Helping Your Kids Make Healthy Food Choices

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It can be a chore to get kids to eat well. Busy two-parent families with dual income work schedules, and a host of after-school obligations, can make it difficult to sit down to a family meal together. But our brains and bodies, like high performance race cars, function best on premium fuel. They can’t grow well and perform at optimum unless they’re adequately provided for with the right balance of fresh fruits, vegetables, fat, and protein. Here are some helpful tips to get your kids on the right nutritional path.


Breakfast Really Is The Most Important Meal Of The Day:

Any breakfast is better than none, but in general, you should be focusing on giving your children the boost of energy that will carry them through to lunchtime. Protein, such as eggs, nuts, cheese, and yogurt are all quick fix foods that pack a powerful punch. Add in some fresh fruit for fiber.  Avoid sugary foods and starches; these cause a crash in blood sugar that will make your kid want a mid-morning nap right when they can least afford it. You should avoid the traditional morning orange juice as well; fruit juice strips out the healthy fiber in favor of concentrated fructose, causing blood sugar spikes. Plus, it wreaks havoc on the teeth. Kids who eat a good breakfast do better in school and are healthier overall than kids who skip.


A Nutritious Lunch:

Federal school lunch standards mandate a healthy lunch, but in practice, they often provide an excess of starch and processed foods. The fruits and vegetables on offer are frequently unappealing and may end up in the waste bin among the fifty six percent of cafeteria produce that goes to waste there. Unless you know your school prepares a nutritious hot lunch, that your child is willing to eat, bag your own. You want a mix of protein, healthy fats and whole grains, with fresh fruit and vegetables that your child likes to eat. Consider egg salad sandwiches, pita chips with hummus, cold salads, or hot soups in a thermos. Include several different items each day and vary your menu so your child won’t get bored. Make sure to include plenty to drink, avoiding sugary juice or sodas. Proper hydration will help your child stay focused all afternoon.


The Family Dinner:

One of the most important things you can do with your kids is to sit down to dinner with them every night. It’s a more potent predictor of higher performance scores than academic achievement, sports, or art. It’s correlated with lower risk of dangerous behaviors such as drug use, smoking, and alcohol abuse, and seems to be a protective factor against depression and suicidal thoughts.

Get your kids involved in preparing meals from a young age; this is great for encouraging family communication, fostering independence, and teaching valuable life skills. Pull out your family recipe box and go through it together, discussing what you liked to eat when you were growing up. Talk to your kids about favorite family recipes, and share stories about family meals in your past. Enlist them in feeding the family. Kids who feel involved in meal preparation have a vested interest in the meal’s contents and cooking methods. This helps them to learn to make healthy food choices that will serve them for years to come. Studies show that kids who cook and eat with their families are less likely to become obese in adulthood.

Additionally, teaching children to shop for, and purchase ingredients, reinforces useful math concepts and imparts frugality.  Plan meals together using the week’s grocery ads, focusing around sales on produce. Take your child along to the butcher to learn to select and prepare inexpensive cuts of meat for the entire family. Clip coupons together and get your child excited about budgeting the family grocery list with tips from Plexus. Give your child a stake in the family dinner table, and it will bear dividends his whole life.

Proper nutrition is tied to better academic performance and healthier lifestyle choices in our adult lives. But cooking and eating with our children gives us even greater benefits. Our food ways are part of our cultural patrimony. When we hand on family recipes and cooking techniques, we are passing on family stories and facilitating communication between ourselves and our children. We’re creating bonds with our past, and laying the foundations for our family’s futures.


Amanda Henderson

Limits Are (Not) Illusions

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I have been trying to hop into a shower for nearly an hour at this point, but I cannot pull myself away from the mirror. I am staring, running my index finger over the two dime-size patches of smooth skin at the tip of my widow’s peak where, just weeks ago, I had hair. I am inspecting it over and over again through eyes glassy with tears that want to come out, but remain in an uncertain state on the tear line between utter breakdown and stoic persistence. It was in this very moment that I called to my eldest daughter to fetch my computer.

I’ve been stuck on a blog topic for a while. Life is busy, right? In May, I actually work longer hours than usual, for the bonus income and to prepare for the Fall semester. This summer I am doing so while recovering from ankle reconstruction surgery, so that is adding a level of difficulty and seemingly unmanageable pain to every daily task. But, like always, I soldier on with a smile.

Soldiering on is easy when everyone around you is patting you on the back. Days filled with proclamations such as, “Of course you are up and about already! You are a rock star!” “You are Superwoman!,” and social media comments extolling you as #momgoals will have you believing that you can do everything.

But, the jarring truth is that I am balding from the stress of it all. Yep, you read that right: I. Am. Balding. I have stress-induced Alopecia Areata. I still have to let that sink in… And, it is pretty ridiculous that THAT is what shook me so deeply. I also have hypertension - at a healthy weight with an active lifestyle, at age 38. My body is quite literally rejecting doing everything.  

I am not sharing this for sympathy. In fact, the prospect of someone reading this and then asking to see the patches that I so carefully tuck away with strategic parting, is terrifying. The thought, even in this moment, that someone would offer to help me accomplish even menial tasks, reeks of humiliation. It makes me want to hide away on my couch for eternity. I am only sharing this, because I am certain I am not alone. And, I want someone else to hear that they are not alone.

The truth is, being a single parent is unfathomably difficult. Yet, we are yoked with feelings of shame that come from asking for help. It is a difficult line to walk for friends and family, between recognizing the hard work and accomplishments of a single parent, and making that parent feel as if they must maintain that perfect balance in order to be worthy of such praise. The people in our lives don’t realize that they are helping to construct that albatross of expectation and potential shame, when they are so quick to recognize what we are doing right but fear offending us by offering help.  

We need help. I need help. To hold down a full-time job with any degree of success and raise happy humans as a single parent is overwhelming. It is a constant tension between feeling like more of a parent and somehow less of a parent than our partnered household counterparts. It is wanting to prove to ourselves that we can do it (anything, that is), while knowing that, in reality, it is physically impossible. But, who would ever want to stop trying? Once you fall into the glow of sentiments being thrown your way, how do you acknowledge your real limitations without losing the community of affirmation that keeps you going?

I don’t know these answers yet. All I know is that, in my life, God has been screaming at me. I have been sent message after message that I need to make changes, but I have not listened. I arrived at a point where the fear of not exceeding expectations (of not being admired) outweighed my concern for my own health…my own life. And that is the only thing more embarrassing than the balding.  

You are not alone. I want to make sure you hear that. You are not alone. God loves you. God roots for you. Perhaps more importantly in this moment, God knows that physical limitations are not illusions as so many Instagram motivation posts try to have us believe; nor are they arbitrary. God sets limits (Genesis 2:3) and He created us to work within them (Genesis 2:7). Limits protect your well-being and you need to find a way to respect them. I need to find a way to respect them. Together, by joining hands in the reality that we are falling apart from pushing past our limits, I hope that we can find a way through the noise of expectations and back to God’s vision for our lives.  

By A. Smith

Turning the Page


Sometimes I feel as though I can step back from my life and see the story of my most recent years unfolding before me. The beginning so full of excitement and wonder, while the middle unravels with unpredictable turns, leaving the ending to wrap up my story. There’s just one problem. I am not at the end. Just treading water in the middle until my perfect ending decides to show up. Sounds tragic but it is actually quite beautiful. Perspective defines your middle.

In the middle I am learning how to respect myself and love myself more. It wasn’t until I went through some very challenging circumstance that I learned to love myself enough to fully respect myself. This meant deep reflection and setting boundaries for my life. Truly learning who I was, what I wanted and what I wasn’t going to allow into my life. A key part of that was men. The best advice I received after my divorce was to seek God for guidance in the kind of man he intended for me to have as a spouse and to make a list. So, I prayed and looked to his word for what a Godly husband should be and complied my very lengthy list. That list has allowed me to keep my heart focused on the Lord and kept me from searching for a spouse. Because of that list I could recognize immediately when God placed someone in my life. And not just anyone but someone that met every single request I had made known to God. That is something only a loving Father can orchestrate.

In this part of the middle, I am now having to learn how to let someone else love me. It sounds simple, but many times the damage others leave behind keep us from turning the page. We can be stuck on the same page, reading the same story over and over like this time we will be able to move past it and into our ending. But we take that broken middle into our beautiful ending and shattered it to bits. So, I am pausing right in the middle of my story and cautiously learning to let someone love me just as I am. I am loving myself and accepting every good thing God is trying to give me. There are many moments I feel underserving because I lived in that state for far too long. A state of always asking and needing from God to fix my mess and heal my heart. To use my brokenness for something beautiful. The brokenness has led to many beautiful things. One of them being acceptance. Accepting my circumstances just as they are and not rushing into my ending. Just resting in his peace and thanking him every day for all the unpredictable turns that have come along the way, because now I can stand at a straightway and smile. He never left me and he is turning the page.