Category Archives: health

Pregnancy Nutrition Checklist

I had a difficult time finding a simple, streamlined pregnancy nutrition checklist, so I decided to make one myself.  I don’t use it daily, but I do pull it out several times per week to make sure I’m keeping on track.

Here’s a pdf version of the pregnancy nutrition checklist and a version that you can fiddle with on Microsoft Word.  Feel free to use it and change it as you’d like!


Baked Sweet Potato Fries with Chipotle Mayo

I enjoy french fries.  Who doesn’t?  Unfortunately, most fried foods don’t sit well with my stomach.  I suppose it’s a good thing — aside from taste, there’s no reason I should be eating fried food anyway.  That doesn’t take away my craving for french fries, though.  A happy substitute can be found, though.  Sweet potato fries hit the spot, and with loads of vitamin A, your body will thank you.

Unfortunately, at the present time, I don’t have a picture of the finished fries.  They were immediately devoured as soon as they came out of the oven!

Sweet Potato Fries

adapted from Paula Dean’s Baked Sweet Potato Fries


  • Olive Oil, for tossing
  • 5 sweet potatoes, peeled and sliced into 1/4-inch long slices, then 1/4-wide inch strips, using a crinkle cut knife
  • Oil
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika


  1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.  Line a sheet tray with parchment.
  2. In a large bowl toss sweet potatoes with just enough oil to coat. Sprinkle with seasonings.
  3. Spread sweet potatoes in single layer on prepared baking sheet, being sure not to overcrowd. Bake until sweet potatoes are tender and golden brown, turning occasionally, about 20 minutes.
  4. Let cool 5 to 10 minutes before serving.

Chipotle Mayo

Mix one part mayo with one part barbecue sauce.

“Chicken Nuggets” With Spinach

In keeping up with my health goals for this month, I’ve been trying to incorporate more vegetables into our meals, mostly with success.  Sneaking in a few extra veggies here and there does nothing but help the cause, so I figured it was about time to pull out Deceptively Delicious by Jessica Seinfeld.  The book had been sitting on my bookshelf for months, waiting patiently to be opened.  Its time finally came.  The chosen recipe?  Chicken nuggets with spinach.  The results?

Somehow, I don’t think my “chicken nuggets” turned out quite like Mrs. Seinfeld intended.  I’m not sure quite what happened.  They were tasty, but they were nothing like what I’d call a chicken nugget.  They were more like breaded chicken with spinach hunks clinging to the sides.  That sounds unappetizing, I realize.  But honestly?  Not that bad.  Especially when you try to forget that they’re “chicken nuggets” and eat them with a fork.  Then, they’re really very good.

I think I failed at the spinach puree step.  I used my food processor to puree the spinach, but it wasn’t exactly a liquid by the time I was finished.  Looking back on the directions, I now realize that I should have removed the stems of the spinach.  Anyway, what I ended up with was more like very tiny pieces of spinach.  If I would have just given it a few more pulses, maybe this would’ve been a better situation.  The tiny pieces of spinach didn’t want to cling to the sides of the chicken, so I had to glop as much on as I could, quickly put it in the breadcrumbs before any dripped off, and speed it over to the frying pan, hoping nothing dropped on the floor on the way there.  A slight disaster, but with tasty results after all the trouble.

Oh, and a tip… Do NOT feed these to children and claim they’re chicken nuggets.  I don’t think the kids would buy it.  Call them something else and you’d be fine, but don’t slander the name nugget like that.

Chicken Nuggets with Spinach

From Deceptively Delicious, as seen on Oprah


  • 1 cup whole-wheat or white breadcrumbs or panko (Japanese breadcrumbs)
  • 1/2 cup flaxseed meal
  • 1 tablespoon grated Parmesan
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1 cup spinach puree (see below)
  • 1 large egg , lightly beaten
  • 1 pound boneless skinless chicken breasts or chicken tenders , rinsed, dried and cut into small chunks
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • Nonstick cooking spray
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  1. In a bowl, combine the breadcrumbs, flaxseed meal, Parmesan, paprika, garlic and onion powder on the paper or foil and mix well with your fingers.
  2. In a shallow bowl, mix the vegetable puree and egg with a fork and set the bowl next to the breadcrumb mixture.
  3. Sprinkle the chicken chunks with the salt. Dip the chunks into the egg mixture and then toss them in the breadcrumbs until completely coated.
  4. Coat a large nonstick skillet with cooking spray and set over medium-high heat. When the skillet is hot, add the oil. Place the chicken nuggets in the skillet in a single layer, being careful not to crowd the pan, and cook until crisp and golden on one side, 3 to 4 minutes. Then turn and cook until the chicken is cooked through, golden brown and crisp all over, 4 to 5 minutes longer. (Cut through a piece to check that it’s cooked through.) Serve warm.
How to puree spinach:
No prep at all for baby spinach. For mature spinach, fold leaves in half lengthwise with the stem outside, then strip the stem off the leaf.COOK
Steam for 30 to 40 seconds, or cook in a skillet with 1 tablespoon of water for about 90 seconds, or just until wilted.

In a food processor or blender for about 2 minutes, until smooth and creamy.

Health Goals for August and September

I tossed around a few ideas for health goals, and after a several days of trying them out, I’m ready to commit.  I’ve heard it takes six weeks (or eight, or three, depending on who you listen to) to develop a habit.  If I start these habits today, I should be a fitness machine by the time the end of September rolls around.  Here are the final five:

  • Sign up for the fall session of Zumba classes.  GO TO THE CLASSES.
  • Never skip more than one day of exercise in a row.
  • Wake up between 5:30 and 6:30 and go to sleep between 9:30 and 10:30 daily, including weekends.
  • Make sure to get in veggies with two meals or snacks per day.
  • Take a multivitamin daily.

Surround Yourself with Success

About five years ago, I found the America on the Move website.  I printed out a few pages, used them for a few weeks, and filed them away.  Looking through my files yesterday, though, I was delighted to come across them once again.  I quickly jumped online to see what they’d added in five years, and it appears to be quite a bit!  Unfortunately, my computer isn’t allowing me to download any of their resources, so for now I’ll have to suffice with my printouts.

There are literally hundreds of manageable diet and exercise tips within the pages of the two documents I have at my side.  I’ve chosen some of my favorites, adapted them to fit my life, and have shared them below.  As always, add to the list if you have an idea for me.

Tips to Get Moving

  1. Run errands without using the car – go to the bank, pharmacy, library, and convenience store on bike or foot.
  2. Leave the room during television commercials.  Use the break to put away dishes and laundry, or to accomplish other tasks that add movement.
  3. Walk while talking on the phone.  Take your cell phone with you on a walk around the neighborhood.
  4. Choose a Playaway (similar to a book on tape) that you’re only allowed to listen to while exercising or on a walk.  You’ll find yourself walking farther than normal when you’re engrossed in a great story.
  5. Store a pair of comfortable shoes in the car and at school so you’ll be ready for a walk after work or on the run.
  6. Hold classes outside.  Fresh air boosts creativity and the extra steps add up.
  7. Be a role model!  Encourage students to be more active and eat more healthfully by doing these things yourself.
  8. Circle around the block once when you take out the trash.
  9. Make several trips up and down the stairs to do laundry or other household chores.
  10. Invite friends or family to join you for a walk.
  11. Benefit a good cause by joining a charity walk.
  12. Sign up for a community 5k or 10k walk.
  13. Park in the far reaches of the parking lot.
  14. Dance the night away at a club.
  15. Take a walk around a local university, hike on a wilderness trail, or drive to a new walking trail – anything to change the scenery.
  16. Meet a friend for lunch or coffee at a restaurant you can walk to.
  17. Look on Craigslist or the newspaper for garage sales.  Walk to those in your neighborhood.
  18. Drive to a neighboring community and tour it’s main street on foot.
  19. Sign up for an exercise class.
  20. Spend a day at the beach and walk the shoreline.
  21. Take care of household chores and get moving at the same time – scrub the floors, vacuum, or mow the lawn.
  22. Tour a local trail by bike.
  23. Paddle away calories on a raft, kayak, or canoe.

Tips to Eat Right

  1. Pre-wash baby carrots, celery, grapes, and apples for a quick snack.
  2. Have dairy products on hand like low-fat milk, yogurt, and cheese.
  3. Make a “healthy snack” shelf at eye level in the cupboard.  Place unhealthy foods in an inconvenient location.
  4. Place a bowl of fresh fruit in the center of your kitchen for easy access to a delicious, low-calorie, low-fat snack.
  5. Plan your meals for the week.  Take a few minutes to write a list before going to the grocery store.  This will keep you from forgetting items you need, and prompt you to think of ingredients for your favorite quick and healthy recipes.
  6. Make fresh fruit salads for dessert instead of baked goods or other sweets.
  7. Make sure you have applesauce on hand.  You can use it for a quick snack or as a substitute for butter in baking recipes.
  8. Steam vegetables to preserve nutrients and avoid added fat.  Season with lemon juice, balsamic vinegar, olive oil, or fresh herbs.
  9. Serve dinner on appetizer plates to control portions.
  10. Freeze individual serving sizes of meals so you have a backup on busy days.
  11. Slow down!  Put your utensils down between bites to slow your eating place.
  12. Listen to relaxing music while eating instead of sitting in front of the TV.
  13. Pack your lunch – homemade soups, sandwiches, and salads can be more healthful because you control the ingredients.
  14. Grabbing breakfast on the run?  Reach for healthy options – low fat muffins, fresh fruit, smoothies, and water – instead of a doughnut and coffee.
  15. Keep foods away from your desk and eat them at planned times to avoid unmindful snacking.
  16. Bring a fun water bottle to school and make an effort to drink several glasses of water.  Staying hydrated perks up your energy and curbs your hunger.
  17. Bring a healthy mid-afternoon snack to school, like low-fat yogurt or a piece of fruit, so you won’t be tempted to overeat junk food.

A Slight Change in Plans

I’ve come to a realization that slightly alters my Happiness Project this month.  My August focus – work – is actually my focus for August, September, October, November, December, January, February, March, April, and May.  I spent over 40 hours per week working, preparing to work, thinking about work, researching work… I think I’ve got work covered.  I’ve found that while I love love love teaching, I do want to continue putting a special emphasis on a goal not related to work.

The beginning of the school year is a wonderful time to make a resolution, and in typical New Year’s resolution fashion, I’m going to get fit and healthy this month.  (By this month, I mean the rest of August and September, as somehow the first two weeks of August passed without my realization.)  My husband is along for the ride.  Actually, I’m the one going along for the ride – it was his idea to step up our game in the realm of eating and exercise.  I already have several ideas for August/September goals.  I may add, delete, or alter the list after I review it with Paul.

Possible Health-related goals

  • Sign up for the fall session of Zumba classes.  GO TO THE CLASSES.
  • Sign up for a weight training program at the YMCA.
  • From Gretchen Rubin at “Never skip exercising for two days in a row.  You can skip a day, but the next day, you must exercise, no matter how inconvenient.”
  • Savor one (and only one) treat per day.
  • Wake up between 5:30 and 6:30 and go to sleep within 9:30 and 10:30 daily, including weekends.
  • Serve vegetables for lunch, snack, and dinner.  (And perhaps find a way to make them taste a bit better… any suggestions?)
  • Take a multivitamin daily.
  • Choose one extra goal daily from America on the Move.
  • Clean up my “100 Things to Make” list so it has more vegetables, less treats.

I’m open to new ideas, so feel free to send tips or ideas my way!

Goal Update

It’s about time … *shudder* … to check in on my goals.  All of my goals.  Which I have been “working towards.”  In theory.

It’s not so bad, really.  I think I’ll find that I’m not doing quite as well as I thought, though, which is the reason for the shudder.  Here goes nothing…

1)  Make delicious, home-made dinners a non-event

OK, this is the goal that I’m probably doing the best on (so I’m really glad it’s first!).  I’ve gone from burnt grilled cheese sandwiches and soggy PastaRoni to oven fried tilapia and martini mac and cheese.  My current goal is to find some lighter recipes to try.  Grade: A

2)  Buy and make quality pieces for our home

I’ve given more thought to the amount of time any given item will last, and if it’s worth putting in a few extra dollars for a better product.  Sometimes it’s not – a book at Half Price Books will be the same as a book at Barnes and Noble – but if it’s something that will be an obvious quality difference (for example, the watch H wears daily), I’d rather buy one that will last.  I try not to balk at spending more on an item I know we can get for less, and instead focus on the quality.  We haven’t had any major purchases in the past few months, though, so I’ve only put this into action on a small scale.  Grade: B

3)  Continuously improve our marriage

I read The Five Love Languages (and I’d highly recommend it to any person, married or not), and I’ve put a good dent in my second reading of Men are From Mars, Women are from Venus.  In a stroke of what can only be called brilliance, I put that book on the shelf behind the toilet.  Best marriage move  yet.  That may be an exaggeration, but it really has been a success – I could never convince H to read a marriage book so frequently otherwise.  Grade: A

4)  Be confident in my appearance

On the positive side, I’ve started wearing makeup on a regular basis, and I’ve started styling my hair once in a while instead of pulling it back every single day.  I haven’t been able to lose the weight that I wanted, though, so I’m disappointed most of the time  I look in the mirror.  Grade: D

5)  Be proficient on the sewing machine

I haven’t spent much time on this goal, so there’s not much to report.  I’ve only done one sewing project in 2010 (an apron), and it turned out well.  It’s nothing that I couldn’t have done in high school, however, so I’m going to have to give myself poor marks for this goal!  Grade: F

6)  Keep an organized, clean home

I’d say the house is organized.  We have a place for everything, anyway.  Everything in it’s place?  Not so much.  H is organized.  His jacket is never on the floor, his books are never left lying about, and his keys are always on the key hook.  I am a little more scatterbrained.  If I can see my desktop, it’s a good day.  I am working on it, though.  Whenever I get a spare moment, I play a game where I put away five things in every room.  (We only have six rooms, so it doesn’t take long.)  It’s made a difference.  Cleaning doesn’t happen quite as frequently as it should, but it could be worse.  Grade: B

7)  Act instead of plan

I used to waste a lot of time blog surfing.  I truly mean waste, too – I was subscribing to every semi-interesting blog that I came across, which quickly snowballed into over 250 subscriptions.  I’d fill up to 1000+ items in three days if I didn’t keep on top of it .  I’d spend hours just hitting next, next, next, next, on Google Reader.  I am very proud to say that I’ve kicked the habit!  I do still love reading posts, but I found a way to dramatically reduce wasting time on blogs that I wasn’t getting anything out of.  This left me with quite a bit more time to live in the real world, and I am getting only quality, interesting information daily.  Grade: A

8)  Keep a healthy household

After hundreds of dollars in dental and eyecare bills, I’d give myself an A just to make myself feel better about spending so much.  And that’s AFTER insurance.  We also joined the YMCA and have been regularly attending.  My $1 per half hour plan has been largely successful.  I’m still using and loving it, and H has made such a good habit of working out that he doesn’t even need to use the program anymore.  We’ve cut out chocolate and chips for Lent.  Next up: portion control and cutting the calories!  Grade: A

9)  Be confident in our finances

I use to track all expenses, and I know where nearly every dollar goes.  That’s not to say that I rigidly follow our budget, however.  Something always seems to come up that we weren’t expecting, or that I thought would cost less.  I also would like to have a better “big picture” idea of finances.  H typically handles all larger transactions (stocks, mutual funds, etc.), and I do day to day items.  It would be better if we had a little more overlap… or at least if I had a better idea of our finances on a whole.  Grade: C

10)  Be a friend

After a long hiatus, I’ve made friends with Facebook once again.  As much as I dislike it in theory (more on that later), it does have quite a few redeeming values, and at this point I’ll use it for the purpose of being a better friend.  Also, another good mark: by the end of this weekend, I’ll have spent time with three different groups of friends – a really good weekend for me.  I’m still not making the grade, though.  One of my best high school friends moved into a duplex about a mile down the road two months ago, and I’ve seen him ONCE in all of that time.  Grade: B

11)  Give back to the community

Big fat failure.  Nothing else to say about this one.  Grade: F

That wasn’t so bad!  I think I need to check in on my goals every month – it has been eye opening, and it’s motivated me to get up off of this couch and get going!