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Sunday, September 29, 2013

Smart Eats: A New Blog Series

Happy Sunday!  Doesn't it always come around much too quickly?

I would like to introduce you to my new blog project (if you can call it that).  I'm going to admit: this started as something for me!  Something that I needed to do...and then I realized that perhaps someone else might benefit from this, too.  So here goes...

The story begins here:

At the beginning of May, we got our family pictures taken.  A few weeks later, we got those pictures back.  The photographer was wonderful, I had painstakingly picked out the perfect coordinating outfits for me, my husband, and my twin girls, and we picked out a great location.  Still, when we got the {beautiful} pictures she had taken, I sat down and cried a little bit.  I was almost 30 pounds heavier than I was on the day I got married, my round-by-nature cheeks were "poofy" and filled my entire face.  In the sweet picture of my husband and I gazing sweetly into each other's eyes and smiling with genuine happiness, my three chins (and those CHEEKS) distracted me from seeing the meaning of the picture itself. It was on that day that I realized that twins, work, and Teaching With a Mountain View had all come before my health.  I had also used all of those things as excuses for not being healthy anymore.

I realized then that even though I gave my all to those things, which I love so dearly, they could no longer be the reason I didn't give my health some attention.  After all, I realized that when I was overweight, sluggish, and grumpy because my fat is hanging over the side of my pants, I couldn't REALLY be giving them my all.  On that day in May, I decided to stop making excuses (I have so much to do, let's grab a pizza.  It's been a long day, I deserve a piece of cake.  Exercise?  NO TIME FOR THAT!).

Fast forward about 4 months, and I have lost 25 pounds, feel better than ever, and I have no intention of going back.  When I returned to work, people made comments like, "What's your secret?" and "What miracle pill did you take!?"  I kind of shrugged my shoulders and told them that I just started eating healthier, cut out the junk, and bought myself a FitBit to monitor my daily activity and get my butt out the door on days I had worked on my computer for too long!  And that's the truth.

Even though it felt great to have people notice that I had lost weight, I was also nervous that I wouldn't be able to maintain it.  We have one of those staff lounges where the PTA and other staff members bring in treats on a daily basis, and our assistant principal has an open door with 2 bowls on her desk filled with Jelly Belly's and M&Ms.  Within the first week of being back, I hadn't touched anything, but I was already seeing how tempting this was going to be, especially with the stress of school creeping up on me.  Being at home on summer break was so, so different than having to pack a lunch and all of your snacks for the day.

I've done okay the first two months of school, but I'm slowly starting to make poor food choices, primarily because I don't have time to make a lunch in the morning or I forget to bring a good, healthy snack with me.  So I decided that I need to menu plan and get my lunches and snacks ready for the week on Sunday.  It's the only way it's going to work for me!  I thought maybe some of my other teacher friends might appreciate my menu planning, so I'm introducing a new installment in my blog, Smart Eats!

My plan is to post a weekly menu and, when I have time, pictures of my week in lunches and snacks.

Total Disclaimer: I am not a diet or health pro by any means.  This is just what works for me, and some of my snacks are plane jane.  What I consider healthy may not fit your standards of healthy.  These are just suggestions of easy, on-the-go snacks for busy teachers!

When I put together my menu, here are a few of the things I consider each week, and a few more disclaimers:

  • I eat a high protein, lowER carb, lowER calorie diet.  It is NOT a low carb diet, but I try to balance my carbs and protein.  Most days, I try to have a fruit or a veggie for one snack and a high protein snack another time during the day.  I switch it up because while I love veggies, I love fruit more, and if I don't prep my veggies ahead of time, I'm much less likely to eat them.  I do the same with my lunches.  One day I'll have a meal higher in carbs and the next I try to do something more protein heavy than carb heavy.  This doesn't always work.  (I also try to get in as much fiber as I can, but that usually comes from all the veggies I eat with dinner.)
  • When I was actively trying to lose weight, I ate fewer healthy fats than I do now.  Now, I'm a huge advocate of healthy fats from foods like almond butter, nuts, coconut oil, etc. so you WILL see them here.  The big emphasis with these snacks is portion control.  If I have almond butter on my menu, I have likely measured 1 tablespoon out, which is about 100 calories, and paired it with something much lower in calories, like celery or a small apple.  If you aren't as worried about getting protein in your diet, cut out the almond or peanut butter 
  • I prep on Sundays, so I plan my menu so that I can make almost everything ahead of time, with the exception of a few things that I might need to make the night before.  This means that by Friday, something like a banana and cheese cubes are logistically the easiest because I can throw some cheese in a tupperware on Sunday, and it will still be fine on Friday.  I can't say the same thing for most produce.  
  • When I started dieting, I was eating a lot of low calorie, pre-packaged foods like 90 calorie Special K bars, Fiber One Protein Bars, Frozen Lean Cuisines, etc.  They taste good and they filled me up, but I still knew I could do better (and cheaper) for my body, so within the past couple of months, I have tried to eliminate more of the highly processed foods.  I have NOT eliminated them all, but I'm trying to make things on my own where it is feasible and replace them with "whole" foods in other cases.  I do eat the Costco salads quite a bit, which I KNOW are still considered processed, but those babies save my sanity.  You can replace those meals with salads you make at home, too.  
  • I love baking, so I am delving into a world of healthier, cleaner baking to replace some of those store bought items I like to eat.  It is something that I enjoy, so I have decided to make time for it in my life.  If you aren't a baker, just skim past that part of the menu and replace it with a fruit or veggie.   
  • I like to find Clean, Paleo, Gluten Free, etc. recipes because they are usually fairly wholesome and good for you, but I am none of those things, so not everything I mention will fit that bill.
  • I like seasonal food.  A lot.  You might see a lot of pumpkin in the coming weeks, and after that, peppermint and ginger will be making their mark...
  • I plan to make one or two snacks each week (protein bar, muffin, etc.) and freeze a few of them for the future.  I also have two 22 month old girls and a husband who eat what I'm making, so if it looks like I'm making a batch of muffins and eating one, 'tis not the case!
  • Variety is the spice of life, but coming up with 10 different snacks each week might make me quit, so there will most certainly be repeats.
  • I'll try to take pictures, but I'm no food photographer, and I live at a high altitude, so most of the things I bake have a crater in the middle or some other deformity, but they still taste delish!
Are you still with me?  Good.  I promise from here on out, I'll just post the menu and be quick about it because, well, that's part of the point of this.

Here is this week's menu...

Here are the links to the recipes I used and evidence of the fact that I use my iPhone to take every picture:

I really, really like these, and they really have a kick of protein in them.  The protein powder I had on hand has a pretty strong flavor, so you can taste it in the mix.  The link (above) also has a link to a version of this recipe that doesn't include the extra protein, and I would imagine those are even better!  This made about 12 good-sized bars, and I froze 8 of them.  I didn't save any out for the kids because with the protein powder in them, they aren't very toddler friendly.  The other version would be.

YES.  Yes, yes, yes.  These took more time to make than the pumpkin bars, but they are so delicious.  I highly recommend making these.  I put one in a container for our snacks, two in a bag for my kids to eat this week, and the rest in the freezer for future snacks.

I eat mine lettuce wrapped or wrapped up in a piece of Flat Out Bread.  I know the combination sounds weird, but I love it!  I only use ONE tablespoon of almond butter, and if I don't have any leftover chicken, I do buy precooked chicken and chop it up.

My Homemade Trail Mix (aka What I had on Hand)

I threw a little of each of the foods in the picture into a bowl, stirred it up, and then split it into 12 bags with 1/4 cup in each.  High protein, moderate calories and fat, and yum!  I made sure each bag only had one or two of the chocolate covered berries, but they are so good.  The Bare Naked Cereal is what I used as my "base" and there was the most of that in there.  It's pretty delicious, and was super quick to put together, and now I have 12 snacks!

Here is a picture of the Costco Salads that I get.  They come in packs of two, so my husband and I each have 2 for the week.  I usually pack a little bag of pre-cooked chicken to go with it to pack a little extra protein.  Yum!

Also, I the pumpkin recipe only called for 1/2 cup of pumpkin, so I threw together these pumpkin almond butter cookies.  Yummy, but not low in fat or calories, so I saved two and froze the rest for tasty treats! 

It feels SO.GOOD. to have a fridge full of deliciousness to eat all week, and I feel so much better about eating healthy this week.  

Do you have a favorite healthy recipe, lunch, or snack you bring with you to school?  Share in the comments.


  1. Oh, YUMMY! Thank you so much for the post. The banana muffin things look yummy! So does the almond butter chicken salad. Mmmmmmmmmmm!!!

  2. Oh are a girl after my own heart! Thank you so much for this post! I am eliminating wheat in my diet, just to make healthier choices. I started this summer and packing my lunches this school year has been more challenging. I need to start thinking about this on Sunday nights. Thank you for the great ideas. I am going to go pack my lunch right now! :)

  3. The food looks amazing!!! Can't wait to try some of it.

  4. Those pumpkin protein bars look awesome! You are's so hard to stay on track when you have *lovely* parents bringing you treats all the time! My husband (also a 3rd grade teacher) and I try to eat Paleo whenever possible. I pack lots of similar snacks to yours, but I can't escape the packaged salads at times. I like to do big batches of roasted veggies on Sunday to mix with whatever protein (chicken breast cutlet, tilapia/salmon filet) is easy and quick to cook up on weeknights. Thanks for sharing all your ideas!


  5. I do the same thing. Because breakfast is hectic, I make 5 servings of steel cut oatmeal on Sunday evening for me (it takes about 20 minutes on the stove). I put each serving in a pint sized Ball jar so that in the morning I can pop it in the microwave then add some chopped fruit. Within minutes I have a hearty healthy breakfast that will stick to my ribs until lunch. I also make 5 salads Sunday night in 5 quart sized jars. Put the dressing in the bottom, then put a vegetable like chopped carrots, which won't get soggy, on top of the dressing. Layer the rest ( peppers, chives, peas, beans, celery, lettuce, cheese or whatever you have on hand) Shake and eat right out of the jar. The salad will last all week and it looks really pretty. I do not put cucumbers in the jar because then your whole salad tastes and smells like cukes. It only takes minutes and I can use local produce.

  6. I love this idea! I will totally look forward to your menu and recipes each week! Making lunch is one of the things I don't like about going to school. I get so tired of a sandwich and a yogurt. Thank you!!
    Grade 4 Buzz

  7. Love it! I recently started planning my meals out by the month, but we buy groceries week by week. I've last over 50 pounds in the last year, but I've got a long way to go. This post is going to help me find new ideas. Thank you!!