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Our family joined a new pool this year, which has a snack bar that opens for 15 minutes on the hour.  This coincides with “adult swim” and I’m guessing it’s so that the adults who opt to take advantage of those peaceful 15 minutes in the pool don’t have to do it with a few dozen pairs of eyes staring at them. 

The snack bar is stocked with the usual array of snack foods–chips, candy, soda and ice cream.  While most of the kids who were at the pool stood in line to get something, I did notice a few moms who pulled out mini coolers and provided their children with healthier versions of snacks from home.  Not only did the kids eat a more nutritious snack, I’m sure the moms spent less than what those snacks at the snack bar cost.  Plus, when the 15 minute adult swim was over, I noticed there were still kids waiting in line at the snack bar.  The children who had snacks from home were finished eating and ready to hit the pool again.

Bringing a cooler from home whether you’re at the pool, on the beach or at the park is definitely the way to go.  You can control what your kids are eating and you’ll save money.  You can pack the obvious healthy treats like fresh fruit or cut up veggies, but I started thinking about fun and creative snack options that kids would really go for.  Here are a few ideas you might like to try:

  • Make a peanut butter and banana sandwich and cut into quarters for snack-sized bites.
  • Use a cookie cutter and cut fun shapes out of melon slices.  Store in resealable plastic containers on ice in a cooler.
  • Make fruit juice ice cubes for a refreshing treat by filling an ice cube tray with 100% fruit juice and freezing.  You’ll have to pack this well into your cooler and on ice to keep frozen.  Pop them out of the tray when ready to serve and try interesting juice combos like orange/strawberry/banana for a different taste twist.
  • Slice a banana and put on toothpicks.  Dip into melted chocolate and freeze.  Again, you’ll have to store in the cooler on ice to keep frozen, but this treat will satisfy any sweet tooth!
  • For a crunchy treat, try creating a mix of almonds, peanuts, dried peas and sesame sticks.  These items can typically be found in bulk at your grocery store.
  • Celery sticks with either peanut butter or cream cheese (depending on your child’s preference) is another good choice.  Make them ahead of time and store in a resealable container in your cooler.
  • Be sure to check out the Fruits & Veggies–More Matters “Healthy Cooking with Your Kids” section of their website for additional kid-friendly recipe ideas.

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This week, I want to share with you my own personal challenge when it comes to exercise, specifically running.  My hope is that if you’re feeling fed up with your own routine or like giving up, you might get some encouragement after reading this and realize there is at least one other person out there sharing that same struggle and decide it’s worth keeping up the battle.

I’ve always exercised regularly and for the most part I enjoy it.  There’s been one form of exercise, however, that had always eluded me–running.  I had tried to master it a few times in my life with no success and finally, a few years ago, I made the decision that I was going to do it no matter what.

I started out on the treadmill at my gym and gradually increased my time so that I was running for 30 minutes.  After doing this for several months I made the next big step, which was to begin running outside.  It might sound like this would be an easy transition, but it’s not.  A treadmill keeps you at a consistent pace and you can set it and whatever incline you’re comfortable with, unlike a real trail or road.  Learning to pace myself took some time and learning how to manage through hills took even longer.  Factor in weather (humidity, heat, wind, etc.) and things can get even more complicated.

I’ve been running outside for more than a year and after getting up this morning at 5:00 and making my way around the course at my local park I came to a realization on my drive back home.  Running will never come easy to me.  It’s always going to be a challenge, I’m always going to have to struggle to make it to the finish line and I will constantly battle both mentally and physically with myself to push further each time and not give up.

I see others at the park who can run and carry on breezy conversations while doing so.  Some look as if the pavement “springs” up to their feet and bounces them along–it’s as if they’re running on air.  In comparison, the blacktop turns into quicksand and tugs at my own feet pulling them down with each step I take so that I chug along like a dying engine.  And forget talking–please don’t speak to me as every bit of my focus is on the pavement in front of me and trying to regulate my breathing in order to make it to my goal distance.

Yet, at the end of my run I feel an accomplishment that no other exercise provides, probably because I never have to work so hard at anything else.  Plus, running provides me with results I can’t deny.  I’ll continue to struggle through my runs even though I may never be great at it.  The way I look at it is I am taking on the challenge and for me that’s a win in itself!

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Have you ever had one of those evenings where you haven’t taken anything out for dinner, it’s too late to defrost anything and you’d really rather not order take out?  I’ve found myself in that spot more than once and as long as I’ve got a few key ingredients on hand to make a healthy egg burrito, I’m saved!

This recipe is a modified version of a brunch entree from a local restaurant I used to frequent in my younger days.  Their creation was called “Eggs Enchilada” and I think I could have eaten it every day it was so good.  My version adds more veggies, uses an egg substitute (or egg whites) and I use low-fat or fat-free cheese.  Trust me–you can’t tell the difference because my husband enjoys it as much as I do.  I can whip these up in about 15 minutes too, so they’re a quick fix when you need something last minute.  The next time you find yourself in a bind give them a try instead of reaching for the take out menu–you’ll save yourself some money and calories!

Healthy Egg Burritos

1 16oz carton egg substitute
4 whole grain tortillas
3/4 cup low-fat shredded cheddar cheese
1 cup sliced fresh mushrooms
1 small onion, diced
1/2 cup red bell pepper, diced
3 cups shredded lettuce
2 cups tomatoes, diced
1 avocado, diced
1/2 cup reduced fat sour cream
1 tablespoon canola oil

Saute the onion, mushrooms and bell pepper in the canola oil until just tender and add egg substitute.  Let cook until the egg is firm and spring with shredded cheese.  When cheese melts divide eggs into fourths and put into tortillas and fold or roll up.  top with diced tomatoes, shredded lettuce, diced avocado and sour cream.  Enjoy!
Serves 4.

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It’s hard to believe it’s been a year since we threw away the measuring cups and stopped struggling to figure out if we were really getting our required amount of fruits and veggies at every meal.  This month we celebrate the first birthday of MyPlate, the icon representing the USDA dietary guidelines, which recommend filling half your plate with fruits and vegetables.  Yes, it’s been one year since moms like me breathed a collective sigh of relief–how simple–I’ll just make it half the plate!

Seriously though, MyPlate has really made it easy for people to figure out if they’re eating enough fruits and veggies each day.  Who really has time to measure out portions with busy schedules and such?  Not only does it make it easy for moms, but kids are also able to understand it.  I’ve participated in a number of social media chats this past year and heard many moms talk about how their children are able to reproduce a MyPlate healthy plate themselves with ease.

Since the launch of MyPlate a year ago, Fruits & Veggies–More Matters has done a lot with promoting the concept.  To help consumers learn how to create plates that are tasty, interesting and meet the MyPlate guidelines, a series of featured healthy plates were created.  These plates provide recipe info, nutrition info, plate cost and a grocery list–everything you need to recreate each healthy plate.  And, with recipes like Asian Mango & Chicken Wraps or Mushroom Steak Fajitas, you’ll forget you’re eating healthy!

Maybe your plate just needs a bit of tweaking.  In that case, you can give it a MyPlate “makeover” with real plate before and after photos.  Fruits & Veggies–More Matters takes an unhealthy version of a dish, like pizza, and gives it a makeover so that it fits into the MyPlate guidelines.  Don’t worry–you’ll get all the info you need to recreate the healthy version (recipe, nutrition, plate cost and grocery list).

So join me in celebrating the birthday of MyPlate and making it a bit easier for us to understand how many fruits and veggies we should be eating each day.  If MyPlate is new to you, PBH has some great resources via their Nutrition Education Catalog you might find helpful.  Trust me–filling half your plate is so much easier than worrying about measuring cups!

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