challenge 4

6 Ways To Wind Down For Bed


As nutritionist for the Avagliano family, I know their days inside and out. They’re incredibly busy and getting everything they need to tackle done in a day can be challenging. But they’ve been working hard this month on getting to bed at a decent hour. Part of slipping between the sheets at a decent hour is the prep work you do to de-stress after a long day. Here, some tips we can all use to decompress before heading to sleep.

  • Drink a warm soothing cup of milk or herbal tea and sit around the family room and discuss the day.
  • Prepare a light snack such as peanut butter, whole grain bread and skim milk; a slice of cheese and an apple; a cup of warm soup or yogurt with fruit and relax with a fun card game or puzzle.
  • Walk around the block or spend time with the kids and your pets.
  • Take a bubble bath, light a candle and listen to your favorite music.
  • Turn off your phone, computer, and TV. Pop some high fiber popcorn, using whole kernels, and read a novel, magazine or newspaper.
  • Prepare lunch for the next day—so you’re all set for a healthy day.

Registered dietician Elizabeth Fassberg runs Eat Food, a New York City-based company that designs and delivers custom food and nutrition programs for businesses, organizations and individuals. She’s coaching the Avagliano family through the six-month Healthy Family Challenge.

Challenge Yourself: Help Your Teens Sleep Better

Teens need nine hours of sleep to be well-rested and focus during the day.

Tiffany and Peggy have shared not only their struggles to catch more zzzs, but their kids’, as well. If you’re having a hard time getting your kid to hit the hay at a decent hour, check out our story, “4 Solutions to Teen Sleep Problems.” It’s filled with expert tips on getting them to do so, plus important reasons why they need at more than nine hours of sleep a night.

Have you been able to get your teens to stop burning the midnight oil? Share your tactics in the comments below.

Tiffany, Week 15: The Hardest Summer of Our Parenting Lives

the lehmans

As I’ve shared, our son, Jack, is autistic. His formal diagnosis is PDD-NOS. Jack is a very normal 6-year-old boy. He loves all things sports, loves to ride his bike, loves to get dirty. He has two speeds: fast and sleep. There is no middle ground. Jack also talks all the time. While his vocabulary is vast, his ability to communicate is delayed which causes a lot of frustration for him. He gets so frustrated at times that he becomes very aggressive and violent.

Jack just finished his first year of school and did well. He thrives on set schedules and one-on-one attention. This now being summer break, it’s really been hard on him to adjust. What’s hard for him is hard for us. Without diving into to many details (although if you want to know more or you just need support and a shoulder to cry on or someone to celebrate in the fun milestones, know I’m here for you), this has been the hardest summer of our parenting lives.

The old Tiffany would dive into self doubt, blame, anxiety and shame and face plant into candy bars from the vending machine, pizza, Chinese take-out, too much beer, too much wine, etc. The new and improved Tiffany still had a lot of self doubt, blame, anxiety, bitterness, etc. However, I wouldn’t turn to food and drinks for comfort. Instead, I turned to the gym and my personal trainer. I have had some tear-filled sessions with Lass and have let out a lot of aggression on a giant tractor tire and a heavy lead pipe. I did slip a few times with the food, but all in all, I ate very healthy and it’s almost funny in an ironic way how when you’re out of the bad food mode that you don’t just stop, drop and roll back to it. It’s all a slow progression. Weight gain, weight loss, fitness is all a slow progression. You know the saying: “Slow and steady wins the race”? Well it’s true.

I’m happy to report that school is going to be starting back up soon. Jack is excited, we’re excited, we’ve learned much better parenting techniques through this process. I’ve gone from having an angry and bitter heart to a heart of love and appreciation for Jack. I have gone from “Why me?” to “Thank you for giving this to me.” I put myself in his shoes and I think if I’m this frustrated, I can only imagine what he is going through. We have also learned that in order to fully help Jack (Anna too) that we have no choice but to be the healthiest we can be. We have a legacy to lead.

Has a struggle with your kids made you turn to food or drink for comfort? Post a comment and tell me the healthy ways you’ve found to handle tough times.

Peggy, Week 15: How Our Sunday Mornings Have Changed

Fruit Salad with Pomegranate Syrup

Sunday mornings are usually the one morning when we can all relax.

Before the challenge, they looked like this:

I rarely sleep more than an extra hour from my daily schedule, so I am typically up before the rest of the family; I tend to be out of bed by 6:30 am. A typical Sunday morning begins with a cup of Earl Grey tea. I run out to the local Wawa for the Sunday paper, and a 16 o.z. vanilla low fat latte with half and half and Sweet and Low, for Peter. By the time I would get home from the store, everybody would be looking for breakfast. Breakfast was homemade chocolate chip waffles with fresh strawberries, bananas and whipped cream–and a side of bacon. Or cheese omelets with toasted bagels and Taylor Ham. We’d read the paper, and do the crossword puzzle.

Since the challenge has started, they look like this:

Lately, we go to Tilton gym, as a family, and work on the gym challenge. Everybody works on their cardio challenge, before moving on to the weights upstairs. Peter and I tend to end with core exercises.

(Teenagers are terrific at putting any accomplishment at the gym into perspective. I do two push-ups, having previously not been able to do any, and a few sit-ups, with nobody holding my feet, and Amanda tells me that she had to do that in third grade.)

We still go to Wawa for the Sunday paper, but Peter has traded in his low fat vanilla latte for a 16-ounce plain coffee with Sweet and Low and 2% milk. We go home for breakfast, stopping by the fresh fruit market on the way home. Scrambled eggs or egg white omelets with a lite multi-grain Thomas’ English muffin and fruit salad have replaced our high carb breakfast. Although we still have to have bagels, they have become an occasional food, not a weekly choice.

Nutritional difference in our Sunday choices:

Before the challenge:

  • Bagel (1 whole): 280 cal, 1 fat, 59 carbs
  • 2 eggs: 140 cal, 0 carb, 5 fat
  • 2 slices Taylor ham: 260 cal, 2 carb, 22 fat
  • Cheddar cheese 2 %: 80 cal, 0 carb, 6 fat

After the challenge:

  • Thomas’ Light multigrain English muffin: 100 cal, 1 fat, 26 carbs
  • 2 eggs: 140 cal, 0 carb, 5 fat
  • Fruit salad: (approximate) 120 cal, 20 carb, 0 fat

Before: 760 cal, 61 carbs, 34 fat
After: 360 cal, 26 carbs, 6 fat

Savings: 400 calories 35 carbs 28 fat! Plus we worked out at the gym!

What healthy diet changes have you made? Share your accomplishments in the comments below.

6 Perfect Bedtime Snacks


Maple-Walnut Oatmeal

You always hear that you shouldn’t eat before bedtime. But if you have trouble getting to sleep, a little snack can help. This is especially true if you’re hungry since an empty stomach can keep you awake.

What foods are best before bed? Small amounts of carbohydrate-rich foods. They’re easy to digest and raise your serotonin levels. Serotonin is a hormone that helps calm the brain so you can sleep. Complex carbohydrates, such as:

  • a piece of fruit or
  • some whole wheat crackers

are best because they are digested slowly. Avoid candy, cookies and other high sugar, simple carbs. These types of foods are quickly digested, releasing a jolt of sugar into your blood that can keep you awake.

Foods with tryptophan, an amino acid, are also a good choice. Tryptophan is used to make serotonin, which can then make melatonin, the hormone that tells your body to go to sleep. Most protein-containing foods have tryptophan but that doesn’t mean you should eat a steak before bed. A small amount of protein is all you need. And it’s best if that protein is combined with a little carbohydrate. Consider:

  • Milk. It contains both nutrients, which explains the old “warm milk before bed” advice.
  • Half a packet of instant oatmeal
  • Some cottage cheese
  • A slice of toast with a thin layer of peanut butter.

Whatever food you choose, keep the portion small. Too much of any type of food can interfere with sleep.

Through her Des Moines-based nutrition company, SK Health Communications, registered dietitian Stephanie Karpinske writes and develops recipes for magazines, books, supermarkets and food companies. She is the author of Read Before Dieting: Your 4-Step Plan for Diet Success and writes a blog about healthy eating, She’s coaching the Lehman family through the six-month Healthy Family Challenge.