Veggie Barley Salad

Loaded with all kinds of super nutritious and wholesome ingredients, this sturdy Veggie Barley Salad is a veritable explosion of flavors and textures! Perfect for potlucks, picnics or no-fuss lunch at the office.

Loaded with all kinds of super nutritious and wholesome ingredients, this sturdy Veggie Barley Salad is a veritable explosion of flavors and textures! Perfect for potlucks, picnics or no-fuss lunch at the office.

Man, I love barley! Really I don’t understand why it is that it’s so unpopular, this grain. It has the coolest texture, so much flavor, and is so crazy uncomplicated, too! 

Unlike rice, barley is super easy to cook… you just can’t mess it up! And unlike rice, it’s equally delicious hot or cold, making it a perfect contender for cold salads. Why people still use cold rice in salads is beyond me. I mean, the thing gets totally unpalatable after it’s been in the fridge for a while. It becomes hard and dry and totally tasteless. But barley? Barley stays supple, crunchy and chewy and has the coolest of textures, even when cold. Not to mention the fact that it remains super tasty, too! 

Granted, it may take a little bit longer to cook than rice, but it’s so much worth the extra time. Plus, you can totally make a bigger batch and reheat it later, or use the leftovers to make all kinds of dishes, like this very salad, for instance. Me, I even like to throw some in my morning cereal; it gives it tons of texture, and much nutritional benefits, too! 

Why not go ahead and cook a batch now, and then whip up this super delicious and nutritious salad? 

If you’re not sold on it yet, give it a try. I’m sure that you too, will totally adopt it. 

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Peanut Butter Fudge Protein Energy Balls

Kids need a quick boost of whole food protein? Two of these fudgy energy balls provide 8 grams of plant protein with NO powders in sight.

peanut butter fudge energy balls

When it comes to high-energy snacks for kids, we have demands. We want whole foods. We want protein. Not a crazy amount of sugar, please. Also healthy fats. And of course, great taste!

It might seem like a lot to ask of a snack you can pull out of the fridge and serve in the practical instant your kids say, “Can I have a snack?” But these peanut butter fudge energy balls are high-achievers like that.

Fudgy, chewy, and speckled with mini chocolate chips, these balls are a huge hit with kids from toddlers on up to… well at least middle-age. Stash them in your fridge for after-school snacks, or pack them to-go for park snacks or after-sports pick-me-ups.

We love them in lunchboxes, too, although they may not comply with your school’s allergy requirements. To make these energy balls peanut free, you can substitute your favorite seed butter in place of the peanut butter.

protein energy balls made with nuts and seeds

Plant-Powered, Whole Food Protein

These energy balls get their protein purely from nuts and seeds. Sure, we could have added a scoop of protein powder into this treat and checked off the “protein” box. But we like to focus on whole foods for our kids, because whole foods come with lots of added nutritional benefits like vitamins, minerals, fiber, and antioxidants.

Which is exactly what you get with the blend of natural peanut butter and raw sunflower seeds in these energy balls. Together, these powerhouse ingredients provide four grams of protein per little ball. (For the sake of comparison, an egg or an ounce of cheese contains about six grams of protein. So if your kids eat two balls, they’ll get be getting more protein than they would from a serving of eggs or cheese. Pretty good, right?)

peanut butter fudge protein energy balls

More Reasons We Like Protein Energy Balls for Kids

Protein is great. But the best snacks deliver a balance of nutrients at the same time. And these energy balls do just that.

Healthy fats and complex carbohydrates help kids stay satisfied, and give them the energy they need to play and learn.

Check out these special nutrition benefits from the whole food ingredients in this snack:

  • Whole grain rolled oats are rich in soluble and insoluble fiber.
  • Sunflower seeds have plenty of Vitamin E, selenium, and healthy fats.
  • Cocoa powder provides a boost of antioxidants for a healthy heart and immune system.
  • Medjool dates contain minerals like potassium and copper, and they sweeten without refined sugars.
energy balls on cookie sheet

Tips for Making Perfect Protein Energy Balls

You’ll love how easy it is to make these sweet, chocolatey peanut-butter energy balls. It takes fewer than 10 minutes from start to finish!

To start, get out your trusty food processor. Add the oats and seeds and grind, grind grind. You’ll want to leave the blades running for a couple minutes to get as fine a consistency as you can for these ingredients. This is key for getting a really fudgy consistency!

When the oats and seeds are finely-ground, dump them straight into a mixing bowl, and place the pitted dates into the food processor. Blend them up until you get a sticky ball of date paste. (Make sure you use Medjool dates, rather than another variety like delet noor. Deglet noor dates, while tasty, are too dry to form a sticky ball.)

Add the date ball to the mixing bowl along with all the rest of the ingredients. And now? Now you gotta roll up your sleeves.

Knead the ingredients all together until everything’s really well incorporated. Don’t be afraid to get in there with your fingers and really mash it.

Then grab a clump of dough that’s roughly two tablespoons in volume, and roll it between your palms into you get a smooth ball. Repeat until all the dough is used up. And that’s it!

You can eat these room temperature or store them in the fridge for up to two weeks. We like to eat them cold, right out of the fridge.

close up protein fudge energy ball

Energy Bites, Balls, and More, Galore

Yup, we looooove all kinds of energy balls and bites. And you can make them in so many different flavors to match your tastes. Try some of our other healthy high-energy treats. Rest assured, they are ALL ROUND. 😉

Apple Cinnamon Energy Balls
Chia Seed Energy Bites
No Bake Carrot Cake Bites
Fruity Nut n’ Honey Energy Bites

Whole Food Protein | Peanut Butter Fudge Protein Energy Balls | Healthy Ideas and Recipes for Kids

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Peanut Butter Fudge Protein Cake Bites

Prep Time 10 minutes
Servings 8 2 balls

Ingredients

  • 9 each dates, Medjool
  • 1/3 cup oats, dry
  • 1/2 cup sunflower seeds
  • 3 tablespoon cocoa powder, unsweetened
  • 1/2 cup peanut butter, all-natural
  • 4 tablespoon mini chocolate chips
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Instructions

  • Place the oats and sunflower seeds in a food processor, and blend until you get a fine flour-like consistency (it may take a few minutes.) Transfer to a mixing bowl.
  • Place the dates (without pits) into the food processor and blend until a sticky paste forms. Add the sticky ball of date paste to the mixing bowl.
  • Add cocoa powder, peanut butter, vanilla, and mini chocolate chips to the mixing bowl. Use your hands to combine all the ingredients thoroughly.
  • Gently shape the dough into balls, using about two tablespoons of dough per ball.
  • Enjoy. Store leftovers in the fridge or freezer.

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Vegan Vegetable Lentil Soup

Don’t settle for canned soup; homemade is so much better – and saves cans, too! Plus, this one-pot Vegan Vegetable Lentil Soup recipe is so easy to make and tastes so good, it’s undoubtedly going to become a family favorite! If you’re willing to share, that is… 

Don't settle for canned soup; homemade is so much better - and saves cans, too! Plus, this one-pot Vegan Vegetable Lentil Soup recipe is so easy to make and tastes so good, it's undoubtebly going to become a family favorite!

I’ve been on a crazy Lentil Soup kick lately… I must have had it for lunch at least 3-4 times a week for the past 2 months… 

Only, I’d made it a habit of eating it from a canyes, yes, really: straight out of a can! — which I would buy by the case at Costco. Surprisingly, despite the overall mushiness and “overcookedness” (I  totally just made up that word) of the lentils, the soup is still decent enough to keep me coming back for more. But then I started thinking about all the waste that I was generating, between the cans themselves and the cardboard box that held all the cans together. 

So I thought hey, why not make a big batch of homemade lentil soup on the week-end instead and have it last me all week, if I’m going to eat this much Lentil Soup? Not only is my soup going to taste that much better, but I’m also going to save all this waste, too! Not to mention be done with the mushy lentils! 

And so I went through with this plan and figured I would log the recipe, while I was at it… because I get the feeling I’ll be making this soup time and time again! Indeed, this homemade version is so good, I may very well find myself eating it every day, now! 

Or well, at least for a couple more weeks, or months! 

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Where is the Best Place to Buy Organic Produce?

best organic produceMy in-depth review of Earth Fare caused several people to email asking about organic produce.

Why hadn’t I compared the quality and price of the produce? Which big box retailer do I like best to buy organic fruits and veggies for my family?

Organic Produce and Mega-Retailers

The hard truth is that big box retailers like Earth Fare,

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Plant Based Milk. What You Need to Know Before Buying

plant based milk in bottlesHave you noticed that plant based milk seems to be everywhere in both supermarkets and healthfood stores? In some places, the alternative milk brands on offer exceed those for dairy!

Is any of this stuff good for you or your kids? What things should you be looking for if you are unable to tolerate dairy milk and want to use it in your home?

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Should You Buy Fitness Trackers for Your Kids?

The fitness tracker trend is in full swing. But are they right for kids? Learn why you might want to measure kids’ activity levels–and when you shouldn’t.

active kids outside

Seeing fitness trackers everywhere? That’s no surprise. Between 20-40% of American adults use “wearable fitness devices” or fitness trackers, and the trend is expanding to include kids, too.

Fitness trackers promise a world of ease and progress in physical fitness. They help us make incremental improvements, nudge ourselves to be active, and celebrate personal bests.

But when you watch your eight-your-old bounding across the back yard with his friends, you might struggle to see how the fitness tracker mentality applies to kids. Do you want your kids to enter into the tech-heavy world of fitness tracking? Or is it better for them to play and move free of devices?

Read on to learn why and when you might choose to let your kids use fitness trackers… and the specific circumstances your kids might be better off without them.

teen wearing a fitness tracker

When to Say “Yes” to Fitness Trackers for Kids

If you’re on the fence about buying your kids a fitness tracker, take a close look at your individual child and your shared motivations for wanting a fitness tracker. Consider a tracker if one or more of these circumstances rings true:

  • When it’s just for fun. Healthy, active kids might like to turn fitness trackers into game time. Let them run, jump, tumble, and play, and rack up “points” on their trackers.
  • When you need track your kids’ activity levels for medical reasons. Kids with medical conditions as diverse as diabetes to ADHD might benefit from using fitness trackers. Think of trackers as a tool to help you better understand symptoms and promote wellness.
  • When your teen athlete is working toward specific fitness goals. Fitness trackers can help teen athletes improve their performance at a healthy pace.
mom with kids hiking in the woods

When to Say “No” to Fitness Trackers for Kids

Wearable devices don’t automatically help your kids, and they might even carry the potential for harm. Here are four times a fitness tracker probably isn’t right for your kids.

  • Your kid doesn’t want to wear one. If a fitness tracker feels like an obligation, your child might come to feel negatively toward physical activity–the opposite of what you’re aiming for!
  • You’re concerned that your child is focusing too strictly on health. If you start to notice what appears to be an excessive focus on exercise and/or regimented eating habits, a fitness tracker probably isn’t appropriate. In this case, please reach out to your family doctor or pediatrician with your concerns.
  • You’re having a low-tech moment. Technology abounds in our environment, and going without it can feel like a breath of fresh air for you and your kids. If you want your kids to tune in to their surroundings on the trail, for example, leave the fitness trackers at home.
  • You want to foster a love of physical activity for its own sake. One of the biggest benefits of physical activity and exercise is that it makes us feel good. Period. If you want to foster a love of movement and play, you might choose to forgo the system of competition and reward that’s inherent in kids’ fitness trackers.
happy girl playing on the slide

The Bottom Line

Fitness trackers can be fun for kids, but the average healthy child doesn’t need a special device to move in a healthy way.

If you find yourself wishing your child were more active, it’s perfectly OK to turn to low-tech solutions first. Check out these articles for fresh ideas to help you AND your kids move more, feel better, and live longer.

The No-Nag Guide to Getting Kids Outside
5 Fun (and Semi-Sneaky) Ways to Get Kids Exercising
Top 5 Ways to Stay Active in Winter (for Kids)

Fitness Trackers for Kids | Healthy Ideas and Recipes for Kids

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Does Borax Make the Cut for a Green Home?

borax usesWhen I was a kid, I was always intrigued by the boxes and bottles under grandma’s kitchen sink. One of those boxes that was prominently emblazoned with a Mr. Yuck sticker was “20 Mule Team Borax.” What a strange name, I thought as a kid (and still kind of do as an adult).

Just because Grandma used borax and she lived to be 95,

The post Does Borax Make the Cut for a Green Home? appeared first on The Healthy Home Economist.

Vegan Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies

Treat yourself to one of these Vegan Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies. They’re soft and tender and filled with tons of chocolate goodness submerged in subtle notes of rich and buttery peanut butter.

Treat yourself to one of these Vegan Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies. They're soft and tender and filled with tons of chocolate goodness submerged in subtle notes of rich and buttery peanut butter.

So I had a major craving for a good chocolate chip cookie… Being fairly new at this whole vegan baking thing, I had to scour the Internet in search of ideas and inspiration, so I could whip me up a batch.  

One thing I quickly came to realize is that “vegan” isn’t necessarily synonymous with “healthy”… There are TONS of really yummy looking vegan dessert recipes out there, but as soon as you start to read the ingredient list, they quickly loose their appeal! Indeed, a lot of them call for standard ingredients, such as vegan butter or margarine, granulated sugar, brown sugar, corn syrup, etc.  

Hmpft. While I understand that there is no real way to create a truly healthy chocolate chip cookie, I still wanted to indulge in a somewhat healthier treat. So I went ahead and crafted my own recipe. And while I’m still new at this, I think I managed to whip up a pretty decent batch of vegan cookies, seriously! 

Those cookies are loaded with flavor, super soft, tender, slightly chewy, and all kinds of yummy! And while they do contain peanut butter, the peanut taste is very subtle and not at all overwhelming… it just contributes in making the cookies taste super rich and buttery

One thing’s for sure: they totally, positively took care of my craving!  

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Healthy Yogurt Parfait

Parfait might sound like a decadent dessert, but with a few small tweaks you can serve this treat for a nutritious breakfast or an after-school snack. Scroll to learn all the tips and tricks, plus the best ingredients for the most delectable yogurt parfait.

healthy yogurt parfait with strawberries

Parfait has a secret. No: two secrets. The first is that this special-looking French dessert takes all of five minutes to throw together. (You’ll probably spend more time locating a clear glass than you will actually filling it.)

The second secret is that you can make decadent parfait super-healthy with nutritious, probiotic-rich yogurt, whole grain granola, and colorful fresh fruits. So you feel great about what’s going into your kids’ bodies. And your kids will think you’re just the best when you serve it to them for breakfast on a random Tuesday morning. So who’s in?

Before we get to our delectable recipe and the ways you can customize it, here’s the (not all that obvious) answer to your burning question about yogurt parfait:

yogurt parfait in a glass dish with strawberries and granola

Is Yogurt Parfait Actually Healthy?

Each parfait is different. But what we can say is this: if nutrition is your goal, be wary of store-bought, pre-made parfaits.

A Macdonald’s Yogurt Parfait, according to the company website, contains 28 grams of sugar, which is a whopping seven teaspoons. Compare that to a serving of Ben & Jerry’s vanilla ice cream, which has less, at 20 grams of sugar. Yikes!

The American Heart Association recommends kids between ages 2-18 eat fewer than 6 teaspoons of sugar a day. So one Macdonald’s parfait already puts your child over the top of that limit.

When you make a yogurt parfait at home, you have complete control over the ingredients you put inside this fruity treat. That leads to better nutrition all around (and no sacrifice in flavor.)

Our recipe features whole milk yogurt gently-sweetened with pure maple syrup, and a lower-sugar brand of granola (Bear Naked granola is a solid choice, and you can find it at most supermarkets.)

We also pack in the fresh fruits for vitamins, fiber, and flavor. Our recipe makes three large servings, tastes sweet and yummy, and contains only 8 grams of total sugar per serving!

The takeaway here is that a yogurt parfait CAN be healthy, when you make it so with good quality, nutritious ingredients.

ingredients for yogurt parfait with strawberries

What Do You Put in a Yogurt Parfait?

The basic architecture of a great parfait goes like this: yogurt, granola, fruit, repeat. You can use any flavor of yogurt you like. We prefer to use plain yogurt with a touch of maple syrup. But if you really feel like you have to use a flavored yogurt, vanilla pairs well with the fruit and granola.

Choose any granola, but read those labels to find one that won’t load up your kids with added sugars. We actually like a simpler-flavored granola for this recipe, because the many layered ingredients in the parfait already bring the flavor party. (In other words, no need to buy some raspberry-almond-maple-choco-bomb flavor. Vanilla or maple does the job here.)

Our parfait features fresh strawberries, but PLEASE don’t feel limited to this when you’re selecting fruits for your own masterpiece. Here’s a list of some of the fruits (fresh or frozen) you can mix and match in your parfait:

  • Blueberries
  • Mango
  • Grapes (sliced if you’re concerned about choking)
  • Raspberries
  • Bananas
  • Kiwis
  • Cherries
  • Apricots
  • Blackberries
  • Cantaloupe
  • Peaches
taking a spoonful of yogurt parfait with fruit and granola

Dishware You Can Use to Make a Parfait Look Fancy

One of the fun things about yogurt parfait is how darn pretty it looks. Kids feel so special to have a colorful, layered sweet treat, and they’ll have no idea it took you just five minutes to make. (Bask in it, moms and dads. You don’t have to say a thing.)

To create the special visual effect of a parfait, you will, of course, need a clear container. But if you don’t have a classic glass ice cream dish like this one, don’t sweat it. A sturdy clear drinking glass works nearly as well.

Find spoons that are long enough to reach down into the dish and you have everything you need. See? Easy.

two glasses full of healthy yogurt parfait with berries and granola

How to Make Yours 100% from Scratch

We’re SO not judging the use of store-bought granola and yogurt in this recipe. (Or, you know, strawberries you didn’t grow yourself, you lazy person you.)

Really, if you’re buying supplies because you’re just too time-crunched to make homemade granola, that’s totally cool. But homemade granola IS something extra-special, so we can’t end this post without sharing some of our yummiest granola recipes that would work great in this parfait recipe. Here you go:

Granola for Snacking
Basic Homemade Granola
Sugar Free Granola
Grandma’s Granola

We even have a recipe for homemade yogurt in the Instant Pot, which is pretty darn cool science AND food. Enjoy!

Yogurt Parfait | Healthy Ideas and Recipes for Kids

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Yogurt Parfait

Prep Time 5 minutes
Servings 3 1 bowl

Ingredients

  • 3 cup yogurt, plain
  • 3 cup strawberries
  • 1 cup granola
  • 1 tablespoon maple syrup, pure

Instructions

  • Place the yogurt in a small mixing bowl, and add the maple syrup. Stir to combine.
  • Wash and slice the strawberries.
  • Set out 3 large glasses (or more, to make more smaller servings.)
  • Layer the yogurt, granola, and berries in each dish.
  • Serve immediately.

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