29 March 2013

Eating locally and seasonally: farmers' markets

Have you ever noticed that fruit and veggies just taste better when they're in season? Or that they taste better purchased from that little road stand than at the grocery store? For the last few summers I've started a habit of binging on fresh, ripe peaches from May-July when I go to our local farmer's market (If you're in Atlanta, Pearson Farm peaches are the best I've ever eaten and apparently they will deliver out of state!). The produce in both of the examples above have three things going for them: (1) there is significantly less time between it being picked and it getting to you (as compared to the supermarket) so they retain more nutrients, (2) it is grown in its appropriate conditions (opposed to year round greenhouses, etc.) since you are buying food in season, and (3) it is picked when it is ripe rather than being picked early and either ripened in transit or ripened on demand for retail stores.

According to Wikipedia, there were 5,274 farmers' markets in 2009, up from 4,385 in 2006 and 1,755 in 1994. I'm assuming those numbers have only kept increasing in the last four years. If you live near a major city, I'd guess there is a farmer's market somewhere nearby. I'm not big on networking, but a lot of people like to talk to the farmers and ask them questions about their produce and how the farmers themselves like to prepare it. From my experience, these farmers are some of the nicest down-home people you'll come across these days and they are passionate and knowledgeable about what they do. Personally, I like to admire all of the colors and varieties of produce and people watch.

If you're interested in finding a farmers' market or CSA near you, you might want to visit http://www.localharvest.org/ as a starting point. You can put in your zip code or city and search for farms, markets, CSAs, etc. Many of the markets in my area have good websites of their own that list the farmers that are attending that day (or regularly) as well as charts to show what produce is in season in your area at different times of the year. Some also have email signups so you can get a notification each week as to which vendors will be attending and any special events, like local musicians or fundraising events, that are happening. This is a really great way to teach your kids (or remind yourself) where the food you eat actually comes from. It's also nice to get out of the house and walk around in the sunshine (hopefully) and enjoy the sights and smells. Winning all around!

26 March 2013

Unconscious eating

Do you snack while you're watching tv (hello March Madness, I'm looking at you)?

Do you browse through websites or scroll facebook while you're eating lunch or dinner?

Do you "have to" have a snack before bed (or at 3pm or after lunch) because for some reason you've decided that you "have to"?

Do you regularly open a bag of girl scout cookies or chips and look down 20 minutes later only to realize you've nearly eaten the whole thing? (please tell me this isn't just me)

Do you open a soda, gatorade, energy drink or other form of liquid calories and finish it in record time because you're sipping it without thinking? (P.S. If you're that thirsty, you should probably drink more water)

Do you eat while driving in the car?

For a lot of people, myself included, a significant amount of calories are consumed unconsciously. I will open a granola bar and then, in what seems like 2 seconds, I reach down for another bite and, not only is the thing gone, but I'm left unsatisfied and 100 calories "fuller". A big part of making yourself and your diet healthier is being honest with yourself about what you eat and drink. I've always been afraid of doing a food journal because it makes me feel guilty about what I am putting in my mouth, even though I try to incorporate many healthy and whole food options into my diet. In a lot of ways, it's really about taking a good look at what you're eating and drinking and more importantly, how much.

There is a 24 hours news station here in Atlanta that I often listen to on my drive to and from work (while I'm eating my aforementioned granola bar in the car) and I recently heard them mention a study that claimed that "distracted" eaters consume up to 50% more calories than "attentive" eaters. Up to 50% more just from not paying attention! That's crazy to me, and at the same time it makes total sense. This article from Fox News addresses this claim so I think this is what they were referring to. They say that "distracted eaters do not pay close attention to food and are not as aware of how much they have eaten." Duh, right?

These were the results. They totally make sense, but I found them fascinating.
On average, eating while distracted increased the amount eaten by about 10 percent, compared to not being distracted. But it also increased the amount a person ate at a later meal by more than 25 percent.

In contrast, enhancing memories of food consumed at an earlier meal reduced the amount consumed at a subsequent meal by about 10 percent.

Enhancing awareness of the food being consumed at the current meal did not, however, change how much people ate at that meal.

Source: http://www.foxnews.com/health/2013/03/18/distracted-eaters-likely-to-take-in-more-calories/#ixzz2OfFkgesS
So here's the good news from what I understand of the results: thinking about what you ate earlier in the day can actually make you eat about 10% less at your next meal. That's pretty cool, and I think worth a try if you're looking to decrease your calories. And while you're at it, put down the book, turn off the tv and the computer, and savor the pleasure that is eating. :D

25 March 2013

It's the little things: Music that pumps me up

I know everyone prefers different kinds of music, but here are some jams that you can't help but dance around to or sing along with. I usually just use my old school rap pandora station through my smart phone when I'm working out or else listen to the eclectic mix of music that plays at the gym, which includes everything from oldies (like tequila) to current hits (hello pitbull!). When I finally get around to putting together a work out playlist, these will definitely be on there. My guess is that these songs will be more what ladies would like, but there are definitely some dude songs here too. I had so much fun looking these up and listening to them on youtube!

Disclaimer: some of these have language or lyrics that won't work for everyone.

Ying Yang Twins: shake
Ludacris: how low
Ludacris: number one spot (I had forgotten how awesome this song is until I started "researching" for this post)
Missy Elliot: get your freak on
Black Eyed Peas: let's get it started
Justin Timberlake: sexy back
LMFAO: sexy and i know it
Chris Brown ft. Lil Wayne and Busta Rhymes: look at me now
Nicki Minaj: super bass
Kanye West: stronger
Psy: gangnam style
MC Hammer: u can't touch this (does anyone else always think of the family guy diplomat episode when they hear this song?)
Michael Jackson: bad
Michael Jackson: scream
Michael Jackson: beat it
Eminem ft. Rhianna: love the way you lie
Survivor: eye of the tiger (just try not to feel like rocky working out or running to this)
Ram Jam (or recently redone by Spiderbait): black betty
System of a Down: b.y.o.b.
Rammstein: du hast
Volbeat: a warrior's call
Volbeat: still counting
Volbeat: heaven nor hell (can you tell this is one of my new favorite bands? :P) 
White Rabbits: percussion gun (this one of my favorite songs from a lesser known band)
Pitbull: i know you want me
Jay-Z and Alicia Keys: empire state of mind
Metallica: enter sandman
Fort Minor: remember the name
Dr. Dre ft. Snoop Dogg: still d.r.e.
Busta Rhymes: touch it
Spice Girls: spice up your life (yea, I went there :D)
Far East Movement ft.The Cataracs and Dev: like a g6
The Strokes: reptilia
Rage Against the Machine: killing in the name of
Modest Mouse: dashboard
Skillet: monster
Avenged Sevenfold: beast and the harlot (one of my favorites from my guitar hero playing days, haha)

What songs/groups do you like to listen to to get you pumped up? I'd love to add some more to my list!

20 March 2013

19 March 2013

Essential Exercises: Superman variations

These are great to throw into your floor ab workout to give your abs a break. I'm a big fan of circuit training in the sense of using your "break" between sets to work a different or complementary muscle group. Then you take a "break" from that one and go back to the  first exercise since now that muscle group is sufficiently rested. I actually like to do four different exercises in circuit. For example, I would do a set each of squats, push ups, calf raises and then planks, and do that twice without any rest between each set. That way, I rested my legs during the arm exercises and rested my arms during the leg exercises, and I didn't waste any time.

Anyway, today I bring you, supermans!
I'm not talking about this guy, but these are inspired by his flying style. How can wearing an outfit that tight be comfortable? And if that blue thing is a one piece, how does he go to the bathroom? Bet you never thought if that, eh?

Below is an example of what I'm talking about and there are a few different versions I think you should try. If you're doing core exercises of any sort (i.e. crunches), you need to make sure to work your lower back in addition to your abs in order to stay balanced. Fortunately, a lot of full body exercises like squats, deadlifts, pull-ups, etc. work your abs as well as your back, but it doesn't hurt to add in a few of these too. Like I mentioned above, I like to rollover and do these when my abs get too tired if I'm doing crunches or other floor work. By the time I'm done, my abs have recovered and I can do another set.

Note: I recommend keeping you head looking at least slight downward, staying in line with your body and not looking up like in the photo. Source
General movement:

Lay on your stomach with your arms straight out in front. You want to keep your arms and legs straight and your feet pointed during the entire exercise. From here, you raise your arms and legs simultaneously and bring them down together, stopping just above the ground. Keep going and don't let your arms and legs stop and rest at the bottom. Make sure you moving intentionally and using your muscles rather than just kind of flopping your arms and legs up and down. This general movement isn't shown above, but take the legs of A and the arms of B and put them together. You want to engage your glutes, abs and shoulder blades, although these will mainly use your back. I also suggest keeping your head in line with your body rather than looking up or straight ahead like in the photo above. I usually keep my ears basically between my arms. For all of these, I generally do sets of 25.

Variation A: Lower body only

Keeping your upper body still, raise your feet and legs up and down. Really try to keep your upper body from moving and isolate your movement to your lower back and down. I usually have my forehead on the floor/mat when I do these and I keep my chest and arms against the ground.

Variation B: Upper body only

Same idea as A except opposite. You keep your lower body in place and work your upper body by raising and lower it. Make sure you keep your arms straight. It's easy to cheat and bend your arms, but this actually makes the exercise easier and you

Variation C: Supermans

In this variation you lift alternate arms and legs. So you'd lift your right arm and left leg, then put those down and lift your left arm and right leg.

Variation D: Flutterkicks

I call these flutterkicks. There is not a picture for these, but the general idea is like A (lifting your lower body only), but you lift one leg at a time. These are quick so you'll probably find yourself doing about twice as many as any of the other variations.

18 March 2013

Getting active: How to get started and stay at it

There is not one best work out activity and thank goodness for that. Everyone has things they like to do and things they don't. If you told me that the only way I were going to be able to lose weight and get in shape was to do cardio*, I would be so screwed. Honestly, I probably wouldn't even give it a go. I like lifting weights and doing body weight exercises and I hate doing cardio. I always have. The good news is that I'm convinced every person can find something active that the like to do. Whether it's swimming or tennis or frisbee golf or walking their dog or roller skating or skiing or karate or dancing or jumping on a trampoline or playing tag with your kids, there's something for everyone. If you try to force yourself to do something you don't like to do with the goal of getting in shape, you're adding an additional obstacle onto an already difficult task. Find something you like, something you can look forward to doing, and you're more likely to stick with it.

Another good idea is find someone, rather than something, that motivates you and do some kind of activity with them. It is very beneficial to have someone else around to hold you accountable. Doing something you find dreadful with your best friend (or spouse or sister or kids) all of a sudden becomes enjoyable because you can laugh and chat while you're taking a five mile walk around a lake or hiking a mountain or playing handball. As a personal example, back in college a friend of mine and I used to work out Tuesday and Thursday mornings. Other than spending time with her, an obvious benefit, the thing I remember most fondly about this time was that our exercise strategies complemented each other and we learned from each other. She is a soccer player so she was familiar with lower body, leg and cardio exercises and she introduced me to many of those. I was a gymnast growing up so I focused a lot on upper body, core and full body exercises and I introduced her to those. It was a really great partnership and we had fun and laughed while we pushed each other.

Other ideas for getting started:
  • Try a group class. Personally, I like to work out alone, but I know a lot of people who are motivated by being around others in a class. My mom is a prime example. You'll never find her lifting weights or on a cardio machine but she will totally rock it in a Zumba or Jazzercise class. While it's not for me, I've also heard great things about spinning classes.
  • Take an intro course to learn the basics, especially if you're taking on something that's new to you. Whether it's "Bike Maintenance 101" or "Geotracking for Dummies", getting familiar with the basics will make your more confident and will likely spur your enthusiasm for learning more about that new thing, which will keep you coming back for more.
  • Tag along with someone. Know someone who goes indoor rock climbing every Thursday? Ask if you can tag along next time they go. I'll bet that they'd be happy to "show the ropes", literally and figuratively, and introduce you to one of their favorite hobbies. Everyone loves to discuss their passions (why do you think I'm writing this blog? :D)

Find something you like to do or someone you want to exercise with and get started!

*It's totally not and I don't recommend doing much, if any, cardio just for the sake of doing cardio. Interval training and weight training is a much better way to go, but that's the discussion of a much longer future post. That said, if you actually like to run or bike or you're are training toward a future goal, by all means, go for it!

14 March 2013

A little more, a little less

Just like a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step (proverb, Laozi), sometimes doing little things today can start you on a journey to bigger changes down the road that eventually become healthy habits.

A little more...

Here's a personal example - I'm a numbers person, not in an OCD way, but I count things (like when someone else is dealing out cards) and frequently do math in my head (like to approximate a total bill). For some unknown reason, when I'm working out and counting my reps, I subconsciously stop at 10 even though that might not get me to the point of muscle failure (which is the goal). So what I've started doing over the last few years is to do 12 reps in a set. It sounds like a silly little thing, but by doing 2 more reps per set, I'm pushing myself and not allowing myself to be complacent when I'm exercising. It's not a lot, but it makes a difference physically and mentally. The other thing I do sometimes when exercising it so do 10 more reps whenever what I'm doing starts to hurt, like if I'm doing a type of crunch or push ups, for example. For someone else, 10 more might become 5 or 15 or 20 more. For me, 10 works well because I can almost always complete all ten so I don't have to cheat, but I'm definitely pushing myself past the point where I'd like to stop.

Other ideas for doing a little more:
  • If you want to be more active, park your car a little further away from wherever you're going. You could even make it a habit to park at the far end of a parking lot. This has the added benefit of saving you time from circling the lot looking for that closer spot!
  • Another option is to run/bike/walk 0.1 miles more every (other) day for a month, or even every week.
  • If you struggle to drink enough water, try to drink one more glass of water every day than you usually do. You could even set a reminder.
  • If you're looking to change your eating habits, introduce a vegetarian or vegetable heavy meal into your family's dinner rotation. Fridays (especially if you're Catholic) or Meatless Mondays are popular options, but you could do it any day.
  • If you typically grab a quick, less healthy breakfast, substitute a fruit smoothie one day a week. Here's a tip: You can portion out various pieces of frozen fruit into separate bags or containers so you always have a smoothie starter ready in the freezer. When you want to make one, pick one smoothie starter bag and mix it with a combination of milk/juice, yogurt, banana, fresh fruit, protein powder, chia seeds, or whatever you like to put in yours. Super quick and easy!
  • Commit to taking the stairs whenever you are going less two floors or less. This obviously doesn't work when you have a stroller or if you're wearing high heels.
  • If you're not getting a whole lot at the store, carry a basket instead of pushing a cart.

A little less...

Sometimes, though, it's not that we need to do more but rather, we need to do less. In our family, we find the biggest thing we need to scale back on is portion sizes. For a lot of people, I think this is more of a mental obstacle than a physical one. It could be that your parents always told you to clean your plate when you were a kid, or maybe you've just come to accept that what a restaurant calls a "portion" or "serving" is just that, even though it is significantly more than you need. A few tips we have found work well to combat portion sizing are to set aside part of your meal before you dig in and to use smaller plates and bowls. I've always eaten small portion sizes because it works well for the way my body digests food. I've come to view any meal I get out at a restaurant as that meal and at least one more. I generally don't even attempt to finish a whole portion at one sitting, and the times I go against my judgement and try to, I usually regret it a few hours later when I'm overly stuffed and uncomfortable. Crab legs and chipotle burritos (not at the same time because that would be gross) are the two biggest offenders for me. The other thing we do is to use smaller plates and bowls. This is especially important for when we portion out food for our toddler. My husband's idea of a serving size is very different from mine. By using toddler sized plates and bowls, we are able to somewhat standardize how much food we give him and reduce the amount we end up wasting by giving him too much. For ourselves, we try to use smaller bowls when we eat ice cream or other desserts to limit how much we dish out and also our smaller plates for meals so we can start with a small serving and then go back for more if needed.

Other ideas for doing a little less:
  • If you drink too much coffee every day, try drinking a little less. 1.5 cups instead of 2, for example. Or try trading one of your cups for black tea (My suggestion is to get a good earl gray. Some are downright awful so don't be turned off if you've had it once and hated it. I'd be happy to give suggestions).
  • Same with soda, energy drinks, sweetened juices or teas. Try swapping out a small amount for water, green/white/red/herbal tea or a more natural juice option. You might be surprised to find you like it better that what you're drinking now.
  • If you find yourself spread thin or overwhelmed (I know I do), take 5-30 minutes and just stop doing. Use this time to do whatever centers you and gives you peace. It could be meditating, praying, yoga, stretching, or even just laying down with your eyes closed and letting your senses or smell and hearing take over for awhile. I know I don't do this enough, but when I do I'm usually amazed at the benefits.
Sometimes I think we should all just stop and be like this kitty

12 March 2013

Essential Exercises: The easiest stomach toning exercise ever!

I want to share with you guys a few easy exercises you can add to your work outs. This one you can actually do anywhere and, as an added benefit, it will not only make you more toned but will also improve your posture! Try this easy little exercise and see what I mean.

Regardless of if you're sitting down or standing up (or even laying down), pull your belly button in and back toward your spine as if a string is attached to the inside of your navel and being reeled in by your spine. Keep your back straight. By doing this little thing on a regular basis, you are training your stomach to naturally be pulled in. Now, every time you realize that you're letting your stomach just hang out or your back arch, pull your belly button in toward your spine. Over time this will become the norm. Not only will you be slightly toning your stomach by using these muscle regularly, but you will appear more toned as well because your back will strengthen and your stomach will stop just hanging out.

How easy is that?!

It's the little things: Stretching

I'm a big advocate of stretching and I've been using the same stretching "routine" for almost 20 years. You see, I was a competitive gymnast growing up and so stretching was obviously an important part of our warm-up. Like most structured sports practices, our stretching routine followed a certain pattern and eventually everyone knew how it went. I liked how it hit all of the major muscle groups and so, with a little evolution along the way, I still use it today before and after every workout I do. I also find I sleep better when I stretch before I go to bed. It allows my body to relax more fully and not tighten up as much while I'm sleeping.

So why is stretching important? It allows your body to move like it's meant to! The answer to that question is also pretty obvious if you've ever pulled a muscle. Ouch! Even despite my stretching habits, I've pulled my share but I blame it on pushing myself too hard during high school sports. Let's be honest, telling a competitive teenager to "lay off it" for a few weeks is like talking to a wall. Stretching also allows fluids and to flow through your body more easily. There's a reason they tell you to drink lots of water after you get a massage. By releasing tension points, the toxins and were previously stuck are able to get flushed away and out of your body. Water helps this process along and replenishes what was lost.

Here's the super important thing that no one tells you - you have to relax your muscles to stretch, not push them. How do you do that? Well, try this. Stand up with your legs together and straight. Reach your arms straight above your head, separate them so their out to your sides and then bend at the hips and reach to the ground. At this point, I'm guessing your back and/or hamstrings are probably doing their best to fight against you. Notice this. Now, instead of fighting them, try to consciously relax your hamstrings. Relax your lower back and try to let it spread wide. Alternately, you can just go limp in your lower back (keep your knees straight) and hang like a rag doll. Relax your neck too. And then stay there for a minute or two. I bet you already increased your flexibility just by doing that.

First two are front view. Last one is a side view. Man, that is one low budget visual aid! :)

Well that's great for you but I'm just inflexible! Does that sound like you? It sure sounds like the hubs. For you, stretching is even more important. Humor me and try this experiment: Every day for 30 days, stretch for 5 minutes. This will likely work well if you do it at the same time every day so you don't forget, like when you wake up in the morning, during your lunch, after dinner, or before bed. I promise that after 30 days, you'll be surprised at how much more flexible you have become.

11 March 2013


Believe it or not, you have options when it comes to eating healthy. Sure, your tastes will adjust and change as you move your meals to healthy options but if you're like me, there are some foods that you just aren't going to like no matter how they are prepared. My list includes peas, sauerkraut and papaya among a few others. The good news is that, regardless of the health benefits you're looking for, there is almost always another option or an alternative preparation that you might like better. I strongly believe that life is too short to eat food you don't enjoy, even (especially!) if you're eating healthy.

For example, my husband doesn't like raw carrots but he eats these caramelized cumin roasted carrots like they're candy. They take about 2 minutes to prep when you buy a bag of baby carrots and use ground cumin, which we always have around. I strongly suggest getting the big bag of baby carrots because these will disappear before you know it. We seriously grab one out of the pan every time we walk by it. My two year old loves these also.

Another example. I think quinoa is disgusting. I know it's trendy right now and it has all sorts of health benefits but I just can't stand the taste or the texture. Neither can my hubby. The thing is, though, part of the benefit of quinoa is to reduce the consumption of nutritionally stripped white rice and pasta by replacing it in recipes. So, instead of white rice and pasta, sometimes we do whole wheat cous cous, which we love, or brown jasmine rice, which we don't totally love so I usually mix with the white jasmine rice. The way I see it, a little good is better than none and every little bit counts. You would try whole wheat or spinach pasta as other alternatives. Try different things until you find one you like!

I'd love to hear what other healthy foods your family has come to love or which ones you're currently eating for the health benefits but not totally loving. I always find it really interesting to hear what are a person/family's go-to meals or snacks.

07 March 2013

Healthy Snacks

I snack a lot. Seriously, I eat constantly from about 8am-4pm. And on top of that, snacking is my coping mechanism when I'm stressed out or anxious about something (which is basically all the time) . My being aware that I do this, though, is half of the battle. What I've chosen to do is, instead of fighting my natural inclination, I give myself healthy options to choose from. I also eat small meals instead of big ones so that my snacks are instead of meal-food, not in addition to. This way my daily intake is still reasonable. Here are some healthy options I use to satisfy my snack addiction that I've come to love:

Dried fruit! This is a biggie with me. I put it in oatmeal, on yogurt, in baked goods or most of the time, just eat it plain. It jazzes up so many things and gets you some of those fruit vitamins, minerals and fiber at the same time. Plus, it's just plain delicious! You do have to watch the sugar content with some brands as it can be pretty high. I buy the majority of my dried fruit at Trader Joe's and it is just good ole fruit for the most part.

Coconut! All varieties - unsweetened shredded (so good in oatmeal), roasted chips (Trader Joe's, also good in oatmeal) or just sweetened coconut flesh. Yes, coconut has a high content of fat but, like avocados, it has good natural fats that your body needs, although it is best consumed in moderation.

Fresh fruit! As far as I know, no one ever got fat by eating too much fresh fruit. I tend to gorge on fruit when it's in season, especially peaches here in Georgia during the summer. Try to buy locally when you can. You'll be amazed at how much more flavor it has.

Dark chocolate! Good quality dark chocolate. If I'm craving chocolate, I'm not going to bother with anything less. I generally keep Ghirardelli 60% bittersweet chocolate chips around for baking and so I grab a handful (or three) of those.

Tortilla chips and salsa! Homemade salsa would make this an even healthier option, but between the time spent chopping veggies and the price of produce, we think it's worth it to buy jarred. Still, eating tortilla chips is a much better option than alternatives - potato chips, chex mix, cheez-its...

Granola bars! Again, homemade would be better but with the two little ones, we just haven't gotten around to doing it. Still, a 100 calorie granola bar is a much better option than grabbing a candy bar, cookie, etc.

Nuts! We are partial to pistachios but any handful of nuts is a great snack. Almonds, walnuts, pecans - they're all full of vitamins, minerals, omega-3 fatty acids and also fiber that help fill you up between meals. Like coconut (and really, everything), nuts should be eaten in moderation because of the high calorie content. Obviously a big handful of nuts is good for you. Eating the whole bag likely negates the benefits, despite being delicious :)

Homemade baked goods! There could be some discussion on this one, but I love to bake and it is a satisfying and peaceful experience to me. There are many days when I am craving something sweet (cookies, brownies, cake...) and so I just make it because I have a pantry that's always stocked with baking supplies. The way I see it, if I make whatever I'm craving rather than ignoring it, I will satisfy my immediate craving with the benefit of knowing what ingredients are in it. If I don't make it, I'll generally search the house for alternatives and end up eating worse things or a larger amount of something to try to satisfy it, and in the end I probably still won't be satisfied. One of the little things I do to make my baking just a touch healthier is to use white whole wheat flour in place of all purpose flour in many recipes. I actually like the flavor of the white whole wheat better (it's not nearly as strongly flavored as regular whole wheat flour, which I don't care for) and it's better for you than all purpose. My local chain grocery store carries King Arthur flour brand (which I highly recommend) and I find it's comparable in price to the others.

Pretzel thins! These are one of the more processed things that I eat, but I figure at least they're baked rather than fried. Sometimes I just need to eat something crunchy and the dried fruit and granola bars and even cookies don't do it for me. Enter, pretzel thins. Thank goodness Costco carries these - my toddler and I go through them like it's our job. They're good alone, with some kind of cheese or dip or, my favorite, dipped in nutella! The key to the latter option is to portion out a spoonful of nutella in a little bowl and not refill it when it's gone. It's good for those chocolate cravings though, since a spoonful of nutella is probably better than a giant bowl full of ice cream or a handful of cookies. Man, now I have the munchies again...

06 March 2013

It's the little things: Take 1

So here's my attempt at trying something I hope will be a recurring thing around here. I want to share some of the little things that work for me and my family. Hopefully, some of them can be adapted to your situation.

To start it off, I want to talk about...


It's not the most exciting thing in the world, but we drink a lot of it in our house. My son, now two and a half, never really did the whole milk thing after he was weaned at eleven months. He liked yogurt so we did that but just gave him water to drink. Now he drinks H20 more or less continuously all day. Even his teachers comment to me that he drinks a lot of water. It's not that we completely restrict other beverages, we just usually offer water first and he goes for it. Before bed, we usually give him the option of a "night night drink", which is warmed vanilla rice milk, or apple juice and he gets about 6-8oz of either but not both. And then asks for more water when he's done. At least we never have to worry about him being dehydrated!

For me personally, I have found two things that help me drink more fluids throughout the day. The first is to have a water bottle with me at all times that's easy to drink out of. I recommend one with minimal lid flipping or unsnapping and a large enough capacity that you don't have to refill it constantly. My favorite water bottle actually came as a new patient freebie from my dentist and I take it with me all the time, especially when I'm out running errands. If I have a filled water bottle nearby, I unconsciously sip at it during the day. The second thing that helps me stay hydrated is tea. I am kind of a self-proclaimed tea snob. Like food, I don't believe in drinking bad tea when there is so much delicious tea out there. My husband on the other hand, despite being born and raised in the South, hates all kinds of tea. His loss! Anyway, I drink anywhere from 3-6 cups of tea a day at work. I figure the tea, in combination with my water bottle, means that I drink more than enough fluids. It also means I have to step out to the bathroom more often than I'd like, but part of that is also bad genes from my mom and the result of having two kids. I figure being hydrated is worth it and besides that, I like the idea of flushing the junk out my body and letting my body detox naturally that way. To combat getting up during the night, I generally only drink 1-3 cups from the time I leave work until the next morning so by the time I go to bed, I'm hydrated but not overly so, if you know what I mean.

Don't like water? Try adding berries, citrus or sliced cucumber to your water to give it a little flavor and just refill the water throughout the day, reusing the fruit.

Need bubbles? I've heard good things about carbonating machines like the Soda Stream, which I have not personally tried. I also like the La Croix Pure when I want a little fizz but they can be expensive so you wouldn't want to drink them all the time.

05 March 2013


I'm kind of obsessed with documentaries. A few years ago, if you had asked me to watch a documentary I probably would have groaned and convinced you to watch something I thought would actually be enjoyable. Like The Italian Job. Seriously awesome movie. Anyway, I've been on this documentary kick and watching all of them on Netflix because we haven't had cable since May 2010. It was too expensive at the time and honestly, after the first few months, we really didn't miss it. Have you thought about how many hours (or probably days) of your life you have spent watching really stupid commercials? It's scary.

Here are some documentaries I've seen that I think are worth watching. Most of them are about food. That's just how I roll.

Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead
Exit Through the Gift Shop (this is one of my favorite to date) 
Jiro Dreams of Sushi
Forks over Knives
Food Fight
Trouble the Water
Supersize Me (it's been several years. I need to rewatch this to see it from where I am now)
Food, Inc.
Beer Wars
The Wild and Wonderful Whites of West Virginia
The Business of Being Born
The Tents
The September Issue
Paris is Burning

Here are others on my to-watch list and my Netflix queue. As I was writing this list I realized there are a lot more on my to-watch list than I thought so this is just a small sampling.

The Thin Blue Line
Man on Wire
I'm No Dummy
666 Revealed
D-Day: The Total Story
Hoop Dreams
The Black Power Mixtape: 1967-1975
The Weather Underground
King Corn
Cool It
Cave of Forgotten Dreams
Into the Abyss
The Lottery
For the Bible Tells Me So
Food Matters
Enemies of the People
Tying the Knot
The World without US
Comic Book Confidential
Unmistaken Child
The Sun Behind the Clouds
Sherman's March
The Up Series
Pressure Cooker

Here are the ones I've seen, but don't recommend, for various reasons.

Vegucated: This is just way too graphic. Definitely brings up some good and important ideas but this actually scarred me a little.
Kings of Pastry
Craigslist Joe: A little too dramatized for my taste. It's an interesting idea and restores one's faith in humanity but, like Kings of Pastry, I didn't really like the main guy.
Paper Clips
Grizzly Man

What other documentaries are out there are worth watching (preferably available on Netflix)? 

04 March 2013

Set up for failure

Have you looked around your grocery store lately? It's really amazing how much junk is crammed into those 8 or 12 or 20 aisles. Maybe I'm just getting a little cynical from watching food documentaries that call out big food corporations and the government for setting up a system that encourages the creation of this aforementioned junk and thus, obesity. Maybe I've just started looking around for the first time in years. I can honestly commend food corporations for finding ways to create and brand slightly unique forms of corn and corn products and the worst part is, we eat it up. Literally.

So it's no wonder that being healthy is so difficult. We are literally face-to-face with the "enemy" everywhere we go. Unhealthy food is plentiful and unfortunately, less expensive than the good stuff. This might not be an option for everyone, but I found that I have (unintentionally) started doing most of my grocery shopping at Trader Joe's and Whole Foods where I know that my processed, canned and frozen options are at least slightly better than those found at my local grocery store. I'd love to hear what others do to combat this huge disadvantage that has been forced on us consumers.