Just the Tip…

Hey there! Today I’d like to focus on motivation again, since we all struggle with finding it and keeping it. I know I risk being repetitive, because we talked about motivation last time. But I hope this is a different spin on the same concepts discussed in my last post.

Just the tip...

I encourage you to see that motivation is like a garden. If you just plant seeds in the garden but never water it or tend to it, you’re not going to reap a harvest. Motivation, just like a garden, must be cultivated, fertilized, and monitored frequently, or it can die. Motivation is perishable under the hot sun of excuses. Once you’ve developed your motivation, you must protect it from withering.

For those of you who have known me a long time, you know that my history of the desire for laziness is vast. I recall being unable, mentally more than physically, to run a solid 2 miles for my Army physical fitness test (APFT) for quite some time. So-called “mentors” would often counsel me after my failed attempts, only to say things like, “you know if you just run more you’ll pass it.” Oh, wow, that’s the spirit! I’m sold! Not.

The thing that completely overhauled my mindset is when I really spent time on my own motivation. The tipping point was during Officer Candidate School (OCS). I had a major epiphany regarding the fact that I was about to be a distinguished Army officer, the likes of whom I had admired my whole adult life.

Getting a good score on my APFT was not enough to motivate me independently; however, the thought of being an example to younger Soldiers DID. I ran, and I ran, and I ran some more. I got up at 4:30 am to run before work (which is typically unheard of for me). For the first time EVER, I ran 4 miles straight one morning. For me, that was HUGE. Shortly after the 4-mile surprise, I signed up for a half-marathon (13.1 miles) and ran the whole thing without stopping. Me, who WHINED about running 2 miles. I had successfully overcome my mental block to physical success. I even ran 3 more half-marathons in the following years.

After completing OCS, I continued to use the “lead by example” mentality to fuel my motivation to eat well and to remain physically fit. But then I left the military a few years later. My motivation had to be watered and fed, because it was withering a little.

During my time out of the military, my motivations became more selfish. I became a mom, and I refused to be held hostage by “baby weight.” I later decided that I wanted to be an example of health and fitness as a registered dietitian nutritionist. I thought that maybe my credibility would be enhanced if I clearly embodied a physique of fitness.

Eventually, although the “lead by example” mentality has never left me, I have added some other powerful garden tools to the mix. The current miracle grow fertilizer that is sprinkled on my motivational garden, so-to-speak, is that I want to be STRONG. I also crave that feeling of being done with a killer workout – you know, that sweaty, accomplished, beastly feeling. The only way to feel that way and to get those muscles is to do the work. So I do. Not as often as I should, but I do it frequently. I feel better, which makes me want to do it more.

My story may not look like yours. But I hope that you find some bits and pieces of inspiration to tend to your own motivational garden. Learn what motivates you by paying attention to how you respond to things. Silly little inspirational quotes work for me, despite the fact that I know they are cheesy. So what. Regarding fitness, find activities that you actually enjoy. When you find movements that make your body feel alive, and feel strong, you may just create the craving to keep doing them.

Let me know what keeps your motivation garden alive and well!

xoxo – Casey

The Reasoning to Tweak Your Seasoning

My loves. I hope you have been doing so well! Today I would like to share with you some coveted recipes I have.

Normally, I’m not a big recipe-sharing blogger by any means. I don’t have fancy camera skills or lighting tricks or any of that, nor do my recipes have great visual appeal anyhow! But these are not your average recipes.

What I’m about to share with you could hopefully serve as a teensy little way to up your weekday game and improve your health a little along the way. I’m talking about steering you away from buying seasoning packets.

The reason I recommend avoiding those little packets of seasoning mix is mainly because they are often fraught with hidden ingredients such as (but not limited to) monosodium glutamate (MSG), various forms of soy, and other unfortunate additives.

I am fairly certain that MSG triggers migraines for me. I never had a migraine until the end of my second pregnancy, and now I get them sporadically throughout the years ever since.

Others may not have an overt problem from consuming food additives, but there are no benefits to them; only risks, even if unseen. These risks can sometimes show their faces indirectly.

In some cases, food sensitivities show up wearing the mask of IBS, depression, anxiety, migraines, obesity, acne, and many other conditions. Most ailments are not caused by one thing; rather a combination of factors contribute, including unnecessary food additives, food dyes, etc.

The topic of food sensitivities and their presentation requires a much longer conversation. That discussion would be best suited during an individualized series of visits with a registered dietitian nutritionist (RDN) who can help you determine the best style of eating for you and your specific health picture.

I know the suspense is killing you…so here are my two coveted seasoning recipes. Use them and love them. Tweak them to make them your own. Enjoy!

chili-2

tacos

 

 

Does Your Salad Suck? Lettuce Fix That.

Hey! Hope you are doing well. I’m fine, thanks for asking.

Does your salad suck?

Lettucetalk about salads. (Cute, huh.) But seriously. I grew up in the heartland of America as they say. The definition of a “salad” when I was a kid was one of three things: a mayo-laden-noodle concoction; a very strange combination of things that shouldn’t be combined (like Jell-O and cottage cheese); or iceberg lettuce with shards of cabbage and specks of carrots. If it were the iceberg lettuce option, it was either topped with either Thousand Island, Dorothy Lynch, or Hidden Valley. Some of you reading this are totally appalled; others of you are totally taking a walk down memory lane to the Hidden Valley…

Nonetheless, I think it is time we redefine the term salad, and start to celebrate that little nest of nutrients. For the purposes of today, a salad consists of a base of dark, leafy greens, and is topped with WHATEVER! That’s the thing – you can be so creative with this project. Once you swim away from Thousand Island toward more healthy shores, you will be amazed at the flavor explosions that happen.

Let me give you some examples. Today’s real-food combo of deliciousness in my belly consisted of:

About 2 big handfuls of baby kale

A small handful of blueberries

About 2 or 3 green onions

Half an avocado

A spoonful of full-fat cottage cheese

Some leftover cooked chicken from Sunday’s dinner.

Notice the lack of true measurements with this. Measuring isn’t health! Counting isn’t health! The essence is that most of the meal should be mostly non-starchy vegetables (kale, green onions), a small bit of fiber-rich carbs (blueberries), and a good portion of protein and fat (chicken, cottage cheese, avocado). Notice I didn’t use any dressing – the cottage cheese and avocado provided the perfect amount of creaminess and fat for my liking. Sometimes I will add a splash of balsamic vinegar to add a little zing. Today I didn’t. That’s the greatest part, versatility! I also like the combination of the tangy/savory flavor of the onions and stuff along with the sweet of the blueberries. Play around. Get crazy.

Some tips:

  • I like to use “baby” greens for two reasons. Their dark, vibrant green color indicates their significant nutrient content, and they are already small enough that no chopping is necessary. I might be a little overly trustful when they claim they are “triple washed,” but I like not having to get out the salad spinner to make a quick meal.
  • If you like green onions as I do, I’d like you to know that the most simple, efficient way to chop them up is to use kitchen scissors to cut them! You. Are. Welcome. Just make sure you have a designated set of scissors that are truly only for food in order to avoid contaminating your food with unwanted visitors or non-food goo.
  • I may be breaking the family circle of trust with this one…but my dear brother researched the PERFECT salad container for packing your lunch for work. It can be found here. It makes a great gift. I can attest to that, as it was a Christmas gift from said brother. Don’t thank me, thank him.
  • You can buy nuts that are already chopped up for you. Did you know that? Right there in the produce section (could be somewhere else in your store), you can find already-chopped-up pecans, walnuts, sliced almonds, etc. Cool huh?! Keep them in the fridge for longer-lasting freshness.
  • Put all your fixings in a giant container with a tight-fitting lid or a gallon ziplock in order to shake the whole thing up and cover every inch with flavor from all the ingredients. Worth the little extra effort of literally shaking things up.

 

Alright, now let’s gather some ideas. Remember, any healthy meal follows the basic outline of PROTEIN + FAT + FIBER; a salad is no exception. Below are some of my favorite options:

Base (largest aspect of your salad, ideally):

  • Baby arugula
  • Baby kale
  • Baby spring mix
  • Baby spinach
  • Baby power blends
  • Baby romaine
  • Any mix of the above ^
  • Any chopped up version of the non-baby greens
  • Chopped cabbage
  • Chopped or shaved Brussels sprouts

Protein & fat (a quantity that is about half the volume of your greens):

  • Leftover cooked chicken (keep some skin, yum!) or rotisserie chicken
  • Leftover roast beef from your crockpot adventures
  • Leftover steak
  • Boiled eggs
  • Nuts and seeds:
    • Chopped pecans
    • Chopped walnuts
    • Shelled sunflower seeds
    • Sliced or slivered almonds
    • Shelled pumpkin seeds
  • Cooked bacon
  • Shredded cheese (shred your own from real cheese)
  • Feta cheese
  • Gorgonzola cheese
  • Avocado
  • Dressing (ideally an olive oil or avocado oil-based vinaigrette with very few ingredients, or your own little mix)

Add-ins (just there for show, like a sprinkling of joy):

  • Berries
  • Tomatoes (any kind!)
  • Craisins
  • Chopped pears (especially good with walnuts and balsamic…OMG)
  • Everything But the Bagel seasoning
  • Crushed red pepper
  • Cucumbers
  • Bell peppers

By no means is this list of ideas all-inclusive. Get wild and crazy with it. If you are using dressing, try to find those with minimal ingredients, or make your own. I’ve been known to mix extra-virgin olive oil and balsamic or apple cider vinegar in a tiny little container just before I dump them on the salad.

If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again! One day you are going to find that you make a salad that utterly changes the way you think of salads. I have found myself actually daydreaming about the salad I was going to make for my next meal. I hope that you can find the right combo of ingredients for your salads one day so that you can be excited about nutrient-rich eating. Let me know how it goes!

Xoxo – Casey