Archive for January, 2012

Meal Plan for January 30 – February 5

The biggest unique factor of this week’s meal plan is that I (Kevin) am traveling for work a few days this week. Which leaves us with a need to try to make sure things are simple. Life at home with two kids can be challenging enough, but to do so without a second set of hands for a few days straight makes it a bit tougher. The last thing we need to do is manufacture stress by having a complicated meal plan.

You’ll also see something on this week’s menu that isn’t an entirely healthy choice. This is where financial stewardship intersects physical stewardship. As we continue to cycle through our pantry and freezer, there are a few things that we just plan to eat and start to drop off the intake column slowly but surely. This week it’s fish sticks.

B- Toast, Applesauce
L- Fish sticks, potato & onion pierogies, fruit
D- Rigatoni with sausage & kale [Neither of us are a big fan of kale and even though that brings some nutritional value to this dish, we’re dropping it off the recipe.]

Make Chocolate Chip Banana Bread Muffins

B- Bagel w/ butter, fruit/smoothie
L- X [out to lunch with friends]
D- Leftovers

B- Chocolate Chip Banana Bread Muffin
L- English Muffin Pizzas
D- Burritos, Spanish Rice

B- English Muffin w/ apple butter
L- Tuna Melt, Yogurt, Sweet Potato Straws
D- Apple-Cinnamon Pancakes [This was on last week’s plan, but our schedule changed so we didn’t get around to making them]

B- Chocolate Chip Banana Bread Muffin
L- Italian Beef and Lentil Stew [From the freezer from a couple weeks ago]
D- Tilapia with Rice Pilaf [This has been on the last couple weeks, but our plans have changed and we haven’t made it yet]

B- Bagel w/ butter, fruit
L- Chicken Pot Pie Soup
D- 15-minute chicken gumbo, rice



What on Earth Is That? : Five things we never expected to see in our pantry

In previous attempts to lose weight, we often focused on net calorie & fat intake.  We’ve used Weight Watchers before with some success, but one of the struggles is that if you’re not disciplined, it is entirely possible to cheat the system. You technically could have several Twinkies and stay within your daily Points or eat fruits and have those count ‘against’ you. While WW has improved their program in the recent past to make it more well-rounded and healthy, the ultimate responsibility lies with us to make wise choices of what we put in our body. (Is there ever good reason to eat several Twinkies? Or even one?)

So as we endeavor to make wise choices, we are finding our shopping habits even change and we’re considering the ingredients of our ingredients – things we can and can’t pronounce, and the net impact on our health.  Here are five things we never expected to see in our house, perhaps because they seemed weird, perhaps because I didn’t even know what they were!

  • Ground Flaxseed: What is this stuff anyway? A pretty simple summary can be found on WebMD, but here’s the gist: three primary ingredients within Flaxseed: Omega-3 essential fatty acids (good for your heart), Lignans (antioxidants, helps remove the bad stuff in your system), and Fiber (keep things running the way they’re supposed to). We’ve got a whole box of this stuff now, which is finding its way into a few recipes here and there.


  • Almond Milk: Only weird people don’t buy regular milk, right? Cow’s milk is real milk, right? Well, maybe not. We flirted with going organic for our milk supply a couple years ago and our rate of consumption compared to the cost was just out of our reach. Some day that traditional dairy really isn’t all that good for the human body. We haven’t done enough research or jumped completely on to that line of thinking yet, but have at least started checking out the options. Something about drinking soy milk seems like drinking grass, but we did discover almond milk. This has fewer calories than ‘regular’ (cow) milk, more calcium and turns out, it tastes really good too. We haven’t pulled regular milk out of the fridge altogether, but as a treat and alternative are going with almond milk from time to time. (One of my favorites is using it with granola for a morning breakfast — adds some great flavor.)


  • Eggplant: Is it egg? Or is it vegetable? (Okay, okay; bad joke.) I’ve honestly never had this before (at least not on purpose) and stumbled upon a recipe that called for it. No problems! Relatively bland on taste, but made a great healthy additive to a pasta dish we whipped up. The point on this line isn’t so much the eggplant, but the fact that our produce intake has spiked significantly in the past few weeks. Buying what’s seasonal and what’s on sale can provide both healthy meal options as well as very healthy snack options (grab some carrots instead of chips).


  • Whole Wheat Flour: Flour is flour, right? Well, maybe not. Without getting into the full details of what makes white flour what it is (you can read an excellent summary from Mayo Clinic here), suffice it to say that the process that gives white flour its nice fluffy texture and couple-year shelf life is exactly the process that pulls out all the healthy stuff in the original grain. Here again, have we banned white flour from hanging out in our pantry? No. But when the option allows, we’re shifting our energy to whole wheat.


  • Whole Grain Breads: Piggyback on the issue of whole wheat flour and the same is true for breads. Once you process the heck out of something much of its health benefits get flushed out of the factory into the local river. (Does that mean the fish are actually getting all our nutrients along with the manufacturing toxins?) There’s nothing like a PB&J or grilled cheese sandwich on the good ole’ Wonder Bread I grew up with. But when push comes to shove, you realize that “Wonder” meant more for the profit of Hostess (yes, the Twinkie people) than it does for the wonder of your healthy body. We’re buying whole grain breads now and, after a few weeks, not only do you get used to the new tastes, you start to prefer them.

You may be wondering how our toddler is faring the shift in our ingredients. Now that this post is pushing 800 words, I’m lucky if you’ve even made it this far, so I’ll save that topic for a future post. The short answer: no problems.

What are some other healthy ingredients you have in your fridge or pantry?


Meal Plan for January 23-29

This week’s meal plan includes a couple carryovers from last week that we didn’t end up having for one reason or another.

Another highlight for this week includes leftover BBQ beef on Monday night. This is from a couple weeks ago and since a single batch made enough, we froze leftovers to make a great simple meal on this evening.

We’re also taking advantage of things on sale at our local grocery store. Apples are out of season, but they’re on sale and while they’ll be mediocre for munching, they’ll make good homemade applesauce (where we can control the sugar content). Some berries are on sale, as well, which will make great smoothies for a day or two this week.

B- Smoothie; banana w/ Peanut Butter or Nutella
L- Vienna beef hot dog, cheddar cheese cubes, carrot & celery sticks
D- Leftover BBQ Beef on English Muffin; peas

B- English Muffin, Apple Butter
L- Deli-style sandwich; sweet potato straws, grapefruit
D- Fajitas, rice.

Make pear muffins
Make applesauce

B- Glazed Pear Muffin
L- PB&J Sandwich; crackers; Homemade applesauce
D- Slow-Cooker Lasagna

B- Cereal w/ almond milk
L- Easy Fried Rice
D- Hamburgers on sandwich thins; sweet potato wedges

B- Low-fat Greek yogurt w/ granola
L- 15-minute vegetarian chili, corn muffin
D- Apple-Cinnamon Pancakes

B- Glazed pear muffin and/or smoothie
L- Deli wrap on spinach tortilla; organic corn chips
D- Tilapia with Rice Pilaf

B- Toast with peanut butter

No-Bake Energy Bites

As we continue to try to clear out the artificial and sugary ingredients in our pantry, there are a few things we’re on the hunt to replace. Yesterday I posted a plea on Facebook for a healthy homemade granola bar recipe. In the conversation thread, these No-Bake Energy Bites came up in the conversation.

Ran to the grocery store, picked up the few ingredients we still needed, measured the ingredients out and let Rayna help mix it all up.

The recipe isn’t original, so I won’t post the full thing here, but hop on over to Smashed Peas and Carrots, take a look at the recipe, and make these. You won’t be disappointed.

(Note: WW PointsPlus : 4 points each)

What’s different about this time?

For as long as I can remember, my weight has fluctuated quite a bit. I lose a bunch, keep it off for a while and then slowly gain it back. I did this for our wedding and after our first born was born. But I feel like this time is different. So, Kev asked me the question “What’s different about this time?” With a little thought, I’ve come up with these reasons:

1) Kevin’s doing it with me. Throughout our marriage, any time I’ve gone on a diet, I’ve mainly done it on my own. And after a while that self-motivation and self-drive wore off. This time, having Kevin as an accountability partner and someone who’s looking for the same results, makes the daily grind and difficult choices easier.

2) Realizing the trajectory for our family. This time, it’s about way more than just losing weight. It’s about an overall healthier lifestyle. It’s about realizing that the decisions and routines that I do now are shaping the decisions and routines my two girls will make later in life. I want them to understand the importance of a healthy lifestyle and that will only be easier for them if it’s instilled in them early in life.

3) Our family is complete. After Rayna was born, it was so easy to use ‘future pregnancy’ as an excuse to not make healthy choices. At this time we feel that our family is complete which, Lord willing, means no more pregnancies. So no more excuses about that.

Overall, I definitely have a different attitude this time around. I’m excited about exercising, trying new recipes and learning about how to have an overall healthy lifestyle.

Meal Plan for January 16-22

This week’s meal plan brings in several new recipes and has a couple items that utilize advanced prep. One of the things we’ve found ourselves struggling with the last couple weeks is quick and easy breakfasts. Sure a simple fried egg is quick and easy if it’s made by and adult for an adult…but try frying eggs and making toast while bottle-feeding an infant and helping a toddler brush her teeth…and don’t forget you need to rush out the door on a schedule to get to school on time. On Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays (when our oldest daughter Rayna) goes to school, we’re looking for something a bit quicker and easier to deal with.

Speaking of Rayna, this week’s plan has a couple modifications in it as well. Since she started eating table foods we have believed rather firmly that we are not short-order cooks and we’ll do all we can to avoid making something special or unique specifically for her. With that said, as we continue to try to help her expand her own palette, there are a few things we have agreed to make minor modifications on — if there is something that is just simply too spicy or a texture she just can’t quite handle, we’ll make a minor tweak to a meal so that she has something in the same general family as what we are having (you will see examples here like Monday’s lunch — she’ll have the same pasta as us, just no garbanzo bean sausage sauce; Tuesday’s lunch — she’ll have a sandwich, just nice the spicy chipotle burger). Even when we make a modification like this, we’ll still expect her to try what we’re having.

B- Granola w/ Banana (Cereal or Banana w/ Nutella for Rayna)
L- leftover Garbanzo/Sausage w/ Pasta (buttered noodles for Rayna)
D- Chile-Peppered Steak w/ Brown Rice

*Make zucchini muffins for Wednesday
B- Egg and Toast
L- leftover Turkey Burger (grilled cheese for Rayna), leftover roasted potatoes
D- Greek Baked Chicken w/ salad

*Hard boil eggs for Wednesday
B- zucchini muffins
L- egg salad, goldfish crackers
D- Slow Cooker Chicken Burritos, rice, chips/salsa (WW)
B- Smoothie
L- English Muffin Pizzas
D- Turkey Taco Meatloaf, mashed potatoes, canned/frozen veggie
B- zucchini muffins
L- BLT, sweet potato straws
D- N/A (out with friends for the night)

*Thaw fish for Saturday
B- Scrambled Eggs w/ veggies and cheese
D- Broiled Tilapia w/ Rice Pilaf
D- 15 Minute Vegetarian Chili

Kick the Can

Photo Credit: Creative Commons / flickr Beau B

Years ago, I told Robyn that I thought her love for Diet Coke wasn’t healthy for her. Somewhere along the line I had heard that diet beverages actually lower your metabolism for a net result of weight gain, not loss, and a more unhealthy lifestyle. Chew on this, from Jillian Michaels’ book Master Your Metabolism:

“A huge retrospective study of ninety-five hundred people over nine years found that eating meat and fried foods and drinking diet soda were the three most prominent risk factors of whether people developed metabolic syndrome. Compared with people who drank none, those who drank just one can of diet soda a day had a 34 percent greater incidence of metabolic syndrome.”

Michaels goes into the full explanation of what artificial sweeteners do to our bodies and what the risk factors are. You can read for yourself sometime if you’d like, but suffice it to say, this stuff’s got to work its way out of our house. If that big picture doesn’t do it, perhaps this reality will:

“Consumption of soft drinks has increased 500 percent in 50 years. Every corn syrup or sugar-sweetened drink a child consumes each day increases his or her obesity risk 60 percent.”

What are we drinking these days?

  • Water (and lots of it)
  • Natural juices
  • Coffee, Tea
  • The occasional glass of wine or beer (though care must be taken over the empty calories here)

Does this mean we will never have a soft drink? Probably not. We may still sneak the occasional one here-or-there. But by and large the trend has to change. Away from the sweetened beverages and on to the more natural ones.

Sticking with water as a primary beverage is a big shift and, to be honest, it can get a bit boring. Liven things up by adding a couple slices of orange or lemon. There are dozens (hundreds?) of teas out there as well that can add some natural flavor to your beverage intake.