Snow day Slime: 4 ingredients & no borax

Making slime, whether you’re 50 or 5 years old, is always fun! Kids can make it with only a small amount of help from us adults. Slime is quick to prepare, easy to clean up, and fun for hours. My kids categorize it as “not a solid, but not a liquid”, “so stretchy,” and “super sticky.”

On a recent snowy day when school was canceled and we were worn out from playing outside, we had a blast making this borax-free version of slime with ingredients that are readily on-hand at home.

Materials:

  • Elmer’s glue (preferably the clear version, but can be white)
  • food coloring
  • baking soda
  • saline solution (if you don’t have saline solution, add 1/2 tsp of fine salt into 1 c hot water, stir until dissolved, and cool)

Protocol:

  1. Add 4-8 oz of glue to a glass or plastic bowl
  2. Add a few drops of food coloring and mix with spoon
  3. Add 1 tsp of baking soda and mix
  4. Add 2-4 tbsp saline solution and mix until slime forms a ball that is slightly sticky, but won’t stay stuck to hands
  5. As slime is played with, add more saline solution as necessary to prevent it from getting too sticky
  6. Store slime in sealed plastic bag or container to preserve it

Observations and Experiments:

  • How does slime feel before and after saline solution is added?
  • How far can we stretch slime?
  • What happens if we pull slime apart with force instead of slowly stretch slime?
  • What shapes can we make with slime?
  • What surfaces does slime stick to?
  • Does slime bounce?
  • What happens to the surface of slime when we mold it to our palm?

Enjoy cultivating your and your children’s curiosity making and exploring slime!

Exercise: not just for your muscles, but also for your gut

 

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We can all agree that exercise is good for us. Exercise helps prevent chronic disease such as obesity and type 2 diabetes, improves mood, keeps weight in check, and boosts energy. We can now add to list of benefits of exercise that it alters the composition and function of our gut microbiome which may improve our health.

The gut microbiome is the genetic material of the microbes (10-100 trillion symbiotic cells) living in our digestive tract that play an important role in digestion, nutrition, maturation of the immune system, disease mediation, and body defense. While individual humans are 99.9% identical, the microbiome differs between individuals by 80-90%. Understanding exactly how the microbiome regulates our health and disease progression is continuously under scientific investigation.

Recent data demonstrate that endurance exercise modulates functional changes in the gut microbiome. Two groups of originally sedentary participants, one lean and one obese, began  endurance exercise that increased from 30 to 60 minutes three times per week for 6 weeks. Analysis of the gut microbiome before, during, and after completing the study demonstrated an increase in the proportion of gut microbes that produce butyrate and other short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs) during the period of endurance exercise. Butyrate is involved in the regulation of gene expression, immune function stimulation, liver detoxification, cell growth, control of body fat, and colon cell health. When the participants returned to their sedentary lifestyles, their microbiome reverted to its original state.

Although, these results show for the first time that exercise plays a vital role in regulating our gut health, we can’t discount the influence of our diet. During the study, there were no dietary restrictions and all participants followed their regular diet. Interestingly, the effect of exercise on gut microbiome composition was dramatically larger in lean participants versus obese participants. Given that all participants were sedentary at the start of the study, yet half were lean and half obese, we may infer that their diets were not the same. While it’s clear exercise plays an important role in the function of our gut microbiome, don’t forget about the importance of how we fuel our bodies!

Lifestyle is medicine

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What if lifestyle were medicine? What if we could prevent almost 80% of chronic disease? What if the only thing we had to do was make the choice to eat well and move our bodies every day?

It is. We can. Let’s do it.

There is an overwhelming body of research indicating that most chronic diseases including, many cancers, type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease, may be prevented through lifestyle interventions. This concept is not new—the body of medical research supporting it goes back decades.

In 1993, The Journal of American Medical Association (JAMA) published ‘The Actual Causes of Death’, data from approximately 20 years of research, showing that the prominent causes of death in the United States were the result of disease caused by smoking, poor diet, and lack of physical activity. In 2004, this finding remained the same with smoking, poor diet, and lack of exercise at the top of the list. But, the gap between smoking (18.1% of deaths) and poor diet and/or lack of physical activity  (16.6% of deaths) had narrowed. There’s no denying that disease is an effect of poor lifestyle choices.

JAMA also published a study demonstrating that there is a 78% lower risk of developing chronic disease—type 2 diabetes, heart attack, stroke, and many cancers (at least 13 types)—when we don’t smoke, aren’t overweight (BMI less than 30), eat well (high intake of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and some meat), and are physically active (3.5 hours/week). A 78% decrease in developing chronic disease through lifestyle—that’s dramatic and an inspiration to be curious about wellness.

Yet, here we are, with more than 37% of American adults and 17% of youth 2-19 years old obese. This translates into over $150 million dollars a year in health care costs. Effectively, we are making ourselves sick through poor nutrition, lack of physical exercise, and smoking.

Let’s avoid seeking medical intervention when we are already ill and be more curious about how we can prevent illness with lifestyle medicine.

How do we do this? Every day, we have so many opportunities to eat well or to eat poorly, to exercise, whether that be going for a walk or taking a spin class, or to not exercise. Instead of reaching for a bag of chips or pretzels, grab an apple, some carrots and hummus or other real food. Go for a walk during lunch break at work, dance around the room, or stream a workout video at home (there are many low cost and free options). Making these changes permanent is certainly not easy, but it’s worth it for yourself and for your family.

We can’t afford to do nothing about our wellness. Lifestyle medicine is the best medicine we can ever create and we already have access to it.

Project: Make it rain

Project: Make it rain

“Take chances, make mistakes, and get messy.” Miss Frizzle, the adventurous teacher from “The Magic School Bus,” said it best with these words. As a mom of two young children, I see firsthand how children naturally want to take chances, make mistakes, and get messy. It’s important for us adults to encourage their exploration and not caution against it because it might make a mess. These projects don’t have to be complicated—they only require our excitement, attention, and a good dose of curiosity. 

All summer long, we’ve been reading “The Magic School Bus” books and enjoying some of the episodes on Netflix. These books, which are colorful and well-written explanations of topics ranging from how hurricanes form to how we fight infections, are an inspiration for simple at-home science projects. Below is a fun project that you can do with items you have readily available at home.

Ingredients

  • Ice
  • Tin can (from canned food)
  • Tongs
  • Oven mitt
  • Tea kettle
  • Stove
  • Bowl to catch “rain”

Instructions

  1. Boil water in tea kettle
  2. Add several ice cubes to tin can
  3. When water is boiling, hold tin can over steam that is coming from kettle with tongs and oven mitt
  4. Place bowl on counter under tin can
  5. As tin can heats and ice melts, watch rain droplets form on the bottom of tin can and catch them in the bowl

What’s happening?

As the water in the kettle is heated, it evaporates into vapor. The vapor (steam) escapes from the kettle and hits the cold ice-filled tin can held above it. This cools the steam causing the vapor to condense into water droplets, which then drip off the can into the bowl.  

Protein: it’s what’s for breakfast

FullSizeRender 4Many of us can recall at least a few mornings when we were told, “Don’t skip your breakfast, it’s the most important meal of the day.” This sentiment is true—eating breakfast is essential to our health. At breakfast time, we are breaking an overnight fast and it’s critical for us to consume the nutrients we need to prepare our body and mind for the day. It’s not just consuming any breakfast that’s important, but consuming a breakfast that is packed with protein that’s key. 

How does protein fuel our body?

Protein digestion begins in the stomach, where proteins are split into smaller parts (proteoses, peptones, and large polypeptides). Digestion continues in the upper portion of the small intestine, where most protein digestion occurs, and then through the GI tract. The end result of protein digestion is amino acids and small peptides, specifically di- and tripeptides. These amino acids are essential for most biological processes, including: the transport and storage of nutrients; function of organs, glands, tendons, and arteries; wound healing; and tissue repair of muscles, bones, skin, and hair. Lack of protein leads to anemia, physical weakness, edema, vascular dysfunction, and impaired immunity. Protein is indispensable because it is the only dietary source of the amino acids necessary for carrying out these biological processes.

How does protein at breakfast improve our wellness?

Through various mechanisms, consuming a high protein breakfast changes appetite, hormonal signals, and neural signals that affect our mood, energy, and food intake throughout the entire day. When we eat protein at breakfast, the levels of tyrosine, one of the amino acids synthesized by protein digestion, in the brain is increased. This results in the production of norepinephrine and dopamine, neurotransmitters that make us feel awake and alert.  Protein consumption at breakfast also lowers the daily level of ghrelin. Ghrelin stimulates the appetite by regulating the secretion of Ghrelin Hormone (GH), resulting in the desire to eat. When ghrelin levels are lower, we may stave off hunger longer between breakfast and lunch. Protein at breakfast reduces activation of the brain in the amygdala, hippocampal, and midfrontal corticolimbic regions, which helps prevent pre-dinner snacking. Breakfasts that are high in protein and low in carbohydrates also lead to lower blood glucose and insulin levels post-breakfast, which helps stabilize energy levels. Overall, consuming protein at breakfast can help to set us up for a high-energy day where we aren’t starving by lunchtime. 

How much protein do we need?

Kids require approximately 1-1.5 grams of protein per kg of body weight. For a 50 lb child, that is 23-34 grams of protein per day. Adults require 0.8 g/kg – 1.6 g/kg. For a 150 lb adult, that is 55-109 g per day. If you or your child are more active, err on the higher end of the spectrum. 

How can we fuel our bodies with protein in the morning?

As a parent, I know how busy mornings become getting oneself and children ready, while ensuring everyone in the family starts the day with proper nutrition. I admit, our kids don’t always sit at the breakfast table, but often play before we head out the door. Because of this, I’ve gotten in the habit of making everyone a smoothie, packed with protein, that can be eaten while they’re enjoying play time. I hope you enjoy our “good morning smoothie” for the kids and “berry chocolate shake” for the adults as much as we do!

Weeknight bolognese

Servings: 2 children and 2 adults + leftover sauce to freeze for future meal

Ingredients

  • 1.5 lb lean ground turkey or beef (or combination of both)
  • 1/2 large red onion, diced
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 28 oz can of diced fire-roasted tomatoes
  • 2 c red wine, preferably a wine with pepper flavors
  • 1/2 c chicken stock (more as needed)
  • 2 tbsp herbs de Provence (dried mix or make with fresh herbs)
  • 1 tbsp tomato paste
  • 1 bay leaf
  • gluten free pasta, as much as needed
  • salt and pepper
  • 4 tbsp cold-pressed extra virgin olive oil (EVO)
  • large, deep pan or cast-iron pot

Instructions

  1. Add EVO, garlic, salt, and pepper to hot pan over medium/high heat and sauté for approximately 3 min
  2. Add onion and sauté until transparent for approximately 5 min
  3. Add ground turkey or beef and season with salt and pepper
  4. Sauté beef until browned, using spatula to break meat into smaller pieces
  5. Add red wine, chicken stock, herbs de Provence, bay leaf, and tomato paste
  6. Stirring frequently, simmer for at least 30 min on medium heat
  7. While sauce is simmering, boil large pot of water and cook pasta al dente
  8. Serve sauce over pasta and sprinkle with parmesan cheese and red pepper flakes if desired

Everyone I’ve served this dish to has loved it! The best part is, it’s so simple to make on a weeknight. If you have several guests for dinner, just double the recipe, and make sauce ahead of time.