit https://www.indy.gov/activity/covid-19-school-district-food-support. The IPS school district is providing ALL kids with free a breakfast and lunch until April 3rd (which will likely be extended). The meals are first come first serve and available to all children, regardless of school district. Follow the website above to find the nearest pick-up point.

Kid Meal Ideas

  1. Turkey + cheddar roll-up, frozen berries, yogurt, and trail mix.
  2. Hummus (can easily make homemade from canned chickpeas), pita bread, grape tomatoes, carrots, and grapes.
  3. Cheese quesadilla (made with whole grain tortillas), guacamole, salsa, strawberries.
  4. Broccoli mac and cheese (made with whole grain, chickpea, or lentil pasta), orange.
  5. Grilled cheese and low-sodium tomato soup.
  6. Homemade pizza on whole grain thin crust served with steamed veggie of choice.
  7. Tuna or chicken salad served on whole wheat crackers or bread, apple slices, carrots.
  8. Peanut butter and jelly (tip: make own “jelly” with smashed berries to reduce sugar) on whole grain bread, celery sticks, yogurt

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If you have any other questions or concerns, please feel free to contact our Registered Dietitian, Sabrina Goshen by e-mail at SGoshen@nifs.org.

Topics: nutrition kids menu planning

Changing Lives: Getting Kids to Participate in Fitness and Wellness

GettyImages-521611274Running, skipping, hopping, bounding, throwing, and crawling are all activities children around the world enjoy and are necessities for proper movement development. Most sports and lifetime fitness activities require one or more of these basic motor skills. Developing basic motor skills sometimes is not our main priority when it comes to our children’s upbringing. In our lifetime, the focus on physical education has somewhat declined due to various reasons, with one reason being a deemphasis on playground time and even family-time physical activity. Beyond physical fitness, there are many other benefits that one can get from being more active, especially at a young age.

Many Kids Don’t Get Enough Activity

Not shocking, but definitely sobering, is the knowledge that only 1 in 3 children is physically active every day, 1 in 3 children is obese, and 70 percent of people become obese as adults. With an increase in our children’s electronics usage (phone, computer, television, and so on), things are starting to look quite concerning. Looking at this from a fitness professional’s point of view, I feel that health and wellness is the most important thing you have, making this issue the highest of priorities.

Accountability and Being a Role Model

How can we help our children overcome the unwanted effects of unhealthy living and gain all the benefits of fitness and wellness? Some of the responsibility is going to be on the shoulders of the adults in charge of the child. Being a good role model is not only good for the child, but also for the adult. Being conscious of what you are eating and how much exercise you are getting every day is a great start. There are many activity trackers and websites such as www.myfitnesspal.com that can help with accountability. You can even link to others in your family to see what they are doing and create a supportive network without even leaving the nest.

Finding the Right Sport or Activity

Not every child will gravitate toward a specific sport or activity, and it may take several tries to find what works for them. If team sports like soccer or basketball don’t work, try something that is more individual like swimming, wrestling, or tennis. If traditional sports are not the answer, look at other activities such as martial arts, rock climbing, or ballet. If economics is an obstacle, going to a park, tossing the ball around, and playing tag are all easy and inexpensive games for kids that promote exercise, motor skill development, and social interaction. Ultimately, having a role model who cares about their wellness can have a profound impact on the child’s image of fitness.

It's a Big Responsibility, but NIFS Can Help

Although that may sound like a huge responsibility, we owe it to our youth to prioritize fitness and wellness in an effort to slow the trends we are seeing around the globe. Check out your local parks and other options for fitness and reach out to fitness professionals, your child’s physical education teachers, and coaches for help.

NIFS can help too! Contact Monica Bopp at NIFS for more information about organizing a field trip for your school. Field trips at NIFS are fun and educational and cater to all ages. Keep your focus on what matters: our future.

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This blog was written by Thomas Livengood, NIFS Health Fitness Instructor and Personal Trainer. To read more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: staying active Thomas' Corner accountability kids wellness fitness for kids role models

NIFS August Group Fitness Class of the Month: Yoga

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Yoga is good for all types of people who have all types of fitness goals. No matter what your age, size, shape, or training regimen, you can reap the benefits of doing it on a regular basis. In fact, there are different types of yoga, and some of them are quite challenging regarding strength and balance.

Yoga is NIFS Group Fitness Class of the Month. Let’s take a look at some specific groups of people and why yoga can be beneficial to them.

Athletes

For many athletes, the idea of getting a good, solid workout means needing a wheelchair to get out of the gym. However, a good 60-minute yoga session could really help far more than the mind tells you it can. In fact, one of these sessions may be, at times, even more beneficial than that 60-minute lift you were just about to do. Yoga helps to improve strength, flexibility, balance, coordination, mental control, and mobility; increases power; and works as a perfect active-recovery exercise.

Seniors

For senior fitness, yoga is great to help gain better stability and balance. As people age, their balance, stability, and proprioception diminish. But with the help of yoga, you can slow down the process. On top of improved stability and balance, yoga helps to improve flexibility and overall joint health, reduces high blood pressure, improves breathing, and helps to reduce anxiety or depression.

The General Population

For the everyday exerciser who is simply trying to fit exercise into their regular, busy life schedule, yoga is great, too! Yoga is actually a form of physical fitness and has several benefits for those looking for a relaxing yet challenging workout. Yoga helps boost emotional health, reduce back pain, reduce heart disease, put asthma at ease, boost memory, improve flexibility… and the list goes on.

Youth

Yes, yoga is good for kids as well. Yoga is good for the youth population because it gives them time to step away from technology, inwardly connect with themselves, and listen to their own feelings and ideas. For this age range of people, it has been found that yoga can help improve self-esteem, attention span, empowerment, and self-regulation.

Nifs YogaPowerlifters

Believe it or not, powerlifting and yoga are a match made in heaven! Yoga for those who like to lift heavy helps improve grip strength and endurance, improve breathing, relieve knee and lower-back pain, aid in flexibility (specifically in the back for power lifters), and increase strength. While you might not be the first one in class to touch your toes, make that your next goal, then lift the car above your head!

***

Check out NIFS’ group fitness schedule and join us for a class in Indianapolis. Namaste, friends and fellow soon-to-be yogis!

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This blog was written by Amanda Bireline, Fitness Center Manager. To find out more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: NIFS yoga group fitness balance senior fitness kids powerlifting athletes Group Fitness Class of the Month

Helping Picky Kids Get Better Nutrition

ThinkstockPhotos-474735668.jpgHas dinnertime become the dreaded time lately? Getting picky children to eat can be very frustrating. Children of different ages may respond differently to various tactics. Here are a few ideas for how you can get your child to try (and hopefully like) new foods, and get better nutrition.

Pregnant and Lactating Women

Some research shows that the foods that a woman eats during pregnancy may “program” the fetus’ food preferences later in life. Both amniotic fluid and breast milk take on flavors and odors of the foods mom eats. When pregnant and breastfeeding, try these tactics:

  • Eat a variety of healthy foods to expose your baby to an assortment of flavors and smells. This may reduce the chance that your child will be a picky eater.
  • Avoid a diet based around junk food. Your need for additional calories is not a good reason to eat food that contains no nutritional value. Doing so may increase the amount of sugar needed to experience reward in your child’s developing brain, possibly leading to loss of control and binge-eating episodes later in life.

Infants

Feed your baby variety. It often takes the introduction of a new food ten times for a young child to develop a taste for it. Most babies grimace at every new food. Keep trying a food and your baby may learn to like it.

  • Introduce vegetables before fruits so that the child does not get used to eating sweet foods all the time.
  • When eating several different foods at one meal, introduce new foods before familiar favorites. If they do not know mashed bananas are available, they may try the lima bean puree.
  • Do not avoid foods because you do not like them. Your child may learn to like different foods than you.

Toddlers and Children

As with babies, toddlers may refuse foods—not because they don’t like them, but because they begin to realize they have a choice. Let your child make other decisions, like what book to read, or what clothes to wear, but not what to eat once the food is on the table. A toddler’s growth may be slowing down, so they may eat less. If they are not eating, they may be full from snacks or juice, or they may have been served a portion that is too large. Babies and toddlers will not starve themselves!

  • Eat with your children, and eat the same things. Dad can’t avoid green vegetables, and mom can’t avoid bread or starchy vegetables; your child will pick up on that and think they can avoid certain foods, too.
  • Turn the TV off. Young children need to focus on eating, and distractions such as cartoons will keep them from eating.
  • Make foods fun! Arrange a fruit salad as a smiley face. Use cookie cutters to cut sandwiches into fun shapes.
  • Let kids play with their food, and be tolerant of messes! It helps kids experience the food’s texture and smell, and will help them eat it, too.
  • Make dips out of cottage cheese, tofu, yogurt, guacamole, peanut butter, or pureed fruits and vegetables. Your child can dip fruits and vegetables, rice cakes, toast, or other nutritious foods.
  • Find a fun character-inspired cookbook, choose a recipe, and make it together.
  • Serve one food at a time, keeping other options out of sight. Start with new foods or foods the child does not like as well first, and then add familiar foods and favorites.

More Tips for Parents

Here are some more ideas that will help make mealtimes more pleasant:

  • Don’t force your child to eat anything.
  • At most meals, try to offer mainly healthy choices.
  • Allow your children to ask for seconds.
  • Do not force your child to finish a meal, even if they want dessert.
  • Deemphasize dessert as a prize; don’t make children finish their vegetables to get it.
  • Have your children rate new foods with a pre-made “New Food Chart”: have them draw a happy face if they like it and a sad face if they don’t.
  • Finally, praise the child for trying new foods. That will encourage them to do it more often.

Hopefully by trying some of these suggestions, you can get your kids on the road to healthy eating—and start enjoying mealtimes more!

Related: Back-to-School Nutrition with Lunch Makeovers

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This blog was written by Angie Mitchell, RD, Wellness Coordinator. To find out more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: nutrition healthy eating snacks lunch kids pregnancy lactation

Back-to-School Nutrition with Lunch Makeovers

ThinkstockPhotos-528974268.jpgIt’s that time of year again…back to school! This means busy evenings or early mornings getting lunches packed for the kids. What’s in a child’s lunch is important because it’s in childhood that eating habits are formed—and heart disease, obesity, osteoporosis, and other diseases begin to develop. Fatty buildups, the beginnings of clogged arteries, are seen in the arteries of children as young as 10 years old.

So even though that prepackaged meal is the quickest and easiest thing to throw in a lunchbox, consider these 10 ways to help your child eat a more balanced lunch.

  1. Encourage your child to choose 1% or fat-free milk. Milk is the biggest source of saturated fat in children’s diets. Choosing 1% or fat-free milk instead of whole or 2% is an important strategy for keeping children’s hearts healthy and arteries clear.
  2. Switch from bologna, salami, pastrami or corned beef, and other fatty luncheon meats to low-fat alternatives. Supermarkets sell many good-tasting, low-fat or fat-free brands of turkey breast, chicken breast, ham, bologna, and roast beef.
  3. Include at least one serving of fruit in every lunch. Try buying a few new types of fruit each week to let your child discover new favorites and to give him or her more healthy eating choices. In addition to apples, oranges, or bananas, try pears, sliced melon, cups of applesauce, grapes, or pineapple (fresh or canned in its own juice). Try serving fruit in different ways: whole, cut into slices, cubed, or with a yogurt dipping sauce.
  4. Sneak vegetables onto sandwiches. Try lettuce, slices of cucumber, tomato, green pepper, roasted peppers, zucchini, or sugar-snap peas. Eating fruits and vegetables reduces your child’s chances of heart disease, cancer, blindness, and stroke later in life. Putting veggies on a sandwich is one way to get more into your child’s diet.
  5. Use whole-wheat bread instead of white bread for sandwiches. Choose breads that list “whole wheat” as the first ingredient. If the main flour listed on the label is “wheat” or “unbleached wheat flour,” the product is not whole grain. Most multi-grain, rye, oatmeal, and pumpernickel breads in the U.S. are not whole grain.
  6. Limit cookies, snack cakes, doughnuts, brownies, and other sweet baked goods. Sweet baked goods are the second leading source of sugar and the fourth leading source of saturated fat in Americans’ diets. Low-fat baked goods can help cut heart-damaging saturated fat from your child’s diet, but even fat-free sweets can crowd out healthier foods like fruit. This nutrition rule does say LIMIT and not eliminate. The key is moderation when it comes to sweets!
  7. Pack baked chips, pretzels, Cheerios, breadsticks, or low-fat crackers instead of potato, corn, tortilla, or other chips made with oil. Avoid empty calories from artery clogging fried chips. Also, beware of Bugles, which are fried in heavily saturated coconut oil. One ounce has as much artery-clogging fat as a McDonald’s Quarter Pounder.
  8. If you pack juice, make sure it’s 100% juice. All fruit drinks are required to list the “% juice” on the label. Watch out for juice drinks like Sunny Delight, Hi-C, Hawaiian Punch, and Capri Sun. With no more than 10% juice, they are just as sugary as soft drinks.
  9. Don’t send prepackaged lunch trays. Oscar Mayer’s Lunchables that come with a treat and a drink get two-thirds of their calories from fat and sugar. They also contain over 1000mg of sodium, which is half the recommendation for the whole day. Making your own healthy alternative is as easy as packing low-fat crackers, low-fat lunchmeat, a piece of fruit, and a box of 100% juice in your child’s lunchbox.
  10. Let your child help pack their lunch. If your child is excited about the foods they are eating, they will be more likely to finish their energy-packed lunch. Allow them to help pick and choose items to put in their lunchbox each night or morning, teaching them the importance of meal planning and responsibility.

Find out more about nutritional coaching

This blog was written by Angie Mitchell, RD, Wellness Coordinator. To find out more about the NIFS bloggers, click here. (And to see what she brings for her lunch, click here!)

Topics: nutrition healthy eating calories lunch kids sodium

Healthy Kids: Exercise May Help Improve Grades in School


Remember bringing your report card home, nervously wondering how your parents were going to punish you for the slacking grades? Parents, remember opening that report card and trying to figure out how to help your child realize the importance of doing well in school and punishing them for their low grade? One idea I never heard from my parents was, “Hey let’s give exercise a try and see if it helps to improve their grades!” But it might be just the thing that helps.

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The Evidence Is In: Active Kids Are Better Learners

For years, parents have been struggling to find ways to get their children focused and driven to work hard in the classroom. Being a former coach, I have seen many kids who were motivated to work hard in their sport; but when it came to their studies the motivation seemed to be lacking. Practice would be filled with endless complaints about teachers, too much homework, or the test they had the next day. But there is a lot of research coming out saying that with just 20 minutes a day of physical activity, your child can improve their grades in school.

In a recent study, after just 20 minutes of walking around the playground, kids tested higher on a reading test than the other students who just sat inside and watched TV. Due to the development of brain cells in aerobic exercise, improvements are made in attention, concentration, focus, problem solving, behavior, and memory. So why not help kids do better in school by simply spending just 20 minutes with them doing some sort of physical activity?

Ways to Get Kids Moving

Here are some quick ideas that I came up with to challenge your kids to get out of their pajamas and into action:

Yard games: Have your kids play tag with the other neighborhood children, or maybe a quick round of catch with the football or baseball. If someone has a trampoline, spending 20 minutes jumping on that could be both fun and beneficial. You could also challenge them to a jump-rope contest or send them out to climb around on the swing set.

  • Sports games: Go out and shoot some hoops or challenge them to a little one-on-one. You could grab a soccer ball and kick it around the yard, or maybe go for a light jog together. And who doesn’t like a bike ride around the neighborhood?
  • Inside activities: Try setting up an obstacle course in the basement that makes them climb, run, jump, crawl, etc. If you have a Wii, the Wii Sports program is both fun and challenging, or you can also exercise through dance.
  • Other ideas: Some other things that I thought of would be to walk the dog around the block, rollerblade to school, create a fun circuit that they could go through, take your kids to swim at the local pool, and even try letting them invite a friend along!

Next time you're at NIFS, bring the kids along to take advantage of some of our active family services. With a short, fun workout, you may see your kids’ grades improve! Be creative and find ways that allow you both to get your bodies moving and get your heart rate up. Give it a try with your kids and see how they do!

This blog was written by Amanda Bireline, Health Fitness Specialist. To find out more about the NIFS bloggers click here.

 

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Topics: staying active education productivity kids