Posts Tagged ‘Personal Trainer’

Help Your Child Eat Well

Written by Cassie Vanderwall, MS RD CD CDE CPT

A recent anti-obesity campaign from Children’s healthcare of Atlanta’s Strong4Life movement, released a video that has sparked great attention. This PSA, “Rewind the Future,” features a 300-pound man having a heart attack in the ER as his life flashes before his eyes. The viewer gets a sneak peek into the habits that may have led him to that hospital.

Eating well starts at birth and there are a variety of things that parents can do to help their child develop mindful eating habits.

  1. Read Books about Food. Help your child to learn about where food comes from.
  2. Play Games with Food. Keep food fun and let it penetrate into different areas of life besides the dinner table. Food can be used to help your child with math, shapes, colors, and a variety of sciences including horticulture, biology and chemistry.
  3. Plant a Garden. Get dirty with your kids. Researchers have shown that kids who garden tend to eat more vegetables than those who do not.
  4. Invite your child to plan the family’s meal. Children who have a say in what they eat are more open to try new foods and tend to have better diets.
  5. Ask your child to help prepare the family’s meal. Don’t stop at meal planning, invite your child into the kitchen to learn how healthful food is prepared.
  6. Eat as a family. There are loads of benefits that come from family meals, including better communications skills, healthier meal patterns and a stronger sense of belonging.
  7. Avoid power struggles. Keep meal time a peaceful time and learn to trust your child’s choices during meals and snacks.
  8. Let your child develop their palate. Help your child to explore a variety of foods, including those that you may not like. Remember, just because you like sweets after a meal, or salt and butter with your veggies your child may not. Allow your child to develop their own nutrition likes and dislikes.
  9. Allow your child to obey their instinct. From birth, infants follow their internal hunger and fullness cues. They eat until they are satisfied. Help your child to preserve this intuition.
  10. Be a good role model. Kids tend to model their parents eating habits. If you’re reaching for vegetables, whole grains, fresh fruit and water, they will too.

Detox: The Body’s Spring Cleaning

Written by: Cassie Vanderwall, MS RD CD CDE CPT


Tis’ the season for spring-cleaning! Take the opportunity to peruse through things acquired over the last several months. Some people truly enjoy the refreshing nature of starting fresh with the turn of this season, and others dread the time it takes to sort, scrub and discard. The body also has a spring-cleaning process, but it happens more than one time per year; it is constant.


The Dispute

There is much debate in the nutrition community whether the body needs assistance in the detoxification processes. Some healthcare professionals state that the body can eliminate any toxins it comes into contact with without assistance. Detox critics warn consumers against fad diets that encourage people to hit their body’s “reset button.” Many detoxification protocols are quite extreme and include unhealthful behaviors that can cause more stress to the body; there are healthful habits that can support this natural process.


How it Happens

Detoxification is the physical removal of toxins from a living organism.When the body is equipped with healthy lungs, kidneys and a liver the body is constantly detoxing. In fact, the liver’s main function is to process toxins that we ingest purposefully (alcohol, cigarette smoke, charred meats, etc.) and unintentionally (pollution, heavy metals, etc.). In general, the detox process occurs in three phases:

  • Phase I: A family of enzymes, known at Cytochrome P-450, lead a series of reactions that create an unstable form of the toxin. These reactions are known as oxidation, reduction and hydrolysis.
  • Phase II: This step continues the process initiated in phase I and creates a water-soluble product that can be removed via bile or urine.
  • Phase III: Activity in this phase occurs in the intestines where the intestinal cells (enterocytes) pump toxins, known as xenobiotics, back into the bowel. When the toxin re-enters circulation, phase I and II activities also increase, and the overall detox process occurs at a higher rate.


It is important to note that not all toxins cause this up-regulation. In fact, toxins from charred meats and cigarettes only increase phase I activity and not phase II. Therefore, there is potential for these toxins to reach unhealthful levels in the body.


How to Help

Research in the area of nutrition-supported detox is well underway, but remains inconclusive. Researchers do know that there are several nutrients, parts of foods that help to support the body’s spring-cleaning. Read on to learn how to help:

Reduce Exposure

The simplest way to support detox is by reducing the body’s exposure to toxins. This would include smoking cessation, consuming alcohol in moderation (0-2 servings per day), and avoiding the “dirty dozen.”

The dirty dozen plus are 14 fruits and vegetables that contain the highest levels of pesticide residues. If a person is interested in purchasing organic foods, these are the best ones to start with:produce

  • Apples
  • Celery
  • Cherry Tomatoes
  • Cucumbers
  • Grapes
  • Hot Peppers
  • Imported Nectarines
  • Peaches
  • White Potatoes
  • Spinach
  • Strawberries
  • Bell Peppers
  • Kale and Collard Greens
  • Summer Squash


Support the Process

Many of the detox reactions require specific nutrients. Therefore, the theory is that by increasing a person’s intake of these compounds they could support the detox process. These include B vitamins, glutathione and flavonoids:

  • B Vitamins are found in dark green vegetables, orange fruits, whole grains, beans, poultry, fish and eggs.
  • Glutathione is a potent antioxidant made of three amino acids (glutamate, cysteine and glycine). Milk thistle and curcumin (turmeric) have been shown to increase levels of glutathione in the body, fresh fruit and vegetables, and dairy products.
  • Flavonoids are yellow-colored antioxidants that are found in several foods, including parsley, blueberries, tea, and citrus fruits.


Pick up the Pace

There are two ways to increase the rate of detoxification processes in the body:

  • Choose foods that can increase the phase I and II activities, including cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts), onions and garlic.
  • Stay hydrated by choosing water as the beverage of choice. When the body is well hydrated it is able to carry out its natural functions with ease.

The V-5 “Enjoy the Taste of Eating Right”

The V-5 definitely “Enjoy the Taste of Eating Right.” As a registered dietitian nutritionist (RDN) I couldn’t miss the opportunity of featuring my beautiful children during National Nutrition Month®!

Lily enjoying some pre-meal tummy time.
Lily enjoying some pre-meal tummy time.

Eating well is a pillar in the pursuit of overall wellness, especially if you are/were a premature infant. I attribute my children’s well-being to their healthcare team’s (which includes Mommy & Daddy) dedication to feeding them well from day one.

I have bragged on and on about breast milk in past posts, including Mommy Nutrition and 2 Simple Acts, so the following will feature the best solid foods for infants, or Baby’s Super Foods. These also happen to be super foods for the oldest of children- aka adults. I selected the following foods based on their nutrient density, ease of digestion and preparation and friendliness to the young palate.

Tummy time-out for Kali
Tummy time-out for Kali

Grass-fed Beef & Organic Poultry

Meat and poultry are great first foods due to their iron content.  Baby’s stores of iron begin to fade around 6 months so, a food rich in iron is important. Additionally, iron from animal sources (heme-iron) is much easier to absorb and use by the body. Meat also is loaded with B-vitamins and zinc. If you opt for grass-fed over grain-fed cattle, you will also get meat with more healthy omega-3 fats, vitamins A and E, and less of the unhealthy saturated fats, hormones and antibiotics. Organic poultry is ideal for the same reasons; basically more time and attention are directed towards the birds living quarters and nutrition creating a better quality end product.


Lentils may be small but they are mighty. They are loaded with protein, fiber, iron, zinc and a host of B-vitamins. They are also a good source of copper, potassium and molybdenum. These legumes are quick and easy to prepare and generally more tender than other types of dried beans.

Bone Broth

This nutritional powerhouse can be made by boiling chicken or beef bones in water and a touch of vinegar. It is a significant source of GAGs, or glycosaminoglycanschondroitin sulfatekeratan sulfate and hyaluronic acid, which are all “ingredients” for cartilage. Additionally, the red marrow has myeloid stem cells, which supports red blood cell development and the immune system. This broth also is a great source of glycine and proline, which are the building blocks for other amino acids (protein). Glycine and proline are also used by the body to aid digestion, promote healing, and create healthy plasma. Logically, bone broth also provides a good source of minerals found in bone: calcium, phosphorus and magnesium to aid in bone development and maintenance.

Theo chowing down on avocado
Theo chowing down on avocado


This fatty fruit is a good source of fiber, vitamins K, E and C, a few B-vitamins, as well as, potassium, and copper. Avocadoes provide a host of anti-inflammatory phytochemicals (antioxidants from plants) and can help with absorption of other nutrients, like carotenoids (orange, yellow and red phytochemicals). Besides aiding in blood sugar regulation and heart health, they also make a great beauty product.

Butternut Squash

This orange, winter squash may require some extra prep work but the sweet flavor and benefits are well worth it. Although squash are a starchy vegetable, their carbohydrate is much different than a potato; it has anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. The orange color gives away that it is a great source of vitamin A, but it is also loaded with vitamins C, B6 and several minerals.

Gluten-free Oatmeal

This hardy cereal is a great first food for infants. My vote goes to oats over rice for an infant cereal because it is rich in iron, zinc, phosphorus, fiber and protein, as well as, several other vitamins and minerals. It also comes without the worry of arsenic toxicity.

Why gluten-free? Well, gluten is a very inflammatory agent that is found in wheat, rye, barley and some oats and can be difficult to digest. Often times, traditional oats can also be “contaminated” with wheat due to shared processing equipment. I feel it is best for babies to be wheat-free until their first birthdays when they dive into that cake! Overall, I opt for gluten-free because it is much nicer to the kiddos’ digestive tract.

Bella loves to help feed herself
Bella loves to help feed herself


I had to include at least one common fruit. Bananas are a great first fruit because they are a good source of vitamins C, B6, B2 and of course, potassium. They also provide bone-building minerals, including magnesium, calcium and phosphorus. Besides the benefit of being very convenient to prepare, they are also known as nature’s antacid because they contain a substance that can help the stomach and intestines produce the mucus lining.

Another bonus of the foods mentioned above is that when they are pureed they contain at least 20 calories per Tablespoon, which is equivalent to the average amount of calories in one-ounce of breast milk. When you have picky bottle-feeders who love solids this can be a huge lifesaver!

Ellie loves to help feed herself, too.
Ellie loves to help feed herself, too.

Whether these foods are old favorites or perhaps news ones to try, I encourage children of all ages to serve up these super foods and “Enjoy the Taste of Eating Right!”

The sign of good food (Kali)
The sign of good food (Kali)

Focus on the Family: How much does my baby need?

corbis_rm_photo_of_baby_with_bottleInfant nutrition can be as simple as putting a baby to breast every time they cue, or as complex as navigating the multitude of formulas that your child can tolerate.  Either way it is critical for parents to understand their child’s nutritional needs to promote growth and development.

As we know from a previous post, 2 Simple Acts, breast milk is the ideal food for infants, however there are circumstances where a mother’s milk may not be appropriate for the child, such as in the case of a food allergy or intolerance. Or, some children do not have the enzymes- molecules that help to breakdown food- to digest and use breast milk and thus require formulas that are already broken down, or hydrolyzed.

Once the form of food (milk or formula) is selected, it is then important to configure how much the child needs. Registered dietitians use calculations that utilize a child’s weight to configure their energy needs. Then, the volume of the food is configured using the caloric content of the food (milk or formula). The following will depict the steps in this process:

1. Identify your infant’s current weight.
2. Using your child’s age, choose an appropriate energy calculation:

  • < 6 months: 110-120 Calories per Kilogram (kcal/kg) body weight or 50-55 Calories per pound (kCal/lb) body weight
  • 1 year: 95-100 kCal/kg or 45 kCal/lb

3. Multiply your child’s weight by the energy requirement.

For example: 9lbs * 55 kCal/lb = 495 Calories per day.

4. To identify the volume, first determine the product: Breast milk and most formulas are 20 Calories per ounce. Therefore, using our example above we divide 495 Calories per day y 20 Calories per ounce to get 24.75 ounces or 25 ounces.

5. Most infants eat every 2-3 hours. Using 3 hours, we determine that this child needs 3.1 ounces or 88ml every 3 hours.

Tada! Now you can be confident that your child is receiving adequate calories for growth!


If you do not feed your child by bottle, no worries. Simply weigh your child before and after breastfeeding to determine the amount consumed. Every gram gained equals one milliliter consumed. So, after breastfeeding for 15 minutes if your child gains 60g they consumed 60ml, or 2 ounces of breast milk.

It is best to continually adjust a child’s volume to insure that they are meeting their needs. This process is called “weight adjusting.” To do so, first confirm an ideal rate of weight gain with your child’s pediatrician. Typically, this is about 1 ounce per day or 20-30 grams. Then, one time per week repeat the calculation referenced above using your child’s new weight. Convert the weight in lbs by dividing by 2.2 (9lbs /2.2lb per kg = 4.1kg).

  • Example: Previous weight (4.1kg) + Weight gained (25g/day * 7 days) = New weight (4.275 kg or 9.4lbs)

Happy Feeding!

Focus on the Family: Building a Baby Domain

A home with a newborn can quickly transform into baby central with pack and plays, bouncy seats, burp cloths and pacifiers abounding. Everywhere you look you see signs of little ones. It is important to create an environment at home that is conducive to growth and development. This type of domain will:

  • Help them differentiate between night and day. 

During the day keep babies on the main level in well-lit areas. Here they are exposed to the sounds and hustle and bustle of day time. At night try to keep themin their nursery where it is dark and quiet. Be intentional about not talking or playing with them during their night-time care times. Get down to business at 12am and 3 am. This has proven to be very helpful in getting them on a care schedule.

  • Practice good

Work with a dietitian or pediatrician to determine an appropriate feeding schedule, equipped with goals for growth velocity, caloric intake and volume at each feeding. Calorie goals vary quite a bit and like adults are based on their weight, ranging from 108-120 Calories per kilogram body weight. On average breastmilk has 20 calories per ounce, and depending on a baby’s growth they may require a more dense formula and extra vitamins, such as a multivitamin (poly-vi-sol) daily.

  • Exercise their Mind.

Lots of time and attention is poured into identifying strategies to develop baby’s brains. There are an assortment of toys, books, apps, programs, etc. that promise to make your baby a genius. However, I’m a firm believer in simplicity and believe that attention, bonding and communication, or ABC’s, develop the brain just as efficiently as any of these other tools. Some toys touted for brain development can actually over-stimulate the child and increase the risk of ADHD/ADD.

Enjoy tracking exercises. Use black and white images or toys and move the image from left to right. This activity strengthens communication between the left and right hemispheres of the brain, or communication across the corpus callosum. Chat and sing with your little ones. An ideal time to chat is when you are changing them, because you are 12-14 inches away from their little faces and are able to maintain their attention.

  • Massage for Emotional Well-being. 

There are many benefits of baby massage, including stress management. Massage can help to foster emotional health and promote self-soothing.  Touch via gentle strokes stimulates the central nervous system to produce more serotonin, the happy hormone, and create less cortisol, a stress hormone. Typically, as a result the infants breathing and heart rate will slow and they become more relaxed. Often times, this relaxed state does not result in sleep but rather a quiet, alert state perfect for play-time, snuggle-time, or positive feeding interactions.


  • Massage for their Tummies.

Take them on bicycle rides all over “town,” moving their little legs in a circular fashion. They will come to enjoy this and almost do it on their own when you lay them on their backs. Practice the “I Love You” strokes on their bellies, which can help to stimulate movement throughout the digestive tract. A fool-proof method for gas relief is to place them on their tummies with rounded shoulders and knees tucked up and to glide your hands down their back while supporting their bottoms.

  • Stretch their Bodies.

Since sleep is one of an infant’s favorite past times, these little ones can get awful stiff. It is also important to try to prevent flattening of their heads and promote good neck mobility. Moving their limbs up and down and inward and outward can help to prevent these little hedgehogs from staying all bound up. Try “windshield wipers” with their bent knees to help open up their hips.

Tummy time is also a great way foster good motor development and upper body strength.  It is best done when the infant is alert. Some will love tummy time and others are still learning to like it. It can be quite a frustrating position for them, so be sure to keep the sessions short and sweet.

  • Encourage Good Coordination.

Newborns are able to open and close their hands, but often times these movements are reflexive. During the first three months of life grasping becomes more intentional and an ideal time for developing foundational skills for hand-eye coordination.

All of these activities certainly add up for a full day, but are well worth the time and attention.

Focus on the Family: Two Simple Acts

When becoming a new parent, best practices, guidelines, and all of the “must-do’s” flood our mind.  All mom’s and dad’s want the best for their children. I find peace in getting back to basics and focusing on two simple acts: Kangaroo care and Breastfeeding.  Both of these can be practiced whether a parent takes their newborn home shortly after birth or for those trying to learn how to be mom and dad in a NICU setting.

Kangaroo_CareKangaroo care is an endearing term used to describe skin-to-skin holding.  This snuggle time has benefits for both mom, dad and baby. The newborn benefits from skin-to-skin holding because they learn their parents’ scents. The sense of smell is the first to develop and is quite strong, which is why many encourage the use of scent cloths. Additionally, the baby’s vitals mimic those of the person, which is holding them and can help to regulate their heart and respiration rates.  When mom is caring for her baby this way, the infant can be soothed by the sound of her heartbeat since it is what they heard for many months while in utero. Kangaroo care can foster quality sleep for infants. This is why it is typically done for at least 90 minutes at a time. We know that sleep is critical for a newborn, or preemie because it encourages both growth and healing. If time is of the essence, swaddling and hold the baby is also beneficial and many hospitals have “cuddlers” who are happy to help.

Kangaroo care also benefits parents as a unique bonding experience. One is able to simply hold, love and adore their baby. This is also a great time to sing, read or gently speak to the baby while they drift to sleep. A mother can specifically benefit from this practice because oxytocin is released during infant bonding.

Oxytocin is known as a love hormone, but plays a significant role in building, maintaining and letting down a mother’s milk. It also can cause uterine contractions that help the uterus return to its normal state. Therefore, it is evident how the first act leads to our second- breastfeeding.

The breast is best! Breast milk is often referred to as “liquid gold,” due to its nutritional superiority over other methods of feeding. A mother’s milk may vary in composition of nutrients, but on average it is 4.5 % fat, 7.1 % carbohydrate and 0.8-0.9 % protein. It is produced in the body by the mammary glands by pulling sugar, protein, cholesterol and other nutrients from the mother’s bloodstream. Therefore, good nutrition is also very important during the “4th trimester.” Most hospitals recommend fortifying breast milk to increase the calories from the natural 20 calories per ounce, to 22-24 calories per ounce. These fortifiers can also supplement the baby with much needed vitamins and minerals.


Breast milk is also unique because it contains IgA, or Immunoglobulin A, which is critical to helping to build the infant’s immune system. IgA is quite high in breast milk from day 10 through the 7th month. Additionally, if the mother is breastfeeding, the child can expose the mother to their bacteria and in turn the mother will create antibodies to fight the bacteria, which in turn will be delivered back to the baby via the breast milk.

The act of breastfeeding is a remarkable bonding experience that also provides an outlet for giving the infant attention. Pumping, with a caretaker present, is also not bad and can grant mother’s a few minutes alone to think, pray, or even grab a quick snack. Another benefit of breast feeding for mothers is that it can foster post-partum weight loss to help the mother achieve a healthier weight after pregnancy. Typically, mothers burn 300 to 500 Calories when breastfeeding or pumping 8 times per day, or every 3 hours. Again, it increases oxytocin which assists the uterus in returning to normal size. For further tips and information on breastfeeding, visit La Leche League.

Both of the acts described above may be simple on paper, but more difficult to practice in daily life. I hope the benefits listed above encourage mom’s and dad’s to explore these ways to attend to, bond and communicate with their baby.

Focus on the Family: A series focused on becoming and staying a well family

13011454361973456359cartoon-family-holding-hands-hiAs a new mom of five my passion for family and home-based health has been ignited! Yes, that’s right my husband and I gave birth to quintuplets this past August. As I have been on a personal journey to rebuild my body, I have realized what a challenge it is to balance life inside and outside of the home, as well as, to keep your personal health a priority. It is known by many that parents often fall lower and lower on the totem pole due to family demands. I agree that children and family are priorities but think about how much more energy you would have if you were taking care of you, too!


I specialize in chronic disease prevention and management and this goes hand-in-hand with my renewed mission to help parents learn how to care for themselves while caring for their families. It truly is a balancing act but it is not an impossibility. I hope to help parents be well, even without leaving their own homes. This is possible with web-based counseling services, in-home assessments and helping families to “construct” home gyms even without any equipment!


In honor of this new focus of my practice, I will be launching a blog post series focused on healthy eating, exercise and wellness for new parents and families! As always, if there are any specific questions or areas of interest, please don’t hesitate to contact me. If you are wondering, there’s no doubt someone else is too!


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