- Introducing Shaun T's Fit Kids™ Club
- Dance Like the Pros (and Shed Pounds, Too!)
- 7 Nutrition Books for the Holidays
- Test Your Kid's Meal IQ!
We as parents have to lead by example. Showing our kids
what it's like to have healthy lifestyles and what it's like to eat right
and exercise is so important.
Introducing Shaun T's Fit Kids™ ClubBy Joe Wilkes
It's tough being a kid. I know firsthand what it's like to be the last one picked for kickball, if you get picked at all. And how easy it is to forego organized sports for an after-school session with the Atari (for our younger readers, that's an old-school Wii), accompanied by a plate of Double Stuf Oreos and a big glass of sugary Kool-Aid. Hip Hop Abs® creator Shaun T knows firsthand what it's like to overcome the weight issues of youth as well. When he started college, he saw the proverbial Freshman 15 balloon into the Freshman 50. And with a nine-year-old sister, he knew he wanted to create a workout program that would appeal to kids, so she wouldn't become another statistic in the growing childhood obesity epidemic. The result of his research led to the creation of Shaun T's Fit Kids™ Club.
The rise of childhood obesity
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the percentage of overweight children aged 6 to 11 has doubled in the last two decades, and the percentage of overweight teenagers has tripled. And at least one third of our kid nation is now overweight or nearly overweight—that's 25 million kids. Adult health problems such as hypertension, high cholesterol, and type 2 diabetes (which used to be called adult-onset diabetes) are now shared by children. Obese children also often suffer from sleep apnea, which has been linked to memory and learning problems. And obese kids have a 70-percent chance of being obese adults. Besides the health problems, there are the emotional issues to consider as well. Life isn't easy for a fat kid. The social discrimination against overweight children by peers is substantial and can contribute to low self-esteem and depression.
There are many social and lifestyle changes that have contributed to the decline in children's health: increased time spent sitting in front of computers, video games, or television (three to five hours a day on average); the decrease in funding for physical education classes and athletics in schools; and the proliferation of fast food, junk food, and high fructose corn syrup. But the reasons behind the rise in obesity among children are largely the same as for adults: too many calories consumed and not enough calories expended through exercise.
Fit Kids Club to the rescue
Shaun T wanted to be part of the solution to the childhood obesity crisis, and that's why he developed the Fit Kids Club workout program. The program contains two 25-minute routines, combining dance and light aerobics designed for kids of any age and any fitness level, but, most importantly, designed to be a lot of fun. It's a way to get your kids up and moving without having to drive them to soccer practice or to the Y—for parents extremely short on time. These workouts are fitness and fun combined. No matter how bad the weather, how busy the kid, there's always time for a 25-minute homework break to pop in a DVD and groove it out with Shaun T. Former U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Richard Carmona has said that even a relatively small amount of exercise, like walking for 30 minutes five times a week, can greatly benefit weight maintenance and cardiovascular health. And Fit Kids Club is a whole lot more fun and productive than walking.
Also, Fit Kids is about more than just working out. It's about adopting a lifestyle that includes healthy eating, regular exercise, and treating the body with the care it deserves. It's about creating lifelong healthy habits. The four rules of Fit Kids Club are:
- I will respect my body and keep it healthy.
- I will exercise 3–4 times a week.
- I will eat healthy foods to give me energy.
- I will drink more water instead of soda.
It sounds simple enough, but motivating kids to follow these rules creates incredible benefits and habits that will last a lifetime. And the key to motivating kids to exercise is making it fun. At Beachbody, we've seen time and time again that no exercise regimen can be successful if people don't enjoy doing it, and kids are no different. The great thing about Fit Kids Club, like all of Shaun's programs, is that it doesn't feel like a workout. Your kid will simply feel like they're just dancing. Dance Dance Revolution is great, but Fit Kids Club is even better. It's a full-body workout while learning cool moves like the Hustle, We're Cool, Body Jam, Snake It, and Smooth Groove. The workout is not just boring calisthenics; kids will learn new steps for the next school dance.
Healthy food choices
When Shaun T went to college, he figured out quickly what a good example his mother had set for him. Without Mom to provide healthy square meals with fruit and veggies, Shaun quickly began sliding down the slippery slope of pizzas and Big Gulps and piled on 50 pounds his freshman year. Creating healthy eating habits and teaching your kids how to make healthy choices is the other half of the equation in fighting obesity. Fit Kids Club addresses this with healthy snack tips and a guide for kids on how to read nutrition labels.
Teaching kids how different foods affect their bodies and teaching them the marketing tricks and traps that lure them into making unhealthy choices gives them the power to make the right decisions when parents aren't around. It's important to learn early to avoid trans fats, high fructose corn syrup, unhealthy additives, and other calories that are either empty, or worse, toxic. If you never develop the taste for these ingredients, you'll never have the cravings later in life. It's also an easy trap, especially with growing children, to just say they can eat whatever they want, since kids often don't appear to be gaining weight, no matter how much they eat. But even if they're not gaining weight in adolescence, they're developing habits that can cause significant weight gain and the accompanying health problems as they enter adulthood.
Exercise—learn it, live it, love it!
When I was growing up, physical education consisted of a rigorous regimen of dodgeball and square dancing—not the stuff of champions (and I might add, the opportunities in my life to bust out my square-dance moves have been few and far between). I think the phys ed curriculum (for schools lucky enough to have one) has improved slightly since then, but it's foolhardy to depend on your school system to provide your child with a healthy level of activity. Schools will point to recess as a form of exercise. My grade-school recesses were spent playing marbles or engaging in some amateur form of schoolyard gambling like flipping quarters—activities that, while sometimes profitable, were hardly calorie burners. Not all children's recesses are as misspent as mine were, but the point is that recesses aren't organized physical activity, and most only last 15 minutes or so, not enough time to realize any real cardiovascular benefits.
Kids need to learn to engage their bodies in regular physical exercise. It should become a part of their daily routine, just like doing their homework or brushing their teeth. Parents would never let their kids' teeth fall out because they didn't feel like brushing or going to the dentist, but parents may often overlook the fact that their kids may be spending hours on the couch letting their bodies atrophy. And we possibly let kids get away with this lethargy because, after a long day at work, we don't feel much like exercising ourselves—understandable, but not without consequences for our bodies. Studies show that the next generation may be the first to be less healthy and have a shorter lifespan than the previous. We can combat this by leading by example—exercising with our kids and teaching them the link between exercising regularly and feeling good. And, both parent and child will benefit!
There are a million excuses not to exercise or eat right. I've heard them all and I've made them all—I'm not exempt. For my part, I'm planning on getting all the kids in my life hooked on Fit Kids Club—it's cool, it's fun, and it's healthy. And it gives kids the power to take responsibility for their own physical well-being. It's the perfect time-saver for those with too little to spare. Just pop in the DVD and press play and groove it out with Shaun T. Click here to sign up to be alerted when Fit Kids Club is available.
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7 Nutrition Books for the HolidaysBy Denis Faye
Reading. It's like chin-ups for your brain. And now, just in time for the holiday season, Beachbody presents its list of seven great holiday reads on nutrition—books that make great gift ideas for the whole family!
Wait! Where are you going? Why are your eyes glazing over? Okay, sure, nutrition doesn't seem like the most thrilling topic in the world, but think about your journey into healthy eating. It's rife with drama, passion, and insurmountable odds, isn't it? Well, that sounds like page-turner material to us! Face it, food is exciting! So, with no further delay . . .
1. The Omnivore's Dilemma by Michael Pollan (Penguin Press)
Required reading for anyone who eats. Journalist-turned-food-philosopher Pollan tracks four meals—a McDonald's quickie, a traditional American sit-down dinner, an all-organic gourmet meal, and a magnificent feast painstakingly hunted and gathered entirely by the author. As he follows these meals from field to plate, he looks at the effects they have on our culture, our environment, our psyches, and, of course, our bodies.
There are times when Pollan gets mired in long-winded philosophical or scientific ponderings, but for the most part, this book is utterly captivating. Perhaps there was a time when an egg was an egg and a chicken was a chicken, but Pollan shows us that those times are long past. He explains that McDonald's Chicken McNuggets are primarily made of bioengineered corn. He also describes why the professional chefs of Virginia drive for hours to get their spatulas on the orange yolks and firm, delicious whites of robust, free-range eggs from Polyface Farms, where the Salatin family has created an almost completely self-sustaining ecosystem in which animals feed off the land, the land feeds off the animals, and cages, hormones, antibiotics, and genetic engineering are completely irrelevant. Not the same eggs you get at Sam's Club.
What ultimately lends this book credibility is its lack of political bias. Pollan may appear to lean slightly left, but he doesn't hesitate to tear down anything that needs tearing down, particularly our beloved organic industry, which he portrays as well-intentioned but ultimately corrupt thanks to big business and government regulation. To even his own surprise, he then praises game hunters as he explains that we should dwell a little on the brutal lives and deaths of battery hens and feedlot cattle before judging the happy life and relatively painless death of a hunted wild pig.
Ultimately, Pollan reaches the conclusion that our food industry needs a lot of work if it is to remain sustainable. But he also gives us a few suggestions on how we might influence that sustainability from our dinner plates.
2. Fast Food Nation by Eric Schlosser (Perennial)
Fast Food Nation acts as judge, jury, and executioner, blasting the way America's need for fast, cheap, greasy, sugary meals has rotted us—from our clogged arteries to our bloated guts. But Schlosser doesn't stop with our health problems. He goes on to decimate the food industry for its exploitation of the workers, livestock, and land that keep it profitable.
One especially heart-wrenching chapter details the brutal life of Kenny Dobbins, a sixteen-year employee of the Monfort meatpacking plant who herniated several disks (the company doctor told him it was a pulled muscle at the time), severely burned his lungs breathing in chlorine (the paper mask they'd given him had dissolved), shattered an ankle, and broke a leg all on the job. Because the illiterate Dobbin had little more going for him than his strength, he had an odd sense of loyalty to the plant for hiring him—a sense of loyalty the company was happy to exploit until he finally became useless to them by suffering a massive heart attack on the job. They fired him with no pension and cut off his access to the health plan that aided his recovery from his various workplace injuries. All for your Big Mac.
If you're looking for horror stories that apply more directly to you, consider this: when you read the ingredients on your food's packaging, do you really know what vaguely titled "natural flavorings" are? Natural? Not so much. True, the FDA insists that natural flavorings come from natural sources, but those sources needn't be healthy ones. For example, natural almond flavor, benzaldehyde, contains traces of cyanide.
There's no conjecture here. It's concrete, factual reporting that most people probably don't want to know about. If you're the type who wants to keep eating your burgers, oblivious to the feces (yes, feces) that the fast food industry cooks into them, don't waste your time. Otherwise, prepare to be challenged.
3. Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life by Barbara Kingsolver (Harper Collins)
Animal, Vegetable, Miracle covers much of the same ground as our first two selections, but where Schlosser uses hard-edged journalism and Pollan muses intellectually, Poisonwood Bible author Barbara Kingsolver's more personal approach tells the story of food through the eyes of her family, who moved to a farm in Appalachia and vowed to spend a year living only on local foods. She tempers her commentary on topics such as the sad state of American farming with tales of tomato envy and her younger daughter Lily's efforts not to bond with farm animals that she's eventually served for dinner.
Along the way, her husband Steven L. Hopp, an environmental studies professor, offers more concrete, scientific sidebars, and her older daughter, Camille Kingsolver, offers several excellent recipes using the food raised on the family farm.
While Kingsolver is best known as a novelist, she's done her homework here and it shows. Her prose is warm and appealing, but it still makes you think—sort of a food activist's version of Peter Mayle's A Year in Provence.
4. Fat Land: How Americans Became the Fattest People in the World by Greg Critser (Houghton Mifflin)
As obesity rates continue to skyrocket, Critser's 2003 exposé of America's growing health crisis is as timely as ever. Simply put, Fat Land explains that we're fat because we eat too much and we don't exercise. From there, Critser tries to figure out the why. He shows how school budget cuts, labor-saving devices, and home entertainment have made physical activity a minor part of most lives. He explains how dining out and snacking—both occasional treats for past generations—have become daily (even hourly) events for many of us.
Critser spends much of the book discussing high fructose corn syrup, the dirt-cheap, super-sweet corn derivative that allows food companies to inundate stores, restaurants, and school lunchrooms with inexpensive, high-calorie, irresistible goodies. He also explains how fast food marketers noticed that customers would scrape the bottom of their 200-calorie french fry bags for every last salty crumb, but would be hesitant to buy a second bag at the risk of looking piggish. But what if they sold 600-plus-calorie bags? Would customers feel piggish ordering those? Of course not, because, you know, it's the suggested serving size. Welcome to the birth of supersizing.
From there, he explains how we might be able to turn things around. After all, it's not like we don't already know the answers. Primarily, he sees salvation in our schools. Kick out the junk food, educate kids on healthy diets, and get them exercising. And while we're at it, we should get off the couch and join them.
5. Nutrient Timing: The Future of Sports Nutrition by John Ivy, PhD and Robert Portman, PhD (Health Basic Publications)
While hardcore fitness geeks will enjoy slogging through the countless graphs and calculations, you don't need a doctorate to understand the gist of this book. If you've ever wanted an in-depth explanation of why a four-to-one carb-to-protein cocktail makes the ideal recovery drink (like in Beachbody's P90X® Peak Recovery Formula), Nutrient Timing will get you there.
Along the way, the book offers insights into how various macro- and micronutrients and performance enhancers affect the body, from the assorted forms of protein to vitamins to caffeine and creatine.
As detailed as Nutrient Timing is, the language is simple and straightforward. Furthermore, it's always nice to find a nutritional reference book from someone who isn't selling something.
6. The NutriBase Nutrition Facts Desk Reference by Art Ulene (Avery)
Behold carbohydrate, protein, fat, vitamin, and mineral stats for an incredible array of foods. It includes standard fruit, veggie, and meat numbers as well as information on brand foods, from Kikkoman Chinese-style crab soup to Keystone light beer. It's so complete that we sometimes spend hours playing "Stump the Nutrition Facts book."
Our only complaint is that the book divides the macro- and micronutrients into two completely different sections, which is a bother when you're trying to get the complete analysis of a food. So, for example, if you're looking for the complete nutritional profile of asparagus, first you need to look through the forty-four different types on page nine for calories, carbs, etc., then it's off to page 670 for vitamins and minerals.
7. Deceptively Delicious: Simple Secrets to Get Your Kids Eating Good Food by Jessica Seinfeld (Collins)
Jessica may not be as witty as her hubby Jerry, but she knows her nutrition. The premise of this book is simple. Purée a bunch of fruits and veggies and sneak them into foods your kids like. That said, even without the clandestine produce, the recipes tend to be fairly healthy and many of them are downright fun. Add a little puréed beet to pancakes and you get every three-year-old girl's dream meal, "Pink Pancakes." A little spinach in your eggs and you get, well, let's just say Dr. Seuss would gladly add his ham to this omelet.
The only real problem with Deceptively Delicious is that readers will inevitably ask the question, "Why bother teaching kids good nutrition when you can sneak it to them?" The answer is somewhat buried, which is a shame because it should be the first thing you read. On page 33, nutritionist Joy Bauer explains, "You should by no means stop putting at least one visible veggie on the table at lunch and dinner . . . You want your kids to get used to seeing vegetables and, of course, eating them."
While ignoring this rule is a recipe for bad eating habits, combining the rule with Seinfeld's meal ideas can be a powerful tool for parents. It's stressful to try to force a child to eat veggies when you know how badly he or she needs them. However, when you secretly know your child is getting what's needed to grow, it's much easier to let another dinner slip by where the broccoli florets go uneaten. Trust us, as long as you don't turn it into a battle royale, one day, they will eat those greens.
"Extra! Extra! Health News You Can Use!"
"Burger Buddies: Fast Food Nation's Richard Linklater and Eric Schlosser"
"10 Reasons to Eat Organic—and Local"
"12 Steps to Having Fit and Healthy Kids"
If you'd like to ask a question or comment on this newsletter article, just email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Test Your Kid's Meal IQ!By Monica Gomez
Rank these from lowest to highest fat content.
- McDonald's Happy Meal: hamburger, small fries, and 1 percent low-fat milk jug (8 oz.). One "happy" meal contains 24 total grams of fat—7 grams of saturated fat and 4 grams of trans fat (the "bad" fats). Keep in mind that saturated fat can increase your cholesterol levels and raise the risk of blood clots, atherosclerosis (artery blockage), and coronary heart disease. Trans fat also raises blood cholesterol levels and the risk of heart disease—this fat is mostly found in fried foods and baked goods. This meal also has 790 milligrams of sodium (33 percent of the RDA). It contains an impressive 73 grams of total carbs though—but per last week's quiz, I think there are healthier and better alternatives than Happy Meals to meet your carb RDA. Fruit salad, anyone? Total caloric intake is 600. And I remember a time when I would get gift certificates for a free Happy Meal for having had perfect attendance at school—with many perfect attendance records under my belt, these meals became part of my regular diet!
- Dairy Queen Kid's Meal: all-beef hot dog with fries. Total fat grams: 25, with 8 of those saturated and 3 trans (the "bad" kind again). That's only 1 more total fat gram than the McDonald's Happy Meal, but I don't think you're much better off. The meal, without a beverage, has 35 milligrams of cholesterol. While a Happy Meal will only provide 790 milligrams of sodium, this meal doesn't hold back with its 1,260 milligrams of sodium (53 percent of the RDA). You'll consume 460 calories, 12 grams of protein, and 46 grams of carbs.
- Burger King Kid's Meal: six-piece crown-shaped chicken tenders, small fries, and Minute Maid orange juice. If you, or your kid, are drawn in by these crown-shaped tenders, you'll consume 28 total grams of fat, 6.5 grams of saturated fat and 5.5 grams of trans fat. What was that in number 1 about the relationship between trans fats and fried foods? Accompanying the 620 calories (240 from fat) are 40 grams of cholesterol, 18 grams of protein, 75 grams of carbs, and 30 grams of sugar. Those 30 grams of sugar go well with the 1,125 milligrams of sodium. Don't stress though. You also get 2 percent of your RDA for vitamin A, 78 percent of your RDA for vitamin C, 4 percent of your RDA for calcium, and 6 percent of your RDA for iron.
- Jack in the Box Kid's Meal: cheeseburger, natural cut fries, and 1 percent chocolate low-fat milk (8 oz.). Total fat content is 31.4 grams. Along with these 31.4 grams: 11.8 grams of saturated fat and 4.4 grams of trans fat. You'll also take in 777.6 calories—283.1 from fat. In a sodium contest, this meal beats both the Happy Meal and the Dairy Queen meal with 1,427.7 milligrams of sodium (786.9 of those in the cheeseburger alone). Cholesterol content is 58.1 milligrams and sugar content is 40 wonderful and sweet grams (about 10 teaspoons).
- Ruby Tuesday Kid's Meal: grilled cheese, fries, and no beverage. This kid's meal comes in at an impressive 50 grams of total fat. That's only 77 percent of the RDA! And all in only one meal. Remember to add the calorie content of the beverage to the 929 calories of the grilled cheese and fries. Maybe the 7 grams of fiber will help flush out all that fat and all those calories. Is it comforting to know that the meal also has 25 grams of protein? If not, consider other alternatives like beans, lentils, nuts, and lean meats. This meal also has an impressive carb content at 88 grams. Again, consider healthier sources of carbs, like fruits.