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The Dinner Habit That Will Change Your Family’s Health

We all want the best for our families, and serving a nutritious dinner each night is one way to guarantee better health. But it’s not just about what you put on the plate that matters, the other essential ingredient to your families overall wellbeing is sharing dinner together at the table.

Busy schedules of work, school, sports and social commitments are no excuse for not making time for dinner together a few times a week. Dinner is a time to relax, tell stories and catch up on the day’s ups and downs, while refuelling over a balanced meal. The benefits of sharing a meal together extend far beyond the table as well. Recent studies link regular family dinners with:

– Improved vocabulary in young children
– Higher academic performance in school
– Consumption of fewer fried foods and soft drinks
– Consumption of more fruits and vegetables
– Decreased risk of obesity in youth and adulthood
– Less risky behaviours (e.g. smoking or binge drinking) during adolescence
– Positive moods in adolescents
-Lower rates of depression

While it may not be possible to have dinner together every night of the week, aim for at least three nights around the table together. Enlist the help of children to set the table or chop vegetables, as well as clear items once the meal has finished. And make sure all digital devices are switched off during dinner. Who needs Facebook when you’ve got funny anecdotes and terrible Dad jokes to share!

The Right Way to Stretch

Being flexible lets you do more than snap a bendy pose for instagram – it can improve posture, increase mobility, reduce injury risk, improve postural imbalances and even boost self-esteem. The techniques to help you touch your toes traditionally include static or dynamic stretching, but now a growing trend towards foam rolling is taking centre stage for reducing muscle tightness.

Foam Rolling- What’s the fuss?

Foam rolling is a form of myofascial therapy (tissue surrounding all the muscles and bones), which improves lymph and blood flow, and activates the stretch reflex to relax contracted muscles. So should you roll or stretch your way to flexibility success?

Pre workout = Dynamic

Watch a sports team before a game and you’ll likely see them swinging their arms and legs about. This is form of stretching, known as dynamic stretching involves active movement that pushes the joints and muscles through a full range of motion. This type of stretching will also elevate the internal  muscle temperature, increase blood flow, and activate the nervous system to prepare for on-going muscular contraction – hence why it’s the prefect way to stretch and warm up before exercising.

Post workout =  Foam rolling + static

After a workout, a combination of static stretching and foam rolling are beneficial to improving flexibility and alleviating any muscle soreness you may feel the next day. Static stretching, which typically involves holding a stretch in one challenging but comfortable position for a period of time. This form of stretching works to counteract tightness and tension built up in muscles during exercise bringing them back to a relaxed state. Combined with foam rolling to release particularly tight spots that are hard to target with static stretching alone. For best results, stretch the desired area, followed foam roll for few minutes.

Injury rehabilitation = Static stretching

Nursing an injury, such as a sprain or tendonitis (inflammation to the joint), usually means being stuck in a cast or splint, making the affected joints and muscles stiff. Gradual static stretching is your best bet to help increase joint range of motion and speed up recovery. However, the important point to remember during the recovery phase of an injury to stretch at a light and gentle pace, and to a point to mild discomfort, but not pain. An exercise physiologist or physiotherapist would best advise of the best static stretches.

Rounded shoulders (aka hunch back) = Static stretching

Perfect posture takes work and being chained to your desk all day is not what the human body is designed to do. Extended periods of sitting are linked to slouchy postures including forward head position and tightness in the front of the hips. Static stretching helps to release the overactive tight muscles of the chest and shoulders from prolonged desk work. For example, clasp your hands behind your back to stretch the chest and counteract rounded shoulders.

 

 

Do Women’s Brains Shrink During Pregnancy?

A lot of things grow during pregnancy – your baby, belly, boobs, feet, love of strange foods. But one thing seems to shrink: your brain. Suddenly you find yourself misplacing your keys five times a day, forgetting to feed the dog or, like me, needing constant lists just to remember where my other children are. This so called ‘baby brain’ is a common phenomenon. But is it real? And what’s the cause?

The Pregnant Brain

Does pregnancy really alter cognitive function? Short answer: absolutely. It has to do with the shrinking of gray matter in expect mums (the part of the brain responsible for carrying out tasks). Reduced gray matter is what causes forgetfulness, indecision, erratic emotions and other common pregnancy gripes.

However, it’s important to note that shrinking gray matter doesn’t equal a shrinking brain. Or, for that matter, ongoing memory loss. Phew. Instead, you can think of it as a kind of ‘cognitive spring cleaning’ that sharpens your mind for the complexity of motherhood. In fact, there’s a clear link between a mother’s ‘baby brain’ and her strong feelings of attachment and protectiveness towards her infant.

The Science Bit

Many researchers have tried to further understand the science behind ‘baby brain’. One study in Medical Journal of Australia pulled data from several different studies to reveal that 4 out of 5 women report symptoms of ‘baby brain’. And, when tested against non-pregnant women, they performed significantly worse on tasks measuring memory, attention span, decision-making and planning. The results even showed that ‘baby brain’ peaked in the Third Trimester.

Brain Back On Track

By the time I was pregnant with my third child, I was basically accustomed to ‘baby brain’. I would do things like put the bread in the fridge, spend 30 minutes looking for my keys and worst of all, I even poured my breastmilk down the kitchen sink after having pumped for God knows how long. But there are a few simple habits you can adopt that’ll help you function normally (almost).

Take note. When you’re pregnant,a fridge calendar just doesn’t cut it. Carry a notebook everywhere you go (or jot things down in your phone), so you can refresh your memory wherever you are. It also helps you go to bed putting your thoughts t ease for  amore peaceful night’s sleep.

Give small items a “spot”. Make sure your keys and other important objects are always stored in the same place.

Sleep. A lot. Never forget that you’re growing a little person inside you. And they rely on your being rested and revitalised – not to mention a wonderful catalyst for mental alertness.

Make time to move. It’s safe to exercise at all stages of pregnancy – just get guidance from doctor first. Physical activity helps with an abundance of things: sleep, circulation, energy, post-labor recovery, mood and cognitive function.

Seek out support. If you’re struggling to keep up with your to-do list, ask for help. Whether it’s your friend, mother, partner or baby-sitter, lightening your load will help you feel more in control.

Why Mums Really Need To Re-Think Self Care

After realising I was spending little time looking myself, I tried these simple tips and it changed her family dynamic completely.

Motherhood requires many skills: multi-tasking, functioning on limited sleep, suppressing rage, force-feeding, and dealing with unsightly bodily fluids. However, one thing mums aren’t so good at is self-care.

Like a lot of mums, I struggle with putting ‘my needs’ in the equation let alone ‘putting myself first’. Sure, I dream of sleep-ins, romantic dinners with my husband and a few free hours to scrub the house in its entirety – but making these things a reality always seems to evade me.

It’s time to re-think self-care

Self-care isn’t about sleep-ins, massages and facials (unless that’s your thing). It’s about prioritising your health and wellbeing. These acts are small, yet mighty when it comes to taking care of number one.

Small steps – see the difference:

BE HONEST – If you’re tired, tell someone. If you need help, ask for it. Plastering on a fake smile isn’t going to do you any good. Trust me, honesty is liberating.

SAY NO – Cramming 30 hours of things into a day? Learning to say no is vital to your wellbeing. It might mean cancelling that dinner party and leaving the washing until tomorrow so you get to bed earlier. Sometimes something’s just gotta give.

NOURISH YOURSELF – Skipped lunch in favour of coffee? Sure meal preparation can slip through the cracks and can take time, but if you have a well-stocked pantry and fridge, you can be sure to tote around some fresh fruit, veggies or nuts whilst running errands to tide you over and avoid energy crashes and sugar cravings. Eating nourishing food will make you brighter, more energetic, more productive and better placed to achieve the things you want.

RE-DEFINE WHAT A GOOD DAY LOOKS LIKE – Since becoming mum one of the biggest adjustments to my life is learning to be ok with doing less. It’s been my choice to combine motherhood and career, so accepting that there will always be trade-offs, sacrifices and compromises helps me stave off guilt and accept that I may not be able to do everything I would like to do – or my children would like me to do – but that’s all right.

Read the full story at Kidspot.

Why Is My Child Always Hungry?

If your child has an insatiable hunger, it can leave you in a tricky spot. Do you stand firm against their persistent pestering, or give in and risk overfeeding them?

The thing is, your child’s early eating habits can dictate their weight later in life, so knowing how to decode their bottomless hunger is key. Here are some questions to ask yourself next time your child becomes a non-stop eating machine.

If the answer is ‘yes’ to the following questions, then it’s possible it’s not real hunger.

  1. Are they craving or bored?
  2. Not enough fuel vs the growth spurt
  3. They’re still learning how to be patient
  4. Is snack time too sporadic? When was the last time they ate? was it 30 minute ago?
  5. Are they struggling to eat what you serve up?
  6. Are they just seeking our attention?

To read more, head to Kidspot for the full story.