Vacation Transformed!

With spring break upon us, I’ve thought a lot about what vacations used to look like for my family and me. They consisted of ALL our favorite junk foods, a jam-packed schedule of busyness designed to entertain and engage our kids from morning to night in locales that catered to non-stop fun. We made a million memories, but most of mine were of indigestion, sensory overload and exhaustion. When I look at the photos, I wish I saw the fun and excitement, but I’m brought right back to the overwhelmedness.

I’m happy to realize throughout my weight loss journey, our vacations have transformed as well. I put serious thought into what I wanted out of this spring break, then set some mindful plans into action. We chose a location conducive to well-being as our top priority and hit the open road.

 

Fuel stops found me jumping at the pump and avoiding the endless empty calories I used to gather from gas stations. I was prepared, having packed a jumprope and plenty of healthy snacks.

Upon reaching our destination, I knew we’d made a great choice. Check out the view literally just two steps outside our rental condo…my soul smiled when I saw the exquisite view and heard the playful stream.

Ahhhhh.

I have come to an awareness that vacation can’t mean taking time off from myself. So with that in mind, we made plans to be active. Our first day in Estes Park found us hiking picturesque Lily Mountiain…

I only regret our older son was unable to join us because this would have been right up his alley.

You should know that hiking is my thing!

However, my husband Eric is not at all fond of heights and our younger son Connor is not a fan of hiking. At all. But they both sucked it up to climb the steep two miles; although there were some pretty tense moments scrambling up the final snow-covered section the breathtaking summit was well worth the fear-factor!

 

The view was stunning and unforgettable!

The descent was tougher than I expected, but this was the kind of memory I had hoped we’d make while we were here! I’m so proud of those two!

That hike was one heck of a workout and my knee was not at all happy…traitor! The next morning it was still cranky, but I had some strength training plans!

Thank goodness for a fitness center at the resort! The rest of the day was set aside for some sightseeing, grocery shopping for the right kinds of nourishment, and relaxing.

Although many of my friends chose warmer climates for spring break, imagine my excitement when I woke up to this…

How beautiful is that?!? This Minnesota gal’s heart was warmed waking up to this gorgeous Colorado morn. And because I have goals in place, there was only one thing to do…haul over to the fitness room for some cardio!

 

And after a great sweat sesh of a warm-up, there was only one thing on my mind for a cool-down. Would you like to build a snowman?!?

Why, yes I would! My teenager had zero desire to help me, because he brought his friend named X-box haha!

So there you have it, our transformed vacation! We still have several more days to embrace all Estes Park has to offer. I’m thrilled to report, since making mindful changes to our typical vacation, I’ve yet to experience indigestion, sensory overload or exhausting. Mission accomplished!

Dietitian Store Tour

I’ve been working my way through task after task of a highly motivating Nutrition Scavenger Hunt this month, created by dietitians at my local gym. One of the suggested activities on the list is to attend a grocery shopping tour with a dietitian at Hy-Vee.

I knew Hy-Vee stores employed dietitians, but have never really known what they do there. I recently emailed Sara from one of our Rochester locations to schedule my shopping tour. She met with me earlier this week with her intern, Deanna, to give me a store tour from a dietitian’s perspective. Here, they introduced me to Bolthouse dressings (I brought home the mango chipotle…YUM).

In my 4 1/2 year get-healthy journey, I thought I knew a great deal about the multitude of products available to those who care to make more mindful choices. I’d like to think I know my way around a grocery store too. But this store is a giagantic recent addition to Rochester, and having been intimidated by its size, I shied away from it. Until now!

I mean, check out this bulk area for instance…it houses 997 items. I stood there wondering where a person would even start. But with Sara by my side, she zeroed in on one of her favorites…

Organic red lentil beans, something I never knew existed, but was glad she pointed out, because some of those went home with me!

Spending hours in a store on your own, attempting to make healthy discoveries can seem overwhelming. I know, I’ve been there so many times. But strolling through the isles with these knowledgeable ladies was a treat. They pointed out so many products that offer lower calories, lower sodium content and a cleaner list of ingredients! Take for instance this awesome tomato sauce, it contains tomatoes…and that’s it! Better yet, only 10 mg of sodium!!!

Yup, that went home with me too!

As Sara and Deanna steered me down the chip isle, I joked (actually quite seriously) there couldn’t be anything healthy in that isle! But Sara led me straight to these…

Although the calorie range is equivalent to other chips, these contain only a few ingredients, the first of which is whole navy beans! Must be why they have 5 grams of protein and fiber in each serving. I went home with the white bean chips with hint of lime flavor. I ate some last night…delish!

Snacks can sometimes get me in trouble, but these flackers were developed by a doctor to promote health in a multitude of ways…how cool is that?!?

The tour lasted an hour, but Sara and Deanna’s recommendation list went far beyond! I’ve become aware of so many new super food items, many with convenience in mind…like this ready-made quinoa.

And these amazing cauliflower crumbles that save time and mess!

I’d show you the spiralized veggies that intrigued me, but I can’t; when I went back to choose some, they were sold out!

I’m happy to know there are some great products out there to replace others that didn’t fit well in my diet, like these seasonings to help me avoid salt.

And how about these instead of tortillas? At 60 calories and a plethora of flavors, I’d reach for these every time!

It was eye-opening what I learned in an hour. Sara, many thanks for your expertise and willingness to spend an hour with me, so glad Deanna accompanied us too. I’ve gained much valuable insight!

I’m freshly inspired knowing there’s even an ice cream out there that aligns with my goals!

Shout out to the Rochester Athletic Club dietitians for such an innovative way to observe National Nutrition Month; I’m off to complete another task on the scavenger hunt!

The Garbacado Sandwich

Hey, Fellow FIT BFFs, I’m working on a cool Nutrition Scavenger Hunt that’s taking place at my gym this month. One of the tasks included is to prepare one new recipe a week from the in-house dieticians’ cookbook. I opted to modify the recipe to include the Seedtastic bread I found at Aldi last week. If you missed my excitement over that bread, you can read about it here.

It’s no secret…I LOVE avocados; this is a great meatless recipe that incorporates that love! Here’s my modified version…

The Garbacado Sandwich

Ingredients:

1 slice Aldi Seedtastic bread, toasted

1/4 avocado

1/4 cup garbanzo beans

1/4 cup chopped cucumber

salt to taste (I used Himalayan salt)

 

Directions:

Mash together garbanzo beans, avocado and salt, mix in chopped cucumber. Cut toasted bread in half. Place garbacao mixture on bread, enjoy open-faced or classic sandwich-style.

Contains 232 calories, 36 grams carbs, 8 grams fat, 9 grams protein, 11 grams fiber

Found Another Favorite!

Friends, are you hungry for something spectacularly healthy? I sure was recently when I dined at Applebee’s. I found a spectacular entree that is both a flavor and nutritional thumbs up!

But that’s nothing new, I’ve been happily dining off Applebee’s Lighter Fare menu section for years; the calorie information is right there on the menu. I know I can easily stay within my calorie range and that’s why I’ll return again and again. Plus, I’m kind of partial to a very friendly, young conscienctious server named Logan.

I’ve learned that by trying new things often, I find new favorites that help me stay motivated to keep on track. When Logan served up this plate of awesome, I knew I’d found a new love!

Friends, this generously portioned (Lent-friendly) Shrimp Wonton Stir-Fry contains a mere 580 calories, yet supplies a whopping 24 grams of protein. And, as delicious and satisfying as it was, I have a new favorite; I can’t wait to order it again! Applebee’s, you just keep doing it…you make eating out so simple for my FIT BFFs and me!

Fantastic Friday Find: Seedtastic Bread

Happy Friday, fellow FIT BFFs! You know how much I LOVE trying new things and when I discovered this latest find, I couldn’t wait to share it with you!

Let me back up a moment to inform newer readers and remind returning folks that I make it my mission to try at least one new item every time I grocery shop. This keeps me from falling into food boredom and helps me stumble upon my new favorites. I should also mention that I am a fan of the incredibly low prices and wide selection of healthy options Aldi offers…makes eating healthy so simple!

Speaking of simple, Aldi carries their own line of organic products called SimplyNature. Yesterday I discovered this Seedtastic bread containing an impressive 21 whole grains and seeds! I’ve been in the mood for avocado toast, so that’s exactly what I thought of when I spotted this bread.

Friends, it did NOT disappoint! It was so good, in fact, that I decided to take the avocado one step further today. For those of us observing meatless Fridays, check out this little avocado toast/egg salad number I created for lunch.

It was so easy…toast a slice of Seedtastic bread, slice up 1/4 avocado, mash a hard boiled egg and mix with 2 tbsp light mayo, place over the avocado, sprinkle with paprika and voila…a nutritional powerhouse containing a mere 285 calories.

I’m so glad to have found this bread, I’m already looking forward to tomorrow morning’s peanut butter toast!

Friends, next time you’re in the grocery store, challenge yourself to purchase at least one new item. I’d love to hear what you choose, so leave a comment when you do! And remember, trying new things is one more great way we can all put our Best Foot Forward!

 

Thumbs Up, Panera!

Friends, before I began my weight loss journey, I ate out all. the. time. I based my choices on what looked good and never made informed decisions. This mistake weighed heavily on my health…literally.

I’ve learned occasional dining out can be a wonderful adventure as long as one employs mindfulness. When planning to dine out, I simply take a moment to browse the restaurant’s online menu to determine what choices would best suit my nutritional needs. Many restaurants offer very accessible info…I LOVE that!

Some restaurants take it one glorious step forward by posting calorie information on their menu boards. I can’t say enough how much I appreciate that. I took the opportunity to meet someone for lunch at Panera today. What a wonderful feeling to know I can quickly skim their menu board and order something delicious and nutritious!

Take a look at this BOWL OF AWESOME!

It’s been a while since I’ve eaten there, so this salad was new to me. You are looking at their BBQ Salad with Chicken. It comes in this enormous bowl and with the sheer volume of food and the amazing flavor, I never would have guessed there were only 470 calories in that giant salad!

It is one thing to pick an item based on its calories, it’s totally another to choose it because it’s phenomenal. Guess what I’m ordering next time?!? Way to go, Panera!

I’ve noticed other restaurants beginning to post calorie info on their menu boards too.  These are the places I will choose last minute because I know what I’m getting. Friends, eating out doesn’t have to be a disaster for your goals. Take time to make mindful choices so you can enjoy your meal even more…just one more way to put our Best Foot Forward!

Just the Beginning

Friends, it took me a few days to process the closure which occured this week. The words were not readily available, and they continue to escape me. But I want to attempt to share the best I can. My 4 1/2 year stint with a dietician, health coach and trainers has drawn to a close. I was astounded at the multitude of memories and emotions that bubbled up surrounding my final training session, weigh-in and coaching appointments. Profound Gratitude, Friends!

I remember the broken woman I was when I first met each of these life-changers. When I take time to reflect on that time in my life, I’m inevitably and instantly in tears. I was absent back then, in a deep dark hole of despair. I was (246 pounds) morbidly obese, aimlessly suffering the loss of a loved one, medicated for high blood pressure and feeling out of touch with everything and everyone. Lost.

But now, when I look back at the infinite things each of these people taught me, tools they provided, confidence they instilled, patience, heart and soul they shared…I’m simply blown away at what a gift this experience was and is. And when an old tendancy attempts to creep in…worry, the fear of future failure, I shut that stuff down immediately because I’m no longer defined by a number or a diagnosis. I am strong, healthy, empowered, loved, determined, inspired, dedicated, focused, centered, healed and whole. Found.

I hesitate to call this my before/after because it’s not. It’s simply then and now; not at all the end, rather, Just the Beginning of anything I dare to dream!

High Protein Veggie Scramble

Hi fellow FIT BFFs! I often return from the gym famished after an intense workout. It would be easy to chow down on whatever I can quickly get my hands on, but I want to be sure to replenish my body properly. I’ve made a variety of these throw-together kind of scrambles and found this combination to be a generously portioned, relatively low-cal, high protein powerhouse. The bonus…teamed with an english muffin, my appetite is satisfied for hours!

High Protein Veggie Scrambler

Ingredients:

1 large egg

2 large egg whites

2 tbsp red onion, diced

1/4 green bell pepper, chopped

3 oz mushrooms, diced

1/4 cup 2% shredded cheddar

1 medium Roma tomato, diced

1/4 medium avocado diced

Himalayan pink salt and pepper to taste

Non-stick cooking spray

Directions:

In small bowl, beat egg/egg whites with wire whisk; place in non-stick cooking sprayed small fry pan. Mix in onion, bell pepper and mushrooms. Cook over low heat. Occasionally loosening contents from the bottom of the pan and turning, as you would scramble plain eggs. Continue scrambling until egg appears cooked. Add shredded cheddar and mix with the scramble. Once cheese begins to melt, immediately plate mixture and top with tomato and avocado. Salt and pepper to taste.

Makes one serving at 282 calories with 25 grams of protein! Add an english muffin for meal total of about 400 calories!

Treasure Trove of Free Motivation!

Friends, when my boys were young, we lived at the public library. Their constant hunger for knowledge was regularly satisfied with a large tote filled with new books, computer games, music cds, audiobooks and movies each week. Their eyes lit up like it was Christmas when they’d spot something that sparked a new interest, and we were often mesmerized at the sheer volume that building held. I often wondered, if a person calculated the msrp of all the materials we’d borrowed, how many millions of dollars the library afforded my little learners!

We were often treated to some wonderful enrichment opportunities there as well. Storytellers, magicians, musicians, artists and scavenger hunts to name a few, all these priceless educational activities…FREE!

My boys are in high school and college now; although no longer frequent patrons, a homework assignment sometimes brings us back. And now that I’m no longer needed in their search for materials, a visit allows me to realize what an amazing adult playground exists there too!

I was recently impressed with a display…

Of course, it is ever changing because these resources are constantly borrowed. A walk around the corner reveals stack upon stack of engaging resources related to healthy lifestyle, mindfulness, nutrition, wellness, fitness and beyond…and these are just the items that aren’t checked out. I’ve spent hours on the library’s website browsing the limitless offerings and reserving materials that are constantly checked out.

My favorite feature is reserving them to our local bookmobile that stops every two weeks, just two blocks from my house. These items literally come to ME!!

Friends, many of you have asked me how to live healthy on a budget. Here’s an answer right here. The price is better than budget-friendly…it’s free. But priceless!

Those who’ve told me they can’t afford a gym membership or workout equipment…here’s my answer to that…

There are multiple stacks of shelves at my library with hundreds of workouts for any ability level. There is a class of your choice, available any time, day or night, just waiting for you to hit play! No membership dues, no intimidation of any gym-related nature, ready at your convenience. Some of these DVDs were instrumental in my weight-loss success early on when I was building my fitness confidence. Even now, I find a few new ones that spark my interest each time I visit.

Or maybe you find you need that community connection of working out with others? Or looking for a professional talk related to various wellness topics? Look no further…

Check out what your local library has to offer. I’m willing to bet it offers more than you think. And a wonderful bonus? If your library doesn’t have a resource you are looking for, many are able to borrow from neighboring community libraries or take requests for new purchases…how cool is that?

If you’re looking for some fresh motivation, give your local library a visit…a free source of encouragement and one more way to put our Best Foot Forward!

 

To Arizona and Back!

Hey Friends! I know it has been a while; I’ve been on another adventure where I had very limited writing time and wi-fi. But it’s all good! Remember how I’ve been devoting one day a month to me, to rejuventate and recharge? Well, I took that one giant leap further to enhance something I don’t normally look forward to…here’s what I mean.

For the past few years, my brother and I have taken turns driving with my mom in her RV, accompanying her to and from her winters in Arizona. Although I enjoy spending time with her, I never looked forward to this trip. It was three days of nonstop driving and very little sleep, and also required extra travel to either fly there or home to complete the journey. I had a tough time imagining the trip again this year until I considered reconfiguring it into something more fun and enjoyable for both of our sakes. Continuous improvement at its finest!

So why not make this a we trip. Not the kind where we kill ourselves to get there in three days, but an adventure with multiple stops to make memories? Looking at my November calendar, it was very right that this trip would coincide with my monthly me day and some races I had previously registered for. So here’s a look at Arizona Roadtrip 2016!

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We left Rochester early one morning, determined to put lots of miles behind us before stopping for the night. My mom traded in her previous Winnebago for a shorter, sleeker model this year, one that’s a diesel dream to drive…great choice, Mom! We headed west to avoid major construction to the south of us. I mean, why make things any more difficult than they need to be? As we stopped for gas that night, we were treated to this amazing sunset…

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We ended up in Rapid City, SD that night. Incidentally, it happened to be election night. It seemed only right we take a little time that next morning for a bit of a detour here…

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A chance to ponder some amazing presidents of our country’s past as we hiked along the Presidential Trail. A chance to become one with nature as we were greeted by this goat, perhaps enjoying some me time of his own.

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That was a great opportunity to get some activity in before we hit the road for several hundred more miles. As it grew dark, this guy wouldn’t budge, so we took his suggestion to stop for the night in Rawlins, WY…

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Our next day was filled with breathtaking scenery as we traveled through the rest of Wyoming and into Utah. Here are just a few glimpses of what we saw from the road…

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I made a point to continue my healthy eating on the road and was delighted to find two of my favorites just yards from each other in Provo. We have neither of these at home, so what tremendous luck!

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Thanks Pita Pit and Bowl of Heaven, just for being there! We stopped in Cedar City for the night and indulged in a soulful pause the next morning where I enjoyed a coffee for my favorite peep currently deployed in Afghanistan. We texted over a delightful Ethiopian blend…

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And we were off! I was really looking forward to this part of our journey…Vegas, Baby! I had plans to meet up with some running buddies at the Rock ‘n’ Roll Expo where we picked up our race bibs…

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Soon we were running the 5K together. My legs had had several days of rest, so things went well. It was a gorgeous night to earn some bling! Incidentally, I was able to mark Lindsay (in the pink) off my Facebook Friends Resolution…YAY!

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Meanwhile, my mom and I had parked the RV in front of my cousin’s new home in Henderson and we enjoyed some R & R the next afternoon…what’s not to love about this?!?

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And being mere days from snow at home, I relished in the chance to soak in some sun…ahhh!

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Later that evening, it was back to the strip to complete my 13th half marathon this year. I’d like to say it was my best, but with all the injuries, aches and pains this fall, it turned out to be my slowest and most difficult. Regardless…a WIN!

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We spent one more wonderful day recovering/sightseeing with my cousin and her husband before we continued on our way. We made a stop in Flagstaff for some shopping and more Pita Pit. I had one more magical stop in mind before our destination, a place that feeds my soul…Sedona! We spent the night there and woke up to this natural playground!

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We took time to wander to places we hadn’t seen the last time we were here…

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There is stunning beauty around every corner in this place!

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After some shopping and lunch, it was time to finish our trip…we rolled on toward Coolidge, AZ. We just finished setting up in my mom’s winter playground when we were greeted with this…

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And just like that, she was all tucked in and home for winter!

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What a fantastic trip we had, stretching out our travel to take in some beauty, family, friends and fun along the way…a major improvement from the migration of previous years. I think we got it right this time! There was only one more thing to do, just a few more hours of me time before I as back home.

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And as Delta says, there’s no stop in me, only go! This turned out to be the perfect trip, but I have to admit, there’s no place like home!

Friends, next time you are faced with a task you are less than excited about, look at it from another direction. Figure out how to make it time well spent doing something you love. It’s one more great way we can all put our Best Foot Forward!