7 Best Healthy Foods To Buy In Bulk

7 Best Healthy Foods To Buy In Bulk

Cooking healthy meals for your family doesn’t have to be complicated or time-consuming.

In our home, we keep things really simple.

Each week, we buy the same staple foods and make many of the same meals. Between working full-time, writing this blog, my kids and everything else that has to get done, there’s no time for guesswork or experimenting with new recipes.

And buying foods in bulk is one way we’re able to make sure we always have ingredients on hand to make healthy meals.

Although we don’t have a membership to a wholesale club because it doesn’t make sense for our family of 4, we stock up on sale items and buy foods that stretch our food budget. 

Buying in bulk can save you money, but you’ll need to watch your kids’ portion sizes or you could end up spending even more. On the flip side, if you don’t consume it in a timely manner, it can spoil and create food waste.

The key is to stock up on a few key ingredients—fresh, frozen, and non-perishable—

so you’ll always have what you need.

Here are 7 of the best healthy foods to buy in bulk.

1. Beans and Legumes

If you’re trying to get more plant-based foods into your kid’s diet, buy beans and legumes.

Black beans and lentils are two of my favorites to stock up on because they’re high in both protein and fiber and excellent sources of iron.

Black turtle beans in particular, are high in calcium: 1/2 cup provides 160 milligrams.

I prefer to buy dried beans and then soak and cook them because they’re more robust and lower in sodium than canned but canned beans are just as healthy and delicious.

Swap beans for meat in Mexican dishes, add them to soups, stews and chilis or as a replacement for eggs and oil in your favorite baking recipes.

2. Cinnamon

When it comes to healthy foods to buy in bulk, cinnamon is at the top of my list.

High in antioxidants, cinnamon has anti-inflammatory properties and studies suggest it’s  beneficial for controlling blood sugar, improving LDL “bad” cholesterol and triglycerides. 

I keep several containers of cinnamon in my home because it’s so delicious and can be used in a variety of meals.

I add cinnamon to oatmeal, pancakes, muffins and desserts and sprinkle it on roasted butternut squash and sweet potatoes.

I also like to mix cinnamon into my coffee grounds which adds a robust, delicious flavor to my morning cup.

3. Chia seeds

An excellent source of protein, fiber and omega-3 fatty acids, chia seeds are by far one of the healthiest foods you can feed your kids.

I keep a large mason jar of chia seeds in my pantry and incorporate them into pancakes, breads muffins and overnight oats, add them to smoothies and use them to make chia seed puddings.

4. Berries

Frozen vegetables are picked at their peak freshness and flash frozen so they may be healthier than fresh varieties.

In fact, a June 2017 study in the Journal of Food Composition and Analysis found in some cases, frozen produce is more nutritious than fresh that’s been stored in the refrigerator for 5 days.

Blueberries, raspberries and blackberries are some of the best frozen foods to buy in bulk because they’re high in fiber and antioxidants, and low glycemic so they won’t spike your kid’s blood sugar.

Add frozen berries to smoothies, use your blender to whip them up into a healthy dessert, or serve them as a snack—something my kids loved when they were toddlers.

Or add berries to oatmeal, yogurt and baked goods for extra fiber and a natural sweetness.

5. Quinoa

High in both fiber and protein, quinoa (a seed), is one of the best healthy foods to buy in bulk.

Quinoa is a gluten-free, whole grain carbohydrate that’s high in fiber and a good source of B vitamins and magnesium.

I love keeping plenty of quinoa on hand because it cooks super-fast and it’s so versatile.

Swap it for oatmeal, add it to a fruit parfait, incorporate it into green salads or serve it as a side for dinner.

6. Olive oil


Whether you’re roasting vegetables to make them healthy and delicious for your kids, making your own salad dressing or coating a pan to scramble eggs, olive oil is a necessity when you’re cooking healthy meals.

High in monounsaturated, healthy fats and vitamin E, olive oil also makes food delicious and satisfies hunger.

Store olive oil in a cool, dry place away from the sunlight to prevent it from becoming rancid.

7. Rolled oats

Another whole grain option that’s high in fiber, rolled oats are also a good source of iron, selenium and manganese and are low in sugar.

Oats are naturally gluten-free but because of cross-contamination, look for brands that are labeled accordingly. I like Bob’s Red Mill

Swap rolled oats for recipes that call for flour or use them to make oatmeal, overnight oats, cookies, energy bites and protein bars.

Which foods do you like to buy in bulk? Let me know in the comments!

5 Kitchen Gadgets I Can’t Live Without

5 Kitchen Gadgets I Can’t Live Without

Before I got married and had kids, food and nutrition weren’t nearly as much of a focus in my life as they are now.

As a single woman living alone, I relied on quick and easy meals like scrambled eggs or pasta and broccoli.

If I cooked, it would have been something like a piece of pan-seared salmon but snack foods like hummus, crackers and cheese sticks for dinner were just as good—seriously!

Of course, Chinese take-out was always an easy option too.

When I met my husband however, I became more interested and inspired to cook healthy, delicious meals.

Since he works in the restaurant business and even worked as personal chef, he taught me how to use a knife and cutting board, how to roast a whole chicken and how to prepare a real meal from scratch.

Although cooking techniques like blanching still throw me off and I’m not all that adventurous with herbs and spices, I can hold my own in the kitchen today.

Of course, having kids has also been a driving force behind my motivation to cook. Between making homemade baby food, preparing their school lunches and cooking dinner almost every night, I’m always in the kitchen.

But let’s be honest: cooking takes time—time I don’t always have.

So over the years, I’ve found some amazing kitchen gadgets that have helped make meal prep easier, helped me pull together meals faster, and saved my sanity.

Here are 5 kitchen gadgets I can’t live without.

1. Vitamix

I recently received the Vitamix as a Christmas present from my husband and after getting over the initial sticker shock, I was hooked.

Unlike the small blender I was using, I love that you can put several types of vegetables for a smoothie in the Vitamix and it blends up everything into a super-smooth consistency, much like a juicer, but the fiber is still there.

The other great thing about the Vitamix is that it isn’t just for smoothies. You can use it to make homemade nut butters, dips and spreads, soups, frozen desserts, flours and dough and non-dairy milk.

2. Solid Wood Chopping Bowl

This solid wood chopping bowl and mezzaluna knife is hands down, one of my favorite kitchen gadgets and a tool I use every day.

There’s nothing more delicious than a chopped salad and with this bowl, you don’t have to drop $10 at your favorite lunch spot to get it. I simply add salad greens, onions, carrots and avocado and chop everything up in the bowl. I add dressing and a protein and lunch is ready in minutes.

If you want your kids to eat more vegetables, it’s also a great tool to get them in the kitchen to prepare—and get excited about—healthy meals too.

3. Pampered Chef Pan

Pampered Chef is known for their stoneware and for good reason.

I use this Pampered Chef pan most days of the week to roast vegetables and make sweet potato fries, and meatballs. Everything you make with the pan is evenly cooked, crispy on the outside but moist on the inside and bursting with flavor.

It’s also a breeze to clean and doesn’t require any soaking or scrubbing.

4. Oxo Good Grips Salad Spinner


If there’s one kitchen gadget that ensures you’ll always have a quick and easy meal on hand, it’s the Oxo good grips salad spinner.

It’s a totally old-school kitchen gadget but it’s a must-have to wash salad quickly and keep it fresh all week long.

5. Cuisinart Stand Mixer

Another classic tool, the Cuisinart Stand Mixer is a kitchen gadget I’ve had since I got married and it’s become quite useful throughout the years.

If you love baking as much as I do, the mixer is a must-have.

Although it’s not in my regular daily rotation, it’s come in handy for making breads, my nana’s famous Christmas cheesecake and my kids’ birthday cakes.

What are some of your favorite kitchen gadgets? Leave me a comment! 

10 Simple Meal Prep Hacks For Busy Moms

10 Simple Meal Prep Hacks For Busy Moms

I wish I had better news for you, but the truth is that getting healthy meals on the table takes time.

Time to plan what you’re going to cook, time to shop for the ingredients, time to do the actual meal prep and cooking, and (ughh) all the clean-up.

When you’re rushing to get out the door in the morning or get dinner on the table at night and everyone is exhausted or having their own meltdown, pulling together healthy meals can seem next to impossible.

That’s where meal prep comes in.

With some simple strategies, you can plan ahead of time and have a system in place to get breakfast, lunch and dinner on the table every day.

Here are 10 simple meal prep hacks to try.

1. Pull out the iPad

When you’re trying to get something done like make an important phone call or make dinner, do your kids swarm to you like a hive of bees?

I hear you. In my house, dinnertime is prime time for meltdowns, siblings fighting and bad behavior.

Although I try really hard to limit my kids’ screen time, I’ve come to realize that strategic use of the TV and the iPad can come in handy especially when I’m cooking.

My kids get to decompress after-school and have some fun, while I’m able to get dinner on the table without feeling totally stressed out.

2. Store food in airtight containers

Clear glass, airtight food storage containers are your secret weapon for meal prep.

They not only keep all of your produce fresh and in clear sight but they help prevent food from spoiling, drying out, getting soggy or absorbing odors from other foods in the refrigerator.

Glass containers also cut down on time because they go from the fridge and the freezer to the microwave or the oven which makes cooking dinner a breeze.

Carve out some time on the weekends—or whenever you can—to wash, cut up your fruits and vegetables and store them in individual containers so you’ll know exactly what you have on hand.

Cut-up veggies also do double duty for quick meals, after-school snacks and school lunches.

3. Use ice cube trays

To prevent food from spoiling and make cooking quick and easy, freeze small portions of leftover ingredients in ice cube trays and then re-heat them when you need to.

Store homemade baby food purees, leftover stock, smoothies, pasta sauce, pesto and herbs—even coffee for a quick and easy cup of cold brew.

4. Make overnight oats


Mornings are hectic whether you have little ones you need to get to daycare or big kids who have to catch the bus.

Instead of serving cereal or instant oatmeal which are usually low in fiber, high in sugar and highly processed, fill mason jars the night before with oats, fruit, nuts or seeds and milk for a quick and easy breakfast.

5. Cut, then wash vegetables

Washing vegetables before you cut them up makes sense, but you might discover hidden dirt on the inside of produce like mushrooms, celery and broccoli and end up re-washing them again anyway.

Instead, chop everything first, then give your fruits and veggies a vigorous wash under cold, running water.

6. Slice it in


The thinner you slice vegetables and protein sources, the quicker they’ll cook whether you’re sautéing or roasting them.

I slice foods like broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage and tempeh super-thin and they cook in minutes flat.

7. Offer an appetizer

Your kids may refuse to eat all day but right before dinner is when they’re most likely to ask for a snack—so give it to them.

Offering an appetizer won’t spoil their dinner and if it’s a healthy choice, it can be a great way to take advantage of their hunger and get them to eat more vegetables and try new foods.

Letting them munch on something small can also help you buy some time while you’re getting dinner ready.

Serve roasted root vegetables as “fries,” hummus or a bean dip with cut up raw vegetables, or kale chips, for example.

8. Pre-heat your pan

Sheet pan meals already make dinners quick and easy, but you can save even more time by heating up the pan while your oven is pre-heating and you’re finishing up any meal prep.

Pre-heating the pan will cook everything evenly and speed up your cook time.

9. Pre-portion smoothie ingredients


Smoothies can be a quick and easy breakfast option for you and your kids, but the key is that it’s simple.

After you go to the grocery store or at the beginning of the week, wash and prep all of your fruits and vegetables and store them in individual Ziplock bags. In the morning, you can pop everything into your blender for a no-brainer breakfast with minimal clean-up.

10. Use your appliances

Chopping, slicing and dicing are seriously time-consuming especially if you’re using fresh garlic or cutting up vegetables that need to be peeled and sliced like butternut squash, for example.

If you don’t own a basic food processor, consider purchasing one that can do all the work for you and slash some serious time off your meal prep.

4 Folate and Folic Acid Benefits For All Moms—Whether They’re Pregnant or Not

4 Folate and Folic Acid Benefits For All Moms—Whether They’re Pregnant or Not

Folic acid, the synthetic form of folate or vitamin B9, is well known as a vitamin that pregnant moms take to help prevent neural tube defects like spina bifida and anencephaly.

Since the first 4 to 6 weeks of pregnancy are when the neural tube is formed and when defects occur, and up to 45 percent of pregnancies are unplanned, taking folic acid before you get pregnant is vital.

The Institute of Medicine’s (IOM) guidelines recommend that women of childbearing age get 400 micrograms (mcg) of folic acid a day. During pregnancy, women should increase the amount to 600 mcg; breastfeeding moms need 500 mcg.

Although most women get enough folate, some women, such as those with the MTHFR gene variant, may not be able to utilize folate properly and may need to take the bioactive form.

Interestingly, research suggests folate and folic acid can actually be beneficial for all moms, whether they’re planning to become pregnant or not. Here’s what we know.

1. Folic Acid May Prevent Heart Disease

Heart disease is often seen as a man’s disease but nothing could be further from the truth.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), heart disease is the leading cause of death in women in the United States, accounting for approximately 1 in 4 female deaths each year.

In addition to a healthy diet, exercise and stress reduction, getting enough folate may actually ward off heart disease.

According to an August 2016 meta-analysis in the Journal of The American Heart Association, folic acid supplementation is associated with a 10 percent lower risk of stroke and a 4 percent lower risk of cardiovascular disease.

2. Folic Acid Acid May Reduce Cancer Risk

Some studies suggest that adequate levels of folate may prevent certain cancers. According to a large 2011 study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, people who had total folate intake of 900 mcg a day or more had a 30 percent lower risk of developing colorectal cancer than those who only consumed 200 mcg a day.

Since some studies suggest that high levels of folate and folic acid may actually increase cancer risk however, more research is needed to determine whether or not taking higher doses is actually beneficial. 

3. Folic Acid May Prevent Depression and Postpartum Depression

Some studies have shown an association between low folate and depression.

Researchers have also looked at the link between folate and depression during pregnancy and postpartum depression.

According to a November 2017 study in the journal Nutrients, women who took folic acid for more than 6 months during pregnancy had a lower risk of postpartum depression than those who took it for less than 6 months.

Some studies also suggest folic acid, in combination with anti-depressants, may improve symptoms, but it’s unclear whether it’s effective or not.

4. Folic Acid May Prevent Alzheimer’s Disease

It’s unclear whether folic acid supplementation may prevent dementia and Alzheimer’s disease but some studies suggest it may have some benefit.

While observational studies have found an association between low levels of folate and poor brain function and a higher risk of both dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, folic acid supplements have not been shown to improve cognitive function or prevent these diseases, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

For people who have already been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s however, folic acid may help, according to a June 2016 study in the journal Mediators of Inflammation.

What Moms Should Know About Folate and Folic Acid

Since folate is a water soluble vitamin, it’s not stored in the body so you need to get it in your diet, ideally through food.

Foods high in folate include dark green leafy vegetables, some types of fruit, nuts, beans, peas, seafood, eggs, dairy, meat, poultry and grains. Some foods like breads, cereals, pastas, rice and other grains are also fortified with folic acid.

Although most women get enough folate, symptoms of a folate deficiency include fatigue, irritability, weakness, poor concentration, headache, heart palpitations, shortness of breath and pale skin, according to the National Institutes of Health.

It’s important to note that although the folate thats’s naturally found in foods isn’t harmful, high doses of folic acid and fortified foods may be. There are also certain medications that can interact with folic acid supplements so when in doubt, always talk to your doctor.

8 Supermarket Shortcut Foods To Make Healthy Eating Easy

8 Supermarket Shortcut Foods To Make Healthy Eating Easy

The new year always comes with the best intentions: eat healthier, work out more, get more sleep and cut down on all that stress.

When it comes to your kid’ health, perhaps you’ve made a commitment to stock your kitchen with healthy food, cook more and share more family meals together.

Those are all great New Year’s resolutions to have of course, but so often we find ourselves back to our old habits come February.

Between work, after-school activities and every other obligation you have, carving out time to plan, shop and cook gets really challenging.

With some healthy eating hacks and a few supermarket shortcut foods on hand however, you don’t have to rely on processed foods, ready-made meals and grab-and-go options to make sure your family stays on track.

Here are 8 supermarket shortcuts that will make healthy eating a breeze all year long.

1. Salad kits

My family has become hooked on a salad kit made with shaved Brussels sprouts, shredded cabbage, pumpkin seeds and dried cranberries. Not only is it healthy and delicious, but having a salad kit on hand helps us pull together dinner in minutes flat.

When choosing a salad kit, always read labels since many salad kits are high in calories, sodium and sugar and use low-nutrient greens like iceberg lettuce instead of dark leafy greens.

2. Spinach

High in iron, spinach is also a good source of protein, fiber, vitamins A,C,E, B6, folate, magnesium and calcium.

Pre-washed baby spinach (organic when possible), cooks super-fast and can be incorporated into almost meal you’re making.

Sauté spinach with olive oil and garlic, add it to soups, stews and stir-fries or incorporate it into a quiche or frittata. Raw spinach can be mixed with other salad greens or used for your morning smoothies or green juices.

3. Frozen fruits and vegetables

Since frozen fruits and vegetables are picked at their peak freshness and flash frozen, they may be healthier than fresh varieties. In fact, a June 2017 study in the Journal of Food Composition and Analysis found in some cases frozen produce is more nutritious than fresh that’s been stored in the refrigerator for 5 days.

Stocking your freezer with a variety of frozen options will help you pull together meals in no time. Add frozen veggies to pastas, omelettes, or a stir-fry and incorporate frozen fruit into smoothies and yogurt or serve it as dessert.

4. Beans

Beans are one of the healthiest foods for kids and make for a quick and easy meal.

Add canned beans to tacos, fajitas, soups and stews, serve them solo in your kid’s lunch box, or puree them into a healthy and delicious bean dip.

5. Tempeh

If you’re looking to add more plant-based protein sources into your meals, try tempeh.

With more than 5 grams of protein in every ounce, tempeh is also high in fiber and magnesium.

Since it’s made with fermented soybeans, tempeh is also a great way to get probiotics into your kid’s diet.

Marinate tempeh and bake it, slice it thin and sauté it with vegetables, or swap crumbled tempeh for meat in your favorite Mexican dishes.

6. Canned fish

One of the best supermarket shortcuts to help your family eat healthy is canned fish like salmon, sardines and anchovies.

Packed with protein, low in saturated fat and rich in micronutrients, fish is also an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids, which support kids’ brain health and memory.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recommend kids eat fish 1 to 2 times every week, starting at age 2.

If your kids refuse to eat fish however, try non-sneaky ways to incorporate small portions into their meals. For example, serve canned salmon as a dip paired with cut up raw vegetables, top toasted whole-grain bread with a bit of anchovies, or add a few sardines to pasta dishes.

7. Edamame

An excellent source of protein, fiber, iron and magnesium, edamame (soybeans) are high in calcium: one cup of provides 97 milligrams.

Purchase edamame frozen or fully cooked and add it to rice dishes, soups and salads or serve it as a side dish. You can also serve edamame as an appetizer before dinner when kids are hungry and more likely to try new foods.

8. Quinoa

Quinoa, a seed, is high in both protein and fiber as well as B vitamins, which support the nervous system.

Quinoa is also a quick and easy grain that can be served for breakfast with fruit and cinnamon, mixed into a yogurt parfait or as a side dish for lunch or dinner.

5 Healthy Holiday Gifts for Moms

5 Healthy Holiday Gifts for Moms

After you purchase gifts for your kids and everyone else on your list, bake all the Christmas cookies and attend the obligatory office parties and school events, there’s no doubt that holiday stress will get the best of you.

This year, instead of checking off all the boxes and running around until you’re completely exhausted, why not take a few minutes to put yourself and your health first?

Whether your goal is to eat healthy, get in shape or sleep better, these healthy holiday gifts will set you up for success in the New Year.

1. Headspace

We’re all stressed but that doesn’t mean you have to let it overwhelm you.

Studies show meditation is an effective way to reduce stress, improve sleep and boost focus.

In fact, a September 2018 study in The Journal Of Cognitive Enhancement found that a regular meditation practice over a lifetime has the potential to keep the brain sharp and ward off mental decline.

If you’re new to the practice, a guided meditation app like Headspace can help.

Andy Puddicombe, the voice of the app, is easy and soothing to listen to—not awkward like some other guided meditations I’ve tried. With 1-, 3- or 10- minute options, the app also makes it easy to fit meditation into your schedule no matter how busy you are. Multiple subscription plans, free-$399.99. Headspace.com.

2. Love Sweat Fitness

 

If you’re looking to shed a few pounds or just get in shape, Love Sweat Fitness’ quick, daily at-home workouts and meal plans can support you on your journey.

Founded by Katie Dunlop, a NASM-certified personal trainer, the program inspires women to “sweat anywhere” and “live guiltless.” $49.99-$129.99. my.lovesweatfitness.com

3. Prepara iPrep Adjustable Tablet and Phone Stand

Whether you consider yourself a bona fide chef or more of a beginner, the Prepara iPrep Adjustable Tablet and Phone Stand will make it easy to make healthy dinners for your family.

The stand allows you to access all of your favorite recipes on your iPad or smart phone while you cook without having to touch the screen. With a non-slip rubber base, four different viewing angles and a space to store the stylus, it’s one of the best healthy holiday gifts for moms. $29.95. BarnesandNoble.com.

4. HoMedics Deep Sleep II Therapy Machine

Once your babies sleep through the night, you do too, right? Not so much.

If your mind races at night, you have a hard time winding down or have a snoring partner, a good night’s rest can be hard to come by.

That’s where the HoMedics Deep Sleep II Therapy Machine comes in. With 12 different soothing sounds, 4 variations of white noise, water relaxation or nature sounds, and 30-, 60- or 90-minute auto-shutoff features, machine will help you get the sleep you deserve. $79.99. Homedics.com

5. Thistle Farms ReEnergize Set

I was so excited to discover Thistle Farms, a bath, body and home brand whose motto is “love heals.” All of their products are handcrafted by women who are survivors of trafficking, prostitution and addiction, giving them the opportunity to heal and have bright futures.

Their ReEnergize Set, which includes body wash, bath soak, shave gel and lip balm, are infused with tea tree and eucalyptus mint essential oils and are free of phthalates, parabens, formaldehyde and synthetic fragrances. $45. ThistleFarms.org.

 

Gestational Diabetes Diet: 7 Tips for a Healthy Pregnancy

Gestational Diabetes Diet: 7 Tips for a Healthy Pregnancy

If you’ve been diagnosed with gestational diabetes, you might be wondering what foods you should eat, what foods you should avoid and what else you can do to have a healthy pregnancy.

According to a 2014 report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), up to 9.2 percent of women are diagnosed with gestational diabetes, a condition in which your body can’t produce enough insulin, which causes high blood glucose levels.

Gestational diabetes can lead to pregnancy complications and problems during labor and delivery, so managing it now is key.

What’s more, although gestational diabetes is a type of diabetes that only occurs during pregnancy, it can still increase your risk for developing type-2 diabetes and high blood pressure down the line.

The good news is that through diet, exercise and an active lifestyle, you can manage the condition during pregnancy and create healthy habits that will benefit you and your children for years to come.

Here, learn what a healthy gestational diabetes diet looks like and how to stay healthy during pregnancy and beyond.

1. Talk to a nutrition expert

One of the most common pregnancy nutrition myths is that during pregnancy, you should eat for two.

During the first trimester of pregnancy however, you don’t need to eat extra calories.

And throughout your second and third trimesters, you only need an additional 300 to 450 calories a day, which can be spread across two healthy snacks.

If you’re overweight or obese and you have gestational diabetes however, the amount of pregnancy weight gain varies depending on your body mass index (BMI).

To get a better idea of how many calories you need each day, how much weight you should gain and what foods to eat, ask your OB/GYN or midwife to make a referral to a medical nutrition therapist or a registered dietitian nutritionist (RDN).

 

2. Eat regular meals

If you’re dealing with morning sickness, it can be tempting to avoid eating, but skipping meals can cause your blood sugar levels to drop.

Eating breakfast is particularly important and will also help you make healthy diet choices the rest of the day. Aim for a combination of protein and fiber, such as an egg with blueberries or Greek yogurt with berries and a low-sugar granola.

Try for 3 meals and 2 small snacks a day and be mindful of your portion sizes.

3. Pick protein

 

Foods high in protein help balance blood sugar so it’s a good idea to get some at every meal and snack.

Eggs, fish, meat, beans, legumes, nuts, seeds, tofu, tempeh and edamame are all great sources of protein.

4. Be choosy about carbs

 

To avoid spikes in blood sugar, it’s important to pay attention to the types and amount of carbohydrates you eat.

Complex carbohydrates are typically high in fiber, which keep blood sugar levels steady and stave off hunger.

Complex carbohydrates such as whole grain bread, brown rice or quinoa (a seed) are best. Also, try to combine complex carbs with protein and a healthy fat like avocado to help you feel satisfied.

Avoid refined carbohydrates like white bread, white rice and potatoes as well as juice, soda, and sugar-sweetened beverages which lack nutrition and will spike your blood sugar.

5. Focus on foods with a low glycemic load (GL)

 

You’ve probably heard about eating foods that have a low glycemic index (GI), but glycemic load (GL) is a more accurate measurement of a particular food’s effect on blood sugar.

Glycemic load describes the quality (GI) and quantity of carbohydrate in a serving, meal or diet, according to this article.

Aim for foods with a glycemic load of less than 10 including:

  • Green leafy vegetables
  • Beans
  • Lentils
  • Chickpeas
  • Whole grain breads and cereals

Starchy vegetables likes peas, carrots, and butternut squash as well as some low-glycemic fruits are OK, but they should have less of a focus in your diet.

6. Choose healthy fats

 

Healthy fats give you energy, promote satiety and are important for your baby’s brain and eye development.

Focus on monounsaturated fats like avocado, olive oil, and almonds and polyunsaturated fats like those found in flaxseed and chia seeds.

Fish like salmon and herring are also excellent sources of healthy fats but because of mercury exposure, check the FDA and EPA’s chart for those with the lowest amount of mercury and how many portions are safe to eat.

7. Avoid foods that spike your blood sugar

 

It’s important avoid foods that will spike your blood sugar including processed foods, fast food and foods that are refined and high in sugar.

Be sure to read labels carefully because many foods like yogurt, salad dressings, marinades, and condiments are sneaky sources of sugar and should be avoided.

 

Have you been diagnosed with gestational diabetes? What were some ways you managed it?  

5 Healthy Holiday Gifts for Kids

5 Healthy Holiday Gifts for Kids

Whether it’s a gift they asked for or something you knew they’d love, there’s nothing better than the joy of watching kids open their presents.

Along with the toys, electronics and clothes, why not add also buy a present that will make them healthy and happy too?

Here are 5 healthy holiday gifts for kids I’m loving right now, and I’m sure you will too.

1. Kids’ Cooking Classes

I was so excited to interview Katie Kimball, the founder of KitchenStewardship.com earlier this year. Her story is in the current issue of FIRST for Women magazine—go grab a copy!

Katie and I have similar philosophies about feeding kids real, healthy, whole foods and agree that if we want our kids to eat healthy, we need to teach them how to cook.

But what if you don’t know how to cook?

That’s where her Kids Cook Real Food video course for families comes in. The easy-to-follow course teaches kids over 30 basic kitchen skills, builds their self-esteem and confidence and gives you easy recipes you can make at home. $49.95-$495. KidsCookRealFood.com.

2. Kids’ Activities Membership

 

If you’re always looking for activities to do with your kids, KidPass is your ticket. Once you sign up, search for activities by age, location and category, then book your tickets and go.

With partnerships at several kids’ gyms, playspaces, museums, bowling alleys, dance studios and more in 7 different cities, there’s plenty for your kids to do every month. $49-$189. KidPass.com

3. Kids’ Chef Tools

When my kids were toddlers, they’d pretend to cut vegetables with a kid-sized, dull knife.

They’re still young but now I let them use a real pairing knife because I want them to learn.

Still, every time we cook together I nearly have a heart attack yelling, “watch your fingers!”

With Curious Chef’s 30-Piece Caddy Collection, you can cook with your kids without worrying. The collection has all the basic kitchen tools that cut but are also safe for kids to use. Designed for kids 4+, the caddy includes their very own whisk, knives, measuring cups and spoons and more. They’re also BPA-free and dishwasher safe. $79.99 Curiouschef.com

4. Gardening Set and Wagon

 

Planting a garden in the spring is one of the best ways to teach kids where healthy food comes from, get them involved with meal planning, and encourage them to eat healthy. It also gets them away from the screens and encourages them to move.

With this 15-piece garden wagon and tool set by Dimple, your kids will love to tag along with you in the garden and get excited about all the fruits and veggies you’ll grow. $19.99. Amazon.com.

5. Yoga Dice

Help your kids find their inner OM and make Yoga a family affair with Uncommon Goods’ Yoga Dice.

Whether you’re an active Yogi or more of a dabbler, you and your kids will have fun discovering the poses and centering yourselves together. $16.95. UncommonGoods.com.

 

7 Ways Busy Moms Can Cope With Holiday Stress

7 Ways Busy Moms Can Cope With Holiday Stress

As moms, our lives are hectic enough but when the holidays roll around, our stress levels get ramped up even more.

According to a report by the American Psychological Association (APA), 44 percent of women (versus 31 percent of men) say they have more stress during the holiday season.

Whether you’re at home with little ones all day or a working mother, chances are all the holiday to-do’s fall on your shoulders.

Between sending Christmas cards, purchasing and wrapping gifts, shuttling kids to Nutcracker rehearsals and attending school performances and holiday parties, the list can seem endless.

Add to that the stress of traveling or hosting guests, combined with challenging family dynamics, and the holidays can make for one stressed out mom.

But the holidays don’t have to—nor should they be—a season of stress. With a small shift in mindset and a few simple tactics, the holidays can be filled with faith, hope and love.

Here are 7 ways to cope with holiday stress.

1. Focus on what matters most

 

To lower your stress level, think about what’s really important to you and your family and focus your energy on that.

For our family, it’s important that my kids know first and foremost that Christmas is Jesus’ birthday, what his birth means and what a magical event it is. As a result, when we talk about Christmas, we center our conversations about our faith.

Santa, the gifts and the cookies are a part of my kids’ experience, but they are all fun extras.

2. Rethink traditions

 

When I was child, our family’s annual Christmas Eve tradition meant that we didn’t get home until 2am in the morning. Everyone was expected to stay until the end and no one deviated from the tradition.

Like it or not, today’s generation is more willing to buck the trend.

Although our family continues the same type of tradition today, we’ve had to adapt the timing so we’re home at a decent hour to put out the gifts and cookies for Santa and to get sleep. Luckily, the older generation is more flexible and understanding of our desire to get home early.

When it comes to family traditions, the expectation might exist, but that doesn’t mean your family has to follow suit. You can make changes to the tradition or say ‘no’ altogether.

Although not everyone in the family will be happy with your choices, if changing the way things have always be done means your holidays will be less stressful and more enjoyable, so be it.

 

3. Be realistic

 

Your goal might be to make 5 dozen Christmas cookies, buy thoughtful gifts for all of your kids’ teachers, and meet your friends for your annual holiday dinner.

But if trying to do everything is going to leave you stretched thin, maybe it’s not realistic for you and your life.

Instead, think about ways you can cut back or cross things of your list. That might mean making one or two types of cookies, buying gift cards for the teachers and planning drinks with your friends in the new year, for example.

4. Have a holiday stress-busting ritual

The more stressed out you are, the less likely you’ll be to eat healthy, exercise and make sleep a priority—all habits that are important for combating stress.

Having a daily or weekly ritual can help too. It could be a weekly yoga class, 20 minutes when you wake up in the morning for prayer and/or meditation, carving out time in your schedule to attend your favorite HIIT class or taking a warm bath after the kids have gone to bed.

5. Forget the gifts

Every year, I get really stressed searching for the perfect gift for adults in our family. I also don’t want to feel obligated to buy gifts—I want to give from my heart.

That’s why this year, both sides of our family decided not to give gifts but to donate to a charity instead. We all agreed that gifts should be only for the kids.

If donating to a charity doesn’t fly with your clan, suggest a Secret Santa or a grab bag instead, which is more affordable and takes less time.

6. Get help

As women, we’re expected to do it all, but that doesn’t mean we have to.

Of all the tasks on your list, there are those you tell yourself you should do or you feel pressured to do, those you’re capable of doing but don’t want to do, and those that actually bring you joy.

We can make choices about what we’re going to do and what we’re not. For example, a few years ago, I decided sending Christmas cards wasn’t worth all the time and energy it took.

It was however, important to my husband, so he took over the task. He picks out the card and the photos, addresses them and sends them off. It may not be what I would have chosen, but letting it go means I won’t be so stressed out.

It can be hard to hand over certain tasks to our partners, but it is possible to find opportunities for them to help out. Perhaps it’s wrapping gifts, going grocery shopping or making a Target run for stocking stuffers.

Accepting that done is better than perfect can be freeing.

If getting your spouse to help out isn’t going to happen, think about other people who can.

Depending on their ages, kids can seal and put stamps on cards or wrap presents for their grandparents, for example.

You could also outsource tasks to a company like FancyHands.com for booking travel, making restaurant reservations or purchasing gifts.

7. Hire a babysitter

When time is tight and your list is long, getting it all done with kids underfoot is almost impossible.

Lean on your regular babysitter, a family member or swap babysitting with a friend.

Also, check in with your gym, kids’ play spaces and schools who may offer a few hours of care so you can get things done.

10 Ways To Deal With Picky Eaters When You’re Fed Up

10 Ways To Deal With Picky Eaters When You’re Fed Up

Having a kid who is a picky eater is one of the most frustrating parts about being a parent—right up there with potty training, sleepless nights and meltdowns.

Chances are, you’re already doing your best to offer plenty of healthy foods.

But try as you might, you can’t seem to put an end to the picky eating.

When you’re at your wit’s end and you’re ready to pull out your hair, it’s definitely easier to open up a box of mac and cheese and call it a day.

Yet raising healthy kids who will try, accept and even crave healthy foods isn’t something that happens overnight.

With some simple strategies however, it can be done. Let’s get started.

1. Recognize picky eating for what it is 

Many parents label their kids as picky eaters, but just because the behaviors are frustrating, that doesn’t mean it will be that way forever or that they have to define your child.

Picky eating is only a small, short-term obstacle to healthy eating.

Look at the bigger picture and realize that kids who eat healthy now are more likely to be healthy eaters throughout their lives, so it’s well-worth the effort.

 

2. Bring kids in the kitchen

When my kids are having meltdowns and it seems that no matter what I do, doesn’t work to get them to calm down, its extremely frustrating.

But when I’m empathic, hear them out and offer a hug, things usually get better.

Sometimes kids just need their cups refilled with quality time so rather than battling it out at the dinner table, try coming together in the kitchen.

Cooking with your kids is one of the best ways to teach them about healthy eating and it might be the way to end picky eating for good.

Empower your kids with choices: let them find a new recipe, then shop and cook the meal together.

At the very least, cooking can diffuse some of the frustration at the dinner table, create a positive environment around food, and slowly encourage your kids to be more adventurous eaters.

 

3. Have a play date

Children are more likely to do what other children do, and that includes eating.

According to a May 2016 study in the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior, preschoolers who saw a video of their peers eating a bell pepper ate more peppers themselves a week later and said they were more likely to eat the vegetable again.

If one of your child’s friends is a healthy eater, arrange for them to have a play date. Your kid might be interested in what his friend is eating and more likely to take a bite too.

This strategy can also work well with other family members, especially grandparents, who are skilled at getting kids to try just about anything they offer.

 

4. Serve bites, not portions

Studies show it can take serving small portions of the same food 15 to 20 times, before kids will even take a bite.

Instead of overwhelming your child with an entire plate, or even a portion of vegetables, try serving a tiny amount, such as a broccoli floret, a bean, or a piece of a shredded carrot.

 

5. Let kids play with their food

Kids who play with their food are more likely to try new flavors and a wider variety of foods, a July 2015 study in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics suggests.

Rather than pressuring your child to take a bite or bribe them with dessert if he eats his vegetables, encourage him to touch, smell, and even play with his food.

Talk about the shapes, colors, texture and aroma of the foods on his plate. If he takes a bite, that’s great, but the goal is to let him explore his food without feeling pressure to eat it.

6. Change the scenery

 Sometimes moving your meals to a different environment can make mealtimes more interesting and less stressful.

Try packing a picnic lunch and head to the park, eat on the patio instead of the dinner table or take lunch to a friend’s house.

7. Let kids choose what they want to eat

 When kids feel they have a say in what’s being served, they’ll be more likely to try it.

At dinner, serve a salad and a cooked vegetable or put out a buffet of leftovers and let your kids decide what they want on their plates.

Or take a trip to the farmers’ market and let you child choose a new vegetable to try.

8. Take stock of your kid’s diet

If kids are loading up on snacks throughout the day, they probably won’t be hungry for meals.

Snacks like crackers, chips and cookies—even those that are gluten-free, organic and have healthy ingredients like fruit and nuts—can crowd out the calories they should get from healthy foods.

Also, feeding kids processed snacks that are high in sugar and sodium train their taste buds to prefer those foods over healthy, whole foods, so it’s best to limit them as much as possible.

9. Talk to an expert

When you feel like you’ve done all you can to get your kid out of his picky eating habits, consider getting help from an expert.

A pediatric registered dietician nutritionist (RDN) will work with you to understand your child and your family and address all the factors at play. They can also help you set realistic goals and offer strategies and meal ideas to help your child try and eventually accept new foods.

To find an RDN, ask your pediatrician to make a referral or search the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics’ site, EatRight.org.

10. Stick with it

 It might seem that your kids will be picky eaters forever, especially if you have toddlers who are inherently picky, but most kids can become healthy, adventurous eaters.

The key is to continue to offer healthy foods and teach healthy eating habits every day. This simple shift in mindset can help you muster up the energy and dedication to stay the course and raise healthy-eating kids.

7 Healthy Holiday Baking Tips

7 Healthy Holiday Baking Tips

I love baking anytime of year, but during the holidays, it’s even more special.

As a child, I have fond memories of making chocolate-coconut Christmas cookies and these Betty Crocker candy cane cookies with my own mom.

Now that I have my own kids, I love holiday baking even more.

This year, my daughters and I will make Skinnytaste’s pumpkin pie for Thanksgiving and my grandmother’s famous cheesecake for Christmas (it’s a secret recipe). We’ll also make coconut macaroons and a few varieties of cookies for their teachers, bus drivers and volunteers at our church.

During the holiday season, it’s inevitable that your kids (and you!) will eat sugar.

The great thing about baking however, is that you can often make simple swaps and substitutions in your recipes that cut down on the calories, fat and sugar, add some nutrition and don’t change the taste much at all.

Here, read on for 7 healthy holiday baking tips to make your recipes even sweeter.

1. Upgrade your flour

White, refined flour lack nutrition and fiber and spikes your blood sugar, so I tend to avoid using it.

Since my kids eat a mainly gluten-free diet anyway, I usually swap all-purpose flour for gluten-free oats that I grind up in the food processor.

True, sometimes only all-purpose flour will do, but when it’s not going to change the taste or the texture, try oat flour, coconut flour or almond flour, all of which have more fiber.

Almond flour, in particular, is a good source of protein—7 grams in about a cup—, as well as vitamin E and healthy, monounsaturated fats.

In some recipes, you can swap in the same amount of flour, but others may require a different ratio of liquids. Try to find recipes that call for the specific type of flour you want to use or find out how to adjust your ingredients.

2. Cut down on sugar

 

Sweeteners like coconut sugar may have a lower glycemic index than table sugar, and less of an impact on blood sugar, but it’s not as low as say, broccoli.

What’s more, just because these sugars and others like honey are naturally derived, they’re still considered added sugars and should be limited in our diets.

Of course, the holidays are a special occasion so I don’t see a big deal in indulging in sweets. But if you’re planning back-to-back holiday events or you’re looking to cut back, you can cut the amount of sugar in a recipe by a 1/4 or a 1/3, which probably won’t make that much of a difference in the taste.

While pies, cakes and cookies usually need sugar to taste sweet, adding dried fruit like dates, raisins or cranberries to bread or muffin recipes can be a healthy, delicious substitute for sugar.

3. Make mini versions of your holiday favorites

 

One of the best ways to keep portions healthy for everyone is to create miniature cookies and desserts. Try mini muffin tins, mini loaf pans or ramekins for smaller, healthier holiday treats.

4. Mix in vegetables

Pureed or grated, vegetables like zucchini, carrots, beets, squash and pumpkin all add fiber, vitamins and minerals and antioxidants to a holiday dessert otherwise devoid of nutrition.

Vegetables also add flavor and moistness to breads, muffins and cakes.

5. Substitute avocado for butter or oil

While you’re adding vegetables, try fruit too—with an avocado.

Avocado is one of the healthiest foods you can feed your kids, especially because it’s high in fiber, has 20 vitamins and minerals and healthy, monounsaturated fats.

Avocado is also an easy, 1 to 1 substitute for butter or oil. I’ve found that it often makes cookies or muffins have a greenish hue, which isn’t a big deal if you’re enjoying them at home, but it might be if you’re giving them as gifts or bringing them to a party.

6. Add chia seeds

High in fiber, omega-3 fatty acids, potassium, iron and calcium, chia seeds are a super food.

When you’re baking, chia seeds can easily be incorporated into cookies, muffins, breads, pancakes and cakes. They don’t change the taste or the texture but you may have to add additional liquid ingredients because they can thicken up the batter.

7. Swap cream for Greek yogurt

When a recipe calls for cream cheese, sour cream or buttermilk, try using full fat or low fat Greek yogurt which is an excellent source of protein, vitamin B12 and potassium and helps to cut down on some of the calories and saturated fat.

10 Ways I’m Avoiding Holiday Weight Gain

10 Ways I’m Avoiding Holiday Weight Gain

Between all the family dinners, holiday parties and special events, the 5 or so weeks between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day are prime time for holiday weight gain.

Surprisingly, most people gain only about a pound during the holiday season, which doesn’t sound like much but it can take until summer to shed the weight, a September 2016 study in The New England Journal of Medicine found.

What’s more, with all those kids’ birthday parties, other holidays, dinners with friends, and date nights with your spouse and it’s easy to see how many of us pack on the pounds.

I, for one, have a serious sweet tooth and consider myself an emotional eater, so if there are desserts in the house, I’m going to eat them.

Although I eat healthy and I’m in great shape, it takes only one heavy meal or extra dessert for me to gain weight.

As I stare down the season of sweets and holiday spreads, I’m determined not to pack on the pounds. That’s not to say I’m not going to enjoy myself—I’m Italian-American after all—but there are some strategies I’ll be using to avoid holiday weight gain.

1. Avoid bringing holiday treats home

 

When you walk into any grocery store, convenience story or big box store during the holidays, you know how tempting all the decadent desserts, perfectly packaged cookies and holiday-themed treats can be.

There are aisles upon aisles of eggnog, red and green confections and peppermint-flavored everything.

Maybe you tell yourself you’ll buy them for teachers’ gifts or to put in your kids’ stockings, but once you get them home, you find yourself halfway through the package in minutes flat.

I’ve found myself doing this too and I’m not going to fall into that trap again this year.

Although I anticipate my kids will beg me for sweets, I won’t be bringing them into my home.

2. Hit the gym first thing in the morning.

I already exercise 5 to 6 days a week but a holiday party or staying up late to scour Amazon for gifts could easily derail my normal workout routine.

Still, I know that hitting the gym first thing in the morning lowers my cortisol level, burns off adrenaline and sets the tone for the day.

Plus, when I leave BODYCOMBAT feeling like a rock star, I know I’m more likely to make healthy food choices throughout the day.

In fact, science backs it up.

According to an October 2012 study in the journal Medicine and Science In Sports and Exercise, women who exercise in the morning for 45 minutes are less motivated by food and are more active overall.

3. Avoid late night snacking

I’ve been trying my best to curb the night snacking for quite awhile, but with several holiday dinners already on the schedule, I’m determined to keep up the habit to prevent packing on the pounds.
 

4. Fill up on vegetables

Vegetables, particularly the green leafy types, are low in calories, high in fiber and take up space in your stomach which promotes satiety and prevents overeating.

When I’m at home, I’ll be sure to fill up my plate 50 percent worth of green leafy vegetables like salad, broccoli and Brussels sprouts.

5. Be a picky eater

When there are passed hors d’oeuvres or a buffet dinner at a holiday party, I tend to have a little bit of everything until my plate is way too full.

This season, I’m going to head into the holiday parties with a new mindset.

I’ll take stock of what’s being offered and then choose 1 or 2 foods I really love, I won’t eat any other time during the year or those I have never tried.

6. Send leftovers packing

Leftover vegetables are always great to have on hand, but I don’t want to things like stuffing, potatoes, and desserts in my house tempting me after the holidays.

Since we’ll be hosting all of the holidays this year, I’m asking my guests to bring to-go containers so they can take home the leftovers.

 

7. Drink plenty of water

With the busyness of the holiday season, it’s easy to forget to drink enough water. Not only can dehydration often be mistaken for hunger, but drinking water before a meal can prevent overeating. 

To prevent holiday weight gain this season, I’m going to make it a point to drink plenty of water throughout the day and definitely before a holiday party.

8. Eat mindfully

Emotional eating and mindless eating go hand in hand, and often times the stress of the holidays leads me to overeat.

If I’m sitting at the dinner table after we’ve eaten and the food is still there, I often find myself going for seconds.

To curb mindless eating, I’ve been reading Dr. Susan Albers’ books. Implementing her tips such as eating slowly, putting my fork down in between bites and accessing whether I’m really hungry or just want another taste has really helped.

9. Eat before  holiday parties

If you know there will be a large spread of food at the event, it might seem like a good idea to skip meals or starve yourself beforehand, but that can backfire and cause you to overeat.

This can be tough especially if dinner is served at 3pm, when you’re not hungry for dinner but will be extremely hungry if your last meal was breakfast.

When this is the case, I’ll continue to eat the same meals and at the same time, although I may cut back on my portions.

Or if there will be several hours between lunch and dinner for example, I’ll have a small snack like carrots and hummus or a handful of almonds, before I leave.

10. Get plenty of sleep

When I stay up too late doing something meaningful (writing this blog) or time-sucking and frivolous (scrolling through my Facebook feed), it completely throws me off the next day.

My workout suffers and because I’m tired, I’m much more likely to snack, even on healthy foods like fruit and nuts.

I’m also not a very happy mother or wife to be around. 

Although there will probably be some late nights that will be unavoidable, my goal is to get to bed on time and clock at least 8 hours of shut-eye.