Thursday, August 30, 2012

Cooking With Fresh Herbs and a Catch (Recipe, Pics & Review)

When I started this blog I told myself I was going to try new things and really go outside our normal fare and expand our palates.  Today was a big day for me.  I went waaaaaay outside the box today.  I made something that I have never liked since I was a kid.  When my mom cooked it I hated it so much that she gave me a peanut butter and jelly sandwich instead.  Well, before I get further into that I will tell you that I, for the first time tonight, used fresh herbs.  I have always used dried.  I used rosemary, thyme and parsley.  When I cut the sprigs I didn't even know if I needed to take all the leaves off the stems, or if the stems are ok to eat.  I'm clueless.  lol  With the rosemary I took the leaves off the stem because it looked pretty thick.  But with the thyme, I tried taking off the leaves but the stems were so soft they just broke off with the leaves.  So I took out some of the bigger stems and figured the smaller ones were pretty soft so they must be all right to eat.

What did I make tonight?  Fish.  I have always hated the smell of it, hated the taste of it, hated the texture of it...have never liked anything about it.  But, I thought, that was when I was a kid.  Maybe my tastes have developed and become a little more sophisticated with age.  I asked around and a lot of people recommended tilapia.  They said it is a mild flavored fish that doesn't stink a lot.  I searched on dLife for a recipe and found one for "Tilapia with Fresh Herbs and Lime".  That sounded good enough, so when tilapia went on sale at my grocery store this week, I took advantage and bought some.  One good thing is that it wasn't terribly expensive.  Just $6.99 per pound.  And one package had a little less than a pound and it looked like quite a lot, so I figured it would be enough to feed my family.

And fish is ok for Sami too.  She is technically a "pescatarian", which is a vegetarian who eats fish.  That meant I only had to make one dinner tonight...yea!  Here's how to make Tilapia with Fresh Herbs and Lime:

Ingredients:
1-1 1/2 lbs tilapia fillets
1/4 C fresh lime juice
4 medium garlic cloves, minced
1/2 C chopped parsley
1/2 C chopped scallions
1 tsp fresh rosemary, chopped
1 tsp fresh thyme, chopped
1 tsp paprika
1 C canned unsalted diced tomatoes (but I used the whole 14.5 oz can, and they probably should have been drained at least a little bit.)

Directions:
1.  Preheat oven to 375F
2.  Rinse fillets, pat dry and set aside.
3.  In medium bowl, mix lime juice, garlic, parsley, scallions (green onions), rosemary, thyme, paprika and tomatoes.
4.  Spray baking dish lightly with pan spray.  Place fillets in baking dish.  Spread topping evenly over fish.

5.  Cover tightly with foil and bake 25 minutes, until fish flakes easily with fork.

This fish is so amazing in the nutritional aspect.  I am going to give you the information for just the fish and then for the whole dinner I made which was 5 oz fish, 3/4 c cooked rainbow quinoa and 2 oz steamed asparagus.  Here's what it looked like all served up:
Looks good, doesn't it?  And my house didn't smell after it cooked!  Bonus!  Anyways, the fish's stats are:  181 calories, 3.8g fat, 1.3 saturated fat, .85g polyunsaturated fat, 1.4g monounsaturated fat, 80mg cholesterol, 79mg sodium, 538mg potassium, 0g carbs, 0g fiber, 37 whopping grams of protein. (4 Points Plus for the fish)

For the whole meal the numbers are:  376.6 calories, 7.6g fat, 1.79g saturated fat, 2.24g polyunsaturated fat, 2.1g monounsaturated fat, 80mg cholesterol, 224.7mg sodium, 1036mg potassium, 32.8g carbs, 3.9g fiber, 44.2g protein.  Talk about healthy and nutritious!!!  Holy cow! (9 Points Plus for whole dinner)

Now, for the taste test of my family.  Sami liked it and ate it.  Matthew sort of liked, but didn't like the after taste and only picked at it.  Sara and I spit it out.  Sara said it "tastes like plants".  Guess that would be the rosemary and thyme. lol  I did not like the taste or texture.  But I have never been a fish lover.  Now, I can tell that if I was someone who liked fish, this would be a very good fish to have.  Yes, the taste is very mild and the texture is soft and flaky.  So you may very well love it.  Jeff, who has always liked many types of fish, had 3 helpings of it and thought it was really good.

I would recommend this recipe for those of you who either like fish already or for those who want to try a mild-flavored fish.  It very well may be that my childhood memories of my aversion to fish got in the way of me really being open-minded about this dish.  I will try fish again.  I'll keep at it, staying on my course to try new things.  I think next time I will try salmon.  I seem to remember liking salmon patties when I was a kid...it reminded me of tuna, and I do like tuna (from a can).

The meal was overall easy to make.  I forgot to mention how to cook quinoa, in case you don't know.  First of all, I recommend buying it from the bulk section of your local healthy food store or farmer's market.  It is much more economical than buying the little boxes.  Those are waaaay over priced in my opinion.  Anyways, the rule of thumb is 2 parts water to 1 part quinoa.  It will bulk up about 3 to 4 times the dry measurement when cooked.  I used 1 1/2 C dry quinoa and 3 C water (I should have used stock for more flavor) and it made more than enough to feed my family of 5.  Next time I'll try to remember to use just 1 cup.  So put the liquid and quinoa in a pot over high heat and heat to a rolling boil.  Cover it, lower the heat to a simmer and cook for about 15 minutes or until the liquid is absorbed.  I thought the rainbow quinoa made the plate look visually inviting, as opposed to just the drab color of plain quinoa.  But they taste the same as far as I can tell.  I will make more quinoa dishes in the future, because it is really good...very bland unless you mix other flavors into it, though.  That's why I should have used a vegetable or chicken stock instead of just water.  But I added a little salt and that perked it up a bit.

Have any comments?  Please feel free to leave them here, or you can always reach me at happyfairylove@live.com.

Best Dishes,
Lisa
NOTE:  For more options on my blog such as key words, past blog post archives, my facebook link and other stuff, hover over the black bar on the right side of the screen.










Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Easy Home Made Soup (Recipe, Pics & Review)

I think I have told you all before that finding dinners for my family is often challenging.  The main reason being my 16 year old daughter has been a vegetarian for about 4 years now.  That means I have to make dinners for 4 carnivores and 1 herbivore, so I need recipes that are easily modifiable to vegetarian.

Tonight I was going to go straight vegetarian with a home made Vegetarian Vegetable Soup.  I told this to my husband, Jeff, and he says, "What?  No meat?"  *sigh*  I can never win.  Fortunately I had cooked up some chicken for tomorrow night's dinner yesterday, so all I had to do was cut it up and heat it.  Usually I wouldn't have had any defrosted if I wasn't planning on using it that day.  He just happened to luck out.

I made a recipe once for a Vegetarian Tortilla Soup, which I may post one day, but I changed a few things on that recipe to come up with the Vegetable Soup I made tonight.  Please note, when you read the ingredients, I did use canned corn, peas and green beans.  You could greatly reduce the sodium content by using fresh or frozen vegetables.  Also, my store doesn't carry low sodium vegetable broth.  If yours does, you should get that.  The nutritional values at the end are for the ingredients I used.  Here are the ingredients:

6-8 Servings

1 1/2 C (or 1 can) corn
1 1/2 C (or 1 can) peas
1 1/2 C (or 1 can) green beans
6.5 oz (about 2 bunches or 4 C) fresh spinach, stems cut off, leaves cut in half
1 small can diced fire roasted tomatoes
3 cloves garlic, chopped
4 C vegetable broth
1 med to large onion, chopped
3 C frozen hash browns or diced potatoes
2 C butternut squash, cooked
Real shredded Parmesan cheese for garnish

To cook the squash, cut in half length-wise and put face down in a baking dish.  Add about 1 inch of water to the dish and bake at about 400F for around 45 minutes to 1 hour, until fork tender.  Take out of the oven, seed it, and cut it up with the skin removed.  (Or just scoop it out of the skin.)
My daughter, Sara, helped me tonight.  She had fun seeding the squash.
1.  Put a little canola oil in a pan, heat it up and add onions and garlic.  Cook onions and garlic until they are golden.
2.  In a blender, put the can of tomatoes, 2 C of cooked butternut squash, onions and garlic.  Process until smooth.  Add to soup pot.

3.  To the soup pot add in the 4 C of vegetable broth.
4.  Add in all the vegetables except the spinach.  Heat to boiling, then reduce heat and simmer for a few minutes.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  If you know how to use herbs, this would probably taste good with a little oregano and/or basil.  I'm just not familiar with using them in recipes I create and wouldn't know how much to add for it to taste good.
5.  About 3 minutes before serving add spinach to pot and stir.

At this point, if you would like to add some chicken or beef, instead of adding it to the pot which would defeat it being a vegetarian dish, just add some meat to the bottom of the bowls for your carnivores.

6.  Ladle soup into bowls and top with a little bit of Parmesan cheese.

I really like this soup.  I am going to get more daring with a few herbs, though.  The fire-roasted tomatoes and the squash give it both a little zest and body.  I'm not a big fan of squash, but I like it in this recipe because it is not an overpowering flavor.  I'm sure that fresh/frozen vegetables would be much better than the canned I used...and way better on the sodium, too.  My family all liked it with the chicken, except Sami, of course, who liked it just vegetarian.  It would be really good served with a nice little side salad as well.  With the cooler weather coming (soon, I hope!) soups will probably be a good go-to meal for a lot of people.  This one is relatively easy and it's pretty quick to make.  It's not one of those that has to cook for hours and hours.  The longest thing is cooking the squash, but all that is is putting it in the oven and letting it go.  It's pretty difficult cutting a raw butternut squash, though, so use a large knife and please be careful!

Here are the nutritional values per serving (based on 6 servings):  209 calories, 1g fat, 1079mg sodium (remember, use fresh/frozen vegetables to cut this number way down!), 1052mg potassium (wow!), 45g carbs, 7.9g fiber and 7.75g protein.  (5 Points Plus) If you add chicken or beef, remember to add those calories and protein on to these numbers.

If you try this, let me know if you add any herbs to it, how you like it, how much of what you added, etc.  Then I can try it, too, and put out an update.  Leave me a comment here or drop me a line at happyfairylove@live.com.  PLEASE tell your friends and family about my blog.  I'd really like to get more readers, and if you mention it to people you never know who may thank you for hooking them up with some good, healthy recipes and info.

Peace,
Lisa
NOTE:  For more options on my blog such as key words, past blog post archives, my facebook link and other stuff, hover over the black bar on the right side of the screen.


Monday, August 27, 2012

Perimeter Shopping for Eating Clean

The majority of health-conscious people say that you can't lose weight and get healthy if you are not eating clean.  What is eating clean?  Very simply, eating clean means your menu consists of whole, natural products...foods that do not have any man-made components to them...and avoiding the things that make up the Standard American Diet (SAD).  The SAD diet has all the elements one would eat to increase heart disease, stroke, cancer, and intestinal disorders among other things.  Those elements are:  high in animal fats, high in unhealthy fats, low in fiber, low in complex carbohydrates, low in plant-based foods and high in processed foods.

People who eat clean eat a lot of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, fresh lean meat, fish and poultry and complex carbohydrates.  They are eliminating things like processed foods, foods with chemicals in them (usually the ones in the ingredient list that you can't pronounce), additives, preservatives, dyes, etc.

One of the problems for people converting to clean eating is that they are addicted to the sugars in processed foods, fast food, and things like white bread.  It does take some time and effort, but if you can stick with it your tastes WILL change and you will become not only accustomed to whole foods, but you will PREFER whole foods.

Remember, though, my advice from the very beginning of this blog:  Make changes gradually for a better chance of making them long-term changes.  Maybe try not to go clean all at one shot, but start by switching things out a little at a time.  One good place to start, in my opinion, is to start eating whole grains instead of white flour in all your products.  Switching to healthier breads and pastas, for me, was an easy change.  Then start incorporating one or two new fruits and vegetables at a time.  Sometimes I have to get creative.  At this point I am not a big fan of squash, but if I cook it and then puree a couple cups of butternut squash to the base of the vegetable soup I make it gives it more body and depth of flavor without being overpowering.  A lot of people get more fruits or vegetables by blending them into other foods, such as smoothies or spaghetti sauce.

This takes me to my personal strategy for buying groceries:  shopping the perimeter.  What does that mean?  Well, have you ever noticed that the fresh and natural foods are mostly around the outer edges of the store?  The processed foods in boxes and bags are usually all in the aisles in the  middle of the store.  I shop the perimeter as much as possible, and rarely do I go into the aisles.  Notice I didn't save "never".  I said "rarely".  I still buy canned vegetables sometimes for the convenience, although they do have added sodium (I try to get low sodium).  When I buy canned vegetables it's always either green beans, peas or corn.  All other vegetables I buy from the produce section or frozen fresh with no additives.  My oatmeal and my husband's tea are in the cereal aisle.  It's not that you have to completely avoid the aisles at all costs, but avoid them as much as you personally possibly can.  Some people are die-hard clean eaters and would not ever even consider buying something processed or canned or whatever.  But, for the majority of us that extremism isn't going to work for the long-term.  And if you read my blog, you know I am all about "what works for the long-term".

Do you know why they put the milk along the very back wall?  It's an item that people need frequently, but you have to go through all the processed and impulse foods before you get there.  When you go to buy milk you almost always leave with something else in hand.  But, because it's on the back wall and it's a natural product, it fits right in with the "perimeter shopping" rule. Just be careful getting there...the grocery store is a treacherous place! :)  Breads, produce, meats, fish, eggs, milk, other dairy like cheese and yogurt are all found around the edges of the store.  Stay around the edges as much as you can when shopping.

And, here's another idea.  Try your local farmer's market like a Sprout's or Whole Foods or something.  Their produce is usually much fresher and better quality, and it's usually cheaper, too.  Then, at the same time, you can go to their bulk bins and buy all kinds of clean foods like dried peas and beans, seeds, nuts, whole wheat flour, quinoa (MUCH cheaper in bulk than in a little box), brown rice, flax seed and more.  I find that buying from the bulk bins is much more economical than buying things pre-packaged.  You can find some interesting things there, too.  Yes, it's an extra trip to another store, but it really is worth it.  I shop three stores a week...Super Wal-Mart, Fry's and Sprouts.  And I've gotten to the point that I enjoy going to Sprouts.  I made the mistake last week of buying eggplant at Fry's in the produce section.  Both of them were rotten when I cut them open the next day.  I went to Sprouts and they were perfectly fresh and cheaper.  I should have gone there to begin with and would have actually saved time and headache in the process.

It does take some time, effort and a change of habitual patterns, but it possible to change your tastes and preferences in types of foods.  Eat clean for a cleaner, healthier body.  And one trick to doing this is to shop the perimeter.

If you'd like to leave a comment, please do!  I love getting notes from people.  If you want to contact me directly I am at happyfairylove@live.com.

Happy Shopping!
Lisa
NOTE:  For more options on my blog such as key words, past blog post archives, my facebook link and other stuff, hover over the black bar on the right side of the screen.



Saturday, August 25, 2012

So Very Not Happy With Blogger!!!

Ok, so my original layout got all messed up.  Nothing on my sidebar was there anymore.  I was trying to figure out the problem when I discovered that the sidebar things now only show up in "Dynamic Views".  Those layouts are absolutely HORRIBLE!!!!!  All the things on my sidebar are now in a pull out menu on the right side (the little black doohicky).  You have to hover over it to see the old sidebar items.  How dumb is that?  I don't like this one bit.  I did my best to make it somewhat attractive, but I am utterly disappointed.  Big frowny face! 
:(
I'll have to play around with it some more and see if I can get anything to change, but it is not looking promising for me.  I can have it the old way, but my subscribe button, key word menu, blog archive all do not work in that layout anymore.  How can you have a proper blog without key word searches and archives???

I'm going to stop bitching and go back to trying to find some solutions.

Go Ahead and Have Your Cake! (Recipe, Pics & Review)

It's my husband's birthday!  I have been searching high and low for a healthier cake recipe.  I mentioned on Facebook that I was looking, and Tawnya came to my rescue.  She told me about a recipe that she says is from Weight Watchers that uses diet soda and cake mix.  That's it.  Then, after I had been searching for 2 days on dLife and other sites, all of a sudden the same exact recipe showed up in front of me literally 5 minutes after she mentioned it.  How weird is that?  I took that as a hint that I should make it.

I ran to the grocery store as soon as it opened this morning, and I bought what I needed.  With one major mistake.  I didn't buy diet 7up.  Duh!  I bought regular.  omg, what an idiot.
Make sure you buy DIET soda!!!  Not like me who bought regular. 'doh!
I didn't realize it until after I already poured 1 cup into the cake mix.  The other 1/2 cup I used my diet Citrus Drop.  So that's all you do...12oz diet soda mixed in with a yellow cake mix.  Stir it up, pour it in a pan with pan spray on it, and bake it according to the box.  Sooo easy!!!!

I also found a recipe for a "Low-Sugar Whipped Topping" on dLife.  I bought the stuff to make it.  Here are the ingredients:
1/2 c non-fat powdered milk
1/3 c cold water
2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice (WARNING:  I only used 1 Tbsp, and it came out plenty strong.  I advise to only use 1 instead of 2 Tbsp.)
2 Tbsp sugar
1/4 c sugar substitute (equal to 1/4 c sugar)...I used Stevia.
1/2 tsp vanilla

1.  Add cold water to powdered milk and mix.  Refrigerate for 30 minutes
2.  Beat milk mixture at high speed for 4 minutes and then add lemon juice.
3.  Beat at high speed for another 4 minutes.
4.  Mix together the sugar and sugar substitute and then gradually add to the whipped milk.
5.  Stir in the vanilla and refrigerate until ready to serve.

It seemed like I was having problems with it because it was very loose.  Not the consistency I expected for a "whipped topping".  And it tasted funny.  The lemon juice to me made it taste like sour milk, and I actually only used half the lemon juice.  Not a pleasant taste.  I could see where it was going, trying to have a lemony zest to the cream, but it didn't come out as I expected.  Now, however, when I checked on the cream again in the refrigerator it is thickening up as it gets colder.  What I think I might do is try folding in just a little of this cream into the generic brand lite Cool Whip I bought on my way home from my taxi rounds this morning.  Maybe if the "Low-Sugar Whipped Topping" was mixed in with the plain whipped cream it will make the flavor a little less intense and become more of what I expected.  I will get back to you on that to see how it goes.

In the meantime, I cut a piece of cake (1/12th of the cake pan) and topped it with 3 Tbsp of lite Cool Whip (Kroger brand has 1 less g of carbs than Cool Whip).  I put just a dash of sprinkles on top with a candle, because it is, after all, in celebration of Jeff's 46th birthday.
Doesn't it look wonderful???  And let me tell you what.  The taste and texture are just divine.  It's got such a good flavor, and the lite whipped cream on top was just the right amount of sweet and lite.  Doesn't it look festive?  I will absolutely, definitely be making this again.  It crumbles a little easily, but that's not a huge problem if you're just careful cutting and serving it.

Here are the nutritional facts for 1/12 of the cake with 3 Tbsp lite whipped cream:

163 calories, 2.75g fat, 2.33g saturated fat, 265.5mg sodium, 16.7mg potassium, 33g carbs, and .83g protein. (4 Points Plus) You are saving 17.5 calories per serving in eggs and a whopping 82.5 calories per serving by eliminating the 1/2 c of canola oil.  That's exactly 100 calories less per serving, and that is quite significant in my book.  And absolutely NONE of the taste was sacrificed for the changes.

On top of that, cake normally has a frosting.  I don't know what you get, but I always get Pillsbury Chocolate Fudge Funfetti.  But per 2 Tbsp that crap has 150 calories, 6g fat, and an additional 23g carbs!  So if you do the math, a "typical" piece of cake with frosting on it is normally like 410 calories and 56g carbs!  With this diet soda cake and whipped topping you are saving about 230 calories per serving.  Amazing, huh?  I'd say with the great taste and better nutritional values, this is definitely a SCORE

If you are celebrating a birthday or other special occasion, go ahead and have a piece of this cake with a little whipped topping.  Just don't say everyday is a celebration! lol

A BIG thank you to Tawnya M. for bringing this recipe to my attention!!!

UPDATE:  I mixed in a little of the lemony cream to the plain lite whipped cream, and the flavor is much more pleasant than the straight lemon cream.  It adds just a little zing and zest without being overpowering.  Just start off with a little...maybe 1 part lemon cream to 3 parts lite whipped cream.  That's a guesstimate.  Taste it a little at a time as you go along until it's to your preference.  So, the "Low-Sugar Whipped Topping" was not a total failure after all.  It just needs to be modified from it's original version.  So if you used maybe 1 Tbsp of lemon cream to 3 Tbsp of lite whipped cream you would add 15 calories, 2.7g carbs and .75g protein to the total dessert.  Yes, I just now went and tried those measurements and it tastes good.  Just right, I think.  So, go ahead and make the "Low-Sugar Whipped Topping" after all!  It adds a nice little flair to the whipped cream.

ANOTHER UPDATE:  Matthew just came home from school and had a piece of cake with the mixture of lemon cream and lite whipped cream, and he devoured it!  It passed the 12 year old taste test!

If you would like to leave a comment here, it's so nice to get them and know someone out there is actually reading what I have to share. :)  Or, if you'd like to drop me a line you can always reach  me at happyfairylove@live.com.

Happy Celebrations!
Lisa





Friday, August 24, 2012

Not Our Odinary Chicken (Recipe, Pics and Review)

Last week you may remember that I decided to try at least one new "out of the box" (for me) dinner each week, take pics and post it for you all.  I went way out on a limb this week and tried a very new ingredient for my family...eggplant.  I have never made eggplant, and my kids have never eaten it before.  Don't click away yet!  Keep reading...

I got this recipe once again from dLife, but I changed it a little bit.  I changed an ingredient and changed some of the measurements.  I don't know about you, but my family likes a "hearty" meal.  I realize that I am cooking healthier, but that doesn't mean we have to eat like birds and still feel hungry when we're done.  And if you're increasing the right things, it's not going to be bad for you.

Here are the ingredients for Chicken Eggplant Casserole (serves 8):

1 1/2 - 2 eggplants (I used about 14 oz total), peeled, cut into 12-14 slices (I cut mine about 1/4" thick)
Cooking spray
4 Tbsp Parmesan Romano or Asiago cheese, fresh (I used a container of Buitoni brand)
3/4 tsp garlic powder (or 1 to 2 cloves minced garlic)
1 lb boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut into small pieces
2 - 14 1/2 oz cans Italian Seasoned diced tomatoes (drain about 1/2 the juice)
1 cup chopped bell peppers
1 medium onion chopped
3/4 C chopped up mushroom slices
3/4 tsp Italian seasoning
1/4 tsp black pepper
1 C mozzarella cheese (use reduced fat to lower calories and fat of recipe), shredded

Directions:
Prepare Eggplant Slices
1.  Preheat oven to broil.
2.  Arrange eggplant slices in a single layer on a non-stick baking sheet.  Mist with cooking spray.
3.  Place in oven about 4 inches from the heat and bake for about 2 minutes.
4.  Turn over eggplant, mist with cooking spray again, and top this side of the eggplant with the Parmesan Romano cheese.  Broil for 1 minute, or until golden. Set aside.

Prepare Filling
5.  Heat a non stick skillet sprayed with cooking spray over medium high heat for 1 minute.  Add the chicken pieces and cook, stirring frequently for 5 minutes, or until no longer pink.
6.  Add the tomatoes (with 1/2 the juice), onion, bell pepper, mushrooms, Italian seasoning, garlic powder and black pepper.  Bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to low and simmer for 5 minutes.

Preheat oven to 375F
Assemble Casserole
7.  Spray a baking dish with cooking spray.  Arrange half the eggplant slices on the bottom of the dish.  Cover with all of the chicken and tomato mixture.  Arrange the other half of the eggplant slices over the top.  Sprinkle the mozzarella cheese on top.
8.  Cover with foil and bake for 30 minutes.  (I did not have foil, and so I don't know what it's supposed to turn out like with the dish covered, but uncovered it still seemed to turn out fine.)
When I made this dish, the directions said not to drain the juice from the tomatoes.  But, when I served it, there ended up being a lot of extra liquid running on the plate and it wasn't attractive.  I'm not sure what the purpose of having all that juice in there would be, so I thought it would be best to drain at least one can of the tomatoes.  So, my plate was not pretty.  I'm showing you a pic of Sami's vegetarian version because it looks nicer.  Instead of dumping all the ingredients right in the pan with the chicken, I put the tomatoes, vegetables, and seasonings in a bowl and stirred it up.  Then I scooped a little of it out and put it in a separate pan with her fake chicken.  Then I dumped the bowl into the pan with the real chicken.  So, when I scooped out some of the mixture for her plate, I didn't get much juice in the scoop, and her plate looked much nicer than mine did.
I would like to add that I think this dish would be good served with some brown rice or quinoa cooked in chicken broth.

Now, for the taste test results of my guinea pig family.  They are such good sports!  They all balked at the thought of eating *gasp* eggplant.  Like I said, this is completely new to them.  It was a little funny when they asked how they were supposed to eat it, and I had to demonstrate to them how to cut a piece off with my fork.  Matthew (12) and Sami (16, vegetarian) both really liked it.  Sami was very interested in the healthfulness of the dish.  I guess she thought since it tasted so good and "hearty" that it must be bad for you.  Wrong!  This dish is VERY healthy.  Sara (10) tasted but did not care for the eggplant.  But she devoured the chicken and tomato filling, so it was still a win in my book.  At least she tried the eggplant.  When I was her age I didn't like it either, but I really enjoyed it this time around.  I also didn't cut my eggplant slices very thick so as to not overwhelm everyone on their first try of it.  Jeff gave it a thumb's up, and really dove into his.  He had seconds.  Again tonight there were no leftovers.  Score!  I think overall it was a success and everyone in the family would like to have it again.

On to the nutritional values.  If you search through the ginormous database of recipes on dLife and happen to find this one, you will notice that my nutritional values are different from theirs.  As I mentioned in the beginning, I changed some of the amounts of the ingredients which will alter the nutritional numbers per serving.  As I have written the instructions here, it serves 8:

188.8 Calories, 5.9g fat, 2.6g saturated fat, .18g polyunsaturated fat, .23g monounsaturated fat, 58mg cholesterol, 354mg sodium, 189mg potassium, 10g carbs, 2.5g fiber, 24g protein.  (5 Points Plus) What a healthy dinner!!!  And, as I said above, with these kinds of numbers it would be perfectly acceptable to add some brown rice or quinoa on the side.

My family and I recommend Chicken Eggplant Casserole.  It has a wonderful Italian flavor and aroma and it is also hearty.  I think you will enjoy it!  If you decide to try it, let me know how you and your family like it.  You can leave a comment here or you can always drop me a line at happyfairylove@live.com.

Blissful Eating Everyone!
Lisa

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Balancing Macronutrients For A Healthy Lifestyle

When discussing your dietary needs, there are Micronutrients which are things like vitamins and minerals, sodium, etc.  Then there are Macronutrients.  This group consists of carbohydrates, fats and protein.  In order for your body to function properly it is important to balance your Macronutrients.

First, you need to know that carbohydrates and proteins each carry 4 calories per gram, and fats are 9 calories per gram.  This is important to know when figuring your percentages of daily calories.

In a previous post I wrote a lot about the importance of carbohydrates in your diet.  I said that you should get 45-65% of your daily calories from carbohydrates for things like fueling your energy and good brain function.  If you'd like to read that post, click here.  I won't rehash that post, and I'll just leave it at that...45-65% of your daily calories should come from carboyhdrates.

Additionally, you need protein.  Protein is important because it does things like tissue repair, preserves lean muscle mass, source of energy when carbs are not available, immune function and more.  According to an article by McKinley Health Center (University of Illinois), your daily diet should consist of 10%-35% of your daily calories in proteins.  If you do the math, someone with a 1800 calorie per day diet should be eating between 45g and 157.5g of proteins per day.  That is a very big range.  If you look at a chart produced by the Institute of Medicine Food and Nutrition Board, an "Adequate Intake" for most women is 46g per day, and the AI for most men is 56g per day.  However, if you are doing exercise, your requirements for protein would be higher.  I am a 41 year old female, and I do light to moderate exercising a few days a week (when I'm being good ;) and my nutritionist advises me to eat at least 60g of protein per day.  If you work out at a gym, you may get a gung ho trainer who insists you have to have the full 35% of daily calories in protein to repair and build your muscle as you are working out.  I am not going to say that's wrong.  I am just going to say that sometimes they are a little over zealous in the recommendation to eat protein and eliminate carbs.  But I know some of you are on very high protein and very low carb diets.  If that's what is working for you, your doctor or nutritionist recommends it and you can maintain it for the long term, then keep at it.  (If the math confuses you, here is the formula... Total daily calories (times) x% and then that number divided by 4.)

Then there are fats.  There are good fats and bad fats, but let's talk first about fats in general.  Fats come from things like butter, oils, seeds and nuts, poultry, meat, fish, and dairy.  The recommended daily allowance of fats for most adults (men and women) is 20%-35% of your daily calories.  (That would be Total daily calories (times) x% and then that number divided by 9.)  According to the American Heart Association you should have no more than 7% of your daily calories be from saturated fats!  Trans fats should be less than 1% of your daily calories.  And most of your daily fats should be poly- and monounsaturated and should come from things like vegetable oils, fish, nuts, seeds and plants like avocados.

All of this sounds like it would be very difficult to keep track of.  But if you read my post called "The Most Valuable Weight Management Tool Available" then you will know that I am a BIG advocate of Fitday.com.  This website is free and will easily tell you in a simple little pie chart under your daily food log what your percentages of macronutients are.  Then there is a little table that breaks the numbers down for you and even separates out the types of fats and their percentages.  It couldn't be easier, and, in my humble opinion, leaves no excuse to not keep track of these types of things for a balanced daily diet for a healthy lifestyle.  Here is a pic of one of my daily charts/graphs so you can see what it looks like (and you can click for a larger view).
(My carbs were a little higher than my target 180g this day. ssshhhhh...don't tell my nutritionist! :)

The last thing is:  How much fiber should I be getting a day?  Well, in an article by The Mayo Clinic, they break it down very simply.  Men up to age 50 should get 38g per day.  Over age 50 they should get 30g a day in fiber.  Women up to the age of 50 should be getting 25g per day, and those over 50 should get at least 21g a day in fiber.  Why is fiber important?  The obvious one is that it helps maintain good function of the bowels.  It also does things like lower cholesterol levels, helps control blood sugar levels, and it could help with weight loss.  You can get your soluble fiber (dissolves in water) in things like oats, apples, peas, beans, barley and more.  Insoluble fiber can be found in things like whole wheat flour, nuts, and vegetables.

The point is, your diet is not just how much protein you eat, or how many carbs you eat, or how many calories you eat, or how many points you have.  A balance of macronutrients is essential for proper body function, and should be considered and calculated when trying to maintain an overall healthy lifestyle.

I hope this information has been helpful for you.  Please remember...I am not a professional.  I simply do a lot of research, and you can also find a ton of information on this topic simply by Googling "macronutrients".  I recommend looking at the source of information, though, to make sure you are getting it from a reputable place for the most accurate information.  Hopefully the links I have provided here will give you a good start if you'd like to do more of your own research.

I hope I didn't completely bore you with this.  It is important information, though.  If you'd like to leave a comment, please do!  Or, you can always contact me directly at happyfairylove@live.com.

Happy days!
Lisa



Monday, August 20, 2012

Strawberry Dream Mousse (Recipe and Review)

Wow, what a sweet treat this was!  I found a recipe on dLife called "Raspberry Dream Mousse", and I changed it just a little.  Primarily, I substituted strawberries for the raspberries.  Also, it called for the use of fresh fruit and ice cubes.  I saved a step and used frozen fruit.  Here are the ingredients I used (I doubled the recipe listed on dLife):

1 - .6 oz sugar free strawberry gelatin (dry mix, large box)
1 C cold water
1 - 1 lb package frozen strawberries
1 - 3.2 oz package powdered milk
It is super easy to make!

1.  In a sauce pan combine gelatin and water.  Stir well.  Let stand for 1 minute.
2.  Place pan over low heat.  Cook for just 1 minute or until gelatin is dissolved, stirring constantly.
3.  In a blender combine gelatin mixture, frozen fruit and powdered milk. (I added the strawberries maybe 3 or 4 at a time.) Cover and blend until smooth.
4.  Spoon mousse into parfait glasses and serve.

Easy!  I don't have parfait glasses, so all I had to use was little coffee cups.  lol.  I'm so unfancy at my house.
I used a 1/2 C measuring cup and put one 1/2 C scoop in each glass.  I got 6 servings with just a smidge to spare.  Perfect for your "little taste" before the company comes. ;) It would look really wonderful scooped out nicely into martini glasses (or something similar) with a few slices of fresh strawberries on top for garnish.  But, like I said, I'm not fancy and don't have such things, and this was just for my kids...they don't need fancy. lol

The texture is very thick, smooth and creamy.  It is fantastically sweet, and a little will go a long way.  My kids ate half and put the rest in the fridge for later.  I, on the other hand, ate it all.  :)  But that's ok, because the nutritional values are exceptional.  Here's the info (for the amounts and brands shown divided into 6 servings):

91.7 calories, 156.7mg sodium, 260mg potassium, 14.5g carbs, 1g fiber, 7.2g protein.  (2 Points Plus.)  This is a perfect fruit-i-liciously refreshing treat.  I highly recommend trying it.  Sooo easy to make, and simply scrumptious to eat.  My kids definitely want this again, and, if I'm ever social enough to have dinner guests, I think I might make this for dessert.  (Maybe I'll get some nicer glasses.)  I'm not sure how well it keeps in the fridge.  Since the kids put theirs in there I'll check on it every so often to see how it's holding up. (Update:  It's now the next morning, and I checked again on the cups the kids left in the fridge.  The mousse is still holding up just fine.  And if they don't wake up and eat it soon, it just may accidentally disappear! :)

Let me know if you try it.  Going to substitute different fruits?  Let me know here what you use and how it turns out.  As always, you can drop me a line at happyfairylove@live.com.

Merry Desserts!
Lisa
P.S.  I don't know how to get others to see my new blog except to ask you lovely few people who do read it to share it, either on Facebook, Twitter or your own blog.  Do you know anyone who may be interested in a healthier eating plan?  Please let them know about Losing Weight Along the Way.  Thanks so much!







Sunday, August 19, 2012

Not All "Healthier" Ice Cream Is On My Recommend List (Product Review)

One thing I miss terribly from my "eat whatever I feel like whenever I feel like it" days is McDonald's chocolate shakes.  Oh, how I love them.  I have to admit, on the rare occasion that I get my kids each a small chocolate shake from McD's, I have to take a little taste.  Just a small one.  And then I'm satisfied.  I can taste it and go on with my day.  Not like before when I'd down a medium shake in like 10 minutes.  Do you know how many calories and carbs are in a McDonald's chocolate shake, btw?  A 16oz cup is an enormous 710 calories, 21g fat, 13g saturated fat, and OMG 115g carbs!!!

But a McDonald's shake is not what I'm here to talk about today.  I had an emergency where I needed a chocolate shake.  Trying to be good, I went for a healthier alternative.  I found Skinny Cow "Slimited Editions" (cute, huh?) Double Chocolate Crumble Shake-Stirs.  Doesn't the name of it sound simply divine?  Yes, I thought so too.  Here's what it looks like:
I was really leery about buying it at first, because it's really not very big (8.1 oz) and packs in at 230 calories (and then add the milk that you put in it on top of that), and it has 40g carbs (not including the milk).  But, I tell you, it was an emergency!!! :)  When you open it up it's just frozen ice cream with cookie crumbles in it with a well down the center.
Then what you do is add 1/3 Cup milk and let it sit for a minute.
Then after a minute or two you stir it up and it's more like soft serve ice cream than it is a shake.  And it's very messy.  When I stirred it I couldn't easily get to the bottom without all the ice cream on top spilling over the sides.
Here's the nutritional information for one of these Shake-Stirs:  230 calories, 2.5g fat, 1.5g saturated fat, 40g carbs, 6g fiber, 7g protein.  So, all in all it is a WAY better option than a McDonald's milkshake.  But I have to say, I thought the taste was a little flat and bland.  By the name "Double Chocolate Crumble", I expected TONS of chocolatey wonderfulness.  It tasted good, but not great.  I was left feeling cheated out of a big 230 calories from my daily calorie budget.

The better option is definitely the Skinny Cow Chocolate Fudge Brownie single serve ice cream cup that I reviewed a few posts ago.  You can read that here.  The chocolate flavor is much better, and even though it's a smaller serving, it has way less calories (150) and it actually lasts longer than the bigger Shake-Stir.  I think that's because it takes longer to savor it and let it melt in your mouth since it's frozen, rather than the soft-serve of the Shake-Stir that melts easily and gets swallowed quickly.

Yes, it tasted good, but not good enough to warrant "spending" 263 of my daily calories on it (230+33 for my 1% 1/3 cup milk that got added in).

btw, talking about the Skinny Cow single serve ice cream cups, I tried the Strawberry Cheesecake, and it was marvelous!  So rich and creamy.  I wish I had one of those again instead of the Shake-Stir.

Eat Wisely,

Lisa
happyfairylove@live.com








Friday, August 17, 2012

What's For Dinner!? (Recipe, Pics and Review)

Since I began this journey I have been trying hard to find good recipes that will fit within the constraints of my family.  1)  Healthy enough for me to eat; 2) A healthier choice that is tasty enough for the rest of my family to eat; 3) Easily converted to vegetarian for my teenage daughter to eat.  It is daunting, believe me!  I have noticed, though, that I tend to the same types of flavors and foods all the time.  I never really venture out of my comfort zone.  I have made it my personal challenge since starting this blog to try at least one new main dish per week that is not something I would normally make or eat.

We eat a lot of chicken.  It's easy to cook, very versatile and I can easily substitute real chicken for Quorn brand vegetarian meatless meat for my daughter, Sami.  (If you've never tried Quorn brand products, they are fabulous!  They contain no soy and have a taste and texture very similar to real meat.  No funny after tastes!)  And I have never been able to cook beef very well.  I don't know why.  It just doesn't agree with me.  Maybe I will get brave and try again sometime soon.

I found a recipe on dLife that I decided to try this week.  Although it is chicken, it has flavors I am not accustomed to with meat.  I decided to make Honey Pecan Crusted Chicken.  Here are the ingredients:

1 cup Wheat Chex cereal, crushed
1/3 cup chopped pecans
2 Tbsp honey
2 Tbsp soy sauce
6 medium sized chicken breasts, boneless, skinless

Easy ingredient list, don't you think?  That's the way I like it...simple!!!

1.  Preheat oven to 425F.
2.  Cover a baking sheet with foil and spray with cooking spray.  I really recommend you don't skip this step.  I didn't have any foil in my cupboard tonight, so I just sprayed the dish, and the honey drippings really baked on to the bottom.  It'll take some soaking to get that up.
3.  Crush up the cereal in a bowl (I used the flat bottom of the measuring cup to crush it and it worked well enough.  Otherwise you could use a processor.)  Mix the cereal and the pecans in a bowl.
4.  In another bowl mix together the soy sauce and honey.
5.  Personally, I like my chicken in smaller, uniformly sized pieces because they bake quicker, easier and tend to stay moister throughout.  So I cut my chicken breasts in half lengh-wise.
6.  Dip the chicken in the soy sauce and honey mixture, then roll in cereal and pecan mixture to coat the chicken.  Place in pan.

7.  I baked mine for about 30 minutes.  To check your chicken, use a meat thermometer, or I just cut a piece open at the thickest spot and check to make sure there is no pink and it is cooked through before I take it out of the oven.

Serve!  How easy is that???!!!  I served mine with asparagus and brown rice.  For this recipe I figured the nutritional info for a 4oz piece of cooked chicken, but the piece in the pic was smaller than that.  Here's a pic of the meal all done.
Here is the nutritional information for a 4 oz. piece of chicken with the honey/pecan coating:  323 calories, 5.6g fat, .4g saturated fat, 452mg sodium (I did not use a low sodium soy sauce.  You can reduce this number by choosing that option.), 14.8g carbs, 1.6g fiber, and 36g protein.  (6 Points Plus.)  Since it is so good on carbs, you can easily add 1/2 cup brown rice to the equation.  The asparagus was a nice choice, too.  With five small asparagus spears and 1/2 cup of brown rice you will be looking at an additional:  99 calories, 1.8g fat, 138mg sodium, 17.9g carbs, 2.2g fiber, and 3.4g protein.

Now, if you go to dLife and look for this recipe and happen to find it in the thousands upon thousands of recipes they have, their nutritional info was VERY different from mine.  They did not specify how many ounces of chicken they were considering to be a serving.  They claimed there's only 5.3g of carbs, but just the 1 cup of cereal has 48.8g carbs, which when divided by 6 servings right there comes out to 8.13g carbs.  Also, they claim a serving is only 191.8 calories.  That's ludicrous because just 4 oz of chicken alone has 184 calories, and 1 cup of chex has 33.3 calories per serving in this dish (200 calories divided by 6 servings).  That right there, not including the honey or pecans is 217.3 calories. So it totally didn't make any sense to me.  I calculated each ingredient, added them all up and divided the total number by 6 to come up with my numbers.  I think mine are fairly accurate.

On to the review.  I waited, holding my breath, for each of my kids to take a bite.  Well, first off, I had to tell Sami that I kind of messed her vegetarian version up.  When I mixed the soy sauce and honey, I had exactly 2 Tbsp of honey in the jar.  When I have to dip and coat meat I always do hers first, so i don't "contaminate" her vegetarian food with any meat juices.  (I spoil her!)  Well, I forgot.  I didn't dip hers.  And, I drizzled the remaining liquid on top of the chicken so I had none left for hers.  Oy.  I put the honey bear in the microwave and heated it for 20 seconds.  I was able to get a little bit of honey out of it, but not very much.  I had to improvise.  I sprinkled just a smidge of brown sugar on top of her piece so the sweetness of the sugar would offset the saltiness of the soy.  Since she had never had the "correct" version, she didn't know any better and still liked it.  In fact, ALL the kids said right away how good it was.  Score!!!  It was VERY tasty!  It was lightly sweet and just a bit salty, and the crunchiness of the coating was great.  My husband said, "Well, it's different."  And I was like, "But do you like it?"  He said he did and he must have because he had about 4 strips of chicken himself.

Sara (my 10 year old) said, "Can we have this again?" after she had about 3 bites.  Matthew (my 12 year old) had seconds.  Sami ate all of her "messed up" piece.  There were no leftovers of anything tonight.  That's really a win, because it seems that leftovers never get eaten in our house and end up in the trash.

My family and I highly recommend this dish.  Let me know if you try it and what you think of it.  Leave a comment here or drop me a line at happyfairylove@live.com.

Have a lovely dinner!
Lisa

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Stressed Out = High Insulin + More Fat

First of all, I want to share with you my major milestone.  On 8/15/12 I hit the 50 lb loss mark!!!  woohoo for me!!!

In addition to having weight issues, I also suffer from mental illness:  bipolar disorder, schizzo-affective disorder and severe and chronic anxiety.  I used to see a therapist every week, and it was at that time that my weight was really getting out of control.  She used to tell me that the more stress you have in your life, the more cortisol your body releases.  I didn't really know what cortisol was or how it worked; all I knew was that she said it lends to my weight gain, particularly around the middle.  It has taken me a while, but I am beginning to bring my stress levels down more frequently.

What is cortisol?  Cortisol is a hormone secreted by the adrenal glands.  Its function is supposed to be maintenance of blood pressure and it also has to do with the delivery of energy to the body.  Cortisol tends to have a time clock, and high stress can throw off that clock.  In normal people it is highest in the morning and lowest at night.  But when that gets all flip-flopped around it can wreak havoc on your fat cells.  I'll explain it in layman's terms because honestly I don't understand all the big scientific words so much.

Cortisol has to do with our body's ancient "fight or flight" mechanism.  When a person is under high stress, for example a car accident, your body produces adrenalin.  Adrenalin increases awareness and brings on a quick higher energy level, it also helps your fat cells to release energy and your digestive system is temporarily stopped.  Then there's the second component to the "fight or flight", which is the cortisol.  This is required to bring your body back into balance after the stressful situation has occurred.  How that affects the body is that after the adrenalin wears away, the cortisol sticks around for a while and gets the systems into gear again, mainly increasing the appetite so that we take in more carbohydrates and fats to replenish the energy we expended while in our time of stress.

This process works really well when we are in sudden danger, as it has for eons since the cavemen days of running from predators.  The problem is, our society is so often in a constant state of stress these days.  That means your cortisol levels remain high, which means your insulin remains high, which means excessive sugar that is then converted to fat and deposited most often around your mid section.  Having fat stored around your middle is particularly dangerous because that's the type of fat that lends itself to heart attacks and strokes.

Of course, the amount of cortisol in the system varies among individuals.  And this is a very basic intro lesson on how cortisol affects weight gain (and cardiovascular disease).  The question then becomes, "What can I do to lessen stress to try to keep my cortisol at a normal level?"  There are a million different techniques people can use to diminish their stress levels.  Here are a few ideas:

1.  Keeping yourself mindful and in the present moment through meditation.  Anything that can help your mind to stop spinning in a million different directions and keep focused on one thing for a period of time is helpful.  Doing handwork like knitting or painting are two examples.  Others find that light exercise such as walking will help their minds to relax and they can focus on just the walk and let everything else go.

2.  Taking deep, cleansing breaths.  Stressful situations leads to more shallow breathing.  You will want to slow down and deepen your breathing.  Take a long breath in, focusing on what it feels like as your chest expands.  Then let it out, feeling your body relax as you exhale.  Repeat this 10 times or so and see if you don't feel more relaxed.

3.  Listen to relaxing music, classical is recommended.  I read that listening to classical music for 30 minutes a day is like taking 10mg of Valium.  Try to get your heart rate to slow and match the rhythm of the music.

4.  Self-soothing.  This was one of my therapist's favorite things to recommend.  What feels good to you?  How about rubbing aromatic lotion into your hands and/or feet.  How about taking a nice warm shower.  Another good self-soothing technique is a massage.  The idea is to do something that comforts your body (not eating!) to help bring your mind and heart rate back into balance.

5.  Exercise.  Yoga is a good example.  Or maybe Zumba to help get that excess energy out.

6.  Take a nap.  Even if it's a 20 minute cat-nap, a little rest can go a long way to rejuvenate your mind and body.

There are so many things a person can do to de-stress.  Find a few ways that work for you, and practice them regularly.  That constant stress you are feeling may actually truly be contributing to your weight gain.

If I didn't get the Science exactly right, again, I am not a professional.  I do my best to understand and then relay the information.  If you'd like to learn more about Cortisol and weight gain, do a simple Google search and you will find a ton of information out there.  I hope this little introductory lesson has given you an "A-ha moment" in realizing why it is so important to keep your stress under control.  If you'd like to leave a comment or question, please...I love hearing from you.  Also, do you have another great way to help yourself relax?  Why don't you share that in the comments section.  The more we share, the more we help each other.  I can also be reached at happyfairylove@live.com.

Be Well,
Lisa




Tuesday, August 14, 2012

A Twist on Pretzels (Product Review)

I don't know about you, but for me plain pretzels are so...boring.  I really like having a salty crunchy snack, though, and pretzels are much better for you than greasy chips.  I found a new (to me) product, that I want to tell you about.  It takes pretzels to another level.
Pretzel Crisps by Snack Factory
These pretzels are flattened out thin and are very crispy.  duh.  I guess it says that in the name. lol.  But they really are nice and crunchy.  What I really like about them, though, are the flavors they come in.  This week I bought Jalapeno Jack and Garlic Parmesan.  I love love love garlic, and I also like things with a little kick.  These two flavors are perfect for me.  They also come in Original, Buffalo Wing, Everything, and Sesame.  Get this.  For the holidays they even have limited edition flavors of either Dark or White Chocolate and Peppermint.  And then it says you can buy other flavors in specialty stores...Classic, Supreme, Tuscan Three Cheese and Cinnamon Toast.  Given their flat shape and crispiness, they are perfect for dipping and topping.

They are better for you because they are baked and not fried in oil, therefore they have much less total and saturated fats and calories than other fried types of chips.  Here are the nutrition facts:  Serving size, 1 oz.  110 calories, 1.5g fat (0g saturated fat and trans fat), 410mg sodium (Garlic Parmesan) and 530mg (Jalapeno Jack), 22g carbs, 1g fiber, 3g protein.  They are a little high on the sodium compared to some other choices such as Sun Chips Creamy Roasted Garlic, which only has 150mg sodium; however, the Sun Chips have more fat and overall calories (6g fat, .5g saturated fat, 140 calories per ounce).

I have really enjoyed having an ounce of Pretzel Crisps here and there when I get a little munchy craving.  As long as you can limit yourself to a single serving and not the whole bag, these would be a good option for you to try.  If you would like to find a store near you that carries these, click here.

As always, I can be reached at happyfairylove@live.com.  Feel free to leave a comment here or drop me a note in my email.

Happy munching!
Lisa



Monday, August 13, 2012

The Most Valuable Weight Management Tool Available (imho)

I mentioned it in a previous post briefly, but I want to tell you more about an amazing FREE website called Fitday.  They have a paid version if you don't want to see the ads and be able to make custom reports, but I like the free version just fine.

What does fitday.com do?  It helps you keep track of your calories (burned and eaten), log your activities, weight goals, write a journal, see your nutrient breakdowns, create reports to see all kinds of graphs and charts that show your efforts and more.  I've captured some screen shots to give you an idea of what it looks like and a glimpse of how it works.

The principle behind this website is very basic.  If you don't keep track of your calories, you will probably have a difficult time losing or maintaining weight because it's hard to succeed in something you don't see.  You will lose weight if you burn more calories than you eat.  You will gain weight if you eat more calories than you burn.  Simple.  For me, this has been my only way I've successfully lost weight at a good and steady rate.  When you sign up you just follow the screen instructions on creating an account.  It will walk you through getting all your basic starting info in such as age, height, weight, etc.  Once you get started there are buttons along the top of the page to click around in different areas.  Let's start with the food log.  Just click on "Foods" on the top of the screen.  Each day you will enter in, either through your custom foods list or a food search.  Once you have a day or more done you can also choose your foods through the "View My Recent Foods" option on the left.  (That will allow to select foods you eat on a regular basis and will carryover the same amounts and everything to the new day.)  Here's what my daily food log is looking like for today. (click on it for a larger view)
You will see directly above the log a box for "Food Search".  That's best used to log things like fruits and vegetables or basic foods.  Here is an example of what a food search for Apple looks like:
If you click on the blue label with the magnifying glass it will open up another window where you can change the measurement.  I usually use either cups or ounces to give a more accurate measurement.  Then you can click on "Recalculate" and "Add to Food Log".

I suggest making Custom Foods for most other things.  Here is a quick pic of part of my custom foods list.
Notice when I add a custom food they all start with a capital letter, first of all.  I found out the hard way that if you put some with a capital and some without, it will make two separate alphabetical lists, one by caps and one without.  Dumb, I know.  Then I list by the main food, then I give a description, and then if it's not obvious I type in the serving size so I never forget how I measured it.  Doing it uniformly keeps your list nice and easy to find things.  Then, if you are selecting several things at one time you can go through the list and check the box on the left of everything you want to add.  At the bottom of the list is an "Add to Food Log" button.  If you just want to add one thing, you can click on the blue Add to Food Log button to the left of the item.  Here's what the "Create a Custom Food" screen looks like:
All you have to do is fill in the blanks and at the bottom click "Create Food".  Then it will give you the option to add it to your log.  It initially takes some time to create all your custom foods, but once you have them created you don't have to do it again, and the foods you eat often are already there.

Another thing you can do is track your activities.  Just do a search for the type of activity you want to add, and put it on your list with the amount of time you did it.  I always add "Sleeping" to my activities because it seems to give a more accurate calories burned number.  It will give you your calories burned for the day, which will guide you on how much you should eat that day.  To lose 1 lb a week, eat 500 calories less a day than you burn.  To lose 2 lbs a week, eat 1000 less a day.  But it is not advisable to eat less than 1200 calories a day.

Also with fitday.com you can run a ton of different reports.  My favorite are the ones where I can see graphs of my weight loss.  Here are some of the graphs:
This one tracks my goal weight.  I have how much I want to weight and when I want to lose it by.  Then the program will calculate a graph to reach that goal.  Every time you change your weight in your profile, it will add a point on the graph and will show you if you are keeping in line with your target.  Neat, huh?  Here is another one.  This one shows my weight change over the last 6 months.  lol the spike in March was our trip to Disneyland.  I definitely got off track there. :)
There is so much more the program will do, but you just have to really get in there and play around with it.  There is also a member forum with lots of support and information or opinions from the other members.

If you have any questions about the program, I will be more than happy to help you out.  I can be reached at happyfairylove@live.com.  I highly recommend starting to count your calories.  It's not the carbs that make you gain or lose weight, contrary to popular belief.  It is the amount of calories you consume that make your weight go up or down.

Have fun with it!
Lisa









Saturday, August 11, 2012

Information on the Big Carb or No Carb Debate

It all gets very confusing.  Low carb / high protein; low fat / low carb; counting calories; counting points; everything in moderation; and so on.  But which one is correct?  I'm all for the one which you can maintain for the long haul.  There are some things I'm kind of against, though, and I'll tell you why.

My doctor said for me to not have more than 20g carbs per day that aren't vegetables.  20g.  That's it.  My mouth just kind of dropped open as I stared at him blankly.  That's less than 2 pieces of regular sandwich bread (about 24g).  That's less than my 1/4 c oatmeal, 1/2 c milk and 2 tsp of stevia in the morning (which comes to just 23.5g).  I did Atkin's for a few months, and I lost a lot of weight on it at first, but it was absolutely impossible for me to maintain, which didn't do me any good.  For some people, like my doctor, it works very well.  For me, not so much.  And that's the key to this whole lifestyle change...what can you do now and maintain later?

And, his recommendation didn't jive at all with the research I had been doing on the internet about how many carbs I should be having a day for a diabetic and heart healthy lifestyle.  Actually, it was very different.  According to an article written by the Mayo Clinic (I try to use highly reputable sources for my information btw), carbs are essential to your body's function.  First, understand that carbs come from fiber, starch and sugar.  You should get your carbs mostly from fruits and vegetables, legumes and beans and low fat dairy.  You should get carbs from starches that are whole grain, such as brown rice.  And then you should limit those things with added or refined sugar.

Additionally in this article (link above), and also backed by the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, and here by the American Diabetes Association you should be eating 45-60g carbs PER MEAL, and your daily carbs should be about 45%-65% of your total calories.  As an example, if you eat 1500 calories per day, and each gram of carbs is 4 calories, then 50% of your carbs would be 187g carbs per day.  (1500 x 50% = 750 calories / 4 calories each g carb = 187g carbs)

When I finally got my nutritionist, who specializes in healthy diabetic lifestyles and is also a life-change coach, it matched with exactly what she told me...45g carbs per meal (men should have a little more at about 60 per meal) and 15g carbs per snack.  So if I have 3 meals a day (and you should distribute your carbs as evenly as possible between meals) and 3 snacks a day, that would be 180g carbs per day.

Why should you have that many carbs a day?  The article I referenced above by the Mayo Clinic goes into more detail, but it says that carbs are essential for many of your body's processes such as providing energy (especially to the brain and nervous system), protecting against diseases like cardiovascular problems, and healthy carbs can also help people maintain their weight. 

In the end, low carb diets are not more effective for weight loss than a diet monitoring calories.  A low carb diet will help you lose weight more quickly initially, but over the course of a year the weight loss evens out between the two. (Harvard School of Public Health)

For me, based on what my professional nutritionist advises and by highly reputable sources on the internet agreeing with the exact numbers she gave me, it is best that I have about 45%-65% of your total daily calories in carbs.  Not 20 like my doctor suggested.

As for counting points, I'm not that familiar with it personally.  I did do Weight Watchers briefly a long time ago, but I don't remember much about it.  I will have to do more research.

Along with keeping my carbs in check I count my calories.  After all, weight loss (and gain) comes down to a very simple fact...if you eat more calories than you burn, you will gain weight.  If you eat less calories than you burn you will lose weight.  I try to keep my calories around 1400 per day.  If I stick to it, it will give me a weight loss of about 1 lb per week.  More on this another day, but if you'd like to start counting calories more easily and get an idea of how many calories a day you are burning and should be eating, check out Fitday.com.  It is free to register and use and it is an awesome website.  I wouldn't have been able to lose my 46 pounds so far if I didn't have that tool.

So, if you decide to keep up with my blog, you will see that the recipes I post and products I review will probably have carbs in them.  But they are at a healthy level, and that's the key for me.  What is healthy and what can I maintain for the long term?

Thoughts, anyone?  If you'd like to reach me I am at happyfairylove@live.com.  Please don't send me hate mail though...I am not saying that people on a low carb diet are wrong or bad.  I'm saying that a diet with carbs is just as good, and maybe even better for many people because of the fact that it is easier to keep up with for a long time since it is less restrictive.

Be well,
Lisa




Thursday, August 9, 2012

My Recipe for Scrumptious Quesadillas

One of the new staples in my house is my wonderful chicken cooked in the crock pot that I use to make quesadillas with.  I just came up with it one day, and did it ever turn out awesome!  And, it's low carb, relatively good on calories for a dinner and super good on the protein, too.

The nutritional information for 1 quesadilla using the ingredients listed is:  515 calories; 35g carbs; a whopping 36.5g protein; 10.3g saturated fat; and 4g fiber.  (Serving: 1 quesadilla)

You can lower the overall calories and carbs by choosing reduced fat cheese, reduced fat sour cream, and  healthier tortillas such as Smart & Delicious brand.

Ingredients:

About 3 average sized chicken breasts, frozen
1 medium onion, diced
1 small can diced green chiles
2 8oz pkgs shredded cheese, like colby jack or cheddar
1 pkg fajita size flour tortillas (I used Wal-Mart's Great Value brand at 80 calories each)
1 pkg taco seasoning (Please see this post for clean, easily home made taco seasoning)
Sour Cream
Salsa
Non-stick pan spray

1.  Place frozen chicken, diced onion and can of green chiles in a crock pot.

2.  Set the timer for 5 or 6 hours on low, or about 4 hours on high.
3.  After the chicken has cooked through, use two forks (or a fork and knife) to pull the chicken into shreds.  It will be very tender and it is very easy to do.  Do not drain the liquid from the crock pot, btw.
4.  Add in 1 packet of taco seasoning and stir it all up.
5.  Hopefully you have a griddle, otherwise you can use a large skillet over med-high heat.  Spray the surface lightly with pan spray.
6.  Using your digital kitchen scale I suggested you buy, measure out 3 oz of chicken.   (I measured out 2.5 oz in this photo because I had extra people to feed and didn't have a lot of chicken to begin with.)
7.  Put tortillas on griddle and spread chicken to cover tortilla.  Use a measuring cup to measure out 1/2 cup cheese and spread on top of chicken.
8.  Put another tortilla on top and spray the tops lightly with cooking spray.  Let cook for a few minutes.
9.  After about 3 minutes lift up a quesadilla to check if the bottom is lightly browned and crispy.  When the bottom is done, carefully flip over each quesadilla with a spatula and cook the other side.
10.  Place on a plate and cut into quarters (a pizza cutter makes it super easy).  Serve with salsa and sour cream.  For more yumminess, also serve with guacamole and you can maybe put sliced olives inside the tortilla as well.  Just make sure you figure up the added calories and carbs for whatever toppings you choose. (note:  included in the nutritional information is 2 Tbsp each sour cream and salsa.)

btw, this makes the house smell awesome as it cooks in the crock pot.  I hope you enjoy my recipe for quesadillas.  The amount of carbs fits in perfectly with the diabetic guidelines.

If you'd like to drop me a line, I'm at happyfairylove@live.com.

Enjoy!
Lisa












Tuesday, August 7, 2012

(Almost) Guilt-Free Decadence

For some people complete abstinence from sweets is the only way that works, because for them it is a landslide...one taste and they go haywire and crave more and more sugary treats.  I have a very good friend, as a matter of fact, for whom this is the only way to go.  For her it works.

For me, it doesn't.  My thought process is that by allowing yourself treats that are not as loaded with carbs, fat and overall calories, you will have your craving satisfied and can refrain from binging.  If I didn't allow myself treats (I have a small something every day as a matter of fact), I would go absolutely insane and go on a binge-fest.  But, seeing as how I am trying to stay in the 1400 calorie per day range, at 180g carbs/day, and at or under 7% saturated fat a day, (more on that another day) I have to be very choosey about what I decide to indulge in.

One of my most favorite things is ice cream!  Creamy, rich, luxurious, cold bites of yumminess...I'm smiling just thinking about it.  I thought I wouldn't be able to have any again.  One of the hard parts is getting a big container of ice cream and then limiting myself to just one 1/2 cup serving.  Sorry, but that just ain't happening.  My very favorite used to be Ben & Jerry's Chocolate Fudge Brownie in the pint container.  How many servings is that?  One, if you ask me!  But no.  It's actually FOUR 1/2 cup servings.  Riiiight.  Do you know how many calories are in a serving?  Better yet, I'll tell you the nutritional facts of the whole container because that's how I used to polish them off.  Ready for this? 1040 calories!  36g saturated fat! 128g carbs!  Holy cow it makes me cringe in horror at the thought of that's what I used to have.  Well, sometimes if I was "being good" I'd only have 1/2 a container.  lol like that would really make a difference.  The point is:
No more Ben & Jerry's for me!  So what is a girl to do when the unbearable craving for some good ice cream hits?  I have the perfect solution.  Skinny Cow ice cream in the single serving containers!  Single serving is great because it means there is no room to over indulge.  To replace the B&J Chocolate Fudge Brownie I first tried Skinny Cow Chocolate Fudge Brownie.   
Hallelujah!

Oh, I thought I had died and gone to Heaven!  It is rich and creamy, just the way good ice cream should be.  Chocolatey and delicious!  Each container has 150 calories, just 1g of saturated fat, 29g carbs, and it even has 4g fiber and 5g protein for good measure!  What a glorious concoction.

But wait!  There's more!  I got daring and decided to try a different flavor.  Tonight I had Skinny Cow Caramel Cone.  Holy cow! (Nope, Skinny Cow) It was absolutely Heavenly, and it is now my new favorite!
Now, I have to tell you that mine did not look like this picture.  Sorry, I should have taken a photo of my actual container before I devoured it.  Mine had one pocket of caramel off to the side, so with each little bite I gave a little dip into that golden pool of goodness.  In addition to the caramel, it had little bits of chocolatey crunchies in it.  Yum-o!  This single serving of ice cream has a few more calories at 160, 2g saturated fat, 33g carbs, 4g fiber and 4g protein. 

Granted, these are not treats I would have every single day, but for that "omg I need some ice cream" moment, you have got to try the Skinny Cow ice creams.  Take little bites, though.  A single serving doesn't last long if you go at it like I used to when hitting a whole pint of Ben & Jerry's.  I will for sure be buying the Caramel Cone again.  I'm sure it varies in different parts of the country, but for me it was cheapest for $1.22 at my Super Wal-Mart.

Learn to have treats in moderation, of course.  And buying single serving packaging can really help in not over-eating a sweet delight.  I cannot wait to try the strawberry cheesecake flavor!

Want to contact me?  I'm at happyfairylove@live.com.

Happy Treats!
Lisa