Treats and Sweets for Kids (Guest Post)

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Sweets and Treats

If you’re a health-conscious parent, you know it’s not easy to keep junk food and sugary snacks from your kids. Sometimes it feels like they are attacking from every angle! From sales girls to grannies, from birthdays to daycare, it seems like everyone is trying to feed my kids sweets.

This summer my mum invited her friend Rosanna to stop by to meet the grandkids, my sons Dominic (age three) and Oliver (age one). Rosanna burst through the door and immediately thrust a package into my toddler’s hands. “It’s a treat for you! There’s a present inside!”.

I grabbed the box of Disney-character shaped chocolate popsicles and diverted Dominic’s attention to the transferable tattoo stickers inside. “Look, Honey. Rosanna got you tattoos!”.

A quick peek at the ingredients as I shoved them to the back of the freezer confirmed what I already knew: junk food is made from junk. Sugar, corn syrup, high fructose corn syrup, palm oil, tricalcium phosphate, mono and diglycerides, cellulose gum, salt, polysorbate 80, polysorbate 65, carrageenan…

Later that evening I told Rosanna–a mother of two school-aged kids herself–you can’t just go giving junk food to toddlers without checking with the mums first!

“Of course I can!”, she said. “I knew you’d just take it away if I showed it to you. Besides, isn’t it better to give them little treats all the time? I always have cookies and soft drinks in the house; that way my kids know it’s no big deal and don’t gorge on that stuff when they encounter it at a friend’s.”

Huh?!? In case you haven’t yet guessed, this is not my logic. That just means they get highly-addictive junk and sugary foods in their system every day. How is that a good thing?

The way I see it, my kids will have a whole lifetime of having poor options thrust in their faces and having to make choices. I only have a few brief years during which I can (more or less) control what they eat to provide their growing bodies with nourishing foods, develop their palates to like healthy foods and educate them about what foods are healthy.


A week before Dominic turned three another mum from the daycare called me. “Our sons have their birthdays on the same day! Yippee! Let’s make a joint party at the daycare. I’ll bring the cupcakes!”

Ugh. Does it have to be cupcakes? With icing? Why don’t I bake them a low-sugar banana bread instead? I suggested. They’re only turning three…

“Oh don’t be such a killjoy. My kid already gets banana bread all the time; the point is give them a treat! Besides, they’re only mini-cupcakes, not full-sized ones.”

I brought fresh watermelon slices to the birthday party. Half the kids were just as excited to get watermelon, the other half turned up their noses at the idea of eating fresh fruit when there were cupcakes to be had.

Am I too militant? Maybe I should relax a little? I called to check in with my friend Giselle, a like-minded mum with toddlers. She had some good tackling fuel for me.

“I hate it when the kids have birthday parties at daycare; they just eat icing and junk and come home all wired! Why can’t they just get banana bread?” Whew! I am not alone.


Dominic’s best friend Ziggy provides some perspective on the matter. Ziggy is three, and is severely allergic to wheat, milk, eggs, peanuts and tree nuts. Closely monitoring his every bite is a matter of life and death and has become second nature to his parents. The good news is his mum is a terrific cook who makes him delicious home-cooked meals with lots of great veggies and protein. He might get roasted cauliflower and broiled salmon one day, and grilled zucchini and spicy chilli the next. And he LOVES it!

Although Ziggy’s allergies present a scary reality for his mum and dad, they’ve also been a powerful learning tool as we try to teach our toddler about food and nutrition. Our son knows that Ziggy can eat fruits, vegetables, meat and fish. We get to know ingredients and practice which foods belong in those categories by playing a game at mealtimes, “Can Ziggy eat this?”. And it’s just the best kind of peer pressure to be able to truthfully say: “Aren’t you going to finish your brussel sprouts? Ziggy LOVES brussel sprouts, you know. He would’ve gobbled up that whole plate up by now!”

Lucky for Ziggy, his mum’s repertoire goes beyond brussel sprouts and includes homemade baked sweets that he can enjoy. We were invited over the other day for wheat-free, egg-free, dairy-free, nut-free, sugar-free brownies (recipe below!). His mum says “Ziggy loves these, but poor kid doesn’t know anything else! We’ll let Dominic be the real judge.” Jury is in… Dominic loved them too! Fact is, any chocolate treat to enjoy with a pal is treat enough.

Best Friends Enjoying a Healthy Brownie

Best friends Ziggy and Dominic sharing a brownie moment


As one of my personal training clients rightly pointed out, “As mums, we’re creating our kids’ relationship with food. My own mother used to say, ‘Come sit and have a nice piece of cake.’ Why nice? But that’s what I remember and hear in my head.”

The point is kids don’t have a preconceived notion that something is a treat; we adults create and foster that idea. On a recent cold Saturday, my husband and I took Dominic skating at an outdoor rink. Someone asked us if we were taking him for hot chocolate afterwards as a treat. Is skating a chore? Does it need to be offset with a pouch of artificial flavour, colour and dehydrated marshmallows mixed in hot water? My son has no such notion that skating is accompanied by hot chocolate. For a three year old boy, going skating with the family IS the treat.

So what’s a food-conscious parent to do when the world is trying to feed your kid icing and dehydrated marshmallows? Here are some ideas.

Cook with your kids

The cool thing about this is that it automatically builds in a host of advantages, namely that you’re cooking at home, leading by example, and teaching your kids about ingredients. Dominic got his own whisk, spatula, tongs and lettuce knife for Christmas and loves to “help” me cook. The trick lies in figuring out ahead of time which jobs you’re comfortable with them doing. Dom washes carrots; mummy peels and chops; Dom dumps them in the pot and stirs. I crack the eggs, Dom whisks and shakes in salt and pepper; mum pours the eggs in the frying pan, Dom can help stir with his own spatula.

Kids are usually happy to eat the same thing the grown-ups are eating, especially when they helped make it. So you get a little more rosemary sprinkled in the pot than anticipated. Big deal. I sprinkle the praise on thick, too. You should see Dom glow at the dinner table when I ask my husband, “Isn’t this stew delicious? Dom made it.”

If you cut it, they will come.

My friend Michelle is the mom, fashionista and avid baker behind the food and fashion blog Roasted. She always has some delicious fresh-baked cookies or cake around the house. It’s all homemade goodness, and she shares with her two-year old son in moderation, but her real secret to offsetting the treats is prepping healthy snacks in advance. She leaves out plates of carrot sticks or apple slices and finds that her son (and husband) will just as soon grab some of that as snack on baked sweets.

Define treats that aren’t sweets

A sticker goes a looong way. You get to help brush the snow off the car tomorrow morning! You get to skip shampoo tonight. Yes, you can wear socks to bed. One more episode of Zoboomafoo for you!

Sometimes a kid deserves a reward, and–let’s face it–sometimes a parent needs a bribe. Figure out some treats and rewards that work for you.  

Pick sweets you ARE comfortable with

Give my kid a dried fig and you’ll blow his mind. A fresh date and you’ll have a best friend for life. When he wants raisins in his cereal or oatmeal (stone cut, ‘natch) I let him decide how many. He thinks he’s a real bandit, asking for “Three! No, no, four raisins! I want four!”. I sometimes even let him add another four (gasp!) and he looks the very definition of the cat that swallowed the canary.

Just have a cookie already!

And just to show it’s no big deal, some days just have a cookie already with your kid. For no particular reason. Not as a reward, a prize, or a bribe. Just cuz. Just a good ol’ shared cookie moment with mum.

About Maxine Grossman

Maxine Grossman Personal TrainerMaxine Grossman, Personal Trainer, is a mum of two toddlers, personal trainer and nutrition-conscious food enthusiast in Montreal, Canada. When she’s not channeling her creativity into developing new workouts or new recipes, she’s using it to negotiate with her three year old, Dominic. Learn more at



This recipe is from The Minimalist Baker. 

PREP TIME: 15 mins
COOK TIME: 45 mins
TOTAL TIME: 1 hour

1/2 cup gluten free flour blend
1/2 cup oat flour (ground from Gluten Free oats)
2 Tbsp coconut flour
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
2 tsp each baking powder & baking soda
1 medium ripe avocado
1.5 medium very ripe bananas
1/4 cup + 2 Tbsp honey (or sub maple syrup, agave if vegan)
1/4 cup coconut oil, melted
1 cup unsweetened vanilla almond milk + 1 Tbsp white vinegar
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract


Position a rack in the middle of the oven. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and butter an 8 inch round baking pan (or 8×8 rectangular pan) with vegan butter. Toss with some white rice flour (or other GF flour) to coat the edges and remove excess. Set aside.

Add avocado and banana to a large mixing bowl and mash.

Add honey (or maple syrup or agave), vanilla, coconut oil and stir. Measure out 1 cup almond milk and toss in the vinegar. Let set for a minute or two then add to the mixture and whisk.

Next add baking soda and powder and mix vigorously to combine.

Add cocoa powder, salt, gluten free flour blend, and coconut flour to a sifter (reserving oat flour since it’s more coarse) and sift over wet ingredients. Whisk vigorously to combine.

Last, add oat flour and stir once more. Taste a bit to see if it needs more honey. Then pour into the prepared baking pan and smooth the top with a rubber spatula.

Bake for 40-48 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Cracks on the top are fine and actually good. The edges should be pulling away from the sides just slightly.

Remove from oven and let cool in the pan for 1 hour. Then, loosen the sides with a knife and place a plate on top and gently flip over. Repeat with another serving plate so it’s right-side up. Dust with cocoa powder (optional) and serve immediately. Refrigerate if keeping longer than a few days. Freeze for even longer storage.

Frosting is really not necessary. It’s very rich and fudgy on its own.


When you pull the cake out of the oven, it will look like it’s not done in the center. That’s fine, it is. Plus, it’s egg-free so it’s fine if it’s a little fudgy in the middle. However, cook for 5 minutes more if you’re concerned. Cooling in the pan for 1-2 hours will finish “cooking” it and will let it set.

Serving size: 1 piece Calories: 314 Fat: 14 g Carbohydrates: 48 g Sugar: 15 g Fiber: 10 g Protein: 6.5

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Iranian Legume Soup from Ottolenghi’s Plenty More

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iranian legume soup

First of all, Happy Holidays! It has been quite some time since I have posted anything here on Health is Happiness. It is something I think about every day and get asked about almost every day. I put blog work on hold for a little while to focus on some other things, as I mentioned earlier this year.

I am excited to get back into creating, and sharing delicious healthy recipes with everybody. Just because I haven’t been photographing my food doesn’t mean I haven’t been creating deliciousness in the kitchen.

The seasons have changed twice as my last post was in late spring. The beautiful summer weather is now a distant memory. Fall has come and gone and we are well into winter. Although, besides one massive snowstorm here in Montreal, we haven’t had too much to complain about weather wise. What I do love about colder weather is the food it makes you want to eat. Hearty and warming foods that fill your belly! These are some of the dishes that I love to create and cook. Dishes like this Iranian Legume Soup from Ottolenghi’s new book Plenty More that came out in October. One of the many new cookbooks I have added to my collection since my last post.

Plenty More by Ottolenghi

I love buying cookbooks because they are great source of inspiration for my own creations in the kitchen. However I am guilty of rarely actually following a recipe from the books I have.  I decided I am going to make an effort to follow more of the recipes from the many cookbooks I have in my apartment. Plenty More was the first book I decided to tackle. My girlfriend and I each chose a recipe to make. This is the first one we made, and it was delicious! Figured it was as good a time as any to get back into the blog work.

Legume soup from Plenty More

Perfect for a cold winter’s day. A very hearty and filling soup that is a serious meal. Lima beans, chickpeas and split peas with noodles, and a wack load of herbs. Tons of onions and garlic and of course some greens! Just my type of recipe. When I came across it I knew I had to make it.

I omitted the sour cream that Yotam adds when serving the soup because that’s not really my type of thing. If sour cream is your type of thing then I am sure it would be delicious. However I promise you it is awesome without adding it.

The original recipe also called for clarified butter which I substituted for coconut oil.

The one ingredient I added to the recipe was some red chili flakes to add a element of spiciness to the dish. I thought this was a great addition but that is just my opinion. You can be the judge, and decide whether or not to add it, and just the right amount for you.


I hope everyone is having a great holiday season. Wishing everybody a Happy New Year and I will back soon with more recipes. I am sure that we will all be needing some healthy recipes to kick off the new year and get back on track after all the holiday eating.

Iranian Legume Soup from Ottolenghi’s Plenty More
Recipe type: Soup
Cuisine: Iranian
Serves: 8

  • ⅔ cup dried chickpeas soaked in water overnight or 2 cups cooked from a can
  • ⅔ dried lima beans, soaked in water overnight or 2 cups from a can
  • 4 tablespoons coconut oil
  • 2 large onions, thinly sliced
  • 1½ teaspoons turmeric
  • 1 cup yellow split peas, soaked overnight and drained
  • 10 cups vegetable stock
  • ½ teaspoon red chili flakes
  • 1 cup chopped flat leaf parsley
  • 2 cups chopped cilantro leaves
  • 1 cup chopped dill leaves
  • 1 cup thinly sliced green onions, white and green parts
  • 5 cups baby spinach leaves
  • 100g linguine
  • 1½ tablespoon white wine vinegar
  • limes for serving
  • sea salt and black pepper

  1. If using dried beans, drain and rinse the chickpeas and lima beans separately. Place in 2 separate pots and cover with plenty of water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer until just tender. Drain when cooked and set aside until needed. Cooking time can vary with beans so keep a close eye. In my experience lima beans take between 35-45 minutes and chickpeas 45 minutes to an hour.
  2. Place the coconut oil, onions, and garlic in a large pot over medium heat. Cook for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally, until soft and golden brown. Add the turmeric, ½ teaspoon salt, and some freshly ground black pepper. Remove ⅓ of this mixture from the pot and set aside. It will be used for serving.
  3. Add the chickpeas, lima beans, split peas and stock to the pot. Simmer for about 35 minutes until the peas are tender. Skim the froth off the top of the pot occasionally and discard.
  4. Once the peas are tender add the parsley, cilantro, dill, green onions, chili flakes, and spinach. Cook for another 15 minutes. If the soup is really thick add more stock. Add the linguine and cook for another 10 minutes until they are just cooked. Remove from heat and stir in the vinegar. Taste and add more salt and pepper if necessary.
  5. Serve in bowls garnished with a little bit of the reserved onion mixture and a generous squeeze of lime juice to taste.

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The Benefits of Aqua Aerobics Routine (Guest Post)

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When I decided to add some cross training to my exercise routine, one of the guys in my running group suggested I try aqua aerobics. I was surprised, because this guy is super serious about his running. I decided to look into it, and I began to see how beneficial aqua aerobics can be.

So what is aqua aerobics? My first research was just to find out what exactly my buddy was talking about. Aqua aerobics is basically using the pool for other things besides swimming. I went and checked out a couple of classes at my gym, and I was surprised to see that they provided a well rounded exercise routine. The instructor had the class do some cardio moves like jumping jacks in the water, some ab work using a thing called a foam noodle, and even a couple of strength moves. I was pretty impressed. Here are a couple of sites I looked at to see what else might be available: Continue reading

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Spicy Baked Plantain Chips

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Spicy Baked Plantain Chips |

Plantains, oh how I love you so! Especially when crispy and delicious! If you aren’t too familiar with plantains, these spicy baked plantain chips are a good place to start.

This was my first time making plantain chips at home. No, not because I don’t eat plantains often. On the contrary, my gf and I are quite addicted to making tostones which are another delicious snack made with green plantains.

Green plantains! That’s right. Make sure you buy the green ones if you want your chips to be crispy and delicious. The ripened yellow ones will not work for making chips or tostones.

Continue reading

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Have You Tried Cinnamon Toast In A Glass?

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Cinnamon Toast Smoothie |

Are you in the mood for a treat? Something sweet and delicious? How about this Cinnamon Toast Smoothie!? You heard me, cinnamon toast in a glass.

No there isn’t any bread in the recipe silly, nor is there any cinnamon toast crunch cereal. Thank god. Just wholesome healthy ingredients that come together for one awesome smoothie!

This spectacular smoothie is another one of the recipes you can find in Leanne Vogel’s Vibrant Life Cleanse Program & Cookbook.  Last week I shared the C-Punch Smoothie recipe  from the same book (in case you missed it).

I had to share this cinnamon toast one because it actually blew my tastes buds away! It was so good!

It’s a great smoothie to drink after a workout to hold you over until your next nutritious meal! It’s important to replenish your energy quickly after an intense workout.

Cinnamon Toast Smoothie Recipe |

If you didn’t check out Leanne’s book, I definitely recommend it. It is loaded with amazing content! The picture’s are awesome, the recipes are yummy, and it has tons of useful info.

On top of having over 55 Juice & Smoothie recipes it has

  • 7-9-11 day cleanse programs
  • 3 day pre-cleanse meal plan
  • 3 day post-cleanse meal plan
  • Several different style cleanses with shopping lists for each
  • How to deal with cravings
  • Help with choosing the right juicer for you
  • Best way to store you juices & smoothies
  • And more!

Check out the Vibrant Life Cleanse Program & Cookbook for yourself! I promise you will not regret it. Whether you have never made a smoothie or juice before, or are an experienced cleanser, you will love this book.

Sweet Cinnamon Almond Smoothie |

Give this Cinnamon Toast Smoothie a try and let me know what you think! Hopefully you like it as much as I did.

Cinnamon Toast Smoothie
Recipe type: Smoothie
Cuisine: Vegan
Cook time: 
Total time: 

Serves: 1

Cinnamon Toast Smoothie Recipe from Leanne Vogel’s Vibrant Life Cleanse Program and Cookbook.
  • 1 cup nut milk
  • 10 raw almonds
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 4 dates, pitted
  • 1 tsp coconut oil
  • 2 ice cubes

  1. Combine all the ingredients together in a blender and blend until smooth(ie).


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Healthy Moroccan Style Quinoa Salad

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Quinoa Salad with Apricots and Almonds |

This Moroccan style quinoa salad is a perfect example of how healthy food can be full of taste and flavour, as well as incredibly simple to make.

Quinoa is combined with apricots, almonds, and raisins to make a very tasty salad. The addition of flax oil provides a healthy balance of Omega 3s. Lemon juice and mint round out the yumminess of this salad.

The recipe is inspired by a couscous recipe from a Williams-Sonoma cookbook titled Essentials of Mediterranean Cooking. The book is loaded with delicious recipes from Spain, France, Italy, Greece, The Middle East and North Africa. Such a nice variety. I don’t think the book is available new anymore, but you may be able to find a used copy on amazon or somewhere else. Continue reading

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Getting Back Into Smoothies – Vibrant Life Cleanse Program and Cookbook

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c-punch smoothie recipe |

Last year around this time many of us were gearing up for the 30 Day Smoothie Challenge. Spring is a great time to start incorporating smoothies into your diet, and the best time to do a cleanse.  Whether you never have been a smoothie drinker, or you have just fallen off the bandwagon, what are you waiting for!?

Getting your blender out may be just what you need to help do a little internal spring cleaning. It’s time to get outside and get active again. I am very excited that spring is finally here in Montreal, as I am sure others living here and there are too. This has been a particularly long winter.

My friend Leanne Vogel, who you may remember from her 5 Gluten-Free and Vegan Smoothies guest post during the 30 day smoothie challenge last year. She has just released her new Vibrant Life Cleanse Program and Cookbook. This may be just what you need to get on track. Leanne can seriously help you improve your health.

The Vibrant Life Cleanse Program and Cookbook has over 55 dairy-free, vegan & gluten-free juice & smoothie recipes, 7-, 9- and 11- day cleanse programs plus all the tools you need to cleanse with success.

Tell me that doesn’t sound awesome? For those of you who are familiar with Leanne’s blog, Healthful Pursuit, you know that everything she does is awesome. Her recipes are mouth watering and her pictures always stunning!

Some of you may know her because of all the incredible dessert recipes she comes up with. I have tried a few (made by Leanne), and let me tell you, they are to die for. Her Dessert Freedom Cookbook is a must for anyone who loves dessert. She makes healthy desserts without sacrificing any of the delicious tastes we love, and sometimes crave!

health is

The Vibrant Life Cleanse Program & Cookbook is for people that are ready to stop letting cravings rule their lives. On the surface, it’s about juices, smoothies and cleansing. But really, it’s about activating your most radiant self.

This book will show you how to:

  • Effortlessly use juices & smoothies to boost your health
  • Listen to your body and know when you’re legitimately satisfied
  • Move into, through, and out of a cleanse safely, and with shining results

The recipe below is one of the delicious green smoothie recipes from the book. I have tried a few recipes already, and they are awesome!

By purchasing the Vibrant Life Cleanse Program and Cookbook you are helping support all the free content that is found on Healthful Pursuit and Health is Happiness. So thank you for your support, it is much appreciated!

C-Punch Smoothie Recipe from Vibrant Life Cleanse Cookbook
Recipe type: Smoothie
Cuisine: Vegan
Cook time: 
Total time: 

Serves: 1-2

A simple and delicious green smoothie recipe from Leanne Vogel’s Vibrant Life Cleanse Program and Cookbook.
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 banana
  • 1 orange
  • ½ fresh mango
  • 1 cup packed spinach

  1. Add all the ingredients to a blender. Blend until smooth.


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Filed under Gluten-Free, Green Smoothies, Raw, Recipes, Smoothies

Vegan Mushroom Risotto

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vegan mushroom risotto

Vegan Risotto? I know a lot of you may be skeptical, but give it a chance. On top of the lack of cheese and butter that traditional risotto is made with this one is made with short grain brown rice! Vegan mushroom risotto with brown rice. “Can’t be good” you are probably thinking to yourself, especially if you don’t like mushrooms.

Well it is! Take it from someone who would not even eat mushrooms as a child. It’s a delicious dish made with healthy short grain brown rice, meaning you can feel good about eating it! Serve it with some steamed kale on the side and you really have a healthy and first rate meal.

Making risotto is not difficult, although it does take a little bit of time. I personally find the process quite relaxing. The more love you put into your risotto, the yummier it will be. Continue reading

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Spicy Sesame and Ginger Bok Choy with Bean Sprouts

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sautéed bok choy & bean sprouts

This simple recipe of bok choy and bean sprouts is a great healthy side dish. It packs lots of flavour thanks to the chilies, ginger, garlic, and of course sesame oil. How yummy is sesame oil?

I had some bok choy and bean sprouts in the fridge. Some of the ingredients I had a few nights earlier for a stir fry.  I wanted to create a recipe to share on the blo,g but didn’t have much to work with.

I love putting myself in the kitchen, and getting creative with what I have. Even if it is quite limited. Some of my favourite recipes were born by just surrounding myself with ingredients ,and creating on the fly, experimenting. This is something that many people aren’t very comfortable with, that is creating vs following a recipe. It is a great way to improve your cooking skills. Get creative.

I love looking at cookbooks and other blogs for inspiration as well, but often the best inspiration for deliciousness are the ingredients themselves.

Continue reading

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Helping Students Succeed With Nutrition (Ottawa U)

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For most students what and when to eat is not always a top priority. While other things may seem much more pressing than proper nutrition, eating well can often make all the difference.

As the health trend continues to grow, more universities and students are taking a stronger interest in proper nutrition.

Eating well can help boost productivity, mental capacity, motivation, and overall success. While eating well is just one piece of the puzzle, it is often a missing one.

Developing healthy eating habits as a student means developing healthy habits for adulthood. I am so happy to see that Universities are stepping up with helping students develop some of these healthy habits. This can have such a huge impact on the rest of their lives. Continue reading

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