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  • Banana Blueberry Breakfast Loaf

    Banana Blueberry 1Spring is upon us and summer is fast approaching! Get into the mood with this Banana Blueberry Breakfast Loaf. This bread is a perfect choice for a healthy breakfast treat during pregnancy or nursing. There is no added sugar or oil -- just healthy goodness. Top it with greek or soy yogurt, fresh fruit, and nut butter to jump-start your day.

    Use fresh blueberries if they are available locally and are a good price. If not, frozen works just fine. Frozen blueberries are sometimes cheaper and don’t turn all the batter purple. Also, frozen fruit, unlike some fresh fruit, is picked when it is fully ripe. This can maximize the nutritional benefit, instead of possibly stunting the development and natural ripening process (which is a common practice for large-scale farms). By buying frozen, it is possible to get more nutrients out of your fruit than buying under-ripe fresh fruit.

    Banna Blueberry 2

    This bread has a base of ripe bananas, oat flour, and sorghum flour -- all sources of quality carbohydrates that keep you going through your day. EatingWell.com informed that:

    Researchers suspect that carbs promote the production of serotonin, a feel-good brain chemical. In a study from the Archives of Internal Medicine, people who followed a very low carbohydrate diet for a year—which allowed only 20 to 40 grams of carbs daily, about the amount in just 1⁄2 cup of rice plus one piece of bread—experienced more depression, anxiety and anger than those assigned to a low-fat, high-carb diet that focused on low-fat dairy, whole grains, fruit and beans.

    So don’t be fooled by the low-carb diet fads. Glucose (sugar) is the source of fuel for humans. Carbohydrates are converted into usable fuel faster and easier than fat or protein is. Without proper fuel, we have no energy. Having a stable, constant source of energy is essential for us to feel our best.

    Banana Blueberry 3

    According to The China Study, “a high-carbohydrate diet has been shown to reverse heart disease, reverse diabetes, and prevent a plethora of diseases.” This detailed and comprehensive book was written by T. Colin Campbell, an expert of human nutrition with over 40 years of research and a PhD.

    During pregnancy, your metabolism increases and but your energy can decrease with added weight and hormones. Blood pressure and blood sugar can also go up or down. This can lead to experiencing more fatigue. Whole fruits, vegetables, tubers, and grains (all edible plants, really) are the most nutrient dense and highest fiber foods we can eat. These are all good sources of carbohydrates and help keep blood sugar stable. Snacking on these high-carb foods will help fight fatigue throughout the day.

    Listen to your body when you are tired. Sometimes a nap helps, sometimes a bit of exercise rejuvenates you, and sometimes eating healthy snacks more often does the trick. As always, there is no magic formula or secret solution that works for everyone and the only way to feel improvement is through experimentation.

    Banana Blueberry 4

    Ingredients: (makes 8 pieces)

    3 overripe bananas

    1 tbs ground flax

    1 tsp vanilla

    1 cup sorghum

    ⅔ cup oat flour

    ½ tsp baking soda

    ½ tsp baking powder

    ½ tsp ginger

    ½ tsp cardamom

    ½ tsp allspice

    ¼ tsp cloves

    1 tsp cinnamon

    1 ⅓ cup fresh or frozen blueberries

    1 ⅓ cup almond milk

    Lightly grease an 8 inch by 8 inch pan with coconut, olive, or avocado oil. Pre heat your oven to 350 F on convection.

    Mash the bananas in a large bowl. It can be faster and easier to use a whisk.

    Add in the vanilla, ground flax and almond milk. Try to get all the chunks smooth. Set aside.

    In a medium bowl, whisk the sorghum flour, oat flour, baking soda, baking powder, ginger, cardamom, allspice, cloves, and cinnamon.

    Fold the dry mixture into the wet and add the blueberries.

    Pour batter into pan. Bake for approximately one hour, or until edges are golden.

    Nutrition Facts: (per serving)

    calories: 180

    protein: 4 grams

    carbs: 37 grams

    fat: 3 grams

    sugar: 8 grams

    All Original Content. Copyright Athena Byers 2015, All Rights Reserved.

  • Benefits of Exercise During Pregnancy

    We all know exercise is important for our health, mind, body and soul. Some of us enter pregnancy in tip top shape and in no mood to slow down while others have had more of a sedentary life, perhaps due to the type of they work do and simply being busy. We all know we should take time to exercise regularly, but if you haven’t been an exercise buff before you were pregnant, chances are you are not super inspired to start exercising once morning sickness and/or pregnancy weight gain and fatigue set in.

    Prego Maternity Empire Tank Maternity Swimsuit Prego Maternity Empire Tank Maternity Swimsuit

    The good news is that you don’t need to embark on exercise full throttle and begin extreme sports or sign up for marathons once you are expecting, but you can begin a gentle exercise regime that could do wonders for your health and energy. Pregnancy is a great time to try low impact sports such as swimming or water aerobics. Staying cool in the pool becomes a more attractive option as the weather heats up and with your basal body temperature naturally higher you are probably feeling even hotter than normal. The weightlessness of swimming and pool exercise can relieve achy joints and the back strains of a growing tummy. Even just a few easy laps in the pool if you are not a regular swimmer is a great way to start off. (BTW it’s a good idea to buy a maternity swimsuit if you plan to do any lap swimming. Don’t even try to squeeze into your pre-pregnancy swimsuit because it will not fit well and it’s not healthy for your body to be minimized or restricted while you are pregnant).

    Other low impact exercises include yoga and stretching. If you are doing yoga for the first time, then go slow and do not try a hot yoga class as they can crank the temperature up to as high as 106 degrees for 90 minutes which is not safe for pregnancy – your baby is cooking enough at your regular temperature as it is! Some gyms do offer a prenatal yoga class, so ask around for any local pregnancy exercise classes. Sometimes these specialty classes are advertised at your OBGYN office and of course you can google it for your zip code. Classes like these are fun as you get to meet other expecting women and you have the same body changes to work around and feel less self-conscious about exercising in a group class. You can laugh together while you stretch out the kinks and adjust yoga poses to your ever evolving pregnancy physique. These same women may end up being your stroller buddies and mom friends down the way after you have your baby.  (Do be careful to not do anything awkward or unusual that you are not comfortable with and take into consideration that your balance is altered with your shifting center of gravity).

    A new study showed that even light cardio (such as power walking) and hand weights in short bursts of up to five minutes about five times a day was even more beneficial than one long intensive daily routine and allowed for better recovery. Apparently this is a long held celebrity training secret that we just got in on! Simple five minute intervals up to five times a day can do wonders for lowering and regulating blood sugar which can climb during pregnancy and cause gestational diabetes. Regular light exercise can also lower blood pressure and resting heart rate which is also subject to rise during pregnancy.  Many women experience preeclampsia for the first time when pregnant due to the extra weight and physical stresses on their body as they progress in their pregnancy. Studies show that exercise can reduce the risk of developing complications such as preeclampsia and improve your overall circulation as well as reducing leg cramps, varicose veins and swollen ankles. Additionally, exercise helps strengthen back muscles that support your belly and helps alleviate aches and pains overall which is a huge benefit to your overall wellbeing and comfort.

    Although exercise can make you feel less energetic initially, if you stay consistent with it your body will adjust and you will eventually have more energy. Equally important, exercise will allow you to sleep better at night as your muscles will be more fatigued and that legitimate physical tired feeling will allow you to get to sleep faster. As a result of better rest you will feel sharper and more alert in the morning and less stressed so you can enjoy your day. It’s a complete 24 hour healthy loop cycle!

    Usually the first association many of us have to exercise is a means to sweat off extra pounds and rev up our metabolism so we can effectively lose weight without starving ourselves. While this is true and often a good goal for non-pregnant women, it is not the goal for pregnant women (although a slightly faster metabolism to help burn extra calories we are craving beyond the recommended weight gain is not a bad thing help keep weight gain in check). Pregnant women are supposed to gain weight and usually do so naturally without consciously trying to eat more. You definitely should not obsess over the scales while pregnant unless their doctor puts you on alert.  Weight gain during pregnancy is not always linear – you might lose weight in the first three months with morning sickness and food aversion and then find your belly has suddenly “popped” as well as your chest and appetite over the next four weeks in the second trimester. BTW expect a second “pop” in the last month of pregnancy, about the time you don’t think you can get any bigger, you do!

    One of the major ways exercise can provide an immediate benefit to everyone, but especially expecting women, is by increasing serotonin levels and balancing out mood swings. As we know hormones are in full swing when you are pregnant and often affecting everything from your diet and feelings of morning sickness to your self-image, mental outlook and emotions. By engaging in regular exercise you gain a sense of control over your body, emotions and positive emotional and mental outlook that may otherwise feel completely out of control. This sense of stability gives us a sense calm and balance which is priceless when you are experiencing daily physical and overall life changes at a breakneck speed.

    Achieving and maintaining a level of fitness during pregnancy also really aids in our postpartum recovery. The ability to stay within our healthy weight range during pregnancy and toning our muscles in the process with supervised light resistance training allows us to regain our energy much quicker postpartum and feel more like our pre-pregnancy selves. If you are tipping the scales with your pregnancy weight do not fear! Unless your doctor has prescribed bed rest or you have a high risk pregnancy then it’s not too late to start a low impact moderate exercise program from which you can continue to reap huge health benefits both during and after pregnancy.

    Do be sure to get your doctors sign off on any out of the ordinary exercise you plan to do during pregnancy (remember no horse riding, downhill skiing, bungee jumping, etc) and it’s recommended to run your exercise plans by your doctor in your prenatal visits, particularly if you have any elevated health risks. But, if you have the green light from your doctor, then get your blood pumping a bit and remember to hydrate!

  • Friendly Tips for your Pregnancy Journey

    Melissa Rycroft PregnancyIf it’s your first time to be pregnant, you may feel surprised by the enormous change and rate of change that your body, mind and hormones are going through. Maybe you have been trying to get pregnant for years of maybe it happened by surprise or all of a sudden. Either way, it’s an enormous change to life as you have known it, even though it may be thrilling and exciting at the same time. Fortunately we have a good eight months (from the time we find out) to get used to the idea that we are adding a member to our household and to do all we can to make the necessary practical and emotional preparations to add a baby to the family.

    As a mom of three children in the maternity clothes business, I have talked to hundreds of moms over the years. There were a number of things that I wish someone told me when I was pregnant (each time!). Here are my learnings that are not meant to be judgmental or preachy, because you get enough of that when you are pregnant and as a mom, but just meant to help you along your path and to put in your back pocket for when you need the encouragement:

    First, don’t worry about everything being perfect. It’s admirable to strive high and create the perfect nursery and have your complete six months of clothing and gear ready to go for your child before it’s born. But apart from the bare necessities of a safe sleep area, diapers, blankets, sleepers and some onesies, you are going to be just fine. Remember there is online shopping when you do need that new nursing bra because the ones you bought during pregnancy don’t fit and you are too tired to leave the house. There is also diaper services if you opt for cloth diapers but don’t want to deal with cleaning them.  Fortunately for these hectic times in life we do live in a day and age when answers can be at our fingertips. However, don’t forget to let real live people help you too. Call on your neighbors, friends and any nearby family if you need them. Now is the time to cash in on any goodwill that people are willing to offer you, you do need it and deserve any help you can get and most people are happy to help out.

    Do make sure you do have a childcare arrangement in place before you hit the nine month mark. Fill out all the necessary paperwork for FMLA/maternity leave and inform managers and coworkers of your leave. Have a plan in place at work to cover for your absence and let people know your timeframe for leave, even if it is subject to change.  Whether it be an extended maternity leave or grandparents pitching in when you return to work, it does give you some peace of mind to have at least have a plan in place for the first few months for your baby’s care. It’s also stress relieving for yourself and those around you to have a clearly communicated leave plan so you don’t leave tasks hanging or yourself and others panicking the minute. This brings me to my next point and one that many women struggle with:

    There is no right or wrong answer to what you decide on with the BIG decisions of returning to work or staying at home with your child fulltime. It is a difficult decision and if you are not sure, then maybe opt for something in between – look to have a longer maternity leave if you can negotiate that or return part-time or set up a work at home arrangement or flexible work hours. Even with large corporations it often boils down to what you can work out with your manager and generally if you can bring it up a number of months in advance you will get a more favorable response than to spring it on them a few weeks before your maternity leave. Choosing a longer leave or a more flexible hour work week is often a good stepping stone before making a more definite fulltime work or fulltime stay at home decision. You may find something in between that is just perfect for you for a period of time. Although many people will have a lot of ideas on this subject, and it may be helpful to hear their ideas and personal experiences, it is ultimately your choice to make in harmony with your partner and your financial goals. Many fathers also take FMLA and extended leave for their newborns. Some Dads decide to stay at home or work out a more flexible work schedule. Explore your options fully and just go with the best decision for you and your family (and don’t worry about making the perfect decision). Do not let anyone guilt you about your decision to stay home or not stay home. They are both equally valid choices.

    There are many solutions to caring for your newborn from a fulltime nanny, daycare, grandparents pitching in or some combination of everything. If you are looking at caregivers it is a good idea to start interviewing in advance of your due date. If you are looking at daycare arrangement then embark on your tours of these facilities well in advance and go with your gut if you are not comfortable with a particular place or caregiver. Many daycare businesses have a waiting list, so it may be a good idea to get on the waiting list early, even if you find a better plan later an and drop off the list.  Remember you are allowed to change course at any time. No one is holding you to your decision and if they are, then they should not be as this decision is yours and your partner’s alone. You can be a good mother and work at the office, you can be a good mother and work at home, and you can be a good mother and stay at home with your child. There are good nannies and not so good nannies and some grandparents are excellent fulltime caretakers for their grandchildren while some do not have the energy, abilities or desire to take on this more involved role. You can navigate these steps and arrive at the best solution. Life is not perfect and it's not supposed to be - how boring would that be?!! We all do our best and our best is typically more than enough for the health and wellbeing of our baby, selves and family, even if it is not perfectly perfect. Children have turned out well with all varieties of paths for early caregiving.

    The next point of advice is the one that is often most ignored by both new and experienced moms. Don’t forget to take care of yourself. This advice extends to pregnancy. Now is a time when your body is under tremendous change. Every day you will probably notice something different about some part of your anatomy whether it be a tighter bra, a bigger belly, snugger shoes or a new food aversion or craving. The body you used to know so well is evolving into something totally alien that you are trying to understand anew each day, let alone dress! It’s difficult to even know what to eat! You may find your energy is a bit lower but then you may also find you have bursts of energy in your second trimester. Get used to tuning into your body and listening to what it tells you. What used to be normal is no longer normal when you are pregnant and that’s ok. Be kind to yourself and cut yourself a little slack. Go ahead and get that pregnancy massage and let your partner rub your feet at the end of the day. Buy some maternity clothes that are comfortable and make you feel pretty. Try to find time to take small naps when you are tired, even if it’s just on the weekend if you work. Do something nice for yourself each day, even if it’s something small.

    Although it is important to get your rest and scale back on activities when you feel tired, it is also helpful to take some form of physical exercise, even if it’s just walking around the block. It’s necessary to keep up your strength up during pregnancy and to maintain your health, blood sugar and to help with delivery (unless you are on bed rest of course).  Maintaining fitness will also help you bounce back that much easier after pregnancy and give you the energy to care for your baby (which can be a bit of marathon in the early weeks particularly if you are nursing around the clock).  In addition to the added benefit of helping you look good, exercise will help balance your serotonin levels and allow you to achieve a more positive mental outlook so that you feel happier, more joyful and peaceful as well as sleep better at night. Do be careful not to engage in any risky physical activities (remember your balance and stamina are not the same) and listen to your body at all times when you exercise so that you don’t overextend yourself or get dehydrated. Remember you are pregnant, so don’t try to break any records running marathons or playing tennis tournaments!

    Finally try and take some time out and smell the roses. This is a special time in life that you will always remember. Get some pretty photographs done while you enjoy your shape (sometimes we are so enormous in the last few months of pregnancy that we don’t want a camera anywhere around us!) Spend some time to bond with your partner and indulge in some date nights or a Babymoon if you can find the time, even if it’s something special nearby. You will always remember this special time together before you had your baby and the memories you created.

  • Guilt-Free Chocolate Chip Cookies

    Chip 1

    Some healthy recipes can taste, well, too healthy. Dessert should taste like dessert, but it shouldn’t leave you feeling sick, particularly at time when you are sensitive to morning sickness! Your meals shouldn’t hurt your body, they should help it, especially during pregnancy when you are literally eating for both you and your baby! Food can either be the slowest form of poison or the most powerful medicine to fuel your body and improve your health. When you supply your body with the right nutrition you will see feel the difference with more energy for your day. Healthy food can definitely be delicious, and here is one recipe where you the taste is as good as the nutrition it provides.

    These cookies are the reward for lots of experimentation in the kitchen. They have the classic taste of chocolate chip cookies but are a far healthier version than the classic store bought cookies or grocery store cookie mix we all know and love, but also know is not the healthiest choice for our bodies. This chocolate chip cookies recipe supports your pregnancy health while still satisfying your sweet tooth pregnancy cravings. They are chewy, soft, and slightly crispy on the edges. The sweetness of the agave is perfectly complimented by the nuttiness of the hazelnut oil and balanced with a bit of sea salt. No one will ever know these are free of white flour, butter, or white sugar!

    Chip 3

    These cookies are a bit high in fat, but it is from high quality sources (avocado and hazelnut oil), aka guilt-free fat! According to a study published in the March 2005 issue of the "Journal of Nutrition”, avocado oil increases the absorption of carotenoids (organic pigments that act like antioxidants within the body) from your food. Fat-soluble carotenoids rely on dietary fats to be properly used, but most foods that are high in carotenoids (think red, orange, and dark green veggies) are low in fat. Avocado is unusual because it contains high quantities of unsaturated fatty acids as well as generous amounts of carotenoids. In the study, “both high and low doses of avocado oil enhanced alpha-carotene, beta-carotene and lutein absorption from a salad by as much as 15 times compared to a salad without avocado oil.”

    Hazelnut oil has a similar composition to olive oil, but it contains less saturated fat per tablespoon. It is a bit on the expensive side, but it only takes a little bit to add complexity and flavor to baked goods.

    Chocolate ChipIf you don’t have avocado or hazelnut oil, try mixing whatever oil you have on hand (like grape seed, coconut, sunflower--maybe even try olive oil and add some orange zest!). You can also experiment with adding shredded coconut, nuts, extracts, and different spices to customize. Have fun and make healthy cooking something you look forward to!




    Chocolate Chip Cookies

    2 ½ cups almond flour

    ¼ cup sorghum flour

    ½ tsp baking soda

    ½ tsp fine grain sea salt

    ½ cup agave syrup

    ¼ cup hazelnut oil

    ¼ cup avocado oil

    1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract

    Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F on convection. Line 2 cookie sheets with parchment paper.

    Whisk the almond flour, sorghum flour, baking soda, and salt in medium bowl. Set aside.

    In a separate medium bowl, combine the agave, hazelnut oil, avocado oil, and vanilla.

    Fold the wet and dry mix together. Bake for 10-15 minutes, rotating the pan about 6 minutes in.

    Nutrition Facts: (per cookie)

    Calories: 223

    Fat: 17

    Carbs: 16

    Protein: 5

    Sugar: 8

    All Original Content. Copyright Athena Byers 2015, All Rights Reserved.

  • My Life as a Mom - Part 2

    Now whoever says that having a 3rd child is no different than having a 2nd is clearly delusional as I was when I entered this pregnancy with that mindset. I observed blissful friends who handled 3rd and 4th babies with a cheerful attitude while flexing stronger biceps. I believed the adage of adding one more potato to the pot was all that was required for one more child to the family (in addition to a new college savings fund that cost more than a whole field of potatoes).  Like most parents of multiple kids, we generally felt we were prepared and experienced for this third time around the block.  We had the gear – strollers, cribs, car seats, clothes, blankets, sippy cups. We knew the drill – schedules, naptimes, feeding and diapering.

    What we forgot was that we were 6 years older than when we had our first and approaching middle age. I was pushing 40 at the time of my 3rd child’s birth and those extra years did make a difference in my energy and ability to bounce back after my pregnancy compared to my earlier pregnancies. Not to mention I had two younger kids to take care of and I didn’t have a nanny or housekeeper to help with everything. So, maybe there was more than age at stake in that extra wave of fatigue this final round.

    The biggest surprise was that nursing did not come easily. For some reason I just assumed it would be easy as I nursed my other two kids for almost a year each. Although I had problems in the beginning with each in terms of milk supply and every kind of lactation difficultly from painful latches to mastitis, I did eventually work through it with the help of a lactation consultant and my OBGYN for a fulfilling and successful nursing experience with both of my children. So to find I had the same exact array of problems with my 3rd was shocking. Once again I found myself at the mercy of baby scales and schedules and trips to the pediatrician’s office to check the baby’s weight gain. In all of my years of school, college and graduate school I never experienced the same degree of test anxiety as that of getting my baby weighed and awaiting my pass/ fail results from my pediatrician. I felt like I was always just barely getting by but working like crazy and pulling all-nighters preparing for the weighing in exam.

    Finally after the help of a lactation consultant once again, a Medela hospital grade nursing pump to help with milk supply stimulation, my husband’s unwavering support with all the other baby responsibilities, and the help of herbal supplements and Reglan to promote milk supply and sheer persistence, we made it through to the other side of nursing the way it’s supposed to be, painless and brainless.  You know the side, where you can nurse anytime, anywhere and everyone is happy and dinner is always warm and on time. I used to be paranoid and modest with my nursing with my first baby, very worried that any bit of skin might peek out or I might offend someone with the sheer act of nursing my baby. Not so with my third baby.  I would nurse in open air at a park, in an airport, on an airplane next to any stranger, at a restaurant and not feel the need to retreat to the tiny bathroom stall for privacy and modesty. Armed with a good nursing bra and sometimes a stylish nursing top, I was good to go anywhere with my baby and feed on demand. Now at last I could enjoy my baby and the perks of not having to pack a bottle

  • New Research Supports Vaccinating your Child on Time

    The vaccine controversy has raged for a number of years, particularly with celebrities sharing personal cases of why they have chosen not to vaccinate or why they are in favor of delaying vaccinating their child.  New research may add more fuel to the fire of that argument or at least more support for following wide spread agreed upon practices by the medical community to vaccinate your child in a timely manner as recommended by your doctor.

    Current statistics show that one in eight children have been under vaccinated due to parent’s concern over vaccines and refusing or delaying their child’s vaccines. These parents are concerned that their child may be receiving too many vaccines at one time or for their young age or their child's small size.

    By inspecting the data more closely, it has been discovered that the opposite is true. A recent study published by JAMA Pediatrics found that the risk of an adverse reaction to a vaccine, such as a fever or in extreme cases, a seizure, increased in older toddlers from 16-23 months old, versus younger children 12-16 months old (which is the recommended age range for receiving the vaccine). This research suggests that delaying vaccinations was not a safer choice, as many presumed it might be. Instead the younger children with less well developed immune systems actually had fewer side effects from the vaccine despite having less robust immune system than the older toddler, who was more likely to have a side effect.

    In the editorial written by Dr. Kristen A. Feemster and Dr. Paul Offit , she stated in response to these findings, “vaccines are recommended at certain ages and intervals to optimize the immune response, ensure protection when a child is most at risk for disease acquisition, and minimize adverse events.” Her editorial goes to state that this type of research supports the well-established safety and timing of the current vaccine schedule for children.

    Avoiding the vaccines altogether is even riskier as more and more cases of measles are cropping up across the United States from children and young adults who have never been vaccinated with sometimes fatal results. This is a risk that many parents do not take into consideration when choosing to delay or refuse vaccines as many may think that these older less frequent diseases, such as measles or whooping cough, are no longer a threat. As more parents refuse vaccines, there is a much greater likelihood of a breakout from these older diseases which can quickly become more widespread in an unvaccinated community. The risk is even greater in today’s global economy with diseases passing quickly across borders with people traveling more frequently and with air travel.

    While you are pregnant, this is a good time to do your research and talk with your pediatrician about any concerns in vaccinating your child. If you have not yet chosen a pediatrician, this is the time to interview and choose one that you are comfortable with – remember this is a doctor who you will be visiting quite often in the early months and years of your child's life and perhaps for the entirety of their childhood and early adulthood. This person will be your trusted advisor for many a well-child visit and any time your child gets sick.

    It is important that you do your own research as well with vaccinating so you know where you stand when decision time comes up. Celebrities with well stated public opinions on these matters are just one data point and who are usually not medical experts. So do not give undo weight to their opinion over well conducted clinical research. Your pediatrician is the best place to start if you have any questions or concerns about vaccinating your baby and making an informed decision on your approach to vaccination.

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