Quinoa for Breakfast?

A great quinoa recipe to start your day.

quinoa recipe

Source: Flickr/Jennifer

Our family has been enjoying quinoa for a couple of years as a side dish or a dinner recipe like Quinoa Stuffed Peppers. I only recently started eating it as a breakfast as well. It sounded a little weird to me at first but I tried it when I bought Quinoa and Steel Cut Oatmeal from Trader Joe’s. I really liked the nutty flavor it added to the oatmeal. You can eat it without the oatmeal as well as in this recipe. I like the fact that I can change up the add-ins to add variety to my breakfast. Here is one of my favorite quinoa recipes.

Quinoa for Breakfast

Ingredients

  • 1 cup quinoa, uncooked
  • 2 cups unsweetened nut or rice
  • milk
  • 1 tsp stevia
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened coconut
  • flakes
  • 1/2 cup raw slivered almonds
  • 3 Tbsp dried cranberries or other dried fruit
  • 1/2 cup chopped nuts
  • 1 tsp chia seeds

Instructions

  1. In a medium-sized saucepan over medium-high heat combine the unsweetened nut milk (or your favorite unsweetened dairy-free milk), and quinoa.
  2. Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce the heat and allow the mixture to simmer for 15 minutes, or until most of the liquid has been absorbed.
  3. Remove from heat. Stir in the stevia.
  4. Top with coconut, cranberries, and nuts and chia seeds.
  5. Enjoy warm. Add non-dairy milk as desired.
http://cravingfitness.org/nutrition/quinoa-recipes/

The Struggle with Sugar – Are you Addicted to Sugar?

addicted to sugar

Source: Flicker/Moyan Brenn

Hello, My name is Tammy and I’m Addicted to Sugar

Lately I’ve been battling sugar again. Sometimes I can kick it to the curb. Other times its insidious whisper calls me to it and I don’t resist. On one hand I wish I could have a treat now and then but on the other hand I know what it births in my life. When I choose to eat sugar it wakes up ALL my cravings that have been hibernating. Suddenly I not only want more sugar but I also want chips and bread and any other junk food I can get my hands on. It’s never enough. I can’t just have a small treat and be happy with it. The one exception is dark chocolate. When I have dark chocolate I can be happy with one or two squares and I don’t suffer cravings afterwards. So why don’t I choose dark chocolate more often and avoid the other sweets? If I knew the answer to that I think I would get somewhere with this sugar addiction. 

My biggest challenge comes at work. Candy on coworkers desks, gifts people give me (hello, Starbucks gift card), and treats left on the break room table. Everyone means well. But I see it and it makes something click in my mind. So even though I walk away initially, as the day wears on my willpower wears out like a muscle that gets fatigued with use. At home I keep most of the things that tempt me out of the house. Every once in a while my kids will have something that challenges me, but we try to keep most of it out of the house.

Do you struggle with sugar? I would love your tips in the comments about how you overcome temptation!

Food Prep Tips to Make Healthier Eating Easy

food prep

Source: Flickr/Meal Makeover Moms

One vital behavior that contributes to my healthy eating success is food prep on the weekends. On weeks that I skip the food prep I find that I cheat on my meal plan more often. I eat out more and I tend make more choices that don’t align with my goals. So food prep has become more and more a solid part of my weekend plans. Here are some of the things I’ve incorporated into my process.

Smoothie bags: I make 5 zipper bags of ingredients for my 5 week-day smoothies. On a normal day when I don’t do the food prep it takes me so long to make my smoothie because of all the different ingredients. My smoothie bags contain 1 scoop of Shakeology, 1/2 scoop whey protein powder, 2 teaspoons of chia seeds or flaxseeds, 1 cup of kale, 2 cups of spinach, and a 1/2 cup of berries. Once I add all the ingredients I freeze the bags. Each morning I dump the contents of the bag into my blender with water and I add a 1/2 c of coconut milk and blend. 

Eggs: I boil 8-10 eggs. I usually take 2 eggs to work as a snack or I add them to my salad.

Salad Jars: I usually make 4 or 5 salad jars. I use large mason jars and I put the salad dressing on the bottom. Coconut Ranch dressing is my favorite at the moment. I then add a layer of ingredients that don’t tend to get soggy. These ingredients will vary week to week but some of my favorites are radishes, broccoli, cauliflower and zucchini. If I am adding any nuts or dried fruit or anything like that I would add them now. The last ingredient is the lettuce or spinach or other greens. This keeps them away from the dressing and helps keep them from getting soggy. The mason jars help keep the salads amazingly fresh. At lunch time I turn the jar upside down and let the dressing drain down into the salad and then dump in all on to a plate or into a bowl. Add a protein and BAM, lunch is done!

Oatmeal jars: For variety with breakfast I also make oatmeal jars. I use the smaller mason jars for these. To make these I put 1/2 a cup of oatmeal in the jar and then I add various ingredients to make it tastier. My favorite recipe is dried apples (cut in small pieces) and cinnamon with a variety of nuts. Dried bananas and nuts is another favorite of mine. Use your imagination for more variety. In the morning add 1 cup of hot water to the jar, mix together and let it sit for about 10 minutes. I usually add the water before my shower and when I’m done, my breakfast is hot and ready.

Proteins: Throughout the week we make extra proteins with our meals to package up for lunches. For example when we make a chicken dish, we make  2 or 3 extra pieces and bag them up individually. That way when I’m packing my lunch I can grab a salad jar and a serving of chicken and I have the makings of a perfect lunch. 

Any time we have food leftover after dinner I package up a couple of individual servings instead of putting it all in one container. Every minute saved in the morning is one step closer to a better day!

Veggies: When I get back from the grocery store I wash and prep some of my vegetables. Some vegetables I leave as is until I am ready to use them. I find if I peel and slice my zucchini and cucumber, sometimes it gets mushy before the week is up so I leave them alone. Other items I prepare right away to make the week easier. I cut florets off of my cauliflower and broccoli, trim my radishes, etc. That way if I want to pack raw veggies or make some steamed veggies it’s easy to grab a handful and prepare them without any extra steps. 

I would love to hear your food prep tips. I could always use new ideas. Let me know in the comments how you make healthy eating easier.

Our Backyard Farm Adventures: Homemade Yogurt

Homemade Yogurt

Source: Flickr/peddhapati

I was introduced to making homemade yogurt when my aunt came to visit a few months ago. I’ve been making it myself ever since. It’s a great way to control the ingredients and to reduce the sugar in my diet. The only ingredients needed are milk, dry milk and yogurt culture. I use 1 quart of milk, 1 cup dry milk and one package of yogurt culture from cheesemaking.com. I buy the cultures that make more of a Greek yogurt but you can also get a creamier yogurt or Bulgarian style yogurt cultures. The next round I am going to try each of the 3 types to see which one I like best. You can use a bit of a previous batch of yogurt instead of the purchased cultures but you will get more benefit from a higher level of cultures.

Why yogurt?

I add yogurt to my nutrition plan first of all because it’s yummy. When I have the munchies at work and I’m fighting the urge to hit up the vending machine for candy, a serving of yogurt with some nuts sprinkled in can help me get past the cravings. Yogurt also provides healthy bacteria that helps my gut function properly. Probiotics are living bacteria that are essential for good health. Yogurt is full of probiotics. Yogurt provides a good protein boost to your diet as well as  a dose of calcium. Many people who are lactose intolerant can still eat yogurt, especially if the extra whey is drained off.

How do I make it?

To make the yogurt I put 1 quart of milk in a saucepan and add 1 cup of dry milk. Heat the milk to 180 degrees. I use a candy thermometer to monitor the temperature while I am warming it up. Once it reaches 180 degrees, I cool the milk rapidly to 110 degrees in very cold water. Once it cools to 110 degrees I put the milk in a container and add the cultures and stir. I place the container in the oven with the oven light on. The light provides enough warmth for the yogurt process to start. I leave it in the oven overnight (6 to 12 hours are recommended) and then refrigerate it in the morning. There are also yogurt makers that you can get that will keep the yogurt at temperature, but the oven light is an inexpensive solution for me.

homemade yogurt

Next Clean Eating Challenge Starts Soon

salad recipe

Source: Wikimedia Commons, Krista

Next free clean eating challenge starts next week February 16, 2015. We spend 14 days together in a private Facebook group reinforcing good habits and working on ditching bad habits. I will provide a guide, videos, and lots of recipes to help you get through the two weeks. Invite a friend or two to do it with you – it’s always easier to stick to an eating plan when you have support from those around you. Sign up now so you can shop and prep before day 1.

Grandma’s Green Bean Soup Recipe

Green Bean Soup

Source: Flickr/US Dept. of Agriculture

My grandma has been gone for many years. I still miss her even after more than 2 decades. There is one dish that never fails to remind me of her and that is her Green Bean Soup recipe. I made it tonight and couldn’t help mentioning to my family once again that it was Grandma’s recipe. My grandma was known for being frugal and saving everything. If there were 3 kernels of corn left at dinner time, they got put in an empty margarine container and saved in the fridge or frozen along with the other leftovers. She could whip up a meal at any time with all the little bits and pieces she had saved. We teased her, but we always ate well. She could have a whole family show up unexpectedly for dinner and she would make it work with what she had on hand. She and her sister were raised by their mother and they struggled through the Depression era. She learned as a teen that you just don’t waste food – it’s too precious. Here is how I make the soup. There is no real recipe – just delicious ingredients thrown together. The magic happens at the end when you add the heavy whipping cream. It’s not diet food…just delicious, real food.

Grandma’s Green Bean Soup

Ingredients

  • 1 ham hock
  • 2 cups green beans, cut into bite sized lengths
  • 2 cups potatoes, peeled and chopped
  • 1/2 small onion
  • Hickory smoked salt (or Bacon Salt)
  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream

Instructions

  1. Add ham hock to a pot of water. Bring to a boil. I let this cook for awhile to infuse the flavors from the ham hock into the water. Add potatoes, onion, green beans, and smoked salt. Simmer until tender. I usually start with a teaspoon of smoked salt and then add more to taste. I like to slightly under-season until the cream is added. Then the flavors will really come together and you can add more salt if needed. Add cream at the very end. Enjoy!
http://cravingfitness.org/nutrition/green-bean-soup-recipe/

Tips for Portion Control

21 Day Fix yogurtPortion control can be a key part of managing your weight. Portion control is especially important for the less nutritious foods that we may choose to eat. I don’t think anyone ever got fat by eating too much spinach. So when it comes to non-starchy vegetables I really don’t think it’s worth fussing about whether or not we are eating too much. For high carbohydrate foods we tend to need to exercise portion control. I know I can mindlessly eat a whole lot of Cheetos or mashed potatoes and not get many nutrients in the process. Here are some tips for managing our portions.

Snacking

I find that if I get too hungry I tend to overeat. So if I get home from work and it will be some time until dinner, I may eat a little snack if I’m hungry. If I wait and avoid the snacking, I find that I will eat too much at dinner. And it’s not the veggies that I’m overeating! A sliced apple with some natural peanut butter provides some great nutrients and keeps me from overeating at dinner.

TV time

I find that if I am going to snack while watching TV it’s best to only bring a small portion in the room and limit myself to just that serving. Otherwise I can mindlessly put away way too many calories.

Eating out

When I eat out I like to order dishes that come with enough food to bring home for lunch for the next day. The trick is to divide the food right from the start so I don’t eat too much the first night. You can even ask for a to go box at the beginning of the meal and package half of it up right away.

Tempting foods

If I have foods in my home that tempt me (usually for my kids) I keep them in a separate cabinet. It’s actually a cabinet in my hallway that I’m sure was intended to be a linen closet. I am perfectly capable of going to this cabinet and getting into the snack foods but for some reason I don’t. It has really been instrumental in keeping me out of foods like chips and crackers and making better choices.

The Benefits of Keeping a Food Diary

Food DiaryKeeping a food diary can increase your weight loss success. 

In a study by the Center for Health Research participants who kept a record of what they ate lost twice the weight of participants who didn’t track their food. The study appeared in the August 2008 issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

How can such a simple activity help you lose weight?  

Open your eyes to the truth. 

Writing down what you eat, how much you ate, when you ate and any associated emotions or activities can provide information that can help you identify areas where you can make improvements. One thing I learned when I started tracking my food was just how often I was taking little bites of food here and there. Mindless eating while cooking dinner, packing kids’ lunches or putting away the snacks my children left out was really adding up.

Identify trends.

You may find that there are certain times where you tend to eat more than other times. You may also find that you make unhealthy choices more in certain situations. One thing I learned from my food diary is if I give in to certain treats (like frosting or candy) it sets me up for a day of cravings and frequently I give in. It’s so much easier for me to avoid those treats than to deal with the consequences. Many women find that it’s harder to eat right during “that time of the month.”  These are the types of trends you can identify by food tracking. Once you identify negative trends you can set some goals to do something about it.

Be honest.

It’s important when you start a food diary to be honest. You don’t have to show the diary to anyone else so be honest so you have good data to work with. That means writing down EVERY bite for a period of time. It’s best if you track all throughout the day instead of tracking at the end of the day. If you wait until the end of the day you can easily forget all the little extras you ate throughout the day. You don’t have to track forever. Just long enough to get a good sense of where you can improve to make the biggest impact in your health.

How to track.

You can track in many different ways. The easiest way is to just get a little notebook and write down everything you eat. You can also use apps like MyFitnessPal. Lately I’ve been tracking using the system included with the 21 Day Fix as shown in the photo below. It’s an easy way to track my portions of each macronutrient throughout the day. If you would like help with getting started feel free to contact me at info@cravingfitness.org

21 day

Enter to Win Shakeology

  Enter to Win Free Shakeology!

On my Facebook page I am giving away some Shakeology packets and a shaker cup so you can try the healthiest meal of the day. I’d love to have you hop over there and enter to win. You can enter by following the link: http://contest.io/fb/asczbc59

If you’d like to learn more about Shakeology and what’s in it you can check out my superfoods post here. It’s more than just a protein shake or meal replacement. I believe you won’t find another shake out there with as many amazing superfoods & no artificial ingredients. It comes with a bottom of the bag guarantee which means you can try it risk free for 30 days and return the empty bag if you were not satisfied. 

21 Days to Better Eating with Simple Portion Control

portion controlMy next challenge group will be the 21 Day Fix nutrition plan and workout. What makes 21 Day Fix different than anything you have ever seen? Simple! You know how most workout programs come with a nutrition guide that takes you days to read and then you spend a ton of money on groceries to try and follow the nutrition guide?

21 Day Fix is a simple system to help you focus on portion control and choosing the right foods. It even comes with special 21 Day Fix Portion Control Containers that you use throughout the program. If it doesn’t fit in the containers, then you can’t eat it. If it does, eat it! Simple! The combination of the workout plus the nutrition system is getting amazing results. Plus you can join others doing the same program in an online support group for additional accountability and encouragement.

Click here to see a video of what you’ll get and you will also be entered for a chance to win the program for free.