National Heart Month: Adding Cardio Activities to Your Routine

Since February is National Heart Month, now is a great time to think about how to keep your heart healthy. Aerobic (otherwise known as cardio) exercises help our circulatory systems stay strong. Doing regular cardio exercises has proven to help strengthen the heart’s ability to pump blood through your body and reduce your blood pressure. We know that making a habit of doing cardio activities can be a struggle, so we came up with some easy activities to begin your cardio workout plan.

"Jump rope" by Andrew Malone ©2010. Some rights reserved. Licensed by Creative Commons Public Works License

“Jump rope” by Andrew Malone ©2010. Some rights reserved. Licensed by Creative Commons Public Works License

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Success in the New Year: Health and Fitness

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Photo by Zyada, ©2011. Some rights reserved. Licensed by Creative Commons Public Works License

It’s already a week into January but it’s never too late to set goals for yourself in the New Year! To help you put your goals in perspective, the JumpStart and Math Blaster blogs are working together to cover everything from Health and Fitness to School, Work and Time Management! Check out our tips for keeping your Health and Fitness resolutions below, and then head over to the Math Blaster blog to see what recommendations we’ve got for Time Management solutions!

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Nutrition Essentials for Kids

Starting in their first years and up through their early adulthood, kids need an ample amount of nutrients to properly grow and develop. To promote healthy and balanced eating habits early on, teach your kids about choosing “super foods” that not only keep their energy up during the day but also contribute to their development during these important stages in their lives.

Kick the day off with a nutrient rich breakfasts that will keep your kids satisfied up through lunch and awake and alert throughout the morning. With the rest of the day ahead, try incorporating foods that contain heavy amounts of Iron, Vitamin D, Calcium, Protein and Fiber into your children’s meals. These types of foods are the key to jumpstarting their metabolism and keeping at their healthiest, this spring. Get ready and start revamping their meal plans by implementing some of these top super foods for kids.

Eggs –
a great source of protein and vitamin D. Eggs can me prepared in a number of ways to fit any kids taste.

Oatmeal –
fiber filled whole grains help keep kids fuller, longer. Having a small serving of oatmeal can provide kids with the energy they need to stay alert and keep going in school or at play.

Fruits –
nutrient rich and full of fiber, fruit contains the natural sugar that kids crave from time to time without having to turn to more fattening alternatives like candy or sweets.

Healthy fats –
small servings of nuts, avocados and fish like salmon provide kids not only with added energy but are also considered healthy fats that aid in growth and development.

Milk –
regular milk consumption provides kids with the calcium necessary to fortify bones and teeth, while the protein available helps in the development of brain tissue.

Beans –
beans contain three major essentials that play into kids’ development. They provide kids with ample amounts of protein, fiber, and calcium.

This spring, while preparing meal ideas for your kids, do your best involve a balance of all of these essential areas. You will  can do wonders for your kids in a variety of ways. Don’t be afraid to get creative with your recipes to involve seasonal foods and remember that instilling these healthy eating habits while your kids are still young is a great way to promote their growth and development.

Fourth of July Parfait

Your child can enjoy their own independence in the kitchen with this kid-friendly dessert!

The time to celebrate our nation’s independence is fast approaching! While your little ones may not fully understand the history behind Fourth of July yet, that doesn’t mean they won’t enjoy the holiday. For many of us, Fourth of July has become synonymous with backyard barbecues and spending time with friends and family. And who is better to help you plan your barbecue than your own little patriot?

A perfect way to end your barbecue is to plop down to watch those fireworks with a delicious patriotic parfait that you and your child made together! You can even turn the grocery shopping into a learning experience for your child. While picking out the fruit for the parfait, ask your child which colors you need to represent the American flag. Then, it can be a scavenger hunt to find the berries that have the appropriate color and taste appeal for your family. Learn how to make patriotic parfaits here!

Summer’s Here! Beat the Heat with Strawberry Smoothie Pops!

The kids are out of school and the sun is high in the sky! Guess what that means.…Summer is officially here!!  Strawberry smoothie popsicles are a fun, healthy snack to kick this summer off right. This simple recipe will satisfy any sweet tooth and keep everyone cool in the summer heat. Learn how to make these delicious summer treats here!

Kiss Your Brain With Some Brainy Bites

– From the Desk of Heather Tuttle, Curriculum Writer –

Here’s some food for thought.  Have you ever considered maximizing your mind through your mouth?  This week, we’ve got more than a spoonful of advice to build brawny brains in your family.  All you have to do is follow this simple recipe to ensure a healthy, active, and more powerful brain.

Our brains run on blood sugar, using about 20% of the carbohydrates we eat to function.  However, the brain is a picky muscle that prefers to take its blood sugar in a specific way.  Simple carbohydrates like those in processed flour products (white bread) and sugary foods (sodas, candies, and frosting) cause a rush of sugar into the bloodstream.  The ‘Glycemic Index’ (GI) measures how quickly sugar from food enters the brain.  Foods with a high GI take our brain on a rollercoaster ride.  Our brains don’t do well and get a little out of control while on this wild sugar ride leaving us fidgety, irritable, inattentive, and even sleepy.  These effects are definitely not conducive for effective brain building.

Keep your plate clear of these foods that drain the brain:

  • Sugary drinks like sodas and juices
  • Refined white sugars found in candy, ice cream, and ketchup
  • White breads like pancake and pizza dough
  • Processed foods like lunch meats
  • High-Fructose corn syrup found in canned fruits, juices, and candy
  • Hydrogenated fats found in chips and pastries

The best brain foods are foods that have a low GI.  These foods usually contain complex carbohydrates that take the body longer to break down.  This means it takes the sugars longer to reach our brain.  Because of this, our brain gets a steady flow of energy rather than a surging sugar rush.

Fill up on foods that fuel the mind:

  • Fruitful Fruits: Bananas, grapefruit, apples, cherries, oranges, and grapes have a low glycemic index and are high in antioxidants that will help improve memory.
  • Cereals and grains: Oatmeal and bran contain B vitamins and are rich in fiber.  This will improve memory function and provide a steady stream of energy to the brain.  Spaghetti and rice also have a relatively low GI and can help brain development and function.
  • Vegetables and legumes: Legumes, including soybeans, kidney beans, chick peas, and lentils are great brain foods.  Also veggies like peas, lettuce, and broccoli are marvelous mind enhancers.  Although these foods have the lowest glycemic index of any food, they probably have the lowest intrigue among kids’ taste buds as well.  Get creative to get your kids interested.  Make a ‘dip and dunk’ snack by pairing hummus or bean dip with fresh-cut vegetables.
  • Dairy products: Most milk products also have low glycemic indexes.  Yogurt, cottage cheese, and string cheese are super snacks for stronger brains and bones.
  • Omega-3 fatty acids:  Salmon, tuna, avocado, nuts, and flaxseed contain healthy fats that will help boost the brain’s thinking power in no time.
  • Power up with proteins:  Found in eggs, turkey, peanut butter, and lean beef, proteins affect brain performance because they provide amino acids.  These essential acids create neurotransmitters that carry signals from one brain cell to another. The better you feed these messengers, the more efficiently they’ll deliver the goods to the brain.

Now that you’ve filled up on some ideas for a brain boosting diet, chow down and start multiplying your mind!  Before you know it, you and your kids will be lean, mean, thinking machines!

6 Snacks with Fruit the Kids Will Actually Eat!

Summer is here, and you’re looking forward to a nice couple months with your kids. Take a moment and imagine the fun, well-ordered family dinners, the wholesome foods you will prepare for snack time, their quiet joy as they munch down their vegetables…Psych! Let’s get back to reality. The kids will demand ice-cream and soda for dinner, turn up their noses at anything green and try to sneak popsicles out of the freezer when you aren’t looking.

But all is not lost! Fortunately, summertime means fruit is in the air… er… the grocery stores, and that makes for endless possibilities. Here are a couple ideas for some quick and delicious, fresh-fruit snacks you and your kids will love!

Warning: Many of the snacks below involve some level of mess factor, so be sure to use bibs and paper towels… and you might want to put bibs on your kids, as well J

  • Peanut Butter, Banana, and Honey on Toast: Toast a slice of whole-wheat bread, spread on a thin layer of peanut butter, slice up half a banana on top, and then drizzle on a little bit of honey. You can give it to your kids open-faced or as a sandwich. Either way, it’s delicious!
  • Apples and Honey: I’m often surprised by how few people have tried this. Slice up an apple into four to six pieces, then pour a little honey on a plate. Dip and enjoy!
  • Banana, Peanut Butter, and Ovaltine: Put a dollop of peanut butter (a tablespoon should be plenty) on a plate, and one or two spoonfuls of Ovaltine powder next to it. You’re kids can then dip a banana in the peanut butter and Ovaltine for a delicious, protein-rich snack. Note: Ovaltine is surprisingly low in calories, and makes for great chocolate milk, too!
  • Strawberries, Yogurt, and Brown Sugar: This is a slightly healthier twist on strawberries, sour cream, and brown sugar. Just replace the sour cream with a little low-fat vanilla yogurt. If you are, by chance, not familiar with this delightful snack, here’s how you do it: Wash some strawberries (and cut them up if your kids are very young), put a dollop of low fat yogurt on a plate, and a little pile of brown sugar next to it. You’re kids will love dipping and munching the strawberries, and will particularly love taking a spoon to the mix of yogurt and brown sugar left on the plate when the strawberries are gone.
  • Easy and Yummy Fruit Salad: Chop up any kinds of fruit you have in the house: bananas, apples, melons, grapes, etc. Mix them up with a good amount of low-fat vanilla yogurt, and sprinkle in a little brown sugar until it tastes just right. You can also play with adding a couple drops of vanilla extract or cinnamon.
  • Banana Split: This is a fun dessert for your family to enjoy. Either slice a banana, or use a whole one. Mix a couple tablespoons of Ovaltine with a tiny tiny tiny bit of milk or water to make a rich chocolate sauce. Drizzle this over the banana. Then add a little whip cream, sprinkle some powdered Ovaltine over the top, and voila! You’ve got an instant, classy, and best of all (don’t worry, we won’t tell your kids) healthy dessert.