Archive | HEALTH AND WELLNESS

All Work & No Play? Keep Your Kids Active After School With CLIF Kid

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With the school year in full swing, it’s important to remember that our kids need regular playtime to remain happy and healthy. Balancing playtime with homework can sometimes seem like a difficult task, but the creativity that play allows for helps kids develop in ways that aren’t always focused on at school. I know I always try my best to keep playtime at the forefront of Eben’s life despite his busy school schedule and my own work picking up at this time of year. Today I want to talk about how I help incorporate play into our daily lives, and keep Eben fueled so he can do his best at school and have energy for fun activities afterward.

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Our favorite after school activities include taking the dogs for an evening walk around the lake or taking a stroll on the beach to chat about his week. It’s a great way for us to connect and helps me stay in the loop with what’s going on in his life. We also have family game night at least once a week and the two of us also spend every Friday night doing a mom-and-son “date night”. This usually means that we go out for sushi and then we hit the bookstore or a movie.

To keep him fueled at school, I always tuck a CLIF Kid Zbar® in his backpack. (In fact, he has a late-start school day today – so I slipped an apple and CLIF Kid Zbar in!) It is perfect for late afternoons when he gets hungry, or for after school when he stays later to work on a project or study for a test. The bars are great to snack on during class too, since they are easy to eat without having to pull out his whole lunch box. I also have a few approved snacks always available in the refrigerator and on the counter top. That way when Eben gets hungry during homework time or a video game session, he has easy access to healthy snacks! He loves their flavor, and I love that they’re made with organic ingredients, and no high fructose corn syrup, artificial flavors, or synthetic preservatives. They’re also made in appropriate portion sizes for growing kids, which a lot of snack bars aimed at adults are not, and have important nutrients for active kids.

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Eben also incorporates playtime into his busy schedule in a number of ways. He rides his bike to and from school, which is a great way to get kids energized and focused for a day of studying. We slip in family time whenever possible by having family game nights, making organic milkshakes together, and having make-your-own-pizza and movie nights on the weekend. We also do a lot of cooking together —especially Mr. Sweet Greens and Eben, which is a great way for him to learn life skills and healthy eating habits.

We like to take a fall vacation each year, to get some hiking in when the weather is beautiful and there’s a lot to see. It’s a great way to make family memories—I have lots of pictures from these trips that are great to look at again later!  Of course, CLIF Kid Zbars ® are Eben’s fave hiking treat, because they’re just the right combination of sweet treat and satisfying fuel without feeling too heavy when being physically active. We do a lot of outdoor stuff together as a family, including paddleboarding, bike riding, walking, hiking, and more depending on the season and location. Making sure we all have the energy to live an active lifestyle is one of my priorities, packing in CLIF bars is just part of our routine!

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Playtime is important for a kid’s growth all year long, and shouldn’t be pushed to the side during the school year. Unfortunately, as our society gets busier and we spend more time in the digital world, active play is disappearing at home, in school, and in communities. 70% of moms (like me, and probably you, too!) played outside when they were kids, but only 31% of our kids play outside today. That’s something we should all be focused on changing. CLIF Kid understands the importance of keeping kids active, and have a great video on getting your kids outside to push their boundaries and have adventures while staying properly fueled. take the initiative in this post to combine school activities and play.

What about your kids? How do you incorporate active and creative play into their lives? I’m always interested in hearing how my readers balance their busy lives to prioritize healthy habits!

I was selected for this opportunity as a member of CLEVER and the content and opinions expressed here are all my own.

How to Create a Natural Disaster Survival Plan

Hello, Friends! Emergency preparedness has been on my mind, since Hurricane Matthew is quickly approaching. We have lived through several category 1,2 and 3 hurricanes before, so I know how important it is to be prepared.

This week, the mister and I have been updating our family’s natural disaster survival plan, kit, and backpacks. I thought if I walk you through my process, it could be of service to some of you out there. First, I wrote a new natural disaster survival plan – this is especially important for us, since this is the first major storm we have experienced since we moved back to Florida. Read on to learn how to create your own natural disaster survival plan.

1. Review, Update + Practice
First things first, once a year you should sit down to review, update and practice your natural disaster survival plan. This is the one way that you will be able to make the necessary updates to the plan and practice makes perfect. Everyone in your family should have a role when it comes to your plan, including the kids. Some examples include choosing a designated place to meet if your family becomes separated and establishing an out-of-state emergency contact, someone everyone in your family can contact to say “I am OK! if you become separated. Please have your children memorize this number in case their cell phone goes dead.

2. Should I Stay or Should I Go Now? 
If you know about the disaster ahead of time – in cases such as; hurricanes and volcanoes, you need to quickly decide if you plan to stay or evacuate. If you live in the area that is going to be directly hit by the natural disaster, it is best to leave as soon as possible. However, leaving doesn’t mean you have to hop on an airplane or drive hundreds of miles. You usually only have to drive several miles to get out of harms way – you don’t want to get stuck on the freeway or at the airport during a natural disaster. For example, the last time we lived in Florida, when we heard that Katrina (category 1 at the time) was headed our way (we lived on the beach at that time), we grabbed our hurricane kit and backpacks and drove to a hotel (that accepted dogs) outside of the cone.  Always better safe than sorry.

3. Have a Last Resort Plan
If you decide to stay during the natural disaster and then for some reason you have to leave your home at the last minute, you need to know where to go. Have a list of shelters in close proximity that you can get to quickly and have an emergency preparedness kit and backpacks (for each member of your family) ready to grab and go, including blankets/pillows, food, change of clothing, toiletries, water, medicines, and other survival items.

4. If You Plan to Stay – Stay and Prepare
Do not wait until the natural disaster is knocking on door to prepare. For natural disasters such as hurricanes, install your hurricane shutters immediately. If you have a generator, replace the oil/gasoline and make sure you have enough to keep your generating going for several days, make sure the generator is in working order. (Remember to only run the generator outside and away from your home, this is very important, many folks have died due to carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning). If you need a very long extension cord, make sure to pick on up immediately. If you need supplies to board up your home, get them now. Choose a safe room in your home that has no windows and that can shelter your family if your homes outer structure breaks apart. Great examples are inside bathrooms, closets or stairwells. Choose an out of state emergency contact, someone everyone in your family can call to say “I am OK” if you become separated from your family.

5. Prepare for Special Needs Family Members + Pets
If you have a family member that has special medical needs, contact your local emergency management department to find the local special care shelter. If you need to take a family member to the shelter, make sure that you pack enough food, water, medicines, and supplies for each person for at least three days. If you have pets, take careful consideration on what you will do if you have to go to a shelter or evacuate. Many shelters will NOT allow pets – please have alternate ideas ready in case you have to leave.

6. Prepare Your Home
After you have made all of the necessary accommodations to protect your home from the natural disaster – contact your insurance company to find out what disasters and damages your policy covers. Determine whether you need to add more coverage protection and ask yourself, would my insurance cover the costs to rebuild my home from ground zero if necessary?

7. Prepare Your Survival Kit and Backpacks 
You should have a natural disaster backpack for each member of your family. We have dedicated backpacks that are packed with all of the essentials necessary to sustain each of us and our dogs (Noodles and Olive) for at least 3 days. Included in each of our packs a blanket/pillow, two changes of clothing, toiletries, first aid kit, bug spray, flashlight, hat, vital documents, credit cards, cash, notepad/pencil, a book, card games, rain gear, and our hiking boots. We also have separate large survival kits that house our food, water, Swiss army knives, tent, paper goods/plastic cutlery, rope, solar powered radio/flashlight, extra batteries, tape, garbage bags, wipes and other supplies that will be necessary, if we have to grab and go we are prepared.

If you are in the path of Hurricane Matthew, please prepare now if you haven’t already! It is always better to be safe than sorry. Stay safe everyone!

photo via Rick McCharles

How to Make Your Own Organic Hot Apple Cider

Make Your Own Organic Hot Apple Cider

Have you checked out the price of organic apple cider at your local grocer? Wow! $7.99 a gallon. Instead, of breaking the bank, make your own! It’s perfect for filling up reusable mugs and snuggling up with your family this fall!

Ingredients:
  • 2 quarts organic apple juice
  • 1/2 cup organic brown sugar
  • Place all whole spices in a tea infuser, these will be removed before serving
  • 1 tsp organic whole allspice
  • 1 tsp organic whole cloves
  • 3 organic cinnamon sticks (broken up)
  • 1/8 tsp organic ground nutmeg

Preparation:

Stir everything together in a saucepan over medium heat until it simmers. Let it steep for 20 minutes. Remove the tea infuser and serve in mugs.

Serves: 8

Enjoy a hot cup of apple cider by the fire with a good book or your family. You could also enjoy a yummy Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookie to go with it.

Organic Recipe: Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies

Eben and I are a little obsessed with pumpkin chocolate chip cookies. It’s only September 9th and we have already baked a huge batch. They are delicious. We have been baking these together since he was a toddler and now that he is a teenager, we have the recipe memorized. They make our house spell like pumpkin heaven. You should definitely make a batch – here is the recipe:

Ingredients:

  • 2 1/2 cups organic flour
  • 1 tsp organic baking powder
  • 1 tsp organic baking soda
  • 1 tsp organic cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp organic nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • 1/2 cup organic butter
  • 1 1/2 cups organic sugar
  • 1 tsp organic vanilla
  • 1 egg or egg replacer
  • 1 cup organic pumpkin
  • 2 cups organic chocolate chips or vegan chocolate chips

Preparation:

1. Combine organic whole wheat flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt in a bowl and mix together.
2. Add butter and sugar in a stand mixer, mix well. Add vanilla, egg and pumpkin and mix well. Gradually add the flour mixture and mix well on medium speed. Add organic chocolate chips and stir together.
3. Bake in traditional oven at 350 degrees for 18 minutes.
4. Cool on a rack for 10 minutes and enjoy.

What is your favorite fall cookie?

 

How to Make Mealtime Less Stressful in the Busy Fall Season

How to Make Mealtime Less Stressful in the Busy Fall SeasonNOTE FROM SWEET GREENS: This article wasn’t written by me. Thank you for supporting the companies that keep Sweet Greens in business.

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With the kids heading back to school and the seasonal work picking up, preparing supper can suddenly become a great source of stress in some people’s lives. Depending on the number of people who need to be fed, your work schedule, taking care of the kids, and any other responsibilities, you may feel like cooking is a chore that is best left to a restaurant. That is, if you can afford one. Here are some tips to make mealtime at home a little less frantic and stressful.

Make a Weekly Menu
Believe it or not, trying to figure out what you are going to cook on any given night can be quite time-consuming. If you are not really sure of what to whip up, you may be stressing yourself out thinking about all your options. Everything that is associated with food and eating should be enjoyable, so try planning out a menu to follow for the whole week and see if this cuts down on your stress. Don’t use do it for yourself, keep in mind the kids too. If you plan out school lunches in advance, you can save yourself precious minutes first thing in the morning.

Prep on Sundays
Arrange your schedule so you can do all of your meal prep on Sundays. Or, if you happen to work on Sunday, put another day aside that you can devote entirely to meal prep. Don’t use that time to just prepare dinner for the week, prep breakfasts and lunches as well. If you send your kids off to school with their lunches, this kind of prep can be a life saver first thing in the morning. Just grab their lunch out of the fridge, toss it in their bags, and away they go! If you want a few days where you don’t have to cook, prepare double of what you normally do so there will periodically be leftovers to enjoy. Chop up any vegetables you need and, if necessary, separate them. Precooking and freezing meals, so you can just pop them into the oven when you are ready to eat, can be a huge time saver. Also, consider investing into a crockpot or slow cooker so, in the future, you only need to pull a prepped bag of food out of the freezer to toss into the crockpot to cook while you are at work.

Assign Roles
Get your family to help out. The kids should be home from school by the time you start on supper, so their hands should be free! On days when you are making spaghetti, delegate boiling the pasta to someone else and have another person cook the meatballs and sauce. By getting your family involved and helping out more in the kitchen, mealtime can become easier, more enjoyable, and far more efficient.

Buy Easy to Cook Foods
There is nothing wrong with enjoying making all of your meals from scratch. However, doing so does add more work to mealtime. Every now and then, go grocery shopping for easy to prepare foods. These are the kind of foods that you can simply pop into the microwave, or that you can eat straight out the package, like yogurt from Hampton Creek. Either way, easy to prepare foods or premade meals can be a lifesaver on those days where you are just too tired to put on your apron and cook.

Stay Positive
Your mood can dramatically impact your attitude about cooking. There may be many reasons why you may not be in the mood to cook, or even reasons why you dislike cooking. The back to school season can be an exhausting time. However, you should not let those moods overpower your need to stay positive. Maintaining a positive mindset about things you don’t like to do can help to make them more bearable.
Look for ways to keep yourself positive. Listen to some music while you are in the kitchen cooking, or watch one of your favorite shows. Talk with one of your friends or family while you are cooking, as long as you remember to stay attentive to what you are doing! No matter what you decide to do, remember to stay safe and never leave cooking food unattended.

With the right changes to your routine, preplanning your meals, and a little help from your family, mealtime doesn’t have to be so overwhelming and stressful. It can be fun and engaging! Advanced meal prep can also help keep your grocery budget under control as you no longer making daily trips to the store. The best part about all of this is that you’ll feel better, be less stressed, and have more energy to spend with the people that you love!

Healthy Lunchtime Snacks to Pack for Going Back to School

Healthy-Snacks

Fall is right around the corner, and that means it’s back to school for children, teens, and young adults across the country. Eben started almost two weeks ago! For parents, that means it’s time to handle getting lunches packed, balanced breakfasts on the table, and sleepyheads out of bed!

I always get a wonderful nostalgic feeling from the end of summer, back-to-school time. It always reinvigorates me, and makes me excited to try new things and make changes in my life, even though my own schooldays are long past. I think part of this has definitely been from raising my wonderful son, Eben. Watching him go through the process of starting a new grade each year has been so rewarding and inspiring. I always want to support him and his efforts at school, and part of that means making sure he’s well fed and properly fueled so his brain can do all that learning each day.

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One of the things I like to try and do each year is come up with new types of healthy snacks to pack in his lunch bag. Kids always seem drawn to any kind of single-serving snacks, and fun foods—just think about those awful packaged varieties that your kids have probably begged you to buy while shopping. Packing the same things all the time gets boring, and doesn’t offer much variety in terms of vitamins and minerals, which only eating a broad diet can do. Now that Eben is a sophomore in high school, he needs more fuel throughout the day, so I pack him a variety of snacks. If you’re stumped for new ideas when packing lunches, here are some of Eben’s favorites, which I’m sure your kids will love, too:

  • Fruit Skewers: Use whatever fruits you have on hand (melons, apples, clementines, grapes, etc.) and stick bite-sized chunks onto wooden skewers, or reusable plastic or metal skewers if you want to be extra eco-conscious. These colorful snacks are fun to eat and easy to share with friends at school!
  • Justin’s Chocolate Hazelnut Butter & Pretzels: These fun, dippable snacks make eating healthy nut butter a breeze. Eben loves these so much he had already gone through the package of them before school started! Like a healthier version of Nutella, these snacks feel like an indulgence, but they’re made from high quality, all-natural ingredients, with a focus on sustainability. Definitely a winner!
  • Fruit and Vegetable Chips: Whether you choose to make these in the oven, dehydrator, or buy them from your local health food store (such a variety is available these days!), fruit or vegetable chips are a great way of making healthy eating fun and delicious for kids. The possibilities are endless: apples, sweet potatoes, kale, zucchini, eggplant, all with any combination of flavored salts, herbs, and spices.
  • Stonyfield Organics YoKids Squeezers: This squeezable yogurt is both healthy and tasty. Eben loves the Cherry and Berry flavor pack, and they never come home uneaten when I pack them in his lunch! As with all of the Stonyfield products, they are organic certified by the USDA and made with pasture raised milk.
  • Nuts and Seeds: I buy organic nuts and seeds in bulk at Costco and pack them in Eben’s lunch every day. They are the perfect snack to grab right before a big test or for an after lunch pick me up!
  • Homemade Granola Bars: Unlike their store bought counterparts, when you make granola bars at home, you don’t need to add any processed sugars, and can control exactly what goes into them. There are endless healthy granola bar recipes online, and I guarantee at least one of them can be made with whatever you have in your cupboards right now!

PackIt Lunch BagOne of the products that has really changed the way I pack school lunches is actually a bag. The PackIt Freezable Lunch Bag is so clever in its design. You never have to hunt in your freezer for an ice pack, or worry about one bursting and leaking all over your child’s lunch again! This bag can go directly into the freezer each night after being emptied and wiped down, and is ready to go in the morning.

I never have to worry about packing perishables in a school lunch because I know the fantastic insulation on this bag will keep things cold all morning and well into the afternoon! Plus I love that they’re made with durable materials and are still very affordable. Definitely the best lunch bags out there. My family has been using them for years now, and we all love them.

What about you? Do you have any favorite back-to-school snack ideas that your kids devour? Or any packing secrets or life-changing products you can’t do without? I’d love to hear about them—the more inspiration, the better!

 

This post was created in partnership with Stonyfield.  All opinions are always my own.

Bootler is Revolutionizing Healthy Meal Delivery

Bootler is Revolutionizing Healthy Meal Delivery

Back to school is right around the corner! If you are like most parents, you’ve probably felt the pull of delivery pizza or Chinese food on those busy back-to-school nights where you just don’t have time to cook. Wouldn’t it be fantastic to just pick up the phone and have someone bring hot food straight to your door? Of course, if you’re like me, you probably don’t feel so hot the day after eating too much processed, unhealthy food. If only it were that simple to get a healthy, organic, vegetarian (or vegan!) meal delivered, freshly prepared and ready to eat. With the explosion of internet-based food delivery services, it is actually possible to have this option, though it can be frustrating to figure out which service to use in order to get your favorite organic restaurants to deliver, as they’re all associated with different ones. Enter Bootler, the aggregation service that changes everything.

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Bootler is essentially a search engine for delivery food. Basically, they work with multiple different delivery services, allowing users to pick a restaurant and then compare prices, availability and delivery time. This saves you both time and money when trying to get good, healthy delivery options. Although there is still more typical fare available, Bootler lets you find the largest selection of healthy and organic restaurant options. Interestingly enough, you can also order alcohol from them if you feel like having a bottle of wine or a craft beer with your meal. Alcohol comes from a delivery service called ‘Saucey’ which they are partnered with.

Bootler is not the delivery company; they only bring together other delivery companies and then redirect you to the appropriate website when you’ve decided on your order. You may have used a similar service before to book flights. Similar to Kayak.com, you book the flight through Kayak, but you fly with American Airlines, Delta, or whichever other company is offering the best flight deal. This way you can get healthy, organic, and vegan or vegetarian food options delivered at competitive prices and with the shortest wait time.

I know if I were located in Chicago (which is currently the only city they’re available in) I would be using this service to eat healthy, organic take-out food at home instead of just ordering a pizza on Friday night. Luckily once they’re out of beta, they plan on expanding to NYC by the end of the year and more major cities soon after. I’ll definitely be keeping an eye out for their expansion into Florida, that’s for sure!

If you are lucky enough to live in the Chicago area, I’ve got two coupon codes that you can use with Bootler‘s delivery partners:

  • Use “Saucey” to receive $10 off your alcohol order.
  • Use “Bootler” to receive $10 off your food order from Postmates.

Let me know in the comments if you’ve used Bootler (or a similar service in your city) in the past, and what your favorite healthy delivery meal options are. I’d love to know how you found your experience with the service!

 

This post is sponsored by Bootler – all opinions expressed are my own.

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