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6 Exercises That Prepare Your Body for Pregnancy


What’s the best way to stay in shape during your pregnancy—and beyond?  Get in the best shape of your life before you get pregnant! Here are my top six exercise recommendations for preparing your body for a strong and healthy pregnancy and postpartum recovery.
Posted 5/5/2014  6:00:00 AM By: SparkPeople Guest Blogger : 5 comments   17,003 views
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7 Tests You Should Never Skip


Going to the doctor when you're sick is a no-brainer. But going when you're perfectly fine can be a lifesaver. "People who schedule routine visits get the best preventive services, and that sets the stage for success," says Jonathan Temte, M.D., Ph.D., associate professor of family medicine at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health, in Madison. Screening tests are crucial: Your chances of beating virtually any condition are much greater when you catch it in its earliest stages—when it's most treatable or even curable. Use this chart as a guide, but discuss your personal history and specific needs with your doctor. 
Posted 5/7/2013  6:00:00 PM By: SparkPeople Guest Blogger : 6 comments   7,955 views
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11 Healthier Cupcake Recipes


Have you noticed that cupcakerys are the new hot trend in restaurants? Even in my non-metropolitan home town, our local bakery competed in the 2011 and 2012 Food Network Cupcake Wars and won "Best of the Best" on Cupcake Champions in 2012.
In our home, the month of February is an unofficial cupcake month, with Valentine's Day and nine separate family birthday celebrations to prepare for. However, if I stuck with the standard recipe, my husband and I would surely gain a few pounds and my kids would gain an eternal sugar high. 

That said, there are some simple modifications that add nutritional value, reduce the processed sugar, fat, and calories too. Substitute whole-grain flours for all purpose flour. Use fruits and vegetables as a natural sweetener and add color and texture; applesauce can be used in place of oil; flaxseed meal or chia seeds mixed with water can be used in place of eggs; and Greek yogurt can be used in place of flour. I also find that when I use natural ingredients, I crave the processed sugar less-and-less. Another health benefit and convenience with cupcakes is that a serving is as simple as one cupcake. Leftovers can go right into the freezer instead of a late night snack. Celebrate something special with these healthier cupcake recipes. 
Posted 5/2/2013  12:00:00 PM By: Samantha Donohue : 44 comments   341,224 views
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Try This 42-Calorie Spaghetti Swap


Fall and winter squash varieties, including acorn, butternut and spaghetti, are now showing up in farmers’ markets. You’ll be delighted by how delicious, easy to prepare and versatile spaghetti squash can be.
 
Spaghetti squash is named for its uncanny resemblance to pasta once cooked. The squash is tasty yet neutral enough to pair with anything you would normally eat atop pasta.
 
And, if you're watching your carb intake, spaghetti squash should go in your cart. Take a look at how it measures up against standard noodles:
Posted 4/2/2013  6:00:00 PM By: SparkPeople Guest Blogger : 108 comments   484,324 views
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Poll: Whom Do You Trust for Nutrition Information?


I've noticed a popular trend this year among friends who have children.  A common New Year's Resolution I heard other moms talking about was to feeding their families fewer processed foods.  This has been one of my goals for quite some time, but I know from experience that it's not very easy.  One reason it can be difficult to feed your kids healthier foods is that you get different recommendations about the "right" and "wrong" things to eat depending on where you look.  Your doctor says one thing. The doctor on TV says another. SparkPeople's dietitians recommend certain strategies. And those tips might conflict with what your best friend has tried successfully.
 
According to a new national survey, moms will be making changes to their food-buying decisions over the next year, and looking to more non-traditional sources for advice.  When it comes to food and nutrition, "Moms place higher priority on the opinions of bloggers and peers than that of experts like doctors and dietitians," according to the survey results. This stood out to me; it seems we trust one another more than the people we've been told to trust as "experts" all these years. So who do you trust more?
Posted 3/25/2013  4:00:00 PM By: Jen Mueller : 24 comments   9,194 views
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10 Super Stuffed Bell Pepper Recipes


Are you looking for new ways to eliminate unhealthy ingredients and add more healthy ingredients to your recipes? Stuffed Bell Peppers are a fun way just to do that. A large size bell pepper has about 50 calories and is loaded with folate, magnesium, copper, fiber, vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin K, vitamin B6, and potassium. Use peppers in place of high calorie wraps that have very little nutritional value. For an added bonus, stuff your peppers nutritional storehouses like beans, lentils, whole grains, finely chopped veggies and lean meats. Top it off with a puréed vegetable sauce for added flavor. Keep yourself healthy with these 10 super stuffed pepper recipes. 
Posted 3/7/2013  6:00:00 PM By: Samantha Donohue : 18 comments   258,777 views
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Juice Recipes for Health


Are you caught up on the latest juicing craze? Regardless making homemade juices are a great choice for those wanting to take control of their health. Homemade juices are healthier than store bought as you can control what ingredients are being used and nothing unnecessary is added. It’s a great way to use those fruits and vegetables are ripe and ready to use. I’ve come up with some of the best combinations by throwing in everything on the container that needs to be eaten today into the juicer. It also a great way to eat fruits and vegetables you may not enjoy on their own. All of these recipes require a blender or juicer. Stay hydrated and filled up on nutrition with these delicious juice recipes. 
Posted 3/1/2013  12:00:00 PM By: Samantha Donohue : 19 comments   25,760 views
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Why All Kids Need Recess


Do you remember elementary school recess?  Can you conjure up vivid images of your play time?

I think I jump-roped around the globe over the course of my elementary school  recess hours.  The traditional, two-people-hold-one-jump rope game was my forte.  I can even hear the song in my head: "Strawberry shortcake, cream on top, tell me the name of your sweetheart..."  The group then sang out a letter of the alphabet with each jump.  Hopefully, if the boy you "liked" started with an S or T or W, you would be able to jump long enough to land on the right letter. 

As children, we looked forward to running free during that period of time during the day.  No hall pass.  No permissions needed.  Little teacher interference.  Fresh air.  Pure and simple play.  That was the 1970s and 1980s for me.  Over the course of the past two decades, however, fewer children have been able to experience the freedoms of recess.   

Perhaps the biggest contributor to the decrease in recess for children has been increased academic expectations.  In a nutshell, in came academic standards and out went recess.  It made sense to many: If there are higher demands academically and more accountability of schools, teachers, and children, then recess (the perceived "perk") must go. 
The problem: Children need recess!   
Posted 2/27/2013  12:00:00 PM By: SparkPeople Guest Blogger : 37 comments   41,220 views
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11 Healthy Cabbage Recipes


When you think of cabbage, do you think of a garnish used to add color or fill in the white space on a plate? Or worse, do you remember watery, mushy, or chewy boiled cabbage that a relative over-boiled with cured meat? If so, then you share my shock and surprise that, at least until recently, I've been missing out on the vitamins and nutrients packed into this water-rich super food. Cabbage has more vitamin C than an orange is a great source of vitamins A, K and also is high in folate and fiber too.  I like the flavor that it adds to soups and salads. My favorite recipe in the "The SparkPeople Cookbookis Chef Meg’s Minestrone Soup and much of the flavor and nutrition comes from the two cups and chopped cabbage in this recipe. Use these cabbage recipes to add extra vegetables to your nutritional intake. 
Posted 2/26/2013  6:00:00 PM By: Samantha Donohue : 18 comments   52,000 views
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5 Foods I Never Feed My Children


One of my biggest priorities as a mom is providing my kids with a healthy diet.  Sometimes I'm met with success (they love vegetables), but other times it's a little more difficult ("Eww!  What is this?!?"). I try to expose them to a wide variety of healthy foods, so that eating this way becomes a normal part of the rest of their lives.  My kids are 6, 4 and 1, and even though I control most of what they eat at this age, I still shake my head at some of the food that's served when I'm not around.  My kindergartner can't go to a Girl Scout meeting, sporting event or even morning snack at school without adults serving her junk food.  So when I'm given the opportunity to bring something, I see it as a chance to show kids that healthy food can taste good.
 
Sometimes I get flak from other parents (including my own) because I don't let my kids order whatever they want at a restaurant or limit the foods I bring into our home.  I don't think I'm denying my children the joys of childhood by not serving them many common "kid foods."  If substituting vegetables for French fries or telling them they can't have the corndog on the menu is the worst thing I do as a mom, I think I'm on the right track.   
 
At the same time, I realize that putting some foods off-limits often makes them the "forbidden fruit," and they can become the food my kids want most.  Just like adults, completely denying yourself the foods you enjoy makes you more likely to binge on them later.  I don't want my child to go crazy at a friend's house because their mom serves chocolate milk and I only serve plain.  My kids get treats and snacks they like, but there are certain foods they will just never get from me.  Recently, I read an article about the top foods nutrition experts won't feed their kids, which inspired me to write this blog.  Wondering what foods are on the "off limits" list for this personal trainer's kids?
Posted 2/25/2013  6:00:00 AM By: Jen Mueller : 119 comments   40,062 views
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The Benefits of Going Blue: 9 Blueberry Recipes


There's no more perfect time of year than right now to start cooking with blueberries. This Native American gem is flavorful and loaded with outstanding nutrients, antioxidants, fiber, and vitamins. A recent study from a Harvard School of Public Health found that eating three or more servings per week can reduce a woman’s risk of heart attack by as much as 33%. Research is also finding that eating blueberries helps with mental wellness and can improve your memory too. Even when they're not in season, I keep them in my freezer and pop them into my hot cereal or right into the Vitamix blender for smoothies. The next time you are at the market, grab a basket of blueberries and enjoy how these recipes will help you become a healthier and happier you. 
Posted 2/20/2013  6:00:00 AM By: Samantha Donohue : 19 comments   29,933 views
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7 Slow Cooker Pork Recipes


Due to the popularity of Slow Cooker Chicken, I'd like to follow up now with pork, which is another slow cooker favorite. Pork is a staple in our house, especially when we're having a large group of dinner guests. It's a budget-friendly choice that becomes tender and juicy when cooked slowly. Whether you're tired of everything tasting like chicken, or you just need a change of pace, add these slow cooker pork recipes to your meal plan today. 
Posted 2/15/2013  12:00:00 PM By: Samantha Donohue : 10 comments   32,355 views
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Better-For-You Southern Comfort Recipes


Down home Southern cooking has produced some of our finest classic American dishes. At the same time, many of these original recipes include unwanted fats, calories and sodium. With some simple changes, we can enjoy this quintessential comfort cuisine and still stay on-track with our health goals. 
Posted 2/1/2013  12:00:00 PM By: Samantha Donohue : 13 comments   87,181 views
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15 Healthy Snacks for Super Bowl Sunday


Speaking as a native San Franciscan, it's been a great year for professional sports! Between the Giant's World Series championship and the 49ers super bowl berth, our athletes have given us a lot to brag about. Rooting for your team is fun, but thinking about what you eat while watching the game (and the commercials) is just as important. According to USA Today, the Super Bowl is "only second behind Thanksgiving for the average amount of calories consumed in a day." To combat this unfortunate fact, I’ve gathered our favorite healthy super bowl party food so you can celebrate without the super-high calories, fat, and sodium. Don't forget to get up at halftime and dance to the music or get outside to throw the ball with your friends, neighbors, and loved ones. That way you can enjoy some great food and keep moving too. You know who I will be rooting for on the field ("Go 49ers!"), but I'm also rooting for all my fellow Sparkers out there to have a fun and healthy super bowl celebration. 
Posted 1/29/2013  12:00:00 PM By: Samantha Donohue : 16 comments   120,298 views
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Families Come in All Shapes and Sizes: Help Your Children Embrace Theirs


How do you define family? 
This is the seemingly simple question that I ask college students in my adulthood and aging course when we begin to talk about family.  As they offer definitions, I jot down phrases on the board in the front of the room.  As we move along, students’ definitions become broader and more inclusive. 

In 2013, the reality is that there is not one model of "family."  In fact, there are not even two or three models of family to which we can turn in order to neatly and easily complete our list.  Children may be biological or adopted or fostered; raised by parents or grandparents; have no siblings or half siblings or step-siblings; have heterosexual or homosexual parents; have two parents who have remained married or up to four parents who represent blended families.

In fact, approximately 40% of children have divorced parents.  Two and a half million children experience the death of a parent before the age of 18.  About 1.8 million children in the U.S. are adopted.  The past four decades brought changing divorce and marriage rates, more women in the workforce, a longer life expectancy, more reproductive technologies, delayed marriage and childrearing, more alternative family patterns.  Frankly, there is no norm!

Posted 1/25/2013  6:00:00 PM By: SparkPeople Guest Blogger : 25 comments   11,427 views
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