My Virtual FitBit Group Promotes Health, Self-Care, and Body Acceptance!

My Virtual FitBit Group Promotes Health, Self-Care, and Body Acceptance!

By Erica Leon, MS, RDN, CDN, CEDRD

Changing our behavior is never easy, especially as we get older. As a former aerobics instructor, fitness was always a passion for me, and exercise was built into my workday. After a serious injury and getting tired of the gym, I began looking for new ways to move my body for both physical and emotional health. I found it in a most unlikely place—the Internet.

I received a FitBit fitness tracker as a gift. Now all the rage, fitness trackers “count” steps, miles, fitness intensity, and other data depending on the brand. To my surprise, the pride and satisfaction I felt when reaching 10,000 steps, or any other goal I set for myself, proved to be the boost I needed. I embarked on a mission to find other women who, like me, wanted support becoming healthier using their fitness trackers and setting realistic and achievable goals. I found several communities on the FitBit website and learned that members often form private Facebook groups to support one another.

I joined a few groups and recognized the flip side to using fitness trackers that are important to keep in mind. Some people can become quite obsessive about tracking their steps, much like tracking calories or points. I rejected any group with members whose focus was dieting, weight loss, or any type of obsessive behavior. I found several women my age just looking to be healthy.

Over the past few snowy months, our merry little group of “FitBit Women Warriors Over 50” has grown in size and in friendship. I have shared ups and downs with women from almost every U.S. state, as well as those from Canada, Australia, and England. We motivate each other to move more and eat in a healthy, balanced way. In short, we encourage each other to care for our bodies by eating for satisfaction and hunger and moving more because it feels good—especially seeing our step counts increase.


We have a fearless leader who took it upon her self to organize group challenges on Sundays. We all push each other to be accountable for our goals. One Sunday while shoveling show, I imagined myself walking on a sandy beach with warm ocean breezes. We cheered each other on as we spent a full week walking 35.02 virtual miles around the Cayman Islands. On another Sunday, we worked together to complete a puzzle challenge. Pieces of the puzzle would be revealed each time an individual met her own personal exercise goal. Said one group member, “the challenges have triggered my competitive side and made me get my rear in gear!!”

When asked to describe what health meant to them, here were some responses:

“Health means taking care of your body physically, nutritionally, spiritually, and emotionally! It means living each day to the fullest.”

“Finally enjoying foods that are good for me as opposed to snack foods and finding that my body responds well to them.”

“I finally feel good in my own skin.”

“Having vibrant energy to go and do all the things you want to do. Your options are limitless!!!

Women at every stage of life can benefit from discovering their own paths to improved health. We often take ourselves for granted and care for other people first. Finding time for balanced exercise, healthy and regular meals, and friendship and support is equally important.



The Other Kind of Clean Food

Food Safety Guidelines to Teach Your Kids!
By Erica Leon, MS, RDN, CDN, CEDRD

After serving my daughter a fresh, bean-filled empanada from a local farmers market, she spent the entire night serving it back up! She was a statistic, since roughly one out of six individuals contract some type of food-borne illness each year. Just last week I watched my twenty-two-year-old son make a delicious chicken meal. He opened the package, washed the chicken in the sink of my beautiful, newly renovated kitchen, and left all those nasty germs splashed across many surfaces! And you know those annoying shopper loyalty cards? Thank goodness I had one because ShopRite called to say I had purchased almond butter subsequently recalled for possible salmonella contamination!

Safety in the kitchen is a public (and personal) health concern to keep your family free from pathogens that could make us very sick! Young children are particularly vulnerable to food-borne illness since their immune systems are not fully developed. In addition, it is just as important to teach our little ones about food safety during prep, cooking and cleanup, as it is to teach about overall health.

Arlington County via Compfight cc

Here are some CLEAN suggestions
to keep meal and snack times fun and safe for all:



  • Teach your child the importance of proper hand washing in warm soapy water before and after handling food.
  • Wash all cutting boards, bowls, plates, utensils, and surfaces with warm soapy water after exposure to raw foods to avoid bacterial contamination.
  • Clean and scrub raw fruits and vegetables with water.


  • Use two cutting boards—one for raw poultry, meat, seafood, and eggs and the other just for produce.
  • Use different plates for raw and cooked foods.
  • Store fresh and cooked foods separately to avoid juices leaking and cross-contaminating.


  • Invest in a good food thermometer and teach your child how to use it! This is the only way to know if a food is cooked thoroughly. Safe internal temperatures for pork, beef, veal, lamb, and poultry are between 160 and 165 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Eggs must never be eaten raw, but should be cooked until the yolks and whites are firm.



  • Bacteria that can lead to food poisoning flourish between 40 and 140 degrees Fahrenheit. For this reason, it is essential to keep food hot, after cooking or to refrigerate/freeze the food within one hour.
    • Thaw food in the refrigerator, or under cold running water.
    • Remind your school-age child that he/she must put his/her cold perishable foods away immediately after using them (i.e. yogurt, milk, cheese, cold cuts, and leftovers!)

While these guidelines may seem like common sense to many of us parents, we often forget to teach our children these important food safety rules.


Photo Credit: Arya Ziai via Compfight cc


Germs Where?

  • Your kitchen sponge is a nasty breeding ground for bacteria. Do keep your sponge clean by microwaving it (wet) for two minutes or placing in dishwasher with a drying cycle. Make sure to replace it periodically.
  • Do regularly clean handles and insides of refrigerators and microwaves with soap and hot water where raw food may contaminate.
  • Do NOT wash your chicken or meat in the sink before cooking it; bacteria counts are higher on countertops!
  • Keep bags, backpacks, and sporting equipment off the kitchen counters! They are teeming with germs.

As your kids come home from school and start preparing their own snacks, these guidelines will need to be reinforced.

Teach Your Child to Avoid Injury in the Kitchen!

  • Keep handles of pots and pans turned into the stove to avoid burns and scalding.
  • Respect the cooking oil—help avoid a nasty burn by using nonstick pans, small amounts of oil, pans with high sides, and invest in a splatter guard!
  • Do not allow your child to use the oven until you are confident he/she can safely manage using oven mitts.
  • To prevent burns, make sure your child can safely reach the microwave. Take extra care in removing food from the microwave oven. Use potholders and uncover foods away from your face so that steam can escape.


While we cannot avoid every hazard that comes our way, with proper techniques we can minimize our family’s risk in the kitchen. If you are interested in learning more about recent food recalls, you can visit:



How Do You Answer, "Is this healthy?"


Photo Credit: Abdulla Al Muhairi via Compfight cc

Recently, both of my boys have been asking the question, “Is this healthy?” Billy asks, “Is hummus healthy? Are hummus and pretzels healthy?” Bobby asks, “Is yogurt healthy? Is pizza healthy? Is Gatorade healthy?”

Kids ask so many questions, and the way we answer them shapes the development of their beliefs and habits.

I’m not exactly sure why both boys have started to ask this question. I just know they keep asking. And it can be hard to give a simple “yes” or “no” answer when my primary concern is trying to instill them with a moderate view of food. Here’s how I go about answering their questions quickly, yet also with thought.

Hummus? Yes, hummus is healthy. It helps your heart. (FYI, Billy eats hummus almost daily for dinner. He loves it so much that he eats it with a spoon at times.)

Hummus and pretzels? Yes, hummus and pretzels are healthy—if you also eat other foods like chicken and pasta. (I say this because Billy refuses to eat chicken, pasta and other seemingly normal foods. It’s my small trick for getting him to try new ingredients.)

On a related note, I can honestly tell Billy that pretzels are healthy because the ones he eats (unknowingly, of course) are made of either whole wheat or spelt. When we refer to chicken, again, it’s organic and hormone-free. And pasta is organic and whole wheat. The kids don’t need to know these details, and I don’t specify this regularly. Healthy ingredients are simply the norm in our house, and I think the boys will get this message over time. I do not want to inundate them at ages 3 and 5.

At times, I think parents and teachers can make children overly—and unnecessarily—anxious about the food they’re eating when using complicated details such as ‘whole wheat,’ ‘antibiotic-free,’ ‘hormone-free,’ ‘saturated fat,’ etc. Kids need to first understand the basics, like the difference between an everyday food versus a sometimes food. It’s okay to eventually teach them about the aforementioned specifics, but at the right time. Otherwise, your children could eventually rebel.

Keeping this in mind, I try to answer Bobby’s questions in this same manner. Greek yogurt is an everyday food in our home. The protein in yogurt helps us build muscles and strong bones. Pizza is a sometimes food, as long as we eat other foods like fruits and vegetables. Gatorade is a sometimes drink for athletes, like someone who is training for the Olympics or exercising at an intense level for more than hour.  Yes, you can have a sports drink, but not every time you swim or skateboard.

So, as I’ve discovered, and as I hope you can see, the answer to, “Is this healthy?” is not a straightforward one. But you can use these small tricks for helping your children to understand what they’re eating in a positive and healthful manner. How do you answer your kid’s questions about healthy and not healthy foods? Do you use words like “everyday foods” and “sometimes foods” in your household?

For more information on everyday foods and sometimes foods, read A Blueprint for Your Child’s Nutritional Intake.