5 Healthy Foods I Buy Every Week

5 Healthy Foods I Buy Every Week

Disclaimer: Please note that some of the links in this blog post are affiliate links from Amazon Associates. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. I recommend these products either because I use them or because companies that make them are trustworthy and useful.

While I enjoying going to the mall to shop for new clothes just like the next mom, perusing the aisles of the grocery store and specialty food market to check out new products is my guilty pleasure.

If my kids are with me however, I’m hyper-focused on getting in and out of the store as soon as possible.

It seems that they inevitably ask for something that isn’t on the list, but if they spot a vegetable they’ve never tried, I’m happy to buy it. Allowing them to make choices and explore new foods is a great way to teach kids about healthy eating.

Since life is so hectic, I also have to make sure I keep meals simple. I usually spend some time on the weekends to roast vegetables, make a large vat of lentils for school lunches and bake gluten-free bread.

Sticking with many of the same foods and meals each week takes the guesswork out of meal planning and makes my life less stressful.

While we often purchase a new type of fish, try new spices or test out new recipes, there are 5 healthy foods I buy every week that make healthy eating a breeze.

1. Salad


When salad starts to run low in the refrigerator, I start to feel a bit uneasy. I know,

it sounds completely ridiculous, but our family eats a lot of salad and I rely on it to make meals fast.

Salad is of course healthy, but it’s also one of the quickest meals you can make for lunch and dinner.

With my wood chopping bowl and mezzaluna set, it’s super-easy to chop and mix everything right in the bowl without having to pull out a chopping board. I add lettuce, raw vegetables and avocado, pair it with a protein and I have a meal ready in no time.


2. Avocado


High in fiber and healthy fats, and packed with nutrition, avocado is a superfood for kids and a must-have in my kitchen.

I add avocado to salads, serve it with eggs, or make guacamole in my Vitamix.

You can also make avocado toast, add it to smoothies, use it to make homemade salad dressing, or swap it for mayonnaise or butter in baking recipes.


3. Beans


We eat a lot of plant-based foods so beans are something I buy every week.

Beans are high in both protein and fiber and an excellent source of folate, zinc, iron and magnesium. They’re also rich in polyphenols, a type of antioxidant that fights inflammation.

I usually serve beans with green leafy vegetables, add them to salads, or make bean burgers or beans and rice.

4. Eggs


Eggs are one of the healthiest foods you can feed your kids which is why my family eats them every day.

They’re an excellent source of protein and high in lutein, B vitamins and omega-3 fatty acids.

Eggs lend themselves to so many easy and delicious recipes too.

In addition to scrambled eggs and omelets, I’ll make a vegetable frittata or quiche, egg “fried” rice or egg salad. A large batch of hard-boiled eggs stocked in the refrigerator are also great to have on hand for grab-and-go snacks.

5. Bananas

Bananas are a great source of potassium and vitamin B6, and also a good source of fiber: 1 small banana has 2.6 grams.

When my older daughter walks into the kitchen in the morning, she immediately reaches for a banana to eat with her breakfast.

I also use bananas for my morning smoothies, add them to overnight oats or incorporate them into baked goods so I usually buy two bunches every week. If some start to over-ripen, I pop them in the freezer to use later or to whip up a dairy-free treat.

What are some healthy foods you buy every week? Let me know in the comments!

How I Lost The Baby Weight Twice

How I Lost The Baby Weight Twice

When I was pregnant with my first child, I gained more than 40 pounds—something I attribute to eating whatever and whenever I wanted.

A bagel and cream cheese was my go-to breakfast and chocolate was an everyday indulgence.

I mistakenly thought—as many women do—that I should be eating for two.

When there was a family gathering or party, I wouldn’t think twice about taking an extra treat because, I figured I was pregnant and I deserved it.

As my belly grew, the number on the scale got higher and I moved into the final weeks of pregnancy however, people would ask me, are you sure you’re not having twins?

Not exactly what a pregnant mom wants to hear.

When you look at the research, it turns out that my weight gain, albeit unhealthy, was on par with other women. According to a June 2017 meta-analysis in JAMA, 47 percent of women gain more than the Institute of Medicine guidelines.

Gaining too much weight during pregnancy is linked to a host of pregnancy complications, problems during labor and delivery and postpartum health conditions.

Unfortunately, studies also show that after pregnancy, the pounds linger.

According to a January 2015 study in the journal Obstetrics and Gynecology, 75 percent of new moms weigh more a year after giving birth than they did before they became pregnant. In fact, 47 percent were 10 pounds overweight while 24 percent were 20 pounds overweight.

Of course, losing the weight reduces your risk for obesity, chronic health conditions, and things like high blood pressure and gestational diabetes during subsequent pregnancies.

By the time I became pregnant with my second child, I knew a lot more about pregnancy nutrition and by making healthy choices and not overeating, my weight gain was within normal range.

Although the weight was slower to come off the second time around, by eating healthy, exercising and a few other tricks, I lost the baby weight with both pregnancies. Here’s how I did it.

Breastfeed

The day I left the hospital with my first child, the nurse told me, if you breastfeed, the weight will come off in no time.

I had already made the decision to breastfeed because of all the amazing benefits, so I figured if that was the case, even better.

It turns out, that nurse was right.

I found that when I was breastfeeding I was ravenous all the time and I definitely ate when I was but by 6 months, I was back to my pre-pregnancy weight.

It’s definitely not a hard and fast rule, but exclusive breastfeeding can torch some serious calories—up to 500 calories a day or the equivalent of running 6 miles!

According to a December 2014 study in the journal Preventative Medicine, women who exclusively breastfed for at least 3 months, lost 3 pounds (by the year mark) compared to women who didn’t breastfeed or breastfeed exclusively.

Yet other studies have shown that breastfeeding may not lead to weight loss, since the hormone prolactin increases appetite and may lead women to consume too many calories.

Obviously, the decision to breastfeed shouldn’t be because of weight loss, but it could be an awesome extra benefit.

 

Eat whole foods

When you have a new baby at home, having time to cook, much less eat a meal can seem impossible.

A granola bar or a bag of crackers can help when you’re on the go, but if you’re relying on processed snacks all day, you’re not giving your body the nutrition it needs to lose the baby weight in a healthy way.

To lose the baby weight, I focused on eating whole foods which are not only packed with nutrition but also stave off hunger. Eating a salad every day for lunch proved a great way for me to stay on track.

I also made it a point to get plenty of protein, green leafy vegetables and healthy fats from foods like avocado, nuts and seeds.

Exercise

After you have a baby, going to the gym is one healthy habit that can easily be put on the back burner.

Between back-to-back feedings, diaper changes, laundry and fighting through fatigue, working out is the last thing on your mind.

And if you have postpartum depression like I did, getting out of the house can be a struggle.

Yet after you get the green light from your provider to start exercising again, usually around 6 weeks postpartum, it’s one of the best things you can do not only to lose the baby weight but also for your health and your mood.

In the first few weeks of bringing my daughter home, I’d put her in the stroller and take walks in the neighborhood. When I was cleared to work out again, I started walking on the treadmill, then running and lifting weights.

If the gym isn’t your thing, there are so many ways to get in a workout.

Try the free or subscription-based workout apps or head to the park with your baby. At the very least, getting out prevents isolation and can help you meet other like-minded moms.

Don’t diet

To shed the baby weight, I never thought that what I was doing was a diet.

I didn’t count calories or put restrictions on what I was eating, although I did follow the WW (previously Weight Watchers) plan—more for the accountability than anything.

I knew that diets don’t work—it has to be a lifestyle—so I focused on giving my body what it needed—whole, nutritious foods. I ate when I was hungry, kept my portion sizes in check and always left room for treats.

Eat snacks

When you’re trying to lose weight, many experts say to stick to 3 square meals a day—no snacking allowed.

Since I was breastfeeding however, snacks helped to satisfy my hunger, especially between lunch and dinner and prevented overeating at meals. Also, since I have anxiety, low blood sugar is never a good thing, especially when caring for a baby and running around.

Experts recommend exclusively breastfeeding moms need an extra 300-500 calories, which can be built into your diet with snacks.

Drink water

Any time you’re trying to lose weight, experts will advise you to drink plenty of water. According to National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine, women should aim for 2.7 liters, while lactating women should get more—

3.1 liters a day.

Thirst can often look like hunger so drinking up before reaching for something to eat can help you decide whether you’re hungry or not.

According to a 2014 study in the Journal of Natural Science, Biology and Medicine, overweight women who drank an additional 500 ml of water 30 minutes before meals lost weight and fat and lowered their body mass indexes (BMI).

Since water takes up space in the stomach, it promotes fullness and can stave off hunger. It also helps to metabolize carbohydrates and stored fat in the body and can keep your energy levels up so you’re less likely to reach for something to eat.

One trick that helped me to drink enough was to re-fill a re-usable water bottle and carry it with me everywhere I went.

[VIDEO] How To Cope With Pregnancy Constipation

[VIDEO] How To Cope With Pregnancy Constipation

When your hormones are all over the place, you’re exhausted and you’re already dealing with morning sickness, constipation—along with the gas, bloating and that uncomfortable heavy feeling—is one more pregnancy symptom you’d rather not have to deal with.

Constipation is a surprising common complaint during pregnancy—studies show between 11 and 38 percent of women are affected.

Blame it on the hormone progesterone, which is in full effect during pregnancy and can cause the muscles in the gastrointestinal (GI) tract to slow down and prevent waste from moving through.

Pregnancy constipation can also be a result of the increase in water absorption from the intestines which causes stool to dry out and the growing uterus, which may disrupt the normal functioning of the GI tract.

A decrease in activity and lack of exercise as well as the iron and calcium in prenatal vitamins can also back things up.

The good news is that you don’t have to suffer for 9 months feeling miserable.

Here are some strategies that can help prevent—and cure—pregnancy constipation.

Short on time? Check out 3 of my top strategies in this video. 

 

1. Eat more fiber


Fiber-rich foods are the perfect antidote to pregnancy constipation but they can be hard to get in your diet especially during the first trimester, when all you can tolerate are saltine crackers, for example, and other foods with simple, refined carbohydrates.

As morning sickness subsides however, usually (but not always) around the second trimester, you’ll be able to start introducing healthy, high-fiber foods again to get you back on track.

Stick to vegetables, especially the dark, green leafy types that are packed with nutrition and fiber, as well as fruits, beans and legumes, whole grains and chia seeds and flaxseeds.


2. Drink up


During pregnancy, it’s crucial that you drink plenty of water but it’s even more important if you’re constipated because it will help move things along.

Aim for 10 cups (2.4 liters) of water each day, which the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine recommend during pregnancy.

In addition to drinking plenty of water, a cup of coffee, black tea or a bit of prune juice especially in the morning may also do the trick.

3. Try magnesium


Magnesium relaxes the bowels and certain types are known to have a laxative effect.

According to an August 2017 study in the Advanced Biomedical Research,

magnesium may even prevent pregnancy complications.

Before starting any supplement however, always check with your provider about the type, dosage and safety.

4. Avoid refined carbohydrates


White, refined carbohydrates found in foods like rice, pasta, crackers, snack foods, and processed foods are binding so it’s best to avoid them as much as possible.

5. Get moving


Getting plenty of exercise not only ensures a healthy pregnancy, it can also prevent constipation.

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) recommend women with uncomplicated pregnancies get between 20 and 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise most or all days of the week. Walking, swimming and prenatal yoga are all good choices.

6. Talk to your doctor


If constipation persists after changing your diet, upping your water intake and exercising, talk to your doctor about changing your prenatal vitamin which may be backing you up.

Your doctor may also prescribe a fiber supplement, a stool softener, or a laxative. Although they’re generally considered safe, it’s always a good idea to check in with her first since every woman and every pregnancy is unique.

What are some remedies for pregnancy constipation that have helped you? Leave me a comment.

Should You Force Kids To Eat?

Should You Force Kids To Eat?

When I was a child, the expectation when my family sat down to dinner was that I should eat everything on my plate.

Whether that was really the expectation or what I perceived, it was the message I got.

Growing up in an Italian-American family, eating is what we did.

Sunday dinners with meatballs, pasta and coffee cake were such a big part of our traditions that it wouldn’t be a Sunday without it. 

When we visited family, the expectation was that we at least tried what the host took time to prepare.

Eating, and eating as much as you wanted, was always a good thing and praised. If you didn’t eat, everyone wondered if something was wrong and it was almost seen as an insult.

While I do remember being told to eat your vegetables, and take a bite, you might like it, I was never forced by my parents to eat although many parents of that generation did.

Surprisingly, it seems that the “clean plate” mentality when kids were told they had to eat before being excused from the table, is still at play today.

Recently, I’ve noticed some of my friends falling into this camp.

While having dinner, one waved a fork of food in his kid’s face and told him to take a bite, while another told his kid that she couldn’t be excused from the table or have dessert until she ate.

Research shows not only is this way of thinking still very real today, but it’s happening in households not with toddlers, but also teens.

In fact, a May 2013 study in the journal Pediatrics showed up to two-thirds of parents encourage their adolescents to finish everything on their plates.

We all have the best intentions and want our kids to eat healthy and eat enough, but when we force kids to eat, it can backfire.

Forcing kids to eat doesn’t help—and it may even hurt

When we encourage kids to eat—or do something we want them to do but they don’t want to do—, it doesn’t usually work.

According to an April 2018 study in the journal Appetite, researchers suggest that forcing kids to eat can create tension during meal times and even damage the parent-child relationship.

What’s more, forcing kids to eat foods they don’t like has no impact on their weight nor does it do anything to change their picky eating, the same study found.

Kids need to recognize their hunger

Kids will eat when they’re hungry so forcing them to eat when they’re not puts a sour taste in their mouths, so to speak.

Put yourself in your kid’s shoes: if someone put a plate of broccoli in front of you and told you to finish it when you weren’t hungry, would you eat it? What if the food was something you despised—how likely would you be to just try it?

The same goes for kids.

As toddlers grow and are exposed to new foods, they’re learning what it feels like to be hungry, satisfied and full.

Forcing them to eat doesn’t give them the chance to learn how to recognize their hunger and satiety cues and know when they’re hungry and when they’re not.

Studies show forcing kids to eat can even alter their internal hunger signals which in turn can lead to childhood obesity.

It creates a negative experience

Food is fuel but meals are meant to be enjoyed—both the food and the shared experience with family.

When each meal becomes a power struggle or rife with tension however, kids don’t have the freedom to make choices about what they eat and the whole meal time experience becomes an unpleasant one.

It may lead to bigger eating problems

When there’s a consistent message that kids should clean their plates, I’m concerned that it can become what a child starts to believe and continues to believe throughout adulthood.

Just look at the 93 million people in the U.S. who are overweight.

At the very least, eating everything on their plates can become a poor habit that started because they were taught to do so.

A better way to get kids to eat

Using pressure tactics to encourage your kids to eat makes you feel in control but it’s not a healthy, long-term strategy. Here are a few easy, effective tips to try.

Enjoy meals

Mealtimes should be an opportunity for kids to learn about healthy eating and portion control and an opportunity to explore new foods and have a taste—but only if they want to.

Meals should also be a way for your family to communicate, connect and enjoy each other. Instead of bribes, negotiation and pressure tactics, focus on the conversation and the food—not on how many bites your kid takes.

Model healthy behaviors

Teach kids that it’s OK not to love everything on their plates and the goal isn’t to leave the table with a clean plate.

Lead by example and teach your kids how to eat slowly and mindfully, taste the food, put your fork down every so often and savor every bite.


Offer choices

While something simple like scrambled eggs and toast is all you’ll be able to pull together for dinner some nights, try to offer a cooked vegetable and a salad and let your kid decide which he wants to try.

When kids feel that eating is in their control, they’ll be more likely to make healthy choices—as long as those choices are offered.


Stick with it

Kids who are picky eaters aren’t going to change their ways overnight—and we can’t expect them to. It can take between 15 and 20 times of offering a new food before they’re willing to try it.

Teaching kids about healthy foods and healthy eating habits takes consistency—and plenty of patience—at every meal.

7 Budget-Friendly Healthy Foods

7 Budget-Friendly Healthy Foods

Disclaimer: Please note that some of the links in this blog post are affiliate links from Amazon Associates. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. I recommend these products either because I use them or because companies that make them are trustworthy and useful.


Although there are ways to eat healthy on a budget, there’s no denying that buying fresh, whole—even frozen—foods is pricier than processed, packaged foods and fast food.

In the last decade alone, the cost of food has increased by 26 percent and the average grocery bill for a family of 4 is anywhere between $129 and $285 per week, according to the USDA.

The good news is that your family can eat healthy and save money without sacrificing nutrition or taste.

Here are 7 budget-friendly healthy foods to fill up your grocery cart with each week.


1. Bananas


A great source of potassium and vitamin B6, bananas are also a good source of fiber: 1 small banana has 2.6 grams.

Since they’re not considered part of the dirty dozen, you can buy conventional  bananas which are more affordable.

In our home, we go through at least two bunches of bananas a week. I add bananas to oatmeal, overnight oats, green smoothies, and use them as a replacement for oil in bread, muffin and baking recipes.

When the bananas start to over-ripen, throw them in the freezer and whip up a frozen, non-dairy faux ice cream to stretch your food dollars even more.

 

2. Eggs


Eggs are often dubbed “a perfect food” and for good reason.

An excellent source of protein, eggs are also high in lutein, B vitamins and omega-3 fatty acids.

Eggs make the list of budget friendly healthy foods because they’re so versatile.

Hard-boiled eggs can be served for breakfast, added to salads, transformed into egg salad or packed for snacks when you’re on the go.

My kids eat eggs almost every day whether it’s scrambled, in a frittata or a quiche, or incorporated into an egg “fried” rice.

Pasture-raised eggs and organic eggs are ideal because they’re raised humanely, treated without antibiotics or arsenic, and their nutritional profile is better than white eggs.

Although they’re more expensive, I’ve noticed prices come way down in recent months.

Something I also discovered at my local grocery store is that organic eggs are found in two areas of the store: the organic/natural section where they’re more expensive and the regular eggs section which are more affordable.


3. Broccoli


Since they’re high in vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, green leafy vegetables are some of the best vegetables to feed your kids

Broccoli in particular, is high in vitamins C, K, and folate.

It’s also quite affordable and can be served cooked or raw, and for meals or snacks.

Add broccoli to stews, casseroles and salads, as well as egg, pasta and rice dishes. 

Or use your blender or Vitamix to blend the florets and the stems into a healthy, delicious soup.


4. Rolled oats


Rolled oats are low in sugar and a good source of whole grains and filling fiber, iron, selenium and manganese.

I use rolled oats practically every day in oatmeal, overnight oats, energy bites, cookies, breads, pancakes and muffins.


5. Frozen peas


With 5 grams of fiber and protein per 1/2 cup, peas are also a good source of vitamins A, B6, C, K, folate and magnesium.

While fresh peas are in season in the spring, you can stock up on frozen peas all year long.

Peas not only make for a great first food for baby, but they can be added to practically every dish including soups, stews, rice dishes, pastas and salads.


6. Sweet potatoes


An excellent source of vitamins A and C, and fiber, sweet potatoes are not only healthy, but a food most kids like and one that can stretch your food budget.

I love roasted sweet potatoes with cinnamon and sea salt but you can also pop them in the microwave when you’re tight on time or grate them into a hash and serve them with eggs.


7. Beans and lentils


Beans and lentils are high in both protein and fiber and excellent sources of iron. Also, since you can buy beans in bulk, a little goes a long way.

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.

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?