Tag Archives: kids

Sandwiches for Dinner? Make a Healthy Sloppy Joe

There are some summer days when it’s just too hot to stand over the stove and prepare a nutritious meal. It’s even too hot to think about firing up the grill and cooking in the shade. It’s days like these that bring a single mom’s favorite childhood meals to mind, especially those summer evenings when we ate our dinner on a blanket under the shade tree in the back yard.

Sloppy Joes have been a favorite with kids for generations. The short prep time make them a favorite with moms, too. An added benefit is that they can be made ahead and be frozen for later use without losing any flavor. They can also be prepared early in the day and held until the evening meal in the crock pot.  Sloppy Joes are also easily reheated in the microwave.

The word sloppy is in the name of this tasty treat for a reason. Letting the kids enjoy them as a dinner picnic outside will save mom from having to clean the floor of the sloppiness after the meal. It won’t, however, help with getting stains out of the clothes. Nothing is perfect, after all.

Some slight changes to the traditional Sloppy Joe recipe will make it an even healthier all-in-one meal for the family. Instead of ground beef, use ground turkey and replace the regular hamburger buns with those made of whole wheat.

This recipe will serve four, but can easily be doubled so that the leftovers can be frozen for the next hot day when mom can’t bear the thought of turning on the stove.

Turkey Sloppy Joes

  • 3 tsp olive oil
  • 1/2 med yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 1 green bell pepper, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 ribs celery, finely chopped
  • 1 lb 99% lean ground turkey
  • 2 tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 4 tbsp tomato paste
  • 3 tsp brown sugar (optional)
  • 2/3 cups strained tomatoes
  • dash of nutmeg
  • 4 large whole wheat hamburger buns
  1. Heat the olive oil in large sautée pan over low heat.
  2. Add the onion, pepper, garlic, and celery.
  3. Cover and cook the vegetables, stirring occasionally, until they are soft and start to become translucent. This usually takes about 7 minutes.
  4. Remove the vegetables and bring the heat to medium high. Add the ground turkey to the pan and cook, stirring when needed, for about 7 minutes, or until it is almost cooked through.
  5. Add the previously cooked vegetables, stirring them into the turkey.
  6. Add the tomato paste, vinegar and sugar to the mixture and cook, stirring occasionally for about 4 minutes.
  7. Add tomatoes, nutmeg, salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste.
  8. Lower heat and simmer until thick.

If tomatoes are in season, use fresh ones instead of the canned. Nothing is as good as fresh when it’s available.

Feel free to substitute red or yellow pepper if they are less expensive than the green bell peppers or if the kids simply favor one over the other. If the peppers are on sale, buy an extra one and cut it into strips and serve along side the sandwich.

How to Help Your Child Work Independently on Homework

When getting the student to do his homework becomes a daily battle, maybe it’s not the homework. Maybe the problem is that the youngster doesn’t feel comfortable enough to work independently. Children are a lot like adults in that some work well independently while others work best in groups. The single mom can take a lot of stress out of the homework session once she identifies how her child works best.

Most kids don’t even start to develop the skills to work independently until they reach the second grade age. It takes some children longer to develop the skill of being able to work on their own. Having mom or even a sibling that they can count on to keep them focused on their assignments in the same room is often enough to get the homework completed without a problem.

If your child needs the support of your presence while he is doing his homework, take advantage of the opportunity and relax if you can. Bring a book, newspaper or magazine to the table and catch up on your reading while the homework is being done.

Don’t let the child take advantage of your presence. You are there to support him, not do the homework for him. If he really is having a hard time with a problem, try to guide him into finding the answer on his own rather than giving him the answer. If he asks you to verify his answer after every problem, suggest that you will go over the work when it is complete.

Once the child gets into the habit of doing the homework assignments every day without argument, wean yourself from the area slowly, but don’t abandon him completely. Sometimes a child really needs help understanding the homework problem and will get frustrated if he spends a lot of time working on it without finding the solution. Let him know that it’s perfectly acceptable to skip over the problem and come back to it later, when you are available to help him.

As the child gets used to doing his homework on his own, try to give him the opportunity to focus on the job at hand without distraction. Turn off the TV and ask the siblings to leave him in peace. Some children work better with low music in the background, while others find it distracting.

Don’t expect miracles. Homework isn’t supposed to be a fun activity. There will still be complaints about having to do homework when the sun is shining and all the neighborhood kids are playing outside. Once the child realizes that he can work independently on his homework, one of his excuses for not doing it will be eliminated.

Make the Snack a Healthy Treat

Most single moms give their kids snacks every day. Sometimes it’s between lunch and the evening meal, and sometimes the kids are in the routine of having a light treat before they go to bed. While a treat is always welcomed by the child, many moms have discovered that the treat is a good way to sneak in those extra nutrients that the kids may have been shorted during the day.

It’s best to keep the bedtime snack light, but the mid afternoon snack is fair game as long as it won’t ruin the appetites for dinner. It’s a good time for a smoothie, especially if it offers the opportunity to sneak in some of the raw vegetables you have prepped for dinner.

Crackers with cheese or peanut butter will also help stop little tummies from growling between meals, especially if the kids are able to put the spreads on the crackers themselves. Any cracker that the kids like will do, but the choice that mom picks out in the store offers an added chance to add nutritious value to the snack.

Once kids are used to getting milk and cookies or other sweet treats as a snack, it may be hard to get them to settle for something a bit healthier. The trick is to make it fun. Slices of fruit, cut into fun shapes with a cookie cutter can make kids forget all about the sugar filled treats. Give them a firm plastic straw and chunks of fruit and let them make kabobs.

Cut a sandwich into geometric shapes and have the kids put it together before they start eating it. Hopefully, they’ll enjoy it enough not to notice that you’re attempting to fill them up with nutrition because dinner is going to be late.

You don’t have to prepare the snacks yourself in order for them to be nutritious. A bowl full of purchased baked vegetable chips, especially those labeled low sodium, are an easy snack that the kids will enjoy munching on while they do their homework. String cheese, raisins and even popcorn flavored with herbs instead of salt and butter will satisfy hunger pains and not interfere with the next meal.

Keep track of the snacks and treats the kids are getting throughout the day. If you’re in the habit of giving the kids both an after school snack and a bedtime snack, with a treat to eat on the drive back home after running errands, the kids might be getting more sugar, salt or fat that you realize. If the kids have visited another home for a play date or have been invited out to the matinee, chances are that they’ve been treated to snacks that they’ve forgotten to tell you about.

Hiding Veggies in Food

While it may not be the best possible nutritional option, hiding veggies in your kids’ foods may be the best solution for you as a busy single mom. After all, you simply do not have the time or energy to fight with your child to eat his broccoli. If you are interested in becoming a “sneaky chef,” consider these foods that are easy to hide.

Broccoli can be snuck into food if you can chop it fine enough. It will look like seasoning to your children. Many sauces can easily hide the taste. Grated carrots can also be easily snuck into your kids’ favorite foods, and if you grate them fine enough, they will not even know the difference between the carrots and shredded cheese.

Purees can also work well. Spinach and cauliflower can both be pureed and mixed into sauces without changing the taste too much. Cauliflower will not even change the color. If the food you are making is red in color, you can puree beets as well. You will need to experiment with the taste of the veggies to make sure that you are not changing the taste or texture of your child’s favorite foods.

The best way to have your kids eat their veggies is whole and fresh, if possible. But realistically, this is not always going to happen, and you need to make sure your children are getting adequate nutrition. Hiding veggies in food your children like may just be the solution you need to get those nutrients into your kids effectively and without a fight.

Behavior Chart Tips

A behavior chart can be a positive way to reinforce the behaviors you want your children to exhibit and limit those behaviors you wish to put a stop to. However, you need to use them carefully to make them as effective as possible. These behavior chart tips will help you make the most of this.

First, you need to keep the process fun. One of the easiest ways to do this is to emphasize positive behaviors, helping the children earn marks or stickers when they perform activities you want them to perform. Decide on just a few behaviors to zero in on at a time. Too many can overwhelm your child, especially if he or she is little.

You have to be consistent to make a behavior chart work, so make it in a manner that makes sense to you and is something you can follow through on. Decide when you will “finish” the chart, whether it be a week or a month. When it is time for the “points” to be tallied and rewards given out, do so consistently, every time.

Your children will be motivated by things they can see, so put the chart somewhere they can see it, but if your children will be tempted to add to the chart or mess with it, hang it in a visible place that is out of reach.

You need to keep the rewards simple. Large rewards can be hard to maintain. A reward can be something as simple as choosing dinner, deciding what movie night movie will be, or other simple things. New sticker packages are popular with young children and are quite affordable. Be creative, knowing your children’s interests, but avoid making the rewards too exciting, because eventually you will have to make the reward “better” and you can eventually run out of ideas.

As you implement a behavior chart, be creative. Use these behavior chart tips to make it fun and effective in your home. Soon you will be seeing the behaviors your want to reinforce creeping into your home and becoming habits.

Homemade Chicken Tenders

Once the single mom has disciplined herself to reading the ingredients and nutritional labels on the food she offers her family, she may feel a pang of guilt when she gives into their demands for their favorite foods, especially if the normal source of the food is a fast food restaurant or processed and frozen preparations. But there are many favorites that can easily be made at home with the benefit of added nutritional value.

There aren’t a lot of kids who don’t like chicken. Call them chicken nuggets, chicken fingers or chicken tenders, the pieces of mean encased in bread crumbs or batter seem to be a favorite of many whole families. They aren’t as hard to make as you might think.

For this recipe, one chicken breast is considered a serving size. The recipe is for one serving, so adjust the ingredients depending on the size of your family. You should be able to put the meal together in about ten minutes. That’s just slightly longer than it takes at the drive through on a busy evening. It takes another 20 minutes to bake, which gives mom plenty of time to prepare the side dishes.

  • 1 4-oz. boneless, skinless chicken breast
  • ¼ c. egg substitute or skim milk
  • 1/3 c. flaked, high-fiber cereal, crushed

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

  1. Rinse the chicken breast and pat it dry. Cut it into strips.
  2. Dip the strips into the milk or egg substitute.
  3. Coat the strips of dipped chicken by rolling it in the crushed cereal.
  4. Place the coated chicken strips onto a non stick baking pan.
  5. The chicken should bake for 18 to 20 minutes. It’s ready to be turned after 9 minutes. The chicken will be white throughout when it is done.

When you compare this recipe to prepackaged chicken, you’ll be surprised to find out that you are giving your kids 12 grams less fat per serving. Some other nutritional benefits are the introduction of 185 mg of folic acid, and increase from 4 mg of iron to 10, an increase to 44 mg calcium from the 2 mg calcium found in the fast food chicken. The big payoff is in the sodium reduction. The serving of chicken that you previously served the kids had approximately 670 mg of sodium. Using this recipe, your child is getting only 239 mg of sodium per serving.

Next time your kids are begging for their favorite chicken, you can be confident that you are giving them a nutritious meal that the whole family will love.

Questions About Sex: How to Talk to Your Kids

Kids are naturally curious, and sexual behavior is something they are going to want to know about. As their mom, you want them to come to you with their questions, not their friends. Learning how to answer the questions about sex that your kids might bring up, on an age appropriate level, will help you prepare for the future and build trust with your kids.

If your children are under the age of 6, you need to be honest, but abstract. They don’t need all of the details. Let them know that a man and a woman work together to make a baby, but that is about all they need to know. Since you are a single mom, there may be a few more questions about this since dad is not in the home, but answer them carefully.

The truth about the act of sex can wait until puberty, but you don’t want to wait too long. Children are becoming interested in sexual acts much younger than you might think, and you need to be honest with them before they begin experimenting. Tell them the mechanics of it, and also the dangers. Don’t scare them, but help them understand when these behaviors are appropriate, and when they are not.

It is of the utmost importance to help your children understand that sexual acts happen within a context, and that context is your value system. Whether you intend for them to wait until marriage or until they are in a stable, mutually supportive relationship, make this boundary clear.

Finally, when you have these discussions, start by asking them questions. Find out what they know or think, and then fill in with the appropriate information. Remember, your children may not always come to you with questions about sex, so you need to bring it up when you think it is important for them to know.

Babysitter Wars! Single Moms Need the World’s Best Babysitter

Finding that perfect babysitter is the bane of single mothers everywhere. Someone who not only takes good care of your kids, but enjoys being with them as well. Single moms who snag the best babysitters tend to guard them with everything they have. Ask a single mom for the name of her awesome babysitter and her eyes will narrow, she will take a step back, and she will think carefully about her choice of words – because you can bet she’s not going to give up that name for any amount of money.

How can you find a babysitter like that? Single moms do have little tricks for finding the best of the best among caregivers, and here are a few of the insider secrets:

  • Train them yourself. Is there a very responsible young person in the neighborhood who seems to have it all under control? Talk to them about the possibility of babysitting. If they have never done it before, you can train them yourself. Let them spend time with your kids. Ask them to have dinner with all of you, and take the time to walk through the house, getting them familiar with it. Spring to pay for a CPR certification, and do other things that increase their knowledge and make you feel more secure at the same time. That untried responsible young person can turn into a world class babysitter, and you’ve got them all to yourself!
  • Request the best. Go to the local high school and speak to the guidance counselor. Tell them about your situation, and explain that you want a high school student who not only can handle the big responsibility of taking care of your kids, but one who also needs the money for college. The guidance counselor will then be able to handpick a few teenagers who would love to take on the job.
  • Screen applicants carefully. Put ads up at the local college, hit up community message boards, and keep your eyes and ears open when you are running errands around town. When you find a potential person to handle your babysitting duties, screen them very carefully, including references. Make those calls, and ask lots of questions!
  • Consider other single mothers. Nobody knows how to handle the pressures of kids like a single parent. Other single moms in your community probably need the money that babysitting can provide, and since they have their own kids, they already have a kid-proof house. Your kid will have a built-in playmate, and you won’t have to worry about whether they are getting the proper snacks, attention, and the like. It’s a win/win for everybody!
  • Make a grandma smile. Consider hiring an older, very experienced lady – one who is a grandmother. The nest is very empty, and she might not get to see her grandchildren as much as she would like. She definitely has the know-how and patience to deal with your child, although you might run the risk of having a very spoiled kid by the time she’s through. However, that isn’t always a bad thing! Grandmas have a great reputation for a reason, so take advantage of it if you possibly can.

As a single mom, loading yourself with resources is the best way to find the best babysitter. Make sure to follow these tips for the best babysitter!