A Brainy Breakfast and Other Tips for Keeping The Whole Family Healthy

How is your daily routine going? I don’t know about you, but there is always a period of adjustment once the kids head back to school. Schedules shift, time gets tight and it often feels like the endless hamster wheel. For us, it felt even more intense this year because I too was getting ready to go “back to school” and work full-time, outside of the house for the first time in almost three years.

So how has it been? Honestly, better than I anticipated, but we have made a conscious effort as a family to be a little more organized and thoughtful so that we set ourselves up for success. One of the ways we do this at our house is by making sure that we are fueling our bodies with healthy, nutritious food. Listen, it took me until my mid-thirties to realize that what I eat for breakfast has a drastic impact on how I feel (emotionally and physically) for the rest of the day… and trust me when I say I’m not the only one in our house impacted by the quality of breakfast.

What exactly is a brainy breakfast and why is it so important?

Above all other organs, the brain is most affected – for better or worse – by what you eat. Scientific studies show that children who begin the day with a brainy breakfast:

  • Made higher grades

  • Were more attentive and participated better in class

  • Were less likely to be diagnosed with A.D.D., A.D.H.D. or learning disabilities

  • Handled complex learning tasks better

  • Missed fewer school days because of illness

The main ingredients of a brainy breakfast are:

  • Protein, which perks up the brain

  • Fiber-filled carbs, which provide a steady supply of fuel

  • Omega-3 fats, which build smart brain cells

  • Minerals, such as calcium and iron, which help brain biochemistry work better

Below you will find a few of our favorite Brainy Breakfasts.

Quinoa Sweet Potato Hash

1 -2 cubed organic sweet potatoes

1/2-1 cup of frozen organic kale

2 cups of organic red or white quinoa

1/2 cup of shredded cheddar cheese

2-3 teaspoons of cumin

1/2 teaspoon of garlic powder

1/2 teaspoon of onion powder

2 Tablespoons of olive oil

salt & pepper to taste

Directions: Prepare quinoa according to package directions and set aside. Cube sweet potatoes and saute in the pan at medium heat with cumin, garlic and onion powder, salt and pepper and olive oil. Once the potatoes are soft, add the quinoa, frozen kale, and cheddar cheese and cook until combined and heated thoroughly. For added protein, you could prepare an egg however you choose and add.

Organic Oats with Dried Fruit and Nuts

1/2 cup of rolled organic oats

1 cup of whole organic milk

1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon of brown sugar or honey

a small portion of dried or fresh fruit (raisins, blueberries, cranberries, bananas, apples, strawberries, raspberries)

a small portion of nuts (almond slices, pecans)

a small portion of coconut flakes

Directions: Bring the milk to a boil in a saucepan, stir in oats and cinnamon. Cook over medium heat for 5 minutes stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and add brown sugar or honey, dried fruit, nuts, and coconut. Alternate Preparation: Combine milk, oats, cinnamon and brown sugar in a microwave-safe bowl. Microwave on high for 1-2 minutes and stir, return to microwave and microwave an additional 1-2 minutes.

Green Smoothie

1 cup of frozen, organic spinach

1/2 cup of orange juice or coconut water

1/2 cup of filtered water

2 cups of frozen fruit (we like strawberries, blueberries, bananas, mango, peaches)

1/2 cup of plain greek yogurt

1 tablespoon of daily greens

2 scoops of Vital Protein Collagen Peptides

1/4 cup of chia seeds

Directions: Blend greens, juice, water, yogurt, daily greens, and collagen powder together, then add frozen fruit and chia seeds.

In addition to a brainy breakfast, we make sure that our kids also get their vitamins (Multivitamin, Omega 3-DHA/EPA, Vitamin D), a big glass of water and a little movement in the morning.

Enjoy!

The Benefits of Elderberry Syrup

Photo by elfgradost/iStock / Getty Images

Photo by elfgradost/iStock / Getty Images

Well here we are, school is back in full swing and we almost made it through our first week without having to call in sick…but then the germs struck. That means it’s time to increase the water, vitamins and sleep at the Stoks’ house. One of our other favorite ways to combat cold and flu and those nasty germs is by boosting our immune systems with elderberry syrup.

I’ve been making elderberry syrup for about 5 years and I’m convinced it’s helped us get through some nasty winters with fewer sick days and faster recoveries when we do become ill. So what exactly is elderberry syrup?

What are elderberries?

People have used elderberry for hundreds of years for its health benefits. Elderberry is one of the most commonly used medicinal plants in the world. Elderberries are the fruit of a flowering plant known as Sambucus, more commonly referred to as elder or elderflower. You will find elderberries primarily in the Northern Hemisphere, particularly in Europe and North America.

The berries are black or very dark purple and have a sharp, sweet flavor that makes them highly preferred for desserts, syrups, jams, jellies, spreads and if you’re a super hipster, the base for various, trendy cocktails and beverages.

What is the nutritional value of elderberries?

According to the USDA National Nutrient Database, Elderberries are packed with nutrients including minerals like iron, potassium, phosphorus, and coppers, as well as vitamins, such as Vitamin A, B, and C, as well as proteins and dietary fiber. Elderberries also have some organic compounds that function as anti-inflammatory and antioxidant agents in the body.

Health Benefits of Elderberries:

As mentioned, it is believed that elderberries due to their rich antioxidant concentration can relieve colds, fight the flu and boost overall immunity. A few other health benefits are that it can aid in digestion, support heart health, improve respiratory health and support skin health.

*Note consumption of raw berries, leaves or stems of the plant is not recommended*

The Brain Gut Connection

The Brain Gut Connection:  How to eat for better mental health.

Anxiety is the most common mental illness in the US, affecting more than 40 million adults age 18 and over annually.  This makes up for about 18% of the population. (Anxiety and Depression Association of America).   There is new and emerging research suggesting that inflammation and overall gut-health has a big impact on your brain health. 

Recent research suggests that there is a strong link between inflammation, specifically in the gut, and mental health.  We now know that depression and anxiety are associated with a chronic, low-grade inflammatory response and activation of cell-mediated immunity, as well as activation of the compensatory anti-inflammatory reflex system. It is similarly accompanied by increased oxidative and nitrosative stress (O&NS), which contribute to neuroprogression in the disorder. The obvious question this poses is ‘what is the source of this chronic low-grade inflammation? (BMC Medicine).

“Bad” bacteria in the gut, can increase immune responses, leading to inflammation.  This cycle suggests that decreasing inflammation could in fact, promote health and healing.  So, how do we reduce inflammation?  I’m going to share five healthy habits that could help reduce inflammation and perhaps offer some relief.

  1. Move daily. Regular exercise has been shown to improve symptoms of depression. It also coincidentally decreases inflammation.

  2. Practice Healthy Sleep Habits. Healthy sleep habits, including enough sleep, can also dramatically improve inflammatory conditions and depression. While not everyone needs eight hours a night, it’s a good goal to start with. Not getting enough sleep, even when every other lifestyle factor is on point, can have a damaging effect on overall inflammation levels.

  3. Reduce your alcohol consumption. Alcohol tends to be a source of inflammation in the body, so limiting consumption may be beneficial.

  4. Switch to decaf. Although it may seem like caffeine temporarily improves symptoms and mood, it’s long term effects of overconsumption, can perpetuate the depressive cycle, increase inflammation and lead to adrenal stress.

  5. Reduce your sugar intake. Sugar increases the inflammatory response within the body, and can also wreak havoc on leaky gut and digestive issues. A few simple ways to decrease your sugar consumption would be to reduce processed and refined foods from your diet, and choose instead whole foods, particularly healthy meats, fats, and vegetables.

What "Doula" Do?

I am so excited to share that I will now be offering doula services.  

WHAT IS A DOULA?

 As a birth doula, I provide emotional and physical support to a woman during her labor and delivery to help ensure a safe and satisfying birth experience.  It is my strong belief that the work of a doula is comes from the heart. I use a holistic approach that supports and empowers clients as they navigate each stage of pregnancy and labor. 

AS A DOULA I WILL:

*Recognize and support birth as a pivotal experience in a mother's life.

*Understand and support the physiological and emotional need of a woman in labor.

*Assist the woman in preparing for and carrying out her birth preferences.

*Provide continuous support for the mother throughout her labor.

*Provide emotional support, physical comfort measures and an objective viewpoint, as
well as information needed to make informed decisions. 

*Supports communication between the laboring women, her partner, and her clinical care providers. 

*Nurtures and protects the woman's memory of the birth experience.

*Supports the women's partner so that they can participate at his/her comfort level.

AS A DOULA I WILL NOT:

*Perform clinical tasks, such as taking blood pressure, fetal heart checks or vaginal exams.  I am there to provide only physical comfort and emotional support and facilitate communication between you and the staff.  

*Make decisions for you.  I will help you get the information that you need to make and informed decision.  I will also remind you if there is a departure from your birth preferences.

*Speak to the staff on your behalf.  I will discuss your concerns with you and suggest options, as well as encourage you to voice your opinions, questions and concerns to the staff.  

Finally, research evidence shows that support of a doula significantly improves birth outcomes in addition, services provided to a family by a doula in the postpartum period can ease the transition that comes with the addition of a baby to a family, improves parental satisfaction and decreases the risk of mood disorders.  

A birth doula certified by DONA International is designated by the initials CD(DONA).

I am now accepting clients for September, late October, and beyond. I look forward to chatting with you soon.  For more information please feel free to email me at: Amystoks@gmail.com

Photography Credit: Colby Elizabeth Photography.  

  

 

 

Medicine Cabinet Makeover

It's true...I recently inhaled the essential oil Kool-Aid and I'm becoming a believer!  Last fall when we were terribly ill, I started researching every, possible remedy to get better.  You name it. I tried it!   Epsom Salt, oil pulling, dry brushing, salt lights, tons of water, Vitamin D, tea, garlic, rest, probiotics, ugh antibiotics, and eventually Thieves Essential Oil. Finally, after 12 really long weeks of being very sick we finally kicked the crud.  We have been using the oils since then.  I thought I'd share a few of my more recent favorites as well as some general information on making over your medicine cabinet with the natural stuff.  Who really likes all those lab-produced chemicals anyway? 

Story #1-
Two weeks ago, I literally felt like I was going crazy because sweet Charlee would not sleep by herself.  A friend of mine suggested that I try some essential oils.  She was having a similar experience with her 11 month old and started using the oils and apparently had a magical experience, skeptically, I decided to give it a try.  I was literally desperate. I knew the oils worked with our sickness in the fall, but getting a baby to sleep through the night is a whole different thing.  I figured since I was embracing my skepticism, I'd also buy her one of those little, Amber teething necklaces as well and pray that she finally started sleeping.  I started by diffusing lavender oil in her room, and I am not sure if it's the oils or the amber necklace, but something started working.  As an added bonus, I noticed that it wasn't only working for Charlee, but since we are currently all co-sleeping (don't ask) in a tiny, full-sized bed in the same room, Barrett and Finn have been sleeping pretty great too!  I loved the stuff so much that I decided to become a distributor.  I mean seriously, why buy your oils when you can get them for free right!  It's a good thing I'll be earning free oils, because I'm creating quite the collection.  In addition to my love for lavender, I recently discovered Cedarwood, which might be my new favorite!

Story #2-
Allergies anyone?!?  Woof! They have been real bad lately.  We left for vacation a week ago and when we returned home, wham...slapped me right in the face.  Well, literally that's what it felt like.  So naturally, I said to myself "I think there is an oil for that".  Sure enough, we've been diffusing a little peppermint, lemon and lavender blend ever since and it seems to definitely take the edge off.  I also made an allergy relief "lotion" that I've been slathering on.  

Here is the lotion recipe:
1 cup of Organic Coconut Oil (warmed to a liquid state)
10 Drops of Lavender Oil
8 Drops of Lemon Oil
6 Drops of Peppermint
Mix and then pour into a glass container to cool overnight.  

As with most things in my life, once I get going I want to know more and more, so I start researching and reading and if you've spent anytime around me the last couple of weeks you've probably heard the phrase "I think there is an oil for that!"  Below you'll find some general information about how I'm using my Starter Kit Oils.  

GI Support:
For occasional GI upset or to aid with digestive function I use peppermint.  Young Living also makes a blend called Di-Gize (peppermint, fennel, and ginger are the main oils in that blend)

Allergies:
Lavender, peppermint and lemon in combination or just lavender alone.

Basic First Aid:
Cuts, scrapes, burns, bumps.  Again, lavender is my first choice, followed by melaleuca alternifolia (tea tree oil)

Restful Sleep:
Cedarwood, Peace & Calming, and Lavender

General Immunes Support:
Thieves
I mentioned this initially, but Thieves was the main blend that I used to eventually kick our crud last fall.  A little history on Thieves- during the time of the Black Plague, vandals stole from the dead and dying without getting ill.  When they were caught they admitted to coming from a long line of spice traders and told their "secret recipe".  This is where this blend was inspired from--clove, rosemary and cinnamon bark are some of the main ingredients. Thieves is considered a "hot oil" so it's best to dilute it with a carrier oil before applying directly to skin.  As with all oils, be sure to read the label for safest application instructions.   
 

 

 

 

This Weekend Try...Spicy Black Bean Burgers

Yum!  These are amazing.  So fire up the grill or the oven and try a healthy twist on the classic, backyard favorite!

Spicy Black Bean Burger

Spicy Chipotle Mayo
3 1/2 tablespoons of mayonnaise
1 tablespoon chopped chipotle chile in adobo sauce

Black Bean Burger
1 (16 oz) can black beans, rinsed and drained
1/2 red bell pepper, roughly chopped
1/2 cup of scallions, roughly chopped
3 tablespoons chopped, fresh cilantro
3 garlic cloves
1/2 cup of quick-cooking oats
1 large egg
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper hot sauce
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon of kosher salt
Cooking Spray or Oil Mister
4 whole wheat buns
1 medium avocado, thinly sliced

For the spicy chipotle may: In a small bowl, combine the mayonnaise and chipotle.  Set aside.

For the black bean burgers: Dry the beans well after rinsing any extra moisture will keep the burgers from holding together well.  Put the beans in a medium bowl and mash them with a fork or potato masher until think and pasty.  

In a food processor, combine the bell pepper, scallions, cilantro and garlic and pulse until finely chopped.  Add the oats, egg, hot sauce, cumin and salt and pulse a few times, until mixed well.  Fold the mixture into the mashed beans.  Form the mixture into 4 patties (using slightly cold or wet hands prevents sticking) and put them onto a baking sheet lined with wax paper.  Free for at least 2 hours before cooking.

To cook, heat a nonstick skillet over medium heat.  Lightly spray the skillet with oil and cook the frozen burgers until browned.  About 7 minutes per side.  Alternately, preheat a frill to medium, lightly spray a sheet of foil with oil, put the burgers on the foil and grill until browned.  7-8 minutes per side. 

To serve, place the burgers on the buns, and top with spicy chipotle mayo, avocado slices and tomato.  

Enjoy!

Get Movin' Monday!

I'd like to take a minute and introduce you to our first guest contributor.  We going to start a weekly post to get you moving.  Movin' Mondays will feature some tunes for your playlist, a little motivation for your beginning of the week workout and a healthy and delicious recipe to help you recover after your sweat session.  

This weeks feature was written by guest contributor Ashley Borntrager .  

move-me_sprout (1).jpg

Ashley is the product of hard work and creativity (parents), a city girl with a country heart. She has a weakness for Mexican food and red wine (not together). When she's not catching a morning yoga class or jogging a quick 10 miles,  you can find her at her computer with a cup of coffee, designing a freelance project or editing an incredible photo she snapped.

For more information or to view Ashley's collection of work.  Visit her at Ashleyborntrager.com 

 

Self-Care Isn't Selfish

I don’t know about you, but on a normal day, this is what happens to me:    The alarm goes off at 5:05AM, finally I have been relieved of my nightly, cliff-hanging duties.  The co-sleeping monster has recently visited the Stoks' house.  I crawl out of bed and creep towards the shower in hopes that I can snag 10 minutes of peace before the house stirs.  We rush around for the next hour, juggling bottles, lunches, potty training and at the end of it all hopefully we’ve landed in the car and are in route to school, coffee in hand.     Babies, work, email, meetings, students, errands.  All of a sudden I’m in the car pool lane with the kids headed home, ready for our nightly routine.  I’ve been doing a lot of reflecting lately and almost every night when I sit down, I can’t help but notice…    I  ’m a little disheveled.  I’ve probably had too much coffee and not enough water. I’m well paste the 3 o’clock slump, but I’m still so darn tired. My hair, most likely it has found its way into a top knot (not my most flattering look).  How about those other people though, the little ones?  Chances are, they’re hydrated and healthy and holy cow, energetic.  They’ve slept well and Finn has definitely taken his vitamins for the day, probably twice!  For someone who is so committed to taking care of others and helping them lead healthy lives, I’m ashamed to say, I have taken care of myself very well lately.  It is easy to forget to prioritize self-care when you are doing something you feel is more important.  I’ve been pouring out most of my energy and I’ve been doing this without putting much thought into what has been fueling me.    None of this is wrong, but I think it’s time to shift my perspective.  Our bodies and our spirits are the tools we’ve been given to care for the world around us.  If we aren’t taking care of these tools, they may not work when we need them most.  When we take time for ourselves and we prioritize balance, we are better.    I’m hopeful that this blog can be a platform to connect and share honest information and encouragement.  Take care of yourself.  This doesn’t need to be overwhelming. Be tender and be caring.  This is where you can start:    1. Go back to the basics.  Feed your body, your mind and your soul with nutritious food.  Drink water, lots of water.  Get enough rest. Get outside, even if it’s only for a few minutes.  Exercise, sweating once a day eliminates toxins.    2. Learn how to say no.  Your time is sacred.  Treat it that way.  Be intentional, put it on your calendar if you have to and don’t let it get pushed to the bottom.    3. Music and Dance Parties!  Seriously, this is a cure all.  Whenever we’re feeling especially ragged, we shake out the crabbies and We dance around the kitchen.  It works every time.    4. Incorporate a daily ritual.  Get off social media and find an extra 15 minutes a day to invest in yourself.  Begin and end your day with something that energizes you and doesn’t include a screen.  Pray, journal, do yoga, go for a walk, or just be still and sip your tea.    5. Remember this…progress, not perfection lovelies!    Now it’s your turn.  How are you doing today?  How is your heart?  Sending love, health and positive energy your way!      XO-Amy

I don’t know about you, but on a normal day, this is what happens to me:

The alarm goes off at 5:05AM, finally I have been relieved of my nightly, cliff-hanging duties.  The co-sleeping monster has recently visited the Stoks' house.  I crawl out of bed and creep towards the shower in hopes that I can snag 10 minutes of peace before the house stirs.  We rush around for the next hour, juggling bottles, lunches, potty training and at the end of it all hopefully we’ve landed in the car and are in route to school, coffee in hand. 

Babies, work, email, meetings, students, errands.  All of a sudden I’m in the car pool lane with the kids headed home, ready for our nightly routine.  I’ve been doing a lot of reflecting lately and almost every night when I sit down, I can’t help but notice…

I’m a little disheveled.  I’ve probably had too much coffee and not enough water. I’m well paste the 3 o’clock slump, but I’m still so darn tired. My hair, most likely it has found its way into a top knot (not my most flattering look).  How about those other people though, the little ones?  Chances are, they’re hydrated and healthy and holy cow, energetic.  They’ve slept well and Finn has definitely taken his vitamins for the day, probably twice!  For someone who is so committed to taking care of others and helping them lead healthy lives, I’m ashamed to say, I have taken care of myself very well lately.  It is easy to forget to prioritize self-care when you are doing something you feel is more important.  I’ve been pouring out most of my energy and I’ve been doing this without putting much thought into what has been fueling me.

None of this is wrong, but I think it’s time to shift my perspective.  Our bodies and our spirits are the tools we’ve been given to care for the world around us.  If we aren’t taking care of these tools, they may not work when we need them most.  When we take time for ourselves and we prioritize balance, we are better.

I’m hopeful that this blog can be a platform to connect and share honest information and encouragement.  Take care of yourself.  This doesn’t need to be overwhelming. Be tender and be caring.  This is where you can start:

1. Go back to the basics.  Feed your body, your mind and your soul with nutritious food.  Drink water, lots of water.  Get enough rest. Get outside, even if it’s only for a few minutes.  Exercise, sweating once a day eliminates toxins.

2. Learn how to say no.  Your time is sacred.  Treat it that way.  Be intentional, put it on your calendar if you have to and don’t let it get pushed to the bottom.

3. Music and Dance Parties!  Seriously, this is a cure all.  Whenever we’re feeling especially ragged, we shake out the crabbies and We dance around the kitchen.  It works every time.

4. Incorporate a daily ritual.  Get off social media and find an extra 15 minutes a day to invest in yourself.  Begin and end your day with something that energizes you and doesn’t include a screen.  Pray, journal, do yoga, go for a walk, or just be still and sip your tea.

5. Remember this…progress, not perfection lovelies!

Now it’s your turn.  How are you doing today?  How is your heart?  Sending love, health and positive energy your way!  

XO-Amy