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Everything You Ever You Wanted To Know About Melons!

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One of THE best things about summer (in addition to longer days, warmer weather and beach holidays) is the amazing abundance of sweet seasonal fruits it brings us. One of my and my children’s favorites are melons! Honeydew, cantaloupe and watermelons are natures candy! They are hydrating, sweet and packed with nutrition! Here’s a quick guide on how to pick, store and enjoy these all summer long.

**When preparing melons, always wash the outside thoroughly with cold water and do not use the same knife that you used to cut the surface, to cut the inside. Melons can (on rare occassions) have salmonella on the surface, so it’s better to safe**

HONEYDEW MELONS
– Every bite has 50% RDA Vitamin C, Potassium, Copper and B Vitamins
– Pick a heavy one with a waxy, not fuzzy rind; it should be heavy and the surface should bounce back when pressed
– If melon is ripe, cut it and store in plastic wrap or air tight container; will last in refrigerator for about 4 days or can be frozen for 10-12 months (great for making smoothies or ice pops)

CANTALOUPE:
– Good source of Vitamin A, C, Folate and Potassium
– Pick a heavy one with a clean rind (no bruises or marks)
– If it is not ripe, you can speed up the process by storing them with pears or bananas
– After cutting melon, keep in refrigerator with seeds (as this helps keep it soft), keep in refrigerator for 3 days or freezer for 10-12 months

WATERMELON:
– Great source of Vitamin C, B Vitamins and Lycopene; good source of Potassium and Magnesium
– Watermelon are one of the least pesticide sprayed fruits, so you can buy it conventional
– So the trick to picking a great watermelon is to put your ear on it and knock — the sound should be hollow (not too hollow, but not solid)
– If you’re buying cut watermelon, color should be red/deep pink
– A whole watermelon can be stored outside the refrigerator, in a cool dark place — it will last much longer than in the refrigerator
– Cut and store the same way you would a cantaloupe

ENJOY!

http://www.webmd.com/food-recipes/features/honeydew-7-healthy-facts

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MEGAN MONDAY: Remembering Those Who Make Memorial Day a “Holiday”

flagTaking a break from my usual nutrition teachings, I felt passionate to write about one of my favorite national days of recognition (I really don’t like to refer to Memorial Day as a “holiday,” confusing it as a “celebration”), and one day that seems to sadly, be losing its meaning in our country today.  While millions of people will have an extra day off from work and school, replete with backyard BBQ bashes, pool parties, and maybe a mini-vacation somewhere, I want to take a moment to thank the countless military, government agencies (FBI, CIA, State Department) AND public service members of the police and fire fighters of this nation who lost their lives in the line of duty.  Memorial Day to me exists every day – not just one of the few days out of the year when businesses and schools have the day off, the American flag gets hung up, and we are to feel patriotic.  While some may still classify it as a “national day of celebration” – the only celebration that really should be honored are the lives and legacies of the millions of men and women who gave everything to their country and its people.

Growing up as a child, I had many military influences in my life – my father was drafted during the Vietnam War and spent several years in the Army; my paternal grandfather AND grandmother were both Marines during World War II (and my grandmother remains the proudest female WWII vet to this day); my maternal grandfather served during WWII in Naval Aviation, my dad’s brother made a career in the Air Force, my other uncles were drafted during Vietnam, and my favorite teacher of all time – my fifth grade teacher Mr. Giambattista – was a Marine during WWII.  Therefore, Memorial Day was one of the most important “holidays” when I was growing up.  Our town had a parade, the town stopped all other activities and everyone had the day off to respect and honor those who were lost fighting for our country.  We had lessons in school about the meaning behind Memorial Day and why it was important as Americans to honor the fallen.  Flags were strewn about town, and my dad and I had our ritual of proudly hanging our American flag outside with special care (as we did every day).  My grandparents wore their WWII uniform hats and memorabilia and everyone dressed in red, white, and blue.  I always recall having such a sense of pride, patriotism, and a sadness for those who were lost.  As a child, I would look at the pictures of the many faces of heroes who gave their life, ranging from the Revolutionary War to the current war at the time – the Gulf War; I wondered what kind of lives these men and women led prior.  I thought to myself, “What made these people want to sign up to fight a war?  Why would people want to be a cop or special agent to find and fight the bad guys?!  Why would they do that?!?!”  My dad, grandparents, and Mr. Giambattista often explained that many people didn’t necessarily even want to sign up to fight wars or become part of any danger, that in many cases they were drafted, but they still fought anyway – out of duty to their nation.  I understand that even today, there is debate about this concept, which I understand.  Yet, most people volunteer to fill the role of protector of our great nation, no matter what the role may be.  As I got older, the sense of wanting to “serve my country” remained strong, and I even wanted to attend the US Naval Academy, but could not apply due to a shoulder injury.  Through the years, I became friends with many wonderful young men and women who graduated the service academies or served in the military, government agencies, police department, or fire department.  It was through the selfless actions of these individuals that I gained a true appreciation for what it means to “serve one’s country” – from the many mentally and physically tedious challenges to long deployments or assignments away from home, one sacrifices much out of an ordinary life to serve his or her country.

Some of the most moving experiences I have had was when I lived in Arlington, VA, and was able to partake in Memorial Day “celebrations” there, including Arlington National Cemetery.  I still recall the unexplainable feeling I would get when I would first hear the Patriot Guard on their hundreds of motorcycles roar and rumble through our nation’s capital after riding for hundreds, and even thousands of miles with an American flag flying behind almost every bike to pay tribute to and bring attention to fallen heroes of our nation.  It looks like a moving piece of art, to be honest.  Many of these individuals are veterans themselves and attend countless funerals and services of those fallen.  I would make it a point to go to the memorials  – Vietnam War, World War II, Korean War…. To pay tribute to what seems like an endless list of names engraved on the beautiful stone structures.  To observe someone kneeling or bowing down over a particular name, crying, hoping that name would somehow manifest back into a living human being, is something to see.  I would also go on many runs past Arlington National Cemetery throughout the year – and each time, I will admit, I would just start tearing up.  I couldn’t help running past the endless rows of white grave markers – like a sea of tiny white stones – and not be the most humbled I have ever been in my life.  You really reflect upon what it means to have “character” when you think of the countless selfless acts of heroism that wound up creating this cemetery as the final resting place for a majority of those laid to rest.  Here I was able to enjoy a run by myself on two, healthy legs in a beautiful city that serves as the capital of a free and prosperous country, while I know in other places of the world, this would not be a possibility for me.  Those grave markers were a stark reminder of each soul that lost his or her life on behalf of my ability to take that run as a free individual with basic human rights.  It also saddened me that there are “citizens” of this country who completely take for granted the ultimate sacrifices those have made for our freedoms and advancements as a nation.  This makes me even more grateful for the influences I had in my life as a child to help me learn about what makes Memorial Day so special.  As a teacher, I had children in my classroom who did not have the slightest clue as to what Memorial Day was; they just thought it was a national holiday to have a good “memory” of the U.S.  As each year passed, more and more time was needed to be spent on “important” curriculum materials, and I found some teachers never even “had time” to teach about Memorial Day – by the time Friday afternoon of Memorial Day weekend rolled around, some students were leaving school without even understanding why they were having no school on Monday.  It made me sad that some of these children wouldn’t even have the understanding of why this national holiday exists.

With my husband as an active duty military member and a sister as an active duty police officer and SWAT team member, each Memorial Day has more and more meaning, as we unfortunately have more heroes that lost their lives.  We have lost numerous friends throughout the past several years – young, healthy, brilliant and brave men and women who fearlessly did their job on a daily basis – and loved their job protecting the citizens of America, and even other parts of the world.  As a child, I never thought about paying respects to those I knew on Memorial Day when I got older; as a child, you think everyone you know and love is invincible – protected from harm.  I think what makes these true feelings of security is the fact that there are heroes out there to fill this role of protection and keeping us safe.

Letting our children know on a daily basis that these heroes exist and that it takes a very special person to fill those shoes is some of the greatest respect and honor we can pay to those who have made the ultimate sacrifice.  Other things you can do on Memorial Day to pay respect is check your local VFW Hall to volunteer – spend time helping to set up flags, buy flags, or fold up flags (or even just any help that the VFW members could use); we love displaying our American flag daily, but love even more lining the sidewalk and walkway with small American flags, perhaps one for each special person you want to remember and honor.  We used to buy a bunch of small American flags and place them on the grave markers of fallen heroes in our local cemetery.  As a teacher, I would save articles or notifications of any soldiers, police officers, fire fighters, or government agent who lost his or her life that year, and I would have students do a small memorial and we would highlight these individuals, simply so these students could have a glimpse into the life these heroes led.  It’s even a nice idea to write a letter to a surviving family member of a fallen hero or have pictures drawn; just letting those left behind know that their loved one is regarded as a hero means the world and helps heal the wounds of loss.

Several friends have died over the years, and we donate what we can to the memorial funds or organizations that have been set up in their honor.  Many of these groups do incredible work for the families and children left behind of fallen soldiers or service personnel; these groups also work tirelessly to provide assistance for those who are hurt in the line of duty.  What’s great about these organizations is you don’t even need to donate money – many times, you can seek volunteer roles or see if there are any functions that you could help with.  Many times, there will be races held in honor of fallen heroes and you can help out at those or just participate to show your support.

No matter how you spend your Memorial Day, never forget why Memorial Day was established.  We have so much to be thankful and grateful for here in America, and to fully understand that what we have today comes at a steep price.  Whether you attend a parade, have a great BBQ, wave an American flag or not, just try and stop and take a moment to honor those who are not with us and reflect on the heroes who have and continue to put their life in harm’s way to keep us safe.

Here is a list of some great websites that support programs and projects for the fallen:

http://carrytheload.org/splash/ (an awesome program that really relays the meaning of Memorial Day)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6mDcotcGRCo (he was a personal friend of mine)

http://www.freemanproject.org/

http://www.travismanion.org/

http://www.31heroes.com/

www.navysealfoundation.org

http://911heroesrun.com/ (there are many runs held throughout the US; check to see if there is one near you)

http://www.honorthefallen.org/

https://www.facebook.com/pages/LT-Michael-P-Murphy-Memorial-Scholarship-Foundation/108487359173060

http://www.jessepittmanfund.org/

 

Here are some great Memorial Day websites and ideas:

1. Visit a United States National Cemetery – There are 146 national cemeteries in the United States. Some cemeteries will hold “decoration days” on Sunday before Memorial Day where volunteers place an American flag on each grave. Even more personally meaningful is to visit and decorate the grave of a family member who died while serving our country.

2. Fly the American Flag – If you have an American flag, fly it at half mast.  If you do not have an American flag, have your children make one. Depending on the age of your child, a flag can be made from construction paperpopsicle sticks, or even burlap and acrylic paint.  Creating an American flag naturally leads to learning about the symbolism of the flag’s colors, as well as the number of stars and stripes.

3. Pause in Memory – The National Moment of Remembrance established by Congress in 2000 asks all Americans to pause for 1 minute at 3 PM (local time) “as an act of national unity in which all Americans, alone or with family and friends, honor those who died in service to the United States.” Read President Clinton’s statement on signing the act.

4. Celebrate with Music – Many communities have festivals, parades, and various ways to participate in, or listen to, traditional Memorial Day music. Songs like “America the Beautiful”, “Anchors Aweigh”, “My Country ’tis of Thee”, “You’re a Grand Old Flag”, and of course, “The Star-Spangled Banner.”  If you know of a place you can wrap up the day with a bugler playing Taps, consider it to be an extremely moving moment.  You can explain to your children how Taps is normally played at funerals as a memorial hymn.

5. Watch a Video or Documentary – The History Channel offers a number of videos fitting for Memorial Day. Watch and discuss some of the famous battles in our nation’s history. Also, check The Military Channel’s guide for shows playing over the weekend.

 

http://pinterest.com/alcantra/memorial-day-activities/

http://militaryhistory.about.com/od/socialeffectsofwar/p/memorialday.htm

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/05/25/green-memorial-day-activities-2013_n_3333636.html

 

Megan Monday articles are written by Megan Kalocinski, a Certified Holistic Health and Nutrition Coach and Owner/Founder of Empower Health Coaching of Exponential Health and Wellness, LLC: http://www.exponentialhealthandwellness.us

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Top 10 Things Kids Really Want Their Parents To Do With Them

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“People will forget what you said; People will forget what you did.  But people will never forget how you made them feel.” -Maya Angelou

I read dozens of blogs every week and while I pick up good tips, ideas, recipes, I rarely read anything that leaves a profound mark on me.  Last week, Katie’s sister, Kelly, shared a post from Hands Free Mama, that I cannot stop thinking about.  The whole purpose of the blog is to remind us to take the time to be present and enjoy the really special moments of our life. To stop over scheduling ourselves (and our kids), to put our phones down, reply to that email later and savor the little moments.  We are always multitasking; making dinner, while listening to the news and helping our kids practice the alphabet.  While we may actually accomplish it all, are we doing any of it really well?  And if we are, at what expense?  I went back to work when my twins were three months old, only to realize the work-life balance is actually a myth, at least for me it was.  I was consumed with feeling of guilt for leaving my little ones for 12 hours a day, and consumed with guilt for no longer being able/wanting to give 80+ hours a week to my career like I had for the past 12 years.  So I finally quit.  But now, I have a business that requires just as much time, though I have more control of when I want to work.

That said, I read several entries in the Hand Free Mama blog and identified with so many of the “signs” of an overscheduled life.  Answering my kids’ questions while replying to a text on my phone, or telling my kids to wait, “mommy just needs to make one phone call” and then getting frustrated because they keep calling my name (louder and louder).  The reality is that everyone needs and wants to be acknowledged, and our children are no different.  Acknowledging our children makes them feel loved, supported, understood an accepted, and I don’t even want to think about how they feel when we don’t acknowledge them.  The more blog entries I read, the more I knew that I could be more present with my children. I knew I could do better.

Hand Free Mama shares a list that I think every parent should read.  It was written by a teacher who asked her students (over 16 years) what they needed most from their parents, and the answers are so simple, yet so beautiful.

The Top Ten Things Kids Really Want Their Parents To Do With Them

  1. Come into my bedroom at night, tuck me in and sing me a song. Also tell me stories about when you were little.
  2. Give me hugs and kisses and sit and talk with me privately.
  3. Spend quality time just with me, not with my brothers and sisters around.
  4. Give me nutritious food so I can grow up healthy.
  5. At dinner talk about what we could do together on the weekend.
  6. At night talk to me about about anything; love, school, family etc.
  7. Let me play outside a lot.
  8. Cuddle under a blanket and watch our favorite TV show together.
  9. Discipline me. It makes me feel like you care
  10.  Leave special messages in my desk or lunch bag

Thank you for the gentle reminder, Hands Free Mama.

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Today was a (Great) First for Us – Presenters At Career Day!

200158048-001Today we were invited to participate in career day at Emerson Elementary School in Plainfield, NJ. When asked, this was a no brainer. After all, we started this company because we had kids. What better way to spread the word about healthy, fun snacks to kids than right in their classrooms. Sitting on the “cafetorium” (part-time cafeteria, part-time auditorium) stage, waiting to be introduced, I realized how it really does all start when we’re young. The days when being an astronaut or a baseball player or a doctor felt so real and attainable.  We all had hopes and dreams. Some of us fell into them easily. Others of us faced adversity and may still be trying to get where we want to go. But, as the principal reminded all of us, you have to have a dream, a plan to make it happen and the willingness to see it through.

We were initially worried by the 30 minute time slot. That sounded like a lot of time to talk to 2nd graders about MySuperFoods. Even for us. But here’s the thing. Kids are really smart. Maybe it’s the fact that I have to ask my 3.5 year old daughters to put their shoes on 47 times before it happens or that they tend to accidentally spill their milk 1 second before we have to leave for school. But today I needed a reminder on the power of kids brains.

They get it. That goes for a lot of things we may not give them credit for. In fact, in the second class we spoke to, we spent five minutes talking about in-store demos, brochures, and websites all because a little girl asked how we “got the word out” and these ideas were what her classmates came up with. Wow.

So, here’s what I took away from career day:
1. Kids are smart. They have good ideas. In between getting shoes on and cleaning up spilled milk, I hope I remember to stop and ask questions of my own.  And listen to the answer.
2. Don’t give up on your dreams.  This may sounds silly, but when I can stop long enough to breathe around here, I remember that I am living out a dream right now.  I have lots of opportunities to quit, but I’m glad I don’t.
3. Building a great team helps you achieve your goals.  As we explained all the steps it takes to get MySuperSnacks on the shelf, I truly realized how many people play a part in this company.  I’m thankful for all of them.
4. There are schools out there really doing it right.  Yes, there is a lot of negative press about teachers and schools and test performance.  Yes, there are things that need to be fixed in a broken system.  But there is good happening and teachers who care.  That should be recognized too.
5. I really love what I do.

Finally, if you ever have the opportunity to present at career day I have two words of advice to keep the kids engaged.  Free samples.

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The Day I Showed Dr Oz How To Make a Healthy Snack for Kids

A couple weeks ago, we teased our Facebook fans with a photo from the Dr Oz set.  We just happened to be there, taping a segment on plate art.  The adorable, fun way to turn ordinary food into fun shapes and faces for kids.  Often in an attempt to get kids excited about food.  Even better when it’s nutritious!  Whenever I do this for my own kids, they go bananas.  Ordinary food becomes magical.

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There is a reason it’s popular enough to end up on the Dr Oz show.

How the Dr Oz team found us was quite miraculous.  While searching through the thousands of examples of plate art available online (thank you, Pinterest!) they stumbled on one of ours from St Patrick’s Day 2012.

After we recovered from the shock of receiving an email from an Associate Producer at the Dr Oz show, we happily agreed to release the photo for their use and mentioned that, oh-by-the-way we also run a children’s food company, dedicated to nutrient-dense, fun food for kids.  Could they use us for something more?  (Hey, when you get a chance like this, you do NOT pass it up!)

A hazy whirlwind of phone calls and emails later, we were graciously invited on the show as part of the two-minute show ending segment they had planned for plate art.  We would represent moms who had submitted plate art photos and show Dr Oz in person how to make one ourselves.  But only one of us could do it.  Gulp.

Although many people would probably clamor at the opportunity to jump onto the television scene, even if just for a minute, Silvia and I rarely find ourselves with that desire.  So, we talked about it and I took the job.  I figured I’d probably be pretty nervous leading up to the show, but I would feel proud and amazing on the other side (and boy, did I!)  Now…what to wear?  (Cue the music most likely to instill panic in the viewers).  In all seriousness, it was a nerve-wracking, very-exciting, empowering experience that I was thrilled to be a part of.  Even though I was on a show schedule next to a PhD and highly regarded RD and nutrition expert, I was treated like a star.  Which, as a mom, is pretty amazing in and of itself.

More importantly, and to the point, we spent a couple days playing with some fun, easy options to show on-air.  Fruit and vegetable inspired flowers seemed to be a crowd favorite:

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But I won’t ruin the surprise just yet.  You’ll have to tune into the The Dr Oz Show tomorrow, WEDNESDAY MAY 22 in the afternoon.  Check your local listings for times.  The morning show will be a rerun of an earlier taping.

I’m literally in the last 2 minutes of the show, so don’t go anywhere before it’s over.  And happy snacking!

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Recipes I Made From My CSA Ingredients – Veggie Fries

Whenever we are in a restaurant, my daughters find the French fries like a boat lost at sea finds the lighthouse.  With intensity, concentration and impatience.  While I try not to deprive them of the crispy potatoes at all turns, I also try to introduce fun alternatives at home.  That’s why I was happy to find this recipe for Veggie Fries on my search for something to do with the parsnips in my CSA box.  (See HERE for my confession of CSA fears)

Veggie Fries (adapted from Clean Food)

2 sweet potatoes (can also add carrots and/or rutabagas)

4 parsnips

3 T extra virgin olive oil

1/4 C yellow cornmeal (I didn’t have this, so I used oat bran)

1 tsp coarse sea salt

1 T cinnamon

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Cut vegetables into sticks and steam 3-4 minutes or until just tender.  Remove from heat and place in large bowl.  Coat with oil and toss with cornmeal, salt, and cinnamon.  Lightly oil cookie sheet and spread fries in single layer.  Broil 3 minutes, then remove from oven, flip fries and broil another 3 minutes or until lightly browned.

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**I highly recommend cutting up the parsnips into smaller pieces than I did.  My daughters gobbled up the smaller pieces, but struggled on one or two larger ones, which were harder to chew.

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MEGAN MONDAY: CARBS – The Often-Confused Macronutrient Broken Down, Part III: Focus On Sugar Balances in the Body

sugar 2To wrap- up this thrilling trilogy on carbohydrates, I figured to save the best for last, focusing on what seems to be the bane of most parents’ existence – SUGAR and sugar levels in the body.  As highlighted in the other two articles covering carbs, what we can deduct is that the carbs – sugars, starches, and fibers all contribute to energy production in the body.  We need energy to function healthy; it’s a fine-tuned system of chemical conversions and the storage & burning of energy.  To keep this system in balance is known as homeostasis (well, that term applies to keeping ALL systems in the body balanced, but they all depend on each other, starting with the intake and breakdown of food for energy).  Maintaining a constancy of blood glucose in children and adults affects not only our energy levels, but our behaviors and overall well-being.  When things fall “off kilter,” we know it – the infamous sugar crash, energy burn, exhibiting itself in many ways: on-the-floor-fist-pounding tantrums, melt-downs, mood swings, wanting to sleep, scream, or just cry…. You name it, it’s affected by our energy levels staying in-check.  Something we need to worry even more about this day-in-age is how carb-heavy many diets are (either with starches and/or added sugars) and how that can lead to Type II Diabetes.  When I was a kid, hearing such a scare was rare; nowadays, it’s becoming more and more common – and it’s affecting millions of CHILDREN a day.  Yes, I repeat, MILLIONS of kids.  What’s wrong here?  This is why it’s important to know how our bodies keep those sugar levels from carbs in check….and what you can do to maintain optimal health for yourself and your family.

Every blood cell depends on glucose (you remember that guy…the simple sugar that is known as blood sugar) for its fuel to some extent, and the cells of the brain and the rest of the nervous system depend almost exclusively on glucose for their energy.  The activities of these cells never cease, and they have limited availability to store glucose.  Day and night, they continually draw on the supply of glucose in the fluid surrounding them.  To maintain the supply, a steady stream of blood moves past these cells bringing more glucose from either the small intestine (from food) or the liver (from stored glycogen, the storage form of glucose).  To function optimally, the body must maintain blood glucose levels within limits that allow the cells to nourish themselves.  If blood glucose falls below normal, a person may become dizzy and weak (or turn into a cranky hot mess); if the blood glucose level rises above normal, a person may become fatigued (which may happen after the sugar high!).  If these imbalances are left untreated, fluctuations to the extreme (either high or low) can be fatal.

Unless you’re a medical pro, you’re probably wondering how the body knows to keep these blood glucose levels in check.  Well, two hormones – insulin and glucagon get props for this tedious job.  Insulin moves glucose from the blood into the cells and glucagon brings glucose out of storage when necessary.  So how do these hormones actually accomplish this task?

  • After a meal, blood glucose rises, and special cells of the pancreas respond by secreting insulin into the blood. à The amount of insulin secreted matches to the rise in glucose (so the more sugar, the more insulin is released).
    • Too much glucose (sugar) at one time can cause something called a spike, which later leads to a “sugar crash” because so much insulin was released to break down the glucose.
  • As insulin circulates through the body hitting the “receptor” cells of the body, the receptors respond by ushering glucose from the blood into the cells (this is how your organs have energy to perform their functions).
    • Most of the cells take only the glucose they can use for energy right away.  An exception to this are the liver and muscle cells – these can take extra glucose and assemble small glucose units into long branches of glycogen (storage form of glucose) for storage.
    • Here’s where it gets ugly à the liver cells can also convert extra glucose to fat for export to other cells.
  • Blood levels return to normal as excess glucose is stored as glycogen and fat.
  • Interestingly, another hormone that signals the liver cells to release glucose is epinephrine – the “fight-or-flight” hormone.  When a person experiences stress or feeling scared, epinephrine acts quickly to ensure that all the body cells have energy fuel in emergencies.  (Which also explains why people feel exhausted after one of these “energy spikes.”)

How to Keep the Healthy Blood Glucose Balance

Here’s the easiest way I can break it down:

  • When blood glucose falls below normal à food can replenish it OR glucagon can signal the liver to break down glycogen stores.
  • When blood glucose rises above normal à insulin can signal the cells to take in glucose for energy à
    • Eating balanced meals at regular time intervals helps the body maintain a happy medium between the extremes.
      • Balanced meals that provide abundant carbohydrates (fibers and a little fat help slow down the digestion and absorption of carbohydrate so that glucose enters the blood gradually).

When Blood Glucose Levels Go Awry

Diabetes and Hypoglycemia are two health concerns when blood glucose levels cannot regulate on their own.  In diabetes, blood glucose rises after a meal and remains above normal levels because insulin is either inadequate or ineffective.  There are two main types of diabetes – type I and type II.  In type I diabetes (the less common type), the pancreas fails to produce insulin (it is believed that this is a genetic disorder) and those affected need to take insulin no matter what – there is no cure for type I diabetes.  In type II diabetes (the more common form, and the form on the rise, especially with poor eating habits), the cells fail to respond to insulin (many times due to too many sugar highs from too much sugar taken in, thus making insulin less effective over time).  Hypoglycemia is normally a consequence of poorly managed diabetes: too much insulin, strenuous physical activity, inadequate food intake, or illness that causes blood glucose levels to plummet.  Most people who experience hypoglycemia often feel weakness, rapid heartbeat, sweating, anxiety, hunger, and/or trembling.  The best way to help treat hypoglycemia is to adjust the diet by replacing refined carbohydrates with fiber-rich carbohydrates and ensuring adequate protein intake at each meal.  In addition, eating smaller meals more frequently may help.

The Health Effects and Recommended Intakes of Sugars

I swear I was cursed with being born with a sweet tooth.  Ever since I was a child, I recall literally craving sugar like a maniac.  I would have borderline panic attacks if I couldn’t get my hands on something sweet throughout the day.  As I grew older, I became scared that I would never be able to kick this habit of needing sweets.  Looking back on things, I realize that if sugar was never even readily available to me, I wouldn’t have been exposed to its luring abilities.  In reality, the taste preference for sweets is inborn – and to a child, the sweeter the food, the better.  In the United States, the natural sugars of milk, fruits, vegetables, and grains account for about half the sugar intake; the other half consists of concentrated sugars that have been refined and added to foods for a variety of purposes.

The use of added sugars has risen drastically over the past several decades, with soft drinks and sugared fruit drinks accounting for most of the increase.  These added sugars assume various names on food labels: sucrose, invert sugar, corn syrups and solids, high-fructose corn syrup, and honey.  A food is likely to be high in added sugars if its ingredient list starts with any of the sugars named.

The two most concerning issues around sugars, especially in children, have to deal with:

  • Nutrient deficiencies – Empty calorie foods that contain lots of added sugars provide the body with glucose and energy, but few, if any, other nutrients.
    • Many people argue that fruits contain lots of sugars and should be limited just like candies, etc. – I have to sharply disagree with that.  A fruit’s sugars arrive in the body diluted in a large volume of water, packaged in fiber, and mixed with essential vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals, all in their natural state, thus extremely bioavailable to the body.
  • Dental caries (cavities) – Sugars from foods and from the breakdown of starches in the mouth can contribute to tooth decay.  Bacteria in the mouth ferment the sugars, and in the process, produce an acid that erodes tooth enamel, causing dental cavities.  These bacteria produce acid for 20-30 minutes after each exposure, so the more often sugar is eaten, the more continual damage is done to the teeth.

So, How Much Is Too Much?

The USDA recommends the following limits of sugar based on total calorie intake:

  • 1600 calories/day: 3 tsp sugar
  • 1800 calories/day: 5 tsp sugar
  • 2000 calories/day: 8 tsp sugar

Personally, I say limit sugars as much as possible (even below these guidelines) and try to obtain them only from fruits and starchy vegetables.  Sugar is addictive; the more you eat, the more your body will crave.  In the U.S…. the AVERAGE amount of sugar consumed is (drumroll, please)… 30 teaspoons of sugar PER DAY!!  Are you serious?!! Something needs to change here!!

Be Sure To Check Out Previous MySuperFoods Posts about Sugar

With my grand conclusion about carbs, and namely sugars, I say limit the refined stuff as much as possible.  Amounts of refined carbs and sugars added to our foods in the U.S. have skyrocketed…. Which is why you need to READ LABELS!!!  Read how many grams of sugar are in the foods you and your children are eating… and know the source!!  Read ingredient labels and if a sugar is listed within the top 5 ingredients, take caution!!

Please check out these past MySuperFoods articles containing lots of great sugar info:

https://mysuperfoods.wordpress.com/2012/04/02/is-sugar-toxic/

https://mysuperfoods.wordpress.com/2013/04/04/is-yogurt-still-a-healthy-snack/

https://mysuperfoods.wordpress.com/2013/03/05/too-many-snacks/

https://mysuperfoods.wordpress.com/2013/02/20/dont-give-kids-gummy-fruit-snacks-and-tell-them-that-they-are-healthy/

https://mysuperfoods.wordpress.com/2013/01/23/what-has-more-sugar-per-serving-a-coke-or-motts-original-applesauce/

https://mysuperfoods.wordpress.com/2012/08/30/a-new-added-sugar-label-on-packaged-foods/

https://mysuperfoods.wordpress.com/2012/07/28/sugar-shock-the-drinks-with-the-highest-amounts-of-sugar/

https://mysuperfoods.wordpress.com/2012/07/05/the-worst-drinks-for-your-kids-some-of-these-may-surprise-you/

https://mysuperfoods.wordpress.com/2012/05/03/obesity-and-type-2-diabetes-in-children-it-can-be-prevented/

https://mysuperfoods.wordpress.com/2012/05/01/the-truth-about-fruit-juice/

https://mysuperfoods.wordpress.com/2011/12/08/are-your-kids-eating-twinkies-for-breakfast/

Megan Monday articles are written by Megan Kalocinski, a Certified Holistic Health and Nutrition Coach and Owner/Founder of Empower Health Coaching (Exponential Health and Wellness, LLC): www.exponentialhealthandwellness.us

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Recipes I Made From My CSA Ingredients – Scrambled Eggs and Creamy Leeks

As promised, here is a delicious recipe that I found and made from the eggs and leeks out of my CSA box.  Delicious and highly recommended.

Soft Scrambled Eggs with Creamy Leeks (from The Sprouted Kitchen)
10 eggs
6 T whole Milk
3 large leeks, white and light green parts cleaned
1 T unsalted butter
sea salt and freshly ground pepper
2 tsp chopped thyme or tarragon
1 T extra virgin olive oil

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the eggs and 2 tsp of milk until light and evenly mixed.  Set aside.

Halve the leeks lengthwise and slice into half moons.  Warm the butter in a large sauté pan over medium heat.  Add the leeks and 1/2 tsp of salt and stir to coat.

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Saute, stirring occasionally, until the leeks are softened and browned in parts, 12-15 minutes.  Add the remaining 4 T of milk and thyme and cook until liquid is absorbed into leeks.  Turn off heat and set aside.

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In a  large nonstick pan, preferably 12 inches, heat the olive oil over medium-low heat.  Give the eggs one more whisk.  When the pan is warm, tilt it so the oil puddles in the corner closest to you and slowly pour the eggs into the center of the oil, so the oil spreads outward with the eggs as you lower the pan down.  Cook the eggs without stirring until the bottom just starts to set, then gently push the cooked eggs from the edges of the pan toward the center, letting the uncooked parts fall back toward the edges.  Continue until the eggs are almost cooked, turn off the heat, add a pinch of salt and pepper and serve immediately with leeks. **(I’ve never dreamed of doing anything other than whisking eggs and pouring them into a pan to scramble, but this REALLY makes a difference)

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I took the plunge and joined a CSA

A few years ago, friends of mine talked about being members of a CSA in New York City. Within 5 minutes I learned that CSA stands for “community supported agriculture” and is a 25-year old tradition set up like a subscription service to a farm. Signing up for a season allows a person to support a local farm while stopping by once a week to pick up a delicious box of in-season, freshly picked produce. If you’ve ever lived or worked or visited New York City, you know what a dream this sounds like. Farm fresh food? Yes, please. But they exist all over the country.  A visit to the Local Harvest website can help you find one near you.

Year after year, I told myself I’d look into it, sign up, and become the type of person who could whip up delicious, fresh food as quickly and easily as I hailed a cab.

But I never signed up.

Truth is, I didn’t think I could do it. Plenty of people see me as the type of person who a CSA is built for. They imagine me floating over to a farm, gathering some food in a basket and running home to dream up a perfect 7 course meal. What these people forget is that I am a planner. A serious, plan-as-far-in-advance-as-possible kind of planner. Otherwise known as a control freak.  “On a whim” is hard for me. Especially when it comes to meal planning and worse yet, being handed ingredients I’ve never heard of. So, I chickened out for years.

Perhaps it was moving to suburban New Jersey, or small business exhaustion haze, but either way…I took the plunge and signed up this year.  Oh dear.

After a quick online search for organic farms that also support CSA programs, I found Alstede Farm.  Perfect!  This is a place my daughter’s preschool visited last year for pumpkin picking and hay rides. I am already hooked. For some reason, I chose a “full share” program. This is essentially the largest option. The down sized options are half-share or individual. What possessed me to select FULL share, I may never know. Probably being an over-achiever. Nevertheless, full share it is.

Although the farm is a 40 minute drive from our house (a worthy trip, but difficult once a week) there are convenient pick-up spots within 15 minutes of our house.  Last week was week 1.  My husband and I packed the girls in the car and told them we were going to visit a farmer to pick up an amazing box full of delicious food.  Little did I know (or expect) but our farmer turned out to live in a house that looks like yours or mine on a cute little street in the middle of a neighboring town.  (You should have heard the story I had to dream up, explaining that he is a farmer’s helper and the vegetables didn’t actually grow in the garage).  Dan, the farmer is a great CSA ambassador.  He has a brood of well behaved kids, milling around his back yard, the oldest ones at-the-ready to explain any and all CSA related questions and is a relaxed, friendly, helpful kind of guy.  I eyed the boxes on the table in the garage and noticed that mine, the largest, was next to a table full of smaller boxes.  Clearly waiting for their more intelligently-minded owners.

Sigh.  Back to the car.

Once we got home, the girls happily helped get our box into the house.  No small feat.

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Once in the house, we spread out the contents and were amazed.

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Serious deliciousness.  And a few things I’d barely heard of, let alone cooked with.

I tried not to look too nervous as I opened the letter that was tucked neatly inside the greens.  A welcome note, list of contents, and suggested recipes from the Alstede farmers.  Although I felt totally overwhelmed, the warm, fuzzy feeling you’d expect from something like this delivered on all accounts.

Yes, I freaked out and immediately gave my husband marching orders for washing and storing each item according to instructions from the farmer so nothing would go bad (some went bad anyway).  Yes, I pulled out 4 cookbooks at once and started looking for recipes containing leeks in the index.  Yes, I ended up throwing away a few things that I had no idea what to do with.  Yes, I felt guilt and horror and shame for that.  Then I got over it enough to tell you about it and moved on.

But I also made some DELICIOUS recipes I probably wouldn’t have tried any time soon.  For me, it was (and is…and will continue to be) stressful to come home and decide, “what next?”  But it’s also pretty fun, since I do really love to cook and try new recipes.  Especially when I’m working with fresh food that tastes as good as it ever will.  It’s also an amazing thing to give my daughters.  Not only trying new food, but learning about farming and what really comes from the ground, right off a farm.

Stay tuned for details on those yummy recipes.  I promise they don’t disappoint!

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7 Reasons Why You Should Be Eating More Asparagus

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Katie and I both recently joined a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) and received our first boxes last week. We’ll have more on that later, but I was delighted to find 2 bunches of crispy, bright green, just picked asparagus. It’s easily one of my top three favorite vegetables, I love it roasted with sea salt or grilled on a bbq. My toddlers, on the other hand, have recently decided that they don’t like it. I think it’s a texture issue because they will eat if it’s finely diced in other dishes like risotto, or pureed as pesto. There is no better time of year to eat asparagus than RIGHT NOW, so here are a few more reasons (other than my opinion) as to why you and your family should eat more of this super food:

1. It’s packed with fiber, folate, chromium and vitamins A, C, E & K

2. Rich source of “glutathione” – a powerful detoxifying compound

3. Good vegetarian source of iron, providing almost 16% of our RDA in one cup

4. Natural diuretic, ridding our bodies of excess salt

5. Contains inulin, a prebiotic which supports digestive health

6. Good source B1, B2, B3 & B6 which helps protect our heart and regulate blood sugar

7. It’s easy to cook and tastes great!

Stay tuned for a creamy asparagus soup recipe that I will post later today!

source: http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=12

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