5 Vegetarian Foods To Boost Immunity

>> Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Over the last half a year, I’ve been sick more times than I can count. And I’ve probably had a bug more times in this short period than in the last five years combined. Some friends and family have commented on my predicament, and the best I can do is explain that this first year of exposure to germs through preschool is kicking our butts. I highly underestimated how crazy things can get when you leave that bubble of being at home most of the time.

Rather than dwell on the misfortunate of having 18 other kids (their siblings, their families, etc.) and their sniffles and fevers to worry about, I’m being proactive. Diet has a powerful impact on how our bodies operate and deal with germs and sickness. So, I’m incorporating more and more immune-boosting foods into our everyday lives. The next time we get a letter saying we’ve been exposed to STREP or something else, I’ll take a deep breath and know at least we’re doing all we can do to prevent the worst from festering.


Yogurt


I’ve been meaning to write more about our dairy intake these days. Yogurt is one of those foods we always have on hand, though the exact type changes from week to week. We’ll do plain non-fat, Greek, Icelandic style, etc. All for those probiotics that keep the gut and intestinal tract happy. I spent a good part of my life hating yogurt, so if you have trouble with the taste or texture, try adding it to a smoothie.

I also love kefir, which is a yogurt-like beverage you can find at most stores. Get this: We can even get a delicious kefir at our local Aldi on the cheap. (Here’s more about shopping at Aldi.) The name comes from the Turkish word "keif" which means good feeling. In the bottle, you’ll unlock probiotics, calcium, tryptophan (making it a great before bed treat), protein, B vitamins, and even phosphorus.

Oats


Ada loves eating “mush” each morning, so we’ve gotten into quite an oats habit over here. And it’s a good thing, since oats contain tons of soluble fiber that lowers cholesterol and helps to fight inflammation. In a study conducted by the University of Illinois, lab rats were fed diets with different fiber content (soluble versus insoluble) and then injected with illness. Those rats who ate the soluble fiber diets recovered from sickness 50 percent faster than the others. Impressive findings.

Garlic


I remember several years back when taking garlic pills was all the rage. It may still be a popular supplement, but adding garlic to your diet has some major benefits. It’s actually an immunity-boosting superstar! Why? Well -- along with calcium and potassium -- it contains 100 sulfuric compounds that work to wipe out bacteria and infection. Chives, leeks, onions, and shallots have similar benefits -- so add these guys to your cooking routine for better health. Plus, it just tastes good.

Sweet Potatoes


I’ll admit I had some sweet potato fatigue -- especially when they became a staple of the most popular diets around these days. But we’re adding them back to our weekly cart because (fad or not), they pack some major nutrition. Sweet potatoes contain phytonutrient beta carotene, which your body turns into vitamin A -- fighting off infection and bolstering the immune system. Pumpkins and carrots pack a similar punch, but sweet potatoes also contain a nice dose of vitamin C.

Miso


Just like kefir, miso is one of those living cultured foods with innumerable benefits for the immune system. Fermented foods -- like miso, kefir, kimchee, sauerkraut, etc. -- increase antibodies and create antioxidants to fight off free radicals. Not only that, they also help with digestion. Now, when you’re purchasing these foods, you want to make sure they aren’t pasteurized or processed, which basically kills off all the benefit. The same goes with using in cooking. For example, if you’re making miso soup, don’t boil the miso (it will kill the good stuff). Instead, simmer it to help release all the good enzymes.

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I’ll be back someday soon with some recipes that incorporate these ingredients. But I’d love to know what you’ve done to keep your family’s immune systems strong during cold and flu season. We also take multivitamins and try to get in lots of greens and other fruits and veggies. I’ve noticed a huge number of pluses since I started my green smoothie routine again. Here are some tips of blending the best green smoothie ever. I’m off to make mine now . . .

Happy Wednesday!

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Freshening Up with Cat’s Pride

>> Tuesday, March 3, 2015


I know a lot of you have cats like we do. I actually can’t believe how long Scully has been a part of the family. I found her at the SPCA almost 10 years ago the month after I graduated from college. Rivey came several years later when one of Stephen’s coworkers found a litter of kittens in the barn behind her house. I never saw myself as someone with a multi-pet household, it just sort of happened.

At our old house, all the cat stuff was relegated to the basement space. It could be smelly down there because we only bolted down to do quick loads of laundry or to grab things from the upright freezer. Now that we live in a house with a fabulous, mostly finished basement, we’re spending a lot more time in the cats’ domain. And, guys, it smells sometimes. I fixate on it.

Over the past eight or so months since we moved, we have tried basically every cat litter known to man to tame our odor problem. The issues we’ve faced? Ones that don’t clump enough, ones that don’t absorb odors, many others that mask odors with awfully artificial scents (which -- to me -- is so much worse than cat smell). The list goes on. So, when BlogHer offered up a chance to try Cat’s Pride® Fresh & Light® Ultimate Care™, I was both desperate and intrigued.


Up to this point, we hadn’t tried any of the light litters on the market. Honestly, I had assumed they might not work as well because, uh, they’re light. It sounded like a gimmick to me. Like attention put in the wrong area, because with multi-cat households, it’s all about the stink. On top of that, I was really hoping to find an unscented alternative that controlled odors with gusto, and Cat’s Pride boasts a 10-day odor control guarantee.

Here's a little video I made about our cats and trying out Cat’s Pride® Fresh & Light® Ultimate Care™:

Field Notes:

1.) Ultimate Care is different from other lightweight litters because it doesn’t use fillers (paper, wood chips, light density rock, etc.). Instead, it’s made entirely of high absorbing clay, the same kind used to filter impurities out of cooking oils and absorb moisture from major league baseball fields. Pretty neat, huh? And it’s 99.9% dust free, which I noticed right away when pouring it into the box.

2.) As far as the unscented staying fresh: It actually did. Now, I didn’t test the 10-day stench thing to the max, but with routine cleaning (once a day), it stayed fresh. I love how an artificial scent didn’t linger on our family room side of the basement -- all while keeping the kitty odors out as well. (The unscented variety I tried is also hypoallergenic, by the way.)

3.) On top of all this good stuff, the clumps are mega-tight. I hate cleaning the litter box, but when it isn’t as messy a job, it’s much more bearable. The cats appreciate this as well (and I like that the clean litter stays clean so I don’t feel like I’m wasting it all).

Have you guys tried Cat’s Pride Fresh & Light Ultimate Care?

Do you have any tips for sharing space with cats?

Leave a comment below to enter for a chance to win a $100 Visa gift card!

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This giveaway is open to US Residents age 18 or older (or nineteen (19) years of age or older in Alabama and Nebraska). Winners will be selected via random draw, and will be notified by e-mail. The notification email will come directly from BlogHer via the sweeps@blogher email address. You will have 2 business days to respond; otherwise a new winner will be selected.

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Be sure to visit Cat’s Pride brand page on BlogHer.com where you can read other bloggers’ posts!

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Activities For Shut-In Preschoolers

>> Monday, March 2, 2015

A couple years ago, I wrote about a bunch of indoor activities for young toddlers to do during the winter months (or whenever they’re stuck indoors). I can’t believe Ada’s grown so much since then, and -- thought a lot of the stuff is still fun for her -- the list needs some revision and updating.

Still, I encourage you to check out the original post with more details. You can enjoy a lot of the activities without spending much more than your time. Try having a beach party. Or make a quick sensory box. Plan an indoor picnic. Set up all your kid’s animal for a petting zoo. Or have a non-Easter egg hunt.

Now, here are a few ideas for the preschooler crowd.



#1: Quiet Boxes


I haven’t actually made any quiet boxes yet, but I’m obsessed with the idea. Basically, just get a bunch of independent play activities together and separate them by day or whatever system you choose. When your kid isn’t napping or is just getting on the brink of insanity -- pull out a box and let them explore the contents on their own. Independent play has become difficult over here since we’ve been indoors together all.the.time, so we’re working on this one a little more each day.


#2: Snow Dough


I’ve made homemade play dough, DIY craft kits, table top explosions, and all other kinds of messy play (here are 20 great ideas). Lately, Ada’s been digging snow dough, which is a simple mixture of 2 cups corn starch or arrowroot powder combined with around 1/2 a cup of canola, vegetable, or olive oil. You can add glitter for extra impact. Store in an airtight container when not in use.


#3: Rocks


I stumbled upon a box of rocks we gathered from the Jersey shore last summer. So, I figured Ada might enjoy looking at them through her magnifying glass. I also put them in a container and filled part with water. I gave her an old tooth brush and told her to clean and polish the stones. I was surprised how long she stayed transfixed with this activity!


#4: Fuzzy Caterpillars 


Take some regular glue, popsicle sticks, and poms. Then stick the poms on the sticks to make colorful caterpillars of all shapes and sizes. We even made stick houses and other shapes and designs. Plus, you can play with these furry guys long after you make them. Bonus points for googly eyes.


#5: Magnetic Dress-Up


This is the most expensive activity on the list at a whopping $10-$15, but I promise it’s worth every penny. Get your child one of those Melissa + Dough magnetic dress-up kits. They can stick the magnets on the fridge too. Ada loves trying out all the different combinations, and it’s great for her fine motor skills.


#6: Seed Planting


We’re dreaming of our summer garden already, and we’re starting off from seedlings this year. Get all the stuff you need -- seeds, planters, and soil -- and have your child help you get started. You can let them grow in a sunny room of your house even when the temperatures are frightful. Then you can have your little helper plant them with you when the winter finally lets up. Read all your seed packets carefully for growing and timing info.


#7: New Art


Try something new with art. If you do lots of paint, color with crayons. If you always do markers -- do clay. Skip the coloring books and go free-form. We recently did one of those projects where you use painters tape to make shapes, and Ada really enjoyed peeling off the tape when her paint had dried.


#8: Couch Potato


The rules around TV has somewhat gone out the window this winter. Well, not totally. But when the day is going especially bad (and you guys with cabin fever know exactly what I mean), I don’t think twice about running upstairs and snuggling in my bed with Ada watching a movie. In fact, it’s glorious. Pop a bag of popcorn to make it a full event.


#9: Baked Goods


Bake a cake. I love spending time with Ada in the kitchen. On the coldest of days, we’ve made all sorts of meals -- from slow cooker soups to baked doughnuts. The best part? Decorating the finished product. Let loose with some of your sugar rules and break out the mini marshmallows and sprinkles. It’s not like your kid is going to eat the entire cake. (Although, Stephen and I may have had a good chunk of this guy.)


#10: Outdoor Play


When all else fails, you can’t go wrong by bundling up and playing outdoors. Even in extremely cold temperatures, a few minutes is incredibly helpful. We’ve had plenty of -35 degrees F windchill days . . . and warming up the car and driving to a friend’s house or to the mall was a great alternative. Our tolerance for cold has increased as the winter had gone on, so we’ll gladly play outdoors for a stretch even when the temps are below 10. Just dress your child in many layers and cover as much skin as possible to prevent exposure. And start with small stretches of time, always supervised. 


What are your favorite activities for preschoolers during these shut-in months?

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