Wednesday, March 26, 2008

My Philosophy on Family Nutrition

Last year, we ate out a lot. I was on the go all the time, and we'd often skip meals, then stop at fast food when we were ravenously hungry and wanting something immediately. It was a stressful thing for me. I know better than to feed my kids and myself that way. But things were hectic and healthy eating wasn't a priority. At 8 months postpartum, I weighed more than I did at 6 weeks postpartum. I knew that it was the way I was eating.

Changing my habits wasn't easy. It took some time. I was frustrated because before getting pregnant, we'd been eating better than we ever had and I felt great. I think Jared managed to go about six months of the year with only having sugar once or twice. He was eating so well, and it was really helping me to share in his enthusiasm and rock solid willpower. During my pregnancy, I was busy with finishing up my degree, and my focus was not on health. But I thought as soon as the baby came, I'd get back into it easily. It didn't happen that way. I got discouraged when I'd fail (eat fast food and other junk) then I'd have these feelings of not being able to do it. I wasn't strong enough.

The first step in getting back to where I want to be (still not there yet, but closer!) was not expecting perfection of myself. If I ate a little bag of chips one day, it didn't mean the whole day was ruined. I learned to give myself a break. I was counting calories, and getting in more exercise, and that helped me to get through the feelings of failure. As I logged my food, I realized I could be doing so much better. I wanted to see more healthy, fresh foods on my food logs. I was seeing progress, and I wanted to get there faster. I wanted to feel healthy like I did before.

Over the last few months, I've had some setbacks, but it has been pretty steady progress toward my goal. I've cut out fast food completely, and don't really crave it anymore. Thank goodness! I try to pack stuff in my little cooler if I am going to be out and running around. I have stuff for the kids. We keep water bottles in the car (not good in summer, but it has been cold here) so we never stop just to get a drink and end up with junk food.

Last week was a big setback! I was pretty emotional one day, and for me, being emotional means I eat. And if there is bad food in the house, I eat it. Because those are the moments when I just don't care about food.

But this week we are back! We purged the house of the Easter candy remnants. And we are ready to eat well again.

All this background info is to help you understand my food philosophy. I feel like feeding our kids healthy food is every bit as important as buckling them into their car seats or monitoring their media.

Over 15% of children from ages 5 to 19 are overweight. The risk of a child becoming obese is one in three. And the risks of being obese as a child and an adult are enormous. Obese individuals have much higher risks of heart disease, cancer and diabetes. All things that are prevalent in my family.

As a mom, I want to do everything possible to try to prevent those tragic diseases from hurting my family. We can't prevent everything, but healthy eating makes a huge difference in our quality of life. I feel a personal responsibility to be a gatekeeper regarding the kinds of foods that enter our home, and the choices that are offered here. I don't want my kids to have to choose between Captain Crunch and oatmeal--I know they don't know enough at this young age to make wise food choices regularly. Heck, I don't know if I would choose oatmeal if Captain Crunch was right there in the pantry. I feel I am also responsible to teach my kids good nutrition through example. To help them to like nutritious food, and to help them see where the good food choices lead, and where the not so good food choices lead.

I was watching the Biggest Loser a few weeks ago and was really validated by one of the major points of that particular episode. Jay and Mark went home to visit their families. The families had all kinds of junk food around which the children were consuming. Both of the dads were visibly upset to see the types of foods that were standard practice around their homes. They had experienced what it was like to be overweight, and how difficult it was to lose it, and they wanted better for their kids. They vowed to change the way their families ate. They saw what would happen to their children in the future if they were not taught good nutrition.

I really liked that episode, because I think it sheds light on how parents can influence their families for the better, and how kids need direction and support just as adults do. I am a firm believer that a healthy diet is important for the whole family, not just the moms, dads, or whomever is trying to lose weight. I believe that feeding the kids junk foods while the parents eat healthy sends the message to kids that eating healthy is all about weight control. They can eat all the hot dogs, mac and cheese or fruit snacks they want, because they are not overweight.

I know that as my kids grown older, they will make their own choices and decide how to feed their families. I hope that my influence will direct them and help them to remain healthy throughout their lives.

My mom was raised in a home where the smell of a cake baking got her out of bed in the morning. My sweet, sweet grandma loved to have treats! My mom really didn't have much healthy food at home. It was hard for her to be a chubby kid, and she decided to change. She learned all she could about healthy eating, and has raised all of her children to have a good appreciation for healthy foods. She'd often praise me for eating a chunk of cabbage as a snack when I was a kid. Growing up, there weren't many tastier options! We had healthy food, or healthy food. If there were something more appealing, I am sure I would have picked that instead. I know that her decision to change has affected generations. My kids are healthier because she changed. I appreciate that, and I hope that I can continue to teach my kids so that we can all have a better life.

Walnut Chicken Salad

This is another version of a salad I loved from Real Foods Market in Orem. It was so delicious, I tried it out at home. My pictures are too dark this time. Sorry!

My version contains:

2 cups grapes cut in half
4 stalks celery sliced
2 large cups cooked diced chicken (about eight chicken tenders)
3/4 cup of yogurt ranch dressing
1/4 cup walnuts broken into small pieces
1/4 cup chopped green onions

Yogurt Ranch Dressing:
1 1/4 cups yogurt
1/3 cup milk
1 Hidden Valley Ranch dressing packet

You will have about a cup of dressing left over.

Makes 6 1 cup servings. Each serving has 166 calories, 19 g protein, 1.5 grams fiber and 4 grams fat.

I roughly doubled the grapes and chicken from what is pictured. I found that when I put it all together, I wanted more chicken and grapes. I also added walnuts. I love the ranch dressing made with yogurt.

This Straus yogurt is my favorite! It is so creamy, the texture is delicious. I was buying other brands like Dannon, etc and we pretty much never finished the cartons. They were nonfat, which I am sure contributed to me not liking the flavor. But this stuff tastes really great. My kids love it over mixed berries with agave nectar or honey. When I use it in recipes, I feel like I am getting something yummy, not a nonfat diet food.

Also, this is great for pita pockets or sandwiches. I like it plain too. These are the pitas I've been buying from Wal-Mart. They are sold in the Deli section in front of the sandwich meats. They are pretty good, cheap, and the ingredients are not too long:

Fiesta Salad

This recipe is very simple, filling and low calorie. There are lots of variations too. You could substitute tomatoes for the peppers. Avocadoes would be wonderful too. I actually bought this salad at Real Foods Market the other day and went home to try it on my own because it was so tasty! I love bell peppers, and so do Miles and Monet, but Elise and Jared would have preferred it with tomatoes instead. The picture above is of the recipe doubled.

Here are the ingredients:

1 can of Kidney Beans

1 cup rice

1 cup corn

small amount of green onions


2 bell peppers diced

Taco seasoning. I use the kind pictures that Vita Mix sells at Costco when they do their demonstrations. You could use regular taco seasoning.

Juice from 1 lime

This makes 5-6 1 cup servings.
Each serving is 127 calories, 5.5 grams protein, 6 grams of fiber and 0 g fat.

Thursday, March 13, 2008


This is what I've eaten for lunch for the last few days. I love it! It is so tasty, and crisp. And so fast!

It is just organic leaf lettuce (while I don't eat all organic foods, I try to eat organic greens--get your spinach and spring mix at Costco and the others at the health food store, here in Utah it isn't much more than conventional), tomato, onion, turkey, avocado, and Annie's Naturals Honey Mustard. I had a side of steamed broccoli with mine. One of these is about175 calories (estimating high). I usually have a couple of them.

I was standing in line at the deli at Wild Oats and learned a great little trick. The man in front of me ordered some turkey that normally is just sliced off in a chunk I guess. It is real turkey, not the pressed stuff. So it is shaped like the real deal (I should take a picture) and he had it sliced up for sandwiches. It is really good! Just like your thanksgiving turkey --no slimy stuff like most packaged turkey. I put a few apple juice sweetened dried cranberries on it yesterday, and it was really good. Ooh, those are a new favorite too. Good Earth sells the tastiest little TART cranberries. I love tart things!

I haven't converted to buying free range chicken yet, but if I get sandwich meat, it has to be good quality. I love the pastrami spiced turkey at Wild Oats. Even Wal-mart has one that is pretty good. It doesn't have nitrites added. It is the Prima Della peppered turkey breast. Jared is the one who actually read the ingredients, and it has been a couple of years--so you may want to recheck.

Nitrites are really scary! They are known to cause cancer, but are found in most processed meat as a preservative. Here is a link to more info on it: Good idea to stay away from hot dogs. But we all knew that anyway, right? :)

Don't leave out the onions if you like them! Onions are so good for you. I had no idea, and even though I like them, I haven't been eating them as much because Jared hates them raw. But onions are great for lowering cholesterol, helping digestion, and are also great for diabetics. They truly are a healing food! Read more about them at

Green Smoothie with Kale and Blueberries

I thought I'd share a few of my breakfasts too, since there are really only 3 or four that I eat regularly. I made a green smoothie this morning, and it was so good! If you've never thought to put spinach or kale in your fruit smoothie, don't worry, it doesn't taste as bad as it sounds! I don't mind the mild flavor of spinach and it is really camoflauged by the fruit and vanilla flavors, but kale is a little more bitter. So for just starting out, I'd recommend spinach. I usually just pack in as much as I can, but if you aren't too sure about it, start with less and see how you like it.

This is what went in my smoothie this morning:

This is kale (I put about eight leaves, but that makes it pretty potent, try 4 first), 1 Cup frozen blueberries, 1 T flax seeds, 1 Scoop Jay Robb's Vanilla Whey Protein, 1 t Carlsen's Lemon flavored Cod Liver Oil, and 1 t Barlean's Lemonade Flax Oil. I put all this in my Blendtec blender, and it makes about 2 large glasses.

The lemon in the oils gives it a bit of tang that I like with my smoothies.

I like to change up my greens in my smoothies to get the different nutrients. Kale contains sulfur-containing phytonutrients and is in the same family as brussel sprouts and cabbage. I get organic Kale from the health food store. The flaxseeds are great and bring a nutty flavor, there are too many health benefits to list! I really notice a difference in my skin when I am eating flaxseeds and fish oil. Blueberries are known for their antioxidants. These are just frozen ones from Costco. Jay Robb's Whey Protein is the best we've tasted for the calories. I love adding it with the fruit. It is pricey, but good quality. Only five ingredients, sweetened with stevia.

Anyway, this makes 2 servings, at about 200 calories per serving.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Healthy Dinner Ideas

So my new blog is all about yummy, healthy dinner ideas! This is the place if you are looking for variety and healthy recipes. My goal is to do two per week, so we'll have a hundred by the end of the year. I'll be taking lots of pictures of the cooking process too--I am very visual with food. I need to see what it is supposed to look like.

There are so many different thoughts about what is healthy, but what I am focusing on here is just lots of vegetables, fruits, legumes, whole grains, chicken, fish, and other whole foods. We'll tag recipes for being quick, inexpensive, etc so you'll be able to find what you are looking for quickly. We'll have some great ideas to try at home. Jared and I have eaten some incredibly delicious healthy foods, and want to share those recipes with others who are looking for variety.

I think this will be fun, and it will help me feed my family a little more mindfully.
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