Sunday, April 25, 2010

Sport Snacks - Make Them Healthy

Outdoor sports are getting ready for the end of the year tournaments. The weather is warmer and the humidity is rising. Before you run out to Costco to buy the standard fare, you might ask yourself, "Are snacks really necessary after a game or a practice?"

Here are some tips to snack on:

  1. Keep Kids Hydrated - Children need to drink fluids when exercising especially if the weather is warm. Plain water is always best for hydration. If you buy bottled water or have your own plastic water bottle, be sure to avoid BPA plastics and those labeled 3, 6, or 7. The numbers are on the bottom of the bottles.
  2. When are Sports Drinks Necessary? - Sports drinks are high in calories and sugar and are not necessary. This is not to say they should never be used, especially if your child is exceedingly active, sweats excessively, or has a diet low in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. The main function of sports drinks is to supply electrolytes. The problem with sports drinks is the amount of calories. A 12 oz. bottle of Gatorade has 310 calories practically a meal's worth. If you buy Gatorade, G-2 is a much better lower calorie version. If you are concerned about the calories, coloring agents, and preservatives, you can always go to R.E.I or other sporting good stores and purchase flavored electrolyte tablets and add them to your child's water bottle.
  3. Consider the Calorie Expenditure - You need to consider the calorie expenditure during your child's practice and games. If he or she is running long distances, doing intense short spurts, is a major sweater, and does not have a weight problem then sport drinks are probably fine even though not necessary. However, one bottle is usually enough to replenish lost electrolytes, and after that he or she should move on to water. If your child does have a weight problem or sits on the bench for most of the games, water would (with or without added electrolytes) be a better choice and forgo the unneeded calories. For instance, soccer, basketball, long distance running, and competitive tennis are more intense calorie burners than softball, fencing, or muscle conditioning.
  4. Nutrient Content of Packaged Snacks - Same consideration goes for packaged, refined starchy snacks. It is not only the calories in the snacks that matter but the quality of the nutrition in the snack. 100 calorie packs will control calories but your child is still ingesting refined flour, refined sugar, trans fats, and too much sodium. If dinner is right after practice then a piece of fruit is a good choice rather than a fruit roll up or granola bar. If you are not eating any time soon or your child did not have a snack before practice, than consider nutrient dense but calorie light snacks like a few whole wheat pretzels, trans fat free trail mix, or even 1/2 of natural peanut butter and jelly sandwich on whole grain bread.
  5. Fruit, Veggies, Whole Grains, and Nuts -Fruits, veggies, whole grains, and nuts are loaded with minerals and electrolytes. Try to increase kid's intakes of these magnesium and potassium rich foods during the week, not just on practice or game days.

WARNING: The Center for Disease Control (CDC) has just found that one in five teens now has elevated cholesterol levels. Exercise helps keep cholesterol low. Maybe teaching our kids not to eat junk is as important as teaching them not to drink and drive. It may save lives down the road.

Watch the MOMS LIKE ME segment (sponsored by Washington FAMILY Magazine) tomorrow at noon on WUSA Channel 9 to hear more about kids, sports, and healthy snacks.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Proof That Dreams Do Come True

One of my professors in college told us that it takes 20-30 years for new ideas to infiltrate all aspects of society and become accepted and ingrained. Witness the changes we've seen in civil rights, gay rights, women's rights, animal rights, etc.... The list is never ending.

Today I witnessed this in the food arena. What started as the "hippy dippy natural foods movement" in the sixties, has now, finally, worked its way into our most venerated and highly regarded institutions.

The Cleveland Clinic, perhaps one of the world's most prestigious cardiac care hospitals, has announced its kitchen has gone "green." Get ready for organic produce, healthy meals, reduction of dangerous chemicals used in cleaning and insect control, and real food/nutrition/wellness education in hospitals. This is an enormous "tipping point."

Thirty years ago I applied as a clinical dietitian at the Cleveland Clinic. I was offered the job but instead took a job at Cleveland Metropolitan General Hospital (the county hospital) to be the administrative dietitian in charge of the kitchen. Disguised as a registered dietitian (because really there was a health nut inside that white lab coat), I tried my best to introduce whole wheat flour or at least get them to use unbleached flour in all those sweets they baked everyday. I also rallied to get rid of trans fats (Crisco) that they used in baking those unnecessary goodies. In general I tried to clean up the food they served. I even told them to stop using the government issued peanut butter since it was made with trans fats. Simple changes. I am sure they thought I was "weird."

Being a clean freak, I tried to institute new cleaning techniques in the kitchen using good old fashioned elbow grease instead of relying on insecticides to kill the roaches that climbed the walls to eat the dough stuck there from when it spewed out of the giant bread mixers.

Most importantly I tried to institute nutrition/wellness education to take advantage of the powerful "medical moment," the moment when someone who has not taken care of themselves says, "Aha." Most of my attempts did not come to fruition at the time, but today I am patting myself on the back because I played a part in this metamorphosis.

From having worked at Canyon Ranch, I know the Cleveland Clinic has worked closely with the dietitians there over the years to begin to make these changes. I am really proud of the Cleveland Clinic. Having grown up in Cleveland, I feel like they have done me proud!

I dreamed of the day when hospitals would serve food that would sustain life and prevent disease...and it has finally arrived.

Hip, hip, hooray!

Monday, April 5, 2010

Yum, Yum!

Just a quick note from the Health Nut. I just found the best light, airy snack called Brother's All Natural Crisps. I found them at Costco. They are freeze-dried fruit and they are awesome. They have strawberries and bananas, Fuji apple, and pears. Of course fresh fruit is probably better, but these are fun to eat when you feel like something dry and crunchy.

I like them instead of calorie laden energy bars. A couple of these with a drink are sure to quench both your sweet tooth and thirst. The calorie count is hard to believe but I will trust their labeling! 45 calories a pack.