FIT Connection for Parents: Food

How does eating tie in with being fit?

From the WebMD Archives

In her 25 years as a dietitian working with families, Linda Bartholomay sees every day how the four parts of the FIT Platform -- FOOD, MOVE, RECHARGE, and MOOD -- all work together for overall good health. "If one of the four areas addressed in the FIT Platform is out of control or unhealthy, it's really hard to make changes in the other areas,” says Bartholmay, who is the manager of outpatient nutrition therapy with Sanford Health, WebMD's FIT educational partner.

FOOD is a big part of a FIT lifestyle. What we eat provides the essential building blocks for our bodies. Plus, the FOOD choices we make every day affect the other areas of the FIT Platform.

FOOD Gives You Energy to MOVE

It's basic knowledge that calories from food fuel our bodies so we can go about our lives. "Food is fuel, but there are all kinds of nutrients in foods that do different things for the body," says Bartholomay. So the key for using FOOD to achieve a fit life is choosing foods that give you the energy you need, when you need it.

For instance, you can choose a piece of candy for an afternoon pick-me-up. And candy will give you a quick energy boost, but it won't last long, and it may leave you with an energy crash. A more effective pick-me-up would be a high-fiber snack with some protein, such as a few whole wheat crackers and low-fat cheese. The fiber and fat are digested more slowly, giving you a steadier source of energy.

Another FOOD choice that is a MOVE-crusher is indulging in a big, heavy meal. That's more likely to make you feel sluggish and tired rather than invigorated. A lighter meal might help you have more energy for a relaxing walk.

FOOD Can Influence Your MOOD and Emotional Wellness

Unfortunately, the FOOD-MOOD connection may not be what we'd hope for. Comfort food is called that for a reason: We often crave big meals or sweets when we need an emotional boost. The problem is that comfort eating doesn't work -- after indulging, we are often not comforted. You are likely familiar with this vicious cycle. "You feel yucky, and think, 'I just want sweets.' So you eat the sweets. Then you feel yucky for eating the sweets. In fact, eating the sweets just made the yucky mood worse," says Bartholomay.

You'll learn tactics to avoid this in the FOOD articles. For instance, to fortify your resistance from comfort eating, emphasize whole grains, fruits, and vegetables. These high-fiber foods help keep you from feeling hungry all the time so you won't be as cranky.


FOOD Choices You Make Can Affect How Well You RECHARGE

Can what you put in your mouth affect the quality of your sleep? Absolutely. Most people know to avoid caffeine before bedtime, as well as spicy foods that can make digestion a challenge. But a recent study found that fat was a bigger sleep-stealer than caffeine. In this study, women who ate the most fat slept less at night. Plus, they also took more naps, which indicates daytime sleepiness.

To help avoid overdoing it on the fats, eat a variety of healthy foods and keep portions moderate. Your efforts may not only help your digestion, weight, and self-concept, but also help you get more shut-eye.

FOOD You Eat Greatly Contributes to Your Weight

Of the four parts of the FIT Platform, FOOD probably has the most direct affect on your weight. Whether food helps you stay at a healthy weight or contributes to weight gain depends on what food you eat, how much, how often, and how you prepare it.

To learn more about the FIT Platform and weight, read FIT Connection: Weight Management.

How to Make Healthy FOOD a Priority

Too many meals eaten on-the-go from fast-food restaurants, too much time in front of the TV instead of outside being active, and less time to get a full night's sleep -- from there it's a slippery slope toward weight gain and poor health. If you and your family find you've fallen into a fitness rut, take action today to change course.

"Any behavior that we want to happen in any one of our children is a behavior that the whole family has to model," Bartholomay says. As a dietitian, she knows preparing food together as a family is the healthy thing to do. But as a parent who works full-time, she also knows that there are days when it is not easy. “I'm not always in the mood to take the extra time and put up with the mess." That's why in the FOOD section of Raising FIT Kids, you'll find tips on how to keep healthy food choices simple and practical for real families.


The payoff of eating meals together can have a profound effect on your family's overall health. "In studies, families that eat more family meals together tend to be less overweight," says Bartholomay. "For one thing, when you are eating together and you prepare the food at home, you're more likely to think about making a more well-rounded meal. Plus, if you allow yourself to eat as a family and you enjoy the conversation, you'll probably take smaller portions than maybe you would if you were eating out."

In this over-scheduled world, put healthy food and fitness front and center by paying attention to the four areas of the FIT Platform. You can help your children understand just how important their health is, and set them up to make healthy choices throughout their life.

WebMD Feature Reviewed by Roy Benaroch, MD on February 03, 2012



Linda Bartholomay, LRD, manager, outpatient nutrition therapy, Sanford Health, Fargo, N.D.

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