#342 Preventing Diet Catastrophes!

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Ice cream is exquisite. What a pity it isn't illegal.


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7 Tips to Prevent a Diet Catastrophe

By Carolyn Townsend

A pizza crust, a cupcake with the frosting licked off, and a crumpled candy bar—if you're not a parent, you would call these things "garbage." But if you are a parent, especially and a mom, this sad lineup may be known to you as your lunch.

Let's face it, for most parents, the main challenge to maintaining a healthy diet isn't crème brûlée or sausage tortellini in Gorgonzola cream sauce—it's a sandwich baggy full of goldfish crackers. It's not that we crave, or even particularly enjoy, our kids' leftovers. It's that putting food, any kind of food, in the hands of a stressed, overtired parent is like handing an axe to a lumbering psychopath in a hockey mask—NOT a good idea.

Kids Bowling, Leftover Pizza, and Candy Wrappers

And it's the festive occasions that are the real killers—birthday parties, post-soccer pizza, or, heaven help us, a trip to a certain restaurant presided over by a fun-loving rodent or a grinning, redheaded clown. Now, I'm not going to wade into the raging debate on kids' nutrition. I've seen calm, levelheaded parents come to blows over whether or not refined sugar is the devil's dandruff. But, here are a few tips to guide you, the parent, through the valley of the shadow of saturated fats and high fructose corn syrup.

  1. MarkersThe pen is mightier than the sorbet. Put a magic marker in your pocket, not in your purse—you may not have it when you really need it. Stay armed and ready at all times. Then, as soon as your child gets a plate of pizza, cake, or mac and cheese, write his or her name on it (99 percent of kid party food is served on disposable plates). Inevitably, your precious darling will stop mid-meal to run off and look at a bug or a Barbie . . . And your darling will ask you to "watch" his or her food. If the plate has an ID tag, then you can keep track of it without actually holding onto it.

    The same also goes for drinks. Remember that your average apple juice box, that ubiquitous kid beverage of choice, contains the equivalent of 6 teaspoons of sugar. So mark it, put it down, and point that tiny sipping straw away from you.

  2. Talk trash. Before the food is served, ask your charming host or hostess where the garbage goes. That trash can is your new best friend. The second your thoughtful spawn hands you a plate of half-eaten cake and kindly offers to let you finish it, thank him or her—and make a beeline to the trash can.

    If you're the host, put out recycling and garbage bags where everyone can see them. They're not the most elegant party decorations, but you're not serving cocktails to a royal family.

  3. Small Pizza PortionsThe host with the most least. If you are the lucky host, you have more control over the healthy-to-junk ratio. But this is after all a party for kids. If you fill a piñata with carrot and celery sticks, you might not be very popular.

    But you can reduce portion sizes without being a party pooper. Smaller servings are better for everyone—kids, parents, and even the planet. Cut pizza slices in half, dish out smaller servings of ice cream, and push those carrot sticks with the persistence of a used car salesman! Even the cake size can be reduced. Just bake it in a cookie sheet. That way, you have a thinner cake. You'll also need less frosting.

  4. Fill 'er up. Do not attend (or even host) any gathering of tiny people on an empty stomach. The kid party witching hours are usually from 11:00 AM to 1:00 PM. So before you strap the kids in the car seats, make sure that you have had at least a filling snack from the top tiers of Michi's Ladder. A serving of nonfat yogurt with fresh blueberries stirred in is a delicious alternative to congealed cheese pizza.

    And while you're at the party, ask for a big glass of water. It'll help fill you up, and at the very least, you'll have one less free hand for snack holding, or unconscious eating.

  5. Chicken and Dipping SauceCrappy meal alert. So the soccer coach is taking the kids out for fast food to celebrate their first goal (all right, so they scored it for the opponents by kicking it into the opposing team's net, but a goal's a goal). If you've been drafted as a chaperone/enforcer, remember that the best offense is a good defense. The nutritional information for most chain restaurant menus is available online. So do a little research beforehand, and remember to pay extra attention to add-ons like dipping sauces and salad dressings—some of them contain more fat and calories than an entrée.

  6. Oh goodie, it's over. Not so fast. You made it through the party without falling off the food wagon, but it's not over yet. Your child is probably clutching something in his or her grubby little hand . . . the dreaded goodie bag. It's either full of cheap plastic toys that will inevitably stab your bare toe in the middle of the night or it's full of candy. Do not devour your kid's spoils later that night, on the pretense that you're saving them by throwing yourself on an empty-calorie grenade. Instead, throw the spoils away.

  7. Comfortable ShoesDress for success. We all want to put our best feet forward at any parental gathering. Instead of putting on adorable strappy sandals or some other dressy shoes, choose comfortable old sneakers. If you're dressed casually, it's far more likely you'll get up off the couch or the folding chair and go play. A rousing game of Pirate Chase (basically tag, with a few "arrrgghs" thrown in) is good exercise, and it might help remind you why you got on the kid merry-go-round in the first place. They're lots of fun.

Related Articles
"Snacks on a Plane: 8 Tips to Avoid Airplane Bingeing"
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Got something to say? Chat with the writers and other readers this this Monday, February 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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5 Tips for Teaching Nutritious Food Choices

By Suzy Buglewicz

It can seem like an impossible task to steer kids toward healthy food choices when they face a daily stream of endless advertisements depicting other kids happily devouring high-calorie foods loaded with sugar, fats, and sodium. But according to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), our food and physical activity choices affect not only our health but how we feel today, tomorrow, and in the future. Studies show that a child's nutrition has a direct impact on how healthy he or she will be as an adult. With the holiday season behind us, and fewer visions of sugar plums and other treats dancing through our heads, there's no time like the present to reinforce a balanced diet. And the bottom line is that kids won't know about good food choices unless their parents show them what foods they need for their bodies to grow strong.

Family Meal Preparation, Macaroni and Cheese, and Carrots

  1. Plan menus as a family. One of the best places kids can learn about food and healthy eating is in their own kitchens. Sitting down to plan a week's worth of family menus might sound daunting and time consuming, but it will make the next two tips much easier and worth the effort. Pick a time before the week starts and decide on about 5 days' worth of menus. Pull out a few cookbooks, ask the kids for their input, and let them choose some of their favorite recipes. Nutrition experts recommend that parents offer a range of healthy choices that are similar in nutritional value instead of simply asking kids what they want to eat. It's a win-win since the kids feel in control by getting to make the choice, and the parent knows that, whatever the choice is, the choice will be healthy. Encourage them to create a menu board on which they write down and decorate the week's menu. Don't forget to include desserts—healthy desserts, of course!

  2. Shopping for GroceriesGo shopping. If you want your family to eat healthily, you have to shop healthily. Take your kids to the grocery store (feed them before you leave the house!), and, for the older kids, encourage them to read the nutrition information on the labels of their favorite snack foods. (Get Real with Shaun T™ and Shaun T's Fit Kids® Club both offer guides for teaching kids to read nutrition labels.) Ask them to look at the sugar, fat, and salt contents, and explain that the higher the percentages, the unhealthier the foods are. The more involved kids are in the shopping and meal planning, the better informed they'll be to make healthier choices about what they eat, even when you're not there to remind them.

    Another benefit of taking kids to the grocery store is giving them supervised control to choose healthy snacks for the family. Consider fresh fruits and vegetables that are in season when they are at their peak flavor, and encourage the kids to choose a fruit and/or vegetable they've never tried before. Include breakfast items on the shopping trip, since studies show that eating breakfast gives our bodies the fuel we need to have enough energy for the rest of the day. And if you don't want your kids to eat junk food, don't buy it. Experts warn that eating too much junk food is contributing to the rise in childhood obesity.

  3. Get cooking. It's no secret that eating out puts on more pounds than eating home-cooked meals. Eating at home also gives you a better idea of reasonable portion control, which has gotten out of control at restaurants, where plates are often supersized with extra starchy and fried foods like bread and french fries. Even with multiple family activities and schedules, vowing to cook at home just one more night a week than you do now can make a difference. Teach your kids how to cook; if they're too young, encourage them to help you in the kitchen. Not only will they learn what goes into a healthy meal, preparing meals as a family allows for quality family time. Kids can even reinforce what they've learned in school by helping look up and read recipes and measure ingredients. Even if you're really pressed for time, a meal as simple as grilled chicken breast with a green salad and a baked potato provides a nutritious dinner that can be on the table in 30 minutes.

  4. Take a walk on the wild side: try something new. Kids need healthy food choices to fuel their growing bodies and active lifestyles, but sometimes they get stuck in a rut eating only things like carrots or cucumbers as their "healthy food choices." When introducing a new food on their plates, serve small portions so you'll both feel a sense of accomplishment when they finish eating. And be sure to let your kids see you try new foods so they're more likely to step out of their comfort zones and try something new as well.

    Meal TimeThe USDA recommends starting with one new healthy food at a time and adding a new one each day. One of the easiest ways to add more fruits and vegetables to a picky kid's diet is to serve the food cut into bite-sized pieces with healthy but tasty dips or spreads. Apple slices with peanut butter and carrots, celery, and broccoli with low-fat ranch dip, flavored hummus, or even homemade salsa are great choices. Talk to your kids about what different types of foods do for the body, such as the importance of calcium for building strong teeth and bones and vegetables and grains for building healthy muscles and having a healthy digestion system. If the kids only want to eat junk food because they think it tastes good, explain that they will ultimately face issues like fatigue, obesity, and high blood pressure, which will lead to lifelong health problems.

  5. Practice what you preach. Be a good role model and show your kids that a nutritious diet is all about balance, not deprivation. Go ahead and let them see you splurge on an occasional chocolate bar or donut, but make sure they also see you regularly eating your fruits and vegetables. Continue the healthy eating trend when eating out as a family and encourage your kids to make healthier choices. A sub sandwich on whole wheat bread with a side of baked potato chips is a much better choice than a greasy burger and fries. The nutrition choices parents teach kids when they're young will likely stay with them as they grow. And while you can't expect bad habits to change overnight, small steps to improve what you eat along with regular exercise will lead to a lifetime of healthy habits.

Related Articles
"9 Healthy Snack Ideas for Kids"
"Diet, Exercise, and Your Kids' Grades"
"9 Foods Not to Give Kids"

Got something to say? Chat with the writers and other readers this this Monday, February 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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Test Your HFCS IQ!

By Joe Wilkes

If you're a regular reader of the Beachbody® newsletter, you probably already know that HFCS stands for high fructose corn syrup. But what else do you know about this sweet additive?

  1. MercuryIn a recent study, what was discovered in nearly a third of tested foods containing HFCS? Mercury. Two different studies were recently conducted by the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy. The first study found that nine out of 20 samples of HFCS contained detectable levels of mercury, and the second study found that nearly a third of 55 tested foods contained mercury. The HFCS in question is believed to have become contaminated during the production process, which involves the use of mercury cells. The Corn Refiners' Association released a statement that they do use mercury-free production processes now. However, not all HFCS production plants have conformed to the mercury-free processes.

  2. How much HFCS does the average American consume every day? Americans consume 12 teaspoons of HFCS per day, and teenagers can consume as much as 20 teaspoons. According to the USDA, Americans ate about 56.3 pounds of HFCS per capita in 2007 and 62.1 pounds of sugar. In total, Americans eat about 20 more pounds of sugar and HFCS combined than we did 25 years ago. And from 1980 to 2000, sweetened soda consumption rose by 40 percent—with the average American drinking 440 cans a year.

  3. Which has more calories, HFCS or traditional table sugar? They are equally caloric—with about 64 calories per tablespoon. Many have noted the correlation in the past 30 years of the rise in HFCS use and obesity rates. If true, it is unlikely that it is because HFCS is more caloric; rather, it's likely because of its lower production costs. Manufacturers can add HFCS to products more cheaply than they can add cane sugar. Chemically, HFCS is very similar to sugar, consisting of 55 percent fructose and 45 percent glucose (a similar ratio to honey), whereas sugar's fructose-glucose ratio is 50-50.

  4. CornAre foods labeled as "natural" or "organic" allowed to contain HFCS? Yes. The term "natural" is unregulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). HFCS comes from a natural source—corn (although often genetically modified), the starch of which is broken down with enzymes to turn some of the glucose into sweeter-tasting fructose. "Organic" products that have the USDA seal of approval can contain organic HFCS. If the product is labeled "100% organic," then it contains no HFCS.

  5. What does a bottle of Coca-Cola with a yellow cap signify? If you check the kosher section of your grocery store (especially during Passover), Coca-Cola makes a version of their soft drink without corn syrup—it contains sugar instead. During Passover, Jews are restricted from eating corn products, so the kosher aisle is a good place to look for non-HFCS products. Also, if you live close to Canada or Mexico, many favorite soft drinks formulated with sugar instead of HFCS are available, as those countries do not have the prohibitive sugar tariffs that the U.S. does.

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.

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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