Variety is the Spice of Life

I get asked a lot about how I balance my daughter’s meals. I definitely put a good deal of thought into this, because I believe the fuel we put into our bodies (especially at such a young age), is one of the most important determining factors in our health: immunity, cell growth and destruction, mood, energy, allergies, and overall health.

I also believe we should be mindful of teaching and demonstrating great habits and body image for the sake of our children.  I don’t want Magnolia to start counting calories when she’s 10, or hearing me ever say something like “I CAN’T eat that – it’ll go straight to my hips”!

The best I can do is the best I can do. Let’s take the stress out whenever we can.  Let’s enjoy real food prepared deliciously – and simply – as much as we can.  Our kids will see us enjoying the experience of nourishing our bodies, having conversations about our day, sharing special milestones with others… all while trying new foods and feeling guilt-free!

Here are a lot of the things I vary for my daughter’s daily menu.  Some are for her health, some for her taste buds, and others for her to learn about her body and skills as she eats and feeds herself too.

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Macronutrients – protein with every meal and snack, lots of fresh produce, healthy fats (omega 3s, unsaturated, saturated – avoid trans fats!)

Color – fruits and veggies come in all colors of the rainbow. Each color offers different micronutrients (vitamins and minerals). Aim to get in most colors most days of the week. Look for flash-frozen versions of produce when out of season.

Texture – smooth, lumpy, hard, liquids. Get them used to different textures as early as they can handle each.

Temperature – cold, room temperature, warm (obviously not hot, but have to say it just in case). ;-)

Mode of ‘transport’ – finger foods, utensil foods, cups, etc.

Flavors – change it up and have fun! Sometimes bland, sometimes add different spices and herbs. Always try it yourself first to make sure the food isn’t too spicy.

Raw and cooked – Fruits and veggies – different heat index can “lock” or “unlock” certain nutrients, rendering them more or less bioavailable.

 

The main point here is that feeding a baby or child can be fun! Keep it healthy, only spend hours in the kitchen if you want to, and be a good role model about your own food choices and body image self-talk.

 

In Health,

Tara

SnugBug Schedule

Updated SnugBug Fitness (babywearing and pregnancy class) schedule is as follows:

  • Sundays 9-10AM in Mineola (77 Jericho Tpk – Happy & Health pediatrics)
  • Wednesdays 10-11AM in Huntington (Heckscher Park or The Sandbox Playspace – 51 Gibson Ave.  This location depends on weather).
  • Wednesdays 2:15-3:15PM in Mineola (77 Jericho Tpk)
  • Thursdays 9-10AM in Mineola (77 Jericho Tpk)

Come join us!!

Current ways to RSVP is on my Facebook page: Facebook.com/TaraAllenHealth or email me at Tara@TaraAllenHealth.com

In Health,

Tara

Hyperemesis Gravidarum

…Or HG, as it’s known.

What IS this little known (and hard to pronounce) disease that is said to affect 1-2% of pregnant women?  Hyperemesis Gravidarum literally translates to excessive vomiting during pregnancy.  Princess Kate was just forced to announce another pregnancy before she was ready because she is suffering from it for the second time.  It’s what those of us with one HG pregnancy hope we never have to deal with next go-around (if we’re lucky enough to have more children).

As a registered nurse in the mother-baby field, I had heard about this disease, but surely there is no REAL understanding until it’s happened to you.  Imagine the worse stomach virus you’ve ever had, and dealing with that for months; even being told it may last with the same intensity for the whole pregnancy!  I am not a dramatic person, however, I will say simply that there were lots of moments that I didn’t think I’d make it through, and until I could feel my baby kicking at 16 weeks, I did not believe she could possibly survive (and be healthy) with such conditions.

To spare you all the worst of the details, I will sum up by saying there was CONSTANT nausea, lots of vomiting, dry heaving, medications galore (to think, I was all excited to have an all-natural, holistic pregnancy – that went out the door very quickly).  There were a couple of ER visits, and a longer, one-week hospital stay for a new type of treatment (that unfortunately didn’t work). Home care nurses, 24/7 IV infusions, daily weights, and measured urine was part of the gig.  No one could cook ANYthing in my home (not even brew coffee) or that would send me into a tailspin.  My poor husband made his morning coffee in the garage every day.  Oh, and perfume or scented anything spelt like poison.

With the life sucked out of me and rapid weight loss and dehydration, I barely had the energy or desire to hold a conversation.  I remember telling my mother on the phone one day that I felt like a mere shell of myself.  My husband, family (especially my mom), best friend, and competent doctor were all on “my team” and I feel as though they were my cheerleaders pushing me to get through each day.  I often think about other pregnant women in the same situation without such a supportive team and it makes me so sad.  No one should have to be strong enough to deal with HG alone.

I am writing this blog to reveal my huge gap in postings last year as well as to bring some awareness to this disease we know so little about.  What causes it?  What can be done about it?  This is beyond ginger, hard candy, saltines, and Preggie Pops.  Lemonade, dry carbs, the juice from canned peaches, and ice pops didn’t help.  Everyone had such great suggestions and anecdotes about what worked for them; unfortunately, I didn’t find relief with any of it.  With all the medications and interventions, I was still incredibly sick for months and months.  I was lucky enough to be able to return to work around week 22 (of a 40 week gestation), but continued to get “sick” EVERY. SINGLE. DAY – including 3 hours before heading to the hospital for delivery.  I was weak.

Funny little story… I remember going out for a walk as soon as my IV was discontinued to build up my stamina and try to get myself back to be able to work a 12.5 hour shift at the hospital.  I let my ego get the best of me.  It sounds crazy, but I could feel the baby settling down and relaxing with the movement.  I said “That’s right baby, your mama loves to workout.  I’m sorry I’ve had to lay on the couch this entire pregnancy so far, but this will be our new normal”.  Ha!  So much for that!  After my lofty 4 house-long walk, I returned home and was sick the rest of the day.  Looking back, the humor is not lost on me.  I did ‘rehab’ myself back up to getting to the gym.  However, my workouts did not resemble what I had been able to do before or what I thought I’d be doing while pregnant.

Magnolia was born 6 lbs 6 oz (a healthy weight, especially considering we were told all along that ‘the baby’ was at risk for being small).  I was eating and holding down all food within minutes of her birth.  It was amazing!!!  I have felt great and have since put back on the weight I was down.

All thoughts of wanting to expand our family in the future are met with equal amounts excitement and waves of fear.  What if it happens again?  How will I care for Magnolia?  I’m told based on statistics that I have a 50% chance of getting HG with a future pregnancy. Yikes!  I hope luck is on my side.

We will figure it out as everyone does everyday with their lives – happy milestones and hardships alike.  Magnolia is lucky she’s so cute, as any past mention of ‘the baby’ being grounded for life because of how Mommy felt went out the window the moment we met this beautiful little person.  She brings us so much joy and makes my heart swell everyday.

I hope no one reading this ever has to deal with Hyperemesis Gravidarum.  But, if you do, please feel free to reach out to me or the wonderful organization called the HER Foundation (HelpHer.org).  Let’s spread the word about HG – it’s real, and it needs attention and research.

I am back to being able to savor the smell of a great cup of coffee.  I’m going to keep savoring it unless or until I can’t.  Magnolia needs a sibling one day.

In health,

Tara

Kids

A quick post for a quick story…

While at the park with my daughter today, we walked passed a man with two young boys (maybe 8 and 10 years old).  There were several sets of stairs they were walking by and both boys wore a huge smile as they ran towards the steps and up and down each set.  I should add that it was hot and humid today – probably almost 90 degrees at that time.  Their happiness spilled out in short bursts of laughter and drips of sweat.

When children are removed from the “screens” (computer, video games, etc.), and are given some time in the outdoors, they PLAY and stay active.  It’s just in their nature.  I’m not sure when that changes for us, but for an 8 and 10 year old today in a park on Long Island, running up and down the stairs was not a “workout”, it was simply a way to play.

Maybe we should restructure our attitude and language that revolves around exercise, workouts, etc. and just start calling it play time!

In health,

Tara

Green smoothie / quick lunch

After buying the huge box of organic spinach while food shopping this week, I figured I’d better start eating more greens before they go to waste.

My lunch today was a sandwich made with Ezekiel bread, hummus, avocado, tomatoes, and sprouts.  To add some more protein, I had a side of cottage cheese with chives, pepitas (pumpkin seeds), and a cherry tomato (which just didn’t fit on the sandwich).  It was delicious!  I washed it down with a green smoothie.  The smoothie came out better than I expected, considering I didn’t put much fruit in there to sweeten it up.  In fact, my 9 month old daughter wore a green mustache of approval after I let her try some.

Here’s how I made it: In a blender, mix 2 big handfuls of organic spinach, a small handful of frozen mango chunks, and 8 ounces of water.  That’s it!  This yields about 2 cups of the smoothie.  It can be pre-made and stored, covered, in the refrigerator for 2-3 days.  This helps if you leave for work early in the morning and don’t want to wake the whole house up with the noisy blender.

This smoothie consistency is much like a thick juice.  If you like yours a bit thicker, add more frozen fruit or ice cubes.  If you choose these additions, drink right away before it separates.

This was a great quick, healthy lunch.  Total prep time for whole lunch: 5 minutes or less.

In health,

Tara

Fitting in Exercise Post Baby

With a 3 and a half month old at home now, my husband and I have been experimenting with ways for us to get in our workouts.  Here’s what has been working for us…

1)      Grandmas – We are very lucky in that our mothers are more than happy to watch our daughter for us.  So happy, in fact, that we don’t usually ask – they volunteer!  Last Saturday when I was working all day, my husband took my mom up on her offer and headed to the gym.  Last night while my husband was stuck at work late, again, my mom was thrilled to spend some alone time with my baby while I snuck in a nice sweat session (Thanks again, Mom!).  With this bitterly cold and snowy winter upon us here in the Northeast, we’re keeping our workouts mostly indoors and that means trying to fit in more time at the gym.  We appreciate all the help we’ve been getting with the baby and by taking just a little time to stay healthy and fit, I feel as though I can be a better Mom to my precious girl.

2)      The switch-off – My husband and I have yet to get an app or shared calendars on our phones, but we do communicate well.  Once or twice a week I have been getting up very early to feed and change the baby before handing over the monitor and running to the gym and back in time before my husband has to leave for work.  I never thought I’d be one to be driving to the gym in the dark early morning hours, but it’s great!  The gym is not crowded at all and to be done and showered before most people have had their first cup of coffee in the morning is a bonus.  This leaves evenings for my husband to be able to hit the gym on his way home from work.

3)      Classes – More and more baby-friendly classes are popping up everywhere.  There are zumba, yoga, and boot camp type classes around that are specifically for moms and their babies/children.  Besides a great workout, you can meet other women with whom you already have lots in common and if your child needs to be fed in the middle of a workout, everyone understands!

4)      Opportunity – The rest of the hours (or minutes) I log for workouts comes in dribs and drabs wherever I can get it.  Earlier today I was doing sit-ups, pushups and squats in the living room while ‘attending’ a webinar as my daughter took a nap.  Other times I take walks with the stroller when I can – outside on a rare warm day or in malls.  I am a big fan of the Moby wrap to be able to carry the baby hands-free and lift some weights or do walking lunges down the hallway.  I also have been known to run up and down the stairs, checking in after each flight while my baby was playing on her tummy time matt.

As our little one gets a older and the weather gets nicer, our routine will open up with a few more options (jogging stroller, here we come!).  But in the meantime, this is what’s working for us!

In health,

Tara

Letter to Magnolia

As the end of the year approaches, we all see the multitude of media – advertisements, articles, magazines, television shows – focusing on weight loss that’s usually tied into New Year’s resolutions.  This morning while feeding my newborn baby girl before dawn, I was watching an infomercial promoting the desire to “be your tiniest self” this time of year in order to fit into that perfect dress for the holiday parties (early Saturday morning television – NOTHING else on!).  I have to confess that I’ve seen this particular infomercial before, but something struck me much differently this time.  As I looked down at my daughter who already, at 5 weeks old, LOVES to eat, move, and stretch her body, I couldn’t help but feel very disappointed about this message about exercise and vanity that go hand-in-hand in our society.  I decided to write a letter to my daughter about what I’d like her to know about exercise…

Dear Magnolia,

It’s a tough world out there with lots of disordered ideas about what makes up health and wellness.  I want you to know that exercise is SO much more than just an obligatory ritual performed as a means to gain popularity or fit into your skinny jeans.  Moving your body will make you feel strong and empowered!  One day you’ll be proud to be able to carry all your grocery bags into the house in one trip or outrun a dog that might chase after you.  You’ll be successful and happy because fitness helps fight stress, illness, aches and pains and improves memory.  Those who work out regularly are said to be more intelligent as well – due to the increased blood flow to your brain.  Your peers will look to you for advice and ask “How do you do it?” when they see the inner glow that is packaged along with a healthy body and mind.

A sense of adventure and appreciation for nature is provoked when getting to see the beauty and nature from the top of a ski mountain or hiking trail or while swimming in the ocean.  That experience is just not something even the best photograph could replace.  You will be more likely to engage in other healthy behaviors in order to preserve all the hard work you put into your health.  Who wants to smoke or skimp on nutrition when you have a 5K race coming up that you’re looking to set a PR in?  Exercise will be a way in which your Daddy and I bond with you.  It’s a good excuse to take a break from emails and cell phones and go somewhere we don’t have a signal (although by the time you can read this, it’ll probably be unfathomable that anyplace ever existed without a signal).

I want you to know that exercise isn’t a chore, but rather a privilege.  I look forward to lots of future quality time and conversations with you about this.  Maybe it’ll be over a nice, healthy meal at home, or maybe – just maybe – it’ll be on the way to gymnastics, or soccer, or on a bike ride to the beach.  I love you and all that your growing body and mind is capable of!

In health,

Tara (a.k.a. Mommy)

Pedicures for Diabetics

Whether you’ve been Type 1 forever or a newly diagnosed Type 2, you’re already sick of counting carbs and pricking your finger 4 times a day.  You already know from the doc that these are necessary to manage your health.  But, we all look forward to (and deserve!) a little pampering here and there – diabetic or not.

Read through these tips that will make getting a manicure and/or pedicure safer for diabetics.  Of course, you still need to check your feet everyday (and please consult with your healthcare provider first).

1. Bring your own tools and polish.  These can be purchased at a beauty supply store or online and will give you peace of mind to know you are were the first to be poked and prodded at with these.  You will still need to wash the tools well after use to prevent harboring dirt and bacteria.  Hot, soapy water will do for this.  And scrub!  Friction is what ultimately eliminates the critters.

2. Push back only for your cuticles.  No cutting!  The last thing you should be doing is messing with skin that’s currently intact.

3. File nails down; do not cut.  Cutting the nails could leave sharp edges.  These edges could potentially cut the skin surrounding the nail.  If you keep up with your nails in between appointments, there shouldn’t be much maintenance needed anyway.

4. Do not let them shave your feet down.  It may sound weird to those of you who have never seen or heard about this, but many places will actually shave off the calluses and dead skin layers on the bottom of your feet.  Clearly, anyone coming near your feet (or anyone’s, for that matter) with a razor should be stopped in their tracks.

5. Wear/bring your own flip flops when getting a pedicure.  This will prevent you from having to borrow theirs which are usually VERY flimsy and might lead to scrapes or cuts.  Wear only comfortable footwear that fits well and avoid the ‘thongs’ with the hard, plastic piece that goes between your toes.  Those can lead to blisters within a few minutes of walking.

6. Bring your own lotion for a massage.  None of us really know who has been touching, mixing, or using that huge bottle of lotion or what’s growing inside.

7. Have a first-aid kit with antiseptic spray on hand.  This may sounds like overkill, but if you do incur a break in the skin, you can deal with it right then and there.

8. Be sure to check your feet and all skin OFTEN and report any non-healing injuries to your doctor.  Diabetes interferes with your body’s ability to heal itself, and it’s important that you are diligent with maintaining your healthcare routine.

Make manicure/pedicure appointments ahead of time and let the manicurist know that you will be bringing your own supplies.  Remind them again when you first sit down in that chair as well.  After that, turn the chair massager on, sit back with a magazine, and enjoy the pampering!

In health,

Tara

The Caffeine Debate

Here are the facts:

90% of the North American population consumes caffeine, in some form, everyday.  This includes coffee, tea, energy drinks, supplements, soda, etc.

Coffee is among the top 3 most popular beverages in the world!  It sits up there on the list with tea and water.

Caffeine is the most consumed (and legal) psychoactive drug in the world.

With conflicting studies constantly surfacing on the risks vs. benefits of coffee, I understand that it is hard to keep yourself informed, stay healthy, and still enjoy that Cup O’ Joe everyday.   Have you ever noticed that you can run faster or lift more reps or weight at the gym when your workout happens to fall about an hour or 2 after you’ve indulged in your morning coffee?  That’s not in your head.  Caffeine, when consumed within reason, is the perfect way to get out of a workout rut and boost your performance temporarily when the day is dragging.

Part of the reason there is so much conflicting information out there is that everyone metabolizes caffeine slightly differently.  There are those that can drink a cup of regular coffee right before bedtime and confess that it doesn’t interfere with their sleep in any way.  These people would be considered fast metabolizers of caffeine. On the other hand, people like me have a cut-off time of 2PM for caffeine because it can linger in our systems much longer and disrupt sleep patterns.  These people, myself included, are considered slow metabolizers of caffeine.  This is important information to have when tweaking your caffeine intake and patterns.

Which category do you fall into?

Either way, drink responsibly!  If you stop and order a huge, triple-shot espresso first thing in the morning and chase your caffeine “high” the rest of the day, not only are you setting yourself up for withdrawal symptoms such as headaches and fatigue (and an expensive habit), but you won’t reap the psychoactive benefits of the caffeine.  My rule for caffeinated beverages is “keep it small to avoid hitting the wall”.  This speaks to portion sizes for your coffee.  Go ahead and have the cup of coffee in the morning, but keep it to 8-10 ounces.  This will give you a little boost to start your day.  If you’ve put in a busy day at home with the kids or at the office and need some energy to get you to the gym and through a workout, have another 8 ounces of coffee (just not too late if you’re a slow metabolizer of caffeine).  You will be revved up about the workout, have greater endurance and strength, and can feel good about doing so with less coffee in total throughout the day than many people have with their first, Venti-sized cup in the morning.  You will be avoiding the vicious cycle that is a caffeine addiction and not have to worry about hitting ‘the wall’ everyday once the last cup has worn off.

Everything in moderation!

In health,

Tara