9 Cheap Healthy Foods Under $2

9 Cheap Healthy Foods Under $2

When it comes to my family’s budget, one of our largest line items is food. Each week, I spend anywhere between $150 and $250 dollars on groceries. Although none of it goes to waste—my kids are good eaters—it drives me crazy to spend so much to eat healthy.

Although I find ways to lower our grocery bill such as by buying foods in bulk, eating less meat and more plant-based meals, and shopping sales, it seems that whole, fresh foods are usually pricier than foods in a box, can or package. Aside for a few select items, these foods are highly processed, high in sodium, and low in nutrition.

Still, that doesn’t mean it’s not possible to find cheap healthy foods that are nutritious and won’t put a huge dent in your grocery bill.

Prices will vary depending on where you live and if you purchase organic, for example, but here is a solid list of 10 cheap healthy foods to add to your shopping list.

1. Frozen spinach

I prefer fresh vegetables over frozen because I think you get more bang for your buck, but frozen vegetables like spinach, can also be a good way to shave money off your grocery bill.

Frozen vegetables may actually be healthier than fresh varieties since they’re picked at their peak freshness and flash frozen.

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.

Spinach is packed with nutrition and a good source of protein, fiber, vitamins A, C, E, B6, folate, calcium, iron, magnesium, and potassium.

Spinach is also a good source of lutein, a carotenoid, which research suggests may improve brain health.

In fact, two studies from Abbott and the University of Illinois found children who had higher levels of lutein performed better when they were faced with tough cognitive tasks and they had higher scores on standardized tests.

Average cost: $.28 cents per serving

2. Pureed pumpkin

With 22 vitamins and minerals including vitamins A, C, and E, pureed, canned pumpkin is one of the best cheap healthy foods.

Pumpkin is also rich in lutein and beta-carotene, an antioxidant and plant pigment that gives the fruit its bright orange color.

You can add pureed pumpkin to waffles, pancakes, muffins and breads or eat it straight out of the can like my daughter does, but you’ll probably want to add some cinnamon and maybe a bit of honey. Pureed pumpkin also make a great first food for baby.

Average cost: $.52 cents per serving

Related: 6 Surprising Health Benefits of Pumpkin

3. Beans

Beans are high in both protein and fiber and an excellent source of iron.

Canned beans cost more than dried beans, but either one is still very affordable.

Add beans to rice and pasta dishes, incorporate them into soups, stews and chilis or serve them as an appetizer that your kids can munch on while you’re cooking dinner.

Average cost: $.29 cents a serving (canned); $.11 cents a serving (dried)

4. Brown rice

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend 50 percent of the grains we eat be made up of whole grains, which have more nutrients and fiber than white, refined grains.

Brown rice is a great whole grain option because it’s a good source of protein, fiber, selenium, and manganese.

Since all types of rice (organic included), have been found to have high levels of arsenic, rinse rice before cooking, then drain the water and rinse again and at least one more time while cooking. Another good tip is to use as much water as you would when you cook pasta. 

Average cost: $.10 cents a serving

5. Tuna fish

Fish is one of the healthiest foods you can feed your kids. It’s packed with protein, low in saturated fat, rich in micronutrients, and an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids, which support brain health and memory.

Although many types of fish can be expensive, canned tuna fish is by far one of the most affordable.

It’s important however, to pick the right type of tuna since mercury is a concern.

Although albacore/white tuna is OK for kids to eat, the FDA and EPA recommend you limit it to one serving a week.

Tuna, canned light (including skipjack) on the other hand, have the lowest levels of mercury and are considered the safest.

Average cost: $1.30 cents per serving

Related: What Types of Fish Are Safe for Kids?

6. Peanut butter

The quintessential kid-friendly food, peanut butter is packed with protein: two tablespoons has 8 grams—plus filling fiber and healthy fats.

When choosing peanut butter however, it’s important to read labels carefully. Many brands are made with hydrogenated oils, added sugars including high-fructose corn syrup and fillers.

Choose brands that are made with peanuts (and list it as the first ingredient) and salt, depending on your preference.

Average cost: $.21 cents per serving

7. Edamame

An excellent source of protein, fiber, iron and magnesium, edamame (soybeans) are also high in calcium.

Edamame is quick and easy to prepare and lend themselves to almost any meal and can be served as a snack.

You can purchase edamame fresh or frozen, but look for those that are already shelled to save time. 

Average cost: $.83 cents per serving

8. Baby carrots

Carrots are one of the best cheap healthy foods thanks to vitamins A, C, K, B6, folate, iron, potassium and fiber: 1/2 cup has nearly 3 grams

Add carrots to salads, roast them as a healthy side dish, or pair them with hummus.

Average cost: $.28 cents per serving

9. Canned tomatoes

Tomatoes are a good source of fiber, calcium, potassium, vitamins A and C, and choline.

Tomatoes also contain lycopene, a type of carotenoid that protects the eyes from damage and keeps them healthy.

A can of whole, diced, or crushed tomatoes is always a good thing to have on hand for quick and easy dinners. Use tomatoes to make a quick pasta sauce, or add them to chili or soups.

Average cost: $.28 cents per serving

Related: 8 Supermarket Shortcut Foods To Make Healthy Eating Easy

8 Tips for Traveling and Flying With Breast Milk

8 Tips for Traveling and Flying With Breast Milk

If you need to travel for work or you’re planning a getaway, chances are, you’ll have a lot of questions about traveling and flying with breast milk, whether or not your baby will be with you.

Breastfeeding and pumping are no easy feats even when you’re in the comfort of your home.

But when you travel and go through the airport, there are more things to think about.

For example, how much breast milk can you take through airport security? Can you bring your breast pump on the plane? How to store breast milk properly? And how to ship breast milk?

Here are questions to those answers and more.

1. Know the TSA rules for flying with breast milk

Breast milk doesn’t fall under the TSA’s 3-1-1 liquids rule, so you can bring more than 3.4 ounces through airport security and it doesn’t have to be stored in a quart-sized bag.

The TSA says “reasonable quantities” are OK, so although that’s not very specific to breastfeeding moms who count every ounce, you probably shouldn’t bring a freezer full of pumped breast milk, for example.

The TSA also allows breastfeeding moms to bring ice packs, freezer packs, frozen gel packs and cooler bags. If they’re partially frozen or slushy however, they will screen them.

Before going through airport security, remove your pumped breastmilk and present it to the TSA officer for inspection. They will likely screen the breast milk by x-ray.

If the breast milk is frozen, they shouldn’t have to inspect it.

If they decide to test the breast milk, they may ask you to open the container and pour some into another container.

Don’t want them to? They can do additional screenings of the breast milk but be sure to ask the agent to change into clean gloves.

2. Know the TSA breast pump policy

 

The TSA breast pump policy allows you to bring your breast pump in your carry- on bag or checked luggage.

Although the FDA says breast pumps are medical devices and as a result, they shouldn’t be counted as your carry-on item, some airlines may not consider them as such.

Since many airlines also charge baggage fees, it’s probably a good idea to confirm with them before your flight.


3. Pack your breast pump parts

 

If you’ll be pumping on the plane, make sure you bring everything you need including all of your breast pump parts, bottles, bags and a cover up.

Although I don’t recommend washing your pump parts in the airplane restroom, you can either wash them when you land in the airport bathroom or at your destination or use Medela’s breast pump and accessory sanitizer.


4. Map out a place to pump

Many airports have the Mamava lactation pods for moms to have a private place to pump. Some airports also have lactation lounges or nursing rooms.

You can also contact your airline ahead of time so find out if there is a private lounge or room you can use.

If all else fails, head to a family restroom and look for one with an outlet if your pump isn’t battery-powered.


5. Ask the hotel about a mini-fridge or freezer


Check with the hotel ahead of time to see if they offer a mini-fridge to store your pumped breast milk.

If they don’t, you may be able to request one or ask them to store your breast milk in a central refrigerator or freezer.

You can also ask them to freeze your ice packs or fill up your cooler with ice before you leave.

For specific guidelines on how to store breast milk, KellyMom.com has a helpful chart.


6. Look into breast milk shipping services


If you won’t be traveling with your baby and need to ship your expressed breast milk home, there are options.

You can try FedEx’s cold shipping service  or Milk Stork, a woman-owned company that also offers a “pump and tote” option

7. Bring what you need for traveling with breastmilk by car


If you’ll be driving, check to see if your breast pump has a car adapter so you don’t have to find a place on the road to pump.

Although it takes more work and isn’t as powerful as an electric pump, a manual pump can help.

If you’ll be taking a road trip and bringing breast milk with you, store your breast milk in a freezer bag or cooler with ice, ice packs or freezer packs.

If you’ll be traveling for several hours, you might consider using dry ice to transport your breast milk.


8. Plan ahead for traveling with breastmilk on a cruise


If you’ll be taking a cruise, it’s a good idea to contact the cruise line ahead of time.

Ask about the types of outlets available in the stateroom and if there is a mini-bar available to store pumped breast milk.

If you’re concerned that the mini-bar isn’t cold enough, so you can ask the stateroom steward for a larger refrigerator or ice for your cooler.

If not, ask the cruise line if they can store your breast milk in a central refrigerator or freezer.

What are your tips for traveling and flying with breast milk? Let me know in the comments!

 

6 Habits of Healthy Dads  Healthy dads put their health, themselves and their families first.

6 Habits of Healthy Dads

Healthy dads put their health, themselves and their families first.

Whether you’re a new dad or a seasoned pro, there’s no doubt you want to be the best dad ever.

But being a great father goes way beyond teaching your kid to ride a bike or throw a ball.

Happy, healthy dads make certain habits a priority in their lives so they can be great parents and spouses.

Here, learn 6 habits of healthy dads that can make you a better, stronger father.


1. Healthy dads see their doctors


According to a 2018 survey by the Cleveland Clinic, only 60 percent of men see their doctors for a yearly check-up.

Whether it’s because you don’t think your health is a huge concern or it’s something you don’t talk about—53 percent agree, the survey found—it’s important to re-think your old ways.

Studies show women live nearly 5 years longer than men, and avoiding their doctors is one of the reasons why.

An annual physical with your primary care doctor can prevent and identify early signs of conditions like heart disease, type-2 diabetes, and prostate cancer and ensure you’re getting the screenings you need.

Regularly visits can also help your doctor identify symptoms that may actually be signs of serious medical conditions. For example, snoring and high blood pressure are symptoms of obstructive sleep apnea, and erectile dysfunction can be a sign of type-2 diabetes or blocked arteries.

So make that appointment—and put an end to your wife’s nagging once and for all.


2. They don’t smoke


The amount of smokers have declined over the years, but more than 15 percent of men in the U.S. still smoke.

Smoking is the leading cause of preventable disease and death, and accounts for about 1 in 5 deaths every year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC),

Although you know secondhand smoke is unhealthy, thirdhand smoke has garnered a lot of attention in recent years because of its dangers, especially to kids.

Thirdhand smoke is the residue from smoking on the smoker’s clothes, hair, and car, as well as the carpet, furniture and walls of the smoker’s home. 

A January 2019 study in the journal Tobacco Insights found not smoking around kids doesn’t prevent them from being exposed to nicotine.

Not only do kids inhale the dangerous chemicals, but since they’re always putting their hands in their mouths, they’re ingesting it too.

Higher levels of exposure to thirdhand smoke may also be linked to respiratory problems like wheezing and coughing, the same study found.

Quitting smoking isn’t easy but there is support available. Check out resources from the CDC, SmokeFree.gov and the American Lung Association.


3. They do their best to eat healthy

 

 

Although you might think you’re a “big guy” or your beer belly is endearing, carrying extra lbs anywhere in your body could kill you.

More than 73 percent of men are overweight or obese in the U.S., according to the CDC.

Obesity is associated with an increased risk for heart disease, stroke, type-2 diabetes, certain types of cancer and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), an epidemic and silent killer.

Research shows men who aren’t considered overweight are at risk too.

A December 2015 study in the Annals of Internal Medicine found men who carry weight around their midsection, even if they’re slim in other areas of their body, have twice the mortality risk of men who are only overweight or obese.

Overhauling your diet isn’t going to happen overnight, especially if you’ve been eating that way for years.

But making changes and creating new, healthy habits can make a huge difference in your health.

Small changes might include bringing a healthy lunch to work instead of ordering in, put an end to snacking in front of the TV, or adding extra veggies to your meals.

Related: 8 Ways To Eat Healthy When Dad Doesn’t

 

4. They make exercise a priority

You might think the goal of your workout is only to get bigger and stronger, but exercise is vital to your physical, mental and emotional health too, something healthy dads already know.

Exercise can:

  • Prevent weight gain
  • Improve blood glucose levels
  • Lower cholesterol and triglyceride levels
  • Lower risk of heart disease
  • Improve your brain health
  • Strengthen your bones and muscles
  • Reduce the risk of certain types of cancer
  • Improve sleep
  • Boost mood and combat stress
  • Improve sexual function
  • Improve longevity

Of course, whether you have toddlers or big kids, staying in shape can also help you keep up with them.

Joining a gym is an obvious first start, but if it’s not your thing, there are so many ways to get in more physical activity.

Look for organized sports leagues, running or cycling groups, or sign up for a fitness app you can do in the privacy of your home.

 

5. Healthy dads find ways to cope with stress

The World Health Organization recently announced that burnout is a syndrome, linked to chronic work stress, and suffice to say, most men are at risk.

According to a survey by LinkedIn, 50 percent of men say work stress, workload and lack of work/life balance top the list of reasons.

High levels of chronic stress can also lead to anxiety and depression.

A September 2018 study in JAMA Pediatrics found more than 4 percent of fathers of young children screened positive for depression—almost as much as mothers (5 percent).

It’s important to address stress, because left unchecked, it will only get worse.

Make time for downtime, take up a new hobby, seek out a mentor or get a referral for a therapist.

If you also struggle with anxiety, depression, past trauma or addiction, there is help available.

Seek support through the National Alliance on Mental Health (NAMI), the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA) or an organization like Celebration Recovery.

 

6. Healthy dads make time for their partners

 

 

Once the baby comes along, it’s easy for all romance, or any time for each other for that matter, to go out the window.

According to a 2011 study conducted by the American Psychological Association, 67 percent of couples say their marital satisfaction took a nosedive after having a baby.

Research shows this dissatisfaction can also increase the chances for children to have poor social skills, develop depression and behavioral problems.

Couples who make time for date nights, or carve out time for each other on a regular basis, have happier, healthier marriages.

The good news is that date nights don’t necessarily have to be dinner and movie.

A February 2019 study in the Journal Of Marriage and Family found painting or playing a board game may increase levels of oxytocin, “the love hormone,” even more.

6 Unhealthy Habits To Avoid During Pregnancy

6 Unhealthy Habits To Avoid During Pregnancy

From the minute you find out you’re pregnant, your brain gets flooded with questions. From what to eat and what to avoid, how to deal with morning sickness and pregnancy constipation, and which types of activities are safe, there’s a lot to think about.

When it comes to having a healthy pregnancy, you already know that smoking, vaping, alcohol and certain medications are off limits. Yet there are other unhealthy habits to avoid during pregnancy because they could affect you and your baby’s health now and down the line. Here are 6.


1. Eating too much


According to a recent survey by the International Food Information Council Foundation (IFIC), only 13 percent of people say they always stop eating when they’ve had enough, a trend which is affecting how many women start out their pregnancies.

In fact, only 45 percent of women have a normal weight when they become pregnant and new research suggests, when it comes to a woman’s risk for complications, pre-pregnancy weight is more important than pregnancy weight gain. 

During pregnancy, the “eat for two” mentality has also become an issue, with 47 percent of women who gain more than the recommended amount of weight.

Weight gain is associated with a higher risk for gestational diabetes, preeclampsia, sleep apnea, preterm birth, birth defects, problems during labor and delivery and a higher risk for c-sections.

Research also suggests babies born to obese moms are more likely to be overweight themselves and may be at risk for poor developmental outcomes.

Excess weight gain can also make it harder to lose the weight after you give birth.

In the first trimester, you actually don’t need to consume extra calories. If you have a normal body mass index (BMI), an extra 340 calories a day during the second trimester and an extra 450 calories a day in the third trimester is appropriate, according to the American Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

If you’re carrying twins or multiples, or you’re underweight, overweight or obese when you become pregnant, you should talk to your doctor or a registered dietitian nutritionist to make sure you’re getting the right amount of calories for a healthy weight gain.

2. Not eating enough


It should come as no surprise that dieting is one of the unhealthy habits to avoid during pregnancy. 

While most women gain too much weight during pregnancy, a June 2017 study in the Journal of the American Medical Association found 23 percent of women don’t gain enough to meet the recommendations.

Of course this could be due to hyperemesis gravidarum (HG), or extreme morning sickness, a loss of appetite or a medical condition, but some women may actually restrict their calories.

In fact, one survey found nearly 50 percent of pregnant women admitted to cutting calories, eliminating entire food groups and eating a lot of low-calorie and low-fat foods. A few women said they even turned to fasting, cleansing, purging and using diet pills and laxatives.

Low pregnancy weight gain is associated with delivering a premature baby, a baby who is too small and may have difficulty starting breastfeeding, and an increased risk for illness and developmental delays, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Low pregnancy weight gain can also increase a child’s risk for obesity.

According to a September 2014 study in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, women who had a normal body mass index (BMI) before pregnancy and gained less than the recommended amount of weight during pregnancy were 63 percent more likely to have a child who was overweight or obese compared to women who gained the recommended amount of weight.

You might be worried about gaining too much pregnancy weight or losing the baby weight after you give birth but pregnancy isn’t the time to diet.

Be sure to check out the pregnancy weight gain recommendations which take into account your pre-pregnancy weight and if you’re having one baby or multiples.

 

3. Being sedentary


Between morning sickness, mood swings and exhaustion, heading to the gym may not be on the top of your list, but being sedentary—even sitting at a desk all day—can affect your pregnancy and your baby’s health.

According to a March 2017 study in the International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity, pregnant women spend 50 percent of their time in sedentary behaviors, which is associated with higher levels of high cholesterol, inflammation and fetal macrosomia, or an infant who is born significantly larger—more than 8 pounds, 13 ounces.

Fetal macrosomia affects between 3 and 15 percent of all pregnancies and is associated with pregnancy complications and health risks to the baby.

Gestational diabetes, preeclampsia due to diabetes, having a previous infant with fetal macrosomia, pre-pregnancy weight and pregnancy weight gain are all risk factors.

Yet studies show women who stay active during pregnancy have a lower risk of excess weight gain and macrosomia and are less likely to have a caesarean section.

Establishing an exercise habit during pregnancy will also make it more likely that you’ll stick with it after you deliver—and for years to come.

 

See: 9 Amazing Benefits of Exercise During Pregnancy [VIDEO]

 

4. Eating too much fake food and sugar


Cravings for salty and sweet foods may be in full force and although it’s probably OK to indulge occasionally if you have a normal, healthy pregnancy, avoiding fast food, processed, packaged foods and foods high in sugar is ideal.

Studies suggest a poor pregnancy diet can increase a child’s risk for allergies and preference for high fat, high sugar foods and affect behavior.

In fact, an October 2013 study in the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry found mothers who eat more unhealthy foods high in sugar, salt and refined carbohydrates have children with increased behavioral problems such as aggression and tantrums.

Eating a healthy pregnancy diet is critical to support your baby’s growth and development and prevent pregnancy complications.

5. Overdoing the coffee


If you’re like me and can’t talk to anyone in the morning until you’ve had a cup of coffee and then need several more throughout the day, breaking your addiction can be a tough one.

Although the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) say the research is unclear as to whether caffeine consumption increases the risk for miscarriage and preterm birth, they advise pregnant women to limit their overall caffeine consumption from all sources (coffee, tea, soda and chocolate) to 200 milligrams a day.

To put that in perspective, an 8-ounce regular coffee is 95 milligrams of caffeine so have two and you’re at your max for the day. For specific recommendations about caffeine, check out this chart on BabyCenter.com.

6. Letting stress get the best of you


Between your hormones, physical changes and discomforts, and concerns about your pregnancy, labor and delivery, and how your life may change, there’s a lot that can make you feel stressed out.

It’s well known that stress can affect your health, but during pregnancy, it’s even more important to pay attention to.

Not to give you more stress, but stress can lead to high blood pressure and studies suggest high levels of stress, anxiety and depression can increase the risk for pre-term birth.

Finding ways to better cope with stress can help you have a healthy, happy pregnancy and establish a healthy habit when you become a mom.

Carve out time for yourself every day to do deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation or meditation, for example.

Go for a massage, take a yoga class, soak in the bath, listen to music, exercise and connect with friends.

For more tips, read 10 Tips For Being A Happy, Healthy Mom

If you’ve been feeling anxious, depressed or just not like yourself, seek help. The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) and Postpartum Support International are two resources.

11 Best Books About Kids’ Nutrition & Healthy Eating

11 Best Books About Kids’ Nutrition & Healthy Eating

You don’t need to be a pediatrician or a nutritionist to raise kids who eat healthy but like all things when it comes to parenting, getting more information, advice and support makes the job a little easier.

This list of kids’ nutrition books include information about healthy eating, picky eating advice, and how to navigate issues like food allergies, sensory problems and food industry marketing.

I selected these books because they have high ratings, are written by leading kids’ nutrition experts or because I’ve enjoyed reading some of them myself.

Happy reading!

1. Adventures in Veggieland: Help Your Kids Learn to Love Vegetables―with 100 Easy Activities and Recipes, by Melanie Potock, MA, CCC-SLP.

2. Raising a Healthy, Happy Eater: A Parent’s Handbook: A Stage-by-Stage Guide to Setting Your Child on the Path to Adventurous Eating, by Nimali Fernando, MD, MPH and Melanie Potock, MA, CCC-SLP.

3. Helping Your Child with Extreme Picky Eating: A Step-by-Step Guide for Overcoming Selective Eating, Food Aversion, and Feeding Disorders, by Katja Rowell, MD, and Jenny McGlothlin, MS, CCC-SLP.

4. It’s Not About the Broccoli: Three Habits to Teach Your Kids for a Lifetime of Healthy Eating, by Dina Rose, PhD.

5. The Pediatrician’s Guide to Feeding Babies and Toddlers: Practical Answers To Your Questions on Nutrition, Starting Solids, Allergies, Picky Eating, and More (For Parents, By Parents), by Anthony Porto, MD, MPH and Dina DiMaggio, MD.

6. Fearless Feeding: How to Raise Healthy Eaters From High Chair to High School, by Jill Castle, MS, RDN and Maryann Jacobsen, MS, RD.

7. Try New Food: How to Help Picky Eaters Taste, Eat & Like New Foods by Jill Castle, RDN

8. Born to Eat: Whole, Healthy Foods From Baby’s First Bite by Leslie Schilling, MA, RDN and Wendy Jo Peterson, MS, RDN

9. The Clean-Eating Kid: Grocery Store Food Swaps for an Anti-Inflammatory Diet by Jenny Carr.

10. Kid Food: The Challenge of Feeding Children in a Highly Processed World, by Bettina Elias Siegel. 

11. Cure Your Child With Food: The Hidden Connection Between Nutrition and Childhood Ailments, by Kelly Dorfman, MS, LDN

What books about kids’ nutrition and healthy eating have you found to be helpful? Let me know in the comments.

5 Reasons Strawberries Are Healthy For Kids  The quintessential summer time fruit most kids love are super-healthy too.

5 Reasons Strawberries Are Healthy For Kids

The quintessential summer time fruit most kids love are super-healthy too.

There’s nothing better than the taste of fresh, sweet, succulent strawberries—the quintessential summer time fruit that most kids love.

In fact, 94 percent of U.S. households eat strawberries—nearly 5 pounds a year!

And 53 percent of young kids say strawberries are their favorite type of fruit.

The spring and summer months are prime time for picking strawberries, which is not only fun to do with your kids, but it can put an end to picky eating.

When it comes to choosing strawberries, organic is best since the Environmental Working Group (EWG)’s ranks them #1 on their Dirty Dozen list of fruits and vegetables highest in pesticides.

If organic isn’t within your budget however, the benefits of eating conventionally grown strawberries still outweigh the risks.

Here are 5 reasons strawberries are healthy for kids.

1. Strawberries are loaded with nutrition

Strawberries are one of the best superfoods you can feed your kids.

One cup of strawberries have nearly 150 percent of the daily value of vitamin C.

Strawberries are high in fiber and manganese, and a good source of potassium, calcium and magnesium.

Strawberries are also rich in antioxidants that have been shown to ward off certain types of cancer.

Studies show eating strawberries may reduce the risk for cardiovascular disease, stroke and hypertension.

2. Strawberries can prevent and treat constipation

Constipation is a common problems for kids. In fact, nearly 5 percent of pediatrician visits are because of constipation, according to a report in the Journal of Pediatric Health Care.

With 3 grams of fiber in every cup and a high water content, eating strawberries can help prevent constipation and get things moving again.

3. Strawberries might prevent type-2 diabetes

Rates of type-2 diabetes are on the rise in kids— a result in part, due to childhood obesity and diets high in processed foods.

Between 2008 and 2009, more than 5,000 kids were diagnosed with type-2 diabetes. Plus, and April 2017 study published in the New England Journal of Medicine showed the rate of newly diagnosed cases of type-2 diabetes in children between ages 10 and 19 increased by 4.8 percent.

Although kids should eat a wide variety of fruits to get the most nutrition, strawberries are healthy for kids because they have a low glycemic load—a measurement of a food’s impact on blood sugar.

In fact, a small study published in  February 2016 in the journal Molecular Nutrition and Food Research found eating strawberries may improve insulin resistance and prevent type-2 diabetes.

4. Strawberries support healthy eyes

Strawberries are one of the best foods to support kids’ eye health.

Vitamin C is necessary for proper eye function and their antioxidants may prevent cataracts and age-related macular degeneration.

These are not concerns when kids are young of course, but teaching kids healthy eating habits now will set the stage for healthy eating in the future.

5. Strawberries encourage healthy eating

Kids love their sweets but before you dish out candy, cake or cookies, try serving strawberries.

Strawberries can satisfy a sweet tooth and make for a healthy, delicious swap for a high-sugar dessert, even if your kids refuse to eat dinner.

What’s more, if you can add strawberries to the list of foods your kid will eat, he may be more likely to try and love other new fruits too.

Do your kids love strawberries? What are your favorite ways to serve them? Let me know in the comments.

10 Tips for Being a Happy, Healthy Mom

10 Tips for Being a Happy, Healthy Mom

You know those moms on Instagram who have perfectly blown out hair and flawless make-up and they look like the happiest moms around?

Or maybe you know a mom like that in your local community or from your kid’s school.

I sure do and I don’t like it.

Most of the time, I’m a hot mess: my hair is in a ponytail, I have no make-up on whatsoever, and I’m dressed in workout gear.

I often fall into the comparison camp, wondering, why can’t I pull it together like they do? 

What I’ve learned throughout the years as a mom, is moms don’t have it all together and if someone tells you they do, they’re in denial or lying.

Being a mom is the hardest, most exhausting job you’ll ever have and one that never has a day off.

Unfortunately, I don’t think we can have it all, despite what society tells us. There will be some element of sacrifice, trade-off, or not feeling the same way you did before you had kids.

It’s uncomfortable and disheartening for sure, but I think it’s part of being a mom.

That’s not to say however, that you can’t be a happy, healthy mom. Here are 10 easy, realistic tips that can help you re-gain your former self.

1. Carve out me-time

A few years ago, my therapist told me that just like on a plane, “you need to put on your oxygen mask first.”

I knew she was right, but with all that I had to do in any given day, it seemed impossible—and most of the time, it still does.

I usually put everyone’s needs before my own and as a result, I feel depleted, anxious, stressed and overall, unhealthy.

I won’t suggest that it’s easy to find time for yourself, because it definitely isn’t.

I also don’t claim to do it well, but in the last year or so, I’ve done a better job at carving out time for myself.

Although it’s not trips to the spa or countless hours curled up with a good novel, it is more intentional: 20 to 30 minutes in the morning to read the Bible or a devotional and pray. Or 30 minutes at night to read.  Or blocking out my calendar to take my favorite classes at the gym.

It can be difficult to make time for yourself, but if you don’t do it, no one else will.

 

 

 

2. Eat healthy

When there’s so much to do and not a lot of time, or you have a new baby at home, getting healthy meals on the table can be challenging.

Avoiding fast food, and processed, packaged foods and a ton of sugar and focusing on fresh, healthy, whole-foods however, is one of the best things you can do to be a healthy, happy mom.

When you model how to eat healthy for your kids, they’ll be more likely to want to eat healthy too. You also won’t have to deal with a ton of picky eating and power struggles at the table.

A misnomer about preparing healthy meals is that it’s time consuming but nothing could be further from the truth. By doing some prep work on the weekends, cooking in bulk and sticking to the basics, you can get dinner on the table in no time.

3. Eat breakfast

You know breakfast is the most important meal of the day for your kids, but it’s for you as well.

A healthy breakfast is important because it gives you energy, prevents low blood sugar—and that hangry feeling—and prevents overeating throughout the day.

While the jury is still out on whether eating breakfast prevents weight gain, there is evidence that skipping breakfast is linked to high blood pressure, high cholesterol type-2 diabetes and heart disease.

In fact, an April 2019 study in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology found that people who skip breakfast have an 87 percent increased risk of cardiovascular-related death compared to those who eat breakfast every day.

Starting the day off with breakfast can also make it more likely that you’ll make healthy choices throughout the day. According to a March 2016 study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, overweight adults who eat breakfast are more likely to be physically active in the morning.

4. Keep healthy snacks on hand

When late afternoon hunger strikes, your energy levels are dipping and you’re vying for a pick-me-up, a coffee run can help but you should also fuel up with healthy snacks.

Instead of relying on something in a bag, box or canister, have foods like fruits and vegetables, nuts, seeds and nut butters, or Greek yogurt on hand.

Take the guesswork out of snacks by washing, prepping and cutting up your fruits and vegetables ahead of time and setting aside individual grab-and-go containers or re-sealable plastic food bags.

5. Get moving

A sweat session at the gym makes me feel like a rock star. Not only does exercise prevent me from gaining weight, it has made me physically stronger.

Since I also deal with anxiety and depression, it’s a must-have to boost my mood.

Of course, the benefits of exercise are endless: a lower risk for chronic health conditions and cancer, improved brain health, better sleep and a longer life.

According to the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, adults should get at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity activity or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity throughout the week. But if all you can do is 15 minutes, it’s better than nothing.

If you don’t enjoy going to the gym, you can still get a great workout at home or in your community.

Walking, running, biking, swimming or using one of the many fitness apps at home can be a fun and realistic way to fit it in.

To ensure it nothing else gets in the way, make an appointment with yourself and block it out on your calendar.

I like to work out in the early morning because I tend to lose motivation as the day goes on. But maybe after-dinner or your lunch hour are the best times. Whenever it is, find a way that works for you.

6. Prioritize your sleep

Sleep is important for your physical and mental health: it affects your hormones, immune system, appetite and your overall function.

But getting enough sleep is pretty much a pipe dream for most moms, whether they have babies or big kids.

Also, when you finally settle in at night, doing something for yourself may feel more important than sleep. Although it’s not easy, on the nights when you can turn in 30 minutes or an hour earlier, do so.

7. Find ways to relax 

Yoga and meditation are excellent ways to relax and cope with stress and anxiety, but it’s also important to find something that’s realistic and works for you.

Perhaps it’s reading, watching an inspirational video, doing a visualization exercise or calling a friend to talk.

 

8. Practice gratitude

There will always be someone else who is smarter, has more money or seems to have been dealt a better deck, but practicing gratitude as much as possible—even every day—is a proven way to increase happiness.

In fact, a May 2016 study in the journal Psychotherapy Research found people who wrote letters to others about gratitude reported improved mental health compared to those who wrote about negative experiences or only received counseling.

 

9. Have sex

Whether you’re trying to conceive or not, sex is one of the best things you can do to be a healthy, happy mom.

Sure, you’re probably exhausted at the end of the day but sex is pleasurable, builds intimacy with your partner, and is associated with marital bliss over time.

Sex has other physical and mental health benefits: a stronger immune system, reduced risk of heart disease and hypertension, less headaches, improved sleep, better brain health, less stress, better self-esteem and a longer life.

10. Recognize when you need help

Postpartum depression affects approximately 1 in 10 women nationwide but it often goes unrecognized and is not always an easy, clear-cut diagnosis, especially because the signs can be subtle.

While there’s a big focus on postpartum depression, what you should know is that moms also suffer with depression and anxiety when they’re pregnant or years after they’ve given birth.

If you’ve been feeling anxious, depressed or just not like yourself, there’s nothing wrong with getting help, or at the very least, talking to a friend. To find resources in your area, reach out to Postpartum Support International.

What are some things that help you to be a healthy, happy mom? Let me know in the comments.

6 Facts About Child Hunger in the U.S. + What You Can Do

6 Facts About Child Hunger in the U.S. + What You Can Do

We live in one of the wealthiest countries in the world, and yet, the U.S. is home to millions of children who go hungry every day.

If you’re able to put food on the table every day and never have to worry about feeding your kids, it can be really hard to wrap your head around this issue, as it was for me.

I wondered, what does it really mean when kids “go hungry?”

Living in a food insecure household can mean a family doesn’t have food in their home and not enough money to purchase it.

Some families may have food, but not enough to feed their families each month. As a result, parents may skip meals or cut back on their kids’ portions.

The reasons for food insecurity are complicated, but there are some important facts about child hunger you should know. Here are 5.

 

1. Children go hungry regardless of where they live

According to a 2017 report by No Kid Hungry, 1 in 6 kids in the U.S.— an estimated 13 million—face hunger. 

A misconception is that food insecure families only live in low-income areas. In fact, 93 percent of Americans don’t believe they know children in their neighborhood who go to school hungry, a 2019 report found.

Yet kids in affluent communities are certainly affected. According to a 2019 report by Feeding America, every U.S. county and congressional district has people who face hunger, at a rate that ranges between 3 to 36 percent for the overall population.

 

2. Child hunger has devastating health effects

Kids who go hungry have an increased risk for a host of chronic health conditions and problems including anemia, asthma, anxiety, depression, tooth decay, fatigue, headaches, stomachaches and more frequent colds. Hungry kids are also more likely to be hospitalized.

3. Child hunger affects school performance and behavior

Eating a healthy breakfast is important for a child’s overall health and academic performance, but sadly, 59 percent of kids from low income families don’t eat before school because of food insecurity and three out of four teachers say they have students who regularly come to school hungry.

As a result, teachers say students who are hungry lose their ability to focus, have poor academic performance and behavioral and discipline problems.

Kids from food insecure households are also more likely to have developmental delays, be held back, repeat a grade in elementary school, and drop out of high school.

4. Children are more likely to face hunger than the general U.S. population

The rates of children who are food insecure are higher than those of the overall population in the U.S., a recent report found. Although child hunger is a nationwide problem, rural and southern communities are impacted the most.

5. More kids go hungry during the summer

Kids who rely on free and reduced school lunch and breakfast are often left without meals during the summer months.

According to No Kid Hungry, only 1 in 7 kids who are eligible for free summer meals through the national Summer Food Service Program, aren’t getting them, either because families don’t know about the program or they don’t know where to find it.

To help a family in need, search the USDA’s meal service site finder tool or text ‘FOOD’ or ‘COMIDA’ to 877-877.

6. Children may not eat healthy, even when they have access to food

Local food banks can help to fill the gap for food insecure families, but they may not always have the healthiest foods.

Most food is processed and packaged food that have a long shelf life and tend to be made with refined carbohydrates like white pasta and rice, and high in sodium, like canned goods.

In fact, less than 10 percent of the food offered through food banks nationally is fresh produce, according to The New York Times.

What’s more, an April 2017 study in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics found diets of people who access food banks have low nutritional value, and inadequate amounts of fruits and vegetables, dairy and calcium.

Even when nutritional intake was sufficient, many did not meet the recommendations for vitamins A, C, D, and B vitamins, or iron, magnesium, and zinc.

The good news is that through initiatives like Feeding America’s National Produce Program, more food insecure families are getting the healthy food they need.

What you can do to help end child hunger

 

Childhood hunger is a widespread problem in the U.S., but there are several ways you can help.

Advocate

To help protect and expand federal programs like SNAP for food insecure families, contact your senators and representatives today.

Volunteer

Local food banks need volunteers to sort, stock shelves, pack and distribute food. Search Feeding America for a list of local food banks in your area.

If you’re looking to volunteer with your kids, it’s a great opportunity for them to learn about—and serve—others in need, but many food banks do not allow kids under age 10.

Check with your local churches, shelters, and community organizations, or search VolunteerMatch.org for other opportunities that you can do with younger kids.

Curb food waste

Despite the overabundance of food in the U.S., we’re a nation of waste. Homes and  businesses like grocery stores and restaurants are wasting more than 80 percent of food.

If you own or operate a food business, contact Meal Connect, an organization that accepts excess food and donates it to local food banks, food pantries and meal programs.

For tips for your home, read, 10 Tips To Reduce Food Waste When Feeding Kids.

Fundraise or donate

No Kid Hungry and Feeding America have information available for people interested in fundraising opportunities, special events, and ways to donate.

 

15 Easy and Healthy Snacks for Breastfeeding Moms

15 Easy and Healthy Snacks for Breastfeeding Moms

When I was breastfeeding my kids, I was hungry All. The. Time.

Hungry as in: I’d eat my lunch while my daughter nursed—yes, on a plate with a fork.

Breastfeeding torches some serious calories (more on that later) so having easy and healthy snacks at the ready was also important for helping to satisfy my near-constant hunger.

In addition to a healthy diet, keeping a stash of quick, easy and healthy snacks you can grab whether you’re at home, work or on the go will stave off hunger, fuel your milk supply and give you plenty of energy despite all those sleepless nights.

How many calories does breastfeeding burn?


According to KellyMom.com, the amount of calories exclusively breastfeeding moms need depend on their weight, nutritional status and activity level.

On average, women should aim for an extra 300 to 500 calories above what they were consuming to maintain their pre-pregnancy weight. That would work out to 1 to 2 healthy snacks a day, but my advice is to eat for hunger and don’t worry too much about counting calories.

Learn more in this quick video.

Wondering what to eat? Here are 15 healthy snacks for breastfeeding to try.

1. Hard boiled eggs

Eggs are some of the best healthy snacks for breastfeeding because they’re loaded with protein—one large egg has nearly 30 grams. Protein satisfies hunger and gives you plenty of energy.

Hard boiled eggs are also quick and easy to make so you can boil a dozen and have enough for the week.

Pair an egg with some cut up raw veggies or whole grain crackers for a healthy and delicious snack.

 

2. Greek yogurt and fruit

High in protein, a great source of calcium, potassium, magnesium and vitamin B12, and rich in gut-friendly, immune-boosting probiotics, yogurt can be a healthy snack for breastfeeding.

When choosing a yogurt however, read labels and stick with brands that are low in sugar and made without artificial ingredients and preservatives.

With 17 grams of protein per serving, plain Greek yogurt is a great option. Add raspberries which are high in fiber, a dash of cinnamon and pure vanilla extract.

 

3. Kale chips

Green leafy vegetables are healthy because they’re loaded with vitamins, minerals and antioxidants.

Kale, in particular, is a superfood for breastfeeding moms. A good source of fiber protein, folate, iron, it’s also high in vitamins A, C, K, B6, calcium and potassium.

Toss a cup of washed kale with 1 tablespoon of olive oil, sprinkle with salt and roast in the over for 10 to 15 minutes a 350 degrees.

 

4. Popcorn

Unlike refined carbohydrates, whole grain carbohydrates like those in popcorn have fiber to stave off hunger and keep your blood sugar steady.

Popcorn takes only a few minutes to make and you can stash it in your pantry anytime hunger strikes.

 

5. Apples and nut butter

Pair an apple with your favorite nut butter for the perfect combination of fiber and protein to satisfy your hunger—and your tastebuds—in between meals.

 

6. Avocado toast

Avocado is a superfood, especially for breastfeeding moms.

With 20 vitamins and minerals including vitamins B5, B6, C, E, K, folate and potassium, avocado is an excellent source of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats—the healthy fats that can help reduce bad cholesterol and reduce the risk for heart disease later on in life.

A half cup has more than 2 grams of protein and 5 grams of fiber. Spread some avocado on whole grain toast for a healthy, delicious and satisfying snack.

 

7. Edamame

Edamame (soybeans) are quick and easy and one of the best healthy snacks for breastfeeding.

An excellent source of protein, fiber, iron and magnesium, edamame are also high in calcium.

You can purchase edamame fresh or frozen, but look for those that are already shelled to save time. 

 

8. Cheese, crackers and fruit

Pair cheddar or ricotta on whole grain crackers and top with sliced strawberries for a sweet and savory snack.

 

9. Chia seed pudding

An excellent source of protein, fiber and healthy fats, chia seeds are an energy-boosting superfood for breastfeeding.

Chia seed pudding takes only a few minutes to whip up in your blender and you can store a batch in your refrigerator or in individual mason jars for grab and go snacks. Top with fruit for even more fiber and a hint of sweetness.

 

10. Pumpkin seeds

Pumpkin seeds are one of the healthiest foods you can eat. They’re a good source of magnesium, the “calming mineral,” and zinc known for immune boosting and wound healing properties.

They also contain tryptophan, an essential amino acid that converts to serotonin, a chemical in the brain that’s responsible for sleep and mood—a good thing if you’re at risk for postpartum depression.

Three tablespoons of pumpkin seeds also offer a good combination of protein (9 grams) and fiber (2 grams).

Add pumpkin seeds to yogurt, on top of salad or eat them solo.

11. Green smoothie

One of the best ways to get several vegetables in at one time, especially when you’re short on time is to blend up a green smoothie.

To keep the sugar content low, stick with 80 percent vegetables and 20 percent fruit. You can then add in chia seeds, protein powder or a nut butter, for example.

12. Homemade trail mix

Store-bought trail mix can be a quick and easy option, but read labels carefully since most are packed with salty nuts, a lot of high-sugar dried fruit, “yogurt” covered raisins, chocolate chips and M&Ms.

Making your own trail mix only takes a few minutes and you get to control the ingredients. Combine almonds, sunflower seeds and raisins for a healthy and delicious breastfeeding snack.

13. Hummus and carrots

Another favorite snack combination of mine is raw baby carrots with hummus.

Carrots are a good source of vitamins A, C, K, B6, folate, iron, potassium and fiber: 1/2 cup has nearly 3 grams

Pair carrots with hummus, which has nearly 8 grams of protein and 6 grams of fiber per 1/2 cup, and you have a great snack.

14. No-bake energy bites

No-bake energy bites may take a few minutes to make, but they’re well worth it and you can make a large batch and freeze them.

Combine ingredients like rolled oats, bananas, dates, nut butter, raisins and seeds. Need a recipe? Here are 7.

15. Celery and tuna

Celery is a good source of vitamin B6, calcium, magnesium, vitamins A, C, K, folate and potassium. It’s also high in fiber: a 1/2 cup has nearly 2 grams.

Add some tuna (or canned salmon) and you have a fiber and protein-packed snack.

Tomatoes and mozzarella

Tomatoes are a good source of calcium, potassium, vitamins A and C, choline and fiber: one cup has more than 2 grams. Add some protein with sliced mozzarella cheese and you’ve got an easy and healthy snack.

6 Tips for Stress-Free Family Dinners

6 Tips for Stress-Free Family Dinners

There are three times every day when my life gets really stressful:

  • The morning when I’m rushing to get the kids out the door and on the bus
  • The homework-bath time-bedtime routine (need I say more?)
  • And of course, dinner time.

When you work and have after-school activities, appointments and errands, getting dinner on the table almost every night is no easy feat.

In fact, according to a 2013 joint poll by NPR, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Harvard School of Public Health, nearly 50 percent of families find it difficult to find the time to eat dinner together.

Still, about 85 percent of families manage it four or more times each week, a 2016 survey found.

Although getting everyone around the table is half the battle, there’s still the time needed to prep and cook said dinner and clean up afterwards. 

Add to that picky eaters and sibling splats and dinner can turn into one meal you dread.

But it doesn’t have to be that way. Here are 7 tips for stress-free dinners—no wine required!

1. Batch cook ahead of time

Rushing home to get a healthy dinner on the table is time consuming and stressful, no matter how much you may love to cook or how many simple meal prep hacks you have.

If you can find pockets of time throughout the week to cook large batches of vegetables and grains for example, all you have to do when you come home is add a protein, which you can also pre-cook or add something ready made like a can of salmon.

If you’re so inclined and have extra chunks of time throughout the week, make a meal or two ahead of time that can be reheated.

2. Serve up an appetizer

When my kids walk in the door at 5pm, their first complaint question is, can I have a snack?

Eating together as a family is a great way to teach kids about healthy eating if you’re serving the same meal for everyone (I hope you are!).

If your kids are vying for something to eat while you’re cooking dinner or waiting for other family members to come home, serve an appetizer.

An appetizer is so much more exciting and sounds fancier than a snack, and it can also be healthier. Try vegetable crudités, veggies with hummus or guacamole, or fresh fruit.

3. Play it cool

Picky eating is by far one of the biggest sources of stress at the dinner table.

In fact, a survey by Abbott Nutrition Health Institute found parents of kids with picky eaters report feeling stressed about meal times and are more likely to have meals end in an argument.

Parents of picky eaters often try to control the situation and beg (take one more bite), negotiate (eat your vegetables and you can have dessert), or use pressure tactics like waving a forkful of food in their faces or telling them they can’t leave the table until they finish their dinner.

Put yourself in your kid’s shoes: would you want to eat if someone was forcing you to do the same?

Kids don’t learn manners, respect and good behavior overnight and the same goes for raising healthy eaters. It takes teaching, plenty of patience and modeling the desired behaviors.

Kids also need time to develop their food preferences and opportunities to touch, smell and taste their food.

Stay consistent, but don’t stress.

4. Get rid of the distractions

Taking phone calls, checking emails, or watching the game are not only distractions at the dinner table that take away from meaningful conversation and  quality time together as a family, but they also make for stressful meals.

Make a commitment as a family: no phones, devices or TV allowed.

Instead, focus on what you’re eating, how much you’re eating and the people around you.

The one caveat? Music in the background, which can help ease stress and make mealtimes happy.

5. Get kids to pitch in

Cooking, cleaning up and setting the table shouldn’t be all on your shoulders.

Getting your kids involved in age-appropriate activities empowers them to take responsibility, teaches them how to work together as a family, and can ease some of the mealtime burden.

Kids as young as 3 can put out napkins, while older kids can handle place settings, help plate the food, load the dishwasher and wash dishes.

6. Be positive

When you’re already pressed to spend time with your spouse and kids, it’s tempting to talk about everything that’s on your mind.

I’ll admit, this is one area when I fall short.

I’m constantly telling my kids “please don’t interrupt,” and “close your mouth while you chew.” I’m also guilty of tackling hot button issues with my husband or discussing the week’s schedule—both of which can wait until after dinner.

Trying your best to create a meaningful experience will make for stress-free family dinners.

If your kids tend to fight at the dinner table, try having them sit apart.

Or challenge each person to talk about the best or most surprising part of their day, something they love about another family member or what they’re grateful for that day.

Dinner time won’t always be perfect, but it can be a positive experience. 

[VIDEO] 9 Amazing Benefits of Exercise During Pregnancy

[VIDEO] 9 Amazing Benefits of Exercise During Pregnancy

Have you ever seen those women on social media who are 9 months pregnant running marathons, lifting huge, heavy barbells at CrossFit or managing impossible Yoga poses without breaking a sweat?

I have but no, I wasn’t one of them.

When I found out I was pregnant with my first child, I was teaching Spinning classes and had completed my first endurance race—a 1/2 marathon—about 3 months earlier.

Since my first pregnancy ended in miscarriage however, my doctor suggested I cut back on exercise until the 3 month mark.

Once I was in the clear, I returned to the gym but not to a bike. 

Instead, I exercised several days of the week and did low-impact workouts like walking, strength training, stretching and prenatal Yoga.

More power to those women who can keep up with their intense workouts during pregnancy but let’s get real: particularly during those early months of pregnancy when you’re dealing with morning sickness, mood swings and exhaustion, the couch is much more appealing than the treadmill.

Still, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) recommends women with normal, healthy pregnancies get between 20 and 30 minutes of moderate intensity exercise most—or all days—of the week.

Why? Because there are so many amazing benefits during pregnancy and way beyond those 40 weeks. Here are 9.

1. Lower risk of pregnancy complications

Exercise during pregnancy strengthens the heart and blood vessels and may reduce the risk of pregnancy complications such as high blood pressure, preeclampsia and gestational diabetes by 25 percent, a 2018 study in the British Journal of Sports Medicine found. 

Studies also show women who exercise during pregnancy are less likely to gain excess weight, give birth to babies who weigh more than 9 pounds (also known as macrosomia), and less likely to have a caesarean section.

2. Cures pregnancy constipation

Between 11 and 38 percent of women deal with constipation during pregnancy.

Blame it on your hormones, prenatal vitamin, and changes in your diet but constipation can also be a result of being sedentary—another great reason to get moving.

Looking for more ways to prevent and cure constipation? Watch my video.

3. Eases aches and pains

Staying active during pregnancy can help ease low back pain, pelvic pain, leg cramps and round ligament pain which are common during pregnancy.

4. May prevent postpartum depression

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), postpartum depression affects approximately 1 in 9 women nationwide and in some states, as many as 1 in 5 have the condition.

Yet studies show exercise during pregnancy may prevent postpartum depression.

In fact, a September 2017 meta-analysis in the journal Birth found women who participated in various types of exercise like stretching and breathing, walking, aerobics, Pilates and yoga during pregnancy had lower scores on depression symptom tests than women who didn’t exercise.

5. Fights fatigue

Most pregnant women feel sluggish, particularly during the early weeks of pregnancy and then again as they near their due dates.

Although the last thing you might feel like doing is going to the gym, getting in a workout—even if it’s walking, swimming or a prenatal Yoga class—can give you a boost of energy.

6. Improves sleep

When you’re dealing with heartburn, aches and pains, your growing belly and frequent trips to the bathroom, a good night’s sleep can be hard to come by.

Yet regular exercise can help you fall asleep and stay asleep more easily and help you cope with stress that might be keeping you awake. One caveat: don’t exercise too close to bedtime since it can have the reverse effect.

7. Faster recovery from childbirth

Exercise during pregnancy can help build up your strength, muscle tone and endurance which may make labor shorter and less painful.

In fact, a May 2018 study in the European Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology and Reproductive Biology found women who exercised throughout their pregnancies had shorter labors and were less likely to get an epidural.

Research also shows women who exercise during pregnancy recover faster after giving birth.

8. Supports postpartum health

Staying active during pregnancy can help establish a healthy habit that you’re likely to stick with after giving birth and as a result, prevent certain conditions.

Exercise in the weeks after delivery may lower your risk for deep vein thrombosis (DVT) or blood clots. It can also help keep your energy levels up despite the sleepless nights and 24/7 care your newborn needs.

9. Helps you lose the baby weight

Exercise can help prevent excess weight gain during pregnancy and help you shed the post-baby lbs. Certain exercises can also help prevent or recover from conditions like diastasis recti, a separation of the rectus abdominis muscles.

If you had a healthy pregnancy and a normal vaginal delivery you can likely start to exercise a few days after you’ve given birth or when you feel ready, according to ACOG. If you had a c-section or complications or you’re simply unsure, you should always check with your doctor first.

Did you exercise during pregnancy? In what ways did it help you? Let me know in the comments!

7 Best Pregnancy Nutrition Tips

7 Best Pregnancy Nutrition Tips

When one of my friends was pregnant with her first child, like all new moms, she tried to do everything she could to have a healthy pregnancy, including eating right.

She talked to her doctor about her diet and read a book about a pregnancy nutrition.

But with all of the recommendations about getting plenty of protein, iron and calcium for example, she started to worry about getting enough of every nutrient and she ended up gaining 60 pounds!

Although your diet is really important for both you and your baby, all of the pregnancy nutrition advice can seem overwhelming and make you crazy.

Instead of worrying about following a set of rules, eating the “right” foods, and getting a certain amount of nutrients in your diet, stick to the basics.

Here are my best pregnancy nutrition tips and general recommendations that can go a long way in having a healthy pregnancy.

1. Get folic acid

Folic acid, the synthetic version of folate, is a must-have nutrient for a healthy pregnancy because it prevents neural tube defects (NTDs) like spina bifida and anencephaly.

Although many women think they should start taking folic acid when they first see the plus sign on a pregnancy test, it’s important to take it before you even plan to become pregnant and especially during the first 6 weeks of pregnancy.

Since nearly 50 percent of all pregnancies in the U.S. are unplanned, experts recommend all women take 400 micrograms (mcg) of a folic acid supplement daily.

Although folate isn’t absorbed as well as folic acid, it’s still a good idea to get it from foods like beef, chicken, pork, fish and shellfish, green leafy vegetables, citrus fruits, beans and legumes and fortified foods like some cereals.

2. Don’t eat for two

The advice that you need to eat for two when you’re pregnant is outdated and incorrect.

In fact, following this advice may be why 47 percent of women gain more than the recommended amount of weight during pregnancy, according to a 2015 study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Gaining too much weight during pregnancy can lead to pregnancy complications like gestational diabetes, preeclampsia and sleep apnea, preterm birth, birth defects, problems during labor and delivery, and is linked to a higher risk for c-sections.

Research also suggests babies born to obese moms are more likely to be overweight themselves and may be at risk for poor developmental outcomes.

Excess weight gain can also make it harder to lose the weight after you give birth.

In the first trimester, you actually don’t need to consume extra calories.

If you have a normal body mass index (BMI), an extra 340 calories a day during the second trimester and an extra 450 calories a day in the third trimester is appropriate, according to the American Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

If you’re carrying twins or multiples, or you’re underweight, overweight or obese when you become pregnant, you should talk to your doctor or a registered dietitian nutritionist to make sure you’re getting the right amount of calories for a healthy weight gain.

3. Limit fake food

A whole foods diet can help ensure you get the right amount of nutrition to support your health and your baby’s growth and development.

Instead of fast food, processed foods and foods with refined carbohydrates, focus on getting plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, clean sources of protein, whole grains and healthy fats.

Since your blood volume doubles during pregnancy and you may feel more tired than usual, eating real food will give you the energy you need.

Whole foods are also more satiating, so you’ll be less likely to overeat and gain too much weight.

4. Get your omega-3s

Fish is an important source of DHA and omega-3 fatty acids which are important for your baby’s brain development.

In fact, a 2016 study in the American Journal of Epidemiology found eating more servings of seafood each week was associated with higher cognitive scores and a decrease in symptoms of Autism.

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) says it’s safe to eat two, 8-12 ounce servings of fish per week. Fish with low levels of mercury include shrimp, salmon, catfish and pollock.

Avoid those with high levels of mercury which include shark, swordfish, king mackerel and tilefish. If you eat white albacore tuna, limit it to 6 ounces a week.

If you can’t stomach fish, try adding other foods high in omega-3 fatty acids like walnuts, DHA-fortified milk or peanut butter, or talk to your doctor about taking an omega-3 fish oil supplement.

5. Eat enough

Although many women gain too much weight during pregnancy, there are also those that may go in another dangerous direction.

In fact, a 2012 survey by SELF magazine and CafeMom.com found nearly 50 percent of pregnant women admitted to cutting calories, eliminating entire food groups and eating a lot of low-calorie and low-fat foods. A few women said they even turned to fasting, cleansing, purging and using diet pills and laxatives.

You might be worried about gaining too much pregnancy weight or losing the baby weight after you give birth but pregnancy isn’t the time to diet.

Be sure to check out the pregnancy weight gain recommendations which take into account your pre-pregnancy weight and if you’re having one baby or multiples.

If you’re unsure of what to eat—and how much—consult with a registered dietitian nutritionist who specializes in pregnancy nutrition.

6. Eat iron-rich foods

In order for your body to make more blood to supply oxygen to your baby, you need about double the amount of iron during pregnancy than you did before you became pregnant.

ACOG recommends 27 milligrams of iron a day which you can likely get from your prenatal vitamin, but it’s also a good idea to eat iron-rich foods like beef, chicken, fish, beans and peas and iron-fortified cereals.

Eating iron-rich foods with foods high in vitamin C can also help your body absorb iron more efficiently.

7. Don’t stress

The thing about pregnancy nutrition is that no matter how well-intentioned you are to eat healthy, your pregnancy may not go as you had planned.

Whether you’re dealing with morning sickness or something more serious like gestational diabetes, you may have to tweak your diet.

My advice: eat whole, healthy foods and follow your nutritionist’s advice, but don’t stress.

Being a calm mama is so much more important than adhering to a strict list of pregnancy rules.