Back to School: Practical Tips for Healthy Guts

Tracking PixelGet the 411 on how to keep your kids (and yourself! healthy as they head back to school by making sure their immune system – and digestive systems- are ready for the influx of germs.

I’m sitting here in front of my keyboard on the first morning of the last week of my oldest son’s summer break. His last week of summer break. He’s on the threshold of taking a monumental first step into the world of kindergarten.

As a work-at-home-mom, I’ve been able to spend most of every single day of my son’s entire life with him. That’s five and a half years with him by my side for the better part of the day. I could turn this into a long weepy, philosophical reflection, but don’t you worry, I’ll save that for my inner brain to stumble over all week long. Instead, I’m trying to push those thoughts aside and compensating by focusing on being practical.

Practical ways to keep your kids’ guts healthy during the back to school season from a mom and dietitian. AD

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, Renew Life® Ultimate Flora Probiotics. I feel good about supporting it and hope you do to. And I’ll do my best to hide my weepiness about my oldest starting REAL school in a few days. Someone hold me…now on to those tips about healthy guts:

We’ve cleaned off old backpacks and lunchboxes and bought new ones just in case. We have new stainless steel over-priced water bottles they’ll probably lose in a week that I couldn’t say no to. I’ve ordered new name labels and triple-checked the school supply list. I’ve even pre-made some mini gluten-free, dairy-free pizzas for the freezer so we can have some fun lunches to grab on the sure-to-be-hectic mornings adjusting to a new schedule.

I can’t obsess about his teacher or classmates or bus schedule because none of that has been released yet (talk about waiting until the last minute). I thought I’d checked everything off my practical to-do list (completely ignoring the emotional tornado wreaking havoc in my mind). Then I saw a post on Facebook about some must have magical hair-detangler spray that fights lice. Lice. One more thing that has to go on my list of preparedness. This is part of our world now.

And of course, lice is probably the least of our problems. Both my boys will be in new schools with new kids, and with that comes… new germs. TWO sets of new germs. (Where am I shipping my innocent boys off to?!?) I could immediately sign myself up for the crazy-worry-loony-bin, but fending off illness? That’s something this practical mom can handle.

School may not have started yet but we’re already doubling-down on our germ-fighting routine, from the inside out. Going back to school, and honestly, just being a kid these days takes guts.

Here’s our plan of attack to keep our guts healthy:

Get really dirty. Yup, that’s right. Playing outside and in the dirt is an awesome way to build up your immune system. Plus, what boy doesn’t love playing in the dirt? It’s win-win for me.
healthy guts kidshealthy guts for kids

Stick to bedtime. I know, #lamestmomever. But if my kids miss their bedtime window, it takes an act of magic to get them to sleep and then they end up getting up even earlier than early. Sleep is a HUGE factor in immune health and we’ll take all the help we can get. (Not to mention getting enough rest helps keep the crankiness at bay, which I’m sure we’ll have plenty of as we adjust to the new all-day routine of kindergarten.)

Keep the sugar at bay. I know, give me another prize for being a lame mom here. But for the record, I didn’t say NO sugar; just less. It’s easy to say yes to every single treat kids ask for, but it adds up so easily. A granola bar, a juice box, some ketchup and BAM. I think by now we all know what sugar can do to us, especially kids, but sometimes we just need a reminder to keep it in check.

kids healthy guts

Focus on healthy guts. Did you know at least 70% of your immune system is in your gut? A healthy gut can help boost your immune health. We focus on probiotic-rich foods like sauerkraut, kimchi, and kombucha, plus the whole family takes a daily probiotic to make sure we’re getting adequate amounts of the good bugs. (I mean; how much sauerkraut can I really get my 5-year-old to eat?) We love Renew Life Ultimate Flora Probiotics – they’re gluten & dairy free, don’t require refrigeration, come in a delayed-release capsule, and contain 30 billion live cultures per capsule & 10 scientifically studied probiotic strains. {Translation: that’s good stuff!} Plus, they even come in chewable tablets and gummies as well!

probiotics healthy guts

In addition to playing a huge role in immunity, did you know a healthy gut can improve your memory, sleep and lower stress? Plus, 95% of your body’s happiness-inducing serotonin is produced in your gut. All things we can get on board with as we enter this back-to-school phase of life. Better memory. More energy. Less stress. Happier. Yup, sign us up.

healthy guts with probiotics

Wish us luck on our adventures in a new-to-us world. Feel free to send your immune-boosting, germ-fighting, kindergarten-survival secrets. And tissues. Send tissues.

Growing up today takes guts. Check out the latest video ad from Renew Life here.

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


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

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

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Back to School Bugs

 Back to school, back to school, to prove to dad I’m not a fool…

Yesterday I got a letter in the mail. A letter I’ve been waiting for for the better part of summer.

The back-to-school letter. The one that verifies my son has a spot in preschool and the most important piece of info of all: school starts in September!


This might be the first time ever I’ve been excited for back to school season. Now don’t get me wrong, I hate every second I’m away from my son, but preschool {aka glorified daycare} is the perfection solution for our family. I get time to work and do crazy things like shower and get dressed. You know, things most people do when their kid naps. {Nap is an evil word in this house.} This can better be summed up by this: the summer insanity of trying to fit everything in can end!


But there’s one thing I’m not looking forward to: the surplus of snot. Seriously a day doesn’t go by when I walk past a kid with a runny nose. Sometimes that’s all it is, but most of the time that means colds and viruses get passed around more than the toys do.

In addition, KB has allergies and wheezes, so making sure he doesn’t get sick is going to be extra high on the priority list. When you’re kid’s around other kids there’s no fail proof solution to prevent the spread of germs, but we do what we can.

– Wash hands immediately upon leaving school. {Handsanitizer on the way out.}

– A healthy diet. You probably just laughed out loud if you also have a toddler. Even though feeding time can be battle, KB gets fruits and veggies no matter what. Vitamins and phytochemicals help build a solid foundation for immunity. If you can’t get your kid to eat the good stuff, a kid-friendly vitamin is an alternative.


– Exercise. I don’t really need to worry about this one for Kabes since he never ever stops moving, but I need to make it a priority for myself so I’m not the one bringing sickness into the house.


– Sleep. sleep sleep sleep. The forgotten health holy grail. When you’re trying to cram everything into a single day, sleep often seems like the least important thing to sacrifice. I’m telling you, it’s not. After 8 months of rarely sleeping more than an hour at a time, I can personally attest to that. Before KB learned to sleep I had more colds than I’ve had in the past 5 years at least.


Sleep isn’t just important for adults; it’s just as essential for kids too. KB almost always goes to bed at 7. If he’s realllllllly tired he might go down a little earlier, but for the most part it’s the same time every night. He’s a little unpredictable when it comes to wake up time, but he usually gets a good 10 hour chunk. I know bedtime is bound to become a battle as he gets older, but keeping a consistent bedtime can even help boost brainpower later in life, regardless of the total number of hours slept. Who’d turn that down?!

lil critters


L’il Critters™ are the #1 child gummy vitamin. We are the better tasting gummy vitamin that is preferred by Kids and trusted by Moms. “We Make Nutrition Taste Good.”


Disclosure: Compensation was provided by Church & Dwight via Glam Media.  The opinions expressed herein are those of the author and are not indicative of the opinions or positions of Church & Dwight.


Please note this post is sponsored by Fitfluential LLC on behalf of VitaFusion. As always, I’m allowed {and do} give my own opinion- I’m not fed BS to say…err, write.

Before I was pregnant, I was gung ho about doing everything “right”. Yeah, the good ol’ “before I was pregnant” syndrome– where the universe laughs in your face for trying to plan something as unplannable as pregnancy.

I knew what to eat, what not to eat, and what vitamins to take. I tried out every sample from my doctor’s office, then continued to search for the one that met my requirements. It was free of fillers, dyes, animal products, gluten, dairy, and soy. It was perfect.

And then I got pregnant. And sick. sick sick sick. Not as sick as some people, but sick enough to feel like crap for approximately 7 months. Swallowing a big honking, chalky pill was about as appealing as jumping into a pool of snakes.

Eventually I gave up my strict requirements and went back to my old adult gummy vitamins. I’ve always been much more likely to actually take vitamins if I can chew them and don’t have to get some water and swallow them. The gummy vitamins weren’t perfect, but considering I wasn’t eating great, they were better than nothing. When I was able to, I choked down some folic acid & omega-3s, which was much easier than the giant all-in-one pill.


Now if I’d found these PreNatal gummy vitamins I got from VitaFusion when I was pregnant, I would have been pretty pleased. {My instagram friends agree!} Chewing something sweet definitely wins over nauseating pills. Good thing they’re not sour or I probably would’ve overdosed. {Sour Patch Kids were my secret morning sickness cure.}


Here are my pros & cons of these gummies:


Chewable & taste good: lemon & raspberry lemonade flavors

Natural flavors

Contain DHA: a necessary nutrient for pregnancy that the body can’t make

No dairy, gluten, or soy

No iron

Source of fish oil tested for mercury and PCBs

Made in the USA



No iron

Contain sugar

Only 31% of daily DHA needs



You may notice “no iron” under both lists. It’s a pro because iron can upset a lot of people’s stomachs. It’s a con because iron is super important during pregnancy and women may not realize it’s not included.

Similarly, “DHA included” is emphasized, but it doesn’t meet your daily requirement. That’s ok as long as women realize that.

The sugar isn’t really a big deal in the long run, but it’s worth pointing out, especially in case of gestational diabetes, etc.


Another con?

My toddler likes to steal the bottle from me. I usually have to hunt for it amongst the toys and let him play with it before I get to open it. Winking smile


And yes, I still take prenatal vitamins and no, I’m not pregnant {but I am breastfeeding}. One of the factors that makes prenatals good for pregnancy is the folic acid. Folic acid is a nutrient so important to the early, early stages of pregnancy that it’s a good idea to take them if you’re of childbearing age, just in case.


VitaFusion makes a ton of different vitamin varieties, all of which are gummies. Check out the #nutritiontastesgood hashtag on Twitter to see some reviews about the other kinds.

Don’t forget about the Operation USA fundraiser and Stella & Dot giveaway!! We’re up to 2 winners… could be more!

Dairy Reading

First up, see the end of the post for the Cheribundi giveaway winner!

Several of you wanted some more reading about the not so well known side of the dairy world. Here’s a selection of resources & further reading.

dairy side effects

It’s obviously not all-inclusive or all-encompassing, but hopefully will give you a little more information!

Eat For Health – The Anti-Cancer Diet by Joel Fuhrman MD

Ask the Expert: Dairy Products from PCRM

Dairy products and cancer

Childhood dairy intake and adult cancer risk

Acne, dairy and cancer

The Definitive Guide to Dairy

Nutrition Advice From the China Study

Dairy: 6 Reasons You Should Avoid It at All Costs or Why Following the USDA Food Pyramid Guidelines is Bad for Your Health by Mark Hyman, MD

Please feel free to add to this list in the comments section!

The winner of the Cheribundi giveaway: It’s Krysten! Shoot me an email with your address so I can pass it along. Winking smile

Got Milk? Maybe You Shouldn’t

Apparently my little dig at dairy didn’t go unnoticed. You asked why I wasn’t on board. Here ya go!

Let me start by saying that I find dairy one of the most confusing topics about nutrition. There’s not a definitive consensus on many of the issues involving dairy and research is more limited than you’d think. My issue is less with dairy itself, and more with the huge dairy-is-essential messages we’ve been receiving since we were kids.

dairy side effects

We are a milk-free household. I drink almond or coconut milk and the husband drinks soy milk. While we’re milk free, we’re not an entirely dairy-free family. The husband eats cheese and pre-allergies I ate the occasional Greek yogurt, goat cheese, or Moe’s queso, as I’ve probably mentioned 135,938 times. What I’m saying is, I’m not telling you that you have to shun dairy- let’s just get educated so you can make the best choices for you and your family.

There’s no way I can cover every aspect of dairy and every side of the story in a single post, so I’m going to do my best to hit on a couple points about the dark side of dairy- the parts most people don’t know much about. This is not all encompassing by any means!!

Why Dairy Isn’t All It’s Cracked Up to Be

– Exposure to dairy before the age of 1 is correlated with type 1 diabetes

– One of the proteins in dairy, casein, is associated with increased rates of cancer

– The sugar in dairy, lactose, is related to ischemic heart disease. Many, many people have trouble digesting this sugar.

– Milk consumption is linked to bladder, colorectal, prostate, and testicular cancers

– Dairy is the highest source of dioxin in the standard American diet, found in especially high levels in butter and cheese. Dioxin is a toxic chemical that can cause cancer.

– Consumption of milk protein can increase levels of IGF-1 {insulin-like growth factor} in the body, which promotes the growth of cells- both normal and cancerous.

– Dairy has been linked to a number of autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, fibromyalgia, lupus, multiple sclerosis, Graves’ disease, and type 1 diabetes. {The proposed theory here is that some people’s bodies cannot distinguish the difference between cow’s milk proteins and their own proteins.}

– Dairy is “mucus-producing”- this can cause built up phlegm, acne, eczema, and psoriasis.

– Dairy products may contain hormones {even if “organic”} and promote increased level of hormone production in the body.

– Not only is milk not the only good source of calcium, but it does not prevent osteoporosis. In fact, the it can play a role in the destruction of bone due to the acid load and erosion of bone-building cells.

glass of milk

Although these things have been shown in research, it still leaves a lot of unanswered questions and conflicts among other studies. There is evidence that low-fat dairy products and yogurt increase fat loss. There’s no argument that the probiotics in dairy and other cultured/fermented products are beneficial to the gut and immune system. Whey and casein {dairy proteins} are beneficial proteins for recovery in sports nutrition. So where does that leave us? Good question!

If all this leaves you confused, you’re not alone. Wondering if you should or shouldn’t be eating dairy? While some of these things would require a glass ball into the future, other things can easily be deciphered. Stop eating dairy for a month. How do you feel? The same? Then eat dairy. Better? Cut it out or limit it. Worse? Hmmmmmm. I can’t tell if I’m reducing my cancer risk by how I feel, but it’s extremely clear to me that my stomach issues are minimized when I cut back the dairy.

The same strategy can be used for any “trend”- gluten, vegetarian, etc. Listen to your body and make your OWN decisions.

For me, I worry more about dairy because of my son’s allergy to it: where did it come from? Why does he have it? I also worry about it because of the mysterious pain condition I struggled with for a few years {and still do to some extent} and dairy’s relationship to autoimmune disorders. Decreasing the dairy I consumed made an impact on my pain level, which pretty much blows my mind.

For more reading: resources on dairy.

What do you think about dairy?