Category: Nutrition & Recipes

5 Easy Ways to Drink Your Way to Better Health

Can you think of an easier way to get healthier than drinking a glass of something? It’s not exactly taxing. So I came up with a list of 5 things you can do each day to improve your health that aren’t much harder than lifting a glass to your lips. Maybe they aren’t as much fun as wine, but they’re easy. And so good for you….

The first one is super easy and you get a choice.

  1. Drink Your Probiotics. You pick- kefir or kombucha. They have similar health benefits, but each has its own special charm. You can read more about kefir here. I drink both most days. The kefir I buy is thicker, so it’s more like yogurt than a drink. I eat the plain kefir with berries, a few drops of stevia, cinnamon, a sprinkle of unsweetened coconut, and pumpkin seeds (or granola). It is so delicious I feel like licking the bowl when I’m done. My son loves the strawberry kefir (no strep, no flu, no antibiotics for him this winter and I swear this is why!). You can find it in the dairy aisle. Kombucha is a yummy, fizzy drink that you can find in different flavors, too. I love the ginger flavor, but the fruit ones are nice too. It is pricey, but you can drink a little bit each day. In health food stores you can also buy it in a big, refillable glass bottle to save some money. I make my own and if you fall in love with it like we did this is a great option to make it part of your life!
  2. Drink Green Tea. Green tea has so many health benefits and may be a great weight loss tool as well. I aim for 2-3 cups per day, but just one cup will surely boost your health.
  3. Start your day with a warm glass of lemon water. It detoxifies your body and stimulates digestion. Add some apple cider vinegar if you’re up for it, too!
  4. Put some coconut oil in your coffee. You may have heard of this, or you might think it sounds totally weird and gross. That’s what I thought before I started doing it, and now when I can’t have my coffee with a teaspoon of coconut oil I feel a little sad. I use my Keurig (refillable pods of course!) to make my coffee in a big mug, add a teaspoon of coconut oil, and blend using a stick blender. You could use a regular blender, too. It comes out so frothy and even looks creamy. I sprinkle cinnamon on top and it feels like a fancy latte 🙂 If you’re stuck on sweetening your coffee try adding some stevia before blending, too.
  5. Drink your water. I saved this one for last because I feel like everyone knows it and oh my gosh is sick of hearing about it. But I wonder how many people still actually do it! How much water do you drink in a day? A good rule of thumb is to drink half your body weight in ounces each day. So if you weigh 200 pounds aim for 100 ounces. I like to drink more than half my weight in ounces- it’s just how I feel the best. I aim for a gallon, though I usually fall a little bit short of that. There are lots of tricks to get to drinking enough- finding the right water bottle, starting your day with a big glass of water, setting water “benchmarks” to meet throughout the day. You can also try flavoring your water if it’s tough for you to drink. I love lemon slices; you can also add other fruit, mint leaves.

The prospect of getting healthier can be daunting. You hear so many things about it- things you should do, things you shouldn’t do. One day you might hear something is wonderful for you, then read the next day that it’s bad for you. I like the idea of taking simple steps to improve your health. And often I think the idea of giving stuff up just sucks. So maybe start with adding stuff in instead. I hope these 5 easy things you can add to your day for better health are simple enough to implement and easy enough to keep for life. Give them some time to really become part of your routine. You can start with one and add the others when you feel like you’ve got the first one down.

Do you know someone who could benefit from one or all of these? Please share!

Energy Bites

This is one of my favorite recipes for a clean eating snack. These little guys are filling and nutritious. They also help satisfy a sweet tooth! They are a great little add-on to a meal if you’re still feeling hungry. I have also taken them with me when I know I’ll be out for a while. I’ll have 2 or 3 energy bites and an apple for a mini-meal on the go. Much better than trying to find a healthy snack at the mall or something!

They are a bit of a pain to make, sticky and messy, but worth it. I usually make a double batch. I have seen the recipe in a few places, but based mine on the one I found at Gimme Some Oven.

Print Recipe
Energy Bites
from Gimme Some Oven
Servings
Ingredients
Servings
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. Combine all ingredients; stir until thoroughly mixed
  2. Cover and chill in refrigerator for 1 hour
  3. Roll into balls (about 1 inch diameter)
  4. Store in refrigerator for up to a week
Recipe Notes

We are a nut-free house, so I always use sunbutter. I'm sure peanut butter is delicious, and imagine almond butter would be great too. To make them even healthier you could omit the chocolate chips or maybe try raisins? I keep planning on raisins and ending up with chocolate chips 🙂

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Sugar Swaps

Sugar is so bad. It’s bad for you, it’s addicting, it’s everywhere. It’s been linked to all sorts of bad things, including cancer and diabetes. It’s also been shown to negatively affect your gut flora and immune system. But finding a sugar substitute can be overwhelming. I gave up on doing exhaustive research and am just putting out there what I have gathered so far…

And when I say sugar here, I am referring to white sugar, not sugar as it relates to the sugar content in food.

First of all I think it’s important to say please don’t consume artificial sweeteners like Sweet ‘n Low, Splenda, Equal, etc. Don’t drink drinks sweetened with them, like juices that claim to be healthier because they replace some of the natural sugar found in juice with chemical sweeteners. Artificial sweeteners are chemical nastiness, and to top it off they might even cause weight gain. I am not a soda drinker, but if I were to have a soda I would pick a regular over a diet for sure.

  • So what are some good sugar alternatives? The picture above shows the sugar swaps I use the most: maple syrup, honey, and stevia. They are the most natural, the least processed; they even have some health benefits. Be careful with Stevia- it’s hard to find stevia that’s just stevia. Sweet Leaf is the best I’ve found and it has “natural flavors” on the ingredient list, something I usually try to avoid. If you look at Truvia, for example, I think the first ingredient is dextrose- not Stevia. I’d like to try baking with powdered stevia, but I haven’t found one without additives.
  • Coconut sugar is great for baking. I usually have that around, too. (I did read somewhere along the line that coconut sugar is not sustainable which brings me some Earth guilt. So I don’t use it regularly, and keep meaning to do some follow-up on that. I’ll share when I know more.)
  • I use raw sugar or turbinado for baking, too. It’s from the same sugar cane that white sugar comes from, but is much less processed. The taste is very much the sugar taste you’re used to.
  • I also use organic sugar sometimes. It’s less coarse than raw sugar. It’s not healthy- it’s still cane sugar and it’s processed, but it’s better than white sugar. That’s what I use for my kombucha too, hence the Sharpie-written “kombucha” on the bag.

  • I really like Lakanto, which is made from erythritol (a sugar alcohol) and a monk fruit extract. It’s a bit expensive, though, and I know some people would discourage using erythritol. It is a one to one substitute, though, and the taste and texture are close to sugar. I’ve used it to make baked goods for my own use (like healthy muffins and granola that my kids wouldn’t eat). Another sweetener I’m intrigued by, but haven’t used, is just pure monk fruit, minus the erythritol. Sounds healthy, but it’s very expensive.

  • Xlyitol is another sugar alcohol used as a sweetener. It is derived from plant material, but probably highly processed. It’s questionable from a wholesomeness perspective, but from a fitness perspective probably a good option. Same for erythritol. These have less impact on blood sugar, but may have other side effects that cause concern.
  • Dates are a great natural sweetener, but it’s hard to work with them. I bought them to make some kind of bar once and it was a nightmare. If you are handier around the kitchen than me (or have a higher power food processor) these could be a great option! I recently saw a powdered date sugar; it’s just dried dates ground up to a powder. I might have to try that one day.

I avoid agave and have never even bought it. I know this is one you might hear a lot about. Early on in my clean eating journey I read something negative about it and haven’t read anything to convince me otherwise. Again, it probably comes down to the fact that it’s highly processed and in the end not much better than sugar.

If you’re not ready to get rid of the evil, processed, white stuff, at least go for organic sugar, preferably raw sugar. You’ll avoid some of the harsh chemicals that come along with the processing that happens with regular white sugar.

And all sweeteners should be used in moderation. Honey, for example, is wonderful and natural and wholesome, but eating too much of it can still negatively affect your body.

Again, I found looking at all the different alternatives confusing and overwhelming….I feel like this post might be too! This week I’ll share some links to sites that offer more comprehensive information on sugar swaps. Stop by my Facebook page to check them out!

Is there a sugar swap you use that I didn’t mention here? I’d love to hear about it!

 

 

Autumn’s Italian Meatballs

Meatballs are a favorite around here because everyone heats them. Sigh….

They even eat them leftover for lunch! Is there anything better than that?

I usually just wing it with my meatballs- following a general formula of 1 cup breadcrumbs and 1 egg per 1 pound of meat. I might swap out some of the breadcrumbs for some grated parmesan. And they’re good. But I love Autumn Calabrese’s recipes from her cookbook, Fixate, so I thought I’d give this recipe a try. I didn’t tell anyone what I was doing, because they would be immediately suspicious. After dinner last night Rose asked me if I did something different because they were “really, really good.” Luke said he liked them a lot, too! And Frances, who usually just takes the leftover whole wheat pasta for lunch, asked for a meatball with her pasta. So I guess this is our new meatball recipe!

Print Recipe
Autumn's Italian Meatballs
(from Fixate by Autumn Calabrese)
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F
  2. Line large baking sheet with parchment paper, lightly coated with cooking spray
  3. Place bread crumbs and milk in a small bowl. Set aside; soak for 10 minutes
  4. Heat oil in medium skillet over medium-low heat
  5. Add onion; cook, stirring frequently, for 5 to 6 minutes, or until onion is translucent
  6. Add garlic; cook, stirring frequently, for 1 minute
  7. Combine onion mixture, turkey, eggs, parsley, cheese, oregano, salt, pepper, and bread crumb mixture in a large bowl; mix well with clean hands or wooden spoon. Refrigerate, covered, for 1 hour
  8. With clean wet hands, form turkey mixture into approximately 42 1-inch meatballs; arrange onto prepared baking sheet
  9. Bake for 13 to 18 minutes, or until browned and cooked through
Recipe Notes

I tweaked the recipe just a little bit. I used two pounds of ground turkey and one pound of grass fed ground beef. I also omitted the onion because my bubble of meatball happiness might have burst if just one of my children found an onion.

Serve topped with tomato sauce. Autumn has a great sauce recipe, too! I'll share that soon. In the meantime, try making your own or use jarred sauce. Just check the ingredients; watch out for added sugar. Look for a brand that has just tomatoes and spices. Rao's is a great one, but a bit pricey.

Enjoy 🙂

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15 Minute Chicken & Veggies

This might be my new favorite recipe. It’s so easy, so fast, and so convenient. My sister-in-law recommended it and I’m so happy she shared it! She found it over at gimmedelicious.

What do I love so much? It’s totally healthy. You make it in one pan. There’s little prep. It cooks so fast. It’s delicious. It makes great leftovers.

This recipe is perfect for an evening where you have to pick up the kids somewhere or run an errand or something. I made it on a Tuesday when my kids had religion until 5:30. Pick-up at 5:30 throws a wrench into my dinner plans. With this recipe I got everything ready to go while they were at religion class and then threw the pan in the oven when we got home. It cooks in 15 minutes. If you have some quinoa ready ahead of time or throw a sweet potato in the microwave, you’ll have everything ready for a super healthy dinner.

I haven’t played around with it much, but I imagine you could change up the vegetables in the recipe and try different spices, too.

Pack up the leftovers for healthy lunches!

Print Recipe
15 Minute Chicken & Veggies
from http://gimmedelicious.com/2016/03/22/15-minute-healthy-roasted-chicken-and-veggies/
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 500 degrees F
  2. Place chopped chicken and veggies on roasting pan
  3. Add the olive oil and seasonings; toss to combine
  4. Cook for 15 minutes, or until chicken is cooked through and veggies are tender
Recipe Notes

I found the chicken was cooked perfectly in the 15 minutes, but you may need to adjust time slightly.

Enjoy!!

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Savory Turkey and Sweet Potato Hash

I found this recipe in my Country Heat eating plan and it’s become a regular. It’s something different, it’s super easy, and it’s protein-veggies-carb all in one pan. We will have it for dinner paired with a salad. Or I’ll make a big batch on Sunday and use it for lunches during the week.

savory-turkey-and-sweet-potato-hash

Print Recipe
Savory Turkey and Sweet Potato Hash
(from Country Heat Eating Plan)
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Servings
about 3/4 cup each
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Servings
about 3/4 cup each
Instructions
  1. Heat onion in medium skillet over medium-high heat.
  2. Add onion, bell pepper, and sweet potatoes; cook, stirring frequently, for 8-10 minutes, or until onion is translucent and sweet potato is tender-crisp.
  3. Add turkey; cook, stirring frequently, for 5-6 minutes, or until turkey is cooked through and sweet potato is soft.
  4. Add garlic and thyme. Season with salt (if desired) and pepper (if desired); cook, stirring frequently, for 1 minute.
Recipe Notes

If you're looking for 21 Day Fix container counts, one serving (3/4 cup) counts as 1/2 green, 1 yellow, 1 red, and 1/2 teaspoon.

When I'm looking to woo a child, I omit the peppers 🙁 One day they'll eat them, I'm sure of it. But in the meantime...

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Homemade Taco Seasoning

I love tacos. I love that everyone in my house loves tacos. Taco night is the best night. Everyone eats, everyone is happy, no one says the word “disgusting” in connection to my cooking. It’s bliss. They even eat taco leftovers. I can send them for lunch. I love tacos.

homemade-taco-seasoning

I have to say I think my tacos are pretty good, too. I have come a long way with cooking, but I am not a natural cook. I look at my sister-in-law when she cooks, and you can just see it all comes so easily to her. Not so with me, I just keep at it. But any time I have made tacos for someone outside our immediate family I have been asked for the recipe for my taco seasoning. So I’m sharing it now. (Not that I think tacos constitute being a “good cook.” But having my gourmet cook sister-in-law ask me for any recipe? I’ll take it.)

I found it on allrecipes.com and it’s the only recipe I follow. I rewrote it on an index card and now I keep it taped on the inside of my cabinet door along with some other go-to recipes, in a very organized fashion…

www-stayathomefit-com

Homemade Taco Seasoning

from allrecipes.com

Ingredients:

1 TBSP chili powder

1/4 tsp. each: garlic powder, onion powder, crushed red pepper flakes, oregano

1/2 tsp. paprika

1 1/2 tsp. cumin

1 tsp. each: salt, black pepper

Mix together and that’s it. I use this recipe per 1 pound of ground turkey (or beef). So if I make 2 pounds I double the recipe. It’s a bit spicy; the kids drink a lot of milk or water when we have tacos. You can use less or more of the mix depending on how spicy you want it. Try a little less or more crushed red pepper flakes, too. You can make a big batch and store it in an airtight container to use again.

Brown the meat, add the seasoning, add about 1/2 cup water. Let it cook a bit longer on low heat. Serve on the healthiest tacos or tortillas you can find. Or in a romaine leaf if you’re really feeling healthy!! Easiest and happiest dinner ever 🙂

We also make our own tortillas when we can manage it. They’re easy (but admittedly not as easy as pulling a tortilla out a package) and very good. The kids prefer them to the store-bought tortillas. I’ll share more about that soon, too…

 

Homemade Shake & Bake

I am all about easy, quick dinners that everyone will eat. Before I got into clean eating, I would make Shake ‘n Bake chicken or pork chops here and there and it was a big hit each time. (I actually preferred the Oven Fry brand, but it’s the same junk in a box!) Now that school has started, I’m also looking for dinners that make leftovers that are good for school lunches.

homemade-shake-n-bake

I decided to give a homemade version a try recently, and everyone loved it! I love that it made enough for at least 3 meals, too. You don’t have to mix up the coating every time you want to make “shake & bake” chicken or pork chops. It is still a convenience food, just much healthier! I have it in a quart-sized mason jar in the refrigerator. It makes delicious chicken nuggets also.

I looked at a few recipes and made some tweaks. You can find the original recipe I based mine off of here at The Black Peppercorn.

Homemade Shake & Bake

(adapted from The Black Peppercorn)

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups whole wheat bread crumbs
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/3 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 TBSP salt
  • 1 TBSP onion powder
  • 3 tsp paprika
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 tsp dry parsley
  • 1/2 tsp basil
  • 1/2 tsp oregano

Mix all ingredients. Store in mason jar or other container in the refrigerator.

www-stayathomefit-com-7

To make chicken or pork chops, moisten meat with water or egg. Coat in mixture. Cook at 400 degrees on a lightly oiled or foil-lined baking sheet for 20-30 minutes. To make chicken nuggets or chicken fingers, adjust cooking time accordingly. Enjoy!!

 

Clean Eating Snacks On-the-Go

Summer often means more road trips and outings. It’s fun, but all that fun can make it more difficult to eat healthy and stay on track with your health and fitness goals. I definitely loosen up my nutrition standards a lot over the summer! This year I’m hoping to do better…ice-cream, but not quite so much ice-cream. Chips, but not quite so many chips. There’s a fine line between allowing for indulgences that you enjoy and allowing for binges that make you feel like crap and mad at yourself too. Clean eating snacks on-the-go can help.

Clean eating snacks

I’ve found a little extra thought and preparation makes a big difference. If you start out with good intentions and do what you can you’re setting yourself up for success. Even if by the end of your vacation you’re inhaling pop-tarts on the car-ride home, at least you started out strong!

I put together a list of clean eating snack ideas for one of my groups and thought it would be useful to share here. It’s hard to find packaged snacks with a “clean” ingredient list, but with a little more prep you can have great snacks on-the-go.

My favorite go-to snack is Shakeology! It really is. When I’m leaving the house for a long ride I make a shake to take with me. It’s quick, it’s easy, it’s loaded with nutrition, it’s filling, and since I drink it blended with a lot of ice, it cools me down, too. A nice bonus in the summertime. You can also shake up a scoop or a packet with water and drink it out and about. I’ll have an emergency stash with me wherever I go this summer. But there’s only so much Shakeology a girl can drink. Here are some more of my other favorites:

*Prepare some baggies with cut-up veggies and eat them on their own or dip in some hummus or guacamole. You can buy nice serving-sized containers of both.
*Homemade granola bars. Or energy bites. Or muffins. Take the time to make some healthy ones at home before you go and these are the perfect portable snack!
*Yogurt with berries & honey and/or granola. Make up some jars of berries and yogurt to take with you. These are best eaten when you’re not the driver…don’t ask me how I know 🙂
*Nuts and fruit are easy and portable. You can buy the 100 calorie packets or make your own. Seeds are a great option too. They’re my go-to healthy fat/protein to pair with fruit since we can’t have nuts. You don’t want to overdo it with the nuts or seeds, but pair it with an apple or banana and it’s perfect- filling and tasty.
*String cheese sticks and whole wheat/grain crackers (check the ingredient list on these) are a great option.
*Popcorn you’ve popped in an airpopper or in a pot with some healthy oil is a great snack. Shake some sea salt on it and bag it up, and you have a healthy salty snack. And the serving size is pretty big! I love this when I’m driving!
*Roasted chickpeas are a great healthy alternative. You can flavor them different ways- sweet or savory- and pack them up in little baggies.
*Celery with peanut butter or sunflower seed butter is a yummy and filling snack.
*Hardboiled eggs, so long as you peel them ahead of time, are a great way to get protein in as you snack.
*A whole wheat tortilla with peanut butter, cinnamon, and maybe some sliced banana is easy to make ahead and pack for the road. Or a good old peanut butter (or sunbutter) and jelly sandwich. Just watch the ingredients again!

Clean eating takes some extra thought and preparation, but is so worth it! Bring a little cooler or lunchbag with you for those snacks that need to be kept cool.

Clean Eating Summer Snacks (1)

We drive from New York to Florida and back every spring, so I know how important it is to be prepared! On the way down I manage to avoid fast food and junk food 100%. We pack sandwiches and snacks in a cooler. We also bring extra water to refill our reusable water bottles. I do bend a little with the kids and buy them some treats they wouldn’t normally get at home. If you’ve driven from NY to Florida with four children you’ll understand the importance of snacks.

The way home is a little harder, because it’s harder to prep away from home. We still manage to eat pretty well, though with some packaged options thrown in there. For example, SkinnyPop is a good packaged option to have in place of my popcorn. You can also find packaged granola with a not-so-bad ingredient list.

www.stayathomefit.com (5)

This picture is from our drive down to Florida this past April. I took a picture and posted it in my Facebook challenge group, writing something like, “Is it crazy that I packed mason jars of kefir and berries to eat on the drive?” I think some of them answered, “Yes.” But I am obsessed with kefir and berries with granola! And they’re a healthy way to fill up on the road! Alright, maybe it was a little crazy…but I didn’t eat pop-tarts 🙂

Enjoy those road trips! And enjoy your treats- but do your best to save them for treats you really want to savor, not “treats” you’re forced into buying because you’re in a pinch and hungry.

Happy Summer!! If you liked this article, don’t forget to Pin it or Share it on Facebook using the buttons below 🙂

Crockpot Lemon Pepper Chicken

Is anyone else going crazy lately? Isn’t end-of-the-year craziness supposed to happen closer to the actual end of the year? Or is it always like this and I’ve just forgotten? Because holy cow, I feel a little dizzy with all this end-of-the-year stuff!

Between baseball, ballet- ballet dress rehearsals- ballet recitals, spring concerts, field trips, field days, writer workshops, picnics, Daisies, Girl Scouts, and birthdays I feel a little overwhelmed. Add in a sprained ankle (not mine) and some spring sickness and the party really starts.

This is part of the reason why I was so excited for the clean eating crockpot group last week. What a great way to stay on top of healthy dinners! But that didn’t pan out like I expected. A key part of crockpot success is being here to turn it off and eat the food that’s in it. Last week my husband had late nights with his track team a few days, and we had a couple days where the kids and I were basically gone 3-8pm. I only got to make a couple dinners from the weekly meal plan. But I thought I’d share one I really love!

Crockpot Lemon Pepper Chicken

This recipe takes a little prep at the start, which takes away a bit from the beauty of a crockpot dinner. I think it’s worth it, though. The chicken actually had a nice semi-crusty coating when it was done.

 

Slow Cooker Lemon Pepper Chicken
(from blog.feelgreatin8.com)
Ingredients:
  • 4 boneless skinless chicken breasts
  • 1/4 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 teaspoon lemon pepper seasoning
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 tablespoon lemon pepper seasoning
  • 1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup low sodium chicken broth
Preparation:
Prepare your chicken by rinsing it and trimming the fat. I cut each breast into 2 pieces to make them more like large tenders.
 In a shallow dish, combine the flour and 1 teaspoon of lemon pepper seasoning. Coat each piece of chicken in flour.
 Melt the butter in a large saucepan over medium-high heat.
Once melted, brown each side of the chicken. You want them to be golden brown, but not cooked through because you’ll be cooking them in the slow cooker.
 Spray the slow cooker (crockpot) with cooking spray and place the browned chicken into the bottom. Sprinkle 1 tablespoon of lemon pepper seasoning on top of the chicken.
 Mix together the lemon juice and chicken broth. Pour over the chicken and seasoning.
 Cook on low for 3-4 hours. Enjoy!
I doubled the recipe to serve all of us (not that all of us ate it of course) and so we’d have leftovers for lunches. It came out great. I served it over a quinoa and wild rice blend and it was delicious. You can find the original recipe here at Tiffany’s blog.