The Four A's of Fiber: "Remember the four A’s of fiber: apples, artichokes, apricots, and avocados. "

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Taste the Seasons

To ensure the best tasting and lowest prices on fresh produce, eat by the seasons. Ever eat a peach in February? No comparison to a fresh picked peach in July, right? Along with the benefit of optimal taste, seasonal and locally grown produce costs less and aren’t preserved with pesticides.

Some fruits and vegetables require higher amounts of pesticides if not grown organically. Buying and eating the following foods in season or from a farmers market is a healthier and inexpensive choice:
-Bell peppers


Tomato Basil Soup

20 medium organic tomatoes (red and orange)
5 leaves of finely chopped basil
Sea salt
Ground pepper
½ cup organic heavy cream

Place whole tomatoes in a large pot over medium heat. Allow to cook until they give off their liquid. Using a fork, pull off and discard skins.

Stir often. Reduce heat to low. Add basil leaves chopped with sea salt and pepper to taste.

Continue stirring. As the soup becomes creamy, add slowly the ½ cup of heavy cream until completely blended.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Fuel for Thought

Your brain needs energy in a steady flow for optimal performance. An even supply of glucose (energy) during studying and periods of intense concentration is important. Many students complain that in an exam situation, their mind goes blank and they can’t remember a thing. In many cases, it may be that their brains are low on glucose fuel, resulting in poor concentration, reduced mental energy and lowered alertness. The best foods for supplying the brain with fuel are complex carbohydrates found in whole grains and vegetables. The first step towards excellence in academics is a diet rich in whole wheat and millet pasta or whole grains and fruits such as, apples or oranges. As well as nuts, seeds and broccoli or carrots.

Sustaining the brain energy takes proteins and smart fats. Found in lean meats and fish, eggs and low-fat cheeses. Along with the fruits and vegetables, these nutrients work together to optimize brain function, including increased alertness and improved memory.

Thursday, September 20, 2007


Blueberry Breakfast Smoothie

A brain boosting recipe to start off your day!

½ cup blueberries fresh (or frozen)
2 TBSP quinoa
¼ cup plain yogurt
1 TBSP Olive oil
1 TBSP Honey

Blend together in a blender oranges and blueberries with yogurt, oil, honey and quinoa.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Wordless Wednesday

Forgetful? Eat Memory Foods

Every cell in your body needs a steady supply of oxygen and nutrients in order to stay alive and work properly, including your brain cells! So what foods do we need to eat to help our brain function, specifically for our memory? The more overall produce you eat, the better. Cruciferous vegetables and leafy green vegetables have the biggest effect on boosting brain memory.

Some of the best cruciferous vegetables are broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbage, and cauliflower. The best green leafy veggies are spinach, kale and collard or mustard greens. Other foods known to increase memory are ones with folic acid, such as, lentils, black-eyed peas, artichokes, wheat germ, beets and oranges. Fish has also shown to aid in memory retention.

Increase your memory by adding the above foods to your diet, exercising 30 minutes a day and de-stressing your life when possible.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Not All Carbs are Created Equal

Although all carbohydrates are composed of sugar, not all sugar is the same. The two types are simple sugars, short chains and complex sugars or starches, long chains. Traditionally, simple sugars are considered unhealthy. Found at the top of the Food guide pyramid, they were to be eaten sparingly. Starchy foods, such as bread, rice and potatoes were considered healthy. As the base of the pyramid, they were to be our staple. Unfortunately, if the starchy food has been refined or stripped of fiber and nutrients, it acts more like a simple sugar in our digestion process. Quickly being digested and spiking our blood sugar, causing a quick burst of energy, followed by the inevitable low.

Choose healthy carbs, such as fruits and veggies as much as possible. Supplement you diet with whole grains which are high in fiber and low in fat. “White’ carbs, for example, white breads, cakes, white flour and sugar should be limited. Healthy foods are full of color and texture. Bland color foods typically are quickly absorbed in our bodies and contain a less amount of nutrients per serving.

Saturday, September 1, 2007

Help with Hormones

Humans have a basic biological problem: Our metabolism runs continuously, 24-7. However, the availability of food to fuel our metabolism is unpredictable, and the type of food is even more variable. So how do we survive during feast and famine? The answer is hormones.

Our hormones help ration out energy and regulate our weight. Most of our hormones respond directly or indirectly to the type and amount of food we eat. Not enough calories eaten? Over the short term, hormones increase appetite and help convert stored fat into energy. Over the long term, some hormones conserve energy by decreasing metabolic rate. When good nutrition is reestablished, hormones restore metabolic rate to normal and promote optimal growth in children.

Food is medicine. Food is fuel. Choose the foods you eat wisely to maintain hormonal balance and a thriving metabolism.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

I'm Hungry!

I’m Hungry!

“I’m hungry.”
“But you just ate.”
“I’m still hungry. Can I have more? Please?”

It is against a parent’s nature to deny a child anything they really need, especially food. After all, food is essential to our survival. The food we serve our children is more than a biological necessity. It is an expression of love. So saying no to an extra helping is doubly hard: not only do we feel that we are depriving our children of something that they need to live, but we also feel that we are withholding love.

Where do we start? By eating foods that digest slowly, provide steady energy for our metabolism and satisfy our hunger for hours. Some examples are natural fruits and vegetables and whole foods, such as beans, nuts and fish. Hunger and the energy to run our metabolism are closely linked. When energy begins to fall, hunger rises so that we’ll eat and refuel. When energy is plentiful, hunger falls.

When kids eat high sugar, low nutrient foods, such as candy bars or chips, they get hungry again quicker. Satisfy your child’s hunger with nutrient dense foods that are low in sugar and high in fiber, such as apples and whole grain crackers. Keep fresh fruits and veggies cut up and ready to grab and go. If it is there they will eat it!

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Friday, August 17, 2007

Variety for Health

The best way to get brain boosting nutrients in your diet is to eat a wide variety of foods. Look for color in your food choices to balance your plate with the variety you need to succeed. Eating the same thing everyday and limiting complete food groups will leave you ‘missing’ important brain building nutrients. Both the child who eats only carrots for lunch and then one who eats a tuna sandwich everyday are both lacking in some essential nutrients.

The Color of Foods

The red color means high in beta-carotene.
The yellow comes from anthoxanthins which protect against cell damage.
The purples have anthocyanidins which protect brain cell membranes.
The greens are high in a mix or anti-oxidants which protect all cells and their functions.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Meals to Improve IQ

This menu will help you get the brain boosting nutrients you need to learn and live well:

A scrambled egg with whole grain wheat toast
A glass of unsweetened orange juice
Red pepper or carrot soup
Cucumber sticks
Figs and sliced low fat cheese
Or apple with natural peanut butter
Water whenever possible
Brown rice with tomato sauce
Mixed salad greens with Almonds and mangos
Natural fruit juice

Friday, August 10, 2007

Flax Seed and Fish Oil

As more people become aware of the importance of fat in their diet, there has been a growing interest in the benefits of flaxseed oil. Flaxseed oil is high in omega-3 fat. However, the omega-3 fatty acids in flax are not the same as those in fish. Fish oil contains EPA and DHA. Flax on the other hand, contains alpha-linolenic acid, which is the ‘parent’ fatty acid to EPA and DHA. Although similar, their benefits are not the same.

Our bodies naturally convert alpha-linolenic acid quickly into EPA, and slowly into DHA. About 11g of alpha-linolenic acid is needed to produce 1 gram of DHA and EPA. However, some foods in our diet can stop this conversion process.

A diet high in trans-fatty acids can interrupt the conversion process of alpha-linolenic acid to EPA and DHA. Trans fats are found in foods such as cookies, chips, cakes, and most foods with hydrogenated oil listed on label.

The balance between omega-3(found in flax, walnuts, canola oil, wheat germ and dark green leafy vegetables) and omega-6(found in sunflower seeds, corn oil, pumpkin seeds, and other nuts) is optimal for all conversion factors and brain function.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Consistency with Caregivers Support

In the modern family, there is a strong likelihood that others will help care for our kids. A large number of children live with just one parent. Many have two working parents. About 2/3 of all mothers work outside the home. Most families with young children depend on caregivers, grandparents, or other adults for childcare. Caregivers have a big influence on a child’s eating and activity. What your caregiver believes about weight-related habits can help or hinder your child directly. During the time a caregiver is responsible for a child, (sometimes up to 10 hours a day) they have the power to influence the eating and activity behaviors in your child.

How can I approach my caregiver about what I want for my child?
The best way is to be direct and give specific instructions. “I don’t want the kids to watch too much television” is a vague statement. It is better to say, “The kids are allowed 1 hour of television during the day.” Likewise, expecting the caregiver to create and provide wholesome meals and snacks without direction generally does not work. A better approach is to provide directions about what is to be eaten and when it is to be eaten. For example, “Please give the kids a fruit snack with cheese at 3pm and make sure they always eat their food at the table.” Reinforce what you want, by writing it down.

Consistency is the key. When all work together towards the same goal, everyone benefits.
Keep open and honest dialogue with your caregiver and give direct help whenever possible.

Monday, August 6, 2007

Teens and Screens

Older children have different motivations for being active than younger ones. They have already mastered the basic physical skills, such as jumping, running, throwing and climbing. Older kids are keenly aware of competition and accomplishments. They know which kids are the fastest, strongest and best athletes. Friends more than parents, are the big motivation for older kids.

What works for older children is lots of support for their chosen activities. Driving your kids to practices, attending games or events, providing them with they need to perform are ways that show the importance you place on physical activity. Encouragement and positive reinforcement from you also motivates teens. If children feel supported in what they do, they are more likely to continue doing it.

Now, what if your older child chooses inactivity? Between TV shows, email, instant messaging, research homework, and video games, kids have too many opportunities for screen time. Several studies show that children who spend the most time in front of a screen are more likely to face weight challenges: over ½ the excess weight gain in older children is linked to too much screen time. Balance screen time with other activities. Put a limit on total daily screen time and add an hour of physical activity each day. If you child does not like sports; try enrolling him in a local recreation center or gym. Look into other group activities, like scouting. Get him a few sessions with a personal trainer, so he can learn the best way to workout on his own.

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

A Handful of Health

I can count on one hand the five steps to family fitness. Following these simple steps together as a family will improve the health of each individual family member, as well as the family as a whole unit.

STEP 1 Eat nutrient full and wholesome foods
STEP 2 Allow treat foods
STEP 3 Limit electronic time
STEP 4 Move more
STEP 5 All family members follow Steps 1 through 4

What are nutrient full and wholesome foods?
Foods high in vitamins, minerals and other important nutrients and low in calories are wholesome foods.

What are considered treats?
High calorie and low nutritional value foods. Food that is processed, high in sugar or fat, or are not making a nutritional contribution to the diet should be used as treats.

How long is too long for electronic time?
Two hours a day tops for electronic or screen time is enough. That includes TV, computer and video games.

How much time a day do I have to move?
Each day aim for one hour of activity. The time doesn’t have to be all in one long hour shot. Break up bouts of activity through out the day. It all adds up!

Why can’t I do it my way, since I am the adult?
You are part of the family. And everyone must participate for consistency. You are also a role model. If you change the ‘rules’ for yourself, kids learn they can too. We have to teach our kids by example the importance of health.

The strength of family is tremendous. A family works best when everyone does their part to add to the whole. Help make your family as strong and healthy as they can be. It is all in your hands.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Summertime Squash

This tasty recipe uses zucchini which is plentiful in the summer. Have the kids help with this one. They will enjoy watching the ingredients transform into a yummy frittata.

1 medium zucchini squash
4 eggs
1/2 tsp oregano
1 medium tomato
1 tdsp dried basil
1/2 cup low fat cottage cheese
3 TBS parmesean cheese
1 tsp olive oil

Wash zucchini, cut into thin slices.

Wash tomato, cut into wedges

In a medium bowl, beat eggs with the basil and oregano.

Stir in cottage cheese and parmesean cheese into the egg mixture.

In a 12 inch skillet, cook zucchini and tomato with olive oil until zucchini is soft.

Pour in the egg mixture.

Cook over low heat until the eggs are set , about 15 min.

Cut into pie slices and serve warm.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Monday, July 23, 2007

Exercise is for Everyone!

Whether you are an athlete or a parent chasing your toddler around, you need exercise!

The benefits of exercise are plenty. Exercise will lower blood sugar levels and strengthen your heart, increasing ‘good; cholesterol and reduces stress for anyone, young or old.

Are you too busy to exercise? Not interested? Or maybe you don’t feel comfortable in the middle of an aerobic class? These all are valid hurdles to your health. There are ways to include heart health exercise into your day, without becoming the next gym junkie.

First, exercise comes in many forms.
Walking the dog, taking the stairs, parking a distance for the store and walking in are some ways to add minutes of activity to your day. The minutes add up. Cleaning the house, playing with your kids, gardening, etc... You just got to move it!

Second, exercise comes at different times.
If you want to do the traditional exercises, long walks or runs, cardio machines, weight lifting, or aerobics; realize that the time of day to exercise is different for everyone. Some enjoy to expend their energy early in the day, others after work, and some use their lunch hour. The point is…Do it when you can!

Third, exercise is fun.
You are more likely to continue to make an effort to exercise if you like what you are doing. You may enjoy the comradity of people at the gym or the solace of walks on your own. Either way, it is what you like. Make time for you and what you like to do.


Sunday, July 22, 2007

Fatigue and Iron

Have your kids been feeling tired lately? Lack of iron may be the culprit. Iron helps transport oxygen to the organs and muscles. Low iron causes lethargy, reduced immunity and makes it harder to remember things and learn new tasks.

However, too much iron can also be harmful. Men with too much iron are at an increased risk of gallstones, according to the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

Where is the iron I need?

Beans and Legumes

Chicken, beef, osyters, clams, and turkey

Fortified cereals and grains


How much do I need?

1 to 3 years old 7mg

4 to 8 years old 10mg

9 to 13 years old 8mg

14 to 18 years old (BOYS) 8-11mg

14 to 18 years old (GIRLS) 15mg

19 to 50years old (MALES) 8mg

19 to 50 years old (WOMEN) 18mg

Over 50 years old 8mg

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Hungry Mungry

This is one of my favorite Shel Silverstein poems. Just a bit of fun about eating. I think this describes feeding my two teenage sons. Talk about eating us out of house and home!

Hungry Mungry

Hungry Mungry sat at supper,
Took his knife and spoon and fork,
Ate a bowl of mushroom soup, ate a slice of roasted pork,
Ate a dozen stewed tomatoes, twenty-seven deviled eggs,
Fifteen shrimps, nine bakes potatoes,
Thirty-two fried chicken legs,
A shank of lamb, a boiled ham,
Two bowls of grits, some black-eye peas,
Four chocolate shakes, eight angel cakes,
Nine custard pies with Muenster cheese,
Ten pots of tea, and after he,
Had eaten all that he was able,
He poured some broth on the tablecloth
And ate the kitchen table.

His parents said, "Oh Hungry Mungry, stop these silly jokes."
Mungry opened up his mouth, and "Gulp," he ate his folks.
And then he went and ate his house, all the bricks and wood,
And then he ate up all the people in the neighborhood.
Up came twenty angry policeman shouting, "Stop and cease."
Mungry opened his mouth and "Gulp," he ate the police.
Soldiers came with tanks and guns.
Said Mungry, "They can't harm me."
He just smiled and licked his lips and ate the U.S. Army.

The President sent all his bombers--Mungry still was calm,
Put his head back, gulped the planes, and gobbled up the bomb.
He ate his town and ate the city--ate and ate and--
And then he said, "I think I'll eat the whole United States."

And so he ate Chicago first and munched the Water Tower,
And then he chewed on Pittsburgh but he found it rather sour.
He ate New York and Tennessee, and all of Boston town,
Then drank the Mississippi River just to wash it down.
And when he'd eaten every state, each puppy, boy and girl
He wiped his mouth upon his sleeve and went to eat the world.

He ate the Egypt pyramids and every church in Rome,
And all the grass in Africa and all in ice in Nome.
He ate each hill in green Brazil and then to make things worse
He decided for dessert he'd eat the universe.

He started with the moon and stars and soon as he was done
He gulped the clouds, he sipped the wind and gobbled up the sun.
Then sitting there in the cold dark air,
He started to nibble his feet,
Then his legs, then his hips
Then his neck, then his lips
Till he sat there just gnashin' his teeth
'Cause nothin' was nothin' was
Nothin' was nothin' was
Nothin' was left to eat.

-Shel Silverstein

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Extreme Sports

According to By PAT GRAHAM | Associated Press, "Bethel, 21, is battling anorexia nervosa. At 5-foot-4, she weighs just 75 pounds. Her hair is thinning, her face ashen.

That fight nearly cost Bethel her life: In September, she went into cardiac arrest while running on a campus track. Soon after, Bethel was suspended from school and even banned from campus, because university officials considered her a danger to herself."(photo attributed to AP Photo/Ed Andrieski)

When you read this article in its entirety, you realize that this young woman knew her performance on the swim team diminished to a frightening low, and yet it took being ostrasized from her school to wake her up. I'm just glad she woke up to the fact that what she eats and how much she eats makes the difference between success and failure, life and death.

Although we often attribute the pressure to "make weight" to boys in sports, girls struggle with this just as often. We know that the undernourished don't perform as well in school. This is the main reason the School Lunch and Breakfast programs exist. It's crucial that as parents we watch for signs of eating disorders and research proper treatment methods. If you suspect your child has an eating disorder, partner with your pediatrician for answers and support.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Smart Moms Need to Know

3 Food Mistakes Even Smart Moms Make

Not Giving kids a choice.
Kids are more likely to eat healthy foods when they get to pick them out. They don’t want to be forced into eating them. When its time to shop, take your kids with you and let them find the vegetable, fruit and healthy snacks to try for the week.

2. Not offering a food because you assume he won’t eat it. Often children who are picky eaters have parents who simply did not expose them to enough variety. Your child may like sweet peas the first few times he tries them, but keep serving them in different ways, and you’ll be surprised what they start to enjoy.

3. Not allowing special treats. The forbidden fruit, tastes so sweet. Kids need to learn balance. And forbidding them from a certain treat makes them want it more. The occasional ice cream cone or candy bar will not hurt them. Allow some small treats and balance their diet the rest of the time.

Friday, July 13, 2007

SUGAR: How Sweet It's Not!

Sugar tastes sweet, but the effects of sugar are never ending. Remember…Everything in Moderation!

In addition to throwing off the body’s balance, excess sugar may result in a number of other significant consequences. A variety of medical journals and scientific publications show many of the negative effects of excess sugar intake. Here are the top 30 effects:

1.Sugar can suppress the immune system.
2.Sugar can upset the body’s mineral balance.
3.Sugar can cause hyperactivity, anxiety, concentration difficulties and moodiness in children.
4.Sugar can cause drowsiness and decreased activity in children.
5.Sugar can adversely affect children’s school grades.
6.Sugar can produce a significant rise in triglycerides.
7.Sugar contributes to a weakened defense against bacterial infection.
8.Sugar can cause kidney damage.
9.Sugar can reduce HDLs (good cholesterol)
10.Sugar can elevate LDLs(bad cholesterol)
11.Sugar interferes with the absorption of calcium and magnesium.
12.Sugar may lead to cancer of the breast, ovaries, prostate and rectum.
13.Sugar can cause an increased risk of colon cancer in women.
14.Sugar can increase fasting blood glucose.
15.Sugar can produce an acidic stomach.
16.Sugar can raise adrenaline levels in children.
17.Sugar can speed the aging process.
18.Sugar can promote tooth decay.
19.Sugar can cause asthma
20.Sugar can contribute to osteoporosis.
21.Sugar contributes to saliva acidity.
22.Sugar can cause a decrease in insulin sensitivity.
23.Sugar causes food allergies.
24.Sugar can contribute to eczema in children.
25.Sugar can cause hypertension.
26.Sugar can cause headaches, including migraines.
27.Sugar can cause depression.
28.Sugar can cause hormonal imbalance.
29.Sugar can increase the risk of Alzheimer Disease.
30.Sugar can cause constipation.

Sunday, July 8, 2007

The A List

The next time you are at the grocery, take home these healthy, peak performance, and easy to cook up foods. Heres a list of the top 15 fuel foods to fill your grocery cart:

1. Almonds

Try to eat 20 of them, 3 to 5 times in a week.

2. Black Beans

One cup gives you more than half the daily fiber you need.

3. Chicken

One breast provides half your daily protein needs.

4. Dark Chocolate

Eat a1 ounce serving a few times per week.

5. Eggs

If allergies are not a problem; eat a few each week.

6. Frozen mixed berries

Active kids need at least 2 cups of fruit per day.

7. Green, yellow and red veggies

Buy a colorful mix to get lots of antioxidants.

8. Low-fat plain yogurt

2 cups of dairy a day for kids.

9. Mixed salad greens

A variety of greens provide the most nutrients.

10. Oranges

One orange a day will satisfy your vitamin C needs.

11. Salmon

Provides healthy fats and high quality protein for brain function.

12. Sweet Potatoes

A complex carb with a bonus amount of vitamin A.

13. Whole-grain bread

100 percent whole grain choices only!

14. Whole grain cereal with protein

One serving gives about 5g of fiber and 8g of protein.

15. Whole-grain pasta

Eat at least 2-3 servings of whole grains daily.

Saturday, July 7, 2007

Kids Can Eat Veggies and Love it!

These kid-friendly food strategies will have your child pulling you to the produce department for more.

When I became a mom, I was determined to raise my kids as healthy eaters. Unfortunately, things were difficult at best. At first, our norm was more like feeding in a frenzy, Between my son, who is clearly a ‘picky eater’, and my daughter, who will try anything and changes her mind constantly about what ‘she likes’; I about throw in the spatula every meal.

In time, with a little creativity and balance eating at our house was fun and fulfilling.
Children need to learn to eat a variety of foods so they can benefit from a variety of nutrients. Fruits and vegetables are high nutrient, low calorie foods essential to a well balanced diet. The trick is getting your child to eat them. Here are the top 5 tips to try:

Start Now
The earlier in life the better; however, it is never too late to learn the pros and cons of the food we eat.

Eat Raw
Try cut up raw fruits and vegetables. Cooking sometimes deplete veggies of primary nutrients. Also, flavor changes from cooking make some vegetables less appetizing.

Do Dips
Kids love their dips. Provide a choice of low-fat dips in small side containers, and let the kids do the dipping. Low-fat melted cheeses, peanut butter or pureed fruit are some great taste choices.

Fun Food
Kids love to play with their food. Let them play and eat. Food can be fun. Try making a smiley face on whole grain bread with raisins for eyes, a green bean for the mouth, a cut carrot nose, all set on a spread of cream cheese. Or let your kids make Cool Kabobs. Give them a selection of fruits, cheese, meat, veggies and a marshmallow to choose from. Let them create what they eat.

Try, Try Again
Just because he says he doesn’t like something, does not mean you should not serve it. Kids eat what is available. Keep providing a variety of fruits and veggies in different combinations, eventually something will grab their taste buds. And remember, just as our tastes have changed over the years, so will your kids. Your job is to make it available to them to try.

Thursday, July 5, 2007

Don't Give Up - Don't Give In

It is so tempting when you encounter resistance from your kids about eating to back off or give up. Most of us will have to make some major changes in our buying, preparation, and eating habits if we're going to provide our families both nutritious and delicious foods. Those changes may not always go over smoothly with the very people we're trying to serve. But that's OK. They don't have to understand or even agree with what's for dinner.

Don't let grumbling, whining, or refusal to eat get in your way. Kids will eat when they're hungry, and when they're hungry enough, they'll eat whatever is available. All you have to do is make sure the right things are available. In the case of nutrition, the path of least resistance is the path to obesity, a sedentary lifestyle, sugar-related syndromes, diseases and illnesses, poor growth, pediatric hypertension, tooth decay, and a host of learning problems.

So never give up! Never surrender! It's worth the fight.

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Wordless Wednesdays

"Over Easy" - the last egg my mother ever made me. . .

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Think Fast!

Thinking that is fluent, flexible and original takes practice. Our children are not used to thinking "outside the box." They prefer learning that is predictable and routine (even if it's boring). It's safe. The unknown is not safe; it has risk.

One way to encourage fluency (which means to come up with ideas quickly)is to provide daily writing or journal prompts. Even at home, you can encourage kids to write. The more they write, they better writers they will become. Paired with nutrient-rich foods, their brains will make more permanent connections and be able to access information stored quickly.

I highly recommend The Write Brain Workbook as one resource to exercise your brain.

Sunday, July 1, 2007

Fuel up on the Fourth!

The Fourth of July is another grill out, get together time for most families. Use some of these yummy recipes to bring a bang to your table!

Almond Chicken Dijon

4 Small boneless skinless chicken breast halves (1 lb)
2 tbsp. Light mayo
2 tbsp. Dijon mustard
1/4 cup Slivered almonds, coarsely chopped

*Put chicken in lightly greased 13x9 in baking pan
*Blend together mayo and mustard.
* Spread top side of each chicken breast half with 1 Tbsp. of the mix; and sprinkle evenly with the almonds.
*Wrap in foil and grill for 10 mins on each side or until chicken is cooked through.

Nutrient Information
200 Calories
9g Total Fat
1.5g Saturated Fat
3g Carbohydrates
26g Protein
0 Vitamin A
0 Vitamin C
4% Calcium
300mg Sodium
6% Iron
1g Fiber

Summer Strawberry Orange Cups

1 pint strawberries
1 package unflavored gelatin
2 tbl water
2 tbl Boiling water
1/2 cup Frozen orange juice concentrate, thawed
1 1/2 cups Skim milk
1 tsp Vanilla extract
1 tbl Sugar (optional)

*Wash the strawberries and remove the stems. Cut on-half of them into thin slices and place them in the butoom of six, 8 ounce custard cups, dividing equally.
*Soften the gelatin in the cool water for 5 minutes. Add the boiling water to the softened gelatin and stir until completely dissovlved.
*Combine the orange juice concentrate, milk, vanilla and sugar and mix well. Stir in the dissolved gelatin and pour the mixture over the sliced strawberries in the custard cups.
*Place in the refrigerator for about 2 hours, or until completely jelled together.
*Halve the remaining strawberries; divide equally among cups.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

A Healthy Heart Diet

A Healthy Heart Diet:
What’s good for heart, is good for all of you!

A diet rich in fruits, vegetables and low-fat dairy foods, with an emphasis on reduced saturated and total fat – is now recommended as a foundation for healthy eating for all Americans.

Plan your meals with these three things in mind:
Emphasize fruits, vegetables and whole grains
Include lean meats, low-fat diary products, poultry, fish, beans, eggs, and nuts
Limit saturated fats, trans fats, cholesterol, salt (sodium), artificial additives and added sugars

Healthier Eating
The healthy plan calls for two to three servings of low-fat dairy foods and eight to 10 servings of fruits and vegetables daily—foods that Americans tend to under consume.
This diet is high in calcium, potassium and magnesium, all of which are associated with a reduced risk of high blood pressure and stroke.

You don’t need to make radical changes in your current food choices to eat healthier.

Consider these simple changes to adopt a healthier eating plan:
Add a serving of vegetables at lunch and dinner
Use fruits as desserts and snacks—preferably fresh
At each meal include a calcium-rich dairy food (low-fat milk, yogurt or cheese)
Choose whole-grain bread
Include beans (legumes) or nuts in several meals each week
Limit meat to no more than six ounces a day—three to four ounces is about the size of a deck of cards
Add fruit or 100 percent juice as a snack
Drink water!

Snack Ideas:
Unsalted pretzels with peanut butter
Nuts mixed with raisins
Graham crackers and cream cheese
Low-fat or nonfat yogurt with granola
Frozen yogurt with berries
Raw vegetables with dip of choice

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Friday, June 22, 2007

Balancing Act

The most important word we want you to learn is BALANCE. Often parents ask us if "eating macaroni and cheese" is okay, or "what do I do if my child won't eat anything green?" It's up to you to help your child balance his eating. Macaroni and cheese is just fine as long as you balance out that meal with some protein and a fruit or vegetable.

"What if I drink coffee?" Fine. Then make sure for every cup of coffee you drink, drink a cup of water as well .

"What if my daughter has decided at 14 that she is a vegan?" Fine. Just make sure she supplements the meat protein with legumes or nuts of some kind (for specific recommendations, see Brain Food).

It's all a balancing act.

Recently at our book signings we set out a table full of "goodies" for those in attendance (especially the kids) to make Cool Kabobs. If you look closely, you'll see strawberries, cucumbers, chicken, tomatoes, cheeses, and other "good stuff", and then . . . marashino cherries and a marshmallow.


Thursday, June 21, 2007

ADHD or Erratic Blood Sugar?

Do you remember the old commercial that asked, "Is it live or is it Memorex?" Sometimes it's hard to tell the difference. It's equally hard to blame frustrating behavior on poor discipline, ADHD, and less than optimal nutrition. Although they can all be connected.

There's a blame game being played by parents, teachers, and pediatricians when it comes to a child who just can't sit still and who attends to everything except what he needs to attend to. ADHD (Attention Deficit Disorder with Hyperactivity) is often misdiagnosed, first by parents and teachers, then by doctors. We believe that your pediatrician is the last person you query about your child's behavior, not the first.

Nutrition can play a part in any person's behavior; erratic blood sugar is often the culprit. Every person's personal body chemistry reacts differently to different amounts of sugars, proteins, and other nutrients. Knowing how your child responds is crucial. If poor nutrition choices is ruled out, then you may need to look more closely at your child's behavior. You can view a behavior checklist to see if you need to investigate further.

How well hydrated is your child? The brain, as an organ, needs water to process the other nutrients we ingest in order to perform optimally. Without censoring, keep track of what and how much your child is drinking. If water isn't a normal part of your child's diet, then a change is in order. Simple sugars, which are nutrient-poor, are still found in many of the drinks children tend to use to quench their thirst. Until they are old enough to make their own decisions, we need to decide for them what they should drink and how much.

Attention to a child's nutrition is not a "cure" for ADHD but a complimentary treatment for it. It can improve quality of life and increase in learning when nutrition is improved - regardless of whether your child is ADHD or not. There is still great controversy about treatment options, but a good parent is an informed parent. To find out more, check out both CHADD and the National Research Center on ADHD.

Recipes that offer a more balanced approach to eating only benefit the body, brain, and well being of each and every one of our children.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Recent Q&A's


What are ‘good’ fats? I thought low fat diets were the way to eat?

Too much of anything is not good. But, we all need fats to function. Our bodies are made up of a system of organs and organs need fat to protect them physically and to function properly. Our brain is no exception. As an organ, the brain also needs fat. Choose ‘good fats’, such as Omega-3 essential fatty acid; typically found in fish or supplemented with a strained variety (without mercury) of fish oil tablets. Omega-3 has shown to balance hormone levels, reduce cholesterol and help with many disorders, such as ADHD and Autism in children. See for more info.


What do you do when kids kick the breakfast habit?

Breakfast has always been toted as the most important meal of the day. However, in our fast pace lifestyle, breakfast at best is a ‘fast break’. Grabbing a cup of java or rolling through the nearest drive thru for a hot butter biscuit seems to be more our speed. So how do we teach our kids to eat breakfast? Start by having more healthy and quick morning snacks around the kitchen. Fruits, yogurts and hard boiled eggs are good examples of grab and go foods for the morning. The night before try making one of the varieties of yogurt parfaits or waffles found in our book Brain Food: Recipes for success in school, sports and life.


Does my child have a food allergy?

Some allergies are inherited at birth, others are developed over time. When they are seen later in life, allergies may first start out as a sensitivity or intolerance. Severe reactions, including breathing difficulty and skin eruptions are indicative of full blown allergies. Most common sources of food associated with allergies and sensitivities are corn, dairy, wheat and nuts. Check out for related information on diagnosis of childhood allergies.


Should your kids drink coffee before school?

Kids and caffeine first thing in the morning, especially in place of breakfast set kids up for memory and attention problems during class time. Drinking coffee or energy drinks without any breakfast foods which include protein go for the fast fix. The quick boost in energy in a high caffeinated and sugary drink is temporary. By the time ten o’clock rolls around, kids are dropping from their morning high and becoming irritable and unfocused. They have no food for fuel to sustain them through out the morning, and it is not lunch time yet. A little caffeine for older kids in the morning is ‘ok’ as long as it is paired with a protein rich morning snack (Example: yogurt with fruit or eggs). Just remember, kids need fuel to sustain their brain power for 3 to 4 hours at a time to be successful in school.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Could improved nutrition affect my son's low test scores?

"This year on the state test my son dropped two levels from the year before. Do you think what he eats affects how well he does on his testing?

I get this question often from concerned parents. High stakes testing has every parent a little anxious and if their child drops in his scores, there's cause for concern. Nutrition can affect how well you perform on standardized tests, but in two different ways.

Schools know the importance of good nutrition on testing days because they remind parents to make sure their children eat a nutrient-rich breakfast on testing days. Schools often provide water and snacks to students during breaks in the testing day. They also offer a free breakfast for all students regardless of whether they are on a free or reduced breakfast/lunch program or not. So, the short answer is "yes" nutrition affects your child's test scores.

But there's more to it than good nutrition on testing day.

Our brains better retain information and make those all important connections when they are "well fed." In other words, all year long as your children are trying to learn in the classroom, you can set them up to succeed by making sure their developing brains get what they need. Then when testing time comes, it will reflect how well they learned throughout the year. If your child has dropped in his test scores from the year before, it could be because (1) he had a bad test day and possibly didn't eat well that morning, or (2) his eating habits during much of the school year weren't up to par and that was then reflected on his test scores.

Life happens and things change. Maybe your own schedule got out of whack for one reason or another, and you were less able to attend to your child's nutritional needs during this time. For whatever the reason, it's time to re-evaluate how you feed your children and be intentional on feeding the brain what it needs. For more age by age nutritional needs, check out Brain Food: Recipes for Success in School, Sports, Life, now available

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

How Can I Get My Kid to Eat Breakfast?

We all know that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, but many of us have to admit that it is the most difficult one to get our kids to eat. In fact, there's a good chance we don't eat breakfast either. Funny how we expect our children to do something we ourselves don't do.

I was guilty for a long time of not eating breakfast. I'm just not a morning person and the thought of eating upon waking made my stomach turn. It took until I was pregnant for the first time that I changed my ways. I learned, just as our children need to learn, that our bodies are in a state of "fasting" overnight. We haven't eaten since dinner the evening before, so we're talking 12 or more hours since we've eaten. It's crucial that we fuel our bodies and brains with protein first thing in the morning if we are to be at our best.

My son doesn't like to eat in the morning either. The fact that he doesn't like most breakfast foods makes it even more of a challenge. For us the key is to stock the fridge or freezer with choices he is willing to make. We strive for balance in his eating over the course of a week, so if we resort to hot pockets or waffles (even the multi-grain kind), then he will make up for that choice later in the day with fruit, vegetables, and other "good" carbohydrates.

Adding yogurt to breakfast is a good way to get much needed morning protein. Cereal with milk and a banana is also an easy way to get going, although cereal doesn't "stick" with you very long. Kids will be hungry again by mid morning.

During the summer experiment with different breakfast options. It may mean preparing something the night before or getting up earlier yourself to make sure your child gets what he needs for his first meal of the day. Look for nutrient-rich foods, color and variety. Offer your child choices; just make sure those choices are relatively good ones. And if you they're not the best choice, make up for the lack of real nutrients later in the day.

What makes it difficult for you to get your child to eat breakfast?

Saturday, June 9, 2007

Dream On

There's a saying, "The family that cooks together stays together." Okay, it may not be an official saying, but there's something to be said for the family who spends time together in the kitchen.

Cooking with and for your family definitely promotes family closeness and conversation, but have you ever thought of cooking together as a way to help others? We're all trying to find ways to save time and money, right? But maybe it's not your family you can save.

Have you heard about Dream Dinners? It's a place where you can go and prepare a week's worth of meals ahead of time in their kitchen with their ingredients and using their recipes for a fraction of the cost of your time and money you may end up spending in the take out line instead. That's sounds great all by itself, but there's another way to use Dream Dinners you may not have thought about - charity.

There are always families in need of meals: in your neighborhood, from your church, from your child's school. Maybe a friend just had a baby, provide a few home cooked meals. Maybe there's been a death in a family, show up with sympathy and a meal. It's hard for us to plan that far ahead and fill our freezers with "extra" meals, but you could make an appointment at Dream Dinners and as a family prepare meals for someone in need.

Our children need ways to reach out in their communities and realize that it's not all about them. There are many ways to serve in your community, but maybe serving up a great meal can nourish more than a body - it can feed the soul.

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Belly Aches

I used to be able to eat just about anything I wanted with few consequences. There was that time when I was 17 when I had way too much pizza and I got sick. That kept me off pizza for almost 10 years after that. I had a similar experience with cottage cheese while in college. I have to say that I have yet to regain that craving.

At 44 years old my insides just don't handle much. I'm lactose-intolerant, so I only use soy milk. I drank ALOT of milk growing up; easily a full glass with every meal and often in between meals with a snack. I always wonder if that has anything to do with it.

There are a lot of food myths out there that we use to explain why our tummies bother us. My youngest son says he can't eat apples because he's allergic to them. When I ask him why he thinks that he says, "They make my throat itch!" I have no idea what that feels like, but I'll take his word for it. The bottom line is that if it bothers you, don't eat it.

What I see, however, is how people (including my own husband) eat the things that do give them belly aches anyway! They're willing to pay the price of indigestion, nausea, and the other gastrointestinal ailments the "pink" medicine soothes. Obviously the price isn't high enough. The good feelings they get from eating that ice cream or chocolate or fried food outweighs the bad they feel afterwards.

The problem is that sometimes those who live with them are the ones who pay for it!

And the drug companies get rich - how many commercials do we see for that little purple pill or the pink medicine or the chalky, calcium-enriched antacids? It's big business. . . all because we don't avoid the foods that bother us.

Why is it that we eat what we know we shouldn't? I'm not talking about low fat versus high fat, but foods that hurt us. I must have a low tolerance for indigestion because I'd rather drink soy milk than be doubled over in pain after a glass of milk or a bowl of cereal.

How about you? What foods do you eat that bother your belly?

Want to find out more about what might be causing your belly ache, check out this article.

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Feeding Other People's Children

"Mom, can Rachel eat over?" your sweet daughter says ten minutes before dinner while Rachel is standing just out of sight in the hallway. We'll leave the hospitality manners for another day, but today, you say "Yes, of course she can," but then quickly add, "Make sure she calls her mom first though to make sure it's okay."

Do you cringe when your child asks if a friend can eat lunch or dinner at your house? Do you panic when one of their friends spends the night and you're faced with feeding a complete stranger breakfast in the morning? Do you run out to the store to buy frozen chicken fingers, curly fries, soda, and cookie dough? Or do you punch the speed dial on your phone and order from Pizza House?

Too many of us fear rejection by these "little" people and make changes to our existing mealtime routines just to please them. Consistency is the key. Let your kids' friends see what it's like to live and eat in your house. Even if they don't like what you serve that night, they will see a family that enjoys eating together and values good nutrition. For all you know, what they eat at your house may be the only nutritious meal they'll eat all week. You can contribute to another child's well-being and development by not deviating from the balanced approach you use to feed your own kids.

Friend Friendly Recipe - Pot Luck Pizza
Let your kids and their friends decide what goes on these pizzas


Freezer bread or pizza dough
jar red or white sauce
anything you have left in the fridge you need to get rid of!
(deli meats and cheeses, hot dogs, black olives, jalapenos, whatever is "topping worthy")


Defrost dough completely
Preheat oven to 400 degrees
Divide dough in half
Spray two round pizza pans (cookie sheets) with non stick spray
Spread dough evenly over both pans
Top each with your choice of sauce, cheese, and toppings
Bake for about 12 - 15 minutes
Allow to cool slightly before slicing

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Memorial Day Menus

Memorial Day is a traditional time of picnics and barbecues, a celebration of early summer, when families congregate and kids run wild. As a kid, I often spent such times with my family and close friends. Below are some of my favorite ‘on the grill’ treats. Enjoy!

Lime Pineapple Sticks

Sugar-Lime Sauce:
Juice of 1 fresh lime (2 tablespoons)
1/2 cup brown sugar

Pineapple Sticks
1 pineapple, peeled and quartered lengthwise

To make the sauce, put the lime juice and sugar in a small saucepan, bring to a boil, and stir until the sugar dissolves.

Cut the pineapple quarters into 2-3 wedges lengthwise. If preferred, slice off the core sections, then cut each wedge into slices about 1/2 inch thick. Thread long metal skewers through each wedge and brush with the lime mixture.

Light an outdoor grill or preheat a broiler. Grill or broil until the fruit is tinged dark brown. Serve drizzled with any leftover sauce, accompanied by low fat vanilla yogurt.

Grilled Portobello and Spinach Burgers

1/2 cup mayonnaise
1 clove garlic, minced
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil leaves
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
4 large Portobello mushrooms, stems removed
Salt and coarsely ground black pepper to taste
Well-washed and torn spinach leaves, for topping

1. Mix together the mayonnaise, garlic, and basil in a small bowl. Set aside to let the flavors develop and use for topping.

2. In another small bowl, whisk together the olive oil and vinegar and brush over the mushrooms thoroughly. Season with salt and pepper.

3. Lightly oil the grill or a skillet over medium heat and cook the mushrooms until tender all the way through, 8 to 10 minutes per side.

Shish Kabobs

1/2 c. olive oil
1/4 c. vinegar, wine or sherry (I prefer red wine)
1/4 c. chopped onion
1 tsp. salt
2 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
garlic to taste

Blend ingredients together, then marinate overnight 2 lbs. sirloin tips (1 inch pieces), mushrooms (I prefer baby portabellas), green pepper cut into chunks, and onions cut into chunks.

After marinating, skewer meat and vegetables, and broil for 20 minutes (or grill outdoors), basting often. May add tomatoes for last 5 minutes if desired.

Make extra marinade, and use it to cook rice in as a side dish!This may also be used for a vegetarian kabob. Simply leave out the meat and marinate vegetable chunks such as zucchini, green pepper, etc.

Chicken and Fruit Salad with Mango Vinaigrette

2 to 3 mangos
12 ounces skinless boneless chicken breast halves
1/2 teaspoon curry powder
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon coarse ground pepper
6 cups torn mixed greens
1/2 medium cantaloupe -- cut in 1" chunks1 cup halved or sliced strawberries

Mango Vinaigrette:
1/4 cup orange juice
3 tablespoons rice vinegar or white wine vinegar
2 teaspoons honey
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
2 green onions -- thinly sliced

1. Pit , peel and slice mangoes. Measure 1-1/2 cups for use in the vinaigrette; set aside remaining slices for salad.

2. Rinse chicken; pat dry with paper towels. Stir together curry, salt, and pepper. Rub chicken with curry mixture. Grill chicken on the rack of an uncovered grill directly over med. coals about 13 to 15 min. or till tender and no longer pink, turning once halfway through grilling.

3. Arrange greens on individual dinner plates. Top with chicken strips, melon, strawberries, and reserved mango slices. Drizzle with Mango Vinaigrette. Sprinkle green onion over all.

4. For vinaigrette, combine reserved 1-1/2 cups mango, orange juice, vinegar, honey and mustard in blender or food processor. Cover and blend till smooth. Cover and chill till serving time. Makes about 1-1/4 cups.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Talkin' at the Table

My grandmother, a wonderful New York Sicilian, taught me that food is more than sustanence - it's family! Now I realize that not every family that gathers around the dinner table does so with loving thoughts in mind, but even the best of families struggle to connect during meal time.

Time around the table is a great time to work on our communication skills. Where else will our children learn how to converse appropriately with others during a meal? When they grow and date and go to a potential in-law's home for dinner, will they be able to engage in lively and life-giving conversation? They will if we show them first around our own tables.

Studies show that kids who eat more family meal perform better in school. They spend more time on homework, get better grades, and spend more of their free time reading for pleasure. But there are other benefits, too. Eating together at home saves time. Eating out may save time. Eating out may save effort, but it takes more time than eating at home. Kids have homework to do on a regular basis, and as parents, we need to protect that time. They're already so busy with extracurricular activities, sports, church, and friends. School must come first if they are going to succeed. We can set them up for success by setting the dinner table as a family as often as possible.

Check out these suggestions for cultivating captivating dinner time conversation:
  • When everyone is home, require the family to sit at the table together. Sometimes even when we're all home, everyone finds a different spot to eat: Dad in front of the television, kids in the family room, and Mom in the kitchen alone. Gather around the table together, not just to avoid messes all over the house, but to focus on one another.
  • Don't discipline at the dinner table. Even if something went wrong at school or at home, deal with the infraction after dinner. Try not to associate eating together with negative experiences. Don't dish out punishments during mealtimes. If you have to address the issue, do so briefly and set a time after dinner to deal with it completely.
  • How was your day? As adults, ask one another how your day was and whether anything new or interesting happened. Kids learn about the pitfalls and pleasures of your day and will become more willing to share about their own days. This also gives them an opportunity to discover how you handled things that went wrong. These are teachable moments. How about asking the kids directly about their day? Take turns to answer "What was the best part of your day? And what was the worst part of your day?" You'll learn a lot.
  • Encourage inclusive conversation. Sometimes certain family members tend to monopolize dinnertime conversation. It's fine to briefly talk about things that are only of interest to one or two members, but when possible, try to choose topics that engage all those sitting around the table. Not only is this a great way to make sure no one feels left out, but it nurtures mealtime etiquette that children will need in future social settings.

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Summer is Coming!

Summer is Coming!: A great time to get active with your kids. The hectic school year schedule is over and with a more relaxed pace, you can help you child be healthy without all the “distractions’ and lack of time excuses from during the year.

Of course you want your kids to be healthy all the time. But, starting new healthy habits is a conscious effort on your part. And let’s face it, your busy. Summertime allows more time for most of us. It’s a time to relax, go on vacation and enjoy family time. Incorporating good health habits into your schedule is essential. Don’t be over whelmed, make each step one at a time through out the summer months and your family will be on their way to healthy future.

Start by looking at your role modeling skills. Believe it or not, it all starts with you!
Do you eat a well balanced diet daily?
Do you eat breakfast every morning?
Do you choose nutritious snacks?
Do you watch portion sizes on sweets and chips?
Are you physically active at least 30 minutes of each day?
Do you eat meals with your family at home?
Do you limit “screen time” such as TV or computer work to one or two hours a day?

Look first at what you are teaching your kids by your own example. Then get moving.
Healthy habits start at home.

Super snack size. Treats are not the enemy, just the amount you have. Try buying snack size candy bars, serving soda beverages in small glasses and when eating out split the fries.
Monitor the screen. The TV and computer are screens that are constantly on in many houses. Set a daily time limit on the amount of time spent in front of the screens. And compliment that time with an equal amount of outdoor activity each day. Keep your day in balance. Play with your kids. It’s good for you too!

Smart Snacks for the Whole Family

Simple snacking for kids and parents. Kids can make these snacks on their own. Keep the house filled with easy to make and eat snacks for the kids to grab. If you have it in your home, they’ll eat it!
Ø Cup of low fat yogurt
Ø Bowl of whole grain cereal
Ø Cheese stick
Ø Handful of nuts
Ø Fruits
Ø Dried fruit
Ø Baby carrots and celery sticks
Ø Graham crackers with peanut butter
Ø Applesauce
Ø Salsa and baked tortilla chips
Ø Popcorn
Ø Grilled chicken sliced (hot or cold)

Monday, April 2, 2007

Balance is EVERYTHING!

Living Well
365 Daily Devotions for a Balanced Life

From Carole Lewis, the national director of First Place, the nation’s leading Christian weight-loss program, comes this collection of daily devotions to help you achieve balance in every area of your life!
These are down-to-earth devotions, written by men and women who struggle with the same real-life issues you wrestle with. And they are about much more than just weight loss. You’ll learn how to make wise choices whenever you are faced with a difficult decision. Discover how to hear God’s voice and how to resist temptation. Learn how your gifts and talents can be put to work for God.

You’ll also explore such questions as “Do I want to achieve certain goals? Am I willing to be honest with myself? Am I open to new ideas? Is my pride getting in the way of what I want to accomplish? What am I afraid of? A short prayer, a guided journaling assignment and a pertinent Scripture verse from the First Place Bible studies are included for each daily reading.
By preparing your heart each day through this short devotional time and applying the truth of each reading, you’ll discover the secret of balance in every aspect of your life— whether the spiritual, physical, mental or emotional.

The balanced life begins here—in only a few minutes a day! Make each day count…all year ’round.
Here at BRAIN FOOD, we believe in living a balanced life and eating a balanced diet. That looks different for different people. Visit First Place to find out more about how you can live and eat in in balance.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Do You Know What Your Kids are Drinking?

(photo originally appeared on

Recently one of my 8th grade students was taken to the hospital. Her kidneys were beginning to shut down. She was dehydrated. I guess it's no big surprise - she consumes 2 liters of Volt a day!

She also doesn't eat breakfast, often doesn't eat lunch, and never drinks water. A definite recipe for disaster.

No longer relegated to college dorm dwellers cramming for finals, energy drinks have fast become the "drug of choice" for many teens and even pre-teens. You may not buy it for your kids, but they seem to find it on their way to school - at the local convenience store, from their friends, etc. I'm just waiting to see some guy parked at the edge of my school selling it from the back of an unmarked van.

Caffeine in large quantities isn't good for anyone, but the younger you are, the more detrimental it can be. On average, a 12 oz espresso has about 100 mg of caffeine in it. Since there are easily hundreds of different energy drinks, the side by side comparison is tricky, but it's not uncommon for an energy drink to have about 200 mg of caffeine per 8 oz. To check out your own side-by-side comparison of energy drinks, click here.

I informally polled my 8th graders and they ranked their energy drinks like this:

1. Monster

2. Rockstar

3. Red Bull

When asked about Volt, they said, "It just tastes like Sprite. It doesn't do anything to me."

What it is that teens and pre-teens want it to "do" to them?

They want to caffeine buzz. They believe it helps them stay focused in school. They want to be able to say, "Man, I was really flyin'!" to their friends. I hear it on and off during the school day. They bring it in their lunch, and then ditch the food. The abuse of energy drinks is reaching epidemic proportions. Fox News reported it this way in October. NPR reported on the epidemic with a podcast and article here.

One of the newest on the market, that I can promise you the kids will go to buy in droves, is called Cocaine. Although the manufacturers promise there is no actual cocaine in their product, they do admit to a secret ingredient that numbs the throat of the consumer.

Where will it end?

Curious about you or your children's caffeine intake. Calculate it here.

Take it one step further. Curious about how the hundreds of energy drinks affect your child based on his or her weight, click here and visit Death by Caffeine.

Here at BRAIN FOOD we believe "everything in moderation" and that holds true for energy drinks. However, children are not mature enough to know what moderation means. As parents we need to monitor their intake of all food and drink until they can show that they know how to care for their bodies unsupervised. Choose to be informed.

Friday, February 16, 2007

What Happened to Hungry Teenagers?

I teach 8th graders. Every day I ask them, "Did you eat this morning?" Nine times out of ten they say, "No."

Then they get my lecture. You'd think they'd learn to lie just to avoid it! You see, I have a real problem with children not eating before they go to school and are expected to actually participate in the learning process.

And it has nothing to do with affording breakfast or lunch. They choose not to eat.

The same is true for my class right after lunch. "Did you eat today?"

"No," and they have a variety of reasons why.

"I hung out with my friends instead."

"I forgot my lunch."

"I gave my lunch to someone else." That one sounds like a lie to me. Most kids just aren't that nice.

"I had to go make up a test at lunch."

"Oh, I never eat lunch."

Boys and girls alike. Teenagers just aren't eating much these days.

I have two teenage boys at home and they eat more at one sitting than most families of four. Most parents are forewarned about the changing metabolism of teenagers and how they "inhale" food. But I have to admit, getting my own to eat in the morning is a struggle. They just claim they're not hungry, even though their body has been fasting since dinner the night before.

Brains need protein to grow and think! Our teenagers brains are starving. This certainly explains a lot!

Then there's teenage emotions. One of my students, who already struggles with every subject area, got quite upset the other day because she discovered that her best friend's boyfriend was cheating on her. She took this very personally and told one of her friends, "I'm going anorexic!" as if in protest.

Our attachment to food is severely warped. As an Italian I grew up knowing this about food, "Live to eat, not eat to live." But most teens just don't have any appreciation for food. At this point I just want them to at the very least EAT TO LIVE.

If you make sure your children eat before they go to school, good for you! But don't just assume they actually eat at lunch. More often than not, they don't.