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Saturday, August 11, 2012

Natural Sugar Substitutes: 3 Sweetners to Lower Your Family's Intake of Sugar

     Sugar:  It's one of America's favorite past-times that we just can't seem to get enough of!  From soda to candy bars, to our favorite frappes, it would appear that sugar has taken over our culture; and unfortunately, it has!
    
     But if all this sugar was even half as good for us as it tasted,  our society wouldn't be struggling with obsesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, immune disorders, and more aches and pains than we know what to do with!
     The good news is, there is something we can do about it!  Besides sugar, there are some other sweet additions that are equally (if not moreso!) tasty, which we can use in our cooking and baking that are good for us (and natural)!

     Sweetners that will satisfy our sweet tooth cravings and take care of that "need for sweet" that unfortunately, too many of us crave!  So what are those sweetners?  Read on!

                                                               Honey

     Honey.  One of nature's finest and best known sweetners! This sweetner which has been with us since the beginning of time, may still be the top contender in the alternative to sugar.  In moderation, this nature- made sweetner is much better for you than that white refined stuff otherwise known as sugar (or sucrose), and sweeter as well! 
    
    But what makes honey so good?  Well, for starters, those bees of ours really know what they're doing.  By picking from the finest of nature to make that sticky stuff we love, they're loading our honey up with plenty of antioxidents and nutrients containing essentials like B-Vitamins, amino acids and enzymes;  just a few good things that give our bodies the energy and immunity that we need to fight off infections, heart disease and cancer!
   
     And because honey's absorbed at a much slower rate than it's unhealthy component, sugar (sucrose), our blood sugar levels become more stabilized giving us a healthier glycemic index in the meanwhile.  This means nothing but good news for us!

                                                    
                                                              Stevia

     Stevia.  Only becoming popular here in the U.S. as of recently, this little leaf which orginated in Paraguay has been used for centuries.  And thanks to the italian, Dr. Moises Santiago Bertoni who helped discover this plant in other regions, we have a lot of happy people using this little sweetner in their coffee, tea and favorite desserts now (among other things)!

And what about it's benefits?  Because studies are still fairly new, there are still a few things we can bank on!  We know it's a  non-calorie, nature-made sweetner that comes from the leaves of a bushy shrub, and because it comes from nature, it is naturally, good for you.  But perhaps the best part?  It is 30 times sweeter than table sugar!  Other studies have even suggested that this bushy plant can even aid in lowering blood pressure!

                                                  
                                                  Agave Syrup 

     Agave. This sweetner that comes from a plant and is made into the form of syrup has been praised for it's sweet taste and it's benefits linked to among other things, a lower glycemic rate upon ingestion (in comparsion to sugar).

     Agave syrup is extracted from the same Central American plant that gives us another well known item; tequila!  And because Agave has an overall higher percentage of fructose to glucose, this sweetner can mean good news for diabetics.  You see, because it has a higher percentage of fructose to glucose, it gives a lower glycemic rate!  This can be a very good thing for those worried about keeping their blood sugar in check!   


Sources:  wwwbenefitsofhoney.com; wwwbenefitsofhoney; wwwhoneymart/DrPaulCarlton.com ehow/stevia; wwwlivelonger.com
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Sunday, July 22, 2012

Can I Home School my Teenager?

     With thoughts of fall quickly approaching, perhaps you've found yourself wondering if homeschooling your teenager this year is an option?  Maybe the past couple of years were a little rough at school for your teen, or perhaps you and she just feel like homeschooling might be a good option?  Whatever your reasons, they are good ones, and here's a few thoughts to help you make that decision for this year's school season!
               
                                              Check Your Options

     I think one of the greatest concerns parents have when considering homeschooling is, "How do I get started?!"  A simple search on bing or google will quickly pull up more ideas, otpions, and curriculums than you'll know what to do with.  So don't "not" do it, because you don't know what's out there.  In a matter of minutes, you'll have more ideas than you know what to do with!

                                                       Ask Questions

     Another good way to approach homeschooling is to be assertive. Don't be afraid to ask questions.  Where to ask?  Try your favorite bookstore or even better, find a homeschool group in your area and stop by for a visit.  Most cities have homeschool groups and if you don't know anyone, look up your state's homeschool association online; many will post their group's listing with a number and city so you can reach them.

                                                         Yes, You Can!

     Another question that is probably going through your mind, "Can I do it?"  Of course you can!  You don't need to sit down with your teen 24-7, and if you have a job outside the home, you don't have to necessarily lose it either!  One of the greatest things about homeschooling is its flexibility!  Just knowing that your child can get a thorough, complete education, and do most of it (if you prefer) by his or herself! I find this is one of the biggest stepping stones new homeschooling parents are relieved to find out and step over!   
                                                 

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Beat the Heat: Fun Inside Activities with the Kids!

     So you've just found out the weather forcast is calling for temps in the upper nineties, and with a house full of kids, you've got to find something to do!  The problem is, you've got three days and no pool or beach in sight!  So what's a parent to do?  Read on!

                                Have an indoor picnic!

     Who says it's too hot for a picnic?  Grab their favorite blanket or beach towel and make some lemonade!  How about some hot dogs and beans?  Avoid the heat of the stove and place those weiners on a microwaveable plate.  Cover them for a minute or two and,"walla!"  The dogs are done!  And thow about those baked beans?  Dump those on a plate and heat them up right alongside those hot dogs!  Then grab your favorite chips and you've got a great outdoor-brought-indoor picnic in a matter of minutes!  And the best part?  You didn't even have to heat up the kitchen!

                                     Make a Chilly Snack for Later!

     What better way to spend a hot afternoon then with some cool home-made treats to satisfy their hunger?  Pour  some orange juice into ice cube trays and insert a tooth pick into each one.  Then, gently place in freezer until completely frozen. When done?  Pull out the popcycles and get the kids out of the hosue while they enjoy their frozen treats. The kids can enjoy some outdoor time and you will feel good just knowing that they're staying cool and hydrated!

                                         Play Some Indoor "Sports!"

     So what do you do when the kids are tired of hanging out and really in need of something to do?  Turn off that TV and blow up a balloon or two! 

     In need of a game of catch?  Substitute this favorite past time with those balloons you just blew up.  And a great thing about this indoor game of "air ball?"  Whether your kids are teens or small, it will be difficult for anyone to even think about breaking or knocking  those special items you have in the house onto the floor.  Just try taking a balloon and wacking it as hard as you possibly can!  You may be surprised as to how far this fun balloon, doesn't go!  Another bonus for the balloon game! 

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Teen Time: How to Spend More One on One with your Teen

     If you've been blessed to have a teenager  or two living in your home, consider yourself one of the lucky ones! In fact, parents of teens can expect to have at least two things:  Stress and possible hair loss!  But before we give our beloved teens a completely bad rap, here's a few ways to strap yourself in for a moderately hilly and slightly curvy, roller coaster of a ride!
                                                           Listen!

     When's the last time you asked your teen what they REALLY wanted from you?  Not purchases or places, but what they'd expect or appreciate from you the most?  Nine out of ten times, the answer will probably be the same; listen. 

     And it may come in many forms.  From a simple, "You never listen to me mom (or dad)!"  To a more indirect and bone chilling, " You just don't understand.  You just don't "get it!" The responses are all basically the same.  And try as we may, we're apparently, still not getting, "it."
                                   Listening equals Hearing! 

     So how do we know when we do (get "it," that is)?  I mean after all, you've already answered a ginormous, "Yes!" to your listening skills with your teen.  So now what? 
     For starters, remember, that when a teen says, "listen," what they're really saying is, "Mom or dad, hear me!  Appreciate me. See who I am and who I'm trying to be (even though I'm not even sure who that person really is yet)!"   Allow them to feel heard.  Not just listened to, but genuinely, unequivalently, beyond a shadow of a doubt, heard. 
                 Hearing equals a Closer Relationship!
     I know what you're thinking. You don't know my teen.  My teen shudders at the word, "relationship," especially when it also involves me! But don't despair! 
     By showing your teen that a  relationship with them doesn't have to equal anything more than that you're there for them and you love them (no matter what (all dangerous activities and events aside...), you will let them know you, hear, get, and listen! In other words, the door is always open.  Always.  No ifs, ands, or buts about it! 
     And in the meantime?  Focus on their positives.  Can't think of any positive?  Find some!  Perhaps it's their eclectic style?  Or maybe it's their ability to find humor (or embarrassment) in everything that you do?  Find something about them that you love, and reinforce that for them (and you)!
     The good news is, before you know it, both you and your teen will be finding some common ground again!  And in the meantime?  Just tell them that you love them (and blame the rest on all those out of whack hormones)!    

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Safe Internet Searching and Your Kids: How to Keep them Safe

     "You saw what?!"  If you're like many parents, learning to teach your kids ow to safely manuever through and surf the web is no easy task! Here's a few tips to help keep them safe and avoid unwanted viewing while online.

                                             Stick to the Basics 

     As easy as it sounds, keeping your computer in a central location in your home is the best bet to monitor what your kids are doing online.  Invasion of privacy?  Not in this day and age!  With an accidental click it may mean the difference between a G or X- rating..

                                      
                                 Find Some Good Software

     A friend of mine recently shared her concerns about the dangers of the internet for children.  She also shared a great software program geared to help keep your kids safe while browsing the web.  It's called "Safe Eyes (bing or google it)," and one of many software programs focused on keeping your kid's internet experience a safer one!  Although nothing is foolproof, finding solutions to protect your child is becoming easier by the day in this world of technology! (Bing words like "safe software for children, internet protection software, etc. to find more great options).

                            
                                     Limit the Allowance

     No, I'm not talking about money here, but internet "allowance." for your kids.  By deciding where and when (or why and how often) your kids go online can be half the battle. And teens in particular, may be at particular risk.

       With smart phones and ipads walking around, these items have become more of an accessory than anything.  Decide upon your purchase how you will monitor such items.  For the cell phones, look for the family plans that allow you to have what you want, and monitor or completely limit their internet accessibility.  No, they may not like it, but one day, they'll thank you! 

                                 

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Why Won't He just GO TO BED?!

Are you scratching your head every night wondering why your toddler STILL won't go to sleep?  Does he sit up,jump the crib, sing songs, play with his stuffed animals and call out, "Mommmmyyyy..." every five minutes?  If you're one of the many parents struggling to get your toddler to, "Just go to sleep...please!!!," every night, then read on!

                                             Have a Plan and Stick to It!

Perhaps more than ever, if there's one thing that will help your child close those sleepy little eyes at bedtime, it's consistency.  From keeping a regular bedtime schedule to encouraging them to "get ready" for bed (brushing teeth, one last trip to the potty before bed, etc.); these simple things will make a huge difference in the long run!

                                                           Story Time?

Remember when you were little?  Didn't you love it when someone you loved, read you your favorite bedtime story?  Well thankfully, kids today haven't changed much in that department!  After all, who doesn't love a good bedtime book?  So tonight, before you tuck your little guy or girl in for a long night's sleep, why not pull out that favorite book off the shelf,  and read to them before dimming that light?

                    Lay off the Treats, and find more time for Sleep!

Although it's fun to eat at night, giving your little one an after dinner treat too close to bedtime can spell one thing: "Energy!"    Instead?  Plan your desert time closer to your post dinner meal.  This will give the food a chance to settle and them a chance to burn it off! 

 And for an alternative to that late night snack?  Opt for a warm bubble bath and throw in a few of his favorite toys! Still need a little help?  Why not try one of the "bedtime baby/toddler washes/shampoos" guaranteed to calm your little one's senses tonight?    

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Picky Eaters: Three Ways to Sneak in the Good Stuff!

     Have you found dinnertime to be more like a sequel to Mission Impossible?  Do you find yourself secretly wanting to bribe your child to the veggie section at the buffet?  Although you may feel alone, knowing that you're one of the many parents in the same predicament may be comforting.  Unfortunately, this isn't enough!  So what is? 

     For starters, don't give up!  Teaching your child early on about good nutrition will last a lifetime!  And while you're emphasizing this fact, here's a few ideas to help you get them going in the right direction!

      
                                        
                                        Try Healthy Substitutes at Snacktime!
  
     For many children, those growing bodies are also developing picky tastebuds!  And if you're one of the lucky parents struggling through this well known dilema, learning a few tricks of the trade can quickly turn those frowns upsidedown!    
     Try substituting their favorite snacks with some healthy alternatives instead. Raisins make a great substitute for gummy bears! This little treat is packed with fiber and potassium,, along with plenty of natural sugars to keep them going.  Look for the kid friendly boxes that were made for little hands.  Your child will love the size, and you'll love what they're eating!

                                      
                                      Great Grains, Great Nutrition!

     My children love chicken fingers.  And is there a kid out there that doesn't?! These finger sized favorites are packed with protein, but the store bought versions may bring on the sodium and unwanted fats as well.  The alternative?  Why not make your own?   

     Look for the range free chicken or boneless white meat tenders to start.  Don't eat meat?  Why not the veggie " tenders" in the health food aisle made from soy? These little snackers look like the chicken fingers your kids crave, without the meat (and they too are packed with protein).

                  Bread Crumbs They'll Love (But you'll love more...)
    
    
     And for a healthy alternative to your favorite bread crumbs?  Try crushing your favorite cereal.  Try corn, rice, or wheat flakes for starters (for crispness), add equal parts of whole grain wheat or unbleached white flour.  Add in 3-4 tsps baking powder, garlic and onion powder, parsley, and salt and pepper to taste, and mix well! 

   
 With these little tips, you and your child will be off to healthier eating habits in no time at all; creating more happy on the outside, and the inside!