Family Eating Together

Family Eating Together

Written by Dr. Karrie Heneman, PhD in Nutrition
Edited and Updated by Sandra Gentleman, RD

Benefits of Family Meals

Family meals are one of the best ways to connect with your kids regularly. Finding time for difficult conversations can be challenging in today’s fast-paced world. Family meals create space for meaningful conversations. It takes time to eat a meal, and food is a fantastic distraction. Family meals also help to create a lifelong bond between parents and their children. Regular family dinners are associated with lower rates of anxiety and depression in kids, fewer eating disorders, and higher rates of self-esteem. Children whose families participate in regular family meals also are more successful in school. Finally, family meals create a consistent schedule that helps kids feel more secure.

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Creating A Family Meal Routine

If you are not currently eating regular family meals together, it is essential to remember that family meals can be casual and easy to make. The point of a family meal is togetherness. A simple dinner of pasta topped with a jar of spaghetti sauce, a frozen vegetable, and sliced fruit can come together in minutes and costs significantly less than takeout. Family meals also do not have to occur at dinner time. Check your family schedule and find a time that works best for everyone to sit down together. Some families find breakfast or weekend brunches the most accessible times to get everyone together.

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Tips For Making Family Meals Habitual

If family meals are not a habit, they will quickly fall by the wayside. To encourage your family to stick with this new routine, be consistent. It takes about ten weeks for a new practice to become a habit. I like to mark family dinners in our calendar so that we are sure to avoid scheduling any other events during this time. Using a calendar becomes even more critical as your children get older and start to manage their schedules. Finally, family meals should be free of distractions. Family members should turn off all televisions and computers, and phones should not come to the table.

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Particular Eaters

It can be discouraging when making family meals if kids do not like what you prepared. Kids can have twice as many tastebuds as adults. These additional tastebuds make new flavors taste stronger and harder to enjoy. Don’t give up if your child does not like the food at the first pass! It is important to keep introducing healthy foods in different and exciting ways. Try changing the color, how you prepare the food (roasted, steamed, raw, etc.), or the sauce you top it with.

Most importantly, be patient. Change takes time. Children who are particular about the food they eat desire to control. What kids put into their mouths is one of the few things they can have complete power over. As a parent, I want to teach my kids to respect their bodies and what goes into them. The first step in this process is asking kids to decide what type and how much food they eat. Although this is not always easy, it is essential to raising a healthy eater.

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Family Meals First Who Am I? My name is Karrie Heneman. I received a BA in Human Biology at Stanford in 1999 and a PhD in nutrition at UC Davis in 2004.

Family Meals First | Food, Family and Fun!

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#69 on My Wife The Dietitian to learn all about Eating Together with Dr. Karrie Heneman

Podcast – Sandra Gentleman

My Wife the Dietitian
7 Health Benefits of Avocado Smoothies

7 Health Benefits of Avocado Smoothies

Written by Aly Bouzek, MS, RDN
Edited and updated by Sandra Gentleman, RD

Avocados have been increasing in popularity over the years due to their high healthy fat content. In 1985, 436 million pounds of avocado were consumed in the US. In 2020, more than 2.7 billion pounds of avocado were consumed.

To put that increase into perspective, individuals consumed about 2 pounds each of avocado in 2000 and almost 8.5 pounds per person in 2021 in the US.

Wow! How about we learn more about the awesome avocado?

Avocado 101

Avocados have a smooth, buttery, creamy texture, and a slightly nutty flavor. The edible part of an avocado is the light green to yellow flesh inside the skin.

Avocados boast alternative names including alligator pear (for its bumpy skin and pear shape) and avocado pear.

Which leads into a common question: Are avocados a fruit or a vegetable? Drum roll please… Avocados are actually classified as a nutrient-dense fruit! Technically speaking, this is because they are a berry with one large pit/seed.

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Avocados, grown from the Persea americana tree, are native to Central America and Mexico. They were first domesticated in the US (Florida) in 1833 and then expanded to California in 1856. California is now the leading avocado producer in the US.

Worldwide? Mexico takes the gold medal of top avocado producer. In 2021, Mexico harvested around 2.4 million tons of avocados.

Nutrient Profile of Avocados

An average-sized avocado provides 240 calories, 3 grams of protein, 22 grams of fat, almost 13 grams of carbohydrate, and 10 grams of fiber. Avocados are also cholesterol-free and are low in sodium at less than 11 mg per avocado.

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Avocado Ripening Tips

Most of us can probably relate to the woes of ripening avocados. You bring them home from the store and they are hard and unripe for what feels like forever. Then, when you turn your back for ⅛ of a second, they are overripe and ready for the compost bin.

Avocados are hard in the stores because they are picked when they are immature. They only ripen after harvest and sometimes this takes a little patience.

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A tip to help ripen your avocados is to try placing them with a few apples in a bowl on the counter. Apples emit ethylene gas which ripens other produce quickly. Placing your unripe avocados with apples will ripen them faster than if the avocados were sitting by themselves.

For storage, once the avocados are ripe, keep them in an airtight container. The oxygen deprivation will help prevent them from ripening further. Additionally, if you need to store your avocado for one day or less, try keeping them in your refrigerator with both skins together.

Another tip is to not buy too many avocados at once. Sometimes they all become ripe at the same time and then you have more than you need at that moment.

Where to use Avocado

Avocados are such a versatile nutrient-dense food. They can be added to almost anything, savory or sweet, or they can be enjoyed raw.

Where you can add avocado:

  • Guacamole (of course!)
  • Toast
  • Dips
  • Salads
  • Sandwiches (and anywhere that you can use it to replace butter or mayo)
  • Chocolate pudding
  • Ice cream
  • Milkshakes
  • Eggs
  • Sushi
  • Tacos
  • Burritos
  • Coffee
  • Smoothies
  • And so much more!

A quick avocado fun fact about incorporating the fruit in your diet: Did you know that you can actually grind up the seed/pit and eat it? How amazing!

What About Avocado Oil?

Avocado oil is unrefined oil that is pressed from avocados. Unrefined means that it retains some of its green coloring and slightly nutty flavor. It is high in unsaturated fats making it a heart healthy oil.

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Avocado oil has much of the same health benefits as avocados, but can also lend a hand when cooking and is used in skin care products to help with moisturization.

Benefits of Avocado Smoothies

Have you ever added avocado to your smoothies? If you haven’t, buckle up. Smoothies with avocado are creamier and have a boost of nutrients. Oh, and did we mention that avocado smoothies are delicious too?!

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Benefits of Avocado Smoothies #1: Heart Health

As we learned above, avocados are a great source of monounsaturated fats. Monounsaturated fats help to reduce blood pressure, reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease, decrease your risk of blood clots, improve cholesterol levels, and improve your overall heart health. (1)

Avocados are also a great source of omega-3 fatty acids, specifically alpha-linolenic acid (ALA). ALAs help to prevent heart disease.

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Additionally, potassium that avocados provide helps with cellular function, blood pressure regulation, and may prevent artery hardening.

As we can see, avocado smoothies can help improve your heart health! Try adding a handful of frozen avocado to your next smoothie to create a creamy, heart healthy masterpiece.

Benefits of Avocado Smoothies #2: Eye Health

Avocados are great for heart health, but they are also a great food for eye health. Our retinas, the inner tissue layer of our eyes, have increased concentrations of fatty acids.

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We need to continue eating foods that are rich in fatty acids to keep our eyes healthy and functioning efficiently. Cue the avocado.

Additionally, lutein and zeaxanthin, carotenoids found in avocados, are helpful in preventing and reducing the risk of age-related macular degeneration, cataracts, and glaucoma. (2)

By adding avocado to your smoothies, you can help protect your eye health. Try adding a small handful of kale to your smoothie to boost those eye health nutrients!

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Pro tip: remove the stalk and stems from kale before blending.

Benefits of Avocado Smoothies #3: Brain Health

The healthy plant fats found in avocados have been shown to assist in improving cognitive function and brain health.

The monounsaturated fat and B vitamins in avocados help with memory and may help reduce homocysteine levels. (3) Note that increased homocysteine levels are risk factors for dementia and Alzheimer’s disease (AD).

Along with reducing the risk of dementia, AD, and cognitive decline, adding avocados to the MIND diet can be helpful in protecting your brain health.

The MIND diet is a combination of the Mediterranean diet and the DASH diet. These diets focus on foods that increase heart health and protect brain health.

To boost your brain health even more, try adding some almonds to your next avocado smoothie. The nutty-tasting smoothie will be both satiating and delicious!

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Benefits of Avocado Smoothies #4: Pregnancy Health

Avocados are great to consume during pregnancy – for both mom and baby. Avocados are nutrient-dense and help with satiety due to their high calorie content.

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Additionally, avocados offer a rich source of folate. Folic acid helps to form the baby’s neural tube which can help prevent neural tube defects and anencephaly.

Folate and folic acid are often used interchangeably, but folate is the natural form of the vitamin and folic acid is the form of folate that is added to supplements and used to fortify some foods.

Folic acid is better absorbed by the body, but folate and folic acid are equally important for our health.

Add some leafy greens, like spinach, to your avocado smoothie to get more folate in your diet!

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Benefits of Avocado Smoothies #5: Cancer Prevention

As noted above, avocados are a great source of fat-soluble carotenoids. Carotenoids are phytochemicals that are reported to have anti-cancer properties. (4)

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However, data surfacing about avocados and their role in cancer prevention is still very new. Many more studies need to be conducted before cancer prevention from avocados is confirmed or not.

Pro tip: to access most of the carotenoids that avocados offer, scrape away the flesh that’s really close to the avocado skin.

Combining avocado with pumpkin in your smoothie will increase the amount of carotenoids that you’re consuming. For a super easy smoothie, opt for frozen, cubed avocado and canned pumpkin puree.

Benefits of Avocado Smoothies #6: Bone Health

Both vitamin K and zeaxanthin from avocados can help improve your bone health. Vitamin K and zeaxanthin can help to strengthen bones, assist with bone metabolism, help to reduce the risk of fractures, and may reduce the risk of an osteoporosis diagnosis. (1,5,6)

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When preparing your avocado smoothie, toss in a handful or two of spinach. Spinach contains both vitamin K and zeaxanthin and can help support your bone health.

Benefits of Avocado Smoothies #7: Bowel Health

Avocados are looking more and more like a superhero superfood! One of the main avocado nutrients that we haven’t talked about yet is fiber. Avocados are high in soluble fiber and can help promote a healthy digestive system.

With 10 grams of fiber per avocado and a low sugar profile, avocados are a great way to get your fiber without the discomfort of gas and bloating.

Want to add more fiber to your avocado smoothie to help with your bowel health? Try adding ½ cup of raspberries or blackberries.

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Pro tip: when increasing your fiber, start slow and make sure to stay hydrated!

Wrap Up: Benefits of Avocado Smoothies

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Avocado is an amazing, nutrient-dense fruit. Adding it to your smoothies can help with satiety (feeling fuller for longer) and it can help with:

  1. Heart health
  2. Eye health
  3. Brain health
  4. Pregnancy health
  5. Cancer prevention
  6. Bone health
  7. Bowel health

And don’t forget about all the other ways you can incorporate the versatile avocado into your meals and snacks! We’d love to hear how you’ve used avocado in your smoothies! 

If you’re interested in learning more about the awesome avocado, then head over to our podcast, My Wife the Dietitian, and check out episode #55. Don’t miss it!

Listen in to Episode

#55 on My Wife The Dietitian to learn all about Awesome Avocados on Spotify or Anchor.fm.

Podcast – Sandra Gentleman

My Wife the Dietitian

Diet Culture in the Fitness Industry

Diet Culture in the Fitness Industry

Diet Culture in the Fitness Industry

Written by Lisa Duncan (guest writer and podcast guest)
Owner/Operator of Activate Athletic Studio
Edited and updated by Sandra Gentleman, RD

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I feel so much sadness for my younger self. I wish I could go back in time and make her realize that her worth was not dictated by her body.

And that the people around her loved her for her, and not because of the shape and size of her body.

And that anybody who DID want her around just for her appearance didn’t deserve a place in her life.

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Most of my life I was drowning in diet culture, with nobody to save me, because they were all swimming in it too. My Mom, my Aunties, and family friends. I would hear them talk of the latest and greatest diet they were on. I would hear them speak about their fat bodies with such disgust toward themselves. I would hear them cheer and shout from the rooftops when they lost the baby weight, or fit into their smaller sized jeans. It made me feel like attaining a smaller body must be one of life’s greatest achievements. A fat body was bad. That message stayed with me most of my life.

I’ve been through the whole gamut of diet culture, including disordered eating and body dysmorphia.  

Diet culture is a collective set of social expectations telling us that there’s one way to be and one way to look and one way to eat and that we are a better and healthier person, we’re a more worthy person if our bodies look a certain way. Diet culture is everywhere, and it’s so pervasive, people have no idea just how much they are entrenched in it.

It’s been a very sneaky shape-shifter over the years—you might think you’re not subscribing to diet culture, as these insidious “lifestyles” may not overtly promise weight loss. Often they market “eating healthier” under the guise of well-being, which can make them tougher to recognize. Yet if you look closer, the message is still the same: follow this plan, do these things, and you’ll be “healthier” (subtext: thinner). It’s still making money by feeding into the fear of being fat and all the moral implications that our culture assigns to food choices and body size.  

Inspired by a client who felt her bigger body did not belong at our studio, I took a course on intuitive eating, body diversity, and weight stigma with a respected mentor. That changed everything for me. All of my long-held beliefs on health, food, bodies were all challenged, and transformed.

The most obvious signs of diet culture are: black and white thinking, food described as:

  • clean, dirty,
  • good or bad,
  • foods deemed detoxifying,
  • super foods or miracle foods.

This can cause the simple act of eating into guilt and shame.

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Sadly, some of the biggest perpetrators of diet culture are the professionals working within the fitness industry. And I was no different.

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When weight loss and changing our bodies is the driver behind our exercise and food choices, we immediately cut off trust to our body. We rely on other people’s rules and what we think we SHOULD do, instead of listening to what we NEED. When we cannot sustain the diet and exercise plan, we are bound to have guilt, shame, judgement and see food and movement through a good/bad lens.

I’ve learned what we hear, think, and say has a profound influence on how we feel about our health and our bodies.

How many times have you attended a fitness class where phrases like “let’s burn off that cake”, or “alright ladies beach season is coming up, gotta look good in our bathing suits!” or “come on gals, let’s get rid of that muffin top,” have been barked with the intention of being motivating? In the fitness industry, the biggest barometers for success are marked by external physical indicators– fat burned, pounds lost and waist sizes dropped – without adequate regard to mental health or internal physical benefits.

So much of our culture is obsessed with thinness that a lot of gyms and trainers assume that this is what clients want, or should want. But the truth is people truly can be healthy at every size. In fact, there’s a fantastic science-based movement called Health at Every Size (HAES) that emphasizes the fact that body size and shape are NOT the best predictors of health and well-being, and that each person has a unique body with its own needs for optimal health.

Your “ideal” body weight is the weight that allows you to feel strong and energetic and lets you lead a healthy, normal life.

Your body can be healthy across a wide range of weights.

Women have become conditioned to believing in the unrealistic standards of beauty set by society. Their self-worth is so very often decided by others’ perception of them.

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If a Fitness Coach thinks they are motivating me by telling me, get your body ready for summer, get your bikini body, or talks about an exercise being good for a better-looking butt or any body part, this is not motivating, this is body shaming. They are clearly not educated in eating disorders or body dysmorphia.

Words and phrases like that tend to linger and fester, especially for anyone who has struggled with an eating or body dysmorphic disorder. They can be dangerous, causing a person to go home to engage in some very unhealthy behaviors.

As personal trainers and fitness instructors, we have a powerful platform that can impact our clients in meaningful and lasting ways. Words matter. Words have power.

The truth is that bodies come in all shapes and sizes, and that all bodies are valuable no matter what they look like or how healthy they are. But that doesn’t mean many of us aren’t subject to subtle or inadvertent shaming even by those closest to us … or that we aren’t accidentally shaming others without realizing it, too. Moving forward and away from the very narrow beauty standards society sets for us is essential for us to live fully and freely. Ditching diet culture and the thin ideal they hold over us will allow us the confidence we need to be ourselves without fear of judgement.

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My approach to training and mindset coaching is heavily influenced by my personal journey breaking free from decades of chronic dieting, toxic workout habits, and working to heal my body image. I want to show you that it is possible to embrace your body as it is, and have an empowering experience with movement and exercise.

(I want to acknowledge that I benefit from thin privilege. That means that my body has always fit inside society’s definition of an “acceptable” size. Although I have struggled with my relationship with food and my body, I have not had to face the discrimination that those in larger bodies face every day just for existing.)

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Lisa has been a Personal Trainer since 2018, defying industry standards with her abilities and inclusive approach. She holds certifications in the health and wellness world that lend to empowering individuals on their health journey. These include certified personal trainer, sports nutrition coach, and Girls Gone Strong Women’s Coach Specialist.

Her career started back in 1997 while working for Great West Fitness on the Lower Mainland, a time when she was entrenched in diet and weight loss culture.

After facing body dysmorphia and overcoming disordered eating, Lisa made it her mission to help other women heal their relationships with food and fitness.

In 2018, Lisa and her husband Craig launched their own business, Activate Athletic Studio.

The goal was to create a space that made everyone feel safe and welcome, and to feel comfortable accessing fitness and wellness, while also feeling a sense of community. Their focus is on helping others improve their mood, increase mobility, build strength, get better sleep, and other aspects of overall health rather than setting goals to changing your body’s size or appearance.

At Activate, you will never experience body shame, diet talk, or other behaviours encouraged by diet culture—just 100% judgment-free care on your journey to feel better.

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Listen in to Episode

Tune in to Episode # 60 My Wife The Dietitian to hear the interview with Lisa Duncan

Podcast – Sandra Gentleman

My Wife the Dietitian