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10 Fit Gift Ideas for Father's Day


Father's Day is quickly approaching, so you might be thinking about ways to recognize the special dad in your life.  Fitness-related gifts can be a unique option to the traditional tie or coffee mug.  Whether you have $1 or $100 (or more) to spend this year, consider getting dad something that he can enjoy while benefitting his health at the same time!
Posted 6/2/2014  5:00:00 AM By: Jen Mueller : 1 comments   13,967 views
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Stop Apologizing for Being Different


Every day I work hard to be a good mom.  There are days where I’m proud of the job I’ve done, and other days when I’m not.   I think that kind of goes with the territory.  I know I’m not perfect, but I always try to make decisions based on what I think is right for my family.  Some of those decisions aren’t the norm, but instead of being proud of paving my own path, recently I’ve started apologizing for them.  It’s time for me to stop being sorry and start embracing my differences.
 
My daughter started kindergarten last month, which means I’ve been getting involved at school, going to meetings and introducing myself to other parents in her class.  A few weeks ago, I went to a meeting where moms were chatting about popular meals they serve for dinner.  Most of the foods they were mentioning were things my kids never eat, because admittedly, I’m pretty picky about what we have.  Most of our meals don’t come from a box or fast food drive through, and I try to serve healthy foods as much as possible (leaving room for special treats now and then.)  I stayed quiet through the conversation, because I didn’t want to come off as judging other parents.  Every parent has their own things they focus on, and one of mine happens to be the quality of our food.  When I came to pick my daughter up from a playdate a few days after this, her friend’s mom asked “What does she eat for lunch?” She named a few foods she asked if my daughter would like to eat, and my daughter had never had them before.   Yes, hotdogs are on that list.    
 
After these two experiences (as well as a few others involving the toys my children have compared to other kids), I felt the need to apologize to them.  “I’m sorry that I’m different than other parents.  I’m sorry I focus a lot on what you eat, and don’t just buy you everything you want the second you ask for it.”  When my husband heard me doing this, he pulled me aside.  “Why would you apologize for doing things for our kids that you feel are going to make them better, healthier people?  Don’t be sorry for that.”  The more I thought about it, the more I knew he was right.  My kids eat plenty of treats, just not all-day, every day.  My kids get new toys and we do lots of fun things together, even if I’m not buying the latest, most expensive gadgets on the market.  I do these things because I think they are right for my family, which is why everyone makes the choices they do.  I just need to get more comfortable in my own skin and not be so self-conscious about it.
 
The path towards a healthier lifestyle isn’t always the popular choice.  Sometimes you have to turn down seconds at the dinner table, or decide against the rich dessert that everyone else is devouring.  Have you ever felt the need to apologize for that, as if you’re doing something wrong?  Do you apologize to family or friends for making time to work out instead of things others might like you to do?  I think there’s a difference between being selfish, and just saying you’re sorry for making different choices.  In the end, we all have one life to live.  The way you make yours great isn’t going to be the same as everyone else, but that’s okay.  That’s what makes each of us unique.
 
What do you think?  
  
Posted 10/23/2012  6:00:00 AM By: Jen Mueller : 67 comments   10,948 views
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Get Kids to Eat Veggies by Offering More Veggies


My young kids like to be in control.  Whether it’s what they are wearing, which toy they play with or what’s for lunch, they like to make decisions.  Although it can get frustrating at times (“I’m sorry honey, we aren’t going to wear winter boots today because it’s 97 degrees outside.”) I can understand.  So much of their lives are planned out for them that it’s exciting when they get to make a few choices on their own. 
 
I’ve started involving my children more in the meal planning process.  I don’t mind cooking dinner but I hate having to come up with ideas all the time.  So I’ll ask them for suggestions, or give them choices to pick from, either in the planning stage or once I make the food.  It doesn’t bother me to make a few different vegetables and then let them choose which ones they want.  I know the food will get eaten eventually, and I like having leftovers for future meals.  I find that when given the choice, they don’t usually pick just the carrots or just the green beans.  They usually want a little of both, and end up eating more vegetables than they would have if there was just one.  A new study of adults came to the same conclusion:  variety helps increase intake.
Posted 10/2/2012  10:00:00 AM By: Jen Mueller : 12 comments   9,485 views
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The Problem of Childhood Obesity: How You Can Be Part of the Solution


The topic of childhood obesity is interesting to me, both personally and professionally.  My job is to help people create a healthier lifestyle, and I’m also the mother of three small children.  But I’ll be honest, when I see stories on the news about the latest obesity statistics, it’s easy to start tuning out all of the depressing facts and figures.  Mainstream media talks a lot about the problem (that’s become an epidemic), but not as much about the solution.  What can we start doing today, right now, in our own homes and communities to help turn this around?  What can we do to make sure the next generation isn’t the first one to have a shorter lifespan than their mothers and fathers?
Posted 9/18/2012  6:00:00 PM By: Jen Mueller : 14 comments   7,962 views
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Maybe Your Way Isn't Always the Best Way


I often joke about the negative things motherhood has brought to my life- lack of sleep, no free time, an acceleration of the aging process, etc.  The truth is, motherhood has brought an innumerable amount of positive things to my life.  In addition to the great things about my kids, becoming a mom has developed a more compassionate and non-judgmental side to my personality that I might not have had otherwise.  Instead of being annoyed or just walking past the mom with the screaming baby in the grocery store, I’m much more likely to ask if there’s anything I can do to help.  When I see someone with a different parenting style than mine, I try hard to understand and be respectful of the fact that we aren’t all the same, instead of automatically assuming what they are doing is wrong. 
Posted 7/24/2012  2:00:00 PM By: Jen Mueller : 60 comments   10,948 views
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Does 'Disney-Approved' Mean It's a Healthy Food?


Disney began focusing on providing healthier kids' meals at their Parks and Resorts beginning back in 2006. Now kids' meals routinely include low-fat milk and carrots unless parents opt out. Disney internal statistics reveal that parents will stick with these healthier side options six out of ten times instead of requesting substitutions. With more than 12 million kids' meals served annually in Disney Parks and Resorts in the U.S. alone, the changes are making a difference in how children are eating. In September of 2010, The Walt Disney Company launched Disney Magic of Healthy Living, a national multimedia initiative to help families raise healthy, happy kids.
 
Last month the Walt Disney Company took another step forward in their brand commitment to healthy eating by introducing new food advertising standards. Under Disney's new standards, after 2015 all food and beverage products seeking advertisement, sponsorship, or promotion on any Disney-owned television channels (including Saturday morning programming on Disney owned ABC), radio stations, or Web sites will need to comply with the company's new nutrition criteria for programming targeting children under the age of 12.

 
By the end of 2012, consumers will also begin seeing the new Mickey Check symbol on Disney-licensed food products. Disney anticipates this tool will help consumers easily identify nutritious choices in stores, online and while visiting Walt Disney Parks and Resorts. Disney also updated their nutrition guidelines to reflect current federal standards and recommendations. The new criteria include not only specifics related to calories but also to reducing saturated fat, sodium, and sugar.

Let's take a closer look at the details of the Disney Nutrition Guideline Criteria to see how they stack up nutritionally.
Posted 7/16/2012  10:00:00 AM By: Tanya Jolliffe : 17 comments   7,773 views
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Getting Your Kids Excited About Healthy Foods


When I was little, I had no concept of where my food came from.  I just knew that my mom went to the store and came back with lots of things for my family to eat.  I never thought about the journey my food went through to make it into the store and eventually onto my plate. 
 
Over the past few years I got interested in starting a garden.  I like the idea of growing my own food, and I also like my kids being involved in the process of planting, taking care of, and eventually eating the fruits and vegetables from our own backyard.  I think that gives them a much greater appreciation for what food goes through to make it to our table.  Last year we started small with two container gardens.  This year we are expanding to a small raised bed in the backyard (and who knows where we might go from there!)  I let the kids help decide what we are going to plant and they help with watering, weeding, and picking the produce when it’s ripe.  They get so excited about the food we grow, and would much rather eat it than just about anything else.  It’s a great way to teach them something and develop healthy habits at the same time.
 
Studies show that children are more likely to eat the foods they grow, choose at the grocery store, and/or prepare. These activities often expand the variety of foods they enjoy and can mean a wider range of nutrients consumed. It is also a good tactic for children who are picky eaters.”
 
My kids love helping me cook.  That’s one area where I’m trying to develop more patience.  I spend a fair amount of time cooking, but I like to do everything myself so that it gets done as quickly as possible.  When the kids help, it slows down the process and speeds up the mess, but it’s worth it.  My kids are more likely to eat something they helped make because they feel pride in it, and also because they are sure of exactly what’s in it.   (“Mom can’t sneak in some mushrooms or zucchini if she knows I’m watching!”)
 
Whether your children learn about about food through gardening, meal preparation or just talking about healthy eating, parents are the best teachers and examples.  Establishing healthy habits early will help your kids develop habits to last a lifetime.  Check out Tips, Tricks and Treats to Teach Kids to Cook and A Parent’s Guide to Nutrition for Kids for more ideas. 
 
Do you agree that healthy eating habits begin at home?  How do you teach the young people in your life to develop an appreciation for healthy food?   
 
Posted 7/10/2012  6:00:00 PM By: Jen Mueller : 11 comments   7,891 views
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Quick & Healthy Family Breakfast Ideas


If you’ve heard it once, you’ve heard it 937 times: Breakfast is the most important meal of the day—for you, and for your kids. You just spent eight hours with no food or water. You’re dehydrated, your blood sugar is low and you have little energy. And now it’s time to hurry the kids off to school before the eight-hour workday. More so than any other point in the day, you all need nourishment. Breakfast eaters typically cruise until lunch, while beaming with energy.

Scratch those unhealthy breakfasts. Here are some healthy and quick ideas for the whole family:
Posted 6/24/2012  10:00:00 AM By: Nicole Nichols : 21 comments   20,791 views
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10 of the Best Cereals You Should Be Eating


You have heard it said that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. While some people question this recommendation, others have quick and healthy breakfast favorites they regularly include at the beginning of their day. Many of us enjoy a warm bowl of oatmeal during cold winter months and have created healthy recipes to tickle our taste buds. As the weather changes, some of us seek out cooler healthy breakfast alternatives like fruit smoothies, yogurt or cold cereal.
 
With all the food-labeling loopholes, selecting a healthy cereal can be tricky. Ignore the catchy claims on the front of the box and go straight to the nutrition facts label instead. Here's what to look for:
  • Remember the "Rule of Fives": Choose cereals with at least 5 grams of fiber per serving, and less than 5 grams of sugar.
  • Look for each serving to contain at least 3 grams of protein.
  • Read the ingredients list. The top ingredients should be "whole wheat," or "wheat bran"—not just "wheat." These whole grains are naturally low in fat, and high in fiber.
  • Avoid cereals that list hydrogenated oils, artificial dyes or colors, and chemical preservatives as ingredients—these have no place in a healthy diet!
Here are 10 of the best cold cereals to keep on your pantry shelf.
Posted 5/21/2012  10:00:00 AM By: Tanya Jolliffe : 138 comments   593,178 views
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A Fun Family Fitness Exercise


Have you thought about how great it would be to include your family in your pursuit to exercise more regularly? Family exercise will improve the health of your loved ones, make exercise more fun, and at the same time develop stronger connections between all of you. With a little creativity, you can find a way to make it work for everyone.
Posted 5/20/2012  10:00:00 AM By: Nicole Nichols : 12 comments   13,167 views
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Changing My Corner of the World, One Sidewalk at a Time


One of my biggest pet peeves has always been people who complain about things, but never do anything to change them.  For example, it’s hard for me to bite my tongue when friends complain about our political system, but never take the time to go out and vote.   If you’re unhappy about something, I think you should speak up and do something to make it better instead of always just grumbling about how it’s not right.  That’s why I’ve decided to do something that makes me slightly uncomfortable, but is important to me and my family.
Posted 5/15/2012  6:00:00 PM By: Jen Mueller : 110 comments   13,640 views
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How to Keep Up with the Kiddos--and Burn Off All That Energy


The news is full of reports about childhood obesity and sedentary children with their bottoms glued to couch cushions and their eyes trained on electronic screens.
 
But for me right now, with a 2-year-old and a 4-year-old, the reality is more like children bouncing off the walls and forcing me to get off my bottom to run around the yard with them. Young children are full of energy and can't help but want to master their new motor skills. The trick is harnessing and keeping that joy for movement and exercise.
 
Here's what we're hoping works:
Posted 4/24/2012  10:00:00 AM By: SparkPeople Guest Blogger : 11 comments   8,340 views
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Raising Strong Daughters


Grade school was tough for me.  I got picked on a lot, mostly because I got good grades and didn’t like to get in trouble.   I think a lot of my insecurities as an adult began on the school playground as a 9-year-old who just wanted to fit in.  Because of those experiences, I’ve become super-sensitive to how I’m raising my daughters.  I want them to be strong young women who don’t let the opinions of others determine their self-worth.  I know some of that is inevitable (I see it already in preschool when my daughter gets her feelings hurt because a girl in her class doesn’t want to play with her), but hopefully they will be able to avoid at least some of the negativity that I experienced so long ago.
Posted 4/20/2012  2:00:00 PM By: Jen Mueller : 37 comments   12,017 views
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Poll: Have Your Children Lost Weight Along With You?


When you decide to start making healthy changes in your life, you probably start at home.  Common changes include getting junk food out of the house or replacing an evening T.V. show with an evening walk.  You might be the only one in the house who’s formally committed to the change, but that doesn’t mean that everyone else doesn’t benefit from it.  If you cook the meals, maybe you start making healthier dishes instead of opting for fast food a few nights a week.  And it’s easy to ask for company on your nightly walk, so soon it becomes a family event. 
 
In many households, it’s not just one family member who has weight issues.  Years of unhealthy habits can create weight problems for everyone, young and old.  If you’ve got a child in your house who has weight issues, it’s likely very stressful to try and figure out how to help.  How do you make eating healthy and exercising fun, to create habits that they can carry on for the rest of their lives?  According to a new study, the best strategy could be leading by example. 
Posted 4/10/2012  6:00:00 PM By: Jen Mueller : 15 comments   9,805 views
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Kid-Friendly Car Snacks


My family tries to eat as healthy as we can, with lots of fruits, vegetables and whole foods and as few processed foods as we can. Maintaining that kind of eating is harder when you're traveling, but it's not impossible.
 
We live 1,000 miles away from our extended family, and we make a pilgrimage to see them at least once a year. We used to fly, but now we drive. Either way, gathering snacks for the trip is a big part of my preparations. Snacks stave off hunger and boredom, keeping bellies full of the kind of food you want your family to eat and, in the case of younger children, keeping little fingers busy.

Here's what works for our family.
Posted 4/10/2012  10:00:00 AM By: SparkPeople Guest Blogger : 12 comments   9,610 views
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