#321 Healthy Lunches

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Labor Day is a glorious holiday because your child will be going
back to school the next day. It would have been
called Independence Day, but that name was already taken.

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7 Tips for Healthy Lunches Kids Will Love

By Suzy Buglewicz

Get off to a healthy start this school year by packing nutritious lunches that your kids will actually want to eat. Think you're too busy? Relax. All it takes is a little planning and creativity. A healthy lunch gives kids the energy they need to finish the school day and be ready to tackle homework and after-school activities. Read on for tips on filling your child's lunchbox with healthy, tasty meals that even the most finicky kid won't be able to resist.

Back-to-School Lunch and Classwork

  1. Small changes add up. If cafeteria food, prepackaged lunchables, and snack cakes are on the lunch menu of choice in your family, take heart. It is possible to steer your kids toward healthier choices, one baby step at a time. By making small, gradual changes you can give your kids a big boost of nutrients. Aim for less fat, sugar, and calories and focus on increasing fiber, protein, and calcium. The next time you fill their lunchboxes, try these simple substitutions:

  2. Instead of: Substitute with:
    White breadWhole wheat bread
    Processed lunch meatLeftover grilled or roasted chicken or other lean meats
    Potato chips or fried snacksPopcorn or whole-grain crackers
    Prepackaged snack cakes or cookiesHomemade cookies or muffins
    Fruit-flavored drinks or sodaMilk, water, or 100% fruit juice

  3. Healthy School LunchRemember your ABC's. A well-balanced lunch should give kids about 1/3 of their daily recommended allowance for calories, vitamins, and minerals. Nutrition experts recommend filling lunch boxes with foods high in vitamins A, B, and C for optimum health. For vitamin A, pack deep-yellow or orange fruits and vegetables like cantaloupe wedges, dried apricots, or baby carrots. Foods that contain lots of vitamin B like whole wheat crackers, peanut butter, raisins, and sunflower seeds provide essential carbs and protein. Good sources of vitamin C include half a cup of fresh citrus fruits like strawberries or pineapple along with yogurt or cheese for calcium.

  4. Variety is the spice of life. If sack lunches have gotten mundane (peanut butter and jelly again?), try thinking outside the lunchbox. Offer kids a BLT or tuna salad, or fill a whole-grain bagel, pita, or tortilla with their favorite sandwich fillings. Kids also love to crunch. Instead of potato chips, try celery sticks filled with peanut butter or cream cheese and bite-size chunks of raw veggies like carrots and cucumber with low-fat dip. Make a kid-friendly homemade granola out of dried fruits, nuts, and any favored non-sugary cereal.

    Kids Playing with PastaFor extra-picky eaters, experiment with some of their favorites by introducing a new food alongside one of their familiar standbys. Or, try offering the same food prepared in a different way. Soups, stews, pasta salad, and dinner leftovers make healthy and creative lunch options and fit perfectly in an insulated thermos. Often, kids who don't like cooked vegetables will munch on raw ones, so rotate cut-up raw veggies like carrots, celery, broccoli, and squash, and include a container of their favorite dressing for dunking.

  5. Get the kids involved. Kids who have a say in the foods they eat are more likely to finish their meals and make healthier choices. And getting 'em hooked on a nutritious diet at an early age will build lifelong healthy eating habits. Encourage your kids to help with shopping, menu planning, and preparing their lunches. Ask them what they like, and if it's not healthy, brainstorm with them for healthy alternatives to their favorites. When my kids get bored with sandwiches, they ask for soup or leftover chili in a thermos, or a bean and cheese burrito, quickly assembled, cooked in the microwave, and wrapped in foil to stay hot until lunchtime—prepared while they're eating breakfast!

  6. Bite-Size LunchMini is huge. Kids love any kind of food in small sizes and portions because it's fun to eat and can be consumed quickly. Experiment with mini bagels filled with cheese, lean meats, or their favorite veggies and spreads. Popular mini foods include cubed cheese with whole-grain crackers, and mini muffins. Toss seedless grapes, strawberries, and cubed melon for a mini fruit bowl. Cut whole sandwiches in quarters or jazz them up by using cookie cutters to turn bread and cheese slices into their favorite shapes and characters.

  7. Personalize prepackaged foods. The prepackaged lunches and snacks at the grocery store are designed to appeal to kids, but they are pricey and often loaded with extra fat, calories, and sodium. Compromise by offering your kids an assortment of food and let them assemble and personalize meals by themselves; their choices can include things like multigrain crackers, lean meats, cheeses, and an assortment of fresh fruits and vegetables. For a healthier version of a personal pizza, pack separately an English muffin, shredded cheese, and tomato sauce. Kids will like the control they have as they recreate their own version of the store brands at a lower cost and higher nutritional value.

  8. Frozen WaterHandle with care. Pack school lunches in insulated lunch bags, which are sturdier than metal lunchboxes and paper bags and are better at maintaining temperature control. Be sure to include a freezer pack to keep perishable foods like meat and dairy from spoiling. Some lunch bags even come with separate compartments designed to keep cold foods cold and hot foods hot. Use a thermos for hot foods like leftover spaghetti, soups, or even stir-fry. One final tip? Freeze your child's water bottle and put it in their lunchbox in the morning. It will double as an ice pack and be thawed by lunchtime.

Related Articles
"9 Foods Not to Give Kids"
"12 Steps to Having Fit and Healthy Kids"
"10 Urban Food Myths"

Got something to say? Chat with the writers and other readers this Thursday, August 28th, at 8:00 PM ET, 5:00 PM PT in the Beachbody Chatroom!

Suzy BuglewiczIf 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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10 Ways to Avoid the Freshman 15 (and Other Fall Maladies)

By Steve Edwards

Back to school doesn't just affect students. It's the time of year when everything changes. The days shorten, it cools off, we get really busy, and the holidays are looming around the corner. As opposed to those frivolous days of summer, your schedule is now probably booked. In short, it's the easiest time of the year to let your health slide.

Kids Holding Hands and Apple with Peanut Butter

The "Freshman 15" isn't just for freshmen. We all face these lifestyle adjustments every year. Fall is beautiful, but it's also the toughest season to transition through. Here are 10 ways to make it to New Year's without the need to resort to a resolution.

  1. SunsetSchedule your exercise. One of the difficult adjustments to make during the fall is getting used to less daylight. As the days shorten, it seems as though you've got fewer hours to schedule activities around. When you come home from work in the dark, it hurts your psyche. And it's tough to believe that 7:00 PM is really no different than it was during July, when you still had two hours of daylight left. Then there's the cold factor. Even if you work out indoors, it's so much easier to get back under your warm covers or bundle up and sit in front of a fire or the TV than it is to force a workout. Just remember that exercising makes you warm. It also keeps you fit and healthy and is the best thing you can do with cold and flu season right around the corner. So whether it's 10-Minute Trainer®, Hip Hop Abs®, or Turbo Jam®, schedule your daily workout like it's part of your job, and stick to it.

  2. Schedule your sleep. As things get busy, we tend to push projects later and later into the evening. To fuel those longer hours we eat . . . and eat. This is one major cause of the Freshman 15—a result of the infamous all-nighter. A recent study showed that resident doctors, who are forced to work extremely long hours and famously forego sleep, gain an average of over 20 pounds during their residencies. As daylight changes, it's easy to make alterations in your daily schedule, so plan for sleep just like you do for everything else (read "10 Tips for Restful Sleep" in Related Articles below).

  3. Healthy PortionsPlan your meals. Plan your weekly meals ahead of time so you don't resort to convenience foods. If your schedule is insane during the week, try taking an hour or two on Sunday to shop and strategize. Put healthy meal and snack options in your car, your office, your backpack, or anywhere you're likely to find yourself hungry. Trust us, the energy you get on the back end of this planning will far exceed the time it takes to plan, especially when you consider how you'll feel if your diet is fueled by fast food.

  4. Carry water everywhere. When we're busy, we'll often forget to drink water, especially as the weather cools off. Then, in a dehydrated state, we often confuse thirst for hunger and we eat. Avoid this by ensuring that there's water everywhere you go. Carry a water bottle and refill it at every opportunity. Have an extra bottle in your car, in your backpack, at your desk, etc., and behave as if you're in a race each day. Force yourself to drink a glass of water every hour that you're working or studying.

  5. P90X® Results and Recovery FormulaBe realistic about alcohol. Another big contributor to the Freshman 15, alcohol, is very high in calories (7 calories/gram) and very low in nutritional value. Every drink you consume is about 200 calories of nutrition that you aren't getting from your diet, or that you're overeating to get. And this is before we consider the calories you need to get rid of a hangover. If you're a drinker, you'll never be faced with more temptation than during the fall. Plan for it. Prior to going out, consider the number of drinks you want to allow yourself and stick to it. Another helpful tip is to carry that water bottle with you socially as well and drink a bottle for every cocktail you have. This will help fill you up so that you aren't drinking alcohol to quench your thirst, which will happen at social events. And it will also keep you hydrated and minimize the effects of your hangover. One other helpful hangover cure is to have a glass of P90X® Results and Recovery Formula at night after you've been drinking. These calories before bed may be bad, but they'll minimize the damage the alcohol will do to your body, which should lead to less overeating and more productivity the next day.

  6. Plan for parties. Parties happen—and there's not much you can do about it. Even if you aren't social, the party will find you. Many offices are like the Seinfeld episode wherein the characters celebrate for any excuse. And fall comes with plenty of excuses. Beginning with Oktoberfest, you'll find a never-ending string of perfectly good excuses that last right through the New Year to ruin your health. Plan ahead and decide just which occasions will be worth the indulgence. That way, you'll be fully armed with reasons when your coworkers show up in your office singing, "Get well, get well soon. . . ."

  7. Warming UpBegin a morning ritual. One of the easiest ways to live a healthy lifestyle is to begin each day by doing something positive. With long warm days to look forward to, there always seems to be time to do something energetic. As the days shorten, this takes more discipline. Beginning each day with something healthy, even as little as a 5-minute ritual, can give you a whole new outlook.

  8. Find a healthy nighttime ritual. Many of us undo an entire day's productivity in the last few hours before bed. This is particularly true when we're busy and/or stressed because we want to unwind, which often means cocktails and/or desserts in front of the TV. If you can find a healthier way to unwind, you'll do yourself a world of good. And even if you can't get away from the cocktail/dessert/TV habit, adding something at its end, instead of just sacking out, can reverse much of the damage. Stretching in front of the TV is one of the easiest ways to transition. Following that up with herbal tea and some relaxing reading can have you hitting the sack with a positive attitude. If you can't get there yourself, consider something like Yoga Booty Ballet® Master Series' Pajama Time, a "workout" designed with this in mind.

  9. New Year's CelebrationMake a New Year's resolution. Instead of waiting until New Year's, make a resolution to get there, starting today, with gained fitness and health. Just think about how much better your goals can be for next year if you finish this one on a positive note. Consider that most of us make New Year's resolutions to pretty much undo the damage that we do to ourselves each fall. Why put yourself through that? Instead, set yourself up, beginning right now, to have a banner year in 2009.

  10. Cut yourself some slack. You can't be perfect and, frankly, who wants to be? You've got to live. By planning ahead with goals in mind, you'll be far more able to relax about the holiday season and enjoy it too. So make a plan, do your best to stick with it, but don't forget to make enjoying the season and having a little fun part of that plan.

Related Articles
"10 Tips for Restful Sleep"
"10 Scariest Fast Food Dishes"
"10 Ways to Think Yourself Thinner"

Got something to say? Chat with the writers and other readers this Thursday, August 28th, at 8:00 PM ET, 5:00 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 Back-to-School IQ!

By Monica Gomez

It's that time of year when children are trekking their way back to school. Print and television advertisements are promoting this and that special on everything children will need. And parents are out in full force purchasing those advertised supplies, clothes, shoes, etc. Are you ready for back-to-school season?

  1. Chicken SoupWhat are the top 5 reasons kids miss school? According to Mayo Clinic (a not-for-profit medical practice dedicated to the diagnosis and treatment of myriad complex illnesses), the top 5 reasons kids miss school are 1) the common cold, 2) the stomach flu, 3) ear infections, 4) pink eye, and 5) sore throats. We've all heard that there's no cure for the common cold, and cough and cold medications aren't recommended for young children. You can, however, offer some relief: Mayo Clinic advises that you offer your child plenty of fluids, such as water, juice, and chicken soup. Mayo Clinic also recommends that you run a humidifier in your child's bedroom or have your child sit in a steamy bathroom. There are helpful prevention methods for both you and your child that can keep you all safe from these illnesses, including keeping your hands clean, covering your mouth and nose when you cough or sneeze, keeping your hands away from your eyes and out of your mouth, and avoiding anyone who's sick. Advise your kids (and you can do the same, too) to wash their hands for as long as it takes to sing the ABCs, "Row, Row, Row Your Boat," or the "Happy Birthday" song.

  2. Why aren't school buses equipped with seat belts? The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) states that for large school buses, protection is provided by a concept called compartmentalization. Compartmentalization "requires that the interior of large buses provide occupant protection such that children are protected without the need to buckle-up. Through compartmentalization, occupant crash protection is provided by a protective envelope consisting of strong, closely-spaced seats that have energy-absorbing seat backs." However, small school buses (those with a weight rating of 10,000 pounds or less) have to be equipped with lap and/or lap/shoulder belts at all designated seating positions. This is because small school buses more closely approximate the sizes and weights of passenger cars and trucks, making seat belts necessary to provide protection. The NHTSA does state that school buses are one of the safest forms of transportation: "Every year, approximately 450,000 public school buses travel about 4.3 billion miles to transport 23.5 million children to and from school and school-related activities. Yet, on average, every year, six school age children (throughout the U.S.) die in school bus crashes as passengers."

  3. School Backpack on WheelsIt is recommended that children limit the amount of weight they carry in their backpacks. Children should not carry more than what percentage of their body weight? Most doctors and physical therapists recommend that children not carry more than the equivalent of 10 percent to 15 percent of their body weight in their backpacks. While backpacks are supposed to be better than shoulder bags, messenger bags, and purses because the strongest muscles in the body (the back and the abdominal muscles) support the weight of the packs, backpacks are often overloaded with books and personal items. Some problems associated with an overloaded backpack include poor posture (kids may have a tendency to lean forward to compensate for the fact that the weight of the backpack is pulling them backward) and poor circulation caused by the narrow straps of some backpacks digging into a child's shoulders. Some tips offered by the American Academy of Pediatrics are to choose lightweight backpacks, like canvas backpacks; backpacks with two-wide, padded shoulder straps; backpacks with padded backs to offer cushioning and to provide protection from sharp objects like pencils; backpacks with shoulder belts; and backpacks with multiple compartments for more even weight distribution.

  4. How many ounces of fruit juice does the American Academy of Pediatrics recommend for children ages 1 to 6 years old? For kids ages 7 to 18 years old? The American Academy of Pediatrics (APA) recommends that fruit juice consumption be limited to 4 to 6 ounces per day for kids ages 1 to 6, and 8 to 12 ounces for kids ages 7 to 18. And the APA does not recommend juice for infants before 6 months of age. Even 100 percent fruit juice is not really recommended because of its high calorie content; it should only be part of a well-balanced diet, if anything at all. One cup of Mott's 100 percent apple juice has 120 calories. The calories can really add up if children aren't limited to just one cup. The APA also concluded that excessive juice consumption may be associated with diarrhea, flatulence, abdominal distention, and tooth decay. Ouch! Instead, the APA advocates whole-fruit consumption to meet children's daily recommended allowances for fruits. Instead of offering a cup of juice as an after-school snack, offer your kid one cup of apples with skin (about 4.4 ounces); that cup only contains 65 calories. It also offers 3 grams of dietary fiber, 7.5 milligrams of calcium, and 133.8 milligrams of potassium.

  5. Children's ClothesHow much will the average family with school-aged children spend on back-to-school purchases this year? According to the National Retail Federation's 2008 Back to School Consumer Intentions and Actions Survey (conducted by BIGresearch on 8,361 respondents), the average family with school-aged children will spend $594.24 on back-to-school purchases. That's compared with $563.49 from the previous year. It is also estimated that total back-to-school spending for kindergarten through 12th grade this year is estimated to reach $20.1 billion. And what will a lot of that spending go toward? Clothes. Spending on clothes is estimated at $234.51 and spending on shoes is estimated at $109.75. Other estimates include $98.37 on school supplies and $151.61 on electronics purchases during the back-to-school timeframe.

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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