Friday, October 31, 2008

Childhood Obesity: Who's to Blame?

Yesterday, I came across an article about the Neenah Joint School District in Wisconsin and its efforts to combat childhood obesity which has reached epidemic proportions in the last decade. An expansion of the district's wellness program, Neenah has issued a ban on sweets. Here is the article: (

Neenah School District Bans Cupcakes, Sweet Treats

Associated Press
NEENAH - Neenah students who want to bring an occasional treat for their classmates will be limited fruit, vegetables and other healthy snacks.

The Neenah School District tightened its wellness policy this year and banned cupcakes, candy and other sweet treats.

Parent Vicki Denzin is asking the Board of Education to ease those rules. Denzin says banning the items doesn't teach the children moderation or portion control.

Denzin asks how excited a 6- or 7-year-old would be to bring bananas or carrot sticks to share with their friends.

Tullar Elementary School Principal Diane Galow says it's not the sugary cupcake that's important, it's the ability of the students to share a treat on their birthday or special day.

(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

The alarming part of this story is that there are parents who oppose the ban- one that would move towards educating children about proper nutrition. As the article points out, one parent in particular (Vicki Denzin) points to the fact that this policy doesn't teach moderation or portion control. In this instance, consuming a "food" that will impair your health over time by eating it "in moderation", is innappropriate. It is more appropriate to teach children to eat the right amount of healthy foods, from the proper food groups, at the proper times. Neenah is attempting to accomplish a task that was once taught in the child's home--by their parents.

I reviewed Neenah's wellness policy and it appears that they are on the right track. Here is an excerpt of the Mission and Goals of the program:

Wellness -- In order to fully achieve the mission of the Neenah Joint School District, we recognize our responsibility to promote lifelong wellness behaviors that link proper nutrition and physical activity to students' overall health, growth, development, academic performance, and readiness to learn. This District-wide wellness policy encourages all members of the school community to create an environment that supports lifelong healthy eating habits and promotes opportunities for increased physical activity.

546.1 Wellness Goals

546.11 Establish an environment that empowers the school community to make good nutritional choices during the academic day and school-related functions outside of the instructional day.

546.12 Establish an environment that empowers the school community to increase physical activity during the academic day and supports the continuation of these activities outside of the instructional day.

546.13 Provide a high quality lunch program for students and staff.

546.131 Provide students with well-balanced nutritional choices of food and beverages;
546.132 Assist students in making healthy choices; and
546.133 Encourage and promote participation in the school lunch program.

546.14 Educate our school community, including students, parents and staff, on the benefits of good nutrition and physical activity.

The program further outlines nutrition standards, district food service, lunch and snack recommendations, school-based activities, physical activity and nutrition education, and policy regulation. As a parent, how could you object to this type of program? If executed properly, the children will lose the weight, miss fewer days from school due to preventable illness, improve grades and conduct, and become more physically active. Here is the link. Please read it and decide for yourself:

On October 28, 2008, The New York Times published an article entitled, "A Rise in Kidney Stones Is Seen in U.S. Children"written by Laurie Tarkan. Kidney stones? I wonder if there is link between children's diets and kidney stones? Here is how some of the experts respond:

"“What we’ve really seen is an increase in the salt load in children’s diet,” said Dr. Bruce L. Slaughenhoupt, co-director of pediatric urology and of the pediatric kidney stone clinic at the University of Wisconsin. He and other experts mentioned not just salty chips and French fries, but also processed foods like sandwich meats; canned soups; packaged meals; and even sports drinks like Gatorade, which are so popular among school children they are now sold in child-friendly juice boxes."

"Dr. Slaughenhoupt has seen more overweight children at his clinic. “We haven’t compared our data yet,” he said, “but my sense is that children with stones are bigger, and some of them are morbidly obese.”

Dr. Pope, in Nashville, agreed. His hospital lies in the so-called stone belt, a swath of Southern states with a higher incidence of kidney stones, and he said doctors there saw two to three new pediatric cases a week.

“There’s no question in my mind that it is largely dietary and directly related to the childhood obesity epidemic,” he said."

At the end of the day, we can protest, litigate, and criticize the food and medical industries and even the schools. But, in this country we have a choice. Children are the most easily influenced people on the planet if parents would judge take charge of their health. It starts at home and we must be found modeling the behavior: increase fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and healthy fats; eliminate processed foods; increase water intake; increase physical activity; get proper rest. It really is that simple. Here is a link to help you assess your family's needs:

I am going to conclude with some "food for thought" about the food and beverage industry and its relationship with the health care industry. Have a look!

Dr. Alim Muhammad "The Atonement and Purification of a Nation"

Morgan Spurlock "Super Size Me"

Michael Moore "Sicko"

More next time...

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Causes of Belly Fat

One of the most common concerns that dieters have is, "How do I get rid of my belly?" Both men and women (especially mothers)want to target this area of the body more than any other because it is probably the most difficult to reduce. Excessive belly fat is an indicator of potential health problems like heart disease, high cholesterol, a fatty liver, stroke, and diabetes. Excessive belly fat for a man would be a waistline over 40 inches and for women, a waist over 35 inches. Contrary to popular belief, hundreds of crunches and hours of cardio alone won't burn off the fat--they will tone and sculpt the muscle underneath. (By the way, fat doesn't "melt", so you can't sweat it out.) Keeping a strong powerhouse is important for maintaining good posture, but to shrink that pooch, you must clean up your diet.

I have gathered a few good tips that will help you improve your health while you flatten your midsection. Here goes:

1) Cut white foods out of your diet.
Refined products like white sugar, flour, bread, rice, and potatoes metabolize into sugar once ingested. Your blood sugar levels spike and your pancreas works overtime secreting insulin to control it. If your body doesn't use it for energy, then it is stored as fat--in your belly, hips and thighs. Replace with fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and healthy fats.

2) Drink more water.
Waste and toxins are filtered from the body through your liver, gall bladder, kidneys, and colon. They all require plenty of water to do their jobs. Old toxins are stored in fat cells. Drink at least half your body weight in ounces everyday.

3) Monitor your salt intake.
Salt has gotten a bad rap in recent years, but it contains very important minerals critical for bodily functions. Some consume too much salt which can cause bloating, but more importantly the type of salt that is present in processed foods is toxic. According to Dr. Mercola, "Your table salt is actually 97.5% sodium chloride and 2.5% chemicals such as moisture absorbents, and iodine. Dried at over 1,200 degrees Fahrenheit, the excessive heat alters the natural chemical structure of the salt...Containing all of the 84 elements found in your body, the benefits of natural Himalayan Crystal Salt include:

1. Regulating the water content throughout your body.
2. Promoting a healthy pH balance in your cells, particularly your brain cells.
3. Promoting blood sugar health and helping to reduce the signs of aging.
4. Assisting in the generation of hydroelectric energy in cells in your body.
5. Absorption of food particles through your intestinal tract.
6. Supporting respiratory health.
7. Promoting sinus health.
8. Prevention of muscle cramps.
9. Promoting bone strength.
10. Regulating your sleep -- it naturally promotes sleep.
11. Supporting your libido.
12. Promoting vascular health.
13. In conjunction with water it is actually essential for the regulation of your blood pressure." ( I personally have used this salt for over a year and I have seen great benefits.

4) Get tested for food allergies.
See your doctor and start a food journal. Note when your belly expands and what foods caused it. A simple way to identify food allergies (like to gluten) is to stop eating all processed foods for a month. Then, reintroduce the foods that you suspect one at a time like bread, oats, or soy and record your body's response. If it has an undesired effect, cut it out of you diet--permanently.

5) Monitor your stress levels.
Stress causes the body to release the hormone cortisol which triggers an accumulation of belly fat. There are many ways to manage stress including proper rest (7-8 hours), prayer, yoga, meditation, journaling, and exercise. Be sure to allow proper recovery time between workouts as this will create additional stress and prove counterproductive. (Remember, walking is the best form of exercise!)

Incorporate these steps into your lifestyle and whittle your middle in no time!
More next time...

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Navy Beans: The Low-Fat Meat Alternative

As far back as the 17th century, beans were regarded as a cure-all for ailments ranging from colds to hair loss. We know now that beans are a great alternative to animal protein. According to How to Eat to Live by Elijah Muhammad, man can survive indefinitely on the navy bean. While beans are low in fat and sodium, high in protein and fiber, and contain folacin (folic acid), vitamins, and minerals, they are also very easy on the pocketbook. In these tough economic times, including navy beans in your diet will certainly stretch your dollar by reducing both your grocery bills and your doctors visits.

Let's take a closer look at the nutritional content of navy beans:

Navy beans are similar to Great Northern beans, but are much smaller. They are sometimes called “pea” beans because they are similar in size to peas, but they are more oval than spherical. Navy beans are a member of the Phaseolus species, and are grown primarily in Michigan. They are related to other white beans as well as to kidney beans and pinto beans.

Nutrition Highlights
Navy beans (boiled), 1 cup (182g)
Calories: 258
Protein: 15.8g
Carbohydrate: 47.8g
Total Fat: 1.0g
Fiber: 11.6g

*Excellent source of: Iron (4.5mg), and Folate (255mcg)
*Good source of: Calcium (127mg)
*Foods that are an “excellent source” of a particular nutrient provide 20% or more of the Recommended Daily Value. Foods that are a “good source” of a particular nutrient provide between 10 and 20% of the Recommended Daily Value.

Here is one of my favorite Navy Bean Soup recipes re-printed from my website Journeys Fitness

1 lb. dry navy beans; 1 tbsp. Worcestershire Sauce

2 cloves minced garlic; 1 large carrot, peeled

2 stalks celery; 2 tbsp. sea salt

1/2 large white onion; 1 cup chopped bell pepper (all colors)

1 teaspoon sage; 1/4 teaspoon red pepper

3 tbsp. olive oil; 1 tsp. Italian seasoning

4-6 bay leaves; water to cover

Wash and soak beans for 6-8 hours. Mince all vegetables in food processor. Cover beans with water and bay leaves. Bring to a boil. Skim off foam. Once beans break easily with a spoon, add olive oil. Cook until beans begin to cream and water has turned milky (about 30 minutes). Add all vegetables and add seasonings . Add more water, if desired. Simmer for 45 minutes or until beans are tender. Salt to taste. Serves 6.

Try to eat at least one serving of Navy Bean Soup with your dinner everyday for a month and note the changes in your health. More next time...