Healthy-home Pantry Makeover

The quickest way to ensure success in creating a healthy lifestyle is to start in the home with the pantry and the refrigerator. The theory behind removing unhealthy food items from your pantry and refrigerator is: out of sight, out of mind (and reach!). Keep in mind that the majority of our meals should be at home. So with a couple of steps, you can have your healthy-home pantry makeover complete and be on your way to success!

For your healthy-home pantry makeover you’ll want to start with the basics, then build upon them as you discover meals that become favorites for your family.

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DIY Edible Arrangement

Have you ever had an Edible Arrangement, that beautiful bouquet of fresh, sweet fruit? If you’re like me, you love the way they look and, especially, the way they taste! For a health-conscious eater, they’re such a great alternative to a sugar-filled bag of candy or traditional box of chocolates. However, what you may not like so much is the price. The smallest fresh fruit arrangement will cost you at least $35; you could buy A LOT of fruit for that money!

So, one way to get a lovely fruit bouquet and save yourself the money is to make a DIY Edible Arrangement. It’s really quite simple.

Here’s what you need to make your own DIY Edible Arrangement:

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First Designed for Kids & Teens, Traffic Light Food System Proves Great for Adults Too

Thirty years ago Leonard Epstein, PhD, Head of Behavioral Medicine at University of Buffalo developed a food categorization system to help children lose weight based on green for “go,” yellow for “slow”and red for “whoa.”

His system combined data on nutrients and calories and was easy to understand. After all, he was designing for children and their families.  Green light foods are those that are low in sugar, low in fat, low in calorie density and have high nutritional value.  These include most fruits and vegetables. Kids were encouraged to eat these foods freely. Yellow light foods are nutrient-rich, moderate-calorie food–whole grain pasta, rice, and bread as well as lean proteins. With yellow light foods healthy portion control is still key. Finally, red light foods are foods that have little nutritional value and are high in sugar, fat and calories. They should be eaten sparingly and considered a “treat.”  Dr. Epstein’s approach was broadly praised and Stanford’s Center for Healthy Weight, among others, adapted the system for its highly successful family-based program.

What’s interesting is that in recent years, faced with the failure of traditional weight loss approaches, many have started to look to the Traffic Light system to help adults with weight management. In 2010, a team of researchers led by Anne Thorndike, MD, MPH,  from Massachusetts General Hospital conducted a study on the effects of food labeling on food choice. The goal was to provide information about healthy food choices in a simplified manner, one that did not require reading or understanding detailed food labels, and observe purchasing behavior. Using the Traffic Light System, the researchers applied color-coded labels to food in the hospital cafeteria.  The results were exactly what they had hoped for. After two years, overall purchases of green items had increased by 12 percent and red items decreased by 20 percent. In addition, sales of sugary red-light sodas dropped by 39 percent while green light beverages increased 10 percent.  

Adults, like kids, prefer and benefit from simpler solutions. In Thorndike’s study one woman noted that at first she thought the system was simple-minded and patronizing. But increasingly, she found herself considering the “color” of her cravings every time she ordered food.

In another study conducted at the health company Humana, researchers looked at the impact of numeric calorie vs Traffic Light color coding labels on online food purchases.  They found that both types of labels reduced calories by 10%. Traffic light labels achieved the same reduction in calories even in the absence of numeric information, suggesting that consumers benefit from data that identifies healthier choices but rely little on the calorie information.   Other studies have shown that calorie counting involves higher cognitive load and can even lead to increased food decision-making stress.

Having seen this data, pioneering companies are adopting the Traffic Light System in their corporate cafeterias both to promote healthier choices and to reduce stress. Google, for example, uses traffic light food labeling not only in its cafeteria, but for snack items as well. When National Public Radio moved into its new headquarters in 2013, its cafeteria menu included red, yellow, and green dots next to items. Even the Army has a Go for Green initiative that uses the traffic light method at dining facilities.

Outside the US, the shift from calories to color coding has been even more rapid.  A government study in the UK showed that traffic light labeling in combination with standard information about calories, protein , sugar, fat and salt is significantly easier to understand than using text-based information alone.  Today, the Departments of Health in both the UK and Australia have introduced voluntary traffic light food labeling schemes in their supermarkets to simplify healthy food selection.

For its part, Kurbo has licensed the Stanford Traffic Light program, adapted it into a mobile app and virtual coaching program which is used all over the world by kids and adults to develop healthier eating and exercise habits.  Lindsay Lagreid, a young professional woman who recently lost 20 lbs with help from the Kurbo app and coaching program, said she had struggled with weight all her life “and had tried every diet under the sun.”  

“Before, I would avoid tracking my unhealthy meals,” she says.  “But I’ve never felt that way with Kurbo because I know that I can have those red light foods. In addition, though the app was initially designed for kids, I was able to work through issues that adults face with weight loss, like going out to drinks with friends, without ever feeling judged by my coach.”

To learn more about this exciting new design for weight management programs, please attend our webinar May 11th, 1 pm EST with presenters Kurbo Co-founder Thea Runyan, who has spent 15 years with the Stanford Center for Healthy Weight,  and Massachusetts General cafeteria study author Anne Thorndike, MD, MPH.

Register for Webinar


¹ Thorndike, A. N., Riis, J., Sonnenberg, L. M., & Levy, D. E. (2014). Traffic-light labels and choice architecture: promoting healthy food choices. American journal of preventive medicine, 46(2), 143-149.

² http://www.massgeneral.org/News/pressrelease.aspx?id=1660

³ http://civileats.com/2015/01/07/stop-n-go-can-traffic-light-labels-help-us-eat-better/

https://www.foodwatch.org/en/what-we-do/topics/traffic-light-labels/more-information/research-supports-traffic-light-colours/

Teen Weight Loss Success Story: Sadie’s new approach to eating and health amazes her parents and doctors.

After injuring her back in cheerleading class, Sadie, 15, began to put on weight. “As a result of this injury, Sadie stopped moving because of pain and continued to put on weight for almost two years.  It was a horrible time for us, and we wanted to find a way to get back to a healthier lifestyle,” Sadie’s mom, Fran says.  

Fran wanted to find a program that would give Sadie a mentor. She found that with Kurbo. “We wanted someone who Sadie could confide in about her food struggles. In the first 10-15 minutes when she was speaking with Coach Lindsay over videoconference, I knew that we had done the right thing,” Fran says.  

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Planning for a Healthy Summer

Summer is a great time to try new things. Without the work and restriction that schools put on children, kids have much more time and energy to put into some other fun summer activities. This is true for exercise as well, as kids can experience different types of exercise and see which one they enjoy the most. So, here are some summer activities that will encourage kids to step out of their exercise comfort zones this summer!

1: SwimmingAs this article points out, swimming is one of the best forms of exercise, as it uses most muscles in our bodies, thus making our whole bodies stronger as well as being key in the fight against obesity. There are many ways that Kurbo kids have tried to get involved in swimming in the summer. For example, Meg started synchronized swimming, while other Kurbo kids joined swim teams, water polo, or just started swimming daily laps in the pool.

2: Picking up a new competitive sport: Competitive sports are fun ways to getting that heart rate up and making sure we are developing the weekly exercise habits we desire. Kurbo kid Amy gave tennis a try, while some others started team sports like basketball, volleyball, and soccer. Such sports help Kurbo kids learn sportsmanship, teamwork, and improve athletic ability too!

3: Dance: For those inevitable summer days where it’s just way too hot outside, dancing is a great indoor alternative form of exercise. You can look up dance videos or songs on your computer and just move along to them. Dance is very popular among Kurbo kids because it is just plain fun. Not only are we getting the necessary exercise by moving around the room, but we are having loads of fun while doing it. Dancing is a great way to express ourselves and it improves our flexibility, strength, and endurance.

4: Rock climbing: What better way to step out of our comfort zones than by climbing a colossal mountain? Rock climbing is yet another form of exercise that can be fun for anybody. There are many great rock climbing camps out there for kids to sign up for and do not require a lot of time commitment, such as the one Kurbo kid Ethan is going to. In addition to the satisfaction of stepping out of the comfort zone, climbing is really good for overall strength and getting some fresh air.

5. Bike: Get on your bike, and go wherever the wind takes you (with your parents permission of course). You can bike around your neighborhood or find new biking trails in the area to bike as a family over the weekend.

6. Community Centers: Find a local community center that might offer free work out classes or subsidized exercise classes and call them to find out about the schedule and offerings and how you can sign up. For example, the YMCA or Boys and Girls Clubs often offer fun exercise classes for kids.

Summers are not meant to be spent on the couch staring at a screen all day. So, get off the couch and dabble in a few fun forms of exercise! See which one fits you best. Maybe you will even find your new favorite hobby!

Green + Yellow Light Cookie Makeover

We have cookies around us in grocery stores, events for baking cookies, and even special seasonal cookies to go along with each holiday. It can be hard to find any cookies that match up with your Kurbo goals, so here’s the catch: not many cookies out there are free of red lights. Here are some simple recipes to save the day by using wholesome ingredients. Some of them don’t even require an oven! So the next time your inner cookie monster wants to take charge, you can have a blast making green and yellow light cookies instead!

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Adult Weight Loss Success Story: When bariatric surgery failed for Lindsay, she found success she was looking for with Kurbo.

After cycling through diets and even trying bariatric surgery, Lindsay wanted a healthy lifestyle she could sustain. “When I was 17, I had weight loss surgery, and then struggled with disordered eating throughout all of college and then had the surgery reversed right before I started Kurbo. I’ve probably been on every diet under the sun and I realized that dieting wasn’t how I wanted to live my life, I wanted to achieve more of a healthy lifestyle,” she shares.

Lindsay also wanted to prevent the long-term health effects of being overweight. “I work in the wellness industry, I know that being overweight is not good for your health. My work and the fact that my grandfather was diabetic contributed to my fear of becoming diabetic. I knew that I wanted to prevent the effects of being overweight,” she explains.

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How To: Pick Healthy Meals At Restaurants

You may have discovered that it’s easier to stick to your health goals, like choosing yellow and green light foods, when you eat at home. When you’re in control of the ingredients you choose and how the meal is prepared, you can be more sure of what you’re actually getting (as in, not too many red lights!) But, let’s face it, eating out at restaurants is part of everyday life. Plus, it’s fun to do once in a while, right?

So, how do you pick healthy meals at restaurants, so you don’t get too off track? Here are a few tips to picking healthy meals for your next restaurant order:

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15 Minute Stir-Fries

I love stir-fries. They’re easy, delicious and one of the fastest all-green and yellow meals you can make! You can easily whip up a stir-fry in as little as 15 minutes. To prepare a nutritious 15-minutes stir-fry, just follow these 4 easy steps:

  1. Pick a yellow-light base, like rice (preferable brown rice) or quinoa
  2. Pick a yellow-light protein, like chicken or lean beef
  3. Pick a variety of your favorite green lights, like onions, green beans and broccoli
  4. Pick green or yellow-light seasonings, like soy sauce and spices

Here are two 15-minute stir-fry recipes you can use to get your started:

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Teen Weight Loss Success Story: Michelle, age 15, learns healthy alternatives to her family’s favorite cuisine, and loses 11 lbs!

Michelle signed up for Kurbo after her doctor at Texas Children’s Hospital suggested she try it to improve her health. “I was interested because I wanted to see if it really worked for me. I was gaining more and more weight each year as I grew older, and I decided I wanted to change my lifestyle,” Michelle says.

Michelle was also concerned about her family history related to weight management. “My mom and my dad both have Type II Diabetes and my mom also has hypothyroidism, which makes it harder to loose weight. I was concerned about both of these health issues impacting me and I wanted to prevent that,” she explains.

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