Scenes From A Health Coach’s Kitchen: Getting The Kids On Board

kidscookingToday I thought I would try something a little different. You know me, I love talking about food. I love reading food blogs and articles. I follow countless healthy foodies and food stylists and I drool over the glorious pictures of fresh beautiful food that looks so gorgeous. I do often get inspired to try new things because of it, BUT I’m also a mom and a business owner and I know how busy life can be. Realistically I am not going to spend hours perfectly placing each goji berry in my smoothie bowls.

One of my favorite food resources for inspiration is Lisa Leake who founded 100 Days Of Real Food. The reason I originally found her was because she has a photo gallery on her website where she snaps a quick picture of the lunches she had packs for her girls each day. As inspiring as the beautiful food stylist photos are I’ve found Lisa’s school lunch pictures to be a million times more helpful and practical in my regular day to day.

So occasionally I want to start sharing with you some things that are actually happening in my kitchen as a real life snapshot of possibility. And to start it off I thought I’d share a little bit about how I’ve involved my kids in the cooking over the last couple of weeks. There are a lot of ways to encourage kids to grow a love for healthy food, but one of the best ways I know is to get them involved with the cooking. Here are a few recent scenes from our kitchen:

Top Left: The boys making black bean brownies. There are a million black bean brownie recipes out there. I’ve had some pretty epic fails in this department, but the one we’ve been using and loving lately is this Flour less Black Bean Brownie by Chocolate Covered Katie. My kids get excited by even being in charge of the smallest job. This recipe is so easy that all there is to do is dump the ingredients into the food processor and push the button. But even that is exciting for them, and the pride they have when they eat something that they helped cook is really fun to see.

Top Right: I know it sometimes seems like more work to involve the kids with the cooking but how many times have you been trying to get dinner on the table with the kids clamoring in the background with a million requests? Trust me it is much easier to give them a knife and some vegetables to chop. Ha! Okay maybe that sounds strange but check out these salad knives made for kids you can find on Amazon. They are still a little sharp and require some supervision, but if you are selective about what things you give them to chop (think start with banana) and talk about knife safety as you go, it’s a great skill for them to develop early on. There are also some good you tube videos for kids on how to use knives safely that you might think about watching together before jumping in. Kids will take forever carefully chopping peas or peppers leaving your hands free to finish up the rest of the dinner prep. And as a bonus I’ve noticed in our house it’s common for vegetables to get nibbled on along the way – so maybe a good way to encourage those kiddos who aren’t so sure about veggies?

Bottom Left: Making your own tortillas is a really fun project and so easy. We picked up our tortilla press years ago at a local Hispanic food store. I think it might have been $10, but you can also find them on Amazon. Look for masa in the Hispanic food section of your grocery store. It’s magical for the kids to put the balls of masa on the press and lift it up to find perfect tortillas. They are delicious (way better than store bought in my humble opinion) and an added health benefit is you know exactly what is in them – a surprising number of tortillas in the grocery store are loaded up with preservatives to help keep them shelf stable. Here is a link for an easy tutorial if you are looking for more directions.

Bottom Right: On Valentines Day the kids wanted to make heart shaped pizzas. What kid doesn’t love pizza? And by making your own at home you can make it so much healthier! You can of course make a delicious crust from scratch if you have the time. But if you are looking for something quicker for a mid-week meal one that I’ve found and like is Trader Joe’s Whole Wheat Crust. It just has 6 ingredients – all recognizable – and the same ingredients that I would use if I were making it from scratch. The other great thing about making pizza at home is that kids LOVE to put the toppings on so put bowls of chopped vegetables in front of them and you might be surprised just how many veggies end up on your pizzas. On this day our pizzas had grated carrots, chopped red pepper, pineapple, and artichokes. Delicious!

I’m determined that when my boys go off to college they will love to cook and will know how to do it well. This is a gift that my mom gave me and it’s important to me to pass that on to my own kids. It is a skill they will be able to use every day for the rest of their lives. It doesn’t have to be complicated. Even the simplest cooking projects done on a regular basis is really exciting for them. Yes, sometimes it’s easier to do it myself but when I see how much they love to be a part of it, how it encourages them to try new foods, and how proud they are of what they’ve done it’s worth it. “Mom! I think this tastes better because I helped!” Is something I hear a lot in my house.

What are your family’s favorite projects in the kitchen? I’d love to hear about them!

Be happy, be healthy, be well.

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Bridging The Political Divide One Blueberry Salsa Recipe At A Time

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I know that this is a health and wellness blog and my posts have been trending more towards the political lately. These days as I see so many people I love experiencing extreme amounts of stress and anger and frustration and fear that I have to believe the two are inextricably tied together.  It has been hard to think about much else lately. When I’m scrolling through my social media feed it almost seems a bit jarring to come across a post that doesn’t have to do with politics. Like, “Wait! Don’t you know what’s going on right now? Crazy cat videos are no longer important!”

We are all trying to navigate this new political climate in our own way. For me I’m trying to take at least one positive action a day for the world and also for my sanity and well-being.  I’ve also been trying hard to replace anger with curiosity. The question I’ve been mulling over a lot lately is how did we get to this place? How can we create a culture that invites conversation over argument when there seems to be such a huge gap between our beliefs?

I came across this Ted Talk last night that I thought was fascinating. If we really want to move forward as a nation I think it’s important that we take a closer look at our mindset. That we try to shift from the feelings of “we’ve got to beat them,” to “we’ve got to reach them.” Being angry can certainly fuel action, but it seldom convinces someone to see things from your point of view.

Now I fully admit to having lived my whole life on the left coast. I’m positive my way of looking at the world has been shaped by that. Most of the people I’m surrounded with have a similar world view as I do. But still I have a few aunts and uncles that I’m pretty sure have a very different take on things. I’m pretty sure their environment has shaped their views as well.  I know them to be good people who love their children. I have hobbies in common with them. We’ve known each other our whole lives. We’ve celebrated lots of holidays together over the years.

The idea of calling up these relatives and engaging in a political conversation is overwhelming. It makes my stomach clench. Just the thought of it makes my shoulders tense and my heart beat faster (Wow! Instant physical reaction even without the actual interaction). There are issues I feel so passionately about that I’m not sure at this moment in time I could rationally and calmly have a political conversation with them.  I can however imagine calling up my uncle and asking for that awesome blueberry salsa recipe that he made last time he was visiting. Maybe it’s not a conversation that will be world altering, but at least for me personally it’s a start. A reminder to both of us that there are real people that we know and love behind the political labels and party lines.

I’m not saying I think people should just get over it so that everyone will get along. I’m not saying we shouldn’t feel passionately about world issues or that we shouldn’t turn those feelings into phone calls and letters and emails and action. But there is a big difference between action and anger especially when it comes to our health and well-being. One empowers you and the other breaks you down. One reaches out and the other pushes away.

I have another aunt I love on the left side. She is very politically involved. She puts in long hours volunteering for her party. She is up to date on the issues. She reaches out to people to make sure their voices are heard. When we lost the election I was worried she would be hit hard. She had poured so much time and energy into the effort. I tentatively asked my cousin how her mom was doing. “Better than the rest of us!” I was so surprised by the answer. But now thinking about it I wonder if it’s because she is used to having these conversations. She is more aware that there are people out there with different ideas. I need to ask her about it, but I wonder if she like me is excited that even though we may not have the president we hoped for we now have a huge uprising of people who are getting involved, speaking out, learning about the issues.

Yes we can view it as a stressful, scary time. We can focus on the things that might happen (but haven’t yet). But when we do that we cause ourselves to essentially live in a reality we don’t like prematurely – think of me getting stressed out just by the thought of having a conversation with relatives that hasn’t even happened. When I imagine it happening the stress to my physical and mental health is the same whether or not that conversation takes place. I’m the only one who is negatively effected, not my uncle and aunt who don’t even know this is going on in my imagination!

So for my part I’m going to try my hardest to focus on the incredible and exciting positive response we’ve been seeing from people getting involved in the political process in a way that I’ve never known in my lifetime (thank you Mr. Trump!). I’m going to reach out to my friends and relatives on the other side and remember that they are good humans who have been shaped by their environment just like I have. Eventually I’m going to try to have some conversations with them through the lens of curiosity. I’m going to remember that one person doesn’t define a nation, that it’s all of us and our voices that do. I’m going to use mine!

Be happy, be health, be well.

via Daily Prompt: Overwhelming

Making Peace With Missing Out

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I think one of the most common struggles when it comes to taking care of our health and well-being is the feeling that there is not enough time in the day. It’s so true that we all have the same 24 hours. How is it that we are are supposed to do our work, spend time with our family and friends, take care of household chores, exercise, eat right, get enough sleep, manage our stress, AND find time to do things that fuel our souls and make us feel alive and inspired. It is easy to feel overwhelmed and like we’re being charged with an impossible task!

We want to be good parents, good children, good employees, good friends, good people. We want to make sure we are meeting everyone’s needs. We want to say yes when people ask us to do things.  How do we do it all and still meet our own needs? Have you ever noticed that taking care of ourselves is often the first thing that falls to the wayside when we are stressed and busy?

Here is the thing. There will always be more. There will always be more things vying for your attention, wanting your help, asking for your time, your money, your energy. It’s a big world out there!  As incredible as it would be to be an inexhaustible resource to every person, every cause, every job opportunity it’s just not possible. We need time to rest, recharge, replenish, reflect. It’s critical. The other choice is to become run down, exhausted, broke, stressed, burnt out.

If you are looking for another way here is what I would suggest.

Make peace with missing out.

Here’s how. Take some time to sit down and think about what things in your life that are really important to you. Don’t make that list too long – maybe just 3 or 4 things. Write them down. Read them every day. Think about them. Talk to people you love about them. Then ask yourself every time you are faced with an opportunity or asked to do something, “how does this serve my list?” Get really really clear on how your decisions are serving your top priorities in life.

In a recent blog post I wrote that we make about 35,000 choices every day. Imagine what our lives would feel like if the majority of those decisions moved us in a direction closer to being in alignment with those 3 or 4 things that are most important to us.

When I was a newish mom I used to subscribe to an email list that would send me a weekly email with all of the events going on around town for kids. I wanted to make sure that I was being a super mom so I’d write everything down on our calendar and try to take the kids to as many as possible. I’d feel a little stressed if we were running late or if the kids were dragging their feet to get somewhere. If we missed an event that I had on the calendar I’d feel downright disappointed and frustrated. Like I failed that day.

Right at the top of my list of things that are important to me is Family – so I did some thinking about what that really means for me. For me that means connection, that means time together, that means laughter and mealtime conversations. It does not mean me using my scary mom voice to force all of us to get into the car and rush to some event around town that the kids really don’t care about anyway.

I’ve unsubscribed to that email list. I know where the website is when I need it. These days I’m getting better at making peace with missing out.

So how exactly do you say no?

When I was younger I was a serial people pleaser. I thought that was the best way to get people to like me. I thought saying yes to everything that came my way was the best way of saying yes to the universe. I tried to be open to every opportunity, every exciting new thing, every request for my time and energy. Being open is good right? So why was I feeling so frazzled and overwhelmed?

Then one weekend I was at a weekend-long meditation retreat. The teacher was an older woman. She was so peaceful and calm. Something about just being close to her made you feel more relaxed. One meditation was particularly emotional for me. Afterwards she came and sat next to me. She asked me what was going on and I told her I just felt totally stretched thin and like I was letting people down around me because I couldn’t do it all and do it well. She just rested her hand on my back and said, “You know Brooke, it’s okay to say no to people.”

I don’t think anyone up to that point had ever really told me that.

I want to share a little trick with you that I recently heard on a podcast that for me as a recovering people pleaser has been great. It’s these six little words.

“Let me get back to you.”

When you are face to face with someone who is asking you to do something it can be really hard to say no.  In that moment you might not know if it resonates with your most important things or not. You may need some time to process the request. When that happens you just use these six magic words! They give you time to think about it without closing the door but also without committing. They buy you time to figure it out and make a thoughtful decision. Ultimately if it’s not the right fit for you, it might not feel like it but you will be doing everyone a favor by saying no.

I still sometimes struggle with saying no to people, but I do it a lot more frequently these days because even though I worried for a long time that by saying no I would be restricting my life and missing out on things what I’ve found has been just the opposite. Instead I’ve opened up space and time and resources for the things that really matter to me most. I have more quality time with my family. I find I have more time for taking care of my health and well-being.   If anything my life feels more expansive.

I’d love to hear if there have been times in your life when you’ve been really happy you’ve said no to something. Are there times you wish you would have said yes?

Be happy, be healthy, be well!

For more tips, tricks and inspiration for leading a healthy happy life sign up for my monthly news letter.