Finding Balance Between “the Cookies and the Carrots” of the Holiday Season

I am often asked how I handle holiday treats with my children so I decided a post was in order. The reality is that my main goal to create a healthy relationship for my children with food. So the choices I make surrounding food always go back to that. Here are a few things we consider when it comes to this topic.

  1. We want our boys to remember that their bodies still need the same base of nourishment that they need in all other seasons of the year. Treats are special and cannot cover the nourishment their bodies need. They are not to be consumed all day everyday. We talk about the fact that a treat is something “extra” we choose to enjoy. We encourage them to savour and enjoy treats rather than rushing through them. We also remind our chidren that they may not feel well if they have a lot of treats as they are not the main fuel for our bodies.  I often use the phrase “having more of that may cause your head, tummy, or teeth to not feel well”.
  2. Our boys are not given a treat or restricted from a treat based on if they are “good” or finish the food on their plate. The treat food is planned from the start as long as they feel like it. They are also given full option to save it for later if they are too full at the time it is served. It is not a “now or never” but rather a “when you wish to enjoy this”.
  3. We use “Division of Responsibility” to determine when and how much of a treat will be offered. The boys can decide if they will eat it and how much they will eat of it. If we are at a social gathering we chat about all the treat options and we let them know that they are welcome to choose one favourite OR share a few favorites with each other.
  4. We love to make and offer healthy, fun treats. Red and green fruit and veggie platters, berry cakes, green (spinach) waffles with red berries and yogurt, and snow men made out of pancakes and yogurt can be really fun and exciting for young children and yet still offer great nourishment. Involving them in the preparation takes it to a whole new level of excitement.
  5. Creating a fun food craft is another way that our children enjoy Christmas treats. They love to bake and decorate gingerbread men and cookies and although they have been known to take a few bites here and there, they tend to enjoy the decorating more than the eating. The reality is that creating joy from experiences rather than food sets them up much better in the long run.

These are just a few thoughts on the topic that I have. I hope it is helpful. Thank you for reading.

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Feel free to share your thoughts below. I would love to hear your ideas on this topic.

Until next time…stay healthy!

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Small Shop Stocking Stuffers

I love finding stocking stuffers that will truly be enjoyed all year long. And while a small toy or book is wonderful to include, I also wanted to give you a few other ideas for your children’s stockings this year that would support small shops and be of use to both your child and you throughout the year.

1) Baby Buddy
The Brilliant! Kids Sonic took dental care to a whole new level in our home in 2017 and we could not be more thankful. You can read more about them here. Our boys absolutely love these toothbrushes…especially the fact that they light up and offer more autonomy in tooth brushing. They are the perfect size for any stocking.

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2) Mabel’s Labels
We use these phenomenal labels on everything from sweatshirts to lunch boxes to backpacks to boots to hockey helmets. There are several kits to choose from depending on your needs. You can find one of the kits we have here. Our boys LOVE helping to add a new label and call that item their very own. Sticking a personalized booklet out the top of a stocking would be very special on Christmas morning.

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3) Kiddo Bloom
As you know, I am all about supporting autonomy in children. We love how Kiddo Bloom cutlery does exactly that in our home. This stainless steel cutlery looks the same as the adult cutlery at the table but is the proper shape and weight for little hands. I also LOVE that they are one piece making for a more sanitary option compared to two piece cutlery.

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4) Kindergarten Tool Kit Flash cards
If you have a child between the ages of 2-5 these flash cards would be a really special gift that includes time together as you help your child learn their letters, letter sounds, numbers, shapes, and/or site words. In out home, we use the flash cards as part of cooking/baking as well as games and set learning times.

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5) Meals with Milton
Milton arrived at our home this summer and has been a welcome part of family meals, baking time, and more. Most recently he enjoyed watching us do some Christmas baking. We have Milton participate in the fun times AND in the “food trial” times so he is not anxiety provoking but rather a friendly face at all times. If you have a fussy eater or a child who struggles with trying new foods, I would consider having Milton peak out of your child’s stocking on Christmas morning.

6) The Original Squeeze

It’s not a bottle, its squeeze! And it is the perfect, mess free, easy to clean option for smoothies and purees for school lunches or on-the-go snacks. These come in a variety of colours and sizes. I chose my kids favourite colours when ordering and they use them almost every day. You can see my fill review here.

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I hope that this gives you some fun new ideas for stocking stuffers this year. Watch for my Small Shop gift guide for young children coming soon!

Until next time…stay healthy!

 

 

One Pot Zucchini Noodle Bruschetta

In case you missed it on my Instagram today, this amazing “one pot meal” had on 4 ingredients and took about 5 minutes to make.

Here is the recipe:
Sauté Spiralized Zucchini (aka #zoodles) with bruschetta mix. Once warmed through add a handful of Manitoba Harvest hemp hearts and a handful of pine nuts. Then serve. You could also make this with any other spiraled veg.

This is a veggie packed meal, high in flavor, antioxidants, and essential fatty acids!

Tip for little ones: I like to cut the zoodles up for my kids and add shredded cheese (Daiya Foods cheese for Clay since needs Dairy Free). It helps everything stick together a little easier. Hope your family loves this one as much as we do!

 

 

Leading By Example

This morning I told Clay that I was leaving for a race soon and I would see him this afternoon. He immediately had a huge smile on his face and said “oh mommy! I hope you win!!!” I thanked him but also said that I wasn’t doing it to win. But rather to spend time with a friend, support a great cause, and overcome my fear of running in a race. He asked me why I was afraid. This was a great question. I don’t really know why I have been afraid, but the thought of a running race has always made me feel suffocated. But despite that, today I ran in my first race, and when I came home I was able to tell him all about it and how it was wonderful and I truly had nothing to be worried about. I hope so very much that Clay remembers our conversations the next time he is nervous to participate in something.

Part of the reason I run is to be an example to them. I hope they grow up knowing that making time for physical activity is important and doable. It has not always been that way for me. I didn’t start running until I was in my 20s and even then it was sporadic. After becoming a mom at the age of 31 and gaining 65 pounds in my pregnancy, I wanted to get back in shape but had such a hard time finding time for activity with twin babies. So I started walking briskly with the kids in the stroller. Over time I wondered if I could do more. I added small 1 minute jogs into our walks every 5 minutes and then every three minutes. I would make it a fun game going fast and slow and fast and slow and the twin loved it!  Eventually I was alternating every minute and after a few weeks of this, all the minutes were spent running one day!

My first true 5 KM stroller run was HARD! I remember wondering if this was something that would ever seem doable as a regular thing. So I kept at it and by the time the twins were 18 months I was running 8-10 km with them in the stroller 4-5 times each week. I made sure we always had snacks and toys for them, a park destiation at the end, and music to listen to. We were in a great routine for a bit.

Then I became pregnant with Rhett and after gaining 55 pounds in that pregnancy I felt back at square one. And this time I was post VBAC and truly had to pee every 5 minutes. I decided that pelvic physio-therapy was the answer. It really worked well and when Rhett was about 9 months old I decided to once again start towards adding minutes of running into my walks. By the time he was 1 year old I was back to running 8-10 km 4-5 times each week. Sometimes I went on my own, sometimes with just Rhett in the stroller, and often with the twins in the stroller during Rhett’s nap time if my mom could be in the house with Rhett. It was a wonderful way to get fit again. But even more than that I found it helped with my mental health. It helped to clear my head from the noise of life. It allowed me time to pray and think and just be. Rhett is now 3.5 years old and this pace hasn’t changed. I still run 8-10 km 4-5 times each week and I love it! I find that if things come up to prevent me from running I feel almost suffocated. I love the fresh air. I love the quiet time or conversations with him about what we see in nature while running. And I love the way my energy levels are after I have run. Also, the boys love coming with me. I hope that soon they will be running along side me. I hope my example of making time for activity and finding a way to fit it into our busy life will stick with them  I hope they find their chosen type of activity and find a way to fit it in too at all life stages.

Our kids watch every single choice we make…

• TV time or activity outside

• Handful of crackers while supper is cooking or carrots and hummus

• Standing at the counter while eating or sitting down to enjoy

• Coke with your meal or a glass of milk or water

• Sitting on the sidelines or getting involved

So all this to say three main things…

  1. If you are looking for a great way to be active while being with your kids…brisk walking or running is a great option.
  2. If you are a runner and have never run a race, I would encourage you to try it. You may just find it isn’t so bad after all!
  3. Making choices that seem “selfish” may actually be a great way to model “self care” and healthy living to your kids!

Until next time…stay healthy!

Pumpkin Oatmeal Muffins

Autumn has so many wonderful traditions and one of my favourite is our annual visits to a local pumpkin farm. The boys love to pick out pumpkins for the front porch and a few for baking too. One of our favourite pumpkin recipes is pumpkin pudding which you can find here. Another is these pumpkin muffins…a true staple in our home during the fall months.

And if you don’t have a pumpkin farm near you where you can get fresh pumpkins to roast, not to worry, canned pure pumpkin works well too. Here is the recipe!

 

Ingredients:
1 and ¼ cup whole wheat flour
1 and ¼ cup steel cut oats
¾ cup unbleached all-purpose flour
¼ cup hemp hearts
2 tsp cinnamon
2 tsp baking powder
¼ tsp baking soda
1 cup coconut milk (or alternate milk of your choice)
¼ cup maple syrup or agave syrup
2 eggs
3 cups roasted pumpkin OR 1 can (796 mL) pure pumpkin puree
¼ cup unsweetened applesauce (or 1 banana mashed)
¼ cup canola oil or coconut oil
1 tsp. vanilla extract

Optional Ingredients:
½ cup crushed walnuts or pecans
½ cup raisins or dried cranberries

Instructions:
1. Combine all dry ingredients and make a well in the centre.
2. Combine all wet ingredients and pour into dry ingredients.
3. Add optional ingredients as you wish.
4. Mix together until moistened. Do not over mix.
5. Spoon batter into non-stick muffin pan.
6. Bake at 350° for 20-25 minutes.

Makes 18 muffins.

Here are a few more pics from the two trips we made to gather pumpkins this year…

 

 

Until next time…stay healthy!

 

 

 

Hello Fresh….Hello Dream Come True!

September hit me hard! After an overall relaxed paced summer, we hit the ground running with new school, work, and extra curricular activities. I have worked hard to meal plan, grocery shop, and meal prep as well as possible but some days we still end up with a rush around supper. Enter Hello Fresh! We had the opportunity to try a 3 meal package from Hello Fresh a few weeks ago and it was a total life changer for this mom!

At 4:45 pm on a Tuesday we came home from a family bike ride to find a box at our front door filled with fresh produce and amazing quality (aka antibiotic free, local, sustainably farmed, etc.) meat, fish, and poultry. I was very impressed with the food safety aspect too. All items were packed in a way that ensured appropriate temperatures were kept.

One of the boxes was labelled “Make Me First” and so I unpacked that one right away and within 30 minutes we were enjoying salmon cakes, roasted sweet potatoes, and fresh veggies. Our whole family truly loved the flavor and I loved the ease of preparation. All the ingredients were perfectly prepped and portion and yet I still had the opportunity to do the cooking. A win-win for me!

Over the coming week I chose our two busiest days (one being piano lesson day) to cook the other two meals. They were equally easy to prepare, packed with nutrients and flavour, and enjoyed by the whole family.

If you have busy weeks, and a few partially prepared, high quality and incredibly tasty meals would be useful for you, please use my discount code MINIS50 for $25 OFF YOUR NEXT TWO BOXES!

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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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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!