A healthy soup that satisfies

Soup. The word often means watery, thin side dish that doesn’t fill you up or leaves you hungry soon after. Otherwise, it means high fat, cream based soups that don’t help your diet. Well, have I got the cure for all that! It’s a bean stew loaded with healthy veggies like tomato, garbanzo beans/chick peas, onion, and spinach. Yes, spinach. It’s low fat, filling, and it tastes great! Even my kids are excited when they see me getting out this recipe.

I got this recipe from a magazine (Prevention’s Biggest Loser edition, May 2010) a few years ago. I’d been reluctant to try it because, well frankly, it was a bit outside our normal. It uses spices like cumin and chili powder. You need fire roasted tomatoes. And spinach. While we like spinach, the idea of it in a soup was rather off putting. HA! If I’d just tried it, we would have a new favorite soup that’s actually healthy long ago. Instead, I stayed in my comfort zone.

While looking around for recipes to fit our new clean eating, I opened this old magazine again and decided to give the bean stew a try. Not only does it taste great, but is super healthy and best of all, easy to make.


1 Tbsp olive oil

1 large onion chopped

1 Tbsp chopped garlic

1 tsp cumin

1 tsp chili powder

28 oz (1 large or 2 regular size cans) fire roasted tomatoes

3 cans drained and rinsed (or 4.5 cups cooked from dry) garbanzo beans/chick peas

4 cups fat free low sodium chicken broth

1/4 cup chopped cilantro (I used freeze dried)

3 cups fresh baby spinach leaves (3 big handfuls), chopped kale, or swiss chard

Saute onion in olive oil until tender, add garlic and cook 1 more minute.

Add spices and tomatoes. Simmer about 5 minutes. Add 3 cups (2 cans) of the beans and 2 1/2 cups broth. Bring to boil then reduce to simmer.

While that is heating, put the remaining beans, broth, and cilantro in a blender. Puree until smooth. Add mixture to stew. Add spinach and heat until wilted. Stir well and serve hot.

According to the magazine, each 1 cup serving has 160 calories, 8g protein, 26g carbs, 7g fiber, 3g fat, 0 staturated fat and cholesterol, 330mg sodium. It’s also naturally packed with vitamins and minerals like vitamins A, C, E, K, folate, zinc, and calcium.

So if you’re looking for a dish to make on “meatless Mondays” or a hearty soup on a cold day, give this bean stew a try. Come out of your comfort zone. Oh, and did I mention it only takes about half an hour to make? No more cooking all day for soup with this recipe. So it could be a great option on days you are short on time instead of mac&cheese casserole.


A year later, 7 pounds heavier

Ugh. Down. Up. Down. Up My weight has fluctuated over the same 7 pounds for the past year. 😦 Although I haven’t been following a fad diet, I now know why they call most diets yo-yo diets. My problem is lack of commitment long term. I know I can lose the weight. I’ve done it several times. I just need to stay with my plan long term and not give in to temptation as much.

I have all the tools and knowledge I need. Several of Tosca Reno’s Eat Clean Diet books, a subscription to a fitness magazine, and 4 different exercise DVD programs and on my shelves attest to that. I need to take them off the shelves and put them in my life, permenantly. Not just a few days, weeks or month. No. I need to eat healthy and exercise daily.  That’s the same advice I’ve given countless others, but fail to follow myself. Let’s face it. I’ve become a hypocrite and hate it.

That realization yesterday sparked this post and determination to change (again!). I used to use my job as a fitness instructor to help manage my weight. However, since I quit due to personal reasons last spring, my weight has inched back up. I’m now heavier than ever. I know exercise will help not only lose weight, but also combat the winter blues.

I can already hear the old excuses raising their heads. I’m too tired at night. The house is too cold in the morning (54 yesterday because the fire went out during the night. Its 62 as I type this.) No convenient place to shower since I don’t go to the gym anymore. The kids. An unpredictable schedule. Family wants to watch videos together in the living room.

The good news is that I can fight many of these. Although there’s not much I can do about the morning temperature when fire goes out. We bought a DVD drive for the small laptop so I can exercise in my room while the someone is watching tv in the living room. Lack of shower is nasty but won’t kill me like being overweight will. The kids have started encouraging me to exercise since they know it helps my mood and they are old enough not to get into mischief while I do.

I read recently that of the people who make exercise a New Year’s resolution and actually start a program, only 40% will stick with it until May. That’s a disturbing statistic. I don’t want to be included in that, but fear if I continue as I have this winter that I will be. No more excuses. I’m going to reaffirm my motto: FITNESS- JUST DO IT!

It’s coming off!

Last week I started eating clean. That meant cutting out sweet, fried, processed, junk, and fast foods. Eating lots of fresh fruits and veggies with each meal and as snacks instead of chips, cookies, crackers, bars, etc. No seconds. Drink just plain water or unsweetened tea. Switched to whole grains and smaller portion sizes for pasta, bread, cereal, and rice. I eat 3 small meals and 2 healthy snacks daily. It’s actually a lot of food, but not a lot of calories because of the fruits and veggies. My family loves this way of eating, including my kids (ages 7 and 9).

Another thing I’m doing which I’ve been talking about is dividing my plate into quarters. First fill half with veggies. The other quarters are for lean protein and healthy carb. No seconds. If I’m still hungry, I’ll have fruit later. Remember, it
takes 20 minutes for your stomach to signal your brain that it is full.

Then 3 days ago, I began The 30 Day Shred by Jillian Michaels. It’s great for beginners, or people like me getting back into fitness. Just 20 minutes a day for a month. While I have trouble sticking to the longer routines, I can (and have) fit 20 minutes in my day though.

I’ve lost a pound and half and can feel my body tightening up already! I’m at 170.5 today. My goal for the month is 168. At this rate, I should make it easily.

New fitness blog

Hey everyone! I’m considering creating a spin off blog for fitness. I want to separate my fitness and homeschooling sites.  I’ll likely call it Fired Up Fitness or a variation if that’s already taken, unless someone has a better suggestion. So the new blog should be up and ready by New Years. I hope to have some of it in the next few weeks. Stay posted here for the latest updates on it.

On the site I’ll have all my product reviews, fitness and diet tips, healthy living advice, and even some yummy recipes.

Up for a challenge?

Today begins day 1 of my 30-day fitness challenge. This means I am going to do all the Turbo Fire workouts as scheduled (unless I decide to do the 5-day Inferno quick start) and eat clean every day. I’m hoping to lose 10-15 pounds in the process. My husband is gone on a business trip this month so it would be nice surprise to get in shape when he gets back.

I’m hoping to have others join me. It’s easy. Just pick your favorite workout program and eat healthy for the next month. Each week you must exercise at least 4 times and have no more than 1 sweet treat. Leave me a comment on this post telling me you’re in and what program you will use. If you are brave, you can tell me your starting weight. (I’m at 172) Otherwise just your how much you hope to lose or other goal. Drink lots of water. NO FAD DIETS. I’ll post weekly fitness updates where you can let me know how you are doing too.

Today we went grocery shopping for healthy stuff. I don’t have a lot of money so it’s not perfect. Breakfast was oatmeal with pineapple chunks. It’s not that bad a combination. It gave it a tropical twist. Lunch was turkey sandwich on multi-grain bread with a little cheese, hummus (instead of mayo), and spinach.  My son wanted ravioli so we had that for dinner tonight. He spent his allowance on a box of them as a treat for the family. I made a spinach salad to go with it.

After dinner, I did Fire30 workout. The kids joined in as much as they could. It was fun. Tomorrow is either HIIT 15 or Fire 55EZ if I start the Inferno. I’ll just see how much time I have.

Eat more to weigh less

To lose weight, you need to eat more. That’s right, I said MORE. The trick is that it can’t just be more of anything, but must be healthy foods.

A lot of people dieting set a daily calorie target. That’s fine. The problem comes in when they don’t pay enough attention to what or when they eat to get there. Some may eat like normal, only skipping meals so they don’t go over. Or they just eat random mix of healthy and not so healthy that gets them to their target.  As a result, they frequently get hungry which leads to overeating or binging later in the day. That’s not so good.

This is where eating healthy, real foods throughout the day comes in.  They often are bulky and have protein or fiber to fill you up. These foods are packed with nutrition but not a lot of calories. As a result, you can generally eat more things in the day without going over on your calories.

For example, 1200 seems to be an amount a lot of women drop their calories down to. You can have 1200 calories of junk or 1200 calories of healthy foods. Both are 1200 calories, but your body will do much better with the healthy foods. Plus, you actually get to eat more food to get there.

Check out this sample healthy foods day (I got my calorie info at fitday.com):

Breakfast: 3/4 cup oatmeal, banana
Snack: apple and 1 slice lowfat cheddar cheese
Lunch: whole grain turkey or ham sandwich, 1 boiled egg, 1oz (large handful) roasted almonds
Snack: raw carrot with 1 tablespoon hummus
Dinner: 4 oz skinless baked chicken breast, 1/2 cup steamed mixed veggies

Total: 1238 calories.

Now check out this sample not so healthy “diet” day. Most of the calories come later in the day and it’s heavy on carbs, nearly half the calories are from carbs:

Breakfast: 1 cup Special K cereal with 2% milk
Lunch: plain garden salad no dressing and low fat, reduced calorie/sugar-free yogurt
Snack: 2 crunchy-type granola bars, 1 cup orange juice
Dinner: 1 medium chicken breast (the meat is the main part of the meal), 1/2 cup steamed mixed veggies, 1 small potato (mashed with milk but no butter)

Total: 1157 calories

So with the second day, you aren’t properly spreading your calories and have unbalanced the nutrition in favor of carbs to make up for the lack of energy early on.

You don’t have to starve or skip meals. You do need to eat smaller portions and more frequently. Since you are eating every few hours, you don’t get super hungry. At least not once you get used to the lower calorie content, and that transitional hunger would happen no matter how good or bad you ate to get your day’s calories. The first few days are the worst.

Now look at the number of items you have eaten. Let’s start with the second day. If you combine the milk and cereal into one item like most people do, you only ate 8 items all day. No wonder many dieters feel deprived. Now look at the first day. Eleven items. That’s a lot! Yet, you’ve only consumed slightly over 1200 calories.  Once you get through the first few days, your body will start to adapt and adjust to the lower calories and you’ll be amazed just how many items you are eating. You could even eat half an ounce of almonds at lunch instead and have a small serving of potato with dinner for 12 items in the day for about the same calories. That’s 50 percent more items than the diet day, yet less than a 100 calorie difference.

Another good thing about the first day is that you have constant energy throughout the day because you are constantly supplying your body with fuel. There is no mid-day slump since you eat a snack of a little protein and healthy carb in the afternoon instead of a candy bar, chips, or cookies.

I had been eating a lot of junk and fast foods this summer. As a result, I gained weight quickly. I’ve tried traditional diets including skipping meals, just eating cereal, and counting calories in the past. They didn’t work. I was never satisfied and hungry a lot. Now that I’ve switched to eating more, but of the right kids of foods, I’m not hungry at all, yet have lost 3 pounds this week. My husband has had to same results and commented to me how amazing it was he was losing weight without going hungry.

So what are the right and wrong kids of foods? Cut out all sweet, fried, processed, junk, and fast foods. Most of those are pretty self explanatory except perhaps processed foods. These are things with a long ingredient list full of chemicals. They are often pre-made items in cans or boxes. However, it also includes things like crackers, most cereals,  and bologna. Instead, look for things with short lists of natural ingredients (not necessarily organic, that’s another story). Switch to whole grains and lower your portion size for things like breads, cereal (oatmeal or shredded wheat is great), rice,and pasta.

Eat lots of fresh fruits and produce for meals and as snacks instead of junk or processed foods. An easy way to ensure you get enough veggies but not too many carbs or meat/protein calories is divide your plate into quarters. First fill half with fruits and/or veggies. The other quarters are for lean protein and healthy carb. Then do not have seconds except the fruit or veggies (without sauce).

If you are interested in learning more about this concept of eating more to weigh less, I’d urge you to pick up a copy of The Eat Clean Diet Recharged by Tosca Reno. Also, get a free online food journal (like fitday.com or CalorieKing.com) to help keep track of your calories and nutrition each day.  I don’t ever want to go back to my old ways of eating!

Fitness update 2011 #5

I gained some weight over the summer, but now I’ve lost most of it. I know yo-yo dieting isn’t good for you, nor all the junk I ate on vacation so both are on the way OUT!

As for my diet, I must stop eating junk. I know it can be hard. I was addicted to junk for a long time. My brother still is and was recently diagnosed type 2 diabetes because of poor diet. That was a real wake up call for me as to the importance of eating right if you want to stay healthy.

I recently read the book The Eat Clean Diet Recharged by Tosca Reno. It tells how to use healthy eating to get healthy and obtain your goal weight. It’s easy to read and understand. She was once overweight too so she’s writing from experience, not just theory like a lot of diet books. It’s not a fad diet, but a healthy eating plan you can follow safely for the rest of your life.

Several of the ideas in the book are things I’ve talked about before on this blog. Cut out sweet, fried, processed, fast, and junk foods. Switch to whole grains for things like pasta, rice, cereal, and breads as well as reduce their portion size. Have lots of fresh fruits and veggies. Divide your plate into quarters. First fill half with fruits and veggies. The other quarters are for the lean protein and whole grain or other healthy carb like sweet potato. Drink just water or plain tea. If you like juice, have the whole fruit instead. That will give you fiber and save you a lot of calories.

So, following the ideas in the book, I’ve lost 3 pounds this week without starving myself or even being hungry. Amazing huh? My family and I have more energy. The kids are better behaved. The only drawback is that I’m now COLD! I’ve started wearing a sweater in the house even though the temperature is the same (65 degrees). However, I’ll gladly put on a sweater if it means taking off fat.

I’m considering a spin-off blog devoted to just fitness. That would allow this blog (AK Homeschool Fun) to go back to being my homeschool and personal blog. I’ll still have these occasional fitness updates, but the bulk of my fitness thoughts would be posted on the new site. What do you think of this idea?