3 Easy Tips for Keeping Your Family Healthy During the Cold and Flu Season

Do these 3 things to keep your family HEALTHY during the cold and flu season!

Happy Healthy Mama familyHappy Halloween! I live in one of those crazy areas that pick the day they want to hold trick-or-treating, and it isn’t always on Halloween night.  So my kiddos went trick-or-treating last night. The good news? We got to avoid the frigid temperatures and rain or FLURRIES that are supposedly coming tonight.

For Halloween costumes this year, Meghan is a butterfly and Luke refuses to put on a costume.  He had a full-on meltdown when I took him shopping for a costume, so we did the best we could and put a Tom Brady jersey on him and had him be a football player.  Daddy is the Patriots fan, by the way.  We had a fun night with great weather and a good time with friends.

Happy Healthy Mama family

Halloween sets off a time of year that can be hard on families for a number of reasons. Along with the candy fest that is Halloween (Curious about how I handle all that candy?  Check out this post from last year) comes the holidays that are filled with more sugary treats on top of hectic, busy schedules.  All of this is in the midst of the cold and flu season and equals a recipe for getting sick.  With a little forethought and persistence, you can minimize how badly your family gets hit with seasonal sickness.  Here are 3 easy tips you can start implementing today to help your family stay well during the cold and flu season.

Do these 3 things to keep your family HEALTHY during the cold and flu season!

1.  Eat a wide variety of whole foods.

Getting a wide variety of whole foods will ensure you and your family are getting the nutrients that help build up a strong immune system and fight off sickness.  Variety is the key. There are a wide variety of vitamins and minerals needed to support a healthy immune system.  The best way to make sure you and your family are getting those vitamins is to eat a varied diet of whole foods.  I think people tend to write off the importance of nutrition in our health.  Food is medicine!

2.  Get enough sleep!

Did you know that not getting enough sleep impairs your immune system?  It’s true! (source)  Tim likes to make fun of me for going to bed early, but I know my body needs it.  When we sleep, we’re allowing our bodies to be restored.  So just how much sleep does everyone need?  Experts say that adults need 7-8 hours per night, teens should aim for at least 8 1/2 hours, and school-aged kids need 10-11 hours a night.  If it isn’t already, sleep should be a big priority in your house.

3.  Limit sugar intake.

This is just what you want to hear on Halloween, right?  Unfortunately, sugar suppressed the immune system.  (source)  So when you eat sugar, your immune system doesn’t work as well as it should for up to 5 hours after you eat the sugar.  5 hours!  The best way to keep excess sugar out of your body and your kids body?  Don’t keep sweet treats like candy in the house and replace high-sugar desserts with lower sugar treats or even fruit. These simple baked apples make a great dessert!

My family gets sick just like everyone else’s. Luke has a little cold right now, actually. Inevitably, when it happens, I can point to one or more of these three things that has been lacking.  Whenever one of my kids gets sick, I reevaluate to see where I’ve gotten off course in helping keep them well.  Because I try to follow these three tips consistently, though, we don’t get sick that often and when we do it’s usually pretty mild.  (<—–Eeek! I hope I’m not jinxing us by writing that!)

There are other simple, common sense things you can do to keep sickness away, like practice good hand washing.  This one is tricky with Luke, which is probably why he has a cold now.  He’s an independent and fast 2 year old who does not like stopping to take the time to wash his hands.  I’m working on it!

Notice I didn’t mention getting a flu shot.  I’d love to hear your thoughts on this one.  Tim has to get a flu shot because of his work, but in general the rest of us don’t get one.  This year I am reconsidering, but haven’t decided yet if we will do it.  Do you and your family get the flu shot?  Why or why not?  

Have a happy and safe Halloween weekend, everyone!

The opinions in this article are my own. I do not work for, or with, any brand mentioned in this article, nor do I have any official relationship with them.  I have a relationship with GigaSavvy, for whom I create original editorial content.

 

Peanut Butter and Jelly Oatmeal Breakfast Bars

Peanut Butter and Jelly Oatmeal Bars--these quick and easy breakfast bars will please the PB&J lover in your life! Dairy free, gluten free, almost vegan, low sugar

We have this game that we sometimes play at dinner time.  It’s called The Question Game and that’s basically all it is.  Questions. So it’s not really a game at all, but we call it a game because we’re fun like that.  There is a container full of questions, and we take turns reading and answering random questions. It’s from Melissa and Doug, if you’re curious, and is called Family Dinner Box Of Questions.

Anyway, we played one night recently and the question was “If you could eat one food everyday for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, what would it be?”  Guess what Meghan’s answered was?  How’d you guess?!  Peanut butter and jelly.

Anyone else have a kid who would eat peanut butter and jelly for every meal if you let them?  When Meghan planted that seed in my head, I started brainstorming ways she could get her peanut butter and jelly fix outside of the standard sandwich.  She has a PB&J sandwich about 4 times a week for lunch…I try to get her to mix it up as much as possible, but that is still, by far, her #1 request.

Peanut Butter and Jelly Breakfast Bars--these bars are so easy and a delicious, healthy way to start your morning!!

I made her this PB&J Protein Smoothie from Hummusapien a few times.  It was amazing, by the way.  She’s not too much into cold smoothies in the mornings these days, though.  She says they make her too cold.  So I created these homey Peanut Butter and Jelly Oatmeal Breakfast bars instead.

Meghan, Luke, and Tim all really like these. I think I’m the most obsessed of all. Have I told you how much I love PB&Js, too?  It’s not just kid food!  I’ve been snacking on them whenever I need a quick bite and trying to hold myself back from eating the whole pan.  So while I’m calling these breakfast bars, they make a perfectly acceptable snack bar as well.

Peanut Butter and Jelly Oatmeal Bars--these quick and easy breakfast bars will please the PB&J lover in your life! Dairy free, gluten free, almost vegan, low sugar

I made the jelly portion of these bars with a grape chia seed jam.  It’s just like my 5-minute raspberry chia seed jam, but with grapes. I think grapes give that classic PB&J flavor, but you are welcome to use whatever fruit you prefer.  The jam takes 5 minutes to prepare, but then you have to let it set.  Once that’s ready, this recipe is a breeze.  One bowl, no fuss. Only 8 ingredients.

It’s also a dairy-free, gluten-free (use certified GF oats), low sugar, and almost vegan (I used honey).  You can easily sub agave nectar if you’d like to keep this vegan.  If you have a peanut allergy, I think it’d be fantastic with sunflower seed butter.  This can definitely be an allergy-friendly breakfast option.  I hope you love these as much as me and my whole family do!

Peanut Butter and Jelly Oatmeal Bars--these quick and easy breakfast bars will please the PB&J lover in your life! Dairy free, gluten free, almost vegan,  no refined sugar

 

I just looked at the recipe I adapted to make these bars, and I used the exact same towel in both photo shoots. I think it’s a sign I need to expand my photo prop stash, don’t you? :)  I hope everyone is having a great week!

 

Super Foods Chocolate Cake

Superfoods Chocolate Cake. Why not have your cake and eat your vegetables at the same time. This beet chocolate cake with avocado chocolate frosting is moist, decadent, yet full of nutrients!

Dude.  What can I say about this cake?  Let me just get one thing out of the way.  It’s a beet chocolate cake topped with avocado chocolate frosting.  I know.  If I can eat my cake and get my super foods at the same time, why wouldn’t I?  Better yet, if my kids can eat their cake and get their super foods at the same time, why wouldn’t I stuff my cake and frosting with beets and avocado? Superfoods Chocolate Cake.  Why not have your cake and eat your vegetables at the same time.  This beet chocolate cake with avocado chocolate frosting is moist, decadent, yet full of nutrients! Let’s be clear.  This is not hiding vegetables.  This is using vegetables (I know, I know…avocado is a fruit…shush…) to enhance a decadent, healthy dessert and add nutrients.  Beets add moisture to this chocolate cake and avocado lends creaminess and richness to the frosting, eliminating the need for dairy. Yep, this whole dessert is dairy-free. If we can add nutrients to our day through desserts, we should.  Why have an empty-calorie dessert when we can have one that actually contributes to our wellness?  You agree, right? Superfoods Chocolate Cake.  Why not have your cake and eat your vegetables at the same time.  This beet chocolate cake with avocado chocolate frosting is moist, decadent, yet full of nutrients! Besides, I was very upfront about this cake being full of beets.  We had a conversation about wether you could taste the beets in the cake at the table.  For the record, Meghan proclaimed, “I can’t taste beets at all!”  I promise you that even though this dessert has beets and avocado,  it does not taste like salad.  The cake is moist, lightly sweet, with a complex chocolate flavor.  The creamy frosting is rich and deceivingly fudge-like. Superfoods Chocolate Cake.  Why not have your cake and eat your vegetables at the same time.  This beet chocolate cake with avocado chocolate frosting is moist, decadent, yet full of nutrients! Look at the beautiful color of the batter before baking! I was in a rush to get it in the oven so it would bake before I had to pick Meghan up from school, so I plopped it in front of the window and had no time to find something to diffuse the harsh light.  But I just had to let you see the lovely deep purplish red color the beets make the batter.  It bakes into a deep chocolate brown color, as you can see in the pictures, but it sure is a pretty hue when it’s raw! If you’re going to have dessert, why not have a dessert that gives your body nutrients it needs to function the way it should?  You can’t say that about a standard chocolate cake made with white flour and white sugar and doesn’t have any trace of super foods.  In case you need more convincing, let’s look at what beets and avocado can do for your health:

Beets

  • Provide cancer-fighting antioxidants.  Every single person on this Earth needs all the cancer fighting help they can get.
  • Good source of potassium, which helps vital organs run properly.
  • Good source of iron, which boosts the immune system and is vital in regulating cell growth
  • Excellent source of vitamin C, which can help immune system function AND help your body absorb iron
  • Full of phytochemicals, which repair and protect our DNA and protects from chronic diseases
  • Great source of vitamin A, which is important for the health of our eyes, skin, teeth, and bones
  • Good source of folate, which is vital for making blood cells, building muscles, and keeping your cardiovascular system healthy

Avocado

  • More potassium than a banana, which, again, helps vital organs run properly
  • Healthy fats that increase good cholesterol levels
  • Good source of vitamin E, which supports your immune system function and protects our body tissue from free radicals
  • Good source of vitamin B6, which plays a strong role in cognitive development

See?  You can get all of that awesomeness from a dessert!  I hope I’ve convinced you that you really need to give this Super Foods Chocolate Cake a try!  

Top 5 Essential Oils for a Natural Home

These are the Top 5 Oils you need to get started with creating a natural home. I use these every day!

Natural living is a journey, not a destination. On my journey towards a natural medicine cabinet and natural home, I discovered essential oils.  For over a year now, essential oils have been a part of my daily routine.  I use them in some aspect every day.  Essential oils play a role in my family’s health care, skin care, and the care of our home.  Today I’m sharing the top 5 oils that I use nearly everyday.  If you are thinking about using essential oils, these 5 oils are the perfect place to start.

LavenderLavender: One of the Top 5 Essential Oils

Lavender is one of the most versatile essential oils.  Here are the different ways we use this oil:

  • For calming at bedtime.  If the kids are extra wound up, I will rub some lavender on their feet to help them get calm and ready for sleep.  Tim and I also use it at times when we have trouble falling asleep or feel stressed at bedtime.
  • For burns.  I burn myself a lot in the kitchen (I’m such a klutz) and I always turn to lavender first.
  • For bug bites. Lavender oil helps ease the itch associated with bug bites.  Tim got stung by a bee last week, and lavender+peppermint essential oils eliminated the redness immediately.
  • Random skin issues.  Lavender is great for skin conditions such as eczema, dry skin, or any skin sensitivities.
  • Seasonal allergies.  A mixture of lavender+lemon+peppermint works great when we are experiencing seasonal allergies.

Lemon

Lemon Essential Oil--a top 5 essential Oil for a natural home

If I had to pick a favorite essential oil, I’d probably pick lemon. I love its fresh, invigorating scent, and use it in so many ways. Here’s how we use lemon essential oil at our house:

  • I put a few drops in my water every day.  It is said that this helps boost your mood, increase energy, boost your metabolism, detox your body, balance your body’s pH levels, and give your immune system a boost.
  • For cleaning.  Lemon essential oil is one of the best natural cleaners out there. It is great for cleaning walls (takes scuff marks out!), wooden furniture (I use it to clean my white counter stools), and markers and crayons off of places they shouldn’t be.  It’s also great for cleaning sinks, counter tops, and floors. It’s perfect for de-greasing, cleaning gooey messes, and also is a great natural leather cleaner.
  • For colds and coughs.  I have used lemon essential oil as a part of a natural cough syrup and use it with other oils whenever our household has the sniffles.
  • Diffuse it. I diffuse lemon essential oil anytime I need an energy boost.  The scent is really invigorating.
  • Cooking.  If I don’t have fresh lemons and want lemon flavor, I turn to my lemon essential oil that I always have on hand.

PeppermintPeppermint: One of the Top 5 Essential Oils

Peppermint is a powerful essential oil that has many uses.  Here are some of the ways we use it in our home:

  • Headache relief.  A few drops of peppermint on the temples helps ease headaches.
  • Seasonal allergies.  (see above)
  • Bug bites.  It helps take the redness out of insect stings and bites.
  • Sun burn.  We rarely get sunburned, but the one time I did peppermint essential oil was amazing. I mixed it with lavender in a water bottle and sprayed it on myself every 10 minutes for an hour. It took the redness completely out and  the burn looked like a tan when I was done. I wish I’d taken before and afters as it was remarkable.
  • Freshen breath.  No need for mints! Just put a drop of peppermint essential oil on your tongue and you naturally freshen your breath in seconds.  This is also energizing.
  • Fever reducer/cool down.  Peppermint is a natural fever reducer and is also great for general cooling.  I put some in a spray bottle with water and have it ready to spray me or the kids in the summer time when we’re playing outside and get overheated.  This would be great for older kids who play sports.
  • Cooking.  I love peppermint flavor and it’s great to add a few drops to a smoothie for a minty blast.

MelaleucaMelaleuca: One of the Top 5 Essential Oils

Melaleuca essential oil is commonly known as tea tree oil.  Here’s how we use this awesome oil:

  • For skin blemishes.  I get two kinds of breakouts:  hormonal and sweat-induced.  Around my menstrual cycle I tend to get a few blemishes and if I don’t shower immediately after working out, I inevitably get a blemish or two somewhere.  I put melaleuca directly on skin blemishes and they clear quickly, usually within 1-2 days.
  • For an immune boost.  I use this oil a lot during the cold and flu season.  We use it on our feet anytime we are feeling the slightest of sickness and it helps keep the sickness away.
  • Infections.  This is a great oil for infections of all kinds.  When Meghan was sick this fall, a trip to the doctor revealed she had a slight ear infection.  I rubbed some melaleuca around her ear and it healed on its own without the need for antibiotics.

FrankincenseFrankincense: One of the Top 5 Essential Oils

Frankincense is one of the most treasured essential oils.  An ancient oil, it was one of the three gifts brought to Jesus from the wise men! You know it has to be good, right?  It’s one of the most expensive oils, but that is because it is a truly effective oil.  I’ve read about it being a cancer fighter, an antidepressant, and how it is used to treat Alzheimer’s disease and other brain diseases/disorders.  Here’s how we use frankincense in our home:

  • As an anti-inflammatory.  When Tim was stung by a bee last week, we used frankincense to treat the swelling.
  • To reduce scarring.  You know all those burns I get in the kitchen?  I also get cuts. I use frankincense for both to reduce scarring.
  • Headaches.  Along with peppermint on my temples, I put a drop of frankincense on the roof of my mouth when I feel a headache coming on.  For most headaches, it works well.
  • For sickness.  Whenever someone is sick, we turn to frankincense.  It has both anti-viral and anti-bacterial properties, so it is a great oil to fight colds, flus, and other sicknesses.
  • Anxiety.  I don’t suffer from major anxiety, but I do get overwhelmed and anxious when I’m stressed with too many things to do.  Simply breathing in the scent of frankincense is very helpful and has a calming effect.

What brand essential oils do you use?

I know I will get this question, so I’m answering it before it comes. :) Brand is important when it comes to essential oils.  As you can see from the pictures, I use the DoTERRA brand of essential oils.  I have also heard great things about Young Living oils, but have not tried them so I can’t personally attest to how well they work.  I do know you have to be careful with what oils you buy as oils are not regulated and you can get some that are not 100% pure.  My best advice is to research the brand you are considering and make sure you know their extraction methods and how their oils are tested.

I signed up as an independent product consultant so I could receive the wholesale price of DoTERRA oils and take advantage of their Loyalty Rewards Program.  I get points each month that I purchase oils and am able to use those points to get free oils.  You can also purchase DoTERRA oils on Amazon.  I have heard some people who sell DoTERRA oils advise against getting your oils from Amazon for fear that they may be tampered with, but from what I can tell they are authentic.  DoTERRA allows their consultants to sell their oils on Amazon, so I see no reason not to purchase that way if you don’t want to take advantage of their Loyalty Reward Program or sell the oils yourself. I don’t actively sell the oils, but I could since I am an IPC, so this is coming from an unbiased place.  I do have some oils in my Amazon Store, but if I was looking to make money from selling oils, it would be much more advantageous for me to do so directly through DoTERRA, so that doesn’t affect my opinion on this.

While I have a lot more than 5 essential oils in my home, these oils are the top 5 I turn to more than any others.  These 5 essential oils are a great place to get started with essential oils on your journey to a more natural home.

 

 

You Spoke and I’m Listening: The Happy Healthy Mama Survey Results

Happy Healthy Mama Survey Results

Last week, I asked you to take a survey. I hoped to gain insight into what you like and dislike about Happy Healthy Mama and how I can make it the best blog it can be.  I’ve gone through times during the last 4+ years I’ve been blogging of putting more and less effort into this space.  Life ebbs and flows and this blog has been a reflection of that.  Right now, I’m all in.  I am focused and determined to make this blog all that it has the potential to be.  Blogging is hard and sometimes lonely work.  Reading your responses was motivating, inspiring, and so very insightful for me.  Thank you for giving me a spring board for moving forward with Happy Healthy Mama.

One big thing I learned through this survey was that I’m never going to please everyone.  There were lots of contradictory answers.  Stop writing about your kids! I love it when you write about your kids–do it more! Ummm….okay?  You are so sweet! You are condescending.  Fair enough?  So while I learned that there is no pleasing each and every reader with every post I do, I need to continue to write from my heart.  And that’s exactly what I plan to do.  Here’s a look at some of the results from the survey:

How long have you been reading Happy Healthy Mama?Happy Healthy Mama Survey question 1

Lots of new and new-ish readers! I’m glad you are here!

Do you have a blog? Happy Healthy Mama Survey question 2

This was interesting to learn about.  I suspected I had a majority non-blogging readers because of the amount of comments I get (or don’t get) in relation to my page views.  Bloggers tend to comment more.

How often do you prefer to see posts on Happy Healthy Mama?

Happy Healthy Mama Survey question 3

Pretty easy to please!

How do you feel about the following topics on Happy Healthy Mama?

99%

of you were positive about healthy recipes.  (To the 1 person who doesn’t like healthy recipes on HHM, you may have landed in the wrong place…)  

68%

of you like or love seeing fitness posts on Happy Healthy Mama.

74%

of you like or love reading about parenting topics on Happy Healthy Mama.

94%

of you like or love it when I write about nutrition.

87%

of you like or love to see posts about natural living.

67%

of you enjoy product reviews.

29%

of you like or love sponsored posts (and another 53% of you think they are okay).

What topics would you like to see featured on Happy Healthy Mama?

Happy Healthy Mama Survey Results

This is just a sampling of answers.  I loved reading your ideas!

What are some other blogs you read? 

Happy Healthy Mama SurveyYou all have great taste in blogs! I read a lot of these already and found some new ones thanks to you!

Thanks again for taking the time to complete the survey.  If you didn’t get a chance but want me to know something, I love comments.  You can comment on any post and let me know your thoughts! Have a great weekend, friends.