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    Top Tips to Deep Clean this Spring

    • Updated

    (BPT) - This year spring cleaning is more than ever about the deep clean. Spring typically inspires a little more time dedicated to cleaning, in fact, a recent survey commissioned by Bona and conducted by Harris Poll found that more than half of U.S. adults say that the start of spring triggers extra cleaning in the household. While in the past it might have been more about simply dusting hard-to-reach corners and cleaning out the fridge, this year it’s also about deep cleaning and disinfecting for health and safety.

    Here are a few tips to deep clean this spring for anyone tackling the task.

    Focus on high-use areas first

    It may not be realistic to deep clean your whole home in one weekend so consider targeting busy areas of your home first. Bedrooms, bathrooms, family room, kitchen and entry areas likely get the most foot traffic, so start there and leave lesser used areas of the home for later. Gather some helpers and set a timeframe to establish a clear goal and end time. Consider a second round of cleaning if you’re unable to complete the task.

    Clear out the clutter

    Create a system that works for you to clear out the clutter and make space to deep clean. Set up boxes or bags clearly labeled “Trash,” “Recycle,” “Donate,” and “Belongs elsewhere.” Go through each target room, putting anything that shouldn’t be there in one of the labeled containers.

    Be sure to get these boxes or bags where they belong to avoid additional house clutter (we’ve all been guilty of moving a pile from one room to another!). You'll feel lighter and happier just seeing those boxes and bags head out the door. Consider tasking a family member with trash or donation drop-off.

    Prioritize large surface areas

    Once you've cleared the excess clutter, wipe down the room from top to bottom. Clean the dust accumulated on top of bookshelves or ceiling fans first, then wipe down walls from top to bottom to remove dust and grime, using a microfiber mop or cloth. Prioritize large surfaces like countertops and tables as well as potential germ hotspots like the kitchen sink. Finish up with the floors by vacuuming carpet or by using a cleaner tailored for your hardwood or hard-surface floors.

    Disinfect

    At every opportunity look for areas that can be disinfected. Focus on high-use items and areas like remote controls, doorknobs, drawer pulls, and keypads. Consider using products that use hydrogen peroxide, a proven, healthier way to kill germs. Many traditional antibacterial cleaners use quaternary ammonium compounds or “quats.” This specific class of chemicals is linked to skin irritation and respiratory problems and use of quats is contributing to the global problem of antimicrobial resistance.

    For example, Bona PowerPlus® Antibacterial Hard-Surface Floor Cleaner is a new, hydrogen peroxide powered cleaning solution specifically designed to clean and disinfect hard, non-porous flooring surfaces. This ready-to-use antibacterial cleaner is formulated to clean and remove stubborn stains while killing 99.9% of household germs* with the power of hydrogen peroxide when used as directed. It also leaves your home smelling fresh and clean with no residue left behind.

    Finishing touches

    Once you've thoroughly cleaned and refreshed your rooms, brainstorm other ways to improve your living space:

    · Donate excess, little-used furniture to create more space

    · Identify tasks best left to professionals, like exterior window cleaning or hardwood floor refinishing

    · Display brightly colored artwork to renew your walls

    · Set out a vase or two of colorful flower arrangements

    Let your deep cleaning this spring bring a little renewal and brightness to your home. A clean home is also a healthy home for family, pets and friends.

    *Kills 99.9% of Influenza A H1N1 Virus, Rhinovirus, Escherichia coli, Listeria monocytogenes, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, Salmonella enterica, Staphylococcus aureus, Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus [MRSA], and Trichophyton mentagrophytes on hard, non-porous surfaces in 10 minutes.

    4 steps to expertly green grass on a DIY budget

    (BPT) - Having lush green grass is a delight for the senses. Not only does it look amazing, boost your mood and enhance your property value, but few things are better than walking barefoot through your yard or the fresh smell of grass on a warm, sunny day.

    "Many people think you need to hire professionals to get the green grass they admire in magazines, but the truth is you can do everything they do, with a little guidance and the right strategies," says Phil Dwyer, Ph.D., R&D Principal at ScottsMiracle-Gro.

    As we look outside in these first days of spring, this is the ideal opportunity to improve your lawn and give it just what it needs to thrive. Consider these smart lawn care tips to get a lush green blanket of grass across your yard for months to come.

    Access technology for guidance

    What type of grass grows in your yard? What is that weed over there? When's the best time to fertilize? You may not know these answers, but technology can help provide expert guidance at no cost. For example, the free Scotts My Lawn mobile app lets you geo-target your specific yard to get expert insight and step-by-step guidance on how to create a customized lawn care plan for an entire year based on your location, climate, environment and goals. Ask questions through live chat, use the weed identifier tool to tackle tough weeds and follow seasonally relevant lawn tips and grass seeding recommendations. It's like having an on-call pro, without the costs.

    Mow to the highest preferred height

    How and when you mow can impact the health of your lawn for better or for worse. Because mowing takes time and energy, it's best to know strategies to help you maximize effectiveness with minimal effort. Overall, the higher you mow the deeper your roots grow. It's important to learn which grass type you have so you can mow appropriately. Northern cool-season grasses should be cut 2 1/2 to 3 1/2 inches. Some southern warm-season grasses like Bermuda grass do better when cut a little shorter. Make sure to avoid cutting more than a third of the grass blade at a time so you don't stress the plant, and also try to vary your mowing pattern to avoid ruts. These steps will help your grass grow strong at an optimal height that also helps shade the soil to prevent weed growth and water evaporation.

    Feed at the right times

    It's not only about how much you feed your lawn. Using the right treatments at the right times gives grass all it needs throughout the season and saves you money along the way. Typically the first treatment should occur in the spring after your first mow to jump-start growth and strength. As months continue you'll need treatments that support a lawn's overall health long term, including weed and insect control. Scotts takes the guesswork out of lawn care with an easy, customized subscription plan that delivers the correct amount of what is needed when it is needed. Fill out a brief diagnostic quiz at program.scotts.com to get recommendations and order for convenient delivery. In general, a nice lawn can be achieved by feeding once in the spring and again once in the fall. If you want to create a really beautiful thick green lawn, in the North try feeding twice in the spring (4-6 weeks apart) and twice in the fall (Labor Day, Halloween). In the South, apply four applications spaced out between spring and Labor Day.

    Use wise water strategies

    Reduce your water footprint, save money on utilities and help grass thrive with wise watering methods. Frequency will depend on how much it rains and the time of year, as grass needs less water in spring and fall than it does during hot summer months. Rather than watering only once a week, try watering for shorter periods every other day to best respond to changing conditions, needs and rainfall. When the grass starts to look purplish to light brown and doesn't bounce back when walked on, it's time to water. Water is best applied in the early morning hours, as this prepares grass for the heat of the afternoon. Soil should be moist to the sticky point, but not muddy or dripping wet. Most sprinklers can achieve this in about 15 minutes per zone.

    "These four simple steps will set any homeowner on the path to a green lawn," says Dwyer. "You'll enjoy spending time in your yard and enjoying the outdoors to the fullest."

    Dig into gardening trends: Tips to get started

    (BPT) - Just like fashion, trends in gardening come and go … and sometimes come back again. Some shifts in gardening were inspired by necessity, like the “victory gardens” of WWII for growing food during years of rationing. Others reflected societal changes, like the green lawns of the 1950s and 1960s, when families spent more time playing and entertaining in their yards than ever before. If you look further into the past, to the 1920s, you see a trend that’s on the rise again — a yearning for going back to nature, celebrating a lush, green and bird-friendly environment. Those gardens overflowed with all sorts of greenery, fishponds, birdbaths and bird feeders.

    Today’s interest in sustainable gardens offering a home for pollinators is not too different from the desire for bird watching and natural gardening of 100 years ago.

    A new survey by the National Garden Bureau (NGB), which is celebrating its 100th anniversary, found fascinating trends among today’s gardeners, both expert and novice, which may inspire ideas for your own gardens.

    Grow to eat

    More than half (57%) of those age 35 and under said they’re using their green space to grow their own food. That interest was echoed by respondents over 35, with 65% of them saying they planned to turn at least part of their future gardens into more of a food source. Many expressed interest in growing their own herbs in their kitchens, with over 65% of those 35 and under sharing plans to grow herbs indoors in the future.

    New to growing veggies, fruits or herbs? Consider starting seeds in your kitchen or creating a small raised garden bed outdoors. Research what grows best in your region and the most ideal time for planting. Start small, with just one or two types of plants, so you don't feel overwhelmed. And grow something you know you'll love to eat!

    Mixed use gardens

    Gardens past and present have served multiple purposes, and gardening with a variety of plants allows you to enjoy your space and take in the outdoors to your liking. Over 67% of respondents 35 and under shared that while they want some green lawn, they also want the rest of their yard to be planted with trees, shrubs, flowers, fruits, herbs and vegetables.

    What does that mean for gardens of the future? They'll likely offer more variety, from the ornamental to the edible.

    And over 60% of gardeners of all ages want to grow pollinator-friendly plants and flowers.

    Look at your own yard and decide how much of it you want to dedicate to your garden and containers, or perhaps what other types of plants you could grow instead. Consider consulting a professional in your area as a resource for advice on a strategy for your space.

    Victory Garden 2.0

    When the Victory Garden Manual was first written in 1943, reasons to grow your own vegetables were obvious; it was wartime and food was scarce. Statistics say that in 1943, nearly 40% of all fruits and vegetables grown in the U.S. were grown in home and community victory gardens.

    As NGB celebrates its 100th anniversary, it seems timely to reintroduce the concept of victory gardening with quick and easy steps to plan and grow your own vegetable garden. Before digging in, it may be helpful to create a list of vegetables that your family enjoys. From there, plan your garden space and determine if you’ll be planting in the ground, raised beds, containers or a combination. Don’t forget to add pollinator-friendly flowers to ensure vegetables are properly pollinated, and you’ll have a great start on the modern victory garden.

    Gardeners of the future

    It may seem as though younger people are somewhat less likely to be active gardeners, as 11% of the survey respondents under 35 said they’ve never gotten their hands dirty — as compared with only 4% of those over the age of 35. Commonly, lack of time and space are their two biggest hurdles to gardening. But many younger gardener wannabes hope to graduate from growing houseplants and succulents indoors to becoming gardeners in the future: 53% said they hoped to grow houseplants, with 58% planning to graduate to growing flowers, and over 65% planning to grow fruits and vegetables in the future.

    If you're thinking of taking the gardening plunge for the first time, or expanding your gardening efforts, talk to family and neighbors who have successful gardens for their advice.

    Growing inspiration

    The internet can be a great source of inspiration for future gardeners. While gardeners over 35 look to magazines, books and garden retailers for ideas, those under 35 largely browse Pinterest, Instagram and YouTube for information and tips about developing their green thumbs. However, both groups talk to friends and family for ideas and inspiration about what, and how, to grow.

    For more information, tips, blogs and lots of inspiring gardening ideas, visit ngb.org.

    Get Stronger Every Day With At-Home Workouts

    (NAPSI)—These days, people are navigating unprecedented times that have them rethinking how they live and work. While big shifts to normal, daily habits can be unsettling, this also provides an opportunity to start new routines and make positive changes. 

    Many are spending more time at home, so adding structure is more important than ever—especially when it comes to staying active. Studies have shown that exercise can help boost your mood, productivity and immunity. 

    According to Tom Holland, exercise physiologist, Bowflex fitness adviser and host of iHeartRadio’s Fitness Disrupted podcast, it takes most people a minimum of two months to form a new habit. He recommends making the most of your time at home to establish healthy routines. 

    To help you get started, Holland offers these simple tips to add at-home fitness into your daily routine: 

    Connect with a Coach: When motivation wanes, there are plenty of subscription services and online resources. For example, there’s the Bowflex JRNY app (https://www.bowflex.com/jrny-app.html), which features a personal fitness coach who gives spoken instruction and encouragement as you push through your custom workouts—available on the Bowflex Max Total (https://www.bowflex.com/max-trainer/) and Bowflex BXT216 treadmill (https://www.bowflex.com/treadmills/).

    Start small: You don’t have to commit to an hour or more; aim for several micro workouts of 5, 10 and 15 minutes throughout the day; those add up and count as much as one long workout.

    Put it on the Calendar: Keep exercise at the top of your to-do list by scheduling a daily walk or run or streaming a yoga class. 

    Multi-task: Connect to streaming content and sweat through your favorite daytime show, or catch up on the news.

    Home Gym Essentials: Holland recommends including one piece of cardio and one piece of strength equipment in your home gym.

    If space is limited, two good cardio-strength options are the Bowflex Max Total (https://www.bowflex.com/max-trainer/) and Bowflex 840 kettlebell (https://www.bowflex.com/selecttech/).

    Creating healthy habits now can carry you through the current times, and help set you on a path to finish up the year feeling healthy and stronger than ever. 

     
     "Make the most of your time at home to establish healthy routines, advises Tom Holland, exercise physiologist, Bowflex fitness adviser.https://bit.ly/2WXgs9p"

    Expressing Sympathy During This New Normal

    (NAPSI)—While experiencing the loss of a loved one is always difficult, these days in the environment of social distancing due to COVID-19, it can be particularly so. If someone you care about is mourning, it’s still the time to connect to family, friends and co-workers.

    While many people are adapting to new everyday routines, the etiquette of expressing sympathy by and large has not changed. 

    What You Can Do

    Here are a few helpful tips from the experts at 1-800-Flowers.com:

    •Even if you don’t know the person well, saying “I’m sorry for your loss” is always appropriate and meaningful. It’s acknowledging what has happened in an honest and direct way. And it lets the person know they have permission to experience any uncomfortable emotions. You can find more tips on how to comfort someone who is grieving.

    •Regarding social media etiquette, follow the lead of the person who is grieving. If they haven’t said anything on Facebook, neither should you. But if they have posted about it, it is appropriate to comment. For more about the dos and don’ts on expressing condolences on social media.

    •Due to the regulations on large gatherings in many places due to COVID-19, many funeral services are being postponed or livestreamed over the Internet, making it an extraordinarily stressful time for the immediate family. If you aren’t able to express your condolences in person at this time, a delivery of a gourmet food basket, houseplant or sympathy flowers to their home is an appropriate way to let them know you are thinking of them. You can find many sympathy gifts and more for home delivery.

    •Remember to also support those who have experienced the loss of a loved one, perhaps not so recently, and may be feeling a bit more aware right now, be it due to social distancing or an upcoming important date or anniversary. To help, Rebecca Soffer, co-founder of Modern Loss, provides some additional thoughts. You can also explore complimentary sentiment ecards for Thinking and Sympathy to let them know you are thinking about them.

    Learn More

    For additional resources on sympathy and remembrance, visit www.1800flowers.com/sympathy-articles. If you are in need of expressing your condolences and not sure what to send, 1800Flowers.com sympathy specialists can help. To reach them, call 1-866-538-2259.

     
     "While many are adapting to new routines in this time of COVID-19, the etiquette of expressing sympathy has not changed. When you can’t be there to support those in mourning, an e-card and a thoughtful food basket, plant or flowers can help.https://bit.ly/2wJlkEy"

    Turn your backyard into a safe space for healthy play

    (BPT) - As Americans across the country retreat to their homes to help slow the spread of COVID-19, many are rediscovering the value of their yards as places to take in fresh air, engage their children in outdoor games and enjoy physical activity in a safe environment.

    3 tips for safe, healthy outdoor fun for the family

    Kids who can no longer participate in organized sports activities or meet their friends at the park need creative ways to burn off energy at home. Unplugging and stepping outside can be good for the whole family’s physical and mental health. Consider these three tips as you explore ways to take advantage of the green space around your home.

    Educate: The backyard offers a great setting to learn about plant biology and the creepy crawlers that call our lawns home. Take a magnifying glass to your lawn and explore the habitat nestled between the blades.

    Exercise: Lace up your sneakers and take to the yard for a 30-minute workout or arrange an obstacle course on the lawn for the kids. Encourage children to compete for the fastest time or create a course of their own.

    Rejuvenate: As the days get warmer, enjoy a little self-care by soaking in the sun on the lawn. Consider laying out a blanket and reading. Whether it becomes family story time or some quiet time to yourself, spend some time enjoying your own personal piece of the great outdoors.

    Take this time to give your lawn some TLC

    Now is a great time for some DIY spring maintenance to get your lawn ready for summer and the likely heavier-than-usual use it will see as you spend more time at home. To create a lush, healthy, low-maintenance lawn that is summer-ready, follow these spring lawn care tips from the experts at Grass Seed USA, a coalition of American grass seed farmers and turf specialists.

    Interseed for a thicker lawn. Lawns that are sparse or have worn patches coming out of winter can be interseeded when the soil warms up in the spring. In addition to enhancing the overall appearance of the lawn, interseeding will help keep turf dense, which is a natural defense to keeping pesky weeds out.

    Simply rake away lawn debris or accumulated thatch, broadcast seed widely or target bare spots on your lawn and irrigate regularly until the seed germinates. Be sure to use a high-quality seed that is a good match for your geographic region and your lawn’s soil type, sun exposure and irrigation patterns. Seed can be ordered online and shipped directly to your home from most home improvement retailers.

    Water deeply and infrequently. Rather than irrigating lightly every day, begin to water more deeply, only once or twice a week, which will encourage strong root growth and make for a hardier lawn in the summer. Most turf grasses will stay vigorous if they receive about 1 inch of water per week, including rainfall (and drought-tolerant species such as tall fescue do well on even less).

    Mow early and leave the grass taller. Start mowing your lawn before it gets too tall. Scalping an overgrown lawn will stress the plants and potentially cause problems all season long, so make sure you never cut off more than one-third of the grass blade height at a time. A good rule of thumb for most species is to mow when the grass reaches a height of about 3 inches. That means you can cut it to 2 inches — or you can even leave it a little taller to protect the growing point at the base of the blade and improve your lawn’s wear tolerance.

    Feed your lawn. Grasscycling — leaving the clippings on the lawn after you mow and allowing them to decompose — can save you time and provide up to 25% of your lawn’s fertilizer needs. To meet the rest of your turf’s nutrient requirements, you’ll likely need to fertilize in the spring and fall. The spring application should be relatively light and should feature slow-release nitrogen fertilizer to avoid causing rapid but weak growth, which can make the lawn less durable.

    If you’re among the many Americans seeking activities for energetic kids, suddenly finding time for long-delayed home improvement projects, or just needing a breath of fresh air, step out the backdoor and take advantage of your home’s lawn. By engaging in a few DIY spring lawn projects now, your lawn will be ready no matter what summer brings!

    The personal and economic burden of traumatic brain injury

    • Updated

    (BPT) - It could be due to a car accident. It might be attributed to an injury at work. It might be the result of a simple fall. Traumatic brain injury can happen to anyone of any age, and it's probably more common than you think.

    What is traumatic brain injury (TBI)?

    A TBI is often caused by a bump, blow or jolt to the head that disrupts the normal function of the brain, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Severity of TBI can be mild and temporary or severe and life altering. In the worst cases, a person can die from a TBI.

    The number of TBI-related emergency department visits, hospitalizations and deaths has increased by 53% and an average of 155 people in the U.S. die every day from injuries that include a TBI, according to CDC data from 2006-2014. There is an estimated $80 billion in lifetime costs within the U.S. alone related to TBI.

    "People who experience and survive a TBI often suffer from numerous other health conditions as a result, including headaches, memory loss, anxiety and depression, sleep deprivation, epilepsy and even alcohol or drug abuse," said Dr. Ramon Diaz-Arrastia, Professor of Neurology and Director of Clinical TBI Research at the University of Pennsylvania. "Concussions in sports have helped bring the frequency of TBIs to light, but there's still so much work to do because everyone is impacted by this condition either directly or indirectly."

    Who is impacted most by TBIs?

    Research shows TBI disproportionately affects vulnerable populations. For example, recent peer reviewed research shows that 53% of homeless people have suffered from TBI, according to health journal "The Lancet Public Health." Additionally, more than 65% of prisoners and 75% of women experiencing domestic violence have suffered from TBI, according to the "Journal of Neurotrauma."

    People in the military are more susceptible to TBI. Concussions have been capturing headlines for athletes, who also are at high risk of experiencing a TBI. It's a leading cause of disability and death in children. When someone experiences this type of injury, their life can be forever altered. It also impacts their family as well as society as a whole, as some cannot continue to work, care for a home or even properly care for themselves without assistance.

    The need for research and new treatments

    "To better address this public health issue, we must create a national registry that will provide critical information to help move forward the medical treatment of individuals with TBI so we can improve their care and research new treatments," said Dr. Stephanie Kolakowsky-Hayner, President Elect, American Congress of Rehabilitation Medicine.

    She is joined by leading TBI organizations like the Brain Injury Association of America and the Congressional Brain Injury Task Force to call for action from The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to create this type of national registry. The current system is decentralized and relies on states and regions to construct their own registries, leaving millions of people without resources to manage their TBI. The goal is to develop a single, standardized level of care for individuals living with TBI nationwide.

    A comprehensive registry would also facilitate more clinical trials, which could advance the treatment of people with TBI. One treatment showing promising initial results is a regenerative cell medicine (SB623) composed of stem cells that are implanted around the injured area. Focused on improving chronic motor deficiency, the Phase II data last year reported the effectiveness of the treatment that may regenerate brain cells following a TBI.

    To learn more about TBI visit www.cdc.gov. To learn about research and efforts being made to advance a national registry, visit www.biausa.org.

    Tips for living your best life with hand tremor

    • Updated

    (BPT) - Imagine how your life would change if you were unable to bring a cup to your mouth without spilling, if you couldn’t do the buttons on your clothes or even brush your teeth without difficulty. If you are one of the 7 million Americans living with essential tremor (ET), you already know what that's like.

    ET causes one or both hands to tremble while trying to perform routine tasks like eating or getting dressed. Sometimes the head or other parts of the body are affected as well.

    Although both are neurological disorders, ET is actually eight times more common than Parkinson’s disease and affects people differently. Unlike Parkinson’s, people with ET experience shaking during goal-oriented activity, while Parkinson’s patients experience trembling while at rest.

    Although far more likely to occur later in life, ET can also affect younger people and even children. It is a progressive disease, so tremors usually increase in frequency and/or severity over time. Tremors are not part of the aging process; this is a big misconception.

    Unfortunately, due to embarrassment about their tremors those affected by ET may shun activities they used to enjoy, becoming increasingly isolated. People who once enjoyed tennis or golf, crafts or card games might give up those hobbies, leaving them with little opportunity to socialize with others who share common interests.

    “The best thing you can do is learn more about the condition and treatment options,” says Dr. Dhira Khosla, Personal Care Neurology, Oakland, CA. She also recommends being open not just with your doctor, but also with friends, family and coworkers — to increase awareness, reduce isolation and make asking for help easier.

    Here are Dr. Khosla’s tips for coping with ET.

    Get enough rest and reduce stress, since fatigue and tension can worsen tremors.

    • Learn breathing or meditation techniques to help you relax
    • Get enough sleep and eat regularly
    • Avoid caffeine and alcohol, which can affect your nervous system and interfere with medications
    • Before starting a detailed task, avoid heavy lifting or other strenuous activity

    Anticipate difficult issues.

    • Ask for glasses or mugs to be filled half full when eating out
    • Bring along your own metal straws to make drinking easier
    • Order finger foods when dining out
    • Use weighted pens and heavier utensils with large handles
    • Use an electronic toothbrush

    Let technology help you.

    • Use speed dial and voice-activated controls on your phone
    • Record notes on your phone instead of writing things down
    • Use a voice recognition app or software for writing tasks
    • Shop with a credit card or payment app instead of signing checks

    Treatment options

    Some patients are prescribed medications to treat symptoms of ET. However, these medications are not effective for everyone, and there can be unpleasant side effects. Be sure to tell your doctor about any medications, including supplements, you are already taking to avoid potential negative drug interactions. Some patients may be eligible for a surgical procedure called deep brain surgery. While there is no cure for ET currently, advances are being made in terms of treatment options.

    New, non-invasive treatment for ET

    Cala Health has developed an effective, non­-invasive, on-demand therapy for ET that patients wear on their wrist, like a wristwatch. The wearable device, called Cala Trio, is calibrated to each patient’s individual hand tremor. When activated by the patient, it delivers gentle electrical stimulation to the nerves in the wrist. These nerves connect to the central brain network responsible for hand tremors.

    The largest study ever conducted in ET found that 54% of patients experienced a 50% reduction in their tremor. Patients control the device, and can use it throughout the day to help reduce hand tremors with 40-minute stimulation sessions. In the study, patients benefiting from therapy reported an average of one and a half hours of meaningful benefit following therapy sessions. Cala Trio has been cleared by the FDA and is currently available in the US by prescription. For more information, visit CalaTrio.com/patients/.

    5 Tips to Spring Clean Your Spices

    • Updated

    (Family Features) One area of the kitchen that is often overlooked when it comes to spring cleaning is the area home chefs keep their spices, whether it’s a cabinet, rack or drawer. Keeping your spices fresh and organized is a smart way to create faster, more flavorful meals.

    Try these tips from Toni Hammersley, author of A Bowl Full of Lemons, for a simple and stress-free way to spruce up your spice storage.

    Find more tips for storing and organizing your spices at McCormick.com.

    1. Pick a Date: The seasonal transitions to fall and spring are easy reminders to spruce up your spice cupboard. These times are also perfect for cooking and baking with fresh, seasonal flavors.

    1. Put Favorites First: Keep your frequently used herbs and spices front and center. Use a Lazy Susan, tiered rack or bins to help personalize your organization.

    1. Organize the Extras: Alphabetize the rest of your spices so you can find them easily when trying new recipes. Store baking necessities, like extracts and food colors, all in one spot or bin so you can easily find them when whipping up muffins or cupcakes.

    1. Reorganize to Refresh: Replace old or out-of-date spices and herbs to maximize flavor for everyday cooking. Test spices for freshness using these tips:
      • Sight: Check that the colors of your spices and herbs are bright and vibrant. If the color has faded, the flavor often has as well.
      • Aroma: Rub or crush the spice or herb in your hand. If the aroma is weak, it is time to replace it.
      • Taste: Give the herb or spice a taste test. If it lacks flavor, it is past its prime.

    1. Preserve Quality: To extend the life of your spices, store them away from extreme heat, moisture and direct sunlight. Also keep in mind that each spice has a different shelf life.
      • Ground spices: 2-3 years
      • Whole spices: 3-4 years
      • Seasoning blends: 1-2 years
      • Herbs: 1-3 years

    5 Hacks for Greener, Happier Living

    • Updated

    (Family Features) Whether you take shorter showers, reduce food waste or make eco-minded choices at the grocery store, adopting one simple habit can make a difference in protecting Earth’s natural resources. These simple, renewable lifestyle changes may even affect your personal mindset.

    Earth Friendly Hacks

    According to findings from a scientific study and survey commissioned by Tetra Pak, adopting simple renewable lifestyle habits can help people go from feeling glum to good. According to the survey, a majority of people (70 percent) feel happier when they make choices that help preserve natural resources. This study comes on the heels of the world’s first social experiment in renewability, conducted by three esteemed academic experts in habit and behavioral science, which uncovered how renewable lifestyle choices – habits that help preserve natural resources – influence levels of happiness. 

    “We believe that even simple lifestyle behaviors have the power to make a big impact, on both a personal and global scale,” said Elisabeth Comere, director of environment and government affairs for Tetra Pak. “The combined benefit of the small actions we take, from taking shorter showers to choosing products in renewable packaging – made of natural resources that can be replenished over time – can benefit the world around us while making us happier.”

    Adopting one of these simple renewable habits can help preserve the planet's resources while fast-tracking levels of happiness:

    1. Conserve resources, including water. The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that cutting your shower by just one minute will save two and a half gallons of water. Over time, that savings adds up: 75 gallons per month and nearly 1,000 gallons over the course of a year.

    2. Choose products in renewable packaging. Choosing food and beverage products in renewable packaging is a natural extension of environmentally friendly habits, such as recycling or composting. From milk and soup to water and juice, you can find food products packaged in cartons – primarily made from paper, a renewable resource from growing forests.

    3. Buy only what you can consume. At the grocery store, it’s easy to over-shop, especially if you’re hungry. Buy only what you need to reduce waste and seek groceries that are considered renewable, such as fruits and vegetables, and carton-packed food and beverages in packages made from renewable materials. Carton-packed foods last longer, are easy to store and have a relatively low environmental footprint.

    4. Use re-usable containers. These days, hectic lifestyles are the norm and that often means meals and beverages on the go. When possible, rely on re-usable drink and food containers instead of disposable ones.

    5. Whenever you can, bike or walk instead of driving. According to data compiled by National Geographic, it takes nearly 13 gallons of water to produce each gallon of gasoline. Using alternative modes of transportation and taking care to combine errands, car pool and use public transportation help cut water and energy demands.

    To learn more about how making simple, renewable lifestyle changes can help boost happiness or to take the Habits of Happiness quiz to assess your personal happiness level, visit tetrapak.com/us/renewable-living.

    Add Joy to Spring Cleaning

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    (Family Features) While spring cleaning can be crucial in keeping your home in tip-top shape, especially for DIYers who find inspiration in the bright season for new home decor projects, the annual ritual can also feel overwhelming.

    To add color and whimsy, and make spring cleaning a more joyous event, consider these ideas from mom and designer Joy Cho, the founder and creative director of Oh Joy! – a lifestyle site focused on design, fashion, food and life’s joyful moments.

    Frame homemade artwork. Once spring has arrived, you may have compiled lots of children’s artwork from time spent indoors. To keep it all organized, sift through it in the spring and frame some of your children’s hard work to put on the walls as colorful pieces of homemade decor.

    Start with a fresh clean. Routinely cleaning your high-touch surfaces with disinfecting wipes and picking up common areas is a good habit to get into and should be a starting point for any spring project. When you start with a clean space, you know you won’t have to deal with dust bunnies and clutter along the way. Plus, with nearly 1 in 3 Americans (31 percent) admitting to rarely or never deep cleaning their households, according to an online Clorox survey in February 2019, regularly freshening up can help you maintain a clean space and cut down on time spent tackling big messes.

    Decorate with color. Make your shared spaces as fun and unique as possible by adding pops of color. After cleaning accumulated dirt and dust off your bookshelves, add contact paper to the inside back section of the shelves and flower vases or decorative jars for temporary color and character. You can also add an unexpected spring time pop to floral bouquets by incorporating fragrant mint sprigs or colorful stems. Picking out an attractive spring print that brings you joy and updating your throw pillow shams can also provide little bursts of color.

    Repurpose everyday items. Look for items around the house that can serve a secondary purpose, like the limited-edition Oh Joy! Clorox Disinfecting Wipes Designer Collection, which can serve as statement pieces while setting the stage for a happy and healthy season by removing unwanted germs and dirt that may be lurking in your home. The stylish canisters can also be rinsed and reused after the last wipe is gone to hold everything from craft supplies to kids’ toys or flowers.

    “For the first-ever Clorox Designer Collection, I created four unique canister designs that are inspired by fresh blooms, spring sunshine and the feeling of a clean, new start,” Cho said. “What I love most is that they make the canisters attractive enough that you no longer need to hide them under the sink. Leaving them on the counter for cleaning up messes throughout the day is not only convenient but adds a little joy to your spring decor as well.”

    Maintain your spaces. Spending a little time each day cleaning high-traffic spaces can be easier than devoting an entire day each week to getting your home back in order. Disinfecting wipes make it easy to clean up messes, wipe down surfaces and stay on top of spot cleaning, allowing you to spend less time worrying about dirt and germs and more time with your family.

    Find more ways to elevate your space and add joy to spring cleaning at Clorox.com.

    Photo courtesy of Lily Glass for Oh Joy!

    Free Family Entertainment from Home

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    (Family Features) As people from coast to coast hunker down at home, some with children, taking a mental break from a new and unfamiliar lifestyle with the world of entertainment can be a way to relax and disconnect.

    All you need is a TV with a Wi-Fi connection to access free, family-friendly movies to keep the kids entertained while at home, as well as other films for parents to watch after the kids have gone to bed (or after a day in the home office is done). 

    An option like Tubi, the world’s largest free, ad-supported movie and TV service, features a library of more than 20,000 on-demand movies and TV shows on more than 25 different devices, including mobile devices, smart TVs, video game consoles and more, without the hassle of credit cards and subscription fees.

    “When you can’t get out and explore the world like you’re used to, your home TV screen is a great way to make a virtual escape,” said Maude Garrett, pop culture expert and founder of the Geek Bomb website. “The wide selection available on Tubi makes it a great option for family members of all ages, and even better, it’s free so families can tune in again and again.”

    Young viewers can follow the adventures of countless classic and contemporary characters such as:

    • Throwback series like “Casper the Friendly Ghost,” “My Little Pony” and “Dennis the Menace”
    • Today’s cartoon favorites like “Sonic the Hedgehog” and “Transformers Rescue Bots”
    • Educational programs and documentaries like “Learn with Verne” and “The Traveling Trio,” an adventure-filled series following three siblings

    Grab a bowl of popcorn and enjoy family time together with a wide range of full-length films, including:

    • The story of a young adventurer racing to uncover the secrets of a sunken ship that may hold a vast fortune and an ancient curse in Steven Spielberg’s “Adventures of TinTin”
    • The chronicles of a young sea turtle named Sammy and his friend, Ray, who swim around the world enduring the challenges of the oceans in search of Shelly, the love of Sammy's life in “A Turtle’s Tale”
    • A light-hearted look at what happens when kids rule the world in “Opposite Day,” featuring comedian Pauly Shore, among others
    • A modern spin on the classic “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” with Will Arnett and Megan Fox, following four pizza-loving mutated turtle brothers who unleash their ninja skills on New York City, which has been ravaged by the evil Shredder

    To take advantage of the expansive library of film and TV titles that can let your family enjoy a getaway from the safety of home, and to learn more about starting your free subscription, visit Tubi.TV.

    How to Find the Right Dog for Your Family

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    (Family Features) Adding a four-legged friend to the family is no small decision, and it’s easy to get distracted by sweet eyes pleading to be taken home. Becoming a dog parent is a major commitment, so it’s important to do your research and make well-informed choices before deciding on a new dog.

    No matter what stage of acquiring a dog you’re in, educate yourself about your options. A resource like Be Dog Smart, an online tool designed to guide consumers through the process of looking for a dog, can help you every step of the way, regardless of whether you’re considering getting a dog from a professional breeder, pet store, friend, family member or adopting from a shelter or rescue.

    By asking the right questions, researching credible sources and requesting transparency from those who provide companion animals, you can rest assured you are taking the right steps to bring home a new furry family member.

    Take smarter steps to bring your new fur-baby home with these tips from the Pet Leadership Council, the creators of the Be Dog Smart initiative:

    1. Determine the responsible environment you would like to acquire your dog from. One way to ensure those who raise and supply dogs maintain proper care standards is to understand the acquisition process and thoroughly vet breeders, retailers, shelters and rescues before supporting their operations. Ask questions about their businesses, policies, animal care and referral sources. Visit the locations personally to get a sense for the environment before making a decision. Once you settle on a source for your dog, interview several options to determine the best fit.

    1. Consider how a dog fits into your living situation. For example, if you work long hours, you’ll need to consider ways for your dog to be let outside during the day. Although some breeds require less space for exercise, all dogs need daily activity and regular access to relieve themselves.
    1. Think about the time and monetary investment. Dogs typically do not understand being left in their crates because you have a busy work schedule or social life. Contemplate your available time and how you would adjust to accommodate your pet. The same can be said for your finances. Ensure you can afford essentials such as food, grooming items and veterinary care as well as extras like toys and treats before making the commitment.
    1. Learn about the differences between purebred and mixed breeds. With so many breeds of dogs available, it’s tough to know which one is the right fit for you. Purebred dogs, which are dogs whose parents belong to the same breed, offer predictability in size, appearance, temperament, health issues, grooming needs and energy level. Mixed breeds, whose parents come from different breeds or are mixed breeds themselves, have a lower chance of being born with inherited congenital diseases and often inherit only the best traits from each parent.
    1. Weigh the benefits of a puppy versus an adult dog. Puppies are typically sweet and fun, and there are advantages to bonding with a puppy from its earliest stages of life. However, puppies quickly grow and can require a lot of work and training. Puppies are also more likely to be destructive. At rescues and shelters you’ll often find older dogs, many who were abandoned due to their owner’s life circumstances, not anything they did wrong. These dogs can be wonderful additions to a family and may be house trained and have previous basic command training, but there is a possibility of not getting a clear understanding of the dog’s past.   

    For additional tips and to learn more, visit BeDogSmart.org.

    5 Tips for 1st Foods for Babies

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    (Family Features) Ask any parent what he or she remembers most about a child’s first year and you’re likely to hear quite a bit about sleep schedules. However, a baby’s eating schedule is just as important as his or her sleep.

    While feeding a baby seems like it should be simple, for some new parents it can be nerve-wracking and lead to plenty of questions, such as: “Should I breastfeed or bottle feed?” “How much should my baby eat?” “When should I start baby food?” “What should my baby’s first foods be?”

    To help navigate first-year feeding, consider these tips from the experts at KinderCare.

    Let babies eat as much as they need, when they need it.

    Be prepared to feed your baby soon after he or she shows signs of hunger, like rooting; sucking on hands, toes, clothes or toys; or reaching for food. Let your baby tell you when he or she is full – like turning away, falling asleep or losing interest in eating. This helps your baby learn to eat when hungry and stop when full, even if it means not eating everything you offer.

    Choose a feeding style that meets you and your baby’s needs.

    Whether you breastfeed or use a bottle, the important thing is your baby is fed. If you breastfeed, it’s a good idea to express some milk now and again so your baby will take a bottle if someone else needs to feed him or her.

    Understand when it’s time to start baby food.

    While most babies are introduced to solid foods around 6 months of age, it depends on their individual development. Generally, if your baby can sit up on his or her own, has good neck and head control and shows interest – like reaching for food during mealtimes – it may be appropriate to try solid food.

    Focus on exploration.

    It’s important to provide your baby with a variety of foods free from added sugars, sodium and artificial ingredients, and let him or her explore rather than focusing on how much is eaten.

    “Focus on introducing veggies, proteins, grains and fruit – in that order,” said Courtney Hines, KinderCare’s nutritionist. “Babies are naturally inclined to prefer sweet things so save fruit for last so your baby is more inclined to try other flavors.”

    Make the transition gradual and fun.

    Hines recommends gradually exposing babies to a wide variety of whole, unprocessed foods with varying flavors and textures, and talking with your baby about the taste, feel and look of the foods he or she is trying. Starting with soft foods like mashed potatoes, avocadoes, sweet potatoes, cooked rice and bananas can give you an idea of what your child can handle.

    It’s easy to focus on baby food stages, but transitioning to solid foods will take place over time, making it important to continue offering your baby a bottle before mealtimes, in addition to solid food. Once your baby reaches his or her first birthday, talk with your family doctor about transitioning from breast milk or formula to unflavored, whole-fat milk.

    It’s important to remember that every baby develops at his or her own pace. Talk with your child’s doctor about the right pace for your baby, and find more tips to navigate your child’s major milestones at kindercare.com.

    Invite the Outdoors In

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    (Family Features) Despite the comfort and convenience it affords, modern society is contributing to a vanishing relationship with the natural environment. However, there are plenty of ways to bring nature indoors to reap the benefits of an earthy connection inside your home.

    According to a survey commissioned by the Velux Group, a gap is growing between the time Americans spend outdoors and the time they’d like to spend in nature.

    In the United States, 63% of survey participants said they average one hour or less a week in nature, but 88% agreed they would like to spend more time. In addition, the majority of respondents said they believe nature, daylight and fresh air have a positive impact on stress levels, and most also agreed those factors have a positive impact on mental well-being.

    “Exposure to nature such as trees, plants and views of open spaces has been found to improve the cognitive ability to focus and read social cues,” said Arie Greenleaf, associate professor of counseling at Seattle University. “Even ADHD symptoms in children are mitigated by views of and interactions with nature in a host of different ways. Worker productivity, how people feel about the work they do and the level of engagement, improves with a view of nature.”

    Despite ample research demonstrating the benefits, the study revealed a common theme, with 85% of participants believing they spent more time in nature as children than children do today. That’s a trend that translates into adult habits, too.

    “With work and family responsibilities, we can’t always fit spending time outside into our busy schedules, effectively making us the indoor generation,” said Peter Foldbjerg, head of Daylight, Energy and Indoor Climate for The Velux Group. “One thing we can do is improve how our homes connect to nature: From houseplants and nature-inspired art to skylights and screened porches, there are a wide variety of options for creating nature connections in the place we spend most of our time – our homes.”

    Learn how to bring more nature into your home with these decorating and design ideas:

    Houseplants

    Living plants not only add a touch of the outdoors, but they also help clean the air inside your home. In smaller spaces, even a few pots of herbs can add a refreshing touch of nature. If flat surfaces and floor space are at a premium, get creative with your wall space and incorporate shelving and wall-mounted planters.

    Sunshine and fresh air

    Whether it’s from windows or skylights, bringing natural light and fresh air inside can keep your space fresh and inviting. There are scientifically proven correlations between natural light exposure and mood, as well as your body’s ability to maintain its circadian rhythm. Refreshing the air in your home can help eliminate volatile organic compounds, pet dander and microparticles from cooking and cleaning.

    If your home is lacking in natural light, a skylight may be easier to add than a window, and skylights bring in twice as much light as vertical windows; their angle allows more of the sun’s rays to reach farther into the room. Some skylights, including many offered by Velux, also offer venting options that can contribute to cleaner air.

    Nature-inspired art

    Studies have shown that simply viewing photos or paintings of nature scenes has mental and physical benefits. You can also use decorative mirrors to reflect natural light and make a space feel larger and brighter.

    Botanically inspired patterns

    Look to pillows, area rugs and wallpaper to incorporate patterns inspired by flowers, foliage or landscapes outside. These decorative elements can boost your spirits and create a welcoming environment indoors by reflecting the outdoor world.

    Natural materials

    Sisal rugs and baskets, wood planking and stone countertops or side tables can add texture and a touch of the natural world to your interiors. These materials let you incorporate nature into your design aesthetic with natural textures that not only look stylish but feel great, too.

    Connect with Nature at Work

    If you work outside your home, at least a third of your day may have you stuck inside an office. Make your work environment more appealing with these ideas that let you embrace nature even while you’re on the clock.

    • Incorporate natural life with a desk plant. You may feel more refreshed by that touch of green, and it helps clean the air around you, too.
    • Find the sunlight. Today’s offices actively promote free-range working, so find a sofa near a window and get your best work done there. Or spend a few hours working outside each day. If your office design is behind the times, take a daily walk outside during your lunch break.
    • Surround yourself with natural materials. Transform your desk-scape with a bamboo monitor stand, stone smartphone holder or woven seagrass inbox.
    • Trick the senses with natural soundscapes. Earbuds are a must in today’s open-plan offices. Instead of playing music, escape with nature-inspired tunes like rain, wind in the trees or forest birds.
    • Select art influenced by Mother Nature. Decorate with nature-inspired art, whether it’s photos of landscapes or a sunflower print.

    Find more ideas for integrating the outdoors into your home design at whyskylights.com/outside-in.

    4 Tips to Train Your Pet

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    (Family Features) Training a pet can be a rewarding process. It takes some time and patience, but it can also be a way to bond with your pet and help set you both up for a happy life together.

    Here’s a hint: treats usually help. Consider these simple tips from the treating experts at the PEDIGREE® DENTASTIX™ and TEMPTATIONS™ brands to help guide the training process. For more information on finding the right treats for your furry friends, visit temptationstreats.com for cats and pedigree.com for dogs.

    Be Patient, Start Slow

    Remaining patient is key to training your dog or cat. Your pet most likely wants to do right by you, but fully understanding what you’re looking for can take time. Changing behaviors can take weeks to months, depending on how rewarding that behavior has been to your pet. When trying to get your pet to learn to do something different, be repetitive and increase your training time a little bit each day until the new behavior is achieved. 

    Reward with Treats

    There’s nothing wrong with giving your pet a treat when he or she does well, as long as you don’t give too many. This is likely to garner a positive response during training. If you are training your new kitty to use the litter box or not to scratch, try keeping a bag of feline-favorite treats nearby, like TEMPTATIONS Treats. Just one shake of the bag can make your cat come running from anywhere in the house. The more your pet can associate good behavior with rewards, the more likely he or she is to repeat that learned behavior.

    Acknowledge Good Behavior

    When training your pets to listen or respond, it is important to let them know when they get a command right by acknowledging good behavior. Pets can be quick learners, so it’s up to the owners to be fast with letting them know they did something right. The moment your pets respond on command is the instant you should show them you recognize their good work. A clicker can be an effective way to acknowledge pets’ good behavior by providing a clear sound to tell them, “good job, I’m getting your treat.”

    “Chews” Wisely

    Dogs love to chew and can often mistake shoes or personal items as toys. To keep them away from your throw pillows and other household items, it is important to give them safe, smart pet toys that can also satisfy their need to chew as they mature. In addition to chew toys, you can also try giving your dogs dental chews, like PEDIGREE DENTASTIX Treats. Your dogs may think it’s just a yummy snack, but really it helps to maintain their oral health, while giving them the chewing fix they need. Plus, you’ll be able to get closer to them for hugs and snuggles without bad dog breath getting in the way.

    Photos courtesy of Adobe Stock

    Rise and Shine

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    (Family Features) Eating a high-protein breakfast can help provide energy and focus to keep your day on track. While many experts now recommend 25-30 grams of protein at each meal, the average breakfast plate only contains 13 grams. One way to help close the gap is to add an 8-ounce glass of milk to your meal. Whether organic, flavored or white, each variety provides nine essential nutrients, including 8 grams of high-quality protein per 8 ounces to help start the day on the right foot.

    Get ahead of the game and prep breakfast the night before so you have something delicious and satisfying to look forward to each morning. Now is the perfect time to update your routine with these powerhouse breakfast ideas. These recipes are all made and paired with milk, helping you get protein and nutrients you need to fuel your day.

    Once you try these delicious recipes, you’ll never go back to your old, lackluster options again. For additional breakfast inspiration, visit milklife.com.

    1. Amaranth Porridge with Pears, Crunchy Pecans and Yogurt – Brighten your morning with the fragrant scent of pears and pecans, the perfect combination of flavors in this amazing recipe. Pair with an 8-ounce glass of milk and you’ll have energy and inspiration to tackle the rest of your day.

    1. Chai Quinoa Protein Breakfast Bowl – Treat yourself to this protein-packed breakfast bowl with a sweet spin. This recipe will make even the most ordinary morning feel special.  

    1. Protein Power Huevos Rancheros – Switch up your usual morning eggs with this Southwest-inspired savory breakfast recipe. It’s simple to add some spice to scrambled eggs, and this is the perfect recipe to bring on that zing.

    1. Blueberry Quinoa Pancakes – These will make you feel anything but blue. Add flare to traditional pancakes by cooking them with quinoa and topping with blueberries. This recipe packs a protein punch to get your day moving in the right direction.

    1. Blackberry-Hazelnut Power Bowl – Warm fall flavors like hazelnut and nutmeg complement the blackberries and bananas in this delicious power bowl. It’s perfect for weekend mornings when you want to slow down and savor the day.  

    Now's the Time to Teach At-Home Nutrition

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    (Family Features) With a lot of parents facing the challenge of keeping housebound kids happy and healthy, this is the perfect time to teach kids the basics of nutrition and eating right.

    Consider these simple suggestions from Melanie Marcus, MA, RD, health and nutrition communications manager for Dole Food Company.

    • Healthy Snack Time Taste Tests – Sometimes it feels like kids can snack all day long on easy-to-grab crackers, chips or cookies. Next time they reach into the snack pantry, try incorporating a taste test or food critic activity to encourage something different and more nutritious.
    • Purposeful Playtime – Many households have a play kitchen or some kind of play food. Use this as an opportunity to act out how to create a healthy kitchen with activities like making salad, setting the table, peeling bananas and washing dishes. This can help young children become more independent, learn what to expect and grow into little helpers at family mealtime.
    • Sensory Activity – One idea that can work for school and at home is making a sensory box. Simply place a fruit or two inside a tissue box and have children put their hands inside then try to guess which fruit it is by feeling it.
    • Recipes for Fun – If you’re preparing a meal, it could be a good time to teach children of reading age how to review a recipe. Evaluating ingredients to learn how food transforms from raw to cooked or how a dish is created can help kids learn kitchen skills. For example, try this fun, fruity recipe for Kids with Almond Toast.
    • Food Groups Focus – Get kids involved in making dinner by setting a rule that each food group must be represented. Give them a warmup activity by asking which food groups are found in family favorites like chicken soup, lasagna or meatloaf. Asking kids to guess which ingredients are used in these dishes and identifying which food group each ingredient belongs to can help them understand dietary balance. Find more at-home tips in the free, downloadable Healthy Eating Toolkit from the nonprofit organization Action for Healthy Kids.
    • Reading Time – From food labels to children’s books to cookbooks, there are plenty of reading materials to choose from that reinforce healthy eating habits. Exposing children to fruits and vegetables outside the kitchen is a subtle way to show that nutritious ingredients are part of everyday life.
    • Explain the Bathroom Routine – Make sure to wash hands and explain that this is a way of washing away germs to stay healthy. Also explain why brushing teeth is important by reminding children that food can get stuck in teeth and cause cavities.

    Find more kid-friendly recipe ideas at dole.com plus nutritional tips, free printables and other healthy fun on Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter and Instagram.

    “Kids” with Almond Toast

    Total time: 10 minutes

    Servings: 4

    • 4          slices whole-grain bread
    • 6          tablespoons unsalted almond butter
    • 2          teaspoons honey (optional)
    • 1          DOLE®  Banana, peeled
    • 2          Dole Strawberries, trimmed and halved
    • 4          chunks (1 1/2 inches) fresh Dole Tropical Gold Pineapple
    • 2          Dole Blackberries
    • 2          teaspoons toasted flaxseed (optional)
    1. Toast bread slices. Spread with almond butter and drizzle with honey, if desired.
    2. To make “kids”: Cut eight slices and 32 matchsticks from banana. Arrange one strawberry half and one pineapple chunk on two slices toast; arrange remaining strawberry halves and blackberries on  remaining slices. Place one banana slice “head” at top of each piece of fruit and arrange four banana matchsticks around each “kid” for arms and legs. Sprinkle flaxseed along bottom edges of toast under kids’ feet, if desired.

    Photo courtesy of Getty Images (mother and daughter)

    Spring Forward with an Original Farm-to-Table Spread

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    (Family Features) With warm weather on the horizon, it’s time to turn the clocks forward and say “so long” to winter and “hello” to longer spring days. With an extra hour of daylight ahead, spring is the perfect season to get outside, enjoy the fresh air and get the family on track with healthy habits and quality nutrition – starting at breakfast.      

    As you plan morning meals for your family this spring, remember that milk provides important nourishment – like high-quality protein – for you and your kids. As one of the original farm-to-table food, this wholesome drink typically arrives on grocery store shelves in just two days from many family-owned and -operated dairy farms. Milk is minimally processed for safety and farm fresh, often originating from dairy farms fewer than 300 miles away from your grocery store.

    Start off warm springtime mornings with a sweet, butterfly-inspired twist on a breakfast sandwich made with Mandarin orange slices, sure to get your kids excited about wholesome choices at breakfast. Pair with an 8-ounce glass of milk to give your kids more of what they already love, with protein they need to give them a good start on the day.

    For more information and kid-friendly recipes with milk, visit milklife.com.

    Monarch Muffin

    Recipe by Tiffany Edwards of Creme de la Crumb

    • 1     white English muffin
    • 2     tablespoons whipped cream cheese
    • 6     blueberries
    • 4     mandarin orange slices
    • 1     green grape, cut into strips
    1. Slice and toast English muffin. Spread cream cheese on both halves of muffin.
    2. Arrange three blueberries in a line down the middle of each half of the muffin and place a mandarin orange slice on each side of the blueberry lines to serve as wings of the butterfly. Place grape strips above blueberry line as antennas.
    3. Serve with an 8-ounce glass of milk.

    Nutritional information per serving: 310 calories; 8 g fat; 4 g saturated fat; 30 mg cholesterol; 14 g protein; 46 g carbohydrates; 2 g fiber; 440 mg sodium; 364 mg calcium (35% of daily value). Nutrition figures based on using fat free milk, and include an 8-ounce glass of milk.   

    Fuel the Day

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    Boost every moment with versatile peanut butter

    (Family Features) Whether you’re a fitness junkie, busy parent, sleep-deprived student or diehard sweet tooth, peanut butter is an ingredient that sticks for all of life’s moments. With a healthy boost of protein and energy, peanut butter is perfect as an on-the-go snack, fuel for a workout, a reliable family meal or a decadent dessert.

    There’s no shortage of delicious ways to pack peanut butter into diverse dishes throughout the day:

    • Add peanut butter to your favorite fruit smoothie for a nutty new flavor.
    • Encourage children to experiment with the essential spread and go beyond PB and J by replacing fruit for the jelly or stirring peanut butter or peanut butter powder into their yogurt.
    • A simple peanut butter and honey sandwich makes a great on-the-go snack you can throw in your gym bag or tuck away in a drawer at work.
    • Add peanut butter to a sauce or salad dressing for an extra zip of flavor and protein.

    Find more creative ways to enjoy peanut butter with these winning recipes from Southern Peanut Growers’ annual PB My Way recipe contest, and explore additional dishes that celebrate this versatile ingredient at peanutbutterlovers.com.

    Veggie Sammies with Peanut Butter Satay Sauce

    Recipe courtesy of Ben M., San Francisco, California
    Serves: 2

    • 4          tablespoons creamy peanut butter
    • 3          tablespoons lime juice
    • 2          tablespoons water
    • 4          teaspoons hoisin sauce
    • 2          teaspoons soy sauce
    • 2          teaspoons sriracha
    • 2          French baguette rolls (6 inches each)
    • 1/2       cup sliced cucumber
    • 1/2       cup white onion
    • 1/2       cup red bell pepper
    • 1/2       cup purple cabbage
    • 1/2       cup fresh cilantro
    1. In small bowl, combine peanut butter, lime juice, water, hoisin sauce, soy sauce and sriracha. Mix well.
    2. Spread sauce on both sides of bread then layer with cucumber, onion and bell pepper. Top with cabbage and cilantro leaves.

    Graceland Mini Cupcakes

    Recipe courtesy of Linda D., Coconut Creek, Florida
    Serves: 36

    Cupcakes:

    • 2          cups all-purpose flour
    • 2          teaspoons baking powder
    • 1/2       teaspoon salt
    • 4          ripe bananas
    • 1/2       cup light sour cream
    • 4          tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
    • 2          tablespoons canola oil
    • 3/4       cups sugar
    • 2          large eggs, at room temperature
    • 1          large egg white, at room temperature
    • 1          teaspoon vanilla extract


    Peanut Butter Filling:

    • 1/4       cup creamy peanut butter

    Bacon Topping:

    • 4          slices bacon
    • 1/2       cup brown sugar

    Frosting:

    • 8          ounces low-fat cream cheese
    • 1/2       cup butter
    • 1/2       cup creamy peanut butter
    • 2          teaspoons vanilla extract
    • 3/4       cups confectioners’ sugar
    1. Heat oven to 350°F. Line cupcake tins with paper liners and lightly spray with cooking spray.
    2. To make batter: In medium bowl, combine flour, baking powder and salt. Stir to combine and set aside.
    3. In small bowl, mash bananas and add sour cream. Mix well and set aside.
    4. Using electric hand mixer, beat butter, oil and sugar until incorporated, about 3-5 minutes. Add eggs, egg white and vanilla. Mix until combined. Slowly add half the dry ingredients and mix until almost incorporated. Add sour cream and banana mixture and gently fold into batter. Add rest of dry ingredients until combined.
    5. Spoon batter into lined cupcake pans. Bake 18-20 minutes and let cool.
    6. After cooling about 30-45 minutes, use paring knife to cut small circle in middle of top of cupcakes and remove plug, creating a well about halfway down cupcake. Add peanut butter to piping bag and fill each hole. Set aside.
    7. In medium bowl, dredge both sides of bacon slices in brown sugar. Place on foil-lined baking sheet; bake 10 minutes. Flip and bake another 6-8 minutes. Remove bacon from oven and place on plate to cool. Once cool, chop bacon and set aside.
    8. To make frosting: In large bowl, combine cream cheese, butter, peanut butter and vanilla extract. Mix until combined. Add confectioners’ sugar and mix until well-combined.
    9. Add frosting to piping bag. Pipe a dollop of frosting onto each cupcake and sprinkle with candied bacon pieces.

    Peanut Apple Chicken Curry

    Recipe courtesy of Jess A., Berkeley, California
    Serves: 4

    Sauce:

    • 1          tablespoon olive oil
    • 2          cloves garlic, minced
    • 2          teaspoons curry powder
    • 1/4       cup scallions, chopped
    • 1          cup creamy peanut butter
    • 2          teaspoons rice wine vinegar
    • 1 3/4    cups apple juice
    • 1 3/4    cups coconut milk
    • 1/4       cup brown sugar
    • 1/4       teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)

    Chicken:

    • 2          tablespoons olive oil
    • 1/2       small yellow onion, chopped
    • 1 1/2    pounds boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut into 1-inch strips
    • 1          medium apple, peeled, cored and chopped
    • salt, to taste
    • pepper, to taste
    • cooked rice (optional)
    1. To make sauce: In medium to large saucepan, heat oil over medium heat. Add garlic, curry powder and scallions. Saute 1 minute.
    2. Add peanut butter, vinegar, apple juice, coconut milk, brown sugar and cayenne. Bring to simmer, reduce heat and cook over low heat, stirring frequently, about 10-15 minutes.
    3. Meanwhile, in large skillet, heat oil. Add onion and stir fry about 2-3 minutes until onions start to become opaque.
    4. Add chicken and apples, and stir until chicken is cooked completely. Add peanut sauce and cook until heated evenly, about 2-5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Serve warm over rice, if desired.

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