Healthier Meals from Farm to Table

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With busy schedules and a plethora of unhealthy, but convenient foods out there, it’s easy to get your family in an unhealthy eating lifestyle. A recent article published by the Mayo Clinic explains that buying local not only supports farmers in the community and local economy, but also gives you an opportunity to go green and refresh your healthy eating habits. Here are some simple strategies that will help get you more bang (and flavor) for your buck at your local farmers market.

1) Shop Early for the Best Selection

Growers show up in the a.m. With their trucks full, so the closer to opening time you arrive, the better and broader your options will be. Take a few minutes to walk around and check out all the vendors’ offerings; you’re likely to find competing price points for the items you want.

2) Shop Late for Savings

Many farmers (though not all) would rather sell some of their items at a deep discount than haul heavy loads of their goods all the way back to their property. You may have to sacrifice variety (especially on busy weekends), but you might score a few bargains during the last hour of the day.

3) Have a Taste

You’d get some funny looks if you started nibbling on the fruits or baked goods at your grocery store. But plenty of vendors hand out samples to encourage you to test their bounty, so you’ll know right away if the berries are sweet enough for a pie or if the bread will make an excellent sandwich.

4) Try New Things

Go ahead and experiment with unfamiliar ingredients like purple cauliflower or kohirabi. Sellers are usually happy to suggest ways to cook with their crops. If you’re unsure about preparation, strike up a conversation before you buy.

5) Stock Up

While supermarket produce is often harvested weeks before it arrives in stores, the items you see at a greenmarket are usually plucked from the ground the day before you buy them. That means your purchases will have a longer life expectancy-so take home an armload of your favorite seasonal treat!

 

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Back to School Anxiety Soothers

Is back-to-school anxiety worrying your kid? Try these calming tips.

Will I get more homework? What if my teacher is mean? Starting a new year comes with a lot of unknowns, so it’s no wonder that many parents report that their kiddo is struck with anxiety this time of year. The biggest clues: Her happy summer mood has quickly turned restless, irritable, or withdrawn, or she starts complaining about headaches, stomachaches, or sleep problems. The good news? It’s nothing for you to worry about, because we’ve asked the experts what you can do.

1. Share your story 

Tell your child about that time in third grade when you were so worried about [whatever] but it ended up being totally okay. It will be proof that she’ll be able to overcome her stress as well.

2. Get them moving 

All of the sitting still that comes with the return of school can wreak havoc on a kid’s nerves. To counter that, make sure your child gets plenty of exercise after school. Physical activity is great for preventing — and alleviating — anxiety.

3. Reset sleep

If you can, try to adjust summer sleep times to the school schedule one to two weeks before the first day. A sudden change in routine can trigger stress. If it didn’t work or if sleep is just hard to come by, practice deep belly breathing right before bed.

4. Make a plan  

For instance, if your child is worried about meeting new friends, have him wear (and look for) conversation-starter clothes. How it works: He spies a classmate with an Angry Birds T-shirt. He likes Angry Birds, too! Ask potential-new-friend if he likes Angry Birds Star Wars. Bond created!

 

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5 Tips for Saving Money on Family Summer Travel

Summer is arguably the best season of the year. The weather is warm and the kids are out of school. Now is the perfect time for a family vacation. Vacations are expensive, especially with kids thrown into the mix, but you can keep the cost down by planning ahead, doing research, and getting creative. You can start by saving money in advance with a savings account or certificate of deposit, but that’s only the beginning. Here are five kid-friendly budgeting tips to help you plan your next vacation.

1. Buy your own food, snacks and drinks

It’s fun to eat out when you’re on vacation, but if you have to do it for every meal, it’s time consuming, expensive and exhausting. You can save money and time by buying your own meal ingredients at a local grocery store. If your hotel room doesn’t have a kitchen or a mini-fridge (or won’t let you rent one), you can still stock up on kid-friendly snacks like cereal, granola bars, peanut butter, and even fresh goodies like apples, bananas and oranges. You can even bring a small cooler with you to store vegetables and cold items.

2. Pack light

We know this is difficult to do with kids, but consider yourself warned: any extra bags may cost you. If you’re traveling by car, extra bags translate to lost visibility and legroom, but if you’re flying, you may literally have to pay more for your extra bags. Many airlines have started charging fees for checked bags, and since they aren’t displayed in the ticket prices, they can easily catch you off guard. Be sure to research airline fees in advance, or pick an airline that lets you check bags for free. Southwest offers two free checked bags per person, and JetBlue offers one. Stay away from Sprint and Allegiant, sine they charge for checked bags and carry-on bags.

3. Consider your sanity

Sometimes the cheapest travel options aren’t the most kid friendly. For example, you might save money on plane tickets by booking an early flight, or opting for a layover, especially if you’re traveling abroad. But, before you book, ask yourself: is it worth the extra stress? Imagine trying to rush your sleep-deprived kids and spouse (and yourself) out of the house to catch a bargain red-eye flight. If you can afford something more convenient, you should probably just pay for it.

4. Take public transit 

Depending on your destination, public transportation may not be an option. However, if you’re traveling in a big city, public transportation can be a fun and cost-effective way to explore with your kids. Imagine exploring New York by subway or San Francisco by cable car. These types of excursions can be especially exciting for small children. If you’re traveling cross-country, you may also want to consider taking a train. Trains are slow (especially in America), but you’ll be able to enjoy the scenery along the way. Plus, you and your restless kids can get up and walk around anytime without disturbing the other passengers.

5. Get outside

Kids are full of energy. Use that as an excuse to explore the local parks on your next vacation.  If you’ve rented a car, consider making a trip to a nearby national park or beach, or keep it simple and explore the city parks in your area. Everyone knows that the West Coast is perfect for nature lovers, but did you know that New Mexico, Maryland and Virginia are great destinations for park lovers too? Pack a picnic and spend an afternoon exploring your neighborhood, wherever you are.

Living in the Moment

Mindfulness can be seen as the practice of “being in the moment” – but what does this actually mean? Does it mean that if we’re mindful we should never think about the past or the future, never try to plan or to reflect on our past experience?

Actually, being in the moment means being mindfully aware of what is going on right here and now, in our experience, and this includes any thinking we do about the past or future. I never put much thought into this notion until I became a mother.

It began when my son, Ethan, began displaying poor sleeping habits. Ethan was a great sleeper from the start, but when he turned six weeks of age, sleep became a thing of the past. He developed ‘sensitivity to dairy’ and ‘reflux.’ So in his discomfort, sleep eluded him and kept both my husband and myself up during the night. I attempted to try to solve the problem and found a product called Colic Calm, which did help slightly, but didn’t come close to “solving” any issue. Our frequent and pleasant trips to the beach were soothing, but again, did not seem to tire him out enough to solve his problems.

It just so happened that around this time, I began implementing meditation into my daily routine. After realizing how stressed, tired, and over-reactive to Ethan’s behaviors I was becoming, it dawned on me that I needed to start doing something for myself as well. I suddenly found myself calmer. Collected. I found myself able to concentrate on what was currently happening. Instead of obsessing about Ethan not staying asleep in his crib, I found comfort that he slept in my arms. My meditation sessions grew longer and I found myself looking forward to cuddling him, rocking him, and enjoying the silent moments we got to spend together. The house suddenly relaxed.

After a few weeks of this, my son’s reflux dissipated. While I do believe that there were other factors that played in this sudden resolve, I also believe that children are amazing balls of energy that cannot help but absorb the energy around them. Ethan’s behaviors were a direct result from all the anxious and nervous energy I was bringing into the house.

Through these phases and through other personal phases of my life as a mother, I have found that patience and mindfulness help ease the tribulations that parents often go through. I’ve learned to be in the moment. To take deep breaths. To relax a little more. To live in the moment because, in the end, a life is measured by moments like these.