Wednesday, August 21, 2019

10 Ways We Stay Healthy As a Family

10 Ways to Stay Healthy As a Family
This post is in partnership with MegaFood®, but all opinions are my own.

I think I speak for a lot of women when I say that when it comes to health and wellness, we tend to yo-yo back and forth between focusing on either our families or ourselves. In my case (and in the case of most friends with whom I discuss this), we spend most of our energy trying to make sure our children/families are healthy, and then we realize we are neglecting ourselves and make sudden moves toward our own wellness journeys (that more often than not quickly shift back to our kids). It's almost like our plates are so full that we can only focus on one or the other (and, again, most often in a lopsided manner where we as women come last).

As cliche as it sounds, while deep in breath work at a recent yoga class, I started thinking about how important it is to me for my entire family - myself included - to create balance with our health and wellness routines. I decided that we needed to sit down and have a family meeting (which I'll fully admit is a freaking circus with little ones, but can still be successful) to come up with ways we could focus on being as healthy as possible as a family. I figured that the act of us brainstorming ways to make healthy choices alone would be a great lesson for the kids and jumpstart all of us into a more balanced health and wellness routine, but I didn't realize just how well things would go in terms of us actually implementing our plans!

It's been pretty awesome to work together as a family to make health choices, and it's honestly brought us closer in many ways. So I felt compelled to share with you guys some of the things we've been doing, in hopes of helping some of you as well!

10 Ways to Stay Healthy As a Family

1. We prepare meals together.
Okay, so this definitely doesn't happen for every meal (because schedules!), but we make a conscious effort to prepare one meal together each day. Sometimes this just means having the kids crack an egg for breakfast, spread almond butter on a sandwich for lunch, or help toss a salad for dinner. But taking that time to be intentional and create a meal as a family slows us all down and helps us avoid fast and processed foods, while also teaching our kids (and reminding us!) that preparing our own food is usually the healthiest way to eat.

2. We eat our meals together.
Aside from lunch on the weekdays when I'm working and/or the kids are at school, we sit down and eat our meals together at the table every single day. (When my husband is on the road with the band, we Facetime during our meals as often as we can.) We eat slowly, take our time, and enjoy our food. Even on the days where we get take-out or eat foods that aren't the healthiest, the mental benefits of enjoying a meal together as a family are priceless.

10 Ways to Stay Healthy As a Family
10 Ways to Stay Healthy As a Family

3. We intentionally exercise everyday.
Every person in our family does at least one form of physical activity a day, either together or on our own. As a family, we often go for walks or go to the pool and swim together, play soccer together, and sometimes even do work out videos together during the cold weather months. We also each have our own activities: I take yoga classes and sometimes run, my husband runs almost everyday, my daughter takes several dance classes a week, take swimming lessons, and plays soccer, and my son takes multi-sports classes and plays soccer. We make sure that every single day, we are participating in at least one activity that keeps our bodies moving.

10 Ways to Stay Healthy As a Family
10 Ways to Stay Healthy As a Family

4. We all take the proper multivitamins for each of us as individuals.
This one is so important! Even when following a health-conscious diet, it can be challenging to get the proper vitamins that support each of our individual health needs (for me as a woman, for my husband as a man, and for my little ones as kids). This is why we all take MegaFood Multivitamin Soft Chews.

I take the MegaFood Women’s Multivitamin Soft Chews, which in just one (delicious!) Mixed Berry Flavor chew supports optimal health and wellbeing for women through the proper daily dose of Vitamins A, C, D, E, and B vitamins to support energy*, and nourishing organic cranberry.

My husband takes the Men’s Multivitamin Soft Chews, which comes in a Tropical Flavor (his fave) chew and provides B vitamins for energy* along with valuable vitamins and minerals and and farm-fresh food like organic turmeric.

The kids take the MegaFood Kids Multivitamin Soft Chew, which is made to support healthy growth and development by supplying proper supplemental nutrition for kids 4 and over via a super yummy grape flavor chew.* With a 5 mg blend of real oranges, cranberries, and blueberries along with antioxidant vitamins C, E, and beta carotene, the Megafood Multi Chews for kids help fuel their active days.*

I trust and adore the MegaFood brand for many reasons (their supplements are made with real food and added nutrients and are award-winning!), but I especially love that they have certifications like non-GMO, organic, tested for 125+ herbicides and pesticides (amazing!), gluten-free, vegetarian or vegan, kosher, dairy-free and soy-free. They are the first supplement company to have their entire product line certified glyphosate residue free, too. I am also a huge fan of the fact that they focus on sustainability by working with farmers who share a commitment to organic and regenerative agriculture. They are an integral part of our family's commitment to being a healthy as we can be!

*This statement has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.

10 Ways to Stay Healthy As a Family

5. We get outside and play.
I can't tell you how many studies I've read on the mental, emotional, and physical benefits of kids participating in free play outdoors, but it holds true for adults as well! We were so grateful to finally move into a house with a yard a year and a half ago, and we take full advantage of getting out there and playing together everyday. We also have a park close by, and love exploring our local nature preserves. I feel at my very best when I spend time outside, and I can tell my kids do as well.

6. We grocery shop together.
I'll be honest - it is infinitely easier if my husband or I go to the grocery store alone. But we do make sure we go at least once a week as a family. It's a great way to teach our kids the importance of choosing whole, healthy foods by talking to them about reading labels, buying organic produce, avoiding processed foods, etc. It also forces us to set an example (we can't exactly tell the kids they can't buy sugar-filled cereal for breakfast then buy a box of doughnuts for ourselves).

10 Ways to Stay Healthy As a Family

7. We go to the doctor and dentist regularly.
It's so easy to put off physicals and dental exams when you have a hectic schedule. My husband and I were both admittedly terrible about this before we had kids. These days, we realize how important it is (more important than anything else!) to take this time. We go to the dentist together as a family every 6 months, and we each see the doctor once a year as well. No excuses!

8. We drink lots of water.
My kids used to complain incessantly about drinking water. But then we started to make sure they saw us doing it throughout the day out of our reusable water bottles, and suddenly they wanted to do it too. Now all four of us carries our water bottles with us everywhere we go. We keep them on our bedside tables at night as well.

10 Ways to Stay Healthy As a Family

9. We cheer each other on.
Mental health is just as important as physical, and being supportive of your loved ones is, in my experience, one of the best ways to encourage one another in to feel loved and important in general. I've also found that when we're cheering each other on in our efforts to be healthy, it motivates us to keep it up! My husband and I do everything we can to be at our kids' practices and games, dance recitals, fields days, etc., and we make sure they know how proud we are of their efforts. The kids and I attend all of my husband's races. My daughter even comes with me to yoga class and tells me how proud she is of me for taking care of myself. We also cheer each other on when we're working in the garden to grow our own veggies, and celebrate when we harvest. It makes a difference!

10. We practice gratitude.
This is another big one. Every morning as soon as we wake up, and every night when we go to bed, we share one thing for which we're grateful. I have found that starting and ending my day with gratitude (even if I have to force it) genuinely helps me feel less anxious and more happy throughout my day, and helps me sleep better as well. It's so easy to focus on what we don't have (trust me, I am guilty of this on a regular basis), but it is genuinely incredible to see the difference in your mental wellbeing when you start to focus on what you do have and express gratitude for it. Sharing it with each other in our family is one of the most important ways for us to focus on our mental health.

10 Ways to Stay Healthy As a Family
10 Ways to Stay Healthy As a Family

There you have it, my friends! As the change in seasons approaches and we adjust to a new school year, making our health as a family a priority feels more important than ever, and even just typing this out to share with you guys motivates me to want to continue to work hard on it. If you have other ideas for ways to focus on staying healthy as a family, please comment below. I'd love to hear them! And if you haven't yet tried MegaFood Multivitamin Soft Chews, I highly recommend them!


Monday, August 19, 2019

Tofu Chocolate Pudding (Our New Favorite After School Snack)

Tofu Chocolate Pudding
Thank you House Foods for sponsoring this post.

It is official: I have a Kindergartener. Essley started preschool when she was two, so school itself isn't new for us. But the whole drop her off at the bus stop and watch it drive off with her somewhere inside, then spend all day everyday at school thing feels like a whole new world. So far, Essley absolutely loves every minute of it. It's still an adjustment though, and she is definitely more tired, more hungry, and more in need of snuggle time with mama when she gets home than she ever was during preschool.

One of the things I most remember about elementary school afternoons from my own childhood was coming home and making after school snacks with my mom. There was something truly comforting about it, and I decided this was just the thing Essley and I needed to start doing after her long days at Kindergarten.

Yesterday, we decided to make a recipe we hadn't tried yet from the children's ebook The Tales of Tofu from House Foods, for Tofu Chocolate Pudding. The Tales of Tofu is an endearing story about a superfood named Tofu who learns about how he can be anything he wants to be (by easily mixing with other foods), and we love to read it together. (You can download it yourself for free right here!) The Strawberry Papaya Tofu Smoothie recipe from the book is a regular in our house, and I can already tell the Tofu Chocolate Pudding will be as well. It's easy to make, delicious to eat, and it's packed full of plant-based protein thanks to the tofu (a favorite in our family that we incorporate into many meals and snacks). Making (and eating!) it together is also a wonderful way for us to spend quality time together after school.

Tofu Chocolate Pudding

SERVES: 6 | PREP TIME: 10 min | COOK TIME: 0 min

1 pkg. House Foods Tofu Medium Firm
1 cup chocolate chips
2 tsp. vanilla extract
2 Tbsp. maple syrup
¼ cup soy milk

Melt the chocolate chips in a double boiler or microwave until chocolate is smooth and silky. (If using a microwave, microwave chocolate chips for approximately 15 seconds at a time, stirring frequently in between, until smooth). While chocolate melts, add the tofu, vanilla, and maple syrup to a food processor and blender, and blend until smooth. Slowly add in the chocolate and soy milk and blend until mixture is well combined and smooth. Divide among bowls or pudding jars and refrigerate for at least one to two hours before serving. Top with whip cream, chocolate shavings, or your choice of toppings.

We eat tofu several times a week in our house, in everything from tacos to stir fry to breakfast scrambles to smoothies. I've been a vegetarian since I was 15 years old, and it's always been my favorite (and the yummiest) way to get protein. It's truly one of the most versatile ingredients, and because it can so easily and quickly be prepared and incorporated into so many different recipes, it's a staple in our fridge. Tofu is also something that my kids both love to eat and to help prepare, which makes it a lifesaver during back-to-school season when things are especially hectic. We've especially been loving the recipes from The Tales of Tofu (which House Foods partnered with Melissa Rauch to create!). The book itself is so wonderful to read together, thanks to its empowering story and the fact that it so creatively shows little ones the endless way that a truly good for you food can be prepared and combined with other foods to make everything from snacks to meals. Tofu forever!

Tofu Chocolate Pudding

If you try this seriously scrumptious Tofu Chocolate Pudding, I'd love to hear what you think. If your little ones are in a new school year or heading back soon, it's the perfect after school snack to make together. Enjoy!


Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Farewell, Sweet Summer

Now let's be clear - I hang on to summer until the very end. (And I'm talking right up until the real first day of fall, which is still over 6 weeks away.) But tomorrow, my daughter starts Kindergarten, so as a family enjoying the bliss of summer's freedom, today is the last day. I could write a novel on the bittersweet mixed emotions I'm feeling about her going on to her first full days of school (and/or my feelings on why I think this is too early for kids to start the school year), but instead I thought I'd share just a few of my favorite pictures we snapped this summer as a family.

I also wanted to mention that today, my sweet Emmett is officially 3 year seizure free. For those who don't know his story, you can read about that right here. We are endlessly grateful for the fact that he beat such a horrific disease, and we will continue to celebrate (and also make ourselves available to other IS parents) for the rest of our lives.

Who else has kids going back to school this week? When do you consider summer to be over?


Wednesday, August 7, 2019

Dog Bone Sugar Cookies

Dog Bone Sugar Cookies

"Dog" was my daughter's first word, and everyday since she learned how to talk, she has asked me when we're getting one. I absolutely love dogs, as those of you who have been reading here for a long time know. (I mean, the "Bubby" and "Bean" behind Bubby and Bean were my dog Leary and my sister's dog!) And I look forward to getting another rescue in the future. I just need my 3 year old to stop destroying everything that comes into his path so I can find some room in my brain to care for another living creature, and then we're on it.

In the meantime, we do lots of doggy inspired activities in our house, like playing dog (my son pretends he's my sister's Husky Odin and my daughter pretends she's their other Husky Laika on the daily), doing dog-related crafts, and our favorite, making these dog bone sugar cookies. I actually shared a similar recipe here a few years ago (hence the older photos; look how little my babes were!), but this updated version is our current go to. They're so much fun to make and decorate together, and they're ridiculously delicious.

Dog Bone Sugar Cookies

Dog Bone Sugar Cookies

Makes about 2 dozen cookies


3 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 cup sugar
1 cup (2 sticks) butter
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
cookie icing pouches (1 chocolate and 1 vanilla)
chocolate sprinkles

Cream the butter and sugar, then beat in the egg and vanilla in a large mixing bowl. In a separate bowl, mix together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Slower add the dry mixture in the bowl with the wet ingredients until well combined. Chill dough mixture in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Sprinkle the surface you'll be using with flour to prevent sticking, and roll out the dough to about 1/4 inch thick. Use a dog bone shaped cookie cutter to cut out shapes, and place on cookie sheets. Bake for 9-12 minutes, or when edges just begin to turn golden. Cool completely on a cooling rack, then decorate. We use store-bought pouches of cookie icing/royal icing with chocolate sprinkles, but you can decorate them however you'd like.

Dog Bone Sugar Cookies
Dog Bone Sugar Cookies
Dog Bone Sugar Cookies

Enjoy! And don't worry... As soon as we finally get another doggy, you all will be the first-ish to know.