The month of February is here, and I think we are all feeling a little more love in the air! What better way to get into the spirit of love than to make sure that we are taking care of our hearts.
The heart is a muscular organ of the body’s circulatory system and is only about the size of a fist! Despite its size, the heart plays a significant role because of its ability to pump blood throughout your body. This ensures that you are getting the oxygen and nutrients you need to stay healthy. With a role this special, it is important that we are taking extra good care of our hearts!
Here are 6 Ways to Take Care of Your Heart:
1. Stay active.
A great way to keep your heart strong is to make your heart beat fast for at least 60 minutes a day! There are so many fun outdoor and indoor activities that you can do as a family to keep your bodies moving and your heart pumping. Going for a walk, riding bikes, or playing tag outdoors are exciting ways to get fresh air, spend some quality time with your little ones, and allows the whole family to keep their hearts healthy.
Even on days when the weather isn’t cooperating, you can still stay active with indoor exercise activities. Having a dance party, doing a scavenger hunt, or jumping rope are great ways to let your kids move around the house and use their energy. In our Muscles That Always Move Snack Science video, you can learn more about the heart muscle and a fun Dance Attack Game that works to get your hearts pumping!
2. Drink lots of water.
Did you know that when we breathe or use the restroom, our bodies are actually losing water? Water makes up approximately 70% of our body weight. Every organ in the body needs water to do its job properly. Although you can’t see it, your heart is constantly working to pump about 2000 gallons of blood a day. That can be super tiring! So to make it easier for your heart to plump all of that blood, it’s important to stay hydrated. When you become dehydrated, your blood thickens, making it hard for your blood to flow smoothly throughout your body. Because of this, your heart will have to work harder to overcome this resistance to blood flow. Drinking lots of water keeps your body hydrated, which means you are consuming more water than you are losing.
Getting into the habit of drinking water when you wake up, exercise, eat a meal and before you sleep is super important. Sometimes it can be challenging to get your little ones to drink more water, but never fear HealthStart is here with 5 Ways to Help Your Child Drink More Water! Remember that when you stay hydrated, your heart can do its job effectively!
3. Eat heart-healthy foods.
What we eat plays a significant role in our heart health! Many foods out there can affect blood pressure, cholesterol levels, and risk of inflammation, which can substantially increase our risk for heart disease. When we eat foods that look a lot like they did in nature, meaning no one has done much to them, they have FIBER. Fruits, vegetables, and nuts are great heart-healthy foods with vitamins, minerals, and slow-burning fiber, providing your body with long-lasting energy. Fiber-rich foods are especially important for the heart because fiber helps regulate your blood sugar, lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels, and are a good source of antioxidants.
Foods that contain omega-3 fatty acids, such as cold-water fish like salmon, flaxseeds and walnuts are also beneficial for the heart, as omega-3 fatty acids can lower blood fats called triglycerides. Omega-3 fatty acids also reduce blood pressure by keeping your arteries free of plaque and reduces inflammation. Check out this delicious Herby Avocado Hummus recipe for one snack idea that includes ingredients rich in fiber, antioxidants and omega-3 to keep your heart strong!
4. Get adequate sleep.
Sometimes it can be super tempting to stay up a little later to do something we like, such as watching a show or playing. However, not getting enough sleep at night not only makes you super tired throughout the next day but it doesn’t allow your body and organs to properly rest and recover. When we get enough sleep, our organs and muscles become well rested too! Sleep allows us to grow, think better, feel happier, and makes our immune system stronger so that it can fight off the germs that make us sick.
The National Sleep Foundation guidelines for hours of sleep vary for different age groups. It is essential for our heart health that we meet those recommended hours as much as possible. Having a consistent sleep schedule every night, avoiding eating close to bedtime, avoiding the use of electronic devices for at least 30 minutes before bed, and creating a relaxing environment makes it easier to fall asleep!
5. Limit screen time.
The use of technology has become prominent in many of our lives. It is a source of entertainment and connection for ourselves and our kids. As much as technology is great in keeping us up to date and connecting us with other people, it is important to limit electronic use to a moderate amount. Excessive screen time can lessen the amount of physical activity we do and can affect sleep schedules - both of which play a role in heart health, as mentioned above! There are ways to create healthy technology habits in your home through repurposing or limiting screen time. HealthStart has 8 tips in helping you create these healthy habits here: How to Limit (or Repurpose) Your Child’s Screen Time.
6. Reduce stress with a positive mindset.
Research has shown that having a positive outlook by being optimistic, cheerful, and grateful can be heart-protective. When we feel negative emotions, our bodies release stress hormones that can result in higher heart rates and higher blood pressure. Stress is an everyday experience, but with a positive outlook on life, we can build better coping strategies to better manage our stressors.
One way to increase positivity in your life is by keeping a gratitude journal where you can write about the things that made you happy or the things you are thankful for each day. You can also make it a way to bond with the whole family by telling each other about the good things you all wrote down! Learn more about stress and ways to mediate stress by watching our Health Science Videos What is Stress? and Mediate the Stress Away.
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10 ways to keep your child's heart healthy. (n.d.). Children’s Health – Making Life Better for Children in Texas. https://www.childrens.com/health-wellness/10-ways-to-keep-your-childs-heart-healthy
Dowshen, S. (2018, May). Your heart & circulatory system (for kids). Nemours KidsHealth - the Web's most visited site about children's health. https://kidshealth.org/en/kids/heart.html
H. (2019, March 8). The importance of water. The Heart Foundation. https://theheartfoundation.org/2019/03/08/the-importance-of-water/
Suni, E. (2020, July 31). How much sleep do we really need? Sleep Foundation. https://www.sleepfoundation.org/how-sleep-works/how-much-sleep-do-we-really-need
Tello, M. (2019, March 6). A positive mindset can help your heart. Harvard Health Blog. https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/a-positive-mindset-can-help-your-heart-2019021415999
University of Wisconsin Hospitals and Clinics Authority. (2014, April 9). 10 ways to take charge of your heart health. UW Health. https://www.uwhealth.org/go-red/10-ways-to-take-charge-of-your-heart-health/10543
In today’s society, technology and the media are a big part of our lives, and for a good reason. Technology is an excellent source of entertainment, information, and--perhaps most importantly--connection to others. Technology helps us stay together, even when our current circumstances in the COVID-19 pandemic are keeping us socially distanced. But as wonderful as technology is, too much screen time isn’t good for children.
Research has shown that increased use of electronic devices could be detrimental to children’s health and wellbeing. Extended periods of screen time have been linked to sleep problems and eye strain. Video games, TV shows, and mobile devices also keep children sedentary instead of active, which increases the risk of obesity. According to some research, excessive electronic device use is correlated with poorer academic performance. Not to mention all of the benefits that more stimulating activities (sports, creative projects, or imaginative play) have on children’s cognitive, language, and social-emotional development that electronic activities do not.
For growing brains and bodies, it’s best to have a balance between technology and technology-free playtime. But with “gadgets and gizmos aplenty,” how do we keep our kids from wanting more?
Here are eight tips for creating healthy technology habits in your home.
1. Allocate a limited amount of time for screens.
Talk to your family about limiting electronic use and agree on a daily limit. The American Academy of Pediatrics suggests limiting screen time to one hour for children 2-5 years old. There isn’t a recommended threshold for children older than 5, but screen time should still be limited as much as possible. If your child needs more structure, you can even establish different limits on different devices, such as 30 minutes of TV per day plus 30 minutes of tablet time. Explain to your child why the limitation has been set; it’s to give them plenty of time to move their bodies and play by themselves and with others!
2. Establish “no screen zones” in your home.
Try to keep all devices in shared spaces, such as the living room. Keep devices, including TVs, gaming consoles, tablets, and computers, in these shared spaces. It’s also essential to establish “no screen zones” in your child’s bedroom and other areas of the home as you see fit, such as the dining room. This helps you enforce the limitations on your child’s screen time and also keeps your child from isolating themselves for long periods in their room. It also allows you to monitor their screen time so you can help keep them safe online.
3. Model good technology habits.
As with all behaviors, like eating and sleeping, you are your child’s primary example for good technology habits. A good balance can be challenging to achieve, as work-from-home directives may force you to be on your personal computer for eight hours of the day. However, when you aren’t working, try to avoid scrolling through your social media or bingeing Netflix shows, especially in front of your child. Instead, model good habits by putting your phone away in no screen zones and engaging with your child in device-free activities, like cooking or playing a board game.
4. Encourage creative activities and free play.
If possible, set aside time in your day to create activities for your child that involve imaginative play. The idea is to encourage your child to learn how to play by themselves by creating their own activities, such as building a castle out of blocks or playing “restaurant” or “school” with their stuffed animals. The best way to do this is to show them how to play and provide them with some mindful toys that enhance these activities. These toys don’t have to be expensive; for example, you might give your child a whiteboard and some dry erase markers if they like to play “school.” Studies have shown that free play has amazing benefits for development. Check out our blog post on “The Science of Children’s Play (Pt. 1)” to learn more about the importance of free play. That way, when you need solo work time, your child knows how to create their own independent fun, and you don’t need to use your devices as your babysitters.
5. Repurpose screen time by making it educational.
Try to choose TV shows, online games, or Youtube videos that are educational or have redeeming qualities. For example, some TV programs on PBS Kids teach verbal, language, math, or behavioral skills. There are also many free STEM-related games online. Our Snack Science Video Series (SSVS) uses science to teach children skills to prevent disease and create lifelong health and wellbeing. SSVS and similar online content help repurpose screen time because they provide access to learning activities that children can do once they finish watching the videos. Our Snack Science series includes movement activities like yoga, art projects, and recipe ideas that help children engage in tactile and kinesthetic learning, which is essential for their development. Click here to watch HealthStart's Snack Science Video Series.
6. Set aside family time.
In addition to having places in your home that are free from technology, you should also designate a time for your family to interact without the distractions of technology. Mealtime is a great time to put all devices away. Try to discourage your child from watching shows or movies while eating meals or playing on the iPad at the dinner table. This is important for several reasons. First, it helps your child become a more mindful eater and allows them to pay attention to their meal. Second, it creates time and space for family connection. If possible, try to set aside one meal a day as the designated “family meal” where everyone eats together and engages with one another. If busy schedules don’t allow for this, try for several days out of the week.
7. Don’t use technology to reward or punish your child.
Though there is some controversy on the subject, using technology as a reward or punishment only makes it more prominent in your home. Try to stick to your technology time limit every day. Be cautious in offering more time to encourage good behavior or take away devices to punish bad behavior. Instead, try to use positive verbal reinforcement as much as possible to help guide your child’s behavior. Not every day will be ideal, and that’s okay, too! It’s about creating healthy boundaries for your child, not making every single day perfect.
8. Get outside.
It’s always important to get kids outside and encourage them to move their bodies. Though the pandemic makes this more challenging and limits social activities like sports teams, swim lessons, and playground play-dates, there are still many activities that can be done outside. Family hikes, dog walks, and bike rides in isolated areas are excellent ways to be in nature and socialize without electronics. Encourage your child to engage in solo outdoor activities, too, like blowing bubbles, drawing with sidewalk chalk, or building fairy houses. Picnics and gardening are also great ways to get some sunshine. Just don’t forget your sunscreen!
Did you try any of these tips? Let us know in the comments below if they worked for you, and feel free to share your own tried and true methods for creating healthy screen time habits!
Lee, K. (n.d.). Cutting Down Screen Time Means Better Health and Grades for Kids. Retrieved from https://www.verywellfamily.com/cut-kids-screen-time-for-health-621154#citation-6
Mason, R. (2016, May 31). Screen Time and Kids: Tips to Cut Back Without a Fight. Retrieved from https://www.webmd.com/parenting/guide/kids-screen-time#1
Media and Young Minds. (2016). Pediatrics, 138(5). doi: 10.1542/peds.2016-2591
Morin, A. (2020, January 8). 10 Tips for Limiting Your Child's Screen Time. Retrieved from https://www.verywellfamily.com/tips-for-limiting-electronics-and-screen-time-for-kids-1094870
It’s that special time of year, full of Christmas lights, singing carols, and cozying up by the fire. With current guidelines around COVID-19, there may be some holiday traditions that you and your family are foregoing this year to stay safe, so we've made a list of 8 ways you can celebrate this holiday season all from the safety and comfort of your own home.
Here are 8 Ways to Celebrate this Holiday Season at Home:
1. Bake Cookies (or other treats)
Baking cookies is a great tradition made for at-home holiday fun. It’s not just about making cookies, but about spending quality time with your little ones creating something beautiful and delicious together. In fact, we have some excellent recipes for you and your family to try at home this season on our recent blog post 6 Healthy Holiday Treats. If you want to share your holiday goodies with loved ones, you can also create and send, or drop off the cookies you made to your friends and family. Just make sure that you and your little one wash your hands before making the cookies and package them up for a safe and delicious bag of treats.
2. Decorate Your Space
Another way to get festive and bring in the holiday spirit is by decorating your home! Just because extended family and friends may not be visiting this year, that doesn't mean you shouldn’t create a holiday wonderland for you to enjoy. This is a great activity to get your kids involved. One of my favorite holiday traditions is turning on some Christmas music and decorating the tree as a family. You can even get craft and make your own holiday decorations!
3. Watch Holiday Light Shows Online
There’s always been tons of fun opportunities to see beautiful holiday light displays in the community. While you can still safely drive around and look at lights in your neighborhood, the pandemic has caused many public holiday events and activities to transform. Thankfully many holiday light shows can be seen from the comfort of your home! Here’s a list of virtual holiday light shows your whole family will be sure to enjoy. Feeling a bit stir crazy? Well, you can also consider a drive-thru holiday light show as well, as this allows you and your little one to view light shows from the safety of your car.
4. Make & Send Letters
Letters are a great way to show those you love that you are thinking of them, and what could be more fun than making your own! You can use colorful paper, markers, stickers, stamps, you name it. Feel free to get creative and use whatever you have on hand to craft a personalized card for friends and family. Plus, spreading joy and holiday cheer is good for your health! Your child will love making these cards, and you can even have them make one for Santa or too! If you are planning on mailing cards to your friends and family, think about including a family photo so they can see your smiling faces.
5. Take Family Pictures
Speaking of family photos, taking holiday family pictures are an excellent way to celebrate this special time of year and make memories. Gather up the family and put on your favorite holiday sweaters for a fun photo shoot at home. No fancy equipment needed! You can simply use your phone camera and set a timer or you could use a camera if you have one with a tripod. If you want to get creative, try decorating your picture's background with holiday decorations or adding stickers to your photo to make it even more festive. Pets can also join in on the fun. Just remember to have fun and be patient. It may take a couple of shots to get the perfect picture.
6. Plan a Holiday Zoom
Share in the holiday celebration with your family and friends by planning a holiday Zoom (or any video-chatting platform) meeting with those you may not be able to see in person this year. Your kids love seeing the special people in their life and sharing all of the holiday fun they’ve been having, like their favorite present or the treats they made. If your family doesn't know how to set up a zoom session, you can host the meeting and share the link so that they can simply just join by clicking the link. Meeting on Zoom is a great way to share the holiday joy with your friends and family in a safe way!
7. Have a Holiday Movie Marathon
Since we will most likely be hanging out at home this season, what better way to escape into a magical holiday experience than with a good holiday movie. Many streaming platforms such as Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime have already added plenty of holiday movies for you and your little one to enjoy. You can have a movie marathon at home with your family, and if you have Netflix, you can host a virtual movie night with your friends and family through TeleParty, formally known as Netflix Party. This free Google Chrome extension allows users to synchronize viewing with friends and chat while watching together. See our list above for our favorite holiday movies streaming for free.
8. Build a Gingerbread House
Building a gingerbread house is a tradition for many families during the holiday season, but have you ever made your own gingerbread house instead of using a store bought kit? Store-bought gingerbread houses aren’t known for packing in many nutrients, however, if you make your own gingerbread house, you can make it as nutritious and delicious as you want! Try adding fruits for color instead of candy, and coconut flakes as snow instead of icing. You can even use graham crackers for the structure of your “gingerbread” house. Read more from Jacquie Fisher on various ways you can make healthy gingerbread houses here.
We hope your holiday season is filled with joy! If you loved this blog post then make sure to share it with your friends and family. We've got a lot more tips and tricks to share with you. Be sure to subscribe to our blog to get notified every time a new blog post is released.
It’s the best time of year for spending time with family, and what better way than making holiday-inspired tasty treats together! Some of my favorite holiday memories are when the whole family spent quality time cooking up festive eats and treats for everyone to enjoy. This is a great time for your little ones to join in on the fun and learn a little bit about foods that nourish and take care of their body.
Don’t worry, there’s still room for hot cocoa and marshmallows, but it’s always good to add in a few tasty treats that are packed with the nutrients your child needs to stay healthy and strong, and they will love eating them too!
Here is a collection of 6 Healthy Holiday Treats to make this season:
1. Healthy Gingerbread Cookies
Gingerbread cookies are a very popular cookie for many families during the holiday season. They have those delicious, warming spices and they are just so darn cute! While you can find store-bought gingerbread cookies almost anywhere, why not make them at home? Not only can you infuse your home-made cookies with more good-for-you ingredients, but your kiddos will have a blast baking with you. Try this recipe by A Couple Cooks for Soft Gingerbread Cookies made with unique ingredients like almost butter, whole wheat flour, and applesauce for a more nutritious alternative.
2. Reindeer Celery Snack
Get the whole family together to make some of Santa’s most helpful and fuzzy friends, his reindeer! This recipe by Keeping the Peas for Reindeer Celery Snacks is a twist on the classic and super popular with little ones. What’s not to love? Creamy peanut butter, salty pretzels, and sweet raspberries all placed on a nutrient-packed piece of celery. Look how cute they turn out! Santa would be proud to have these reindeer fly his sleigh. Sing along to Rudolph the Red-Nose Reindeer and make a whole fleet of these delicious and nutritious treats.
3. Quick Baked Pears
Pears are a great fruit to have during the fall and wintertime as they’re in peak during these seasons. These Quick Baked Pears found on Health.com is another easy holiday treat that your child will love, and you’ll love too, as it only takes 5 minutes to prep and 6 minutes to bake. You can top this fruity dessert with toasted nuts, oats, or cranberries for an antioxidant-rich dessert that your child will love. Not a fan of pears? No problem. Try this recipe with your favorite apples instead!
4. Peanut Butter Snowman Sandwiches
These little Peanut Butter Snowman Sandwiches are simple to make and bring so much joy to whomever’s eating them. Simply cut out the sandwich into two circles, with one smaller than the other for the head. Then you use pretzel sticks as the arms and the crust as the hat and scarf. To finish it off you can add a carrot for the nose and dark chocolate for the buttons and eyes. What could be more fun than a cute little snowman sandwich for lunch? Add extra nutrients with a side of apples or other colorful fruits and veggies and your child has a well-balanced meal with all the fun!
5. Peanut Butter Cookie Dough Balls
Who loves peanut butter and chocolate? If you said yes, then try this recipe by Pinch of Yum for Peanut Butter Cookie Dough Balls for the perfect little sweet bite. Inside this peanut butter ball is a healthy cookie dough-like mix with only three ingredients: peanuts, peanut butter, and dates. These naturally sweetened balls of goodness are packed with healthy fats, protein, and antioxidants. They are practically protein balls that taste like a dessert! Plus, your kids will have a ton of fun getting their hands a little dirty rolling the dough into balls and dipping them in chocolate.
6. Strawberry Banana Candy Cane
If you’re looking for a really quick and easy holiday treat then there’s nothing better than making a Strawberry and Banana Candy Cane. This brings all the holiday candy cane feels but packed with healthy nutrients to help your child grow healthy and strong. Simply slice bananas and strawberries, then place them on a plate alternating between a slice of strawberry and banana to form a candy cane shape. That’s it! Your little ones will be thrilled to see their final creation, and eat it too.
If you try any of these recipes, make sure to share this blog with friends and family so they can try out these tasty treats too.
Make sure to click here to join our HealthStart family on Facebook for more tips, tricks, and holiday fun.
Many think of the holidays as a time to give back, but no matter what time of year it is, taking the time to show someone kindness is a great thing to do. Giving back is a win-win situation. It’s now only good for others, but it is also good for you and your health. The University of the South conducted a study in 2016, which suggests that performing "random acts of kindness" for others or the world can boost your mood. In fact, the study found that helping others can boost your mood more than if you had done something to help yourself.
Performing acts of kindness promote your psychological health because it encourages your body to release dopamine, which is the brain's feel-good neurotransmitter. Showing kindness and helping others can help you reduce stress, combat depression, keep you mentally stimulated, and provide a sense of purpose.
Right now, many families are experiencing some of the hardest times of their lives due to the pandemic, so to help bring joy to their lives, let's give back in whatever way we can. Whether you choose to do something small or something big, the gesture's impact will be immeasurable.
Here are our Top 12 Ways You Can Give Back During the Holidays:
The benefits of volunteering are enormous to you, your family, and your community. While it’s true that the more you volunteer, the more benefits you’ll experience, volunteering doesn’t have to involve a long-term commitment or take a huge amount of time out of your busy day. Even volunteering 1 hr of your day can make a significant impact on those who need it. With the holidays quickly approaching, the need for volunteers in the community is never-ending. If you are looking for volunteer opportunities in your area, check out Volunteer Match, or get in touch with us and see how you can help HealthStart achieve our goals.
2. Help a neighbor.
One way to give back is by helping your fellow neighbor. They may need help getting groceries, mowing their lawns, or even getting to their doctor’s appointments. If you’re unsure where to start, you can make a posting in your local Facebook groups and offer your support, such as offering to pick up groceries or walk their dog. And even better, you can get your little ones to help too! This will teach your child the importance of helping others and how it can uplift someone’s spirit.
3. Give to Your Local Charity.
Another way to give back is by donating to a local charity of your choosing. In fact, there is a day dedicated to giving back called Giving Tuesday. This year, this global day of giving is on Tuesday, December 1st. Giving Tuesday was created in 2012 as a simple idea: a day that encourages people to do good. If you’d like to donate to HealthStart this Giving Tuesday, you can make a donation here. But you don’t have to wait until GivingTuesday to give back to organizations that matter to you. You can donate anytime as donations are always needed to support your community.
4. Participate in Holiday Food Drives.
There is always a need to feed families who can't afford a holiday dinner. Food drives are an excellent opportunity to get the whole family involved! With COVID-19 precautions, make sure to check what your local food bank's guidelines are for Food Drives this year before donating food. Don’t forget to wash your hands and sanitize before putting together your donation box. You can also bring the family along and have them volunteer to help serve out food and/or hand out donations to families in need.
5. Give blood.
Another great way to give back is to donate blood. It is an excellent way to help someone in need and can even save someone’s life. Just remember there are some restrictions on who can participate. Visit the Red Cross website to learn about local guidelines and to find a blood drive near you.
6. Thank Your Mother (Earth).
While giving back to human beings is excellent, giving back to our planet is also important. One thing we teach at HealthStart is how to take care of the earth by not littering. Try taking the whole family to your local park and pick up nearby trash. Another way to give back to Mother Earth is by reducing single-use items that take years and years to degrade. This holiday you can do this by reusing gift bags, making digital holiday cards, or recycling any used paper, plastic, or glass.
7. Compliment Someone.
There’s nothing that puts a smile on someone’s face, like receiving a compliment. Taking the time to give a friend or stranger a little compliment can change their day for the better! Even something as small as telling someone you like their outfit can put a big smile on their face.
8. Run for Charity.
Many charity runs are still happening worldwide. The pandemic has forced most marathons to go virtual, so running for a charity has never been easier! HealthStart is participating in a charity run this upcoming year with the Austin Marathon. Anybody can join #TeamHealthStart and run for our organization from anywhere around the world! You can also support #TeamHealthStart by donating online or joining our team to help raise money to give every kid the healthy future they deserve.
9. Donate Unused Items.
Most of us have been stuck at home quarantined, which has allowed us to see what items tend to go unused. Those items could be clothes, household goods, or maybe some holiday decorations you don’t use anymore. If you have things like these, then think about donating them to those in need. Don’t forget to have your little ones go through their toys and clothes and donate anything they’ve outgrown or don’t play with anymore. A great place to start is at your local homeless shelter, Goodwill, or donation boxes.
10. Do a Few Chores.
One way to get your child involved in giving back is by having them help do a few chores around the house. They can help you cook dinner, put away toys, feed the dog, or make the bed. And you’ll be surprised how happy they will be to help! Helping with chores is a great way to help them learn why giving back is a good thing to do and understand the importance of helping others.
11. Support Local Businesses.
COVID-19 has impacted small businesses more than imaginable. When you are thinking about shopping for your loved ones during this holiday season, try shopping locally. Shopping local will not only help small businesses continue to thrive, but it will also make a memorable, one of a kind gift for your loved one. Another way to support local businesses is by sharing their work on your social media or buying gift cards.
12. Let Your Loved Ones Know You Care.
Sometimes, all someone needs is to know they are loved and cared for. Give a friend a call just to let them know you were thinking about them. Send someone a card via snail mail or a short video letting them know how special they are to you. You could also send them a surprise gift of something you know they would love or something they need. No matter how you do it, they’ll forever appreciate your kindness.
Giving in even simple ways can help others who are in need and improve your health and happiness. We hope your holidays are filled with joy, and we would love to see you spread that joy by giving back this holiday season!
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Fall has arrived, leaving Daylight Savings behind us. This means fewer hours of daylight and colder weather. Adapting to shorter and darker days can be hard on your family's health.
Ever wonder why the fall and winter are known as cold and flu season? Researchers have discovered that cooler temperatures result in a "sluggish immune response," leaving people more prone to infection. Viruses tend to live longer in colder and drier climates, making it easier to pass from one person to another. The dry, cold air makes you more susceptible to germs because the cold air dries up your nose. Without the helpful mucus that lives in your nose, germs have an easier path into your body.
Your mental health can also be affected by colder weather. Dark days with less sunlight may lead to a gloomy mood and even depression. Have you heard of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)? Millions of Americans suffer from SAD each year, or the "winter blues," resulting in low energy, extreme sadness, and just an overall funk.
We've put together 10 ways to 'Fall Back into Health' to keep you and your family's mental and physical health in check.
1. Start increasing the amount of Vitamin D you consume. Most of the Vitamin D we get comes from the Sun, and with the colder weather arriving, we tend to go outside much less. To make up for less time in the Sun, try eating foods high in Vitamin D, such as fish, milk, and yogurt. A great recipe to try is our Tuna & White Bean Wraps, packed with Vitamin D and many other healthy nutrients that your child is sure to love!
2. Eat immune-boosting foods. Boost your immune system by drinking plenty of water, getting enough sleep, and eating nutritious foods. One nutrient that sure to help keep our immune system healthy is Vitamin C. Vitamin C helps build white blood cells. White blood cells fight off infections and destroy free radicals in the body. Beta-carotene, Vitamin D, and Zinc also increase immune function. You can check out our blog post with 6 Quick & Easy Snacks to Boost Your Immune System for recipes that your child will have a ton of fun making.
3. Prioritize sleep. When we don't get enough sleep, it can compromise our immune system and harm our overall health. Therefore, ensuring you and your little ones get adequate sleep is essential. In general, toddlers need around 12-16 hours of sleep, children age three to six require 10-12 hours of sleep, pre-teens age seven to twelve need 10-11 hours, and teenagers and above about 7 to 9 hours of sleep. You can read more about the benefits of sleep in our Back to School with Better Sleep blog.
4. Buy food that is in season. Did you know that when you buy in season, it tastes better and is even more nutritious? It's true! Seasonal fruit and veggies vary slightly depending on where you live. Still, the fall brings apples, beets, broccoli, cabbage, kale, pumpkin, winter squash, root veggies like sweet potatoes, pears, and other produce bursting with immune-boosting nutrients. Buying foods in season gives you a chance to introduce your child to new ones. Take your child to the Farmers Market to see what foods are in season and learn more about where it comes from. Find out which foods are in season in your area using this Seasonal Food Guide.
5. Bundle up. As the colder weather arrives, layer up with jackets, scarves, and warmer attire to protect your body from dropping temperatures so you don't get sick. With flu season upon us and COVID-19 still present, it's best to be prepared and take care of each other, and you can do so by following our 4 Tips to Help Beat the Flu.
6. Practice good hygiene. It is always essential to practice good hygiene, but even more so during the colder months. Ensure your little ones are washing their hands and keeping germs to themselves. Be sure to check out our Snack Science Germs Playlist to help your child understand the importance of good hygiene.
7. Stay hydrated. People tend to drink less water as it gets colder since they don't feel the need. People experience 40% less thirst in winter than in warmer months, even though the body's need for water remains the same all year.* Although you may not be as thirsty, make sure you and your child get enough water throughout the day. Your immune system will thank you. If you are having trouble getting your child to drink more water, read 5 Ways to Help Your Child Drink More Water.
8. Stay active. In colder weather, we tend to want to stay indoors, bundled up on the couch for hours, plus the current pandemic guidelines encourage families to stay at home for their safety. Just because you're stuck inside doesn't mean you can't be active! It's no surprise that staying active is vital for your child's health and mood. One way to be active indoors is to play our Dance Attack Game. This game also teaches your child how their heart keeps them moving and grooving. Staying active yourself encourages your child to join in on the fun. You may want to try an at-home workout work together.
9. Find time for joy. One of the reasons shorter days and less light may cause moodiness or even depression is that reduced sunlight causes your Serotonin levels to drop. Serotonin is the brain chemical responsible for mood. It also throws off our body's internal clock and may affect our sleep leaving you feeling stressed, depressed, or low energy. When this happens, it's harder to take care of yourself and others. A great way to combat these feelings is to find time to do something that brings you joy. This is true for you and your little one. Maybe that's playing a favorite game or having some craft time. For more ways to help your child when they are feeling blue, check out 6 Ways To Help Kids Deal With Stress Now.
10. Stay in touch with loved ones. The current pandemic is forcing us to spend time away from our loved ones, which can be incredibly hard during the holidays. Being away from family can be isolating and make your little ones feel lonely. So make time for your children to talk to their loved ones and close friends often. Set up a time to Zoom (or other conference call platforms) with the whole family. You can even use remote calling platforms to play games like Charades or host a talent show. Another way for your child to feel connected is to have your child write a letter or draw a picture to give to a loved one.
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You may be wondering, “How can my child enjoy Halloween treats without feeling sluggish or grumpy afterward?” Well, we’ve got 10 ideas for you!
When people think of Halloween, they usually think of lots and lots of candy. However, you can make your own spooky Halloween treats that your kids will love and are full of nutrients to feed their body with everything it needs. Not only will your child love crafting these spooky treats, but they will get to spend some quality time learning about what foods are good for their health.
Here are 10 recipes to try out this season:
Who doesn’t love pizza? This is a fun, spooky take on the classic. These Zucchini Eyeballs from Super Healthy Kids is a great option for a nutritious and Halloween-themed snack. This recipe is so easy to follow and your child will love making it too! All you need are 4 simple ingredients that you probably already have at home, including a medium zucchini, marinara sauce, mozzarella cheese, and black olives. This recipe is also high in vitamin C and is a good source of Calcium and Vitamin A, making it even more nutritious!
Halloween Spooky Spider Deviled Eggs
Another great recipe is by Lighthouse Rita, a contributor for Food.com who turned a simple dish into a spooky treat. Halloween Spooky Spider Deviled Eggs are a fun twist on the original and just as delicious! All you need for this recipe is hard-boiled eggs, black olives, and mayonnaise, and if you want to spice it up you can add a sprinkle of cayenne pepper. This protein-filled snack is extra fun with spiders made out of the olives placed right on top of the deviled egg, making an even cuter spooky snack.
Frozen Yogurt Strawberry Ghosts
If your looking for something a little sweeter, then Julie's Frozen Yogurt Strawberry Ghosts are a perfect healthy Halloween treat! This sweet treat will be so much fun for your child to help create, from dipping the strawberries into a yummy greek yogurt to adding their finalizing touch of chocolate chip eyeballs. Did you know yogurt is a great source of probiotics? Probiotics are good bacteria that keeps your digestive system healthy. Mix that with Vitamin C-packed strawberries and you’ve got yourself one nutritious snack!
Halloween Grazing Board
One very easy and beautiful Halloween idea would be to create a grazing board. It’s like a cheese board but a spooky style. This grazing board, full of cheese, meat, and fruit give you a balance of important nutrients like protein, healthy fats, calcium, and vitamins to keep them healthy and active. Plus it’s great for sharing with the family! Kids have a blast using their creativity putting together the board and choosing their favorite foods to add-in. Below is a lovely example of a grazing board from she knows blog that is sure to excite your child and help them get the nutrients they need during Halloween:
Practice your snack art with another healthy snack option by making a Veggie Skeleton. You can use a combination of veggies that are every color of the rainbow for this one, giving you lots of antioxidants, vitamins and minerals to keep your body healthy and strong. Let your child use their creativity to make their Veggie Skeleton any way they like. You can find our recipe for the Veggie Skeleton here.
Spooky Apple Monster
One of our favorites is this recipe for Spooky Apple Monsters. Not only are these little guys adorable, but they have healthy fats, fiber, and lots of vitamins to help your little one grow big and strong. If you don't have edible eyeballs, you can always use a combination of white chocolate and mini chocolate chips. Your child is sure to have a thrill creating this simple but healthy Halloween treat, and even more so enjoy eating it too!
Spooky Trail Mix
Not only can trail mix provide your child with a balance of nutrients like healthy fats, protein, and vitamins, but it can also help them try new foods. This is also a great snack to share with your family while watching spooky movies. If you need ideas for kid-friendly Halloween movies, then check out our last blog post here with our Staff Picks.
Trail mixes can be made in so many different ways, however here are our favorite nutritious foods that can be mixed in with your favorite Halloween sweets:
Snack Science Ep. #36 - Healthy Halloween Treats
In our most recent episode of Snack Science, HealthStart Sharon and her friend Roxy make three healthy Halloween treats made with only a handful of ingredients and almost no preparation. These healthy treats are full of good-for-you nutrients like potassium and Vitamin C. Watch Snack Science Ep. #36 and learn how to make Boo-nanas, Tangerine Pumpkins, and Candy Corn Fruit Cups.
Try mixing in some of these healthy Halloween snacks with your traditional favorites. We hope you and your family have a blast making these spooky treats. Happy Halloween!
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Halloween festivities are going to be a little different this year because of COVID-19. Many of our favorite celebrations involve large groups of people like fall festivals, trick-or-treating, and school carnivals. This year, families should take significant precautions when it comes to traditional Halloween celebrations. “But how can we have a Happy Halloween and stay safe,” you may ask.
Staying at home and forgoing these usual activities can be a bummer, but there are plenty of ways to celebrate Halloween safely in 2020 and still have all the spooky fun!
Here are our Top 5 Ways to Celebrate Halloween Safely at Home:
1. Have a Halloween Movie Marathon
One of everyone’s favorite things to do when staying home is watching tv or movies. So, why not spend this Halloween in and have a spooky movie marathon with your loved ones. Watching movies together can get everyone in a festive mood! Make the evening even more fun by serving delicious Halloween treats, like the recipes we provide in our next tip. Our staff shared some of their favorite kid-friendly Halloween movies below:
2. Make Spooky Treats
Add some fun and nourish your body this Halloween by making delicious spooky treats with the whole family. This can be as simple as our Spooky Apple Monster recipe, or it can be more elaborate, like making treat bags to give out to friends and family. Don’t forget to remind your little ones to wash their hands before handling any food. If you plan to share Halloween treats with people outside your household, we suggest as a further precaution to wear gloves for each task. Try out our other Halloween tasty treats like these Jack-O-Lantern Stuffed Peppers and Veggie Skeletons.
3. Ghost Your Friends and Family
One way to show your friends and family that you care is to ghost them. Sounds weird, right? Unlike leaving someone hanging on a text message, ghosting your friends and family on Halloween is like ringing the doorbell and then ditching. First, make them a fun spooky basket filled with Halloween goodies and treats. Second, drop it off their door, ring the doorbell, and run back to your car. Everyone stays at a safe distance celebrating the holiday in a fun new way. Be sure to wash your hands and sanitize everything before making the basket to prevent spreading germs [ link to germs playlist]. Below is an example of a spooky basket that you and your child can make for your friends and family:
4. Get Crafty with Pumpkins
Carving a pumpkin is a common tradition for most families on Halloween. Luckily, it’s easy to do right in your own home! A basic jack-o-lantern face is a classic, but you can also find simple templates online to try something new. An adult should always be present to help the little ones as they take on this spooky fun task. Once you've finished carving your pumpkins, put a candle inside to light it once it gets dark so that everyone can see your spooky creation.
Another way to decorate pumpkins is to paint them instead of carving them. Painting a pumpkin is safer and simpler for young children. They can also use their imagination to create beautiful paintings. If you are worried about the mess, place a trash bag or newspaper on the ground, and create outside. If painting is not an option, another cool idea is to use stickers instead. You can find affordable Halloween stickers at stores like Hobby Lobby or even at the Dollar store.
5. Ghost Photoshoot
If you have the app Tik Tok, you may have seen the app's ghost pictures trending. If you haven't seen it, all you do is put a white sheet over yourself, cut holes for eyes, or wear sunglasses. Then, take pictures in your spooky outfit doing everyday things like reading or just simply walking. This DIY photoshoot is so easy that you can even do it with your pets, like in the picture below:
Although Halloween won’t be quite the same this year, we hope our tips will help make your Halloween a spooky and memorable event. Just remember that staying at home is the safest option. However, if you are considering going trick or treating, check out our last blog post with 7 Ways to Safely Trick-or-Treat During COVID-19. Happy Halloween!
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October is finally here, and many families and kids wonder how they will celebrate Halloween this year. Many states are encouraging their families to avoid trick-or-treating because of COVID-19, but if you do decide to participate in trick-or-treating this year, there are ways to do it safely.
Even before COVID-19, most parents took safety precautions when trick-or-treating. For example, they made sure the candy their child brought home was in its original wrapper and hadn't been tampered with, or having their child carry a flashlight or wear reflectors, so they'd been seen. These precautions are still needed for safe trick-or-treating, but this year, there are a few more to consider.
The year's Halloween activities require some additional forethought. Here are our Top 7 Ideas for Safely Trick-or-Treating During a Pandemic:
1. Wear a Mask
Do this even if your family is outdoors and social distancing. Masking is necessary because people outside of your family unit will out and about. Wearing a mask at all times will help prevent the spread of COVID-19 and keep your children safe. Some of the youngest trick or treaters may need help in understanding the importance of wearing a mask. HealthStart explains the ins and outs of wearing a mask in Episode #33 of our Snack Science Video Series.
2. Practice Proper Hygiene
When it comes to COVID-19, it is vital that everyone practices proper hygiene and that they so that they stay safe. Before heading out, make sure everyone has washed their hands and sanitize to prevent spreading germs. Once your kids are ready to trick-or-treat, make sure that your children wait in a socially distanced line instead of bunching up around strangers to get candy. You should also bring hand sanitizer and have your child use it after they get candy. Even if your child wants to eat the candy, you must remind them that they will have to wait to eat it until they get home so you can inspect it for any tampering and disinfect it with spray. While they wait for their treats at home, this will be a great time to have them wash their hands and sanitize before eating any candy.
3. Avoid Houses Not Practicing Social Distancing
Even though grabbing candy is a very brief activity, it can be just as dangerous as throwing a Halloween party. If a house only has a grab bowl, then it would be best to avoid it. "It is a good idea … not having a bunch of kids' hands in the candy bowl," according to Dr. Angela Myers, director of the Division of Infectious Diseases at Children's Mercy. If you plan on giving out candy this year, a great option would be to pre-make individual candy bags and pass out to trick-or-treaters one at a time.
4. Get Crafty: 3 Ideas Below
Suppose your family plans on giving out candy for Halloween. In that case, check out some of these unique ways that other families have innovated to keep everyone healthy this Halloween. Such as making a candy chute that will keep everyone at a safe distance and allow kids to have even more fun by catching the candy in their bucket.
Have A Halloween Egg Hunt
Just like you would do for Easter, but make it Halloween themed, such as adding glow sticks and candy in the egg so that trick-or-treaters can find their treats. You can make if a fun DIY with your little one by painting some spooky designs on the eggs such as these:
Transform Your Yard Into A Candy Graveyard
This is similar to the egg hunt, but more so! You and your family can get super creative with this one. You can also choose how you want to have trick-or-treaters join in on the fun. You could have one-child come into the yard at a time and having the rest wait in a socially distanced line until it’s their turn to hunt for the candy.
5. Reverse Trick-or-Treat in Neighborhoods
Some neighborhoods plan to reverse trick-or-treat. This is similar to COVID-19 birthday parades. Instead of driving by someone’s house and dropping off birthday presents, drop off Halloween candy instead. This requires a bit of coordination by neighbors, but it certainly can be done. You can also choose to have people drive or walk by the house with an adult delivering candy to the kids. The adults can dress in spooky costumes and make it like a Halloween parade!
6. Follow Your State/Local Recommendations
According to CDC guidance, traditional door-to-door trick-or-treating and many regular Halloween activities are considered "high risk" for spreading the virus. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t participate in Halloween activities. At the same time, many state and local governments discourage traditional trick-or-treating such as going door to door. Instead, they suggest that if you put candy in a bowl, you should wash your hands before doing so and leave the candy at the edge of the driveway. Or use a candy chute to keep a social distance like our previous examples. There are many ways to keep a distance; you just have to get creative.
7. Have Fun and Stay Safe
Although Halloween will require us to be more cautious this year, it doesn’t mean you and your child can’t have fun. You can stay as safe as possible by following our tips, practicing proper hygiene, and having a fun Halloween with a little creativity.
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Does your child refuse to eat anything other than pizza and chicken nuggets? Do you struggle to get them to try new foods? You are not alone!
As many as one-third of parents struggle with picky eaters. By the time a child is five years old, most children have established their food preferences. Early food preferences can link childhood and adult health. When children learn smart food habits at a young age, they bring those into adulthood. And we all know it’s much easier to learn a good habit than break a bad one!
Eating a variety of foods, including fruits and vegetables, is essential to get all the nutrients you need to stay healthy. However, parents may find it challenging to convince their children to try new, unfamiliar foods once their kids have set their preferences. So you want to introduce your kids to lots of different foods starting in infancy before they establish their likes and dislikes. As they get older, it helps your kids make good food decisions when they know how foods take care of their bodies.
At HealthStart, we give children the science to understand how specific foods keep our brains and bodies healthy. For example, HealthStart teaches that vegetables are rich in nutrients like Vitamin C and antioxidants, which help boost your immune system, preventing illness.
Below are 10 tips to help deal with picky eaters.
1. Explain that food is a gift
Did you know food is a gift? That’s right; food is a gift. Someone took the time to grow it, get it to the store, and prepare it for them to eat. You can also remind your child that when we receive a gift, we are thankful. Ask your child, “What do you say when you receive a gift? Thank you.” Then you can further explain, “So when someone offers you a new food, you try it, so you don’t hurt the giver’s feelings.” You will also want your child to know that they don’t have to like it, they just have to try it. By trying it, they may discover it tastes pretty good.
2. Practice flexible thinking
HealthStart teaches little ones that it’s important always to try something at least once because that’s how our brains grow and get stronger. In HealthStart’s Snack Science Ep. #33, HealthStart Sharon talks all about flexible thinking and how it makes dealing with change or new things a lot easier. Flexible thinking helps us think about something differently, like foods we think we may not like. By being flexible, kids stay open to foods that might otherwise seem scary or unappealing.
3.Try a little bit at a time
Your child may be hesitant to try something new, especially if they see a lot of it on their plate. A big portion of something may discourage them from trying it. That’s why it’s helpful to introduce them to a new food a little bit at a time. Serving small portions will help avoid overwhelming your child. If they like it, they can ask for more!
4. Try and try again
Younger children tend to test out new foods by smelling or touching, and they might even take a bite and spit it right back out. However, that doesn’t mean you should give up. Instead, encourage your child with repeated exposure. For example, one night, you could serve a side of green beans, and the next, you include them in a casserole. It’s also helpful to talk about the particular food’s color, shape, smell, and texture to help your child consider more than the food’s taste.
5. Make it fun
Most likely, your child won’t find plain broccoli as visually appealing as a fun dessert. However, making food in a new way, such as creating beautiful snack art, will help your child be more willing to eat foods like fruits and vegetables. An excellent example of making food fun are these Apple Nachos or Hungry Caterpillar SnacksHungry Caterpillar Snack, which are sure to excite your little one.
6. Pair a familiar food with a new one
Another great way to interest your little one in eating new foods is to incorporate foods they already know and love. A great example is to bring in one of their favorite dips or sauces to eat along with broccoli, carrots, or other veggies. You can even whip up a dip that has veggies mixed right into it like this Spinach Yogurt Dip.
7. Get your kid involved
Kids are much more likely to be willing to try foods if they are involved. Next time you’re at the grocery store, have your child help choose the fruits, vegetables, and proteins that look tasty or interesting to them. You can also take them to local Farmer’s Markets to see foods they might not see at the grocery store or discover fruits and veggies in season. While at home, encourage your child to help wash the fruit and vegetables and prepare snacks or meals.
8. Prepare meals/snacks together
Continue involving your child in the meal process by asking them to help prepare what they will eat. While young children may not be able to help with every task, you can still get them involved. Even the youngest can help pour ingredients in a bowl or mix ingredients together. When they help, they connect to their food and are inspired to eat it since they made it with their own two hands!
HealthStart’s Snack Science YouTube series features various simple snack recipes that even the pickiest of eaters will love. Plus, children as young as five can make them all on their own! Check out Ep. #25 to learn how to make Watermelon Pizza.
9. Be creative
There are tons of ways to incorporate a mixture of foods into your child’s meals. You can get creative by sneaking veggies into dishes like a smoothie or spaghetti sauce. When you add veggies to meals in this way, your child obtains the variety of nutrients they need while being exposed to foods in a new way. You can even be creative with desserts! Try making these yummy and nutritious, Healthy Avocado Brownies to sneak in tons of vitamins, fiber, and even healthy fats.
10. Set a good example
Your child picks up their eating habits from you, so showing them that you are willing to try new foods and make healthy choices is extremely important. When they see you eat healthy foods, you encourage them to do so, and you may even find a new food that you both like!
No matter what tips and tricks you try, just remember that your child’s eating habits won’t change overnight. And that’s ok! It’s the small steps you take each day that will promote a lifetime of healthy living. Let us know which tips you plan to try in the comments below.