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Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Time For Another Confession

Some say that confession is good for the soul but to tell the truth, I'd rather not tell some things.  However, in my quest for good health and in order to help you in your quest for good health, I feel compelled to make confessions sometimes.  Today's confession is: I really wanted to loose an inch this summer but haven't managed to do so.  My love of good food gets me in trouble.  Perhaps I would have been more successful if I hadn't hurt my back and spent several weeks taking it easy and doing rehab.  Perhaps I would have been more successful if I hadn't developed a nasty habit of having too many after dinner milkshakes, no matter how small they were.  Perhaps if I didn't love martinis and if I didn't eat the brownie crumbs from cutting the brownies I made for the church youth group, I would have kissed that inch goodbye.

The good news, and there is good news,  I didn't gain any either.  I maintained my weight and size by eating right most of the time and exercising as much as possible.  The point is we have to be diligent.  We have to keep up the good fight and do what we know to be right.  You can't loose a bunch of weight or have it sucked off and stick with your bad habits.  That fat will come right back and bring more with it. 

The bad news is that the winter holidays and all that party food is just around the corner, waiting for you.  Make a pact with yourself and a friend or someone you love.  Resolve to start exercising this WEEK and to support each other.  Start small, exercise for 20 minutes 3 times a week.  Build on that and make sure to do something you like.  Cut back on the portions you eat right NOW.  You don't need seconds of anything unless it's water or raw vegetables.  Start now and you'll be prepared and in shape to battle your way through the office Christmas party or Aunt Pat's pecan pie.  Start now and you'll feel good about yourself.  Taking action rather than wallowing in inaction gives you power and makes you stronger.

Think about it: deep down, you know I'm right.    

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Build A Better Lunch

Continuing our back to school theme, let's talk about building a better lunch.  What you eat for lunch can make or break your diet.  If you are grabbing fast food with your co-workers or letting your children eat what passes for a nutritious lunch in the school cafeteria, you are neglecting your health and that of your children.  Eating those types of lunches should only happen occasionally.  Don't tell me you don't have time to prepare lunch in the morning, get organized.  Yes, your kids can help with their own lunch if you provide some good choices. 

Tuesday's blog provided a few ideas that work for lunch or snacks but let's think about sandwiches.  There is nothing wrong with a good old peanut butter sandwich for lunch for kids or adults.  I love peanut butter; just pick a brand with the least sugar, salt and other additives.  Use whole wheat bread and then get creative with toppings.  You can just use your favorite jam but you could add sliced bananas as well or a sprinkle of raisins or other dried fruit.

Many times we stick with just meat and cheese on our sandwiches which is pretty boring after awhile.  Try using a different bread such as rye or adding some roasted red pepper (buy the jarred kind) to your sandwich.  I recently tried the "living" lettuce which still has the roots attached.  It stays fresher longer and is easier to break off the leaves than the iceberg lettuce.  You could also add thin slices of cucumber to your sandwich for some crunch.  I have even been known to add a couple of slices of bacon to a sandwich. 

I mostly buy whole wheat bread but for variety, I often get the new super thin bagels or the thin buns some of the bread companies have come out with.  Experiment with different condiments too but use less of the fatty ones like mayo.  I like cranberry sauce on turkey with Havarti cheese.  I really like avocado and red onion on turkey but it's hard to keep avocado from turning brown.  Kids find it fun to use two different kinds of bread or ham and turkey together.

For sides, grab that fruit or some yogurt.  Skip the chips and cookies.  And PLEASE don't give your kids a soda for lunch.  You don't need one either; drink tea or water.  Even if you and your kids don't take lunch every day, try to do it 2 or 3 times a week.  It will really help.  The weekend is approaching so use it to plan next week's lunches.          

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Snack Better - 10 Suggestions

School has started and that means I have lunches to pack and after school snacks to provide.  I am always looking for new things for my kids' lunches instead of the same old peanut butter sandwich and yogurt.  I'm hoping this year YOU make a vow to limit processed foods and offer your kids something better.  It doesn't have to be hard, just use your imagination and start with this list.
10 Suggestions for better lunches and snacks.

1.  Boiled eggs.  Couldn't be easier or more portable.  Works for breakfast, lunch, dinner or a snack.  A bit a salt and pepper makes it better.  Boil up a bunch one night to top off a salad or to eat by itself.

2.  Raw vegetables and a low fat dip such as ranch.  Yes, kids will eat raw veggies if you put a tray out on the table.  You can even purchase vegetable trays at the store or put your own together.

3.  Hummus with raw vegetables, pita bread or chips.  Hummus can even be a substitute for mayo or mustard on sandwiches.

4.  Fresh fruit.  How simple is a banana or an apple tucked into your lunch?  It's as easy as grabbing a bag of chips and better for you.  Kids can help themselves to fruit like grapes and strawberries.

5.  Cottage cheese.  Serve plain or with fruit or raw vegetables and get a serving of dairy.

6.  Peanut butter on toast.  Melted peanut butter just seems to taste better.  Top with bananas or a drizzle of honey.  Oh, make the toast whole wheat.

7.  Nuts!  Almonds, cashews, pistachios, peanuts all pack alot of nutrition in a very portable package.  Mix with some dried fruit like raisins or cherries to make your own trail mix.

8.  Chips with a layered bean dip or homemade salsa.  Get some fresh vegetables and fiber into your kids while giving them chips!  Don't rely on the jarred stuff though or you are defeating the purpose.

9.  Smoothies.  Make them at home with fruit, yogurt and a splash of orange juice.  If you have a Magic Bullet processor the clean up is much easier.  Kids can do this by themselves too.

10.  Cheddar fondue with apple slices.  The following fondue recipe is simple and quick to whip up and makes for a different treat.  Try other things to dip such as thick slices of ham or cubes of bread.

Cheddar Fondue
1/4 cup butter
3 Tbsp. flour
1 1/2 cups milk
1 lb. grated cheddar cheese
Melt butter over low heat in a medium sauce pan.  Add flour and stir well.  Slowly add milk, stirring constantly.  When milk mixture is warm, add cheese in small amounts, stirring till melted.  Serve warm.

I hope you've gotten a little inspiration and you're ready to forgo the DingDongs and put down the Pringles.  Skip the lurid colored jello which is just jelled sugar water.  Give yourself and your kids something to power up your brains and keep you slim. 


Friday, August 20, 2010

School Has Started But Summer Ain't Over

I find it amusing that we tend to think that summer ends when school begins.  Look at the calendar: we still have plenty of hot summer days left.  The severe heat we've been experiencing has really zapped my appetite and my desire to cook as well.  Still we must eat and I still don't like fast food so what is the cardiologist's family eating these last dog days of summer? 

One thing I find appealing is plenty of fresh fruit served really cold, especially melons.  I love icy cold watermelon with a bit of salt and pepper on it.  Salt and pepper enhances the sweet flavor of melons.  I also love cantalope with cottage cheese and blueberries, with a sprinkle of salt and pepper of course.  Pasta salads, if you avoid all the fatty dressings and use plenty of raw veggies, are another excellent choice.

We are still eating fish as often as possible and I have another recipe to share with you.  This baked salmon dish is packed with nutrition plus turns out beautifully, making you look like Bobby Flay.  Give this recipe a try and you'll be out of the kitchen in no time.  Serve with a side of roasted potatoes or steamed asparagus. 

Baked Salmon with Strawberry Salsa

4 to 6 salmon fillets
1/2 red bell pepper, sliced thin
1 orange, sliced thin
1 pint strawberries, washed and sliced
1/2 cup honey
1/2 cup chopped green onions
1 clove garlic, minced

Place salmon in a baking dish lightly coated with baking spray.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.  Top with orange and pepper slices.  Mix remaining ingredients and spoon over fish.  Cover dish with foil and bake at 350 for 20 to 30 minutes or until fish flakes easily.  I like my salmon to be just a bit undercooked as it retains more moisture that way.  You can discard the orange slices before serving if desired.  This dish is very unique with the fruit and fish combo. 

Next week I will give some lunch box suggestions for back to school lunches.  Have a lovely summer weekend. 

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Good To Be Home

Finally!  The long summer of 2010 is drawing to a close.  I am dreaming of snow and ice; at least some cool fall days.  The heat has just about whipped me - I'm done with sweating.  I'm done with traveling every weekend too.  My whole family agrees that we are ready to stay home for awhile. 

Our weekends in Lincoln, Nebraska and Sparta, Illinois went very well; the kids had a great time and both performed well in their respective sports.  I ended up going to Sparta which I will fail to adequately describe.  Unless you go there in person, you cannot imagine what the World Shooting and Recreational Complex is truly like.  The trap fields stretch as far as you can see and the constant pop of gunfire from early in the morning till dark serves as constant background noise.  The place oozes testosterone and I could never have imagined such a collection of guns anywhere.  The hotels for miles around are filled with gun toting men, giving a surreal effect to the whole experience.  Meanwhile, Barry had a perfectly normal weekend at the swim meet.  Nothing unusual there unless you count seeing large numbers of very fit children.  Sad that healthy, active children are becoming more rare.

My son with a $16,000 gun at one of the many stores in Sparta.

Now we are ready to resume a more relaxed home life if such a thing exists.  I've kept up my exercise as much as possible with being on the road so much.  I tried to watch the food I ate as road trips can easily lead to eating too much of the wrong thing.  In between our travels, I've even managed to find a few new recipes, one of which I'm sharing today.  I have a couple of tips for eating better when traveling: 1. always eat a good breakfast, skip the sweets and have eggs or oatmeal and some fruit. 2. Take some healthy snacks and a cooler of water, tea or G-2's with you so you won't be tempted to eat junk. 

I tried this recipe a few weeks ago and it was an instant hit.  And because it's easy, I'll make it often.  This is an elegant side dish for any meat and a tasty way to prepare carrots. 
Caramelized Carrots

2 lbs. whole small carrots, peeled, with a bit of green top left on
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1/4 tsp. salt
4 garlic cloves, minced
2/3 cup whipping cream
1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper
Heat the oil in an extra large skillet and add the carrots.  Sprinkle with salt.  Cook covered for 10 minutes.  Uncover and turn, then add garlic.  Cover and cook 10 more minutes or until carrots are tender and golden brown on both sides.  Remove carrots from pan and keep warm.  Add cream and cayenne pepper to skillet.  Bring to a boil, then reduce heat.  Simmer until cream is slightly thickened, 2 to 4 minutes.  Pour over carrots.  Sprinkle with fresh snipped parsley if desired.

I hope everyone is getting in school mode!


Sunday, August 1, 2010

Going to Nebraska and Sparta

I will probably not have time to post this week as I will be going to Nebraska with my daughter for a Zones swim meet.  She is terribly excited as this is her first really big swim meet.  We were in Fayetteville this weekend for state long course finals and she qualified to go on to zones.  I'm so proud of her for all her hard work and training, plus she was having the worst swim meet of her life this weekend.  Then today in her last race, she dug deep and pulled out a qualifying time!

My husband will be traveling this week also to Sparta, Illinois for a national trap shoot with my son.  He has been fortunate to go the last two years and to be on a team that has won several state and national titles.  It has all come through their hard work and dedication to their sport. 

Have a lovely, healthy week and be careful of the heat.  I will be struggling to eat well on the road and to get any exercise!