Monday, January 31, 2011

January Check-Up

Why does January always seem so long?  Probably because of the weather.  But weather aside it has been a very good month, health-wise.  Rob and I have not had any colds or flu (thank you juice, low sugar, exercise and vitamin D!) 

I wanted a true picture of how my month went so each day I jotted down a little note on my daily calendar, whether I've eaten a treat with added sugar, an alcoholic beverage, juiced or exercised.  Here is a snapshot of my January...

Fresh juice~18 days
Exercise~15 days
Restaurant food~ 1 day
Indulgent treats~ 1 day (Afia's baby shower, a slice of homemade cake I made)
Alcoholic bevvies~ 1 day (New Year's Day)
Days of no/very low added sugar~ 28 days

I made a promise to myself to really focus on healthy eating this month in addition to go easy wine and treats.  It's nice to see in black and white that I kept that I achieved those goals.  Dried fruit and dessert tea with milk has become my go-to treats this month and has kept me very satisfied.  If you have a World Market nearby pick up a canister of the Republic of Tea's Cherry Chocolate Cuppa Romance Tea.  To. Die. For. 
I've completed up days 8 and 9 of the training program today which was shoulder, biceps and triceps and interval training on the treadmill.  Zumba tomorrow, which is going to kick off a fantastic February!

In other news, I'm hoping my new glasses are ready to pick up later today.  They are so cute, I'll be sure to post a picture.  And I didn't forget about the food porn, I'll get that up later in the week.

How are your health and fitness goals coming along?  I'd love to see you post your January check-up in the comments!

Friday, January 28, 2011

On What to Eat

Note~ This may be one of the most important posts I ever write.  It's long and comprehensive, but the information included is what changed (and saved) my life.

Back in December I got a great question from reader Jordan...
--do you know of any good nutrition (NOT DIET) books? I've been looking for a total nutrition book that tells us what our bodies need and why. I'm not looking for a book about fad diets though. Do you have any suggestions for this? Thanks.
Every waking minute of every day we are bombarded with mixed messages about what to eat.  Fast food, comfort/reward food, snack food, convenience food, fad diet plans with their very own packaged food, junk food with bogus health claims on the package, sugary sodas that will add sparkle to your life, artificial sweeteners to make you thin and happy, even that high fructose corn syrup is healthy because it comes from corn.

Up until recently, our own government provided us with a food pyramid that urged us to eat as many as 11 servings of bread and cereal every day.  It's no wonder we have a hard time knowing where to start when we become sick and tired of feeling sick and tired and want to improve overall health and shed some excess fat in the process.

I'm not a nutritionist or doctor, but I have done much reading and research on health and nutrition over the past few years and I have found what works best for my family in terms of getting and staying healthy while maximizing eating pleasure, which is precisely what the nutritious and delicious life is all about.  Exercise is amazing for our health for so many reasons but vibrant health and fat loss begins with a healthfully stocked kitchen and the willingness to change the way we eat.  Taking into account my 80% strategy, here is what I have learned and strive for...

Every meal, every day~ 
  1. Eat lots and lots of colorful vegetables and/or fruit, every meal, every day. Don't shy away from the green leafies, they are wonderful!  Try fresh vegetable juicing as a way to up your daily veggie intake.
  2. Get protein from appropriate portions of beans or quinoa, good quality veggie burgers, pastured eggs, lean/grass fed/pastured/wild caught meat, fish, fowl.  (What's a portion? 1/2 cup for beans, quinoa,  up to 4 ounces of meat, pork or chicken, up to 6 ounces for fish depending on the type.)
  3. Choose appropriate portions of slow release carbs from whole grains like oats, brown rice and wild rice, spelt, millet, wheatberries, whole grain pasta, whole grain bread/wraps. 
  4. Choose appropriate portions of healthy fats from avocados, olive oil, virgin coconut oil, flax seeds/oil, (raw) nuts.
  5. Drink lots of water and green tea.
  6. Always choose quality over quantity!
  7. Always read labels if choosing something with a package or wrapper. Know what you are putting into your body.
  8. Remember NO wrapper is best!
  1. Get calcium and protein from organic dairy such as plain yogurt, kefir, cottage cheese or appropriate portions of a variety of different delicious cheeses.
  2. I can't recommend real, raw milk highly enough.  It has made such a difference in my health and it's so delicious and satisfying.  But if you choose pasteurized milk, please choose organic dairies that do not use hormones or antibiotics.  
  3. Indulge in a small amount (about an ounce) of dried fruit like Medjool dates or good quality dark chocolate, minimum 60% cocoa for antioxidants and pure pleasure.
Indulge in occasionally~
  1. Homemade treats, you can control the ingredients that way.  Stick to appropriate portions.
  2. A glass of wine or cocktail.  Wine can have health benefits but not if you (I) drink the whole bottle.
  3. Good quality ice cream (try the goat or coconut milk versions,) sorbet or frozen yogurt, but measure your portion into a pretty bowl rather than spooning right from carton to mouth.
  4. A nice restaurant meal that uses seasonal, locally sourced ingredients.
  1. White rice, white bread/wraps/pita, white potatoes, traditional semolina pasta.  Choose sweet potatoes and low-glycemic or whole grain versions of rice, pasta and grain products.
  2. Canned tuna due to mercury dangers.  Choose pouch or canned wild salmon but look for no or low sodium varieties.
  3. Processed cold cut meat products, choose low sodium, sodium nitrite/nitrate free varieties.
  4. Butter.  I love butter and use it several times a week but I always limit the portion.  Try cultured butter, it's wonderful and more healthful than regular.  I always buy unsalted butter.
  5. Watch for added sugars (sucrose, dextrin, maltose, fructose, maltodextrin, evaporated cane juice, cane syrup.) 
  6. Choose foods with 4 or less grams of added sugar per serving.  While it still goes to sugar intake, try raw honey or molasses as your occasional sweeteners.
  7. Watch for added salt/sodium, 1500mg of sodium is the limit for some people, 2300mg for others.  Use fresh garlic, hot chilies, herbs and spices to maximize flavor at mealtime.
    Rarely or eliminate completely~
    1. High fructose (corn, maltose and other) syrups, processed sugars.
    2. Fast food, quick service food, roach coach food, cash register candy and anything from a vending machine unless it's an apple or a banana.
    3. Artificial sweeteners like aspartame, sucralose, saccharine,  Acesulfame K. Give stevia a try!
    4. Trans-fats, hydrogenated/partially hydrogenated fats, margarine.
    5. Processed packaged snack foods, fatty, sugary baked goods and breakfast pastries, salty or sugary snacks, processed, sugary breakfast cereal, non-dairy creamers.
    6. Any foods that say "diet" or "light" or "reduced".  Go for real foods, not the fake stuff that is marketed as healthy.
    7. Sugary and diet sodas, processed sugary and light juices and juice drinks (Ocean Spray cranberry juice cocktail has 3 grams more sugar per 8 ounces than Coca-Cola.)
    8. Ready to bake things that come in a tube.  They are loaded with fat, salt, sugar and processed white flour.  That ain't love despite what that little doughy bugger would have you believe.
    9. If a "food" product has slick marketing and clever packaging, think twice about buying it. Like those boxed dry meals.  That little Helping Hand really only wants to help you into bigger jeans and an early grave!
    10. Be wary of words like "enhanced," which means added sodium, "enriched" and "fortified" which means it has been so highly processed that all the nutrition has been stripped away and added back artificially.
    As for Jordan's original question, there is a countless number of diet, fitness and health books out there and more coming every day, but I have yet to find just one that has everything.  But there is a lot of good information out there.

    Suggested reading, books~ 
    Mark Bittman's Food Matters and any of his cookbooks.  I particularly love How To Cook Everything.
    Michael Pollan's The Omnivore's Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals
    The Full Plate Diet has a lot of great nutrition information about getting more fiber and veggies.  And I love that the book is available as a FREE download to anyone who wants to read it.   
    Lisa R. Young's The Portion Teller Plan is a wonderful resource to learn about healthy portion sizes.
    Suggested reading, magazines (be sure to check out their companion websites)~
    Eating Well
    Cooking Light
    Vegetarian Times
    Everyday Food
    Suggested Viewing (all are available streaming on Netflix)~ 
    Food, Inc. 
    King Corn
    The Future of Food
    Food Matters

    Suggested Web Reading~

    Eat Wild
    The World's Healthiest Foods
    Dr. Mercola
    The Natural News

    Please note, I made these changes to the way we cook and eat GRADUALLY.  It's not possible to change everything all at once and it's not about being perfect.  If you start making a change now, after a time you'll be living a vibrant, healthy life.  And always remember that food isn't about morality but about well being, your well being.  You are worth it!

    Wednesday, January 26, 2011

    On Choosing a Gym

    How's your week going?  It's Wednesday and I've completed the first four days of the 28-Day Body Shapeover.  I'm liking it so far because it's so easy to follow.  If you like explicit instructions, this book is definitely worth a look.  

    I did day 1 (focusing on arms and shoulders) and day 2 (HIIT on the treadmill) on Monday and day 3 (focusing on quads, hams and calves) and day 4 (HIIT on the bike) this morning.  For me the option of doubling up on workouts is ideal because it keeps my gym visits to just 3 days, giving me outdoor walking/hiking options on other days if I choose.  I'll do days 5 and 6 on Friday morning and take a nice walk with Rob at the weekend.  

    Speaking of gyms, I feel like I've totally outgrown mine.  Unfortunately, I have a little over a year left on my paid membership.  It's a good basic gym but  there is no power cage, no captain's chair, no rowing machine and there's not much room to move around.  If it's crowded, I feel like swinging the bar and knocking people out of my way.  I don't like to feel crowded in.  There's also no classes and no pool, which I'm not too bothered about, I just want a roomy, well-stocked place to lift!

    So what to look for when choosing a gym?  It depends on your fitness level and plans for your fitness future.  A tour and some research is a must.  Is the equipment new and well cared for?  Is it clean?  Is the staff knowledgeable and friendly?  The lady who manages my gym in the morning is so nice and is always available to lend a spotting hand if I need it. 

    Talk to the members, ask them what they like or don't like about the place.  Do you require a pool?  If so, check out the wet areas.  Do you like classes?  Check out the class schedule to see if they jive with your schedule and find out if they are included in the price.  Nothing worse than signing on the dotted line just to find that certain classes have an over and above charge.  

    Do you love to ride the elliptical trainer while watching TV?  Check to see how many trainers there are and if the TVs are all in working order so you don't find having longs waits for equipment or having to stare at the back of some person's  head instead of Regis and Kelly. 

    And never, never be afraid to negotiate.  Don't ever pay full price! 

    I hope that was helpful.  In other news, we had a baby shower for our beloved supervisor on Monday night.  She's due in just 4 weeks.  I crocheted a baby blanket and it came out so nice...

    It was made with two strands of super soft yarn worked together, pink and white, to give that lovely effect.  It's so sweet!  Here's a closeup of the detail...

    Baby bubbles!  We are going to miss Afia when she goes on maternity leave, she's the calming presence in a job that can be insane.  

    I have some random food porn to put together in a post, and will have more no doubt after the nice dinners I have forthcoming.  So watch for that.  Have a good one!

    Tuesday, January 25, 2011

    Raise Your Juice Glass to Jack Lalanne!

    I was saddened to hear that Jack Lalanne passed away yesterday at the age of 96.  Mr. Lalanne was a paragon of healthy living, spreading his message of fitness, juicing and healthy eating for longer than most of us have been alive.  

    I've thought of him a lot over the past few years, thoughts that yes, treating the body with respect really can lead to a long, vibrant life.  And Mr. Lalanne certainly enjoyed a long, healthy life.  He will be missed, but his message will always be kept alive by people who strive to live active, healthy lives.

    Here are some of my favorite things that Mr. Lalanne had to say...

    "The only way you can hurt the body is not use it.  
    Inactivity is the killer and, remember, it's never too late."

    "It's a lifestyle, it's something you do the rest of your life.  
    How long are you going to keep breathing? 
    How long do you keep eating? You just do it." 

    “Anything in life is possible, if YOU make it happen!”

    So fire up your juicer, make some fresh juice then raise your glass to Jack Lalanne!

    Monday, January 24, 2011

    Monday Motivation

    "As long as my head's in the right place, my body will follow!"
    ~~Jodi from the A&E series Heavy

    On the surface, a simple statement, but such a pointed, thoughtful idea behind it.  It all starts in our heads; taking steps to find out what is holding us back from reaching our goals, working on the root causes of our unhealthy behaviors, acquiring knowledge to improve our health and finally the willingness or resistance to put that knowledge to practical use.  Our bodies are just along for the ride.  Our heads are in charge of what sort of ride that is going to be;  a vibrant, active ride or a sluggish "just gotta get through this day" ride.

    What sort of ride are you on?

    Saturday, January 22, 2011

    Nutritious and Delicious: Avocados

    I love avocados! They are just so delicious, but they are also a nutrition powerhouse.

    Avocados are a stone fruit, low in sugar and high in fiber.  They are high in potassium, low in sodium and high in folate (which helps reduce the risk of heart disease in women.)  This is a biggie, folks because heart disease is the NUMBER ONE killer of women in this country.  That's right, cardiovascular disease, including heart attacks, has been the number one killer of females since 2006.

    Avocados are low in saturated fat but packed with essential fatty acids, specifically oleic acid which is a monounsaturated fat that can help lower cholesterol and protect against breast cancer.   The low-fat fad in this country scared people out of eating the fats that are absolutely essential to our bodies.  Healthy fats are important for every single system in our bodies including moist, young looking skin.  Avocados are so luscious and rich, you'll get all these amazing nutrition benefits as well as fullness and satisfaction!

    Read more about avocado nutrition at World's Healthiest Foods and  
    When I buy avocados, I look specifically Hass from California or Mexico.  I always buy one that is close to ripe (shiny, black pebbled skin that yields slightly to pressure but isn't super soft or mushy) so I can eat it within a day or two and several hard ones that still may have some green color to them that will ripen on the counter over the next few days.  When they get too soft, I pop them in the fridge so they won't rot.  They may darken a bit on the inside but it won't affect the wonderful flavor.

    I love them diced in salads but my favorite application is a sandwich or wrap spread like for today's lovely lunch. 

    Half an avocado spread on a whole grain wrap...

    Topped with a big handful of organic mixed greens...


     And some boneless, skinless, no salt added salmon sprinkled with some lemon pepper...

    All wrapped up and served with fresh fruit.  Wish I bought a dozen of these kiwis, they were spectacular!


    Click here for a whole list of links to avocado recipes.

    What is your favorite avocado application?

    Friday, January 21, 2011

    More Veggie Thoughts and a Recipe

    For the most part,  people consider vegetables in one of three ways.  First, as an afterthought, if at all.    Second, as a side dish, playing third base to a Brontosaurus-sized hunk of meat and a big pile of starch.  Third, as punishment, who remembers the days when you weren't allowed to leave the table until you finished your broccoli?  

    But it's time for a change.  When a change in action is needed, a change in thinking must first occur.  Vegetables aren't punishment, they aren't hippie health food.  Vegetables are colorful, vibrant, satisfying and are absolutely delicious when given a little bit of thought and creativity.  How can we do this... 

    For fresh vegetables, buy what's in season in your area.  Seasonal vegetables have the best flavor and most beautiful color.  Try seasonal vegetable combos, what grows together, goes together.

    Try a different cooking method.  I can't think of one veggie that doesn't taste amazing when roasted in a hot oven.  Roasting caramelizes the natural sugars contained in the veggies rendering them golden brown and sweet!  Try stir-frying or a simple saute.  Garlic and olive oil, a hot pan and some veggies make a taste sensation.  I've recently fallen in love with the steamer bags, I made a beautiful, colorful melange for work the other day...

    That's two small zucchini squash, a couple of big handfuls of baby spinach and one sweet long red pepper with a pinch of lemon pepper and a teaspoon of Smart Balance.  I steamed it at work, put it on a plate and enjoyed my veggies with a piece of leftover fritatta on the side.  So good!

    Try a different combination.  Sure peas and carrots go together like Forrest and Jenny but there are infinite ways to combine vegetables in exciting ways.  I was inspired by a roasted mushroom and Brussels dish in Everyday Food and came up with this beauty...

    Sauteed Mushrooms and Brussels 

    1 package of cremini mushroom (also known as baby bellas), halved then cut in thick slices
    1 pound of Brussels, stems and outer leaves removed, then thinly sliced
    chopped fresh thyme and rosemary (about a tablespoon)
    1 tablespoon of olive oil
    salt and white pepper

    Heat the olive oil in a saute pan over medium high heat, add mushrooms.  Add a pinch of salt and some white pepper and saute until they start to brown up and release their juice.  Add Brussels.  Cover and let steam for a couple of minutes.  Remove cover and saute until the veggies are tender and the sprouts start to get some brown edges.  Stir in fresh herbs, season to taste.  Devour! 

    I served my veggies with a chicken cutlet that I topped with a mixture of Romano cheese, bread crumbs and fresh thyme and rosemary and baked in the oven until cooked through and golden brown.  But as you can see from my dinner plate, the veggies are the star of the show.

    Concerning vegetables, a fresh approach is needed.  Let's bring veggies front and center as the star of the plate.  I don't think the humble chicken will mind.

    Thursday, January 20, 2011


    Happy Thursday, I've got a busy day ahead.  Among other errands, like a much overdue trip to the post office, I'm very excited to finally be getting my hair cut.  I've been looking like Christopher Walken's Headless Hessian in Sleepy Hollow for far too long.  It's a great look, sure, just not on me.

    I've created a Facebook page for the blog, I've been wanting to do that for a while and thought, why not?  I'm hoping it will be a place for healthy lifestyle discussion, tips and recipe sharing, a place where questions can be asked and answered in a more real time way.   

    Come and join the conversation, click on the badge and "like" the blog!  I look forward to "talking" to each and every one of you.

    Wednesday, January 19, 2011

    Brought to You by the Number Nine

    Eating plenty of vegetables and fruit is the solid foundation on which to build a healthy lifestyle.  How much is "plenty?"  Strive for Five is a motto I've seen stamped on bags of apples, and that's a good place to start when many Americans consider the mayo-coated lettuce on their fast food burger and the side of fries their veggies for the day.  According to the CDC, just 26% of Americans eat vegetables 3 or more times a day.

    But the latest recommendations for veggie and fruit intake for a healthy body and disease prevention is NINE.  That's right nine servings of fruit and veggies a day.  What's a serving?  Nine servings of fruits and veggies translates to about 3 cups of veggies (note that one cup green leafy veggies equals a half cup "serving") and about 2 cups of fruit.

    I aim for nine servings on a daily basis with a 2:1 ratio of vegetables to fruit, six servings of veggies and three of fruit.  It may seem like a lot, but when I have a bowl of berries with my breakfast, a banana for a snack and apple in my morning juice, fruit done.  My morning juice, a chopped veggie salad with some chicken and cheese for lunch and at least one-third of my dinner plate with deliciously prepared veggies and that's done.

    I don't count white potatoes as a vegetable serving, that's a starch like noodles or pasta, nor do I count sweet corn as a veggies, either.  Corn is a grain, like rice.

    Eating lots of colorful produce not only nourishes our bodies with micro nutrients that fight disease, fuels our bodies and promotes good health, they provide water and fiber for good pooping!  There, I said it.  Don't want to be constipated, up your veggies and fruit and you'll poop like a rock star.  And that fiber has yet another benefit, high-fiber vegetables are filling and take longer to chew, which means you'll eat more slowly and be satisfied longer.

    Watch this space for more posts featuring food porn and recipes with produce in a starring role.

    Read more:

    Share your tips on how you pack produce into your day!

    Monday, January 17, 2011

    Motivation Monday: Find a Fitness Plan

    I applaud anyone who has consistent exercise motivation. I find that mine ebbs and flows, sometimes I'm raring to go, sometimes I have to give myself a push and occasionally, I'm like a mountain, totally unmovable. I find that I'm at my consistent best when I have a plan, like when I did The New Rules of Lifting for Women program and the Self magazine plan.

    There are tons of fitness plans out there. Books, magazines, websites, videos and so on. I have been waffling a little about my next plan to get me motivated and training regularly again until I had the good fortune of finding a used copy of the 2nd edition of Brad Schoenfeld's 28-Day Body Shapeover in the buck bin.  I love how the workouts are laid out, 28 days of alternating lifting, high intensity interval training (HIIT) and rest days.  There is also a daily nutrition plan, exactly what to eat five times a day.  I'm not sure how closely I'll follow that but I'll be sure to keep you updated on my progress once I finish the book and get started on the workouts.

    A pre-fab plan is good because you can try it out for a week to see if it's something you'll stick with.  At the very least, you will have gotten yourself moving while trying something new. 

    If you are looking for a fitness plan to get you started, check out the fitness section of Prevention magazine's website.

    That's Fit is another resource for fitness plans and information. 

    Do you have a favorite resource for fitness information and inspiration? 
    What is your current fitness plan?

    Thursday, January 13, 2011

    Tangled Up in Food

    If you don't subscribe to Experience Life magazine or read their website, you really must. On any given day, we are bombarded with contradictory health information and flooded with fitness magazines that peddle fad diets, but Experience Life offers sane, sensible, well-researched advice and sharp as a tack articles such as this one...

    Tangled Up in Food

    I read this yesterday and was just thrilled. It's an absolute must read if you feel like you have an unhealthy relationship with food and/or are overweight or obese due to overeating. Or if you're like me...both!

    This article tackles fast eating, secret snacking, starving and stuffing, stress feeding and mindless munching, the toll they take on our minds and bodies and sane strategies to work on.

    If re-working your eating habits was one of your goals for 2011, this article is a fantastic place to start.

    Let me know what you think.

    Wednesday, January 12, 2011

    Slow Down and Savor V. 2.1

    This is something that I have been and need to keep working on, so I'm posting about it again. As a (former? in recovery?) over eater I tend to eat very quickly, always focusing on getting that next forkful of food shoveled into my gob. A two-fold strategy that I've been having been working at is (1) focusing on the bite of food that is in my mouth rather than the next; How does it taste? What am I tasting? How do the flavors meld? How do the textures feel? And (2) not going for another bite of food until the first bite is fully gone. By doing so, not only do I eat more slowly, but I enjoy the food that I took such time and care to prepare so much more. I've noticed in the past week that I've been finishing my meals AFTER Rob has finished. This is a major victory for me!

    But why eat more slowly? It has helped me get my real stomach and my "brain-stomach" in sync to process that I am truly satisfied rather than rushing through the meal and going for a second helping. Better digestion. Enhanced enjoyment of mealtimes.

    As always I am interested in hearing what you have to say, how do you keep yourself from eating too fast? How does eating more slowly benefit you?

    Click to
    Excellent Reminder
    Just One Thing: Slow Down and Savor
    Slow Down and Savor V. 2.0

    Tuesday, January 11, 2011

    1/11/11 Must Mean "Icy" in Numerology

    Snow Bunny

    It's been an interesting few days here in Atlanta. If you haven't seen the news coverage, much of the southeast has been shut down by the snow that fell on Sunday night and the sleet and freezing cold temperatures that followed. And while 6 inches with 1/2 inch of ice on top may not seem like a big deal by Boston's standards, it's treacherous when there isn't the equipment and staff to handle it. We've been iced in since Sunday evening. While it's not disastrous, we're together here warm and safe with food and power, but you know what they say about too much of a good thing. ;)

    These pics were taken Monday morning...

    Rob and I ventured out up our cul-de-sac early this afternoon to see the state of the first of three fairly steep hills that lead out to the main road early this afternoon...

    You missed Brian Boitano skate by...

    Our hills remain treacherous to say the least and everything is going to re-freeze tonight when the temps dip back into the teens. Hey, I should have been a weather girl!

    How have I spent my two snow-days? Not one to squander an opportunity, I scoured the house and got all the laundry and linens done in addition to getting some well overdue drawer organization completed. Speaking of cleaning, I have learned the wonders of Dr. Bronner's peppermint castile soap as a household cleaner. I've used it in the garden and in the shower but two squirts in a spray bottle filled with clean water makes the most wonderful surface cleaner. It cleans just about every surface so well and leaves a naturally fresh scent behind. All without having to poison myself. So if you're looking for an effective, eco and ethics-friendly cleaner, give it a try.

    Today I did some banking, got started on our tax preparation and got in a work out. Comcast On Demand has lots of videos to choose from. I decided on something called Bootcamp Calorie Burn with Kendell Hogan. He's a good instructor, really upbeat and explains everything before getting into a new move. It was high energy with lots of pylometrics. Which means pretty hard on the knees, but a good sweaty workout.

    I also got in some online tea shopping. I placed an order on Stash Teas website for some decaf dessert teas, some loose teas from China. I look forward to that. I'll post some reviews when the arrive and I brew some. I just got a fresh loaf of heavenly whole wheat going in the machine, it sure smells good.

    Not sure when our hill we be melted enough to get down, hopefully soon. While I love spending time at home, it's starting to feel like house arrest.

    I hope you're all staying warm and if the storms are heading your way, stay safe!

    Monday, January 10, 2011

    Motivation Monday: The Importance of Goals

    Lots of things are written about New Year's Resolutions this time of year from questions about what yours are this year, to tips on how to keep them, even how they are cliche or uninteresting.

    Too lofty of goals made after overindulging all December can be a recipe for failure but I think making resolutions (or goals or however your prefer to phrase it) can be a fabulous gateway to self improvement.

    If you have many things you want to change, write them down. Be specific about each goal. Tackle just one or two at a time and work on it until you've succeeded. Make your goals quantifiable. Rather than "I need to exercise" or "I need to save money," narrow said resolution down to a small, achievable goal. "I will walk 1 mile on Monday, Wednesday and Saturday this week," or "I will save $50 this month."

    Then map out exactly how you will achieve your goal...

    Get your walking shoes out, your iPod charged and map a one mile route near where you live and then get moving. At the end of the week you will have walked 3 miles. Goal achieved! Move on to your fitness plan for the next week.

    Figure out how much money you're able to trim from your budget each week and set up an automatic savings plan. At the end of the month you'll be able to see just how much you've saved.

    Every time I threw something away I would say to myself, "We really need to be recycling." Then one day I asked myself, "Well, whadda ya gonna do about it?" I got on the phone and found a company that does both household trash pick up and curbside recycling, booked them and called and canceled our existing service. I chose a goal, made a plan and made it happen.

    I'm looking forward to achieving the goals that I have laid out for myself this year, as well as making smaller, short term goals on a weekly or monthly basis. Resolutions don't need to be specific to just this time of year. In fact, making daily, weekly and/or monthly goals can be a great motivational tool. So no matter how you phrase it, making and achieving goals is a wonderful way to improve self-esteem. Choose a goal, make a plan and make it happen!

    Saturday, January 8, 2011

    Breakfast While You Sleep!

    Before we went to bed last night, I got breakfast ready. No, really! I put 2 cups steel-cut Irish oats into the crock pot, they must be steel-cut oats or this won't work. I added a scant cup of plump sultanas (those are just golden raisins but saying "sultanas"makes me feel fabulous like Nigella Lawson) and sprinkled on some pumpkin pie spice.

    Then I added 8 cups of water and stirred it up. I set the crockpot on low. We went to bed with it looking like this...

    and woke up to this...

    It's the perfect way to celebrate National Oatmeal month with hot creamy deliciousness ready for customization and immediate gratification with plenty of leftovers for Rob to grab and take with him to work. This makes about eight 8-ounce portions.

    Rob had his with just a drizzle of real cream (the stuff that rises to the top of the bottle of the farm milk, yum) and I doctored mine up with pumpkin, beaten egg, a few pecans and a wee drizzle of honey for the wonderful breakfast treat of Pumpkin Custard Pecan Pie Oatmeal!

    So if you think you don't have time for a hot, satisfying, nutritious and delicious breakfast then give this overnight oatmeal a go. It's so easy and so good!

    Friday, January 7, 2011

    Try Something New: Kefir

    On the prompting of my sister, I picked up a bottle of plain, unsweetened low-fat kefir at Trader Joe's yesterday. I couldn't wait to try it.

    What exactly is kefir? It's an easily digestible, cultured yogurt (which can be made from the milk of cow, goats, sheep, rice, soy or coconuts) that is in liquid rather than traditional semi-solid yogurt form. It's loaded with probiotics which are essential for healthy digestive, cardiovascular and immune systems.

    Why are probiotics good for us? Our bodies are full of active, beneficial flora that can be thrown out of balance by many factors, antibiotics being a big culprit but an overgrowth of bad yeast caused by too much sugar, processed foods and poor diet in general is another culprit. By regularly enjoying naturally fermented or cultured foods, like yogurt, kefir, grass-fed raw milk and cheese we can bolster the beneficial bacteria in our bodies which can improve our bowel movements, seasonal allergies, yeast infections, reduce gas, reduce the risk of infection from bad bacteria, reduce high cholesterol even help bad breath.

    How does it taste? I wasn't home from food shopping but 5 minutes yesterday and I was putting a bit of cereal and pomegranate arils in a bowl and pouring over some kefir. Oh, it's good! It looks just like heavy cream, the texture is similar without having that buttery, oily finish. It's a little tangy with no sourness whatsoever. It's smooth and very creamy. I can't wait to pour some over the first summer blueberries and Georgia peaches this year!

    How can you use it? Kefir can be used anywhere you'd use milk or yogurt; in smoothies, over cereal, fruit or granola, as a substitute for buttermilk in recipes, substitute for mayo and sour cream to make healthy, flavorful homemade creamy salad dressings like ranch or blue cheese, summer borscht (can't wait to try this one,) use it in place of heavy cream and milk in an ice cream maker to make a cold, creamy treat, use it in baking recipes (I'm going to try it in Rob's breakfast banana bread this weekend,) added to pureed soups to add richness, and it will make a fantastic post-weight training snack because it's the perfect ration of protein, carbs and fat.

    Nutritional breakdown of the Trader Joe's low fat plain kefir I bought yesterday looks like this:

    Nutrition Facts

    Serving Size: 8 fl. oz. (240 mL)

    Amount per Serving
    • Calories 120 Calories from Fat 20
    % Daily Value *
    • Total Fat 2.5g 4%
    • Saturated Fat 1.5g 8%
    • Cholesterol 10mg 3%
    • Sodium 125mg 5%
    • Total Carbohydrate 11g 4%
    • Dietary Fiber 3g 12%
    • Sugars 8g
    • Protein 14g 28%
    • Vitamin A10%
    • Vitamin C4%
    • Calcium30%
    • Iron0%
    • Vitamin D25%
    Est. Percent of Calories from:
    Fat 18.8% Carbs 36.7%
    Protein 46.7%

    If kefir becomes something that I buy and enjoy on a regular basis then I will try to make my own at some point because I'm always looking for ways to use the wonderful raw milk that I'm so fortunate to have access to.

    Have you ever tried kefir? Tell me your experiences and ideas!

    Some of these articles are linked throughout my post but if you want to read more about kefir, probiotics and the benefits of naturally fermented foods, click one of the links below...

    The Incredible Health Benefits to You of Traditionally Fermented Foods

    How Kefir Helps You

    In-depth and very scienc-y article all about kefir

    Make your own kefir

    Make your own coconut kefir

    Thursday, January 6, 2011

    Today's Post is Brought to You by the Color Green

    A terrible night's sleep left me feeling worse for wear this morning. One of my hospice patients passed away near the end of my shift and left me feeling so unsettled that I tossed and turned all night. You'd think it would get easier after 17 years. It doesn't.

    On a positive note, a few days of juicing and eating healthfully, my clothes are fitting just how they are supposed to. It's amazing how a little bloat can make one feel like a sausage ready to burst out of the casing. I don't know how I carried an extra 100 pounds on this frame for all those years.

    I got to Trader Joe's and did a textbook healthful shopping. The produce section, which can be hit or miss at my shop, was bursting with colorful goodness. I was surprised when I got home how much green there was. A few of my goodies included Brussels, broccoli, all manner of salad greens including romaine hearts, baby spinach and mache (lamb's lettuce), jalapenos, avocados, frozen petite peas (Rob's favorite), baby Persian cucumbers, broccoli slaw to pile on sandwiches, and jasmine green tea.

    As much as I love and crave sweets, there are times when I just crave greens. Today was one of those times. I made us green juice then made myself a big honking green salad for lunch.

    The way I photographed it does not do justice to the magnitude of this salad. Half a bag of baby spinach, half a bag of romaine hearts, slices of Persian cucumber, a small avocado, 3 ounces of salmon, a tablespoon of shredded cheddar and 1 ounce of Trader Joe's Champagne Pear vinaigrette. It was crunchy, creamy, tangy, full of fiber and flavor, just delicious.

    After lunch I hit the kitchen to make tomorrow's 4-bean 5 alarm chili, which started with 6 plump jalapenos diced up...

    I learned my lesson and wore surgical gloves for that prep work. Here's what it looked like as I set the whole pot to simmer...

    Mmmm! Grass fed beef, black beans, white beans, pinto beans and baked beans with red peppers and jalapenos, garlic, onions, tomatoes and all manner of spices.

    Then I got going on tonight's collard greens, spicy, garlicky and glazed with some balsamic vinegar. They came out sweet, tender and yes, spicy and garlicky. I'll be serving them with grilled chicken brushed with a bit of BBQ sauce.

    It's been a green day for me and I'm feeling better already.

    So, greens... how do you like yours?

    Wednesday, January 5, 2011

    Hit the Ground Walking

    Yay! Another juice fast completed until mid-year. I was so hungry yesterday, I ended up breaking the fast with some fresh pineapple chunks in the late afternoon and had supper of homemade minestrone with 1/2 cup cooked quinoa added. The quinoa slurped up all the broth and filled the bowl, it was so delicious, warming and filling.

    I'm back at work later today, so I got up and did a quick 1.75 miles around the block to energize and get myself moving. Pre-walk, I had some raw milk with a scoop of protein powder shaken with some ice until frothy...

    Breakfast was 40 grams of oatmeal cooked with a medium mashed banana and 1/2 cup canned pumpkin with one farm egg whisked in and topped with 7 grams of walnuts...

    I ate this big bowl of hot deliciousness slooowly. This is one thing I need to keep practicing because it's so hard for me. I can't stress enough how important it is to eat a satisfying and nutritious breakfast!!!! It sets me up for healthy eating for the rest of the day. I'm going to blog more about breakfast in the near future.

    I've got my food scale back out of the cabinet and displayed prominently on the counter top, it's really the best way for me to keep track of my portions of energy dense foods.

    Noon time which means juice time. A refreshing red juice with beets, fennel, cucumber, carrot, apple, celery, lemon and ginger.

    I should be hungry for lunch, but I'm not. But I will have to have something or I'll be too hungry when I start my shift. I have some cooked quinoa and some spinach and salmon in the fridge so I think a salad is in order. I have a Kashi meal (Mayan Harvest Bake), an apple and some almonds to bring for dinner at work this evening.

    I'm off to food shop tomorrow, on the meal plan: thick beef and bean chili, a roast chicken, roasted root vegetable, chicken and wild rice soup, some collards and brown rice with grilled chicken. Lots of veggies and lots of fiber!

    Tuesday, January 4, 2011

    Juice Fast Day 2, Reliving Our Anniversary

    I started the day with a refreshing cucumber, fennel, ginger-apple-lemon juice then had a huge mug of green tea with a pinch of stevia. I'll make a heavier juice at lunch time with lots of beet root and a whole bag of spinach. I won't lie to you, I am hungry. Not just hungry, HUUUUNNNNGRYYYY! /Chuck. I'm going to try to stick it out all day but if the hunger rages on I will cook up the collards and serve them with a bit of quinoa and make it a half-day fast.

    Let me take my mind elsewhere for a moment and reminisce about our anniversary. It was a really good day.

    We slept in then went to Douceur de France for brunch. They make the absolute best coffee drink ever.

    All that foam!

    Rob had a mug of tomato soup that tasted like liquefied pizza, it was so good. I must try to recreate it in my kitchen.

    I couldn't resist the chicken Florentine. Tender marinated chicken on a bed of cooked fresh spinach topped with perfectly poached eggs and served with the "hash browns a'la Française", which is a potato cake spiked with green onions and black pepper and griddled to crispy golden brown deliciousness.

    Rob had a chicken, tomato and brie baguette. The pastry case is a sight to behold and the eclairs had my mouth watering even though I was full, but I left them behind because I had my favorite treat waiting for me at home.

    We left the cafe smiling, the sun was shining and the temperature had risen to 64 degrees!

    We went home and changed clothes and headed over to the mountain, it was too nice not to do some exploring. We took a trail we never walked before and set out.

    It went on forever, curved this way and that and there wasn't much signage, so after 3 miles we decided to turn back. My left foot started to sting at about 4.5 miles but then the second wind hit, more endorphins bubbled up and the pain subsided. I was so happy when we got back to the truck!

    Here are the details of our walk...

    6 miles @ Kennesaw Mountain by therealandra at Garmin Connect - Details

    I absolutely love my Garmin connect watch, it's so fun to see how each mile compares to the last and the heart rate monitor is a quite a cool tool. When I work more with it and learn more of what it can do I will do a detailed review.

    I certainly earned my glass of Champers.

    And my torrone...

    We had Aussie pies from the local Australian bakery for dinner then settled in to watch the countdown to New Year.

    All in all it was a great way to usher out 2010 and welcome in 2011.

    Wow, I lasted through the food porn and now it's time for me to make my next juice. I hope your week is starting out in a splendidly low stress way, have a good one!

    Monday, January 3, 2011

    Semi-Annual Juice Fast

    Happy first Monday of 2011! I've been sleeping so well since we got a humidifier for our bedroom. I don't know that I love the model we purchased, it's got a blue light on it that you can see from the space shuttle, just what you want illuminating the room where you'll be sleeping, but the cool, humidified air makes for luscious, deep sleep. The forced air heating is so drying, it's nice to wake up not feeling like I have sandpaper lips, eyes and throat.

    It's time for my semi-annual juice fast. For me it really is the best way to cleanse the palate and banish the bloat caused by my holiday season's indulgences. I was up and out of the house by 8:30am to hit the market to top up my fruit and veggies for the juicer. I picked up beets with the lovely green tops attached, more lemons and ginger, cucumbers, a whole pineapple, collard greens and fennel. I had spinach, carrots, celery, apples, a few lemons and some ginger in stock already.

    Clean, fresh and ready for the juicer!

    As always, nothing too strenuous planned just lots of activities to keep my mind off of food, recipes and cooking. Which can be damn near impossible for me.

    10am...wicked green juice~a whole bag of spinach, fennel, celery, cucumber, a big chunk of ginger with apple and lemon. That ginger is so fiery it makes my ears and throat tingle.

    11am...warming peach green tea with a pinch of stevia and a chat with my sister, knocking out some details of my upcoming trip. I leave on February 26th! I put the laundry away, polished the cooktop and balanced the budget (always a joy after the holidays!)

    1pm...sweet tart red juice~I made a double portion, one for now and one for later. I juiced all the beet greens with celery, ginger, carrots, apples and two lemons (zing!)

    1:30pm...Candy Cane Lane with a pinch of stevia. By 3pm, I was freezing so I went for a soak in a scalding hot bath during which I cleared my head and did some visualization. I pictured myself wearing my new jeans, my first closet goal. Optimally, I'd love to have them packed and ready to wear (sans muffin top) for my Boston trip. Visualization can help with focusing on reaching a goal. Have you ever done this?

    4pm... enjoyed my second helping of sweet tart red juice and settled in to watch the Joan River's documentary Piece of Work, which was really good.

    Rob's at home now and will be wanting dinner, but he'll have to fend for himself. I'm going to juice my pineapple and whiz it in the blender with a banana and a bit of ice.

    Then we're going to watch a documentary about Disneyland and have more hot tea. So far so good with the fast, perhaps I'll be up for a second day. See you tomorrow!

    Saturday, January 1, 2011

    Resolutions and Renewals

    Happy happy happy 2011! A whole new year to re-invent yourself healthy or to re-commit to your healthy lifestyle that may have gotten caught under too much fruitcake (like mine did.) Here are my goals for 2011 so I can track my progress as the year unfolds.

    1. To train for and complete a charity walk. That means lots of walking, cardio-conditioning and lower body strength training. I'm leaning toward the 10K Classic held in Atlanta every Labor Day.

    2. Work on my meeting my two closet goals, which means back into fat loss mode. I will be sure to post photos as and when.

    3. In 2010 we got the office project completed, now we're going to turn our sights on the second guest room. We are going to get the bed set up, install new shades, decorate and get it "guest ready."

    4. Continue to embrace and refine my healthy habits, eat colorful at every meal and continue to deal with stress in non-food ways.

    What do you have planned for yourself in 2011?