11 Tips for a Healthy Lifestyle

If you’re anything like me, you’ve heard these plenty of times before in plenty of places. But these are my personal favorite tips for cutting calories, staying active, and feeling good.

1. Drink water. Lots of it. When you feel thirsty, that means your body is already dehydrated. Drinking plenty of water energizes your muscles, makes your skin clearer and can curb “fake” hunger. Water, tea, and coffee are pretty much the only beverages I consume daily.

2. For mixed drinks, swap soda and tonic water for club soda, seltzer, or sparkling water with a splash of lime or lemon juice. Diet soda is okay for cutting calories, but aspartame is just not good for you, no matter which way you slice it. I do have a weakness for diet ginger ale, so I usually have it once or twice a week mixed with club soda. Nobody’s perfect!

3. Drink black coffee. It was a shocking day when I realized that I was consuming almost 500 extra calories from all the cream and sugar I added to my coffee. I love drinking my coffee black now, and I don’t even like the taste of coffee with cream and sugar anymore (um, unless it’s my annual mint chocolate bomb from Gloria Jean’s). I use unsweetened vanilla almond milk in my coffee sometimes, and milk is fine, too. But just remember that everything you add to your coffee adds up. Beverages are not freebies just because you don’t chew them!

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4. Don’t deny yourself food (aka, diet). Telling yourself you can’t have any sweets means that three weeks later, you will binge on a half pan of brownies in one sitting. It’s much better to give yourself a sweet treat allowance. I know this from experience.

5. Make vegetables taste good. Does anyone really like eating plain canned vegetables? Not me. Roast, sautee, and season your vegetables to make them your favorite part of the meal. Then you’ll want them to take up half your plate. Or more.

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6. Can’t stand veggies? Add spinach or steamed broccoli to a fruit smoothie. Most veggie haters like fruit, and in a well-made smoothie, you won’t even taste spinach or broccoli, but it will give your body the kick of nutrients it needs. At least try it!

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7. Don’t eat like your significant other. Everybody and every body is different and requires a different amount of calories. I learned very quickly that eating the same amount of food in a day as my husband caused me to pack on the pounds quickly. To find out how many calories you should be eating, use an online calculator like this one. If you want to lose weight, eat less and/or exercise more.

8. Eat processed foods sparingly. In reality, we probably shouldn’t be eating processed foods at all….but see #4. Processed foods are packed with sodium and scary ingredients. When you put scary things into your body, your body will start acting scary. I eat processed foods several times a week (veggie burgers, pre-packaged curry mixes, fruit snacks…), but I balance it out with plenty of fresh vegetables, fruit, and my own homemade meals using whole ingredients.

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9. Eat at home. While watching Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead, I was shocked to hear one man say that he and his wife only cooked at home twice…a month! I love going out to eat. But you only truly know what is going into your food when you make it yourself; this goes for ingredients and calories. (Many restaurants still use chicken broth to make their “vegetarian” soups). Cooking doesn’t have to be hard. There’s nothing wrong with a sink salad, a sandwich on whole grain bread, or a snack plate with veggies, hummus, cheese, crackers, and protein (meat, fish, hardboiled egg, etc.). Save dining out and/or ordering for once or twice a week, and your body will thank you for it.

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10. Exercise. Probably the most hated word on the plant. I have been on both sides of the equation as both a voracious exerciser and a couch potato. So I can say from experience that any form of exercising, even walking, is not only good for your body but for your mind. The more you sit around, the more you feel like sitting around, and the worse you will eventually feel. If you can’t enjoy exercise, at least enjoy the feeling of knowing you accomplished something.

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“In these bodies we will live, in these bodies we will die. Where you invest your love, you invest your life.” ~Mumford and Sons

11. It’s as simple (and difficult) as this: treat your body poorly and it will return the favor. Love your body, and it will love you back!

How many of these tips do you follow? What if your favorite ‘healthy’ tip?

Disclaimer: I am not a health professional. These are just some tips I have personally found useful for losing weight and feeling great.

Nutty Chocolate Dream Pie Takes the Cake

It must have been a candy company’s CEO who subconsciously planted the idea that a dinner plate is split into six components: protein, grains, fruit, vegetables, dairy, and dessert. Frankly, America’s bulging waistline cannot handle a bowl of ice cream, a candy bar, several cookies, or a piece of cake several times a day throughout the week. While our body will somewhat willingly process about 200 calories of sweets or empty calories a day (which may differ based on your specific calorie and nutrient needs), how many of us stop at just 200? (Curious about empty calories? Click here: http://www.choosemyplate.gov/weight-management-calories/calories/empty-calories.html).

For my part, now that I’m back on the healthy track, I try to follow the No S Diet, which means ‘no sweets, no snacks, no seconds, except (sometimes) on Saturdays, Sundays, and special occasions. Brilliant. When I do indulge in a beloved sweet, I go for the good stuff. Homemade desserts are my favorite, followed by Edy’s slow churned ice cream or Dove chocolates; to me, a Hostess Cupcake, a Snickers Bar, or a doughnut just isn’t worth the calories.

Like the Black Pearl crew, I prefer to think of the ‘No S Diet’ as a guideline rather than an actual rule. If it’s a Wednesday and I’m craving a small bowl of ice cream after dinner, as long as I’ve filled my body with plenty of vegetables, fruits, and whole grains throughout the day, I’ll go for it. The most important thing to remember when you are trying to lose weight is to not deprive yourself! This doesn’t mean go crazy with chocolate whenever you feel like it, but don’t completely cut your favorite treats out of your new eating plan. Instead, try to incorporate them into your lifestyle in a more intuitive manner. Otherwise, you might go on a binge and end up doing this to yourself:

White Goodman (played by Ben Stiller) in Dodgeball

If this isn’t enough to scare you out of depriving yourself, I don’t know what is.

When a birthday or special occasion arises, I like to go all out. Rather than baking something sweet for myself that calls to me all week, I like to bake something I hope will be splendid and share it with a large group of family and friends. The thought of spending many hours concocting the perfect recipe isn’t a chore for me, but something I look forward to. In fact, I spent nearly the entire day before Thanksgiving last year concentrating on three pies: a ‘Better than Pumpkin’ Butternut Squash pie, a Cranberry Apple Oat Crunch Pie, and my personal favorite, newly created recipe: Chocolate Chipotle Sweet Potato Pie (which will be posted after I remember what went into it).

For Ty’s birthday party tonight, I mulled over what to make. Since he’s not a fan of cake, cheesecake and ice cream cakes were both considered. However, while perusing Pinterest one day, something caught my eye: a Nutella cream pie–perfect! I took the idea of using Nutella and incorporated my own special touches. Because this Nutty Chocolate Dream Pie (I decided it needed its own title) was about a three and a half hour process (don’t let that scare you off, it’s relatively simple), the full recipe and directions will be posted in my Recipe page. The main ingredients:

Vanilla bean, powdered peanut butter, graham crackers, mascarpone cheese, whole milk, heavy whipping cream, and Nutella.  Please note: unfortunately, this is not an inexpensive pie to make. The powdered peanut butter alone is over eight dollars, and for some strange reason, the price of graham crackers has skyrocketed to four dollars a box. (Look for sales!) However, I kind of like my brother, and I think the end result will be worth it. Plus, I’ve been wanting to try powdered peanut butter for quite some time, and this gave me an excuse to buy it.

The components included a baked graham cracker crust:

Spread with a mixture of Nutella and mascarpone:

Which was frozen, then covered with a combination of the ‘Nutella mixture’ and homemade whipped topping:

Which was frozen again, then covered with a combination of the remaining whipped topping and powdered peanut butter:

This will be drizzled with dulce de leche sauce which is now cooling in the fridge. I’ll post a photo of the final result when it’s ready! I have a hunch it’s going to be scrumptious.

Because I’m sure there won’t be many veggies available for consumption for dinner, I made a salad with spring mix, spinach, diced celery, grapes, a hard boiled egg, some shredded chicken (from our grill out on Saturday) and a splash of rice wine vinegar. I also had two Breton multigrain crackers, because Dave’s mom says “It’s not lunch if it doesn’t crunch!”

It’s only been three days since I’ve had pizza…..but I can’t wait for more! 😀