Staying Healthy on the Road

We often find ourselves on long road trips. My husband travels quite a bit for his work, and we’re fortunate to be able to go with him at times. Two big challenges seem to always loom: 1) how to keep up with school work, and 2) how to eat healthy food on the go.

For now, I’ll address number 2 and share what we’ve done to try to eat healthy on the road. I’m almost hesitant to write this because we have a long way to go and certainly haven’t arrived yet. I’m eager to hear what ideas you have as well, so be sure to add your ideas at the end of the post or on the Facebook page.

On our last road trip, which lasted 2 1/2 weeks, these are some of the things we did to try and eat healthier on the road.

Bring Healthy Snacks

Take lots of healthy snacks so when the hunger pangs come we aren’t tempted to grab junk food from the gas station. Here are some of our favorites. While you may not have these brands where you live, look for snacks with non-GMO ingredients, whole grains, low or no added sugar, no high fructose corn syrup, and no hydrogenated oils or fats.

Limit snack times. Grazing all day isn’t good for the stomach. Healthy snacks can minimize food you have to buy along the way or make a rest stop into a lunch break too.

Crunchmasters gluten free multi-grain crackers

Nature’s Bakery All Natural Fig Bars or other healthy fig bars

Trail mix: Sometimes we make our own with almonds, cashews, and raisins or dried cranberries.

Kashi Chocolate Almond Sea Salt with Chia (I told you we aren’t perfect yet.)

Pack Fresh Fruit

Pack some fresh fruit. Apples and oranges travel well and last many days on the road. When we stop to eat at a sandwich or burrito shop, I stash some oranges in my bag. Then I have the kids eat them while waiting for their order. The double bonus is they get good nutrition in first and we don’t have to order as much food, which helps with the budget.

Grocery Store Meals

Skip the restaurant or fast food for a quick meal from the grocery store. Many stores have a deli that makes fresh sandwiches. Or, grab some bananas, granola bars, and applesauce.

Juice Break Instead of Fast Food

Take a juice break instead of a meal. Many grocery stores and even gas stations now have fresh vegetable/fruit juices and smoothies. While some are nutritionally better than others, they are certainly better than French fries and soda by far. Look for cold pressed if you’re really wanting a nutritional boost. In parts of the USA, Trader Joe’s has some great options. Otherwise, look for a vegetable/fruit mixture with no added sugar, artificial flavors, or preservatives. Be sure not to leave leftovers out for later as these can go bad quickly. We like to take a small insulated cooler bag with ice to keep our juice cold, as small tummies fill up quickly.

Stretch and Exercise

Take exercise breaks often to stretch the legs and keep the blood circulating. Long trips are hard on the circulation even for little people. Play jumping games or tag at rest stops.

Salad Bars to the Rescue

Seek out buffet style restaurants that feature big salad bars. We love Sweet Tomatoes, aka Fresh Choice, for its fantastic salad bar.

Share Gifts of Good Health

When staying with friends and family, bring some fruit or healthy snacks and give them as a gift. They’ll want to offer them to you while you’re there, and will help keep the healthy food flowing even if not everyone’s on board.

Graciousness and Healthy Limits

Remember that relationships are more important than food. Be gracious and thoughtful of anyone who hosts you along the way. Give kids limits they can abide by and still be polite — for example, “take only one cookie after dinner.”

Like I said, we are certainly not the poster family for healthy road trips. We have frequented too many fast food chains and eaten too many Doritos. But, we are making strides to improve. I as a mom am elated if we can make it through a long road trip without anyone getting sick. The time and effort it takes to keep everyone well fed with nutritious food does pay off. Happy and healthy traveling!

Taking Care of Us

97669-quotes-about-self-care

There comes a time when we start questioning ourselves, when the challenge of parenting, educating, therapy, work, and all the other things we deal with in our lives becomes overwhelming and we wonder if we are doing the right thing, or if we need to let something drop off our list. These are often signs of burnout and fatigue.

We need to make sure we take time to take care of ourselves. Self-care is something I often neglect. It’s important to take care of the whole family, to remember ourselves while we are doing so much. As parents we often put the children first. There are so many things vying for our attention that it is easy to lose us in the process.

There are things we can do, though. We don’t have to go big to take care of us:

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  • Journal – Writing for some is greatly therapeutic! It gives us a place to vent and express our thoughts and feelings in a safe place. Sometimes all we need to do is express it.
  • Be Alone – Sometimes just doing something by yourself is refreshing. Grocery shop without the kids, get out of the house alone, go for a drive, sit in the driveway, just find some silence where no one is able to interrupt.
  • Exercise – Plan something regularly to get out and move! Find what you enjoy — dance, aerobics, yoga, swimming. There are many classes you can enroll in to bring accountability into your exercise program. I once joined Middle Eastern dancing for the fun of it, and I’ve done rock climbing too. Find something different, try something new!
  • Friends – Just spend time with friends. Go out for dinner or to a movie, have coffee, go window shopping. Do something you enjoy with someone you like.
  • Date – This isn’t (just) for single folks. If you have a spouse, make a plan for date night. Take care of your relationship, add some spice to your relationship. Make room in your life for uninterrupted quality time with your partner.
  • Get Creative – Draw, paint, photograph, write, decorate, knit, crochet, cross-stitch, needlepoint, sew… You don’t have to be good at it, you just have to do it. Express yourself!
  • Play – Be social. Have game nights, spend time with friends as a family. Have family movie nights, family games, family outings. Make time for fun. So often we get so focused on raising and teaching kids that we forget to have fun with them. It’s important to make sure our kids know relationships are important too.
  • Know Yourself – Know what you enjoy and go do it. Make time for yourself. If you don’t fit this list, make your own.

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Burnout happens to everyone. We need to be proactive; if it happens, be honest and gracious with yourself. Be purposeful, make appointments with yourself and keep them! Take care of yourself. Remember we show our children how to take care of themselves, and this is something we must model, not teach.

self-care

Healthy and Happy in the Kitchen

We are not a perfect family. We try to eat healthy, but do not always succeed. At home I fix mostly vegan meals. Still, my kids love to go to Grandma’s for mac and cheese and ice cream. What to do? How do I instill in them a positive emotion towards healthy foods? While I don’t have all the answers for sure, this is what we’ve done to foster health and happiness in the kitchen. The side benefits, of course, are the skills they’re practicing in math, food science, home economics, nutrition, and time management. But, we won’t tell them all that!

Let Them Cook

My 12-year-old son has taken a liking to baking and cooking. What a delight! Steering him in the direction of foods that he loves to eat, which happen to also be healthy, is the ticket. We started with corn bread (from Cooking Entrees with the Micheff Sisters: A Vegan Vegetarian Cookbook) and moved on to vegan mac and cheese. Once he realized, “Hey, I can read any recipe and follow directions,” he moved up the difficulty scale to vegan lasagna. We served this scrumptious dish to company, and he got praise and positive reinforcement for his efforts. Double bonus!

Other favorites are pasta with sautéed mushrooms, garlic, basil, oregano, and tomatoes, using the pasta water to get the right saucy consistency; and, the ever requested grilled “cheese” sandwich made with vegan CHAO slices on whole grain bread.

vegan-grilled-cheese   vegan-chao-slices

When the boy wants to make banana bread or muffins, and there are no eggs available, he simply looks up a vegan recipe online and goes to work. Through this process he has learned how to substitute ground flax seed and water for eggs. We are also blessed to have a vegan society in our town and take both our kids to the vegan potlucks where they get to sample a variety of yummy nutrition packed food. At one dinner my lucky son won a cookbook, “The Uncheese Cookbook.” I never thought I’d see a pre-adolescent boy get so excited about winning a cookbook. He was thrilled!

Younger kids can start helping in the kitchen by measuring and mixing. My five-year-old has become quite adept at “skinning carrots.” That’s what he calls it! By helping us when we juice vegetables and fruits, he then wants to sample the juice and has loved it from the start.

Below are some of the kids favorite recipes to make.

Spinach Lasagna by Heather McDougall (adapted from the Forks Over Knives App)

Ingredients:

2 lbs. water-packed firm tofu

2 tsp. garlic, minced

1/4 cup nutritional yeast

1/2 tsp. sea salt

1 Tbs. parsley flakes (or fresh parsley, chopped)

1 tsp. dried basil

1 tsp. dried oregano

1/4 cup lemon juice

1/4 cup soy milk

1-2 lbs. fresh spinach, chopped (can use swiss chard)

8 oz. no-boil lasagna noodles (gluten free noodles work as well)

7 cups pasta sauce (we use Trader Joe’s Marinara)

1/2 cup Vegan Parmesan Cheese or daiya mozzarella style shreds

Directions: To make the tofu ricotta, combine tofu, garlic, nutritional yeast, sea salt, parsley, basil, oregano, lemon juice, and soy milk. Mix in food processor or with hand held mixer until just slightly lumpy. Place in large bowl, set aside. Chop spinach and mix into “ricotta.”

Preheat the oven to 350 ºF.

Spread 1 cup pasta sauce over the bottom of a 9×13 baking dish. Cover the sauce with a layer of noodles. Next, bread half of the ricotta mixture over the noodles. Top with 2 more cups of the sauce. Add another layer of noodles, the rest of the tofu mixture, 2 cups more of the sauce, and the rest of the noodles. Put remaining sauce over the noodles (make sure you cover all the edges), and sprinkle some parmesan or “cheese” over the top. Cover with parchment paper, then foil (we just use foil).

Bake for 60 minutes. Remove from the oven and let rest for 30 minutes before cutting.

 

Baked Macaroni & Cheeze (adapted from The Uncheese Cookbook)

  vegan-mac-and-cheese

Ingredients:

1/4 cup water + 1 Tbs. balsamic vinegar or fresh lemon juice

1 large onion, chopped

1 lb. elbow macaroni

2 cups water

1/2 cup pimiento pieces, drained

1/2 cup raw cashew pieces

1/4 cup fresh lemon juice

2 tsp. onion granules

2 tsp. garlic granules

1 tsp. salt

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 350 ºF.

Heat the water and vinegar or lemon juice in a large saucepan. Add the onion, cover, and cook, stirring occasionally, until tender (about 15-20 minutes). If onion sticks to the pan, add a few teaspoons more water to loosen it.

Cook macaroni in boiling water as directed on package. Drain and set aside.

Process the onions and remaining ingredients in a blender for several minutes until completely smooth. Stir blended mixture into the macaroni and spoon into a lightly oiled 3-quart casserole dish. Bake uncovered for 25-35 minutes. Serve immediately.

Healthy and Happy in the Kitchen

Yes, my son loves to make chocolate chip cookies and pizza too. But, I’m hopeful that his positive exposure to healthy foods and fun healthy cooking experiences will carry into his adult choices. At least he won’t find healthy foods unusual or different, just a taste of home!

How have you instilled healthy and fun eating habits in your family? Has cooking helped your children grow and learn in surprising ways? Share in the comments and let’s support each other on this homeschooling journey.

Rainbow Nutrition

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“And God said, Behold I have given you every herb bearing seed, which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree, in the which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed: to you it shall be for meat…And thou shalt eat the herb of the field,” Gen.1:29 & 3:18.

“Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God,” 1 Cor. 10:31.

When God made food, He put together the nutrition each thing should have. All the nutrition works together when we eat whole (not refined) plant based foods. For example, eating a whole apple is better than eating sauce, or dried. When something has vitamin C or A or K or an antioxidant, this pulls the nutrition apart so it can be sold separately (sometimes known as a reductionist view), but when we focus on eating whole (plant) foods we get all the nutrition in the food. (I know about depleted soils, etc, but it is still better to eat the whole food than to separate it and only focus on one or two parts of nutrition.)

Rainbow Nutrition                                                                                                      

Red: red apples, tomatoes, watermelon, cherries, strawberries, red grapes, red pepper, red raspberries, cabbage — antioxidants, heart healthy, helps memory, lowers risk of some cancers.

Orange: carrots, pumpkin and other winter squash, cantaloupe, sweet potatoes, orange pepper, oranges — beta-carotene, supports immune system, heart healthy, eye health, fights cancer.

Yellow: lemon, grapefruit, papaya, peaches, gold/yellow raspberries, corn, yellow/summer squash — flavonoids, inhibits tumor cell growth, detox from harmful substances.

Green: avocado, asparagus, celery, tomatillo, pepper, all green leaves (kale, chard, spinach, lettuce — especially romaine, beet greens, mustard, cabbage, etc) zucchini, green grapes, green apples, broccoli, brussels sprouts — builds healthy cells, eye health (especially against age-related problems), builds bones and teeth, lowers risk of cancer, heart healthy, supports immune system.

Blue and Purple: blueberries, plums, eggplant, blackberries, beets, black beans, purple grapes — protects cells, helps memory, healthy aging, antioxidants, urinary tract health, destroys free radicals, fights cancer.

Brown: whole grains, legumes (beans), nuts (raw) — fiber, supports immune system, proteins, carcinogen remover, phytochemicals.

White: banana, cauliflower, onions, garlic, ginger, white flesh potatoes, white corn, jicama — heart health, fights cancer, lowers cancer risk, balance hormone levels, maintains healthy cholesterol levels, supports immune system.

This list is not exhaustive. There could be more foods and benefits for each color. When you eat foods as close to natural as possible (some do need cooking), you get the most benefit from them. They are also heart-healthy and fight cancers.

Good nutrition is extremely important to children because that is when you are training their lifelong health and habits. If you teach them to eat right from when they are babies (and even before they are born), you will give them the building blocks for a healthier life. It will also give food to the brain for them to be able to learn better.

Rainbow Salad: tomatoes, carrots, lettuce/spinach/other greens, cucumber, avocado, beets (raw or cooked)*, jicama*, and other possible ingredients — any color pepper, cucumber,  raw winter squash*, chopped broccoli, cauliflower, yellow squash*, zucchini*, sliced olives, cooked beans, and/or grains

*shredded or grated

Please do not limit yourself to the usual or my suggestions. Experiment, I’ve made beautiful, colorful salads from chopped kale or cabbage, shredded beets and winter squash, and cauliflower, or spinach or kale strips with sliced strawberries and chopped pecans or walnuts or almonds.

With the additions of fresh herbs, like sweet basil, parsley, oregano, chives or onions (green tops not as strong), or cilantro, you don’t need dressing. Just squeeze lemon on it and it’s good. For something different, use cilantro and lime instead of lemon.

Rainbow Burgers:
(makes 6-8 depending on size)
1/2 green pepper diced
2 small carrots & zucchini each grated
3-4 green onions chopped
10-14 spinach or other small green leaf  diced
2 tablespoons cauliflower grated
1/4 cup fresh basil (or oregano, parsley, dill, cilantro each or combined) diced
2 cups (about 1 14-ounce can) tomato sauce and oats (quick) each

Prepare vegetables and mix well. Add tomato sauce and oats. This is what holds them together, so make sure they stick together, adding either more sauce or oats as needed. Form into burgers and bake as 350 for about 25 minutes; flip, bake about 10 more minutes.

Variations: try other vegetables grated, chopped or diced. Can be frozen. Good on a sandwich with mashed avocado, lettuce, onion slice, tomato slice. Try serving burger style with corn on the cob, for a picnic.

Learning about health is one of the most important things you can teach your children. So, take them into the kitchen with you and let them cook (as is age appropriate).

“The one who understands the art of properly preparing food, and who uses this knowledge, is worthy of higher commendation than those of any other line of work. This talent should be regarded as equal in value to ten talents; for its right use has much to do with keeping the human organism in health. Because so inseparably connected with life and health, it is the most valuable of all gifts,” Counsels on Diets and Foods, page 251.

Power of Positive Thinking

happy familyWe often think of homeschooling as teaching math, language, science, and history. Other learning such as career exploration, computer science, and music might be included, as might life skills such as personal finance and cooking. Some learning is by books, computers, or other media. Much is also by example.

Recently, I have been pondering the teaching of word mastery. Our children have a large vocabulary, but I’m referring more to using words with a positive attitude. An optimistic attitude is encouraged in our home, as is a “can-do” approach to life. I believe in these ideals, but sometimes I need to step back and ensure I am exemplifying them.

I’m normally what I refer to as a realistic optimist; I know that life can be challenging, but I also know that, in the long run, most problems will be worked out and the sun will shine again. But, when I am tired or frustrated, it’s too easy to slip into the “nothing is going right” mode, allowing the pessimistic words to flow. I’ve noticed that my children’s attitudes can quickly follow mine, and soon we are all irritable. I’ve found the opposite to also be true: my optimism can transform my family’s attitudes into the positive range, too.

“But may the righteous be glad and rejoice before God; may they be happy and joyful,” Psalm 68:3.

A positive attitude serves more than just to make happy people, although it certainly does that. Chores are easier and more fun with a happy demeanor. Schoolwork is not only easier, but the lessons learned seem to be more set into memory. And, our household is just happier and more enjoyable when everyone is in positive mindset.

“I know that there is nothing better for men than to be happy and do good while they live,” Ecclesiastes 3:12.

Science has given us another reason to see the sun and rainbows amidst the rain. People with a happy, can-do attitude live longer and healthier lives. The Mayo Clinic cites these results in this article about positive thinking.

With all the benefits of keeping a positive outlook, it seems that modeling and teaching this to our children should be a major focus in our homeschooling and lifestyle. It may be a challenge some days to do so, but in the end the entire family will benefit!

Romans 8:28: “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.”

 

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