Kick the Fall Allergy Crud, Stay in the Game with #MinuteClinic

Living in warm climate has its advantages and disadvantages when it comes to running and exercising outdoors. I really love the fact that it’s nearly November and it’s in the 80s, sunny and breezy– but with that beautiful weather comes an extended fall allergy season. Fall is the worst season for allergies sufferers; there are more allergy triggers than any other time of the year. Typically, weed pollens (like the 17 varieties of ragweed) and mold spores peak in the autumn months as do other irritants like dust mites (yuck). This pesky problem is nothing to sneeze – or, actually it is!  Austin Sunset in October / Middle School Football

Sniffing and snuffing in the stands puts a damper on watching my kid’s football games, and I know my boys don’t like to be out there on the gridiron feeling all gunked up.    Thank goodness we have a MinuteClinic at the corner of our neighborhood to help make a quick diagnosis between cold, flu and allergies and to provide the treatments needed to stay in the game.

text to mom about allergies and minuteclinic

Seasonal fall allergies can even take a toll on my indoor workouts – for example, we open the garage doors on both sides of my CrossFit gym to get the air circulating. When the air starts circulating, the allergens get their groove on. But, it’s too hot to close the doors with no gym air-conditioning, so we all suffer and #UseAllTheTissues until swinging by MinuteClinic for relief. minute-clinic-allergy-gym

Practical tips can help reduce allergies, as well. For example, at home (unlike my gym!) don’t leave windows open during the day and avoid the use of a window fan – both will fast track unwanted pollens and mold spores into your home.  Be mindful to clean and change air filters every three months to lessen the amount of dirt, debris, and allergens that invade your space. Also, shake out pillows, blankets and other bedding between frequent washes and don’t go to sleep after being outdoors without washing your hair (allergens get trapped in there too).

minute clinic waiting room 2

If you or your kids need over-the-counter or prescription medications in your allergy-fighting “toolkit,” MinuteClinic is a convenient solution to get you feeling like a champ again. This walk-in clinic located inside select CVS Pharmacies and Target Stores across the U.S. and the District of Columbia has nurse practitioners and physician assistants who can give you a good look over and recommend the right over-the-counter medications and even write prescriptions when medically appropriate.  Minute Clinic is open 7 days a week with both weekday and evening hours – and, most health care insurance is accepted. Find a MinuteClinic near you!  Also visit Twitter feed or Facebook page.

Also, pick up a J&J coupon book when you visit your nearest MinuteClinic and save up to $40 on brands you can trust!

Do you or your kids have seasonal allergies? Do you have any tips? Do you have a box of tissues in your car right now? Haha! Please share in the comments below – XOXO, Jennifer 

5 Ways to Get Teens’ Taste Buds to Grow Up + Visa GC Giveaway

Even though my family eats (mostly) a healthy diet, I’ve been encouraging my teenagers to break their monotonous meal preferences and try new dishes with exciting flavors. As they move through high school and college there are so many diverse and cultural eating experiences that will be missed (along with a wider array of nutrients) if they are dead set on having turkey meatballs, plain brown rice and an undressed salad for dinner (an all-too-common menu). That’s why I was excited to hear how Birds Eye Veggies is on a mission to redefine the way we all eat our vegetables with their Birds Eye® Flavor Full line of bold and exciting veggies that can be enjoyed as a side dish or the main course!  Keep reading down to the end of the post for the Gift Card Giveaway.

Birds Eye Flavor Full Veggies - Buffalo Cauliflower

This got me to thinking. Can picky eating-children change, or do they just grow up into adults who are ultra finicky about their food? There are valid reasons why a young child may avoid certain foods at all costs — did someone say “temper tantrum”?!  Factors that contribute to a picky eater include all the legitimate sensory things you’d connect with food aversions like texture, temperature, taste and flavor. Picky eating is also encouraged by parental response as well as peer pressure when kids get a little older. Allergies, too, can play a welcomed defensive role in picky eating, a way your body tells you to say away from a certain harmful food – but I won’t get into that here.

I believe that with the right opportunities and encouragement, most kids can join the adult world of eating as they move into their ‘tween, teens and early twenties. One reason is that as we age, taste buds dwindle away from an average of 10,000 working taste buds in small kids to only 5,000 in adults – simply put, things start tasting less intense and we naturally seek out more flavor. To support this, a 2005 study published in the Pediatrics journal reports that most children do not like bitter tastes (often found in vegetables), while adults do not find offense.

Birds Eye Flavor Full Vegetables

Always funny or philosophical, this kiddo says “Potatoes are the ‘gateway’ vegetable”

Another interesting study conducted in 2012 at the University of Copenhagen reported that when children move into their teens, they have a decreased interest in sugary tastes and a higher sophistication to distinguish between tastes – however, they are often more resistant to trying new foods than toddlers! This is why, we as parents, need to set a good example by eating a balanced diet filled with a variety of colorful, nutrient-dense whole foods.

Here are some tips to encourage the teenagers in your family to become veggie lovers and also try out other exciting new flavors. Of course, if your teen is not eating because of control issues, an eating disorder, real or perceived allergies or other concerning reasons, please see a medical professional as soon as possible.

5 ways to get your teen's taste buds grown up

  • Get teens cooking: Not only does teaching your older children how to prepare meals create self-sufficiency; it also creates a more adventurous attitude about eating as they master various skills.
  • Host international night: Once a month, prepare a meal that features cuisine from a different culture – for example, Indian, Korean, Thai, or Italian (no pizza!). To keep everyone happy, every family member gets to select one recipe to be included on the menu, but has to eat at least three bites of every other dish. Have them invite a friend over who may just announce “ooh, I love curry” – and suddenly your son or daughter will too!
  • Focus on vegetable variety: As teens lose their taste for sugar (allegedly it’s a real thing!), support their savory side with more and more vegetables. Look past buttered green beans and toward more exotic or bold tastes, like Buffalo Cauliflower! Filling up your plate with a rainbow of vegetables is the easiest and tastiest way to optimize health, in my opinion.
  • Educate and relate: Share online resources for healthy and clean eating with your children. Older kids are smart enough to understand that eating vegetables and a variety of foods is best, but are sneaky when it comes to actually eating what you serve – just think of all the Brussels sprouts “dropped” on the floor or yogurt and berry parfaits swapped for pink cupcakes at lunch. I always share the story of how I traded my celery, peanut butter and raisin “ants on a log” for Ding Dongs at lunch and quickly lost my get-up-and-go for gymnastics practice in the afternoon.
  • Role model without pushing: No one likes a pea pusher, and even worse so if it’s your own mother or father. With most teens, realize that the more you “strongly suggest” you eat your vegetables or try new dishes, the more likely they are to rebel by absolutely doing the opposite. They are teens, they will come around – just keep the message honest yet low-key, the most important thing you can do is be a role model for clean eating.

Birds Eye Flavor Full Veggies - Buffalo Cauliflower

As I hinted, I’ve been using Birds Eye Vegetables in my covert parental plan to encourage my teens to embrace new foods. The line of Birds Eye® Flavor Full vegetables transforms plain veggies with bold and on-trend flavors – it makes eating healthy side dishes so much fun. Plus, I love the convenience of the Steamfresh packaging – you just heat up in the microwave right in the bag. When my kids are making dinner, having one less dish to clean up is a major selling point! The unexpected but utterly delicious flavors include Buffalo Cauliflower, Ranch Broccoli, Sour Cream & Onion Potatoes, Teriyaki Broccoli, Barbecue Sweet Corn, Sweet Chili Carrots, Wasabi Peas and Fiesta Lime Corn.  Check here for a product locator.

Head over and get a $1.00 off coupon that is good for 30 days once downloaded (but must be used by 12/31/2015).

Win a $25 Visa Gift Card at TheFitFork.comEnter to win my giveaway for a $25 Visa Gift Card — you can spend it on vegetables for your teens, or whatever you please. Although I really hope you get some cauliflower and beets!

Follow the Rafflecopter app directions to enter now through Dec 9th.

 

 

 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Pre Season Tips for Student Athletes #HealthyStart

taking kids to the gym

I’ve always kept my boys ready for fall season sports by taking them to the gym during the summer.

School is starting in a few weeks and, in addition to academics, my family with three teen boys is gearing up for a jam-packed fall season of sports. For the last several years, my husband and I have been switching gym memberships in the summer to one that will allow children over 10 to come in and workout alongside their parents.  This has offered us a chance to keep everyone in decent shape during the hot, hot summers here where, out of necessity, spend too much time indoors in the air-conditioning reading and playing video games.

Remember to have children hydrate properly for sports played in hot weather.It’s not a good idea to let your child go from reduced activity in the summer to hard-core training in the late summer sun once school starts. While bodies do benefit from a little extra rest in the off-season, athletes who ignore working out in the summer will not only be huffing and puffing during sprints but are putting their bodies at risk for muscles strains, tendonitis and heat exhaustion or worse.  Experts say that most sports injuries that happen in the early weeks of a sports season are from a lack of pre-season training.

Here are some Pre Season Sports Tips I’ve put together to make sure that your student athlete (middle school, high school and college) is taking measures to have a safe and successful season.

Follow these pre season tips for student athletes to ensure a safe and successful sports career.

In addition to pre-season training, it’s also important to ensure your student athlete has been given a clean bill of health before stepping onto the playing field  — in fact, most school-sponsored teams and league sports required that parents bring in signed paperwork as proof that their child has had a recent physical. Even if your child’s sports organization doesn’t require a check-up, it’s still a good idea to be seen by a medical professional before the season start to review immunization records, discuss any health and safety concerns, and be proactive about any unexpected problems.

Stepping up to the start line at a fall cross country meet takes months of pre-season training.

On your mark, get set, go! Get ready for fall season sports with pre-season training and a physical.

MinuteClinic at CVS Pharmacy is a convenient way to take care of kids’ sports physicals without the hassle and wait time of trying to make a last-minute appointment with a pediatrician. No appointment is needed to see a medical professional – the young athlete is in and out quickly, seen by a qualified medical professional, and supplied with everything needed to ensure practice starts on day one (trust me, it’s so embarrassing to sit on the bench for the first week of school while mom gets the paperwork thing sorted out).

MinuteClinic can also get students current on their vaccines and immunizations. I figured my oldest son who is 18 years old and heading off to college later this month was long done with vaccinations – but I found out that most colleges now require meningitis and pertussis (whooping cough) shots before the first day of class.  Click on the links to find out your state’s requirements for meningitis and pertussis immunizations.

MinuteClinic is offering $10 off a sports physical from now until 9/7/15 and a FREE Johnson & Johnson coupon book with $29 worth of savings! Check the store locator to find the nearest MinuteClinic in your area.

What sports do your kids play . .. or what were your athletic endeavors as a child?  I was on the gymnastics team until 10th grade! Please share in the comments below – XOXO Jennifer 

I have received promotional consideration from MinuteClinic and Johnson & Johnson Consumer Inc. All opinions are my own.

#ReadySetCamp – Avoid Pesky Summer Camp Problems

Sunburn, poisonous plants and insect bites can all be pesky problems of camping -- MinuteClinic and CVS Pharmacy can help you out summer!

I’ve relied on MinuteClinic (at CVS Pharmacy) to give my kids the requisite check-over that is required for camp physicals. It’s just so easy to drop into one of the many CVS Pharmacy locations to secure a camp physical without the wait and ordeal of scheduling with your regular pediatrician.  Without an appointment, the nurse practitioners and/or physicians assistants will review your child’s health and immunization history, perform a through physical, and complete and stamp paperwork – just remember to bring relevant health information and requisite forms required by the camp. These medical professionals can also recommend the right over-the-counter treatments and, if appropriate, write prescriptions to help treat many of the common woes of summer.

william archer camp

Speaking of summer woes, there are some little minor medical issues that can happen to your child while away at camp. Don’t fret, there will be trained medical personnel on hand at camp to handle these pesky summer problems – however, it’s still a good idea to educate your child before he or she heads off to camp.

poison oak

Poison Ivy & Oak: Show your children how to spot this nasty rash-making plant. Poison ivy has three pointed leaves that can grow as a bush or vine and changes colors with the season – in the summer, the leaves are green! Poison Oak also grows as a bush or vine and has three leaves shaped in lobes that resemble the leaves on a traditional oak tree. Sumac is also a poisonous plant, it has seven to 12 leaves per stem and grows on a small tree in wet, wooded areas. Teach preventative measures – instruct your children to cover up with long sleeves, pants, socks and closed-toe shoes when out in overgrown, brushy areas. If contact is made with a poisonous plant, exposed skin, hands and under fingernails should be washed with soap and water or rubbing alcohol immediately. If a rash is going to happen, it will usually start in about 10 minutes.

Bug Bites and Stings: Bees, wasps, mosquitos and no-see-ums, along with a host of other flying, crawling critters are just waiting to take a little bite of your sweetie if he or she isn’t properly protected. Before leaving for camp, show your child how to safely apply insect repellent (please use organic or 50% DEET or less) by avoiding eyes, mouth, scrapes and irritated skin. When applying to the face and neck, it’s best to spray a bit into palms of hands and then carefully rub in – remembering to wash hands afterward.

Sunburn: This is always the biggest issue for my kids who hate to use sunscreen – but I insist, not only because of the painful redness and possible blistering, but also the long-term health consequences.  Remind your kids before they go to camp to “grease up” before any and all outdoor activities.  I’ve found that bringing them along to CVS Pharmacy and letting them help pick out the sunscreen type (like lotion or spray) while educating them in the process has been a pretty effective way to get them to follow through with application. Also, I teach them the general measure of UV exposure – a shadow longer than body means exposure low while a shadow shorter means exposure is high.  Pack enough full-coverage clothing for them, along with a brimmed hat and UV-proof swim shirt to minimize exposure.

minute clinicSo, head on over to the walk-in MinuteClinic at your neighborhood CVS pharmacy for those last-minute camp physicals. You’ll be in and out in no time and you can pick up all those last-minute camp essentials (repellant, sunscreen, bandages, lip balm, flashlights and more).  And, after camp or anytime through the summer, swing in to have those minor summer problems checked out — bug bites, sunburns, poison ivy and more.

So are where are your kids heading to camp this summer?  I loved horseback riding – do you remember your favorite activity from camp?  Please share in the comments! XOXO Jennifer

 

 

Kids’ Night in the Kitchen – Gluten-Free Mac & Cheese Two Ways!

Horizon Gluten Free Organic White Mac & Cheese Two Ways - TheFitFork.comIn my perfect world, I’d be making pasta from scratch, growing veggies out in the garden and serving up meals on a magazine-spread worthy tablescape.   But as a mom to three boys juggling roles as writer, blogger, wife, athlete, cooking coach, laundry slinger and non-stop chauffer, this isn’t my season for such leisurely pursuits. Some day, some day.  In the meantime, I rely on a number of quality conveniences to tackle my to-do list – one of my favorites is making the kids macaroni and cheese FROM A BOX! Of course, it’s not any ole box, its Horizon Gluten-Free Macaroni & White Cheddar Cheese, a product I know I can trust and count on to perform time and time again. Featuring organic pasta from a blend of rice, lentil, and corn flour and real Horizon® organic cheese, this mac will satisfy every craving. The texture and taste if fantastic, plus I appreciate the fact that each serving has 10 grams of protein to help fill up the hollow-legged “hangries” these boys always have.

Organic Gluten Free White Mac & Cheese from Horizon - TheFitFork.comAnd, drum roll please, mac and cheese is such a staple at Chez Fisher that my older two kids even know how to make it BY THEMSELVES. Yeah, that’s right, I’ve passed down this tasty task to each of the little (well, actually BIG) munchers sometime in middle school and it was ABOUT TIME!  What a relief to know that if I’m running late on a carpool duty or have a late appointment, that one of the kiddos can get the meal started.

While we still have gains to make on the breadth of their kitchen skills, they are improving week by week.  When I’m not home, one cooks and the other washes the dishes – and the youngest just s tands by to give morale support critiques. One way I’ve helped make kitchen-time fun is to let the boys be creative with recipes and give them ownership of the meal-making.. Gluten Free Mac & Cheese with Meatball and Marinara - TheFitFork.com

For example, whipping up a hearty batch of Horizon Gluten-Free Macaroni & White Cheddar Cheese  topped with meatballs and marinara was a popular meal that’s been done time and time again. Again, it’s a meal they can make all on their own as the meatballs are the frozen ones that reheat in the microwave and the sauce is out of a jar — shhh! Carrot and Snap Pea Mac and Cheese - TheFitFork.com

Another mac and cheese meal that happens over here actually has vegetables – Carrots and Snap Pea Mac & Cheese!  Again, this is a “no recipe” recipe, just make the Horizon Gluten-Free Macaroni & White Cheddar Cheese  and mix in lightly steamed matchstick carrots (about ½ cup) and halved sugar snap peas (about ½ cup). Since my kids are older, I don’t have to “hide” vegetables, they’ll eat what is served  — although, maybe not going back for seconds. However, I noticed that if I let them pick a couple veggies to mix into mac & cheese, there’s not a scrap left in the pot –veggie goodness coated in creamy, cheesy deliciousness is always a winner.   I was secretly hoping that they’d mix last summer’s green chiles and calabeza squash I have stored in the freezer – but, lets’ not push it. Maybe next time some colorful bell peppers?!   Boy with Bell Peppers - Let Kids Choose Veggies

Find out more about Horizon Gluten-Free Macaroni & White Cheddar Cheese and their other delicious, family friendly products by following them on Twitter, Facebook , or the Mealtime Solutions Board on Pinterest.

So, what would YOU mix into mac & cheese?

This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of Horizon Organics. The opinions and text are all mine.

“So Nutty” Slow Cooker Snack Mix Recipe

Nut and Cereal party mix made in crock potRoad tripping it today, needed something yummy for the eldest teenage son and his grandfather to nibble on as we drive off to a college visit. Snack mix, Chex mix, party mix . . . .or, whatever you like to call it is always a big hit with the guys at my house. If seen entire bags of these crunchy munchies devoured for after school snacks, late night study breaks and during football games.

Making this perennial party mix at home is always better, in my opinion, because the ingredients can be controlled. For example, I believe butter is better for you than the vegetable oils in the name brand mix. And, I like to add a lot of nuts – the more the better, it adds that protein you need for longer-lasting energy. Butter, nuts, salt and such – remember, this isn’t a “diet” food, but you can enjoy it in moderation.

win me slow cookerImagine my surprise to find out that you can make snack mix in the slow cooker?! Initially I didn’t believe it would, but I whipped up my own recipe for “So Nutty” Slow Cooker Snack Mix and it worked, it totally worked!  This is a good time to remind you that I’m giving away a slow cooker —  check out the giveaway post and the recipe for Honey Balsamic Slow Cooker Chicken!

 

Okay, so a few comments on the snack mix recipe – the biggest “must tell” is that you can really swap out any ingredient for your favorite cereal, nut or other mix-in. It’s just important to get the ratios right for the butter mixture to be enough  – you’ll need about 8 cups of total volume made up of dry crunchy things and nuts. I used loads of nuts AND  Love Grown Food’s Power Os – that cereal is made partially out of a bean blend (navy, lentil and garbanzo), so you get even more protein! And, I also tossed in some Harvest Snaps Snapea Crisps!

Snack Party Mix made in Crock Pot

“So Nutty” Slow Cooker Snack Mix Recipe

  • 3 cups cereal (I used Love Grown Food’s Power Os)
  • 2 cups small crackers like oyster, Goldfish, Mini Ritz, or pretzels
  • 3 cups mixed nuts (the more types, the better!)
  • ½ cup butter (or oil of choice)
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 teaspoon Cavender’s All-Purpose Greek Seasoning (or your favorite)
  1. Mix together cereal, crackers and mixed nuts in 4-qt or larger slow cooker.
  2. Melt butter in small saucepan over medium heat. Whisk in Worcestershire sauce and seasoning.
  3. Pour butter mixture over cereal; stir well to evenly coat.
  4. Cook uncovered on high setting for about 60 minutes, stirring frequently. Turn slow cooker to low setting and cook, stirring frequently, for an additional 30 – 45 minutes or until cereal is crisping. Remember to stir!
  5. Remove party mix from slow cooker and cool on baking sheet. Store in zip-top bag.
  6. Makes 16 one-half cup servings.

cooking light snack mixIf you are looking for more snack mix recipes, Cooking Light has a selection of both sweet and savory snack mixes that are big in taste, low in calories and high in fiber.

 

What is your favorite ingredient to put into a snack mix?