To be completely honest, this is the blog post that has stopped me in my tracks. It may be my most important one to date, and at the very least is important when it comes to the physiological side of health and wellness. Thinking about diving into this post, how to frame it and present it, and do so in the style of my typically witty and wise rhetoric has given me pause, and did throw off my blogging game for a bit. After much thought I have come to realize that the best thing to do is to just do it. Like that occasional class where the teacher has no choice but to present a dry lecture, all I can do is present the information in the best way that I can, and let the chips fall where they may. That being said, let’s just dive right in, shall we…
Whether your goal is to shrink your size, gain muscle, feel better, or just improve your overall health, the single most important factor is, and always will be what you eat. You can’t out exercise a bad diet. There is absolutely nothing healthy and maintainable about a lifestyle that doesn’t give any thought to what you are putting into your body. There are many trendy diets out there, many supplements and buzzwords, many diets that involve leaving out important food groups, and many diets that have been adopted as healthy diets, but are really only supposed to be for people with a medical intolerance or aversion to the avoided ingredient(s). There’s counting calories, counting macro and micronutrients, and I could go on and on. Do these “diets” work? Yes, some of them do, but here is my problem. First of all the word diet has a negative connotation to it. In its original form diet simply means a way of life. The way that we use it in our current vernacular brings the feeling of deprivation, sacrifice, and starvation. How fitting that you can’t spell diet without “die”. Second, I don’t want to have to subscribe to a particular company, I don’t want to spend a small fortune, I don’t want to leave out a food group just because it’s trendy, and I don’t want to spend the rest of my life counting calories. I have better things to do with my time, and frankly so do you. Is meal planning important? Yes, but you have to do it in a way that is right for you. In this post I am going to give a breakdown of how I have been putting meals together for over a year.
Step one to this process is you have to open your mind to foods that you haven’t tried, or have maybe tried before, and didn’t really like. Step two is you will have to accept the fact that a lot of added sugar and a lot of added salt are the enemy. Step three is to realize that if your current “diet” is full of complete and utter packaged crap then you are going to have to deal with transitioning to healthier foods. Accept the fact that this will probably be difficult, but change is always hard. It is about mindset. Recognize that food is fuel. You want the best fuel possible, so that you will be at your best. It is entirely possible to do this without blowing your budget, and in a way that will still allow you to enjoy what you eat. The important thing is to give it a chance, give yourself a chance to adapt to a new lifestyle, and keep an open mind.
A little disclaimer before I begin: I am not a registered or certified dietician, or nutritionist. This has strictly been put together through my own research and experiences. Also, as I have mentioned before, I started this with the 20/20 diet and used that as a jumping off point to evolve a meal planning system that works for me, and my family. When I put together meals, I think of them in five groups.
*3-4 oz of chicken breast or thigh or turkey (ground or sandwich)
*4 slices of natural sandwich turkey. We get sandwich meat from the natural section with naturally occurring nitrates. Aldi and Kroger are the brands that we get.
*1 can of tuna in water
*Up to 2 eggs
*A little under a cup of full fat milk. We don’t consider this a beverage, and we use it as the protein component of breakfasts, and snacks.
*A little over a ½ cup of full fat plain, greek yogurt or around ¾ cup of 2% plain greek yogurt (see below for guidelines when purchasing a good, and authentic greek yogurt)
*Up to 2 slices of full fat natural cheese, or around 2-4 oz of shredded or block cheese (depending on the cheese)
*Around ½ cup of raw lentils
*½ cup of chickpeas or black beans rinsed and drained
This is a list of the proteins that we ALWAYS have on hand. Before I continue to the other food groups I want to take a moment to state how absolutely important it is that you check the nutrition label, and the ingredients label. Generally speaking the smaller the amount of ingredients, the better it will be to put in your body (more on that later). Also a quick word about using full fat dairy. We started out by using skim milk, and nonfat yogurt. However, research is now showing that full fat dairy is actually more effective at maintaining a healthy weight because the full fat will help you feel fuller longer. The key is measuring out your portions. The above stated portions are what I use, and are typically what women should use. Men should increase the given portion sizes. My husband generally eats about 25%-33% more than I do per meal. The other thing about full fat is that when companies take out the fat they have to add in other things to make up for the flavor which usually amounts to added salt, artificial sweeteners, and things made in a lab. I am not against gmo’s at all. I enjoy bananas and seedless grapes as much as the next person. I just get concerned when an ingredient can also be found in paint thinners and car interiors. When eating things like mayonnaise, milk, cheese, and yogurt your best bet is to opt for full fat, authentic versions with actual food ingredients. Check the ingredients label, and look at the serving size to portion it out correctly. Also, when buying yogurt look for full fat or 2% fat. Check the sugar and protein information. It should have at least 12 grams of protein per serving, and no more than 18 grams of sugar. Finally the first two ingredients should be milk and live and active cultures. 2-3 times per month we indulge in beef.
Ah, the demonized carb. Carb lovers everywhere can breathe a sigh of relief. The carb is an extremely important part of a balanced diet (there’s that word again…). Again, the key is what’s in it, and what’s the portion size. The recommendation is that half of your carbs should be whole grain. We eat almost exclusively whole grain. We only take the very rare exception, and I have even taken to baking with whole wheat flour, and experimenting with substituting it for all-purpose flour. In terms of calories there is almost no difference between whole grain and white carbs. The difference comes in how nutrient dense the carbs are. More nutrient dense means more of the good fiber that keeps you full, and (how do I say this…)keeps things moving. To illustrate this point I will now tell a story. Once upon a Saturday we didn’t go grocery shopping. I ate only white carbs in the same portion I normally do of whole wheat, but things didn’t move along like they should. It sucked. The end. I keep my carb portion to 120 calories. There are a few exception such as for oatmeal and farro which are 150 calories when cooked in water. Here is what this portion looks like.
*Up to ½ cups of raw rolled oats
*¼ cup of dry farro
*Up to 2 slices of regular whole wheat bread depending on the bread
*2 corn tortillas
*1 whole wheat flour tortilla
*½-1 cup cup shredded wheat cereal (plain)
*½ cup of potatoes
Some measurement and portioning gray areas are pasta and pizza dough. When making your own pizza, as I often do, look for whole wheat premade pizza crusts, or pizza dough. We get the dough from Aldi. Generally speaking I opt for ⅙ or ⅛ of the pizza crust for my portion depending on my mood, and what’s on it. When measuring out pasta I check the label, and adjust my portions. If I am making pasta that is meant to last 3 people for two meals (6 portions), then I will make 4 servings of pasta, and add extra vegetables to the dish or meal to fill it out more. Also, when buying breads and other whole wheat items check the label. The first ingredient should always be “whole wheat” flour or grain. If this isn’t the first ingredient, then it isn’t whole grain. This is especially important when buying items labeled “multi-grain”. The other thing to be wary of is high fructose corn syrup. This stuff has had a bad rap for a while, and more research is coming out to prove it. Look for breads that don’t use this ingredient.
Fat is another ingredient that has gotten a bad rap, but is extremely important for health. Not only does the right kind of fat keep you full, but it can also help raise your levels of good cholesterol(hdl), lower your levels of bad cholesterol(ldl), and is full of omega 3’s and omega 6’s which are important for heart and brain health. Again, know what you’re getting, and how much you are eating. When portioning out the fats, it really depends on what the food is. Fats are typically very high calorie, and when portioning them out I try not to go over 100 calories per meal. This is what it looks like for me.
*2 tsp of olive oil or coconut oil
*1 tbsp of natural peanut butter (two ingredients max: peanuts and salt) or other nut butter
*2 tbsp of unsalted walnuts, almonds, or sunflower seeds
*1 slice of full fat cheese or 1 oz of cheese.
*¼ of an avocado
We buy butter, but we make sure that it is real butter that is unsalted, and it is reserved only for baking, and the very, extremely occasional buttering of bread. If you use butter then it is worth it to buy the good stuff, and remember that a little goes a long way. Also, try to limit your overall butter intake to only 2-4 times per month. Typically we almost never eat it. We keep it just in case for those special occasions.
Okay really, there’s almost no way to go wrong here. One thing to remember is that bananas are among the higher calorie of the fruits and sometimes half a banana will suffice, opt for lunchbox sized and small apples and oranges, and when using blueberries and other smaller berries and fruits go for ¾ of a cup for a serving. Here is a list of what we always have.
*Prunes-5 to a serving and absolutely delicious in a peanut butter sandwich with cinnamon.
*Spinach-store with a paper towel in the bag...trust me!
*Canned-no salt added tomatoes
*Fresh tomatoes-for sandwiches and whatnot
*White, yellow, or vidalia Onions-bulk buy, chop them all, and freeze them. Saute them straight from the freezer when you want them. Same with red. When I want raw red onions I thaw them quickly in some cool water. If I am adding onions to meat for a burger patty, then I quickly soften them in the microwave. When you buy the produce, wash it when you get home so that it is ready to go whenever you need it.
This is an extremely important group. This really is the part that will make or break your meal. When you’ve spent a lifetime indulging in a sugar and salt laden diet, the hardest part of transitioning into something healthier is giving up what you think tastes good. I can tell you from my personal experience that dropping extra salt and sugar cold turkey is not only the way to go, but also if you try to go back to what you used to eat it won’t taste as good. There are many things like chips, spiffy coffee drinks, and other things that I used to love that are now way too salty and sweet for me. There are some places where salt is a must. If you are making a tomato or potato dish, or cooking pasta these dishes will fall flat without a little bit of salt. My recommendation is to take the amount that you want to add, and cut it in half. In the beginning, go with that amount. Don’t add anymore. Give yourself and your taste buds a chance to adapt to the new norm. You want the flavors of the food to speak for themselves, and to stand up on their own. Too often we ruin food by adding too much salt and sugar. Outside of the aforementioned dishes, do not add salt or sugar to any other food. Give yourself a chance to adjust. You will figure out what does and doesn’t need those flavors. Tomato soup and sauce is a dish that will need a little of both, but a very little.
We always keep:
*red pepper flakes
*dry dill-for egg and tuna salad
*dry poultry seasoning and dry italian seasoning (both salt free)
*large jar of minced garlic
*bottles of lemon and lime juice
*apple cider, red wine, and balsamic vinegar
Fresh herbs taste amazing in dishes, but can be a waste if you don’t find a use for the entire batch. However, you can freeze fresh herbs for later use. With these items you can flavor dishes in so many ways, and make your own salad dressings. Typically I will just use vinegar, but occasionally I will make a simple mustard vinaigrette by mixing a spoonful of mustard, two spoonfuls of redwine vinegar, and black pepper, and whisking in olive oil in half of whatever amount of vinegar. I also use a little avocado and red wine vinegar on turkey sandwiches, in tuna salad, or egg salad. We also keep something called “better than bouillon” in chicken and beef in the fridge. Having something like a bouillon cube or powder is great for flavoring meals, making sauces, and soups. However, if you read the ingredients label for pretty much every one of these products, many of what is listed isn’t really what one might call a food. To make your own boullion you would make broth, or stock, cook it for hours until all of the water is gone and it resembles a paste, and then dehydrate it. When it is commercially produced, for some reason a bunch of extra crap is added. “Better than bouillon” is a little pricier, but the ingredients label weighs much less heavily on the conscience, and it really does taste much better. It’s worth the money.
For drinks we have water, unsweet tea, coffee with a splash of milk and ½ tsp of raw sugar, and belle vie, or La Croix sparkling water.
The overall proportions of the plate are ¼ carb, ¼ protein, ½ produce, with the fat and flavor worked into one of those groups.
Things to avoid.
The dreaded list of things to never eat or drink again. This list isn’t as long as you might think it would be. There are many wonderful foods that shouldn’t be a part of your regular diet, but there is absolutely nothing wrong with enjoying them occasionally and sensibly. For now though, the foods to avoid are:
ARTIFICIAL SWEETENERS. Just don’t do. High fructose corn syrup, aspartame, sucralose, and all of the others have absolutely no business being in your body. They aren’t good for you, they make you crave salty and sweet foods, and they will derail your ultimate goal. There is no upside to putting this category of “food” into your body.
SODAS. Sorry, but these are terrible in every sense of the word. Full of sugar, bad for your teeth, and the list could go on, and on.
ARTIFICIALLY FLAVORED POWDERED ANYTHING such as coffee creamer, imitation vanilla (just buy real vanilla), artificially flavored ice cream (seriously, just buy the real stuff.)
FAST FOOD. Even the salads aren’t great. I know that it’s convenient, and cheap, but really how can you put a price on prioritizing your health and the health of your family. Some fast food chains are getting the memo that we do in fact have an obesity and mortality rate epidemic, but the ones that aren’t adapting should be avoided. If you must, then my recommended list of go to’s are Chick-fil-a (Grilled chicken and fruit), Panera Bread (Transparency in their food options), and places like the Wawa gas stations that allow you to customize your food with many options. With a sense of wariness, I will also include Subway, and I’ve heard that Taco Bell has started upping their game, but I haven’t been, so use with caution and moderation!
Things to enjoy in moderation.
So the list of no-nos is really not that long. Everything else just takes moderation; sensible and very occasional moderation. Have the cupcake at the birthday party. Drink a glass of wine, or have a beer. Eat the french fries and hamburger at the barbeque. And yes, have that one soda if you must(but please really try not to.) It’s all about being sensible, and not doing it very often.
This seems like as good of a place as any to say that sugar is sugar. What I mean by that is that a lot of people are fooled into thinking that raw sugar, honey, agave nectar, maple syrup, and the like are healthier than sugar. The fact is that no matter what it’s form, sugar is sugar, and that is how your body metabolizes it.
To put this information into use, I will now share what I will be eating today:
A cup of hot green tea with lemon first thing every morning.
Breakfast: A bowl of oatmeal cooked in water with cinnamon and blueberries, topped with yogurt, around 2 tbsp of crushed walnuts, a small dallop homemade, low sugar triple berry jam, and more cinnamon. A cup of dark roast coffee with cinnamon ⅓ tsp of raw sugar, and a light splash of whole milk.
Lunch: Sparkling Water. Wrap with Whole Wheat tortilla, black beans, cheese, spinach, cilantro sriracha, cumin, coriander, garlic, tomatoes with 10 baby carrots and an apple.
Snack: Slice of bread with peanut butter and a banana.
Dinner: Sparkling Water. Turkey and Mushroom burger with Sriracha yogurt, tomato, spinach, a slice of cheese (thin cut is great here), wrapped in iceberg, and oven roasted potatoes tossed lightly in olive oil and seasoned with herbes de provence. (Whole wheat sandwich thins also make a great bun substitute. In this case we have a salad as the side.) Obviously, I eat other things, but hopefully this gives you an idea of how to use what I’ve given you to create your own menus.
Whew! Okay, so we’ve made it to the end. This was an extremely long and dry post, but for most people just figuring out how to handle meals is the hardest part. Many people mistakenly believe that just adding a little physical activity is all that is needed when in fact it is what you eat that makes the biggest impact. So if you are ready for a change, then start here. Use the information in this post to create a meal plan that works for you, and for your family. After all, whatever you do, you will have to live with it for the rest of your life.
I’ve mentioned a few times that one thing that I like to do is take typically unhealthy dishes,and redo them in a way that makes them a little lighter, and better for you so that you could in fact eat them every day if you wanted. Today’s recipe is for my version of macaroni and cheese. This has become a family favorite, and my three year old, who is a mac and cheese connoisseur can’t tell that this is any different from the regular stuff. In this particular recipe half of the cheese sauce is replaced with a carrot puree, and the traditional bechamel is altered by using whole wheat flour and olive oil instead of white flour and butter.
Tuna and Broccoli shells and cheese.
-Whole Wheat macaroni or shells. We use shells because it captures some of the broccoli and tuna which means that when my daughter tries to pick around the broccoli some of it still sneaks it’s way in. As far as how much to use, check the package for serving recommendations. I typically use ⅔ to ¾ of the recommended serving size
-1 cup of whole milk
-1tbsp of olive oil
-1tbsp of whole wheat flour
-black pepper and nutmeg to taste
-½ to ¾ cup of shredded cheese. Sharp Cheddar, or a blend like mexican or taco are what I recommend. We typically use a mexican blend.
-3 medium to large carrots washed
-enough chicken broth to cover the carrots(more on this later)
-1-2 tsp of minced garlic
-1 bag of frozen broccoli
-2 cans of tuna drained, but not rinsed.
-salt for pasta water
Lately I have been thinking a lot about old friends. As we move through different stages of life, it seems as though we leave old friends behind, and inevitably make new ones. It also seems that as we get older, meeting new people, and making new friends becomes more difficult. It’s no secret that as we get older our priorities change. No longer the carefree students surrounded by equally carefree peers, we take on financial responsibilities, responsibilities to a partner, or spouse, parental responsibilities, obligations to an organization, or charity, and the list could go on and on. The minutes of our day become occupied by what we think we have to do. Socializing, and keeping in touch with friends from another time in our lives becomes less important. Sure, we think about them occasionally. We wonder how they’re doing, what they’re doing, and are occasionally reminded of them. We may even think, “I should give so and so a call.”, but still they remain on the bottom of our list of priorities. We become, and stay isolated by our responsibilities, and as usually happens, forget how to take care of ourselves first.
If I haven’t made it obvious by this point, then let me say that I unequivocally believe that in order to be your best self for everyone else, you have to take care of yourself first. I have said that you can’t give from an empty cup, and I truly believe that. To my view, it is completely okay to take alone time for yourself. Take the bubble bath with a glass of wine. Take a trip to somewhere that you want to go, or have a worry free day, or hour where you do whatever you want without thinking about obligations. Eat nutritiously to keep yourself well fueled, and treat yourself occasionally to enjoy life’s pleasures. Exercise to keep yourself healthy and fit, but make it fun and rewarding. Finally, remember that no one is an island. I enjoy solitary activities. I like reading books and meditating. I don’t mind sitting alone in a coffee shop, and watching the world go by. I was always the person who would rather work alone than in a group, and one of the biggest gifts that I was able to have in my adult life was the ability to live by myself, and figure out who I am alone, but we all need people. We all need a tribe of kindred spirits. Some of us may have a tribe of many, or a tribe of only a few, but socializing is another way that we take care of ourselves.
My next point will undoubtedly ruffle a few feathers, but honestly I don’t care. Just like eating nutritiously, and exercising, people who say that they don’t have time to keep up with friends, are really saying that they don’t want to make it a priority. In college, some of my fellow students would be in relationships where the boyfriend/girlfriend would say something to the effect of, “I just don’t have time. I have to study/practice” when it came to spending time with their current partner. When those relationships inevitably ended, that same person would somehow have time for the partners that they eventually ended up with. What’s the moral? People always have time for something, or someone that they have decided to make a priority. Even as 30+ something adults with our multitude of obligations, this still holds true. Whatever your priorities may be is up to you to decide. You don’t owe anyone an explanation or an apology for them, but make no mistake that saying that you don’t have time to exercise really just means that you don’t want to take the time to exercise. Saying that you just don’t have time to eat nutritiously is really just saying that you don’t feel like putting in the effort to do it. Likewise, saying that you don’t have time for friends, is really just saying that they are not high enough on your list of priorities for you to talk to them. I have, in the past, put my health, friends, and, for lack of a better word, sanity at the bottom of my list. I eventually decided that I wanted something better. I have tried to move my health and well being back to the top of the list, and am now trying to reconnect with old friends. Whatever your priorities are, I urge you to take a good look at them, and figure out what does, and doesn’t allow you to be your best self. With the amount of video technology and video messaging technology it is easier than ever to have some face to face time with friends old and new. So, if you have a friend, or friends that you have been missing, make them a priority. Contact your best friends from another time. They may choose to reconnect with you, or not. If they don’t, that’s okay. This is your journey, not theirs. If you have moved somewhere new, and need some new friends, but don’t know where to start, then research special interest groups in your area. There are groups out there for stay-at-home-moms, hobby groups, fitness groups, and even groups based on enjoying a specific language and culture. The time has come to take care of ourselves by getting off of our islands, shirking the isolation that responsibility can bring, and reconnecting with our tribes.
Friends are one of life’s pleasures, and enjoying a special treat with friends is even better! But for those times when you want the treat without the guilt, I have a recipe for a cookie that will do just the trick. I call these cookies my “Cheater Chocolate Chunk” cookies. They took some work to get them to where I like them, but I feel like this recipe gives the best of both worlds. When compared to a recipe of regular chocolate chip cookies they have 50% less sugar, and 42% less calories. They are almost completely void of empty calories, and the ingredients used contribute something to the overall health of your body, and best of all, you know that you are eating a chocolate chunk cookie. They are soft and chewy, and using a broken up chocolate bar instead of chocolate chips give you more chocolate bang for your buck. Do they taste like Starbuck’s chocolate chunk cookies? No they don’t, but they aren’t supposed to. They are just supposed to taste good, and not be terrible for you, and I along with my husband, and 3 year old, think that these are delicious! Without further ado, I give you my Cheater Chocolate Chunk Cookies.
-1 ripe banana
-½ cup of creamy natural peanut butter (It should have two ingredients: peanuts, and salt. Smucker's Natural, and Kroger brand natural both fit the bill!)
-¼ cup + 2 tbsp of granulated sugar
-¼ cup + 2 tbsp of packed brown sugar
-1 tsp of pure vanilla extract (Not imitation)
1-½ c + 3 tbsp of white whole wheat flour
1tsp of baking soda
1tsp of salt
7 oz of 72% or higher dark chocolate bar. (I get two 3.5 oz bars of from Kroger private selection)
*If using the ingredients listed, each cookie is 108 calories per cookie when 32 cookies are made. The entire batch of dough yields 3,443 calories compared to a traditional cookie dough of 6,050 calories
*The darker the chocolate the less sweet the cookies tastes. Since the cookie dough itself isn’t sweet, if you would like a sweeter cookie, then try using chocolate with a lower cocoa content such as semi-sweet, or milk chocolate. More sugar can be added to the recipe, but I really recommend switching out the chocolate first. If you decide to add more sugar, then make sure that you use equal amounts of granulated and brown sugar. Do not exceed 3/4c per sugar, and keep in mind that the texture, sugar content, and calorie count will change significantly. Also, please remember before you add more sugar to the recipe that the name of the game is to try to cut back on the sugar.
*I haven’t experimented with this yet, but if peanut butter isn’t your thing, then you could try an equal amount of solid coconut oil. However, the calories are almost equivalent to butter, and while coconut oil does have healthy omega 3’s the jury is still out as to whether or not it is bad for your cholesterol, and if any health benefits outweigh the deficits. You could also use a stick of unsalted butter instead of peanut butter if cholesterol isn’t a concern for you. Peanut butter has less calories, and is better for cholesterol. It is also filled with protein, and when made with minimum ingredients, is a healthy fat.
*These cookies freeze well, and can be eaten right out of the freezer, crumbled up for an ice cream topping, or microwaved for 20-30 seconds.
I feel like it is a pretty safe assumption to make that many people who are trying to lose weight, live a healthier lifestyle, or whatever health goal have found that the holiday season has, at one point or another, been their undoing. I feel comfortable making this assumption because this has been true for me twice. Before this 75 pound and multi inch loss I tried twice before to attain a healthier size. The first time was in college. I managed to lose 15 lbs my sophomore year, and after Thanksgiving I gained 5 of it back, and that was it. The second time was after I graduated college. I managed to lose 20 pounds, and by the following Christmas I managed to put 12 of it back on, and 6 years and 1 child later had packed on another whopping 47 pounds (yikes!) This is my first holiday season since finally shedding ALL of the fat that I had ever wanted to lose, so naturally I’ve been working to not let history repeat itself. Not to mention, I LOVE HOLIDAY FOOD. (Can you hear me now?) I love it. Planning a Thanksgiving menu is up there with Christmas morning for me. I love making cookies, candy, and fudge for Christmas! I love the flavors and decadence that come with this time of year. How in the world was I ever going to make it?
Well, my dear readers, I am pleased to announce that for the first time ever I have managed to enjoy the food that I love, and NOT gain any fat. That’s right people! I am the same size and weight now that I was in October. I have actually figured out a way to balance things out, and since this is, to me, a very important accomplishment, I am going to share my methods and tips with you. So without further ado I give you “The Unapologetic Mom’s Guide to Enjoying and Surviving the Holidays.”
One thing that is important to note is that those other two times when I lost weight my method was fundamentally flawed both times. I never really developed healthy living habits. The first time I just did my best to out exercise my bad diet, which is great when you’re 19, but not quite the same at 31. Not to mention that after Thanksgiving I never got back on the exercise bandwagon. Maintaining that level of exercise for an extended period of time, let alone forever, would have been impossible anyway. Exercise is important, but the most important thing is what you are eating. Which brings me to the second time that I lost weight. I counted calories. I gave myself 1500 calories per day, and there were some days where if I baked cookies, then all I would eat that day was 1500 calories worth of cookies. Besides being absolutely terrible for my overall health cookies are not a filling food. They don’t contain the essential nutrients that you need, and they do not keep your body properly fueled and satisfied. This time definitely is different. As stated in previous posts I’ve worked to develop healthier habits. I eat healthier foods and make smarter choices. I don’t count calories because it’s not a long time solution. I pay attention to what I’m eating and my portion sizes. I properly fuel my body.
So now that we’ve established the difference between the other times, and this time let’s repeat that step one is to keep up your healthy eating habits. If you indulge in a sweet, keep the portion size in check. Be mindful.
The other thing to do is to keep up your regular exercise routine. This doesn’t give you carte blanche to eat whatever you would like, but it does keep you in check to make sure that you are further keeping up your healthy habits. If you want to give yourself a pass on Thanksgiving or Christmas, that’s okay. But, a good rule of thumb is to never go more than two days without exercising. After that it gets really difficult to motivate yourself to start back up.
So now the important part...taking part in the holiday. Like I said before, I love holiday foods. I love making them. Some of the best memories are made over a double boiler of chocolate, and this year my daughter has been quite the sous chef. And let’s not forget about the Thanksgiving and Christmas meals, and the parties, and the food gifts! These can be a sugar and calorie filled minefield. So, here are my tips for indulging without going to excess.
It’s been awhile since I have posted. I could use any number of reasons as to why it’s been so long, all of which would be valid, but one of the main reasons I will give is I just didn’t know what to say. Not because I had nothing to say, but because I had so much to say that I didn’t know where to go next, and then, as they say, life got in the way. Some of you, dear readers, have commented on how you look forward to using my advice to get healthier, and to you and anyone else who maybe started looking forward to what I might say next, I would like to offer the rare, but not unheard of apology, and present a peace offering of a holiday craft/treat at the end of this post.
So now the holiday season is upon us, and thinking about making amends has me thinking about making amends with people and circumstances in your life. To many people the holidays represent charity, togetherness, magic, and joy. Seeing this holiday through the eyes of my 3 year old, and how every light and tree means something special has made me realize how important joy is. We all have people or circumstances in our lives that either actively sap joy from us, or give us a feeling of apathy. What I have come to realize is that this season, and life is too fleeting and too precious to waste on people or things that don’t bring you joy. There is nothing worse than having to deal with things or people that make you work to regain the feeling of happiness and magic that not only should be present now, but through the whole year. “Fake it until you feel it” is a popular phrase, but honestly, should we have to? Sometimes, yes, this is necessary at. But, in terms of who we allow into our personal space, and what we allow to bring us down, life is too special to waste any time dealing with people on a regular basis who bring us any less than joy, kindness, and the feeling that we are worthy. Just some food for thought for this holiday season. Use it as a time to figure out who and what brings you joy and pursue it!
I promised you a peace offering, and here it is….Marshmallow Snowmen.
I had this idea because I bought a bag of marshmallows for a Thanksgiving game that I saw on “The Chew”, and wanted a way to get rid of the rest of them. Christmas only comes around once a year, and in the spirit of the holidays and healthy living you have to indulge, and hopefully making this little treat will become a new holiday tradition for you as it now has for us.
This is a great little food craft that my 3 year old had a blast making, and it’s foolproof. There is no way to mess it up, and if you are so inclined, it could even make a great gift. I will share the method to make these snowmen as well as my basic hot chocolate method.
You will need marshmallows(medium sized works best), red and green spiral mints, white chocolate, dark/milk/or semisweet chocolate chips, toothpicks, and wax paper.
Cover your workspace with wax paper. (I taped it to the counter) Crush your mints (we did this in a baggy with a meat hammer), and put the pieces on a plate.
Melt your chocolates separately. You won’t need to melt very much because this project doesn’t use much. I did this in the microwave in 30 second increments stirring after every 30 secs until it was melted. Put some unmelted brown chocolate chips separately on a plate.
Dip one side of the marshmallow in either chocolate, and dip into whatever candy. We dipped in white chocolate and then into the mints for a scarf, and dipped into the semisweet chocolate, and then into the unmelted chips for a hat.
Afterwards, use the toothpick and brown chocolate to paint a face onto your marshmallow. I found that this works best if you use the toothpick more like a stamp than a brush.
Once they set, and this only takes about 10 mins or so, you can use them, or wrap and store. Eat them as they are, or put them in hot chocolate, which is what we did.
To make our hot chocolate I heat milk on the stove, and put 2 tsp of unsweetened cocoa and 1 tsp of sugar into the cup. For whatever size mug you use, I would still recommend a 2:1 ratio of cocoa to sugar. I have found that pouring the hot milk on the “mix” works better than heating the milk in the cup, and then adding the mix. If you want peppermint cocoa you can steep a peppermint tea bag in your hot cocoa after you mix, or steep the tea in the milk on the stove to infuse the tea into your cocoa. (I do this with my coffee, along with unsweetened cocoa powder to get a peppermint mocha thing too.) I also like to add a little cinnamon into a really chocolately cocoa.
I like making hot cocoa this way because it is simple, inexpensive, and as I have said in previous posts, I like controlling how much sugar goes into my food. Audrey loves this cocoa, and she absolutely loved making these marshmallow snowmen. This is a quick and easy craft that anyone can do! Hopefully you have as much fun as we did!
Canned vegetables and soups have gotten a bad rap over the past decade or so, and with good reason in some cases. Many canned goods are loaded with added salt and sugar. Because of how much added salt and sugar there are in many of the foods we eat today, we have actually conditioned ourselves to think and want more salt and sugar than we actually need. Eating foods with salt and sugar isn't the problem. The problem is we eat too much of it. There is also the whole BPA thing that potentially means eating canned foods can actually be somewhat dangerous. If you fear the BPA in cans, then this post is not for you. However, if like me, it’s not at the top of your list of concerns, then keep reading because I am about to blow your mind. (As much as I can with canned tomatoes)
In the case of canned goods many of them are loaded with salt, and all kinds of added and really unnecessary ingredients. Canned soups are something that I particularly steer clear of on a normal basis because when I make food, I want to have as much control as possible over what, and how much of what goes into what I eat. Many prepackaged foods are not only loaded with salt and unrecognizable chemical compounds (to be discussed in a later post), but they are also loaded with sugar. If you were to prepare the same packaged foods from scratch, you would find that not only can you add less salt and sugar, but also without all of the extra junk they taste better than buying it ready made from the store. I can pretty much guess what your thinking. Yeah right. I really want to take time to make this crap from scratch, and my response is yes. Yes you do, and the best part is it’s easy.
Which brings me to the canned tomato but before I extol the virtues of this glorious product I want to say a few things about buying canned goods. I’m not a fan of canned vegetables and fruits for a few reasons. For the most part, canned vegetables have a taste and texture that to me is generally unappealing, and could never in a million years live up to the taste of fresh vegetables. Canned fruits are almost always packed in syrup(hello megaton of added sugar) and even the ones packed in fruit juice have added sugar and the texture can also be a little….off (I’m talking to you peaches). Quick reminder, EXTRA salt and sugar are things to avoid. (Note the word EXTRA). Some canned goods are great to have on hand, and there are a few that I always have. Beans, tuna fish, and chickpeas are great pantry items. They save you a ton of time, and research has shown that giving them a quick rinse before use can wash off around 40% of the added salt. I keep canned diced tomatoes on hand, but I make sure to get the no salt added. Why? Because I want to be in control of how much salt goes into my food. Too much salt, among other things, is a huge contributor to bloat and water weight gain. Canned pumpkin(not pie filling) is also a great pantry staple, but again I am talking about the tomato.
So, let’s get into it. What can you make out of the canned tomato? Get ready to have your mind blown. *Takes a breath* Spaghetti sauce, tomato soup, tomato bisque, pizza sauce, marinara sauce, and ketchup which also means BBQ sauce. All of these prepackaged items can be made at home for a fraction of the cost, giving you complete control over all of the ingredients, with almost no effort. The only kitchen tools that you need are a blender, and a pot with a stove.
How does this work? For whichever of the previously listed items you want to make the method is the same. Open however many cans of tomatoes that you want to use, puree them in the blender, put them in a pot on the stove, add whatever ingredients you want, and let it cook without a lid until enough water cooks out to create your desired consistency. To make ketchup, two cans fills up a mason jar. I add a pinch of salt, a teaspoon of sugar, a little garlic powder, and a splash of white vinegar. I taste, and add more from there if I need to. Make sure you stir it occasionally as it cooks, and it’s done when you drag your mixing spoon across the pan and the trail that you make stays. Let it cool, put it in a mason jar, and put it in the fridge. Once it is refrigerator temperature it’s ready to use. It’s delicious, sooooo much cheaper, and I know exactly what is in it. Just to clarify when I say delicious, I mean the best ketchup I have ever had. Including, (yes...I know, I’m sorry my Texas peeps) “Whataburger” ketchup.
It’s so easy, and it’s the same for all of the prepackaged tomato based foods. If you want a chunky marinara, or a chunky tomato bisque, then only puree half of the amount of canned tomato that you are using. Puree more or less to your taste. You are completely in control. Want a pasta sauce with fresh herbs? Make it, and make it your own! Why? Because you can, can, can!
Chunky Tomato Bisque
2-14.5 oz canned diced tomatoes in tomato juice (no salt added)
½ cup skim milk
2 tsp of olive oil OR ⅔ tbsp of butter (I use olive oil because I’m watching my cholesterol. Olive oil will float to the top, but just stir it as it cooks)
2 tsp sugar
Salt to taste ( I used about 1 to 1-1/2 tsp)
**A word of caution about salt and sugar to taste. As mentioned above, most of the foods we eat that are prepackaged and bought at restaurants or other establishments are loaded with so much extra salt and sugar that our taste buds are thrown out of whack. If you're serious about a healthier lifestyle, then go 5 days without adding salt or sugar to anything, and don't buy any prepackaged foods. If you do, buy foods with lower salt and sugar content. (Read the label and nutrition info) Make it yourself and try to get away with not adding salt or sugar(including stevia, honey, agave nectar, etc...) to it. Find other ingredients such as spices and fresh or dried herbs to add instead. Potato and tomato dishes will need a touch of salt though. And for the love of God do not use any artificial sweetener. These little chemical shit-storms mess up your palette and make you crave the worst kinds of foods. This will allow your palette to reset, and when you gradually add in more foods you will find that some foods that you used to eat may be too salty or sweet, and artificial sweetener may end up tasting gross. (Let's hope) The point isn't to go without salt and sugar. The point is to get used to eating less. However, as far as artificial sweeteners are concerned....yes, the point is to go without these.
Puree one can, and pour both cans into a saucepan on medium high heat. Add the rest of the ingredients and stir well. Taste for seasoning. Bring to a boil and boil with lid on for 10-15 mins. Lower heat and keep lid on for another 5-10 mins. Take lid off and continue to cook until desired thickness and consistency is reached. (About another 5-10 mins.) Serves 2-3 as a side dish.
*This makes a great lunch with grilled cheese or a panini of some sort
*If you want a smooth or not quite as chunky bisque then puree the contents of the canned tomatoes until desired consistency, then pour into the saucepan. Pureeing to some degree will also give it a more concentrated tomato flavor
*You can get creative by adding in herbs, or sauteing onions and garlic in the oil or butter before adding in the tomatoes. Throw some lentils and farro into the bisque for a complete meal. The sky is the limit!
Ahhh exercise. The math class of healthy living. You either love it or hate it. Unfortunately, for those of you that fall into the latter category exercise is an important part of the equation for health, but before I go any further I am just going to stop and say that no, I am not a certified trainer. I am only telling you what I’ve learned, and what has so far worked for me. Do with the information what you will.
So step 1: Decide you are ready. Step 2: Assess and refine what you eat. Step 3: Exercise. This seems like a good time to discuss terminology. We've already discussed getting rid of the word diet (which again has the word die in it) and replacing it with nutritious and healthy. There is also using "self-control" over "will power". Will power sounds like deprivation whereas control sounds powerful, and like it is a choice because it is. The last group of terms that I want to discuss may be the most misunderstood. The term is "losing weight" This is the overall goal for most people, but this is problematic because the issue isn't weight. The issue is too much fat and too little muscle. Adjusting your food intake will allow you to lose weight and get smaller, but losing that weight doesn't mean you are only losing fat. You will also be losing muscle, and there is such a thing as being skinny, but still having too much fat. Fat, as everyone knows, is the cause of many preventable ailments. Too much fat is the problem, and excess fat is what we want to get rid of; not weight. However, we don't just want to lose fat, we also need to gain muscle. Muscle is what keeps us healthy. Muscle, along with eating enough food, is what makes sure that our metabolism doesn't crash. Unless you work to gain muscle as well as lose fat, more than likely any effort you make to "lose weight" will be for naught. That big study that came out about the contestants on "The Biggest Loser" about how they have all gained their weight back because when you lose weight you are doomed to a life of deprivation because your metabolism slows down is complete bull. Yes, your metabolism slows down because your body needs less to maintain its minimal functions. Yes, you may temporarily go into a type of starvation mode because your body is adjusting to its new norm, but what they left out is that the issue is they lost massive amounts of weight, fat and muscle, in such a short amount of time. This is a marathon and not a sprint. The body can only metabolize two pounds of fat per week. Any more loss than this will include muscle loss, and that is what causes a metabolism to slow more than it should, and lack of muscle is what will make it difficult to maintain weight loss.
All of the studies say that as we age we lose muscle mass, and our metabolism slows, but as it turns out our metabolism only slows because we lose muscle mass, and we only lose muscle mass because we don't stay as active. So what's the point? The point is that in order to be healthy, which is the goal, we have to not only stay motivated, eat well, and exercise, we have to exercise and stay active in a way that will help us lose excess fat, and build and maintain muscle. Muscle is the key component.
To my view there are three components to exercise: Strength training, cardio, and flexibility. I have found that making sure that all of these components are incorporated is not only best physically, but also keeps me from being limited to one, boring type of exercise. For the moment I am not going to go into any more specifics on exercising because the first step to incorporating exercise is being motivated to do so. That being said, let me try to get you into the right mindset.
We often view exercise as a form of punishment. “I ate that donut this morning, therefore I will run an extra 5 miles. If I exercise I won’t get to relax. I hate exercise”. This kind of negative self talk, that I’m sure all of us have experienced, ( I know I have) is a form of sabotage. People weren’t made to sit still. We were made to move. That’s why once we do we feel so good. Exercise releases endorphins that make us feel happy and less stressed, and that’s not an accident. That’s because we should be moving around. Even if you can’t do very much now, something is better than nothing. If walking for 2 minutes makes you feel winded, then start trying to walk for 3 minutes. Walk with some weights. Start trying to stretch. Try to do 5 push-ups on your knees. Try to do 2 push-ups on your knees. Take up yoga with some free youtube videos. (I can not say enough good things about yoga, and I will plug it as much as possible without apology) Park in the back of the parking lot and walk to the door.
The point is to get up and get moving, and to quit thinking of exercise as punishment and see it for what it is. Exercise is a reward. It is love. It is taking care of your body so that the two of you will be happily together for a long time. Find the time, or create a routine that allows you to move around and keep the excuses on the shelf. Do the math. Subtract the negative mindset, and add some movement to your day. (See what I did there?)
In terms of general topics about which I plan on posting, I would like to keep a fairly steady rotation through mental/spiritual well-being, physical well being, and the occasional “sharp opinion piece” as my husband calls it. So far I have covered my opinion piece, given an introductory glimpse into the mentality needed for a lifestyle change, and touched on meditation. Since everything so far has been on the mental/spiritual side of things I think that it is now time to start talking more about the physical side of well being. Specifically, let’s talk about….food.
When beginning a change towards the healthy everyone is pretty much in agreement that exercise and good nutrition go hand in hand. This combination is the best for physical health for a number of reasons, but it all starts with food. There is a lot that can be said on this subject, so I am going to break it up across several posts to cover portion control, smarter food choices, how I put together a meal, how to splurge without guilt, and how to navigate eating out at a restaurant or party without derailing your efforts.. I am not a nutritionist, and I don’t claim to be, but I have found something that works for me and that’s the point. The best food choices are the ones that will work for you for the rest of your life, so without further ado, let’s begin.
Raise your hand if you are now, or have ever been part of the “Clean Your Plate” club. (Keep them up while I count) Like me I’m sure most of us grew up in the well meaning ideology that you needed to eat everything on your plate because it costs money, there are starving children all over the world, and so on and so forth. Whatever your reason for being a part of this club let me just say to you in plain, and simple words, “Get out now!” Whatever your reason for clearing your plate, stop it. Stop it right now. Let go of the guilt that comes with seeing food left on your plate. Let go of the idea that the starving children need you to eat. Whether it goes to waste, or goes to your waist the children will not end up with that food. At least putting it in the trash doesn’t add to your waistline. There is absolutely nothing wrong with leaving food on your plate. (That’s right, I said it)
Besides the food choices that we make, portion control, or lack thereof, is the main culprit to fat gain and overeating. If you’re like me, you just don’t understand the difference between being genuinely hungry, and just wanting more food, and you probably underestimate the amount of calories in the food you are eating. Portion control of any food, whether it be nutrient dense or not, is paramount to maintain a healthy eating lifestyle. When you’ve been conditioned to clean your plate, you have also conditioned yourself to ignore your body’s natural hunger cues, and this is what fouls up our ability to maintain appropriate portion control. What does this mean exactly? Well, it means that when it comes to leading a healthier lifestyle, you will probably have to retrain your body, and yourself to understand your natural hunger cues.
Again, this is what worked for me, and I share it now because it took me 20 years to figure it out, and by Jove someone else should benefit. When I say portion control, I am specifically talking about how much of what food group you eat. Some people try to count calories. If that works for you forever, great. To me it is a huge pain in the ass. Do I count them at all? Sometimes yes, but only for meal planning purposes, which I’ll go over in a later post. Getting back to portion control, the big idea is to limit the calorie dense food you eat to smaller portions, fill up on lighter foods, like produce, and to also listen to your body for when it is full. In an earlier post I mentioned how my husband and I began with the 2020 diet. Even though we didn’t stick with that plan there were several useful pieces of information, one of which I am about to share with you. If your stomach isn’t growling, you aren’t hungry, and if you feel full or stuffed, then you ate too much. Does this mean that you should let yourself get mind numbingly hungry? No. But, when your stomach starts to growl, then you know that you are actually hungry. This has been useful for me because for so long I would mistake just wanting the mouth-feel of food, or having a particular craving (usually triggered by food network), or having the munchies for being hungry. Now my plan is simple. I eat 3-5 times a day,(3 meals and 1 snack, or 3 meals with a snack and dessert) and let my stomach decide. The other side of this is stopping before you eat too much. Your body takes around 20 minutes to decide that it is full. This means that if you’re one of those people who eat like their head is on fire, and it will only go out if you clear your plate, then you are eating all of this food before your body has time to process it. This goes back to my previous post, “Open up and say Om”. Slow down your eating. My little trick has now become putting my fork or spoon down after every bite, and before I finish my food I stop eating, and just sit for a moment. 5-10 minutes depending on how much time you have is long enough to give yourself time to see if you forget about those last few bites, or if you still feel hungry.
No matter what food plan you eventually choose, the most important thing to remember is portion control. Eating nutrient dense food is important to health, but using portion control, and understanding when you are actually hungry is the key to long term success. There are some clubs that you just shouldn't be a part of. Say goodbye to the “Clean Your Plate” club, and never look back.
Chances are that you've seen articles about mindfulness and meditation. While these aren't new topics by any means (think centuries), they do seem to suddenly be trending everywhere. If you enter those words into google, there are literally millions of search results. If you are anything like me, when hearing the word meditation you may think of a Buddhist monk hovering above the ground in the lotus position while being locked in a trance. While transcendental meditation is certainly possible(as far as I know floating is not), this is definitely something that most of us probably won't ever achieve in our lifetime. This is like the holy grail of meditation. Who has time to sit in the lotus position for hours a day trying to float, and shut out the world?! Here's the thing. Meditation, in its simplest form, is simply concentrating on one thing.
When was the last time any of us concentrated on only one thing? How many times are you on your smart phone while watching tv? What about when you eat a meal? Do you concentrate on your food, or are you checking the latest trending topics? Do you ever look down and feel a little surprise that you have finished your entire meal, but really can't remember any of it? How often do you spend your down time looking ahead to the next thing?
When it comes to maintaining a healthy lifestyle, with a healthy balance, mindfulness is the key. Being mindful just means to stop and think. For someone trying to start or maintain a healthy, balanced lifestyle this is the epitome of putting your health first. How does meditation help with being mindful? Anytime that you meditate you are training your brain to stop everything else that it is doing, and concentrate on one thing. In other words, you are teaching your brain to calm the heck down. Meditation, according to many articles, can help limit the release of cortisol in your body which you've probably heard by now is a stress hormone, and can cause fat to store itself in your body. Outside of that doesn't stopping and just being sound great? So, what counts as meditation? Believe or not, there are many things that count as meditation besides the lotus position. You can meditate while driving. All you have to do is shut off the radio, breathe, and concentrate just on driving. Don't think about work, family problems, or anything else other than what is happening on the road.(That's great advice for everyone) Some people take up art, or crafting as a stress reliever because they are only concentrating on that one thing. I myself craft for this purpose which is how I got the idea to start my online store. Exercise is a proven stress reliever and can be a form of meditation if you focus. (Exercise also has many other benefits which we'll talk about later)
But why not try meditating the way the monks do? Find 10 minutes and sit in the lotus position, shut your eyes, and just breathe deeply in and out through your nose. When a thought pops in, let it go, and just keep breathing. If many thoughts come to your mind at first that's okay. You are retraining your brain to concentrate on one thing and let everything else go, and this takes time. Keep your focus on your breath. On the days where I wake up before everyone else, I sit up in bed and meditate on the spot. It's a wonderful way to start your day. The best part of getting started is there isn't a wrong way to do it. As long as you are trying to meditate, you are meditating. You just have to make it a priority.
When you start being mindful, stopping before you do something and thinking about it becomes easier. For me, if I feel stressed instead of reaching for whatever food is on hand, now I stop and think about why I want the food, and remind myself that I am not hungry. I just take a few deep breaths and move on. Want to stop finding yourself at the bottom of Ben & Jerry's when you feel depressed? Stop before you grab it in the first place, and breathe. Do something more productive. The same for when you are angry (or hangry), feel the midnight munchies, or decide to enjoy a little treat. Use mindfulness to exercise portion control. If you are reaching for Ben & Jerry, and you know it's just because you want it and not to feed some emotional need, then get a bowl and have a scoop. (Not the whole pint) When you are eating a meal, put away everything else and just eat. Not only will you eat more slowly so that you are less likely to overeat, but you will actually taste and enjoy (hopefully) your food.
Learn to let negative emotions go by being mindful of what you can and can't change. Take a few minutes to breathe and gain a little clarity. I challenge you to be unapologetically selfish about finding time for yourself to breathe. Stop and say, "ommmmm."
Okay so...second blog post. I started this blog with my token rant which may have added further clarity to why exactly I am unapologetic. So here's another confession. On January 1st, 2016 I weighed almost 240 lbs. Go ahead...take a moment to take that in, oh and I'm only 5'7". Yeah...So for this particular post I have decided to share a little bit of my story and one of my new favorite recipes, so let's begin.
In December I happened to have Dr. Phil on (sans bonbon) and he was talking about the 20/20 diet that he, along with a slew of other people, developed. It was also on this day that as I bent to retrieve something off of the floor I realized that I actually had to move my legs apart in order to make room for my stomach to get whatever thing off of the floor. From the couch. I will say it again; reaching the floor from the couch took a concerted effort. You ever have one of those, "How did I get here moments?" Yeah well, that was mine. That evening when my husband, who weighed almost 300 lbs, came home I told him that we were doing the 20/20 diet and since I cooked and he didn't, he didn't get a choice. So for your edification I now present to you my before.
So yes. That was me 9 months ago. A lifetime of emotional eating, generalized anxiety disorder, and basic lack of physical activity put me here. I almost couldn't help it. I love food. It was so comforting and celebratory. No matter what else happened good food would never disappoint or let you down, but enough was enough. I bought the book, read it, and we started the year off right. 2016 was the year that I would become my best self. "Today I am better than I was yesterday" became my motto, and it worked! The pounds melted off of both of me and my husband. I found my voice. I found myself, and everyday I became better than I was yesterday. I don't think of it as a diet because that sounds temporary...and has the word die in it. I am fueling my body with good nutrition which in turn makes me feel good. Exercise became a reward for my body instead of punishment or a chore. Yoga worked out all of the kinks and meditation gave me new coping tools. After all of these months I have hit my goal size. (Notice that I said size, and not weight, but I'll talk about that in future posts.) The key thing that I learned in this process was that this isn't about a number on the scale. It is about being healthy physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Making this kind of change has to start in your soul because you almost have to change your world view, and learn how to be your best self. If you make it all about the physical, it won't be successful. You have to find the intrinsic value to being healthy, and here's the rub, you have to be selfish in prioritizing your health. However, in terms of the physical, food is a huge component. What and how much you eat is paramount. You can't out exercise a poor diet, and you can't indulge in the fatty, luxurious, sugar/salt laden foods every day. My husband and I quit the 20/20 diet months ago because I love food, I love to cook, and I wanted more freedom. I began to develop my own recipes to satisfy cravings for fun foods. I can honestly say that I do not feel deprived of the joy that can be food, and that the strategies that I developed for myself really do work, and are worth the time and effort. Throughout future posts I will share my strategies, but for now every before needs an after, so here is mine.
So as reward for sticking with me for two blog posts, and because I love fall, here is my recipe for a family-style pumpkin pancake complete with photos. Photos are after the recipe.
This particular recipe is a recent development on my part. I do love an indulgent and sweet breakfast over a savory breakfast. Sunday morning is our fun food day where we don't worry about what goes into what we're eating, but following the 80/20 rule I wanted something that felt indulgent, but was actually quite light and nutritious. What I also love about this breakfast is the family style method of serving. I'm not a huge fan of making a bunch of small pancakes that take longer to cook in batches than it does to make the batter and eat the food. This recipe is extremely kid friendly. My picky 3 year old daughter actually does almost all of the whisking, and eats these up.
Family Style Pumpkin Pancake.
2 large eggs
1/4 cup of skim or buttermilk
1 cup pumpkin puree ( I use canned)
1/4 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup rolled oats
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 tsp baking powder
pumpkin pie spice-to taste
2 tsp coconut oil
1. In a 10 inch skillet that has a lid heat the coconut oil on medium heat.
2. In a mixing bowl whisk the eggs, milk, pumpkin, vanilla, and pie spice. I use about a teaspoon of pie spice.
3. Whisk in the flour and oats, and gently whisk in the baking powder. Let sit for a few minutes. The batter will be thick.
4. Make sure that the coconut oil evenly covers the bottom of the pan, and pour in all of the batter. Gently shake the pan to spread the batter completely across the bottom of the pan. Sprinkle the top of the pancake with pie spice and cover.
5. After about 5 minutes check to see if the pancake is ready to flip by gently shaking the pan. If it moves freely, then you are ready to flip.
6. To flip, gently slide the pancake onto a plate, and place the skillet upside down over the pancake that is now on the plate.
7. Flip everything over so now the uncooked top becomes the bottom in the pan. Sprinkle with pie spice and cover.
8. Cook for another minute or two. Use the shake test to see if it is done. Cut into 6 or 8 triangle pieces like a pizza and serve from the skillet.
I like to top this with a little peanut butter drizzle and a dollop of nonfat, vanilla greek yogurt. To make the drizzle combine peanut butter, skim milk, and honey until you reach desired consistency. I use a fork and drizzle directly in the skillet. A note about peanut butter, I use natural peanut butter because honestly, you only need two ingredients for peanut butter: peanuts and salt.
The pancake itself isn't sweet. If you would like a little sweetness directly in the pancake, then sprinkle a little brown sugar over the top after you pour the batter from the bowl into the pan. When you flip it over the sugar will caramelize slightly to create a sweet bottom.
If you are feeling special and fancy, then slice half of any sweet apple into thin rounds using a mandolin. Cook in the oil, in a single layer sprinkled with pie spice, and let cook while making the batter. Pour the batter over the apples, and when you flip the pancake the apples will be on top.
Welcome to the inaugural blog post of The Unapologetic Mom. It's funny how life's circumstances can move you in a new direction. Two years ago I moved across the country with my husband and have been a stay at home mom ever since. Being so far away from friends and family gives one a lot of time to think. Before I get into the meat of my post I want to take a moment to explain exactly how the Unapologetic Mom was born. If you stop to think about it, so many of us stay on the defensive side of things always ready with an explanation, which is really a form of apology, for why we do what we do. We apologize and defend our beliefs, our views, our jobs, income, our bodies, what we eat, and the list could go on and on. For me I was only acutely aware of this, but then one event happened. A catalyst if you will. It suddenly hit me that in a world full of defense, explanations, and intolerance I am done. I am no longer apologetic, nor do I feel the need to explain myself in an effort to apologize to someone who offers judgement instead of kindness, and derision instead of consideration. Thus this blog, The Unapologetic Mom was born. Will every blog post be in the tone of this one? No, but I will unapologetically lend my voice, experiences, observations, and wisdom to the world to do with what it will. With that being said, let's kick this off with a bang shall we?
I am a stay at home mother, and I am not sorry. It's bad enough to see the "mother shaming" online between complete strangers where stay at home moms and working moms take pot shots at each other. At least in that forum you can achieve a distance because it's complete strangers. It's something different when certain people who occupy a fairly personal space in your life make it known to you, and everyone else that they don't approve. There's the, "Oh just refusing to get a job" song and dance because apparently being a mom isn't work. There's the picture of the stay at home mom sitting at home eating bonbons and watching "stories" with a glass of wine stereotype. (Why this is the stereotype I have no idea. I kind of feel like a crazed, disheveled woman with babies strapped to her back getting ready to march through the gates of hell would be a more accurate stereotype, but whatever...)
There is the parade of disapproving comments, back-handed insults, a stream of seemingly never ending criticism, and in some cases blatant attempts at sabotage. Let me just set the record for myself straight once and for all. I like being a stay at home mom. *pause for gasps* I have the perspective of being a working mom, and stay at home mom, and to have been the daughter of a stay at home and working mom, and my only question is in what kind of backwards society is it okay to demonize a woman who chooses to stay home, and concentrate on her child and creating a nice home for her husband? (I realize that the demonization also goes toward the working mom, but I'm talking about me.) What is worse is sometimes the comments seem to argue that said husband didn't have a say in the decision. In my case, it was my husband's idea, and he has been supportive ever since. What galls me is the idea that I made him do it, and that if he dare suggest that I rejoin the workforce that I would chain myself to the couch screaming, "But who will eat the bonbons?1?" This kind of blind, small minded judgement is, in my humble opinion, precisely what is wrong with many facets of our society today. I don't understand and I disagree with your opinions and decisions...therefore I will demean and tear you down.
Did you know that it is possible for two people to have two different sets of life experiences, come to two different decisions about the same issue, disagree and understand that it doesn't give anyone the right to demean the other side? Furthermore, were you also aware that both parties could actually occupy space on the same planet, amicably, with the mutual understanding that you don't have to agree to respect the other person, and the planet would actually survive? So here it is. If you are a working mom by choice or otherwise I respect your decision, and realize that on no plane of existence do you have to defend it to me, just as I don't owe anyone an explanation about why I am a stay at home mom. This goes for anyone who isn't a parent as well. If people don't understand the decision, you know what...it's okay if they don't get it. They don't have to. All they have to do is respect it. So...sorry, not sorry, but I like being a stay at home mom, and that's not changing anytime soon.