Carve a Pumpkin and Avoid Looking Like One

While sugar is a powerful “drug” (see the latest report here), it’s not just the cute and colorful treats that tempt us. Halloween may hold happy memories for many of us of our own childhood costumes and candy collecting, as well as those of our children dressing up for trick-or-treating and their squeals of delight as they came home with pillowcases filled with candy.

But it’s not all fun and games. Sugar can weaken our immune system, increase symptoms of ADD/ADHD, and contribute to weight gain, moodiness and lack of energy. And the more we eat, the more we want. So what can you do now to avoid “over-treating?” Here are few healthy tips:

1. Focus on the Festivities. There is a lot to get excited about besides candy: Make creative costumes, plan a neighborhood party; build a haunted house; have a pumpkin-carving contest; spend the day decorating your yard and house.

2. Speaking of healthy treats … What if you (and/or your kids) try making some cute, nutritious Halloween treats like the recipe below or my Coco Loco Amazeballs? Now we’re talking fun and nutritious!

3. Don’t trick-or-treat on an empty stomach. I know the kids are excited, but it’s a great idea to have a nutritious meal ready when they get home from school. If you’re in a hurry, kids can have a “snack-ful dinner” – almond butter on whole grain toast with apples; carrots with hummus; black beans and quinoa, or a whole-grain pita with avocado and chopped chicken.

4. What is your favorite Halloween candy? Whatever it is – leave it at the store! If you must buy candy to give out to the trick-or-treaters, consider buying candy that you’d never eat if it was the last sweet on earth! Perhaps buy it that morning, and get just enough to give out that night.

5. You can’t eat it if it’s not there. Don’t let one night of sweet treats turn into a month of candy snacking. Toss out leftover candy the next day, and give your kids just a few days to indulge. Better to be a little wasteful by throwing out the sweets than to derail your health and weight goals (not to mention adding to tooth decay and all the other sugar symptoms).

Just because it is the 31st of October doesn’t mean we have to indulge in daily sweet treating that we wouldn’t normally do. It’s really about making better choices that keep YOU feeling better. Have cut-up fruits and vegetables in your fridge; fill snack bowls with almonds and walnuts (and take some to work, too!) Drink plenty of water throughout the day, and give yourself permission to break with old Halloween traditions to start your own.

Banana Ghosts and Tiny Pumpkins

Serves 12

Perfect for a party, these treats are a great way to provide your kids with some healthier choices.

Ingredients: 
• 6 bananas, peeled and cut in half horizontally
• 24 carob chips
• 12 tangerines or clementines, peeled
• 2 stalks celery, peeled and cut into 12 ½ inch pieces, and sliced thin (see picture)

Directions: 
For the Banana Ghouls, place carob chips as “eyes” on the bananas, turning them into ghostly goodies! For the Tiny Pumpkins, insert one cut celery piece into the center of each clementine to make a party “pumpkin” treat. Serve on a large platter at room temperature!

Fat Was Never the Bad Guy

The Secret’s Out on the Sugar Industry

Having grown up int he 80's and 90's I was one of those who fell prey to the high carb low fat diet craze and it took me years to reverse the damage it did to my health and my waistline. Luckily we now know better and the truth is finally coming out.

A report published in the JAMA Internal Medicine on Sep. 12, 2016 revealed that the sugar industry paid scientists in the ’60s to shift the focus from sugar as a link to heart disease and blame saturated fat instead.

The New York Times reported the discovery of internal sugar documents. The documents suggest that many of today’s dietary recommendations were influenced by the sugar industry.

According to the NYT, “A trade group called the Sugar Research Foundation paid three Harvard scientists … to publish a 1967 review of research on sugar, fat and heart disease. The studies … minimized the link between sugar and heart health and cast aspersions on the role of saturated fat.”

Sounds similar to the decades-long cover-up of the health hazards of nicotine, doesn’t it? The NYT article also cites the previous revelation of soft-drink companies covering up the link between sugary drinks and obesity. 

Why do wellness coaches and health practitioners care so much about the recent report? As the NYT cites, “For many decades, health officials encouraged Americans to reduce their fat intake, which led many people to consume low-fat, high-sugar foods that some experts now blame for fueling the obesity crisis.” 

Just one more reason to recognize that sugar is addicting and harmful to our health; the better choices we can make, the better we can influence our health and longevity, and the health of our kids. Read the entire article, with links to the research, here.

Play Time!

With so much of life being planned around work, school, and organized sports, it's increasingly important for kids to have unstructured time for play. When we gather to play a game, we open doors to having fun with others while also developing social connections, enhancing creativity, flexing problem-solving muscles, and nurturing emotional well-being. Through play, families can deepen their understanding of each other's point of view, spark new interests, and strengthen cooperation.

When playing with children, especially younger children, it's important for adults to take a step back to give youngsters a chance to create rules or make up games. Seeing their parents get silly and follow their rules can be both empowering and entertaining for children. Try these creative ways to bring more playtime into your family life:

Treasure Hunt. Create a themed scavenger hunt around your house or at a local playground. Try Letterboxing, which involves parks, hiking trails, and treasure!

Ultimate Playground Challenge. Number the stations at a local playground and have kids try to finish the stations in their personal best time. Older kids might want to compete against each other or a parent.

Great Outdoors. State parks offer hiking/biking trails, fishing, kayaking, canoeing (rent or bring your own), and guided nature talks. Also, try gardening or help clean up a local park.

Board Games. From Jenga to Twister to Clue, board games and role-playing games are great for families. Make this a community service outing by visiting an assisted living center to play games with residents who often don't have family of their own to visit them.

Get Crafty. Build with Legos or blocks. Scrapbook. Visit a make-your-own pottery store. Check class schedules at your local craft store.

No Scorekeeper. Play for the fun of it! Don't keep score...or choose activities that don't require a scorecard: kite flying, Frisbee/Frisbee golf, dancing, hide-and-seek, yoga.

Healthy Kids, Happy Parents

The basic keys to raising healthy kids sound pretty simple: Provide good nutrition and at least an hour of daily physical activity. BY doing those two simple things you reduce your child's risk for obesity, diabetes, and other chronic disease. But what about the host of unhealthy temptations including advertising, peer pressure, and an abundance of junk food in shiny packaging that you're up against day in and day out?

The first and most important step you have to take for your child's health is modeling healthy habits in front of them. Make real food and a healthy lifestyle a family affair. Keep things simple and don't give up when kids get picky. The tips and resources provided below can help keep you on track.

Keep Kids Moving. Once kids are back in school, they are sedentary for the better part of the day. Do all the kids who are diagnosed with ADD really have Attention Deficit Disorder and Hyperactivity or do they just need more exercise? Kids naturally have tons of energy and if we don't give them an outlet for that energy, it's going to show up in other (usually undesirable) ways. 

Outside of school, make sure your kids have opportunities to move, stretch, strengthen, and just PLAY! Make time for creative play at the park where children can engage all their major muscle groups and get their beans out. Provide opportunities for trying new sports or creative movement classes. Get the whole family involved with obstacle courses, biking, or hiking. When the weather outside is wet and cold, visit an indoor pool, playscape, climbing gym, or bounce-house facility.

Limit Screen Time. With more schools incorporating digital devices into their classes, it's important to monitor your child's free time on the screen. For younger children, set a daily limit of 60 minutes, and for older children, set a limit of 120 minutes for all media--TV, movies, and games. The World Health Organization recently published a study linking wireless phones to cancer and another expressing concern about the need for more research on the safety of wireless devices around infants and children. 

Consider having a "digital-free zone" in your home: one room designated just for reading, games, and music without any headphones. Also, make one day a week (e.g., Sunday) a "device-free day" for all family members. Play games or get physically active, together.

A Nourishing Diet, Not a Food Fight. No matter what their age, kids can be picky eaters. Offer your child choices at meals that are acceptable to you, nutrient-dense, and palatable. Introduce and reintroduce healthy options at all meal and snack times. And don't fight about food...that only creates a negative association with healthy food and makes for unpleasant mealtimes. Sometimes, it really is okay to skip the asparagus and still have dessert.

Once your kids are old enough, have them help you with meal prep. The more they're involved in cooking, the more they'll want to try the food. When it comes to getting kids to try new foods, get creative: Blend veggies into homemade smoothies, serve raw veggies with hummus, or make zucchini-based brownies. Add fresh berries and dark chocolate nibs to a small serving of organic frozen yogurt. For the youngest kids, try renaming foods--steamed broccoli with cheese becomes "Hot-lava-covered trees." Kids' palates change as they age; what they like/don't like at age 3 is likely to be different at 13 and even 23!

Curb the Sweet Tooth. Sugar intake for children is recommended to 3-4 teaspoons a day. Cutting back on soda, candy, and cookies is only the first step. Read labels to identify added sugar that can be hidden in foods including bread, condiments such as ketchup and BBQ sauce, and canned and frozen foods. Make your own frozen treats from fresh, whole fruit, and cut down on packaged foods.

Sleep Well. During sleep, children's bodies generate hormones important to healthy growth and development. A good night of rest allows children to wake energized for the following day. Research has shown that sleep plays a role in maintaining a healthy weight and promoting a positive mood. Try to keep kids on a regular daily sleep-wake routine, especially during the school week.

Model the healthy eating habits and lifestyle you want your child to have whether they are at home or out with friends and that foundation will stay with them the rest of their lives.