Saturday, October 5, 2013

Homemade Hot Cocoa

One thing I love to do is un-do my habits of using pre-packaged, processed products when the simple homemade versions are almost as easy to make.  Many people are surprised to find out that we can make better, homemade versions of products that we're used to buying in little processed packets with hardly any more effort. 

You really don't need a microwave to make popcorn (see recipe here), you don't need a can of cream of chicken soup to make easy, delicious crock pot meals and with the weather cooling down, you definitely don't need little packets to make delicious hot cocoa in minutes.  Here's a super simple, basic recipe for hot cocoa that you probably have everything in your kitchen for already.  Once you've mastered it, try substituting peppermint or almond extract for the vanilla.

Homemade Hot Cocoa
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
pinch of salt
1/4 cup sugar
2 cups milk (or milk alternative...if you're using a sweetened one, like vanilla soy or almond milk, cut down on the sugar)
1/4 tsp vanilla extract

1.  Combine the water, cocoa powder, salt and sugar in a saucepan.  Cook over medium heat until there are no more lumps and everything is dissolved together.
2.  Add milk and bring slowly to a low simmer.  Don't let it boil.
3.  Remove from heat and stir in vanilla.


Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Preschooler Fire Safety

When it comes to teaching your kiddos how to cook, kitchen safety is super important.  The other night while my 4-year-old, Haddie, was tearing up lettuce for dinner, she started asking me all kinds of questions about fires.  I think she overheard a news story the night before about a house fire and was suddenly obsessed with what she should do in a fire.  I realized we had talked about all kinds of kitchen safety (how to use knives, why she can't drink the cleaners, why not to touch boiling water) except fire safety.  We wound up having a great talk while preparing the salad.  But, I realized that fire safety was something we hadn't really talked about like we should.

That's when I found one of her favorite new apps for my iphone.  It's called Sparky's Birthday Surprise and it's a super fun and cute way to help your preschooler learn about fire safety.  Haddie likes it so much that she plays it more than her Disney Palace Pets app (which is a BIG deal if you know Haddie).  It has a cute story about a fireman-dog named Sparky who teaches kids about fire safety.  While sparky is off teaching fire safety, his dog friends bake him a birthday cake and teach about fire safety in the kitchen.  The app reads the book for you, or, you can choose to read to your kiddos.  And the best part is that each page is interactive, including a super cute page where you (um, I mean your kid) gets to decorate Sparky's surprise birthday cake.   There's also coloring pages, videos and extra games. 

After playing with Sparky for about a week, Haddie started telling me things like, "if you hear a smoke alarm, get outside and stay outside."  She even asked me what our "meeting place" should be (another thing I apparently forgot to teach her!). 

All this to say, I highly recommend it for any parent of a preschooler.  And it's free, so seriously, what's not to love?

Here's a link if you want it:  Sparky The Fire Dog

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Simple Ways to Exercise More

Today's blog is by a student intern from Texas State, Lindsay Smith.  We love having students post here because they always bring a fresh perspective and new ideas!

When it comes to being healthy, the truth is that you cannot just eat better and expect huge results. Incorporating exercise into your daily routine helps boost your metabolism, and therefore be a healthier person. You don't need to join an expensive gym or buy your own work-out equipment in order to partake in exercise! Instead you should bring in different kinds of movements into your daily routine to help boost your activity level. Small changes like walking your children to school, always taking the stairs wherever you go, and taking your kids outside to play with them will help in more ways than you think.

Don't want to do this alone? Invite the entire family along! One of the greatest things my family did when I was younger that kept all of us healthy was creating family Olympics. We would play a few games in our backyard every Saturday in order to get physical activity and to spend time together as a family. Another idea is to take a family walk or bicycle ride after dinner every night to get the body moving. So why should you put in this small effort and make a change? Well exercise not only aids in weight control, but it improves mood, boosts energy, and helps reduce the risk of a variety of diseases like type 2 diabetes, arthritis, and cancer. So my advice to all is get moving!

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Ways to Enjoy More Fruits and Veggies

Today's blog is from an awesome student intern studying nutrition at The University of Texas, Nikita Prabhu.

Getting enough sources of fruits and vegetables can be a difficult task at times, and making creative
meals that you and your family enjoy can be just as hard! Here are some quick fix meal and snack ideas
to help you enjoy more fruits and vegetables in your daily routines:

-Use variety when using vegetables as pizza toppings. Try broccoli, spinach, green peppers, tomatoes,
mushrooms and zucchini.

-Make a breakfast smoothie made with low-fat milk, frozen strawberries, and a banana.

-Try crunchy vegetables instead of chips with your favorite low-fat salad dressing as dip.

-Keep cut vegetables handy for mid-afternoon snacks, side dishes, lunch box additions, or a quick nibble
while waiting for dinner. Ready-to-eat favorites: carrots, celery sticks, cucumbers, snap peas or whole

-Wake up to fruit. Make a habit of adding fruit to your morning oatmeal, cereal, or yogurt.

-Make fruit your dessert: slice a banana lengthwise and top with a scoop of low-fat frozen yogurt.
Sprinkle with a tablespoon of chopped nuts!

What are your favorite ways to eat more fruits and vegetables?

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Hyperactivity and Foods: My Orange Soda Story

Disclaimer:  Most of the "research" for this blog post is from watching my daughter act like a total crazy the other night.  But, I still think there's something to it...

So, as a special treat I took my daughter to see the Chimpanzee movie in the theater this week.  And, I guess I was in an extra special mood because I let her get a kid's size popcorn AND soda at the theater.  I even let her choose the soda.  And she chose Fanta, you know, the super orangey stuff, which I had never given her before (on the rare occasion she gets soda, it's usually Sprite).

We had a great time and later that night she went out to dinner with my hubby and her grandma while I stayed with our son in the NICU.  I wasn't there, but word on the street (or from my husband) was that he's never seen her act so out of control.  Don't get me wrong, our daughter is not the sit-quietly-with-an-angelic-expression-on-her face type, but she knows how to behave at a restaurant.  But this night involved constant high pitch screams and multiple time outs in the parking lot with daddy.  It wasn't one, big, naughty thing, but just constant super, super hyper behavior.  Like she just lost any ability to control herself.  And I'm pretty sure that the orange soda had something to do with it.

Most parents with kiddos who struggle with hyperactivity (ADD, ADHD) will tell you that they notice increased issues following the consumption of certain foods.  And this can happen in kiddos who don't have ADHD as well (like mine).  Most of the time, the culprits are additives in highly colored, processed foods (aka orange soda).  So, it's worth keeping an eye on what you're kiddo is eating and noticing if certain foods affect their behavior.  Here's a list of additives to keep an eye on:
  • Sodium Benzoate
  • Yellow No. 6
  • Yellow No. 10
  • Yellow No. 5
  • Red No. 40
  • Some kiddos have a hard time with artificial sweeteners
How about your kiddos?  Do processed/colored foods affect their behavior?


Wednesday, May 16, 2012

It's A Boy!

I've been very absent from writing blogs this month because we have a new baby!  Asa Peter Dusan was born April 27th and he's been in NICU ever since.  He's doing well, but, needless to say, I've been a little busy.  For more about Asa's story, click here.  

Have a great week!

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Thinking Twice About Diet Sodas

Many people down multiple diet sodas daily to avoid gaining weight, stay full between meals and get a caffeine-induced energy boost.  For many years, many people have seen diet sodas as the perfect way to get what they want without all of the sugar and calories.  But, these drinks may be causing more damage than we realize.  If you're an avid diet soda drinker, I strongly encourage you to read this great article by Joel Fuhrman, M.D.:  Diet Soda Depletes Calcium and May Increase Heart Attack Risk. 

For those of you who want the cliff notes version, here it is:
  • Studies show that Parathyroid Hormone (PTH) concentrations rise strongly after drinking diet soda.  PTH increases blood calcium levels by releasing calcium from our bones.  Over time this can greatly affect bone mineral density.
  • Women who drink diet soda excrete more calcium in their urine than those who don't.
  • The intense sweetness of artificial sweeteners may confuse the body and lead to increased appetite and weight gain.
  • Diet soda consumption has also recently been linked to kidney disfunction and an increased risk for heart attack and stroke.
The bottom line:  An occasional diet soda is probably fine, but regular, high intake may be problematic.