Monday, October 27, 2008

What's the Nutritional Impact of Halloween Treats?

Q: What is the nutritional impact of sugary Halloween treats on my kids?

A: Overdosing on huge quantities of sugary, empty-calorie junk food—for the few days post-Halloween—will not harm your kids except perhaps to give them a stomach ache, reinforce poor eating habits and contribute to a few dental caries. While I certainly think it would be wiser for parents to put the brakes on the amount of Halloween candy their kids eat, a little candy excess for a day or two will not have real lasting effects.

That said, with today’s obesity epidemic among our nation’s children, parents must emphasize a healthy lifestyle, meaning teaching children the value of good eating habits and daily exercise. The best way to teach kids healthy eating habits is to provide nutritious meals and snacks in the home, and lobby for healthier foods and daily PE at schools. Sugary, high-calorie Halloween candy is not a nutritious snack food and should be limited in your child’s diet and replaced on a daily basis with healthier snack options such as low-calorie popcorn, cut up fruit and vegetables, or yogurt.

When it comes to Halloween, moderation and control are key. Parents should take charge of their kids’ candy loot. Here are some Halloween survival tips:

-Make sure you know the people who are giving your children candy.
-Once your kids bring home the candy, check that the wrapper on the candy is sealed and unbroken.
-Have your children sort out their candy, choosing only their favorites. (The rest give away or even throw away.)
-Take the candy and put it somewhere where you can control your kids’ intake.
-Allow your children a few pieces a day of their candy loot for just a few days, and then get it out of the house!
-Junk food should not be a dietary staple for kids but only an occasional treat.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Does a Morning Workout Burn More Calories?

Q: Does the time of day (morning rather than evening) impact burning more calories?

A: Whenever you can burn calories—morning, evening or mid-day—is the best time of day as long as you do it! If your question is addressing weight management, then the best way to lose weight and keep it off is to spend mental and physical energy, day in and day out, eating healthy calorie-controlled meals and getting in that calorie-burning exercise. In short, balancing the calorie math. The goal for weight loss is to consume fewer calories than your body requires, creating what is termed a “calorie deficit.” A calorie deficit of 500 calories per day results in a one-pound weight loss of body fat in one week’s time.

Whichever time of day you get in a major “bout” of calorie-burning activity is up to your personal schedule. Ideally, you’ll want to get in a planned exercise bout in addition to being physically active throughout the day, such as parking farther away from the store and taking the stairs instead of the elevator. In summary, the time of day you eat or exercise does not impact calorie burning. Your best bet is to eat small, frequent, nutritious (calorie-controlled) meals throughout the day and combine that eating style with a daily exercise bout as well as making an effort to simply move around more. That is what is important for your personal calorie balance and the secret to lifelong weight control.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Do Carrots Really Help Eyesight at Night?

Q: Do carrots really help my eyesight at night? Or was Mom just saying that as a way of getting me to eat carrots?

A: Yes, Mom was right! Carrots really do help your eyesight at night, or “night vision.” Carrots are an incredible vegetable. Their bright orange color is due to a plant pigment called beta-carotene, the extraordinary chemical that doubles as both a pro-vitamin (the precursor to vitamin A) and a powerful antioxidant. Carrots are one of the richest sources of beta-carotene in our diet. Beta-carotene (pro-vitamin A) is converted into the fat-soluble vitamin A (aka retinol) in the human body. Vitamin A is a crucial vitamin for eye health. In fact, the first sign of a vitamin A deficiency is night blindness, the inability to see in dim light. In developing countries, blindness is often observed in children—a result of a vitamin A deficiency.

For a mere 30 calories in one large carrot you get a whole lot of nutrition . . . imagine, almost half (~ 41%) of the daily value for vitamin A in a single carrot! High in fiber and disease-fighting plant chemicals, with zero fat and cholesterol and very little sodium, carrots are one vegetable that should be on everyone’s daily vegetable list. Thanks, Mom, for the great advice!

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

How Should I Get Back Into a Running Routine?

Q: I used to run every day and then I had kids. Now that they’re getting older, I’m starting to run again. Should I run every day (if even for only 10-15 minutes), or should I space it out and run more each time I run (like 30 minutes every other day)?

I am the mother of three children, as well as an avid runner, so on a personal note . . . good for you! Kudos for having the desire to integrate this supremely beneficial habit back into your busy life. Running is such a wonderful exercise that is good not only for the body (burning calories and promoting cardiovascular health and fitness), but also for the mind (a really healthy way to burn off stress—especially the stress of mothering and performing the balancing act that so many of us moms try to do).

I am a big advocate of getting in daily aerobic exercise, so in answer to your question, I suggest aiming for running on a daily basis, even if you have to alternate walk/running at first. Because you are returning from a break in your former routine, take the time to build your endurance back up slowly. Just make sure you have medical clearance and that you get in a proper warm-up and cool-down (and stay hydrated) with each exercise bout.

Good luck and perhaps I’ll see you out on the running trail!