Tag Archives: nutrition

Guest Post: A New Mom’s Tip for Creating Balance

Today OnBalance features a post from new mama, experienced yogi, and fitness trainer Katie Painter.  Katie is based in Richmond, Virginia.  Find Katie on Facebook for more healthy living tips.

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“If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.”

Is this not the most irritating quote you’ve ever heard? No? Just me?

I think this quote grates on my nerves because it sends me right into defense mode.

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As a new mom to a six-month old I like to say that parenting is easy… as long as you’re lucky enough to have a laid-back baby and you’re super organized. I am only one of those things and it’s not organized. (Though now that I’ve put it into writing I’m sure I somehow angered the Happy Baby Gods and my little one will now suddenly turn into a sleepless, teething hellion.)

So in an attempt to make life a little easier, I tried to get organized and started food prepping on Sunday nights. Because when I fail to plan, I fail HARD at eating well.

Food prep means different things to different people. For my family, food prep isn’t perfectly portioned containers stacked up in the fridge ready to go. That’s not necessary or practical for us, but I do like to get food cleaned and ready to go so at the end of the day cooking isn’t a time consuming challenge.

Here’s a quick peek at what food prep usually looks like for us:

  • Veggies sliced, diced and seasoned
  • Crockpot chicken (By far the greatest food prep hack! Place 4 chicken breasts in 4c water, let sit all day with some salt, pepper, garlic and onion powder then remove, shred with a fork and store.)
  • Baked chicken (We love Lowery’s seasoning)
  • Ground turkey in homemade taco seasoning
  • Mason Jar Salads

Lunches are the hardest meal for me because if the little one is being needy, I have to eat with one hand while she squirms in my other arm. That means I grab whatever is ready to go. Mason jar salads are the best thing Pinterest has ever given me.

There are really only two rules for building any kind of mason jar salad:

1) Use ALL the veggies. (The more veggies you can throw into your salad, the happier your body will be!)

2) Keep your dressing and leafy greens as far away as possible. (Harder veggies like tomatoes, peppers, etc. will soak up the dressing a bit without wilting so put those in first.)

Here’s my current favorite recipe:

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  • 2 TBSP Balsamic Vinaigrette
  • Grape Tomatoes (As many as you want… go ahead and load ‘em up!)
  • 1oz Fresh Mozzarella Cheese
  • 2oz Pasta (Please don’t fall for the PROTEIN label in the picture! This is still a starchy carb and does not count as a fat loss protein source… we just like the taste of this particular kind)
  • 2c Baby Spinach

Add ingredients in the order listed above starting with the dressing on the bottom of the jar. (I add a small paper towel square to help absorb water and keep my spinach crisp.) Then seal up the jar, pop it in the fridge, and flip upside down into a bowl when you’re ready to enjoy.

Add protein later by heating up chicken before adding the salad OR add your favorite protein source right into the jar.

Have you tried mason jar salads? Share with us your favorite recipe!

Kudos to the Kitchen Kid

Last January, the greatest thing ever happened: my oldest kid took Culinary Arts in middle school.

Okay, maybe it wasn’t the greatest thing ever, but it certainly did change my life for the better in a real and meaningful way.

As someone who is committed to preparing fresh, healthy meals at home week in and week out, I know how exhausted many of you feel with the daily mealtime drudgery.  I mean, it’s like this family of mine needs to eat every.single.day.  And it’s not just the food prep and clean up that’s tiring; the meal planning is a job in and of itself.

In our home, we have the dreaded “Sunday Question,” which is: “What do you want to eat for dinner this week?” The way I figure it, if all five people in my family contribute a meal suggestion, I’ve just lightened the meal planning load I carry.  It also ensures that everyone will eat at least one meal without complaining.

It’s the little things, isn’t it?!

By cooking five meals per week at home, we have enough food for leftovers for lunch (both Mr. Balance and I work from home) and one other evening meal of leftovers.  This is our cost-effective way to eat as healthfully as possible.

Back to my kid….

When he took Culinary Arts last Spring semester, he learned not only practical kitchen skills, but he also got excited about helping to prepare family meals. He now fully prepares at least one meal a week by himself.  I’m usually around for him to ask questions, but as he has practiced his cooking skills, he needs me less and less.

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We’re now working on expanding his repertoire.  His favorite meal is a tuna, pasta and veggie bake, but he made that so much I had to limit it to every other week at most.  He’s been on a crustless quiche and fritatta kick lately.  I’m helping him feel more confident about veering off-recipe and finding the fun in cooking by combining flavors.

I could say that the best part about having a kid interested in cooking is the wonderful bonding experience it provides us.  Or I could tell you that the best part about having a kid interested in cooking is that he’s developing life skills that will serve him well once he leaves the nest.  But let’s be real: the best part about having a kid interested in cooking (and capable of doing it himself) is that I get a night off.

Of course, the look of satisfaction and pride on his face when his meal is ready, and he serves it up to his parents and siblings is pretty gratifying, too.

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Good health and great happiness to you!

Summer Nectarine Salad

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For all the time I spent on Pinterest, you’d think I do a new workout and sew a new garment and prepare a new recipe every day.  Sorry to burst your bubble, but I don’t.  Not even close.

Every once in a while, though, I come across something that must.be.made.now.  This summer nectarine salad from Honestly Yum is one of those things.  How could you not love a salad with prosciutto, nectarines, heirloom tomatoes, and mozzarella?  Impossible!

If you’re not convinced, take a look at it up close:

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I mean, really…….drooooooooooooool!

As written, the recipe is:

  • 3-4 nectarines
  • 2 heirloom tomatoes
  • 1 ball of mozzarella di bufala
  • 1 small bundle of basil
  • 6-8 slices of prosciutto
  • 2 heads of little gem lettuce
  • 1/4 cup of extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup of balsamic vinegar
  • Sea salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper

Directions:

  • Rinse and dry the lettuce and rip larger leaves in half.
  • Slice the nectarines and tomatoes into wedges.
  • Assemble the salad by laying the lettuce down on the bottom, scatter the tomatoes and nectarines over the lettuce.
  • Tear the mozzarella over the salad.
  • Tear leaves of basil over the salad.
  • Lay slices of prosciutto throughout the salad.
  • To make the dressing, whisk together 1/4  cup of balsamic vinegar with 1/4 cup of extra virgin olive oil.
  • Season salad with sea salt and black pepper.

I followed the basics of the recipe Honestly Yum set out (above), but I’ve never used butter or gem lettuce to make it.  I’ve made it with both mixed spring greens and arugula, and both are tasty.  Let’s be honest here:  it’s the “goodies” that make this salad so delicious.

And why stop at nectarines for fruity goodness in the salad?  Instead of basalmic to dress it, I like to make a quick vinaigrette of 3 parts orange juice , 1 part lemon juice, a dash of apple cider vinegar, and a hearty glug of EVOO.   I whizz it all together in my smoothie cup blender (but a whisk would do you just fine, too.)  Adding this slightly sweet dressing balances the salty of the prosciutto and mozzarella nicely.

If you have a favorite summer salad, won’t you please leave me the recipe or a link to where I can find it?

Good health and great happiness to you!

You’re Driving Me Nuts!

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It’s midsummer, which means I may or may not have said shouted this phrase at my kids once or twice (a day) recently.

It’s midsummer, which also means that it’s picnic and potluck season.

Lucky for you, today I have a recipe roundup of salads that will make a fantastic healthy addition to your next smorgasbord-focused event.  And each of these salads has a star ingredient in common: almonds.

  • Fancy a recipe that even salad-averse kids will want to eat?  (Or at least pick the toppings off of?)  Try the Mandarin Almond Salad from Sweet Treats & More.

  • Looking for a salad that puts a veggie other than lettuce front and center?  The Healthy Foodie’s Broccoli, Apple & Almond Salad offers a tasty option.

  • Feeling a bit highbrow/lowbrow?  The Crunchy Asian Slaw from My Homemade Life is not only a crowd-pleasing recipe but one of the funniest food posts you’ll read.  (Though when I make this slaw, I sub olive oil for vegetable oil.  And I do feel a bit awkward buying ramen at 40 years old.)
But why almonds?

They are the tree-nut with the highest density of protein, Vitamin E, B vitamins, and calcium, and they are also high in fiber.  Almonds contain concentrated monounsaturated (good) fats that can help lower LDL (bad) cholesterol levels. Aside from being a nutritional powerhouse, almonds have other positive benefits for the hair, skin, and immune system.  All this in a delicious little nut!

And because we live in Texas, where the surface-of-the-sun hot summers makes it challenging choose healthy portable snacks without schlepping along a cooler, almonds always make the cut.  When my kids get whiny and wingey in the afternoons, I often say shout: “Are you hungry? Do you need protein?  Go eat some nuts!”

I admit that my very favorite way to enjoy almonds is the dark chocolate-covered variety.  I mean, really…where else can you find such an anti-oxidant rich protein punch?  Nowhere!  These little superfoods are just the treat I need on long afternoons.

Happy Summer.  Hope the ones you love aren’t driving you nuts.

I was invited to write a post about almonds by the good folks at nuts.com.  All opinions are my own.

Throwback Thursday: An Updated Super Summer Salad

It’s that time of year again…even though it’s not been nearly as hot as normal in Austin, I still find myself searching for recipes that don’t involve using the oven.  Or doing much on the stove, either.  Lucky for me, I love salad.  Today I have a cold salad for you that I can’t stop making and eating…and making and eating…and making and eating.

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All of those gorgeous colors are a corn & bean salad that a friend of mine brought to The Monkey’s end-of-season soccer party.  It was the unanimous hit of the pot luck, with pretty much everyone begging my friend (who is a dietitian, so BONUS POINTS) for the recipe.

It takes my old favorite summer salad and kicks it up about ten notches.  It’s soooo good!

Summer Corn & Bean Salad

  • Sweet corn: 1 can, rinsed & drained
  • Pinto beans: 1 can, rinsed & drained
  • Black beans: 1 can, rinsed & drained
  • Red,orange, yellow bell pepper : 1 each, finely diced
  • Green onion: 2 bunches, finely diced
  • Cilantro: handful, chopped to garnish
  • Salt and pepper

To dress:  2 parts fresh orange juice and 1 part lemon juice plus 3 parts extra virgin olive oil  (The size of the “parts” depends on how much dressing you like.  Trust me, you’ll like the dressing.)

Mix cooked corn, pinto beans and black beans. Chopped bell peppers and green onions and add to beans. Season with salt and pepper and some of that chopped cilantro, add the juice.

Here’s a bonus: any leftover corn & bean salad is delicious on mixed greens.  Add cherry tomatoes, diced avocado, grilled chicken, and cilantro-lime dressing, and you’ve got a salad even my midwestern-raised husband will eat for dinner.

One more option: I passed this recipe on to a client, and she’s already made it multiple times, too.  She even got funky and subbed kidney beans for the pinto beans.  Another time she added in a diced avocado.  Go ahead and get crazy like that.   This salad can take it.

What are you doing still sitting here?  Get up and make some corn & bean salad!  You’ll thank me for the super tasty, well-balanced, easy-t0-whip-up recipe later.

Good health and great happiness to you!

Counting Calories

Check out the CDC’s website for a good overview of caloric balance.

 

Most people know that the foods the eat– both in type and in quantity– have an incredible impact on their well-being, even more so than exercise.  It’s common to hear athletes and coaches say, “You can’t outtrain a bad diet.”  That’s a sad but true reality.

Keeping records of what you eat can work to motivate you in the same way that keeping an exercise log lets you realize how much effort you’re putting in to your workouts.  Similarly, planning your meals helps keep you on track just like calendaring your workouts holds you more accountable.   But where do you start when you want to get a better understanding of what you’re eating?

Fortunately, the world of app technology has made keeping a food log pretty darn easy.  Apps like Spark People and My Fitness Pal allow you to track both food intake and calorie expenditure (exercise!) in one simple interface.  These work really well for a lot of people, particularly if your eating is simple and straightforward.

But if you’re the kind of person who does a lot of cooking one-dish-meals, it’s a bit more challenging to guesstimate the number of calories on your plate.  That’s where I feel like the app Calorie Counter has a real advantage.  It allows you to enter your recipe into it’s website, and it will determine the calories-per-serving size for you.  This saves the headache of having to enter individual ingredients time and time again.  Furthermore, you can scan barcodes of packaged food items, from which it determines the nutritional profile.

There’s one area where I think all of the calorie counting apps could be improved: I’d love to see a row of faces with different emotions on them so that I could click on how I felt both before and after eating particular foods.  Because so many of our food decisions are emotionally-driven, having the record of a certain craving being not-as-fulfilling-as-hoped could help me make a better choice the next time.

I always encourage my clients to track what they eat.  It doesn’t have to be an every day chore, but giving yourself the challenge of reflecting on your nutritional intake can make you more aware of how you eat (and why!).  This is important information for you along your wellness journey.

Hope I haven’t put a damper on your Memorial Day picnic plans.  Remember that there’s always room for a splurge in any eating plan.  It just makes keeping track of the big picture– over a week, for example– all the more important!  Knowing that you come out in a balanced position at the end of the week is far more important than what happens on any one day.

Do you use an app or online calorie counter?  How has it helped you reach your fitness goals?

 

 

One Bad Decision….

As a family, we have a lot of discussions about how one bad decision can change your life.  When you’re parenting a child as impulsive and risk-loving as our dear Monkey, this is a conversation that needs to happen over and over again, in the hopes that by the time he’s old enough to make a life-changing decision he takes half a second to pause, think, and make the right choice.  Or so we hope.

In a much less serious way, I have to learn this lesson over and over again myself.  For me, repetitive bad decision making has to do with food choices.  While I know what foods to eat to best fuel my body and satiate cravings, I don’t always do what is best for myself.  Let’s be clear: I’m not just talking about a little treat here and there that may have calories I don’t really need but sure tastes good while I’m enjoying it.  No, I’m talking about the kind of meal I choose to eat knowing that it will make me feel a bit too full– maybe even a little sick– afterwards.

Last week my husband and I went out for lunch at a local burger joint, and while standing in line to order I said to him, “I really shouldn’t get the bacon cheeseburger.  Last time I did it sat in my stomach like a rock for hours.”  I read over the rest of the menu, noting that I could get a grilled chicken sandwich or grilled mushroom instead.  But when it came time to order, what did I do?

Bacon cheeseburger.

And while it was super yummy while I was eating it, it did most certainly sit in my stomach like a  rock all afternoon.  I also didn’t cook dinner for my family as I usually do….I felt so gross I couldn’t even look at the food.  In fact, I was so distressingly full that I had only a bowl of oatmeal for dinner that night.    I would have just had a green smoothie, but I knew I was planning a long run in the morning and needed something more substantive.

Fast forward to that long run the next morning.  I still felt heavy.  I still felt like I was carrying a brick around my abdomen.  It made my long run– usually one of my favorite times of the week– a real chore.

I’m really working hard to make better decisions when it comes to fueling my body.  I don’t want to do any type of restrictive diet– life’s too short for that– but I know I need to honor my conscience when it tells me clearly that something isn’t going to work well for me.

With any luck at all, writing this story and putting this out there will help to solidify in my memory the really unpleasant experience I had from one bad decision.