Key to health: Just Eat Food

I follow a couple of health blogs and regularly devour the health page in the Globe&Mail.  I am forever reading about some ‘new’ vegetable, bean or berry that will be good for my health.  For years this has simply been interesting information thatI’ve filled away in my little brain.

This summer you’ve no doubt seen the campaign warning us about salt.  It turns out that packaged foods (i.e. the stuff made in a factory by companies trying to make money) have a high sodium content in order to preserve shelf life and camouflage lack of flavour. Duh!  Of course that’s what salt is for.  That’s why Europeans were so excited to start trading for salt and pepper – to improve the flavour of bad or bland food.

As far as I can tell, your best bet is to simply eat food.  Real food, not from a package, not from a factory, just food. It doesn’t have to be complicated food as suggested in the latest ‘enzyme diet’, just regular old fruits, vegetable, whole grains, lean protein.

Born to Exercize?

I think some people are hard wired to exercize and others are hard wired to do other stuff.  That’s not an excuse for those of us that fall into the later category.  Everyone needs to get their daily exercize.  It simply seems to me that some people crave it.

When I think of some of my neighbors (yes that’s plural intentionally) that are biking 60-120 minutes each way to work.  That to me says born for it (or crazy, but usually I go for the charitable built for it thought).  Then I read about these ladies at Squeeze It In and I thought – born for it.  Who thinks of this kind of stuff?  Yes, I’m chopping peppers for a salad, but let me do some leg lifts while I’m at it. This reminds me of pre-natal class whee they encouraged everyone to do their kegel exercizes when ever you found yourself waiting – at a red light, in the grocery store, at Tim Horton’s.

 This is good in concept, but isn’t your brain already in gear?  If when I was standing in line at Loblaws my brain said “oh… looks like I’m going ot be waiting in line for a while”, then maybe I’d say to myself: why don’t I do so isometric ab exercizes while I stand here? Instead, my brain is wondering:   if the kids fall asleep on the way home, will I have enough time to cut the grass before they wake up?  did I get the positioning right in the presentation for work?  did I remember to pick up milk?  oh yes… it’s here in the cart.  take that finger out of your nose (these last two parts are usually spoken aloud).

So clearly, I’m not ‘born to exercize’. I work at it.  And I shouldn’t make too much fun of the squeeze ladies, as my former colleague with the best bicepts and tricepts of everyone I know works out with soup cans.

Coupons & Other Bargains

I love a bargain.  I love to use coupons.  I don’t use them very often, but nevertheless, when I can get $3 off a package of diapers or laundry detergent, I’m pretty happy.  My biggest challenge with coupons is the same one I have with bringing my own bags: getting them out of the car and into the store.

My usual source for coupons is as mix of Canadian Freebie blog, Save.ca and random stuff that comes in the mail.  The trouble, with these sources, is that they are not often coupons for brands I usually buy.  They are coupons for big name consumer packaged goods.  Hence, I was so happy to learn about ‘The Healthy Shopper’.  These guys have coupons for all sorts of green, eco friendly, or just plain stuff I like.

I’ll still have trouble remembering to bring them into the store.  Perhaps I should store them in the re-useable bags.

Top 10 “Safe” Sunscreens

I was happy to see that Mexitan, the brand of sunscreen that graces our shelves, is on the list of “broad spectrum protection with fewer hazardous ingredients”.  Who needs the extra stress of discovering that the cream you slather all over your kids every day is in fact harmful.  Yikes! 

Most of the sunscreens on the ‘recommended list’ are physical sunscreens.  This means that the ingredients that provide sun protection do so by creating a physical barrier between you and the sun.  Most sunscreens contain smaller particles and are absorbed into the skin and provide protection at a chemical level.  The trouble with the physical sunscreens is that the barrier is a barrier, not as cumbersome as trying to get my kids to walk around with parasols, but they do look like little albino kids running around.

Check out the list and see where your sunscreen falls!

Saving Money & Still Having Fun

There are so many fun things to do in the summer, both indoors and out. But as you have no doubt already noticed, most of them cost money. I started thinking about this after we paid $17 ($15 family entry + $2 parking) to go to the Herb Fest. It wasn’t even my money (thanks dad!), but I didn’t like the feeling that I/we had paid $17 so that people could sell us stuff (turns out the Herb Fest is mostly sales stalls).

This is why I love the library (see yesterday’s post), but the library is not the only freebie out there:

  • My guys love the splash pads. Run by the City of Ottawa, you can find them in almost every neighborhood. If I remember to bring along some bubbles then we are set for a whole morning/afternoon.
  • Shakespeare in the Park: We haven’t tried this one yet, but I think it’s going to be a riot. There are only two weeks of performances yet, so get your fix now.
  • Picking berries: this has worked well for us from +18 months. There’s definitely more eating than picking at 18 months, but by the time my guy hit 3, he could fill up a berry basket all on his own. Strawberries are the easiest to pick, but it’s nice to go to a farm that has other selections at their farm store, so you can bring home a bounty. Here’s a quick summary of local u-pick farms
  • Kids Sports: We live close to a local soccer field. It’s a great venue for baseball games, soccer games, ultimate and even the occasional cricket match. There’s no need for me to pay to see a game, when it’s just as much fun for my guys to watch kids that are 10-15 run around. Not to mention that my guys can run/walk/crawl and generally entertain themselves along the sidelines. The kids on the field love to have someone that’s not mom and dad cheering for them.
  • Nature Walks: I wish we did more of these. When I’m at home and thinking about what to do for the day, it always feels like this is a big deal to plan. But that’s entirely not the case. You can start at any point along the NCC path system and have a great walk. If you want something a bit more rugged, you can go to any NCC nature conservation area (such as: Stoney Swamp, Green’s Creek or Mer Bleu) and go for a trail walk. There’s no need to lug your gang all the way up to the Gatineau’s to enjoy nature in Ottawa

This is by no means an exhaustive list. What are some of your favorites?

Family Triathlons

I’ve written about the Kids of Steel triathlon program before, but this recent article caught my attention, as I can just picture my little guy encouraging his brother in the same way the kid profiled in the article does:  come on, hurry up, let’s go.

There are plenty of local kids triathlon groups out there, including:  Ottawa Kids Tri and Toronto & GTA: Tri Kids Triathlon Series.

Heck there’s even a whole community of people that chat and discuss their family’s triathlon exploits at the aptly named: Triathlon Family.

Summer Travel Tips

While I don’t think we’ll be going on too many voyages with the gang this summer, here are some sources summer travel tips for you and your family.

  • Summer Road Safety:  Packing a summer emergency kit is a good idea.  I always have my winter emergency kit in the car, but once the snow melts,  I have a jack and that’s about it floating around the back.  It also suggests you “stay on top of your fluids”.  The article is referring to your car, but I know having a couple of spare bottles of water in the car (and in the stroller) are indispensable.
  • Print out a copy of Amazing Mom’s car games to put an end to the why’s.  Come to think of it, this might be good for all car trips, not just the extended ones.
  • Add to your collection of songs with music and lyrics from Song for Teaching.  For traveling themes, there are some great US geography songs.  I’d love to find some equivalents for Canada.
  • Best Nanny suggests:  Math Games, Imaginary Hide and Seek, Travel Scavenger Hunt  and other non-electronic games
  • And of course no summer trip with the kids is complete without snacks.  I love this mom’s suggestion of packing one cooler snack and one non-refrigerated snack — and her tip to store wet wipes in the car!

On My Night Stand: July 5

There are times when I go to the library to pick up what ever it is I’ve ordered and I figure I must have picked up someonelse’s books from the shelf.  Last week was one such week.  Here’s what I picked up:

  • Quantum Wellness: A Practical Guide to Health and Happiness: When I flipped through this, I couldn’t imagine what had possessed me to order it. Then I saw that the forward was from Oprah’s Dr Oz, and it became clear. I must have seen this on the show at some point, ordered it, and then like with all Oprah books it took forever to arrive.  This book is not for me:  It’s prescription for being well is:
    1. Listen and learn
    2. Set an intention
    3. Come up with a plan
    4. Make the move

      To help with this process the author recommends journalling, avoiding lactose, analyzing your relationships to determine which ones are require rejuvenation and of course de-cluttering your environment.  Life’s to short to wade through the minutia of recommendations in this book.  The book ends will a collection of recipes and recommended eating.  Highlights of the list include: tofu sausages with scrambled tofu, sandwiches with fake meat and vegan meatballs from the frozen food section.  I’m ok with this stuff if you want to eat it, but don’t delude yourself into thinking that your eating well just because it’s vegan:  if it’s in a box it’s fresh from the factory.

  • What Men Don’t Tell Women About Business:  Good title, but what a weird book.  I was expecting it to be about tips and tricks, or attitudes or something relevant to me as a woman in the workplace.  So far, it’s about this guy from Vancouver and his transition from working for other people to starting his own consultancy business.  His tale is not self aggrandizing, he makes himself out to be quite a mean guy and by his own account an unpleasant acquaintance with whom to do business.

Perhaps I’ll have better luck with next week’s reading.  I think I’ll go back to fiction for a while.

Healthy Snacks for Kids

Snacks become part of the routine with kids.  I find my guys after a good morning of running around, that usually starts after our 6 am breakfast, are hungry mid-morning.  After nap time seems to be the other time my 3 year old goes poking around the cupboard.  I’m not sure if the after nap is hunger or conditioning from daycare.  Nevertheless, when it’s snack time you don’t want to be fussing around with anything complicated, but at the same time, you don’t want to be handing out a snack pack delivered fresh from a factory.

Our snack of choice is fruit, but if for whatever reason that’s not going to fit the bill our standbys are: yogurt, seeds, cottage cheese, maybe a couple of nuts, and of course, fruit.  Our nanny started this week (yes, it’s back to work for me) and in an effort to be more helpful than saying “they can eat what ever is in the fridge”, I started looking for snack ideas.  Here are some of my favorites:

  • Chopped vegetables & dip
  • Frozen bananas blended with milk
  • Rice cakes with nut butter
  • Individual boxes of soy milk (these are a life saver for us, we always have some in the diaper bag)
  • Edamame (never thought of these for a snack but they are fun to pop and very nutritious)

I found all of these suggestions in the “Healthy Snacks for Kids” brochure from the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine site.  It think I’ll be back to visit the site again as it appeared to have lots of content of interest.  For those who might have more time than I do, here are some snacks I think kids or adult would love, but they require more prep:

  • Dip banana in yogurt, roll in dry cereal and freeze
  • Inside-Out Sandwich: Spread mustard on a slice of deli turkey. Wrap around a sesame breadstick
  • Make snack kabobs. Put cubes of low-fat cheese and grapes on pretzel sticks.

Sugar & Substitutions

And I’m not talking about sucralose or aspartame, both of which are on my 100% avoid list.  However, the natural food store in my neck of the woods created a great pamphlet regarding sugar substitutes.  Different substitutes work better or worse, depending on the original intent of sugar in the recipe.  When I read the pamphlet, high school science and home-ec memories memories started skirting and dancing at the fringes of my memory

Here are some of the tips:

  • In recipes, you can usually cut the amount by 1/4 without affecting outcome.  If the sugar is only in for taste, then you can cut further.
  • Honey — good for sweetening and baking; reduce cooking temperature in recipe as it brows at a lower temperature
  • Agave Syrup: sweeter than sugar, so less is needed, gives moist texture to baked goods.  (We have some in the cupboard, but I’ve never known what to do with it.  “Off Her Cook” has been experimenting, so we can learn from her)
  • Date Sugar: great with whole grain baking; watch carefully when cooking to avoid over browning
  • Apple Sauce: acts as a fat and fiber substitute; for best results combine with stevia
  • Stevia: increase liquids by 1/3 cup; will not brown, will not feed yeast (I’ve always found this one leaves a bitter after taste)

There most important tip is that: sugar is sugar.  “Too much sugar in any for and will increase fat deposits”.

Other sources for sugar info: