April 19, 2024

Looking for a kid’s activity?

Looking for an activity to do with the kids this summer? Introduce them to cooking! Here’s an easy kid-friendly recipe to get you started:


Healthy Rice Crispy Balls


2 cups all natural puffed rice cereal
2/3 cup brown rice syrup
1/2 cup unsweetened all natural peanut butter, nut butter or sunflower seed butter
2/3 cup pepitas


Melt peanut butter and brown rice syrup in a pot on the stove- do not boil. In a bowl mix puffed rice and pepitas. Pour hot syrup over top and mix in. Form into balls and store in the fridge

Recipe by Shirley Plant- Nutrition Coach and Author of Finally Food I Can Eat
www.deliciousalternatives.com. Follow her on Twitter via @sherrecipes

Back to School with Less Stress by Juli Shulem

Teaching your child efficient and effective study habits allows for less stress, for all family members!

Students of all ages can improve their study habits for better scholastic success. Consistency creates habit. Here are some tips to increase the chances of your student in dealing better with homework, exams, and school stress:

Set up a regular routine for doing homework. When your child arrives home they are most likely in need of a break  and perhaps a snack, so let that be the first thing they do. However, this shouldn’t go on for longer than 15-20 minutes.

Establish a place/desk-space where they can do their work easily. Some children do better in the kitchen with things going on, while others prefer complete silence. Test different spots until the best one is determined, as their room may not be where they concentrate best.

Secure the tools they will need to do their work. Determine what kind of paper, writing tools, calculators, etc. are necessary. Additionally, help them become organized by having a consistent location for their completed homework to go inside their backpack immediately when completed. Doing so will make sure their assignments are returned to class on time.

Finish homework early. Encourage your child to get their homework done before dinner (when possible) so they can relax the rest of the evening before bedtime. Many children try to bargain for “gaming time” before they complete their work only to not have enough time to finish what is due. Teach them responsibility by doing the higher priority tasks first.

Use a timer to aid in sustaining focus for those who find that difficult. Set a timer for 30 minutes to work, ending with a short break before resuming once again. If your child does best powering through their work without a break – great! If that kind of sustained focus is difficult, or your child has AD/HD, then the timed-focus sessions will really help.

Teach your child to schedule exams and projects well in advance. If a student has a paper due in two weeks, starting it the night before is a recipe for failure  and stress. Show your child how to break a large assignment into small steps and to do step daily. Write these mini-steps on the calender and hold them to their commitment.

Giving praise and encouragement plus listening to your child’s concerns about their strengths and weaknesses is necessary as a parent. However, note: not everyone is good at everything. Your child may need a tutor or more time in a subject to understand it. Listen to them, then empower them to learn effective and efficient study habits.

Juli Shulem, CPC, is an ADHD Coach specializing in students with ADHD and related challenges. She can be reached at jshulem@gmail.com or (805) 964-2389.



How to Keep Your Teen Active This Summer by Maggie Ayre

What will your family do this summer? Do you have time off or will your teen be amusing themselves?
When kids are young it can be easier to entertain them with family outings or activity days where they can learn new skills. But, what do you do with a teenager who could quite happily sit in front of the TV or computer for hours or even days on end?

Here are five top ways to ensure your teenager stays healthy and active this summer:

Sign them up for a “cool” activity. You can find holiday clubs where they’ll teach you everything from skateboarding to surfing to juggling to street dance. They’ll make new friends and learn a new skill at the same time.


Plan a family day out. Even the most independent teen enjoys a bit of attention from Mum, Dad, brothers and sisters. Find an activity you’ll all enjoy and give it your full attention. What about a trip to the beach, 10 pin bowling, swimming or ice-skating? There’s something whatever the weather.

Give your teen some independence. Encourage your teen to cook a special meal for the family. Help them plan a menu then leave the rest to them – walking to the shops, carrying home the groceries, table laying and decoration and of course the cooking. Remember to lavish them with praise and they’ll be more likely to do it again later in the holiday.

Speak to their friends parents and arrange a cycle ride and picnic. If you’ve bought the food and done the organising your teen is far less likely to back out. In fact, chances are they’ll enjoy it so much they’ll want to go again later in the holiday.

Set your teen some chores so that they can earn money for treats. Not only will they be active whilst they are doing the chores but they are also more likely to go out and meet friends if they have a little money in their pocket.


Maggie Ayre is the UKs leading Fitness Coach for Teen Girls. As well as one-to-one and small group nutrition and fitness work with teens she has developed the 3G Program designed to be run at schools as part of the PE curriculum. She also offers mentoring for PE departments on how to re-engage teen girls with PE and has recently published her third book; “Nutrition for Exam Success – A Parent’s Guide” which is now available as a Kindle and paperback at Amazon. www.maggieayre.com/maggies-books.html. For more information, contact Maggie via www.maggieayre.com or www.femalefitnessrevolution.com.


Summer Family Fitness Ideas by Mollie Millington

Enjoy fitness with your entire family this summer, and enjoy the added bonus of improving your health. How is this possible? 

Set a good example for your kids. They are more likely to follow your example, rather than listen to your lecture. To set a healthy example means you need to be healthy! Join a tennis league, attend Jazzercise, or play on a community softball team. Although this may seem like one more activity to fit into your diary, tending to your own health and fitness simply has to become a priority. Exercise relieves stress, introduces you to new people, and makes you feel good when the endorphins start flowing. These benefits will affect your attitude at home and work in a positive way. 

Start a new family tradition of activity. Desingate a set time each week or month as family activity time. Take turns choosing what you’ll do. Consider going for a walk or bike ride every night after dinner. Or make Sundays the day you go exploring in the woods or along the lake. Enjoy the fresh air and use the time to catch up with everyone.  Regularly scheduling time with another family to get active will also make fitness fun for everyone!

Become involved with your child’s sport. If you’re already active in a sport together, make an effort to get off the sidelines and join in with your child or children more often. Practice together in the backyard or coach or manage their team. Purchasing tickets to see a professional game or local team provides a great opportunity to be active together. Helping your child learn more about the rules and see more competitive matches will help them improve as a player. 

Choosing to be fit can be difficult but it can also be fun when you do it as a family. Competition is motivating, whether it is for bragging rights, an ice cream cone, or a homemade trophy.  Winning and losing (graciously, of course) are also good moments to teach life lessons to your children. Being fit benefits everyone involved and creates memories that will last forever.

London-based personal trainer Mollie Millington is available for in-person and virtual training. She may be reached at www.ptmollie.com, as well as via @PTMollie on Twitter.

Boost your Child’s Brain Power with Nutrition by Maggie Ayre

Consuming a full range of vitamins, minerals and nutrients is key to improving everyone’s learning capabilities, including children. Through the evolutionary process our bodies have been designed to consume fresh fruit and vegetables and these should form the majority of food we consume every day. We evolved as foragers, eating whatever was ripe and in season at any particular time and we should therefore aim to eat as wide a range of different fruit and vegetables as we possibly can.

Every different fruit and vegetable has a different ratio of vitamins, minerals and water and together they form the diet that enables our bodies and minds to operate at their best.

When trying to eat a range of fruit and vegetables aim to eat as many different colours and textures as you can – they all benefit us in different ways. Include crunchy orange carrot, squidgy yellow mango, leafy green kale and so on.

5 brain boosting foods to have available for your child during exam-prep:

Oily Fish - Oily fish like trout, salmon and mackerel contain omega 3 fatty acids which are essential for good brain health.  In the absence of omega 3 fatty acids our brains will make use of omega 6 fatty acids from vegetable fats but this imbalance between omega 3 and omega 6 has been linked to ADHD, depression and dementia.

Eggs - Eggs are a fantastic source of protein. Whilst our brains aren’t made of protein they need this macronutrient to enable neurons in the brain to communicate with each other.

Avocados - Rich in monounsaturated fats avocados are packed full of brain goodness and also contain and good range of vitamins and carotenoid lutein for excellent eye health.

Blueberries - Not only do blueberries help with memory but they also enable us to recall facts just when we need them.  They are packed with antioxidants and vitamin C.

Dark Chocolate - Eating dark chocolate could boost brain power for several hours. The flavanols in dark chocolate boost blood flow to the brain leading to better performance and a boost in general alertness.

Maggie Ayre is the UKs leading Fitness Coach for Young People.  She has just released her latest book; “Nutrition for Exam Success – A Parent’s Guide” which is available on Kindle from Amazon or can be downloaded as an ebook (along with several of Maggie’s free reports) from www.maggieayre.com/maggies-books.html.


Preparing Your Teen for Exams, the Healthy Way by Maggie Ayre

The Top Three Ways To Help Your Teen Prepare for Exams

By making subtle changes in your child’s diet and lifestyle you can really boost their brain power for exams.

Keep Hydrated to Maintain Focus. Our bodies are 70% water. We need this balance to exist in order to be healthy. Just a slight drop in water levels leads to massive changes in our ability to concentrate, focus and reason. We become weaker and our bodies function far less efficiently. If we don’t drink enough water we start to function at a lesser, slower rate. Water is essential for our powers of learning. It is the most important thing our bodies need to be able to concentrate, study, focus and remember effectively.

Our level of hydration also affects the speed we are able to work at and fills us with energy. Water can affectively turn the slowest most slovenly teenager into sharp, focused and energised student.

Keep the Healthy Snacks Handy Who doesn’t snack whilst they are revising? Many teenagers surround themselves with energy drinks, chocolate bars, packets of crisps and bags of sweets as the only way to get them through revision time. However, there is a better way! In fact healthy snacking can be just as comforting whilst at the same time providing you with energy to keep going on those mammoth through-the-night sessions. It is important to snack on the right sorts of foods like raw vegetable sticks, walnuts, grapes, strawberries, bananas and so on. So stock up on healthy snacks and have them readily available for your teen.

By planning in advance and preparing the food ahead of time, you’ll eliminate the stress and enable your teen to concentrate purely on the matter in hand; revising for their exams.

Ensure a Good Night’s Sleep and a Good Start to Exam Day. You probably know that avoiding caffeine and sugar are a good idea when you want a good night’s sleep but did you know that walnuts are a natural source of melatonin which helps us fall asleep? Melatonin occurs naturally in the body but a lack of it can cause insomnia. Walnuts bridge the gap, making them an ideal addition to diet during stressful revision and exam periods when sleep can elude us. Hunger, tiredness and dehydration can all have a significant impact on how well your teen does in an exam.

Research tells us that young people who don’t eat breakfast demonstrate a 20-40% reduction in their concentration, alertness and thinking skills. This can have an effect on any day but on an exam day the results could be catastrophic. Ensure they stock up on eggs, blueberries and smoked salmon before an exam for an extra brain boost.

Maggie Ayre is the UKs leading Fitness Coach for Young People. She has just released her latest book; “Nutrition for Exam Success – A Parent’s Guide” which is available on Kindle from Amazon or can be downloaded as an ebook (along with several of Maggie’s free reports) from www.maggieayre.com/maggies-books.html

Disordered Eating- Get the Facts by Maggie Ayre

When Do Poor Eating Habits Become an Eating Disorder?

We all know teenagers who follow “silly diets” eating far too little in their search for a size zero figure. We also all know teenagers who don’t seem to care what they put in their mouths consuming as many chocolate bars in a week as other people might eat in a whole year.

For teenagers it is important to eat enough to develop strong bones and muscles and a strong brain. Too few calories will destroy muscle mass, forcing the body to break down muscle for energy. Energy levels will suffer badly if too few calories are consumed leaving teens unable to do all the things they want to do. It is difficult to get all the necessary vitamins and minerals from a diet that is low in calories. In the short term this could lead to reduced immunity from colds, viruses etc and in the long term to a failure of the body’s systems. Huge mental and physical changes that occur during puberty may make teenage girls more susceptible.

But, when do poor eating habits become an eating disorder?

Eating disorders often begin with normal dieting. A person starts to diet and exercise to lose weight but as the weight starts to come off it becomes an obsession, something triggers a desire to constantly lose more and more weight. For many anorexics self-starvation is a way to feel in control, whilst feeling powerless in their everyday lives they can control what they eat. Bulimia is often triggered by a very strict diet or by a stressful life event.

Some definitions…..
Obesity - a medical term that means someone’s weight is likely to cause serious health problems in the future. Problems such as heart disease, cancer, diabetes or depression

Anorexia nervosa - a psychiatric diagnosis that describes an eating disorder characterised by low body weight and body image distortion with an obsessive fear of gaining weight. Most common in adolescent girls and young women, with a typical age of onset between 13 and 20, but men and women of all ages can be sufferers.

Bulimia nervosa – an eating disorder characterised by recurrent binge eating followed by compensatory behaviour referred to a purging – i.e. using laxatives or vomiting, or by excessive exercise and dieting. Appears to be more common in women, particularly young women.

Anorexia and bulimia are classified as eating disorders and should you suspect one of your friends to suffers from one of these potentially fatal psychiatric diseases you must refer them to a health practitioner who can help them. In the USA you can contact the National Eating Disorders Association and in the UK the Eating Disorders Association for help, advice and referrals.
In the first instance speak to an adult, either a teacher or parent about your concerns.

Anorexia – the signs and symptoms
For people with anorexia, it really is true that it is impossible to be too thin. Despite being dangerously underweight an anorexic will still see a fat person when they look in the mirror. Anorexics are often unable to see the tremendous physical and emotional damage that results from self-starvation.
Anorexia is the irrational dread of becoming fat coupled with a relentless pursuit of thinness, going to extremes to reach and maintain a dangerously low body weight.

Key features include:
refusal to sustain a minimally normal body weight – dieting despite being thin
intense fear of gaining weight
distorted view of one’s body or weight
obsession with calories, fat grams and nutrition
pretending to eat or lie about eating
preoccupation with food
strange or secretive food rituals
harshly critical of appearance

There are two main types of anorexia; restricting- weight loss is achieved by restricting calories, following diets, going on fasts and exercising to excess. Purging- sufferers get rid of excess calories by vomiting, using laxatives and diuretics.

Bulimia – the signs and symptoms
People with bulimia are extremely concerned with their weight, yet they can’t fight the compulsion to binge. They drastically overeat and then purge, fast or exercise to get rid of the excess calories. It is characterized by frequent episodes of binge eating, from twice a week to several times a day, followed by frantic efforts to try and stop gaining weight.

Key features include:
regular episodes of out of control binge eating
inappropriate behaviour to prevent weight gain
self-worth is excessively influenced by weight and physical appearance
lack of control over eating
secrecy surrounding eating
puffy cheeks or the smell of vomiting
frequent fluctuations in weight

As with anorexia there are two types of bulimia; purging- physically purge the excess food from their body by vomiting, using laxatives etc. Non-purging- less common, make up for their lack of restraint by fasting, exercising to excess or going on crash diets.

In general, women are far more likely to suffer than men, and younger women are more at risk than older women. It often follows a very strict period of dieting or a stressful life event.

In 2012 Maggie will launch her Girls Nutrition Workshops and her 3G Program as well as continuing her work with individual girls and their mothers.  She is available to speak at schools, women’s groups and community events.  More information about Maggie’s work with teenagers can be found at www.maggieayre.com or www.femalefitnessrevolution.com

Spring Break Family Fitness by Dr. Kent Sasse

Spring break is a celebrated time for families to relax and reconnect for a week. Whether families pack their bags or plan a staycation, activities abound to keep the family close, healthy and fit.  Begin the day with healthy activities, knowing that those habits will influence choices throughout the day.

Here are some day starters for families:

Do an activity challenge. For example, plan a pedometer contest amongst family members; who can reach 15,000 steps per day the quickest gets to choose the family meal of the evening or pick music for the car-ride across town. Holding a protein shake contest is also a fun way to evoke creativity and provides a platform for exchanging healthy information; implement a little friendly competition in who can make the best tasting out of healthy ingredients. Look up www.foodnetwork.tv for basic ingredient ideas.

Cook a healthy breakfast together before an all day activity. Allowing kids to create the menu or take a lead role turns a chore into fun. The same idea applies to packing a lunch.

Plan to spend an entire day outside together. Pack a lunch and write down a list of activities ahead of time that you can all do together.

All geographic locations have activities of which to take advantage. Warm or cold, city or mountain town, you are almost guaranteed to find hiking paths and bike paths. Many cities have spacious parks or river communities as well as the typical cultural downtown.

Here are a few ideas to look into as a family if you are visiting an area:

Hike: this can be in the form of snowshoeing, walking on a lakeshore, or an adventure in the mountains. Call the Chamber of Commerce for maps and advice. Be sure to also ask about current conditions to allow appropriate packing of clothing and other goods.

Hit the water: If you are fortunate enough to be near a body of water, spend a day on the shore and in the waves snorkeling, surfing or swimming. Ask the locals for their recommendations on the best and safest place to begin.

Go for a walk: walk your dog or explore an unseen area together. Walking is a great way to stay fit, and to view a city from a different perspective than the typical car ride. Search www.mapquest.com for a map of city streets, interesting landmarks or trailheads from where to begin.

Play games at your nearest school or park. Basketball, baseball, Frisbee, croquet, play on the swingset, and the list goes on and on. These activities require almost no money, and very little planning, but involve everyone. Do a quick search online for location for a list of locations and amenities of nearby parks.

Scavenger hunts and treasure hunts provide physical as well as mental challenges as problem solving is a key component. Look up organized hunts online at for example, www.geocaching.com. Or make your own list and organize it as a family or in teams.

Being in a society surrounded by fast food and sitting entertainment, it is easy to succumb to less healthy choices. Being active as a family creates memories of everyone working together as a group or team and will serve as topics of reminiscing for years to come! Be a trend setter and vow to get active on your spring break!

Dr. Kent Sasse founded Western Bariatric Institute and iMetabolic. He is also the author of numerous books and a featured speaker nationally in the field of weight loss.

Introducing Sports by Maggie Ayre

Research tells us that children involved in sports or regular physical activity are less stressed, perform better in school and enjoy better health- physical, mental and emotional. So, what’s the best way to introduce your child to sports and athletics to insure a positive experience for all?

How can a parent introduce sports/athletics to their child?  What is an appropriate age?

If you asked 10 different parents this question you’ll likely get 10 different answers. It very much depends on the individual child. Most children have the energy and interest to start afterschool and weekend activities when they are 5 or 6.  This is the ideal time to introduce something sporty once or twice a week. Choose the activity carefully based on your child’s interests and what their friends are doing. Their enjoyment is of paramount importance at this age.

Find a group with session specifically designed for children that include game based activities, learning basic skills and lots of FUN. Think outside the box when it comes to choice of sport – there are 100’s to choose from including karate, swimming, cricket, baseball, dance, soccer, ballet and so on. Or, a general fitness session may suit your child better. Use older siblings and school friends to help your child choose an activity. Also remember that kids of this age love to mimic their parents so find out if there is a youth section in your sport.

How hard should a parent push to promote their child continuing a sport if the child is resistant?

The parent needs to ask the child two important questions:
Why don’t you want to do the sport? 
Pushing a child to do something they don’t want to do so often backfires, however the situation determines the best course of action. For example, if your son doesn’t enjoy his karate sessions the 2-3 weeks before grading because they spend so much time practicing the techniques – if you encourage him through this, he’ll be proud of his grading result and start to share that karate is the best part of his week again!

What activity would you prefer to do?
Discourage from allowing your child to give up all sport and athletic activities in preference to non-active pursuits. Instead try to find an activity they will enjoy – something very different to what they’ve tried before. If they’re fed up with soccer, try swimming, if basketball doesn’t cut it anymore, try ballet. Allow your child to try lots of different activities until they find one they enjoy.

How should a parent approach a difficult or extreme coach?

Coaching has massively improved in the last ten years with many, many more specialist youth coaches appearing on the scene. However, there are exceptions and the first thing to bear in mind is that if you find a coach difficult or extreme other people probably do as well.  It is probably worth having a quiet word with some of the other parents and children to see if they share your views. Try the following course of action:

Talk to the coach and express your concerns, if this makes you uncomfortable talk to the assistant coaches. Try to set up a meeting between yourself, the coach and his assistants.  Hopefully most issues can be resolved at this meeting. If a direct meeting fails to improve the situation, consider the following:
Speak to the sports club manager.
Go to the governing body of your particular sport with your concerns.
Offer to volunteer as a helper at the sessions to keep a close eye on the atmosphere. All clubs are regularly looking for volunteers and you may be able to influence coaching style from the inside.

Maggie Ayre is the UKs Leading Fitness Coach for Teenage Girls. She has recently developed the 3G Program designed to be run in schools and youth clubs with the aim to get every teen girl active. She also offers Personal Training for Teenage Girls in person and via email, skype and video sessions. To learn more visit: www.maggieayre.com

What Should Teens Be Drinking? By Maggie Ayre

No fizzy drinks, no squash, no juice, no caffeine ……What Should Teenagers Be Drinking?

We are constantly, constantly being told what we shouldn’t be drinking. It is all sound advice but is it really helpful to be constantly told what we shouldn’t be doing? I think most people have long since stopped listening after years of conflicting advice

The Government recommends that teenage girls should drink water and semi-skimmed milk.  This is the advice of the vast majority of Western health authorities but the science would suggest that milk is one of the worst substances we can consume.

There is no disputing that cow’s milk is meant for calves, it assists in their development, and provides very specific amounts of calcium and nutrients to aid their development. Human milk, on the other hand has a different chemical composition, specifically for a baby’s development. Pasteurisation, homogenisation and the welfare of the cows all negatively affect the milk that we drink. Up to 70% of humans will be intolerant to drinking cow’s milk because many of us stop producing an enzyme called lactase, which helps us to digest milk, when we are weaned – this can lead to us developing irritable bowel and leaky gut syndrome, allergies and intolerances such as itching, hives, rhinitis, itchy eyes and ears, nausea, bloating, wind, cramps, diarrhoea, aggravation of lung conditions such as asthma, and can also lead to diabetes, and osteoporosis.

Many of us believe that drinking milk when our bodies are still growing will reduce the risk of osteoporosis because our bodies use the calcium in milk to develop strong bones, but if we consider the science; the mineral calcium is actually very concentrated in cow’s milk, with the ratio of calcium being up to 10 times more than magnesium (10:1 ratio). In human breast milk the calcium to magnesium ratio is 2:1! This can lead to major imbalances between these two co-dependent minerals in the body. Too much calcium causes the body to try and gain more magnesium in order to stay in balance. But too little magnesium in proportion to calcium can lead to muscle tension.

Let’s examine some of the alternatives…..

Juice – Most of the juice we buy from the supermarket is UHT.  This “ultra-heat treated” juice has been subjected to pretty extreme temperatures which break down all of the nutritional value of the juice rendering them useless as healthy drinks. Even fresh squeezed juice is of questionable nutritional value, with most of the goodness derived from a fruit through the action of chewing it. Instead juice is high in sugar and therefore not recommended.

Smoothies – The price tag of many smoothies puts them out of the reach of many teenagers.  Shop bought versions have been pasteurised which has destroyed all natural goodness, homemade versions can be considered a healthy drink but we need to be careful not to overindulge as they can be calorific and are generally not considered as good for us as chewing the fruit or vegetables.

Fizzy drinks and Energy Drinks – Fizzy drinks contain a huge amount of sugar and are of no nutritional value.  Many also contain caffeine which renders them virtually useless for rehydration. A recent study has linked fizzy drinks with liver damage. They break down the liver in the same way as alcohol and it has been suggested that just two fizzy drinks a day can have serious health implications.

Diet Fizzy Drinks – In diet fizzy drinks the sugar has been replaced by sweetener. On the surface this seems to make them a healthier option but these sweeteners can actually cause serious harm to our bodies.

Cartons of Squash – Shop bought cartons of squash have been shown to contain nearly as much sugar as fizzy drinks.  Homemade versions are a slightly lower sugar alternative.

So, what should teenagers be drinking?  The answer to that question is simple, water! 
Encourage your children to drink water as much as possible, then enjoying other drinks as an occasional treat. 

Maggie Ayre is a Personal Trainer and Nutrition Advisor. More information about Maggie’s work with teenagers can be found at www.maggieayre.com or www.femalefitnessrevolution.com.