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Broccoli and Cheese Twice Baked Potatoes

It’s recipe Wednesday! We love finding healthy recipes of some of our favorite dishes and then sharing them with you! This delicious version of twice baked potatoes comes from skinnytaste.com. Don’t they look amazing?

Go here for the full recipe and let us know what you think!

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photo credit: skinnytaste.com
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Green is not my color…

Studies have shown that diets high in fruit and vegetable intake have a much lower risk of heart disease. I don’t know about you, but I find getting more than enough fruits in daily to be very easy, vegetables, on the other hand… let’s just say green is not my color. I aim for at least 5 servings of veggies every day. As a result, I’ve had to get rather creative in coming up with ways to make sure I’m getting enough. I figured if I was struggling, you might be too so today I’m going to share my suggestions for easy ways to increase your veggie counts:

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  1. Raw vegetables taste yummier with dips. The problem is that dressings, such as ranch tend to be high in fat and other not so good ingredients. As a substitute, you can make your own ranch dip at home using fat free greek yogurt and a dry ranch pack, or dip your veggies in hummus.
  2. Out of sight out of mind really is a thing. Keep raw, pre-cut vegetables in a see through container in your line of sight in the fridge. When they’re just shoved into your produce drawer unwashed and uncut, you are less likely to pull them out and eat them as quick snack.
  3. Serve veggies with every meal and eat them first! I learned when I was growing up that eating vegetables at dinner was not optional (ask my sister about being traumatized by peas as a child). Mom served at least one vegetable every night and you were required to eat a sufficient serving, like it or not. I have kept that practice as an adult (luckily I get to choose the vegetable now, so it’s guaranteed to be one that I like), but I learned as a kid to just eat it and get it over with so I can finish my meal with food that was more enjoyable to me.
  4. Bulk up your foods with spinach. Ok, hear me out on this one: spinach pretty much tastes like nothing, but it packs a huge crunch and nutritional value! I add it to everything. Making a basic salad? Add spinach. Making a sandwich? Scrap the lettuce, top it with spinach. Pasta? Sauté spinach and add it to your sauce. If you make shakes or smoothies for breakfast, blend some spinach in, you probably won’t even notice the difference!
  5. Hide the veggies. Sometimes it’s just easier to trick ourselves and our kids (or in my case: my husband), and hide the vegetables in foods they already like. Mash cauliflower in with your potatoes, top baked potatoes with broccoli and cheese, make your spaghetti sauce from scratch using unsalted, no sugar added tomato sauce, diced tomatoes and other veggies. It really is easier than you think to sneak in an extra serving of vegetables without them even realizing it.

So there are my quick tips to eat more vegetables. Do you have any you want to share? Let me know if you tried any of these and found them helpful!

 

Why do I do that?

This past Saturday was Chris’s birthday! I don’t know about you, but I love, love, love birthdays. I love making big celebratory gestures for the people that I love. I can’t imagine what my life would be like without him in it, so he deserves to be celebrated. We don’t really do big gifts for birthdays, it’s not necessarily about tangible things, I just like for him to really know on that day especially that he is undoubtedly loved and treasured. I have taken him on trips in the past to see and do things that I know he will enjoy, like museums in D.C., or just away for the weekend locked away in a oceanfront hotel room (yes in January) to give ourselves time to reconnect and relax. Sometimes we just stay home and spend the day together as a family. No matter the big agenda, there is ALWAYS  a birthday dinner. Usually that dinner includes my whole family because my brother-in-law and my sister both have January birthdays as well.

This year our birthday celebration started a few days early as we had a babysitter Thursday night and were able to go to dinner and movie kid free on a school night (woohoo!). So Thursday night (which also happened to be National Popcorn Day) we indulged and went to Olive Garden for dinner (because pasta) and had snacks at the movies. We had so much fun, the movie was adorable and dinner was delicious. I didn’t feel guilty because it was a special occasion, and I believe in all things in moderation, no big deal. And then Friday came. We were back on track nutritionally, I made dinner like usual, we were doing good. I had sent our oldest daughter out to Target to grab some streamers and balloons to decorate the house for Chris to wake up to on Saturday, and then I had the thought: birthdays need birthday cake right?? (Anyone who knows me can tell you birthday cake is one of my biggest weaknesses. I LOVE birthday cake! To me cake is like therapy, lol. Happy? Celebrate with birthday cake. Rough day? Cake will make you feel better.) YES!! We needed birthday cake! I messaged Amber to bring home cake too. Y’all, we didn’t even wait until his birthday. I’m so weak *sigh*.

Ok, so now it was finally Saturday, his actual birthday. We had plans to go out to dinner with the whole family to celebrate all of the January birthdays. We ended up going to Applebee’s. Ummmmmmm…Have you ever heard of the Apple Chimi-Cheesecake?? This dessert is AMAZING: cheesecake wrapped in a tortilla, deep-fried, coated in cinnamon and sugar, served with fried apples and ice-cream, all drizzled with caramel. Yeah, I’ll take one of those please.

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Saturday’s birthday dinner with my family

Three days in a row! Three days in a row I royally screwed up my food plans. Ugh! Why do I do that? The upside is that I did at least continue to work out and drink my water, lol. So there’s my Monday confession: just in case you were wondering, I’m not perfect. I still make REALLY bad food choices sometimes. The lesson that I have learned though is that I don’t have to beat myself up about them. One bad choice, or three, does not have to derail all of my progress. I have come way too far to turn back now. Here’s to Monday: a new day, a new week, a fresh start, lots of water and foods that are green!

How was your weekend?

Love Wins

It’s here, a day that has been much anticipated and dreaded at the same time. Today we swear in the 45th President of the United States. Don’t worry, I’ve never been one to speak politics and I don’t intend to start now. This post is personal, my personal challenge to you.

Whether you voted for President Trump, whether you didn’t, the fact remains that he is the President. For some I know that the thought of that incites paralyzing fear, while it gives others extreme pleasure. I personally lie somewhere in the middle of that spectrum. The one thing that gives me the greatest reassurance though, I know that no matter who is in charge of leading our country, there is only One who is in charge of the universe, and ultimately that means: LOVE WINS.

This election has brought out a lot of ugliness and hate on both sides. It has broken my heart to see friends turned against friends, families at each other’s throats. So, today, my Friday Challenge is simple: show love this weekend, show compassion, show grace. As the great Martin Luther King, Jr once said, “hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that.” Show love to your friends who disagree with you. Show compassion to the stranger who crosses your path at the grocery store. Show grace to the person who cuts you off in traffic. Buy a meal for the homeless man you pass on your way to work. Be the change you want to see in others, and remember: LOVE WINS.

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Building a Better You Part 1

It seems that everyone is looking for that quick fix, a magic get fit overnight exercise plan. I’m here to deliver the bad news….there isn’t one. However, with the 3 “D’s”, some commitment, and a few helpful tips, success is easily attainable. Dedication, Desire, and Determination combine to form a pretty good start out formula for success, but we’re here to give you a few tips on how to improve those ends results. Here are the first few:

Strengthen Your Core- Sit-ups, planks, ab roller, whatever you want to do, just do it. Your abs and your core are actually key to building a healthy and strong body. There are so many variations out there that you could spend 30 mins a day, everyday doing an ab workout with different exercises. So, find ones that are fun and a little challenging and knock them out.

Flatten Your Gut- Along with the previous tip on strengthening your core and doing ab workouts, developing a healthy and successful meal plan is key. Weight loss is 80/20. That means, it’s 80% what you eat and 20% workouts. We’ve all heard the saying, “You can’t out exercise a bad diet” and that is so true. Discipline in the meal department is crucial for weight loss and that elusive six-pack.

Buy Shoes That Fit- Whether you’re walking, running, or just need a good traction shoe for the gym, make sure you take the time to find the right shoe. Try shoes on later in the day when your feet expand the most. Also, make sure you’re buying the correct shoe for your target activity. A walking shoe will support and function on your feet a little differently than a running shoe. Do your research, figure out the right fit, and spend that extra money to have the right wheels, because comfort will help you get through a workout when the rest of your body is on the brink of exhaustion.

Lose Your Weak Spot- Are you having troubles with push-ups? What about sit-ups? Does that 1 mile run feel like torture? If those answers are yes, that’s because those are the things that expose your weak spots. You need to find these “spots” and train them, really push the limits each time, further and further. The chain is only as strong as its weakest link and you need to make sure you’ve covered all your links and are training the weak ones extra hard.

Eat Meat and Grow- Chicken, beef, fish, they are all full of the protein your body needs to build lean muscle mass. A good goal is to consume roughly between 4-8oz. of meat every day. Meat also have a plethora of nutrients like: B12, B3 (Niacin), B6, iron, zinc, selenium, just to name a few. So, make sure you’re taking in enough protein every day!

I hope this was useful in helping you understand that fitness can be simple once you have a grasp of what your mind and body need. Next week we’ll discuss more, and give you some tips on how to lift and exercise properly and safely. Happy gains and losses!

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Beef Stir Fry

It’s Recipe Wednesday! A few days ago, I got a craving for Chinese food. Rather than order takeout, I decided to make something on my own. It was delicious, so I thought I would share.

 

Beef Stir Fry

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound lean steak, cut into strips or bite size pieces
  • 1 small onion, cut into strips
  • 8 oz snow peas
  • 8 oz carrots sliced (I used pre-cut chips)
  • 1 cup fat-free, low sodium beef broth
  • 2 tsp sesame oil
  • 1 Tbs coconut oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 Tbs whole wheat flour
  • 2 Tbs low-sodium soy sauce
  • sesame seeds (optional)

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Directions:

Heat coconut oil in non-stick skillet over medium heat, add steak and brown on the outside. Once the steak is browned, add vegetables, garlic, and beef broth. Simmer uncovered about 10 minutes or until vegetables are tender and meat is cooked through. Add sesame oil, soy sauce, and flour, continue to simmer 5-7 minutes until sauce thickens slightly. Serve over brown rice or quinoa, top with sesame seeds.

 

Voila! Quick, easy, and delicious. If you don’t like my choice of vegetables, you can always substitute any veggies you prefer. I like my stir fry veggies to have a little crunch, but you can adjust the cooking time if you prefer them on the softer side. Let me know what you think!

 

You’re not fake, why should your food be?

In this world of low-calorie, low-carb diets, artificial sweeteners have kind of taken center stage, but are they really as good for us as people tend to believe? Newer studies have found that they may not be. Artificial sweeteners are most commonly found in diet drinks, but are also used to sweeten other foods, such as: cereal, yogurt, and juice. Science has revealed that people who drink diet soda regularly are at higher risk for obesity than people who don’t drink soda at all, and are also at higher risk for type 2 diabetes and heart disease. Artificial sweeteners have also been known to be a trigger for migraine headaches.

Studies have shown that artificial sweeteners “confuse” the brain. When we eat something sweet our reward center in the brain is activated, releasing dopamine and causing our bodies to want more. When actual sugar is consumed, the body will release the hormone leptin once a sufficient amount of calories have been taken in, signaling that you are full. When we eat/drink artificial sweeteners, the same reward center in the brain is activated, but because the caloric intake never comes, the full signal is never received. This in turn causes cravings for more sweets and carbs.

Artificial sweeteners continue to become more and more potent, the most popular ones on the market today include:

Aspartame (Equal)- 180 times sweeter than sugar

Saccharin (Sweet’N Low)- 300 times sweeter than sugar

Sucralose (Splenda)- 600 times sweeter than sugar

Consuming these highly concentrated sweeteners cause the body to be less receptive to sugar because it doesn’t taste nearly as sweet. This again results in the body craving more and more sugar.

The best choice to make nutritionally is to treat foods and beverages containing artificial sweeteners as treats, just as you do foods that are high in sugar. To add a touch of sweetness to foods on a regular basis, use natural sweeteners such as honey or raw stevia. When baking, overripe bananas and unsweetened applesauce also work as a sugar substitute. When purchasing food, be sure to read labels so you know exactly what you are consuming. As always, your best option for beverage is water. If you aren’t a big fan of plain water, add fruit for more flavor. Have you ever been surprised by which foods contain artificial sweeteners?

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And so it begins…. Part II

If you haven’t read part one, go here first.

In December of 2012, Chris and I decided we wanted to have a baby. Getting pregnant came easy and in January of 2013 we found out that we were expecting. We were over the moon excited! Unfortunately, our joy was cut short when I miscarried in March. Total devastation. The doctor assured me that there was nothing I could have done to prevent the loss, but I felt so guilty. I just knew, right or wrong, that if I were healthier and had better habits then maybe our baby would still be here.

 

I used the loss as motivation. Chris and I started eating clean and going to the gym. I was determined that when we got pregnant again that I would be healthy so I could carry a healthy pregnancy to term. I had lost 20 pounds and was finally feeling good when I injured myself at the gym by dropping a 40-pound weight on my foot. Bam! All progress was halted. It became easy to use that as an excuse to not workout, which led to less of a desire to eat right. Once again, I was on the weight rollercoaster. The time continued to pass, and the longer we went without getting pregnant again, the less I cared about my own health.

In December of 2014 I was at my heaviest weight ever. I’m only five feet tall and was weighing in at 186 pounds. It was at this point that I stopped even getting on the scale because I didn’t want to know anymore. I gave up wearing jeans because they didn’t fit anymore, and I refused to buy a bigger size. I lived my life in yoga pants and sweats. The stress of trying to get pregnant was all-consuming, so Chris and I decided to just get away from everything and take a vacation back to the place where it all started: Disney. Apparently it was just what we needed because we found out that I was pregnant again 5 days before Christmas.

I was terrified. If I was 60 pounds overweight to begin my pregnancy, how bad was it going to get in 9 months? Could I even have a healthy pregnancy at my weight? My doctor advised me in the very beginning to be very careful about how much weight I gained, but my biggest scare came when I failed the one-hour glucose test for Gestational Diabetes. Knowing that I could predispose this innocent child to a lifelong disease just because of my poor choices was heartbreaking. From that point on during my pregnancy, making good choices was easy. It was one thing when I was harming myself, it was a completely different thing to know I was harming my unborn child. Thankfully, when I did the 3-hour test, the results were negative, but the initial scare was still enough. I gained less than 20 pounds throughout my entire pregnancy; however, that still put me over 200 pounds at 9 months pregnant.

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Aurora was born in August of 2015 weighing in at a whopping 9lbs 10oz. Due to her size, I had c-section number 2. I came home from the hospital at the same weight that I was before getting pregnant, yet everything was different. Any mother can tell you, having children changes your body, so even though I weighed the same, I didn’t look the same. Having already been unhappy with my pre-pregnancy weight, the body changes were especially hard to take. I looked in the mirror and didn’t recognize the girl staring back at me. And in the back of my mind, there was that voice, the voice that I had blocked out so long ago. “You’re worthless.  You’re fat.  You’re ugly.” Even though Chris is AMAZING, and loving, and tells me all the time how beautiful I am, and how much he loves me unconditionally, the scars are still there, and the bad stuff is easier to believe. I became withdrawn and depressed. I would cringe when my sweet husband touched me, because all I could think about was how disgusting it was for him to touch my fat.   All he wanted was me, and all I wanted was to hide.

In June of 2016, I hit my breaking point. Our daughter was getting ready to turn one and I wanted to be able to have the energy to play with her while she was still young. I wanted to feel pretty again. I wanted to enjoy my marriage again. I wanted to enjoy life again, but most of all I wanted to find ME again. I reached out to a friend who had been posting about positive changes she was making her life on social media. It was then that I found Beachbody. My friend recommended starting with the 21 Day Fix and Shakeology. The day that I made the commitment and ordered the products to get started, I felt genuine anxiety. I was so afraid of failing again. I was so afraid that it would just be one more thing that I tried that didn’t work. Chris and I talked about it, and he agreed to be my support system and partner. We would work as a team to achieve the goals we wanted together.

We decided that the best way to get the results that we wanted was to share our journey publicly, so our friends and family could help hold us accountable; and if by doing so we could inspire just one person to make the changes for a better life, it would be worth it. We are 6 months into our journey, and the results have been amazing. Have I lost weight? Yes, absolutely I have. I am almost back down to the weight I was on my wedding day, but that has not been my greatest success. Along my journey, I have found myself again. Chris and I have found not only physical strength through our workouts, but we have strengthened our marriage by having something positive to do as a team. I’m enjoying the way I feel, not consumed by the number on the scale.  We are creating a healthy example for our children, and that in and of itself is totally worth it. But now, we have decided to take it one step further and pay it forward to help as many people as we can achieve their health and fitness goals. We want to let them know that it can be done. We’re just two regular people who made up our minds that we were going to do this, and if we can do it, so can you. Here’s to never going back!

Weekend Plans

So here it is, FRIDAY!! We’ve made it through another week, yay! Friday’s posts will be dedicated to setting plans to stay on track throughout the weekend. For our first week, we’re going to start really simple: I just want you to get moving for at least 30 minutes each day and get your water in (your body weight divided by two, in ounces). You can walk, bike, dance, do some yoga, whatever you enjoy doing. I know that your first instinct is to come up with reasons why you don’t have time, but listen, 30 minutes is only two percent of your day, TWO PERCENT. You give your job, your family, your friends so much of your time, don’t you think that you can keep just 2% for yourself? You’re worth it, and the benefits far outweigh the sacrifice. Tell us how you plan to stay active this weekend.

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Find Your Why

One of the biggest reasons that people don’t maintain a workout routine is because we lose the motivation. It’s so easy to forget why we got started in the first place. This is by far the longest I have stuck to a plan, and the reason is simple: My why is HUGE. On days that I don’t want to, or I’m tired, or I’d rather sit and binge Netflix, I remember why I began this journey in the first place: my family. My family deserves the very best version of me that I can give them. They deserve a wife and a mother who is healthy and strong. My kids deserve a mom who has the energy to get out and play with them now, and will still be in good health when they’re all grown up with kids of their own. My husband deserves a wife who has the confidence to feel sexy and happy in her own skin, who will still be able to do our favorite things when our kids are grown and gone. I DESERVE all of it. I deserve to be happy, healthy, beautiful, and strong. I spend so much of my life taking care of everyone in my household and making sure they have everything they need to thrive, and for so long I neglected including myself in that. Somewhere along the way I think we got the impression that being a good mom comes with a lot of self sacrifice. Yes, there are things that we have to give up when we have kids, but our own well-being is NOT one of those things.

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These people right here, they are my why, all 5 of them. Before you can even begin to think about how to start, you have to have the why,  a why that will sustain you when all you want to do is give up. Think about it, write it down, hold on to it and don’t let go!! So… WHAT’S YOUR WHY?