Posted in Couponing, Home Economics, Kid Friendly, Opinions & Commentaries, Product Testing

Product Review: Circle with Disney

Thanks to McCormick Spice company, I was gifted a $50 Amazon gift card for taking part in their online customer advisory surveys on Christmas morning! Bonus points for the perfect timing but I’m still partial to Epicure at this point.

I went on Amazon.ca after seeing a Facebook advertisement for Circle. I was super surprised at the genius in what it said it could offer: a simple plug-in and go device that can control the internet for every other device in your house.

I don’t think I’m alone in this battle: I am constantly nagging my kids (ages 11 and 14) to get off their electronics. Even though I limit their screen time, it seems like as soon as I allow it there is this turn. It’s like crack for kids. (Disclaimer: Not that I really know what crack is like!) This drug-like system that takes them away from this physical world and transforms them into comatose hybrids that look like my children. They then react quickly when I tell them to remove themselves from their alternate realities (how many tabs and screens can you have open at once – no wonder the internet is dragging!!!) It seems easier to let them have it than fight for their attention to real life (dinner, chores, homework, lessons, appointments etc.). Yet being the good mom that I am, I don’t back down from a challenge most times. I’m here to raise good people on planet Earth – not some Matrix they are not old enough to choose to be in at their every whim!

So being the frugal person who doesn’t drop dollars like it grows on trees (or falls like snow in Canada these days!), I went on to Circle’s website to really discover if I could entrust them with my money, internet and sanity.

Features

I was delighted to discover that not only can I limit the internet for each device, there were SO MANY problems that were solved with this little square box (love the irony of it being called Circle!).

Here’s what I thought were some super cool things Circle can do:

  • Everything is controlled by an app on my cell phone
  • Every device can be assigned to a specific family member or user (kids’ friends beware!)
  • Each user has their own “rules” that you can assign
  • Rules include limiting internet times per day and for bedtimes
  • Certain apps/websites (Facebook, YouTube, Minecraft, Netflix, Instagram, etc.) can have set limits per day – that means no binge watching Vampire Diaries all night kiddos
  • Limits can be different on weekdays and weekends
  • Ultimate pause button exists on the app & for each user – When I call for dinner, I will definitely get a quicker response!
  • Rewards can be granted such as extra time, later bedtimes, etc.
  • Chore apps can be linked to Circle to ensure that beds get made before electronics are allowed (I’m going to enroll in a few of these apps too – what a super great discovery!)

So I figured – what the hay!  I have $50 in free “play money” & I have free Amazon Prime 2-day shipping, so for out of pocket $62.99 I was willing to gift myself some possible sanity.  (Currently Circle retails for $129.99 Canadian but is on sale for $99.99 on Amazon.ca)

Set Up

It arrived in the guaranteed time and I quickly tore open the package.  It was so cute and somehow in a Tiffany blue box.  (Good play Disney, good play for those moms you target so well!).

The best thing is that it is literally a plug-and-play device.  The installation was so simple and it walks you through everything on the app.  It was the easiest thing – exactly what was promised.  Within 3 minutes, Circle was working, app was installed and the basic setup had begun.

How many devices do you have in your household?  Be a little patient as Circle will recognize them all (Apple or android, it doesn’t matter, plus printers and more I discovered!).  The names they come at can be cryptic but that’s not Circle’s fault.  I figured out the printer by looking at the manufacturer (Canon).  Honestly I really didn’t have to do anything – this little square box had already won my heart for how much work and think-less process / system it has.  Thank you on behalf of parents everywhere!

A bonus feature the actual device has is temporary backup power. Not for power outages, silly!  If your kids are smart, they might think to pull the power cord in order to deactivate Circle and gain some extra screen time behind your back (oh because your kid is such an angel…..).  Don’t tell them, but it sends a message to the app letting you know it happened.  Ha ha!  Good play Disney, good play!  Win for the parents again.

As parents, we can get caught up in the internet too.  So we can actually be a user and set limits (“rules”) for ourselves as well.  Facebook/Pinterest/Instagram/etc. won’t suck us in for more than ____ hours a day if we set up limits in our user profile.

So as I sit with my morning coffee, I’m waiting for the bustle of my children to start.  8am on weekends is when Circle allows them the internet (they need their sleep!) and I expect my 14 year old won’t venture out of her bed until she hits her limit and gets upset that she doesn’t know how this episode of Riverside ended.  Well, it’s her own darn fault… maybe looking at nail polish designs on Pinterest for 10 minutes beforehand wasn’t such a great idea now, was it?

I’m raising good people, and part of that is letting them discover within limits how to make choices for themselves.  It’s kind of like teaching them the currency of time: you should budget accordingly so that you don’t end up with a zero bank balance before the end of the day (or pay period /month) wondering where it all got spent.

With Circle, I think my family will have definitely less arguments over screen time plus it will give my mind and voice a much needed nag-break.  It’s a great tool to separate the rules, rule maker (um, parent) and the choices and self-control growing kids have themselves.  Well done, Circle.

Please Note:  No company sponsored this post.  The money was spent by me and was an actual personal purchase.

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Posted in Healthy, Home Economics, Kid Friendly, Opinions & Commentaries

Cookbook Review: It all beings with food.

It All Begins with Food: From Baby’s First Foods to Wholesome Family Meals: Over 120 Delicious Recipes for Clean Eating and Healthy Living – Cookbook review

Just a little over a month ago, the nutrifoodie in me was surprised when I peeked into my mailbox:  Food Bloggers of Canada had selected me to receive a copy of “It All Begins with Food” to review it.  I’m assuming they picked me, as my niche seems to constantly revolve around children and the parents who love them dearly (is that you?).

“It all begins with food” is one of the best introductions to this cookbook.  It really shares the viewpoint behind the vision of Leah Garrad-Cole’s mantra of healthy living and her company Love Child Organics.  Teaching them through my Nutrition Bites business services, this book has given me hope that there are cookbooks out there for the kitchen and not just the coffee table or pristine cabinet.  This is a cookbook that will get messy pages fast because you will probably want to use almost every recipe.

Being a nutrition expert myself, I am so happy that the author explains that this is from a mom to a mom.  Her expertise is in experience and she has certain views that might not be completely supported by professionals in my field.  Leah’s views on GMO and understanding of pesticides are one sided yet has made her baby food company known and very successful, as that is what Canadians are asking for.  She does a good job of explaining the organic movement but there are points missing that could only come from an education of sciences (nutrition, agriculture, etc.).  The repetitive “from a BPA-free can” in the ingredient lists should have been in the introduction in my opinion as more of an education rather than a constant stressor for parents that might not have that option.  I realize the health risks involved, so don’t misunderstand me.  I just think that it is very hard to tell when shopping since those aren’t labelled on most products, and could cause a reader to not make the recipe.  Being a Professional Home Economist, I am truly aware of what stops the average consumer from cooking at home. Ok, I’m done with the few warnings because the nutrition science nerd wouldn’t feel comfortable not ethically pointing these out to the average consumer.  It’s one thing to take with a grain of salt, and with this cookbook, you might really be looking hard to find another grain of it – because it’s that healthy!

Let’s start from the beginning.  The cover looks like natural and “normal” foods including burgers and pizza buns that kids would recognize – bonus!  Event the picky eaters will not have many complaints if you cook recipes from this book.

The first 81 pages consist of a guide interlaced with coloured charts, but not the obviously childish bright and primary colours, perfectly styled for the mom in mind (who needs Crayola colours – we are a bit more grown up than that!).  The ingredients are well explained but not always available.  It does offer a few substitution suggestions in one of the pages of the beginning guide, so be sure to look if you get stuck at home.  The chapter titles are simple and colour coded to allow any reader to quickly find what they are looking for.  On almost every page are tips and tricks to help too – it’s reminds me of Looneyspoons & Homegrown the Cookbook.  One example is providing complimenting foods that might pair well with certain recipes.


From a health perspective, I truly think the modern mom will appreciate the identifying icons with each title make it easier to identify which are free of wheat, dairy, eggs, etc.  I love that she lists key nutrients (but I did not verify them) and she also helps.  I highly recommend page 126: The Smooth O Matic graphics spread over two pages is perfect for busy mornings or trying to use up ingredients you already have on hand.


Her values of NOT hiding vegetables in kid foods is something that I would totally support.  I suggest parents to try many things before resorting to this tactic.  As a recipe developer, myself (I rarely have time in between teaching kids to cook with Nutrition Bites, raising my own growing daughters, and running my new Growing Up Healthy company), I absolutely am in love with her placing a space of every recipe for “Date Tried”.  Yet, this cookbook is so pretty I wonder if anyone would write in this gorgeous book – please do and just get a second copy when it becomes illegible or falling apart.  I guess based on the quality of cover and pages you will probably get 5-10 years depending on how much you make time for cooking (you should plan it into your schedule at least one day more than you are doing right now!).


The beauty of all the recipes is the simplicity of them that rely on the flavours and colours of food to make them irresistible to try. They are so gorgeous, you start eating you’re your eyes and any adult would be tempted to make most of these recipes for themselves.


The recipes are so kid and family friendly using whole food ingredients that I completely support this cookbook.  I encourage many of these simple but flavourful dishes. Working with kids in my business this is definitely a cookbook I will be using and recommending to parents.  It could have been a two volume book – one as a guide – one as a cookbook. Her passion for the healthiest options shines through.  Her use of nutrient-dense foods is obvious for us in nutrition and she is truly a visionary I can completely identify with.  We care about our children, your children and everyone’s daily health through delicious food that is easy to cook at home.

Posted in Gluten Free, Healthy, Home Economics, Kid Friendly, Opinions & Commentaries, Product Testing

I’m officially… a Love Bug. 

Being a mom of two girls has had its challenges. In the beginning, I thought if they could wipe their bum and sleep through the night it would just be smooth sailing from there.

HA HA!

It’s ok. You can laugh at me too. Every stage with child rearing has its benefits & struggles.

Starting daycare or school is thought to be the ultimate in breaks. We get our life back, we get to go back to work, no extra daycare costs …. um, no!

Having another set of hands and feet other than our own is even more complicated when we can’t be with them constantly to take care of them.

That’s when I discovered Lovable Labels. I purchased a set for each of my daughters.

img_9059

(And one package has lasted until now!)

It was a Canadian company that made my life easier.  No more worrying about what wouldn’t be making it home that day (1 mitten, new indoor shoes, the expensive lunch thermos, etc.).  With Costco dressing many kids in durable snowsuits and backpacks, there’s bound to be a mix up of who’s is who’s.

Lovable Labels are made for a lifetime of use and stand up against the toughest kids.  They are:

  • Waterproof
  • Dishwasher Safe (Tested and true by this Professional Home Economist!)
  • Microwave Safe
  • UV Resistant
  • Peel & Stick (Except for the Iron-ons & non-label products)
  • Laundry Safe (Clothing labels only)
  • Bleach Safe

So I’ve been using these labels ever since. Well, mostly my kids’ stuff but there are tons of uses for adults too including work lunch containers (no missing leftovers from the lunch room fridge!), seniors in long-term care/nursing homes, sports (hockey, soccer, basketball, etc) equipment, students sharing dorm rooms/bathrooms etc.  Plus there are household labels (see my Top 5 list below!) that help homes stay organized inside (kitchen, office, crafts) and outside (recycling, compost & garbage bins!).

I even used them to do a fundraiser for the charity I work with, NSTEP, a few years back.

Recently I wanted to run a free promotion for my business, Nutrition Bites. As a Mompreneur, I have a home-based business but use expos to showcase as my temporary storefront. This season I was booked back to back at VegFest London and Whoa Mama! Marketplace. Many of my clients are parents & children. So what better way to advertise & market healthy eating to kids AND help out parents than to offer customized Lovable Labels to them as they walked by!!!?  I thought it was a very useful idea!

Here’s what my custom Nutrition Bites Lovable Labels looked like:


I attached them to a sheet explaining what they were & how to use them. You should have seen the kids light up! FREE stickers for their lunches? One girl took a few extras to share with her friends.

It was my little part to be marketing HEALTHY messages to kids and go up against the giants that unethically use millions of dollars trying to get low-density nutrition/foods into your kids all day long! (Can you tell I’m a bit passionate about health for kids & communities?!)

One of the best parts of ordering from Lovable Labels was their personalized touches:

A handwritten note to me!


After that I couldn’t help but be even more of a “Love Bug” unofficially of Lovable Labels.  Who takes the time to appreciate a customer’s orders?  This small, Canadian company sure does!

So I decided to support their company by registering to be an official Lovable Label Love Bug.  It was pretty easy, and within a few weeks my  Welcome Package arrived so I could share my love. All I do is be me: share my love of Lovable Labels with others.

What do you get?

  • Giveaways (FREE stuff for you!) – Seasons, themes, etc.
  • Cool ideas on how to use Lovable Labels from me, Sandra, aka Nutrition Bites

What I get?

  • Monthly Incentives & Free Products to review – No clue what these are yet but I plan on sharing them with my followers & Nutrition Bites customers somehow!  (Check out #1 on my Top 5 list below!)
  • Welcome Package to launch my love to you and the rest of the world – GIVEAWAY from me!
  • Content ideas for my blog, social media and home to get creative with Lovable Labels

So with all of the uses for Lovable Labels, I’m going to share with you MY list of the top 5 products I love.

Top 5 List of Lovable Label Products

From a Nutrition Consultant & Professional Home Economist

1. Lil’ Dose of Love Labels: Tutti Frutti

An extra little gift for being Customer of the Day (another sweet thing Lovable Labels does that I had no clue about – who doesn’t love FREE stuff and surprises!?) were these amazing labels.  Their website talks about giving kids positive messages in their lunches & backpacks but I thought – wow – exactly what I believe in – using FRUIT, not candy, to market to kids.  Plus the punny food humour is sure to make any kid-at-heart smile!


2. Allergy Alert Labels

Food allergies can be deadly for some.  Most are aware of this fact as schools, daycares and camps are trying to protect those that have severe allergies.  These labels help to remind others when you can’t be there, to not give your child certain allergens.  Allergy Alert Labels can also just be used for those wanting to have a certain lifestyle – like vegetarianism, veganism, gluten-free, etc.  And if your child has diabetes or other conditions that require a modified diet or lifestyle, the medical alert label will help you define that for others simple with a “peel & stick”.

3.  Canning LabelsPantry Labels 

Keeping healthy can start by being organized in your kitchen.  With personalized Canning Labels (which also help to make great gifts or for small farmers’ markets!) and an extensive pack of 88 Pantry Labels (almost ALL are very healthy staples to have in your home!), you’ll be sure to stock your home and others’ with healthy foods to nourish your bodies and busy lifestyle.

 

4.  Date It! Labels  & Write-On Labels  

These labels allow you to write & personalize AFTER you receive them in the mail.  Date It! Labels are perfect for food safety at home. Ever ask yourself (or someone else asks you), “When were those leftovers made?  Are they still good?”.  Well less work for you and this way you can customize with some Retro, Mayan, or Country styles without having to personalize before you actually make those pickles, roast or banana muffins.

5.  Outdoor Bin Labels 

As a person that has moved a lot in my life, these stickers were my gift to me (along with a local newspaper subscription) when I began my new life as a single mom.  No more chasing a black garbage can down the street to wonder if it was actually mine (Notice how almost everyone has the same one these days!).  No family name needed, just the address to keep your identity private but your bins easy to identify. It’s kind of like a “Return To” if found, during windy days.  And it looks way better than the spray-paint or sharpie method that’s bound to wear off during our harsh, Canadian winters!

 

fruit-starter

BONUS #6 – Don’t forget where Lovable Labels started – their personalized labels great for lunch & drink containers as well as clothes, shoes and bags.  I suggest their healthiest theme, Fruition, to (subconsciously) market fruits & veggies to your kids (and maybe you or your spouse!)

 

A LOVABLE GIVEAWAY FOR YOU!!!

I thought I’d start it of right by sharing the love right away with fellow bloggers & Nutrition Bites followers.


I’m giving away THREE different items from my Love Bug Welcome Package & my Nutrition Bites Promotion:

  • “Blogging is Bliss” & “I love Blogging” Labels/stickers
  • Lil’ Dose of Love Labels: Tutti Frutti (A sampler!)
  • My “personal”-ized favourites #NutritionBites Lovable Labels

Visit my Nutrition Bites Facebook Page to comment to win!

Find the blog post and follow the easy instructions! (Contest not in affiliation with Facebook in any way.  Open to age of majority in Canada. Contest deadline: December 18th, 2016 at 11:59pm.)

Stay tuned for more creative ways to use Lovable Labels and giveaways for my followers – YOU!

Follow me on Social Media:

Facebook:   NutritionBitesCanada

Instagram & Pinterest: @NutritionBites

Twitter:  @NutritionBites8

Blog (this is it!):   nutritionbites88.wordpress.com

Website:   www.nutritionbites.ca

Posted in Healthy, Home Economics, Kid Friendly, Opinions & Commentaries

“Handy” Guide to Serving Sizes

There’s a reason Nutrition Bites tag line is “helping you get healthier in little bites” 🤓 Well many actually but here’s one:
Many people struggle with their personal nutrition and healthy eating. The information is out there, but not marketed well (free resources backed by the government rarely get promo book tours and spots on the Shopping Network). 

When was the last time you looked at Canadas’s Food Guide? After so much misinformation (too much information is now confusing us!) and distrust, what do you believe?

Studies show that there is an obvious overconsumption of food and calories in many countries (North American one’s topping the list). I believe one huge factor is the lack of knowing what true recommended servings sizes. (Another is the psychology behind why we eat… to be continued in another blog post). 

Here’s a picture perfect, “handy” guide to teach you. And you can keep it “on hand” when you are eating out too! (No measuring cup or scale required.)

Here’s a guide by Eat Right Ontario that’s backed by Registered Dietitians, nutrition professionals (like me – PHEc extraordinaire!) and organizations (like ‘NSTEP). It makes it simple and once you see how much you are eating, you might want to take a look at how many servings are recommended again (I’ll give you the benefit that you’ve looked before…..hoping!). 

The link for the full guide is here

Posted in Healthy, Home Economics, Kid Friendly

A Crusty Idea for your Clumpy Brown Sugar

We baked carrot muffins (from scratch of course) tonight since my little one wants to be cooking as well as her big sister. 

I love having the girls make me re-realize how to teach cooking to kids for my job(s). I also love how it brings out the kitchen, food and nutrition facts and trivia I’ve collected in my head after over 3 decades. 

So I thought I’d share what lesson I taught (or the trivia that is filed in my head) tonight:

What happens when you have discovered your brown sugar is in a huge lump? Or you can’t even just scrape a bit of what you need out?

Kitchen Cupboard Problem: Clumpy brown sugar.

 
I’ll share two ways to fix this:

Old school or newer/modern. 

1. Old school. Use a slice of bread in a closed container with the brown sugar. 

2. Modern day. Use a clay disc that can be bought in most general merchandise stores or food stores. Soak in water first, pat it dry, then place it in the closed brown sugar container. 

 

Two ways to reverse clumps in brown sugar: slice of bread or clay disc.

 
Both work well. One is more frugal and one is more food safe & gluten free. 

So take your pick ….. Which do you use or want to try?

Or if you use a different method, share what you do to solve this crusty problem with me in the comments below. I’d love something new to try in my kitchen. 

Clay disc in brown sugar container to avoid clumps.
Posted in Fruits, Healthy, Home Economics, Kid Friendly

Playing with your food

In the popular Pinterest era, most people post amazing creations of culinary arts for kid lunches and snacks in bento boxes and other environmentally friendly containers. 

Well some do. Others try their best. I’m in the latter part of that. Honestly, I just am happy to get those busy mornings finished with the kids at school with a healthy lunch and two snacks and my sanity (And they usually beg to have a “treat” for last snack to fit in with the other kids). Are you one of those parents?

I’m creative. But in different ways. I can’t reenact Disney scenes in cheese, fruit & crackers. Most can’t so don’t feel bad or try to keep up. 

I prefer to use simple methods to teach an appreciation for healthy food AND cooking. Meet: The Hedgehog. 

  

Start with a mango!

  
Then wash the outside (just in case, for food safety reasons). 

Slice it in two large pieces following close to the pit. There will be a bit extra you can munch on and use too. 


Then cut several equal slices in both halves. Rotate each one 90 degree turn and slice again several times to make a grid. Be sure to not slice through the skin. 

  

Add 2 blueberries with toothpicks (if kids are old enough to know not to play with sharp objects) into 2 of the cut mango sections. 

Watch the video to see how easily it is to pop out the hedgehog snack – very kid (and adult) friendly!

   
Mango Hedgehog YouTube video
So hopefully after meeting my Mango Hedgehog, you have either gotten inspired to play with your food and kids OR you feel better about your bento box mishap- at least you tried! 

And if you can recreate the Last Supper in lunch box contents, please do not comment with huge expectations of my art skills. I’m just trying to feed the kids with a little healthy fun munching on mangoes. 

Just wondering…. What simple tips do you actually do to make food fun on a regular basis for you or your kids?

 (Cue the “cooking with wine” comments …)

  

Posted in Healthy, Kid Friendly, Opinions & Commentaries

A (weird) “healthy” plate. 

If you follow me on Instagram (@Nutritionbites), you are probably here to find out what was on the “healthy” plate my daughter surprised me with. 

 
It was after I asked her to find me something healthy to eat. 

It was a protein bar, bran cookies, meal replacement bar (given to me as a sample), rice cracker, hemp hearts and a Hershey kiss! 

Hmmmm definitely not an appetizing plate. The only thing I ate on the plate was the bran cookies and one piece of the protein bar (wasn’t mine even!). And she even stole my kiss! 

I am healthy but let’s just say that kids are funny and healthy is defined differently for each person. Food is personal. Now where is the spinach and hummus, Special K?