Turning Everyday Activities into Exercise

The going recommendation is one hour of active play every day – and, while we hope your kids regularly exceed that recommendation, we know that staying active during the cold and rainy season can prove a bit of a struggle. Thankfully, while outdoor sports do provide a great outlet for that energy, they’re not the only way to get those active minutes – there are plenty of ways to get activity in our everyday activities, too. As a bonus, cleaning and chores are a great way to get dual benefits of a clean house and active kids. Here are a few ways to get activity minutes any day of the year.

True, your kids aren’t likely to go jumping up and down at the idea of doing chores – but mopping is a great way to burn some calories, stay moving, and tone those arms. Take the chore out of the equation and instead make it fun! Embrace your inner Pippi Longstocking and strap some sponges, towels, or Swiffer dusters to your kiddos feet. The mopping quickly goes from mundane chore to a fun opportunity to go skating indoors.

Cleaning Baseboards
This one definitely falls into the chore category, but hey – it has to be done. Cleaning baseboards is a sneaky way to work those quads and glutes, thanks to all of the squatting and stand up/ sit down action. Remove the groaning by turning it into a game – hand each of your kiddos a bucket and a sponge and challenge them to a race. Points are given based on speed and quality – whoever wins gets to pick dinner for the night.

Walking the Dog
Fact of life – Fido still needs to get outside, even when it’s gross out. Walking is a great way to keep your kids active and also teach them safety and responsibility.

Anything Goes
Dusting, vacuuming, cleaning blinds… it doesn’t matter what it is – it’s always more fun with music. Turn the mundane into a dance party by blasting your kids’ choice of tunes and dancing your way through cleaning the house. When you’re done, continue the party.

There are plenty of ways to break your kids away from the TV and get them moving – it’s all about making everyday activities fun and turning things into a game whenever possible. And if all else fails, indoor obstacle courses are always a good fail-safe.


Quitters Never Win and Winners Never Quit

There are many phrases that quickly send even the calmest of parents into a frenzy. “I want to quit” ranks up there for many of us.

It doesn’t matter how old they are, the scenario runs pretty much the same. They go to practice or the game or match and are a little sullen after. Typically on the ride home (sometimes mid-event for the little ones), they say the dreaded words. Your pulse and mind start racing. Panic over the investment you’ll lose and dreading what to do with all that extra energy come quickly into play. What should you say? Do you really let them quit?

Yes. And no.

Yes, you should not force your child to participate in an activity they truly aren’t interested in. But that doesn’t mean that as soon as they utter the request you withdraw them or simply say “OK.”

First, make sure you know where the request is coming from. Did they simply have a bad day? Did something happen at practice? Are they maybe just not ready for that particular activity? Or has quitting truly been on their mind for some time?

If after discussion, they have you convinced that quitting really is right for them, do two things:

1 – Finish what you start. Even individual sports are team efforts. There’s a coach, a facility and, likely other athletes, that still rely on the athlete in some way. Team sports should go without saying: Your child is a member of that team and they should honor that commitment. Athletics are about so much more than physical feats alone and not quitting mid-project or mid-commitment is important of anyone’s character throughout life.

2 – Quitting this doesn’t mean coach-potato-ing is approved. That particular activity may not be the right fit, and that’s ok. But make sure that they replace the dropped sport with something new. Find out why they want to quit and then try to pair them with a new activity that fits their personality and interests and, ideally, offers potential to overcome the flaw with the current activity. Not every sport is right for every person – but odds are that there’s something out there that your child will love; the challenge is finding it.

Truth be told, there is something to the old adage, “quitters never win and winners never quit,” but it isn’t quite so black and white. In the grey space lies the option to continue on with something else – and that’s ok! Just make sure any outstanding commitments are fulfilled first.

Tracy & the Valley Staff



On-the-Go Eats You and Your Kids Will Love

Odds are that you’ve already kicked off 2017 with plenty of promises and intentions to carry through the year with a happier, healthier family. Keep your kids – and yourself – running at your peak with healthy eats, no matter how on the go your life may be.

  1. Deli wrap-ups – Deli meat has plenty of on-the-go potential and, added bonus, it’s versatile. Simply top it with your choice of dressing or spread and wrap it around your choice of filling. Here are a few favorite combos:
    • Turkey + mustard + dill pickle
    • Chicken + chipotle low-fat mayo + celery stick
    • Ham + cheddar + pretzel stick
    • Turkey + Greek yogurt cream cheese + apple sticks
  2. The “Un-wich” – Bread-free sandwiches are a great way to get rid of unhealthy starches while also being easily transportable. Iceberg lettuce doesn’t offer much in the way of nutrients and Romaine can prove a bit messy, so consider opting for Bibb, Boston, or Butter lettuce which offer nutrients and flexible wrapping options.
  3. Tapas On-the-Go – You know what they say; variety is the spice of life. Plus, what’s more fun than finger food? Have some fun and mix things up with a healthy bento box of finger foods. Consider low-fat cheese cubes, travel-friendly fruits (such as grapes or clementine slices), olives, hummus and veggies (carrots, celery, cauliflower, and broccoli florets all keep well), raw nuts, and an easy whole wheat starch, such as Wasa crackers.
  4. Yogurt – Yogurt is the gift that keeps on giving, providing Calcium and, in many cases, fruits. Opt for a low-fat Greek yogurt and make sure to check the labels before buying – though many are called Greek yogurt, they’re still loaded with sugars (sometimes as high as 24 grams in a serving!). If you can’t find a fruit option with low sugar content (no more than six-seven grams per serving), opt for plain. Top it off with a natural, no sugar added granola and fresh fruit for a well-rounded meal any time of day.

Staying healthy on the go doesn’t have to be impossible, require Pinterest-worthy plating, or take tons of time. Keep it simple and you’ll keep it achievable – this month and the next 11 that follow.

~The Valley Voice

Healthy(er) Cookies!

(No, that’s not a typo)After-school snacks are a must for many, but the majority of go-to pantry finds are loaded with salt and sugar (and who knows what else). Skip the processed goods and instead opt for homemade cookies. Even better, these cookies pack a punch with low sugar, plenty of fiber and even a secret veggie!

For the Chocolate Lover
They say you can find a substitute for any craving… with the exception of chocolate. Curb the craving with less guilt and a side of veggies in this cleaned up take on chocolate cookies. You’ll need:
– 2 cups of shredded and drained zucchini
– 7 prunes
– 1 egg
– 3 Tablespoons dark chocolate cocoa powder
– 1 ½ Tablespoons vanilla
– 1 tsp olive oil
– ¼ c. dark chocolate chips (optional)
Start by prepping your zucchini; shred it, then using a cheesecloth or thin kitchen towel,squeeze all the water you can get from it (if you have time, let it sit for 30 minutes or so, then do a second round). Next, add everything except the chocolate chips into your food processor and let it fly, processing until it forms a smooth batter. Stir in your chocolate chips, then spoon onto a baking sheet. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. Let them cool completely, then refrigerate(they’ll firm up).
For the Gluten-Free Family
Cookies shouldn’t be limited-access—but some kids don’t have much choice! And while glutenfree options are certainly more commonplace than they used to be, it’s hard to find more peace of mind than you can when you make something in your own kitchen.
Here’s a recipe that delivers gluten-free, zucchini-loaded deliciousness every time:
– 1 ½ cups grated, drained zucchini
– ½ cup gluten-free oats
– 1 ¼ cups oat flour
– ¼ cup honey
– ½ cup brown sugar
– ¼ cup melted butter (cooled)
– 1 egg
– 1 ½ teaspoons vanilla
– 1 teaspoon cinnamon
– ½ teaspoon baking powder
– ¼ teaspoon salt– 1 cup dark chocolate chips
Start the same way as the last recipe, grating your zucchini and squeezing the water out. Then,in a large bowl, mix together the cinnamon, salt, flour, and baking powder. In a separate bowl,cream together the butter, honey, brown sugar, and eggs. Add the dry ingredients and mix well.Then stir in the zucchini chocolate chips. Once combined, let the dough sit for at least 15minutes at room temperature. Bake Tablespoon-size dough balls at 375 degrees for 12-15minutes.
We wouldn’t exactly call them health food, but they are healthier food! And with veggies in every bite, it’s hard to turn down a kid who asks for a cookie or two. Enjoy!

3 Ways to Keep Kids Active at Home

“Back in our day,” we used to have free reign outdoors, for the most part. When summers and weekends came, many of us got the boot out of the house and a rule to be home before dark. We’d fill our days playing outside with friends and riding our bikes. But “these days,” there’s a list of worries a mile long that just didn’t seem to exist back when we were kids. Pair that list with an increase in work hours and demands and many parents find themselves in a predicament of how to pull kids away from the TV or electronics  but also give the supervision they need to keep them safe. 
We can’t solve the problem in full, but here are a few ways to keep kids active during at-home hours:
#1  Earn screen time. Let’s be honest, screen time isn’t just for the kids. But as with all things, it needs moderation. Teach your kids a lesson in working to achieve, while also keeping them active, by trading chores and activity time for screen time. You can either make the rules up asyou go or (particularly for older kids who understand time) list a pre-determined trade value. For example, sweeping the downstairs might earn 15 minutes, cleaning a bathroom might earn another 15 minutes… you get the idea. Double bonus: Your house will have never been cleaner.
#2  Create circuits. Kids love a challenge  particularly when it’s turned into a game. Take a few minutes and turn your back yard into your own America Ninja Warrior training course. It’ll take a bit of creativity, but you might be surprised with what you can come up with. You don’t
necessarily even need tons of materials  rolling down a hill, crab walks, cartwheels or ending the course with jumping to stick a Post-it note above a chalk-drawn line are all freebies that come without a big mess! Time the course and let them try to best their own records or invite a friend or two over to amp up the entertainment.
#3  Join the fun. Activity isn’t just for kids. Take some you time and set a good example.YouTube is full of free workouts if you don’t maintain your own library of videos. Ask them to join you for morning yoga or Zumba and you both benefit while bonding. You might be surprised what even the youngest members of your household can achieve.

Healthy Twists on Thanksgiving Classics

Although Thanksgiving is about friendships and counting our blessings, for many Americans, it quickly turns into a day of eating… and of course, that doesn’t mean overloading on healthy salads. Keep this year’s menu traditional, but a bit healthier, with these healthy – and easy – twists on the classics.

The Potatoes
Thanksgiving potatoes vary in prep, but whether they’re au gratin, mashed, or scalloped they have one thing in common (aside from the natural starchiness): they carry lots of fat in the way of cheeses and butter used in preparation. Skip these fats and swap the butter or cream for a Greek yogurt – it’s full of the richness and creaminess that you love, but without the saturated fats and high calories. Better yet, swap in sweet potatoes instead of the Russets – it’s a healthier carb that’s also loaded with healthy vitamins.

Green Beans
Green beans by themselves are a great pick – but all too often, they get covered in butter or cream sauces. Stick to steamed green beans, or, to amp them up, consider adding some turkey bacon bits and garlic with extra virgin olive oil.

Cranberry Sauce
Cranberries are full of vitamins and nutrients – but alone, they’re incredibly bitter (that’s why they get smothered with sugar). Cranberry sauce is an easy fix – for starters, leave the pre-made cans at the grocery store; they’re more like candy than cranberry sauce. Instead, mix together 1 c. sweetener (Splenda, Truvia, etc.), the juice and zest from one orange, a cinnamon stick, and 16 oz. of cranberries. Pop it all on the stove and let it simmer until you hear the cranberries start popping and see the sauce start to thicken. It’s that simple and this option is high in vitamins and low in sugar, while also bringing out the natural flavors in the cranberries.

Dinner Rolls
Between the stuffing, the potatoes, and the dinner rolls, it’s easy for Thanksgiving to turn into a carb fest. Opt to skip the dinner rolls all together – or, if you can’t bring yourself to forego them, look for a whole wheat version that doesn’t have added sugar. As ever, homemade is best.

This is one swap you don’t need to make – turkey is naturally high in iron and a great source of protein. Of course, opt for roasting – no frying – and find other ways to baste that don’t include butter and fats. Last but not least, be careful of that gravy intake.


On the topic: Easy Tweaks for Healthier Eats

Let’s be honest – by the time our kids get home from school and we get home from a long day at work, the last thing we feel like doing is slaving away in the kitchen to make healthy, gourmet meals. It’s easy to fall into the habit of popping in a frozen pizza, ordering out, or heading for the packaged meal section… but there are easy swaps that help to make healthier meals and snacks in just minutes. Try these easy tweaks for healthier eats in minutes.

Pizza: Who doesn’t love pizza? But the frozen varieties tend to be unfulfilling, while the take-out and delivery versions are laden with fat and processed starches. Thankfully, pizza is incredibly easy to make at home. If you have some time, try the cauliflower pizza crust  it’s low carb and a great way to sneak a vegetable into your kid’s diets in a way they totally won’t mind. Short on time? There are plenty of pre-made crusts at the grocery store  just opt for the whole wheat.Some stores even make fresh whole wheat dough  this is a great way to make it healthier, but still fresh. Load up on veggies and cut back on cheese.
Spaghetti Night: The worst part of spaghetti night isn’t the starch  it’s the sauce. Whole wheat or alternative noodles are a given  so now move on to amping up that sauce. Instead of grabbing the sugar-laden pre-made sauces from the pantry, semi home-make your own. Saute garlic in a bit of olive oil, then add a pinch of salt and some Italian seasoning and toast it in the pan for about 30 seconds. Add in 15 oz of tomato sauce and you’re ready to go – it’s sugar free and tastes far better than anything off the grocery store shelf.
Taco Tuesday: Tacos are fun and easy, but can become easy to over eat and make unhealthy.Try using shredded chicken simmered in taco seasoning or ground turkey instead of the ground beef  it’s an easier way to retain the flavor, but cut the fats. Next, swap the flour tortillas for corn tortillas  or better yet, get rid of the tortilla all together and make it a taco salad. Be mindful of sour cream and cheese on top  instead, try using a salsa verde to add flavor and texture.
Pantry Snack Time: The Hostess and Little Debbie snack cakes are easy, but it’s no surprise that they aren’t healthy. Clear them out of the pantry and instead stock up on quick and easy-to-grab prepared snacks, such as part skim mozzarella sticks, pre-portioned orange slices, ants on a log, or simple cheese and crackers. Take five minutes at the start of the week to divide snacks into snack bags and leave them in the bottom drawer of your fridge so your kids can help themselves after school.

~Valley Voice Blog