Thursday, November 7, 2013

November Attitude Challenge II

Happy November!  As Thanksgiving approaches I always like to focus on attitude and how I can shift my life to be more positive.  Last year I wrote an article that challenged my readers to acknowledge their blessings and express gratitude each day:  This year I am adding a few other attitude-boosting exercises.  In addition to listing the good things that happen and the things for which you are thankful, I encourage you to do the following everyday.

1 – Walk barefoot outside on the grass or on the beach.  This process has a grounding effect especially in the surf on the beach, but the grass is a close second.  The earth is negatively charged so when you walk barefoot you absorb the negative electrons through the soles of your feet.  This causes a magnetizing healing effect and “grounds” you with the Earth.  After practicing this for several days in a row you may notice you feel more centered, grounded and healthier. 

2 – Meditate.  One of my favorites quotes is an old Zen saying: "You should sit in meditation for 20 minutes a day, unless you're too busy; then you should sit for an hour".    Meditation is an amazing centering exercise with incredible benefits.  It is proven to reduce stress, anxiety, depression, anger and more.  It has truly changed my life.  I recommend a guided meditation or mantra meditation, especially if you are a beginner or have a busy mind.  It also helps to focus on your “third eye”, which is located slightly above and between the eyebrows.  It is also beneficial to remember that it is not about stopping the noise from coming through your head.  It is about not listening to the noise.

 3 – Exercise.  Get your heart pumping for at least 20 minutes a day.  Get outside; go for a walk, a light job or swim some laps.  Go to a yoga or Pilates class or do a video at home.  Be creative and have fun!  It helps to switch up your exercise so you do not get bored and so your body uses different muscles.  Finds activities that you enjoy.  My husband and I love to play tennis.  When I have a moment alone I like to practice yoga.  Involve the whole family in a game of  touch football or chase.  The possibilities are endless.  It is amazing the difference you will feel emotionally and physically once you get more active.  It helps center you, calm you and clear your mind.  (Not to mention the health benefits).

I hope you enjoy making these positive changes in your life.  I know I have! 

Healthy regards!

© Courtney Hillis
THRIVE: Natural Family Living

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Healthy Halloween!! (Healthy options for Halloween)

Did you know that according to Dr. Sears the busiest time in his pediatric office is the week after Halloween?!  This is because of the abundance of toxic ingredients ingested by our children on this frightful night.  Sugar, high fructose corn syrup (HFCS), artificial dyes and flavors all contribute to a shock on the system that leads to illness.  The body is too busy fighting off the “food” to fight off germs and bacteria.  So what do you do?  You want your kids to have fun on Halloween, but they do not understand why they cannot have candy.  Here are some suggestions for reducing your child’s sugar intake and alternatives to pass out instead of candy.   These recommendations come from my own ideas, fellow natural parents and my colleagues at the Natural Parents Network (, where I am also a contributor. 

There are several options to reduce your child’s candy intake on Halloween.  A popular strategy is to trade the candy that the child collected while trick-or-treating for a different kind of treat.  For example, you could offer a DVD, toy, or basket of goodies (like stickers, small cars, coloring books, books, etc.).  These trinkets could even be Halloween themed (similar to an Easter basket without the candy).   Another creative idea is to take your children trick-or-treating early then come home and pass out the candy that they collected.  This plan takes care of both issues: how to get your children to eat less candy and what to pass out on Halloween.  You could also donate the candy that is collected during trick-or-treating.  This is a great opportunity to teach your children about the cause(s) in which you have donated; for example, speak to them about the troops overseas as you send a care package to our deployed soldiers.  A great idea for home-schooled children in particular is to use the candy for science projects.  There are lots of great ideas for science experiments involving candy online.

Many parents do not want to pass out candy because they do not want the sugary sweets sitting around their house in the days leading up to and/or following Halloween.  Other parents do not want to spend money on the harmful ingredients contained in candy and find the organic, dye-free, HFCS-free candy too expensive for trick-or-treating.  Here are some fun things that you can pass out instead of sugary sweets.  The children in our neighborhood loved it when our neighbor passed out Play-Doh one year.  Some of my colleagues at Natural Parents Network have handed out stickers, temporary tattoos, crayons, etc.  Another idea is to give out small toys from the dollar store.  We did this for the piñata at my son’s second birthday party.  We filled it with cars, trucks, tractors, stickers, pencils, etc., and the kids loved it!  If you want to pass out candy try something that is free of artificial dyes and flavors like Yummy Earth Organic Lollipops:  

Hopefully these ideas will help keep everyone in your house happy and healthy this holiday.  If you have other Halloween traditions or strategies to help reduce the amount of sugar your children ingest on Halloween, we would love to hear them!

Have a safe, happy and HEALTHY Halloween.

Healthy Regards,
Courtney Hillis
THRIVE: Natural Family Living

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Eat Your Vegetables: Ideas to Help Your Children Eat More Vegetables

Picture above: My son digging into our organic kale from the farmer's market!

In my health coaching I often have parents complaining that their children will not eat vegetables.  There are several factors that contribute to children eating vegetables including introducing vegetables at a very young age, shaping young tastes, the parents modeling healthy eating, etc., but today I am going to share some simple tips that will hopefully help your family eat more fruits and vegetables.

1 - Keep trying
       - It can take ten tries to develop a taste for something so do not give up if your child does not like broccoli the first time you serve it.  Try and try again.

2 - Hide them
       - Add greens to smoothies - recipe for my low glycemic index smoothie with greens HERE
       - Juice them and have your children help you - recipe for my green vegetable juice HERE
       - Add vegetables to your kid's favorite meals - recipe for my vegetable packed meatballs HERE  Serve them with spaghetti squash instead of noodles.
       - Eggs are a great place to add lots of vegetables.  My son loves green onions, fresh herbs, avocado and spinach in his eggs or try adding cauliflower puree to your scrambled eggs before you cook them.  Elana's Pantry also has a great recipe for green eggs, which are super fun for kids.  Serve them with some ham on Dr. Seuss' birthday!

3 - Make it fun
       - In addition to the green eggs idea above there are lots of ways to make eating fruits and vegetables fun!
       - My son loves the dairy free, gluten free pancakes I make.  I fill them with yummy fresh or frozen organic berries and cook them into fun shapes with cookie cutters (stainless steal...not plastic....of course).
       - Artichokes are another favorite food in our house.  They are really fun to eat.  Kids love to scrape their teeth along the leaves to get the "meat" off.  They also like helping take the artichoke apart to eat the heart.  Click HERE for more information on artichokes.  
       - Name your vegetables.  In our house we call broccoli and broccolini, trees, and our son loves that he can gobble them up a tree like a dinosaur.
       - Make fun designs - arrange the fruit and vegetables into a fun design for the kids.  Below is a picture of the apple cars I made for my son's second birthday.  There are also lots of great ideas on pintrest.  Feel free to follow me on pintrest, username chillis22.  Check out my favorite recipe, Thrive and kids boards.

4 - Dip them
       - Hummus is a staple in our house.  We always have cut up vegetables and hummus on hand for an easy snack.  The most common vegetables we use are organic cucumbers, carrots, celery, broccoli, cauliflower, and red, yellow or orange bell peppers.

5- Offer fruits and vegetables as snacks instead of chips or other packaged food items.  
       - If you already have your vegetables washed and cut up, serving them as a snack can be as easy as grabbing a bag of chips.  Go ahead and prep some vegetables when you get home from the grocery store so they are ready whenever your kids get hungry.

6 - Talk to your children
       - Tell your children that fruits and vegetables will help them grow healthy and strong.  Use words that they can relate to.  For example, tell your sports player they are "run fast" foods.  tell your soccer player they are "soccer foods."  Tell your fashionista they are "healthy hair" foods.  Tell your bookworm they are "brain foods."  Whatever your child's interests are use a term that connects them and peeks their interest.  Once they detox from all of the packaged foods and realize how much better they feel eating fruits and vegetables, their bodies will naturally prefer eating healthy.

I hope this helps some of you to get your kids eating more fruits and vegetables.  I know we all want our families to the be as healthy as they can be.  Remember it starts with the parents.  If you do not eat healthy, your kids will not eat healthy.


Monday, September 9, 2013

Healthy Meatball Recipe - Gluten Free and Dairy Free

This meal is a family favorite!  We make it about once a week.  I serve it with organic brown rice noodles (Jovial has the best) and tomato sauce (recipe coming soon).  This recipe is a great way to get more vegetables into your family's diet.  These meatballs are full of carrots, celery, lean meat and other yummy and healthy ingredients.  They are also gluten and dairy free.  I hope your family likes these meatballs as much as mine does.  Enjoy!

Ends of a Gluten Free Bread Loaf
2 Stalks of Organic Celery
2 Organic Carrots
½ Onion
½ Organic Bell Pepper (red, yellow or orange)
3-4 Cloves of Garlic (depending on size…I find 3 large ones to be perfect)
A handful of fresh herbs (basil, rosemary, mint, whatever we have in our garden or fridge)
7–10 Dashes of dried Italian Seasoning
3-5 Dashes dried oregano
7 Dashes Turmeric (For more information on the benefits of turmeric click HERE)
Salt and Pepper
2 eggs or for added Omega 3's use a flax egg instead (directions below along with more information on Omega 3's)
1 lb ground meat of choice (Turkey, Buffalo, 100% Grass-fed Lean Beef, Chicken)

In a food processor combine the first 11 ingredients (everything except the eggs the meat).  Process on high until finely ground.  Pour into a glass mixing bowl and use your hands to combine with the eggs and meat.  Form into balls and bake at 350 until cooked through (time depends on meat used).

Flax Egg: The following are directions for how to make one flax egg so you will want to double these directions for this recipe (since the recipe calls for 2 eggs).
1 Tbls Ground Flax Seeds
3 Tbls Purified Water
Mix the 2 ingredients in a small bowl and let sit for a few minutes until the mixture reaches an egg like consistency.
For more information on Omega 3's click HERE.

Other healthy and delicious recipes:

© Courtney Hillis
THRIVE: Natural Family Living

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Dairy Free, Low Glycemic Index, Soft Serve Ice Cream (Agave Sweetened)

I have been experimenting with this recipe for a long time, and I think I have finally found the best version.  When I first started making this delicious ice cream, I used a can of coconut milk that had been refrigerated overnight.  However, we like it best when the can is room temperature.  It produces a better texture like a Wendy’s Frosty when the can is room temperature.  I also noticed that when I used a cold can of coconut milk the ice cream tended to have small hard clumps of coconut milk, which makes the ice cream unappetizing.  This version creates a soft serve texture that looks, feels and tastes very similar to a Wendy’s Frosty.  (Vanilla version pictured)

1 Can Coconut Milk (Organic and BPA free Can)
1/3 Cup Agave Nectar
2 Tbls Cacao Powder
1 Tbls Organic Pure Vanilla Extract

Mix all of the ingredients together in a glass bowl with a handheld blender until smooth and the cacao powder is thoroughly blended and clump-free.  Turn your on ice cream maker and pour in the mixture.  It will be ready in 20-30 minutes.

**For a vanilla version omit the cacao powder and use 3 Tbls Pure, Organic Vanilla Extract instead of 1 Tbls.

For more delicious and healthy recipes click on the links below.


© Courtney Hillis with THRIVE: Natural Family Living