Month: February 2015

Clean Eating Basics

There’s lots of talk about clean eating and lots of different schools of thought on the subject. I’ve found there are two general approaches to it, too- a more all-natural, crunchy kind of approach and a more eat clean, train mean kind of approach. (Then there are the people who say no one can really eat clean in this day and age and that it’s a stupid term with lots of stupid people jumping on the stupid band wagon!)

I like both approaches, but not the grumpy “clean eating is stupid” people. The all-natural approach has helped me learn a lot about whole foods, how things are grown, and seeing my relationship with food as part of a bigger picture.

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The eat clean, train mean approach (while sounding a little silly coming from me maybe) has taught me how to look at food as fuel for your body. It’s taught me about eating certain combinations of food and eating at certain times of day.

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There are many wonderful resources out there if you’re looking to learn more about clean eating. But here are the things that stick out in my mind:

  • Eat whole, natural foods- vegetables, fruits, dairy, meat, whole grains, nuts, seeds
  • Eat foods as close to natural state as possible
  • Eat organic and local food when possible
  • Stick to the perimeter of the grocery store
  • When you eat grains, make sure they’re whole grains with no added junk
  • No white flour, no white sugar
  • No artificial sweeteners, dyes, etc.
  • No “lite” “low fat” “reduced fat”
  • For the most part buy things that don’t come in a box
  • When you do buy things in a box, choose things with 5 ingredients or less
  • Those ingredients should be familiar to you (no chemicals, things you wouldn’t have in your own kitchen)
  • Use only natural sweeteners- honey, maple syrup
  • Eat 5-6 small meals a day
  • Eat every 2 1/2- 3 hours
  • At each meal, eat protein and complex carb

Then there are some things that people have different feelings on…like sweeteners. As you read about sugar alternatives you’ll hear about honey and maple syrup; I haven’t heard anything bad about those. Then you’ll hear mixed reviews about other alternatives, like agave and stevia. I’ve tried sugar alternatives in baking- like turbinado (comes from sugar cane but is not processed like white sugar) and coconut sugar; then you hear that coconut sugar isn’t sustainable, or something along those lines. So…I’m still learning. I try new things, and I read as much as I can until I feel like it will make me crazy. I have coconut sugar in my cabinet now, but I’m not sure I should!

You’ll also find differing views on dairy. Some people are just completely against cows’ milk. For people that are ok with cows’ milk you’ll find people that think you should only drink unpasteurized milk. You’ll also find that some clean eating people say you should drink whole milk and whole milk products only- they’re less processed. The more fitness minded clean eaters seem to say low-fat more often. I buy whole milk for the family, which I use very little of for myself, and 2% greek yogurt for me. This is one of those points I’ve gone back and forth on…

Depending on how you are already eating, clean eating may require only minor adjustments or a complete overhaul. When I first heard the term I had already known a lot of the major points, so it wasn’t a major shock. I had already started baking more, for example, so my kids would eat less boxed cookies and things. I had made macaroni and cheese from scratch, instead of a box. I ate whole wheat pasta. But as time went on, I did more and more to clean up the kitchen. And it can be a lot of work! You get used to it, but clean eating isn’t always easy. I do believe it’s worth it, though.

You can read more about some of the things I changed here.

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Clean Eating Resources

When I first heard about clean eating, there were two websites I visited often:

www.100daysofrealfood.com

www.thegraciouspantry.com

I also saw the name Tosca Reno a lot, and learned she is something of a guru in clean eating. I have read two of her books:

The Eat Clean Diet Recharged

The Eat Clean Diet Family & Kids

The Food Babe website is very informative, too. She does a lot of research into what goes into foods and has recently published a book!

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Michael Pollan is a pretty famous author who has appeared in food documentaries like Food, Inc. He has been very influential in clean eating and food awareness. I read the following book and know he has written others:

The Omnivore’s Dilemma

There are also tons of recipes out there for clean-eating dinners and meal plans. If you’re new to clean eating don’t feel overwhelmed! Choose one thing to change at a time, and know that each change is a step in the right direction.

We still have a long way to go here…I eat clean most of the time, but I hate to admit I haven’t been as strict with my children’s diet as my own. But that’s a topic for another day!!

 

Becoming a Beachbody Coach

I was nervous about becoming a Beachbody coach for so many reasons…but I really wanted to do it. I had to put those reasons aside, put my fears aside, and jump in and do it. And I still have to push doubt aside sometimes…

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But I love what I’m doing! I’m still new to it, but I love what I am doing, and I love learning as I go. It comes down to the fact that a Beachbody program (Insanity) changed my life in so many positive ways two and a half years ago, and I have been following Beachbody programs ever since. I have loved everything I’ve bought from Beachbody, and I’ve had amazing results. Exercise and eating for health have become my hobbies and my passion. I LOVE to talk about this stuff!

The idea of coaching and the idea of this blog came hand-in-hand for me. I don’t know that I would have done one without the other. I love to write…but what would I write about? And I love to exercise, but how could I share all that I want to say about it? It just seemed to go together for me, to be a good fit.

My favorite part of coaching so far has been my challenge group on Facebook. It’s been so much fun, and I love having a place to chat with friends about the stuff I love! We are motivating each other, and learning from each other. It’s been more meaningful than I imagined.

 

This Week’s Dinners

I’ve been a little obsessed with recipes the last few weeks. I’ve spent a lot of time searching for 21 Day Fix recipes, especially for dinner ideas. It occurred to me that most of the dinners I would normally make would work just fine with the 21 Day Fix. For the most part, I stick to “clean” dinners. While doing the program you’d just need to be more mindful of portion sizes. I have added some new recipes to the rotation, thanks to my obsessive searching. And I’ve eaten a lot more sweet potatoes and whole wheat tortillas!

I have also learned that a lot of other people doing the 21 Day Fix are looking for recipes too. I thought I’d share what I made each night this week, so there are several recipes in one post. And hopefully you can link up to them fairly easily.

Monday- Baked Marinated Chicken and Sweet Potato Fries 

I stumbled across the chicken recipe online when I was desperate for a quick and easy, and healthy, way to make chicken for dinner. I have only ever marinated it for a short time because I’ve always made it while in a last-minute panic over what to do with the chicken. But it’s very tasty. I’d like to see what it’s like if I gave it a little more time to marinate. Basically, you marinate chicken in olive oil, 1/4 cup lemon juice, 1/4 cup white vinegar, 1 TBSP each oregano, garlic powder, salt, and black pepper. Marinate for at least 10 minutes, then cook at 425 degrees for 20-30 minutes. The recipe called for 15 minutes, but I tend to over-cook my chicken a tad, and like it that way. You can find the full recipe at Men’s Fitness.

Along with the chicken, we had these amazingly delicious sweet potato fries. First, peel and cut your sweet potatoes into sticks. Melt a few TBSP of coconut oil in a small saucepan; when it’s melted add in some spices. I used salt, pepper, and paprika. Pour this over the sweet potatoes and toss to cover them. Spread them out on a baking pan/cookie sheet. I cooked them with the chicken at 425 and then kept them in a little bit longer at 450 to get crispier and they came out great. I also used coconut oil instead of butter, because I love using coconut oil and because it’s 21 Day Fix-friendly. These have become a staple at dinnertime. You can find the full recipe and some more seasoning ideas on the Pioneer Woman website.

 

Tuesday- Crockpot Chicken Fajitas

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I just can’t get enough of chicken fajitas. I could eat them every day, and some weeks I do. They’re easy, they’re healthy, they taste so good as leftovers. They pair well with quesadillas, which my kids adore. And I am sure in no time they will be gobbling up fajitas too! They can be bit of pain with all the extras you have to have on hand, but they’re worth it. And when you make them as often as I do you usually have most of the stuff on hand anyway.

Sometimes I make them on the stovetop, but that is a lot more work than the lovely crockpot. I just throw in the chicken and frozen mixed peppers, top with seasoning (1/2 tsp salt, 2 TBSP cumin, 1 1/2 TBSP chili powder) and a few squirts of lime juice. Then leave it to cook on low for 4 to 6 hours. I’ve played around with a few recipes and think this recipe from Stacey Makes Cents is just right.

Now I need to find the perfect tortilla. It’s hard to find one that’s “clean.” I’m afraid I’ll have to start making them myself, which is a little bit daunting at this point. But one of these days I’m going to give it a go…

 

Wednesday- Leftovers

One of my favorite things about fajitas is the leftovers! My husband was out for dinner, so I had leftovers and the kids had grilled cheese. To make the grilled cheese I used 100% whole wheat bread and American cheese from the deli counter, not the pasteurized slices that are pre-packaged.

Thursday- Whole Wheat Pasta & Meat Sauce w/Salad

My 5-year-old just loves pasta, so while I’ve gotten away from my taste for it I still try to make it at least once each week. And my other three love meatballs, but will settle for meat sauce. This is by no means a gourmet recipe; it is a quick-and-easy, no-frills, no-fuss dinner. I put a teaspoon of olive oil in a big non-stick pan, browned a pound of ground turkey, breaking it up with a fork. When it was browned, I lowered the heat, poured in a big can of crushed tomatoes (make sure there are no added ingredients), a can of diced tomatoes, and about 2 tablespoons of Italian seasoning. While that sat over low heat I cooked a box of whole wheat rotini.

This may not even count as a recipe:)

But it’s what we had for dinner. And, for the 21 Day Fix, you measure out a yellow of pasta, a red of meat sauce (because the meat is your protein), and 2 greens of pre-made salad and you’re good to go! You should also figure a portion of a purple container for the sauce.

Friday- Salmon over Quinoa

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I usually buy salmon at Costco. They have delicious marinated salmon that I love! I am not sure it’s totally clean, but I get it anyway. I also buy plain frozen salmon fillets, which is what I used for this dinner. I oil a baking pan, plop the salmon on there, brush it with dijon mustard and sprinkle liberally with paprika. You can make salmon so easily, and play around with different seasonings. My husband loves the mustard flavor and I don’t, so I use more on his piece and less on mine. There are usually directions on the package, but in general I cook it at 400 degrees for 20-30 minutes, depending on how big the pieces are. To see if it’s done, you can press on it with a fork for firmness.

While that’s cooking I made some quinoa and steamed broccoli and dinner is done!

Saturday- Quinoa Turkey Bake

This is a recipe I found during my first round of the 21 Day Fix. It’s very tasty, and makes a lot of food! Great for leftovers. I found the serving given in the recipe was too much (though on a hungrier day maybe not) so I divvied it up into six servings rather than four. Do give yourself extra time for this one- it’s easy, but has to bake for a while, so start earlier than usual. This recipe has a few more steps, so I won’t try to give you an abbreviated version here! You can find the recipe at Michelle’s Fit Life.

 

Sunday- Rose’s Birthday Dinner

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Today’s dinner was not very clean, nor very Fix-friendly either (gasp!). But it was my oldest’s birthday, and our tradition is that the birthday girl or boy gets to pick the dinner. So, she really wanted mashed potatoes, and really likes Oven Fry chicken…back from the days when I kept Oven Fry in the cabinet all the time for a fast and easy (and tasty) dinner. And it was yummy. Back on track for Monday…

So, if you are a Barefoot Contessa kinda cook you are surely shaking your head in disapproval and perhaps even disgust right now. But, if you are a looking-to-get-through-the-week-and-be-pretty-healthy kinda cook, this might be helpful. I am looking to broaden my recipe horizons and will share as I do!

I’d love to hear your favorite, easy clean-eating dinner regulars too!

Homemade Hot Chocolate

One of the first things to go when I started cleaning up our kitchen was hot cocoa mix. I know you could say, “How often do you drink hot cocoa? Is it really that big a deal? Your kids don’t eat broccoli…you’re gonna worry about cleaner hot cocoa?” And you would be raising some valid points. But…I ditched the Swiss Miss and turned to good ol’ Hershey’s cocoa powder.

I really wanted to find a clean eating homemade hot chocolate mix. I haven’t found one that is totally clean, but I feel much better about giving this to my children than the store-bought mixes.

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The recipe is right off the side of the canister…and when I saw it, I thought why don’t I just make this? I like that you know exactly what’s going in it- even if one of the ingredients is white sugar. The rest you can feel pretty good about. And I don’t know if you’ve looked at the ingredients on the mixes in the store, but I can tell you some of them are pretty scary. There’s controversial ingredients in there, including hydrogenated oils.

Is it a little more hassle? Yes. But it’s worth it. And I find the days I’m making hot cocoa are usually the days you have a little more time to put into the cocoa. I would love to find a good recipe for a make-ahead mix I can make myself. That would bring a little of the convenience back to it. And I’d also like to play around with the sugar. Maybe I could use turbinado in place of white sugar? Or another healthier substitute?

In any case, this is the recipe I’ve been using…

Favorite Hot Cocoa

(from Hershey’s Cocoa)

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup Hershey’s cocoa powder
  • Dash salt
  • 1/3 cup hot water
  • 4 cups milk
  • 3/4 tsp. vanilla extract

Preparation:

  • Mix sugar, cocoa and salt in saucepan
  • Stir in hot water
  • Cook and stir over medium heat until mixture boils
  • Boil and stir 2 minutes
  • Stir in milk and heat- DO NOT BOIL
  • Remove from heat and add vanilla

The recipe makes 6 servings; maybe more if you’re talking kid-sized servings. I pour it into mugs (over the sink…I’ve learned it can be messy) and top with whipped cream (from a can- I’ll get to whipping my own cream another day).

We had a snow day here today and while the kids played outside I made them one of their favorite treats- hot chocolate! They liked it…

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So, while this isn’t a healthy recipe, and has nothing to do with working out, it is something I do to make things a little less processed around here. And it makes some really good hot chocolate!