War on Average

encouraging each other not to be satisfied with mediocre


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Healthy Changes: Slow Cooked, Not Microwaved       

I had so much fun last night hosting a conference call with women all over the country on tips and tricks to eating healthy. It’s been rewarding to share what I have learned over the past twelve years of pursuing a healthier life for my family. What I may not have mentioned yet on this blog is that I have not always known how to live a healthy lifestyle. When I got married in 2001, I only knew how to make spaghetti and meatballs. Literally. Ask my husband. That’s pretty much all we ate. Oh and bruschetta. I had become so proficient with anything that included noodles and tomato or pesto sauce that I could have been nominated as the “least Italian, Italian cook.” After a few months of weight gain and feeling pretty crummy, we knew we had to make a change. (Well, honestly, Ryan knew we had to make a change and suggested I learn how to steam some broccoli).

From that time on, Ryan and I have ventured, more slowly at some times than others, into health. As we have learned more and more we’ve made changes to our diets, our fitness, our home, and our supplementation as we continue (even now) to learn more. At other times it has been a slower process as we have worked to overcome bad habits from a lifetime before or gone through periods of trial and error to determine what kind of nutrition, exercise or lifestyle changes fit our life and biology best.

The other thing I have not shared here is that I don’t love to cook. (There’s a reason my default cooking mode was boiling noodles and stirring a can of sauce on the stovetop) I shared with my guests on the call last night that I often laugh that I have a blog with recipes on it. It’s pretty hilarious. So even learning how to cook and how to have fun with it—it is a process.

I want this platform at WarOnAverage.com to be inspiring to my guests who read it, not discouraging. Some change can be instant and other change HAS to be gradual. So, as you continue to see me talk about nutrition, food prep, and how my family eats please remember these things:

  1. My cooking career started with a cardboard box of penne & a powder that turned into pesto sauce.
  2. It took trial and error and more burnt and crispy broccoli than anyone should consume to teach myself how to cook vegetables.
  3. I spent my teen years living off box pasta, Market Day chicken patties and fast food.
  4. We did not make all the changes cold turkey, it’s been a gradual process.
  5. I do not love to cook.
  6. I cook a few times a week and then serve a lot of leftovers because I don’t have a ton of time.
  7. We eat really healthy 90% of the time (we have weekend cheat meals, we go out to eat with friends, we let our kids have ice cream and cake at their birthday parties). We strive for balance.
  8. If we ever have a meal at your home we will enjoy whatever is prepared and never expect others to cook anything special for us. We just eat a certain way at home, most days, and don’t stress about the rest.

As you explore your own ways to change your diet and live a healthier life, I hope these realities encourage you, that this process is doable—for anyone.

 


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Meeting Amber

Many of you may have heard the story of Amber, how we met in New York, and her family’s story of health. I love her story. It is a beautiful picture of why I love what I do. This video gives you a glimpse of that and a big picture of the Shaklee effect.

 


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We’re Having a Baby

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If you follow me on Facebook or Instagram, you likely heard the big news that we are expecting another little baby in October. (YAY, YAY, YAY!! We love babies and new life in our house! Now for a little dance……ok, I’m back) We are so excited and so are our girls! New life is always an amazing journey to be part of.

As a health coach and wellness educator, I receive questions about prenatal health often. This is not surprising. Becoming a parent for the first time, or the third, is one of the most natural points in life where we begin to question why we have always done things a certain way, ate certain foods, or embraced a multitude of other habits. As we take on the beautiful responsibility of a new little life, isn’t it important to continue to reevaluate the impact of all these things on our family’s health? I sure think so!

Years ago as we anticipated our first child it was an enormous revelation to begin understanding the extent to which everything we put in our bodies and are exposed to effects a little human growing in our bellies. Biology is an intricately, creatively designed system. I am eager to share with you what I’ve learned so far and also what I will be learning this third time around the baby block. What I have already learned about prenatal vitamins, the importance of prenatal nutrition, prenatal exercise, and general health have had a major impact on the entire experience of growing a child, birthing a child and acclimating that child into the “post-womb-world.” My personal recovery mentally and physically has also been an amazingly healthy and relatively quick process due to being aware of many health, fitness and nutritional issues along the way.

My desire is that what I share will be helpful to anyone who is pregnant or considering having a child. Please share anything you see here with anyone who would benefit. As always, I enjoy this platform to pay forward what I have benefited from, but I also love to talk with friends one on one, old or new if there are other specific ways I can help or encourage. I’d also love to hear about other issues you’d like to learn about!

One last encouragement to you, my readers—no one reading these posts is allowed to have “mommy guilt.” These are things I didn’t always know and have learned over time from experience and hearing from those kind enough to teach me. If you ate badly and didn’t have vitamins during your last pregnancy, don’t let this stress you out. Any information I share here is for the future, as we all make choices to make each day a little healthier.

Stay tuned in with me as we talk about healthy pregnancy!

 


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Food Prep Day(s)

My food prep days for this post were the worst possible days to do it…or the best…depending on how you look at it.

PLAN:
The first thing to do is to plan well, but not rigidly.

First, set aside a chunk of time to prioritize food prep. And prioritize is the key word. I have decided that eating healthy is important to our family, but I don’t want to spend all my days chopping vegetables. I plan it this way so my children may scream at my ankles for an afternoon, but on most days, dinner takes a few minutes to throw together. I want healthy food quickly accessible and so I make a choice to work hard to make that happen. I also am on a tight grocery budget and planning well is key to making the most out of your groceries.

Second, plan your meals. Plan it, Don’t Panic was a great book for me to read to give me some guidance on this. I personally have a month overview going always, with known meals or dinner guests already written in. Then my week’s plan is plotted generally (breakfast, lunch, and dinner) but is fluid. I have to be ready to flex for change of plans, last minute dinner guests, and children whose food intake varies greatly from day to day. Even having a basic overview of what you’re going to have helps you know what to make and how long it’s going to last.

Third, plan what you’re going to make. Make a list of the items and prepare. This is important if you have to factor in your grill-man. I personally have no idea how to grill, so when I want grilled chicken for the week, I have to plan this around when my amazing, wonderful, much-better-cook-than-me is available. So Sunday night (of this food prep week) he grilled about eight chicken breasts for us that I had marinated earlier that day.

 

FLEX:
But when you have two small children, a business you run from home, and ministry responsibilities at church, things may not go as planned. Today was just such a day. First, over the weekend, I did not have time to go to all three grocery stores, I frequent. So, not everything I planned to make was even in the house. Also, I prefer to use a morning for food prep because the kids are in better moods and there is more time and less pressure with dinner coming too. This particular afternoon the kids were crabby and I had not had time to clean the kitchen in preparation for the food prep based on some other things that had to be done. So I flexed. I re-worked my strategy and changed the plan. I moved the prep into two or three days and just re-worked the meal plans for the week.

 

STRATEGIZE:
With all the factors I had to strategize. I had originally planned to have roasted vegetables with dinner this night. But I didn’t have the red peppers or broccoli. So I had to prioritize getting the salad veggies ready because that’s what my husband and I would have for dinner with the grilled chicken. Then I was able to make a list of what I would have to do the second day.

 

PREP:
Monday:
I started with carrots. I had already steamed some over the weekend for the little one, but I needed to prepare various carrots. Knowing this I could save time by peeling and chopping them all at once. I sliced up some for snacks for my husband to take to work, some very small for my daughter’s afternoon snacks (with sunflower butter and raisins), chopped some in a bag for the roasted vegetables I’ll make later in the week, and then grated some in the VitaMix for salads and Ryan’s Tuna. (I only recently discovered that I did not have to do all this grating by hand). Then I did the same with the Brussel sprouts—2/3 chopped (the smaller ones) for roasting and 1/3 grated for salads. Then added celery for snacking. I also saved all the ends of the carrots and celery thanks to a recent frugal meal planning tip.

Then I was able to throw salads and dinners together quickly.

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After dinner, and after the baby was in bed, my three-year-old and I made Sunflower Muffins together. She loves to bake with me and she knew she would get one when they were done. I had also thrown some hard boiled eggs on the stove before I started on the veggies, so those got chopped and prepped for snacks for my husband and baby.

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Tuesday:
When I had time I baked a huge sweet potato, that I used for dinner that night (after the girls finished their veggies) and then had it for the rest of the week. I also steamed broccoli. I used this for the baby for a main vegetable, but I also chop this up and add it, along with frozen spinach—to our scrambled eggs in the morning*

 

EAT:
So this is what I prepped on Monday:
Carrots and celery sticks for husband’s snacks (enough for the week)
Thinly sliced carrots for toddler’s snack (enough for the week)
Grated carrots for Ryan’s Tuna which I will prepare Wednesday
Grated carrots and Brussels sprouts to add to salads for lunches and dinners during the week
Chopped carrots and Brussel sprouts to prepare for roasting
Hard boiled eggs cut and seasons for husband’s lunches
Hard boiled eggs chopped for baby’s snacks
Sunflower muffins for breakfasts (2/3 muffins were frozen for future weeks)
Bag of “ends” to freeze and make chicken stock
This is what I prepped on day Tuesday:
Baked Sweet potato
Steamed broccoli

One of my other favorite food prep items is to create Convenient, Easy, and Healthy Baby Finger Foods.
After that the meals just came together—was half-ready for roasted veggies later in the week and prepared with a lot of food to feed my family healthy foods on busy days. I hope this was helpful to all who asked. Every time is different. I don’t always do this, but when I do, we eat healthier, save money, and have less stressful pre-meal hours.

 

Do you have additional questions? Was this helpful?

 

*One of my husband’s many brilliant ideas saves me LOTS of time. I make scrambled eggs three times a week and re-heat them in a sauce pan on the other mornings. This is great because I don’t have to make the big breakfast on days we head out early or on Sunday mornings while we are trying to prepare for church.

 


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Stand for Something in Your Kitchen!

I’ve pinned hundreds of creative pins on Pinterest. One of the few I have actually done is the dish soap cake stand.

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It makes the most important or frequently used items accessible and by creating a central place for them keeps my counters clear of clutter. Not to mention the splash of color it adds to that corner of my kitchen.

When I’m sharing the non-toxic Get Clean line of cleaners (Amazing!) with friends, they are excited that even an extreme couponer can save money by making a healthier choice and saving the planet. So they ask, “Should I buy the cute Get Clean Basic H spray bottles?” And I say yes because I keep mine out and easy to get to.

Why do I keep them so accessible? On the cake stand I keep hand soap, dish soap, and my three Basic H spray bottles which I use for everyday (or every hour with little kids in the house!) cleaning needs.

Get Clean Degreaser: Great on our granite counter tops and stove top for cleaning as I cook or at the end of the day. I also spray it directly on stains when I get tomato sauce or beets on my clothes while making dinner. The spot is often gone before I even throw it in the laundry. I’ve also grabbed it to clean crayon off the wall.

Get Clean All-Purpose Cleaner: great for stainless steel appliances, cleaning off kitchen tables and wiping up a spill in the wood floor. It’s also great (and safe) to hand my three-year-old to let her clean up her own messes she is prone to make at her age.  It’s great to be able to give her cleaning products that are safe when she asks to help around the house. It’s allowed her to start learning how to participate in daily chores and cleaning up after herself at an earlier age than I otherwise would be comfortable with if we used traditional cleaners!  Bonus!

Get Clean Glass Cleaner: This is the lightest dilution to be made with Shaklee Get Clean.  I use it of course for glass, but it also works great as a fruit and vegetable cleaner! Safe, effective and inexpensive! When was the last time Windex pulled double duty for you to be an all in one cleaner for glass AND your food?!

Basic G Spray Bottle: Basic G is Shaklee’s germicidal product, effective at disinfecting and deodorizing inanimate environmental surfaces against bacteria, virus and fungi responsible for infections.  And without the toxic fumes and much more effective than bleach. This is great for dropping raw chicken on the floor, raw meat cutting boards, and of course, potty training…

So for those who have asked, that’s what the cake stand is all about. I love that I was able to even find it in Shaklee green!


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Healthy Road Trip Eating

Our family recently qualified for our new Shaklee Suburban.  Our goal was to have it by August to drive to the amazing Shaklee conference in Nashville, TN, which we did!  So grateful for that blessing.

As we prepared for this trip, I knew that if I did not plan well, my children (and my husband and I) would not be eating healthy and there would be effects of that on our health (more on that in the coming weeks).  Don’t get me wrong. When we vacation we do treat ourselves at times, especially to regional treats only available in areas we travel through such as Graeter’s Ice Cream in Louisville, Kentucky. Our goal is usually to have food for meals and snacks for most of the day and only have to eat out for lunch or dinner.

I prepared a variety of foods for both our road trip and to eat in the hotel (which had a tiny fridge but nothing else.)

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Dry Foods:
For the car, we needed our road trip treat of Trader Joe’s Dark Chocolate Covered Espresso beans and Shaklee Energy Chews (much needed for car rides that start at 5:30 a.m.). We purchased freeze-dried fruit at Cost-Co as well as Happy Baby Organic “Veggie Bags.” The “Veggie Bags” are great for the car and even our littlest one could eat those while we were driving. I packed single servings of trail mix for my daughter (cashews, pecans, almonds, craisins). To ensure we had a good protein source on the road, we brought Shaklee180 snack bars and meal bars that have tons of great stuff in them including up to 20 grams of protein.  These made a great filling breakfast for all of us because of the protein and fiber. (We brought more of each of the items than pictured, but this covers which kinds of items we brought).

IMG_8728Cold Foods:
We packed a large cooler to bring into the hotel as well as a small cooler for easy access in the car (one of the great things I’ve learned from my mom).  I prepared my two favorite healthy muffins ahead of time and froze them. The muffins were great in the hotel for a healthy breakfast for the kids. I had mini peanut butter and jelly pitas made for the car and for the hotel for quick lunches. I brought frozen peas and frozen grapes in individual size baggies.  We had pre-cut carrots and apples. Another very important thing we brought for the trip were containers of food for my 10-month-old. When we had to go out to eat, I needed to be prepared with healthy foods that was soft enough for her entry level chewing ability. I had these frozen and then on ice in the cooler so that they stayed for the entire trip. The last thing you see pictured were water bottles pre-prepared with Performance and Pomegranate Energy Tea.

(For the record, the grapes were a major fail. They didn’t stay frozen and were just kind of squishy when thawed).


IMG_8781Shaking it up:
I also packed our single serving blender to make our daily  Shaklee180 smoothies in the hotel room. My much smarter husband brought his shaker bottle and we made those for our breakfasts (and sometimes lunches) and shared them with the girls. We even discovered that you can use natural peanut butter in a shaker cup. If you don’t refrigerate natural peanut butter it is actually pourable so you can pour the amount you want right into a shaker bottle and it blends right in.

I hope these simple things that worked for us and helped us save money and eat healthier on our trip can also help you! Please let me know if you try any of these things for your upcoming road trip or if you have ideas of your own to eat healthier on the road and not break the bank on eating out for each meal!

And in case you are under the strange impression that I have it all together when it comes to trip planning, I forgot to bring my youngest’s swim suit and swim diapers (although I remembered her floatie).

 


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Four Ways You Can Love Laundry!

laundryYes, laundry is my favorite chore. By far. I am not exactly sure why. Maybe because you have to actually enjoy the item before it needs to be cleaned again (unlike dusting). Maybe because there’s a sense of accomplishment in each step (In my world wash, fold, put away can be three separate to-do list check offs). Maybe because you can have people over and it doesn’t matter if you didn’t get to it because you can hide it (unlike the guest bathroom).

In case those reasons don’t help you, here are four practical ways you can love laundry, including a confession of my own on how even laundry can be redeemed:

1. Use a Product that Makes You Feel like Super Woman
I was at a festival with my parents when my daughter spilled chocolate sauce all over her shirt. My parents looked at my apologetically and I was able to say “Stains don’t intimidate me!”  Because they don’t. I’ve removed some of the most awful stains in clothes from purple ice cream to all sorts of other gross things that come with children. I’ve also removed oil stains, grass and mud stains, and ring-around-the collar and pit stains. Stains are no match for me and I get to help others by helping them get out stains too.  In the end this saves money and often preserves a favorite article of clothing or upholstery!

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I use Shaklee Fresh Laundry as a detergent and a pre-treat. I use Nature Bright for stain boosting (as a soak), and Basic H for oil stains.

2. Use a Product You Can Feel Good About
I feel great about how the detergent I use effects (or DOESN’T effect) the planet and also the health of my family and budget.

Did you know that your laundry detergent can be traced in your blood stream? Simply changing laundry detergents can help clear up skin issues like eczema, help with allergies and asthma, and keep your family free from toxins (especially a child’s delicate skin). Our skin is actually our body’s largest organ and it is exposed to the most toxins throughout our daily and nightly lives.  So I feel good about using these products on the clothes my children wear and the sheets my family sleep on.

Did you know that you can help save the planet by switching laundry detergents? You can feel good about all sorts of cleaning knowing that one small thing you are doing is making a big difference.  That’s why we call it the Shaklee Difference and the Shaklee Effect!

Did you know that Shaklee laundry cost 18 cents per load? Seventh Generation Costs 35.7 cents and Tide costs 19.9 cents. My family/friends that use the Shaklee laundry detergent not only love how well it works but they save money too!! By using a concentrated product, you save money and the planet. Double win!

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3. Multi-Task
Another great thing about laundry is that you can accomplish a lot during this chore (and I’m not talking about catching up on TV shows).

Laundry is a great chore to do with your children—even the smallest ones. There isn’t anything breakable or anything that can hurt them. They can play with you while you fold, the older ones can practice sorting, counting, names of clothing items. At a very young age, a toddler can learn to fold clothes and press the buttons on the machine. I am a firm believer of letting your children be part of what you do and letting them learn alongside you. While we must let kids be kids and enjoy child-hood I also remember my mom’s frequent comment that part of raising a child is also raising a future adult.

It provides time to be thankful and be prayerful. The monotony of sorting and folding laundry can be combated by prayer. Not only praying for the feet of the socks you are folding but by thanking God for the things you love about them. I saw this quote on facebook once (and therefore am not sure the source), but it can particularly be applied while doing laundry:
Thankfulness drives away the clouds of weariness, self-pity, and impatience that overshadow the joys of motherhood.

(Not to say that watching TED talks or sermons on the iPad while you iron isn’t a great use of time, too)

4. Change your perspective
This is an honest story of my own personal growth in this area. I used to often get annoyed because my wonderful husband would put socks in the laundry inside out. Every time I got to one of those pairs of socks I would be a little flustered—in my busy life he was creating more work! Then, one morning, I was thanking God in my prayer time for my husband and thinking through all the things he does for our family. He has a lot on his plate as he cares for our family and lots of other families through his work. I asked God to show me ways that I could make his life easier, that I could bless him, and that I could care for him practically. Shortly thereafter I came to the laundry pile. And I was struck with conviction as I picked up his socks. I know he never took of his socks inside out thoughtlessly. And here was a simple way that I could bless him, that I could save him a few seconds every day, that I could care for him—and I was choosing a wrong attitude. My laundry chores have been so blessed since that day when I could look at laundry as an opportunity to serve my family and care for their practical needs.

Has any of this helped those of you tolerate laundry better or even make it a delight? Do you laundry lovers have other reasons that you love laundry? Please share them with us!