Favorite {easy} healthy eating tips

I am not a health food expert. In fact, almost everything I know about healthy eating has been learned from my future-MD-could-be-a-certified-nutritionist-younger sister. Jenny has definitely done her research about food and how it affects the body, and she strongly believes that eating well will lead to a longer life, or at least a higher quality of life. I know this because her eating reflects this belief. She eats so stinkin’ healthy it will make you sick and guilt-ridden in those times when you decide to pound four chocolate chip cookies at once. Because everyone else does that, right? Seriously, though, she has educated me so much on food, and last night I found myself sharing some of these healthy eating tips with a friend as we were bemoaning the busyness of ministry-life with young kids and confessing the temptation to feed them the easiest, cheapest, processed junk available.

Since most people are living in the rat-race, and most people care about good nutrition for themselves and their kids, I thought it might be worth sharing a few things I’ve learned here. Quick disclaimer, though: First, I do not follow these tips 100% of the time. Clearly, I love sugar {see cookie reference above} and allow myself splurges. Honestly, I think that’s the only way to maintain an overall healthy lifestyle. You have to allow some splurges. I try to keep my splurges outside of our home (restaurants, social events, etc), so that I’m not keeping the bad stuff at the house. I don’t buy any sweets or sodas to keep at home, but I have them sometimes when I’m out.  Second, learning to eat healthy is progressive. I am constantly learning new things about food and slowly trying to wean us away from the things that are bad for our bodies and make sure I’m buying plenty of the things that our bodies need.  It may not happen overnight, but everyone can make small strides. That said, here are my top ten favorite health tips {currently}.

1. Eat healthier starches. Most of the “white” starches immediately turn to sugar in your system and raise your blood sugar. I don’t buy white bread, white rice, or white pasta. I look for pastas and breads that say 100% whole wheat or whole grain (nothing less than 100%), and I make sure that the first ingredient isn’t “wheat flour” or “enriched wheat flour,” which ultimately means white flour. We try to eat lots of good starches like brown rice, quinoa and beans. Yes, my two-year-old knows and enjoys quinoa. Start ’em young on the right things, and they will already have an acquired taste for these good things when they’re old. I eat sweet potatoes rather than white potatoes as well.

2. Use fruit to sweeten oatmeal. I used to buy the artificially flavored instant oatmeal. Now, I buy the Simple Truth (Kroger’s organic brand) plain oatmeal with no sugar added. I still buy the instant (steel-cut or rolled oats are healthier) for the sake of convenience. I mix the oatmeal with a banana, blueberries, and some milk or water BEFORE cooking. Then, I microwave the oatmeal. The fruit sweetens the oatmeal without me having to add any sugar or other type of sweetener. I make this for the boys a lot.

3. Use “Fit” spray to wash produce. 41Bm01oscBL._SS500_   We eat lots of produce and can’t afford to buy organic. Fit claims to “remove 98% more dirt, pesticides, waxes, people-handling residues and other contaminants versus washing with water alone.” Of course, I don’t know for certain this is true, but my mom did tell me that she watched a special on the news that said Fit removes {harmless} fecal particles that remain on spinach/lettuce (yes, even the pre-washed bags! Yuck!) .

4. Make your own mac-n-cheese substitute for kids’ meals. For a while, I bought Luke the Velveeta instant mac-n-cheese packs (just because they are super easy and he likes them). For a less processed option, I now boil 100% whole grain/whole wheat pasta and grate cheese on it. I zap it in the microwave for a few seconds to melt the cheese. Easy!

5.Green Smoothies. It’s easy for me to get enough fruit in my diet each day, but I’m a little less motivated with my veggies. Green smoothies are a great way to sneak some greens into my diet. I usually use spinach for smoothies, but Kale is a good option as well. I blend spinach, a banana, strawberries and/or blueberries, and some almond butter,  Greek yogurt, or protein powder to sweeten it. The possibilities for what you can put in a green smoothie are endless, and the best part is that you can’t taste the greens! It tastes just like a fruit smoothie.

6. Look for normal kid options with “no sugar added.” My boys eat lots of applesauce, and I make sure I buy the natural applesauce with “no sugar added.” I also buy natural peanut butter with as little sugar as possible. Sometimes, I buy fruit cups to take to restaurants, and I look for the ones that are sweetened in natural fruit juice and don’t have “light syrup” added to sweeten. You can also buy Mott’s Apple juice with 40% less sugar.

7. Avoid high fructose corn syrup. I don’t know all the scientific reasons behind it, but I do know that HFCS is HORRIBLE for you. Jenny told me that the best type of sugar is the natural sugar found in fruit (fructose). Even natural table sugar (sucrose) is better than HFCS, which is processed.

8. EAT BREAKFAST, and eat protein for breakfast. Jen taught me that eating protein first thing in the morning jump-starts your metabolism. Some of my favorite protein breakfast items are eggs, Greek yogurt, and whole-wheat toast with almond butter. {Have I mentioned that almond butter is my new favorite thing?!? It’s so good on apples for a sweeter snack. You can buy it with or without added maple sugar. I buy it without and still love it.

9. Buy frozen fruits and veggies. Frozen fruits and veggies are usually flash frozen after they’re harvested, so they lose less nutrients and are good longer than fresh veggies. Plus, they’re so fast and easy for busy families. I buy several of these Birds Eye Steamfresh veggie bags every week to have with our lunches and dinners. Fruits-Birds-Eye-Steamfresh-veggies

I’m also loving these Simple Truth frozen Quinoa meals right now. 07d3af17a22600ead3040c23ca7ec040

And if you’re going to do a frozen pizza, Simple truth or Kashi are healthier options. Our boys love these pizzas.

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10. Ask for salad dressing to the side and dip salad into dressing rather than pouring it on. If you eat your salad this way, you’ll probably be surprised that you can get away with a lot less dressing. You’ll likely avoid unnecessary sugar and calories.

Bonus: Don’t be sedentary after a meal. Even if you don’t “exercise” but just take a leisurely walk or keep yourself up and moving, your metabolism works in your favor!

What are your favorite healthy foods and eating tips? I’d love to hear!

A few of my favorite things. . .

Well, current favorites, mind you.

September has been such a whirlwind. We’ve been burning up the roads every weekend, and in between, I feel like I’m spending quite a bit of time unpacking, washing, and repacking. Have you ever traveled with two kids two and under? Packing for two days is like packing for a month. All that to say, I feel like I haven’t had much time to slow down and smell the roses. Or the mums, if you will. BUT, here are a few things I’m loving even in the midst of the hurry scurry:

1. The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert

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I just finished this, and I have to say, it’s probably the best book I’ve read in a while. Rosaria Butterfield’s story of her conversion from a lesbian, feminist, english professor to a follower of Jesus (now adoptive parent and homeschool mom) is intriguing, eye-opening, and God-exalting. It demonstrates the grace and power of God to change the heart of the most unlikely person. It also painfully exposes our (scary) tendency in the church to “water-down” the conversion process by reducing it to a simple formula or common cliche’. Pray this prayer. Walk the aisle. Sign this card. Your eternal destiny is secure. Rosaria’s writing is real. Raw, even. You may not agree with everything she writes (I don’t), but Rosaria is the real deal. She will make you think, and if your own heart has been changed by Christ, her story will cause you to praise God for his grace and goodness in drawing rebellious people to Himself. Here is an excerpt from a review I found online:

How do I tell you about my conversion to Christianity without making it sound like an alien abduction or a train wreck? Truth be told, it felt like a little of both.” You won’t find any happy little stories about “making a decision for Christ” or “finding Jesus.” Those may be true stories for others, but Rosaria hated the name of Jesus and was so far from the Christian worldview that she was indeed an “unlikely convert.” Her narrative begins with an important piece of information: When I was 28 years old, I boldly declared myself lesbian. As a tenured professor in English at Syracuse University, on the cutting edge of Women’s Studies and Queer Studies Rosaria was no fan of Christianity. But “Christ claimed” her for Himself just the same.

2. Fall is in the air. . . or on the table, at least.

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Highs may still be in the 80’s around here, but I’m loving all the pumpkins, mums, and fall decor everywhere! Besides Christmas, I think this is the most wonderful time of the year. I found these adorable little burlap pumpkins at, the one and only, Target for $9.99. Hard to beat.

3. avocado and grilled corn salad with cilantro vinaigrette avocado6While this is not a particularly “fall-ish” dish, it’s been one of our favorites lately. Corn, avocado, tomato, and feta are just a “magical little combination, ” as my dad would say. And I bake my corn in the oven if we don’t have time to fire up the grill.

4. I’m loving this post (What Should I Wear? By Nora Allison) over at Gospel Taboo. Nora does a great job explaining an often misinterpreted passage of Scripture, and she leads women to focus on more than just the externals by examining the heart.

5. Big Thoughts for Little Thinkers series

bigthoughtsThere are four little books in this series: The Trinity, The Gospel, The Scripture, and The Mission. Currently, we have The Gospel and The Scripture, and they are amazing tools to use with children! We are big fans of children’s books around our house….everything from Goodnight Moon to Where the Wild Things Are. But, I’m always looking for helpful resources to use in my quest to teach my children biblical truth, and these were a great find by my husband.

Happy (almost) weekend!

Hello, May!

Seriously? Are we already eight days into May? This train just doesn’t slow down. I do actually have meaningful thoughts in my head– thoughts that I would love to formulate into blog posts, sharing meaningful and eternal things. But our days have been busy. And so fast. And I only have time for a few thoughts right now.

One day, when I’m old and forgetful, I want to be able to remember the things I was loving in May 2012:

1. That end-of-the-semester feeling of accomplishment. It’s finals week for the hubs and myself. Feels good to have some more classes knocked out. Ok, so only one more class knocked out for me. But still. Feels good. There’s no rest for the weary, though. We have a busy summer of school {and travel} coming up. We’re each taking two classes, and OH MY WORD at all the assignments listed on my syllabi. But who cares about that? Speaking of travel. . .

2. In less than a month we leave for vacation in Colorado! Not that I’m counting the days or anything. Anyone have suggestions about fun things to do in Colorado Springs during the summer? We’ve never been to CO this time of year, but Jenny has been living there for a year, so I’m sure she’s putting together an awesome itinerary.

3. Mr. Boy’s new tub. So, I’ve been looking for a safety bath ring or something to help L transition from the infant tub {which he’s rapidly outgrowing} to the big tub. I found this hilariously creepy duck tub at Target, and it’s perfect for transition and travel, both of which we need. Mr. Boy was scared of Mr. Duck at first, but he quickly befriended him and reached up to pet him every so often. It. was. hilarious.

4. Roasted Veggies . . .so simple but SO good. My new favorite. Zucchini, squash, tomatoes, onion, olive oil, salt and pepper. Bake on a pan at 450 degrees for 15 minutes {add tomatoes in last 5 minutes}. Yummy!

5. Opportunity for a new {to me} women’s bible study. Since Mr. Boy arrived, it’s been harder for me to be in Sunday School each week. His schedule is getting easier now, but at first {with nursing and naps}, it was all I could do just to make it to the service.  I’ve been trying to find a good women’s Bible study to get involved in because I really miss the community and in-depth Bible study that is {or should be} Sunday school. So, I’ve been looking for a good study to be a part of during the week. I feel like it’s crucial for me to have this in my life, especially during the years of small children. My friend Julie recently invited me to visitor’s day at BSF, at international women’s Bible study that she has been a part of for a while. I’m so excited to try it out and hopefully register for the fall! It will be an answer to prayer.

6. Green Smoothies. I realize that this looks 100% disgusting, but I promise it tastes just like a regular fruit smoothie. Fruit smoothies have been big in Rice land for the last few months, and we finally decided to try these green smoothies that I’ve been reading about. And they’re not half bad, y’all. You just blend up some spinach leaves first {I did a little more than 1 cup} and  add them in with all your regular smoothie ingredients {for us it was strawberries, banana, kiwi, yogurt, and ice}. Great way to eat a lot of your colors in one big whop! I mix granola in mine for a little something sweet!7. Seeing the world {for the first time again} through Mr. Boy’s eyes. Now that he’s crawling, his world is 100 times bigger! I love seeing his eyes wide in wonder as he watches an airplane fly across the sky or watches a door stopper spring back and forth. {Its the little things, y’all.} I love listening to him babble to himself as he curiously tries to turn the pages of a board book. I’m not so much loving that he’s into EVERYTHING, but that’s just part of the process. That messy and gloriously beautiful process.

Well, this post ended up being longer than planned. But that’s how things go when I get to rambling.

Happy May days!

Crunchy Asian Salad

This has been a favorite in the Rice household lately. I’m always looking for healthier meal options, and this is a salad that Adam and I both love. Adam says its actually pretty filling for “rabbit food.” 

(2 T oil, 2 T balsamic vinegar, 2 t sugar)
16 oz bag coleslaw mix
4 green onions, sliced
2 oz sliced almonds
½ red bell pepper, sliced
11 oz can mandarin oranges, drained
½ pkg Ramen noodles, broken up
1 c chopped rotisserie chicken (I like a bit more chicken)
1 c chopped baby spinach

Wisk oil, vinegar, sugar and salt and pepper to taste to make
dressing. Combine w/ remaining ingredients. Toss and Serve.

Easy and good!