7 Healthy Memorial Day BBQ Ideas

7 Healthy Memorial Day BBQ Ideas

The Memorial Day BBQ is the unofficial start to the summer and whether you’ll be hosting or visiting family and friends, there will be plenty of food.

Yet between hot dogs and hamburgers, potato salad, coleslaw, chips and dip and your favorite red-white-and-blue dessert, Memorial Day is also one of the most caloric, high-sugar, fat-laden holidays of the year.

While I encourage my kids to try new foods and indulge on any holiday, I also worry that they’ll overeat, which in the past, have caused them to become physically ill.

Not only that, but I want to teach them healthy eating habits and how to enjoy food without going overboard.

Fortunately, you don’t have to sacrifice taste, forego your favorite summertime dishes or have “food rules” to strike a balance. Here are 7 healthy Memorial Day BBQ ideas that will allow your family to enjoy without getting too far off track.

Stay hydrated

Chances are Memorial Day will be a warm, sunny day and your kids will be running around so it’s important to encourage them to drink plenty of water.

Encourage your kid to stick with water throughout the day, instead of juice which is high in empty calories and sugar, spikes blood sugar, and may encourage cravings for other sugary fare.

If plain water is hard for your kids to swallow however, add sliced cucumbers or strawberries for some flavor. See also: How to Get Your Kids To Drink More Water

Since thirst can often be mistaken for hunger, drinking water before you arrive to your cookout can prevent overeating.

2. Offer veggies


The great thing about the vegetables served at Memorial Day BBQs is that they’re often kid-friendly.

Baby carrots, cherry tomatoes, brightly-colored sliced bell peppers, cucumber slices, broccoli florets and jicama “fries,” are often kid favorites and if they’re served with a dip, even better.

You can also set up a station with a variety of vegetables and have your kids make their own grilled veggie kabobs.

Although your kids may still not want to eat vegetables since other, tastier options will be available, do your best to get some on their plates since they’ll help to satisfy their hunger, fill them up, and prevent constipation.

3. Arrive hungry

Most nutrition experts advise people to have a small snack before they arrive at a party to prevent overeating, but arriving hungry may actually be a good thing for your kids.

By taking advantage of their hunger, you might have an easier time of encouraging them to make at least a few healthy choices.

Instead of filling up their plates with chips, which they’re probably going to eat anyway, you may be able to get them to eat fruits and vegetables first and have a more balanced meal.

4. Upgrade your protein

Most kids love hamburgers and hot dogs, but think about other protein options for you and them.

Instead of regular ‘ol hamburgers, make your own using grass fed beef. Or serve organic grilled chicken, shrimp or pull together a bean salad or lentil chili.

5. Include healthy dessert options

Kids should enjoy s’mores, ice cream or a festive Memorial Day dessert, but why not have other options available too to show kids that healthy food can be delicious.

Consider making a fruit salad with strawberries and blueberries, homemade fruit popsicles, or an almond butter fruit dip.

6. Pay attention to portions


When buffets, family style dining, and bowls of snacks are out for the day, it’s easy for kids to grab and lose sight of how much they’re eating.

Although I let my kids decide what they want to eat, I also help them make up their plate and keep portion sizes at bay.

7. Set up games and activities


There’s no doubt kids will be busy running and playing at their Memorial Day BBQ, but you can also set up games and activities that encourage them to move more. 

Think: ring toss, jump rope, hide and seek, tag, telephone or freeze dance.

What are some of your healthy Memorial Day BBQ ideas? Let me know in the comments!

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

5 Reasons Strawberries Are Healthy For Kids

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here are 5 reasons strawberries are healthy for kids.

 

1. Strawberries are loaded with nutrition

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

2. Strawberries can prevent and treat constipation

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

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

3. Strawberries might prevent type-2 diabetes

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

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

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

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

4. Strawberries support healthy eyes

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

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

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

5. Strawberries encourage healthy eating

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

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

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

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

10 Tips for Being a Happy, Healthy Mom

10 Tips for Being a Happy, Healthy Mom

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

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

I sure do and I don’t like it.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1. Carve out me-time

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

2. Eat healthy

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

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

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

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

3. Eat breakfast

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

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

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

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

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

4. Keep healthy snacks on hand

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

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

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

5. Get moving

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

6. Prioritize your sleep

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

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

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

7. Find ways to relax 

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

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

 

8. Practice gratitude

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

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

 

9. Have sex

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

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

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

10. Recognize when you need help

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

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

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

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

Best and Worst Drinks For Kids

Best and Worst Drinks For Kids

Longer days and warmer temperatures mean more time for outdoor sports, bike riding, and playing at the park.

Since kids are usually more active this time of year than during the winter, getting them to stay hydrated is much easier but what they drink is key.

Most drinks marketed to kids and young athletes are loaded with sugar and artificial sweeteners, flavors and colors. Those so-called “healthy” kids made with ingredients like dairy and fruit? They’re no better.

So what should your kids drink to stay hydrated? Here, get a list of the best and worst drinks for kids.

Best Kid’s Drinks

Water

Water makes up 60 percent of a child’s body weight and is an essential nutrient, responsible for every function in the body.

Pure, simple H2O may not be their first choice, but it’s the best because it gives their bodies what they need and it quenches their thirst without any unnecessary calories, fat or sugar.

In fact, the American Academy of Pediatrics says water should be their main source of hydration.

Depending on their age, weight and sex, kids should get between 6 and 8 cups of water a day, although that can include drinking water and water from foods like fruits and vegetables.

If you have trouble getting your kids to drink enough water, here are 5 ways to encourage them.

Milk

My kids will drink cow’s milk from time to time, but overall, I’m not a fan of it.

Expert say drinking dairy isn’t necessary.

Although it’s been promoted as a food that builds strong bones, studies show consuming dairy doesn’t reduce the risk of hip fractures in men and women.

Consuming dairy has also been linked to increased risks for heart disease, cancer and death.

Besides, they get their calcium from other, better calcium-rich foods that aren’t dairy.

Still, if you decide to serve it to your kids, it does have some benefits. It’s a good source of protein, vitamins A, B6, B12, D (because it’s added), calcium, magnesium, niacin, riboflavin, selenium and zinc.

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), kids between 1 and 8-years old should get 2 cups a day of dairy or milk and kids 9 and older should get 3 cups.

Non-dairy milk alternatives

Almond milk, coconut milk and other non-dairy milk alternatives usually have less protein and calories than cow’s milk, but they can have as much, if not more, calcium and vitamin D.

Compare brands and read labels carefully. I like to steer clear of those that are high in sugar and instead choose those made without artificial ingredients and are non-GMO, like Califia Farms.

Worst Kids’ Drinks

 

 

 

Soda

It goes without saying that soda is hands down the worst drink for kids. Soda is high in sugar and artificial sweeteners, flavors and colors.

Soda and other sugary drinks are main contributors to the childhood obesity epidemic, and conditions like type-2 diabetes and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, which are also on the rise in kids.

Despite the health risks, 63 percent of kids consume a sugar-sweetened beverage on any given day, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

If your kids won’t drink plain water, serving sparkling water with cucumbers or strawberries, for example, for some sweetness is an OK substitute. 

The more you can steer them away from the fizzy stuff and encourage them to drink water however, the better the chances that they’ll stick with the healthy habit throughout their lives.

 

 

Flavored milk

It blows my mind that chocolate milk is an acceptable drink for school lunch and

it’s one of the reasons I’m trying to change my kids’ school lunch program.

Flavored milk may have calcium and protein, but the sugar content is way too high: a 1/2 cup of low-fat chocolate milk has nearly 25 grams of sugar

as much as a chocolate bar!

 

 

Juice

Kids love to drink juice, and juice boxes are really convenient especially when you’re spending time outside, but juice is one of the worst drinks for kids.

Juice lacks fiber and is high in calories and concentrated sugars.

Drinking too much juice can lead to cavities, weight gain and diarrhea, in babies and toddlers.

Surprisingly the claim “fruit juice from concentrate” is actually added sugar and even if the label says “100 percent fruit juice,” it can still be made with fruit juice from concentrate.

Learn more about why juice isn’t healthy for kids and how homemade juicing can fit into a child’s diet.

 

Lemonade

It may be the quintessential summertime drink, but both store-bought and homemade lemonades are high in sugar.

Since lemons are acidic, letting your kids sip on lemonade all day can also cause erosion, which leads to cavities.

Save lemonade for an occasional treat or for weekend barbecues and make your own. Try this recipe for healthy homemade lemonade.

 

Ice tea

Ice tea sounds like a healthy and benign choice—tea is high in antioxidants, after all, but sweetened ice teas are high in sugar.

With unsweetened ice tea, you won’t get the sugar but some brands also have caffeine.

As an alternative, you can brew a non-caffeinated herbal tea at home. Keep in mind  however, that some herbal teas aren’t safe for kids so read labels and when in doubt, check with your pediatrician.

 

Fruit smoothies

Smoothies are often seen as a health food, yet take a look at most bottled or restaurant smoothies—yes, green smoothies too—and you’ll discover most are filled with sugar thanks to ingredients like fruit juice, honey, raw sugar and loads of fresh fruit.

Sure, fresh fruit has natural sugars, but sugar is sugar.

If your kids like smoothies, make your own at home. Combine 80 percent vegetables and 20 percent fruit to keep the sugar low and pay attention to add-ins which can make a drink meant to quench your kid’s thirst, enough calories to be a meal.

 

Sports and energy drinks

Sports and energy drinks are heavily marketed to kids, particularly for those that play sports, but they’re a significant source of calories and sugar.

Energy drinks also contain caffeine, and other stimulants, which have been linked to harmful neurological and cardiovascular effects, according to the AAP.

The AAP says water is usually fine for kids playing sports but sports drinks can be helpful for young kids who are engaged in prolonged, vigorous sports. Energy drinks should be avoid altogether.

[VIDEO] 5 Spring Activities That Will End Picky Eating

[VIDEO] 5 Spring Activities That Will End Picky Eating

When you have kids who are picky eaters, it can take months—even years—

to get them to try a bite of new, healthy foods.

You do your best to offer fruits and vegetables, try new recipes, different cooking methods or add butter or cheese to make them more appealing but nothing seems to work.

Picky eating is really frustrating and if you’re ready to throw in the towel, you’re not the only one.

According to a 2018 survey out of the U.K., half of moms and dads have given up persuading their kids to eat 5 fruits and vegetables a day.

Take heed—and stick with it.

With spring time in full swing, there is perhaps no better time of year to offer all the healthy superfoods the season has to offer and take advantage of fun activities that can get your kids out of their picky eating behaviors for good. Here are 5.

Short on time? Get 3 tips in this quick video.

1. Berry picking

Although my kids eat just about anything, they have fallen into picky eating patterns in the past.

Last year for example, the only types of fruits my older daughter would eat were bananas, mangos, watermelon and cantaloupe.

As a toddler, she used to eat berries by the handful but now it had become impossible.

It doesn’t sound like a big deal—she was eating fruit after all—but berries are high in fiber, a great source of antioxidants and low glycemic, so they don’t have as high of an impact on blood sugar as the types of fruits she was eating.

Kids have their own food preferences of course, so I didn’t push the issue. But my gut feeling was that it was a phase.

Everything changed when we visited my mother-in-law in Delaware and made an impromptu trip to a blueberry orchard.

Maybe it was the experience of berry picking (likely) or that her Italian grandmother, who can get her to eat just about anything, was there (even more likely).

But within seconds, my daughter was saying: “I love blueberries!” and “blueberries are delicious!”

As we continued to pick the blueberries, I shook my head. I couldn’t believe how one new experience could literally change her perspective in seconds flat.

One of my Instagram followers had a similar experience:

“… this is how I got my daughter [to] eat more fruit. We go pick fruit all the time! She loves it and most of the time more goes in her tummy than in the bucket.”

May is the season to pick strawberries, but keep up the fun throughout the summer by picking blueberries, peaches, nectarines and cherries as well.

2. Farmers’ market

Visiting your local farmers’ market is a spring activity that can put an end to picky eating.

Kids learn where food comes from and it’s a new way for them to be exposed to local fruits and vegetables.

Let your kids pick out something they’ve never tried before and prepare it together at home—it will make them feel empowered and more likely to eat it.    

3. Community Supported Agriculture (CSA)

A Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) farm allows you to purchase local, seasonal food directly from local farmers.

You purchase a “share,” usually a box of vegetables, but some CSAs also include other farm products like eggs and cheese, that you receive each week.

It may be a benefit or a drawback depending on how you look at it, but you’ll receive varieties of vegetables that you never tried or heard of before.

Some CSAs may also allow you to personalize your share and choose some of the produce that’s included.

If you’re not ready to commit to a CSA, then take a visit to a local farm. Many local farms host tours, cooking classes and special events that can encourage your kids to try new foods.

4. Plant a garden

Last year, our family planted our first vegetable garden and my kids were thrilled to pick and eat the salad, tomatoes, eggplant and peppers that we grew.

A family garden is one of the best ways to encourage healthy eating. In fact, a September 2016 study out of the University of Florida suggests kids who garden are more likely to eat fruits and vegetables throughout their lives.

When kids learn how to grow their own food, they get really excited to see the fruits—and vegetables—of their labor and their perspectives can change overnight.

If you don’t have space for a garden, use small potted plants, grow herbs, sprouts or microgreens, or look for community gardens where you can plant your own food.

5. Have a picnic

Sometimes all it takes to get your kids out of their picky eating behaviors is a change of scenery.

Take advantage of the warmer weather and longer days and head out to the park, picnic grounds or even your own backyard for a picnic with your kids.

Pack foods you know they’ll eat in addition to some new, in-season foods, which they may be more likely to eat because eating outside is something different—and fun.

What are some of your favorite spring activities that have encouraged your kids to eat healthy? Let me know in the comments!