Healthy Eating, Lifestyle Change, Recipes, Uncategorized

Lunches for Little Ones: One Week at Our Table

For many families, lunch is a meal that often becomes nutritionally void as we gravitate toward quick and easy options like sandwiches and chips. Or we may get into a rut where we just can’t think of good options for ourselves and especially our children.

As a helpful visual, I photo documented one week’s worth of my daughter’s lunches (age 3). I did not pick and choose or plan this out, but rather gave you a completely honest picture of what one week of lunches looked like for us:

 

There are many other options that we did not happen to eat this week, but this will give you a starting point to consider what a realistic picture of healthy eating might look like in your home with small children as it does in mine.

Monday: Leftover pulled pork, mango, and avocado. Avocados are my favorite super-food go-to and I love that she will eat an entire avocado in one sitting (not all kids will do this, my son for example!). If your child likes avocado make it a regular part of lunches! It is simple for you and provides so many health benefits for them.

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Tuesday:
Banana, natural peanut butter, and strawberries.

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Wednesday: This was grocery day so we were scraping the bottom of the barrel (and refrigerator!). Banana Almond Butter Muffins and plain high fat Greek yogurt with a drizzle of local honey to sweeten.

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Thursday: This is an example of a meatless lunch I often serve that is packed with nutrition and will keep her full all afternoon. Avocados as previously mentioned are densely nutritious and filling. Similarly, almonds are a simple option that will load your child up on protein and nutrients, and paired with the avocado this lunch will provide your child with all the protein, nutrients, and healthy fats they need to stay full and energized. This is a great example of a lunch that you can throw together with very little food in the house yet still packs a nutritional punch.

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Friday: Leftover pork tenderloin, rice, and a carrot (I have found that giving her a carrot whole is much more “fun” for her than cutting it up or giving her baby carrots! Always look for things that make your child more interested in eating healthy foods and run with it!)

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Saturday: Leftover herb roasted chicken drumsticks, rice, homemade kale chips.

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Sunday: This was a get-home-from-church-and-find-something-to-feed-the-kids-before-naps kind of afternoon, so I pulled some gluten free bread out of the freezer to make a peanut butter sandwich with natural peanut butter.

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That was our week! Again, this isn’t an exhaustive list, but a jumping off point for you to consider ways you can tweak your family’s lunch lifestyle to foster healthier choices.

Here are some general tips for creating healthy lunches:

#1: Keep it simple. Don’t feel like you need to have a main course, vegetable, and side for every lunch. As you saw in the pictures, my kids often eat fruit rather than veggies at lunch and sometimes we go for non traditional lunch foods. Work with what you have and don’t feel like you need to have an elaborate meal to be healthy or a strictly “traditional” type lunch (as you saw, sometimes we just go for healthy muffins and yogurt!).

#2: Utilize leftovers. If I want a meat option at lunch, I always use leftovers. I make a point of cooking far more at every meal than we will eat that night so that we can have plenty of leftovers for dinner the next day or for lunch. Get creative with your leftovers–if you make roasted chicken with rice and a veggie for dinner, throw some leftover chicken and rice on a salad for your lunch the next day and pair your children’s with fresh fruit and maybe a dipping sauce. Leftovers have always been such a staple in my life I am always surprised by how many people don’t eat leftovers. If you are struggling to make healthy choices at lunch time this is a great way to start so that you can focus on cooking healthy meals for dinner which will then be available to you ready made for lunch the following day.

#3: Experiment with non-meat proteins. If I don’t have leftovers I always choose non-meat proteins and healthy fats for my kids such as avocado, high fat Greek yogurt, peanut butter, almonds, or cheese. Make sure you always have a few of these proteins on hand and some easy to prepare fruits or vegetables and you can easily mix and match based on what food you have in the house to provide a nutritious and filling lunch for your little ones.

Some babies and toddlers have a hard time with the texture of avocados. For my one year old son I puree avocado with fruit and a splash of water in my Nutribullet to create a creamy fruit puree. If your older toddler or preschooler doesn’t like the texture of avocados, you could make a simple guacamole with some lime juice, salt, pepper, and onion powder and let them dip veggies or crackers in it. Get creative to make nutritious foods enjoyable for your child!

I would love to hear some of your favorite healthy lunches in the comments!

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Fitness, Lifestyle Change, Uncategorized, Weight Loss

The Mom Workout

The big question facing many of us moms is this: how on earth do I find the time to get a workout in when I am juggling children, cooking, cleaning, bills, errands, grocery shopping, doctors appointments, school schedules, sports practice, and dance classes? If you are like me, exercise usually gets pushed back even farther than the back burner–it’s not even on the stove anymore!

My encouragement to moms who feel discouraged by their inability to stick to a workout routine is this–something is better than nothing. I think we often have unrealistic expectations of what a “workout” needs to be–30 minutes at the gym or a 2 mile run. If we can’t exercise the way we think exercise is done, we throw in the towel and assume it’s just not possible.

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For me, the answer was starting small. When I was initially trying to lose weight, I started with just 5 minutes every day. I would do four sets of four moves, 10 reps each. For example: 10 push ups, 10 sit ups, 10 squats, 10 lunges done four times through. It only took about 5 minutes (but let me assure you, when I first started that 5 minutes left me exhausted!). But over time as I was consistently getting my 5 minutes of exercise in I saw my strength increasing, my weight dropping, my energy growing, and my stamina improving. In just a few months I went from only exercising for 5 minutes to 45 minute workouts simply because I felt GOOD and wanted to keep going!

If you feel like you don’t have time to exercise, stick to the 5 minute plan. Everybody has an extra 5 minutes. If you don’t think you do, reevaluate where you might be able to create a 5 minute window. Do you spend 5 minutes per day scrolling social media? Do you spend 5 minutes snoozing on your alarm clock? I don’t suggest this as a guilt trip but rather a realistic examination of where you could create a window of time for exercise.

The next thing to do is to determine what time of day is the most practical for you to consistently be able to exercise. Is it first thing in the morning before the kids are awake? Is it in the evening once they are in bed? Is it nap time? Is it after breakfast while the kids are playing? Or maybe it’s with all your kids joining in with you! It will look different for everyone, but you have to decide for yourself what routine will most easily become a habit for you. It has to be something that will look the same every day otherwise you will easily forget and push it to the back burner once again. For instance, if you often go out of the house in the mid-morning, don’t plan to do it after breakfast. Find a time that you know you will always be home and without other obligations.

For me, this is after the kids go to bed. We stick to early bedtimes in our house (for mom and dad too!), so I know that no matter what the rest of our day looked like, both of my kids will be in their beds before 7:30PM, so this is my best window.

Finally, determine what you will do for your 5 minute workout. If you don’t have a plan in mind you will easily forgo your exercise because you aren’t ready to hit the ground running when your time window arrives. Personally, I like to do workout videos because it keeps me accountable to finish the workout and not give up early when I get tired. It also saves me time of having to decide what moves to do. I recommend POPSUGAR Fitness, available for easy viewing on their YouTube channel, particularly videos by trainer Anna Renderer. There are tons of other great workout videos on YouTube, just search “5 minute workouts” and you will have plenty of options!

If you don’t like videos, you can easily make up your own workout routines. If you are just starting out, stick to simple moves similar to what I mentioned above–things like push ups, sit ups, burpees, planks, lunges, and squats are a great place to start. You only have 5 minutes so go hard and keep your intensity up.

I know just how hard it is to be consistent in your workouts as a mom, but I encourage you not to let excuses get in your way! There is truly nothing that can keep you from getting 5 minutes of exercise in, even if it is just doing some squats and leg lifts while you are stirring a pot on the stove.

They say it takes 21 days to form a habit, so if you have struggled with consistent exercise in your schedule I recommend committing to one month of 5 minutes of exercise per day every day. Maybe even get some friends or your spouse to take the challenge with you to keep you accountable. Once you have built the habit you will not only be healthier but you will have made exercise a regular part of your routine.

Healthy Eating, Lifestyle Change, Uncategorized, Weight Loss

Food Journaling for Weight Loss

When I first decided to lose weight I opted to begin a food journal as a strategy for weight loss. While it obviously took hard work and discipline, I believe that my food journal was the primary strategy that allowed me to achieve my 40 pound weight loss goal in just a few short months. If you have struggled to see results in your weight loss goals, or if you simply struggle to be consistent in making healthy choices, food journaling can be an incredibly helpful tool to keep you on track. It can also help you pinpoint things like food intolerances or sensitivities of which you may otherwise be unaware.

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The basic idea of food journaling is that you record every single thing that you eat and drink in the entire day, right down to your morning coffee and the granola bar you eat in the car. You will need to keep your food journal close by and convenient so that you don’t miss anything. Some people make food journaling complex with calorie counts and in depth nutrition facts. I kept it extremely simple by recording only my food and drink, my weight, daily exercise, and any mood or physical changes (upset stomach, headache, etc.).

The incredible thing about food journaling is that you will find yourself making more consistently healthy choices solely because you know that you will have to write down what you eat! It may be purely mental, but it is much easier to say no to that slice of cake at the potluck or to the bag of chips in the pantry when you know you will have to write it down in your log. It has perfect built in accountability, even if that accountability is only between you and your journal!

Another option if you are still struggling to make healthy choices is asking a trusted family member or friend to be your accountability partner. It may sound silly, but having somebody look over your food log weekly can help to give you the motivation to stay consistent in your new healthy lifestyle and be able to reach your goals.

There are several apps out there for food journaling if you prefer to make your log electronically (Calorie Counter from MyNetDiary seems to be a popular one). Personally, I am a pen and paper kind of gal, and I recommend making your food journal in a notebook rather than in an app. It may just be my personal preference, but I liked recording only what I wanted without all the extra things (calorie counts, nutrition info, restaurant menus, etc.). I also liked to be able to flip through my log easily without having to navigate through an app. Having a paper log will also allow you to scribble in any notes that you want to have recorded.

There are also some food logs for purchase to make a paper log simpler and streamlined. The best one I have come across is the I Love my Food and Exercise Journal. It provides you with 10 weeks worth of logs and allows you to record food and drink, exercise, mood, hunger levels, and your satisfaction with your food and exercise choices for the day. This log helps to ensure that you follow through on the full 10 weeks rather than going strong for 3 or 4 weeks then allowing it to fall by the wayside. Ten weeks is long enough to instill wonderful lifestyle habits that will continue long after the food log ends. And at less than $10 this small investment will have far greater benefits.

What I loved about the food log was that it was a good way to keep track of my weight loss compared to my food choices and exercise. Not only was I able to see my progress over the many weeks of logging, but I also could see when my unhealthy choices in food or lack of exercise stalled or reversed my progress.

Finally, if you have ever wondered if you have some undiscovered food intolerances–perhaps you have frequent bloating, headaches, sluggishness, or GI distress–a food log can often pinpoint these issues. You may have never made the connection between a physical symptom and a specific food, but food logs can track what foods are consistently present on the days when symptoms occur.

I would have loved to share a picture of my actual food log, but unfortunately 3 moves later I have no idea where it is or if I still have it! But I have created a sample to show you the idea of what it would look like.

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I am happy to answer any specific questions you have or help you set up a food log of your own. I hope that this can be a practical tool for you to create healthy lifestyles in your own life!

Healthy Eating, Recipes, Uncategorized

Homemade Almond Milk

Did you know that store bought almond milk is typically only about 2% almonds? That means 98% of your half gallon of almond milk is something other than almonds, oftentimes including additives. Because of the lack of almonds present, store bought almond milks are low in protein and calcium and don’t contain many beneficial nutrients that would come from almonds.

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Almonds are incredibly nutritious–antioxidants, vitamins, blood sugar control, and more–so the more you can throw them into your daily diet the better! So finding a way to make your almond milk full of ACTUAL almonds is a great way to reap these benefits. Making homemade almond milk ensures that there are no additives going into your milk and you are getting only the pure ingredients–just almonds and water!

Besides the health benefits, the taste of homemade almond milk is far superior to that of store bought. Particularly when used to make smoothies, homemade almond milk will give you a much more full and creamy taste.

 

The ratio of almonds to water is really up to you. To make a milk resembling the thickness of 2% milk, I recommend a 1 to 2 ratio almonds to water (1 cup of almonds to 2 cups of water). However, if you are on a tight budget I recommend cutting back on the amount of almonds to stretch how far they will go. This will yield a thinner milk more resembling skim milk. I typically use 2/3 cup almonds to 2 cups water.

The great thing about making almond milk is it takes less than 5 minutes! Just dump your almonds and water in your NutriBullet or blender, blend for 20 seconds, then strain through a nut milk bag or cheesecloth. Done! I recommend making small batches to be used within 2 days for optimal freshness.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup almonds (or less for a thinner milk, 1/2 cup minimum)
  • 2 cups water

Directions:

  1. Blend almonds and water in NutriBullet or blender for 15-20 seconds
  2. Pour into a nut milk bag to strain. Squeeze the bag well to ensure that all liquid is extracted.
  3. Store in a jar in the refrigerator up to 2-3 days.

Be sure to check out my smoothie recipes once you have your almond milk ready!

Healthy Eating, Recipes, Uncategorized

Smoothies

Both of my kids started their morning today with a large serving of kale. Doesn’t that sound like a joke? I swear it’s true! I find smoothies to be one of the easiest ways to be sure that my young children are getting plenty of power packed veggies in their daily diet such as spinach or kale, and I love that it can be the very first food they eat for the day. What a great way to start the day!

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A great tip I recently learned is that you can actually freeze kale or spinach for your smoothies. Just toss fresh greens into a large Ziploc and throw it in the freezer. You can then pull from that for your smoothies and it will not effect the taste or consistency whatsoever. This was revolutionary for me! No more wasting half a bag of kale that went bad before I could get to it!

Most people use a protein powder in smoothies, and if you are working on a tight budget, you might feel like smoothies wind up being too expensive when all is said and done. But you really don’t need an expensive protein powder! If cost is an issue I recommend keeping your smoothies very simple and just using almond butter or peanut butter to add some extra protein and thickness to your smoothie. Even if it doesn’t have enough protein to be a meal replacement, it is still a perfect way to slip veggies in for your kiddos, particularly those green ones they don’t typically like to eat! And in these warm spring and summer months coming up, it is a refreshing and healthy alternative to something like ice cream.

If you do opt for a protein powder (and they really are great if you can!), these are a few of my favorites. They are all low-glycemic options that are not loaded with sugar and are also complete meal replacement powders.

  1. Primal Fuel Low Carb Meal Replacement Powder : This powder comes in chocolate or vanilla. It is truly delicious and makes your smoothies taste almost like a milk shake! I especially love the chocolate powder because if I don’t want to make a smoothie I can mix it with Riley’s milk in the morning as well to make “chocolate milk”–she thinks she is getting a treat, and I know she is getting a primal fuel meal replacement! (*Note: this powder does contain whey protein, so if you are highly sensitive to dairy check out some of the other options)
  2. Isagenix Isalean Chocolate Shake and Isagenix Isalean Vanilla Shake : These plant based shakes are meal replacement powders that promote weight loss and muscle building. Low-glycemic and high in protein.
  3. Bob’s Red Mill Chocolate Protein Powder (with Chia seed and Probiotics) : This is another plant based protein powder and has added probiotics as well as super food chia seeds. It is sweetened with monk fruit extract which makes it another low-glycemic option.
  4. Left Coast Performance Bone Broth Chocolate and Bone Broth Vanilla Protein Powder : Bone broth proteins have so many great health benefits, plus there are no additives or fillers. Also, Left Coast Performance offers a 100% money back guarantee!

For smoothies I LOVE my Nutribullet. If you have ever felt like your smoothies don’t come out quite smooth enough in the blender, you will love the Nutribullet–I have never had such a creamy smoothie. It can even break down things like nuts and seeds and turn it into a creamy and delicious smoothie consistency. You can certainly use a blender, but I believe the price of the Nutribullet (currently under $70 here), is worth it if you plan on making smoothies consistently. Particularly when working with a green like kale, nothing can compare with something like a Nutribullet to blend it to a completely smooth texture, which is often crucial when working with young kids!

I also recommend making homemade almond milk to use in your smoothies (check out my simple homemade almond milk recipe!) Homemade almond milk is much more nutritious than store bought and does not contain all the additives. Plus, it contains far and away more actual almonds in the finished product (store bought almond milk is surprisingly lacking in actual almond content!), and it will give your smoothies a much richer taste. (I also use my Nutribullet for making almond milk!) Coconut milk is also great in smoothies and has tons of health benefits. I opt for almond milk because our family is slightly sensitive to coconuts, but if you prefer a coconut milk I recommend getting a powdered coconut milk like this one. The powder will be most cost effective over the long run, and you can simply mix a small amount with water when you want to make a smoothie so there will be no wasted product.

Before we get to the recipes, I wanted to share my favorite sippy cup option for my kids to drink smoothies from. All moms know that sippy cups are not all created equal, and it is particularly difficult to find one that works for smoothies. These cups have a one piece lid so you can easily clean them without worrying that there is old smoothie stuck in the valve, and they have very minimal dripping issues. I also like the plastic spout so that my 1 year old doesn’t resort to chewing on the rubber spout and dribbling smoothie all over himself (fun for him, not so much for me!). You can order them here! (These are also our go to milk cups!)

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Here are a few of our favorite smoothie recipes, but the options are endless depending on your favorite flavors! If using a Nutribullet, blend for about 30 seconds or until all kale pieces have been completely emulsified and are no longer visible.

Chocolate Almond:

  • 1 large handful kale or spinach
  • 1 large banana, frozen or fresh (if using fresh, add 3 ice cubes)
  • 1 tablespoon almond butter
  • 1 heaping tablespoon cocoa OR 1 scoop chocolate protein powder of choice
  • 1 1/2 cups almond milk

Vanilla Almond:

  • 1 large handful kale or spinach
  • 1 large banana, frozen or fresh (if using fresh, add 3 ice cubes)
  • 1 tablespoon almond butter
  • 1 scoop vanilla protein powder of choice OR 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups almond milk

Strawberry banana:

  • 1 large handful kale or spinach
  • 1 large banana, frozen or fresh
  • small handful frozen strawberries
  • 1 tablespoon almond butter
  • 1 scoop vanilla protein powder of choice (optional)
  • 1 1/2 cups almond milk

Mango Avocado:

  • 1 large handful kale or spinach
  • 1 large banana, frozen or fresh (if using fresh, add 3 ice cubes)
  • large handful frozen mango
  • 1/4 of an avocado
  • 1 scoop vanilla protein powder of choice (optional)
  • 1 1/2 cups almond milk

Blueberry Almond:

  • 1 large handful kale or spinach
  • 1 large banana, frozen or fresh (if using fresh, add 3 ice cubes)
  • large handful frozen blueberries
  • 1 tablespoon almond butter
  • 1 scoop vanilla protein powder of choice (optional)
  • 1 1/2 cups almond milk

 

I would love to hear your favorite smoothie flavor! We are always looking for new ideas!

 

Uncategorized

Elderberry Syrup (Cold and Flu Remedy)

This year, 2017-2018, was one of the worst flu seasons in quite awhile. Cold and flu season, particularly with kids, makes me want to just hibernate until spring. Riley and I have always had a tendency to trade colds back and forth to one another all winter. I was so nervous this year about heading into cold and flu season with TWO kids instead of one, thinking that we would be out for the count for months with sickness upon sickness.

Here we are, nearing the end of March, and (knock on wood!) not a single one of us has gotten even the sniffles since we headed into the fall! And the reason for that, I believe, is this magical stuff right here–homemade elderberry syrup.

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Black elderberries (sambucus nigra) have been shown to contain immune boosting properties, and can even speed your recovery if you do contract a cold or the flu. This is a simple recipe using dried elderberries to make a syrup that can be taken daily to boost immunity particularly during flu season, or every few hours to speed recovery.

The cost of the elderberries can seem like a large initial expense at first, but one bag will last you quite a while. My sister and I actually split a one pound bag back in December, and I am only just now running out this week after about 4 months of our entire family taking it daily. So when I order a one pound bag this time, I expect that it will last me about 8 months. (You can order your bag here!)

Making this homemade syrup will save you loads of money over store bought elderberry syrup, as well, and it is extremely simple to whip up. You can even keep it in small portions in the freezer (I use small Ziplocs) so that you can be prepared if you feel a cold coming on.

Typically elderberry syrup is made with raw honey, which contains some great health benefits. However, some may be sensitive to honey, or you may be making syrup for a child under age 1 who cannot have honey yet. If so, I recommend mixing your syrup with a bottle of 100% juice instead.

Ingredients:

  • 2/3 cup dried black elderberries
  • 3 1/2 cups water
  • 1 tablespoon fresh or dried ginger
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon cloves
  • 1 cup raw honey OR 1 bottle of 100% juice (any variety)

Directions:

  1. Place all ingredients EXCEPT honey/juice in a medium saucepan
  2. Bring to a boil then cover and reduce to simmer for about 1 hour, or until liquid has reduced to about half. Remove from heat and allow to cool.
  3. Using a spoon or potato masher, mash the berries in the pot. Pour through a strainer into a bowl or jar and discard berries.
  4. Add either honey or juice and mix well. Store in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks, or freeze for up to several months.

Dosage: If using honey, give 1 teaspoon daily for children and 1 tablespoon daily for adults to boost immunity. If using juice the syrup will be more diluted, so I would increase dosage to about 1 tablespoon for children and 2-3 tablespoons for adults.

Healthy Eating, Recipes, Uncategorized

Flourless Almond Butter Blender Muffins

 

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We have a general rule in our house that we don’t do much baking, even of healthy options like this one. The reason for this is that ALL of us lack all self control when we see a fresh pan of muffins or the like come out of the oven. It doesn’t matter how hungry we are, we just can’t stop. So if for no other reason than our finances, I try not to make these every week. But there are some days that are just long and we need a little afternoon pick-me-up, or a day when Jared is home and I just feel like celebrating with a special breakfast. On those days, these little guys are the perfect go to, and since they are gluten and dairy free, they should work for a wide audience.

The bulk of the muffins are made with almond butter, banana, and egg, so they are packed with protein, and the low sugar content means these can be a great option for breakfast or a quick snack. I particularly love having these for our 3 year old who feels like she is getting a treat!

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The best thing about these? Simply dump all your ingredients into the blender or food processor and whip it up. Simple, quick, and easy cleanup!

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These won’t be identical to the bakery type muffins you are used to that are made with wheat flour, but I guarantee they will be enjoyed in their own right and are a great way to mix things up in your healthy eating, particularly if you are avoiding gluten. In the past I had made muffins similar to this with peanut butter and enjoyed them, but when Jared and I decided to cut peanuts out of our diet I decided to try it with almond butter and I think I like it even better! The almond butter adds such a subtle nuttiness rather than the in-your-face flavor of peanut butter which I have come to really enjoy. While I type this I am enjoying one of these muffins with a piping cup of Starbucks Verona blend and loving the mild sweetness and rich flavor.

If you are looking to really limit your sugar intake just skip the chocolate chips, or get a high cocoa content bar (I would suggest 85%) and chop it up. If it was just me I would probably skip the chocolate altogether, but my daughter has inherited my love of chocolate and in her mind a muffin simply is not a muffin unless it has chocolate! So we throw a few in. But even without the chocolate, these muffins are plenty sweet on their own.

Theoretically these can be stored in an airtight container on the counter for 3 to 4 days, but ours have never lasted that long to test it! They can also go in the freezer for up to several months.

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Ingredients:

  • 2 ripe bananas
  • 1 large egg
  • heaping 1/2 cup almond butter
  • 2 tablespoons honey or maple syrup (I use maple syrup so that our littlest one can enjoy them–no honey before age 1!)
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • a few shakes of salt (optional)
  • 1/4 cup dark chocolate chips (optional)

Directions:

  • Preheat oven to 375F and spray muffin pans with nonstick cooking spray
  • Place all ingredients except chocolate chips into your blender or food processor and blend on high until smooth and creamy, about 30 seconds to 1 minute
  • Add chocolate chips and stir
  • Spoon into prepared muffin pans. Each muffin should be filled about 3/4 full
  • Bake for 8 to 9 minutes for mini muffins or 16-18 minutes for regular muffins. Muffins will look set and springy to the touch.

*yields approximately 12 standard muffins

I would love to hear how these turned out for you! Comment below and be sure to subscribe so you don’t miss any more recipes for your journey to a healthy lifestyle!

Healthy Eating, Lifestyle Change, Uncategorized, Weight Loss

Lifestyle Change

As I begin to share with you about how to make healthy choices and lifestyle changes in your own life, I want you to hear a little bit about how I came to these conclusions and first implemented lifestyle changes in my own life.

Our daughter Riley was born in March of 2015. She was our first child, we lived far from family, and Jared was taking full time classes in seminary and working full time in management at Chick-fil-a. Riley was what I would call a “challenging” newborn–late nights crying, multiple feedings throughout the night every couple of hours, and overall fussiness throughout the day. Due to work circumstances Jared had to close almost every night  so he was not able to help with the exhausting bedtime battles. The months went by and I was exhausted–physically and emotionally. We finally got through the newborn stage and things began to improve in the day, but she continued to nurse throughout the night, and Jared continued to work late nights after being in class during the day. So, without realizing it at the time, I began to self medicate as it were with food, or “emotional eating” as I like to call it. After I would get Riley to bed at night I would feel as though I deserved some type of treat, so I would whip something up–usually involving chocolate–and eat it by myself before bed.

I didn’t think much of my eating habits for awhile. But slowly my sweet tooth continued to grow and we got to the point that we were buying a tub of ice cream almost every week at the grocery store. I started to feel uncomfortable in my clothes, but I assured myself that it was okay because I had just had a baby, and besides, I was so young when I got pregnant that there was a good chance I hadn’t reached my full adult weight prior to pregnancy anyway. So I bought some looser fitting clothes and continued to eat my nightly.

One day I finally decided I needed to start attempting to exercise again, which I had not done since before pregnancy (and I’ll be honest, I had barely done much at all even before that). Up until this point we didn’t have a bathroom scale, so I decided to buy one to help motivate myself with my new exercise routine. What I found out when I stepped on the scale was that I weight the exact same then, 7 months postpartum, as I did when I was full term in my pregnancy–a pregnancy in which I had gained 40 pounds I might add!

Suffice it to say that motivated me. It wasn’t just that I felt “fat”–I wasn’t healthy and I knew it. I was tired and sad and in a spiral of bad choices. So I took some action steps to begin forming new habits. I didn’t want to just go on a “diet” to lose weight, I wanted to change the way I ate and lived for the better long term. For the first couple of months I kept a food and exercise journal in which I wrote down every single thing I ate over the course of the day along with my daily weight and what type of exercise I did. My exercise routine started as just 5 minutes a day (about all I could handle), but over the course of the next 6 months I was able to work up to exercising for about 45 minutes at a time. I also managed to lose the full 40 pounds (plus a bit more!) in those 4-6 months. Obviously I was thinner but more than that I was HEALTHY. I had more energy. I was happier.

Shortly after I achieved my goal weight I got pregnant with our son, and I will say at almost a year postpartum now I am no where near where I was in terms of exercise goals. But the way in which I changed my lifestyle when it came to food and fitness was incredibly helpful for my last pregnancy. I struggle with terrible morning sickness throughout pregnancy, but even so, having the habits built in to gravitate toward healthy eating and healthy choices helped me to remain healthy and fit throughout my pregnancy in ways that I did not in my first pregnancy. I gained scarcely 25 pounds in my second pregnancy and was able to bounce back to my pre-baby weight within just a few months even before I started to exercise. Once again this proved to me that healthy bodies are first and foremost made in the kitchen, not the gym!

But honestly, it’s not about the numbers. The great thing about learning to make consistently healthy food choices is that you don’t have to worry about your weight. In fact, throw the scale out if you want! It really doesn’t matter, because if you are feeding your body with the proper nutrients it needs, and you are giving your body the proper exercise that it needs, you will achieve YOUR healthy weight. It might not be the same weight as your sister or best friend or that girl who drives you crazy because she always seems so perfect without even trying. But I guarantee it will be perfectly healthy for you. And once you achieve that, there is no pressure for dieting or hating on your body. You can be confident in your skin knowing that you are taking care of yourself and your body will be a reflection of that.

The reason I emphasize a “lifestyle change” is that I believe that a healthy body cannot be achieved by merely a temporary diet or some type of pill. You will only find true health when you begin giving your body the proper nourishment that it needs so that it can function to its highest capacity. Food is not irrelevant! You may feel as though this change is impossible, but I promise you that you can in fact change your habits and even your taste for food. Eating real food doesn’t have to be hard, time consuming, or even expensive. And believe me, the payoff is invaluable.

I plan to share more specifics in the days to come about how I achieved weight loss, set up workout routines in my busy mom schedule, and share plenty of easy to follow recipes for healthy eating that is family friendly, so be sure to subscribe so you can follow this journey with me!

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