For the Heart of It, Life's Simple 7

You only have one heart, take care of it. 

These are the current recommendations from the American Heart Association, Life's Simple Seven, to maintain a healthy heart and lifestyle. Following these simple steps can make a huge impact on your overall health and more specifically your heart. 

  • Don't smoke: If you don't smoke, perfect. If you do, make a plan to STOP. I haven't heard a health claim yet that has convinced me that smoking is good for your health in any way. #badisbad
  • Maintain a healthy weight: This does not mean you need to make a goal to look like a super model or hope for a frail stick figure. This means you need to focus on a size that make YOU feel good. #saynotohollywoodsideaofpretty
  • Engage in regular physical activity: Get moving! Don't be idle. If you like to shop become a mall walker and window shop. If you like to watch TV series, do it while on a treadmill. If you like the outdoors, ride a bike. If you hate to exercise, find something you do enjoy and add some activity to it. Start small and when your goal becomes easy or second nature, change it up!
  • Eat a healthy diet: Keep a food journal and start to identify your problem areas. Make better choices and choose wisely but still enjoy life. 
  • Manage blood pressure: Check it! Numerous pharmacy's offer free blood pressure checks. Find out your numbers. If they are in a healthy range, periodically check it (every 3 months). If they are off: go to your doctor, clean up your diet and start exercising (don't try to run a marathon, start small and simple). Keep track of your numbers and how you feel. Knowing how you physically feel will help to identify when your blood pressure may quickly change. Know your body and listen.
  • Take charge of your cholesterol: Get it checked! Know your number. If it is >200 you need help. Cholesterol comes from two sources: your body naturally makes it (we need it for several body processes) and from animal products we consume. So, every time you eat dairy products, meats, cheese or anything from an animal you are eating a cholesterol food. Plant based foods do NOT contain cholesterol. So how do you lower the cholesterol in your diet? Eat less animal products and MORE fruits and vegetables.
  • Keep your blood sugar at a healthy range: Simple, check it. Either check it with a home glucose monitor (2 hours after a meal) or at a well visit with your doctor (they will check your glucose level when running basic blood tests). Visit HERE for healthy blood sugar ranges and to learn about your Diabetes Report Card.

Quick Halloween Safety Tips

Trick or Treating is always a big deal in our family. To be honest, anything in the month of October is a big deal... One way we prepare our kids for Fright Night is by having a fun family safety lesson. Here are some of the highlights from our safety lesson.
1. Walk, Slither or sneak on sidewalks, NOT in the streets or you could end up DEAD MEAT! Look both ways for cars and watch out for flying brooms too!

2. Plan out where your group will be haunting and stay close to an adult, you wouldn't want any ghouls to grab you.

3. Carry a flashlight to light your way! You wouldn't want to end up falling into a GRAVE!

4. Only visit homes that have the porch light lit, wouldn't want to wake anyone in the crypt.

5. Accept your spoils at the front door, going inside a stranger's house is wrong to the core. People may offer you to come into their haunted house, but without a parent things could go south. Always say Thank You for treats and No Thank You for anything else.

6. Keep your treats hidden until your parents can check your stash, or you might end up choking and paying the hospital some cash.

7. Keeping these rules will make your Fright Night safe and complete. Now, Trick-or-Treaters go home, eat some candy and get some sleep!

And most importantly, don't forget to sing!

Second verse for the Teenagers
If you don't
I don't care
I'll pull down your underwear!

* I did not create these clever little rules, they were passed down to me.
**Image created using Rhonna Designs App & BubbleFrame

I Heart Pumpkins

Fall Giveaway!

Caption this photo for a chance to win this fun shirt! 
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Giveaway Ends 10/10 (US only).
*FYI: Lettuce Turnip the Beet = Let Us Turn Up the Beat!

Fluid Needs for the Young Athlete

Currently, the recommendations for children ages 6 to 17 is 1 hour of active play per day.  For the young athlete this recommendation is easily met each week. What becomes next important after physical activity is fluid needs. It is important to remember that children are NOT young adults and that they can dehydrate very quickly. Thirst is a poor indicator of fluid need in children because they are typically to busy to recognize the need for water.

General Rule of Thumb:
  • Drink every 15 minutes during activity
  • Drink even if your not thirsty
  • Parents job to remind/enforce/monitor (especially younger children)
Signs your child needs more water:
  • Headache
  • Tired, muscle weakness/cramps
  • Dry mouth
  • Urine color & smell
  • Weather (heat, humidity, time of day)
  • Skin tone (very flush)
Daily Fluid Recommendations for an Average, Healthy Child who actively plays one hour a day:

4-8 yrs: 5 1/2 cups
9-13 yrs, girl: 9 cups
9-13 yrs, boys: 10 cups
14-18 yrs, girls: 10 cups
14-18 yrs, boy: 14 cups or 1 gallon

If your child consumes the recommended amount of fruit and vegetable servings each day, their fluid needs are between 6 to 8 cups a day. Raw fruits & vegetables have a high water content, are rich in vitamins and are low in calories.

During Activity & After
It is VERY important that a young athlete stay hydrated during physical activity (practice, games, tournaments, etc). Every 15 minutes they should gulp down water, ideally, a cup or more at a time. Once activity is over it is important that the child eat OR drink a carbohydrate rich food within 15 to 20 minutes. For example, any fresh fruit (bananas, grapes, apples, peaches, pears, oranges) and/or a sports drink.

I referred to fluid as water throughout this post. Water is the best fluid replacement, however, there may be times when it is necessary to use sports drinks. Our rule for our kids: if they are excessively sweating during activity or will be active for multiple hours, then we pull out the sports drinks.

It is NEVER appropriate to give a child an energy drinks.

Favorite Taco Seasoning

This is a family favorite! Super simple, cheap and adds a nice flavor. I make about 20X this amount and store it in a glass container next to my stove. I use it when I make tacos, chili, soups & chicken salad. If you want a little more "kick" just double the chili powder to 1T.


#saltfree #spiceisnice #cleanandsimple

Weight Loss Tip No. 1

Source: Pinterest

I just love Pinterest! The internet doesn't lie, right?

#putthecookiedown #weightloss #nutritionwithnat

Did You Eat Your Veggies?

The USDA has a great interactive website called MyPlate. You can type in your personal information and get feedback specific for your lifestyle. One of the standard tables that I refer to on this site is the minimum vegetables servings for each age group. When you first glance at the daily vegetable recommendations, you might think "that's not a lot" or "I get that daily"... Sadly, THINK AGAIN!
It is very common for children to eat NO vegetables for several days at a time. When your taste buds are repeatedly stimulated with sugary foods it's really hard for vegetables to compete. Below are the daily recommendations for vegetables (individuals who exercise less than 30 minutes a day). Remember, this is the BASIC recommendation... If you are physically active eat more! 

2-3 years: 1 cup
4-8 years: 1 1/2 cups

9-13 years: 2 cups
14-18 years: 2 1/2 cups
9-13 years: 2 1/2 cups
14-18 years: 3 cups

19-30 years: 2 1/2 cups
31-50 years: 2 1/2 cups
51 years and older: 2 cups

19-30 years: 3 cups
31-50 years: 3 cups
51 years and older: 2 1/2 cups

*Eating the minimum recommended amount of vegetables daily will not meet your daily fiber needs. 

Obesity Pop! All Natural

image source: natural news

I stumbled across this clip art the other night and found myself cracking up, before you judge my lameness understand what got me...
  1. I totally relate to that mother, with what appears to be a little slobber on the side of her lip and the screaming toddler in the front of the cart.
  2. I have desperately bought those ADHD Flakes, cracked them open and handed them to my screaming monster so I could finish shopping. 
  3. The Obesity Pops- All Natural cracked me up!!
  4. Oddly, when I go down certain aisles I think this about SO many products... simply, we have a whole lot of CRAP choices at fingers length.

Try This: Cleanest Bar in Town: LaraBar

If I had to choose the cleanest bar, hands down the LaraBar wins! They are the cleanest snack bar on the market with a max of 9 ingredients. There are numerous flavors and appeal to a wide range of taste buds and *kid approved

These bars are well suited for special dietary restrictions due to the simple, clean product ingredients. You can find them in the snack aisle or in the supplement section (near the vitamins and protein mixes) of most grocery stores. 

Special Diet Considerations Courtesy
GLUTEN FREE/CELIACS LÄRABAR®, über® and Jŏcalat® are Gluten Free. They have no gluten-containing ingredients, and we have manufacturing controls in place to ensure that there are no cross-contact concerns. We also periodically verify our practices using Gliadin gluten testing.
NUT ALLERGIES  We make the following products that contain peanuts: LÄRABAR Peanut Butter Cookie, Peanut Butter & Jelly, Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip, and über Roasted Nut Roll. If you have questions regarding specific nut allergies, please call 800-543-2147.
RAW DIET  Many raw foodists enjoy our products as part of their diet.  However, because there is no consistent definition for what can be labeled as “raw,” we have chosen to take the word raw off our label.  LÄRABAR products are made by a simple process in which fruit, nuts, and spices are ground and mixed together. They are not baked or cooked. We use simple ingredients, as close to their natural state as possible.  Practitioners of the Raw Diet should be aware that to ensure the safety of our products some of our nut ingredients are steamed or roasted and our few juice concentrates are pasteurized.
VEGAN/VEGETARIAN  LÄRABAR and Jŏcalat are made entirely from plant-based foods. Though the vast majority of chocolate chips in the world are made with dairy, soy or both, we specifically asked our supplier to provide us with chocolate chips which are Vegan—containing no dairy. While no dairy products are used to make our chocolate chips, they are made on a line which also produces chocolate chips made with dairy products.  Due to the potential for cross-contact between the types of chocolate chips made at the facility, the chips we use may contain trace amounts of dairy from those other chips; thus we cannot claim that our chocolate chip flavor varieties are Vegan. Due to the use of honey, über is not certified as Vegan.
SOY  With the exception of our chocolate chip varieties, LÄRABAR bars do not contain soy or soy derivatives.  We do not claim soy-free on the flavors containing chocolate chips because our chocolate chips are made on a line which also produces chips made with soy.  Due to possible cross-contact, the chips we use may contain trace amounts of soy from other chips made at the facility.

Visit HERE to see all the different bars!

*kid approved = MY kids approve

Redneck Cantaloupe

Here, in Southeast Texas, it is pretty common place to drive passed someone and see them in their yard burning stuff. We Southerner's call this designated spot a burn pile and most people have one in their backyard. Now, what is burned depends on the level of country living you fall into. I have a burn pile but I like to dress it up and refer to it as a fire pit... bricks stacked and formed into a circle, simple. We burn sticks, grass cuttings, yard debris and paper products. Some people burn everything, and I mean EVERYTHING (remember the level of country living I mentioned earlier). 

Which brings me to my latest burn pile discovery. I stopped at my grandma's house and noticed that there were three bags of trash on the porch. I asked her why they were not in her dumpster. She laughed and told me that it wasn't trash and that there were cantaloupe plants that started growing out of the bags! My uncle had went and cleaned my mom's burn pile (removed the excess ashes) and bagged up the ashes to throw away with the upcoming trash day. My mom likes cantaloupe and had tossed her rinds near her burn pile and never gave it another thought. The cantaloupe seeds from the rinds were mixed with the ashes my uncle gathered... add a two day rain shower and poof you've got cantaloupe plants! 

If you think about it, it is the perfect place for seeds to grow. The ash from this burn pile is predominately wood ash and it is rich in nitrogen which promotes leaf growth. Add a little rain shower and you have an ashy garden. 

I do not recommend anyone grow their garden vegetables or fruits in this setting. Gardening is a science and I do not pretend or claim to be an authority on gardening in any aspect. I am a receiver of master gardeners... they grow it and I eat it! 

In the event that these plants grow what I refer to as Redneck Cantaloupe, I highly doubt I will be one of the taste testers :) But it has been a fun teaching tool with my kids and they have had a fun time checking on the "trash plants" when we go to visit.

Why is it that when I try hard to not kill a plant it dies but a pile of trash on a porch can yield a fruit plant?! 

Protein, Protein, We Need More Protein!

One of the most common concerns I hear from clients is "I'm not getting enough protein?!" And there is usually a genuine concern and worry about their protein intake but not a thought about the source of protein or any of the other macronutrients they might be lacking. 

Most Americans are OVER-CONSUMING protein at an alarming rate. There are hundreds of protein powder supplements that can pack as much as 60 grams of protein per scoop, which might be more than an individual needs in an entire day. The first question you need to ask yourself is "How many grams of protein do I need daily?" and "What are the best sources?"

How to Figure Your Protein Needs
Adults generally require .8 grams per kilogram of body weight. 
A safe protein range would be .8gms-1.0gms per kilogram of weight. 

For example, I weigh 120 lbs. 

First, I need to figure out my weight in kilograms. 
1 kilogram = 2.2 pounds.
120/2.2 = ~55 kilograms

Next, you multiply the weight in kilograms by .8
55 x .8 = 44 grams of protein daily

*Determining the protein needs for children is very different from the above mentioned formula. Do not use .8 gms/kg to determine the protein needs of infants though age fourteen.*

So, my daily protein needs are 44 gms. I exercise most days of the week and am very active and my protein needs do NOT get a raise for activity. A very common misconception is that when you exercise you need to really amp up your protein needs... WRONG. Unless you are training like an Olympian (extreme levels of training), you do not need to drastically increase your protein. I know most personal trainers will read this and say Oh yes you do need more protein and it's because of X Y and Z... Blah, blah, blah. What you need is a really great pre- and post-snack, lots of fluids and a good nights sleep (more on sports nutrition coming soon).

Remember, too much of a good thing doesn't make it best. Excess protein consumed that your body doesn't need is stored as fat and puts a lot of extra work on your kidneys when breaking it down to store.

Now, there are certain diseases that have very specialized protein requirements which may require a much lower or much higher need each day. For example: renal failure, hemodialysis, peritoneal dialysis, liver failure and burns (stage I, II, & III) all require different protein needs. Individuals suffering from any of these conditions should be regularly monitored by their healthcare team. 


Eleanor Said It Best

We live in a world that can be cruel and unforgiving. Often times, we may find ourselves feeling doubtful, inadequate and a list of others but the fact of the matter is, we all have a purpose. Everyone has talents and attributes unique to only themselves. 

Eleanor Roosevelt said it best, don't give your consent to the world. There is no circumstance in life that warrants someone the privilege to make you feel inferior. So, choose to be happy and never give up or give in.

You can do it! We all can!

Try This, NOT That: Fage Greek Yogurt vs. Sour Cream

Fage (pronounced Fa-yeh) is a greek yogurt and the BEST on the market nutritionally speaking. There is no other yogurt that I have found that can compare. It is high in protein & low in: sugar, sodium & fat and the ingredients are simple & cleanFage can be used in desserts for an extra creaminess and as a replacement for sour cream in savory dishes. I also like Fage added to smoothes to add a punch of natural protein and creaminess. 

With that said, in my opinion, it is not the best tasting greek yogurt. Let me explain, Fage is thick, creamy and has to be stirred up when opened. It is more of a texture issue for me when eaten as a plain yogurt.  I don't like my yogurt thick, if you do then you will like it. 

I witnessed a little taste-test on a couple of unsuspecting teenagers. They were preparing their taco's and were asked if they liked yogurt. All said no and replied "it's nasty". Then they proceeded to make their taco's and add sour cream. When the meal was almost over it was revealed that the sour cream was in fact yogurt. They were shocked and oddly excited that they had eaten it instead of sour cream. Like them, I really can't tell the difference between sour cream and Fage! So why not make a health conscious decision and switch. 

Nutrition Facts
1 container, 7 oz
150 calories, 20 g protein, 8 g carbs, 0 g fiber, 4 g fat, 3 g saturated fat, 65 mg sodium, 8 g sugar

Ingredients: Grade A Pasteurized Skimmed Milk and Cream, Live Active Yogurt Cultures (L. Bulgaricus, S. Thermophilus, L. Acidophilus, Bifidus, L. Casei)

To learn more about Fage visit them here.

*product pictures were found on and nutrition facts provided by Fage.

Iron Rich Foods

*Eating iron-rich foods along with foods high in vitamin C, will allow your body to better absorb the iron. Foods rich in vitamin C include: papaya, bell peppers, strawberries, broccoli, oranges, kale, peaches and kiwi.

Joe's Mean Green Juice Recipe

I LOVED the film Fat, Sick & Nearly Dead! It's what sparked our family's interest in juicing and a year later we are still juicing it up! It is such a great visual of the effects that diet and eating habits have on our health and happiness. This is the recipe from the juicing connoisseur himself, Joe Cross.

You can follow him on Facebook here and here. To see the original post for this recipe card visit here. If you are interested in watching Fat, Sick & Nearly Dead visit Netflix and stream it from home, mobile device, etc.

If you are interested in juicing read my post on choosing a juicer here.

Tutorial: Canning Meat

Over the years I have gotten the oddest looks from people when I mention that I have canned meat in my pantry. They first think of potted meat or Spam... yuck. After I briefly explain that I have chicken, beef, roast and sausage, then the tides turn and the next question comes... "How in the world do you can meat?"
I didn't learn how to preserve food in all my years of studying nutrition (most of those years were spent learning how to correct diets, treat diseases with dietary restrictions or teaching basic nutrition principles- how to read a food label... all of which are very important). It would take a 10+ year degree to really touch on all the different aspects of nutrition.

But alas, food canning is a big part of self-reliance and a principle that I have been taught my entire life. Having cans of rice, powdered milk and beans under beds or piled in closets was common place in our home and never appeared odd (until a friend would ask "Why in the world do you have rice in your closet?").  When you live in hurricane central you learn to be prepared not scared. To learn more about the importance of self-reliance and how to get started visit HERE.

Here is my pressure cooker, it is over 20 years old and I stole inherited it from my grandma's kitchen. Pressure cookers can be a little pricey but a good sturdy one is worth the money. I was curious if this one was still available and I found it on Amazon.

You will need to read your pressure canning manual to get the specifics for your canner. For this one, add 2 inches of water (before placing the jars inside). I like to start the stove so that the water is hot before I put the jars in just to help speed up the "venting" step.

  • Instruction manual for your pressure cooker (if you lost it, google the instructions). You need to know how much water to add to the bottom and how to properly tighten your lid
  • Mason Jars (I like quart size, wide mouth jars for meat)
  • Seals (these cannot be reused like the jars and rings)
  • Rings
  • Tongs
  • "Jar Lifter"  to get the hot jars out of the canner (pictured)

Now, fill you jars with meat. There are only two chicken breasts in each jar but I usually pack in 3 breasts easily and just leave about an 1 1/2 inches of space between the meat and the lid (don't over stuff the jars-- bad news and big mess).

No need to add water because it will make its own broth.

I don't add salt but you can if you would like. Use canning salt and add 1/2 tsp for pint jars and 1 tsp for quart jars. *You can use regular salt, it just might make the liquid a little more cloudy.

Now place your jars in the cooker and tighten the lid (just like the manual instructs). Turn the fire on high and and wait for the steam.

This is a very important step in the canning process. Wait until you hear the steam consistently shooting out from the stem (pictured ->) and then start timing. Most canners vent 10 minutes and then you flip your stem and start building pressure. Once the stem in locked you will start to watch your pressure gauge as it begins to build up the pressure.
Pounds (#) of Pressure:

  • Raw chicken, beef, rabbit & deer cook at 11# pressure
    • pint size jars process for 70 minutes
    • quart size jars process for 90 minutes
  • Raw Seafood (fish or shrimp) process for 100 minutes
You have to watch that dial very closely and adjust your fire up or down to keep the pressure just right. If the pressure drops below 10# then you have to build the pressure back up and start your time over. I live in Southeast Texas, other areas may need to adjust for altitude and use more or less #'s of pressure when canning. Visit your areas Extension Services for more information on your areas altitude.

Now, after you have trudged through the 70 or 90 minute wait... you get to wait longer! Keep the stem locked and turn off the stove. It will take an hour or more for the canner to cool down and start to release pressure. You can test to see if the pressure is down by lifting the stem. If it starts spewing, flip it down and continue to wait for the cool down. I usually leave it and take care of other things and then come back and check on it. Use the "Jar Lifter" to remove the jars from the canner, the water will still be very hot.
*If you lift up the stem and let it vent out the pressure (to hurry things along), you will suck the juice out of your jars and possibly break the seals.  Also, you might want to wipe off the outside of the jars when you take them out of the canner. They might have a little residue from the water.

Expiration Date:
*the sausage fat is easier to see in pictures than chicken fat
These jars of meat last A LONG TIME! I mean years, 10+. No worry of electrical outage or freezer burn! So how can you tell if the meat has gone bad? It's simple, look at the fat layer. Fat floats to the top of the liquid and forms a ring of fat at the surface (it separates from the juices). If it is not floating at the top like the picture then the meat has gone rancid and you need to dispose of it.

If you have an questions feel free to leave a comment or send me an email.

Happy Canning! 

Special thank you to Monica Jarrell for taking the time several years ago to teach me how to can meat about 12 hours before Hurricane Rita made landfall. I was 7 months pregnant with my first child and worried about everything, including my freezer :). She took the time to teach me the process and even let me borrow a canner. She is a food storage specialist and I am grateful for all the knowledge she shares... all you have to do is ask! Thank you!

Try This: My Favorite Oatmeal

I am always on the lookout for clean and simple prepared foods. It is so hard to find packaged foods that have an ingredients list where you can actually pronounce all of the ingredients. We are oatmeal eaters here and I have tried almost all of them out there and am usually disappointed by the extra preservatives and sugar that are added or the nasty taste. But I have finally found an instant oatmeal that is clean and actually tastes good! 

Rachael Ray has got it going on! My kids love it & we have tried all three flavors. I have only found it at Super Wal-Mart (Kroger & HEB don't carry it, but they need too). As far as price goes, it is comparable with other instant oatmeals... not the cheapest but not expensive.

Twain had it Right...

Looking for accurate and dependable nutrition information can be overwhelming. Don't place your trust or health with just any "Joe". 

Here are a few Red Flags of Junk Science:

Claims a "Quick Fix"
There is NO such thing as a Quick Fix! Everything takes effort and TIME.

Dire warnings of danger from a single product or regimen. 

If a product or diet program states that a possible side affect could be DEATH or liver damage, etc. ... Choose something else.      

Sounds too good to be true...
It is!

Simplistic conclusions drawn from a complex study
If the research study is very detailed (and usually will include a long list of statistical findings) and the conclusion reads something like "Study finds most participants lost weight"... Not a good enough summary of the findings of the study to trust them... What if most participants lost weight and ended up with long-term side effects like diarrhea or gout. YIKES!
    Recommendations based on a SINGLE study
    According to Study "X" this pill with cure diabetes... JUNK

      Dramatic statements refuted by reputable scientific organizations
      Diet "X" claims that you should avoid all vegetables to lower your cholesterol but the American Heart Association recommends limiting animal products in your diet to reduce cholesterol, triglyceride  and LDL levels and INCREASE your vegetable consumption.
        Lists "good" and "bad" foods
        Read my quote at the top of this page... Good/Bad food lists never work out.
          Recommendations made to sell a product
          If a product or diet program is "right" for you because the sales person thinks so, ask yourself: "Who is this person?, Do they know me and what I need?" If you think they do, then by all means buy away.

          There is NO SINGLE magical diet and exercise program. We all need different things. The best place to start is with your diet.