Tag: food

Making ‘thank you’ your regular reality.

Making ‘thank you’ your regular reality.

The last week of school I wanted my students to be extremely comfortable with the concepts and topics that we had covered over the 18 week semester.  Further, it was important to me that the students could look beyond the test and the multiple choice questions.  I really hoped that they could apply the information on taxes, checking and savings accounts, and renting an apartment after graduating high school.  Midway through the week, I had a rather shy student come up to me and in the most genuine voice say, “Thank you so much for reviewing with us this week, Mrs. Jamieson.  I really appreciate all the time you have spent to do this.”  It was a simple gesture, but meant a lot that he chose to say that.  A simple thank you really is as easy as that!

My first year of teaching at my current school I felt like I was flying by the seat of my pants during parts of the semester.  I started in the middle of the year and had very little prep time to get a classroom ready and activities prepared for class.  I remember toward the end of the semester receiving a card in my mailbox.  I opened that card to find a thank you note written from one of my students.  He was thanking me for being his teacher.  He wanted me to know that he thought I was doing a great job.  It meant a lot to me to receive that note.  I felt so lucky to have such a genuinely kind and appreciative student.  And, to this day, I still have that note.

While those thank yous really inspire me and give new perspective, sending and giving thank yous is what really makes my heart happy.  I love seeing others when they feel appreciated or surprised by a gesture of kindness.  I recently went to a conference that had a small team that worked extremely hard to plan meaningful sessions.  I could tell they worked long hours and had planned for months upon months.  I sent a personal thank you card to each person on that team to show my genuine appreciation for the work they had done.  So often we attend large events, galas, conferences, or fundraisers that caused a group (often small) to work their butts off to make it a phenomenal time for others.  It is usually nice for someone to acknowledge their work and the time they spent to execute it.

Recently, I had a friend who was getting ready to leave the school I am at to start a new adventure.  We were not close friends, in fact, I only knew him on a small level.  Before he went back to his city life, I wanted him to know how much I appreciated meeting him and having him as an aide for the very short time that we worked together.  He was delightfully surprised by the thank you, which is one of the best ways to thank someone!  Lastly, I chose to take bagels and cream cheese from Panera to an office where I do a very small amount of contractual work.  It’s a small group of very hard working individuals who are very kind and friendly toward me.  I randomly thought it would be fun to surprise them to let them know that I see how hard they work each day.  I got there with the bagels in hand and they were thrilled.  The director came to me and said, “We have never had someone do something like that for us.”   So, next time you have the chance to do something small, or to do something big, just do something to show appreciation and to thank others.

I hope these stories inspire you, motivate you, and cause you to surprise others with cards, food, or other ways that show appreciation for what they do.  Let’s make sure that thank you is a always a reality.  It will change your day by making the day of those around you better!

~jj

#ProjectKindnessBook

#AlwaysChooseKindness

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A day, month, and year of random acts of kindness!

A day, month, and year of random acts of kindness!

I feel very lucky because I have way more than I even want or need.  I have more than I feel like I deserve, I feel completely overindulged, and find myself living a life more blessed than most people in the world.  Yesterday was Easter and I was showered with numerous “goodies” from candy to quote books/journals and little things.  I got to eat my favorite food (pizza!) for lunch at one of my local favorites with family I love and finished the night with a lovely dinner with more family I love.  It felt like a pretty perfect day. However, today it reminded me of how overindulged many of our lives really are.  My Facebook and social media pages were filled with overflowing Easter baskets for children, egg hunt after egg hunt, and church gatherings with lots of people in new pretty dresses and clothes.  It was quite lovely to see the happiness that filled the world, but it was also a reminder of those that can’t afford to celebrate holidays, can’t afford new Easter dresses or Easter baskets for their children, and people that can’t even afford clean water, clothes, or even a house over their head.  It is a reminder to be mindful of those around us.  Those that may be suffering and need our help.  Those that could use something as small as a compliment, surprise, or someone to listen to them to brighten their day.

As my family and I talked at both lunch and dinner yesterday Starbucks coffee came up because they are changing their rewards program.  It reminded me how lucky I am to be able to buy a cup of $3 – $5 coffee (which I must admit makes me feel guilty typing because I know it is probably ridiculous and not to mention out of reach for many).  I still am guilty of consuming it on a semi-regular basis.

The point of this post isn’t to make anyone feel shameful or guilty of their choices, luxuries, or things.  It is rather a reminder for myself (and hopefully others appreciate it as well) that I am more blessed and overindulged in the most simple ways that are so easily taken for granted on a daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly basis.   It is a reminder for me to give back more and more each day as I go through life.  There are endless random acts of kindness that can be done for nothing or a little something, but that can light up someone’s face and change the entire outcome of their day or maybe even their life.  For that, I think kindness is definitely something worth spreading.

My mom had a little boy over when I was younger who couldn’t keep his pants up.  It seems funny and it was, but she went and found a belt for little Joey.  She later received a thank you card from that six year old little boy thanking her for the belt.  It was a simple gesture, but that little boy is now in his late twenties and sent her a message yesterday again reminding her of how much it meant that she gave him a belt that day.  Something as small as that is something that can impact someone’s life. I recently had a mother of a student at school bring hot chocolate for myself and two other teachers as a thank you for being such happy “parent pick-up” coordinators at our school during all weather – rain, snow, hot, and cold.  Today will be a day to put my foot forward and be the person to do a random act of kindness.  I am going to show up at SIU and give treats to some of my fiancé’s co-workers and the staff that work across the hall from them.  People I don’t really know, but may appreciate a small treat on a Monday!  These are just a few random acts of kindness, but there are endless people and places to spread it. From police officers to firefighters and the random person in line at McDonald’s to sliding a few dollars in a Redbox DVD to pay it forward.

I hope today is a day you remember how lucky you are and how thankful you should be if you have clean water, clean clothes, family, and a roof over your head.  I know I don’t always remember how blessed I am, but I continue to remind myself that the things I take for granted are another person’s dreams.

Celebrate spreading kindness and remember you can brighten someone’s day! 🙂

~jj

#ProjectKindnessBook

#AlwaysChooseKindness

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Holidays…family, friends, and FOOD!

Holidays…family, friends, and FOOD!

This is the weight-gaining, cookie-eating, mouth-stuffing time of the year!  It’s the time of the year when people eat cookies, cupcakes, chips, dips, and other sugary and salty foods.  It’s the time of the year when diets seem to be filled with more junk food than fruits and veggies.  It’s the time of the year when there are parties, potlucks, and events.   And, it’s the time of the year when health educators and counselors know what to expect come January when New Year’s resolutions come around!

I am getting ready to cook my “gluten free” Thanksgiving this weekend so that I can actually enjoy it!  Otherwise the day of Thanksgiving I get stuck with meat and potatoes without all the other lovely sides that fill the Thanksgiving table (but are often filled with gluten)!

As a way to cut back on fat and to reduce the calories in my gluten free dishes I will be making roasted brussels sprouts and corn with a couple of slices of bacon rather than a corn casserole or corn pudding which are filled with heavy cream, cream soups, and other fattening additives.  This is a great way to reduce fat and calories while still having great flavor.  The bacon will provide flavor along with chili powder, but since the two bacon slices will be divided among 6 people the amount consumed is very little.

My homemade mashed potatoes will feature part cauliflower.  That may sound awful to some, but I promise you won’t taste the cauliflower and it will save a ton of calories!  I will also use potatoes, but I will combine them with cauliflower to reduce the calories and add some veggies.  I will use reduced sodium, reduced fat cream cheese or greek yogurt to add creaminess to the potatoes.

I will not have bread since I will be making cornbread stuffing.  I made cornbread with reduced fat milk and will make the stuffing using reduced sodium chicken broth.   To save calories, it is great to consider how many “bready” sides or carbohydrate sides you will serve with your Thanksgiving dinner.  Consider having stuffing or bread, pie or cake, with more sides filled with veggies or fruits (i.e. brussel sprouts, corn, green beans, cranberries, mixed fruit, sweet potatoes – healthier than regular potatoes).

If your family does a green bean casserole each year consider roasted green beans, grilled green beans (these are delicious!), or pan seared green beans to cut back on the creamy soups, butter, and fried onions that are all high in calories.

Remember to fill your plates with more veggies than “bready” items and when you go back for seconds fill up on the veggie sides rather than more stuffing, bread, pie, and other high calorie dishes.  Oh, and take a quick walk before or after dinner so your food doesn’t sit in your stomach all day or all night.  You will thank yourself later when your food has a chance to digest rather than sit and make you feel miserable all night! 🙂

Happy eating, enjoy spending time with your friends and family, and have fun making new memories that you will remember forever!

~jj

#ProjectKindnessBook

#AlwaysChooseKindness

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Bacon?! Yes, please!

Bacon?! Yes, please!

Who doesn’t love a great sweet or maybe bacon?  Who was completely bummed by the new research that the World Health Organization aka WHO released this week about bacon, sausage, and hot dogs?  I have to admit that this was information I already knew, but information I never really want to hear (or at least not see plastered across every media outlet known to planet Earth).  I think everywhere I looked I saw articles, broadcasts, and posts reminding me of the harm of these foods.  Depressing, right?!  Or maybe not, maybe just news we needed to hear, be reminded of, and information to make us more well informed people about what we are shoving into our mouths each day (sometimes even me, on occasion)! 😉

On my list of nutrition improvements I continually have 1) Reduce sodium intake 2) Decrease sugary foods and 3) Increase naturally flavorful, non-processed foods (i.e. fruits and veggies, proteins in their most raw form).  Salts and sugars are an ongoing health concern that can always be improved no matter where you are at on your fitness and health journey.  Since the holidays are coming and Halloween is just around the corner it makes following these nutrition goals a bit difficult (even for me), but I have some tips that may just be the key to your nutrition success!

Remember that salts and sugars are often heavy additives in processed foods and of course in candy.  It is important to think about how much salt and sugar is in your diet (cereal, candy bars, sandwiches, pizza, salads, etc) – most people eat three times or more servings of the recommended amount of daily sodium.  That’s scary, especially considering heart disease and cardiovascular concerns are the number one killer.

To cut down on salt and sugars, consider eating more naturally sweet or salty foods that don’t have as much added to them for flavor.  Fruits like watermelon, strawberries, apples, oranges, and pineapple which are naturally sweet are great choices.  Decrease processed meats, chips, cheese, and other salty foods and consider eating foods that are in their more natural form such as chicken, fish, and other meats that you can control how much salt is added.  For desserts, consider a dessert that has fruit in it or a dessert that has a fruit topping such as pudding or mousse with fruit. Further, when it comes to cakes, cookies, pies, tarts, and other sweets make them from scratch so you can control the additives, preservatives, and other ingredients such as sugar and sodium that are placed in the dessert.  Sometimes you can make a less sweet cake, cheesecake, or tart and add fresh fruit that makes it less sugary, but still tastes delicious.

It may seem like a heartbreaker that bacon isn’t good for you and may cause cancer or that cookies like snickerdoodles are high in sugar, but it isn’t something we didn’t already know.  After all, we don’t think fried cheese, pickles, and chicken are good for us, do we?! 😉  Like I say, everything in moderation.  Life is too short not to enjoy the things we love (on occasion)! 😉

~jj

#ProjectKindnessBook

#AlwaysChooseKindness

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Will that be a Mini, Skinny, or Fun Size?

Will that be a Mini, Skinny, or Fun Size?

Mini, skinny, and fun size portions are the new fad.  It’s the newest, coolest, and hippest thing on the block these days.  These are the foods and drinks that make you think and feel like you are saving calories, but in reality you most likely are not.  The problem with these so-called “healthy” products is that they often lead to overconsumption.  Instead of having one skinny martini or skinny bellini when eating out at a restaurant you give yourself permission to drink two since it is the skinny version.  Drinking two “skinny” drinks while smaller usually results in more calories than if you consumed one normal size of a regular drink.  Other fun size portions are seen at Starbucks when they introduced their mini frappe this summer, mini McFlurries from McDonald’s, and mini Frosties from Wendy’s.

I am guilty of eating these on rare occasions so don’t feel bad if you do, too!  I was eating some candy minis last night after dinner because this is the time of year for “minis” and “fun size” candy. Halloween brings out these “trick or treat” portion sizes, but they can pose a problem for those of us that love these little portions and grab for the candy bowl throughout the entire month of October and November.  These “mini” and “fun size” candy packets and bars seem to be an excuse for many of us to eat more.  They are small and easy to pop in your mouth and they taste so delicious that you keep going back for more, all while reminding yourself that these are small portion sizes so you can justify eating more.  Am I sounding familiar to any of you?

Treats and other Halloween goodies also tend to be consumed more frequently during the month of October from brownies to graveyard cakes, cookies, cupcakes, and more.  All deliciously yummy treats that aren’t always the best choice.  Many people use “alternatives” in these desserts to make them “more healthy” such as applesauce, black beans, quinoa, etc.  This actually leads to overconsumption because people have the mindset that they are eating “healthy” desserts and therefore eat more of them.  In reality, people that consume these “healthier” desserts, fun size or mini candy bars, and skinny drinks actually end up consuming more calories than people who eat desserts that have not been altered to be more “healthy”.   For drinks such as frappes, McFlurries, and Frosties you may not consume more than one, but buy them more often throughout the week causing increased calories or you may use that smaller portion size to rationalize eating more later in the day.

Even as a health, nutrition, and exercise fanatic I can be guilty of this at times!  I once made brownies using applesauce to cut down on the oil and they didn’t cut it.  They seemed mediocre and boring so now I have been making normal brownies since.  They taste better and it is easier to watch my portion size than to justify eating extra brownies because they seem more healthy.

The point is that if you are trying to eat healthy by making “healthy” brownies or desserts, consuming mini, skinny, and fun size portions you probably aren’t doing yourself any favors.  It is actually better to watch what you eat and consume normal sizes rather than eating these smaller portions that tend to cause overconsumption.  That overconsumption leads to more calories and more fat than you might realize so next time you want brownies or something sweet, stick to the real thing instead.  Everything in moderation is a better motto than skinny, mini, and fun size!

~jj

#ProjectKindnessBook

#AlwaysChooseKindness

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Lunches: Soups, Salads, Sandwiches & More!

Lunches: Soups, Salads, Sandwiches & More!

It’s the summer months and soups, salads, and sandwiches seem to be go-to lunch choices for many people.  These can be relatively healthy items if you make sure you are diligent in how you make them or how you order them at your favorite restaurant (mine is McAlister’s:-) ).

During the week, I usually bring salads, lettuce wraps, or sandwiches to work.  One thing that I consistently have heard time and time again is that salads are not filling, they seem boring, and it tends to lead to snacking later because the person still feels hungry.  My best advice is to make salads frequently enough to where your body gets used to light, healthy lunches.  Further, load salads up with a variety of vegetables and fruits, nuts, craisins, deli meat, and other great add-ins.  I like to make a variety of different hearty salads throughout the week.  The key is to make different salads each day so you don’t get bored with them.  For example, I make chef salads, Olive Garden type salads, garden salads, Cobb salads, etc. that have different add-ins and different dressings. Just be careful putting too many add-ins in your salads such as cheese, croutons, dressings, or lots of bacon because these quickly add to the calories and can make a healthy one not so healthy!

For sandwiches, I typically use lettuce as my “bread” to make lettuce wraps.  These are easy, delicious, and save calories.  You can use different varieties of lunch meat and cheese to change things up such as turkey, ham, salami, roast beef, and provolone, mozzarella, colby jack, etc.  I typically enjoy the ultra thin cheese slices, but that’s up to you.  If I do make a sandwich using bread, I try to do a 1/2 sandwich and a 1/2 salad to keep it healthy.  Again, your choices are endless to what you like so you can change it up easily.  Just remember that condiments and sauces typically add a lot of extra calories to your lunch!  I try to stick to one condiment on my sandwiches such as mustard or light mayo (I also really like dijonnaise).

If you aren’t a “make and take” type lunch person because you can’t get yourself to make it the night before or can’t get yourself up early enough in the morning to make it, consider places that have great soup, salad, and sandwich combinations.  I suggest that you always get a salad with your meal and then choose a soup or a sandwich.  The greens are great for you and the sandwich or soup can be your less healthy choice.  Remember that cream-based soups tend to be higher in calories just like bread for sandwiches.  Also, be sure to ask for dressing on the side so you can control how much you put on.  I am a huge fan of McAlister’s Deli because they accommodate my food allergy.  Plus, they serve a great variety of salads and sandwiches that allow me to change things up, which I enjoy during the summer months.  One thing about McAlister’s is that it seems very healthy, but the calories add up quickly if you don’t pay attention to what you are ordering. They have a list of spud, soup, salad, and sandwich combinations on their website that are under 600 calories.  Check it out if you are curious on how many calories your typical go-to meal is!

Lastly, with your lunches and during summer in general, many people enjoy iced lemonade and iced tea, but remember these popular summer drinks add on the calories and are usually high in sugar.  You may think having a healthy meal will allow for the extra add on calories for your summer drinks, but be aware of what you are consuming.  Remember that your best option is to estimate your calories as best as you can so you aren’t mistakenly eating a “healthy” soup, salad, or sandwich combo that is actually as much as two meals combined.  Sometimes eating your sandwich at lunch and then taking your salad for later in the afternoon or vice versa is a great option.  Consider reading Find what works for YOU! and All about eating! for other great tips on eating such as full versus stuffed, eating small meals, and pacing yourself when you eat.

Happy healthy lunching (and eating)! 🙂

~jj

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You’ll only regret the workouts you don’t do!

You’ll only regret the workouts you don’t do!

We all have days when we feel unmotivated, don’t want to workout, feel lazy, want to take a nap, or just want to do other things, but on those days it is important to still do some type of workout, whether it be a short one or long one, cardio or yoga, or a quick run.  Sometimes thinking about my favorite person who inspires me such as an athlete is enough to motivate me!  If you are having one of those days, think twice before you skip your workout and remember all the positives of a great workout, including the reasons below!

     100 Reasons to Exercise Now (Courtesy of Pinterest)

  1. Because it makes you feel confident
  2. Because it helps you get stronger
  3. Because exercise helps combat depression
  4. Because you’ll feel proud of yourself
  5. Because you have goals you want to reach
  6. Because you’ll feel bad if you don’t
  7. Because you want to move forward, not backward
  8. Because it burns more calories than not working out
  9. Because it improves your heart health
  10. Because you want a great butt
  11. Because it prevents diabetes
  12. Because you want to be a good example to your kids
  13. Because you want to feel good in your clothes
  14. Because it reduces your risk of cancer
  15. Because your body was made to move
  16. Because you want to be an athlete
  17. Because you want to look better
  18. Because it lifts your mood
  19. Because you want to stand taller
  20. Because it reduces back pain
  21. Because it feels good
  22. Because it makes you feel accomplished
  23. Because you spend most of your day on your butt
  24. Because swimsuit season is always coming
  25. Because strong is the new skinny
  26. Because dieting only works so much
  27. Because it strengthens your bones, too
  28. Because it helps you lose weight
  29. Because it allows you to eat more food
  30. Because it’s the best way to spend “me” time
  31. Because it helps you de-stress
  32. Because it’s cheaper than therapy
  33. Because you want a strong core
  34. Because you want to take care for yourself
  35. Because you take pride in your body
  36. Because it strengthens your legs
  37. Because it helps your clothes fit better
  38. Because you want to push yourself
  39. Because you are capable of more than you ever imagined
  40. Because moving your body feels good
  41. Because it keeps your mind sharp
  42. Because it helps you beat belly bloat
  43. Because it helps you sleep better at night
  44. Because it gives you energy
  45. Because you want to stay healthy as you age
  46. Because you want to look younger
  47. Because you want toned arms
  48. Because it improves your balance
  49. Because it burns off last night’s dessert
  50. Because it boosts your immune system
  51. Because sweat is sexy
  52. Because you want to live longer
  53. Because you want to get better at your game
  54. Because you want to catch someone’s eye
  55. Because exercisers earn more money
  56. Because you’re more likely to eat better when you exercise
  57. Because you want to shave time off your running pace
  58. Because you want to breathe easier
  59. Because you want to see the scale drop
  60. Because exercise improves your sex life
  61. Because you are worth it
  62. Because being fit makes everything in life better
  63. Because you promised yourself that you would
  64. Because you deserve a better life
  65. Because it’ll help you drink more water
  66. Because you want to do real push-ups
  67. Because it reduces your health care costs
  68. Because you’ll miss fewer days of work
  69. Because you want to create a new future for yourself
  70. Because it’ll help you like what you see in the mirror
  71. Because it makes clothing shopping more fun
  72. Because you want to look and feel incredible
  73. Because exercising can be fun
  74. Because it’ll give your skin a glow
  75. Because it’s a good way to spend time with your friends
  76. Because it’ll help you prevent the middle-age spread
  77. Because it reduces your blood pressure
  78. Because you don’t want to let yourself go
  79. Because you don’t want to squeeze into an airplane or rollercoaster seat
  80. Because it strengthens your spirit
  81. Because it’s a cheap way to entertain yourself
  82. Because you’ll be able to reward yourself
  83. Because you need a reason to wear those new workout clothes
  84. Because you’re tired of being tired
  85. Because not working out is not going to get you very far
  86. Because it’s a great way to spend time outside
  87. Because you made a commitment to yourself
  88. Because you’re tired of starting over
  89. Because there will always be another wedding, vacation or reunion
  90. Because you’re not a quitter
  91. Because it improves your cholesterol
  92. Because it boosts your metabolism
  93. Because it prevents age-related muscle loss
  94. Because if you can do this, you can do anything
  95. Because a fit body is a healthy body
  96. Because it beats sitting on the couch
  97. Because  everyone has at least 10 minutes to spare
  98. Because you want to be stronger than your excuses
  99. Because not working out isn’t working out for you
  100. Because the only workout you ever regret is the one you skip

Now, GO WORKOUT!  You will feel much better once you do!

~jj

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Food cheat? Only in moderation!

Food cheat? Only in moderation!

Sorry for the short hiatus!  I have no excuse…I wasn’t on vacation, I really wasn’t any busier than normal, and I actually have a lot of health inspiration so there is no reason for why I haven’t posted lately. 🙁  I hear people say all the time this is my cheat day, so I can eat whatever I want today, but for today only.  Other times I hear people say it’s the weekend so I can eat what I want because I workout five days a week.  I also frequently hear people say they have cheat meals where they can eat whatever they want.  I think one important thing to remember is that while allowing yourself to enjoy all food groups and pleasures in life is great, it is still equally as important to exercise the idea of moderation AND considering the calories you are putting in your mouth.  With that being said, rather than having a cheat weekend, cheat day, or cheat meal, consider having a partial cheat meal whereby you eat a dessert after dinner or you eat fish for dinner, but still have fries as a side or you have scrambled eggs with mushrooms and spinach and a few slices of bacon as a side.

It is important to recognize that moderation needs to be considered when it comes to health, wellness, nutrition, and exercising.  My advice to people who want to enjoy some of the food luxuries in life, but still stay on a well-balanced diet is to consider eating cheat snacks or partial cheat meals.  I recently had a salad for dinner with no meat and then decided after dinner I still wanted something else and preferably something sweet.  I had a small cupcake after my salad and really found that it made more sense to have a salad and a small cupcake rather than a large unhealthy dinner followed by a large dessert.  My salad was filled with lots of veggies and greens that were great for me and then the cupcake was just a hint of cheating that satisfied my sweet tooth.  The best bet?  Choose not to have a large piece of fried chicken, mashed potatoes and gravy, and cornbread followed by a large piece of chocolate cake or have an all you can eat buffet followed by dessert.  This is an overabundance of calories that ruin an entire day (or even week) for a person because of the large amount of calories that are being consumed in just one meal.  Instead choose to pair the healthy with a small indulgence or treat that can accent the meal or be a small token of what you are craving rather than eating a large unhealthy meal and dessert.

That’s a wrap!  Go enjoy a great salad and a cupcake or your dessert of choice (just don’t go overboard with a large dessert such as a carrot cake, or a brownie sundae with chocolate and caramel sauce and whipped cream.  Enjoy your small cheats in moderation because I promise that you will feel better when you’re done, enjoy less calories, and won’t feel sick from over consumption!

~jj

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Healthy Creations: Winter fallback recipe for the crockpot!

Healthy Creations: Winter fallback recipe for the crockpot!

I wasn’t sure what I wanted to share today, but after thinking about the frigidly cold temperatures that are being seen (and of course, felt!) all across the country, I thought it would be appropriate to share a healthy crockpot recipe that the whole family could enjoy!  This time of year we often turn to comfort foods and crockpot recipes which aren’t always healthy and are often high in sodium.  So, here’s a quick, simple and delicious crockpot recipe that I have made many times and can attest to how tasty it is!

Pesto Crockpot Chicken

What you will need:

~4-6 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (or salmon if you prefer)

~1 cup of brown rice (the healthy stuff 😉 ) or pasta if you prefer (cooking time may vary)

~Mushrooms, cut into quarters

~1 8 oz. jar of pesto

~1 package of dry ranch dressing seasoning

~1 head of broccoli cut into florets

~2 cups of chicken stock or water (whichever you prefer)

What you will do:

First, spray the inside of your crockpot with a nonstick spray.  Then place your chicken breasts on the bottom of the crockpot.  Next, pour the ranch dressing seasoning on top of the chicken breasts, followed by the jar of pesto (use the entire jar). Next, top that with the broccoli florets and the mushrooms.  Then add a half cup of the chicken stock and place on low for 6 hours or on high for 4 hours.  When there is approximately 3 hours left of cooking time, you will add the brown rice along with the additional 1 1/2 cups of chicken stock (or water).  Total prep time is very minimal…maybe 10 minutes (if that) and this is definitely disaster free!  You can be a highly skilled chef or a mom at home cooking great meals for her family.  Either way it is a healthy creation that the whole family can enjoy together to stay warm during these freezing cold temperatures that we are facing!  Enjoy!

~jj

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Stay-cation or vacation, just make it an active one!

Stay-cation or vacation, just make it an active one!

Sorry for the almost-a-month long hiatus.  I took a short break to spend time with family over the holidays, enjoy some relaxation, and go on vacation with my boyfriend to Europe.  Our time in Europe was quite lovely and what I liked most about it was that it was an active vacation!  After walking mile after magnificent mile going from place to place in Europe I realized how much I absolutely love it there.  I have always dreamed of having a job where I can either walk, bike, or bike/walk to work.  That is something that was a majority in Europe (biking and walking everywhere and by everywhere I literally do mean everywhere, everywhere, everywhere 😉 ) and is probably one reason why you don’t see many, if any, obese people there.  I would say Americans could learn a thing or two from them!  I found it to be refreshing and fun, and a little exhausting, too!  My point is that whether you go on a vacation like me or enjoy a stay-cation at home remember that you can always make it an active vacation, which is my favorite kind!  You can go to Europe where staying active will not only be easy, but also unavoidable 😉 You can go on a beach vacation and take walks or jogs along the beach or you can go on a mountain vacation and go skiing.  Just remember that when you go on vacation, don’t just throw your workout out the window.  Consider small workouts, walks, and exercise routines that will keep you moving.  If you’re enjoying a stay-cation, consider hikes, organizing and cleaning to keep you busy, or other small routines that keep you active.

Once I got home and gave myself a few days to recover from the vacation and get back into the correct time zone after the jet lag, I got myself right back into my workout routine.  The week I would be starting back my workouts just happened to be Christmas week, but after taking 9 days off it was important to get myself back into the groove of life.  I got up Christmas morning and decided to hit the workout room before any Christmas festivities got under way.  Plus, all my Christmas fun is typically on Christmas Eve.  Anyway, back to this Christmas workout when my mom decides to semi-jokingly and semi-sarcastically say, “You just have to workout, don’t you?”  As if somewhat sickened, yet proud that I hold the will and motivation to workout on Christmas Day when many people do not hold the same discipline or expectations.  I know she knew in her mind that either way no matter what that I was going to workout because we had no plans or restrictions that would prevent me from fitting in a quick 30 to 40 minute workout.  Not to mention, for me, it is important to stay true to myself and my health, meaning I make it a priority even during the holiday season.  As I expressed to my mom, it’s the time of year when we all tend to eat a little more, eat a little less healthy, and eat until we feel like we might pop because we are so full.

My point?  Remember that you should try to keep the promises you make to yourself and goals you have for yourself, even during the holiday season.  That means sticking to your workouts, taking walks, and doing short exercise routines in-between holiday parties, festivities, etc so your friends and family understand that health is very important to you.  This keeps you in your normal routine and rhythm so that come January you are already in your same workout routine and schedule rather than taking a long hiatus from Thanksgiving through the New Year when you eat more calories and can easily slip into the winter slumber of not working out.  If you take a hiatus be prepared for a difficult time when you start back up again.  It makes it that much harder to get back into the swing of things, get your body and routine back in sync, and fulfill new resolutions that you should have never given up or done away with for a month to begin with.   Don’t feel guilty if this is what you did, but consider making changes next year  to keep your healthy lifestyle routine all year round!

So whether you are going on vacation, enjoying a stay-cation, or intertwining the two as I did during my holiday season, make it an active one that keeps you moving, gets you going, and helps you maintain a healthy lifestyle in the process!

Happy New Year, may 2015 be the year for exercising, good eating, and healthy lifestyle choices for you and yours!

~jj

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