Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Week 6: Home-cooked Meals Challenge

This week we're staying home and cooking.  Don't get scared, because nothing compares to a home-cooked meal made with fresh quality ingredients and served with love.  Whether you are cooking for a family of 4, 2, or 1 it doesn't matter. What does matter is that home-cooked meals are a win-win situation because it saves money, saves time, brings the family together, and allows for better weight management.
Challenge Yourself: For seven days absolutely NO eating out. This means no sit-down restaurants, no fast food, no carry-outs.  For seven days all your meals must be home cooked.  This includes breakfast, lunch and dinner.  In order to achieve this, you will have to do meal planning and grocery shopping ahead of time.  To assist you in your meal-planning, click here for a meal planner, and here for additional ideas and recipes.

To start the challenge, decide on your meals for the entire week.  Make a list of the food ingredients that you will need from the grocery store.  Check your local stores for any items which may be on sale that you can include in your home-cooked meals for the week.  Shop for the food items that you will need for the week.  Prepare your meals.  For those who are busy and have a hectic schedule, go ahead and cook all your meals at one time, then once cooked, store your meals in ziploc storage bags or tupperware storage containers in the refrigerator or freezer until you are ready to reheat and serve.  Also, use the previous challenges to help you with this week's challenge.

Food for Thought:
1. Were you able to complete this week's challenge as outlined above?
2. If yes, what were your successes with this week's challenge?
3. If no, why not?  What were your difficulties with this week's challenge?
4. Are you building healthy eating habits from these challenges into your lifestyle?

I want to hear from you, so please leave your comments about the challenge below.  Thank you!

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Week 5: Drink More Water Challenge

Water is the essence of life and the key to maintaining good health. Sixty percent of your body weight comes from water.  There is no clear cut answer to how much water you should drink each day. Just as no two individuals are alike, individual water requirements depend on many factors including health, activity levels and environment. However, we all agree that we should drink more water, so this week we are going to follow the recommendation to drink 1/2 your body weight in ounces of water each day. 

Challenge Yourself: Use the chart below to determine how much water you should be drinking each day of the challenge. Find your weight in the first column, in the second column find how many ounces of water you should be drinking, and in the third column find how many glasses of water you should be drinking each day.  If you are already drinking your daily amount of water – congratulations!  However, if you are not already drinking your daily amount of water, challenge yourself this week to begin drinking more water. Work up to your daily amount by the end of the week.

Water Drinking Tips
  • You can drink your water in the form of tap water, spring water, sparkling water, coconut water, or herbal tea (coffee does not count towards your water requirement).
  • Vitamin water or flavored additives (such as Crystal light) are acceptable; but should not make up more than half of your water intake daily.  The healthiest beverage to quench your thirst always has been and always will be, plain old water.  
  • Spread your water out over the course of the day!  Do not try to drink all of your water at one time or right before bedtime.  Trust me, you will not be a happy person and you will not get a good night's sleep!
Food for Thought:
1. Were you able to do this week's challenge as outlined above?  
2. If yes, what were your successes with this week's challenge?
3. If no, why not?  What were you difficulties with this week's challenge?
4. Did you notice any changes in your weight as a result of drinking more water?
5. Are you incorporating any of the previous week's challenges into your lifestyle?  Being mindful when eating? Eating breakfast? Eating more whole-grains? Healthy snacking?

We want to hear from you, so please add your comments to the blog.  Thank you!

Water Chart
Body Weight
in Pounds (lbs)
Ounces of
Water Daily
Glasses of
Water Daily
115 58 7
120 60 8
125 63 8
130 65 8
135 68 8
140 70 9
145 73 9
150 75 9
155 78 10
160 80 10
165 83 10
170 85 11
175 88 11
180 90 11
185 93 12
190 95 12
195 98 12
200 100 13
205 103 13
210 105 13
215 108 13
220 110 14
225 113 14
230 115 14
235 118 15
240 120 15
245 123 15
250 125 16
255 128 16
260 130 16
265 133 17
270 135 17
275 138 17
280 140 18
285 143 18
290 145 18
295 148 18
300150 19

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Week 4: Healthy Snacking Challenge

Midnight munchies...snack attack...raiding the refrigerator.   Snacking has gotten a bad rap and this week we are going to learn how to snack healthy.  Not the candy bar, potato chip type of snack, but a tasty, healthy, ward-off-hunger-until-your-next-meal-snack.  So whether you crave something salty, sweet, or filling, this week we've got you covered and we are going to learn how to do it right. Best of all, the snacks in this week's challenge clock in between 100 -150 calories.  How's that for healthy snacking!

Challenge Yourself: Each day pick two snacks from the list below.  You may pick a snack from each category only once a day (for example, you may only have a snack item from the sweet category once).  You are free to decide the time when you will have your snack.  Enjoy healthy snacking!

  • Almonds - nutrient dense nut; high in protein, good source of fiber, monounsaturated fat, calcium, and iron.  15 nuts are approximately 100 calories.
  • Beef or turkey jerky - loaded with protein, low in calories and fat.
  • Roasted sunflower seeds - some consider sunflower seeds a natural multi-vitamin because they are packed with nutrients - vitamin E, fiber, protein, calcium, and iron to name a few.  Also very low in calories and fat.  
  • Preztels - low in calories and fat free.  Opt for whole grain to make it a healthier choice
  • Hummus - contains protein and healthy fats.  Spread on whole-grain crackers, pretzels, raw vegetables, or whole-grain bagels.
  • Other nuts - roasted pistachios (29), roasted cashews (9), roasted peanuts (19), etc.
  • Microwave popcorn - high in fiber.  Avoid the extra movie butter variety and stick to the natural.
  • Blueberries - packed with antioxidants and nutrients; one cup has only 83 calories.
  • Greek yogurt - made with skim milk; great flavors like pomegranate and passion fruit or grapefruit.
  • Kashi Honey Almond Flax Chewy Granola Bar - sweet, yet low in sugar with a good amount of protein and fiber.
  • Quaker Quakes Chocolate Rice Cakes - low in calories and added sugar; high on chocolate flavor.
  • Hershey's 100 Calorie Special Dark Chocolate Bar - high in antioxidants.
  • Other berries - strawberries, blackberries, raspberries, etc - 1 cup
  • Fruit - apples, oranges, kiwis, melons, etc
  • Slow-churned or double churned Ice cream - has to be slow or double-churned variety.  This process reduces the fat and calories but retains the creamy texture and flavor - 1/2 cup.

  • Apple and peanut butter - cut a medium apple into slices and spread a thin layer of peanut butter on each slice. Don't use more than 2 teaspoons of peanut butter.
  • Slices (3) of tomatoes sprinkled with feta cheese and 1/2 teaspoon of olive oil.

  • Mini Quesadilla - sprinkle 1 ounce of grated low-fat cheddar cheese over a whole grain tortilla. Fold in half and microwave for 20 seconds.
  • Cottage Cheese and Fruit - high in fiber and protein.  Goes well with cantaloupe.
  • Whole grain crackers and low-fat cheese - 3 whole-grain or multi-grain crackers and 1 slice of low-fat cheese divided among the crackers.
  • Tomato soup - a cup of tomato soup (low sodium); low in fat and cholesterol.
  • Baked potato and salsa - microwave a baked potato; cut in half (save one half for tomorrow's snack) keep the skin and spread a tablespoon of salsa on top.  
Food for Thought:
1. Were you able to do this week's challenge as outlined above?  Yes or No
2. If yes, what were your successes with this week's challenge about snacking?
3. If no, why not?  What were you difficulties with this week's challenge?
4. Are you incorporating any of the previous week's challenges into your lifestyle?  Being mindful when eating? Eating breakfast? Eating more whole-grains?

We want to hear from you; so please add your comments to the blog.  Thank you!

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Week 3: Whole Grains Challenge

Welcome to Week 3 - Whole Grains Challenge
This week we are going to get our grain on.  Why?  Because whole grains provide a healthy boost of vitamins, minerals, fiber, antioxidants and phytonutrients and are also rich in carbohydrates, the body’s main fuel supply. Now we're not talking about the refined grains -- white bread, pizza, pasta, and baked goods -- that we most of us eat too much of.  No, we're talking about healthy whole grains which help to regulate blood sugar levels, make you feel full for longer periods, and aid the digestive system.
Our goal this week is to get three more servings of whole grains into our diets each day, without a lot of fuss. It can be as simple as adding a serving at breakfast, lunch, dinner and at snack time.  

Challenge Yourself:
Day 1: Add Whole Grains to Breakfast
  • Whole grain cereals are good sources of dietary fiber.
  • Whole grain oats have been proven to lower bad choleserol (LDL) and raise good cholesterol (HDL).
  • As for whole grain breads - try wheat, rye, barley, or spelt.  Read the label and make sure the ingredients are 100% whole grain and not a mixture of whole grains and refined white flour. 
  • Whole grain muffins
  • Whole wheat pancake or waffle mix
Day 2: Add Whole Grains to Lunch
  • Get rid of all white bread -- instead make your sandwich with two slices of whole grain bread and you'll add two servings of whole grains!
  • Use whole grain pita bread pockets for sandwiches
  • Try whole wheat tortilla for tasty wraps
  • Add 1/2 cup of brown rice, barley, quinoa or cooked wheat berries to chicken, tomato or vegetable soup
Day 3: Add Whole Grains to Dinner
  • Switch from white rice to brown rice - high in fiber, antioxidants, and phytonutrients.  Cook brown rice in broth (vegetable, beef or chicken) instead of water for great flavor.
  • Add variety to your whole grain dinner plate with these healthy alternatives: quinoa, bulgur, barley, wild rice, and couscous.
  • Use whole grain pasta as a substitute for white pasta.

Day 4: Add a Whole Grains Snack

Here are some suggestions:
  • Whole grain crackers
  • Light or air-popped popcorn
  • 100% whole grain fig newton bars
  • Homemade steel-cut oatmeal cookies
Day 5: Add a whole grain serving at breakfast and lunch
Day 6: Add a whole grain serving at breakfast, lunch and dinner
Day 7: Add a whole grain serving at breakfast, lunch, dinner and snack time

Food for thought:
1. Did you add a whole grain to your diet each day as outlined in this week's challenge?
2. Did you notice any change in your digestion (for example, did you feel fuller, did you experience increased or decreased gas or bloating)?
3. Did you find anything difficult with this week's challenge?  If yes, what?
                                                 4.What were your successes with this week's challenge?

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Week 2: Breakfast Challenge

I can't face food when I get out of bed....
I'm not hungry in the morning....
I'll grab a bite to eat later...
I don't have time for breakfast....

Maybe you've said one or all of the above, but this week we're throwing away all of those excuses and we're going to have breakfast.

Breakfast - start your day a healthy way with the most important meal of the day!

Eating breakfast is equally important for children and adults.  Breakfast means "break the fast" from the night before.  Essentially it has been 8-12 hours since you've last eaten, and your body needs fuel to make it through the morning.  Eating a healthy breakfast (not the donut and coffee breakfast) can help give you:
  • a more nutritionally complete diet rich in nutrients, vitamins and minerals
  • more strength and stamina to do physical activities
  • more energy to concentrate in school and/or at work

Challenge yourself: By mindfully eating (check out Week 1: Mindful eating) a different breakfast each day for one week, you will be doing your body good and will learn valuable information about exactly what your body needs to get your day going.  Here are the steps:
1. Each day eat the breakfast meal listed below.
2. Sit quietly for a few minutes after you eat and reflect.
3. Record your observations, including:
    • What you ate
    • How you felt right after eating (for example, full, satisfied)
    • How you felt 2 hours after eating (for example, hungry, cranky, craving something else)
    • Any physical symptoms (for example, got a headache, experienced gas and bloating)
Day 1:  Eggs - scrambled with low-fat cheese and veggies (for example, tomatoes, onions, spinach)
Day 2: Oatmeal with dried fruit (for example, raisins, cranberries)
Day 3: Fresh fruit salad, fruit smoothie or raw vegetables
Day 4: Cold whole grain cereal with low-fat milk (or milk alternative of your choice) 
Day 5:  Muffin or donut and coffee or tea
Day 6: Whole grain toast with peanut or almond butter
Day 7: Fresh green salad or dinner leftovers

Food for Thought:  After you've completed this week's breakfast challenge, take a moment to notice which foods worked best for you.  
1. Were you able to complete the Breakfast Challenge as outlined above?
2. Which day's breakfast kept you full the longest?
3. Which day's breakfast left you feeling hungry or wanting something soon after eating it?
4. What were your successes from this week's challenge?
5. Were you able to combine any of the mindful eating exercises while doing this week's challenge?

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Week 1: Mindful Eating


Welcome to the Fall 2012 Healthy Eating Challenge, a part of the B'more for Healthy Babies Project through Planned Parenthood of Maryland.  Over the next 12 weeks, join in a new challenge designed to move you towards healthier eating habits.  Each challenge, will be just that - a challenge in which you change your behavior.  The goal is that you'll join this journey for the next 12 weeks, that you'll learn new things about yourself and your eating habits, that you'll push yourself in ways you haven't before, and most important that you'll share your successes with others who've made the decision to take this challenge.

Journaling - each week there will be questions to help you with the week's challenge.  Journaling can help you gain insight into what habits may be helping or hindering you; as well as, help you identify your areas of strength and weakness.

So let's get started!!

Week 1: Mindful Eating
Most of us eat semiconsciously, swallowing food without really tasting it or focusing our attention on the next bite before we’ve had an opportunity to enjoy the present one. We also talk, read, or watch TV while eating, directing our attention on other activities instead of the food. As a result, we tend to overeat. Haven’t you mindlessly shoveled in large quantities of popcorn or chips in your mouth while watching a movie or staring at the television screen? In addition, we are robbing ourselves of the full sensory experience from food. Based on research, eating while doing something else increases the chances of a person gaining excess weight, but regardless of how much you weigh, distracted or mindless eating is an unhealthy habit.  

What's Mindful Eating?
Mindfulness is awareness without criticism or judgment. It is deliberately paying attention, being fully aware of what is happening both inside and outside yourself - in your body, heart and mind - and outside yourself, in your environment. In mindful eating you are not comparing yourself to anyone else. You are not judging yourself or others. You are simply witnessing the many sensations and thoughts that come up as you eat.

Mindful eating involves paying full attention to the experience of eating and drinking. You pay attention to the colors, smells, textures, flavors, temperatures, and even the sounds (crunch!) of your food. You pay attention to the experience in the body.  Why mindful eating?  Because when you reconnect with your food, you reconnect with yourself.

Challenge Yourself - pick at least two of the following activities to challenge yourself to eat mindfully.  Do the activities that you pick at least 3 to 4 times during the week.

  • Take the first four sips of a cup of hot tea or coffee paying full attention to the act of drinking? Was the liquid too hot or too cold?  If too hot, did it burn your tongue?  Could you feel it going down pass your tongue, down your throat, and beyond?
  • Beginner: Cut a food item in half (for example an apple or a sandwich) - eat one half while doing an activity (talking, reading, checking e-mail, etc).   Eat the second half mindfully - without any distractions.
  • Advanced: Eat an entire meal mindfully.  Turn off all external stimuli during a meal - turn off the TV, the radio, the computer, the smartphone, the telephone, put away all reading material.  During the meal pay attention to the food on your plate, think about how the food was prepared.  Did you prepare it? Is it visually appealing? What are your thoughts as you are eating?
  • Chew your food.  Chew each mouthful 21 times before swallowing. No cheating - 21 times.
  • At a family meal, ask each person to spend the first five minutes of the meal in silence.  During the five minutes of silence, each person should consider their gratitude for the food they are eating.  After the five minutes, each person can share what about the meal they are grateful for.
  • In a social dining environment try doing each activity mindfully.  When you are having a conversation, focus on the person you are talking with.  Put down your knife and fork, do not put anything in your mouth, this will make it easier to concentrate on the conversation..  When you are eating, focus on just eating and do not talk during that time.  Notice the difference in the experiences.  Did you find both the eating and conversation more rewarding when each was done separately and mindfully?
Food for thought:
1.  Which mindful eating activities did you choose?
2.  What was the mindful eating experience like for you?
3.  What were your successes with this challenge?
4.  What were your challenges with the activities?
5.  How will you take the mindful eating challenge beyond week 1?