Guest Post: A New Mom’s Tip for Creating Balance

Guest Post: A New Mom’s Tip for Creating Balance

Today OnBalance features a post from new mama, experienced yogi, and fitness trainer Katie Painter.  Katie is based in Richmond, Virginia.  Find Katie on Facebook for more healthy living tips.

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“If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.”

Is this not the most irritating quote you’ve ever heard? No? Just me?

I think this quote grates on my nerves because it sends me right into defense mode.

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As a new mom to a six-month old I like to say that parenting is easy… as long as you’re lucky enough to have a laid-back baby and you’re super organized. I am only one of those things and it’s not organized. (Though now that I’ve put it into writing I’m sure I somehow angered the Happy Baby Gods and my little one will now suddenly turn into a sleepless, teething hellion.)

So in an attempt to make life a little easier, I tried to get organized and started food prepping on Sunday nights. Because when I fail to plan, I fail HARD at eating well.

Food prep means different things to different people. For my family, food prep isn’t perfectly portioned containers stacked up in the fridge ready to go. That’s not necessary or practical for us, but I do like to get food cleaned and ready to go so at the end of the day cooking isn’t a time consuming challenge.

Here’s a quick peek at what food prep usually looks like for us:

  • Veggies sliced, diced and seasoned
  • Crockpot chicken (By far the greatest food prep hack! Place 4 chicken breasts in 4c water, let sit all day with some salt, pepper, garlic and onion powder then remove, shred with a fork and store.)
  • Baked chicken (We love Lowery’s seasoning)
  • Ground turkey in homemade taco seasoning
  • Mason Jar Salads

Lunches are the hardest meal for me because if the little one is being needy, I have to eat with one hand while she squirms in my other arm. That means I grab whatever is ready to go. Mason jar salads are the best thing Pinterest has ever given me.

There are really only two rules for building any kind of mason jar salad:

1) Use ALL the veggies. (The more veggies you can throw into your salad, the happier your body will be!)

2) Keep your dressing and leafy greens as far away as possible. (Harder veggies like tomatoes, peppers, etc. will soak up the dressing a bit without wilting so put those in first.)

Here’s my current favorite recipe:

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  • 2 TBSP Balsamic Vinaigrette
  • Grape Tomatoes (As many as you want… go ahead and load ‘em up!)
  • 1oz Fresh Mozzarella Cheese
  • 2oz Pasta (Please don’t fall for the PROTEIN label in the picture! This is still a starchy carb and does not count as a fat loss protein source… we just like the taste of this particular kind)
  • 2c Baby Spinach

Add ingredients in the order listed above starting with the dressing on the bottom of the jar. (I add a small paper towel square to help absorb water and keep my spinach crisp.) Then seal up the jar, pop it in the fridge, and flip upside down into a bowl when you’re ready to enjoy.

Add protein later by heating up chicken before adding the salad OR add your favorite protein source right into the jar.

Have you tried mason jar salads? Share with us your favorite recipe!

Kudos to the Kitchen Kid

Kudos to the Kitchen Kid

Last January, the greatest thing ever happened: my oldest kid took Culinary Arts in middle school.

Okay, maybe it wasn’t the greatest thing ever, but it certainly did change my life for the better in a real and meaningful way.

As someone who is committed to preparing fresh, healthy meals at home week in and week out, I know how exhausted many of you feel with the daily mealtime drudgery.  I mean, it’s like this family of mine needs to eat every.single.day.  And it’s not just the food prep and clean up that’s tiring; the meal planning is a job in and of itself.

In our home, we have the dreaded “Sunday Question,” which is: “What do you want to eat for dinner this week?” The way I figure it, if all five people in my family contribute a meal suggestion, I’ve just lightened the meal planning load I carry.  It also ensures that everyone will eat at least one meal without complaining.

It’s the little things, isn’t it?!

By cooking five meals per week at home, we have enough food for leftovers for lunch (both Mr. Balance and I work from home) and one other evening meal of leftovers.  This is our cost-effective way to eat as healthfully as possible.

Back to my kid….

When he took Culinary Arts last Spring semester, he learned not only practical kitchen skills, but he also got excited about helping to prepare family meals. He now fully prepares at least one meal a week by himself.  I’m usually around for him to ask questions, but as he has practiced his cooking skills, he needs me less and less.

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We’re now working on expanding his repertoire.  His favorite meal is a tuna, pasta and veggie bake, but he made that so much I had to limit it to every other week at most.  He’s been on a crustless quiche and fritatta kick lately.  I’m helping him feel more confident about veering off-recipe and finding the fun in cooking by combining flavors.

I could say that the best part about having a kid interested in cooking is the wonderful bonding experience it provides us.  Or I could tell you that the best part about having a kid interested in cooking is that he’s developing life skills that will serve him well once he leaves the nest.  But let’s be real: the best part about having a kid interested in cooking (and capable of doing it himself) is that I get a night off.

Of course, the look of satisfaction and pride on his face when his meal is ready, and he serves it up to his parents and siblings is pretty gratifying, too.

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Good health and great happiness to you!

You say, "Back-to-School?" I say, "Self-Care!"

Back-to-School!

Self-Care!

As a parent of three kids (ages 4, 9, and 12), I love the opportunities of summer: hanging out, playing board games, exploring new places, and doing whatever the heck we want.  But I’ve got to be honest with you; it’s a fat ton of work.  When you add in the fact that summer is my busy work season thanks to teaching swimming lessons, and I relish the idea of back-to-school as a time to tune into some self-care outlets that have been pushed aside the last few months.

  1. Exercise as its own reward- I’ve been blogging a lot recently about my running goals over the next year.  While I’m focused on my path to achieve them, I also know that I exercise because it makes me feel good….NOW.  The New York Times recently published an article linking the way people viewed exercise with their compliance to sticking with an exercise program.  In short, the more people felt they HAD to exercise, the less they actually did.  The people most compliant with a long-term exercise program were those who were most focused on exercise as a strategy for feeling good in the short term.  So while it’s great to have a goal, I’m going to enjoy the journey.
  2. Eat lunch every day– I have a bad habit of forgetting to eat lunch.  Or I eat snacks here and there, but they don’t always add up to the most nutritious combination of foods.  For me, taking care of myself by eating a high-quality lunch every day– even if it’s a hodgepodge of foods– will help me  from getting “hangry” once kids are home from school.
  3. Fire up the sewing machine– It’s been a while since I’ve sewn on a daily basis.  I miss the creativity and satisfaction of productivity that I feel when I sew.  Taking the time to indulge my sewing interests works parts of my brain that don’t get worked in my family or business life.  More brain work = happier, healthier, more whole me.
  4. Connect to Build Community– I often spend part of the first day of school making a list of people I see regularly but don’t often get to talk to.  You know the type– the parent friends who I see every day at drop-off but we don’t do more than exchange pleasantries.  These are the people I want to approach and offer to go for a walk after drop-off or meet up with over coffee 30 minutes before pick up.  By nurturing these friendships, I can help build my sense of community.
  5. Say NO!– This school year, I am room parent for two of my three kids and soccer team manager for two of my three kids.  I also volunteer teach eight hours a week at the elementary school.  I enjoy each of these roles, but I recognize that I am fully doing my part to support my kids’ educations.  Any further requests for volunteering shall be met with a polite, “Not at this time; thanks for asking!”

How can you take care of yourself this school year?  I encourage you to make a list of your own self-care strategies.  Writing them down is useful not only because you are forced to really think about how these issues affect your life, but also as a record of accountability to yourself.  By intentionally bringing balance into your life, wellness will follow.

Wishing you and yours a creative, active, stimulating, and healthy new school year!

Summer Nectarine Salad

Summer Nectarine Salad

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For all the time I spent on Pinterest, you’d think I do a new workout and sew a new garment and prepare a new recipe every day.  Sorry to burst your bubble, but I don’t.  Not even close.

Every once in a while, though, I come across something that must.be.made.now.  This summer nectarine salad from Honestly Yum is one of those things.  How could you not love a salad with prosciutto, nectarines, heirloom tomatoes, and mozzarella?  Impossible!

If you’re not convinced, take a look at it up close:

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I mean, really…….drooooooooooooool!

As written, the recipe is:

  • 3-4 nectarines
  • 2 heirloom tomatoes
  • 1 ball of mozzarella di bufala
  • 1 small bundle of basil
  • 6-8 slices of prosciutto
  • 2 heads of little gem lettuce
  • 1/4 cup of extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup of balsamic vinegar
  • Sea salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper

Directions:

  • Rinse and dry the lettuce and rip larger leaves in half.
  • Slice the nectarines and tomatoes into wedges.
  • Assemble the salad by laying the lettuce down on the bottom, scatter the tomatoes and nectarines over the lettuce.
  • Tear the mozzarella over the salad.
  • Tear leaves of basil over the salad.
  • Lay slices of prosciutto throughout the salad.
  • To make the dressing, whisk together 1/4  cup of balsamic vinegar with 1/4 cup of extra virgin olive oil.
  • Season salad with sea salt and black pepper.

I followed the basics of the recipe Honestly Yum set out (above), but I’ve never used butter or gem lettuce to make it.  I’ve made it with both mixed spring greens and arugula, and both are tasty.  Let’s be honest here:  it’s the “goodies” that make this salad so delicious.

And why stop at nectarines for fruity goodness in the salad?  Instead of basalmic to dress it, I like to make a quick vinaigrette of 3 parts orange juice , 1 part lemon juice, a dash of apple cider vinegar, and a hearty glug of EVOO.   I whizz it all together in my smoothie cup blender (but a whisk would do you just fine, too.)  Adding this slightly sweet dressing balances the salty of the prosciutto and mozzarella nicely.

If you have a favorite summer salad, won’t you please leave me the recipe or a link to where I can find it?

Good health and great happiness to you!

You’re Driving Me Nuts!

You’re Driving Me Nuts!

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It’s midsummer, which means I may or may not have said shouted this phrase at my kids once or twice (a day) recently.

It’s midsummer, which also means that it’s picnic and potluck season.

Delicious Salads with Nuts Recipes

Lucky for you, today I have a recipe roundup of salads that will make a fantastic healthy addition to your next smorgasbord-focused event.  And each of these salads has a star ingredient in common: almonds.

  • Fancy a recipe that even salad-averse kids will want to eat?  (Or at least pick the toppings off of?)  Try the Mandarin Almond Salad from Sweet Treats & More.

  • Looking for a salad that puts a veggie other than lettuce front and center?  The Healthy Foodie’s Broccoli, Apple & Almond Salad offers a tasty option.

  • Feeling a bit highbrow/lowbrow?  The Crunchy Asian Slaw from My Homemade Life is not only a crowd-pleasing recipe but one of the funniest food posts you’ll read.  (Though when I make this slaw, I sub olive oil for vegetable oil.  And I do feel a bit awkward buying ramen at 40 years old.)
But why almonds?

They are the tree-nut with the highest density of protein, Vitamin E, B vitamins, and calcium, and they are also high in fiber.  Almonds contain concentrated monounsaturated (good) fats that can help lower LDL (bad) cholesterol levels. Aside from being a nutritional powerhouse, almonds have other positive benefits for the hair, skin, and immune system.  All this in a delicious little nut!

And because we live in Texas, where the surface-of-the-sun hot summers makes it challenging choose healthy portable snacks without schlepping along a cooler, almonds always make the cut.  When my kids get whiny and wingey in the afternoons, I often say shout: “Are you hungry? Do you need protein?  Go eat some nuts!”

I admit that my very favorite way to enjoy almonds is the dark chocolate-covered variety.  I mean, really…where else can you find such an anti-oxidant rich protein punch?  Nowhere!  These little superfoods are just the treat I need on long afternoons.

Happy Summer.  Hope the ones you love aren’t driving you nuts.

I was invited to write a post about almonds by the good folks at nuts.com.  All opinions are my own.

Health at Every Size

Health at Every Size

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I received an inquiry from a potential client a few months ago asking if my personal training philosophy was aligned with the Health at Every Size movement.  I had to admit that I had never heard of HAES, but I would investigate it and get back to her.

According to the website:

Health at Every Size® principles help us be at peace in our bodies, supporting people of all sizes in finding compassionate ways to take care of themselves. It includes the following basic components:

  • Respect, including respect for body diversity.
  • Compassionate Self-care
    • Eating in a flexible and attuned manner that values pleasure and honors internal cues of hunger, satiety, and appetite;
    • Finding the joy in moving one’s body and being physically active.
  • Critical Awareness
    • Challenges scientific and cultural assumptions;
    • Values body knowledge and people’s lived experiences.

— An edited excerpt from Body Respect: What Conventional Health Books Leave out, Get Wrong and Just Plain Fail to Understand about Weight, by Linda Bacon, PhD., and Lucy Aphramor, PhD, RD.

As far as making peace with body size and developing compassionate approaches to thinking about how we view and treat people of various body sizes, I wholeheartedly embrace the pro-tolerance message that recognizes that weight is not an indication of personal value any more than it is the sole contributor to a person’s health matrix.  Just like there are plenty of people who are considered “normal weight” who lack fitness, people with larger than socially-accepted body sizes can have a positive health profile.

As a personal trainer, my job is to support people on their wellness journey. Fitness is one of the components of a healthy lifestyle, but it is only part of the puzzle.  Sound nutrition, quality sleep, and maintaining a low-stress outlook on life also contribute to overall wellness and good health.  Knowing that my primary role is to help people build healthy habits through meaningful exercise, I want to support people of any size.

I’m pleased to say that I have been working with the woman who introduced me to HAES since May, and she is determined to create a healthier lifestyle for herself.  Incorporating regular exercise into her week and intentional movement into each day, these habits are building blocks to greater wellness.  Like anyone beginning a new exercise program, she is reaping internal health benefits through the increased workload on her body.  Whether or not this translates into a change in body size isn’t the point– it’s that going up and down stairs and taking the dog for a walk are now pleasurable activities that help her to feel vital and strong.

Fat shaming may be popular– particularly in the media– and even seen as en vogue in certain social circles.  But if we truly care about people as individuals, we must see them for who they are and value their health, just as we do our own.

I urge you to read through the Health at Every Size website and sign the pledge!

Good health and great happiness to you.