Fitness & Wellness

What Cancer, Diabetes And Weight Gain Have In Common

What Cancer, Diabetes And Weight Gain Have In Common

If you’ve never heard the term angiogenesis you’re lucky. It’s a term commonly used when discussing cancer treatment. Angiogenesis is a natural process that when running at its best, creates new blood vessels by splitting or growing new ones. It’s necessary to help heal wounds and part of normal growth, by which new blood vessels form, allowing the delivery of oxygen and nutrients to the body’s tissues. It is a vital function, required for growth and development as well as the healing of wounds. In fact, it’s also important to help heart disease, growing new vessels when others are clogged. However, when it’s not working correctly, it can boost the potential for cancer, diabetes and weight gain. I work with clients in San Antonio, Texas who fear the process, because they’ve only heard of it in association with these diseases.

The body creates new blood vessels and trims them.

When angiogenesis functions normally, the body is creating new blood vessels, but when there are too many, cuts them back and stops the growth. When it’s not working right, it continues to create blood vessels and in the case of cancer, feeding the cancer cells. Everyone has cancer cells. They normally die and there’s no problem. However, sometimes either the cancer cells create a chemical signal to grow blood vessels or even stimulate the healthy cells near them to do it. That creates a way for them to receive the nutrition and oxygen they need for growth and causes tumor growth.

Diabetes stimulates changes in angiogenesis and angiogenesis contributes to obesity.

While faulty angiogenesis may contribute to cancer, diabetes contributes to faulty angiogenesis. It affects the blood vessels and creates an environment where the body is less able to create new vessels, creating a potential for peripheral artery disease and all the dangers that often lead to slow healing and amputations. Ironically, diabetes also causes problems with overproduction of premature blood vessels in the retina, leading to diabetic retinopathy. With obesity, the creation of new blood vessels caused by angiogenesis builds in the adipose tissue—fat—continuing to feed it and make weight loss difficult.

All three have more than just angiogenesis in common.

With all three types of changes to the body’s angiogenesis, there’s a growing body of evidence that what you eat plays a huge role in regulating angiogenesis. Many of the studies on angiogenesis and food are part of cancer research. Red grapes and red wine contain resveratrol, which is known to reduce abnormal angiogenesis by approximately 60 percent. Strawberries contain ellagic acid, an even more potent inhibitor of abnormal angiogenesis. The research shows that what makes whole foods so potent is the synergy that provides the combined power of each individual component, not just one key chemical in the plant or food.

  • Cutting out processed sugar and other processed foods and eating whole foods is the first step to healthy functional angiogenesis. It not only helps prevent too much angiogenesis from occurring, it ensures the function of anti-angiogenesis takes place correctly, too.
  • Healthy foods that are also good as regulators and anti-angiogenetic are kale, cherries, berries, green tea, artichokes, turmeric, nutmeg, garlic, maitake mushrooms and tomatoes.
  • Eating healthy means eating whole foods with an emphasis on fresh vegetables and fruit. When you consider this, it’s the recipe for losing weight, fighting heart disease and fighting cancer—as well as nearly 70 other diseases.
  • While you should never try to treat serious conditions on your own, you can improve your chances of being disease free and even help boost the effectiveness of treatments for conditions you now have with healthy eating.

Changes To Expect From Working Out

Changes To Expect From Working Out

There’s a lot of great changes that take place in your body when working out is part of your weekly routine. You might not see the changes immediately, but they definitely are occurring. I’ve seen clients attend their first workout and check out their reflection in the glass on their way out. I’ll be the first to say, you definitely won’t look thinner or fitter after just one session, but you might look a little healthier. There will be a glow to your skin with a hint of pink indicating increased circulation. You may even be smiling, since exercise boosts the happy hormones and decreases the stress hormones.

You might notice improved energy after a very short time.

It may take longer, but usually after the first week or so, people notice they have more energy. They get more work done both physically and mentally. The increased energy level means you move faster with less need to rest and improved endurance. The improved mental energy comes from increased brain function from exercise. That can come from the reduction of stress and the boost in your circulation, sending oxygen and nutrient rich blood throughout the body. Exercise also increases the development of neural pathways.

It only takes about a month to six weeks to have visual proof that exercise is making a change.

You’ll start noticing muscle mass increasing and look thinner and fitter. Fat will start to disappear. By the end of the month, there are some real changes going on and others will notice it as well. Even if you didn’t lose weight, people may ask if you lost it, since you’re converting muscle into fat, which makes you look slimmer. You’ll feel stronger and notice the difference in your strength. You’ll be able to lift more weight in the gym. With the increased muscle mass, you’ll also notice weight loss is easier, since it boosts your metabolism.

After a six months, there’s no doubt about it, you’re looking good.

Not only will your body be more muscular and/or thinner, you’ll look years younger and definitely more confident from the improved posture. Not only will your body look younger with pep in each step, your skin will too. In fact, you’ll be younger at a cellular level. Exercise boosts the creation of adult stem cells and extends telomeres. Telomeres are the chromosome protectors that prevent it from unraveling every time it divides—avoiding early cell death or damage.

  • You’ll sleep better at night after a few sessions. While you might be a bit achy after the first session, which could interrupt a good night’s sleep, it won’t take you long to fall asleep once you start exercising regularly.
  • You’ll feel happier and more like socializing. Exercise does give you a confidence boost and improves your body image. When you feel good about yourself, you’re more apt to be social.
  • You’ll keep up with the kids and maybe even outlast them. That endurance that occurs will help you take on several flights of stairs without the need to rest on the way up and keep you hiking a faster pace without stopping along the way.
  • You’ll find you miss exercising when you skip a session after a few months. When you exercise on a regular basis, it becomes a habit. You become uncomfortable when you miss a session.

Working Out Makes Your Brain Fit

Working Out Makes Your Brain Fit

It doesn’t happen very often, but every once in a while I get a client that actually wants to workout to improve other things, like their vision or their cognitive skills. It’s true, working out makes your brain fit and can boost your mental powers dramatically. While everyone has the vision of the muscular athlete that has a box of rocks for brains, in reality, it’s just not true. Most athletes, particularly college athletes and pros, are extremely intelligent. One reason is the exercise they get and the experiences they have as athletes.

Exercise helps build new neural pathways.

Your IQ changes. Unlike the past, where children were given an IQ test and then classified forever by that score, today we know there’s such a thing as brain plasticity. Neuroplasticity is the ability of the brain to continuously change throughout life. In the past, it was thought that all the brain cells you’d ever have were there at birth. Now, we know that new neural pathways and cells are created and one way to do that is through exercise. Exercise increases plasticity and can increase your brain power.

You’ll build your hippo-campus when you workout.

There’s a lot of studies looking for ways to improve the brain and fight dementia, which has been increasing worldwide. One study from the University of British Columbia found that exercise that raises your heart rate and causes perspiration makes the hippo-campus bigger. The hippo-campus is the part of the brain responsible for memory, the nervous system and emotions.

Exercise boosts growth factors, while it reduces inflammation and insulin resistance.

Inflammation plays a huge role in many brain diseases, including Alzheimer’s disease. So, you can see that by reducing it, it immediately can help your brain. The body releases growth factors when you exercise and those help create new cells and vessels in the brain. Insulin resistance not only affects your body, it affects your brain. While the brain is considered insulin-independent, insulin is necessary to maintain energy homeostasis and maintain glucose. If the body has insulin resistance, it can lead to cognitive damage and dementia.

  • Exercise can reduce stress and the hormones created by stress, which can clear your mind and eliminate fuzzy thinking.
  • You’ll sleep better at night when you workout regularly, plus improve your mood. Both of those help you improve your mental acuity. If you’ve gone without sleep and found it was tough to focus, you know that’s true.
  • Some studies show that people who workout have both a larger prefrontal and a medial temporal cortex. Those are parts of the brain that control memory and thinking.
  • Exercise increases blood flow to the brain, bringing oxygen and nutrient rich blood. That increased oxygen and nutrient rich blood helps you think better.

Ways To Burn More Body Fat Throughout The Day

Ways To Burn More Body Fat Throughout The Day

You can increase your weight loss and burn more body fat by changing a few things you do throughout the day. While nothing will replace working out and a healthy diet, these tips can supplement that routine and improve your overall fat burning ability. Lots of clients in San Antonio, TX like having some simple tips to get their fat burning furnaces going, so I put together a few ideas that will help you shed your weight and start losing fat consistently.

Keep it simple. Keep water with you at all times.

I’m a real nut on hydration. I call water my magical elixir in a bottle. I can actually taste subtle differences in water! Water actually works better for me than coffee to boost my energy later in the day, although I do love my morning cup of coffee. In order to keep those fat burning fires going, you need to have adequate hydration. Try to drink at least eight 8-ounce glasses of water a day. If you’re working out that day, increase the amount by a couple of glasses. You’ll sweat out the extra. Limit your water at meals, but in between meals so you don’t “water down” the digestive juices and make absorption of nutrients more difficult.

Start your day with protein.

Protein fills you up, not out, so when you start with a breakfast high in protein, you’ll feel full longer throughout the day. If you’re used to a sugary or high carb breakfast, you probably notice you’re starved within a few hours. Healthy fat should also be part of your breakfast menu. Consider an egg, fresh fruit, like blueberries, and maybe an avocado with some hot sauce for breakfast.

Make sure you include strength training in your workout program.

Sure, cardio burns loads of calories, but not all of them come from fat. In fact, it burns both lean muscle tissue and fat for the calories. The less lean muscle tissue you have, the slower your metabolism. Muscle tissue requires more calories around the clock just for maintenance. When you include strength training in your workout, you not only burn calories, but you also build muscle tissue to keep you burning extra calories around the clock.

  • Get more sleep. Lack of sleep messes with your hunger and fullness hormones, so you’ll eat more and feel less satisfied. It also stresses your body, making it more susceptible to increasing fat.
  • Use the concept of HIIT, high intensity interval training, throughout the day. HIIT is nothing more than alternating between top intensity movement and moderate recovery intensity. Change intensity as you walk or do tasks to boost calorie burning and also include it in your workout program.
  • Improve your gut health. Having healthy microbes to aid digestion can boost your weight loss. Eat probiotic and prebiotic foods and avoid sugar.
  • Take a walk in the sun. You’ll boost your vitamin D and help your body, energy level and mood. Get about 20 minutes of sun without sunscreen a day. Build up your time slowly until you have a protective tan.

Learning Healthy Habits

Learning Healthy Habits

If you want to look better, feel better and even live longer, learning healthy habits should be at the top of your to-do list. Sometimes, it’s the small things we do every day that either make or break our potential for living a healthier life or even losing weight. For instance, if you have a few colas throughout the day, even if they’re diet cola, you could be adding extra calories or extra inches to your waist. Both contain phosphoric acid that can act with the caffeine as a diuretic and rob your body of nutrients. Both affect the heart, blood pressure, dental health and waistline, with people drinking diet sodas having more visceral fat and a bigger waist.

Move around for five minutes out of every hour.

That’s right. Just getting up and moving around for about five minutes every fifty to fifty-five minutes can extend your life, even if you workout regularly. Studies show that sitting for longer than 50-55 minutes without a break to move around can even reduce the benefits of your workout or wipe them out. Your body wasn’t meant to sit longer, so set a time and every fifty minutes or so, get up and move around. While you’re at it, take the stairs to your office, not the elevator and walk as much as possible.

Get rid of refined sugar in your diet for a few weeks.

While I could have said eliminate sugar for the rest of your life, it might be too much for most people to consider. Instead, don’t give it up for forever, just for a few weeks. This one takes a little effort, since you’ll find sugar in about everything from processed meats to salad dressing. Eat whole foods as much as possible to avoid all the label reading and make sure it doesn’t sneak in somewhere. Fill in that desire for sugar with fresh fruit. I have a client who tried this and kept a bowl of cut up cantaloupe in their refrigerator. They found that at the end of two weeks, that cantaloupe tasted extremely sweet. Sugar is addictive, so expect this step to be TOUGH!

Get plenty of sleep at night.

Getting a good night’s sleep is just as important as exercise when it comes to health. Studies show that when you have inadequate sleep, it boosts your ghrelin hormone and suppresses the leptin hormone. Ghrelin sends a message to the brain that you’re hungry and leptin tells your brain that you’re full. You can see how that could affect your weight. Lack of sleep increases your risk of coronary disease and stroke, too. Turn out the lights and turn off the TV and any other distractions. The TV and light can interfere with the production of melatonin.

  • Get plenty of fresh air and sunshine. Take a walk outside for 20 to 30 minute three to four times a week without sun block. While extensive exposure to the sun is bad, you need some to create vitamin D for your body. Studies show that most Americans have a shortage.
  • Take longer strides when you walk. Several studies show that people who walk faster and take longer strides live longer.
  • Make laughter and smiling a habit. The more you smile and laugh, the healthier you’ll be. Laughter is good medicine. It reduces stress and triggers the creation of hormones that make you healthier.
  • Chew your food carefully and slow down at the table. Always sit down at a table to eat. Don’t eat on the go. Even if you have to sit at a park picnic table or bench, make it an “official” meal time and enjoy every bite.

Nutrition For The Traveling Athlete

Nutrition For The Traveling Athlete

Whether you’re playing on a league or taking part in a competition, traveling can take its toll and even how well you do. Lots of things, from jet lag to eating healthy play a role in this. It’s not always easy to achieve good nutrition for the traveling athlete. One way to avoid some of the problem is to make sure you focus on a balanced diet with adequate protein, vitamins, minerals, carbs and fat. The best way to ensure success is to plan ahead.

Getting adequate hydration is extremely important.

Dehydration is a real problem no matter what time of year it is. That’s why I always recommend athletes carry a bottle of water with them. Take an empty bottle and fill it at the fountain after you’ve passed security. Cars and planes are dry in the winter from the heater warming the air and in the summer, the air conditioner removes the water, making dehydration a potential. Don’t depend on getting the cup of water every hour that your body requires on a plane. The paper cups used hold about half that. While good hydration is important, you also need to make sure it’s from a safe source if you’re traveling to foreign countries where it might be questionable.

Are you flying? Take food.

If your flight is an hour or less, there’s far less need to make sure you have snacks, but carrying a small bag of trail mix wouldn’t hurt, especially if you have to sit in the airport for a while before your flight. Taking your own food, particularly on longer flights, will ensure that you have healthy snacks or a lunch that has extra nutrients without added chemicals. It can be fresh fruit, dried fruit, nuts or trail mix. Protein bars or powdered/canned liquid meal supplements can also boost your nutrition. You won’t be ravenous when you arrive and tempted to eat junk that might affect your performance.

If you’re traveling by bus or car, plan to eat along the way.

A cooler can be a great asset when you’re on the road. It doesn’t have to be big, just large enough to hold some snacks or meals so you don’t do your snack or dinner shopping at a gas stations. You can include quite a wide variety of foods when you have a cooler. Yogurt, hard-boiled eggs, hummus and veggies are a few of the things you can bring with you. Ham and cheese sandwiches, individual size canned tuna and coconut water are also good additions to your meal while on wheels.

  • Do research ahead of time to find the best places to eat that have whole foods. You might even find a farmer’s market in the area to purchase fruit and vegetables for the room, especially if you have a refrigerator in it.
  • You don’t have to be as worried about balancing your diet to ensure you get all the nutrients if your trip is just a few days. You can add to your diet for a short time with nutrient rich liquid or powdered supplement.
  • Choose snacks to take carefully so you get a good mix of protein rich foods, nutrient packed veggies and fruit, grain and calcium rich products. A few cubes of cheese, raw veggies and whole grain crackers are examples of the mix.
  • Talk with others going along if you’re traveling with several people or a team. Coordinate the foods each of you bring to make it easier, yet still have variety.

Hormones, Health And Behavior

Hormones, Health And Behavior

If you’re like most people, when you hear the word hormones, you immediately think of testosterone, estrogen and other sex hormones. These are indeed hormones, but not all of them. Hormones are the body’s messengers that tell the cells how to act or help it through a process necessary for life. Hormones not only affect your health, they also affect your behavior and mood. They control how much you eat and when you feel full as well. Ghrelin, for example is the hunger hormone, while its counterpart leptin turns on the switch that says you’re full. Hormones even affect your mood. Some mental illness is believed to be caused by hormonal imbalances.

Most people have heard of insulin, but may not have realized it’s a hormone.

Lack of adequate insulin produced is what causes type 1 diabetes and insulin resistance causes type 2. Insulin opens the cells and makes them receptive to the sugar in the bloodstream, glucose. The cells then use it for energy to stay healthy and nourished. When the there’s a problem using the cells using insulin or the creation of insulin, there’s high levels of sugar in the blood. When high blood sugar levels are due to insulin resistance, exercise and a healthy diet are often used to control and reverse the condition in some cases. For those that don’t create any or enough insulin, taking shots or oral insulin is the solution, but eating healthy and exercise is also part of the prescription.

Cortisol plays both a positive and negative role on your health.

Cortisol is a stress hormone that’s created in the adrenal glands. It prepares the body for the flight or fight response, but if left unchecked maintains the body in a high form of readiness for either running away or fighting. That causes changes that affect good health. It’s associated with abdominal fat, the most dangerous type of fat, too. Cortisol is for more than just situations where you face stress. Almost all cells have receptors for cortisol. That’s because it performs a lot of functions. It keeps your metabolism in check, controls blood sugar levels, helps you remember better and as a steroid hormone, aids in inflammation reduction. It’s necessary to be healthy, but you can have too much of a good thing in the case of cortisol.

There’s a hormone that’s considered the fountain of youth in the world of hormones.

You may have heard a lot about HGH—human growth hormone. It’s been touted as the miracle hormone that’s the fountain of youth. That’s because it helps in muscle development and when you’re younger, growth spurts. HGH has a lot of jobs in your body. It regulates heart functioning, bone growth, body fluids, fat metabolism, body composition and sugar metabolism. Doctors use a synthetic type of HGH to treat muscle wasting and kidney disease. While there’s no concrete evidence that it slows aging, that’s never stopped people from spending thousands of dollars to try it. Since the stomach acids destroy it, anyone spending money on HGH pills is definitely wasting their dollars. However, working out regularly, particularly using high intensity training, and eating a healthy diet does boost it’s production.

Some of the mood regulating hormones include serotonin, dopamine, glutamate and norepinephrine.

  • Serotonin helps regulate your mood, sleep cycle, memory, appetite and more. Low levels can cause weight gain, depression and insomnia. Dopamine helps control behavior, emotion, and makes your feel good.
  • If you want a good night’s sleep, you need the hormone melatonin. It only works in total darkness, so shut off your TV and lights. Lack of it is associated with obesity, diabetes and cancer.
  • If you want bulky muscles, you need more testosterone. That’s one reason women don’t bulk up like men do, they have far less.
  • Both sexes have estrogen, just as both have testosterone. However, men have far less estrogen than women do. It’s important for muscle recovery and exercise can boost its production.

The Simple Strategy To Achieving Your Health Goals

The Simple Strategy To Achieving Your Health Goals

One of the biggest mistakes I see from the people that start their workout program in San Antonio, Texas is that people tend to make getting fit too complicated. It doesn’t have to be. Sure, there’s a lot to remember and a lot to do, but achieving your health goals requires that you make an effort to start! Overthinking the training or waiting until you know everything about fitness means you may never start. The easiest thing to do is just start moving, whether it’s taking a walk or doing a few exercises at your desk.

Set a SMART goal.

SMART is an Acronym for specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and time frame. Know what you want. Just saying you want to be fit doesn’t say much. A more specific goal is deciding to lose weight. Make that goal measurable, by adding the number of pounds you want to lose, such as 20 pounds. Is your goal attainable? Losing twenty pounds probably is attainable, but changing your shoe size or height isn’t. Is it realistic? Realistic is losing twenty pounds in two and a half months, not two and a half weeks. The key is to set a time frame, so you’ll know when you should reach your goal. Setting a goal makes creating a path to your destination far easier and less confusing.

Don’t be overwhelmed by a big goal.

Even if you have to lose over a hundred pounds, don’t let it overwhelm you. Break those huge goals down into smaller goals and keep it simple. You only have to lose a pound or two a week or eight to ten a month. Those are achievable in a short time period, so you’ll see success on the way to keep you motivated and won’t be discouraged.

Make simple dietary changes one at a time until they become a habit.

You don’t have to change everything at once. You can start small and work from there. Maybe you have a candy bar every day on the way home from work. Plan ahead and take an apple with you as a snack. Switch that soft drink for water or unsweetened tea. One of my clients lost about five pounds in a month because she switched to water. She drank sweet tea and sodas several times a day before the switch. Cut out processed food. You can start small by simply changing one meal to whole foods until it’s part of your lifestyle.

  • Cutting out sugar and white flour products is a good start for a healthy lifestyle, but also a tough one. You’ll be surprised at how many there are when you start identifying all the foods that contain these two ingredients.
  • Don’t worry about doing the absolute best workout, just do one! No matter what exercises you choose, you’ll get more benefit from them than you would sitting and not doing them! Just get started. You can always change it later.
  • Carry water with you everywhere you go and hydrate frequently. Drink a few glasses of water about a half hour before a meal. It will fill you up so you’ll eat less. If it’s cold, it will burn a few extra calories to warm it to body temperature, boosting your metabolism in the process.
  • Track your progress and keep notes. If you vowed to get more exercise to improve your fitness. Do something every day to make that goal happen and make a note of what you did. Winners keep score.

Is Organic Food Better?

Is Organic Food Better?

Do you cringe at the thought of the extra expense to buy organic food? There’s a lot of reasons to do it, but also ways to save money. Exactly what is organic food? It’s food that’s raised using no pesticides, synthetic fertilizer, sewage sludge, GMO organism or ionizing radiation if you’re talking about fruits and veggies for animal products, it’s ones fed organic food, allowed to graze on grass or eat a natural source of food rather than man made feed. These animals are antibiotic and hormone free.

You’ll get more nutritional bang for your buck.

Farmers who grow organically use natural means to build the soil. That isn’t done overnight. In fact, it takes three years or more to build the soil. Unlike more traditional or modern farmers, they don’t add nitrogen, potassium or phosphorus from a bag, which limits the soil’s trace minerals. There are several studies that tested the nutritional content of organic food, compared to those grown traditionally and found that organic food has a higher nutritional content. Other studies show the nutrition of traditionally grown food has dropped over several decades, which might be as a result of limiting fertilizer to the potassium, phosphorus and nitrogen and not replenishing the trace minerals.

Insecticides, hormones and herbicides aren’t healthy for the body.

If you’re killing bugs with pesticides, why would eating traces of it on your fresh fruit make you healthier. It just doesn’t make sense to boost your health in one way and cut it down with chemicals in another. What’s even worse is that you can’t always wash off all the pesticides. If you want to save money, check the Dirty Dozen and Clean 15 list from the EWG—Environmental Working Group. The Dirty Dozen is a list of the foods that have the most pesticides even after washing. The Clean 15 are those that have the least.

What about organic meat, eggs and milk products.

So you know that organic fruit and veggies are better, what about animal products. Free range chickens and grass-fed beef have benefits, such as the conjugated linoleic acid that’s proven to be more heart healthy that’s in milk from grass-fed cows. There’s been a rise in concern that the antibiotics given cows is producing antibiotic resistant germs and also causing allergies in those who drink or eat the animal products. The extra hormones in these products are also of concern.

Organic meat, dairy and eggs have benefits, too.

Not only are you avoiding the potential for additional hormones in your system and extra antibiotics when you eat organic meat, you’re also boosting the benefits that come from the products, especially when it’s grass fed organic beef and dairy. Grass-fed beef and dairy products contain more Omega-3 fatty acids that are good for the heart, while animal products from free range chickens contain more vitamins A and E, more Omega3 fatty acid and less fat and bad cholesterol.

  • You can save money by choosing organic foods from the Dirty Dozen list that contain the most pesticides and going with regular fruit and veggies when eating those from the Clean 15.
  • Soaking fruits and vegetables in baking soda and water helps reduces pesticides.
  • While organic fruits and vegetables may cost more now, the more they become the produce of choice, the more likely the price will drop as more people start farming that way.  Take it a step further and look for organic heirloom fruits and vegetables. You’ll normally find these at farmer’s markets. These are vegetables and fruits that were produced before hybridizing for various characteristics took place. One example is the Black Krim tomato.
  • For a real taste treat that has more nutrition, choose heirloom varieties that are organic. There’s nothing like the taste of an heirloom tomato that hybridizing has destroyed.

Healthy Snacks For Kids

Healthy Snacks For Kids

Getting your children off to a good start is important. Helping them to have healthy lifestyles measured by their choice in food and desire to stay active never can start too early. I have clients in San Antonio who ask me a lot about how to do it and the answer is clear. You control what the child eats in his or her early years, so making sure the foods are most nutritious is a top priority and also why finding healthy snacks for kids can help.

Start with nutrition that has eye appeal.

Sure, those celery sticks stuffed with peanut butter taste good and kids will eat them, but putting a few raisins on top of the peanut butter and calling it ants on a log can make it a real game. Who doesn’t want to gobble up the ant? Maybe you and I, but kids love this type of imagination used with food. Making vegetable animals like a celery snail—like ants on a log, but with two pretzels for antennae and a round slice of cucumber for the shell—can bring delight to any child’s face.

Keep it simple to cut time.

If you have to go through long hours in front of the stove, the chances of making healthy snacks ahead starts to diminish. How about some microwave popcorn? Not the bag type you buy at the store, but homemade microwave popcorn. All you need is small brown paper lunch bags, popcorn and some coconut oil. Put a small spoonful of coconut oil and popcorn in the bag, roll the bag tight on the end and put it in the microwave. An air popper also works. Sprinkle it with Parmesan or American cheese or other toppings. Having sliced fruit already in a bowl in the fridge also boosts the power of healthy snacks.

Letting the kids help can boost their enjoyment.

I know the minute you read that line you had a vision of the kitchen topsy-turvy, but helping doesn’t have to mean that, especially if you’re making trail mix. Take them to the store where you can buy bulk nuts and treats with you. Choose a few ingredients you definitely want and some backups for them to choose from. For instance, you might want pumpkin and sunflower seeds, but you can let them choose the type of nuts to add or what type of dried fruit. There’s no harm in buying a small bag of mini dark chocolate bits to add as long as you go lightly and store the unused portion in the refrigerator for the next batch. Even a few M&Ms wouldn’t hurt if you want a more colorful mixture. Let them help mix and bag individual portions.

  • While it was mentioned before about fruit, it doesn’t hurt to bring it up about vegetables. If you have veggies already cut with a healthy dip like seasoned Greek yogurt, the kids will eat more of it.
  • Make an octopus from string cheese or just pair it with a sliced apple for a less artistic snack.
  • When warm weather comes, there’s nothing better than a frozen treat. Don’t even consider that sugar water called a Popsicle. Instead, buy your own mold and use a juicy fruit like a watermelon for the liquid with chopped bits or sliced pieces of other fruit added.
  • Do the kids like fruit yogurt. Skip the store bought type and make your own from plain yogurt and fresh fruit. It has far less sugar and more nutrients. You can get them started on less sugar young!