Sunday, April 15, 2012

Healthy Menu Ideas

When I'm feeling incredibly organized I like to plan my dinner menu for the week before doing the groceries on the weekend. This may be old news to you but when the lightbulb went off, I couldn't believe I had spent so many years doing it backwards. I used to go in the store with a small list and maybe one or two recipes in mind. The majority of the groceries were staples I'm used to having at home or impulse buys.

Here's me doing groceries: Ooh! The green beans look really bright and fresh today, got to get some of those. And, Wow! 2 lbs of strawberries for how much? I'm taking home a couple of these!

The following week I'd end up with wilted vegetables that were never used and sadly they would end up in the trash, along with my money. With my "new" strategy, it feels good to know exactly what I'm cooking on any given night and that I have everything I need to prepare it.

Here is my time and money saving grocery strategy:

1. Check your fridge and pantry for anything that needs to be consumed

2. Figure out what dishes you can make with what you have already, and look up any new recipes you want to try out

3. Make a list of 4-5 meals for the week
(I plan 4 since Friday is usually take-out or left over night and weekends we figure out as we go)

4. Create your grocery list based on the meals planned for the week and add in anything else you need

Since I like you so much, here are 4 menu ideas to get you started.

Kale Slaw

Pad Thai

Black Bean Burger

Vegetable Egg Roll

Vegetable Egg Rollls

Thursday, April 12, 2012

The family that plays together, stays together

enjoying the view from the top of Sugarloaf Mountain

Last week while the kids were on spring break we spent an afternoon with friends at Sugarloaf Mountain in Dickerson, MD. We hiked a steep trail to the top, spent an hour there, had a snack, and then took a longer (less steep) trail back down. Fortunately there are so many places like this within a reasonable drive from our house. We just have to remember to take time out and enjoy them. 

I'm not crazy about the outdoors but sitting on a boulder at the top of Sugarloaf was breathtaking. It felt so good to take the afternoon, to disconnect from the TV and computers and do something active with the kids. The smart phones? Haven't started working on shutting those off yet.


Sometimes we can get so hooked into working at the computer at home that we don't realize that our kids may be sitting in the next room at their computer or in front of the TV as well. Two hours of that can flash by in an instant. Two hours that you won't get back.

Recently I read an inspiring blog post by April Perry on The Power of Moms about the fact that all your kids really want is YOU. They aren't in need of a mom that can make their birthday cake look like a work of art or who looks like a fitness model, they just want your time and most importantly your attention. After the lump in my throat subsided, I was happy. Happy reflecting back to spring break and how we spent the week not cramming our days with "activities" but hiking, biking, exercising and sometimes doing nothing at all, together.
Click here to read her post.

I wish that my kids will think of all those moments with a smile on their face.

even my mother-in-law joined us

beautiful view of the Monocacy Valley from the top of Sugarloaf Mountain

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Amy's No Cheese Pizza

One of my favorite foods has always been pizza, even if I sound like a 10 year old when I say it. There are some more grown items on my favorite's list though like Peruvian ceviche, well made falafel, and a hearty veggie sandwich. Still, nothing is better than warm crisp bread with melted cheese.

Now that I have made the switch over to a vegan-ish diet, the one thing I miss is a hot slice of pizza. I must confess though, I had two slices of cheesy veggie pizza while I was at the beach over spring break.

It.  Was.  Divine!

Either that or I was just starving. Then my body reminded me why I stopped eating cheese and almost all things dairy. Yeah, I won't go into the not-so-nice details.

Being vegan-ish has opened my eyes to a whole line of food products that I would have never even considered trying. One of those is fake cheese or "dairy-free cheese alternatives."

There is a good reason why I instinctively stayed away from it. It's not that tasty. I have yet to try a fake cheese that makes me say Mmmmmm! Even when my husband took me to a great little pizza place in DC that will sub vegan cheese for you, I was not impressed with the stuff. The crust and other toppings were delicious but the cheese, left much to be desired. After that pizza experience I realized that I would have actually preferred to enjoy my pie without the fake cheese.

Which leads me to today's topic: Amy's Roasted Vegetable No Cheese Pizza

At first glance you may think, what? No cheese? You may as well call it something else!
Sure but, this pizza actually gives you some of the remaining qualities that make pizza so great minus all the set backs. Crust that is crisp on the outside and soft on the inside. Sauce that doesn't drip out of the crust and toppings that are not overwhelming. Not to mention that it has about 1/2 of the fat compared to some of Amy's pizza's made with real cheese, and zero cholesterol.

Makes my heart happy just thinking about it.

The roasted veggie toppings of artichokes, mushrooms and peppers are a wonderful combination of flavors and the sauce has a mild sweetness to it, very tasty. At a little over $7 a pie and with 3 servings, it is not an economical choice for a family dinner. On the other hand, if it's a no dairy after effects pizza experience you're looking for and willing to share with max, one other person, it is definitely worth a try.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Mindful Eating

We are all guilty of it at one moment or another. Eating mindlessly in front of the TV, computer, at our desks while chatting with co-workers, and even at the dinner table. We get so caught up with what we are doing that we eat on auto pilot.

Ever drive home from work and 15 minutes into the drive think, I don't remember crossing that street? Did I blow a red light? Well the same thing happens when we eat without thinking.

To make matters worse, when we eat mindlessly we tend to over do it. It takes about 20 minutes for your brain to register that you are full. So if you scarf down your food in 10 minutes while you are surfing the internet you may still feel hungry afterwards. You'll be inclined to help yourself to more food and repeat the process again. The second time around though, you'll probably feel stuffed in the end and guilty that you have overeaten.

This reminds me of a certain story I would read to my son when he was little about the mouse and the cookie...

Now, ever stop by the grocery store and pick up your favorite sweet treat then go home and get comfy in your pj's before shooing the kids away then sitting down to enjoy it?

Is that just me...?

Anyhoo, that is the idea behind mindful eating. It can get really involved though, to the point of honing in on your five senses, your thoughts and feelings (almost meditating) as you savor your food in peace and quiet.

If meditating at dinner time with two kids bickering at the table is not your cup of tea then try these simple suggestions from Martha Beck, author and life coach:

1. Take five deep in-and-out breaths after you sit down at the table and before you lift your fork.

2. After your five deep breaths, allow yourself a moment of gratitude, silent reflection, or prayer for the food you are about to eat

3. Never eat anything you don't enjoy, and truly enjoy everything you eat

Putting these steps into practice will help you feel full naturally and may keep you from overeating. You won't loose 5 pounds in a week but the food you leave behind on your plate when you're full may translate into 100 calories less in your body. Plus that guilt you used to feel at the end of a huge meal will be replaced by a sense of satisfaction that you are taking care of yourself.

So here's my Monday Motivation:
EAT slowly
TASTE your food and ENJOY it
ONE serving is enough

(Source: Cooking Light Magazine)

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Staying Healthy While Traveling

Eating healthy when you're traveling can be challenging. I was put to the test a few weeks ago when I flew down to Miami to be post surgery nurse to my mom. It was minor surgery thankfully, and I was only there for a few days.

Aside from the usual travel jitters, my biggest concern was how to stay away from all that good food I'm used to gobbling up every time I visit. In Miami, where there are more Latin Americans than palm trees, there is no shortage of restaurants and small cafes serving up delicious cuisine. Now that I'm more conscious of what I eat, all I could think about was all the sweat and possibly tears I'd have to shed to burn those calories if I gave in and went on "vacation mode."

You know what I'm talking about, "vacation mode." Every one's favorite excuse for overeating and not working out while taking a break from the real world.

Everywhere I turned there were ham croquettes, fried plantains, arepas, empanadas, churros, that little sugar and caffeine bomb called cafe Cubano, and the bread. Oh the Cuban bread! It's like a little pillow from heaven and the local Publix is nice enough to keep it in a warming oven for you to take home fresh or ahem, devour in your car on the way home.

I surprised myself though and I said no. No to the bread, the fried treats, the puff pastry filled with guava jam that was calling my name at the Winn Dixie... I was determined to stick to my new way of eating and show my mom how delicious it is to be vegan-ish.

The day I left I had to be at the airport horribly early so I figured I'd grab a bite to eat before getting on the plane. Most of the food places had high calorie breakfast sandwiches so those were out of the question which left me verrry few options. I ended up paying an arm and a leg for a cup of fresh fruit and grabbed a cup of coffee.

After arriving I had lunch with my mom. I was proud of myself for not caving in to my favorite restaurant, El Rinconcito Paisa, and having my once usual meal: bandeja paisa. A traditional Colombian dish of steak served with rice, beans, a fried egg, fried sweet plantain, chicharrĂ³n (meaty pork cracklings), avocado and a little arepa on the side.  Yes, it is literally a tray of food. Instead we had a salad with falafel and shared a piece of baklava.

Since the plan was to stay at home with my mom the whole time, we stopped by the grocery store to stock up on some more fresh fruit and veggies. I really enjoyed cooking for my mom. Oatmeal for breakfast, quinoa, salads, beans and butternut squash. She was pleasantly surprised by some of my recipes which made me happy.

Roasted Butternut Squash
click here for the recipe

When it came to exercise, there were no excuses. My mom was not in dire need of 24 hour care so there was definitely time to work out. Using the google pedometer and a couple of suggestions from my mom I mapped a running route and hit the pavement three days while I was there.

For strength training I turned to one of my new faves, (click on the link and you'll find the workout I did) There were no weights in at my mom's but luckily I found a gallon of vinegar and windshield wiper fluid and a yoga mat. Hey, you do what you can with what you've got!

don't know how much they weigh but it worked in a pinch

Just like at home, a little planning and preparation will help you stay healthy and on track with your fitness and weight loss goals when you're on vacation. Here are three basic things to remember:

1. Find places to eat that offer healthy options and cater to your dietary restrictions before heading out. If you're counting calories, look up the nutrition information for the restaurant you've chosen and decide what you'll eat beforehand.

2. If you are staying in some one's home or a hotel that does not have a fitness center, take a jump rope and some resistance bands with you. Still too much? Just pack your sneakers and walk or jog for at least 30 minutes every day. You'll burn calories and feel energized for the day's activities.

3. Don't deprive yourself. It's ok to have a treat. Just keep your goals in mind so you don't go overboard.