What Supplements Should I Take?

This topic on supplements is from of a series of questions I received from speaking at a friend’s MOPS group. Be sure to check out my responses to the other nutrition topics:
Healthy Snacks for Kids
How to get kids to eat vegetables

This question was for the moms but it really applies to all of my readers as well:

What supplements should I take?

If you walk into a GNC store they might try to sell you 40 different supplements. I personally recommend 4 supplements for everyone. Since this is not a one-on-one consultation I won’t share how much to take because the need varies from person to person but I will share what I recommend taking and why.

Vitamin D
We need Vitamin D in order to absorb Calcium but if you don’t get 20 minutes of direct sunshine every day then you probably aren’t getting enough Vitamin D. Tanning beds don’t count! If you tend to experience Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) then Vitamin D can help with your mood. Learn why we need Vitamin D and start taking some sunshine.

Fish Oil
Inflammation, joint pain, brain health, mood stability… there are a lot of good reasons to take fish oil every day. Look for an EPA: DHA ratio of 600:400 mg and make sure it’s from wild caught sources.

Healing the gut can alleviate all sorts of problems. To clarify the difference between prebiotics and probiotics: PRObiotics contain live cultures of beneficial bacteria that help to recolonize the digestive tract with good bacteria. PREbiotics are components of food that feed the pre-existing beneficial bacteria in our gut. Taking probiotics on a daily basis helps to lay a good foundation of bacteria in your gut. You can find probiotics in foods like kefir, miso, kombucha, or sauerkraut but if you don’t eat these on a regular basis then I’d recommend a probiotic

We don’t absorb vitamins and minerals as well from a pill as we do from food itself so take note that this is not a replacement for food nor is it an excuse to not eat your veggies. I view a multivitamin as coverage for what you don’t get enough of from your food intake on a daily basis. See my tips for choosing a multivitamin if you want to learn more.

What supplements do you take?

How to get kids to eat vegetables

cut up vegetablesThis topic, healthy snacks for kids, is from of a series of questions I received from speaking at a friend’s MOPS group. Be sure to check out my responses to the other nutrition questions moms asked:
Healthy Snacks for Kids
How to get kids to eat vegetables
What supplements should I take?

Show of hands: who hated eating veggies as a kid? I don’t remember any certain veggie I avoided but I did hate tomato-based sauces. I’d ask for naked noodles with butter and parmesan, I refused to eat lasagna, and I remember rinsing BBQ sauce off my chicken. It’s a tough topic that doesn’t have a straightforward answer: how to get kids to eat vegetables. I haven’t had a problem with Nora because she’s only 10 months old and eats whatever we put in her mouth so far. With that said, I don’t have much advice from my own experience but how about I share a list of ideas that have worked for other moms?

Smoothie pops
Smoothies can be made as a balanced PFC snack but there’s something to be said for chewing your food. When possible, I vote chewing over drinking because the enzymes in your saliva kick start the digestion process for carbs. Instead of a drinkable smoothie, you could make smoothie pops. You can get the fancy popsicle makers, pour your smoothie into an ice cube tray and stick a toothpick in it, or use these freezie pop molds.

Let ‘em eat dip
Fat is a vital part of a balanced meal so you are welcome to let your kids enjoy dip as their fat source. It’s better to make your own than to get store bought in order to avoid the cheap, processed oils they use (usually canola). Options are hummus, nut butter, adding your homemade seasoning to full fat Greek yogurt (french onion mix, ranch, curry, taco seasoning), mix some honey and mustard together, or try this amazing sunshine sauce.

Veggie tray
Kids like options, so prep a variety of veggies, enough for the whole week, and let them choose from the assortment. You kids might respond better to “pick whatever you want” from a veggie tray rather than being told they must eat their broccoli.

Vary the cooking method
If they don’t like steamed kale, maybe they’ll like it in a salad with dressing (remember, they need fat!), kale chips, or you can add greens in to sauces or blend it in your pesto. Think outside the box with the way you prep veggies too like roasting, mashing, cutting in sticks or wedges.

Bring on the butter
Everything is better with butter. Or cheese. Cook your veggies in butter, top them with melted cheese, or add a little bacon. It adds much more flavor compared to eating plain vegetables.

Take a multivitamin
This certainly isn’t a substitute for eating vegetables but I view multivitamins as an aid to bridge the gap for days when we just don’t get enough vitamins and minerals from fruits and veggies.

What tricks have helped your kids to eat more vegetables?

Healthy snacks for kids

This topic, healthy snacks for kids, is from of a series of questions I received from speaking at a friend’s MOPS group. Be sure to check back for my responses to the other nutrition questions moms asked.
Healthy Snacks for Kids
How to get kids to eat vegetables
What supplements should I take?


Let’s get right into it- kids are mini adults, right? So why don’t we feed them smaller portions of the same food adults eat? If you’re a loyal Budget for Health follower you know I’m an advocate of incorporating all three macro nutrients at meals and snacks- protein, fat, and carbs. You can learn more about eating right in the link I just shared because this post will solely be a list of healthy snacks for kids. These can count as a meal, too; just adjust the portion sizes accordingly. Since kids have different appetites I am not going to include portion sizes because I definitely don’t want you to become an advocate of the clean-plate club.

I’ll label the foods as protein (P), fat (F), and carbs (C)

Healthy Snacks for Kids

  • Grilled chicken (P) with roasted veggies (C) in olive oil (F) (sweet potatoes, parsnips, carrots, squash)
  • Canned wild salmon (P) mixed with avocado (F) and diced mangoes (C)
  • Chicken salad (P) made with raisins, diced apples (C), & almond butter or mayo (F)
  • Leftover soup- broth/meat (P), melted cheese or cream (F), veggies (C)
  • Plain, full fat organic Greek yogurt (P&F), frozen fruit (C)
  • Full fat cottage cheese (P&F) and peaches or pineapple (C)
  • Tuna (P) mixed with hummus (F&C) & veggies (C)
  • Hardboiled egg (P) and peanut butter (F) on a banana (C)
  • Deli meat (P) cream cheese or avocado (F), pickle (C) to make pinwheels
  • Deli meat (P) and cheese (F) on whole wheat crackers like Triscuits (C)
  • Tuna, chicken, or egg (P) salad made with mayo (F) with cucumbers & peppers (C)
  • Homemade larabars (PFC)
  • Homemade Protein balls (PFC)
  • Hardboiled egg (P) and a smoothie pop (FC). Add avocado to smoothie for fat.
  • egg bake- eggs (P), butter (F), veggies (C)
  • Skewers- meat (P) cheese (F) and veggies (C)
  • Baked zucchini boat (C) topped with cheese (F), tomatoes (C), and meat (P)
  • sweet potato banana muffins- egg (P), peanut butter (F), sweet potato & banana (C)Watch out for: granola bars, fruited yogurts, & fruit snacks. They’re often LOADED with sugar. The best foods don’t have health claims on the package because they don’t come in a package!

What other healthy snacks for kids can you think of?

What we ate: October 2014

I’m thinking about doing starting a new tradition at Budget for Health. What do you think about me sharing some of the meals I make each month? Of course I’ll only share the tried and true delicious ones. It won’t be a full list of every single meal and snack we ate because, let’s be honest, if I did that then 50% of the list would be eggs, eggs, aaaand eggs. I’m not one to make up my own recipe so I’ll gladly support those who did create them by including the links to the recipes.

butternut squash, roasted seeds, chicken curry stew, banana bread

Butternut squash chili
I never thought about putting squash in chili. It was a great decision.

Roasted squash seeds
Just pat them dry, season how you wish, and bake at 300 degrees for 20-25 minutes.

Chicken curry stew
This recipe will likely show up every month because it’s so easy to make and it’s delicious.

Whole wheat banana bread
I bought a lot of bananas so I could make a lot and freeze it. I made two differnt-sized loaves and a big batch of muffins

homemade barbeque sauce

BBQ chicken with homemade BBQ sauce
The recipe for the sauce is from the 100 Days of Real Food Cookbook. Since the recipe is only shared in the book & not on Lisa’s website I’ll just say you should buy the cookbook!

Salmon cakes
This is another recipe from 100 Days of Real food. I liked them but I have to say that I like the Thai Peanut Salmon Burger recipe from Lindsay at the Lean Green Bean better.

Taco bowls with homemade taco seasoning

Mom’s homemade meatloaf

marinated saladVeggie salad
We ran out of greens during the week so I improvised and made a simple salad from the toppings: bell peppers, kalamata olives, and avocado. I added some frozen corn and used olive oil and red wine vinegar for the dressing. I pack our lunches after dinner so it marinaded in the dressing overnight and it was delicious!

Indonesian foodIndonesian food
I didn’t make this food but I definitely participated in tasting all of it! A friend of mine is from Indonesia and made this feast for some friends to try. The spread included (from left to right) chicken rendang, sweet and salty tempe, urap (salad), soto ayam (dish with hardboiled eggs. We filled a bowl with the toppings and poured hot broth over it), and sekotang (not pictured but it was a delicious dessert!)

Would you like to continue seeing what we ate on a monthly basis?
I’d love your feedback!

My 3 favorite homemade spice blends

I have a stash of herbs and spices that I use just about every day. I keep them on a spice rack that came with a set and the rest are in a rectangle shower caddy in my cupboard. I never knew how to cook with herbs or spices before I was married. I’m sure it has something to do with the fact that I lived in the dorms for 4 years as an RA/mentor and never had to cook for myself! I’ve gathered some delicious go-to recipes over the years and many of them include using herbs and spices to add flavor.

Making your own blends is cheaper than buying from the store since you have to do the work yourself but it’s really an easy process. All you need are some measuring spoons and a mason jar or empty spice containers. I usually make a big batch that will last me a few uses so I don’t have to make the spice blend every time I need it. I’ll share my 3 favorite homemade spice blends and their recipes.

Poultry Seasoning
I’ve become a big fan of making a whole chicken in the crockpot ever since I tried it this summer and learned how easy it was to do! The recipe called for poultry seasoning and I didn’t have any on hand so with a quick google search I found a recipe from Peace, Love, and Low Carb that has been my go-to for chicken recipes.

photo credit: Rachel Schultz

photo credit: Rachel Schultz

Taco seasoning
I sure use this a lot. We make tacos a few times each month because it’s a quick and easy PFC dish. My college friend Rachel Schultz has an amazing blog and takes beautiful pictures of her recipes (not like my iPhone snapshots of a half-eaten plate of food). She kindly shared the recipe for her homemade taco seasoning here at Budget for Health. I usually multiply her recipe by 4 and store it in a mason jar. For every pound of meat I use 3 Tbsp taco seasoning and 1/2 cup water. I stir it in to the cooked ground meat and let it simmer until some of the water has evaporated. I wrote this ratio on the lid of my mason jar because I’d forget how much to use every time.

Curry powder
I found this recipe when I was making one of my favorite dishes, coconut chicken curry stew. Side note: if you haven’t made this, you should. I’ve probably made it 20+ times in the past year because it’s my go to recipe for Meal Baby recipients and I always make an extra batch for us to enjoy or freeze for later use. It called for curry powder which I did not have on hand so I tried out a couple curry powders and stuck with this one. I use 2-3 tsp of the curry powder in a batch of the chicken curry stew. This recipe makes 5-6 tsp so you may want to double or triple your batch if you plan to use it often.

Mild Curry Powder


  • 2 Tbsp ground cumin
  • 2 Tbsp ground coriander
  • 2 tsp ground turmeric
  • 1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 tsp ground mustard seed
  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger


  1. Mix spices together and store in an airtight container
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What are your favorite spice blends?

Budget Review: July – September 2014

What a fun summer! We traveled a lot and enjoyed the beautiful Michigan weather. Here’s this quarterly budget review with our spending for this quarter along with an explanation of significant events/ circumstances that affected our budget.

Budget Review: July – September 2014 (actual spending)

budget review

What happened this quarter?

New Car
We’ve had money set aside in our Capitol One 360 savings account for a year or so because we weren’t sure when the day we would come that we’d need to replace our trusty old 1999 Honda Accord with 200k miles on it. It ran well and Accords are known to get another 50-100k beyond this but Dave didn’t want to play that guessing game and it made him feel better not having to worry about me breaking down somewhere in the winter with Nora. You don’t see this chunk in the pie chart because we set money aside a long time ago and were able to pay for our new car in cash from savings and what we made from selling the Honda.

Car Insurance
Our insurance went up a wee bit from our new car but thankfully our insurance company was looking out for us and knocked off $80/month by transferring our new car to what was the Honda’s policy rather than creating a new policy for it. Dave drove that Honda since high school so apparently having 10+ year-old policy gave us a hefty discount.

My life insurance
I finally got a life insurance policy set up for myself. Unfortunately my policy costs the same as Dave’s even though his is worth more and is for a longer term than mine. The reason for this is because during a prenatal appointment I learned that I have extra heartbeats and had to do a bunch of tests only to find out it’s not really a big deal. It was still a big deal to the insurance company so the cost of my policy was doubled from the initial quote I got. Tip: Get your life insurance set up now!

Tax refunds
We ended up getting two tax refunds since Dave’s company withheld extra while we were living in Canada for 6 months. It came as a pleasant, unexpected surprise used this to buffer our car savings, our clothing fund, vacation fund, and a little extra entertainment money to attend a Detroit Tigers baseball game with Dave’s family. I still have clothes from high school and my ten year high school reunion is right around the corner. Time to change up the wardrobe.

PiYo Instructor Certification
I got certified to be a PiYo instructor in September and I’m going to start teaching my own classes! I’m so excited about this! The certification cost $189 but it will pay off after a teaching a few classes. Now I’ll get paid to workout. Saweet!

Leftover savings from our DIY patio
We saved $2000 to tear up our rotted deck and Dave, my handy man, pulled off a DIY project and now we have a new brick patio! It only cost half that amount so we put the leftover savings toward a new bike as a reward for his hard work and an extra mortgage payment. Again, you won’t see this $2000 spent in the pie chart because we set money aside for it each month while we were in Calgary last year.

Darn grocery bill
How did I get so awful at sticking to our budget??? I mentioned in the last quarterly review that it’s been creeping up and it continued to do so this quarter. I’ve asked Dave to help me with this issue so our plan for October is to take the old-fashioned route and pay for groceries with cash. I’ll use the envelope system so I can see how much money I have left rather than letting myself go over by using a plastic card.

Room swap
Dave referenced the movie Mean Girls when we switched rooms with Nora because she has the master bedroom now. Since our home is so poorly insulated we came up with a game plan for the winter. We’re buying a space heater and will keep it in Nora’s room which is now her bedroom and a big play room where we will spend most of our time when home. Our heater was running non stop last winter even though we only had the temperature set to 60 degrees so we are hoping our electric bill won’t make our jaws drop this time around. Of course I have to include pictures of our growing baby! She can crawl, walk along furniture, and has her two top and bottom teeth. She weighed in at 19 pounds at 8.5ish months. I have a feeling she’s going to be an early walker. Doesn’t that smile melt your heart?

What category do you have to pay special attention to so you don’t overspend?
As a parent- what was your favorite age for your child(ren)?

Juicing tips

juicing tips

I was recently contacted by Williams-Sonoma to share a Q&A interview regarding my thoughts on juicing. I’m not a big advocate for juicing but if you do decide to juice then I’ll explain the best way to do it in our Q&A interview. I am not compensated for sharing this post and the opinions are my own.

Question 1
It seems that juicing can be very expensive to start out. Buying a juicer then all the ingredients can get pricey. How would you go about starting a juicing journey? Any tips and tricks on how to save money/cut back on spending when purchasing ingredients for your juice?

1. Buy local produce that is in season. Local produce will likely taste better since it didn’t have to be picked before it was ripe in and then travel across the country. I will also be cheaper because, again, it didn’t have to travel across the country.

2. Drink less juice (to clarify, you don’t have to juice less, just drink less of it when you do). That seems like an odd tip to say in a post about juicing but I’ll explain more in question 3.

Question 2
Fresh juice is always the best when your ingredients are fresh. When it comes to storing food whether it’s in a refrigerator or at room temperature, what are some easy tips or tricks that have helped you when storing your fruits or veggies?

Keep foods that ripen other foods separate so they don’t go bad before you get a chance to use them. You may have heard to keep bananas away from apples or to put an apple, banana, or avocado in a brown bag to ripen it quicker. Having this tip in mind will help you store your produce differently. Try displaying your apples on the dining table and your bananas can hang out in the kitchen.

As for greens, a good practice is to get rid of any bad leaves since they can speed up the ripening process. Wash them as soon as you get home and dry them well with a paper towel. Avoid chopping the leaves until you’re ready to use them to prolong their crispness. Wrapping the leaves in a towel and storing them in a plastic bag can help to absorb additional moisture and keep them fresh.

Those are just a couple examples of best storing practices. Some produce are best stored in the fridge and some at room temperature. If you’re not sure of the best way to store a certain fruit or vegetable, a quick Google search can do wonders!

Question 3
When starting a juice journey its hard to know when to juice and when not to juice. Do you recommend using fresh juices as a meal replacement or as a supplement to a meal?

Supplement! NOT as a meal replacement! If you do juice, only make enough for a small serving and do not drink it without enjoying protein and fat on the side. The reason I said to juice less in response to question #1 is because when you juice fruit or vegetables you take away the beneficial fiber and the juice is essentially liquid sugar. Sure it’s naturally occurring sugar from the fruit or vegetables but it’s still sugar and we want to watch our intake. I recommend a combination of protein, fat, and carbs at all meals and snacks. Juice only offers one part of that combination. You do benefit from the vitamins and minerals but the body will still convert the carbs from fruits and vegetables into sugar. Quick, budget friendly options could be a hardboiled egg (protein) and a handful of nuts (fat) or tuna (protein) salad made with real mayo (fat).

There’s also something to be said for chewing your food. It would take me more than 10 minutes to eat 2 large apples and I’d likely feel full after eating one since all that fiber would take up space in my stomach. However, it wouldn’t even take 10 seconds to drink the juice from 2 apples and I’d still be hungry afterward.

In summary, if you do decide to juice then make sure you’re only drinking a small amount, drink it slowly, add a protein and fat on the side, and be sure to get your fiber elsewhere in your diet! If you’d like to learn about the different juicers Williams-Sonoma offers you can check out their juice resource page.

Do you juice? If so, how often do you juice? What’s your favorite combination?