Saturday, September 28, 2013

Why you shouldn't count calories

As a nutritionist, I would sometimes meet with clients who wanted to know how many calories they should be eating or how many grams of fat their breakfast should contain. They would then go on to justify that their favourite snack was healthy because it only contained [insert low number] calories and [insert low number] grams of sugar/fat etc. 

I've never encouraged counting calories, grams of fat or sugar. While counting calories, grams or litres can drive you crazy, it is also not a good indicator of health.

I used to run nutrition workshops with teenaged girls at a private school. The girls ranged in age from 12-17. As you can imagine, I had to be very careful with my wording. I was told before I started working with the girls that I could not bring up eating disorders (not that I would have anyways), but needed to keep it in mind. The workshops were always a success but it amazed and scared me when the girls shared what they believed nutritionally and where they were getting their information. At 12 years old, some of the girls were worried about the amount of fat foods and would skip a meal, drinking only a Diet These kids were incredibly bright though. They listened intently and would ask a ton of questions. One of my workshops, Debunking Nutrition Myths, would always start with a talk about calories.

Not all calories are created equal. 

Larabar is a great example that I would use with my former clients. Larabars are Teagan and Quinn's on-the-go snacks. They contain 3-6 ingredients that can not only be pronounced but can also all be eaten individually (eg. dates, cashews, walnuts, apples etc.). When I would show them to a client, she/he would usually flip it over and look at the nutrition label. She/he would then flip out - 230 calories! 13 grams of fat! 18 grams of sugar! I can't eat this! She/he would tell me.  

A Sn.ickers bar, on the other hand, contains 250 calories, 12 grams of fat and 27 grams of sugar. Practically the same as the 230 calorie Larabar for a calorie-counter. A Sni.ckers bar contains 20 ingredients. The word sugar is written 5 times -- sugar, lactose, sugar (again), corn syrup, lactose (again). It contains soy lecithin, made from cheap GMO soybeans. It also contains partially hydrogenated soybean oil -- a manmade oil that the body doesn't know what to do with. Lastly, there is the mysterious 'artificial flavour' -- like the word, 'fragrance', 'flavour' could be one or more of a 1000 different things.

Here's the difference...

-- The FAT in Larabars comes from things like, Omega-3 and vitamin E rich walnuts or heart-healthy, antioxidant rich cashews.
-- The FAT in Sni.ckers bar comes from things like the trans fat, hydrogenated soybean oil that is man-made and linked to a host of health issues, including decreased immune system functioning, cancer, diabetes and reproductive issues.

-- The SUGAR in Larabars comes from fibre-filled, cholesterol-lowering, antioxidant and iron-rich, easily digestible dates.
-- The SUGAR in Sni.ckers bars is heavily processed and void of all nutrients. Since corn syrup is man-made and not considered natural, so it cannot be digested by the body and enters the blood stream immediately, placing more stress on the liver.

The fat and sugar in a Larabar is going to do something completely different in the body than the fat and sugar in a Sni.ckers. Since the fat in the Larabar is mostly from Omega-3 sources, it is not going to go straight to our hips or butt because it is going to be too busy keeping clots out of our blood or keeping our skin smooth and ours brains sharp. The fat in a Sni.ckers on the other hand has a one-way ticket to those hips. The sugar in that Sni.ckers is very high on the gylcemic index so it will make us feel awesome briefly, only causing us to crash a short while later. The natural sugars in the dates of a Larabar will provide our body with high quality energy without the sugar crash because fibre helps to keep our blood sugar in check.

As you can see, the fat and sugar that make up calories can come in very different forms, ranging from very healthy to incredibly unhealthy.

Next time you find yourself leaning towards the "90-calorie" Sni.ckers ice cream bars or the "100-calorie" Ah.oy!, check out the ingredient list first. Where do those calories come from? Not all calories are created equal!

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Little Friend Love

The girls are at the age where they now have friends and not "friends." They know their names and get excited to see them. On Tuesday, the only thing that snapped the girls out of their post-nap crankiness was finding out that they were going to Paityn's house.

When the love fest started, Lauren quickly grabbed her phone and snapped this pic...

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

2 questions, same outcome

This is how my days go right now...

Early Morning
Me: Teagan, do you want your diaper changed on the floor or on the bed?
Teagan: Ummmm, bed.

Me: Quinn, do you want to wear the pink shirt or the green shirt?
Q: Ummmmm, green.

Me: Girls, will you walk to your high chair or do you want Mommy to carry you? (This is after I've asked them to get in their high chairs 3 times)

Me: Girls, will you actually get in your high chairs on your own or should Mommy put you in? (After they walked to their high chairs and proceeded to play with the straps)
T&Q: Mommy do it!

After breakfast
Me: Girls, will you put on your own shoes or should Mommy do it?
T: TT do it!

Sometime during the morning
Me: Quinn, do you want your diaper changed on the floor or on the couch?
Q: Couch!

At lunch
Me: Girls, do you want a peach or grapes for dessert?
T: Grapes!
Q: Peach!

After lunch
Me: Quinn, can you please stop jumping on Riley or should Mommy come over there and take you off him? (After saying 3 times that we do not jump on the dog)
Q: Q do it!

I think you get the gist.

While many parents of toddlers already do this, I recently discovered the brilliant tactic of giving choices that will still result in the same outcome. Toddler gets to assert her independence. Mommy still gets what she wants. I discovered this after asking them to do things, only to be faced with a ton of resistance, tantrums and fights. It is amazing how giving choices suddenly turns their ability to hear back on!

Monday, September 16, 2013

Toddler Supplements

Note: I am not a doctor. I choose supplements for my family based on my knowledge and experience as a nutritionist and information that I receive from a naturopathic doctor. Always consult a naturopathic doctor before taking supplements or giving them to your children.

Babies, under one year of age, are able to get all of their nutrients from breast milk or formula (and some solid foods). There are some instances where a doctor might recommend a supplement for a baby (ie. anemia), but for the majority of infants, supplements aren't necessary. Based on my knowledge as a nutritionist, the one exception is probiotics. Teagan and Quinn have been taking a probiotic supplement since they were 3 weeks old. You can read about probiotics for babies here

After the girls turned 1, I added DHA and EPA (Omega-3s) to the mix. 

Teagan and Quinn's daily supplements
Why do I give the girls these two supplements?

Probiotics (Genestra HMF Powder)
  • For a healthy immune system -- The majority of your immune cells can be found in the digestive tract, so keeping it full of "good" bacteria will keep you and your kids healthy. 
  • Reduces inflammation in the body -- This can help a TON of issues, including your child's eczema, allergies and rashes. 
  • Improves the digestive system -- Helps diarrhea, constipation, gas and conditions like IBS.
  • For making vitamins and mineral absorption -- "Good" bacteria will actually make vitamins, like B12 and folic acid, for your body. The good guys will also help your body absorb minerals, like calcium and magnesium.
Omega-3 Supplements (Nordic Naturals Children's DHA liquid)
  • Cognitive and nervous system development -- DHA and EPA (Omega-3 fats) are extremely beneficial in children's brain and nervous system development. It is especially important for a fetus (so mom takes it), babies and toddlers since growth is so rapid at that age. 
  • ADHD and mood disorders -- Omega-3 fats, particularly DHA, has been known to help children suffered from ADHD and similar symptoms. EPA helps decrease the incidence of childhood depression and other mood disorders. 
  • Infant visual development -- Since an infant's visual system is very poorly developed at birth, DHA supplementation by a breastfeeding mother has been proven to improve an infant's eyesight more than those who did not receive any additional DHA. 
  • Inflammatory conditions -- Omega-3 fats will help children and adults alike who suffer from asthma, allergies, eczema and other skin conditions. 

Not all supplements are created equal.

There is a very wide price range in the Omega-3 supplement department. You get what you pay for. Your fish oils should not smell super fishy. If they do, they are rancid. They should always be stored in the fridge. Omega-3 fats are very unstable, meaning exposure to heat (even just the warmth of your kitchen) can cause them to go rancid quickly. While you don't need to buy the most expensive supplements on the market, it is wise to head into a health food store and speak with the staff. They are almost always well-trained in supplements and there is usually a Naturopathic Doctor on hand. I usually purchase Genestra's probiotics and Nordic Natural's Omega-3 oils. 

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Family Photo Shoot

My friend Lauren recently moved back to Toronto from LA. While she was down there, she was working as a newborn and family photographer. I followed her blogs and fell in love with her photography. I always knew that I'd want to hire her to do a family shoot for us, if she moved back to Toronto. Recently, I got my chance! 

Check out the photos from the shoot below and check out Lauren's photography here. Guess who made the cut and ended up in the photos?! Gay Bear and Peanut!

My Wife!

Teagan gets quite jealous when I hug someone else or hold another child (apart from her sister). She will usually try to weasel her way into the love :)

Jenn and I grabbed a hug the other day while the girls were eating their lunch. Our hug was interrupted by loud screaming, followed by, "MY MOMMY!!!" Teagan attempted to lay down the law with Jenn.

"My wife!!" Jenn replied.

"No Mama, MY WIFE!" Teagan responded back.

"No TT, MY wife!" Jenn said firmly.

"MY WIFE!" Teagan tried again. It was a lost cause and was funny by this point.

Ten minutes later, when lunch was finished, I walked over to Teagan to wipe her face with a wash cloth. When I finished cleaning her up, she grabbed my arm, gave me a kiss and said, "my wife" with a huge smile on her face. Well played small fry.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

First Day of Preschool!

I meant to post yesterday since that was the girls official first day of preschool. It was an emotional one that started off difficult and ended perfectly.

The school hosted an orientation last week. The girls got to see their classroom and play for an hour. We met their teachers and the coordinator. Last week, we talked about school and tried to explain that I would be dropping them off (and saying goodbye) and then coming back to get them. They are doing a 2-morning per week (2.5 hours) program.

I had some first day of school jitters. I also felt quite emotional since the girls have been with me since they were born (apart from time with family and a couple of babysitters). I knew that it was going to be hard for me, especially if they were upset.

Don't let these faces fool you. They actually
seemed excited on our walk to school.
Upon our arrival at the school, Quinn happily trotted up the stairs. Teagan insisted that I carry her. We found their cubbies and hooks. Quinn changed into her indoor shoes. When I tried to take Teagan's knapsack off, she freaked out. Quinn then walked into the room to check it out. I was impressed. Teagan, on the other hand, wouldn't let me go. I didn't want our goodbye to be long and drawn out. I gave them both a kiss and told them that I would be back to get them after school. At that point, Quinn flipped out and started crying. She had thought that I was staying. Teagan was hysterical and had to be pried from my leg. I walked out and could hear them wailing from the sidewalk. 

Knowing that they would be fine and would eventually have fun didn't make that experience any easier. I called Jenn immediately. I stayed strong...until I got home. I had a cry and the boys consoled me. I then took them for a long run. 

About an hour and a half into school, the coordinator called. She was calling everyone. The girls settled after about 10 minutes and were playing happily at the sand table while we spoke. They were already making friends with the other kids. While I knew that would be the case, I was grateful for her call. 

My brother and I picked them up before lunch. They were in the playground. Quinn saw me when we arrived and immediately gave me a hug. She then ran off to play. Teagan spotted me just before she went down the slide. She smiled, slid down and then headed straight back up! I chatted with their teachers for a few minutes. I gave them a five minute warning, which probably ended up being longer. I was thrilled to see them having fun.

Here's to hoping tomorrow morning is much of the same!

After their nap, we headed to the park. I snapped a few pictures of my preschoolers. They looked older :)

Monday, September 2, 2013

Monkey Business

This picture doesn't look like much. It is what you don't see that makes it. 

You don't see Teagan in her own crib in this picture. You don't see the mattresses, sheets and stuffed animals tossed all over the room. You don't see Jenn rushing up the stairs because of the loud banging. You don't see two little monkeys climbing back and forth between cribs. You don't see mattresses on the floor so that the little monkeys can jump on the boards below. 

I thought (read: REALLY, REALLY hoped) that we had until January before the monkeys started climbing out of their cribs. Given their destructive history, I've been dreading the switch to beds. Quinn made the first move two weeks ago at nap time. She climbed out of her crib three times in 20 minutes. For the next week, I lay on their floor at nap time until she fell asleep. Fortunately for me, she fell asleep quickly. I was delaying the inevitable, I know. 

Jenn walked into their room at nap time yesterday to find Quinn asleep and Teagan standing in the middle of their room naked with her clothes, mattress and sheets everywhere. She was chatting (to herself) about "sleeping Mimi" and was apparently an inch away from grabbing her. I'm grateful that poop has remained IN their diapers. 

Needless to say, toddler beds have been ordered. Wish us luck!