Train Your Brain – Live, Eat, Breathe Good Nutrition

Ok, you decide you want to lose weight.  Usually the first few days are ok.  People will stick to their “plan.”  As time goes on, you slowly but surely start heading back to your old habits.  You know you really want to lose weight so why can’t you be successful?  Losing weight is a full-time endeavor, particularly at the beginning.  You need to think of it as a job.  The first thing you must realize is this has to be a lifetime commitment.   Looking at it any other way will breed failure.  Secondly, it will take work (after all, it’s a job),  discipline and willpower – particularly in the beginning.  As with any new job, the start-up is usually the most difficult.  After you get training and experience, you generally feel more comfortable and confident with what you are doing.  Thirdly, realize you must incorporate three components into your plan – nutrition education, exercise, and behavior modification.  These are the ingredients necessary to promote the best chance of success.  The next strategy which I think is super important is to surround yourself with reminders, pictures, sayings, recipes, magazines, videos, anything which will help implant the idea in your brain this is what you really want.  If you spend most of your time, at least initially,  thinking about losing weight, why it’s important to you, how your going to do it, healthy foods you like – those thoughts will start replacing the ones that sabotage many weight loss efforts.  Below is a list of ideas to help “train your brain” into acting out behaviors that will promote  a healthy lifestyle!

  • Write down a couple of reasons why you want to lose weight.  Be honest and make your words powerful.  Put them next to your bed, as a screen saver on your cell phone, on the bathroom mirror, a sticky note in your car, on your desk at work, in your wallet – any place you will see them as many times a day as possible.  You can also use a picture (be it of yourself of something else that will motivate you) and look at this as well.
  • Subscribe to a magazine (Weight Watchers, Fitness, etc.) – Read them and remind yourself of your goals.
  • Subscribe to nutrition blogs and have them sent to you via e-mail.  There are so many out there.  Find someone you like and keep up with their blogs.
  • Surround yourself with nutritious foods.  Stock your pantry and refrigerator with healthy food choices that you like.  If  you really don’t like celery, don’t get it and think you will eat it.  You won’t.  But maybe you like baby carrots and humus.  On the other hand, don’t buy potato chips and think you will only eat a few.  If it’s a food you love, they will just be a constant temptation.  Maybe you will realize air-popped popcorn is just as satisfying.
  • Start a library of recipes that you like that are weight management friendly.  Replace some of the old high fat, high calorie recipes with better ones.  I guarantee they are out there and there are ones you will like just as much.  If there is a recipe you just can’t throw out, save it for special occasions.
  • Write down all the health benefits of working out and how great you feel after doing it.  Be specific.  Read this on those days when your tempted to skip.  I personally have NEVER said to myself after a workout, “I wish I hadn’t done that.”
  • Find a buddy to do this with – someone you can work out with, talk to, and use as support.  This is invaluable in helping you stick to your plan.

You get the idea.  If you start surrounding yourself with things that promote your weight loss or healthier lifestyle goals they start to become YOU.  For example, your old automatic thought or behavior may be every morning before work you stop for a donut and coffee.  You’ve been doing this for years and your brain is kind of “programmed” to have this thought which leads to the behavior.  When you begin teaching your brain new things, eventually your automatic thought will be different and maybe your new behavior will be having a yogurt parfait and coffee in the morning.  You will actually begin to look forward to doing that.

I know I geared this towards adults but these same concepts apply to children and adolescents.  It can be done.  You can change the way you think and behave.  I hope you are up for the “job” and able to fulfill the position description.  It will change your life.

Human beings, by changing the inner attitudes of their minds, can change the outer aspects of their lives.” 

                                                                                                                                                                                            William James



This is Your Brain on Drugs….This is Your Heart on Saturated Fat

 Our kids get some nutrition education in school.  Things like vitamins, minerals, basic healthy eating are covered.  Then it’s time to talk about drugs, AIDS, cigarette smoking – absolutely important topics to cover with children.  I think we should be putting  good nutrition in that same category.  Why should we eat well and maintain a healthy weight?   Let me ask you another question – why should you not do drugs or not smoke cigarettes?  Schools teach children the health risks of these behaviors but spend too little time on the implications of poor nutrition.   Maybe we should be teaching our children just how dangerous eating poorly can be to our health.  What if we were to show them an obese person huffing and puffing going up stairs, not fitting in a seat on an airplane, giving themselves insulin injections, someone getting the news they need triple bypass surgery,  not getting a call back for a job interview based on their appearance.   Hey, I’m not saying I agree with the fact people are judged on their appearances but, unfortunately, they are. The consequences of being obese are too numerous to mention, both psychological and physical.   I also am not saying we use scare tactics.  I think we need to be honest with ourselves and realize this country has a health crisis with regard to obesity which has infiltrated  down to our  youth.

What can we do?  Listed below are some ideas.

  • First and foremost, as parents/caregivers, we need to model healthy eating behavior.  It cannot work if we tell our children to “do as we say, not as we do.”
  • Pediatricians need to focus on the importance of  healthy BMI’s with their patients.  Urge parents to see other health professionals if needed.
  • Educate.  Make it a priority in schools to get the message out there that having good nutrition and exercise habits is as important as not smoking or not doing drugs. 
  • Not only educate kids during the school day, but provide an afterschool  or evening program for overweight kids teaching weight management techniques and exercise. 
  • Many schools obtain children’s BMI percentiles and send them home to parents.  Then what?  How about providing some resources to get some help?   Providing a list of  local registered dietitians may be helpful.
  • Restaurants need to get on board making menu improvements.  I think a great start would be to cut back on portion sizes. 
  • Kids don’t want to eat something labelled healthy or good for you.  Let’s start making these foods more “normal” and not something health fanatics eat.
  • Encourage exercise –  you don’t have to be “athletic” to move your body.  It is something our bodies need to keep healthy.
  • Let’s stop the supersizing!  What a horrible concept.

The bottom line is we need to show our youth as parents, as a community and as a nation that good health is vital and important to living a productive, enjoyable life (maybe focus on the latter with kids!).  Let’s teach them, as we say as adults, if you don’t have your health, you don’t have anything.  It’s true.


Helping Your Child Avoid Overeating When Dining Out

      When dining out, we all know it is difficult to avoid eating too many calories – let alone the amount of fat, cholesterol and sodium which skyrocket in restaurant foods.  The best way to help your child or teen avoid overeating, is to discuss the guidelines listed below when going to a restaurant.  Now, of course, on special occasions they may want to splurge.  That is fine, however, many families are eating out more than ever.  If you find this is the case, splurging all the time will lead to extra pounds and having a plan when going to a restaurant is a great idea!  These suggestions should be followed by everyone when eating out.   

  1. Ask for sauces and salad dressings on the side.
  2. Use condiments like salsa and mustard instead of mayonnaise and oil.
  3. Order non- or low-fat milk or chocolate milk.
  4. Order baked or grilled lean meats instead of fried or fatty ones.
  5. Ask for half portions or only eat half a portion.  Have them wrap half your meal as soon as it is served.
  6. Order a sandwich with lean meats:  chicken, turkey, tuna,, lean ham or roast beef.  Choose whole-grain bread instead of white.
  7. Avoid the bread basket!!!!!  Danger!!
  8. Ask for child size portions – usually enough for grown adults!!
  9. Avoid cream-based soups and sauces.
  10. Order pasta with marinara sauce as opposed to heavy cream sauces.
  11. Have fruit for dessert.
  12. Steer clear of food descriptions containing these words:  alfredo, pan-fried, crispy, crunchy, battered, au gratin, a la mode, scalloped, loaded/covered, cheesy, buttered, creamed, fried or deep fried
  13. Opt for: steamed, broiled, grilled, baked, seasoned, stir-fried, poached, roasted
  14. Save buffet or brunch style eating for special occasions.  Try not to go back for seconds!
  15. Never think you have to finish what’s on your plate.  Ask for a take out container and make it a meal for the next day.
  16. Check out the menu ahead if it is available on-line.  Decide with your child what the best selection might be prior to sitting down at the restaurant.   (This is my favorite – planning ahead!)
  17. Order an appetizer instead of an entrée  (be cautious – some appetizers have more calories than an entrée!).
  18. BEFORE  you go out have a snack to make sure you are not starving when you get to the restaurant.  Remember, never let yourself get too hungry!  It works!

Remember the goal is to incorporate behaviors into our lives that support lifelong healthy eating habits.  Establishing these guidelines will surely help do that.  Don’t forget that your practices will have the biggest  influence on your child’s behavior so follow your eating out tips together.

“People may doubt what you say, but they will believe what you do.”


What’s so Exciting About Oatmeal???

Ok, I know I’m probably weird but I LOVE oatmeal.  Not only do I love it, but I have what some might think are unusual ways of eating it.   Before I talk about ways to prepare it, we must get down to business and talk about fiber!  Fiber is oatmeal’s biggest claim to fame.  It is a great way to help keep your cardiovascular system in check.    Not to mention your gastrointestinal system as well!!  Adults need 25-35 grams of fiber per day to meet recommended requirements.  Children need less – 16 grams per day.  Oatmeal is full of fiber, soluble fiber, which helps lower LDL cholesterol (bad kind) by carrying it away from the cells.  One serving of oatmeal provides a whopping 4 grams of fiber to your daily intake.  The fiber in oatmeal also fills you up so you are likely to feel satisfied longer.    When purchasing oatmeal, you’re best nutritional value is in the old-fashioned oats.  You get less sugar and more fiber than you would in the instant oatmeal.  Now let’s get to the fun stuff.

Oatmeal can be prepared in so many different ways if you just let your imagination run wild!!!   How about oatmeal and peanut butter or oatmeal and broccoli?  Are you thinking those combinations sound strange?  Try it you’ll like it!  Listed below are some recipes to try to shake up your morning (and dinner time) routine.

Parmesan Oatmeal with Broccoli

3/4 cup oatmeal

1 1/2 cups milk

1/2 cup cooked broccoli (cut into small pieces after it’s cooked)

1/4  cup fresh shredded parmesan cheese

Prepare oatmeal according to directions on Quaker Oats box.  Mix broccoli in oatmeal.  Sprinkle with parmesan cheese.  Enjoy!

Oatmeal and Peanut Butter

3/4 cup oatmeal

1 1/2 cups milk

3 tbsp peanut butter

1 tbsp maple syrup

Prepare oatmeal according to directions on Quaker Oats box.  Mix in peanut butter and syrup.  Add mini chocolate chips if  you want!

Popular oatmeal toppings:  Apples, bananas, brown sugar and cinnamon, walnuts, pecans (or any other nut you like), raisins, chocolate chips

Some not so popular toppings (but you should try ’em):  Diced tomatoes, salsa, cheddar cheese (or any kind of cheese), sautéed mushrooms and onions, black beans

Remember be open-minded!!  Oatmeal’s not just for breakfast anymore!  Try some of the latter toppings for a dinner meal.  After you try some of these oatmeal dishes, you’ll know why that guy on the Quaker Oats box is smiling.  By the way, who is that guy on the Quaker Oats box and what is his connection to oatmeal?