The Flat Abs Project Bonus Week!

Hey everyone, sorry for the delay posting this but with the craziness that is Christmas  I just haven’t had time!!  So this week we’re going to get right to business, do these exercises whenever you can over the holidays to help keep those abs you’ve created flat!

Warm up:

Swiss-Ball-Lying-Oblique-Twist-220x140Lying twist with Ball – same as week one’s lying twist, only this time you put a stability ball, medicine ball or any ball between your knees, squeeze with your inner thighs and do 10 reps.

SwimmingSwimming – lie on your stomach in the same position as last week’s Superman.  Lift one arm and the opposite leg off the ground, then lower and repeat on the other side.  Keeping your abs in tight, do reps as quickly as you can, in a fluttering or “swimming” motion.  Do 10 reps.

Workout:

the-roll-upRoll up –  lie on your back with your arms and legs extended.  Lift your arms and roll up until sitting, then reach forward as far as you can.  Slowly roll back down to starting position.  If this is too difficult, try bending your knees and placing your hands under your knees and pull yourself up.  Beginners do 10 reps, intermediate 15 reps and advanced 20 reps.

Bicycle CrunchBicycle crunch – begin as in week 3’s cross over crunch, but when crossing over to touch your opposite elbow with knee, extend the other leg straight.  Beginners extend the leg straight in the air and do 10 reps, intermediate extend leg to a 45 degree angle and do 15 reps, advanced extend leg to just above the floor and do 20 reps.

Plank with Opposite Arm/Leg RaisePlank with opposite arm/leg lift – in plank position, extend one arm and the opposite leg off the ground, hold for one sec. then lower and repeat to the opposite side.  Beginners do plank from either your elbows or hands and just lift the leg off the ground, do 10 reps.  Intermediate get in plank from your elbows and do 15 reps, advanced plank from your hands and do 20 reps.

Seated Tuck.V-sit tuck – in V-sit from week 2, feet off the ground, extend your arms and legs and lean back slightly, then come back in to v-sit.  Beginners touch your ankles when you come up and do 10 reps, intermediate do 15 reps.  Advanced touch your toes and do 20 reps.

Side Planks with crunchSide plank crunch – in side plank position, take your top arm and place the hand behind your head.  Crunch down to the hand on the floor, then return to start.  Beginners do side plank from your elbow with legs staggered or on knee and do 10 reps, intermediate side plank from elbow and 15 reps, advanced side plank from your hand and 20 reps.

That’s it until after Christmas, in the New Year I’ll be doing more monthly challenges to keep everyone motivated and on track…January’s in the Best Butt Challenge!  Have a wonderful holidays and happy new year, much love!

The Flat Abs Project Week #4

Week 4 is here and we’re in the home stretch!!  This is the last “official” week of the project, but I will be adding a bonus week for the week before Christmas so anyone interested can give it one last push!  I did want to share with you my own personal results so far.  Even though I had great intentions to decrease my carb intake and drastically increase my sad water intake (I only get about 1 to 2 litres per day which is bad for the amount of activity I do), my diet didn’t change at all!  I haven’t changed my exercise level either, it’s pretty much the same as it usually is.  I have been doing the ab exercises diligently, I’ve only missed one per week so far, most of the time I do either the intermediate or advanced versions, once in a while if I’m short on time or my abs are killing me I’ll only do the beginner.  But like I say to all my clients, consistency is key, and after measuring my waist today, I’m down 2 inches!!!  I’m so excited by the results, they are even better than I’d hoped!  I’d love to know if everyone else is experiencing good results as well, please be proud of your accomplishment and share to inspire others!

This week, I had a request from my Dad who works out religiously (yeah Dad!) but has a bad back and can’t do crunches.  I have told you all about trying crunches on a stability ball if you feel discomfort, but if you don’t have a ball or if crunches still cause you pain, here’s an entire workout that’s challenging with no crunches at all!

Warm up:

SupermanSuperman – lying on your stomach with legs extended and arms over your head, lift arms and legs off the floor at the same time and hold there for a count of three, then lower.  Do 10 reps.

ScorpionScorpion – on your stomach, arms airplaned out the side, bend one knee so foot is pointed toward the ceiling.  Twist across your body and touch the toe to the floor on the opposite side of body.  Return to the start, and repeat, alternating sides.  If this hurts your back, stick to the Lying Twist from week 1.  Do 10 reps on each side.

Workout:

Strong Man/Pin up Girl AbsStrong Man or Pin up Girl Abs – standing with legs shoulder width apart, bend over and place your hands on your knees, back rounded in a C-curve.  Pull your abs in towards your spine and up like your trying to suck them under your rib cage.  Hold this for 30 – 60 sec., then release and stand up.  Beginners do 5 reps, intermediate 10 reps, advanced 15 reps.

The TwistThe Twist – sit up tall with a flat back and your legs straight out in front of you (cross your legs if this is too difficult).  Reach your arms out to the side, then take a deep breath in, pull in your abs and twist as far as you can to one side without leaning backwards.  Return to facing front, then repeat to the other side.  Beginners do 10 reps to each side, intermediate do 15 reps, and advanced 20 reps.

Plank with Knee InPlank with a Knee In – go into full plank position from your hands and toes, then pull one knee in towards your chest.  Return toes to the floor, then repeat with the other knee, keeping your hips down and abs tight throughout the move.  Beginners do 15 reps per side, intermediate 20 reps, and advanced 25 reps.

KayakersKayakers – sit in a V-sit position with the variation that is comfortable for you (see Week 2).  While leaning back, twist your upper body to one side, then the other, remembering to twist from the waist.  Beginners do 15 reps per side, intermediate 20 reps, and advanced 25 reps.  Advanced can try adding a weight in their hands to increase the intensity.

Side Plank LiftSide Plank Lifts – like the extended side plank, come up on your hand with your arm extended and either one bent knee for beginners, both legs straight but split for intermediate, or both legs stacked for advanced.  Hold for a count of three, then lower your hips to the ground.  Repeat doing all reps on one side then the other.  Beginners do 10 reps, intermediate 15 reps and advanced 20 reps.

My nutrition tip for today is about fibre.  A lot of times the extra padding we carry in our lower abdominal area is simply waste that we haven’t eliminated from our system yet.  If you are not regular this can mean an added 5 lbs. or more in your belly at any given time!  The best way to get rid of it is adding more fibre to your diet, along with the water intake I talked about in week 2.  So that means eating whole wheat and brown instead of white, mixing high fibre cereal like All Bran into your regular cereal or yogurt, and eating more fruits, vegetables and beans!  (if you want a sneaky, delicious way to get in more beans, try my Chocolate Chip Blondies, yum!)  Go slowly at first and remember to drink your water to prevent bloating and try digestive enzymes if you get any uncomfortable gas build up.  Good luck and stay tuned for week 5 the bonus week!

A Healthy Holidays?

So here we are, in the throws of the Christmas/Hanukkah/Kwanza/Festivus Season and we are already being bombarded with all the delicious delicacies that pass under our noses every December.  Every year I just think to myself, just make it through the season without gaining the customary 5 to 10 lbs. that most of us gain this time of year (and yes I have been guilty of that in seasons past! :-().  My mantra has been to my clients as well as myself, “Aim to maintain, aim to maintain!”, because weighing the same after Christmas as you did before Christmas is a big feat in and of itself.  But is there a better way?  Can you easily maintain, or heaven forbid, actually lose a few pounds over the holidays?

This year I decided to make ONLY healthy foods for the holidays.  Tough job I know!  I decided to do a blog post at the end of the week to share the best I’ve tried, and maybe a few of my disasters as well. :-)

Let’s start with one I bragged about on Facebook recently, my Chocolate Chip Blondies recipe.  I’ve also included the Chocolate Chip Brownie version if your family is chocoholics like mine! (both versions were fantastic!)  I’m also including my Pancake Squares recipe, great for holiday breakfasts, feeds a crowd  fast and no standing over the hot stove for hours!  And the new recipe I found for Pumpkin-Carrot Muffins, really delicious!

Chocolate Chip Blondies (recipe adapted from Chocolate Covered Katie and a few other sites I can’t remember now, sorry!)

1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed

1/3 cup natural nut butter

1/3 cup demerara or coconut sugar or raw sugar

1/3 cup honey or agave

¼ cup oats

2 tsp. pure vanilla extract

1 tsp. baking powder

¼ tsp. baking soda

1/8 tsp. salt

¼ cup cocoa (for brownie option)

½ cup semi sweet chocolate chips

Mix all ingredients except chocolate chips in the food processor until smooth.  Fold in chocolate chips, then pour into a greased 8×8 baking pan and bake at 350 F for 20 min.  Cool slightly before cutting, makes 16.

medium.1Pancake Squares (recipe adapted from Big Red Kitchen to make them healthier!)

1 1/2 cups milk (dairy or non dairy both work well)

2 tbsp. melted butter or coconut oil

2 large eggs

2 tbsp. raw sugar (maple syrup is a nice alternative, healthier and gives them a maple flavor!)

2 cups whole wheat flour (I substitute in ¼ cup coconut flour, ¼ cup plain protein powder, sometimes other healthy flours if I have them)

4 tsp. baking powder

1/4 tsp. salt

Preheat oven to 350°. Lightly grease an 8×12 baking dish. In a large mixing bowl, beat together milk, butter and egg. Add sugar, then gradually beat the flour in. Carefully stir in the baking powder and salt. Pour batter into prepared pan. Bake for 20-25 minutes. Serves 4-6.

Pumpkin-Carrot Muffins (recipe adapted from a magazine, they were cupcakes that I tweaked!)

1/3 cup light butter (use regular butter if you don’t have light, or coconut oil)

½ cup demerara or coconut sugar or raw sugar

¼ cup honey

2 large eggs

1 cup pureed pumpkin

½ cup fat free greek yogurt

1 tsp. pure vanilla extract

2 cups whole wheat pastry flour (again you can substitute in other healthy flours or even try gluten free!)

1 tsp. baking powder

1 tsp. baking soda

½ tsp. salt

½ tsp. ground ginger

½ tsp. cinnamon

1 cup grated carrot

1/2 cup pumpkin seeds (optional)

Grease muffin tin and preheat oven to 350 F. Cream together butter and sugar until well combined, add the egg, yogurt and pumpkin and beat well after each addition, then and dry ingredients and combine.  Fold in grated carrots and half the seeds, then spoon into muffin tin and sprinkle with remaining pumpkin seeds and bake until golden brown, about 20 min.

Hope everyone out there enjoys these recipes as much as we have , so far they’ve been big hits in this house!  If you have any family favorite holiday treats that you would like me to try and make healthier for you, send them to me at valarie@bethebestu.ca and I’ll see what I can do!  Happy Baking!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

hanks and happy baking!

The Flat Abs Project Week #3

Sorry for the delay in posting, very busy few days, a lot of unexpected interruptions spawned mainly by vehicle troubles :-(  So I’m writing this a day late, but better late than never, hopefully everyone did one of the past weeks routine’s to tide you over until today’s awesome set of five new exercises!
This week we’re taking it up another notch, combining some rectus and some tranverse abdominal exercises (that’s upper and lower for those of you just learning the lingo!), and I want EVERYONE to increase the amount of repetitions they’re doing, beginners are now doing 15, intermediate 20 and advanced 25 reps for each exercise!! Even of you are still stuck on one of the first two weeks that’s no problem, you can still increase the repetitions while you continue to learn the basics. But for those of you who are ready for a little more of a challenge, here’s week 3’s exercises:

Warm Up

Back ExtensionBack Extension – lying on your stomach, lift your torso off the ground to your highest point, without feeling any discomfort in your lower back. Hold for a count of three, then lower to the ground

Prone Hip ExtensionHip Extension – in the same prone position, lift both your feet together off the ground, again to your highest point before feeling back discomfort. Hold for a count of three, then lower (this can be done on a bench or chair see pic, or on the floor or stability ball). Beginners place your hands under your hip bones.

Workout

Butterfly CrunchButterfly Crunches – lying on your back with your feet touching and knees opened out to the sides, do the ab hold from the straight leg crunch last week. Pull in your abs and hold for a count of ten, repeat 5 times. Then while holding in your abs, do the number of reps for your level, if advanced finds this too easy, curl your hips off the floor and touch knees to elbows.

Lying Double Leg LoweringLying Double Leg Lowering – as in the single leg lowering, lay on your back, but with both legs straight in the air. Lower the straight legs towards the ground as far as you can without your lower back arching up off the floor, then return to start. Advanced if it’s too easy, lift your head and shoulders off the ground and hold there for all reps. Beginners can make it slightly easier by placing your hands under your hips.

Raised Leg Cross Over CrunchCross over crunch with Raised Legs – lying on your back, knees bent and stacked on top of your hips, curl your torso off the ground until just your shoulder blades are touching, then twist your right elbow towards your left knee. Repeat to the other side, that’s one rep.

Plank with Hip DropPlank with Hip Drop – in plank position form your toes and elbows, slowly twist one hip down towards the ground, then straighten back into plank. Repeat on the other side, that’s one rep. Complete all repetitions for your level.

Extended Side PlankExtended Side Plank – like the side plank, but come up on your hand with your arm extended and either one bent knee for beginners, both legs straight but split for intermediate, or both legs stacked for advanced (if that’s still too easy, straighten your arm as well!). Hold this for as long as you can keeping track of your time, beginners should aim for 20 sec., intermediate 30 sec. and advanced 45 sec. or longer!

This Friday I’ll be doing a health recipe post on how to eat smart for the holidays, taking some favorite treats and showing you how to make them healthier! So if you have any favorite holiday recipes you would like to see me make them virtually guilt free, email me the recipe and I’ll pick a few to make over! I’ll be making over a few of my own family’s favs as well, plus trying some new recipes I’ve seen on the internet and in cookbooks, so stay tuned!

The Flat Abs Project Week #2

Week one is in the books, how did everyone do learning the basics? I’m hoping it was a good refresher for most of you, and for others I’m sure it was a bit easy, hope you hung in there with me though because week two is definitely more of a challenge!

This week I wanted to address a big pet peeve of mine, people who train their abs wrong, more specifically, to stick out! Have you ever seen a person at the gym or on the beach who, while having a flat stomach or maybe even a six pack, seems to have it sticking out in front of them, almost like a bit of a rounded belly? You may have thought it was just that poor person’s unfortunate genetics that caused this to happen, but it was completely avoidable! It’s caused by not pulling in your abs when you training them, like the feeling when you suck your stomach in to button up a pair of too tight pants. You should be doing this “sucking in” every time you do a crunch or a plank or any other ab move, this trains your stomach to lie flat instead of pooching out.

So with that in mind, here’s this week’s exercises, remember to do 2 to 3 sets:

Warm Up/Cool Down

Cobra – lying on your stomach, with your palms on the ground beside your shoulders, lift your upper body off the floor and hold there for a count of 3, return to lying flat. Beginners come up so elbows are bent halfway and do 10 reps, intermediate elbows are slightly bent and do 15, advanced straight arms and 20. Remember to keep your shoulders down and away from your ears throughout the movement.

Lying Rear Leg Lift – lying on your stomach, head on the ground, lift one leg off the floor a few inches, hold for a count of 3, then return to start. Alternate legs until all reps are completed. Beginners place your hands under your hip bones and do 10 reps per leg, intermediate arm beside you and do 15 reps, advanced hold you head off the ground for all reps and do 20. These can also be done on a stability ball with hands on the floor for balance (see pic).

Workout

Straight Leg Ab Hold/Crunch – lay on the floor with your legs straight, then I want you to suck in your stomach, pulling your abs in towards your spine and flattening the small of your back to the floor, hold for 10 sec. Beginners do 10 reps of this, intermediate do 10 reps and finish with 5 crunches in this position, advanced do 10 holding reps and 10 crunches.

Side Bend – standing with your legs together or slightly apart for better balance, place left hand behind your head and leave your right arm straight by your side. Now bend to right side as far as you can, reaching towards your knee, then come back up to standing tall. Do all the reps, then switch sides. Beginners do 10 reps, intermediate 15 reps, and advanced 20 reps, adding a light weight if this becomes too easy

Single Leg Lowering – lay on your back, one leg straight above your hip and bent parallel to the ground, the other straight in the air. Lower the straight leg towards the ground as far as you can without your lower back arching up off the floor, then return to start. Do all the reps on one leg before switching sides. Beginners do 10 reps per leg, intermediate straighten the non working leg (see pic) and do 15 reps before switching legs, advanced do with straight legs and lift your head and shoulders off the ground. Hold that position while you do 20 reps each leg.

V-Sit – also called boat pose for you yogis. Sit up with your feet on the floor, knees bent. Lean back with a flat back until you feel your abs contract (they may even shake a little!), hold this. Beginners will hold for 30 sec., intermediate will lift your feet off the floor (see pic) with knees bent and hold for 45 sec., advanced will straighten your legs and hold in a “V” for 1 min.!

Lying Double Leg Lift – lying on your side, both legs together and stacked, lift them as if they were glued together about 2 inches or a little more off the floor (higher is not better!) Beginners do 10 reps per side, intermediate 15 reps and advanced 20 reps.

I hope the cutting back on carbs has been working, here’s another little tip for you. Water really does help you have flatter abs, for many reasons. Water helps to flush any excess waste from your system that can cause bloating in the stomach area, it also helps the body metabolize or break down fat and flush it out of your system. It also helps rid the body of excess sodium which really causes a lot of stomach pooching. Here’s a trick to try the next time you just had a big Chinese meal or just feel really bloated. Try drinking lemon water all day and see how fast you flush out that extra salt! Lemon water is a natural, mild diuretic so it helps you urinate more frequently, and the fluid helps to flush out the salt, and you can say bye bye bloat! Until next week, good luck and have fun!!!

The Flat Abs Project

I know it’s been a while since I’ve posted, way too long in fact, but my summer’s are pretty crazy with my husband’s business and me potentially (fingers crossed!) starting my own business and time just hasn’t been my friend lately. :-(
With the layoff in my blogging I’ve also been a bit more lax in my workouts, like most of you, when I get busy, taking care of myself and my health suffers. So in the interest of getting myself and my personal training clients back into peak shape, I decided to start a little ab challenge. For the next month, we will be doing 5 different abdominal exercises everyday, and every week those exercises will change and become more difficult as we get stronger. Then I thought, why not open the challenge up to my friends and family as well, the more the merrier! (or is it misery loves company! lol) So here’s this week’s workout!

Flat Ab Project

The first week are the basic exercises but we’ll be building on it from here!

Warm up (do once at the beginning, and if you have time, once at the end):

Lying Twist – lie on your back with your knees bent at a 45 degree angle and stacked over your hips. Drop your knees to the right side touching the floor (for advanced, keep your knees 2 inches off the floor), switch to the other side. Beginners 5 reps to each side, intermediate 10 reps, advanced 15

Opposite Arm/Leg Lift (low back)- on your hands and knees, lift the right arm and left leg off the floor and reach them towards the opposite walls, hold for 3 counts, then lower and raise the left arm and right leg off the floor and hold for three counts. Beginners 5 reps to each side, intermediate 10 reps, advanced 15

Workout:

Basic Crunch (forward flexion)- curl your torso off the ground until just your shoulder blades are touching, then back down, count 2 up, and 2 down. If you have a bad back and this is uncomfortable, or you want a bit more of a challenge, do on a stability ball or Bosu. 10 reps for beginners, 15 for intermediate, 20 for advanced

Cross over crunch (rotational)- curl your torso off the ground until just your shoulder blades are touching, then twist your right elbow towards your left knee. Repeat to the other side, that’s one rep. Again, this can be done on a stability ball or Bosu. 10 reps for beginners, 15 for intermediate, 20 for advanced

Reverse Crunch (forward flexion)- bend your knees parallel to the floor, hands beside your hips or behind your head. In 2 counts, lift your hips up off the floor, then slowly back down. To make it more challenging, keep your legs straight! 10 reps for beginners, 15 for intermediate, 20 for advanced

Plank (stabilizer)- get in a push up position from your toes and elbows (go from your knees if this is too hard or if it’s too easy full push up position with straight arms!). Hold this for as long as you can, keeping track of your time, beginners should aim for 30 sec., intermediate 45 sec., advanced 1 min. or more!

Side Plank (stabilizer)- lie on your side, then come up to rest on one elbow and either one bent knee for beginners, both legs straight but split for intermediate, or both legs stacked for advanced (if that’s still too easy, straighten your arm as well!). Hold this for as long as you can keeping track of your time, beginners should aim for 20 sec., intermediate 30 sec. and advanced 45 sec. or longer!

Repeat this sequence of exercises 2 to 3 times through.

If you thought you were beginner but the first time through was too easy, try the intermediate option! Every week the exercises will change so you don’t get bored, but feel free to continue to do the first exercises or any of the others you like, as long as you do one stabilizer, one forward flexion and one rotation or lateral flexion exercise. Also, if you have an extra layer over those abs you want to lose so they’ll show better, try adding 30 – 60 sec. of cardio intervals in between every two or three exercises that are specifically designed for your abs, like mountain climbers, plank jacks, high knees, cross country skiing, jumping twists, the running man, kickboxing or whatever you like! (descripstions and pictures of these and more will be under The Flat Abs Project Exercises page)

Also, you can see results from the people I’ve seen without changing your diet, but to get the best results, cut back on carbohydrates! Excess carbs sit right around your middle, causing beer bellies and muffin tops…that’s why they’re named after carbs!! The carbs after 4pm are the biggest killer, mainly because your body has little time to burn them off before you sleep. Try eating a smaller portion of potatoes, rice, pasta or bread with dinner than usual, switch to lite beer or have half the size glass of wine you normally would, save desserts for a once a week treat, and watch that middle disappear!

Good luck and keep me posted on how you do, if you need any further information or adaptations for any of the exercises, send me a message with your email address and I’ll send you an attachment with everything you need to get you started!

Healthy vs. Quick – The Busy Cook’s Dilemma


Ok so here’s the challenge that always presents itself for my family starting right around this time; how do you find the time to eat healthy meals when you’re run-off-your-feet busy? My husband runs a seasonal business, Treks in the Wild, doing canoe and kayak rentals here on the Grand River in Brantford, Ontario, plus running multi-day canoeing and backpacking trips to northern Ontario (learn more at http://www.treksinthewild.com, shameless plug I know! ;-) As you can imagine, this time of year is pretty hectic for all of us, especially since I also have to try to keep up with my own Be The Best U clients! So lately I’ve noticed the time crunch again, some nights already we’ve both been too tired to cook and done take out :-S But relying on take out, even if you can manage to find choices that are healthy, can get to be really expensive! So I decided as a reminder to myself and to help any of you out there who struggle with finding the time, energy, or motivation to cook after a long day, I wanted to list a few very quick, easy, healthy recipes for every meal of the day that you can fall back on when times get crazy:

Breakfast

Smoothie – OK pretty obvious choice but the easiest way to get in almost all of your fruits and veggies for the day in a quick, convenient way! My favorite is a scoop of plain protein powder, 1 tbsp. of natural sweetener like honey, 1 cup frozen strawberries, 1 cup frozen blueberries, 2 cups spinach, 1 cup almond milk, 1/8 tsp. vanilla, 1 tsp. chia seeds, 1 tbsp. oat bran. That keeps me full for hours and gives me an amazing energy boost!

Cold Cereal – Again a no-brainer just read the labels to make sure there are no harmful preservatives (see The Bad, the Not-So-Good and the Truly Awful blog post), check that it has enough fibre and not too much sugar. The way I recommend to my clients is to have ½ cup of high fibre cereal like All Bran, ½ cup of a slightly sweetened cereal of your choice (I usually eat one from Kashi or Nature’s Path) with 1 cup of milk of your choice and 1 cup of berries.

Hot Cereal – The easiest way is to use packets of ready to eat quick oats that are sweetened and flavored. Just check the label for sugar content and make sure it has no artificial sweeteners, some brands have weight control or diet versions that have a low sugar content but replace it with sucralose. The brand I buy is Nature’s Path, very few ingredients and tasty! Also if you’re a fan of steel cut oats or Red River cereal but lack the time to cook it, make it overnight in the crock pot, and in the morning your breakfast is already to eat!

Eggs – any way you cook them is great, boiled, scrambled, over easy, in an omelet, just make sure to take it easy on the added fats and if you can, add in lots of vegetables!

Lunch

Any of the options above are great for a quick lunch as well as:

Wraps – probably our favorite way to have something quick, sometimes it’s full of leftovers from the night before, other times it’s just salad with cottage cheese or beans, but it’s a delicious way to make a quick portable meal. Just remember to always buy whole grain and to use the small wraps if you’re trying to lose weight or cut back on carbs.

Soup – always a great choice when you’re on the run, but be careful, most canned soups contain your daily allowance for salt in one can! We usually take the time to make homemade soup which doesn’t take long, you literally cut up the ingredients and dump them in the pot and let them simmer pretty much unattended for an hour or more. Then we freeze what we’re not going to use immediately into individual serving sizes and eat for lunch!

Salad – another no brainer, so easy, just put in any lettuce you choose (the darker the leaf the better), then top with the vegetables you like, add so extra ingredients like beans, cottage cheese, leftover quinoa or rice, nuts, seeds, fruit, then top with a homemade dressing or simple oil and vinegar mixture and you’re done. Plus it’s extremely healthy, as long as you steer away from fat laden dressings.

Dinner

Again, any of the breakfast or lunch options are fine, but some other quick choices are:

Pasta – I think everyone should have at least one super quick, easy pasta recipe memorized and have all the ingredients on hand just in case they are running late. My husband’s is Puttenesca, mine is Pizzalioi, both delicious and take no longer to prepare then it takes to boil the water and cook the pasta!

Cooked Chicken – you can buy one for pretty cheap usually at any local grocery store, if you pick up a bag of salad and a whole grain baguette, you have a ready-to-go dinner!

Frozen Fish – have some in the freezer and all you do is run the bag in a sink full of luke warm water and in no time its thaw and ready to cook. Plus fish needs very little cooking time, under 15 min., or if you like shrimp you can buy the cooked variety that’s already peeled as well and after it’s thaw you can eat right away or add to pasta, a stir fry, a grill basket to warm up and voila! A healthy dinner in minutes!

Hope that gave you a few ideas on what to cook when you’re busy, I’m going to try to compile a list of what to have when you eat out that won’t derail your healthy eating efforts! Happy cooking!

The Bad, the Not-So-Good, and the Truly Awful

So its life as usual here at home, crazy busy with no end in sight! Because of this, a few processed foods that we had in the cupboard and freezer that we’d bought before Lent have made their way onto our table again and I do buy the occasional loaf or two of bread (usually sprouted grain now though). I did decide that the vast majority of the processed foods we got rid of will stay gone, mainly because I didn’t really miss them. But I know there are a few things my kids love and kind of missed, Golden Grahams and Cookies and Cream instant oatmeal to name a few! So I thought it isn’t right for me to unilaterally make the decision for everyone as to which foods they want to completely give up, have in moderation, or put back onto the table on a regular basis. I figured a better idea would be to let the kids decide what to add back into their daily diet after they read the ingredient label. If there are any ingredients they don’t know, like potassium sorbate, they need to look it up so they can make a truly informed decision about what they are putting in their bodies. So far they have mainly just decided to stay away from any foods with ingredients they don’t know, which is a fantastic step!

For those of you who don’t necessarily have the time to do the research on the additives in all your foods, here’s a cheat sheet to take shopping with you of the bad, the not-so-good, and the truly awful:

1. BHA and BHT – used to preserve foods, usually cereal, also is a human carcinogen and endocrine disruptor. Harmful to the liver and kidneys.
2. Propyl Gallate – used to stop fats going rancid, typically used with BHA/BHT. A suspected carcinogen.
3. Potassium Bromate – chemical found in breads and pizza doughs and is carcinogenic.
4. Sodium Nitrate – used to preserve meat, and is a carcinogenic. Linked to stomach, prostate and breast cancer.
5. Food Colorings – dyes like Blue 1 and 2, Red 3, Green 3 and Yellow 6, can cause behavioral problems in kids, as well studies show a link to cancer and thyroid problems.
6. MSG – monosodium glutamate is a flavor enhancer and is in a large variety of foods, even so called healthy foods like hydrolyzed vegetable protein or HVP. Can cause headaches and nausea and has even been linked to sudden cardiac arrest in athletes.
7. Artificial Sweeteners – aspartame is proving to be a neurotoxin and has a large list of common side effects from headaches to seizures. Sucralose and Acesulfame –K haven’t had as much study done on them but I’d rather not take the chance!
8. Hydrogenated and Partially Hydrogenated Oils – these are trans fats and are in a multitude of foods; even if the Nutrition Facts say there’s no trans fat in a serving, if hydrogenated oil is on the label then it contains trans fats, so don’t be fooled!

These are the ones that I’ve made the biggest effort to make sure they don’t find their way back into my home, there are others that cause some problems or are really unnecessary but that list could take more than a few blog posts! Good luck and happy grocery shopping!

Lent Wrap Up!

Easter Dinner...yum!!

Easter Dinner...yum!!!

Hey everyone!

Happy Easter Monday, hope everyone’s holiday weekend was wonderful. Lent is officially over and so is the experiment. We broke Lent in grand style with a big ham and turkey dinner with all the fixings, dessert, Easter chocolates and a big bacon, sausage and egg breakfast this morning, yum!! But things are still a little different around here, while we may not be quite as rigid with how much processed food we’re eating (the Easter Bunny did not leave organic chocolate!), I found that most of what we did is sticking. The reason for that is it wasn’t as hard as we thought it was going to be. Actually it was eye opening and thought provoking more than it was difficult. And we will be keeping most of it up. We will cut ourselves a little more slack to stray once in an odd while, but it’s had so many fringe benefits that we actually want to keep these foods out of our cupboard and fridge as much as possible. We figured that we would probably feel better and have more energy but some things were really unexpected:

1. Nobody in our house got sick – there was a MAJOR cold/flu going around for the past month or two, and while almost every other person I knew came down with it, nobody in our house did…maybe anecdotal but I’d say the food we ate (or almost as importantly, didn’t eat) had a lot to do with it.
2. Our garbage was greatly reduced – we are big on reusing everything we can and recycling the rest, but since we weren’t buying any prepackaged foods, usually wrapped in many layers of plastic and cardboard, our waste was reduced to half the amount of recycling as before and a quarter of the amount of garbage! Mind you our compost material went up three fold but that’s not so bad.
4. The kids really got into it – it’s funny, but I thought they would take this whole lent thing a lot harder than they did. Kids can actually be like little Nazis sometimes when you give them a cause! They checked labels, they asked about every piece of food they were offered as to what was in it and was it processed, they never complained about eating steel cut oats for breakfast almost daily, they were real troopers.
3. I lost weight! – completely unintentionally, but I lost 4 lbs. over the past few weeks without paying attention to my calorie intake or changing the way I exercised. That to me and any other chronic dieter is fantastic! And this may be a case of TMI but I’ve also been regular without the use of All Bran cereal or any other aid for pretty much the first time in my life…I think that all the gums and binders they put in processed foods must do the same to your insides!

All in all, an amazing experience for everyone in our family as well as our friends, who adopted quite a few new dietary habits and learned along with us. We’re now thinking about food and our environmental impact, that’s the next hurdle for us. We’ll keep you posted!

What are you doing anyway?

Real Food rules!

Sorry for the delay in posting, its March Break here and the family and I have been very busy!  The warm weather came early and we’re trying to enjoy every minute of it, in case it doesn’t last (which in this part of the world it rarely does until May!)  That means lots of hikes and playing in the back yard and desperately looking for any signs of wild edibles popping up (a little early yes but it never hurts to look).

Today I wanted to write about the rules to our family’s no processed foods journey.  I was at a friend’s house on the weekend; they are two of the most natural eaters I know.  They raise their own chickens and eggs (which we appreciate more than they know!), they plant a garden in the spring, her mom has an orchard where they grow peaches and cherries which we all get to enjoy (again thanks!), he hunts for wild game, they make a lot of their own things like barbeque sauce and breads, pastas, baked goods etc.  We always do some kind of pot luck when we get together, with lots of delicious foods and wine of course.  But even though they eat very well, they were a little stuck trying to figure out what we could and couldn’t eat.  The barbeque sauce they made was delicious but it did have brown sugar in it, which we decided because of the scant amount (he used mostly molasses to sweeten it) that we could eat it.  I did tell them that if necessary we are using organic raw sugar, turbinado or demerara but not what most people buy as “brown sugar” since it’s really just white sugar with coloring and artificial flavour in it.  Then there was some debate about what was in the Red Velvet cupcakes they’d made as they weren’t sure whether we could eat them or not, and it made me realize that maybe our personal “Food Rules” weren’t so clear.

Lately I’d been reading quite a few nutrition books concerned with eating more naturally and with less chemicals, like Jillian Michael’s Mastering Your Metabolism, Sophie Uliano’s The Gorgeously Green Diet, Tosca Reno’s Eat Clean Diet, Karl Weber’s Food Inc. and Michael Pollan’s Food Rules.  They all have a lot of great tips on how to change your diet to be healthier, less processed, ingest less chemicals and live greener, but the one I probably got most of my rules from for Lent was Michael Pollan.  In “Food Rules”, he gives the reader a very clear, easy to follow set of rules by which everyone should be eating.  Here’s the top 5 most important ones my family is following:

1.  Eat Food – choosing real, whole food instead of something processed

2.  Don’t eat anything your Great-Grandmother wouldn’t recognize as food – that gets rid of anything that doesn’t look like food

3.  Avoid food products containing ingredients no ordinary human would keep in their pantry – so cellulose, xanthan gum, calcium propionate amongst many others are on the no-eat list!

4.  Avoid food products containing ingredients that a third-grader can’t pronounce – very similar to the last but very effective when taking my boys out grocery shopping with me!

5.  Eat only foods that will eventually rot – so that cuts out preservatives!

Hopefully that helps sort it out for most people, if you still have any questions about my “rules” message me below and I’ll straighten out what I can.  I’ll also be posting my weekly grocery list and more recipes as has been requested. Have a great weekend and get outside! :-)