Garlic Lemon Artichoke Chicken

My family has had an “eventful” 2017. Don’t get me wrong it’s been full of blessings but it was also filled with multiple stomach bugs (one of which took out my younger son for over a month), learning how to handle very active twin boys (apparently this is not for the faint of heart!), my daughter starting kindergarten, and the passing of my beloved Grandmother. In this whirlwind, I lost sight of meal planning and my usual homecooked meals were comprised of quick fixes like sloppy joes, tacos, breakfast for dinner, leftovers (thanks Mom and Dad), and (full disclosure) fast food/takeout.

Look, this is life and seasons in life, but it doesn’t have to last forever (or for years on end). So this week I decided that I was going to plan meals (AND FOLLOW THROUGH). Sometimes though, you just need inspiration. I mean having the same thing over and over again is just not for me. Flipping through the millions of Pinterest ideas I came across one that uses garlic, lemons, artichokes, and caperberries along with spices I’ve never heard of before. So I decided to SIMPLIFY things without losing the flavor dimensions.

This is a slow cooker recipe but you could also brine this all day and then bake it before dinner. I made it with pasta but you could also serve it with rice, potatoes, quinoa or another grain/starch. Broccoli pairs well with the lemon flavor of the chicken but you could also serve this with a side salad or another vegetable of your choice.

Remeber I’m into EASY recipes that do not take a lot of prep time or purchasing power. This is one of those dump dump mix and set. Enjoy!

Ingredients:

  • Zest and juice of 2 lemons
  • 1 tablespoon dijon mustard
  • 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons capers plus the brine that is poured in with it
  • 4 cloves of garlic minced
  • 3 cloves garlic diced (larger chunks)
  • 6 chicken drumsticks
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 onion, chopped

Directions:

  1. Place zest, lemon juice, dijon, vinegar, capers/brine, and minced garlic in a bowl and mix well.
  2. Place chopped onion and the rest of the garlic in the bottom of the slow cooker.
  3. Put drumsticks on top of onion and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
  4. Pour lemon mixture over top of chicken and let marinate for 3-12 hours.
  5. Cook chicken on high 4-6 hours or low 8-10 hours

Serve with whole grain (or gluten-free) pasta

Sauce for Pasta

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons canola oil
  • 1 tablespoon non-dairy spread (butter would work great too)
  • 1/2 medium onion minced
  • 1 clove garlic minced
  • 1 lemon zested and juiced
  • 1 tablespoons capers (with juice)
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • red pepper flakes (optional)

Directions:

  1. Heat oil over medium heat and sautee onions and garlic.
  2. Add lemon juice and mix. Heat until simmering and add capers.
  3. Season with salt and pepper. Add red pepper flakes
  4. Toss with pasta

It was great and we have leftovers for lunch!

Thanksgiving Night (A Night Before Christmas Parody)

So it’s the night before Thanksgiving and all through the house
You were stirring and stirring and so was your spouse

Preparing the feast you are making with care
Looking forward to family and friends who’ll be there

You were thinking and thinking just about bread
I mean, what else does one think of inside of their head?

“I know my dietitian said just think of a cap
Stop eating before your body demands a long nap”

When all of a sudden my brain starts to clatter
I sprang from my thoughts and from stirring the batter

Away to my computer I flew like a flash
Typed in this dietitian’s website – man, she’s a smash

The idea of moderation and even saying “no”
Gave me hope that I could have my glucose to show

When what to my wondering thoughts should appear
That I could eat what I want!?! You see, it’s just that simple my dear

With some look ahead planning I knew just that quick
I’d be able to eat everything I want, ain’t that slick

Maybe not as much as I used to, but that’s not my aim
These numbers were crazy, but them I can tame

Now Fiber and Protein and Veggies and Fruits
On Legumes and Oils and Dairy and Roots

To the plate size and portion size, make them all small
Now you’ll be able to eat what you want, ya’ll!

As dry herbs that cooked with the turkey on high
When you are met with an obstacle, don’t fear to fly!

So up in the morning with breakfast, you’ll chew
With some protein and fiber and healthy fats too

And then you’ll see that it’s not just a spoof
Your glucose won’t be as high as the roof

If after noon is your meal, I think you have found
You’ll need a snack until Thanksgiving dinner comes around

Control is important from your head to your foot
YOU CAN do it during holidays, the numbers WILL stay put

Eating well doesn’t have to be seriously wack
You can eat what you want it’s just a portion hack

Your eyes – how they’ll twinkle! Your smile: how merry!
They’ll see you’re not afraid to eat, even fruits like a cherry!

Your knowledge will surely sprout up and grow
And your confidence, like centerpieces, will definitely show

So as you chew each bite well with your sparkling teeth
Know quite proudly and with a sigh of relief

That your beautiful face, and God-made round belly
Will, on the inside be healthy, and not a nervous Nelly!

I don’t care if your plump or if your scale’s on a shelf
I care most if you’re healthy and loving yourself

Intrinsically you know inside of your head
You honestly, truly, have nothing to dread

Sometimes it does take a lot of hard work
You may feel overwhelmed just don’t go berserk!

Learning to control glucose, God-knows
Can take some getting used to but first, you have chose

To come to my blog and not even bristle
Just take in the info and happily whistle

And I know you’ll exclaim when your sugars are right
That everything worked out well on this Thanksgiving night

-An Amanda Original…you’re welcome (hahaha!)

So if you didn’t quite get it from my exquisite poem writing here’s a few things to remember about keeping your blood sugars controlled on Thanksgiving:

  1. Eat a snack before bed (just as you would normally)
  2. Eat a balanced breakfast. Protein and fiber and healthy fats too!
  3. If Thanksgiving dinner is later in the day make sure to eat a small snack so you don’t go into the dinner ravenous.
  4. If Thanksgiving was earlier in the day (around noon) you’re going to need to eat later in the day. Perhaps a snack.
  5. Decide early on what you REALLY like to eat on Thanksgiving. Things that aren’t really your favorite, don’t eat! Save yourself some carbs!
  6. Think about your plate…half of it should be vegetables (salad, roasted veggies, etc); the palm of your hand size should be turkey; the last quarter of your plate, carbohydrates (mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, pie, stuffing, etc)
  7. Eat what you want, just eat less!!! A small sliver of pie, smaller portions of potatoes, less stuffing. You’ll get all the flavors, be satisfied, and feel great not stuffed afterward!

Hope you enjoyed this as much as I enjoyed writing it!

5 Easy Diet Tips to Control Blood Sugars

Morning blood sugars, medicines, injectables, insulin. The worry, the appointments, the questions, the diet, the exercises. It is overwhelming! And what happens if they aren’t working…or not as well as they should be for the amount of thought and work you put in to make them better, normal?

Sure you may have cut back on your sugar intake. Maybe you’ve lowered your portion sizes, started eating more vegetables, stopped drinking soda, or even eat breakfast now…but these changes may not have had the impact you hoped.

Try these 5 things. If they work GREAT! But if not you need to talk to your doctor. You should talk to your doctor regardless. Bring them this list. Let them know what you are doing to try and control your numbers.

  1. Eat a bedtime snack. If this is the only tip you take away from this list it may be the difference between normal levels and high ones in the morning. Think protein and carbohydrate. Peanut butter and apple; cheese and whole wheat crackers; Greek yogurt; nuts and raisins; or turkey lunch meat and a slice of whole grain bread. Whatever! Just eat something!
  2. Balance your meals. I know you have heard that protein is important, and it is, but it’s not super important if you aren’t balancing your meals with carbohydrates, fat, and fiber! If all you have for lunch is chicken and your blood sugars before dinner are ridiculous…something is wrong! Balance that chicken out with beans and a salad! Think protein/meat, carbohydrate/grain/beans, and vegetable (not corn).
  3. Watch what you are drinking. Just because you may have stopped drinking soda doesn’t mean that everything else you drink isn’t loaded with it. Juice, iced tea, coffee with flavored creamer, and specialty coffee drinks can have just as much sugar as soda.
  4. Eat every 3-4 hours. Think about your body like a car. It needs to be refueled. By you eating consistently you’re helping your body and your blood sugar. Meals and snacks are super important! Make sure your snacks are nourishing and not just a candy bar out of the vending machine or some stale chips you have in your pantry!
  5. If you do have a meal that has more carbohydrates than your body needs, don’t feel guilty just do better! Every meal, every snack is an opportunity to improve! Take it! Don’t think about starting on Monday or the New Year…do it now!

Remember to keep taking your medicine/insulin, check your blood sugars, and take care of yourself!

Understanding Diabetes

I’ve got my Thanksgiving countdown going on. I love Thanksgiving and I’m actually a little annoyed when Christmas takes over too early! Sure as a Christian I love Christmas, I mean the best thing in the world came to earth and that’s why we celebrate it BUT Thanksgiving is just awesome. It’s a month that I take every year to step back and be thankful for my blessings. I enjoy the food…turkey, side dishes, pies, but I also love the family time…it’s all wonderful! When you have diabetes though, the holidays can be a time of worrying about what your blood sugars are going to be for over a month!

When you have diabetes, the holidays can be a time of worrying about what your blood sugars are going to be for over a month! If you have your 3-month appointment any time within the December, January, or February time-frame you know how stressful it can be! Your A1c level tattle tells you and there’s just no way around it! 🙂

Blood sugars can be finicky especially when you are eating foods that you don’t normally eat; however, they can also be quite calculated if you understand diabetes and how your diet interacts with your blood sugars! What you eat and WHEN you eat can be the map to better blood sugars.

This is the first installation of a few posts about diabetes and eating to control your blood sugars through the holidays! These posts are also helpful if you have a family member or friend with diabetes.

So what is diabetes?

Diabetes is a disease that affects your pancreas. Your pancreas is an organ in your digestive system that makes insulin. Insulin is a hormone that acts as a key to open cells in your body to let sugar inside. The sugar goes into your bloodstream from eating foods with carbohydrates.

Picture this…

You go to the grocery store and come home. Let’s be honest, we all try to get into the house by making the least amount of trips, so you pile those grocery bags on your arms. You get up to your house and the door is locked and somewhere between the grocery store and home, you’ve lost your house key. Without that key, you can’t get in and your groceries are stuck on your arm, weighing you down BUT that’s not the biggest problem. The biggest problem is that whoever is inside the house won’t get fed without those groceries.

You’re welcome…

Well…when you eat foods with CARBOHYDRATES your body turns that into sugar or GLUCOSE. The groceries are GLUCOSE  and you are the BLOODSTREAM. Your BLOODSTREAM’S job is to bring the GLUCOSE to the CELL door (your house door). The problem is if your body doesn’t have the key which is INSULIN then the GLUCOSE doesn’t get into CELLS and your body doesn’t get fed.

SO the problem isn’t necessarily that the sugar is in your blood, but that the sugar is NOT getting into your cells. Still with me????

When you check your blood sugar and it is high, the sugar isn’t feeding your cells because it is stuck in your bloodstream due to a problem with your insulin.

Now that you know what diabetes is and what happens inside of your body, stay tuned for ways to keep your sugars controlled during the holidays!

Changing My Environment

When I began my career I was placed, as a young whippersnapper dietitian, at an outpatient radiation clinic. Surprisingly, I felt like a valuable part of the team helping patients who had cancer. These people needed help with their nutrition so that they could live as normally as possible through their treatment. That’s when I realized the impact nutrition could have on the lives of cancer patients.

After that, I worked at a large medical center seeing some of the worst cancers. I was working to help people through the terrible symptoms caused by both radiation and chemo as well as bone marrow transplants. The more I read about cancer treatment, cancer survivorship, and cancer prevention, the more I realized nutrition had a bigger piece of the pie than most give it credit for. This fueled the fire for understanding how nutrition impacts the prevention of cancer.

Later in my career, I worked for an insurance company in their Health Education and Wellness department. We taught an Anti-Cancer Lifestyle Program and I’m pretty sure it was the greatest thing I’ve ever taught…and I’ve taught a lot of programs (some I even wrote!). In the class, we talked about how nutrition, physical activity, social, and environmental factors impacted cancer risk and prevention. I learned so much and that’s when my environmental lifestyle changed forever.

I wasn’t super aware of all of the environmental toxins that I used or were around every day. After this class, I had a heightened awareness of just about everything I used every day and how that impacted me and my family. Admittedly, I was a little neurotic at first…thinking I had to throw out everything and start fresh with new natural stuff. As I went on I made a mental list of what was important to me and what was feasible for me to do.

I’m sharing this list because if you’ve been reading up on environmental toxins and are overwhelmed believe me…I was there!!!!! Hope this helps 🙂

Here are some changes I’ve made to lower environmental toxins in my everyday life.

  1. I only microwave in glass. This was the first and easiest to adjust to. No more microwaving in plastic because that plastic breaks down and leaches into your food. Just throw it in a glass bowl/plate and microwave it like that. Easy peasy!
  2. Hand soap swap. I use handsoap all day every day (two super-pooper boys). I’m a huge fan of foaming hand soap which is awesome because making it is SOOO EASY! I use about 1/4-1/3 cup Castile soap (all natural plant based), witch hazel (to help with any cuts or abrasions on my skin), grape seed oil (to moisturize), essential oils (usually lemon, lavender, or whatever I want it to smell like), and water. Boom, done.
  3. Laundry detergent. This was another easy swap. We had already used the free-and-clear versions of commercial soaps and honestly sometimes still do when I get lazy BUT DIY laundry detergent is super easy to make. Castile soap, baking soda, laundry soda, essential oils, water, done. There are really good recipes online but honestly, I’m so used to making it I just dump dump pour drip drop boom. I also use wool dryer balls with essential oils to keep the laundry smelling so-fresh-and-so-clean.
  4. Cleaning spray/products. My boys eat off of everything. The floor, the table, themselves, whatever. So I really don’t like the thought of them possibly picking up toxins from cleaning supplies. My everyday cleaning spray is simply distilled vinegar, castile soap, essential oils, and water. I mostly clean off highchairs, table, and countertops with it. I’ve also started using Norwex (I’ll put a plug in for my friends Heather and Lysandra who sell these wonderful clothes and cleaning supplies)!!!!!!
  5. Beauty products. This is one that I’m slowest on and honestly, my make up isn’t natural. Makeup really isn’t a priority because I don’t wear it every day. Soaps, scrubs, face masks, lotions, lip glosses, and other things are all in check. I’m a big fan of POSH, especially their lotions, and soaps. YUM! I also use essential oils to make my own.
  6. Essential oiler. I started being a serious oiler a year ago. I knew about essential oils but I didn’t make the plunge to start using them regularly until this past year and I’m so glad I did! I use two major brands, Young Living and Plant Therapy. Honestly, I use them every.single.day for one thing or another. It makes reducing your environmental toxins so easy!
  7. Using stainless steel or glass to eat/drink off/out of. More and more I’m reducing plastic in my life to the point that in a few years I hope to have little to none. The twins drank out of glass or stainless steel bottles when they were babies but I’m still working on sippy cups! Not only is this for cancer prevention but also think about the positive impact on the environment!
  8. Threw out my candles. Remember that essential oil bit? Yeah, I use those scents instead of burning candles…and believe me, I had a candle problem years ago! Instead, I just use essential oils with my diffusers (I bought 2 of them on Amazon for $15 each…seriously, cheap! I also have a Young Living one as well). Essential oils smell good AND many have an aromatherapeutic effect!
  9. Keeping the cell phone away from my body as much as possible. Cell phones next to your body could increase your risk for cancer (research is still inconclusive but RF waves aren’t awesome) Ladies, stop putting your cell phone in your bra next to your breasts!
  10. ***Using beeswax covers instead of plastic wrap or my beloved press ‘n seal. I love press ‘n seal. Hahaha I do though. BUT I’ve wanted to switch more for environmental reasons than toxin reasons (because I don’t microwave with press ‘n seal). I was given a sample of the beeswax covers by a local company Dreaming Tree Designs. The designs are cute AND all you need to do is wash it off and reuse over and over and over again!

I hope this helps. If you want to learn more about environmental toxins check out The Anti Cancer Lifestyle Program’s free environmental assessment! It’s an eye-opener!

Butternut Squash Soup

Guys seriously, this recipe is one of my favorites. This is actually the first time making it but every.single.time I’ve had it my tastebuds were quite happy so I figured I needed to get a good recipe in my arsenal.

I’m making this yummy fall treat for my church’s Women’s Fellowship group. We are having a women’s pampering day focusing on taking care of ourselves, wellness, and simply enjoying each others company. I’m pretty stoked! It’s so important for Christians to surround ourselves with other Christians in order to be built up. Absolutely having friends who aren’t Christians is important…what a better way to have them see Jesus Christ in our own lives BUT surrounding yourself with other Christians is critical to growth.

ANYWAY…

This recipe was SO EASY! Seriously, the hardest part is cutting the stinkin’ butternut squash (and if you buy the frozen or fresh already cubed up, it’s even easier). My slow cooker did all the hard work. For real.

I’m going to annoy a lot of people. I didn’t measure the spices. Because this was the first time making it I was unsure of the amount until I sprinkled and tasted, sprinkled and tasted. Rest assured I estimated and then double checked it with other recipes and I believe this is it.

Butternut Squash Soup

Ingredients:

1 cup reduced-sodium chicken broth
1 large butternut squash, peeled and cubed
2 medium onions, diced
3 stalks celery, diced
5 cloves garlic, minced
2 bay leafs
2 teaspoon ginger
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon nutmeg
salt (to taste)
1 teaspoon pepper
1, 14 oz can coconut milk

Directions:
1. Preheat the slow cooker. I put mine on high for 6 hours poured in the chicken broth and then started prepping the vegetables.
2. Toss the butternut squash into the slow cooker along with the onions, celery, and garlic and mix.
3. Add bay leafs, ginger, cumin, turmeric, nutmeg, and pepper over veggies and mix well.
4. Allow the soup to cook until the butternut squash is tender.
5. Once it is tender puree the mixture along with the coconut milk (I used a blender but you can also use an emersion blender which would have been so much easier).
6. Serve with cilantro for a pop of freshness!

If you love savory and slightly sweet, you’ll LOVE this soup. It would make a wonderful side dish for Thanksgiving or any fall dinner! Again, it’s a fan favorite and the twins loved it too!

Check out my Facebook page to see how to cut a butternut squash…simple steps! All you need is a butternut squash and a sharp knife!

What I Learned From Grandma

This post is a little different because it’s not really about food and nutrition (but it is a little bit). I promised when I started this blog that I would be as transparent in my real life (nutrition journey and education) as possible. So as I type this with tears streaming down my face I am thankful that I have this opportunity to share about Grandma Mae.

My gorgeous, wonderful, hard-working, tough-loving, courageous Grandma went to be with Jesus just a few short weeks ago on September 9, 2017, relatively unexpectedly. Although she was 92 and her heart was failing, her mind and the rest of her body were in pretty good shape considering her 92 years of life. Our family, myself included are deeply saddened…but hopeful that we will see her again in heaven someday.

I learned so much from her. I learned from her life, her example, her stories, and her convictions. She was a family woman but not the lovey-dovey type grandma that gave you hugs, kisses, and “I love yous”. But she’d drop anything to help you, cook you your favorite dish for Sunday dinner, and tell you when she thought you were doing something wrong…because she loved us. I learned about true strength and courage from her. I learned a lot about Biblical/moral right from wrong from her. I learned that love comes in all shapes and sizes, not just through words. I also learned, through her passing, that even though she didn’t say “I love you” she appreciated when we did. I found notes that I had written her telling of how much I appreciated her and loved her. I got my Grandma for 34 years and my children got a Great-Grandma for 5 and almost 2 years and not too many kiddos have that blessing. So we are blessed and we are so much better off for having Grandma.

She loved these little boys

Earlier in the week before she passed, I sat and looked through her Bible sitting beside her chair in the living room. Note after note she had carfully written verses about courage, bravery, and strength. I spent the day before she passed with her in the afternoon talking about her old nursing school friends, her nursing career, and praying over her as she slept. I wrote in my prayer journal a scripture that she had marked down in her own Bible. It says “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or tremble for the Lord your God is the one who goes with you. He will not fail you or forsake you.” -Deuteronomy 30:14. My Grandmother was the strongest person I have ever met. Seriously…I’m not just saying it…she reeeeeally was.

Grandma was a disciplinarian and set the rules pretty clearly. You know, a black and white kind of lady. She never minced words and you always knew where she stood on things. Grandma wasn’t afraid of her opinion. Just ask my mom about the hot slaw incident or my sister about the burrito bowl dinner :). She liked what she liked and you knew it! She also had standards that should be met or she would tell you about it…unapologetically. But you never had to guess with her and you always knew where you stood. She had the courage enough to speak her mind without fear of what people may think. Her courage came in other forms too. My Grandpa passed when Grandma was in her early 60’s and she stepped up and cared for their home, the acres of land, and her family. She was the picture of courage. As a woman in her 60’s she could have easily said: “woe is me” (and who would blame her) but she didn’t. She was strong and courageous. She wasn’t afraid because she knew that God was with her. She poured her heart and soul into taking care of our family, her home, and those she loved. Even in her last days when the chest pain was strong, she powered through better than most people would have

Grandma was also a super hard-worker. Anyone who knew her will tell you she never stopped cleaning, cooking, caring, mending, ironing, hemming, gardening, weed-pulling, shoveling snow, or planning her next “job”. Even though “courage” was a theme I saw running through her Bible, I’m pretty sure she lived by the Proverb 16:27 verse that says “Idle hands are the devil’s workshop.” So she kept her hands busy! I’m not kidding, a few months ago (after she was told not to get on ladders anymore) she was washing her windows while standing on a step stool. My father caught her and told her she shouldn’t be up on the step stool. Without missing a beat she said, “they said no ladders, this is a step stool.” I mean, how can you argue that?!? She even had a garden this year, albeit small, it was something she would talk about. Although she never thought her green beans would amount to anything this year, my Aunt just picked a good helping from her garden…she would have had a good laugh about that! Just in the week of her passing she cleaned and cut green beans for my Mom and ironed two shirts for my Dad. This woman was no joke.

I know my blog is about nutrition so here’s the food/nutrition part of the story: Grandma was an old farm girl. She could cook anything from scratch. The tales of her growing up on the farm were my absolute favorite stories Grandma told. No refrigerator, no electricity, no fancy kitchen equipment but everything was scratch made. Incredible! One day I’ll get into those stories more because I think we can learn a thing or two about food and nutrition from the way they cook/ate back then but for now, this isn’t my point. My Grandma could cook and bake well but if you asked her, she’d tell you she wasn’t a good cook because she needed a recipe. This always made me laugh because I don’t know of any dish she made that I didn’t like. My brother will tell you her pumpkin pies were out-of-this-world and my sister would say that her Texas sheet cake was good enough to eat the entire sheet. Every single one of her 12 grandchildren had a favorite Grandma dessert or food that we are all going to miss so dearly. She poured out her heart and soul and love into everything she made for us. My brother wrote a wonderful eulogy for her funeral that talked about Grandma’s love and boy did he hit the nail on the head especially when it came to her loving us through the food she prepared.

Last summer I had the honor and privilege to go over to Grandma’s house and make her infamous potato salad by her side. She taught me the ropes. She showed me what made it so good and I’m pretty sure it was the amount of times she licked her finger to clean the rim of the bowl so it was presentable for the picnic, just saying. We cooked together, chatted about life, she showed me her techniques, and we just enjoyed each other. Grandma taught me that making food for your family was much more than just the food prepared. It’s about the process, the journey, the love, and the memories. I wrote her a letter after that day…because that day meant so much to me. I put it in her car (yes she was still driving last summer). Grandma never mentioned anything about that letter but I just found it this week. She saved it and dated it. That day meant just as much to her as it did to me.

Grandma made Sunday dinner every.single.Sunday for the entire family for years. My parents took over a while back when they built a big garage to house the growing number of our family but Grandma was the center of these after-church meetings. It was critically important that we all gathered as often as possible to share in our week and eat the potluck food that was prepared with love. She built our family (4 children, 12 grandchildren, and 12+ great-grandchildren) with these Sunday dinners. All of us cousins are more like siblings and even the second-cousins are becoming so very close all because of Grandma. Some have moved away but there’s a bond and a love that goes deeper than distance and time.

This is what love looks like

Food and fellowship, love and discipline, hard work and courage…that was my Grandma. I will miss her so dearly and my heart aches thinking of all the voids that will be left because of her absence on this earth but I am so grateful for her life. I’m so blessed to have had her for 34 years of mine. I’m beyond blessed that we moved back hometown and we were able to spend this last year visiting with her. I cannot begin to tell you how valuable her life was to me and how much I have learned from that old farm girl turned nurse, turned mother, turned grandmother, turned great-grandmother, turned hero.

She never told me she loved me…ever. Over the past couple months, it became a joke! “Just say it!” I thought. But she never vocalized it. What I realize now is that she said it in more ways than just those simple words “I love you.” She said it through showing her courage. She said it by spending countless hours working on one thing or another for us. She said it by cooking potato or macaroni salad for me. She said it by letting me into her kitchen on that beautiful day to watch as she made potato salad. She said it by telling me the stories of the farm or nursing school or her nursing days. She said it by inviting my children into her house and letting my daughter drink chocolate milk or hot chocolate and letting the twins run amuck through her living room. She told me she loved me by giving me advice and lately she would say to me “Amanda, life may seem hard now but raising my children was the best time of my life.” She said it by letting me tell her I loved her because she knew I needed to say it.

Death is sad for the living but as a Christian, it is bitter-sweet. You see, she is with Jesus and some sweet day I will be too. Until then Grandma has given a great example of how to be courageous, how to work hard, how to cook with love, and that family is so deeply important. I think we can all learn a thing or two from Grandma Mae. She will be deeply missed by those who love her but we will continue her legacy the best we can.

Grandma enjoyed visits from her namesake (my daughter) Emma Mae

“Know, therefore, that the Lord your God is GOD! He is a faithful God, keeping His promises of love to a thousand generations of those who love and keep His commandments.” – Deuteronomy 7:9

Give them Breakfast!

Look…kids (and everyone else) need breakfast. Research shows that kiddos who eat breakfast do better in school, behave better, and have more energy for play/sports later in the day.

I’m a huge advocate of the school breakfast program. Use this resource!!!! But if you are feeding breakfast to your child at home, here are some tips for a smooth morning and some ideas to feed your kiddo!

Breakfast Tips:

  1. Wake up earlier. Mom’s, I know you are already strapped for time and tired. I’m there, in the trenches with you but waking up just 15 minutes earlier to get your kiddos breakfast can keep your kiddos healthy and doing well in school.
  2. Get things ready the night before. Have lunches packed, school bags ready to go, and clothes picked out. This reduces stress in the morning and allows more time to eat a nice calm breakfast.
  3. Let your children help pick out breakfast. If they are involved and invested in what they are eating they’ll be willing to eat a more balanced breakfast.
  4. Have a few grab-and-go breakfasts available. Come on, we all know that some mornings are just hot messes. Even if we don’t plan on these types of mornings, they happen and it’s so important to have a plan B.

Before getting breakfast ideas here are a few breakfast guidelines:

  1. Stay full with PROTEIN (pick one)
    • Animal: eggs, cottage cheese, ricotta cheese, Greek yogurt, string cheese, turkey sausage
    • Plant: peanut butter, other nut butter, nuts, soy sausage
  2. Get some ENERGY with Carbohydrates (pick one and/or a fruit)
    • Whole grains: cereal (Cheerios, Mini Wheats, look for at least 3 grams of fiber and 10 grams or less of sugar), oat meal, hot quinoa, whole grain bread, whole grain crackers, buckwheat pancakes
    • Fruits: fresh, frozen, canned in light syrup
  3. Extras for FLAVOR (pick one and/or a veggie)
    • Heart healthy fats: nuts, avocado, oils, peanut butter, nut butter, chia seeds, flax seeds
    • Vegetables: onions, peppers, mushrooms, spinach, salsa, tomatoes, fresh, frozen, canned
Blueberry Spinach Smoothie

20 Super Awesome Balanced Breakfasts Before School

  1. Cheerios with milk, banana, and peanut butter
  2. Whole grain English muffin, with an egg, slice of cheese, and a tomato
  3. Scrambled eggs with whole wheat bread and salsa
  4. Super Awesome Smoothie (frozen fruit, handful of spinach, chia seeds, milk, Greek yogurt)
  5. Banana burrito (whole grain tortilla, peanut butter, banana)
  6. Yogurt parfait (Greek yogurt, fruit, chia seeds, sprinkle of granola)
  7. Breakfast burrito (whole grain tortilla, egg, peppers/onion/black olives)
  8. Fruit salad wrap (whole grain tortilla, ricotta cheese, fresh berries, slivered almonds, drizzle of honey)
  9. Oatmeal with walnuts and blueberries
  10. Overnight oats with apples, cinnamon, and almonds (oatmeal, Greek yogurt, milk, chopped apples, cinnamon, and almond in a glass jar overnight in the refrigerator and microwaved in the morning)
  11. Whole grain waffles with peanut butter and jelly
  12. Buckwheat pancakes with turkey sausage
  13. English muffin with Canadian bacon, tomatoes, and green peppers
  14. Hard-boiled egg with whole grain toast
  15. Cottage cheese and fruit
  16. Breakfast sweet potato with vanilla Greek yogurt and cinnamon
  17. Breakfast pizza (whole grain English muffin, tomato, and shredded mozzarella cheese)
  18. Whole grain mini bagel, cream cheese, smoked salmon, and veggies
  19. Mini quiches (scrambled eggs, veggies, Canadian bacon or turkey sausage, shredded cheese – make ahead and freeze)
  20. Apple sandwiches (core apples, slice so they are in circles, put peanut butter inside, and eat!)

You don’t have to make them hard. These are relatively easy with little prep work.

What are your favorite go-to breakfasts?

Let Them Play

I am an adult dietitian. I’m not an expert in child nutrition…at all. So far I have one semi-picky child and two boys who eat just about anything you set in front of them. Like these dudes genuinely enjoy eating. I have pictures to prove the joy they get out of eating/playing. Is it a fluke? Maybe. Maybe not. Just last month I went to a conference and heard a speaker talk about eating behaviors in children. Letting children play with food can actually make them less picky. Seriously, no one wants a picky eater. So maybe letting them play can actually encourage them to eat better, healthier.

Because I have 2 kids who eat just about everything and one who eats fair (there are many frustrating meals and also some good ones thrown in there), I’ve learned that the oldest child is definitely the experimental one (I was the oldest too). Kids following the first may have a significant advantage! HAH! All kidding aside here’s what I see between my kiddos in how I fed them/allow them to eat. This may be the key to lessen picky eating…or it could just be a coincidence? Eh either way it’s worth a shot to try!

With my daughter I was going to do everything “perfect”. First-time parent syndrome. I was going to be the perfect dietitian-mom. All organic, low sugar, homemade everything, no fast food, etc. etc. etc. blah blah blah. Yep I was one of those. I made all of her food for the first 2 years of her life. Seriously. Day care provided lunch but I packed hers. I spoon fed her (obviously) when she was a baby. She never got very messy when she ate…at all. Despite my best efforts I made the same few foods over and over and over and over again because, as a working mom, I could only do so much.

The boys are a different story all together. They are rainbow babies and after a high risk pregnancy my outlook on raising children changed a little…and they aren’t my first AND there are 2 of them. I ain’t got time to be perfect! 😉 Besides watching their dairy intake, (they have an allergy) those dudes eat whatever.  I let them eat with their hands mainly because I can’t feed them fast enough before they go ballistic so I let them have-at-it. They are 17 months old and have eaten everything from sauerkraut to Thai food to salads and even spicy chili.

This is a Thai cabbage salad the boys devoured!

Meals are messy and, although clean up isn’t awesome, they enjoy eating. Surprisingly more goes into their belly than their highchairs or the floor. They feel their food, squish it, pick it up, pinch it, scoop it, lick it, taste it, and enjoy it. Would I have let my daughter do this? No. Should I have? Maybe.

 
Recently I started inviting my daughter to help me cook and it has worked wonders! She has tried everything she makes and is excited about new recipes, baking, and helping me prepare the food. It’s awesome! She’s playing, learning, trying, tasting, and expanding her palate!

So my conclusion is: let kids play with their food. No matter the age! There are researched benefits to allowing babies, children, and teens play and cook with food…it’s not just me 🙂

  1. Let babies explore food. Feel it, squish, mold, pinch, pick up, lick it, and smear it all up.
  2. Give toddlers a spoon and even if they have a difficult time, let them try to hit their mouth!
  3. Let pre-schoolers start to help in the kitchen.
  4. Kids can begin to help meal planning (and continue to help cook).
  5. Older kids can meal plan and cook simple meals.
  6. Teens can take over in the kitchen! Let them plan, try new cooking techniques, and find recipes.

Check out this great website for kids cooking by ages.

Other great tips:

  1. There is no such thing as “kid foods”. They can eat whatever adults eat…seriously.
  2. You are not a short order cook. What you make for dinner, the family should eat (outside of a food allergy).
  3. Kids do not need to clean their plates but they should taste everything on their plate.
  4. Even if they don’t want to eat everything, taking a “thank you bite” gives your child the opportunity to try the food without the pressure of eating it all. Thank you bites are shown as gratitude for the cook.
  5. Let your kids have foods they like too! Make your kids a meal they truly enjoy once in a while shows them you do know what they like. For instance, macaroni and cheese as their starch or having pizza night (with a veggie of course)!

 

Parenting isn’t about being perfect, it’s about doing your best and knowing what’s best for your children. My daughter probably won’t be picky for the rest of her life (many times it is a power struggle not necessarily the food itself). There are many picky eating “fixes” out there. Try them but don’t make yourself crazy. I hope this helps for some of you out there.

MoM (Month of Me) Exercise

I love being active, taking walks, hiking, kayaking, gardening, strength training, and taking exercise classes (I’m not picky). I also know how important exercising can be. I mean, exercise can improve your health regardless of your weight, health status, diseases, etc. But besides being a dietitian I’m also a real person. Even if I like exercising it’s not top on my priority list. Anyone with me?! After all is said and done during the day many times exercise is just one more thing. One more thing to put on my to-do list and sometimes I just can’t.

Sometimes I strength train in the middle of the chaos

But I have been. I have been putting it on my priority list and you know what, it

So sometimes I jump on my elliptical in the morning with my coffee…what of it?

feels good. Do I do it every day? Nope, that’s not the point. I don’t need to do it every day to know I’m doing something awesome for myself a few times per week. I’m doing it not to lose weight or to look better in a bikini (although those would be nice side effects). I’m doing it because it makes me feel good and strong and empowered and energized.

Listen, you don’t need to buy the newest greatest exercise/nutrition program. You don’t need to go to the trendiest gym and drink the most expensive shakes. You don’t have to listen to some not-so-expert tell you that just a few more crunches and these wonder drinks will make you a better person. You don’t even have to step on a scale and sweat until you feel like dying to be healthy. This I know. I want to tell you this because there’s a lot of mixed messages out there.

If exercise is something you want to do for yourself then do it for you. Don’t do it because the summer is coming. Don’t do it because you feel inadequate around people who do exercise. Don’t do it because someone told you you should. Do it for YOU!

Here’s why I’m exercising more:

  1. It’s me time. I get up early and I’m alone and I get to walk or lift or listen to music. It’s something I can do on my own terms for myself and it’s so peaceful!
  2. I feel stronger. I’m a small human being. If I’m small in stature, I at least want to be strong. I like not having to ask someone to lift something or open something or move something.
  3. I feel empowered. Seeing improvements in my stamina and strength is cool. I like that and it makes me feel like Sheerah. It’s different than feeling stronger…it’s more of how I feel mentally than how I feel physically.
  4. It’s showing my kids that it’s important to be active. I don’t care if they are athletic, I care that they are active. I want them to see mom as a person who enjoys being active. Are you seeing that “active” is the theme?
  5. I want my insides to be healthy. I know from years of education and reading research how amazing moderate physical activity is for your health. I know this and I want that for myself. I want to treat my heart, lungs, and other organs and cells with respect not only in my diet but also in my activity level.
Namaste kids

Listen, I’ve had 3 kids and 2 are twins. I don’t care if I have my 20 year old body back. Seriously. Sure it’d be cool and whatever but honestly I just don’t care that much. Exercising for body image is fine if that’s your deal but as someone who is trained in intrinsic (internal motivation) health coaching, I will tell you that exercising for the sole purpose of body image won’t change your lifestyle forever…that’s not sustainable. What is sustainable is finding what you want out of exercising…beyond your body image.

 

Having a partner or a few partners who will encourage your activity is super helpful. For me, my family is made up of active people…seriously active people. My mom, sister, and husband are my immediate motivators. My mom and I walk a lot and like to try out exercise classes. My sister and I are in the free Tone It Up 8 week Challenge and we check up on each other. My husband and I like to walk together when we can…we also watch the kids while the other is exercising. Pick up some accountability partners!

My beautiful accountability partners

Enjoy it. Do something you enjoy. Walking, biking, hiking, swimming, running, jumping, dancing, whatever! Find something you like to do and do it. Figure out why you want to be active…dig deep. Once you grab a hold of those reasons and make it a lifestyle.