Tag Archives: healthy kids

Teaching Children Meditation & Mindfulness

Screen Shot 2013-09-11 at 3.35.56 PMIn today’s high-tech, fast-paced world, it’s pretty easy to become over-stimulated. Busy schedules directing us to go, go, go and electronic devices constantly in our hands, sucking us into scattered digital directions make inner-peace a fleeting want. Enter tension and fatigue. This is true for us, as adults, so imagine children as they absorb the energy of their parents and of the environment which they live in. Then, we send them off to school where they are expected to concentrate and focus.

As an adult, to be able to accomplish all of the above is a pretty remarkable feat. Imagine learning these tools as a young child and then being able to use them your entire life! What if an entire generation of children were blessed with this gift? While mindfulness is catching on and currently being taught in a handful of schools across the country, it is largely up to the parents to teach this powerful tool. And studies have linked mindfulness to better concentration, increased focus, and boosts of memory – so it’s well worth it.

The tips I’m about to share are my own experience as a parent and what has worked in our family. They are geared towards younger children, but much of it can apply to older kids as well. (If you are an adult looking to learn more about meditation, you may want to check out this article.)

Introducing Meditation and Mindfulness to Young Children

  1. Lead by example. As a parent, it is most important to first develop your own meditation practice and then show your children the way. They will naturally become curious as they so often want to emulate the behaviors they see in their parents and others whom they look up to. My five year old daughter has grown up her whole life witnessing meditation, and I even have many fond memories of her as a toddler coming out of bed in the morning and plopping herself down on my lap while I was in the midst of meditating! Once there is a genuine and natural interest, you can begin to help guide them into a better understanding and foster the growth of their own practice.

  2. Make it relatable, on a child’s level. There is a wonderful book about meditation called Peaceful Piggy that I’ve read with my daughter many times and would highly recommend. The story-telling approach is a wonderful way to connect with young kids. Above that, they suggest a really simple do-it-at-home experiment to demonstrate what meditation is all about. It says to take a jar and fill the bottom with a bit of sand. Then, cover with water. Shake the jar so that all the grains of sand begin swirling all around. Tell your child that each of those grains of sands represents a thought. It could be a happy thought, a sad thought, an angry thought. But, the grains swirling around represent all of the thoughts buzzing around our heads throughout the day. Next put the jar down and allow the sand to settle. See how the sand “thoughts” become calmer and the water becomes clearer? The thoughts are still there, but they are no longer all “crazy.” Peace and stillness have taken over. Explain to your child that this symbolizes the effect of meditation on the brain.

  3. Encourage discussion of their own feelings and emotions. Ask them for examples of different experiences: when something made them really happy, or really sad, a time they felt upset or their feelings were hurt, a time they felt scared. Give a few of your own examples to show them that we all feel this same array of emotions on a regular basis. Even young children, who seem to have such simple lives, still have a lot to sort through and deal with. They may share some emotions such as: happy on a fun family adventure, upset when mommy or daddy wouldn’t let them do what they wanted, sad when a family member or pet became ill, or feeling hurt when a friend in school said something mean. For children who are a bit older, the standardized testing system seems to be a source of worry. Meditation can help settle the overwhelming feelings and bring them to a calmer place in their thoughts. Being able to get outside of the whirlwind to just observe instead of being engulfed is truly a powerful gift.

  4. MinfulnessRealistic Expectations. It’s important to cover that there is no way to do this right or “wrong.” Like exercising, results become more apparent with repetition. Frequency is key to really seeing benefits over time. That being said, this should be an enjoyable experience for them and not feel like a chore or something they are being forced to do. Encourage their interest, efforts, and willingness. If you are into reward systems, this could be a good time to implement some small ones. “Let’s practice a few minutes of meditation and then we can play a little game” or “have a little treat.” This type of system is very encouraging for young children. Make it special! Designate a specific area for them in the house that will be their meditation spot. Make it welcoming with their own pillow or special pillowcase. Encourage them to bring a few trinkets that have special meaning to them: perhaps a family photo, their favorite artwork, a remnant of the earth such as gemstone or even a plant.

  5. Use a Timer. It’s great to have a goal time, but start small. Depending on the age, 3-5 minutes can be a reasonable beginner goal. A timer is nice because it is finite and they know to expect an end time. There are many great meditation apps that you can download for your smartphone. I like ones that use singing bowl sounds for start and finish. Let your child start the timer and put it somewhere they can see it. Encourage them to not worry about the time. Instead, just relax and know their meditation is over once they hear the singing bowl ring again.

  6. Guide them. Sitting down in lotus posture with eyes closed is not a must (although that is perfectly fine). Like I said, there is no right or wrong way. The point is to get them into a practice of settling their minds and become more mindful. Keeping the eyes closed allows for deeper relaxation, so would be suggested. Naturally, they will want to peek – this is okay! Lying down while meditating presents an opportunity to become a little too relaxed and possibly even fall asleep, so some sort of sitting position is best. Small children will be fidgety. Just encourage them to try their best to sit still with eyes closed until the timer goes off. Most important is to focus on the breath. Breathing is something we always take with us, so this can literally be practiced anywhere. Have them simply notice their breathing as their chest rises and falls. Then, start to encourage long, deep, slow breaths where their belly rises up on the inhale and contracts to small again as the exhale it all out.

(A fun visual: “Blowing out the Candle.” Have them clasp their hands together and raise their two index fingers, holding them in front of their mouth. Inhale slowly and deeply. On the slow exhale, have them imagine blowing out a birthday candle. Blowing out a candle is something all children can relate to, and it’s pretty fun too! When my daughter is having a tough time with something, I can simply tell her “breathe, blow out your candle” and she knows exactly what to do to calm down.)

  1. Let it be. Sitting still may not comes naturally at first. It is okay for minds to wander. It is okay to fidgety. As a matter of fact, expect it. Just encourage them to try their best to relax and refocus them back to focusing on their breath as often as needed. Know that over time and with regular practice, they will be able to sit still longer and they will begin to experience many of the other wonderful benefits of meditation and mindfulness. Don’t push it, but gently encourage them to practice regularly.

Our children are the future, and we have infinite love for them. What a beautiful gift to give them and to the world by teaching them to meditate. Namaste.

Do you meditate with your children? Do you have any of your own tips to add? Feel free to share with us in the comments below!

For more by Dawn Gluskin be sure to get on the free email list for exclusive content direct to your inbox and join the inspiring Dawnsense Facebook community.

photo by: AlicePopkorn

The Baby-Led Weaning Experiment

banana diveMy littlest one was sitting in her exersaucer, madly trying to eat the plastic letter B and the plastic butterfly hanging next to the plastic letter B. She was yelling a lot. I started thinking maybe they didn’t taste nice? How about a banana? I’ve been reading the Baby Led Weaning book for a little while now, and feeling inspired by their (many might say crazy!) ideas.

“The mush stops here!” In a nutshell (not a spoon), the Baby Led Weaning idea is that babies will feed themselves when they are ready to, and we don’t have to push food into them. It’s finger foods from the beginning, whenever the baby decides the beginning will be (an ability to sit up and grab things required).

BLW proponents say feeding themselves helps babies learn hand-eye coordination. Babies will have an sense of what they are putting in their mouths instead of being surprised by the mush, so they’ll be happier doing it. They won’t feel left out of the family dinner. They won’t choke because their reflexes will push the food out if they aren’t ready for it. (She pushed out the little piece of banana that she accidentally bit off.) I think BLW is even supposed to make them smarter!

I’m gonna give it a shot. I didn’t do it with her brother (and he’s certainly smart enough). I mostly chewed his food for him in the very beginning (I know, gross, but helpful in a digestive enzyme sort of way!), and he loved being fed so it wasn’t a problem.

My little girl, by the way, isn’t quite ready. As you can see from the photo up there, I was holding the banana for her, and I think that is a major no-no. The little girl needs to be in charge, and I don’t think she is quite up to the task yet. But soon!

For now, I think the thumb is yummiest. Especially when it’s covered with banana goop.

The 80/20 Rule: How to Keep Your Family Healthy (And Have Fun Doing It!)

Matt and Jack share a snowconeWe went to a local carnival on a recent night, and the boys and I each had a snow-cone. Sam’s and mine were both bright blue and George’s was half red, half blue.

They were nothing but sugar and nasty dyes, but it was part of the fun of being there. We stood under the fireworks and happily ate them. We broke a lot of rules that night. We stayed up past 10 o’clock, we paid to play games we knew were unwinnable  and we ate carnival food. It was all part of the experience of being there and we had a blast.

This confuses some people. Most notably, my husband. Yesterday he brought home conventionally grown strawberries which I promptly returned to the store. “How can you let the boys have snow-cones and not let them eat conventional strawberries?” he asked. I understand the question, and see that it looks like hypocrisy, but this is how I make sense of our lives. This is my 80/20 rule.

scale (1)It’s All About Balance

I do not strive for nutrition perfection. That wouldn’t be any fun. I mean, what is life without french fries? Instead I strive for 80% good and 20% of whatever comes our way. Life is to be enjoyed. The negative impact of the stress of trying to eat perfectly all of the time far outweighs that of eating something that really makes us happy.

So, how do I balance this? How do I keep track? My way is to treat my home as a sacred food zone. We eat 100% clean food. No dyes, no chemicals, no pesticides (hence the no conventional strawberries rule), no refined sugars or refined flours and no GMOs. The 20% of the time that we are out in the world then all bets are off. We eat what comes our way. That said, of course we eat the best option of what we are offered. Like if we are given a choice between a not-so-good food and a just-plain-awful one, we will choose the former, and if there is a healthy option we will always go for that. But, even then sometimes, we take a time-out.

When we go to birthday parties, we eat cake. We go to the movies and eat movie-theater popcorn. Today, after a haircut, we went into town and had a double scoop of ice cream before dinner. I believe that the key to teaching children to eat healthily is for them to recognize those not-so-good-for-you foods and accept them as being something that is consumed occasionally.

The 80-20 rules works well for us. The kids know it’s all right for them to break the rule on occasion because they understand what the rule is – and why.

 

Originally published on my website, Tapp’s Tips.

How to Throw a Junk-Free Kid’s Birthday Party

I was terrified the first time I threw a kids’ party without the usual pizza and brightly dye-colored cakes and candy. I was worried I was going have a revolution on my hands, a mutiny, a gang of pizza-crazed 2-year-olds who were going to make me walk the plank. I was pleasantly surprised when only one parent asked,  “Where’s the pizza?” and astonished when there wasn’t a peep or a whimper from the kids. “Phew,” I thought back then. “It is possible.”

This year I had a little boy pull me aside. He had a concerned look on his face. He said, “I only eat one kind of chicken nugget, and I don’t eat salad.” I replied, “I’m sorry that I don’t have your special nuggets, but the chicken on the table is really tasty and you don’t have to eat salad.” About ½ an hour later I saw him happily munching on a sweet and sour lemon chicken stick and the noodles with pesto sauce. I personally handed him an apple lemonade ice pop and saw him wipe his cake plate clean. So, even the picky ones left satisfied.

On the menu this year was:

guac-and-chips-copy

For starters I made Guacamole and served it with Organic GMO free “Way Better” sweet potato chips.

Two quick tips on guacamole-making:

  1. Keep the avocado seeds in the guacamole. It will help keep it from turning brown.
  2. Add 1 teaspoon of avocado oil to your guacamole. This, too, will help it from turning brown.

Next up, hummus and vegetables. This year I bought some fresh made from a local market. Usually I make it fresh, but there is only so much time…

For a sweet snack, fruit kebabs. Honeydew, cantaloupe, pineapple and grapes. Yum.

And finally, the main course!

Grilled Chicken on a Stick 2 Ways. I marinated the chicken overnight and then I grilled them. Well, my husband grilled them…

  1. Sweet and Sour lemon. I used the marinade from my “Sweet and Sour Lemon Chicken.”
  2. Chicken Satay.

Here’s a picture of the Chicken Satay final product:

Sataysmall

Some ideas for healthy side dishes:

And now what the kids are all waiting for: dessert!

Sam-with-ice-pop-copy

First, homemade ice pops. Chocolate Mint, Apple Lemonade, Pina Colada, Sour Apple Sorrel, and Ruby Beet.

Sam is eating the Pina Colada Pop here. His favorite was the Ruby Beet. He looks like a vampire in the photos of him eating that one though!

These were a huge hit. I actually got a call from a 7-year-old boy who was at the party asking for the recipes! Ice Pop recipes will be available in an e-book I will be releasing in the next couple of weeks.

For a more traditional cake option, try one of these:

So there you have it! A kids’ birthday party without junk. It can be done.

 

Originally published on my website, Tapp’s Tips.

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3 Guilt-Free Steps to Satisfy Your Sugar Cravings

How to Balance pH for the Best Body You’ve Ever Had

Healthy School Lunches: Yes, We Can!

 

At 39 years of age Dr. Yvonne Sanders-Butler thought she had pink eye, but it was way worse than that. As her symptoms worsened she was rushed to the hospital on the verge of a massive stroke. She was morbidly obese, had high blood pressure, was pre-diabetic and could have died.
 
While lying there in her hospital bed, she made a deal with God. She said, “God, if you let me live, I promise to change my life and advocate for the children.” Dr. Sanders-Butler is an elementary school principal. God let her live and what she has done since is truly inspiring.
 
First, she started eating right and exercising herself. Then she started the first “Sugar Free Zone” elementary school in the United States. She eliminated all the high fat/high sugar foods from the cafeteria menus, refused to allow soft drinks in the school’s vending machines and instead allowed only water and healthy fruit juices to be sold. She also added a fitness program that incorporates nutrition and exercise into class lesson plans.
 
The result: a 28% drop in disciplinary referrals, a 23% drop in counseling referrals and higher test scores. The kids say they have more energy and feel much better. There are also less illness related absences. In short, the kids are thriving.
 
I was lucky enough to meet Dr. Butler and hear her speak at the recent Obesity Epidemic/Food Addiction conference I attended. Before she started her talk she had us all get up and led us in a line dance. Here we had been sitting all weekend listening to lectures and she had us (researchers, clinicians, PhD’s from Harvard, Yale, Princeton…) doing a line dance and shaking our bootys. It was a sight to behold.  
 
Dr. Sanders-Butler is leading the way for the country in changing what we feed our kids. Our children deserve healthy food and they deserve to be taught how to be healthy at the elementary school level. 
 
Tom French, a chef and philanthropist, is doing the same thing in the public schools in Seattle, and having similar results. He is bringing healthy menus into the school’s breakfast and lunch programs and the children are thriving.
 
We need this to be the norm and not the exception for our children. Here in the United States our obesity epidemic is a tremendous problem and it starts with the kids. If we are truly the greatest nation on the planet, we need to behave accordingly. Dr. Sanders-Butler, Tom French and others are showing us the way. 
 
If you would like more information on Dr. Sanders-Butler and how you can help change things visit her website www.healthykidssmartkids.com/.
 
For more information on what Tom French is doing in Seattle and to get involved visit www.experiencefoodproject.org/

 

If you would like to participate in the research for Irene’s new book about the process of weight loss, please visit www.eatingdisordertherapist.com/ and take the survey.

 

You can follow Irene on Twitter here.

Seven Powerful Ways to Get Your Kids to Eat Healthy

With childhood obesity, autism and other childhood disorders on the rise, everyone from doctors to teachers and parents are seeking solutions for better health. At the most basic level, everyone can agree that kids can benefit from eating healthier.

Truth is, with all the glitzy candy and processed foods competing for your kids’ attention how do you get them to eat healthy meals?

Over the years, we’ve found many solutions, but we also salute the creative parents who’ve shared their tips for making healthy food for kids.

Here are 7 powerful ways to get your kids to eat healthy:

1.    Make new twists on old favorites. Think about the foods your kids love and make something that tastes and looks similar, but uses different ingredients. Body Ecology parent, Vicki Hartzog’s teenage daughter, Tasha, made her favoritecoffee cake by substituting butter with ghee, processed flour with quinoa flour and sugar with Lakanto

With a little practice, you might find it easier than you think to make yummy, healthy food for kids. 

2.     Be creative. Use some of those “tricks” being used by advertisers to make things sound exciting to kids. One ingenious Body Ecology mom made pasta out of zucchini and called them “good luck noodles” because of their green color.

Let’s face it, kids tend to gravitate toward the fun wrappings and funny names on packaged foods, so if you are making pumpkin soup, you might call it “Halloween Pumpkin soup.” 

Another trick for making healthy food for kids is creating fun shapes. A turning slicer is a unique little gadget that lets you make curly “pasta-like” shapes out of carrots, zucchini, yellow squash and other vegetables in just minutes! Or make professional looking garnishes and pizza toppings out of just about any vegetable. Your kids may just find excitement in eating vegetables again. 

3.    Take your time. If your kids are used to eating candy and chips, it may take time to get their taste buds to acclimate to healthier foods…especially those with a sour taste…like our fermented foods and beverages.  Instead of rushing it, remember the Step By Step Principle…consider taking it slow and building over time. Trust that every small step you take toward healthy eating will have big rewards over a lifetime.  

Add some new foods into those “old favorites” a little at a time and see what happens. One clever Body Ecology parent, Diane Farr , added one teaspoon of Young Coconut Kefir to her son, Thomas’ regular “junky” juice and continued to increase the amount until he was drinking one to two cups of Young Coconut Kefir per day! And loving it, by the way. Soon juice wasn’t even needed. 

4.     Arm yourself with recipes. Gather up some healthy recipes and experiment until you find the ones your kids take a liking too. Make small amounts and have “taste tests” with your kids, giving an award to the recipe your kids like the best. (Maybe a gold star on the recipe card and a special place in that recipe file box. Definitely do keep a file with all of the award winners close on hand.

You can find delicious recipes for kids transitioning into the Body Ecology Way of Life in our Lakanto Cookbook, which is chock full of healthy and delicious appetizers, entrees and desserts. They were designed to make transitioning onto The Diet much easier…so please use them as inspiration for your own ideas.  

5.     Practice the art of camouflage. Sometimes kids won’t eat a food because of how it looks or sounds, but they are actually fine with the taste. Fermented foods and drinks are full of healthy benefits…but they may seem difficult to add to a child’s diet.  The good news is that many Body Ecology parents have had success with the art of camouflage.

Clever Body Ecololgy mom, Jennifer Boddie, got her kids to eat cultured vegetables by blending them into salad dressings. 

Other parents make fruit smoothies or vegetable smoothies  as a fun alternative to milk shakes. Smoothies are a great way to include probiotic-rich fermented foods and drinks first thing in the morning. 

Probiotics are getting a lot of attention these days because they help to boost immunity, build energy and aid digestion – all things today’s kids need to stay slim and healthy. Passion Fruit Biotic is our latest solution to providing a probiotic-rich drink that tastes delightfully sweet right from the bottle.

6.     Include your kids. Encourage your kids to become involved in choosing and making healthy meals. Conscious parent and Body Ecology mom, Meg Brown shares her tips for getting your kids involved in healthy eating. The fringe benefit is that it can help kids build their self esteem!  

7.    Keep it simple and have fun! Changing habits and making meals can feel daunting when they are complicated and full of too many steps. Focus on keeping it simple. Learn the 7 healthy eating principles of Body Ecology slowly, at your own pace. Focus on picking the easiest step, the easiest meal and maybe just one meal per day to begin. Above all, enjoy the journey. 

When it comes right down to it, kids love to have fun, so if we’re having fun, they can’t help but feel the benefits.

When you take a playful, kid-like approach to helping your kids eat healthy, it can be as good for you as it is for them!

 

 

How to Protect Your Family from Bisphenol A (BPA) Now

A few months ago the FDA released a preliminary report stating that bisphenol A (BPA) is safe, then they retracted that claim stating they needed to conduct more research.

Meanwhile, the National Toxicology Program (NTP), the federal agency charged with advising the government of the toxicity of chemicals, said BPA is not safe. They claim that fetuses, infants, and children are at risk of brain damage and behavioral problems at current exposure levels. BPA is also known to be a hormone disruptor, which means hormonally-derived cancers, such as breast cancer or prostate cancer, are more likely to develop later in life.

While the agencies designed to protect us from such health hazards continue to waste time requesting more research and arguing over arbitrary safety levels, parents have stepped up to the plate with a new defensive strategy: Shopping.

Despite the absence of federal safety regulations, consumers have been successful in replacing harmful products with healthier alternatives by simply refusing to purchase the toxic varieties. Here are some tips for reducing your family’s BPA exposure:

BPA leaches out of polycarbonate plastic, which can be identified by a number 7 in the triangle recycling code on the bottom of the product. Some products with a nomber 7 are not polycarbonate so you may want to call the manufacturer to confirm its composition.

Polyvinyl chloride, represented by a number 3 in the recycling code, may also leach BPA.

Avoid eating fatty foods (like tunafish) or acidic foods (like tomato sauce) out of cans and rinse any food you eat out of a can. All cans are lined with BPA.

A study by the Environment California Research and Policy Center revealed that all 5 name-brand baby bottles taken off American shelves leached BPA into the fluid within. A selection of BPA and phthalate-free baby bottles are available at www.newbornfree.com. Kids ‘R Us has just begun carrying the Newborn Free bottles (they are cheaper there), but they are having trouble keeping them in stock. Also, Evenflo makes a glass bottle with a silicon nipple.

Sadly, BPA is only one of many toxic chemicals that we are bombarded with. Safety regulations are too lax and too late. Please join the crusade for safer products by educating yourself about the toxic chemicals that lurk in virtually every American product. Whenever you can afford to, choose a safer alternative. These safer alternatives already exist; you just have to know where to look. Unfortunately, many harmful chemicals are not listed on labels so you have to know how to find them. Check out my blog, book, and links at www.holler4health.com to get started.
 

How to Protect Your Family from Bisphenol A (BPA) Now

A few months ago the FDA released a preliminary report stating that bisphenol A (BPA) is safe, then they retracted that claim stating they needed to conduct more research.

Meanwhile, the National Toxicology Program (NTP), the federal agency charged with advising the government of the toxicity of chemicals, said BPA is not safe. They claim that fetuses, infants, and children are at risk of brain damage and behavioral problems at current exposure levels. BPA is also known to be a hormone disruptor, which means hormonally-derived cancers, such as breast cancer or prostate cancer, are more likely to develop later in life.

While the agencies designed to protect us from such health hazards continue to waste time requesting more research and arguing over arbitrary safety levels, parents have stepped up to the plate with a new defensive strategy: Shopping.

Despite the absence of federal safety regulations, consumers have been successful in replacing harmful products with healthier alternatives by simply refusing to purchase the toxic varieties. Here are some tips for reducing your family’s BPA exposure:

BPA leaches out of polycarbonate plastic, which can be identified by a number 7 in the triangle recycling code on the bottom of the product. Some products with a nomber 7 are not polycarbonate so you may want to call the manufacturer to confirm its composition.

Polyvinyl chloride, represented by a number 3 in the recycling code, may also leach BPA.

Avoid eating fatty foods (like tunafish) or acidic foods (like tomato sauce) out of cans and rinse any food you eat out of a can. All cans are lined with BPA.

A study by the Environment California Research and Policy Center revealed that all 5 name-brand baby bottles taken off American shelves leached BPA into the fluid within. A selection of BPA and phthalate-free baby bottles are available at www.newbornfree.com. Kids ‘R Us has just begun carrying the Newborn Free bottles (they are cheaper there), but they are having trouble keeping them in stock. Also, Evenflo makes a glass bottle with a silicon nipple.

Sadly, BPA is only one of many toxic chemicals that we are bombarded with. Safety regulations are too lax and too late. Please join the crusade for safer products by educating yourself about the toxic chemicals that lurk in virtually every American product. Whenever you can afford to, choose a safer alternative. These safer alternatives already exist; you just have to know where to look. Unfortunately, many harmful chemicals are not listed on labels so you have to know how to find them. Check out my blog, book, and links at www.holler4health.com to get started.
 

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