Quick switches for healthier kid lunches

“I love packing school lunches!” said no mom ever!

School is starting again soon and I am already dreading the chore of packing school lunches. Just being honest here!

How are busy mom’s supposed to get this done when they have to be healthy but still things the kids will eat and won’t get boring? They have to be quick and easy to pack but don’t require short-term refrigeration or heating up. They have to be easily transportable without getting soggy or dried out. If you’re not a pinterest lunch making mom, then these requirements can be a little frustrating!

And isn’t it true that the easiest things to pack are often the least healthy for the kids? If you pack those, you’ll probably get “bad mom” judgement or even have the teachers send a note home about it.

30652226_2025800137683720_3884400209555357696_nHere are a few things I’ve learned to make packing healthy kid-approved lunches easy and fast:

  1. Main Items: For sandwiches or wraps, switch white bread or regular wraps with the whole grain (whole grain is more nutritious than multi-grain) version. If your child refuses to eat whole grain (ours did at first but gradually accepted it when it was the only thing available haha), there are many whole grain breads that look just like white bread. Check out “Daves Killer Bread” for a few great options! You can also use thinner sliced bread or smaller wraps and add more veggies and meat for a more filling meal. My kids loooove pinwheels – whole wheat wrap topped with low fat cream cheese and low sodium turkey slices. Sometimes my kid love to eat lunch meat with no bread at all. That’s super easy and fast too! If your kiddo is a chicken nugget fan, look for the healthier versions that look like real chicken instead of ground up mystery meat. Nitrate free options are always a good choice too.
  2.  Sides: Switch sweetened apple sauce with the unsweetened kind. You don’t even notice the difference in the cinnamon flavors. Throw in low fat cheese sticks and avoid sugary flavored yogurts (also avoid the fake sugar ones!). Instead, if you’re feeling ambitious, you can grab some plain 0% yogurt and mix in some strawberries or other fruit on your own the night before. When it sits in the fridge overnight, the fruit juices sweeten the plain yogurt naturally – this is one of my personal favorite snacks for myself too. Whole grain crackers like Triscuits and Sun Chips are a better choice than greasy crackers or potato chips. Look for “low sodium” too. If your child enjoys veggies, those are an easy and nutritious option, as well as fruit – bananas, grapes and blueberries are my favorite because they require almost no prep other than rinsing.
  3. Treats: Graham Cracker snacks and animal crackers are a better option than regular cookies and will still make your kiddos happy! If you bake at home, there are a few recipes for making healthier desserts on my post “4 Recipes with no Sugar” that you can make with your kids.
  4. Drinks: Water is best, of course. If your child doesn’t like drinking water, try adding fruit to it. If they are juice drinkers, look for the all natural, no sugar added versions. Hint: fill a water bottle half way with juice and the rest water to further reduce the sugar content without them even noticing a difference! Soda is a tough habit to break as an adult. If your child drinks it now, perhaps considering breaking the habit early would be a good idea. Whether the sugar free or sugar full kind, there is nothing good about drinking soda for children or adults.

 


Getting Sensory Kids to EAT

My daughter has been diagnosed with a Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD). She’s mostly a sensory avoider but also has a few sensory seeker tendencies mixed in. For mom’s of kids like this, you know how challenging meal time can be. From her first solids all the way to now at 9 years old, finding food she will eat is an adventure.

Sensory kids often have issues with strong tastes and anything they deem as a weird texture. The biggest challenge I have with my daughter is with healthy protein and veggies.  I know all sensory kids will be different but I wanted to share a few of the healthier meals I’ve found that she’ll actually eat and that I actually feel good about giving her.

Breakfast: Whole grain mini bagels with cream cheese; Bacon or turkey sausage with protein pancakes/waffles; Granola (we make our own because she also has a peanut allergy – I like this recipe as a base but without the brown sugar: http://www.geniuskitchen.com/recipe/kid-safe-nut-free-granola-465337); Fruit;

Snacks: Healthy smoothies – fruit and yogurt smoothies with some veggies hidden in it are great or even better, my daughter loves Daily Sunshine which is a pediatrician approved, kid formulated smoothie powder that comes in chocolate and strawberry banana. It’s packed with a serving of fruits and veggies, healthy fats, protein, and vitamins my kiddo needs but tastes like a chocolate shake so she actually thinks she’s getting a treat. It’s a win-win! Other snacks she enjoys are granola bars, carrots, sweet peppers dipped in a healthy ranch I make with 0% plain greek yogurt and a tiny bit of ranch soup mix, “ants on a log” – aka celery sticks with cream cheese and raisins, whole grain baked crackers like triscuits or gold fish, graham crackers with Sunbutter;

26172939_1976125785984489_6903273852973535921_oLunches: This is TOUGH because she would prefer to eat boxed mac & cheese and chicken nuggets with fries every day if she could. I’ve found she enjoys pinwheels – whole grain wraps with a layer of cream cheese (she loves cream cheese obvi) and deli meat like low sodium turkey. Homemade lunchables are usually a hit too. For those, I use deli meat, cheese slices, whole grain crackers, and a small treat like animal crackers or one cookie.

Dinners: Spaghetti is a big hit so we will healthify it by using whole wheat noodles and adding tiny cut veggies in the sauce. Tacos are a hit and she’ll actually eat them with lettuce wraps instead of taco shells so we often do that to increase her veggie intake. Sweet potatoes are popular and she loves regular potatoes with toppings but we make it healthier by using just a little sprinkle of cheese and plain greek yogurt instead of sour cream.

The biggest thing we have found is to request that she at least takes one bite of whatever we make for dinner (which can sometimes be a serious challenge) and if she hates it, she is allowed to have something different but no treats if no veggies are eaten. Overall, her diet could certainly be healthier but she is not malnourished or overweight. We feel that as long as that is the case, everything is ok and we will continue trying!

 


8 fun workouts you can do WITH your kids

In my job as a health and fitness coach and personal trainer, I have worked with many women who have children ranging from infants to teens. The most common thing I hear is that it’s super hard to find time to exercise when you have to take care of your children. As a mom of 2 beautiful girls, I can TOTALLY relate!

Through my own process of trial and error, I’ve found some things that are really great for getting your kiddos involved with your workouts instead of trying to get your workouts done without the kids. I went from trying to get a workout done with a crying baby stuck in her bouncy chair a few feet from me (not very enjoyable for either of us to say the least) to fully involving my girls in my workouts whenever they want to join me.

Try these ideas with your kiddos so they’ll be your REASON instead of your EXCUSE:

FOR INFANTS

  1. Put your baby in a sling and find a low impact workout that involves no floorwork. For example, there are some fun country style and hip-hop style home workouts that work great for this in our virtual gym system.
  2. Check your local area for stroller strides type programs or meetups where you can exercise with other moms and push your infants in their strollers.

34818875_2052073928389674_4577471763486605312_oFOR CHILDREN AGED 3 – 12

3. Low impact partner workouts are really great for moms and kids to do together. Our virtual gym system has an entire program created just for this! It incorporates a ball to toss back and forth and lots of fun moves that keep the kids interested for the full 30 minutes. Both my girls love doing this program with me!

4. Dance workouts with easy to follow choreography are GREAT to do with kids. You’ll both work up a sweat and most likely get some great laughs together too as you work on shakin’ your groove things together! If you’re not ready to go to show your moves to the world in a public gym setting, contact me for info on our virtual gym to get access to lots of fun dance workouts you can do at home.

5. Go out in your backyard or to the park! There are so many fun ways to get exercise with your kiddos outside. For instance, kids LOVE to race! You can set up a space to race each other and keep track of who wins. If your kiddo is little, give them a headstart you meany! haha Another idea is to play tag. Its a GREAT workout and I’ve never met a kid who will turn down a good game of tag. Lastly, there’s always riding bikes, roller skating, and even just going for a nature hike or walk together too! Skip hide and seek though because too much time is spent staying in one place for the hiders.

FOR KIDS 13+

Teenagers are probably not interrupting your workout time as much as younger children but you may find that your time is limited due to running them around to their extracurriculars and friends’ houses, etc etc. Here are a few ideas for still getting your workout in, even though it may not be WITH your kids at this age!

6. Exercise in the morning before all the activity starts! (This is actually always my number one tip to create a consistent exercise routine no matter who you are.) Check out my tips on making those morning workouts easier!

7. Invite your teen to go to the gym, out for a jog/walk, or to do a home workout with you. Let them know it will help you with your motivation and accountability. You may find he/she will be honored to help and will even enjoy the chance to spend some time together. Plus, if your teen is not involved in any athletic activities already, establishing an exercise routine with you can really improve his/her health right along with yours.

8. While waiting for your child at the ball field, dance theater, swim practice or wherever they are after school, find a place you can get a walk or jog in. If you can do a drop off, head to the gym or back home for a workout while you wait to pick them up.  Invite some of the other “soccer moms” to join you to make it more fun and spread the health wealth!

22792274_1944205665843168_6455046436073072633_oIn the end, involving your kids with your health and fitness journey will be much more enjoyable than trying to fight with them to leave you alone. Don’t forget what a good role model you’ll be too! Kids are ALWAYS watching and learning from what we do. Show them the importance of healthy habits and teach them by letting them join you! You’ll also find that exercising together presents new opportunities for bonding and spending time together in a really fun way that’s good for the whole family.

If you’re doing any of these things or have come up with other ideas, I’d love to hear how you’re getting your kids involved! Tell me in the comments below!


5 Save Your Sanity Tips for Multitasking Moms

IMG_20180129_154727Hectic mornings herding children around rushing to get them ready for school and you ready for work.

Rushing to carline to pick them up from school on time.

Walking in the door and heading right into getting snacks, mitigating screaming matches, checking homework, making dinner, doing laundry, cleaning dishes, picking up socks EVERYWHERE, maybe even doing homework yourself…

Collapsing into bed utterly exhausted just to get up the next morning and start all over.

Sound familiar?

That’s how my life used to feel. Crazy, rushed, barely surviving. Definitely no time for myself and no exercise or anything like that. The whole family always felt a little on edge and my moods were all over the place.

One day, I had enough and decided to change some things. It didn’t happen overnight but I have implemented a few new practices around our house. Now, although not always perfect, most of my mornings are relaxed, my days are peaceful and more organized, and my family flow is much smoother.

Here are the top 5 things I learned along the way that made the most impact on our family flow and my sanity!

  1. Commit to a minimum of 30 minutes of daily “me-time” as a non-negotiable. I know you may be thinking “There’s NO WAY I can find time for that, you crazy lady” but you’re wrong. You CAN and you SHOULD. Its not just for your own peace of mind, it’s for the good of your family too. When you take time out to focus on yourself, it will help you approach the rest of the day with more calmness. You’ll be surprised at how much this can affect your mindset! Your day’s flow can go from stressed to relaxed just by giving yourself this one gift.
  2. Delegate. That’s right, if your kids are big enough to put away the dishes, give them that task. If your kids are capable of folding laundry, give them that task. If they can use a sponge, assign them a few of the house cleaning responsibilities. They may not doing it perfectly the way you would but as long as it gets done, just let yourself enjoy the break from having to do it yourself! If they’re not big enough to help, ask your spouse to help out with a couple more of the tasks than he’s currently doing. Often, our spouses are much more willing to help than we think but it comes down to communicating the need.
  3. IMG_20180129_154147Create Visual Charts for Children’s Behavior and Responsibilities. This has been a HUGE help in our house. Our children have a 3 tier chart system. The first is a daily behavior/responsibility chart. For my oldest, it includes everything from getting ready in the morning without me asking her to do things all the way to choosing a healthy after school snack without asking me for an unhealthy one. For my youngest, it’s simpler. It is broken down into morning, afternoon, and night. If she gets through each section of the day without throwing a fit, she gets a star. The second level is a daily responsibility list that includes the exact items they need to do in order to get ready in the morning – get dressed, eat breakfast, brush hair, get backpack ready, etc and the same for afternoon and bedtime. The third level is a calendar of the month that lists things happening for them during the upcoming month including big things like trips and little things like bath nights. They are able to look at these three charts and track what to do each day and what is coming up. They earn rewards based on how many stars they get for the level one chart such as 30 min of tv/computer time, park playdates, special time with me, etc. They mark their own stars down and they take it very seriously. It has worked wonders in lessening my youngest’s tantrums and even helped my oldest with anxiety issues.
  4. Commit to at least 30 minutes of daily exercise and fuel up with healthy nutrition (hint: this could be that 30 min of me time from #1). All too often, I stress eat and I know so many others who do that. However, we all know the BEST stress reliever is exercise. It releases endorphins, strengthens your body, and takes your mind off the rest of the world. Studies even show that people who exercise in the morning are more productive and report being happier and less stressed throughout their day. Yes, that means get your booty out of bed earlier, but if you’re like me, there’s no other time to make it happen. Sleep in your workout clothes if you have to! Do it for your own sanity, not as a punishment! If you combine that with healthy fuel for your body, you will feel so AMAZING that you won’t care what life throws at you! I know it sounds easier than it truly is, but that crazy, hectic life sure wasn’t so easy either. I much prefer this kind of hard ❤
  5. Wine. ‘Nuf said.

Parenting as “Atheists”

First, I’d like to say that I hate the word “atheists” because I feel like it has such a bad connotation, like devil-worshipers or something.

I prefer to refer to myself simply as someone who doesn’t believe in a deity. It doesn’t have to have some big name, does it? If so, fine. Call me an atheist then but just remember that it also doesn’t mean I’m sitting over here worshiping some evil force either.

I wanted to write this because I read a post the other day from someone discussing how they parent as atheists and raise their children as athiests. (I say “they” because it was a wife sharing a husband’s post. )

Since I grew up and still live surrounded by a largely very religious community, I sometimes feel rather alone in this state of no belief. Andy and I are on the same page (I honestly think marriage to someone who isn’t would be hard) but other than that, most of my family and friends are religious. So, it was nice to read a point of view from people who are like us on this. However, we did still differ on one big thing when it came to parenting.

We both believe that teaching your children good morals and how to be kind, caring, empathetic people who make good choices doesn’t require religion. In fact, I will definitely teach my children how to have faith in many things and how important faith is but it won’t be in reference to religion for us.

However, our parenting choices took a turn here from the other couple. You see, both my girls are currently attending religious schools. Why? Two reasons: 1. They are really good schools. 2. I want them to have exposure to religion so they are able to make their own decision about it.

When it comes to #2, the other couple mentioned not raising their children with religion in any way so as to avoid creating a foundation of conflicting beliefs. I can definitely understand that point of view. In fact, I don’t know if what we are choosing is right or will be detrimental later. I just know that I don’t want to tell them they have to believe or they should not believe.

I grew up going to church every Sunday and attending Sunday school. I went to lots of my friend’s churches too as a teen. I had a foundation in religious belief. I even got “saved.” But over time and with experiences and courses in religion in college, I gradually shifted in my belief system. I came to my current state of non-belief on my own.26677747_1977048545892213_5649110433748641903_o

I want my girls to be able to do the same, in either direction. Right now, they attend chapel at school and are steeped deeply in class prayers and belief in Jesus and God. They sing songs from chapel and even pray at home. We don’t discourage them or even discuss it yet. But when they ask us why we don’t attend church or what we believe in general, we will tell them from our truths. We will let them choose what they want to believe and we will support them no matter what.


Exercise for not-so-sporty kids

20160817_154900 (1)Not every kid is an athlete. Not every kid enjoys competition. Not every kid wants to play team sports. However, EVERY kid does need daily exercise. But what do you do when your kid would rather play video games and stay inside all day? In the case of my oldest daughter, I realized she was not going to naturally be drawn to exercise or sports pretty early on. So, we basically went for the “put her in everything and see what sticks” method and eventually discovered physical activities that she LOVES, from the swim team to regular recess, visits to the park, and family walks on the beach.

As early as two years old, we put her in dance, then gymnastics, and then soccer, and finally swim team. The theme here is that we kept trying. She didn’t fall in love with dance, wasn’t very interested in gymnastics, and would only go on the soccer field if she was holding hands with the coach. None of them worked, but we didn’t give up. We paid attention to the things she really enjoyed and finally, we realized that her love for the pool could mean she may enjoy the swim team. We asked if she was interested, she said yes, tried out and made the team the very next day! As a no-contact sport that involves doing something she loves already – being in the pool, it is a perfect match! Plus, swimming is one of the BEST forms of exercise! Whether or not she will be excited about the races remains to be seen, but all in all, as long as she participates in the weekly practices, I’m a happy momma!

Additionally, we found a school that values activities like daily recess, daily P.E., and even has a voluntary Morning Mile program that we can all do as a family! We also take family walks on the beach, go to the park, and swim in the community pool where we live. We limit electronics time to weekends only and make sure we spend at least 30 minutes a day doing something active, even if I have to rope the girls into doing a home workout with me in our living room. They love the dancing workouts like CIZE or Country Heat!

All children are different and their strengths should be appreciated. If the things they enjoy doing are tended, they will grow and flourish.


Kind of Funny Mom Tales…The Tri-Pony

Here’s how it went down.

It was time to go to Funtown for some skating and game-playing family madness! The girls were excited. I was excited. Andy was willing to join 😉 I asked the girls to get dressed so we could leave. They willingly did so with no complaints. All was progressing smoothly. That’s when I should have been worried… but I got complacent.

I brushed Brooklyn’s hair and asked if she wanted a pony tail. She said 2 pony tails. I said “OK, I’ll put in pig tails. Here’s a blue and a green hairband and some barrettes.” She said “ooh and a pink one.” I saw a pink barrette and grabbed it too.

I put in two beautifully done and evenly placed pig tails that I was pretty proud of. I told her she was all finished. She reached back and felt her head and said “is there a back one?” I didn’t know what the heck she was talking about, so I said, “No, there’s one on each side because you wanted pig tails and not a pony tail, remember?” Well that was the end of all sanity.

After about 20 minutes of ear piercing screams and a parent switch from me to Andy to try and figure out what the holy mother was happening, Brooklyn said “I WANT THREE PONYTAILS AND SHE ONLY GAVE ME TWO.”

Three ponytails? How could I have guessed that? Turns out there was a pink hairband that she had originally been asking for when I so dumbly thought she wanted the pink barrette. What kind of crap is that, right? What a failure of a mom and what a terrible life for that three year old…

When I read parenting advice, they say “learn the triggers of your child’s tantrums so you can defuse or avoid the situations before they even start.” HA! Tell me how I could have seen that one coming, oh super-wise parenting experts! In the meantime, I’ll go drink wine.


Taking A Risk

So I had this dream. Not like “I have a dream” as in some big dream for society or anything grand like that. My dream was just for me. My dream was for my own family. My dream was out of my reach, or so I thought.

When I began as a Beachbody coach, I created a vision board with goals and dreams I’d like to achieve/make real (if you’ve never done this, I highly recommend you google it and make one!). I keep it hanging where I can see it every day. I spend time every day simply visualizing these things at the time they’ve really happened. Still though, I felt they were very far away. I had created a real plan to actually reach them but they seemed currently out of reach.

One of those dreams was to live on the beach, right were I could hear the waves from my bedroom, walk out and watch the pelicans diving in, be amazed by storms and lightening  over the ocean, go for evening walks on the beach, watch the sunrise, and well, you get the point. It was my dream. It was something that brought a smile to my face just thinking about it. I didn’t think I could have it though, at least not any time soon.

Then, one day, on a whim, my husband and I stopped at an open house for a beachfront condo that was for sale. We laughed as we went in and made a bet on who would have the closest guess as to the exorbitant price it would cost. We were surprised to find that it actually was less than we thought. In fact, it wasn’t much more than the cost of our current house. Then we looked a little deeper and found that there were lots of places available that actually were in our price range. The caveat was they were smaller, much smaller than our 2000 sq ft, 4 bedroom house in a perfect little family neighborhood. Buuut this was my DREAM. It was actually within my reach. Would we be able to downsize so significantly? Would that be practical? How would it affect our children?

My husband loved the idea. We talked about the pros and cons for awhile but not long. We basically decided one thing. We decided that right now, in this moment, this dream was within our reach and the circumstances surrounding it were perfectly aligned. We didn’t know if that would ever happen again in our lives. Maybe it would but maybe it wouldn’t. So we went for it.

Just like that. We called our real estate agents, LB Realty, and said we wanted to sell our house and move to a condo on the beach. We literally sold it in a week from the day we put it on the market, sold half of our stuff along with it, and rented a 2 bedroom beachfront condo.

RLR_2519Every day, I wake up to the sound of the ocean waves.

Every morning, I sit outside and drink my Shakeology as I watch the sunrise.

Every day, I workout next to a window overlooking the ocean.

Every day, my girls and I go in the pool.

We go for family walks on the beach 3 or 4 nights a week.

We watch lightning storms, pelicans, crabs, surfers, and hunt for turtles.

It is literally my dream come true. Is it completely perfect? No. The girls are somewhere between loving and hating sharing a room. There’s a bit of an ant problem. Salt makes things rust easy and get weird, like sliding glass doors for instance. The sun’s light/heat coming into the windows from the  between 8 am and 12 pm is INTENSE lol

None of that compares to the good though.

We took a risk. While some family members and friends called us crazy, many actually said living on the beach was their dream too. All I have to say is that the cliche “you only live once” is true. If you have dreams, don’t let them just exist in your sleep. Make them happen. Go after them. Make them real. Take a risk. Take a leap of faith.

If you don’t, what good does it do? If you die tomorrow, will you have lived a life you loved or will you have simply settled, just gotten by, told yourself you “didn’t need that to be happy?” I believe we all not only deserve to have our dreams come true but we all have the capacity to make them happen. We are all born with the same 24 hours in a day. We all have the choice to spend an hour either doing something to take us towards our goals or just watching tv. The choice is yours. What will you decide?