Future Generations Learn Healthy Eating Through Teaching Kitchens

In the San Antonio, Texas area (69% Latino) families, health care leaders like Dr. Mark Gilger, and philanthropy groups like the Goldsbury Foundation are exploring what healthy and culturally fun Latino meals look like with the Children’s Hospital of San Antonio’s new Culinary Health Education for Families (CHEF) program. Aiming to be a new culinary health model for families needing help in preventing diet-related disease such as childhood diabetes, hypertension,and obesity, the goal of the program is to provide San Antonio residents with tools, resources, and education to lead healthier lives and encourage healthy weights for children.

Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Salud Success Story

Sedentary Summer: Are You A Sitting Duck?

excerpt from an article by Julie La Barba, MD, FAAP
read full article at USAF Fit Family

It should not sit well that most of our nation’s time is spent in chairs. Dr. James Levine, a Mayo Clinic researcher, calls ours a “chair-based lifestyle.” Sound extreme? Then just think about how often our work, leisure time, transportation, entertainment and meal times revolve around a sedentary posture. High tech conveniences DO save us work, but sitting and pushing buttons also means we move our bodies considerably less often and with less force.

Everyone knows exercising can be good for us – but is the opposite true too? Can sitting actually be bad for us? Although just being sedentary doesn’t make us overweight, it does contribute to an overall energy imbalance. If we spend hours each day in passive activities, there’s simply not enough time in the day to offset our food intake and lack of physical activity. Family homes and workplaces are critical environments for fostering physical activity – or for fostering a sedentary lifestyle.

The solution? Sit less and move more every day! If we can build movement and activity into our “day jobs,” whether that means at work or school, or when maintaining a household, then we won’t bear the burden of scheduling extra physical activity on top of an already demanding day.

Parents Out and About…

read full article at USAF Fit Family

Real vs Fake Food: Time to Get Real about Food?

excerpt from an article by Julie La Barba, MD, FAAP
read full article at USAF Fit Family

Instead of asking ourselves which foods we should eat to be healthy, the more important question is, “are we eating food at all?” As a population, we are over-fed and under-nourished, due in part to processed or “fake” foods. These quick, cheap and convenient impostors have edged out “real” or natural foods in our diets.

My Family’s Eating What?

So what is fake food? It’s food pretending to be something it’s not. For example, American “cheese” may not be legally sold as “cheese” in the United States, and must be labeled as “processed cheese”, “cheese product”, or “cheese food.” At times, even the word “cheese” is missing in the name on the label, as in “American Singles.” Pancake syrup made with caramel coloring and chemicals does not come from anywhere near a maple tree. Most “strawberry” flavored convenience foods and drinks contain a list of chemicals but not a single strawberry. Theater popcorn “butter” is actually butter-flavored hydrogenated soy bean oil. A large popcorn with this pseudo-butter has as much saturated fat as eight Big Macs!

Real food is exactly what it appears – and most real foods don’t come with packaging, instructions or any health claims. They don’t need to because their list of ingredients contains one word: Carrot, strawberry, lettuce, milk, chicken, fish. These are whole, natural foods that have not been highly processed and that don’t contain hidden additives and chemicals. One other clue: they’re perishable! Foods with extended shelf lives are more likely to be fake.

Parents: What’s Happening?…

read full article at USAF Fit Family

Back to School/Childhood Obesity Month: Better Health for Back-to-School Time

excerpt from an article by Julie La Barba, MD, FAAP
read full article at USAF Fit Family

The start of the school year can both excite and overwhelm us. Major transitions like suddenly becoming the new kid in school, or entering middle or high school, are especially stressful – and bring on real anxiety that can cause sleep problems. Time crunches from new schedules add even more stress for students and parents alike, making nutritious family meals more of a “maybe” than a norm.

A Bit Of Science

Night after night of shortened sleep creates a “sleep deficit.” When we’re not working with a full tank of zzzs, it’s harder to concentrate on school work and other activities. Add stress into the mix and look out for mood swings, overeating and eventual weight gain. It’s hard to believe, but too little sleep and too much stress can be partially responsible for piling on extra pounds.

Why? Sleep deprivation and the inability to manage stress play key roles in metabolism. After we go to sleep, our body stays awake to get things done, like regenerating cells and relaxing muscles. But when we don’t get enough sleep, our body has to do those things in addition to giving us energy for whatever’s keeping us up. That’s why tired and stressed-out people often feel hungrier than normal, and crave fat, salt and sugar. (Hence the late-night snack.)

Back-to-school schedules and commitments can make adequate sleep and nutritious family meals seem an impossible task. But it can be done – and should be to keep you all on track to a calmer, more productive school year.

Parents: You Can Only Do Your Best…

read full article at USAF Fit Family


excerpt from an article by Julie La Barba, MD, FAAP
read full article at USAF Fit Family

I’m often asked, “Which is more important for maintaining a healthy weight: exercise or nutrition?” Often what follows is, “I probably don’t have to worry about what I eat because I’m religious about working out and burning it all off.”

Here’s the skinny:

Staying in shape is a life-long balancing act. While eating and exercise are both contributors to weight control, the fact is we gain weight when we eat more calories than our body can use. With so many low-cost supersized convenience foods within our reach, many who struggle with overeating simply can’t do enough physical activity to “exercise off” all the extra calories they take in during a 24-hour period. There isn’t enough time in the day. Our waistlines aren’t the only things which have grown over the past 20 years – so have standard portion sizes. Here are some tips on how to navigate our supersized life and avoid going overboard when we eat.

Parents: Recommended Serving Size vs. Portion

If you feel confused by terms like “serving size” and “portion” you’re not alone. Yet choosing the proper serving size portions can help you and your family avoid overeating.

The terms “serving” and “portion” are often interchanged, yet they don’t share the same meaning. A “portion” is the amount of food you choose to eat, such as a bowl of spaghetti or a handful of grapes. A “serving” on the other hand, is a specified amount of a given food that experts recommend you eat, like 1 cup of milk or 1 ounce of bread. Servings are listed on nutrition labels too. When choosing your portion, try to make it as close as possible to these recommended serving sizes.

You’re In Charge — For Now…

read full article at USAF Fit Family

Family Playbook

excerpt from an article by Julie La Barba, MD, FAAP
read full article at USAF Fit Family

We’re in the midst of football season, and I’ve got playbooks on my mind. A team’s playbook holds the strategies that create each week’s game plan – which can ultimately make or break an entire season.

When a team suits up and takes the field on game day, they may make it look easy. Through the sea of bright jerseys on well-toned physiques, we can’t see the individual dedication which shapes the group as a whole: two-a-day practice sessions, injured limbs, special diets, personal sacrifices and of course, committing that playbook to memory.

Staying in shape and coordinating a team demands both physical and mental work. Those demands apply as equally to ball players as they do to healthy families.

Fit Family Bowl

In pursuit of the title of Fit Family, parents are coaches and kids are quarterbacks. The coaches prepare the team over time, then guide from the sidelines on game day. But it’s the quarterback who has to execute plays and make decisions on the fly. Hopefully, after running plays day-in and day-out, the playbook is etched in a players mind and makes those snap decisions even easier.

What if, in the pursuit of raising a fit family, we also had a manual with a range of possible plays and tactics for any situation? In other words, wouldn’t it be great if we had a single comprehensive guide to help navigate the challenges in the food-and-fitness game?

Parents: Game On…

read full article at USAF Fit Family

Fighting Childhood Obesity at Home

Sugary Drinks: Not So Sweet

excerpt from an article by Julie La Barba, MD, FAAP
read full article at USAF Fit Family

We are surrounded by special food diets. From low-carb diets with caveman roots, to other diets-du-jour, adults and children alike are bombarded with messages about what to eat. One thing is certain: To keep our weight in check, we have to take in the right amount of calories, whether we’re 9 or 90 years old.

Most of us focus on the food our families eat as we attempt to ensure a healthy diet that maintains a healthy weight. But it’s also important to keep drinks in mind too.

Beverages have a bigger impact on our overall health than you may think. And sugary drinks, in particular, really aren’t such a sweet choice.

Sugar-sweetened beverages make it easy for kids to pack on “empty” calories – high in number and low in nutrients. How? The body’s internal appetite controls register liquids differently than they do solid food. So, by drinking their calories, your children don’t necessarily compensate by eating less food later on. Bottom line: Drinks make it very easy for children to go over their quota for daily caloric intake.


Ever stop to think about the drinks you stock in the family fridge? How do they play into your family’s overall diet and health?

You hold the power to eliminate sugary drinks from your home and help your kids take in fewer empty calories overall.

Sugar-sweetened beverages are not a recommended part of a healthy diet and can lead to obesity, heart disease and diabetes.

Here’s why…

read full article at USAF Fit Family

On the Issue of Breastfeeding and Obesity

excerpt from an article by Julie La Barba, MD, FAAP
read full article at Hale Publishing

In the matter of choosing how to feed her baby, research is beginning to find that a mother’s choice to breast- or bottle-feed may influence her child’s risk of obesity later in life. Health care providers need talking points at the ready to educate moms about how their choice of feeding may have an impact on their child in the future. We know that formula companies have crafted their own compelling story, replete with an attractive diaper bag full of freebies. So why not level the playing field by equipping ourselves with consistent and factual breastfeeding messages?

The adage “Know your audience” rings true here. You have likely tailored advice about breastfeeding to parents in terms of optimal mental development/IQ, protection against infectious diseases, decreased incidence of Type 1 DM, or even the perk of weight loss for mom.  Maybe we should add to our list what we know about breastfeeding and obesity prevention.

Here’s some of what we know so far:

  • One study suggests that direct breastfeeding vs. bottle-feeding may promote satiety responsiveness through the baby-led nature of feeding…

read full article at Hale Publishing

Picky Eaters: How Taste Impacts Healthy Eating

excerpt from an article by Julie La Barba, MD, FAAP
read full article at Rivard Report

We all have our favorite foods and other foods that we dislike, but why? How does the taste of foods impact our eating habits and, in turn, our health?

Dr. Julie La Barba, a pediatrician at the Children’s Hospital of San Antonio and medical director for the new program Culinary Health Education for Families (CHEF), explored the connections between taste and food at the Children’s Hospital on Friday, Feb. 26, during a presentation to pediatricians, medical students, and the greater San Antonio health care community to demonstrate how taste impacts food preferences.

More than 14% of San Antonio’s population has diabetes – which is double the national 7% average, according to the American Diabetes Association. Eating healthier foods, having access to healthier foods and being aware of the medical health risks associated with consuming unhealthy foods is vital to the growing city.

To help guide the future of pediatric medicine within San Antonio, La Barba has committed to building a healthier food environment for children, and helping families, pediatricians and the community see how food, nutrition, and health can work together.

La Barba, along with CHEF’s Program Director Chef Maria Palma, presented how nature vs. nurture can impact a child’s preference for healthy or unhealthy foods.

Using educational videos and taste tests, La Barba and the local chef helped practitioners learn about taste and how it applies to medicine and healthcare.

“Taste preferences have cumulative effects on our overall health,” she said. “As a pediatrician, you are in a pole position to effect the ways family feed their children. They are looking to you for information.”

She went on to explain the medical science of how different foods can impact emotion and moods, and then had participants watch a film on neurogastronomy, showing how smell and sight tell the brain about taste and flavor…

read full article at Rivard Report