Follow TSP on Facebook
Follow TSP on Twitter


Thursday, February 12, 2009

Nine Steps to Making your Family Healthier in 2009!

By Guest Blogger Kay-Lynn H

Do you struggle with your kids to eat their fruits and vegetables? It seems at times the only foods my kids want to eat are hot dogs, chicken fingers, mac ‘n cheese, french fries, pizza or hamburgers. And we wonder why many kids today are in a sad nutritional state. Have you seen some of the statics? Well here are just a few:

• 1 in 3 Americans born in 2000 will develop diabetes (Journal of the American Medical Association)
• 1 in 4 children are obese (International Journal of Obesity)
• By age 12, an estimated 70% of our children have developed the beginning stages of hardening of the arteries (Bogalusa Heart Study)
• Over 93% of all children and adolescents do not consume the recommended 3 servings of vegetables per day

We do not have to be perfect. The occasional junk food is ok but what we want to do is start teaching our kids at an early age how to eat healthy.

We have a nutritional crisis in America. Our children are eating alarming amounts of junk food. It is harming their little bodies. We are seeing an increase in high blood pressure, high blood sugar, and high blood cholesterol earlier in children. Not only are children’s bodies getting less healthy so are their brains. The number of drugs children are taking to pick them up or calm them down, to alter their moods is increasing at a surprising rate. The good news is all these diseases are preventable by how we feed our children.

I am excited to share with you some ideas that I have learned from well known pediatrician and author, Dr. William Sears. Dr. Sears’ ideas are in a program he refers to as “9 simple steps to a healthier family diet."

Step One: Shape young tastes

Exposing your children to more fruits and vegetables at an early age can help their bodies and minds stay healthier and will help them later in life to make healthier choices as adults.

Step Two: Feed your family the right carbohydrates

Carbohydrates are not bad things. Children need at least 50% of their diet in the form of healthy carbs to grow, think and play. Our kids need more “good” carbs and a lot less “bad” carbs. The good carbs are packaged by nature. They are fruits, vegetables and whole grains. They have protein and fiber. The “bad” for you carbs are manmade. They have little to no fiber or protein and the worst carbs are sweetened beverages.

Step Three: Feed your family the right fats

Just like carbs we need the “right” fats. The best fats are found in seafood, certain oils (flax and olive oil), nuts and nut butters, seeds, and avocados. Less healthy fats come from animal fats and the worst fats come from factories. They call these hydrogenated fats and oils or trans fats. These are fats that have been processed and chemically treated to make foods last longer.

Step Four: Feed your family “grow” foods

Kids often equate growing with increased performance. They believe that their growth means they are becoming faster, stronger, and smarter. Foods that are considered grow foods are: vegetables, legumes (peas, beans and lentils), fruits, whole grains, nuts, yogurt, eggs and oils. These foods all have one thing in common. They come from nature (not from the factory).

One technique Dr. Sears uses that I really like is what he calls “traffic light foods." Green light foods are any time foods. These are your fruits and vegetables, and grow foods listed above. The yellow light foods are sometimes foods. These are your sweet treats. Some examples of sweet treats are desserts, ice cream, and frozen yogurt. The red light foods are the no time foods. They say, “stop…let’s try and make a better choice.” These are your french fries, donuts, potato chips, etc.

Step Five: Raise a grazer

Grazing means eating small frequent meals throughout the day. One of the best ways to encourage grazing in children is to allow them to feed themselves. Many times when we serve our children we serve them adult portions. One idea that I like is creating a “nibble tray." At our house I use a muffin pan and I will put different healthy snacks in each muffin space. I then let them pull out the tray throughout the day and let them eat what they want. So I am controlling what their choices are but they are controlling what and how much they choose to eat.

Step Six: Start the day with a brainy breakfast

Sending your kids out the door each morning with a junk food breakfast or without breakfast altogether is like getting into a car with an empty tank. The brain uses 25 percent of all the food energy we eat. The brain does not store energy so it is better to give it a steady supply of energy so it does not run out and crash. Children are better behaved, have fewer mood swings and learn better with a brainy breakfast. Studies have shown that children who eat a healthy breakfast make higher grades, are more attentive, and have fewer absences in school.

Step Seven: Feed your family lots of fruits and vegetables

Consider fruits and vegetables your natural pharmacy. They are loaded with good carbs and good fats, fiber and proteins. Fruits and vegetables contain phytonutrients. They are the immune boosting nutrients in fruits and vegetables that give them their deep color. It is important that we eat a variety of fruits and vegetables because they (phytonutrients) work together to boost the immune system. You have to get creative on getting your kids to eat fruits and vegetables. It would be fun to hear some of your creative suggestions.

Step Eight: Take your children to the grocery

Sit down with your child and make your grocery list. Teach your children about “grow” foods and add them to your list. When you head into the grocery make it fun and let your kids find the “grow” foods. Use this as a teaching opportunity! When picking out bread, cereal, or produce teach your children what items have the right fats, and carbohydrates. We like to go to the cereal aisle and let each of our kids pick from an approved selection of cereals. We then follow up with our children while we are enjoying their selected cereals by praising their selections. This serves as a good education opportunity for our children and also is a good opportunity to build their self esteem.

Step Nine: Add a whole food based supplement to the family diet

There is no substitute for nutritious, real whole foods. But, what are whole foods exactly? Fruits and vegetables are great examples of whole foods. They are unprocessed, unrefined, and can be eaten without any additives or changes. For example, a serving of baked fish would be a whole food, while a fish stick wouldn't be. The fact is children have erratic eating habits and we do not live in an ideal world. That is why Dr. Sears recommends a whole foods based supplement.

I started my family on a very good whole foods based supplement a few months ago. In that short time we have noticed our family feels better, sleeps better, and we don’t seem to have the mid-day energy lulls.

So, what is the message?

The message is clear. We need more healthful whole food nutrition found in fruits and vegetables in our diets, every day. It's the one thing we can do that everyone agrees will improve our health and reduce our risk of chronic diseases, such as heart disease, stroke, and cancer.

The best gift you can give your children is the gift of health. And parents the best gift you can give your self is the gift of health. We make a lot of plans for our future, but are we considering the importance of our health in those plans?

I hope these nine steps make as big of a difference in your family’s health as they have for mine.

It is never too late to start on the path to good health!

If you have any questions about Dr. Sears’ steps, the research and statistics mentioned above, or if you are interested in finding out more about whole foods supplements, feel free to email me at

So what are some creative things you do to get your kids to eat healthy?


Rachel said...

One veggie that I have actually gotten my pickiest eater to try is Edamame. She thinks it is really cool to pop them out of the pod. DO you know if they have much nutritional value?

Kay-Lynn said...

Here's what you'll find in a half-cup serving of shelled edamame (or 1 1/8 cup edamame in the pods):

120 calories
9 grams fiber
2.5 grams fat
1.5 grams polyunsaturated fat (0.3 grams plant omega-3 fatty acids)
0.5 gram monounsaturated fat
11 grams protein
13 grams carbohydrate
15 mg sodium
10% of the Daily Value for vitamin C
10% Daily Value for iron
8% Daily Value for vitamin A
4% Daily Value for calcium

As you can see it contains a lot of fiber and protein. I think that it is a WONDERFUL snack! And if you have young children you can even find them in the freezer section in little baggies that have Dora on them...everything helps!

Great idea!

Amy said...

I am printing out this list to keep on my fridge. Thank you for the motivation to get my kids on the right nutritional path!

Kay-Lynn said...

Another great idea Amy! It helps to see your goals each day!

Michelle said...

Great article. I really like the "Traffic Light" technique. If I can get motivated I am thinking the children would have fun making their own traffic light and cutting out foods from magazines to place on it.

Anonymous said...

Can you give me some insight about corn? I have heard that although it is a veggie, it has little nutritional value.

Kay-Lynn said...

From what I can tell by my research is that corn is ok. Meaning, there are better vegatables to eat however corn has nutrirional value as well.

I do not trust everything I read online and really only trust reputable websites. Here is what I found from a website I trust.

One medium ear of corn has about 90calories and is considered low fat and a good source of vitamin C.

Corn is one of my son's favorite vegtables and we will be keeping it on our table!

Kay-Lynn said...


Good idea about getting your kids involved in identifying red, yellow and green light foods. I know at my house if my kids feel like something is fun and I am giving them choices my sucess rate at what I am trying to accomplish is much higher!

I love all of these ideas!

Post a Comment