It is easy to see how getting the family together for dinner can be put on the back burner. Whether it is soccer practice, guitar lessons or staying late at the office, a sit-down meal with the entire family can be hard to make happen. While work and hobbies are always essential components to the day, finding the time to get everyone together for a home-cooked dinner is a lost art that many families are missing out on. So, if your family enjoys supper scattered around the house or in front of the television, it may be worth making family dinner time a priority.
Bring everyone together
One of the obvious motivations for gathering the family around the dinner table is simply to cherish an opportune moment in the day when everyone is together. Recent surveys have estimated that only 40 percent of families in the U.S eat dinner together around three or fewer times per week, while 10 percent of families never eat supper together. While it's somewhat unreasonable to expect to mesh everyone's schedules together seven nights a week, planning family dinners in advance will help to improve the overall sense of unity, not to mention get everyone caught up with each other's lives. In an era where quickness and technology are held to the highest regard, sometimes sitting down, putting away the phones and sharing a healthy meal and discussion is the greatest virtue a family can have.
Emphasis on nutrition
There's no doubt that constantly being on the go and shuttling the kids from one activity to another may lead to the occasional fast food pit stop. These drive-thru occasions, no matter how infrequent, can add up and truly take a toll on you or your children's health. It is estimated that around 68 percent of American adults today are considered obese, and nearly 20 percent of children ages 6 through 11 are deemed overweight as well. Fast food intake is higher than ever, and is widely considered a major suspect in this national obesity epidemic. When you cook a meal at home, you are the chef and master nutritionist. Toss together a salad with fresh sliced fruit so that your family can reap the rewards of healthy antioxidants and nutrients. The dinner table is also an opportune time and place to enlighten your kids on their nutrition, explaining to them why fruits and vegetables are so essential to their everyday diet.
Balance your budget
Not only can going out to eat be unhealthy, it can also do some damage to your bank account! It has been estimated that upwards to 50 percent of all meals are eaten away from home, and when you really start to think about that, it can add up quick. This is just another reason why sharing a meal at home can benefit your family. The U.S. Department of Agriculture projects that the average cost to feed a family of four is between $146 to $289 per week. When you start to do the math, you will find that spending around $250 per week on groceries for the whole family accounts to $62.50 per person every week, which results in around $250 spent on meals per month for each family member. Now let's say a family of four dines out three times a week. At an average of $10 an entree, the total bill can be anywhere from $40 to $50 per restaurant meal, which comes to about $150 per week spent on eating out, or $600 a month, on top of already purchasing groceries for home. These casual dining routines can take its course financially over time, which is why sticking to a home cooked meal is just another advantage for the entire family.
Planning the perfect dinner
Establishing specific days during the week is a perfect way to start organizing your family's meals and help everyone stay on the same page. If there is an evening that no one has any scheduled activities, designate it as family pasta night and create your own tradition. Sundays are generally the perfect occasion for such, plus you can spend the day cooking together – why not try your hand a homemade pasta. Make a few rules for the dinner table as well, such as no phones or television so everyone's attention is geared toward enjoying the company and food. Remember, a closer dinner table can be a big step toward a tighter family, so try to squeeze some time in for exclusive dining experiences.
When you have children, it can be difficult to find the time to workout between making dinner and shuttling them to and from soccer practice and piano lessons. But you can prioritize an exercise routine by making it a fun family affair – something you and the kids schedule in a few times a week to get quality family time and some much-needed physical activity. Here are some of our best ideas for working out with the kids:
With babies or toddlers
If you have a baby at home, invest in a high-quality jogging stroller to get a great workout with the kids in tow. Bundle them up – during nap time may even work – and set out on a jog or brisk walk. Not only will you be getting great cardio exercise, but you'll also have the added strength-training required to push the little ones in the stroller as you go.
Many parents give their infants tummy time in order to strengthen their neck muscles. While your baby is doing time on his or her tummy, you can do the plank position, holding for 30 seconds at a time, to build and strengthen your core muscles.
Baby weight lunges
Many people strap their babies into chest carriers while doing the dishes, laundry or other household activities. It seems that simply carrying your baby can be a great workout. Add in some plies, lunges and squats for great toning exercises.
With grade school children
Day at the park
Spend a day at the park with your family. Before enjoying a healthy picnic lunch, organize games and contests for the kids, such as a children versus adults soccer match, a vigorous game of tag or a challenging obstacle course – anything that keeps everyone constantly moving!
Family fun run
Many festivals and fairs, especially in the summer, host family fun runs, with 5ks for adults and shorter distances for kids, depending on age range. Sign the family up, ordering matching t-shirts and make sure to practice together a few weeks beforehand by taking jogs around the neighborhood.
Host a family room dance party
Kids need a break from homework, and one good way to do it is to have a 10-minute dance party in the living room. Make it a weeknight thing, and let each family member take a turn choosing the music. It's much better to let kids get their energy out and take a break from doing homework by dancing up a storm, rather than hunkering down on the couch with video game in hand.
Use commercial breaks wisely
If you and the kids are watching TV together, use commercial breaks to challenge each other to a sit-up or pushup contest, or to see who has the best dance moves!
With older kids
Have a Wii competition
If you have the Wii video game system, this is a great way to get older kids to exercise with you. Challenge them to a boxing match, dance-off, baseball game, volleyball match or anything else athletic for a great time and connecting with junior high or high school kids, which isn't always easy.
Train for a triathlon
There are mini-triathlons or marathons for pre-teens and teens. You and your kids can connect over exercising by biking, jogging and swimming and tracking your goals together.
Older kids are more suited for longer hikes or bike rides. Take a family trip where hiking is on the agenda. Not only will you be spending excellent quality time together, but you'll get great exercise and also likely see some amazing sights.
Spring is just around the corner, and with it comes baseball season, the return of outdoor runs and light sweater-weather! But if you have pollen allergies, as at least 10 percent of the U.S. population does, you're probably stocking up on tissues, eyedrops and antihistamines, and prepping for the inevitable questions about why you're crying when you're eyes well up and your nose turns red.
Vow to take control of your allergies this spring for your overall and immune health! Here are some tips and information:
Why do allergies happen?
Allergies are caused by an overreaction of the immune system to a foreign protein that is either eaten, touched, injected or inhaled. These foreign substances can include pet dander, particular medications, certain foods, products and even insects. However, pollen is classified as a seasonal outdoor allergy, though pollen can also be ingested from certain fruits or vegetables.
What are common symptoms of pollen allergies?
The two main symptoms of pollen allergies are allergic rhinitis and conjunctivitis. Allergic rhinitis translates to frequent sneezing, runny nose, congestion, post-nasal drip and an itchy palate or throat. Conjunctivitis translates to watery, itchy, swollen red eyes. People with severe conjunctivitis often feel like they can't open their eyes upon waking in the morning due to swollen and watery eyes.
When does pollen season begin?
Typically, trees begin pollinating in mid-March and end in late-May, while pollen from grass and spring weeds starts to appear in early May and lasts throughout the summer. However, as scientists have confirmed, rising temperatures and carbon dioxide levels have caused the spring season to arrive sooner.
What can I do to minimize my pollen allergy symptoms?
It's pretty hard to completely avoid pollen, especially if you plan to leave your house some time between mid-March and August. But there are some things you can do to minimize your exposure to pollen, especially when pollen counts are very high, and reduce its effects. Here are some ideas:
Reduce your exposure
- After you've been outside – gardening, running or whatever else you love to do in the spring – change your clothes. It's also a good idea to take a shower to wash pollen from your skin and hair.
- While doing outside chores like pulling weeds, mowing the lawn and gardening, wear a dust mask, hat, sunglasses and thick gardening gloves to limit your exposure to pollen.
- Know the prime times for fun outdoor activities if you have pollen allergies. Plan an event or a long run after it has rained, which clears pollen from the air. Avoid too much time outside on very windy and dry days.
- Don't hang your laundry on an outdoor clothesline in the summer. The worst thing you can do is make your home a haven for pollen as well!
- Monitor pollen counts by checking your local weather channel. When experts forecast very high levels, start taking an allergy medicine or herbal remedy of your preference before your symptoms even start.
- Keep your windows and doors closed at night or during high pollen counts.
- If you want to take a run or bike ride outside, avoid doing so in the morning when pollen counts are typically highest.
- Keep the indoor air clean and pollen-free by using a dehumidifier, using a HEPA filter in your bedroom and a vacuum cleaner with a HEPA filter and using high-efficiency filters in your home's air conditioning system.
Of course, taking a decongestant or other allergy medicine and using nasal spray might be necessary, despite the above precautions. People with very severe allergies may need regular allergy shots. Check with your doctor to see what is best for you!
Humans have had pet canines for thousands of years, and there's a reason why this perennial "world's best pet" is human's best friend around the world. In fact, 47 percent of households in the U.S. own at least one dog. Everyone that has a pet dog knows that they're loyal, loving creatures that are always happy to see you when you get home. And recent research furthers the cause of having a pet dog – as it turns out, whether you're a child, adult or senior, there are some major benefits of having a pooch by your side. Aside from an abundance of love and loyalty, here are some of the reasons that dog ownership is good for your health:
- Get more exercise. As a dog-owner, you'll get a great workout every day by taking your little Fido out on his walks.
- Live longer. Research has shown that people with dogs tend to live longer than others, which is likely due to the fact that they get more exercise than others and gain the emotional benefits of having a pet.
- Stave off loneliness. Dogs as companions can help us feel less lonely. This is especially important for people who live alone, such as seniors, according to recent research. Aside from being good company, pets can also help you meet new people. Dogs serve as an easy topic of conversation: when you are out walking your dog, people are more likely to come up and talk to you, and if you go to parks you can meet other dog owners. The reduction of loneliness is a very important benefit because loneliness has been shown to decrease overall health and longevity.
- Keep your heart healthy. Though surprising, research has shown that simply petting and talking to a dog or cat can lower one's blood pressure noticeably. Petting an animal can induce relaxation and calm people, which is why dogs are often used in hospitals as therapy animals.
- Learn empathy. Having a pet dog can teach children empathy. It allows them to learn to care for something and recognize others' needs if they are involved in the feeding, brushing and other care of the animal.
If you're considering adopting a pet, make sure you will have ample time and energy to care for that animal first, but know that, aside from being loved on by a furry friend, you'll benefit in so many other ways.
Kids' lives these days seem almost more busy and scheduled than ours are or ever were. Whether you're chasing a toddler around the living room, playing t-ball with your preschooler or chauffeuring your pre-teens to after-school soccer practice, your life probably couldn't get much busier. Here are some exercises to boost your energy, get you ready for the day and help you keep up with the kids:
Kids are flexible little humans, so if you're going to play backyard soccer or tag with them, you need to keep up. Start your morning off right with these energizing stretches:
- Cat-Cow yoga pose: Lay a mat down on the floor and get on your hands and knees, with your knees in line with your hips and your hands aligned with your shoulders. As you inhale, lift your tailbone and head and push your stomach toward the floor. Exhale and drop your head, tuck your tailbone and arch your back toward the ceiling. Do 10 reps for a good back stretch, and remember to breathe deeply.
- Hamstring stretch: If you often have tight hamstrings, give them a nice stretch so you're ready to rock for the day. Lay on your back with your legs straight and your lower back and hips pressed into the mat. Then, lift your leg with your knee bent and hold it parallel to the floor. Stretch your leg straight up, keeping your hands behind your knee to make sure your leg is now perfectly perpendicular to the floor. Hold the stretch for 30 seconds before switching to the other leg. Do three repetitions.
- Neck and shoulder stretch: Sit on the floor with your back straight and your legs crossed. Keep your shoulders straight and tilt your left ear toward your left shoulder, feeling a pull. Hold for 20 seconds before doing the right side. Then, roll your shoulders back and forward to loosen up tight muscles.
Feel the burn
Some of the best exercises to keep up with the kids are squats. Here are two excellent variations:
- Split Squat: This gets your hips and thigh muscles ready for a long day. With feet shoulder-width apart and hands at your sides, take a step backward and drop into a lunge, moving slowly into it until your front knee is at a 90-degree angle. Hold it for a few seconds, then push yourself back up with your knees slightly bent. Do 20 reps on one side before switching to the next leg.
- Squat thrusts: These are good for your chest, triceps, hamstrings and quads. With your feet hip-width apart, squat and put your hands on the floor in front of your feet. Jump backward so you're in a pushup position, don one pushup and then jump back toward your hands and stand again. Do 10 reps on each side and this will surely get you ready for the day!
So you've got a big conundrum: Your favorite show is on TV tonight – and come to think of it, there are shows you've been dying to see tomorrow and the next night, too. But you've committed to hitting the gym at least four nights a week to get in tip-top shape, even though it puts a squeeze on your busy schedule. So, should you miss your shows or suck it up and head to the gym? Turns out, you hardly have to leave the couch to get a workout, so do both! Here are some tips for exercising while you watch TV:
- Triceps dips: Using the couch for support, place your hands on the edge and walk your feet out. Bend your elbows to "dip" down toward the ground and come back up. Complete two sets of 15.
- Couch push-ups: Kneel on the floor 2 feet away from the couch but facing it. Put your hands on the edge, shoulder-width apart, and do a push-up, lowering your chest until it just touches but does not rest on the couch cushion.
- Boat Pose: Sit on the floor with bent knees and hands by your side. Lean back onto your tail bone and slowly lift your legs until they are at a 45-degree angle with the floor. Lift your arms at the same time so that they are parallel with your knees in a way that helps you keep balance. Keep your back straight and hold the pose for 30 seconds. This is a great core-builder.
- Sit-ups or crunches: These are self-explanatory and are a great workout to do anywhere that will tone your core. This is a good exercise to do during commercial breaks as it's hard to focus on the TV when your head is bobbing up and down and you're focusing on your abs.
- Planks: Get in the push-up position, pull your stomach in and make sure your butt is in line with the rest of your body, rather than sticking straight into the air. Hold this position for 30 seconds then lower slowly to the ground.
- Baby Cobra Pose: This one gives you a good stretch and – even better – you can do it while watching TV. Lie on your stomach and put your hands flat on the ground next to your chest. Use the tops of your feet and your hands to lift your upper body, keeping your elbows close and your hips downward pressed flat to the ground. Hold it for 30 seconds to get a good stretch in your lower back.
Fall is a great time to get out and have some family fun in the crisp air. Also, it's a time to look forward to some of the year's best holidays. Here are some great ideas for fall activities that both parents and kids will enjoy:
- Run a 5k that also has a children's fun run. It's a great way to bond, get some exercise and practice sportsmanship. Plus, autumn weather is a runner's dream!
- Go to a local farm for warm apple cider, pumpkin picking and a jaunt through the corn maze.
- Take the kids apple-picking and then bake a pie or crisp together using the fruits you've picked.
- Have the kids help rake the leaves – great exercise – and then make big piles that they can jump and play in. Don't forget to take pictures!
- Organize a neighborhood game of soccer, kickball or flag football with other families. It can even be a kids versus adults game.
- Bike to a local park for a family game of Frisbee, tag or catch.
- If Halloween is a big deal at your house, make it a spooky wonderland in preparation for the trick-or-treaters with spider webs, tombstones and other frightening decor.
- Organize a Halloween parade for all of the neighborhood families.
- Take a bike ride or walk through a local forest preserve and have a scavenger hunt, which you can organize ahead of time. Have the kids look for certain leaves and little critters.
- Head to a fall farmers market and have the kids help pick out ingredients for that night's dinner. You can cook together later, and turn up some music to make it less of a chore and more of a dance party.
- Be brave and check out a haunted house together!
For some of us, exercising is the cherry on top of an already wonderful day, or the thing that makes a bad day good. For others, working out just feels like another task added to an already busy day. Maybe you'd rather be spending precious hours with your kids, spouse or other family members, or perhaps they could all use a bit of exercise too. Get everyone off of the couch and make it more fun with these family-friendly workout ideas:
- If the weather isn't optimal, do a fitness DVD together, which will likely be entertaining and prove to be a good work out.
- Turn on some music and clean the house together, which will burn a lot of calories between dancing and scrubbing the floor. You will also be doing three important things at once: keeping the house clean, getting some exercise and spending time with family.
- Train for a race together. Sponsored walks, half-marathons and various fun-runs are all the rage right now, and they often have shorter distance events for kids. Choose a race or walk for a good cause and train with your kids and spouse to get some quality family time.
- Head to a new public park that you've never visited before. Spend the day walking and exploring together.
- Celebrate special days like birthdays or holidays off from school with fun physical activities. You can bike together to get frozen yogurt or head to a local wilderness site for camping, hiking and connecting with nature.
- Visit a working farm together. As we become more urbanized as a country, we are less connected to where our food comes from. Many farm owners are trying to remedy this and get a little help by offering opportunities to work on a farm for a day. You and your kids can volunteer your services – cleaning up, pulling weeds, caring for animals or working in the garden - and also learn more about our food system. You'll burn some serious calories from all the walking and working, and your kids will learn respect for animals and nature.
- Organize a neighborhood-wide or extended family sporting event like a soccer, softball or kickball game. This will be a lot of fun for everyone and you'll hardly know you're getting a workout!
Multivitamins are dietary supplements that contain a combination of vitamins, which are organic substances in plants and animals that our bodies depend on. As the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported in an April 2012 study, the majority of Americans get enough vitamins every day in their diets. However, there are plenty of people who can benefit from a multivitamins. It's important to talk to your doctor first, but here are people who might really need to take a vitamin supplement to support their daily diet:
- Adults who are 50 or older could benefit from a multivitamin that contains vitamins B-12 and D, especially if they don't eat enough B-12-foritified foods. It's common for older adults to be deficient in B-12 for various reasons, and they often can't absorb as much vitamin D as their bodies need.
- People who have several food allergies, are lactose intolerant or are limiting foods from their diets for other reasons will often need a multivitamin.
- Strict vegetarians with limited diets should consider a multivitamin, especially because it can be difficult to get vitamins D and B-12 from vegetarian meals.
- Doctors will often recommend a multivitamin for those with an acute or chronic medical condition who are unable to absorb adequate nutrients from their foods, such as going chemotherapy.
- Pregnant and lactating women will need to take a special prenatal multivitamin.
Whether you want to get a workout and some quality family time in, or you just need a way to get your couch potato kids out of the house, exercising together as a family is a great idea and it can be done – it just takes a little patience and creativity! Here are some great family-friendly ways to get some exercise and spend quality time together:
- Take a bike ride! If you don't have bicycles already, you can likely find them on the cheap at garage sales or resale shops. Make sure everyone is strapped into their helmets and hit the pavement on two wheels. If you have little ones, you can tote them along in an kiddie trailer or attach a trailer bike to yours so they can tagalong easily. You can map out your route and miles on different sites like Map My Ride beforehand.
- If you're stuck in the house on a rainy day with toddlers, pop in one of their sing-along DVDs and dance your hearts out. They're young enough to think your "moves" are cool, and they'll happily join in. Or, if your kids are older and stuck inside, play a dance game on the Wii or Xbox to get the blood pumping.
- Go on a nature walk at a local trail, or go hiking if you happen to live in a hilly or mountainous area.
- Plan a scavenger hunt or obstacle course around the neighborhood or at a local park. Kids love these and it will get them moving.
- Hit the mall – as long as you don't eat anything greasy at the food court, do some window or actual shopping at the mall for some exercise. Make a point of parking in the back of the parking lot and hitting the stores even at the farthest end of the shopping center.
- If you exercise at home, create modified exercises that the kids can do with you. For example, if you do yoga, look up some easy poses for children and teach them. Yoga is also a good way to get a little peace and quiet. If you use weights, give the kids beanbags or filled water bottles to use as their own weights. Or, if you are doing pushups, teach your kids how to do modified versions on their knees.