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Healthier Holidays in 1 – 2 – 3!

1. Stay active.

Being active is your secret weapon this holiday season. It can help make up for eating more than usual and has many other health benefits.

Walking is a great way to be active. Try these tips to incorporate more walking into your activities:

  • Skip the search for a close-up parking spot. Park farther away and walk to your destination.
  • Make a few extra laps around the mall. Walk the length of the mall before going into any stores. The mall is also a good place to walk to avoid bad weather.
  • Start your work day by taking the stairs. Remember to stretch your legs and take short physical activity breaks throughout the day.

2. Eat healthy.

Healthy eating is all about balance. You can enjoy your favorite foods even if they are high in calories, saturated fat, or added sugars. The key is eating them only once in a while or in small portions and balancing them out with healthier foods.

  • If you are traveling this season, take healthy snacks along, like fruit and low-fat protein. That way, you can avoid the temptation of convenience foods high in fat, sugar, and salt.
  • If your favorite home recipes call for fried fish or chicken with breading, try healthier baked or grilled variations. Maybe try a recipe that uses dried beans in place of higher-fat meats.

Resolve to make new habits. This year, while at parties and other gatherings, fill your plate with fruits and veggies first, and pick small portions of just your favorites of the other items.

3. Plan activities that don’t involve eating.

In addition to enjoying a meal with friends and family around the table, take the party outside!

  • Try a seasonal activity with your family. Jump start your bucket list for the year.
  • Make a “walk and talk” date with a friend or family member. Skip the Frappuccino and explore a part of your town or city that may be new to you.
  • If the weather prevents you from heading outdoors, try mall-walking, or planning a family game night. Visit that museum, botanical garden, or exhibit you’ve been wanting to see.

Consider what new healthy traditions you can start this year. The possibilities are endless!

Tips to Help Kids Cope with Food Peer Pressure

food shopping with kidsMuch of life revolves around eating, so you want to be sure that your child is equipped to make healthy choices when you’re not right there. The older a child gets, the more meals and snacks take place outside the home — from school to sleepovers to parties. As kids grow up and gain more independence, outings with friends often include eating in restaurants. Peer pressure, a social reality that affects many areas of life, can easily influence a child’s food preferences and selections in each of these situations.

Eat Right offers these tips to help your child pick healthy options when you’re not around

It Starts At Home – Habits formed at home will follow your child out the door. While studies have shown that peer influences are associated with kids’ eating patterns, it is known that behaviors modeled by family members are a powerful force as well. A review article in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition notes that parents have the opportunity to model positive or negative eating habits, and that this can impact children’s choices in any setting.

 

Healthy Choices at Restaurants – Extravagant portion sizes present a challenge for health-minded kids who are eating out with their friends. Help children and teens practice mindful eating by encouraging them to eat at a slower pace and heed the internal cues that the body sends to let them know they are full. Tell them that cleaning their plate is not always necessary. Help them pick healthy options when you go out as a family.

 

Confidence Under Scrutiny – Friends and even family members may pose awkward questions — such as, “Are you on a diet?” — when kids make different food choices than their peers, or they may tease them for things including drinking water instead of soda at social gatherings. Kids with a strong sense of self-esteem will be more confident in their actions. Encourage them to open up to you regarding their feelings about conversations they’ve had regarding choices that have gone against the norm. Praise them for good decisions. Suggest that they explain that they do eat “sometimes” foods, but that they also want to make healthy choices as often as possible.

 

So Many Options! – School, visits with friends and “special occasions” are ever-present opportunities for kids to practice balanced eating. When there is an array of options, teach them that they can take a “sometimes” food along with a few healthier foods. Get together with other parents of younger children from school and talk about ways you can promote healthy eating in the group as a whole.

 

 

Teens With Upbeat Friends May Have Better Emotional Health

Group Of High School Students Giving Piggybacks In CorridorPediatricians and child behavior specialists who work with teens know that adolescence is an incredibly important time for social growth. Yet these years can be fraught with anxiety for the parents of teens. How will you know if your moody teen is hanging out with the right people? Which friends might be a bad influence? How can you help your son or daughter develop healthy relationships?

Recent research has addressed some aspects of these questions. One study entitled “Spreading of healthy mood in adolescent social networks,” published this year in the Proceedings of the Royal Society of London, investigated whether a teen whose friends have a healthy mood is less likely to be depressed. It also looked at how emotionally healthy friends affected a teen’s recovery from depression. Basically, the researchers wanted to find out: is a good mood contagious?

The study involved roughly 3,000 teens. Each study volunteer completed two surveys, six months apart, in which he or she listed up to five male and five female friends. Each teen was then followed over time, to see how his or her mood changed.

One of the interesting things about this study is that these researchers defined depression as a behavior, not necessarily as a disease that someone could get. This allowed them to do their statistical analysis a little differently from previous studies looking at the same subject matter, and it uncovered the potential power of positively minded friends.

The investigators found that having a social network made up of friends with a healthy mood cut a teenager’s probability of developing depression in half over a 6- to 12-month period. It also significantly improved the chances of recovering from depression for teens who already suffered from it. While the data don’t show a direct cause and effect, this study does suggest that having friends with a healthy mood may reduce the risk of depression and make it a little easier to recover from depression should it occur.

Social-Emotional Development for Preschoolers

preschool early learning group play social emotionalThe importance of social and emotional development on a young child’s life cannot be emphasized enough. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, healthy social and emotional development is an integral part of a child’s health and wellbeing.  This development is defined as the ability to form satisfying, trusting relationships with others and includes, play, communication, learning, face challenges, and a full range of emotional behaviors. Key features of this development include how children interact with others and how they self manage their emotions and behaviors. In order to promote advantageous social and emotional childhood growth, studies indicate that introducing healthy positive factors in the classroom and at home are in the best interest of the child and will better serve their progress.

Social-Emotional Developmental Milestones

3 years-old:
• Copies adults and friends
• Shows affection for friends without prompting
• Shows wide range of emotions

4 years-old:
• Enjoys doing new things
• More creative with make believe play
• Cooperates with other children
• Would rather play with other children then his/herself

5 years-old:
• Wants to be like friends
• Likes to sing, dance, and act
• Is sometimes demanding and cooperative
• Can tell the difference between real and make-believe

Reference: Promoting Social-Emotional Development. Zero to Three