Sunflower Strawberry Salad

It’s still verrrry much spring where I live. Like the local strawberries just started to come out and it’s mid-June! BUT that’s ok because I can enjoy Carolina strawberries in early spring and local strawberries in late spring…winning!

I never really liked fruit in my lettuce salads for some reason…that is until lately. Now, I’m all in! I have a great winter mandarin salad, this spring strawberry salad, and summer…maybe I’ll load it up with blueberries? We will see!

Usually the main attraction of a salad, for me, is the dressing. I mean, isn’t that why most of us eat a salad? Because, we like the dressing? Well, in this salad, the dressing takes a back seat (although it is delicious) to the amazing crunchy, salty, sweet flavors that hit every bite! I use a simple lemon vinaigrette dressing that’s not too tangy and not too sweet. I make my dressings to taste so these may not be the exact measurements BUT make yours to what you like!

I buy a big box of spring mix each week and it usually stays good for about 5-7 days

Salad Ingredients:

  • Spring mix or spinach (2 cups per salad for a large salad)
  • Feta cheese (1 tablespoon per salad…more or less based on your taste)
  • Sunflower seeds (1 tablespoon per salad)
  • Spring onions (1-3 teaspoons)
  • Strawberries, sliced (1/4 cup per salad)

Dressing ingredients:

  • 1 whole lemon juiced
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder (you can use 1 small clove minced too)
  • 2 tablespoons minced onion
  • 1/3 cup olive or canola oil
  • 1/4 cup white wine vinegar (or apple cider)
  • 1-2 tablespoons honey (more if you like a sweeter dressing)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
Honestly, this salad isn’t hard to make because many of the ingredients are grab-n-go!

Grab a wide bowl. This isn’t super necessary but honestly, it makes it look prettier! Throw the lettuce in the bowl and then layer the ingredients. I like strawberries, feta, sunflower seeds, then onions personally but, go on…do yo thing!

For the dressing, I use the Pampered Chef manual food processor. This thing is a kitchen staple in my house! I don’t have an electric food processor because, well I don’t need it with this bad boy! Toss all the ingredients in the food processor and chop away! It comes out rich and smooth and delicious!!!!

Refreshing, crisp, and delicious! (also quick and cheap!)

This entire salad provides nutrients from the lettuce to the fixin’s to the dressing. It is seriously a nutrient power house! There aren’t many other foods that you can get TONS of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants in just one bowl. Let’s just go over some of the nutrition highlights of this bad boy!

Power-Packed Lineup!

  • Spring Mix: tons of Vitamin A, C, K, and folate (a B vitamin). Some iron (although some of it does get lost during digestion), fiber (much of that insoluble to keep everything “moving”). **If you are on a blood thinner and watching vitamin K you can eat iceberg lettuce as a LOW vitamin K food**
  • Feta Cheese: look, honestly theres such a small amount you aren’t getting much but a tiny bit of protein and calcium BUT it tastes great! Even if you are watching your sodium intake you shouldn’t worry too much because again, a small amount (190 mg-ish)
  • Sunflower Seeds: loaded with heart healthy unsaturated fats, fiber, and protein! Also a good source of iron and potassium makes this a crunchy little firecracker!
  • Spring Onions: although, like feta, the amount you are using isn’t huge, the little boost of immune-boosting antioxidants in the entire onion family are something to keep on your radar! Plus…fiber!
  • Strawberries: do you know that strawberries have more vitamin C per serving than an orange…fun fact! In just one serving of strawberries you get WELL over 100% of your daily vitamin C. Along with that you have fiber and a LOAD of antioxidants in this yummy little gem!
  • The dressing is also loaded with amazing nutrients from the ingredients in it so even just a few teaspoons on the salad gives you flavor and nutrition!
Enjoy my friends! I know we did!

How Resolutions Can Be Helpful

You may be hearing negative comments on New Year’s Resolutions. I too, consider myself an anti-resolutioner for many reasons BUT I also like the refreshing nature of a resolution. I’ll be honest, my 2017 wasn’t the greatest year of my life. It was definitely full of blessings but it was also full of hardships, loss, and just plain surviving. I didn’t cook for my family enough, we didn’t meal plan, and we didn’t make the best meal decisions (there may or may not have been waaaay too much fast food in our diets). I  have resolved to make more nourishing meals at home. It seems simple but when you think about it, that means meal planning, better grocery shopping, and actually making the meal!

Resolutions, by definition, are firm decisions to do or not to do something.

What are you resolving?

What are you firmly going to do?

What are you firmly not going to do?

Don’t take this resolution lightly. It is a firm decision! Even if your resolution is not necessarily nutrition related (maybe it’s to quit smoking, reduce your stress, read your Bible, exercise, etc) this blog can help!

5 ways to stick with your resolutions:

  1. If you make one or two resolutions you CAN do it! Making more than three resolutions can be too challenging. One or two is much more manageable. Top priorities only, what are some things holding you back, what do you want for your health and wellbeing, what keeps you awake at night?
  2. Make your goals specific and realistic. Be specific about what you want and be realistic too! Specificity is key…what, where, when, why, how. Realistic…is it probable and possible?
  3. Know there will be bumps in the road. It’s inevitable so just anticipate them and make it a resolution to not let a little bump (or even a big bump) get in the way of your ultimate goals! You didn’t fail, you’re just human.
  4. You don’t have to jump in with both feet. Small steps can make the biggest difference! Even a little change can help your health (physically, mentally, and spiritually) in big ways.
  5. Tell people and get accountability. Gather a group of people who will support you and encourage your resolution. Ask them to check in on you once in a while and check in with them too!

So sure, resolutions can be cliche and many fail but some also stick. For those that actually make it through and change their lifestyle, it can be the difference between wellness and illness. I encourage you to firmly stick with your decision to improve your life, your health, your wellbeing.

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!

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!

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.

Month of Me

Boy as I typed that it sounded so selfish. I love life. Truly I do. I’m soooo blessed all around and if you asked me on a scale from 1-10 how happy I am, I’d tell you least an 11…because I’ve got joy, ya know?

Me and my gorgeous husband cheering on the Pens

At any rate, I’m a mom of 3 kids 5 and under…2 of those are twin-toddler boys and one is a spunky 5 year old. My job is a nutrition blogger, consultant, stay-at-home mom, and wife. I’m never bored and time for my self is limited. That’s just where I’m at in life…and I’m sure a lot of you out there are right with me. I love being a mom. For real, these kids bring so much sweetness to life I never would have imagined it. I also know that time flies too fast and to enjoy the moment. Most of the time I do…I can do without the whole wiping butts, boogers, and caked on spaghetti sauce from ears and hair buuuuut I do enjoy this stage in life. But sometimes mamma is tired, ya know? Sometimes I just want to run and hide and change my name and sleep until noon and not wipe butts/noses/caked on sauce and never watch PJ Masks again…ever. It’s just how I feel sometimes (and I know other moms do too)…but we wouldn’t give up our mom status for ANYTHING because they bring soooo much joy to our lives.

May is when we celebrate Mother’s Day. I’m taking this month for self care. Throwing caution to the wind and at the risk of sounding selfish, yep I’m taking May to do things for myself. I have a list of things on my “to-do” list that I’m going to check off this month. For me.

  1. Find new doctors – since moving I don’t have a Primary Care Physician (and others) so I’m going to find ones that fit me. I want a doctor that will listen to me, be a straight shooter, practice (or be open to) complementary medicine (both alternative and mainstream medicine), and down to earth. It’s important to understand your overall health and what you can do to improve it!
  2. Exercise regularly – I don’t (regularly)…I know. As a dietitian a healthy diet

    This is legit, raw, un-makeuped Amanda right there…with coffee, on the elliptical, early in the morning

    and exercise go hand in hand but I haven’t exercised regularly since my boys were born. I enjoy being active and exercising but I use #momlife as an excuse, ya know? My sister is a great workout motivator and we signed up for an 8 week exercise plan that I can do at home. I’m not here to advertise anything (it’s free) but I’m hoping it will be a good start to a lifelong change. I need to make time for myself to exercise. And I will.

  3. Read my Bible daily – sure I read my Bible but it’s not every day. It’s a few times a week and those times are incredible. I love my Jesus and in order to be a better me I need Him and I need His word. This is a huge part of my self care. I want to start with Jesus every day when it is quiet. I need to go to bed earlier so I can be sure to get up for some kid-free time!
  4. Connect – When I resigned from my job I gained precious time with my

    These ladies are some of the most amazing co-workers a girl could have ever asked for!

    children (and I don’t regret it for a second) but I also lost a lot (just being real). I lost my career, I lost my professional identity, I lost some of my dearest friends (I didn’t lose them but I don’t get to see/talk to them as much as I want), I lost affirmations that I was good at my job, and I lost the ability to talk to tons of people on a weekly basis. I LOVE people. Seriously. I miss having adult connection and it’s up to me to get out there, make friends, and connect with people.

  5. Say “yes” more – I’m pretty good about saying no if I feel like I can’t take something on. What I haven’t been good at is saying “yes” to different opportunities and sometimes that’s a good thing. Sometimes it’s not. I use the kids as an excuse because if you’ve had twins you know it’s really not an excuse! haha but I don’t want to have regrets and I want to show my children it’s OK to be adventurous, try different things, be involved, say yes (all relatively safe and within the will of God…amIright!?). More to come on this one…I may have a surprise for you all! 🙂
  6. Cook different foods – I tend to cook “safe” foods for me and my family. Familiar, trusted, quick, easy recipes. Well…when I made the Thai chicken salad with peanut dressing a while back I was blown away at the flavor and that I COULD cook with an Asian flair and it WAS delicious! I’m going to make a list of recipes or ideas that look delicious and try them. I just may surprise myself…and my family.
  7. Date my husband – this is as much for me as it is for him, and as much for

    My buddy and me!

    us as it is for our children. We are best friends. When I say that I mean it. He’s my buddy, my pal. A happy marriage takes work and isn’t easy but it’s so worth it. My parents are fantastic and have given us so many more opportunities to have date nights since we moved closer to them. We aren’t super intentional about date nights and we need to be. I need us to be.

  8. Enjoy each day – Listen, being a stay at home mom is no walk in the park (neither is being a working mom but that’s a blog for another time). I’m at 3 kids beacon calls all day every day. I don’t get a vacation. But let me tell you something. I’ve gained what most working moms dream – I get the priceless opportunity to watch these babies grow up, meet milestones, take their first steps, say their first words, do all of the funny and wonderful things that kids do. I missed a lot of that when I worked while my daughter was little. I have a blessed life with a beautiful home, a loving husband, 3 amazing and healthy kids, wonderful parents, an amazing family, some of the best friends a girl could ever ask for, 2 encouraging church families, and little to no stress. So I need to enjoy/count my blessings.

This is going to be raw sometimes I’m sure. I’m going to feel uncomfortable writing some things because if you’re a mom, you know that it’s taboo to be “selfish”. It’s hard to be vulnerable but that’s all part of this journey for me…to say yes, to put myself out there, to connect, to be healthier, to be a better wife/mom/me.

Stay tuned as I walk this journey. I may have more things I want to do…or want to start to do! I sincerely hope you gain something from this and you take your own self-care journey. For you.

Weight for the Holidays

During my nutrition counseling days I used to be busy seeing people…right after the holidays. My dietitian friends and I used to joke around that no one goes to a priest right before Vegas, they obviously wait until after. Same for us…after the “holiday binge” people want to lose weight as their top New Years resolution. Here’s the thing…if weight loss is your resolution every year then whatever you’ve been doing isn’t working. I’ll be doing a series on weight loss for the New Years so stay tuned. Right now we aren’t talking about resolutions we are talking about managing your weight during the holidays.

Do you get nervous that you’ll gain weight during the holidays? Do you know you’ll gain weight during the holidays and just go “all out”? Have you ever thought that you weren’t in control of what you eat, especially around the holidays? Do you feel guilty about what you eat during the holidays because it may affect your weight loss/management goals?

If you answered YES to any of these question, this blog post is for you!

I consider the nutrition-holiday season, the time period from right before Halloween (when all the candy comes out) until New Years Day. You buy Halloween candy starting in September but you eat a few bags before trick-or-treat night. The Halloween candy that you have leftover after trick-or-treat lasts until Thanksgiving and then right after the Thanksgiving feast we move right on in to Christmas parties, cookies, candies, cakes, pies, snacks, drinks, celebrations, etc, etc, etc. See where I’m coming from? From September to January many people eat more calories than they do the other months of the year leading to weight gain.

On the other hand, what does a little Halloween candy hurt, why can’t I enjoy a Thanksgiving feast, who doesn’t eat a lot at Christmas parties? Sure…enjoying this time of year is great but over-indulging for a few months or weeks at a time can lead to unwanted weight gain. What steps can you take in order to feel good about what you’ve been eating but also enjoy these foods that come out once a year? Read on my friends…

Halloween is long gone and Thanksgiving is behind us, let’s focus on what you can do now until Christmas to manage weight.

  1. Eat regularly. Have a balanced breakfast in the morning, eat lunch, have nutrient rich snacks throughout the day, and a dinner with grains, lean proteins, and veggies. When it’s time to celebrate, you’ve eaten well all day so enjoy the party.
  2. Limit liquid calories. Calories from alcohol add up quickly and they do not fill up your stomach and satisfy hunger. The recommendation for healthy alcohol consumption is 1 drink for women and 2 drink for men per day. Keep in mind that other beverages have calories too. Eggnog, sodas, fruit punch, flavored coffee drinks, and many others are loaded with sugar and some even have fat.
  3. Give yourself limits that are set before all hell breaks loose. I love Christmas cookies. Like I would rather eat Christmas cookies with milk all day long than eat anything else. Because  I dream about doing that (perhaps someday when I’m 80), I set a limit for how many cookies I can have in a day during the season and keep to that. It allows me to have cookies but not an entire dozen 🙂
  4. Remember your vegetables. Instead of filling your plate with tons of carbohydrates (cookies, pies, cakes, potatoes, stuffing, corn…) and proteins (ham, turkey, cheese, meats…) fill up half of your plate with veggies (salad, green beans, brussels sprouts, broccoli, cauliflower…). If you going to a potluck bring a veggie tray or a big salad. The party guests will love it!
  5. Instead of the holiday season revolving around food remember what it is really about! The birth of the Savior, showing the love of God by being kind, and gathering with friends and family. Our family LOVES games and we enjoy gathering around the tables after dinner to play, laugh, enjoy each other, and have a great time together.

Look, focus on managing not losing weight during the holidays. Keeping your weight the same is just as successful as losing weight when you are surrounded by tempting foods. You’ve got this! You can have control of what you eat. Knowing what you ultimately want and keeping your mind focused on that goal is the key. During the holiday season what is your goal?

Remember to stay tuned in January for the New Years Weight Loss Challenge! I’m so excited for it and I hope you will be too!

Smokey Chicken

This week my family (all 5 of us) were sick. We got a bad head cold and it ran through us like the plague! I hadn’t cooked all week because we were just surviving and who feels like cooking when you can’t taste it anyway, am I right? Finally last night I could kind of breathe again so I decided to make this delicious dish.

I found a recipe on Pinterest that looked really good a few months ago. What happens when I find recipes though, is I look for ways to “Amanda-fy” them…make them more of something that I’d like to eat, cook, or try out. This is one of those recipes that went from a Pinterest idea to something different.

Nutrition Lesson

Everyone talks about chicken breast and it being super lean source of protein. It really is BUT it can be more expensive than chicken thighs or drumsticks. Not everyone in the world has an unlimited budget that they can just willy nilly spend on food. I will be the first to tell you eating well does not have to be more expensive but there are certain tips and tricks I have in order to be able to say that with confidence. Like this chicken for instance. Although boneless skinless chicken breast is lean, chicken thighs and drumsticks aren’t as high in fat as most red meats.

I want us to be clear on what LEAN really means. When dietitians talk “lean meats” we are talking about the amount of fat in meats. For instance, haddock (the fish) is in the running for the leanest meat because it has a verrrrry tiny amount of fat in a 3 ounce serving (like about 1 gram of fat naturally). So when we say “lean” we are talking fat grams per 3 ounce serving. The leaner the meat the less fat it has, the less fat it has the less saturated fat (not so good for your heart fats) it has, the less saturated fat it has usually the less cholesterol it has (the stuff that can clog up your arteries), the less cholesterol it has usually the better it is for your heart and overall health.

Below is a nice little chart that shows how lean each meat is (I put them in order from least lean to leanest).

Meat Serving Calories Fat Grams

Saturated Fat

4 chicken wings 3 oz 426 35.9 14.1
Sausage links 3 oz 331 27 9.6
Prime rib 3 oz 276 21.6 8.7
Ground beef (80/20) 3 oz 230 15.2 5.7
Sirloin 3 oz 207 12.0 4.8
Bacon 3 slices 138 10.7 3.5
Ground beef (90/10) 3 oz 184 10.0 3.9
Chicken thigh (no skin) 3 oz 178 9.3 2.6
Ground turkey (93/7) 3 oz 128 7.1 1.8
Chicken breast (skin) 3 oz 156 7.0 1.8
Salmon 3 oz 144 5.7 1.2
Chicken drumstick (no skin) 3 oz 146 4.8 1.3
Pork loin or chop 3 oz 122 3.0 1.0
Chicken breast (no skin) 3 oz 122 3.0 0.7
Haddock 3 oz 95 0.8 0.1
Tuna 3 oz 99 0.7 0.2

Table information gathered from RD411, Calorie King, and Calorie Counter.

Yes. You read that right. Four wings. Not 6, not 12 but just 4. Regardless, the point of this blog is that skinless chicken thighs, drumsticks, and breast are all better choices than beef. Venison, grass-fed beef, buffalo, bison, and other wild game are in an awesome category of their own.

When eating well and eating on a budget needs to go hand in hand, stick with me and this blog. I won’t lead you astray!

Smoked paprika is the star of the show for this recipe. It’s not something I use often but it is good too have on hand, especially when you want to throw in a subtle hint of smoke and beautiful red color!

So here’s the recipe you voted for and were waiting so long to get your hands on!

Smokey Chicken

Ingredients:

  • 5 drumsticks (you can also use 2-3 breasts)
  • 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1/4 cup canola oil
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • pinch of cayenne pepper (more or less depending on your love of spice)
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

  1. Place apple cider vinegar, canola oil, garlic, and all of the spices into an iron skillet (or oven safe pan). Heat until simmering.
  2. Place drumsticks with the skin removed or pulled down into the skillet. Cook on the stove top for 5 minutes on each side of the drumstick.
  3. Place skillet into the oven for 15 minutes or until internal temperature of the chicken reaches 165 degrees.

img_8844

NOTES:

  • For more drumsticks just double the recipe on the vinegar, oil, spices. Extra isn’t a bad thing!
  • For breasts make sure you don’t dry them out.
  • INTERNAL TEMPERATURE IS SUPER IMPORTANT! Get yourself a food thermometer ($5 at walmart) or a more fancy version (I have one that goes into the oven with the meat and tells me when it’s done).
  • For more smoke add more smoked paprika
  • I served my smokey chicken with mashed potatoes and steamed broccoli…it was delicious!

How do you use smoked paprika?

Souper Easy Wellness Soup

Lame title, I know but it truly is super easy!

It’s fall and where I live, the leaves are gorgeous! Vivid colors that pop out of the green landscape and the cool weather that makes you want to eat warm soup. Here’s a picture taken on a walk last week. Simply beautiful.

img_8778

Listen, eating well and homemade cooking does not have to be hard, time consuming, or tasteless. That’s the theme of this blog. I want to show you how to eat well, simply; without having to buy rare ingredients at a specialty store, recipes that take minutes, and taste delicious! This recipe is what I call a “dump” recipe. I dump all of the ingredients into the pot with very little prep time. Easy peasy!

I have spun this soup recipe many ways but I must admit this one may be my favorite. It’s vegan which means it is entirely animal product free! I wanted to do it in October because you could also call this anti-cancer soup or anti-inflammatory soup but wellness soup fits more peoples wants/needs.

You cannot get too many veggies. If I’m missing a vegetable that you usually use in a soup or stew, add it. If there are leftover veggies in your freezer or refrigerator and you want to use them, throw those kids into the pool! Same thing with herbs and spices…use what you have and what you think will taste good together. You can’t go wrong with veggie soup, add what moves you!

To quote my dear friend and fellow dietitian Heather Tressler “Baking is a science, cooking is an art” meaning that when you bake something you probably should follow the recipe or it may not turn out well. Cooking however, is an art meaning that it is up to interpretation. Add, subtract, make it your own piece of art!

Let’s get down to it because I know you want the recipe!

Amanda’s Wellness Soup

Ingredients:

  • 3 tablespoons of canola oil
  • 2 tablespoons minced garlic (or more up to you)
  • 1 medium chopped onion (shortcut: use frozen chopped onions)
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper (or more if you want to really spice it up)
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar (surprise ingredient)
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 1 teaspoons basil
  • 2 teaspoons oregano
  • 1/2 cup lentils
  • 1/2 cup quinoa
  • 64 oz vegetable broth
  • 32 oz frozen soup vegetables (microwave for 5 minutes in a glass bowl)
  • 7 oz frozen corn
  • 10 oz shredded cabbage (you can shred yourself (about 3 cups) or use already shredded
  • 7 oz can of mushrooms (or any type of mushroom you like)
  • 5 oz frozen chopped kale
  • 1, 32 oz can diced tomatoes

Directions

  1. Heat a large stock pot over medium high heat, pour canola oil in and follow it up with garlic and onion. Allow the onion to cook until for 1-2 minutes.
  2. Add black pepper, turmeric, cayenne pepper and balsamic vinegar and allow the vinegar to cook down slightly (about 2 minutes)
  3. Add bay leaves, basil, oregano, lentils, and quinoa. The pan will be fairly dry but that is ok! Allow the lentils and quinoa to toast for about 1 minute before pouring the veggie broth.
  4. Place the soup veggies, corn, cabbage, mushrooms, kale and diced tomatoes into the pot.
  5. Allow soup to cook down (I had mine in the pot all day on low/simmer) or put in a crock pot on low all day.
  6. It’s ready to go right after all of the veggies warm up but I like to let the flavors marry for a few hours.

5 Quick Nutrition Lessons (from this recipe)

  1. Frozen veggies are just as awesome as fresh. In fact when vegetables are not local/seasonal then frozen is actually better than fresh. After veggies are picked they begin losing antioxidants within hours. Frozen vegetables are picked and flash frozen soon after harvesting which saves those amazing antioxidants. So this winter go for frozen vegetables!
  2. Turmeric is amazing (as you notice I have it in almost all of my recipes). It doesn’t work as well by itself so you need to make sure that you are pairing it with black pepper, garlic, and/or ginger for the anti-inflammatory properties to come alive. It’s also not as effective in supplement form. Cook with it! Enjoy that subtle smoky flavor in most of your cooking!
  3. Herbs and spices help improve the flavor of food without having to add a ton of salt. I do add some salt (not a lot by most standards) and let people shake it on if they prefer. We use way too much salt as a society so sometimes it takes a while to get used to the flavor without a ton of it in our food. If you (or someone you cook for) has high blood pressure, congestive heart failure (CHF), kidney disease, and some other diseases you may have to cut back. Reduce the salt and increase those delicious herbs and spices!
  4. Lentils, quinoa, peas, and corn are used as protein in this dish. You don’t need meat in order to eat protein…at all. All of these are actually less expensive than meat but more nutrient rich. So eating well doesn’t have to cost more, especially when you use these plant sources as protein. This soup is a meal in itself…protein, starches/carbohydrates, and vegetables all wrapped up into one delicious dish!
  5. This is a great soup for cold and flu season as well. It has been shown that garlic and onions are natural antibacterial and antiviral foods. They can help your body fight off these nasty viruses and bacteria! Remember when mom made chicken soup for a cold? There’s something to be said about that especially if she used garlic and onion. Tomatoes are rich in vitamin C which is a building block for your immune system and cayenne pepper has also been shown to ward off illness.

img_8816

Basically you cannot go wrong with this soup! From chronic disease prevention to common colds this soup has you covered!

I had leftovers that I wasn’t able to eat so there will be delicious leftovers in a few week!

img_8831

I’d like to hear from you! What would you add to this soup to make it even more healthy and delicious?