Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Moderation, why it doesn't work for me

Why doesn't moderation work for me?  Because I have no self-control. End of post. Have a good day!

Just kidding.  Let's explore it a little more.  Moderation is a popular term in eating, but usually only when trying to justify an unhealthy food.  It sounds good doesn't it?  It sounds reasonable too: eat healthy most of the time, but if you want a cookie enjoy your cookie.

The problem with me is that I don't eat just the cookie, I'll eat the box.  True story, I tried to just eat a couple of Girl Scout cookies, I turned around and I had eaten the whole box.  If I'm eating chips keep your hands away, fingers could become a casualty. It's not even so much that I really love junk food, I think it's because it seems to now be forbidden foods.  In my mind if I have one piece I may as well eat it all because I've already eaten something I shouldn't have eaten.

When I started eating better, I tried to eat special treats in moderation, but I struggled with the moderation part.  Then, I felt guilty about overeating on junk food.  It was an unpleasant cycle.  At the same time, I wasn't comfortable swearing off junk food and I didn't know what else to do.  I thought if I stopped eating junk food altogether  I would be some kind of weirdo.

Fast forward to a couple of years ago, I was standing in the lobby of my work and a guest was politely refusing the candy on the receptionist's desk, explaining she "didn't do" moderation.  What?!?!  I thought this was how we all cheated on healthy eating and didn't feel guilty about it.  She went on to explain she didn't have a lot of self-control and to avoid eating the whole jar of candy, she didn't eat any candy.  At first, I felt sorry for her...never eating candy?  What an unpleasant life.  Then, I realized I had the same problem.  I have no self-restraint.  My "special treats" were no longer special, I was eating whatever was offered to me whenever it was offered.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Smoothies made easier

My smoothies have a new BFF in the form of a canning jar.

Recently, I saw this "hack" of attaching a blender base to a canning jar. This works for most blenders, but not all of them.  (Side note:  I absolutely hate when I see "life hacks" on Facebook.  I do not want any part of my life hacked, it sounds awful.  And don't get me started on the videos of "You've been doing ____ wrong".  No I haven't been doing it wrong.  I've successfully cut cake and watermelon up to this point in my life, it's not wrong!)

Rant over.  Back to my smoothies.  As silly as this sounds, sometimes I don't want to make them in the mornings because of extra dishes.  If the sink is really full, a bowl of oatmeal will only dirty one dish, whereas a smoothie will dirty two:  the cup I drink out of and the blender.  The oatmeal wins.

I needed a new gasket anyhow for my blender after I didn't put it back on correctly and it shredded into pieces, so I got a new one in a pack with a whole new blender base.  Now I have two blender bases--woo hoo!  It's much easier to clean just the base and the jar instead of the whole blender and my cup, and I'm all about less dishes.

My immersion blender in a canning jar also works well and I've started using that some too.  It worked really well and still left me with less dishes than a regular blender.

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Sweet treat

Hey there friends!  I've got a super-fast, no bake, delicious treat for you today.  I made this last night to go with some red wine and it was soooo good!
There were more, but we ate them :)
8 Medjool dates, pitted
1/4 cup sliced almonds
1/3 cup dark chocolate chips*
Shredded coconut for sprinkling on top

Pit the dates and mash up well with a fork in a bowl.  Add in the almonds and stir as best as you can.  Continue combining with your hands.  Roll into 12-14 balls.  Melt the chocolate in a glass bowl in the microwave (stir every 30 seconds until melted).  Place a piece of parchment paper on a baking sheet.  Dip the balls in the chocolate with a fork, shaking off the excess, and place on the parchment paper.  Sprinkle with the shredded coconut.  

I place mine in the freezer so the chocolate will set faster and then store in an airtight container in the refrigerator.  Enjoy!

*I used dairy-free 63% cacao chips.  A higher percentage equals a darker chocolate, with a lower sugar content. 

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Valentines for the non-crafty mama

I am not a crafty mama.  God made me more of a Pinterest fail mama, but this week I made a fairly decent valentine.  I'm sharing it because it's super easy, and provides a healthy snack for kids instead of a bunch of sweet treats.  

My kids are still so little valentines cards just aren't even on my radar.  However, we were invited to a really fun Valentine's party play date at a park with other little ones and their mamas.  The night before I was reviewing the invitation to remind myself of the details, and I realized I should have something for my boys to pass out to other kids.  Dang it! Yes, I know it wasn't required, but I wanted my toddler to get the experience of giving to others.

My first thought was, "I'll just print something, cut it out, and it's just the best we can do right now."  But, I couldn't let the idea of doing something slightly better go.  Quickly, I scanned my brain for valentines ideas to include some kind of non-candy treat, knowing my little one will be getting enough sugar over the next couple of days.  Then my eyes fell on my popcorn kernels.

Previously, I had heard of making popcorn in a brown paper bag, but hadn't actually tried it myself.  So, I gave it a go and it was super easy. The idea of a basic popcorn for the kids I really liked because it's sugar free, and allergy-free.  I had the popcorn kernels, and I had my husband stop on the way home to get enough brown lunch bags (thanks honey!)
This bottle was enough to fill bags for 16 kids.  You could cut the amount of kernels in half and get 32 bags. 
I made a very basic print out to cut and tape to the bags, wishing the boys' friends "a poppin' Valentine's Day."  I don't know what a "poppin' Valentine's Day" would consist of, but I believe it's a good thing.
My computer decided to be crazy when I pressed print.  This was not the font I chose, but I wasn't messing with it anymore. 
The next morning, the toddler helped me fill the bags with 1/4 cup of popcorn. This amount fills approximately 3/4 of a brown paper bag when the popcorn is popped.
Simple, quick printout with instructions
Here are the instructions for brown lunch bag popcorn:

  1. Fill the bag with 1/4 cup of popcorn kernels
  2. Fold down the top of the bag
  3. Shake the bag a little so the kernels are spread out and put the bag flat in the microwave
  4. Cook for 1 1/2 to 2 minutes (keep an eye on the bag, times may vary, and your popcorn could burn)
  5. Season however you like
  6. Enjoy!

Fresh popcorn, with no additional ingredients
Since we got home from the party, my child has asked me for three bags of popcorn.  I cut the amount of popcorn in each bag in half, down to 2 tablespoons of kernels and only microwave it for 1 1/2 minutes, it's a better serving size.

Indoor activities for littles...guest post

I wrote a guest piece over at New Crunchy Mom about indoor activities for little ones that don't involve technology or spending money.  Go see!

Of course, I include some activities in the kitchen ;)

Confusing food terms (part 2)

Alright, let's pick up from yesterday where I talked about about confusing food terms and what they really mean:  healthy, natural, fat-free, and organic.  If you didn't see it, pop on over here to catch up.

Today, I want to look at three more terms, and how you can make the best decisions when buying food.

A calorie is a unit of energy; energy we burn throughout our day.  Counting calories, and calorie restriction, is a popular way to lose weight.  In this weight loss plan, you want the calories in to be less than calories out (calories--energy--you burn through the day) and you'll lose weight.  There are two main points I want to make about calories.

1.  Eat enough calories!  Yes, this is the opposite of what your brain may think you need to do to lose weight.  However, too much of a calorie deficit will make your body think you're trying to starve yourself and it will go into survival mode and hold onto the excess weight.   If you are trying to lose weight, you might need to work with a professional trained in dietary needs.

When I had to give up dairy and eggs because of breastfeeding, I saw a dietitian to make sure I was eating the right foods.  The week before I saw her I tracked everything I ate and then brought the food journal to the appointment.  My expectation going into the appointment was that we would talk about the correct foods to eat. Instead, the first thing she said was that I wasn't taking in enough calories, I was floored (and excited because I got to eat more!)  After the appointment, I continued tracking my foods and I'm now at a point where I'm comfortable enough with what I'm eating that I no longer need to track.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Confusing food terms (part 1)

Low calorie=Healthy?
Whole foods=Organic?
GMO=Going Mad Over unclear food terms?

There are so many terms used by food companies, and marketers when they want to send a message "YOU SHOULD EAT (insert food name) TO BE HEALTHY!" What does it really all mean though?

So, let's start with the term healthy.  Go ahead, what does it mean to you?  The Food and Drug Administration actually has a definition of the word healthy, but it can be misleading.  For example, choose the option below the FDA defines as healthy:
  1. Salmon and avocados
  2. Raisin Bran and Campbell's soup
If you choose number 1 you're wrong.  The FDA says these items have too much fat (even if it's good fat) and cannot labeled as healthy.  However, Raisin Bran loaded with sugar does meet the requirement. 

Just remember the healthy label can be a good food decision, but it may not be completely black and white.  I would prefer to include salmon, avocado, and almonds in my family's diet over sugary cereals, and sodium-laden soup with unclear ingredients. 

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Pizza...it's not your worst decision

Pizza is one food I can say I have loved since the first moment I had it. I mean really, doesn't everyone?  Even with my toddler I can put anything on a piece of bread, tell him it's pizza and he'll eat it.

Pizza gets a bad label for being unhealthy, but it's really about what's on top.  You know how we tell kids, "You can be anything you want to be"?  Yeah, well so can your pizza.  It can be healthy, or incredibly unhealthy.  A pizza made with wheat flour, homemade pizza sauce (it's really just tomato sauce with some herbs and spices), vegetables, lean protein, and some cheese is not the same as a greasy slice loaded down with cheese and hearty meats.

In face, one of the meals I freeze for my toddler is individual pizzas.  His pizzas are a whole wheat crust, homemade pizza sauce, and some cheese cut into Mickey shapes using a cookie cutter.  At the heart of his pizza, it's just wheat bread, tomatoes, and cheese, put some veggies on the side and you have a well-rounded meal.  If you have a picky eater in the family, add veggies in the food processor with your pizza sauce to get in some extra nutrients.  

When I'm at home I get creative with our pizzas.  It's so easy, and if something doesn't turn out well, just pick it off.  My pizzas usually include:
  • some type of protein
  • vegetables
  • wheat crust
  • dairy may or may not be included
With my weekly meal plan, I buy planned ingredients, but sometimes I see what I have in the refrigerator that needs to be eaten soon.  On those day, then I end up with creations like this below.  

Tempeh pizza with roasted vegetables

Friday, February 5, 2016

Game day game plan

Alright football fans, and football-fans-one-day-out-of-the-year, it's almost game day!  As in THE GAME DAY--the Super Bowl.  I personally believe organizers of the first Super Bowl had a vision in naming it so, because one day people all over America would be eating their body weight in food in a super bowl for the Super Bowl.

Sorry to disappoint, but I am not providing the blueprint for the perfect Super Bowl party, or cute Pinterest worthy, DIY football decorations. Okay, I'll give you one easy recipe:  kale chips.  They're super simple and will impress guests all around with your culinary kale skills. If you don't like kale still give these a try, you' ll be surprised by the taste.  Or, you can see my post about snack ideas.

Instead, I want to talk about keeping up your healthy eating habits through the game.

My husband proclaims the Super Bowl to be his favorite holiday, so I'm not serving just any old meal.  We're breaking a few regular rules, but keeping with some others (if you're going to eat unhealthy, make it from scratch yourself).  You can see our game plan at the bottom. Let's make a plan for your success, but enjoy the game as well.
  • Break your rules:  It's okay to sometimes break your healthy eating rules, but this should be the exception, not the rule.
  • Draw the line:  Determine what you will eat and what you won't. For example, buffalo wings may be something you don't regularly eat, but you're going to on Sunday because it's the Super Bowl.  However, you may draw the line at the deep fried cookie-brownie combo--good decision.  
  • Set alcohol limits:  If you're going to be drinking, specify the number of drinks you will not exceed--no, 20 drinks is not a real limit.  See the chart below regarding blood alcohol content for your size.  If you are drinking, the healthiest decision you can make is to have a designated driver :)
  • Snack before you go:  Have a little healthy snack before you go so you're not super hungry and more likely to go off plan when the game starts. 
  • BYOF (bring your own food): Bring a healthy dish you love so you know there's at least one good option for you.  
  • Announce it loud and proud:  Tell people you're eating healthier, so they know not to tempt you foods you don't want to eat.
  • Have a friend:  Ensure you have an accountability partner with you to make healthy decisions as well, it will be easier if it's not just you
  • Drink lots of water:  You need to stay hydrated if you're going to be drinking, and it will help you realize when you're full from food and not thirsty. (Side note:  people regularly confuse thirst for hunger, and will eat instead of drinking the water needed.)
  • Fruits and veggies first:  Kick your eating off right with your fruits and veggies first before heading on to the fried stuff
  • Space out your eating:  If you haven't had unhealthy food in awhile and have been saving up for this day, you might get a little overexcited and eat more than you want.  It's a long game, pace yourself.
  • Work you plan:  Make a plan that works for you for this one special day, and then stick to it
  • Congratulate yourself:  See your plan through, feel pride in your accomplishment, and get back to a regular healthy eating plan Monday morning.   
Even if you're not going out to watch the game, have a plan for eating a home.  The game is long and there are lots of tempting commercials, so you don't want to eat mindlessly.

DUI Chart
Source:  State of California DMV

The game plan for my house is as follows.  It's simple because we'll be watching the game at home with two little ones:
  • Snacks will be cherry tomatoes and carrot sticks with my homemade ranch
  • The main meal around halftime will be:  buffalo wings and sweet potato chips
  • Dessert will be a chocolate, date and almond recipe I'm messing with for Valentine's Day 
  • We watch the game at home so there are no extra food temptations, and no drinking and driving
Enjoy the game!  Go Broncos!

Kale chips--so good you won't want to share

Start off with a bag of kale.  I use the 10 oz. bag from Trader Joe's that comes washed, and pre-chopped.  If your kale is not washed and chopped into bite size pieces, you 're going to need to add those steps.

Remove the leaves from the stems.  See in the picture below, all the stems are gone.  This is the most time consuming and annoying part, just enlist your children for help.

Put the kale in a large freezer bag with 2 tablespoons of olive oil and 2 1/2 teaspoons of kosher salt.  Seal the bag and shake it well.  Spread the kale in a single layer on a baking sheet.  At this point, I toss the kale a little more with my hands to ensure all parts are a little shiny with olive oil.  You don't want it dripping, but you do want everything equally covered.
The kale is covered lightly with olive oil and salt before baking
Bake at 400 degrees for 10 minutes until the edges are brown and the kale has shrunk slightly in size.  The pieces should be a little crispy, but not burnt.

1 10 oz. bag of kale
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Wash kale and cut into bite size pieces (if not already done).  Remove the stems from the leaves of each of the pieces.  Put all the kale in a large freezer bag along with olive oil and salt.  Shake the bag to combine all the ingredients and coat the kale. Put on a baking sheet, and continue combining with your hands until all pieces are covered.  Spread the kale into a single layer on the baking sheet.  Bake for 10 minutes until the edges are brown and the pieces are crispy.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

One bad meal

I hope you will find some encouragement from my day yesterday. Let me give you the main idea—I made a terrible dinner. Encouraging aren’t I?

Let me back up to the beginning.

Yesterday I was running through the grocery store with way too much on my mind. The laundry was piled up and not folded, the dishes were threatening to overthrow my kitchen, my toddler had seemingly become possessed, and the to-do list was not getting shorter. So, I was trying to get my groceries as fast as humanly possible with the baby so I can get home to get a few things accomplished. For the record, the possessed toddler wasn’t home alone because he’s been crazy lately, he was at school, you can relax.

When it came time to start cooking dinner, a butternut squash risotto, I was so ready for some time inside my head. Side note: I’ve been really craving winter squashes; something about them is perfect in the winter. Yes, I know I live in southern California and it’s not that cold comparatively. The struggle is not real.
The cooking starts off strong. I'm taking pics because I know it's going to be good. 
 Anyhow, back to my story. Cooking time is me time; time for me to think, quiet time with relaxing music, and time do something I love (at least in theory this is how it’s supposed to go.) I didn’t have an exact recipe for the risotto, but I had the basics and some ideas.

Monday, February 1, 2016

Keeno? Queena? Keenoah? QUINOA

Quinoa, it's a hot food item right now.  Full confession, I used to think quinoa was a weird food for weird people who wanted to be weird.  Sorry, I was terribly wrong, it's delicious if you know how to use it.

Quinoa is popping up in restaurants, and in recipes constantly.  If you haven't tried it yet, and put it off like I did, now is your time.  (I've even included a recipe below for you.)

This tri-color quinoa from Trader Joe's is what I typically use

First off,  know how to pronounce it like a pro--it's KEEN-wah. Yes, I know it doesn't like that's how it's pronounced. A former co-worker loved quinoa, but probably asked me once a week how to pronounce it.

Why is quinoa such a popular food? Here are my top reasons.

Thursday, January 28, 2016


Ranch, oh how do I love thee?  Let me count the ways.  Ranch has been my love since the first time my lips tasted it's deliciousness--long before I ever made any attempt at healthy eating. Because I'm terrible at moderation, I have to just cut it out of my life except for special occasions.

The one thing that has really bothered me about buying ranch is the unidentifiable ingredients.  Have you ever tried to read/pronounce all the ingredients in a store bought ranch dressing?  Go ahead, get yours out of the fridge and try to read it.

During the early days of making changes towards a healthier diet, I attempted to make a ranch dressing and it did not go well . For the recipe I was following, I had to buy a whole bunch of fresh herbs that got a little costly, and it didn't taste that great.   The experience was so unpleasant in my mind, I wrote off making my own ranch dressing forever (OK, that might be a bit dramatic.) Until recently when I was sharing some recipes I found online with friends, and we got to talking about how we wish we could find a healthier version of ranch.

Challenge accepted.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

WCW and my journey to healthier eating

In the ever-evolving question of, "What will my blog look like?" I've decided to add a new feature for Wednesdays, it may not be every Wednesday, but it will be on Wednesdays.

Welcome to Woman Crush Wednesday (WCW).

Admittedly, my journey in health may not strike a chord with many of you. I've never had a lot of weight to lose (except baby weight), and I'm a stay-at-home mom in California--I may not be motivating for you at all. However, you may see something in another woman’s story to give you the kick in the pants you need to make changes.  Wednesdays I will be telling the stories of other women in their journey of health.

Beginning this feature made me realize I’ve never told you much about my seven year journey to eating better, so I’m going to go first…and it’s my blog, so I’m the most accessible person to interview.

I’ve always loved food (see this post about hiding food in my pockets when I was a kid). When my family has a gathering, there are always more tasty looking dishes than there are people. If there are 50 people at Thanksgiving, you’re going to need at least 75 dishes. It’s how we do it, and it’s GLORIOUS.

Yes I loved food, but I had the palette of a six year-old. Beef stew from a can was about as adventurous as I was going to get. If I had one more person tell me to “just try” a new food, my head would have exploded.

Monday, January 25, 2016

Tasty, nutritious snacks

Let's talk snacks.  It seems that when most people talk about snacks it's said negatively, "I can't stop snacking." Or you're talking to a toddler, "Do you want a snack? Did you hear me?  Do you want a snack?  Snack? Snack?  Snack!?!?!"

Personally, I like to be prepared.  As soon as I eat one meal, I'm thinking of the next one.  When I was a kid, my mom stuck her hand in the pocket of my jacket to find I had regularly squirreled away part of my lunch.  Even in elementary school, I had a need to be prepared JUST IN CASE (in case of what, I have no idea, but I needed to be prepared for it.)

It's time for us to snack like the responsible adults we are.  You have breakfast, lunch, and dinner daily.  I'd like to propose an additional nutritious snack, or two, get added to your daily meal plan.  Snacking every few hours will help your body perform optimally, and keep you going until your next meal.  Remember my KISS guidelines?  Don't let yourself get too hungry, you'll make food decision.  I've got a few tips to help.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Easiest, yummiest hummus

Hummus is a staple in our house, and it's incredibly easy to make, so there's no need for the store bought stuff.  

1 16 oz. can of chickpeas (garbanzo beans), drained, with 1/4 cup of the liquid reserved
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons tahini paste (I've made it without the tahini paste and it's still good)
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon salt

Drain the chickpeas and reserve 1/4 cup of the liquid.  Combine the liquid with all of the other ingredients in a bowl and use an immersion blender, or combine in a food processor.  Blend until you have a smooth hummus.

You can fancy-up your hummus with any of these delicious add-ins:

  • Roasted red peppers
  • Artichokes
  • Spices--cumin, paprika, chili powder
  • Sun dried tomatoes

Sweet potato chips

Chips are my weakness, I'm not a sweets kind of girl, give me all of the salty foods.  These sweet potato chips though will make you feel like you're cheating on healthy eating, they are oh so good!

Wash your sweet potatoes and slice them VERY thinly, or a mandolin.  If you're using a knife, make sure it's super sharp.  If you don't have mandolin, they can be very helpful to make uniformly cut vegetables, plus it cuts everything up really fast.

I couldn't decide on what flavor I wanted, so I tried three different flavors.  Toss the potatoes with the olive oil and whichever spices you choose in a plastic bag--this is a super easy way to get all the ingredients spread around.

Place the potatoes in a single layer on a baking sheet in an oven preheated to 300 degrees.  Cook for about an hour and half turning once to make sure they brown on both sides.  The cooking time will vary if your potatoes are thicker or thinner than I cut mine, so just kind of watch them.

Roasted almonds

I love almonds!  They are a fantastic quick snack to grab throughout the day to keep me going with no preparation.  However, I end up eating them so often, I get bored and eat them just to get in a snack and not because I'm enjoying them.  This past weekend, I wanted to kick up the flavor of my almonds, because they were starting to get boring.  Here's the result.

Start with raw, plain almonds spread in a single layer on a baking sheet.

Cook the almonds at 350 degrees for about 13 minutes, you'll start to be able to smell them.

I label the spices and keep them in my pantry because I don't use all I mixed up at once.
While the almonds are cooking, mix up your spices in a jelly jar.  I love using jelly and Mason jars in my kitchen--they have universal lids, it's easy to mix things up in a jar by shaking it, they stack well, and the glass makes it microwaveable safe (don't forget to take off the metal ring!)

Spray the almonds on the pan with olive oil, or you can put them in a metal or glass bowl to mix up. Add the spices and toss.

These are straight out of the oven, so they look oily, but they really aren't in the end. 

The spices are a great addition, but you can change it up however you like.  These would be tasty with just some olive oil and salt, or sweeten them up with some cinnamon.

4 servings almonds
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cumin
3/4 teaspoon garlic powder (I know this is a weird measurement, just eyeball it)
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/4 teaspoon onion
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
1/4 teaspoon pepper
2 teaspoons olive oil

Spread the almonds in a single layer on a baking sheet.  Bake at 350 degrees for 13 minutes (until you can smell them.)

Combine the next seven ingredients in a jar, secure the lid, and shake until the spices are well combined.

After the almonds come out of the oven, spray lightly with olive oil, or put in a metal or glass bowl and toss with the olive oil. Sprinkle 2-3 teaspoons of the seasoning on the almonds.

The beauty of making it yourself is you can add more seasoning if it's not spicy enough, or combine in more almonds to spread out the seasoning if it's too much--you choose.

The oil and seasoning will set on the almonds once they've cooled.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Making a list and checking it twice

I'm a Type A person, and a good list is right up my alley--I make lists of lists. One of those glorious, all-is-right-in-the-world things is that my last name is List too. Part of my Type A personality makes me do things as a routine, so my grocery list and shopping is a routine too.

The start of the plan
 Making a grocery list can take time, but by continuously following a plan you'll become a pro.
  1. Every week I go to the grocery store on the same day at the same time. This is significant because I always know on Tuesday night I need to make my weekly meal plan and grocery list. It becomes part of the routine knowing this has to be done by Tuesday night because I'll be at the store the next morning. Having a set day and time keeps me from putting it off another day.
  2. Get one piece of paper for your grocery list, or use a list on your phone. Get a second piece of paper for your meal plan (or whatever you're using to write down your meals that everyone in the family can see every day--no more questions of what's for dinner).
  3. Start with your meal plan. Write down all the days of the week and then assign dinners for each and every day, be detailed (main dish, sides, salad, etc.) about everything you're going to make. Decide on a few things to rotate for breakfast, lunch, and snacks for all the beings of your house for one week. Write those down on the meal plan too. 
    The dinner plan for all to see
  4. Now that you have your plan, start going through each meal/recipe and detail on your grocery list every item contained in the meal--spices, flour, milk, mustard, whatever, write it all down. My tip is to actually write down everything, even if you think you have enough of an item on hand, but star those items you think you have. For example, I think I have enough peanut butter to make smoothies for a week, but I write it on the list anyhow and put a star by it. 

Friday, January 22, 2016

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Talking about colds was not on my list of posts I wanted to write because it does not make me think of healthy or nutritious, but I've had a head cold for a couple of days so it's currently the.only.thing.on.my.mind!

This time of year it seems everyone has a cold, is getting over a cold, or doesn't know they're about to get a cold.  The boys' pediatrician told me kids can get 6-12 colds this time of year, and two kids means 12-24 colds--ugh!  And being the caring, sharing children they are, I always end up with at least a mild version.

Before children, having a cold meant staying in my pajamas all day and whining to whatever unfortunate soul was left with me.  Now that I have two kids, it means surviving the day.

When a friend or family member is sick, it's the perfect time to love on them (not literally), and really Jesus wants us to show love to each other.  I've got a few most basic thoughts on loving each other, and being loved with a cold:
  • Double your dinner and bring it to a friend with a cold. If you have the cold, graciously accept the offer.  Don't be a hero, just say yes.  It's a kind gesture, and if they didn't mean it they wouldn't say it.  If they actually didn't want you to accept, then you'll teach them to mean what they say :)
  • Make a fast nutritious soup for your family if you're sick, or if you can tell you're coming down with something, leave this in the fridge to eat on for a few meals.  
  • If you're really thinking ahead of time, make a soup and leave it in the freezer for the next time illness strikes your home, take it to a sick friend, or just have a ready made dinner when you don't want to cook.  Many options here. 
  • If you don't have time to make a meal for a sick friend, pick up some pre-cut fruit at the store to give them.  They'll know you care and the nutrients will help.  
  • When you're sick, be kind to those around you, they want to help.<----Hands down, the hardest one for me, I'm a bear when I'm ill.  
 A sweet friend brought me some amazing black bean soup

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Encouragement for today

I really felt the need to write a post of just encouragement today.

The message we get from the food and restaurant industry is that it's just too hard to cook and feed your family nutritious meals, these responsibilities should be handed over to the experts.  You've been eating since the day you were born, I would now call you an expert.  You just may need to learn some new methods. Don't get me wrong, there is some delicious food on the shelves, but it's often loaded with sugar, or other very unknown ingredients.

I'm here to encourage you, you can do this!  It takes a little planning, and a little time.   "Little time" is the key phrase there, good meals don't have to take forever, or have a million ingredients.  I have two little ones constantly under my feet, needing milk, or wanting to show me something.  There is no time for laborious meals here (ain't nobody got time for that!) 

When I'm looking for recipes, I try to keep my meals to 30 minutes.  Now, that's not always a hard, and fast rule.  If I can prep something in 15 minutes, but it needs to cook for 45 minutes, fine.  The active time prepping is what I try to keep to 30 minutes or less.  

If you still don't think you can dedicate that kind of time, think about how long it takes to go pick up food from a fast food place and get back home.  How much longer is cooking a meal at home going to take?

  • Prep as much as you can the night before, the morning of, or during the day before dinner (chop, simmer, get the casserole in the pan, etc.)
  • Make a dinner plan for the week
  • Get your kids as active as they can (you had them, now put them to work)
  • If you're eating out a lot, start by transitioning just one meal to a home cooked meal, and then next week, try two meals at home  
Like I've said before, I may not know you, but I know someone loves you.  They desperately want as many days with you as they can get, so start making changes today towards a healthier you.  I don't think I've ever heard anyone say eating nutritious meals made them feel bad.  

Go get 'em!  You can do this!

Let's start at the beginning (part 2)

Continued from yesterday's post...

Originally I thought about just one post with breakfast ideas, but I rambled WAY too long about smoothies, so here's part 2.

Starting off your day with a nutritious breakfast will set the tone for the rest of your eating day.  One good decision in the morning will lead to good decisions through the day.  Granola bars and cereals disguised as healthy are not the way to start your day.  They're full of sugar and will have you crashing shortly and wanting more sugary foods.  (Tip from the documentary "Fed Up": ingredients are listed in order by the largest content in the food, so if sugar--or another name for sugar--is one of the top three ingredients in your food, it's really a dessert.)

So, today, I have two more simple, fast, nutritious breakfast ideas for you.  Like I said before, if you eat the EXACT SAME THING everyday, you'll get bored.  Change it up, have fun, and develop a few go-to meal ideas.

2.  Oatmeal
Oatmeal has never been my favorite. It's always been too bland, or too much sugar, so I buy it and feed it to my children (because as mom's it's totally acceptable to feed our children healthy food we would personally never eat, right???)

I started looking for more breakfast ideas because I sometimes want a hot breakfast, and a hot smoothie sounds disgusting.  So, I started in on oatmeal.  Below is my most favorite creation, and it's got a lot of stuff, so don't be intimidated when you see the recipe.  Oatmeal is a blank canvas to make it how you want.

My oatmeal starts with multrigrain hot cereal, added with a combination of almond milk and applesauce, cinnamon and little vanilla. Pop it in the microwave for 2 minutes, add chia seeds, blueberries and real peanut butter.  YUM!  Just like that oatmeal become a dear friend, instead of the weird cousin you have to let come over sometimes.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Let's start at the beginning (part 1)

"In the beginning God created the heaven and earth."

Okay, we've gone too far back.  I'm actually just talking about the beginning of your day--breakfast. In a previous post I mentioned planning for success and having a few go-to breakfast ideas.  If your house is anything like mine, the minute my eyes are open in the morning I'm on the go.  Breakfast for the littles, milk, make coffee, let dogs outside, feed dogs, clean up whatever around the house I told myself the night before would be "super quick and easy" to  clean the next morning (eye roll), and reheat my coffee for the fourth time only to forget it in the microwave and find it midday.

So, I have about three meals I really like and it depends on my time, what we have to do that morning, and my mood as to which meal I make. (To be honest, regularly it depends on what ingredients my children have so kindly left in the fridge/freezer/pantry that I can throw together into a meal).

1.  Smoothies
First, the super quick, I've-got-to-eat-on-the-go smoothie.  My toddler almost always drinks at least half of my smoothie, so I'm glad this recipe makes slightly more than one serving.

Start with the soft, easy to mix ingredients.  Here I used plain Greek yogurt, spinach, banana, chia seeds (not required but are a great added nutrient if you have it), and real peanut butter--the only ingredients should be peanuts.  Peanut butter is another great add in for a little sweetness without sugar, but if you don't like it or have an allergy it's fine to leave out. Blend these ingredients.

Next add in your frozen fruit.  In this smoothie, I used a cup of frozen berries, blueberries and strawberries to be specific.

One smoothie with lots of nutrients.
One happy toddler.

Monday, January 18, 2016

Plan for success

Most people who are successful had a plan to get where they are (I would assume), and didn't fall into success (okay, maybe some did but most of us aren't that fortunate).

When it comes to healthy eating you need a plan for success.  Until Target starts carrying carrot sticks and tomatoes in their checkout aisles instead of chips and candy, you're not going to fall into healthy eating.  You're going to have to work a little.
Make a plan for dinners, I use this dry erase planner that stays on the fridge so the whole family knows our dinner plans
Let's get you set up for success and start making a plan.  Admittedly, I like a good plan so this comes easy for me.  It may not come easy for you, but with practice it will become second nature.  Here are my tips:
  • Keep healthy snacks on hand (almonds, fruits, veggies, rice cakes, real peanut butter)
  • Make a dinner plan for the week (and know all of the ingredients on your plate)
  • Keep your favorite recipes in one place to go through when you need inspiration
  • Base your grocery list on your dinner plan with additions for breakfast, lunch and snacks
  • Have a few "go to" nutritious breakfast and lunch plans--eating the exact same thing every day, no matter how healthy, is BORING, and food should never be boring, it's deeee-li-cious
  • Prep food for the week to make quick breakfasts, lunches, and snacks--5 minute meals (more on these later)
  • Cook in large batches for your little ones, freeze in individual servings, and easily pull out a meal to reheat quickly (I'll do a blog post later about quick meals for littles)
  • Lots of fruits and veggies, even frozen ones are great
Variety of lunch, dinner and snacks

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Find your fitness

When envisioning the future for my boys, I always say a little prayer they get their father's athletic ability.  The good Lord did not bless me with athletics.  Remember in elementary school when you had to dribble the basketball down to the other end and make a shot?  I was THAT kid who held up the class until the gym teacher eventually just put me out of my misery and let me go on without making a basket.  (Thank you gym teachers everywhere for recognizing when some of us just aren't going to make a shot!)

It's not to say I wasn't athletic at all.  In high school, I really enjoyed cheerleading and gymnastics. Several years after college, I decided I needed to find a way to start working out again.  Those cookies weren't going to work themselves off.  So, I started running.  I figured I was, at a bare minimum, coordinated enough to run.  I stayed with it for awhile, but eventually fell away.

Fast forward to having my second baby, and the baby weight wasn't coming off as easily and all I wanted to eat was junk.   My husband, also who I consider my accountability partner, started encouraging me to find something I would enjoy.  He saw I was down about my weight, lack of energy (in hindsight I had just had a baby, so it's to be expected), and I wanted to feel better about myself.  Not having run in *many* years, I signed up for a half marathon. When I started running again I was SO SLOW, my first run was 10 minutes, and I felt like I needed a sign that said, "I know I'm not fast, I had a baby 2 months ago, have pity."  However, I stuck with it and I found it was nice quiet time (read as: quiet time with my thoughts and without my kids).

Running started a snowball effect and I found myself weirdly wanting to workout more, I can never in my life say this has occurred. Oh, and I finished the half marathon, it wasn't a blazing time, but I did it.  To be very vulnerable with you all, below are my before and after race pictures.  The before picture got posted to social media, the after picture has never seen the light of day until now.  Whatever, I'm proud I finished, but my kids acted like they didn't know me.

Pre-race--the picture I didn't mind to show others
Post race--I pretended like these pictures didn't exist
You guys can we talk about something slightly off topic for a minute?  The other day I ran with a friend.  At the end, she looked like she had been casually perusing Target, while my face was beet red and I looked like I needed oxygen.  Ladies, those of you who glow (sweat) gracefully and still look good working out, the Lord has blessed you.  Say thanks daily.

Now, back to the point of this point...

15 minutes of ignoring everything

Having children is a demanding task, no matter if you're a stay-at-home mom, a work-at-home mom, a working mom, or something in between.  People are constantly asking for something!  By the end of the day, I find myself frustrated and hanging on by a thread.  Part of a journey to a healthier you, is a healthy mind and healthy spirit.

The teacher in my childbirth class told us she would stand at the end of her driveway with her children to hand them off the second her husband arrived home.  (Insert my pre-children judginess, and just.having.no.idea!)  I haven't actually stood in the driveway, but I've definitely been waiting inside to hand them off.

Ignore the world for a little bit each day

Back in October, I read this article on CNN.com called "How to Think Straight in the Age of Information Overload."  The quote below struck me, and I realized this was what I needed daily.
"If we would just let [daydreaming] take over, stare out the window for 10 or 15 minutes, take a nap, and let our minds wander... That has the effect of hitting the neural reset button in the brain and getting us back to our task with a brand new sense of engagement and energy. A 15 minute nap is equivalent to an extra hour and a half sleep the night before."
You may not been an introvert that requires quiet time to recharge, but I'm guessing you could benefit from a daily break.  Fifteen minutes of ME TIME daily.  Let me be clear on what this time is not:
  • it's not time to make a to do list (or a mental to do list--I know you type A people)
  • it's not time to make phone calls
  • it's not time to check social media
  • it's not time to think about what you're cooking for dinner
This is 15 minutes of time to just stare, and clear your mind.  The first few times I tried it, it was hard!  I set the timer on my phone and stared blissfully at the trees around my yard.  After what I assumed to be 45 minutes, I checked the timer, and I had successful had my mind quiet for 4 minutes.  Ugh! Seriously, those first days of 15 minutes seemed to take two hours.  However, I noticed an improvement in my disposition throughout the day.

Now, I try to make this part of my everyday, but I don't make it a "to do" item and I don't stress if it doesn't happen.  I know I'll feel better if I do it, but I don't want the pressure if I can't.  So, set the timer on your phone, set it to not ring, put it on the other side of the room, and don't pick it up until your timer goes off.  For an added bonus, make your quiet time outside and get some much needed vitamin D!

Prioritize 15 minutes daily to blissfully ignore everything around you and enjoy the journey to an all around healthier you.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

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My loves

You clicked on this title thinking I was going to talk all about my darling family didn't you?  WRONG.  I'm talking about the food books and documentaries I love.  I mean, don't we all sit down a Friday night and think, "Oh, what good food documentary is on tonight?"

No?  Just me?  Whatever.

If you're looking for some inspiration when you're struggling with your healthy journey, or just want to learn more about your food, where it comes, what to eat, how to eat, then these are my favorites.  I'm always looking for more, so if you have suggestions, send them along.
Food Rules by Michael Pollan--I've professed my love for this short, simple read many times, so it makes the top of my list.
Fed Up by Stephanie Soechtig (2014)--An hour and half that will dramatically change your views on sugar.  
Food Inc. by Robert Kenner (2008)--One of the first documentaries I watched about food and really started the wheels moving for me. 
In Defense of Food by Michael Pollan (the book) or In Defense of Food by Michael Schwarz (2015) based on the book--It's like in high school if you didn't want to read the book you watched the movie, but this movie actually follows along the basics of the book.
There's a few of my favorites.  My husband and I recently took down our bookcase and all of my precious books were packed away (tear), so I need to go through the boxes and find some of my other favorites, but this is a place to start.

Knowing how to break the rules

In one of my college classes, I very clearly remember my professor telling the class, "You have to know the rules first to know how to properly break them."

His line has stuck with me all these years and I've found it to be true in so many ways, especially eating.

I mentioned in a previous post the guidelines I try to follow in eating, I will also tell you I regularly break some of those rules, but in a way I feel is properly breaking them.  As a wife and mom of two, I want my family to have the best.  However, my sanity is also highly valued by everyone in this family--if mama ain't happy ain't nobody happy.  

Let's take this picture below as an example.  This day, I continually said, "don't play with the toilet paper, don't play with the toilet paper, don't play with the toilet paper."

Whatever, play with the toilet paper.
Sometimes you have to let go of the rules for your sanity

So, here are some of the rules and how I'm totally comfortable breaking them.

Find a friend

The other day I read on the internet that roughly two weeks into the new year is when resolutions begin to fail (and everything you read on the internet is true right?!?!)  I think we can all safely say resolutions do generally begin to fail at some point.  So we all need someone holding us accountable, cheering for us, and helping us back up if we fail.

We are not meant to do life alone. God gave Adam and Eve each other in the beginning so they weren't alone.  WE ARE MEANT TO BE WITH OTHERS. So, why would you do a journey to healthier living alone?  

I believe there is a tendency to want to go it alone because we can be embarrassed by eating choices, or exercise habits.  Our mind says, "I'll get someone to help when I've got this whole mess cleaned up this is embarrassing."  Y'all I've had two kids, if there's one thing I've learned from them, there's no time to be embarrassed.  Take care of yourself, take care of family and make it a priority.  

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

KISS eating and encouragment

Everyone remember the K.I.S.S. principle from high school (for purposes of this blog we're going to say it means keep it simple, sister)?  This is my main goal when it comes to eating.  Many people think of simple eating as grabbing the closest, pre-packaged item you can find.  For me, it's about following basic guidelines around eating and not making it overly complicated.

Food Rules by Michael Pollan has made the biggest impact in what I eat and how I eat.  Whenever I'm asked about healthy eating, this is always my first suggestion.  If you're looking to make a change to what you eat, READ THIS BOOK NOW.  It couldn't be easier.

Let me back up a bit.  About seven years ago, my husband and I were looking to make a change to our diet and become healthier.  For seven years, we've taken two steps forward and one step backward.  It's been a journey, a labor of love really for health.

People who have known me for awhile know I've always been a fairly skinny girl.  Skinny does not equal healthy I found out.  Daily, I used to feel like garbage.  In 2007, I was sitting at my work desk about 10 AM barely able to keep my eyes open after 9 hours of sleep.  I looked down at my cheese and peanut butter packaged crackers and thought, "I'm a healthy eater, why am I so tired?"

Why am I doing this?

There are a million and one books, websites, social media sites about healthy eating, who needs another blog?  Well, our children are the first generation expected to live shorter lives than their parents.  WHAT?!?!?!  It's true, here's an article from The New York Times discussing the findings.  The article is more than 10 years old, but I think we can all safely say we haven't righted the Titanic yet.

This makes me so incredibly sad and motivated to give us all more time.  That's exactly what happens when you change your eating and exercise habits--you get more days.  I think we all want more for our children than we had, so don't we all want them to have more days?

It took me more than 7 years to get to the place I am in my health.  I'm not perfect, and I'm going to be really open and honest in my writing.  However, I do work hard to educate myself and make good food choices for me and my family.  Through this blog I hope to encourage others to make good food choices and start the journey of better health.  I want to give you and your babies more days.  When I was thinking of starting this blog I told my mom that even if I only help and encourage one person, it's all worth it.

Here's my proposal.  I'm not a health coach.  I'm not a medical professional.  I want to be your friend that gives you guidance you want and encouragement you need.  Follow along with my healthy journey (it's a journey, not a destination), and let me come along on yours too.

I literally get excited thinking about other people getting healthy! EEK!

Here we go...

I'm raising two boys and I don't have a clue what I'm doing. In trying to make the best decisions for them I find myself sometimes being a crunchy mama, sometimes conveniently creamy,and regularly making things overly complicated.

This blog will contain a little of everything, but mostly I want to encourage others to be the best version of yourself.   I'll tell you about the ways I'm THAT crunchy mom, and I'll be open and honest about the times I'm going for convenience, because you know...life!  I love the earth and God only gave us this one we're on, so we need to take care of it.  Do I wish I could go off the grid, making every product we use in our home, and growing everything we eat?  YES!  Is it feasible right now?  Not even close.  So, I look for the balance to be good to the earth, and good to my family in our current season.

I've been thinking about starting this blog for a while now, but I always feared it would come off as, "look how amazing I am at cooking and keeping my family green and clean!"--which is not at all what I'm aiming for.  My hope is you will be able to relate, get some ideas, and share some new ideas with me.  As I said in the beginning, I don't have a clue what I'm doing!  As wives and mamas, we're in this together.  Here we go...