Recipe Review: Crock-Pot Italian Zucchini Meatloaf

reviewYesterday, I got adventurous! Hubby and I aren’t the best fans of most vegetables. Well…any vegetable really. So trying a new recipe that calls for vegetables is a bit daunting, to say the least.

Will we like it? Will we be able to taste it? Will it taste okay if we can taste it?

So this weekend while we were planning our menu for the coming week, I flipped through my Low Carb/Keto Pinterest board where I save all the recipes that intrigue me enough to try someday. I found this recipe which looked promising. Well, except the part where it calls for a cup of grated zucchini.

We braved the produce section on Sunday morning, not just for our guinea pigs, but to find the perfect zucchini and a little container of semi-fresh chopped parsley. I found both. Damn. Now, I really did have to make this meatloaf.

Thankfully, putting it together was not at all difficult or complicated. Squeezing the liquid out of the grated zucchini was the most harrowing part of the experience, and even that was pretty simple. I grated the veg, scooped it up and squeezed until I couldn’t squeeze any more liquid out, then tossed it in my mixing bowl with the meat, eggs, parsley, parmesan, minced garlic, dried onion and Italian seasoning. Okay, so I didn’t follow the recipe exactly, but I rarely do.

All in all, putting it together took me less than 15 minutes from fridge to slow cooker pot. That does not include clean-up, which I left for hubby (that wonderful man who knew I was running late and offered to take care of the mess I made of the kitchen. I love him so much!)

What I didn’t know was that as soon as I left, he threw on some Tony Chachere’s Creole seasoning before turning it on!

Now it calls for ketchup for the topping, but neither of us like ketchup on our meatloaf. Gasp! Heathens, I know. We prefer to put gravy on our regular meatloaf, but I wasn’t sure how this was going to taste, let alone how it would taste with gravy, so when I got home, I fished it out of the pot and topped it with some shredded mozzarella.

It says it makes 10 servings. I suppose it might if a serving is tiny and you’re eating it with a side, but we like hearty servings around here! So, since there were three of us eating, I cut it into fourths and put one aside to bring for my lunch.

Dun dun dun! It was time to try it. Wow! It was SO good. It tasted like Italian meatloaf! Simple as that. Neither hubby or I could even taste the zucchini, and we were seriously trying. There was no zucchini texture or flavor in there. But I know it was in there!

Wow! It was SO good. It tasted like Italian meatloaf! Simple as that. Neither hubby or I could even taste the zucchini, and we were seriously trying. There was no zucchini texture or flavor in there. But I know it was in there!

It came out a tiny bit on the dry side, which hubby fixed by adding a little bit of ketchup to his. I was fine without, but next time I think I might try adding maybe a half cup of marinara as the topping with the mozzarella.

It even held up next day as a nice lunch! All in all, I think this one was a success and we’ll be adding it to our rotation of healthy, low carb, slow cooker meals.

Say Aaaaaaaah!

dentistToday, I made a trip to the dentist. It was the first time in seven years that I’d been there for a scheduled appointment instead of an emergency. When you don’t have dental insurance, going to see the dentist tends to take a backseat in priority to the potential cost. At least until you can’t sleep because one of your teeth is throbbing.

In the past three years, I’ve had to have a root canal and three teeth pulled. Right now, I’m trying to save the rest of them. Dental health is no joke people! Painful teeth make it difficult to eat right, they can interfere with your activity level, and you may not even know how much they are affecting you until they are taken care of.

I’ve suffered from sensitive teeth for years now. I thought using (insert leading sensitive toothpaste here) would solve this problem, but I kept getting more and more sensitive over time. After I had one of those teeth out (these are all back teeth, btw), the sensitivity in my front top teeth, while not completely gone, has been drastically reduced.

Keep in mind now, I brush on the daily and I try to remember to floss. I’ve gotten a lot better about remembering and my gums haven’t been so sensitive lately. So today, I went in for a cleaning.

They ended up numbing the upper left half of my mouth and had to do a total resurface below the gum line. I’m not kidding when I say that I thought I had been doing a good job. And I only actually have one cavity right now that needs to be filled. But I need three more appointments for them to do the same on the other side, and each side on the bottom.

Now, I know, this sounds horrendous and painful. But since they numbed my mouth, I honestly didn’t feel much of anything. I am lucky to have a great dentist who has been extremely understanding and compassionate.

But when we talk about taking care of our bodies, we need to talk about taking care of our whole bodies, including our mouths. They are how we nourish ourselves! And given that gum disease is linked to not just to tooth loss, but also heart disease, diabetes, and dementia (yeah, I’m not kidding about that, see sources below), it is so important to take good care of our teeth and gums.

Even if you don’t have insurance, there are a lot of dentists out there that will work with you on payment plans, Care Credit is a great resource that makes paying for dental work easier, and there are other dental care plans out there that can help. Don’t put off seeing your dentist any longer than you have to. Just like preventative care at the doctor, dentists are there to help stop problems before they become disasters.

How Plaque and Gum Disease Affect Your Health

Periodontal Disease and Systemic Health

Oral health: A window to your overall health

 

That Diet is So Yesterday

Have you ever tried a fad diet? I know I have. There are SO many of them out there, and they all promise you a miracle. Lose 10 pounds in 10 days! Lose 4 inches off your waist in a week! Detoxify! Eat this, not that!

The one thing that every fad diet has in common is that they make claims that sound too good to be true. Because they are.

That 10 pounds in 10 days was water weight. That 4 inches, is probably because you just spent that week in the bathroom. Detoxifying is a myth, and let’s be honest, cutting out foods, or even full food groups, is a recipe for failure.

Then there are the diets that say: “Lose weight without any exercise!” And the exercise plans that say: “Lose weight without having to diet!” Except there’s a caveat to each of those. When you read more about the diet, it always says “results not typical,” or “pair with exercise for even better results”. And then you look at the exercise program and it says “results not typical” or “pair with our healthy eating plan for even better results.”

Why is that? Because the results aren’t typical and using diet without exercise, or vice versa, isn’t going to get you much of anywhere.

But Mimi, surely there has to be some easy way to lose weight?! Folks, the truth is: No, there isn’t. There are a lot of ways out there that really do work. And not a one of them is easy. They ALL take effort. They ALL take commitment. They ALL take determination. They ALL require some sacrifice and they ALL require you to make changes to your lifestyle.

There is no miracle pill, diet, plan, or shake. There is just the decision to be better tomorrow than you are today. Until you are ready to make that commitment to change, you aren’t going to change.

I know that sounds harsh, but it is a hard truth that I had to face. There was no easy way to lose the weight I need to lose. There was no easy path back from diabetes. There is no shortcut to a smaller pants size. But that doesn’t mean you have to change everything all at once!

steps

Baby steps. Start with small changes and add in a new one every few days, or even every few weeks. When you start making little changes and keep building on them, before you know it, your life will look entirely different.

What’s App?

appsAs tied to our phones, tablets, and computers as we are today, it is easier than ever to utilize apps to track weight loss, exercise, diet and activities. But how do you choose the best ones? How do you know which ones will work and which ones won’t?

Today I’m going to show you the apps that I personally use, most of them on a daily basis, to stay motivated and keep on track. For the most part, they are free to use, though I use the premium version of one.

Fitbit: Okay, so it’s not technically an app itself, but it has an app. And from what I understand, the app itself is free to use, even if you don’t have one of the bands, though its main functions are tied directly to the tracker. I have this app tracking my daily steps, miles, calories burned, active minutes, hours I’ve hit 250 steps, and how many days I’ve exercised each week. It also tracks my amount and quality of sleep, and how much weight I’ve lost. These are the things that are tracked automatically just by me wearing my Fitbit tracker and using an Aria scale that is linked to the app. Manually, I can note how much water I drink, and the amount of calories I’ve consumed, however, these are usually filled in by my use of the next app on my list.

My Fitness Pal: This app has been a life-changer. It is free to download and most of its functionality is free as well. It can also be used on the computer. This app has the capability to sync with a ton of other apps, including Fitbit and Apple Health. This app’s main function is to track nutrition. I started using it when it was only accessible by computer, and it has only gotten better over the 12 years since it launched. Along with a massive database of foods that you can search, there is also a barcode scanning function that allows you to scan any commercially packaged food and automatically import all of its nutritional information. There is also a function to enter your own recipes, either manually or by entering the website you found it on. Counting calories has never been easier than this app makes it. We purchased the premium addition so that we can more easily track our carbs, fat, and protein, rather than just calories. There are other functions on the app, but these are the main points.

Achievement: Are better health, a smaller waist, and not sweating when you walk up stairs not enough incentive for you? Well, have I got an app for you! Get paid to walk, lose weight, and make healthy choices. Yes, you read that right. And it’s a free app! You earn 10k points and you get a gift card for $10. Yes, it takes a while to get to 10k points. For instance, I slept over 7 hours so I earned 6 points. I weighed myself and got another 6 points. I walked 10k steps and earned 28 points. I answered a health questionnaire and received 100 points. They add up slowly, but they add up! Who doesn’t want free money for making your body a better place to live?

iPeriod: Yeah, yeah, guys cover your eyes or keep scrolling. But I’ll tell you, this free little app is very handy! It allows me to not just track Aunt Flo’s ETA, but also my moods, symptoms, and ovulation. It’s also useful for planning ahead since you can look at projected dates months in advance. For women who are very irregular, it can be helpful to track symptoms so you can better gauge what’s going on. And for someone like me, who deals with PMDD, knowing when my cycle is going to go into a tailspin helps me grasp better control of it before I go into full on meltdown mode.

Pintrest: Who doesn’t love Pintrest? It is filled with a wealth of recipes of every kind, inspirational quotes, and exercise tips (along with wedding dress ideas, cute new purses, and a million other ways to sidetrack your searches). But there is no doubt that I’ve found some wonderful ideas on this hour-eater.

So this is a glimpse at some of my favorite fitness and health related apps (even if Pintrest doesn’t really count). Comment below if you have a favorite health app that the world needs to know about!

Weekend Weigh-in: 08/26/17

wwi82617Good morning world! This was a very up and down week for me, so I’m taking this weigh-in with a grain of salt, despite the great loss that I saw. I know that it was due to two factors outside of my efforts with diet and exercise: Being sick and not eating while I was sick.

Now, I don’t mean I didn’t eat at all, but when you’re sick, your appetite pretty much disappears, and I’m not sure if someone slipped me a diuretic but while I was sick, I think I pretty much lost all the weight for this week in water. Still, a loss is a loss. While I don’t enjoy being sick, I can at least enjoy the silver lining of the weight taking a hike.

Next week, I’m going to try to do dancing for more than just one day, so maybe we’ll see a repeat. Also, since next week will be a new month, I’ll be breaking out the measuring tape! Stay tuned for those results. For now, on to this week’s!

Date: 8-26-17

Weight: 286.3 | -4.2

Body Fat %: 57.3 | +0.5

BMI: 49.1 | -0.5

Yippee! Last weekend, hubby told me that for his birthday (Thursday) he wanted to reach the 230’s and for me to reach the 280’s. We both hit those goals! So long, sayonara, ciao, arrivederci, goodbye 290’s!

 

The 4 E’s

vacationI know you’re asking yourself, “What are the 4 E’s?” Ha, I’m so glad you asked! Hubby and I have been socking away to our savings since we came back from our anniversary trip, to get ready for our 5th anniversary. We’re going back to Vegas! We’re having a second honeymoon in the same hotel, etc. But that’s not exactly what this post is about. It did get me thinking about fitness on vacation.

Did I hear someone groan? (It was probably me!) But I’m not here to tell you about all the work outs you can do while you’re on vacation, or that you have to watch what you eat, or you can’t drink, or the first place to find in your hotel is their rinky-dink gym.

No, I’m here to tell you about the 4 E’s! Ease, Energize, Entertainment, & Enjoy. These are my cornerstones to any truly great vacation. So let’s talk a little about each of these.

Ease and Entertainment are simple enough. Take it easy. Relax! That’s what vacation is for. Of course, that takes a little preparation, especially if you’re traveling with small children. Entertainment is a must, whether you watch street shows, or buy tickets for a concert, having something to look forward to seeing or doing makes for wonderful memories.

Energize is a little more difficult. And this is where fitness comes in. How do you energize? That’s usually a little different for everyone, but for me, a little physical work, and staying hydrated always gives me a boost. If you don’t want to hit the gym (and let’s be honest, you don’t), go swimming! Or if you’re more adventurous, walk everywhere. Strap on that pedometer and go exploring until you hit your 10k or more. If you want to take a break from your normal fitness routines, that’s okay!

Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate. This is especially important if you are eating foods that are saltier than you are used to, if you are in a different climate than you are used to, or if you are drinking. Alternate a glass of water with every alcoholic drink (this also helps with hangovers).

With the combination of the three E’s above, we come to the fourth. Enjoy. Let the stress roll off your back. Take a deep breath of air that is different than you normally breathe. And just….enjoy.

It’s okay to come back from vacation with a few extra pounds. It really is! The important part of vacation is a refreshing of your mind and body so you come back ready to jump right back into your daily routines, with renewed commitment and passion.

Get Down with the Sickness

SickTo exercise or not to exercise? That is definitely a question you should be asking if you are sick. Two days ago, I felt fine all day. Then we went out to do a little grocery shopping and as we were leaving the store, I felt…off. But we went by GameStop and then headed across the street to pick up some barbeque. By the end of our errands, which only took about a half-hour, I was headed downhill fast.

We got home, and I knew that if I didn’t do our 30-day challenge right away, I wasn’t going to be able to. By the time we were done, I was a sweaty mess! And these are not hard exercises. Most of the time, my muscles feel worked, but I don’t break a sweat. So I ate most of my dinner and then crawled into bed. I spent the whole night tossing, turning, burning and freezing. I took most of yesterday off work, but thankfully by the time I did go in at 3 pm I was feeling a lot better, and the fever had broken. So did I take a rest from my challenge yesterday? Nope. However, I didn’t do my 20k steps, and I didn’t dance yesterday either.

I refused to give up on my goal to hit a 30-day streak, but looking back on it, I probably should not have pushed myself on Tuesday evening. After reading up on exercising while sick, my mistake was exercising at all while I was running a fever. Yesterday, however, I was in the clear for moderate, low impact exercise.

So, to answer the question of whether or not to exercise when you are sick: It depends!

From my research on the topic, I discovered that if your symptoms are from the neck up (a stuffy or runny nose, sore throat, itchy or watery eyes, etc) you should go for low impact, and low to moderate intensity. If you normally run, walk. If you normally walk, walk slower or less distance, etc.  If your symptoms are neck down or whole body (a cough, nausea, fever, etc) then no exercise is the way to go.

The reason behind this? When you exercise, your immune system improves. This is why people who are active and include moderate exercise in their daily routines tend to get sick less, and the duration of their illness tends to be shorter. However, if you have a fever, raising your body temperature through exercise just makes it worse (case in point above). If you have a cough, the increased respiration can exacerbate those symptoms. If you are nauseous…well, you can see where I’m going with this.

The biggest take away from this is to gauge how you feel. If you hurt all over and just want to crawl into bed and sleep, take that as a cue that it’s probably okay to take a break until you feel better. If you can take a decongestant and feel okay, then you’re probably good to hit the treadmill, but maybe dial back the speed a bit.

In either case, taking care of your body when you’re sick, and when you’re healthy, is the best way to get over that illness a little faster.

WebMD

Precision Nutrition

Men’s Fitness

Mayo Clinic

 

Indulge Me

halotopLittle indulgences at night help to keep stress low and make you look forward to having all the tedious parts of the day at an end. Most evenings, hubby and I indulge in a bit of ice cream. I know, I know. How can I eat ice cream every day and still expect to lose weight?

It’s all in the type of ice cream you eat, and how much of it! Ice creams made with little sugar or sugar substitutes are our go-to since we are watching sugar intake and carbs. I kept seeing people on weight loss forums and groups mentioning Halo Top*, but I didn’t understand the hype.

We tried out Kroger’s Simple Truth ice cream first and it was super tasty. I particularly enjoyed the chocolate, which tasted like a Fudgesicle. Hubby really enjoyed their caramel, and while my son was here, he could sit and eat an entire pint of the vanilla in a sitting. Given how picky he is, I knew we had something special in their ice cream.

And then we tried Halo Top while King Sooper’s was having a sale. Oh. My. Goodness.

As much as I loved the Simple Truth ice cream…Halo Top blows it away. With a really nice selection of flavors, a max of 360 calories a PINT, up to 24 grams of protein a pint, and between 13-20 carbs a serving (4 servings in a pint), I can eat a serving, or even two without feeling an ounce of guilt.

It is so delicious! If I didn’t know it was low carb and made with erythritol, I would not know it wasn’t mainstream ice cream. Most low carb, low sugar, high protein ice cream gets rock hard in the freezer and it can tend toward an almost gritty texture. The hard as a rock freezing was, unfortunately, a problem with the Simple Truth ice creams, though it had a nice texture. But the Halo Top? Creamy, smooth, full of flavor, and while it freezes just a little bit harder than regular ice cream, sitting out for two to three minutes usually softens it enough to start eating.

So, yes, I have ice cream almost every night. It’s my end of the day perk. And I enjoy every sweet, creamy spoonful without having to worry about what it is going to do to my waistline.

*Please note, I am not a spokesperson for Halo Top or Simple Truth and I have been in no way compensated for this review. I’m just a major fan!

Why Don’t We Just Dance…

Coming back from an injury isn’t easy, especially when it’s one that doesn’t pain you, but you know that you have to stay off it or it won’t heal correctly. Last week, we started easy with the 30-day challenges, but tonight, we stepped it up a notch!

Hubby and I love to dance. In fact, the song “Why Don’t We Just Dance” is our song! So we’ve been enjoying the Just Dance video games since 2014. Having it come to the Switch was a total bonus because we could finally do it together instead of alternating songs.

And just after we got the game…Well, we certainly couldn’t do much dancing with hubby in a Darko even if he’d had the doctor’s okay. But he didn’t, and so we didn’t. It sure felt good to break out the game tonight though!

Dancing is one of those very few purely aerobic things that I actually enjoy. It’s a great outlet for stress and a mood lifting activity for me. After dinner tonight I just wanted to veg out so much. But my husband gave me the kick I needed and up we got.

If you’ve never seen this quote before, it is absolutely true:

workout

By the time we were done sweating, my arms felt like jelly, but I no longer felt like going to take a nap or passing out in front of the television.

It might sound counterintuitive, but expending a bit of energy can really give you more. I am so glad that we’ve been able to get our dancing back into our routine a few times a week. Now we just have to build up the number of songs we can do before we want to fall over!

Proper Support

supportNo, I’m not talking about sports bras and cups here! Let’s talk about why it is important to have a support system when you are trying to get to a healthy weight (by either gaining or losing) and get fit. Taking this journey to health is not easy to do alone.

For me, it was impossible. When you are accountable only to yourself, and you are the only one cheering yourself on, it becomes a lonely trek. We are social animals, and we thrive when we have others helping us to stay on track and meet our goals.

Unsurprisingly, even the American Psychological Associate (APA) has found that people who enroll in weight loss efforts with friends or family members are more likely to not only lose weight, but keep it off.

My husband’s support has been integral to my success! I tried time and again to lose weight, to start exercising, to watch what I eat. But when I was doing it by myself, I’d always give up after a week or so. I think the longest I went was about 3 months. But even then, I gained it all back and then some.

When he said that he would start doing all this with me, it changed everything! Suddenly, I had someone who was cheering every loss on the scale, and kicking my butt every time I wanted to be lazy and not do my steps. And now that we are both eating the same things, it’s much easier to stay on track as far as our diet.

So what about people who don’t have that support system? Who don’t have a significant other who wants to go all in for fitness? You still need to find support! Even if it’s as simple as a Facebook group, or going all out and joining a weight loss support group like Weight Watchers.

But I’m antisocial, you say. I don’t like people. I don’t! I know that might be surprising to some of you. And I think that’s true for most of us. I like Some people, but as a whole…nah. The important part is finding one or two people that you do like, whether it’s online, or in person, who share your fitness goals and are willing to stick with you, through thick and thin.

Because I promise you, it’s going to get rough. You’re going to want to quit. You’re going to want to say “screw it, I’m going to Baskin Robins and trying all 31 flavors.” But if you have those people to talk to, they can walk you off that ledge and back onto the elliptical.

Some fantastic resources for people looking for a fitness buddy?

My Fitness Pal – This is a free calorie and fitness tracker that is compatible with Fitbit, iHealth, and many other apps out there. But they also have groups and a friend system!

Facebook Groups – Do a search on the kind of diet you are using, or a favorite type of exercise or even how much you need to lose or gain. There are groups out there for everyone!

That’s just two, but there are others out there. Some free, some expensive. But they can all be great resources for finding that all important support.

Weekend Weigh-in: 08/19/17

e16235ca9f160c69d1556f9391eaf78f-positive-workout-quotes-fitness-motivation-quotes-positiveWow, what a week! It was a bit stressful, especially early in the week, but I did my best to let out my frustrations on my elliptical at work. And the 9 new exercises we added in for our 30-day challenges seem to have given me a little bit of an added boost.

Despite my worry that the delicious keto cheesecake I made last weekend, and the ice cream I had almost every night (low carb, but still…) were going to be the enemy of my scale this morning, I was pleasantly surprised!

I went a little above my goal of .5-2 lbs a week, but I’m certainly not going to complain. I’m also starting to notice that my clothes are starting to get looser and things I couldn’t wear last summer are fitting normally again.

I try to go by how I feel and how my clothes feel rather than worrying too much about the scale, so when my clothes were feeling a bit snug around the middle last weekend and early in the week, I was getting a bit discouraged. But that’s hormones for you.

The most exciting part of this weigh-in is that I am finally out of the 50’s on my BMI! And next week, for hubby’s birthday, we have high hopes that I’ll hit the 280’s and he’ll hit the 230’s. We’re both only about a 1/2 lb away so I know we can do this!

Without further ado, here are the stats for this week:

Date: 8-19-17

Weight: 290.5 | -3.6

Body Fat %: 56.8 | +0.8

BMI: 49.6 | -0.9

Score!

Weight Watchers, Keto, Paleo, Oh my!

dietOne question I get asked on a frequent basis is: “what diet are you following?” That’s not such a cut and dried question. The thing is, my husband and I aren’t following one particular “diet”. There are certainly a lot of diets out there to try, and I’ve tried a fair few. I know people who have done really well on the Keto diet, and on the Paleo diet. I’ve also known people who do great with Atkins, or Lean Cuisine, or even Weight Watchers.

The problem I’ve had with all of these diets is their restriction. “Carbs are bad!” “No, it’s

“Carbs are bad!” “No, it’s

“No, it’s fat that’s bad!”

“Fast Food? That makes you fat!”

“Count these points and you’ll do just fine!”

They all tell you to do something different, count something different, restrict something different. And let’s not forget to mention that they all insist that you do your own cooking, avoid fast food, and sometimes even restrict you to just their brand of food. And, while most of them work great for a while, you eventually get sick of eating all the same things over and over again and you go off the diet. Then what happens? You gain it all back and then some!

When we decided to start limiting our calories, we made one promise. We were not going to cut out any of the things we love. We might change how often we eat them, or how much of them we eat, but nothing was off limits.

Now, we also limit carbs and sugar, but that still doesn’t mean that we can’t have the things we love. I’ll admit it, I don’t much like cooking. It’s time consuming, messy, hot work that I’d rather pay someone else to do. I do try to cook at least two to three times a week, but often, it’s not even that much. I’m talking dinner here. I have a shake and fruit for breakfast and bring a microwave or refrigerated meal for lunch. But most nights…fast food is where it’s at. And guess what? That’s OKAY!

We track our food, make sure our carbs are in the right range, and we go grab BK or Taco Bell. Could everyone eat fast food almost every night and still lose weight? Probably not. But it is what works for us. We’ve made adjustments to the things we get, we opt for smaller portions, we lose the buns and bread, and we enjoy.

I am a picky eater. I eat what tastes good. I just have to make sure that what tastes good also fits within parameters that we’ve set for ourselves. And then one day a week, we throw out the measures and have a bit of whatever we’ve denied ourselves through the week. Not everyone can do that. Someone mentioned to me that if they took a cheat day, it would become another, and then another until they were all cheat days. And that’s okay! To be honest, the longer we do this, the more our cheat days are starting to look like every other day.

We throw some keto recipes into our meals, we also try some paleo. We have gluten free in there too, along with low calorie, and just everyday recipes that don’t fit any of those labels. The fact is, we aren’t following A diet because to us, this isn’t a diet. We have no intention to go back to the way we used to eat, this is our new normal. It just happens to be what works for us, and what we’ve found we can stick to.

So when someone asks what kind of diet we’re on, I just say: The one that works for us.