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Chalene's 10 Tips for Getting Your Kids to Eat Healthily

By Chalene Johnson and Denis Faye

As hard as it is to fight your junk food urges, if you have kids, you probably know that getting Junior to make smart food choices is triple the challenge. It'd be excellent if you could just yell, "Hey, you! Eat your spinach!" But you can't. As is the case when dealing with most aspects of a child's life, it takes commitment, patience, and some serious cunning to steer them down the right path.

If you've watched the "Healthy Eats" disc of the ChaLEAN Extreme® program, you know that Chalene and her husband Brett made a commitment to teach their son Brock and daughter Sierra the benefits of a solid diet. Here, in Chalene's words, is a little insight on how they did it.

Kids, Chalene, and Fruit

  1. Portion control. Digging into the entire box of goldfish crackers, or any other kid's snack, is a bad idea. So it's a good idea to empty out that box into smaller ziplock bags, for better portion control. Do this the moment the treats are pulled from the grocery store bags! This helps children understand what a healthy portion looks like. Meals and portion sizes have increased nearly 40 percent over the last decade. As parents, we have to teach our children that it's not deprivation—it's proper nutrition.

  2. SpaghettiSneak in the whole grains. Use whole-grain pasta and brown rice, but don't tell your kids. They'll never know the difference. No one, especially children, likes change when it comes to food. I like to use the "stealth" approach, i.e., fly low under the radar! When I switched my kids from regular pasta to whole-grain, whole wheat pasta, I did it in stages. First, I added just a 1/4 cup of the healthier noodles. Each time I added more, until eventually they were eating the whole-grain stuff and had no idea! They still have no idea! We had spaghetti at a restaurant the other night (the enriched-flour kind), and the kids said the restaurant pasta was "weird . . . kinda slimy!" How fantastic is that? The key is making the changes gradually and not making a big deal about them.

  3. Lead by example. If you're giving your kids apples but you're eating Snickers, it's never going to work. Following a healthy diet needs to be part of the commitment of good parenting. Never use the "D" ["Diet"] word in front of children. When you do, and they see you eating healthily, they assume that healthy food is something you're forced to eat as a punishment. Lead by example. Say, "Mommy is eating this for more energy and to be stronger." Make negative comments about food without nutritional value. For example, when I do have the occasional "treat," I will often say, "Wow, that piece of cake gave me a sugar crash and a headache. Now I feel so sluggish!" Use positive comments about healthy food without reference to weight. Try, "I feel so much stronger when I eat fruit for a snack!"

  4. Make food fun. Taste is something that changes over time. Our taste buds actually change as we age; this explains why some children will eat broccoli and green beans and others find the smell and taste worse than starvation! Continually introduce healthy food and find unique ways to introduce the food in stages. For example, your children might try a small amount of broccoli mixed in with their mac and cheese. Once you've gotten them to accept that as a regular staple, transition to broccoli with a creamy cheese soup. Eventually, your children may acquire a taste for steamed broccoli! Can you imagine the day? But starting right out of the gates with a big plate of steamed broccoli in front of a child who doesn't eat green things is asking for a battle! Baby steps!

  5. Kid with FoodDon't pressure kids to eat. Present the food, but don't force kids to eat it. Making demands will just polarize your kids, while letting them eat healthy foods on their own terms leads to healthy habits. If your first attempt doesn't work, don't take it personally or assume that this is a life-or-death situation. Take a deep breath, let it go, and try it again another day—try serving those healthy foods prepared in new ways. It often takes several times before your child will decide to try something new. Oh, and I don't know if this works for everyone, but I find that my children will often try new food with their grandparents and at their friends' houses, foods that they won't try with me! Ask what new foods they tried and then offer to prepare them, and get excited about their willingness to try new foods.

  6. Be careful what you say. Everything a woman says about her body is like writing on the slate of her female child's self-esteem. I volunteer to teach exercise to children of all ages in the public school system. I have personally heard children as young as 6 say, "I'm fat!" Or, "I have a big belly like my mommy." Or, "My mommy doesn't want you to see her because she got fat." Seriously! Not only do kids hear what you're saying on the phone to your girlfriend, but they are projecting those negative images on themselves. It's unhealthy for you and your young children to be thinking anything other than positive thoughts about this amazing body that God gave you! Do your best to serve as a positive role model by speaking lovingly about your body and your journey to health!

  7. Kid Eating an AppleRelax! Food shouldn't be a source of angst for your family. Try to get your kids to eat healthier, but be creative, consistent, and calm. The bigger you make the issue of eating healthy foods, the more resistance you may feel. Play it cool. There are many studies proving that you can place salad on the table 10 to 15 times before a child will decide to try it. Remember that "insanity is doing the same thing repeatedly and expecting a different result." If it didn't work the first time, try a different approach, a new way to prepare and disguise the food, and, again, remember the importance of doing this in slow, small steps.

  8. Get kids involved. Let them help cook meals and learn to read food labels. Teach them what's too much sugar and what's an appropriate amount of fat. Teach your children what purpose carbohydrates serve in moderation and what they turn into when we eat them in excess. Pick one item and just find that on your labels. For example, this week my children have been looking at the sodium content on labels. They get a kick out of trying to find the canned soup with the lowest sodium content or shocking each other by reading a label with an off-the-chart level of sodium. Food shouldn't be a mystery. I meet adults every day who have no idea how much sodium, carbs, or protein they should be consuming, let alone how many calories. Let's create a more educated generation when it comes to food!

  9. Kids Running AroundThink daily. Young children have shifts when they are hungry. A child will not starve himself or herself. We are so focused on eating huge portions three times a day, but naturally, most children will eat one full meal and graze at other meals. Avoid the bad habit of saying, "One more bite," or, "Clean your plate." These phrases teach our children that they are good if they eat more, when what we want to teach our children is to respond to their bodies when they feel full. Young children eat to provide themselves with energy. Eating to soothe sadness, eating to stuff ourselves, or eating because it's simply that time of the day are all bad habits we pass along to our children.

  10. Read up on nutrition. Read books about food. Explain where it comes from. I highly recommend Eat This Not That! for Kids!: Be the Leanest, Fittest Family on the Block! It has giant pictures of common kid foods. It's fun to make a game out of learning which foods are best! Also, check out CalorieKing.com, which lists the calories for most every food you can imagine, not to mention the nutritional information for nearly every restaurant in America!

Related Articles
"7 Tips for Healthy Lunches Kids Will Love"
"9 Healthy Snack Ideas for Kids"
"9 Foods Not to Give Your Kids"

Got something to say? Chat with the writers and other readers this coming Monday, March 9th, at 7:00 PM ET, 4:00 PM PT in the Beachbody Chatroom!


If you'd like to ask a question or comment on this newsletter article, click here to add a comment in the newsletter review section or you can email us at mailbag@beachbody.com.

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Nutrition 911, Part IV: What "Fat Free" and "Low Carb" Really Mean

By Steve Edwards

Welcome to Part IV of our oh-so-basic nutrition class designed to give you an overview of basic nutrition and make healthy eating much simpler. First, we had an introduction, which was followed by a very simple analysis of what you should eat. Today, we finish our discussion about marketing jargon, with a look at the two of the most successful slogans of all time: fat free and low carb.

Fat Free. We'll start with fat free because it was popular first. The dreaded "f" word is sorely misused out there in foodopia. About the only thing most of us really know about it is that we might have too much of it on our bodies. Fat is a colloquial term for looking more like Kirstie Alley of the TV show Fat Actress than Kirstie Alley of the '80s slacker comedy Summer School. Fat is also one of the key nutrients that we must eat for our bodies to keep functioning. And this is where the association problem begins.

Skeleton, Fruit, and Overweight Man

Assuming we're fat because we eat too much fat, marketers decided that by making foods without fat we'd be less fat. This might work if, oh, nutrition was as simple as 1+1=2. Unfortunately, it's not. It's a science, requiring things like math 'n' stuff that we don't have time for here. All we have time for here is to say this is wrong. If you don't eat fat, you will die a miserable death. Fat, among other things, is vital for our endocrine systems to function properly. You might not know what this is, but it basically regulates our bodies' day-to-day functions.

But this marketing "theory" does have some bearing on real life. Fat is nutrient dense. This means that by volume, it has more calories than other nutrients. In fact, it's about twice as dense as other foods. So you should eat a lot less fat than other things or you might get twice as large. Fat also tends to taste good, so it's easy to crave. We don't need much of it, but we like to eat a lot of it. Are you starting to see the issue? There is not just a marketing idea but also a market for low-fat products.

Essentially there are two types of "fat free" or "low fat" labels: those on animal products and those on packaged products. Let's start with the animals, because it's simpler.

Fat-free dairy products and low-fat meats simply have their fat removed. There are different types of fat, which we'll get to later. Animal products tend to have what's called saturated fat. We need only a very small amount of this to survive. If we eat a lot of animal products, we can easily get too much, leading to high cholesterol levels and other assorted problems. The relatively simple step of removing fat does not take away from these foods' nutrient values. It just gives you less fat.

SugarFat-free packaged foods are a whole other matter. Things like cookies, candy, chips, peanut butter, etc., must be scrutinized because the fat is usually just replaced by another ingredient. It's often sugar, which is usually as bad—if not worse—for you. In some cases, it's extreme. Peanut butter, for example, is loaded with fat, but most of it is unsaturated fats your body can use. "Low-fat" versions usually include a lot of sugar, and sometimes trans fats, which are man-made fats that have no place in your diet. So by eating the low-fat trade-off, you're actually eating worse! Then there's candy, which sometimes sports a "fat free" label, as if not having fat is a perfectly good excuse to stuff yourself with gummy bears. Using this type of logic, why not consider crack? It gives you a lot of energy and, after all, it's fat free!

Bottom line: Fat free and low fat can be okay, especially in animal products. "Fat free" doesn't mean "sugar free," though. Learn to read labels. There's often more to the story. Some fat is a necessary and healthy part of your diet.

Low Carb. Following the astonishing success of "fat free," the "low carb" label hit our shelves a few years back with all guns blazing. Virtually no labels were left unturned. Even when low-carb diets were somewhat debunked, the "low carb" labels remained. Now you might see a "low carb" moniker on just about anything, from meat to rice to beer. Some foods warrant this, but, in most cases, it's absurd marketing jargon—it makes the aforementioned "fat free" slogan look like a paragon of advertising honesty. We're talking "swamp land in Florida for sale" territory here. Let's look at the worst offenders.

  • Meats and veggies. Meats don't have any carbs, so when a meat product is advertised as "low carb," it's like boasting that your cat doesn't bark. Veggies, though, are mainly carbs. However, they have very few calories—so few that low cal should be their trademark, but, instead, advertisers promote them as low carb. Water, with no calories, would also fit this bill, but I haven't seen low-carb water yet, or have I?

  • Alcohol. Low-carb alcohol is probably the most misleading label claim running today. A regular beer, for example, has around 12 grams of carbs. A low-carb beer may have 5 grams of carbs, so you're getting about 25 to 30 fewer calories, hence those commercials with the finger treadmills to burn off all the extra carbs in regular beer. But both have alcohol, which makes up most of the calories in beer. While technically not a carb, alcohol has a similar impact on your metabolism regardless of whether it's regular or low carb, almost twice the calories if you opt for the regular type, and few nutrients. So low-carb alcohols are a misnomer. Sure, they're all technically low carb, but they do the same thing to your system that you are avoiding carbs for in the first place. It's 100 percent gimmick.

  • ChocolateChocolate and other sweets. We've now come up with all sorts of concoctions to avoid dreaded carbs. Two popular additions are artificial sweeteners and sugar alcohols. Basically, these are substances that aren't really food, have had no long-term testing performed on them, and should not be a major part of your diet unless you like living dangerously for something with very little upside.

  • Starches. You can now find low-carb versions of all of the carb-laden foods from the past. Some companies sell low-carb bread and pasta, and are probably well on their way to harvesting a low-carb potato. Some of these changes are positive. Chips, for example, are junk in the first place, and most of the low-carb options are healthier. However, changing breads and pastas alters ingredients in a way that may or may not benefit you. You see, you need carbs for your body to function properly, especially your muscles and your brain. So if you are active, and like to think, you don't want to cut carbs completely out of your diet. The trick with carbs is to eat only as many as you can burn off because your body can't store them. It's only excessive carb consumption that will make you fat. With that in mind, we don't need a genetically altered potato. What we need is to make better choices in the first place.

Bottom line: "Low carb" labels are completely unnecessary. It's either spin doctoring or altering a food that you shouldn't be consuming in the first place. With minimal knowledge of how to eat, you can strike the words "low carb" from your vocabulary.

TeaOther odd label claims. Right on the bandwagon we find "antioxidant" teas, cancer-fighting calcium, immune-boosting juices, and so on and so forth. It's nearly endless. Practically every health claim that you see on a label should be ignored, unless you're in the drug store. What's happening is that manufacturers' marketing departments are latching on to any bit of research that shows something positive and spinning it right off the ol' turntable. For example, tea contains polyphenols, an antioxidant. Always has, always will (unless we alter it), but it's not just Lipton any longer, it's "antioxidant" tea! If your diet lacks calcium, you have a higher risk of cancer, as well as an entire cornucopia of maladies; since calcium is essential for human existence, it's now "cancer fighting." It goes on and on. These claims are not always bogus, by any means. Tea and calcium are great. But it sheds some light on a potential problem if you blindly believe anything you read.

Bottom line: The best defense is a good offense. The more you understand about nutrition, the less likely you are to be duped. Learning to read a food label is a great place to start.

So next time, we'll discuss how to read a food label. And since this is 911, we'll even learn how to do it in 15 seconds or less!

Related Articles
"Nutrition 911, Part III: Deciphering Marketing Jargon"
"Nutrition 911, Part II: What to Eat"
"Nutrition 911"

Got something to say? Chat with the writers and other readers this coming Monday, March 9th, at 7:00 PM ET, 4:00 PM PT in the Beachbody Chatroom!


Steve EdwardsIf you'd like to ask a question or comment on this newsletter article, click here to add a comment in the newsletter review section or you can email us at mailbag@beachbody.com.

Check out our Fitness Advisor's responses to your comments in Steve Edwards' Mailbag on the Message Boards. If you'd like to receive Steve Edwards' Mailbag by email, click here to subscribe to Steve's Health and Fitness Newsletter. And if you'd like to know more about Steve's views on fitness, nutrition, and outdoor sports, read his blog, The Straight Dope.


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Test Your Weird Artificial Additives IQ!

By DeLane McDuffie

Here in America, we like stuff. Stuff. Big, loud, greasy, and sugary stuff. We also like our share of artificiality. From our surgically enhanced body parts to scripted "reality" TV to the superhuman performances of some of our athletes, we love the artificial—sometimes even in our food. Match the food or drink with its weird artificial additive.

  1. Cake IcingCake icing – titanium dioxide. Happy Birthday to you! Now make a wish. Blow out the candles. (Whooosh!) Yay! Now cut yourself a slice of titanium dioxide. Yeah, you heard me right. It's in the icing; it makes icing whiter and brighter. If you don't feel like eating cake icing, that's cool. You can still get your fill of titanium dioxide by swallowing some toothpaste or sunscreen, or running outside and licking the paint on the side of your house. It's waiting for you.

  2. Chocolate – tartrazine. Ah, who doesn't like chocolate? Chocolate tastes so good that, if it were possible, a piece of chocolate would eat another piece of chocolate. Our old friend tartrazine, aka E102 dye or FD&C yellow #5, contributes to our enjoyable, chocolate-eating experiences. Tartrazine is a coal/tar derivative, which means it comes from petroleum. Oil and tar. Mmmm . . . My mouth is watering already. Next Valentine's Day, give your special someone a box of chocolates and watch 'em eat a mouthful of street.

  3. Beer – propylene glycol alginate. Everyone, hold up your beers. I want to give a toast to propylene glycol alginate, a good friend who's always around when you need him. Cheers! Bottoms up! Wait a second. Did you just ask me where's the guest of honor? Oh, I thought you knew. You just drank it. Propylene glycol alginate is the goodness that keeps the foam at the top of your beer nice, thick, and frothy. Who needs a milk moustache when you can have a propylene glycol alginate goatee?

  4. Coconut spread – sorbitan monostearate. Sorbitan monostearate . . . Yes! You can't help but love how that rolls off your tongue and into your stomach. Considered safe, synthetic wax (sorbitan monostearate's street name) is everywhere. It's in coconut spread, milk and cream substitutes for your coffee, some drinks, etc. It helps keep your Cool Whip from becoming all watery while in the ol' icebox. The fact that it's also in hemorrhoid cream just makes it all the better.

  5. Whipped ToppingCool Whip – polysorbate 60. Speaking of Cool Whip, polysorbate 60 is one of its many ingredients. It's also present in one of the healthiest foods in existence, the Twinkie. Scientists make polysorbate 60 by polymerizing ethylene oxide with a sugar alcohol derivative. And if you can translate that last sentence, then you're smarter than most of us. So smart, in fact, that I bet you knew that it's used as an emulsifier and as a detergent, and is one of the chief components in sex lubricants. (Crickets chirping.) No punch lines here. And that's all I'm gonna say about that.


If you'd like to ask a question or comment on this newsletter article, click here to add a comment in the newsletter review section or you can email us at mailbag@beachbody.com.

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Total number of Reviews: 2
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"WOW Well I'm glad I don't drink beer, eat cool whip or coconut spread, but I'm seriously gonna look for a more natural chocolate bar and coffee creamer...and ask my Mom for her home made cake icing recipy. That's for Damd Sure."

– Jessica, Estacada, OR

"I drink beer, but pretty much avoid everything else listed. 1 out of 5 isn't bad...I am human after all. Besides, I do my P90X 6 days a week, I'm entitled to a beer or two."

– Jen, Colorado Springs, CO

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