Much of yesterday’s baby wisdom has been proven untrue today…where do you rank? JCFamilies is all about staying informed! 🙂


Myth: Infants need to be bathed every day.

The truth: Babies don’t get stinky from sweat the way adults do, so they only need a bath every two or three days (except following a major diaper explosion!). If it’s part of your wind-down routine, a daily bath is perfectly okay too–just moisturize afterwards.


Myth: Babies sleep best in a room that’s silent and dark.

The truth: While some children really are light sleepers, most do fine with background noise and a little light. Plus, if your little one gets used to some activity around him when he’s sleeping, he’ll be more willing to snooze in a variety of situations.



Myth: When infants are running a high temperature, rub them down with alcohol to lower their fever.

The truth: Rubbing your baby with alcohol won’t actually bring down her fever–plus it’s unsafe, since alcohol can be absorbed through her skin.


Myth: Letting your little one stand or bounce in your lap can cause bowlegs later on.

The truth: He won’t become bowlegged; that’s just an old wives’ tale. Moreover, young babies are learning how to bear weight on their legs and find their center of gravity, so letting your child stand or bounce is both fun and developmentally stimulating for him.


Myth: Listening to classical music will raise your baby’s IQ.

The truth: Music can enrich a little one’s life, but no conclusive research has found that having a baby listen to classical music in particular can result in significant brain-boosting benefits.


Myth: Let your baby cry it out; if you pick her up whenever she’s wailing, you’ll spoil her.

The truth: Babies under 4 months of age have few self-soothing strategies; they know how to suck to soothe and like being swaddled, but that’s about it. Picking infants up when they cry helps them learn that parents will always be there to take care of them.


Myth: Babies should be woken up in the night to have a wet diaper changed.

The truth: Urine is sterile, and today’s diapers are highly absorbent, so it’s fine to leave a baby in a wet diaper overnight. However, staying in poopy diaper for too long can cause a UTI or a bladder infection, especially for baby girls–so if you smell one, change it out.


Myth: It’s dangerous to immunize your infant if he has a cold or a low-grade fever.

The truth: A minor illness won’t lower your baby’s immune-system response to a vaccination–or increase his risk of any nasty reactions from a shot.


Myth: Never apply sunscreen to an infant under 6 months of age.

The truth: The risk of skin cancer down the road from sun exposure is greater than the risk of your baby having a reaction to sunscreen. It’s best to keep her away from dangerous UV rays as much as possible from 10 A.M. to 4 P.M., but put on sunscreen with at least 15 SPF if she’ll be in the sun. The AAP says that it’s fine to apply a minimal amount of sunscreen to small areas, such as a baby’s face and the back of the hands.


Myth: During the first month of a baby’s life, it’s critical that all baby bottles and nipples be sterilized.

The truth: Sterilize bottles and nipples when you first take them out of the package–but after that, washing with soap and water is fine. Babies are exposed to many more germs than those that remain on a well-scrubbed bottle or nipple.


Myth: The safest way to put an infant to sleep is on her stomach.

The truth: The safest sleep position for a baby is on its back. In the past, doctors worried that babies might choke on any spit-up if they weren’t lying on their tummy or side, but studies ultimately linked these positions to higher rates of SIDS.


Myth: Putting rice cereal in your infant’s bottle will help him sleep.

The truth: Hold off on introducing solids until 4 to 6 months. Research suggests that babies who are given solids before 4 months are actually worse sleepers than their formula-fed counterparts–an studies have revealed a link between the early introduction of solids and obesity later in life.


Myth: It’s critical to keep your baby on a strict feeding schedule.

The truth: It’s better to feed on demand, as infants’ internal hunger cues will tell them when they’re hungry and when they’re full. By putting your child on a feeding schedule, you may negatively affect your little one’s inborn healthy-eating habits.


Myth: Infants need hard-soled shoes to protect their delicate toes and keep their feet properly aligned.

The truth: Babies use their toes to grip the surfaces that they’re walking on, so they should actually go shoeless indoors. To keep tiny tootsies safe outside, get a shoe with a good grip on the sole–hard-soled shoes can be too slippery.

How Much Is Enough?

Parents, especially brand-new ones, are full of questions. How long should baby sleep? When should he start rolling over, sitting up, cooing? What about naps — when and how often? It would be nice to spend a leisurely hour with the pediatrician, getting all the answers, but one-third of parents say well-visit check-ups last less than 10 minutes, according to new research published Monday in the journal Pediatrics.

Perhaps even more surprising is that just half of those short visits included a developmental assessment, which is frequently the main reason for well-child visits. Most surprising of all, though, is that most parents reported high levels of satisfaction even with an in-and-out doctor visits, indicating either that pediatricians are doing a good job covering a lot of ground in little time or that parents don’t know to expect otherwise.

“Lots of market forces require you do as much as you can in as little time as possible,” says Neal Halfon, lead author and director of the Center for Healthier Children, Families and Communities at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). “One might wonder that some people find an under-10-minute visit very satisfying, but perhaps they’re not looking for the Marcus Welby moment. Or they might not know any different.”

When my baby was a “baby” — and afterward — the actual physical, hands-on segment of the doctor visit amounted to no more than a couple minutes. Hearing the doc pronounce my child “perfect” always made me smile, of course, but the real value in the 20 to 30 minutes he spent with me was in the education I received. Probably because I’m extremely detail-oriented, I always arrived armed with a list of questions, which he always took the time to answer fully.

But that kind of attention seems uncommon, according to the Pediatrics study. Researchers asked the parents of nearly 2,000 babies and toddlers to describe their child’s last check-up: how long it lasted and what topics the doctor covered, including immunizations, breast-feeding, injury prevention, developmental milestones and psychosocial issues. They also looked at parents’ overall satisfaction with the visits and whether they felt the care was “family-centered,” which means that parents felt doctors recognized their authority.

A third of parents indicated that doctors spent less than 10 minutes with them, 47% reported visits lasting between 11 to 20 minutes and 20% said their visits were at least 21 minutes long.

Not surprisingly, parents reported less “family-centered” care and fewer preventive-care discussions during the shorter visits. There’s a huge push in medical care to emphasize prevention — teaching kids to exercise and eat well when they’re young, for example, rather than waiting until adolescence to treat obesity — but the Pediatrics research shows that demands on physicians’ time are restricting their ability to emphasize preventive care or delve into dicier topics.

Even what many pediatricians consider critical developmental assessments are falling by the wayside: they are performed just 70% of the time in the longest visits and only half of the time during the shortest visits. Isn’t the whole point of a well-child visit to determine whether kids are meeting developmental milestones? “One would think,” says Halfon, who is also a professor of pediatrics at UCLA.

But for many children who are not as privileged as mine, developmental assessments may not be top priority; just getting adequate nutrition into a low-income child is often the primary focus.

Still, the more time doctors can spend with patients, the more topics they’re able to discuss — including psychosocial and developmental issues, such as getting along with other kids and relating to siblings. During longer visits, doctors were also more likely to address psychosocial risk factors such as alcohol use at home or family violence, the study found.

“It’s intuitive,” says Halfon. “As a pediatrician, if you know you have only 10 minutes, you’re not going to open up a topic that potentially deserves exploration and sensitive interaction if you have one foot out the door.”

At the shorter visits, doctors tended to hit the high points — immunizations, breast-feeding — and cover other issues as time allowed. Yet although longer doctor visits yielded higher satisfaction levels, parents were also pleased with the material covered in the shortest visits. Longer visits were associated with more time to discuss more topics, but 82% of those who spent the least time with the doctor said they were “very satisfied”; for those who spent the most time, the proportion rose to 91%.

In the shortest-visit group, 89% of parents said they were able to ask all their questions, compared with 99% of parents in the longest-visit group.

And, in perhaps the most telling indicator of satisfaction, researchers found that a majority of parents in all groups would recommend their pediatrician to others — 73% of parents who reported the shortest visits and 85% of those who spent the most time with the doctor.


Would you? 

Apple Pie

Here you are! This is the BEST apple pie recipe in the history of apple pie recipes! 






From my recipe box to yours – ENJOY! 

Soymilk and fat-free ingredients offer a health twist to delicious bread pudding. 

Prep time: 15 min
Start to finish: 50 min
Makes: 8 servings


cup unsweetened applesauce
1 cup vanilla soymilk
1/2 cup fat-free egg product
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon vanilla
5 cups 1-inch cubes French bread
3 tablespoons sliced almonds
1/4 cup caramel fat-free topping, heated


Heat oven to 350°F. Spray 9-inch quiche dish or pie plate with cooking spray.
2. In large bowl, mix all ingredients except bread, almonds and caramel topping with wire whisk until smooth. Fold in bread. Pour into quiche dish; sprinkle with almonds.
3. Bake 30 to 35 minutes or until golden brown and set. Cut into wedges. Drizzle caramel topping over each serving.


Should We Say “Sorry”?

When determining your family’s answer to this question, you will need to go back to the foundation—your own family values. Why does one apologize? When we feel remorseful for our behaviour, we find the courage to ask for forgiveness. This can be a difficult process and is most effective when it comes from within.


If you are directing your child to say sorry ‘in the moment’, you are not teaching, you are forcing them and potentially entering a power-struggle. This is an external motivation and will likely not result in a sincere apology, so the message is not really value-based (remorse, forgiveness, honesty).


Real teaching happens when we are not ‘in the moment’. During family times, when you’re at the dinner table, or on a car-ride, you can introduce the question, ‘What are our values?’ You might ask, ‘What happens if you treat someone poorly? What should you do? How do you make amends? What are some words you can use?’ Families can role-play this for practice.


If your child did something wrong, and an apology was not offered, you can wait for a quiet moment and remind the child, ‘It is still expected that you will apologize to your friend. Will you be writing a note, making a phone call or shall I drive you there? Do you need my help in coming up with what to say?’


Lastly, make expectations known. ‘The next time you hurt a friend, we expect you to apologize at the time. When you choose not to, your behaviour is telling us that you are not ready to go back for another play date.’


If the child is too young to get this, we can model for our children by saying, ‘I need to apologize on behalf of our family for Johnny’s behaviour.’



Remember, your behaviour is the best example for setting family values. Children watch you more than they listen to you.

Five Ways to Celebrate Baby’s First Halloween – Having fun with your little pumpkin

At last! Having a baby means moms like us finally have a reason to act like a kid again on October 31. Here are a few of my ideas on how to ring in baby’s first Halloween.

1. Go All Out
Baby’s first Halloween means everything  is new again, and it’s only going to get better, so invest in those cobwebs, candy bowls, and bags of bones. Start creating a great inventory to dig into every October. 

2. Introduce ‘em to Jack
Head to your local pumpkin patch – be it supermarket display or pumpkin farm – and take plenty of photos. Whether your little one is big enough to sit in his high chair or still spends most of his time on his back, set up a kitchen station for all of you and get to carving as a family.

3. Keep the Creepy to a Minimum
You want your child to love All Hallow’s Eve, so make baby’s first Halloween memorable in a positive ways. See a scary skeleton? Giggle at the spooky stuff. Need a tutorial on appreciating the ooky and creepy? Watch a few reruns of The Addams Family once baby is asleep for the night. 

4. Dress Up
Whether baby was born in January or June, he’s or she not too young to dress up for his first Halloween. Some of the best first Halloween costumes are witches, cats, and ghosts. Or be trendy with a baby Harry Potter — miniature broom, lightning bolt scar, tiny Gryffindor scarf, and all.

5. Go Digital
Grandparents live too far away for doorstep trick-or-treating? Celebrate baby’s 1st Halloween via Skype! Even more festive — mom and dad dress up too.


For Siaraa she was 11 months when she enjoyed her first halloween and ate her first candy 🙂 which she got it on her own from her trick a treat basket … and that was a moment to capture for me …. she just loved the candies and choclates since then and can never stop her from eating




When i didnt had my daughter .. i use to love winters go out without even wearing my winter jacket .

Cause i really love this weather … but yes its ok for sometime later its get depressing …

And now as being a mother of a 21 month old … yes yes terrible 2 ….:)

I am really getting worried … that the fall season is just started and its so cold

I have to think twice to get out of my house and take my daughter out and specially when the kid is moody to sit in stroller and then doesnt likes wearing jacket and caps 🙁 and then  … thinking what if she catches cold and what if she falls sick ….

Cause i really hate seeing her when she is sick 🙁 i am sure all moms hate it when their kids are sick


I would really love if some of the moms can share their experience how they take their kids out in winter and what all they do and how they take precautions for their kids in winter ???  and yes at the same time how to enjoy in winter with ur kid 🙂

Terrible Twos !!! why are 2 years old so difficult :)


The terrible twos are a normal stage in a toddler’s development characterized by mood changes, temper tantrums and a familiarity with the word “no.” The terrible twos typically occur when toddlers begin to struggle between their reliance on adults and their desire for independence, which may begin even before a child’s first birthday. One minute a child may be clinging to his or her parents, and the next he or she is running in the opposite direction and disobeying them.

While the terrible twos can be difficult for parents and caregivers to navigate, keep in mind that 2-year-olds don’t have it easy. No longer infants but not quite ready for preschool either, 2-year-olds undergo major motor, intellectual, social and emotional changes. Their vocabulary is constantly growing, they’re eager to do things on their own, and they begin to discover that they’re expected to follow certain rules. However, most 2-year-olds still aren’t able to move as swiftly as they’d like, clearly communicate their needs or control their feelings. This can lead to frustration and result in misbehavior — in other words, the terrible twos.

If your child is in the midst of the terrible twos, expect that you’ll occasionally lose patience with each other. Try to stay calm, however. When your child has a temper tantrum, offer comfort or ignore the behavior. Try to limit your use of the word “no” and, instead, use other forms of discipline, such as redirection or humor. In addition, be sure to praise your child for appropriate behavior. By accepting the changes your child is going through and showing him or her love and respect, you’ll help your child make it through this difficult stage with confidence 🙂

I’m pregnant! Having a Doula: Is a Doula for Me?

If you would like to speak with me about how I can help you achieve the birth experience you desire, please feel free to contact me!

Denise Bonnin

 908 917 9708


Having a Doula: Is a Doula for Me?



The word doula is a Greek word that means women’s servant. Women have been serving other women in childbirth for centuries and have proven that this support from another woman has positive effects on the labor process.

My husband (partner) is my left hand and my doula is my right. – from Doulas Making a Difference

What is a doula?

A doula is a professional trained in childbirth who provides emotional, physical and informational support to the woman who is expecting, in labor or has recently given birth. The doula’s role is to help women have a safe, memorable and empowering birthing experience.

Most often the word doula is referring to the birth doula, or labor support companion, but there is also the antepartum doula and the postpartum doula. In the following information, the word doula will be referring to the labor doula. Doulas can also be called labor companions, labor support specialist, labor support professional, birth assistants or labor assistants.

What does a doula do?

Most doula and client relationships begin a few months before the baby is due. During this time, they establish a relationship that gives the mother complete freedom to ask questions, express fears and concerns, and take an active role in creating a birth plan. Most doulas make themselves available to the mother by phone to answer questions or explain any developments that may arise in pregnancy. Doulas do not provide any type of medical care. However, they are knowledgeable in the medical aspect of labor and delivery so they can help their clients get a better understanding of procedures and complications that may arise in late pregnancy or during delivery.

During delivery, doulas are in constant, close proximity to the mother at all times. They can provide comfort with pain relief techniques, such as breathing, relaxing, massage and laboring positions. Doulas also encourage participation from the partner and offer reassurance. A doula acts as an advocate for the mother, encouraging her in her desires for her birth. The goal of a doula is to help the mother have a positive and safe birth experience, whether the mother wants an un-medicated birth or is having a planned cesarean birth.

After the birth, many labor doulas will spend a short time helping mothers begin the breastfeeding process and encouraging bonding between the new baby and family members.

What are the benefits of having a doula?

Numerous studies have revealed the benefits of having a doula present during labor. A recent Cochrane Review, Continuous Support for Women During Childbirth, revealed a very high number of positive birth outcomes when a doula was present. When a doula was present, women were less likely to have pain relief medications administered, less likely to have a cesarean birth, and reported having a more positive childbirth experience1.

Other studies have shown that having a doula as part of the birth team decreases the overall cesarean rate by 50%, the length of labor by 25%, the use of oxytocin by 40% and the request for an epidural by 60%2.

Doulas often use the power of touch and massage to reduce stress and anxiety during labor. According to physicians Marshal Klaus and John Kennell, massage helps stimulate the production of natural oxytocin. The pituitary gland secretes natural oxytocin to the bloodstream which causes uterine contractions and also secretes it to the brain, which results in a feeling of well being, drowsiness and a raised pain threshold. Synthetic IV oxytocin cannot cross into the blood stream and brain, so it increases contractions without the positive psychological effects of natural oxytocin.

What about the father’s role when using a doula?

The role of the doula is never to take the place of the husband or partner in labor, but to compliment and enhance their experience. Today, many husbands are taking a more active role in the birth process, but some partners feel that this is a huge expectation and would rather be able to enjoy the delivery without having to stand in as labor coach. With a doula as a part of the birth team, a father can do whatever he feels comfortable with at each moment. Doulas can encourage the father to use comfort measures and can step in when he needs a break. Having a doula allows the father to be able to support his partner emotionally during labor and birth and also enjoy it himself without the pressure to remember everything he learned in childbirth class!

Are doulas only useful if planning an un-medicated birth?

The presence of a doula can be beneficial no matter what type of birth you are planning. Many women do report needing fewer interventions when they have a doula, but the role of the doula is to help you have a safe and pleasant birth, not to choose your type of birth. For women who know they want a medicated birth, the doula still provides emotional support, informational support and comfort measures to help the women through labor and the administration of medications. Doulas can work alongside medication by helping mom deal with possible side effects and filling in the gap that medication may not cover; rarely does medication take all discomfort away.

For a mother who faces a cesarean, a doula can be helpful by providing constant support and encouragement. Often a cesarean is an unexpected situation and moms are left feeling unprepared, disappointed and lonely. A doula can be with the mother at all times throughout a cesarean, explaining what is going on throughout the procedure while the partner is able to attend to the baby and accompany the newborn to the nursery if problems arise.

What about other types of doulas?

There are three types of doulas: the Antepartum Doula, the Labor Doula and the Postpartum Doula:

Antepartum Doulas provide help and support to a mom who has been put on bed rest or is experiencing a high risk-pregnancy. They provide informational, emotional, physical and practical support in a situation that is often stressful, confusing and emotionally draining.

Postpartum Doulas are there to support you in your first weeks of being a mom. They provide informational support about feeding and caring for the baby. They provide physical support by cleaning, cooking meals and filling in when mom needs a break, and they provide emotional support by encouraging a mom during those times when she feels overwhelmed.

Some doulas are trained in more than one area and can provide service as more than one type of doula.

Finding a Doula:

The most important thing while deciding on a doula, is finding someone with whom you feel comfortable and in whom you feel confident. Most doulas do not charge for an initial consultation and interview, so take the time to interview several until you find the one that meets your needs.


Birthday Planning 101

I love JCFamilies! There are so many mommies to connect with, and this site offers so much in networking! With that said, I’ve received quite a ring of emails regarding HOW I am able to zone in on so many things without losing my marbles; specifically, birthday planning. 


My baby boy is due to be the BIG FIVE very soon, I cannot even fathom it. But as we all know, it comes whether your are ready or not. So the best thing to do is BUCKLE YOUR SEATBELT AND ENJOY THE RIDE! 


Involving your child in his/her birthday plans is a great way to make him/her feel responsible and respected. Some suggestions for making both of you happy:

  • You decide the big issues, like where. Don’t feel you have to indulge every whim. A party at your home can be much cheaper than going elsewhere — and just as much fun.
  • Let your child pick the theme. This doesn’t mean that everything from decor to games needs to reflect Superman or fairy motifs. Most kids this age are satisfied if their cake, plates, and party hats fit the theme.
  • Resist inviting the whole preschool class. It’s chaotic, and your child will drown in toys he/she doesn’t need. Better to ask him/her which friends she really wants; some parents limit guests to one per year of age. Kids typically have more fun in smaller groups.
  • Time it right. One to two hours is the perfect length: enough time for cake, a few games, and some unstructured running around.
  • Remember, they’re little kids! Gourmet foods and lavish entertainment are pointless. They want birthday cake, playtime with friends, and maybe a small treat when they go home. Forget the elaborate gift bags — who needs to get into a competition over this stuff? Keep it simple and inexpensive: candy, sidewalk chalk, balls, or balloons suffice. Or, make it fun and thank guests with a home-made item. (THESE RULE!)


Also, as you are prepping and planning with your little one, and they begin to come full circle in making their own decisions, (these planning to-do’s are a big job for our little guys!)…instead of chirping “Good job!” incessantly all throughout, signal your approval in nonverbal ways sometimes. Give a thumbs-up. Lift your eyebrows to a happy expression. Share a hand squeeze. Positive reinforcement is the key to good behavior, and adding to your repertoire of approvals ensures that “good job” doesn’t become an empty, tuned-out phrase.


I am so happy to see some of us getting active and reaching out with questions! Should any of you have any inquiries, I’m just a message dropbox away. 😉





Say “NO” To Sodium!

As health experts fight among themselves about how much sodium is safe to eat, the reality is that most of us can get by on far less salt (our biggest source of sodium). In fact, much of the salt in restaurant meals and packaged foods is overkill, just excess salt used to pander our palates in the simplest way. But gradually shaving off a little salt here and a little salt there is critical to good health, not just as a way to lower blood pressure but to keep the heart, kidneys, and bones healthy. It’s also a way to let other flavors shine through in foods and open your palate to a whole new world of flavor.


1. Cook Often

Outsourcing meals to food companies and restaurants may be convenient, but it definitely won’t keep a lid on salt. Order buffalo chicken fajitas at one popular chain and expect 6700 mg sodium (that includes three tortillas and fixings). Hydrate with a 24-ounce diet cola (90 mg sodium) and splurge on molten chocolate cake for dessert (820 mg sodium) and your net sodium expenditure is 7610 mg, or a heaping tablespoon worth of salt. By cooking at home, chances are you won’t come anywhere close to using that much.

Time-Saving Tip: If cooking every night sounds tiring, make big batches of dried beans, marinara, or full recipes on weekends. Portion into small batches and freeze until needed.


2. Pair Takeout with Fresh

For times when you can’t cook, dilute the sodium of takeout or frozen family meals by adding equal amounts of fresh steamed vegetables. Take what one popular Italian chain calls a single serving (we call it huge portion) of five-cheese ziti and heat on the stovetop with one (9-ounce) bag of fresh spinach until greens wilt. Divide into two meals. That simple swap cuts sodium in half and whittles calories down from 1050 to a more reasonable 540. Added bonus: the spinach ups the nutrition ante with generous amounts of fiber, vitamins, and antioxidants.

Restaurant Tip: If eating out, split an entrée to cut sodium in half. Order side salads and steamed veggies sans salt to round out the meal.


3. Practice the Incremental Approach

No need to say sayonara to salt, but research shows that small cutbacks of 25% salt in a recipe will go unnoticed. Really. It’s a scientific fact that salt is an acquired taste; the more you eat, the more you become accustomed to it. So turn the tables on that science and gradually cut back on amounts by using a little less salt than a recipe calls for each time you cook. Eventually you’ll bring levels down to reasonable amounts. If you salt foods automatically, practice the same approach, gradually weaning yourself away from larger amounts.

Kitchen tip: Measure out all the salt called for in a recipe. Put 25 percent of it back in the salt shaker and cook with the remaining 75 percent. Do this for two weeks. Then cut back again.


4. Label It Low

Processed convenience items amount for about seventy-five percent of the sodium in most diets. So this is the place to hit hardest with your sodium lowering strategies. Ideally, shift away from highly processed to more minimally processed and fresh foods. But if you must buy processed, zero in on the nutrition facts label to figure out what brands are doing the best job of keeping sodium levels low. It takes me forever and day to get out of WHOLE FOODS on the weekend, but my body, and figure, thanks me later!

Shopping tip: For the biggest impact, look for lower sodium versions of products you eat frequently. The top ten sodium sources for most Americans are meat pizza, white bread, processed cheese, hot dogs, spaghetti with sauce, ham, ketchup, cooked rice, white rolls, and flour tortillas.


5. Take Salt-free Shortcuts

It’s not necessary to give up all convenience products to keep sodium levels in check. Consider using salt-free convenience ingredients in soups, stews, and casseroles. Then add salt to taste, using sparingly. Most plain frozen vegetables are salt free. Ditto for dried beans, chickpeas, and vegetables canned without salt.

Kitchen tip: Toast dried herbs and spices in a small amount of oil to add underlying flavor to any dish. Say you’re making chili. Toast the chili powder, oregano, and cumin in oil so that the oil can carry flavor into the salt-free beans and tomatoes.



6. Ratchet Up Fruits & Veggies

Even if you’re having trouble ditching the salt shaker, do try including lots of fruits and vegetables at meals. Research confirms that eating potassium rich foods (most types of produce sport generous amounts of this mineral) actually helps blunt the impact of sodium by reducing blood pressure and dilating arteries. If you really want to neutralize some of sodium’s damaging impact, reach for these high potassium all-stars frequently: oranges, bananas, potatoes, tomatoes, dried apricots, melon, and kidney beans.

Cooking tip:Roasting carrots, eggplant, tomatoes or any vegetable with a splash of olive oil and a grind of fresh pepper can result in rich-flavored side dishes that don’t need salt.

7. Make Your Own Salad Dressing

Drenching salads with bottled dressing is pretty much akin to sprinkling salt on your mixed greens since most dressings pack as much as 300 to 500 mg sodium in a 2-tablespoon serving. And most of us don’t stop at just 2 tablespoons. But the core ingredients in salad dressing, oil and vinegar, are sodium free. Mix the two with a dab of mustard, any kind works but Dijon is the usual choice, and the sodium numbers are so minimal it’s not even worth counting.

Kitchen tip: Whisk together 1 tablespoon olive oil, 1 tablespoon vinegar and 1/4 teaspoon Dijon mustard for a low-fat vinaigrette. Optional add-ins: dried herbs, chopped shallots, lemon zest, fresh ground pepper.

8. Ease up on Salty Condiments

At 190mg sodium per tablespoon, ketchup doesn’t sound like a salty offender. And it probably isn’t if you use it sparingly. But slathering ketchup on burgers and fries, drizzling large quantities of soy sauce (900mg sodium per tablespoon) on sushi, or heaping on the pickle relish (240mg sodium per tablespoon) can add up. For some, it’s enough to just cut back on amounts of high-sodium contents, using them judiciously. Also good options: low-sodium versions of soy sauce and salt-free ketchups.

Kitchen tips: Try replacing ketchup with a fresh homemade salsa. Chop roasted bell peppers, drizzle with olive oil and pepper, and use as a relish for burgers or fish.

9. Salt with Style

Some of the salt used in foods is an automatic or learned response. You throw salt in the water for boiling pasta. You add salt to a pot of boiling vegetables. You sprinkle salt on potato wedges before roasting. The truth is, it’s easy to skip that step and save salt for finishing a dish. For finishing, choose a specialty salt for the most impact. A fine grind sea salt has the same amount of sodium as regular iodized salt, but flavors and colors are unique and set the mind and palate up to enjoy a food.

Staging tip: Since the terms “low sodium” and “low salt” have come to mean deprivation for some folks, entice guests and family by describing a dish as cooked with “a touch of sea salt.”

10. Use Fresh Herbs & Spice Rubs

Salt may be a great flavor enhancer, but foods that taste salty are often one-note-flavor wonders, lacking depth and complexity. Instead of letting salt dominate a dish, try building in many different flavors with spice rubs and fresh herbs. Think of ethnic cuisines. Indian curries are not built on salt; they’re built by toasting multiple spices. Jamaican jerk is not about salt but a blend of flavorings including allspice, thyme, and onion. The more flavors you build into a dish, the less salt you’ll end up needing.

Kitchen tip: To make fresh herbs last a week or more, treat them like flowers. Snip stems and place in a glass filled with water.

BONUS: Rock the Citrus

A rule of thumb among chefs and the single easiest trick for brightening the flavor of any dish, particularly recipes made with less salt, is to add a splash of lemon juice or stir in a finely grated bit of lime, lemon, or orange zest. When acidic ingredients like citrus (vinegar works too) are added to soups, salads, and entrées at the end of cooking they help brighten and round out flavors. It’s hard to miss the salt when your palate detects a fresh bite of citrus.

Kitchen tip: When zesting oranges, lemon, and limes, opt for organic varieties since their peels are free of waxes and chemicals.