Friday, August 14, 2015

A Balanced Buddy

Each morning during the school year, I slip out of bed at 6:40, put my hair up, change into whatever I'm wearing that day (inevitably something cotton), grab my water bottle and head out the door. If my morning's particularly busy, it means I stopped at Starbucks. While I've often showered and taken care of anything aesthetically related the night before (playing the game before the game as my fiance and I like to say) I take pride in my ten minute regimen, even though my day inevitably becomes less efficient. And while I feel I've mastered a morning routine for myself (although, at the age of 32, I'm not sure if this classifies as an accomplishment) I recognize there is an entire group of women who not only do this for themselves but streamline routines for little ones. Barbarellas: Queens of the Galaxy, Amazonians, mothers: whatever you want to call them, they never fail to impress me.

Balance, always key

One such woman is my sister-in-law, Elisabeth Kraemer. Mother of three, teacher and friend, I am consistently impressed by her ability to maintain a balance between family, work and social life... all while making it look fun! And just as quick morning routines are sometimes the result of previous work and planning, I've learned from her that maintaining a balanced home and family life often results from the same procedures, albeit with the resourcefulness of the original Amazonian, Wonder Woman. For Liz, this balance is helped, in part, by a device of her own creation: My Balance Buddy. While maintaining balance often begins with a balanced diet, giving one the energy he or she needs to get through an oft hectic day, My Balance Buddy helps both parents and children track their daily, dietary needs through an easy to use chart, allowing for the organization of what I've learned can be the most stressful point in a parent's day: meal time. As I've always joked I need something of a Balance Buddy in my life, I got the chance to ask Liz about its creation and application. Enjoy!

1. How did you first conceive of the idea for My Balance Buddy?

 When my oldest son was 3 years old, I noticed that rewards charts really gave him great incentive to help around the house (for example, if you put your clothes in the hamper, you get a star).  He was such a picky eater, that I thought this type of incentive chart for balanced eating could help encourage him to eat healthier.  I searched Amazon (where I buy everything) for a product like this, and I was surprised to learn it didn't exist.  The teacher in me decided to make my own chart.  Grant (my oldest) loved my hand-made version, and it was working (he started eating veggies with dinner)! I then started thinking about my 3rd graders.  During Science, we would learn about healthy eating.  I thought instead of just reading about it, I could have my students try out balanced eating using their own charts.  That's when I got a professional graphic designer involved and a company that would actually make the product.  I am using grant money this year from Action for Healthy Kids to give every 3rd grader at my school My Balance Buddy to use during our healthy eating unit.

2. How does My Balance Buddy work?

My Balance Buddy helps people keep track of nutritional needs by using a visual magnetic puzzle.  Basically, the five essential food groups (grains, dairy, protein, veggies and fruit) are separated, color coded and divided into smaller portions which ultimately add up to their respective daily values. Any time a kid eats from one of the food groups, he/she places a magnet in that food category.  There is a handy food group table included with the magnetic chart that gives examples of foods equal to one magnet (for example, the table shows that one banana would earn a child one addition to the fruit group). I researched food amounts for each food group on for both boys and girls ages 3-10 years, but adults have even used it as a loose guide on what to eat.

3. Where can one find My Balance Buddy for purchase?

My Balance Buddy is available on Amazon for $14.99 and can be accessed here. I also have a Balance Buddy website (featured above and here).

So there you have it. A device to add balance to any of our lives. Recently, I noticed that as my diet wanders into new food groups, the more I actually think about and naturally eat a balanced diet on the daily rather than eat sugar one day and veggies the next. Sometimes it just takes getting back to basics (and a buddy) to put you back on track!

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