Category Archives: Health & Wellness

Summer = farmer’s markets!

 

VFM_2012_poster

We wrote recently about helping kids develop their taste buds: Karen LeBillon’s 2nd book “Getting to Yum: Curing and preventing picky eating”, endorsed by a Harvard Medical School pediatrician, helps with taste training for kids.

The other things that help is to see where food comes from. Showing this to kids directly works amazingly, as UK celebrity chef Jamie Oliver demonstrated through his work with schools. Here is a video showing school kids who could not identify a potato from a tomato!

Farmer’s markets can help with that. Summer is a great time to visit one – and here are the listings for VancouverCalgary and Toronto. The best is when your kids can actually speak with the vendors and ask what they are passionate about – markets are full of creative people who are driven by their love of what they do, and it’s so interesting to discover the people behind the produce and the products.

If you can’t make it to a farmer’s market, there are some great online resources on “farm to table” food. Enjoy!

Alexandra T. Greenhill, MD, CEO cofounder myBestHelper

Do You Have a Picky Eater in the House? Read On!

 

Getting to yum by Karen LeBillon

image from gettingtoyum.com

  • Do you have a five or six-year-old who refuses to eat certain foods?
  • Is the dinner table becoming a battle of wills instead of a family gathering?
  • Is the worry about your picky eater causing stress for your family?

No worries – now there is help!

Karen LeBillon is the author of award winning best seller “French Kids Eat Everything“. Her 2nd book “Getting to Yum: Curing and preventing picky eating”, endorsed by a Harvard Medical School pediatrician, helps with taste training for kids and is being adapted to the TV screen. A new TV series produced by LaDiDa Media aims to help you and the picky eater in your family.

Karen wants to meet your family, and share her simple steps for turning even the most picky eater, into a fan of healthy and diverse foods. If you live in the lower mainland of British Columbia and would like your family to be a part of this new TV series, read on:

  • Looking for families with one picky eater of around 6 years old, who are available to film in their home for one day on the weekend of June 7th and 8th, and for one day of the weekend of June 14th and 15th.
  • Hoping to film a follow up to check back with your family in July or August.
  • Send a little information about your family, plus a photo or two to the following address: gettingtoyum@ladidamedia.com. They are looking forward to helping you!

Otherwise – the book is now available in all major bookstores and features practical advice, an easy to follow approach and LOTS of recipes the whole family can enjoy. You can download here the FREE fruit and veggies poster to help teach kids about different foods. You can also print it in black and white and give it to your kids to color.

Alexandra T. Greenhill, MD, Mom of three and CEO cofounder myBestHelper

 

The best Mother’s Day gift ever….

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I am a mom. Mother’s Day is coming up, but this is also Mental Health Week, so I am getting lots of media and social media info focused on that. It’s been interesting reading what is said on these topics seemingly on different tracks, yet linked in so many ways.

It got me thinking (yes, I know – dangerous!). Let’s consider for a moment something that the organisers of Mental Health Week say about mental health, but from the perspective of a busy mom:

“We all have mental health, just as we all have physical health. Mental health is more than the absence of mental illness. It’s a state of well-being.”

As a mom, I wonder… I am not alone when I describe parenting not as a state, but rather as constant change. Raising children, how can I achieve that sense of well-being when everything is so topsy-turvy unpredictable and rapidly changing? Every parent has experienced at least a few days of being overwhelmed, out of balance, anxious and stressed, and those who say otherwise are just not owning up to the truth.

It has always been tough being a parent, but the pressures now seem ever higher, as both expectations on what parents do and kids need to achieve keep rising. As well, with all the easily available information, there are no excuses such as “I didn’t know”.

The sense of well-being dies through a thousand paper cuts caused by thoughts and moments of avoidable imperfection.

So, the best Mother’s day gift ever for me would not be chocolate, flowers or presents.

What I really want is a helping hand when I am carrying groceries out of store with a toddler on my hip, someone to hold the door as I push a stroller into a building, a supportive smile when my angelic child decides to throw a huge temper tantrum in the candy isle.

What I really want is people being really ok with me being late a few minutes to a meeting as the morning to school routine had some snag that led to a domino chain of delays. What I really want is a hug at the time I least expect it, a note from friends who still care about me even if we have not met in ages, a simple text to say “You are doing great job. It can’t always be easy, but keep at it – you ROCK!”

I am lucky, because many of these things happen to me and I am surrounded by people who are generous and kind and helping. None of what I do would be possible without the moral and tangible support of a huge number of people who have my back. Thank you.

And so, for Mother’s Day – which happens to be during Mental Health Week – let’s give each other some love – and some leeway. Life is not perfect and that is awesome. And moms need to be reminded of that.

The best gift possible to any and all Mothers that you know would be to give them some love and kindness, give them support and encouragement, give them a break and a hand if you can. On Mothers’ Day and any day.

Alexandra T. Greenhill, mom and CEO, myBestHelper

Kid’s Garden – an awesome how to guide

Loved this post from Kid’s Garden on a new practical book on outdoor activities – especially the step-by-step instructions for all of us without a green thumb!

Alexandra T. Greenhill, mom of three, CEO founder of myBestHelper

Kids Need to Talk… 3 Sure Fire Ways to Make it Happen!

 

“How was your visit with your friend?”

“Good…”

“How was your day at school?”

“Fine…”

“What did you think of this movie?”

“It was ok.”

How often have we heard these monosyllabic answers from kids? It starts in daycare, where the lack of vocabulary seems to excuse it, but it continues in the school years, and often gets worse in the teen years.

It always amazes me to see that in spite of being told it’s ok to directly share their thoughts and feelings, people still need opportunity and encouragement to speak up. Especially, kids…

As grown ups we need to make the habit of sharing happen, as it’s critical to helping the young person in our lives overcome the inevitable challenges life brings and to build healthy coping strategies. The 2nd biggest killer for teens after car accidents is suicides – and that group is overrepresented by kids who suffer without speaking about it. The Canadian Mental Health Association has tons of evidence that helping kids early on to form the habit of talking to others saves lives.

So how to make it happen?

1. Create opportunities to talk (quiet activities that do not require eye contact)

Kids seem to formulate their own thoughts about issues that they worry about only when there is a quiet moment or some activity that often doesn’t require eye contact. Think about it – how often do they share their concerns and fears while walking somewhere or driving in the car? So make sure every week includes some activity – art, crafts, cooking, eating, gardening, even reorganizing the house – something where you are side by side, doing something and just chatting.

Another great opportunity is an event – real or in a movie – that can be discussed and explained. Kids often make sense of that external happening by drawing on things in their own real or inner lives and they become very engaged when given the chance to discuss it. What adults often miss is that they can be “done” with a topic without exploring all of it. These conversation also happen better when not sitting face to face.

2. When talking happens – listen, listen, listen

How long does it take a physician to interrupt a patient after asking an open ended question such as: “So, what brought you here?”. Yes, it is on average only 23 seconds, even though the intent is to let the person describe, instead of jumping in to guide them. What people don’t realize is that adults do that to kids too!

Just listen to grown ups talking to a toddler or a kid on the phone… They ask a question, pause for three seconds, and rephrase the question thinking that the child doesn’t understand and by then, the child starts to speak… Hard to get into a rhythm!

So the rule of thumb is to say something and then not speak for a long, uncomfortable, seemingly unending, definitely unusual, even anxiety provoking time, and then add even more time, counting to 42 in your head if you must. This is where point number one makes it easier – when doing something these pauses in speaking seem more natural to us.

Conversely, I must reassure you – kids will not even notice these seemingly unending silent moments. They are processing their own thoughts and feelings and need this time. They will just think it’s easy to speak to you.

Similarly, once they say something, don’t interrupt, don’t clarify, let them continue. Acknowledge non verbally (nod etc.), and look like you are interested in hearing more. I guarantee you will be amazed at what comes next.

3. Kids need role models – show them how sharing is done

Last, but not least, kids learn from what they see, not what you say, so you need to step up and do it first. When you come home from work share a story about something that happened at work and mention how it made you feel. Refer to something that you saw in the news and explain your opinion. Reminisce about something that you remember from your own school days or your childhood – ask how that has changed.

There are lots of great books on these topics, but these 3 strategies are the starting points.  And remember, on January 28, Bell will donate 5¢  to mental health initiatives for every:

  • Text message sent*
  • Mobile and long distance call made*
  • Tweet using #BellLetsTalk
  • Facebook share of the Bell Let’s Talk image.

Easy to do and last year – led by Olympian athletes Clara Hughes – this program led to 96,266,266 calls, texts, tweets and Facebook shares by Canadians. This meant that 2013 Bell Let’s Talk Day led to an additional $4,813,313.30 for mental health programs rounding up the total Bell committed to Canadian mental health to over 62 million $. (*note: I don’t have personal advantage to promoting Bell’s program – just like it!).

Alexandra T. Greenhill, MOM MD, co-founder and CEO myBestHelper

Of kids and vegetables – #BESTreads

karen le billon

Inspired by  CanadaReads, we are launching our #BESTreads series – yes, parents reading a book a month together to help us navigate the mysterious lands of Parenting. This initiative is fashioned on the “One Book One City” programs popular across North America.

The first book we picked for our first ever #BESTreads is “French Kids Eat Everything: How our family moved to France, cured picky eating, banned snacking, and discovered 10 simple rules for raising happy, healthy eaters“. It’s an award winning book by Karen Le Billon, and not only because it has one of the longest titles ever! Now translated into 10 languages, winner multiple awards and on the top 10 of bestseller lists in Canada and abroad, “French Kids Eat Everything and So Can Yours”  has changed many a family’s life for the better.

The book is an entertaining read itself: one follows the peripeties – french for “sequence of events that are worth telling in a story” – of a family exploring eating habits in a different culture and creating a blend that is better than the dominant habits from the original and the new way.

Karen has an engaging style and manages to avoid generalizations about the way the French or Americans or Canadians (or anyone else, for that matter) eat and live – she shows that she really understands that we’re just too diverse and that becoming an advocate of ‘French parenting’ serves no one. Rather, the book shares ideas and observations with the goal of sparking insights and discussion about key issues – like school lunches, snacking, and the role food plays in our families’ lives.

The book is also very practical – there are great recipes, and many simple and effective tips on how to get kids (and families) to enjoy food and meals together. The ten rules are easy to implement, and change for the better both what and how kids eat. In the coming month, we will do a series of mini-reviews of some of the best suggestions from the book and host discussions on the issues Karen Le Billon identifies that are interesting to discuss. As an ultimate treat, at the end of this #BESTreads month, the author herself will join us on a Google Hangout to answer your questions!

Want to be a part of this exciting community venture, meet authors, discover new books? Join us – we welcome all newcomers and experienced parents alike. This is a great opportunity to meet others and gather wisdom and ideas that are vital to survival or fun for when that is called for.

Kidsbooks Vancouver has their annual sale starting tomorrow – go get the book and let’s start the discussion!

Alexandra T. Greenhill, MOM MD, CEO myBestHelper, and – my kids do eat everything – so can yours!

November is National Family Caregiver’s Month – 3 ideas on how to celebrate by helping!

caregiving There are millions of people who are involved in caregiving for a relative who is sick or disabled, short or long-term. Studies show that this is tough on their own health, energy and finances, and even more importantly on their morale. The associations between physical and psychological health and being an informal caregiver are well established, with caregivers reporting higher levels of stress, anxiety and depression. So how can we all help? Here are three concrete ideas that any of us can do:

  1. Say thank you with a phone call, a message or a card: Does not need to be big or elaborate – just do it. You can also give them a copy of your favorite funny movie or a book on tape – distractions help. The AARP runs the ThanksProject.org – a fantastic collection of ways to acknowledge and e-thank caregivers among us.
  2. Give them a day off or even a meal off: Even dropping off a meal can mean a break from having to do it all! Usually help with practical daily chores is really appreciated – doing a shopping run, cleaning the yard from leaves, gathering the snow or throwing some salt on pathways if icy. If you are too busy or don’t live close by, offer them help through a service like ours.
  3. Help celebrate holidays: For example decorate a family caregiver’s home for the holidays or offer to address envelopes for his or her holiday cards. Daily life is so busy as it is, that managing the additional workload related to a holiday is often impossible.

These ideas are very actionable and especially will be life lessons for young kids who learn by example. So get them involved and see the miracle of how helping others makes your family tighter and happier.

Alexandra T. Greenhill, MD, Mom of three, CEO of myBestHelper, best place for families to find helpers