Sunday, February 28, 2010

Sunday Chit-Chat

Oh, it's a beautiful Sunday here. It's not too cold, the sun is shining. I spent some time outside plotting out what will be my very first proper garden. I've been container gardening for a number of years but this year I'm venturing outside my comfort zone down into the ground. It will be a 10x10 plot. We will need to dig up the red Georgia clay, turn it, add garden soil and organic material and then plant seeds. I have no idea how to do this but I will do some reading and learn as I go. It will also need fencing of some sort, but I'll leave that for Rob to figure out. I'm still going to have a small kitchen garden on the back deck, it makes it so lush and fragrant, I think I would miss it if I didn't. Are any of you experienced gardeners? If so can you offer this nOOb some advice?

I also spent some time packing for my trip and will only need to fold my clothes into the case on Tuesday night and then pack the last minute toiletries just before I leave Wednesday morning. I'm very excited to see my family and friends. I'm also excited to have my very first wine since the New Year's Day holiday. Yes, you heard right! I have not imbibed any alcoholic bevvies since New Year. Why? I didn't want the booze to interfere with my weight lifting progress. Drinking can weaken the resolve of a good fitness routine. What I didn't realize was that I ended up training my self-control muscle, as well. I thought it would be so hard but after awhile I stopped noticing. I had planned on celebrating the opening ceremony of the Olympics with a glass of cold Chardonnay, but decided that I could wait a little longer until I got to Boston to share a bottle with my sister. I'm happy I waited. That first sip is going to taste so wonderful in the company of my beautiful sister.

Self-control gets a bad rap, I think. Like it's somehow a vice rather than a virtue in our instant gratification society. At work the other night, I decided to indulge in a treat. I don't often indulge at work (more on that here,) but when a Publix Italian Cream Cake is on the table, it's definitely worth a splurge. I cut a small sliver. The first bite is always the best anyway and I just had a big bowl of homemade soup. One of my co-workers said, "Look at that small piece, such self-control!" But it was said like she was sucking a lemon.

I found a great quote that made much sense to me...

Self-respect is the root of discipline: The sense of dignity grows with the ability to say no to oneself. ~Abraham Joshua Heschel, The Insecurity of Freedom: Essays on Human Existence, 1967

As always, I love to hear from you...What are your thoughts on self-control?

Friday, February 26, 2010

Friday Weigh-In

It's Friday and you know what that means... Wayne's World! Party time, excellent! :D I've been cleaning out and sorting memorabilia this week and the walk down memory lane had me time warping back to the early 90's. I had such bad hair in the 90's. Like a pale blond straw hat. I'll have to scan some photos in for you to have a good laugh at.

I'm just back from the gym, special workout A and the endorphins are out of the world. Just what I need today for sure. I have absolutely fallen in love with weight lifting and have New Rules to thank for that. It was the first of two special workouts, which is designed to show just how much progress has been made since starting. The idea is to do all 5 exercises from stage 1 workout A with the same weight as I did them on the very first workout, as many repetitions as I can. Here's how I did...

Body weight full squats (getting really, really low)~~30 without stopping. Rest 60 seconds.
Push-ups (45 degrees, good form)~~2o without stopping. Rest 60 seconds.
Seated row (48 pounds)~~31 without stopping. Rest 60 seconds.
Step ups (3 risers)~~35 on each leg without stopping. Rest 60 seconds.
Prone jack knife~~30 without stopping. Drop from exhaustion.

It was an all out, hot and sweaty, out of breath blitz. If I thought that weight lifting doesn't increase cardio fitness before I started this program, I surely believe it now. And I'd rather do 45 minutes of lifting than pound away aimlessly on a treadmill for the same amount of time. If you haven't tried weight lifting yet, give it a try. It's fun, challenging and totally motivating.

No loss on the scale today, but I'm not crying in my green tea about it. I feel strong, my body is changing and my clothes are still getting looser. I have Caroline's memorial service this afternoon and then I can officially relax and try my best to enjoy the weekend with my husband. I've got a lovely meal planned this evening, grilled pork loin chops with fresh pineapple salsa and broccoli rabe. Tomorrow I'm making a summery dish of fresh ravioli tossed with fresh tomatoes, basil, baby peppers and snap peas. It's been a long winter and though the sun is shining, it is still very cold. The green tops of the daffodils are emerging more and more each day and that makes me happy knowing that spring is coming.

I hope you have a beautiful day, wherever your Friday takes you.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

The Olympic Spirit

Olympic athletes, wow! They are super athletes, super human, I could never be like that. No, they are just humans like everyone else who train hard and sacrifice to be the best at something. That is something we can take to heart and learn from. But that's really not the focus of this post.

I've had a bad week and a half, emotionally. I'm worried about my family, trying to be supportive over the phone until I can get there next week. To add to that, one of our most beloved co-workers, Caroline, passed away last week. My work family is devastated because Caroline was really special. Special because she did a thankless job, a job of changing dirty diapers and dirty linens, cleaning dirty dentures and removing dirty food trays and she did it with such joy, always with a smile on her face and hug for her patients and co-workers. Her memorial service is tomorrow and though I dread it, I will not miss one last chance to say goodbye to a person whom I will miss so much.

Though I haven't let it derail my healthy behaviors for the most part, I have not missed a workout, I admit to having a few moments of feeling sorry for myself and a few episodes of nervous snacking (nuts and raisins, haven't found any M&M's in the couch cushions) over the past 10 days. But something I saw the other night really gave me a new perspective on my situation. Joannie Rochette, the Canadian figure skater, came out skated a beautiful and moving short program on Tuesday evening despite having lost her beloved mother from a heart attack just a few nights before. Her strength and courage really moved me, made think that yes, I can be strong, too. Even when faced with things that make me want to curl up in a ball and eat chocolate frosting from the can until I am numb.

That to me is the Olympic Spirit, I hope to absorb some of that and carry it with me on my journey. I hope you will, too.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Cook Once, Eat Twice Follow Up

We just finished the Pork Pot Pie made from Sunday's leftovers and it was a huge hit!

On Sunday I took a 1-pound pork tenderloin and rubbed it in whole grain Dijon mustard, garlic powder and white pepper while I chopped the veggies, which included 4 small Yukon gold potatoes (just under a pound total weight), 1 bunch of carrots, the kind with the greens still attached that need only be washed, not peeled and an acorn squash. I diced the squash and carrots the same size, but left the taters a bit larger. I tossed the veggies with a bit of olive oil, salt and pepper, put them on a tray and roasted them at 400 for 30 minutes. Took them out, put the pork on top and roasted another 35 minutes (Rob likes his pork well done.) We ate half the pork and half the veggies for dinner and the rest went in the fridge.

For the Pot Pie tonight, I sauteed some cremini mushrooms until tender then added two tablespoons of butter blend and cooked until melted. I added two tablespoons of smooth Dijon mustard and two tablespoons of whole wheat flour. I cooked it until thick then added 1 cup 2% milk, 1 cup stock and a pinch of herbes de Provence. I cooked it until it was thick and bubbly, stirred in the pork (which I diced) and veggies and heated it through. Into the pie dish, topped with frozen puff pastry, brushed with egg wash and baked for 25 minutes at 450 degrees. It was absolutely delicious and so unlike leftovers. I look forward to having the leftovers of the leftovers on Thursday night at work.

In other news, I'm on day 2 of the office project and just about done. I need only purge and organize my massive stash of memorabilia (I am the worst sort of sentimentalist, I have the ticket stub of every movie, show and concert for oh, the past 25 years) then I'm as far as I can go with it until Rob kits out the closet with the new shelving system. I reorganized some of the furniture so there is much better flow, piles of papers have been shredded and the picture frames that were still boxed from the old house have all new photos ready for hanging. It's such a relief to know that I can leave town without the mess hanging over my head.

I'm leaving a week from tomorrow. I'll be blogging until then but it may be quiet around here while I'm away. Things are a bit upside down for my family at the moment so I'm going up to help shoulder some of the burden so I don't know that I'll have much time for the computer. If I'm able in next few days, I'll set some posts to automatically publish while I'm gone.

Have a great night!

Monday, February 22, 2010

Cook Once, Eat Twice

The response to my few questions from Saturday has been great, thank you all so much for taking the time and sharing your story with me. If you haven't responded yet, please please please do so. I really want to hear from you!

It's Monday and my to-do list is getting shorter and this makes me happy. I feel so much happier and more relaxed when my house is clean. I don't usually let it get out of hand but once in awhile it gets away with me. Rob was a superstar and helped me scour the house on Saturday morning. I'm caught up on laundry as well as feeling much more rested. I have a couple of free days now to start my office project. I'm going to work in there a couple of hours today and tomorrow and see how much I can get done.

So, whatcha been cooking good?

I've been trying on the cook once, eat twice method and I really like it. Last week I made lemon sage chicken on a bed of roasted root vegetables which were transformed into the easiest and yummiest chicken pot pie the next night. I can't get enough roasted root veggies so I made them again yesterday but this time with a mustard glazed pork tenderloin, which will make its way into a pork pot pie tomorrow evening. Saturday evening I made my favorite simple roast chicken (which is the best, most foolproof roast chicken method in the Universe) which will be returning in Cobb Salad this evening. The salad will feature shredded roast chicken breast, 2 ounces of roaring 40's blue cheese, a bit of crumbled bacon, soft poached eggs and homemade vinaigrette. Doesn't that sound good?

So, how do you turn leftover chicken and veggies into pot pie that isn't as heavy as the traditional comfort food? It's so easy! In a sauce pan, melt two tablespoons of Smart Balance 50/50 butter blend or unsalted butter then stir in two tablespoons of whole wheat flour. Cook until it's thick and starting to brown. Then whisk in one cup of 2% milk and one cup of low sodium chicken stock, stirring constantly over med-high heat until it comes to a boil. It will start to thicken. Toss in your leftover chicken and veggies, add some frozen peas, season with salt and pepper to taste and stir until it's all combined and warmed through. Turn mixture into a pie dish and top with prepared puff pastry, cutting off the excess around the edges. Brush the pastry with egg wash, cut a hole to vent the steam and pop into a 400 degree oven and bake until the pastry is puffed and golden. This will serve 4 people alone, 6 people if you add a big salad. For the pork pot pie, I'm going to add some sauteed cremini mushrooms and some dry mustard when I season the sauce.

What are the benefits of cooking once and eating twice?

1. Helps avoid boredom! Boredom can undo a healthy lifestyle faster than you can dial Lucky China.

2. Reduces waste and saves money! I used to waste so much food, I feel guilty just thinking about it. But now, I waste nothing. Who am I to throw food away when there are so many people in this country struggling to make ends meet?

3. It's easy!

There are some good resources out there for cook one, eat twice recipes. Robin Miller of the Food Network is the first that comes to mind. A quick Google search has lots of results, too.

Edited to add: One closing thought. When I was at the gym this morning I was listening to the Fat 2 Fit podcast. The guys were talking to a yoga instructor and she said something that really resonated with me. She said, referring to how yoga is something that is progressive, a practice that you can grow with, "Your habits, good or bad, will eventually catch up with you." Think about it.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

A Few Questions

I've been reading about the healthy at every size/fat acceptance movement recently and I wanted to pose a few questions to you, my readers. I know there are 83 followers and I get around 100 hits a day, so even if you have never commented I would really love to hear from each and every one of you. If you want your comment to remain private, just say so and I will not publish it. This is a safe place.

If you are or were overweight or obese, how did it happen?
Are you or were you happy at that weight?
Are you/were you healthy at that weight?
Did making "lifestyle changes" improve your health?
If you've changed your relationship with food and improved your health, how long have you maintained your changes/weight loss?

You all know my story, it's all here in this blog. I got fat because I abused food as a drug, didn't deal with my emotions in a healthy way, ate way too much junk, processed and fast food and spent most, if not all, of my free time being sedentary. No, I was not happy at 277 pounds and I most certainly was not healthy. I spent a lot of time in the hospital in 2007, all of it caused by abusing my body with food, all of it completely avoidable. And lastly, I have seen great improvements in my overall health and fitness through lifestyle changes and hope to see even more in the future.

I'm looking for some real honest answers and I greatly appreciate you taking the time.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Friday Weigh-In, Stress 1 vs. Scale 0

It's been a really long week. The stress hasn't eased up yet I have not wavered from eating clean, staying within my calories or working out. Junk food and skipping workouts would only exacerbate the stress, in fact eating well and my workouts are the only things that are keeping me sane until I can get to Boston. Stress has taken its toll on my sleep and the scale as well, no loss this week and my house is a mess. I have one shift to get through this evening then I'll have a few days off to turn the house right side up and catch up on my rest.

I'm just back from the gym and even though I didn't want to go, I pushed myself through workout B7, deadlifting 95 pounds! No endorphins today but I feel like I did something good for myself rather than just laying around stuck inside my head.

I did have a satisfying non-scale victory this week. I visited a consignment store early in the week with all of my spring/summer clothes to see if I can earn a bit of money to put toward the new smaller spring/summer wardrobe that I'll be needing. I found a pair of gently used Coldwater Creek jeans which were a steal at $5.50, in the smallest size since I've worn since high school~14p.

A Life Less Sweet Reviews is having a giveaway of Ayala Herbal Waters so skip on over for your chance to win one each of all the flavors in a tote bag. Have a great day and a wonderful weekend.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Why Not Just Eat the Donut?

Last night at work one of the family members brought in a box of fresh Krispy Kremes for the staff. Have you ever had a fresh Krispy Kreme? Then you know they defy description, are created with something akin to crack because they are completely addictive. I've come a long way, I can probably eat just one donut now without triggering a crazy binge attack. So why not just eat the donut?

For starters, I don't want work to once again become a place that I associate with always eating some sort of junk food. I don't want to condition my brain to expect a treat just because I am at work. It's an unhealthy habit that was tough to break, but I did it and don't want to undo it. I take my own food to work, so other than on special occasions like the Valentine's brownie mountain or the Family Thanksgiving dinner, I stick with all the delicious and nutritious foodstuffs that I've packed into my lunch bag.

I love my treats, my planned indulgences but I don't need to be eating donuts on Tuesday night. That donut is not going to help me get to where I want to be. Does that donut taste good? Of course it does, I know *exactly* how delicious that donut is. But is it worth the indigestion that is sure to follow? No! Is it worth the sugar low that may make me not want to get up and get to the gym this morning? No! Does that donut taste better than the freedom from junk food feels? NO!

That is why I chose not to eat the donut and don't regret it.
I'll be at the gym. :)

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Magazine Review: Everyday Food

Let me start off by saying that I'm now part of the Amazon Associates program so if you click through my blog to shop on Amazon, I will get a (very) small kick back. I have absolutely no financial relationship with any of the books, movies or magazines that I review on my blog. I will only post links to media that I feel has useful or important information that can contribute to living a healthy lifestyle.

As you know, I'm a magazine freak. I love food magazines above all, they are a fantastic resource of healthy seasonal recipes. One of my favorites is Everyday Food from Martha Stewart Living. It's a small format magazine, so it's easy to work with and every month is packed end to end with a variety of interesting and easy recipes.

The recipes in Everyday Food use fresh, whole ingredients, are not complicated and feature produce that is in season. There is a good mix of meat based and vegetarian meals, too. Since we're going meatless at least 3 days a week, this is a great feature. Everyday Food encourages its readers to try new things and flavors, while making the recipes using these items (such as fish sauce) really approachable. Other highly useful features are the cook once/eat twice recipes and the one ingredient, different recipes which makes buying a particular ingredient in bulk fresh and interesting.

The January/February issue has been well used in my kitchen. I loved the Chick Pea Curry, the Turkey Kabobs with Cole Slaw that was transformed into lunch wraps and the Braised Collards with Tomatoes, which froze and reheated beautifully. I'm going food shopping tomorrow and the majority of my menus comes from the March issue that just arrived. I can't wait to make the Cobb Salad with poached eggs and the baked fennel.

If you're in the market for uncomplicated, interesting and healthy recipes Everyday Food definitely fits the bill. The companion website is also worth checking out.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Monday Chit-Chat

How did everyone fare during Valentine's weekend? Did you eat your weight in red heart-shaped boxes filled with chocolate or did you manage to indulge thoughtfully? It was a mine field for me this year. Every Valentine's Day, one of our long term resident's daughter mobilizes an army of family members to bake up a mountain of cake, brownie and cookie love for our staff. This year it was off the chain, I've never seen so many beautiful, handmade treats in one place, not even in a fully stocked bakery.

I managed to indulge sensibly on a homemade treat on both Saturday and Sunday but stayed within my calories. It's a small victory that I didn't go nuts and eat everything in sight because I'm emotionally exhausted (got some upsetting family health news a few days ago) so my mind is with my family in Boston right now and I'm trying to hold it together until I can get there in two weeks.

I was feeling tired this morning but didn't let that deter me from getting to the gym. The endorphins are just what I needed today. I completed workout B6, just 4 more workouts plus the two special workouts and I'll be having my week off before starting Stage 2. I'm home now, going to finish up the laundry and put my feet up. I'm going to get lost in the Olympics for a while, the pairs figure skating short program from last evening is waiting on my DVR.

If you are able, please send some healthy vibes and prayers in the direction of Boston, MA. It would be greatly appreciated. I'll leave you with a photo of the lovely pink carnations that we nurses got. I arranged them in a pretty bowl I have. Nothing like a fluffy, pink bouquet to brighten the day. Be safe and have a wonderful day.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Just One Thing: Drink for Your Health

Do you have any idea of just how unhealthy soda is for the body? It's staggering! It's also staggering how much of this junk Americans consume on a daily basis. I used to do it and think nothing of it. I know better now and place a very high value on my health, something which the soft drink companies have absolutely no regard for.

One 12-ounce can of sugary soda contains 40 grams of sugar or 10 teaspoons, a 20-ounce bottle has 17 teaspoons. And whether it's in the form of sugar or high fructose corn syrup, it is harmful to the body. Too much sugar can lead to obesity and Diabetes. I know first hand about obesity and as a health professional I'm all too familiar with Diabetes and all its horrible complications and neither of them you'd wish on your worst enemy. Diet soda, which is full of artificial sweeteners, isn't any better. Phosphoric acid leeches calcium from bones and can cause bone loss. The chemicals and acids in soda erode tooth enamel. No matter how you slice it, soda has no nutritional value whatsoever.

Where would you rather be at 65, morbidly obese, confined to a nursing home bed with diabetes, soft bones and no teeth or at a resort taking mambo lessons with Johnny Castle? Cue up the music because I want to be dancing well into my twilight years!

The healthiest way to hydrate your body is with pure water and plenty of it. It is no simpler than that. In addition to water, I supplement my beverage choices with daily freshly pressed vegetable juice, green and herbal teas and the occasional sparkling water spiked with a splash of intensely flavored, anti-oxidant rich pure juice like pomegranate or acai.

Please think twice before you reach for that next can of soda, your health is far too precious!

Friday, February 12, 2010

Friday Weigh-In

Happy Olympics Opening Ceremony Friday! I can't even explain how excited I am to watch. You probably don't know this, but I am an Olympics fanatic and the Winter Games are my absolute favorite. While I love just about all the events, I'm most impressed by long track speed skating. The strength and endurance required for that sport is outrageous. I also can't wait to root for Johnny Weir and his "sparkly onesies" as he goes for the gold in Men's Figure Skating. Yay!

I hit a milestone today, broke the 100 pound mark. I weighed-in at 176.5, for a loss of 1.5 pounds for the week and 100.5 pounds overall. I'm more than half way through Stage 1 of New Rules. I just finished A6 and increased my seated row weight to 156 pounds on my last set. I also moved to the floor for my push ups. I don't get as low as I should, but I completed all three sets of 10 going low as I could. I need to buy new jeans before my Boston trip as I've already outgrown (ingrown?) the ones I bought at the start of the fall/winter season. The money I save on junk food is better spent at the clothing stores, anyway.

I'm working Saturday and Sunday, so I'll be tucked away passing out hugs and medicine to my elderly Valentines. What are your plans for the weekend? If you're looking for a low-impact indulgence for Valentine's Day, consider making some chocolate dipped strawberries. Wash and pat dry fresh strawberries, dip them in melted dark chocolate and place on wax paper to cool. At about 50 calories each, it's an easy yet decadent treat.

And lastly, set your DVRs for the Dr. Oz show on Tuesday February 16th. It's a special show about people who have achieved and maintained 100 or more pound weight loss. Lori from Finding Radiance got to take part in the show, so be sure to watch!

Have a fantastic day and a great, safe weekend!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Turkey Pinto Chili

In case you haven't noticed by now, I love chili. I used to think of chili as junk food, but I've been working up some chili recipes this winter season that are loaded with flavor, packed with vegetables, high in protein and so, so good. My favorite to date is the Turkey Pinto Chili that I used in my "better burrito." I hope you'll try it.

Let me start by saying, don't fear the dry bean! I used to think dry beans were such a fuss but they're like Barney Stinson's favorite date, cheap and easy. Just rinse the beans and do a quick check for anything that's not a bean then throw them in a large pot and fill the pot with water. Soak overnight, drain and they are ready to be cooked in any number of ways. It's that simple.

Turkey Pinto Chili

2 pounds ground turkey, white meat
1 cup of chicken stock
16 ounces dry pinto beans, soaked overnight and drained
1 large onion, diced
3 finger hot peppers, diced (or whatever chili pepper is your favorite)
1 jar of roasted red peppers, drained and diced (I like the piquillo peppers from Trader Joe's)
2 28-ounce cans of diced tomatoes
1 winter squash, diced (I used a delicata)
Your favorite chili seasonings to taste (I like smoked chipotle powder, paprika, dry mustard, Mexican Fiesta from Frontier that my sister was so right about, it's awesome, black pepper, and a blob of barbecue sauce)

Heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a large stock pot over medium high heat, add the onion and cook it until it starts to get soft and brown, add the hot peppers and roasted peppers and continue browning. Add seasonings and the turkey, breaking it up until it is no longer pink. Add the tomatoes, juice and all, the chicken stock, the beans and squash. Mix well, bring to a boil, cover and simmer for 90 minutes stirring occasionally. Continue to simmer with the cover off for another 30 minutes to make sure the chili gets nice and thick. Serve with a squeeze of fresh lime, cilantro and ripe avocado. Devour!

This makes a lot of chili but it is fabulous leftover and freezes very well. Beyond the bowl chili is a great filling for a burrito, can top a baked potato, can be mixed with low glycemic pasta for chili-mac or used in a 7 layer dip for veggies and whole-grain chips.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

What is Holding You Back?

Fat held me back from living my healthiest and happiest life and I got tired of it. I hated feeling tired and weighed down all the time. I hate that I spent so much time in a food coma. I hate that I misspent so many years hiding from my feelings, being afraid, years during which Big Macs, brownies and cookie dough were more important than living up to my potential.

But those days are over. As much as I still love and enjoy food, I don't live to eat anymore. Food is not more important than my health. That box of cookies isn't worth the sugar fog, depression and weight gain that comes with it. I'm enjoying thinking of new ways to fuel my body with the best quality, most nutritious and delicious food I can find and prepare. My body thanks me for it with every step I take, with every bit of weight I lift, with every shift I work.

What is holding you back from living your most vibrant and healthy life? What is keeping you from taking back control of your health and control over your relationship with food? Do you really want to look back, many years from now and regret not making the most of every single moment? Taking the first step is actually making that first step. Don't wait until Monday, don't wait until after Valentine's Day. Make the first step now.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Building a Better Burrito

I admit it, I am a recovering Grilled Stuft Burrito (GSB) addict. I used to love them but I haven't been to Taco Bell since before I started changing my eating habits. And after digging around for nutrition information on their site, I'm not sure I'm ever going back. Here is the nutrition information and ingredients in a GSB made with chicken, directly from Taco Bell's site.


Fat~24 fat grams (mostly hydrogenated or partially, anyway)
Carbohydrate~77 grams
Sodium~ 2180 (just under the RDA for an entire day)
Fiber~9 grams
Protein~34 grams

Southwest Chicken~Chicken Breast Meat With Rib Meat, Water, Seasoning [Salt, Maltodextrin, Spices, Garlic Powder, Chili Pepper, Paprika, Onion Powder, Carrageenan, Disodium Inosinate, Disodium Guanylate, Natural Flavoring, Mixed Triglycerides, Yeast, Modified Corn Starch, Corn Syrup Solids, Yeast Extract, Alginates (Sodium, Calcium And/Or Ammonium), Cellulose, Calcium Chloride, Sodium Benzoate Used To Protect Quality, Not More Than 2% Silicon Dioxide Added To Prevent Caking, Soybean Oil], Modified Food Starch, Sodium Phosphates Soy Lecithin (Used As A Processing Aid).

Pinto Beans, Partially Hydrogenated Soy Bean Oil (With TBHQ And Citric Acid Added To Protect Flavor) , Salt.

Three-Cheese Blend~
Low-Moisture Part-Skim Mozzarella Cheese (Cultured Pasteurized Part-Skim Milk, Salt, Enzymes), Cheddar Cheese (Cultured Pasteurized Milk, Salt, Enzymes, Annatto), Pasteurized Process Monterey Jack And American Cheese With Peppers [Monterey Jack And American Cheese (Cultured Milk, Salt, Enzymes), Water, Cream, Sodium Citrate, Salt, Sodium Phosphate, Sorbic Acid (Preservative), Lactic Acid], Anticaking Agent.

Pepper Jack Sauce~
Soybean Oil, Buttermilk, Water, Distilled Vinegar, Egg Yolk, Jalapeno Peppers, High Fructose Corn Syrup, Granular, MontereyJack, Parmesan, and Semisoft Cheeses (Milk, Cheese Cultures, Salt, Enzymes), Salt, Buttermilk*, Bell Pepper*, Xanthan Gum, Whey, Mustard Seed, Garlic*, Onion*, Natural Flavor, Potassium Sorbate and Sodium Benzoate Added as Preservatives, Lactic Acid, Citric Acid, Disodium Inosinate, Disodium Guanylate, Spice, Proplene Glycol Alginate, Calcium Disodium EDTA Added To Protect Flavor. *Dehydrate

Tortilla Flour~Enriched Bleached Wheat Flour (Flour, Malted Barley Flour, Niacin, Reduced Iron, Thiamine Mononitrate, Riboflavin, Folic Acid), Water, Soybean Oil, Hydrogenated Vegetable Oil (Contains One Or More Of The Following: Cottonseed Oil, Soybean Oil), with Mono- and Diglycerides, Sugar, Contains Less Than 2% Of The Following: Salt, Leavening (Sodium Acid Pyrophosphate, Sodium Bicarbonate), Fumaric Acid, Calcium Propionate and Potassium Sorbate (used as preservatives), Dough Conditioners (DATEM, Mono and Diglycerides, Enzymes

Fiesta Salsa~Tomatoes, White Or Yellow Onions, Cilantro. Fiesta Salsa Dressing: Diced Green Chili (Green Chilies, Citric Acid), Vinegar, Water, JalapeƱo Chili, Partially Hydrogenated Corn Oil, Salt, Garlic Powder, Xanthan Gum, and Less Than 0.1% Sodium Benzoate Added As A Preservative

Seasoned Rice~Water, Seasoning: Salt, Vegetarian Broth (Natural Flavors {Including Autolyzed Yeast Extract, Autolyzed Yeast}, Maltodextrin, Salt, Citric Acid, Partially Hydrogenated Soybean Oil, Tapioca Dextrin), Tomato Powder, Corn Flour, Spices, Garlic Powder, Onion Powder, Dehydrated Bell Pepper, Dehydrated Onion, Dehydrated Tomatoes, Paprika (Color), Extractives of Paprika (Color), Citric Acid, Disodium Inosinate and Disodium Guanylate, Less than 2% Silicon Dioxide added to prevent caking.Rice (Raw): Enriched Precooked Parboiled Long Grain Rice [Rice, Niacin, Ferric Orthophosphate (Iron), Thiamine Mononitrate (Thiamine), Folic Acid]. Oil: High-Oleic Low-Linolenic Canola Oil, TBHQ (To Protect Flavor), Dimethylpolysiloxane (An Antifoaming Agent).

Holy merde! Did you have any idea the amount of crap contained in one fast food item? I'm shocked but shouldn't be. Fast food companies don't have our health interests are heart. I know I can do better with a grilled stuffed burrito, filling and tasty to satisfy the mouth and highly nutritious to satisfy the body.

I started with a La Tortilla Factory Smart and Delicious low carb tortilla. Honestly, they are not good. Tasteless with bad texture but are transformed into something truly tasty after just a few minutes in the George Foreman.

Here are the ingredients of the tortilla...

Ingredients: Whole Wheat Flour, Water, Oat Fiber, Soy Bean Flour, Cold Pressed Canola Oil And/Or Safflower Oil, Contains 2% Or Less Of The Following: Baking Powder (Sodium Acid Pyrophosphate, Sodium Bicarbonate Corn Starch, Monocalcium Phosphate), Sea Salt, Yeast, Xanthan Gum, Guar Gum, Citric Acid, Sorbic Acid, Calcium Propionate (To Maintain Freshness).

Then I layered on some herb salad blend. I always keep baby greens around to stuff into sandwiches. It's a painless way to get extra veggies. It also acts as insulation to keep the tortilla from going soggy.

I made a batch of the most delicious chili (I'll post the recipe later because it's really worth trying.) It came out so rich and thick, I knew it would be an amazing filling for my burrito.

Then the garnishes. You could put whatever you have in the fridge, sour cream, leftover grains, anything. I put cilantro, a squeeze of lime, 1/4 of a creamy, ripe Haas avocado and a few dashes of Sriracha hot sauce.

Wrapped it up, grilled it up and gobbled it up.

Doesn't that look good? It was full of yum and full of good stuff, too...

Calories~331 (half the calories of the GSB)
Fat~ 16 grams (mostly from avocado which is a fat that you want your body to have)
Carbohydrates~37 grams (a savings of 40 grams)
Sodium~ 450 milligrams
Protein~22 grams
Fiber~19 grams (10 bonus grams!)

Sunday, February 7, 2010


I've had this half written post about snacking since October but a reader question prompted me to finish it off and get it posted. In response to yesterday's Just One Thing: Be Prepared, reader Kandice wrote...
I was wondering what are some good fiber foods that will keep me from wanting to eat everything in sight. I just need some ideas of snacks. I'm a nanny so I am surrounded by cookies, crackers, and junk.
When I was growing up snacking got a bad rap. It was thought that snacking led to weight gain and limiting in-between meal snacks could keep a fat kid from getting fatter. I definitely agree that frequent, mindless snacking on junk food is a really bad habit and can lead to weight gain. But smart snacking is crucial when trying to eat for optimal health. Sensible snacking minimizes hunger between meals and keeps that metabolism humming.

So what makes a snack sensible? High fiber and a good balance of protein and fat for lasting satisfaction along with portion control.

Fruit like apples and pears make great snacks and are especially satisfying and delicious when paired with a piece of cheese or a tablespoon or two of nut or sunflower seed butter. Baby carrots and other raw veggies like cauliflower paired with hummus dip is another tasty option. I love cultured cottage cheese with Kashi Go Lean original cereal as a snack. Wasabi Wow trail mix from Trader Joe's is another favorite, but it's really important to utilize the measuring cup when doling out trail mix or granola because they are high in fat and calories.

For something more elaborate, Whole Living has some very appetizing recipes for healthy snacks. One of my favorite savory and sweet snacks is one serving of stone ground wheat crackers spread with one ounce of creamy goat cheese, sprinkled with a few dried cherries on each cracker. It's like a bit of cherry cheesecake in your mouth!

Other ideas include:
Mini whole wheat pita bread filled with hummus and chopped veggies.
Greek yogurt and berries sprinkled with a few pistachio nuts.
A whole grain tortilla with left over black beans and salad greens.
Bake a batch of healthy muffins, the keep really well in the fridge and are very portable.
"Just a handful" of raw almonds.
Roasted, seasoned chickpeas or squash seeds.

A Google search has a bevy of links to explore. Just be mindful of prepackaged snacks that claim to be high in fiber because they are often full of junk like high fructose corn syrup and hydrogenated oils.

Snacking definitely fits into my healthy lifestyle. Two delicious and nutritious between meal snacks keeps me from feeling deprived and then overeating at meal times. What are your favorite healthy snack ideas?

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Just One Thing: Be Prepared

You've heard this before but it is worth a rerun...prior preparation prevents piss poor performance! When living a healthy lifestyle, it pays to be prepared. Menu planning, batch cooking and making sure you have a variety of healthy, portable snacks ready makes living a healthy lifestyle easy. When you're hungry, your resolve to make better choices can be weakened. Pack a healthy lunch and some crunchy, high fiber snacks so that you won't be tempted by empty junk calories lurking in fast food or in the vending machine.

I know that some of you spend a part of the weekend batch cooking and that's awesome! I've fallen into the routine of menu planning on Sunday morning and batch cooking on Wednesday since that's usually a day off for me. A little bit of planning ensures that I'm never caught without something delicious and nutritious to eat. That way, I can be in charge of when I want to eat something indulgent, something really worth it.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Friday Weigh-In

I'm just back from the gym after workout A5 where we moved up from two sets to three sets and I definitely felt a difference. I am spent! I was good though, my last set of seated rowing on the cable machine was at 140 pounds which I gradually increased from just 48 pounds back in workout A1.

I weighed-in this morning at 178 pounds, so a two pound week with 99 pounds gone yay! My husband made a spreadsheet of all my weigh-ins since day 1. As of my last weigh-in I had lost 35% of my original body weight.

I'm at work later so I need to get moving. I hope you all have a fantastic Friday!

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Delightful Breakfast Muffins

My husband is the king of the breakfast bar. He grabs two along with his little jug of water and runs out the door for work in the morning. I buy the trail mix bars from Trader Joe's because they are the least evil of the packaged bars on the market. They have few ingredients and use brown rice syrup for sweetener as opposed to HFCS which is banned for life from this household. But I sometimes feel guilty not giving him something truly wholesome and homemade.

I wanted to make something that would be low in sugar, sodium and fat, high in fiber and nutrition. Something portable that would taste really good and could be made in batches. So I got baking and came up with these delightful muffins.

This recipe makes 2 dozen muffins and in an airtight container they kept for over a week in the fridge. And you won't believe how easy and delicious they are.

Banana Flax Breakfast Muffins
Preheat oven to 375 degrees
Prepare two 12-cup muffin tins with cups or cooking spray (I have only one muffin pan, so I just let it cool and spray again before filling with the rest of the batter.)

Place the following ingredients in a large bowl and mix well with a fork...

2 very ripe mashed bananas (my husband hates bananas but I assure you he didn't even detect them. The bananas make the muffins moist and sweet.)
5 medium-large carrots, grated (I used the food processor to make this step speedy.)
2 large eggs
6 ounces of 0% Greek yogurt
1 tablespoon vanilla extract (yes, Ina, it's good vanilla.)
1 teaspoon of ground cinnamon 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg pinch of salt 1/3 cup dark brown sugar, lightly packed 2 tablespoons honey
2/3 cup craisins (or any other dried fruit you prefer, apricots and raisins would work well.)

Then add the following ingredients to the bowl and mix just until blended...

2 cups 100% white whole wheat flour
1 cup Country Choice organic multigrain hot cereal (or old fashioned rolled oats.)
1/2 cup flaxseed meal (I like Bob's Red Mill organic.)
1 teaspoon baking soda 1 teaspoon baking powder

Fill pan with 1/4 cup of batter per muffin and bake for about 25 minutes. Be careful not to over bake. Cool in tin for 5 minutes then transfer to a rack to finish cooling, but they are fantastic warm. Devour!

NutritionData is a fantastic resource for nutrition geeks, which I proudly consider myself these days. I entered all the ingredients to get a nutrition profile for these muffins. Here's what you get in one muffin...

fat~2 grams
carbohydrate~22 grams
sodium~102 mg
sugar~10 grams
fiber~3 grams
protein~4 grams

I think I may try them with grated orange rind next time I make them. I hope you'll try them, two of these delightful muffins with a cup of tea would be a perfect weekday on-the-go breakfast or as an addition to eggs and turkey bacon with coffee on Sunday morning.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Makeover Time!

After leaving the gym this morning, I popped over to the salon because my hair was badly in need of a trim. I was delighted to find that Heather was back. She had cut my hair a few times last year and when she left I was very disappointed. My hair had gotten so long it always ends up in a clip or a ponytail. I was getting bored and was flirting with the idea of something different but was also having haircut anxiety. Once I saw Heather, I knew I could get more than just a trim and leave happy. And I'm happy!

It's a "medium bob with layers." Still long enough to wear up for workouts but short and stylish enough to actually wear in a style. Thanks Heather!

I hope your Wednesday is shaping up to be a beautiful day. I've got batch cooking planned. I've soaked the beans overnight for the turkey pinto bean chili. I've had the bananas practically rotting on the side to sweeten the delectable yet nutritious breakfast muffins I've been making for Rob (that he loves and requested more.) And I'll do my juice packs and make bread. In between, I'm hoping to get some recipes up for you. I made the most wonderful parsnip potato puree with pot roast on the weekend and Monday's Tunisian Vegetable Stew was a surprise hit. I also have a diet book review to post so I better get moving.

Monday, February 1, 2010

The Cost of Convenience

Ah, convenience. One of the things that helped me get fat. The ease of the drive-thru window, pre-packaged foods, ready meals. Quick, sure but detrimental to a healthy lifestyle. Life gets busy (work, kids, cleaning, laundry, school, exercise) and these companies feed into that, but are we really so busy that we can't fit the preparation of at least some unprocessed, whole foods in between Facebook quizzes, video games and watching television?

Take breakfast, which often falls by the wayside when you're rushing around first thing in the morning. Would it be easier to grab a tub of flavored yogurt and go? Sure it would. But what exactly is in that tub of yogurt? For comparison purposes only let's look at what used to be my favorite processed yogurt foodstuff, strawberry Yoplait Thick & Creamy lowfat yogurt.

Below is the nutrition information transcribed from and the ingredients copied and pasted from I find it interesting that Yoplait does not offer the ingredients of their yogurt on their website (I could not find it, not for lack of trying.) So, have a look...

Serving size~ One 6-ounce container
Fat~3.5 gram
Carbohydrates~32 grams
Protein~7 grams
Sodium~100 mg
Fiber~0 grams

Ingredients: Cultured Pasteurized Grade A Reduced Fat Milk, Sugar, Nonfat Milk, High Fructose Corn Syrup, Modified Corn Starch, Strawberry Puree, Kosher Gelatin, Tricalcium Phosphate, Natural Flavor, Colored With Carmine, Vitamin A Acetate, Vitamin D3.

No fiber and 28 grams of sugar which is the equivalent of 7 teaspoons of sugar in the form of high fructose corn syrup. "What about light yogurt?" you ask... You'll save 70 calories but you'll still be getting HFCS as well as Splenda.

What about the healthy alternative? Wash and halve a whole cup of strawberries and put them in a container in the evening. The next morning, top with 6 ounces of 0% Greek yogurt and go. Here is the nutritional breakdown that I did on Spark...

Calories~136 (56 calories saved)
Fat~1 gram (2.5 grams saved)
Carbohydrates~16 (half of the Yoplait)
Protein~18 grams (more than double the protein of the Yoplait)
Sodium~2 mg (a savings of 98mg, that's huge!)
Fiber~ 4 grams

More nutrition, obviously but also more food! And more food means more satisfaction. For even more satisfaction for just a few calories more, add a half a cup of Kashi Go-Lean cereal. Yum.

I'm on a roll here, let me do one more. Fast food lunch vs. a homemade lunch....

My (former) favorite fast meal~ two double cheeseburgers with ketchup and pickles only, large french fries and large sweet tea. I don't have the ingredients and I'm not entirely sure that I want to know but here is the nutrition breakdown from McDonald's "Bag a McMeal" nutrition facts.

Calories~1610 (the amount of calories I eat in an entire day, broken up into 4 meals and 1 snack)
Fat~70 grams
Sodium~2660 mg (the RDA is no more than 2300 mg/day)
Carbohydrate~190 grams
Fiber~11 grams
Protein~55 grams

The other week I made turkey kebabs with cole slaw for dinner, I made enough so that I could make us lunch wraps the next day. Marinated and grilled turkey tenderloin and fresh, crunchy cole slaw on a whole grain wrap with a cup of seedless white grapes and a lovely fizzy drink (1 ounce of pom-cherry juice with orange seltzer water.) It took about 5 minutes to put together this lunch for two people.

Calories~421 (about one quarter of the McMeal)
Fat~15 grams (a 55 fat gram savings)
Sodium~I don't have this number, but I'm pretty sure it's way less
Carbohydrate~64 grams (126 gram savings)
Fiber~16 grams (7 bonus grams)
Protein~33 grams (less, but a perfectly respectable amount for one lunch)

Is one processed yogurt or McMeal every now and again going to harm us? Not if we make thoughtful food choices on a regular basis, but there are people in this country who eat like this as a rule, that the only vegetables consumed is the hot lettuce on a Big Mac and I used to be one of them. But I've learned that there is a better way of doing things and I'm noticing the benefits of that more and more each day.

The numbers speak for themselves. Food preparation can be time consuming but there are ways to make it work for your busy life. When you factor in the control over what goes into your body which in turn will directly effect the way you feel and look, it certainly is worth it. I am worth it, you are worth it!