There is rarely a time when I don't have several dozen homemade muffins sitting in my freezer. Muffins can be the perfect on-the-go breakfast, a quick and easy snack, and a great addition to school lunches. And they can be really nutritious and delicious all at the same time!
I love experimenting with various ingredients and methods of preparing different recipes. Whether it's a flourless blender muffin or a high fibre fruity bran muffin, I love having a few to choose from at one time. As a mom, I want a muffin that my kids love and that is still nutritious. As a Dietitian, I try to pack as much nutrition into most of my recipes, while still maintaining a delicious flavour and texture. A few of my favourite ingredients to use for muffin recipes are lentils (yep--lentils!), bananas, cocoa, coconut oil, whole grain flour, oatmeal and chia seeds. My goal is to include enough ingredients with staying power (e.g. whole grains, nuts, seeds, healthy oils, eggs) with ingredients that will provide lots of flavour (e.g. chocolate, cocoa, coconut, peanut butter, fruit).
Here are 12 of my favourite muffin recipes, some of which will hopefully end up in your freezer soon too!
For more delicious and nutritious recipes, as well as free nutrition tips for parents and kids, check out my Facebook Page!
"Should I buy organic produce or not?" is a very common question I'm often asked by clients and readers. My answer is usually prefaced with "I'm happy to hear you're eating fruits and vegetables!," with an explanation thereafter of why buying organic or conventional produce is a ultimately a personal choice. The truth is, eating produce regardless of whether it's free of pesticide residues or not is a GOOD thing. The benefits of eating a variety of fruits and vegetables on a regular basis far outweighs any risks to potential pesticide exposure.
But I will say this: I love the Environmental Working Group's (EWG) Dirty Dozen and Clean Fifteen lists because it acts as a handy shopping guide, indicating which fruits and veggies are worth splurging on (buying organic, if resources allow) and which ones to not worry so much about (buying conventional is fine). In other words, I wouldn't bother buying organic onions because they were tested to have low pesticide residues, whereas I often buy organic apples because they always test high.Regardless of what my personal grocery shopping strategies are, it was reported by USDA economists that organic produce sales spiked from $5.4 billion in 2005 to about $15 billion in 2014. The demand for organic foods is growing at warp speed, because consumers are worried about the potential effects of chemicals such as pesticides, herbicides and fertilizers, as well as potential decreased nutrient content in conventionally grown produce. These are valid concerns (and I personally share some of these concerns myself), but the literature on organic foods continues to indicate that there isn't much evidence that organic foods are significantly more nutritious than conventional foods. What's more is that the USDA's Pesticide Data Program's annual summary reports that "overall pesticide chemical residues found on foods tested are at levels below the tolerances established by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and do not pose a safety concern." Yet there are other data indicating that the effects of pesticides and other chemicals are still largely unknown--they may be carcinogenic, they may cause disruptions to the nervous system, and they may affect our hormone and endocrine systems. Then again, the amounts that are consumed by humans through non-organic produce may be small enough as not to have a harmful effect though.
Confused yet? Because I am.
Until we have more conclusive evidence on the matter, it's best to eat fruits and vegetables. Period. We have decades of research to support doing this. If you're like me though, and choose to buy some organic foods, choose wisely, so that you're not spending extra money unnecessarily.
Here are the key findings of the Environmental Working Group's 2015 analysis of pesticide residues in fruits and vegetables:
Dirty Dozen - key findings:
Clean Fifteen - key findings:
In addition, according the the EWG "two American food crops - leafy greens and hot peppers - were found to be of special concern for public health because residue tests conducted by the U.S. Department of Agriculture have found these foods laced with particularly toxic pesticides. Among the chemicals at issue are organophosphate and carbamate insecticides. These are no longer detected widely on other produce, either because of binding legal restrictions or voluntary phase-outs." Therefore, even though these foods weren't included in the dirty dozen list, the EWG highlighted them in a special "plus" section.
Dietitians of Canada recommends to always wash fresh vegetables and fruit thoroughly under running water to remove dirt, bacteria, and decrease any pesticide residues (although, it is unlikely that all pesticide residues will be removed). Organic produce should also washed thoroughly prior to consuming, to remove dirt and bacteria. It's recommended to remove the outer leaves of leafy vegetables and scrub root vegetables like carrots and potatoes to remove all dirt, especially if you will be eating the skins or peels. Up until now, there is no evidence that washing fruits and veggies with soap, special cleaning products or vinegar is beneficial. It can leave an aftertaste and don't kill bacteria or mould.
As mentioned above, when it comes to buying organic vs. non-organic produce, consider the scientific research that we have access to today, know that there is no right or wrong way, and do what is best for you and your family. Perhaps you will choose to buy some local fresh organic produce (using the dirty dozen list) during the summer months when they are more plentiful and affordable and not worry so much in the colder months. Maybe you choose to buy organic when you have some extra money in your grocery budget and not when money is a bit tighter. Whatever you choose to do, aim to eat and feed your family a variety of fruits and veggies throughout the week -- this is what really matters.
I post daily nutrition tips, articles and resources as well as healthy recipes over on my Facebook page. Feel free to check it out!
When I became a mom, I told my husband that I wanted to take our kids to Disney while the "magic" was still real--you know, when they actually believe that the Disney characters are real. I went as a teenager with my family and have many fond memories, especially the thrill of space mountain and getting soaked on splash mountain. At that age--although my Disney trip was incredible in every way--it was more about how many fast and scary rides I could fit into each day, versus getting to hug the real Mickey Mouse or meet Cinderella in real life. In other words, it was less about the "magic" and more about how many thrill and fun.
So, when the opportunity presented itself for me to visit Disney World on a press trip, I jumped for joy! We were able to bring two of our kids--Ben who is six and Lylah who is three-and-a-half. We surprised them the morning we left, and it's a moment we'll never forget.
We arrived on a Saturday night and left the following Thursday, which was just enough time to see all of the highlights. Our trip was amazing--filled with magic, fun and wonder. We created very special, life-long memories in those five days. Memories that we could create no where else but at Disney. And because we went close to the holidays, the parks were festively decorated from one corner to the other. The holiday shows were stunning and got us all into the spirit. Here's the Disney Castle, all frosted by Elsa during the nighttime "A Frozen Holiday Wish" Show (which was part of Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party).
Seeing the magic through my kids' eyes while we were there, confirmed my desire to take them at a young age. Their expressions of pure joy and amazement were priceless and something that I'll never forget.
In saying that, as an adult, I had the time of my life. Regardless of how old you are--3 or 93--Disney is magical and amazing in every way, but there's something extra special about Disney when you're young enough to still "believe".
Here are 5 reasons to book your Disney vacation while your kids are still young:
I'll never forget the moment when my three-year-old daughter, Lylah, saw Minnie Mouse in real life, for the first time. Her face lit up with excitement and joy, and then she ran over and gave Minnie a great big hug.
The difference between seeing Minnie now, when she's three, and then again when she's older, is that she truly believes that Minnie is real, along with all of the other characters and princesses. Watching "For the First Time in Forever," the Frozen sing-along was a huge highlight for Lylah--a little girl who lives in her Princess Elsa dress 24/7. She was able to sing along with her favourite characters as they performed all her favourite songs. Who knew a three-year-old could memorize every single word to every single song? The surprise ending was the best -- I think my husband and I both had tears in our eyes watching Lylah take it all in.
My six-year-old, Ben, is still in that "magical" age gap too--he watched in awe as the storm troopers marched down main street at Hollywood Studios for the March of the First Order, and then was even more thrilled to participate in "Jedi training", where he actually trained to be a Jedi, and got to fight an epic light saber battle with none other than Darth Vader. Being a Star Wars Fanatic, he was in Jedi heaven all day!
Travelling with young kids is sometimes more work than it's worth. Everything from the gong-show airport experience with strollers, car seats, diaper bags all over the place, to making sure that your kids stay on schedule for meals and naps so that there aren't too many meltdowns. Having experienced this in the past, I was a little bit nervous to travel from Calgary to Florida with two young kids, and also nervous about keeping everyone on schedule and happy throughout our stay.
Disney was different. I can honestly say that going to Walt Disney World was our easiest and most stress-free family vacation yet (and we travel quite a bit!). Disney made it so easy for us to travel comfortably ,and because we stayed right on Disney grounds (at the Disney Swan Hotel), we were able to get to each park quickly and easily via bus (or water bus) without waiting more than a couple of minutes each time.
From our hotel, it was only about a 10 or 15 minute walk to two of the parks--Disney's Epcot Centre and Disney's Hollywood Studios which was fantastic. And because we found absolutely everything we would ever need at each Disney park, we didn't have to bring much. There are family-friendly washrooms, clean drinking fountains, snack kiosks, amazing restaurants, stroller rentals and more, everywhere we turned!
My absolute favourite Disney planning tool was My Disney Experience-- the Disney planning app, which made the entire experience stress-free and fun. Being type-A, I loved having all of the information I needed--from what time each show or parade was at, to when we had our fast pass rides booked--at my fingertips the whole time.
Speaking of Disney fast-passes--it's the only way to go. Once you've booked your park tickets, you can book your fast passes (which are included in your park admission!). Fastpasses allow you to skip the lines for your favourite rides, shows and character greetings! With young kids especially, you can't go wrong!
Even better was the Disney Parks Mom's Panel site, a Mom-run Disney site where you will find the answers to any question you have, from "how easy is it to find a stroller at each park" to "is it realistic to do two parks in one day" and more. These Disney Moms know their stuff!
Because my daughter is only three, I wondered if she would be a bit young for some of the rides, attractions and shows at Disney. Although she was a bit short for some of the rides, she didn't miss out at all--there were plenty of rides that she could go on (that were fun for all of us!) and all of the shows and parades were perfect for all ages. I have to say that one of my favourite rides (and my daughter's too) was the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train -- we rode it three times!
And, because Disney caters to young families, they've set up the "Rider Switch Service", which means that if one of your kids does not meet the height requirement or doesn't want to go on a particular ride, one adult can wait with the non-rider while the rest of the family enjoy the attraction. When the other adult returns, they can supervise the non-riding Guests, and the waiting adult can go on the ride without having to wait in the regular line again! This was SO handy for us.
And when I didn't think Disney could get any better, I was invited to the grand re-opening of Disney Springs (formerly known as "Downtown Disney").
For Moms like me, who like to do a bit of shopping, eating and sipping while on vacation, Disney Springs is the place to go. Surrounded by your favourite shops, amazing restaurants and lots of entertainment for the whole family, Disney Springs is an awesome place to visit if you're wanting to take a break from the rides and shows, or if you have a later flight home and need to kill a morning. The day that I went, I was able to do a bit of shopping for my family (ok, and for myself), see a fashion show, sip on some amazing cocktails and finish the night at Morimoto (owned by the famous Iron Chef Morimoto), where I tasted some of the most delicious Asian food I've ever had in my life! We then got to experience, the incredible "Starbright Holiday"--an intel collarboration with Disney Springs, where hundreds of lighted show drones take to the nighttime sky!
All in all, our Walt Disney World holiday was, hands-down, our best family vacation yet. We can't wait to go back!
If you're thinking about booking a trip to Walt Disney World with your young family, I say GO FOR IT! The magic and joy you'll experience as a family, and the amazing memories you'll make are priceless.
Here are some helpful links to make your Disney trip planning a little easier
Disclosure: I was lucky enough to be chosen to go to Walt Disney World as a member of the media, on a Disney holiday press trip, where many of my travel expenses were paid for by Disney. All opinions in this blog post are my own.