Sometimes, when you're pressed for time or out of energy, it's nice to have some quality packaged food options that are delicious. My Easy Fixes posts will feature some of my favorite easy and guilt-free processed foods that are made with real ingredients and taste delcious!
I just love these simmer sauces from Imagine Natural Creations. Last night I browned some organic ground turkey and added the coconut curry simmer sauce along with the last carrots, bell peppers, and onions from the garden. It's delicious over brown rice or quinoa as a wholesome, satisfying - and quick! - dinner that the whole family enjoyed.
If you've spent any amount of time on the interwebs researching diets or nutrition, you've undoubtably heard of the term "clean eating."
Basically, if it doesn't come from the earth or have a mama, chances are the food you're eating isn't "clean."
If it comes in a bag/box/can, has several ingredients that you can't pronounce, comes in a color that has yet to be found in nature, contains dyes, additives, preservatives.... you get the point.... It isn't clean.
And, yeah, I'm all over the clean-eating concept. I think it makes sense. I think it's simple enough to actually follow.
I like the way eating clean makes me feel.
Yes, back to the acknowledging the way things feel.
It's so important. So empowering.
Because, really, even thinking about eating a big ol' bag of Cheetos (delicious, delicious Cheetos) makes me feel, well, bleh.
Thanks to the awareness I personally have of the legitimacy of consuming real, aka "clean," food, I really can't even justify the purchase of Cheetos (or any other bright/crunchy/highly addictive/questionably processed product), simply because ingesting that doesn't make me feel clean.
And let's think about clean.
It goes so much further than eating, so much deeper than sparkling countertops and grime-free fingernails.
Clean is desirable.
Clean is alive.
Clean is freedom.
Let's consider the immense effects of what we put into and onto our bodies, the thoughts we tell ourselves, the way we treat strangers, the dullness of stagnation....
The things we can do to affect the many facets of cleanliness in our lives.
How does it feel to you to be clean?
There seems to be some conflicting opinions about the best way to go about approaching the Thanksgiving dinner table:
1) Calm down, eat it all, don't feel guilty, just enjoy
2) Stay away from the carbs and sugar, don't overdo it, think first, make up for it later
If either of those approaches works for you and will help you to stay on track with your personal philosophies and visions, then go for it. I'm never one to command adherence any one regime.
Because what's become important to me is how I want to feel.
If Aunt Jenny's sweet potato casserole is so damn good that you find yourself drifting to the table for a third helping, simply ask yourself
How am I going to feel after eating it?
If you answer is guilty, gluttonous, or regretful, then by all means -- do one thing first:
Thanksgiving is not ONLY about the food. It's about togetherness. Gratitude. Connection. Reunion. Celebration.
Sit down next to Aunt Sally and ask about her chihuahua. Make yourself a tall spakling water with ice and lemon. Offer to clear some empty plates. Teach your niece how to draw a handprint turkey.
On the other hand, if you can sense that the third helping of sweet potatoes will make you feel nourished, content, energized and relaxed, then by all means -- eat up.
Once you become clear on how you want to feel, and what steps you can take to help you reach what author Danielle LaPorte calls your "core desired feelings," you can more confidently begin to make decisions that will get you there.
My core desired feelings for this holiday are
Rejuvenated. Connected. Spiritually well-fed.
I know I'm going to dig into that cranberry stuffing like it's my job. I recognize that, by the end of the day, I will want to feel the gratitude surging.
May you feel grateful, too.
P.S. For more on Danielle LaPorte's Desire Map book, journal, and other delicious bits of inspiration, click here.
I love garbanzo beans. Chock full of healthy fiber and a great meat-free protein source, these little buddies are good for SO much more than the base for a nice, garlicky hummus. (Though I - and my kids - could eat hummus every day!)
I put garbanzo beans (chick peas) on green salads, into hearty vegan chili, and I toss them with mango chunks, diced cucumbers, and fresh herbs for a staple summer salad.
But as fun as these little power houses are for ME to eat, I wanted to find a surefire way to appeal to the masses. That is to say, the 4-year-old masses at my daughter's preschool.
I love the challenge of creating healthy, real snacks - that kids will actually eat! - out of wholesome foods. A favorite this time of year is making mini pumpkins out of peeled mandarin oranges and snap peas (and Terra makes some exotic veggie chips that look just like autumn leaves!)
My daughter's afternoon preschool classroom is totally tree-nut free -- a more and more commonplace practice in schools nationwide.
There is also a child who doesn't tolerate gluten and another who is dairy-free.
I'm fine with providing suitable snacks when it comes to our bimonthly turn for snack day, and I like the challenge of creating something for everybody.
Today was my daughter's snack day and it's a chilly, breezy typically October afternoon, with gusts of yellow leaves swirling through the overcast sky. The perfect weather, in other words, for something hearty, wholesome -- and warm from the oven.
Something for EVERYONE.
Enter: Everything-Friendly Garbanzo Bean Blondies!
These easy-peasy, one-bowl/one-pan blondies are
These yummy buddies came out just right - chewy and hearty, and sweetened lightly.
Ingredients (Organic if possible!)
1 can Garbanzo Beans, rinsed and drained
1/2 C. Sunflower Seed Butter
1/3 Pure Maple Syrup, Grade B
1/2 tsp. Cinnamon
1 tsp. Baking Soda
1 tsp. Baking Powder
- Preheat oven to 350˚ F
- Lightly grease an 8x8 pan with coconut oil
- Throw all the ingredients into a food processor and blend until mixed. (I left a few chunks of chick peas in the mix - to up the heartiness factor)
- Spread the mix into the prepared pan and bake for 25 minutes, or until sides start to pull away from the pan and the center is springy.
- Let cool, cut into bars or squares, and ENJOY!
Since I wanted to give the children enough to eat, and stick with a late-October theme, I threw in some organic cling peaches. Dressed up as jack-o-lanterns, natch.
I thought the blondies turned out great. But we always have to check with the most important critic. Her verdict?
Give this recipe a try and let me know what you think!!
Brooke is facing an issue she never thought she'd have.
"I don't recognize my legs!" she says. "They're getting so toned and lean. I love it!"
Brooke joined our Balance A.C.C.E.S.S. program on April 9, 2014, when her youngest child was 6 months old. (Kudos to Brooke right off the bat: she has 3 children aged 3 and under!)
Brooke will tell you that Balance Family Fitness has changed the way she looks at fitness.
She found herself after three children weighing more than she would like and not having exercised in a long time.
She would dread the idea of working out, getting sweaty and worst of all...running. But she knew that Emily had helped get her into shape a couple years ago (after baby #1) and she had to seek her help again if she wanted to make a change in the right direction.
Just two short months after joining, Brooke has made a significant leap forward in her journey to fitness. She now looks forward to her four workouts each week, like an oasis. After all, this is her only time away from the kids and she gets to focus on just her health for that time.
Here's what Brooke has to say about her 8 weeks thus far in the A.C.C.E.S.S. program:
* I love the meditation portion of our workouts. It really helps me to focus my energies in the right direction for the day. It helps me to slow down my mind from the constant task list of what needs to be done next to just silence for a moment. It is unlike any other workout session you have attended.
I am so proud of Brooke! She is a shining example of how dedication and determination can really add up to real results.
Click here to learn more about our Balance A.C.C.E.S.S. program. There are only 3 spots left!
Catie, a 34-year-old mother of two, started her journey with us at Balance in October 2013, when she joined a 6-week session of Lively Woman.
Since then, this dedicated mama has become an inspirational fixture at the studio. Catie constantly pushes herself to work out at her best level, feel stronger, and eat better.
Since October, Catie has not only gone from a size 8/10 to a size 2, but her NSVs (non-scale victories) make her feel alive.
Lost: 16 pounds, several dress sizes, and 12+ inches.
Gained: confidence, strength, love of physical activity
"I'm so proud. " Catie says. "I hiked Table Rock last week for the first time and it felt easy. I can keep up with my kids. I have more confidence and I'm willing to try more things. "
Plus, she says, it's amazing to have found a true passion for exercise. "I LOVE to workout! My body loves and craves it. I feel amazing."
Catie joined our A.C.C.E.S.S. program in April, alongside seven other dedicated participants. In addition to pushing herself at the studio for classes up to four times a week, Catie walks diligently through her neighborhood, kids in tow, and tracks her food intake using My Fitness Pal. (Another huge accomplishment? Catie has been refined sugar-free for over a year!)
Catie, it is an awesome pleasure to accompany you on your journey. You are a constant source of inspiration to all of us at the studio. Keep up the fantastic work!!
Each week, I will bring you a Balance Challenge to try at home! Change and challenge are exciting ways to bring holistic health into your daily life!
Happy St. Patrick's Day! I hope you remembered to wear something green today -- at the risk of getting pinched if you didn't!
Did the leprechauns visit your house last night? My daughter woke up early to a "terrible mess" in our house! We caught those little rascals, though, in my girls' homemade leprechaun traps. Did you know that leprechauns dislike getting caught so much that they turn into chocolate if you catch them? Our preschool teacher taught us this years ago, and ever since we've woken up to milk chocolate leprechauns trapped on the kitchen table.
Naturally, my girls wanted to eat their leprechauns for breakfast, but know they'll have to wait - at least until after school.
This day is often associated, food-wise, with green beer, corned beef and cabbage, and yes, chocolate.
But I think it's also a great time to dive into a Balance Challenge! Let's go green!
Can you eat a green vegetable with every meal this week? Yes - even breakfast! Get creative on ways you can incorporate some green power house energy and vitamins into your day!
This morning I threw a handful of chopped kale into my protein smoothie. It was my daughter's turn to bring snacks to her preschool class, so we made Kale Parmesan Balls. I'm sure they're going to be a hit. Kids love kale, right?!
(Actually, they're super delicious - and very kid-friendly!)
To make, combine:
2 - 10 oz packages chopped & frozen organic kale, thawed and drained
4 eggs, slightly beaten
2 cups Gluten Free (or whole wheat) bread crumbs
1/2 cup ghee
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, shredded
2 tsp garlic powder, or more to taste
Shape into 1-inch balls and place on a cookie sheet. Bake at 350 for 15 minutes, let cool, and enjoy! These can also be frozen before you bake them! Bring them out of the freezer for unexpected guests or play dates, and enjoy a bit o' the green!
Give this week's Challenge a try! Comment below with your favorite ways to include green veggies into your day!
Wishing you a lucky day and a happy week!
by Jennifer Fitch, ACE Group Fitness Instructor
I must say that I’m not a huge resolution kind of person, but with the arrival of each new year, and two days later yet another birthday, I always find myself looking for ways to
improve. Probably the majority of New Year’s resolutions have something to do with health and fitness and I am no different.
For the past year or two I’ve been doing my best
to live by the 80/20 lifestyle; healthy, clean eating 80% of the time and relax and enjoy life and all of its indulgent pleasures the other 20%. As much as I love clean, healthy food, I really do look forward to indulging in that other 20%!
After spending a bit of time reflecting on how I can improve my life in 2014 and now that I’m a 35-year-old mother of two, I decided that my most frequent slip-ups were due to lack of planning and preparation. So with my love of Pinterest, I embarked on a journey to make eating clean and healthy a little easier for my family and me.
My first newfound love is the green smoothie. Yes, I’ve had them before and always thought they tasted pretty good and I loved the way they made me feel, but I was always too lazy to get out all the ingredients to make them only to have to put them all away again. I only like to “cook” at dinner time, the rest of the day needs to be easy! So I found this great idea on Pinterest to make smoothie freezer packets. Now I just grab a smoothie packet out of the freezer each morning and dump it in my new and improved blender (thanks Santa), add whatever liquid I choose and blend it up! Much cheaper and fresher than the protein bars I was eating each morning, and my boys will even drink them!
A new ingredient I’ve added to my smoothies is chia seeds. I’ve done a little research on these amazing little seeds and they are so good for you and have absolutely no taste so you don’t even know they’re in there. The best benefit of chia seeds by far is that because of the chia gel they form when they come in contact with liquid you feel full for hours! My cravings for snacks have pretty much disappeared because my belly is just too full of chia gel!
Here are a couple of links that I found helpful when starting this new habit:
My next stroke of genius is having perfect hard boiled eggs peeled and ready to eat in the fridge at all times. I love hard-boiled eggs, plain or mixed with Greek yogurt to make a healthy egg salad, but I’ve always hated peeling them. When I’m chasing two boys around in the morning trying to get them ready the last thing I want to do is sit at the sink running cold water over an egg to try to get that darn peel off so I can have my breakfast!
Here’s the secret . . . add ½ teaspoon of baking soda to the
water while you boil the eggs. It changes the pH and the peels come off so easily. At the beginning of each week I boil 18 eggs and peel them immediately. I store them in a glass container with an airtight lid in the fridge and grab them whenever I need them during the week, often times with my green smoothie on my way out the door in the morning.
My next tip that has been helpful for me isn’t exactly anything fancy, but I’ve just been actually taking the time to do it. Having veggies washed and prepped ready to grab and eat with hummus sitting front and center in my fridge has been a life saver! Between the four of us it seems like someone is always standing at the fridge with the door wide open looking for something to munch on. Usually whatever is in plain sight and easiest to grab is the snack of choice. If veggies and hummus are sitting there looking colorful and gorgeous then that’s what’s going to get eaten.
Raw nuts are my next favorite handy snack. I’ve always had raw almonds on hand, but after reading a few articles about the health benefits of other nuts I decided to broaden my horizons. I now keep a gallon size zip lock back of a variety of unsalted raw nuts in our pantry and usually a smaller bag in my purse for easy snacking. Our family likes almonds, Brazil nuts, walnuts, pecans, and pistachios.
Usually whatever is in plain sight and easiest to grab is the snack of choice. If veggies and hummus are sitting there looking colorful and
And last but not least, air-popped popcorn with coconut oil is another fantastic staple to keep in the pantry. Now I’m not going to lie and say that it tastes just as good the buttery
salty kind that I make for movie night, but to have on a regular basis it is pretty good. I do add a little salt and the coconut oil almost tastes a little sweet like kettle corn. I also
keep this in a gallon size zip lock in our pantry to snack on during the week.
In the past I’ve always said I was going to do healthy food prep at the beginning of each week. I’ve even gone to the store and stocked up on all the clean and healthy essentials,
but after grocery shopping with the boys I was always too exhausted to really do it. The healthy food would sit in the fridge untouched all week and eventually get thrown out
because it had gone bad. Well, I guess the difference is, like anything else, I’m making healthy food prep a priority.
When I get home from the store I don’t let myself put it away until it is washed/chopped/prepped and ready to eat. Because of this simple change I’ve managed to lose about 5 pounds since the beginning of the year and I feel great! No more tired, bloated feeling at the end of the day. Now that I’ve seen and felt the difference really eating clean makes (instead of just saying I’m going to eat clean) I’m motivated to keep it going.
I know we all have busy, complex, fulfilling lives and I just hope this helps you fuel your body and your family to continue to make great memories in 2014.
Wife, mom of two boys, part-time group fitness instructor, and 80% clean eater ;)
Do YOU have any healthy, go-to, whole food recipes you'd like to share and possibly see published? Submit them to our new COOKBOOK! Entries are due by February 20th. Email your recipes and stories to firstname.lastname@example.org
Emily Nielsen, CPT, is the owner of Fit for Motherhood, LLC, mother of 2 little girls, and an optimist by nature.
All posts © Emily Nielsen