Thursday, April 28, 2011

The Rule of the Belly

It was an unladylike, multi-napkin lunch at Moe's for me today.  I know, pick up your jaws from the floor, pregnancy makes you do some wacky things!  Today, it was a burrito.  Not only did I need one, I needed one bad, with real sour cream and lots of it.  It would not, could not, should not be ignored.

Remember how I told you that I gained 75 lbs in my first pregnancy?  Sour cream had a lot to do with that experience.  I just could not get enough!  I ate tacos for three weeks straight, no lie.  Well, this time around I am going about things with a little more restraint so I'm working hard to strike a balance between giving in to pregnancy cravings and not eating like a vacuum cleaner.

So, I pulled up Moe's website and went straight to the Nutrition Calculator so I could find exactly what I wanted - because you know pregnant ladies need exactly what they crave - without eating 900 calories just in lunch. It was perfect.  I was able to satisfy my craving and get out of there under 500 calories.  A little more than I would typically spend on a lunch, but the beast has been fed!

I have a firm belief that pregnancy cravings should not be ignored.  There is some weird reason why we need bagels with cream cheese and cool ranch chips sprinkled on top (saw that one online) or a specifically specific brand of ketchup to go on our grilled cheese sandwiches (no I do not want to eat that...yet).  Who knows why it happens, but I've learned the hard way not to try and reason with a baby.

But, I apply the same three rules to pregnancy cravings as I do regular ones:

1. Stall. I've gotten through many a craving by telling myself I could have it tomorrow, a day that never comes.  "Oooh, a brownie sounds good.  Maybe I'll have one tomorrow."  Most of the time by the next day I am not as interested anymore.  But when a craving keeps tapping you on the shoulder for a few days, move to rule #2...

2. Go get it.  Get exactly, precisely what you want or you will just eat around it, circling closer and closer until finally you cave in and eat it, and by which time you have now eaten way more calories than you would have had you just eaten what you wanted in the first place!  Which is why you should....

3. Manage the portion.  I didn't get a ginormous burrito today, I got a small one and I made it work with the rest of my day.  I knew it had to have sour cream, so I skipped shredded cheese to save calories.  Go get what you want - exactly what you want - but manage the portion and make compromises on the stuff that doesn't matter so it doesn't wreck your day.

I love the fact that I was able to get what I wanted today and still keep my day healthy.  Cause who knows what I will want to eat tomorrow. :)

Good day!

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Healthy Snacks for Kids

Okay, yesterday I gave you my five fundamentals of raising a healthy eater, and today I have some recipes to try at home.  Now, let me just tell you now that I am not a chef. I prepare food. Just want to manage that expectation. :) I keep food verrrry simple and use as few ingredients as possible. 

Stuff I Make
Ants on a Log (great for kids to help with!)
Slice one apple and add about 1 tsp of freshly ground peanut or almond butter on each slice. Then place three or four raisins on the peanut/almond butter
*Make sure that your PB is all natural, preferably fresh ground. You can usually grind it yourself at Fresh Market or Earth Fare, or ask your grocery store deli. Smuckers also makes a good all-natural PB.

Pita Pizza
Using one half of an Arnold's 100% Whole Wheat Sandwich Thin, Ezekiel English Muffin, or whole wheat pita, put about 1-2 tbsp of all-natural tomato sauce.  I usually use Classico or Prego All-Natural. Add 1 thin slice of Boar's Head Pepperoni, sliced at your grocery deli, and add a little more than a pinch of mozzarella cheese. Bake at 350 for about 5-8 minutes.

Turkey Quesadilla
I bake a boneless turkey breast each week and use it for salads and sandwiches. It's healthier and cheaper than deli meat.  You can use some of it for this!
Using one Toufayan Low-carb Wrap, spread about two tablespoons of plain, nonfat Greek yogurt over half.  Then scatter about 3 oz of shredded baked turkey over that, and sprinkle on about 1/3 cup of shredded cheese (I usually use cheddar because that's what I have).  Add some chili powder (just a little, it is for the kids after all), fold it over, and bake at 350 for about 10 minutes.  Slice into little triangles and serve warm.  I have to keep from eating all of these.

Sweet and Salty Trail Mix
This is great for throwing into a container during errands.
1/2 cup Annie's Homegrown Bunny Grahams
1/2 cup Annie's Homegrown Cheddar Bunnies
1/4 cup raisins
1/4 cup unsalted sunflower seeds

Mix it all up and portion it out. Just watch the portions because this is easy to eat a lot of.

I also visit The Gracious Pantry for oodles of recipes (she is much more skilled than I).

Stuff I Buy
I try not to buy a lot of packaged snacks, but it's hard to avoid sometimes.  When I do, I always read the ingredients to make sure that what I am buying is just as good as what I could make at home. Also, check out my Simple Swaps for Clean Eating for a reminder that just about anything you like to eat has a healthier option.

Chobani Champions Yogurt  
Just about anything from Barbara's Bakery
Fruit.  Just plain old fruit.  It's pretty awesome.

Unhealthy eating is just not necessary anymore as it's becoming easier to find affordable alternatives for the things we used to think we had to give up to eat clean. Don't assume your kids want junk food, and don't assume that there isn't a way to healthify it when they do!  Just look at the basic ingredients and challenge yourself to find a healthier alternative...if I can do it, so can you!

Bon appetit!

Monday, April 25, 2011

How to train your eat clean

When my son started eating solid food, I renewed my commitment to clean eating.  Adults make decisions all day about what to eat, but kids pretty much have to eat what they're given. Okay, we all know that doesn't exactly happen all of the time, but I figured that I'd get a head start on getting him to be a healthy eater before he learned how to say, "that's gross," or "I hate {insert name of food}."  Anyway, along the way, I came up with some fundamental truths about raising a clean eater.  I'll share them with you here, and if you have any to add please let me know!  We're all in this healthy-kids thing together.

1. Manage the expectations.  Food is marketed to kids as being fun, but as soon as we start expecting food to be anything other than fuel to get from Point A to Point B, we start developing emotional eating patterns that benefit no one.  You can leverage that by not creating the expectation that food is going to be a party in their mouth.  How?  Explain the function food instead of building it up to be an experience.  I was shocked the day that I heard my son tell someone that "chocolate won't fill you up," and then realized it was because I say it a lot at my house!  I also spend time explaining that he needs to eat his turkey sandwich so he can build strong muscles and eat his apple so he has energy to play, instead of telling him to eat it because it's good for him or because I said so.  A snack is something to eat because your body needs food.  It's not a game or a hobby.

2. Keep it real. Limit processed foods and avoid fast food altogether.  Pretty much anything your family likes to eat can be made healthier if you take the time to read package labels and find a more suitable version of what you want, and in the process you'll be teaching them to expect fresh ingredients and flavor.  The less processed junk your kids eat now, the better their chances for not wanting to eat it as they get older.  Besides, you don't need it either, which brings to me fundamental numero three...

3. Model healthy behavior.  We all know that kids learn way more from what they see us do than from what they hear us say.  "Eat as I say and not as I eat," is no good for anyone and will just make your kids ignore and resent your suggestions.

4. Let them help and eat with them.  I've found that my son is much more likely to try something new when he helped me make it.  This completely backfired on me when we made a veggie lasagna together, but pita pizzas and ants on a log have been great hits.  I also make sure to serve some out for myself and eat with him, and I think it helps drive home the idea we're in this healthy thing together.

5. Never use food as a reward.  Ooooh, this is a tough one. It is so hard to keep myself from saying, "if you're good....." and promise a cookie, frozen yogurt, or whatever to guarantee 20 minutes of stress-free shopping (which, come on, never really happens).  It's so tempting, but trust me, it will only set them up for food issues down the road. Food is not a reward, or a treat, or a special occasion.  It is a tool that we use to keep our bodies going. Bribe them with something else. :)

As adults, we are conditioned to expect our food to be saturated with sweetness and flavor, and as a result our tastebuds are sometimes underwhelmed when we taste something natural for the first time.  Luckily, that changes pretty fast and we soon begin to wonder how we could possibly have eaten the processed crap we used to.  Hopefully, kids don't have to go through that because their taste buds are not yet in that state of sugar shock.  Take advantage of it and set your little genius up for a lfietime of healthy eating habits!

Tomorrow, healthy snacks to try with your kiddos.

Good day!

Friday, April 22, 2011

My ladder's new rung

The past few years have been like climbing an athletic ladder of awesome. The Ultimate Fitness Challenge, my first triathlon, a couple of half marathons, and a steady fine-tuning of my personal fitness into a place where I was having a lot of fun challening myself and doing what I love and ending each day completely used up and maxed out.  I've loved it!

But this year, I didn't do the Ultimate Fitness Challenge like I had hoped.  I didn't even register for the training camp like I had planned.  I didn't sign up for the Red Hills Triathlon, and the last time I ran more than 8 miles was the half marathon back in February.  My Turkey Trot goal this year is not a sub-90 minute 15k, but the 1-mile Gobbler...and that's just a maybe.  Why?

Because I'm running for two!

Yep, I've taken up residence in that wacky world of food cravings, undeniable fatigue, and purposeful weight gain!  My family and I are thrilled to be welcoming another little personality into our lives, and I am rolling with the punches of being a walking science experiment for the next six months. 

In my first pregnancy, I gained 75 lbs.  S-E-V-E-N-T-Y  F-I-V-E.  I knew that it was highly unlikely that I would give birth to the world's first 75-lb baby, and I hoped against reason that I was one of those women whose bodies just sprung back into their pre-baby shape after leaving the hospital.

I was not one of those women.

No, I sweated off every single one of those pounds, and then some, off over the course of about 18 months and ended up in the best shape of my life.  It was honorable, but it was a pain and this time I'd rather just not gain that much and skip to the fun part.  So I've been sticking to my workouts and eating as healthy as I can even with cravings for ham sandwiches and cake (not together, thankfully).

I'm really looking forward to this new rung on the ladder and seeing what happens.  So far, I've been able to strike a balance somewhere between being that perfectly fit pregnant woman that everyone secretly resents and being the total couch potato that I was last time.  It's a good place to be, and I hope I can enjoy it while it lasts.

It's hard to watch my gym buddies heave their way through challenging, sweaty workouts while I scale it back, but hey, that's where I am right now. And that's cool.

I'm totally gonna kick some Turkey Trot butt on that Gobbler.  :)

Good day!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Thoughts on Running While Not Running

I've been thinking a lot about running lately, specifically endurance running, more specifically ultrarunning.  If you're not familiar with ultrarunning or ultra-marathoning it's basically running for people who think a mere marathon is a yawn.  The distances vary, but it seems that the run of the mill ultrarunner is pretty familiar with the 100-mile distance. 

Running 100 miles. I just want to be clear because that boggles my brain.

It's been on my mind because the concept of impossibility has been on my mind.  And, because I just renewed my subscription to Runner's World and reading about it makes my head spin.

A few years ago, the thought of running a marathon was abhorrent to me.  I just could not fathom why I would want to do something like that.  But now, after doing two half marathons and hearing about marathon training from other mere mortals who have done several of them, it suddenly doesn't seem so impossible. In fact, I plan to run a marathon by 2013 and don't see any reason why that would not happen.

So now, ultrarunning is my new WTF??? HOW on EARTH can someone do that?  It makes me wonder if someday I will apply the same logic to ultrarunning that I once applied to marathons.  Never say never!

Anyway, I have two points to all of this rambling.  The first is how every time I read another story about an ultrarunner accomplishing some amazing feat, I think about all of the people who claim they can't even make it to a 30-minute Zumba class.  The second is how I really need to update my definition of impossible.  I used to think I would never run a marathon, but now I plan to.  What else did I used to think was ludicrous but is actually a perfectly reasonable expectation?

Bottom line is, I'm spending time this week thinking about what we think our bodies can do, what they can actually do, and the self-made gap that lies between.  

And next week I'll start working on ways to close it. :)   After all, I'm pretty sure even ultramarathoners get those kinds of things done one step at a time.

Good day!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Sugar: Who Needs It?

A friend sent me this video last week, and watching it was pretty scary because I could see myself being like one of these women someday...and I don't want to be either!

It's a spoof on the commercials expressing how high-frutose corn syrup really isn't bad for us at all, not any more than real sugar.  To the uneducated ear, it makes a perfectly sound argument.  But the truth is, even if is was the same as real sugar, we still don't need it in our diets because we don't need that much sugar.


We need glucose.  Glucose is a naturally-occuring sugar in fruits and vegetables that is necessary for energy and balanced nutrition.  But we do not need added sugar in our diets.  I promise.  I swear to you on a stack of apples that you can absolutely stop drinking sugar, putting sugar on your cereal, baking with as much sugar, or tricking yourself into thinking that because it is expensive or fancy-sounding it's an okay sugar.  Agave is sugar. Honey is sugar. Sugar in the Raw is sugar.  And sugar don't like you.

If you don't believe me, read what some scientists said about it.

And then, test your sugar IQ with this quiz.

And then cut out the sugar.

Bye, sugar!

Monday, April 11, 2011

Sugar: Knock it out in 4 steps


Some people say it's the devil.  I have been one of those people!  Truth is, when you've got sugar cravings or you're trying to reduce it in your nutrition, it can definitely feel like you're fighting a losing battle.  But rest assured, it can be done and is well worth it.  It's not easy, it's NOT EASY.
It. Is. Not. Easy.  Seriously.  But it is sooooo worth it.
Here's how:

1. Know your sugar. Sugar goes by many names, and lurks in just about every processed food, even clean products.  We have gotten so conditioned to expect sweet foods in our society that sometimes sugar is one of the first few ingredients listed.  Since ingredients are listed in order of quantity, this is a huge tip-off.  Look at the ingredients and the nutrition label to see what kinds of sugar are in the food and how many grams. 

2. Do the mental work. Getting off sugar is mostly mental. You will crave it, but that's just your brain wanting it.  You don't need processed sugar.  You just want it.  Luckily, in the next step, we can change that.

3. Re-train your tastebuds. It doesn't take as long as you think, but give it a few days or maybe a week for your tongue to get used to the taste of food without added sugar.  Expect your tongue to turn into an angry toddler at first, kicking and screaming for the sugar it knows and loves. Cut it some slack, it didn't know you were going to do this!  But once you break it's will and it realizes who is in charge, it will grow up and begin to like the actual taste of real food.  Trust me, this is a hard step but it doesn't take long.

4. Notice the difference between sweet and sugar.  Our tastebuds are conditioned for astronomical levels of sweetness.  If you eat a traditional baked good after a few weeks of not having processed sugar you'll be shocked at how saturated it is with sweetness.  But, plenty of food is naturally sweet without added sugar!  Eventually, these naturally sweet foods will become your base and your tastebuds will recognize them as all you need to satisfy your sweet tooth.

The next time you have a sugar craving, stop and ask yourself whether it is sweet or sugar that you really want.  Eat a mango, a handful of strawberries, or mix some fresh blueberries into plain greek yogurt.  Give your tastebuds a chance to appreciate the difference, they're smarter than you think!

Good day!

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Friday, April 8, 2011

Simple Swaps for Clean Eating

Back in the day, if you wanted to eat clean it meant spending a lot of time in the kitchen preparing your own food from scratch and at times, even deciding to sacrifice eating some foods because there just wasn't a healthy alternative.  Sure, supermarket shelves have long been stocked with food that seemed healthy, but now we know that when cookies have suddenly become "sugar-free," that it's because a whole bunch of other stuff has been added to make sure they still taste good.  In this case, "stuff" is code for "not food."  Not food means not healthy.

But now, eating clean is much more maintstream and as a result, more products are available on the market to make it easier for families to do it without having to become farmers. Here are some of my simple swaps for food that you and your kids probably like to eat and can still enjoy in a clean eating household.

My kid likes: Fruit chews. But they are just a bunch of processed sugar!
Instead, I buy him Annie's Organic Bunny Fruit Snacks  Still a bunch of sugar, but it's real sugar. I'll take real sugar over manufacutured any day.

My kid likes: Cereal bars. But the list of ingredients reads like a most-wanted list of chemicals and additives.
Instead, I buy him Barbara's Bakery Fruit and Yogurt Bars.  They're great for school lunches.

My kid likes: Macaroni and Cheese. And seriously, who doesn't?  But I want to make him macaroni and cheese, not macaroni product.
So I buy him Annie's Macaroni and Cheese and he loves it.  I used to puree a bag of mixed vegetables and mix it in but he doesn't fall for that anymore.  Hey, I tried!

And the final simple swap is something I like to eat: sweet potato fries!  I really love sweet potatoes and I love ketchup, so sweet potato fries are a definite crave.  I have never been successful at making them myself, so I was thrilled when I found Ian's Natural Sweet Potato Fries in my freezer section.  They're easy, fast, and taste great. 

Naturally, the best way to eat clean is to stick with the most pure food you can: fruits, veggies, lean meats, and homemade bread.  But if you don't live alone and have a lot of time on your hands, it's great to know there are products out there that can bring clean eating to your kitchen without your family wanting to stage an intervention on you.  If these products are not in your grocery store, especially if you live in a Sabotage City, ask for them!

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Sabotage City On the MOVE!

Mississippi in Motion is a 12-week program
focused on healthier lifestyles.
 On Monday I lamented about my frustration after a visit to what I call a "sabotage city": a place where even with education about how to live a healthy lifestyle, lack of access to a variety of healthy food products sabotages its residents and keeps them locked down in a cycle of obesity and disease.

Then, yesterday I saw this video on Twitter.  It shares the news of a health campaign called Mississippi in Motion, which aims to increase the health of Mississippi residents through education and events around the state to promote wellness.  If you're a Mississippi resident, as many of my close friends are, please check it out!

And if you don't live in Mississippi, send it to someone who does or someone who knows someone who does. 

Sabotage Cities are everywhere, and I know this is only a drop in the bucket in what we can do about them, but it's better than what I had on Monday!

Please share this!

Good day!

Monday, April 4, 2011

Sabotage City!

A couple of things occurred over the weekend that made me think a lot about access to healthy resources in our communities.  The first was was bantering with the friend of a friend on Facebook about obesity being a product of miseducation rather than personal choices, and the second was traveling across the south to visit my bestest girlfriends in semi-rural Mississippi.

My friend's friend made the assertion that obesity is less the fault of someone making destructive choices than the fault of the community at large for demonizing being overweight and not educating people about how to be healthy. I disagreed.  While education is important, ultimately it is the hand-to-mouth actions that we each take as independent adults that influence our weight, and it doesn't take an advanced degree to figure out that the path to wellness is not paved with doughnuts.  He countered that we should accept our country as a population of overeaters and overweight people.  I was incredulous.

Then I ventured outside of my insulated, utopic, upper-middle class environment and realized that I am a lucky, lucky lady.  I live in a community with at least three organic grocery stores, multiple weekly farmer's markets, health food stores and restaurants, and whole grain/gluten free/vegan/everything else you can imagine products on the shelves of my corner grocery store.  As I walked the aisles of a grocery store in this affluent north Mississippi community, it was very challenging to find products that met my personal standards for nutrition. Instead, I was surrounded by high-sugar, overly-processed, preservative-laden food...and the parents who buy it for their kids because they just don't have any other choice.  They live in a Sabotage City.  It made me so sad. 

And it made me so angry because how can our country get healthier when we can't even find healthy food in our grocery stores?  I do believe that you can shop and eat healthy even in a Sabotage City by eating clean: veggies, fruits, and lean meats.  I even blogged about it back in May of last year.  But with kids in the house, even the most staunchly healthy clean-eating families are likely not going to live on produce and lean meats alone.  They need access to whole grain breads, pastas, rice, cereals, and most importantly, the education necessary to know why its important to choose those products. 

When I got home yesterday, I went to the grocery store to stock up for the week ahead.  As I filled my buggy with the healthy products I had taken for granted, I was overwhelmed with frustration.  Bringing education about healthy choices to a community is vital...and providing access to healthy products is non-negotiable.  I still contend that our health is dictated by our choices.  We need better choices.  

How do we do that?  How can I help?


Friday, April 1, 2011

Guess what? You're not as fat as you think you are.

Women: have you told yourself how fat you are this week? Have you told someone else?  Chances are, there have been half a dozen instances of negative self-talk in your life this week.  I'm guilty, too! 

Now be honest again... are you actually fat?  I mean clinically, are you fat?  Is your body fat percentage over 30%?  Is your waist more than 35 inches around?  Is your BMI over 30?  If not, shut it.

It's a major pet peeve of mine: women who look perfectly fine going on and on about how fat they are when they aren't.  I used to do it all the time, and sometimes I still catch myself asking my husband if I look fat or complaining that I "feel fat".  But I am not actually fat. Intellectually I know this, but after years of being a woman in America who is conditioned to believe that the only path to beauty is through unattainable physical perfection, its hard to believe.

About a year ago I stopped reading fashion and gossip magazines. They just made me feel bad about myself.  I also made a promise to start being nicer to myself and stop expecting to be perfect all the time.  The more I practiced positive self-talk, the better I felt, and the better I started to look to myself.  Over time, I started noticing more and more how many women are still in automatic put-down mode. 

So if you're one of those women who is not actually fat but can't stop telling yourself you are, here's what helped me stop:

1. Focus on your body's strength, not it's size.  In the past two years I have completed the Ultimate Fitness Challenge, ran two half-marathons, and completed a triathlon.  An unfit person would not have been able to do those things.  Once I realized that, it became easier to focus on what my body could do, not what it could fit into. 

2. Do some research.  Get online and start learning about the actual benchmarks for obesity.  Get your body composition measured and start using actual data as a tool for determining your fatness, not your mirror.

3. Every day, celebrate something you love about your body.  Yes, I mean every day.  There is something about your physical self that you can appreciate.  It can be the same thing two days in a row!  The point is to get into the habit of appreciating the beauty you already have.

4. Stop getting second opinions.  Who cares if someone else thinks you're fat.  The only opinion of you that matters is yours.

Besides, talking about how fat you are when you're not actually fat makes the actually fat people around you feel even worse. 

I've gone through a period lately of feeling fat and hearing myself slip into those old habits of being all down on myself because some physical limitations have kept me from my usual high-intensity workouts.  So, I'm calling myself out on it and inviting you to join me back on the positive path.  Take time today to be nice to yourself.

Good day!