slashing sugar from kids diet improves health in 10 days

While parents, educators and health experts continue to argue about the best ways to help children who are overweight or obese lose weight, researchers have found that just cutting back on the added sugar in diet can quickly make significant improvements to a child’s health.

Forty-three children between the ages of 9 and 18 who were considered obese participated in the study, which was designed to test whether or not it was the extra weight or the added sugar that was making children unhealthy. All of the children were black or Hispanic and had at least one or more symptoms of metabolic syndrome, a condition marked by high blood pressure, blood sugar and cholesterol and excess belly fat.

For the study, which will appear in the Journal Obesity, researchers from Benioff Children’s Hospital of the University of California, San Francisco and Touro University California removed the added sugars from participants’ diets and replaced them with other types of carbohydrates so that the kids’ caloric intake stayed the same. So, for example, if the kids were used to eating sugar-sweetened yogurt, they were asked to replace that yogurt with bagels. Kids who snacked on pastries were given baked potato chips instead.

After 10 days, the children in the study had lost little to no weight, but they showed significant improvement in cholesterol, blood pressure and blood sugar — all important indicators of a child’s overall health.

Prior to the study, the kids’ had gotten about 27 percent of their daily calories from added sugars. Earlier this year, the federal Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee recommended that Americans limit their consumption of added sugars to no more than 10 percent of daily calories. For the study, researchers aimed to get the kids’ diets more in line with these recommendations, but without simply cutting calories altogether.

“This paper says we can turn a child’s metabolic health around in 10 days without changing calories and without changing weight — just by taking the added sugars out of their diet,” said Dr. Robert Lustig, a pediatric endocrinologist at Benioff and the lead author of the study. “From a clinical standpoint, from a health care standpoint, that’s very important.”

Credit: Jenn Savedge

get kids hooked on yoga

Looking for a fun family exercise to share with your kids in the dark, cold days of winter? How about yoga? Yoga is a great way to gain strength and flexibility while relieving stress and improving your balance and concentration. And there are lots of variations for kids — and adults — of all ages and sizes.

So how can you get the kids hooked on yoga? If you’re lucky, your child’s school or day care might offer yoga as an option. Amity Hook-Sopko’s two boys love the yoga classes they get at their Montessori school. The editor of Green Child Magazine, Hook-Sopko even credits yoga balance poses such as Tree and Standing Bull Pulling with helping her oldest son improve his baseball swing. And yoga can do more than just improve balance. Studies have shown that yoga can enhance kids’ mental, emotional, and physical health, reducing stress and improving their concentration at school. For more on the benefits of yoga for kids, check out this article in Green Child Magazine.

No yoga at your child’s school? Another option is to look for a yoga studio that offers family classes. Danielle Richardet of It Starts With Me says that her youngest two children do yoga at the yoga studio she attends. “My favorite part is seeing my 6-year-old son sit in sukhasana and close his eyes and take a deep breath,” said Richardet.

Unfortunately, in-school programs and family yoga studios aren’t available to most of us, but that doesn’t leave you on the sidelines. The key to doing yoga with kids is to guide kids through poses in a language that speaks to them. Kris Whelan, yoga instructor and founder of Blue Buddha Beverages advises, “As a yoga instructor, I guide my adult students through poses and meditative moments to help them get centered and balance their mind, body and spirit. Working with my kids is no different, but I do focus on poses that are quickly learned, easily mastered and deeply restorative. For the very young, I take them on a tour of my yoga ‘zoo’ as I guide them from Monkey to Lion to Camel and the animal cracker assortment. Make it fun, keep it easy and tell the little ones they did great.”

Here are some of the poses that Whelan recommends for kids:
1. Hanuman, Monkey: A side split with hips square

2. Matsyasana, Fish: Laying on your back on the mat … Come up on your elbows and arch your back so your heart reaches the sky and tilt your head back

3. Bakasana, Crow: squatting down with knees to the outside of the upper arms and place your hands shoulder width apart, rock your hips forward with tailbone high… Take one foot off the floor then the other with big toes touching … Flying like a crow!

4. Garudasana, Eagle: Standing at the front of the mat..bend one leg and wrap the other over it along the thigh then wrap the same side arm under the other and bring palms together … Arms are bent at the elbows which are at shoulder height and finger tips brightly reaching up with forearms pressing away from the face

5. Simhasana, Lion: Open you mouth, stick out your tongue and take your gaze high … Now roar!

6. Ustrasana, Camel: Kneeling down with knees directly under hips, press the hips forward, sweep your arms behind you to support the low back or reach down to the feet

7. Vrksasana, Tree: Standing tall take on leg and bed the knee, turn the knee out to the side while placing the sole of your foot on the inner thigh above the knee or below the knee on the inside of the calf.

Looking for more guidance? Try one of these yoga videos designed specifically for families:

For babies: Holistic family physician and yogi Kay Corpus has been practicing yoga for 15 years and teaching for five. She recommends “Yoga Ma, Baby Ga,” a video that she used after her daughter was born. “It is a mommy-baby video great for newborns and recovering moms. The best thing I learned from that video was that if I had to stop and feed my baby or change her, then that was just ‘my yoga’. It couldn’t be quiet and serene all the time. It was just a different way of relating and accepting things I couldn’t change, said Corpus.

For toddlers. My girls loved “Yoga for the Kid in All of Us,” from Yogamazing. I got it when my oldest was two and still use it now that she is ten. ‘Tot Yoga:,’ is another good video for parents and toddlers from 10 months to 3 years old as is ‘Storyland Yoga,’ from Playful Planet where kids imitate yoga poses while learning about endangered species.

For school-aged kids. ‘Kids Teach Yoga,’ is a very cute kid-led yoga video that is perfect for kids who learn better from their peers than from adults. It’s short — lasting only about 20 minutes — which is just right for kids who want to give it a try. Tiffany Belzer, aka YogaTiffany, recently sent me a copy of her ‘Family Yoga’ DVD and I have to say that my whole family loved it — even my husband who is not generally the yoga type.

Start slowly and focus on the fun and before long you and your family will be getting your Zen on all winter long.

Do your kids practice yoga?

Related topics: Family Activities, Healthy Living, Raising Healthy Kids

credit:Jenn Savedge

Yoga poses helps kids focus in the classroom

Students at Winter Park Elementary are excited for a new class that teaches them yoga.

Kids stretch in downward dog, tree, and mountain poses, learning to focus their energies in calm manner.

It’s part of a new program that teachers hope takes off in New Hanover County.

“They’ve recognized now in our classes together and in some of the postures that we do, that it’s really important to keep that focus,” Yoga Instructor Mandy Nicolau said. “If we’re straying away from that focus, that’s when we start to tumble or have more trouble.”

The program was started in partnership with Yoga Village.

Right now, kids in kindergarten through fifth grade participate in the classes.


Children Are Now Riding The Yoga Wave

When Jodi the Yogi said “Criss-Cross Apple Sauce”, these tots knew what was coming.

Seven toddlers sat tall and cross-legged on colorful mats, leaning forward with eager eyes. Behind them, parents imitated their movements, ready to follow their children into a world of imagination and discovery.

“Did you bring your hands to the park?” asked Jodi the Yogi, whose real name is Jodi Epstein. The children waved back in response.
A few deep breaths of Astoria Park air and the children were ready for the first song, “Tick-Tock, Little Yoga Clock”. The parents sang along as they stretched out their legs and arms alongside their children, swaying from side to side.

Soon, the sounds of the cars rushing by on Robert F. Kennedy Bridge faded away and the children were swept into Epstein’s story.
In 2012, 20.4 million Americans practiced yoga, up almost 30 percent since 2008, according to the Yoga Journal. More and more centers are popping up across the country and the trend is trickling down to children.

“There are definitely more studios,” said Zhana Galjasevic, director of The Yoga Room, where Epstein teaches. “I think the number [in New York] has quadrupled.”

Galjasevic opened the first yoga center in Astoria in 2003, aiming to create a community feel. The center has two locations, one in Astoria and one in Long Island City and offers classes to people of all ages. She added prenatal, baby and toddler classes so that the Yoga Room could provide for their community at all stages of life.

Epstein began teaching there in 2011. She was first exposed to yoga by her mother, who was a yoga instructor. After completing a training course at Karma Kids Yoga in 2009, she began to teach children.

“As I worked with kids, the kids would teach me,” Epstein said. “I’ve been so inspired.”

Studies show that yoga has many physical and psychological benefits for both children and adults. It has been used to help people with disabilities, prisoners, and people dealing with the stresses of everyday life.

For children, Epstein said, stress can develop when they are unable to express themselves. And the world can be an intimidating place for little ones. In addition to relaxing the mind, yoga helps children learn more about their bodies, especially at an early stage of development. More and more schools around New York are incorporating yoga as part of their physical education and extra-curricular activities.

“Yoga, I would consider as one more modality in the toolbox of child development,” said Dr. Susan E. Klepper, a physical therapist and assistant professor at Columbia University. Yoga is “about sensory awareness and spatial awareness, and that’s important for kids. They learn a lot about themselves and there’s a lot of fun in it.”

Jennifer Batson, of Astoria, also teaches at the Yoga Room. When her daughter, Riley, was eight weeks old, she began to take mommy and baby classes. Now that Riley is two, they join in Epstein’s toddler yoga.

“[Riley’s] made some wonderful friends and learned a lot from how to count using her fingers to using her foot as a ‘foot-phone’,” said Batson. She said they do breathing exercises “when she’s upset and unable to communicate why she’s unhappy, as well as before bed when she’s still wound up and needs to calm down for sleep”.

But it’s not always easy for Epstein to keep young children’s attention for the span of her class. When a small girl ran from her mat, plastic zebra in mouth, Epstein’s exciting rhythm and flow caught the girl’s attention and lured her back in. She plopped down next to Epstein and watched, wide-eyed.

Epstein hopes to bring her songs and classes to children through television networks. She already has a Web site, where some of her songs can be found. In the coming months, she will begin fundraising so that she can pitch her idea at the Kidscreen Summit in February. Through this project she hopes to make yoga more accessible to all children.

Between the Jodi the Yogi project and the classes she teaches, Epstein has a tight schedule. But she still manages to make time to meditate and practice her own yoga every day.

“I have to, or my mind starts to get muddled,” she said. “I’m not as present, I’m not as open.”

This leaves Epstein refreshed and ready for her classes, where she likes to take children on imaginative adventures. Their chosen mode of transport proves that as early as three years, these children are true New Yorkers.

“Our taxi drived far away!” called out one little boy, as the class prepared to dive into the yoga world. “Our taxi drived to China!”
Jodi the Yogi had the solution. Placing her foot to her ear, she called the taxi back to New York. Then, Epstein, the parents and the children zoomed off to the forest to become monkeys and trees, backs upright and limbs outstretched.