Thursday, May 31, 2012

mcdonalds offers new healthy choices

we don't eat out all that often, but when we do, i can guarantee that my kids are going to want mcdonald's.  needless to say, mcdonald's is rarely, if ever, my first choice for food.

after today, my opinion may just be changing.

tate and i had the opportunity to head downtown to the ubercool rock 'n' roll mcdonald's for a special presentation about the new and improved nutrition choices that are available at mcdonald's.  i learned a lot.

mcdonald's has made great strides to offer those who are health-conscious a variety of  great options.  for a breakfast under 300 calories, choose an egg mcmuffin (300 calories), fruit 'n' yogurt parfait with granola (160 calories; 130 without granola), fruit and maple oatmeal (290 calories; 260 without brown sugar) or fruit and walnut salad (210 calories). mcdonald's is now also offering blueberry banana nut oatmeal (280 calories) that provides 2 servings of natural whole-grain oats.

for a lunch or dinner that provides 400 calories of less, choose a premium grilled chicken classic sandwich (350 calories), snack wraps with grilled chicken (250-270 calories), a cheeseburger (300 calories), 6-piece chicken nuggets (280 calories) or any of the premium salads with grilled chicken (190-290 calories).
many items on the menu can be made even more healthy by asking for items to be made to order.  for example, fries can be requested without salt for those who have a sodium restriction or concern.  any burgers or sandwiches can be made without mayo, with less mayo or without grill seasoning.  all sandwiches can also be made with a whole grain bun as well (although you should be forewarned that the bun is bigger than the regular sized hamburger patty so your kids may be wondering "where's the beef?").  salads can be eaten with little or no dressing.  you can order sandwiches without cheese or even without meat (!?).  oatmeal can be ordered plain with no additional sugar and, during this season, blueberries are offered as an a la carte option to be added to oatmeal or eaten alone instead of french fries.  i was encouraged to learn that each mcdonald's salad provides a full daily serving of vegetables (3 cups of vegetables are in each salad).
of course, as mothers, we are always concerned about the options available for our kids.  even at most sit-down restaurants, it can be hard to find healthy choices for our kids.  mcdonald's doesn't just want to offer healthy options to kids, they want to help educate children about making healthier choices.  they have made a voluntary food pledge to advertise nationally only healthier dietary choices.  i noticed that the jokes and puzzles on tate's happy meal box had a nutritional education focus (for example, fill in the blanks to find a drink that makes bones strong: m_l_).

the new happy meal automatically includes both produce (apple slices) and a smaller size of french fries (1.1 oz) along with the choices of hamburger, cheeseburger or chicken mcnuggets.  if you would rather your kids had no french fries, a second bag of apple slices can be substituted at no extra charge.  during this blueberry season, blueberries may also be substituted instead of fries or apples, at no extra charge.  in terms of sodium, mcdonald's has reduced sodium by 10 percent in chicken mcnuggets, as well as the majority of national chicken menu offerings.

my concern with the happy meal is that my kids are always still hungry when they are done.  i'm glad to see that apples are being offered along with french fries, since they have had a hard time choosing between the two.  we usually have to supplement the meal with extra food, even for two-year-old lilianna, which adds calories and fat grams, without adding much in the way of nutrition.
 we had an opportunity tour the kitchen and see that real whole eggs are used to make the egg mcmuffin sandwiches, all the buns are made at local bakeries (although all of them contain high-fructose corn syrup) and delivered 3 times a week.  real tomatoes, onions, lemons, limes, and meat are stored in rigorous conditions to ensure food safety and freshness.
if you are still concerned about making smart nutritional choices, you have a variety of avenues that offer nutrition information about menu items.  you can check the website for ingredient and allergen information.  the also offer a mobile app so you can access this information on-the-go.  you can also find the information on product packaging or on the tray liner.  you can also access a comprehensive brochure in participating restaurants or call 1.800.244.6227 toll-free for a voice-activated system to answer your questions.  you can also find dietitian-approved choices at healthy dining finder.

we still won't be choosing mcdonald's as a weekly option, but it is nice to know that, as a special treat, we have a variety of nutritious and delicious options available to us.

tate and i received lunch, an informational seminar, behind-the-counter tour, all of the above information and a goodie bag from mcdonald's as part of mcdonald's commitment to nutritional education.  regardless, the thoughts and opinions expressed here are purely my own.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

claritin clears our sniffles during allergy season

sniff, sniff.

sniff, sniff.

this is what we hear a lot of at this time of year.  not only do all of us seem to have some form of seasonal allergies, but bill and zoe are at particular risk because both of them have a propensity toward asthma attacks.

this means we want to do everything we can to keep their allergies in check, as well as keep the rest of us comfortable and sniff-free.

children's claritin has been invaluable for keeping our allergies under control this season.  i appreciate the fact that the tablets are chewable.  the kids approve of the grape flavor, so i don't have to worry about fighting with them to take the pills.

i haven't noticed any kind of negative side effects when the kids take them.  bill has been using the children's version as well.  he doesn't notice any side effects either.  if he takes a dose, it lasts about 24 hours.  he appreciates the long-term relief.

we are getting ready to go camping this weekend, and i will definitely be packing the children's claritin.  we don't need any emergency asthma attacks nor do we want allergies to keep anyone from having a good time.

if you or your children suffer from allergies, seasonal or otherwise, you may just want to give children's claritin a try as well.

as a member of the children’s claritin mom crew, i receive product samples and promotional items to share and use as i see fit.  no monetary compensation has taken place and any opinions expressed by me are honest and reflect my actual experience.

harlem globetrotters basketball camp

tate is turning into quite a little athlete, and a sports fanatic as well.  we are doing everything we can to expose him to a variety of sports experiences to help foster his athletic skills.

we would love for him to participate in the exciting new opportunity from the harlem globetrotters.  the harlem globetrotters are now conducting summer skills clinics across the country to offer boys and girls, ages 6-14, the opportunity to view the globetrotters in action, while also having fun staying active.

each participant in the clinic receives:

  • a free ticket voucher (valued up to $40) to see the globetrotters during their 2013 world tour
  • autographs and photos with the stars
  • a 3-day trial pass to 24 hour fitness

the world tour will take place in 200 different cities, but the clinics are only available in the following cities:  phoenix, houston, san francisco, new jersey, denver, dallas, los angeles, seattle, st. louis, miami, and las vegas.
for more details you can go online and check out the summer skills clinics faqs or call 800.641.4667 (hoop) x146.  you can also email

if this is something you are interested in, you can save $10 on registration.  just use the coupon code USFAMILY on the cart page after you complete your registration or when calling.

i received this information from the us family guide.  in exchange for sharing this information with you, my family will receive tickets to the harlem globetrotters show.  regardless, all thoughts and opinions are my own.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012


we have a winner for the burger king gift card...
...ashley!  the good news is that we are all winners since there are so many fabulous choices on the menu now!

nobody has entered to win the don't sweat the small stuff moms book, so i will be extending the deadline until may 20.  go over there now and leave a comment.  this is a fun and easy read with a lot of great tips for moms...

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

eric carle's treasured stories treasured by performers and audience alike

i took the kids (yup, all four of them) to see a moon, a brown bear and a caterpillar: treasured stories by eric carle on saturday.  i was nervous about how lilianna and zoe would do.  zoe is considered a little too old for the production so i was worried that she would be totally bored.  lilianna freaked out a little bit at the last play we attended so i was wondering how she would do with this one.

as the time came for the play to begin, i was so happy to hear that this would be a "non-shushing production."  you kind of figure that with children's theatre, but it was nice for everyone to hear that this was the kind of production where interaction with the story and the characters would be encouraged.

lilianna took the "non-shushing" to heart.  even though the entire performance is done in the dark with black light used to highlight the characters and scenery, lilianna was totally engaged for the entire hour.  she informed me (each time) that the very hungry caterpillar was "still hungry" and wondered what else he would eat.  she called good-bye to each piece of fruit and to each animal that was "seen" in brown bear, brown bear, what do you see.  she was very concerned about papa's whereabouts when he wasn't on stage in papa, please get the moon for me, and called out to him over and over again.  all this was considered perfectly acceptable (and was totally hilarious to me).

zoe, on the other hand, spent the majority of the show trying to work out how the puppets and effects were managed.  she was totally engaged, not just with the story, but figuring out the "tricks."  unlike other magic shows, all was revealed at the end of this performance.  the puppeteers came out on stage after the show to answer questions, show off the puppets and how they worked and let the kids experience themselves under black light.

i have only positive things to say about this performance.  the performers obviously have a love for eric carle and his stories, so they have done an amazing job remaining true to both the story and the artwork.  like eric carle, they seem to have an insider track into the way kids' brains work, and this play is suitably geared for the younger set.

as a reminder, performances are may 2-27, 2012 on the victory gardens biograph theater mainstage, 2433 n. lincoln avenue, chicago:  tuesday through thursday at 10:15 am; friday at 10 am and noon; saturday at 10 am, noon and 3 pm; and sunday at 11 am and 3 pm.  

tickets, $15 - $41, are on sale now.  for tickets and information, go to or call the victory gardens box office, 773.871.300.

in addition, chicago childrens theatre is teaming with open books for a brown bear, brown bear book drive.  theatre-goers are encouraged to bring new or used young children's books.  to raise awareness, three celebrity readers have been invited to read a favorite eric carle story before three saturday performances:  pat quinn, governor of illinois, will read on may 12 at noon; wgn-tv around town reporter, ana belavel will read on may 19 at noon; and ralph covert from ralph's world will read on may 26 at noon.

this mother's day dad's can give moms a break by taking kids to see a performance at 11 am or noon.  after the performances wishcraft workshop  (2312 W. Roscoe) will be on hand to help kids make crafts in the style of eric carle.

i received free tickets for me and the kids in exchange for posting this information and writing this review.  regardless, the thoughts and opinions expressed here are purely my own. 

Wednesday, May 2, 2012


it's that time again...

the winner of the land o' lakes eggs giveaway is...
 ...kristin devine mueller!  expecting mamas need to eat healthy so hopefully this will help keep you and baby healthy!

the winner of the general mills curvy straws giveaway is...
...mamastace!  strawberry milk with a curvy straw couldn't be a more fun combination!

congratulations ladies!

for everyone else, don't miss the other giveaways i have going on now!

don't sweat the small stuff for moms (w/giveaway)

there are two things i appreciate about parenting books:  short chapters and practical advice.  this book easily meets both my expectations.

nearly every chapter i read has some pearl of wisdom that gives me a better perspective for my days.  even if her advice is something i'm already doing anyway, it is nice to have the affirmation that others agree with my choices and decisions and even support them.
if you are interested in learning more about being a "don't sweat mom," you are invited to a twitter party with kristine carlson and other dont sweat moms.

you can also be involved with the "don't sweat mom" community on twitter or facebook.

if you are interested in having a copy of the book for yourself, or someone else you love, i have a copy to give away. just leave a comment below telling me your favorite advice for moms. i will choose a winner using on may 8, 2012. (usa residents only; must be 18 to enter.)

edited to add:  since no one has entered, i am extending the deadline to may 20...

i received a free copy of the book, as well as a copy to give away, as part of my involvement in the "don't sweat moms" campaign.  regardless, the thoughts and opinions expressed here are purely my own.  you can read more of my thoughts about the book at my regular blog, tales from the crib.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

burger king's new menu allows more of us to have it your way® (w/giveaway)

bill certainly doesn't need much of an excuse to think about taking the family to burger king.  unfortunately, while bill loves to have it your way®, i don't often feel like i can have it my way when we are there.

but i have a feeling that is all about to change.

in consistency with their commitment to providing customers with products that are "best in class" and true to a heritage of great taste, burger king is expanding their menu to provide more choice and, presumably, something for everyone.  after two months of testing, burger king's menu now includes garden fresh salads, snack wraps, real fruit smoothies, frappés and crispy chicken strips.

the new salads are made fresh daily with premium ingredients that can be topped with your choice of tendercrisp® or juicy tendergrill® chicken. you can choose from the:
  • chicken blt garden fresh salad ~ made with a three cheese blend, thick cut bacon, tomatoes and red onion, served with ken’s® avocado ranch dressing
  • chicken, apple and cranberry garden fresh salad ~ made with crisp apples, dried cranberries, bleu cheese and ken’s® apple cider vinaigrette
  • chicken caesar garden fresh salad ~ made with 100% romaine lettuce, tomatoes, shaved parmesan cheese, and home-style croutons
the new snack wraps are a flavorful treat that are less than 400 calories each. snack wrap options include:

  • honey mustard crispy chicken snack wrap ~ a flour tortilla filled with crispy, marinated white meat chicken, a three-cheese blend, and a combination of spring mix, romaine and iceberg lettuce, all topped with ken’s® honey mustard dressing
  • ranch crispy chicken snack wrap ~ a flour tortilla filled with crispy, marinated white meat chicken, a three-cheese blend,  and a combination of spring mix, romaine and iceberg lettuce, all topped with ken’s® ranch dressing
the new crispy chicken strips are made with white meat tenderloin chicken, marinated and lightly battered in seasoned home-style breading. They are perfect for dipping in one of eight bk® classic or bold new sauces and are available in 3 or 5 piece servings.

the new real fruit smoothies a are offered in 12, 16, and 20oz. servings, and are made fresh to order with real fruit, low-fat yogurt and juices blended together. each smoothie provides a full serving of fruit and is offered in the following varieties:
  • tropical mango
  • strawberry banana
the new rich and smooth frappés  are made to order and are offered in 12, 16, and 20oz. servings.  you can find them in the following varieties:

  • mocha frappé ~ the perfect combination of sweet flavor, a hint of coffee and ice all topped with whipped topping and a swirl of fudge
  • caramel frappé ~ the perfect combination of sweet flavor, a hint of coffee and ice all topped with whipped topping and a swirl of caramel
i don't know about you, but i think the caramel frappé might be calling my name right this minute!  if you want to give one of these new items a try (or even treat yourself to a tasty classic), i have a $25 gift card to give away to one of you readers.  just leave me a comment below telling me how you would spend the $25.  i will choose a winner using on may 8, 2012. (usa residents only; must be 18 to enter.)

i received information, a $25 gift card, and one to give away, in exchange for writing this review from burger king through myblogspark.  regardless, the thoughts and opinions expressed here are purely my own.

familyfun "get active" badge

we still have a month and a half left until school is done, but the kids are already starting to make plans for what they want to do this summer.  usually this means i'm starting to worry about how to fill up our days, but with the busy schedules we have right now, i have to admit i'm looking forward to slowing down a little bit.

my concern for the summer is how we can be sure not to slow down so much that the kids aren't getting any exercise.  when that happens, the result is usually crazily hyper kids right at the time that i need to start cooking supper.

thankfully, family fun magazine has some really great ideas for encouraging kids to be active this summer.  the magazine has been celebrating its 20th anniversary by offering "badges of fun," giving families the opportunity to earn a badge each month.  the final badge is offered in the may issue:  the "get active" badge. 

we haven't had a chance to try any of these out for ourselves since we've been cursed with a string of rainy days, but i'm pretty certain each one of these is going to be a big hit with all four of my kids.

1) take a hike:  take an egg carton and paint the bottoms of the compartments each a different color.  on the hike, challenge your kids to fill each compartment with a "souvenir" from nature that matches each color.

2) hop on your bike:  for a "bike rodeo," draw a spot on the driveway or sidewalk where each kid must stop and pick up a hula hoop.  toss the hula hoop over a stool before heading back to the "finish line."  whoever makes it back with the fastest time, wins.

3) play in your yard:  set up two buckets about 20 feet apart.  divide into two teams.  each team wants to score by tossing a bean bag into the other team's bucket.  kids can only move when they are not holding a bean bag.  defenders try to knock down or intercept passes.

if you complete any of these suggestions, your family can go online to earn the badge and enter to win great prizes from huffy (the grand prize is four huffy bicycles; 20 readers will win one huffy bike).

i know we are looking forward to the sunny days that have been promised for this week so that we can "get active" and have some fun...

i received a free copy of familyfun magazine and an activity pack to help get us started on these fun activities.  regardless, the thoughts and opinions expressed here are purely my own.

you can also find me here

some other groups i've joined


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