I’ve been craving something a little lighter around here. During the move, I fell into a pattern of the quick and easy staple recipes to get by. But now that we are settled (and it’s officially summer!) I wanted something for dinner that tasted fresh, seasonal, and light.
For me, those requirements mean something meatless. But Zach is a dyed in the wool meat eater. I have tried to convert him to meatless but he’s having none of it. And while I do enjoy a good burger or steak on occasion, I also like to give our feathered and four legged friends the night off every now and then.
Enter these Greek Quinoa Bowls. Or, as the three year old called them, “Grape King Lob Os.” They were So. Super. Delicious. There aren’t any leftovers, which is saying something around here. I cooked up some cubed chicken on the side so that I could eat my meatless Monday dinner, Zach could get his animal protein fix, and Jillian could refuse to eat at all (ahhh….Threenagers). At least that way we are eating LESS meat than we would have if I’d done burgers.
I changed the veggies around a bit to include what we had on hand. I added some green onions from our garden, some cucumbers, and some extra red pepper. I served it with some toasted tortilla chips (recipe below).
While they were so tasty, I didn’t get a distinctly “Greek” vibe from them…WHICH IS FINE. But I’m jus’ sayin’. If you are looking for Mediterranean add some olives, some cucumber, maybe some artichoke hearts and tomatoes. Season with oregano and basil. Otherwise, they should just be called “Really Tasty Quinoa Bowls.”
Never tried quinoa before? What are you waiting for? It is just as easy as rice to make (I actually find it easier). It is a complete protein, whereas rice needs to be paired with another source of protein for your body to get all of the essential amino acids. It is relatively equal in calorie content to rice but packs more fiber and nutrients per bite. All in all, I prefer quinoa to brown rice and you should try it, too!
Toasted Tortilla Chip recipe:
4 whole wheat tortilla chips (check your labels for a brand without too many added chemicals)
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 tablespoon oregano
1/2 tablespoon basil
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
Preheat oven to 315. Cut tortillas into triangles (how many depends on the size of chip you want). Arrange tortilla triangles in a single layer on a cookie sheet.
In a small bowl, combine remaining ingredients. Brush tortilla triangles lightly with mixture.
Bake for approximately 20 minutes, or until they reached your desired done-ness (they will be soft to the touch while in the oven. They will crisp up when you take them out).
Let them cool and then try not to eat them all at once.
“Doctor Oz’s Diet Breakthrough!” “Lose 25 Pounds! The 5 most slimming foods!” “The Healthy Mediterranean Turbo Crash Diet!” “Instant Willpower!”
The headlines scream as I stand in line at the grocery store (note: these are all actual headlines. I didn’t make any of them up). How is the average person supposed to cut through the noise? What exactly is “healthy”?
As I work on this post, I’m sitting in Panera eating their delicious strawberry poppy seed salad. Delicious? Yes. Healthy?….well, it’s a salad. And it’s probably better than the double quarter pounder with cheese and an extra large fry that I could have gotten down the street.
But is it “healthy”?
I’m not claiming to be the definitive expert on what constitutes “healthy.” But here’s MY take:
Healthy is different for everyone.
Everybody and Every Body responds differently to a stimuli. One person might find they feel great on a low carb-high protein diet. Another person might need a few more carbs in their daily diet, but has digestive trouble when they eat too much fat. One person has the willpower to eat only one cookie in a sitting. Someone else can’t have cookies in the house because they are too much of a temptation. Figure out what is healthy for you, and you do you. (But be honest with yourself, too. Eating two donuts every morning for breakfast might taste good, but if you reeeaaallly listened to your body you might hear a different opinion on the habit.)
Healthy is a spectrum.
Too often we look at food (and habits) as either “healthy” or “unhealthy.” Black or white, good or bad, yes or no. But it’s not that simple. If someone is used to drinking a six pack of diet coke every day, can you really say that drinking only three cans is not improving their health? 3 cans of diet coke is absolutely a healthier habit than drinking 6.
All natural peanut butter > Jif Natural > Reese’s peanut butter (do you know how you make regular peanut butter taste like Reese’s? Mix in a bunch of powdered sugar). All natural peanut butter costs at least $2.00 more a jar and that can be cost prohibitive for some families. So should they just throw in the towel on healthy habits? Obviously not.
Which brings me to my point: you have to make the healthiest choices from what is available to you. And you can’t beat yourself up over the rest.
Healthy is a journey, not a destination.
Let’s return to our diet coke drinker. Most people who drink a six pack of diet coke a day will probably find the idea of cutting it out cold turkey intimidating (and unpleasant). Obviously, the ideal is zero diet cokes a day. But if that person starts out by replacing one diet coke with a glass of water this week, and two next week, and so on, that person is steadily improving their health.
I started becoming interested in the way our diets affect our bodies SEVEN years ago. As I learn more, I do more. As I learn different things, I reevaluate what I thought I knew about being healthy. Don’t let the fear of how far you perceive you have to go to get to “healthy” be something that prevents you from starting the journey.
Healthy is balance.
Two quick stories:
A woman goes to an amusement park with her family, but she has spent the last two months on a diet. At lunch time, knowing there is nothing on her diet available at any of the food stands, the woman leaves her family to return to the car where she has packed a “healthy” lunch that fits into her diet. She eats her lunch alone in the hot car, returning to the amusement park to find her family already 3/4ths of the way through the line for the roller coaster. She sits on the bench outside the exit, alone, waiting for them to get off and tell her all about how much fun they had.
A young woman and her fiance are intense fitness fanatics. They count every gram of protein, fat, and carbohydrate that passes their lips. Inevitably, Thanksgiving rolls around. Grandma is hosting, as usual, and has spent the days leading up to the holiday in the kitchen lovingly creating the dishes that she knows will make her family happy. When the young woman and her fiance arrive at Grandma’s house, they let her know that they have brought their own fish and will be using the grill on the porch to prepare it. Grandma notices that the young woman does not eat any of the coconut cream pie that was always the young woman’s favorite when she was growing up.
Both of these are true stories, told to me by the husband and the grandmother respectively. And neither of these, I would argue, are healthy.
Should you eat funnel cakes and cotton candy and hot dogs and deep fried Oreos, coconut cream pie and mashed potatoes and green bean casserole and (probably) deep fried turkey every day of your life? No. But if you choose the healthier options 364 days of the year, you can afford to enjoy your time with your family. Sometimes seeing the sheer joy/terror on your kids’ faces as they go over the top of the roller coaster, or allowing your grandmother the pleasure of seeing you enjoy your favorite pie, is worth a day of imperfectly portioned macros. Find the balance.
To revisit my salad: It had (according to this website) 11g of sugar, which is kind of a lot. But it also had some fruit and some veggies and some protein from the chicken. So we could argue it’s health value in terms of nutrients but as far as I’m concerned: it was one of the better choices available to me and I enjoyed it.
I’ve had a few (and by few, I mean two) people asking me for my granola “recipe” recently, so I thought I’d whip together a batch and make it a post.
I put “recipe” in quotes because it really is one of those things that you can’t mess up (except for the time that I put dried cumin in by accident. Oops. So be careful what you grab out of the spice cabinet). I tried to measure it out this time, but I make it slightly different every time. Really. You can’t mess it up (just avoid cumin). It also comes together really quickly. I was ready to put mine in the oven before my oven had finished preheating.
Also, please note that I am not a professional food photographer and nor do I have aspirations to be.
Here’s the recipe with rough estimates, and a few notes at the bottom:
3 cups whole oats
1/4 cup coconut**
1/4 cup nuts (walnuts and pecans are great, but any other nut that you have around would be fine)
1/4 cup seeds (again, any type are fine just make sure they are unsalted)
1/2 tablespoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 cup maple syrup
1/2 cup honey
1/4 cup of dried fruit**
Preheat the oven to 350.
In a large mixing bowl, combine oats, coconut, nuts, seeds, and spices.
In a separate microwave safe bowl, combine honey and maple syrup. Microwave for 30 seconds. Add to oat mixture. Stir to combine.
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Spread oat mixture as evenly as possible on baking sheet.
Bake at 350 in 15 minute increments. Every 15 minutes, stir and redistribute so everything browns evenly. Take it out when you think it has reached the appropriate brown-ness (I usually go about 30ish minutes).
Let cool. Add dried fruit. Store in an airtight container.
** Store bought shredded coconut and dried fruit often have a lot of extra sugar, anti-sticking chemicals, and anti-browning preservatives coating them. But who has time to shred their own coconut and dry their own fruit? So go ahead and buy the stuff from the store, but rinse it before you use it. It doesn’t get rid of everything extra but it does cut down on the added sugar and chemicals (you’ll be amazed at the oily water that comes off of dried cranberries when you rinse them).
With this recipe, you’re shooting for about four cups total of granola at the end. So adjust the amounts of oats, seeds, nuts, and coconut to your tastes.
Same with the sugars; you are going for about a cup of sugars. So adjust to your taste. Use all maple syrup (the real stuff…not Aunt Jemima) if you want it more maple-y. Add in some brown sugar for a deeper flavor. It’s all about what you like.
And the spices. Adjust to your taste. If you don’t like ginger, take it out and add something else. Increase the cinnamon or add nutmeg. Just avoid cumin.
I never claimed this to be a low-sugar recipe. If you are looking to reduce the sugar…then reduce the sugar. More power to you. I will still argue that it is better for you (and cheaper…and tastier) than most store bought granola.
Let me know if you try it and how it goes! Did you make any substitutions? Were they absolutely delicious? I can’t wait to hear about it!
“Lose 30 pounds in 15 days with the incredible “Shock Diet”
“The Diet That Helped Everyone Lose Weight: Lose 20 Pounds in 2 weeks“
“Only 1 Cup A Day of This Drink Will Shrink Your Waist and Melt Belly Fat”
All of these are recommended pins on my Pinterest feed, based on my history of pinning health and fitness related content. But Pinterest can’t tell the difference between the real health advice and the bunk.
Pinterest’s target demographic is the coveted 18-35 (primarily white) female population. This makes it fertile ground for weight loss and health advice. So how is the average pinner supposed to wade through the trustworthy advice from the snake oil sellers?
On this blog I’ll be starting a new feature where I “Pin-valuate” the truthfulness of some of these pins that come across my feed.
First up; “Healthy Flourless Cinnamon Bun Breakfast Doughnuts,” complete with a mouthwatering picture of a glazed doughnut the size of your head. Spoiler alert: if it sounds (or looks) to good to be true, it probably is.
To those who knew me in high school and college, the idea that I am now a health and fitness professional is probably laughable. I was a bookworm and a music geek, and liked nothing better than laying inside with a book or playing music on the piano (although practicing my lesson pieces was TOTALLY out of the question).
I dated a gym rat in college for about two years. There were lots of things wrong with that relationship, but at the heart of it was that we really didn’t have a whole lot in common. He lived at the gym. I….didn’t. He tried to pressure me and coerce me into going. He made me feel bad when I didn’t. It wasn’t a good time.
Over the last six years, I’ve totally changed my life (although I still love me a good rainy day curled up with a book). I’ve ran a few 5ks, been invited to run a Tough Mudder with a team from work, and trained for a half marathon. All of these are accomplishments in themselves (me? You think I’m athletic enough to compete with your Tough Mudder team?), so why do I still feel the nagging doubt that I am a fraud? Why do I still hear that voice in the back of my head saying
“You’re just going to quit, like you’ve done every other time.”
“You’re not a real athlete because you don’t compete on a team.”
“If they knew how adverse you used to be to physical activity, your clients would never take you seriously.”
“How can you call yourself a nutrition coach when you eat ice cream every night?”
People from my past may underestimate me. I may underestimate myself. But all I know is that I am addicted. I love learning about the way our bodies respond to the foods we eat. I am fascinated by exploring the relationship we have with food and eating. I love the feeling of a bad ass workout and thinking “I did that!” at the end.
So I guess the voices in my head need to just shut up. I’m not quitting. I am an athlete. I love being active…and I also love ice cream.
When I think about this undertaking, this enormous task of completely changing career tracks, I get that feeling. You know the one: palms start to sweat, heart starts to race, a pit in the center of your stomach and I start to think about how much EASIER it would be to just stay miserable at my current job.
**The questions start racing:
What if I can’t make enough money to support my family?
What if this is just a case of “the grass is always greener?”
What if I’m not a success?
What if I fail?
But I’m trying to change that. I don’t know the answers to the above questions. All of those things are possibilities, I suppose. But that’s not where I am RIGHT NOW. I would counsel my clients to take things one step at a time: Don’t focus on losing ten pounds. If you focus on eating one more serving of vegetables a day, replacing one soda with water, moving purposefully for 20 minutes more, then the 10 pounds will come in time.
Step 1: Finish my certification.
Step 2: Work with my co-worker who has agreed to a symbiotic relationship: I get to practice on her and she gets a free trainer to get in shape for her wedding.
Step 3: Start advertising. Get clients.
Today’s blog post inspiration was the word “stroll.” I can’t sprint my way through this process, as much as I might like. I can’t see the finish line quite yet because this is a marathon, not the 100 meter dash.
All I can do is take it one step at a time, and enjoy the scenery while I’m at it.
**My therapist would call this “catastrophic thinking,” to which I am extremely prone.
There are reasons convenience foods exist. There is a reason that the snack food industry was $124 BILLION industry last year.
Because no one has time to do it any other way. When you get home from work and have to shove the kids in the car for one to go to piano lessons and the other to go to soccer practice, while your spouse is running late or on a conference call so the help that you thought you were going to get hasn’t arrived and then the to-do list is still running through your head of all the things you have to do before you can finally call it a day: Laundry, Dishes, Pack Lunches, Answer Emails, Call Mom…
Of COURSE you are going to throw a pre-packaged granola bar at your kids to eat in the car and stop for fast food on the way home.
Then on nights when you ARE actually home for dinner, you are so exhausted from the day that the best dinner you can muster up is frozen pizzas. Hey, if it’s a supreme, at least it has some veggies on it…right?
I don’t know what the point of this post is, other than just to say “I get it.” I have one kid. Who is three. And I actually like to be in the kitchen cooking and baking. And still I get it. It’s exhausting trying to balance good food and wholesome ingredients, with time. It’s mind numbing to go to the grocery store and not be able to just pull something off the shelf and trust that it is good for your family. Even for me–someone who knows how to read food labels and is interested in this stuff.
If you know me at all you know I am all for personal accountability for your choices. But this is one area that I firmly believe that individuals can’t do it alone. The Food Industry needs to change. Stop putting chemicals in our food just because it is cheaper than the real thing. Start caring more about the customer than about the bottom line. Stop being cagey and start being honest about what is in and how you make your food.
And Government: now I’m looking at you. Stop caring more about the dollars you get from the Food Industry Lobbyist and START DOING YOUR DAMN JOB: You know, looking out for the American people who voted you into office and gave you a job in the first place. But this topic is another post for another day…
So what’s the answer??
All you can do is the best you can do. Maybe instead of a prepackaged granola bar that is crammed with refined sugar and fake food-chemicals, you throw the kids an apple on the way to practice. Give ’em a water instead of a soda. Instead of the McDonald’s drive through, you hit up Subway on the way home.
And if dinner happens to be a supreme frozen pizza, pick the one that has the fewest fake sounding ingredients…and tell yourself “at least it has veggies on it.”
***It’s really super easy to make your own frozen pizzas that you can take out of the freezer on a busy weeknight. Click here for the recipe and process.
I’ve been putting off writing this post. I’m not sure why, but it’s hard for me to accurately express this part of my story.
There are 1000 different paths to a healthier life. I’m only here to share the one that I took. Maybe parts of it will resonate with you, maybe not. Everyone has to find what works for them.
For example, a tip that you will here over and over is “find a gym buddy.” Well you know what? Gym buddies don’t work for me. We end up doing more talking than working. Truth: I get a better workout by myself.
So here goes…
When we last left off, I was 30 pounds heavier than I had ever been and had just moved back to Pennsylvania. These were the days of the P90x craze and I had a few friends trying it. I jumped on the band wagon. I didn’t get the weight loss results I wanted (now I know that it’s not really a weight loss program) but I do credit it with changing my attitude toward working out. Somewhere around the second month, my attitude changed and I began…if not exactly looking forward to, not dreading the workout.
(So apparently I have lost the before and after pictures from this stage of the journey. Kind of bummed about that one, not gonna lie.)
Around this same time, I watched a documentary called Food, Inc. NEARLY simultaneously, a large nationwide recall of ground turkey AND cantaloupes occurred. I began to eat less processed food and more organic fruits and vegetables. I began to read about the additives in our food supply and what they do to our hormones. But that’s another post for another time.
Next, I began running. I dabbled a bit with it in college but was never really serious. But what stuck with me was that it was the only thing that really got the weight off the way I wanted it to. So I began with couch to 5k, a program I highly recommend if you want to get in better shape but are starting at zero. In October of 2011, I ran my first 5k and cried when I crossed the finish line. True story. I had never been prouder of myself than in that moment.
The rest is a little bit of this and a little bit of that…
I’ve dabbled in Zumba (love it), spin classes (hate it), morning workouts, evening workouts, home workouts, gym workouts. I trained for a half marathon I never completed and I’ve learned to be a pretty decent home cook. I’d love to do an obstacle run someday and I spread the gospel of eating organically to everyone I talk to.
This is what worked for me. As I was proofreading this post, I realized that it sounds so short and simple. But it’s been a journey of six years to get to where I am today. It did NOT happen over night. I have completely changed who I am, not just physically, but mentally as well…which is difficult to express in a blog post. Anyway, find your own journey. In the words of the great and wise Buddha:
I’ve been sick for four days. Four. Whole. Days. of not being able to get out of bed. Four days of self-imposed quarantine.
My darling husband did a WONDERFUL job of single handedly wrangling and entertaining and keeping a three year old alive. But because he was flying solo, a lot of the things that normally happen on the weekends to make the weeks run smoothly didn’t happen. Like cleaning the house. And laundry. And grocery shopping. And all the baking/cooking that I usually do on the weekends.
No breakfast muffins.
No chips or crackers.
Today for dinner we had Chinese takeout. The store bought loaf of bread that we currently have in our hosue has some chemicals in it. And *gasp* high fructose corn syrup.
And you know what? It’s ok. This week is about survival until next weekend. We may eat out a little bit more. I might grab a box of store bought granola bars to throw into lunches. Our yogurt might come in little cups.
And it’s ok.
You know what’s not ok? Allowing my identity as a wife and mother become wrapped up in how many additives my family does or does not eat. Allowing an obsession over chemicals in our food simply become a replacement for an obsession of calories.
It’s all about balance. REAL nutrition for REAL people. Sometimes REAL people get sick. Sometimes REAL people have to resort to survival mode until life gets back on track. Sometimes REAL people have “one of those weeks.” I’m here to tell you…