04/28/2017

Ultimate Guide to Healthy Kid Snacks

The morning whirl of organizing meals on-the-go can become more of a battle than preparation. You are competing with other activities like inspecting socks or packing a lunch free of snacks so salty they could brine a turkey. Discover ways to alter the snacking slump by considering healthy, packable options that don’t scrimp on nutrition. Call upon those good for you snack sized brands–packaged items with happy fonts, colors and illustrated logos made to look like cartoon characters. They become your support system in the morning jam. Another handy tip that works: prep the night before.

Portrait of a healthy, fuss-free snack bag.

Says Eliza Whetzel, RD, of Middleberg Nutrition, “Always follow nut-free or any guidelines for your child’s school or camp.” Then plan a day of balanced meals where every food is derived from a natural source. Says Savage, “Read the ingredient list! if you can’t read it, don’t eat it! try to keep to foods that are as unprocessed as possible.”

The beauty of fruit, an one ingredient food.

Whetzel offers these suggestions for a healthful, tasty day:

Pair a carb with protein or a healthy fat to promote satiety: protein and fat take longer to digest than carbohydrates, and will help to modulate blood sugar levels. This means no sugar high and then subsequent drop.

Snack sized hummus and crackers pairs carbs with protein.

Portion and frequency control—especially with children. I see kids who are grazing all day long, don’t eat their meals, and the parents can’t figure out what is happening. Create a specific snack time or times (maybe 10am and 3pm) and stick to it.

Healthy snacking is an early life lesson. Fruit will always be a go-to healthy option. Create designated meal times in order to avoid snacking.

Sensible Snack Options:

Apple sauce/fruit smashersCheese/string cheeseCereal/granolaCrackersDried fruit. Energy bars/granola bitesFreeze dried fruit. Fruit. Graham crackers. Guacamole. Hardboiled egg. Hummus. Lean, low-sodium deli meats like turkey and chicken. Low-calorie cookiesLow-fat milkNut butters. Olives. Popcorn. Rice cakes. Pretzels. Veggies and healthy dips like hummus and salsa. Yogurt.

Resources:

Almond butter packs: http://shop.justins.com/Chocolate-Hazelnut-Butter/p/JNB-000490&c=JustinsNutButters

Peanut butter packets: https://www.nuttzo.com

Apple Crisps fruits: https://www.horizon.com/products

Cactus water: http://truenopal.com/

Cookies: https://www.dickandjanebakingco.com

Dried fruit: www.madeinnature.com

Hummus: bluemooseofboulder.com

Granola bites: www.mysuperfoodscompany.com

Granola minis: www.madegoodfoods.com

String cheese: https://www.horizon.com/products

Organic low fat milk: https://www.horizon.com/products

Special K cereal: https://www.kelloggs.com/en_US/brands/special-k-consumer-brand.html#filter-gsaCategory=Crackers&num=12

Rice biscuits: www.mummums.com

Rice cakes: https://www.lundberg.com

Yogurt: http://yoyummykids.com/

Glass containers: http://www.shopworldkitchen.com/simply-store-14-pc-set-w–multi-colored-lids/1081886.html#start=27

Lunch bag: http://dabbawallabags.com

04/04/2017

Easter Egg Decorating Basics

Let nature take its course is the theme for holiday decorating in our home. There are no Dollar Store outings where we rip items from their cellophane prisons to add loud package flash that looks inspired from a children’s cereal box. Decorating Easter eggs also follows a simple approach. It comes down to a few basics: non-reactive bowls, hardboiled white eggs, distilled vinegar and food coloring.

Easter egg decorating simplified when made with household items.

White eggs hold their own beauty and can mix well within the decor–even the carton has its own design appeal. For the dyes, stick to the main colors of the spectrum and you can play with combinations as you watch how your eggs hold their color. We also kept our bowls shallow and less colored to achieve the pastel shades.

Easter Egg Decorating Tips:

  1. Mix 8 tablespoons of vinegar, 1/4 cup of water and 5 drops of coloring (less for pastels, more for deeper shades). The vinegar helps brighten the shade.
  2. Keep paper towels on hand to soak up dye splatter.
  3. Allow enough time for eggs to sit, from 5-15 minutes depending on how deep you want the shade to set. Switch non-dyed side to another color. You can also add more dye mixture if you want the eggs to be coated in one color.
  4. Let dry in egg carton or plate lined with paper towels.
  5. Keep your children’s art supplies on hand so they can be creative with their decorating.
  6. Save some white hardboiled eggs and have the children draw Easter motifs. Or, design yourself and at breakfast tell the children that the decorated eggs must have come from the “Easter Chicken”.

Breakfast made with eggs from the “Easter Chicken” began a new tradition with my son.

Non-dyed eggs colored with marker.

Resources:

Easter basket: www.themountainthreadcompany.com/shop/colorful-easter-basket-with-handle

Gigogne ice cream cups: 
https://www.duralexusa.com/tableware/Gigogne-Ice-Cream-Cup-Pink-8-75-ounce- Set-of-6-plu5002EB06-6.html

Carrot garland: hobbylobby.com

03/23/2017

Ultimate Easter Basket

Forget the Easter basket spilling with flammable straw that takes months to clean up, create a display that looks so good you won’t want to eat the treats (but don’t do that). When browsing your holiday market aisle with an assault of colors so bright you need to wear sunglasses, the natural response is to stock up on all things spring and festive. Take the classic approach of this time honored tradition by focusing on chocolates created by artisans skilled in their craft and custom woven baskets that will have an appearance each holiday. We rounded up the best offerings in a few styles that will make the Easter Bunny envious.

A delicious mix of chocolates and novelties.

Begin with a solid basket, like this willow style with a cloth insert. Add shredded paper in your color scheme and style with Easter candies, pom poms and toys in likeminded colors.

Even grownups can look forward to receiving an Easter basket.

Using a fair trade basket as the starting point, pull from the colors and keep the styling simple. Surround with mini pom poms and chocolate Easter eggs to complete the look.

A simple basket with thoughtful touches.

This basket has a story. Made from 100% cotton rope in the Mountain Thread Company shop and studio in Blowing Rock, North Carolina, it shows the beauty in handcrafted work. Complimented by chocolate covered marzipan bars with packaging that recalls Easter’s past and inserted with a festive tea cloth, the basket has a soft appeal that will work past the holiday.

 

A free trade market basket shows a green approach alongside organic chocolates and toys that do not beep.

After a season of cold and dreary colors, a bright scheme is welcomed. A scattering of purple and orange carrots connect to the jewel tones of the African market bag. Add some gift items, like artful watercolors, that fit the look.

What you’ll need:

Gather quality supplies and candies that pack in more style than your local drug store variety. Begin with a festive basket, fill with colored paper or straw, and adorn with foiled wrapped candies and treats. Take the theme further with organic sweets and free trade wares that make a difference.

 

Resources:

White willow Easter basket: https://www.burtonandburton.com/?utm_source=bing&utm_medium=cpc&utm_campaign=Branded&utm_term=burton%2Bburton&utm_content=burton%20%2B%20BURTON%20-%20E

Market baskets: www.BasketsOfAfrica.com

Blue rope basket: www.themountainthreadcompany.com/shop/colorful-easter-basket-with-handle

Stuffed bunnies, chicks: www.jellycat.com

Gold bunnies, carrots, bugs and bees, white truffle eggs: www.lindt.com

White chocolate bunny, dark chocolate purple carrots, organic filled chocolates, mini gift basket: http://www.lakechamplainchocolates.

Organic Easter candies and eggs: lilliebellefarms.com

Bunny Munny: http://m.rmpalmer.com/easter/

Yellow chubby bunny: http://www.thompsonchocolate.com/products-easter.php

Chocolate marzipan bunny bars: http://www.niederegger.de/en_GB

Mini pom poms, carrot garland: hobbylobby.com

Tissue, corrugated paper wrappings: www.nashvillewraps.com

Yellow pom poms, watercolor set: http://shop.eeboo.com

Organic jelly beans: https://www.jellybelly.com/online-candy-store

03/15/2017

Homemade Snow Cones

When life gives you snow make snow cones. Such is the motto I practiced when you experience the arrival of crocuses one week and then faced with a record blizzard the following. With only so many sled runs and ice forts to create when school is cancelled, we used our snow for an alternative kind of treat.

Turn snow into a delicacy with hand made snow cones.

What you’ll need:

Fresh snow

Vitamin Water (any flavored powder or liquid drink works)

Gummy vitamins

Cupcake holder

Directions:

Scoop a ball of snow into a cupcake cup holder. Add flavored water. Garnish with a gummy bear. Enjoy.

01/18/2017

Ultimate Valentine’s Day Gifts with Heart

Valentine’s Day gifts covered with hearts is the equivalent of a text sent with more emojis than words, it gets a bit much. Rather than give a Whitman Sampler or checkout aisle trinket, say it with a sentiment that will be appreciated after the 14th.

Peeps marshmallow hearts is a fun way to say Valentine’s Day.

Let our guide to the heart, in a gift form that is, aptly convey the holiday message.

1. Socks 2. Valentine’s Day Class Cards 3. Love U Wool Beanie Kit 4. Girls Sneakers 5. Heart Pencils 6. Water Bottle

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01/13/2017

Classroom Friendly Blueberry Muffins

I’ve been assigned the role of Mystery Reader in Luc’s class. One of those parental duties when reading The Day the Crayons Quit with verve is simply not enough to engage your young audience. They want treats and sugar free lollipops aren’t enough. (Too trite and sticky). While other sweets could warrant a flurry of emails from parents on responsible snacks along with their child’s nutritional requirements if a future feeding should arise. I settled on gluten, dairy and peanut free muffins.

Fresh blueberries add natural flavor to a recipe.

In the thick of winter blueberries are thriving somewhere (Peru) and the taste of summer is missed (January in Connecticut).

Mini muffins is a healthy alternative over candy and cookies.

Following the mix’s directions–supplementing with fresh berries and almond milk–allows me to serve something homemade, not ripped from loud packaging, and requires minimal effort.

Gluten Free Blueberry Muffins

(Courtesy of Authentic Foods)

Ingredients:

1 package Authentic Foods Blueberry Muffin Mix

2 large eggs

1/4 cup vegetable oil

1 cup milk, non-dairy substitute or buttermilk

1/4 teaspoon cinnamon (optional)

1/2 cup fresh blueberries (optional)

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.  Grease the bottom of 12 regular size muffin cups or 24 mini size muffin cups or place cupcake liners inside the muffin cups.

Beat the eggs, vegetable oil and milk (or non-dairy substitute or buttermilk) in a large bowl until very bubbly.

Stir in the Authentic Foods Blueberry Muffin Mix and cinnamon. Stir until the flour is moistened and the batter is slightly lumpy.  Using a tablespoon or medium sized ice cream scooper, spoon the batter into the muffin cups.

Bake 20 to 25 minutes or until the muffin top bounces up when touched (the muffin is not ready if it sinks down when you touch it).

Remove muffins from muffin cups and cool for 10 to 15 minutes.

Resources:
Ceramic berry basket: https://www.katom.com
Tea towel: https://pomegranateinc.com/

Bite sized treat that goes well with story time.

 

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12/15/2016

Ultimate Toy & Games Guide–Batteries Not Needed

The Christmas gifts that surrounded a tree chopped from the backyard, decorated in a home lit by lanterns, still hold currency today. You will see slight updates in colors and shapes but overall the shared concept of classic playtime with toys that won’t need a battery recharge will always work.

Chess Set by Wild Wolf.

  1. Kazoo 2. Chess Set 3. Daredevil Car 4. Steiff Giraffe 5. Christmas Stories by Charles Dickens 6. Classic 5 Mobile 7. Grand Piano 8. Circa Baseball 9. Blockitecture Building Set. 10. Spinning Top 11. Raggedy Ann and Andy 12. Matchstacks Little Hipster Memory Game 13. 4-Way Shut the Box 14. Harmonica 15. Roadster 16. Cicada Clicker
11/03/2016

Coloring Books for All Ages

Give a kid a coloring book and you may have given yourself 20 minutes of childcare without having to turn on Nickelodeon. Though coloring need not end once you hit middle school. There are books available for all ages and interests. It’s a classic way to calm the senses and release your artistic itch without having to live the life of a starving artist.

dg-colorhighlights

A clever offering ranges from fantastical stories where the child advances the storyline to more grownup books that are so detailed they could add style to your home. It’s a unique gift that will be appreciated for not needing batteries and fosters creativity and quiet.

 

The Little Prince Coloring Book: http://hmhbooks.com/thelittleprince/books.html

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Doodle Adventures Slimy Space Slugs: https://www.workman.com/products/doodle-adventures-the-search-for-the-slimy-space-slugs

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Paint by Sticker Zoo Animals: https://www.workman.com/products/paint-by-sticker-kids-zoo-animals

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Boss Babes: https://www.workman.com/products/boss-babes

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Color Me Jane: http://www.penguinrandomhouse.com/books/543944/color-me-jane-by-jacqui-oakley/9780451496560/

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Colored Pencils: http://shop.eeboo.com/c/arts-crafts_colored-pencils-pastels-and-watercolors

10/13/2016

Got Milk? Maybe Not – Choosing the Best Dairy and Non-Dairy

If I didn’t become undone from managing deadlines and trying to out pumpkin neighborhood doorsteps, shopping the milk aisle adds to my failure in the quest to become a competent mother.

Which milk? Navigating the best dairy and nondairy options.

Which milk? Navigating the best dairy and nondairy options.

Once my son was born I knew to breast feed and even surpassed fourteen months of feeding and pumping, which did more than toughen my nipples. It was a year I became the ultimate woman and not in the fun way. Our refrigerator was exclusive to organic and we made the switch from whole after Luc turned three. Then on a health segment I caught on a rare viewing break from “Peg and Cat,” a medical expert said cows were evil. Thus almond milk added more bulk to my grocery bag. Then almond milk reportedly contains few almonds. The confusion continues when you freeze your nose from staring at four refrigerated displays of milk cartons and all its percentages, hormone free, lactose free, soy, almond, cashew, coconut, rice and even hemp, which I thought was the basis of an environmentalists’ wardrobe. I check my phone’s health app but no one will put in writing what I should buy. The store clerk pays my questions with a glance more in line with people who kick pigeons. Thus we bring in Eliza Whetzel, RD to expertly skim the issue of digestible dairy and nondairy options.

 

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Understanding the best choice from the many milk and non dairy options.

Eliza Whetzel, RD expertly reviews digestible dairy and nondairy selections:

What kind of milk should I be drinking?

This is a question I receive on a daily basis from clients. Up until a few years ago, cow’s milk was the only option unless you had access to alternative natural-food stores. Now even your corner Starbucks stocks the gamut.

To answer simply, your dairy (or nondairy) choice is individual, and there is not one right option for everyone. Below I break down pros, and potential cons.

DAIRY

Got milk? Dairy milk gets a bad rap these days, but it remains a great source of nutrition. Cow’s milk comes in many forms, such as whole or skim. Here’s the real skim on the moo.

  • Whole milk: Whole, or full-fat, milk is high in protein, fat, and a great source of vitamins and minerals including calcium, B12 and riboflavin. Full-fat milk promotes satiety, blood sugar control, and helps the body to absorb fat-soluble vitamins including A, D, E and K, which are crucial for bone health. It may seem counter-intuitive, but full-fat milk may also help maintain your weight.
  • Skim milk: Skim milk is essentially watered-down whole milk. When the fat is removed, the nutrient profile of the milk declines, along with taste. To compensate for this bland taste many companies will add sugar.
  • Organic + grass-fed vs. conventional: Many conventionally raised cows are pumped full of hormones to increase their milk production and are given antibiotics to stave off the disease created by inhumane living conditions. Not to mention, you probably don’t want to drink herbicide and pesticide residues or GMO ingredients that are typically in the feed of conventional cows. Milk from grass-fed or pasture-raised cows have higher omega-3 content and lack the hormones that have been linked to cancer, hormonal issues including fertility complications and mood swings, and acne.

The Skim: If you do dairy, stick to full-fat milk from organic, grass-fed sources.

LACTOSE FREE DAIRY MILK

Milk is a fluid substance rich in protein and fat produced by mammals for the nourishment of their young. This primary source of nutrition is essential for infant mammals, but the question remains, should we drink it as we grow up? Lactose intolerance and symptoms vary but according to the National Institute of Health, approximately 65% of the human population has lactose sensitivity after infancy.

Why does this happen? As humans grow older, they lose the ability to digest lactose, the main sugar found in dairy products. Lactose is normally digested by lactase, an enzyme produced in the small intestine, but production of this enzyme decreases with age.

The solution to a lack of lactase? Add the lactase enzyme to lactose-free milk and, voila, lactose-free milk. The milk is ultra-pasteurized to ensure that the enzyme is inactive. This process changes the consistency and taste of the milk product, and extends the shelf life.

The Skim: There are some great organic, lactose-free milk products; however, you may want to try a non-dairy alternative.

NONDAIRY MILKS

Among my clients, there’s a general consensus that nondairy milks are “healthier” and more nutritious than dairy products. There’s also a belief that all non-dairy milks are created equal–none of this is true! Many non-dairy milks are lower in protein and are fortified with calcium and vitamin D to mimic levels in cow’s milk. Here’s the breakdown:

ALMOND

The Pros: Almond milk is simple to make, simply blend almonds and water. It’s a great source of vitamin E, magnesium, potassium, and low in calories as long as it’s unsweetened.

The Cons: It’s low in protein, and may not contain adequate amounts of calcium unless it is fortified. Many brands contain carrageenan, a preservative that acts as a thickening agent and stabilizer, which may lead to digestive issues and skin rashes.

The Skim: Choose brands that are carrageenan-free such as 365 Whole Foods or New Barn or make your own.

SOY

The Pros: Soymilk is super accessible and provides similar amounts of protein as dairy milk.

The Cons: Soy is one of the most genetically modified crops. This alone is alarming, but add multiple fillers to these beans and some water, and you get soymilk. Soybeans also contain high levels of phytoestrogens, which mimic the body’s natural estrogen hormones. Soy consumption has been linked to thyroid and other endocrine disorders, as soy contains harmful goitrogens. Furthermore, soy allergies are very common and may cause people to have a tough time digesting soymilk.

The Skim: There are better non-dairy options. I recommend avoiding soymilk.

RICE

The Pros: Rice milk is a great choice for those that have allergies to dairy, nuts, and soy.

The Cons: Rice milk is devoid of any great nutrition properties, and is particularly high in calories, overall carbohydrates, and sugar. It has a naturally watery product, so additives such as gums and starches are often added to create a more “milky” texture.

The Skim: If you can’t have dairy, nuts, or soy, it’s a good option. Otherwise, I don’t recommend rice milk.

COCONUT

The Pros: Coconut milk made by blending lauric-acid rich coconut fats and fibers with water, creating a great source of healthy saturated fats and medium chain fats. These fats are heart-healthy and create a creamy, rich liquid.

The Cons: Coconut milk is low in protein, and many products contain additives such as sweeteners and carrageenan. Watch out for the BPA in canned versions.

The Skim: It’s a great nondairy option, just be sure to choose high-quality brands with less additives such as So Delicious.

HEMP

The Pros: Made from seeds derived from the cannabis plant, hemp milk contains healthy omega 3 and omega 6 fats, as well as iron, phosphorus, vitamin B12, vitamin D, and magnesium.

The Cons: Many versions of hemp milk contain a ton of added sugar and fillers.

The Skim: This milk is great for vegans, who are generally deficient in B12, or those who are allergic to tree nuts, soy and dairy.

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And what are all those other ingredients on the label?

Carrageenan: A non-digestible polysaccharide that has been extracted from red edible seaweeds, used to thicken, stabilize and emulsify products such as non-dairy milks. Carrageenan may lead to inflammation in the body and digestive distress.

Artificial sweeteners: Synthetic sugar substitutes that are many times sweeter than sugar, but add no calories or nutritive value. These sweeteners may be hazardous to your health, but they are definitely hazardous to your waistline, as they may increase sugar cravings.

Soy lecithin: Soy lecithin is an emulsifier that lends a smooth, uniform appearance to products, and is recognized as GRAS (or Generally Recognized as Safe) by the FDA. It is a byproduct from soy, and has all of the same related issues as soymilk (GMO, soy allergies, phytoestrogens). This product is ubiquitous, and generally used in small amounts, but it’s good to be aware.

The Skim: If you have a dairy intolerance/allergy or just prefer nut milk, rotate your milks and choose organic when possible. Check labels so that you can avoid additives such as carrageenan, or make your own milk at home!

The Full-Fat: Bottom Line

Rotate your milks: Variety is key, whether that means drinking organic, grass-fed dairy milk in your coffee or putting carrageenan-free almond milk in your smoothie!

My current rotation includes a mix of carrageenan-free almond and coconut milks and organic, grass-fed, full-fat dairy. Bottoms up!

Read the label, understand the best ingredients, for the best milk on the go options.

Read the label, understand the best ingredients, for the best milk on the go options.

Resources:

Golden State rocks glasses: http://www.sistersoflosangeles.com/collections/glassware/products/golden-state-rocks-sun-smog-or-ski-surf

09/15/2016

Organic School Lunch – Inside & Out

With all the parenting blogs, health sites and even a nifty little app that gives your daily calorie count, what to pack in your child’s lunch can be daunting. There’s also that moment of parental failure when your son comes home from school with part of his lunch left over. Or that Ian’s mom gives him homemade granola with dark chocolate nibs to mix in with his yogurt. (Ian’s mom does not work I have to remind). Preparing your child’s lunch is more than assembling deli meats on whole grain bread. That lunch box is dense with symbolism. It shows how we value good nutrition, the importance of an organic household and our home’s brand of style.

Reusable bento boxes with colorful lids and insulated steel are green and better looking than a Ziplock.

Reusable bento boxes with colorful lids and insulated steel are green and better looking than a Ziplock. Let the lunch goods make up for time not spent crafting food into mini art pieces.

 

Forget that my last report card was sent four presidents ago, I still feel like I am being graded when it comes to my child’s school lunch. His teacher must observe the kids who pull out bags of Oreos over those who have apples emblemed with Star Wars figures and how that translates to their behavior. In my elementary years all you needed for access to the popular table was a can of Hawaiian Punch and Fritos in a brown paper bag. (Lunch boxes were not cool). So how can you be the involved mom, prepare a nutritional lunch, not embarrass your kid, and respect the environment? Keep it simple yet styled, natural and involve your kids.

The Goods: In keeping a green household cotton canvas bags, cotton dinner napkins and Bento boxes are both a visual treat and keep food fresh and tasty. Just be sure to label them.

Nutritional Options: Consider all food groups when preparing lunch. A great way to sneak in vegetables is to add to the sandwich. Luc loves the crunch of a cucumber. Berries and fruit are always appreciated. Complete with nutritional packaged foods like raisins, vanilla flavored organic milk and graham cracker sticks for dessert.

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All food groups are represented along with packaged favorites that save crucial morning minutes. More flavor, less stress.