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Healthy Snacks: Organize Your Pantry for Easy Access


Today we welcome for the first time, Kaitlin Krull, who is a writer and mom of two girls living the expat life in the UK. Her writing is featured on Modernize.com and a number of home decor sites around the web. She can also be found blogging from time to time on her personal blog, A Vicar’s Wife.

Giving your kids the independence they want and need in the kitchen is an important step in their development. By letting them choose their own healthy snacks, you save yourself time and lay the groundwork for healthy eating habits later on in life. At Modernize, we know that organization in the kitchen is key in family life. Here are some tips to help you organize your pantry so everyone is happy at snacktime.

Fruit basket

We all know that children need at least five servings of fresh fruit and vegetables every day, and snack time is the perfect time to catch up on any missed servings. Keep a well-stocked basket of fruit at the ready so your kids can grab an orange, apple, or other fruit of their choosing whenever the urge strikes. Don’t worry about overeating here; your kids’ bodies will likely tell them when they’ve had enough—plus, it can’t hurt to have too much fresh produce in the house.

Portion control

For snacks that require preparation, consider portioning out serving sizes ahead of time and storing in plastic bags or airtight containers. Nuts, berries, and seeds can all be measured out and stored safely in the pantry for a few weeks. The same goes for prepackaged dried fruit and crackers: if you can afford to spend a little more on these portion-controlled packets, it negates any prep time you might need and makes snack time even more convenient.

Clear containers

When storing your little ones’ snacks, keep perishables in clear jars or Tupperware. In addition to keeping your food fresher for longer, clear containers help you and your children see exactly which snacks are kept where and when they need restocking.

Organize your pantry

via Modernize


If you feel like you need to step up your pantry organization even further, consider labelling your snack shelves and containers with photographic labels. This way, even the youngest children will know where to find their favorite snacks and won’t have to ask every time. Take your labelling to the next level by posting a weekly snack list on the pantry door; this is particularly useful if you have kids who would normally snack all day long and helps to set limits on their food intake between meals.

via Modernize

via Modernize

Easy Access

Although this is probably a given, make sure your easy access pantry snacks are just that: accessible. Keep toddler and smaller child friendly snacks on lower shelves to encourage independence in even the youngest children. Place any grownup snacks out of sight and reach. You never know; you might forget about the naughty treats yourself and end up snacking on the healthy stuff late at night!

via Modernize

via Modernize

How do you organize your pantry to ensure kids have healthy snacks accessible?

Getting Started with Edible Gardening


edible gardening Today, we are talking edible gardening, as we kick off a gardening series by Dr. Mary Ball, PhD, who after a 40-year career as a college biology professor, became a Tennessee Master Gardener and enjoys gardening with kids. Dr. Ball has helped secure funding for gardening, nutrition education, and hundreds of dollars worth of donated seeds to schools and afterschool programs in rural East Tennessee. 

Folks who have never gardened before often think that Spring is the only time to plant a vegetable garden! And folks who have less-than-fond memories of hours spent in a hot kitchen “putting up” the fruits of back-breaking labor, have often given up on gardening the “old-fashioned way”.

The good news is that tasty produce of one sort or another can be grown virtually anytime of the year with minimal effort and with little garden space. Below are three gardening ideas that can be started just about any time of year, involve growing methods that can be applied to many other vegetables, and that promote using home-grown (or school-grown) veggies creatively in healthy recipes.

Grow an Herb Garden

Grow herbs in containers, either inside or outdoors, to use in seasoning your cooking or in fresh salads and dressings. You can easily start many of these from seeds, but take advantage of free cuttings and plant sales held by herb enthusiasts in your community! (See the Herb Society of America’s Facebook page for lots of interesting information.)

Start a Mesclun-Mix Garden

“Mesclun” means “mixture” in French, and the term was coined many years ago to refer to mixtures of greens that were often grown together to create a salad.

With a “raised bed” measuring 2′ X 2′ by 8 inches high and filled with 2 cubic feet of potting soil, a Mesclun Garden can be easily sown from seeds, creating your own mix or using one created by a seed company. Beginning as little as 3 weeks later, individual leaves or entire plantlets can be cut, with enough leaf tissue being left behind to continue growing, providing other “harvests” at 3-4-week intervals. This harvesting method is called “Cut and come again.”

Nowadays, the possible combinations of different leafy greens, the variety of “dressings,” and the additional salad ingredients to add are virtually endless! You can also purchase or create seed combinations to yield greens for “stir-fry” recipes. These are called “braising mixes” rather than “salad mixes.”

Grow an Under-Appreciated Cool-Season Veggie

Fresh spinach is nutritious and tasty. Spinach grows well in Spring or in the Fall, but under summer conditions of long, warm days, it devotes its energy to flowering rather than producing tender large leaves. This is called “bolting.”

Download a Spinach Lane booklet that guides preschoolers to experience the look, feel, smell, and taste of spinach leaves. You can start a Spinach Garden by directly planting seeds just about any time except in the heat of summer.

Check back next month, where we’ll talk about how to make sure that your timing will “work”.

12 Fun Ideas for Exercise With Your Child Week

Exercise with your child week

Last year, while on summer vacation at the beach, I went for a run. This was no different than my typical exercise routine, I just happened to be running outside instead of on a treadmill and my children were at a beach house instead of in school. When I returned from my run, dripping in sweat and absolutely exhausted (and let’s face it, looking forward to an adult beverage while relaxing on the beach), my then six-year-old son approached me to ask if he could run with me. I was exhausted and had zero energy left but I couldn’t resist those blue eyes and eager heart. This was the perfect opportunity to share my love of running with him.

Howie and I ran one very slow mile but it is by far the best mille I have ever completed. During our run, we talked about life, his likes and dislikes, his friends, his family, and more. He asked me a lot of questions about running and exercise and how it affects the body. His eyes had more energy than his legs so when we were finishing out the last quarter of a mille, he was also exhausted but it gave us an opportunity to learn about what its like to dig deep inside you, finish something you never thought possible and then celebrate after. Going on that run with my son is one of the best gifts he has ever given me. I have that run permanently saved in my memory, it’s clear as day and something I love to relive whenever I can.

While that experience was amazing, not every opportunity to exercise with your child has to be this monumental. It’s the simple things that leave lasting impacts on your children. During Exercise With Your Child Week, when we’re encouraged as parents to exercise with our children, I challenge you to take time away from your normal routine and carve out a few minutes (it doesn’t have to be long) to move with your child. Here are some activities my family loves to do together:

  • Put on your favorite song and dance a wild and crazy dance
  • Chalk drawn hopscotch on the driveway
  • Family bike ride (or if you have smaller ones, walk while your child rides their tricycle)
  • Family walk (play games as you go like finding items that start with a letter or making up stories about the houses on your street)
  • Family game (this can be anything your family enjoys, our summer favorites are kickball, baseball, and throwing a ball)
  • Competitions (jump rope, hula hoop, pogo stick, anything!)
  • Swimming
  • Leap frog
  • Tag
  • Hide and Seek
  • Walk the dogs
  • Run through the sprinkler

The common theme through all of these is making it simple, easy, and doing it together. You can call it exercise or you can call it something else but whatever you do, be sure to talk about how much fun movement can be. With this, you’ll help your children develop a life-long love of exercise.

small MGriffin headshot copyToday we feature OWG guest blogger and childhood obesity consultant, Melodie Griffin. Melodie’s passion lies in the prevention of childhood obesity through the school and early learning settings. All programs Melodie promotes are fully approved by her home based lab rats, five year old son, Howie, and two year old daughter, Hope. You can connect with Melodie on her Facebook page, WellConnect LLC.

Piloxing: Making Exercise Fun for Youth in Houston

Piloxing 6

Watch out, Zumba – Piloxing is the hot new way to stay healthy while having fun!

Founded by a former dancer, Piloxing combines standing Pilates, boxing, and dance to tone the body and burn fat. To intensify the workout, weighted gloves are usually worn and exercises are done to 145 beat-per-minute music. Piloxing gained popularity quickly, and there are now more than ten thousand certified instructors in over fifty countries.

To test the trend, campers at the 2015 BOUNCE (Behavior Opportunities Uniting Nutrition, Counseling, and Exercise) summer camp, in Houston, Texas, tried Piloxing for the first time.

“It was hard but cool,” said Kyla Carrier, 12. “You get to have fun while working out.”

The BOUNCE camp was founded in 2005 by Dr. Norma Olvera and her research team at the University of Houston and is held annually to empower Hispanic and African American girls, aged 9 to 14, to live healthy lifestyles. Campers and their parents are exposed to physical activities as well as nutrition and self-esteem counseling during the multi-week-long camp.

After exercising vigorously all week at BOUNCE camp, Melissa Chible, 11, especially appreciated how “Piloxing helped with soreness.”

“I do Zumba a lot,” said the volunteer Piloxing instructor Olga Hernandez, “but Piloxing is able to provide that extra challenge I need.”

To find out more about BOUNCE, visit http://bounce.uh.edu.

Today’s post was written by a new guest blogger, Joyce Chen, who is President of the Teen Board of The Oliver Foundation, a Houston-based 501(c)(3) non-profit operating foundation dedicated to the prevention of childhood obesity.

6 Fun Ways to Cure Summer Boredom

Summer Boredom

If your family is at all like mine, the first two weeks of summer were fantastic. You rocked it as a parent and had an almost unlimited list of activities to keep your children entertained, engaged, and learning all summer long.

Now here we are, a good month into the summer break for most of us and wondering what happened to that list. How is it possible that every single item on your list of well-intentioned activities has either been completed or vetoed by your children? How is it that you spent hours putting that list together but it seems as though it took your lovely children only minutes to move through it?

Sigh, what’s a mom to do? I say we do what we tell our children to do, get back up on our horses and ride once again (hey, I’m giving myself the pep talk here as well).

Here are some suggestions to help beat summer boredom and keep your kids (and you) sane (and learning, and all that other good stuff).

  • Macaroni Kid – This website is my go to site for everything local. Macaroni Kids has even created a free summer events Facebook Page specifically for my town. There is a good chance your town has one as well. We’ve found free movies, races, dances, and more through this website and FaceBook page.
  • Library – Check out your local library for free and low cost summer events. Our local library has kids cooking classes, story time, and movie check out (and of course, there’s always the ability to check out books). Bonus, activities in the library usually involve some sort of learning.
  • Local Parks and Recreation – Check out your town and/or county’s local park and recreation department. Similar to the library, they tend to have free or low cost events. Our town has a free monthly “swim in” movie, low cost athletic teams and skill clinics, and open swim time.
  • Camping – Go camping in your backyard or even in your house. Have the kids make a fort out of blankets or have them create a tent like structure in the backyard. Cook outside or have a picnic on the family room floor. Anything different from the norm will have them excited.
  • Go geocachingFind a geocaching site online, and look up locations near you to see if anyone has hidden secret rewards.
  • Be a Tourist – Play tourist in your own town. Go do things that a typical tourist would do but you haven’t yet because there’s not enough time. Walk the trails, go to the local parks, visit the children’s museum, etc. Explore what is closest to you and fall in love with your town a little more.

When these ideas are exhausted, encourage your children to pick up a cook book and experiment in the kitchen or to research a sport or physical activity. Family Olympics anyone?

Good luck to all of you!

small MGriffin headshot copyToday we feature OWG guest blogger and childhood obesity consultant, Melodie Griffin. Melodie’s passion lies in the prevention of childhood obesity through the school and early learning settings. All programs Melodie promotes are fully approved by her home based lab rats, five year old son, Howie, and two year old daughter, Hope. You can connect with Melodie on her Facebook page, WellConnect LLC.