20 Healthy Eating Tips for 2020

image: Valeria Boltneva, Pexels

1. Eat breakfast. Start your morning with a healthy breakfast that includes lean protein, whole grains, fruits and vegetables. Try making a breakfast burrito with scrambled eggs, low-fat cheese, salsa and a whole wheat tortilla or a parfait with low-fat plain yogurt, fruit and whole grain cereal.

2. Make half your plate fruits and vegetables. Fruits and veggies add color, flavor and texture, plus vitamins, minerals and dietary fiber to your plate. Make 2 cups of fruit and 2 ½ cups of vegetables your daily goal. Experiment with different types, including fresh, frozen and canned.

3. Watch portion sizes. Get out the measuring cups and see how close your portions are to the recommended serving size. Use half your plate for fruits and vegetables and the other half for grains and lean protein foods. To complete the meal, add a serving of fat-free or low-fat milk or yogurt.

4. Be active. Regular physical activity has many health benefits. Start by doing what exercise you can. Children and teens should get 60 or more minutes of physical activity per day, and adults at least two hours and 30 minutes per week. You don’t have to hit the gym—take a walk after dinner or play a game of catch or basketball.

5. Get to know food labels. Reading the Nutrition Facts panel can help you shop and eat or drink smarter.

6. Fix healthy snacks. Healthy snacks can sustain your energy levels between meals, especially when they include a combination of foods. Choose from two or more of the MyPlate food groups: grains, fruits, vegetables, dairy, and protein. Try raw veggies with low-fat cottage cheese, or a tablespoon of peanut butter with an apple or banana.

7. Consult an RDN. Whether you want to lose weight, lower your health-risks or manage a chronic disease, consult the experts. Registered dietitian nutritionists can help you by providing sound, easy-to-follow personalized nutrition advice.

8. Follow food safety guidelines. Reduce your chances of getting sick with proper food safety. This includes regular hand washing, separating raw foods from ready-to-eat foods, cooking foods to the appropriate internal temperature, and refrigerating food promptly. Learn more about home food safety at homefoodsafety.org.

9. Drink more water. Quench your thirst with water instead of drinks with added sugars. Stay hydrated and drink plenty of water, especially if you are active, an older adult or live or work in hot conditions.

10. Get cooking. Preparing foods at home can be healthy, rewarding and cost-effective. Master some kitchen basics, like dicing onions or cooking dried beans.

11. Dine out without ditching goals. You can eat out and stick to your healthy eating plan! The key is to plan ahead, ask questions and choose foods carefully. Compare nutrition information (if available) and look for healthier options that are grilled, baked, broiled or steamed.

12. Enact family mealtime. Plan to eat as a family at least a few times each week. Set a regular mealtime. Turn off the TV, phones and other electronic devices to encourage mealtime talk. Get kids involved in meal planning and cooking and use this time to teach them about good nutrition.

13. Banish brown bag boredom. Whether it’s for work or school, prevent brown bag boredom with easy-to-make, healthy lunch ideas. Try a whole-wheat pita pocket with veggies and hummus or a low sodium vegetable soup with whole grain crackers or a salad of mixed greens with low-fat dressing and a hard-boiled egg.

14. Reduce added sugars. Foods and drinks with added sugars can contribute empty calories and little or no nutrition. Review the new and improved Nutrition Facts labels or ingredients list to identify sources of added sugars.

15. Eat seafood twice a week. Seafood—fish and shellfish—contains a range of nutrients including healthy omega-3 fats. Salmon, trout, oysters and sardines are higher in omega-3s and lower in mercury.

16. Explore new foods and flavors. Add more nutrition and eating pleasure by expanding your range of food choices. When shopping, make a point of selecting a fruit, vegetable or whole grain that’s new to you or your family.

17. Experiment with plant-based meals. Expand variety in your menus with budget-friendly meatless meals. Many recipes that use meat and poultry can be made without. Eating a variety of plant foods can help. Vegetables, beans, and lentils are all great substitutes. Try including one meatless meal per week to start.

18. Make an effort to reduce food waste. Check out what foods you have on hand before stocking up at the grocery store. Plan meals based on leftovers and only buy what you will use or freeze within a couple of days. Managing these food resources at home can help save nutrients and money.

19. Slow down at mealtime. Instead of eating on the run, try sitting down and focusing on the food you’re about to eat. Dedicating time to enjoy the taste and textures of foods can have a positive effect on your food intake.

20. Supplement with caution. Choose foods first for your nutrition needs. A dietary supplement may be necessary when nutrient requirements can’t be met or there is a confirmed deficiency. If you’re considering a vitamin, mineral or herbal supplement, be sure to discuss safe and appropriate options with an RDN or another healthcare provider before taking.

Provided by Mary Ligotti-Hitch, R.D., a registered dietitian with the Beaumont Health Center’s Weight Control Center. Authored by Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics staff registered dietitian nutritionists.

Vegetarian, Keto and More! Your Teen and Dieting

image credit: Oleg Magni, Pexels

Teenagers who choose to diet fall into two categories: health conscious and weight conscious. Each has their own challenges for parents and kids, but recognizing the underlying motivation is important.

Health-conscious teens

Health-conscious teenagers tend to be near normal weight to begin with or may even be on the thin side. They are often athletic and high academic performers. Teenagers who are motivated to eat healthy while still in middle or high school often have high expectations for their own performance in every aspect of life and see changing their diet as another way to be in control of their body and health.

When done well, in a balanced and flexible way, these teenagers are choosing to change their eating habits for the better. Most aren’t primarily motivated to lose weight but rather are interested in becoming healthier.

Most health-conscious teens are opting for a vegetarian or plant-based diet. Healthy vegetarian diets are great when done well. Eating a plant-based diet is fantastic for all of us! Protein is in abundance in grains, veggies, and non-meat sources, so dairy is optional for vegetarians. Parents worry too much about the protein issue for vegetarian teens. I’ve yet to meet a grain-eating vegetarian who is protein deficient. The challenge for teenager vegetarians is to actually eat veggies! Most are just meat avoiders and replace meat with carbs. In order to do a vegetarian diet well, eating mostly veggies and fruits is a must. A multivitamin with iron is also a great idea as is a Vitamin D supplement (at least here in the cloudy Midwest).

Parents can support teenagers interested in a plant-based or vegetarian diet by sending them YouTube videos or getting them short books that are designed for teenagers. Content that is designed to show how easy it is and great the benefits of this way of eating are best. Avoid content that shows the hurdles. Encouragement is the way to go! Send just one or two, as too many will seem overbearing to your teenager who may want to do this on their own.

Health-conscious teenagers sometimes go a little off the deep end though. And because of their tendency to be high achievers, they can get caught up in the specifics of the program. Eating only certain foods, having no flexibility when few options exist, and going without food rather than bend.

If a health-conscious teen has a dual desire to lose weight, the rigidity can get even more extreme, especially if the teen has a compulsive personality. Food restriction and avoidance can result in a sense of control and power that fuels more of the same, especially if weight loss ensues. Behaviors like these are a slippery slope on the path to an eating disorder.

It’s tempting to “remind” teenagers to eat or to ask about protein sources or meal plans when your independent eater is preparing her own meals. Instead, try hard to ask what advice or help they need to succeed. Have your teenager give you a grocery list, prep food together, avoid giving opinions, and instead give praise. Reminders and advice will drive your teenager away and will not get them to eat differently.

Weight-conscious teens

Weight-conscious teens tend to consider other diets when they are in the mood to change their appearance. Like most adults, they wax and wane in their motivation to stick to a diet/eating plan. Most overweight kids have at least one parent who is overweight and it helps for the whole family to adjust their eating habits when an overweight teenager is ready to change their eating habits.

Some diets (e.g., keto, paleo, Mediterranean, vegetarian) focus solely on what a teen is eating. However, options like the Beaumont Healthy Kids Programs and Weight Watchers focus on teaching behaviors to promote and improve lifelong health.

So what is the best option for an overweight teen? To be frank, any of these will result in weight loss and are healthy enough for a teen to follow. Being able to stick to the plan is the biggest challenge. Let your teen choose the one that they think is the best fit for long term success. For example, keto and paleo may be difficult for teenagers to maintain due to the lack of carbs given the carb-laden foods they will be in constant contact with, but if that is the diet your teenager feels is the best fit then let him go for it.

One of the biggest challenges for parents is to support their teenager without managing the diet. Teens who express an interest in changing their eating habits need your help to grocery shop, learn to prepare foods, and to cheer them on when things are going well. Ask them what you can do to support them and then listen to what they say. Teenagers are not looking for advice, reminders or coaching. The more you do that, the more resentment and attitude you’ll get from your teen.

Until a teenager is self-motivated, your efforts to help will only breed resentment. Instead, prepare healthy foods at home and don’t mention eating habits with your teenager. They know what healthy eating looks like and know full well what they are doing isn’t healthy. Your reminders won’t change their behaviors, and if they are overweight, will only make them feel worse about themselves. Even if you are trying to approach the subject from a health perspective, teenagers who are overweight interpret this as another message about how fat they are and feel worse about who they are. When your teenager is finally ready, don’t go overboard, remember they are just like the rest of us — interested in dieting a week or two and then fall off the wagon. Stay patient, loving and let your teenager lead the way.

Parents who are concerned about their teens’ diet choices, behaviors around eating (like restrictive eating), or who recognize that a doctor would be a good person to discuss diet and eating choices, should make an appointment with their pediatrician. We are a great resource for parents and for teenagers who are changing their eating habits—hopefully for the better!

– Dr. Molly O’Shea, a board-certified Beaumont pediatrician, offers traditional medicine in non-traditional ways including newborn home visits and emailing parents directly. She has practiced pediatrics for nearly 30 years and was the “Ask the Pediatrician” columnist for the Detroit News for many years. A journal editor for the American Academy of Pediatrics, she also organized the AAP’s national continuing education programming for pediatricians. Dr. Molly loves cooking, traveling and spending time with her family.

Heart-healthy Eating

Marco Verch, Flickr. CC license.

Why eat heart healthy?    

There are several benefits of eating a heart healthy diet. It can reduce risk of heart disease by controlling cholesterol and blood pressure. It can also reduce your risk of heart attack or stroke.

While eating heart healthy may initially seem complicated, it is actually very straightforward. A heart-healthy diet consists of plentiful fruits and vegetables, adequate protein, healthy fats, whole grains, and less added sugars and sodium. While all the food groups listed are important, two to focus on especially are lean protein and vegetables. These are important not only for heart health, but also for those trying to lose weight.

Lean Protein

Lean protein helps repair wounds and maintain muscle mass. It also helps lower cholesterol and blood pressure according to the American Heart Association. Some great options for lean protein are 90% or leaner beef, chicken or turkey, fish, non-fat dairy, beans/lentils, and various supplemental shakes such as HMR 70 or HMR 800.

  • Nutrition facts
    • One ounce of meat contains 7 grams of protein and very little or no carbohydrate
    • An average serving size is 3 ounces (about the size of a deck of cards)
  • Very lean protein options (0 – 1 gram of fat per ounce)
    • Chicken or turkey (white, no skin)
    • Cottage cheese, reduced fat
    • Cheese, fat-free
    • Egg white
    • Fish
    • Shellfish
    • Tofu
    • Beans
    • Lentils
  • Lean protein (2 – 3 grams of fat/ounce)
    • Chicken or turkey, dark meat, no skin
    • Cheese, low-fat (1 to 3g fat/oz)
    • Cottage cheese, regular
    • Lean beef (round, flank, sirloin)
    • Lean pork (loin, tenderloin)

Low Starch Vegetables

Low starch (LS) vegetables are an important part of a heart healthy diet as they add fiber, vitamins and minerals to the diet. According to the American Heart Association, LS vegetables play a key role in helping maintain weight and blood pressure. It is important to remember to “eat the rainbow” because different colored vegetables have different phytonutrients that help protect against heart disease and certain types of cancer. Aim for two or three servings of LS vegetables per day.

Alfalfa sproutsArtichokeArtichoke hearts
AsparagusBean sproutsBroccoli
Brussels sproutsCabbageCarrot
CauliflowerCeleryChicory
Chinese cabbageCucumberEggplant
Green beansGreen onions or scallionsGreens
JicamaKohlrabiLeeks
LettuceMushroomsOkra
OnionsParsleyPeppers
RadishesRhubarbRutabaga
Snow peasSpinachSummer squash
Swiss chardTomatoTurnips
Water chestnutsWatercressZucchini

– Tim Matthews is a dietetic intern with Beaumont Health.

Adapted from: University of Michigan – Comprehensive Diabetes Center

The Benefits of Soup

Soup is a quick, hot meal that offers plenty of benefits. You can throw a variety of ingredients into a slow cooker in the morning and return home to a delicious meal in the evening. Soups are easy to make in large batches, and are one of the most freezer-friendly dishes around. So, double up on ingredients, grab a larger pot and make multiple meals instead of one. You can also use up leftovers in a soup pot and create new variations of favorite recipes, since soup lends itself to experimentation.

The healthiest soups include lots of vegetables, lean protein, whole grains, a variety of herbs, and a minimum of salt and fat. Because soup contains so much water it fills you up with fewer calories, too!

Add plenty of vegetables to your soup

Federal guidelines recommend that adults, on average, eat at least 2 to 3 cups of vegetables per day. Soups can contribute to that total. Almost any vegetable lends itself to use in soup —from creamy squash to chicken vegetable soup. You can use any combination of fresh, frozen, canned or leftover vegetables.

  • Chop fresh vegetables to the same size so they cook evenly. Add fresh or frozen vegetables to the soup at the beginning.
  • Add any leafy, canned and leftover cooked vegetables at the end so they don’t overcook.
  • Once the vegetables are soft-cooked, you can purée the soup or leave it chunky.
  • Add fresh or frozen vegetables to canned soups to increase the servings of vegetables and add flavor.
  • Use more vegetables in your soup than meats or grains.

Add protein

Add bite-sized pieces of lean meat, fish, skinless poultry, or alternatives such as beans, lentils, chickpeas, tofu or raw whisked eggs. Beans also add fiber.

  • Add uncooked meats at the beginning and any cooked leftover meats at the end of making soup.
  • Dried chickpeas and beans take longer to cook. Make them ahead and add to soups at the end of cooking.
  • Dried lentils cook up quickly and can be added closer to the end.
  • Add low-sodium canned beans, lentils and chickpeas near the end. 
  • Eggs and tofu don’t take long to cook and can be added near the end of making soup.

Add some whole grains

If you’re thinking about ways to get more grains into your diet, think soup! Whole grains have higher fiber content than pasta and white rice, and because they’re slowly digested, they have less impact on blood levels of insulin than refined grains. Even light soups can be transformed into more of a main dish with the addition of whole grains like quinoa, barley, farro or bulgur.

  • Add uncooked grains at the beginning and any cooked leftover grains at the end of making soup.
  • Whole grains absorb lots of liquid so be sure to add extra stock or water to your soup.

Lower the sodium

According to the American Heart Association, most of us should limit sodium to 2,300mg per day, with an ideal limit of just 1,500mg for most adults. That is the amount of sodium in about 1 teaspoon of salt (or 1/2 teaspoon at the lower range).

  • Use less salt than the recipe lists.
  • Use onions and garlic instead of onion salt and garlic salt.
  • Use low-sodium stock/broth or make your own (see Make the Stock for the Soup below)
  • Rinse canned foods such as beans to reduce the sodium by almost 40 %.
  • Replace dried herbs like parsley, rosemary, thyme or oregano with fresh at a ratio of 1:3 (If a recipe calls for 1/2 teaspoon dried, use 1-1/2 teaspoons fresh). Add fresh herbs at the very end of cooking.
  • Lemon, lime and vinegar trick our tongues into thinking there’s more salt in food and it transform the flavors. Add a squeeze of lemon or lime right before you serve up a steamy bowl of soup.

Make the Stock for the Soup

(Tip: Make a big pot of homemade soup stock on the weekend and freeze the extra.)

  1. Fill a large pot with water.
  2. Add vegetables (onions, carrots, celery), chicken, beef or fish bones, pepper and herbs.
  3. Bring to a boil, and then simmer.
  4. Skim off any foam that rises to the top of the pot.
  5. Strain the stock and remove any bones, vegetables or herbs.
  6. Let the stock cool in the fridge and skim off any solid fat. You’ll be left with a tasty stock to make soup.

– Mary Ligotti-Hitch, R.D. is a registered dietitian with the Weight Control Center at Beaumont Health Center.

Information adapted from:
https://www.unlockfood.ca/en/Articles/Cooking-And-Food/Cooking-Methods/How-to-Make-a-Healthy-Soup.aspx
https://www.livestrong.com/article/254373-what-are-the-benefits-of-eating-soup/
https://www.tasteofhome.com/article/cut-sodium-in-soup/

The Eggcellent Egg

  • Eggs offer complete protein. One egg provides all nine essential amino acids, which are the building blocks of protein. That’s important because those are the ones your body can’t make by itself.
  • They are nutrient dense. Eggs have more nutrients — vitamins, minerals, amino acids — per calorie than most other foods. Have an egg and you’ll get:
    • High-quality protein
    • Selenium
    • Phosphorus
    • Choline
    • Vitamin B12
    • Multiple antioxidants, which help keep your cells healthy
  • Eggs help with portion control. At about 70 calories per egg, you know exactly what you are getting. Plus, they travel easily! Hard boil a couple of eggs and carry in your insulated lunchbox. Add a salad and a slice of whole-grain bread and you’ve got a quick, healthy lunch.
  • They’re affordable. At roughly 20 cents a serving, you can’t beat it for a high-quality protein that won’t break the bank. Add a slice of whole-grain toast, some avocado, and a little hot sauce, you have a meal fit for a king at a pauper’s price. And you don’t have to worry about sugar or carbs because eggs don’t have either. 
  • Eggs help your eyes. Doctors know that the antioxidants lutein and zeaxanthin help keep you from getting eye diseases like cataracts and age-related macular degeneration. Green, leafy vegetables like spinach and kale have them, too. But eggs are a better source because the fat they have makes it easier for your body to use the nutrients. 
  • They help sharpen the brain. Eggs have vitamin D, which is good for your brain, but they also have choline, which helps the nerve cells (neurons) in your brain talk to each other. Choline is very important for pregnant women and breastfeeding women because of the big role it plays in brain development.

The American Heart Association suggests one egg (or two egg whites) per day for people as part of a healthy diet. Diabetics and people at risk for heart disease or those who had a heart attack should pay close attention to the amount of cholesterol in their diet. One large egg provides 186 mg of cholesterol, which is over half the daily value recommendation of less than 300 mg/day. Egg whites provide plenty of protein without the cholesterol of the yolk.

– Bethany Kramer, RDN, clinical dietitian, recently retired from Beaumont Health.

Information provided by https://www.webmd.com/diet/ss/slideshow-eggs-health-benefits (Reviewed by Brunilda Nazario, MD on December 27, 2018) and https://www.heart.org/en/news/2018/08/15/are-eggs-good-for-you-or-not

Stumbling blocks that can increase childhood obesity

image: David Goehring, Flickr. CC license.

September is National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month. No parent starts off feeding their kids with the hope of creating an unhealthy or overweight child. Every parent wants to be the very best parent in all ways and along the way we realize how hard it is to be perfect at everything. Sometimes maintaining healthy eating habits for just ourselves is tough, so keeping them going for our kids can seem like a lot of work! With a little effort though, parents can avoid some of the stumbling blocks that create unhealthy eaters and reduce the risk of obesity.

Parents of infants spend a lot of time thinking about, choosing, and preparing food for their new solid-food eater. Most babies gobble up virtually everything they are offered and parents feel great about what they are doing. Then something happens though along the way.

By the time children are 3 years old, many are “picky eaters” and parents report that their children will “only eat” carbs with a smattering of fruit and dairy. Unsurprisingly, parents lose their confidence (and their will) to lead the charge of healthy eating; by the time children are in grade school (or even sooner), snacks for soccer are convenience foods like single-serve chips or cookies, a Lunchable and sugar-laden Go-Gurt® comprise lunch, and desserts are nightly as a treat for eating a single broccoli spear.

This may be a bit of an exaggeration, but only a bit.

After almost 30 years as a pediatrician, I’ve seen some common stumbling blocks along the way. If parents can avoid tripping over these, kids have a better chance of remaining healthy eaters and avoiding obesity.

Stumbling block #1: Parents reinforce picky eating

This toddler slide from “eager” eater to a “picky” one may be the critical point in the process for child and parent that, if weathered successfully, can set the stage for obesity prevention. If a parent can make it through the toddler “picky” stage and continue to offer healthy foods all along (without falling prey to the culture pressure of junk food), healthy eating patterns can be sustained. Here’s how picky eating happens:

Since baby’s growth slows dramatically after he or she turns one, appetite will decrease sometime between 12 and 24 months. Sometimes that decrease is dramatic and whole meals are skipped because your sweet pea will consume all the calories needed by the time dinner comes along. Because their appetites slow, children can afford to get “choosy” and just eat what they prefer. It’s not that they don’t like the other foods, it’s more that they aren’t as hungry so they don’t need to eat everything just to satisfy their need to grow. Parents worry when they see their little one not eating much and resort to all sorts of strategies: feeding their children, offering preferred foods when dinner isn’t eaten, offering smoothies with veggies because a child isn’t eating them otherwise, offering pouches of purees, continuing bottles longer to make sure their baby gets something before bed, offering food throughout the day (not just at meals), turning on the TV or screen to distract their child to eat. You get the idea. All of these strategies will ultimately send the message to the child that they shouldn’t be listening to their own body’s messages of “full” or “hungry.” The other message a child receives is that if you won’t eat what is in front of you, you will be given fatty, concentrated sweet, or carb laden food as an alternative (read: pureed foods, mac and cheese, chicken nuggets, snack crackers, sweetened yogurt, etc.). These messages sent so early and often create habits that can be hard to change.

What to do: When your toddler’s low-eating phase presents itself, relax! Keep offering whole fruits and veggies, lean proteins, carbs and dairy in healthy proportions. Eliminate between meal snacking if your child isn’t coming to the meal hungry, since snacks typically aren’t “meal worthy” foods. Only offer milk and water to drink—and only with meals and snacks (as opposed to having a cup available all the time). By limiting access to fluids, you won’t dehydrate your child and you won’t allow your child to fill up on fluids sending a “full” message to his brain when it’s mealtime.

Don’t worry if he doesn’t eat a single veggie or fruit. If you keep offering them when he gets hungry, he will. Don’t resort to pouches or purees which are really just concentrated veggie and fruit sugars and don’t provide much mouth experience with the food. Give a multivitamin instead during this time.

If you are concerned about skipping snacks, only offer whole veggies and fruits for snacks during this low-eating phase. If your child is truly hungry she will eat them. If she’s not hungry enough, she’ll pass on them and will come to the meal readier to eat.

I promise your child will still sleep through the night even if he doesn’t eat dinner. If he gets hungry later (before bed), offer part of the dinner again rather than a preferred food.

Stumbling block #2: Snack time is all the time

I don’t know when it began, but it seems that our culture has decided that kids need snacks all the time. Three-year-old soccer practice for 30 minutes assigns a snack parent now. Kids are getting food with every activity whether they really ‘need’ to eat or not. Children go to preschool for three hours in the morning and have a snack part way through. Parents give kids food to quiet them down in the car (or perhaps worse: a screen to watch).

Kids don’t really need to eat all the time. They do need to eat breakfast, lunch and dinner of course. Many kids will need a snack if the time between those meals is greater than five hours and especially if meals are lacking protein. In reality, most kids need an afternoon snack added to the three meals and that’s about it. If they are having a snack with an event, they don’t need an additional one too. We have gone a little snack crazy in our society and some kids are now expecting to eat all the time.

What to do: Set routines in your house for meals and snacks. Send healthy snacks (e.g., fruits, veggies, 1 ounce of cheese about the size of one die) with your child rather than have a bag of chips. Avoid sugar-laden snacks like fruit rolls-ups (even the all-fruit ones are still all fruit sugar and real fruit is much better), Go-Gurt, and chips even though they are convenient.

Talk to other parents. You aren’t alone in wanting to limit sugar or snacks and even in offering healthy snacks. Figure out if you even need to have a “snack parent” at soccer, for example. Of course, some kids will need a snack due to their metabolisms or family schedules but their parents can provide it. No need for the whole group to get in the habit every time.

Stumbling block #3: Eating out/Carrying In

This is a tough one, especially as kids get older and schedules get hectic. The data is clear that the more that families eat homemade food, the less obese their children are. Sitting down as a family for dinner is not going to be possible during the super crazy days of multiple kids in sports/dance/music, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t eat healthy food on the go.

What to do: Meal plan as a family. Kids as young as 8 years old can help with plan and prep. Take time on the weekend to get a plan for the week. Even if you are all eating sandwiches, fruit and bringing milk in a Thermos, this is dramatically healthier than anything else you will eat out on the go. When you take the time to plan together, meal prep and even pack dinners for the week on the weekend, and the busy week will go much more smoothly. You will also help your kids see the importance of healthy eating and budgeting.

Final comments

Notice I didn’t mention anything about exercise. Although being physically active is super important for heart health and kids who are sedentary are more likely to be obese, weight management is almost completely about what you eat. Sedentary kids eat dramatically more than active kids. Sedentary kids also eat much less healthy food which accounts for the vast majority of the weight difference. Please be active but understand the key to healthy weight is healthy eating.

Lastly, no parent is perfect. No parent can do it all. Do your best, offer fruits and veggies all the time, eat homemade food as much as you can, and don’t turn food into a reward and you just might create a healthy eater.

– Dr. Molly O’Shea, a board-certified Beaumont pediatrician, offers traditional medicine in non-traditional ways including newborn home visits and emailing parents directly. She has practiced pediatrics for nearly 30 years and was the “Ask the Pediatrician” columnist for the Detroit News for many years. A journal editor for the American Academy of Pediatrics, she also organized the AAP’s national continuing education programming for pediatricians. Dr. Molly loves cooking, traveling and spending time with her family.

Focus on fiber

image credit: U.S. Food and Drug Administration

We see “Dietary Fiber” on nutrition labels but there are two different types and they work differently.

Soluble fiber

Soluble fiber dissolves in water and is broken down by bacteria into a gel-like substance that is easily digested in the gut. It can lower the absorption of fats and carbohydrates, which helps to lower cholesterol levels in the blood and stabilize blood sugars.

Food sources

    • Beans and peas
    • Fruits
    • Oats
    • Nuts and seeds
    • Vegetables

Insoluble fiber

Insoluble fiber does not dissolve in water and passes through the digestive system relatively intact. It provides bulk to the stool and can speed up the movement of food and waste through the gastrointestinal tract to prevent constipation.

Food sources

    • Fruits
    • Nuts and seeds
    • Vegetables
    • Wheat bran
    • Whole grain breads, cereals, pasta
    • Brown rice

What is the difference between fiber supplements and stool softeners?

Fiber supplement

Soluble fiber that increases bulk in the stool to cause movement of the intestines to encourage a bowel movement. It Increases the amount of water in the stool, which makes the stool more soft and easier to pass. It can be used to treat occasional constipation and bowel irregularity. Common brands are Metamucil (fiber content: psyllium husk and Benefiber (fiber content: wheat starch).

Stool softener

    • Miralax: This over-the-counter medication that pulls water in the colon through a process called osmosis to assist in softening stool and promoting more frequent bowel movements.
    • Dulcolax: A laxative that stimulates the nerves of the large intestine, specifically the colon to cause peristalsis or contractions, promoting a bowel movement. It increases salt and fluid excretion to treat constipation.

– Alex Kraft is a dietetic intern with Beaumont Health. The Beaumont Weight Control Center offers cooking classes to kids in the community. View a list of upcoming classes here.