Meal Planning

Blog Series In the Kitchen – Meal Planning

Getting Started:

The best way to stick to eating clean is to have a plan.  There are some things to consider when planning your week, or month.

  • How many people are you cooking for?
  • How many meals are you planning for the week?  Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner, all or a combo of them.
  • How much time do you have to prepare and make each of those meals?
    • Do you have any work meetings that will delay you?
    • Do you have to run the kids to practice?
    • Is there a special occasion that you will need to eat out?
    • Will you have a night to “clean out the icebox”?
    • Should you use the crock pot?
    • What workouts will you be doing?

Once you know the answers to the above questions, you will be able to narrow it down which recipes you want to use.  Try and take inventory of what you still have in your freezer, refrigerator and pantry.  This way you are not wasting food or money.  I google healthy meals, clean crock pot meals, fast healthy meals to find new dishes.  Go to pinterest, here, skinnytaste.com or myfitnesspal.com for ideas too.   Organize your recipes on-line in Pinterest or on programs like evernote.  Or go the old-fashioned route with a recipe box or 3-ring binder.

Try to overlap ingredients to minimize what you buy.  Note the serving size of each dish so you are not expecting 1 cup servings when it only yields a 1/2 cup.  Keep a running list of recipes that are keepers.  This will make planning in the future much easier.  I also make notes on the actual recipe of any changes I made or would like to make, if it was a crowd pleaser or a bomb.

Buying and Prep:

If you are really strapped for time consider purchasing

  • pre-cooked meats
  • canned tuna in water
  • pre-cut fresh vegetables
  • hard boiled eggs (although not hard to do yourself while you are prepping something else for the week)

Take a day or a few hours to prep a large portion of what you will need for the week.

  • bake sweet potatoes all at once or in microwave
  • pre-cook quinoa and brown rice (couscous doesn’t reheat well, so cook that fresh)
  • chop all veggies & pre measure into containers or baggies for grab-n-go
  • pre-cook oatmeal or egg cups to be warmed later
  • stock up on fruits that just need to be rinsed before eating
  • pre cut melons and place in containers already measured in serving size portions
  • keep raw unsalted nuts for quick power snacks

Meal Plan

There are all sorts of templets and examples on the internet.  I will provide you with another too.  I have found Numbers in iMac to be very user friendly.  I have also used excel with ease.  I’m sure there are apps that allow you to do them on your phone and then open it when you are shopping.  I’m a hold the paper check it off the list kind-of-gal.  Click on this link to get the file I made for a one week meal plan as well as the grocery list to accompany it – Meal Plan January wk 2 PDF .  This one works nicely with the 21 Day Fix program and the portion control containers.  You can easily tweak it for a larger calorie bracket.  The check marks on the grocery list are items I already have at home and do not need to purchase for this meal plan.

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I hope this helps you in planning a weeks worth of meals for you and your family.  I have found having more natural foods ready to grab goes a long way with the kiddos.  They prefer this over many prepackaged junk foods and it sustains them longer too.  Let me know if you would like to see more meal plans in the future.

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Blog Series In the Kitchen – Food Safety

This is part two in our Getting Started In the Kitchen series.  See our first of the series Kitchen Tools here. Most of us have been messing around in the kitchen for years.  We grab a piece of fruit and run it under the faucet for a couple seconds, wipe and eat.  We peal a carrot then chop and toss into our recipe.  We put a piece of chicken on the grill and go to make the sides.  Are you doing it right?  NOPE! Are there any tips we need to make sure we are doing it safely to ensure we all stay healthy?  YEP!  Read on for some good reminders.

Food is too expensive to let it go bad before you consume it.  But we don’t want to do something that might make us or our loved ones sick because we didn’t prepare it correctly either.

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GENERAL: 

Store items at home like you found them at the grocery store.  If it s to be refrigerated (40* or below) make sure you temperatures or crisper drawers are set properly.  Store like items together.  In other words, don’t mix veggies with raw meats.  If you have the space and the money to own several cutting boards, get one for vegetables, one for fruits, anotheFood-Safetyr for meats, and one for breads.

Make sure to clean shelves and drawers at least once a month to rid of germs and bacteria transferred from packaging, leaks and dirt.   Wash your hands in hot soapy water frequently when prepping and cooking foods. Do it for more than 5 seconds – sing “Happy Birthday” to ensure all the bacteria is fully scrubbed away.

Fruits and vegetables  such as melons, bananas, avocados, tomatoes, potatoes, onions, and garlic don’t need to take up prime fridge real estate.

 

DAIRY & EGGS:

  • Store milk, cheese and yogurts at 35-45*F.  Put on a shelf that is not effected when the door is constantly being opened. Storing on the door exposes to warmer temperatures that encourage microbes to grow.  This will make foods turn rancid.
  • Butters should be stored in refrigerator to decrease bacterial contamination.  You can, however, bring specific amounts of butter to room temperature with no safety concern while baking.
  • Store bought eggs (not if you have chickens in your yard) are pasteurized to destroy salmonella.  Therefore, they must be stored in the refrigerator.  Do not put them on the door or remove them from the carton before use.  Like butter, you can bring them to room temperature for baking purposes.   Generally, eggs should be used within three weeks.  You can do the egg test to make sure it is good.  This really does work!

 

FOOD PREPARATION:

  • Rinse all fruits and vegetables well.  Scrub dirt and chemicals off under running warm water for at least 30 seconds.
    Wash items you are going to peel.  I know it may sound like it saves time since you are just getting rid of the outside layer anyway, but you run the risk of contaminating the flesh when you cut through the food that hasn’t been washed properly.  You can transfer bacteria to the inside once it hits the blade.  You can also cross-contaminate other food items when the skin being removed sits on the cutting board.
  • Like I mentioned above, try to use separate cutting boards for meats/seafoods, produce, ready to eat item, etc.  You can clean them in the dishwasher if care allows.  Otherwise, use hot soapy water.

 

images-32COOKING with MEATS:

  • The sell by date is an indicator that you have 1-2 days to use or freeze poultry or ground meats, and 3-5 days for thicker cuts of meats like steaks and roasts.
  • You don’t need to nor should you rinse poultry in the sink. Why?  It will spread salmonella in your sink.  Scrub with bleach cleaners and throw away the sponge  if the chicken or turkey juices from the packaging leaks on any surface.
  • Cook to proper temperatures by using a thermometer, if you have one.  If you don’t have one follow the hints listed.
    • Ground meats – 160*F – No red meat should be seen.  Brown all the way through.
    • Steaks, roast, pork – 145*F Outside should be evenly browned (not burnt) and blood should not run through when cut into.  Many restaurants will not cook rare because it is not safe.  When you cut into the meat, it can have slight pink color for steaks or roast.  Pork is a white meat and should not have any pink when cut into.
    • Chicken, turkey – 165* Cook thoroughly  so there is absolutely no pink.  Juices should run clear in color.
  • Always put cooked meats on a clean dry plate.  Don’t use the same plate the raw meat was on before you placed in cooking dish or on grill.  Do not use the same utensils for prepping the meats as you do when checking for doneness or for serving.Hopefully by now, you feel ready to start cooking in your kitchen with clean healthy foods.  Next up in our series: Meal Planning.

Blog Series – In the Kitchen

Last night I was trying to figure out what to write about.  What would be helpful to my readers (I do have readers, right?)?  Then I realized when I first started on my journey to be healthier, I looked up articles on what it means to eat clean, what tools would I need, how to prepare a meal plan, what to shop for, how to prepare the foods, etc.  So, I will be doing a series of In the Kitchen.  One of my first blogs was What does Clean Eating Mean?.  I will pick up from there.

You can buy all the ingredients but if you don’t have the right tools, it will be hard to prepare them.  Here is my list of essentials.

Needed Kitchen Tools
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I have learned the hard way over the years (I’m in my mid 40’s so lots of trial and error) to buy the best you can afford.  It will safe you time and headaches not to mention $$ in the long run.  This is especially true with pots & pans and knives.  This is my list of bare basics you will need.

KNIVES – 

Chef Knife:

It is the most used in my kitchen.  Generally 8″ long with a thicker blade.  If you have a block of knives, it is the larger one.  In the picture above it is the one on the right.

Paring Knife:

Second most used knife in my house.  The knife to the far left in the above picture.  It is a smaller, lighter weight knife used to slice fruits, veggies and other foods into small sizes.  You will also use this one to do more detailed cuts (think shapes for your smaller kids).

Serrated Knife:

This one has a jagged blade.  Generally use this knife to cut ingredients that have a hard exterior or a soft interior like crusty bread or tomatoes.

 

POTS & PANS – 

Small Sauce Pot:

2-3 quart size.  This is a versatile pot.  Use this for single servings, side dishes, sauces.  This is my most used pot.

Larger Pot:

6-8 quart size.  If you only bought one, I would say go larger.  You can always cook 6 quarts in an 8 quart pot, but not the other way around.   This is for stock, soups, stews, etc.

Skillet:

10-12″ skillet.  Depending on how many you are cooking for.  I prefer one with a higher side so I can make full meals in it versus just scrambling eggs or making pancakes which don’t require muck of a side.   ** Make sure your skillet is safe for high-heat cooking.  Not all non-stick coatings are created equal.  Some surfaces will cook unevenly or even peal the coating when used at higher heats.

SAFETY NOTES: Another great reason for purchasing high-heat resistance pots and pans is so they can be used on the stove AND in the oven.  Make sure there are no plastic parts.  If you have been using pots/pans with plastic handles, beware that you will need to use oven mitts to touch or hold the handles even when on the stove.  It will only take one time of grabbing the pot/pan out of the oven before you remember next time.

Make sure the coating on your pots/pans is not one that will flake off.  It is a serious health risk and you should replace them.  Read more about the safety here.  It is recommended to use ceramic nonstick if you can’t afford cast iron.

 

OTHER NEEDED ITEMS:  

I won’t spend a lot of time explaining the rest of the items because there is no right or wrong on them.

  • Dry Measuring cups – both dry (include 1/4, 1/3, 1/2, 3/4 and 1 cup)
  • Liquid Measuring cups – one that can do tablespoons and anther that will measure 1/4 cup to 4 cups
  • Glass Mixing bowls of at least 3 sizes
  • Measuring spoons 1/8 tsp, 1/4 tsp, 1/2 tsp, 3/4 tsp, 1/2 Tbsp, 3/4 Tbsp and 1 Tbsp (I don’t care for the all-in-one moveable devices because you can mess up very easily.)
  • Strainer or colander – metal or mesh
  • Peeler
  • Mixing Spoons  – a soft material or wood so it won’t scratch your non-stick surfaces
  • Rubber Spatula & an Offset Spatula
  • Mixer with variable speeds

NICE ITEMS:

These are definitely not necessary, but sure nice to have.

  • Garlic Press
  • Immersion Blender for soups, mashed potatoes and thick sauces
  • Slow Cooker or Crock Pot

There is not one store that I would say is the best place to buy essential kitchen items.  Look around for great deals.  Buy what you can afford.  Target can take care of your basic spoons and cups, but if you can afford pots and pans from a restaurant supply store or William Sonoma – go for it! The investment will be well worth it.  Stay tuned for part two of the In the Kitchen series.  Next topic will be Food Safety Tips.

 

 

A Healthy You for the New Year

We had such a great response to our Bring on the Best  “Better than Before” accountability group, we added a second one!   It starts January 1st for a few easy assignments and then we get into the nitty gritty on January 4th.   I have found these groups to be so helpful – keeping me on track with nutrition and fitness.  I have met some fabulous people too.  My mindset is different when surrounded by others that are just as determined as me to make positive changes.  I’m also competitive and want to see bigger changes in myself than I see in someone else.  Are you motivated the same way?  I finally held myself accountable in my fitness and eating goals in 2015 thanks to my team.  I lost 8 pounds and feel fabulous over 40.  My 2016 goals are going to be more aggressive since I have a trip planned to Hawaii.    The great thing about these challenge groups are they motivate you to keep going, but at your own pace.  Be committed to a Better You in 2016 – JOIN us!

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What you will get in a challenge group:

*  Private Facebook group
*  Coaches that will provide a daily assignment
*  Coaches and challengers will provide motivation
*  Tools to create meal plans
*  Commit to Clean Eating & share recipes
*  Personal Development to help you reach YOUR goals

It may not be easy, but it’s what you need!

Leave a reply on the blog below, get me as your coach here, or contact me here if you are interested in joining.  You WON’T regret it!  Invest in yourself.

Guilt Free New Year’s Eve

Tips on Enjoying NYE no Guilt

Just because it is one of the largest gathering nights of the year doesn’t mean it has to come riddled with guilt if you have a drink and a few good eats.  Everything in moderation is the key.

Don’t starve yourself during the day thinking you can make up for it later. Your system will be all out of whack. You will be starving by the time you see all the calorie loaded goodies and your mind will give up and make excuses to not count the day at all.  Trust me, those calories will need to be burned off somehow.

Instead, eat wisely throughout the day – small meals every few hours.  Save your fruits and some of your carbs for tonight.  Concentrate on getting in you proteins and veggies (never too many greens).  Fiber is a great filler.  This will help sustain you too.

In-between your drink of choice, have a glass of water.  Or, like I’ve mentioned before, get a fancy glass, fill it with ice water and add a slice of lime or lemon for garish.  No one will even think twice about it.  You could also be the hero of the night and be the designated driver – no questions asked as to why you are not partaking in the alcohol.   Drinking water will also fill you up so you are not as likely to make a return trip to the buffet.

Speaking of buffet – Try to pick out the healthier options.  Go for salads, fruit and veggies (minus the dips), and a few nuts.  Limit your servings to just one.  When you are done, throw out the plate and move away from the table.   Go socialize or dance.  Don’t graze through the night – too many trips to the buffet will lead to more temptation.  Go enjoy your friends and family.

Don’t feel obligated to eat or drink anything at the party.  Maybe you want to eat your meal or have shakeology before you go.  That is okay too.  Unless it’s a party of two, no one will really notice what you are or aren’t eating/drinking.

Remember – it is always about YOU and what your are trying to ACCOMPLISH!  Don’t worry about anyone else.  Have a good time and don’t beat yourself up if you eat something you didn’t intend on eating.  It’s not the end of the world, just of the end of the year.  Bring on the New Year and the New You!

Please be safe!  Happy New Year!!

Holiday Bloating

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Can you relate to this cartoon?  Unfortunately, I can. Binge eating, drinking and no exercise can leave us feeling bloated, sluggish and guilty.  It can also put us in a bad mental spot where we keep that horrible cycle going.  Don’t fear, we can combat these obstacles before it gets out of hand.  We will be on the right track before the new year even starts.  Won’t it feel great to say your new year’s resolution is to continue to stay healthy instead of getting started?

It’s not rocket science, but it is a nice reminder of what we need to do to get and stay healthy.  Let’s cover some basic “DON’Ts” first.

DON’T: 

Skip Meals

When you do this, it confuses your body into thinking it needs to store what it has because of starvation.  It is a fight or flight mechanism for our nutritional survival.  It will slow your metabolism down, activating stress hormones possibly causing your body to store excess fat.

Do a Liquid Cleanse

Companies market these to those that want to lose a couple pounds quickly – generally they starve you of real food in place of having you drink their juices for a couple days.  What you end up losing is water weight.  It is an unhealthy “quick fix”.  Your body knows how to detox.  That is your liver’s function.  Don’t do these types of cleanses.  There are better options out there for a different time.  If you want to add nutritional juices – think greens.

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What to DO after over indulging: 

Drink Water

Like any other day, you should start it by drinking a large glass of room temperature water.  Adding lemon to it helps stimulate your digestion and may make it taste better if you need added flavor.   You should always try to drink at least have your body weight (pounds) in water (ounces).  For example, if you weigh 150 lbs. then drink at least 75 oz of water.   If you feel dehydrated from too much alcohol or salt intake, make sure you are drinking plenty of water to help flush it all out.

Eat Breakfast

You have heard your mother say breakfast is the most important meal of the day – believe her, especially after not eating well the day or weekend before.   Steer away from carbs that will only make you feel more bloated.  Aim for fiber and proteins that will sustain you and help motility.   A good example of a Monday morning meal – two eggs omelet stuffed with spinach, bell peppers, onions and tomatoes.  You could add in a lean meat too.  Drink with a glass of water and green tea.

Exercise


Get back on the bandwagon.  If you let it go until tomorrow, you may never pick it back up.  Remember, you are trying to get rid of the bloating feeling which also has associated guilt.  Get those endorphins flowing.   Jump back into your regular routine as if you never fell off track.  Or, if you are moving a bit slower, at least get in a brisk 30 minute walk.  ANYTHING is better than nothing!

Eating the Rest of the Day

Make sure you are eating small meals every few hours.  It keeps your metabolism going.  If you are on the 21 Day Fix, follow your container counts.  If you didn’t meal plan over the weekend, grab a previous plan and stick to it until you make a new one.
Stay away from refined sugars and other simple carbohydrates.  Try and eat leafy greens and other vegetables to fuel your body and feel better.  Add in your flax seed and chia seed to help clean out your body of the bad toxins.  Try to eat lighter meals – psychologically it will help you dispel your bloating feeling.  For example, grilled or baked salmon or tilapia served with quinoa and a spinach/kale/spring greens salad and a tall glass of water.

Include Fiber

Like I mentioned above, after binging with bad foods, it is recommend to make sure you get in the correct amounts of fiber to your meals.  Examples are  fruits, vegetables, and complex carbs such as sweet potato, brown rice and quinoa.  Fiber helps you get your digestion back on track and helps keep you full in between meals.

It’s not all down hill because you were experiencing and enjoying life!  Don’t beat yourself up.   Just remember to stop treating your body like it can and should handle all the junk – it is your temple.  Treat it well and it will serve you well for years to come.  It’s 80% what you do in “the kitchen” and 20% in “the gym”.

Don’t forget, I’m here for you if you want support, encouragement and accountability.  Let me know if you want to join one of my challenge groups. Simply Balanced Fit Life.

Cocktails & Exercise

Exercise Drink CaloriesShould I have that drink?

We all want to feel comfortable while socializing with our family and friends at any gathering.  This time of year brings on the guilt of the holidays for eating too much junk and being a bit to merry.  Don’t deprive yourself of a little holiday cheer, but don’t go swimming in the spiked eggnog either.

For my cheat sheet, I used the standard size pour but that doesn’t mean what you are drinking is the same.  Your bartender might pour heavy and the brand percent of alcohol could be stronger/weaker.  The exercise is based off of a 150 lb. person.  Of course, the calories burned are dependent on intensity of workout, weight of person and length of activity.  This gives you a good idea of how hard you have to hit it to make up for the indulgence.

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If you want to look like you are sipping on a drink, but don’t want the alcohol, ask the bartender to pour you water in a low ball glass and add a slice of fruit or an olive.  No one will be the wiser and your workout routine will remain the same.   Please drink responsibly, Don’t Drink and Drive.

Holiday Stress Busters

Do the holidays have you stressed out?  So much to do and no time to do it all on top of your normally hectic schedules  I hear ya!  How did life get so complicated from when we were kids?

holiday-stress

From October through January, time seems to be something we all want more of, a lot more of.  On top of our busy days and tiring nights, we add in decorating for three major holidays, volunteering, parties, shopping and wrapping gifts.  We often eat things not on our normal clean living plates and we give up our exercise because we put everyone else first.  That just makes us a bit more cranky.  Don’t get frustrated and defeated.  Here are some ways to make sure you get to enjoy the season; guaranteed you will be happier in the end.

Moderation  –  Don’t neglect yourself of your favorite holiday goodies.  You will eventually cave and go off the deep end.  Enjoy a small slice of your favorite pie, have a small cookie or a cocktail.  Just don’t go for seconds.  80% is what you do in “the kitchen”.  So, it’s not necessary to double up on your workouts on a daily basis to eliminate the guilt.  That would be enough for anyone to give up a healthy lifestyle.  If you do want to work out harder, consider doing some HIIT routines.  Keeping up on your daily workout routine is a GREAT stress reliever!

Don’t Spread Yourself Thin – Make sure you are only attending celebrations that mean the most to you.  Learn to say “No”.  These holidays are annual, so next year you can pick something different if your heart desires.  If a teacher asks you to come into your child’s classroom for a party or to help make gingerbread houses, maybe you offer to send in the graham crackers or frosting instead  of spending two hours in the class you need for something else, like helping Santa check some gifts off his list.  Speaking of gifts…

Give Gifts that Keep Giving Don’t spend hours roaming the malls or surfing the internet trying to find the perfect gift for each person on your list.  You can use that time to check a few other things off your list by donating in their name to support their favorite cause.  It supports the true meaning of the season and will be appreciated by those receiving the donation.  Giving back is good for the soul.  It makes you happy which in turn is positive health.

Simplify Celebrations If you insist on hosting your family gatherings, why not make it pot-luck?  It will take a ton of pressure off you to make it perfect.  It also allows others to feel like they are contributing.  Do a gift exchange where everyone picks one name and buy for that person only.  It saves time and money.  This way you can buy one really nice gift instead of ten cheap gifts that get re-gifted in next year’s white elephant exchange.  Limit the decorations.  More is not always better.  Remember what you put out needs to be pulled down and packed up to put away.  Make it look festive, but don’t go crazy with the tinsel.

Flexibility Make sure to add in extra time when you travel.  There is always bound to be more traffic or an accident when you are running behind.  Don’t schedule every last minute of every day.  Limit your activities to two per week so you can have the flexibility to change things around for last minute invites you really might want to attend.   Make a list, record things on your calendar (maybe it’s electronic and shareable with the rest of the family so it keeps them organized too).

Boost Immunity Tis the season for colds and flu.  Increase your water intake and eat more veggies.  Reach for these at the pot-luck instead of the chips and dip.  Get your sleep.  Your body needs the rest to recharge.  Wash your hands a lot!  It is the easiest yet most under utilized way to get rid of germs.

If you are ever feeling overwhelmed, stop and take a few deep breaths.  Slow down and refocus.  Ask yourself if it is absolutely necessary or just a nicety.  Refer to this list and gain your control back.  These are really easy to do once you start to do them.  Common sense, but give yourself the permission to enact them.  Don’t get caught up with the Joneses.  Do what is best for YOU!

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HAPPY HOLIDAYS!

 

 

 

Helping Your Kids Find Balance

For those of you with children, how do you teach them to have balance in their lives?  In today’s society, it seems like parents are living vicariously through their kids.  They are pushing them to do everything: sports, take the hardest classes, volunteer with charities, belong to a church group, play an instrument or two, and to do scouts.   How do they balance it all and still come out well adjusted instead of a basket case?

Back in my day, you went to school and maybe did one sport or two if you were really athletic.  The competition was between schools, not between teammates.  No one was trying to one up each other at the piano recital.  If you took advanced classes you were known as the “brainiac”.  Very few did scouts past elementary school.  There was plenty of time to do homework, spend with your family and still get in what you wanted with your friends.

Today, however, it seems like we are constantly saying, “I wish I had more time”.  More time to do what?  If you wished you had more time, do you think your kids feel the same way?

Guess what – they do!  They want more time to be KIDS.  Parents are pushing their kids to always do more and be the best.  Why?  Are you trying to prove you are the best parent?  Are you trying to have them accomplish something you were unable to do at their age?  Think about it. When was the last time you asked your child/children what they wanted?  I’m not saying give them the control at 8 years old or 12 years old in everything they want or don’t want to do.  I am saying they should have an opinion.  Then your job is to truly listen to them and not just persuade them to your way of thinking and doing.
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For example, if Johnny is playing on his basketball team but is the slowest kid, can’t shoot a basket to save his life, and sits out half the game, maybe he doesn’t have the desire to get better to have more play time.  Johnny might just want to get off the court and spend some quality time with you.  He wants to play a board game WITH YOU.  Their personalities are forming and we should only influence them in a positive way to reach their goals.

But let’s take a look at a typical day of an active kid.
7:00 AM – wake up and get ready for school
8:00 AM – leave for school
8:30 AM – at school
3:00 PM – come home from school, grab a snack, change clothes and rush out the door for xyz activity #1
4:00 PM – Participate in activity #1
5:30 PM – head to activity #2
6:00 PM – participate in activity #2
7:00 PM – head home
7:30 PM – dinner
8:00 PM – homework
9:00 PM – get ready for bed

The next day they do it all again but with different activities.  What if they have a big test to study for?  Does school come first or do the activities?  Do you determine that or do they?  Do they have younger siblings?  Where are they during this time?  Or is the other parent running them in the opposite direction?  Will you sit down for dinner as a family?  What is this teaching your kids about priorities?    They only know what they are taught or are experiencing first hand.  Every academic or extra curricular activity comes with demands.  Those potentially but stress on your kids.

Life Balance Signpost Shows Family Career Health And Friends
How you balance your life will ultimately teach your kids how to balance their lives.

So, I come back to my original reason for writing this blog entry.  How do kids BALANCE their lives?  It’s your job as their parent to help them.  Kids want to please everyone, they don’t want to let you down.  They may not have the skills to communicate with you just how overwhelmed they are.

  • Sports – If you notice your child isn’t contributing in a positive way on the team you need to non confrontationally ask them if they enjoy playing or want to continue.  Don’t put the blinders on just because you want them to play.  It will do them and the team a huge favor.  Not everyone has the same skill sets and that is O.K.!  Not everyone should get a participation trophy.  Teach them humility on when to recognize when to call it quits.  That skill will take them far in life, especially when so man feel they are entitled.  It puts an undo pressure on them to perform better and only feel disappointed when they don’t.  You won’t be so stressed out either.

    Another comment about sports – There are so many “travel” teams these days.  It is the advanced level from recreational play.  The commitment is much higher on practice and monetary levels.  Most teams want the players to get additional coaching outside of those practices as well.  Where does it end?  Now you have to figure out a time to squeeze these into their already packed schedules.  Is it worth it?  WHY?  Do you really think they will get a full ride scholarship to college?  They are 8-13 years old – they may not even want to play that sport by the time they get into high school.  Considering only 2% or less of U.S. student athletes get scholarships (full or partial), the likelihood you will get your “money’s worth” out of all those lessons and tournament fees is slim to none.  Don’t shoot the messenger.  This is what coaches and college recruiters report.  So, why not let them have fun and release them of the stress of always having to be the best?  That is a lot of stress on a kid regardless if THEY ♥️ the game!

  • Instruments – Are you plugging your ears?  Maybe they don’t want to play after three months or three years of trying.  It is not meant for everyone.  What is the goal?  Just to learn an instrument or to play in the school band?   Music is generally a passion and those that enjoy playing will find the time to practice.  No need to be forced.
  • Academics – Are they taking the hardest classes?  Do they cry over not understanding the material?  Do they have a social life or is their noses buried in their books from the minute they get home until they fall asleep with their head on the table?  Yes, classes are more advanced then when you went to school, but at what price are you pushing your kids to be the smartest.  At 8 or even 13, they are too young to decide what their major will be in college.  Heck, I remember most of my friends being undecided when they started college.  So, unless they are gifted and school work comes fairly easy, don’t force them into the harder classes.  It is better to take a class of interest and get a good grade than to take a harder class and get a lower grade.  Colleges look at GPAs and standardized test scores.
  • Volunteering – That is something most high schools are requiring as a prerequisite to graduate.  It teaches many different life skills and makes them productive members of their community.  I will assume this is done in moderation and not as a full time job on top of everything else being mentioned.  I am big on philanthropy, so this is not one of those areas I would eliminate completely.  Find an organization that has some meaning to them to support.  Volunteering is a win-win for both sides.  As parents, you can be proud of your kiddos for helping others in a society where it is vastly self-indulgent.

Studies show it is important for kids to feel connected in something that is important to them.  Their interests may be different than yours.  It is your job to help them explore without over doing.  The key is to balance home life with academics and extra curricular.  Every kid and family is different. The only advice I can really give is to not push too hard or extend yourself too much.  Don’t blame your “I need more time because I’m constantly carting my kids around to do what they want” on your kids.  You ultimately hold the keys to the car.  Find one activity they enjoy and do that a couple days a week.  You will ALL be happier in the long run.  Go INSPIRE your kids.  They will ACHIEVE great things.  You will both THRIVE.

Crock Pot Honey Ginger Chicken

IMG_7351I made this yesterday and the leftovers are already gone!  It is a fairly clean meal and super easy to make.

I used a mixture of boneless, skinless chicken thighs and breasts.  My  mom was in town and she won’t eat white meat – I know, I know… dark meat is definitely not as healthy, but it is more moist.   I also have not perfected cut up chicken in the crock pot not being overly dry.    Maybe it’s because I am always waiting until the last moment to put my meal in the crock pot.  Then, I’m afraid it will be undercooked, so I put it on high heat for too long.  I need to get better at this!

Six Servings.  For those following 21 Day Fix,  a serving size is one red, one yellow, one green and one orange.

Ingredients:
*  4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts or 8 boneless, skinless chicken thighs or a mixture of both –  thawed and cut into chunks (you can cook frozen, but some believe the heat is not hot enough to avoid bacterial growth and it will make you sick)

*  1/2 c Honey

*  3 Tbsp. Reduced Sodium Soy Sauce (or amino acid)

*  1 inch gated Fresh Ginger Root (I diced it.  Or you can use 2 tsp. powdered ginger)

*  2 Tbsp. Lime Juice

*  2 Tsp Sesame Oil (it lends to the flavor, so if you want to use avocado oil or EVOO you can)

*  1 Tsp. Rice Wine Vinegar (it too lends to the flavor, but you could use regular vinegar in a pinch)

*  4 minced Garlic Cloves (I prefer fresh over jared or powdered)

* 1 chopped medium Yellow or Brown Onion – I cut into 1 inch pieces so my kids can remove them if they don’t want them.  You can easily hid the onions by dicing.

*  Salt and Pepper to taste – but I wouldn’t add a lot of salt – you are already using soy sauce.

*** Note***  If you like your sauce thicker – in the last half hour of cooking, combine 3 Tbsp Cornstarch with 3 Tbsp of the sauce (or water).  Mix well until cornstarch is completely dissolved.  Then stir it back into the crock pot.  My kids like dipping sauce so I don’t normally do.

*** If you want it to look pretty – you can add some toasted Sesame Seeds or chopped Green Onions to the top. ***

Directions:

Grease/Spray your pot.  It will make cleanup easier.  Put onions in the crock pot first, followed by the chicken.  Pour everything else , except the cornstarch mixture or any toppings, on top.  Give it a stir to mix everything and coat the chicken. Cook on low 6-8 hours or high 3.5-4.5 hours.  You can plate it in so many different ways!
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In the last 30 minutes, prepare your side dishes.  I steamed about 1/2-3/4 of a large bag of fresh broccoli “trees”.  It was probably equal to a large head of broccoli.  The rice was instant brown rice.  Not really instant since it takes about 20 minutes to cook.

It will smell delicious as you are cooking it.  Everyone that walked in wanted to know what was for dinner and when were we eating 🙂

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In a bowl – Place mixed chicken and broccoli over rice.

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On a plate – chicken on rice surrounded by broccoli.

 

 

 

 

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Next to each other on a plate for those that want it separate.  My kids drizzle the extra sauce over the rice.

 

 

 

Any way you eat it, ENJOY!