Wednesday, March 24, 2010

This just in, HFCS is.... icky....

I have long been thumping my Healthy Bible (ok, I don't really have one of those, but if I did...) about High Fructose Corn Syrup. It's in about a bazillion things you buy that you might think are "healthy alternatives". Just a few examples...

* Campbell's Tomato Soup (both the regular and "Healthy Request" versions)
* Nutri-Grain Cereal Bars
* Keebler Toast and Peanut Butter Sandwich Crackers
* Yoplait Light (fat free) yogurt
* Lender's plain bagels

Go ahead, take a look in your pantry, fridge, and freezer. I'm sure you'll find stuff. Then, read this article a friend passed on to me about a study done on HFCS....

until later...

Today can be a healthy unusual day for you -- and for others -- if you take time to give someone a smile . . . to express a word of kindness . . . to lend a helping hand to someone in need . . . to write a note of gratitude . . . to give a word of encouragement to someone who is temporarily overcome with problems . . . to share a portion of your material possessions with others.” ~William Arthur Ward

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Our Favorite Pizza

The littlest one I nanny for has a favorite pizza we make. It's sort of a recipe we came up with together, actually. The best part about it was it was originally a ploy to trick her into eating spinach. Spinach is one of the foods you should be eating EVERY DAY. My littlest charge likes to eat it because she's a gymnast and wants "Popeye muscles"- but it's rich in omega-3's, folate (helps reduce your risk for heart disease and stroke), and lutein, which does fight your muscles degenerating. It's a superfood! But for some reason, people are really turned off by it. I don't think it even really has a flavor, personally. I mix it up in salads, or stir fry... here is our pizza recipe. She knows it's healthy, and still loves it. If you're making it with kids, have them help with whatever parts they can. Helping make pizza will create a sense of pride in it, thusly making them want to eat it all the more.


Some type of blender
1 ready-made whole wheat pizza crust (I like Boboli best)
1 package of Kraft fat-free cheese (melts fine and you can use the whole package if you want) or 2%
1 small can pizza sauce (I use Pastorelli, I get it at Meijer. It's one of very few sauces that doesn't have added sugar and corn syrup in it, and isn't as expensive as some of the "organic" ones.)
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
About 1 cup leafy spinach
About one cup broccoli, cut small
3/4 cup shredded chicken (I hate, hate, hate raw chicken. I buy a whole rotisserie chicken from Meijer, use what I need, and then have the rest for meals/sandwiches/snacks later.)


Start buy putting your crust on a cookie sheet and preheating your oven to 450 (if you're using Boboli; it may be different for other crusts). Sometimes to keep the kid busy, I have her spread a little olive oil on the crust- it's good for your heart. Next, the sauce. In a blender or Magic Bullet or whatever you have, dump your small can of sauce and your spinach and your garlic powder. Puree it. Spread that sauce on the pizza. Next, cheese it up with however much/little cheese you like. (This is really the true beauty of fat free cheese, no fat and 60 calories in a serving. And there really aren't a bunch of weird ingredients in it.) While the kid spreads on the sauce and cheese, I cut up the broccoli so it's more bite-sized. Go ahead and add the shredded chicken. The kid has a special way of doing the broccoli- she only adds it around the edges of the pizza in a circle, then crushes what's left and sprinkle it on top. It looks great and isn't overwhelming with broccoli. Bake it for 8-10 minutes, and you have a healthy alternative to pizza that will still taste awesome.

Give it a try and let me know what you think!

until later...

“There's a pizza place near where I live that sells only slices. In the back you can see a guy tossing a triangle in the air.” ~Stephen Wright

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Sunday Breakfast Casserole

One thing I love about Sunday is the idea of Brunch. I don't know why it seems more appealing on Sunday than other days, but for some reason, it does. One comfort food that I just love is a breakfast casserole. This is a low-fat, vegetarian, super-easy version. I apologize in advance for my "recipe", most of my friends know by now that I mostly work by guesstimates, rather than actual measurements.

* One tube of Pillsbury Reduced Fat Crescent Rolls
* about 1 carton Egg Beaters (You can use real eggs if you prefer, but I don't know how many to tell you, as I've only used the Beaters.)
* 1 cup or so of Morningstar Farms Sausage-Style Crumbles
* 1 and 1/2 to 2-ish cups of Kraft Fat-Free Cheddar Cheese (or 2% if you like it better)
* any vegetables you might want to add... I like onions, mushrooms, spinach, or a combo of the three!


* Preheat the oven to 350.
* Start by spraying a 9 by 13 glass baking dish. Lay the crescent roll in the dish, without separating the little triangles. Bake the crescent rolls until they are pretty much done, I find that works best for the next step. I won't surmise a guess as to how long, because my oven bakes things SO super fast. Just keep an eye on it, they should be smushed together and a light golden color.
* While that's baking, you'll want to sautee the sausage and any vegetables you're using. They just taste better that way. Add a little salt and pepper.
* When the crescent rolls are done and the sautee business is done, pour the eggs on top of the crescent rolls. The level should be fairly close to the top, leave an inch or so (so it doesn't bake over or something crazy). Toss in the stir-fry mixture and about 3/4 of the cheese. Bake until the eggs are good and poofy.
* Pull it out and add the rest of the cheese to top. Put it back in until that cheese is nice and melty, and a little browned.

This is really, really good served with sour cream, by the way. I apologize for my lack of times, I rely on my eyes and nose more than timers. Everyone's oven is different! Give it a try, and I hope you like it!

until later...

"I rarely wear clothes when I'm home by myself. I love making breakfast naked. But you've got to make sure the gardener's not coming that day. " ~Kristen Bell

Monday, March 15, 2010

The worries we carry...

I was in kindergarten when the Challenger exploded in mid-air, killing everyone on board.

I remember it vaguely. We were all herded into the elementary school cafeteria to watch the shuttle head up into space. It was a big deal because for the first time, a teacher was on board. Our teachers had been talking up the mission for quite some time. From what I can remember, and from what my mom has told me, I had quite a fit after the explosion. Crying, making my teacher take down all of the pictures. It was somewhat traumatizing.

This is my first real example of what I call an "anxiety problem". I stress out about literally anything and everything. Things I can't control? Most definitely. The day of 9/11 I was curled up in my living room, crying and shaking, for hours and hours. Those who know me well know that when I'm having an anxiety attack, it's very hard for me to calm down or be rational. But I don't really like taking altering pills, so I've had to learn to control my anxiety in other ways. It's not always easy.

Exercise helps me a LOT. I went through a span of a few months where I was feeling really down, pretty depressed. I worried about even tiny things, like after-work plans or dinner. I know it was winter at the time, and the lack of sunshine seriously contributes to my lack of good mood. But I also realized that my "restless legs" were coming back at night. That occurs when I lie in bed, and my legs feel like they are going in ten difference directions. It's bizarre and completely uncomfortable. The more I thought about it, the more I realized I wasn't getting any real exercise, and my body/mind were totally fighting me for it.

The very first day I went out for a group run in January, and did 5 miles, I felt great. I rode that runner's high for a good couple of hours. My bad mood just melted away. And the more I ran, the more I realized that my legs were no longer swimming under my covers. Thank goodness!

Yoga helps, too. It's nice to devote an hour and fifteen minutes of my time to just me and myself. Strengthen my core, stretch out my muscles after a week of 20- 25 running miles, and then the best part.... nap time. No, it has a fancy Yoga name, but I love at the end of yoga when I'm told to lie down and close my eyes and relax. And they wake you up by chiming a little bell.... aaaah.

Stress can create really erratic eating patterns in people, too. I tend to eat too little when I'm stressed out. My appetite just disappears. Not healthy. Some people tend to overeat when they're stressed out. Also not good. However, some foods can help you combat stress a little. I like to have a little super dark chocolate, or a banana. They both usually give me a little boost. Caffeine really boosts my mood and makes me feel great, I don't know what it is. Definitely a mood enhancer. So I will have a small cup of green tea or coffee if I'm feeling extra down.

We all worry. Some of us more than others. But we also have to realize, the world is not ours to control. A friend once told me, "the only thing constant is change", and I've carried those words with me for 12 years. Every day is a gift, and we have no way of telling what tomorrow may bring. Why waste those precious moments worrying? Get up. Stretch your legs. Smile. Make a positive change for yourself. And a certain calmness, even happiness will come, if you make the most of your time with the people you love.

until later...

"“It would be great to be able to pass on to someone all of the successes, the failures, and the knowledge that one has had. To help someone, avoid all the fire, pain and anxiety would be wonderful." ~Sylvester Stallone

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Healthy kids...

As I believe I stated once before, I am a nanny. It's a job the entails driving children all over a 25 miles radius, playing Barbies, reading books, putting on shows, suffering through Disney channel original shows (although I *do* love "Phineas and Ferb"), answering my phone on the weekend when the 5-year-old hijacks her mom's phone and dials me to tell me she misses me.... yeah, it's a great job if you love kids. Luckily, I do. *whew*

Now, the trio of girls I care for is an extremely athletic trio. Even the youngest needs a full hand to count all of the sports she participates in. Most of my afternoon is dedicated to taking them to their various after-school practices. Often, we have about a 15-minute window in which to prepare and eat a good snack.

What classifies a good snack in my book?

When you are doing as many sports as these kids, I'd say something with a good mix of protein and carbs. Peanut butter apples, turkey sandwich on wheat bread, occasionally my "special mac and cheese" (I use 2% cheese and whole wheat pasta, throw in some chicken, and they have no idea it's pretty good for them)... something filling and energizing.

The problem I have is, the pantry is like this black hole, sucking the two older kids into its void of chips and crackers and cookies and toaster pastries. They come home from school and meander into that pantry, looking not unlike zombies searching for brains. I don't have this problem so much with the youngest girl, because I've been with her since she was a baby. Her fragile mind has already been warped with my healthy-eating ways. "Apples with peanut butter? Sounds good. Hey, do we have any more edamame? Can I have some of your dehydrated vegetable chips? PLEASE??"

But what do I do with the older two? Can a girl get a lock for the pantry??? It's really holding us back.

The best we can do with the younger generation (and really, this applies to you as well) is this:

1) Start them early. The best way to enforce great eating habits is to start the habits when they are first chewing. I tried the littlest charge on any food I could when she was a toddler. Sometimes she liked it, sometimes she didn't. But we had a couple of rules. You try at least one bite, and you can't say you don't like something if you've never tried it. The mantra, "No thank you, I would not like to try that" became popular. But overall, she typically would at least sample something.

2) Educate. Of course kids don't know about reading labels and what portion sizes are, they're kids!! It's up to you to explain (and just because they're kids doesn't mean they're dumb, they can follow what you're saying) just what's in something, or why one choice might be better than another. I find the girls are generally interested in learning why an orange is better than orange juice. Or why wheat bread is better than white bread. Or why they can't have cookies for breakfast.

3) Limit. Kids will not set limits for themselves. It's just not something they do. Willpower and limits are hard enough for adults- can you imagine being a kid again? You have a huge ice cream sundae in front of you. Are you going to stop halfway through and think, "Hey, I should really stop. I mean, a serving is only a half a cup." I'm going with "no." So, the adults have to set the limits. Kids do not need ice cream and cookies and chips and garbage all day. I grow weary of people telling me, "But that's all he/she eats/likes!" When they get hungry enough, they'll eat the fruits or the veggies. They will! I'm not saying kids can't ever have treats, obviously they should get treats. But with the youngest charge (I use her as an example because I'm with her the most), she knows she has to finish her grilled cheese, carrots, and milk before she gets her cookie. Or whatever the treat might be that day. And honestly, she's FINE with that. She never complains about getting one cookie, or how small her ice cream scoop is. She eats it, she enjoys it, and she moves on to her coloring book.

You know the saying "you can't teach an old dog new tricks"? Well, you can, but it's really hard to implement changes the older we get. You get accustomed to a certain way of eating, a certain way of exercising/not exercising... hell, I have a certain way I get out of bed each morning. We are creatures of habit, every last one of us. It's hard to shake it up! Why not start kids on healthy habits as early as possible? After all, they are the future- wouldn't it be nice to see the next generation not have the weight and obesity problems our current nation has? A healthier generation? And helping kids get healthy helps you out, as well. Its a lot easier to make healthy choices when you're doing it together, as a family. It's a built in support system, you can all hold each other accountable.

Don't be afraid to mix up your habits. Make healthy choices today, for an easier tomorrow.

until later...

If our American way of life fails the child, it fails us all. ~Pearl S. Buck

Sunday, March 7, 2010

New favorite sites!

I've been poking around the good old internet for new ways to track my health and fitness goals. I thought I'd share a couple of awesome sites with you guys!

This site was one that a friend turned me on to a couple of summers ago. What's neat about it is all the little extras it has. You can build your "daily plate" if you are into counting calories and seeing what you've built up in a day. You can map out a run and see just how far you're running. You can blog or write in your food diary. It'll figure out your BMI (Body Mass Index) for you. There are even LIVESTRONG dares, ideas of ways you can change you life for the better. And these range from quitting smoking to stretching every day to finding a job. There is information on a million different topics; ending a destructive relationship, tips to stop drinking, food and exercise. It's seriously a wealth of information, and I recommend it to any/everyone reading this!

This website I just joined, a friend from my run club had posted something about it on Facebook. Really an awesome site for tracking your exercise plan. I've been using it to physically write down my own goals. You can log every exercise you do, whether it be running 2 miles or hitting the yoga studio, and it'll figure out the calories you burned based on weight and length of time you exercise/pace. There's also the cool function of being able to comment on your friends' workouts; you can give encouragement to the people you love! It's great.

So there are a couple of options for recording your goals. I highly recommend writing down the things you're doing to get healthy- there is definitely something to be said for seeing something you're proud of written down in front of you. It makes you feel great to see what you've done, and it'll stare you in the face when you need a little extra motivation.

until later...

"All great achievements require time."
Maya Angelou

Saturday, March 6, 2010

This gorgeous Saturday....

What a morning.

So, I'm a part of Borgess Run Camp, which is awesome. I'll give you more details about it's awesomeness later, but the basic gist is that I run long runs on Saturday mornings, along with about 450 other people. And within those 450 people, I have a little pace group of people my similar pace. It's really nice to know there is a group of people helping hold you accountable for doing your runs.

With that said... knowing full well I had to run 10 miles this morning at 8am, I went to Art Hop last night. For those not in the know, Art Hop is where downtown businesses open their doors for art, shopping, free snacks, and most importantly... free wine. I set out early enough, about 5:30pm, with some friends and my mom. I figured I could Hop, kick back a couple glasses of wine, and get to bed early.


We "Hopped" for a few hours, had a really delicious dinner at Ouzo's, and then decided to go to Old Peninsula for a bit. THEN decided to go dance at Metro for a while. Long story short, I had a really fun time, but didn't get in between my sheets until probably 1:30am.

Now, my solid run buddy and I had decided we were tired of our 9:30-40 rut we were stuck in, and wanted to bust out of it this week. Knowing full well we were going to face some challenging hills, I woke up worried this would not be an attainable goal.

Thank goodness for Mother Nature being easy on me this morning. Then sun was shining, it was a brisk but do-able 35 degrees... I felt my apprehension about impending doom-filled hills and a long stretch across the City of Portage melting away. A cup of green tea and a banana later, I felt pretty damn ready to run.

And run we did. Finishing with an overall pace of 9:25 per mile, I felt really satisfied with shaving some seconds off of our usual time.

The real point of this story is, I did not wake up this morning thinking I was going to pull an awesome run out of my hat. I woke up groggy and unimpressed to be awake. But sometimes you're just wrong about what you can accomplish, which goes back to my philosophy about never telling yourself you can't do something. Every day you get on this planet is special, and you don't know how many of them you get. So go out and run a little bit. Or ride your bike for a half hour. Or walk 25 feet. Because something is always better than nothing. Simple math says, walking 25 feet down the sidewalk is more than sitting on the couch. And chances are good, once you put on your shoes and walk those 25 feet? You'll keep right on walking.

until later...

Wherever you go, no matter what the weather, always bring your own sunshine. ~Anthony J. D'Angelo, The College Blue Book

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Oatmeal.... the most filling breakfast of all.....

It's unbelievable how many people skip breakfast or just drink coffee. This approach to weight loss will not make you lose weight. It will make you totally starving by 9am, and you will raid whatever chips, cookies, and crackers are nearby. I promise you this.

SO STOP SKIPPING BREAKFAST!!! Breakfast is A) tasty, B) wonderful, and C)seriously important. It gears your stomach up to be full. It gears your brain up to think and be productive. How distracted and unfocused are you when you feel hungry? Extremely.

Most mornings, I like to eat grapefruit and Kefir, a probiotic yogurt drink. The brand I buy is Lifeway, but there are many brands/flavors to choose from. And you're not limited to buying "health foods" at health food stores anymore. Meijer carries Kefir in the yogurt section. Why pay more? (Or so the motto goes.)

My other favorite thing to eat in the morning is oatmeal. Not that crap that comes in individual packets. Real oats that I cook on the stove. Which isn't to say it has to be the oatmeal that takes 8 hours to cook. They say steel cut oats are "best", but when I flip around containers of steel cut (which take a good 30 minutes to cook) and regular oats (much quicker), I don't notice much of a difference between the two. But it's important to cross-reference your oats so you get the most bang.

Here is one my favorite recipes for oatmeal... so delicious.

~ Stove-top oatmeal of your choice (follow directions for one serving)
~ 1/2 banana (or a whole one if you're feeling crazy), sliced up nice and thin
~ a big spoonful of natural peanut butter (or Jiff, if that's what you have sitting around)
~ a 1/4 teaspoon of cinnamon
~ a packet of Stevia (if you like your oatmeal a little sweeter.)

So easy. Just make the oatmeal according to directions. While it's boiling, add the bananas and cinnamon. When the oatmeal is thick, I stir in the peanut butter and sweetener if I want it. Ooh, and sometimes I toss in a small handful of nuts, too.

I can promise you, this will keep you feeling good and satisfied well through the morning. And, it's yummy.

And now, I must make some popcorn to enjoy the big birth on "The Office." Just remember... EAT BREAKFAST!! IMPORTANT!!

until later...

Expect problems and eat them for breakfast. ~Alfred A. Montapert

Wednesday, March 3, 2010


If I had to pick a favorite food in this whole wide world, it'd have to be Asian cuisine. I love Chinese food, sushi, Thai noodles... pretty much all of it. But one thing I love, possibly above all food ideas you can throw at me, is... CHINESE BUFFET.

I visited a Chinese buffet that I frequent in Battle Creek the other day. I sat down in my booth, and felt a familiar problem- I felt like I couldn't reach the table. "Why are these tables ALWAYS so far from the booth?!" I thought. Then, I looked around.

I was definitely in the minority. Most of the people who were eating at the Chinese Super Buffet were fairly... erm, "super" themselves. Could it be possible that these booths were fashioned to accommodate those with larger mid-sections?

I felt kind of sad, really. To me, a buffet presents the ability to choose whatever kind of Chinese fare I want that day. I'll usually start with a soup I created- wonton broth with a little scoop of rice and some scallions. Sometimes I'll have a small salad. Then I'll pick whatever I want for a main course, something with lots of vegetables. If there's any room leftover, I'll have some fresh fruit for desert. I like to leave the place feeling "satisfied, not stuffed."

To many people in this "super-size it" nation, however, a buffet presents the ability to stuff yourself with as much food as you can for a lesser price. Plate after plate of orange chicken, with a big plate of three or four different desserts afterward.

Portion size is ALWAYS important. You might be surprised to learn that a "real" serving of chicken breast is about the size of your fist. Or a serving of pasta is half a cup. A serving of salmon is a deck of cards. As a country, we over-eat SO much, all the time. Of course our stomachs are hungry if we eat "real servings"- we've stuffed them to the point that they think they need bigger portions.

But again, you should be eating to the point that you feel satisfied, not stuffed. And wait 20 minutes after you're done with a meal to decide if you're still hungry. If you're still really hungry, okay. But usually, if I wait, I find I wasn't as starving as I thought I was.

So check portion sizes. If you're making pasta or rice, flip that box around to see what you're actually supposed to be eating. Google a meat (which sounds hilarious, now that I've typed it) to see the real portion size. Or websites like can help you set up proper portion sizes.

Also, I was telling a friend the other day- I treat vegetables like spinach, broccoli, squash, etc. (most aside from corn and potatoes) as "freebies", I eat as much of them as I like. So if you're finding that it's hard to adjust to a life-style of smaller portions, make extra broccoli or winter squash that night. It'll fill you up for less calories/more nutrition that an extra cup of rice.

until later...

If you don't like how things are, change it! You're not a tree. ~Jim Rohn

Monday, March 1, 2010

"Music...makes the people.... blah blah Madonna...."

So, you want to exercise, but you don't know what to listen to? People are always asking me for new workout music. The music you listen to when you run/lift/bike/whatever (although I don't recommend taking your iTouch in the swimming pool) is pretty important. Some people prefer not to listen to anything, for fear it will knock their rhythm off. In fact, a lot of marathons forbid the use of iPods, generally because there are thousands of people running and it's a good idea to be aware of your surroundings. But unless I'm carrying on a conversation, I know I definitely dig some tunes when I run. There is something fun for me in getting to listen to an album start to finish, uninterrupted. Or listening to a specially compiled playlist.

So, if you need ideas, I thought I'd share my running playlist. It's pretty varied. Some people like something that rocks, some people like to drop it like it's hot (I've noticed I get some funny looks on the trail when I'm listening to Ludacris), and some people like something calming. And sometimes I like a combo of these things, or something different on Tuesday than I wanted on Saturday. So it's definitely a good idea to have varied lists as well as more streamlined lists. Make more than one playlist, is what I am saying!! This list is my overall pavement pounding list.

So Much Love- The Rocket Summer
This Is How We Do- All Time Low
Don't Stop Believin'- Journey
I Must Be Dreaming- The Maine
Kiss My Sass- Cobra Starship
3- Britney Spears
Dammit- blink-182
Ever the Optimist- Lights Out Dancing
Drop the Girl- Hit the Lights
TiK ToK- Ke$ha
Hotel Room Service- Pitbull
Rooftops (A Liberation Broadcast)- Liberation Transmission
Live Like We're Dying- Kris Allen
Down- Jay Sean
Do You Feel- The Rocket Summer
Keep the Change, You Filthy Animal- All Time Low
The Rock Show- blink-182
Moneymaker- Ludacris
Hot Mess- Cobra Starship
The Pretender- Foo Fighters
I Gotta Feeling- Black Eyed Peas
Carry Out- Timbaland/Justin Timberlake
Yeah! (feat. Lil Jon and Ludacris)- Usher
Homecoming- Hey Monday
Party in the USA- Miley Cyrus
Wasted- Cartel
I'm Calming Down- Lights Out Dancing
Josie- blink-182
Separate Ways- Journey
Let You Go- The Rocket Summer
Hot Damn 100- Just the Kid
My Last Mistake- I Call Fives
Skyway Avenue- We the Kings
Crazy B****- Buckcherry
Hum Hallelujah- Fall Out Boy
Crushcrushcrush- Paramore
Imma Be- Black Eyed Peas

So... that's a sample. MySpace, iLike or PureVolume are good places to listen to tracks to see if you like them before you buy them. Great music can be valuable to motivation!

until later...

"Music washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life." ~Berthold Auerbach