Kids Have MUCH More To Gain From A Healthy Diet Than Just Weight Control

I heard a news report recently that cited several reasons for the staggering increase in childhood obesity: biological factors, unregulated marketing of unhealthy foods and beverages, a decline in physical activity, and inadequate access to healthier food options.

With regards to nutrition, I think conventional approaches to influencing changes are simply not working. Both government and private health groups constantly disseminate information in attempts to encourage better dietary choices, and yet the number of kids being categorized as overweight or obese continues to rise. 

Not wanting to get into a debate on what might or might not make a difference (there’s enough of that going on right now with the sugar-tax proposal), I’m going to share instead a “happy story,” one that tells of the surprising transformation that took place when a friend took small but progressive steps to change her 10 year old son’s eating habits.

Jet is twelve years old; at the age of just ten he ran and finished a half marathon. Two weeks later he also completed a very challenging 10k mud run. While it’s not uncommon to see young kids of Jet’s age participating in running events, it is unusual to see them completing the more difficult adult distances and courses.

Two years prior, health reasons prompted Jet’s mother to change his diet. Haruna, Jet’s mother, says, “Jet always loved to eat lots of meat, and very few veggies. He loved to eat chocolate or anything sweet; he’d eat just sugar if he could!”

To start with, Haruna stopped buying processed snacks. She used to keep an ample supply in the house but knew that that had to stop. Her greatest challenge was saying no to Jet and his sister when they accompanied her to the supermarket, but by compromising and allowing them to each choose just one “treat,” she was met with far less resistance.

The next step Haruna took was to cut back on Jet’s meat servings, another huge challenge since he was used to eating meat-heavy meals every day of the week. The change was initially too drastic, so reducing Jet’s portions (and eventually meals), had to be a gradual process that involved simultaneously introducing a greater variety of salad vegetables and dressings. 

Haruna says it was around eight months later that she began to observe some very noticeable differences in Jet’s body; he looked leaner and more muscularly toned. But in addition to the changes in appearance, he seemed to have much more energy and soon expressed a desire to start joining his mother on some of her weekly runs.

Not long after he took up running with his mother, Jet decided he wanted to train for his first half marathon. Haruna believes that Jet’s change in diet made it possible for him to achieve that goal; the change in body composition (loss of fat and increase in lean muscle), undoubtedly gave him the physical strength he needed, but Haruna says the real surprise came with the changes she observed in Jet’s mental clarity and behavior. 

According to Haruna, Jet somehow seemed calmer, more positive, and better able to focus and concentrate. Most athletes will agree that these qualities are invaluable in the realm of endurance sports, especially if the end goal is to “successfully” complete an event (and imagine how these qualities would improve a young person’s life, in general).

For Jet, success would have been defined by simply finishing, and had Jet remained on the diet he had enjoyed for so long, it’s highly likely that running and finishing a half marathon at age 10 would never have happened.

jet

Jet, trying to stay cool in the hot and humid conditions, and still smiling!

At just 10 years old, Jet completed a half marathon and proudly earned his finisher's certificate!

At just 10 years old, Jet completed a half marathon and proudly earned his finisher’s certificate!

Jet and his mom Haruna on right - at the Famous Hansen 10k Mud Run April 24th 2016

Jet and his mom Haruna on right – at the Famous Hansen 10k Mud Run April 24th 2016

The take-away from sharing Haruna and Jet’s story:

  • Most parents are exposed to enough nutritional data to know what they probably should – or should not – feed their kids, but even when it’s obvious that health and weight concerns are indicative of a poor diet, they continue to make decisions based on convenience and/or taste. It’s my hope that in sharing Jet’s story, and illustrating the immense and beneficial impact of a nutrition-rich diet, that some parents reading this might be inspired to take the kind of proactive steps that Jet’s mother did.

Exercise Tips For Mothers With Young Kids

This morning I ran past a daycare centre and felt bad for a young mum who struggled to carry her crying baby in one arm, and an overloaded day-bag in the other; she looked tired and defeated. I remember those days well, and not too fondly either. Exhaustion was something I hated but got used to, and frustration was frequently experienced but more so when exercise couldn’t find its way into my daily schedule.

These days, with my kids both grown, I have the luxury of exercising with fewer restraints. But thinking back to those years, I do remember working with my limitations and finding ways to at least maintain a reasonable level of fitness. If a mother of young kids were to ask me how they could do the same, these would be my key tips:

  • Invest in a running stroller if you enjoy running!
  • Don’t feel that your workout must be completed in one consecutive session; if exercising daily means 3 lots of 10-minute workouts spread throughout the day, then take it! Some movement is always better than no movement.
  • Opt for HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) workouts. Simply put, that means working at an all-out effort in short bursts, with equally short active-recovery periods in between. You’ll keep your heart rate elevated and burn more fat in less time.
  • Don’t focus on just cardio; strength/resistance training is key to promoting fat loss. An increase in lean muscle mass will assist your body in burning fat much more efficiently. You don’t need to go to a gym to do resistance training; all you need is a couple of light dumbbells and/or a resistance band, or even just your own bodyweight. There are plenty of at-home workouts available online that are under 30 minutes and require minimal equipment.

The last, and most important thing I would say, is that there is no greater feeling than the love a mother has for her children. So while lack of time and exercise might be a major source of frustration, realize that there is a time and season for everything and these years will pass so quickly that you’ll wish you could take them back.

b63e827dc0b4957ee0be4fa219129178--raising-twin

 

Are You That Mum Who Never Stops Or Slows Down?

Several years ago I recall setting out on an early morning run and being startled by a car that swiped the footpath a few feet ahead of me. I was further surprised when the hubcap bounced off on to the road and the driver carried on without stopping to retrieve it. It made me think of mothers, including myself, who often race through each day determined to conquer an impossibly long to-do-list, and in the process unknowingly lose a “part” of themselves.

By “part,” I mean any “thing” that contributes towards overall physical, mental, and spiritual wellbeing. How often for example, do we intentionally set aside time to rest and relax, get out for some fun, or take a few moments each day to talk and laugh? And what about diet and exercise; are these a priority, or do they get pushed to the wayside in favour of other “mum duties?”

Like the driver who kept driving without a hubcap, we tend to do the same. We keep going, ignorant of cues that try to warn us of our bodies needing a break. And yet, despite our noble efforts to be the best mums we can be, we’d be doing everyone (ourselves and kids especially), a huge favour if we stopped to do a “parts” check every once in a while.

Take some time this Mother’s Day to sit back and enjoy the pampering. And be selfish for a change; spend the day doing whatever it is that you want to do!

Wishing you all a restful and happy mother’s day.

slow-down-relax-take-easy-enjoy-life-motivational-lifestyle-reminders-colorful-sticky-notes-40373654

Protein Brownie Muffins For Active Teens

Jannine Myers

Protein bars are a regular shopping list item for many athletes and recreational exercisers, and provided they aren’t filled with unnecessary added sugars, “questionable” ingredients, or poor quality protein, they can occasionally add value to one’s diet. I find them particularly useful when travelling, or after races, or on days when my diet is lacking in protein.

But what about young athletes? I have a young athlete at home with me; my 13-year old daughter. She spends approximately 12 hours a week at her dance studio and besides the fact that she trains hard and puts her muscles to work daily, she is also still growing. She needs quality protein in her diet just as I do!

It’s too costly for me to buy extra protein bars (and I also wouldn’t want my daughter to get addicted to the sugary candy-bar appeal of them), however I don’t mind giving her occasional home-made “treats” that she can enjoy in place of generic supermarket muesli and cereal protein bars. The following recipe is one that she really enjoys, and one you might also like to try for your active teens:

18217802_10158463663880562_2109668025_n (1) 18217769_10158463663680562_37619982_n

Ingredients

2 cups chickpeas, canned is fine but drain and wash first

3 tbsps coconut oil

1 tbsp of plunger or instant decaf coffee (optional)

250ml Unsweetened Almond Milk

3 scoops of quality chocolate whey protein (1 scoop = 25g protein)

2 tbsps cocoa or cacao powder

3/4 cup organic oats

3/4 cup ground almonds

2 tsps baking powder

1/4 tsp cayenne powder (optional)

1 tsp cinnamon

1/3 cup low GI sugar

1/4 cup molasses

2 tbsps tapioca flour

Directions

Preheat oven to 180 degrees C.

Boil water and add about 4 to 5 tbsps to the coffee. Then, simply add all the ingredients to a food processor, pour the coffee over, and pulse until combined. If you are omitting the coffee, just add a little extra water. Pour the mixture into pre-greased muffin pans (recipe makes 16 muffins), and bake for 15 to 20 minutes (15 to 17 mins if you prefer a really moist brownie, or up to 20 mins if you prefer more of a dense cake texture).

Nutritional Data per muffin: Calories 160; Carbs 18.95g (Sugars 9.45g); Fat: 6.25g (Saturated Fat 2.49g); Protein 7.9g; Fiber 2.5g

 

Trying To Eat Healthy On A Budget

Jannine Myers

There are many reasons to feel grateful for living in New Zealand, but the cost of living is not one of them. Grocery shopping for the average family is either a major financial burden or a nutritional nightmare. I don’t claim to have the perfect solution, but I do have a system to share that may work for you.

To start, I recommend lining your pantry shelves with staple ingredients such as spices, seasonings, sauces, healthy oils, dried fruits and nuts, seeds, baking essentials, and also canned beans, legumes, and low-sodium vegetables. Once you’ve done that, you’re ready to go!

This is how I do my weekly grocery shopping and unless there are specific items I need, it does not involve writing out a shopping list:

1. Start with your nearest fresh fruit and vegetable store. Go down all the aisles and only put in your basket fruits and veges that are selling for the best price. The selection of cheaper produce will differ from week to week, but that’s a good thing as you don’t want to be eating the same foods week in and week out (greater food variety also means greater nutrient diversity).

2. Go next to your local supermarket and be prepared to only select “best deal” options. The produce section is the first area you will walk into, but since you will have already bought your fruits and vegetables, just head straight through to the deli section; I usually do a quick scan of the deli area to see if there are any exceptionally good deals, but if not I keep moving.

3. Beyond the deli section you’ll start to encounter the meats in the back of the store, as well as the first aisle entry. My strategy when supermarket shopping: is a) to look for protein foods that are on sale, to include eggs, all lean meats, seafood, and vegetarian options; b) top up on the cheapest complex carbohydrate options, such as brown rice, quinoa, millet, oats, seeded breads, etc. (root vegetables would have been purchased at the fruit and vegetable store); c) choose whichever dairy (and/or refrigerated vegan) products are on sale, and d), top up on any pantry staples that need replacing.

Once home, it’s always a good idea to start food preparation right away. I almost always do my grocery shopping on days that I am off work and have enough time to shop and meal prep all in one go. You’ll find that by practicing this one habit, the likelihood of food wastage will be significantly less.

By now you’re probably wondering how I create my meals without having planned an advance menu, and the answer to that is that I simply mix and match the groceries I come home with. All of our meals are built around the concept of a balanced plate that contains some type of lean protein, a complex carbohydrate, a decent size serving of vegetables, and a small serving of some type of healthy fat (such as avocado, nuts and seeds, or olive oil). By the end of the week, if protein options are completely used up, I start using pantry supplements such as beans and legumes.

Also, it’s not necessary but if you enjoy baking as much as I do, I use overly ripe or excess fruits and vegetables to make bread loaves and muffins, and I use dried fruits and nuts to make biscuits (I prefer to have healthier home-baked snacks on hand versus store-bought packaged goods). And finally, have plenty of portable containers available to pre-pack meals for school and work, and to also store ready-made meals in the freezer that can be pulled out later in the week and re-heated.

collage (6)

 

A Brussels Sprouts Recipe You Might Actually Enjoy

Jannine Myers

Brussels sprouts are one of those odd vegetables that people seem to either love or hate; I personally love them! If you’re in the “indifferent” camp and don’t mind eating them, but won’t go out of your way to buy them because you’re not sure how to cook them or what to pair them with, give this recipe a try.

I made this a couple of nights ago, and not only was it super quick and easy, but it was also really delicious. And on a nutritional note, there are so many reasons why you should include brussels sprouts in your diet, including the following:

– a great source of fiber, manganese, potassium, choline, and B vitamins

– high in Vitamins C and K

– a reasonably good source of protein when compared with other green vegetables

– can potentially fight different types of cancer and improve bone health

[The following recipe directions recommend adding the brussels sprouts last, and cooking for no more than 5 minutes – brussels sprouts are nutritionally optimal when they are not overcooked].

17199156_10158192300335562_1606555495_n

Ingredients

1 tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil

1 chopped onion

2 garlic cloves, minced

2 tbsps Thai red curry paste

3 cups cubed cooked pumpkin, kumara, and potato (to save time, I stopped at the deli section of my local supermarket and picked up a pre-packaged container of already roasted vegetables).

1 can (400g) organic black beans

1 can (400g) coconut milk

brussels sprouts, washed and halved (about 2 cups)

brown rice, cooked (to serve as base for the curry)

Directions

Heat oil in pan, and gently saute the onion and garlic for a couple of minutes. Add the red curry paste and cook for a further 1 or 2 minutes.

Add the cooked vegetables, coconut milk,, and drained black beans. Cover and cook over low heat for about 5 minutes. Add the brussels sprouts and a sprinkle of organic sugar, and stir through. Cook over low heat for a further 5 minutes and remove from the stovetop.

Serve hot over cooked brown rice.

[Recipe by Angela Casley, Viva]

No-Bake Apricot-Oat Slice

Jannine Myers

It hasn’t been much of a summer here in Auckland, but unlike the absence of sunshine there is definitely an abundance of sweet summer “stone” fruits. I’ve been enjoying daily servings of my choice of plums, peaches, nectarines, and apricots, and while I love seeing my fruit basket full, the fruits sometimes ripen faster than we can get around to eating them. When that happens it’s time to get innovative. Yesterday I did just that, and the end result was a No-Bake Apricot-Oat Slice made with pantry ingredients already on hand:

16809686_10158117349375562_1467013392_n16839464_10158117514395562_1460291975_n

Ingredients

5 or 6 medium size apricots

1 tsp sugar (optional)

1/4 cup peanut butter with chia seeds

1/4 cup blackstrap molasses

1/3 cup unsweetened almond milk

2 cups organic oats

1/2 cup whey chocolate protein powder

1/4 cup ground flaxseed

A few large chunks of dark chocolate (at least 70% cacao)

Directions

Skin and roughly chop the apricots, then add to a small saucepan. Add enough water to soak the apricots and bring to a slow boil (add a little sugar if you wish). Once boiling, cover and simmer until the fruit softens. Remove the lid, increase to medium heat and allow the water to evaporate. Reduce heat again and add remaining wet ingredients (peanut butter, almond milk, and molasses). Slowly heat the mixture through, then remove from heat and allow to cool slightly.

In a separate mixing bowl, add the dry ingredients and mix together. Next, add the apricot mixture to the dry ingredients and combine well. Line a baking tray with parchment paper and lightly grease. Pour the mixture into baking tray and spread out evenly using a spatula.

Melt the dark chocolate and spread over the apricot-oat slice. Refrigerate for at least an hour, then slice and store in an airtight container. Keep refrigerated.

Enjoy with your morning or afternoon tea/coffee, or as a pre-workout snack (and although not as sweet as store-bought granola bars, they’d also be a great, and healthier school snack).

Energy-Loaded Chia-Coco-Walnut Cookies

Jannine Myers

I’m “that person” who never lets any food or ingredient go to waste. I will find a way to use pretty much everything in my refrigerator, freezer, and pantry, even if what needs to be used up doesn’t seem to go with anything else I have on hand. Earlier this week for example, I had about a 1/4 cup red miso paste left, so after a quick scan of my refrigerator I knew I had enough vegetables to make an easy coconut-miso curry. Yesterday, as I was taking something out of the pantry, I saw a few almost-empty packages and jars and decided to get busy baking 🙂

The end result: these energy-loaded Chia-Coco-Walnut cookies!!! Delicious!

14449901_10157356510695562_8758030418335917757_n

 

Here’s how I think I made them (hard to remember since I didn’t follow a recipe, but I’m pretty sure the following ingredients and directions are accurate):

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup coconut oil
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons agave nectar
  • 1 cup Bob Redmill’s Gluten Free 1-to-1 baking flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon bicarbonate soda
  • 2 tsps baking powder
  • 1 cup Bob Redmill’s Gluten Free oats, plus an additional cup pulsed into flour
  • 1/3 to 1/2 cup organic coconut sugar
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened finely shredded coconut
  • 1/4 cup organic raisins
  • 1/4 cup chopped walnuts
  • 1/4 cup black chia seeds

[You don’t need to use gluten free or organic products; that’s just what I had on hand]

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line two baking trays with parchment paper.
  2. Heat coconut oil and agave nectar in a microwaveable bowl, then mix well and leave to cool slightly.
  3. Combine all remaining ingredients (reserving 1/4 cup oat flour) in a large bowl.
  4. Add the slightly cooled coconut oil and agave to the dry ingredients and mix well. If the mixture is too moist and sticky, add more of the oat flour until you reach a dough-like consistency that holds well.
  5. Roll mixture into balls and place on baking trays and press the balls down using the bottom of a glass.
  6. Bake for 15 minutes. After the cookies have been out of the oven for about 10 minutes, place them on a wire rack to cool completely.

 

Baked Cashew Oatmeal Bars

Jannine Myers

It’s been a while since I posted a recipe, so here’s one that can be enjoyed by everyone in the family. I got the idea actually from a friend’s Facebook page; she’s a fitness and health coach who advocates as I do, a mostly whole foods approach to diet. On her page, she showed a picture of her young son demolishing a baked oatmeal bar, and in her comments she added, “It’s the perfect low glycemic option and high in fiber…….”

Admittedly, my bars probably don’t meed the same standards as hers (she didn’t post her recipe so I have no way of comparing), but I am taking a guess since the glycemic and fiber profile of mine are not quite as favorable. However, on the plus side, they are much more nutritionally dense than commercial bars – they contain less sugar, healthy fats, and 4g of protein per slice -.and they’re perfect for rushed on-the-go breakfast snacks or mid-afternoon energy slumps. Give them a try and see what you think!

14212731_10157302474485562_9045705457703410050_n

Ingredients

  • ½ cup cashew butter (soak raw cashews in hot water for at least an hour and then pulse into a butter)
  • ¼ cup coconut sugar
  • 1/8 cup raw honey and
  • 1/8 cup agave
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 tablespoons melted coconut oil
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup gluten free rolled oats
  • ¾ cup Bob’s Redmill gluten free one-to-one flour
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 cup dark chocolate chips

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease an 8×8 inch baking pan.
  2. In a large bowl, mix together the cashew butter, coconut sugar, honey and agave, egg, coconut oil, and vanilla until fully combined.
  3. Add in the oats, flour, salt, and baking soda and mix until combined. Add the chocolate chips and fold into the batter.
  4. Spread the batter into the prepared baking pan. Bake for 15-20 minutes at 350 degrees.
  5. Allow to cool in the pan, then cut into bars and store in a sealed container (they freeze well too).

Turning Kid-Favorite Meals into Kid-Healthy Meals

Jannine Myers

Even at the age of 12, my younger daughter is still incredibly picky, but I generally don’t let her eat foods that have no place in our home; i.e. those foods that come in packets and boxes and with ingredient lists a mile long. I do understand however, her frequent cravings for the types of comfort meals that many kids – and even adults – are drawn to. Still, we compromise with such meals and she lets me “re-create” them; in other words, I make them from scratch using the most nutrient-dense ingredients. Last night for example, I made her a healthy version of sloppy joes and received no complaints.

[Note: making these sloppy joes from scratch did cost more because I added fresh vegetables and used organic ground beef, but I’d rather contribute to my child’s health than to a slightly greater spending allowance]

13285722_10156832578620562_1549406674_n

Ingredients

  • 1 pound organic ground beef
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 carrot, diced
  • 1 red pepper, diced
  • 1 1/2 cups no-salt-added tomato sauce
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon mustard powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Shredded cheese
  • Whole-wheat kaiser rolls

Directions

Brown the meat in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat for 5 minutes, breaking up the meat as it cooks. Pour the drippings out of the pan and discard, and set the meat aside. Add the garlic, onion, carrot, and red pepper to the pan (with a little olive oil) and saute for 5 minutes or more, stirring occasionally. Transfer half the vegetables to a blender, and add half the tomato sauce. Pulse into a puree and pour into a jug or small bowl. Do the same with the remaining vegetables and tomato sauce. Return the meat to the pan, along with the pureed vegetable sauce, and all remaining ingredients. Bring back to a boil over medium heat, and then simmer for 5 to 10 minutes. Serve over toasted bread rolls, with a little melted cheese and a side of vegetables (I added roasted cauliflower and raw carrots).