My Favorite Soups

December.  Winter seems to be in full swing, but in typical Oklahoma fashion, yesterday reached nearly 80 degrees F while today wind chills were below freezing and little snowflakes fluttered from the sky only to meet their demise on windshields.  That’s how winter rolls in Oklahoma!

But even though temperatures have been even more mild than usual, the first hint of cold weather has me craving soup.  I am a sucker for a bowl of hot, homemade soup.  You?  So I thought I’d share my favorite soups with you and my attempts to make them “clean”, using products without added sugars, that are organic and non-GMO, and use as little processed ingredients as possible.

Besides just tasting good and warming your insides on a cold day, making a pot of soup is all the meal prepping I need to do for a week.  I know.  Being single I don’t have to make as much food as a family would need for a week, but a pot of soup can make several meals.  That’s one thing I like about soup.  It’s also very forgiving to make, easy to reheat, easy to take to work, and generally tastes better after it sits for a day or so!  And if you avoid heavy creamed soups, a bowl of soup can be a fairly low calorie meal or snack.

These are some of my favorites I’ve been enjoying over the last few weeks.  And since I cook soups by taste, I don’t have specific measurements to follow.  Sorry!

  1.  Chili.  Who doesn’t love a bowl of chili, right?  And chili has the added bonus of being comfort food for me.  My mom would make a pot of chili on the first cold snap of the winter, so it’s one of the first things I think about when leaves start to fall, and temperatures take a nose dive.  One thing about chili–it’s the Fritos, cheese, and sour cream that make it not so good for you!

I start by browning lean ground turkey and minced onion in just a tad of olive oil if your turkey is very lean.  Add in one or two cans of organic red beans or kidney beans, depending on your preference.  Season the meat and beans with salt, chili powder, and ground cloves.  Add a can of organic tomato juice (I had V8 on hand this time, but I definitely prefer just plain tomato juice).  Heat, stirring occasionally, until the soup boils.  Simmer until the flavors blend (the longer the better!)  Season to taste with additional salt, chili powder and cloves.  I also add just a bit of coconut sugar to tame the acidity of the tomato juice.

Easy peasy and so yummy! 

2.  Chicken noodle soup.  Ahh, you can’t go wrong with chicken noodle soup, right?!  I always make sure I have baked or grilled chicken ready to use before I begin making this soup.

I start with pouring boxed or canned organic chicken stock into my pot and then, adding chicken broth to get the right amount of soup you want to make.  (I found that adding stock gives it more chicken flavor).  I read labels to make sure the broth I am using doesn’t have added sugar and lots of other ingredients I can’t pronounce.  Season the broth with basil, marjoram, salt and pepper to your taste.  Once the broth boils, add brown rice pasta (I like the spiral noodles).  When the pasta is nearly done, add the chicken, and frozen peas and carrots and continue cooking until the pasta and veggies are tender.

3.  Vegetable beef soup.  This takes me a bit longer to make because I start by roasting the cut of beef in the oven.  I like to add salt and pepper to the roast and toss in a bay leaf before I place it in the oven.

Once the roast is cooked, I cut up the amount of beef I need for the soup.  Brown it in a soup pot with just a bit of olive oil.  Add beef broth (again, I read labels to make sure I’m not adding a bunch of unnecessary ingredients), enough to make the amount of soup that you want.  Once the broth boils, add your vegetables.  I use whatever I have on hand.  Usually that’s a bag of frozen mixed vegetables (the kind with green beans, lima beans, peas, carrots, etc) and maybe a sweet potato.  Season with salt and pepper.  After the soup simmers for a while, I like to add in just a bit of tomato juice.  It seems to enhance the beef flavor.

4.  Butternut squash soup.  This is one of my all time favorites, but it does require a little more prep.  The extra prep time is so worth it, though!  Unlike the other soups that I tend to make most frequently, I do follow a recipe for this one.  Get the recipe here.

I don’t make the parmesan croutons to cut calories, but I don’t feel I’m missing anything.  This soup is delicious!

Cutting up a butternut squash is a bit difficult.  I have visions of cutting off a finger because the skin of the squash is not easy to cut through.  One thing I did this time to make things easier was to roast the squash in the peel before I cubed it.  It worked wonderfully, I didn’t lose a finger, and it tasted amazing!  You could also buy frozen, cubed butternut squash which would significantly cut down your prep time if you are in a time crunch.

So there’s my list of favorite soups.  As you can see, I tend to just use what I have on hand and mix broths, veggies, and spices to make it taste like I want it to.  That’s what I mean about soups being forgiving.  Just add a little of this or that until it tastes “right”!

Mmmm…now I’m thinking I should make a pot of soup for the rest of the week…

Talk to me:

Soup eater or not?

What’s your favorite soup recipe?

 

 

 

The Search for Healthy Pumpkin Bread

With the first hints of fall, my taste buds start to crave pumpkin bread.

And it’s that time of year.  In typical Oklahoma fashion, day time temperatures are still reaching 80 degrees but mornings have a bit of a bite and the wreath by my front door reminds me during the warm afternoons that it’s fall.  Perfect running weather–but I’m trying not to think about that since running is a banned activity for me at the moment.

But it’s also perfect for visiting pumpkin patches!  I got to visit a local pumpkin patch with my sister-in-law, my niece and her Happy Hands class.  This picture of Candice cracks me up!  She didn’t want to pet the goats because she found them just a tad too pungent!But I digress.  Pumpkin bread…and is it possible to make it healthy?

With my foray into clean eating, I didn’t want to make my usual pumpkin bread, which, by the way, is delicious but filled with things I don’t want to put into my body.  But thanks to Google and food bloggers, I’ve discovered there are tons of clean eating recipes out there, even for some of my favorite foods, like pumpkin bread.

I decided to try this recipe for Healthy Flourless Pumpkin Bread from the Bakermama.

The ingredient list was simple.  I had everything on hand.  Not pictured is baking soda. (Please note that I am not endorsing any particular brand.  This was just what I had on hand.)Mixing it up was as easy as placing everything in the blender and hitting start.  I did have to keep scraping the sides of the blender container because my blender is a bit of a weenie and unmixed batter kept clinging to the sides.The baked loaf looked pretty much like a typical loaf of pumpkin bread.Sliced, it held its shape well.So, you ask, how was it?

What I liked about this recipe:

  1.  It has a simple, healthy ingredient list.  It used common things that most people have on hand.  And while I can’t say that maple syrup is “healthy”, after all sugar is sugar, it is way less processed that white or brown sugar and the entire loaf only has 1/2 cup of syrup.
  2. It wasn’t too sweet.  As I’ve slowly tried to wean sugar out of my diet, I find that I have less and less tolerance for sweetness.  This bread was just right in the sweetness department.
  3. It’s moist.  I don’t like dry “fruit” breads, like banana or pumpkin bread.  I liked that this recipe made a wonderfully moist loaf of bread.
  4. It’s easy to make.  It’s a short ingredient list, uses only a blender for mixing, and bakes in about 30 minutes.  Easy peasy.
  5. I can eat a slice and know that I’m not sabotaging my commitment to clean eating.  I love having my cake, or in this case, pumpkin bread, and eating it too!  This recipe does that for me.

The only downside to this recipe, for me, was that the bread was heavy.  If you’ve ever had baked oatmeal, you’ll know what I mean.  I kind of felt like I was eating baked oatmeal.  And while I love baked oatmeal, I was hoping for something a bit lighter in a pumpkin bread.  The taste was absolutely yummy, but the denseness was a bit disappointing.

So will I make it again?  I’ll definitely keep this recipe bookmarked.  I usually try a new recipe a few times before I decide not to use it anymore.  I may have made a mistake in putting it together that caused it to feel heavy.  Maybe I didn’t blend it long enough?  I loved the flavor and the healthfulness of it, but it wasn’t quite what I had in mind so I’ll also keep trying other recipes.

And thanks to all the clean eating food bloggers who take the time to create yummy recipes that use wholesome ingredients I’ve got tons of recipes to choose from!

Talk to me:

What’s your favorite fall food?

What’s your favorite pumpkin recipe?

 

 

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One Hour Meal Prep, 2

So I walked you through what a meal prep session looks like for me.  Today, I want to give you some basic tips to a meal prepping plan that works for me.

As I mentioned, I just can’t get to the point of having every meal and snack in individual bowls in the refrigerator.  Maybe it’s an organizational thing, but I think, more likely, that it’s because I like to have at least some choice of what to eat when I’m hungry.  So I look at meal prepping as doing the hard and/or time consuming part of a meal ahead of time.  Then, when I’m ready for dinner, all I need to do is assemble it.

Here’s how I go about that.

  1. Start with a menu in mind.  I usually do my grocery shopping with a few meals in mind.  I pick up the ingredients for those meals and then make sure I have the staples and plenty of healthy snacks for when I’m on the run.
  2.  Cook foods that you can use in multiple different meals ahead of time.  Think about all the different ways you could use one food item.  If you had baked chicken on hand, what all could you do with it?  Or if you had a cooked spaghetti squash, think of maybe two or three different ways you could eat it.  Meal prep is a good time to cook pasta or rice, roast vegetables (like a spaghetti squash or sweet potatoes), cook your meats, hard boil eggs, or anything that will keep for a few days in the refrigerator.  Sometimes, I do actually cook a pot of soup or a casserole and dish it up into individual bowls.
  3. Chop fresh fruit and vegetables.  It’s much easier and quicker to assemble a salad if all the vegetables are cut.  And wouldn’t you be more likely to grab some broccoli and hummus for a snack if you didn’t have to stop and cut up the broccoli first?  Meal prep is the time I cut up any vegetables, or fruits, I have in the refrigerator–broccoli, cauliflower, celery, cantaloupe, watermelon.  If I know I’ll want to use an onion in an omelet or maybe on a salad or in a wrap, I’ll cut up the onion as well.  This is also a good time to wash ready to eat fruits, like grapes, cherries, apples.  Find any way possible to make it quick and easy to grab and eat the healthy foods later that you have stocked in your refrigerator.
  4. Keep “convenience” foods stocked.  Say what?  Convenience foods for me are those healthy options that are ready to use, like frozen veggies, cans of wild caught tuna (no cooking needed), baby carrots (no peeling or chopping required), bags of organic spinach, cans of beans and diced tomatoes (ready to use).   I always have these foods on hand.  They may not be what most people would call convenience foods, but you get the point.  Keep foods around that won’t wreck your healthy eating plan but require very little prep time.

So that’s it.  That’s it?  Yep.  Meal prepping for me is essentially doing all the time consuming tasks of cooking a meal ahead of time–cooking the parts of the meal that take the longest and chopping what needs to be chopped.  Then, at meal time, all that’s left is assembly.  And it works for me.  Having a rather loose definition of meal prepping gives me the freedom to choose what to eat when I’m hungry but also limits my choices to healthy options because I’ve decided ahead of time on a few healthy meals for the week.

Talk to me:

What does meal prepping mean to you?

What challenges to meal prepping do you have?

 

 

One Hour Meal Prep

When I began my weight loss journey, meal prepping was a foreign concept to me.  And to be honest, I wasn’t really into it.

I understood the value of meal prepping.  It’s a great way to prevent those spur of the moment fast food runs when you’re too tired to cook.  And it’s a great way to make healthy options easily accessible when life keeps you hopping.  I got that.

But I had this vision of spending hours in the kitchen and bowls of Tupperware lined up in the refrigerator, each holding a ready to heat meal.  That’s great for some people, but I just couldn’t get there.

So if you’re like me and think that meal prepping takes too much time, let me take you through my meal prep session for this week.

9:56 a.m.  Season the chicken and begin to cook it.  (I used my George Foreman grill.)10:00 a.m.  While the chicken is cooking, make cauliflower rice.

 

 

 

 

 

 

10:15 a.m.  Chop up fresh broccoli. (I’m much more likely to eat fresh veggies with hummus for a snack or in salads for lunch if they’re already chopped.)10:25 a.m.  Chop up a cantaloupe.10:35 a.m.  Dice an onion.10:40 a.m.  Brown onion and ground turkey.

10:41 a.m.  Begin the clean-up while the turkey is cooking.

11:00 a.m.  Put the semi-cooled turkey in the refrigerator.  Fold the dishcloth over the sink.  Grab a glass of ice water and prop your feet up on the couch because…meal prepping is done for the week!

And it took 1 hour!

But, you say, you didn’t make any meals!  True, but I have all kinds of stuff at my finger tips ready to make meals–chicken for salads or alongside some vegetables, ground turkey with some cauliflower rice and veggies for a quick and easy stir-fry.  There are a lot of ways I can combine a few simple foods to make meals in a matter of minutes.

And that is how I meal prep!  Stay tuned for some basic guidelines of how I make meal prepping work for me.

Talk to me:

Do you meal prep?  Why or why not?

What’s on your menu for this week?

 

My Favorite Kitchen Gadgets

Coming off the clean eating challenge, I’ve been spending more time searching out and trying new recipes, which equals more time in the kitchen.  I’ve found there are a few gadgets that I use frequently that make cooking so much easier.  Now, I’m not promoting any company.  These are just the brands I happened to purchase, and I have no other experience with other brands that produce similar products.

  1.  Magic Bullet.  I usually drink at least one protein shake a day, either after coming home from the007 gym, a run or as I’m getting ready for my night shift at the hospital.  I love the ease of using this mini blender.  I just throw everything in and presto!  I have a perfectly blended shake in under a minute with relatively little cleanup.  I also like the strength of this blender.  Here I’m trying out my hand at making almond meal (basically finely ground almonds to take the place of flour).  Making almond meal took a bit of time, and I had to keep shaking the container to get the larger nut pieces to fall down to the bottom by the blades, but I wound up with some nice almond meal!  I also love using my Magic Bullet for making my own ranch dressing (from cashews!  Really!  I’ll have to tell you about it one day.)
  2. George Foreman grill.  For the longest time, I just threw so028me chicken in the oven to bake, but then I discovered this little personal grill.  In a matter of minutes, I can have tasty, moist grilled chicken, salmon, or turkey burgers.  I’m anxious to try it out on some veggie burgers and grilled veggies.  And I love the ease of clean up.  No pans with stuck on chicken drippings.
  3. Kitchen scale.  One thing that became super helpful to me in attaining and maintaining a significant weight loss was portion control.  I picked up this kitchen scale for around $10, and it’s been incredibly helpful to keep me on track with portions.  It has both metric and standard measures, so when some recipes call for so many grams of an ingredient, I can put the scale on the 006metric measure and figure out how much 114 grams of zucchini is.  Or I can measure out 3 ounces of meat for a serving instead of just eyeballing it.
  4. Garlic press.  This may seem like a funny gadget to list among my 0149ef10166b9e45ac93ea5eec9dfd67a4ac5cf3fffavorites, but I use it all. the. time.  I cook with a lot of fresh garlic, so having a press to mince those cloves of garlic is so much easier and faster than chopping it up by hand.  This press is not of great quality, but it does the job.
  5. Shaker cup.  Here’s another one of those kind of odd gadgets to mention among my favorites, but I love my shaker cups.  I’ve found that if I take a serving of my favorite chocolate protein powder to work and make a shake close to quitting time, it curbs my hunger and my desire for unhealthy sugary treats.  I have one shaker cup that uses a wire whisk kind of ball.  I don’t like this one as much; it doesn’t get the powder off the side of the cup very well.  My favorite cups have the harder ball inside that really blends that powder as well as a blender.018057f86b4751e42f874c551a009026acad20ad46Here’s to happy, healthy cooking–and eating!

Talk to me:

What are your favorite kitchen gadgets?

If money was not an obstacle, what’s one kitchen gadget you’d love to have?

Clean Eating Challenge

Back towards the beginning of May, a friend I CrossFit with, knowing I’m in the process of launching my own personal training business, asked if she could tell me about the clean eating program that got her on the road to health and feeling better, something I may be able to share with clients.  I have to say, even with my nursing background, when it comes to nutrition and how to guide someone into making the best decisions for weight loss, I just feel overwhelmed.  Anyone else feel like that?  There’s so much seemingly contradictory information out there.  And here’s the thing:  nutrition is THE most important part of weight loss.  Exercise all you want, but you can’t out exercise a bad diet.

On top of that, I found myself stuck in a bit of a food rut.  Terrified of gaining weight again, I’d basically been eating the same foods I’d eaten during my weight loss process.  But having gained a few pounds in the last 6 months, I found that even following that routine, my weight wasn’t budging.

So I said, “Sure.  I’d love to learn about that.”

Now, my friend is an Arbonne consultant and the program recommends using Arbonne supplements.  But before you tune me out, let me just say, regardless of your feelings about Arbonne, supplementation, and the like, what I learned about clean eating was worth the money for the starter kit.  And no, this is not a post about Arbonne.  I just want to tell you about my adventure into clean eating.

So the challenge consists of 30 days of no sugar, no dairy, no peanuts, no wheat, gluten or soy.  And the only fruit I was supposed to eat was green apples and berries.  Yeah.  When I looked at that, I asked myself the same question I heard from a gazillion people who heard what I was doing:  “What do you eat?”

I mean seriously, what was I going to eat?  I usually had yogurt and peanut butter every day.  Seriously, every day.  And I often ate whole wheat tortillas and bananas.  Would I be able to run without a banana to fuel me?  And no chocolate covered almonds?  I could almost feel myself twitching at the thought.  But I was also intrigued.  Could one eat tasty food that eliminated so many products?

In a word, YES!  If you think about it, really all the program did was eliminate highly processed foods.  The basis of clean eating is eating foods that are as close to the way God created them as possible–cage free eggs, grass-fed beef, organic fruits and vegetables, brown rice, nuts (aside from peanuts).  It emphasizes the quality of the food.

And the idea behind eliminating certain foods is to help identify how your body reacts to them.  The program is commonly referred to as a “detox”.  Now, I tend to think that if your liver and kidneys are in good working order, the body naturally detoxifies itself, but I was intrigued by the idea that some of these highly processed foods may be affecting me without my knowledge.  I wondered what would happen if I eliminated them.

Thankfully, the program provided recipes.  So I would pick one or two dishes to make for the week, buy the groceries for those meals, and choose one day to meal prep (which usually took about 1 hour).  These are some of the things I ate:

001Apple slices with almond butter

 

 

 

 

 

004Spaghetti squash with homemade sauce

 

 

 

 

 

003Grilled salmon, cilantro lime quinoa, salad with homemade ranch dressing (it’s amazing what you can do with cashews!)

 

 

 

 

002Blackened chicken with a spinach and raw veggie/black bean salad

 

 

 

 

 

And these are just SOME of my meals!  I learned about cooking with fresh herbs, combining spices to make the most delicious flavorings for salmon and chicken, the wonder of fresh lemons and limes.  I discovered a whole new way of cooking!

But the bottom line, as I’m sure you’re dying to know, did I lose weight?

Let me tell you what the challenge did for me:

  1.  I lost 4.4 pounds.  It doesn’t sound like much, but at my size losing anything over about a half pound per week is a LOT of weight.  And I lost a little over a pound a week without trying.  I ate good food, and I ate when I was hungry and until I was full.
  2. I lost an inch around my waist at my bellybutton, 4 inches (I know!  Couldn’t believe it!) around my lower belly where that stubborn fat roll just wouldn’t budge, and an inch off my hips.
  3. I went from having nearly daily headaches requiring some kind of pain aid to 2 headaches in the entire 4 weeks.
  4. I lost that sluggish feeling that I thought was just normal for a night shift worker.  I still feel tired frequently because my sleep schedule is totally out of whack, but even when I’m tired I don’t have that brain fog going on.  Anyone know what I mean?  And I’m finding I have more energy overnight at work.
  5. Nearly all my sugar cravings are gone.  I thought I would have a hard time with giving up sugar, but I felt so satisfied with the food I was eating, I didn’t really miss it.  A couple of times I had a rather strong chocolate craving, but I felt way more in control and was able to resist the temptation.

So now the challenge is over, and I have to decide what to do.  Will I incorporate those eliminated foods back in or not?  There’s a part of me that doesn’t want to because I feel amazing, but I also want to be able to eat with my friends and not stress out about what I’m eating.  I think I’ll probably wind up doing what most people do after the challenge–follow clean eating habits at least 80% of the time.

I’m excited to continue to incorporate this new way of eating/cooking into my life!  I’m experimenting with baking with almond and coconut flour, and I can’t wait to try arrowroot.  I’m also anxious to pull out my favorite recipes and see how I can “clean” them up.  Eating has become an adventure, and I’m loving the ride!

Talk to me:

What makes eating healthy hard for you?

What are you eating these days?

What’s your thought on clean eating?

 

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What I’m Eating These Days

So how’s your eating going?  Are you making healthy choices?  It’s hard.  I know.  Believe me, I know!  But I thought today I’d tell you about some of the foods that have made choosing healthy a bit easier for me lately.

  1.  Tomato Basil rice cakes.  I discovered rice cakes early on in my weight loss process.  I know a lot of people turn up their noses at them, but I like IMG_1484them.  Plain rice cakes aren’t all that tasty alone, but use them in place of bread and they’re wonderful!  Throw some tuna, turkey and lettuce, or even peanut butter on a rice cake, and you’ve got a quick, low-calorie meal, and the crunch of the rice cake satisfies the part of my appetite that needs crunch as well.  But these tomato basil rice cakes are amazing!  They taste great alone which makes them perfect for when I’m craving something crunchy and salty.  They also work great as a base for turkey and gives tuna an extra zing.
  2. Powdered peanut butter.  Who knew there was such a thing?!  I LOVE peanut butter!  No day in my world is complete without it, and running out of peanut butter nearly constitutes an emergency.  Seriously.  I have IMG_1483gone to the store for nothing expect peanut butter.  True story!  But I try to be careful with how much peanut butter I eat because it does add a lot of calories and fat to my diet.  What I like about this powdered peanut butter is that I get the taste of peanut butter without the fat and with significantly fewer calories.  My experience with it is limited to use in smoothies, but I’m anxious to try it just mixed with a little almond milk in place of the real deal.IMG_1522
  3. Zucchini.  I love all kinds of squash.  Butternut squash soup is one of my favs!  I love roasting summer and zucchini squash.  But lately I’ve sauteed zucchini, mushrooms, and onions in a pan sprayed with olive oil cooking spray.  When the vegetables are almost done, I toss in some chicken.  Holy cow!  So good.  That’s been my dinner several times this past week.
  4. Blackberries.  I’ve never been a big fan of berries aside from blueberries and strawberries.  The crazy thing is that I was in the store recently, saw blackberries, and thought they just looked so good.  Why is that when I’ve never really cared for them before?  Anyway, I picked some up and had some for a snack later.  Well, I am a reformed berry hater.  They are IMG_1523so good!  And they’re really good for you too–lots of antioxidants to fight cell damage.  I just have to be careful to eat them in moderation because, as with all fruit, blackberries are sugar.  You know how your body stores excess sugar?  As fat.  Yep.

So who says healthy eating has to be boring?!  Who needs pizza when you can eat squash?!

 

Talk to me:

What are your favorite foods/meals at the moment?

Care to share a favorite healthy recipe?  Leave it in the comments for all to enjoy.

Having Christmas and Eating Too

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas around here.  See?  img_1356Everything’s brown, a sure sign of winter in Oklahoma.  But a wreath on the door helps to make all that brown feel a bit more festive.img_1357

We’ve officially entered the holiday season; I just attended my first Christmas party, and I find my thoughts turning to Christmas of 2013.  It was the img_1361first holiday season I’d encountered on my weight loss journey.  I thought about all the Christmas parties with all their delectable treats that only come around once a year but have enough calories to choke a horse.  I thought about Christmas dinner.  Everything tastes so amazingly good, but if Christmas dinner is anything like Thanksgiving dinner, every food is either brown or yellow, not the best choices for healthy eating.  I had been consistently losing weight.  I was motivated to make healthy changes, and I was terrified of gaining weight.  How was I going to be sociable at the parties and Christmas gatherings without gaining back all that weight I’d lost? It was like going into a final exam.  I had to put to the test everything I’d learned about healthy eating and losing weight.  Could I do it?  Maybe this could be the year that Santa skipped Christmas?  Please…?

Maybe you find yourself in that pickle this year.  You’ve made some healthy choices, maybe even lost some weight, but the thought of all the holiday food threatens to derail all your good choices.  With the holiday season in full swing, I thought I’d give you some tips that have carried me through 3 holiday seasons now with no weight gain.

  1.  Have realistic goals.  Being realistic in weight loss goals is probably one of the most important things I did to lose weight, and when it comes to the holidays, being realistic is even more important.  My goal every year is not to lose weight between Thanksgiving and New Year but to just MAINTAIN my weight.  Realistically, I’m going to want to eat at parties and Christmas dinner.  But if I can manage to somehow avoid the weight gain that seems inevitable this time of year, I’ll be happy.
  2. Remember that you are empowered.  YOU control what you put in your mouth.  That second slice of pumpkin pie piled high with whipped cream may be calling your name, but it has NO control over you.  You alone decide if you’re going to eat it or not.
  3. Ration your calories.  When I know that I’m going to a party or have a holiday meal coming up, I eat wisely during the rest of the day.  I think of my calories as a bank account of sorts.  I have a predetermined number of calories to use for the day.  I know at that Christmas party or dinner that I will probably be using up more calories than normal, so to make sure I don’t “overdraw” my account, or eat more calories than I need, I choose very low calorie foods for the rest of the day, like salads and fresh fruits and vegetables.  And don’t forget to drink your water!
  4. Make the best choices possible.  When it comes to what you’re going to eat at that holiday gathering, make the best choices possible.  Is there a salad or a green vegetable?  Opt for larger portions of that over sweet potatoes swimming in brown sugar and marshmallows.  Do you have a choice of turkey or ham?  Go for white meat turkey.  It has a lower fat content.  Think about portion size.  Small amounts of the things you love but know are bad for you, AKA those sweet potatoes loaded with sugar, may be just enough to satisfy your taste without totally wrecking your health plan.
  5. Skip the gravy and whipped cream.  It’s easy for me to say “skip the gravy”since I’m not a big fan of gravy, but gravy is loaded with calories.  Whipped cream is a bit tougher to say no to, but when I think about how delicious my dessert tastes even without that pile of calories masquerading as total yumminess, I’ll let it go in a heartbeat.
  6. Get some kind of physical activity every day.  Even during Christmas, you ask?  YES!  Even during Christmas!  Go for a walk.  It’s a great way to enjoy your neighbors’ outdoor Christmas decorations.  You don’t have to spend an hour in the gym, but keep yourself moving.  Believe me, you’ll feel better for it.
  7. Enjoy yourself!  Last but not least, enjoy the holiday gatherings.  Don’t get so hung up on watching calories and your weight that you totally miss out on the fun.  Be sensible.  Make healthy choices.  Eat in moderation.  Be active.  But at the end of the day, if you find that you’ve eaten more than you intended or had things that you know are not good for you, remember that this does not mean the end of your health plan.  Tomorrow’s a new day.  Be determined to make good choices.  Stay away from holiday leftovers, remember your goals, and keep on going.  You can do it!

Here’s to a happy and healthy Christmas!

Talk to me:

What Christmas traditions do you have?

What will you do to make healthy choices this holiday season?

When You Just Gotta Have Pizza!

I don’t know about you, but sometimes I just need really want a slice of pizza.  You know?  All that cheesy goodness and pepperoni.  Yum!  Yep, I love a good pizza!

But when I became conscious of exactly what I was eating, I decided that maybe all that yumminess wasn’t really worth it.  If you’ve been following my weight loss story, you know that I live by the rule of “I choose NOT to have it.”  I can have it if I want, but I’m choosing NOT do.  Big difference between that and I CAN’T have it.  I mean, all that grease will just make me feel sluggish and gross not to mention all the work it will take to rid my body of those calories.  I did a quick internet search on how many calories are in a slice of pizza.  I found estimates ranging from 230 calories per slice to over 400 calories–per slice!  And I don’t know about you, but I usually want at least 2 slices of pizza, right?  Holy cow!  Those 2 slices of pizza would take up almost half of my daily calorie budget right there!  And let’s not even talk about the fat and sodium content…yikes!

So sometimes I decide to spend my calories on pizza, but most of the time it’s not worth it to me.  But, I still love the taste of pizza!  That’s why I invented a way to have my pizza and eat it too–Pizza Quesadilla!

What you need:

Whole wheat flour tortillas (I like low carb tortillas)

Pizza sauce003

Turkey pepperoni (or you could use turkey sausage, chicken, whatever pizza toppings you like)

Cheese

Onions, mushrooms, peppers, etc.

Here’s what you do:

  1.  Place a tortilla in a non-stick skillet over medium heat.
  2. Spread pizza sauce on half the tortilla.  It will only take about 2 teaspoons.004
  3. Place toppings on top of the pizza sauce.
  4.  Sprinkle with a small amount of cheese.006
  5.  Fold the tortilla so that the “clean” half of the tortilla covers the toppings.007
  6. Let the quesadilla brown.  Flip and brown on the other side.008
  7. Voila!  Pizza for about 150 calories and 6 grams of fat (depending on toppings).009

So there you go.  Let me know what you think.  Could this be a potential substitute for pizza for you?

Talk to me:

What other ways have you tried to “healthy up” pizza?

What’s a recipe you invented?

 

Staying the Course

Confession’s good for the soul, right?  Hopefully, it’s also good for the waist line.  Yup, I have a confession to make.  Well, kind of a confession.  I haven’t murdered anyone, or anything like that, so just relax.

Sometimes I use my cat as a pillow.

001Just kidding.  That’s not my confession.

Ok, seriously.  Here goes.  I have been craving chocolate and junk food like crazy lately…and battling like crazy to not give in.  What gives?  I thought I had this licked.

It takes me back to the point of being within 5 or 10 pounds of my goal weight a couple of years ago.  Seeing the number on the scale go down was huge motivation for me to make those healthy choices, and for the most part, I could choose healthy without too much trouble.

But when I got closer to my goal weight, I began to feel myself wanting to return to my old habits of snacking on things that weren’t good for me.  It was like I began to relax.  I’d reached my goal; now I could let things get back to normal.

But then I remembered.  Healthy IS the new normal!  Yes, my goal was weight loss, but more than that, my goal was PERMANENT weight loss and health.  I didn’t want to lose the weight only to gain it back.  That had been my MO for so many years, and I was done with it.  I realized that the choices I’d made–forgoing donuts and potato chips for apples and salad and trading in my couch potato status for that of runner–were not just temporary choices to reach a temporary goal.  I was in this for the long haul.  These are lifestyle choices, meant to continue from now until the cows come home.

So I’m a little frustrated that I’m battling these unhealthy cravings at the moment.  But I’m also encouraged that while I have had some chocolate, I have not fully given in to my cravings.  These last few years have given me the tools I need to stay the course.

I’m back in that spot of identifying my triggers.  What’s happening that’s causing me to want junk food, especially when I know how yucky it will make me feel?  The big trigger right now is fatigue.  Working night shift takes a toll on me because I don’t sleep well during the day, so after working a couple of consecutive shifts, it takes a while to get caught back up on my sleep.  I know that being tired makes me want bad-for-me things.  So knowing that, I’ve just been telling myself, “Girl [yes, I really call myself “girl”!], you’re just tired.  That’s why you want to eat everything in sight.  You don’t need it.  It’s not good for you.”  And strangely, that gives me strength to pass it by.

Because ultimately, I know that the choices I’ve made are part of a lifestyle I’m able to live with and that I WANT to live out.  I don’t want to go back to junk food and feeling sluggish.  I like being active and energetic and finding adventure in life.  That’s what helps me stay the course.

So to those cravings of chocolate and Cheetos…so long!  Who needs you?  I’ve got my hands over my ears, and I’m not listening to you.

009

Talk to me:

What are you craving at the moment?

How do you deal with cravings?