Tag Archives: health

Traveling with Dietary Restraint

As I am writing this, I’m in the 36-hour window between two business trips. Somehow, I’ve swung getting 4 business trips this year…all for a position that requires no travel. I still have 2 more to go!

Traveling was less stressful before I decided to get my diet under control. I’m trying to give myself grace while traveling, but it’s hard not to spend a lot of time working out what I should eat. In my everyday life I do all my meal planning for the week at once, so I’m not used to having to think about it during the week and do much better when everything is pre-planned. This just isn’t possible when you’re eating out and on another’s schedule.

For these trips, I’m doing as much research ahead of time that I can. For last week’s trip, I was told ahead of time who was catering each meal, so I used that information to pick out the healthiest options I could. I also pre-planned my airport meal for DIA (smaller airports are proving to be more difficult), so I knew exactly where to go.

chocolate decadence
The picture isn’t great quality, but this is the “chocolate decadence” dessert that I allowed myself. It was worth the wait!

I knew that on these trips that food would be available in abundance that I do not need right now, including desserts. I decided to allow myself one dessert for the week, and ate that on the last night. That made saying “no” to the other sweets much easier and less stressful.

For the upcoming week, my schedule is more loose. I’m going to research the local restaurants and find a handful of meals that will work, so that I have options. Something else I’ll be doing on this trip is bringing chia seeds with me…eating differently is causing dietary issues on the other end, so I want to add some additional fiber to my travel diet. I should be able to add the seeds to my breakfast to help myself out.

As much as possible, I’m trying not to stress about food while I travel, as I don’t want food to rule me in that way, either. So far, I’ve been able to enjoy the good food while also keeping it mostly within my usual limitations. I’m okay if I’m not losing my 2 pounds a week during this time, but I also don’t want to gain anything back.

Recipe: Vegetarian Chili over Roasted Potatoes

healthy chiliI love football. As in, I love watching others play football. (Boomer! Sooner!)

Watching football always makes me hungry for a few things: Diet Dr Pepper, junk food and chili. This is my first full football season without the first two.

But there is no reason why I can’t do chili.

Though generally, I want to eat my chili with Fritos and a lot of cheese and sour cream…that’s not happening these days.

So how do I make a tasty chili and fixings that also comes in at under 450 calories? Here’s how I did it:

Black Bean Chili

1.25 cups dried black beans (soaked in water overnight)
1 16 oz can of tomato sauce (hopefully homemade one day)
1 white onion, diced
2 bell peppers, diced
2 cups vegetable broth (I now make my own)
seasonings to taste (I used salt, garlic powder, onion powder, paprika, cumin, oregano, thyme and cayenne pepper…basically, chili powder)

To make the chili, dump all the ingredients in a small crock pot. This recipe makes 5 servings, but can be easily doubled for a big batch in a standard-size crockpot. Cook on high until the beans are soft when bitten (6-8 hours).

Roasted Potatoes

5 medium russet potatoes or 3 large ones
1.5 tablespoons olive oil
Seasonings to taste (I used garlic salt, onion powder and paprika)

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Scrub and chop potatoes (with peels still on), in chunks smaller than 1″. Place potato pieces on greased tray or casserole dish. Drizzle with olive oil and add seasonings. Stir until evenly coated. Bake 30-40 minutes until potatoes are soft when pierced, stirring every 10 minutes. This recipe makes 5 servings.

Serve chili over potatoes and top with shredded cheddar cheese and plain Greek yogurt, if desired. I topped mine with 1/3 cup shredded cheddar cheese and 2/5 cup nonfat Greek yogurt.

This meal’s nutrition facts (topped as I did):

447 calories
27 grams protein
62 grams carbs
10 grams fiber
13 grams fat

Not bad for a filling football-watching meal that costs less than $2 a serving! And did I mention it’s delicious?

Halfway There

January 12, 2016
January 12

A couple of weeks ago, I reached the halfway point on my weight loss goal.

I started at 252 pounds in March, and now weigh 191 pounds.

When you have 112 pounds to lose to get to a healthy weight, even halfway is a big deal (pun intended).

If I had to pick up 56 pounds and carry them around all day, I’d struggle.

23 pounds down, May 17
23 pounds down, May 17

 

Reaching this milestone has had me in a reflective mood. Here are a few of those thoughts:

1. I now fit where I didn’t before.

While at a Royals game with my brother and niece, I realized I fit quite comfortably in a seat that would have been a tighter fit a few months ago.

I also overestimate how much space I need to get around someone/something (which helps my general klutziness).

 

30 pounds down, June 3
30 pounds down, June 3

 

 

2. Self-control isn’t so hard when you have already decided the answer is no.

Key for me has been to make a decision about food choices before the choices have been placed before me.

3. Fruit tastes so much better now.

Prior to four months ago, I rarely ate fruit. I had a doctor tell me one time that I should only eat fruit if I replace another carb…and I’d never replace bread or pasta with fruit.

40 pounds down, June 28
40 pounds down, June 28

 

Now, I eat fruit as a special dessert on hiking days and really look forward to it.

4. You can still eat according to your pleasure, even on a 1200-calorie diet.

I have craved Mexican, pizza, rice and pasta, and have allowed myself those options every time.

Since I’m making my own food, I’m choosing to alter those meals in ways that promote health by upping the veggies, using whole grains or using Greek yogurt as a creamy substitute.

 

50 pounds down, July 21
50 pounds down, July 21

 

5. But I still crave junk sometimes.

Thankfully, it’s never tempting while I’m at the store (again, making the decisions about what I’m going to buy before I set foot in the store), but sometimes when I have no access to the junk, the cravings come.

From past experience, I know that giving in to these cravings will not be as satisfying as I imagine.

6. Weight loss is more about diet than it is about exercise.

I suppose I could have upped my activity by 1300 calories a day instead of lowering how much I’m eating by that amount, but that requires more time than I have.

57 pounds down, August 15
57 pounds down, August 15

In 3-4 hours a week, I can shop for and prepare all the food I need from scratch, compared to multiple hours of exercise a day.

7. It’s been easier than I thought.

Of course, weight loss isn’t easy for everyone: there are so many variables. For me, I had no idea it would be this easy.

I kinda just fell into it, and staying in good habits once established was easier than doing something else.

I’m on track to hit my end goal sometime in the first quarter of 2017.

I’m excited to see how the next five months go.

 

Practical Vegetarianism

I am not a vegetarian. I love bacon, burgers and pepperoni. While other people may crave meat, my cravings have always been more on the carbohydrate and dairy side: bread, cheese, and ice cream.

Since I started eating better, I just haven’t felt the need to spend some of my 1200 or so calories a day on something I don’t really even enjoy. While meat can provide good protein and nutrients, it doesn’t give me the best bang for my buck (calorie wise or budget wise). As such, I’ve almost entirely given it up.

Now, if it’s not a special occasion or a meal with others, I’m not eating meat. I get my protein mostly from dairy, whole grains and beans. I still enjoy the occasional burger, but I’m not missing meat.

Below is one of my recent recipes that I’ve concocted. I’m not sure if it is technically vegetarian since I added chicken bouillon, but I plan on making and freezing my own veggie stock soon. Just another step in making my food from scratch.

While it may seem like extra work to have to pre-cook the beans, veggies and rice, it really takes no more hands-on time than it would to brown meat.

creamy rice and bean bakeCreamy Rice and Bean Bake
Makes 5 servings

Nutritional info per serving:
411 calories, 26 g protein, 60 g carbs, 10 g fat, 7 g fiber

Ingredients:
1.25 cups dry black beans, cooked (I add some onion, cumin, thyme and chicken bouillon while cooking) 
1 cup brown rice, cooked (I add chicken bouillon while cooking)
2 cups non-fat Greek yogurt
1 yellow squash
2 bell peppers
1/2 onion
1 2/3 cups shredded cheddar cheese
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon thyme
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon onion powder
salt to taste

Pre-cheese and baking
Pre-cheese and baking

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2. Cut and grill or saute the squash, peppers and onion. I grill mine on a George Foreman. Cut them into bite-sized or smaller pieces before or after cooking.

3. Combine cooked veggies, beans and rice in a greased 9 x 13 casserole pan. Leaving shredded cheese to the side, add in remaining ingredients and mix.

4. Top with shredded cheese.

5. Bake for 15-20 minutes at 350 degrees.

I tried to keep track of the spices I used and in what quantities, but really, use what you like. The good thing about a recipe like this is that it’s very customizable…use what you like.

Spill-Over Discipline

Working on my eating habits over the last two-and-a-half months has been one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. It was saying “no” to myself in an area that I just haven’t really done to that extent before.

I’m thankful that this was an area that had some immediate effects. Even the stomach growls as I transitioned into eating half (or probably less, honestly) the calories I was previously eating was a reminder that I was on the right path.

As I continued making the right choices, the shrinking of the waist and the extra energy were also nice side effects, but the benefits of disciplined eating have gone beyond these things.

overflowing cupI’ve noticed that any time that I focus on one discipline, it has had positive ramifications on other disciplines. Since I’ve focused on eating according to what my body truly needs, I’ve had a cleaner house and have been better in how I use my time.

Part of it, I’m sure, is that it has the same root cause (focusing on my life plan), but I don’t think that is the whole story. I’ve noticed this in my past as well: If I am being “good” in one thing, I’m less tempted to be “bad” in another area. It just feels good to keep doing the things that I know will help me in the long-term.

Ultimately, that’s all discipline is: working towards long-term goals instead of for short-term pleasures. I’m by no means perfect in this. I feel like I’m no where near where I should be at the age of 33, but I’m thankful for the progress that I have made.

I probably will regress in one or more areas, as I have before. But these last couple of months have shown me that this is something that I can do.

And that is a lesson well worth learning.

Photo by Vladimer Shioshvili

Losing Weight on a Budget

Last week I shared why I wanted to lose weight. Initially, I planned on putting today’s post in with it, but as you read, I had a lot to say about motivation.

Now that I’ve covered my motivation, here’s the tools I’m using to lose weight:

IMG_27341. Apps – Fitbit and My Fitness Pal

I’ve had a Fitbit One for over 2 years now, and it’s been one of the best birthday presents I’ve ever received. I’m motivated by competing against others and against myself. I like that it also tracks the number of floors I climb. I sneak in steps wherever I can to make my 10,000 step goal at least 6 days a week.

I only recently started using My Fitness Pal. I like the ease in which I can log food from my computer or app. I’ve logged food in the past, but I’ve forgotten how much it helps in eating within my designated calorie range. Tracking food takes me only a couple of minutes a day, but it’s a huge tool in losing the weight.

2. Accountability

I haven’t needed accountability to remain on track…yet. I know that won’t always be the case. I recently asked 3 friends to hold me accountable to my eating and exercise goals. While it’s not their job to keep me on track, I will be encouraged to stay on track knowing that they that they will be asking me about it.

3. Food

What I eat is the biggest change I made 6 weeks ago. I’m not following a formal plan,  I’m simply eating the way that I know I should.

Half of what I eat now is now veggies (and a little fruit). I eat very little processed food and on most days, eat less than a serving of meat. When I’m eating what I make (which is most of the time), my bread products are almost exclusively whole grain, though I don’t eat a lot of it. I eat a tablespoon or less of added sugar a day, only allowing myself to cheat this on special occasions.

And oh yeah, I’m eating a whole lot less than I used to. By eating so much less, I am spending no more than I used to, though now most of what I am buying is real, unprocessed food.

4. Supplements

I’m not using any weight-loss “supplements” or plans. However, I have found a supplement (called inositol) that aides my PCOS symptoms, including my intense craving for sugar. I had no idea that my craving was medically-driven, but I’m thankful to have now identified it.

I don’t know what medical factors may be contributing to your own health issues, but I strongly encourage you to seek a doctor for guidance as you begin your own health journey.

5. Exercise

I’ve listed this last, because it’s been the smallest factor in my weight loss thus far. I have been walking 10,000 steps most days for a couple of months now, but it wasn’t until I added the diet changes that I started to see major health changes. In addition to the steps, I’ve added strength exercises once a week.

I would like to add in strength exercises an additional day a week and to start swimming laps again at some point, but for now, I’m happy with the amount of activity I am getting in.

Next week in the 3rd part of this 3 part series, I’ll be sharing more about how I have changed my diet.

I received no compensation for mentioning a few specific products in this post. After all, veggies don’t have a big promotional budget.

Ronnica’s Garden Plan, 2016

balcony garden in evening sunThis may be the blog post that I’ve spent the most time on. I know that I’ve spent at least 5 or 6 hours before I even started typing the first sentence.

Clearly, I take gardening very seriously.

Daydreaming about gardening is one of my favorite things to do. Before you have planted your first seed, you can imagine months of produce. Powdery mildew, late-coming spring and windy days do not appear in my daydreams, so the fruit is always abundant.

I think that is one of the exciting things about gardening: you’re always trying to game the weather, elements and pests. What choices will provide the highest yields this year?

What’s New

The biggest new thing I’m attempting this year is to grow my tomatoes and peppers from seed. I plan on completing the transition of part of my living room into a plant nursery in order to make the most advantageous environment for them.

I want to grow my plants from seed for a few reasons:

1. Save seeds. I’ve had a dream to save my own seeds for a while now. In order to do so, you have to have heirloom (not hybrid) plants.

2. Save money. I spent $8.50 for heirloom seeds, instead of twice as much for hybrid plants. If I’m successful in saving seeds, this may be my last expenditure for these seeds until I want to add another variety when I have more garden space.

3. It’s a fun challenge. There’s a reason kids get excited about growing their own plants from seed: it’s exciting.

What I’m Growing

garden seedsVeggies: cucumbers, onions, snap peas, bell peppers, tomatoes (Amish paste), spinach, zucchini
Herbs: basil, chives, cilantro, dill, oregano, parsley, rosemary, sage, thyme
Flowers: lavender, nasturium, likely some others

Last year I only grew nasturium, but I want to up my ante for flowers. They are the best use of my hanging baskets, and I want to grow varieties that will be useful for bees and butterflies as well as good companions for my veggies and herbs.

I still have a couple of weeks before I can start to plant, even indoors. But when it’s time, I’ll be ready!

What are you wanting to grow this year?

Health Care and Finances

6722544475_524a721154_bA few weeks ago, Riley and I sat down to discuss his company’s annual open enrollment–the time of year when employees pick and choose what insurance and other benefits they would like for the coming year.

While we didn’t change much as far as plans are concerned, this and other events of the last few months got me to thinking about health care and finances.

Do you know how incredibly easy it is to go into debt because of medical expenses?  I feel like not a day goes by that I don’t read or hear something about the increasing costs of health care.  Even with insurance, things are expensive.  Insurance itself can be expensive.  What’s more, not every procedure or expense is “optional”–for some, it is life-altering or life-saving, and therefore absolutely necessary.

If going into debt is not the greatest option out there, but the alternative is to not receive the medical care one needs…then what options are left?

Obviously this is a difficult question that far too many people struggle to answer.  Each case is unique, and each family comes with their own set of priorities, so I’m not going to pretend to hold an answer on this.  I will, however, share a few things that have proven helpful to our family as we navigate the often-complicated world of healthcare and finances.

1.  Prevention is key.  No-brainer here.  Eating a healthy diet, exercising, and reducing stress are emphasized as preventative measures everyone should take in order to stay healthy.  But what if the medical issue at hand is not preventable?  What if the person in question is experiencing issues outside their control–a congenital condition, accident, etc.?  The next tip may be helpful in such instances.

2.  Look into insurance plans and a Health Savings Account.  While many plans can be expensive, they also tend to be cheaper than paying out of pocket medical expenses.  There are many options for choosing insurance; check out what may be available to you.

Also helpful are Health Savings Accounts (HSAs).  These tax-free accounts can aid in paying for deductibles, co-pays, and many other medical costs.  Many employers will contribute funds to them, too.

3.  Get on the phone.  This isn’t a fun option for most, but it is so vital to get a price check on potentially costly procedures, so you can make sure you have an idea of what you may be facing, financially-speaking.  Oftentimes this starts with a call to your health provider to get the medical codes for the procedure or exam in question, and then you call your insurance provider with those codes to see what exactly is going to be covered.

If you find the procedure or exam to be out of your financial realm, then that brings us to the next tip…

4.  See what may be free or negotiable.  There are a wealth of services that may be available to you (see this post for a sampling) at little or no charge.  It also is helpful to contact the financial services department of your health provider to see if there is any assistance that may be available–for example, some hospitals may provide a discount to those who pay in cash, or others have funds for those who are under-insured.  Still others are willing to work with patients in various ways if funds are limited.

Although these tips have proven helpful for us, this is certainly not an exhaustive list, and since each situation is different these tips may not apply to you.  What tips would you add?

Photo by 401kcalculator.org

Current Challenges

Do you prefer to hear good news first, or bad news?

Personally, I prefer to get the bad news first, and then top things off with a hefty dose of optimism.  So, although things have actually been pretty awesome in our household lately, I thought I’d give our readers an update on all things Amanda and stewardship, beginning this week with the challenges, and finishing up with the blessings next week.

Challenge #1:  Cutting costs

I think it is safe to assume that most people would consider good stewardship of their financial resources to be a priority.  It is also safe to assume that when there is one parent staying at home with family, saving money is pretty vital to ensuring that parent can continue to stay at home.

1513269_10102792516860789_8531933613814555627_n
Peanut needing braces was an unexpected expense, but the positive results made it more than worth it!

Since staying at home with our kids is one of the biggest priorities for us as a family, that has meant more cost cutting measures being implemented lately.  Peanut had some medical tests earlier this year (he is fine–these were more FYI for the doctors than anything), and required braces, so that added up to some medical expense.  Other expenses have also necessitated cutting costs a bit more than expected.

The biggest way I have addressed this challenge is by looking at where our budget is the most flexible.  Since I have the most control over the grocery aspect, I have refocused my efforts on saving money in this arena…and have been doing a pretty great job of it, if I do say so myself!

Challenge #2:  Prioritizing Time

Pretty sure this is a continual struggle for most of us.  I’m happy to report, though, that my social media time has dropped quite a bit in recent months (shocking!), mostly due to the fact that I have more activities to create time for.

Challenge #3:  Practicing a Healthy Lifestyle

34928_845134431829_288270_nIt’s no secret I value cooking healthy, tasty meals for my family.  It’s a little less well-known that I loathe exercising.  I am always ready for an excuse to not be more active–it requires time, requires energy, etc.  I know it is time for an attitude adjustment, but that’s easier said than done, apparently.

I am toying with the idea of signing up for a 5K or something similar to help in the motivation department.  This has worked well for me in the past, but I am not keen on parting with the money required for a registration fee.  As such, I am also trying to embrace different forms of physical activity–not just the run-of-the-mill walking or running.  Maybe I will take a cue from Ronnica and try hiking!

What are some challenges you are facing in your stewardship journey?

Homemade Cream of Chicken Soup

Now that it has started to get cooler here in Denver, I’ve been craving warm foods. I have enjoyed the ease of throwing a few things together in my slow cooker and make enough for my dinner-time meals at work while I’m busy completing other chores.

One of the most versatile ingredients when making a casserole or slow cooker dish is a can of good ol’ cream of ______ soup. I’ve never really questioned what was in it…I just stuck the gelatinous stuff right in.

Some time back, I read of someone who made their own cream of ______ soup. It got me thinking about this go-to ingredient: would it be possible to make it in bulk, saving money and knowing more about what I was eating?

So that’s exactly what I did.

I highly recommend freezable mason jars. These are 12-ounce jars and are perfect for so many things.
I highly recommend freezable mason jars. These 12-ounce jars and are perfect for so many things, and you’re not creating unnecessary waste by using Ziploc bags.

I followed this recipe for cream of chicken soup and quadrupled it (though I made it in 2 batches, to fit in my saucepan). I used white whole wheat flour and skim milk. It came out to 12 12-ounce jars of cream of chicken soup.

So is it really cheaper than store-bought cream of chicken soup?

To make 12 jars I used:

10 cups of chicken broth, $4.27
6 cups of skim milk, $1.11
3 cups of white whole wheat flour, $0.60
garlic powder, onion powder, parsley, salt and pepper, $0.20

Total: $6.18

That makes each jar (similar size as a small can) $0.52 each. The cheapest cans of cream of _______ soup I’ve bought in the last year were $0.99 after tax, so I’m saving $0.47 a jar. I am also avoiding unnecessary soy and corn additives, MSG (though check out the chicken broth you use to be sure) and am using less-processed flour.

What am I going to do with 12 jars of cream of chicken soup? Well, I already used 2 to make chicken and rice for meals at work. The other 10 jars I stuck in my freezer for later. I’ve been told that the texture can be different after freezing, but I don’t anticipate that being a problem as I only use them in things and not by themselves.