Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Healthy Vacations

Vacations can be challenging to maintain a healthy lifestyle.

 To maintain a healthy lifestyle it takes a little extra planning. My family just returned from travelling across the country from Michigan to Idaho. This involved a lot of driving 12 hours a day. It was tempting to stop for fast food, or eat out, but we chose to adhere to our healthy lifestyle.

Breaking up travel with exercise is helpful.

Next time you make travel plans be sure to include exercise to break up the doldrums of long car rides.  We found paths to walk, mountains to hike, swimming and white water rafting  to keep our activity levels up and not just sit all day. Yellowstone National park was amazing, but it shocked me how many people had to sit to watch Old Faithful, or could not walk the board walks to the most amazing sites such as Grand Prismatic Springs. We chose to hike 2000 feet up and hiked Avalanche Trail one day. That is not a trail for those unfit, as brings you from from 8580 ft to 10580ft in elevation. Good cardiovascular health is important.    

Eating healthy while on vacation takes some planning. 

While on vacation our plan was to maintain a healthy eating plan and save money. We decided there isn't anything wrong with Peanut butter and Jelly on whole wheat bread. It is a good protein source for big adventures, carbs for quick energy and low in saturated fat.  Bags of cut vegetables are easy to buy at grocery stores instead of fast food stops. Fruit is plentiful, bags of apples travel well, grapes washed and ready to eat can make the time pass. We made a game to see who could  peel grapes the fastest. Snacks include granola bars, pita bread and hummus, cherries. Instead of soda water bottles were easily refilled en route, and the occasional bottled milk provided satiation and calcium. Not to say we didn't eat out but it sure made the night with pizza feel like a treat and extra special. Often in working in cardiac rehabilitation I would have long haul truckers who had heart attacks and felt challenged to eat healthy. Truck stops are often just a few yards away from a town which always holds a grocery. Hit the fresh food aisle instead of the truck stops while traveling.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Fast Food Challenges

Meal times can be tough when family obligations allow you limited time for preparation. 

Some people are always thinking ahead and can plan by preparing early, either a crock pot meal, or cook something ahead of time and just warm it up. But any family can tell you there are days that you just don't have the time so you succumb to the ever inviting, immediate gratification of fast food. We all know we should not eat it, but it happens. The more often we eat it, the easier it gets to go back again and again. By doing this often you are mentoring your children to accept this as normal behaviour and also teaching there taste buds to crave the unhealthy food choices.

My family prided themselves on avoiding fast food. I am ever grateful to a seventh grade home economics teacher who thoroughly investigated with her class the fast food industry. They watched movies like Food Inc, Supersize Me, etc. After this the two children decided to be vegetarians. This lasted a couple of months, then they gradually added meat back into the diet, but limited the number of days per week of eating it. They kept to the no fast food for quite some time, my daughter avoided it for a few years. When we had an exchange student from Japan living with us, who spoke very little English, I asked her on her final few days what else she wanted to do in the US.  She stuttered and stumbled trying to tell me something that I couldn't comprehend. Then as if a lightbulb went off, her eyes brightened, she ran to get paper, and began sorting through the crayons. Finally she finds a yellow crayon and draws....you guessed it ....the golden arches.  She proceeded to show me with her hands a BIG Mac. I think she was greatly disappointed with the Big Mac, as it really isn't so big as she had envisioned. We then proceeded to take her to Burger King. My daughter who spent 3 years avoiding fast food was mortified. She and I can now say though since that experience we have not eaten fast food since.

How do you not eat fast food?

 Our sports teams now stop at grocery stores instead of fast food restaurants. Kids can then select their own food choices. I hope the coaches mentor them to choose healthy choices instead of junk food or processed foods like Lunchables.

 I once worked as an athletic trainer to a class A division one football team. The coach was morbidly obese, tipping the scales near 450 lbs. He had numerous operations for stomach stapling (back in the day that what it was called) and yet continued to put the weight right back on. Well when we travelled his rule was to go no more than two hours without stopping for food. I wonder now how many of his former football players are obese. He would have done better to mentor the kids with a stop for an apple, or a water break, which could have easily been taken with the team. 

Grab and Go Food Choices

Think about the time it takes to stop for fast food, could you run into a grocery and get foods like:

  •  bag of grapes, apples, oranges
  • box of graham crackers and jar of peanut butter
  • string cheese
  • jerky
  • bottled water
  • pretzels
  • cut up veggies and dip
  • bean dip and torillas
It would be less expensive, healthier and you would be showing the kids by example how to avoid the feeling that fast food is the only way to go. 

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

How to get your family to eat healthy

Teaching your family to eat healthy nutrition foods for a lifestyle

Raising a family can be particularly trying when it comes to meals. From early on children start to exert their independence and it often start with food. The "NO" when it comes to getting them to eat something. I know of many parents who simply gave up and fed their children nothing but chicken nuggets and hot dogs because "that is all they will eat". As parents we must role model healthy eating, make it fun and Be a parent!!!

 Young children should be started early with healthy eating, choose fruits instead of ice cream. If highly refined sugary foods are introduced early of course your child will choose the sweets over the healthy fruit choices. Hold off as long as possible with sweets.

Make eating fun

A favorite story of mine is when my son was about three I would read to him every night and a favorite story was about the Incredible Hulk. So when I introduced split pea soup I told him it was Hulk soup and if he ate it he would be as big and strong as Hulk. He promptly wolfed down the soup and expected to see changes immediately. I told him it would take several days for it to work and the more he ate the better the effects. He bought it! It took over a year before he caught on, but to this day loves Hulk soup.

Veggies - make them fun! 

Allow them to be finger foods, build towers with carrot sticks, be ravenous dinosaurs eating the tops off all the trees (broccoli), count how many leaves to get to the middle of a brussel sprout, see who can pull the longest string out of celery.

Expect to hear "No thanks, they aren't my favorite." Be ready to reply "Of course they aren't your favorite, we don't all get to eat our favorite foods every day." Just because they reject it one day keep offering it, insist on at least one bite to see if you still don't like it. Yes mine still don't like summer squash or cooked sweet potatoes - I think they ate these all their early formative years. Role model eating these foods anyway, don't eliminate them from your diet.

Soda is the exception

Too many kids go straight to the fridge and look for soda or juice. Encourage water! Water with every meal, water when thirsty, water with snacks. Get them used to drinking water. Keep a pitcher in the fridge, use ice cubes, have water bottles ready to just pull from the fridge and go. Stock up on your favorite ones so we can reduce the plastics from store bought water. Add a twist of lemon or a small amount of juice for the treat. If you already have a soda addict. Have them measure out the amount of sugar that is in the drink, it is a good visual experiment, then continue to measure out the most they have had in one day, then add it in the approximate sugar from the rest of their daily intake - ice cream, cookies etc.  Let them decide if it is healthy or not.

Don't be a short order cook.

Cook a healthy meal for everyone, have healthy snacks out instead of letting the children rummage through the refrigerator or kitchen. My children always come home to a bowl of fruit on the table, and maybe some whole grain cracker or hummus and vegetables. If the kids are demanding and complaining about the food choices have them help plan and prepare. Nothing better than getting them to cook as prepares them for the future, teaches how food is produced, like how much butter really goes into cookies. What fruit combinations work in smoothies, how to hide kale in a recipe, these are good challenges for teens.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Sedentary life causes weight gain: How to avoid it in your family

We can all work to limit the screen habits, not just TV but video games, Ipods, computers. It is hard as our children are growing up in a world we cannot fully understand where everything is linked to a screen. Some of it is great, but it is making us sedentary which then contributes to weight issues and chronic diseases. We must be creative to get families active. One way my family stays active is we challenge ourselves to do a certain number of hike, cross country ski, swims, kayaks per year. The goal may be ten of each. One year we made a goal of walking every trail in the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Park. This was 33 hikes, and it took us a year to accomplish this feat. But what memories!

Reblogged from BBC News   http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-18829131 

TV habits 'can predict kids' waist size and fitness'

Children watching televisionExperts say children should not watch more than two hours of TV a day

Related Stories

Children who increase the number of hours of weekly television they watch between the ages of two and four years old risk larger waistlines by age 10.
A Canadian study found that every extra weekly hour watched could add half a millimetre to their waist circumference and reduce muscle fitness.
The study, in a BioMed Central journal, tracked the TV habits of 1,314 children.
Experts say children should not watch more than two hours of TV a day.
Researchers found that the average amount of television watched by the children at the start of the study was 8.8 hours a week.
This increased on average by six hours over the next two years to reach 14.8 hours a week by the age of four-and-a-half.
Fifteen per cent of the children in the study were watching more than 18 hours per week by that age, according to their parents.
The study said the effect of 18 hours of television at 4.5 years of age would by the age of 10 result in an extra 7.6mm of waist because of the child's TV habit.

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Watching more television displaces other forms of educational and active leisurely pursuits”
Dr Linda PaganiUniversity of Montreal
'Bottom line'
As well as measuring waist circumference, the researchers also carried out a standing long jump test to measure each child's muscular fitness and athletic ability.
An extra weekly hour of TV can decrease the distance a child is able to jump from standing by 0.36cm, the study said.
The researchers said that further research was needed to work out whether television watching is directly responsible for the health issues they observed.
Dr Linda Pagani, study co-author from the University of Montreal, said it was a warning about the factors which could lead to childhood obesity.
"The bottom line is that watching too much television - beyond the recommended amounts - is not good," Dr Pagani said.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children aged over two should not watch more than two hours of television per day.
Dr Pagani added: "Across the occidental world, there have been dramatic increases in unhealthy weight for both children and adults in recent decades.
"Our standard of living has also changed in favour of more easily prepared, calorie-dense foods and sedentary practices.
"Watching more television not only displaces other forms of educational and active leisurely pursuits but also places them at risk of learning inaccurate information about proper eating."
The study said that habits and behaviours became entrenched during childhood and these habits might affect attitudes to sporting activities in adulthood.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Mentoring families in physical activity


Families should work together to mentor one another in healthy lifestyles.

 We can all learn from one another. Today the goal was to get the teens outdoors more. The plan to get them outdoors involved watching their mother attempt to balance on a slack line. With wobbly and I do mean wobbly legs, a few shrieks from fear while falling, they were suddenly off the computer and the Wii and engaged, proving how much more adept they could be on the slack line. This lasted for a while but then they were lured back in by their media sources. Next plan water skiing. Once again they can't let mom show them up, so after taking turns we all got skiing in.

It worked that way with getting them involved in running too. I was planning to run a 5k when they wanted to know what all the fuss was about, next thing I knew I had them registered at ages 5 and 7 for their first 5k. Now I had been planning for a personal best time, and ended up with a personal worse time, but I sparked a passion for them.

It doesn't have to be a competition, maybe an evening walk, a swim, a game of badminton, a yoga pose. If you make it seem fun, a contest, or be silly with it, they are likely to try it. If you promote physical activity as a chore, a burden or an all consuming necessity, I guarantee your kids won't participate. Entice the family by setting up the activity, or playing with your spouse first, then others will want to join in. Keep it light and fun. Enjoy!!!

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Family Health

Health care tends to focus only on the individual and not the family units. When prevention is discussed it is usually in the context of secondary prevention, meaning that the main health event has already occurred and the goal is to prevent a secondary health issue. It is kind of a day late and a dollar short approach. When a health care professional counsels one on health and wellness, it should encompass the whole family.

We are all responsible to work towards not only our own health, but that of those around us. It starts with personal health goals, then progresses to family health goals, including parents mentoring kids, kids mentoring parents. Grandparents too play a role, the idea of the grandparent spoiling the children can be detrimental to the future of the child if the spoiling occurs through inviting and encouraging unhealthy behaviours.

Family health and wellness should include:
  • Healthy Eating
  • Exercise
  • Healthy responses to stress
  • Emotional support
  • Social support
  • Sharing of information of family risks, health issues, histories
This is the inaugural blog in which I hope to share my knowledge and experience with you. Topics I plan to discuss include:
  • Keeping your family moving
  • Eating healthy on the run
  • Teenagers nutritional issues
  • Mentoring 
  • Leading health issues such as cholesterol, blood pressure, weight, smoking, risk factor reduction
A little about me though. I have worked in healthcare in the fields of emergency medicine, sports medicine, cardiac rehabilitation and exercise physiology for over twenty years. I too am raising teenagers. I strive to be as active as possible but profess am not a master of any particular sports. My activities include jogging, biking, cross country skiing, down hill skiing, kayaking, hiking, swimming, stand up paddle boarding, yoga and probably a few others I forgot to mention. I strive to teach healthy eating to my family and friends. I am proud to say my two teens eat quite healthy, but of course like any person have a few foods they just won't do...yet

I look forward to meeting and sharing information with you! For reference I have another blog entirely on recovering from heart disease http://rehabilitateyourheart.wordpress.com/