Crazy for Coconut Oil

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If you haven’t hopped on the coconut oil bandwagon yet, you are seriously missing out. The oil from this tropical fruit gives you benefits inside and out. From your hair, and skin to your digestive system and metabolism; even as a furniture or leather polish (whaaaat?!), it is clear that coconut oil is a true winner. Move the olive oil to the back burner, and toss the vegetable oils in the trash because we are going crazy for coconuts and here’s why you should be too:

Health Benefits

  • Increase Metabolism
  • Reduce Risk of Heart DIsease
  • Control Blood Sugar Levels
  • Support Healthy Intestinal Tract
  • Prevent DIsease

Beauty Benefits

  • Hair Smoother
  • Cuticle Softener
  • Makeup Remover
  • Body Oil
  • Lip Balm

Odd Jobs

  • Leather/Furniture Polish
  • Toothpaste
  • Homemade WD-40
  • Pet Paw Moisturizer

Using coconut oil is as easy as using any other oil when cooking. This oil is perfect for baking and sautéing, as it cooks well with high temperatures. And although this oil is from a fruit, it doesn’t have an overbearingly sweet taste so no worries about that! Coconut oil can be on the pricey side ($5-$8 per jar) but as you can see, it is well worth it! So what are you waiting for? Go out, get some coconut oil and you’ll be crazy for coconuts in no time!

Remember that coconut oil is still a fat and should be used mindfully. 2 tablespoons a day is enough to give your body everything this oil has to offer.

Written by: Leana Varvella

How To Get Your Kids Excited About Eating Healthy

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With the school year getting ready to kick off yet again, it is important to get the kids back into the swing of healthy eating after a summer filled with BBQ’s, play dates, birthday parties, and vacation meals.  Here are a few tips to make getting those fruits and veggies back into the routine less stressful and more enjoyable!

  • Have regular family meals. Knowing dinner is served at approximately the same time every night and that the entire family will be sitting down together is comforting and enhances appetite. Breakfast is another great time for a family meal, especially since kids who eat breakfast tend to do better in school.
  • Cook more meals at home. Eating home cooked meals is healthier for the whole family and sets a great example for kids about the importance of food. Restaurant meals tend to have more fat, sugar, and salt. Save dining out for special occasions.
  • Get kids involved. Children enjoy helping adults to shop for groceries, selecting what goes in their lunch box, and preparing dinner. It’s also a chance for you to teach them about the nutritional values of different foods, and (for older children) how to read food labels.
  • Make a variety of healthy snacks available instead of empty calorie snacks. Keep plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grain snacks, and healthy beverages (water, milk, pure fruit juice) around and easily accessible so kids become used to reaching for healthy snacks instead of empty calorie snacks like soda, chips, or cookies.
  • Limit portion sizes. Don’t insist your child cleans the plate, and never use food as a reward or bribe.

 

Serving Tips For Homemade Purees

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Are you starting to make your own purees for the little one?  If so, here are a few tips on serving and preparation to help you out!

  • Serve the food no warmer than body temperature.
  • Use caution if you heat meals in the microwave. Microwaves heat unevenly and can create “hot spots”, so be sure to stir microwaved food well and let it sit for a few minutes before serving.
  • Only dish out the amount of food you think your baby will eat at that feeding. You’ll need to toss what’s left over because your baby’s saliva will get into the mixture and make it easy for bacteria to grow in the food.
  • Don’t sweeten your baby’s food. Babies don’t need any extra sugar. Never use honey or corn syrup, which can cause botulism, which is a potentially fatal food poisoning found in infants.
  • Use seasonings, as they are able to tolerate and enjoy a variety of flavors.
  • Refrigerate leftovers in an airtight container and use them up within 2-3 days. You can also freeze leftovers in ice cube trays or similar devices. After the cubes are frozen solid, remove them and store in plastic freezer bags. Fruits and vegetables frozen this way will last six to eight months. Meat will last one to two months.

Source: Baby Center

Herbs: Best & Worst During Pregnancy

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Herbs are a great way to add flavor to your food, and some herbs even help your pregnancy run smoothly. Many health practitioners are cautious when using herbs, and only recommend using them after the first trimester. Listed below are the top 3 herbs to add to your diet, along with the top 3 herbs to stay away from when you are expecting.

The Best: The following herbs are super beneficial to have while pregnant. Make sure to have these herbs on hand and in the pantry at all times!

  • Ginger Root What is not to love about ginger? The taste is spicy yet sweet and, oh yeah, all that morning sickness can be nipped in the bud with a small dose per day. Add to a stir fry skillet, a smoothie or even nibble on a small piece of crystallized ginger throughout the day.
  • Red Raspberry Leaf This herb has been shown to ease labor pains! Red Raspberry Leaf is iron rich and can help increase milk production, tone the uterus and even decrease complications during labor. Make as a delicious tea (mix with some peppermint and rose hips) or even take 2 herbal capsules per day to get all the benefits.
  • Chamomile (Dried leaves, not oil!) Known as a natural relaxant, this herb is high in magnesium and calcium. Chamomile can help take some tension away in those tired muscles of yours and relieve some stress, along with helping you fall right asleep. Brew a cup of yummy chamomile tea at night and start relaxing!

The Worst: These herbs have been deemed unsafe to use while pregnant. To reduce any chance of harm to your and your baby, keep these out of the pantry for the next 9 months.

  • Aloe Vera Great for relieving sunburn, not so great during pregnancy. This herb initiates uterine contractions and can even be stored in breast milk as a toxin. While putting this herb on topically is not as dangerous as consuming it internally, like Aloe Vera Water, it is best to avoid this plant all together.
  • Licorice Root If you’re expecting and love licorice, I have some bad news for you. No more licorice root until after you are done breastfeeding! This sweet herb used in candies, teas, as well as natural medicines can stimulate uterine contractions and cause premature birth, cause headaches and excessive water and sodium retention. Yikes!
  • Nutmeg One of my favorite spices, especially come fall, nutmeg is actually a very toxic herb for pregnant women. Not only has it been linked to miscarriages, but also birth defects such as low birth weight. Bye-bye, nutmeg!

**As an expecting mother, it is very important to use herbs with caution. Each one of us is different and our bodies may not react the same as one another when taking herbal supplements. When introducing any new herbs or medicines into your diet, just make sure to check with your doctor first.**

 

Written by: Leana Varvella

Sources: americanpregnancy.org, pregnancyandchildren.com

Vegan Berry Peach Cobbler

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Berry and peach season is in full swing, so what better way to use some of your fresh produce than by making a delicious vegan cobbler?!?  This is also a great recipe to let the little ones help with since there is a lot of scooping and pouring!!

 

For the fruit:

1 1/2 cups fresh blueberries

1 1/2 cups fresh raspberries

2 medium sized ripe peaches sliced into 1-inch chunks

2 Tablespoons all-purpose flour or whole-wheat flour

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

a big pinch of freshly grated nutmeg

(pinch of ground ginger and ground cloves are also encouraged, but not entirely necessary)

1/4 cup pure maple syrup

For the topping:

1 1/2 cup old fashioned oats (I prefer using gluten free oats)

1/3 cup all-purpose flour or whole-wheat (coconut works well too!)

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

1/8 teaspoon salt

2 Tablespoons canola oil

2 Tablespoons maple syrup

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 Tablespoon water

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. In a medium bowl, toss the berries and peach chunks with flour, spices and maple syrup. Set aside while you assemble the topping.
  3. In a separate bowl, combine the oats, flour, salt and spices. In a small bowl whisk together the oil, maple syrup, vanilla extract and water. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and blend with a fork. Make sure all of the dry ingredients are moistened by the oil and maple syrup mixture.
  4. Add half a cup of the topping mixture to the fruit mixture and toss together. Scoop fruit into ramekins, being sure to fill each cup to the top. Spoon and pat topping onto each cup. Sprinkle with an additional dose of ground cinnamon if you’d like. Place the six ramekins on a clean baking sheet and place in the oven. Bake for 35 minutes, or until bubbly.

Adapted From: Joy The Baker

How To Introduce Solids To Picky Eaters

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Introducing solids into your toddler’s diet can be both frustrating as they tend to be fussy and resistant to trying new foods whether it is due to flavor, color, or texture.  Here are a few tips to help things run smoothly during this transition!

  • Structure your child’s eating so that they have three regular meals a day and two healthy snacks in between meals.  Making sure your child has set meal and snack times will help ensure they are eating when hungry while also avoiding grazing, which can cause children not to eat at meals times.
  • Serve a variety of good foods for your toddler to eat at each meal. When you offer a new food, simply place it on your child’s highchair tray without making a big deal about it. 
  • Introduce new foods one at a time and in small amounts. Instead of an entire meal of unfamiliar foods, offer a few of their favorite items with one new item. 
  • Try to schedule a new food when you know your child is hungry.
  • Use toddler-size portions. A serving size for a toddler is about 1/4 of a single portion for an adult. A serving of meat for a 1-year-old is about the size of the palm of their hand, and a serving of vegetables is only about 1 or 2 tablespoons.
  • Understand that some children’s palates are more sensitive than others. Some simply won’t like the texture, color, or taste of certain foods. That’s why a child might claim to dislike a food she has never even tried. Some children may reject a food because it reminds them of a time when they were sick or because they have some other negative association with it.
  • Resist the urge to offer sugary foods in an effort to get your toddler to eat more. You want to develop their sense of culinary adventure, not their sweet tooth!
  • Minimize distractions at the table. If a sibling is running around nearby or a cartoon beckons from across the room, your toddler may lose interest in the food being served. Try to make meals relaxed and quiet.

Seaweed for the Soul

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When you hear the word “seaweed”, an image of a day at the beach ruined by slimy plants sticking to your body may come to mind (at least, it does for me). But what most people don’t realize is how nutritious and healthy this weed, also known as Nori, is! Sure, it may not be the most pleasant thing to play with in the ocean, but seaweed should start becoming a regular at your meals – especially for expecting moms! 

Scientists have found out that seaweed has an extreme abundance of minerals ranging from folic acid to magnesium to pantothenic acid; great for preventing anemia, aiding in the fetus’ development and fighting acne. It’s low in calories, high in fiber and has a salty taste to kick those cravings to the curb. Get a feel for seaweed with this delicious recipe below!

Savory Seaweed Chips

  • Preheat oven to 350°. In a bowl combine 1/4 coconut oil, sprinkle of salt & pepper, 1 clove garlic chopped, small handful sesame seeds and whisk. Cut 8 sheets raw Nori into strips and dip in water to soften. Place on lined sheet pan in even rows (don’t be alarmed if the seaweed starts to shrink!) and drizzle oil mixture over chips. Bake 12-15 minutes, flipping once. Allow the chips to cool and enjoy!

Baked chips are just one thing to make with seaweed. Pop the plant into a soup, stir it into a pasta dish, create a seaweed salad, or combine it with your regular vegetables for a new side dish. I hear the sea calling your name, so go out and get weeding!

Written by: Leana Varvella