Thursday, February 22, 2007

A 45-Year Old Pre-Teen?

Did you know that our children may be the first generation to have a shorter life expectancy than their parents? Scary, eh? With our modern life focused on technology, new convenience foods, and the tendency to overschedule, children are heavier and more sedentary than ever, which can lead to them developing health problems that used to only be seen in adults. While a child may be nine years old, his RealAge, based on his health and lifestyle factors, could have him on the same level as an overweight 30-something.

The book Good Kids Bad Habits takes a look at this disturbing trend and discusses ways to combat this epidemic in our society. The truth of the matter is, it really does start with the parents. Setting a good example, and starting our kids out with healthy habits is more important than many would imagine.

I'll be honest - as I was reading this book, I felt a little guilty. At the beginning, Dr. Jennifer Trachenberg offers a RealAge test to help you determine your child's risks later in life. My daughter is not quite two and a half, and while we do have some healthy habits in place, we scored poorly in more than one area. She watches way too much TV, and the family partakes of fast food at least once a week, if not more. Is she destined to suffer from obesity and poor nutrition?

Not necessarily, says Dr. Jen, and if you can make small steps now, you can break bad habits and replace them with good habits that will last a lifetime. Thankfully, the book does not advocate an all-or-nothing approach. Instead, subtle changes are recommended, including education kids on the importance of healthy habits in a way they will understand. In the area of food, I was pleased that the advice given was to try to meet weekly nutrition goals, and not stress over the importance of having every meal be a balanced meal. Clearly the author understands the eating habits of toddlers!

Most of the advice given in Good Kids Bad Habits is reasonable to implement, and the focus is on tackling issues one small goal at a time. I especially appreciated the charts in the chapter regarding learning, giving me an idea of what milestones should be reached by what age. There were a few ideas I thought to be unrealistic - you expect my toddler to hold still while I floss her teeth? - but overall the book's tone implied that the author understood that parents clearly can't move mountains, or stubborn children, overnight.

Best of all, the book is not condescending to parents. The author is not calling you out as a bad parent if you're not following everything she suggests from the moment you give birth. On the contrary, she stresses that even if your child is already a teenager, it's never too late to help them make small changes to their eating, exercise, learning, hygiene, and self-esteem that will benefit them for the rest of their lives.

Good Kids Bad Habits is a good resource for any parent, whether it be a new mom nervous about providing the best start possible for her baby, or an experienced mom who would just like some ideas on how to tear her kids away from the X-Box and get them outside for some fresh air and exercise. As for me, I'm no longer going to let the cold weather be an excuse for letting Cordy watch so much TV, and instead work on inventing some new games we could play indoors. Although we still may have trouble giving up McDonald's once a week.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Something New To Chew On

Thanks to being pregnant, I always must have food nearby. I still eat my three meals a day, with about 6 more small snacks thrown in as well. Of course, when sitting in an office, with several appointments during the day, it's hard to find snacks that are portable, require no preparation or refrigeration, and are at least somewhat healthy, while still filling me up. You can only eat so much fruit before you're sick of it.

So when I was asked to try General Mills new Fiber One Chewy bars, I jumped at the chance. You want to send me food that's easy to pack for work? For free? Bring it on!

I'll admit I was a little nervous about trying these. First off, these bars pack an impressive 9 grams of fiber (35% of your daily requirements) in one small snack, for only 140 calories. Having tried other granola bars before, particularly ones high in fiber, this often results in either a granola bar that tastes worse than cardboard, or something so small that I'm hungry again 20 minutes later.

I was pleasantly surprised. Not only do they taste good (I have the Oats & Chocolate variety), but they are actually filling. One bar generally satisfies me from that period between lunch and dinner. They are sweet, almost bordering on too sweet, with small chocolate chips in the bar and a drizzle of chocolate across the top. And unlike other "chewy" bars I've tried, these are genuinely chewy, but not something that will stick to your teeth. My only complaint is that I would like more chocolate in the bar, but really, I say that about many things.

The box I received is nearly gone, and I only received them 4 days ago. I find myself eating them during Cordy's naptime, just so I don't have to share. (For the record, she likes them, too.) My husband hasn't tried them yet, but getting him to eat healthy is tough. Besides, if he doesn't try them, more for me, right?

So if you're looking for a good snack for yourself or the kids, give Fiber One chewy bars a try. And if you're pregnant, I can also add these will do wonders to help with that digestive slow-down we tend to experience.