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!

My Love-Hate Relationship With Breastfeeding

My Love-Hate Relationship With Breastfeeding

When I was pregnant with my first child, I read about all of the amazing benefits of breastfeeding and decided right away that I’d breastfeed.

It seemed natural, easy and the best decision for my baby, but little did I know that after two babies and 25 months combined, I’d grow to have a love-hate relationship with breastfeeding.

Here’s why.

Things I Loved About Breastfeeding

 

The Benefits of Breastfeeding

Breastfeeding is one of the best things you can do for your baby’s health and your own.

To this day, I still think it’s one of the most amazing experiences as a mom. I was in awe that my body could provide the perfect nutrition my babies needed and the nutrients in my breastmilk even adjusted as they grew.

For babies, studies show breastfeeding can lower the risk of SIDS, childhood obesity, type-2 diabetes, asthma, ear infections, eczema, diarrhea and vomiting and lower respiratory infections.

There’s also research that shows breastfeeding may prevent picky eating.

When it comes to moms, breastfeeding lowers the risk for type-2 diabetes, ovarian cancer and certain types of breast cancer.

What’s more, an August 2018 study in the Journal of the American Heart Association found that women who breastfeed for one month or longer had a 23 percent lower risk for stroke.

 

My breasts got huge

Since I went through puberty, my breasts have been barely an A cup.

To be perfectly honest, it never really bothered me much and it was something I just accepted about my body.

When I was breastfeeding however, I couldn’t believe how large my breasts grew—porn-star big.

They went back to their normal size when I stopped breastfeeding of course, but it was a nice benefit for me and my husband while they lasted.

 

 

I was grateful for breastfeeding support

After I had my babies, I was grateful to have support from the lactation consultants at the hospitals I gave birth in.

The women took their time to explain how to position my babies, make sure the latch was correct and how I could tell that they were getting enough milk.

To get that help made all the difference in making breastfeeding easier, and I felt supported by other women who had been there especially during a time when I felt totally unsure of myself as a new mom.

 

 

The weight loss

The day I left the hospital with my first child, the neonatal nurse told me if I continued to breastfeed, “the weight would melt right off.”

That was good news for me since I had gained too much weight during pregnancy.

She was right. I exclusively breastfed, ate healthy and exercised regularly and I was back to my pre-pregnancy weight in just a few months. 

Related: How I Lost The Baby Weight Twice

Although breastfeeding can help you lose weight, this isn’t the case for everyone.

How much you’ll lose and how fast depends on how long you exclusively breastfeed for, how much weight you gained during your pregnancy, as well as your diet and exercise habits after you give birth.

Things I Hated About Breastfeeding

 

My first experience was a negative one

Let me paint a picture for you of my first breastfeeding experience in the hospital.

It’s an experience I wouldn’t wish on any mom and it’s something that could have easily deterred me from breastfeeding.

At 38 weeks, I had just given birth after a 41-hour ordeal in which a nurse told my husband and I that I didn’t need a birthing ball—women in other countries just buck up and give birth!

And my doctor walked out of the room while I pushing, annoyed that I wasn’t delivering fast enough.

Those were just the highlights of what was an arduous labor and delivery with plenty of twists and turns.

By the way, this was a top ranking hospital in one of the wealthiest areas in the country.

In any case, I was holding my daughter and one of the labor and delivery nurses was by my side. I started to breastfeed and asked her if the latch was correct. Her response? “I thought you said you read a book about breastfeeding?”

I was shocked and upset by her utter lack of understanding, kindness and compassion.

New moms need to feel supported—not shamed.

 

 

Breastfeeding is a part-time job

Don’t get me wrong, pulling out your breast and putting your baby next to you is quicker and much easier than having to get up in the middle night to prepare a bottle while your baby cries.

But breastfeeding is time consuming in other ways and takes more patience than bottle feeding.

When I was breastfeeding, I always felt like I was “on-call,” especially in the beginning when there are 8 to 12 feedings a day.

In the first few months, my husband would wake up to feed our daughter a bottle of pumped milk but I often woke up to pump as well so my milk supply wouldn’t dwindle.

 

 

My baby didn’t eat like formula-fed infants do

When I had my second child, I saw a lactation consultant and told her the Babywise methodology, the eat, play, sleep schedule that had worked perfectly with my older daughter wasn’t working at all with my second.

Instead, she wanted to breastfed all the time and I was one tired mama.

She explained that unlike formula-fed babies who eat on a schedule and can go longer between feedings, breast milk is digested quickly and the truth is, newborns eat all the time.

 

 

 

I got mastitis and D-MER

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.

I also battled a sneaky condition called Dysphoric Milk Ejection Reflex (DMER), in which I had a moment of intense anxiety and feeling of doom right as my milk letdown.

 

 

My body was out of control

With my first baby, I produced a lot of milk. She had a strong, efficient suck and I was also pumping.

My breasts would leak when she—or another baby nearby—cried so I always wore nursing pads.

When I sat down to breastfeed, my milk would let down so fast my daughter would often let go of the latch to catch a breath and my breasts would spray everywhere. 

Since breastfeeding also causes estrogen levels to be low, sex was challenging and often painful. And those leaking breasts? Yea, that happened during sex too thanks to oxytocin—fun times!

 

 

Going back to work was hard

I was lucky to be able to work from home when I had my kids and have (the most amazing) babysitter care for them in our home.

I started working again two weeks after my daughter was born and I only worked part-time. But I had deadlines to meet so trying to feed my baby or pump a bottle and get my work done in a short amount of time was stressful.

Studies show only about 50 percent of moms are still breastfeeding at 6 months and we know that returning to the workforce is one major obstacle.

 

 

My child had tongue tie

When I had my second daughter, I told one of the midwives in the hospital that breastfeeding was painful.

She looked in my daughter’s mouth and said she had a slight tongue-tie, a condition in which the piece of tissue under the tongue, the frenulum, attaches to the bottom of the tongue which makes breastfeeding difficult.

I wasn’t in severe pain but after a year of breastfeeding, I knew it shouldn’t feel that way.

She also explained that if it was left uncorrected, it could interfere with her speech later on. I also couldn’t wait to have the in-office procedure to snip the frenulum,  because if I did, she’d need surgery in the hospital.

A few days later, I made an appointment with an ear, nose and throat (ENT) doctor and although I decided it was the best choice, it was a rushed visit and seemed like the only option.

Within 2 minutes, he clipped the frenulum with scissors and my daughter burst into tears. When I went to check out and was told the procedure was $500, I cried too.

Despite all of the breastfeeding challenges I faced, I was grateful that it ultimately became easy for me and I didn’t have to deal with low milk supply or make the decision to go back into an office full-time like others moms do.

Would I do it again? In a heartbeat.

Did you have a love-hate relationship with breastfeeding? Let me know your experience by leaving me a comment! 

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!

10 Best Healthy Pregnancy Snacks

10 Best Healthy Pregnancy Snacks

You already know that a healthy pregnancy diet is important for both you and your baby, but when hunger strikes and you have nothing on hand, you might be tempted to grab something quick and easy like a bag of salty chips or a package of cookies. Being prepared with list of healthy pregnancy snacks that are made up of whole foods and are nutrient dense however, is the way to go.

Healthy snacks will help satisfy your hunger, keep your blood sugar levels stable, and prevent fatigue, overeating and weight gain. Noshing on good-for-you options can also help satisfy pregnancy cravings and fill in nutritional voids if you have food aversions and morning sickness.

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

Need some snack ideas? Here are 10.

1. Guacamole and raw veggies

With 20 vitamins and minerals including vitamins B5, B6, C, E, K, folate and potassium, avocado is also a good source of protein and fiber.

Avocado is also an excellent source of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats—healthy fats that can satisfy your hunger and help to reduce bad cholesterol and the risk for heart disease later on in life.

Pair carrots, celery, broccoli, jicama or your favorite raw vegetable with guacamole  or mashed avocado for a healthy, delicious and satisfying snack.

2. Tuna and celery or whole grain crackers

Studies show eating foods high in omega-3 fatty acids during pregnancy is vital for baby’s brain and retina development.

Eating these healthy fats may even determine when your baby is born and prevent postpartum depression, according to a 2010 study in the journal Reviews In Obstetrics & Gynecology.

The best source of omega-3 fatty acids, specifically EPA and DHA, are from fish.

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) say it’s safe to eat two, 8-12 ounce servings of fish per week.

Tuna, canned light and skipjack, are low-mercury options that’s are also easy and quick to pull together for a snack.

Pair tuna fish with celery, which is a good source of vitamin B6, calcium, magnesium, vitamins A, C, K, folate and potassium. It’s also high in fiber: a 1/2 cup has nearly 2 grams. Or if you’re craving carbs, add a few whole-grain crackers.

3. Hard boiled egg and an apple

Eggs are an excellent source of protein—1 egg has nearly 7 grams—to satisfy your hunger and give you plenty of energy.


They’re also a good source of vitamin D, which is vital for your baby’s bone development and your own health.

According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), between 1,000 and 2,000 IU per day of vitamin D is safe.

Since most prenatal vitamins only have 400 IU of vitamin D, getting eggs in your diet is a good idea.

Eggs also have choline, which is important for brain development—so much so that the American Medical Association recently recommended pregnant women get more of it in their prenatal vitamins.

Pair a hard boiled egg with an apple and you have a healthy, delicious and portable snack.

4. Greek yogurt and berries


With 17 grams of protein per serving, a great source of calcium, potassium, magnesium and vitamin B12, and rich in gut-friendly, immune-boosting probiotics, Greek yogurt is one of the best healthy pregnancy snacks.

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

Top Greek yogurt with raspberries (fresh or frozen) which are high in fiber, and a good source of vitamins C and K, and magnesium.

5. Chia seed pudding with fruit

An excellent source of protein, fiber and healthy fats, chia seeds are an excellent choice to snack on when hunger strikes.

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

6. Iron fortified cereal with banana

Since your blood volume doubles during pregnancy, it’s important to get enough iron so you won’t become anemic.

Iron-fortified cereal is also a great choice but look for those that have an 80 to 90 percent daily value of iron.

Add sliced bananas, which are a good source of potassium, vitamin B6, and fiber: 1 small banana has 2.6 grams.

7. Green smoothie

Green leafy vegetables like kale, spinach and broccoli are excellent sources of vitamins A, C, K, iron, and B vitamins which are important for your baby’s brain development and nervous system.

They’re also good sources of calcium which is important to help your baby develop strong teeth and bones.

One way to get plenty of green leafy vegetables into your diet, especially if you’re battling morning sickness, is to make them into a cold green smoothie or green juice.

Related: [VIDEO] 11 Natural Ways to Deal With Morning Sickness

A good rule of thumb: choose an 80/20 ratio of vegetables to fruit and add a protein source like peanut butter or a protein powder.

8. Hummus and baby carrots

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

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

9. Homemade trail mix

Store-bought trail mixes make can he a healthy option but read labels carefully because many brands are packed with “yogurt-” covered raisins, chocolate chips and M&Ms—all sources of sugar.

You can also make your own trail mix with unsalted nuts and seeds, raisins, toasted coconut and granola, but be sure to stick to 1/4 cup.

10. Sliced pear with cheddar cheese

Pears are sweet and refreshing, a good source of vitamins C and K, and with more than 4 grams of fiber per serving, they can also help prevent pregnancy constipation.

Related: [VIDEO] How to Cope With Pregnancy Constipation

Add an ounce of sliced cheddar or Colby-Jack and you have one of the best healthy pregnancy snacks.

What’s one of your favorite healthy pregnancy snacks? Let me know in the comments!

9 Cheap Healthy Foods Under $2

9 Cheap Healthy Foods Under $2

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

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

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

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

1. Frozen spinach

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

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

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

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

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

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

Average cost: $.28 cents per serving

2. Pureed pumpkin

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

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

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

Average cost: $.52 cents per serving

Related: 6 Surprising Health Benefits of Pumpkin

3. Beans

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

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

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

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

4. Brown rice

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

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

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

Average cost: $.10 cents a serving

5. Tuna fish

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

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

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

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

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

Average cost: $1.30 cents per serving

Related: What Types of Fish Are Safe for Kids?

6. Peanut butter

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

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

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

Average cost: $.21 cents per serving

7. Edamame

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

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

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

Average cost: $.83 cents per serving

8. Baby carrots

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

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

Average cost: $.28 cents per serving

9. Canned tomatoes

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

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

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

Average cost: $.28 cents per serving

Related: 8 Supermarket Shortcut Foods To Make Healthy Eating Easy

8 Tips for Traveling and Flying With Breast Milk

8 Tips for Traveling and Flying With Breast Milk

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

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

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

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

Here are questions to those answers and more.

1. Know the TSA rules for flying with breast milk

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2. Know the TSA breast pump policy

 

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

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

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


3. Pack your breast pump parts

 

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

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


4. Map out a place to pump

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

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

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


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


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

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

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

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


6. Look into breast milk shipping services


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

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

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


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

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

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

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


8. Plan ahead for traveling with breastmilk on a cruise


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

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

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

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

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