Thursday, May 10, 2012

Gnome Garden

I wanted to share a little picture of my recent project.  Instead of a fairy garden I made a gnome garden.  I have a Gnomeo and Juliet figurine, pink flamingoes, frogs, another gnome, a fish in a little pond, and some miniature plants.  An old greenhouse and a few miniature accessories completed the garden.  I used aquarium gravel for the walkpaths.  The base for my garden is an old broken birdbath basin.  My husband drilled holes in the bottom for drainage.  The grandsons enjoyed looking at the gnome community, and even put a few real baby frogs they found into the garden. Happy gardening,

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Peanut Butter Protein Balls--so yummy!!!

Do I have a good recipe to share with you?!!

Sometimes you just need a bite or two of something sweet and creamy. I found a couple recipes for protein balls , and modified them to my liking. I tallied up all the nutrition info, and I will share them with you. I used the Pure Protein powder purchased from Wal-Mart (I have given my shake recipe in a previous post using this same protein), oats, honey(make sure the only ingredient is corn syrup), natural peanut butter (you could use any kind of nut butter...they are delicious using the almond butter I wrote about in my last post), just make sure you use a peanut butter only containing nuts and a little salt. I love the Natural Creamy Kroger brand peanut butter. I added a little whole flax seeds and chocolate chips. Here are all my ingredients lined up in the making of these little balls of deliciousness.
Here's the recipe:

Peanut Butter Protein Balls

1 cup peanut butter

1 cup oats

2 scoops protein powder

1/3 cup honey
2 tablespoons of miniature dark chocolate chips

1 tablespoon flax seeds

Mix all ingredients well and form into balls. You can make them any size you want, but I made 40 balls and here is the nutritional breakdown per ball. If you make them bigger, of course, they will have more calories. Each ball has 75 calories, 4 grams of protein, 4 grams of fat, and 3.5 grams of sugars. You can't just eat a bowlful of them, but 2-3 of them for a mini-meal or a postworkout snack is fine. They do have a little more sugar than I like to eat for a snack, but it comes mostly from the honey, and it is all natural honey...just the way God gave honey to us.
The fat, of course, comes mostly from the nuts in whatever nut butter you choose to use...again a healthy fat your body needs. You could reduce the amount of honey, and you could omit the chocolate chips entirely, but you really wouldn't want me.

Kinda reminds me of eating cookie dough.

Store them in the fridge. They keep for about a week or so, but you probably won't have them around that long. My grandsons just love them, and I would much rather them eat these than candy bars.
They travel well, unless you leave them in the car on a very hot day. I put 3 of them in my purse in a zip-loc bag when I leave the house or in a little cooler/lunchbox so I won't be tempted to stop at a convenience store or a fast food drive through if I get hungry

I hope you enjoy them as much as we do.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Homemade Almond Butter

I have mentioned that healthy fats are...well...healthy for you, just in moderation. Healthy fats are nuts and nut butters, avocadoes, olive oil, coconut oil, seeds, and flax. I learned from how to make homemade almond butter. I must say is is delicious. Of course, if you prefer, you could use cashews or peanuts instead of almonds.

I buy these huge bags of almonds at Sam's for about $9.00. I would say there is enough to make at least 6 batches of nut butter.

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Measure out 2 cups of almonds onto an ungreased cookie sheet..

Add 1/4 cup of whole flax seeds. I buy these at the grocery. This bag was $3.29 as you can see.

Roast them for 20 minutes turning them after 10 minutes. My house smells so good. It brings back memories of going to a little shop where they roasted fresh nuts when I was a child. Throw the nuts and flax seeds into the bowl of a food processor and add 1/2 teaspoon of sea salt.

Process on high. You will need to scrape down the sides of the bowl along the way.

It takes about 10 minutes to go from this...

wait for it...

not yet...

Now we're talking...

Spoon into a jar...voila...creamy almond butter.

I hope you will give this one a try.

Healthy dishes,

Friday, February 17, 2012

I Have Some Good News...and Some Bad News

Which do you want first? the good news...or the bad news?

Let's start with the bad news. There is NO magic pill, supplement, or diet plan to loose weight easily. Fat will NOT magically melt off our bodies. There is no ONE BEST exercise. I am sorry to break this news to you.

The good news is that we can all be at a healthy weight, get our blood pressure and cholesterol levels to a healthy number, and make our muscles and hearts stronger. A little bad news takes some effort, thought, and planning. I have had many friends ask what plan I follow, and how I have lost weight on my journey. When I tell them I have been eating clean and exercising (including cardio, strength training, and flexibility), some of them really don't want to put forth that effort. Well, if you don't put any effort into it, you really can't expect to see any results. Trust me on this one. I am a lifetime member of Weight Watchers, lifetime member of Fitness World...a now long defunct fitness gym in Memphis, calorie counter, yada yada yada. Yes, I have tried it all. But it takes a lifestyle change to last.

Today's topic is Sugar...I mean poison. It is as addicting as cocaine. Hello, my name is Sheila, and I was addicted to sugar. Though it does taste so good, sugar is very inflammatory to our bodies. Anything that causes inflammation causes disease. Heart disease, cancer, kidney failure, diabetes, arthritis are all related to and worsened by inflammation. Inflammation at the cellular level also causes our bodies to put on fat. Let me explain this. When we ingest sugar, our bodies break it down and it gets into the bloodstream. Sugar molecules are large molecules, and are like small shards of glass floating around in the blood vessels. These large molecules cannot get through the small vessels of the kidneys, retinas, and heart and brain...causing kidney failure, blindness, and blocked arteries that can lead to heart attacks or strokes. Our bodies respond to the sugar by pumping out insulin. Insulin helps the glucose to get into the cells where it can be utilized by the body, and out of the bloodstream. This brings our glucose levels back closer to normal, but these insulin surges cause the release of cortisol by the adrenal glands. In the presence of cortisol, our bodies effort to lose fat is on lock-down. It can't happen. Not to mention, the excess cortisol causes insomnia,increased heart rate or palpitations, irritability, fatigue, increase in blood pressure, muscle tension, among other uncomfortable synptoms.

This is why it is recommended to eat every 4 hours to keep blood sugar levels at a more even keel, and to increase metabolism. Each meal or mini-meal should include a small amount of healthy fat, protein, and carbohydrate...just not in the form of sugar. Whole, natural foods are the way God intended for us to get our sugars. Think fruits and veggies, and whole grains. An apple a day keeps the doctor away.
Warning: watch any food that claims to be low fat---they usually have to add lots of sugar to make it palatable. Read labels!!!!!

"What do you eat?", you ask.
A typical day's diet for me might be:

breakfast : a protein shake as I have shown on a previous post

snack: a few dates and small handful of almonds

lunch: large salad full of veggies, with a boiled egg, diced chicken,a few walnuts, and olive oil and balsamic vinegar dressing

snack: yogurt with some granola , or an apple and some natural peanut butter, or some cottage cheese and sliced peaches or pears

dinner: lean meat like chicken, baked sweet potato, and some cooked spinach

I go to bed pretty early, so I don't usually need another snack late-night, but if you are up late, your body needs fuel.

This may sound boring, but it is really easy. There are ways to "clean up" just about any recipe you have. Read some clean-eating magazines and cook-books for new recipes. Search the internet for clean eating blogs. Some of them have some great recipes. Here are a few of my favorites sites:!/NatalieHodsonOfficial

Start slowly, start simply...just start somewhere. Make a few better choices. I promise once the sugar is out of your system, you will no longer crave it. And you will feel SOOOO much better and have more energy.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Sweet Potato chips

I just adore sweet potatoes...sweet potato casserole, sweet potato pie, baked sweet potatoes. You name it, I like 'em any way you can fix 'em. Here is a healthy and delicious treat if you like them as much as I do.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Peel your potatoes and slice them about 1/4 inch thick. I use my handy dandy mandoline, but a knife works just fine.

Toss them in a little olive oil and place on a lined or sprayed cookie sheet. You could line it with parchment paper, but I use Silpat sheets. They don't look too pretty after being used for a few years, but they work great.

Sprinkle with a little sea salt.
Bake for about 25 minutes, turning once.

We enjoy them with a little ketchup. Our dinner was pan sauteed fish with Greek seasoning, roasted asparagus, and roasted sweet potatoes...pretty healthy , and very delicious.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Flax It

An important component of my diet is flax. You can buy flax seed oil, but I prefer to use milled flax. I add a tablespoonful to my protein shake, my cereal, on top of yogurt or into my oatmeal every morning. It really has no taste or noticeable texture. A whole box of it at Wal-Mart is less than $3.00. You will find it in the baking aisle near the flours and cornmeals.

One tablespoon contains over 1000 mg of Omega-3 oils. Heart healthy and a good source of fiber, Tosca Reno, the aforementioned "queen of clean eating", refers to flax as "nature's scrub brush". Try it for a week, and I think you will agree.

Omega-3 oils have anti-inflammatory properties, and therefore help with prevention of strokes, arthritis, cancer, and diabetes.

Some studies have found it helps conditions like irritable bowel syndrome, diverticulitis, and lupus. Others swear that it helps for hot flashes with menopause.

All fats are not going to make you fat. Your body requires fat for its processing of energy at the cellular level. Flax is one instance of a healthy fat like salmon, nuts, seeds, olive oil, and avocadoes. Remove the saturated fats from your diet , and use these healthy fats and oils instead for better health.

Are you drinking your water and moving?Eating your breakfast every day? Now add some flax.

Healthy eating,

Monday, January 23, 2012

Eat Clean

There seems to be a lot of confusion on the concept of "eating clean". What can you eat? Is this allowed? How do you count calories? Do you write everything you eat down? And so on. I will try my best to clear it up for you. I do not write anything down. I do not count points. I don't count calories. I am a huge fan of The Eat Clean books by Tosca Reno, and Oxygen Magazine. Here is a link to her website. You will find tons of helpful information and videos.
I highly recommend her latest book, Just The Rules

Another source of inspiration is a book by Dr. Oz...You On a Diet.

I have been reading and researching these books for the past year, and I have learned a lot about nutrition. (I wish I could go back to college to become a registered dietician, but I digress. )Here's the gist of the diet.

You try to eat food as close to the way it is provided for us in nature. Eat an apple or an orange instead of drinking the juice. Fruits and veggies are the healthy carbs our diets should include so we can get our full range of vitamins and minerals. I try to limit breads, but when I have a sandwich, it is on whole grain bread. I use whole grain pasta and brown or wild rice instead of white pasta and rice. Oatmeal, as I have mentioned in my post on breakfast foods, gives energy and protein and warms your tummy(sprinkle cinnamon on top, its delicious). No really is poison to your body. Sugar causes insulin surges making it more difficult to lose fat. In fact, belly fat is directly related to sugar intake. I will post soon about sugar. I eat lots of salads, beans, chicken, salmon (I really like those little foil pouches of pink salmon by Chicken of the Sea). I have a steak once a week ,but I no longer put butter and sour cream on baked or sweet potatoes. Instead of craving sugar, I now crave sauteed spinach...must be just what my body is needing. I love Chobani Greek yogurt (one serving has 14 grams of protein). I use olive oil for sauteeing spinach, chicken, and dipping bread occasionally. Avocadoes are a good, healthy fat. Healthy fats are good for your heart and skin, and actually don't make you fat if eaten in moderation...just a drizzle, not a cup full. Almonds and walnuts are a great snack containing healthy fat and protein.
I have learned to read labels. Make sure food is real food. If you can't pronounce the ingredients, don't eat it. Try to choose foods with lower sugars and higher protein, and make sure to eat plenty of fiber rich foods...they keep you feeling full longer. In fact your body needs to be refueled about every 4 hours to function at it's best, so be prepared with healthy snacks when you leave the house, so you won't be tempted to run through fast food or buy a candy bar. The energy you get from the candy bar will fizzle out quickly, leaving you hungrier than ever.

Just remember, God designed our bodies to eat for our fuel. He created all the right foods necessary to our bodies. When men and women of the Bible ate, their foods were natural, whole foods, like nuts, grains, seeds, fish, fruit, vegetables, with an occasional find of some sweet honey from a honeycomb. They did not go through the fast food lane or into a convenience store. I believe our bodies are still meant to eat this way, and will funtion best when we are given the right foods in proper amounts.

All this said, I do have a treat every now and then, but it is more an exception than the rule. This keeps me sane, and I find that I really enjoy that treat more that I don't eat them everyday.

Think about these concepts, and keep it as clean as you can .

Friday, January 20, 2012

You've Got to Move It...Move It

Last Christmas, my parents gave us an elliptical machine for Christmas. We found one we really like at Costco. I try to use it at least 3 times weekly. I promise myself I only have to do it for 15 minutes, but I usually get going and go longer than that. Sometimes I just go outside and walk for 30 minutes. Did you know that for every mile you log in, you burn about 100 calories. You will also boost your resting metabolism, burning more calories even when you are asleep at night. Any type of cardio exercise will also help keep your heart strong, aid circulation, and help with high blood pressure. So just do it, as the Nike ad says, and GET MOVING. Just start slowly or you will be sore.

I downloaded a neat app on my iphone called SportsTracker. It was free, and when you go for an outdoors walk, it will tell you how far you went, and how many calories you have burned. Along the way, it updates your speed, and your distance. Check it out. I just love it. It also allows you to play music on your phone's Ipod at the same time.

Just this week, I joined a local gym. I had a session with a personal trainer yesterday, and he taught me some new exercises, mostly to strengthen my core. I am not really trying to lose pounds now, but I do want to add muscle and strengthen. Weight lifting exercises are important for increasing strength, muscle tone, and improving bone density. Building muscle increases your metabolism dramatically. For each pound of muscle you add, you can burn up to 50 calories more per day . If you add 10 pounds of muscle that adds up to 500 calories daily which means a 1 pound loss of weight per week. So, you can see, that by getting rid of fat and increasing your muscle mass, you could really see a difference in the course of a year.

Once again, I have nothing magical, but if you drink lots of water, eat a good breakfast, and exercise, you will start to see results.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Breakfast of Champions...Stoke Your Fire

Tip #2: Eat a good breakfast

Your Mother probably told you breakfast is the most important meal of the day. She was right. After fasting for about 12 hours your body needs fuel. You need something with protein to sustain your hunger, and some carbs to start the burning process. I like to think of the carbs as small twigs and kindling, and protein as the big logs in a campfire. It takes both to get a roaring fire going, and that's just what I want for my metabolism. I want to become a burning machine. If you limit your calories too low, the "flame" goes out , and your metabolism slows.

I alternate between 4 breakfast meals so I don't get bored. Here are my favorite breakfasts:

#1:Protein Shake. Everyone asks me how I make my shakes, so here are my directions. I know there are more expensive protein powders on the market, and they might be worth their higher price, but I have found the protein powder off the shelf at my local Wal-Mart has worked just fine for me. I like the taste of the Pure Protein whey powder...this one is vanilla cream, and the frosty chocolate flavor is good, too.I use 8 ounces of skim milk, one scoop of protein powder, and frozen fruit. ( I put a banana in a zip bag when they start to get too ripe to eat, and break it up a bit and store in the freezer.) Sometimes I add a handful of frozen strawberries, blueberries, or mixed fruit I get in the freezer case at the grocery store. There is not really a specific recipe...just experiment and make it to your taste. Throw all in the blender and voila...breakfast. I often add a few drops of almond or vanilla know for variety.

While I am on the subject of blenders, let me plug my Ninja blender. This thing has some power! It has 3 sets of blades, and it gets the job done. It has been used and abused this past year, and it still works great. Bed, Bath, and Beyond has them for about $100.00, but they always accept expired coupons, so you can usually get additional $20.00 off. Not cheap...but so worth it if you need a good blender. Also note the neat milkshake straws I found there. They have a larger diameter , and make it much easier to drink a shake from.

Breakfast #2: Oatmeal is so good for you...Dr. Oz says so...It will also keep you from getting hungry later in the morning. I like the steel cut oats because they are less processed than the kind that is steamed , rolled, and then cut. No time you say? It only take about 5 minutes to cook on the stove top. I add 1/2 cup of blueberries (frozen berries are fine...they will thaw right away when they get stirred into the oatmeal),some cinnamon, a splash of skim milk, and sometimes I add a teaspoon of maple syrup or honey. Slivered almonds on top are good, too.

#3: This quick...go to breakfast is a bowl of cereal in skim milk. I have a large Rubbermaid cereal dispenser, also from Wal-Mart, that I keep a mixture of cereals in. These are the 2 most recent cereals I have purchased. Kashi cereals are delicious, and the Fiber One cereals have tons of fiber in them. I like the Kashi Island Vanilla wheat squares, and Go Lean Crunch or Go Lean Crisp. Just try to pick cereals with lower sugar and higher on the fiber and protein. I always cut up 1/2 banana and throw in a handful of frozen blueberries to my cereal.

#4: If we have a leisurely morning, we will whip up a veggie omelet. We mix up three egg whites and a couple whole eggs (this is for 2 people) and some fresh spinach leaves, chopped onion, bell pepper, and diced tomatoes. I cook in a nonstick skillet sprayed with Pam cooking spray. You could add whatever veggies or lean meat like chicken or turkey that you have on hand . This is good with a little salsa spooned on top. Sometimes I add just a touch of shredded cheese, too.

I have found that eating every 3-4 hours keeps my hunger cravings at bay, and gives me the energy I need to get through the day.

I eat 5-6 times a day, and I try to eat as clean and unprocessed as possible. I try to incorporate protein, carbohydrates, and healthy fats into each meal. Think of food as fuel for your body. You wouldn't put Kool-Aid in the gas tank of an expensive sports car, so you can't expect to put junk in your body's fuel tank and expect to "run on all cylinders".

I try to think of eating the way God intended for us to eat. He gave us fruits, nuts, seeds, fish, grains, lean and healthy meats, and veggies. Staying with His plan works so much better for me...funny it works that way, huh? After all , our body is His temple. Confession time...every now and then I have something that's not really on my food list, but I savor it fully, and get right back on track at the next meal.

Sorry this is such a long post, and that there is nothing magical about my plan, but it does work, and even after a year of eating this way, I am not bored.

Healthy eating this week...and eat your breakfast!

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

My Weight Loss Journey...some tips

You all know that I started my weight loss journey last January. It wasn't really a New Year's resolution, but a decision that it was time to get healthy. Over the past year, I have lost 67 pounds,lost 5 dress sizes, have come off blood pressure and cholesterol meds, and cut my bad cholesterol from 134 to 60. Now that some have been asking for my tips and diet info, I will try to make regular blog posts on habits that have helped me along the way. I am no professional nutritionist or physical fitness trainer, but I can share what has worked for me. I have been there , and I know how it can be so hard and frustrating to get the weight off.

As I have mentioned before, I come from a gene pool with high rates of heart attacks, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, stroke, and cancer. I was so tired of feeling tired and sluggish...not to mention that I hated looking at pictures of myself. It was definitely time to do something about it.So.....

I did. In fact, I was featured in a local health and fitness magazine. Here is the link with a before and after photo. This link takes you to the magazine, and then look at page 16. Much improved, don't you think?

If you can't link to the magazine photo, here is my version of before and after pics.

Tip #1: Drink Your Water

Drinking water is so important to our bodies. In fact our bodies are made up mostly of water. Water is calorie free, it promotes weight loss, helps flush toxins from the body, aids digestion and elimination, helps to increase energy, prevents dehydration,boosts metabolism, and aids in clearer skin. Carry a water bottle with you at all times, and drink a glass as soon as you wake up, with your meals, and in between meals. My Tervis Tumbler glass pictured above goes everywhere with me, and I mean everywhere.

In the upcoming weeks, I will try to post a few more of those helpful tricks I have found along my journey. In the meantime, get moving a little more, and start drinking more water.