How Making Small Changes can have BIG Effects on the Health of Your Family in 2017

Last Updated by Kate Spears on
This week on the Get Ready To Learn radio show, host Cindy Putman and co-host Dr. Marty Merritt and Sarah Nelson of Naturally Nelson's Farm will be sharing the first part of a two-part show that focuses on helping parents take small, doable steps toward healthier living for themselves and their families in 2017.
 
Can you guess what the top New Year's Resolution was for 2017? You might not be surprised to learn that the most popular resolution for many years now has been to lose weight and incorporate healthier eating habits. That is the good news. The bad news is that less than half of the people who make resolutions keep them. One reason is because we often set unrealistic goals for ourselves and our families.
 
On this edition of the Get Ready To Learn radio show, Putman discusses with Merrit and Nelson the importance of taking baby steps to improve your health and the health of your family, especially children. They also discuss and explore these tips shared in this article from PBS Parents.
 
Changing the health habits of your family is not an unreasonable goal to have, but you have to break it down into small, achievable steps. Here are a few suggestions for things you might do to improve the health of your family this year: 
 
Get them involved- 
 
If you involve kids in planning meals, going grocery shopping, and preparing food, they will become invested in the process and more likely to eat. Even toddlers too young to make grocery lists can help you make choices (pears or nectarines? cheddar or swiss?) along the way. Simple, no-cook recipes like frozen yogurt popsicles or fruit parfaits are an excellent way to get young chefs interested in healthy cooking and eating.
 
Go to the source-
 
Teach kids where their food comes from. Rather than limiting yourself to the weekly supermarket run, take your family to a local farmer’s market (or to the farm itself) and meet the people who grow the food. Picking berries from a vine can help nurture a lifelong love of good eating and environmental stewardship. Visiting a dairy farm can teach children where their milk comes from (and why we should care about what goes in it). Planting tomatoes and melons in the garden may tempt a child to try the fruits of her labor.
 
Make healthy snacks available-
 
If you stock the kitchen exclusively with healthy treats, children will eat them. As your children grow, stock good snacks in cabinets and shelves that they can reach without your help.
 
Some kids eat more when they’re in the car than when they’re at the table simply because active play isn’t a viable alternative when you’re strapped in. Make sure you’re prepared with nutritious snacks whether you’re driving the carpool or going to soccer practice. Good choices include sliced apples, carrot sticks, whole grain crackers, light popcorn, raisins and water bottles.
 
Give them freedom of choice-
 
Like the rest of us, kids want to have it their way. But no parent wants to be a short order cook, making four different meals for four different family members. Instead try the fixings bar approach. Offer a suitable base meal, like rice and beans, whole wheat tortillas or lean ground taco meat. Then let kids (and adults) dress it up with chopped tomatoes, lettuce, cabbage, cheese, salsa, jicama, parsley, peppers and other toppings.
 
You might also try a pasta bar with a variety of healthy sauces. This approach works especially well when you're serving young guests whose food preferences you may have trouble predicting.
 
Kids like choices at snack time too, so consider packing an insulated lunch bag full of good snacks so they can make their own smart choices (and you can avoid hearing “I don’t want THAT!”).
 
Drink to that-
Remember that your child doesn’t have to just eat five servings of fruits and vegetables a day...he can also drink them. Smoothies and mixed fruit drinks like watermelon slush and mango lassi can be a fun way to introduce new fruits.
 
Be a role model for health- 
 
A recent study found that young children’s food tastes are significantly related to foods that their mothers liked and disliked. Letting your child see you order a fresh salad rather a burger and fries at the drive-through may encourage her to do the same.
 
Don’t give up- 
 
Studies show that most children need multiple exposures (between 5 and 10 times) to try new foods. This isn’t to say that showing your child the same papaya or avocado five nights in a row will win her over, but rather to suggest that you shouldn’t give up the first time she rejects something.
 
Teach healthy eating habits early-
 
Use meal and snack times as teachable moments to help even the youngest children make wise food choices. 
 
Nelson and Merrit both agree that being aware of the hidden ingredients in foods, especially processed foods with various forms of sugar, need to be understood.  Kids want snacks and snacking is perfectly normal!
 
The important thing is to provide children with nutritious snacks that don’t undermine the primary goal of keeping them healthy and fit. Avoid foods that are fried, processed, too oily or too salty. And, definitely keep sugar to a minimum. If your child eats healthy snacks from the start, they’ll likely continue to make good food choices throughout their lives. Be aware of the amount of sugar hidden in kids drinks and have knowledge of the names of artificial sweetener so you can avoid them in your diet.
 
The list below provides the brand names seen in stores for artificial sweetener:
Acesulfame Potassium - Sunnett, Sweet One
Aspartame - Nutrasweet, Equal
Neotame - N/A
Saccharin - Sweet 'N Low, Sweet Twin, Sugar Twin
Sucralose - Splenda
Stevia/Rebaudioside - A Sweet Leaf, Sun Crystals, Steviva, Truvia, PureVia
 
Dr. Marti enjoys organic Coconut Palm Sugar and uses it in place of  refined sugar. Organic Coconut Palm Sugar (also known as Organic Coconut Sugar) is a rich, unrefined brown sugar with a deep caramel flavor. It is produced by tapping the sweet nectar from the tropical coconut palm tree flower and drying the nutrient rich juice in a large open kettle drum.
 
Sarah's favorite sweetener is blackstrap molasses, the highest and most nutritious grade of molasses. Unlike refined sugar, blackstrap molasses has a moderate glycemic load of 55. This makes it a good sugar substitute for diabetics and individuals who are seeking to avoid blood sugar spikes. Moreover, one serving of blackstrap contains no fat and only 32 calories, making it suitable for a weight loss diet. It is also a great source for iron two tablespoons of blackstrap contain 13.2 percent of our RDI of iron, which our bodies need to carry oxygen to our blood cells. 
 
Sarah also shared that she and her husband, Ron make their own granola bars. She was quick to say that their tastes differ, and having a variety of ingredients to add from, including things like dried fruit, pine nuts, and coconuts flakes allow them both to satisfy their sweet tooth.
 
Dr. Marti also discussed leading pediatrician Dr. Joanna Dolgoff's book, Red Light, Green Light, Eat Right that teaches kids how to make healthy choices based on the principles of the traffic light: green light foods are nutritious, yellow light foods are eaten in moderation, and red light foods are occasional treats.
 
Remember it is all about taking baby steps to improve areas of your food intake that is manageable, and will have a positive impact on you and your child's health- 
 
Tune in next week as Sarah discusses how living closer to the land has improved her overall health and Dr. Marti shares a hand cranked juicer that can be used by kids to juice their food which opens new doors to explore different flavors and taste. Together they also discuss the new buzzword- bone broth and Sarah will share a blog about bones!
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