5 Ways to Use Herbs

I love fresh herbs! I try to keep them in jars on the counter, making the house smell good as they wait to be used.

Marinades

I LOVE using fresh herbs in marinades, but admittedly I do this more in the summer when they are abundant in my garden. Recently, I’ve been trying to get in the habit of using them during the winter.

Here are two of my favorites:

Cilantro lime chicken (I added some minced garlic)

Garlic roasted chicken with rosemaryΒ – I often use this as a base for marinades too – sometimes I use thyme or oregano and then grill the chicken (no broth or wine for marinating)

Salads

Herbs are delicious on salads. I had seen people say this and actually tried it by accident. We love it! You can also use them to make salad dressing πŸ™‚

Toppings

Cilantro is always a go-to on tacos or anything Mexican. Of course you can sprinkle basil and/or parsley on many different dishes. You can even put them on your eggs!

Pestos

Basil is usually the king of pesto, but you can also use parsley or cilantro. I’ve even seen recipes that use a mix of herbs, as in whatever you have hanging around πŸ˜‰

Salsas

Here cilantro reigns supreme, but other herbs can be used too. I’ll throw bruschetta in this category too, just because it’s tomatoes and basil. This is another great way to add fruit or veggies and herbs to your meal.

Looking for ideas? Check out my Pinterest board with dressings, pestos and salsasΒ here

How do you incorporate herbs in your cooking?

Have a back-up plan!

One of the hardest parts about transitioning to healthier habits is recovering when life throws you a curve ball. We’ve all had days where our lunch is sitting at home or work ran late and we missed our class at the gym.

The key here is knowing it’s ok – life happens! It’s generally easier to feel that way when we have a back-up plan.

Maybe it’s as simple as making the better choice when ordering your replacement lunch. Another option is having healthy snacks stashed that can carry you through or at least fill you up a little before being tempted by the menu.

A tough one to plan for is exercise. To be fair, this is an area I can struggle with. It can be hard to rally when a friend cancels or the meeting at work runs long. This is another great time to make the better choice. Maybe it’s getting in a walk or using an online workout at home.

It’s important to remember anything is better than nothing and the more things you try – the more options you will have. It’s a lot easier to do an online workout in place of a class if you’ve found one you enjoy or stash healthy snacks if you’ve found one that you like.

On the other hand, it can also be an opportunity to try something new. Maybe it forces you to grab a new food or try that machine at the gym that’s always scared you (yet intrigued you πŸ˜‰).

Regardless of what you choose, don’t let an off day derail you!

Do you have a backup plan?

Making the “better” choice

When it comes to adjusting our eating habits, many think it has to be “go big or go home”. Really, it is about making small, manageable changes over time. When the mentality is all or nothing it is so easy to feel deflated and give up. If we look at it as one meal at a time and more importantly one decision at a time it’s not only easier to make the change but also to stay with it.

As we know, I’m a huge fan of the crockpot but I don’t use it every night. Only when we have something going on and I won’t be home to prepare dinner. When we think we have to do it every night and then we don’t, it’s hard to get back in the swing of things.

By all means prep away, but don’t let a busy weekend derail you from your goal. Think about the healthier choice. If you wind up grabbing food on the way home – make the healthier choice. Going out with friends, make the healthier choice. As you do this, the healthier choices actually get healthier.

Let the decision be intentional and not just a reaction. When faced with food options, think about which one is better for you. This can be done in most situations. Eating a meal at someone’s house? Take some extra vegetables and be sure to enjoy the entree.   

The idea is to make the changes sustainable, not just for a short period of time.

Meal planning tips

I have been planning meals for as long as I can remember. Seriously, I planned meals once I moved off campus in college. My dance schedule was such that I wasn’t home often between classes and when I was it was pretty quick. Add in a physically demanding schedule and I simply had to plan. We all did and we were probably the only college kids packing lunch and snacks. πŸ˜‰

I guess, it came in handy as I now manage four crazy, busy schedules. Here are some of my tips πŸ™‚

Know your schedule

Seems obvious, right? I write it down on the calendar to make it easy, I need visual cues. After the first week or so, I know it pretty well. Once I see the schedule I figure out what days are the craziest. For example, are we running from school to an activity, meaning everyone will get home starving or is it a night that we can take time and prepare.

Click here to print your own calendar

Picking meals

Once I know what I’m working with I start selecting meals. Is it a crockpot night? If so then I pick a recipe and I do this for each night. Sometimes I get bored and follow clichΓ© Internet themes like meatless Monday or taco Tuesday. This helps me narrow down what feels like an endless number of recipes.

Need some inspiration?  Here are my Pinterest boards for crockpot, chicken, and seafood

Grocery shopping

Now that the meals are planned comes the thankless job of creating the shopping list and actually shopping. Be thorough in your list and remember you can throw meat in the freezer. The shopping is never glamorous, but I like getting it all out of the way. You can always leave a free night to pick something up.

Don’t have time to shop? Try a grocery delivery service. Most will save your previous lists making it easy for future shopping. This can also help with the budget and not buying extra treats 😊

Click here for a blank shopping list

Do you plan your meals?  What works and what doesn’t?

Healthy Eating Tricks

The idea of eating healthy can be really overwhelming and is often conquered by taking small steps. Most people who eat on the healthier end of the scale have a few tricks. Here are mine…

Ground turkey/chicken

I pretty much replace ground beef with ground turkey or chicken in every recipe. Chili, tacos, meatloaf and some meatballs. Meatballs can be tricky and I often look up a recipe specifically for turkey or chicken. For example we love these turkey meatballs.

I struggle with making my own turkey or chicken burgers – frankly, I over cook them. We rarely eat burgers – more of a summer treat on the grill so I don’t mess with it much.

Leaving out the egg

This is nothing against eggs, they are a great source of protein, but they are unnecessary in a lasagne as there are plenty of protein sources in the dish. I have never put it in ricotta – ever and it’s still delicious!

I almost never dredge my chicken. The best alternative is mustard. I often use mustard on my chicken before coating. Sometimes I play with the mustard, yellow, brown, honey mustard, etc depending on the flavor I want. A less healthy alternative is ranch dressing. I do this for “ranch chicken”. I coat the chicken in ranch then coat in breadcrumbs before baking.

Breadcrumbs

I rarely buy them. Sometimes I keep panko breadcrumbs in the house for specific recipes, otherwise I use whole wheat bread in the food processor. This is a great way to add flavors such as garlic cloves, and herbs plus you control the amount of salt.

Fruit and veggies everywhere

Ok, maybe not everywhere, but easily accessible. From fall through spring there is at last one bowl of fruit on my counter (fruit flies in the summer so it goes to the fridge). This makes it easy to grab. The boys’ friends also grab fruit at will, often apples.

I put out fruit or veggies with each meal and often snack. When their friends are over I put out junk and fruit or veggies, it’s always devoured.

Where I don’t substitute 

French fries. I know some of you just laughed out loud πŸ˜‰ I’m sorry, but veggies baked in bread crumbs are not the same. I would truly rather have celery sticks or a salad. I’ll even make veggie fries but I don’t call them fries. Perhaps these work for you and that’s great!

As I mentioned earlier, I like a good burger. These are both foods I don’t eat often and frankly, I’m not giving them up. 

The beauty is you don’t have to give up something you love either. Maybe change the frequency or portion size but you don’t have to give it up completely.

What are some of your healthy tricks?

Rethinking “should”

This is a funny post to write because it’s basically a “should” in itself 😳. I hear “I know, I should be doing…” all the time and it has never once been said by someone with an empowered smile on her face. It got me thinking, how can we fix this idea of “should”…

I think it begins with what is being seen. Mostly, this applies to social media. If your feed is filled with super fit women eating a piece of lettuce in a luxurious location, it might seem the whole world is doing something you “should” be doing too. The best part about this one – YOU are in charge of what you see. Feel free to use the hide function and even unfollow when necessary. 

After cleaning up your feed comes the really important question when facing an “I should” moment: “do I want to”. There really is no point in worrying about what you “should” be doing if you don’t want to do it. (You are still the boss in your life)

Next, try replacing “should” with “can”. For example – I “can” eat more vegetables sounds more empowering than I “should” eat more vegetables. If the answer to “I can…” is yes, ask for help if you need it and start taking the steps you want to take 😊

Do you get caught feeling you “should” be doing something?

First Day 5k ~ 2017

You may recall, we ran this race last year and our youngest experienced every running emotion possible over three miles (you can read about it here). This year, we stayed at a New Year’s party until the ball dropped – making everyone a little tired. Of course, my husband and I still planned on going and “coerced” the little men out the door.

The weather was perfect for a January run in Massachusetts, sunny and 43*. The crowd was a little bigger than last year’s and everyone seemed in good spirits. We met up with one of my running friends as we were walking to get our numbers.  (Our color scheme wasn’t planned πŸ˜‰)As always, I ran with our youngest (carrying his inhaler), but this time the oldest joined us; rather than run ahead.  The boys and I picked our plan: running to a landmark the youngest picks, walking to the next one, etc.We had a great time, we talked and laughed and ran plenty!  It’s funny when you walk/run because you pass the same people along the course. There were a few families moving along at our pace making for a fun and festive time.

While it took some effort getting out the door, it was a great experience. I may have threatened that we won’t do it next year, but I changed my mind πŸ˜‰