No Guilt for Starting to Get Healthy

i try to be healthy, i really do!  but most of the time it just doesn’t really work out.  i’m a pretty sedentary person who enjoys unhealthy food.  i also enjoy the way i feel when i exercise and eat well and understand why i should do both more often.  but i have weak will power and a lifetime of bad habits to combat.  i used to feel guilty about all of this.  not so much anymore.  it’s who i am, what i am and i will just always be one of those people who struggles with this.  i’m not ashamed and nor should i be.

but knowing this about myself, i also know that i need to work in healthy choices in to my lifestyle.  being pregnant has really given me motivation to do that, especially now in the second trimester.  i eat a lot more fruit now, which i’ve always enjoyed doing but just didn’t do!  part of that is because of all of the conflicting things i’ve heard about fruit.  south beach says not to eat too much because of the sugars, other sources i’ve heard that it’s best to avoid high sugar fruits such as bananas.  and then, like every other food the health experts talk about, i’ve heard information that conflicts with this; i’ve heard that any and all fruit you eat is good for you for various reasons.  the vitamins, the minerals, the antioxidants, the good sugars, the good fats, and the full calories as opposed to empty ones.  weight watchers now allows any and all fruits for 0 points and encourages at least 5 servings a day.  that right there is the philosophy i’ve tried to go with on my fruit consumption: whatever i want, as much as i want, just make sure i get a healthy variety to maximize the potential health benefits.  i even accept fruit juice into my diet now for the vitamins and minerals, and i try to get the “no sugar added” varieties when i can afford them.  unfortunately i’m still not getting as much as i should be but i’m getting a hell of a lot more than i was 6 months ago.  it’s a start, and i can’t feel guilty for starting.  oh and did i mention, fruit can be damn expensive!  a bag of grapes for $5 that i’ll eat in a day and a half?  are you kidding me??

favorite breakfast: sandwich bread toasted, layer of peanut butter, layer of cottage cheese, and banana slices. finish the banana and add a glass of orange juice. i use whole grain toast then i get protein and calcium from the cottage cheese, more protein from the peanut butter, and lots of goody vitamins from the banana and oj.

i am in the same boat with vegetables.  i take em where i can get em!  whatever i want, whenever i want.  unfortunately i want them a lot less than i want fruit!  such a sweet tooth!  but i am finding my ways.  for instance, the sandwich i’m going to share (which is my current favorite meal) has tomatoes and spinach.  i also do not shy away from products like pastas that claim a serving or two of vegetables.  if that’s what it takes.  you may recall i posted about Kraft Veggie Mac ‘n Cheese.  as i said, i have no shame for making good attempts.  could i be doing better?  yes, and i know that.  but i am already doing better and this is just a beginning.

any bread toasted (this is ciabatta but i’ve also used bagels and sandwich bread; they’re all good with these toppings), mayo, mustard, 2 slices cheddar cheese, 2 tomato slices, baby spinach (about 10 leaves pictured), and phony baloney (fake meat). when i use the toaster oven, i will throw the cheese on one half of the bread and toss it back into the oven to melt, mmmmmm! eat with fruit! i love spinach! it’s a total super food! and if you reduce the cheese, you also reduce the fat and calories but it’s cheese and i’m only human!  also, you could lose the mayo entirely, use light or fat free, or butter instead.  i use mayo just because it’s been a craving lately.  better than braaaaaaaains!

my other downfall is exercise.  i don’t do nearly enough of it.  i didn’t when i wasn’t pregnant, and i don’t now.  actually if anything i’d say i do less now.  when i got married, my husband and i bought bikes and were building our stamina.  i think we had biked as much as 8 miles in one trip (to, around inside, and back home from the zoo).  we biked to the farmer’s market on saturday mornings, to the library for books, to the post office, to restaurants, and down around “the green belt” (a section of connecting parks and golf courses that runs through scottsdale).  and we didn’t necessarily stop when we found out i was pregnant.  oh no!  my intention was to continue and build more stamina.  we wanted to work up to eliminating the need to drive to any place within 3 miles of our home (first goal).  but then my ob told me to take a break from the biking for a couple of weeks.  i’ll have to ask my husband if he remembers exactly why.  i remember i had a cyst on my ovaries (that has since gone away; perfectly normal) and due to a LEEP procedure in october 2011 they have been very watchful of my cervix.  but i don’t feel like either of those were the reason.  oh now i remember!  the placenta had not yet attached itself to the uterine wall and they didn’t want me doing anything strenuous.  by the time it had attached and i was good to go, i wasn’t so good to go anymore!  the extreme fatigue of first trimester had set in.  one day we went for a ride and i actually cried because i was so frustrated and knew i was frustrating my husband.  i just didn’t have the energy in my legs to peddle, we weren’t very far from home at all, and my husband was VERY keen on going like we had done previously.  i just couldn’t do it.  by second trimester i had lost all get up and go.  it didn’t help that i’d been told that i shouldn’t start any new exercise routines; anything i hadn’t already been doing, except walking a few times a week.  that was my excuse!

well today i said no more!  NO MAS!!!  after about an hour of fiddling with different devices capable of playing DVD, i settled on my laptop.  i popped in a DVD i had purchased in the first trimester, “Denise Austin’s Fit & Firm Pregnancy.”  i only did 20 minutes which is the length of the entire “second trimester” workout routine but it felt lovely!  it was a slow speed so i could keep up, the stretches were comfortable but felt deep, and denise gave tips for how to do the exercises at varying levels of intensity depending on comfort level and ability.  the DVD also includes a cardio routine that looks doable and gives tips for workout during all 3 trimesters.  in addition to this, last week my husband and i started walking around the mall 3 days a week in the mornings when he gets home from work.  this is arizona… it’s hot… so yes i do the mall walk like a senior citizen and those grannies and grampies can out walk me i tell ya! so i decided to create for myself an exercise plan; goals.  i may only have 16 weeks to go, but it is never too late to start being healthy.  from what i understand, it is safe to exercise right up until the 40th week but  i’ve marked that week off as a week of rest; we’ll see how i feel then.  again, if i’m too tired in parts of the third, i won’t feel guilty for backing off from my plan.  some is better than none and doing what my body says is best for my baby is always going to be my best bet!

the plan:

after week 28 it all looks the same.  walking 3 times a week, 3 days of strength routine, and 3 days of cardio and not all in the same day but spread out over the week so that almost every day i can be sure to be doing something active.  each time i complete a planned activity, i will clear the cell of color so i know it’s done.

so this was a very long post, and if you stuck with me through it, thank you!!  what little things do you do in your life to bring in a little bit of the healthy?  any food suggestions or exercising suggestions?  especially once the baby is here, i’ll need quick and dirty (fast and healthy hehe), suggestions??  please comment below!

Kraft Veggie Mac ‘n Cheese

for a vegetarian, i admit i eat like crap.  i’m a carb addict.  my staples are breads, pastas, and cheese.  carb, carb, fat.  i try to eat whole grain when possible but more veggies on my plate would still be a better way to go, and i know it!  i love most veggies so why don’t i eat more.  well the answer is easy, i’m not very good at making them and prepping them is tedious (not the first time i’ve admitted to being lazy!)   i can steam em, sauté em, even grill em.  but plain veggies are still so boring.  covering them in cheese isn’t really a healthy solution though it’s my go-to.  butter; not better.  i know the right sauces can add some flare, but i don’t know how to make those sauces off hand.  so i get disillusioned with veggies and i end up not making them nearly as often as i should.  bad vegetarian! bad!  someone should roll up a newspaper and slap me on the nose when i cook!

so how can i get more servings of veggies without feeling put out, annoyed, or frustrated at my lack of skills in that area? Kraft Veggie Pasta & Cheese. you can look at it as “hiding the vegetables” if that’s what you want to do, but i see it as awesome!  i see it as finding an opportunity to fit yet more vegetable servings onto the plate and cut down on useless regular simple carbs.

the noodles in kraft veggie mac ‘n cheese are actually made out of cauliflower flour!  right there i get a serving of vegetables.  now is that enough to live on?  should mac ‘n cheese become my new staple?  no of course not!  but i don’t see how it can NOT  be beneficial when paired with more veggies.  for instance, tonight was mac ‘n cheese with green beans.  normally i would have done broccoli on the side, but i had none.  and i could easily pair the mac ‘n cheese and broccoli with tofurky sausages or morningstar farms riblets for a fun summer bbq meal.

now i’ve read some blogs where people have complained that if you “hide” the vegetables to trick your kids into eating them, then you aren’t teaching them good eating habits and how to make good decisions.  when i was a kid, my mom cooked just about every meal with sides of vegetables, and usually additional carbs.  spaghetti with meat sauce, broccoli, green beans, and cheese bread.  the point is the veggies were there, and i ate them.  i didn’t have to be tricked or have them hidden.  i liked them, i ate them.  yet still as an adult i make poor eating decisions when it comes to creating my own plates.  furthermore, i feel a lot of very busy parents often end up giving their kids simple meal fixes (such as just mac ‘n cheese) or at least whatever will elicit the least fight at dinner time.  for those who are going to do that anyway, why not make it something they’ll eat that has a little extra nutrional value to it.  if it’s that big of a deal to you, then after your kid eats it and expresses liking it, tell them the secret.  it’s also okay for kids to think that food they actually enjoy, and see as a treat, can be good for them as well.

so boil up a box, pair with a salad and some steamed veggies, a little protein AND ENJOY!.

Vegetable Wellington (Easter Practice)

i’m a big fan of chef gordon ramsay and i watch every season of Hell’s Kitchen and Kitchen Nightmares.  there are two dishes that are part of the Hell’s Kitchen menu every season and almost every seating: risotto and beef wellington.   i’ve have several opportunities to try different risottos as it isn’t difficult to find vegetarian versions.  beef wellington i had not even heard of until i’d already gone vegetarian. juicy, soft, red meat melting in your mouth enveloped in a buttery, flakey, pastry crust.  *drool* hey i didn’t give up meat because i didn’t like the taste!  but anyways i always wanted to try a wellington but thought that would never be happening.  until my mom told me about a place that had a fantastic salmon wellington.  i will on very rare occassions eat tuna, tilapia, or salmon… very rare.  this was an occassion i was willing, except she couldn’t remember where the place was and so we never went.  but that opened up an awareness that it could be made with other stuffings.  i eventually started to see mushroom wellingtons pop up on catering menus when i was doing wedding vendor research.  ding ding ding!  i love mushrooms! i love portabellos! oh but those are so expensive!  so the search continued for a wellington that would satisfy my vegetarianism and wallet.  intro vegetable wellingtons.  most have extensive ingredient lists, which isn’t a bad thing, except being a newb at this i wanted to KISS (keep it simple, stupid).  Vegetarian Time’s came through for me!  today i bought the ingredients for and began making their Vegetable Wellington Redux.  my hope is that it will turn out fantastic enough that we’ll want it again for Easter dinner.

oh and on a side note, gordon ramsay hates vegetarians for some reason so i find it humorous that it was one of his shows that inspired me to seek out and try this dish.  take that gordon, ya donkey!

issues during making: i’ve learned that i am not good with puff pastry sheets.  it seemed as though i had too much stuffing and i couldn’t really fold the sheets over the filling.  also, i’m cheap and don’t like paying more than $2 for anything hehe so paying about $4 for frozen phyllo dough, over $6 for the goat cheese, and $3.50 for a jar of pesto was not my cup of tea but hopefully it’s all worth it!  my dough wrapping skills need some work, the side split though, on the plus side, that gave me a cool picture!  oh and you might want to use two sheets of wax paper… mine stuck to the wellington a bit and was difficult to take off especially since it got soft from soaking in yummy juices.  perhaps some Pam spray?  also the recipe calls for bell peppers, which i used, but i think next time i’ll use artichoke hearts and roasted red peppers because i’m really not a bell pepper fan.  for your cooking pleasure, i’ve provided the recipe i used and any changes i made in blue.

Vegetables Wellington Redux

Ingredient List
Serves 8

  • 1 Tbs. olive oil
  • 1 lb. asparagus, cut into 11/2-inch pieces
  • 2 medium red bell peppers, cut into thin strips (i used 1 red bell pepper and 1 green bell pepper)
  • 1 medium onion, thinly sliced (11/2 cups)
  • 1 5-oz. pkg. baby spinach leaves
  • 1 4-oz. jar prepared pesto sauce (smallest jar i found was 8 oz so i used half)
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 17.3-oz. pkg. frozen puff pastry, thawed
  • 1 10-oz. log fresh goat cheese, softened (could only find 5oz logs, i bought 2 and choose the “herb flavored” ones for extra pop)
  • 1 16-oz. jar prepared tomato sauce, warmed (seems stores around here sell only 15oz cans/jars, not 16 so i was an oz short… oh well!)

Directions

1. Heat oil in skillet over medium-high heat. Add asparagus, bell peppers, and onion, and sauté 5 to 10 minutes, or until vegetables begin to soften. Add spinach, and cook 3 to 4 minutes, or until spinach wilts. Stir in pesto. Cool.

2. Whisk egg in bowl, and set aside. Cut 15- x 10-inch piece of parchment paper, and set on work surface. Place 1 sheet puff pastry on parchment paper. Lift parchment with puff pastry, and place parchment-side-down in 9-inch loaf pan. Press pastry into pan, being careful not to let folds get caught in parchment and allowing excess parchment and pastry to hang over sides. Cut squares from second puff pastry sheet, and press onto short sides of parchment-covered pan to make dough shell. Prick bottom of puff pastry all over with fork.

3. Spread goat cheese over bottom of puff pastry (when it says “softened” in the ingredient list, it means it!  work it a little before spreading it on to make sure it’ll spread well.  i didn’t and wish i had). Top with asparagus mixture. Fold excess puff pastry over vegetables, and brush edges with egg.

4. Cut 91/2- x 51/2-inch piece of puff pastry from remaining sheet. Set on top of asparagus mixture, pressing to seal edges. Refrigerate 30 minutes, along with unused pastry scraps and egg.

5. Preheat oven to 425°F, and place oven rack on second-lowest level. Brush top of Wellington with egg, and poke 2 or 3 holes in top. Cut decorative leaves and stems from remaining pastry, press onto top of Wellington, and brush with egg. Use tip of small knife to score leaves and top with decorative touches.  (i didn’t do the decorative florishes… that’s beyond my current level… for now!)

6. Bake Wellington 15 minutes. Reduce oven heat to 350°F, and bake 45 minutes more. Cool 15 minutes.

7. Use parchment to lift Wellington from loaf pan. Remove parchment, and transfer Wellington to flat serving plate. Slice, and serve with tomato sauce.

Nutritional Information

Per serving (1 slice wellington and 1/4 cup sauce):
Calories: 405
Protein: 15g
Total fat: 29g
Saturated fat: 11g
Carbs: 25g
Cholesterol: 48m
Sodium: 657mg
Fiber: 4g
Sugars: 6g