Remember that old song?  “Give them things that they can grow by…”

This year, let’s do just that.  Our children are open, eager and willing to try new things.  In fact they thrive on it!

Children are such curious creatures. They explore, question, and wonder, and by doing so, they learn.  As adults, teachers and parents it is up to us to present opportunities to help them learn and discover new things.  At Health Start our passion is to teach our kids about health early on — alongside the ABCs and 123s — giving them lifelong wellness and creating brighter futures for our communities.

Here are a few ways that we can keep our children engaged, motivated and “hungry for more” all of their lives, but especially in the formative years.

  1. Inspire our little ones by being a good role model
  2. Alleviate fear of change and new things through loving support so that curiosity remains alive
  3. Show patience and approval for your child’s explorations and discoveries
  4. Be a caring presence who creates a sense of safety for your child
  5. Listen to your inquisitive child’s questions and observations
Teach your children well, and feed them on your dreams.  Feed also…their dreams!

Submitted by: Nina Beucler-Rebstock of Big Picture, Long Lifeb


Little kids can be prone to ear aches growing up.  They are not uncommon because eustachian tubes are smaller and more level in children. Often doctors treat the infections with antibiotics but what if we could avoid giving them too many rounds of antibiotics?  Did you know that antibiotics can destroy the healthy flora and fauna of the gut.

The basis for a strong immune system is to support our children’s guts in as many healthy ways as possible.

5 ways to strengthen your child’s immune system

  • Feed kids all kinds of vegetables (especially green) from a very early age so they get used to eating them
  • Make their food with bone broth which builds good immunity
  • Focus on plenty of fresh veggies, whole fruits, nuts, seeds, legumes, eggs, and meat-organic if possible
  • Reduce or eliminate sugar. Natural sugar found in fruit is ok, but most kids are bombarded with sugar which destroys the immune system
  • Start children on a probiotic containing lactobacillus and bifido bacteria strains early on – between 5 and 20 billion colony-forming units (CFUs) per day depending on age. You can also feed them plain yogurt sweetened with fruit (not sugar) and give them fermented foods.  Believe it or not, babies like sauerkraut!

About the Author – Nina Beucler-Rebstock: As a certified health and nutrition counselor as well as certified yoga instructor Nina‘s purpose is to help people thrive in all areas of their lives. She combines her expertise in holistic nutrition with a passion for positive aging to facilitate the achievement of optimal health. Nina believes that by unlocking each person’s potential for wellness, everyone is capable of healthy, active aging.


HealthStart is proud to announce its recent designation as a charity recipient of the 2016 Austin Gives Miles fundraiser!

Running is such an amazing opportunity to represent and dedicate to yourself and your community. Everyone can walk or run to benefit themselves and their favorite nonprofit or charity. Here’s a beginner’s guide to training for your first nonprofit fundraising 5K in less than two months. (After that you can shoot for the half marathon! I’m thinking about it, anyway….)

First, find yourself some motivation. Mine came in the awful form of a divorce, to be honest. I had gotten myself a dog, because I knew I would be lonesome, and I also needed to get out of my routine a little bit. Turns out that running with my dog kept me feeling great in spite of everything, looking better than ever (if friends and family are to be believed,) and a walk/run regimen could absolutely do the same for you. The boost in feel-good brain chemicals go a long way, and it’s actually addicting (in a good sense!). You’ll find yourself wanting to get out the door. It helps to have a worthy cause as added motivation in training for a 5K: a direct connection to a fundraising cause is the primary motivator in first-time 5K runners. Three of my grandparents had diabetes, and my first 5K was in recognition of that fact. You know, HealthStart’s involvement with the Austin Gives Miles charity this year might be your reason to run…

I want to add something here: There are a thousand ways to spend money or look fashionable. When I started running, I was way too caught up in whether I had the right shoes or shorts or anything of the sort. (I still don’t.) I recommend that you start with what you have, and see if this running thing suits you. If you want to splurge, maybe consider giving to your favorite charity instead of the snazziest sneakers. My only other very serious recommendation is that you ask a doctor whether it’s A-OK for you to start a new exercise, particularly if you’ve had heart, knee, or any issues in the past that might relate to running.

So, you want to run your first 5K and get all of the added benefits while benefiting a nonprofit, too? You can really train for a 5K in less than two months. I did, using this guide, adapted from the Mayo Clinic 7-week training schedule for beginners.

Here’s how:

Start slowly. During the first week, you’ll walk or run/walk on five days, and rest on two days.

  • Day One (Let’s call it Monday): Start with a good, long walk. Warm up for five or ten minutes. Maybe just walk for thirty minutes on the first day. If you’re antsy, you can run for fifteen seconds, and walk for forty five seconds, for thirty minutes. See how you feel. Listen to your body, and stop if you want. There’s no pressure, and remember to be kind to yourself.
  • Tuesday: If Monday went well, then warm up for five or ten minutes, and do another 30 minutes of 15/45 run/walk intervals.
  • Wednesday: Walk 30 minutes.
  • Thursday: Run/walk your 15/45 interval for 30 minutes.
  • Friday: Rest.
  • Saturday: Run/Walk for 3 miles. Use an app, like MapMyRun, to measure the distance. Using an app like this lets you post your progress to social media, or a running mentor, or a 5K buddy. You’re more likely to stick to your plan and see better results with social support!
  • Sunday: Rest! You’ve earned it.

I’m going to cut this article short and let you get on it! The rest, run, and distance are the same for the next six weeks except for the time intervals:

  • Week 2: Run 15 seconds, Walk 45 seconds for 30 minutes.
  • Week 3: Run 20 seconds, Walk 40 seconds for 30 minutes
  • Week 4: Run 20 seconds, Walk 40 seconds for 30 minutes
  • Week 5: Run 30 seconds, Walk 30 seconds for 30 minutes
  • Week 6: Run 30 seconds, Walk 30 seconds for 30 minutes
  • Week 7: Race week! Run the 30/30 on Monday, and Wednesday. Rest Friday. On Saturday, run your 5K!

A couple of notes:

  • Always, always, always warm up and cool down. Do some stretches, get your blood pumping before you start any serious exercise by walking at a good clip for at least 5 minutes.
  • If you’ve got a canine companion along for the trek, then it’s best to walk/run with your dog early in the morning during the heat of summer. The scorching hot asphalt and pavement are extremely hard on dog paws!
  • If you plan to run the half or full marathon contact HealthStart’s Outreach Coordinator Erin at erin.damm@healthstartfoundation.org for further resources and maybe even a personal training plan
  • Running is not necessarily a reason to increase your caloric intake. Check with your doctor or a dietician to make sure your nutritional needs are met but not exceeded.
  • Also, remember to hydrate, get enough electrolytes, and have fun!


About the HealthStart Foundation & Austin Gives Miles (AGM) Connection

HealthStart is looking for runner-advocates for the Austin Marathon on February 19, 2017 who will run on our behalf. As one of the 26 central Texas non-profits selected by the Austin Marathon for every $1 we raise Austin Gives Miles (the Austin Marathon’s nonprofit arm) matches what we raise dollar-for-dollar. Runners can run 3 distances: Full Marathon, Half-Marathon, or a 5K (max 2000 runners).  We ask that our advocate/runners raise $300-$500, that’s about 30 friends willing to donate $10 or more to support their run.

About the Author

Sarah Nielsen is the mother of a three year old. She’s an English teacher, who loves writing about family friendly health, nutrition, physical activity, and community activities.

Opportunities abound for childhood nutrition in any home!

Did you know that you can grow food in nearly any home? Even petite patios will support food production in the summertime in Texas. South-facing, well-lit areas are best, with a minimum six of hours of direct sunlight during the day. Many vegetables will grow through the summer, and with the plentitude of plant nurseries and home improvement stores offering home gardening supplies, access to home-grown nutrition has never been better.

While there is an initial cost in purchasing garden supplies, consider the return on investment: a pound of heirloom tomatoes can cost $3.99 at the grocery store. For less than $10, you can grow ten pounds of tomatoes on one plant for a return of more than $30 in flavor and nutrition. Or you can grow a single cucumber vine and have homemade fridge pickles all summer! Squash plants are especially generous: One or two will do!

Children love to watch the development of plants and their fruits as they grow new leaves, develop blossoms, attract bees and butterflies for fertilization, and then turn into delicious, homegrown vegetables. They can help pick out the containers, fill them with potting soil, and plant seeds or transplant baby vegetable plants. Gardening is a family endeavor!

These are a few easy options for growing peppers, tomatoes, squash, cucumbers and more, in a simple container garden:

  • Plastic Buckets: Possibly the most affordable option, a clean 5-gallon food grade bucket (like those used in restaurants and grocers) can grow a pepper or tomato plant with ease.
  • Grow Bags: Slightly more expensive, these fabric bags are made from recycled plastics or simple burlap. They allow for moisture
  • Self-Watering Planters: While more expensive to purchase, the attractive designs available for these planters, combined with ease of maintenance and potential longevity, make for an appealing option.

These are a few recommendations for varieties of tomatoes and cucumbers that grow well in Texas:

  • Tomatoes:
    • San Marzano: An heirloom paste tomatoes, these are similar to Roma varieties and work best in sauces and soups. Prolific and a favorite of chefs everywhere, these are heat-tolerant and tasty!
    • Black Krim: An heirloom beefsteak type, this is an heirloom variety of Russian origin. Heirlooms are typically less bountiful than many modern hybrid varieties. However, their superior flavor and dark purple-black flesh make them a favorite of the tomato aficionado. Consider slicing and serving fresh with sliced mozzarella and homegrown basil, drizzled in olive oil and vinegar.
    • Yellow Pear: These are a fast-growing, prolific type of particularly tasty fruit that serve well as a snack or addition to any salad.
  • Cucumbers:
    • Marketmore 76: An heirloom variety, this bush-type plant produces large numbers of fresh and delicious salad-type cucumbers. Their skins aren’t ideal for pickling, but you’ll have enough for the neighbors, too!
    • Burpless Bush Hybrid: Good for fresh eating or pickling, this is cucumber has been bred into a multipurpose patio-perfect bush variety.


  • Potting soil is specifically designed to allow plants to grow in containers, and is a requirement for your container garden.
  • Save money on starting your garden: consider sharing the cost of seed packets or seedling sets with a neighbor or friend.
  • Use online resources to find a seed-swap in your area.
  • Gallon-size plants cost more, but produce faster.
  • Look for plants that are bright green and compact. Don’t buy potted plants whose roots are growing out the bottom of the container.


About the Author

Sarah Nielsen is the mother of a three year old. She’s an English teacher, who loves writing about family friendly health, nutrition, physical activity, and community activities.



“Eat your veggies!” It’s an admonishment we’ve all grown up hearing. They’ll make us stronger, grow bigger, and learn better. The link between children’s health and eating habits and their performance at school is well documented. Children who eat less nutritious meals do not perform as well as peers who engage in healthier eating habits, as evidenced by studies demonstrating that those with healthier habits are more than twice as likely to reach target scores on standardized tests. Providing children with healthier options in the cafeteria can have a big impact on learning outcomes. Jean H. Ragalie, RD, the president of National Dairy Council, notes that “…offering nutrient-rich foods — such as low-fat and fat-free dairy, whole grains, fruits and vegetables, and lean proteins — may be just as important as books in impacting children’s learning positively.”

Equally important is educating children on making informed healthy choices. When deciding how best to incorporate effective health education measures into the school curriculum, it’s important to consider what does and does not work. There have been many nutrition models geared to providing children with a clear visual representation on how and what to eat. In the past, the food pyramid and plate systems were hailed as the models of choice; however, the research supporting these models is now considered by experts to be faulty and outdated. The Go Slow Whoa foods system has also had its share of popularity. While it is a step in the right direction and simple to interpret, the food categories are overly broad and research indicates that its effect on adolescent purchasing behavior in the cafeteria is minimal at best, perhaps due to a lack of proper educational support and communication to provide students with reasoning behind the program and the nutritional choices it proposes.

Simply tacking up posters and diagrams in cafeterias is not enough. Without a way to connect models to their own understanding, children are less likely to follow the model’s guidelines, and improvements in nutrition and health choices are hampered. If we focus on teaching children what a food contains, what it feeds, and why they need it, we give them the power to make their own healthy choices. How can we best accomplish these measures and overcome this dilemma in health education that our schools face? Based on past experience, what does and does not work?

digestive system

The fifth (and final body system) unit of Healthstart’s HEY! curriculum focuses on the digestive system.

Did you know your digestive system begins working the second you put food in your mouth?

Our mouths are the gateway to this important part of our body. We chew using our teeth and saliva helps to breakdown food so that it can descend through the throat into stomach, where it is further broken down and expelled to the small and large intestine. The small and large intestine work to absorb as many nutrients as possible from the foods.

The small intestine absorbs fat which are then transferred to the liver to be further cleansed and distributed by the blood stream. Our large intestine is a vitamin factory, where the remaining food is converted and pushed out to the body. These are very important parts of the digestive system and we should feed them well.

The liver, kidneys, and bladder all work to clean our bodies from the food we eat. The liver cleans the blood of toxins and produces a substance called bile that aids in breaking down fats in the small intestine. The kidneys clean the water we put into our bodies and either distributes the nutrients pulled out into the body via blood or expels it through the bladder to be released.

To keep your digestive system in prime shape you should drink plenty of water and eat foods high in fiber and probiotics. Probiotics help to keep the “good bacteria” in our guts, especially the intestines, healthy and happy so they can perform their necessary functions. The table below includes foods rich in these nutrients. As you look through the list think about how many you eat on a regular basis and perhaps try to incorporate something new in your next meal.

Muscle Munchies

Muscle Foods

Image Credit: http://bit.ly/1WOGPGG

The fourth unit of our HEY! Curriculum focuses on your muscles and the foods you should feed your body to keep them healthy. Below is a brief summary of the content from the curriculum.

Muscles are bands of fibrous and protein tissues that work together to provide movement in the body. They provide strength, flexibility, and endurance to control balance and movement.

We have three unique types of muscles, each with their own functions within the body. These muscles are: heart, smooth, and skeletal.

Heart Muscle: A striped and striated muscle that pumps oxygen and nutrients throughout the body. Heart muscles are controlled by the caregiver brain and function involuntarily, but can be sped up during aerobic exercise.

Smooth Muscle: Function involuntarily to control digestion or acceptance of light into the eyes. These muscles never tire.

Skeletal Muscle: Muscles that are connected to the skeleton and aid in movement of the limbs and other parts of the body. These muscles are active during daily activity as well as exercise. We have control over our skeletal muscles and can choose to move our bodies to work these muscles and use oxygen and fuel. Three types of exercise are necessary to maintain and build skeletal muscle:

  • Cardio/Aerobic: Raise heart rate and circulate oxygen through the body
  • Resistance Activities; By resisting gravity we make our muscles and bones strong
  • Flexibility: Increase range of motion in order to increase reaction time, balance, and agility.

What are some exercises you can think of that work and make your skeletal muscles strong?

Protein, fiber, and B-vitamins are necessary maintain and strengthen our muscles. Consume whole grains, lean proteins, and a variety of fruits & vegetables for optimal muscle nutrition