Encourage healthy habits for your future astronauts

Blount mom Betsy Cunningham works out with her daughter, Bethany Fox, at National Fitness Center. Helping your children live a healthy lifestyle doesn’t have to be time prohibitive.

Photo by Jolanda Jansma

Blount mom Betsy Cunningham works out with her daughter, Bethany Fox, at National Fitness Center. Helping your children live a healthy lifestyle doesn’t have to be time prohibitive.

Your 2 year old said what?

“Your 2 year old asks you for avocados and black olives?” I asked my friend.

“Yeah, he eats a lot of rice and tofu, too, and absolutely loves his broccoli.”

This statement astonished me in blatant contrast to most of the diets forced upon our country’s freshest generation. I see families all the time adopting a regular routine of McDonald’s Chicken Nuggets and French fries for their precious cargo because it’s “more convenient,” and “I just don’t have the time.” Sound familiar?

Most moms I talk to have the preconceived notion that in order to implement a more healthy eating pyramid for their family, they would have to give up their careers and start plotting gardens and raising their own chickens in the back yard. Although that is not a bad way to go, and I’ve certainly considered it myself, there is a plethora of time-sensitive options you can fit into your busy lives. As an added bonus, many will actually save you money and make you proud of the healthy habits you are instilling in your little astronauts and princesses.

A Habit A Day...

Habits, whether good or bad, are what we are armoring our children with to carry with them throughout the rest of their lives. If we give them a fresh perspective on food from the very beginning, they will be equipped with a very valuable shield to help them fight and ward off many diseases, even diabetes, high blood pressure and cancer. A child, already overweight between the ages of 5 and 10, has at least one risk factor for heart disease, like raised blood pressure or insulin levels. The Center for Disease control and prevention shows that this is likely for at least 60 percent of children in this category.

“I wish I knew then what I know now,” my mother said many a times in reference to the struggles with ongoing weight loss and management my brother deals with every day. Having been overweight since the age of 9, he is privy to the kind of emotional battles that accompany the physical challenges of carrying an extra 100 or so pounds. Now at the age of 23, and about half-way to his goal, our mother has always held some of the guilt of responsibility. It’s always much easier to aim for prevention with preparation and knowledge than it is to try to right the wrongs of years of unhealthy habits.

The More You Know, the More You Grow

The wealth of knowledge and accessibility to a healthy way of life is much more readily available today than it was 20 years ago. My mom, now a holistic health consultant, shares with us an abundance of ways to implement healthy living and wiser food choices, that are convenient and affordable. There are many simple ways that you can start to make changes for the better in your little ones’ lives, teaching them tidbits of information they will carry with them for years to come.

Here are some ideas:

Take them shopping with you and make it a color game. The more colorful your edible creations, the more variety of vitamins you are nourishing their little bodies with. Think veggie stir-fry, fruit salad or a stack sandwich.

Lean towards a vegetarian-based diet. The more you can structure your diet around these groups, the more you can dramatically lower incidences of heat disease, cancer and stroke and control and maintain healthy weight numbers: whole grains, vegetables, legumes and fruit.

Shy away from fried foods, heavy meat consumption and dairy products. A serving of broccoli has more calcium in it than a glass of milk.

Go to www.kidsgethealthy.org and check out great recipes and sample diets for kids of all age groups.

Here are some recipes to help you along:

Crunchy Vegetable Burrito Banditos

1/2 cup shredded carrots

1/2 cup chopped broccoli

1/2 cup chopped cauliflower

2 green onions thinly sliced

4 oz shredded low-fat Cheddar cheese

1/4 cup nonfat ranch dressing

1/2 teaspoon chili powder

4 7 inch whole grain tortilla shells

1 cup baby spinach leaves (whole or chopped to preference)

In a large mixing bowl, combine carrots, broccoli, cauliflower and onions with cheese, dressing and chili powder.

Lay tortillas flat on a plate and spoon about 1/2 cup vegetable mixture and 1/4 cup lettuce down the center. wrap.

Makes four servings

Nutrition per serving: 204 calories; 10g protein; 7g fat (3 sat) and 22g carbs

Apple Tuna Sandwich

1 6.5 oz can tuna, drained

1 small apple chopped small

1/4 cup low-fat vanilla yogurt

1 tsp mustard

1 tsp honey

6 slices whole wheat bread

Romaine lettuce or spinach leaves to top

Mix tuna, apple, yogurt, mustard and honey. Spread 1/2 cup of mixture on bread.

Top with lettuce and enjoy.

Makes 3 sandwiches

Nutrition per serving: 255 calories; 21 g protein and 4 g fat (1.3 sat)

Candice McQueen works out at National Fitness Center and maintains a vegetarian lifestyle to stay in shape and combat risks of preventable disease. She and her mother have a passion for teaching young mothers the benefits of instilling healthy habits for their families that help their children get healthy and live happy.

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