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Sunday, September 29, 2013

My Favorite Baby Apps!

Baby A is almost four months old now and there are all kinds of handy things we have learned just in these four short months. We've started to figure out what works and what doesn't work, but then the very next day Baby A is growing and changing and we have to figure it all out again.

I would do anything to keep this little man happy!
There have been a few things that have helped us out along the way, even with all the changes. Today I am going to share a few of my favorite iPhone apps that have helped us stay organized and figure this little guy out.

Sprout Baby - I used the Sprout Pregnancy app when I was pregnant to track Baby A's growth and keep track of questions for my midwife. Once Baby A was born, I downloaded the Sprout Baby app ($4.99, available in the app store) after researching a bunch of the baby tracker apps. I loved the visual design of the Sprout Baby app and it had the three features I wanted most - a sleep tracker, feeding tracker and diaper change tracker. The three questions we are asked every time we go to the pediatrician are "How much is he sleeping?", "How many wet and dirty diapers does he have each day?" and "How often is he eating?". As a new parent, it is difficult to keep track of all of this information and pull it out of your head when asked so I love being able to record it using the app.

There is also a medical section where you can record questions for your pediatrician and track your baby's growth. There are other fun features for tracking milestones such as your baby's first walk, first tooth and first smile. You can even include a little picture. Of all the baby tracker apps, I felt this was the one that included everything I was looking for in one app!

Best Baby Monitor - We didn't use a baby monitor for the first two months because Baby A slept in our room at night and napped in his pack'n'play during the day so we were always within earshot. Once he moved into his own room, we knew we needed a monitor, but were not thrilled with the idea of paying $100 or more for one. We searched online a bit and found that there are baby monitor apps, much cheaper than buying an actual monitor! You just place one device, an iPad or iPhone, in the baby's room and keep one device with you and turn the monitor on both devices. The Best Baby Monitor app ($3.99, available in the app store) was our favorite. It has audio and video, night vision, plays lullabies and gives you the ability to talk to your baby from your device. You can also set the monitor to send an alert call to your phone when your baby wakes up. The monitor works over Wi-Fi or Bluetooth so even if your Wi-Fi goes down the monitor will still work. I love that this monitor is reliable, works anywhere and we can use the devices we already own!

WebMD Baby - This app was great for the hours (upon hours) that I spent in the rocking chair breastfeeding Baby A during those first few weeks. With the WebMD Baby app (FREE!, available in the app store) you can enter your baby's birth date and the app provides you with articles, tips and videos relevant to your baby's development. We had so many questions in the beginning and this answered a lot of them before I even had a chance to ask! You can also look up information based on specific concerns, such as sleep, feeding and illness. This app also includes baby tracking features and you can also take pictures to create a virtual baby book. With all the unknowns that come along with being a new parent, this app has helped put my mind at ease more than once.

Baby Sign and Learn - I've read that the earlier you start with baby sign language, the earlier your baby will start recognizing and using signs so I have tried to start getting in the habit with Baby A already. For now, we are only using a few signs like "milk", "diaper" and "fan", but as he grows I plan to add more. Baby Sign and Learn is free in the app store with a small number of included signs, but you can pay a couple of dollars each for additional libraries. This app uses animated videos that demonstrate the signs (they are super cute, too!) and also speaks the word. I like that you can try this one out for free and purchase the full version only if you decide you like it. I can't wait to see Baby A's first sign!

White Noise Ambience Lite - When Baby A was a newborn and sleeping in our room at night or napping somewhere near us during the day, white noise really came in handle to drown out the sounds of our visitors, our dogs and the outside sounds of the city. White Noise Ambience Lite (FREE! in the app store) has a variety of relaxing sounds (we are partial to the stormy sounds of rain and thunder) and you can operate it on a timer. At night we would set the timer for one hour so that it would play while we were all falling asleep, but it didn't have to play all night long. There are plenty of white noise apps out there, but we found this one easy to use and we liked the sound choices.

Reminders - This is not a baby app, but I probably use this more than any other app on my phone. I am not exaggerating when I say that if an idea or task that I need to accomplish pops into my head it will literally disappear from my mind five seconds later if I do not write it down. Mommy brain is in full effect over here and I use the Reminders app to keep me in check. I have recurring reminders set for weekly tasks like cleaning the bathrooms and vacuuming and I also set reminders when I need to remember to make a phone call or pick up a prescription. I even set a reminder to write this blog post (seriously)! Plus I get intense satisfaction from checking things off of my to do list - and, right now, accomplishing even the smallest task provides me with great joy. :)

Now I want to hear from you! What are your favorite baby apps?

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Green Banana Smoothie Layered with Chocolate Chia Pudding

I have been seeing chia seeds everywhere and I've been wanting to try them, but I wasn't really sure what to do with them. I am learning about macronutrients in school right now and these darn little chia seeds keep popping up in my textbooks so I decided it was time to finally give them a try. Here are a few of the things I learned about chia seeds in my reading:
  • High in fiber, essential fatty acids (hello Omega-3's!), protein, calcium and antioxidants
  • Absorb up to 12 times their weight and expand to help you feel more satiated
  • Gluten-free
Sounds good to me! I LOVE my post-workout green smoothies so I decided to incorporate my chia seeds in with my smoothie. I made a banana flavored green smoothie and layered in a homemade chocolate chia seed pudding. I drank it out of a mason jar, which, of course, made it taste even better. Ha ha. :) 

I drank my smoothie after completing my very first bike ride since I had Baby A. Actually, it was my first bike ride since the day I found out I was pregnant. I am very clumsy and fall off my bike a lot so I stayed off my bike during the pregnancy. It felt so amazing to be back out on my bike and I am looking forward to getting back out there. Back to the smoothie, though - this was so refreshing after returning from my ride on such a hot day and it held me over until it was time for dinner.

My chocolate chia pudding was so yummy that now I keep thinking about all of the other combinations I could come up with! I searched online for a chai flavor chia pudding and had that for breakfast topped with sliced strawberries and chocolate chips. I'd love to try a peanut butter flavor and some fruit flavors using fresh squeezed fruit juice.

Have you tried chia seeds? Do you have a favorite flavor or recipe? Share it in the comments below!

Green Banana Smoothie Layered with Chocolate Chia Pudding
Serves: 2

For the Pudding:
1/4 cup chia seeds
1/2 cup coconut milk
1/2 cup water
1 tbsp honey (optional, but delicious)
2 tbsp cocoa powder
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp cinnamon

For the Smoothie:
2 bananas, sliced and frozen
4 green tea ice cubes (just green tea frozen in ice cube trays, you can also use regular ice cubes)
2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 cup coconut milk
3/4 cup water
2 big handfuls spinach

For the Pudding:
Combine all ingredients in a mason jar (or leftover almond butter jar...whatever).

Stir well, making sure all chia seeds are coated in liquid.

Place lid on jar and store in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes. The longer you leave it in the refrigerator, the thicker it will get. I recommend leaving it overnight and stirring every so often.

For the Smoothie:

Add all ingredients to blender.

Blend until smooth. If needed, add additional water until desired consistency is reached.

Divide between two large glasses. Spoon chia pudding evenly into both glasses and stir to incorporate.

Drink up and enjoy!

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Sweet Potato and Poblano Salad with Green Chile Broiled Grouper

I love it when this happens. This was just a random dinner that I threw together because I had a little extra time before Kevin came home from work and the baby was on his best behavior. But it was SO GOOD that I just had to share it. Of course, my method for determining its blog-worthiness was Kevin's seal of approval.

This meal was loosely based on my Broiled Haddock Salad with Roasted Sweet Potatoes and Sweet Maple Dressing, which was inspired by my favorite salad at Ramsi's Cafe on the World. I fried up some bacon and then sautéed onions and poblano peppers in the bacon grease while I roasted a cubed sweet potato. While everything was cooking up, I made a salad of romaine lettuce and spinach, avocado, cucumber and pepitas and tossed it all with a lemon dijon dressing. When the sweet potatoes were out of the oven, I threw in the green chile topped Grouper and broiled it until it was white, flaky and delicious. I mixed it all together and it turned into an awesome dinner salad!

I love salad and have come up with so many fun combinations since I stopped being afraid of vegetables. I feel like you pretty much can't go wrong. Do you have a favorite salad? Share the link in the comments below - I'd love to try something new!

Sweet Potato and Poblano Salad with Green Chile Broiled Grouper
Serves: 4
Time: 60 Minutes

For the Salad
1 tbsp olive oil
1sweet potato, cut into 1 inch cubes
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp paprika
Salt and pepper to taste
4 slices bacon
1 white onion, thinly sliced
3 poblano peppers, sliced into thin rings
8 cups salad greens of your choice
1/2 large cucumber, thinly sliced
1 avocado, diced
1/4 cup pepitas
4 Grouper filets, about 4oz (1/4 lb) each
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1 4oz can diced green chiles

For the Dressing
1/8 cup olive oil
2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 tbsp Dijon mustard
1 tsp dried oregano
Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 350F

In a large bowl, toss sweet potatoes with olive oil, cinnamon, paprika, salt and pepper.

Spread sweet potatoes in an even layer on a baking sheet and roast for 35 to 40 minutes, until tender.

While sweet potatoes are roasting, heat a skillet over medium heat. Cook bacon for 6-8 minutes, turning often, until crispy. Remove from pan and set aside.

Add onion to skillet and cook until translucent, about 2 to 3 minutes, stirring frequently. Add poblano peppers and cook for an additional 5 minutes, stirring often, until peppers are soft. Place peppers and onions in a small bowl. Crumble bacon and add to bowl with peppers and onions.

While potatoes are still roasting, assemble your salad. Add salad greens, cucumber, avocado and pepitas to a large bowl. In a separate bowl, whisk together dressing ingredients until well combined. Pour over salad and toss to coat.

When sweet potatoes are roasted, remove from oven and turn heat up to broil. Add sweet potatoes to a bowl with your other peppers, onions and bacon.

Place grouper filets on a lightly oiled baking sheet. Drizzle with lemon juice and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Spoon an even amount of green chiles onto each filet. Broil for 10 minutes, until fish is white and flaky inside.

Add an even amount of salad to each plate. Top with sweet potato and pepper mixture and one grouper filet. Enjoy!

Note: If you plan to save any for leftovers, store the warm ingredients (sweet potato and pepper mixture and fish) separate from the salad so you can easily reheat them.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Let's Celebrate National Breakfast Month - Healthy Style!

Did you know September is National Breakfast Month? I personally believe every single day should be National Breakfast Day, but that is just me. Seriously - it is true that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. You are literally breaking the fast after sleeping overnight. Breakfast kick-starts your engine and gives you energy to get your day going and it can help to control your blood sugar and regulate your appetite throughout the day.

There is a catch, though...this all depends on what YOU CHOOSE to eat for breakfast. A cinnamon crunch bagel and cream cheese? A frosted donut? These are full of empty calories and are not going to give you nutrients or the benefits I mentioned above. In fact, they will do just the opposite. You'll get an immediate rise in blood sugar and you'll be feeling good for a short while, but just an hour or two later you will experience a major blood sugar crash. This will most likely leave you reaching for another one of those sugary bagels or donuts-not the best way to start the day.

So how should you start the day? How about fresh fruits and veggies, a bit of meat and eggs and a touch of avocado? Eating these REAL foods for breakfast will give you protein for energy, fats to make you feel satiated and slow-digesting carbs and fiber to keep you feeling full for longer.

Alright - time to celebrate with some of my favorite What I Gather breakfasts! Do you have a favorite breakfast dish? Share it below in the comments!

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Why I Love My Post- Baby Body

Update: Because of this blog post I was interviewed for an article on on the subject of how women feel about their post-baby bodies. The story was also picked up by the Daily Mail in the UK (links are below). Sadly, in a Today Show survey, 70% of U.S. women responded that they liked their body less after having a baby. In my eyes, we should love our bodies for what they can do - it isn't about how you look, it is about how you look at yourself! 

On my due date! Baby A was born 7 days later.
When I was pregnant, I knew how important it was to eat enough food to keep myself and my growing baby healthy. I tried to eat as healthfully as possible (chocolate counts, right?), but I didn't count calories and I didn't deprive myself-especially when I was ravenous at 2:30 in the morning. I just tried to eat nutritious foods and knew I could focus on losing the weight after baby was born. Until then, I pushed my pre-pregnancy jeans into a corner deep in the closet.

I had no idea what my body would look like once I gave birth, but I bravely removed my towel in front of the bathroom mirror after my first shower at the hospital the morning after Baby A's birth. My face and legs were already noticeably less swollen, but I looked about 4 or 5 months pregnant and the skin on my stomach was very loose. Because I was so enamored with this new little person and learning how to care for him - I really could not have cared less how my body looked at that moment.

When we arrived home two days later, I still could have easily been mistaken as being pregnant. But, you know what, I still didn't care. I didn't hide my body when we took Baby A for his walks and I actually felt sexy when I went to sleep next to my husband in my bra and underwear.

My body had just done something so amazing and I felt proud and empowered. Everything came together and allowed my body to grow a child, give birth to that child and then provide nourishment for that child. That is the closest thing to a miracle that I have experienced in my lifetime and I was proud to show off the body that accomplished such a feat.
First day home!
My thirst and hunger were uncontrollable during those first couple weeks. I drank water nonstop and snacked every couple of hours practically around the clock. If the baby was eating, I was eating. I lost 25 of the 40 pounds that I had gained during those two weeks no matter what or how much food I consumed.

And then it just...stopped. I have to admit, after everything I had read about breastfeeding and losing the baby weight I thought the weight would just fall off, especially with how easily I had lost weight in the first couple of weeks. I hate to say that I did get a bit frustrated. I was walking all the time and, once I got clearance from my midwife, I started working out almost daily. The scale still didn't budge. I didn't want to, but I finally had to admit to myself that I would have to dial in my diet if I wanted to lose the weight.

Luckily, we were about to start a Paleo Challenge at my gym, Four Barrel CrossFit, and I thought it might be just the jumpstart I needed. At the beginning of August, I weighed in, had my body fat measured and completed the challenge workout. Then I had to eat strict Paleo for one month. Participating in the challenge made me more conscious of what I was eating. I stopped adding honey or molasses to my daily smoothie (P.S. It tasted just as good!) and I stopped grabbing a handful of dried figs or apricots every time I opened the kitchen cupboard. I ate more meat and vegetables and less Paleo-fied treats.

Slowly but surely, the number on the scale started to drop. As the month went on, I honed in my eating habits even more. I learned what worked for me and what didn't. I am a BIG snacker and I love my after-dinner treats, but I eat dinner around 7:00pm or 8:00pm most nights and there is no need for me to have a snack afterwards. I wasn't hungry, I just wanted a sweet treat. I tried to limit that to once or twice a week instead of a nightly indulgence. I changed the way I thought about my late morning or afternoon snacks, as well. Instead of always reaching for a piece of fruit and almond butter (aka - my best friend), I ate hard boiled eggs, veggie sticks and dip or even leftovers.
A typical lunch - giant salad!
By the end of the month, I had lost six pounds. I was thrilled, but not just with the number on the scale. I was happy that I had learned what works for my body and that I can lose weight slowly and safely. I now feel confident that the weight will come off in due time and I can focus on caring for my baby, protecting my milk supply so that I can feed my baby and having strong muscles so I can carry my baby everywhere we go.

I eat three meals a day and one or two snacks. I eat plenty of healthy fats, tons of protein and a variety of fruits and vegetables everyday. As a physically active, breastfeeding mother I know I need at least 500 extra calories daily and I am careful to ensure I am taking in enough calories. And I definitely leave room in there for treats every once in a while. What fun would life be otherwise?

Before getting pregnant, I was mostly concerned with how my body looked in a bathing suit. I didn't take the time to think about all of the amazing things my body really could do. I don't know if my body will ever look the same, but the way I feel about my body has forever been changed. Whether I ever look the same in that bathing suit or not, I will wear it proudly, knowing that my body created, grew and continues to nurture the most amazing little person that has ever come into my life and that is extraordinary.