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

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!

Need more ideas from moms like yourself? Ask to join Jillian’s free online community by clicking here.

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Jillian McMullen, CSOWM, RDN, LD

 

Do you wish you were a butterfly?

Every spring, my backyard is overtaken by little fuzzy, black caterpillars. They aren’t cute. I don’t like bugs, but my boys are fascinated. They break out their critter cage and create temporary “pets,” eagerly awaiting the cocooning stage in hopes for a moth or butterfly.

Last year, we made it to the cocoon stage but they never flourished. So this year, I did a little research to find out how we can do things more successfully. In the process, I realized many of us are focused on the butterfly stage of life, not realizing we are missing out on some of the best moments right now, in our caterpillar stage.

Here are some things I learned:

Caterpillars don’t live very long. In fact, most of them don’t survive long enough to create a cocoon and transform to the end goal. If they aren’t eaten up by another animal or insect or destroyed by the weather elements, they will survive a couple of weeks to a couple of months before they are ready to cocoon themselves. Most people are like this. They quit before total transformation takes place because somewhere along the line, they let the troubles of life swallow them up and destroy their hopes and dreams rather t
an strengthen them for a greater purpose.

However, caterpillars focus on nothing else but to prepare themselves for transformation. They do this by eating as much as possible, several times their weight even. Once they are in the cocoon, they stay there for a few weeks to transform. When they reach the point of flying, they live only days to weeks. Their entire life is focused on the shortest part.

Is that how you are living? Focused on where you think your butterfly stage of life should be? You’re so frustrated with the fact that you aren’t there yet, that you’re missing out on this important stage of growth. The longest stage of your life is right now. When the caterpillar turns into a butterfly, they’ve arrived and their growth is over. Why are we then in such a rush to get there when we still have so much more preparation to do?

Another thing I learned from last year is that caterpillars don’t like to be pulled out of their element. We kept our critters indoors and within 24 hours, they all had spun themselves into a cocoon of comfort. They weren’t
ready though, and they never transformed so they just died. This year, we are keeping them outside and they are still thriving, eating the leaves and preparing themselves. It’s been a week and no sign of a cocoon yet.

What happens to you when you are pulled out of your comfort zone? Do you immediately cocoon yourself into a bubble of protection and stop growing before your time is up? Or do you push forward because you know you still have a lot of growing to do? We cocoon when we stop showing up, stop learning, when we quit, when we let our difficulties define us, when we refuse to forgive, refuse to try new things, and when we become bitter because we aren’t in that place we think we should be.

Where does that bitterness come from? I think often it comes from comparison. The caterpillars we have in our backyard aren’t very much to look at it. They’re just little black fuzzy worm-like creatures. But some caterpillars are absolutely beautiful and unique. Frankly, they don’t need to be butterflies to attract attention. We all know someone like that, don’t we? We think they’ve reached that pinnacle point of life because they seem to have it all together and they look fantastic. You may even be one of those people yourself. You show everyone that you’ve got it all together, but inside you know you have a lot you still need to work on.

You’re in the longest stage of life right here, right now. While you may not be in the same struggles all of the time, accept that you are learning and growing from each one of them. One day, they will create a beautiful butterfly out of you and it will be called your legacy. Create a good one.

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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