Healthy Family – Healthy Future

I remember as a little girl, sitting on my father’s running shoe-covered feet, arms around his sweaty knees, while he completed sit-ups after his run. I’m certain each of my 5 siblings has a similar memory. I don’t know how far or how often he would run, but he always encouraged us to run and/or to be physical. What I do know is that he completed his 1st marathon on his 50th birthday and he began Cross-fitting in his 60’s. INSPIRING.

I never did go for a run, not until just recently actually, but I was active in baseball, softball and swim team through most of my adolescence. After activities ended, I gained weight and ate/drank unhealthily for most of a decade. Towards 30 is when I found Paleo and Crossfit, only after entering motherhood. Motherhood is when it all clicked for me; I am a role model, a leader of a pack and I must make right choices for my cubs. At least, that is what goes through my mind on a daily basis.

My girls on a recent hike up White Rocks Trail in Cumberland Co, PA. We made it all the way to the top!

My girls on a recent hike up White Rocks Trail in Cumberland Co, PA. We made it all the way to the top!

While I once lived to party, I now enjoy walking my children the 10 blocks to a mile, to and from school, digging up soil and mixing compost, researching what plants work best with other plants to help deter critters, promote healthy growth and of course, taste the best. I’m using heirloom seeds, recycled egg cartons to start them, chopped off milk jugs in the event of a chilly evening… Who am I and how did this happen to me?! But most importantly of all, I am doing all these things with my children. Children who live in a culture where we are taught to trust the government, doctors, big brand names and their friends’ well-meaning treats on a daily basis. I’m hoping to infuse them with their own power through information gained and gathered on the fringe of what passes for our modern American culture. Do as I say / Do as I do. I am teaching by example and although they make choices that aren’t best, they also know that eating healthy food before a sweet treat is a better idea so their bodies don’t feel bad. That they learned on their own.

One of my 2013 resolutions was to grow as much as possible based on what my family likes to eat. So far, I have 2 4×4 garden beds with carrots and onions, broccoli, brussel sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower and I’ve begun seeds inside (due to a late winter chill and fear of frost) which include a variety of peppers, cucumbers and greens; arugula, spinach, butter crisp, head lettuce, I’ve also planted snap peas in a very fun way…I’m sure I’m forgetting something and I hope I’m able to keep up with it all! I also plan to add another raised bed to our farm this season for all the greens and the potential of 3-6 hills for melons and pumpkins. Luckily, our backyard has plenty of room for both play and food. Of course we’ll also be mixing these two very important aspects of life together by building a wall for the vining veggies to grow up and my kids to play under, FORT!

I used scrap pieces to make a humble wall for some snap peas to climb. I am propping it up with another stick to create a fort for the kids to play in and to provide some shade in our very sunny backyard.

I used scrap pieces to make this humble wall for our snap peas to climb. I am propping it up with another stick to create a fort for the kids to play in and to provide them additional shade in our very sunny backyard. They helped paint, roll out the chicken wire and plant the peas.

While my 6 year old churned the soil and collected any weeds from our back 2 beds, my 5 year old helped me plant seeds in egg cartons with a bit of our first batch of compost, started last year in my Mother’s Day present. We tend to the yard every chance we get on these brisk Spring days, before I have to go to work and they have to attend school. We look forward to Sundays when we can really get our hands dirty and everyone gets a say in where and what we plant. The time we spend together is priceless because we’re working as a family FOR our family.

That's me in the black, next to my father and his wife, both active members at Crossfit717, along with 1 of my daughters, 2 nieces and 3 nephews. They were all participants during a fundraiser featuring family wods and a pint sized wod circuit. Not pictured: another daughter and my husband, who dj'd the event.

That’s me in the black, next to my father and his wife, both active members at Crossfit717, along with 1 of my daughters, 2 nieces and 3 nephews. Not pictured: another daughter and my husband.

Life has a way of coming full circle as I caught my nephews sitting on each other’s feet while the other completed sit-ups in preparation for the family WOD (work out of the day) at Crossfit717‘s weekend event in support of Autism. It was a great day, filled with fun, family and fitness. My younger girls were able to participate in a WOD circuit, built just for 8 and unders including box jumps, burpees (their fave), air squats, farmer carries and more, while my husband dj’d the event. We have surrounded ourselves with quite a community. My only wish is that my children influence their own friends and family in a similar way some day and my efforts are not in vain.

How does your family stay focused on health? Leave a comment or join us on Facebook for more posts and discussion.

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Week 7: Menu & Receipt

Lately, I’ve been able to stretch my 7 day meal plan and shopping to 8 or 9 days. Whether it’s because I just don’t have the time or I’m force-feeding leftovers to the family, I’m grateful since we’re still in a tight financial spot, as so many of us are, and need to conserve every penny.

That being said, the 4-year-old who named this blog, turned SIX on February 23rd and her younger sister turned 5 yesterday. We aren’t outrageous with gift-giving but when the yearly “Birthday Extravaganza” comes around we celebrate our daughters from one birthday to the next, as any proper celebration should play out. 30(ish) days of extraordinary fun! The little extras add up fast and I’m honestly looking forward to re-tightening our pocket.

photoThis week’s menu was thrown together just for the blog. I went shopping Tuesday morning while my little one was at preschool. Upon my husband’s request, I picked up a roast, I also went for the organic chicken club pack which cuts the cost per lbs from $7.99 to $6.99 and includes portions for 2 dinners instead of one. Chicken thighs and wings seem to be a staple these days because 1) they’re a cheap option, 2) my family devours them and 3) they’re easy to make, bake and the leftovers are bangin!

Incidentally, a friend recently suggested a way to save money was to skip the organic chicken breast and go conventional. I won’t argue a monetary savings here and have typically suggested the same.  He added “Almost every article I read says that the nutritional benefit over regular chicken breasts is negligible. Most impurities and toxins are stored in fat and chicken is so lean that only trace amounts would even exist”.  He is an intelligent and trusted friend, with killer hair, so I stored this info in the ole’ brain and went for a sale on conventionally raised chicken drumsticks a few weeks ago, not breast meat, I realize. I roasted and served them to my girls for dinner. They didn’t gobble them up, as usual, but I didn’t give it much thought as appetite has ebbs and flows. The following day, I served myself a few for breakfast and nearly spit it out before I could get a napkin. The taste was so obviously inferior, it made me feel sick. Bad batch? I don’t know but it reminded me that choice does matter and organic chickens always taste better! I threw the rest away.

You’ll notice Tuesday starts off with chicken (cooked with onions and peppers) and noodles. I finally found a gluten-free, GMO-free noodle option at my local grocery store: TruRoots. After reading the website, I see they claim an ‘al dente’ texture after cooking. My husband, however, says he over cooked his first batch and they were a little mushy, but decent enough to eat. I didn’t warn him they were ‘different’ then his regular noodle variety so it doesn’t’ surprise me that it overcooked. Regular noodles could boil for much longer then required and still not become mushy. Imagine that sitting in your gut… just chillin. Despite over-cooking, he said he’d eat them again and that’s a win for me since we rarely have noodles and now we have some in stock.

photo-2Another exciting find I made was on thursday morning when I stopped by the grocery to pick up some taco shells for my now-5 year old’s requested birthday dinner: Bearitos. This little gem of a company is also non-GMO (found through my non-GMO app) and for a corn meal/chip company it was thrilling discovery since 85% of the corn in our country is genetically modified and that creeps me out. I suspect it’s mostly gluten-free as well, but they do not follow the testing practices for gluten so they do not claim it. They were delicious and had a more authentic taste then the cheaper, standard taco shells. I will now only buy GMO-free tortilla chips, as well. We’ve found and tried 1 or 2 other brands at my local store, my husband says they’re good but aren’t salty enough and I’m okay with that.

During this quick trip to the store, I decided to check the organic meat section for sales while I was there. Often you can find a few items marked down in yellow to add to your freezer and low and behold, I DID! 1 package of organic pork sausage (I often cut up and use sausage in my soups along with another protein) and 2 lbs of organic ground turkey breast were marked 50% off, so I snatched them up. That means you’ll have to add $4 for the taco shells and $12 for the extra organic sale-meat to my receipt for the week. Worth it!

I think I’ve covered everything from this week. My last request: Your favorite recipes including chicken thighs and ground turkey. Please comment here or add them to our Facebook page and you may see them on next week’s menu! Also, I added the spice combination I used for our taco seasoning to the Facebook timeline. Check it out & share with friends!


Yet Another Holiday…

heartNow that Valentine’s Day has passed (and I’ve thrown away my girls’ stash of classroom candy exchanges, minus the few lollipops they enjoyed) we are coming upon St. Patrick’s Day and right around the corner is…EASTER.

As one might assume, Easter is not an edible celebration in our house. My husband and I have always treated this holiday as a welcoming of Spring. I always say our backyard is the reason we bought our house, where a previous owner erected an above ground pool, we have a great big circle of sand/dirt, which makes for hours of dirty play and fire pits. Two things we enjoy together as a family. Keeping that in mind, on Easter morning, our daughters awaken to a reload of shiny new outdoor toys including buckets, shovels, pinwheels, seeds, nets and we’ll probably include bike helmets this year since their big heads keep getting bigger.

The first year we celebrated, my husband and I were sitting around our sand pit while the girls took naps. We discussed the impending holiday and decided to take turns running down to the local Dollar Store, spend $6 each, pick out 3 things for each kid, than surprise each other with the items once we were done shopping. It was fun for us, and them, and has become a tradition for all of us!

Not my kids, but super funny, right? And pretty much what our first Easter looked like.

Not my kids, but super funny, right? And pretty much what our first Easter looked like.

Holiday doesn’t mean sugar rush or wheat feast for me. It means family, celebration, special memories. It means tradition. You have the power to create any type of tradition you choose. Memories will mean more than a chocolate bunny to your children when they become adults. Sure, I look forward to nibbling around the food table at my sister’s house on holidays, but you can guarantee it’s loaded with fruits and veggies and some kind of delicious meat, deviled eggs, olives, and whatever treat we add to the spread. There are usually a few things that spark my non-paleo interest, but with all the yummy(ier) options, it’s become no big deal.

Happy holidays!

Find recipes for naturally dyed eggs when you click the photo. Neat!

Find recipes for naturally dyed eggs when you click the photo. Neat!

 


Week 4: Menu & Receipt

As you see, our weeks are not set in stone. If we go out of order, I like to cross off a meal so we know what we're dealing with. My husband appreciates variety so I try to mix up my proteins throughout the week. I, on the other hand, could eat the same thing all day until it was gone. Leftovers are my jam.

As you see, our weeks are not set in stone. If we go out-of-order, I like to cross off a meal so we know what we’re dealing with. My husband appreciates variety so I try to mix up my proteins throughout the week. I, on the other hand, could eat the same thing all day until it was gone. Leftovers are my jam.

IT’S BACK.

The past few weeks have been hectic as I am knee-deep in a new career. After being in school all day for 12 months my routine of leftover lunches has now become leftover dinners because I typically work in the evenings. My family is left to fend for themselves (with the help of my menu planning and preparation, mind you) while I work 3-5 evenings each week. My house hasn’t been this organized in a year and we’ve been checking off the Pinterest ‘to do‘ list at lightning speed. Life is good. My weekly shopping trip, however, has been chopped into spurts.

I don’t mind shopping in spurts, but I received a lot of positive feedback on the weekly menu & receipt posts so my intention has been to continue doing a weekly $100 grocery trip and meal plan (you know, to keep myself busy) so, HERE I AM.

I put a few things back this week, like a 2nd box of k-cups ($5.99), in order to afford a few treats. I also decided against the organic butter (4.29) because we have some butter in the house and my sister recently picked us up 2 jars of Trader Joes Coconut Oil, which I have been using more of recently.

  • Budget: $100
  • Meal Plan: 1 week
  • Final purchase: $92.61

Eating As A Family on a Tight Budget

During my hiatus, I will note, we were not living it up, it was quite the contrary as a matter of fact. My girlfriend, Jodi, recently asked “Without pasta or a starchy filler is it difficult to stretch (a dollar)?” and my immediate answer was “no”. We maintain our eating habits, as much as possible because we are committed to health. It’s almost better for us to spend our money elsewhere 😉 We (/I) are nowhere near perfect. Paleo is the goal and we live as close to it as we can. Sometimes, we don’t want to. 🙂

1. Snack less; It is a privilege, not a right

2. Pack meals with protein – no counting calories or controlling portions (within reason). EAT.

3. Cook with coconut oil instead of butter – it adds more fat to our lessened amount of food. Fat = energy and we all need energy to keep our brains and bodies working well.

4. Use more eggs – added protein and fat for a good price

5. Drink (even more) water.

6. GET BUSY and/or NAP – our bodies work best in these conditions

WHEW, Treats! There was a new brand of nonGMO cereal I decided to throw in for the kids, a bag of potato chips, flavored coffee, crackers & cheese and a sack of ENJOY chocolate chips. PRIVILEGE.

WHEW, Treats! There was a new brand of nonGMO cereal I decided to throw in for the kids, a bag of potato chips for the husband, flavored coffee for me, crackers & cheese…for me, and a sack of ENJOY chocolate chips for all of us. PRIVILEGE.

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To view more $100/week budget Menu & Receipt posts click below.


“Everyday is the Fourteenth”

Happy Valentine’s Day, friends.

Treat-focused holiday traditions need not apply! This year, my girls took some of their extra crayons, peeled, cracked and tossed them into a silicone heart-shaped mold I happen to have in the house and reshaped them.
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We were crayon making machines until I haphazardly turned the oven on for dinner, while the last batch was still cooling, and almost ended up burning the house down. I coated my oven in wax, melted the molds and yelled for help when I saw flames. The fact that this happens all-too-often was proven when my husband didn’t even come running. Don’t worry, I took care of it…and husband cleaned out the oven a few days later. (WIN!)

For her class Valentine’s, my little one decorated heart-shaped cut outs with cute little faces, wrote her name on the back and taped a crayon to it (they LOVE tape!). My older daughter ended up taping a sticker (yes, taping a sticker) to each of her heart crayons, then adding that and a small box of stickers to a ziplock baggie for her friends.

For my daughter’s Kindergarten teacher, we checked out Pinterest for a few ideas and settled on using items we had in the house. PERFECT. A cleaned out jar, a box of pencils, paperclips and a few binder clips created the perfect setting for a Love Bouquet. I had her write 5 little notes to her teacher on cut hearts and we clipped them to a few pencils. I think it will bring a smile to Mrs. P’s face, my 5 yo agrees!

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“I like math and science” and “I like you because you are helpful” are two sentiments written by my 5yo to her teacher.

Although I agree, “Everyday is the Fourteenth” I will give in and celebrate tomorrow by having a love-fest of our own, beginning (but certainly not ending) with heart-shaped pancakes upon a Valentine’s place setting with special cups, homemade Valentine notes for each of my girls, some stickers, red and pink glitter glue and a fresh supply of TAPE! I bet they are most hype about the tape. We’re fresh out…if you can believe it.

What will you do to celebrate?


Paleo and Kids

I have kids and they are not strict Paleo, as I like to goal towards for myself. There are 2 reasons for this: 1, because their father doesn’t follow Paleo and 2, because we allow them to indulge in snacks at school or friends’ houses without restriction. This is not ideal in my mind and I struggle tremendously with the idea that I am not providing them the best in health. However, I am confident in the fact that I do what I can. I set them up for success by creating meals and snacks in a paleo fashion, I am honest with them about nutrition and I continue to talk with my husband about options.

For example I had a recent small victory; my little one is a huge fan of tuna fish. She’ll eat it right out of the bowl I used to prepare it if I give her a spoon. I serve her tuna without bread all the time but my husband serves her a tuna fish sandwich. Finally I asked my husband to no longer make her a sandwich and just give her a lump on her plate or in a bowl. The very next day, she had tuna fish for lunch and my heart was happy and light when I looked at her plate to see there was no bread included in her meal. SUCCESS! …And our journey continues.

My girls, newly 4 and 5 years old.
Photo courtesy of Renee Campbell

If you’re like me, you don’t have a lot of free time so I’ll keep it short and provide a few ideas when transitioning your family to a clean eating lifestyle:

1. Drinks… invest in filtered water bottles. My girls love them! They fill them independently and grab them from the fridge whenever they desire. Giving kids a sense of control and teaching them independence is always a plus. Filtered water bottles are also easy to travel with and don’t cost any money after the initial $10 investment, at least until you replace the filter. I believe it is recommended 600 refills. If you keep an eye out, sometimes you’ll find them on sale! We own the Bobble brand, found at Target in the workout aisle. These also make an excellent present. We gifted 6 last Christmas.

2. Breakfast & Snacks… Change your mindset on what a breakfast meal or snack option can be. Healthy meals should be full of protein and fat for yourself AND your kids which includes breakfast. Starting the day with a bowl or plate full of grain and sugar is not the right foot to send your child off on, to be met with behavior and mood fluctuations when their blood sugar crashes. You will feel satiated, strong and clear-headed throughout the day when you start the morning with a nice serving of protein. Eat real food when you are hungry and in turn, feed real food to a hungry child, not nutrient empty and sugar heavy crackers, pretzels and cookies. Snacks can be leftovers, eggs, nuts, whole fruits, cut veggies. Breakfast essentials will also include leftovers from dinner, eggs, meat, plants. It’s as easy as handing them a banana.

3. Stock… YOU control the items brought into your house. Stock it with healthy, natural foods: meat, seafood, eggs, vegetables and fruit. Easy, right? Not so fast; In my household, we are divided on our preferred stock and my husband enjoys having a stock of snacks, sweets and soda. These are kept in a specific spot/cupboard and when the girls ask to have something from that cupboard, I simply remind them “let’s pick a healthy option right now, we can save the sweets for another time” and we move on. It’s not always easy, but it’s certainly not out of my control. Children thrive with boundaries and information and they look to their parents for these things. Every interaction has the opportunity to be a learning experience.

4. Be prepared… Invest in a thermal bag, if you don’t already have one. Real food needs to be kept fresh, after all. Confession: I have 4 thermal/insulated bags of various shapes and sizes. Throw an ice pack in and then fill with staples like cut veggies or whole fruits, yogurt, hardboiled eggs, or leftover scrambled eggs from breakfast, rolled up (nitrate free) lunch meats, nuts, berries and water.

5. Cook Day… Now that I have the hang of things, I do this once a week. It was twice a week while I was still getting used to this lifestyle. Cook Day ends up being a day when there is little scheduled outside the home so I can spend time preparing meals, sides and options for the coming days. Whether it’s because I won’t be home to cook or because I’d like to have a few items on hand for breakfast and lunches for the girls, it’s fun to cook and stash. Cooking with simple foods, herbs and spices is easy and pleasurable. This is of course an extension of #4 “Be prepared”.

6. Keep It Simple…When looking for a preferred option in the grocery, check the ingredients list. If there are more than 5 ingredients, hesitate to buy it at all. If the ingredients are easily pronounced, GREAT! If there is soy or wheat, corn or sugar, especially in the first 3 listed, move onto the next option.

GREAT! You’re family is set and ready to go, what next? School. 

1. Communication… Talk to your teachers, principal, director, other parents, volunteers, whomever you come in contact with. These are all people you should be talking to regularly anyway as they are a big part of your child’s future. Don’t second guess yourself either, your kid is not the only one with an allergy, disease, disorder or preference when it comes to food (that’s the whole point). The more you talk about your preferences and dislikes, the more people will listen and respond. This is the future, friends. Share your healthy lifestyle through example, others will follow in their own way, each making steps towards wellness. What better legacy?

2. Control… When approached with bringing an item for a class party, go for the gold, choose “Cookies” or “Cake” or “Candy”, seriously. You can make near anything in a much friendlier fashion. Plus, kids don’t care! It’s a cookie! And if they don’t eat it? Good. Instead of juice, provide mini water bottles. Kids appreciate their small stature and grown up affiliation. Best part: the store brand is $3 or less for 24. Done.

3. Pick Your Battles… Stay calm and focused. Remember, you are a parent, not a martyr. Send your child with healthy lunch or snack and hope that all the communication and examples you’ve set forth take the lead. When they don’t, however, learn from the situation, try to do better next time and MOVE ON. You can not dwell on set backs. Stress can be just as bad as food choice on our health.

So, what do you think? Have feedback, ideas or a situation you’d like to ask, offer or share? Please do so in the comments section of this post or on the new Facebook page specifically for Pushups And Carrots. Share with your friends, continue the conversation, and create accountability for yourself.