Thursday, January 8, 2009

Top 15 Tips to Help Your Child Lose Weight and Get Healthy in the New Year

As the new year rang in, so did the resolve of millions of Americans who will be trying make this the year of losing weight and getting healthy.

But adults are not the only ones who struggle with weight and health issues. Childhood obesity and type II diabetes are increasing at alarming rates, and there are many children who have no idea how great it can feel to be a kid because they are literally dragged down by excess weight.

Aside from the tremendous benefit of improved overall health, being fit has many benefits for kids. Fit kids have more energy and more confidence overall than kids who are at an unhealthy weight. There have even been studies showing that fitter kids perform better academically than kids with poor fitness levels.

As parents, we are responsible for building the foundation for our kids health and wellness. We the have the power, especially when our kids are young, to give our children the gift of good habits that can translate to a longer, happier, healthier life. This is not about crash dieting or shame or singling out the overweight child. This is about establishing a healthy lifestyle for your entire family that will help your kids avoid being one of millions of adults resolving to lose weight thirty years from now.

Here are 15 tips to help get your family on the fitness track:

  1. First, educate yourself and your child on the basics of health and nutrition.
    As a general rule, the healthiest foods are closest to their natural form. The less refinement the better. So, for example, whole wheat bread is better than white bread. Learn what ingredients to avoid (the top two that our family vigilantly avoids are hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oils and corn syrup). Know that just because a company's marketing department makes something sound healthy doesn't mean it is. For example, "Fruit Snacks" (the gummy fruit-flavored candy that sometimes includes a small percentage of "real fruit juice!", are not real fruit. They are gummy candies made primarily of corn syrup. I could write a whole post on this, and probably will. But for now, please just be aware and do some research if you can.

  2. Don't be drastic.
    Raising a family is a wonderful and rewarding, yet challenging and sometimes exhausting job. Don't make yourself and the whole family miserable by starving them and making drastic changes too quickly. Challenge yourself to incorporate these healthier habits into your routine at a tolerable pace and the odds of sticking to it will be much greater.

  3. Make sure your kids eat a healthy, balanced breakfast.
    Don't let your kids skip breakfast, and don't feed them the sugary cereals that are marketed to kids. Some combination of fruit, whole grains, and protein (some choices: milk, peanut butter, eggs/egg whites, beans) will give your children nutrition, and energy to sustain them through the morning.

  4. Have your kids drink water instead.
    If your kids drink juice, juice-flavored drinks, soft drinks, energy drinks, etc. they are drinking hundreds of unnecessary and unsatisfying calories

  5. Keep convenient healthy snacks on-hand.
    One of the biggest challenges is having healthy snacks on hand. I know how crazy it can be when you're frantically preparing dinner and taking a phone call and your kids are whining about wanting a snack. I know that the foods that are packed with sugar, sodium, carbs and calories are also the most convenient foods to throw your kids' way. So this part requires some planning. Prepare ahead of time some pre-cut veggies with hummus, air-pop some popcorn, pre-mix some nuts and dried fruits (add a few chocolate chips to make it feel extra special).

  6. Serve healthier foods. Have fun serving dinner in courses, start with salad with light dressing or a broth based soup. (see my previous post The Great Big Secret to Getting Your Kids to Eat Just About Anything).

  7. Let kids help plan and prepare meals.
    Kids love to help with this kind of stuff. Helping you cook will keep them from sitting in front of the TV being bored and looking for a snack. Also, kids feel really proud when they help cook a meal - its a great time to introduce a new healthy dish - kids are more open-minded when they've had a part in its creation.

  8. Turn off the TV.
    This one is pretty obvious. I know that the TV is a cheap and easy babysitter, but if your kid sits there all morning or afternoon watching it, that "babysitter" is stealing your child's health. Turn the TV off and give your kid some other activities to do.

  9. Make being active easy and irresistible.
    If you have a yard equip it with balls, a jump rope and/or a hula hoop. If you don't have a yard or are stuck indoors because of bad weather, get games that encourage activity at home like Wii, Hyperdash, Hullaballoo, Dance Dance revolution. Put a small trampoline in the living room, or if TV is a must, put it in there. Install a pull-up bar in the doorway. My kids can't resist ours.

  10. Get active as a family.
    Kids value family time (even if they don't act like it sometimes). As a parent, your attention is a highly prized incentive. Go for family walks in the evening. Take weekend outings that are active - hiking, snow sports or even just a snowball fight, play tag or touch football in the yard, ride bikes together or shoot some hoops at the local park or gym.

  11. Get your kids involved in sports.
    It's fun, it's exciting, it keeps them moving and prevents boredom. Group sports, individual sports - it doesn't matter. It doesn't have to be a mainstream sport. Let your child choose. Football, judo, badminton, cross-country - it doesn't matter - as long as it is fun and gets them moving.

  12. Make sure your kids get enough rest.
    This one is a biggie. You'd be surprised how much sleep kids need. Here's a tip: just because your child says he's not tired doesn't mean he's not. See here for guidelines on how much sleep your child needs each night. Again, kids depend on us to keep them healthy, so get them to bed!

  13. Incorporate favorite "junk foods"
    If possible, come up with a healthier alternative that is just as yummy. But even if there is no alternative, plan for occasional treats. A 90/10 rule is great - where 90% of what you put in is healthy, with 10% reserved for an extra special treat. Just teach your child to make the calories worthwhile - make sure it is something she really enjoys.

  14. Model the behavior.
    There is no greater influencer in your child's life than you. Your kid wants to be just like you. So you need be a model of good habits.

  15. Keep it up.
    Don't forget that your child's health is at stake. Keep up the great habits. The reward of a healthy family will be so worth it!

Monday, December 15, 2008

The Greatest Gift for Your Kids This Season...A Lesson in Giving

The holiday season is a great opportunity to inspire charity in children.

The holidays are bursting with abundance. Take time to enjoy the spirit of the season with your kids.  Use all your senses!  Take in the brilliant sights, joyful sounds, the scent of pine and of gingerbread houses.  Savor each special morsel of holiday food.  Enjoy the soothing warmth of the fireplace.  Go out and be exhilarated by the snow with your kids.  Or if you live in Hawaii, like our family, or some other warm place, play in the rain puddles on a rainy winter day or go to the beach on a perfectly beautiful warm, sunny winter day.  Take time to reflect on the year and the abundance in your family’s life – no matter how poor you are; even in these difficult economic times – if you are healthy and live in the United States, you are far better off than the most of the rest of the world. 

As you reflect on the the good things in your life, however, remember that as well off as we are, the holidays are a time of sadness for many people.  There are many people with no shelter; people who don’t know where their next meal is coming from.  There are people who are sick and people who are dying.  And there are so many people out there who are just plain lonely.  

Your kids need to know this.  Share this information with them, and then empower your kids by teaching them to make a difference. There are so many reasons to give.  Giving not only brings a little light to others; it makes us feel good too.  

Here are just a few of the benefits of teaching your kids to be charitable:

  1. Kids gain perspective.  They see firsthand the hardships that others endure and may possibly appreciate their own abundance a little bit more.
  2. Kids develop compassion.  Hearing about the hardships of others helps to develop compassion and a broader world view.  Seeing it firsthand or interacting with individuals in need makes an even greater impact. 
  3. Let’s kids know that they can make a difference. Kids learn that even as children they have the power to bring dignity, hope and joy to others.
  4. Makes kids feel proud.  Kids want to make a positive impact and feel like contributing members of society.  Doing so makes them feel very proud.

Ways to  Give 

The greatest impact is achieved when children have personally invested in the act, and is even greater when they actually meet the recipient of their gift.  Be sure to include a kind note of inspiration and compassion with your gifts. 

  1. Bring breakfast to the homeless.  We did this last year on Christmas morning.  We wanted to make it homemade, but we ran out of time so we picked up 10 breakfast platters from McDonald’s and took them to a park where we know a lot of homeless people are.  It was our first time doing this, but the response was incredible!  The people we delivered the breakfasts to were so grateful, and several called us “angels”.  My older son, who was 5 years old at the time, decided on his own to take money from his piggy bank to share with the homeless too.  It was such a proud moment for me.  The most amazing thing is that his most vivid memory of Christmas 2007 is bringing food to the homeless; and his spirit of giving has continued throughout the year.  
  2. Make homemade snow globes and deliver them to sick children or the elderly in a hospital.
  3. Adopt a family – find a family in need.  If you don’t know of one personally, check with your church or the Salvation Army to refer you to one.  Your family could pick out gifts, drop off a wonderful holiday meal or invite them into your home for Christmas dinner.  Another fun thing to do is to drop off a festive decorated box of wrapped toys, clothes and other gifts and goodies at the door anonymously – like a Secret Santa Angel.
  4. Play Santa to nursing home residents.  Wrap up small gifts like a nice natural hypoallergenic lotion, lip balm, books or magazines, board games, extra soft non-skid socks or soft lap blankets; put on Santa hats and grab a pillow case and deliver the gifts.  Be sure to stop and chat and/or sing Christmas carols as you make your deliveries.
  5. Volunteer as a family to serve a meal at a homeless shelter.

There are so many ways to make a positive impact on others.  And giving can (and should be) done year-round. If you can’t make time this year to do something in person, here are some other ideas to plant the seed of charity in your kids:

  1. Have your kids pick out toys to donate to Toys for Tots.  Drop them off together. 
  2. Demonstrate to your kids how you set aside a portion of your income to give to charity and teach them to do the same.  Ask them who they would like to help and find a charity that serves that niche.  Help your children donate to the organizations they choose.  If the charity lists the names of donors, be sure to show the list to your kids and have them find their names.
  3. Have your children go through their toys and clothes and select items that are still in good shape to donate to a local women’s shelter or the charity of their choice (check around, though – many places will no longer accept toys because of the liability associated with recalled items). 
I would love to hear your - or your kids’- ideas for charitable giving.  The more creative the better!

Give your kids the best gift of all this year - gift that will be a beautiful memory and a lesson in appreciation and compassion. The gift that brings the greatest joy of all.  The gift of giving. 

Monday, December 8, 2008

Green Gifts for Kids

My bloggy friend Small Footprints of the great blog Reduce Footprints ( kindly and generously invited me to collaborate on a post about green gift ideas for kids.    Reduce Footprints is a fantastic blog with great information about being a better citizen of this incredible planet.  It is a great blog that I am always learning from.  If you are not already a follower of Reduce Footprints, please check it out.  I'm sure you'll find it great reading!  Thank you so much to Small Footprints for this fun collaboration!  

This post is partially borrowed and modified from the collaborative article posted today on Reduce Footprints.  

With a blog called Wellness KIDS, our focus, obviously is on kids' wellness. Kids’ wellness encompasses not just physical health, but psychological, social, and moral health as well.  Our goal as parents is to raise children who become positive, healthy adults who see beyond themselves, beyond their small piece of the world and actively try to make the world a better place each and every day.

With that goal in mind, we are keenly aware that there are teachable moments in nearly every choice we, as parents make.  And the holidays are no exception.

The holidays are such an exciting time of anticipation and expectation for children!  Children who watch television are especially full of wishes for the latest and greatest toys that are flashed incessantly before their little eyes.  Fortunately, this is not the case with our kids.  They do, however, go to school with other kids who talk about the latest and greatest "have 2 have" toys. 

We have a comfortable home, but it is not large, so we are constantly trying to downsize the clutter.   It seems as if every time we give away a toy, two more come in!

So this Christmas, we are doing something different.  We are downsizing the "getting" side of the holidays and upsizing the "giving" side of the season.  We will try to use this economy to teach the kids about not spending in excess.  We will use our gifting choices to teach our kids about caring for our planet.  And we will use this season of joy and excitement to teach the kids about those less fortunate and how good it feels to help others.  My fellow mommy friends and I agreed not to exchange gifts this year.  Instead, we will use the money we would have spent on each other to demonstrate charity to our kids (those ideas will be my next blog post).  

Of course, our kids will get gifts from Santa (us) this year, but he (we) are making an effort to give them gifts that are gentler on our planet than the normal battery loving, buzzing, ringing, noisy shiny plastic stuff. 

I love the challenge of finding gifts that stimulate the mind, encourage creativity, are fun, and good to our planet. If you Google “eco-friendly gifts for kids”, you’ll find lots of great online retailers carrying a wonderful variety earth-friendly natural wooden, fabric and other types of toys. This year I tried to think of gifts that are not only natural or recyclable, but items that actually use or teach how to make use of recycled materials, and/or do something beneficial for our planet.

Here are 5 of my favorite kids’ gift ideas this year:

$8.76 - Recycled Crafts Kit

I absolutely love this one. Get the book, Recycled Crafts Kit, by Laura C. Martin and pack it in a decorated recycled box along with lots of great recycled materials to be used in the projects from the book. The book is full of great information about waste and recycling, as well as fun projects for kids to make. Cheap, educational, fun, and eco-friendly! What more could you want?

$25 - Gardening Kit

Buy a great gardening book for kids, like Roots, Boots, Buckets & Boots: Gardening Together With Children by Sharon Lovejoy ($11.16 on For about $25, you could get the book, and pack it together with some great kid-sized gardening gloves, a trowel, a pot and some seeds. Or you could go all out and provide and all the items needed to do one of the great gardens in the book. This is a great way for parents to spend time with their kids, for kids to learn the wonderful art of gardening and to add back to nature.

$50 - “Adopt an Animal” at

Give the gift of giving. Make a $50 donation to the World Wildlife Fund in your (or another) child’s name. 82 cents of every donated dollar goes toward the World Wildlife Foundation’s conservation efforts.

A $50 symbolic adoption includes as a thank you gift: A plush, stuffed animal, a species spotlight card, an adoption certificate, a 5”x7” color photo of the chosen animal and a drawstring gift bag. Choose from 80 available species. Or you can send an adoption card and allow the recipient to choose their own favorite animal. Order by 12/17/08 for arrival by Christmas.

Note: For a gift closer to home, support your local zoo. Many zoos have great adopt-an-animal programs too! Some of them include great behind the scene tours and other great benefits. Check your local zoo for more information.

$64/$84 Earth Friends (

These adorable dolls are made entirely from organic or recycled materials. They are just the kind of soft, loveable dolls that become instant favorites with children. There are nine boys and girls to choose from. Each Earth Friend arrives with his or her own little backpack with a tree planting kit inside.

$1299 – MacBook

Okay – it’s a high-end gift, but I just saw the commercial for the new MacBooks and was amazed. Kids love Macs because they are great for gaming and graphics programs, plus they are sleek, streamlined, cool-looking and seemingly immune to viruses and spyware.

Now there is another reason to love MacBooks. According to Apple, they are the most environmentally friendly notebook computers in the world. The new version of their most popular MacBook can run on just one quarter of the power of a single light bulb!

According to Apple’s website, each new MacBook is designed with the following features to reduce its environmental footprint:

  • Arsenic-free glass
  • Mercury-free LED-backlit display
  • Brominated flame retardant-free internal components
  • PVC-free internal cables
  • Highly recyclable aluminum and glass enclosure
  • Up to 41 percent smaller packaging

So, if your kid has been especially great, this would be one heckuva gift!

Here are more great green gift ideas from Small Footprints:

  • When buying holiday gifts for the kids keep in mind that it’s better to buy products that are made of organic cotton and wood.
  • It's OK to give slightly used gifts. Look for items that are in good shape and that don't contain toxic materials.
  • Have a little artistic genius on your list? Buy earth friendly ... and animal friendly supplies.
  • Bedding ... what kid doesn't like to jump into a bed with his favorite cartoon characters on the sheets? Look for organic, Eco friendly materials in colorful, playful designs.
  • Furniture ... when I was a kid, my parents got us a little table and 4 chairs. It was kid-sized and we thought it was just about the coolest thing in the universe. I'm sure that they thought we'd eventually do homework on our little table ... we, however, imagined tea parties and art projects and car tracks and table games and ... well, you get the idea. So ... how about some kid friendly, earth friendly furniture. Look for organic wood and non-toxic paint.
  • For the outdoor kid (and those wonderful nature hikes), consider a backpack made from natural or recycled materials.
  • How about a LED flashlight ... after all ... what would ghost stories around a campfire be without one. There are green varieties available which are solar powered and still others which are kid powered (a crank is used to power it up).
  • For the little ones, how about a fun, animal shaped toothbrush. Recycline has a series called Preserve Jr. Check out their link below in the list of resources.
  • Toys never go out of style. Here are a few options (be sure to look for Eco-friendly materials and minimal packaging):

·         Fuel cell racing cars (they run on water ... wow)

·         Wooden building blocks or balls

·         Stuffed animals

·         Science kits

·         Crayons made out of soy wax

·         Did you know that ToysRus has an Eco-friendly line of toys? Yep ... it's true!

  • Don't forget about homemade treasures (again ... made with Eco-friendly materials):

·         Scarves, hats and mittens

·         Clothing

·         Stuffed dolls and animals

·         Candies and cookies

·         Doll houses and furniture

·         Kid friendly jewelry

  • Get the kids involved and help them make gifts for the people on their list.

For additional ideas and resources, check out the Internet. Here are a few suggestions:

Just remember ... with any gifts, consider packaging and materials. With a little effort and creativity, you can give the little ones on your list a gift that will not only bring smiles to their faces, but will make the earth happy as well.

Thank you so much to Small Footprints for initiating this great collaborative effort!