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Products That Make Momsense

August 14, 2012 - Betsy Bethel
As a parenting magazine editor and lifestyles associate editor for the Wheeling papers, I get pitched a lot of products. I try to hang onto what I think are the best ones so I can share them with you a few times a year. I also try to keep my eye out in the marketplace for things that look like they would make the hardest job on earth — being a parent — a little easier or more fun. So without further ado, here is the latest edition of Products That Make Momsense.

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In the FOOD category:

Wonder Smartwhite — With the current focus on childhood obesity and better nutrition for our kids, the quintessential white bread company has switched up its game to remain a player in the 21st century school lunch box. According to Wonder, "Smartwhite for Kids contains no high fructose corn syrup, provides the same amount of fiber as 100 percent whole wheat bread, the calcium of an 8-ounce glass of milk and has only 50 calories per slice. Two slices of Smartwhite for Kids contain nine essential vitamins and minerals, including iron, vitamin D and folic acid. The bread also has 25 percent less sodium than regular white bread." Having said all of that, I haven't tasted it. If you or your kids have, let us know what you think!

Unreal 8 by Unjunked — Chocolate caramel peanut nougat bar — This candy bar does not pretend to be good for you, unlike some cereal or fiber bars whose marketing people have few scruples. But if I had the choice of this bar and a Snickers, I'm choosing this baby. What's so great about it? What it DOESN'T have: artificial anything, hydrogenated oils, corn syrups, preservatives and genetically modified organisms. What it DOES have: 200 calories, 5 grams protein and 5 grams of fiber. This is one product that wasn't pitched to me, I just saw them on display at a local drug store and tried them out. It even tastes better than a Snickers, which I find can be too cloyingly too sweet.

Allergen-free Finds — A couple companies have recently reached out to me touting their allergen-free sweet treats. Skeeter Snacks' new cookies are 100 percent nut-free — no peanuts, no tree nuts. All three varieties — chocolate chunk, golden oatmeal and Skeeterdoodle — are everything a cookie should be, full of crispy, chewy deliciousness. The other company, Gimbal's Fine Candies, has won my heart and my taste buds. Gimbal's are now my new favorite brand of jelly bean. They have as many flavors, if not more, than Jelly Belly, but are made in a facility that is free from peanuts, tree nuts, dairy, eggs, gluten and soy, plus they are made without gelatin, are certified kosher and made in the U.S. They do, however, contain corn syrup. In addition to the gourmet jelly beans, they make a Cherry Lovers bag of heart-shaped fruit chews made with real cherry juice that come in nine flavors — wild cherry, chocolate cherry, cherry cola, kiwi cherry, cherry vanilla, black cherry, cherry cheesecake, bing cherry and cherry daiquiri. I keep the bag in my desk drawer to quell my mid-afternoon sweet-tooth attack and fall in love all over again with each sweet bite.

This one isn't a food but a helpful tool involving the food our children eat every day. "Eat This Not That! for Kids" by David Zinczenko with Matt Goulding is a small but jam-packed paperback tome with glossy pages that feature thousands of food swaps to help families make better decisions when eating out, in the school lunch line or at the grocery store. For example, at Panera, choose a half chicken salad sandwich on whole wheat (an adult menu item) with a small fruit cup as opposed to the kid's PB&J with a strawberry yogurt tube, which the authors maintain is much higher in sugar and lower in nutrients. Each two-page restaurant spread includes a grade and report-card commentary, nutrition information, tricks and tips for choosing the best meals, plus the main "eat this" and "not that" featured items, along with several other good and poor choice suggestions. In the supermarket section, it features products in a variety of categories — frozen breakfast food, cereal, boxed and canned soup, etc. — and divides them into "eat this" and "not that." There are tips for packing the perfect school lunch, and the chapter on eating at home features menus for every day of the week and 10 healthier kid-favorite recipes, plus a holiday eating guide. Zinczenko is editor-in-chief of Men's Health and editorial director of Women's Health, while Goulding is a trained chef and food journalist. The book is part of the Kohl's Cares program and is available at Kohl's and The net profits from the book go to support kids' health and education initiatives. Some surprises: 1) A 6-inch roast beef on wheat is a better choice than a 4-inch tuna salad on white at Subway. (Also, a tip on the Subway page: "Cornell researchers have discovered a 'health halo' at Subway, which refers to the tendency to reward yourself or your kid with chips, cookies and large soft drinks because the entree is healthy. Avoid the halo and all will be well." 2) A crunchy beef taco is better than a chicken soft taco at Taco Bell. "These tacos may seem similar but with the soft tacos, you're getting nearly twice the calories, 75 percent more fat and more than double the sodium." 3) The Arby's Melt is recommended over the roasted turkey and swiss sandwich (303 calories v. 708 calories).

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In the GADGET category:

You've heard and probably tried all the methods of getting rid of the hiccups. My daughter's favorite is the "scare" technique — that is, she likes to do it to me when I have the hiccups. Unfortunately, it rarely works and usually just ends up with my drink spilled on my shirt. I've always thought a spoonful of sugar does the trick, but I have neglected to introduce her to that method for fear she'd fake the common but annoying diaphragm blip every hour. Now some genius has devised a hiccup-curing doohickey, called the Hicural. It is a piece of plastic about the length of a pencil. You put it in your mouth lengthwise (think of the way a tango dancer holds a rose), and then drink a glass of water, letting the liquid pass over the tool (and trying not to dribble it all down your chin — which is ALMOST as likely as it is using the "scare" method, but not quite). That's all there is to it. We have found it works about 50 percent of the time, which is a lot better odds than "Boo!" Available online.

AIRbudz — These we haven't tried, but they make a lot of sense to me. They are little earbud attachments — they look like cages — that allow background noise to filter in, keeping the listener more aware of his or her surroundings (I'm thinking of parents in the front seat trying to communicate via shouting, sign language or angry arm-flapping to the kid in the back plugged into the DVD player or iPod). Designer SafeSounds says AIRbudz fit approximately 70 percent of headphones with removable earbuds that are currently on the market.

OneStepAhead is a go-to catalog for nifty gadgets that make life easier for parents and kids. Flipping through the one that came in the mail today, I saw one great tool in particular that every parent should own. It's called the Juice Pal and it holds juice boxes and pouches. Instead of the child holding — and inevitably squeezing, which leads to squirting — the box or pouch, the child holds the handles of the Juice Pal. Keeping them from making a mess by removing the straw and squirting juice everywhere is still up to the parent. (Good luck with that.) But anyway, how cool is that?! It's also insulated, just in case your kid isn't like mine and takes longer than 30 seconds to slurp down his drink.

For the super-organized mom or the family with little cupboard space to spare, these products might come in handy: the Universal Baby Bottle and Sippy Cup Organizer, which stores up to 12 bottles or sippy cups, and the Universal Baby Food Jar Organizer, which stores up to 16 jars of baby food. The white plastic organizer shelves are adjustable and stackable, dishwasher safe, and can be stored in the pantry, fridge or freezer. Enter to win these products by sending an email to me at, putting the word "Organizer" in the subject line. I'll draw two winners, one of the bottles/sippy cups and one for the jars. If you have a preference, note that in your email, please. Deadline to enter is Friday, Aug. 17.

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In the JUST FOR MOM category:

This book offer was too good to pass up and also falls into the "Why didn't I think of that" category: "Mommy Mixology: A Cocktail for Every Calamity" by mom and humor writer Janet Frongillo. You've heard "there's an app for that"? Well, in Frongillo's world, there's a drink for that. From pregnancy-friendly (read non-alcoholic) concoctions like Paddy O'Preggo, made with Sprite, lime juice and lime sherbet, to the Markerita for those days when you realized a smidge too late that the kids were being a smidge too quiet, to the Kindergarten Kooler for fast relief on the first day of school — the book is a fun read and a wealth of drink recipes that surely will come in handy soon ... real soon. "You're a mom — not a martyr," Frongillo concludes. "Needing a break from your kids doesn't make you a bad mom. Moms take care of everyone. Sometimes we need to take a break to take care of ourselves, even if it's just putting our feet up with a cocktail and a good book." Kill two birds with one stone with this little gem. (Just don't tell the kids you killed a bird or you might need a double Emergentini.)


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