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Delish summer salad

Hey y’all! It’s summer and I’m back! We had more spring rains in May than in the history of ever. We were out of school for an entire week before we ever saw the sun. It didn’t feel like summer at all. The temps were in the 60’s and 70’s, cloudy and rainy. Bleh. In May, we only had 2 days that were considered ‘sunny’ That’s not summer, that’s monsoon season. This week when the sun finally came out, I promise I heard angels singing! And since the sun finally came out and my yard has become less than a swamp, I’ve been able to do some of the yard work and gardening that has been put off. It’s no fun doing yard work in hip waders. So here I am, putting my basil and my mind is running all over the place. Apparently my mind just ran the 40 yard dash in record time, because this is what it came up with.

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This is pure summer deliciousness in a bowl.

Delish Summer Salad

4 Roma tomatoes – quartered and sliced
2 avocados – cubed
2 cloves garlic – minced
5-6 leaves fresh basil – sliced
4-6 oz fresh mozzarella – sliced/cubed
2 tbsp olive oil
salt & pepper to taste

Toss all ingredients together in a bowl and dive in! This is an incredibly flavorful, fresh, light salad that I think I could live on. It has everything you could ever possibly want, right? It’s got the goodness of the unsaturated fats of avocados, the vitamins of the tomatoes, the protein of the mozzarella, the health benefits of the garlic and basil. What more could a girl ask for? More. I could ask for more. Come to think of it, I think I will.

**Note – If you’re not too keen on the *POW* of fresh garlic, you can use one clove instead of two. We love the POW, but you can easily tone it down.

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A New and Daunting Challenge

Hello my friends. Yes, I have been M.I.A. of late, and I really do hate that. I haven’t forgotten about you. Life gets crazy sometimes, I’m sure you can relate. Thankfully, it’s the good kind of crazy. Kids growing up, work busy, life busy. Just the usual.

This new and daunting challenge. What is it? You’re asking. If you’ve been with me for a bit, you know I love to cook, and eat. And one of my most favorite things to cook is, well, indulgences in the form of cookies and pastas. I have a friend, a former classmate, who is a natural health care practitioner in California. She has been sharing information with her friends and patients about not just the gluten-free lifestyle, but a grain-free lifestyle. Yeah, yeah, yeah. I said. I’m fine. I’m perfectly healthy. Except when I try on the jeans I haven’t worn in a while and they’re more snug than ever. Hmmm. I guess I’ve been naughtier than i thought.

So, about three weeks ago, I decided to give this whole grain-free lifestyle a go. I thought, I’ll just do it for a week and see what happens, right? What’s the worst that can happen? I certainly won’t be hurting myself by eliminating these things. Let me preface this by saying I’m a girl who loves pretzels, tortilla chips, popcorn, cheez its and freshly baked bagels. I am a bread loving girl of the worst sort. Whenever I’d buy a loaf from a local market, I literally could not stop eating until I hated myself for it. My favorite, a crusty batard with whole cloves of roasted garlic baked inside. Mmmm. This is something that was difficult for me to envision or attempt. I mean, how do you have PB&J w/o bread? How do you eat salsa without chips?

Yes, it was tough, I won’t lie. I eliminated all grains, including oats, quinoa, wheat in any form, as well as sugar and alcohol. I’m not a huge drinker (a glass of wine or two maybe a couple of times a wk) but alcohol alters the way your body metabolizes and uses calories from food.

At the end of this first week, I noticed my clothes were fitting better. Hm, I thought. That’s a good thing. Ok, let’s see what happens if I continue this. I had already been eating eggs for breakfast, and many times my lunch was grain free, cottage cheese and fruit or grilled chicken, or whatever we had leftover from dinner the night before. But when I got home from work, I’d go for my favorite snack of air popped pop corn, or pretzel chips w/hummus or cheez its. Finding different snacks has been an adventure, to say the least.

An interesting note. Maybe a week in, on a whim, I grabbed a couple of cheez its from the pantry. Just for grins, ya know? I have to tell you I was really surprised that they didn’t taste good to me any more. Not even remotely. They tasted fake and plastic. Seriously. Right? I was shocked too.

I am here to tell you, if you are experiencing health issues, such as diabetes, IBS, reflux, arthritis, or maybe just a general feeling of bleh, you really should look into this. The book “Wheat Belly’ was written by a cardiologist and gives very detailed information on how wheat, and grains, affect the body. He’s also come up with recipes, even for baking, that are grain free.

My daughter who is 11, is not keen on this ‘diet’. I told her that I don’t look at this as a ‘diet’ but a lifestyle. It’s me working to get really, truly healthy and to me, the word ‘diet’ has a negative connotation, as well as sounding like a short-term proposition. My family has not totally jumped on board with me on this adventure, but I am easing them into it. My biggest challenge for them right now is finding a suitable lunch replacement for their PB&J sammies.

I am now three weeks into this lifestyle, and I’m down around 10lbs. I say ‘around’ because I don’t own a scale, I’m basing this on how my clothes are fitting me now. My favorite jeans that I was completely unable to button before I began, I can wear now. Losing the lbs is not the only benefit I’ve noticed. I sleep better. I used to wake up randomly, in the middle of the night and not be able to go back to sleep for a while. Not now. I have one knee that had been getting crankier with each passing month. Not any more. I had been having some intestinal disturbances on a regular basis. Not now. The mid afternoon nap that I always wanted because I was exhausted when I got home from work, yeah, that’s not an issue anymore since my energy levels have returned to a more normal level. I aim to drink close to a gallon of water a day (not all at once, but during the day) and I have made it a priority to move more. Just walking, nothing major. Rather than sitting at my desk at lunch, I walk between 15&20 minutes. And that’s the biggest thing. I’m 40-something, but I don’t want to look or feel it. Some things I don’t have control over, but those that I do, I want to make work for me as long as I can, and if it means not eating something that is truly detrimental to my health, I’m all about it.

If you’d like to learn more about what I’m doing, and how it might help you feel better, check it out. I would really encourage anyone who is dealing with autoimmune issues, weight, or any number of other problems to just take a look. Check out the book and read for yourself.

http://www.wheatbelly.com

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Slow cooker Chicken Tortilla Soup

Can you keep a secret? What am I saying, of course you can! I am having an affair. Yes, my husband knows all about it and he’s ok with it. In fact, we tag team occasionally. The object of my latest love affair? My slow cooker. It’s been cold and my husband and I both work full-time so we’ve been working together to get dinner on. I’ll get it prepped and he’ll assemble and turn it on. We make great partners! You’ve seen my many slow cooker recipes: beef stew, chicken and wild rice soup, chicken and dumplings, creamy Italian chicken, and those are only the ones I can think of right off. I’ve been sort of MIA lately, but I’m here to share with you another delish slow cooker soup recipe. It’s different, it’s healthy, and it’s very flavorful. You can spice it up or down, whatever you like. And the best part? It’s ridiculously easy. I mean really, can it get any better? Well, ok, if it would clean up after itself, that would be pretty amazing, but in the absence of that, I’ll be making this regularly!

Slow Cooker Chicken Tortilla Soup

1lb boneless skinless chicken breasts
1 can roasted tomatoes undrained
1 can chopped green chilis
1 can medium enchilada sauce
1 can corn with green & red peppers drained
1 onion chopped
2 C water
3/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
1-1/2 C chicken broth
1 tsp chili powder
1 tsp ground cumin
chopped cilantro (optional)
crushed tortilla chips (optional)
cayenne pepper (optional)

1. place all ingredients except cilantro and tortilla chips in a 4qt slow cooker. Turn on high for 4 hours or low for 8 hours.
2. remove chicken breasts from slow cooker and use two forks to shred meat.
3. Put chicken back into slow cooker and allow it to cook for an additional 15-30 minutes.
4. Ladle into bowls and top with cilantro if desired. Sprinkle crushed tortilla chips on top if desired.
If you want spicier soup, add 1/2 tsp cayenne or you can use hot enchilada sauce, and increase the chili powder.
If you want a milder soup, you can use mild enchilada sauce and cut the chili powder in half.
This is just such a flavorful soup, with many different layers and textures.
And once again, no pics, sorry friends, it was just too good! (and I totally forgot ūüė¶ sorry!)

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Super EASY Hearty Chicken Noodle Soup

Long time no hear, I know. I”m a slacker. But I”m here to share a really delicious and easy recipe. Really what I wanted to title it was ‘The chicken soup recipe for those who don’t cook’ or maybe the ‘if you can boil chicken, you can make this’ but I just thought it’d be a little too long. Crazy I know.

I’ve always loved a nice hot bowl of chicken noodle soup when it’s chilly out. I mean, really, who doesn’t? But I really want to avoid all the salt in the condensed soups, besides, isn’t fresh always better? So, here we are. This really is easy, so if you want a tough, complicated recipe, you’ll just have to go elsewhere! Are you ready? Ok, here we go.

Easy Chicken Noodle Soup

2 containers of chicken broth (32oz each)

2 to 3 boneless/skinless chicken breasts

3 carrots-peeled and sliced

3 celery stalks-sliced

1 med to small onion diced

1-2tbsp butter

1 tsp each dried basil & thyme

1-1/2 c rotini cooked al dente OR 12oz pkg frozen egg noodles

salt to taste

Instructions

1. in a large pot, chicken breasts w/at least 1-2″ water to cover them. boil until chicken is completely cooked.

2. in a separate large pot, melt butter, add onion/carrots/celery and cook until veggies are crisp/tender

3. pour in chicken broth, salt & spices. bring to a rolling boil & reduce heat to a nice simmer, or you can leave it on a nice gentle rolling boil for a while, it won’t hurt anything, just keep an eye on it.

4. Remove chicken from pot DON’T THROW OUT THE WATER¬†and either cut into chunks or shred using two forks-this one is your preference, I like it both ways. (My family has decided they prefer the frozen egg noodles to the rotini. I cook the noodles in the chicken broth/water, then put in the pot with the soup mixture)

5. Add the chicken, as well as the water used to cook the chicken to the bigger pot w/the broth.

***NOTE: If you have the time, you can let it simmer for a few hours, it will condense and strengthen the flavors, as well as making the chicken really tender. Or you can add the noodles directly after adding the chicken, let it cook another 10 minutes or so and serve.

6. When noodles are done, add them to the big pot w/the chicken broth etc. Let it cook another 10 minutes or so and serve. It goes really well with crusty bread or biscuits for a nice hearty chilly evening dinner.

If it’s not soupy¬†enough for¬† you, you can always add more broth. I’ve done it and it makes a really big batch, but in my world, that’s not a bad thing!

This is just so darned simple, and delicious, I seem to find myself making it about once a week. At first my kids were really excited. Now, well, not so much. It used to be ‘Oh yay! chicken noodle soup!’ Now its ‘oh great. soup again.’ But they eat it, b/c it’s good and it’s what they get for dinner. They know I”m not a short order cook, you get what you get.

Enjoy!

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Lifestyle Changes: Day 13 – Don’t Forget to Balance Your Checkbook

I know you’re reading that title and thinking ‘wha?’ Just in case you haven’t figured out just yet, I like to use analogies and plays on words. I keep finding subjects to post on just in conversations with friends and things I see on a daily basis. In other words, I can’t keep my fingers shut!

What do I mean by ‘balancing your checkbook’? No, I’m not referring to your actual checkbook. Heck, I haven’t balanced mine in years. I just look at the online account balance and the bill pay to know what’s going on and I’m good to go. Is it perfect? hardly. There have been some ‘OH CRAP’ moments when my balance was suddenly lower than I thought it should be. SQUIRREL!

Oh. Sorry. I can be a bit distractable¬†at times. I was talking with my bestie Lisa the other day, who’s doing this with me. She has been very diligent in keeping track of what she’s eating on a daily basis and working on the portion-sizing/plate geometry, well, all of it. She told me that she’d gone over by 200 calories for the day and she was unhappy about it. That was when I asked her if she’d accounted for all of her activity during the day. She looked at me and perked up. When you don’t account for what’s going out, how can you really know what’s going on? You must keep track of outflow, as well as inflow to get a true picture of what you’ve done an any given day.

And when you’re tracking your outflow (calories burned), don’t skip over things like house cleaning or grocery shopping because they totally count. If you are up and moving around, it counts. Obviously, some activities are going to be more labor intensive. Walking through the grocery store may not burn as many calories as vacuuming your house from top to bottom, but you still need to count it in your daily activity. I know, who wants to vacuum from top to bottom?¬† Certianly not me. I get my kids to do it¬†whenever I can, even if bribery is involved. But, it’s really a twofer: you get exercise, and your house gets clean. And who doesn’t feel better when their house is clean? The cleaning part itself? Well, not so much, but the end result makes me happy.

So, when you’re walking the dog, mowing the lawn, pulling weeds, showering even, write it in your journal. If you are using one of the online calorie-tracker/food journals, they probably have an exercise portion. The one at http://www.everydayhealth.com does. it has the calories burned per half hour, and you can alter it if you did 15 min instead of 30. I mean, really, I don’t know when the last time was that I had a 30 min shower, I’m normally out of hot water way before then, but 15 is more realistic.

If all you have time for is 10 minutes of real exercise, do it. And do it as often as you can. Say you’ve got 10 spare minutes in the morning, do some jumping jacks, squats, push ups, anything that is quick and easy. then do it again later in the day another time or two if you can. Stand up while checking your email. Anything you can do to have that overage, that difference between calories consumed and calories burned. Remember, 3500 calories equals one pound. The more you burn off daily, will add up to that 3500 calories, it is a cumulative thing.

Now I ask you, what’s your plan for tomorrow?

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Lifestyle Changes: Day 12 – The Weight is Over

I know, I know, the whole pun thing, I can’t seem to stop it. Or is that considered a double entendre? I have no idea, but it sounded clever. In my feeble mind.

I was reading a facebook post yesterday from a friend’s brother and thought it would make a good post for us today, since I really haven’t talked about it. Are you sitting down? Take a deep breath because I’m going to say it. Are you ready? Scales. And I don’t mean the kind you get in your bathroom tile from hard water. I’m referring to the kind you step on and then throw out the window in a fit of rage when you see the number staring you in the face. Or the one you step on, see the number, and then turn the little dial so it’s 20-30-50lbs lighter. That scale.

I will tell you up front, I do not own one. I get on the scale once a year at my doctor’s office. Rather than using a scale to judge my weight, I use the fit of my clothes. In particular, my favorite jeans that make my butt look like gravity hasn’t begun to take effect. Even though I totally blame the dryer trolls for turning up the heat and shrinking my clothes, there’s a little voice in my head telling me I really shouldn’t have had that second slice of supreme Chicago-style pizza. Boo. But it tasted sooooo good. Great, now my mouth is watering.

If you own a scale, this is what you should do. Don’t chuck it out the window, or turn the little dial. Use it as a tool, but don’t obsess over it. Your weight can vary by up to 3 lbs from day to day, simply from water, what you’ve eaten, etc. So you’ve been working hard, eating well, getting more exercise, and step on the scale only to see you’re a pound or three higher than yesterday, or even the same. What could possibly be more discouraging? Or misleading?

This is how to use your scale in your efforts to lose weight: Weigh yourself at the same time of day, the same day of the week, wearing the same clothes (your birthday suit will help you remember). And only do it on that day, say Friday. That will give you a more consistent view of what your weight is. You’re doing it this way for a couple of reasons. If you do it the same day every week, it will be easier to remember. And if your brain is like mine, I’ll take all the help I can get in that department. If you do it at the same time of day, your body will be in the same state of hormone production, etc. because your weight can fluctuate throughout the day.

Take your weight and use it as a baseline, a guideline, so you know where you are starting from and can better plan where you’re going. Seriously, don’t obsess over it. Oh, I just remembered something else, when first getting on the scale, make sure it’s balanced, meaning the little line straight on the ‘0’. My bestie, Lisa, nearly had a heart attack last week when she got on a scale for the first time in a long time. She was shocked and really disappointed in the number staring back at her. Later that day, her boy who’s nearly 11, got on the scale and said, ‘Mom? I think there’s something wrong.’ It was weighing him at almost 120lbs. Um, yeah, he’s maybe 80lbs. That was when she checked and found the error in the scale. Whew. that was a quick way to lose 50lbs, but not good for the nerves!

Remember a few more things. Like my friend’s brother said, he had been working hard, eating well and getting exercise and was discouraged to see he’d only dropped 2lbs. I’d take that any ole day. Here’s the thing, you didn’t gain it all at once and you can’t possibly lose it all at once, 1-2lbs a week is a realistic goal to make it go away and stay away for good. When you drop significant amounts quickly, you are setting yourself up for the yo-yo ride. Your brain has to reset itself to your new weight. Meaning, your body has something almost like a thermostat with a set point. have you been hovering around the same weight for a long time? It’s because of that set point. when you lose weight, your body is going to try to get back to that set point, which is why losing it slowly works better. You have to stay at a weight for a period of time to reset that switch in your brain. Be patient with yourself, and just keep it up.

Oh, and one more thing. If you’ve been diligent about your exercise and eating habits, your clothes are fitting you better, but you get on the scale and it doesn’t show any loss, don’t give up. Muscle tissue is heavier and more dense than fat tissue. What the scale is telling you is that you’ve been building muscle which is a good thing and what we’re going for. Muscle tissue burns more calories than fat tissue. that is one time when the scale will really deceive you and you have to take all things into consideration, don’t simply go¬†by what the scale is telling you.

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Lifestyle Changes Day 11 – Water Water Everywhere

No, unfortunately, I don’t live on a beach, I would so live on an island if my hubby didn’t think he’d feel ‘claustrophobic’ (I know, I know) on an island. No matter how many times I tell him the island is bigger than the little circle he normally lives in. Oh well.

Where was I? Oh, right. Water. I know you’ve seen the recommendations to drink at least 8 glasses of water a day. The question is, how many of you can actually do it? some times you have to drink whether you feel thirsty or not, especially if it’s not something you’re in the habit of doing. You HAVE to drink water. It’s time for your daily physiology lesson. I know, it’s Monday, but your body doesn’t care what day it is, does it?

In case you missed some of those really cool commercials a few years back, the human body is made up of approximately 75-80% water as babies, and declines throughout life, to between 50¬†and 65%. Now that you know that, it shouldn’t surprise you that need to replenish it. A lot. Every day. In fact, water is so important to life, the human body can go nearly a week, maybe even a bit more without¬†food and still survive. Water, that’s a completely different story. After only three days of no water consumption, organ systems begin to shut down. Sheesh, I know, sorry to be Debbie Downer here, I just want you to know how incredibly important it is in the grand scheme, including your weight loss goals and your new lifestyle changes. Your mom and your doctor had good reason to¬† make you drink more water.

Fred, if you’re reading this, I mean you too. I don’t care how smart you think you are, you still have to drink water. And no. Soda does NOT count. I’ll get to that in a moment. The human body is a truly amazing adaptable machine. Do you change the oil in your car on a regular basis? Of course, you do. Now if you’re doing that, I like to think you’re at least taking as good of care of your body as you are your rusting hulk of metal sitting in that parking space. Why do you change the oil? To keep everything running smoothly, right? Because if you don’t the gooey trolls will come and gum up everything and your car won’t go anymore. Or if it does, it sounds really bad.

That’s what water does for your body, it keeps everything running smoothly. Our brains are nearly¬†85% water. Blood, 95% water. NINETY FIVE PERCENT! So….if you have only had a single glass of water in a day or two, do you think that might make your blood get all kind of sticky and hard to move? Yeah, you’re right if you’re thinking syrup. It won’t get to the molasses stage til later.

Not only does it help your brain work better and your blood move better, it helps your body rid itself of toxins (both liquid and, ahem,¬†solid form), it keeps things¬†moving smoothly (wink wink), it will help suppress your appetite, especially¬†when consumed before a meal. Water will help your skin stay hydrated and prevent you from becoming bloated. Well, let me explain the whole bloated thing because it’s really a twofer. By keeping things ‘moving smoothly’, it helps prevent the dread stomach bloat. You know what I’m talking about too. Don’t pretend you don’t. It’s what you had after eating all of those heavy, fat-laden foods over the holidays and not enough fiber. The ‘other’ bloat I was referring to was in your¬†fingers,¬†maybe even your face, and you may find yourself the proud new owner of cankles. Water is a very precious thing to your body and it will do whatever it must to hang onto what it has, particularly when it senses it is not receiving enough to sustain itself, resulting in swollen fingers/cankles/face. What I want you to do the next time you are a bit puffy and think you’re ‘retaining water’, drink more water, that is the problem. You definitely shouldn’t cut down on it. Ever.

Soda, tea, coffee. Yes, I love them too. And after reading this I hope you will really, seriously consider¬†if not cutting out, really truly cutting them back. I’ll start with soda. Any soda, any kind, is bad for you, for so many more reasons than you already know, but choose not to pay attention to. There, I said it. Yes, you already know about all the extra added calories you add to¬† your day just by drinking a 12 oz coke, 144 calories, or 196 calories¬†for a 16oz¬†bottle. I just did a little math, one 12 oz can a day during the work week is an additional 720 calories, and you didn’t even eat anything. Oh and the sugar equivalent of the contents of the 12 oz coke is ten teaspoons. Yes, you just read that correctly, TEN teaspoons. At any point in your life would you just sit at the table and eat 10 teaspoons of sugar? Ok, maybe when you were about 7, but now? Yeah, I thought not. Don’t get me wrong, I do have an occasional soda, but it’s¬†just that: occasional.

Here’s the other part of what soda does to your body: it alters your blood chemistry. What? I know, I know, bear with me, I promise I’m not going too deep on the science terminology. Just know that when you drink soda, diet, regular or otherwise, it prevents your body from absorbing many minerals from your diet, including calcium. In fact, it’s even been known to leach it from your bones. Well, the soda doesn’t leach it from your bones, your body’s trying to balance the effects of the phosphoric acid and it pulls calcium from the bones, or something like that. Wanna go have a soda now? Me neither.

And don’t think you’re being any better if you’re drinking sweet tea. That has historically been a southern thing, but it seems to have spread recently and I don’t know why. I can’t stand it. I like my tea au naturale, well with some ice, but no sugar. I love my iced tea, as well as my coffee, sadly, they are both (as is sugary soda) diuretics, meaning they cause your body to throw off¬† more fluid, which is not good.

Ok, I know this has been long and I so appreciate you sticking with me thru the whole physio class today. I hope you have learned something and really take into consideration next time you choose a drink, something that will do your body good. I do have a suggestion, or two, for you. First of all, cut down immediately, and work toward completely eliminating soda from your diet. And next, add more water. One way I like to suggest for ppl to add water, for each glass of tea or coffee, drink at least that much water before drinking more tea or coffee. If you are drinking caffeine free herbal tea, that is as good as water in my book. As far as I know, it’s not a diuretic and you can even find some that are naturally sweet just because of what they’re made of.

Ok my friends, I really hope you begin to add more water to  your life and make the other drinks an occasional thing.

So, my next question, feedback, what’s working for you?

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Lifestyle Changes Day 10 – How to Snack on the Cheap

It is my biggest downfall. Snacking. Some days, the snack monster is following me around from dawn til dusk, forcing me to eat those cookies, or crackers. Really, it is.¬†Others, not so much. I have no idea why the difference, but it’s there. Maybe on the days the monster’s not with me, my secret ninja skills scare it away! Right.

Anyway, snacking in and of itself, it not necessarily a bad thing. What you eat matters almost as much as how much. My issue,well, I love to cook. Tell me, what do cooks do? Yep, they sample the food. Ever heard the phrase ‘never trust¬†a skinny¬†chef’?¬†I mean really, who wants to serve something that tastes bad? Nevermind the fact that sometimes I’m sampling the pretzel from the pantry, or a cookie from the box as I’m making the salad and grilled chicken. Bottom line, every bite you take adds up to your daily calorie allotment and when you’re ahem, sampling as you’re cooking, especially if it’s something you really love, you could’ve already had a portion by the time you get to the table and not even realize it. No, maybe not the protein, it’d be hard to eat half a chicken breast and not know it. But mashed potatoes? Oh yeah, they go down so easily! Yummm.

My solution? To not do it. Period. To not sample the food as I’m cooking. We are all friends here, I have no secrets from you (that you know! wink wink), but that’s my bad habit I have to change. I have to tell you though, I really do believe that snacking a bit during the day will help you not be so hungry you’re ready to chew the finish off the table at dinner, therefore help you stay on course with your portion control. What happens when you skip a meal, like breakfast or lunch? The next time you eat, let me guess, anything that’s not nailed down is fair game, right? I thought so. Me too. In order to prevent this from happening, a well planned and thought out snack is a great solution.

Something for you to chew on (pun totally intended), the next time you think you’re feeling a bit snackish, drink a full glass of water first. A fun physiology fact. Sometimes when you think you’re hungry, you are actually thirsty, but your body’s sending the signals, but they’re really not very clear. Have you ever had a pet hamster or gerbil? Many animals like those get much of their daily water through their food: lettuce, carrots, etc. But for some reason, our brains get all discombobulated¬†and think it’s a hunger signal when it’s really a thirst signal. Before you grab that bag of whatever, down that glass of water, and wait 10 minutes or so, and¬†do something else. If you still feel hungry, I mean really feel hungry, not just think you’re hungry, then have a snack. Not just eating because you’re bored and there’s nothing else going on. Only eat when your body tells you it’s hungry. If you’re like most people, you have not really listened to your body’s cues in a while, you get on a clock or in a habit of doing something.

Now, my suggestion for snacking on the cheap? Oh, that’s easy. Super easy, in fact. You’ve seen the 100 calorie packs all over the grocery store shelves and commercials. Can I let you in on a secret? That stuff is crazy expensive for the quantity you get. It may be 8 packages that are maybe 1.2 oz¬† for a grand total of¬† 9.6 oz (I’m totally winging this part), but a regular box of those cheese its/pretzels/whatever is going to be more in the neighborhood of 15 to 16 oz and cost pretty close to the same amount. Maybe a bit more, but you’re getting more. This is what you need to do: Spend a couple of hours on the weekend making your own 100 calorie packs. Get a box of snack bags. Then¬†buy your favorite snack, goldfish, cheese its, whatever and read the label.¬†It will tell you 23 crackers = 130 calories, or whatever, you can do higher math, right? Or at least own a calculator? See, you break it down and see how many of those whatever-it-is-you-love add up to 100 calories, put them in the plastic snack bags. Make enough to have them handy to grab on your way out the door during the week. Heck, get the kids involved, help them learn healthy portions too. I mean they are watching what you do and learning how they are supposed to behave, the earlier we start teaching them healthy eating habits the better. Do the same thing with baby carrots, celery¬†or whatever else you like to snack on, apples, bananas (well, obviously you don’t want to put them in¬†baggies, but keep them handy and where you ‘ll see them), etc. Buy some small containers and put a single serving of cottage cheese in it, or hummus, other great healthy snacks. The best snacks are the ones that include protein and fiber, which digest slower and keep you feeling fuller longer. Cottage cheese w/a sprinkling of garlic pepper and baby carrots (my fave light lunch), nut butter and an apple or celery, hummus and veggies, pretzels, string cheese, reduced fat yogurt.

I can’t believe I nearly forgot, when I”m home, my absolute fave munchy crunchy snack: air popped popcorn. Straight outta the popper, bare, naked. It’s really yum and incredibly low in calories for the volume you can eat. Oh? Do I have your attention now? Three cups, yes, you read that correctly THREE CUPS popped is less than 100 calories! If you want to add some taste, you can get some flavor sprinkles (our fave is white cheddar) I use an oil mister with olive oil, squirting a really fine mist of olive oil on it, sprinkle the cheddar and shake it all around. You get the good flavor, but way fewer calories than the regular kind. Oh, one more thing, it’s cheaper too! The 100 calorie packs of microwave popcorn, they’re about $4 for a box of 6. But a bottle of Orville (the best I’ve found so far) popcorn kernels that makes a TON, is about $5. I mean really? I’m a tightwad by nature so it’s a no-brainer for me, on both sides, calorie-wise and cost effectiveness.

Of course fruit is a great grab and go snack and you have different selections during the year.¬†Like right now, clementines are in season and I love love love them! They are so cute and tiny and easy to peel, they just like a really fresh burst of summer. You know why fruit is great, so I”m not even going to tell you how low cal it is and how you can eat two apples or three clementines or a large banana¬†for your 100-120 calorie snack. Or that the fiber in¬†them helps you ‘go’ more often like you’re supposed to. Or that the fiber in fruit can help lower cholesterol.

If you have purged your kitchen (like I hope you have), keep these healthy options at hand and in view, so when you get the munchy-crunchies, you’ll see those clementines and go, ‘hmm. you know those are sweet and juicy and I think I’ll have a couple’. If it’s handy, you don’t have to think twice about it, thereby increasing the likelihood that you’ll be able to stay on target for your daily calorie count which will help you stay on track for your -3500 calories over the week.

As you are planning out your day, be sure to keep the calories for your snacks on your count. Alright friends, I think I’ve given you enough to think about today. Is your brain hurting yet? ūüėÄ

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Lifestyle Changes Day 9 – Reading Lesson

So here we are my friends. we’ve tackled plate geometry, calorie counting, exercise, and many other topics. One thing I realized I haven’t shared with you all is a reading lesson. I’m hoping you know how already, since you’ve been reading my page!

When choosing foods, you have to read the nutrition facts. I know I know, more of that boring stuff. But I’m here to tell you, it will help, really it will. If you want to make your goals, you have to read the portion size, calorie content and the ingredient list. Sometimes it’s gonna actually require measuring your portion, like with cereal. I heard that. I just heard what you said and I can hear what you’re thinking too. ‘aw¬†man, really? why can’t I just pour the cereal in the bowl already?’ Ok, just like I tell my daughter, you are not the only one doing it, I’m doing it too. Seriously, I just had my measuring cup out to pour my cereal. The reason, what you think the portion size is, I’m guessing, isn’t quite what it really is. The portion size of your favorite cereal (mine is Cheerios, yellow box), just for example, is probably one cup, not one BOWL. What? Yes, I said it, you don’t fill the whole bowl, although my brother used to think that was his portion size, repeatedly.

Portion size is key in the goal to lose weight. If you eat twice as much as the listed¬†portion size, you’re obviously going to be getting more calories than you want. The other part of the nutrition label you have to pay attention to is the size. Yes I said it again. Why? because¬†you can’t simply read the calorie part. Sometimes you look at just the calorie count and don’t really see the size. It could be 150 calories, but the portion size might only be 1/2 C and without knowing that, you may inadvertently double your intake because, let’s face it, 1/2C¬†of pasta isn’t much. And even though you think it’s something healthy, until you read the facts, you don’t really know. Case in point.¬†A friend of mine was eating some really delicious ‘all natural’ granola clusters. She let me try one, and yes, they were really delish, but the serving size was 1/4C I think, and it had over 300 calories. She hadn’t read the fine print, only¬†the part that said it was all natural and healthy.¬†And while it may have been all natural, it was loaded with sugar and extra calories. I’m just saying, don’t be fooled by the outside of the package.

So, really, just take a moment before making your choice and really read the label so you know what you’re eating.

Now to the ingredient list. They’re not always really what they present on the package. You know the words ‘reduced fat’, ‘light’, ‘good source of fiber’ or whatever they want to put on it, can be a bit misleading. Now I’m going to give you another reading lesson. When you are looking at the listing of ingredients, they are in descending order of prominence in the product. For example, if sugar, of any kind, is listed second on the list, orfirst, that food is not necessarily going to be the best choice. Caveat: things like Wheaties, a regular player in my cereal cabinet, I believe sugar is listed second, but when you look at the nutrition label, and the total sugars for each portion size, it’s only in the neighborhood of 4g. If you want to convert that into a relatable portion size, that’s approximately 1 teaspoon.¬† when you weigh the benefits of the fiber and other health benefits of the cereal, a single teaspooon of sugar isn’t a deal breaker. That said, when sugar is the second ingredient out of a short list and on the nutrition panel you see 15g, or even more, sugars, that’ going to be one you want to avoid. A 12oz can of Cola has approximately 22g of sugar.

What I’m getting at is essentially the thought that knowledge is power. In order to make the best choices for your new healthy lifestyle, you have to know exactly what you’re choosing.

Today is a bit better, thanks for asking. Tomorrow, I”m going to share my suggestions for saving money, and still eating well.

Let me hear from you, what’s working for you, not working for you. Have you tried any of my recipes?

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Lifestyle Changes Day 8 – No Couch Potatoes Allowed

Agh. Today was really tough. I’m fighting some sinus junk and I”m not a happy camper right now. I’ve been saying this for over a year now, we really need to get Mother Nature a date with Father Time, she has been really cranky lately! Our weather has gone from one extreme to the other, and sometimes in a day! Last Sunday it was 70 here. Monday the¬†high was ‘almost’ 40 with a wicked wind. See what I mean? It’s no wonder my head is full of goo.

I did start my day with my Quick & Easy Power Breakfast today. I was thinking, you can easily knock off 50 to 100 calories simply by using fewer slices of ham (I normally use 2) and leave off the cheese. Or use all egg whites rather than one whole and one white. You could do it on a sandwich thin and have it for lunch too.

I did walk about a mile today with my bestie. I think she was happy b/c I was slower and it was an easier pace. I made sure to include plenty of hot herb tea and chicken soup today. I encourage you if you’re not feeling well, do be sure and eat, even if you don’t feel like it, you have to keep up your strength, ya know. How is your body’s microscopic army supposed to fight the invaders w/o any fuel?

Ok, so, you know how important exercise is in this overall scheme, right? I’m going to share something that totally sounds counterintuitive, but it’s 100% true: when you exercise, you get more energy. I know, right? sounds kind of opposite¬†of what you’d think, but when you get your metabolism up, you get energized. And when you build muscle mass, that’s even better b/c the muscle takes more energy to operate than the fat tissue

Another reason exercise is important, the disks, the cushions between your bones, don’t have their own blood supply and get their nutrition from movement. Have you ever been to a movie that’s oh, say, 2hrs +? You try to get up from your seat and you’re a bit slow, right? Yeah, me too. But once you get moving, you’re ok. Part of it is because the movement is what lubricates the joints. That includes your spine (there are 22 bones plus the disks between them) and your knees in particular, without movement, they get stiff, and actually can begin to compress and lose their springiness. Yes, that’s an actual word, I promise.

My challenge to you, the next time you say, ‘I can’t because I”m sore.’ get out there anyway and just do something for 10 minutes and I think you’ll find you will feel better. And then you can do 10 more minutes! Just remember to breathe and drink plenty of water! Oh, and another thing, find little ways to get more movement into your day. Example: when drying your hair (if you use a blow dryer), spread your feet just beyond shoulder-width, toes pointing out, squat down as far as you can comfortably, and come back up, squeezing your glutes¬†at the top. It will help tighten your glutes¬†as well as burn off a few more calories when you’d otherwise just be standing there. Or, when you’re in the kitchen, waiting for something in the microwave, do a few counter push ups. Stand far enough back from the counter that you have about a 50 degree angle between your body and the countertop when your hands are on the edge. Gently lower your body to the counter top and push yourself back up. If it’s too difficult, step closer in and try again. If at any point doing any of these exercises, you experience pain, stop what you’re doing. whoever said ‘no pain, no gain’ was a complete moron. No pain means you’re doing it correctly. Sore muscles after, well, that’s a different case altogether.

Alright my friends, let’s see how tomorrow goes, shall we? I hope I’m feeling better, this nose running, not being able to breathe stuff really sucks.

How is it going for you? If you’re playing along, do share how it’s working for you and what you’ve been successful with and what you’ve altered to work better for you.

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