Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Road Trip! My kid-friendly road snacks.

I'm hitting the open road soon on a good old-fashioned road trip! Love it! But what I don't love is coming home feeling like a big old pile of crud because I ate crap the whole time. So, I'm prepping my food. And, I declared myself Kid Nutrition Ambassador for the drive so I am getting stuff ready for the kiddos too.

I've simply made some simple swaps for the stuff my son and nieces love to eat (but I don't want them to have):

What kids love: cereal bars. But they're loaded with sugar! 
What I made instead: banana bread "cookies". I was hoping these would come out more like a chewy granola bar, but they had more of a bread consistency. But, my son proclaimed them good and that is high praise coming from him! Here's the easy recipe:
Little individually wrapped banana bread cookies!

  • 1/2 cup chopped nuts
  • 1 cup old-fashioned oats
  • 2 ripe, mashed bananas
  • 1/2 cup raisins
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp salt

Chop the oats and nuts in a food processor until it was like a coarse flour, and then mixed everything else with it in a bowl. Pour it into a greased 13x9 pan and bake at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes. Cool, then slice into 24 bars. I then wrapped each one in press-and-seal wrap to keep them fresh and personal-sized, and stuck them in the fridge. They're really good and you don't even miss the sugar! Just 80 calories a pop.

Not sure how
these will go over.
What kids love: fruit chews. Don't even get me started.
What I made instead: mango fruit leathers. I don't know if the kids are gonna eat these, because they're pretty tough and didn't pass my son's inspection. I was hoping that I could cut them into little pieces and pass them off as fruit chews, but when the mango dehydrated it was too flat. So, I cut half of what I made into strips like fruit roll-ups and chopped the rest into little pieces, which I then baked into a loaf of bread as a hostess gift for my aunt.

How to do it: I pureed 5 mangoes and used my Nesco food dehydrator to turn them into dried fruit. Plain and simple. It takes a whole day for them to dry completely so if you try this at home, make sure you have the time!

Snack mix ready for little hands!

What kids love: snack mix.
What I made instead: snack mix! Just minus the crackers drenched in oil, salt, and preservatives. Little snack-sized ziplock bags with baked whole grain goldfish or Annie's Cheddar Bunnies, raisins, and slivered almonds or chopped walnuts. I have a shoebox full of 'em.

And finally, my messed-up granola bars. I tried to make my own crunchy granola bars, but they wouldn't stick together. Remember, I am not a foodie. Just a clean eater. I repeat: I am not a chef.  So when my recipe turned out to be a no-go, I poured the crumbly granola bars into a jar and called it muesli! It is soooo good and will be a delicious partner for the bread to present to my aunt, who is gracious enough to let my family come visit her awesome house. I had to hide it from myself in the pantry so I didn't eat it all before we leave.

Road trips can be healthy with a little planning and work on the front-end. Trust me, you'd spend just as much time at the grocery store buying snacks as it took me to make these from stuff I already had. So no "I'm too busy" excuses! If you're not too busy to stroll around Target for an hour looking at stuff you don't need, you're not too busy to make your kids some healthy snacks. Just sayin'.

Get out there and get healthy today, even if you're hitting the road! 

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

My Birthday Workout: 36 of everything!

I turn the big 3-6 this week so naturally I'm hard at work coming up with a totally awesome birthday workout. I love my get-it-started workouts! I always start every new chapter with a great workout especially designed for what's coming up, and as a result I launch myself full-steam ahead with an energy that can't be beat! I consider birthdays to be our own personal New Year, so I've been making some goals.

Last weekend, I worked on my vision board for the year ahead. Among other things, I am going to be focusing on expanding my coaching business, enjoying the rest of my maternity leave, finally nailing that sub-two-hour half marathon, and get more into plyometrics. The bulk of my year, though, revolves around becoming a better coach. I've only had my vision board for less than a week and already the positive energy is radiating into my life and motivating me to take the actions necessary to make these dreams come true. It's amazing!

But back to the workout. In honor of my plyometric and strength goals for the year, I am going to be doing 36 of some fundamental exercises that have made me stronger over the past few months. That means 36 squat jumps, 36 high knees (ugh), 36 burpees, and 36 push-ups even though push-ups are plyometrics. Then six miles to run (not 36, thank God), and I'm done! I can't wait until Friday so I can press play on what is going to be a very interesting year.

I keep hearing myself say that I'm having my best year ever, and I've been saying that for at least two years now. Since my birthday falls in the middle of the year, I consider "my" year to be the second half of one and first half of the next. 2009-10 kind of sucked, 2010-11 was incredible, and 2011-12 has been pretty darn great. I have a really good feeling about 2012-13. Each year I learn more about myself,   simplify things a little more, and set better boundaries around the priorities that keep my life focused on the relatively few things that really matter to me. It's a good system and one that I look forward to fine-tuning to even greater success next year.

But that's enough babbling on about myself. How do you celebrate healthy milestones? What traditions (or superstitions) do you have about new chapters? I'm getting out there and getting healthy this week in the name of my personal new year. What's your celebration?

Monday, June 18, 2012

Where do the calories go?

It's accepted these days that kids don't get enough physical activity. We hear more and more that kids spend too much time in front of the TV and computers turning into big cheesy couch potatoes, and not enough time outside exercising. In fact, I am part of a community effort to teach people exactly that, and then teach them how to change it. The program is called 95210: The Whole Picture of Health, which recommends kids to get at least one hour of physical activity each day. You can read more about it and the other health benchmarks recommended for kids and families here.

But is it true that kids get less than an hour of exercise each day? Or are we just assuming that it's true because we've been told so?

This article USA Today article, which I found while doing some research on the average amount of time that kids spend in physical activity, shows that kids are really close already to that one hour. In fact, healthy-sized kids get on average 59 minutes of physical activity, and obese children trail behind them at 46 minutes. 

So what gives? It looks like these kids are doing a good job in the move-around category of creating a healthy lifestyle.

I'm thinking it's what happens when they're not exercising. Yep, the food. It's true for parents and it's true for kids too: you can't out-exercise a bad diet. What good is that hour-long soccer practice if you immediately give your kids a 310-calorie sports drink and 190-calorie granola bar, and then drive through to get a 1,000+ calorie dinner at a fast-food restaurant because you're too busy too cook something? It's not good at all! 

Just as mom and dad shouldn't "reward" themselves for a great workout by indulging in unhealthy food, our kids are likely eating more calories than they're burning. You can find out how many calories your kid needs, and determine whether they are active enough to compensate for their daily nutrition, here.  

Even active kids are eating too much. Calculate your kids' energy needs and then do a quick tally of what they eat each day. Are they burning those calories off or are you setting them down a path to obesity, only to be confused when they reach their destination because they've always been active?

Just as mom and dad can't out-exercise a bad diet, neither can our kids! Get out there and get healthy today, by the numbers.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Junk Food and Kids: WE Are the Solution

I was disappointed this weekend to see Chick-fil-A advertising on PBS Kids. We watch PBS in our house almost exclusively to avoid commercials for junk and fast food, but those marketers are smart cookies. They're finding us. Nooooo!

Then I learned that the Chick-fil-A grilled chicken nuggets kids' meal has been ranked as the worst "healthy" kids meal by the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, and I got really upset. PBS is one of the jewels of our civilization and they are resorting to accepting advertisement revenue from a fast food company that markets a meal to children that contains the same amount of cholesterol as a Big Mac. 

View more videos at:

But is there change on the horizon? Disney announced last week that they will ban advertisements for junk food during kids programming. They're not implementing the ban until 2015 and it's only for meals over 600 calories (still a whopping percentage of our recommended daily calories), but the message is becoming more clear: if our government won't create policy to reverse our obesity trend, some corporations are willing to step in and do it themselves. 

And speaking of which, this is where we as parents can make a huge dent in the problem: 
One of my readers expressed dismay that she had told her kids that grilled chicken was better than fried in the drive through. And, in the world of food, of course grilled chicken is better than fried! But remember, fast food is not really food. Its food-like product. So, the rules of food do not apply. We have to stop buying fast food and calling it nutrition. 

Even though we're busy.

Lots of parents I know sheepishly confess that they drive through and get fast food for their kids "once in a while," when they are in a pinch. But my sheepish reader hit the nail on the head when she realized: "I guess the trick is to avoid getting in a pinch." Bingo.

I get that you're busy and tired. I'm busy and tired too. Trust me. I'm freaking exhausted. But I'm not too tired to make my kid a sandwich. Seriously, in the amount of time it takes to sit in a drive through line, you could have made a pb&j, sliced up an apple, and tossed it in an insulated bag for in case someone gets hungry in between soccer and ballet. Grab some snack-size zip locks, put in a little box of raisins and some whole grain crackers and you've got yourself a snack. Yes it takes planning and yes it requires thought but these are our children. They are worth the 15 minutes.

And while you're at it, contribute early and often to your local PBS station. They depend on viewer support to remain commercial-free, and as a parent I want to be able to get the theme song from "Martha Speaks," stuck in my head without supporting companies that are part of the obesity problem.

Get out there and get healthy today...just not in the drive through, please!

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

In Defense of Food Companies (sort of)

What? Defending food companies? In a way, yes. Hang on, I'll explain!

I've been watching The Weight of the Nation and I while I spend most of the time nodding my head and pumping my fist, there are some parts where I just want to scream out at the screen because I am so sick of hearing people say that they are victims of food marketing. I understand; companies spend millions upon millions of dollars to market food to us and our kids, and it is hard to tell the difference sometimes between what is really healthy for us and what is just marketing. I get that.

These companies do all of this and then say that our national obesity problem is one of personal choice because we choose to buy the food. It ticks me off to hear that after seeing how much they spend to convince us to buy it and then drop the hot potato when anyone accuses them of being the source of the problem.

But they're right, you know.

I've never seen a food company march up to someone's house, barge through the door, stock the pantry with junk food, and then proceed to open the mouths of the homeowner and cram it full of Oreos. The last I checked, children were not given debit cards.  At last measure, parents still made the rules of what gets served at mealtime. This food is landing in our houses because we buy it.

Why do we buy it? Because our kids want it. Well, of course they do! My kid would eat candy all day long if I let him do it. He doesn't, because I am in charge, not him. I buy the food and decide what we eat. Yeah, he grumbles about it but he also knows that I'm not actually being mean and hateful. I'm actually showing him an intense amount of love and devotion. 

What we need is better education about what is actually healthy (*cough* plant-based diet *cough*) and what is not (that would be pretty much everything else). Then we need to toughen up, grit our teeth, tell our kids NO when they want to fill the buggy with junk food, and stop blaming food companies for our own lack of restraint in the grocery store.

It is so so so hard to say no to our precious children. I hate doing it; I feel mean and crummy when he is disappointed and it takes everything in me to stand my ground and not cave to those pleading eyes. But here's the thing: he's six years old. He's not mature enough, knowledgeable enough, or remotely qualified to make our grocery list. A list of Legos we're missing to finish our Army fort? He's on it. Meal-planning for the week? As much as he would love the job, sorry. Not gonna happen.

Yeah, food companies spend millions to get you to buy their food. They're in the food-selling business, not healthy family-building. Turn off the TV, stop believing them, and stop buying it. 

Don't be a victim! Get out there and get healthy, even when your sweet baby wants to put frosting on their breakfast and dip their chicken nuggets in syrup. 

You're in charge. Not them. Rant over!

Friday, June 1, 2012

Dirty Veggies? Easy, simple, clean veggie wash recipe!

Just cause you buy your veggies at the nice, bright, cheery farmers' market doesn't necessarily mean the vegetables are clean. Oh sure, they may be organic and locally grown, but this time I'm talking about the germy kind of clean! Yep, the same dirty hands that handle food at the grocery store pick up, examine, and put down vegetables at the outdoor market too.

I know it's hard to imagine, but some people don't wash their hands. If the idea of those people putting their mitts all over your food makes you a little queasy, try this easy produce rinse that I found on Organic Gardening. 

Gather your ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon of lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons of white vinegar
  • 1 cup of cold water

Mix in a spray bottle, spray it all over your fruits and veggies, and rinse it off. Then, eat! What could be easier?

Get out there and get healthy today, even if your veggies are dirty!