Healthwise Maui

Q: I am a firm believer in the importance of self-care and I know it is somewhat of a trend right now in the adult health care industry. But what about children? We tell them to eat their vegetables, exercise and study hard in school but not specifically about taking care of their emotional and mental health. How can we teach them these skills?

Giulietta Swenson, psychologist: Teaching self-care is an important way to help our children develop healthy habits, coping strategies and resilience. Some schools already offer programs that teach meditation and deep breathing to support kids in managing different stressors, even at a very young age.

Parents can do a lot to model healthy self-care behaviors, such as getting enough sleep, eating healthfully and exercising. Encourage good habits by dedicating regular time to go on walks, cook at home together and make sure to limit screen time, especially before bed. Parents should also talk to their children about the importance of prioritizing health and finding balance in daily life.

It’s also critical that kids have a positive social network of friends and mentors who can reinforce the importance of kindness, gratitude and even volunteerism. They can find these networks at school, within their extended family, at church, on a sports team, and in clubs and other community organizations.

When planning self-care activities with your children, make sure to find activities they enjoy and are excited about. These activities don’t need to be expensive or elaborate, but they may take some planning and conscious effort to keep up regularly. Over time, it will become more of a habit and part of your family’s self-care strategy for better health and wellness.

Q: I have friends who have lost a bunch of weight on the Keto Diet. What is it exactly and how does it work?

Lisa Husch, director of Food and Nutrition Services, Maui Health System: The ketogenic, or “keto,” diet is a very low-carb and high-fat diet that has gained popularity because of its quick and often drastic weight-loss results. The diet was originally developed to treat severe epilepsy in children under medical supervision.

The ketogenic diet essentially makes the body reduce insulin secretion and the liver switches to primarily burning fat for fuel. The brain and other tissues are able to use ketones for energy.

People on the keto diet must follow a strict high fat, moderate protein, and very low-carb meal plan in order to put their body into ketosis. Carbohydrates are commonly restricted to 20-30 grams a day, mostly from nonstarchy vegetables. Protein is limited because some amino acids can be converted to glucose. Fat is typically 70-75 percent of total calories.

Regularly measuring ketones is an important way for monitoring and evaluating the balance of nutrients. Most people are following a modified ketogenic diet or more of a modified Atkins diet (higher protein).

There is some controversy around the diet. Ketogenic diets not only eliminate sugar and refined carbohydrates, they also severely restrict whole grains, fruit, beans and other starchy vegetables that contribute vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, phytochemicals and fiber.

So, what does this mean for you? If you’re considering trying the Keto Diet out for yourself, one thing is for sure — always consult with a medical professional before starting any drastic change in your diet and nutrition habits. Each individual has unique needs, therefore what works well for one person may not be the best for the next.

* Physicians, providers and administrative staff who practice at Maui Health System hospitals and clinics answer questions from the public in “Healthwise Maui,” which appears on Thursdays. Maui Health System operates Maui Memorial Medical Center, Maui Memorial Medical Center Outpatient Clinic, Kula Hospital & Clinic and Lana’i Community Hospital and accepts all patients. To submit a question, go to the website at