Stay Healthy, Active, and SANE During the Winter

Hey guys – the following is a sponsored post I’ve created with a brand that I believe in and we already use in our day to day lives. I feel good about supporting it and hope you do too. Here’s to a happy, healthy, and active winter season despite all the potential for blah, boredom, and bad bugs – boost immune system this winter with Renew Life Formulas!

We spent the last week essentially trapped at home, with a school holiday overlapping a bigger-than-predicted snow storm (here in NC we don’t have a million plows that get to work the minute the flurries start – we have to wait until they get to us, if that happens before the snow melts. We usually end up getting plowed by whatever leftover construction equipment that can be found). Eventually we were able to get outside and take full advantage of the fun that snow provides – sledding, snowball fights, questionable looking snowmen – but the first couple days were that miserable kind of dreary grey with the snow still coming down and the wind attacking your face no matter which way you turn. Not the kind of weather you muster through with a two and six year old.

staying healthy in the winter

 

While the time off school was certainly fun, I think most of us can agree that there’s only so much fun that can be had before cabin fever sets in and you start bouncing off the walls. And when your kids bounce off the walls on a good day, it’s needless to say that things can get just a bit crazy if you don’t get a little creative. Not to mention it’s hard to stay active and healthy when you feel like you’re stuck indoors all the time. {Seriously, being a mom during a dreary winter takes some serious guts.}

 

Here are some of the ways we fight off the winter crazies and keep our family active and operating at 100%:

– Couch cushion forts (sneaky mom-hack: toss a vacuum in the mix and trick the kiddos into cleaning for you)

– Stream a workout and make it a game (hey, might as well use technology to your advantage) – this one  does triple duty: let’s me squeeze in a bit of a workout, entertains the kids (at least for the first 10 minutes), and burns off some of that we’re-stuck-inside-again energy.

– Obstacle courses – using whatever you can get your hands on – pillows, toys, even streamers to create a “web” in a hallway.

– Workout equipment in disguise: think jump ropes, mini trampolines, and music-filled dance parties.

– Hot cocoa and marshmallows {because what snow day is complete without hot chocolate?} We boost it up a bit by adding turmeric for everyone and give a little kick with cayenne for the grownups {although my 2 year old has no problems stealing mine and finishing it, spice and all}.

turmeric hot cocoa for immunity

While most moms were pulling their hair out about another day out of school, I would be lying if I said I wasn’t upset they were missing a week of nasty germ exposure. The flu is running rampant around here (and everywhere), not to mention the ever-present snotty noses and hacking coughs that seem to follow kids around all winter long.

healthy guts boost immune system

 

And while avoiding germs is certainly helpful, it’s not exactly practical unless you have a snowstorm as an excuse to hide out.

So we do what we can to boost immunity:

Shoes at the door (hey, husband, I’m looking at you here). It’s amazing all the junk our shoes can track in (and my floors are messy enough without the extra dirt thank you very much), so we check them the at the door. (Baskets everywhere are your friend.)

Kid-safe essential oils. I use an immunity-boosting blend in the kids’ rooms at night, as well as use it to make safer hand sanitizer (which admittedly I’m not great about remembering to use) and cleaners for “big touch” items like doorknobs. We also use a sniffles and cough blend for when there are actual signs of illness on the brink (which basically means always for my 2 year old).

Elderberry. We use this as a preventative measure (my kids actually beg for it) as well as have it on hand in case illness strikes, when we’d up the dose and frequency. It can supposedly decrease the duration of the flu by 3 days, with no icky drug side effects. Hopefully we won’t have to test the claim ourselves.

Vitamins and fish oil. I’m not even going to pretend my kids eat well enough on a daily basis to meet all of their micronutrient needs, so we fill the gaps with a multi and a fish oil that contains vitamins A + D. Vitamin D is a HUGE immunity booster and so important in maintaining gut health.

Probiotics. Probiotics are amazing powerhouses that help keep our guts healthy, balanced, and functioning optimally.

improve immunity in winter

Why is keeping the gut healthy so important, especially during these crazy months of winter weather? As strange as it sounds, up to 70% of your immune system is in your gut.

Did you know that in addition to your immune-system, your gut is directly related to your mood?! Up to 95% of your serotonin (the feel-good hormone) is created in your gut. Just another reason to keep that gut healthy – to keep you happy, especially during the dreary winter months when you’re stuck inside. (And seriously, I’ll take all the mood-boosting I can get!)

Practicing health-ful habits and taking positive preventative actions like taking a daily probiotic can help keep your gut (and therefore your immune system + your mood) operating at it’s prime. Our family uses Renew Life Ultimate Flora Probiotics (the kiddos use the chewable version), which are gluten and dairy free. The Extra Care Probiotic has 30 billion live cultures per capsule with 10 scientifically studied strains (each strain plays a different role), supporting digestive and immune health.

I know talking about gut health isn’t exactly riveting and exciting, but if it weren’t for a healthy gut, there’s no way I’d be able to handle staying active + energetic while keeping two young kids up and at ‘em. To me, it’s essential to my physical and mental health. Operating at my best literally starts from within.

 

How do you stay healthy and active during these potentially dreary winter months?

tips to boost immune system

Also – Renew Life is having an exclusive President’s Day Sale Feb.19 – Feb. 23: 25% Off + Free Shipping and Triple Renew Rewards. No Promo Code Required. Shop and Save at RenewLife.com

[Just a reminder, this is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of Renew Life Ultimate Flora Probiotics.]

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Why I’m NOT an Anti-Diet Dietitian

The anti-diet movement is taking over and I absolutely love it – and loathe it – at the same time. Here’s why:

There’s a growing movement of registered dietitians and other health professionals being ANTI-diet. They’re spreading the message that diets are bad. Diets are evil. Diets don’t work. Diet is a four-letter word, run run run run away from diets.

It’s a message that needs to be spread, and it’s true: diets can be pretty ugly.

But they can also be life-changing and life-saving.

I’ll state it upfront and obviously: I fully support the anti-diet movement. I LOVE the concept of HAES (Health at Every Size). I absolutely agree and support the notion that you are NOT your weight; your worth has nothing to do with your plate or your fork or what does or doesn’t go into your mouth. You do not need to count calories to determine your success in life. You don’t need to measure your food or deprive yourself or associate your mental well-being with what’s in your fridge. Foods aren’t evil and foods aren’t inherently good or bad; they’re food. (And if we could all focus a little bit more on body positivity the world might just be a better place.)

body positivity and anti diet

But what about when foods are evil? What about when they are bad? For you. For just you; your body, your digestive system, your hormones, your health at this one exact moment in time.

Because it’s a reality. There are certain foods that do not support certain people’s health, or do not support their health at a particular point in time. I’ve experienced it in my own life and I experience it on a daily basis in my own nutrition practice. What people put in their body can make or break their health, their mood, their pain.

I’m in no way saying these foods are in fact bad, but if they’re making someone feel like crap and causing something in their body to not operate at it’s prime, it’s a problem.

Anti-diet dietitians are great – but I’m not one of them

Personally I had a really hard time accepting that concept as a truth for a long time. I used to operate on a “there are no bad foods” mentality and that there were no reasons to eliminate entire food groups except if you didn’t like them. But then my first son was born with severe food sensitivities. His quality of life drastically improved by eliminating specific foods. Because I was breastfeeding at the time, I eliminated those foods in order to ensure he wasn’t exposed to them. I couldn’t have told you at the time, but now years later I can tell you what a positive impact it made on my whole health – physical and mental – (but that’s a story for a different time).

baby crying food sensitivities

So what was I supposed to do? Here I was a practicing dietitian agreeing that people don’t need diets, then suddenly my life, and my son’s life, revolved around a very specific diet. I felt like the biggest fraud for a really long time. I couldn’t reconcile the idea of posting a recipe that intentionally excluded certain food groups and still maintaining my integrity that all foods can fit, so I just…stopped.

But here’s the thing.:

Not all foods fit for all people all the time.

And that’s ok. Did you hear me? That’s ok.

I know I’m more prone to it because of my field, but I’m bombarded daily with messages that seem to be telling me I’m doing something wrong or I’m “less than” by supporting a specific diet. That all diets are evil and you’re a bad person if you don’t eat gluten or dairy or heck I don’t know purple vegetables.

But the thing is, some people NEED diets. I’m not talking calorie-counting, obsessive scale-watching, random diets. I’m talking specific, intentional, therapeutic diets. I consider them a prescription the same way I consider what your doctor gives you when you have strep throat a prescription.

These prescriptive tools can have a massive impact on someone’s health.

They can relieve pain, alleviate depression, reverse type 2 diabetes or thyroid problems. They can prevent surgery and improve quality of life. They can cure an infant’s reflux and let them sleep for the first time in their life (can you tell I may have experienced that last one?Smile). They can save someone from the embarrassment of having to run to the bathroom the minute they eat or the fear of eating in the first place.

So again, I’ll be clear. I fully support anti-diet dietitians, the anti-diet and HAES movements, and believe 100% there is a time and a place for them and that the world can be a better place with those messages in it. For those that have struggled with eating disorders or disordered eating, body image, or if food in any way messes with your mental health or self-worth, these are exactly the types of professionals they need to be working with. I will happily refer clients to professionals that specialize in this and I do frequently. But I’m not one of them. I specialize in prescriptive, healing protocols that help people conquer a disease or ailment, or even simply optimizing their health, and yes, that usually means eliminating a food or foods (or even a behavior or habit) for a certain period of time. Sometimes it’s long-term, sometimes it’s a just a transition to allow for healing or rebalancing. I am not bad or “less than” because I believe in the power of specific and intentional dietary protocols.

why I'm not an anti-diet dietitian

So if you’re someone that needs a specific diet to optimize your health, don’t be knocked down by the messages implying you’re doing something wrong. You’re just doing you. Keep doing you.

And for those of you that are spreading and supporting the anti-diet movement, you keep doing you too, because the world needs both of us, but remember there are people out there that don’t thrive under the anti-diet approach.

I also want to point out and emphasize that the two seemingly-opposite approaches CAN (and should) coexist in harmony. It’s is possible to not diet (the traditionally-used verb) yet follow a diet (an intentional prescription for a specific health condition or illness). Even when my prescription for a client (or myself!) includes some form of elimination, it doesn’t label foods as good or bad; it doesn’t restrict or inhibit in an unmanageable or unhealthy way; it doesn’t wrap the amount or type of food you eat into your self-worth or success or failure. It’s just food, and it’s either making you physically feel better or function better at that specific moment, or it’s not.

 

How to Keep Your Guts Healthy This Holiday Season

Hey guys – what follows is a sponsored post I’ve created with a brand that I believe in and we already use in our day to day lives. I feel good about supporting it and hope you do to. Here’s to a happy, memorable holiday season that doesn’t include that “uggggh” feeling from all the stress of “adulting” at the holidays.

Is your gut ready for the holiday season?

Gift-shopping, cookie-making, coordinating travel to every branch of your family… This time of year, might be magical, but it can also be stressful! I distinctly remember the first year as a parent with a kid old enough to be excited by the magic of the season, only to be absolutely floored by how much work went into making that “magic” happen as an adult. As a kid, it was simply about wrapping presents, baking cookies, and hoping for snowfall. But as an adult it’s also about planning, strategizing, and organizing (aka “adulting”). I mean, someone has to buy all the gifts for every extended family member (and figure out what to get Aunt Sally that already has everything) and sure, decorating sugar cookies is a tradition not to be skipped, but again, someone has to clean up the mess left in that sugar-frenzied mess. And somehow, though the weeks have the same amount of days as always, there just never seems to be enough time to squeeze in all of that holiday fun.

holiday fun healthy guts

While the holidays are fun, it’s easy to fall prey to the stress and exhaustion of the holiday season. Parties, kids’ concerts, cooking holiday meals… Not to mention the bloating and sluggishness from all the holiday fun and travel. It’s no wonder our immune systems can get compromised and leave us dragging and feeling “ugh”. It’s not all about time management though – did you know the balance in your gut plays a pivotal role in how you feel? To ensure you feel your best heading into the holiday season and keep that out-of-whack feeling at bay, make sure your gut is ready.

holiday season healthy guts

More than just regulating how our stomach feels after a meal, a healthy gut can help improve your overall physical and mental well-being. Research has shown that a healthy gut can help lower stress, boost energy, and improve sleep. It can even help boost immunity (at least 70% of your immune system is in your gut!) and even help with the dreaded post-holiday party hangover.

how to keep your guts healthy this holiday season

How can a healthy gut help with stress? It’s not just all in your head – there’s a physiologic reason for why you feel so crummy when you’re under a lot of stress. Our body reacts to stress (both the acute and the chronic kind) by releasing cortisol from the adrenal glands. Cortisol in turn kicks your immune system into high-drive and causes inflammation. That makes sense if you have an injury or infection you’re trying to fight, but can be pretty harmful if you’re constantly in such a state (like what happens with that chronic kind of stress). After the cortisol spike, your immune system gets suppressed to try to balance things out. Enter an open invitation for germs and that dragging, “ugh” feeling here. Those chronic levels of inflammation can also damage the lining of the gut, leaving it vulnerable to invaders and impairing digestion. Keeping your gut healthy can help prevent some of this damage and keep your immune system operating at its peak.

Even when we’re doing our best to keep our stress at bay, there’s still all the holiday meals, rich indulgences, and holiday parties to take into account.

A healthy gut can also help on those days when you get a little carried away with the magic of the season and drink one too many holiday cocktails. Probiotics (the “good” kind of bacteria) help mop up acetaldehyde, the toxic chemical that causes you to feel hungover. Plus, alcohol can destroy some of the healthy bacteria that live in your gut, so it’s important to restore those essential allies.

But how exactly do you achieve a healthy gut and power your potential to survive these common holiday season #adulting situations? Nutrition experts agree that one of the most efficient and impactful ways to bring balance to the digestive tract is with a daily probiotic like Renew Life® Ultimate Flora Probiotics, recommended for their blends of multiple strains and billions of live cultures which reflects the natural diversity in the gut.

probiotics for healthy guts

And while probiotics and a healthy gut can also help keep some of that post-holiday meal bloat and discomfort from happening in the first place, sometimes we need a little extra help. Taking an enzyme supplement like Renew Life® Digest Smart Enzymes before meals can help dispel gas and bloat. Digestive enzymes help break down food into smaller parts so that our bodies can absorb and utilize them, letting meal times remain memorable because of your favorite uncle’s milk-out-the-nose inducing jokes or passing embarrassing childhood photos around the table, not because you’re curled up in a ball of misery after indulging in your holiday favorites.

So, in the midst of all the planning, cleaning, and gift-wrapping, remember to keep a healthy gut (and immune system) a priority.

enzymes for healthy guts

[[Just a reminder, this is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of Renew Life Ultimate Flora Probiotics.]] 

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Salted Caramel Snack Balls

These high protein snacks for kids {or adults!} pack a whopper of a protein punch, along with great flavor. Perfect for hungry kids or post-workout refueling. Bonus: they’re no bake, gluten free, and dairy free!

Salted caramel high protein snack balls - gluten free, dairy free

I’m a serious, serious snacker. The three {or even four} meals a day thing just does not float my boat. Apparently I’ve passed that trait onto my three year old, who is constantly {constantly} asking for a snack.

I do my best to make sure they’re filling and healthy snacks for kids, in secret hopes it will fill him up enough to stop asking me for a minute. {It doesn’t usually work}. But I do make my best effort to have high protein snacks for kids that meet both of our taste requirements, plus are gluten free and dairy free. {Since clearly I’ll snack on them too.}

healthy snacks for kids

High Protein Snack Balls {Gluten Free, Dairy Free}

Healthy snack balls of all kind are on a weekly rotation around here. I typically make a bunch then store them in the freezer for easy snacking. This week we mixed our standard protein ball recipe up a bit by using flavored almonds, and now I want to go make a batch with every flavor offered.

We got these two flavors from Blue Diamond, the Salted Caramel and Blueberry almonds, and they are so good by themselves it was almost a crime to use them in a recipe. But a crime worth committing because my three year old is busy not asking me “why?” for the millionth time because his mouth is full of dense, protein-packed, nutty deliciousness.

healthy high protein snack recipe

To start, we experimented with some Salted Caramel high protein snack balls since I’m obsessed with salted caramel. They are super dense but have a fun flavor. {The almonds make delicious homemade nut butter on their own, by the way. soo good.}

healthy snack recipes

gluten free dairy free salted caramel snack balls

My taste-tester approves.

kid friendly snack balls

In order to keep him from eating the entire batch in one sitting, I shoved the bag of blueberry almonds in front of him as a distraction. High protein snacks for the double win.

blueberry almonds

Now I need to go buy a new bag so I can make some coconut blueberry balls. Mm.

blueberry flavored almonds

 

High Protein Snacks for Kids & Beyond

High protein snacks gluten free dairy free

Salted Caramel Protein Snack Balls

by with a Side of Sneakers

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup almond butter {homemade or otherwise}
  • 1 cup coconut flour
  • 1/4 cup vanilla protein powder {gluten free & dairy free if needed}
  • 1/8 cup brown rice syrup
  • 1 T coconut oil
  • 1/2 T cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp each: vanilla extract, butter extract, & fleur de sel
  • 1/4 cup Blue Diamond Salted Caramel Almonds, chopped

Instructions

Combine all ingredients and form into balls.

*Recipe affected heavily by how oily your nut butter is – mix should be crumbly, but stay in ball form when squeezed in your hands. If it doesn’t stick together, add coconut oil or almond milk 1 tsp at a time until balls form.

*Doubly extra good if you use almond butter made with the salted caramel flavored almonds.

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Do you have a favorite high protein snack recipe? I’m inspired to branch out more with these healthy snack ball recipes now that we’ve opened up the door to new flavors.

 

This post was originally sponsored by Blue Diamond.