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It’s that time of year again, the time of year when we stand in the grocery aisle waiting on our turn to purchase all the goods we are picking up to feast on at that next holiday get together.  While we wait we have the opportunity to check out all the magazine covers.  If you have little ones that try to touch all of the last minute purchase items strategically located in the check out line, you are probably just surviving the wait, saying “don’t touch that” over and over.  But, if you are in the ‘I see all the magazine headlines’ camp, you’ll notice a hefty number telling you they have the answer when it comes to the dreaded “holiday weight gain.”  You’ll find tricks to help you not overeat sprinkled in between the low fat dessert options.  Everyone has the answer to losing the weight or not even gaining it in the first place.

As always, I’m going to need some grace and here’s the paragraph I’ll preemptively ask for your forgiveness.  Here it goes.  Are we seriously blaming Thanksgiving and Christmas for our waistlines?  We are smarter than that, right?!  I know some of you are shouting in your minds, Rita, it’s more than two days.  I have office parties, kids parties, three thanksgivings and six Christmases.  Well guys, I get it.  I didn’t pull those numbers out of thin air.  Those are my actual average yearly numbers and I didn’t even count Christmas morning breakfast at my own house with my kiddos.  So let’s add that up, around 13 festive meals over a month and a half time span.  Yeah, I’ll admit that’s a lot.  But I’m still sticking to it, don’t blame the holiday.  Rather, I’m going to tell you to enjoy every single bit of the season without the guilt.  Here is a quick list of how I do so.  Note: it doesn’t involve changing any of your recipes.

1. Find Joy

Where is your joy coming from?  What brings you the most joy?  Is it the extra slice of pie and serving of dressing?  Or, is it the people and spirit of the season?  I’ll tell you what, my favorite thing is visiting with people, that feeling of warmth and sparkle that can’t really be described.  Think about it, everyone is obsessed with hallmark holiday movies. What is it you enjoy about those movies, what’s memorable?  The treats they were eating or the love, joy, snow, cheer and happiness?  This is my first tip for a reason, joy is king.  If you are living a life of thanks and gratitude it’s unlikely you are going to be needing to find your holiday joy at the bottom of the dessert dish or pot of mashed potatoes. Give more, worry less, practice kindness and gratitude, you will find joy.

2.  Eat The Pie

Do you want to eat the dressing, mashed potatoes, a piece of pie?  I may not have hit your favorite food, but whatever it is for you, eat it.  Why deprive yourself?  Speaking from experience, deprivation always leads to overdoing it later.  So go for moderation rather than deprivation.  Moderation for me at most holiday meals looks like partaking in the whole slice of pie but saying no to seconds. If you do have seconds, it’s still ok.  Just remember tip number one (the part on where your joy comes from).  Partaking and participating in traditions keeps us feeling included.  I think the number one reason people who are actually willing to work toward their health goals fail, is it becomes too hard to feel excluded from life.  So be included and enjoy it!

3. Eat Your Greens

You knew it was coming right?  The last several Christmases I’ve taken a good spinach salad with homemade dressing…. and a plate of homemade chocolate goodness to most of the gatherings.  But I honestly have been treating my body good nutrition wise for long enough that I can’t do six Christmases without a good solid vegetable.  So when I fill my plate I make sure I’m getting greens in there with the pie potatoes and ham.  I know if I want something in particular, it’s my responsibility to make sure it’s there.  So I’ve tried to make veggies a holiday go-to for my contribution (especially during the six Christmas marathon) and it’s been a bigger hit than expected.  The greens also make holiday meals less of a departure from my normal healthy lifestyle.

4. Move More

Catching a Hallmark movie?  Throw down some planks and pushups.  Do a few squats while you watch.  Trust me, you have no idea how little it takes to make a difference.  Not watching Hallmark? Planks and jumping jacks while that pie is baking.  Its not hard and doesn’t have to take long. Just make some movement happen!  That’s all for number four.

5.  Drink Water

If you are having a soda with your Thanksgiving turkey, definitely don’t blame the holiday.  It’s the soda.  Drink water, plenty of it.  Even if I’m not over eating, often these big meals still leave me feeling sluggish and in carb overload. Drinking extra water will help flush out your system and feel better. 

6.  Don’t Skip Meals

I think a lot of women especially, do this.  We think since we are going to have a big meal later we should skip meals to “save” all of our calories for the day.  Let’s stop being crazy.  Eat some breakfast if you are going for a holiday lunch.  No, maybe you shouldn’t go for the buffet but at least have an egg or two. Skipping usually leads to over eating later, because you feel like you earned it with that missed meal.  Skipping meals to save up is not a good game plan.  If you disagree, try it my way once and see what happens.

I have lived all three types of holiday eating, overstuffed, deprived and mostly well balanced with a side of slightly overstuffed. I’d say the third option is definitely the best.  The above six tips are so simple, I know, but who wants complicated anyways?  

Last year this time I was thinking about this whole subject, women across America trying not to gain weight on Thanksgiving and lose it after.  All I could think of was my favorite holiday movie character, Cousin Eddie saying “you serious Clark?!” Last time I checked there are 365 days every year.  Yes, there are lots of meals, extra treats and festivities for the last forty some days, give or take, but it’s what we do consistently that adds up.  It’s not Thanksgiving or a few Christmas gatherings packing inches on our waistlines. If we go crazy, will it contribute?  Yes.  But for the most part, it’s the Dunkn’ Donuts or McDonalds drive thru on our way to work, pop-tarts as we head out the door, candy on our desks at work, extra whip on our morning coffee and all the skipped veggies and missed workouts the rest of the year. It’s the everyday that doesn’t receive the attention the holidays do.  So this year drink water, eat some greens and the pie, guilt free. Move a little while you watch Hallmark, find joy in meaningful places and soak up this holiday season, it’s totally worth it!

Blessings,

Rita

If you are already feeling the holiday pressure and anxiety read, Embrace the Imperfection.  Maybe it will give you a fresh mindset, and yes, there’s another Christmas Vacation reference.  That movie has obviously made quite the impression on me!

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With my husband being a farmer, beautiful fall weekends mean combine rides and lots of time where it’s just us girls hanging together, me and my two sweet daughters.  So sometimes our meal times are a little different than usual and the meals themselves can tend to be a little less than traditional.

Last Sunday was everything you think of when you think fall. The sun was shining but there was a enough of a chill in the air to wear a sweatshirt. It was absolutely beautiful.  So, when we got home from church I had all the fall feels, and wanted some fall flavor.  So I went with pumpkin pancakes for lunch… I know pumpkin, as the teens say, makes me “basic” right?!  Well, if liking a little fall flavor makes me basic (which I’m pretty sure means the same thing as boring), I’m good with it.  The pancakes were delish, the kids approved and I had the foresight to measure my ingredients and write down how I made them so I could share with you.  Bam. You are getting a recipe!

Ingredients
  • 1 1/3 C all purpose gluten-free baking flour
  • 1/3 C almond flour
  • 1 tsp Cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg
  • 3 Tbs baking powder (aluminum free)
  • 3 Tbs coconut sugar
  • 1 C pumpkin puree
  • 1 egg
  • 1 C milk
  • 3 Tbs oil
  • 2-3 Tbs apple cider vinegar

(if you do not wish to make your pancakes gluten free just omit the GF all purpose flour and almond flour.  Replace with 1 1/2 cups whole wheat or all purpose flour.  Also you may replace coconut sugar with a few tablespoons of honey)

In a medium bowl mix all dry ingredients. Beat egg separately.  Add the remaining ingredients to the already mixed dry ingredients including the egg.  Stir together with a fork, just until mixed. Don’t over stir. Scoop onto buttered skillet. From there, I think you’ve got it, right?!

Topping suggestion:  we always use REAL maple syrup and pecans taste perfect with the pumpkin flavor.  Or, for some added protein top with natural peanut butter. I’m telling you, it’s delicious that way and will stick with you.  I’m the girl in a quiet room at 10am that all of the sudden has a growling belly if I don’t get enough nourishment in the morning.  If you relate to that at all try the peanut butter suggestion.  I promise, upping the protein a bit helps!

Happy fall friends!

Rita

If you’d like another pancake variation click HERE
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Summer officially starts next week but it’s been hot here in the midwest for almost a month.  So, we’ve already been diving into summer traditions.  Softball, swimming, bike riding, and yep, ice-cream.  We are enjoying summer.

A few weeks ago when it  was 90° and smothering humidity my girls were laying on a blanket under the shade tree when one of them made the observation that it would be really great if their mom would bring them snacks.  The other one added it would be even better if that snack were a milkshake.  Naturally, right?! I mean hot summer days, kids and ice-cream go together like peanut butter and jelly.

So I obliged.  But I used a little mom magic and trickery to whip this into something we both love.  Ice-cream for the kids, veggies and fruit to make me feel like a great mom. Don’t get me wrong.  I am not opposed to regular old fashioned milkshakes or straight up ice cream every now and then.  In fact, I’m all for it.  Kids need to be kids. Heck, adults should enjoy ice cream sometimes.  While I am 100% for health I’m also for balance and living life.

I wanted to share this though.  Because while my kids readily belly up for veggies I know not everyone’s kids do.  This is a great yet sneaky way to treat your kid but also yourself by getting in veggies without a single cross word, begging or bribing.

Healthy Berry Mock-Shake

(recipe makes 2)

  • 1 Full scoop Vanilla Ice-cream
  • 1 large handful fresh spinach
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1 cup frozen mixed berries

Blend all ingredients in blender until spinach is undetectable and berries are well blended.

When I took these shakes out to my girls they did look at them for a second and question my honesty, “are these really milkshakes?”  Since they do include ice-cream I felt confident in my “yes, they are!”  Adding that I just made them berry flavor this time. Total truth.  They proceeded to suck them down without their mouths leaving the straws, except to prevent “brain freeze.”  BAM!  That is what I call a #momwin.

Smoothies are often a go to at our house on a busy day, but they never include a scoop of ice-cream.  These healthy berry mock-shakes are different, in that they do taste like a milkshake and are a healthy meets treat recipe. Change them up add your own twist and be sure to share with me so our family can give it a whirl!

Blessings,

Rita

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“Remember, simple ideas are still useful.” I heard these brilliant words on the radio yesterday afternoon and they completely struck me! Let’s just soak that up for a minute! In a world where over complicated and over the top crazy everything rules, at a time when many of us just finished hauling loads of gifts home from Christmas get togethers, simple is still relevant! All I could think was thank God!

This profound statement was made after the daily segment, “on this day in history” that airs on a local radio station. On this day in history, January 3rd 1888, Marvin C. Stone obtained the patent for the “modern” drinking straw. Yep, the straw. The radio broadcaster gave a short description of how Marvin came upon inventing the straw, which you can read about here. He then made the observation that yes, even 130 years later, simple is useful.

When I decided to start blogging and posting, it was with the goal of helping others find relief of their individual health struggles, whatever they may be, making healthier happier lives achievable. One of my main motivators in starting this journey was the over complication I observed in the world of health and fitness. I saw friends everywhere joining groups, asking how to count macros, contemplating cross fit, and trying to determine if it would be the paleo ketogenic or whole30 diet that would finally be the key to success. Others took to social media posting pictures of weight loss pills next to pizza and doughnuts, sure they could now eat anything and still shed the pounds. They’d eat their last ever bowl of ice cream buy a fitbit, meal prep like crazy and start super intense workout plans just to eventually stop because, yeah, it was super hard to keep up with!

Everywhere I looked I saw confusion and desperation for answers.  After having been on a health journey of my own, I wanted to help. I realize, while most (not all) of the above things I mentioned are totally fine, none of them are actually simple. Most people won’t ever start something if it’s too complicated, and then, if they do start, once it becomes hard to live and enjoy life, what happens? They give up and quit. So today I was brought back to my roots, the original thoughts that spurred this desire to offer others health help. Simple ideas that are still useful.

Yep, the following ideas are very simple. Some are sayings you’ve heard your entire life. Common? Yes. Relevant? Also yes!

6 simple and useful ways to stay healthy:
  1. An apple a day keeps the doctor away. Alright, I admit the simple act of eating an apple everyday isn’t going to be the key to keeping our bodies at peak performance. But there is truth in the root of the phrase: there is NO replacement for good nutrition. Eating right is one of the most impactful ways to keep our bodies functioning properly. In a world where so many are living like their health is entirely in the hands of fate, take responsibility, realize you have a role here. God only gives us one body to cary out this life in, so be good to it! Fresh fruits and veggies are key, eat up!
  2. Water is essential to life. Doesn’t get more simple than this. Drink water, lots of it. Ditch the pop, soda, or whatever title the bubbly sugary stuff goes by in your part of the world. Your body will say a big ol’ thank you!
  3. Worry is futile. Now, I must clarify preparing and worrying are two different things. I’m not promoting living a completely care free life, I’m all for responsibility. What I’m speaking to is actual worry, thinking and pondering things beyond our control. Guilty, guys. Yep, I’m totally guilty of this. But the concept that worrying less and living more can lead to greater happiness and better health is truly a simple idea that works. Need proof? Harvard health even has an article on the subject.
  4. Laughter is the best medicine. Ok this may be “just another saying” but seriously, type that phrase in the search bar. It’s legit. People who laugh more, those who are happy, really do experience better health and improved healing! (note: laughing is sort of the opposite of worry, right!?) So, pop in a funny movie, call a friend, better yet, get together with those friends that always leave you with your cheeks hurting from smiling so much and enjoy the benefits!
  5. Moving burns calories. Yep, I said it. You want to burn calories? Move more, do more. Pretty simple huh? Now you may find certain types of exercise work better for you than others. But it’s safe to say you will burn more energy (calories) by moving than you will by sitting still. So, get up and move!
  6. Clean hands save lives. Sound like an exaggeration? When it comes to hand washing, that phrase is the motto of the CDC, and this is one subject we agree on! After all being healthy isn’t just about keeping a trim waste line, it’s not getting sick too. While scrubbing those hands likely won’t keep you from catching anything ever, it will likely lower the risk of getting and spreading every single thing that goes around! When we were kids it was house rules to wash our hands before and after meals as well as the moment we returned home from going anywhere. (in addition to other normal hand washing, of course) Good practice, plain and simple. I’m personally passing those rules down to my kids.

SO simple, right!? I highly doubt anyone had a major revelation reading through the above six points. But that IS the point! Sometimes we spend so much time complicating it, trying to find new and better ways to do health that we forget the simplest, tried and true things that are tucked away somewhere in our memory.

Are there some awesome nutrition tricks out there? Sure thing! Are the cross fitters onto something when it comes to building muscle and burning fat, yep, I do believe so. Don’t get the wrong idea, I don’t want to discourage you from doing something BIG if you want to. I just wanted to throw out a reminder that the simple things we already know sometimes get clouded by the bright – new – shiny – fancy things. Bottom line, clean eating, drinking water, taking care of our mental health, moving and hand washing are the bones, the foundation to any healthy lifestyle. Plain, simple and still useful!

Enjoy, share and soak up the simplicity!

– Rita

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I’m a big fan of chili this time of year. There aren’t many things that go as well with a cool fall day, or even a cold winter day, as well as chili. I mean it’s even called chili, maybe spelled differently but the word’s associated with being cold! I guess coffee, goes pretty well with a cold day too, but coffee doesn’t fill your belly! Today, we are focusing on filling your belly with warm goodness!

You can ask my college roommate, we lived on three things throughout our years at Purdue. Chili, chips and salsa and…. well we won’t talk about the third. Let’s just say we’ve grown up a lot and into our faith even more.

I was the chili master and my roommie was the queen of salsa. I’ve since mastered new versions of both. Back then my chili involved a taco seasoning packet, rotel tomatoes and venison (which my roommate to this day is probably still mad about…. I told her it was beef).

Keeping it Clean

After the birth of our first daughter I really got into examining my spice cabinet and the ingredients in the foods and spices I cook with. Upon examination we were consuming a huge amount of preservatives, MSG, sugars and other extras that were non essential to the food we were preparing. We still cook nearly everything we used to, but now use fresh ingredients and skip the, who knows what’s in it, spice packets. We use real spices to flavor our food.

The Twist

This recipe is going to be just a touch different than the normal run of the mill chili I make. Since we have been making chili with fresh ingredients it hasn’t been quite as thick as the old stuff. I was pondering a remedy for this and came up with several but the idea that popped into my mind mid grocery store sent me running back to the produce section for a sweet potato. I’ve made what I call sweet potato chili before with cubed sweet potatoes but this was a completely different idea. I planned to cook it first and puree it just to sweeten and thicken it up a bit. That’s exactly what I did.

Here’s how I made it.

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb Ground pork (you may sub venison or beef)
  • 1 lb Bag Dry Red Kidney Beans
  • 4 pints Grape Tomatoes
  • 1 or 2 Sweet Potatoes (if you use 2 it will have a slight sweet potato flavor)
  • 2 green bell peppers chopped
  • 1 large red onion chopped
  • 1/4 Cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1 Tbs minced garlic
  • 1-2 Tbs garlic powder
  • 1-2 Tbs Chili powder
  • 1-2 Tbs Cumin
  • 1-2 Tbs Pink Himalayan Salt
  • 2-3 Cups water

Toppings:

  • Chopped green onion
  • Chopped fresh cilantro
  • Chopped fresh jalepeno
  • Shredded or chunked cheese
  • Chili Powder
  • Cayenne Pepper

Prepare the beans, there will be directions on the back of the bag. I often do the quick soak method. I rinse the beans then place them in a large pot covered with water. Bring to a boil for a minute or two then cover, remove from heat and let stand for an hour. Then rinse the beans thoroughly.

Brown the ground pork or meat of your choice. I like to add a dash or two of all the spices to the meat as it cooks (in addition to the amounts in the ingredient list) it helps meld the flavor into the meat.

Puree all four tomato pints, a food processor works well.

As you complete each step add each ingredient to the crockpot and stir it in. At this point also add 2-3 cups of water (just make sure its enough for your beans to absorb and soften), chopped onion and bell pepper as well as the spices, minced garlic and apple cider vinegar.

Bake your sweet potato. Use a knife to poke several slits in the potato then place in the microwave or oven until soft. (should take 4-5 min in the microwave). Cut in 1/2, scoop out the potato. Puree in food processor. Make sure it’s pureed very fine, no chunks. You will have to add a little water to allow for pureeing. Add to the crock and stir in well.

Cook on high for at least two hours. Turn to low and cook 3-4 more hours. In a crockpot your chili should cook at least 5-6 hours so the beans are cooked completely through and soft. Cooking chili longer is A – OK too!

Make it your own.

You may cook in jalepeno peppers or other hot peppers. If I had it my way mine would have plenty of heat. My girls however say otherwise. If I want hot chili I must dress it up after the cooking process. You can omit the sweet potato for a different texture and taste.  To serve I’ve added toppings our family likes, chopped green onion or cilantro jalepeno and cheese. You can add your own details here too!

Chili is a super healthy dish when made with great ingredients.  It can be easily changed to meet your specific tastes too!  However you like it, this recipe is a great base to start from.  I look forward to hearing how you made it special for your family!

Enjoy!

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If you follow me on instagram (and if you don’t you should, ha!), it’s no secret, avocados are one of my favorite foods. I’d say a pretty healthy percentage of my scrumptious meals pictured there include the wholesome avocado!  Therefore; I’ve decided it’s high time I cover the fruit (yes, apparently they are technically a fruit)!  I’m going to give you tips on choosing them, 7 ways to add avocados to your diet, and why they are so good!

How to Choose Avocados:

Well this may make me sound really silly, but assuming someone else needs to know, I’ll tell the story.

Several years ago when I first decided I’d try my hand at some homemade guacamole, I went to the store and picked the BEST looking avocados I could find!  I was so excited, this was going to be some good stuff!  I got them home and couldn’t mash them.  They were hard as a rock!  So, I thought and questioned, maybe the guac I love is made in a food processor?!  Well, my food processor wouldn’t cut it either-literally.

Guys- moral of the story: if you want to use them right away, don’t pick the bright green, really pretty avocados!  Buy ones that are darker green and give slightly with a light squeeze.  You want them to feel a little soft, not hard.  But not so soft that they are starting to shrivel or feel mushy (these are over ripe and will have bad spots when you cut into them).  If you don’t want to use them right away, go ahead and buy the pretty green ones. Just leave them out on the counter to slowly ripen.

Most of you will probably already know “how to choose” avocados. But as a now experienced buyer of avocados and maker of guacamole, I would have been served well to have it spelled out for me during my first attempt!

7 Ways to add Avocados to your Diet:

First, let’s talk breaking into these things!  Simply cut the avocado in half, scoop out the pit and then scoop out the actual fruit.  If you are wanting slices or cubes use your knife to cut the flesh while it’s still in the skin then spoon it out onto whatever dish you’re adding it to! Easy!

Here is a short list of how our family uses avocados:

  1. guacamole: here’s my recipe
  2. cubed on top of eggs or my-go-to meal
  3. sliced as a topping for burgers
  4. plain
  5. In a salad
  6. as a spread instead of butter or mayo
  7. blended in shakes
Why I like avocados SO much:

The fact that they are the main ingredient in guacamole is enough reason for me!  If that wasn’t enough for you, here are a few more reasons!

They are high in monounsaturated fats. Wait, fat is bad right?! Nope, not exactly. In this case there is actually plenty of research showing the opposite. According to this study, those who consume avocados  have a “significantly” smaller waist circumference, lower BMI and body weight, and are 50% less likely to have metabolic syndrome.  The type of fat they are high in, monounsaturated, is associated with aiding weight loss and blood sugar regulation.  This amazing food has even been shown to help prevent cancer!

If you weren’t enjoying avocados before, these are some pretty solid reasons to start!  Don’t you agree?

Look here for a few recipes.  If you have any tried and true ways you enjoy avocados, please share!

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