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Patch Picks For Healthy Families

Simple changes can improve your family's health as the holidays (and holiday eating) descend.

Sure, 'tis the season for pumpkin pies and peppermint sticks, but for that very reason, November is a great month to think about healthy eating.

The national Parent Teacher Association (PTA) has designated November as Healthy Lifestyles month. Knowing that a healthy child can achieve and learn more, local PTAs nationwide are encouraging families to increase their physical activity, eat fresh fruits and vegetables, develop community oriented physical activity programs and promote lifelong healthy behaviors.

As for adults, we all know the holidays are coming. Minimize their effect on your waistline by making some easy changes at home now.

Shop smart
"Limit the junk you have in the house," said Kim Seiden, a Northbrook nutrition consultant, past president of the PTA, and mother of three. "That doesn't mean you can't have chips and pretzels and things, but get away from preservatives. Look for ingredients that are all natural." in Wilmette offers a wide variety of organic foods. Or, for a treat, check out the soups, strudel and sweets at Organic Bakery and Cafe in Glenview.

Plan ahead
"At my house, on the table I always have a big bowl of fruit, and on the counter I have a bowl of nuts and dry fruit for snacks that we can all grab on the go, rather than reaching for a piece of candy," Seiden said. , in Highland Park, can help you keep these bowls full - and since it's located at the Clavey Road exit off of Route 41, it's an easy stop for commuters.

Add your own touches
"I sneak extra vegetables into everything: soups, marinara sauce," Seiden said. With marinara sauce, for example, she adds diced carrots and zucchini, and fresh spinach at the very end to get a full serving of vegetables into a family favorite. Stock up on fresh produce at Whole Foods Markets in and . Or, if you don't feel like chopping, pick up a salad at Glenview's Chop It Up.

Make a plate
Every dinner at the Seiden house has two vegetable side dishes. And some are as simple as roasting family favorites with olive oil, salt and pepper. "Cut some things up and roast them. It's a wonderful flavor and a great way to eat vegetables." Find new recipes for vegetable dishes at your local library or bookstore, like Northbrook's or Highland Park's .

Treat yourself
Craving ice cream? Try a smoothie instead. Seiden says making cold fruit and vegetable beverages with yogurt, skim milk or peanut butter at home is a great way to get an extra fruit or vegetable into your diet. Or, stop by Highland Park's when you're running errands.

Get out more
"If you're trying to beat the winter blues, get out and go for a walk," Seiden said. "Just because it's not summer, that doesn't mean it's not a good day fo a walk." Great winter activities include snow-shoeing at Sportsman's Country Club in Northbrook or . Get the cold wear gear you'll need at Glenview's or Northbrook's .

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