5 ways to avoid the candy binge this Halloween

It’s coming, it’s already here actually. Especially if you have kids. We’ve already been to two festivals that left my children with bags full of candy. And we still have trunk or treat along with the actually day of trick or treating to go. We haven’t purchased our own candy to pass out, but usually we have leftovers.

So, how do you handle all that candy without gaining a gazillion pounds? I’ve come up with some tips that I hope will help you out. And no, it doesn’t involved passing out raisin boxes, toys, or boxes of floss. I’m not trying to get your house egged this year.

  1. Buy candy to pass out that you don’t care for. This should be common sense, but it’s so tempting to buy giant bags of candy bars.
  2. Buy about 25% less candy than you think you will need. I don’t know about you, but every single year, I buy way more candy to pass out than we need and then we have a ton leftover. If you do have leftover candy, donate it to your Sunday school class at church, the work break room, or wherever you think could use it. Just not your kitchen counter candy dish.
  3. Know your candy sizes. For chocolates that is. Minis are the small square candies. Snack-size and fun-size treats are usually about 2 inches long. Go for the minis! They are typically around 25 to 50 calories a pop. The “fun size” (also called “snack size”) are anything but fun for your waistline. Each one is anywhere from 70 to 85 or more calories. Have you ever stopped at just one? Ever? “Snack size” is a misnomer. It’s not enough for a snack.
  4. Remember calories count. Unfortunately sugar calories do nothing for hunger levels. All of those straight sugary concoctions – sweet tarts, lollipops, gummies, chewing gum, candy corns, chocolates, mallows, taffies, and caramels contain many calories with zero effect on satiety levels. Should you consume extra candy calories, balance it out by cutting calories from other areas of the day and add more activity. Maybe volunteer to be that one that takes the kids trick or treating around the neighborhood this year? For a list of the lowest calorie candies, go here.
  5. Relax. I usually include this tip in for any holiday. It’s just one day and one day will not mess up your efforts to live a healthy lifestyle. As long as you keep it to one day. Commit this year to celebrating each holiday with ways other than food – enjoy family, friends, the decorations, and festivities. Enjoy the traditional foods on their respective days only and the traditional weight gain that happens between now and December 31 will not happen.

Remember that sugar is addictive. Implement these strategies and you will do fine. However, if you know that starting will lead you down a dark, dark path, it’s okay to decide to stop before you even start. Let me know in the comments what has helped you to avoid the candy binge in the past or how you plan to conquer it this year.

P.S. If you’re looking for online support with like minded moms striving to live a healthier lifestyle, you may be interested in joining my free support group here.

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Jillian McMullen, RDN, CSOWM, LDN

Back to school tips for a healthy family (and your sanity!)

This is a crazy time of year. Lazy days of summer are over and routines are back in full force. I relish the summer because of slow mornings and relaxed evenings without homework. Movie nights any night we want, lunch at 3 o’clock in the afternoon, and leisurely mid-week breakfasts are over.

I once read that August is kinda like the Sunday of the year. It represents a new start and recommitment to improving what hasn’t worked in the previous months. Some of you may have children transitioning into middle or high school this year and if you’re like me, you might have a child just entering the school world. Change is here! But that doesn’t mean you have to feel like you’re drowning in after school sports schedules, reading logs, and math homework that you live on pizza and fast food for the next 9 months.

Tips for maintaining sanity and a healthy family during the school year:

  1. Pre-make freezer meals. These can be precooked or not. I’ve done both. If you decide to precook I recommend making enough for at least two meals – one for that evening and one to freeze. It’s much easier to make two at once while you already have the stuff out. Raw meats can be put in large freezer bags with chopped veggies and sauces then frozen for later cooking (baked, pressure or slow cooked.)
  2. Plan ahead. Duh. You’ll have a routine. You’re gonna know when football practice is and when the games are. There’s gonna be late nights that cooking isn’t going to happen. Will those nights be the night you save Monday’s leftovers for? Or the night you decide your family will eat out? It’s okay to eat out 1-2 times a week. It’s not okay to just decide you’re gonna be a fast food family every night during the week.
  3. Plan quick meals. Thirty minute meals sound great. But let’s face it, sometimes that’s too long when it’s late and you’ve got starving kids whining at you. Some of my favorite fifteen minute meals to make include: cheese omelets with fruit and whole wheat toast, deli sandwiches and salad, salad (using pre-made salad bags) with pre-cooked chicken, deli meat, or canned tuna, etc. Nothing wrong with a protein shake or protein bar and yogurt/fruit either. Not all kids will enjoy that last option so I may boil them a hot dog and add raw veggies with ranch if that’s what I go for. Just be flexible! Meals are probably not always going to be your traditional family style meat and two sides.
  4. Establish a bed time and routine. I’ve been guilty in the past about not doing this. You know what happens? There isn’t one and every night turns into a circus, ending with sweat and tears. (I’m not talking about my kids!)  If you don’t want this to happen, decide now when bed time will be and then reverse engineer. That’s will determine what time dinner is going to be. It’s not always going to work out perfectly, but establishing this will make life much easier for you and help you make decisions about what responsibilities and activities you participate later on in the school year.
  5. Take a good multivitamin. Yes, I’m advising your whole family do this. It’s important to fill in the nutritional gaps with a high quality vitamin. This can really help with immunity, focus, and sleep quality. Germs and common childhood illnesses are frequent throughout the school year! Lessen your chances with this simple step. I’d love to tell you if you eat a diet rich in fresh fruits and vegetables, lean meats, dairy, and whole grains that you’ll be set. But I’m not that confident in today’s food supply or our ability to consistently eat a perfect diet in today’s busy lifestyle. If you would like recommendations for brands, feel free to contact me. Not all are created equal.
  6. Stock up on fresh fruits and vegetables. And make them convenient to eat. This means they are cut up, washed, and stored in clear containers in the front of the refrigerator. Consider storing apples, oranges, and bananas in a fruit bowl on the kitchen counter. Research shows that this really increases the chances they will be consumed by your family first and more often throughout the week. These will make for much healthier after school snacks over the bag of chips in the pantry! We eat what’s convenient.
  7. If you plan to pre-pack lunches, try to make them for 2-3 days ahead of time. Again, when you’ve got the stuff out already, it saves time. Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches last up to three days without going soggy. I’ve tested it myself. And be okay with allowing your kids to eat at school some of the time. I learned a while ago that it’s not healthy for me to be up all hours losing sleep in the kitchen trying to pack everyone the perfect lunch.
  8. Grocery shop once a week. Pick a day and time you’re gonna do it consistently. If possible, not a weekend day in the afternoon. This is the busiest and most stressful time and it will take you the longest. Make a list before you go and get it done. No food in the kitchen = no meals made at home. Some grocery stores are now offering curb side pick up. Do your shopping online, they get it together for you, and you just pick it up at the door. Genius! I have a previous post  if you need help with budgeting.
  9. Eat breakfast. As moms, we are pretty good about making sure our children eat a healthy breakfast before rushing off to school. And then we get to work or go on about our day and never get beyond the cup of coffee for ourselves. Don’t do that. Everyone needs breakfast to maintain a healthy weight, perform better, focus throughout the day, and to prevent unhealthy snacking. While you’re making your children breakfast, take the extra two minutes to make yourself one too. If that’s really a no go, consider a meal replacement. I offer insights and suggestions here. Popular kid’s breakfast options include peanut butter on waffles, peanut butter and jelly (I like uncrustables for a fast fix), oatmeal with brown sugar and raisins, cereal and milk with strawberries or bananas, cheese omelet with fruit, cinnamon raisin toast and a banana, yogurt and cheerios, hard boiled eggs and toast.
  10. Be flexible. The biggest reason people fail at their health goals is because they get stuck in the mentality that their plans needs to be perfect. As soon as something unexpected happens (a child failed their test, you get asked to volunteer for the halloween party, you get a flat tire on the way to school, etc), they throw in the towel. I call this “Plan A,” perfectionism, which really only happens 5% of the time. Plan B is your reality, so flexibility is key because these things are going to come up, 90% of the time. That’s just life. What’s the other 5%? Plan C….reserved for those days when you’re probably gonna stay home, order a pizza, and call it a day. Luckily they only happen occasionally!

    Most important thing is, you make a plan, allow for flexibility, fall off course sometimes, and consistently get back on track. 

Good luck this year, I wish you a year of success and fun filled memories!

P.S. If you’re looking for online support with like minded moms striving to live a healthier lifestyle, you may be interested in joining my free online support group here.

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Jillian McMullen, RDN, CSOWM, LDN

Take probiotics to stop sneezing and fidgeting?

Gut health seems to be getting the spotlight in the past several years. People are more concerned than ever about what’s going on in their insides. And this has made probiotics of particular interest. But why? In my early career days, the only people we would recommend probiotics to were those with intestinal infections and those on heavy doses of antibiotics.

Today, it’s as common to take probiotics as it is to take a multivitamin. Why? Let’s first review what exactly a probiotic is before we begin to understand some of the reasons why people would want to consider taking them as a daily supplement. Probiotics contain microorganisms, most of which are bacteria similar to the beneficial bacteria that occur naturally in the human gut. In other words, beneficial = does good things. Sounds really scientific, huh? The most-studied species include Lactobacillus, Bifidobacterium, and Saccharomyces. (yeah, I know those do sound really scientific.)

To keep this post reasonably short, I’m going to go over the top four reasons my readers said they take probiotics and discuss them here.

  • They improve digestive regularity. You’ve probably heard this one. Makes sense, right? If the natural and beneficial bacteria that are similar to probiotics are found in the gut, they should benefit our bowel habits. Don’t ya think? What does the research say, though? “There is high-quality evidence that probiotics are effective for acute infectious diarrhea, antibiotic-associated diarrhea, clostridium difficile–associated diarrhea, hepatic encephalopathy, ulcerative colitis, irritable bowel syndrome, functional gastrointestinal disorders, and necrotizing enterocolitis. Conversely, there is evidence that probiotics are not effective for acute pancreatitis and crohn’s disease.” C. diff is bad news and highly contagious diarrhea. It can be big problem in hospitals and can really keep someone there for a while with pretty severe dehydration if not handled correctly. It will put you out for quite some time if you are unfortunate enough to get it. Good news is, probiotics are safe for infants, children, adults, and older patients. I’m going to add here, that probiotics do not survive in an acidic and hostile stomach environment. We don’t necessarily need the billion gazillion cells that most available brands pride themselves on. Problem is, the majority of the them don’t survive the stomach acid long enough to reach the small intestine where they are needed. The billions of live cells are present in these brands in hopes that some will make it to the end. We don’t actually know how many that is. Perhaps that’s why some people experience benefits and others do not.
  • They support our immune health.  Our digestive system is not only responsible for the digestion and absorption of food nutrients, but it provides protection against potentially harmful antigens (such as toxins, bacteria, virus, foreign blood cells.) Several available research data points to the conclusion that probiotics can be used as innovative tools for treating dysfunctions of the gut mucosal barrier, including acute gastroenteritis (i.e. food poising or a “stomach bug”), food allergies, and inflammatory bowel disease (i.e. diverticulosis). You’ve probably been told at some point in your life to take probiotics during or after a course of antibiotics to restore the healthy bacteria that was killed off. We need them.
  • May help alleviate allergy symptoms. Infants are more susceptible to allergic responses because their immune systems and digestive symptoms are still developing. The types of bacteria and amounts present depend on several different factors including whether the child was born by cesarean or vaginally, breastfed or formula fed, age they were introduced to table food and types of food, antibiotic exposure, and of course genetics. This review examined the available research and found that indeed probiotics did improve their allergic responses and reduced symptoms of common ailments like eczema, allergic rhinitis, and allergic dermatitis. When infants were given Lctbs rhamnosus for the first 2 years of life they had a significant reduction by approximately half in the prevalence of eczema. And this study showed that when adults and children suffering from allergic rhinitis took therapeutic doses of Lactobacillus paracasei, they experienced significant improvements also.

In another study , they gave children at a daycare fermented milk containing lactobacillus casei (think kefir) and saw marked improvements as well, but not in those children with asthma. Pretty cool, huh? More research still needs to be done in spite of these exciting results since not all come to the same conclusion and they weren’t done on large scales. It doesn’t hurt to go ahead and take them though.

  • Reduce Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) symptoms. Say what?! It’s true. Recent experimental evidence suggests that gut microbiota may alter function within the nervous system. This particular study published in 2015 followed 75 children from pre-birth to age thirteen and supplemented the experimental group from four weeks before birth (the mom) to six months of age with Lactobacillus rhamnosus and the control group with placebo. They initially examined the differences in gut microbiota in the children at birth and later found a correlation to those who were later diagnosed with either ADHD or Asperger’s Syndrome. Turns out, those affected had a significantly lower amount of Bifidobacterium longum at the age of three months than the children that did not receive a diagnosis. At the end of the thirteen years, six out of thirty five children in the placebo group were diagnosed with ADHD or AS while NONE of the children in the probiotic group were. 

That’s pretty compelling, but what I found the most profound of all was this gem of a study right here, published in 2003. It was only performed on twenty children age 7-12, but I don’t care. What they found was amazing. Supplementing these kids for just four weeks with a mix of B vitamins, Vitamin C, minerals (iron, copper), phytonutrients, amino acids, essential fatty acids, phospholipids, and probiotics specifically chosen to address the ADHD biochemical risk factors was found to be just as affective as ritalin treatment. We’re talking behaviors like focus, consistency, fidgeting, impulsiveness, stamina, vigilance, and speed. I’m impressed. You may see a future blog post on this topic soon.

What to do with all of this information? For some immunocompromised individuals (those on chemotherapy, HIV patients, or those receiving organ transplants) you may want to ask you doctor before you start any new supplements. Otherwise, I’ve given you lots of good reasons to add probiotics into your daily regimen. If you choose a supplement, be sure to read the label and follow the directions. If you prefer to start with adding some food sources, here are some good options:

Kefir: fermented milk

Yogurt: you know what this is, but I recommend greek because of its high protein content

Kombucha: fermented black tea

Sauerkraut: fermented cabbage

Apple cider vinegar: the kind with floaty things on the bottom, not the cheap stuff, use as a salad dressing

Tempeh: a fermented soybean product, thicker and firmer than tofu

Miso: a traditional Japanese paste-like spice made from soybeans and barely with koji (fungus…yum)

Fermented pickles: these won’t be shelf stable, those are pasteurized and do not contain live cultures (so think gherkins, not the ones pickled in vinegar but rather salt and water)

Sourdough bread: did I just give you a reason to eat bread?? Sort of. The yeast is fermented, creating the “sour” taste and making it easier to digest than other breads

Aged, soft cheese: such as cheddar, gouda, parmesan, and swiss (note, most others will not contain live, active cultures)

Kimchi: a spicy, korean dish made up of mostly cabbage and other fermented vegetables

Have fun trying some of these new foods if you are interested in expanding into some of the ethnic or vegetarian options. If you are interested in what brand of probiotic supplement I use and recommend, feel free to reach out to me via the links below.

P.S. If you’re looking for online support with like minded moms striving to live a healthier lifestyle, you may be interested in joining my free online support group here.

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Email: contact@jillianmcmullen.com

Jillian McMullen, RDN, CSOWM, LDN

9 reasons why people are following a dairy-free diet

If you aren’t avoiding dairy like the plague, you probably know someone who does. If you don’t, you may have heard that it’s best to choose the full fat versions over the fat free or low fat. And what about those hormones? Should you choose organic? A dairy alternative?

What’s what? Why are they avoiding it? And should you? Let’s start with two of the biggest, most glaring reasons why someone would want to avoid dairy:

1. Lactose intolerance. In fact, according to the National Institutes of Health, as many as 65% of adults in the U.S. suffer from this – ya know, that bloated, uncomfortable gassy feeling that sends you to the bathroom after you’ve drinking a glass of milk or just eaten a bowl of ice cream?. It’s not an allergy, but just simply the body’s inability to digest lactose, the sugar found in milk, because it lacks the necessary enzyme, lactase, to break it down. It’s actually rare before the age of two. Milk is a big no no here, but often this includes cheese, cottage cheese, ice cream, and yogurt in large quantities. Those who have Irritable Bowel Syndrome, Celiac Disease, Crohn’s Disease, Ulcerative Colitis, or Diverticulosis will more than likely also have lactose intolerance. Many lactose-free options have been developed over the years such as Lactaid milk and my personal favorite, Fair Life ultra filtered high protein milk which now has available options to include DHA omega-3 fatty acids.

2. Milk allergy: this is more than just an intolerance to the lactose enzyme. Understand that an allergy is very different in that it is defined as a damaging immune response by the body to a substance. There is no tolerating even a yogurt or lactose free option if they want to avoid hives, anaphylaxis, or whatever it is that their body does in response to milk protein.

If you don’t fall into the above two categories, you may want to explore some of the other reasons with me to find out why people have sworn off dairy before you decide if you are joining the bandwagon or not:

1. Dairy is an acne-trigger: TRUE. Some research does, in fact show that high intakes of dairy are linked to moderate to severe acne in teenagers and young women due to the insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF-1) found in milk. The IGF-1 is the primary mediator for the growth hormone and is present in pregnant milk-producing cows. I believe this hormone and others is to blame for why many people are so nervous about consuming cow’s milk and have made the switch to one of the many alternatives available on the market today. Read on.

2. It contains harmful hormones: FALSE. As with with above, the word hormone gets people nervous and thus, there has been lots of public concern over the synthetic hormone, recombinant bovine somatotropin (rbST), that leaks (in miniscule amounts) into our dairy products from pregnant cows. What exactly is it and why is it used? Simply put, it helps the cows produce more milk, i.e. increases efficiency and productivity for their ahem, job. In fact, it’s been studied extensively in it’s twenty years in use and in this most recent review of those many studies, has been concluded totally safe. You have likely seen organic rbST-free milk and yogurt options available in your local grocery store and assumed they were better. From what I have researched, these are in response to market demand, not necessarily safety concerns. If I find out any differently, I will tell you. Promise. If you are still concerned, you have those available to choose from and certainly, if you are acne prone, go for them.

3. Dairy has been linked to certain types of cancer: FALSE except for possibly prostate, which remains inconclusive. In a 2015 analysis of 22 prospective cohort studies (1,566,940 participants), they concluded dairy was associated with a decrease in breast cancer incidence. And again, a study published last month (June 2017), they indicated after analyzing the results of 13 different studies (493,415 participants and 7453 cases) that increased calcium intake coming from diet and supplements was associated with a decreased risk of ovarian cancer. In another review, published at the end of last year, they concluded that cow’s milk is indeed associated with a reduced risk of colorectal, bladder, and gastric cancer as well but neutral for ovarian, pancreatic, and lung. With that many participants and cases, they make a strong argument. The jury remains out for prostate as there has been evidence that dairy raises the risk of prostate cancer, particularly because of the presence of the IGF-1 hormone. Stay clear if you’re a male and have a strong family history for now….in my opinion. It’ cancer, after all.

4. It raises diabetes risk: FALSE. In a 2016 analysis that included 22 cohort studies comprising of 579,832 individuals and 43,118 Type 2 diabetes cases, total dairy consumption, particularly from low-fat yogurt was associated with a reduced risk. Although another study found no difference using full fat yogurt, suggesting the benefits came from the fact that yogurt is rich in probiotics and the fat content is not as important. Lots of human subjects here, that’s what I like to see in results.

  • 5. It causes inflammation: TRUE, maybe. Looking at 78 studies, it really was a toss-up. This review concluded that dairy products, especially fermented ones, like yogurt, are anti-inflammatory. However, for people who have a known dairy allergy, it is definitely pro-inflammatory. Makes sense, that’s kinda what an allergic response is. As far as what it was that caused the dairy to be inflammatory, they did find more of an association with the dairy products highest in saturated fat.

6. It’s fattening and raises risk of heart disease: FALSE. In the same review, they discussed how in actuality, full fat dairy products raise HDL levels (a good thing). Although whole milk dairy products do tend to increase LDL cholesterol as well, understand that there are two types – small particle and large particle. The small, dense particle size are the ones that are more susceptible to oxidation and artery wall build-up, whereas the large are not. Dairy products have more of the large particles. That’s good. A recent meta-analysis of thirteen studies published in December of last year concluded plainly that :

Higher dairy fat exposure is not associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease.

7. It was never meant for humans, only baby calves. Personally, I find this to be a weak argument. One could argue that the only milk meant for humans is breast milk. However, many of us, myself included, enjoy soy milk, almond milk, and many of the other non-dairy novelties on a regular basis. The NHANES pubished in 2010 reported that indeed, children aged 2-4 and 5-10 did have higher BMIs when drinking higher quantities of milk (higher BMI was not necessarily equivalent to obesity). However, these results were used for the 2010 dietary guidelines for Americans to encourage milk consumption among children since a higher BMI (not necessarily obese) for a child is not necessarily a bad thing. After all, it is well known that calcium and vitamin D intake are linked to bone health and that milk is an excellent source of these vital nutrients. We also know that bone mass is developed during childhood and adolescence.

One might argue that calcium and vitamin D are also available from the many dairy alternatives such as almond, rice, soy, and coconut milk, and often in higher quantities. In this study, however, they found that our bodies absorb about 25% less of the calcium most brands of soy milk add to their product compared to cow’s milk. In other words, you need to drink about 12 ounces of soy milk to get the same amount of calcium you would get from an 8 ounce glass of cow’s milk. Another review pointed out that we simply don’t know the amount our bodies can absorb from all of the nutrient-fortified plant-based milk options to say whether or not it’s the same as drinking cow’s milk. Either way, no one can deny our children are consuming energy dense, but not necessarily nutrient dense diets and that’s a problem. Cow’s milk is the only product I know of that is consistently high in protein, potassium, calcium, and vitamin D while low in food additives including added sugars that is widely offered to children in their critical growth years.

Hear me out. If you read my blogs, I understand that some of you read holistic health sites as do I. And much of what I’ve said in this post goes against what you’ve probably read or heard. But I do not believe in living in fear, I believe in what it is evidence when it comes to this stuff. I dig as much as my time allows to avoid any potential bias and present the facts to you. If you have any personal experiences that differ and you need to remain committed to a dairy free diet, there are acceptable options to get your calcium from, including some you may haven’t even thought of yet like kale, broccoli, and canned salmon. If you need probiotics and extra supplementation, I have recommendations that I fully trust and use myself that I would feel confident in sharing with you. Feel free me to contact me if you’d like to discuss it more.

P.S. If you’re looking for online support with like minded moms striving to live a healthier lifestyle, you may be interested in joining my free support group here. We have an upcoming fitness challenge that’s going to be lots of fun!

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Jillian McMullen, RDN, CSOWM, LDN

Ok fine, I’m grateful!

How would you spend your days if it was up to you?
No work. No kids. No responsibilities. Just fun.
Not long ago I used to dream of that. Almost daily when I was stuck in an office with no windows and no break. On spring days like today when it’s cool enough to comfortably wear jeans but sunny enough to wear a t-shirt and leave the sweater at home, I’d catch a glimpse out a window and feel regret that I’d chosen my career path. I was jealous of the mothers that were able to stay at home with their kids and spend days like this at the park. But I didn’t know something. I didn’t know some of them were jealous of me. Sure I was missing out on the sunshine but I was also skipping on out on the frustration.

Today I’m in their shoes. And I’m so grateful for it. But I just wanted to take my son to enjoy the spring weather over lunch at the park. We really needed to get out of the damn house. A year ago I just wanted to get home after a long day. After wrestling socks and shoes on, we drove up to McDonald’s. I’m sick of McDonald’s but it’s cheap and it’s one thing I know my four year old will eat without fail. It’s also right in front of the park we frequent. After waiting in line at the drive through for what seemed like an eternity, we got our food and landed a spot at one of the two benches at said park.

It’s an event to get set up. The bench is in the shade and on a day like this one it’s too chilly and my son doesn’t want to wear his jacket. So we move and opt for the sunny area on the side walk and set up again. Two minutes later, my son needs to go pee. At this park, there is one bathroom and it happens to be on the other side of the park. He can’t hold it. We pack up and at the speed of a sloth he is trailing behind me while I am loaded up with both our lunches, jackets, and sodas. I’m now sweating.

The restrooms look like something straight out of the movie, Texas Chainsaw Massacre and the women’s restroom is locked. The men’s restroom stall is occupied. We know this because the man’s phone is ringing with a country song ringtone horror movies are made of. I grab my son and decide we are safer finding a tree. After about five minutes of wandering the park, we are back at the original horror scene, now unoccupied. Apparently this park is hopping today and I’d rather not get kicked out by security for allowing my son to pee on public property.

Finally we can eat. My son is pouting because in spite of the fifteen kids his age playing, he’s upset his big brother is still at school. Ten minutes later, he needs to go poop. We aren’t reliving the country song scene nor is he sitting on that nasty metal pot they call a toilet. So back to McDonald’s we go. Can I just say that whoever invented those hand dryers didn’t have kids?

When we get back in the car, I resolve that it’s time to go home. Except my son is upset because he hasn’t played yet. Fine. We’ll go back. It’s nice outside afterall. I start to pull out, promising myself to relax. Then I hear it. The sound of red soda pouring out into the back seat of my car. Another item invented by a non parent that I stupidly agreed to allow my child to have for a moment of peace. I lose it. He’s crying because his drink is gone.

Now here I am back at the park living to tell you mommas that we all get frustrated. Both at work and at home with our kids. We want it to be better on the other side because it gives us something to long for. But in reality we just need to be grateful. That’s annoying sometimes I know. Was I grateful while wiping bright red soda off my four year old’s legs? Hell no. Was I grateful in the past when my boss asked me to stay late and teach a class I wasn’t planning on? Not at all. But it’s all a season and God has a plan for it.

I’m blessed that I can make an income from home now. I don’t miss a thing I don’t want to in my children’s lives (and sometimes I don’t miss things I’d rather!)

Let me know in the comments what you are grateful today for, now matter how small. And if you are interested in learning more about what I do, feel free to contact me at contact@jillianmcmullen.com.

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Jillian McMullen, CSOWM, RDN, LDN

Help! My family won’t agree on the same meal!

So many of us can relate. I know I can.

My husband eats just about anything.

My 7 year old son will, too. But it requires lots of coaxing and positive reinforcement before he will even try it. And still, there are foods he won’t touch. Normal “no touch zone” kid foods – onions, peppers, zucchini, squash, and oddly enough- potatoes (unless they’re french fries.) He loves black olives though, go figure.

Let’s talk about my 4 year old. When he was a baby, he couldn’t get enough. I had to feed him eight ounces of baby food three times a day. He ate it all, pureed turkey included. I was optimistic. Until we introduced table food. You know that saying “they’ll eat when they’re hungry?” It’s not true for this guy. He would rather starve than eat a food that didn’t look right, smell right, or taste right to him. He rarely gets to the “taste right”  stage if it didn’t “smell right.” The kid smells frozen waffles and has the nose of a hound dog on the hunt. I can name about ten foods he will rotate and another ten he likes on occasion.

And for me? Well, I’m not a big meat eater. I’m not fond of leftovers once they’ve been sitting in the freezer for months on end. But other than that, I’ll eat it if I could get the rest of the family to agree. And therein lies the problem. The problem many of you have voiced. In attempts to solve the mystery for myself and to help a fellow momma out, I’ve come up with a few tips (and recipes) to prevent the insanity we all know as dinner.

  1. Set the same time and day to plan your meals for each week. Make it a family meeting. If your husband is like mine and doesn’t care, then at least involve your children. This doesn’t mean you are going to get everyone on the same page for every meal. However, it does mean you are more likely to get everyone on to agree to try each meal. There won’t be any surprises when you set brussel sprouts on the table this Tuesday night because they knew it was coming.
  2. Make easily modified meals rather than two or three separate meals. You probably didn’t have a special meal prepared for you just because you didn’t like what was cooked. I don’t remember ever, not once getting a choice for dinner as a child. If I didn’t want to be hungry, I ate. The only preference that mattered was my dad’s. That’s who my mother cooked for. My parents have been married for 34 years. That tells me something important. For example, we have stir fry meals quite often. My four year old is not going to touch a mixed dish like that. However, he loves rice with butter mixed in. He gets the rice, we get the stir fry on the rice. Same with pasta. He gets butter pasta while the rest of us get a more interesting pasta dish with vegetables and meat sauce. I always offer him the rest on his plate. Why? Because it takes a minimum of seven offerings before you can say your child truly doesn’t like a food item. SEVEN. I can say this with 100% accuracy that it’s been true for my oldest child who now eats cabbage when the first time he literally gagged it down. Remember we are teaching them important rules about nutrition in these early years. I know if my children had a choice, it would be pop-tarts, french fries, and candy all day long.
  3. Opt in for a farm bag co-op. For a low price, you can have farm fresh fruits and vegetables delivered right to your doorstep every week. Usually you do not choose what you get because you truly get whatever is freshly grown in season. I cannot tell you how exciting this is for my children. Often, we get items no one in the family has tried before and it becomes a sweet family experience. Plus, there is something about eating fresh and ripe that just makes fruits and vegetables taste better. Your kids will notice.
  4. Involve them in the cooking process. I know it can be aggravating because they are messy, they do things slower, and you have to take extra steps to make sure they don’t cut a finger off or burn themselves. But if you want your children to eat, let them be a part of the process. The pride they feel in something they created is often enough to get them to at least try it and when they try it, they may go ahead and eat it.
  5. Don’t stress if they’ve tried it, but didn’t eat it. Remember when your parents made you clean your plate? One of the most difficult habits for an overweight adult to break is to not leave food on their plate, regardless of hunger. I assure you, the world hunger problems will still exist regardless if you leave food on your plate. There are organizations you can donate to if you want to make a real difference. We need to be okay with food left on the plate. Children are very good at gaging their hunger and satiety cues, let them do it.

This is hard stuff, I know. But you’ve got enough stress in your life. Dinner shouldn’t be one of them. One day we will all look back on these times as the best in our lives and wonder where it all went. Enjoy your family, their differences and all!

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Jillian McMullen, CSOWM, RDN, LD

 

Stressful words for moms: cleaning

As the caretaker of the household we have a lot of responsibilities.  Keep a clean home, feed everyone nutritious meals, help with homework, referee between arguing children, monitor screen time, bath small children, change diapers, read bedtime stories, pay bills and set a joyful example through it all. If you work outside the home you’re juggling the challenges of employment while doing these things in the time leftover of your day, but by no means are you off the hook from any of it. If you work in your home, in some ways you get less slack for either and should do both better with your “extra” time. If you don’t work well you likely experience zero slack because your “job” doesn’t exist at all.

Over the next several weeks, I’m going to be addressing some of the most stressful words that keep moms on their toes and attempt to offer strategies to make them a little bit easier to hear.

But first, can we all just take a moment of silence for the moms who are pregnant with their first and have no real clue what’s coming? And for the moms juggling a full time job while giving away half their paychecks to the daycare center? And for the moms juggling work at home with a child unplugging their computer and asking for a snack every five seconds? And the longest one for the woman who decided to devote all of her self to caring for her family?

Y’all, it’s all hard. I’ve been in every situation described. The last one I only lasted 22 weeks which was maternity leave, of which I was practically tossing my second child at the daycare like a football I was so ready to re-enter the world of working adults.

When I asked fellow moms what stressed them out the most, the top answers were keeping a clean home, laundry, daycare costs, dinner, and sick days. For the purpose of keeping this post shorter than a novel, I’m going to focus on keeping a clean home and how I’ve managed to do it imperfectly.

1. Use bins, crates, boxes, etc. My kids have so. Many. Toys. To keep my house from looking like their rooms threw up all over the place, we turned the formal dining room into a playroom. In it, there is a 3 shelf system with bins for toys, a storage chest, and a plastic 3-drawer unit. I also keep an extra crate in the living room for stray toys. Both kids beds have built-in drawers underneath as well.

2. Make it a habit to declutter. My life got easier when I started throwing out broken toys and donating clothes, toys, and other items we’ve been saving for a rainy day. A good question to ask is “have we used it in the last 6 months and will we miss it in the next 6 months?” If this process is overdue for you, take it one room a weekend and you’ll be surprised at how easy it is.

3. Break it up and follow a daily schedule so that you don’t have to waste your weekend cleaning the house. What does this look like? You may have seen some floating around online. I’ve tweaked some of my favorite to fit my specific needs to look something like this:

Monday: Clean the bathroom sinks and countertops, more if needed but I loathe scrubbing tubs and showers so hubby usually does this.

Tues
ay: Grocery shopping and planning meals (because I can take my 4 year old to the church Moms Day Out and do this child-free)

Wednesday: Clean kitchen countertops (usually this means I’m decluttering the mail). Empty all trash cans (Thursday is garbage day.)

Thursday: During the spring and summer months, this is lawn day for hubby. I dust (once every 1-2 months), vacuum and mop the inside (mopping every other week).

Fridays: Clean the rabbit cage. I know most of you reading this may not have a rabbit, but if you have routine pet care, this might apply. Anything I didn’t do during the week because I rarely follow this schedule to a tee. Usually fold 1-2 loads of laundry that have piled
up.

Saturdays: laundry (some folding, not all of it) family day

Sundays: church and day of rest

Everyday: We all pick up toys for about 15 minutes before bedtime, I fold a load of laundry 2-3 times a week because it’s never-ending and I can’t remember the last time it was all caught up. And about a year ago, I started making it a point to make the bed every morning.

4. Make sure your home smells good. Everyone’s home has a certain “smell.” I live with 3 boys, a dog, and a rabbit. I’m not confident the “smell” in our home is always good. The thing is, those of us who live there don’t smell it because our noses are accustomed to it. I don’t want guests to be turned off, so I diffuse essential oils r
egularly. Be aware of this. Even the cleanest home could have a dirty feel if it has a “smell” to it.

5. Use natural cleaners. At surface, this may sound like more time, more effort, more money. It’s actually less of all of those things. Most importantly though, my young children can help and when they get silly and start spraying themselves (or each other), I can let them and they still get the job done. No harm done in a little vinegar, water, and tea tree oil shot to the face, after all. My four year old especially enjoys helping. Is it imperfect? Absolutely. Does it get done? Absolutely.

6. Clean as you go. When I take out crafts for the kids, cook, do some unusual project, or whatever the case may be, it really does take stress off if I’m not lazy about it and get it cleaned up as it’s happening. Nobody likes cleaning up a giant mess after the fun is all over.

Lastly, notice how I said I’m doing this imperfectly. It’s all what I strive to do. And sometimes I’m so wrapped up in whatever fun that we’re having that I do find myself cleaning up a giant mess at the end. I never foll
w that schedule every week the way I made it. But you should know that schedule is what I had laid out for myself when I was working full time out of my home and what I still try to follow now that I’m working in my home. I thought I would have a sparkling house when I walked away from my job a year ago. What I found was more guilt in the beginning because it never was. I have a tiny human who needs me. Constantly. When I get extra time (which isn’t a whole lot- right now I’m at McDonald’s to get this done while he’s occupied with their indoor playground), I’m working on my business. It’s a season we are all in. Motherhood is our first job and we do the best we can with everything else. No reason to be guilty about that.

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Jillian McMullen, CSOWM, RDN, LDN

He’s growing up fast

The reason my husband thinks I don’t fight our youngest, age four, on sleeping in his own bed.

Mommas, I know you struggle, too. At least if you have little ones. Getting them to sleep in their own bed at night. It’s been a long freaking day and now that it’s over, you want nothing more than to crawl into bed and fall asleep because you’re doing it again tomorrow. Those little ones are relentless. They need you. But you need them, too.

Motherhood is a relentless job and there are zero days off.  You know removing those little arms from your neck and fighting them into their own bed is the right thing to do. But some of us moms have a “melt button”  – the one that gets pushed when your child says ” I wanna cuddle.”” or “I’m scared.” It’s the one that causes surrender and peace because of those little eyes gazing up at you.

Maybe you were or are like I was when I had my first born, now age seven. I read all the books on raising babies. And so I fought him. I fought him on it so hard that he often slept in the hallway, on the floor, because the baby books told me he would be screwed up and sleep with me until he was seventeen if I let him, even just for one night. So I stuck it out. I stuck out the crying, the pleading, and I spent many nights in the rocking chair next to his bed waiting for him to fall asleep. Sometimes it would take hours and I would wake up past midnight, neck aching, still in that rocking chair. The books didn’t tell me that I was raising a human, one with a strong will. But today, he faithfully sleeps in his own bed.

And then the second one came along. And no one told me how hard it would be. I was pretty smug, a pregnant mother, second child on the way. I knew what I was doing. Until I was a mother of two. And then I wondered what the hell I had gotten myself into. And I had no fight left in me for either of these two little boys, who just wanted to snuggle at the end of a long day. For many of the reasons I listed above. But mostly, I’m just tired.

I know many of you feel tired and like giving up in certain areas of your life too. While this is a small, rather benign example in my life. This quote changed things for me, “I was going to quit and then I was reminded who was watching.” We all have those special “someones” in our lives who are watching us. And we have future someones watching us that have yet to be inspired by our stories. For us mommas, it’s our children. But for all of us, it’s those yet to walk our difficult paths. So don’t give up, even when you feel like it. Be tired, snuggle when you have to, and then let your neck ache in the rocking chair a while because success is coming your way. As long as you don’t give up.

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Jillian McMullen, CSOWM, RDN, LD

He actually does allow more than you can handle, so take the manna

This is a difficult time of year for many of us. Financially, emotionally, physically. While the holidays are joyous, they have a tendency to drain much of our resources, too.

It’s a time we naturally reflect on the year. And the years seems to go by faster and faster, don’t they? 2016 was a tough one. For all of us. So much strife and hatred. And then the holidays come and we are reminded of our losses, those we are missing, financial hardships, and it can be downright sad.

I’ll be honest. This year I’ve felt much like one of the Israelites depending on God for my daily manna. There hasn’t been much, if any, leftover to store up for days ahead. Not financially, not physically, not emotionally. For the first time in my life, I became a work at home mom. In many ways, a dream come true. But difficult. And I don’t work on my own schedule like I thought I would. I work on two little boys’ schedule. I am just not used to stopping every ten minutes to pour a drink, fix a snack, change the television channel, clean up a mess, or wipe a butt. It’s downright maddening to take two hours to finish a project that should take fifteen minutes.

Financially, it’s been tough. I absolutely love working from home as a 100% self-employed woman. Making this decision earlier this year, without a doubt, was a calling God placed on my life. At the time, I was sure He was telling me that I would prosper as a momtreprenuer and show the world how amazing I would be as a work at home mom. How I could inspire other moms to do the same. But that wasn’t His plan at all. What He wanted for me was to see how He could could provide for my family’s daily needs even when I had no idea how those needs would be met.

And He’s been faithful. It’s another post for all of the ways He has provided for us. And how I attended my company’s national convention to walk the stage so that I could celebrate hitting a big milestone in my business last September.

Emotionally, we are limited. When times get hard and stressful, we turn to food, alcohol, medications or drugs, shopping, and other ineffective outlets to stuff it down. I know many of my readers struggle in this area, especially emotional eating. In 1 Cor 10:13, the scripture tells us this, “No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and He will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation He will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.” This scripture is often misunderstood because we assume that means He won’t give us more than we can handle. That’s false. This scripture is referring to being tempted in ways that move us away from dependance on Him. (i.e. eating a jar of nutella after a hard day.) 

So we get blindsided when hardship comes our way because we believed God knew we weren’t strong enough to handle that situation. Truth is, He did know. We are weak in all hardships that come our way. We have to make the choice to accept His provisions and guidance. (i.e. don’t buy that jar of nutella in the first place).

​What I have learned this year and am most thankful for is that even though difficulties may come my way, He is always there paving a path and providing the manna.

Could you use some extra support from like-minded women on a journey to wellness? Click on over here to receive an invitation to join our secret Facebook community!

​If you struggle in the area of emotional eating, I highly recommend Lysa Terkeursts’ book, Made to Crave: Satisfying Your Deepest Desire with God, Not Food.

 

 

You make time for what you want

It’s true. I know we hate to admit it. But think about the last really good fiction novel you read. You stayed up until all hours of the night just to read “one more chapter,” didn’t you? I know you did because I’ve done it, too. Ever been on a Netflix binge? And then it was suddenly okay for the kids to watch a second movie in a row to give you another 90 minutes to find out if Glen was still alive?

How much time today have you spent scrolling through social media feeds only to learn what your old high school acquaintance had for dinner last night, your neighbor’s cat did to the carpet, and the hair stylist you used to go to five years ago had to say about her ex boyfriend? Or why your Aunt Sally who lives three states away that you haven’t seen in years hates it when people use bad grammar.

3 hours. That’s the amount of time the average person spends on social media per day mindlessly scrolling through miles of cats, babies, baby showers for people we haven’t spoken to in 10 years, meals, bathroom selfies, rainbows, the heart shaped crack in the sidewalk, the political rant, the declaration of a Facebook fast, post work out selfies, a desperate plea to buy my wrap, lipstick, join my team, try a sample, try the best thing since sliced bread, and on and on and on. And it does nothing for us but s

We all want and need more time. And money. Well most of us. Some have figured out that more time IS more money. What could you do with 3 extra hours a day? Business owners, what money making activities could you do that would totally transform your product, service, and/or marketing? Moms, what kind of house cleaning, quality time with kids, meal prep, or SLEEP (hallelujah!) could you get? Those of you trying to lose weight or get healthier? What kind of exercise habits could you establish, cooking style would you try, recipes might you research, or eating habits could you try (say sitting down at the table, taking that 20 minutes to eat that you keep hearing is so much better for your body?)

So yeah. Start with where you spend your time. Spend it wisely and you may see your bank account go up.

I’ll be dedicating future posts on this concept. Because conventional thinking tells us we need to do everything ourselves to save a dollar. We live in the age of DIY, after all. But I’m challenging you to value your TIME first. In turn, you might be surprised at how the money falls into place.

Need extra help in this area? A book I highly recommend is The Miracle Morning  or The Miracle Morning for Network Marketers. How you start your day sets you up for how you will end your day. If you are like me, it’s more practical to listen to audiobooks, but do what works best for you.