Guest Post

Guest Post: Leading By Example: How Parents Can Encourage Kids to Make Healthy Choices

By on November 5, 2020

Today, we are joined by guest blogger Emily Graham, you can find more of her wisdom over at Mighty Moms.

Parents of healthy children tend to have several habits in common. They don’t make negative comments about others’ bodies, they don’t moralize about food (i.e. they don’t associate abstaining from some foods with “being good,” or indulge in other foods because they want to “be bad”), and, perhaps most importantly, they stock their kitchens with healthy foods instead of shaming their children for making unhealthy choices. 

Ultimately, it’s up to parents to be good role models when it comes to diet. Accentuating the positive and avoiding value judgments are important modeling behaviors. Integrated Mama wants your family to be happy and healthy, so read on for more practices that can encourage kids to make healthy choices:

Dine as a Family

Eating together as a family is one of the best ways to model good dietary habits. According to a study in Pediatrics, kids from families that eat meals together at least three times a week are 20 percent less likely to choose unhealthy foods. Additionally, letting your kids see you making healthy food choices at mealtime also helps reduce the likelihood that they’ll become obese or develop eating disorders later in life. 

Mealtime can also be an important anchor in your child’s life. It sets a rhythm to the day and adds structure to life. The predictability of the routine reinforces discipline and provides security, a much-needed piece of the puzzle for healthy families—especially kids.

Dealing with Anxiety

It’s easy to forget that children are under considerable pressure to do well in school, fit in socially, and make their parents happy. That can produce elevated levels of anxiety, which can be harmful and, in some cases, require some form of psychological or medical intervention. 

Prolonged pressure can result in low self-esteem, depression, sleep deprivation, an elevated risk of mental illness and even suicide. Always talk with a doctor about how best to deal with the problem, and ask about dietary adjustments that can help. It’s possible that magnesium, vitamin D, B vitamins, iron, omega-3 or another nutritional element is lacking. 

Turn Off the Screens

Americans of all ages spend a lot of time staring at televisions, computers, and smartphones. Dinner is one time when the screens should be put away. Meals are a time for the whole family to be present and communicating rather than instant messaging, texting, or surfing the internet. However, parents must be willing to turn off their own handheld devices at mealtime so they can eat mindfully and encourage their kids to do likewise. 

Being attentive at dinnertime encourages family conversation and creates a shared experience that’s emotionally nourishing. Kids who aren’t focusing on social media during dinner see their parents eating vegetables and nutritional foods, and that leaves a lasting, positive impression.

When kids are allowed screen time, make sure it’s both appropriate and enjoyable. Ensure their online safety through parental controls, and choose games that sneak in educational and developmental components. Lastly, make sure their experience is seamless by selecting an internet service that provides the power and speed games require.   

Other Positive Behaviors

Children are highly impressionable and likely to duplicate behaviors their parents model. If they see you drinking three pots of coffee a day, smoking cigarettes, or indulging in drugs or alcohol, chances are they’ll grow up doing likewise. Even if you’re not in the habit of exercising regularly, making an effort to stay active with your kids can encourage them to exercise as well. 

Be Diplomatic About Junk Food/Fast Food

Live Science recommends that parents avoid the outright banning of cookies, cupcakes, candy, and fast foods. A more effective approach is to minimize the number of unhealthy treats so kids are less likely to be tempted by them. If snack choices at home tend to be things like fruit, nuts, and yogurt, children will become accustomed to healthy snacking. 

Parental behavior is enormously influential. Kids who are used to seeing parents eating balanced, nutritional meals and favoring healthy snack foods are apt to do likewise. Make a habit of sitting down to meals together and avoid exhibiting negative, unhealthy activities. 

Look to Integrated Mama for more insights, information and ideas to help your family thrive.

Image courtesy of Pexels

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Family Rhythm and Mealtime as an Anchor

By on November 3, 2020

I have been thinking a lot about our family rhythm and mealtimes. These are the ways our family moves day-to-day and stays somewhat balanced. My husband and I comment often about how much prep work it takes to keep our family moving along in a (somewhat) harmonious way. One thing we do is have our evening meal together, as a family. Dinner time is our major anchor of the day.

During my childhood, our family mealtimes were tense. We always had to walk on eggshells around my dad– you just never knew when he was going to blow. I learned to eat as quickly as possible and excuse myself to my room to avoid the temper- flares. I’m sure the value I place on family meal-time has its basis in correcting that childhood stressor.

Also, as I’ve learned how important gut health is and how our stress levels affect our digestive processes it only makes sense to have harmony around mealtimes.

Fine Tuning the Engine

This is one important piece of our daily rhythm. As I mentioned, it takes a lot of energy to make it happen. Food is one of our highest budget items, we plan, prep, and work ahead of time so that the evening transition is relatively smooth.

Our daily schedules are full. We have many different places to be, many different meal “shifts”. However, we work to adjust and adapt our schedules so that everyone can participate in our evening meal. Dinner is the time we all round out the day together. Even when we have crazy days, we try to keep this as close to “normal” as possible.

The larger our family has grown, and the more mouths we have to feed, the more predictability is necessary. Having regular meal and snack times is an anchor that helps the rest of the family rhythms to fall into place. The kids generally know what to expect in the few hours after each meal or snack.

Transitioning to a Family Meal

As we move into our evening meal, there are few things we do to set a positive atmosphere. Since the table is the center of our focus for many other things, we make sure all of the days projects and toys are cleaned up and add a “special” touch. This is often a candle or flowers, and sometimes cloth napkins.

I like to make sure the atmosphere is relaxed and conducive to digestion. The familiarity, the regularity, and the calm all promote healthy digestion and mental attitudes around our food. We don’t have television, news, or any distractions at the dinner table and we keep our conversation light and positive.

My husband is great at promoting gratitude as we start our meal. Sometimes we start our meal sharing 1 high and 1 low point of our day. This lets us decompress without dwelling on a negative. When Keenan was small we would start our meal with a verse as a way to promote gratitude. I have found many nice blessings in books, or it could be based on your religious preference.

All hands are on deck with our dinner preparation and serving. Each person has a role in getting it together. Generally, I do the cooking. My oldest is in charge of after-dinner dishes, Gus guides the little kids and helps them set the table and fold the napkins. He also cuts and preps their food and gets them settled and ready to eat. For me, this is a huge relief. Not everything is on my shoulders and I can actually sit and enjoy the food I have prepared.

The Busy Table, Rhythm as Discipline

In our home, our table is one of the busiest locations in the house. We all gather for many reasons. It is our “Grand Central Station”. Our place of celebration, creativity, education, play, and family meals (and clutter, lol).

Having a regular family rhythm and structure is the main component of our “discipline” tactic. We have found that predictability and routine have created an atmosphere of trust and established boundaries. The kids know what to expect day in and day out (basically) and what is expected of them so there is much less room for “error”.

And yes, we have our days and struggles (in NO way am I saying we are perfect and have it all together). I have just found in my mothering years, that creating a somewhat predictable family rhythm can really eliminate a lot of problems before they begin.

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Fall Seasonal Rhythms with Kids

By on October 26, 2020

Happy Fall Y’all! October is almost over. It is now Halloween week! We live in Florida, and after living here nearly 5 years, I haven’t adjusted to 85 degree days. There’s just something about wool socks and hoodies. Although we live in a tropical climate, seasonal rhythms are still part of our family structure, and we work to establish seasonal awareness.

I enjoy making seasonal traditions with our kids, and sometimes I *need* it to feel like fall. There’s just something about crisp leaves and breezy weather.. it’s the transition. The transition to shorter days, cooler weather, and the holiday season. Today, I am going to share some of our favorite at-home fall activities.

Seasonal Environmental Awareness and Craft Projects

Spending time in, and with nature is one of our top priorities. I feel like our days don’t go as well if we don’t fit in fresh air and sunshine. A change in scenery always does us good.

When we spend time in nature, with the seasons, we like to take note of the change. Are there more pinecones than usual? Are mushrooms growing? Can we find acorns, are their tops attached or detached? With the ocean we take enjoy emptier beaches (yay!), notice the change in tides, temperatures, and breeze.

On many of our autumn walks, the little kids carry small thrifted baskets and collect things. Recently we collected mushrooms. We took them home, identified them, and researched them. Yesterday, we collected acorns that we will craft into a garland for November.

Bird watching is another one of our favorite activities. We feed birds in our backyard, and see what kind we can attract. We also love to bird watch on our walks. Ezra keeps a bird journal. He carries a sketch book and with help he can draw the birds (and I write down characteristics) and then later identify them. With the journal we can take note of how the bird species change with the seasons.

Also, leaf collecting is something my kids love. They collect leaves of different sizes and shapes, bring them home and do leaf rubbings. We also like to set up a little nature area in our home so we bring a bit of the vibe indoors.

Seasonal Reading Rhythms

I am going to list and link some of our favorite autumn books. I change out a basket of books for each season and these have been in rotation for years now. They are something I’ll likely hang on to and treasure because we love them so much!

  1. Woody, Hazel and Little Pip by Elsa Beskow. I just LOOOVEEE Elsa Beskow books. The illustrations are beautiful and leave so much room for improv in storytelling!
  2. Moonlight the Halloween Cat by Cynthia Rylant. I also love Cynthia Rylant. She is a native West Virginian (my home state), and I have read her writing since my childhood and love to share the stories with my children.
  3. Apples by Gail Gibbons
  4. Autumn by Gerda Muller
  5. Leaf Man by Lois Ehlert
  6. Stellaluna by Janell Cannon
  7. My First Root Children and The Story of the Root Children by Sibylle von Olfers. Again, a lovely book for the illustrations. The board book version has been well loved by my children, it has the same great illustrations with an easier language.
  8. Johnny Appleseed by Reeve Lindberg

Autumnal Flavors and Aromas

Lastly, we have been enjoying autumnal flavors in the kitchen. Each week, I have been trying something new so they can taste the flavors that are traditional to fall.

Our favorites so far have been:

  1. Pumpkin Spice Baked Oatmeal Cups
  2. Applesauce from Honeycrisp apples. Just apples, water and cinnamon simmered until soft and mashed.
  3. Roasted Beet & Arugula Salad— this one was best for the adult palates in the house, but the little kids love roasted beets, so I just leave some undressed ones for them.
  4. Paleo Pumpkin Bread this is a simple grain/refined sugar free version.
  5. Herbal teas. The kids LOVE having tea parties. I’ve been choosing chai spiced versions of herbal teas (caffeine free) and it is a fun, festive way to keep the kids occupied for 20 min!

We have also been diffusing yummy warming, autumnal essential oils in our diffuser. I have been gravitating toward cinnamon bark, clove, cardamom, ginger, and tree oils like Northern Lights Black Spruce, and cedarwood.

These oils are wonderful for the aroma, but also have wonderful immune supporting and air cleansing properties, so a wonderful bonus.

I hope you are enjoying your fall! What are some of your autumn favorites?

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The Object of Beauty Visualization

By on October 5, 2020

Life is uncertain, but today I am going to share with you how to find your object of beauty in the chaos. I know every single one of you who open this post and read through it has experienced pain, loss, and traumas. It is tough to find the object of beauty when it feels like everything is out of control. Right now, I know as a mass we are feeling this more than we ever have.

My emotions have been wavering. Sometimes I feel okay and can find my peace, other times I am anxious and my mind takes over. Daily I see my kids are happy and the sun is shining (most of the time). In the present moment, I feel safe, and I am holding on to the Knowing that the negativity shall pass.

Beauty in the Chaos

I’ve written before about the importance of unplugging and grounding. That has been a lifesaver for me in certain moments. Other times I have found peace by allowing myself to feel my feelings, honor them, and let myself feel love.

Yes, it is okay to feel afraid, it is okay to worry about the future. I just try to uplift out of it and not let it consume my thoughts. Sometimes it takes ALL of my tools to stay uplifted.

Tools to Stay Present

Of course, you know I am going to say oils. Harmony, Joy, Awaken, White Angelica, and Valor are great support. You could probably pick up any oil you have sitting around, apply it, and feel calmer, or happier.

And by the way, being calm is super for your immune system. I won’t get into the biology of it– but you heal easier and can handle so much more when your nervous system is relaxed.

Visualization– I have been very intentional about making sure to sit down 3-5 minutes, twice a day. It doesn’t sound like much but it’s what I can fit in with 3 kids and their needs.

How often do you sit and try to relax only to have to deal with the jumbled mess in your brain? Thoughts bounce back and forth. Did I switch that last load of laundry? What are we going to have for dinner? Is this pandemic ever going to end? What if it doesn’t? What if someone in our family catches it? Let’s go outside this evening. And on and on (and this was just a glimpse into my head, lol.)

We are bombarded with information. We get overwhelmed. Overloaded. What does an overwhelmed mind do? Nothing. We get paralyzed.
One of the best tools I’ve found to help find and sustain calm and centeredness is to practice an “object of beauty” visualization.

A Simple Practice

The object of beauty visualization is something you can do in just 3-5 min per day. I sit with my timer during the kids’ afternoon nap most often, and sometimes I’ll do it again before bed.

What is something that is beautiful to you? A tree?  A view you experienced once on a vacation? A mountain path?

Take a moment, sit down, take a slow inhale, and start visualizing the image. See it in detail. The outline of the trees, sounds of the birds chirping, or water rushing. Whatever your image is, bring it to all of your senses. See it, hear it, touch it, taste it, and smell it.

If your mind wanders about the worries of the world or your grocery list just gently bring it back to the image you are visualizing. Don’t judge yourself or feel agitated that the mind wandered. Be gentle with yourself. 

The feeling you get as you visualize your object of beauty permeates through your stresses and helps make unpleasantries easier to manage. Take 3 minutes out of your days this week and sit with your object of beauty. What do you have to lose?

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budget | parenting | pregnancy

Guest Post: Top Tips for Thrifty Moms-To-Be

By on October 1, 2020

I am so happy and excited to feature this post by Emily Graham. You can find this budget-friendly article and plenty of other wonderful content on financial wellness at

When you’re expecting a new addition, it’s natural to want to splurge on every little thing for your bundle of joy.  However, the last thing you want to do is feel distracted about finances.  Thankfully, there are plenty of ways to prepare for your baby without overspending.  These thrifty tips will have you not only ready for your baby’s arrival but will ensure you’ll be able to focus on every precious moment.  

Take a breather

One of the simplest things you can do for yourself in preparation for your baby’s arrival is to spend time relaxing.  According to research, relaxation helps expecting moms reduce their stress and anxiety levels, feel more energized, and stay in a positive mindset.  Try doing some meditation exercises to help you focus and let go of tension.  Just 10 or 20 minutes a day can help you feel better, and it’s a simple and free addition to your lifestyle.

Revamp the reveal 

Gender reveals come in all shapes and sizes, and with a little ingenuity, you can create a celebration that is inspired, entertaining, and memorable.  For instance, a photo shoot can be terrific fodder for a unique gender reveal.  You can get packs of pink or blue gum, then take pictures blowing bubbles in the appropriate color and post them on social media.  If you spend a weekend at the beach, you could even take advantage of the photo op by writing in the sand, “It’s a boy” or “It’s a girl!”  It’s not only clever and affordable, but it also takes less time and energy than a party.  

If you’re ready to party down while pinching pennies, think about fun things like creating a paper maché volcano that erupts pink or blue “lava,” or cupcakes with appropriate colored filling.  You could even have a fiesta and fill a piñata with colored candies.  The key is to have fun with whatever you do!  

Baby and big kid

Setting up your baby’s space is super exciting, and it’s easy to get carried away with everything there is to buy.  How can you stretch your pennies with a whole room to redo?  Actually, there are some pretty clever solutions for the whole shebang.  The key is to think in terms of versatility.  By choosing decor that will be adorable now and remain appropriate later, you can create a beautiful nursery that adjusts as your little one grows.  

The first place to look is your furniture.  It can add up quickly if you need to buy all new bedroom items as time goes by, but with things like convertible cribs and a dresser that doubles as a changing table, you can stretch each piece’s usefulness along with your pennies. If buying brand-new furniture busts your budget, consider furniture hacks to create a cute and comfy nursery. 

For moms-to-be on the go

For some moms, the arrival of a little one is mixed in with other things that are keeping you on your toes, such as work, school, and even other little ones. How can you prepare and save money when you barely have time to stop? Perhaps you could have a pregnancy subscription box delivered right to your door? There are boxes tailored for each trimester such as The Stork Bag and BumpBoxes, and both are filled with items you need (and didn’t know you needed) that are delivered right to your door.

The nursery is another area that takes a lot of time to get ready. Try to dedicate each weekend or free time you encounter to nursery prep. Shop online as opposed to in-store, and take advantage of store pick-up and delivery. Create some sort of timeline for when you want things done, but don’t fret if you can’t stick to it. In reality, as long as the baby has a safe space to sleep, you can forego the nursery altogether, saving both time and money.

Find alternative ways to save

There are plenty of other budget-conscious ways to save for your baby’s arrival. You can lower food costs by bringing lunch to work every day or preparing meals in advance to avoid pricey takeout food. Consider the cost of entertainment and whether you can stream your favorite TV shows and movies instead of subscribing to cable. When shopping for maternity wear, look for deals at places like Target and Old Navy. You can even buy baby clothes used! Of course, there will be some items that you don’t want to scrimp on. For example, when it comes to hospital wear, nursing bras, a breast pump or a baby sling, you want a quality item that won’t fall apart easily, especially if this is your first pregnancy and you plan to have more children. 

There are plenty of ways you can prepare for a baby’s arrival without going over your budget. Take some time to relax, be creative with your gender reveal, and when you put your nursery together, aim for items that grow with your baby.  Being frugal will allow you to not only save money, but limit stress in the long run.  You’ll be relaxed and ready to enjoy every moment when the big day arrives!

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