Category Archives: Food

Healthy Benefits of Coconut Oil

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By now we’ve all heard about the benefits of coconut oil.  It’s a healthier alternative to olive oil and canola oil, tastes great with those bitter greens like kale and you can even use it for baking.  It’s also anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, and moisturizing.  This weekend we had some fun utilizing coconut outside of the kitchen.

Healthy Living with Coconut Oil

As a moisturizer. 

After a long, cold winter we’ve been suffering from dry skin and were looking for some relief.  After reading about all the benefits of coconut oil and after a recommendation from a friend, we decided to give it a try.  Michael suffers from eczema so we were curious to see if it would help those patches.  We were pleasantly surprised at how moisturizing the coconut oil was.  Michael’s patches definitely looked much better the next day.   An added bonus was that a little really goes a long way!  The only downside was that you end up smelling like coconut oil.  We’ll definitely be keeping a jar in the bathroom to ward off dry skin and using it more regularly.  If you’ve never tried coconut oil as a moisturizer the trick is to put it on when your still damp from the shower.  Your body will absorb more of the oil then.  It’s definitely worth trying it if you’ve never done it!

Coconut Oil

Coconut Oil!

Oil Pulling. 

Have you heard about this in the news?  Michael has read about it a few times and I received a press release talking about it this week.  In our quest to make this a healthy year as we prepare for our wedding Michael wanted to give it a try.  I wasn’t too keen on it but was convinced to give it a go.

Oil pulling is when you swish oil around your mouth for 20 minutes.  You can use sunflower oil, sesame oil, olive oil or coconut oil.   The oil is absorbed through your tongue and is absorbed into the body.  The idea is that bacteria will cling to the oil, when you spit it out you remove the bacteria and toxins from your body.  The benefits are a healthier mouth including whiter teeth, healthier gums, better breath.  It can also help alleviate headaches and cure insomnia.

The recommendation is to swish for 20 minutes but not to gargle.  We melted some coconut oil, took a spoonful and started swishing.  We couldn’t even look at each other because we were both going to laugh and spit out coconut oil everywhere!  So we went to separate rooms and kept on swishing.  I had a really hard time with it, I actually really wanted to gag multiple times.  The other thing that made it really hard was that as you kept swishing, the oil started to taste really gross.  I made it for about 9 minutes before I had to spit it out.  Michael held strong and went for 16 minutes.  Once you spit the oil out, you swish with salt water.  It helps remove some of the oil from your mouth.  Water tasted delicious and brushing my teeth felt even better! I even noticed that my teeth were brighter!

I’m not sure I’d try it again but I think Michael may.  He didn’t seem to mind the process and is really interested in some of the benefits.  I’m glad I tried it.

I’m off to help Michael cook dinner!  We’re having fish tacos…cooked in coconut oil!

Have you moisturized with coconut oil?  Would you try oil pulling?  Have you tried it or do you pull regularly?

Healthy Habits for Weight Loss: Breakfast and Lunch

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Continuing on with this mini series on weight loss  I thought I’d share the changes I’ve made to breakfast and lunch.  Many of these changes are very subtle but they’ve certainly paid off.  I’ll also talk about carbs because I’ve definitely made some changes when it comes to those!

Breakfast has always been rather healthy for me.  I typically gravitate towards oatmeal, overnight oats, yogurt with fruit and smoothies.  I still enjoy all of those things but some more than others.  Smoothies have been a big component of our weight loss meal plan.  We started the year drinking detoxifying green smoothies everyday.  Michael really liked a combination of spinach, kale, celery, pear, cucumber, ginger, garlic and water.  I personally couldn’t deal with the garlic, it was just too much for me at 8am.  I liked a combo of spinach, kale, celery, pear, cucumber, pineapple, ginger and lemon.  It has just enough sweetness to it and it makes me feel really great.  I love playing around with different combos of smoothies and think they are a great way to use up veggies that are getting close to the end of their life.   Smoothies also did a great job of keeping me full but not stuffed.  By the time lunch came around I was ready for it!

Green Smoothie!

Green Smoothie!

Speaking of lunch, let’s discuss.  About a year and a half ago I gave my lunches a makeover.  I used to eat a sandwich, crackers, fruit and something sweet.  When I stopped training for marathons I started putting on some weight and I knew I was eating too much during the day.  Since then I’ve been eating soups, salads, or a sandwich on a wrap.  I no longer have crackers or chips, or sweets during the day.  I’ll be honest though I sometimes struggle with the sweets particularly when I’m really stressed out.  I’ve found the only cure is will power, so I just don’t eat it.  I do eat a lot of fruit.  So a typical lunch is soup or salad, a banana, and some berries.  I always have some almonds in my bag should I need a late afternoon snack but it’s very rare.  I love soup or salad because it’s just filling enough and since we make all our soups at home I know they are healthy!

Homemade Thai Noodle Soup

Homemade Thai Noodle Soup

The biggest change has really been how I view carbohydrates.  I LOVE bagels and muffins and paninis and subs.  There is nothing better than an everything bagel toasted with veggie cream cheese or a warm, cheese panini.  Clearly they aren’t the healthiest.  Here’s the thing though, I’m just not one to eliminate things.  In fact, once I eliminate it makes me want it EVEN more.  So I had to compromise.  Now I make my own muffins at home to be sure they are healthy and low-calorie, like these Banana Almond Muffins.  If I’m craving a bagel, I’ll have a half a bagel instead of a whole one.  Even then, I don’t eat bagels that often.  As for sandwiches, I really only try to have them once in a while.  If I said I had one once a week that would be exaggerating.  I make every effort to bring a healthy soup or salad from home to work so I’m not tempted to head out at lunch for Panera or the like.  We also don’t keep bread in our house.  The only bread you’ll find is a loaf of frozen ezekiel bread in the freezer which has been there for quite some time.  We do eat a lot of tortillas.  Michael loves egg sandwiches, so these days he’s been loving scrambled eggs on a tortilla.  I love waffles with almond butter and bananas, now I have a warm tortilla with bananas and almond butter.  They are delicious and I honestly don’t miss the bread or carbohydrates.

Like I said, small changes for these two meals that are really paying off.  Like I said in my last post, I’m feeling really good and definitely seeing the movement on the scale.  The most exciting part is that I’m seeing my muscles really tone up!

What do your breakfasts and lunches look like?  What changes have you made to help you lose weight?

Banana Almond Muffins

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If you are like me like, you love a good muffin to start your day BUT you hate all the sugar, carbohydrates and empty calories.  If you are like me you also put almond butter on almost everything but particularly love almond butter with bananas.  If you are like me, you’ll love these banana almond muffins!  I’ve swapped out regular flour for whole wheat flour, and said good-bye to sugar and hello to agave.  I’ve also added plain, raw almonds to combine two of my favorite flavors!

Banana Almond Muffins

Ingredients:

1/2 cup of agave syrup

3 large bananas mashed

1/2 cup of vegetable oil

2 eggs

2 cups of whole wheat flour

1/2 cup of chopped raw almonds

1 teaspoon of baking soda

2 teaspoons of vanilla

1/2 teaspoon of baking powder

1/2 teaspoon of salt

Directions:

1.  Heat the oven to 325 degrees.

2.  Grease a muffin tin with oil.

3.  Mix agave nectar, bananas, oil and eggs in a large bowl with wooden spoon.  Stir in remaining ingredients.  Pour into muffin tin.

4.  Bake until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean, 20-25 minutes.   Let cool and loosed from tin.

Makes 12 muffins. 

I love these muffins.  They are so quick and easy to make and taste delicious every time.  We always have extra bananas lying around since I don’t eat them once they turn brown.  So I freeze them and use them for smoothies and these muffins.  The muffins are light and fluffy with just enough almonds in them.

My favorite way to enjoy them is toasted with almond butter or jam on top.  If I’m feeling really crazy I top it with cream cheese for an extra good treat.  They make the perfect breakfast or pre/post workout snack!

Enjoy!

Healthy Habits for Weight Loss: Dinner and Portions

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There are a lot of reasons to lose weight and there are a lot of ways to do it.  With our wedding approaching in November we decided to make this an overall healthy year.  So in January started to focus on what we were eating, how much we were eating and set out to change some habits and lose weight along the way.  I’ll be sharing some of our new healthy habits over a series of short posts.  Let’s start with dinner and portion sizes.

I grew up in a house where my mom cooked dinner every night.  We sat down as  family, talked about our days and shared a meal together.  She made everything from tacos, to shake and bake pork chops with mashed potatoes.  We always had a fresh vegetable and salad with our meals.  My mom also made pretty much everything from scratch which helped to keep our meals healthy.  Michael grew up in a similar house and together we bonded over cooking and sharing meals.  When we moved in together, cooking dinner and having a meal became a daily occurrence.  We have always tried to keep it healthy with lean protein and green veggies but we knew this wouldn’t be enough to help us shed a few pounds.

One of the first things we changed up this year was our dinners.  Michael has always struggled with GI issues, and complained that our dinners left him feeling full at night which made sleeping uncomfortable.  So we’ve started to shift to a lighter dinner.   We’ve also really focused on our portions.  For example, Wednesday night is always taco night for us.  We used to make guacamole with 2 avocados and would each eat three tacos with extra lean ground chicken.  I’d say most nights we ate 3/4 of a pound of turkey.  Now make guacamole with  1 avocado, each eat 2 tacos and have less than 1/2 a pound of meat between us.  Most other nights we have been having a salad or soup.  Salads are topped with salmon or chicken baked in the oven with a drizzle of olive oil, salt and pepper.  We’ll put some butternut squash, tomatoes, cucumber, and whatever else sounds good!  We’ve always tossed our salads with a yogurt based dressing and kept it very light so we continue to do that.   Even when we order takeout I serve out my portion and then package up the remaining serving so as not to over eat or tempt myself!

Salmon over Salad with Veggies!

Salmon over Salad with Veggies!

For me the switch was really hard to adjust to mentally.  I was afraid I’d be hungry or not get enough to eat, after all I was already at a healthy weight.  And to add to that, I’ve always been a big eater.  Growing up I always had seconds, and when I was skiing in college and burning about 2,000 calories in a single workout I had seconds.  To the astonishment of those around me I could always eat and eat and still be at a healthy weight with lean, toned muscles.  Recently though, I’ve noticed I want to eat less and I’m fuller faster.  It’s likely a product of my age and activity level but had me thinking about how much I was eating on a regular basis.  The first thing I noticed when it came to eating lighter, smaller meals was that I really didn’t miss the larger portions or second helpings.  Not one bit.  I also noticed that I was sleeping and feeling better with our lighter dinners.  Michael has also been feeling much better since we’ve started eating lighter and has had less GI issues as well.  I think the greatest change is that this habit is even translating when we go out to dinner.  We order less food, order healthier options and we don’t eat our whole serving.  It’s so unlike us but goes to show how mindful eating can make a difference…a difference you can see and feel!

Over the next few posts I’ll talk about breakfast, desserts, meal prep and more!  All of these changes are really making a difference for us.  And the positive results make us want to continue our healthy habits!

How do you monitor your portions at dinner?  Does mindful eating  help you keep your portions smaller?

The Maine Half Marathon!

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Today I ran the Maine Half Marathon!  This half was much different from past races for me in that I set out with one simple goal, have fun.  In the past I always trained for a time or to accomplish a specific running goal.  Life has been so busy lately and I just needed to train for a fun race!

We headed up to Portland on Saturday afternoon.  We took our time getting up there…slept in, made breakfast, did a few errands and then headed out.  We stopped in Kittery to check out the outlets on our way up there and made a pitstop at Yummies for some candy.

When we got to Portland we headed to the expo to pick up my number.  The last expo I went to was for Boston Marathon.  This one was much smaller and we were pretty much in and out with my number.  Since we hadn’t had lunch we headed downtown to have a late afternoon snack and a cocktail.  We ended up at The North Point which was so cute and cozy and the perfect place for happy hour.  The best part about running a race for fun? Enjoying a cocktail the day before!

On our way up I realized I forgot my race belt which holds my number and my stick.  Ordinarily I’d be all stressed out and annoyed I forgot things but I took it in stride.  I’d survive without my stick and safety pins will work just fine!

For dinner we checked out Boda.  It’s a high-end Thai food restaurant and was delicious.  I started my meal with an appetizer of pork and rice on top of pineapple, so good!  For dinner I had chicken pad thai fold into an omelet.  It was such a great presentation and it tasted delicious!  For dessert Michael and I shared a thai sundae.  I can’t tell you what was in it but it was so good!  After dinner we headed back to the hotel and headed to bed…

Our hotel was less than 10 minutes to the start so I didn’t have to get up terribly early.  I got ready, stretched and ten we grabbed a bagel on our way.  We got to the start with just enough time to say hello to a few people we knew, I used the porta pottie and then made my way to the start coral.  A definite perk of smaller races is how easy it is to get to the start!

Maine Half Marathon

The first few miles were nice and flat.  I settled into my pace and felt really good.  At mile 3 I noticed that my pace had dropped and I was running 8 min/miles flat.  I felt great and the pace seemed easy so I decided to go with it!  Before I knew it I was at the turnaround point at mile 6.5.  I was having a great time, the bands that were playing were awesome and the volunteers and spectators couldn’t have been nicer!  They were all cheering so well!

At mile 8 I started to get a bit tired and was ready to be at mile 10.  Lucky for me mile 10 came pretty quickly.  There was a man running in a moose costume and that kept me entertained for quite a bit.  Especially since the two women behind me kept joking that it was hunting season and they needed to pass him.

The middle of the race was pretty hilly but the first and last 2 miles were really flat.  Once I hit the mile 11 mark I knew I was in the home stretch.  I picked up the pace a bit and ran sub 8′s to the finish!  I will say that last mile felt LONG but crossing the finish felt so good!

Finisher!

Finisher!

I love half marathons.  To me there are really the perfect distance.  The training requires commitment but it doesn’t eat up all you’re time and the race goes by so fast!  What’s not to like?!  This race was great.  It was so easy and stress free plus it was really spectator friendly and the volunteers were so friendly and nice! I’ll definitely be doing this race next year!

Michael and I hung around at the finish for a bit before heading back to the hotel to shower and get cleaned up.  We then made our way downtown for a post run brunch.  Seriously, this may be my favorite part of races!  I’ve spent the remainder of the day laying on the couch being lazy!  Next weekend we get to do it all over again for the B.A.A. Half Marathon here in Boston!!!

Did you race this weekend?!  How did it go? Any upcoming races? Favorite race distance?