On our property we have cows, chickens, dogs, a bounce house, little motorized tractors and playground for the kids, 2 gardens, quads, and plenty of open space. My kids could spend hours just coming up with their own ideas for games and entertainment, or just running.
We love going to the beach as often as we can to inhale the fresh ocean breeze. My husband and I make it a high priority to give our kids opportunities to immerse themselves in nature and enjoy all the benefits it has to offer. In an age when so many children are hooked to their screens, and thus spending prolonged periods of time sedentary and indoors, we know that raising them in this way is crucial to their health and happiness.
The daunting reality is that the average American child spends 4 to 7 minutes a day in unstructured play outdoors and over 7 hours a day in front of a screen, according to the Child Mind Institute.
This is an alarming national health issue, earning the term Nature Deficit Disorder, which was first coined by Richard Louv, author of the book Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children From Nature-Deficit Disorder, in which he sheds light on the causes driving this problem in our society. In the book, he interviews a child who says the reason he would rather be inside than outside is because “that’s where all the electrical outlets are.”
In the book, he proposes letting kids spend more time immersed in the outdoors as the antidote to their spending too much time in front of a screen.
The instant benefits of going outside provide the rewarding feedback that will inspire them to want to spend more time outdoors.
Going outside builds confidence, promotes creativity and imagination, teaches responsibility, activates and stimulates the senses, gets kids moving, makes them think and reduces stress and fatigue.
According to Claire McCarthy, MD, Editor at Harvard Health Publishing, one of the six major reasons why children need to spend time outdoors is that the unstructured nature of simply letting them roam free builds executive skills. The same skills they will develop when given a platform to come up with their own ideas and figure out how to entertain themselves rather than being told what to do or being passively entertained, are the skills they will need to use in order to plan, prioritize, troubleshoot, negotiate and multitask, she says.
Playing outdoors also fosters an inclination to take risks, which parents often try to protect their kids against, but keeping them in a protective bubble won’t serve them when they face the inevitable fact that life is full of moments where it is better to be bold. When they are outdoors, they may feel inclined to try something new. They could break an arm or try to make a friend and get rejected. Being outside in an unstructured environment encourages them to develop interpersonal skills like cooperation, which will benefit them in all that they do in life.
Here at ValMar Health, we love to discover new recipes and ingredients. I’m always looking for new ideas.
With that being said, there are some staple grocery items to keep in your kitchen. These are some of my top recommendations, based on nutritional value, versatility/usefulness and flavor.
Olive oil – made up mainly of monounsaturated fatty acids (the good fat), olive oil has antioxidants and vitamin E, making it a healthy alternative to condiments and other cooking oils.
It is great for dressing salads, drizzling on vegetables or marinating acidic or strong tasting foods like tomatoes, artichokes and olives.
It is best stored in sealable mental tin or in a tinted glass container to protect it from heat and light, which compromise the quality of the olive oil. Quality olive oils are best used with fresh ingredients, whereas lesser quality oils can be used for cooking.
Avocados – not only to they make a great addition to many dishes, avocados are hailed as a superfood for their exceptional health properties. The average avocado is 160 calories with 15 grams of healthy fats and 9 grams of carbs, 7 of which are fiber, making it a low carb friendly food with 2 net carbs. They contain no sodium or cholesterol.
Avocados are also incredibly diverse. You can season them (try paprika, cayenne pepper, basaltic vinegar or lemon juice), stuff them, spread them on toast, make guacamole, use them in soups and salads, grill them or blend them into smoothies. You can also use them to make dressings, hummus, pasta sauces, deserts and even things like ice cream and pancakes, since they make a great binding agent.
Garlic – not only is it a popular ingredient for cooking, known for its strong smell and robust flavor, it has been more often used throughout history for its medicinal properties. It has been known to combat sickness, including common cold, reduce blood pressure, improve cholesterol levels, promote bone health and may even help detoxify heavy metals in the body.
You can sprinkle minced garlic in soups, salads, in homemade guacamole or salsa, or in dishes like pasta and mashed potatoes. You can also add it to things like salad dressings, pasta sauces and hot sauce!
Onions – an accumulation of research has shown onions to be linked to an overall decreased risk in mortality, including risks associated with diabetes, heart disease and various types of cancer. Additionally they are known to promote a healthier complexion, increased energy, enhanced quality of sleep and mood, as well as weight loss.
Yellow onions have a mild flavor and can be caramelized or sautéed with almost anything. Red onions have a peppery, spicy flavor that tastes great in fresh salads and sandwiches, and pairs well with greens equal in flavor such as kale and arugula. White onions are often used in potato or macaroni salads as well as in a large variety of Mexican dishes, such as tacos, ceviche, salsa and enchiladas. Scallions also have a variety of applications, both cooked and raw. You can use them in stir frys, soups, stews, braised dishes and savory entree’s.
Lemons – not only do they make everything, including water, taste better, but they make everything you add them to healthier. Lemons strengthen your immune system, cleanse your digestive tract and are even considered a blood purifier. They are used to treat a long list of ailments including indigestion, high blood pressure and diabetes. You can squeeze lemon on just about anything savory, add them to teas and even use them to make homemade remedies.
Lentils – because of their high protein content, legumes are important part of the vegan diet. 100 grams of lentils contains 116 calories, 9 grams of protein, 8 grams of fiber, 127% of the daily recommended intake for Vitamin B6 and 70% that of manganese. Rich in folate, iron, thiamin, riboflavin, zinc and copper, plant based foods like lentils are associated with decreased risk of obesity, diabetes, heart disease and overall mortality.
You can make a flavorful lentil soup by dicing vegetables such as carrots, onion, celery, zucchini, garlic, spices such as thyme, cumin, parsley, bay leaves, mix them with a couple of scoops of lentils, broth, salt and pepper. You can make a hearty stew by slow roasting them with some spices and herbs, along with eggplant, cabbage, rice or potatoes. You can also mix them into salads, use them as a bean dip, meat substitute or bake them into a casserole or stuff them into peppers with vegetables and spices.
Dates – my kids don’t eat processed sugar, so I limit their sweets to natural fruits, one of them being dates. Dates can be used in baking a variety of treats and can be added to sweeten many dishes, while being high in potassium, fiber, antioxidants and are known to promote brain health.
Chickpeas – here is another legume we can’t live without! High in protein and fiber, chickpeas, also known as garbanzo beans, are commonly used in Mediterranean dishes. I love to use them in Greek salads and combine them with onion, cucumber and klamata olives. We always have some version of this in the refrigerator to use as a refreshing lunch side.
Fresh fruit – My kids love having fresh fruit for breakfast. I always try to stick up on berries and melons and either serve them with breakfast waffles or use them in parfaits or smoothies.
Leafy greens – we always have salad with our meals. It’s a great way to fill up on nutritious goodness before diving into the main course. I incorporate a variety of greens, including kale, broccoli, Romaine, arugula, Bok Choy, spinach, and mix in fruit, nuts, seeds, legumes and mixed vegetables. My kids love salad!
When it comes to having flavorful ingredients on hand, I have my list of go-to brands. Here are some of my kitchen staples:
Earth Balance Butter Alternative
Earth Balance Peanut Butter
Almond Breeze unsweetened almond milk
Follow Your Heart Veganaise (try Grapeseed oil!)
Tofutti Milk Free Cream Cheese
Tofutti Milk Free Sour Cream
Beyond Meat Beyond Beef Crumbles
Miyokos Creamery Fresh VeganMoz
Dave’s Killer Bread Organic Bread
The Vegetarian Express Seasonings (try Saucy Ranch!)
2018 is flying by! Here we are in August, a month that for many, represents back-to-school, a time to shop for school supplies, squeeze in any last-minute vacations or summer activities and reflect on what you have and have yet to accomplish before the year’s end.
For me, August is an important milestone month. It’s my birthday month, and also Kosta’s! It has always been a time of reflection for me. I think about my role as a wife and a mother, my personal goals and my goals with my ministry and business. When it always feels like the amount of work left to do is endless, it’s nice to take note of all the things that are already falling into place.
“For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.” Jeremiah 29:11
This year, I started my gardens where I’m growing a variety of fruits, vegetables, nuts and wheat. It has always been goal of mine to provide my family with the freshest organic produce possible. My cookbook will be dropping soon, and you should also stay tuned for my gardening show on YouTube! My cousin Janae started working with me full time over the summer, and boy do we have some exciting projects in the works!!
My kids are now both taking piano lessons and learning Spanish. Adoniah started kindergarten and continues to take dance class. They can’t get enough of reading books, and we have story time every day. It is so rewarding to see their enthusiasm about learning.
I’ve continued to be involved in my community, church and causes that I care about. There hasn’t been an idle moment! As much as all of these achievements and activities energize me, the greatest joy in my life is my family.
DT and I have always placed our children before everything! We moved from the city to the mountains to give our kids a better environment to grow up in, I quit my job to be a stay at home mom, I am homeschooling my kids.
I am involved in all of their extra circular activates. We all go to church as a family each week. Being this involved is a drastic change for DT and I compared to the way we lived before kids. Most people think we are extreme parents. But, we are the happiest little family.
Our children are peaceful and happy. They love Jesus. DT and I have never had a stronger marriage and friendship.
The life that DT and I have built for our kids is everything that I could have hoped for. The optimism with which I look at our journey as a family is the greatest birthday gift of all.
Malibu is my second home now days. Growing up, my husband would spend his summers with his family in Malibu. So when we first started dating he invited me to go. Ever since it has held a special place in place in my heart. It was so special that we ended up even getting married in Malibu! So now with our little family of four we have carried on the tradition!
Now Malibu is known for its fabulous beaches and spectacular sunsets. But let’s be honest, I rate Malibu based on its food! One place in particular that is a must go to in Malibu (especially if you have children) is Sunlife Organics!
I have two words for you… Fresh Juice! When you first walk into Sunlife Organics you see this row of beautiful fresh juices! Of course I had to try the pink lotus juice first. It had pear, rosewater, pineapple, beet, green apple and lemon! I definitely recommend.
They do have a variety of other options besides juice. My kids love the açai bowls. My daughter is obsessed with the Hawaiian bowl. It has açai sorbet topped with granola, banana, strawberry, hemp seeds and coconut shreds. You can also add a variety of ingredients to mix it up a bit.
Now, even though the food is amazing. What I love most about this place is the story that goes behind it. The founder of Sunlife organics is Khalil Rafati. He grew up in Ohio with a rough childhood. He dropped out of high school, and at age 21, moved to LA with no qualifications and a criminal record he earned through shoplifting and vandalism. He moved to LA in pursuit of becoming a famous actor, but when his acting career failed to take off, he started playing in local bands and figured out how to make a lucrative living washing cars for famous celebrities like Elizabeth Taylor and Slash from Guns ‘N’ Roses. He started dabbling in drugs and soon became chronically addicted.
“I was arrested more times than I can remember [for drug offenses]. I was completely messed up…I was always in so much pain that I couldn’t sleep,” he said in an interview with BBC.
At rock bottom, Rafati knew he had to make some drastic changes, and this time he checked himself into rehab was unlike any other. He began to pursue his life with a zeal that let to him becoming the millionaire founder of a trendy juice brand with branches all across Southern California and plans of branching into 16 other US states as well as Japan. Today, the former addict enjoys a full life as the head of his successful wellness brand, and is accustomed to traveling by private jet.
Sunlife Organics was launched in 2011 with it’s first branch based in Malibu. The exotic ingredients featured in some of the drinks at Sunlife Organics, like adaptogenic mushrooms and silica, are touted to be life-changing and have earned the brand an enthusiastic following, as well as the praise of celebrities.
The menu at Sunlife Organics includes a wide variety of Cold Pressed Juices and Signature Superfood Shakes, as well as custom smoothies, wellness shots, a coffee and tea selection and their signature bowls.
I love stories like Rafaiti’s, because they remind us of the incredible healing power of food. So if you are ever in Malibu go check out Sunlife Organics and let me know what you think!
To read more about Khalil Rafati story or learn more about Sunlife Organics follow this link: https://sunlifeorganics.myshopify.com/pages/our-story