Simple Takeaways on the Sticky Subject of Sugar

Disclosure: This post was sponsored by Super Simple Online. All opinions are my own.

As we countdown to all the candy of Halloween with much anticipation by kids and often fear from parents, I want to spend the next few weeks highlighting some simple takeaways when it comes to the sticky subject of sugar.

 
sugar.jpg
 


This week, I am sharing a post I previously wrote over on Super Simple Online, titled “Six Simple Takeaways on the Sticky Subject of Sugar.” While we may have fast-forwarded six months to another holiday season centered around sugar since it was published, the principles I share regarding sugar remain the same:

  1. Understand the real problem.

  2. Define healthy in your home. 

  3. Avoid labels. 

  4. Encourage pleasure. 

  5. Avoid reward. 

  6. Practice self-regulation.

If you’d like to learn more about each of these and how to handle the sticky subject of sugar in your home, visit my post:

Six Simple Takeaways on the Sticky Subject of Sugar


Then stay tuned over the next two weeks as I share more on How to Handle Halloween Candy with Kids (next week) and How to Handle the Halloween Sugar Rush (in two weeks).

If you aren’t already subscribed to my newsletter, now is the perfect time to sign up to receive once-weekly updates. As members of my community, you are the first to read insider information as well as receive updates when these and other upcoming blog posts are published. Just fill out your name and email below!

My 45 Favorite Snack Options for Kids [packaged + prep-free]

This post is unsponsored. I was not compensated nor asked to include any of the following products, however I did receive samples of some of the following products for the purpose of this post. All opinions are my own.


My 45 Favorite Snack Options for Kids

(Plus 15 of My Favorite Homemade Ones!)

Even in feeding my own kids three meals and two snacks a day, I still feel stuck for healthy, practical ideas at times. Add that to the confusion of walking down any given snack aisles (even as a dietitian mom), and I get why other parents are overwhelmed when trying to find healthy, kid-friendly snack options.

Last year, I shared a post on “The Best Pre-Packaged Snack Foods,” which included information on different types of snack foods (i.e. fun foods, sometimes foods, and everyday foods) as well as ideas on how such snack foods can have a healthy place in your child’s diet. This post also included a free printable shopping list (see below) of My 20 Favorite Pre-Packaged Snack Foods from Target, which many of you downloaded and said that you enjoyed (which you can also download for free here).

target snacks.png
 

That’s why in this post, I thought I would not only revisit the conversation of snack foods and update some of my recommendations in each “category” (see below: bars + bites, starchy snacks, fruit snacks, and protein-packed snacks). My goal in this post is to further eliminate all guesswork and curate a list of my favorite snacks within each category. I get several inquiries about where to buy these snacks as well (when I share them on Instagram or Facebook), so I have shared links for the best places to buy each of these products as well to make it even easier for you to restock your own pantry (now that the school year is in full swing)!

 
45 favorite packaged snacks.png
 

Although I want to make seeing the following snack food suggestions as straight-forward as possible, I already am anticipating some of the feedback I might get from families who find these either impractical, inferior, not cost-effective nor environmentally-friendly, or who are ultimately unclear on how these snacks fit into an overall healthy lifestyle.

I have tried to address those possible concerns here:

First, pre-packaged snacks are often more expensive.

I don’t recommend these to blow anyone’s food budget but rather because I know many families out there are in need of convenient, readily-available snack options that require no prep. That said, I respect not all of these options may be a good fit for every family’s budget and have tried to provide ideas at a variety of price points. Some of the snacks suggested in this post are in fact more expensive than mainstream alternatives on the market. Typically, this is due to higher-quality ingredients yielding a more natural, nutrient-dense product than competing, lesser expensive varieties. For my family, I prefer to invest in higher-quality packaged snacks and saving them for when we need them (on the go, when traveling, and on the occasional school day when we are in a rush or don’t have other homemade options ready). This lessens how often we eat them, stretching our food dollar further without compromising quality. Many of the following options also may be purchased either on sale or in bulk (for a discount) or in larger sized packages and then divided up into their own smaller, snack-sized containers to help save. Otherwise, some of these pre-packaged might have recipes so you can recreate similar homemade snacks (instead of always reaching for pre-packaged).

Second, pre-packaged snacks aren’t always nutritionally superior to ones you could make yourself.

If you have the time and energy to recreate items in the categories below, I encourage you to do so as you might be able to pack even more nutrition into them. However, for the purposes of this post, I aimed to include options that I personally and professionally consider nutrient-rich options in the given category (when compared to the alternative, pre-packaged items on the market). I have included some of the nutrition and ingredients list information I look for in each of the respective category.

Third, pre-packaged snacks create more waste.

I admit that at times, I weigh the convenience of pre-packaged snacks over considering how environmentally friendly the packaging is of such products. That’s why, as mentioned above, I tend to serve homemade snacks or portioning pre-made snacks into a reusable snack bag when able. You can find some of my favorite reusable snack bags here.

Fourth, consider a few of the following tips if sending any of the following packaged snacks to school.

  • Make sure you know the dietary restrictions of your child’s school and avoid sending any restricted allergens. Many of the options below include nuts, so use your discretion for if and when such snacks are safe and appropriate. If you need peanut-free ideas, read this post for 12 peanut-free pre-made and portable snack ideas.

  • Tear a small opening in packaging so it makes it easier for your child to open it come lunch or snack time. This gives them more time to eat, rather than using that time to wait on their teacher (who likely has to open the packages for several kid’s!).

  • If your child’s school requires you to send snacks labeled, consider using one of the reusable bags (shared above) with a reusable name label on it. This lessens the work of having to write on it each day (especially since Sharpies don’t always write easily on all snack options).

Fifth, know how to offer snacks.

No matter WHAT you offer, if you don’t have a foundation for WHEN food is offered, all of your efforts can still get derailed. That’s why it is important to both choose appropriate snack food options, as shared in my post on The Best Pre-Packaged Snack Foods, and to be mindful about how to feed your child at snack time. Spacing snacks 2-3 hours from meal times and enforcing a “kitchen is closed” at all other times can help to promote your child to eat more of the nutrient-dense items when offered and eliminate mindless grazing on potentially less- healthful snack foods. Wondering how to feed your child at snack time? Read more here >>



My 45 Favorite Snack Options for Kids [Packaged + Prep-Free]

Disclaimer: This post includes affiliate links to my Amazon shop. These do not cost you anything extra to use; they will only provide Veggies & Virtue a small commission for any purchases made through this link. Thank you for supporting this small business!

1.png

Bars + Bites (Non-Perishable + Packaged)

I am a big fan of bars and energy bites as a way to pack a lot of nutrition into a small, convenient package. With so many bars over-saturating the market, however, it can quickly become overwhelming to know which ones to buy. Since bars and bites can vary a lot in their taste, texture, and overall nutritional as well, I have also included a bit of information below on each bar/bite includes that will hopefully help guide you in your buying decisions a bit about which to buy and why.

Here are a few nutritional considerations for how I came to select the following bars:

  • Sugar: Many “healthy” bars on the market have considerable amounts of added sugar. Considering many children already get more added sugar than they need in their diet, parents should consider the source and amount of sugar in the bars and bites they buy. Looking for bars with only naturally occurring sugar in the ingredients list (from sources like dates) is ideal. Otherwise, select bars with limited sources and amounts of added sugar. If an ingredients list states several sources of added sugar and/or exceeds around 6 grams of sugar per serving (equivalent to 25% of the max amount of added sugar a toddler should have in a day), try to avoid and select another bar or bite instead. Wondering how much sugar your child needs? Read more here >>

  • Fat: Bars and bites are an excellent way to get healthy fats into children without the choking hazard of whole nuts. This fat source in bars also provides satiation, so kids won’t become hungry as quickly after eating. Since children need more fat than hey do protein in their diets, prioritize a bar that offers healthy fat over “protein bars” that might be more intended for adults. Wondering how much fat your child needs? Read more here >>

  • Protein: Protein that comes naturally-occurring from sources like nuts and seeds make a great option in snack bars or bites that you want to sustain your child for longer than say, a carbohydrate-rich bar would. Otherwise, there is rarely a need to choose bars or bites for young children though that have added sources of protein (i.e. in the form of protein isolates). That’s because when distributed across three meals and two or three snacks a day, most children are already getting their protein needs met without such added sources. Wondering how much protein your child needs? Read more here >>

Top 10 Bars + Bites (in no particular order):

  1. RXBAR Kids

    RXBARs have permanent residence in my own life these days. As one of the few bars that legitimately keep me feeling full between meals or when my own mom lunch gets bumped hours behind when I feed my kids, I can’t even count how many times these have protected me from getting hangry. When RXBAR came out with the kids option of bars, I was immediately sold. The ingredients list is unmatched in the industry for being full of the fuel I want my kids to eat and yet can’t conveniently get into them on the go in the way RXBAR Kids has captured to in this smaller sized bar. With kid-friendly flavors, RXBAR Kids are now one of the top bars we tuck into the diaper bag or in the car as an emergency snack as I know they will tie us over longer than many more carbohydrate-rich bars. From our own experience, RXBAR keep us feeling full the longest, which makes them great when you need a more substantial snack bar (or to avoid if you need a light snack close to a meal). The texture of RXBAR Kids is a bit more tough to chew through than other bars and can get stuck to teeth, so I know it took some getting used to for both myself and my girls. With some re-exposure though, we have started to enjoy these bars as one of our favorites. Shop for in stores, online, or on Amazon. I find the RXBAR website and Sprouts tend to have the best deals on these bars.

  2. LARABAR minis

    LARABARs have long been a favorite of mine, even before the “bar market” exploded into what it is today. They were early adopters of the simple ingredients list and keeping bars a wholesome source of nutrition. I particularly appreciate that all LARABARs use dates in their base as the source of sweetener, as this makes them tasty to kids without needing to add any additional sugar. While the nutrition facts reads higher in sugar than some other bars, this again is from real food (dates) rather than added sugar, and thus less of a consideration or concern in my book. For parents with small children, I often encourage LARABARs as a safe way to include nuts in a child’s diet. Compared to offering kids bars with large nut pieces or a handful of nuts when active or out and about, I feel more comfortable recommending snacks like LARABARs that offer the nutrition of nuts without the same choking hazard. While I love all of the LARABARs, their LARABAR minis are another great option for small children as one to toss in a lunchbox, have as a light snack, or offer alongside something else. The smaller size helps lessen the situations when your child might only eat half of a bar and then potentially waste the rest. I am unsure if they are phasing out the minis (as they aren’t shown on the LARABAR website), but they have been and will continue to be a favorite here as available. Shop for in stores, online, or on Amazon. On the LARABAR website (as of this posting), the mini bars do not exist. I continue to see them in stores like Kroger and Target though, as well as on Amazon.

  3. KIND Kids

    If your kids are used to granola bars that more closely resemble a candy bar, this can be a great way to food chain to a healthier alternative. With 5 grams of sugar, this is less than most competitors while also being made with much more natural and nutrient-dense ingredients. There are also some tasty nut-free flavor options that make this a fun “competitive" food” for school (should your kid be like mine and want “what everyone else has”)! Shop for in stores, online, or on Amazon.

  4. KIND Healthy Grains Bars

    While a little bigger than the KIND Kids bar, this one still only has 5 grams of sugar per bar. It is a tasty granola-bar option for bigger appetites, bigger kids (or adults, as my husband and I eat these too!), or when a bit more snack is merited. There are several flavor options as well, again with nut-free options that add some variety to snacks for school or after school sports. Shop for in stores, online, or on Amazon.

  5. Health Warrior Chia Bar

    This chia bar packs several real food ingredients into a small bar, making it perfect for little tummies who need good nutrition in smaller sizes. With only 3 grams of sugar and several flavors to try, this is a great way to go for a granola-bar alternative. My kids love the new chocolate chip flavor! Similar to the texture of a LARABAR, this too is a softer option of bars for kids who might not be able to bite into other bars or need small pieces torn off to eat. Shop for in stores, online, or on Amazon. Use discount code veggiesvirtue20 for 20% off of first purchase when shopping on healthwarrior.com.

  6. Health Warrior Pumpkin Seed Bar

    These pumpkin bars are organic and made up of simple ingredients (just pumpkin seeds, honey, and spices) and yet taste like a treat! With nut free flavor options, we have found them helpful as a convenient pre-packaged bar option that we can send to school. Shop for in stores, online, or on Amazon. Use discount code veggiesvirtue20 for 20% off of first purchase when shopping on healthwarrior.com.

  7. Made in Nature Figgy Pops

    Tied with maybe muffins, I live by energy balls as quick and easy options I can eat with one hand while still getting a decent amount of nutrition packed in. Since I am not always able to make them at home though nor do I always have the right ingredients on hand, I have become particularly fond of these Figgy Pops for a pre-made energy bite option. With several flavors and even nut free options, these Made in Nature Figgy Pops are a new mainstay for #momlife and fueling active little kids with healthy AND convenient snack options. Shop for in stores, online, or on Amazon.

  8. MySuperSnack Granola Bites

    These include what you love about an oatmeal cookie in a convenient snack-sized shape. With more fat and fiber than most bars on the market, these aren’t the highly refined granola bar option void of the fiber or fat that keep us full. Instead, these granola bites are a tasty way to convert “cookies” into a healthier snack option that is still sweet and satisfying. Shop for in stores or on Amazon.

  9. Nourish Snacks

    These granola bites option are more like a crunchy take on oatmeal cookies than the above granola bite while again packing much more nutrition in than a cookie-esque snack option. Again packing in less added sugar than other granola-based snacks, these granola bites were created by a fellow dietitian mom to satisfy the needs of a nutrient-dense snack while also catering to cravings of a sweet tooth. With a variety of flavors, my girls are really fond of taking a larger back of these Nourish Snacks to share or an individual bag of the nut-free options to school. Shop for in stores or on Amazon. You can select the 1-ounce single serve or 4-ounce snack-to-share size bag when buying on Amazon.

  10. Matt N’ Mikes SuperKid Bar

    The newest bar in the bunch, these bars by Matt n’ Mike have been ones we have really enjoyed. I am fond of the ingredients list being made up of simple, real foods while still being sweet enough and in a size that my kids enjoy. As a smaller business than some of the other bars listed above, these might not be as easily available at the grocery store but they are readily available online. Shop for in stores or online.

 
2.png

Starchy Snacks (Non-Perishable + Packaged)

Often seen as “filler foods,” chips, crackers, and cookies are usually not essentials from a nutritional standpoint. However, they are often impossible to avoid in our diets, especially with kids. So although our goal is to always load up our kids with the most nutrient-dense options (especially when they are young and their stomachs are particularly small), the reality is we also may find ourselves wanting to offer some sweet or savory snacks on occasion.

It is important to not make any foods so forbidden that it becomes something our kids covet. Instead, our kids need to know how all foods fit, including items like chips, crackers, and cookies or other “fun foods” (read more on Fun Foods + Snacks here). Our job as parents is to look for options that allow us to offer better-for-you ingredients in such food options most of the time. I am not the type to instill fear in families for the occasional neon orange puff nor a creme-filled cookie eaten at birthday parties, classroom events, or special outings. I don’t usually recommend families have these on hand as everyday options however, as they can become particularly tempting to eat more often and crowd out other more nutrient-rich options when they’re in the house. When families are looking to find healthier options to have at home and on hand, the following are some that I have found to be both kid-friendly and dietitian-approved.

Here are a few nutritional considerations for how I came to select the following snack chips, crackers, and cookies:

  • Whole Grains: When possible, I always opt for starchy snack foods that contain some whole grains. This will be shown with a label from the Whole Grain Council on the front of packaging, a marketing claim of “X amount of whole grains per serving,” or by viewing the ingredients list to make sure that the first ingredient in a whole grain. Although having a whole grain snack doesn’t necessarily equate to it having more fiber, often times such snacks will still be nutritionally superior by offering more protein, vitamins, and minerals than snack foods made with refined grains. Wondering how much fat your child needs? Read more here >>

  • Ingredients list: Bars and bites are an excellent way to get healthy fats into children without the choking hazard of whole nuts. This fat source in bars also provides satiation, so kids won’t become hungry as quickly after eating. Since children need more fat than hey do protein in their diets, prioritize a bar that offers healthy fat over “protein bars” that might be more intended for adults. Wondering how much fat your child needs? Read more here >>

  • Bonus Ingredients: After seeing a need to make such starchy snack foods more healthy, many food manufacturers are starting to create more nutrient-dense varieties by adding in otherwise nontraditional ingredients to these options. Fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and even legumes are now more commonplace in crunchy, starchy snacks. When possible, parents should opt for starchy snacks that include bonus ingredients (and thus nutritional benefits!).

Top 15 Starchy Snacks (in no particular order):

    1. Nourish Mini Popcorn Chips: Shop for in stores or on Amazon

    2. MySuperCookies Snack Packs: Shop for in stores or on Amazon

    3. Bitsy’s Smart Crackers: Shop for in stores, online, or on Amazon

    4. Bitsy’s Smart Cookies: Shop for in stores, online, or on Amazon

    5. Peeled Peas Please: Shop for in stores, online, or on Amazon

    6. Rhythm Superfood Chips: Shop for in stores, online, or on Amazon

    7. Boom Chicka Pop Sea Salt Popcorn: Shop for in stores, online, or on Amazon

    8. Annie’s Whole Grain Bunny Crackers: Shop for in stores, online, or on Amazon

    9. Triscuits Whole Grain Crackers: Shop for in stores

    10. Puffworks: Shop for on Amazon

    11. Hippeas Organic Cheese Puffs: Shop for in stores or on Amazon

    12. Simple Mills Almond Crackers: Shop for in stores, online, or on Amazon

    13. Moon Cheese: Shop for in stores, online, or on Amazon

    14. Crunch-A-Mame: Shop for in stores or on Amazon

    15. Dry Cereal (like Kashi Heart to Heart or Barbara’s Puffins)

 
3.png

Fruit Snacks (Non-Perishable + Packaged)

I am all for getting our fruits and vegetables in, but sometimes fresh options just aren’t realistic. That’s why I often rely on the following non-perishable and packaged options. With only real fruit in the ingredients, no added sugar, ingredients, or food dyes are necessary to make these “fruit snacks” a sweet snack for kids.

Here are a few nutritional considerations for how I came to select the following fruit snacks:

  • Sugar source: Opt for “fruit snacks” that contain only fruit in the ingredients list. Ideally, limit those with added fruit concentrates as these increase the sugar content without offering the same fiber and overall nutritional benefits of whole fruit. Although some parents may be concerned that the sugar content (as shown on the nutrition facts label) appears “high” even in fruit snacks made only with fruit, rest assured this is all naturally occurring sugar from fruit (and not added sugars) and can be used to offer valuable nutrition. Serve as a stand alone snack for a quick energy source (due to the higher amount of sugar/simple carbohydrates), or pair it with something that has a bit of fat, fiber, or protein to give it a bit more staying power.

  • Fiber: Fruit-based snacks tend to be a compact source of carbohydrates for their fruit-based equivalent. Often times, the fiber from the fruit is lost in the processing, so when possible, choose fruit-based snacks that have retained some fiber.

  • Ingredients List: Keep it simple. There should be very few foods on the ingredients list outside of fruit, potentially ascorbic acid (a source of vitamin C that acts as a preservative), and maybe added items like chia seeds (as in the case of the Pressed bars below).

Top 10 Fruit Snacks (in no particular order):

  1. Made in Nature dried fruit: Shop for in stores, online, or on Amazon

  2. Fruit Bliss snack packs: Shop for in stores, online, or on Amazon

  3. Kind Pressed bars: Shop for in stores, online, or on Amazon

  4. Peeled dried fruit: Shop for in stores, online, or on Amazon

  5. Bare apple chips: Shop for in stores, online, or on Amazon

  6. That’s It bars: Shop for in stores, online, or on Amazon

  7. Organic boxes of raisins: Shop for in stores (or put the organic ones in a large bag from Costco into smaller containers)

  8. Chukar Cherries: Shop for online or on Amazon

  9. Freeze-dried fruits: Shop for in stores or on Amazon

  10. Organic Applesauce pouches: Shop for in stores (also at Costco)

 
4.png

Protein-Packed Snacks (Both Perishable and Non-Perishable + Packaged)

One of the best ways to ensure your kids keep asking for more snacks is to offer ones that are full of quick energy and refined carbohydrates (even if natural carbs from fruit) without anything to go with it. If, however, you need to offer a snack with a bit more staying power (more on that here), be sure to add in a protein source so your child stays full longer. Some of the best ways to do this without any extra effort is with the following quick sources of protein.

Here are a few considerations for how I came to select the following protein snacks:

  • Protein: Whether you opt for an option that it plant- or animal-based, any of the following protein options can make a nutritious addition to any snack. If you are only able to grab a bag of carrot or a whole apple otherwise, the following options can round out those snacks to make them both more satisfying and filling.

  • Perishability: Of all the snacks shared, this list is the only one that might include a perishable option. Offer variety on the days you have an ice pack with those that you need a shelf-stable option. An asterisk below denotes the protein options that are non-perishable.

  • Ingredients List: Keep it simple. These should be minimally processed with few added ingredients outside of the obvious protein itself.

Top 10 Protein-Packed Snacks (in no particular order):

  1. Babybel: Shop for in stores (We buy ours at Costco)

  2. Organic Cheese Sticks: Shop for in stores

  3. Good Culture Cottage Cheese cups: Shop for in stores

  4. Horizon Milk Boxes*: Shop for in stores (I find them on sale at Costco often)

  5. Hummus cups: Shop for in stores (We buy ours at Costco)

  6. Hard Boiled Eggs: Shop for in stores (including Costco)

  7. Vermont Uncured Pepperoni*: Shop for in stores, online, or on Amazon

  8. Biena Chickpea Snacks*: Shop for in stores, online, or on Amazon

  9. RX Nut butters*: Shop for in stores, online, or on Amazon

  10. Siggis Yogurt tubes, drinks, or triple cream cups: Shop for in stores


15 Favorite Go-To Homemade Snack Recipes

This list could be just as endless as the aisles of pre-packaged snack foods. I am often asked for recipes to the following though, so I have included our go-to homemade snack recipes as well. You can easily pack up any of these in place of one of the items above and take them with you. This is an ever-changing list in our household, but for now, here are our top ten favorites!

  1. Healthy Carrot Muffins (and others shared on Muffin Club here)

  2. Blueberry Lemon Energy Bites

  3. Chocolate Chip Oat Energy Bites

  4. Peppermint Energy Bites (like these or these)

  5. Green Smoothies (like this one) in a reusable pouch (like this one)

  6. Immune-Boosting Smoothies (like this one) in a reusable pouch (like this one)

  7. Homemade Apple Sauce (like this one but we leave the peels on!) in a reusable pouch (like this one)

  8. Homemade Granola (to add on top of a Siggis yogurt cup!)

  9. Homemade Granola Bar

  10. Avocado Banana Cookies

  11. Baked Oatmeal Bars

  12. Homemade Fruit Leather

  13. Homemade Gummies

  14. Chunky Monkey Bars

  15. Microwave Popcorn


While I am sure these lists will need to be updated and changed over time, I hope that for now they provide a helpful starting place to help you shop for healthier snacks for your family!

Cold-Fighting Clementine Smoothie

This post is sponsored by Darling Clementines®. All ideas and opinions are my own.

From the hustle of early morning wake-ups to feeding famished kids after school, it can take families some time to get into the groove with Back to School. Come October, many parents start to focus on the next big thing though: flu season.

However even amidst our efforts to get flu shots and fight infection at home, I know many families are also looking for ways to use food as immune-boosting medicine as well.

That’s why I love this smoothie featuring Darling Clementines®.

 
Cold-Fighting Smoothie 5.JPG
 


Clementines are a familiar Fall favorite. You can toss them in backpacks as an option that doesn’t bruise nor brown in a lunchbox and they’re easy enough for little ones to peel on their own. Did you know that Darling Clementines® are available year-round though, thanks to the variety of growers harvesting them every month of the year? That means that when other summer fruits move out of season and become grossly expensive by now, Darling Clementines® continue to be an easy, economical fresh fruit option for our families all year.

In this smoothie, Darling Clementines® offer a vibrant orange color that makes it perfect for Fall and all the festivities in October. They also offer the vitamin C and flavor to make for a cold-fighting smoothie your kids will love slurping down.

 
Cold-Fighting Smoothie 4.JPG
 

You can offer this smoothie as an easy grab-and-go option on the way out the door in the morning or have it ready as part of nutrient packed afternoon snack. Whenever you choose to enjoy it, this immune-boosting clementine smoothie is one your family will want to have in its immune defense arsenal this Fall!


Festive and Cold-Fighting Clementine Smoothie

 
Cold-Fighting Smoothie 3.JPG
 

Here’s what you need:

Ingredients

2 Darling Clementines

½ cup Frozen pineapple

1 Frozen banana

2 TBSP Ground flax seeds

4-6 ounces Unsweetened coconut water

½ cup Ice

Instructions

Add all of the ingredients to a high-powered blender. Blend until smooth, adding additional coconut water and/or ice until desired consistency is achieved. Enjoy!

 
LGS_Squeeze_the_Day_FB_ad.png
 

Squeeze the Day

In case this smoothie wasn’t sweet enough for you, be sure to enter Darling Clementines Squeeze the Day Promotion Sweepstakes. Fill out the simple entry form (it takes less than 30 seconds to do here) and be entered to win a $500 gift card for YOU, plus a donation to a partnering charity. This costs you nothing to enter, but could afford you $500 to spend how you choose (maybe on a lifetime supply of clementines?!).

Enter here, or be sure to check out Darling Clementines for more on this festive and cold-fighting fruit!

Gardening with Kids: October 2018 edition

I admit, we are in a season when I really can’t justify the garden being “one more thing.” Sometimes hobbies that are non-essential can quickly become overwhelming in seasons when we have little time or energy to spare (such as life with a newborn!). That’s why this month, I want to encourage each of you to remember:

It is okay to start small.

It is okay to go slow.

It is okay to embrace “this is a season.”

Just as gardens require fertile soil, constant watering, pruning, and pest control, we all know motherhood does so similarly. That’s why I am challenging myself as well as any of you with an interest in these monthly posts to be willing to take on only what you can to bear fruit.

If gardening is one of those things that ultimately won’t bear fruit (literally or figuratively!) to your family in this season, rain check these ideas until the time is right. However, if you find your family looking for a healthy, hands on opportunity to connect with real food and spend time learning about “healthy food” (which is MUCH more effective than talking about it with kids!), maybe you could consider what kind of garden makes sense for your family.

Then, get dirty and let it metaphorically remind you that the messes of motherhood are MANDATORY for true growth to occur. Our garden is an ongoing work in progress and trial and error process...also much like motherhood. So while I love the yield it sometimes brings (by way of fresh veggies), it is also such a small and subtle reminder for me in the way gardening parallels motherhood.

How could a garden encourage versus overwhelm you in the upcoming season?

 
 Our newest little gardener dressed for the part on our first day of Fall planting!

Our newest little gardener dressed for the part on our first day of Fall planting!

 

Areas of Growth in the Garden

Garden Yields Update

Total seasonal yield to date: 
None yet for Fall, as our Fall crops are going in this month! Due to some feedback we got at our local nursery, we are trying some less traditional “Fall produce” to see if they grow and how they do!

Plot 1: Green beans, sugar snap peas, and cucumbers

Plot 2: Kale, Spinach, and Swiss Chard

Plot 3: Fall cherry tomatoes, carrots, and beets

Plot 4: Waiting to plant broccoli, cauliflower, and Brussel sprouts once it cools off

Herb Garden: We are also finally starting our herb garden up closer to the house. For this, we have cilantro, parsley, thyme, oregano, basil, and rosemary.

October 1.jpg
October 5.jpg
October 2.jpg
October 3.jpg

New Feeding Wins or Progress via Food Play

This is the second Fall garden we have done, but I can honestly say the first gardening season so far that my oldest daughter has actually been into participating very much (out of the total of four seasons).

She tends to be my child who is not terribly amused by my ideas or interests. While my two year old finds everything I am doing fascinating and always wants to “help",” my oldest daughter tends to be much more independent, spirited, and deeply engaged in her own interests. While I love this independence in her and try to foster an environment for her to pursue her own interests (rather than pushing my own), I would be lying if I said sometimes I didn’t wish she would take a genuine interest in the activities I have planned for us - like our garden.

That’s why this Fall I am so excited she suddenly is excited about our garden. She was eager to mix the new soil, write our new plot sticks, plant the seeds, and daily go out to water our immature plants. For the first time, this is all on her accord. That’s what makes it so exciting to me!

Similar to how we should approach feeding our children in those weeks, months, and even years it takes to establish healthy relationships with eating (more on that here) and for them to “learn to like” new foods (more on that here), I am reminded of the patience versus pressure required in other areas (like gardening) as well. I have tried at times to talk my oldest into “how much fun this (gardening) is” when she didn’t show much of an interest. The same could easily be said for trying to tell our kids “this tastes so good” for a food they’d otherwise pass on. But what I am remembering this month is that continuing to expose our kids to these healthy habits is a seed-planting-process.

I don’t know if my oldest will stay this enthusiastic about our garden all Fall, but what I do know is that we are planting seeds for such enthusiasm towards healthy lifestyle habits at a young age and as part of her overall development into ultimately becoming an adult someday. She may not learn to like gardening as a kid or ever, but I am confident that planting the seeds for this being a part of our life now is something that she will be able to sow from later in life.

The same can be said for the “learning it foods” and family meals we offer now that seemingly “get wasted.” While not every seed will produce fruit, I think again we can be reminded of the overall parallel planting such seeds has for creating the foundation our kids learn how to eat from.

So although it might be the postpartum hormones that have me particularly sentimental in this month’s gardening post, I think the metaphor of planting seeds, watering our garden, and waiting on the harvest is a particularly fitting reminder for how we should approach feeding and raising our kids in general. I hope it encourages you to reflect on this as much as it does me!


Veggie of the Month: Pumpkin

I am honored to be a monthly contributor to Veggie Buds Club. Intended for children ages 3-6, Veggie Buds Club offers activities that empower kids to Learn + Cook + Play + Create + Grow with a monthly vegetable. Through fun, pressure-free ideas, Veggie Buds Club helps expose your child to a variety of vegetables in age-appropriate and engaging ways.

If you are interested in checking out Veggie Buds Club for your family (or to gift a friend!), I encourage you to hop on over today! Monthly registration closes at midnight on the first of the month, so be sure to sign up so you get this month's box - complete with a tip sheet featuring the advice I share below!

Images from past month's Veggie Buds Club.

Tips shared in this month’s Veggie Buds Club: Pumpkin

We often forget about pumpkin until summer starts turning to fall and we start planning for seasonal staples like jack-o-lanterns and pumpkin pie. Pumpkins hold so much potential however as produce with a subtle flavor that packs important nutrition. Fall is a great time to both introduce pumpkin and find ways that your family enjoys eating it so you can continue to include it in your diets year round.

Since canned pumpkin packing as many vitamins, minerals, and fiber as its fresh counterpart, there is no need to stress over making your own puree (unless of course your prefer the taste or the process). Either way, these gourds are very good for you! Consider how you can add in the health benefits of beta carotene (what gives pumpkins their bright orange color!), vitamin C (to help combat cold season!), and fiber (to keep your family both full and regular!) to any meal or snack by using some of the following ideas:

Breakfast

Bake pumpkin muffins

Add pumpkin puree to smoothies

Mix pumpkin in pancake or waffle batter

Lunch

Stir pumpkin into spreads like cream cheese to smear on a sandwich

Make hummus with pumpkin for a fun flavored dip

Make pumpkin soup to enjoy as “soup & salad” or “soup & sandwich” combos

Dinner

Mix pureed pumpkin into sauces, like spaghetti

Add pumpkin to chili

Look for pumpkin-filled pastas (like ravioli or tortellini)

Snacks

Roast pumpkin seeds

Bake healthy pumpkin cookies

Roll up some pumpkin energy bites

For more recipe ideas, be sure to try out each of the recipe cards included in this month’s Veggie Buds Club! Also remember to check out Veggie Buds Club before 12/midnight on the first of every month if you aren't already a subscriber. Then you can still order this month's box and veggie in time to participate!


Want More Actionable Ideas on How to Turn Your Veggie Averse Kid Into A Gardener?

Subscribe here for updates and early bird access anytime there is a new resource added and available!


For More Posts on Gardening with Kids:

Revisiting Formula Options with Child #3

Disclosure: This post is sponsored by Kabrita. All opinions are my own.


 
 

I am writing this post within weeks of our third child being born. It feels so strange to be over two years past when I went through the experiences shared in this very personal post. Now, I am going into this next postpartum season with so much hope and yet so much unknown over some of the issues we faced then, like:

  • Will my son be able to breastfeed, especially if we catch a potential tongue and lip-tie early enough this time?

  • If I can’t successfully nurse, is exclusively pumping realistic a THIRD time around?

  • If I need to supplement with formula, do I know what options are currently on the market that the dietitian-mom in me can feel confident offering my own child?

 

As I know almost every mom in history can attest to, this season comes with some anxieties over what we can and can’t control. One thing I have come to embrace more now than when we had our first child though is that, as moms, we can only control the controllables.

When it comes to breastfeeding, formula-feeding, or a combination to the two, my dietitian mom pride has already been shot down, heart torn, and body ravaged over what I just couldn’t control (read more here). That’s why I am entering into my third postpartum season with more understanding, resources, and proactive approaches to promote the chances that things will go smoother with feeding our son than it did with either of our daughters.

Even still, I know that supplementing with formula might still be necessary.

 

This article will help to highlight three key considerations to evaluate if/when there is a need to supplement with infant formula.

 

In this post, I will share how personally and professionally I scrutinize the choice of which infant formula(s) might be best for my family. Specifically, there are three main arms I focus on when looking for an infant formula:

  1. The nutritional attributes and how it models those of breastmilk

  2. The quality and safety of the options available on the market

  3. The company’s transparency and mission to supporting both moms and babies with making the best informed decision available

 
feeding journey.png
 

 

Nutritional Attributes - what to look for!

As addressed in a post I previously wrote, “What is the Best Infant Formula” (shared here in January 2017), there are different ingredients in infant formula to compare and contrast. All baby formula is modeled after the nutrition delivered in breast milk but you want to be sure that your formula uses ingredients also modeled after important breast milk attributes.

Lactose

Lactose is the primary carbohydrate found in breastmilk and the optimal carbohydrate source used in infant formulas. In some formulas, parents may notice use of other less-expensive carbohydrate sources like corn syrup or glucose solids (used instead of, or in addition to lactose). Ideally, parents want to select a formula (like Kabrita) that uses lactose as the primary (and preferably only) carbohydrate.

Whey

Breastmilk has two main forms of protein: whey and casein. While breastmilk has a whey:casein ratio of 60:40 (more whey), cow and goat milk both have less whey than casein proteins. In order to best simulate the proteins naturally occuring in breastmilk, parents should consider a formula with added whey. Kabrita, for example, uses a goat milk protein as the base with added goat whey to make it closer to breastmilk and even easier to digest.

DHA

DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) and ARA (arachidonic acid) are fatty acids critical for an infant’s brain, eye, and neurological development. Both are abundant in breastmilk and are added to many US baby formulas. While there is some controversy around the process by which they are extracted, a good article and video from Baby Formula Expert can be found here for families who might have questions or concerns about the fatty acids in formula. Given their importance for brain health, I look for a baby formula with DHA and ARA.

Digestibility

In the post “What is the Best Infant Formula,” I spoke at length about the digestibility of different infant formulas. One type of formula I did not include at the time was goat milk formula, like Kabrita. In a recent study,  goat milk formula digested at a rate closer to breast milk (when compared to cow’s milk formulas). Unlike most formulas made with cow’s milk, those made with goat milk do not need to be treated/hydrolyzed in order to be “easier to digest”.


 

 
Short ingredients or closer to mother s-page-001.jpg
 

 

Safety and Quality

In terms of quality, many parents are opting to use European Infant formulas here in the United States (like HiPP or Holle). While European formulas do often using higher standards than many of those in the US. the concern is that they do not have their ingredients, vitamin content, nor shipping standards regulated by the FDA. Parents should heed extra caution when ordering such products from Europe, or consider a product like Kabrita that offers a European-quality product and is sold legally in the US.

Safety is one of the most important factors to consider when choosing a formula for your little one. For safety reasons, I strongly advise against homemade baby formula. Breastmilk or a regulated infant formula are the best options during your child's first year of life. If you are curious about my recommendations for safe cow milk alternatives for toddlers, you can review them here

 
Kabrita formula comparison chart - udated-page-001.jpg
 

 

 

A Company’s Transparency and Mission

Whichever formula you choose, be sure to research the company so that you can feel confident in your choice. Ideally, parents should feel that a brand is transparent about the ingredients and manufacturing processes they utilize, while also aiming to educate and empower parents in their decision of which formula to use.


Parents can find out a lot of information about a formula by searching their website, particularly for their About and FAQ pages, as well as information on the ingredients and research that the company has conducted. I find the FAQ page on Kabrita’s site particularly informative and a good resource for comparison's sake when evaluating what other formula companies are sharing (or not) on their websites. I also value that Kabrita is a women-run company, led by Moms!

 

 
 

 

In Summary

We already have standing appointments with a pediatric dentist (for a frenectomy evaluation), lactation consultant (who specializes in post-frenectomies, should that be needed), and a wildly-recommended breast pump (courtesy of our insurance company). Even still, it helps me to welcome this coming season of feeding a newborn with more ease to know that I am both educated and empowered about what options I have when it comes to infant formula - should I need to utilize it. I hope this post will also provide you with the same peace of mind over such a decision.

Thank you to Kabrita for sponsoring this review of milk alternatives for toddlers; if you'd like to learn more about their goat milk formula, click here.

Nursery Reveal

I know this has nothing to do with food.

But considering nesting has been so much of my life for the past several months, it is fun to share something not food-related for a change.

Plus, like many moms, I love hearing how families pick their children's names so I figured this would be a fun time to share a nursery reveal for Owen's room, as well as a bit of background on how we chose his name!

 
 

Owen Oaks

We have had this name as our top contender for a boy name since we found out we were pregnant with our first. Seeing that we have had two girls, it remained at the top of our list when we got pregnant this time. We went back to the drawing board and ultimately, still felt this was our favorite.

As with each of the girls names (Claire and Brooke), I had a clear moment where I sensed the Lord leading me to choose their names. I can remember where I was in the very moment with each of them that the confidence, clarify, and peace came to declare Claire as Claire and Brooke as Brooke. With each, we felt led by our faith, guided in prayer, and ultimately motivated by our life prayers for them to choose their names.

With Claire, I loved that Saint Clare of Assisi was known as a woman of prayer. I appreciated that while she was brought up in a life of privilege, she was concerned for the poor and put herself in a position of service to others. Our hope has always been that Claire would grow up to be a women of prayer, committed to serving others and positioning herself as a Light for Christ. It is such a joy to see already in her these traits coming true in how she prays for people and cares for peoples.

With Brooke, we chose her name in hopes that she would root herself in God, His word, and the security that comes from being anchored in His will - like a Brook or tree planted near water in Jeremiah 17:8:

"They will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit.”

We desired for her to both thirst for Jesus and find the most fulfilling satisfaction for such thirsts always spring forth from Him. We also prayed that both her name and her life would make evident to others what it looks like to not “run on empty” but rather to be deeply satisfied by the Living Water that comes from a personal relationship with Christ.

What I realized after having Brooke was that so much of the names we chose for our daughters was just as much something the Lord wanted me to learn through them as their mother as well. With Claire, I learned how fervent in prayer motherhood makes me. With Brooke, I learned quickly how much I myself needed to stay well-watered and planted near the streams of Life in order to ever pour into my kids. With Owen, it was no different. The only difference was when we got to name our child this and when God led me to recognize the meaning behind the name he had laid on our hearts almost five years ago.

Owen means "young warrior."

The confirmation of Owen's name came when I continued to feel the Lord nudging me to recognize that in this season of welcoming our third child, I needed to have a quiet confidence to stand strong, like a warrior. I continued to sense this in my quiet times to the point that one day I asked myself, "Doesn't Owen mean warrior or something?" As soon as I looked it up and saw that indeed it did, my husband and I agreed that we would happily settle on that name with certainty.

Initially I thought of a warrior with tenacity and toughness, but God kept leading me to see that acting as a warrior in this season wasn't so much physical toughness as it was spiritual. In the woes of motherhood, God has reminded me that this is as season both for myself and to pray over Owen that we will find strength in the armor of God. Not that we will fight using fear or aggression, but rather that in a calm, collected confidence, we can face whatever comes our way. I so pray this over my son and am thankful God led me to this as something I too will pray over myself in this season of transitioning into life as a mom of three.

As for Oaks, it is my husband's middle name and one that we wanted to pass down. I love the visual of an Oak tree though and how Oaks is used in Scripture as it is here in Isaiah 61:1-3:

"The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, because the LORD has anointed me to bring good news to the afflicted; He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to captives and freedom to prisoners; to proclaim the favorable year of the LORD and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn, to grant those who mourn in Zion, giving them a garland instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the mantle of praise instead of a spirit of fainting. So they will be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, that He may be glorified."

Although this is not how my in-laws came up with the middle name for my husband, it adds that much more meaning for us as we pass down the name to our one and only son.


Nursery Reveal

Not to shift things to a superficial front, but just for fun, I wanted to share some of the details for Owen's room as I have gotten questions about where we got certain items. Below each image I have tried to share the information for where we found each item, as I shopped around to combine good deals and a few splurges with favorite pieces.

My favorite piece in Owen's room might be the football quilt that hangs center on the blanket ladder. I bought this while pregnant with Brooke from a neighborhood resale site (before we knew she would be a girl) as it was one I just gravitated towardds. I opted to hang onto it in case we ever got pregnant again and had a boy, which made it all the more special when we found out we were with Owen!

Blanket ladder: Wayfair
Blankets: gifted from assorted and unknown brands
Crib Bedding: RH Baby
Name Letters: Hobby Lobby

Side note/OCD Mom Moment: These images make me realize his crib wasn't shifted back to center of the O-W-E-N since raising the height of the mattress. Ha!

Rocking Chair: Land of Nod
Mounted Book Rack: Hobby Lobby
Lamp: Walmart
Blue Toy Basket: Wayfair
White Linen Black-Out Curtains: Target
Curtain Hooks: Amazon
Hello Handsome Sign (in Jack-n-Jill): Hobby Lobby

 
 

Hamper: IKEA
Diaper Genie: Amazon
Dresser: Pottery Barn Kids
Mirror: Walmart
Changing Table Pad: Amazon
Mounted Diapering Supply Rack: Hobby Lobby

 
 

Plush Football: RH Baby
Football Holder: RH Baby
Wall Art: Hobby Lobby
Shelf: Hobby Lobby
Weathered White Picture Frames*: Etsy
*We first ordered these frames for our oldest's nursery and have since used them in several rooms, most recently the guest room. The images will be replaced with Owen's newborn photos once we get those printed but for now, they are still ones from when Brooke was an infant with friends and family.

 
Snapseed (8).jpeg
 

Sleep Sheep: Amazon
Raccoon: Jelly Cat
Wooden Truck: Bannor Toys (purchased at the Magnolia Market)
Bedding: RH Baby

 
Snapseed (7).jpeg
 

Diaper Bag: Fawn Design
Closet Organization (white bins): IKEA
Closet Organization (clear bins): Walmart


That's A Wrap!

Thanks for entertaining my mom heart and letting me share on a more personal front about some of the ways we prepared for Owen, beyond freezer meals and healthy foods! It is such an honor to be his mom and to have this space to share with you all both the meaning behind his name as well as the room where he will call home for many years to come!

Must Haves for New Moms in 2018

Before my oldest daughter was born, I was one research-obsessed first time mama. I literally recall dedicating myself to researching one item per night as "we" created our infant registry. My husband is not much of the analytical type when it comes to this type of stuff, so we never did the walk around a baby store and shoot the registry gun at all sorts of cute stuff type.

Instead, I felt much more confident in my decisions by researching EVERY. SINGLE. ITEM I put on our registry. We didn't want to walk through a store and arbitrarily pick this car seat or high chair or nipple cream. Nope, I wanted to read all 1,237 reviews on Amazon about it and fact check the product on ConsumerReports. So "we" spent many nights sitting together on the couch as I slowly but surely made my way through our baby registry checklist and selecting the items we would entrust our little one in/with/on.

Since I was one of the first of my friends to have kids so at the time, I didn't have a ton of people to ask their opinions of when it came to what items mattered most. A few valued friends sent me over lists of their favorite items and some insight on what items were actual essentials versus more useless in the end. For the most part though, I learned the most about what items we could have gone without and which ones were core to surviving that first year of motherhood just by being a first time mom.

That's why it is interesting to me how much has changed over the past five years since I first made a baby registry. Some of the products that we received or purchased with our first are still those we will reuse again now with our last (Praise God - not even our infant car seat has expired yet!). I have created a special list on my Amazon shop with all of those favorites from over the years you can reference here:

I am amazed though by the number of items that are totally new to both me and the market of "new mommyhood" though. That's where this post comes in.

As on my Instagram (aka where I share an obnoxious number of photos of our new baby), I want to share some of the products that are newer to the market and particularly new to my babe, me, and our home here. I hope this post will be helpful to you as you research and sort through the "must haves" of motherhood as well as the latest and greatest products for new moms in 2018.

 
 

 

10 Must Haves for New Moms in 2018

Please note: some of the links on this post are affiliate links. These do not cost you extra to use, but will provide Veggies & Virtue with a small commission if/when you purchase through them. I appreciate your support!

The following are shared in no particular order. A more comprehensive list of all the items on my registry can be found here.


1. DockATot

dockatot - Veggies & Virtue.jpeg
dock a tot.jpg
dockatot2.jpeg

Disclosure: I received this product for free, but all opinions are my own.

A few things have happened over the past 2.5 years since I had our last child was born.

One, the American Academy of Pediatrics updated it's policy on safe sleep practices to include the recommendation that infants should, "Share a bedroom with parents, but not the same sleeping surface, preferably until the baby turns 1 but at least for the first six months." Going on to state that room-sharing decreases the risk of SIDS by as much as 50 percent, many parents have begun to look for safe options for how to comfortably room-share with their infants - especially in those early months.

Another big change to the infant sleeping scene is the DockATot. I had never heard of this product until pregnant this time with our third, but I have since had many of my fellow mom friends swear by it as a multi-functional option for sleep, playtime, tummy time, and lounging around in any room of the house. While made in Europe, I was grateful to see it also meets US safety standards so we can allow Owen to lounge in it safely (when proper precautions are taken to it's overall surroundings). With this being our first summer baby, I also appreciated seeing that the DockATot has been tested for breathability to ensure it provides a safe, cool micro-climate for infants!

So far, we have loved having the Deluxe size DockATot as an option for easy transport room to room around the house. It has been so helpful to have one universal item that I can move around the house in one hand with Owen in the other, without needing to rely on a swing, rock n play, boppy, or other items in each room.


2. Infant Sleep Courses

Disclosure: I received this product for free, but all opinions are my own.

Speaking of getting our little ones to sleep (or a lack thereof!), I am so grateful to have been generously gifted this newborn sleep course from Cara over at TakingCaraBabies. Admittedly, I haven't opened a book on pregnancy, postpartum, or newborns since we had our second daughter. Even then, it was a pretty weak crash-course refresher that I am pretty sure I did when we hit 40 weeks and ultimately were just waiting until she was induced at 41.5 weeks. That means it has been more like five years since I really did much of any study on newborns, sleep habits, and all of the necessary information on early survival with them.

While I know some parenting tactics and tools have changed since then, one reality still exists: figuring out how to get a newborn to sleep can be exhausting. That's why I reached out to Cara to learn more about newborn sleep habits as I approached the arrival of our third. I wanted to know how to best ensure we were doing what we could to promote healthy sleep patterns from the start, especially since I knew it would be a bit of a juggling act between two older kids, their schedules, and the demands of my trying to work at home (something I only did minimally during my last postpartum). Even though we are still early on in adjusting to life with a newborn, this online newborn sleep course has been a huge help at giving me the confidence, understanding, and scope of what steps to take to make sure we are getting as much rest as we can.

Cara also shares tons of informative posts on the DockaTot and the Ollie Swaddle so I better know how to use them more safely and successfully. I encourage you to check out any of her sleep courses as well as her Instagram (@takingcarababies), as she is constantly sharing helpful swipe ups and posts to promote better sleep for your child (and you!).


3. Ollie Swaddle

ollie swaddle - Veggies & Virtue.jpeg
ollie swaddle.jpg
ollie 3.jpeg

Disclosure: I received this product for free, but all opinions are my own.

There will probably always be parents who use bumpers versus don't, put their infants down on their tummies versus backs, and co-sleep versus start their infant out in the crib. Some will swaddle, others will use sound machines, and many will use sleep sacks. But one universal truth that ALL of us parents are aiming for is babies who sleep better stat.

That's why I was a bit surprised to learn from @takingcarababies that the Ollie Swaddle was one of her favorite sleep products on the market. Not being around when I had either of our daughters, the Ollie Swaddle was a totally new concept to me going into life with Owen.

Since all of our sleep sacks and PJs from the girls were pink, flowery and with frills, I had debated how many new sleep aid items I would reinvest in for Owen. Thankfully, Ollie World sent me this smarter swaddle in stone color. Not only is it a cute option for our first boy, but even more so I am loving how functional it has been to help get him to sleep! I have already noticed a big difference in how Owen sleeps in the Ollie Swaddle versus the other handed-down sleep sacks we received or even the swaddle sleep sack hospital gave us. He went from waking often throughout the night the first several nights to consistently going 3-4 hour stretches overnight in the Ollie Swaddle. No mom needs convincing - this been a BIG blessing in making sure we are all getting as sound of sleep as possible in these early days!


4. SollyBaby

 
solly baby.jpeg

Disclosure: I received this product for free, but all opinions are my own.

Something I borrowed when we had our second daughter that I told myself I would never forget (should we have a third) was a sollybaby wrap. Sure enough as soon as I knew we were pregnant this time, it was one of the first items I ensured we had ready in our infant survival arsenal.

With our oldest, we had the Ergo (with infant insert), BabyBjorn, and another wrap. The wrap was never one I was particularly fond of and thus ever really used though and the more traditional baby carriers weren't my favorite options in the early infancy stage. That's why knowing I would need my hands free all the more in this postpartum season, I wanted to have a Solly Baby wrap we could use again to ease the transition.

I find the fabric on this wrap more breathable than others (which is key with having an August baby in Houston!), but also much MUCH easier to put on (even in a highly sleep-deprived state). It also seems to keep Owen much more snug and safely situated on my chest than I felt other wraps, slings, or infant carriers have offered. I wear it around the house, when at the park with the girls, on evening walks with the family, and whenever I need my hands free to do tidbits of work. Thankfully it is easy to wash as well (since I seem to spill on it a fair amount too when trying to rush around and feed myself).


5. Binxy Baby

binxy3.jpg
binxy.jpg

Disclosure: I received this product for free, but all opinions are my own.

I have not yet figured out how I am going to grocery shop with three littles. I know there are tons of moms who manage this each week, especially before curbside pick-up or grocery delivery was available. It still feels like kind of a crazy operation though unless my oldest walks, my two year old goes in the seat, and I baby wear our youngest.

That's why in trying to navigate how to make this work in a way that is manageable, comfortable, safe, and "convenient" (or as convenient as shopping with three kids can be!), I was stoked to see this new option available from Binxy Baby.

It is no surprise that I love going to the grocery store, so I don't want to rely exclusively on picking up our groceries after our third little one arrived. Instead, I love the idea that I will be able to take our oldest two to preschool two mornings a week and use one of those days to also swing by the store and shop with our little man in this. Since we frequent everywhere from HEB to Sprouts to Trader Joes to Target, I love that the Binxy Baby fits most standard grocery carts and can be used pretty much all the places we shop. It is nice to not have to haul the infant car seat inside the store, since it 1) makes me cringe when people prop it up on grocery carts, 2) takes up the whole basket when you place it inside the cart. The Binxy Baby will instead let me engage with my little guy as I shop in a way that is safety tested and ideal for the first 6-8 months of life when he can't yet sit up in the seat on the grocery cart.

I am excited to take Owen along on grocery trips to come soon, and will be sure to show us in action as we put this Binxy Baby to use.

Shop here to get 10% off your Binxy Baby purchase!


6. FawnDesign

 
fawn design.jpg

The item I think I spent the most on when we had our first child was splurging over $200 on a Petunia Pickle Bottom diaper bag backpack. At the time, I thought it was everything I wanted in a diaper bag. I soon discovered though that the design of the bag was less than awesome (in my opinion). I started favoring a simple, embroidered backpack we had for our daughter instead, but it truly wasn't intended to handle the wear and tear of a diaper bag. It got dirty very fast and still didn't function totally as I needed it to with her or especially once we added our second daughter to the mix and I needed to pack all the more.

That's why one of the items I knew I wanted to get before baby brother arrived was a new backpack. After surveying you all on my stories, it was quite clear that a new favorite diaper bag for new moms came from Fawn Design. I immediately fell in love with the style, so when this backpack went on sale, I jumped on it and ordered one. I am so excited about how simple yet stylish it is (especially now as a boy mom, too) but also how it has plenty of room to tuck essentials I need myself (like a laptop on occasion) or other items for the girls as well. I plan to organize items inside with the pockets, as well as with additional bags as needed (like those below).


7. Bumkins

 

With my daughters, I was notorious for having bags inside of bags inside of bags with our diaper bag. The pockets often felt frumpy and lacked the actual organization I wanted out of a bag, so I often resorted to using Ziplocks instead for whatever I was putting inside. This go around, I am excited to have these bags from Bumkins to help sort the items in our diaper bags with.


8. Multi-Use Nursing Cover

 

I first heard of MilkSnob nursing covers on Shark Tank, back when I wasn't pregnant nor nursing. Since, I have seen them on several friend's registries and heard so many great reviews about this style of nursing cover (slash later grocery cart cover or restaurant high chair cover). I had a more traditional nursing cover with both of our other kids, as these are what were more mainstream when I registered five years ago. Now as I hope for the "third time to be the charm" with being able to successfully breastfeed our son, I am excited to put this cover to use when I need a bit more privacy while out and about.

There are several brands of these that look great. Shown on the left and linked here is the one I registered for this go around as it seemed to be the most cost-effective without compromising great reviews on Amazon.


9. Spectra S2

I asked over on my stories about which breast pump you all used and would recommend the most and hands down, the Spectra S2 was the most wildly recommended favorite.

I used the Medela pump in style with my first and again with my section, in tandem with the hospital grade Medela pump when at home. The Pump in Style was free from insurance and helped do the job while exclusive pumping, but I would never say I "liked" it. That's why it was a bit of a surprise to hear SO many of you share that this pump was a "game changer," "SO much better than the Medela" and "a lot quicker and quieter" than other options.

I am still new to using it but I can already tell I enjoy the Spectra more so than the Medela (which is still tucked in my two year old's closet). While I hope to not have to exclusively pump this time, I am grateful for insurance giving me this as a good alternative to use when needed!


10. Banner Toys

We have had a lot of toys pass through our home over the past several years and babies. When I went on a girl's trip to the Magnolia market though this past spring (while pregnant with our first son), I admit the first baby toy I just couldn't help but get for him was this toy truck from Bannor Toys.

We have plenty of bright, obnoxious colored kids toys that require minimal self-manipulation to spin or make sounds. The beautiful simplicity of these wooden toys by Bannor though makes the boy-mom in me seriously swoon.

I secretly want to get Owen the Texas (where we live) and Washington state (where I am from) wooden toys by Bannor too...good thing Christmas isn't THAT far away!


In Summary

Figuring out what "must haves" to get as a new mom can be overwhelming. So first and foremost, remember that you likely already have what you need most: enough love to go around with your infant. That said, should you find yourself wanting a few other items to register for, I hope this list gave you some ideas based off of items I have been excited to discover myself.

For more ideas of Tried & True Favorites as well as Must Haves for New Moms, be sure to hop over to my Amazon shop to see ideas list on each!

Gardening with Kids: September 2018 edition

We are in a season of new beginnings here.

A new baby, the start to a new school year, and an emptied out garden from most of our summer plants.

We opted to empty out most the garden beds right before our little boy was born in order to minimize yard work in those early weeks with an infant. Plus, with how hot it gets here in Houston, we were getting very little in the way of the tomatoes, beans, squash, and cucumbers that we pulled up.

So instead, we have been focusing on adding compost, feeding the soil, and will soon do a crop rotation and plant our Fall vegetables. This is a nice "slow season" of gardening as everything else is, well, a bit crazy!


Areas of Growth in the Garden

Garden Yields Update

Total seasonal yield to date: 
103 baby tomatoes (the final 21 tomatoes picked while still green since we couldn't get them before the squirrels)
10 cucumbers
19 bell peppers
45 beans (but honestly, we didn't pick them all as the fava beans were immature inside the pod and thus inedible/not worth the effort)
7 yellow squash
4 zucchini

gardening with kids sweet potatoes 4.jpg
gardening with kids sweet potatoes 2.jpg
june 2.jpg
gardening with kids sweet potatoes 1.jpg

New Feeding Wins or Progress via Food Play

Dirt. There is something so wonderful about it with kids.

By clearing out the actual crops in three of our four raised beds, it has given us the perfect place for free play in the soil. We look for worms, talk about how gardening works, and the girls get to use their hands and imaginations to "garden" even before the real seeds are in.

I think for this Fall, we might let each of the girls have a garden bed all for themselves. With this, they will be allowed to pick the seeds, plant them, and til to "their" soil to their hearts content. We might not grow anything or it might be wildly successful. The point is, it will be theirs and I think their ownership of having a bed to tend to (while my husband and I work on the other three) would be so empowering to their little gardener's confidence.

Although I am not too strict about anything they do to the garden as a whole, I am hoping this initial dirt free-play will spur on all the more desire for them to put on their little gloves, get their shovels, and garden as we move into Fall!


Veggie of the Month: Sweet Potatoes

I am honored to be a monthly contributor to Veggie Buds Club. Intended for children ages 3-6, Veggie Buds Club offers activities that empower kids to Learn + Cook + Play + Create + Grow with a monthly vegetable. Through fun, pressure-free ideas, Veggie Buds Club helps expose your child to a variety of vegetables in age-appropriate and engaging ways.

If you are interested in checking out Veggie Buds Club for your family (or to gift a friend!), I encourage you to hop on over today! Monthly registration closes at midnight on the first of the month, so be sure to sign up so you get this month's box - complete with a tip sheet featuring the advice I share below!

Images from past month's Veggie Buds Club.

Tips shared in this month’s Veggie Buds Club:

As Summer comes to a close and we get into Fall foods and cooler temperatures, it is a great time to talk about a root vegetable with lots of nutrition: SWEET POTATOES!

For many children as infants, sweet potatoes are an obvious first food that parents roast and serve as a puree or in soft, finger-like strips. As children get older though and begin to exert more opinion and independence around the foods they eat however, many kids shift away from sweet potatoes to preferring white potatoes in the form of french fries and tater tots.

While all potatoes offer some nutritional value in their natural form, sweet potatoes provide an added nutritional punch and more antioxidants than their white, yellow, or red counterparts. In order to get such carotenoids in your child's diet (the antioxidants that give sweet potatoes that beautiful orange color!), consider the following ways of keeping them a staple Fall food for your family:

  • SHOP: Compare and contrast potato types. On an upcoming shopping trip, let your child help pick the potatoes. Encourage them to select a couple from each potato type or color category, as most stores will offer white Russets, yellow Yukons, Red roasters, orange sweets, and sometimes ever purple potatoes as well! This helps them to see there are lots of different potato types, not to mention sizes and shapes!
  • CLEAN: Allow your children to scrub potatoes in the sink or a water table (like the one leftover from summer!). This helps to get them to touch the vegetable before it ever is offered on the table.
  • TASTE: If your child is used to only white potatoes, consider comparing white with sweet potatoes in a taste test. Bake, roast, or mash both kinds and offer side by side. Talk about how they look, smell, and taste different and allow them to rate their preferences to either. This helps kids to identify differences in foods with an inquisitive approach that emphasizes "learning to like" the attributes of a (potentially) new food instead of pressuring them to eat something that is still unfamiliar.
  • CHAIN: Consider food chaining your child's preferred type of potatoes to include sweet potatoes! You can do this by making subtle shifts to offer sweet potatoes in the same same and preparation as the preferred potato, then gradually working to include sweet potatoes in other shapes or serving methods.
  • COOK: Talk about ways you can cook each of the vegetables that you bought at the store: baked whole, roasted in cubes, sliced as fries, pureed for baked goods, mashed as a side, or in a hash at breakfast! Let your child sit with you to look through recipes and help plan which way you will prepare them for a given meal. This helps them empower their voice in meal time decisions while also piquing their curiosity around how potatoes can be offered.

Remember to check out Veggie Buds Club before 12/midnight on the first of every month if you aren't already a subscriber. Then you can still order this month's box and veggie in time to participate!


Want More Actionable Ideas on How to Turn Your Veggie Averse Kid Into A Gardener?

Subscribe here for updates and early bird access anytime there is a new resource added and available!


For More Posts on Gardening with Kids: