Growing healthy families

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Photo by Miya Henley
Photo by Miya Henley

Growing healthy families

by: Steve Parker | .
The Sullivans School | .
published: October 29, 2013

Lt. j.g. Elaina S. Ortiz, a dietician who heads Nutrition Services at U.S. Naval Hospital, Yokosuka recently visited The Sullivans School with a team of other hospital corpsmen to share important nutritional information with about 40 parents.

Organized by school nurse Shawn Bogen, the Oct. 11 event was part of the hospital’s Healthy Parents, Healthy Families program and the first of a series of presentations that Ortiz has planned for the school. Presentations also are slated for students as well as students and parents together. During the visit, Ortiz took the time to answer the following questions about the program. For more information, email her at:

Q: What was the takeaway message for your presentation?

A: We, as parents, are responsible for the wellbeing of our children now, as well on the path to their adulthood. It is imperative that we show them how to take care of themselves by living a healthy lifestyle right now. This can be accomplished with a little planning, determination and know-how of the right resources. From playing baseball in the park to taking your kids grocery shopping, being a positive healthy role model is an easily obtained aspiration. Come and find out how to incorporate healthy, easy snacks and fun activities into your child’s daily routine.

Q: What are some of the best ways for parents to role model when it comes to nutrition and healthy lifestyles?

A: 1) We need to have a meal plan and stick to it, despite the grumblings from the little ones. Our taste buds are always changing and especially so when we are young. So keep encouraging (children) to eat that broccoli even though it may take you six to seven times.
2) We can’t expect our kids to eat their veggies if we are not willing to do it ourselves. Practice what you preach by eating more vegetables and lean sources of protein, while consuming less concentrated sweets.

Q: What are good strategies for healthy lunch and snacks?

A: Incorporate as much color as possible when making lunches and snacks; try to “eat the rainbow” with different sources of fruits and vegetables, letting your child be involved with choosing the various sources of color. One of my favorite snacks is to cut up a banana, drizzle natural peanut butter on top and freeze it for 1-2 hours. This quick, simple snack provides so much nutrition without any added sugar and my son loves them!

Q: How can kids as well as parents play an active role in portion-size awareness?

A: Use “the plate method” to help your children visualize which meal components go in each section of their plate. It’s also fun to encourage your kids to use measuring cups and their hands to achieve the correct portion size. They can also use everyday items such as a tennis ball for a pasta serving or a deck of cards to measure out a piece of beef or chicken.

Q: What are some nutrientdense foods, and how can we incorporate them the familymenu?

A: Nutrient dense foods are foods that contain more vitamins, minerals, and/or fiber and less fat and calories than their counterparts. Some of my favorites are: Greek yogurt, spinach and flaxseeds. You could actually use all 3 of these ingredients to make your family a healthy dessert. Try this Halloween Green Smoothie: Add 1 small container Greek yogurt, 1 cup fresh spinach, 1/2-3/4 frozen blue berries, 1-2 tsp. flaxseed meal (must be ground into a meal/flour texture for nutritional benefits), ice cubes and 1 cup of either skim milk, Light soy milk or almond milk. “Blenderize” until desired consistency is reached.

Q: What are some of the major hidden sources of weight gain?

A: Concentrated sweets and beverages are the culprits of much of the weight gain for adults as well as children. By cutting out one cookie in your child’s daily regime, you are preventing a possible 15 pounds of weight gain. By passing up the Starbucks or McDonald’s mocha coffee drink (350 calories on average), you can lose up to 36 pounds in one year alone.

Q: What are some of the best ways to motivate children and families to be more active?

A: Do things that you love to do as a family! That is, everything you love to do that does not involve watching TV, movies, playing video games or Smartphone Apps. Go to the park to play a family soccer game, go on a day hike looking for different Geo-cache treasures (Google geo-caching, it’s awesome!). Go exploring … on your bikes. … Go outside and enjoy the beautiful weather with your family and trim your waist line while you’re having fun!