I recently had the opportunity to review the book Sneaky Fitness and to interview the authors Missy Chase Lapine and Larysa DiDio
Missy Chase Lapine is the New York Times bestselling author who inspired parents to sneak good food into their children’s meals with The Sneaky Chef series. Larysa DiDio is a certified personal trainer and gym owner, she is also the “unofficial” fitness badge trainer for the Girl Scouts of America.
Sneaky Fitness offers “Fun, Foolproof Ways to Slip Fitness into Your Child’s Everyday Life.” The first two chapters of the book take us into the lives of Missy and Larysa’s families and reveal why and how the book came to be written. These chapters also offer straight-forward facts and figures about today’s children, their sedentary lifestyle, and their battle against obesity.
The core of Sneaky Fitness are the 100 sneaky ways to get your child to enjoy being active. Some of the activities include Marching Band where kids parade around the house playing imaginary musical instruments and Sidewalk Art which has kids “painting” the driveway, sidewalk, or side of the house with a bucket of water.
The book also provides 50 all-new recipes from The Sneaky Chef. I haven’t had an opportunity to try any of the recipes but the Clever Crepes and the Sneaky Panini sound delicious. Sneaky Fitness concludes with a mini-review of commercial toys and games which are all rated based on how active they encourage children to be.
I spoke on the phone with Missy and Larysa in a conference call and found them to both be cheerful, energetic, and excited about Sneaky Fitness. I was excited to have the opportunity to speak with them on the phone about the book and their views on raising healthy, fit kids. After a quick introduction, we jumped right into the interview. My questions are in bold.
What is your definition of “sneaky?” Missy explained, “Sneaky in this sense means small changes equaling big benefits over time. All love. Sneaky begins and ends with love.”
How much activity do preschoolers need a day? Larysa said that they need a balance of structured and unstructured activity. “60 minutes unstructured and 60 minutes of structured activity a day. Structured can be classes like Gymboree etc. Unstructured doesn’t have to be 60 minutes straight it can take place throughout the day.”
How did you come up with some of the activities in the book? Larysa said because she is a personal trainer and has worked with a number of clients who are children they came naturally to her. She said, “Kids don’t want typical workouts. You have to trick them into working out.”
If we start “sneaking” fitness in at a young age, do you believe it will carry over as an enjoyment of exercise when the kids get older? If they don’t know that they are actually doing exercise how will they associate it as fun at an older age? Larysa said, “It’s hard to get a child moving if they aren’t inclined to move. Sneaky Fitness is the initiator. It’s important to get them up and moving and emphasize how good they feel. It will lead to other activity.” Missy said she gets asked this question a lot concerning her Sneaky Chef recipes. She answered, “It’s all about sneak and teach. If you sneak spinach into meatballs also be sure to put the spinach on the plate as well. It’s important to put the food out in it’s naked form as well. It will take all the pressure off. You’re not as focused on them eating the spinach on the plate because you know they are eating it in the meatballs. Now you can have fun with it, which is far more encouraging to kids then being pressured.”
What are some of your favorite activities in the book? Missy siad her daughters are 9 & 11. Her 11 year-old loves So You Wanna Be a Rock Star. “Her friends come over and they put on rock videos in the basement. Everyone has a little video camera on their phone or digital camera and you can film parts of the show. The kids love it. It’s pretty tough to put on a rock video from the couch.” She said her 9 year-old loves Slip-n-Slide where they put on fuzzy socks and slide all around the house, cleaning the floors while they’re at it. Larysa’s 9 year-old son loves Muscle Murals in which she lays out a long piece of construction paper all across the living room floor and then sets out tins of paint. Not only does she encourage him to use his hands, but his feet as well. She said, “It really gets him moving.” Her 6-year-old girl loves Dig to China. Larysa has her fill up a bucket with dirt in the back yard and she keeps making it more challenging by having her dig from various places all over the yard and then come back and fill the bucket each time.
There are 50 all new recipes from The Sneaky Chef in the book. Some of tips to get kids to eat these recipes include using kid-friendly flavor and texture decoys such as chocolate chips and marshmallows. Doesn’t this defeat the purpose? Missy said, “No. What you’re doing is adding a small amount of not so good food to lure your kid into eating better food.” She said she’s not a purist and doesn’t believe in taking cookies completely away from kids. However, she suggests if they are going to eat those cookies why not at least offer them a healthier version. “If they are also eating walnuts, oat bran, and flax seeds alongside a couple of chocolate chips it’s a winner.”
What is the one tip you would each offer to parents trying to raise their families in a healthy and fit way? Larysa said, “To remember that little changes equal big results. Parents get overwhelmed by the idea of 20-30 minutes of straight exercise. Break it up . Make it fun.” Missy said, “If every child burned an extra 400 calories a day we would have the end of childhood obesity. Our kids today are spending 8 hours a day in front of video screens and it’s hard to pull them away.”
To wrap up the conversation, Missy and Larysa offered their 4-part plan in response to the Kaiser Family Foundation study which revealed our children are spending 8 hours a day using entertaiment media.
- Replace the computer chair with a stability ball for at least an hour a day. It will develop core strength.
- Walk the Talk. If they are on the phone, they must be up and walking or going up and down stairs.
- Plant enticing exercise items in your TV room like a mini-trampoline. Don’t say anything and you may find them jumping their way through American Idol tonight.
- Never let the kids eat in front of the tv. It’s a bad habit that encourages you to take in many more calories than you realize.
Thank you to Missy and Larysa for this interview and for the book for review as well. No compensation was provided for this interview or review. The opinions are mine, yours may differ.