Putting the WOW in Halloween

Halloween-Picture-Swenson_FrankWould you agree that kids get plenty of candy while trick or treating? Wouldn’t it be fun this year to focus on Halloween fun instead? Here are some ideas for parents, grandparents, adopted grandparents, teachers and neighbors to enjoy a Halloween celebration that does not focus on candy!

  • Focus on the costumes both for the children in your life as well as how you might choose to dress when you greet children as you receive them when they come to your home.
  • If you live in a neighborhood, put together a costume parade so that everyone can see and appreciate the uniqueness of each child and their costume.
  • Instead of candy, try giving small toys like stickers, small plastic spiders or ghosts, spooky plastic rings, chalk, fat pencils or crayons, small coloring books, bubbles or false teeth.
  • Decorate pillowcases with your children for their trick-or-treat outing. This just extends the fun of the evening and encourages creativity.
  • Food snacks worth giving include:
    • Small containers of apple cider
    • Roasted pumpkin seeds
    • Small oranges
    • Commercially wrapped baby carrots
    • Mini-packages of dried fruit
    • Packages of whole grain crackers with cheese

What is behind these suggestions? Typically, foods for Halloween include lots of candy. So what’s the harm? There is nothing wrong with an occasional treat, but unhealthy choices have become the norm rather than the exception.  Parties, food fundraisers, vending machines, and school parties constantly expose children to high-fat, high-sugar, and low-nutrient choices.

Overall our children’s eating habits are poor. Most children do not eat enough fruits, vegetables or whole grains. Obesity rates among children are on the rise, with serious health consequences. Constant exposure to low-nutrient food makes it difficult for children to learn how to make healthy food choices. By providing children with nutritious choices whenever food is available, including Halloween, we can positively influence children’s eating habits.

Remember, children need to receive consistent messages that their food choices are important.  What do you think? Are you willing to make some changes?

Happy Halloween!


Families Should Play Together for Exercise

Families Should Play Together for Exercise

Family Fun By Shelley Swenson

You may not need coats and your yard may not have these leaves but finding fun and creative ways to engage children in exercise is important.  You can consider yourself successful if they have fun doing so without knowing they are meeting physical activity recommendations by participating in at least 60 minutes of moderate or vigorous physical activity on all or most days of the week.

This is the time to start planning for your children’s summer while they enjoy time at home or at alternative settings from school.  Insure they are active to optimize their health.

Being physically active has both mental and physical health benefits.  The majority of the benefits becomes apparent in adults because this is the time in which health problems surface.  However, risk factors and symptoms for chronic disease may begin as early as childhood, especially in obese children.  In addition, physical activity can reduce stress, anxiety, and feelings of depression.  Being active improves self-esteem, self-efficacy, and mood and promotes the feeling of overall wellness.

Everybody is short on time, even in the summer.  Many people don’t believe they can meet the recommendations for physical activity every day.  The good news is that it doesn’t all have to be done at once.  Physical activity can be accumulated throughout the day for the same health benefits.

Inactive children are much more likely to be inactive adults.  Children who have active family members and who regularly do activities with them are more likely to be active compared to children who do not come from active families.

As you plan your summer, consider how many of these physical activities could become family activities:  walking briskly, biking, weight training, yard work, gardening, dancing, golfing, or playing hop-scotch, four square, or active games with running and chasing.

Making physical activity fun with the family can make the time pass by quickly. Finding time to be active together is important for families who want to live a healthy lifestyle.

For more ideas for staying active as a family, check out Raising Healthy Children:  Family Fitness and Raising Healthy Children:  Active Families.


Sweets for Your Sweetie

Sweets for Your Sweetie

ChocolateValentine’s Day and chocolate just go together! Can you really have one without the other? I crave chocolate all year round and with some of the recent research I have read, I can feel all right about giving in.

A recent study reported in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition tested the effects of dark and white chocolate on healthy adults to determine whether either type played a role in blood pressure and insulin sensitivity. They concluded that dark chocolate can indeed help reduce blood pressure and insulin resistance. White chocolate did not provide these health benefits.

Keep in mind that although dark chocolate has health benefits, most chocolate bars are high in saturated fat, so moderation is key. Eating dark chocolate cannot substitute for everyday healthy food choices. Nor can chocolate replace regular exercise or medications that have been prescribed by your physician. It is so nice to know you can indulge in your Valentine’s Day chocolate, in moderation, without feeling guilty about it if you choose the dark.


A “Green” Holiday

A “Green” Holiday

Green Gift Giving

Green Gift Giving

The holiday season will soon be upon us. A Green Holiday focuses on finding ways to reduce consumption by using renewable resources and reusing or repurposing objects. Practicing these principles can fit in line with holiday celebrations, making it a time of sustaining traditions as well as helping the environment. Here are some fun ideas for greening your holiday season when it comes to wrapping gifts.

It is not about sacrifice; it is about an opportunity to…..


  • Wrap gifts with brown paper bags, newspaper, or reused wrapping paper.
  • Create personal wrapping paper with stamps or collages, or drawing on paper bags.
  • Avoid wrapping altogether and tie a large bow around an item instead.
  • Make the wrapping part of the gift such as using reusable tins, planting pots, or new towels.
  • Give presents or gift certificates from local businesses.
  • Focus on homemade or non-traditional gifts such as baked goods, plants, fishing licenses, dance classes, travel mugs, local art, or battery chargers.
  • If giving appliances or electronics, make sure they are Energy Star-certified.
  • Make donations in someone’s name to charities or conservation organizations. Investigate to see if any organization in the area is offering an alternative giving holiday festival.
  • Give “time”.  Help an older relative with difficult chores or take children to a park.
  • Teach someone a skill or talent you have.


Investing time and creativity into the holiday can help make it more fulfilling and meaningful for you, your family, and your friends.


Seasonal Savings

Holiday Spending

Holiday Spending

The holiday season will soon be upon us. It seems to begin earlier each year placing more stress on both retailers and consumers. Retailers struggle to sell more products while consumers are subjected to a bombardment of messages via ads and media to encourage us to buy more!  Through careful planning, the journey can be more emotionally and financially stable.

It is not about sacrifice; it is about opportunity to…..

  • Make the commitment to be debt free from holiday expenses on January 1, 2016 through good planning.
  • Create a spending plan and log each expense. Use cash and/or debit cards when at all possible. Money coming directly out of your pocket will likely make you think harder about your purchase.
  • Stay motivated by finding a support system of people who have similar goals. Share your vision and ask for assistance and support.
  • Think of ways to find alternatives to pricey presents. Holidays are about spending time with family and loved ones so don’t let gifts be the focus of your holidays or break your holiday budget.
  • Track and assess your spending. Recommit daily to being debt free on January 1, 2016 from holiday expenses.
  • Learn more about this subject with worksheets to assist with your planning at https://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/pdffiles/FY/FY140500.pdf  FCS5267