4 of the Most Important Things You Can Do For Your Health Right Now

4 of the Most Important Things You Can Do For Your Health Right Now

  1. Eat More Vegetables.

This is the number one piece of nutrition advice I give to anyone and everyone, and would often even give it to myself. I have never once worked with a client that I did not recommend to increase their vegetable intake.  Even if you are doing a pretty good job of getting vegetables in, you can always eat more.   Vegetables are always going to give you the most bang for your buck.  They are low in calories, high in nutrients, vitamins, minerals and fiber.  I believe they are almost impossible to overeat as most people will just simply fill up before eating too many.   There are thousands of types of vegetables and numerous ways to prepare them.  If you claim you do not like vegetables, keep trying new ones.  Try cooking them a different way, add a little salt and butter or dipping sauce to keep them interesting.  Add them to smoothies, soups, frittatas, sauces.  There are endless ways to add vegetables to your meal and they can have a significant impact on your health.

2. Move As Much As Possible.

For years we have heard about trying to get in 10,000 steps/day, taking the stairs or parking further away. These small amounts of movement might seem insignificant but they can really add up. Research shows that many people, after working out earlier in the day, actually end up sitting more that day since they already exercised. They feel they have more of an excuse to be less active that day because of their earlier workout.  Though working out is great, it does not counteract sitting at your desk for 8 hours.   You need to keep moving throughout the day for optimal health.  This might be challenging for many with a desk job but just moving around your desk and office can help.

In 2005, the concept of NEAT, Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis was introduced.  This concept is the idea that daily movements such as standing, walking and basically fidgeting can have an impact on how many calories we burn each day.   Studies show that NEAT can burn up to 350 calories a day!   Stand up when you answer the phone, get up every hour for a few minutes and walk around the office.  Try to have walking meetings if possible.  Try to take a few breaks during the day for even 5-10 minute walk breaks.  Every step does really count.  Just move.

3. Sleep More.

I actually feel somewhat of a hypocrite typing this as I should be sleeping and not staying up to write a blog but I know that I should sleep more.  We all probably should.  I also know that at times it is literally impossible even with the best intentions.  Like the night I got into bed early and was so excited for my 8 hours of sleep, only to be woken by my toddler at midnight demanding a bedtime story about “Frog and Toad.”

Sleeping and parenting little ones often do not go hand in hand but sleep is crucial for everyone.  As with food and exercise, sleep can have huge impact on your overall health.   Your body and mind need time to rest, recover and restore.  When we do not sleep enough, our cravings, energy and hunger levels are out of whack.  We are often grouchy and sluggish.  Research shows that with less than 6 hours of sleep, our blood sugar becomes elevated the following day which can lead to inflammation.  Most experts say 8 hours is ideal with some needing 7 and others needing 9.  However, many hours you need to feel good, make it a priority.

4.  Cook at Home More.

I love to cook but I realize that not everyone does. Even if you do not love to cook, please know it is one of the most impactful things you can do for your and your family’s health.  Eating at home has so many benefits including eating less calories, fat and sodium overall, not to mention saving a significant amount of money.  The time to connect with your kids and significant other is also hugely important.

Cooking at home does not mean cooking boring chicken breast and vegetables all the time.  It also does not mean cooking super elaborate meals.   I cook a wide variety of foods.  Some are super simple like putting pre-made burgers on the George Foreman (yes, they still exist and I use mine often), steaming a vegetable and making some type of quick cooking whole grain/starch.  Other nights when I have more time and feel more creative, my meals are a little more involved like chicken enchiladas.   I also often try to re-create restaurant favorites like nachos and pizzas but they are signiciatnlty better for you when made at home. I can control the ingredients, portion sizes and add extra nutritional value with added vegetables.

It does help that my sister is a professional chef and has helped me significantly over the years to become a better cook, which I am forever grateful for. But just as with anything, getting better at cooking takes practice.  The more you cook, the better you will become and we generally enjoy things we are good at.  Keep trying new recipes.  If you do not enjoy it, try super simple recipes.  Pick a protein, starch or whole grain and a vegetable.  Super flavorful meals can be put together in just 20 minutes.  Keep trying, cooking at home matters.

Motherhood is a Privilege

Motherhood is a Privilege

As Madelynn was screaming that she wanted to take her half eaten breakfast (that took her 90 minutes to pretend to eat) in the car with her, I just kept repeating, ‘motherhood is a privilege, motherhood is a privilege,’ to try to get me through the moment. A few weeks ago I read a fascinating article on the idea of the privilege and selfishness of motherhood in the New York Times by Karen Rinaldi.

“I don’t believe for one second that motherhood is the hardest job in the world nor that it is all sacrifice” states Rinaldi. She continues that stating that motherhood “is all sacrifice reinforces the disempowerment of mothers and women.”

I read those lines and literally scoffed out loud, as I often heard even before becoming a mother, and then started to tell myself and believe that motherhood was in fact the hardest job in the world. At only a few paragraphs in, I was so intrigued by her stance that I had to read on, as how in the world was she going to defend that statement?

“The assertion of motherhood as a sacrifice comes with a perceived glorification. A woman is expected to sacrifice her time, ambition and sense of self to a higher purpose, one more worthy than her own individual identity. This leaves a vacuum in the pace of her value, one that others rush to fill.”

Though I do agree with the above statement from society’s perspective, I do not on a personal level.  I do not think I have sacrificed my own individual identity when I became a mom. Though I have a love for my children deeper than anything I have every experienced, I know I am more than a mom and I work hard to keep my sense of self.  I do believe that I sacrifice a lot of time, money and energy for my children but I do not sacrifice everything.

A recent quiet and relaxing evening with Madelynn.

“When we cling to the idea of motherhood as sacrifice, what we really sacrifice is our sense of self, as if it is the price we pay for having children. Motherhood is not a sacrifice, but a privilege that many of us choose—selfishly.  Selflessness implies that we have no skin in the game.  In motherhood, we’re all in.”

Brilliant.  I have so much skin in the game of motherhood.  I have experienced more emotions in the last 4 1/2 years than probably most of my life and the emotions run the gamut.  There are so many highs and but many lows as well and I am only a few years in.

“By reframing motherhood as a privilege, we redirect agenda back to the mother, empowering her, celebrating her autonomy instead of her sacrifice.  There are many mothers who who not have chosen motherhood, for financial or personal reasons.  Still, by owning our roles as mothers and refusing the false accolades of martyrdom, we do more to empower women.”

Yes. Yes.  I have so many times in the wake of exhaustion and frustration played the martyr.   I want sympathy, I want people to know how distressed I am, I want admiration.  And I often do this unconsciously.  People simply ask how I am doing and if I had a rough night with the kids,  I automatically reply with a diatribe on how the kids did not sleep and this and that.  But I must remember that these experiences are a privilege.   Yes, they are hard and tiring and frustrating.  I chose to have these beautiful babes and for Caleb, I went through 3 years of fertility treatments for this privilege.  I chose this.    I am also very aware that many did not chose motherhood or could not chose motherhood and I am grateful I had the choice.

“Calling motherhood “the hardest job in the world” misses the point completely because having and raising children is not a “job.” No one will deny that there is exhaustion, fear and tedium,  Raising a family is hard work, but so is every other meaningful aspect of our lives.”

This quote challenges me, the idea that motherhood is not a job.  I asked my husband if he thought parenting was a job and he said no.   He said he thought it was hard work but not a job.  In most cases, he feels that in a job, someone tells you what to do.  No one tells you how to parent.  I think parenting is a responsibility which is often synonymous with ‘job.’ The author is using the traditional definition of a job and that motherhood does not involve an employer/employee relationship, is unpaid and mothers are not reporting to anyone.     The author still mentions and advocates for paid parental leave, flexible working hours and more but “the cultural shift has to happen for policies to follow. Martyrs, after all, don’t need or expect public services.”

This brilliant article, though short was very impactful on my current feelings toward motherhood.  I am in a challenging stage, I am in the trenches, just like many others.  I have two kids under 5.  They require a lot of energy and attention.  They drive me nuts a lot of time.  They also bring me joy a lot of the time.  They make me laugh, they make me smile, they have taught me a love that I never knew existed.  I chose this and it is a privilege to be their mother.

What do you think?  Do you classify motherhood as a job?  Do you think society makes mothers martyrs?   I would love to hear your thoughts on this and if you want to read the full article: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/08/04/opinion/sunday/motherhood-family-sexism-sacrifice.html

As I was writing this blog, I also came upon her follow-up article since her initial article had so many responses.   That can be found here: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/08/12/opinion/is-motherhood-a-sacrifice-or-a-privilege.html A few people commented that it could be both selfless and selfish.  It is a sacrifice and a privilege. The topic was also brought up about fathers and why they are not included in these type of articles.   Again, fascinating.

Regardless if you think it is a sacrifice, privilege, selfless or selfish, even on the rough days, I am so glad these two chose me as their mother.

Why I Let My Kids Eat All the Candy They Want on Halloween

Why I Let My Kids Eat All the Candy They Want on Halloween

My family loves Halloween.  We love dressing up in coordinating costumes and going to lots of Halloween activities.   My husband and I actually liked dressing up even before we had kids, but now it is even more fun and seems more acceptable and not quite as weird.

However, what I do not love is the ridiculous amount of candy but I understand that is a big part of Halloween.  I wish more of the activities could not be focused on treats but again, I get it, it’s Halloween.

When my son was finally old enough to understand the concept of Halloween and eat candy, I figured I would limit his intake to a few pieces that evening and then maybe 1-2 pieces the following days.   I was asking other parents what they do and a friend said they actually allow their kids to eat as much as they want on Halloween.  I am pretty sure my heart stopped.  What?  You let them just eat as much as they want?  How can you do that?  Don’t they eat a million pieces?  Doesn’t their stomach hurt?  Aren’t they then wired from all that sugar?

I have written before that I do think of one of our greatest responsibilities as parents is to teach our children how to take care of their bodies with good food and movement.  These are so crucial to long term health that I take it very seriously.  I understand that at 16 years old, my son will probably be getting fast food with his friends.  But as research shows and I mentioned in my last blog about soccer snacks, what they learn, observe and eat as young children can have an impact on their preferences later in life.   And at this point in their life, I get to control what they put in their bodies.   Just as they learn about heathy food from us, they also learn what kind of relationship to have with food.   With that being said, I am not trying to make foods bad and off-limits, but some foods are occasional and though maybe not best for our bodies, taste good, are fun and part of holidays and special activities.   I also do not want to be so strict that they are sneaking or hiding food or to create any type of food issues.  I have had my own food issues in the past and that is the last thing I want for my children.

So the last 2 years we have let them (last year Madelynn was only 15 months old so obviously we had to watch what she was eating) eat as much as they want on Halloween night.  This is still hard for me to actually accept and watch,  but I embrace it. I make sure they have a healthy dinner beforehand and kids are incredibly good at self-regulation, which many adults have lost.   I actually think they probably had only 5-6 peices of candy before deciding that they were full or decided it was enough.  Both of my kids, Caleb especially, are starting to realize that too much sugar will make their stomach hurt and that they will not feel good that night and often the next day.  So they learn moderation without strict rules and without me constantly saying no for one night of the year.  It is such a fun, crazy, memorable night for all of us.

So what about in the following days? I know there are tons of different ideals revolving Halloween candy including the ‘Switch Witch,’ donating it to troops, throwing it away etc.  I am not judging any of these as I think every family should figure out what works for them.

What we have done the last for few years is to keep it.  I am not going to make a big deal about Halloween and costumes and trick or treating and then throw it away.  I am not sure how I explain that to two small children.   The few weeks following Halloween, they are allowed to pick 1-2 pieces after dinner.  They eat very low amounts of refined sugar througout the day as I pack their lunches every day. Their school does not allow candy or juice and asks us not to send cookies or any other treats in their lunches unless it is a birthday or special celebration.   They spend a long time picking these treats out and savoring them.  Which is exactly what I hope for.  It is special, it is a treat. It’s moderation.   The candy often lasts us until the next holiday.  Literally we could probably make it from Halloween to Easter and back to Halloween.  We might end up donating it or finding something else that works better in the future, but this is what currently works for us.

I often think people want to get rid of the candy so the parents are not tempted.  This is understandable and I used to be of the mindset out of sight, out of mind and often recommended it and sometimes still do to my clients.  But I have worked so hard in my years to overcome my food obession, guilt and shame around food that I actually want candy in the house.  For me it is like exposure therapy. I am not going to give candy so much power that I cannot have it in the house and have control over me.  Though each person is different and might not want it in the house,  it is actually part of my recovery process.  I want to be in control and know that  I can have a few pieces after dinner without going overboard and eating until I am uncomfortably full or riddled with guilt and shame.  Knowing that it is there and I can have it whenever I want has actually given me much freedom.    This will be one of the topics covered in my upcoming course Find Your Framework that I will be releasing in late January (jump on the pre-sale and info list here).

So though I cannot believe I actually allow them to just freely eat candy, it works for us and the kids have a great time and enjoy the freedom for one night. I always love to hear what other families do so send me an email (healthybabyfitmom@gmail.com) or a comment or message on social media what works for your family.  I would love to hear from you!

Have a very fun and safe Halloween!


Wonder Women Sara, Madelynn and Housh and Spidermen Adam and Caleb

Need fast and healthy meal ideas?  Check out my 30 Recipes under 30 Minutes E-Book for delicious meals for the entire family.

I Hate Soccer Snacks

I Hate Soccer Snacks

Caleb just started his third season of soccer and this topic has been on my mind for a few years but it wasn’t until my best friend sent me the picture below of the snack her four year old received at 9 AM last week that compelled me to write it.

I love sports and I started playing soccer and competing in swimming at age six.  Though I will not force my kids to participate in any type of sport, I will sign them up for lots of activities and see what they enjoy and want to participate in.   I hope some of these activities are sports as obviously I am a huge advocate of physical fitness and any type of movement for all ages.   Not only do I think sports are great exercise, I think it teaches social skills, team building, commitment and when they are older, time management, losing vs. winning and much more.  However, when they are four years old,  let’s be honest, the games are not what I call ‘intense.’

If it was my choice, I would eliminate the soccer snacks all together.  It is barely one hour of activity.  My kids eat breakfast beforehand and yes, they often have a mid-morning snack most days before lunch, but I would prefer to just bring my own snack for my kid if needed or better yet, just go home and eat actual food as some of the games end around lunchtime.

BUT, I get it, the kids want the snacks and I understand it is a fun part of the activity (except if eliminated the snacks from the get-go they would not realize it was part of the activity) but why do we have to give them crap after a few minutes of exercise?  What is this teaching them? Yes, if an older child is playing in hot and humid weather for over an hour, then they will most likely need more than water to replenish but after my four year runs around the field for 18 min he does not need 350 calories of sugar.

I am not a food tyrant with my kids.  My kiddos get treats, we have some candy in the house and are not just eating kale and quinoa all day.  I have had and am still having food battles about vegetables and meals and healthy food.  However, I believe it is ONE OF OUR GREATEST responsibilities to teach our kids proper nutrition and taking care of our bodies from a young age.  I remember speaking with another mom as I was frustrated that other moms were making comments about my food choices for my kids (that is an completely different topic entirely but I did post a guest blog awhile back about defending healthy) and she defended me saying that this is the time we get to make the choices for them as when they are sixteen years old we will not be able to.  YES!

I hope I am laying a foundation for healthy eating for my kids for life.  Much research shows that kids (and even babies in the womb) learn food preferences from what they are served growing up.   And to be honest, I do not think enough parents take teaching their kids healthy habits seriously enough.   1 in 4 kids in Colorado is overweight or obese. Yes, in one of the states that often touts being one of the healthiest states, we still have high numbers of obesity in both adults and children.   As with adults, the longer someone is overweight, the harder it is for them to lose weight.  So if a child is overweight starting at a young age, they are very likely to be overweight as an adult.  Our children’s life expectancy is being cut short due this epidemic and many experts believe this is the first time a generation’s life expectancy is shorter than their parents.

Photo courtesy of Live Well Colorado

I know this might be an extreme correlation between a few soccer snacks and obesity but the constant sugary snacks at a young age can definitely be a contributor.  Why can’t we use these opportunities to teach our children about proper hydration and fueling?

I know soccer snacks are not going anywhere  but could we PLEASE bring healthy options?  I asked the snack coordinator this year to ask the other parents to bring healthy options as it is something I feel very strongly about.  Yes, I realize I could tell my son that he is not allowed to have the snack that is offered if it is junk and though I do teach my son about food that is good for us and food that are occasional treats, I really do not want to get into a discussion with my 4 year old son about childhood obesity during snack time. Why not use sports as a great time to teach our children about healthy snack options after exercise?

If if is your turn this weekend to bring some snacks, here are some ideas of healthy sport snacks that taste great and most kids will enjoy.

  • String cheese
  • Cuties, grapes, apple slices
  • Low-sugar snack bars (my favorite; Trader Joe’s Peanut Butter Chocolate Fiberful Bars, Z-bars with protein, Z-bars Filled )
  • Trail mix with nuts, raisins and chocolate chips
  • Popcorn
  • Fruit leather
  • Drinks:  Flavored seltzer water, Trader Joe’s Low-sugar apple juice, Honest juice or just good old plain water.

Let’s teach our children the importance of good food and healthy habits on an off the field.

Caleb and his buddies enjoy a snack after the game.