How To Start


You’ve decided to be healthier, now what?  Obviously you need to totally overhaul your life and daily routine, because what you have been doing isn’t working.  But changing everything seems like a huge and daunting task and you’re feeling overwhelmed.  Maybe you’ll start next week… Sound familiar?  This is a really common problem.  People want to be healthier but they get stuck on the getting started part.  It feels like their whole life has to change and that is a lot of hard work.  So how do you get started?  Small.  Yup.  Start really, really small.  That might seem counterintuitive to being healthier, but it is actually a lot more successful than you might think.  When you change small things in your life over a longer period of time you have a higher chance of actually sticking with those changes.  What are some small changes you can make to be healthier?  I’m glad you asked!  Here is a list of ideas on little changes you can make to your eating, exercising, and daily life that will help you on the road to being healthier!



  • Eat out less.  Do eat out more than three times a week?  Are you always getting fast food for your lunch?  Try cutting back just a little.  If you eat out four times a week, cut down to three.  If you are always buying your lunch, try making and bringing your own just a few days a week.  By making just a small change you will be saving not only calories, but money as well.  Plus you will be able to control exactly what you eat when you make it.
  • Eat slower.  Many of us are really busy and tend to eat either really fast or on the go.  This tends to make us eat more because our body isn’t really registering that we’re eating a meal.  Try and slow down when you’re eating.  Really taste the food, take small bites, and enjoy the meal.  The slower you eat the chances are greater that you will feel fuller sooner.  This little trick can help you stop eating more food than you need.
  • Eat less.  Try eating a smaller portion of food.  If you normally make and eat a big pot of spaghetti, try eating half and saving the other half for lunch the next day.  You don’t have to do this for every meal, just start with one and then keep adding more meals.  You’ll eat less and be able to have leftovers for lunches and dinners during the week
  • Make one healthy swap.  If you normally eat white rice, try brown rice or quinoa.  If you usually eat white bread, try whole grain.  If you usually eat flavored yogurt, try plain greek yogurt with cut up fruit.  Try a lettuce wrap instead of sandwich bread or adding an extra serving of vegetables.  Little food swaps like this can save you calories and get you used to eating better quality food.  Again, you don’t have to change everything you eat.  Start slowly and over time change more and more things.
  • Add a glass of water.  Try drinking one more glass of water than you normally do each day.  Switch one of your sodas/juices/lattes with a glass of water.  Water is super important and most of us could be better at drinking more.
  • Keep a food journal for one day.  You don’t have to obsessively write down everything you eat every single day, but pick a day and write what goes in your mouth that day.  At the end of the day, see what you’ve eaten.  Having it all in front of you can help you see where you need to improve your eating habits.  Maybe you snack way too much in the afternoon because you don’t have enough to eat for lunch.


  • Walk.  If you have never exercised or haven’t exercised in a very long time, walking is a great place to start.  Add just 10 minutes of walking to your day and work your way up from there.  Once you’re able to walk for a good distance, start adding other exercises.  Maybe jog for a few minutes or do some crunches.  Keep building from there and soon you will have a pretty decent workout routine.
  • Move more in general.  Little things can really add up throughout the day.  Park your car farther away from the building.  Take the stairs instead of the escalator.  Walk over and talk to your co-workers instead of sending them an email.  Maybe you can’t fit in a 30 minute workout everyday, but you can move more and every little thing helps
  • Enlist a buddy.  Find a friend to take walks with you or try a new class together.  Having someone else to keep you accountable makes working out more of a priority and can make it more fun.

Daily Changes

  • Get enough sleep.  Sleep is really important for good health.  It is when your body is able to shut down and recover from the day.  Muscles are repaired during sleep along with other tissues and brain functions.  Try going to sleep a little bit earlier at night, even just fifteen minutes can make a big difference.
  • Stop negative talk.  Talking bad about yourself will get you nowhere fast.  Putting yourself down won’t make you healthier, it will just beat you down.  Try saying one good thing about yourself everyday.  Yes, you might feel silly at first but it can really have a positive effect on your mind and attitude.
  • Limit TV time.  If you normally spend your entire evening in front of the boob tube, try and cut down.  Instead of four hours of TV a night, try two and go read a book, exercise, mediate, take a bath, anything but sitting on the couch.  I get that watching TV is a relaxing and brainless activity many people enjoy after a long day, but there are better more productive things you can do that will help you unwind even better.

All these things might seem like insignificant ideas that won’t amount to much.  But doing a lot of little things like this will add up over time.  As you start to get used to each new habit, add in another and then another.  Soon you will realize that you have changed all of your unhealthy habits for healthier ones and that it seemed like you did so without much effort.  You can’t just magically get healthier overnight, it takes time and dedication.  Start small, go slow, and you will get there before you know it!



How To Make Your Own Snacks


Snacks can be a very important part of a lot of people’s daily diets.  They tide you over to the next meal, fuel you for your workout, or give you extra energy when you hit that late afternoon slump.  While I don’t snack much myself, I am a big supporter of snacks as part of a healthy lifestyle.  I’m not a supporter though of most of the snacks that we normally reach for.  I’m talking about the ones you find in a vending machine or on store shelves.  The pre-packaged, processed snacks that we often eat are not doing your health any good.  Believe me, I get the appeal of these snacks.  They’re easy, most of the time portable, and they taste good.  They are just so convenient, but they are also taking a toll on our health.  The good news is that it is really easy to make your own versions of most of the snacks out there, except these will be good for you, provide nutrition, cost less, and taste just as good if not better!

DIY Snacks

  • Trail Mix-  This is a tricky snack item in stores.  They seem like they are good for you with all their claims of organic and natural, but most of the time they are filled with sugar and other not so healthy ingredients.  It is much better to make your own, plus the DIY version will cost you a lot less.  Buy things like nuts (peanuts, almonds, pistachios, walnuts), seeds (sunflower or pumpkin), dried fruits with no extra sugar (cranberries, raisins, cherries), and dark chocolate chips.  Then just dup everything into a big bowl, mix it together, and portion it out into snack sizes.  Now you have a quick and healthy snack that you can grab and go!  If you can, buy all your components in bulk and that help keep the cost down.


  • Granola Bars-  These are another one of those sneaky snacks that can seem healthy but in the end are not much better than candy bars.  Luckily, it is really easy to make your own and there are a ton of recipes out there on the internet.  You can make your own Nutragrain bars, Larabars, or chewy granola bars.  Make them in big batches and freeze them so that you have a bunch ready to go
  • Chips & Dip-  Chips are a popular snack because no one can resist the crunchy and salty taste!  But those chips can quickly add up and soon you’re downing a whole bag along with dip.  You can make your own simple potato chips using my recipe here.  You can also make your own tortilla chips.  Just buy some corn tortillas (I like the El Milagro brand because of the price and short ingredient list), cut them into triangles, lay them in a single layer on a baking sheet, spray with a little olive oil and salt, then bake at 375 for 12 to 15 minutes.  Dips are also really easy and much healthier to make on your own.  Try my avocado cream, some salsa, or another one of my favorites, hummus!
  • Roasted Chickpeas-  I have seen a few versions of these in stores, and while some of them aren’t too bad, I’ve always found it easier to just make my own.  It is a lot cheaper and you can choose whatever flavors you want!  You can find my recipe here.

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Don’t forget about things like fruit or vegetables as a snack too!  It is really easy to buy things like celery, carrots, cucumbers, and cherry tomatoes, then cut them up and portion them out at home for a quick snack.  Fruits like bananas, oranges, or clementines are really easy to transport because of their skins.  And who can resist one of my favorite snacks, sliced apples and peanut or almond butter.  Hard boiled eggs are also a great snack that travels well.

There are a ton of simple and healthy snack ideas that you can make yourself.  You don’t have to rely on store bought snacks to get you through the day.  Take a little bit of time to plan and make your snacks for the week and when it come time to rush out the door in the morning, you can feel good that your snack will help you stick to your healthy eating plan!

Holiday Night Snacking

Thanksgiving and Christmas and New Years and all the holidays in between.  This is the season of good cheer…. and food.  So much food.  I love food and this is the time of year that some of my favorite dishes are made (sweet potato casserole anyone?).  Having all this delicious food around used to be very difficult for me and would usually end in a late night binging fest.  Thankfully I have been able to control that unhealthy habit and my holiday eating is much better than it used to be.

Our pretty little Christmas tree!

Our pretty little Christmas tree!

These past few weeks though I have noticed that after dinner I have been going back to the kitchen to look for something else to eat.  I have no problem with having a little dessert or snack after my dinner, but this snacking is happening even if I am full from dinner.  Before I started to eat healthier I would never have thought twice about why I was eating when I wasn’t even hungry, but now I know to stop and figure out why I am wandering to the fridge after a full meal.

In this case, I know it’s because there is just food there.  After two Thanksgivings (one with Adam’s family and one with mine), there were plenty of leftovers that we were sent home with, including an apple cranberry crisp that I made and tahini brownie bites.  I am not one to waste food, so I eat it.  I know this habit can lead to binging on food so I have thought of a few tips that can help curb this “extra” eating.  If you know that this is a problem for you, you can use some or all of these ideas to help your snacking.

House in our neighborhood with a CRAZY amount of lights. Pretty sure you could see this house from outer space!

House in our neighborhood with a CRAZY amount of lights. Pretty sure you could see this house from outer space!

Make sure you eat enough throughout the day.  This is fairly self explanatory, but make sure that you are getting enough food at breakfast, lunch, and dinner.  Eating enough throughout the day helps curb that nagging feeling after dinner that you didn’t get enough food and you need to eat something more.

Wait 20 minutes after dinner.  Before heading straight for dessert the minute you finish your dinner, wait just 20 minutes.  Most times just waiting that 20 minutes will give your dinner time to start digesting and you won’t even want to eat anything more.  If you do still feel like having something extra, go ahead but make it a small portion.

Plan for a dessert.  If you are someone that needs to have a little something extra after dinner, that is totally fine.  My husband always wants just a little dessert after his dinner and he makes it work with his eating throughout the day.  I don’t really count calories (and neither does he) but if I know that I am going to want to have a piece of that crisp after my dinner, I factor it into my other meals and eat just a little less at lunch or dinner.

Take up a hobby.  If you have the habit of always eating at night, think about taking up a hobby to occupy your time.  I like to read, and I have recently taken up cross stitching (yes I realize I am like a 65 year old woman).  Keeping my mind as well as my hands busy makes it harder to eat brownie bites.  If reading or cross stitching isn’t your thing, try yoga or crossword puzzles or jigsaw puzzles, or whatever interests you!

Sip some tea.  Tea is a really great way to feel like you are getting a dessert without actually eating a dessert.  There are so many different flavors out there like pumpkin spice, cranberry, and even chocolate tea!  I love sitting down after dinner with a good book and a mug of hot tea.  It’s a great way to wind down before bed and keeps me from eating when I really don’t need to eat.

These are the tips that help me from mindlessly eating after dinner.  I am not trying to bash dessert or night snacking at all, I don’t think that they are bad things.  I am saying that eating when you aren’t hungry or just because food is there is not a healthy habit to have.  Mindlessly eating is never a good thing and can lead to binge eating or eating too much.  There is no reason that you can’t enjoy your favorite dishes this holiday season.  Don’t feel guilty for making a conscious decision to eat any food.  If you do find yourself indulging when you don’t need to, find out why you did, make the choice to not do that again, and then move on.  Beating yourself up or falling into a downward spiral of unhealthy eating because of one slip-up is not good.  Getting right back on track at the next meal is the best way to stay on your healthy journey!

We got snow yesterday! Yay!!

We got snow yesterday! Yay!!

What are some ways that you avoid mindless or needless night snacking?  I would love to hear your tips and be able to share them with all my readers!

Clean your plate… Kind of

I am willing to bet that some of you (me included) have finished a meal even though you weren’t really hungry anymore. A lot of us have probably done this, as it’s really easy to just finish all the food on your plate even if you are already full.  You might have heard about “starving children in Africa” and felt the need to finish a second helping of french fries for their sake (because that makes a lot of sense…).  I would even go a step further and say that some of us don’t even recognize our own body’s signals for satiety, causing us to overeat at most of our meals.

This isn’t a new concept. In 2006, 6 of every 10 Americans said they ate more than they should. As a country, Americans know very well that they are overeating and that it is contributing to our ever-expanding waistlines and health problems. There have been countless studies and research that has gone into showing us that we are eating too much, but I think the more important question we need to address is when did we start overeating? I don’t mean as a nation, I mean you as an individual.

For the most part, you were not born eating too much food. In fact, if you look at children’s eating habits they are some of the best intuitive eaters. When they are hungry they will eat and when they are full they stop eating. If they don’t eat a huge lunch, they will usually eat more at dinner. They don’t obsess over certain foods or meal times. Trust me, they will let you know when they are hungry. I’ve worked as a nanny for the past two years and gotten to watch this first hand. It fascinates me how easy it is for a 2-year-old to grasp the concept of being full and being done with a meal. It doesn’t bother him if there are still five green beans left on his plate, or three graham cracker bunnies he didn’t eat. When he is done eating he is done eating and happily goes on with his day. Where did adults, the supposedly wiser and more sophisticated group, go wrong on this concept?

While there are many factors that contribute, one of the biggest influences is that of the parents, but I don’t think they are doing it on purpose.  Most parents want their child to lead a healthy and happy life.  They want to make sure that they are providing nutritious meals that will help their children grow.  It can be really frustrating and even worrisome to have a child that seems to never eat.  I know the struggle that can occur when you just want your kid to eat one bite of their meal because they haven’t eaten anything all day.  But I also believe that sometimes parents need to be open to having their child guide their own eating habits.  When parents stress over getting their children to eat, or force them to finish all their food on their plate, they could be setting their child up for future eating problems.  Over time, if a child is cleaning his plate even though he is clearly not hungry, he will begin to lose that sense of satiety.  He now knows that in order to be done with a meal, the plate needs to be empty, whether he is full or not.

Losing our sense of fullness can lead to other bad habits later on as well.  Adam shared a study with me last week about teens not paying attention to how many calories they ate in a meal.  While I am not a big supporter of religiously counting calories, it is interesting to see that most teens ignored the calorie count completely.  I don’t know if there is a definite link between being aware of how much food you eat and our sense of fullness, but I think that they probably do affect each other.  I know that there used to be many times I would be eating and I had no clue why.  I wasn’t hungry, but somehow I was downing crackers like it was my business.

How do you regain your intuitive eating skills?  It’s tough, but you can retrain your body to its childhood eating habits.  Don’t expect the change to happen overnight and don’t expect to be perfect all the time.  There will be days that you slip up and that is totally ok, just move on and do better next time.  These are a few of the tips that I use to help me really tune in to my body’s signals.

Make sure you’re actually hungry.  When you get the urge to grab a bag of chips or chow down on a huge meal, pause for just a second.  Ask yourself a few questions, when was the last time I ate?  Am I really hungry or am I bored/sad/depressed/around a bunch of other people eating?  Will I feel better about myself after eating this meal or will I look back with regret?  Once you answer those questions, you can better decide if you are actually hungry and ready to eat a meal.  To take this a step further, drink a glass of water before you eat anything.  Many times, we misread thirsty signals as hunger signals and immediately dive into a snack.

S L O W  D O W N.  When you are eating a meal, take your time.  This can be a key factor in reading your “I’m full” signal.  Sometimes we have a tendency to rush through a meal in ten minutes and not realize we had way more to eat than we really wanted or needed.  Take a few bites, put your fork down, sip some water, and enjoy the flavor of your food.  By giving your body those few extra minutes in between bites, you are letting it register the food you have already eaten and allowing you to know when you are full, before your plate is totally clean.  Also, eat until you are pleasantly full, not bursting at the seams.  No one likes that feeling of your waistband cutting in to your stomach after a huge chow fest.

Eat foods that will fill you up.  You’re probably thinking, “Uh, Katie?  Any food can fill me up.”  Let me be a bit more specific.  Choose foods that have a low density of calories, but high quantity.  Caloric-Density1

400 calories of oil, from say your fried mozzarella sticks, will not fill you up as much as 400 calories of salad.  You won’t feel full from that 400 calories of oil, so you’ll continue to eat until you do feel full, possibly taking in more food than your body really wants or needs.  I am not saying that you have to ONLY eat vegetables in order to know when you’re full.  What I am saying is that you need to choose foods that will fill you in the healthiest way.  Including vegetables in your dinner of grilled chicken and brown rice is a very easy way to add bulk that won’t bulk you up.

Be patient, and kind, with yourself.  Like I said before, it isn’t easy to retrain the way you eat or tune into your body.  Don’t get frustrated if you slip up more than once.  Realize that this is a process and it is OK to have setbacks, you’re human, not Superman.  Just make sure that your slip ups don’t make you abandon everything and fall back into your old habits.  Acknowledge that you had a setback and move on, vowing to make your next choice healthier.  Constantly beating yourself up will not help you get to a healthier state.

Remember, we all started out as some of the best intuitive eaters out there.  One way or another you might have lost that sense, but you CAN gain it back.  I think that a lot of eating problems begin with our lack of awareness of our own bodies, at least that has been the case for me.  Just because someone puts food on your plate, does not mean you absolutely have to eat all of it.  I promise that eating every single scrap of food on your plate just because it’s there will never lead to a feeling of satisfaction.  Knowing you have eaten exactly what you needed and the exact amount your body required will make you feel much happier and healthier!

The Great Food Disconnect

Hello and welcome to a brand new week! Not sure about where you guys are, but fall hit Illinois like a brick this weekend with that perfect cool crisp weather. I was a happy camper, so happy that I was compelled to start my fall baking! Needless to say, it has been a good weekend here at our house.

For the past few Monday’s I have been talking about eating and the senses (in case you totally missed that little fact). I’ve covered taste, smell, and sight (via portion control). I think that sound and touch will be a little difficult to write an entire post about, but I will include them in today’s post. Today I want to talk about a problem that I see with the way that the typical American approaches their food and meal time in general.

Most people see meals as another task that they need to get through and then move on to the next thing on their long list. Most meals are quick, eaten on the go or in the car, or even worse skipped. People just don’t have time to slow down and eat leisurely, three-course meals. I sure don’t!  But I think that this mentality about eating is one of the hidden problems with our health issues. I call it the great food disconnect, mostly because there isn’t a real “official” name for it. We barely take the time to eat, so we in turn barely take the time to really experience our food. I know, I know. That sounds so new age-y and a little ridiculous to “experience” food, but stick with me on this one. I promise that I haven’t gone off the deep end.

Experiencing your food really allows you to enjoy what you are eating and also to fully use what you are eating to your advantage. What exactly do I mean when I say experiencing your food? I mean using all of your senses when sitting down and eating. Whether you realize it or not your meal starts the moment you start making that meal. And for those of you who do not make your own meals, your meal starts when that plate is put in front of you. But the minute that you start prepping your meal, your brain and in turn your body are preparing to eat. The sight of food, the smell of the spices and sauces, the feel of heat from the oven, the little test tastes of your dish, the sizzle of your steak on the grill are all signals that are being sent to your brain telling your body that food is on the way. Your body starts making the necessary enzymes and microbes it will take to break down that food and use it. These are necessary steps that your body needs to really reap the benefits of that food.

When you rush through a meal or just grab something on the run and are not paying attention to what you are shoveling into your mouth, your brain doesn’t have the time to prep your body. Your digestive system is rudely awaken by a sudden and quick influx of food, and it has to scramble to get things ready. It is a stressful situation for your system, even if it doesn’t feel like it to you, and putting food into a stressful environment generally means it won’t be used to it’s full advantage. Our rush, rush, rush lives cause enough problems for us, so why add to that with eating?

Contrary to popular opinion, eating should be enjoyable. You should really like eating. It’s great! There are so many flavors and textures and tastes. And is there anything better than sharing a good meal with great people? Think about your Thanksgiving or Christmas dinners. They are probably (mostly) filled with great memories of good times. You wait all year to eat your Grandma’s pumpkin pie or your Mom’s special cranberry sauce. A lot of diets and health people out there will tell you that the reason we have so many problems with weight is that we have too familiar a relationship with food. We need to distance ourselves and treat food as just a means of fuel for our body and cut all the emotion from our meal times. While I believe that some of this is true, emotional eating can lead to many problems (think bad breakup and a pint of Haggan Das) I think that distancing ourselves from food is a bigger problem. It turns food into an enemy that you are constantly battling against, and that is tiresome.

I propose that we try something new when it comes to eating our food. I suggest that we really take the time to savor what we are eating. I know that not everyone will have the time to do this every day, but try to find one meal a week that you can really put some time into. Find a recipe that sounds delicious. Shop for the ingredients yourself and select the best that you can. Take the time and turn those ingredients into a tasty meal. Then sit down with friends or family and savor the meal that you just prepared. Really taste the food that you lovingly turned into a dish to nourish your body. Smell all those wonderful spices and flavors you used to season your food. Enjoy the company that you have around you and make some memories out of dinner. Does it take time to do this? Yes, but it is worth it. You get to really connect with something that is about to be a part of your body and help you accomplish all those tasks you have on your list.  Like I said, I know that you don’t have time to do this every meal, every day, but you do have the time to be conscious of the food you eat. Whether you made it, your mom made it, or the guy at the drive-thru made it, take just a few minutes to be aware of your food. Your body and your health will thank you!