What I feed my family

Usually when people find out that I’m a dietitian, they immediately think that my family’s meals consist of gluten-free, dairy-free, vegan, all organic foods. Then the excuses pour in covering their own eating habits- as if I’m judging them because they happen to be holding a slice of pizza.

I’m not judging you, I promise. I eat pizza too! I also don’t eliminate any type of food from my family’s meals (yes, we even eat gluten) and have always been an advocate for balance. I work in a facility for kids with special needs, and ever since feeding my own child and working with kids professionally, I’ve developed a pretty big interest in child nutrition. I’ve changed the way my family eats because of it, but also try to be careful to not be too restrictive with food. I want my kids to have a healthy attitude around food, not label foods “good” or “bad” and to be able to make their own choices about healthy food as they get older. Having recovered from an eating disorder and having body image issues growing up, it’s also important for me to protect my own girls from thinking the only way they can eat healthy is by dieting or eliminating food groups. My goal for feeding my family is to create a positive environment around food, one that doesn’t cause my kids to feel guilty or deprived in any way.

We don’t have any food allergies in our family, which I consider to be a blessing. I know families with kids who have multiple food allergies and have to completely eliminate allergen-containing foods, which can make preparing and cooking meals quite difficult. Obviously in these situations, families have no choice but to follow diet restrictions. Typically this works best if the whole family is involved, instead of just making the child with the food allergy eliminate what is causing the flare-up. So for example, if a child has a gluten intolerance then it would be best for the whole family to be gluten-free. This would avoid issues with cross-contamination as well. Other than for food allergies and intolerances, I don’t recommend for families to follow diets that are highly restrictive. It’s just not necessary and it’s much easier for kids to get the nutrition they need by allowing them to eat a variety of (nutrient dense) foods. Not a variety of junk food though!

So here are the simple guidelines I follow when feeding my family. We stick with them 90% of the time.

Fruits and vegetables are big at every meal. I’ll admit, I’ve been struggling with this lately, especially with the vegetables. My first trimester this time around has been much worse than my last pregnancy- and still seems to be lingering! Vegetables have been tough for me to stomach lately, but thankfully as my symptoms are starting to fade I’m slowly starting to crave those veggies again. It’s interesting though, I’ve noticed that it was much harder to get my family to eat vegetables when I was doing a horrible job of eating them myself. Eating healthy really is a family effort! Kids do by example and I’ve seen this play out over the past few months.

Lean proteins are in every meal, but in smaller portions than the fruits and vegetables- unless my husband is making his own plate. I make a lot of salmon- I’ve been craving it lately, so sometimes  make it as often as 3-4 times per week! At least once a week I try to do a vegetable protein instead of an animal protein. When seasoning foods, I use as little salt as possible. Typically I find herbs and spices to season my meat so that my family’s salt intake is limited. It’s very easy to consume an adequate amount of salt without adding it to food, and most Americans get a lot more than is recommended. I want to train my kids’ palates while they are young to appreciate the natural flavor of foods- without doctoring it up with all the sugar, salt and fat that the food industry does.

 

I don’t leave anything out when it comes to carbohydrates. We eat bread, potatoes, rice, pasta- if it’s a carb, we aren’t afraid to eat it! I buy whole grains as much as possible for the added fiber (and less processing) and avoid foods that are “instant” (such as instant potatoes, etc). I read the ingredients carefully to avoid buying foods that are loaded with MSG, high fructose corn syrup and hydrogenated oils. As long as the carbohydrates we are eating aren’t heavily processed (and have an exorbitant amount of salt, sugar and fat), they are healthy for our bodies. We are an active family and our cells need the energy that only carbs can provide!

 

When it comes to dairy, my husband is the only one who will drink cow’s milk. I prefer almond milk, and so does Carli, so that is what we typically drink. She gets most of her calcium intake from organic yogurt and cheeses. Dairy is one food group that I will almost always buy organic- along with fruits and vegetables we eat the skin off of.

I don’t buy sugary drinks. No juice, no soda, no sweet tea. I’m a recovering diet coke addict (I still have slip-ups every now and then) and my husband is working on his diet soda intake and trying to replace with unsweetened tea. All Carli drinks is water because it’s all we’ve ever offered to her. If she is at a birthday party or a holiday party at school and juice is being served, I let her drink it there. I don’t want her to feel excluded and this doesn’t happen often. At home, it’s always water and it’s what she asks for. I grew up drinking kool-aid and it took me a long time to appreciate the taste of water. I’m glad my two year old already loves it!

I rarely serve dessert. At the end of a meal if we want something sweet, I always have some fruit cut up. If we are having friends over for dinner or it’s a special occasion like a birthday, I’ll have some sort of dessert available to serve. I try to limit our sugar intake like I do salt. The more sugar we eat, the more our brain craves to get the same sugar fix it did before- it’s literally like a drug! You can read more about that in an older blog post I’ve written here. I used to be super strict on my daughter’s sugar intake when she was younger, but then felt as if I should lighten up and let her enjoy more sweets like other kids do. I’ve seen the outcome- she’s a sugar monster now! Even though I let her enjoy treats at her preschool parties and when grandparents visit (I’ve learned it’s their love language, and no matter how hard I try I will never win that battle), I keep sugar out of our house as much as possible to limit her intake at home. It’s the one thing I guess I would say I “restrict” but I don’t label sugar as being “bad.” It’s just something we limit.

Generally speaking, limiting processed foods and consuming high quality “whole” foods is the best way to feed your family. Taking the focus off of calories and fat grams and putting it on the quality of food you are eating is best for feeding your body. From what research shows and what I’ve seen in my own professional practice, families who are active on an everyday basis are going to be healthier than those who follow crazy diets and are inactive. By active, I don’t mean going to the gym 5 days per week. That’s great to do, but you have to be continuously active. Get the family off the couch and go for a bike ride. Get your kids outside to play. Limit screen time for the entire family. If you are continuously moving your body, I guarantee it will be much easier to stay at a healthy weight and have a healthier body and mind.

Now enjoy that slice of pizza and get that body moving! 😉

 

 

Baby #2 arriving this summer!

We are so excited for the arrival of our second baby girl, due late July! As Carli puts it, she is going to be a “BIG BIG sister!!” This pregnancy has already been much different than my first, and I’m learning that I can’t compare the two. I’m also learning to give myself more grace, rest when I need it, and ask for help when I need it. Being pregnant with a very active two year old isn’t easy! I plan on doing some futures posts about what I eat while pregnant to keep myself and my baby healthy, and what I do for exercise while pregnant. Also will have updates on Stay tuned!

 

Our favorite easy meal

The last few weeks I’ve made some meals on Mondays that involve quite a few steps and lots of ingredients. I’ve enjoyed spending the time in the kitchen with Carli and she has LOVED getting to help me. But this week I wanted a little break from the amount of prep work and cleanup that I was having to do. We have had this meal several times and I’ve tweaked the recipe just a little bit. It’s easy, healthy, and most importantly delicious.

You can alter this recipe quite a few ways to meet your dietary goals. I’ll give you the recipe we typically use first and then give the altered versions at the end.

 

Oven roasted chicken sausage, peppers and potatoes


  • 1 package of chicken sausage (These come in many different flavors, I usually buy the spinach and red pepper for this recipe), sliced into small pieces
  • 2 medium potatoes (any kind you like will work), cut into small pieces
  • 1 red bell pepper, cut into strips
  • 1 orange bell pepper, cut into strips
  • 1 yellow bell pepper, cut into strips
  • olive oil
  • rosemary
  • garlic powder

In a large bowl, mix the potatoes and peppers together. Add olive oil, rosemary and garlic powder. I honestly don’t ever measure these out- I would say about 2 tbsp olive oil, and a tablespoon each of rosemary and garlic powder. I let Carli pour the olive oil in this week so our meal was a little more oily this week than usual. Mix together and spread out evenly on a baking pan. Place in a preheated oven (350 degrees) for 15 minutes.

Pouring is her favorite part
I let her cut up soft foods with a butter knife- don’t worry she has learned how to control the knife and is always supervised. She has loved the independence!

Once 15 minutes is up, add the sausage and cook an additional 25-35 minutes. Time will vary depending on how big your potato chunks are, the smaller the faster it will take to cook.

Enjoy!!

Altered versions: Sometimes I like to add about 1/2 sliced onion to the mixture. It adds flavor and more veggies- I just didn’t have on hand this week. If you want to omit the potatoes and just have sausage and veggies, you can do so by omitting the first 15 minutes of your cooking time. Just mix everything together and bake for 35 minutes. If I make it this way I like to serve it over brown rice (our family cannot survive without carbs).

Everything you need in a balanced meal is in this one pan dish, just add a side of fruit for dessert and you’re good to go!

Have a great week!

Choosing Today

I have been rushing through life for the past 12 years, ever since I graduated from high school.

Rushing to get through each semester of college. Rushing to get that cap and gown. Rushing to be done with school. Rushing through my internship so I could finally sit to take my dietitian board exam. Rushing to my wedding day. Rushing to get a job.

And finally, rushing to buy a house, get pets, get pregnant and to get to a stage a life where I felt content. No matter what, there was always something bigger and better I was rushing to get to. And once I got there, I always had a mourning period. Mourning the stage that I rushed to get through, without realizing how the busyness has distracted me from moments I will never get back.

I can barely even remember the events of the night my now-husband proposed to me, I was too busy thinking ahead to the wedding. College is a blur of a never-ending to-do list that I was a slave to. Our first year of marriage left me constantly distracted, wondering when and where we would finally settle down and buy and house, and if and when I would be able to get pregnant. When I did become pregnant, I couldn’t even enjoy my pregnancy. I let it fly by without stopping to enjoy the little amount of time I had left with just my husband and I. And as wonderful as it is to have her here, oh how I wish I would have savored those moments when I could feel her moving around inside of me!

Although for years my mentality has been “tomorrow will be better,” that has changed since becoming a mom. Time is a double-edged sword, both my friend and my enemy. It’s my friend when 7PM comes- when it’s finally time to start bath and getting ready for bed. Some days, 7PM cannot come soon enough. It’s my enemy when I’m constantly reminded how fast my baby is growing. She’s not a baby anymore. She’s become independent and is growing into a little person with her own opinion. I’ve heard the saying so many times- The days are long but the years are short. It’s so true.

Even though I desperately want time to stop, each day feels like a marathon that I’m just trying to get through.

The first mile is getting breakfast ready- it’s slow and steady because it’s the one time of the day that we can take it nice and easy- although my mind has the whole race planned out in my head and my entire day has already been strategized. Miles 2-8 are quick- get dressed, teeth brushed, bags packed, in the car, then out the door as quickly as possible to wherever we’re going- preschool drop-off, music class, the gym, grocery store. Miles 8-13- these are painful to get through but I know once I’m through them I’m halfway there to one of the best parts of the day: naptime. Lunch, cleanup, laundry, planning dinner and doing a couple phone consults with patients is something I try to get through quickly because I want at least one mile of rest, where I can take it nice and easy before she wakes up. Miles 14-22 are always the toughest mentally- that time between nap and dinner. By miles 22-26 I’m tired but encouraged because (most days) I have my cheerleader with me (my husband) who can help me to the finish line. Bedtime- after about 60 minutes of reading, singing the same song over and over and saying a prayer for everyone we know plus anything stuffed that’s in her room- the marathon is finally over.

Don’t get me wrong, I love every part of it. But I am so guilty of being stuck in the “just finish the race” mentality. Haven’t I learned?! I have. But I can’t seem to stop myself from wishing away today and longing for tomorrow.

I have a lot to look forward to, just like I always have. I look forward to watching my daughter grow up to be an independent young woman. I can’t wait to see what her interests and hobbies will be, and where her passions will lead her to. I’m excited to take her shopping for new school clothes, her prom dress, her wedding dress. I can’t wait to see her start a family and have babies of her own. But I don’t want to rush to get there. I don’t want to miss out anymore.

This stage of life- it’s hard. I’m okay with admitting that. Even though it’s hard, I wouldn’t trade it for any other season right now. It’s exactly where I want to be.

Today, Carli wanted me to play blocks with her before she napped. I had an afternoon planned with things we needed to do, so I wanted her down for a nap at a certain time. Instead of fighting it, I sat with her and helped her build a tower. We built the same tower over and over again. It fell down, we picked it back up and started over. Even though this is an activity that would typically so easily lose my attention, I couldn’t help but notice how fascinated she was with it all. I can’t even explain the joy it brought to her eyes- to have my full and undivided attention. It’s hard for me to just sit and play without a thousand things going through my head, or picking up things around me, or running upstairs for “just a minute” to throw in some laundry. She had my full presence. That’s what she needed and we both soaked up every minute.

 

 

Tomorrow is full of new adventures and milestones. I look forward to that. But today’s opportunities will be gone if I continue racing through them. Today I’m going to choose to be present and soak up each moment slowly and with intention. Because tomorrow, those blocks will be replaced with a completely new interest. Tomorrow, bedtime will be shorter and she won’t want me to read her the same book 20 times.  Tomorrow, she’ll be one day closer to fixing breakfast on her own. Tomorrow, while it may be easier, isn’t always better. So today, I’m here.

 

 

Monday Meals with Carli- Chipotle Burrito Bowls

There is only one problem with the area we live in. No Chipotle. For miles. Nick and I are pretty much obsessed, and sorry but Moe’s just doesn’t quite cut it for us. I decided to try and recreate their burrito bowls for our Monday night dinner, and I am so happy with how they turned out. Even Nick was impressed, and he’s pretty critical when it comes to Mexican food. This is most definitely one of our new family favorites.

I had a lot of little jobs for Carli to do, but there was also a lot of prep work beforehand (cutting vegetables, getting spices ready) so I did all of that while she napped. It can be tedious to make everything from scratch, and honestly I don’t usually have the time to do this often. I really want Carli to learn about all the ingredients that go into the foods we typically eat, so I’m trying to take the time to walk her through that on the nights we cook together. This might sound like a lot of work, but I promise it’s really not bad. And so worth it in the end.

For our burrito bowls we had the following parts to prepare:

  • Cilantro lime brown rice
  • Mixed veggies
  • Black beans
  • Chipotle chicken
  • Pico
  • Guacamole

These bowls are dairy-free and gluten-free, and can be made vegan if you omit the chicken. If you follow a Paleo plan, omit the beans and you are good to go.

First we started with the rice, it takes the longest. To make enough for our family of 2 and a toddler I cooked 1 cup of brown rice. We had plenty leftover, which is what I was hoping for (easy Tuesday lunch!) To cook 1 cup of rice, add 2 cups of water and steam until all the water is absorbed. While the rice is cooking, go on to the chicken.

She takes her jobs very seriously

For the chipotle chicken:

It’s all about the spices. If you don’t like spicy, I would recommend cutting the chili powders in 1/2. If you love spicy, you may want to add a little more. The rub is really easy to make. Just mix the following ingredients together:

  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp chipotle chili powder
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • 1/2 tsp cumin
  • 1/2 tsp paprika
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 Tbsp lime juice
  • salt and pepper to taste

I cut two chicken breasts into small chunks and marinated in the chipotle rub for about 30 minutes. While this is marinating, go on to the pico and guac.

Admiring her work

When I was ready to prepare this meal, I already had the tomatoes, red onion and cilantro chopped and ready to go. This made it really easy to just mix everything together- especially since I was cooking with a two year old. If you don’t have the time to prepare these from scratch, they are easy to find in the grocery store. Even though it requires a little more work, it’s cheaper to prepare fresh, and I prefer the taste better as well.

Pico:

  • 2 roma tomatoes, diced
  • 1/4 cup diced red onion (I used about 1/4 onion)
  • 1/4 jalepeno, seeded and diced
  • 5 stems cilantro, finely cut
  • 2 tsp lime juice
  • salt to taste
Taste testing- kid approved!

Just mix everything together- YUM!! The guacamole is easy too. Just mash the following ingredients together:

  • 2 avocados
  • 1 roma tomato, diced
  • 2 tsp lime juice
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tsp cilantro
  • 1/4 red onion, diced

Carli had the most fun preparing the guacamole. I’ve started to let her cut soft vegetables with a butter knife and she loved cutting the tomato (with my help). I let her use her hands to mash it all together- she was so proud of the part she did “all by myself!!”

By this time your rice should be about done cooking. You’ll want to let it cool for 20-25 minutes. While it’s cooling, begin to cook the mixed veggies, black beans and chicken. I had the veggies cut up beforehand as well to save some time.

For the mixed veggies: 

  • 1/2 green pepper, sliced thin
  • 1/2 red pepper, sliced thin
  • 1/4 red onion, sliced thin
  • handful of mushrooms

Throw these in a pan with a little bit of olive oil and saute to your desired tenderness. While these are cooking you can work on the chicken as well. Just placed the marinated chicken you prepared earlier in a frying pan and cook until heated through, stirring frequently. During this time I also had the beans cooking in a small saucepan.

 

Finally the last step is finishing the rice. Once the rice has cooled, mix in 1/4 cup fresh cilantro (chopped), 1 tsp minced garlic, 1 tsp salt and 3 Tbsp lime juice.

Mix everything together and be prepared to be amazed. Healthy AND delicious!!

Dads Are Just As Awesome

When I was pregnant with my daughter 3 years ago, I remember getting emotional over anything I saw that highlighted the special bond a mother has with her child. Baby commercials, blog posts, pregnancy books, videos of mothers holding their baby for the first time- my overly hormonal pregnancy brain just couldn’t handle the anticipation of becoming a mother, something that is such a miracle and the most wonderful journey I could ever imagine embarking on. I couldn’t wait to form that special bond with my own child, and I envisioned being there for her in every way that a mother is supposed to be- doing mommy and me classes, comforting her in the middle of the night when she can’t sleep, rubbing her back when she’s sick, tucking her into bed, picking her up and dropping her off at school- I wanted to be the parent who is supposed to do all of those things. Because I’m the mom, and that’s what moms do.

Society puts both moms and dads in certain roles. Or at least it used to. Moms take care of sick kids. Moms console a hurting child. Moms get up in the middle of the night. Moms are more involved in activities and school. Moms get praised relentlessly for all we do because….moms do it all. 

Partly out of my motherly instincts and partly because I’m selfish, ever since my daughter was born I felt as if I needed to do it all too. Not because I felt I had to, but I wanted to and I didn’t want to be labeled a bad mom for letting my husband step into what was supposed to be MY role. But he wanted to be in my role. He wanted to have a bigger part in the parenting pendulum. This annoyed me to such a deep level that I started to resent him for it. Not that I wanted our daughter to have a deadbeat dad, but I wanted him to just butt out of my job. Dads just aren’t supposed to take that special role away from mothers. It’s easy to play the martyr. It’s also more rewarding to feel as if you are doing everything for your kids- I wanted the self-satisfaction in knowing that I could do it all. I was super mom.

Last week our little girl was sick and it was a Tuesday night. If this kid gets sick, it’s ALWAYS on Tuesday night. I work on Wednesdays only (my husband is off on Wednesdays), and there is nothing I hate more than leaving her when she doesn’t feel good. Sick kids only want their mom, right? I remember telling him that I was just going to go in later that week- maybe Thursday or Friday. She needed me. He accused me of calling him an incompetent parent which annoyed me even more. I thought- but what if she needs to go to the doctor? I need to be there for that!

The next morning, after a long night staying up with a toddler who was having horrible tummy pains, I was driving to Atlanta on about 3 hours of sleep. I had threatened my husband all night that I was going to quit my job that I love, just so I could always be around for times like this. I had the radio tuned to my favorite morning station and they happened to be talking about the new Chickfila drive thru service for moms. This caters to moms with small children who don’t want the hassle of standing in line with them, but still want to sit in the dining room. They can take the kids through the drive thru while they are still restrained in their car seats to place their order, then park and go inside where a table with their food will be waiting for him. People were calling in to the station asking “what about dads? Why don’t dads get this kind of service? Why is everything catered to moms?”

I’m sure if my husband really wanted to use this service while he’s home with our daughter on a Wednesday, Chickfila would cater to him and not put up a fight. But it’s just the concept of it- our society is catered to allowing moms to have the primary parenting role, and dads are always coming in second. It’s terribly difficult to find a men’s room with a changing table- my husband could never change our daughter’s diaper when we’re eating out even if he wanted to. Most companies don’t offer any type of paternity leave for dads- my husband had to save up sick leave so that he could have a week off when our baby was born. I won’t even go into the role that the media, advertisement and our culture play into, that put moms on the parenting pedestal while dads are sitting on the couch, drinking a beer and watching football.

While I was listening to this radio show last Wednesday, the message I got was that dads want to be more involved. And women want the fathers of their children to be able to step into that “mom” role more often. Not because women are getting whiny and don’t want the responsibility, or because the millennials are now becoming parents and we’re all lazy, but because  dads are just as capable at doing the things that moms have always done. We should want our children to have an equal relationship with both parents. How selfish of me for wanting to get all the snuggles, all the bedtime kisses and all the bonding time.

My husband is a champ and such an amazing father. That day he called the doctor, took her in and explained her symptoms just as I would have. He got peed on, didn’t get a shower, and most importantly gave our 2 year old all the love and snuggles she needed. She was perfectly fine staying home with her dad and he handled the day like a pro- just like he always has.

 

I’m grateful that my little girl has such an amazing male role model in her life. It takes some of the pressure off of me, to know that when I’m gone she’s getting the equal quality of care that she would if I were there. I feel less guilty for wanting to work outside of the home a little bit. I feel less of a burden on the nights I’m out doing other commitments and can’t be home to tuck her into bed.

Her daddy wants to spend as much quality time as possible with her. He doesn’t mind rocking her in the middle of the night. He wants to comfort her when she’s hurt. I want him to have these opportunities. And I’m no longer taking it as a threat that she’s just as happy to be with her daddy as she is me. I just consider us both to be incredibly lucky to have him.

Monday Meals with Carli

Mondays are tough for us. My husband works an early morning shift, comes home to sleep for a few hours, and then has to go back into work around 10PM to work through the evening. This is after he has been working all weekend. The nice part about it all is that he gets almost 4 whole days off until Friday evening, but by Monday afternoon I’m going crazy trying to find ways to keep our toddler entertained.

Carli is only two, but is fascinated with cooking and loves to be with me in the kitchen. She even goes to the extent of finding cooking shows on Amazon Prime to watch, and can’t get enough of them. I’ve tried to get her into Mickey Mouse and the other typical shows toddlers are attracted to, but the kid isn’t interested! She has always been a great eater, but is at the age where she is starting to form an opinion about what she wants to eat and is getting picky. Not terribly picky, but enough that we are having to find creative ways to get her to sit down and eat a meal with us. One of the best ways to get little kids to eat a variety of foods and to eat healthy is to let them be involved. Carli likes to know (along with most other toddlers I’m sure) that she is somewhat in control of whatever the task at hand is- whether is be eating, playing, or learning something new. I thought I would start putting her interest in cooking to good use and let her be a part of making dinner on Monday nights. It’s been a win-win for both of us. She is learning about new foods and is getting to be more involved with the meal she is about to eat, and I get to test and try out new recipes. We sample the dishes together, add and take away ingredients to make it better and the end result is a dish that both of us have created that’s healthy and full of fun new flavors.

I’ll try to post our Monday meals each week. This has been a fun experience so far and something we both look forward to. Tonight our recipe tonight involved chicken, mango (a fruit Carli has had but not often), whole grains, broccoli (her favorite vegetable) and kale (a new vegetable for her). I’m trying to introduce new foods to her through this experience and it’s grown her interest in trying new foods. I look forward to sharing our Monday meals with everyone!

Mango Chicken with Whole Grains, Kale and Roasted Broccoli

**This recipe serves 2 people (or 2 adults and a toddler). You may want to double or triple the recipe**

First we started with the sauce. If you like your foods to be spicy I would add the crushed red pepper. To make it more kid-friendly I would remove the crushed red pepper- Carli doesn’t like spicy foods so I had to re-make the entire sauce recipe once she tried it so that she would eat it. Both versions are good!

 

For the sauce:

  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 mango (chopped into cubes)
  • 1 tsp sesame oil
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 3 T brown sugar
  • 2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 2 tsp ground ginger

Heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the garlic and saute for about 2 min, until brown. Add the remaining ingredients. Turn the heat down to low and let simmer.

While the sauce is simmering, cut 2 chicken breasts into cubes. Heat 2 tsp of olive oil in a pan over medium heat. Add the chicken and cook until brown. Add the chicken to the sauce mixture and continue to let simmer.

Next, prepare the grains. I used 1/3 cup quinoa, 1/3 cup millet and 1/3 cup buckwheat. Bring 2 cups of water to a boil. Add the grains and reduce heat to simmer. Cover and let simmer for 15-20 minutes or until all of the water is absorbed.

While the grains are cooking, prepare the broccoli and kale.

For the broccoli:

  • 1 broccoli head, chopped
  • 1 tbsp melted coconut oil (you can use any oil you have)
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • salt and pepper to taste

Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees. In a large bowl mix all the ingredients together. Place mixture on baking pan and bake for 15 minutes.

For the kale:

  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 cups fresh kale, broken into small pieces
  • 1/2 tsp crushed red pepper (omit if you don’t want it to be spicy)
  • salt and pepper to taste

Heat olive oil in pan, add garlic. Saute for 2 minutes. Add the rest of the ingredients and stir. Cover and let simmer for about 5 minutes.

When everything is ready, place a scoop of the chicken with sauce on a plate, along with a spoonful of broccoli and kale. I tossed the grains with a little bit of olive oil and added about 1/2 cup of cranberries to it. I would recommend mixing everything together so the sauce covers the veggies and grains- it’s delicious! Aim for making 1/2 of each plate broccoli and kale, 1/4 of each plate grains, and 1/4 of each plate chicken. The nutrient density and color in this meal is amazing! Carli enjoyed the cranberries and and mangoes the most- “It’s candy Mommy!”

I hope everyone has a great week!

New Year- New Blog!

When I started blogging last year I learned a couple of things. I enjoyed keeping a blog and loved to share with others simple ways to eat healthy. However, there were lots of other topics I wanted to blog about, but felt I couldn’t because my blog was centered around nutrition. There’s so much more to my everyday life other than healthy recipes and the type of food I buy at the grocery store. I’m hoping that with this new blog I can continue to write about how my family stays healthy and give expert advice on foods and nutrition, but I also want to write about my experiences (both the highs and lows) of being a mom, a wife, and just making it through life.

I’ll continue to post our family’s favorite healthy recipes and tricks I use to get my toddler (and meat and potato lover husband) to eat healthy. I’ll continue to write about how balance healthy eating, exercise and being a mom. This year I’ll also post about family updates and the many joys and challenges that come with parenting. Because #parentingforreal- it ain’t easy, it’s comical, it’s a blessing and it’s something that requires a lot of grace on both sides. I hope to be able to relate to a lot of you and be as real as possible- I’m pretty much an open book!

Why the name change?

Chews Mindfully was a name I gave careful thought to and loved- but again it is a name that applies to a nutrition-only blog. I wanted to change the name to better fit the content of what I’ll be writing about. Life outside the bubble was a name inspired by where I live. The town we live in, Senioa GA is right outside a small town called Peachtree City. I was talking to someone a few weeks ago, who said he was familiar with Peachtree City when I used it as a location marker to explain where we lived. He commented that everyone in Peachtree City seems to be living the perfect suburban life. That’s a pretty accurate description! Peachtree City is referred to as “the bubble”- an idyllic setting with golf cart paths (of course everyone owns a golf cart), pretty lakes, amazing schools, lots of money, and of course- the perfect suburban life. So because we live in Senoia, we are outside of that picture-perfect bubble. I love Peachtree City, and we may consider moving there when our two year old starts kindergarten. I’ll be honest, for the longest time I wanted to live in Peachtree City just so I could claim that status- you can hold your head a little higher when you say you live in the bubble.

As I get older, I’m learning that life isn’t meant to be picture-perfect. If anything, it’s one big beautiful mess. It’s exhausting to try and keep up with the Jones’s, and a lesson I’ve learned over the past few years is that the more you try to keep up, the less happy you are. A goal for myself as I enter my 30’s this year is to live outside the bubble- not just geographically but also mentally. I want to quit worrying about what other people think, focus on the moment rather than trying to make it perfect, and celebrate life as it comes without worrying about what I can do to make the future better. Thanks for coming along for the ride with me!

Cheers to 2017!

Bottle or Breast- Which is Best?

All moms are encouraged to breastfeed because we know of the many benefits it has for both mom and baby. Immunity for the baby is one. Another benefit is easier weight loss for mom. It may protect your baby from ear infections, SIDS, eczema, allergens, type 2 diabetes and becoming obese as a child. It may protect mom from certain cancers, such as ovarian and breast cancer. It can improve the baby’s cognitive development. It can reduce mom’s risk of developing postpartum depression. It introduces flavors to baby before he/she is exposed to solid foods, making your baby more likely to accept a variety of foods as a child. It’s free.

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Although the research supporting the above may be true for most breastfed babies, it doesn’t hold true for all. Let’s take a little boy I know for example, who was breastfed and wouldn’t even take the bottle. He fought chronic ear infections as a child and refused to eat anything that wasn’t white rice or kool aid. On the other hand, I know some formula fed kids who are healthy and love most foods- even the green ones! Some women hold onto their baby weight until they’re done breastfeeding because their body likes to hold onto some extra fat for milk production.  Other women may formula feed but still find weight loss to come easy after birth.

All of that being said, I DO encourage moms to breastfeed because of all the wonderful health benefits it can have for the baby. However, I don’t like women to think that breastfeeding is magically going to cure their baby of all childhood illnesses or that the 30+ pounds they gained during the course of their pregnancy is going to disappear almost immediately. Everyone’s situation is different but because we know that breastfeeding is linked to all of these wonderful things, it’s what moms are encouraged to do.

So that must mean that breast is best, right? Not in every case. I have seen so many women feel like failures because they were unable to breastfeed their children. I’ve seen them labeled as bad moms. I’ve seen them get discouraged and feel ashamed because they were unable to feed their children the way we are expected to as “good” moms.

A positive to bottle feeding is allowing dad to bond with baby
A positive to bottle feeding is allowing dad to bond with baby

There are special situations where it may seem your baby is unable to tolerate breastmilk. It’s actually the foods in mom’s diet that the baby is having trouble with, not the breastmilk. Carli was a little colicky when she was a newborn, and with some trial and error with my diet I was able to discover that I had to reduce my intake of gas-producing foods (namely vegetables) and completely eliminate dairy for her to tolerate my milk. I understand that some of this may involve quite the sacrifice (no pizza?? Come on!!) and maybe it will be better for you to just switch your baby over to a lactose-free or dairy-free formula for both of you to be well-fed and happy. Every time I did sneak a bite of cheesecake or a small spoonful of ice-cream we were both miserable- Carli because she had an upset tummy and me because I was up all night with a sick baby.

In other situations, changing your diet to make your milk better for baby simply isn’t an option. That’s because in some cases, women have a hard time even producing breastmilk.

  •  Insufficient glandular tissue is one example, something that occurs when breasts doesn’t develop normally. With this issue you may be able to breastfeed a little bit but will also need to supplement with formula to make sure your baby is getting enough.
  • Hormonal problems, such as PCOS, thyroid disease or diabetes. Breastfeeding relies on the signaling of hormones to allow for milk production, so in some cases these hormonal issues may result in a low milk supply.
  • Breastfeeding is NOT birth control, so some women may opt to go back on the birth control pill shortly after having their baby. Hormonal birth control will reduce milk supply, making it difficult to breastfeed. If you want to be successful in breastfeeding, I would recommend a non-hormonal form of birth control until you or baby is ready to wean.

In other situations, the baby may have difficulty breastfeeding. This is typically a result of a poor latch. A lactation consultant may be able to help with this, but some babies will still have sucking difficulties. I was born with a cleft palate which resulted in a lot of feeding difficulties, especially since my mom was trying to breastfeed me. I was able to get more milk from the bottle, so my poor mother was a slave to the pump so that I could still drink her expressed milk. Back then there were no such thing as electronic pumps- they were all manual. That’s dedication! It didn’t last long and I ended up being a mostly formula fed baby. I don’t blame my mom one bit. And hey- I turned out just fine! Other babies who have difficulty taking milk from the breast include those with cardiac problems, neurological deficits and congenital conditions such as Down’s Syndrome. These babies may be better able to take mom’s expressed milk or formula from a bottle.

Although most women are able to produce enough milk for their babies and will be able to successfully breastfeed, use your instinct and do what’s best for you and your baby. Look for signs that your newborn is getting enough milk. Is he fussy during or after feeds? Is he sleeping okay? Gaining weight okay? Has he developed jaundice (a condition that can happen to newborns when they aren’t getting enough milk)?  In the case that mom’s mature milk production is delayed, these babies are at risk for hypoglycemia, >5% weight loss, dehydration and high levels of bilirubin. Underfed newborns are at risk for neurodevelopmental impairments such as ADHD, autism, sensory processing disorder, severe speech delays and mental retardation. Although a delayed onset in milk production is rare, most well-meaning mothers may be under- feeding their newborns without knowing it, wanting so badly to be successful with breastfeeding.

Whether it’s from a beast or a bottle, fed is best. Fed babies are healthy, happy and thrive developmentally. If you’re feeding your baby there is no shame in that, no matter where the milk comes from.

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14 Years Later

Around this day 14 years ago I was getting ready for my 1st semi-formal dance. I didn’t have a date, but was going with a group of girlfriends and a few other guys. It was a great group and I was happy to be able to go with them. We got ready together, doing each other’s hair and makeup. We took pictures together and went out to dinner before the dance. I don’t remember much about the dance. I actually don’t remember being there at all. My memories from that day were the moments that were uncomfortable, because that’s all I ever felt during that time.

I remember being cold.

I was always cold. Not just chilled, but the type of cold that buries into your bones and makes you feel like there’s ice in your blood. That night in particular was miserable because I was wearing a thin, sleeveless dress in the middle of November. I remember shivering at the restaurant, pressing my palms between my thighs to get just the smallest amount of blood flow to my fingers, which were starting to turn blue at the tips. I remember how long it took for my body to recover from that night. Once I was home I had to put on 4 layers of clothing and then went to bed with 3 thick blankets to get my body back up to a comfortable temperature.

I remember the food.

The snacks my friends were eating while we were doing our hair and makeup were off-limits. Even though I hadn’t eaten all day to prepare for a fun afternoon of consuming junk food in my best friend’s bedroom, I never allowed myself the luxury of giving up any sort of control around food once the moment arrived. It was all a game. “If I don’t eat now, I can eat more later”- I told myself that once I passed up the snacks. I will just eat a good, fattening meal at the restaurant. Except I didn’t. I never did. It was a never-ending game of how long I could hold off, and how little I could consume once I finally did eat. Instead I sucked down diet Coke and pretended to ignore the greasy potato chips and bowl of chocolate candy that was staring me down, taunting me to let go and have just one. But I couldn’t. It was too hard face the guilt afterwards.

I remember the lies in my head.

The lyrics from the songs being played that night were a constant reminder that I didn’t have a date, and the lies that unfolded from that invaded my thoughts constantly. Lies telling me I would never be pretty enough for a boy to love me, that I would always be alone, and that my eating disorder was the only thing that could make me feel safe and secure. The lies told me it was all I would ever need to be happy. But somehow no matter how hard I faked it, I wasn’t happy. I was miserable.

I remember the emptiness.

An eating disorder rips away everything- I felt as if I had been gutted and left with a body that was meaningless and emotionless. I didn’t know who I was anymore. Any joy I expressed that day was an act, one that came from a sense of denial and one that I controlled well. I remember laughing with my friends, but wasn’t sure what we were laughing about. I remember looking in the mirror to find satisfaction with what I was doing, and to validate that it was all worth it. What I saw in the mirror wasn’t someone who was sick. I saw someone I still wanted to change, someone who I would never be happy with. And the emptiness was still there, because no matter how many times I reached my goal weight, no matter how many times I passed up dessert or how many times I exercised, I never felt satisfied. An eating disorder never makes you feel satisfied, it just keeps taking away.

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Two nights ago, I attended another dance. It wasn’t formal, I didn’t wear a pretty dress and, my nails weren’t done and I didn’t have any makeup on. It was impromptu, the way my dances tend to be these days. It wasn’t in a high school gym or with hundreds of people, but it was in my kitchen with my husband and 2-year-old daughter. The memories I make at these crazy dance parties we tend to have on a regular basis will stick with me forever, much like the uncomfortable memories I have from my first formal dance. These memories are much different though.

I’ll remember being warm because my now-healthy body can insulate itself and tolerate temperatures under 90 degrees.

I’ll remember the smells of food. Chili in the crock pot, taco meat on the stove, and chicken parmesan in the oven are all the comforting aromas of some of the meals that have been in preparation while we’re twirling our toddler around in the kitchen.

I’ll remember how it feels to be surrounded by truth. Truth that I am loved, that I am promised never-ending hope, and that I am cherished by a God who will never abandon me.

I’ll remember feeling full. So so full. Full of purpose, self-satisfaction, and life. Life is so much different now and I’m extremely grateful for that. I’m no longer controlled by that image in the mirror or value myself based on how much I had to eat. I’m more free to love, to experience true joy and to walk through life with a purpose other than meeting my goal on the scale.

I’ll continue to feel this way because I chose recovery. I didn’t chose to have an eating disorder, but I chose to fight my way out. All the memories, both good and bad have shaped me into the person I am today. I’m strong, and the battle has become easier if not nonexistent. I have the painful memories to thank for that.

 

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