Recipe Swap – Chicken Pad Thai

I’ve been branching out and trying new recipes that I’ve never cooked before.  I’ve heard so many good things about Thai food, but have yet to try it.  I saw an easy recipe that I thought might be something I’d enjoy.  I decided against purchasing a ready made Thai sauce as I was unable to pronounce many of the ingredients listed on the label.  I used a recipe for homemade Thai sauce found below.  I did not include noodles, but I’m sure you could.  The recipe was super easy to follow and quick!  The whole process took about 30 minutes.  It will be perfect for a work night stir fry and no I don’t have a fancy wok – yet.  The taste of this was delicious, but it was a bit hot which I love.  I’m thinking the heat came from the serrano pepper and not the sauce, so go easy on that if you prefer it milder.

Pad Thai Sauce:

Ingredients:

  • 2 tbsp coconut yogurt
  • 3 tbsp. ketchup
  • 1 tbsp. coconut aminos (healthier alternative to soy sauce)
  • 1 tbsp. raw honey
  • 1 tsp. organic hoisin sauce
  • 1⁄4 tsp. sesame oil
  • 1⁄2 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1⁄2 tsp. organic ginger (I used minced ginger in jar)
  • 1⁄2 tsp. black pepper
  • 1⁄2 tsp. organic cilantro
  • 1⁄2 tsp.  no-salt seasoning

Directions:

1. In a bowl combine all ingredients and set aside until needed for your stir fry.   Copyright © 2016 Danette May and Mindful Health, LLC

Chicken Stir-Fry:

Ingredients:

  • 4-6 oz. chicken, cubed
  • 1 small serrano pepper, minced
  • 2 tbsp. Pad Thai sauce
  • 1 cubed organic zucchini
  • 1 chopped organic red bell pepper

Directions:

  1. In pan, add 1 tsp. extra-virgin olive oil, zucchini, red bell pepper, chicken and minced Serrano pepper. Cook until chicken browns and is fully cooked. (I actually had leftover grilled chicken that I cubed so it was done real fast.  I cooked the vegetables for a bit first, then added the cooked, cubed chicken to warm.)
  2. Add pad thai sauce.
  3. Stir and warm.

Copyright © 2016 Danette May and Mindful Health, LLC

This was a meal by itself, no sides required but you could make a nice garden salad with it.  Be sure you have something to put out the fire in your mouth.  I drank ginger kombucha.

If you try this recipe, please let me know how you liked it.  It was part of a 30 day meal program I participated in recently with Danette May.

Some ingredients needed:

Nutrifera Organic Coconut Coconut Aminos 12.7 fl oz (375 ml)

Lee Kum Kee Hoisin Sauce, 20 oz

 

NoSalt Original Sodium-Free Salt Alternative 11 Ounce (Pack of 2)

 

 

Snap Out of It

Well this has been a rough week for me when it comes to healthy eating.  My birthday was Wednesday so there was some eating of cookies and cake during the day at work, followed by dinner out and some wine.  Then Thursday was a late night at work so we ordered dinner in – Chinese food.  Friday was a night out for dinner at a yearly PTA function which involved more wine and restaurant food.  While I didn’t over eat at any of these events, my body is just not used to eating in this manner anymore.   I’m feeling lousy because my eating routine is totally off kilter.  I’ve been eating out, not home cooked, so I feel sluggish and tired.  I feel like I’m full of salt, chemicals and wine.  I need to snap out of this and get back on track, but I’m not feeling motivated right now to even move.  My bed is so comfy and cozy and it’s cold and dark outside right now.  I have a scheduled slow, long run today and I’ve yet to move.  I feel like slapping myself and yelling, snap out of it girl.

I think I need to do some detoxing this week to get myself clean and restart my mojo.  It’s so amazing how much difference a week of unhealthy choices can make on my overall feeling of health.  I’m tired, bloated and totally lacking motivation.  I feel myself struggling hard to get back on track.  I know how easy it would be to just say forget it and continue on this path, but I just can’t let myself do it.  I have got to get myself back on track and quickly.  It seems to take me six months to lose 10 pounds, but I can put them back on in less than two weeks.  Funny how life works sometimes, right.

I’m not a fan of pills and drinking powdered shakes when detoxing.  I am a firm believer in nutrition and using the power found in food itself to get myself back on track.  I am going to pull out a 10 day green smoothie cleanse I used a few months back and give that another round.  Yes, this plan does involve drinking smoothies, but they are filled with delicious vegetables and super foods, not powders and expensive products.

10-Day Green Smoothie Cleanse

This cleanse is super easy to follow.  I do the modified version which involves drinking two green smoothies a day (breakfast & lunch) followed by a healthy dinner.  There are options in the book for the modified version, as well as the full version.  The full version involves drinking three smoothies and eating healthy snacks and drinking tea.  I like to eat food and the thought of ten days without does not appeal to me.  Doing the modified version and substituting breakfast and lunch are super easy for me because then I don’t have to worry about packing lunch.  The author also hosts a free Facebook group, so you can go on and network with other people doing the cleanse. This book provides shopping lists, recipes, and detailed instructions for the 10-day cleanse, along with suggestions for getting the best results. It also offers advice on how to continue to lose weight and maintain good health afterwards. Easy and far less money than purchasing a program!  Many programs will cost $200 or more to get started.  This book is under $10.  You know I’m going to say it, win – win.

This is just the jumpstart I need right now! How about you?  Are you ready to do some internal cleansing?  Do you want to jumpstart your spring healthy eating and just plain feel better?  Then join me in doing the 10-Day Green Smoothie Cleanse!  I’m heading out to do my shopping after my run.  I’m feeling better already and can’t wait to get some healthy food coursing through my body!  If you are joining me, leave a comment below.  I’d love to exchange recipes and good health with you.

 

 

Tuesday Training Tips

As a new feature to this blog, each Tuesday I will share a quick training tip that has helped me stay on track.  We all know there are a million excuses and reasons to skip a workout.  For me, I have always been pretty steady with my workouts and rarely skip them.  The first tip for my new Tuesday Training Tips post is to keep your workout routines interesting and fresh.

I have found that when I did the same routine over and over I would quickly burn out and lose interest and motivation.   For example, if you currently run for every cardio workout, try adding in days where you do something different such as biking, hiking, swimming, elliptical, rowing or even walking fast.  If you are training for a race, like I am, and don’t have the luxury of not doing a run, try mixing up the route you run or the tempo.

As you know, I am training to run my first marathon.  My official run plan starts in June, but I am currently running to maintain my fitness.  This winter I was using the treadmill most mornings, though I loathe it, because 5:00 AM is might dark, cold and desolate outside.  I found that I quickly began to lose interest and motivation to even run.  I realized it was because a) it is monotonous to run on a treadmill; and b) it was the same thing every day.  In my quest to reenergize my routine, I began exploring ways to make this routine more interesting.  Any of these ideas can apply to your current fitness routine and are easy and free to implement.

Schedule Different Routines

I found having a plan the easiest way to mix up the routines you follow.   Get out your calendar and schedule your workouts to build in variety and keep in interesting.  Below is a sample workout schedule that you could follow.  Just substitute the workout listed for the routine you prefer.

  • Monday – Easy run 45 minutes
  • Tuesday – Yoga class online – 30 – 60 min
  • Wednesday – Tempo training run – 30 minutes
  • Thursday – Strength class online – 30 minutes
  • Friday – Easy run 45 minutes
  • Saturday – Lap swim 60 minutes
  • Sunday – Rest day – easy walk

Another version I personally followed when recovering from broken bones involved only strength workouts.  These were streamed online and I used hand held weights.  The same principles applied in that I scheduled the sessions to stay focused and engaged.

  • Monday – chest/triceps
  • Tuesday – legs
  • Wednesday – back/biceps
  • Thursday – active recover – yoga/pilates
  • Friday – shoulders
  • Saturday – full body
  • Sunday – REST – easy walk

Scheduling workouts like this keeps it very interesting.  It also breaks them down into smaller, manageable parts.

Download an App

There are SO many free apps to choose from these days.  I’m currently loving the Running for Weightloss App, which has a free version.  I am in week 6 of using this app and it has really kept my interest on runs.  The one I am using is an interval training program which includes a coach who speaks to me on runs.  She tells me when to run, walk and sprint.  I find I look forward to these runs and include them into my routine three times a week.   I get a great workout and the session flies by.

Join a Club or Find a Friend

Everything in life is better with friends.  For me, finding someone to run at 5:00 AM is pretty impossible.  I joined an online running club and found many friends to network with.  We keep each other motivated and yes, sometimes meet up in person at races to run.  Just because you don’t have someone every day to workout with, don’t give up.  Even if you have friends you can talk to about your workout routines, you’ll find your motivation will increase.  My club is called the Sub30 Club and is offered through Runners World.

Vary Routine

If you are training for an upcoming goal race and need to just plain run, I’ve found the way to keep it interesting is to vary your routine.  Again, a schedule and a plan are most helpful to keep yourself focused and to ensure you are training enough to meet your goals.  When I trained for my first half marathon last year, I purchased a running plan.  I couldn’t believe the difference the plan made in my motivation to get out there.  I didn’t have a live coach pushing me along, it was just me and the road, but I was motivated and never skipped one planned run.  I am obviously schedule driven, but I think changing up the routines was the true key to my success.  Here is a sample week for my runs on the plan –

  • Monday – easy effort run 60 minutes
  • Tuesday – tempo run 45 minutes
  • Wednesday – easy effort run 60 minutes
  • Thursday – active recovery – walk/yoga/pilates
  • Friday – tempo run 45 minutes
  • Saturday – long run 90 minutes, easy effort
  • Sunday – REST – walk

The times increase over the course of 20 weeks for the long run.  The shorter runs generally stayed in the same range.  The plan I purchased was from Another Mother Runner.  There are many free programs available online if you are looking for a plan and can’t afford to buy one.

Do Just a Little Bit Each Day

I love the concept of doing short workouts every day.  It really makes it so accessible for anyone.  Seriously, who can’t carve out 10 – 15 minutes a day.  You may think it’s not enough and it may not be in the long run, but in the short run it will get you engaged and started.  For me, I use this concept to get my strength training in when I’m training for a race.  Running during training takes pretty much all my free time in the morning.  There just isn’t enough time to do a 60 minute run and get in a proper strength training routine.  My choice became either get no strength training, or add a little in each day and go for the compound effect.  I chose the later and added 10 – 15 minutes to the end of each run.  Here’s a sample of the add on to my current routine –

  • Monday – easy effort run 60 minutes/foam rolling 5 minutes/strength 10 minutes
  • Tuesday – tempo run 45 minutes/yoga burn 15 minutes
  • Wednesday – easy effort run 60 minutes/foam rolling 5 minutes/strength 10 minutes
  • Thursday – active recovery – yoga/pilates/walk
  • Friday – tempo run 45 minutes – strength 15 minutes
  • Saturday – long run 90 minutes – yoga burn 20 minutes
  • Sunday – REST

If I can’t fit the short add on into the routine in the morning, it is surely manageable to do at night.  I am the queen of excuses at night, so I make sure to fit it in, but you can certainly see that doing 15 minutes of something at night is much less stressful than carving out 60 minutes after work.

My routines are all available online and were inexpensive to purchase.  I use Yoga Burn, which is segmented into 15 minute segments.  I purchased Danette May’s Fit for Life subscription and it includes workout calendars for the month.  I just pick and choose the ones I wish to do for each day.  They are all segmented into 8 – 10 minute workouts.  Both of these are meant to be repeated three times, but for me I only really have time for one go around.  As I said, it’s not my only routine and I’m using it as an add on.  I’m also hoping for the compound effect and looking across the week rather than fitting it all in one session.

During the summer when I have more time, I will surely add more strength in, but if I want to stay in the game this works for me.   What are your routines to keep yourself motivated to workout?  I’d love to share some new ideas.  Please leave your comment in the section below.

Is Your Cookware Safe?

You go out of your way to eat clean, organically grown foods.  You even spend time cooking and preparing healthy food for breakfast, lunch and dinner.  You are well on your way to reclaiming your health and feeling pretty good about where you are right now.  You really think you’ve got a handle on this healthy lifestyle business.  I’ve just got one question for you to think about. What type of cookware are you preparing your healthy food in?

When I first started researching Alzheimer’s disease, I was shocked to learn just how many toxins we are exposed to on a daily basis.  I began cleaning up my act literally.  One area I had not thought of, at that time, as a source of toxins was my cookware.  Thankfully, I didn’t have many nonstick pots, or teflon, in my possession as those are some of the worst offenders. I’d like to share with you what I learned about the hazards of using certain types of cookware.  Ease of clean up should most definitely not be the deciding factor when purchasing pots, including disposable versions.

Studies of various cookware options have shown that many can be dangerous to your health as they have been found to leach various toxins into your food and body.  You’ve taken proactive steps to remove toxins from your food, please don’t introduce them right back in through cooking in unsafe pots and pans.  The biggest offenders appear to be the nonstick lines of cookware.  Touted for their ease of cleanup and nonsticking properties, these pots are the most dangerous to use.  In fact, if you own them, I recommend you throw them out today.

According to studies, one of the biggest problems with non stick cookware comes from the chemical that creates the nonstick surface – perflurooctanoic acid (PFOA).  This chemical releases when heated and can potentially leach into the food you are cooking.  Further, if they are scratched or have breakage to the surface leaching potential increases.  I no longer have any nonstick cookware in my collection.  I have slowly replaced all my pots and pans, including the pan I cook my eggs in.  That pan is the most commonly used nonstick pan most people use and I’m betting you have one in your collection as well.  Please take some time to take stock of your pots and pans and bakeware.  I’m sure you will find nonstick versions, especially in your bakeware and frying collection.

When I first started looking at cookware I realized I needed to make some changes.  I wasn’t able to afford to replace all my pots, pans and bakeware at once as good quality pots are quite expensive.  I began researching and looking at the best options for safe, healthy cookware.  I then began purchasing literally one pot at a time.  Before you jump into purchasing, I suggest you spend some time reading and learning about the safest and healthiest cookware options.  Then select the options that works best for your lifestyle.

Here are the types of cookware that have been shown to leach dangerous toxins into our food during cooking.  I’m betting all of you have one of these five in your current collection:

Aluminum
Speckled Metal Bakeware (think Grandma’s roasting pan)
Non stick Anodized Aluminum
Ceramic Non Stick Aluminum Skillet
Non stick Glass Bakeware

I know I had many of them in my collection.  You’ll notice that aluminum is repeatedly on the list.  I wonder how many of you, like me, line your roasting pans in foil when cooking to make clean up easier.  Or how many of you wrap food in aluminum (think baked potatoes) when baking.  Aluminum is one of the worst offenders and an item I used most often during the cooking process.  Aluminum is a very soft metal and one that causes an extreme chemical reaction between food and the pan.  For example, all vegetables cooked in aluminum produce hydroxide poison.  I hope you keep this in mind next time you reach for those disposable aluminum pans.  People make fun of me on holidays because I cook for large crowds in pans that need to be washed.  I’d rather spend time cleaning my pan than being sick down the road.

Many people purchase stainless steel pots and think they are safe.  If you buy cheaper lines of stainless steel you can still face potential risks.  Cheaper stainless steel cookware is made from different alloys, including scrap metal.  Most of these lines can potentially allow chrome and nickel to bleed into food as the salts and acids of foods react with the pots.  When purchasing stainless steel you should only purchase high grade surgical stainless steel, even at the higher cost.

Another common line of cookware is cast iron.  Cast iron is a highly porous metal and grease can turn rancid in the pores.  My mother in law has many older cast iron pots and she says you’re not supposed to scrub them with soap or Brillo.  This totally grosses me out, but I have read these directions about cleaning cast iron pots during my research.

Now that I’ve got your attention and you’ve taken stock of your current cookware, let’s make a plan to replace then with safer, healthier versions.  My first two purchases when I began replacing mine were a roasting pan and a 6 quart pot.  Both of these are staples in my collection and ones I use most often.  I recommend you start with the pots you use most often to cook.  Then, look for sales and slowly replace the others.  I even put a pot I wanted on my birthday list one year and wouldn’t be offended if someone gave me one as a present.

Here are the safest options available when selecting cookware:

High Quality Surgical Grade Stainless Steel

This type of pot will be more expensive to purchase, but totally worth the cost.  Remember, you don’t need a full set of pots.  Start with the one or two you use most often and forget the rest for right now.  There are many brands that offer high grade surgical steel stainless pots.  Many have aluminum inside the steel metals to aid in heat distribution.  Don’t be alarmed by this, as the aluminum never comes into contact with your food and stays perfectly encased inside the stainless steel.  My personal choice are pots from the 360 Cookware line.  I like the vapor seal that allows me to use less oil in the cooking process.

360 Cookware Premium Waterless Stainless Steel 6 Quart Stockpot with Cover

Ceramic Cookware

I am new to ceramic cookware and excited by its versatility.  Ceramic, or glass cookware, can be one of the best options out there to avoid toxins.  Additionally, it can be used in high heat and is dishwasher safe.  The downside of using ceramic cookware is that it is breakable, so you do have to be somewhat careful.  If you drop it on your ceramic floor, it will most definitely break.  I primarily use this type of cookware for cooking eggs and baking.  The line I use is Xtrema Ceramic Cookware and this is my egg pan.

Xtrema 7 Inch 100% Ceramic Skillet with Cover

Enameled Cast Iron

I am a long time fan of Le Creuset products.  The research, however, is mixed on using enameled cast iron as it has been found that heavy metals such as lead and cadmium found in the ceramic glazes can pose potential danger.  In researching this issue, I found that Le Creuset addressed these concerns and feel comfortable still using my two pieces from their line.  Basically, they stated that these chemicals were present only on the outside of the cookware and never touch the food.    These pans are very expensive.  I purchased mine at the Le Creuset outlet during their yearly sale.  Mine were also seconds, but you can’t see anything wrong with them and I was happy for the huge savings.

One final category of cookware worth mentioning, is slow cookers and crock pots.  Many of us use these cookers on a daily basis.  There is little information available about testing done on the safety of ceramic inserts found in many crock pots.  Also, I am not sure about the grade of stainless used in the stainless versions.  For this reason, I decided to take no chances for my slow cooking choice.  I purchased a very versatile slow cooker, which is actually a stand alone pot as well.  It is made by 360 and works beautifully.  Here is the link to check out this great option for a safer slow cooker.

360 Cookware Gourmet Slow Cooker and Stainless Steel Stock Pot with Cover, 4 Quart

I hope you will begin to think about cooking your food in three ways: 1) what you cook; 2) how you cook it, and; 3) what you cook it in.  Don’t overlook the importance of using safe, healthy cookware as part of your healthy lifestyle.

If you have already made this change, I’d seriously love to hear about it.  I am always looking for information on this topic and for new and healthier versions of cookware.  Please leave a comment below about what changes you have made to ensure you are using healthy cookware to prepare your meals.

Accountability

Personal success can be achieved through taking personal accountability for our actions. This shift takes time for many to achieve and is one I’m working toward.  It’s hard to accept that you and you alone are accountable for your success or failure on this journey. It’s often easier to blame genetics, health or other outside reasons for your failure to make progress. But, today I’d like to talk about taking control of your journey and accepting personal accountability for it.

Think about this, every single decision you make in a day is in your hands. You alone decide to sleep in, get up, work out, or to eat that cookie or apple. You alone must take responsibility for the things you do and don’t do in any given day. Recognizing and honoring this is a necessary first step toward making lasting changes in your health. It can also be a powerful tool toward changing unwanted behaviors and ways of thinking about yourself.

Many of us spend our days drowning in negative self talk, blame and procrastination. On this journey toward reclaiming our health, we first need to address the elephant in the room – blame and excuses. Yes, it is far easier to say I’m still overweight because I’m a middle aged woman, or my parents were overweight, or, or, or. Accepting these excuses and reasons for our struggle is like giving ourselves a free pass. Further, accepting these reasons can lead to accepting where we are and giving up on trying to change our way of life.

Personal accountability is not meant to be a way to blame yourself for all that’s wrong in your life right now. Rather, it is meant to be a means to accept that despite where you are right now on your journey, including the reasons for being there, you have the power and responsibility to improve your health and make lasting changes.

Two of the most common reasons for not achieving our goals can be tied to making excuses and not having strong enough reason for doing something. Excuses can often lead to loss of motivation in any endeavor we take on. Motivation will quickly fade over time, especially as we begin to make excuses for our failures. Once we begin to blame outside sources for our lack of progress, we begin to lose our focus and drive. Having  strong reasons for getting healthy can help improve your focus and drive. Losing weight for a special event, while motivating in the short term, won’t sustain you over the long haul. Generally after the event is over, so is your motivation and drive to continue. Centering your why around longer term goals can keep you move forward when the going gets tough. In my case, my why is to maintain optimum health as I move into the next phase of my life. Seeking to avoid getting a disease such as Alzheimers keeps me focused and on track, even when I fall off the wagon for a few weeks here and there.

Success on this journey will require action. This action includes accepting personal responsibility for actions and not allowing yourself to make excuses when you fail to follow through.

Here are a few of the ways I have been holding myself accountable:

Planning

They say a goal without a plan is just a dream. That definitely applies to any health journey you are on. Planning is the biggest key to success. When I fail to plan I always end up on a bender. Planning includes shopping for healthy food, meal planning and scheduling workouts. Using a calendar and developing a schedule is the easiest way I get my daily workouts in. Blocking out a time to do it is critical. I am a morning person and I know that excuses will get the best of me if I try to workout at night. Knowing this, I plan my day around my workout. I get up early enough to fit it in each morning.

Menu planning and food shopping go hand in hand. If I don’t plan out my meals I end up cooking whatever is easy – pasta, junk food, etc. Whenever I am off target I know that it means I haven’t been diligent about shopping and planning. This is your best line of defense for success.

Share the Journey

For me, writing has allowed me to share my journey. It also holds me accountable. I find writing this blog very therapeutic as I work through issues I am facing myself. Making my journey public has also provided a means to hold myself personally accountable for my actions. I can’t sit here and write about things others should do if I don’t believe in them, or do them myself. This blog helps remind me of my why and keeps my focus on my goals strong. You don’t have to blog to share your journey. I imagine you all have people in your life that are on a similar journey. One of the best ways to stay strong and focused is to share your journey with a friend or loved one. Find yourself a partner and support each other along the way.

Positive Self Talk

Blame, negativity and excuses are hard to stave off. I’m working hard on using positive self talk to replace them whenever they rear their ugly heads. Find yourself a means to use positivity and gratitude to keep your spirits up. This will be a difficult journey and there will be times when your emotions take over. Having an outlet, or means to keep it positive will go a long way towards keeping you moving forward.

Tracking Progress

At the gym I always hear this, “What get’s measured gets improved.” It was on a radio playback. This is so true. Tracking progress will greatly improve your motivation and drive. Don’t just weigh yourself and lament over lack of weight loss. Measure all progress – This week I worked out six out of seven days, Today I ate three healthy meals, I slept through the night, etc. There are so many areas of our life that we can look to for progress. The scale is only one way to track our progress. In past blogs I’ve talked about taking your measurements as an alternative to the scale. Taking photographs is another positive way to see progress. Recognizing the daily and weekly successes to change our thinking is also a great place to celebrate process.

What are some ways you hold yourself accountable?  How do you maintain your positivity?  I’d love to hear some of your thoughts on this as it surely can be a struggle for me.  Please take a moment to share your ideas in the comments below.  Also, consider sharing this blog with a friend who is on this path with you.

Lighten Up

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Purchasing healthy food is really just the entry point to healthy eating.   Think about it.  You purchase beautiful, organic zucchini at your local green market.  What a healthy decision that was.  Then you go home, batter it up and fry it, or fry then douse in mozzarella cheese for zucchini parmesan.  Kind of defeats the purpose, doesn’t it?  Does that mean eating delicious zucchini parmesan is out for life?  Certainly not!  How we cook our food makes all the difference when it comes to healthy living.  But, that doesn’t mean our favorite foods should be completely off limit.  Learning how to lighten up your recipes is the best way to keep your comfort foods in your rotation.

Paula Deen was often criticized for her love of butter.  I can still recall her clearly saying “add two sticks of butter”, as she seemingly thumbed her nose up at her critics.  We all know what happened to her.  Now, Paula has changed her views and revamped her recipes to create healthier versions without sacrificing taste.  She’s lost weight and reclaimed her health without giving up the food she loves.  That’s the key really, learning to revamp recipes and looking for excess additions that are not needed, like two sticks of butter.

Before I start cooking any recipe, I preview it looking for excess oils, butter, sugar or cheeses.  These are often the easiest thing to substitute out or modify.  Other areas are the methods of cooking,  for example, sautéed lightly in olive oil vs battered and deep fried.  For example, I like to bake my meatballs and chicken cutlets in place of frying them in oil.

Here are some tips you can use to modify your favorite recipes to create healthier delicious versions.

Bake Don’t Fry

I don’t fry meatballs or chicken cutlets anymore, especially if they are going into a sauce for further cooking.  This saves me the unnecessary calories and fat from the oil and produces a delicious lighter version of this staple Sunday dinner.  For my meatballs, I still use meat, but have substituted ground bison as a healthier option.  My family really hasn’t caught on as the taste is similar.  I have also used ground turkey, but when I do I don’t bake the meatballs prior to entering the sauce.  I just roll them and place them in.  This keeps them moister as baking seems to dry them out.

For chicken cutlets, I place them in egg and then bread crumbs.  I make my own bread crumbs to ensure quality ingredients, but store bought could work as well.  To make bread crumbs, I personally use gluten free bread.  I slightly toast it in the oven on a cookie sheet then place into my food processor  (I use this in my meatballs as well).  You can season the crumbs anyway you wish.  I keep it simple and just use some aged parmesan cheese and Italian flavored seasoning.  Once the chicken has been dipped, it goes onto a cookie sheet which has been sprayed lightly with avocado oil.  I bake it for no more than 20 minutes (depending on thickness) if eating as is.  If you spray the top with a mist of avocado oil it will brown nicely.  If I am using in a chicken parmesan dish, I cook for 15 minutes then top with cheese and small amount of sauce.  No longer do I drown my chicken in sauce as it’s totally not necessary.

Grill don’t Fry

Rarely will I sauté my vegetables in oil anymore.  I have an Optigrill that I purchased after a sleepless night watching infomercials.  It was the best investment ever as I use it for almost everything.  As a reformed vegetable hater, I have come to love the simplistic flavoring of vegetables. In the past I would douse my vegetables in sauces and cheeses and cook them to the point of mush to get them down.  All this just added necessary calories and fat and likely destroyed any health benefits found in the vegetables.  When cooking eggplant parmesan, a favorite addition to Sunday meals, I stopped frying the eggplant.  I don’t dip them in flour or egg anymore either.  Overhaul of that recipe included grilling the eggplant (no oil required) , then just adding a small amount of sauce and cheese.  I leave mine right on the cookie sheet and personally love it this way.  If I eat the fried version now I find it often repeats on me.  Try it out and I think you will be pleasantly surprised.  If cooking for a crowd, you can assemble in the pan just like you would after frying.

Here’s the link to see the Optigrill.  What I love about this is the ease of cleaning.  The whole thing comes apart and goes in the dishwasher, unlike the Foreman grill that I never used due to my inability to properly clean it.  Additionally, this grill has automatic settings so you literally set it and it tells you when it is done.  No more cutting into things to see if they are cooked, or dried out overcooked food.  I’ve never had a bad steak on it.  No, I am not a dealer, nor do I make any commission on this item.  Just love it.

T-fal GC704 OptiGrill Stainless Steel Indoor Electric Grill with Removable and Dishwasher Safe plates,1800-watt, Silver

Use Broth instead of Oil

When stir frying quick meals, you can use a couple of tablespoons of low-sodium vegetable broth in place of oil or butter.  This method adds a nice flavor to your food as well as moisture.  You will save calories and fat from the oil during the cooking process.  Since we know that healthy fats are an integral part of our diets, when eating you can serve these broth sautéed vegetables with a salad.  I like to use avocado oil and lemon juice as a nice dressing over the top.  Since I cooked it in broth, I don’t have to worry about having too much fat in one serving and can add a drizzle of oil to the salad.

Be Choosy about Cheese

Cheese is something I love, but don’t often cook with.  For those recipes that call for cheese, I’ve learned to substitute healthier options.  No, I don’t buy low fat, part skim cheese.  Not only is regular cheese not that bad for you, the reduced-fat version has several drawbacks to it.   Low fat cheese has a very high sodium count (20% more) and the taste and meltability are just plain awful.  Next time you are buying something labeled low fat, I beg you to read the label.  You will see a long list of ingredients and that’s really not cheese in my book.  Truly sounds more like genetically modified fake food.

One of my favorite choices is Cabot cheddar cheese. It has four ingredients: pasteurized milk, cheese cultures, salt, and enzymes.   When using mildly flavored cheese, you need to add more cheese to taste it. Instead, choose a cheese with intense flavor like feta, sharp Cheddar or aged Parmesan.  Try mixing one of these soft cheeses on your chicken parmesan instead of shredded mozzarella.  With the sauce and cheese combination you likely won’t notice the difference. Since I don’t eat parmesan often, I stick with the mozzarella, but purchase freshly made mozzarella from my local store.

Substitute Ingredients

When a recipe calls for a significant amount of ricotta cheese, you can substitute half the amount with cottage cheese.  This will retain taste and texture while reducing some of the fat and calories.  This works really well in baked ziti and lasagna.  When making cream based recipes, you can substitute half and half for heavy cream.  You will still get the same creamy taste with half the fat found in heavy cream.  For any recipe that calls for mayonnaise, you can substitute a homemade dressing made from Greek yogurt and dijon mustard.  When mixed properly it tastes like mayonnaise and is far more healthier.  I use this all the time on my tuna salad.  Lastly, substitute out any pre-made salad dressing or marinade.  They are all laden with chemicals and sodium and totally unnecessary.  For salad dressing, I am a big fan of avocado or olive oil with lemon juice or vinegar.  Simple, easy and healthy.  For marinades, I use wine or vinegar and lemon juice with spices.  They contain far less sodium, yet they tenderize and flavor just as well.

I’ve talked about giving up coffee creamer. My recipe for coffee includes ingredients that are similar to Bullet Coffee. I’ve substituted out my sugar filled creamer with healthy superfoods. You can see my coffee recipe in many of my past posts, or email me directly for it. Here’s the link to the site where I purchase my coffee, Ghee and collagen protein.

Bullet Proof Coffee

There’s something about eating clean delicious food that is not laden with unnecessary oils, cheeses or spices.  I’ve become a minimalist when cooking these days and have come to truly love the taste of my food.  I used to add so much salt to my food and now find it not needed.  It didn’t happen overnight, but making these simple changes to my cooking over time have allowed me to wake up my taste buds.  Why would anyone need to add sugar to a dish of fruit?  The fruit alone is sweet and delicious.  I’ve only shared a few of the many ways you can revamp some of your favorite recipes.  Thankfully, the internet offers many ways to search for healthier recipes.  Cooking Light is a great magazine that carries many simple to cook, healthy dinner options.  Have fun with your menu planning and be brave.  Be willing to try new things and be open to experimenting with food.  I am willing to bet you too will come to love the new versions of your recipes.

If you have healthier versions of your favorite food, please consider sharing. I’m always looking for new ideas.  Here are two of my favorite cookbooks for light, healthy meals.

5 Ingredient Fix: Easy, Elegant, and Irresistible Recipes Clean Eats: Over 200 Delicious Recipes to Reset Your Body’s Natural Balance and Discover What It Means to Be Truly Healthy

Sugar & Spice

Those of you who know me well know my love affair with coffee began only two short years ago.  My dear friend Donna is actually to blame, though Bonny tried for years during our many Dunkin and Starbucks runs enroute to visit our horses.  On this day, Donna offered me a pumpkin spice latte and I decided to try it.  Wow, what a sugary delight that was.  She clearly told me to, “go easy” on them because they are loaded with sugar and calories.

Of course, as we all know one sip of that sugary delight and you are hooked and craving more.  I began having a daily cup of coffee, or should I say sugar.  I purchased sweetened, chemical laden creamer and began my love affair with coffee.  My daily cup at that time consisted of half a cup of creamer (yikes) and half a cup of coffee.  My husband didn’t care how much creamer we went through, he was just thrilled that I was making the coffee after 30 years of marriage.  I tried to wean off the creamer a little each day, but never fully got it under 1/3 cup of creamer.  I was addicted to the sweet, sugary taste and couldn’t take the taste of coffee without it.

Many people told me how they sweetened their coffee to avoid the chemicals in the creamer.  Some used powdered creamer, but most used what I call “fake” sugar.  Yes, they thought it was healthier to use Sweet n Low and Splenda in place of creamer.  I did try that, but was not comfortable with the fake sugar as I now full well the consequences of long term use.  But, when looking at the creamers I was using, I realized they weren’t any better.  What’s a newly addicted coffee addict to do?  Look for healthier sweeteners of course.  This week, I ‘d like to share what I learned in my quest to replace the coffee creamers I used to sweeten my morning coffee.

When I first made the change, I was using organic, hormone free dairy cream with stevia.  This was a good alternative, but I wasn’t happy about how much cream I was still adding to my coffee.  Here’s what I learned about stevia and other healthier options for sugar replacement.

Stevia

Stevia is a plant based, natural sweetener that contains zero calories.  It is perhaps the safest sugar alternative on the market today.  All types of stevia are extracted from the leaves of the stevia plant.  It’s not great for baking, but is delicious in tea and coffee.  This is my go to coffee sweetener these days, along with raw honey.  All Stevia is not created the same, so please be careful and read labels.  For example, Truvia, a commonly sold version is really a sweetener that is only in part made with stevia.  It’s actually made from stevia extract and a sugar alcohol.  Further, some of the ingredients in it are made from genetically engineered crops.   I only use organic stevia drops that I purchase online, but if you read labels you can find healthy versions in any supermarket.  I recommend using liquid stevia over the readily available powdered versions.  Just a few drops go a long way!

SweetLeaf Sweet Drops Liquid Stevia Sweetener, Vanilla Creme, 2 Ounce

Honey

Honey has a low glycemic index, so it won’t lead to the dreaded sugar crash.  It does have a higher fructose level, so please go easy on it.  It’s easy to overindulge in the decadence of it’s sweetness, but I caution against over doing it.  Also, not all honey is created equally so please read the labels carefully.  I use only local, raw honey.  When not available locally, I source my honey online.  Side benefits of using honey as part of your health regimen are that it is contains cancer defending antioxidants and has healing properties when applied to cuts and burns.  Lastly, it is thought to help alleviate some allergy symptoms.  This is the honey that I use and love.  I add one teaspoon per day to my morning coffee.  That’s it, not a drop more, though I could just eat it right out of the jar!

Madhava Natural Sweeteners Organic Raw Honey, 22-Ounce

 

I don’t do a lot of baking, but when making any healthy treats, I use natural sweeteners such as coconut sugar, molasses or pure maple syrup.  These have all the benefits of sweetening your treats without the damaging effects of sugar.  When the recipe calls for sugar, you can always substitute that with a healthier sweetener.  When I am unsure of the conversion amounts, I simply google it.

I don’t advocate consuming large quantities of any of these natural sweeteners.  They are meant to be a simple change you can make to modify your daily habits.  These changes have helped me totally eliminate unhealthy flavored coffee creamers.  I don’t even use creamer at all anymore.  My philosophy has always been, small changes toward a healthier lifestyle.  Total avoidance of food groups has never worked for me.  Revising recipes and substituting healthier versions of foods is an alternative approach that has worked for me over time.  Remember, I’m in this to become healthy, not just lose weight.  Becoming aware of healthier alternatives was the first step for me.

What substitutions have you made in your life to make healthier choices?  Please share in the comments section below.

Push the Reset Button

Take Two – Since I just ended the school year, I find myself in need of some detoxing and stress relief.  I’m sharing my blog on this topic from last year, when I found myself in the same situation.  Hoping to recharge myself during the slower paced work week of the summer and step up my focus on nutrition and training.  Here is the blog post as it appeared last year:

Thankfully I rarely get sick, but when I do it’s usually a signal to me that it’s time to slow down and reset.   This week was a long week for me as I had two late nights, which for me means I worked 12 – 14 hour days.  Since I generally wake at 4 AM, this also means I was on the go for a period of 18 hours.  Couple this with stressful days at work and my body just starts the normal shut down.  By Friday, I was really dragging and started to feel the familiar low grade fever that is my signal to slow it down.

When I first began this journey to health, I had been diagnosed with Lupus and Rheumatoid Arthritis.  My body was shutting down.  Working with many doctors and nutritionists, it was discovered that I was misdiagnosed.   I actually suffer from Adrenal Fatigue.  While this was good news, it was still troubling and meant there had to be changes to my lifestyle.  Eating clean, exercising without depleting myself, improving sleep cycles and trying to keep the stress at a minimum were the recommendations to rebuild my adrenals.  Anyone who has a stressful job knows that’s a tall order, but I’ve found a few things that have helped me.  Since I’m currently recharging my system, I thought I’d share them and remind myself as well.

First, let me tell you what adrenal fatigue is in case you’re fortunate enough not to know.  Adrenal fatigue is a condition where your body and adrenal glands can’t keep up with the tremendous amount of daily stress many people experience. Sometimes it is misdiagnosed as an autoimmune disorder, as was the case for me.  What are the symptoms of adrenal fatigue?  For me, it is the body aches and low grade fever that signal I’m in the danger zone.  But the common symptoms listed include:

body aches
trouble concentrating
racing thoughts
moodiness and irritability
always tired
feeling overwhelmed
hormone imbalance
cravings for sweet and salty foods

This past week, my cravings for sweet and salty food were out of control, so of course unhealthy food choices added to my not feeling well pretty quickly.  They also disrupted my sleep patterns and so the vicious cycle began.  Luckily, adrenal fatigue can be healed with lifestyle changes such as: eating clean, taking specific supplements and reducing stress.  It’s not fatal, but the long term effects of leaving it untreated do create havoc on the body.  I’ve found the following to be helpful for me:

Eating Clean

In every case of adrenal recovery, diet is a huge factor. There are a number of foods that support adrenal function. They help replenish your adrenal energy so your system can come back to full health. But first you must start by removing any hard-to-digest foods and any toxins or chemicals in your environment.

Foods to avoid include: caffeine, sugar and artificial sweeteners, processed food and hydrogenated oils such as canola and vegetable oils.

All of these foods are taxing on the adrenal system and just plain unhealthy.  I do drink coffee, but I drink a superfood version (recipe provided below) and try to only have one cup per day.  I drink my coffee very early in the day and avoid all other caffeinated beverages.  I use avocado oil to cook and on my salads, as well as good quality olive oils.  To sweeten anything, including tea, I use organic monk fruit and/or raw locally sourced organic honey, but even that needs to be limited.

I avoid the microwave at all costs.  I still believe that the waves used within, as well as standing near to it, may have negative impacts on my body.  It’s the same with cell phones.  I try to only speak on them using the speaker option.  Anyone who knows me knows I mostly text.  No, I am not avoiding speaking with you, I just truly don’t want the waves from the phone, which I believe could possibly cause brain cancer.

What I should be eating are nutrient dense superfoods and clean, simple home cooked meals.  Meals that consist of healthy fat, such as avocado, fruits and vegetables and clean protein from organic, grass feed sources.  Significantly limiting grains is the hardest part for me, but I quickly notice a difference in how I feel when I eat them.  I also take great pains to avoid any dairy foods that have any added hormones.  My current favorite read on this topic is –

The Adrenal Reset Diet: Strategically Cycle Carbs and Proteins to Lose Weight, Balance Hormones, and Move from Stressed to Thriving

Stress Reduction:

This is an area I struggle with daily.  It’s very hard to be an Elementary School Principal and avoid stress.  Many times you feel like stress and criticism are coming at you from all sides.  The only way I can keep it at bay is to remind myself every single day that it’s first and foremost about the children.  All decisions I make must be made with their interest at heart no matter what outside pressures I encounter.

Resting and getting the proper amount of sleep is critical.  For me, I don’t sleep well so this too is a constant battle.  Instead of fighting the cycle, I’ve just adapted my life around one that works for me.  This means going to bed and sleep most nights by 8:00 PM and waking and rising by 4:00 AM, sometimes earlier.  If I lay in bed and stress over not sleeping, I add another layer of unnecessary stress.  I am tired early, so if I go to sleep I actually sleep better and generally make 7 hours.  Who cares if it’s 3 or 4 AM, it’s a beautiful, quiet time and I get to rest, read and relax before getting up to start my day.  Sounds like a win, win to me.

Meditation has always been recommended, but I just can’t seem to commit to it.  I’ve tried Headspace, a free app and did enjoy it.  Sometimes in those early hours of the morning I put it on, shut my eyes and enjoy.  I can’t speak to the true benefits of it though as I don’t feel I do it often enough.

Exercise for me is a huge stress reliever.  I have a daily exercise routine and rarely, if ever skip it.  But, I’ve been cautioned that exercise itself can be very stressful to the body.   Most doctors recommended yoga and walking as they are not as taxing on the body as running.  I do both of those, but wanted to keep the running because it is such a stress reliever for me.  The compromise will be lots of cross training to reduce the number of actual runs do in a week.

Avoiding toxicity and emotional stress is another area that I work hard on in my personal and professional life.  I am blessed that I’m currently surrounded by a great group of people at work and we work hard to not allow toxicity to permeate our school.   I’ve worked in toxic environments and seen personally the damage they can do to myself and others.   I’ve seen a career tarnished by it and the emotional toll that caused on them and others.   If you are in such an environment, it may be time for a change. Personal relationships in some cases are forged by choice, but not family.  I am sad to say there is some toxicity in my family and I have in those cases chosen to limit my exposure to it at all costs.  When it can’t be avoided, I engage as little as I possibly can without being rude.

Supplementation:

I’ve written a lot about supplements and my feelings on them.  For the specific purpose of supporting my adrenals, I take an adrenal supplement.  It contains herbs that have been shown to improve adrenal function.  In the past, I took separate herbal supplements, but in an effort to reduce the number of pills I was taking, I switched to the highly recommended Dr. Axe Adrenal Restore.

The bottom line for me is that I need to listen to my body.  If I am tired, I need to rest.  If I am not eating well, I quickly will feel the effects.  I need to get back on track, reset and start over.  If I am around negativity, I need to remove myself from the situation.  I need to exercise daily and use positive self talk to keep myself moving forward.  It has been quite the journey and when days like today come along, I don’t dwell on the causes.  Rather, I dwell on the changes I can make to get back up again.  On tap today for me is, rest, reading and healthy meal planning.

Are you struggling with adrenal fatigue?  Please share your successes with me.  I’d love to learn about some new tips.


Superfood Coffee

1 tbsp of collagen powder, monk fruit sweetener or raw organic honey

1 tsp of raw cacao powder, organic ghee (or kerry unsalted butter), organic coconut oil (or bullet brain octane, organic vanilla, cinnamon, turmeric, and dash of cayenne )

1 cup organic coffee brewed and hot

Put all in Vitamix and blend.  Frothy and delicious and oh so healthy.  Enjoy

 

 

 

 

Beauty is Only Skin Deep

When I first started this journey I focused heavily on nutrition and exercise.  I made the decision to buy organic whenever possible.   These changes certainly helped me get on a path to wellness.  The more I learned, the more I began to question other areas of my life.  One morning as I applied my makeup I began to wonder about other areas in my life that I needed to reevaluate.  I wrote to a nutritionist on Facebook and asked her what organic skin care products she used.  She wrote back rather quickly and stated that she didn’t use an organic product.  I was kind of surprised by that as I know how much she advocates not putting chemicals into the body.

At this point in time, I began researching the topic.  There was a ton of research to support that many of our beauty products are laden with chemicals.  Further, our skin is one of our largest organs and the products we are slathering on are full of cancer causing ingredients.  All of these ingredients gain quick access to our body through our pores.  These products include everyday items such as soap, hairspray, moisturizers, shampoo, makeup.  The list is endless.  I was floored!  Here I am eating clean and trying so hard to avoid any chemicals in my food and then I just wipe it on my body daily.  How scary is that?

According to an article by Harvard University’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health, Americans are “exposed to more than a hundred chemicals from cosmetics, soaps, and other personal care products before leaving the house in the morning.”

After reading information such as this, I started researching products I could use to replace my current ones.  This turned out to be no easy feat, as I quickly learned how hard it was to read the labels on beauty products.  I couldn’t even pronounce most of the ingredients listed, much less know what they were.  Further, some of the products I tried simply didn’t work.  They smelled horrible and were quite expensive.  I finally found a line of clean products I love.  I have been using them now for three years and they work.  I’m happy to say that these healthier products are affordable, effective and clean.  A true personal victory.

I’m also happy to say that four years later, consumers and the industry are catching on to the market for healthier personal care products.  Today there are far more options out there and it is becoming increasingly easier to decipher what ingredients are in these products.  This week my nutritionist Ellie put out a newsletter on this topic and I was happy to learn about some new product lines that she’s recommending.  I ordered a sample size to try and will see about adding them into my current regime.

Here’s my current recommendations on ways to increase support for healthy, clean skin.

Clean Eating

Clean eating is the first and necessary step!  Healthy skin, like abs, is made in the kitchen.

Hydration

I saw a photograph online that showed a woman’s before and after photo.  I thought it must be for a new skin care line as she clearly looked younger and healthier in her after photo.  When I read the article I realized that was not the case.  What the photograph was actually showing, was the impact of drinking water each day.  This woman looked years younger and the article was supporting the claim that proper hydration is the first step toward healthy, supple skin.  Well that is one beauty tip I quickly adopted.  What an easy, clean and inexpensive way to improve my skin.

The research on this claim is not clear.  For example, one article claimed that if your skin is not getting the sufficient amount of water, the lack of hydration will present itself by turning your skin dry, tight and flaky. Dry skin has less resilience and is more prone to wrinkling.  Others said there was a lack of sufficient research to support that drinking water improves hydration in skin.  For me, it was worth trying and personally I do feel proper hydration makes my skin look healthier.

Collagen Supplement

My nutritionist recently suggested I add collagen to my diet.  I wasn’t too sure what it was and why I needed it so I read up on the topic.  Wellness Mama in a recent blog said:

“Collagen is a long-chain amino acid and the most abundant protein in the body. It is composed of the individual amino acids Glycine, Proline, Hydroxyproline and Arginine and in nature is found exclusively in animal tissue, especially bones and connective tissue. It is what is responsible for giving skin elasticity, hair its strength, and connective tissue its ability to hold everything in place. In fact, the collagen protein makes up 30% of the total protein in the body, and 70% of the protein in the skin!

While collagen is beneficial to the entire body, it is most noticeably beneficial to the skin. This is because as a person ages, the epidermic (outer layer of skin) thins and loses elasticity in a process known as elastosis. As this happens, a person tends to show more signs of aging and acquire more wrinkles.”

I purchased a Kosher, hormone free collagen powder from Amazon and started adding it to my morning coffee and/or smoothie.  A few weeks later my daughter complimented my skin.  I do think it has made a difference and I definitely notice my hair and nails are growing faster too.  This powder is totally tasteless and you’ll hardly know it’s there.  This is the one my nutritionist highly recommended and I currently use.  I get mine on Amazon as it was the best price around.

Great Lakes Gelatin Collagen Hydrolysate Beef, Kosher

Skin Care Products

The line I have been using and love is from a company called Farmaesthetics.  All of their products are 100% natural.  The website periodically has sales, but when they don’t, I shop Amazon and with my prime I get free delivery.  Here are the products I use, but they have many others as well.  The milky moisturizer is so clean and fresh smelling, I just love it!  All of these products require such a small amount they last forever!

Farmaesthetics Fine Herbal Cleanser

Farmaesthetics Nourishing Lavender Milk 8oz

Farmaesthetics Eyebright Makeup Remover & Treatment

Make-Up

I really don’t wear a lot of makeup.  I wear a small amount of foundation and touch of blush.  I have used Bare Esenctuals for years.  It is a natural, mineral based make up line.  I purchase mine at Macys when it’s on sale, but it is readily available.  I also recommend you look at the Jane Iredale line of natural products.

I am excited that personal beauty products seems to be an up and coming topic of discussion.  I feel that small changes such as these could have huge consequences on my health.  Seriously, if I can cut more chemicals out of my life, why wouldn’t I.  What have I got to lose?  I’m so glad I did and I will continue to look for other areas in my life that need an overhaul.

What about you?  What changes have you made to your daily personal care routines?  I’m always interested in learning about new product lines.  Please share!

Pillars of Success

Today is my one year anniversary of writing this blog.  One year into this public journey and I’ve continued to share weekly.  Thanks to all who are following along with me on my journey.  It helps to know someone’s out there reading and learning with me.  I’d love to hear from you about your journey, so please leave comments or feedback for me.

We’ve talked about some of the common misconceptions these past few weeks, as well as the lies we tell ourselves along the way.  Self preservation at its best, or maybe at its worst.  We always have to address the elephant in the room in order to grow, but now I’d like to get back to the positive side of this journey.  I’d like to share the foundational changes I’ve learned are necessary in order to be successful on our road to health.  These 5 pillars of success set the foundation upon which we will grow and maintain healthy living.

Clean Eating – Food

I think you know by now I am not about fad diets, elimination of food groups, or anything else that I don’t believe will be sustainable.  Counting calories or points is not something I want to do.  I try hard to eat clean and surely go through periods where I am more successful than others.  I am human after all and don’t strive to be perfect.  I face each day as a new day and let go of the mistakes made in the prior one.  I tell myself, it’s about balance – the right proteins, healthy fats and healthy carbohydrates.  I shoot to eat clean at least 80% of the time.

In order to hit this pillar I do spend some time menu planning each weekend.  The focus of this time is on my dinner meal as this can be the most challenging for me as it comes at the end of my often stressful day.  Breakfast and lunch for me are super simple for me to prepare.  Personally, I don’t prep my food, but know many people who do this and swear by it.  For me, I prefer fresh food daily.  I strive to cook simple, quick and healthy meals each week.   Thankfully, we live in the era of the internet and have access to thousands of quick recipes.  I’m a huge fan of soups, organic chicken and meatless meals.  I highly recommend this cookbook and website for ideas. The Wellness Mama Cookbook: 200 Easy-to-Prepare Recipes and Time-Saving Advice for the Busy Cook

Daily Movement – Exercise

This is the pillar most of us overthink.  This doesn’t have to be hours at the gym each day, or painful workouts.  Then it becomes unsustainable and we give up.  To make this attainable think simplicity.  What can you realistically do to make a change in your life?  I like to start each day with some type of movement.  It can be as simple as a 15 minute yoga flow, or as complicated as an hour run.  This all depends on my available time and where I am in my training cycle.  Right now I am recovering from three broken toes, but that doesn’t mean I get to lay around each day and give up all movement.  I’ve found ways to continue to exercise each day.  Again, there are thousands of workout options on the internet.  Youtube has so many free classes to choose from.  Just google what you are looking for and it is there.

My average week includes 6 days of workouts and 1 day of rest.  The 6 days include 5 days of running when I am in training for upcoming races.  The other day is an active recovery day, which means yoga or pilates class.  I do all workouts in my home and out on the road in my neighborhood.  I’ve done the gym, yoga studio and personal trainer route and while I loved them all, it just wasn’t sustainable for me.  I was basically rushing out the door every morning at 5 am to squeeze my workouts in before work.  Choosing to do these workouts at home has given me an extra hour in the morning to sip coffee, check email and write.  It also removed a layer of stress and rushing I just didn’t need.

If you want to keep it even simpler than that, all you really need to get started is 15 – 20 minutes of movement per day.   Think in terms of high intensity movements (not high impact) that work multiple muscle groups simultaneously.  In the following video clip, Danette May is doing 3 moves for 20 reps each.  She does 20 – 20- 20 for three rounds.  Try this simple routine and see how your heart rate goes up.  Couple this with walking at least three days a week and you are on the road to making huge gains.  Throw a pair of sneakers in your car and you will easily be able to carve out some time for a quick walk, even on your way home from work.

Sleep – Body Repair

This is the thing I struggle with the most.  I do not sleep well and never realized just how much this impacts my overall health.  Getting a good night sleep is a critical part of this journey and something I work on every day.  There are so many research studies that show just how detrimental it can be to not get a good night sleep, yet so many of us struggle to do so.  I’ve been doing better lately in this are and can feel the difference.

Each night I now stop using my computer at around 7 PM.  Unplugging and allowing myself to relax a bit before attempting to go to bed.  I have found that a sleep schedule has helped improve my sleeping patterns.  Whenever possible, I go up to bed at around the same time.  I read a bit in bed and as I become tired I go to sleep.  I’ve started using a diffuser on those hard to sleep nights.  I fill mine with water and organic lavender essential oil.   Finally, when I wake up, as long as I’ve had at least 6 hours of sleep, I get up.  I no longer lay there and stress myself out that I can’t fall back asleep.  This stress is totally not necessary.  Most days I am up by 4 AM and that’s just ok for me.  That is my body’s natural rhythm and time clock and it is all just fine.

Mindset – Positive Self Talk

I talked a lot about this during the summer as I trained for my half marathon.  You can’t underestimate the power of positivity.  This can be a struggle for many of us, myself included.  I’m working hard to be kind to myself and have found that it does help keep me motivated.  When I find myself heading down that negative road, I remind myself how far I’ve come.  This body I’ve been given has allowed me to do incredible things.  I need to care for it and part of that care includes developing my mindset around focusing on what I CAN do.

Declaring my why has been a big part of developing my mindset.  Using positive self talk and getting a vision of what I am trying to accomplish has helped me tremendously.  Also, thinking about the impact my negative self talk has not only on me, but on my daughter, has helped reign it in.

Please revisit my powerful blogs on this topic:

Unintended Consequences

Run like Shalane

Power of Mindset

Supplements – Only as Needed

I have written a lot about this topic.  I have personally tried many different supplements on this journey.  I’ve realized that you can’t REPLACE unhealthy eating with pills or powders, no matter how many you take.  I only take what I need and what I feel I can’t, or am not getting through my food choices.  For me right now what I need to supplement is Vitamin D3 (taken with K2 for absorption), Turmeric (inflammation), Protein (Only on days I feel it’s lacking.) and Greens (only on days I feel I need a little help getting in my vegetables.).

See my blogs on this topic:

Food Not Supplements

Fake News about Supplements

I hope you see simplicity running through all of my pillars.  Without simplicity, we truly are setting ourselves up for failure.  Always think longterm.  While a complicated change might seem easy in the short term, ask yourself – “Is this something I want to, or can do, for the rest of my life?”  If the answer is no, then it is likely not a sustainable change.

Help me celebrate my anniversary.  Share at least one thing you’ve enjoyed about reading my journey.  If it’s had an impact on your journey, I’d love to hear how.

 

 

 

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