TOP 5 TIPS FOR LESS SUGAR ON HALLOWEENOct. 22nd

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Here are 5 Tips for saving our kids from Scary Sugar Stories on Halloween, without being a bad “Witch”. Truthfully, I’m dreading bringing this up, talking about SUGAR on Halloween? The most poorly received public presentation I ever made was talking to a corporate group about office culture and nutrition, bringing up how sugar creates health problems and how the office should not allow employees and solicitors to populate the break room with sugary delights. Not only were there crickets in the room but the glares I got for the rest of the week drove home how sugary rituals are part of the joy people took in their workdays. So, please allow me to spare you the details of why we want to limit the sugar in our diets for another day (or by special request) and merely provide a small pitch and resources to help make Halloween time a less sugary event, should that be on YOUR list of priorities.

Events

EVENTS – Many community centers, churches, and organizations have events designed to be fun alternatives to trick or treating. Having the kids wear themselves out in bounce houses, bobbing for apples, playing games for prizes, etc… may just wear them out enough to make Trick or Treating a smaller part of Halloween rather than the main event, or eliminate it altogether. To find events in your area, google Halloween events in your city or county, or contact a local news provider.

Switch WitchSWITCH WITCH –  If “trick or treating” is the absolute favorite activity and does produce prodigious amounts of candy, consider using a “Switch Witch” approach Just remember to set up the story some days before Halloween. You can also call it the “Candy Fairy” if your children are scared of witches and don’t like the thought of her creeping into their houses while they sleep. You can either dump all the candy or let your child keep a few of their favorites and get rid of the rest.

Candy Trading

 

 

CANDY TRADING   some dentists offices accept candy trade-ins for little prizes and send the sweets as little gifts to our troops overseas. My 5 year old did ask the question “if sweets are bad for us, why are they good for the troops?” I think my answer mentioned that they’d only be getting a few pieces each so it wouldn’t send them to the dentist’s office straight away with a cavity, but it would nicely remind them of being a kid again.

Sugar Substitues

 

SUGAR SUBSTITUTES – If you are motivated to bake, there are many sugar substitutes that taste great hidden in cookies and other treats, and are far less harmful than refined white sugar. Also, if you are supplying treats for your community party or for trick or treaters, consider giving out glow sticks or other party favor toys instead, most small children will like them even better than edible treats and you and your kids won’t be tempted to sample the goods.

Learn MoreLEARN MORE about the effects of refined sugar on children’s bodies and why too much candy can be harmful to their health. Do it together and make a game of learning more, and let them teach you, too, so everyone will respect the decision to limit sugar in the family diet. For small children short and sweet explanations work best, like “it gives us tummy aches or gives us tooth aches”, and as children get older, invite them to watch a documentary like one that we recommend: Katie Couric’s “Fed Up”. 

A More Sustainable Lunches Continues… the HORROR of ziplock bagsOct. 15th

ziplocksI have a confession to make: I use ziplock bags, a lot of them. Before my son started kindergarten, it would take at least 6 months to go through the box of ziplock bags, but suddenly, with packing school lunches for a picky eater, I have been going through 1 box every month. I hate to think that I’m contributing to the giant trash gyre of the pacific, or to my family’s exposure to endocrine disruptors released by plastics. Plastic, a ubiquitous part of modern life, is very hard to eliminate from the household. I remember one playdate I went to where the house was pretty much plastic free. I was so envious of the amount of jars and pretty ceramic containers that they had. So, I’ve tried to start, with one container at a time, one less processed food at a time. After all, my cupboard used to be full of Teflon non-stick pans  and one by one I replaced them with safer (and more expensive) options. One step at a time, I CAN do this!! I’m not much of a seamstress, so luckily there’s Etsy with lots of options for hand-made reusable bags.handmade bags When choosing fabrics, you want to look for BPA and phthalate free material as the liner, as some are made with cheaper PVC plastic that is not safe for packaging food. When I googled “do it yourself sandwich bags”, the first link was to a better homes and garden article which says to use the PVC fabric because it is easier to sew than ripstop nylon. If you are handier at sewing than I am, you can look at do it yourself materials on the internet like this. Your kids will enjoy picking their own fabrics and you can teach them how to sew with this really easy first project. You can even sell them for your PTA fundraiser instead of candy or other junk food popularly used as fundraiser fare. So, who’s with me in dumping plastic ziplock bags?

Guest Blogger: Rebecca Wolthers, parent educator and aspiring green mom

Guest Post: 5 ideas to get us out of a lunchbox rutOct. 12th

HeartSandwich

When we think of school lunches normally food items such as a sandwich, mini pizza, cookies, a pack of juice come to mind. These are what usually form the lunch box of a child. Why is that so? Mainly because they are convenient and children like them too. No preparation time is required, saving you time and effort, and all you have to do is pop them in your child’s bag. Children also love you for that. But are parents really doing a favor to their kids by giving them such items for school lunch? Not really. Not only are these highly processed but they also contain high levels of sodium, preservatives and sugar, making them unhealthy. School canteens also do not always have a variety of healthy options available. Besides, it is better for you to pack homemade lunch for your children rather than giving them money to buy something from school. Not only will that ensure that the food is hygienic and nutritious but it will also save loads of money over time. Since most kids are unaware of the health hazards of unhealthy food, it is up to you to provide them with nutritious meals and help them eat healthy.

Last night’s leftovers

No, there is no hard and fast rule that school lunches can only include chips and cookies. Last night’s leftovers will work just fine. Did your child love the meatballs from last night? You could make some extra and maybe add some rice with it. There you have a healthy lunch ready and something that your child would be eager to have. You could prepare chicken chunks, make chicken and egg spread for a sandwich, fry or bake boneless fish. There are plenty of options for you to consider. Just make sure to pack everything properly to ensure freshness and safety. You could use a thermos for warm food. Include reusable utensils and cloth napkin for ease.

Fruits and vegetables

Pack them such that they can be eaten easily. A child would prefer sliced apples and oranges rather than a whole one. The downside is that they would turn brown by lunch time and your child would rather skip them. Use lemon juice on them to avoid that. Bananas could be given as they are. A bag of grapes is also a good idea. Rather than buying jams and jellies from the stores, you could prepare these at home. The ones available in the supermarket contain very high sugar levels plus preservatives. Some children tend to prefer smoothies over eating fruits. If your child is one of them, you could skip on whole fruits and instead prepare a fruit smoothie, with maybe just a small portion of some vegetable, like spinach. Believe me they would not be able to spot the difference. The best part is that this could be prepared the night before and frozen.

Dairy products

Smoothies are a good way for your child to consume dairy. If not, you could give them the small tetra packs of milk available in the market. Another option is yogurt that you could freeze at night and it would be ready to be eaten by lunchtime. You could add fruits to the yogurt to make it more appealing to a child’s palate. But while you are working on adding dairy to your kids’ diet, think about choosing organic dairy products. You will be doing a favor not only to your children but also to the environment. Factory farms are still injecting artificially produced hormones into cows that make them give more milk. This is not natural and definitely not healthy for you, your children, or the cows. Opt for organic milk even if it costs slightly more.

Grains

How can you incorporate grains in your child’s lunch? Whole grain or whole wheat bread should be preferred over white bread. Prepare rice cakes at home and sprinkle them with fruit syrup or maybe peanut butter to make them more appealing. Whole grain crackers are also a good idea and you could also include cheese in the lunch box to go with them. Making cookies at home of whole grains, such as oatmeal raisin cookies instead of the usual chocolate chip, will add nutritional value to their desserts. 

Proteins

Meat does not necessarily have to be a part of your child’s diet to get them to take in protein. If they do not like it, do not fret. There are alternatives. Egg is a great source of protein, and packaged perfectly for on the go. Hard boiled eggs are easy to prepare and eat. Nuts are also good for lunch or snack time. You could prepare chicken salad or a tuna sandwich if they are into these.

Final thoughts

Children who have healthy, well balanced lunches are better able to concentrate in their class than those who go for the less variations. So there is another reason you should ensure that your children are being supplied with a healthy lunch box. There is also the issue of food allergy to consider. If a certain kind of food does not suit your child, it is best to have their lunch packed from home. Kids may not be as careful about their food choices even if you have instructed them about it beforehand. It is better to be safe.

Author Bio:

Batool Ali is an international blogger who loves to write on different disciplines such as Health, lifestyle, fashion, finance and education.

A More Sustainable Lunch Continues….Oct. 8th

Today’s entry focuses on how to reduce waste and packaging when it comes to the lunchbox. In our featured video, Lily shows us not only what the contents of her lunch look like but how it is packed.

  • reduce, reuse, recycle may be words that seem over played but they really cut to the basics and are in the right order of operations. If you are striving for a more whole foods diet for health reasons for example, you will have the bonus of reducing plastic and cardboard packaging that are ubiquitous in the processed food aisles of the grocery store. You may also be using more bulk foods, which will prompt you to have glass or tin containers to hold your bulk foods, and nearly completely eliminate plastic containers and throw away boxes. Instead of grabbing a box of “insert comfort food here” you may learn how to make more things from scratch, one recipe at a time replacing such things as granola bars and cookies and turning them into secret power foods with nut butters and coconut sugars instead of processed sugars and empty calories.
    • DO THIS MORE: Bulk foods are now widely available

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AND LESS OF THIS: health food stores have attractive and tempting packaging!

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Sometimes it is easier to get kids on board than to “sustain” sustainability, so we want to hear about your “reduce” and “reuse” hacks, including containers, bento boxes, lunch bags, etc… especially home made and low cost options. Here’s a great read on high quality sustainable and safe lunch boxes, Here’s some wild ideas from a sustainable restaurateur to cut your food waste, including how to tell if your eggs have gone bad, and some pretty wild ideas on how to eliminate packaging in your kitchen or pantry.

Coming soon, a guest blog on healthy lunch ideas, organic and humane products, local and home grown produce, and recipes galore!!

Question of the MonthOct. 2nd

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How do you pack a more healthy, sustainable lunch for your kids?

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With everyone caught in the Back to School frenzy, our October topic is all about our desire to explore how to pack our kid’s lunches in a way that aligns with our values regarding keeping our planet and our bodies clean and sustainable. With many modern parenting issues, there are often more questions than answers that come up, and we are all about taking ideas and putting them into action. For some, sustainable may be about organic, for others, about going vegan, or even dabbling in urban permaculture. In the end, we all have to make it work within our family’s budget and time constraints. It isn’t a contest to see who is the greenest parent, but comes from a desire to put good things in our children’s bodies so that they can feel healthy, happy, and energetic. We want to show our kids how to be stewards of the earth and make good choices for themselves and their future families. The resources that come out of making these inquiries will hopefully help you come to terms with the lunchbox struggle in a way that fits your values.

This month we will be sharing ideas, recipes, and yes, PLAYING around on Youtube! Stay tuned!

5 Awesome Apps That Teach Kids to Stay HealthyJun. 12th

We were so happy to have Sookie Lioncourt reach out to us and offer this guest post for our blog!  Read on…

5 Awesome Apps That Teach Kids to Stay Healthy

Get your kids off to a great start!

app family

 

 

 

 

 

Some rights reserved by wickenden via Flickr

A few years ago, First Lady Michelle Obama started the Let’s Move Campaign to end childhood obesity within our generation. As part of these efforts, the Apps for Healthy Kids challenge was born, drawing app developers to join in the fight against childhood obesity. Since then, hundreds of apps have been created to aid parents in getting their children to travel the road to wellness early.

Every parent knows that the journey towards health and wellness can be extremely challenging. There’s a constant struggle to get your kids to drink enough water, eat enough greens, and get the right amount of sleep. They’re always full of energy, and they always want to be playing all the time, but luckily, we can use that playfulness to our advantage! Use these five apps to help get your kids to eat right, sleep right, and play right!

1.       Pick Chow!

pick chowAccording to the nutritionists at Marks & Spencer, studies on toddlers and preschoolers have shown that children often don’t get enough protein, calcium, iron, zinc, and vitamins A through D because they don’t know where to get them. Often, even though their parents know what food items are rich in the nutrients their children need, they find themselves struggling to find food that their kids will enjoy. Pick Chow! has found a way to put 2 and 2 together, allowing kids to create their own meals and build their own Eat Well plate. Parents are notified of the choices their children make, and are even treated to recipes that make use of the food items selected by their children. This way, they can cook up the dishes their children want, and still get them the vitamins and minerals they need to grow up healthy and strong!

 

2.       Easy Eater 2

easy eaterChildren have been fans of virtual pets since the early 90s, when Tamagotchis captured their hearts. Easy Eater 2 helps parents use this to their advantage, by assigning each member of the family one of 5 unique pets, which they feed the same things they eat on a daily basis. Whenever healthy food is fed to the pet, the owner of the pet earns Grub Bucks, which can be used to purchase stylish costumes and accessories for their pets, or even unlock new pets altogether. This innovative use of the virtual pet genre has earned the game’s developers special features by First Lady Michelle Obama and the Partnership for a Healthier America, Forbes, and Fortune magazine.

 

3.       Fitter Critters

fitter crittersWhen the internet became popular in the early 2000s, a wealth of websites that offered virtual pets to children became popular. Fitter Critters finally found a way to incorporate this love for online virtual pets with teaching kids to start eating healthy. The game is played over the course of a few weeks, for minutes at a time, which makes it ideal for classrooms that make use of technology. It even comes with an accompanying unit plan for teachers who are trying to teach their younger students to eat healthy!

 

4.       Storyland Yoga: Condor Trek

sy appBrought to you by the team behind Playful Planet, the award-winning app Storyland Yoga: Condor Trek helps children start off on their wellness journey by mixing the benefits of yoga with the benefits of interactive play. Children are often averse to the idea of exercising, and many kids think that yoga is boring. With Storyland Yoga, however, kids are able to learn the many different yoga positions as they embark on a journey to save a baby condor. Storyland Yoga also teaches children to become more aware of their environment and allows parents to begin talking to their kids about living a sustainable lifestyle and respecting nature. The app also helps parents who want to know how yoga can help their kids. [Editors Note: We did mention our app to our guest blogger, but didn’t ask her to include it here…so, thank you Sookie!]

 

5.       MotionMaze

motion mazeIn an age where most children prefer to sit on the couch and play their games on the phones and tablets, it’s refreshing to see a game that encourages children to get on their feet and start moving! MotionMaze combines the fun of solving mazes and collecting items with the benefits of walking by putting kids in control of a cute character that needs to be led from one point in a maze to the finish line. The game also comes in seasonal versions such as the Holiday Adventureand the Trick or Treat version, each equipped with themed characters and mazes. It’s an excellent way to get your kids to start walking again as they challenge themselves with solving the mazes, leading their characters to the end with their own steps.

What other apps have you used to help teach your kids to be healthy?

Sookie Lioncourt lives with her sister-in-law and 2 nieces. During her free time, she spends ample time playing with the little ones, and ensuring that they’re actively playing and eating healthy food. Sookie enjoys using various children-related apps to ensure her nieces are in tip top shape at all times. More tips from Sookie can be found on her blog.

 

Grateful Monday: What is Perfect About This Present Moment?Jan. 28th

What Is Perfect About This Present Moment?*

The last Grateful Monday that I showed up for on 1/14/13 was the day after a pretty intense car accident where Bryan and I rolled a car twice, and by several miracles of ‘seconds and inches,’ we were both able to walk away from the wreck.  I continue to have a slight pain in my neck, and am GRATEFUL for it.  (I shudder to think of the alternative.)

 

So my perspective (for now) is pretty shifted.  Although I can still get caught up in the daily minutia — for instance today, when feeling pressured to get home, get showered and get out the door to pick up Lily from school, I pulled quickly out of a parking lot, and put the fear of God into Bryan in the passenger seat when a car across the way started moving out at the same time! — in the bigger scheme of things, I am feeling comfortable that life is unfolding as it should. Each moment feels pretty perfect.  Simply because it IS.

I saw a great post earlier today that I want to share here too.  It is written more from a workplace perspective, but it rang true so I wanted to share: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less.  It seems to be a theme in my life right now.  Clearing away what isn’t so important, being committed to what is, and getting straight that what is important has very little to do with the ‘outside stuff.’

So, how about you? —

What Is Perfect About This Present Moment?*

Stay Playful, Playful Karen

 *Questions provided by Cafe Gratitude and their daily ‘Question of the Day’ program that helps facilitate ‘clear and present’ employees at their amazing Cafes.

Grateful Monday: What Are You Grateful For?Jan. 14th

What Are You Grateful For?*

Quite simply, today (and her I am speaking for myself and Bryan,) we are grateful to be alive.  Yesterday, was a strange day to say the least.  A beautiful celebration of our daughters’ 8th birthday…

Lily does her ‘Walk around the Sun’ with Grandpa & Meme.

 

 

 

…which was immediately preceded by the most intense car crash of both of our lives:

We walked away.  Needless to say, we are grateful to be alive, no serious injuries, and feeling like ‘our work here is not done!’

Beyond that, kind of speechless.

What Are You Grateful?*

Stay Playful, Playful Karen

 *Questions provided by Cafe Gratitude and their daily ‘Question of the Day’ program that helps facilitate ‘clear and present’ employees at their amazing Cafes.

Grateful Monday: What Activates You?Jan. 8th

What Activates You?*

Welcome to the first Grateful Monday post of 2013!  It is officially a day late, as today is Tuesday, but the entire holiday season threw off the schedule over here at PP headquarters!

I like this question for starting out the new year.  What Activates You?  I am feeling activated by a number of new commitments that have come as a result of getting depleted by the end of the ‘Old Year’ and reassessing as the ‘New Year’ approached.

It is a common song that mom’s sing.  Maybe working mom’s in particular, but I don’t necessarily think so.  I think many mom’s in general have the ‘putting others first’ affliction that can so often lead to self-neglect.  At least that is the experience I have myself, and seems to be a pretty common thread amongst women I know.

someecards.com - The joys of motherhood are never fully experienced until the children are in bed. ~ Author Unknown

So as the year was grinding to a close, with the holidays adding to the fray, I was becoming wearier and wearier.  Enough so that my husband saw fit to make a 2-day ‘escape from real-life’ part of my Christmas gift. (Thank you, B! xoxox)  We originally talked about him packing up the camper and heading to Big Sur with our daughter, but rainy days and nearly freezing temperatures at night were putting a damper on that plan.  By an apparent act of God, a cancellation came up at The New Camaldoli Hermitage, also in Big Sur.  Bryan booked a private hermitage for my for 2 nights and before I knew it, I was on my way to commune with the brothers!

While there, it became apparent to me that the space I was craving in my life didn’t have nearly so much to do with wanting to be ‘away’ from my family, as it had to do with my wanting to ‘be present’ for myself.  In every day life.  Not just at the monastery.

That is the long way round to my answer to What Activates You? Right now, I am being activated by a fresh commitment to prayer and meditation as well as having just started a Bikram Yoga practice.  The prayer and meditation is being supported by a lovely little book, Always We Begin Again, that was given to me as gift by a spiritual mentor.  The Bikram (aka “hot yoga”) was inspired by several things pointing me in that direction, but mostly by an internal pull to ‘JUST DO IT!”

So, 8 days in to 2013, and I have spent some time in prayer and meditation every day, and I have completed 4 yoga classes.  I go to my 5th class at 6:00 a.m. tomorrow.  I am excited, feeling a little tired, but not depleted, and yes, I would say I AM Activated!

What Activates You?*

Stay Playful, Playful Karen

 *Questions provided by Cafe Gratitude and their daily ‘Question of the Day’ program that helps facilitate ‘clear and present’ employees at their amazing Cafes.