Healthy LifeStars teaches that mental strength is just as important as physical strength

As we are gaining more Valley-wide support of Healthy LifeStars through our upcoming event STEP UP 4 KiDS, we though it would be best to re-introduce our program. Kara Cline, Salvation Army Healthy LifeStars Program Director, and Nick Reyes, Salvation Army Healthy LifeStars Program Manager, explain exactly what Healthy LifeStars does for kids across the Valley.

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Depending on The Salvation Army location, the children arrive after school, have a quick snack, complete their homework (with tutoring available), and participate in Healthy LifeStars for roughly an hour.

The basic structure of the program varies at each site, but the core values, known as Healthy Life Habits, are all the same:

1. I Can Do It!
2. I’m Active!
3. I Eat Right!

In a nutshell, Healthy LifeStars teaches children how to eat nutritiously, live more actively, and set healthy goals.

The kids are motivated to participate by the simple fact that the program and activities are fun.

“The kids are playing, they don’t consider it exercising,” Cline said. “They’re having a ball!”

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The coach determines which of the Healthy Life Habits will be taught in each session and models the whole hour around it. For example, if the focus is on “I’m Active!” the children might engage in activities that involve running or swimming. Different amenities are available at each location… Some have a swimming pool or rock-climbing wall, while others are located at a park. Still, coaches are trained to adapt and realize the location’s potential.

“They make it work with what they have,” Reyes said. “The program is very flexible and that’s how it’s been successful.”

Cline and Reyes know first-hand how Healthy LifeStars operates and why it works; they taught the program last Spring at The Salvation Army’s Citadel location.

Now, Cline and Reyes train all coaches (after-school staff, Salvation Army “troops” and officers, and volunteers) and frequently visit each site to check in with them. The two have been with the program for one year.

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While eating healthy and being physically active through goal-setting are the key points of this organization, Cline and Reyes agree that there is more to Healthy LifeStars.

The program, though only for one hour a day, teaches children how to take care of themselves and claim responsibility for their own actions.

“We give them the tools to take care of themselves. What they do to their body affects their soul,” Cline said.

“We aren’t just teaching them how to build muscle, we build confidence and stronger souls,” Reyes said.

By | 2017-03-14T18:30:26-07:00 September 24th, 2015|Blog|0 Comments

An open letter to parents about the overprescribing of antibiotics

You’ve heard about the dangers of antibiotic overuse. But new evidence suggests that giving antibiotics to infants under 6 months old may actually lead to obesity later in childhood.

A new study, which looked at more than 10,000 children, was published in the International Journal of Obesity and found that children who were overweight were those exposed to antibiotics from birth to 5 months old. Antibiotic-exposed infants were 22% more likely to be overweight by the time they were toddlers.

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While the researchers are careful to insist that the findings do not prove causation, it certainly shows a correlation that needs to be further explored.

“We typically consider obesity an epidemic grounded in unhealthy diet and exercise, yet increasingly studies suggest it’s more complicated,” Leonardo Trasande, ND, MPP, the lead author of the study, said. “Microbes in our intestines may play critical roles in how we absorb calories, and exposure to antibiotics, especially early in life, may kill off healthy bacteria that influence how we absorb nutrients into our bodies, and would otherwise keep us lean.”

For years, doctors and members of the scientific community have been warning us about the dangers of antibiotic overuse, especially in young children. But this research suggests a direct link between increased body weight in children and antibiotic usage in babies.

“For many years now, farmers have known that antibiotics are great at producing heavier cows for market,” Jan Blustein, MD, PHD, and co-author of the study, concluded. “While we need more research to confirm our findings,, this carefully conducted study suggests that antibiotics influence weight gain in humans, and especially children too.”

Dr. Mark Gettleman, MD, FAAP and founder of Dr. Goofy GettWell, a mobile and telemedicine pediatric practice, suggests that parents stop pressuring doctors to prescribe antibiotics.

“Don’t insist that your doctor give you an antibiotic when your baby has a cold or a runny nose,” Dr. Gettleman said. “Oftentimes, doctors feel pressured by parents to prescribe antibiotics when they are not necessary. See a doctor you trust and then tell him or her that you do not want antibiotics unless it is absolutely necessary. Besides the dangers of antibiotic resistant superbugs, we are seeing more and more ill effects of antibiotic overuse in babies and young children. Parents can easily be part of the solution by informing their healthcare provider that they do not believe in antibiotics as a go-to solution for whatever is ailing their infant.”

So parents, be cautious when taking your infants to the doctor. Antibiotics are useful and necessary when a bacterial infection has invaded your baby’s body, but most colds and infections are viral and will only improve with time, rest and the body’s natural ability to fight illness.

By | 2017-03-14T18:30:26-07:00 September 17th, 2015|Blog|0 Comments

Can “Healthy Happy Meals” help curb childhood obesity?

A New York City council member is proposing a law that would dictate the nutritional content of children’s fast food meals, but the changes would barely make a dent in the fat and sodium content actually ingested.

New York City council member Benjamin Kallos proposed the Healthy Happy Meals bill which would require children’s fast food meals marketed with toys to include a serving of fruit, vegetables or whole grain, contain fewer than 10% of calories from saturated fat or added sugar, and they can’t have more than 600 milligrams of sodium, with no more than 35% of calories coming from fat. Sounds like a great start, but will it actually make a difference?

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According to one study, no. When researchers looked at buying patterns, they came to the conclusion that the change would only result in a 9% drop in calories consumed and a 10% drop in sodium consumption and calories from fat. Plus, only 1/3 of fast food meals ordered for children were actually Happy Meals or similar meal deals. More often, kids were eating items off the regular menu, to which the new rules would not apply.

However, the study’s lead author says any change is a good one, even if the results are minimal.

“No single policy is going to be enough by itself to counteract childhood obesity,” Brian Elbel, associate professor of population health and health policy at the NYU School of Medicine, told Forbes.”But we’re not looking for a single slam-dunk. What we’re looking for is any potential movement or calorie reduction. Any change in a more healthful direction has to be a good thing.”

Regardless of how effective the changes would be, the good thing is that people are truly starting to sit up and take notice of how marketing is directing kids to bad food choices, and legislation is beginning to affect this. The Healthy Happy Meals bill is just one of many that proposed chances in what restaurants are trying to sell us, with mixed success. New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s failed attempt to ban the sale of giant sodas was national news, but the FDA successfully banned trans fats in June.

What can you do to help your kids make good food choices when eating out? Encourage them to choose water over juice or soda and fruit, like apple slices, over french fries. Keep fast food meals to a minimum and make them more about having a once-in-a-while treat instead of a regular convenience.

By | 2017-03-14T18:30:26-07:00 September 9th, 2015|Blog|0 Comments