10 Meaningful Gifts for Moms  Clothes and jewelry are good 'ol standbys for the holidays but if you want something that will really surprise her, consider these meaningful gifts for moms.

10 Meaningful Gifts for Moms

Clothes and jewelry are good 'ol standbys for the holidays but if you want something that will really surprise her, consider these meaningful gifts for moms.

When it comes to holiday shopping, I think it’s safe to say most moms take the lead on finding the perfect presents for their kids, other family members, friends, teachers and other special people in our lives—despite what men may think.

In fact, according to a 2016 poll by CreditCards.com, 68 percent of women say they do all of the holiday shopping while only 30 percent of men agree.

Regardless of how you divvy up the responsibilities, you’re probably looking for a gift for a special mom in your life that she’ll treasure for years to come. Or maybe you’re hoping to give your partner some gift suggestions for you.  Although clothes and jewelry are easy standbys, there are a ton of meaningful gifts for moms that are a bit more special. Here are 10.

1. PERSONALIZED RECIPE PLATE

Whether it’s a favorite family recipe or special dessert that your mom makes, why not gift her with this Personalized Recipe Plate in her own handwriting? Simply send a PDF or photo of the recipe and it will be reproduced on a beautiful, decorative, keepsake plate. $66.00.

2. AMAZON HOME SERVICE DEEP CLEANING SESSION

Whether you have little ones or big kids, your house is never clean. And even if you have someone who cleans it, the deep cleaning always falls to the wayside.

With Amazon Home Service’s Deep Cleaning Session, you’ll get those hard to reach places like the oven range hood, blinds, window sills and light fixtures sparkling clean in no time. Starting at $84.99.

3. WHAT A DIFFERENCE A DAY MAKES BURLAP PRINT

When it comes to meaninful gifts for moms, it doesn’t get better than this. Not that you could ever forget, but this What a Difference a Day Makes Burlap Print is a beautiful display of your wedding date and everyone’s birthdays. $24.99 and up.

4. PURIST COLLECTIVE BOTTLE

As moms, we’re always on the go and having a bottle of water with us keeps us hydrated and energetic. Yet sometimes you also want a cup of coffee—or another drink of choice.

Enter the Purist Collective Bottle. Thanks to their innovative technology that transforms silicon dioxide into an unbreakable and flawless glass interior, these bottles easily go from coffee to water and Kombucha to wine with an easy rinse and no aftertaste. The bottles also keep a beverage hot for 12 hours and ice cold for 24 hours and they’re guaranteed leak-proof. The company also partners with community-based organizations to empower social and environmental change, so it’s a purchase you can feel good about. $40 and up. 

5. SPAFINDER GIFT CARD

Gift cards can seem so impersonal but when you’re a busy, stressed out mom, a day at the spa couldn’t be better. That’s why a SpaFinder gift card is one of the best meaningful gifts for moms. Choose from a mani-pedi, massage, haircut, blowdry, wellness retreat getaway, or something else, SpaFinder offers services at thousands of locations. $25-$500.

6. CLASSPASS GIFT CARD

Whether she’s already a gym rat or looking to get in shape in the New Year, a ClassPass gift card is one of the best meaningful gifts for moms. ClassPass is a monthly membership to more than 30,000 fitness studios worldwide where you can take advantage of everything from HIIT to Yoga, and get on-demand workouts when you want to work out from home. $9-$159/a month.

7. HOME CHEF

Trying to come up with easy, healthy dinner ideas your kids will actually eat can be tough. With Home Chef meal delivery service however, it’s easy.

You choose new chef-inspired recipes each week and they deliver fresh ingredients to your door. Each meal kit is perfectly measured so you can skip the grocery store, reduce waste, and go straight to cooking a delicious meal. Plans start at $9.90 a month. Get $80 off now.

8. BAREFOOT DREAMS COZYCHIC LITE ISLAND WRAP

My husband and I received a Barefoot Dreams blanket as a wedding present over 10 years ago and it’s still hands-down, the warmest (but lightweight) and coziest blanket I’ve ever owned.

This Barefoot Dreams CozyChic Lite Island Wrap combines all of their great features in a fashion-forward cardigan that will take you from sleep to school drop off and everything in between. $110.00.

9. ROYAL CRAFT WOOD LUXURY BATHTUB CADDY TRAY

All moms need time for self-care and this Royal Craft Wood Luxury Bathtub Caddy Tray is one of the most meaningful gifts for moms. Perfect for one or two people, the tray is waterproof and has room to hold a wine glass, book or tablet, phone, candle and much more. It also comes with a bonus soap holder. $42.99.

10. WINC

I’ve gifted the Winc wine subscription box to my wine-loving husband in the past and he loved it. Winc is a wine-of-the-month club that sends you personalized bottle recommendations that are expertly curated and delivered to your door. Even better—rate each bottle and they’ll refine your recommendations so you get the perfect glass every time. $60 and up.

10 Ways To Beat Holiday Stress

10 Ways To Beat Holiday Stress

Between putting up decorations, sending out Christmas cards, shopping for the perfect gifts, baking cookies, attending school singalongs and holiday parties, traveling to visit family, hosting guests and money woes, ’tis the season for holiday stress.

I don’t know about you, but feeling overwhelmed, exhausted and anxious aren’t what the holidays are about, despite what society tells us.

For me, Christmas is about the birth of Jesus and the holidays are meant for family.

While I know there are to-do’s that have to get done, like buying my kids’ gifts, there are other tasks that are actually negotiable, can be done a different way, can be handed off to someone else, or done away with entirely. And that my friends, is the key to beating holiday stress. 😀

But first, let’s take a look at how many of us feel stressed out this time of year…

HOLIDAY STRESS STATISTICS

It turns out holiday stress is a big issue.

According to a 2018 survey, 88 percent of people say they feel stressed when celebrating the holidays.

When it comes to our relationships, the average couple will have at least 7 arguments this holiday season, the same survey found.

Of course, money is also a big stressor. According to the 2019 Bankrate Holiday Gifting Survey, 6 out of 10 people say they feel pressure to overspend on presents, travel, social gatherings, and charitable donations.

And if you think you’re more stressed than your partner, you are (no surprise, right?).

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

WHAT CAUSES HOLIDAY STRESS?

Holiday stress can be very individual but the most common sources include:

  • Shopping for gifts
  • Money concerns
  • Cooking
  • Cleaning
  • Preparing for house guests
  • Family dynamics
  • Conversations about politics, religion and money

Traveling to visit family is also another source of holiday stress.

A recent survey found that people who travel to see family during the holidays need a break from their extended families after about 4 hours. What’s more, while 95 percent say it’s important to spend time with them, 40 percent of those who will be staying with family admit that it’s stressful.

HOLIDAY STRESS AFFECTS YOUR HEALTH

No one wants to experience stress of course, but it can take a toll on your health.

Holiday stress can lead to fatigue, irritability, headaches, difficulty concentrating, and anxiety and depression.

Although cookies and desserts tempt us everywhere we turn this time of year, holiday stress can also make it tough to eat healthy and it can lead to emotional eating.

Stress can also prevent you from making healthy choices like getting to the gym and making time for self-care, and it can affect your relationship with your partner and your sex life.

When you’re stressed out, sleep can also be hard to come by. According to a recent survey by Mattress Advisor, 64 percent of people say they sleep less than 8 hours a day during the holidays. The quality of their sleep suffered too: on a scale of one to ten, 74 percent said they rate their holiday sleep quality as seven or lower.

HOW TO COPE WITH HOLIDAY STRESS

The good news is that you don’t have to let stress get the best of you this year. Here are 10 ways to cope.

1. Eat healthy when you’re not celebrating the holidays

Although this time of year can make it challenging to prepare healthy meals, grabbing fast food and take-out, and snacking on sugary treats will leave you feeling depleted, anxious and even more stressed out. 

Instead, keep your kitchen stocked with fresh fruits and vegetables, lean sources of protein, healthy fats like avocado and whole grains like quinoa.

Pre-portion smoothie ingredients, keep cut up fruits and veggies in clear containers in the refrigerator, and keep healthy snacks on hand like hummus, nuts and seeds and Greek yogurt.

2. Get the whole family moving

To help combat stress and manage everyone’s moods, carve out time most days of the week to do something active.

If you’re willing to venture out into the cold, go for a brisk walk with your kids or have a game of catch in the backyard.

If the cold isn’t your thing, have an indoor dance party or play a game of Twister.

3. Prioritize sleep

Irregular schedules and later-than-usual bedtimes can throw everyone in the family off schedule.

Without enough sleep, you and your kids will be more irritable and more likely to reach for food and make unhealthy food choices.

In fact, an August 2018 study in the Journal of Sleep Research found that kids who regularly fell asleep after 11pm were 2 to 3 times more likely to eat junk food at least 5 times a week.

Although it may not always be feasible to get you and your kids to bed on time every night, do your best to make a sleep a priority as much as possible.

Also, practice good sleep hygiene: put away the devices 1 to 2 hours before bed because the blue light they emit can make it hard to fall asleep. Also, keep bedrooms cool and wind down with a book, prayer or soothing music.

4. Take a break

To manage holiday stress, make sure you carve out time for intentional relaxation and take a break from the busyness of the season.

Take deep, diaphragmatic breaths, do progressive muscle relaxation, or use a meditation app like Calm or Headspace.

5. SAY “NO”

Although buying presents for your kids has to get done for example, there are so many other things that might seem like obligations but that you can actually say “no” to.

While I can aspire to make a variety of cookies for my kids’ bus drivers, teachers and administrators, and Sunday school teachers, I’ve decided instead to make only one or two types of quick and easy treats like coconut macaroons and Christmas bark.

It’s also a good idea to avoid over scheduling your kids with extras.

Do you really have to go see the Nutcracker? Is it imperative that you have holiday photos taken?

Probably not, so just say “no.”

6. OUTSOURCE YOUR LIST

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

Of all the tasks on your list, there are those that:

  • You tell yourself you should do or you feel pressured to do
  • You’re capable of doing but don’t want to do
  • Actually bring you joy during the holiday season

While there are some tasks you may have to do yourself, there are those that you can delegate or outsource.

For example, a few years ago, I decided sending Christmas cards wasn’t worth all of my time and energy.

It was however, important to my husband, so he took it over.

Every year, he picks out the card and the photos, addresses them and sends them off. It may not be the design or photos I would have chosen, but letting it go means I won’t be so stressed out.

It can be hard to hand over certain tasks to our partners, but it is possible to find opportunities for them to help out.

Perhaps it’s wrapping gifts, going grocery shopping or making a Target run for stocking stuffers.

Accepting that done is better than perfect can be freeing.

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

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

You could also outsource holiday tasks to a company like FancyHands.com, TaskRabbit.com or Thumbtack.com.

7. LET GO OF PERFECTION

There’s perhaps no other time of year that conjures up perfection in us like the holidays.

We’re inundated with messages about finding the perfect presents, putting up perfect, Pinterest-worthy holiday decorations, making Instagram-worthy cookies, having a perfect holiday and making perfect memories.

The truth is that all of our striving for perfection not only sets us up for disappointment because it’s not realistic, but studies show it can lead to anxiety and depression.

So this year, let go of perfection—whatever that looks like for you.

8. DO GOOD

The holiday season is a time of giving, whether of our time, money or both.

Although volunteering and making charitable donations are worthy causes and make us feel good, it’s easy to to overcommit and feel stretched thin, or surprised when the credit card bill come in.

It’s important to think about what’s realistic for your family.

So although you may want to head up the charity drive in your kid’s school, you may have to take on a smaller role like donating toys or baking brownies instead.

9. LISTEN TO MUSIC

When I’m feeling stressed out, I put on music, whether it’s Christian worship music, 80’s, or Top 40 because research shows, music eases anxiety.

According to a May 2018 meta-analysis in the Journal of Advanced Nursing, music is an effective way to reduce blood pressure, heart rate, anxiety and pain in people undergoing a biopsy.

10. REACH OUT

Connecting with other moms who get it can make all the difference in managing holiday stress.

Call or meet a friend for coffee, join a moms’ group like MOPS International, Mocha Moms and MOMS Club, or online communities like CircleOfMoms.com

If your stress level feels overwhelming and it’s affecting other areas of your life and your eating and sleeping habits for example, it doesn’t mean there’s something wrong with you and there’s no shame in asking for help.

Ask your primary care provider for a referral to a psychologist, LCSW or counselor.

How do you manage holiday stress? Let me know in the comments!

10 Common Breastfeeding Problems & Solutions

10 Common Breastfeeding Problems & Solutions

     You already know that “breast is best,” but just because breastfeeding is natural, doesn’t mean it always comes naturally. Whether you’re a first time mom or have more than one, there are several common breastfeeding problems you may encounter.

Not only is there a learning curve when you start breastfeeding, but other issues like low milk supply, breastfeeding pain and engorgement can crop up.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommended infants are exclusively breastfed for 6 months and then continue breastfeeding alongside solids for up to a year.

According to the latest statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), although more than 83 percent of infants start to breastfeed at birth, only about 57 percent are still breastfeeding at 6 months.

Although any amount of breastfeeding is good for your baby, overcoming the challenges can make all the difference. Here, read on for 10 of the most common breastfeeding problems and solutions to make your breastfeeding journey easier.

1. Breastfeeding pain

One of the most common breastfeeding problems moms deal with is breastfeeding pain.

If you have pain when your baby latches on, it’s probably because the latch isn’t correct.

The best way to find out is to work with a lactation consultant in the hospital or birth center, or at home. A lactation consultant can show you how to position your baby, ensure the latch is right and that your baby is getting enough milk.

Another reason you may have breastfeeding pain is tongue-tie, a condition in which the piece of tissue under the tongue, or the frenulum, attaches to the bottom of the tongue and makes breastfeeding difficult.

According to a 2007 study in the journal Canadian Family Physician, between 4 and 10 percent of newborns are diagnosed with the condition.

When I had my second child, I had pain every time she latched on and when the midwife took a look, she said it was because of a slight tongue-tie.

I opted to have frenotomy, a procedure to snip her frenulum, but some providers may take a wait and see approach since it can improve.

Also, surgery to correct tongue-tie isn’t without controversy. According to a July 2019 study in the JAMA Otolaryngology—Head & Neck Surgery, 63 percent of newborns who were referred for the surgery didn’t need it.

Since there are other abnormalities that can occur which can make breastfeeding painful, it’s always a good idea to consult with a lactation consultant.

Related: My Love-Hate Relationship With Breastfeeding

2. Low milk supply

Low milk supply is one of the most common breastfeeding problems and suffice to say, one of the most common reasons moms throw in the towel early or supplement with formula.

In fact, 49 percent of mothers said they stopped breastfeeding after two months because breast milk alone wasn’t enough to satisfy their babies.

Although many moms say they struggle with low milk supply, what’s interesting is that the research doesn’t add up.

Rachel O’Brien, a lactation consultant in Sudbury, Massachusetts has a great blog series on low milk supply I recommend you check out to see what the research says and the possible reasons for low milk supply.

Another challenge is that when you feed your baby a bottle, you know how much he ate, but when you’re breastfeeding, it’s not so easy.

If your baby is gaining weight, he has a certain amount of weight diapers a day and he’s hitting his developmental milestones, your milk supply is probably adequate.

If you’re uncertain however, make an appointment with a lactation consultant who can weigh your baby right after you feed him to make sure he’s getting enough.

3. Engorged breasts

My breasts are—and always have been— super-small: I’m barely an A cup.

Yet when I was breastfeeding, I couldn’t believe how large my breasts were—porn-star big.

It turns out, it’s totally normal.

In the first few days and weeks after giving birth when your milk comes in, it’s normal for your breasts to be engorged and feel hard.

There’s no doubt it’s uncomfortable, but be sure to feed frequently, at least 10 times per 24 hours.

Make sure your baby is emptying each breast during feedings and your breasts feel soft afterwards.

You can also gently massage your breasts before nursing or try a cold compress for up to 20 minutes beforehand.

4. Leaking breasts

With my first baby, I produced a lot of milk. She had a strong, efficient suck but I was also pumping, which increased my milk supply even more.

When I sat down to breastfeed, my milk would let down so fast she would often let go of the latch to catch a breath and my breasts would spray everywhere—something that’s known as overactive letdown.

Because I was producing a lot of milk, my breasts would leak when she cried, when another baby cried and even when I thought about her.

During the first few weeks of breastfeeding when you’re feeding all the time, it’s common to have leaking breasts.

The solution? Get yourself a box of nursing pads and keep extras on hand.

5. Breastfeeding latch

When it comes to breastfeeding problems, suffice to say, getting the latch right is one of the most common obstacles. It’s part art, part science.

When the latch is right, a large portion of your areola, or the dark skin around your nipple, is in your baby’s mouth. Your nipple should be opposite his nose and aimed at his upper lip and nose, not the middle of the mouth.

Sometimes all it takes is a different breastfeeding position to get it right.

I found the Boppie nursing pillow made it so much easier and I recommend you bring it to the hospital because propping your arm on regular ‘ol pillows isn’t ideal.

One I got the positioning and latch down pat however, I found I could sit anywhere and in any position.

A proper latch also means your breasts will drain and you’ll probably hear your baby swallowing. You’ll feel a slight tug at your breast, but there shouldn’t be pain. Always check with a lactation consultant if you’re unsure.

6. Sleepy baby

One of the biggest breastfeeding problems I had with my second child was that she was very sleepy especially the first few days after she was born.

I know some people say never wake a sleeping baby, but breastfed babies need to feed regularly, and besides, she was 4 weeks premature so I wanted to make sure she was gaining weight.

Some things you can try include switching breasts frequently, burping your baby, changing her diaper, holding her upright, taking her out of her swaddle or undressing her, massaging her hands or feet, and talking and singing to her and making eye contact.

7. Nipple confusion

After I had my first child, the lactation consultant in the hospital explained that I shouldn’t introduce a bottle of pumped milk for awhile until breastfeeding was established because it could create nipple confusion and cause her to prefer the bottle over the breast.

I did wait, but within a month or so, my daughter had no problem breastfeeding most of the time and taking a bottle from my husband at night.

My second child was more apprehensive to the bottle so I guess it depends on the baby.

8. Plugged milk ducts

Sometimes when a milk duct becomes clogged, you’ll have a hard lump in your breast.

Just as you would do to treat engorgement, continue with your normal feedings, make sure you’re draining your breasts entirely, massage the area and drink plenty of fluids.

Related: 9 Food Rules for Breastfeeding

9. Inverted or flat nipples

If your nipples are flat or inverted, it can make breastfeeding challenging especially in the first few weeks when your baby’s mouth is very small and he’s still getting used to feedings.

Although a proper latch is when your baby has a large portion of the areola in his mouth, inverted (concave) or flat nipples may make it challenging to get the latch right.

The good news is that it doesn’t mean breastfeeding will be impossible.

Talk to a lactation consultant about different treatments she recommends, which may include compressing your areola during feedings, using a breast pump before feedings to draw out the nipples, or using breast shells.

10. Mastitis

When I was breastfeeding, I had a bout of mastitis and I wouldn’t wish it on anybody.

Not only did I have a large lump in my breast, but I felt like someone ran over me with a Mack truck.

Mastitis is an inflammation of the breast tissue that can cause redness, tenderness, or firmness around the breast as well as fever, fatigue and malaise.

Between 2 and 10 percent of breastfeeding moms are affected and mastitis may or may not be accompanied by a bacterial infection.

The condition usually happens when a milk duct becomes blocked from engorgement, but it can also happen from wearing a tight bra or clothing.

To clear mastitis, make sure you fully empty your breasts when you breastfeed or pump. If you have pain, applying heat to the area can also help with let down.

Your doctor may also prescribe antibiotics if the symptoms have been present for 12 to 24 hours or if you’re feeling ill.

It’s important to get plenty of rest, eat healthy and drink plenty of water.

 

Have you had any of these breastfeeding problems? Tell me what worked for you in the comments!

14 Ways To Cope With Thanksgiving Stress

14 Ways To Cope With Thanksgiving Stress

Although it’s supposed to be a day to gather with family and friends, make memories and well, give thanks, most moms know that Thanksgiving stress is a real phenomenon.

This is especially true if you’re the one hosting Thanksgiving dinner.

Between planning the menu, grocery shopping, timing the Turkey and cooking all the side dishes and desserts, you may also have to think about who is gluten-free, dairy-free or vegan.

And then of course, you have kids who are picky eaters.

Wrapped up in Thanksgiving stress are also the expectations we put on ourselves to have a sparkling clean home, perfect, Pinterest-worthy place settings, and the most delicious, praise-worthy dishes as if Paula Dean made them herself.

Then, you have all of the family dynamics and worrying about who doesn’t get along, who will have something to say about everything, and the potential for political arguments that may ensue.

If the thought of spending an entire day or more with your family adds to your Thanksgiving stress, you’re not alone. According to a recent survey, it takes less than 4 hours for people to need a break from their extended family on the holidays.

GOT THANKSGIVING STRESS? ME TOO.

I guess it’s because he’s the most laid back guy I know, but my husband doesn’t understand Thanksgiving stress, or any type of holiday stress for that matter.

Thanksgiving is his favorite holiday, and it’s not because he gets to enjoy the turkey, a glass of wine and the football game all day. It’s actually quite the opposite.

For more than 20 years, the man has worked on Thanksgiving, making sure hundreds of families enjoy their own dinners. But before he leaves for work, he puts the turkey in the oven and leaves me instructions for the rest. Although he doesn’t get home until the latter part of the afternoon, he still looks forward to it every year.

Me? Not so much.

This year, we’re hosting 12 in addition to our 4 in our 1,800 square foot house.

Although my husband is doing most of the cooking, there’s still the pre-guest cleaning, laundry and setting up the guest room, dinner clean-up and post-guest cleaning.

When you have Generalized Anxiety Disorder like I do, all those people, personalities, noise and expectations—many of which are self-imposed— can make me want to run. Suffice to say, I’ll have a glass of wine in my hand. Or a Xanax. Or both. 😀

HOW TO COPE WITH THANKSGIVING STRESS

Although there may not be much you can do to get around hosting and cooking, and you certainly can’t control your family members, there are ways to let go of your expectations and have a stress-free Thanksgiving.

1. Lower Thanksgiving stress by making time for self-care

Before the holiday gets the best of you, carve out some time this week to do things that will lower your stress.

Some ideas include:

  • Take a yoga class
  • Watch an inspirational video
  • Read
  • Listen to uplifting music or calming music
  • Get your nails done or get a massage
  • Meet a friend for coffee
  • FaceTime with your bestie.

It might be tough to find the time, but focusing on self-care can go a long way in coping with Thanksgiving stress.

Related: 10 Tips For Self-Care All Moms Need

2. Fuel up before Thanksgiving dinner

Nothing good can come when you’re running on empty, or hangry.

Pulling together an entire Thanksgiving dinner without eating anything for breakfast will leave you feeling frazzled and depleted.

In the morning, make sure to eat a healthy breakfast that has a combination of protein, fiber and healthy fats to keep you going. Eggs with whole grain toast and leftover veggies, or Greek yogurt with berries and nuts are good options.

Depending on what time dinner will be served, consider having a small, healthy snack beforehand to keep your blood sugar levels steady and prevent eating until you’re stuffed.

3. Sneak in a workout

You might think I’m crazy, but I need to work out most mornings, especially on a holiday.

A sweat session releases endorphins, the feel good chemicals that make you feel happy and helps ease stress and anxiety.

On Thanksgiving, it may not be feasible to make it to the gym or get in a long run, for example, but even a short 15-minute walk in the neighborhood or a quick HIIT workout can be really effective.

4. Hire a babysitter

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

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

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

5. Say ‘yes’ to help

When guests ask, what can I bring?, there’s no shame in taking them up on their offers.

Make a list of the dishes you enjoy making or those that don’t take a lot of time to make and delegate the rest.

Let guests bring a side dish, or if they don’t cook, a bottle of wine or a ready-made dessert.

The same goes if they ask to help with the dishes: yes, please!

6. Take shortcuts

Last week, I was having a conversation with my mom about all of the things she used to do to make the holidays special for our family.

Although from my perspective, it seemed like she did everything and it was effortless, she was quick to inform me that after it was all said and done, she was one exhausted mom.

She also pointed out that she took a lot of shortcuts.

Taking shortcuts aren’t a bad thing, but necessary if you’re looking to reduce your Thanksgiving stress.

Think about what types of shortcuts you can take. For example, instead of making the fancy potato dish you planned on, make roasted potatoes instead. Or rather than making cranberry sauce from scratch, pick up the canned version—it’s better anyway.

Although I planned on making a few desserts this year, with both of my kids sick with the flu these past two weeks, I’m making an easy dessert instead of the pumpkin pie from scratch I planned on.

7. Set the table the night before

If using your fine china, setting a traditional table and putting out handcrafted settings are your thing, more power to you, sista.

If you could care less about using your everyday dishes, mismatched glasses and the same cloth napkins you use for Christmas, own that too.

Either way, set the table the night before so it’s one less thing to think about on Thanksgiving.

8. Get the kids involved

When I was a kid, my mom always asked me to set the table for the holidays and I loved to help out. When we were guests in someone else’s home, it was also expected that we help clear the table and wash the dishes—it wasn’t an option.

I don’t know about you, but it seems to me that many parents nowadays think kids don’t have to help out.

If we don’t teach kids responsibility and manners, especially when you’re at someone else’s house, chances are, they’ll grow up to be young adults who don’t lift a finger either.

Depending on their ages, kids can take guests’ coats, or help with the cooking, setting the table, putting out the food, clearing the dishes and loading the dishwasher.

9. Make some of the meal ahead of time

Aside from the turkey, many side dishes can be cooked, or at least prepared a day or two ahead of time and then cooked or re-heated on Thanksgiving.

For dishes that must be made the day of, save time by washing and chopping onions, garlic, and vegetables, for example, beforehand.

10. Let guests help themselves to drinks

Keeping everyone’s drinks filled takes time—time that can be spent with your guests.

To make things easier, set up a cooler with water bottles, drinks for kids and beer.

On the kitchen counter or center island, put out bottles of wine, a beverage dispenser with cocktails, and glasses so guests can serve themselves.

11. Don’t worry about your picky eaters

When you have picky eaters, Thanksgiving stress can be taken up a notch.

You might worry how your kids will handle all the new foods, what they’ll eat or if they’ll eat at all.

Don’t fret, but consider giving your kids a small, healthy snack before you arrive to Thanksgiving dinner. If they refuse to eat, or only want a piece of bread, it won’t be a big deal.

I don’t recommend preparing a separate meal for your child, unless of course he can’t eat gluten or has food allergies.

Having a separate meal on hand teaches kids that you’ll accommodate them and cater to their preferences.

You can however, have a dish you know your kid— and everyone else—will enjoy. Need recipes? Check out 10 Fun Kid Thanksgiving Food Ideas.

 

12. Keep everyone moving

 

Kids running around the house can intensify Thanksgiving stress, so try to prepare ahead of time with crafts, gratitude activities or table games that can keep them busy.

If the weather is mild enough, encourage everyone to go out for a walk around the block or have a game of catch before or after dinner.

 

13. Focus on thanks and giving

It’s easy to get caught up in the food, the decor and the perfect everything but Thanksgiving is all about gratitude and family and/or friends.

Focusing on what you’re thankful for, whether you tell others around the table or not, can lower your Thanksgiving stress.

Maybe you’re thankful for your job, a health scare that is no more, or the fact that your kids made it through dinner without fighting—it’s the little things, right? 😀

 

14. Let it go

 

You can’t control what your mother-in-law may say about your parenting skills and so what that the turkey was a little on the dry side?

At the end of the day, everyone will eat and celebrate the holiday together.

Pat yourself on the back for getting it all done and remember: it’s not worth any more of your emotional energy. Draw yourself a bath, make a cup of tea and let it go, let it go!

What are some of the ways you lower Thanksgiving stress? Let me know in the comments!

10 Tips for Self Care All Moms Need

10 Tips for Self Care All Moms Need

     Self-care has been the buzzword of the last two years, with tons of books, websites and experts offering up their best advice. Just google self-care and you’ll get more than 2 billion results! And a survey by wellness company Shine found that 91 percent of millennial women said self-care is more important now than it was two years ago.

But let’s face it, when you’re a busy mom, self-care usually falls to the bottom of your list. In fact, according to a survey by HealthyWomen and Working Mother magazine, a whopping 78 percent of women said they often put off taking care of themselves or making their own doctors’ appointments because they’re so busy taking care of their other family members’ health.

I’ll admit that when I feel anxious, stressed out and stretched thin—which is the way I feel most of the time with generalized anxiety disorder—my mom, friends and my therapist have talked to me about self-care.

“Work less.”

“Go get your nails done.”

“Take a weekend getaway—alone.”


They all meant well of course, but between work, this blog, a husband who works long hours, a special needs child, and everything else that’s required to keep the wheels turning, every single time I’ve thought to myself, Self-care? Who has time for that?!

I mean, I eat healthy, workout 5 to 6 days a week, get enough sleep, and make time for God: isn’t that enough?

I also struggle with the feeling that self-care means being selfish. Maybe it was because when we were kids, self-care wasn’t a thing anyone talked about.

But in recent months, I’m realizing it’s something I need. I must make space in my life for self-care and things that bring me happiness and peace.

Self-care may be a foreign concept to you too, and it may be challenging to carve out the time for yourself. Still, it’s important to take the first step. So today, I’ve got 10 tips for self-care for you to consider.

 

 

What is self care? Self care definition

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the definition of self-care is:


“the ability of individuals, families and communities to promote health, prevent disease, maintain health, and to cope with illness and disability with or without the support of a healthcare provider.”


They go on to say that self-care is a broad concept that also includes things like hygiene (does getting your nails done count?), eating healthy, exercise, leisure activities, as well as things like the place we live and how much money we earn.

Self-care can be a host of different things and it’s completely individual.

For one mom, it may mean finding simple meal plan hacks in order to make healthy meals or finding the time to work out. For another mom it might mean asking their supervisor for a more flexible work schedule, or getting to bed earlier, asking a spouse to do more, or simply meditating for 5 minutes instead of watching Netflix.

 

10 Tips for Self Care


Self-care doesn’t have to take a lot of time or cost anything. There are small changes you can make in your life that can make a big difference in your physical, mental and emotional health.


1. Eat healthy…yes, it is possible!

The single best thing you can do when it comes to self-care is to make eating healthy a priority. It’s not just something you should do, but something that can give you more energy, help you think more clearly, have less anxiety and help you feel like the rockstar you are.

Of course, focusing on real, whole foods can also help you lose weight and fuel your workouts.

On the flip side, if you often skip meals, eat on the run, or find yourself binging at night, these are things that are important to address.

Another benefit of eating healthy is that when you model healthy eating habits for your kids, they’ll be more likely to follow suit, which can cut down on picky eating and mealtime battles.

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 ahead of time and sticking to the basics for example, there are easy, healthy ways to eat healthy.

 

2. Give yourself a time-out

Just like kids need time to calm down when their behavior is out of control, we also need quiet time to sit still and gain perspective when everything seems to be crashing down around us.

If you’re a type-A mom like I am, sitting for 2 minutes can feel like torture. But challenging yourself to carve out time each and every day just for you can help you de-compress.

This could mean getting up 20 minutes before everyone else to read, use a meditation app, pray, watch an inspirational video or do a visualization exercise. Or if you can swing it, it could be carving out 2 hours every Saturday to meet a friend for coffee, or take your favorite Yoga class while your partner shuttles the kids to activities.

 

3. One of the best tips for self care is to get moving

Whether it’s running, lifting weights or my favorite BODYCOMBAT class, a sweat session at the gym makes me feel energetic, optimistic, confident and more calm.

The benefits of exercise are endless: a lower risk for chronic health conditions and cancer, improved brain health, better sleep and a longer life. But exercise also releases endorphins, the feel-good chemicals that make you feel happy and prepared to face the day.

The Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans say 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 you can only make time for a 15-minute workout a few days a week, 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 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 during your lunch hour are the best times. Whenever it is, find what works for you.

 

4. Re-think your life

Whether you work full-time, part-time, or not at all, we all have too much on our plates. No surprise here, but a recent survey by Motherly found 62 percent of moms say in the last day, they had less than hour to themselves without work or family obligations.

This is a big problem with no easy solution. Most days, I come up short with a solution of how to slow down. In recent months however, I have been getting better at saying no:

“No, I can’t take the lead on this volunteer project anymore—can you step up?”

“No, we can’t attend Johnny’s birthday party, but we hope he has a blast!”

“No, I won’t research this for you, even though I’m always the one who does it.”

Think about the obligations you can bow out of, events you don’t have to go to, and extras you can so “no” to, no matter how worthy of a cause they may be. Instead, think about what matters now in this season of your life and make those a priority.

 

5. Tips for self care include making sleep non-negotiable

We live in a society that says sleeping 5 hours a night and burning the midnight oil are good things. We’re efficient, can get things done and we’ve managed to handle it all, but have we really?

According to the National Sleep Foundation, only 10 percent of people prioritize sleep even though we all should be getting between 7 and 9 hours a night. What’s more, a September 2019 study in the Journal of Community Health found that people who get less than 7 hours of sleep each night increased from 30.9% in 2010 to 35.6% in 2018.

It’s important to consider how much sleep you really need to function and feel like yourself and then figure out ways to make it happen. Maybe it means putting off the laundry another day, paying bills on the weekends, or closing out social media an hour earlier and hitting the sack.

 

6. Re-think work

When you become a mom everything changes, especially when it comes to career and work. In fact, more than half of millennial women said they made changes to their work status once they became moms, the same survey by Motherly found. While some women can “lean in,” others don’t have the financial means or the desire to do so.

Yet practicing self-care also applies to work. Depending on your family’s financial situation, it may not be feasible to quit your job for example, but there are other ways to make work and self-care work for you. Maybe your boss will allow you to work a more flexible schedule, transition to a more flexible role or work from home.

If not, it may be time to look for another opportunity. Two organizations I recommend are The Mom Project and The Second Shift.

Opening up a business may also be an option or if you already have one, it could mean getting an intern or hiring a virtual assistant to help out.

 

7. Be intentional

The only way to ensure that you have time for self-care is to put you on your schedule. Like I said before, if I don’t go to the gym first thing in the morning, it’s not going to happen.

Schedule your workouts, carve out time to make individual portions of smoothie ingredients for the week, or schedule one night a month to meet friends for dinner. 

 

8. Stay connected

Regardless of how busy we are, being a mom can be very isolating especially if you’re stay at home mom or work from home. It’s important therefore, to find ways to forge friendships and stay connected with other like-minded moms or “mom mentors,” who are older.

For me, that means meeting with “My Crew,” a group of friends from church at least once a month. But it could also be signing up for a dance or art class, volunteering for a cause that’s near to your heart, or organizing a mom’s night out with moms from your kid’s class.

The key isn’t to add one more thing to your to do list, but to do something that makes you feel connected with women who get it.

 

9. Download self care apps

When it comes to tips for self care, it can be as easy as downloading an app. When you’re short on time, there are self-care apps like Headspace, the Calm app or Stop, Breathe and Think. For workouts, I recommend Love Sweat Fitness, Les Mills or Every Mother.

 

10. Get self care books

My journey to more intentional self-care started this year after I read Present Over Perfect, by Shauna Niequist. I also enjoyed Girl, Wash Your Face, by Rachel Hollis. If you like to reflect and write, you might want to try Choose You: A Guided Self-Care Journal Made Just for You!, by Sara Robinson.

 

What are some of your best tips for self care? Let me know in the comments!

10 Diet Tips for Losing The Baby Weight

10 Diet Tips for Losing The Baby Weight

     I’ll admit that Jessica Simpson’s whopping 100-pound weight loss just 6 months after giving birth to her third child is pretty amazing, but when it comes to losing the baby weight, it’s totally unrealistic for the rest of us non-celebrity, everyday moms.

Don’t get me wrong—this isn’t an opportunity to bash Jessica, or take away from her hard work and dedication to get back to her pre-baby body. But when you have a personal chef, a personal trainer and a nanny—which I’m guessing she does—losing the baby weight is a little easier.

For most new moms, being able to take a shower or run a load of laundry feels like an accomplishment. Still, today I’d like to talk about why losing the baby weight is important, and how to make it happen without going on a diet or feeling deprived.

Why Losing The Baby Weight Is Good For Your Health


My goal isn’t to shame or make you feel bad about your weight, but we should talk about the facts.

Not only do most women start out their pregnancies overweight, but nearly half gain more than the recommended amount of weight during pregnancy, according to an April 2015 study in the journal Obstetrics & Gynecology.

Both your pre-pregnancy weight and the amount you gained during pregnancy can—but not necessarily will— impact your weight loss journey.

Another thing to consider is that 75 percent of new moms weigh more a year after giving birth than they do before becoming pregnant, a January 2015 study in the journal Obstetrics and Gynecology found.

Although losing the baby weight can take time, getting back to your pre-pregnancy weight or a healthy weight is always a good idea.

Being overweight, or obese, can increase your risk for several major health problems including high blood pressure, obstructive sleep apnea and certain types of cancer. 

Plus, moms who don’t lose the baby weight within a year of giving birth or those who gain more weight during that time have an increased risk of heart disease and type-2 diabetes later on in life, a study published in July 2014 in the journal Diabetes Care found.

If you become pregnant again, carrying around extra weight can also lead to pregnancy complications like high blood pressure, preeclampsia, blood clotting problems, gestational diabetes, and complications during labor and delivery.

Postpartum weight loss takes time

It should come as no surprise that losing the baby weight is a concern for most moms.

According to a survey by BabyCenter.com, 61 percent of new moms said they expected to get back to their pre-pregnancy weight by their baby’s first birthday but most didn’t.

In our society, it’s not easy to get around the barrage of weight loss success stories on social media, compare ourselves to celebrities and other women we know, and not feel the pressure to get our pre-bodies back fast.

Unfortunately, because of that pressure, many moms have high levels of body image dissatisfaction, putting them at risk for psychological distress, a March 2018 study in the journal Body Image found.

When it comes to losing the baby weight, the first step is to recognize that your genetics, body type and chemistry, and life are all unique.

It’s really hard to do, but try to stop comparing yourself to other moms—because the truth is, they don’t have it all together like you think they do and they’re trying to manage life just like you are. 

After you give birth, it’s also important to realize that you need time to heal and recover, bond with your baby and get sleep when you can. Give yourself a break and be realistic about how much and how fast you can lose the baby weight.

The key to healthy weight loss (for your body and mind) is slow and steady. It took nine months to gain the baby weight so it can take just as long to lose it.

And if you gained more than the recommended amount of weight, it could take up to a year to lose it, Rosanne Rust, MS, RDN, LDN stated in this article.

Related: How I Lost The Baby Weight Twice

Tips for Losing The Baby Weight

With some simple, realistic strategies, you can get back to a healthy weight.

1. Eat real food

When you have a newborn and there’s not a lot of time to prepare healthy meals, getting take-out or eating your toddler’s left over boxed macaroni and cheese is an easy solution.

Yet a healthy diet made up of real, whole food will give you the energy you need to care for your baby and lose the weight.

A good rule of thumb is to eat between 5 and 9 servings a day of a variety of colorful fruits and vegetables. Fruits and vegetables are packed with nutrition and fiber so they’ll help you feel fuller longer and stave off hunger.

Also be sure to include lean protein, whole grains and healthy fats like avocado on your plate.

Related: 6 Reasons Why Avocado Is Healthy For Kids

2. Don’t starve yourself

Drastically cutting calories can put your body into starvation mode and stall your weight loss.

Plus, if you’re exclusively breastfeeding, you’re burning about 200 to 500 calories a day—calories your body needs to produce breast milk and boost your metabolism.

Instead of cutting calories, eat when you’re hungry, watch your portion sizes and choose foods that will satiate your hunger and give you energy.

3. Stay hydrated

Drinking plenty of water throughout the day is key for losing the baby weight.

Since water takes up space in the stomach, it can help you feel full and 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.

Thirst can also be mistaken for hunger so drinking up before reaching for something to eat can help you decide whether you’re hungry or not.

In fact, 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).

According to the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine, women should aim for 2.7 liters of water a day, while breastfeeding moms should get 3.1 liters a day.

If plain water isn’t your thing, add slices of cucumber or strawberry for a hint of flavor.

4. Prioritize protein

Eating enough protein helps to stabilize blood sugar, gives you energy, prevents overeating and can help you lose weight.

Getting protein in your meals and snacks is particularly important if you’re breastfeeding since there are high demands of protein on your body.

5. Plan meals and snacks ahead of time

When hunger strikes, it so easy to grab what’s available which isn’t always the healthiest option.

If you like to do meal planning for the week, go for it, but at the very least, think ahead and have a handful of easy, healthy dinner ideas so you’re not left stranded.  

Use your Instant Pot or Crock-Pot or try sheet pan meals to get dinner on the table quickly.

Also, do your best to carve out a few minutes to set aside cut-up fruits and vegetables, individual portions of smoothie ingredients, or nuts and seeds for easy grab-and-go options.

6. Keep healthy snacks on hand

Healthy snacks help to satisfy hunger, keep blood sugar levels stable, and prevent overeating and weight gain. 

Some good options include an apple with almond butter, Greek yogurt and raspberries, or hummus and baby carrots. 

7. Watch your wine

Relaxing with a glass of wine or your drink of choice at night can help you decompress, but the calories can also add up fast.

For example, a 5-ounce serving of Pinot Noir can net 121 calories. which is fine, but if you’re one of the 40 percent of adults who drink more than that the calories can add up quickly.

Also, if you’re breastfeeding, The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) says an occasional drink is OK, but having more than two drinks every day can be harmful to your baby and may cause drowsiness, weakness, and abnormal weight gain.

They also recommend moms wait at last 2 hours after having a drink before breastfeeding again. One drink of alcohol includes:

  • 6 ounces of wine
  • 12 ounces of beer
  • 1.5 ounces of liquor

8. Leave room for treats

Losing the baby weight shouldn’t mean deprivation, so leave room for a piece of dark chocolate, dried fruit, or a serving of popcorn, for example.

Related: [VIDEO] Is Dried Fruit Healthy for Kids?

9. Curb emotional eating

It’s common to feel anxious and stressed especially when you’re a new mom, and if you also have postpartum depression, everything can feel overwhelming.

If you’re an emotional eater like I am, you’re not alone.

According to a survey by the American Psychological Association, 31 percent of women eat to manage stress.

Although eating can be soothing, it’s always a temporary feeling and it can hinder your ability to lose weight.

Instead of turning to food to feel better, make a list of healthy activities you can do instead of eating: going for a walk with your baby, calling a friend, journaling or meditation, for example.

10. Ask an expert about losing the baby weight

If you’re looking for a customized plan and more help losing the baby weight, I recommend you speak to a registered dietitian nutritionist (RDN) who specializes in maternal nutrition and/or breastfeeding or seek the help of a therapist who works with new moms. 

The Truth About Being A Mom With Generalized Anxiety Disorder

The Truth About Being A Mom With Generalized Anxiety Disorder

Being a mom is hands down the hardest job you’ll ever have but for some moms who also struggle with anxiety, depression or another form of mental illness, parenting is that much tougher. As a mom with generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), I live with that struggle every day.

I’ve had anxiety since childhood, but shortly after I graduated from college, I saw a therapist who finally put a name to the constant worry about everything and anything that I was experiencing.

Writing about my challenges as a mom with generalized anxiety disorder is not easy because let’s face it: there is still a huge stigma around mental illness.

Yet the truth is that although being a mom with generalized anxiety disorder makes life challenging, it hasn’t held me back in life. I have a thriving writing business, a loving family and supportive friends. GAD doesn’t make a person weak (quite the opposite) and it’s not a character flaw, so if you are a mom who struggles with GAD, I want you to know, there is hope.

What is Generalized Anxiety Disorder?

GAD is a type of anxiety disorder that’s marked by constant, excessive worry around just about anything: health, work, family, and finances. GAD puts a negative lens on your outlook on life and causes you to anticipate the worst about things that are happening or could happen, whether they’re likely to or not.

According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA), 6.8 million adults have GAD but women are twice as likely to be affected. 

GAD can occur at any age, but it usually shows up between childhood and middle age—the typical onset is 31, which of course, is right around the time many women have their children.

For me, when I wake up in the morning, I do my best to pray and be still, but my heart and my brain are always off to the races.

I think about the what-ifs and the how-will-Is and the when-will-Is and the what-if-I- dos and what-if-I-don’ts.

As I try to plan and feel in control of my life, the worry ramps up that much more and everything feels even more out of control.

But it doesn’t only happen in the morning. It continues throughout the day and into the night until I finally fall asleep.

When it comes to work, GAD has its benefits and its drawbacks. As a health journalist, I think it has helped me track down stories, stay organized and make all of the deadlines.

But as you can imagine, writing about health all day can also cause my anxiety to ramp up and make me think, what if I have that condition too?

I also often worry about making deadlines and getting all the work done—even when there’s no reason to worry. 

These thoughts can take over so quickly that one minute you’re feeling fine and the next you’re not. For example, earlier this year when my provider said I was anemic and suggested I see a specialist, I headed to Google and I diagnosed myself: cancer!

As a mom with generalized anxiety disorder, it’s also no surprise that I often worry about my kids, but probably more than a mom without the disorder.

For example, my kids are in elementary school but when I check on them at night, I still check to make sure they’re breathing. When one of them gets a cold or has a stomachache, I worry that it’s something more serious.

When my husband takes my daughters out to run an errand, I make sure to give them hugs and kisses and then start to worry, what if they all die in a car accident?

And if my husband says he’ll be home by 7pm, and it’s 7:05, I immediately think he’s been in a car accident too.

Money is another hot button issue when you have GAD. Although we’re fortunate and can pay our bills and save, I worry that one or both of us will lose our jobs, not be able to pay the bills and go into debt.

Another way being a mom with generalized anxiety affects my life is that I feel overwhelmed by every responsibility big or small: cooking, cleaning, Target runs, the kids’ homework, their doctor’s appointments, parent-teacher conferences and meetings, paying the bills, sending in health insurance claims.

The list goes on and on.

GAD can also make me irritable. When my kids act silly, run around the house, have a meltdown or shriek with happiness because their dad is tickling them, it feels like fingernails on a chalkboard.

It all sounds completely irrational—because it is—but getting yourself out of the worry cycle is tough. People can tell me “be positive,” “relax” or “stop worrying,” but if it were that easy, then no one would have GAD.

GAD Symptoms and Signs

If you experience anxiety from time to time or around a certain life stressor, you know what it feels like. But for people with GAD, they find it hard to control the anxiety, and experience 3 or more of the following symptoms for 6 months or longer:

  • Feeling nervous, irritable, restless, or on edge

  • Being easily fatigued, feeling weak or lightheaded

  • Difficulty concentrating or mind going blank

  • Muscle aches and tension, headaches, stomach aches and other pain

  • Problems falling or staying asleep

  • Having a sense of impending doom, danger or panic

  • Increased heart rate

  • Rapid breathing, sweating and/or trembling

  • Feeling easily startled

 

GAD causes and risk factors

It’s unclear what causes GAD but experts say biological processes and the brain  play a role as well as:

Genetics: GAD runs in some families.

Personality: people who are negative or apprehensive and avoid danger may be more likely to have GAD. 

Life experiences: significant life changes, stressful or negative experiences, and trauma may all contribute. 

People with GAD are also more likely to be diagnosed with other mental health disorders including:

  • Panic disorder
  • Phobias
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
  • Depression
  • Substance abuse
  • Suicidal thoughts or suicide

GAD Treatment

When it comes to effective treatments for generalized anxiety disorder, there are several options.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
CBT is a type of therapy which helps you to identify, understand, challenge and change irrational thoughts and behaviors.

CBT has been very helpful for me through the years. You can find a trained therapist but I also recommend “The Feeling Good Handbook,” by David D. Burns. 

Medication
There are several types of medications that doctors prescribe for GAD including antidepressants, benzodiazepines and buspirone, an anti-anxiety medication.

Before you take medication, I recommend you ask your doctor to run a genetic test to determine which ones are right for you.

While medication does help some people, it didn’t for me. I also don’t believe they’re as effective as doctors and the pharmaceutical industry pegs them out to be.

To learn more, read “A Mind Of Your Own,” by Kelly Brogan, M.D. or at least read some of her blog posts about the dangers of antidepressants and how to help yourself with diet and lifestyle.

Relaxation techniques
Deep breathing exercises and techniques like progressive muscle relaxation, where you tense every part of your body and then release, can help ease anxiety.

Mindfulness meditation
Mindfulness meditation, a practice that focuses on breathing, mind-body relaxation and accepting your feelings and thoughts, has become mainstream and may help those with GAD. In fact, a March 2014 study in JAMA Internal Medicine suggests 30 minutes a day of meditation may improve symptoms of anxiety and stress.

How I cope with being a mom with generalized anxiety disorder


Although GAD is a daily struggle for me, there are several ways I’ve found through the years that help me cope.

Eat healthy
In my 20’s, when I ate a lot of processed foods and ate out a lot, my anxiety was much worse. Today, I eat a mostly whole foods diet that consists of fruits and vegetables, lean protein sources including many plant-based foods, whole grains, and healthy fats. I also work with a naturopath who has prescribed supplements to correct nutritional deficiencies and help ease anxiety.

Exercise
Whether it’s running, lifting weights or taking my favorite BODYCOMBAT class, sweating it out at the gym 5 to 6 days a week is a must to help me cope with GAD.

Get enough sleep
Sleep was definitely hard to come by when my daughters were babies—and even for years afterwards when they would wake up during the night. But now I try my best to prioritize sleep and get 7 to 8 hours because when I don’t get enough, it really affects my mood.

Volunteer
Every month, my daughters and I volunteer at a local non-profit organization where we “shop” for and deliver groceries to families in need. Not only does it help others and teach my kids how fortunate they are, but it helps me put things in perspective when I’m in a negative rut.

And science actually backs this up. According to a September 2017 study in the Journal of Clinical Pyschology, people who had anxiety and/or depression and focused on “compassionate goals,” or striving to help others and avoid selfish behavior, was associated with lower levels of symptoms and less relationship conflict.

Laugh
The old adage laughter is the best medicine is important when you have GAD because it helps you change your perspective. For me, it can be watching a funny show, or videos of Kristina Kuzmic or Cat and Nat. Most of the time however, it’s my husband who makes me laugh about anything and everything—sometimes so hard I can’t breathe!

Relax
When life gets stressful, my anxiety ramps up. Although it’s really hard to relax when you’re a mom with generalized anxiety disorder, I try to carve out time at night or on the weekends to sit, read and relax.

Faith
Last, but certainly not least, my faith in God has been a tremendous source of strength in my life. When worry and anxiety consume me, I turn to the Lord, pray and ask for his strength. By His grace, he helps me through.

How To Save Money At The Grocery Store

How To Save Money At The Grocery Store

     In our family, one of the biggest line items next to our mortgage and taxes is the grocery store bill. This might shock you—and sometimes I’m embarrassed to admit it—but we spend anywhere between $150 and $250 a week on food, which is why I’m always looking for ways to save money at the grocery store.

Lately, my husband has been doing the food shopping at Shop Rite, but I’ll also head to Whole Foods at least once a month to get certain items like salmon, grass-fed beef, liver (yes, my kids love it!) and organic bread.

The amount we spend at the grocery store has even become a bone of contention from time to time between he and I. He doesn’t believe organic is really organic, for example, and so he won’t shell out the extra cash for it.

We’ve also talked about curbing our spending on healthy, but high-priced, foods like nuts and fish. But at the end of the day, we both agree we’d rather spend money on healthy food instead of doctors’ bills down the line.

When it comes to paying more for healthy food, I know I’m not alone. According to a September 2019 survey, 80 percent of millennials say quality is a big factor when they go food shopping and nearly 70 percent will pay more money for it.

Another reason we spend a lot of money at the grocery store is because we’re committed to feeding our kids a mostly whole foods diet. Instead of processed, packaged after-school snacks for example, we encourage them to have a fruit or vegetable instead.

How much you spend when you head to the supermarket depends on a lot of factors including the part of the country you live in, if you live in the city, the suburbs or a rural area, the size of your family and if you buy organic, conventional or both.

Still, there are so many ways to save money at the grocery store. Here are 15.

Make a healthy grocery store list

One of the best ways to save money at the grocery store is to make a list and stick with it.

A new brand catches your eye or you see something your kids might like? Stick to the list!

As you start to make your list, go through your refrigerator, freezer and pantry and see what you need to replenish so you don’t buy something you already have.

Also, think about the week ahead so you can plan accordingly. Perhaps you need to bring the team snack to soccer or maybe you need a fast meal on hand for a night when you know you’ll be getting home late—add it to the list.

You’ll probably find that you purchase many of the same foods every week which is also a great way to keep your family on track with eating healthy.

Most of the foods on your shopping list should be those located in the perimeter of the store like fruits and vegetables, meat, fish and poultry and dairy and eggs.

In the interior sections, you can find healthy foods like beans and legumes, canned salmon, sardines and tuna fish, whole grains like brown rice, as well as frozen fruits and vegetables, but stay away from highly-processed foods and snacks.

Meal plan before heading to the grocery store

Surprisingly, I don’t do any formal meal planning because I tend to make many of the same meals every week and I keep it real simple on weeknights.

But some of my friends swear by it and experts say it can help you save a lot of money and cut down on food waste—a good thing since an average family of four in the U.S. wastes about 25 percent of the food they buy, costing as much as $2,200 a year!

Whether you use a meal planning app or old fashioned pen and paper, make a list of your meals for the week, including breakfasts, school lunches, dinners and snacks.

Also, look through new recipes you’ve saved to make sure you have all of the ingredients you’ll need.

Buy foods in bulk

Whether you’re a member of Costco or shop the bulk bins at Whole Foods, buying foods in bulk can help you save money at the grocery store.

However, 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 the food in a timely manner, it can spoil and create food waste.

Here are some great foods to buy in bulk:

  • Berries
  • Beans and legumes
  • Oats
  • Rice
  • Quinoa
  • Nuts
  • Seeds
  • Granola
  • Dried fruit
  • Herbs and spices
  • Olive oil and coconut oil

Stick with budget meals

When you do your meal planning, stick with meal ideas and recipes that have minimal ingredients and use cheap, healthy foods.

Also, think about ways to stretch your food dollars. For example, a large container of spinach can be used for morning smoothies and for a frittata for dinner. Or a package of beans can be transformed into a veggie chili or added to tacos.

Go to the grocery store on these days

Although the weekends can be busy with errands, sports and family obligations, it’s also a great time to head to the supermarket and do some meal prep or batch cooking when you get home.

The best day of the week to save money at the grocery store however, is Wednesday, when many stores come out with new deals. According to a survey by cash back app Ibotta, hump day is also the best day to save money on produce.

Whole Foods for example, runs Wednesday specials and if you also use the Amazon Prime app, you may be able to save even more.

Make more plant-based meals

Getting more plant-based foods into your family’s diet is one of the best things you can do for their health.

Plant-based foods are packed with the nutrition kids need for their growth and development. Most plant-based foods also have filling fiber to satisfy their hunger and prevent constipation. Recent studies show plant-based diets are also linked with a lower risk of type-2 diabetes, heart disease, high cholesterol and obesity.

Fortunately, plant-based foods are also more affordable than meat, poultry and fish, especially organic. Foods like black beans, chickpeas, lentils, tofu, tempeh, rice, quinoa, and farro are versatile, and can be used in several types of meals and help to stretch your food budget.

Don’t go to the grocery store hungry

Sometimes life is so hectic that the only time you have to go food shopping is right before dinner when you’re ravenous.

Yet going to the grocery store on an empty stomach means you’re not only more likely to buy junk food, but there’s a good chance you’ll also overspend.

In fact, a February 2015 study out University of Minnesota’s Carlson School of Management found people who were hungry spent 64% more money on (surprisingly) non-food items.

Order your groceries online

Ordering your groceries ahead of time can ensure you stick to your list and don’t make any impulse purchases.

Many stores allow you to place your order online and then either pick it up or have your groceries delivered.

Leave your credit card at home

No one carries cash anymore but if you bring it to the grocery store, it can actually help you stick to your food budget.

Unless you have a credit card that gives you cash back rewards (I love Capital One Quicksilver), it’s easy to overspend.

It may take more time, but also consider bringing a calculator to the store to make sure you stay on track.

Think twice about bringing kids to the grocery store

Bringing your kids with you is one of the best ways to encourage them to make healthy choices but if your kids are like most and are lured by clever food marketing and ask you to buy them treats every two minutes, your spending can easily get out of hand.

Fortunately, I’ve found some solutions that work.

Depending on your kids’ ages, you can set the expectation before you head into the supermarket that you’re sticking to the list because you can’t afford to buy anything extra. Or you can decide that they can pick out one treat, among a set of choices that you give them.

For younger kids, you might decide to bring a healthy snack for them to munch on or a toy to play with, or let them help you pick produce and take containers off the shelves.

Although it’s not always doable, try not to go grocery shopping during nap and meal and snack times when your kid is likely to be cranky and have a meltdown because you said “no” to sugary cereal.

Shop sales

Look through supermarket circulars for sales and coupons or load them onto your store app and stock up. You can also use a cash back app like Ibotta, and double your savings.

Also, shopping produce that’s in season means that it’s fresher but it may be also be a better price. Check out this helpful chart to see what’s in season all year-long.

If your supermarket has a clearance section, you may be able to find deep discounts on certain items. The key of course, is to only buy items on your list or those that you’ll use because otherwise, you’re wasting your money.

Use your store loyalty card

Many stores have loyalty reward cards which allow you to take advantage of exclusive sale prices or give you rewards points to use on future store purchases.

Buy generic instead of brand 

Unless you’re a brand loyalist or there is a difference in ingredients between brand name and generic, stick with the latter which can save you a ton of money.

 

 

Think outside the grocery store

Many big box stores like Target or Walmart also carry produce, including organic, so if you’re heading there anyway, it’s a good way to save money.

 

Also head to your local farmer’s market where you might get a better deal on organic produce than you would at the grocery store, one report found. Try to arrive around closing time when you might be able to score discounts on produce that the farmers haven’t sold.

 

 

Have your groceries delivered

Although the fees vary depending on the service, AmazonFresh, Prime Pantry, Thrive Market, Kroger Ship and Shipt can help you avoid overspending and if you think about the cost of your time, it may be well worth it. 

What are some of your favorite ways to save money at the grocery store? Let me know in the comments!

 

15 Companies & Charities Dedicated to Fighting Childhood Obesity

15 Companies & Charities Dedicated to Fighting Childhood Obesity

In August when Weight Watchers rolled out weight loss app Kurbo, it released a wave of sharp criticism from health experts, eating disorder specialists and parents alike—and once again shined a spotlight on fighting childhood obesity.

Although Kurbo is certainly extreme, it’s not anything new. Just think about weight loss camps or companies who have started to sell fitness trackers for kids in recent years.

Instead of putting kids on diets, segregating food as “healthy” and “unhealthy,” and encouraging kids to track their steps every day, kids need repeated exposure to healthy foods, and they need to have healthy eating and lifestyle habits modeled for them.

So although Kurbo, fitness trackers, or any other adult weight loss solution that’s re-packaged for kids isn’t the solution, the sad truth is that we are still facing a childhood obesity epidemic.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), obesity affects:

  • Nearly 14 percent of children 2- to 5-years-old.
  • More than 18 percent of 6 to 11-year olds.
  • More than 20 percent of 12 to 19-year-olds.

Of course, childhood obesity is just one part of an overall health epidemic in the U.S. Studies show kids who are overweight are at risk for other conditions including type-2 diabetes and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), both of which are on the rise.

Children who are obese also have risk factors for cardiovascular disease, including high cholesterol, high blood pressure and problems with blood glucose tolerance. Obesity may also play a role in kids who have asthma, obstructive sleep apnea, joint problems and mental health problems. 

In fact, a recent study out of the University of Alabama at Birmingham found teens who consume high levels of sodium and low levels of potassium in fast food and processed foods that are linked to obesity, are more likely to develop symptoms of depression.

Most of the responsibility of preventing childhood obesity starts at home but schools and communities also play a role especially for families struggling with food insecurity.

Fortunately, there are several companies, including many start-ups, and non-profit organizations that are dedicated to fighting childhood obesity. Here are 15.

 

1. Revolutions Foods

Founded in 2006 by Kristin Groos Richmond and Kirsten Saenz Tobey, two businesswomen and moms, Revolution Foods’ mission is to build lifelong healthy eaters and provide healthy meals to every child who is food insecure. 

To date, the company has designed, produced and delivered more than 360-million

kid-inspired, chef-crafted meals to childhood education centers, school districts, charter schools, and community and after-school youth programs in 15 states. 

With their community partners, they also offer nutrition curriculum, cooking classes, gardening lessons and other education events.

2. Chef Ann Foundation 

If you’re looking to change your child’s school lunch program like I am, the Chef Ann Foundation is an excellent place to start. 

Founded in 2009 by Ann Cooper, an internationally recognized author, chef, educator, public speaker, and advocate of healthy food for all children, the Chef Ann Foundation is dedicated to providing fresh, healthy school lunch every day. 

With tools, training, resources and funding, the Foundation helps schools create healthier food and redefine lunchroom environments. 

3. No Fuss Lunch

Founded in 2012 by Gabriella Wilday, No Fuss Lunch provides kid-centric, healthy school lunches, after-school snacks and meals for summer camps that exceed the National School Lunch Program’s standards. 

Their food is made without white sugar, high-fructose corn syrup, nuts, GMO’s or MSG and is safe for kids with food allergies. 

4. YMCA

For nearly 160 years, the YMCA has made it their mission to strengthen local communities and improve the nation’s health and well-being.

With programs that provide meals to those who struggle with hunger, teach healthy eating, encourage physical activity and healthy lifestyle habits and strengthen families, the YMCA is dedicated to fighting childhood obesity.


5. Sweat Makes Cents

Sweat Makes Cents is a non-profit organization with a particular focus on supporting millennial women who want to find a solution for childhood obesity.

The organization hosts jumping jack challenges, fitness fundraisers and city fitness teams that raise funds for nationwide childhood obesity prevention programs.

6. KidsGardening

Teaching kids how to garden is one of the best ways for them to be exposed to healthy food and learn where real food comes from.

KidsGardening is a national non-profit that offers grants, programs, curriculum, contests, and activities to create opportunities for kids to play, learn and grow through gardening. Approximately 70 % of the teachers who receive their grants say their students have improved attitudes about nutrition. In 2018, KidsGardening reached approximately 920,000 kids.

7. City Blossoms

City Blossoms is a Washington, D.C-based non-profit organization that develops creative, kid-driven green spaces. Their focus is on a combination of gardens, science, art, healthy living, and community building and they work with community-based organizations, neighborhood groups, schools, and learnings centers in the Washington D.C area and across the U.S.

8. Power of Produce (POP) Club

Bringing kids to farmers’ market is a great way to encourage access to healthy food and teach healthy eating habits which can go a long way in fighting childhood obesity.

At Power of Produce (POP) Club at the Oregon City Farmers Market kids get $2 every time they visit the farm to purchase their own fruits and vegetables, and they lean how to plant sunflower seeds, and make salads and jam, for example.

Related: 5 Reasons You Should Bring Your Kids To The Farmers Market

9. Hungry Harvest

Founded in 2014 and featured on Shark Tank, Hungry Harvest rescues “ugly” fruits and vegetables from farmers that would otherwise go to waste and sells them in discounted subscription boxes.

For every Hungry Harvest delivery, they also offer their reduced cost produce to SNAP (food stamps) markets and donate to local organizations whose mission is to solve hunger. To date, they have provided more than 750,000 pounds of produce to SNAP reduced-cost markets, food banks and local nonprofits.

10. Farm to School

The National Farm to School Network is an information, advocacy and networking hub that sources local food to be served in schools, establishes school gardens, and brings food and agriculture education into schools.

11. DrumFit

DrumFit, a cardio drumming physical education program for schools, is on a mission to teach kids to love cardio fitness for life. The company provides online video content, lesson plans and routines.

12. The Adventures of Super Stretch

The Adventures of Super Stretch app is a children’s yoga program that can be done at home, and in daycares, schools, and after-school programs. Free, iTunes and Google Play.

13. KaBOOM!

KaBOOM! is a national non-profit that creates safe, community-based play spaces.

Over the last 20 years they have built or improved more than 17,000 play spaces and in 2018 they built more than 3100 playgrounds. KaBOOM! teams up with funding partners to build safe spaces in one day.

14. My First Workout

Founded by Michelle Mille, a certified personal trainer and mom, My First Workout is designed to connect parents with their children and pull kids away from the technology and sedentary behaviors linked to childhood obesity.

The step-by-step strength and conditioning program is designed for kids 5- to 10- years-old and includes fitness equipment, a video and a poster so parents can feel confident performing the exercises with their kids.

15. Wholesome Wave

Wholesome Wave is a national non-profit that makes healthy food accessible and affordable for families who struggle with food insecurity through two types of programs.

Doubling Snap allows people with SNAP (food stamps) benefits to receive double the value to spend on produce at select farmers’ markets and grocery stores. Through their Produce Prescriptions program, people receive produce vouchers from participating hospitals and clinics to purchase fruits and vegetables. In 2017, Wholesome Wave reached more than 973,000 people.

7 Safe Pregnancy Exercises For Every Trimester

7 Safe Pregnancy Exercises For Every Trimester

When I was pregnant with my first child, I was working as an editor at a parenting magazine and I received a book about how to have a healthy pregnancy and there was a chapter devoted to safe pregnancy exercises.

At that time, I was teaching Spinning classes and running a few days a week. Since I had previously had a miscarriage however, my doctor suggested that I back off my workouts until I was 12 weeks pregnant and in the “safe zone.”

I knew the benefits of exercise during pregnancy and the importance of staying active, but without my favorite workouts, I needed to find something that was safe and I could do throughout my pregnancy.

During the first trimester, as my belly started to grow and morning sickness kicked in, I found that I was more tired, had less endurance and my balance wasn’t as strong.

So although I tried to start running again, it just wasn’t happening. Instead, I relied on walking, weight training, prenatal yoga, and some simple stretches and core exercises.

Whether you’re in the best shape of your life, or just starting out on an exercise journey, there are tons of safe pregnancy exercises and workouts to help you have a healthy pregnancy. 

 

 

Is it safe to exercise during pregnancy?

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.

Although exercise doesn’t increase your risk for miscarriage, low birth weight or early delivery, there are certain conditions like placenta previa and preeclampsia that would make exercise off limits.

Always check with your OB/GYN or midwife first before exercising, even if it’s your normal workout.

 

What are the benefits of exercise during pregnancy?

According to a September 2016 study in the American Journal of Preventative Medicine, 60 percent of women don’t get enough exercise, even when activities like walking to the store are included.

Yet with so many benefits of pregnancy exercise, it’s a win-win for you and your baby.

Healthier babies
Studies show pregnant women who exercise give birth to children who are healthier during infancy and beyond.

In fact, an August 2019 study in the journal Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise found newborns whose moms exercise during pregnancy are more adept at movement and are potentially more likely to be active throughout their lives, which can reduce their risk for childhood obesity.

Lower risk of pregnancy complications
According to a 2018 study in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, exercise during pregnancy strengthens women’s heart and blood vessels and may reduce their risk of pregnancy complications such as high blood pressure, preeclampsia and gestational diabetes by 25 percent.

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 caesarean sections.

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.

Prevents pregnancy constipation
Constipation is one of the most annoying side effects of pregnancy and it’s quite common—between 11 and 38 percent of women deal with it.

Blame it on your hormones, prenatal vitamin, and changes in your diet, but constipation can also be a result of being sedentary so it’s a good idea to carve out time for exercise most days of the week. 

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

 

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 the stress and anxiety that might be keeping you awake.

One caveat: don’t exercise too close to bedtime since it can have the reverse effect.

Shorter labor, 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.

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

For example, moving throughout the day in the weeks after delivery, and exercising once you get the all-clear from your doctor, 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 requires.

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, or a separation of the abdominal muscles that affects more than 50 percent of moms.

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 it.

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.

Related: 6 Subtle Signs of Postpartum Depression

 

Workouts to avoid while pregnant

Although most types of workouts are safe, there are reasons to stick with safe pregnancy exercises.

You should avoid workouts that could cause you to be hit in the belly such as contact sports like softball, volleyball, basketball and tennis.

Workouts that could cause you to fall should be avoided as well. Think downhill skiing, surfing, water skiing, off-road cycling, and horseback riding.

Since staying hydrated is really important during pregnancy, it’s also best to avoid workouts that could make you become overheated, such as hot yoga or even walking outside on a hot, humid day.

There are also simple, gentle workouts you should avoid, such as those where you need to lie on your belly or stand still or have twisting movements.

After 20 weeks of pregnancy, you should also avoid exercises that require you to lie flat on your back.

 

Pregnancy tips for exercise

Whether you’re heading out for a brisk walk or prenatal yoga is more your speed, here are some tips to consider to ensure your workouts are safe, beneficial and fun.

Always warm up
Before you start any type of exercise, it’s always a good idea to start off with a warm-up for at least 5 minutes. A warm-up helps the blood vessels dilate and contract so you won’t feel out of breath, and it helps to prevent injuries.

Drink plenty of water
During pregnancy, it’s really important to stay hydrated and drink plenty of water throughout the day and especially during and after each workout.

Staying hydrated is how your baby gets all of the nutrients you consume and can help prevent urinary tract infections (UTI’s), constipation, headaches and swelling.

The National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine recommends pregnant women drink 8 to 10 glasses of water a day.

Start exercising even if you haven’t been active
If you didn’t exercise regularly before pregnancy, it’s not only OK to start now, but it’s recommended. However, you should start out slow and gradually increase the intensity and time.

If you regularly exercised before getting pregnant and you have a healthy, uncomplicated pregnancy, you can stick with the same type of exercise, even high intensity workouts.

You should however, talk to your provider first to make sure you’re not going overboard.

Look for prenatal workouts
While Pilates and Yoga for example, can be great, low-impact workouts, some programs include movements that should be avoided during pregnancy.

When possible, it’s a good idea to choose prenatal programs which are geared specifically for pregnant moms or at the very least, ask the instructor for modifications.

Cool down
Just as your warm-up is important, be sure to make time at the end of your workout to cool down which will steadily and safely decrease your heart rate.

Listen to your body
When working out, don’t try to push yourself too hard and pay attention to how you’re feeling.

If you feel dizzy or faint, have shortness of breath, pain, swelling or weakness in any area of your body or other symptoms that you’re concerned about, stop and call your provider.

Likewise, if you feel sluggish or not like yourself, throw in the towel.

 

 

Safe pregnancy exercises for every month of your pregnancy

When it comes to choosing your workouts, there are some workouts that are safer than others, but the key is to choose something that is enjoyable and that you’re more likely to stick with. 

Walking
Walking is one of the best safe pregnancy exercises because it’s gentle on the muscles and joints, plus it’s free and can be done anywhere.

Swimming
Swimming is a safe, effective total body workout and when you’re pregnant, getting into the pool and feeling weightless is an amazing feeling.

Strength training
Moderate weight lifting using free weights or weight machines can keep your muscles and bones strong.

What’s more, an April 2018 study in the journal Psychosomatic Medicine found pregnant women who did resistance training twice a week had better mood and energy levels than women who didn’t.

Although strength training with weights can be safe during pregnancy, there are some movements that can cause injury or misalignment of the muscles.

Instead of maxing out on your reps, stick with lighter weights and more reps.

If you’re new to lifting weights, start out with light weights or use a resistance band. You might also choose to work with a trainer for a few sessions to learn how to lift safely.

Looking for a prenatal workout program? FIT4BABY is designed for pregnant moms and it combines cardio, strength training, balance, flexibility and meditation.

Core exercises
You’ll want to avoid crunches, sit-ups and double leg lifts, for example, which put strain on the abdominal muscles.

Of course, after 20 weeks, you’ll also want to avoid anything where you’re lying on your back.

However, safe abdominal exercises during pregnancy can help to ease back pain, may make your labor easier and can prevent diastasic recti.

If you’re looking for a program, I recommend EMbody, by Every Mother, which is the only fitness method proven to prevent and resolve diastasic recti.

Prenatal yoga
Studies show prenatal yoga can help ease pelvic pain, reduce stress, anxiety and symptoms of depression, and may make labor easier.

Experts say prenatal yoga can improve sleep, increase strength and flexibility and ease aches and pains throughout the body.

Prenatal classes are always great because of the community aspect, but if you’re looking for an at-home program, try Prenatal Yoga with Desi Bartlett.

Spinning
Spinning classes can be really intense but they’re actually designed for each person to go at their own pace.

Be sure to stay hydrated, avoid getting overheated and instead, go at your own pace. If standing up and riding is too challenging, bike while sitting down, for example.

Dance
Salsa, cardio dance and Zumba can all be fun, safe exercises pregnancy exercises that are easy on the joints, and can boost your energy and help keep your endurance levels up.

 

What are some of your favorite safe pregnancy exercises? Let’s open the conversation–leave me a comment!

 

10 Easy Healthy Dinner Ideas for Kids

10 Easy Healthy Dinner Ideas for Kids

Now that summer is over and you’re settling into your new routine, chances are, you’re searching for easy healthy dinner ideas. Although I love to cook and manage to get dinner on the table (almost) every night, I’m still a home chef, so I’m always searching for recipes for healthy meals that won’t cost me a ton of time or money—and I bet you are too.

Why you absolutely need easy healthy dinner ideas

Let’s get real: whether you work full-time, part-time, in an office, at home—or not at all, we all have way too much on our plates!

Despite all the images that clog up your social media feeds of moms whipping up the most amazing, healthy dinners for their kids and looking beautiful to boot, it’s simply not realistic.

In fact, a recent survey commissioned by Campbell’s Well Yes! Sipping Soups and conducted by OnePoll found moms spend 97 hours a week doing laundry, cooking meals, and drawing and creating art projects with their kids, among other parenting to-do’s.

When it comes to our spouses, no surprise here, but most aren’t doing their fair share, which makes our jobs even more difficult.

According to a February 2018 study in the journal Demography, married moms spend more time cleaning, cooking, shopping and doing laundry than single moms.

And another study found that married moms who are the sole breadwinners in the families do nearly an hour of housework on average when they get home compared to about 11 minutes that married fathers who are sole breadwinners do.

Although dads are spending more time on childcare—about 8 hours a week— moms still spend more time—about 14 hours a week—according to research by the Pew Research Center

Oh—and let’s not forget about life. Sick kid? Special needs kid? Caring for a parent? Marital problems? Car trouble? Household repairs? Debt? You might aspire to cook elaborate meals every night but easy healthy dinner ideas are what you need.

 

What easy healthy dinner ideas look like

When you’re looking for new dinner ideas, there are some things to keep in mind because not all recipes are created equal.

While I don’t recommend you count calories for your kids, you should make sure that the recipes you choose strike a balance between the calories they need in their diets and the amount you’re looking for, especially if you’re trying to lose weight.

Of course, you’ll also want to be mindful of the amount of saturated fat and sugar as well.

Vegetables are the star—or at least make an appearance

One of the first ingredients you should look for are vegetables. According to the USDA’s MyPlate recommendations, a healthy plate consists of 50 percent fruits and vegetables.

If the recipe doesn’t include vegetables—or enough—be sure to serve up your own.

Vegetables are filled with fiber which will help them stay satiated and may prevent weight gain. Add a fruit for dessert and you’re all set.

Protein

Protein helps to build muscle, carry nutrients through the body, regulate hormones, and strengthen skin and bones. Making sure you include protein with dinner also satisfies your kid’s hunger, balances blood sugar and prevents weight gain.

Include protein sources like eggs, chicken, turkey, beef (grass fed is best), beans and legumes, tofu and tempeh.

Whole grains

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans also recommend 50 percent of the grains we eat be made up of whole grains, which are a great source of B vitamins, zinc, magnesium and fiber.

Unlike white, refined grains, whole grains do a better job of satisfying hunger and balancing blood sugar. Good choices include whole wheat pasta, whole wheat couscous, brown or black rice, quinoa, farro and freekeh.

Healthy fats

Healthy fats are a vital source of energy for our kids and help satisfy their hunger.

They’re essential for healthy cell membranes, they support kids’ brains and the growth and development of their nervous systems, and help their bodies absorb fat-soluble vitamins like A, D, E, and K.

Fat is also necessary to make hormones and immune cells and help regulate inflammation and metabolism.   Healthy fats are found in foods like fish, nuts and seeds, and avocado.

Related: 6 Reasons Why Avocado Is Healthy For Kids

 

What to look for in easy health dinner recipes

In addition to the nutritional value, here are some guidelines to help you choose healthy recipes.

A short list of simple ingredients

If a recipe calls for something obscure or an herb I don’t have on hand, I pass on it.

The key is to make your life easy and look for recipes that not only use the ingredients you usually have in your kitchen, but also a short list of ingredients so that you can pull dinner together quickly and easily.

30-45 minutes or less 

It takes time to wash, cut and chop vegetables so I do a lot of my prep work ahead of time on the weekends, at night or in the morning before my kids wake up.

Whether you do prep work ahead of time or not, the key is to look for recipes that have a total prep and cook time of about 30 to 45 minutes or less.

Sheet pan meals and one-pot meals

One of the quickest ways to get a healthy dinner on the table is to look for sheet pan recipes or one-pot recipes. These methods are super-efficient and cut down on clean-up time too.

Use an Instant Pot or slow cooker

I typically use my stove and oven but if you have an InstantPot or Crock-Pot, you can set it and forget it.

Although it’s pricey, one of the best appliances I use is my Vitamix. You can use it to make soups, breads, doughs, dips, nut butters, sauces, dressings and marinades, appetizers, dinners and side dishes—it’s pretty amazing.

 

How to find easy healthy dinner ideas

Finding new recipes doesn’t have to be time consuming or disorganized with these easy tips.

Have a cookbook on hand

Call me old-fashioned, but if you want to have easy healthy dinner ideas at the ready, keep a few of your favorite cookbooks on your bookshelf or in your kitchen pantry. Relying on a handful of recipes makes getting dinner on the table easy.

Pin recipes on Pinterest

Head on over to Pinterest and pin meal ideas to your boards for easy access.

Follow Hashtags on Instagram

If you love Instagram as much as I do for discovering healthy meal ideas, follow hashtags like #healthydinnerideas, #healthykidsfood and #healthykidsmeals for some serious inspo.

Ask friends

You might find what looks like a great recipe, but when a friend confirms that it’s easy and healthy (and maybe their kids even like it), you know you’re golden.

Stick with your favorite food bloggers

Once you find a favorite food blogger who has great recipes, chances are, they’ll continue to publish more of the same. Sign up for their newsletters, subscribe to their YouTube channels and follow them on social.

Easy healthy dinner ideas

These 10 easy healthy dinner ideas will get you out of your dinner rut and help you serve up healthy meals in no time.

Sheet pan dinners

1. Bursting with bright veggies, packed with protein, and made with healthy fats and whole grains to boot, these Sheet Pan Steak Fajitas are the perfect meal to make on busy weeknights.

2. I’m a huge fan of Gina Homolka’s SkinnyTaste.com and her recipe for Sheet Pan Parmesan “Fried” Chicken with Broccoli and Sweet Potato Wedges is a balanced, healthy meal for your family.

Instant Pot recipes

3. This Healthy Turkey Chili Recipe is filled with protein and fiber and the best part is that you can make it in your Instant Pot, slow cooker or stove top.

4. Brimming with the brain and heart-healthy fats kids need, this Salmon, Sweet Potato and Broccoli recipe looks delicious and is quick and easy.

Chicken recipes

5. It doesn’t get much easier than baked chicken breasts and this recipe for Oven-Baked Chicken Breasts will help you get a tender and juicy chicken on the table in minutes flat.

6. Who says you can’t get dinner on the table in 20 minutes? This recipe for Chicken, Rice and Vegetable Skillet is packed with protein and plenty of flavor.

Gluten-free meals

7. Eggs are superfoods for kids and this recipe for Scrambled Egg Tacos looks amazing.

8. Beans and Greens are the ultimate easy and healthy gluten-free meal. Make a large batch and have enough for school lunches all week long.

Vegetarian and vegan meals

9. I’m always a fan of Cookie and Kate’s recipes and this one for Roasted Cauliflower and Farro Salad with Feta and Avocado is the ultimate healthy vegetarian meal. Roasted cauliflower is savory and the farro, avocado and feta make for a delicious flavor combination.

10. Lentils are a staple in my house and this recipe for Everyday Vegan Lentil Soup is a super-easy way to get more plant-based foods in your kid’s diet.

 

What are some of your favorite easy healthy dinner ideas? Let me know in the comments!

9 Ways To Make Breastfeeding Easier

9 Ways To Make Breastfeeding Easier

Breastfeeding is one of the most natural things about being a mom and although your body and your baby are designed for it, that doesn’t always mean it comes naturally.

It certainly didn’t for me.

I breastfed both of my daughters for a little over a year, and there were unique challenges with each.

Not only is there a learning curve but between painful, sore nipples, problems with your latch and milk supply, and what seem like 24/7 feedings, I quickly realized breastfeeding was no easy feat.

Add to that challenges like breastfeeding in public and returning to work, and it’s no surprise that only about 50 percent of moms are still breastfeeding at 6 months.

Still, there are ways to make breastfeeding easier. Here’s my advice.

1. Start breastfeeding as soon as possible

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommend moms and babies have skin-to-skin care immediately after birth or as soon as the mom is able to, and continue to do so for at least an hour.

Studies show moms of babies who have skin-to-skin care following birth are more likely to be exclusively breastfeeding at 6 weeks postpartum.

Keeping your baby close right after birth also helps you to recognize when he’s rooting and ready to feed.

About 50 percent of hospitals have rooming-in practices, but if yours doesn’t, it’s a good idea to keep your baby in your room since studies show it can increases the initiation and duration of breastfeeding.

2. Ask for help right away

After you give birth, ask to have a lactation consultant come into your room to show you breastfeeding positions that are comfortable and how to get the latch right.

Although I found the lactation consultant in the hospital to be helpful, once we were home I still felt unsure about how to sit and hold my baby and I worried if she was getting enough milk.

One of the best things I did was return to the hospital for a private consultation with two lactation consultants. My husband and I spent more than hour with them learning what the latch should feel like and how to position her, and they weighed her to make sure she was getting enough milk.

The hospital or birth center you deliver in is a good place to start or ask your provider for a referral.

Support through La Leche League, a new mom’s group, or from a friend can also help you navigate the breastfeeding journey with ease.

3. Get the right gear

It’s more affordable than formula feeding, but getting some basic products can make breastfeeding easier.

I found nursing bras, receiving blankets, a double electric breast pump, breastmilk bags, nursing pads and the Boppie to be invaluable.

4. Know the signs of mastitis

Between 2 and 10 percent of breastfeeding moms get mastitis, an inflammation  of the breast tissue that can cause redness, tenderness, or firmness around the breast as well as fever, fatigue and malaise. Mastitis may or may not be accompanied by a bacterial infection.

Mastitis usually happens when a milk duct becomes blocked from engorgement, but it can also happen from wearing a tight bra or clothing.

To clear mastitis, make sure you fully empty your breasts when you breastfeed or pump. If you have pain, applying heat to the area can also help with let down.

Your doctor may also prescribe antibiotics if the symptoms have been present for 12 to 24 hours or if you’re feeling ill.

It’s important to get plenty of rest, eat healthy and drink plenty of water too.

5. Get your spouse on board

When you bring your newborn home, you’ll probably be breastfeeding night and day, but just because you have the breasts doesn’t mean you have to do it alone.

Your spouse can take one of the nighttime feedings with a bottle of your pumped milk, but you’ll want to make sure you pump so your milk supply doesn’t decrease.  I found that waking up to pump when my husband fed our daughter didn’t make breastfeeding easier for me, but you might be able to make it work if you can pump before you go to sleep, for example.

As an alternative, you can feed your baby and then let your partner take over with the diaper change and putting your baby back to sleep.

6. Eat protein

Breastfeeding places high demands for protein on your body so it’s important to make sure you’re getting plenty at every meal and snack you eat. Eating protein will also stabilize your blood sugar, give you energy, and help you lose the baby weight.

Excellent sources of protein include:

  • Lean meats
  • Liver
  • Poultry
  • Milk
  • Fish
  • Tempeh, tofu and soybeans
  • Eggs
  • Yogurt
  • Cheese
  • Nuts, seeds and nut butters

Related: 15 Easy and Healthy Snacks For Breastfeeding Moms

7. Drink plenty of water

A misnomer about breastfeeding is that drinking plenty of water is important for your milk supply, but upping your intake of H2O actually doesn’t increase your milk supply, according to Kelly Bonyata, an international board certified lactation consultant and founder of KellyMom.com

What drinking plenty of water can do however, is help prevent you from feeling even more fatigued than you probably already do.

The National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine says the adequate intake (AI) for water while breastfeeding is 3.1 liters but notes there’s no data to suggest that kidney function and the amount of hydration breastfeeding moms need is any different than moms who are not breastfeeding.

Rather than keeping tabs on how much water you’re drinking, a good rule of thumb is to drink for thirst. Keep a water bottle near you during the day to make sure you’re staying well-hydrated and be mindful of symptoms of dehydration, which include dark urine, constipation, and fatigue.

If plain water isn’ your thing, add slices of cucumber or strawberry for a hint of flavor. Water from other sources count too: fruits and vegetables, soups, juices, milk, tea and coffee.

8. Get sleep—when you can

Let’s get real for a second: it seems that everything you read about having a new baby at home comes along with the advice, sleep when your baby does.

I don’t know about you, but after I had my daughters—and for several years later—sleep was a pipe dream.

My toddler and infant weren’t always on the same nap schedule and when they did nap, there were always things to be done like laundry, cleaning, bills, etc.

Still, it’s really important to sleep when you can because it’s important for your physical and mental health: it affects your hormones, immune system, appetite and your overall function. Although sleep deprivation is inevitable,  realize that it can contribute to the symptoms of postpartum depression.

Related: 6 Subtle Signs of Postpartum Depression


9. Wean slowly


When I started to wean my older daughter after her first birthday, I landed in urgent care.

I already had been diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) years earlier, but I had such intense anxiety and nausea I knew something else was going on.

The doctor I saw suggested I follow up with my primary care physician about gallstones, but I knew he was wrong.

Something that I think is not often spoken about is that weaning can cause sadness, depression, irritability, mood swings and anxiety, according to Bonyata.

Wean too quick and you can also set yourself up for engorged breast and mastitis (see #4).

When you start the weaning process, my advice is to do it slowly.

Try eliminating a feeding and waiting a few days until you drop another one. You can also gradually lessen the amount of time you breastfeed during each session.

Weaning can take 2 to 3 weeks to be complete so be patient—and enjoy this time with your child.

What are some things you’ve done to make breastfeeding easier? Let me know in the comments!