One of the biggest struggles for many parents is getting their kids to try and enjoy healthy foods. Kids are notoriously picky – though not all of them are – but there are some things you can do to promote healthy eating and to get them to try new things. Here are some tips as well as a few child-friendly healthy dinner ideas:
Tips to get kids to like healthy foods
- Start young. Good food habits should start as soon as your children are on solid foods. Limit sugary foods, processed meats like hot dogs and fried items like chicken nuggets and fries. You don't have to eliminate these foods altogether, but introduce healthier foods right away and save these for special occasions.
- Role model healthy eating. If your kids see you enjoying fruits, vegetables and whole grains, they'll want to follow. Younger children especially want to mimic their parents' every moves.
- Let it be their choice. It's important to let it be your child's choice whether or not she or he eats the carrots you've put on the plate. Forcing a child to eat vegetables or bribing him or her will only create a negative association with that food now and in the future.
- Stay positive and patient. Don't get frustrated if your kids eat around the salad on their plates. New foods are scary to kids, so it's important to encourage them to try new things. Eat your salad with relish – never say things like "Mommy doesn't like it either but I eat it anyway" – and try again next time. Often, it takes children a few times of exposure to new foods to even try them. Your job is to at least make sure healthy foods are available.
- Don't limit healthy foods. Let your kids have fruits and vegetables for a snack whenever they're hungry for them, emphasizing that these are "anytime" snacks because they are healthy, as opposed to "sometimes" snacks like cookies and chips.
- Get your children involved! When grocery shopping, give your child a few tasks like picking out the apples that look the best or choosing the veggie for dinner that night. When you get home from the store, play a game where you sort foods by colors and texture. Get creative! You might also want to consider growing fruits and vegetables in a small garden at home, taking kids to a working farm to see where foods come from and introducing them to foods with funny names like papaya and bok choy, which you can laugh about with them.
- When introducing a new food, sometimes it's a good idea to pair it with something you know your child already likes. For example, add spinach and parmesan cheese to his or her mashed potatoes and serve them as "green potatoes."
- Don't hide healthy foods from kids but be honest with them about what they're eating so they can learn to like it.
Healthy dinner ideas that are kid-friendly
Expand your children's palates by introducing them to new foods prepared in a way that is unavoidably tasty but also familiar. Here are some healthy meal ideas that kids will enjoy:
- Baked fish sticks made with fresh salmon and coated in parmesan and bread crumbs
- Turkey and bulgar meatballs with whole-wheat pasta
- Homemade kale chips – kids love salty things
- A colorful fruit salad dressed with vanilla yogurt
- Make homemade miniature pizzas and provide a wide variety of healthy toppings for your child to choose from, including mushrooms, bell peppers and various low-fat cheeses.
Many people claim that protein shakes actually cause us to gain weight, rather than lose it. This isn't necessarily the case – in fact, it all depends on what's in your protein shake and how you use it.
If you're aiming for weight loss rather than bulking up, choose a high-quality protein powder that is meant to be a meal replacement. What this means is that you won't be adding the protein shake to your regular meals, but substituting it for a meal – usually breakfast or lunch. Choose a complete protein meal replacement like Naturade's VeganSmart All-In-One Nutritional Shake. It includes all of the essential amino acids, 22 vitamins and minerals, fiber (which makes you feel full) and omega-3s. Also, VeganSmart protein powder is low in fat and has zero cholesterol.
When you substitute a protein shake made with VeganSmart, you can be sure you're getting the nutrients your body needs while consuming less calories per day. However, if your goal is weight loss, don't add ingredients that are high in calories like peanut butter or oatmeal. Instead, just mix 2 scoops with water or your favorite drink, shake and enjoy!
Your life couldn't get any busier, right? But then you go and decide that one thing you're missing is more fitness, especially after those holiday calories make your pants fit just a bit too snugly. If you're a busy person trying to fit some cardio into your life, don't fret because recent research has shown that quick bursts of high-intensity energy are just as – if not more – beneficial for burning calories and fat than a more sustained cardio workout. Here are some excellent moves for a 15- to 20-minute burst of cardio that will leave you sweating:
- Warm-up bridges: Lie on your back with your feet planted directly under your knees and your hands at your side. Use your glutes – without pushing off with your hands – to lift your hips up. Lie on the floor (mat optional) with your feet directly below your knees. Keep your hands by your sides and engage your glutes and hamstrings to lift your hips off the ground. Slowly lower yourself to the floor again, making sure to keep your back and neck relaxed. Do 15 reps.
- Squats with arms overhead: Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, your arms straight up and your palms facing each other. Bend your knees and sit back as if you are in a chair. Use your glutes to stand again. Do 10 reps.
- Star squats: With your feet together and your arms at your sides, squat down and put your palms flat on the floor in front of your feet and directly under your shoulders. In one move, kick your feet out behind you, putting yourself in a push-up position. Squat low, placing palms on floor in front of your feet, directly under shoulders. Keep your abs tight and your back straight, holding the position for two seconds before jumping back into the starting position. Do 10 reps.
- Mountain climbers: Get in the plank position with your hands directly beneath your shoulders, your stomach pulled in and your back straight, forming a straight line from the base of your neck to your ankles. Then, lift your right foot and push your knee up to the center of your body. Switch quickly to your left leg, pushing it up toward your body. It's important to keep your hips level and your wrists directly below your shoulders. Do the mountain climbers for one minute as quickly as possible while still maintaining proper form.
- Broadway shuffle: Stand with your arms in jogging position with enough space to move at least five steps on either side of you. During the broadway shuffle, you will run to the side, bringing your knees up in a marching position – as high as you can go – as you move. Do the exaggerated marching movements side-to-side for one minute, moving as quickly as you can.
- Skier jumps: Stand as straight as you can and keep your feet, ankles and knees together. Jump from side to side as quickly as possible, making sure to keep your chest lifted so you aren't hunched over and to land softly so as not to harm your knees. Height isn't important – just the speed at which you move. Do the skier jumps for one minute.
Do one circuit and then repeat after a short (two minutes or less) break. The key to this quick cardio workout is to move through the exercises as quickly as possible while keeping proper form for each one and taking no breaks if possible. This will keep your heart rate up and also allow you to get a high-intensity workout in a very short window of time.
Protein is essential to your body's proper functioning and survival, which is the short reason for why you need it.
What is protein?
Protein is actually a very broad term for the chains of amino acids found in the foods that we eat and throughout our bodies. There are between 20 and 22 protein-building amino acids – our bodies make more than half of them through the breakdown of proteins or from other amino acids, but nine amino acids are called "essential," meaning we must ingest them because the body cannot produce them on its own.
Our bodies need proteins that vary in their breakdown of essential amino acids, and we need protein every day because, unlike things like glucose, fat and certain vitamins, our bodies have no way to store amino acids. Thus, if we fail to eat enough complete protein every day, our bodies "go catabolic," meaning they break down existing tissues – starting with the muscles – to get the necessary amino acids.
There's a reason that our bodies need protein everyday and will go to great lengths to get it. In fact, there are between 30,000 and 50,000 different proteins in the body. Protein is essential to a majority of the body's functioning, including:
- Immune response: Antibodies are proteins that attack a bacterium or virus that has entered the body. Antibodies work to neutralize the impact and prevent the foreign substance from causing infection or disease.
- Supporting the tissues: Collagen is the most widespread protein in the body, as it is a part of the tendons, ligaments and bones. Myosin and actin – both proteins – help the muscles function.
- Fluid balance: Proteins found in the blood help maintain the proper fluid levels in the body. They act as a buffer, remove excess hydrogen or add more when necessary to maintain the blood's pH levels. Blood proteins also protect against the accumulation of fluid in the tissues by pulling water into the capillaries.
- Growth and development: Proteins are especially important for fetuses, infants and children whose bodies are growing rapidly.
- Transporting oxygen around the body: The protein hemoglobin pairs with iron to move oxygen through the blood.
- Breaking down food: Enzyme proteins break down other proteins into amino acids and work to remove waste.
What to know about eating protein
Protein requirements vary with age, sex, health and level of physical activity, but people rarely need protein supplements unless they're working to build a lot of muscle quickly.
Its been said that toning your arms gives your body a whole new look, making you appear fitter than you are. Toned arms can build confidence about your body, and if you're looking to get fit, the arms are a great place to start because the muscles shape up pretty quickly! Even just a month of a quick, 10-minute routine three or four days a week can show fabulous results.
Here are some exercises to try in whatever combination you choose:
Standing arm circles are a great way to warm-up and they also give your biceps, triceps and shoulders a workout. With your feet flat on the ground and your arms stretched out to your sides, start, moving them in fast circles forward. Do this until you get tired before reversing the direction. Make sure to pull your bellybutton in, strengthening and elongating your core. When you get tired, take a break before doing the arm circles two more times, both forward and backward.
This is a great workout that just requires a yoga mat and hand weights between 3 to 5 pounds, depending on your current strength. To start, lie on the mat with your knees bent and feet flat in a sit-up position. Extend your arms straight up with one dumbbell in each hand. Do a sit-up, contracting your abs and slowly curling up. At the same time, bring your arms forward toward your knees, holding them for a second just above the knees, before slowly reversing to your starting position. To make the move more difficult, add in a chest press. When you're in the curl position with your arms stretched out and the weights above your knees, pull them dumbbells in toward your chest and then straighten your arms again before moving back to the starting position.
You'll only need a mat and a pillow for this move, which works several muscles: the triceps, shoulders, abs, back, butt, thighs, chest and calves!
Place your pillow at one end of the mat on the floor and your hands on the pillow. Walk your feet into a plank position, making sure to keep your back straight. Extend one arm out to the side, then lift it, holding for three to five seconds before returning to the starting position. Stay in the plank position and extend the same arm straight in front of you, holding for a few seconds before returning to start again. After 10 reps, switch arms.
It's time to answer that perennial question: Which is better: yoga or Pilates? But of course, as in most things in life, the answer isn't so clear cut. Instead, it depends on your end goals. Additionally, it also depends on exactly what type of routine you're considering, whether it be Hatha yoga, Bikram (hot) yoga or even piloxing – a Pilates and boxing fusion. Here's a bit more information about each so that you can decide whether yoga, Pilates or the delightfully named Yogalates is right for you:
Yoga is a centuries-old meditative practice that has foundations in Buddhism, Hinduism and Jainism in India. Yoga is focused on the connection between the mind, body and spirit. It's meant to be therapeutic but to also improve physical wellbeing through strengthening of the muscles and flexibility of the body. There are so many different types of yoga traditions, practices and positions that it's hard to say definitively which parts of the body they are best for. But in general, because the positions are so varied and can be combined in various ways, they strengthen muscles throughout the body. If you want stress relief and a slow, stretching workout for your entire body, yoga is your best bet.
Pilates is a much more recent practice. It was developed in the 1920s by a man of the same name. It was originally meant as a low-impact rehabilitative routine, but today, this series of resistance exercises is used to build muscle flexibility and strength without the bulk. Similar to yoga, Pilates hinges on proper breathing and includes improved coordination and balance as some of its benefits. However, Pilates mostly centers around the core – strengthening and building up stable abdominal muscles for proper posture, stabilization of the spine, balance and overall strength. Pilates is ideal for people who want to strengthen their abdominal muscles, which might potentially reduce chronic back pain. Most Pilates positions can be adapted depending on individuals' differing physical abilities, as is the case for yoga as well.
In summary, you will gain strength and flexibility through both yoga and Pilates, though Pilates is more targeted at the core muscles. Also, Pilates is typically a more structured class so you will know what to expect when you walk in, while yoga positions can be arranged in hundreds of ways. You can definitely benefit from both routines and might enjoy doing a fusion workout of the two.
Maybe it's Monday afternoon and you're already exhausted but still have work to do. You think to yourself, "How am I going to make it through the rest of this week without falling asleep at my desk?"
Instead of overdoing it on coffee and fueling up on simple carbs like bagels, which give you a bit of energy before leaving you more tired than you started, fill up on healthy foods that give you long-lasting fuel to make it through the day energized and with your eyes open.
Here are the best energy-boosting foods and snacks to keep your energy levels high:
It seems overly simple, but it's important to stay hydrated. H2O is valuable for every part of the body – from brain function to digestion. Things like coffee and alcohol can dehydrate you, and dehydration often leads to fatigue and a feeling of sluggishness. Add some lemon and mint to your water for an extra kick.
Almonds, walnuts and others are a great on-the-go snack. They pack in protein, healthy omega-3 fats, fiber, magnesium, potassium, and vitamins E and B. Omega-3s provide energy to organs and muscles, and the protein in nuts is great for a boost. Almonds are an especially good choice because they contain iron, which can help maintain your energy levels. Just make sure to eat nuts in moderation – one handful should do the trick! You can keep a bag of trail mix or mixed nuts in your desk or purse for when you're feeling tired.
Rather than eating bagels, white bread or crackers made from refined white flour, opt instead for whole grains, which are full of complex carbs. Carbohydrates give our bodies 60 percent of the energy we need, making them essential; however, it's important to choose the right carbs. Whole grains take more time to digest, making you feel more full longer. Plus, they contain a whole host of minerals and vitamins that don't cause us to crash like refined carbs do.
It's a good bet that you won't be too comfortable snacking on just kimchi or cabbage during lunch time. But if you happen to have lunch at a Korean joint, get something with a side of kimchi. Or if you're in a deli, order something that comes with sauerkraut. These healthy fermented foods help your body maintain energy because they're packed with probiotics, which help the gut work more efficiently and need less energy to do the work of digestion.
Treat yourself to a moderate portion of dark chocolate in the afternoon. Besides being delicious and packed with antioxidants, dark chocolate also has theobromine – a natural stimulant that boosts both your mood and energy levels.
Fresh fruits like apples, pears, bananas, berries – you name it! – have vitamins, minerals and fiber. They give you a boost of energy from the natural sugars and good carbs.
Quick tips to keep energy high
Maintain your energy levels throughout the day with these easy tips:
- Smaller meals are better when it comes to having lunch. Research has shown that people who eat larger lunches have less energy just a few hours later. This is likely because eating increases blood sugar and can interrupt your circadian rhythm.
- It's better to eat small meals, but frequently. Rather than three meals per day, opt for up to seven or eight micro-meals. Our brains need a steady supply of nutrients, as they produce very few energy reserves on their own.
- Try not to drink caffeine after 2 p.m., which can interrupt your sleep, creating a vicious cycle.
- Limit your alcohol consumption. It's especially advised to avoid alcohol at lunch so you have energy later.
For most people who are trying to lose weight, you can lose 1 pound per week initially by cutting 500 calories per day. The math behind this is that 3,500 calories equals about one pound, so cutting 500 during each of the seven days a week will drop you 1 pound. This moderate calorie restriction is a healthy way to lose weight – more extreme measures can backfire, as cutting more calories per day will not provide your body with enough sustained energy.
There are a lot of simple ways to cut calories from your diet. In fact, you don't necessarily have to eat less volume-wise – you just have to recognize what you're eating and how many calories it contains, and be open to substituting it for something similar. Here are some tips to help you in your journey to get healthy:
- Eliminate high-calorie drinks. Sugary juices, soda and alcohol are the first things to toss out, because just a 12-ounce serving of soda or orange juice has about 170 calories. Replace these drinks with water, which is calorie-free, sugar-free and essential to your body's functioning.
- Ditch the creamer. Your coffee will taste just as delicious with skim milk, or even low-fat milk, and it's much healthier than rich cream or – even worse – flavored coffee creamers that have all kinds of artificial chemicals and oils that are bad for your health.
- Eat a filling breakfast. Start your morning off with high-fiber cereal or oatmeal mixed with fruit. Complex carbs take longer to break down, helping us stave off the hunger pangs until later in the day.
- Forget about the cheese. At lunchtime, order your sandwich without cheese. Most delis, burger joints and other eateries provide you with more than one serving per sandwich. Instead, opt for a flavorful hummus or BBQ sauce, both of which contain less calories than most cheeses.
- Choose dessert wisely. If you're a dessert-junkie, it can be difficult to eliminate sweets from your daily routine. So try a slice of low-calorie angel food cake with fresh strawberries, rather than cookies or other hearty, butter-filled desserts.
- Eat more slowly. Make sure to take your time when eating. Not only will you – hopefully – enjoy your food more, but you'll also likely eat less. Research shows that it takes our bodies about 20 minutes to register that we are full.
Runners, especially beginners, often wonder what surface is the best for distance running. While some surfaces are obviously superior to others, the answer to this question can differ depending on your physical abilities, goals, and other needs. Here are the pros and cons of various popular running surfaces:
Tracks today are typically made of synthetic materials like recycled tires. The pros of running on track are that the surface is squishy and forgiving, meaning the softer surface somewhat lessens the impact on your knees and other joints when running. Tracks are excellent for speedwork because they have essentially no barriers, as opposed to running on earthy trails. Also, you can accurately measure your run and time yourself as most tracks are exactly 400 meters per loop.
However, tracks aren't the best for everyone or every type of running. If you're running distance – two miles or more – being on a track can be tedious. A lot of people like a change of scenery for their long runs. Additionally, the long curves on each lap are rough on the ankles, hips and knees, putting undue stress on those joints.
A lot of people enjoy running on the treadmill. One pro is that it doesn't require any special gear to stay warm or cool, outside what you'd normally wear, since you're indoors. Also, treadmills allow you to measure precise distance, calories burned, heart rate and other things that runners often like to know to gage their progress and performance. You have a lot of control when you're running on a treadmill, and the smooth surface is pretty easy on the knees, legs and back, which can prevent injuries.
However, there are some cons to treadmill running that are especially potent for distance and performance runners. For starters, because of the support you get from the moving belt during treadmill running, your hamstrings don't have to work as hard as they would otherwise. Also, treadmills are consistent. This can be a good thing, but if you're gearing up for a 10k or a half marathon, the terrain will surely not be as predictable as the treadmill surface. It might instead be good to train on less smooth terrain, at least occasionally. Another con is that treadmills do not provide a breeze. This means that there is no wind resistance to push against – which can give you an even better workout – and you'll also probably sweat profusely because air isn't rushing past to cool you.
The positives to running on concrete are few, but the surface is flat and if that means you're running on a sidewalk, you're likely to be pretty safe from traffic. Many city-dwellers spend much of their time outside running on concrete. The cons of concrete is that it's an incredibly hard surface – it's made of crushed cement, after all, and is said to be 10 times harder than asphalt. Concrete gives your knees, ankles and legs the most shock and should be avoided if at all possible.
If you have to run on the street or sidewalk, hit the pavement or asphalt instead. It's easier on the joints and is typically flat (save for a few potholes) so it will put less strain on the Achilles' heel than some even softer surface that are uneven.
Trails, grass and earth
The ground and woodland trails are your best bet for distance running outdoors. A golf course-type surface is ideal, in fact, though it's unlikely most people have access to that. Still, running trails in the woods are good because they have enough give for your knees. However, if you're working on speed, stay away from these surfaces because it can be difficult to measure your distance and you could get tripped up (literally) by roots and other debris on the messy trails.
It seems so funny that one simple cannon ball-shaped instrument could have such awesome effects on the body. Cross-fitters everywhere are doing intense, quick workouts to tone up and build muscle, and people everywhere are catching on to kettlebell's total-body benefits. Here's a short, intense workout for men that targets all of the body's major muscle groups using only an amazing kettlebell and of course your own strength and body weight:
The 20-minute kettlebell workout
- Warm up with a swing – a basic move for beginners and a good starting point. For the swing, stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and the weight in both hands straight in front of you. Then, bend your knees and squat down, swinging the kettlebell with both hands between your legs. As you rise to a stand, swing the kettlebell back up to eye level, but control its movement. Do 10 to 15 reps. Do a rep of squats with the kettlebell as well.
- After you feel sufficiently warmed up, jump right into the windmill – a more difficult move. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, the kettlebell in your right hand held straight above your head and your feet pointed 45-degrees toward the left. Then, keeping your right arm straight in the air, push your hips to the right and slide your left hand down your left leg, bending at the hip. This gives you a great core and shoulder workout. Do 10 reps and then switch sides.
- Then, work your arms with curls. Hold one weight in each hand and curl them up as if you were holding regular hand weights or a barbell. The benefits of doing curls with kettlebells is that the weight hangs lower than your grip and the uneven balance causes you to work extra hard. Do 12 to 15 reps.
- Repeat the above circuit two times, adding in a few other movements that you like.