Month: November 2014

Clean Eating Tweaks

Clean eating just makes sense to me, almost too much sense for it to have a name!  Much of what I’ve learned about clean eating has come from two great blogs- 100daysofrealfood and thegraciouspantry.  I have also read two books by Tosca Reno that I loved!  If you’re just getting into it, check out The Eat Clean Diet Recharged and/or The Eat Clean Diet: Family & Kids.  Just google Tosca Reno and you’ll find lots of info and resources!

clean eating tweaks

There are many more resources out there, and each one I’ve found brings something different to the table.  You’ll also find a wide range of stringency or strictness, and some different guidelines.  The basic premise is usually the same, some people just have a different slant on things.

I am not an authority on eating clean, and there are many things I’d like to change in my own kitchen, but there are also lots of things I’ve started to do differently as a result of all my obsessing…

  • Pancakes.  This is one of our oldest switches, dating back before children and long before I had ever heard of eating clean.  My  husband and I used to make our own pancake mix, inspired by Alton Brown.  This is something we still do, and while it’s not really clean (we use white flour and white sugar) it is so much better than the boxed mixes that I feel like it sorta counts.  Our kids love them and I feel like they’re getting some nutritional value from these delicious treats.  That said, I do have an alternate pancake I make for myself when I’m being very good- greek yogurt pancakes.  I love them; they taste a little more eggy than regular pancakes, almost like a french toast taste, but they have a lot more protein, I use whole wheat flour, and no sugar…though I do top them with maple syrup.  I wish I had always made these, because I feel like my kids would like them if they weren’t used to our other pancakes.  My 2-year old likes them!
  • Maple Syrup.  Pancakes lead us to…maple syrup.  We only use maple syrup.  All-natural.  From trees.  Nothing added.  100% maple syrup.  I never liked maple syrup, but my husband gradually won me over, helped along by all the bad news about high fructose corn syrup.  Just look at those labels on Aunt Jemima and Mrs. Butterworth- eek!  So we haven’t bought any of those in a long time.  I’ll also use maple syrup as a natural sweetener in things like my refrigerator oatmeal.  My biggest complaint?  It’s expensive!!  Our kids are not allowed to pour their own syrup:)
  • Cream-of-anything soup.  I used to like to have these soups, especially cream-of-chicken, in the house for easy dinners.  But they were one of the first things to go as I stumbled across more and more posts and pins and articles about clean eating.  I’ve found recipes to make your own substitutions, but haven’t tried any yet.  I will soon, though, since I do miss some of my old easy dinners!
  • Sauce Packets & Seasoning Mixes.  I miss these, too.  One of my favorite “oh no, it’s 5:30 and I have no idea what to make” dinners was pasta with broccoli in a creamy pesto sauce (courtesy of a nice green packet and some liquid).  It was great because I usually had all the ingredients in the house- the  pasta, frozen vegetables, a handy packet, milk and olive oil.  Nothing had to be taken out ahead of time, nothing (except the milk) went bad anytime soon.  Very convenient.  Can’t do it anymore though.  Too many crazy ingredients.  As for the seasoning mixes, these I don’t miss as much.  They are very easy and quick to make on your own, and really taste just as good or better.  I usually make double batches and keep them in small tupperwares to use for the next dinner, too. There are a ton of recipes online for clean eating fajita mix, or taco, or adobo.
  • Shredded Cheese.  I stopped buying those convenient bags of already shredded cheese a while ago, too.  There are added ingredients in them that you can avoid by shredding cheese yourself.  This one is a bit of a pain, but something I can live with.  It probably curtails the amount of cheese I eat, too, which is probably a good thing!
  • American Cheese.  No more pasteurized cheese product slices for us.  I now buy sliced american cheese from the deli counter.  It is more expensive and doesn’t last as long.  But other than that this was a pretty easy change for us.
  • Yogurt.  I did used to love my flavored greek yogurt, but I’ve given it up.  When I have yogurt now I use plain and add my own fruit and homemade granola for sweetness.  When I don’t have granola I use maple syrup, or a little bit of powdered Stevia.
  • Flavored Coffee Creamer.  This was a bad one, and I knew it for a long time, but I loved it.  My step-down was making my own creamer, using milk and sweetened condensed milk and vanilla extract- which now makes me cringe almost as much as the store-bought kinds!  Now I just use half and half, and drink flavored coffee which I have always loved.  This could be a tough one for a lot of people (my brother-in-law says International Delights French Vanilla creamer is the reason he wakes up in the morning, lol) but is so worth it.  This past weekend I was visiting family, and they had no half and half or cream, just 2% milk or flavored creamer.  I went with the creamer and found it hard to drink- it is so sweet!!
  • Whole Wheat Flour.  I still use white flour, but I use a lot more whole wheat flour.  I use a white whole wheat flour, and I use it in everything that calls for flour (except pancakes which I hope to change) including chocolate chip cookies- the kids still love them!  I’ll often do half and half, depending on the recipe.  But this is a pretty easy change to make, too.  You can do it gradually, replacing just some of the white flour with whole wheat.
  • Popcorn.  I will never buy another box of microwave popcorn again.  I read some article about the chemical(s) they use in the lining of the bags and it scarred me forever.  We use an air-popper, and when I want to make a small quick batch I just put 1/4 cup kernels in a brown paper bag and pop it in the microwave for 2 1/2 minutes.  A little more work (especially when we want buttery, movie-theater-style popcorn), but so good I don’t mind.
  • Baking.  I bake a lot more than I used to, and when I do I rarely use boxed or bagged mixes.  When my oldest daughter turned three, I brought cupcakes to her little mommy & me class for her birthday.  One of the moms asked me about my recipe.  I said, “Oh, it’s Betty Crocker.”  She said she thought they were homemade…I didn’t know you could make cupcakes homemade!  Wasn’t using a box and making them yourself homemade?  I guess I must have known, if I had given it any thought, that not all cupcakes came from a box.  What about bakeries?  And surely I had heard somewhere about people making their own brownies or cupcakes or something. But really I had never made anything but cookies from scratch.  Now, I make most things from scratch- brownies, birthday cakes, banana or pumpkin bread, cookies, muffins.  I also try to use whole wheat flour, and I’ve played around with sugars that are less refined- turbinado and coconut sugar mostly.  The only time I’ve made an exception recently was when I had to make cupcakes for school- 27 cupcakes, an annoying amount really, just three over the 24 a standard recipe would make!  I also had to make a kind I had never made before, which meant I either had to make a practice batch or risk making crappy cupcakes for my daughter’s class.  So I caved and bought two boxes of the good old mix, partially hydrogenated oil and all!

There are a lot of other small changes I’ve made, especially when it comes to buying things with labels.  I try to stick to the 5-ingredient rule from Lisa Leake at 100daysofrealfood whenever possible.  My kids eat a lot of Triscuits- only 3 ingredients and all familiar!  And a lot less Wheat Thins- a longer ingredient list.  When I buy ice cream I go with a brand with fewer ingredients; Breyer’s is often a good choice.  When I do buy things that have more than 5 ingredients I at least try to avoid things like hydrogenated oils and high fructose corn syrup.  I’m also more aware of foods that have chemicals like BHT added to them.  There are so many good blogs out there that have more detailed information about these things…

I’m just trying to inch my way along and do what I can.  Eating clean can be a lot of work!  And more expensive…it’s daunting sometimes and there are many days I just want to say, “#@$! it!” and buy chicken nuggets for my kids.  But overall we’re making progress.  I hope to continue to make changes and better choices for my family.


I just started drinking Shakeology about three weeks ago…and I’m in love.  I resisted it for so long, it just seemed so expensive.  But in the meantime I mixed up my own smoothies, full of their own rather pricey ingredients, and part of a somewhat time-consuming process.

I really love smoothies, and I did make some good ones.  But Shakeology is so simple, and it has so many great ingredients!  One of the final straws to get me started on it was that the ingredient list is so clean.  I have been all about clean eating lately, and if you look at some of the ingredient lists on protein powders you might find it alarming.  Shakeology is really very natural, and loaded with super foods.  (My husband likes to throw that word around so it’s become a bit of a family joke, but Shakeology really is loaded with them!)

I think the beauty of smoothies in general is that you can get so much good stuff at once.  And that is how it is with Shakeology.  With my old personal recipe I would add protein powder, chia seeds, coconut oil, sometimes ground flaxseed or flaxseed oil, spinach or kale, frozen fruit, and a liquid which would vary with whatever article struck me most recently- rice milk, coconut milk, regular milk, kefir.  I don’t think I’m missing anything now with my Shakeology- and it’s much simpler!  I also really believe I’m getting a lot more nutritionally.

Shakeology is definitely a meal replacement, too.  I can’t believe how filling it is- it keeps me full for hours.  My cravings have decreased and I don’t find myself with the afternoon snack urge I always used to get.  After dinner I always used to reach for something sweet, even if it was just a handful of chocolate chips, but I haven’t been doing that either.  And I have lost a few pounds…I’m hoping this is what I needed to break through the plateau I’ve been at for a while.  Whether it’s the Shakeology itself or the good behavior it’s encouraging- I’ll take it!



I had my fourth baby, a beautiful boy named Danny, in May of 2012.  In just the couple years previous I had gotten my first taste of meeting a goal with exercise- I stuck with a training program and ran a half-marathon in 2010.  It took me almost 2 1/2 hours, but I did it!  And it was very fulfilling to have finally stuck with something.  But, once again, I lapsed on the exercise front and gained a ton of weight during my fourth pregnancy- hitting my highest weight ever.


During the summer of 2012 I visited a friend and she told me about Insanity.  I had never heard of it before, but I was intrigued.  When I went home that day I watched an infomercial online and texted my friend something along the lines of …”that looks amazing.  But I don’t think I could ever do that.”  I watched those people doing the workout and really believed in my heart that was something I could/would never do…

By the end of the summer I was down to my pre-pregnancy weight, but that weight was still pretty high!  I felt heavy and bloated, weighed down by my own body.  I watched so many people around me exercising- going for runs or bike rides, playing basketball, just being active.  And I felt bad about myself- wondered why nothing ever stuck for me, ever worked for me.  Wondered what was wrong that I just couldn’t keep with it.  I had never found something I loved or thrived at on my own.  Nothing had ever “clicked” for me…

Running had been ok, but progress was slow and I didn’t really see any results.  When I was running I was proud of myself for sticking with it, happy that I found some pleasure in it, and fulfilled by meeting a goal.  But I didn’t really look or feel much more “in shape” than I had at the start and I was still pretty slow.  Plus, I wavered in my commitment.

That summer I knew I was probably not going to have another baby, that my body would really be my own again.  I wanted to finally take charge of it, get healthy and fit and feel good about myself.

My 37th birthday was that September and I ordered Insanity for myself.  It was a splurge- money is a little tight around here with me being at home with the kids for so long.  But I bought it as a present for myself, and I tracked it’s shipping each day.  Maybe that’s part of the reason it became my click, the investment and the anticipation.


Insanity came in the mail and I started right away.  The first week was definitely insane!  I almost threw up during one of the first workouts and I have never sweat like that in my life.  But I stuck with it…there were times I cried during and/or after.  It was really intense.  I didn’t miss a workout.  I stuck with it like I had never stuck with anything before.  I worked out at night back then, after all four kids were in bed but before Danny would wake up to be nursed!


And the results were insane, too.  I lost 25 pounds doing Insanity, and changed my body.  That Thanksgiving I saw friends I hadn’t seen since the summer and they couldn’t believe the change.  It felt good to get such amazing results so quickly- it was gratifying and motivating.  It also felt good to notice physical gains; the progress was evident one week to the next.  By the end of the whole program I was not only lighter and thinner, but I was more flexible and stronger.  I could do things that I hadn’t been able to do at the start.  The first time I went for a run after completing Insanity, I ran my fastest three miles ever- easily!  I hadn’t run in months, but the conditioning I got from Insanity meant more than all those months I had put into running when it was all I did.

And I love Shaun T.  I loved him then, and I love him even more now.  I liked the bootcamp style of Insanity; I don’t really like dance-y kinds of workouts.  I liked the intense intervals and the breaks in between.  I also liked seeing the people in the video, watching them struggle but get it done.  Something about the whole thing worked for me.


Insanity was the beginning.  I have not stopped exercising since.  I…love to exercise!  I eat so much better now, too.  I feel better than ever and happier than ever.  I used to make excuses about not exercising because it was unfair to my children, it took away from their time.  I could not have been more wrong- it’s one of the best things I’ve ever done for them!  It’s made me a better mother.  And at this point in my life, everything comes back to my children.  So this part means a lot.

Clean-er Eating

I love, love, love to read…and I have read a ton of books about nutrition.  One that really made sense to me was the South Beach Diet by Arthur Agatston.  I read the book and began following its guidelines right before I got pregnant with my first child.  I felt great doing it and wish I had stuck with it, but morning sickness got the best of me and I all I wanted to eat was ham on a roll (ugh…and this was before I learned about the dangers of listeria during pregnancy- ah!) and fruit.

The premise of the book stuck with me over the years, though, and it seems to me to be the closest to the clean eating movement that I’ve been obsessed with the last year or so.  You should be eating whole foods, foods that come from the earth with as little change from their natural state as possible.  Fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds being the best followed by grains and dairy and meat.

I do not mean to summarize the book (it’s been a long time since I’ve actually read it!) or the clean eating diet/lifestyle.  It’s just that as I read about clean eating it reminded me of the South Beach Diet…and these are kind of the guidelines I try to follow.

Since I do like reading about nutrition- online, in magazines, books- there were a lot of things I had already given up, which makes the jump a bit easier.  I was never much of a soda drinker, so that was pretty easy to give up.  Artificial sweeteners always kinda freaked me out- they just seem so chemical-ly.  Whole grain bread?  Of course, can’t even remember buying a loaf of white.  High fructose corn syrup has been on my radar for years…my oldest (she’s 9 now) actually used to think she was allergic to it!  She has food allergies (peanuts and tree nuts) so when she heard me scan labels in the grocery store and say no to something because it had HFCS, she assumed it was like finding nuts in the ingredient list!  (We had a good laugh talking about this the other day.)

But all my reading about clean eating lately has prompted me to make some more changes in the kitchen. I have not bought a can of creamed anything, nor a packet to make alfredo or pesto sauce (I used to love those for last minute dinners!).  I grate cheese instead of buying bags of shredded cheese.  I also make my own seasoning mixes- taco, fajita, adobo.  For a brief time I blended up my own bread crumbs…that was a major pain, more because of all the crusts I had to save that kept falling out of the freezer when I opened the door than for the actual blending. Plus, since the bread we buy isn’t really clean (but is all I can get my picky 7-year-old to eat!) I felt like it was kind of useless anyway.  I did, however, find a great brand of bread crumbs with far fewer ingredients, whole grains, and even some flax thrown in for good measure!  I like to think all these changes are a step in the right direction, and are just second nature now.

I do not “eat clean” all the time, and I am sad to say my children eat clean even less than I do.  It is a lot of work!  Makes a lot of sense, seems like what I should be doing, wish I was better about going all in on it…I’m just not there yet.  I’m baby stepping my way and trying to find a balance between what I know is right and what feels manageable right now.

My fitness journey…

My fitness journey sounds very corny, but I’m not sure what else to call it.  I have never in my life been as “fit” as I am right now, but I still have a long way to go to meet my goals.  So…I’m in progress, evolving, keeping on in my journey.

I was never an athlete, and never an exerciser.  I always wanted to lose weight or fit in smaller clothes; I would look around at other people with envy.  But my desire to be thin was never impetus enough to stick with anything.  (I had one particularly vigorous go at running in college and I roped my roommate into it…she went on to lose 40 pounds and compete in triathlons.  I lasted about a week before wimping out.)

My first ever organized sporting event was a 5K I ran when I was 35 or so…it felt really good to finish that race, even if it was finished very slowly.  I still remember the first time I ran three miles without stopping- my kids were waiting at the end and I cried when I got there.  Exercising brings out lots of things in us…it is empowering and emotional.  I never knew it could be all these things.  I always viewed it more as a superficial endeavor- a means to a skinny end.  Unless you were an athlete I kind of thought of exercise as a vain hobby.

I’m happy to say I’ve come to know all the things exercise can be…and in the process I’ve grown as a person.  I love to exercise now and I love feeling strong and healthy.  Over the last couple years, I have tried different kinds of exercise and have learned a lot about nutrition, too.  Like I said before, it’s ongoing.  I’m not perfect, but the person I am now is so different from the person I was when I began.  I still struggle to eat right and I have days when it’s really hard to get my workout in because I didn’t get up early and do it…but that’s ok.  I’m making better choices all the time…choosing to be healthy and fit, choosing to be happy.