You know how the whole holiday season tends to center around food? Specifically, comfort foods and party foods – a nibble here, a taste there, an extra slice of this or that, and all the glorious leftovers…
Gaining a few pounds each holiday season is so common that it’s predictable. This year, let’s change that!
While it’s not realistic to launch into a completely new fitness program, you can bet your sweet potato pie that we can hold the line. With some planning, some smarts and a wee bit of self-control, we can enjoy a fab holiday without going over the line.
Here’s what we’ll do: swap healthier version of favorite holiday recipes, share strategies and support each other. I’ll send some special members-only newsletters with tips to host a healthier Thanksgiving dinner, manage holiday stress, fit physical activity into your busy days, and navigate the holiday party buffet table.
Whether you are looking to maintain your current weight, or pick up new strategies to eat smart and to move more, I would love to have you join me! ♥ Who’s in? Let me know you want to join by commenting below, or shooting me a message!
There’s life beyond wheat noodles – save calories and dial up the nutrition with veggies masquerading as noodles. Pure genius.
- 1 spaghetti squash
- 1 tsp extra virgin olive oil
- 1 lb lean ground Beef (grass fed, if possible) or lean ground Turkey
- 1 small yellow onion, diced
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1/4 cup diced green bell pepper
- 1/2 cup sliced mushrooms
- 2 (14.5 oz) cans organic diced tomatoes, OR 3 cups FRESH diced tomatoes
- 1 (15 oz) can organic tomato sauce
- 2 Tbsp fresh parsley
- 2 tsp dried basil
- 1/2 tsp dried oregano
- Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- Sprinkling of all-natural parmesan cheese (optional, omit for dairy-free)
For the spaghetti squash prep:
- Cut a medium spaghetti squash in half, scoop out seeds.
- Very lightly coat the inside with olive oil.
- Bake @375°F skin side up, on a flat sheet pan for about 45 minutes.
- Cool just a bit and use a fork to shred “spaghetti” out of the skin.
For the Skillet:
- Heat large skillet over medium-high heat. Once hot, crumble in meat and cook until browned, stirring occasionally. Drain fat, set cooked meat aside.
- Heat olive oil in skillet, once hot and add onion and green peppers and sauté until tender, about 3 minutes, adding in garlic & mushrooms during last 30 seconds of sautéing.
- Pour in diced tomatoes, and sauce. Stir in fresh parsley, the basil, oregano, and season with salt and pepper to taste.
- Bring just to a gentle boil then add cooked spaghetti squash noodles and cooked meat, stir and submerge noodles in liquid, then reduce heat to a simmer for 2 minutes until heated through.
- Garnish with fresh chopped basil and a touch of parmesan, serve warm.
Find this and more delicious eats here at CleanFoodCrush.
You know how the whole holiday season tends to center around food? Specifically, comfort foods and party foods – a nibble here, a taste there, an extra slice of this or that, and all the glorious leftovers…
It’s so common for people to gain a few pounds each holiday season that it’s become predictable. While 3 lbs may not sound like much, it’s really hard to lose them once you’ve got them.
This year, let’s change that! It’s not realistic to launch into a completely new fitness program, but you can bet your sweet potato pie that we can hold the line. With some planning, some smarts and a wee bit of self-control, we can have a fantastic holiday season without overindulging.
The more people who join me in Maintain Don’t Gain, the better we’ll all do and the more fun we’ll have! Whether you are looking to maintain your current weight, lose a few pounds, or pick up new strategies to eat smart and to move more, we would l♥ve to have you join us!
The Holiday Fitness Challenge includes:
1. Weekly participation challenges with prizes.
2. Healthy holiday recipe swap on Pinterest.
3. Motivation and support from other participants through our private Facebook group. We’ll share strategies, and encourage our team members as they deal with naysayers.
4. A group fitness class that we’ll meet up and do together, and 4 workouts for you to do on your own, anytime.
5. Weekly newsletters delivered to your inbox with tips to host a healthier Thanksgiving dinner, manage holiday stress, fit physical activity into your busy days, and navigate the holiday party buffet table.
The more you participate in the challenges and on social media, the more entries you earn into the grand prize drawing!
Join the Fun for only $10!
The entry fee gets you all the goodies listed above, and goes into our prize fund. Weekly challenge winners will receive a prize (lunch bag, wine tote, water bottle, iTunes gift cards…) The grand prize will be a $50 gift card for Sprouts Farmer’s Market!
Put this Date on Your Calendar
11/18 at 11:00am – our group fitness class exclusively for Maintain Don’t Gain members. Class will be held at The Body Bar Smyrna at 3246 Atlanta Road. We’ll get in a good workout, and I’ll distribute 4 other workouts for you to do over the rest of the challenge.
So many women I know are outgoing and sociable, and would love to have friends over more often. But the stress of menu planning, house cleaning and trying to be a gracious host can be daunting. Sometimes it seems like too much hassle, and we give up entertaining altogether.
I say yes, let’s do that, let’s give up entertaining, with its inherent feelings of not being good enough. When I think of “entertaining”, I immediately start thinking about deep-cleaning the house. Ugh. While a clean house is manna from heaven, oh yes it is, I don’t want to feel like I don’t deserve to have a few people over for brunch because the hardwood floors need a new coat of wax.
Checking in with friends, staying connected to people, is important to me. It centers me, and makes me feel like part of a community. I need to generate more of those welcoming, accepting vibes, and less of the everything-must-be-perfect vibes.
So I have been working on that. And I think I can strike a balance between unrealistically high ideals and unacceptable low reality.
Unmade bed = okay. Cat throwup on carpet = not okay. Fingerprints on bathroom mirror = okay. Rust rings in toilet = not okay. Dusty chandelier = okay. Stinky leotards on sofa = not okay.
I found an article about a lovely concept called In Praise of Scruffy Hospitality. It challenges us to embrace the simple pleasure of having friends come to share a meal. Dust bunnies be damned. While it can hard to let go of the deeply ingrained belief that our homes need to be “Pinterest-perfect” before we can have guests over, we need to try. Waiting for the day when everything is perfect stops us from sharing our lives with each other now.
So call up a few friends, invite them over this weekend. Focus on quality conversation and ignore the leaves gathering in the yard. Serve a simple meal of whatever is on hand. Maybe ask everyone to bring the leftovers in their fridge for an impromptu potluck. Got a slow-cooker? I can personally vouch for this Chicken Parmesan soup.
Whatever you serve, even if your order pizza, if you’re enjoying a meal with people you love, it will be a glorious feast.
Source articles can be found at The Kitchn and Mother Nature Network.
This Slow Cooker Chicken Parmesan Soup has all of the flavors of decadent Chicken Parmesan in a waistline-friendly crockpot soup! Bonus: It takes just minutes to prepare. Crock pots really are a great way to make soup, as the ingredients have all day to slowly simmer, release their flavors, and come together into one harmonious bowl of deliciousness.
- 4 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 green bell pepper, chopped
- 1/2 medium white onion, chopped
- 1 can (14.5 ounces) crushed tomatoes
- 1/2 pound (raw) boneless, skinless chicken breast (about 1 large breast)
- 5 cups chicken broth, plus additional if needed
- 1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese, plus extra for garnish
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
- 2 teaspoons chopped fresh oregano
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 4 ounces (uncooked) dry gemelli or penne pasta
- Chopped fresh basil or parsley, for garnish
- In slow cooker, stir together garlic, bell pepper, onion, tomatoes, chicken, broth, 1/2 cup cheese, basil, oregano, salt, black pepper and red pepper flakes. Cook on high 3-1/2 hours or on low 7 hours.
- Transfer chicken to cutting board and use forks to coarsely shred; return to slow cooker. Stir in pasta. Cook on high 20-30 minutes longer or until pasta is cooked al dente. If soup becomes too thick after pasta is cooked, stir in additional broth or water until desired consistency is reached, and warm through.
- Serve garnished with extra Parmesan cheese and chopped basil or parsley.
Find more pictures and author’s notes for this gem on FoxesLovesLemons.
We usually have to marinate chicken breasts to make them flavorful, but this tasty chicken doesn’t require any marinating. A simple homemade Cajun spice rub followed by 8 minutes on the grill and topped with a fresh avocado based salsa yields stellar results. The cool, creamy salsa helps balance out the heat of the chicken. This recipe is a great way to end the long, happy summer.
Adjust the amount of cayenne pepper to suit your preference, keeping in mind that if you omit it entirely, the dish won’t really be very Cajun anymore…
For the Avocado Corn Salsa
- 1 ear corn, grilled or 3/4 cup frozen corn, thawed
- 1 roma tomato, diced
- 1/3 cup diced red or green bell pepper
- 1/2 avocado, diced
- 3 Tbsp chopped red onion
- 2 Tbsp chopped cilantro
- 1 Tbsp fresh lime juice
- 1 Tbsp olive oil
- Preheat a grill over medium-high heat (to about 425°). Pound thicker parts of chicken with the flat side of a meat mallet to even out their thickness.
- In a small bowl whisk together paprika, garlic powder, cayenne pepper, onion powder, thyme and oregano. Season with salt and pepper to taste (I used heaping 1/2 tsp salt and 1/2 tsp pepper). Brush both sides of chicken breasts lightly with olive oil then sprinkle both sides evenly with seasoning mixture. Grill until center registers 165°, about 4 minutes per side.
- Meanwhile in a medium mixing bowl toss together corn, tomato, bell pepper, avocado, red onion, cilantro, lime juice and olive oil. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
- Let chicken rest off of grill 5 minutes tented with foil then serve warm with Avocado Corn Salsa.
Recipe source: Cooking Classy
Skewers of crunchy veggies and juicy tidbits of steak, all marinated and grilled to perfection, are an excellent tribute to Labor Day’s end-of-summer feast.
These fresh veggie kabobs are packed with tons of flavor – perfect as a healthy side dish to any meal. If you prefer different vegetables to the ones included here, feel free to switch them out.
The star here is the garlic lemon marinade, a simple concoction of olive oil, fresh garlic, lemon juice and some dried herbs. It’s super simple but it’s packed with tons of flavor.
Served as a light snack, a side dish, and equally tasty hot or cold, these kabobs are versatility on a platter. Thank the creative cook at Damn Delicious for these beauties.
Steak Kebabs are perfect for any summer meal, and are especially good when prepped with a delicious marinade.
I like to make the kebabs with lots of brightly colored veggies but you can swap them out with your favorites; try boiled baby red or Yukon gold potatoes, zucchini, yellow squash or cherry tomatoes.
Get all the tips and tricks for making mouth-watering perfection-on-a-stick at Jaclyn’s blog Cooking Classy.
Here are two moves and a stretch to counteract the negative effects caused by too much sitting.These exercises use a stability ball and are done in a reclining position, so they’re easier on your knees than squats.Keeping your legs elevated throughout each exercise also works your abs and increases circulation to energize your legs and reduce the risk of varicose veins.Do 2 or 3 sets of 10 to 12 reps of each move, 3 nonconsecutive days a week.
Stability balls cost about $20 and are available online or wherever exercise equipment is sold.
Bridge Roll (Not recommended if you have back or neck problems)
A Lie on back with arms at sides and heels on ball. Lift hips, lower back, and mid-back off floor.
B Bend knees and roll ball in toward rear. Hold for a second, then extend legs. Repeat.
For more of a challenge, extend one leg toward ceiling and roll ball using only one leg at a time.
A Lie on back, knees bent, and place ball between ankles. Squeeze ball and extend legs into air.
B Rotate legs and ball to right, lowering right leg. Hold for a second, then rotate to left, raising right leg and lowering left. Hold and repeat. For more of a challenge, hold legs at a 45-degree angle to floor and rotate.
Lie on back with legs straight and heels on ball. Raise right leg off ball and grasp calf or thigh, pulling leg toward head until you feel a gentle stretch. Hold for 20 seconds and release. Repeat with left leg.
Let’s get an important distinction clear right away: weekly meal prep and food prep are not the same thing.
Meal prep is preparing entire meals for the week in advance.
Food prep is preparing individual food items in advance, making it easy to grab a snack or throwing together an impromptu meal. If you haven’t yet mastered this skill, head over to my post about food prep right here.
Planning and executing a week’s worth of meals is hard work. Not gonna lie. Now, add the stipulation that the meals are healthy and easy to make, and you’re heading into migraine territory. Head… migraine… see what I did there? Throw in a few picky eaters or little kids and you very well might want to hang your head and cry.
Ah… fear not, grasshopper. Help is here.
The time and effort you put into planning, shopping, prep, and cooking will pay off big-time. You’ll have healthier meals, less stress, and less time wasted panicking over what to eat. And once you do it for a few weeks in a row, it will become a habit and be even easier to do. Booyah.
It’s imperative to keep healthy food on hand so you don’t fall into easy, bad-for-you foods. I have personal experience with consistent shopping and meal prep leading to fat loss, and a scattered, devil-may-care approach to meal planning leading to no loss (or even the dreaded fat gain). My exercise stays constant so i know it’s the food.
On prep day, Hard-boil your eggs, bake a batch of mini-omelettes or healthy muffins. Grill the huge package of chicken you got from Costco, roast some vegetables, and make double batches of brown rice or quinoa. Prepare your own tuna/chicken salad, so you can control the ingredients. Assemble these into containers for a healthy meal in a flash. When you’re done, you should have a collection that looks something like this:
Here is my plan from last week. You can find the recipes for all the starred* entries here on my website. The items that have double stars ** are from Sohailla Digsby, author of the awesome 52-Day Countdown.
If you’d like a copy of my meal plan sheet, with its handy shopping list sidebar, you can download it here.
If you just can’t abide the idea of making what’s planned for a specific day, or you’ve neglected to do the shopping, turn to your tried and true of stand-bys. Here’s a list of 12 easy meals that you should be able to pull together with ingredients from your pantry and stored whatever in your freezer.
Meal-planning can be whatever you make it to be. Perhaps rather than detailing out every breakfast, lunch and dinner, you just have 3-7 meals/ideas chosen with no days designated for them. You don’t need to limit yourself to a particular meal on a certain day. Start slowly, and give yourself some leeway – a little freedom can ease the transition from meal prep to full-blown meal planning.
In the end, meal-planning should not be something that we dread but something that we look upon as a tool for saving us time and money each month. And, as with everything in life, don’t let yourself get down if you drift from your plan or fall out of the habit of creating them. Just pick back up the next week and try again. There’s a perfect pep talk in Meal Prep for Newbies.
Sources for this article include Glowing Gazelles, Fit Mom Baltimore and Good Cheat Eats.
Does your job keep you chained to a desk? Want to get moving and feel better? Start a walking program with short distances, slow paces and flat surfaces; and gradually build up distance, speed and inclines. Focus on good posture, with head lifted and shoulders relaxed. Swing your arms naturally and breathe deeply.
Experts recommend that you walk a minimum of 30 minutes each day, but that can be three 10-minute walks each day, or hour-long walks two to three times per week.
To fit more walking into your schedule, you have to be ready to walk when the opportunity presents itself. Keep shoes in your car, walk around the field during the kids soccer practice, and invite friends to walk with you before you head off to the coffee shop.
Remember, every little bit counts. So, throw on your comfy clothes and sneakers and head out for a brisk walk in the fresh air. Your body and mind will thank you! These, and more great tips, can be found at Bonne Santé.
If you’re looking for people to hang out with, my local club may be for you. We hike, bike & jog around town – and we grab a cuppa joe or a bite to eat while we’re at it. Living that active lifestyle is way more fun when you do things with friends! Learn more about the Actively Social Club.
Ever felt pain in your lower back when you stood up after sitting for awhile? How about pain in just one of your hips? Or the not-funny-at-all pain in your actual butt, making it hurt to walk? It might be caused by constriction of the piriformis muscle.
I can hear you thinking, “A pair-of-whatsis?” Okay, school’s in: The piriformis is a small, flat muscle underneath the gluteus maximus, connecting the bottom of your spine to the top of your femur. The sciatic nerve runs from the lower back down into the legs. Your piriformis lays on top of the sciatic nerve, and is perfectly located to quite literally get on your (sciatic) nerve.
Sciatica: it ain’t just for your granny. It’s for gym buffs and fitness class junkies, too.
I used to think sciatica was a specific malady, but recently learned that it’s a broad term for any condition in which the sciatic nerve is pinched in some way. While herniated discs are known to often cause sciatica, piriformis syndrome is less well-known.
Numbness, tingling, and/or severe pain can occur if the piriformis puts pressure on the sciatic nerve. This can manifest itself as a dull ache or as shooting pains in the back, hip, buttocks, and legs.
If the piriformis muscle tightens, gets pulled, becomes inflamed, or spasms, you will know because it will hurt to stand up after prolonged sitting.
The location of the piriformis makes it a difficult muscle to target, though target it we must, if we want relief. Effective piriformis stretches can help restore muscle function and relieve that persistent, annoying, and sometimes debilitating pain in the butt.
Use the following chart to guide you through the top 5 piriformis stretches.
More advanced stretches, and more details about piriformis syndrome are on this web page, complete with video how-to’s. This yoga site and this chiropractic site have in-depth analysis and self-diagnosing tips.
We had some crazy weather last week. Some parts of our beautiful state got snowed on, all of us wrapped up in snuggie blankets, only to switch them out a few days later for tank tops and flip-flops. Egads. It made my head spin. And what often happens when the temperature swoops up and dives down like that? Seasonal colds, you betcha.
Just when we’re out of the woods of flu season, cases of the common cold become more likely.
The influenza virus, which causes flu season to occur in the winter, has a structure that allows it to replicate and spread best when air is cold and dry.
The viruses that typically cause the common cold replicate more easily in cool, but not too cold weather. They cause outbreaks more frequently in the early to late spring and early to late fall.
Need more drama? In the spring, seasonal sniffing can also come from another culprit: allergies.
It’s not uncommon for people to lament, “I’ve been sick for weeks” when they really don’t have a cold at all, their allergies are flaring up.
Those who know they have allergies need to take particular care in the spring. Not only can pollen spark miserable seasonal symptoms, but also allergies leave you more likely to catch a cold virus because your immune system is already under attack, and taxed with handling all the various pollens.
I have friends who swear by home remedies and all-natural supplements to prevent and combat colds. But unfortunately, echinacea, zinc, and vitamins E and C have not been shown to help prevent the common cold in clinical trials.
What can help? Washing your hands. The cold virus can live on human skin for at least two hours, so keep your hands clean and away from your face.
To dodge seasonal sickness, follow the same “healthy lifestyle” advice that keeps you healthy year-round: exercise, sleep, eat well, and keep stress in check. Keep plugging away at the stuff you already know works. Have a happy, sneeze-free Spring. 🙂
Complete article, with references, can be found on the Weather Channel.
My friend Wanda is an amazing cook, She is famous in my circle of friends for being the one to get me to enjoy kale (which is a good thing, because one can handle only so much romaine lettuce before one goes bonkers).
But today’s offering is not a cool crisp salad, oh no. Today is cold and blustery – the winds whipping thru my jacket remind me of my Michigan years. My thoughts return to a warm, spicy, delicious chli that Wanda prepared on a long weekend trip to a cozy cabin last month. It’s out-of-this-world, upper echelon comfort food. Here’s the recipe, share the love!
- 1 lb. fresh ground turkey
- 5-8 chicken andouille sausages*
- red pepper flakes (optional)
- whole onion, chopped
- 2 bell peppers, chopped
- 1 15 oz. can pinto beans
- 1 15 oz, can northern beans
- 1 15 oz. can diced tomatos
- 1 small can tomato paste
- 1 jar of your favorite pasta sauce
- 1 jar Jardines® roasted chipotle sauce*
- cooked sweet potatoes, halved
- Brown the ground turkey, onions and peppers in a deep skillet.
- Add thinly sliced Andouille sausage (about 8 long sausages) and a pinch of red pepper flakes.
- Saute until meats are browned and veggies have wilted,
- Stir in remaining ingredients. Let simmer until flavors marry beautifully – 30 to 60 minutes.
- Serve over half a cooked sweet potato. Enjoy!
*Wanda notes that the chicken Andouille sausage and the chipotle sauce are key to achieving the zesty piquant flavor of this chili. She favors sausage by Amylu®, available at Costco and Whole Foods. Tailor the amount you put in to how meaty you want your chili to be.
Searching my Food Network app for some inspiration, I saw a show called Bootcamp Brunch, devoted to a healthy-yet-indulgent spread. In the show, a personal trainer led a group of friends through an outdoor workout before they all settled down to refuel. It’s like they made that episode just for me! Celebrity foodie Valerie Bertinelli made a salad, muffins, frittata and a smoothie along with a devine open-faced sandwich featuring avocado and heirloom tomatoes. It’s a perfect brunch menu!
Feeling inspired by that fancy sandwich, I found a few other scrumptious examples of simple and fancy versions of toast with avocado spreads. Of course, I prefer the fancy ones. Here are my faves.
Avocado Toast with Poached Eggs & Prosciutto
Make a healthy version of a drive-thru breakfast sandwich at home with fiber-rich avocados and poached eggs. Jazz up your morning meal!
- 1/2 avocado, mashed
- 2 slices bread, toasted
- 2 eggs, poached
- 4 slices prosciutto
- 4 leaves butter lettuce
- Cherry tomatoes, halved
- Sea salt & fresh cracked black pepper
- 1 Tbsp fresh-squeezed lemon juice
1. In a pot of boiling water, add a Tbsp of vinegar and gently swirl the water in one direction. Carefully drop the eggs one at a time and poach for 2-4 minutes or until desired doneness.
2. Meanwhile cut the avocados in half, remove stones and scoop out the flesh into a bowl. Mash with a fork and squeeze in fresh lemon or lime juice and salt and pepper.
3. Smear toast with avocado, and top with lettuce, tomatoes, prosciutto and the poached egg. Top with sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper and serve immediately.
This lovely gem of a breakfast bite, as well as other yummy versions by food columnist Bonnie Mo, can be found here.
Avocado Open-Faced Sandwich
- 1 small shallot, sliced
- 2 tablespoons sea salt flakes
- Zest of 1 lemon
- 6 slices sourdough bread, toasted
- 1 avocado, sliced
- 2 to 3 heirloom tomatoes, sliced
- 2 tablespoons salted sunflower seeds
- Valerie’s ricotta mixture
- For the ricotta mixture: Add the ricotta, capers, olive oil, lemon zest and juice, salt and some pepper to a bowl. Set aside and allow the flavors to meld.
- For the layers: Add the shallots to a bowl, cover with ice water and soak for 10 minutes prior to using.
- Add the sea salt and lemon zest to a bowl and combine with your fingers.
- To build: Top each slice of bread with some of the ricotta mixture, 2 slices avocado, 3 slices tomato and some shallots, sunflower seeds and lemon salt to finish. Cut diagonally.
The recipe for the ricotta mixture, along with the rest of the Bootcamp Brunch menu, can be found at Food Network.
Cool and creamy chicken salad gets a little exotic with the addition of antioxidant-rich curry powder, crisp vegetables, sweet apples and crunchy cashews. This is a fabulous meal-prep recipe! When cooking the chicken, make extra for an easy protein addition to any meal during the week. Pressed for time? Use rotisserie chicken from your grocery store’s deli.
- ½ cup mayonnaise (Stacie’s favorite is Primal Kitchen Avocado Oil Mayo) or plain yogurt
- 2 tsp. curry powder
- ½ lime, juiced
- 2 Tbsp. fresh cilantro (optional)
- ¼ tsp. salt
- 2 cups cooked chicken, diced
- 1 small apple, diced
- 1 medium celery rib, finely diced
- 3 Tbsp. red onion, finely diced
- ¼ cup cashews, roughly chopped
- For topping: Green onions, shredded cabbage, shredded carrots (optional)
- In a medium bowl, mix together the mayonnaise, curry powder, lime juice, cilantro and salt.
- Next add the cooked chicken, diced apple, celery, and onions and mix until well combined.
- Fold in the cashews.
- Serve in a lettuce wrap, on a bed of greens, or on cucumber slices. Top with green onions, shredded cabbage, shredded carrots or additional cashews if desired.
Makes 4-6 servings
This recipe is dairy-free, paleo-friendly, gluten-free and can be made vegan-friendly by using a vegan mayo and garbanzo beans in place of the chicken. Full recipe, plus more yumminess can be found here.