Friday, March 1, 2013

A Snack Attack for Kids

Do you ever get frustrated that the preschool where you send your children serves cheeze-its and pretzels for snack every day? Does it ever bother you that after baseball and soccer games, your kids are given snack cakes and fruit punch? In the March 2013 issue of Parents there is an interesting little article called "The Snack Epidemic". Being a dietitian, it definitely sparked my interest. By the time I was a few paragraphs in, I was thinking "AMEN"! The article covered the very frustration I have been dealing with while looking at preschools to send my son to next year.

Just to clarify, I do not have a problem with pretzels, cheeze-its, goldfish, or cookies. However, I do have a problem with them being served constantly; and at every turn. I take my children to get their haircuts and they're offered suckers, we run an errand and some well-meaning adult offers my children cookies, and the list goes on. Honestly, I haven't encountered nearly as many of these obstacles as I am about to because my oldest child has not even started preschool yet. As I said, these snacks are not the end of the world, but they should be used sparingly. Children are often offered cupcakes and juice, or other similar snacks for celebrations at school. Adding up the sugary and low nutrient foods throughout the day, week, and month equals too much sugar and fat; and not enough room for nutritious foods. I inquired about this issue where I signed my son up for preschool and I was told that "healthy snacks" are too expensive, but I was welcome to send any snack I wish with my son. Thankfully, they don't have the rule that other preschools have. Many preschools that I looked into deny parents of even sending their child with a snack because they don't want any kids to have something different. I cringe at the thought of my child being offered nothing but junk for his snack 4 times each week. Personally, I would be happy to pay an extra $5-$10 monthly so that my child could be offered something more nutritious. Truthfully, it wouldn't cost that much more anyway. Has anyone checked out the price of bananas lately? They are not expensive. When in-season produce is purchased, it is fairly minimal in cost to feed young children with small stomachs.

Another issue discussed in the article was the constant snacking of children. Snacks are awesome, but they don't need to be handed out all day long. Many children get around three or more snacks between each meal and they rarely contain fruit or other nutritious items such as cheese, peanut butter, yogurt, or vegetables and hummus. In order to expect children to come to the dinner table hungry, they have to actually have time to get hungry. With the continuous flow of processed snacks being thrown at our children, what are we to do?

Here are my suggestions:

1. Get involved! This is the most important thing you can do to cause change. Don't be afraid to make some waves. Personally, I have received more than one or two eye rolls when I've suggested change. You will not always be patted on the back when you suggest that parents bring healthy snacks to scouts. Isn't it worth it to teach our children how to enjoy healthy foods? Children almost always love fruit and will eat it. However, they will be glad to grab the donuts too if that's all we offer them. Remind the coach that children need a healthy snack to replace important nutrients lost while playing, which cannot be provided from a bag of chips. Check out the Parents magazine for a sample letter used to encourage other parents to bring healthy snacks after a children's sporting event. Sometimes a snack really isn't even necessary. If a snack is being offered "just because", maybe suggest that it is done away with. Remember, change will not happen on its own.

2. Set a good example at home. Provide water for your kids to drink whenever they want. Remember that fruit juices are loaded with sugar and are low on nutrients compared to the actual fruit. Provide a healthy snack about halfway between breakfast and lunch; and again between lunch and dinner. Allow your kids to have snacks that are less than healthy, but mostly provide unprocessed, high nutrient foods. Show your kids that you practice what you preach. Remember that healthy habits start at home.

I would love to hear any suggestions or thoughts about this. Please feel free to leave a comment!

Thursday, February 28, 2013

A Better Way to Buy Produce

Recently, I joined a produce co-op in my area and I just keep asking myself why I didn't do it sooner! It helps that a friend of mine was already involved in one, so she got me the contact information to get started. Every other week I drop off a laundry basket and $20 to the person who organizes our co-op. The next week, I go pick up my laundry basket full of produce. Most of the produce is local, but during the off season, they do have to get some of the produce from surrounding areas. Here are some things I LOVE about being a part of a produce co-op:

1. I would NEVER get as much produce for $20 at the grocery store! Here is what I got in my last basket to the best of my memory: 4 oranges, more red potatoes than I felt like counting, 3 green peppers, a head of iceberg lettuce, a head of cabbage, two bunches of broccolini, a large bag of spinach, 16oz of strawberries, 4 kiwis, 1 large squash, 1 large zucchini, 3 bags of carrots, celery, a container of grape tomatoes, and approximately 3/4 pound of pea pods. (The picture above is from a different week)

2. The produce is fresh and delicious. Sometimes I get good produce at the grocery store and sometimes I don't. That is part of the reason why we started a garden at my house and stick to farmer's markets and picking our produce whenever possible. It is just not always possible to avoid the grocery store for many obvious reasons.

3. Getting a load of random produce challenges me to prepare produce that I wouldn't normally purchase. For instance, one time I got some cauliflower and I wasn't thrilled about it. I ended up making a casserole out of it and it was pretty yummy.

4. There is ALWAYS produce in the house. Granted, I do find myself still having to buy some fruit at the grocery store because what I get in my basket won't feed my family for two weeks. However, the vegetables seem to keep us covered. I keep frozen vegetables on hand just in case, but I'm finding that I rarely use them.

5. This operation supports many local farmers, which I think is awesome!

So, if being a part of a co-op sounds good to you, look for one in your area. You may be able to find some information on or you can google local produce co-ops in your area.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Deep Water Running

As any runner knows, being injured is extremely frustrating! If you are looking to keep your fitness up in a time of recovery, try deep water running (DWR). DWR can be used as a way to maintain your aerobic fitness or to supplement a regular training routine. Aerobic fitness can actually be maintained for about six weeks when DWR replaces outdoor or treadmill running. Here are some things you need to know to get started:

1. Obtain a flotation belt so that you are more buoyant. While you will work harder without the belt, you will not be mimicking a natural running style. By using a more natural running stride, you will be activating the muscle groups that are used in running; therefore, maintaining your ability to run at the same level at which you were previously. This is called the principal of specificity.

2. DWR should be done in water deep enough that your feet do not touch the ground during your exercise.

3. Lean slightly forward from the vertical position with your entire body, bring your knee up to about 75 degrees, and then extend your leg toward the bottom of the pool.

4. Maintain relaxed arms in the same position that you would have them during regular running.

The type of DWR described above is called "cross country" (CC), which most closely mimics a regular running stride by activating the muscles slightly more than when treadmill running. Another commonly used style of DWR is called "high knee" (HK). While HK-DWR will give you a nice workout, it will not activate the appropriate muscles for running at the same intensity as CC-DWR.

Killgore, G.L. Deep-water running: a practical review of literature with an emphasis on biomechanics. Phys. Sports Med. 2012; 40(1).

Killgore, G.L., Wilcox, A.R., Caster, B.L., Wood, T.M. Alower-extremities kinematic comparison of deep-water running styles and treadmill running. J Strength Cond Res. 2006 Nov; 20(4): 919-927.

Masumoto K, Applequist BC, Mercer JA. Muscle activity during different styles of deep water running and comparison to treadmill running at matched stride frequency. Gait posture. 2012.

Reilly T, Dowzer CN, Cable NT. The physiology of deep water running. J Sports Sci. 2003 Dec;21(12):959-72.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Don't Forget To Give Back To Yourself

When you are thinking about which charity to donate your time to this holiday season, consider adding yourself to the list. I agree that giving your time to help others is noble and important, which is why you MUST take care of yourself. You've heard something like this before, but have you taken it seriously? If you don't take care of yourself, you will likely have much less time to give to others. Not only may your life be cut short, but as you get older and continue to eat more and move less, you'll have much less energy for the items that are currently at the top of your priority list. So what is at the top of your list? Do you volunteer at your church, work hard taking care of your children, love visiting your grandchildren, work endless hours taking care of patients in a healthcare facility, volunteer with your favorite charity, etc? If exercise and eating healthy isn't right up there with those items, then you may find yourself falling short on what is most important to you in the near future. So give back to yourself so you can give back to others. This holiday season add exercise to your daily schedule. Do not wait for New Years because New Year's resolutions rarely ever last. When you want to make a change, you just do it. Real change happens any time of the year! Make a commitment to be there for your children, grandchildren, spouse, friends, and anyone else who counts on you. Make that commitment by taking care of yourself!

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Slow and Steady

The horn blows and we all take off running! Everyone is pumped and adrenaline is flowing. Soon, many people will "hit the wall" and begin to slow down for the remainder of the marathon. How do we avoid this problem? There are many solutions, but this post will focus on pacing.

While training for my last marathon, I got a lot of great advice from a great friend and fellow runner. Some of the greatest advice she gave me was that it is essential to start your marathon slow and build up your speed over time. We call this "negative-splits". For example, if your first mile was at a 9 min/mile pace and your second mile was an 8:50 min/mile pace, your split would be -10 seconds.

Hopefully, with ample training, your body will become more efficient at burning fat for fuel as the marathon progresses. However, you will still need plenty of glycogen in order to avoid hitting the wall. Running at a faster pace causes your body to use a higher percentage of glycogen versus fat. Therefore, starting your marathon around 6% slower than your goal pace will help to conserve energy for the miles to come.

I used this strategy at my last marathon and it was very difficult. Although I finished the marathon slightly under the predicted time of my coral, people were passing me like crazy in the beginning. With all of the excitement and energy I had to use, I wanted to just take off. I had to keep reminding myself of the great advice in order to hold myself back. After a while, the crowd thinned out and not as many people were passing me. At the half-way point, I was able to pick up the pace a little. I kept picking the pace up more and more as the miles increased. By mile 20, I knew the advice was solid! Granted, I did a lot of things better in this marathon. I fueled better, replaced electrolytes more efficiently, and ran more during my training (thanks to some encouragement from my helpful husband!). However, it seems like pacing myself had a huge impact on my time. I crossed the finish line with a new personal record.

It is so hard to pace at the beginning of the marathon, but it really pays off. So the next time you're out for a long race, remember that slow and steady wins the race!

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Empty Promises for Calorie Burn

After my run today, I was stretching near the group exercise room at my gym. I noticed a couple of signs advertising an aerobics class and a weight lifting class. On those signs were estimations of calories that can be burned in those classes. I know there is no way that I would burn the amount of calories listed and many other people wouldn't burn that many either. I also can't help but laugh when I hear instructors yell out that we just burned 1000 calories in a class that lasted 45 minutes.

As stated, those calorie counts are just an estimation, and most likely an estimation on the very high end. "Calories burned" are typically calculated based on an "average weight" woman or man who is working to the fullest capacity in a class. Sorry, no breaks or lower impact options! These numbers not only do not take your individual weight into account, but they also do not take your gender, lean mass versus fat mass, fitness level, and age into account.

Wearing a heart rate monitor that takes your age, gender, and weight into account would be the best way to estimate your calories burned in any given activity. Granted, it will not be perfect either, but it will be a lot more accurate than the numbers any machine or instructor gives you at the gym.

This is really an important thing to know because many people overestimate their activity without the help of inflated calorie burns. When you start hearing that you're burning massive amounts of calories (even if you aren't), it is human nature to start eating a little more than you need to.

Ultimately, the best thing you can do is to exercise, eat when you are hungry, and stop eating when you are satisfied. Try not to get tied up in numbers that are inaccurate and unhelpful.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Liebster Award

I want to thank Busy-Dad-E over at for honoring my blog with the Liebster Blog Award. Apparently this award is given to up and coming blogs with less than 200 followers. What a fun day for the woRD on fitness!

With this fun little award comes rules. Here they are:

1. Each person must post 11 things about themselves.
2. Answer the questions the awarder has given you, the awardee.
3. You, now the awarder, choose 11 questions for your nominees who are now the awardees.
4. Choose 11 awardees, link to their website, and notify them.
5. No award-backs.

11 things about me:

1. I am a mom of three fun and crazy kids.
2. I love to run and run some more.
3. I consider myself a foodie and love to cook/try new recipes.
4. For no reason at all, my study partner for our metabolism class and I memorized the chemical structure for cholesterol. I have never forgotten it.
5. A clean house has always been important to me. I have now forgotten what that is after having three kids!
6. You can usually find me wearing gym clothes at the grocery store, home, gym, library, museum, or playground. I rarely wear regular clothes these days except at work, church, and a night out on the town. Even at work I often change into gym clothes. Hey, I work in a wellness facility!
7. In college I realized that I would need to learn to like vegetables if I was going to be a dietitian. I slowly started introducing new vegetables to myself and found new ways to cook them. Many years later, I can honestly say that I love vegetables!
8. I always look forward to quality time with my husband and best friend.
9. Seventy degrees is my favorite outdoor temperature.
10. Until the kids go to bed, the only time I sit down is when I'm driving.
11. I love this crazy life with my wonderful family!

Answer the questions from the awarder:

1. Coke or Pepsi? Coke zero cherry.
2. Pepperoni or plain cheese? I'll go with pepperoni.
3. What are you most passionate about? Professionally: Helping my clients to live their lives to the fullest by staying healthy with good food and exercise. Personally: Raising a family that lives in a way that is pleasing to God.
4. Do you believe in absolute truth? Yes.
5. Where in the world would you most like to visit? Ireland.
6. Which of my posts are your favorite? Oh my gosh, Busy-Dad-E! That is a tough question! So many of your posts are hilarious and so many are sweet. I will go with one of your sports posts.
7. What is your favorite thing about being a parent? Again, hard to pick just one thing. I will go with two! I love the hugs and seeing them master a new skill or hit a new mile-stone. It is such a happy time!
8. Do you floss before or after brushing? After, of course!
9. What makes you truly happy? My family!
10. What is your favorite hobby? Running!
11. What one question would you like to ask me? Does life get harder or easier as your children get older?

My questions for the awardees:

1. What is your favorite Friday night activity these days?
2. Books on tape or music while driving?
3. Would you rather text people or call them?
4. We always say technology is awesome, but what is the biggest drawback to the phones,computers, tablets, etc?
5. What is your favorite hobby?
6. What is your favorite birthday dinner?
7. Coffee or tea?
8. Favorite singer from your childhood?
9. Will you vote in the upcoming election?
10. Summer or Winter?
11. Favorite thing to do on Halloween?


Thank you, Busy-Dad-E!