Healthy Food Options at Holiday Parties

Stay on Santa’s nice list by choosing these healthy options at holiday celebrations:

  • shrimp platterSalsa - This super low-calorie snack is packed with lycopene, vitamin A and fiber. Go easy on the chips and use this dip to add a kick to a variety of other foods.
  • Shrimp Cocktail - Keep your hunger in check by focusing on high protein foods at parties. Each jumbo shrimp provides 2.5 grams of protein with only 14 calories. Dip shrimp in salsa instead of cocktail sauce to save yourself from empty sugar calories.
  • Guacamole - Avocados play the main role in this yummy dip by contributing heart healthy fats.  Use this nutritious and calorie-dense food sparingly to add monounsaturated fat and fiber to your holiday diet. A quarter of a cup provides 100 calories, 3 grams of fiber and 9 grams of fat (but only 1 gram is saturated fat).
  • Kabobs - Another easy way to slip in some vegetables and lean protein at holiday parties is through tasty kabobs. Choose kabobs that have grilled low-fat meats like chicken, shrimp and lean beef with lots of vegetables skewered on.
  • sushiSushi - Pull out your chopsticks to snatch some omega-3s. Salmon and tuna sushi options are low in calories (one piece is less than 50 calories, not including rice), high in protein and offer a good dose of vitamin D. Steer clear of the tempura (fried) versions and those loaded with mayonnaise and cream cheese.
  • Red Wine - Skip the sugar-loaded cocktails and sip on a glass of red wine. Red wine appears to have more heart healthy benefits than other alcoholic beverages. Resveratrol, a phytochemical found in the skin of red grapes, has a number of beneficial effects, such as reducing inflammation, preventing blood clots and lowering cholesterol. Track your liquid calories by counting each ounce of red wine at 25 calories (typical 5 oz. glass equals 125 calories).
  • Vegetables & Dip - It’s always easier to eat your vegetables if someone else has washed and chopped them for you, so take advantage of the vegetable platter when offered at parties. Choose salsa, guacamole and yogurt-based dips or cut down on the calories in
    creamy dressings by avoiding the tempting double dip.
  • olive-tray-for-webOlives - A super low-calorie party snack that is packed full of heart healthy fats and antioxidants. Each olive provides only 4 calories. The nutrients in olives help fight against cancer, inflammation, coronary artery disease and degenerative nerve diseases.
  • Fruit - Satisfy your holiday sweet tooth by loading up on fruit. Fruits are low in fat but high in nutrients and deliciousness. Fruits, though good for us, are still high in sugar so balance out fruit with a lean piece of protein or handful of nuts.
  • 1142701_South_4151Mixed Nuts - This crunchy snack is another excellent source for protein, fiber and heart healthy monounsaturated fat. Skip the honey-roasted and sugar-coated varieties and stick to the simpler versions that are low in sugar and salt. Don’t mindlessly munch on this healthy, calorie-dense snack since a quarter of a cup may deliver over 200 calories.
  • Soft cheeses - Goat, Brie, Feta, Camembert and Gorgonzola cheeses are slightly lower in fat and calories compared to hard cheeses, like Cheddar or Gruyère, but hard cheeses do offer a bigger dose of bone-building calcium. So plan your cheese choices accordingly while keeping your serving to smaller than the size of four dice.
  • Gingerbread Cookies - All cookies are pretty much considered unhealthy options but gingerbread cookies are typically made with less butter. To save a few extra calories and artery-clogging fat, always choose the smallest cookie at the party or the gingerbread variety.

Jordyn Forsyth is a Registered Dietitian and Certified Diabetes Educator. She specializes in weight management, chronic disease prevention and health promotion. Jordyn strives to educate, empower and encourage others to make sustainable lifestyle changes. She has a Bachelor’s Degree in Nutrition Sciences from Baylor University and a Master’s Degree in Nutrition from Texas Woman’s University.

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25 Tips to Prevent Holiday Weight Gain

The holiday season is a challenging time for everyone’s waistline. Most people gain one to two pounds during the holidays and those who are already overweight may gain five oholiday weight gainr more pounds. We all know those pesky pounds don’t disappear along with the holiday decorations, but it is possible to enjoy the holidays without throwing your healthy habits out the window. You can indulge in your favorite holiday foods and still make it to the New Year wearing the same size (or smaller!). Follow these simple tips to keep your calories and weight in check during the holiday season.

  1. Prioritize your favorite holiday foods to eat in moderation – don’t waste your calories on foods you can eat at any time during the year.
  2. Focus on foods loaded with protein and healthy fat first before turning toward carbohydrates.
  3. Be the last in line at party buffets – food will look less enticing after it’s been picked over.
  4. holiday-weight-gainWear tighter clothes to holiday parties to discourage you from overeating.
  5. Always eat from the salad plate to make it easy to select smaller portions, but don’t test your architecture skills by building a food tower.
  6. Savor your food by chewing slowly.
  7. Concentrate on socializing instead of snacking – there’s more to the holidays than just food!
  8. Learn to say “no” to seconds and unwanted food; don’t accept food to only please the host.
  9. Chew gum to keep your mouth busy and to decrease your cravings for sweet and salty treats.
  10. Don’t deprive yourself – forbidding yourself from certain foods will only make them more attractive.
  11. Eat healthy foods first.
  12. Don’t leave tempting treats on your kitchen counter – out of sight, out of mind!
  13. Sign-up for a fun holiday 5 or 10K race. (Sign up for the Total Jingle Bell Run here.)
  14. Pace yourself by not eating the first half hour of a party.
  15. Eat beforehand – munch on some string cheese, peanut butter crackers or fruit to keep yourself from going to a party in a state of starvation.
  16. Limit alcohol to keep your liquid calories and your food intake in control.
  17. Bring your own low-calorie treats to parties.
  18. Drink water before, during and after  parties and meals  to help you feel fuller
  19. Sleep eight hours per night – sleep deprivation enhances your appetite and sweet tooth cravings while zapping your energy for exercise.
  20. ?????????????Avoid eating while standing – it’s more difficult to keep track of how much you’ve eaten when you’re on your feet and moving around.
  21. Only eat foods you really like – why waste calories on foods you could care less about?
  22. Get moving – walk away from the food and jog into some exercise. Don’t let your busy holiday schedule deter you from regular physical activity.
  23. Weigh yourself at least twice per week.
  24. Keep your food tastings to a minimum when cooking – avoid licking the cake batter spoon!
  25. Brew some peppermint tea.

Jordyn Forsyth is a Registered Dietitian and Certified Diabetes Educator. She specializes in weight management, chronic disease prevention and health promotion. Jordyn strives to educate, empower and encourage others to make sustainable lifestyle changes. She has a Bachelor’s Degree in Nutrition Sciences from Baylor University and a Master’s Degree in Nutrition from Texas Woman’s University.

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Diabetes Awareness Month: Derrell D. Down Pounds and Diabetes Free

When Derrell D. walked through the doors of the D. Bradley McWilliams YMCA at Cypress Creek, he was 340 pounds, diabetic and suffering from high blood pressure.

A fall left him with torn quadriceps tendons, and he relied on a wheelchair and a walker before re-learning to walk after tendon surgery.

derrell-dunn-maria-mcnabb-web.jpgThe accident was a wake up call. After struggling with his weight his entire life, Derrell knew it was time to listen to his doctor and finally take his health seriously. He had his daughters to think about. They were the inspiration he needed to change his life.

Derrell began working out and losing some weight, but he soon hit a weight loss plateau. To overcome it, he enlisted the help of YMCA trainer Maria McNabb who helped him kick-start a new routine. She also gave him advice on healthy eating habits and alternative exercises to keep his workouts interesting. The weight melted off.

Derrell now weighs 220 pounds and he’s no longer diabetic. He works out almost daily and has become an inspiration to his doctors and his family. “The YMCA saved my life,” he said. Derrell’s weight loss has also inspired his daughter, Danielle, to lose weight. “I am so proud of my father and thank God every day for what the Y has done and continues to do for my father and for us,” said Danielle.

For more information on the YMCA’s Diabetes Prevention Program, click here.

For more information on Personal Training, click here.

To read more stories like Derrell’s, click here.

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Foods that Make You Bloat and How to Prevent It

Are you tired of not being able to fit into your favorite skinny jeans or hate having rings stuck on your fingers due to bloating? Bloating makes you feel like you’ve gained weight, but luckily this is only due to the temporary buildup of fluid or air in our bodies. Bloating tends to be less stubborn than body fat so it usually only lasts a couple of hours to a few days. Limit these bloat-causing foods to keep fluid retention to a minimum.

Salt1. Salt – Sodium is the main culprit to bloating and swelling. Both our taste buds and water are attracted to salt. Eating foods high in sodium will cause you to temporarily retain more fluid contributing to extra water weight. Chips, fries, pizza and processed foods are key enemies to flat tummies and ring wearers. Read the Nutrition Facts Label to find low-salt foods with less than 140 mg of sodium per serving.

Bloat-free alternatives: Add flavor with salt-free seasonings, like Mrs. Dash, or try a potassium-based salt substitute.

2. Legumes - Beans, peas and lentils contain indigestible sugars known as oligosaccharides that can cause gassiness and bloating. These sugars pass through the small intestine undigested and then break down in the large intestine by bacteria which produces gas in the process. Soaking beans overnight will help reduce the oligosaccharide content and lessen the chances of flatulence.

Bloat-free alternatives: Steamed green beans or take a digestive enzyme like Bean-O

soda3. Carbonated Drinks - It is best to avoid fizzy drinks during swimsuit season. Carbonation can cause gas buildup in your stomach which can often lead to discomfort, bloating, and likely belching since those bubbles have to go somewhere. These side effects are more of an annoyance rather than a real health concern.

Bloat-free alternatives: Water and herbal tea (like peppermint)

4. High Carbohydrate Foods - Prevent bloating by reducing foods high in carbohydrates like sweets, potatoes, breads, rice and pasta. Muscles store energy in the form of glycogen that holds onto water. If you’re not a vigorous exercise enthusiast then this glycogen will remain untapped energy taking up unnecessary space. Cut back on carbohydrates to train your body to burn off this surplus of energy and release the extra water weight.

Bloat-free alternatives: High protein foods and whole grains (in portion sized amounts)

5. Raw fruits and veggies

Some vegetables should be limited more than others when it comes to bloating. Raw cauliflower, broccoli, cabbage, onions, peppers, asparagus and Brussels sprouts tend to produce more gas and distension. These vegetables are easier to digest when cooked. Fruits that are more prone to bloating due to their gas-producing effects include citrus fruits, apricots and prunes. Choose these fruits in moderation.

Bloat-free alternatives: Steamed and cooked vegetables, bananas, cucumbers and papaya

gum6. Gum - Chewing gum causes you swallow more air and the sugar-free varieties often contain sugar alcohols that can worsen bloating. Swallowed air can make you feel like a blown-up balloon when it’s trapped in your GI tract. Kick the gum habit by using mouth wash regularly, drinking more water and by chewing on anti-bloat foods like ginger and parsley.

Bloat-free alternatives: Unsalted nuts, sunflower seeds or popcorn

7. Sugar Alcohols - Xylitol, sorbitol, mannitol, lactitol, isomalt and maltitol are poorly digested sugars often found in sugar-free candies and desserts. Sugar alcohols help reduce the sugar and calorie content of foods with the possible unfortunate side effects of bloating and diarrhea. Steer clear of sugar alcohols by reading the ingredients list and the “Nutrition Facts” panel on products.

Bloat-free alternatives: Sugar substitutes, honey or agave

Tips to Reduce Bloating

  • Eat slowly – meals should last at least 20 minutes.
  • Choose low-fat foods to keep yourself from feeling miserably stuffed.
  • Choose smaller portions of food to avoid overeating (which is one of the most common causes of bloating).
  • Avoid drinking with a straw since this act can increase the amount of air you gulp down.
  • Reduce anxiety to prevent swallowing more air when nervous.
  • Refrain from chewing gum and sucking on hard candies.
  • Don’t smoke – inhaling smoke also causes you to inhale more air.
  • Consume yogurts high in probiotics to help ease digestion with “good” bacteria (also known as “active cultures”).
  • Add fiber into your diet slowly.

Jordyn Forsyth is a Registered Dietitian and Certified Diabetes Educator. She specializes in weight management, chronic disease prevention and health promotion. Jordyn strives to educate, empower and encourage others to make sustainable lifestyle changes. She has a Bachelor’s Degree in Nutrition Sciences from Baylor University and a Master’s Degree in Nutrition from Texas Woman’s University.

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Score! Eating Healthy at Sporting Events

baseball_game_foodWhether you’re heading to a professional football game or your kid’s T-ball tournament, healthy options can be hard to find. Sometimes you have to give up the search and settle for the least of the worst when it comes to available food options. Keep in mind these tips to make the best out of a bad situation.

All-Star Beverage: WATER

It can be tempting to order soda or an ice cold beer, but making the wrong beverage decision could cost you several calories that you may want to use elsewhere. Water might be the only healthy item at some sports games – so be sure to take advantage of this opportunity to hit your thirst out of the ballpark with a calorie-free option.

Strike Out All FRIED Foods

There is an endless amount of fried options at sports games – fried chicken tenders, French fries, funnel cakes, onion rings, chips and so on. Fried and fatty foods take a long time to digest and often leave you feeling drowsy and stomach-heavy after consumption. Keep your energy level and your sports enthusiasm high by cutting down on all things fried. If grilled or baked options are available, then choose those over the items covered in grease. A napkin test provides a good gauge on whether there’s a ton of oil in a food.

Defend Against Foods Covered in CHEESE

Add cheese to anything and instantly it becomes so enticing! Pizza, nachos, chili cheese dogs, or loaded cheese fries are the rage at sporting events, but these options are poor food choices for young athletes and hard-core fans. Cheese means heaps of fat, tons of salt and possibly even more guilt. Ask for cheese on the side or when able to defeat temptation, then skip it all together.

baseball foodHere are some tips to eat healthier at sporting events:

  • Eat before you go – you won’t be tempted by the concession stands if your stomach is already full.
  • Tailgate before the game – though tailgating often means less than healthy food, at least you have more control over what you eat and how you cook it.
  • Bring healthy snacks – some stadiums don’t allow outside food but if one does, bring in a granola bar or a piece of fruit to keep your hunger tied down during the game.
  • Don’t be a boring spectator … get excited! If you splurge on those chili cheese fries then take advantage of the opportunity to burn off those extra calories by celebrating every pass. Jump up from your seat at every shot, walk around at half-time and between innings. It’s OK to splurge every once in a while, but it is never ok to be a couch potato at a sporting event.
  • Eat a hot dog or hamburger without the bun to shave off a few calories.
  • Ditch the butter-drenched popcorn for a healthier bag of peanuts.
  • Jumbo dill pickles are the low-calorie, slam-dunk snack providing only a measly 20 calories per pickle, but they foul in terms of sodium that could range well above 1,000 milligrams.
  • Follow the two drink maximum regulation – beer and sports tend to go hand-in-hand, so keep your alcohol intake in check by limiting yourself to only two alcoholic drinks per game. Your head and your waistline will thank you the next morning.
  • Be the voice of change at your local concession stands. Talk with your local league about providing healthier options for both parents and kids. You are likely not the only parent searching for healthy options at the game, so don’t be afraid to pitch for healthy changes.

Jordyn Forsyth is a Registered Dietitian and Certified Diabetes Educator. She specializes in weight management, chronic disease prevention and health promotion. Jordyn strives to educate, empower and encourage others to make sustainable lifestyle changes. She has a Bachelor’s Degree in Nutrition Sciences from Baylor University and a Master’s Degree in Nutrition from Texas Woman’s University.

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Read It Before You Eat It

Food labels can be tricky to decipher if you’re not sure what you’re looking for. Learn more about the food that goes into your mouth by reading the Nutrition Facts Label on the back of products. The knowledge gained by making yourself aware of the nutritional content can alter the way you view your food choices. Build your label reading skills by following these simple steps: nutritionlabel

1. The first item to read on the food label is the Serving Size and the number of Servings per Container. Most people head straight to the calories, fat or sugar and bypass the most critical part of the Nutrition Facts Label. The serving size amount impacts the number of calories and all the other nutrients listed on the label.

2. Review the Calorie content to understand how much energy you get from a serving. Calories are key to managing a healthy weight. Most people are consuming too many calories and not enough nutrients. Keep in mind that the number of servings you eat affects your total calorie intake.

3. Choose low-fat foods for a healthy heart. Look for foods with less than 3 grams of Total Fat per serving. Limit those “bad fats” by keeping Saturated Fat to 1 gram or less per serving and avoiding all Trans Fat.

4.  Reduce your Sodium intake by choosing products with less than 140 mg per serving. Most Americans needs to keep their daily sodium levels between 1,500-2,300 mg per day. 6. Carbohydrates are your body’s main source of energy. Keep in mind that all carbohydrates break down into sugar by digestion so don’t be fooled by “sugar free” claims. Sugar-free foods are NOT necessarily carbohydrate free.

5. Fiber is your friend! Look for whole grain products with 3g of dietary fiber or more per serving. Fruits, vegetables and whole grains are excellent sources of fiber.

6. For the Percent Daily Value (%DV), think of it simply as 20% is high and 5% is low. Aim to find foods high in vitamins and minerals by looking for ones with a % Daily Value more than 20%. Keep total fat, cholesterol and sodium on the lower end to reduce your risk for chronic diseases.

Jordyn Forsyth is a Registered Dietitian and Certified Diabetes Educator. She specializes in weight management, chronic disease prevention and health promotion. Jordyn strives to educate, empower and encourage others to make sustainable lifestyle changes. She has a Bachelor’s Degree in Nutrition Sciences from Baylor University and a Master’s Degree in Nutrition from Texas Woman’s University.

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Top 10 Cancer-Fighting Foods

Help your body win the war against cancer by providing it with the ammunition needed to prevent and protect against the different carcinogens. What is the easiest and cheapest way to prevent cancer? Answer: Healthy eating focused on plant-based foods. Fuel your body with the tools it needs to protect against cancer by eating these top 10 cancer-fighting foods.

berries1. Berries
These little fruits are full of cancer-fighting potential. Blueberries, blackberries, and strawberries are all antioxidant powerhouses, largely due to their multitude of phytochemicals. These powerful agents prevent cell damage that could lead to cancer of the skin, bladder, lung, breast and throat.

2. Tomatoes
Afraid that cooking will burn out all the beneficial nutrients? Don’t worry – heating up tomatoes will actually increase the amount of lycopene you’re able to absorb. Lycopene rich tomatoes will arm men with the potential to fight off prostate cancer.

3. Cruciferous vegetables
Why are all the healthy foods also the ones that you have to force your kids to eat? Broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, and Brussel sprouts are packed full of folate, potassium, fiber, and magnesium, but the main weapon against cancer is the phytochemical called glucosinolate. Glucosinolate helps defeat the cancer-causing carcinogens by inhibiting tumor formation, lessening inflammation and protecting cells from DNA damage.

green-tea4. Green Tea
Sipping green tea shows promising preventive effects against different forms cancer. Green tea battles with the help of almighty flavonoids. The main aggressor against cancer in tea is catechin. This polyphenol acts as a scavenger for cancerous cells and shows no mercy in destroying them. The cancer fighting effects of green tea can be enjoyed all year-round. Skip the hot chocolate and sit by the fire with a glass of hot tea, or in the sunny months enjoy the refreshing taste of iced green tea.

5. Whole Grains
What do whole grains have that the processed, white counterparts do not? Fiber! In addition to lowering cholesterol, fiber can also protect against several types of cancer. Whole grains attack cancer from all sides with a variety of compounds. Polyphenols, resistant starch, lignans and protease inhibitors all contribute to a good defense against cancer.

6. Grapes
These juicy balls gear up to fight cancer with the power of resveratol, a strong polyphenol that resides heavily in the skin of purple grapes. Resveratol protects against cell damage and may help shoot down those pesky colon cancer tumors. While grape juice is also high in resveratol, raisins and grape jam are very weak. Red wine is not necessarily recommended as a source of this fabulous phytochemical due to the increased risk of cancer associated with alcohol consumption.

7. Legumes
Beans do more than contribute to the natural bodily function of passing gas. They also help keep cancerous cells at bay by providing a variety of phytochemicals, including triterpenoids, flavonoids, inositol, and sterols. The resistant starch in beans provides food for the healthy bacteria in your gut to produce short chain fatty acids that act as a safeguard for colon cells. Dry beans, split peas, and lentils are an excellent source of fiber, protein, and anti-cancer compounds.

??????????????????????????????8. Garlic
There’s a common theme when looking for anti-cancer foods – color! The main exception is garlic. Despite its lack of color, garlic still tops the list as one of the best cancer preventing foods. Several studies have shown that people who eat more garlic are less likely to develop certain types of cancer. Add garlic to those boring cruciferous vegetables for a double boost of cancer prevention.

9. Dark Leafy Vegetables
It may not be easy being green but it’s very beneficial to eat foods that are green – and this is not referring to mint chocolate chip ice cream. Spinach, kale and collard greens provide an ample amount of folate to protect you from pancreatic cancer. Folate plays an important role in repairing damaged cells and promoting healthy cell division. These vegetables are extremely nutrient dense so start filling your plate with lots of leafy greens.

10. Walnuts
Walnuts are the top nut for protecting against cancer. They contain several potentially protective nutrients like melatonin, polyphenols, alpha-linolenic acid, and vitamin E. Thanks to the phytosterol content in walnuts, these tiny cancer-fighting bullets may help slow the growth of breast cancer. Enjoy a small handful of walnuts each day to stay in good cancer-free health.

Jordyn Forsyth is a Registered Dietitian and Certified Diabetes Educator. She specializes in weight management, chronic disease prevention and health promotion. Jordyn strives to educate, empower and encourage others to make sustainable lifestyle changes. She has a Bachelor’s Degree in Nutrition Sciences from Baylor University and a Master’s Degree in Nutrition from Texas Woman’s University.

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Dinner On-the-Go: Drive-Thru a No-No

family-dinnerNew parents promise themselves that family meals will never be spent in the car going through a drive-thru at a fast food restaurant. Yet, as busy families dash from work to school to soccer practice then to the dry cleaners, this promise is easily broken. Active families still need nutritious and delicious options even when there isn’t time to all sit around the dinner table enjoying a home-cooked meal. These simple tips can help save your family from relying on unhealthy fast food for nourishment:

1. Plan Ahead. While planning ahead is easier said than done, it is the best way to overcome poor meal decisions. Either pack meals the night before in insulated lunch containers or have easy dinner options on hand, like slow cooker meals or frozen home-cooked dishes that can simply be put in the oven.

2. Buy a cooler. This will save you money instantly as your fast food spending dwindles. Not too many items are safe to sit in a hot car for long periods of time. Pack a cooler with bottled water, yogurt, sandwiches, pasta salad, berries, string cheese and other healthy foods that are best kept chilled.

healthy-after-school-snacks13. Keep Healthy Snacks on Hand. When you’re unable to be home by dinnertime, consider offering your kids tasty and healthy snacks to tie them over until dinner. Here are 10 kid friendly snack options to keep in your car when on-the-go:

  • Trail Mix (choose varieties that have mostly nuts and dried fruit, and skip the ones with chocolate and candy)
  • Turkey or beef jerky (low sodium)
  • Blue corn tortilla chips
  • Pre-washed produce like apples, grapes, clementines, baby carrots, cherry tomatoes
  • Rice cakes
  • Nut butters in single serving packets
  • Bottled water
  • Whole grain cereal
  • 100-calorie snack packs
  • Kale chips

fast-food-ban-300x2504. Make Informed Choices. It’s no secret that fast food options are loaded with empty calories, fat, sugar and sodium and very low in essential vitamins and minerals. Start by choosing places with healthier options – most fast food places offer these but the biggest hurdle is actually ordering them. Instead of the drive-thru, try grab-and-go options offered at most grocery stores. If fast food is inevitable then stick to these “rules of thumb” when ordering:

  • Make sure the meal includes whole grains, fruit and vegetables – ketchup doesn’t count!
  • Always choose grilled instead of fried.
  • Skip the mayo and ranch dressing and choose lighter options like mustard, pico de gallo and vinaigrette or light salad dressings.
  • Replace the cheeseburger with a chicken sandwich or pita.

Jordyn Forsyth is a Registered Dietitian and Certified Diabetes Educator. She specializes in weight management, chronic disease prevention and health promotion. Jordyn strives to educate, empower and encourage others to make sustainable lifestyle changes. She has a Bachelor’s Degree in Nutrition Sciences from Baylor University and a Master’s Degree in Nutrition from Texas Woman’s University.

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Healthy Breakfasts for an A+ Student

healthy-breakfast-oatmealBreakfast really is the MOST IMPORTANT meal of the day. This statement is true for both adults and kids- so set a good example by always eating breakfast yourself. Parents need to eat breakfast daily in order to power through that long to-do list of errands and loads of laundry. Kids need breakfast even more to fuel their growing bodies and developing brains, especially after going without food for 8 to 12 hours during the night. Skipping breakfast can leave your kid feeling tired, agitated or irritable by mid-morning. Kids who eat breakfast are more likely to maintain a healthy weight, have lower blood cholesterol levels and fewer absences from school.

Breakfast = Brain Power

healthy breakfast rollIt’s important for kids to consume breakfast every day, but what they eat is equally important. Help your kid earn straight A’s by serving a nutritious breakfast to increase their attention span, concentration and memory. A breakfast for scholars includes an excellent fiber source and lean protein. Research shows that fueling your kids with complex carbohydrates that are high in fiber (like oatmeal and fruit) instead of simple, low fiber carbohydrates (like doughnuts) will help them stay more focused on their schoolwork throughout the morning.

What NOT To Eat for Breakfast

Abandon the toaster pastries, sugar-coated cereals and breakfast bars that have no more nutritional value than a candy bar. These options are high in empty calories and sugar with little to no nutrition. Fruit juices often try to disguise themselves as a healthy breakfast beverage by featuring “100% juice” or “no sugar added” but in reality, they are little more than a fortified soft drink. Soda isn’t considered healthy if you add in vitamin C, so neither is juice. Whole fruit provides more nutrition and fewer calories with the added benefit of fiber, so always stick with whole fruit instead of juice. A sugar-loaded breakfast will only lead to a sugar crash by mid-morning, leaving your kids feeling lethargic, hungry, and distracted. Read the nutrition facts label before placing any processed breakfast items in your shopping cart. These items might be tempting for your kids and your busy schedule, but the time spent finding healthier options will be worth it in the end, especially at report card time.

Try these quick and fast breakfast solutions so your kids eat a good breakfast before they rush out the door:

  • Hummus on whole wheat pita with 1% or fat-free milk
  • Lean turkey on a toasted English muffin
  • Reduced-fat cream cheese and fresh fruit on a whole grain bagel
  • Make mini breakfast pizzas on whole-wheat English muffins with marinara sauce, scrambled eggs, topped lightly with cheese
  • Yogurt-oatmeal parfait with fresh or frozen fruit
  • Use whole wheat flour and flaxseeds to add fiber to blueberry muffins; use canola oil or replace half the butter with applesauce to lessen the amount of saturated fat in muffins
  • Rice cakes stacked with bananas, blueberries and low-fat strawberry cream cheese
  • Apple slice sandwiches with peanut butter, dry oatmeal and raisins in the middle
  • Fresh fruit salad with yogurt dip
  • Ready-to-go smoothie made with low-fat milk, yogurt,or fortified soy milk and added fruits with a dash of bran. Tip: If your kids don’t mind the color green, you can often slip in some spinach without changing the taste.
  • Consider these toppings to make old-fashioned oatmeal more appealing: cinnamon or cocoa powder, dried fruit, toasted nuts, fresh or frozen fruit, jam, applesauce or flaxseeds
  • Breakfast burrito made with a whole-wheat tortilla, scrambled eggs and salsa

Jordyn Forsyth is a Registered Dietitian and Certified Diabetes Educator. She specializes in weight management, chronic disease prevention and health promotion. Jordyn strives to educate, empower and encourage others to make sustainable lifestyle changes. She has a Bachelor’s Degree in Nutrition Sciences from Baylor University and a Master’s Degree in Nutrition from Texas Woman’s University.

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Healthy Lunch Ideas for Back-to-School

Back To School Healthy LunchesBack to school means back to packing lunches. While it might be exciting for kids to pick out their brand new lunch box before school starts, parents often dread the thought of figuring out what exactly to put in that lunch box for the next 9 months. Keep in mind that parents should not pack school lunches alone. Increase the odds of your kids actually eating the lunch you pack by getting them involved. Brainstorm ideas together and enlist their help the night before in packing lunch. Keep in mind that a healthy lunch box includes each of the following: a whole grain, fruit, vegetable, lean protein and a low-fat dairy option.

school lunch_smaller5 tips for a Yummy and Kid-Approved Lunch Box Meal:

  • Mix up the boring sandwich by trying whole wheat wraps, mini bagels, pita pockets, sandwich rounds or corn tortillas. It is very important to choose whole grain products that have more fiber to ensure that lunch will be digested slowly to reduce afternoon hunger cravings and keep blood sugar stable throughout the rest of the school day.
  • Keep sliced bananas, apples and pears from turning brown by mixing them with yogurt or dip them in one of the following juices: lemon, lime, orange, pineapple, grapefruit or apple juice.
  • Make veggies more appealing by adding a variety of color and including a low-fat dip. Think orange and purple cauliflower with a light raspberry dressing.
  • Replace salty chips with mandarin oranges, shelled edamame, bell-pepper strips, air-popped popcorn, cherry tomatoes or sugar snap peas.
  • If your kid isn’t a milk fan, try low-fat pudding, yogurt, or string cheese.

school lunch2_smallerNeed help getting started? Try these delicious lunch box recipes:

  • Peanut Butter Banana Burrito: Spread peanut butter on a whole wheat wrap, drizzle with honey and place a whole banana at the edge of the wrap to roll up.
  • Turkey Salad Hot Dog: Mix together diced smoked turkey, toasted almonds, halved seedless grapes, thinly chopped celery and light Greek yogurt or light mayo in an airtight container. Pack a whole wheat hot dog bun for your bright child to assemble at lunchtime (the bun will be soggy by lunchtime if assembled beforehand).
  • BBQ Chicken Sloppy Joes on a Whole Wheat Bun: Combine leftover cooked chicken with carrots and a few dashes of barbeque sauce. Pack chicken and bun separately.
  • Strawberry & Cream Cheese Sandwich: Slice up some strawberries and spread reduced-fat cream cheese on 100% whole wheat bread for a quick and healthy twist on the everyday peanut butter & jelly.

Jordyn Forsyth is a Registered Dietitian and Certified Diabetes Educator. She specializes in weight management, chronic disease prevention and health promotion. Jordyn strives to educate, empower and encourage others to make sustainable lifestyle changes. She has a Bachelor’s Degree in Nutrition Sciences from Baylor University and a Master’s Degree in Nutrition from Texas Woman’s University.

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