March 24, 2017

Healthy Meals: Week at a Glance

Get Fit Quick Tip:

Weekly Meal Prep

Save time and energy by completing weekly meal prep. Choose one day each week to shop, chop, wash, prepare and cook. Healthy meals for the whole family will be at your disposal every day of the week:

Chop all veggies. Place in baggies so they are ready to go.

Wash produce. Prepare and clean produce so everyone in the family can simply grab and go!

Wash herbs. Wrap in paper towel, place in baggies and store in the fridge.

Bulk cook meats for the week. Portion out meat and store in air tight containers. All that’s needed is to heat it up.

Bulk cook entree’s to create left-overs. Cook casseroles, chili, soups and stews with a plan for left-overs. Refreshing a meal with a creative side dish or combination is a great way to minimize cooking during the week.


Parents: How exercise will help make your week easier! By David Hutchings

Parents have a hundred priorities to take care of in a day, and right at the bottom of that list is doing something for yourself.  The last thing you want to do is get in a workout. A far more attractive option is to flop down on the couch and get a few minutes shut-eye or watch TV or read a book.  What if I told you exercise will improve more than just your waistline?

Reduce stress. Taking care of a family is hard work, they have a hundred demands which, depending on their age they can’t communicate outside a scream.  This is stressful.  Exercise can help reduce your stress levels.  Exercise releases endorphins which will improve your mood and help you feel better about life in general.

Increase energy. Exercising regularly will increase in energy levels.  A lack of energy can definitely make life seem harder. Use exercise to boost energy, interest and enthusiasm for daily tasks.

Decrease aches and pains. Preventing injury is another thing that mums and dads should consider too.  Exercise makes your whole body stronger, therefore reducing injury during daily activities. Our one year old is already 9kg (20lb).  Picking him up and moving him about can put a lot of stress on the body.

Strengthen your core. Having a strong core and being strong generally can help prevent lower back injuries which often occur as a result of bending while carrying weight.  Such as putting children in cots, car seats, pushchairs etc.  Proper lifting technique helps too, which is often a by-product of a good training programme.

Improve self-esteem. Self esteem can be a big issue for new parents especially with the prevalence of post-natal depression or “baby blues”.  Even if you’re not prone to depression, I’ve never heard anyone say that more self-esteem is a bad thing!

So there you have it, a few reasons to get some exercise into your week.  I know it gets busy, stressful and tiring being a parent, especially a new one who is learning on top of all of this!  Start with 10-20 minutes, a few times a week, and you’ll see some great benefits in your life.

David Hutchings is the owner of 360 Degree Fitness Limited  — a mobile personal and small group training business based in Wellington, New Zealand. He trains a variety of clients from regular folks trying to get a little fitter to athletes looking to increase their speed and strength. He likes to fish, hang out with his wife and son, and also enjoys classic rock and a good barbecue.

Zucchini Nachos by Helen Agresti, R.D.

One of the most exciting aspects of my job is learning from my clients. One of them recently inspired me to try zucchini nachos. This was definitely an “aha moment” at the office. I thought, what an incredibly nutritious nacho idea–brilliant!
It took me a few tries to get the zucchini crispy enough to come close to resembling chips. Zucchini contains a good bit of water. Allowing the slices to dry out before grilling is key. Don’t get discouraged if your zucchini turns out too tender. Those batches make an incredibly delicious side dish the entire family will love.

(serves 4-6)
•    3 zucchini, cleaned and dried
•    sea salt, to taste
•    ground pepper, to taste
•    taco seasoning, to taste
•    shredded cheddar, to taste
•    ¾ c black beans, rinsed and dried
•    ¾ c corn, cooked
•    ½ c green onion
•    ¾ c vine ripe tomato, diced
•    1 dollop sour cream

1. Slice zucchini to no more than ¼ inch in thickness.
2. Place slices on a baking sheet lined with paper towel. Lightly sprinkle both sides of zucchini slices with salt and pepper. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.
3. Preheat grill to medium-high. Spray lightly with olive oil. Grill zucchini until tender and crisp on each side, about 2-3 minutes.
4. Just before the slices are ready to be removed from the grill, sprinkle with taco seasoning and shredded cheddar.
5. Place the zucchini slices on a platter and layer with beans, corn, green onion, tomatoes, and a dollop of sour cream.


Helen is the founder of Professional Nutrition Consulting and The 24_7 Dietitian app. She’s a mom of 5, contributor for the Huffington Post, triathlete, and chocolate lover. Helen is passionate about educating families on how to cook healthy meals and snacks at home. You can now receive Helen’s Personal Nutrition Coaching thru her 24_7 dietitian app-available on iOS and android. Go to for more info.

Learning from your Kids by Jennifer Austin

School is out! Look no further than your children to gain inspiration how to enjoy living active. Add a little “recess” into your exercise and fitness program. Here’s what kids can teach US about having fun during physical activity:

Running as fast as you can feels great! Running wildly is fun. Rather than focusing on tensing this muscle and relaxing that muscle, stride length and time splits, etc, just run! Leave your watch at home and go. Adjust your stride by how your muscles feel. When you’re tired slow down, if you have a burst of energy, run faster. Keep it simple.

Abandoning structure is fun! Structured workouts do have a place in living healthy, but so do impromptu workouts. Bring the play back into your fitness. Adopt an anything-goes attitude with your exercise. Try a crab walk contest across the living room floor with your toddler, play tag with your dog in the backyard or see who can bring in the groceries from the car the fastest, do an impromptu set of walking lunges down your hallway. No rules, anything goes. Workout clothing and set exercise location are not always required to gain healthy living benefits.

There’s always room for one more player. There’s always room for a fellow-exerciser. Meeting others with the common interest of living healthy is a great way to find a new activity or training buddy. All exercisers have a common goal of improving health. Instead of allowing ego to interfere, it’s more fun to embrace them than to resent or feel threatened by a new player.

Get excited! Ever watch kids getting ready for recess? The teacher barely has time to open the door before the children are darting outside, practically climbing over one another to reach the school yard first. What excites you about your fitness? Find something! Crank up your favorite tunes, invite friends, try a different location, bring along your dog. If you don’t enjoy it, you won’t do it long-term.

Making up the rules as you go makes fitness fun. Diverting from your usual walking route to check out a house under construction provides extra interest and motivation. Deciding last minute to walk to lunch, instead of driving allows sunlight to boost your energy and mood. A simple walking the dog can become an interval training workout. Create a game you can play while at the park or beach with friends. Make up a scoring system, start a round-robin tournament, set up goal-posts using sticks or picnic tables. Before you know it, everyone will be chiming in to determine the game rules. Creativity with your healthy living adds spontaneity, go with it; be open to where it leads you!

Shouting, laughing and singing as you’re active is invigorating! Exercise doesn’t always have to be so serious. Having a sense of humor makes it more enjoyable…for everyone. Smiling is okay!

Full body moves are way more interesting. Climbing on a jungle-gym requires both arms, both legs and core muscles. Swinging requires arms holding on while kicking legs to create momentum. Playing handball against the backboard requires bending arms and legs, rotating our torso, running to retrieve the ball. Pulling on the ropes and bars means all of our muscles have to work together. Full body moves like Squat/Press and Lunge/Bicep Curl are great go-to total body exercises.

Exercise opportunities are everywhere. Bending, twisting, hopping, bouncing, twirling. Ever notice how a group of kids simply cannot sit still? As adults, we tend to only sit still. Stop it! Standing in line? Do heel and toe raises. Stuck in traffic? Pinch your shoulder blades together and pull your belly button in for 30 second intervals. Waiting for an appointment? Walk around the building.

Kids can teach us lots about adding the fun back into our fitness. Embrace your healthy living efforts as the one time during your day in which you can, have permission to, are able to…relax, enjoy yourself and have some fun moving, twisting, shouting, laughing, dancing, smiling, singing, running, climbing!

Top 10 Toys to Get the Kids Outside by Deb Lowther

Top 10 Toys to Get the Kids Outside

The excitement of Spring is usually enough to lure the kids outside to explore whats been hiding under all that snow for months and see friends that my have been hibernating, but usually that fades in time.

How can you keep the kids inspired to get outside and play?

Keep the kids active is a big part of raising healthy kids, and keeping them excited about being outdoors is easier with a few key toys that will motivate them to play and inspire them to be active for hours.  No need to spend lots of money, just a few items that will spark their imaginations and encourage free play and maybe entice the neighbourhood kids to join in.

1. Ball
Any ball. Every ball. Soccer ball, tennis ball, basketball, volleyball, football, bouncy ball, super ball. There is no end of games that can be played – with friends or even on their own – when you have a ball around.

2. Soft Frisbee
Hard Frisbees can hurt a bit if you don’t catch it the first ten times and can be a bit trickier to throw to an intended target. Try a softer, lighter fabric version or rubber Frisbee for lots of distance and fun friends.

3. Kite
Go fly a kite is still the best advice you can give a kid that says “I’m bored.” They come in all shapes, sizes and colours; you can even get creative and make your own kite with a little string, plastic bags and masking tape. Best to try flying on days with a little wind, but you don’t have to tell the kids that right away!

4. Velcro Mitt/Ball Set
A must for all aspiring baseball players. The Velcro makes it an easier game of catch for little ones and saves running after balls for those just learning.

5. Bean Bag/Ring Toss
Simple yet fun and a great game to improve aim, balance and co-ordination. Make it challenging by moving targets farther away, standing on one foot or try it blind folded!

6. Skipping Ropes
They are not just for the girls. Skipping ropes can be used as a bar for limbo challenges, tied to trees or hoops for all kinds of new games and make a great rope for tying friends together and having an old fashioned 3 legged race.

7. Slip n slide
A little dish soap, a runway and some water and you have yourself an afternoon of wet and wild fun. Who doesn’t love a slip and slide?

8. Pogo stick
Just as fun as you remember and a great learning curve for kids as they try to master the balancing and see how many jumps they can do before falling off. A great toy for kids of all ages as they come in different weights and sizes for toddlers to teens.

9. Hula hoops
When was the last time you tried to hula hoop? Its not that easy! Kids seem to grasp it quickly though and soon are hula-ing 2 or 3 hoops around their waist and one on their arm as they do cart wheels.  Or they make a great target for a bean bag toss game too!

10. Sidewalk Chalk
An oldie but a goodie. Kids can draw any play ground they want. Hop scotch, a starting and finish line for a foot race, an obstacle course, a mini village or chalking their next great work of art.  Sidewalk chalk has endless possibilities.

Not only would I encourage all of these toys for the kids, but for you as well!  Get your own set of wheels and get out there and get active with the kids. Enjoy the warm weather, sunshine and some belly laughs while getting active as a family.  Happy Spring!

Deb Lowther is a mother of 3 tween daughters who, when not running after the kids, is running in the trails. She contributes Family Health articles to many websites and magazines and ensures her own family has fun while eating healthy & staying active.  Find more inspiring tips on her website, Facebook, and in her new column Family on the Run over on Erica Ehm’s YummyMummyClub.  Follow Deb on Twitter @Deb_Lowther.

Spring Clean your Shopping List by Deb Lowther

Healthy Eating – Time to Spring Clean Your Shopping List

There is an interesting correlation between what we buy at the grocery store and what we eat.  It turns out if we buy bags of cookies and bottles of fruit punch, that is what we will ultimately find to eat and drink when hunger and thirst hits.  If we stock the pantry with sugary cereals and packaged muffins, that is what our kids will choose for breakfast and snack time. It makes sense then that by changing up our shopping habits – just a little – that  we can increase the chances of our family eating healthier.

This Spring, give your shopping list and grocery cart a makeover and choose wisely when staring at the options on store shelves.  By tweaking what you already buy and reaching for the healthier version of family favorites, you can improve everyone’s eating habits.

Spring Clean Your Shopping List – Top 20 Healthy Buys

Buy real fruit NOT fruit snacks, leathers or fruit cups

Buy fresh or frozen vegetables NOT canned

Buy whole grain bread, bagels and wraps NOT white bread

Buy cheddar cheese NOT cheese slices

Buy natural peanut butter NOT hydrogenated oil peanut butter

Buy maple syrup NOT artificial syrup

Buy granola bars based on protein content NOT chocolate and marshmallow content

Buy these oats and NOT prepackaged just-add-water oatmeal

Buy whole grain pasta NOT artificially flavoured just-add water packages

Buy skinless chicken breasts NOT battered wings

Buy lean ground turkey NOT hamburger

Buy real fish fillets NOT battered sticks in a box

Buy tuna packed in water NOT oil

Buy plain milk NOT premixed chocolate milk

Buy full fat or greek yogurt NOT aspartame, flavoured and coloured tubes

Buy whole grain cereal low sugar NOT coloured fruity, chocolate o’s

Buy 100% juice NOT punch, cocktails or anything labeled a sport drink

Buy real potatoes NOT canned, flaked or boxed

Buy almonds, dried fruit and plain whole grain cereal for on-the-go snacks NOT shaped crackers

Buy ingredients to make healthy muffins & cookies NOT pre packaged and processed ones

This Spring change a few of your shopping habits and fill your grocery cart with healthier options and your family will enjoy the benefits of healthier eating!

Deb Lowther is a mother of 3 young daughters who, when not running after the kids, is running in the trails. She contributes Family Health articles to many websites and magazines and ensures her own family has fun while eating healthy & staying active.  Find more inspiring tips on her website and follow her on both Twitter @Deb_Lowther and Pinterest.

Stay Active this Winter by Deb Lowther

Having a list handy of nearby indoor family activities that everyone will enjoy is the key to surviving our long cold winter.

Find Indoor Fun for the Whole Family

Beach Volleyball
In the winter? Why not. One location, North Beach Indoor Beach Volleyball in Toronto gives the illusion of tropical surroundings while your bare feet sink into the sand!  There is also a rock wall and a 20 foot blow up obstacle course that will have all ages (even parents) working up a sweat in no time.

Rock Climbing
Kids as young as 4 can join their parents at rock climbing gyms for climbing or a bouldering which is climbing a wall with no ropes or harness.  It really is fun for the whole family, and quite the arm workout.

Roller Skating
The kids all have roller blades and have all mastered ice skating so why not give old fashioned roller skating a try?

Give the kids a long stick and tell them to whack at a small ball. Get your swing warmed up at a local indoor golf simulator or play a family favorite game of glow in the dark mini putt.

Trampoline Park
They are popping up everywhere. Bounce from trampoline to trampoline and challenge each other with crazy jumps into the giant sponge pit. You can LITERALLY jump off the walls or perfect your jump shot with a basketball while taking off from a trampoline floor!

Check out family swims at your local community pool and maybe even buy a seasons pass to make the most of your splash time on cold winter days.

Recreation Center/Open Gym
Many communities have Recreation centers boasting open gym times and provide soccer balls, basketballs, hula hoops, ride on toys and more.

Deb Lowther is a mother of 3 young daughters who, when not running after the kids, is running in the trails. She ensures her own kids are having fun while being active and eating healthy.  Writing for many website and magazines, Deb’s goal is to inspire others to raise healthy, active families. Follow her on Twitter @Deb_Lowther, and find more healthy tips on her website.

Stay Active this Winter by Deb Lowther

Stay Active This Winter

Baby it’s cold outside!  On days like today when the temperature is dipping below -20 with the wind chill it is smart to stay inside and keep warm, but just because it is winter, is no reason to hibernate completely! When you live where it is cold at least 4 months of the year, you have to embrace winter and get creative to stay active, both indoors and out. Busy kids and an active family is a great thing!

When You Can – Get Outside

If you can get outside – GO OUTSIDE! Make the most of those days when the sun is shining and the snow is calling. Invest in a good pair of snow pants and warm boots and play with the kids outside. Check out the park in the winter, make snow forts and look into all kinds of winter sports your family may not have tried yet.

Ice Skating on a Pond
Don’t settle for public skate at the local arena. Look around your area or drive a bit to find a hidden gem like a frozen pond or outdoor skating rink.  Go to Ottawa for a family weekend and enjoy the 7km skate on the Rideau Canal or visit Arrowhead and their magical outdoor 1.5km loop through the trees. Don’t skate? Learn!!

Snow Tubing
This winter Snow Tubing is making our Must Do List. Lots of ski hills offer tubing open to the public and the whole family can link up their tubes for fun runs down the hill.

Outdoor Swimming
There is nothing quite like swimming outside while it is snowing. Look for local hotels that boast an indoor/outdoor pool or trek to Collingwood for their Plunge pool that has water slides, a swinging rope and a giant hot tub outside with a huge pool and toddler play area inside.

Kids love skiing.  Get your family out to a small local ski hill and take lessons together. Have kids in Gr 4 or 5? They qualify for free skiing across Canada when you apply for a SnowPass.

No excuses parents.  Put those snow pants to use and get on the toboggan with the kids. Tobogganing is just as fun as you remember!

Dress warm and pack homemade muffins and hot chocolate for break time and go visit your favorite summer hiking trail and see how different it looks in the winter.

While it will be difficult to find hidden treasure under a few feet of snow on the ground, be sure to get out geocaching if there is a winter thaw.  Kids love the hunt and the cold temps won’t bother them if you bundle up.

Kids of all ages can strap on a pair of funky shoes and hit the snow!  Give snow shoeing a try by renting first and hitting the trails.

Deb Lowther is a mother of 3 young daughters who, when not running after the kids, is running in the trails. She ensures her own kids are having fun while being active and eating healthy.  Writing for many website and magazines, Deb’s goal is to inspire others to raise healthy, active families. Follow her on Twitter @Deb_Lowther, and find more healthy tips on her website.

MORE Fall Foods to Try by Deb Lowther

MORE fall foods to try, and fall in love with! Choose a new food to prepare each week.


Round, small and purple, the turnip is often confused with the rutabaga (or the rutabaga is confused with a turnip) either way, these winter wonders are harsh tasting to some and yummy to others.  Experiment and if nothing works they are great pureed and slipped into quiche, casseroles and soups.
Meal Ideas: Turnip can be grilled, sautéed, roasted or eaten raw but are commonly boiled in water with a potato to remove any bitter taste then enjoyed mashed on their own or with your favorite spices. Can be mixed with mashed carrots for a colourful Autumn dish.

The sweet partner to the turnip and root vegetable family, parsnips have a nutty flavour, are loaded with folate and fibre and look like over grown white carrots.
Meal Ideas: Wash and peel if skin in thick, then chop and cook in soups and casseroles, roast in oven or cut length wise to make yummy parsnip fries.

Dates, or date palms, grow on long strands in palm like trees in hot climates and are harvested in the Fall. This sweet fruit is high in fibre, antioxidants, potassium and iron and is very versatile.
Meal Ideas: Large dates can be stuffed with blue cheese, goat cheese or melon, wrapped in prosciutto  and served as an appetizer, eaten as is for a sweet treat or ground with rolled oats to make these no bake, nut free Chocolate Power Balls that even the kids will love.

Thanksgiving and turkey dinners have made the cranberry a staple fruit in the Fall but their good for you nutritional profile suggests we should be eating these more often.
Meal Ideas: Cranberries add a sweet and slightly tart flavour to any baking and dried cranberries are perfect in these instant oatmeal packs for quick breakfast on the go.

Experiment at with these and more Fall foods at the grocery and get the whole family to try something new. You just might find a new favorite for your warm Autumn meals.

Deb Lowther is a mother of 3 young daughters who, when not running after the kids, is running in the trails. She ensures her own kids are having fun while being active and eating healthy.  Writing for many website and magazines, Deb’s goal is to inspire others to raise healthy, active families. Follow her on Twitter @Deb_Lowther, and find more healthy tips on her website

Fall Foods your Family Should Try by Deb Lowther

Fall is a great time to explore the fruits and vegetable aisles at the grocery store or farmers market; so many varieties of squashes and colourful root vegetables await discovery.  Not to mention the cooler days mean the perfect opportunity to add Fall veggies to soups, stews, slow cookers and roasting pans.

So many squashes to choose from: green ones, yellow ones, round ones, long ones and so many different flavours.  Try them all.  Spaghetti squash is scooped out with a fork after it is cooked and creates spaghetti like strands, hence its name.  Butternut and acorn squash are the more traditional orange squash full of beta carotene.
Meals Ideas: Top spaghetti squash with your favorite spaghetti sauce and you have an alternative to noodle night.  Cook, puree and add squash to soups with roasted garlic or this macaroni and cheese recipe – kids will love it!

We go apple picking every Fall but this year I did something a little extra.  I purchased 8 different varieties of apples and the whole family did a taste test at the kitchen table of all the apple varieties and guess what? After 9 years of eating Gala apples we all found a new favorite – Honey Crisp!
Meal Ideas: Apples go great with pork in the slow cooker, green apple in your curry and apples and apple sauce are perfect for baking in everything from these Chocolate Zucchini Cookies to this overnight slow cooker oatmeal or use apple chips in these apple cinnamon granola bars.

Sweet Potato
Versatile and healthier than regular white potatoes, especially when eaten with the skin on, make the sweet potato a valuable addition to your weekly vegetable rotation.
Meal Ideas: Boiled, roasted, mashed, baked whole or as fries, the options are almost endless. Peeled, cooked and pureed sweet potato can be added to soups, stews, sauces and adds great colour and flavour to hummus for dipping.

Such a funky fruit once you peel back the layers and a good source of potassium, fibre and Vitamin C but how do you get at all those seeds? A request to buy a pomegranate from one of the kids, a lesson on how to slice then peel back the skin to form wedges similar to an orange from the internet, and we are now a pomegranate eating family.
Meal Ideas: Pick seeds out of wedges and eat as is or sprinkle on salads, cereal or morning oatmeal for a sweet crunch.

Brussel Sprouts
You either love ‘em or hate ‘em but you can’t deny these mini members of the cabbage family are good for you.
Meal Ideas: They can be sliced and eaten raw in a salad or steamed whole as a side dish. If you are not a fan, try slow roasting them in the oven with a little extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar for a new flavour and give them another try.

Deb Lowther is a mother of 3 young daughters who, when not running after the kids, is running in the trails. She ensures her own kids are having fun while being active and eating healthy.  Writing for many website and magazines, Deb’s goal is to inspire others to raise healthy, active families. Follow her on Twitter @Deb_Lowther, and find more healthy tips on her website