Winter Strategies to Keep Your Homeschooled Kids Learning

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For parents who homeschool their children, the challenge is always finding relevant, relatable, fun material to keep them interested, learning, and growing. Wintertime can pose challenges to this goal, especially when kids feel cooped up all day.

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Are You Eating Methyl Donor Foods?

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A few questions likely come to mind when you see the question, “are you eating methyl donor foods?” and that’s to be expected. After all, what are methyl donor foods? Is there a specific reason why you should be eating them? Should everyone be eating methyl donor foods?



You may have noticed that Naturally Savvy has published a few stories about MTHFR gene mutations and methylation, and so now seems like a great time to introduce the topic of methyl donor foods to tie it all together. I hope you will bear with me a bit because there is a little organic and biochemistry involved, but I’ll make it as painless as possible.



Read about how to know if you have the MTHFR gene defect



What does the term “methyl” mean?



Here’s where some organic chemistry comes into play. “Methyl” refers to nutrients that are involved in a biochemical process called methylation. During methylation, a process that is critical for healthy bodily functioning, chemicals are added to and bond with proteins, DNA, or other molecules. Methyl donors are composed of a carbon atom attached to three hydrogen atoms, signified as CH3.



Why are methyl donor foods important?



Before we even discuss what methyl donor foods are, it’s good to know why you should even care about them. These foods contain nutrients such as vitamin B6, vitamin B12, folate, choline, and methionine, an essential amino acid that is used in the production of proteins. Other nutrients involved in methylation include N-dimethyl glycine (DMG), S-adenosylmethionine (SAM-e), and dimethyl-amino-ethanol (DMAE).



Although experts have not yet completely identified how methylation works, it is known that it is intimately involved in the metabolism of DNA and lipids and appears to help prevent the expression of cancer genes and thus development of cancer. In fact, methyl-related nutrients have been associated with a reduced risk of pancreatic, colon, and breast cancers.



It’s suspected that the ability of the body to perform methylation declines with age, which means eating plenty of methyl donor foods could be beneficial in helping prevent diseases such as Alzheimer’s and heart disease. Methyl donors also assist in the production of several brain chemicals (e.g., dopamine, epinephrine) that are involved in energy, alertness, concentration, mood, and visual clarity, which also are involved with depression and dementia.



Read about eating to stay young: anti-aging foods



Which foods are good methyl donors?



Finding foods that are good sources of methyl donors isn’t difficult because there are so many from which to choose! For example, I’m sure you’ll discover favorites in these categories:

  • Folate: chickpeas, lentils, pinto beans, leafy greens (e.g., spinach, kale, collards, mustard greens, bok choy), strawberries, and citrus (e.g., grapefruit, oranges, lemons)

  • Vitamin B6: grass-fed beef, pistachios, pinto beans, avocado, blackstrap molasses, tuna, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds

  • Vitamin B12: fish, organic meats, seaweed (laver and nori), eggs

  • Methionine: Brazil nuts are a super source, while other excellent to good sources include sesame seeds, roasted soybeans, parmesan cheese, tuna, eggs, and white beans

  • Choline (which oxidizes to a methyl called betaine, aka trimethylglycine (TMG): beets, Brussel sprouts, broccoli, liver, eggs, raw cauliflower, cooked beet greens, cooked asparagus

  • DMG: beans, brown rice, pumpkin seeds

  • DMAE: anchovies, salmon, sardines

  • SAM-e: Although there are no direct food sources of SAM-e, it is a compound made from methionine, so it is acquired indirectly

A good balance of methyl donor foods, as part of a natural foods diet, can help promote and support proper methylation. In addition, getting a sufficient amount of probiotics (beneficial bacteria, which help produce and absorb B vitamins) as well as zinc and magnesium (which support methylation) can be advantageous to your health.



Sources



Corey M. Methylation: why it matters for your immunity, inflammation and more. MindBodyGreen 2015 April 9

Sahelian R MD. Methyl donors for more energy and mood, review. 2016 Feb 19

Stevens A. Methyl diet. Livestrong 2017 Aug 14

Source:Are You Eating Methyl Donor Foods?

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Rhode Island ‘Teeth First’ Campaign Spreading Awareness About Child Dental Care

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The Teeth First campaign is a collaboration of several agencies. It began in 2011, with a mission of spreading educational materials to provide families with information on child dental care, and is now looking to expand its reach. As the leading agency for Teeth First, Rhode Island Kids Count is spreading the message of how […]

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Curing Anxiety and ADHD—With a Weighted Blanket?

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Do you have a child who is on the autism or ADHD spectrum who could benefit from a drug-free, supplement-free way to achieve calmness and sleep better? Would you like a safe, effective, non-drug way to relax and fall asleep? Maybe it’s time to try a weighted blanket.



Weighted blankets are blankets that are heavier than normal and are typically used for therapeutic reasons as an alternative to or along with medication. The most common conditions for which weighted blankets are used include autism, insomnia, stress, anxiety, and behavioral disorders. The majority of weighted blankets weigh between four and 30 pounds, depending on which part of the body they will be used for and the age and size of the individual. 



Read about healing through the senses: Snoezelen therapy



How weighted blankets help behavioral challenges



People who may greatly benefit from using weight blankets are children and adults with autism or other disorders that can benefit from sensory integration therapy. This is a form of occupational therapy in which affected individuals learn how to regulate their emotions and behaviors. The approach is based on the theory that sometimes these individuals are hypersensitive to sensory stimulation, and that the weight provides a calming effect by providing “deep-touch pressure,” according to occupational therapist Teresa May-Benson. Some therapists use these blankets as part of their treatment programs. 



To test this point, a placebo-controlled crossover study was conducted that involved 67 children (ages 5 to 17 years) with autism and severe sleep problems. They were randomly assigned to use either a commercially available weighted blanket or an identical usual weight blanket. Even though total sleep time, time to fall asleep, waking up less often, or behavioral outcomes did not differ between the two groups, the kids and their parents favored the weighted blankets when it came to subjective measures. 



Several studies involving children with autism have not yielded positive results. One study appearing in Pediatrics, for example, used weighted blankets to help kids with autism and sleeping problems. The authors of the study used placebo blankets (filled with light plastic beads) and weighted blankets (filled with steel beads) and found no difference between the two groups of kids when it came to total sleep time, waking up in the middle of the night, and how long it took to fall asleep. Note, however, that there are anecdotal reports to the contrary from parents of autistic children, which suggests you may want to try this approach if you have an autistic child with sleep issues. 



Using weighted blankets for anxiety



Weighted blankets can be an effective way to help manage anxiety in both children and adults. Experts believe that the additional weight offered by the blanket helps ground individuals, thus providing a calming effect. Grounding may facilitate the reduction of levels of cortisol, a stress hormone whose levels increase when we are anxious, stressed, or depressed. 



For example, one study of anxiety involved the use of 30-pound weighted blankets for 32 adults who had been admitted to an acute inpatient mental health facility. Sixty-three percent of the participants reported lower anxiety levels after using the blankets, and 78 percent said they preferred using the blanket as a calming method. 



Similarly, weighted blankets also simulate a type of therapy called deep pressure touch, in which therapists use their hands to apply pressure to areas of the body to reduce chronic stress and anxiety. Such pressure may also stimulate the release of two relaxation neurotransmitters, serotonin and dopamine, which not only alleviate anxiety but also help with sleep.



Read about foods to help toddlers sleep



How to choose a weighted blanket



Be sure to talk with a knowledgeable healthcare individual, such as your doctor or an occupational therapist, before you purchase and try a weighted blanket for yourself or your child. Generally, the recommended weight of a blanket for kids is 10 percent of their body weight plus 1 to 2 pounds, while for adults it is 5 to 10 percent of body weight. Use of weighted blankets for children younger than 7 or 8 years old usually is not recommended, according to therapist May-Benson. 



Because overheating may be a factor, choose a weighted blanket that is made from natural fibers, as synthetic fabrics typically are warmer. In addition, if you have breathing or respiratory issues, circulation problems, trouble regulating your body temperature, or have a chronic health condition, it is essential that you talk with an expert before using a weighted blanket. 



Since weighted blankets can be pricy (ranging from about $70 to $300 depending on size and material), you may want to make your own. Fortunately there are numerous tutorials online for D-I-Y weighted blankets. 



Sources

Creasey N, Finley F. Do weighted blankets improve sleep in children with an autistic spectrum disorder? Archives of Disease in Childhood  2014 Nov 30; 98(11): 919-20

Gringras P et al. Weighted blankets and sleep in autistic children—a randomized controlled trial. Pediatrics 2014 Aug; 134(2): 298-306

Mullen B et al. Exploring the safety and therapeutic effects of deep pressure stimulation using a weighted blanket. Occupational Therapy in Mental Health 2008 Sept 8; 24(1): 65-89

Pappas S. Weighted blankets: harmless for adults, potentially dangerous for kids. Live Science 2017 May 31

Whelan C. Why you should use a weighted blanket for anxiety. Healthline 2017 April

Source:Curing Anxiety and ADHD—With a Weighted Blanket?

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Four Eco-Friendly Heating & Cooling Options for Eco-Responsible Residents

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With the current levels of pollution and the environmental hazards of everyday home appliances, one really needs to take some time to think about the damage one is doing to the earth.

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How to Eat Healthy at the Big Game

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Eating healthy is easy enough at home, but it’s a different story once you head out—especially if your destination is a sporting event. Delicious but unhealthy stadium fare like hot dogs, funnel cakes, nachos and super-sized sodas are almost as a big a draw as the game itself, and they can be hard to resist if you’re watching what you eat.



But more and more sports fans are leaning toward healthier options, and many arenas are taking note—making it more convenient than ever to stay on track in the diet department without sacrificing taste. Here are a few tips for bypassing the classic gut-busters in favor of more waistline-friendly fare at your next sporting event.



Tailgating and Pre-gaming



Tailgating in the parking lot is actually a great opportunity for you to fill up on healthier food before the game—making you less likely to give into temptation in the form of nachos later. So what kind of tailgating foods can you bring that won’t break the diet bank? Opt for handhelds that pack in the protein without tons of carbs and fat. For example, bring a pita stuffed with lean sliced turkey, thinly sliced cheese and your favorite veggies. If you’re in the mood for something warm, opt for chili, which is ultra filling thanks to fiber-rich beans and ground beef, plus metabolism-boosting spices. Chugging water can also help keep you full and satisfied before heading into the stadium, making it less likely that you’ll really want that bucket of cotton candy. 



Read more about the benefits of turmeric and other spices



Be sure to check the rules at the stadium when it comes to taking food inside. If your arena allows it, bringing in some carrot sticks, hummus and pretzels to munch on will make it easier to hold off on the yummy but not-so-healthy stuff all around you. 



Navigating the Stands



If you can’t tailgate, haven’t eaten anything beforehand, and are just plain hungry heading into the stadium, there are still some ways to avoid destroying your diet. First, chain restaurant stands—like Taco Bell, McDonald’s and Arby’s—are required to post caloric information. Taking a gander at just how much that burger and fry combo will set you back may help you make a smarter meal-time decision. 



Even better, avoid the chains and seek out options that fit in with your diet goals—chances are they do exist. An increasing number of venues are freshening up their options, and you’re likely to find more health-conscious snacks like frozen yogurt, salads, grilled chicken sandwiches, and even sushi. 



Read about 5 healthy snacks that won’t expand your waistline



The most important takeaway before actually ordering: Get the lay of the land. Looking at all of your options makes it more likely that you’ll choose a healthy one. 



What to Eat



Once you’ve settled on a spot to eat, remember to use all of your healthy knowledge. First, skip alcohol and soda completely. Both contain a lot of sugar and a lot of empty calories that would be better spent with a protein-packed lunch. Secondly, choose healthy sides. If you’re going with a fast food establishment, ditch the fries and grab a side salad, apple slices, baked potato or forego it completely. If you choose a salad, make sure to leave dressings on the side. 



Read about the trouble with soda



If you’re craving “classic” sports fare (like hot dogs, popcorn and peanuts), there are a few things to keep in mind. First, snacks like popcorn and peanuts aren’t horrible for you, but they’re better if you share them. The high sodium content in either isn’t ideal, but sharing can cut down on the calories. Secondly, when it comes to main dishes, try to steer clear of extras. Nachos are most definitely out of the mix when it comes to healthy eating (sorry!), but a burger sans bun can actually be an acceptable option. An even better choice is sausage with peppers and onions (again, no bread) or bratwurst. The fat may be a little higher, but the meat is in a more “natural” form than a hot dog which can contain nitrates. Keep toppings limited—mustard is always a better choice when stacked up against ketchup (full of sugar), relish (often has food coloring), or sauerkraut. 



If you’re careful, you can easily keep the scale in your favor when it comes to eating at sporting events. Filling up on water and wholesome meals beforehand can keep cravings at bay later. Of course, if you do choose to eat inside, knowing what to look for and what to avoid will help you have a great time as a spectator and as a diner! 



About the Author



Adam Young, the founder of Event Tickets Center, enjoys the food at baseball, basketball and football games almost as much as the events themselves. Over the years, he’s learned how to embrace and enjoy the experience while keeping his diet in check.

Source:How to Eat Healthy at the Big Game

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Paperless Billing Is One of the Biggest Environmental Changes Businesses Can Make

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Are you a small business owner looking for ways to reduce your environmental footprint? Switching to paperless billing is one of the most simple — and high impact — ways to promote sustainability in the workplace. However, paperless billing isn’t just good for the environment. In America, if 20% of households switched to electronic billing […]

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Now Foods "How Sweet It Is!" Twitter Party

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Join NOW Foods for a #NowSweeteners Twitter Party. We’ll be tweeting about healthy options for sweetening food and baking. How sweet it is!

Date: Tuesday November 14, 2017

Time: 1-2pm EST / 10-11am PST

Hashtag: #NOWSweeteners

No RSVP required!



Prizes:

Six winners! Prizes will include an assortment of Now Foods Sweeteners valued at $25.

 

Prizes are for US Only.



Be sure to follow your hosts before the event:

@NOWFoods

@NaturallySavvy

@AndreaDonsky



Check out NOW Foods on the web: nowfoods.com

Facebook: facebook.com/NOWFoodsofficial

Instagram: instagram.com/nowfoodsofficial

Pinterest: pinterest.com/nowfoods



Source:Now Foods "How Sweet It Is!" Twitter Party

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How to Make a Pollinator-Friendly Fall Garden

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Don’t forget about your garden when you’re getting ready for fall. Whether you’re planting your first pollinator garden or updating an existing one for autumn, you’ll need to make sure your garden can provide for your local pollinators all season long. 



Read about 10 fruits and veggies to plant with kids




Pollinator gardens rely on a few simple principles:



1. Native plants are the best food for native pollinators.

While beautiful, many hybrid flowers produce inadequate or inaccessible pollen and nectar. This is because these varieties were bred for their appearance, often to the detriment of other traits. On the other hand, native bees are adapted to forage the plants that naturally grow in their habitat. Since honey bees are generalists, they’ll happily forage a wide variety of flowers.



2. A succession of blooms provides year-round forage.

Bees need to forage, or find food, throughout the spring, summer, and fall. An effective pollinator garden incorporates plants that flower in different seasons so something is blooming in every season except winter.



3. A wide diversity of plants attracts the greatest diversity of pollinators.


Plants with different flower shapes, sizes, and colors appeal to different species of native bees, as well as butterflies, hummingbirds, bats, and other pollinators. Since not all pollinators feed on all types of plants, protecting biodiversity means being intentional about plant selection.



4. Bees require shelter and water as well as food.

Most native bees are solitary or live in small colonies and require little in way of habitat. For most native bees, a bare patch of earth is the perfect ground-nesting site. Other bees nest in cavities in trees and hollow plant stems. For water, a small trickle from a garden hose or a rock-filled water dish is sufficient.



5. Pesticides are bad for bees.

While some pesticides kill bees outright, others accumulate in their system and affect their ability to forage and reproduce. Even organic pesticides are harmful to bees, so these interventions should be used minimally and only as a last resort.



Read about starting an organic garden




Now that you know the pollinator garden basics, what can you do to update your landscape for fall?



During the late summer and fall, bees are working hard to collect enough nectar to overwinter. That means autumn is an especially important time to cultivate abundant blooms in the pollinator garden. However, fewer plants are equipped to survive the short days and chilly weather than the heat and sun of summer. Gardeners must be careful to select plants that thrive in brisk fall weather. 



Read about 



Fall-Blooming Plants



When you need plants you can count on for flowers in the fall, these fall-bloomers are a good bet:



Purple aster: This fall-blooming flower’s shock of color is delivered in an unassuming daisy-like shape. It’s a favorite of butterflies as well as bees. 

Hydrangea: Most hydrangeas bloom spring through early summer, but new reblooming hydrangeas can flower through the late summer and hang on into early fall, making this a standout plant for any garden.

Maximilian sunflower: Summer’s end doesn’t mean sunflower season is over. This perennial sunflower grows 5 to 8 feet tall and produces 3-inch blooms in the fall.



Four Season Plants



Even if they don’t flower in fall, adding plants that look attractive year-round is a great way to keep the garden looking lush in the fall without adding work.



Pagoda dogwood: After flowering in the spring, the berries on this petite tree attract birds during late summer before the leaves turn a striking red in fall.

Ninebark: This summer-blooming shrub retains its rich foliage well into the fall, and while it comes in several colors, it’s the rich purple leaves that steal the show in the fall garden.

Staghorn sumac: Native to North American woodland and swamp margins, this shrub or small tree boasts fiery foliage and berry-like fruit that attracts wildlife throughout the fall and early winter.



Pollinator gardens are a great way to help the bees, but they need fall flowers and foliage to serve pollinators year-round. Start with these great plants and research others native to your region so you can get started on your fall garden.



About the author



Christy Erickson is an amateur beekeeper and backyard gardener on a mission to educate people about the importance of bees. With the news of the shrinking bee populations, it’s important to remember that bees play an essential role in ensuring we all have fresh fruits and veggies to eat. For more information on what can be done, visit Saving Our Bees.  



Source:How to Make a Pollinator-Friendly Fall Garden

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Energy-Saving Window Treatment Ideas

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Windows, especially older, single-pane windows, can lead to energy losses of nearly 30%. Here are some window treatment solutions that can cut down on your home energy costs.

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