Easy Tweaks for Healthier Eats!

Easy Tweaks for Healthier Eats

Let’s be honest – by the time our kids get home from school and we get home from a long day at work, the last thing we feel like doing is slaving away in the kitchen to make healthy, gourmet meals. It’s easy to fall into the habit of popping in a frozen pizza, ordering out, or heading for the packaged meal section… but there are easy swaps that help to make healthier meals and snacks in just minutes. Try these easy tweaks for healthier eats in minutes.

Pizza: Who doesn’t love pizza? But the frozen varieties tend to be unfulfilling, while the take-out and delivery versions are laden with fat and processed starches. Thankfully, pizza is incredibly easy to make at home. If you have some time, try the cauliflower pizza crust – it’s low carb and a great way to sneak a vegetable into your kid’s diets in a way they totally won’t mind. Short on time? There are plenty of pre-made crusts at the grocery store – just opt for the whole wheat. Some stores even make fresh whole wheat dough – this is a great way to make it healthier, but still fresh. Load up on veggies and cut back on cheese.

Spaghetti Night: The worst part of spaghetti night isn’t the starch – it’s the sauce. Whole wheat or alternative noodles are a given – so now move on to amping up that sauce. Instead of grabbing the sugar-laden pre-made sauces from the pantry, semi home-make your own. Saute garlic in a bit of olive oil, then add a pinch of salt and some Italian seasoning and toast it in the pan for about 30 seconds. Add in 15 oz of tomato sauce and you’re ready to go – it’s sugar free and tastes far better than anything off the grocery store shelf.

Taco Tuesday: Tacos are fun and easy, but can become easy to over eat and make unhealthy. Try using shredded chicken simmered in taco seasoning or ground turkey instead of the ground beef – it’s an easier way to retain the flavor, but cut the fats. Next, swap the flour tortillas for corn tortillas – or better yet, get rid of the tortilla all together and make it a taco salad. Be mindful of sour cream and cheese on top – instead, try using a salsa verde to add flavor and texture.

Pantry Snack Time: The Hostess and Little Debbie snack cakes are easy, but it’s no surprise that they aren’t healthy. Clear them out of the pantry and instead stock up on quick and easy-to-grab prepared snacks, such as part skim mozzarella sticks, pre-portioned orange slices, ants on a log, or simple cheese and crackers.

Take five minutes at the start of the week to divide snacks into snack bags and leave them in the bottom drawer of your fridge so your kids can help themselves after school.

Healthy Twists on Thanksgiving Classics!

Healthy Twists on Thanksgiving Classics

Although Thanksgiving is about friendships and counting our blessings, for many, it quickly turns into a day of eating… and of course, that doesn’t mean overloading on healthy salads. Keep this year’s menu traditional, but a bit healthier, with these healthy – and easy – twists on the classics.

The Potatoes

Thanksgiving potatoes vary in prep, but whether their are au gratin, mashed, or scalloped they have one thing in common (aside from the natural starchiness): they carry lots of fat in the way of cheeses and butter used in preparation. Skip these fats and swap the butter or cream for a Greek yogurt – it’s full of the richness and creaminess that you love, but without the saturated fats and high calories. Better yet, swap in sweet potatoes instead of the Russets – it’s a healthier carb that’s also loaded with healthy vitamins.

Green Beans

Green beans by themselves are a great pick – but all too often, they get covered in butter or cream sauces. Stick to steamed green beans, or, to amp them up, consider adding some turkey bacon bits and garlic with extra virgin olive oil.

Cranberry Sauce

Cranberries are full of vitamins and nutrients – but alone, they’re incredibly bitter (that’s why they get smothered with sugar). Cranberry sauce is an easy fix – for starters, leave the pre-made cans at the grocery store; they’re more like candy than cranberry sauce. Instead, mix together 1 c. sweetener (Splenda, Truvia, etc.), the juice and zest from one orange, a cinnamon stick, and 16 oz. of cranberries. Pop it all on the stove and let it simmer until you hear the cranberries start popping and see the sauce start to thicken. It’s that simple and this option is high in vitamins and low in sugar, while also bringing out the natural flavors in the cranberries.

Dinner Rolls

Between the stuffing, the potatoes, and the dinner rolls, it’s easy for Thanksgiving to turn into a carb fest. Opt to skip the dinner rolls all together – or, if you can’t bring yourself to forego them, look for a whole wheat version that doesn’t have added sugar. As ever, homemade is best.

Turkey

This is one swap you don’t need to make – turkey is naturally high in iron and a great source of protein. Of course, opt for roasting – no frying – and find other ways to baste that don’t include butter and fats. Last but not least, be careful of that gravy intake.

Cold and Flu season is upon us!

Cold and Flu Season is Upon Us:  How’s Your Gut Function?

Fall is here, and that means that cold and flu season has arrived.  Have you ever noticed that some people seldom get sick?  Or maybe you have wondered why after being exposed to the same virus, one person gets ill while the other remains well. 

The reason lies in the strength of the immune system.  And the strength of your immune system is largely dependent upon the condition of your digestive system.

When you are exposed to bad bacteria or viruses, it is up to your immune system to protect you from being infected.  If your immune system is strong, your body will fight off the threat.  If your immune system is weak or compromised, you may end up sick.

Microbes:  the good, the bad, and the ugly


Inside your digestive system are many microbes.  Microbes are live organisms that affect your overall health. 

Some of these organisms are beneficial and protect you from disease.  These good bacteria recognize when illness-producing intruders enter your body; they promptly attack the intruders so you do not get sick.  If you do not have enough good bacteria in your gut, you will be more susceptible not only to infections such as colds and stomach flu, but you will also be at risk for autoimmune diseases such as colitis, rheumatoid arthritis and Chron’s disease.

Ideally you have a large supply of these good microbes living in your gut.  But they can easily become depleted.  If you have recently taken antibiotics, you have had not only the bad bacteria wiped out, but also the good bacteria.  Antibiotics are not selective in their destruction.

Antibiotics are not the only way that good bacteria become depleted in your digestive system.  The chlorine in your drinking water can destroy them, as can the pesticide residue on the food that you eat.

Once the supply of beneficial microbes in your intestines dwindles, bad microbes such as yeast, fungi and disease-causing bacteria begin to take up residence.  When the scale tips in favor of the bad, your immune system becomes compromised.

Enter Probiotics


If you think you might be deficient in good microbes, it is not difficult to remedy the problem.  The solution is to take probiotics.  Probiotics are good microbes that you can consume in your diet.  They then settle in your digestive system and get to work protecting you from illness and destroying the bad bacteria that may be living there.

Probiotics are available in capsule form, but you can also replenish the good microbes by eating yogurt. Check the label on the yogurt that you buy to make sure it says that it contains active cultures—those are the good bacteria that you need to eat.

Take action now and get a head start on this year’s cold and flu season.  You can get ahead of the game by improving your gut function and fighting illness.

Tips from parents on raising a confident child

Tips from parents on raising a confident child

Renovation-and-refit-projectsChildren who have good self-esteem have better mental health, can cope better with stress and are better at managing their emotions. They believe in themselves and can bounce back from mistakes or failures more easily than children who lack confidence.

Unfortunately, you can’t “teach” children how to be confident, per se. Rather, you must support and encourage them, promote confident behaviors and let them learn to be independent while letting them know that you’ll always be there for them if they fall. If you’re just starting out on this journey as a parent, the task of instilling confidence in your children might seem daunting. Who better to turn to, then, than parents who have already been there? We’ve gathered some of the best advice on raising a confident child from parenting blogs, written by real parents who have been in your shoes.

From Katie Olson for How Does She

  • “Make a bucket list with your kids. Help them learn about goal setting and achieving.”
  • “Teach your kids how to clean, work and how to make mistakes.”
  • “Don’t rob your children of the experiences of doing things themselves. They will gain confidence and develop skills when they do things themselves.”
  • “How’re their manners? I know the kids I see in my neighborhood who have great confidence also have great manners! They go hand in hand.”
  • “Make your kids a self-esteem book and tell them how special they are and why. What a great idea for a Christmas gift or even yearly on their birthday!”

 

From Katie Hurley for Momtastic

  • “Your passion is not necessarily her passion. Let your child be a child by trying all kinds of things.”
  • “Kids need the opportunity to try something, mess up, and try again. So, instead of coaching them through every step, provide encouragement to help them figure things out on their own.”
  • “To seek perfection… is to find disappointment around every corner. If your kid is a perfectionist, talk to him about how to reframe mistakes into learning opportunities and what it feels like when something doesn’t turn out as planned so that he understands that it’s natural [to] feel upset or disappointed.”
  • “A great way to build confidence is to break new tasks into manageable pieces and start small. Breaking down tasks helps kids learn to take their time and master one small step at a time. When they do this, their self-confidence increases as they grow and learn.”

 

From Alida for The Realistic Mama

  • “Create and allow opportunities for them to learn on their own and discover their surroundings.”
  • “Give a specific compliment for the behavior you want to see more of!”
  • Quality time with kids cannot be bought. It requires giving children your most precious resource – time.”
  • “Teach kids how to communicate by communicating with them.”

 

From Brian Tracy International

  • “The first thing parents with happy and confident children do is ensure their kids have rules. Kids want and NEED rules.”
  • “Empower them to make their own decisions. When they know what the rewards and the punishments are for any given situation, your kids will build self-confidence through making their own decisions. They will be empowered to make decisions and take responsibility for their actions.”
  • “Never criticize your children. Never blame your children. Never complain about your children.”

 

The importance of self-esteem in children

Every child is different and as their little personalities grow you’ll be able to tell if yours needs a boost in the self-esteem department. Confidence will service them in different ways at different points throughout their childhood. Toddlers develop it as they master new skills. As children grow older their relationships with others will increasingly affect their self-esteem. And as teenagers there are all manner of external causes at play that can disturb how they view themselves. The one thing that can remain constant throughout all of those stages is you and your unwavering commitment to cheering them on.

Confidence is well encouraged at Stamford American International School, as reflected in the IB learner profile of being inquirers, risk-takers and communicators. We’ll continue in the classroom the lessons of self-worth that you teach your children at home.

If you are keen on visiting or learning more about Stamford American, please do contact us.

What’s Scarier than Ghosts & Goblins? How about Type 2 Diabetes!

It’s Halloween, and you know what that means:  sugar, sugar, sugar!  Beginning in late summer, stores begin taunting and tantalizing us with prominently displayed festive treats conveniently packaged in small, easy to eat servings.  By the time the actual holiday rolls around, we’ve been wading through candy corn and “fun sized” candy bars for months.

All holidays have their peculiar food traditions, but Halloween perhaps wins the prize for being the most focused on candy and other sweet treats as the center of attraction. And no matter how hard you try to avoid it, you will undoubtedly find yourself staring down a confection before all is said and done.

Will you give in? 

While one piece of candy won’t make or break your health, few of us stop at just one.  In fact, most of us see Halloween as we see every other festive occasion from Thanksgiving to our neighbor’s cookout:  as a perfectly good time to indulge in whichever kind of sweet temptations are presented to us.

But that indulgence takes its toll and is manifesting itself more and more in the current epidemic of Type 2 Diabetes. It is called an epidemic because of the shocking increase in new cases of diabetes.  Less than 5% of the population had diabetes in 1990.  That figure is now up to 7%:  a 40% increase. 

Every 21 seconds someone is diagnosed with diabetes. 

What is diabetes?


Much of the food that you eat is turned into glucose for your body to use as energy.  After a meal, your pancreas produces the hormone insulin which helps the glucose, or sugar, move from your bloodstream into the cells in your body where it can be used for energy.

When you have diabetes, your body either does not make enough insulin or it cannot use the insulin that it produces.  The result is a buildup of glucose or sugar in the bloodstream.

High levels of blood sugar cause extensive damage in the body such as heart disease, kidney failure, blindness and even amputations.  Adults with diabetes are twice as likely to die early as those without diabetes.

What’s the connection?


The connection between Halloween and Type 2 diabetes is simple: the more sugar you eat, the harder your pancreas has to work to produce insulin and keep your blood sugar within a safe range. 

But the cells in your pancreas that produce insulin are the only cells in your body that actually wear out from use.  If you overwork them, they will eventually cease to perform in a way that can keep up with the demand. 

Your body can also become resistant to the insulin that your pancreas produces.  The more resistant your cells become to insulin, the more your pancreas has to make in order to have an effect.

When these situations develop, you have Type 2 diabetes.

Prevention

The good news is that Type 2 diabetes is completely preventable.  By adopting a healthy lifestyle, you will never have to experience this disease.  And if you already have Type 2 diabetes, you can do much to control it naturally.

The best strategy is to keep your weight within normal range, eat a healthy diet full of whole foods and very little sugar, and exercise at least 30 minutes, 5 days per week. 

These simple lifestyle changes are the enemies of Type 2 diabetes.

This Halloween, choose future health over present pleasure.  Enjoy one or two treats, and then stop.  It’s not worth the price you will pay later.

Sources:

http://diabetesinformationhub.com/HistoryandStatistic.php

http://www.vaxa.com/diabetes-statistics.cfm

http://www.cdc.gov/media/presskits/aahd/diabetes.pdf

It’s Not Just Your Imagination—Kids Have Changed

It’s Not Just Your Imagination—Kids Have Changed
And here’s how we need to respond.

Elizabeth Mulvahill on August 28, 2018

It’s Not Your Imagination. Kids Have Changed.
Nothing elicits an eye roll faster from students (and younger teachers!) than a conversation that starts with “back when I was in school…” because it’s a fact that our students live in a very different world than the one in which we grew up, thanks to technology. But it’s also understandable that it can be frustrating, especially for teachers who’ve been around a long time, when students don’t respond to our tried and true methods.

There’s one thing educators need to agree on, and it’s the reality that we must root our instruction in the fast-paced world in which our students live, with an eye to the skills they will need to succeed in the future. And clinging to old norms and teaching methods just isn’t going to cut it.

Here are three facts about our students that we need to take into consideration as we think about the best way to shape our instruction.

1. There is an infinitely greater amount of information available to our students than we ever had to deal with.
Think about it, you can find the answer to any question you have about practically any topic in the world in seconds via technology. The problem is, there’s SO much information available, it can be overwhelming. How do you discriminate between what’s important and what’s fluff? What’s true and what’s baloney? How do you know what sources to trust and where to look for proof? Learning to evaluate and prioritize information quickly and efficiently is one of the most important life skills we will ever teach our students.

In addition, with the landslide of information available, it may seem to our students like everything’s already been said. Our challenge is to teach them to sort through and use the best information to create original works and solve problems in innovative ways.

2. Access to so much information can lead to a tendency to skim the surface.
The last thing we want is for our students’ knowledge of the world to be a “mile wide and inch deep”, so to speak. We need to help our students build their muscles (and tolerance) for sticking with a problem and dig deeper—to push them to go beyond instant gratification. We must provide direct instruction for methods and strategies that encourage focused problem-solving. To teach our students to not just rely on what’s already out there, but to ask the next big question and approach problems from different perspectives.

3. Being connected to technology can take precedence over connecting in person.
A quick survey of social media these days reveals a growing identification with being an introvert. Well, no wonder. Technology makes it easy for people (and we’re not just talking about students here) to become absorbed in their own world, picking and choosing to identify with ideas and opinions that already jibe with who they are. Problem is, the connections we make through technology are not always the most authentic. And how do we grow as humans if we always stay in a homogenous safe zone?

It’s imperative for teachers to build structured social interaction into classwork to teach kids how to make real connections, even if they get pushback—”We hate group work!” Negotiating the real world means working with and being open to other people’s ideas and opinions. Building collaboration and teamwork into the curriculum may take some students outside of their comfort zone, but if it has to be forced, so be it. They’ll thank us later.

Bottom line:
Maybe our students don’t have the same attention span that we did, but they know how to do incredible things that weren’t even invented when we went to school. Maybe they have a harder time working collaboratively, but they all have so much to bring to the table. The reality is we can’t teach the same way we learned. That does a disservice to our students and leaves them ill-prepared for the future.

The Best and Worst of Back to School Season.

Image result for back to school seasonThe weeks have piled up and, at long last, back-to-school season is upon us! Whether you love every second with your kids or dread your summer role as the full-time family cruise ship director, there’s no delaying the return to academics. Here’s our score of the best and worst things about the season:

The worst of…

#3 – Routine is king. Yep, this one makes the best and worst list. While my kids (and I) thrive in routine, the obligations that accompany it can be a pain. Your youngest picks the wrong day to sleep in, the oldest can’t get to bed on time, you forgot to pack lunches the night before… for routine to be routine, things need to happen in a certain way, and when they don’t, we can easily get thrown for a loop. Take a deep breath, delegate where possible, and focus on the priorities.

#2 – You lose a bit of your kid. Anyone else find that their kid always makes a friend or two you’d rather they not make when school returns? You lose a bit of control over who they socialize with and which behaviors and phrases get repeated. We’re so grateful for teachers, but with 20+ kids at a time, they just can’t catch it all the same as we can.

#1 – Bye bye flexibility. We’ve enjoyed movie nights, spontaneous getaways, and last-minute decisions and plans to the fullest this summer. With the return to school, much of that goes away. I know education is incredibly important and that there are so many great things around the corner for my kids to learn and explore… but I’m going to miss the spontaneous snuggle sessions and lie-ins, for sure.

The best of…

#3 – Freedom! It’s hard to get away with much under the constant purvey of young eyes. So while we don’t recommend picking up all those bad habits you’ve worked so hard all summer to hide, you can at least breathe a bit easier if some creep back in.

#2 – Routine is king. There is something to be said about not living by the alarm clock every moment. But if your kids are anything like mine, there is a direct correlation between the length of summer break and the amount of attitude and whine that comes out of their mouths (it’s a pretty perfect line up on a line graph). I’ve found that, historically, the return to school gets all of us back in check – myself included – something which I chalk up to routine. I’ll be the first to admit that in summer, routine goes out the window… but my kids thrive in it, so getting back to the norm is almost always a good thing around here.

#1 – All the things we love come back. I’m talking primetime TV, athletics and extra curriculars, the approach of the holiday season… there are so many stressors that surround back-to-school, but really, the end of summer/ beginning of fall is filled with just so much goodness, it’s hard not to get a bit excited!

What do Insulin Resistance and Summer Have in Common?

Plenty, it turns out, and it has everything to do with what you’re eating this summer.  Even though summer brings with it an abundance of fresh fruits and vegetables, making it easier to eat healthily, it also brings added risks.

What could taste better during the lazy, hazy days of summer than fruity cocktails and rich ice cream?  Unfortunately, these are the foods that can spell danger for your blood sugar level.  The few minutes of pleasure that you derive from those cold, sugary treats can pave the way for decades of chronic illness.

Blood Sugar Basics

When you eat sugary treats, your blood sugar levels rise.  Your blood sugar level is a measure of how much sugar or glucose is circulating in your bloodstream. Too much glucose in your blood is dangerous, so your body works hard to lower the levels.  It does this by releasing insulin, a hormone which enables your cells to absorb the excess glucose. 

The danger comes when you continue eating too much sugar, because your body responds by producing more and more insulin.  Too much insulin trains your cells to become resistant to insulin, and this is called insulin resistance. 

The net effect is that it then takes more and more insulin to make your cells remove the glucose from your blood.  When this happens, your blood sugar levels stay elevated, your insulin levels stay elevated and you develop pre-diabetes.

Still want that ice cream?  I know, me, too. 🙂

Moderation is the Key

Don’t panic.  This doesn’t mean that you can never indulge in a sugary treat again.  What it means is that you need to be smart about the amount you eat and how you eat it.

Have you ever heard of the glycemic index?  It is simply a way of categorizing foods according to their effects on the level of glucose in your blood.  A food with a high glycemic index will cause more glucose to build up than will a food with a low glycemic index. 

In order to control your blood sugar levels, it is helpful to eat lots of foods with a low glycemic index.  And if you eat foods with a high glycemic index, be sure to pair them with low glycemic foods in order to slow the effect on your blood sugar.

High glycemic foods include white flour, white sugar, white rice, and even big, white potatoes.  Low glycemic foods are foods that have lots of fiber and protein.  These would include beans, whole grains, lean proteins and nuts.

Simply being aware of the glycemic index will help you eat in a way that reduces the stress on your body.  If you are going to have an ice cream treat, make sure you eat it at the end of a meal that contains low glycemic foods.  And, if possible, have it on a resistance training day – that will help also!

So this summer, have an occasional treat, but be sure it is occasional…seriously. ;-b  Your body will thank you!

Make 2015 the Year That Your Family’s New Year’s Resolutions Stick

Make 2015 the Year That Your Family’s New Year’s Resolutions Stick

New Year’s resolutions are a great tradition, but often one that quickly falls into the “made to be broken” category. Though well intentioned, those resolutions that kick off your year begin fading until they become distant memory – or material for next year’s resolution. Make this year’s resolutions stick by giving them a better chance from the start – here are a few tips:

1 – Quantify and qualify.
“I want to lose 15 pounds.” “I’m going to run a marathon.” “I’m going to do better in school.” All great resolutions – but resolutions likely to be broken. Why? Because they’re generalizations without parameters. As your family sets resolutions, encourage everyone to not just set the resolution, but to set the path to attainment. For example, if your child resolves to “do better in school,” help them to set the path to accomplishing that goal as part of the resolution. That might include a pledge to study X minutes each day or to review their math homework with you each night. That path makes the goal a by-product of healthier, better habits – and helps your child to achieve that goal among other things.

2 – Make it a challenge, but not impossible.
Nothing kills a resolution more quickly than making it unattainable. Children, in particular, have a tendency to set resolutions based on wants more than anything else – and those wants often come without ceilings. Help your children to set goals that are a challenge, but that are also attainable. That doesn’t mean crushing a dream – it means coaching them through building that plan to achieve it (see above) and mapping out the proper end point.

3 – Don’t just throw it out there.
Perhaps most importantly is to set resolutions that you actually have the intention to complete – not just making one that you feel you should make. For example, do you really want to run that marathon? Or are you really just looking to get back into shape and do a better job of taking some you time?

4 – Make it something you can do.
To succeed with a resolution, you need to be able to control your progress. For example, if your child sets a goal to make the travel soccer team, completing that resolution isn’t entirely in control. However, they can control how often they practice and whether they try out – whereas the decision on the team’s final players lies with the coach. So instead, make the resolution focused on what you yourself can control and affect.
In a nutshell, help your family to make better, more achievable and likely-to-succeed resolutions this year by putting in some thought and planning ahead of resolution time. Resolutions can be fun – and they can be attainable. Guide your children through setting quality goals and watch them experience the joy of success this next year.