Note: This is a dual post to Bright Weight Loss and Bright Love
Back in the 90's, when I first became "Mama," we all gave our
kids juice. We watered it down, of course. Pepper didn't have
full-strength juice until she got her first juice-box at a party when
she was 3. Kids got their 3 cups of milk and the rest of their
beverages were juice. It was an improvement over Kool-Aid or Soda,
Things have changed. Now we realize that although
juice has lots of vitamins and good stuff, it's also mostly sugar, even
if it has "no added sugar." Kids also need the fiber and chewing action
of real fruit -- so that's the way to go.
Littles consider juice a real treat. We give them juice on the rare
occasions others would give kids soda; birthday parties, holidays, etc.
They get so excited about it! I almost feel guilty. Almost.
It turns out that kids who don't know better don't miss it. Who'd have thought? The Littles drink lots of water. Lots. It's inspirational.
I have one more reason to be the mean-juice-withholding-mama. Turns
out most of our apple juice -- my personal favorite in the 90s -- is
imported from China. Their laws regarding pesticide and safe food
practices are far less stringent than ours. It just seems like a bad idea.
Please stop giving your kids juice. They don't need it. In 3 weeks, they'll stop asking. Just, water, people, please.
Okay I give up, I surrender, I have officially waved the white flag. There is no way I am going to fit 6 hours of exercise into my "waking hours" each week, especially when you add in the inevitable 30 minutes of prep time or travel each day.. I have tried a number of schemes and it just ain't happenin.' The other day I sat down and took an objective look at what I really want to accomplish each day, how many hours are actually in the day and what I would need to give up. This was on a day on which I rose at 5:45 and took my first "break" from housework, childcare, cooking and paperwork at 9:30 p.m. And guess what, the house was still pretty wildly out of control and I did not think any of the kids got the attention they deserved that day.
The other issue is the Littles and their attachment issues. They have been through a lot, this clan, but exercising away from them has meant checking them into the child care at the Y. We have a great setting for kids at our Y but I really don't want to do that more often than once or twice a month. They need to be with me. They are so anxious away from me. And with the weather growing more inclement, throwing them all in the jogging stroller is not always an option.
My Grandma used to say, "drastic situations call for drastic measures." I am taking drastic measures. I decided to find the time in my "Sleep hours" (or at least everyone else's!) Thanks to the inspiration of my good buddy Colleen, I am now rising at 4:40 to get to the gym by 5:00. Weekdays, only; I'm not crazy, people!
I can fit in 50 solid minutes of cardio or strength training and still get home a few minutes before I have to wake The Captain. If I am organized the night before, the little guy and I can even have breakfast together before his bus comes at 6:45; I'm normally not awake enough to want breakfast yet. Dear Hubby and the rest of the gang are all still slumbering so no-one even misses me. Truth be told, it's early even for an early bird like me, but it is worth it. I am enjoying it so much; I have really needed some solid "me" time!
Are we tricking ourselves with restrictive diets? Decide for yourself; here is NPR's take on the popular Paleo diet. Here is a review by US News; it appears to be unbiased and based on nutrition science. I pondered this plan for a while but I thought it would be difficult to maintain for a lifetime.
Since it's the season of parties, cookies, and other deliciousness,I thought we could use a little inspiration to stay on track. Check out this mama on the move!
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Have we been tricked into avoiding peas? Yes, they have more calories than some other veggies, but they also have a lot to offer, like half of our vitamin K for the day, 9 grams of fiber and 9 grams of protein! This cleverly titled article has all the facts.
If you love honey for it's pollen induced benefits, I have a tip for you: Know where your honey comes from and whenever possible, buy locally. This may be harder than it sounds. Yesterday I noted that a bottle labled "Texas Honey" contained honey from 4 other countries! Here is some disturbing news about what you may really be getting.
Today's inspirations is what seems like pretty good advice on feeding kids; I am doing some things well; and some --well -- not so much! Check out the article for yourself.
Happy Thanksgiving! I mean it sincerely -- I am thankful for you, faithful reader!
Now, enough of that -- tomorrow is Black Friday my favorite shopping day of the year.
Do you get hungry when you shop? I get ravenous. Here's a tip for you: As you're about to make your late night turkey sando, take 5 minutes to prepare for tomorrow. Fill a small cooler with grapes, 100 calorie packs of crackers, water, oranges (peeled and sectioned), string cheese or a boiled egg, yogurt (spoon too, please) and baby carrots. Each time you walk to your car to unload, take a 3 minute break. Really, those door busters can wait! Sit down, take a breath, and have a filling snack and 8 oz. of water. Your shopping will go more smoothly and you will be less likely to pop into IHOP for your whole day's worth of calories on a single plate!
While you're at it, get in some tricky exercise during that shopping trip. Park way out on the edge of the lot (daylight hours only, please) and really power-walk to and from that store. I have been known to jog to and from my car, much to my 13-year-old's chagrin. On Friday, she'll be in charge of pushing the cart while I get my groove on. She will likely pretend she doesn't know me! Also, forget fashion, folks. Wear your exercise clothes and your running shoes. You'll be less likely to nosh at the in-store coffee shop and more likely to jog in the parking lot.
Finally, bring your best self to the shopping. I am not talking about your attire. Let your holiday spirit show on your face, slap a santa hat on your head, and be an inspiration to one and all. I am always amazed at how much scowling I see on Black Friday. Hey, people, we're shopping for gifts here; for our loved ones. Go ahead and enjoy yourself. Sing loudly to the background carols. Hug people. Act the fool.
A new study shows what we already know -- people don't take their kids to McDonalds for healthy food. So maybe it's an obvious tip but my advice is this: Skip the fast food lane altogether and pop in your nearest grocer for some cheese, hummus or deli meat, whole wheat crackers, grapes and milk or yogurt. Go to a real playground for a picnic with fresh air and everything! You'll be a hero and your kids will benefit!
Is your warm-up more trick than necessity? Here is an interview with the author of a fascinating new study. The upshot for me is that if I am trying to increase performance, I will experiment with reducing my warm-up time. If I am simply exercising, I will likely continue my warm-ups since exercise is exercise and I prefer to err on the side of caution.
This week's inspiration is an (oldish) NY Times article on Bento boxes. C'mon, already, time to stop thinking about it and build your own bentos!
I had a breakdown Wednesday. It wasn't the quiet, pretty kind with a single tissue and a little delicate nose blowing. It was a full-out fit accompanied by a lot of snot and loud nose blowing. And then I could see the light again.
Last week I was already moaning. Remember then I thought it was fear of success. By mid-week it had become absolute hopelessness. I guess you could say I'd "hit the wall" (metaphorically) in my marathon of weight loss. Not technically of course -- I think my glycogen stores are fine -- but emotionally. If you've been following this blog, you know; I've been at this a while. It is definitely a marathon and not a sprint. Last week, my mind suddenly got hold of the notion that it's been "too long, it's too hard and is, in fact, hopeless." In retrospect, I can see that my cold -- which had taken a gross turn for the worse at that point -- probably had something to do with it.
Thank goodness for support partners. He picked up on something in my voice in the first moments of the call and went after it like a hound dog. When he got his teeth into it, he did not let go until my mind-talk surrendered and truth was able to float up like a balloon. Thanks, buddy!
When I was able to tell the truth, I realized that I do not know how long it "should" take to lose weight. I am controlling what is in my capacity to control and there are always places I could work harder. I have been really hard on myself; there is a dictator in the corner bossing me around. I don't have to do that. I can (and choose to) be kinder to myself and still stick to my word to myself.
I made a couple of choices for this week:
1) reconsider doing a FAMILY photo instead of a children's photo
2) buy myself some pretty holiday clothes instead of just "making do" with whatever is in my closet
3) Move my strength training earlier in my day (so I will do it!) and set an alarm on my phone.
You probably can't see the obvious correlation between what I said was going on and my choices but I'll spare you all the grizzly details. The takeaway here is that I don't have to be a diet dictator. I can LOVE myself "through the wall" instead!
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I did lose weight this week but nonetheless, it's been a tough week. We started with Halloween then had our first spate of cold weather and ended with a softball tournament. It was a wonderful week in the life of a family and a very challenging one in the life of weight loss. Yesterday I ate two donuts. I know, not the end of the world, but so very definitely not on my plan.
For me the challenge is all about willingness. Am I willing to take the extra five minutes to wrassle the jogging stroller into the car so I can squeeze in some exercise while the team warms up? Am I willing to take time to make my healthy shake while three pre-schoolers are demanding their breakfast? Am I willing to go outside and take my walk even if it's cold out?
The list goes on. It is so easy to convince myself that it will be all right to skip this one workout or eat a donut because I didn't' want to take the 5 minutes to make a shake. And the truth is that I can do these things but if I do, I'm not keeping my word to myself. Which raises the question: Why am I so willing to do things for others but so unwilling to do them for myself?
It boils down to one thing and I don't think the "thing" is fear of failure. I think it is fear of success. So this week, I will be making a list of what I am afraid will happen if I finally succeed at getting to my goal weight. Stay tuned.
Welcome to November! Are you ready for some tips, tricks and inspiration?
Today's tip is based on a saying: "Fail to plan and plan to fail!" Try spending some time this weekend planning all your meals for next week. I am now making use of Google calendar to plan my menus so I can have our favorite meals repeat in two weeks, three weeks or a month. I note the calorie count/Weight Watcher points on the menu so I don't have to re-do the math each time.
Fat-free Salad Dressings are a trick and can actually sabotage your quest to a healthier you! According to Fooducate, those dressings are mostly water and chemicals and that little bit of fat in your dressing will help you absorb all those great vitamins in your salad! Read more here.
Today's inspiration is coming from you! Think of a time when you were doing well on your weight loss journey and re-read a few journal entries or blogs from back then. What was different then from now? Let me know what you find and I will do the same!
People who give me unsolicited weight loss advice like, "Just cut back on starchy foods" or "You probably aren't getting enough exercise," or my all time favorite, "It's just calories in, calories out."
Come on people, I am a weight-loss expert!! I have devoted years of my life to the study of weight loss: What helps, what hurts, what can get in the way. Am I getting enough sleep? How's my balance of carbs to protien? What role does blood sugar play? How much exercise is "enough?" What can I do to speed up my metabolism? Etc., etc., etc.
If it were simple, we'd all be skinny. I know this because I was skinny most of my life and I did not earn it. It came naturally to me then as apparently, being fat now comes naturally. I know there are skinny people out there who work at it every day, but I have to say, their numbers are few.
I would like to set the record straight on this one thing: I think you'd be hard pressed to find many adults who consistently eat as healthfully as I do. I am a very healthy eater. And I get a lot of exercise, usually far more than my recommended 30 minutes per day. And aside from that, I am about ten times healthier than I ever was when I was skinny. I joke that when I was a skinny single girl, I lived on Frosted Flakes and Blue Bell Ice Cream. And it is not that far from the truth.
I know people just mean well. I do know that. And I am truly grateful that people care about my well being. But if you really want to help me, please come over and go for a walk with me, or watch my kids while I swim, or come to my house for supper instead of suggesting a restaurant. Because I am not going to be trying your Paleo diet or your Eat Clean diet or your Dukan diet. I am going to stick to my regimen of healthy foods and exercise and I am going to trust that if I keep fighting, I will eventually prevail.
(By the way, if you are newer to this process than I am and you would like to know about the considerable research on any of these points, give me a shout!)
Today's tip comes from one of my favorite blogs, Fooducate. We can take a lesson from our kids: Stop eating when you are full! And further, we need to stop making our kids eat beyond that point! Yes, they will be hungry later. That's good, right? Here's the full article for your reference.
The "trick" of the week is actually about avoiding a "big food "trick. Do you know that the word, "natural" on a food package is practically meaninglingless ? Here is an interesting Food Republic article that explains further.
To top it all off, here is the inspirational story of Alisha, who lost 120 pounds. One thing that really inspired me was her choice to "start small" at the gym. She didn't go out and try to run 5 miles the first day. She increased her workouts incrementally as her confidence and fitness increased. Here is her story.
For the past 18 months or so, I've weighed pretty much the same. I'm about 35 pounds down from where I started my weight loss journey in the fall of '09 and still have a good 60 pounds to lose, possibly more.
During the past 18 months, I've stuck with my calorie ranges, I've exercised, I've had extremely limited times of going off plan and those times have been rare, indeed. I've learned to take a holi-DAY and not a whole week or month off plan. I've dealt with illness, visitors and schedule changes. I've exercised as much as 10 hours a week and as little as 2. I've had 3 visits to the internist to have my thyroid medicine levels checked. I've adjusted what I eat, when I eat, how much I sleep, how I exercise, and everything else I can think of to adjust. Still, I basically weigh the same.
You may wonder, then, why I persevere. The answer is really quite simple: I persevere because I am worth it.
I am 52 years old. In this decade, I am setting the foundation for my old age. I am worth having fresh produce in the house. I am worth the time it takes to plan, shop for and prepare healthy meals. I am worth setting aside enough time to exercise and to sleep. I am worth a long and lively old age!
I hang in there because in the past 2 years, I have reduced my health risk by 200%. My triglycerides, cholesterol and blood pressure are fantastic. I eat more fiber than a rabbit. I am a stronger, fitter, healthier, happier person than I have ever been before. I'm still not athletic, but I am certainly more capable and confident about sports and exercise than I ever was as a thin teen.
I persevere because I want to set a good example for my 5 children and because I plan on getting a big bunch of grandkids out of them! I persevere because those who know better should do better and I am one who knows better! I keep on going because I do believe I will one day overcome whatever is blocking me now and I will achieve my goal. I stick with it because I have learned so much that I can never "unlearn." I persevere because what I am learning is benefiting others.
I am worth it . . . and you are too. Dream big but work hard too. One day we will both get there.
The trick of the week is a super one: Eat SANE. Check out this Fooducate blog post to find out the details but in essence, your weight loss plan should be Sustainable, considered an Approach (not legislation), be focused on Nutrition and include a big dose of Enjoyment!
Now for your dose of inspiration. Sometimes don't you just think "I'm too OLD to exercise?" Here's proof that you (and I) are not!
Weight loss is complex. I am famous for saying that you have to work the numbers, and that is certainly true. If I consume more calories than I burn, I will gain weight and vice versa. It's figuring out that "burn number" that throws the wrench in the works.
Last year my internist told me that you can't account for metabolism. You just have to keep trying until you hit the combination that works. After a full year of unintentional maintenance, I am here to say I haven't found it.
18 months ago, I lost 40 pounds on medically supervised weight loss. I stopped that program when we got the "Littles" because it just didn't work, timewise. It was daytime only and no kids allowed. Since then I have "found" 10 of those pounds then plateued at a 30 pound loss and never moved. It can get frustrating.
I had several weeks in a row recently of staying well within my calorie range. One week I lost 0.4, the next I gained 0.6. Last week, I was within my calories for the week but what I ate contained some "poor choices" like ice cream. I also forgot to take my thyroid medicine three times. Gained 1.6.
I realize it probably sounds like I'm whining. I'm not. I am saying all this to remind myself (and you) that sometimes, it just isn't that straightforward. Yet, there are still things I can (and will) do.
I will make sure I get in all my water and maybe a little extra.
I will take stock of my spiritual affairs because no matter the numbers, I am convinced my emotions affect metabolism.
I'll start getting 8 hours of sleep again because I know that affects weight.
I know that if I do everything I can do, eventually, the scale will start to move down again. The challenge is moving myself high enough on the priority list to get it all done every day. And today is a new day -- so it will be the day that I hit all the markers. Cheers!
We are still rocking the bentos this week. Next week, our bentos will feature a "trip around the world" with dishes inspired by India, the Mediterranean, Spain and France, as well as one Asian inspired meal. This week's bentos all came from my daughter's birthday present, The Just Bento Cookbook.
This has lead to renew my love with all things pickled, so today's trick is pickling. If, like me, you get tired of salad, this is a good and low calorie way to change up those veggies. I came across this yummy sounding Polish pickle recipe on Snack Girl.
Now, for your weekly inspiration. Yesterday I was tasked with journaling some non-scale related changes in my life since beginning my weight loss journey. I'm sharing my short list with you, but this week, you are to inspire yourself by doing the same. Remember, they are not about weight but about the other things. Here are a couple of mine:
My whole family eats more healthfully
I feel happy about what I eat
I feel strong and fit
I feel younger in age and have tons more energy
I have developed my sense of purpose
I have learned that I am worth spending time and energy on
Please share your list with me and let me celebrate with you!
The other day I made a beautiful pork loin -- the simple way. Marinated it in soy sauce, Sprite, and garlic. Browned all sides and roasted it until done. It was just perfect.
The pork loin put me in the mood for bento boxes. This week I was actually able to buy spinach in a bunch at the market; I love it for the spinach knobs because the stems add a nice crunch and they make them look so interesting. Here's what is in my boxes:
I love the spinach knobs I learned to make from JustBento. They are such a favorite that our family of 7 will eat three bunchesof spinach in minutes. I thinks the seasoned sauce is what makes the difference.
I have adapted Maki's sauce in the following way:
Firstly, I quadruple it because there are so many of us! I sub in tahini for the sesame seeds, rice-wine vinegar for the mirin and I add a squirt of mustard to help emulsify it and because it takes great with spinach. I know all the changes make it not very Japanese. But I suppose that's perfect since I am Italian-Scotch-Irish American lady with a rainbow of a family!
Here's my version of the Sesame Sauce for Spinach:
1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
1/4 cup soy sauce
2 Tblsp. Tahini
2 Tblsp. Sugar
Squirt mustard (maybe 1/2 tsp)
Roasted sesame seeds for sprinkling
Whisk all this together. It keeps well in fridge a couple of weeks. It will never last that long.
This photo shows everything coming together on the stove.
All ready for assembly
Filled boxes. These two get sauce bottles because they will leave the house. For we homebodies I just keep the sauce in the fridge. The carrots are hiding under the spinach knobs.
Here is what the boxes look like assembled. I love the stacking ones like the green one -- they are so clever! All of these are very inexpensive boxes (from the Chinese equivalent of dollar store) so I don't have to worry if one gets lost or damaged.
This super smart one was purchased by Pepper in San Francisco; I love the way it keeps her utensils and chopsticks so handy.
For five bento boxes, I use 3 bunches of spinach, four zuchinni (big ones) and 3 carrots. That is a lot of veggie servings per person. And the spinach knobs are so delicious and fun, my kids actually fight over them.
Is it quick to make bento lunches? Sometimes. This time it was not, it took about an hour counting numerous interventions by my preschoolers. Is it worth it? Absolutely. I spent an hour making lunches for my entire family that are not only appetizing, they are healthy, colorful and fun to eat! .
I have a new weight loss buddy and I was explaining some things to her the other day. It occurred to me that I know a lot about weight loss. Yet, sometimes I don't use what I know. So the trick of the week is: Do what you know how to do. If you are brand new to weight loss or way too experienced, there are things you know. Do those things this week. As for me, I am going to drink my water. I know it matters, so I am going to do it. I am down half a pound this week but noticed my ankles were really swollen. Guess who hadn't been drinking her water?
The tip of the week is for all of we sugar addicts. Here is an article that shows step-by-step how to break the sugar habit.
Now for the inspiration. This is probably the most inspiring video I've seen about weight loss. I have posted it before but after a lack of self control yesterday, I decided it was time for a re-run. Turn off the TV, send the kids outside and take the 4 minutes. It's worth it!!
Isn't that the truth? Wanting to find a new job won't do it. Thinking about saving money won't save it. Getting frustrated about the messy closet doesn't clean it. Wishing I were thinner doesn't take the weight off.
Sometimes, it helps to be reminded. If I am going to enjoy living at goal weight, I've got to get there first. And that means every day, I have to move my weight loss up to "project status." You know what I mean by that, right? That means setting aside time to plan, to shop for fresh produce, to cook healthy meals, to exercise; it means remembering that my weight loss project has intrinsic value and is worth investing time in.
I have a new weight loss buddy, which has made it easier to move this project up my priority list. I am setting mini-goals for myself, like tracking all my food every day. I will not eat a candy bar if I have to write it down; I'm just not that gal! I am helping my buddy, which makes me more thoughtful about my own plan, as well.
Perhaps most importantly, I've gotten started. I'm leaving behind the chaos of the last year and looking forward. While I'm pleased that I've managed to maintain my previous loss for a year, now it is time to finish this project. Stay tuned!
Sometimes there really aren't enough hours in the day. Hence my Friday post is making it in on Saturday! Here my tips, tricks and inspiration for the week.
Tip of the day: The Harvard Health Blog. I love this blog. This week instead of just whining about how the USDAs replacement to the food pyramid is useless, they came up with an actual improved version. Positive press - gotta love it!
This week's trick is portion control. A year ago, I bought serving spoons at Weight Watchers that make it easy to serve out a 1 cup, 1/2 cup (etc.) portion. I've you've ever tried to squish a cup of spaghetti into a measuring cup, you know what I mean. Anyway, let's make it a "weigh and measure" weekend and get those portions under control.
If you want to know more about portion distortion, here is an eye opening graphic I came across in June:
Finally, this week's inspiration. Every time I think "I can't do it," I read about someone who shows me I can. Guess what? I can. Here is an article to inspire you, too!
Have a good "weigh and measure weekend," everyone!
I am always looking for yummy low-fat food. My favorite bento blogger published a recipe for some beautiful cabbage rolls. I decided to use her technique with my favorite chicken recipe. I make a huge recipe of the chicken filling and then use it to create 3 kinds of meals. Any form freezes great!
Yes they talk a long time, but since you are getting 24 servings, it's worth it!.
The cabbage wrapped ones are definitely the stars but I am too lazy to do more than one head of the cabbage!
The nutritional info and Weight Watchers Points (Plus) are at the end.
Sesame Oil, 1/2 tsp
Canola Oil, 1 tbsp
Chicken Breast, no skin, 72 ounces
Chicken Broth, 2 cup (8 fl oz)
Garlic, 3 cloves
Ginger Root, 2 tsp
Cabbage, napa, 1 head
Quaker Oats 100% Natural Whole Grain oatmeal, 1.50 cup
Kikkoman Lite Soy Sauce, 3 tbsp
Cover the leaves with water and bring it to a boil. Turn it off, drain and let them cool.
Meanwhile, mix the filling. I grind my own chicken breast but it isn't required. Add all the remaining ingredients except the chicken broth. You can use a spoon but it's easier with your hands.
Using a melon baller or small scoop, place a ball near the broad end of each leaf. Tuck the top over, fold in the sides and roll like a burrito. Refer to the JUST BENTO blog for a fine explanation and lovely photos.
Place these chicken balls in the bottom of a large pan, resting on the "tail" end. Pour in enough chicken stock to cover the bottom by about 1/2 inch. Heat to boiling and reduce to simmer. Cover pan and cook 15 minutes. Double-check with a meat thermometer (should be 160 degrees.)
Lift them out gently and reserve the yummy broth. Serve with Chinese dipping sauce for dumplings.
This way makes about 6 servings. I will use them for bento boxes with carrot kinpira and fruit.
Using a small scoop, about golf ball size, and form all the remaining filling into balls. This is easier with wet hands.
Heat about 1 tbsp. of cooking oil and 1/2 teaspoon sesame oil in non-stick skillet. Flatten 18 balls in your hands to make patties about 1/2" thick. Divide into two batches; cook until 160 degrees inside; about 3-4 minutes on each side. Reserve oil in skillet.. (Serve 3 patties to each with fried rice and carrots).
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Add 2 teaspoons of cooking oil to skillet.
Working in batches, quickly brown meatballs. Place in large roasting pan, coated with cooing spray.
When all meatballs are added, pour in the reserved broth from the cabbage balls. Place in oven for 25-30 minutes or until the meatballs reach 160 degrees.
Serve these with plum sauce or orange sauce.
I am going to put them in lunches with edema-me and molded rice.
3 Weight Watchers points per serving
A few years ago, I saw a Weight Watchers Online thread on bento boxes. It raised my curiosity so (as ususal) I did some research and the Tischler love of all things bento was born. We love them so much, one year we gave empty boxes, rice molds, egg molds and other fun things to Pepper's teachers for Christmas. (Thought train derailed -- we have all new teachers now so maybe will re-run that idea!) We love them so much, Pepper is considering training in Japan when she finishes culinary school!
I love Korean veggies so have adapted several recipes for them; they also go well in the bento boxes. I am going to make Pepper and Dear Hubby bentos for lunch this week, so I will take some pictures and post them with recipes through the week.
The cool thing about bento is that it spurs creativity. It raises the bar on bag lunch. How can I make this beautiful as well as palatable? What can I have for lunch that is not a sandwich? Bentos do not have to be Asian inspired though must of ours are; we love the Japanese, Chinese and Korean flavor palettes.
In case I've raised your curiosity, here are two articles on Japanese eating and lifestyle:
This one is from is from the Pittsburgh Post Gazette and talks about the possibilities for slimming your waistline while enjoying Japanese cuisine.
I was inspired by this National Geographic article too. We have a lot to learn from the Japanese population's approach to eating.
If you get inspired to do your own bentos too, please send me some pics!
This is more a formula than a recipe. What follows is my usual way of preparing it, along with a few variations. It's low fat, meatless, high fiber but most importantly, YUMMY!
Ingredients (for 4 people; our family doubles it).
1 cup brown rice (prepare according to package directions)
1 can (15 oz) black (turtle) beans, undrained (heat in saucepan)
1 package baby spinach
1 handful cilantro, chopped
1/4 cup ricotta cheese
Line meat platter or large shallow bowl with all the baby spinach.
Top with hot rice (spread it out over the spinach so it wilts)
Add cilantro to the black beans
Pour beans over rice
Place the ricotta cheese in dollops on the top
Garnish with cilantro
White rice instead of brown
Marinated veggies: marinate cauliflower, carrots, bell pepper in vinaigrette; the veg go on top of the beans!
Boost the Veg:
Cook carrots and/or celery in the beans until done
Don't like ricotta?
Substitute Fat free sour cream
Top with green onions, as desired.
A shout out to my friend Bruce who often served me something similar; that was the origin of this!
Sometimes I am just a little snarky. And frankly, some products are just asking for it.
I make homemade mac-n-cheese almost always. I was raised on it and nothing in a box will do it for me. Nonetheless, I have "normal" kids who also like the box stuff, so sometimes I buy it for them. This week, I came home with the title product. I probably would not have bought it, but I got it for free in a special. So we tried it.
When I read the directions, I thought, "Hmmm, this sounds suspiciously like making white sauce." When I opened the "special seasoning," it tasted a lot like flour. Then I added the "cheese sauce." I tasted it of course. It tasted like a cross between Cheez Whiz and Velveeta. The bread crumbs were dry, bland and apparently unseasoned.
Here is the thing, with the exception of using the "cheese product" instead of actual cheese, you are basically making homemade macaroni and cheese. Most times when I make it, I top it with buttery cracker or bread crumbs and run it through the oven for a bit. But if I'm in a hurry, I do it all stove-top like the aforementioned product.
So I guess my real question is why anyone would buy this product and not just make homemade mac and (real)cheese? And if you love the creaminess of processed cheese, you can always use velveeta for half the cheese. It will not take any longer, I promise. I spent more time trying to open the "easy open" sauce packet than I would grating the cheese!
My homemade mac-n-cheese has 8 easy-to-pronounce ingredients: Macaroni, skim milk, cheese, butter, flour, breadcrumbs, salt, and pepper. This "homestyle" product has at least 23 ingredients, including canola oil and several stabilizer, colors, and preservatives. (I say "at least 23" because I am generously assuming their bread crumbs and macaroni are the same as my "at home" versions.
So please, people, do me a favor. Do not buy this stuff. We have to stand up for home cooking sometime! And if you do not buy it, you will save money, come out even on calories, save or break-even on time and enjoy a savory dish made with love! If you need a recipe, let me know.
I know, I've been quiet. It's simple really, things got pretty busy around here and once again, I let myself fall to 7th on the list I noticed about a week ago and course corrected.
Anyhow, still slowly dropping weight. I'm hoping now that Sunshine done with All-Stars softball, we won't be running around so much; that plays havoc with my plans. I am setting a goal to lose 2 pounds in the next week and a half before we leave on vacation. Then I will have a goal of maintaining while on vacation.
The good news? After weeks of 100+ temperatures, fruit and veggies are really palatable. I am totally loving the watermelon and salads these days. And all this softball and toddler chasing is keeping me active.
I recommit to blogging; I sometimes forget I actually started the blog for myself to keep track of my learnings. So there ya go!
Woo-hoo! It's Friday! As a stay-at-home mom, weekends are pretty much like all the other days to me except we get to see a lot more of dear hubby. I love Fridays, though, because that's the day I share with you my week's gleaning of tips, tricks and a little inspiration for your journey!
Since we are coming onto a holiday weekend in the US, we'll focus on that.
First the Tricks: Consider a plan to maintain for the holiday weekend. If you are hosting or attending a holiday gathering -- especially one that spans a couple of days -- maintaining may be a more reasonable plan than weight loss.
Trick #2 is painstakingly obvious: If you are contributing a dish or two to the holiday festivities, make it a guilt free one. Take a giant salad, a fresh fruit salad, Homemade Hummus with low-fat pita chips, or anything else you really love that is filling, fresh and easy on the waistline.
Tip of the Day:
Do you ever wonder about whether organic foods justify the cost? Are you harming yourself or your family by buying "regular" produce? The debate on these questions rages on but I have settled on a happy medium. I carry with me a list of the produce most likely to contain harmful pesticides -- The Dirty Dozen -- as well as it's companion list, the cleanest fruits and vegetables, and it helps guide my decisions. We all have to make a personal decision about these matters but this list helps me hit the middle ground.
Finally, The Inspiration of the Week. I know from personal experience that teaming up can make weight loss more fun and successful. I lost my first 45 pounds with dear hubby. I am making the second half of my journey with my friend Tammy; we are succeeding together. Here's a great story from Woman's Day about a married couple who underwent a huge transformation together. Enjoy.
Happy 4th of July everyone. I am grateful for the freedoms I enjoy and often take for granted. Have a thankful holiday!
Lately I have been so puzzled by the whole "school lunch" thing. Why wouldn't a school want to feed kids healthy fresh food? I have assumed it was about the almighty dollar, but the info I learned from the Slow Cook blog made me mad as hell. Yes, you heard it right.
This blog explains the 10%-15% (or even 50%!) rebates that food service providers receive from the big food companies because they buy food in huge quantities. The companies that run food services in many public schools are then supposed to pass those rebates right onto the schools. So school "Learn A Lot" hires "Serve a Lot" to run their food service. Because "Serve a Lot" is serving hundreds of students in each of hundreds of schools, they receive these rebates, making food service cheap. Schools are always needing to save money, right? So this looks like a winner of a program to them. (And for the record, I'm totally in favor of schools having more money to put toward learning.)
There are some problems, however. One problem is that the food service companies don't return the rebates to the schools in a timely manner. The bigger problem is that the whole unsavory business is shrouded in secrecy, probably because the companies realize that we would be mad as hell if we knew. The bigger problem leads to an even bigger one: We are not talking about produce companies selling lettuce here. We are talking about Apple Jax and fatty muffins.
If this weren't bad enough, the really insidious nastiness is this: Big food companies have spent millions of dollars and years of research learning what makes food irresistible. Rest assured, these companies are not accidentally providing tantalizing foods to school kids. They are very certainly doing it on purpose. If they can hook 'em when they're young, they'll have customers for life.
It reminds me of when the tobacco companies provided cigarettes free to soldiers stationed abroad in World War II. The government distributed them, for heaven's sake. And those soldiers came home hooked.
I know someone will accuse me of being overly dramatic. But is it really that different? Cigarettes kill, there is no doubt. And guess what? Obesity does too. The diseases that are expected to cost our country enormous amounts of money in the next few years are greatly impacted or exacerbated by obesity. Yep, it's sickening.
Until we as citizens -- whether or not we have kids eating school lunch -- start to wake ourselves up and decide to put a stop to this craziness, things are going to get worse. I predict they are going to get a lot worse.
Woohoo, the US government (actually the USDA) has revised it's food pyramid scheme and now it's a plate. It has gotten a little bad press but being your "look on the bright side" gal, I think it's a move in the right direction. Cut them some slack, bloggers, it's a large and slow bureaucratic machine; they're doing their best to catch up!
The New York Times wrote an interesting article about it last week.
You can check the "plate" out for yourself at the easy to remember, www.choosemyplate.gov
If you are not familiar with this website or it's predecessor, MyPyramid.org, it is actually an amazing resource. I have used it on several occasions to print out nutritional information based on the age of each of my 5 kids. Do you know the difference in the serving sizes of green beans for a 1 year old, a 4 year old and a 12 year old? This is the place to find out. Also, when my teens complain I gave them too many green beans, I just blame the USDA. So I guess the "My Plate" information now qualifies as a tip and a trick.
So here is the inspiration:
“Action springs not from thought, but from a readiness for responsibility.”
I can think about losing weight all day long; until I actually prepare myself for the responsibility of my own weight and activity, it just aint' gonna happen. So be it.
Weight loss is not a super highway. It's more of a mountain track with detours, switchbacks and some uphill portions. In the past 88 days, I have gained two pounds, yet I am still on the path. I've fallen off a time or two, I've struggled with exercise, and I have been on track the vast majority of the time. I know what it will take to speed up my loss and hit a big downhill stretch, and I have been idling at the top of that hill waiting for the right time. School is mostly out as of today -- one child has 8 more days -- and the leisure that will afford gives me the opening to rev up my engines and refocus my energy on myself.
My goal for the summer is to get well below 200 pounds. Keeping my calories low is not enough, I need to step up my exercise big time. To maintain a high level of exercise, I am helped by keeping my intention firmly in place.
In no particular order, here are my motivations for getting back to my pre-1998 weight over the summer:
I already have greater ease of movement and I want more of that! More fun with the family!
I want to live a long and healthful life for the enjoyment of it.
I want to be in the family photos (as opposed editing myself out because I don't like my appearance).
I want to be proud of how I look.
I want to buy clothes I really like - to dress like myself.
I want to continue on my path to a long and healthy life.
I want to complete it because it is something I am doing for myself, a commandment I made -- my word to myself -- I want to honor and complete it.
To get there, I will:
Visualize myself reaching my goals every day
Step up my exercise to 6 hours per week
Stick to my eating plan 100% until I meet my goal
Wait, what's that sound? It's me, revving my engines. Tomorrow, I throw off the brakes. Look out, world!!
And now for something completely crazy! If I had 2 million dollars to reform school lunch, how would I spend it? I would hire extra staff to prepare fresh fruit, cook actual potatoes (not fries, hashbrowns or tater tots), and prepare food that is fresh and wholesome. Here is how San Antonio Schools are spending the money!
A couple of years back, Jamie Oliver worked to reform the school dinner program in England. There were news stories of parents standing outside the school-yard fence to hand their kids fish and chips. Since then, people love to blame parents for the trouble with what kids eat at school. I think that is a bunch of bologna.
I can tell you from my own experience of parenting children who have been parented by others that kids eat what you serve them. At home, the kids are thrilled for a "snack" that is an orange, an apple, watermelon, carrots, or some baked good that is made from whole grains and little or no added sugar. Yet when they were visiting weekly with their bio-mom, they were also thrilled with the french fries, soda and pastries she brought to the visits. I am under no illusion; if you put a pop-tart and an apple in front of my kids, they'd probably choose the pop-tart. But if you give them a choice between an apple or melon, they do not say, "No, I want a pop-tart!"
School is a huge part of a child's life. Why can't schools model healthy eating? In fact, I daresay that if we do not redeem our school food programs, we will not defeat the obesity epidemic in this country. I agree that children need choices. But that choice can be between an apple and an orange, it does not have to be a choice of pastries.
Yes, it will cost more, in the short term. We have to be able to look at the long term. What will be the cost of all the obesity related health issues and diseases our country is facing and that continue to expand exponentially year after year? Get real, San Antonio!
I have been on this weight loss journey a long time and sometimes I get really focused on the "long time" and forget about the journey. I am finally losing again after a long plateau followed by a small slow regain of 15 pounds. It is so easy and so tempting to be totally focused on the goal and forget that I am in the midst of a learning process.
I am learning how to eat for optimum health. I am learning what "full" and "hungry" feel like -- things I'm pretty sure I did not know before. I am learning how much exercise both my lifestyle and my 53-year-old frame can accommodate. I am learning to turn to people for emotional support, not food. (It never worked that well anyway). I am learning that I am worth taking the time to care for myself. Yep, it's true.
When I get to goal, I will still be on the journey. I cannot then forget all that I've learned and return to thoughtless eating. Instead, I am now building habits and practices I will maintain for a lifetime. I guess you could say this is the trip of a lifetime. Might as well enjoy the scenery!
This is my first ever blog in response to a request. A reader wants me to talk about nutrition for teenage athletes. First, the disclaimer. I am not a registered dietitian. I have a degree in the humanities. I have no certification in anything nutrition related. What I am is a chronic researcher. It’s in my genes or something – I just can’t stop learning.
What follows are some suggestions on how we can use fuel (a.k.a. food) to optimize our workouts, speed our recovery and lessen the likelihood of injury. These recommendations are based on years devouring the current science on nutrition and fitness, as well as recommendations from my nutrition text books and a couple of websites, all of which I will reference. Please pay attention to this part: This is not meant to be specific instructions for any individual. Instead, I am merely suggesting that there are ways we can really use our food and benefit from all it has to offer. Specific advice for you, as an individual, can be sought from your health care practitioner or a Registered Dietitian.
Let’s begin with a very simplified view of how the system works. We take in fuel (in the form of food) and the nutrients are then put to work in our body. Protein is used for building muscle; carbohydrates are stored in the liver as glycogen which is made available to the muscles as a source of energy; calcium ( a mineral) adds strength to our bones. Fruits and vegetables (which are also sources of carbohydrates) contribute vitamins, minerals and fiber which are crucial to maintaining the health of our organs and helping us fight infection and disease. Fats play important parts too but I have to shorten this discussion somewhere.
The other important thing you need to know is how the process of muscle building actually works. When you are building muscles, you are actually causing tiny breaks or tears in your muscles. Because the muscle you had “on hand” was not sufficient for the task, your body not only rebuilds the muscle damaged but adds on for good measure. Therefore, what we think of as “building” is actually breaking apart and then building. We help this rebuilding process by eating healthfully during the rebuilding phase. If you want to learn more, here is an article on the topic written in plain English.
These days, we tend to talk about food as being either protein or carbohydrates (“carbs” for short). We hear a lot about carbs “making us fat” and also about “good carbs” and “bad carbs.” Really there is no such thing. We can make healthier choices or less healthy ones, but carbs themselves are not “bad.” In fact, they are an essential part of our living and growing and certainly an essential provider of energy for training. Just as you wouldn’t expect a car to run without gas, you can’t expect your muscles to work without fuel!
For everyday exercise (less than 1-1/2 hours duration), the glycogen reserves we have from a healthy, well-balanced diet are plenty. For athletes who are performing at a high level (cyclists, distance runners, endurance athletes), these stores may not be enough. For an endurance task or one requiring a LOT of energy, loading carbohydrates beforehand will help increase these stores in the liver, making more available for the task at hand.
What this means, simply, is that before an endurance task, loading extra carbs can really help. Many athletes eat a diet of about 70% carbohydrates for 3 days before the event. They also reduce their training during this period, not only to allow their muscles to rest and heal, but also to help build the glycogen stores in the liver.
Dr. John Ivy of the University of Texas has done tons of research on how food and drink impacts performance. Articles about his research are widely available but I have linked one here. He has also co-written a couple of books if you are really serious about making the most of your workouts; the best known is The Performance Zone. In this book he gives specific information for various sports as well as charts for specific nutrients based on weight and activity.
30 minutes or so before working out, make sure you drink plenty of water, about 2 cups. When you are low on fluids, or dehydrated, it stresses your body and that affects performance. You need to keep drinking throughout, about 1 cup every 15 to 20 minutes. Dr. Ivy recommends a sports drink that is 4 parts carbs and 1 part protein.
After you work out (again, we are talking about long periods of exercise – 1-1/2 hours or more) you need to replace those carbs and some protein, as well as replenish your fluids. Most researchers say you need to eat and drink within about 30 minutes of completing your work out. Replacing the fluids is essential and so are consuming some carbs. Carbs won’t repair muscle, though, so you need some protein. Some people drink a glass of 100% fruit juice with a peanut butter sandwich. I am more inclined toward a piece cheese and whole fruit. Find a combination that works for you and remember to get it in right after that workout. Dr. Ivy’s window for this refueling is 15-45 minutes after the event.
We know that muscles actually break down during exercise. Dr. Ivy’s research has shown that the muscles are most receptive to rebuilding in the first 24 hours after exercise. There is a lot of science behind this claim that has to do, in particular, with insulin receptivity in the muscles. What’s most important for us to remember is that muscles need to repair and rebuild!
So to reiterate the basics:
· Before a big meet or event, eat extra carbs for 3 days.
· Start the event well hydrated and drink lots as you go.
· Eat and drink within 30 minutes of completing exercise
· Eat a healthy diet with extra carbs and good quality protein in that important 24 hours after exercise.
· A healthy, well-balanced diet through all of your life is your best bet for improving performance and preventing injury.
Today I am recapping some of my favorite tips because these are resources I depend on regularly:
I continue to be inspired by the book, The End of Overeating(Kessler). What amazes me is that months after reading it, I am still constantly thinking about and pondering things I read there. I have read a lot of books on nutrition -- the fact that this one made such a huge impression speaks to its power. It is a fascinating story of what makes a craving tick and how "big food" is contributing by working hard to feed my cravings. I am working on a thorough book review on this so I don't forget what I learned. I'll post it if I ever finish it!
Here is a PBS Documentary, "Fat, What No One is Telling You." It's very thought provoking and full of news from research, but don't watch it if you're feeling hopeless. It's food for thought but not edited in an encouraging manner. Therefore, I'm recommending it with some reservations.
I have a favorite podcast - Fat 2 Fit Radio -- which segues perfectly with my sensible eating, moderate loss rate plan. They have a good BMR (basal metabolic rate) calculator. I found instructions for calculating this in lots of places on the web, but the simplest way was to follow the instructions I found at Fat 2 Fit.
They have a very inspiring podcast. When I start losing my vision, I listen to these down to earth and inspiring guys. If Spark had a podcast -- it would sound like this one. You can find it on iTunes or here.
Finally, here is my inspiration for the day; I am paraphrasing "Gabriella" from MTV's "I Used to be Fat:" I can be mad and then eat something and feel better for two minutes and then turn my anger on myself and feel guilty. Or I can be mad and deal with my feelings and really get my anger out - and keep losing weight.
(This is a "replay" of my March 19, 2009 post, edited for relevancy!)
I was so proud of myself as I checked out at the grocery store tonight. In my cart were two processed foods for me: tomato soup that I occasionally eat as a treat, and sugar free/fat free pudding mix for that occasional need for dessert. It sounds kind of offbeat to be proud of my grocery cart but, oddly, I was. Because with the exception of the aforementioned extravagences, everything in the cart was as close to it's natural state as a city-dwelling busy gal can get it. My cart contained canola oil, dry beans, brown rice, chicken, and produce. That's it.
Obviously I want to lose weight and I want to use the expert knowledge accumulated over the past few decades to empower that quest, hence the name of the blog. I want to lose weight. And there is more.
I want to be healthy. Truly, robustly, undeniably healthy. I want to eat the foods that serve me and avoid the foods that do not. I am making lifestyle -- aka permanent -- changes. So these days, I am eating low on the food chain and also choosing selections that are thought to be less inflammatory, like collard greens, for instance.
I mentioned recently that I have been tracking my food on the NutritionData site. Their tracking program analyzes the macro nutrients in my food. It is very affirming. When I'm eating food as close to natural as I can, I get most or all of my essential nutrients every day. Imagine that! There has also been a fabulous unintended consequence. My 12-year-old has IBS and lately she has been suffering far fewer painful bouts. We both attribute this to the uncomplicated and beautiful home-cooked meals.
If you want to try eating simpler and more healthful foods, here are a few tips:
Shop primarily in the outside aisles of the supermarket
Relegate canned or boxed --processed-- foods to occasional treats
Avoid foods that contain high fructose corn syrup; it has many deleterious affects, not least of which is stimulating your appetite
Teach your whole family to chop vegetables and you will always have a soux chef handy
Try a locally grown produce delivery service for fun, freshness and variety
Cook ahead when possible, eg., the week's worth of brown rice, oatmeal, and soup
Utilize your freezer; buy in bulk and repackage to your family's size; do big projects (like meatballs) in massive batches for time and money savings
In the past 6 days, 14,500 PLUS people have joined Spark People in search of support for a healthier life style! I racked my brain but could not come up with anything more inspiring than that!
SparkPeople is essentially a free weight-loss website. Not my first. However, I have never found a site with more helpful articles, more videos, more support, more recipes and all for free. It includes a calorie counter, a food tracker, an exercise tracker and a way to set your own personal goals. The online community (organized into message boards and teams) is helpful and kind-hearted. In 15 months, I have seen no mean-spirited posts. Please check it out. The only thing it will cost you is time! (If you do check it out, please "friend" me. My Spark name is DreenaMT)
My tip of the week is about water. We all know we need it but hardly anybody gets it all in during the day. I have discovered that I can "chug" a full glass or even two when I first get up and I am very thirsty, so it seems easy. Then I'm 1/4 of the way there! Try it.
Finally, my "trick" is for my lady friends. If you are having one of those days where you think your face looks fat -- even though this is probably in your mind -- you can sweep a tiny bit of bronzer just under your cheek bones and then blend it in a bit with a sponge. Instantly slimmed. I swear, EVERY time I do this, someone asks me if I've lost weight.
It's snowing here in Round Rock, Texas; this is a rare event and the kids are chuffed! I'd better get my warm clothes on - although after getting the 1, 2 and 3 year-olds dressed, I'll probably be well warmed up!
Well a day late and a dollar short, the USDA finally reveals it's 2010 dietary guidelines.
They are good guidelines. Actually helpful. And simpler than in the past. Could they simplify them more? Yes, of course. But all the common sense things we know from Spark or almost any reasonable plan out there, are just now coming into focus in the guidelines. Okay -- it's never too late, right?
Here are the highlights and following, a link so you can watch the long boring stuff yourself.
Have half a plate of vegetables and fruit and eat a variety.
Limit your fatty acids (they give guidelines no one will understand)
Have under 300 mg of Cholesterol
Reduce your sodium to 2300 mg for most, 1500 for high risk groups.
Limit refined grains, sugar and solid fats.
Alcohol limits to one drink a day for us girls, two for men
Drink water and not sugary drinks.
There is more but that's what stood out to me. I think it is a big improvement because these guidelines are taught in schools, followed by dietitians and recommended by doctors. Thank goodness the USDA is finally catching up to the science! This is the link in case you want to see it for yourself!
I have a successful marriage of 21 years and five wonderful children who amaze and challenge me every day. I am a Special Ed Teacher, a professional Life Coach, a Certified Personal Trainer and an advocate for children. I have an amazing, full-on, wonderful,crazy life. What more can I ask?