Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Kids are Great

One of our local elementary schools-Daisy Ingraham in Westbrook- is embracing the Healthy Choices-Healthy Kids Initiative, a Westbrook Early Learning Links program. To help facilitate the growing concept of healthy changes we're putting a Tower Garden in the cafeteria. Here the kids can be involved in growing their own good health, harvesting the fruits of their labor and having a hands-on experience in understanding where food comes from.

It was with great care and concentration that theses second graders accomplished the task at hand.

We planted seeds in rock wool with two of the second grade classes. They'll be growing an assortment of lettuces, spinach, cauliflower and parsley to start.

The activity raised many questions from the young inquiring minds;
Where should we put these while we wait for them to sprout? How long will it take? How does the Tower Garden work? When can we put these into the Tower Garden? How many seeds should we plant in our rock wool cube?

And it opened up a vocabulary discussion; Do you know what germinate means? How many of you garden? And do you garden in the dirt? Interestingly two of the students 'grow in water.' Which led us to discussion of hydroponics and aquaponics. They were fascinated, eager and insightful.

A few days later we set the Tower Garden up in the cafeteria. Because we planted seeds with just two of the classes most of the kids had no idea what we were up to. This spawned more intrigue and questions. So we asked them; "What do you think this is?" Their answers were priceless. Here are the top 10 answers they gave. Number 7 is my favorite.

1.Giant bird feeder / apartment  
2.Shoe rack
3. Heater
5. Night light
6. Chocolate fountain
7. Leprechaun catcher
8.Ice cream cone holder
9. Flag holder
10.Coffee maker
Soon the seeds will germinate and we will plant the seedlings in the Tower Garden. All of the students will participate in growing good health and harvesting nutritious whole food. Stay tuned.

Friday, January 30, 2015

Oats 'n Honey Balls

These will likely disappear very quickly so you might want to double up! I prefer to eat them straight from the freezer. 

1 C organic dried oats
1/2 C organic peanut or almond butter
1/3 C pure organic honey (or pure maple syrup)
1/4 t. Ground ginger

Combine all ingredients in a large bowl. 
Form into small balls- I use a melon ball scooper. 
Place in a single layer on a plate or platter and freeze. After half an hour or so they can be put into a plastic bag and kept for a good long time- but they aren't likely to last. 

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Grab and Go Egg MegaMuffin Recipes

Egg Mega Muffins
Easy, healthy, grab and go yum.
If you're really adventurous add freshly milled flax, or Chia seeds to boost gut health.
Eggs-you'll need approximately 1 egg per muffin cup
milk- almond, soy or cow's- approximately 1/2 Tbls. per egg
Add-ins of your choice-
diced ham, cheese, onions, spinach, broccoli,tomatoes, zucchini, scallions, garlic, or whatever

How to:
Preheat oven to 350
Lightly grease  muffin pan.
Layer desired fillings in bottom of muffin cups.
Scramble eggs and milk together.
Fill each muffin cup with egg mixture.
Bake at 350 for about 20-25 minutes

Store in zip lock or similar for about a week in the fridge. Make 'em with the kids on Sunday, enjoy all week. 

Friday, December 5, 2014

5 Reasons Whole Foods are Important.

We've all heard about whole foods but what- really- is all the buzz about and why is it important?

Whole foods are those which are consumed in as close to their original form as possible. They are minimally processed or refined, have no additives, chemicals, preservatives or artificial substances. They haven’t been changed. When foods are broken down, heated, fractionalized, or otherwise stripped down during processing they lose vital properties and much of their nutritional value.

Fiber is a key component lost during processing. Fiber is important for three reasons: Fiber helps to absorb sugar slowing its release from fruits and grains, it’s essential to helping us feel full and satisfied, and it helps to keep us regular.

Nutrients: Whole food provides whole nutrition, not just parts of it. You miss out on many beneficial nutrients in processed or refined foods. Whole foods retain all the minerals, vitamins, enzymes, phytonutrients, and antioxidants in their bioavailable form. All that goodness remains available to your body on a cellular level promoting health across the board.

Absorption: Trust Mother Nature; she’s really smart. Often nutrients are present together in whole foods because they work synergistically. One nutrient is often responsible for making the most of another or aiding in its absorption. For example, spinach has vitamin C and iron. Vitamin C helps your body absorb iron. Sometimes we all need a little help making the most of what’s available to us.

More nutrition bang for your calorie buck: Whether you’re a calorie counter or not it’s nice to know you are getting more nutritional value per calorie with nutrient-rich, whole foods.  

Ditch the Chemicals and Additives: Not only do we not need them, our bodies don’t even know what to do with them. Did you know that 56% of our calories come from three sources that were non-existent when our genes were developing; refined sugar, bleached flour and vegetable oils?

“If it comes from a plant, eat it. If it was made in a plant, don’t” is a good rule of thumb. Barring that, read labels. Beware of sugar in its many forms; there are 57 names for sugar and avoid ingredients you can’t pronounce. Except for quinoa (keen-wah) because 1. now you know how to pronounce it and 2. it’s an ancient, high protein grain. Happy eating.

Mary Lee Blackwell is a health ambassador living in Old Lyme. She’s a real mom with a real life who likes to share easy health with others. Because let’s face it; if it’s not easy, it’s not happening. Follow her on twitter @MLBlackwell10. Get in touch or visit her website

 Click to  learn more about Juice Plus+


Tuesday, December 2, 2014

9 Tips to Get more Fruits and Veggies into Your Kids' day

If your kids are like most, veggies are not the go-to food. All hope need not be lost though. Here are a few tips and tricks to get more veggies and fruits into their daily routine.
     1)      Make it a game or a competition -  Try Today I Ate a Rainbow, a blindfolded tasting game (who can correctly name the most?) create veggie critters or mosaic works of art.
     2)      Using a mandolin finely shred lots of zucchini, carrots, broccoli stalks (use the tops in #3) or other veggies into chili, stews, meatballs, meatloaf, soups or other recipes.
     3)      Serve ‘appetizers’ before dinner- fresh raw or blanched veggies
 with hummus or peanut butter. Avoid high sugar dressings.
     4)      Create an ‘apple flower’ by cutting with an apple corer/cutter and setting on a small plate. Offer a side of peanut or almond butter, or cinnamon mixed with a little Sucanat or coconut palm sugar for dipping. Great while they’re waiting for breakfast.
  5)      Start with a ‘first course’ of salad. Add fun ingredients like craisins, slivered almonds, diced pears, berries or watermelon.
  6)      Make it fun, not a battle. Sometimes just changing your attitude will change theirs. Get excited about trying a new vegetable or cooking it in a new recipe, arrange colors and textures into a shape (fish, bird, house, dinosaur, turkey…) on their plate.

   7)      Get them involved. Kids love ‘grown up’ jobs like chopping, washing, mixing. Additionally it gives them some ownership and pride when it’s served.
   8)      Grow your own produce as a family (try the TowerGarden, with grow lights you can grow year round) harvest and eat it fresh!
   9)    Make fruits your sweets. For dessert try reducing the junk food portion and adding or increasing the fruit. Try berries and bananas over ice cream, a baked apple, or melt a little dark chocolate and drizzle over your favorite fresh fruit.

   And remember that the more fruits and veggies kids eat over time, the more they will crave them. Still need help getting the recommended 7-13 servings into your children's diet? Juice Plus+ can help you bridge the gap between what you know you should eat and what you do eat. 
 More Fruits and veggies the easy way

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

It's never too Early ...or Too Late to Start a Healthy Habit

Isn’t it easy to go to the drive-thru for fast food or nuke a pizza when the kids are hungry and time is scarce? When my kids were young-teens and pre-teens- it seemed like we were always running, well driving,from soccer practice to piano lessons to Staples for homework supplies to friend’s houses… And since I have three kids you need to multiply that list by three. Drive- thrus at Dunkin Donuts and McDonald's, Stouffer’s, Lean Cuisine, frozen pizzas and the like made my life easier. In the short term.

Flash forward a few years to their teens and tweens; my youngest dealt with significant gastrointestinal problems- functional dyspepsia- that caused him to puke 3 or 4 times a week before school, IBS, undiagnosed ADD, and he was overweight by about thirty pounds. My daughter had such joint problems that she was forced to abandon her varsity field hockey and lacrosse success of three years.  For some reason my middle son fared better. Looking back I think he had a tendency to eat fewer carbs and more fruit.

Today the picture of my kid’s (now in their twenties) health looks something like this; my daughter is overweight and has significant, chronic and incurable health issues not least of which is Lupus. My middle son is healthy and active though he suffers from regular back pain. My youngest is an absolute specimen of health and fitness. His functional dyspepsia has resolved as has his IBS and he no longer takes an ADD medication.

How and why can I have such a diverse picture of health within my own family? I’m sure there are many contributing variables and factors that I can’t explain but I can tell you this; I wish I had known then what I know now about nutrition- its importance and its ability to prevent illness. A few years ago we started taking Juice Plus+. With that new regimen came information and education.  And little changes. Then more changes.  And there is great power and healing that comes from that. My daughter will not embrace nutrition as a healer. It is infinitely frustrating and disheartening because I know she has the power to, maybe not cure, but certainly improve her health immensely…to improve the way she feels on a day to day basis. Both of my boys take Juice Plus+ -regularly. My middle son is good about watching what and how he eats and my youngest is a health, fitness and nutrition guru following a strict self-designed and tweaked clean eating program.

For me drawing conclusions is easy; the reasons for the widely diverse results obvious. And I know that fast and processed food have made my life- and sadly my daughter’s- incredibly more difficult. For the long haul. So while I wait for my daughter to see the ‘nutritious’ light, I hope that I can help someone else start seeing at least a glimmer.

For starters, here are some tips to nurture healthy habits in your kids. It’s never too early to start…or too late.
 Children's Health Study-4 years free through college age when an adult buys

If you want to know more about Juice Plus and how easily it can start to change your health picture, please, please, please contact me.

Never do anything Mundane...

For more than eight years I tended to a very elderly woman named Rose. I was less a caregiver in the traditional sense of the word than a step-and-fetch-it sort of do-whatever-she-wants kind of helper. What I learned from her is that we should never, ever do anything mundane ... if we can get someone else to do it for us. Apparently, I passed this lesson on to my kids. Rose was a fabulous (98 at her passing in July) southern gal but the days spent with her were emotionally exhausting and physically draining. I often arrived home at the end of a long day and the dreaded "What's for dinner?" question greeted my arrival. No 'hello.' No 'Hi mom.' It made me nuts. I was tired, yes, but mostly unprepared. Life is busy. My husband worked out of town all week. I really wished someone else would take the lead once in awhile. After all, when I started working for Rose my oldest was 19 and capable as was my 16 year old and my 12 year old for that matter. But being a working mom, knowing they had busy and, yes, stressful schedules themselves opened wide the vat of guilt. And I swam in it. So I cooked. Or more aptly, provided something to eat.  
As you may have guessed by now, things needed to change in the meal department. I started with some small and simple changes. I found that being organized and prepared made a significant positive impact in areas I never even thought about changing. An impact on the quality of our meals. An impact on my mood. An impact on our budget.  An impact on our health trajectory

Here are some of the steps I took:
1) I started planning meals for the week during the weekend and shopping for them, too.
2) I made meals to yield leftovers. They were either reinvented or served a second time later in the week.
3) Bought a crock pot. Fell in love with it. Use it all the time.
4) Started making grab and go staples; nutritious snacks that travel well. 
5) Involved the kids in meal planning giving them some ownership.

I became a more mindful meal planner and shopper. I even started taking meals on the road in a hot/cold food carrier to nix drive-thru visits between all the after school shuttling. None of it was really intentional, it just sort of morphed into something that worked for us. On winter weekends I started sitting with a stack of cookbooks to peruse recipes. Sometimes the kids would take an interest and help generate ideas for the week. Sometimes they would join me in the kitchen. Chat. Chop. The "what's for dinner?" question that had been the bane of my existence became if not exactly a relished greeting at least not something intolerable, unanswerable and anger-provoking. We spent less money on food, bought fewer processed, packaged and unhealthy groceries. Reduced my stress level- and we all know what they say about a happy mom. It may be time to amend the lesson from Rose- Never, ever do anything mundane...if you can make it memorable instead.  

What helps you stay on track with healthy eating without losing your mind? I'd love to hear and so would other readers. Thanks for sharing.

If you want to know more about the unpleasant truths of what is being used to cook our 'food' or served as 'food,' check this out. (Hint: Silly Putty) If you want to know how to get more of the good stuff (i.e. whole raw plant based food) check this out.