Five Tips for Travelling with Young Children

We have had the opportunity to travel with our children several times since they were born and each time there have been things that stood out to me as significant in our success. I have chosen to share the top five tips that seem to hold true in all vacations that we have taken, whether for 3 days or 3 weeks, by flight or by car.

 
1. Be as efficient with space and time as possible.

  • When packing, have 1-2 back up outfits that are for the actual travel days stored in Ziploc bags at the top of one of your bags so they are easy to locate. Make up a complete one for each child with a diaper/pull up/or underwear and socks. The reason for the Ziploc is to prevent you from rooting through your child’s main bag to find a diaper or underwear and new clothes if they have a diaper blow out, accidentally can’t wait for the next bathroom break, or get car sick along the way. You need a new option as fast as possible. Also if room permits, pack a towel that can be sued to clean up any bodily fluid that has come out of the child at a less than opportune time.
  • When packing your child’s main bag, pack in outfits so that you aren’t bringing clothes that you won’t use. Bring one outfit per day with 2-3 extra tops in case one gets dirty mid-day with a spit up for babies or at a meal for older children. I plan on sleepers or pajamas to last for 2-3 nights. If these get soiled, then they are easy to wash in a sink and hang to dry if needed. For bathing suits, it is nice to bring two so that you have a dry back up.
    Side note: Bring a small container of clothing detergent just in case there are laundry facilities or if you need to do a sink wash for anyone. If you do not bring detergent, you may be left without a good cleaning option OR using one that causes a reaction to your child’s skin. Children get used to the detergent we use and vacation is not the time to play with that.

2. Set yourself up for successful sleep.

  • Ideal beds: Determine ahead of time where and on what your child will sleep. There have not been enough beds for whole family in most places we have visited. For several years we travelled with three play yards which worked well. Then when our older two outgrew them, we started bringing air mattresses. They were time consuming to set up, took up a ton of space, and Clay slipped off of his several time each night making a huge THUD on the floor. I was determined there had to be another way. Recently I found the Regalo Tot Cots. I was thrilled when they sent me two cots earlier this summer and we have used them on several occasions over the summer including sleepovers at grandparents, “camp” nights at home, and most recently a two week vacation to a family cottage. The boys honestly LOVE them. They find them comfortable and very special to sleep on. They have slept over 12 hours each night that they have slept on them and truly no complaints going to bed. Wes has had a few mid-day naps on his as well. Each cot comes with its own sheet and we let the boys use their favourite blankets over them. I have washed the sheets and dried them on low heat and they came out really well. No change at all! My husband and I were also incredibly thrilled with the compact carrying case and the 3 minute set up and take-down. The cots accommodate up to 75 pounds so we will be using them for years to come yet and will be investing in one for Rhett soon too!
    If you have any questions about these cots, please feel free to comment below or email me. I would be happy to answer them.
  • White noise: Houses/cottages/hotels all have their own unique noises. Children are used to the ones in their own home, but may find foreign noises alarming. Using an app such as NoiseBox on your iphone or ipad works well to help drown these out. I actually use it when I am away at my bedside too!

3. Young children like “the familiar”. It is beneficial to bring along a few things that remind your child(ren) of home. For example, have them choose 1 stuffed animal, 3 small toys (and I mean small!), 1 book, 1 blanket, and 1 cup. When they are involved in this process, they can feel secure knowing they will have these things from home in less familiar or completely unfamiliar surroundings. Depending on the age of your child you may also consider bringing their usual bowls, plates, and/or cutlery. This is something that I always do.

4. Bring toys and books for the travel time and the “down times”.  This tip will not eliminate the “Are we there yet?”, but hopefully it will help reduce them. A few days before you leave, head to your local dollar store and purchase several small toys/activities that your child will enjoy. Wrap them up individually and offer a new one every 20-30 minutes. It takes them a few minutes to unwrap it, and then they enjoy playing for a while. It helps to occupy them and keeps you feeling sane. These are also great for down times on holidays between planned activities or when you are trying to keep children quiet in the morning before other people are awake. When we are visiting the boys grandparents I find the mornings to be on the long side and this is one activity that I use to keep them quiet. I usually take wrapping paper and just re-wrap some items from the car/plane ride. I also like to visit the library either before we leave or at our destination to offer the boys new and exciting stories.

5. Be prepared for adequate nourishment. The tips for this point vary based on your vacation. Here are a few ideas:

  • For a road trip, pack plenty of bulk snacks with small containers on hand to distribute little bits at a time. These small containers can then be used on the remainder of the holiday. I also always take our PlanetBoxes with us. I can use them in the car if we travel over a meal time or as a picnic option as part of the holiday. For a plane trip, space is a little more limited, so packing each child with a small multi-section container works well or a trail mix in one container. KIND snacks are a great compact option for travel as they are lower in sugar than most other packaged snacks, shelf stable, and offer satiety for children and adults alike!
  • When you are arrive at your destination, head to a grocery store to pick up healthy snacks that are ready to eat such as whole grain crackers, almonds, yogurt, Babybel cheese, apples, grapes, baby carrots, baby tomatoes, snap peas, etc. If you do not have access to a fridge, then investing in a “plug in” cooler is a great idea. We have one that we use in the car and in most places we stay that are part of a road trip. If you do invest in one of these, you can also do more grocery shopping at home which saves money if you are heading to a cottage/tourist town which can save a significant amount of money and also ensure you have any specialty items that you need. For our most recent trip, I made up a two week meal plan and purchased most of the groceries from Costco before leaving. We transported them using a plug in cooler and one additional cooler bag. I will be sharing this meal plan and the grocery list that goes with it in my next post.
  • If you need to eat out as part of your vacation, seek out any Groupon deals or “kids eat free” nights at local restaurants. There are several sites for this information. Here are two that we have used:
  • If you are at an all-inclusive, then that part is a little more straight-forward.

As I said at the start, there are many other tips that have worked on various vacations we have taken, but these are ones that really stand out to me. I hope that they are helpful for you on your next trip with your children. If you have other ideas, please share in the comments below. We are all in this together and I love learning from you too!

 

 

 

 

 
Until next time…stay healthy!

Banana Chia Muffins

The boys and I were in the kitchen today coming up with a yummy new muffin recipe. It’s a twist on their favourite banana muffins with added protein and omega 3.

Ingredients

1 cup steel cut oats

1 cup chia seeds

1 cup whole wheat flour

1 cup unbleached all purpose flour

1/4 cup hemp hearts

1/4 cup brown sugar

1 Tbsp. baking powder

1 Tbsp. cinnamon

3 large bananas, mashed

1 cup coconut milk (or your milk of choice)

2 eggs

2/3 cup unsweetened applesauce

1/2 Tbsp. vanilla extract

Instructions

1. Blend together dry ingredients in one bowl.

2. Blend together wet ingredients in a separate bowl, then add them to dry ingredinets and stir until blended but be careful to not over stir.

3. Spoon into muffin tin and bake at 375F for 12-15 minutes for mini muffins and 22-25 minutes for standard muffins.

Serve with a smoothie or glass of refreshing milk of your choice.

Until next time…stay healthy!

 

 

Strawberry Banana Muffin Cake

I have many wonderful memories strawberry picking with my mom for as long back as I can remember. Yesterday we continued the tradition and took my three boys. On the way home one of my sons asked to make strawberry banana muffins and another one wanted to make strawberry cake…so today we did both in one. This recipe could be used for muffins or in the way we baked it as a cake. However you choose to make it, it will be a guaranteed hit!

Ingredients

1 cup steel cut oats

1 cup whole wheat flour

1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour

1/3 cup brown sugar

1/4 cup Manitoba Harvest Hemp Hearts

2 tsp. baking powder

1 tsp. cinnamon

1 cup coconut milk (or buttermilk)

2 eggs, beaten (or 4 egg whites)

2 Tbsp. agave syrup

1 tsp. vanilla

2 large (or 3 small) bananas, mashed

2 cups of diced or sliced strawberries

Instructions

  1. Combine all dry ingredients (oats, flours, sugar, hemp hearts, baking powder, and cinnamon) in a bowl and set aside.
  2. Mash bananas, then add milk, eggs, agave, and vanilla to it.
  3. Add wet ingredients to dry ones and stir until all dry ingredients are moistened. Try to not over stir.

If making the cake version…spoon batter into a round or square pyrex and then add strawberries on top. Bake at 375 F for 50-60 minutes (or until a knife comes out clean of wet batter). You could also bake the cake without the strawberries on top and add them afterwards as a topping. The cooking time would need to be reduced if this was done to about 40-45 minutes.

If making muffins…spoon into muffin tin and add a few strawberry pieces on top or just inside of each muffin. Bake at 375 for 18-20 minutes for mini muffins OR 22-25 minutes for medium size muffins.

This is a wonderful recipe to have children help you with. You can measure the ingredients out ahead of time and then have them mash the bananas, dice the strawberries, mix all the ingredients together, and place the strawberries on top.

Hope you enjoy!

Until next time…stay healthy!

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The Baby Buddy Sonic 360 (aka our new favourite toothbrush)

Oral care is a high priority in our family. I started brushing the boy’s gums at least twice a day with a soft facecloth after breastfeeding at an early age, and as soon as we saw that first tooth, we started brushing it gently right away. When they had several teeth we started flossing and have been very conscientious about brushing their teeth for 90-120 as least once each day. We try for twice but I will admit it does not always happen. One thing that has always bothered me about brushing their teeth is that we don’t know how the pressure feels. We can’t 100% know if we are brushing hard enough or too hard. I had been on the lookout for an electric toothbrush that would work well for them and was thrilled when I came across the Baby Buddy Sonic 360 ! Baby Buddy was generous to send me one to try and I can honestly say this is exactly what I have been looking for!

The Baby Buddy Sonic 360 lights up and is very soft. Now this may not seem like a big deal, but for me it is. Despite our efforts to make teeth-brushing an enjoyable time, the boys have always been reluctant. To be honest I cannot blame them. I wouldn’t love someone else shoving a toothbrush into my mouth every day either. Cue the fun lights and soft bristles of the Sonic 360. They love watching the colours in their mouth as we brush and there is not pressure on their gums to push back on.

As the name suggests, it has bristles all the way around so we do not have to make sure the toothbrush is a certain way in my boy’s mouths. No matter how we hold it, it will hit their teeth. Also, this allows for more independent brushing. We have been doing the evening brushing with toothpaste and allowing the twins to do their own morning brushing with just water. It is good practice for them and I feel secure that the toothbrush is doing the work without the twins needing to apply any pressure. Also, unlike adult electronic toothbrushes, it is very quiet which has been important for our youngest who was frightened by others that we tried and it does not spray water everywhere which prevents a big mess if they pull it out of their mouth without turning it off first.

Another thing that drew me to this toothbrush is the design of one holder and several heads. We have labelled the heads for our kids but only have to store one base. This is a wonderful improvement to having several toothbrushes in one drawer!

Baby Buddy is a wonderful family run business with a heart for helping parents by providing the quality products we are looking for! For more information on this and other Baby Buddy products, you can visit their website: www.babybuddy.com or find them on Instagram (@babybuddyig), Facebook (@babybuddybear), or Twitter (@babybuddybear).

Heart Healthy Pasta

My boys LOVE pasta but I often worry that the meal will not offer enough protein and vegetables so I have come up with several blender pasta sauces so all their nutrition needs are met in one simple bowl. Here is one I developed last weekend that was a huge hit so I wanted to share.

The tomato base offers lycopene which is a cancer fighting antioxidant.

The hemp hearts offer a source of complete protein which means all essential amino acids are present and a source of omega 3 fatty acids which are wonderful for growing brains in children and promoting heart and mental health in adults. They also act as an anti-inflammatory.

The feta cheese is a lower fat cheese that offers a creamy texture and taste and a source of complete protein.

Nutritional yeast offers a cheesy flavour as well and a great source of vitamin B12.

Spinach and kale are packed with nutrition!!!

Ingredients

1 jar low sodium pasta sauce (any flavor is fine)

1/3 cup Manitoba Harvest Hemp Hearts

1/2 cup feta cheese, crumbled

1 Tbsp. nutritional yeast

1-2 large handfuls of spinach or kale

Instructions

Blend in a blender and pour over pasta. I have a vitamix and blend my sauces on the soup setting to warm them up but this is not necessary if you don’t have a blender that heats.

Hope you and your family enjoy this as an easy meal sometime soon!

Until next time…stay healthy!

 

Mother’s Day Pancakes

I absolutely love pink…it just makes me smile. And my kids love pancakes. So for Mother’s Day brunch I decided to create a pink pancake recipe that everyone would enjoy. The best part…they helped me make it and kids in the kitchen is the best Mother’s Day gift I could ask for. Here is the recipe in case you want to try it too.

Ingredients

1 and ¼ cup milk (any milk is fine…buttermilk, cow’s milk, coconut milk, almond milk….etc.)

1 cup frozen strawberries or raspberries

2 eggs (or 4 egg whites)

1/4 cup grapeseed or canola oil

¼ cup Manitoba Harvest hemp hearts

¼ cup chia seeds

¾ cup unbleached white flour

1 and ¼ cup whole wheat flour

2 Tbsp. baking powder

Instructions:

  • 1) In a mixer of your choice (Vitamix, Blentec, Ninja, etc.) blend together 1.25 cups milk of your choice (I like to use coconut milk), 1 cup frozen berries, ¼ cup hemp hearts, ¼ cup oil, and 2 eggs (or 4 egg whites). Set this aside
  • 2) In a separate bowl mix dry ingredients (flours, baking powder, and chia seeds) together.
  • 3) Pour wet ingredients into dry and mix together…but don’t overmix.
  • 4) Cook pancakes on a frying pan of your choice. I prefer an electric one as I find they are less likely to stick or burn.
  • 5) Serve with your choice of yogurt and fruit for a delicious and nutritious meal for mom!

Until next time….stay healthy!

Red Curry Bean, Lentil, and Vegetable Stew

May has started out wet and chilly where we live which is keeping me interested in making warm soups and stews. I developed this recipes recently and it is not only packed with nutrition but also a ton of flavor and a bit of heat to warm you right through on a cold wet day. If you like curry…this is a must try!

Ingredients

2 cups dry mixed beans

1 cup red lentils

3 cups vegetable broth

2 cups coconut milk

½ red cabbage

1 sweet or red onion

3-4 large celery stalks

2 yellow zucchinis

2 green zucchinis

1 Chinese eggplant

3 Tbsp. Avocado oil (split into 2 portions)

2 Tbsp. nutritional yeast

1 Tbsp. red curry powder

1 tsp. paprika

1 tsp. cinnamon

Instructions

  1. Rinse and drain beans and lentils and then soak in warm water for 2-3 hours. Once beans are ready, you can move forward with the rest of your recipe.
  2. Dice onion and place at the bottom of a large pot. Sautee the onion on medium heat in 2 Tbsp. of the avocado oil. Add diced cabbage and celery as you have it ready. Once they are softened add diced zucchinis and eggplant and stir together.
  3. In a separate dish mix together red curry powder, paprika, nutritional yeast, cinnamon, 1 Tbsp. avocado oil, and stir together. Then add this into the pot. Once all vegetables are coated well, add the beans and stir thoroughly.
  4. Add the vegetable broth and stir and then let simmer on low for 1 hour stirring every 15-20 minutes. Add coconut milk and let simmer for an additional hour (or more) until it reaches desired thickness and beans are to desired softness.

My favourite way to enjoy this stew is heated and topped with dollup of coconut or vanilla yogurt. It would also be great warm or cold in a whole grain wrap!

Until next time…stay healthy!

Mixed Bean and Barley Vegetable Stew

This is a simple vegan recipe that makes a nice stew allowing for versatility of its use. It can be consumed on its own, on top of rice or quinoa, on top of a salad, in lettuce wraps, or pureed with a bit more liquid and eaten as a soup. So whether you were hoping to find a recipe for meatless Monday, Taco Tuesday, Wellness Wednesday, Thrifty Thursday, Fast Friday, Soup Saturday, or Stay-at-home-Sunday…this recipe could fit them all! My favourite way to enjoy it is on top of a spinach salad with a dollup of tzatziki on top and a sprinkling of The Chicago Spice House Moroccan Seasoning.

Bean Barley Stew

Ingredients

1 cup lentils

2 cups mixed beans

1 cup barley

2 cups sliced mushrooms

2 zucchinis, diced

1 red onion, diced

1 cup vegetable broth

1 cup dry white wine

1 cup water

2 Tbsp. nutritional yeast

1 tsp. truffle or sesame oil

Instructions

  1. Wash, drain, and then soak the lentils and beans in warm water for 2 hours.
  2. When read rinse them again and place in a pot. Add barley, fresh water, broth, and wine (or additional broth).
  3. Heat on medium and add in the remainder of the ingredients. Keep at a rolling boil for 30 minutes, then reduce heat to low and let simmer for about an hour or until liquid has boiled off. Additional spices or herbs can be added during this time or at time of serving is a variety of flavours is desired.

Until next time…stay healthy!

 

 

 

The Breakfast Battle

As we reach the end of nutrition month, I have one more topic to look at with you under the realm of “Take the Fight out of Food”: The Breakfast Battle.

Breakfast is the most important meal of the day for a reason. Our body has gone into “fasting mode” over night and slowly uses glycogen stores from our liver for energy to stay alive. Glycogen stores are like starch in the body…stored glucose. Our brain and central nervous system can only run on glucose so we need to replenish the body when we wake up. If we wait too long to eat, then the body will go after our muscles to glean the glucose backbone of body proteins.  We don’t want that! We work too hard to build muscle to use it that way! And for our children, we want their brains fed and ready for busy days of playing, learning, and growing. It is important that we, as parents, model making breakfast a priority for ourselves and our children.

Common questions/comments I get on this topic are:

  1. I feel sick if I eat in the morning.
  2. I am not hungry in the morning.
  3. My children will not eat breakfast.
  4. We do not have time for breakfast at our house.
  5. I find breakfast food boring!

Any of these sound familiar? Here are a few thoughts and tips for each one.

  1. I feel sick if I eat in the morning. This is likely due to the fact that your body is not reacting well to coming out of fasting mode. Try to eat at least something…even if small, and then eat a more complete meal as soon as possible after that.
  2. I am not hungry in the morning. Hunger can present itself in different ways. In the morning you may not “feel” hungry, but that does not mean that your body does not need nourishment. As I mentioned above, try to have at least a little something. If you wait too long to eat, you are more likely to overeat later in the day.
  3. My children will not eat breakfast. Having children sit down for breakfast is a routine that can be encouraged by parents just like any routine. The earlier you model this and create it to be a habit for you and your children, the better. If you have older children that refuse, then having a “grab and go” option for them is better than nothing. For example, a smoothie in a “to go” container, a whole grain wrap with almond butter and sliced apples or peanut butter and banana, or overnight oats that can be eaten on the run. You can check out the lovefullyfuelsimply blog for some amazing overnight oats ideas!
  4. We do not have time for breakfast at our house. Mornings can be a very busy time in homes…especially with small children. As with anything, making time is the key. This means planning ahead and prioritizing. Setting our alarms at a time that allows for breakfast oriented activities is important. If you want to plan ahead, you could make pancakes or waffles the day before and then pop them in the toaster in the morning. If you like cereal, you can pre-pour it the night before and just add milk and fruit in the morning. I always pour our kids milks into their cups and store them in the fridge that way overnight so those are ready right away no matter what. I have a friend who makes sure that water is in the kettle and her tea is portioned and ready so all she has to do is turn the kettle on and pour water….that is organization!!! For more information on strategies we use and breakfast ideas for kids, you can check our this post.
  5. I find breakfast food boring! It is so true that toast and cereal can become boring and old super quick! Some people love the idea of an easy breakfast that doesn’t take too much brain work or time and that is great. Others like to have variety. Here are a few ways that you can keep breakfast interesting.
  • Try typical weekend breakfast ideas on week days: waffles, pancakes, French toast and omelets don’t have to wait for Saturday and Sunday. They can be a quick and easy option on a week day if prep is done ahead of time. You can make extra waffles or pancakes or French toast on the weekend and just pop them in the toaster on a weekday as I mentioned above. For omelets, you can mix everything together the night before and all you need to do is take a few minutes to cook it. Great options to add to an egg are diced peppers, tomatoes, and cheese, then add avocado once it is ready. Yum! Pair with some whole grain toast or English muffin and you are good to go!
  • Change up your fruit…you could serve cereal or toast with peanut butter everyday and still keep variety with a great rotation of fruit on top or on the side.
  • Try a homemade muffin and smoothie sometimes…or everyday with a variation in smoothie and muffin flavours. If you search the term “muffin” on this blog, you will see many options for keeping a good variety.

Until next time….stay healthy!

Milks…are they all the same?

Another topic that I was asked about “taking the fight out of” was the topic of milk. Now this is a big one but I am going to try to tackle it. The truth is that the variety of milks out there have many similarities, but important differences as well. This post is not meant to sway you to include or not include cow’s milk in your diet or your child’s diet. It is simply meant to inform you of the differences in the milks and the nutritional requirements that we are trying to meet with milk and milk alternatives at different life stages.

Cow’s milk: Cow’s milk contains 2 main proteins: casein and whey. It also contains lactose which is a sugar made up of glucose and galactose. There are many micronutrients that naturally occur in cows milk such as calcium, magnesium, and vitamin B12 (among others), and then vitamin A and D are added as per government regulations. The nutrients in milk work together to help us build and maintain strong bones and teeth, but also serve many other purposes as well. Milk comes in various fat levels. Whole milk (or homogenized) is 3.25% fat. This is the best milk choice for children age 12-24 months who are no longer breastfed due to its high fat content. Fat is essential for brain development in children and choosing a lower fat milk product at this age would take away from the fat in their diet. For a child who is allergic to casein or lactose intolerant, breast milk or a non casein based formula is best until 2 years of age. For children ages 2 and up, 2% milk is a good choice as it has sufficient fat. Ideally children 2 and up are drinking 16 oz of milk per day…no more, no less. So what about children who are allergic/intollerant to casein, lactose intolerant, or vegan? Well that is when it gets confusing. I am going to try to “take the fight out of milk choice” for you now.

Soy milk: Soy milk has the same fat percent as 2% milk so it is a suitable option for children over 2 years of age. It also provides the same amount of “complete protein” as one cup of cow’s milk.  It does not, however, contain all the micronutrients (vitamins and minerals) as cow’s milk. So if you are choosing soy milk, then please ensure that you choose one that is fortified with calcium, vitamin D, and vitamin B12 at least and ideally others as well. Because the micronutrients are added, they do not stay suspended in the milk very well so it is best to shake the carton of soy milk very well before pouring it to ensure that you are actually ingesting what you have paid for. Some people do not want to consume soy milk because of its estrogenic properties, so then we have to look at other milk alternatives.

Coconut milk: Coconut milk is the nest best option for children as it has the same fat content as 2% milk and soy milk. However, that is where the similarities end. Coconut milk is not a source of protein or any micronutrients. If a parent is choosing coconut milk for their child, then they need to replace the 16-18 grams of protein that would be provided by 2 cups of cow’s milk or soy milk each day AND ensure that the coconut milk is fortified and (as I said above) shake the carton well. A nice way to add a complete protein into coconut milk is to blend in hemp hearts. These are packed with protein and omega 3 and just add to the creamy nutty flavour that is already in coconut milk.

Two other milks that I am commonly asked about are almond and rice milk. These milks are not a source of fat or protein and are only a source of micronutrients if fortified. These milks are not suitable for young children unless they are mixed with higher fat and protein sources such as hemp hearts and chia seeds.

One other thing to consider is that a pure whey protein powder that is casein free is a nice complete protein alternative for a child that needs casein free but can handle whey.

I hope that this information is useful and as always, please comment below with any questions. If you want to read about our journey to dairy free with Clay, you can do so here.