Eating in Real Life

A few weeks ago, postpartum hormones had me feeling a bit down. And I realized that I was semiconsciously getting depressed by comparing myself to bloggers I follow online. Guess what? Their lives aren’t my life, so comparing is pointless and painful.

In the spirit of being real, I have two shares today. First, here is a real meal from our house last week.

Call it Good Dinner

Pictured: two different kinds of pasta that I needed to finish boxes of, jarred spaghetti sauce, a random salad, and breadsticks I froze back and Halloween (hence the “bone” shape).

Not every dinner is scratch made at pretty much anyone’s house. And that is ok. We have a couple nights a week that are a little bit hairy at dinner around here. So I have to schedule things that are easier and faster. But that doesn’t mean I can’t make them as healthy as possible.

For this dinner, I sautéed onions, bell pepper, and carrots that I cooked into the sauce. I also threw in some Italian sausage. I love having big bags of Costco produce, so I can always at least have a salad at dinner. And when I make breadsticks, I always make a big batch if not a double big batch so I can freeze them. Then whole wheat bread is a few minutes in the oven away. Little planning and additions make the difference.

My second share is an unsponsored product review. Quaker doesn’t even know I exist to sponsor a post. Although I do admit to hearing about these in a sponsored post elsewhere. When I saw them on sale last week, I decided to try a couple to tell you guys about.

Quacker Overnight Oats

Quaker has a new(ish) product of these individual overnight oats containers. There is a fill line on the container. Put in milk (or a nondairy milk substitute) to the line, put in the fridge at night, and you have breakfast in the morning. Here’s what it looks like when you pull it out in the morning.

Quacker Overnight Oats

I got two flavors: Blueberry Banana Vanilla Bliss and Toasted Coconut Almond Crunch. My husband and I both ended up heating ours up, which is optional. My husband is a warm oatmeal eater. I wanted to try mine both ways. We both thought it took longer than suggested 30 seconds in the microwave. We both thought they tasted fine. But at the sale price of $1.50, to us, it isn’t worth it. We can make something as good or better on our own. It is fast and the taste is good. But I’ve posted before how you could make your own breakfast that is similar. Just without a cute container. A little more effort in measuring, but I think the overall taste and texture is worth it. Would I judge you if you bought these? Absolutely not! It’s a healthy breakfast. Go for it!

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Chicken and Wild Rice Soup

When I was in college, the food court had these amazing bread bowls with soup. My favorite was on Wednesdays – Chicken and Wild Rice Soup. It was delicious soup made even more delicious when it would soak into the bread bowl. (Why can I remember what soup they served on what day but I can’t remember what I’m doing once I walk into a room?)

I’ve searched for soup like it and never really found it. I figured it was nostalgia’s fault – I just remembered it being super amazing. But then I tried this recipe. It is even better than I remember the other soup being, which is saying something. Even better, it doesn’t take long to make. Since they are forecasting several inches of snow and ice tomorrow at my house, I will probably be making this to warm up. Enjoy!

Chicken and Wild Rice Soup (Serves 6)

Chicken and Wild Rice Soup

5 bacon slices, chopped
1 medium onion, chopped
1 cup thinly sliced carrot
1 cup thinly sliced celery
1 tsp dried thyme
4 cloves garlic, minced
4 cups low sodium chicken broth
1 cup water
4 cups lightly packed chopped kale or other dark leafy green
½ teaspoon black pepper
6 ounces shredded cooked chicken breast
2 cups cooked wild rice
1 cup nonfat half and half
⅓ cup all-purpose flour

1. Heat a large pot over medium-high heat. Add bacon; cook until crisp. Remove from pan, draining on paper towels. Reserve 1 tablespoon of bacon drippings in pot, discard the rest.
2. Add onion, carrot, and celery. Saute 3-5 minutes, until they begin to soften. Add garlic, cook 2 minutes more. Add chicken broth and water. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer 8 minutes.
3. Add kale, salt, pepper, chicken and rice. Cook 3 more minutes. .
4. Combine half-and-half and flour in a small bowl. Stir into soup. Cook until thickened, about 2-5 minutes. Stir in bacon and serve.

Nutritional Information (Amount per serving):

Calories: 292
Protein: 17 g
Fat: 13 g
Saturated Fat: 4 g
Cholesterol: 36 mg
Carbohydrates: 29 g
Fiber: 3 g
Sodium: 150 mg

Recipe notes: In the soup pictured above, I used spinach because that is what I had on hand. I’ve also used kale. Whatever leafy green you like and have on hand works here. I have also substituted evaporated milk for the half and half with good results.

Source: adapted from Cooking Light

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What’s Saving My (Health) Life Right Now

It’s already February! And today marks the halfway point of winter. Woo hoo! We can do this.

How are your resolutions going? I heard someone say recently they love February because we can all get over our resolutions and talk about sweets again. I hope you aren’t in the camp because your resolutions are truly LIFESTYLE changes that you want to keep always.

Anne Bogel, on modernmrsdarcy.com, starts a discussion every year on this date about things “saving our lives”. It is easy, especially in dreary winter months, to focus on all the things going wrong. I had a day like that yesterday. To combat the negativity, it is important to focus instead on the things going right and making our days/weeks/lives better. I love this idea. I actually started my list a couple weeks ago when I was having a rough time. It made a huge difference in my attitude.

Baby Grins that Save My LIfe

This baby girl and her sweet grins are definitely saving my life. Today, I’m sharing 6 things that are saving my life in the aspects of nutrition/health/cooking.

1) Amazon Prime music playlists. I recently made my own playlist on Prime (something I didn’t know I could do). It is all my favorite workout songs. Now, I get excited to exercise and get pumped up during my video when a new song I like comes on.

2) Costco produce. I usually don’t buy many fruits and vegetables at Costco. My family isn’t very big, so I feel like we waste it. But it has helped me make better food choices lately. It’s magic. I can eat more vegetables at lunch when I have lots of salad ingredients or carrots around.

3) Smoothies. Part of how I’ve been using up all that produce is smoothies. I drink a smoothie for breakfast pretty much every morning lately. It helps me rehydrate after my workout. I can drink it while I feed my baby or tidy up the house a bit, so I can multi-task more. My current go to mix: frozen berries, milk or water to thin, banana, greek yogurt or an instant breakfast packet, spinach, baby cucumber. Yum!

4) Treat days. One of my resolutions this year was to only eat treats on two days a week. I’m not going to lie. This is not particularly easy sometimes. But I REALLY enjoy my treats on days I’m allowed them. And I find I’m eating a little less random stuff. When it is a treat day, I know EXACTLY what I want to eat. I’m not just scavenging random candy or fruit snacks I don’t even like from the cupboard.

5) Healthy snacks. To get through my non-treat days, I do allow myself to snack. Yogurt, popcorn, and trail mix (nuts, dried berries, and yogurt chips) are my go-to’s that help me satisfy my cravings without going crazy.

6) Pressure cooker. I am not cool and have an Instant Pot. I’d love one, but my stove-top pressure cooker works well enough I can’t justify that big of a purchase. But it makes food SO fast, which is helpful as our evenings seem to be busy lately. Rice, beans, soup, and chicken are some of my favs right now. I’ll be sharing recipes soon.

What’s saving your life right now, nutrition or otherwise? Share in the comments!

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Apple Tahini Toast

Eating breakfast is a common resolution people make when trying to eat healthier. For most of us, it is a good idea. Skipping breakfast can lead to overeating later in the day as we get overly hungry. It helps wake us up and give us energy we need for the day to get going.

The big problem most people have is having time. This Mediterranean diet inspired breakfast is super fast but still delicious. Tahini is a paste made out of sesame seeds (think peanut butter to peanuts). It’s really delicious and is a major ingredient in hummus. Try it and you will be surprised at how good it is. If you can’t find it, you could substitute your favorite nut butter here.

Enjoy!

Apple Tahini Toast (Serves 1, easy to make more)

Apple Tahini Toast

1 slice whole wheat bread or 1 whole wheat English muffin
1 ½ tablespoons tahini
½ apple, sliced
1 teaspoon honey

1. Lightly toast bread or English muffin.
2. Spread tahini over bread. Top with apple slices.
3. Drizzle with honey. Enjoy!

Nutritional Information: (toast)

Calories: 278
Protein: 8 g
Fat: 13 g
Saturated Fat: 2 g
Cholesterol: 0 mg
Carbohydrates: 36 g
Fiber: 6 g
Sodium: 168 mg

Nutritional Information: (muffin)

Calories: 337
Protein: 10 g
Fat: 14 g
Saturated Fat: 2 g
Cholesterol: 0 mg
Carbohydrates: 50 g
Fiber: 9 g
Sodium: 269 mg

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Mediterranean Diet and Mental Health

Well, you know how I’m always saying not to give up if you slip up on your resolutions? That’s why I’m here! I had the goal to post every week this year…and I missed last week. I’m sorry. It was crazy. But I was doing lots of nutrition thinking.

I had the opportunity to speak at a community event on mental health, specifically on nutrition and mental health. That is a pretty broad way to look at things. For example, eating a cookie seems like it would be good for my mental health when my kids are being crazy in the afternoon. Anyone else?

My focus was more on clinical mental health issues. Turns out, research in both depression and Alzheimer’s disease has shown some benefit to a Mediterranean diet. Overall, the research just shows that a “healthy” diet is good for our brains. Surprising, I know. But the Mediterranean diet has done well in several studies I found and is a generally accepted healthy eating plan. I thought I’d highlight some points of this diet plan today.

1) Primarily a plant based diet. Think whole grains, beans, fruits, vegetables, nuts. This is NOT a low carb diet. But it does steer away from refined sugars.

2) Focus on healthy fats, particularly olive oil, avocados, and nuts. This is NOT a low fat diet. But research in several areas has shown that a diet high in fat BUT high in healthy fats is good for us.

3) Eat fish at least twice a week. Eat little red meat, focusing more on fish and poultry. Fatty fish, such as salmon, mackerel, albacore tuna, and arctic char, are great for our heart and circulation. Avoid fried fish.

4) Get plenty of exercise. This has immediate benefits for your mental well being as it releases endorphins that make you feel good.

5) Enjoy meals with friends and family. Slow down and savor your food and the dining experience. Often, you can find that you eat less when you eat more slowly. Just be careful to not slow down and sit at the table SO long that you keep taking seconds, thirds, etc.

6) Optional: drink red wine in moderation. Some health benefits have been shown with drinking nor more than 5 ounces of wine per day. However, most health professionals do not encourage ADDING drinking to your diet. Just drink with a purpose if you already do drink.

Below are some Mediterranean diet friendly recipes from this site. I’ll be back tomorrow with a simple breakfast idea. Enjoy!

Baba Ganoush
Baba Ganoush

Hummus Pasta
Hummus Pasta

Grilled Salmon
Grilled Salmon

Fish Tacos with Spicy Slaw
Fish Tacos with Spicy Slaw

Roasted Red Pepper Hummus
Hummus Variations

Chicken Shawarma
Chicken Shawarma

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Slow Cooker Overnight Oatmeal

How are your health resolutions going? Are you going strong or have you fallen off the bandwagon already? No shame either way. I’ve met some of my goals, slipped at others. Here’s the thing I think most people forget: it is a goal for ALL of 2018. So if it takes until December 31 to do it, that is 100% ok.

My #1 advice I can give you if things aren’t going so well is to TRY AGAIN! But before trying again, think about what went wrong. For me, I often make really good goals then don’t set myself up for success. For example, I wanted to eat more vegetables at lunch. But then didn’t buy anything. Oops! So now I bought a bunch of salad stuff that is really easy to throw together at lunch or into my smoothie at breakfast. Magic! I’m eating more vegetables.

Another tip to succeeding is to move decisions from a hard time to an easy time. For example, if you made a resolution to eat breakfast, help yourself out and make things ahead of time. Then, when it is morning and you are rushed and busy it is easy to eat rather than easy to skip it.

This overnight oatmeal is great for that. You mix it and put it in the slow cooker before you go to bed. Then you have warm, healthy breakfast waiting when you get up. This is great for families with a variety of schedules because everyone can just grab some when it is convenient. Just don’t forget to plug in the slow cooker like I did once. That leads to frowns in the morning.

Slow Cooker Overnight Oatmeal (Serves 4-6)

(Sorry no pic right now. Life happens a lot in the morning at my house.)

¾ cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 cup steel cut oats
3 cups skim milk
1 cup water

1. In a glass bowl, mix ingredients.
2. Place bowl inside slow cooker. Pour enough water around bowl up as high as the oatmeal mixture.
3. Cover and cook on low for 8 hours.
4. Stir and serve.

Nutrient Analysis (amount per serving):

Calories: 198
Protein: 6 gm
Fat: 1 gm
Saturated Fat: less than 1 gm
Cholesterol: 3 mg
Carbohydrates: 43 gm
Fiber: 2 gm
Sodium: 60 mg

Recipe Notes: It does HAVE to be steel cut oats. I have used the Coach’s oats from Costco, which work well. You could mix everything straight in the slow cooker. However, it is likely to burn/stick to the sides and bottom and be somewhat difficult to clean. Putting it in the bowl keeps that mess from happening. Also, I think it is a gentler cook in the bowl. So I have cooked mine for longer than 8 hours and it is fine.

Variation: Peach Oatmeal

Add in 2 large peaches, sliced (about 2 cups) or 28-ounce can sliced peaches in juice, drained; 1 teaspoon ginger; 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg; and 1 teaspoon vanilla.

Nutrient Analysis (amount per serving):

Calories: 222
Protein: 6 gm
Fat: 1 gm
Saturated Fat: less than 1 gm
Cholesterol: 3 mg
Carbohydrates: 48 gm
Fiber: 2 gm
Sodium: 60 mg

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New Year and I’m back…again

Friends. So sorry for the long hiatus again. I’m sort of perennially working on a menu project that someday I’ll be super excited to share with you. And then I had a baby and being a mom of 3 has rocked my world. It’s all good things, but means I’m struggling to get over here to share recipes and tips.

But it’s a new year and my resolution is to post here at least once a week. And in the spirit of resolutions, here are some thoughts on health related resolutions.

1) Have your heard of Gretchen Rubin’s Four Tendencies? It is a framework for seeing how you relate to changing behavior. If you haven’t taken the easy quiz to find out your tendency, you should check it out here. It will you help you actually achieve your resolutions this year.

2) Try to make your resolutions specific enough to measure but broad enough to help you succeed. Here’s what I mean. Don’t say “lose 20 pounds”. That is super specific and there is only 1 way to succeed. On the inverse, “eat more vegetables” is too broad. How do you measure that? Try: Get 2 servings of vegetables at lunch 3 days a week. Specific enough to measure but broad enough that you can have a couple off days or slip ups while still succeeding.

3) Keep overall health and sustainability in mind. One of my friends started a weight loss journey in December that she is chronicling on social media. She had some great success immediately after a week long juice fast. Now as she is back to eating food, her weight loss has stalled. So she is going back to the juice fast. While I don’t think she is going to do any permanent damage, she should try to focus on food and a pattern that is sustainable while losing weight. It may not be fast. But even if she isn’t losing weight, the exercise and healthy food should make her feel better and is better for her body. Keep those ideas in mind.

4) Slow and steady wins the race. As I mentioned with my friend above, achieving health related goals is rarely a quick process. But if you keep at it, you will feel better. You may not succeed in 1 week or even 1 month. But keep on keeping on. If you slip up, laugh it off and try again the next day.

Good luck and I’ll be back next week with a recipe!

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