Thursday, September 23, 2010

Avoiding flu shots

This time of year you can not run to the grocery store or Target without seeing an advertisement for a flu shot.  Vaccines are a very personal issue so I am in no way trying to persuade someone who WANTS a flu shot to not get one.  I just want to offer a bit of support for those who choose NOT to get vaccinated.

My children and I have never had a flu shot (Paul has because they were mandatory in the Air Force).  I choose not to get the vaccine because we have healthy immune systems.  I also am a bit paranoid about all of the immunizations given to young children so I don't want to add anything else to the mix.  The first time I declined a flu shot for my children the doctor called me a bad mom and told me it would be my fault if my son died from flu complications.  Nice. It is worth pointing out that Ben was only 4 months old at the time and the flu vaccine is not FDA approved for babies under 6 months.  Needless to say we switched pediatricians. 

The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition weighed in on the flu shot vs. no flu shot issue in the March 2010 issue.  They reported a study out of Japan that suggests that adequate levels of vitamin D are 800% more effective at preventing influenza than flu shots.  More studies are needed but appears to be promising information.

It makes me happy to know that taking vitamin D supplements can be so beneficial.  Our immune systems are growing stronger by the day. We are avoiding the flu while still avoiding formaldehyde and thimerosal (flu shot inactive ingredients).

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Staying healthy while traveling

It can be really easy to eat junk when you are traveling.  The junk is RIGHT there.  There are big macs, french fries, and chocolate donuts at almost every exit.  You don't need to eat them though.  You can stay healthy while traveling.

1)  Preparation is the key - you NEED to pack snacks!

We usually start long car trips either very early in the morning, around 3 a.m.   This way we can drive for a while before we need to feed the kids breakfast.  In theory they would fall back asleep after being put in the car but my kids are always so excited to be traveling that they stay awake for hours.  When bellies start grumbling we pass out cheese sticks, homemade trail mix, raisins, apples, bananas, and/or nuts (chopped for the little one to avoid a choking incident).  This usually holds the kids for awhile. 

2)  Choose your restaurants carefully.

At some point we usually end up at a restaurant.  We can get the kids dressed (remember, they were plucked from their beds still in their jammies), teeth brushed, get out our wiggles, and eat a somewhat healthy meal.  We always choose a sit-down restaurant over fast food.  A real restaurant usually has a larger menu with more options and are willing to customize a meal.  For breakfast, Cracker Barrel is a good choice.  They offer a low carb meal that has eggs, bacon, and tomatoes.  It oddly comes includes bread too - just leave that alone.  Most restaurants serve some sort of salad for lunch or dinner.  Just make sure you order meat (chicken, shrimp, steak, etc.) on top of the salad or you will be starving by the time you are back on the highway.  If you really must eat fast food choose Chipotle.   Here is an excellent post on how to order at Chipotle.

3)  Bring bubbles!

Sitting for long amounts of time isn't good for you but is near impossible for little ones.  Bring bubbles, balls, and frisbees to use at rest stops.  When Hannah was 23 months old I drove (with the help of my mother-in-law) from Colorado Springs to Northern VA.  That is 30 hours of driving!  We stopped at rest stops along the way so that Hannah could run and chase bubbles.  When it rained we stopped at Walmart and let Hannah walk around until her little legs were tired.  If there are no other options you can stop at a fast food restaurant with a play area to play for awhile.  There is no rule you have to eat there just because you are using the play ground.

How do you stay healthy while traveling? 

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Autumn in a jar trail mix

Autumn in a jar trail mix
(recipe inspired by Martha Stewart)

1 c. raw pumpkin seeds
1 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
coarse salt
1/2 c. unsweetened coconut flakes
1/2 c. almonds, toasted and chopped
1/2 c. dried cranberries
1 tsp. pumpkin pie spice

1.  Coat the pumpkin seeds with the extra virgin olive oil and salt.  Bake at 375 for about 8 minutes or until golden.
2.  Mix all of the ingredients together.

Simple and delicious (oh wait....that's a different magazine)!

Monday, September 13, 2010

Nutritional supplements

I spend a lot of time researching recipes, ingredients, and nutrition in general.  The more I learn, the more I realize how much there is that I still don't know.  Take nutritional supplements for example.  I know that some are necessary,  some are a complete waste of money, and some can be downright dangerous.  The trick is to figure out which category each supplement falls into.  That is still largely a mystery to me.

Currently, I only take a D3 supplement (5000 IU - oil based).  I know that I probably should take a multivitamin but I have yet to find one that doesn't make me nauseous.

What supplements do you take?  Do you have a multivitamin that you recommend?  Any links to help decode the nutritional supplement mystery?

Friday, September 10, 2010

Brain Food

Cooking Light magazine recently ran a list of 10 foods that benefit mental health.  It is no surprise to me that these foods are primal friendly.  They are all foods that are found in nature and offer various health benefits other than just mental health.  If you want to protect your mental health (and who doesn't) make sure you include these in your diet.
1.  Blackberries
2.  Coffee (black)
3.  Apples
4.  Chocolate (the higher the cocoa count the better)
5.  Cinnamon
6.  Spinach
7.  Extra virgin olive oil
8.  Salmon
9.  Curry
10. Concord grape juice

Is there anything on this list that surprises you?  Anything you expected to see but don't?


Thursday, September 9, 2010

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

School lunch menu

The September breakfast/lunch menu was passed out at kindergarten orientation.  I was not impressed.  At all.

Here is the first day:
Breakfast - Chilled orange juice
                  Sausage breakfast pizza
                    Cereal with oatmeal to go

Lunch -               Choose one
                  Popcorn chicken with bread stick
                   Teriyaki beef dippers with bread stick
                   Chili cheese wrap with cheese sauce and tostitos
                   Yogurt with bread stick
                   Pepperoni and cheese salad with bread sticks
                          Choose two
                    Mashed potatoes with gravy
                    Steamed broccoli
                    Chilled mixed fruit
                    Fresh nectarine

This is a pretty typical lunch.  Some form of fried chicken and pizza are offered every single day!

Let's be positive first.  There are some good things about the menu.  There is a salad choice every day (although it often includes fried chicken) and fruits and vegetables are offered daily.

Now the negative. The breakfasts are not ideal.  Cereal WITH oatmeal?  Really? Sausage could be okay if it wasn't on pizza.  I find it absolutely awful that a child could eat nothing but fried chicken and pizza for lunch Monday through Friday.

Probably needless to say, Hannah will be packing lunch 99% of the time.  What are the school lunches like where you live?

Friday, September 3, 2010

Chocolate chip cookies

I think we have finally found our new cookie recipe!  I changed around Elena's cookie until it fit our desires.  This recipe makes a really soft cookie. 

Gluten Free Chocolate Chip Cookies
2 ½ cups almond flour (make sure to press the flour into the measuring cups)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 stick of butter, melted
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
½ cup honey
1 egg, beaten
1 cup dark chocolate pieces 
  1. Combine dry ingredients in a large bowl
  2. Stir together wet ingredients in a smaller bowl
  3. Mix wet ingredients into dry
  4. Form ½ inch balls and press onto a parchment lined baking sheet (a mini-scoop is really good for this)
  5. Bake at 350° for 7-10 minutes
  6. Cool on the parchment paper and serve
Tips:  *I add the egg last so I can taste the cookie dough first and adjust the sweetener, amount of chocolate chips, vanilla, etc.
          *I recommend that you cool the cookies on the parchment paper.  They are so soft they might fall apart hot out of the oven on a cooling rack.

Makes 24 cookies
I hope you enjoy these cookies as much as we do!

Changes to our television schedule

All week summer we have been preparing for kindergarten.  Hannah went to a fantastic preschool program last year but now she is going to REAL school.  Permanent record kind of school.  Pass or fail school.  Can you tell we think this is a really big deal in our house?

As part of our preparations we laid down a new family rule.  No television during the week.  Did you hear screaming children somewhere in the distance on Monday morning?  Sorry.  That was my children's reaction to having the television turned off and the remote moved out of reach.  I was a little bit surprised they were so upset.  Our old t.v. rules were somewhat strict (1 show in the morning, 1 show while I'm making dinner, a movie only if it is raining so hard you can't go outside) by today's standards.

The good news is that the children are starting to recover from their grief.  Contrary to what they believed would happen, they did not die.  In fact they found lots of things to do.  On several occasions they took the time to dig to the bottom of the toy basket to find forgotten favorites.  We read a ton of books, built every puzzle in the house, baked cookies (look for our recipe today), built with blocks, etc.  You know, the kinds of things kids are suppose to do.  We all survived and did not cross the border into Crazyville.

The reason we elected to ban television during the week is pretty simple. We want to foster time management skills.  Hannah is only awake about 12 hours a day (7am-7pm).  Her morning will be completely taken up with getting dressed, eating, brushing teeth, etc. in order to get to school on time.  By the time she gets home from school and does her homework she only has two hours until dinner and starting her bedtime routine.  I want her to be able to play, create art projects, hang out with her brother, and just generally jump out her wiggles.

Has anyone dared take away television?  What are your back to school rules?

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Children and sleep

I think it is fairly obvious that everyone needs enough sleep.  I feel most productive, energetic, creative, and just generally well when I am well rested.  This holds true for children too.  Everyone's sleep requirements are individual but in general:
1-3 year olds need 12-14 hours (total, this includes naps)
4-6 year olds need 10-12 hours
7-12 year olds need 10-11 hours
12+ need 8-9 hours

Good sleep habits are important during the school year for the mental, physical, and behavioral benefits.  Children can react to fatigue by becoming overly emotional and sensitive, loud, and just generally wild.  This is Hannah.  When Hannah is tired she cries at the drop of a hat while running around in circles.  When she is that tired she has an extremely hard time settling down.

In order to facilitate good sleep habits my kids have a pretty rigid bedtime.  Ben has the luxury ability to nap during the day but Hannah's kindergarten is full-day without a rest time.  Both kids go to their rooms at 7:00 and Ben goes to sleep almost immediately.  He sleeps until 6:00 and naps for a 1-2 hours each afternoon.  Hannah plays quietly in her room reading, coloring, or rocking her baby dolls until 8:00 when she has to go to bed.  She sleeps until 6:00 or 7:00.

This bedtime/wake time allows the children to get enough sleep each night.  Benjamin averages 12-13 hours daily and Hannah averages 10-11 hours.  These are smack in the middle of the recommended sleep amounts.

How much sleep do your kids get each night?

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Immunity boost

Kids are notorious for spreading germs.  It makes sense.  Most kids have no clue about personal space, touch everything, and don't wash their hands as often as they should.  All of those germs can add up to lots of missed days of school and just generally not feeling well.

Since we have cleaned up our diet we haven't gotten sick.  This is one of the benefits of the paleo/primal eating plan.  By giving our bodies all of the necessary nutrients, our bodies are able to function to their best abilities.  I don't think it is just a coincidence that it is summer though.  During the summer we spend a lot of time outdoors.  We make vitamin D whenever we have exposed skin in sunlight. 

The importance of vitamin D is just beginning to be understood.  It is starting to gain a reputation as a miracle drug but only time and lots of scientific studies will determine if that is true.  It does seem that vitamin D3 supports the immune system. Our bodies are a wonderful thing and seem to know how important D is for us.  All we need is a little uncovered (by clothing or sunscreen) skin and a nice sunny day and our bodies can manufacture vitamin D.  We try to spend an hour or so without sunscreen outside daily to top off our vitamin D tank.  Our bodies store vitamin D, which in my non-expert opinion, just goes to show that is is absolutely essential for good health.

Now that Hannah will be starting school she won't get as much mid-day sun exposure so she won't naturally produce as much vitamin D.  Combine that with lots of time spent in close proximity to other children and I start to worry that my normally healthy daughter will spend a lot of time at home sick this year.

So, waiting in my kitchen cabinet, is a bottle of vitamin D3 supplements.  Beginning Tuesday I will supplement Hannah with D3 anytime she might not get enough sun (Monday - Friday, winter, etc.).  Currently the RDA is very very low.  So low that it is laughed at by the natural medical community.  You would need to take 100X the RDA to have a negative effect!  1000 IU per 25 lbs of body weight is a good healthy dose to top off those D3 stores (as recommended by experts in the subject.

Vitamin D is a massive topic that I have barely begun to scratch the surface.  I plan to write more posts on the subject but in the meantime here are some informative links.

The Vitamin D Council
Heart Scan Blog

*I am not a doctor and have no formal medical training (just lots of hours in front of the computer).