Written on January 27, 2014 at 11:11 am , by Family Circle
By Emeril Lagasse
I love hosting a big party for the Super Bowl. There’s nothing better than watching the game with family, friends and delicious food. Often I’m asked for tips when entertaining and my advice is always the same⎯serve something that is simple and great-tasting and, most important, can be prepped ahead of time. Choosing dishes I can tackle in advance is key to enjoying time with my guests and watching the game.
With the big game coming up, I’ve put together a couple of recipes that utilize a great tool for saving time in the kitchen: the pressure cooker.
Chili is always a crowd favorite. My Navy Bean & Chicken Chili is a take on what some folks might call a “white” chili⎯made without red meat and sometimes with beans. In my version, I add chicken breast and one of my favorite beans, the classic navy bean. I then flavor it with my favorite green chiles, a touch of regular chili powder and, of course, cumin. This chili cooks up so quickly you won’t believe it.
For folks looking for a little more meat, I also like to serve a classic combo: Pulled Pork and Coleslaw. People loved pulled pork but can be intimidated by how long it can take to cook. With the pressure cooker, though, you can get it on the table in about a third the time it takes to cook in a conventional oven. Talk about a time-saver.
Navy Beans and Chicken Chili
This chili takes its personality from navy beans, a variety of green chiles and tender chicken breasts that are cooked just to the point of doneness, then shredded and stirred back in near the end of cooking. The result: a chili that stands out from the pack with moist, flavorful pieces of chicken in every bite.
• 2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts
• 1 tablespoon plus 1½ teaspoons kosher salt
• 3½ teaspoons ground cumin
• 2 teaspoons chili powder
• 3 tablespoons olive oil
• 2 onions, minced (3 cups)
• 3 poblano chiles, stemmed, seeded and minced (1½ cups)
• 2 serrano chiles, stemmed, seeded and minced
• ½ large bunch or 1 small bunch cilantro, stems and leaves reserved separately, finely chopped
• 1 canned chipotle chile in adobo sauce, stem removed, minced
• ¼ cup minced garlic (8 to 10 cloves)
• 1 teaspoon dried Mexican oregano or regular oregano, crushed with your fingers
• 1 pound navy beans, soaked overnight and drained
• 5½ cups chicken stock
• One 4-ounce can chopped green chiles, with juices
• 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon cornmeal
• Sour cream, for serving
• Lime wedges, for serving
• Minced red onion, for serving
• Finely minced jalapeños, for serving
• Grated Monterey Jack-cheddar cheese blend, for serving
Season chicken with 1½ teaspoons of the salt, 1 teaspoon of the cumin and 1 teaspoon of the chili powder.
Set a pressure cooker to the “browning” program and heat olive oil. When oil is hot, add chicken breasts (in batches if necessary) and cook until they are golden on both sides and just cooked through, 8 to 10 minutes. Transfer chicken to a plate, tent with foil or plastic wrap and set aside.
Add onion, poblano and serrano chiles, cilantro stems, chipotle chile, garlic, oregano, remaining 2½ teaspoons cumin and remaining 1 teaspoon chili powder to pressure cooker. Cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are soft, 5 to 6 minutes. Add beans, chicken stock and canned chiles. Close and lock the lid and set to HIGH for 15 minutes. While beans are cooking, shred cooled chicken into bite-size pieces and set it aside.
Open the pressure release valve and allow steam to escape. Unlock and carefully open lid. Add remaining 1 tablespoon salt and the cornmeal, and stir to combine. Close and lock lid, and reset pressure cooker to HIGH for 8 minutes. Release pressure, unlock and carefully open lid. Beans should be tender; if they’re not, continue to cook under pressure for 1 to 2 minutes longer.
Set pressure cooker to the “simmer” program. Stir in chicken and cook, uncovered, until chicken is heated through, about 10 minutes.
Serve chili in bowls, garnished with sour cream, lime wedges, minced onion, minced jalapeños, grated cheese and cilantro leaves.
Yield: 4 to 6 servings (about 9 cups)
Pulled Pork With Classic Coleslaw
Pulled pork is a sure crowd-pleaser, especially when you pair it with southwestern spices and cool, creamy coleslaw. Serve this dish at your next football party or tailgate and you’ll have more fans than you know what to do with. The pork is coated with an intensely flavored rub, then refrigerated overnight before cooking. The results? Oh, baby.
• 2 tablespoons brown sugar
• 1½ tablespoons pimentón picante (hot smoked Spanish paprika)
• 1 tablespoon ancho chile powder
• 2 teaspoons hot Mexican-style chili powder or regular chili powder (New Mexican is spicier)
• 1 teaspoon dried Mexican oregano or regular oregano
• 1 teaspoon ground cumin
• 1 teaspoon ground coriander
• 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
• One 5-pound bone-in pork shoulder, cut into large chunks
• 2 teaspoons salt
• 2 tablespoons grapeseed oil
• 1 yellow onion, minced
• 4 cloves garlic, sliced
• 4 cups homemade chicken stock or packaged low-sodium chicken broth
• ½ cup buttermilk
• ½ cup mayonnaise
• 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
• 2 tablespoons cider vinegar
• ½ teaspoon celery seeds
• 1½ teaspoons salt
• ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
• 1 small head red cabbage, thinly sliced
• 1 small head napa cabbage, thinly sliced
• 2 carrots, thinly sliced on a mandolin or shaved with a vegetable peeler
• 1 head butter lettuce
• Tortilla chips, broken into bite-size pieces
• Lime wedges
Marinate the pork: In a large bowl, combine sugar, pimentón, ancho chile powder, hot chili powder, oregano, cumin, coriander and black pepper and mix well. Place pork in bowl and toss with spice mix, coating all sides of pork. Cover with plastic wrap or transfer to a resealable plastic bag and refrigerate overnight.
Let pork to come to room temperature before cooking. Season pork with salt.
Set a pressure cooker to the “browning” program and add grapeseed oil. When oil is hot, brown pork, working in batches, about 5 minutes per batch. As it is browned, transfer pork to a baking sheet and set it aside. Add onion and garlic to pressure cooker and cook for 2 to 3 minutes. Return pork to pressure cooker and add chicken stock. Close and lock lid and set to HIGH for 60 minutes.
Open the pressure release valve and allow steam to escape. Unlock and carefully open lid. Pork should be fork-tender; if not, cook it under pressure for another 10 minutes. Once it is done, transfer pork to a platter and allow it to rest until it is cool enough to handle.
Shred pork with two forks and return it to broth. Pork can be served at this point or frozen for up to three months.
Prepare coleslaw by combining buttermilk, mayonnaise, mustard, vinegar, celery seeds, salt and cayenne pepper in a large bowl and mixing well. Add cabbage and carrots and toss well. Set aside for at least 15 to 20 minutes. Salad can be made up to several hours in advance and refrigerated until ready to serve.
To serve pork, separate butter lettuce leaves and place them on a platter. Top leaves with warm pulled pork, place some of the coleslaw on top of pork, and top with tortilla chips. Serve with lime wedges.
Yield: 8 to 10 servings
Recipes courtesy of Emeril Lagasse, originally appearing in Emeril’s Cooking with Power, William Morrow Publishers, New York, 2013, courtesy Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia, Inc.
For more of Emeril’s cooking tips, tune in to QVC for the “Emeril’s Kitchen” broadcast Sunday, February 19 beginning at midnight (ET)
Written on January 22, 2014 at 2:59 pm , by Family Circle
As a nutritionist who spends her days working with celebrities and regular folks alike, there’s one question I get all the time: “So, what do your kids eat?”
My kids aren’t immune to the lure of fast food and junk snacks. But nutrition is the family business, and by empowering them to make healthy decisions from an early age, I can trust them to use their good instincts.
This was one of the inspirations behind my new Fast Metabolism Diet cookbook and app. In the cookbook, I included over 200 tasty recipes that kids will love to eat and parents will love to cook. With the app, parents can streamline their shopping lists and plan a month’s worth of healthy meals.
Just last week I had a counter full of fresh veggies that I brought back from the store: kale, carrots, mangoes, avocados, raw nuts and apples—a whole pile of great foods. My son walked in from school, saw my groceries and said, “I want to eat all of that!” I sure was a proud momma!
Parents have a tough battle when it comes to healthy eating. We’re up against poor-quality cafeteria food, rows of vending machines and aisles full of sugary, processed junk marketed to kids. But you can plant the seeds to encourage healthy choices.
Here are three changes you can make to your daily routine.
1. Make the kitchen the heart of your home. My best memories are of my mom’s kitchen. This is where I learned to cook, and learned to love food. Try taking your kids shopping with you and teach them how to choose the juiciest lemons, the crunchiest carrots and the freshest salad greens. Or give them a “kids’ night,” where they can plan and prepare part of the dinner (if they’re old enough). Emphasize making healthy choices, and help them choose the recipes and do the cooking.
2. Broker a deal. When my kids want to eat something they know I won’t be crazy about, we negotiate. I rarely say no completely, but I will ask for something in return. Typically, I’ll say yes to the ice cream or nachos but ask that they eat two healthy things first. My kids are now so used to this that it’s part of the routine. My daughter will say, “I want this cupcake I got at school, so I’m eating celery sticks and almond butter.” This is a great way to get them to think about what they’re eating, but there’s a sneaky agenda in there too. By eating healthy and delicious foods first, they’ll want less of the junk. This isn’t a bad tactic for yourself, either. Want to splurge on birthday cake? Have some red-pepper strips and hummus, or a handful of raw almonds and an apple, first.
3. Try some healthy makeovers. You may not be able to convince your kids to give up chicken nuggets or macaroni and cheese altogether. But you can make those meals healthier and just as tasty. Here’s my no-fail recipe for pretzel-crusted chicken nuggets.
Pretzel-Crusted Chicken Nuggets
3/4 cup arrowroot powder
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3 egg whites
1 cup finely crushed sprouted-grain pretzels (Unique 100% sprouted pretzels work well)
1 teaspoon seasoning of your choice (such as smoked paprika, chipotle powder, garlic powder or Italian seasoning)
3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (about 1 1/4 pounds), cut into bite-size pieces
1. Preheat the oven to 400°. Line a baking sheet (you may need two) with parchment paper.
2. Whisk together the arrowroot, salt and pepper in a bowl. In a separate bowl, whisk the egg whites until foamy.
3. Place the crushed pretzels in a third bowl and stir in a teaspoon of your favorite seasoning.
4. Dip a piece of chicken in the arrowroot until it is evenly covered. Then dip it in the egg whites, and then in the crushed pretzels.
5. Place the coated chicken on the prepared baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining chicken.
6. Bake the nuggets for 15 to 18 minutes, or until the chicken is fully cooked and the outside is golden brown.
Prep time: 15 minutes
Total time: 30 minutes
Want more ways to make over your favorite comfort foods? Visit my website, fastmetabolismdiet.com, for healthy recipes, tricks and tips.
Nutritionist Haylie Pomroy is the best-selling author of The Fast Metabolism Diet and The Fast Metabolism Diet Cookbook. Ms. Pomroy lives with her husband, their five children and their four dogs in Los Angeles. Visit Haylie Pomroy and the Fast Metabolism community on Facebook.
Written on January 21, 2014 at 3:21 pm , by Family Circle
By JM Randolph, the Accidental Stepmom
I don’t make my kids’ beds. This doesn’t stem from some lofty ideology, unless you count self-preservation as lofty.
The thing about mess is that it is not linear. It’s logarithmic. If one neat child and one slovenly child share a bedroom while three children who are too young to properly clean their rooms by themselves share a bedroom, how long does it take their new, not-neat stepmother to give up on making beds? Answer: no time at all.
My main neatness requirement in the children’s bedrooms is that there be a path from the door to the bed, and that the door be able to close. Out of sight, out of mind, thus freeing the mind for other pursuits, such as what to feed everyone for dinner, how to get them to their scattered, simultaneous activities, and whether or not I can take a shower before work.
We can’t tell ahead of time what the end result of our parental decisions will be. My overly optimistic hope was that the kids would learn to make their beds. What happened is that they have a resentment against sheets.
My children neither know nor care about the difference between a flat sheet and a fitted one. Pillow shams and pillowcases are identical to them, and they were genuinely baffled by the discovery of a bed skirt in the linen closet. More than one of my children was surprised to learn that a mattress pad does not count as a sheet. They can sleep on a bare mattress with a naked pillow and can’t even tell the difference. This may also be due to the fact that they sleep in more clothes than they actually wear in public. Twice as many.
It’s not surprising that “Change your sheets!” on the chore list is viewed as punishment. They try many creative ways to bypass it. They’ll put all the bedding—including their comforters and mattress pads—in the laundry room. Whatever child “wins” starts their wash load, usually cramming the machine full with the sheets balled up in the mattress pad and the comforter stuffed in too, if they can get the lid closed.
Then nothing else happens.
The load does not move from the washer to the dryer. No further sets of sheets are washed. None of the 37 extra sets of clean sheets in the closet—which would have eliminated the need for them to do laundry in the first place—are put on their beds.
They operate under the delusion that their sheets will magically cycle themselves through the machines on a Saturday, when their dad and I both work a long day in the city, in time to put themselves back on the beds before bedtime, and that if it doesn’t happen, we won’t notice. Well, that last part is pretty true.
They dig out sleeping bags and blankets and lay them out in pretense of having made their beds. They will then sleep on bare mattresses and pillows until the ruse is discovered.
They’ve finally gotten hip to the fact that if they remove only their sheets and not the rest of their bedding, we won’t know they’re sleeping sheetless unless we go in the bedroom and check. Frankly, I try to avoid their rooms as much as possible.
I was talking with a friend of mine about this recently and she’s the exact opposite of me. She has two teenagers and cleaning is her hobby; she still makes their beds every day. She’s currently engaged in a passive-aggressive battle with her teen daughter. When the daughter throws attitude at her, the mom doesn’t make her bed. The next day the daughter retaliates by halfway making her bed by herself. I totally recognize that teen girl gauntlet being thrown down.
I just surveyed the bedrooms and found three kids are using only one sheet, one has no pillow coverings at all, and the one who has both a fitted and a flat sheet is using a pillow sham instead of a pillowcase.
I retaliated by closing all their doors again.
JM Randolph is a writer, stagehand and custodial stepmom of five. She lives in New Jersey with her family and blogs at accidentalstepmom.com.
Written on January 16, 2014 at 1:28 pm , by Family Circle
By Lisa Kelsey
For its “Women in TV” issue, fashion magazine Elle released four separate covers, each featuring a different actress: Mindy Kaling, Allison Williams, Zooey Deschanel and Amy Poehler. Because she wasn’t featured in color and three-quarter length like the other actresses, the cover showing Mindy generated immediate controversy. Was Elle cropping out her body because it didn’t fit the magazine’s model-thin standards? Was it shot in black and white to minimize her ethnicity? Not too long ago, Elle was in hot water for running a cover with the plus-size actress Melissa McCarthy wrapped in a coat.
The controversies surrounding these covers made me wonder: If Mindy Kaling or Melissa McCarthy were men, would everyone be clamoring to see them in all their full-figured glory? What if they were scientists or writers? We all know what these women look like—we see them on TV. But by focusing so much on their physical appearance, maybe we are reducing these women to their bodies when they have so much more to offer. Mindy and Melissa are both funny, intelligent, very successful women who are being featured on a top fashion magazine cover. That they look glamorous and beautiful is enough. And who says you have to reveal all to be sexy?
Mindy and Melissa both say they’re happy with their respective photographs. Mindy took a characteristically humorous approach and tweeted:
Melissa says she chose the coat and covered up—she was thinking about the issue coming out in November. Or maybe it just made her feel more confident in front of the camera. If you’ve ever had a professional photo taken of yourself, you probably know it’s not as easy as it looks. I don’t like my thinning hair and feel much better wearing a hat. I’m not “ashamed” of my hair, but you better believe if you ever see me on the cover of a fashion magazine I’ll be wearing a hat!
Insofar as Mindy’s cover being shot in black and white, the photographer, Carter Smith, shoots in color as well. On his site you’ll see beautiful black-and-white images of Jennifer Lawrence, Naomi Watts, Gwyneth Paltrow and many others. When I saw Mindy’s cover, I automatically thought of 1940s glamour photography. With her glossy black hair and dark eyes, she looks sultry and seductive. Contrast this Parade cover with Elle’s: It has a similar angle and she looks great, but seriously, on the Elle cover she’s a knockout.
Some say it doesn’t matter that the subjects themselves are pleased. I say it does. There are plenty of photographs of both these women (including a lot of selfles in Mindy’s case). In some they look great, in others not so much. These photos made them feel great about themselves. I say, why should we begrudge them that?
I think Elle wanted to celebrate these women by making the best possible images for their covers.
You have to admit they are striking, don’t you think?
Written on January 15, 2014 at 11:26 am , by Family Circle
Remember your child’s attempt at taking her first steps? Did her stumbles and waddles make you say “awww”? So will this adorable polar bear cub.
The star of this video was born on November 9 at the Toronto Zoo. Watch as he attempts to take his first steps. Priceless!
Written on January 13, 2014 at 4:15 pm , by Family Circle
As a parent, you constantly have doubts and concerns about how to raise your kids no matter how many parenting books you may read. But when these worrying moms listened to what their kids really thought about them, it was priceless.
Written on January 13, 2014 at 1:33 pm , by Family Circle
By Leslie Kantor, Vice President of Education at Planned Parenthood.
A recent Dear Abby submission came from a woman whose teenage daughter confided in her that she was sexually active, and asked her mother if she would buy her condoms. The mother purchased condoms and then learned that her daughter was supplying them to her girlfriends who couldn’t talk with their own mothers about sex. While it’s great that this teenager has such a great relationship with her mother that she feels comfortable bringing up tough topics, this situation illustrates that more teens need help doing the same.
It’s okay to be nervous about talking with your teens about sex, but it turns out that parents are less anxious about talking about these topics than teens are. A survey released last year from Planned Parenthood and Family Circle, with assistance from the Center for Latino Adolescent and Family Health at New York University, found that only 18% of teens reported they were very comfortable talking with their parents about sex.
We know that teens need guidance and direction, and often name their parents as the biggest influence in their decisions about sex. Teens who report having good conversations with their parents about sex are more likely to delay sexual activity, have fewer partners and use condoms and other contraceptives when they do have sex.
Teens may worry about their parents’ reactions, but the truth is that most parents welcome the chance to talk about these issues. As parents, we want our kids to feel comfortable confiding in us and coming to us for advice. We can try to make these conversations as natural as asking them about school, and encourage teens to open up whenever a topic comes up related to sexuality. For instance, when teens ask what we think about something “a friend” may be doing, that’s often their way of trying to assess what our values are and whether we are going to overreact or be extremely judgmental. Be careful not to get upset if they bring up sex and dating, because we want to keep the lines of communication open. But do take the opportunity to share your values and expectations related to when sex should and shouldn’t happen, how to deal with pressure to have sex, and the importance of caring, respectful relationships and using condoms and birth control when sex does take place.
The Dear Abby piece brings up another issue: Teens probably will share any information you give them with their friends. So it’s a good idea for parents to think about some of the issues that may arise in advance—this way, you’re prepared for whatever your kids may bring up over the years.
Here are some things to consider if you are the parent of a teenager:
· What will you say if you realize your teen is looking at pornography online?
· What message will you give to your child about masturbation?
· What dating rules do you plan to have?
· What will you tell teens about sharing personal information online and the risks of activities such as sexting?
· What would you say if your teen is interested in a member of the same sex?
· How will you help your teen stay safe and healthy once s/he becomes sexually active?
· Will you buy your teen condoms, or take your daughter to get birth control?
To help ease some of the discomfort that young people may have, Planned Parenthood designed “Awkward or Not?,” a quiz teens can take on their cell phone or computer that allows them to explore their feelings about communicating with their parents and offers encouragement and tips to start talking. There’s also a funny video they can watch, “How to Talk with Your Parents About Sex,” with some do’s and don’ts about bringing up sexuality topics with their parents.
Planned Parenthood also offers resources for parents to help start and improve these conversations, including information, videos and tips for talking to children of all ages on Planned Parenthood’s Tools for Parents page and the Let’s Talk Month page, including “Parenting Tips,” a series of interactive videos on talking to your teens about sex and relationships; a fact sheet and information on parent-child communication and a tip sheet on talking to your kids; and information on setting boundaries, helping teens delay sex, parenting LGBTQ kids and more.
With more tools than ever before to help initiate these important conversations, there’s never been a better time to talk with our teens.
Follow Leslie on Twitter @LeslieKantor.
Written on January 9, 2014 at 12:12 pm , by Family Circle
In July 2010, special education teacher and mother Rachel Macy Stafford decided enough was enough. No longer did she want to multi-task her life away with buzzing phones, mile-long to-do lists and overloaded agendas. Instead, Rachel yearned to take small steps to let go of daily distractions and connect to what truly mattered. She began by turning off the notifications on her cell phone while in the company of her loved ones. She also established daily rituals at mealtime and bedtime that were always distraction-free.
Immediately, she noticed the profound impact these small changes were having on her ability to bond with the people she loved most, as well as her own happiness. Rachel began sharing her experiences on a blog (www.HandsFreeMama.com) to stay accountable to her “hands free” journey. The public response was quite remarkable. Over the past three years, The Hands Free Revolution has grown to a community of nearly 100K!
Rachel recently released her first book, Hands Free Mama, which describes how she transformed her overly distracted life into one of meaningful connection. Read about Rachel’s transformative journey below.
Interview by Beth Gebhard of Lightshop Media
Q. What does it mean to live “hands free”?
A. Living hands free means making a conscious decision to temporarily push aside daily distractions and give your undivided attention to someone or something meaningful in your life. But it doesn’t mean giving up technology altogether, and it does not mean ignoring your job responsibilities, volunteer obligations or home duties. Instead, living hands free allows you to experience the joy that comes from being fully engaged with others.
Q. What caused you to embark on this hands free journey?
A. Three years ago, I experienced what I call my “breakdown-breakthrough.” For the first time in my life, I honestly answered the complimentary question I received on a daily basis: “How do you do it all?” I painfully admitted that I was able to “do it all” because I missed out on life⎯the playing, connecting, memory-making parts of life. Tragically, I knew every precious moment I’d missed could never be retrieved. With clarity, I saw the damage that my daily distractions were causing my relationships, my health and my life.
Once I acknowledged that living distractedly was not really living at all, I vowed to change. From that day on, I began taking small steps to let go of distraction and created designated times of the day to be fully present with the people I love.
Q. You began chronicling your journey on your Hands Free Mama blog. Why?
A. When I was ready to tell someone about my endeavor, I started with my husband, Scott. The hands free concept I described impacted his behavior immediately. While at the children’s museum that morning, he’d noticed several parents paying more attention to their phones than to their kids. This observation motivated him to turn off his phone, push away thoughts of work and focus solely on our children’s clever comments and funny expressions. In doing so, he felt a strong sense of connection, peace and renewal. That was the moment I knew I needed to go public with my hands free journey. The impact of the small changes I was making in my daily life was so immediate and so profound that I knew I must share it with as many people as I could. As an educator, writer and encourager, I felt certain this was my purpose in life. I believed that the people who could most likely benefit from my hands free message were people who read blogs and use social media. That is why I chose those media to share my message.
Q. What surprised you when you began sharing your stories?
A. Within weeks of my first blog post, readers began reaching out to me. People all over the world wrote to me saying, “I need this message. I am joining you on your journey.” Even my friends and neighbors, who I thought had it all together, were saying, “I’m tired of living on a hamster wheel. I am tired of the pressure. I want to enjoy time with my family. I want my kids to be kids.”
As stories from my journey fell into the hands (and onto the screens) of others who also felt trapped by their distractions, I suddenly had companions on my hands free journey, and a movement to live with less daily distraction and more human connection began. I soon discovered it wasn’t just stressed-out moms who were struggling…I heard from a Fortune 500 company executive, a stay-at-home dad, a single mom living in a battered women’s shelter, a homeschooler, a grandmother, a blogger and even a teen—people from all different backgrounds and circumstances were implementing strategies described in my stories and experiencing the life-altering results.
Q. Did you find it difficult to live hands free during the process of writing this book?
A. When I got started writing the book, my husband, my two daughters and I sat down and discussed what we would need to do as a family in order for me to meet my publishing deadlines. Much to my surprise, every member of the family was willing to take on more household duties and daily responsibilities in order to help me. I am proud to say that my family came through like rock stars! Although I worked more hours than usual that month, I refused to miss out on the daily rituals of connection I’d established with my family throughout my journey. Those little moments of togetherness are the most meaningful and renewing parts of my day.
Q. What is the most challenging aspect of living hands free?
A. Before, I avoided painful truths about the way I was living by being overly busy, tied to my devices and never alone with my thoughts. Once I quieted down my external distractions, I was forced to face some painful realizations. Once I was honest with myself about changes I needed to make, I had to take action. I learned to apologize, be kind to myself, show up “as is” and admit my imperfections and shortcomings, among other things. These actions were not easy, but as I often say, “The truth hurts, but the truth heals…and brings me closer to the person I want to be.”
I thought that after one year of grasping what really mattered, I would be cured and my journey would be over—but it is far from over. Although I have made significant progress toward a more present and gratitude-filled life, I am faced with choices every moment of every day on how I spend my time and energy. Daily distractions and societal pressures will always be ready and willing to sabotage my time and my relationships. Living hands free requires constant daily effort and continual honesty, but the payoff is a closer relationship with the people you love.
Q. What are some immediate and simple ways to transform a tech-obsessed family into a hands free family?
A. 1) Turn off the notifications on your phone and place it out of reach while driving. This was the easiest and most impactful effort in my hands free journey.
2) Allow yourself 60 extra seconds for an unrushed, undivided, loving goodbye. If you make only one small effort to let go of distractions and grasp what matters in a day, do this!
3) Establish do-nothing moments with no agenda and no itinerary.
4) Create and maintain one daily ritual where time with your loved one is protected from all other distractions and interruptions. For example, morning snuggles, nightly tuck-ins, walking the dog together, prayer or a daily devotional, after-school snack time.
5) Consistently invite your family to engage in activities that do not involve electronic devices. Try cooking, board games, nature walks, bike rides, arts and crafts, sports or science experiments.
Written on January 8, 2014 at 2:11 pm , by Family Circle
By Michele Bender
Studies have shown that sleep helps you lose weight, improves your energy and even decreases your risk of heart disease. Follow these six steps for better shut-eye this year.
1. Prep for bed. Nightly routines aren’t just for infants: They’re essential for all ages. “Start a ritual about 20 to 30 minutes before bedtime to prepare the body for sleep,” says Robert Oexman, DC, director of the Sleep to Live Institute in Joplin, Missouri. It could include a hot bath (which decreases your core body temperature) or a cup of herbal tea.
2. Get your own top sheets and blankets. “Using separate ones can make up for different temperature needs you and your partner may have,” says Oexman. Added bonus: You won’t wake up when he steals the blanket.
3. Stay in the dark. If you wake up in the middle of the night, don’t check your email or text messages—no matter how tempting. When your kids must have a night-light, use a low blue one. “These eliminate the blue wavelength of light that negatively impacts melatonin production,” says Oexman.
4. Lower the thermostat. About 68 degrees is ideal for catching 40 winks because it causes a decrease in your core body temp. If you get cold, covering up is okay. “It’s exposing your head to cold air that naturally decreases your core body temperature,” says Dr. Oexman.
5. Curb the caffeine. Whether it comes from tea, soda, coffee or hot chocolate, this stimulant can keep you up at night. This means you’re tired the next day, so you reach for caffeine to perk you up and the cycle continues.
6. Don’t allow cell phones in the bedroom…even if your kids say they use their phones as alarm clocks. That’s because every time you get a text or email, you’ll wake up. “It causes fragmented, lower-quality sleep,” says Oexman.
Written on January 7, 2014 at 2:40 pm , by Family Circle
First tearjerker of 2014? This Procter & Gamble video will remind you just how far a mother’s unconditional love can carry you.
“For teaching us that falling only makes us stronger. Thank you, mom”
Written on January 7, 2014 at 12:00 pm , by Family Circle
Last month, our guest blogger Melissa Halas-Liang, RD, founder of the wellness group SuperKids Nutrition, shared five ways to keep your child healthy for life! This month, she reveals the surprising place your kids are overdoing it when it comes to sugar and smart ways to get them to stop.
When you’re not catching someone’s hand in the proverbial cookie jar, rely on numbers. Numbers don’t lie. And research shows that teens consumed on average 442 calories (boys) or 314 calories (girls) a day from added sugar alone. A majority of those calories (59%) come from food, but beverages aren’t too far behind at 41%.
Now here’s the real surprise. Guess what parents? Teens consumed most of that added sugar, not when out and about with friends, but while at home! That’s right: reaching into your fridge, opening up your cabinet and pulling out your drawers at home.
We all rely upon a balanced, nutritious diet to remain in good health. However, teens must go above and beyond to obtain the nutrients their bodies require during this age of intensive growth and maturation. Sadly, the reality is that the food and snack choices teens are making fall short of the nutrients needed to build healthy, strong bodies. Support your kids and make the healthiest food choices the easiest choices.
Here are 8 easy ways for teens to cut down on the sweet stuff:
1. Choose cereals with less than 6 grams of sugar per serving. If your kids prefer the sweeter cereals with honey, no problem. Tell them to mix it with equal part of plain cereal.
2. Buy sugar-free crackers. Briefly explain how sugar makes starchy foods addictive, so you overeat them and then return to the store to buy more. But, fear not, because you can outsmart the marketers! Here’s a helpful guide to buying crackers.
3. Read the ingredient list. Find options for foods like pretzels, breads and chips without added sugar.
4. Cut back on the sugar-laden condiments. Serve low-sodium or homemade salsa or tomato sauce instead of ketchup.
5. Choose naturally lower-sugar yogurts. Some Greek yogurts offer less added sugar and pack in additional protein! Just be sure to choose true Greek yogurts—not those have added fillers. Also encourage them to sweeten yogurt with fresh fruits like baked apples or warmed frozen cherries or with dried fruit and nuts.
6. Keep fresh fruit out where your kids can see it. Teens will choose the easy option! If the fruit is washed, ready to eat, and within reach, they’ll grab it!
7. Buy 6-ounce juice glasses. They’re smaller and encourage ideal portion sizes. When drinking juice yourself, lead by example and dilute the juice with water.
8. Make it easy. Teens aren’t eating enough fruits. In fact, 28.5% of high school students ate fruit less than once per day and 33.2% ate vegetables less than once per day. So, choose fruits with minimal prep required washed and ready to eat in the fridge like grapes, Clementines or apples. Keep bananas out on the kitchen table. Decrease the barriers getting in the way between teens and their fruit!
One more thing: When you talk to your teen about cutting back on sugar, focus on healthy eating and physical activity, not on “dieting.” If you focus too much on weight loss, you increase the risk of developing a distorted body image or an eating disorder, particularly for teenage girls. In fact, roughly 70%-80% of teen girls perceive themselves to be too fat. You want to encourage your teen to eat right to prevent further weight gain and teach life long habits. But most importantly, you want your teen to feel his or her best inside and out. If you do think weight loss must be addressed, check out our tips here and be sure to seek your healthcare provider’s advice before you put your teen on a calorie-restricted meal plan.
How do you keep the amount of sugar your kids have to a minimum? Post a comment below and tell us!
Melissa Halas-Liang, a mom, registered dietitian and certified diabetes educator, is founder of SuperKidsNutrition.com, which provides nutrition and health content, curriculum and workshops to parents and educators nationwide. She is author of the Super Crew books Super Baby Abigail’s Lunch Time Adventure and Havoc at the Hillside Market.
Written on January 6, 2014 at 4:24 pm , by Family Circle
Written by Catherine Holecko, family fitness expert at About.com.
I’m seven hours into an eight-hour bus ride that started at 4 a.m. I’m wedged into a seat that has half the legroom of coach class on a discount airline. My overstuffed purse is on my lap, and the bag containing breakfast, lunch and snacks for myself and my kid is squeezed into the few inches between my feet and my knees, because the overhead compartment is about six inches high.
Adam Sandler is bellowing from the bus’s DVD players while 26 tween girls giggle and shriek in the seats behind me. Tomorrow I’ll be confined to an ice rink for the entire day and some of the night. And let’s not forget how much this weekend of skating team travel is costing—all for three minutes of actual competition time.
If you’re questioning my sanity right now, I understand. At times like these, I question it too! Being a member of a travel team means a lot of sacrifices, for athletes and their families. Even setting aside the costs, which are significant, there’s the time commitment. Skating practices eat up a good portion of our Saturdays and a few evenings a week. We schedule our holiday plans around team obligations. Trips like this one usually require my daughter to miss a day of school, while I take time off from work and have to skip some of my younger child’s events and activities. Pulling off these trips requires a huge amount of volunteer effort from parents—they’re the ones who put in hours of advance planning, making intricate schedules and figuring out how to house, feed and transport more than 100 skaters, coaches and parent chaperones over the course of one long (really long) weekend.
So I get how unreasonable this all sounds, and yes, I do sometimes ponder why we do it. But then I sit in the stands with the other parents who have become good friends (how could they not, after all this togetherness?) and watch my daughter skate with her team. I watch the three other teams her coach oversees. When they succeed—when they skate a clean program, with straight lines, big smiles and no one falling on the ice—I can’t help but tear up. When they falter, I tear up too, because I know how hard they’ve worked and how badly they want to do well. When they medal, I burst with pride. When they don’t, my heart breaks for them. And I can’t help it: I look forward to the next trip so I can watch them all over again.
Catherine Holecko is the family fitness expert at About.com. She lives in Wisconsin with her daughter, son and husband.