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As a mom, I can say that being a parent is without a doubt the most difficult job I’ve ever had.  It’s one that requires you to be on the clock 24/7 and there are a lot of times you question whether or not you’re doing it well.  I often feel like a broken record–reminding John and Alex to eat healthy, wear their coats when it’s cold and raining, prepare for their tests, etc.  However, there are times when I’m reminded that even when I don’t think my kids are listening, they really do hear what I’m telling them.

Last week, the kids were in an accident on their way to school.  They’ve had their licenses for about a year and started driving to and from school this year.   Thankfully, the accident was a minor one and there were no injuries.  It took place about a mile from our home and Alex called us right away.  Though it only took us a few minutes to get there, the EMT vehicle was already there.  John had immediately called 911 as soon as it happened.  The EMTs told my husband and me that John should be given a “gold star” by how he handled himself in the situation.  They said that he not only handled the car very well (he was able to avoid running into a pole after being hit, which would have caused much more extensive damage and potential injury to himself and Alex), but also in how quickly he called 911 and provided all the necessary information to them.  They said that he behaved more maturely than many people much older than himself do in an emergency situation.

Alex & John on Christmas Eve

Alex & John on Christmas Eve

As the kids were learning to drive, my husband and I repeatedly drilled into the kids’ heads what to do in emergency situations.  While you hope they will never have to use that information, you hope they will do the right thing if they ever need to.  I’m thankful that our kids were listening the numerous times we went over the steps they needed to take if something like this should happen.

So, the next time you’re tired and feeling like it doesn’t matter if you tell your son or daughter for the millionth time how important it is to eat his or her vegetables or do his or her homework or not to give personal information to someone he or she doesn’t know–it really DOES matter.  Even if they roll their eyes, grumble or act like they don’t hear you, they do.  This recent event is just the latest time that I’ve been shown that my kids do listen to what we say even when I don’t think they do.  Keep on them and keep doing what you know is right and they really will get it.  And, if it helps at all, know that there is at least one more mom out there doing the same thing day after day–me!  Keep up the good work–your kids will be better off for it and who knows, they might even thank you for it someday.  Have a happy and healthy New Year!

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Mornings can be tough, especially this time of year when the temps have dropped below the freezing mark and you’d much rather stay snug and warm under the covers.  That’s why I find starting your day with a healthy breakfast that will fill you up and provide enough energy to get you going and last until lunch is so important!  Thankfully there are a number of options to choose from that will satisfy every taste–sweet to savory.  Here are a few ideas to choose from:

  • Egg Creations:  There are a variety of options you have that include eggs including omelettes, casseroles and quiches.  The key to making them healthy is adding in more vegetables and using all egg whites or omitting some of the yolks for less fat and cholesterol.  Go easy on the cheese as well.  One ideal example is a Broccoli Omelet recipe that is only 190 calories, but 2 full cups of vegetables per serving!
  • Hot Cereals: Oatmeal and cream of wheat are especially popular this time of year when the weather is cold.  One way to add extra flavor and nutrition to both is to add fruit and nuts.  These increase the vitamin and fiber content, plus your kids will really enjoy eating Peanut Butter Oatmeal or Banana Split Oatmeal.
  • Smoothies: Another quick option is a nutrition packed smoothie.  The key to this option is to include the right ingredients to make sure it will keep you feeling satisfied for more than an hour.  This means protein and fiber.  The Power Gold Smoothie blends both fruit and vegetables along with low-fat yogurt to create a delicious blend that will also energize you through the morning.  The same goes for the Avocado Melon Smoothie.

Sometimes it can be as simple as cutting up some fresh fruit that’s in season, topping with a little low-fat yogurt and sprinkling a few chopped almonds on top.  Or maybe toasting a slice of whole grain bread and spreading some peanut butter on top and then slicing a banana over it.  All these choices are healthy and delicious options that combine good ingredients that will get you going and keep you going.  Do you have a favorite healthy breakfast idea?  If so, please use our comment option below and share it with us.

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You know those women who seem to effortlessly pull off successful house parties?  Everything is perfect–the food, the atmosphere, the decorations and everyone is talking about how wonderful the party was for weeks afterward?  Well, I’m not one of them.  The stress of making sure everything was “just so” was enough to make me avoid hosting a party.  Over time I’ve developed some strategies to help me through and most of it comes down to common sense and a little planning.  If you’re hosting your own holiday open house this season, remember these helpful tips to keep your stress levels down:

  • Do what you can ahead of time–Select your menu, make it simple and prepare what you can ahead of time.  For example, if you plan to serve party sized (mini) meatballs you can make them a few days before and freeze.  Then, simply defrost and heat the day of your party. 
  • Don’t be afraid to purchase certain items–If your local supermarket makes a nice veggie tray at a reasonable price–buy it!  It’s one less thing you’ll have to worry about doing.  Same thing with a fruit tray.  Then you can focus on creating a special dip to make the dish unique.
  • Simple items can make your house look festive–The holidays already mean decorations that will create a celebratory mood for your party.  A few candles and some holiday music can work wonders.
  • It doesn’t have to be “perfect”–If every little thing doesn’t go exactly as you planned, guess what–nobody but you will ever know!  Don’t freak out if one batch of appetizers were a little overdone.  Just make sure you have enough food that one missing batch won’t matter.  Your guests are there to mingle with one another and enjoy the company of their friends–they’re not focused on all the details of the food and how you’re serving it, etc.
  • Enjoy yourself–It’s a party and while you’re hosting, you should also be able to mingle with your guests and have a little fun yourself!  Remember, they came to see you so don’t hide in the kitchen all night.

I’m including the Fruits & Veggies–More Matters “Entertaining” section, which has some terrific recipes and tips for healthy party options.  The key to a good party is good food, good drink, but most of all good company!  Happy Holidays!

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I find the most difficult holiday gifts tend to be hostess gifts or those smaller items for that special teacher, your child’s soccer coach or your hair stylist who never lets you down.  It’s hard to find the right balance of not overdoing it while finding something unique or that shows you care.  This is why I believe the best gifts are those you make yourself!  You control exactly how the gift looks, what’s in it and the recipient will see the extra effort and thought that went into it.

In keeping with my healthy living theme, I’ve pulled together a few ideas to try:

  • Do-it-yourself gift basket: Try fresh fruit, but use interesting, uncommon varieties like persimmons and pomegranates.  They’re both in season, so it won’t cost you an arm and a leg.  Throw in some colorful extras like dried cranberries and chestnuts to make it extra festive.  The basket itself can be purchased for next to nothing at your local craft store and you can fill the bottom with colorful tissue paper to hold the fruit.  Tie a big bow on the handle and you’ve got yourself a festive and unique gift basket.
  • Homemade recipe mix w/instructions: Get creative–you can choose your favorite fruit and nut bread, wrap it up to give as a gift, but also include the recipe so your recipient can make it herself.  Another great way to do this is by putting your favorite cookie or bread mix into a pretty jar.  Wrap a ribbon around the top and tape a recipe card with the instructions on how to make the treat on the top.  You can even do this with a veggie chili recipe–add dried beans and the spices–all your recipient will have to add is the tomatoes.
  • Beverage gift set: Does your recipient love coffee or tea?  Try putting together a variety of different teas with some fresh lemons and a festive mug.  You can do the same thing with coffee–there are plenty of different flavors this time of year like pumpkin spice or peppermint latte.
  • Cookbooks: This can be tricky if you don’t know for certain whether or not your recipient likes to cook.  If she/he does, you can always give a cookbook that is your own personal favorite.  Write a little note inside, something along the lines of, “This book saved me more than once and I hope you find it as helpful as I have–be sure to check out the recipe on page 23!”

Think about how you’d feel if you got one of these gifts–you’d know that the person giving it really made an effort and cared.  In my opinion, anything homemade is much better than any gift card!

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The best way to make healthy choices when shopping is to plan ahead, but let’s face it–with busy lifestyles that doesn’t always work out.  So, when you find yourself at the supermarket without a plan and without a shopping list, how do you ensure you don’t end up with a shopping cart filled with junk food or pre-made, sodium-laden convenience foods?  The answer is to look for specific tools and displays most supermarkets have readily available for you!

Start your trip in the produce section.  At my local market, the Acme, they always have a disply set up to give shoppers ideas for preparing meals.  The display this past week was along the Thanksgiving-theme and as you can see from the photo below, they show ingredients used to create delicious sides like green bean casserole and cranberry relish.

 

Healthy meal idea display

 

Look for information signs that are posted throughout the produce section like the one that I found among the apples.  Since it’s apple season and Pennsylvania apples are popular in my neck of the woods, the store featured a sign showing the different varieties and what each were good for (snacking, baking, etc.).  I’ve seen similar signs among the different varieties of greens (kale, spinach, collards).  And, always ask a store employee if you don’t see the information you’re looking for.  I know at my supermarket they are always helpful and full of information about the different products they supply.  I’ve even seen a handy take home sheet in the seafood section that provided helpful info on cooking different kinds of seafood.

Apple information

If you’re looking for local produce, many supermarkets will have these marked clearly as well.  Fresh basil grown locally was plentiful during my visit, but a few weeks ago the winter squash had recently been harvested in our area and were in abundance.  I’ll look forward to spring when I’ll begin to see lettuce varieties and local asparagus appear!

Locally grown display

Most importantly–read labels!  Be sure to check for sodium and fat content of the product.  If you’re not sure what to look for, don’t fret–Fruits & Veggies–More Matters makes it simple with their “How to read a nutrition label” website section.  A simple visual to look for on fruit and vegetable products throughout the store is the Fruits & Veggies–More Matters symbol as shown below.  When you see that symbol you can feel confident that it has the stamp of approval from Fruits & Veggies–More Matters and meets their criteria as a healthy product.

Fruits & Veggies-More Matters logo

If you stick to these few suggestions you’ll walk away from your shopping trip with a nutritious purchase.  Just familiarize yourself with the tools your supermarket already has in place and it will make it easier for you to make better choices! 

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