Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Ben's Beginner's: Have a Heathy Bed of Rice!

Having to spend time in the kitchen everyday can be a pretty challenging experience. In other words, to me it's a big job while to others it's just plain love and fun. My son and daughter, after watching zillions of episodes of cooking shows on the Food Network when they were younger, swear that they want to be chefs. So for their sakes, I have spent a great deal of extra time in the kitchen preparing healthy, tasty, cute and architectural culinary masterpieces. Keeping it healthy is quite a task as there are so many additives and preservatives that may cause allergies or have negative reactions. All in all, it has proven to be very exciting and entertaining. If you are wondering how to avoid any kitchen conflicts, here are my tips for healthy cooking and eating with kids.

1. Start while they are small. Eating habits are learned from very young. Start by cooking and offering healthy options from the very beginning or as early as possible- preferably before they start calling ketchup a vegetable.

2. Set a good example. It's no use trying to get your kids to eat their vegetables if you're having coffee and donuts for breakfast lunch and dinner. If you eat your veggies, it's likely that the kids will do the same.

3.  Take them food shopping. As you choose the items you want from grocery store shelves, make it a habit to point out the labels and discuss which items are good choices. Look at sodium, fiber and sugar content so your kids start making the connection between healthy choices and not so good ones.

4. Provide more fresh fruit, vegetables and multi-grains. Try to eliminate some of your regular canned food choices so that your kids get better quality foods.

5.  Let them help. Allow them to help with meal planning and execution. Get them involved in the preparation so they feel more connected to their meals. When all the fun is done and the mess is made, they will enjoy eating their meals much more since they played a part in the creation.

Now that you've implemented these handy tips, how about a fun contest with great prizes? Uncle Ben's has a new contest that is designed to get parents and kids cooking together and healthier. Check out their Facebook page more details on how to enter. All you have to do is to create a short video of you and your 5-12 year old, cooking a rice based dish. Upload the video on the contest page and wait for the winning email or phone call. You have a chance to win $20,000, plus a spot on the Rachael Ray Show and a school cafeteria makeover for your child's school valued at $50,000. Hurry, contest submission ends 2/26/2012.

Like Uncle Ben

“I wrote this blog post while participating in the SocialMoms and Uncle Ben’s blogging program, for 6,000 My SocialMoms Rewards Points. For more information on how you can participate, click here.” ( http://BensBeginners.socialmoms.com/about)

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Tips for Safe Winter Driving

I don't know how the weather is in your neck of the woods but here in New York, it's not that great, unless you like the cold and the freezing rain and the slushy ice. Give me summer any day. I'll never forget one January about 15 years ago when my sister and I were driving over the Brooklyn Queens Expressway, laughing and talking as we drove merrily along, when suddenly we skidded over an icy patch on the road and our car crashed into some huge yellow sand barrels. Those were the only things that stood between us and a hundred foot drop over the ramp and onto the traffic below. Next thing you know the police and the fire department showed up but fortunately we were unharmed- not even a scratch. So at this time of year, with the situation on the roads being as unpredictable as they are, it's best to follow some basic guide lines to help you navigate the roads and keep you and your family safe during the winter season.

Winterize your car. Check the tires. Make sure they are properly inflated and that the tire threads are good and deep. Make sure your spare is good and think about investing in a new set of tires if you are due a change. Check the fluids and antifreeze. Ensure that the heating system is working. Don't forget the windshield wipers. It may be wise to have a spare set handy. Keep an ice scraper and some work gloves handy too. Also check to see that your jumper cables are in the trunk and that you know how to use them.

Drive slowly; especially in inclement weather. When it's snowy outside and visibility is low, maintain a safe distance, even more than you usually would in good weather, behind the car in front of you in case they skid on some black ice or have to stop suddenly.

Keep your lights turned on even in the daytime when the weather is bad and visibility is poor. This also keeps you visible to the other drivers on the road.

Brake carefully and gently on slippery ice or snow. Keep the wheels of your vehicle rolling and f your brakes threaten to lock up, ease your foot gently off the brakes and slow down so you can shift to a lower gear.

Pull over. If you cannot see properly because of low visibility due to freezing rain or hail or snow, consider pulling over and waiting until the situation improves enough for you to drive. If you are in the city like me, consider leaving the car at home altogether and taking mass transit.

Most importantly, don't forget to buckle up and keep your cellphone charged and ready in case of an emergency.

“I wrote this blog post while participating in the SocialMoms and Esurance blogging program for 8,000 My SocialMoms Rewards Points. For more information on how you can participate, click here.” (make sure you link to http://esurance.socialmoms.com/about)

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Healthy Snack Tips & A Pretzel Recipe

I try to eat healthy, exercise regularly but there is one area that seems to be eluding me; snacking! I confess, I'm a sucker for snacks and it doesn't matter whether they're sweet or salty or a combination of both, I love them all! Chips, cookies, chocolates and candy- you name it, I'll eat it! For 2012, though, I've resolved to be more conscientious about my snacking and encourage you to join me if snacks are your Achilles heel, or your kryptonite or just the one habit you can't seem to control. Here are my best tips for healthy snacking.

1. Swap out sugary, high fat treat for fresh fruit or veggies with a low fat dip.
2. Keep just a handful of nuts or low fat granola or trail mix handy for when you get the urge to snack. This will help you to maintain steady blood sugar levels and reduce your cravings.
3. Drink more water to keep you full and to reduce the need for snacking.
4. Reduce snack portions- read labels carefully. You would be surprised at how small the portions are in some of the snacks you eat.
5. Don't deny yourself, just don't overdo it. Buy the 100 calorie packs of your favorite snacks to help you control yourself. Once that tiny bag is done, that's it!

Pretzels are a healthy snack alterative and can be used in many ways for your snacking enjoyment. Here is a cute recipe for you to try:

Chocolate Coated Pretzel Strawberry Pops


Snyder's Dipping Sticks
Chocolate chips- 12 oz

Place chocolate chips in a microwave bowl and microwave on high for about 1 minute. Remove and stir with a rubber spatula. Mix until melted- you can always pop it back in the microwave if chocolate is not completely melted.
Dip one end of the pretzel sticks into the chocolate, twirling it around to completely cover the one half of the pretzel stick
Allow chocolate to dry. Stick a large, ripe but firm strawberry on the plain end of the chocolate covered pretzel stick. You can dip or drizzle more chocolate on the strawberry if you desire. Enjoy!

You can also make Chocolate Covered Pretzel Berry Kabobs using jumbo pretzel sticks and an assortment of berries. Just cover the entire length of the pretzel stick in chocolate, using the same method above and add the berries once the chocolate is dry.

Give it a try and let me know how you like them.

“I wrote this blog post while participating in the SocialMoms and Snyder’s of Hanover blogging program, for 6,000 My SocialMoms Rewards Points. For more information on how you can participate, click here.” (make sure you link to http://snyders.socialmoms.com/about