A Shift in Perspective

Isn’t it amazing what excuses we tell ourselves when we fail to make time for things we have committed to, or even the things we enjoy doing?

Like this blog, for instance. I love to write. Like really love it. And I love the idea of taking time for myself to write here every day – or even just a few times a week. This is something that I have committed myself to doing time and again, recommitting every few months with a renewed vigor. “This time for sure! This time I will make my list of post ideas and work on one to publish every 2-3 days. This time I’m really going to do it!”

Then without fail I enthusiastically throw myself into the creation of one grand post. I publish it. I feel amazing and creatively fulfilled and can’t wait to begin work on the next one.

And then a day passes.

And then another. And another.

My list of blog post ideas goes untouched as the excuses start to dim the rosy glow of creativity and satisfaction that had enveloped me following my previous post.

“I have to run errands today.”

“I don’t really feel like writing.”

“I don’t have any good ideas today.”

“This post isn’t perfect.”

“No body will care to read that.”

“My baby is taking too much of my time today.” (This is, in fact, a somewhat valid excuse I think. My almost 5 month old is still quite needy and dependent on me, as most 5 month old babies tend to be. I am writing this right now at 9pm after he has fallen asleep in my arms).

But I think the biggest limitation I put on myself was my initial intent of making this a health/nutrition/fitness-y type of blog. I find myself struggling to come up with new and original post ideas that fit within these categories (when there is already SO MUCH out there), and have not even allowed myself to consider writing about other subjects.

But what if I didn’t just have to write about these things?

What if I were just to write?

I started this blog at a time when I was trying to transition from a teaching career to one in the fitness industry. I cared so much about getting stronger and having abs and counting my macros and having a popular Instagram.

But then I got pregnant. And eventually had my little baby boy. And my entire perspective on the universe changed so drastically that things that used to seem really important to me, all of a sudden diminished in their importance.

Don’t get me wrong, I still work out every day and lift heavy things. But my goals have shifted dramatically. I just want to lose the last little bit of my baby weight and stay active and healthy – not because I want to look like a fitness model, but because exercise makes me feel good, physically and emotionally.

I still love to cook because I am passionate about the process of cooking. It is one of my favorite ways to relax. But I don’t care about creating “macro-friendly” recipes that will somehow become Instagram famous and be shared around the internet. I just enjoy eating deliciously healthy food and sharing it with my family.

I don’t put time or effort into my Instagram because I don’t care how many followers I have anymore. The time I spend playing with my little guy and experiencing all his giggles and wonder at the big wide world is much more valuable. These are passing moments that are much better experienced with a fully present heart and mind, not moments to be constantly recording and uploading for others to ogle at.

This baby, little Noah, has changed my life and put so much into perspective. I find myself milking every last drop of joy out of each moment of the day. I have never felt so engaged and satisfied with my life.

Rather than letting him be an excuse for not writing, I’m going to use him, and the beautiful moments we spend together, as inspiration for writing.

And not just him (even though he is like, 96.3% of my life right now). But I am going to write about whatever I want. Fitness, books, food, me, gratitude, quotes. Whatever comes to mind, inspires creation, and contributes to my happiness.

Isn’t that what having a blog is all about?

YOU GOAL GIRL!


So much to look forward to in the coming year.

Since it’s the last day of 2018, I’d like to take a quick intermission from my pregnancy series to talk about goal-setting and some goals I have for the upcoming year. I don’t really like to use the term “resolution” – that word conjures up images of grand schemes that fizzle out after the first couple weeks of January. To me GOALS is a more long term way of looking at New Years Resolutions. You can make and stick to goals at any time of the year, not just beginning on January 1st.


Goal-Setting 101

I’m not sure where I first heard about it, but I think the simplest guideline to setting goals is to make sure they are SMART. I mean obviously you don’t want to set dumb goals *eyeroll*. But if you just say your goal is “to lose weight”, for instance… how would you even know when or if that goal has been met? So make your goals…

  1. Specific – write down your goal using specific language rather than ambiguous terms. What do you want to accomplish, where and why? “I want to lose 15 pounds” is much more specific than lose weight. Also, what specific steps can be taken to attain that goal? “I will go to the gym 4 days a week” or “I will not eat desserts 6 out of 7 days of the week.” Those are both very specific steps that can be taken to help you achieve your goal of losing 15 pounds.
  2. Measurable – make the goal something that you can actually objectively track the progress of. You can’t track an ambiguously phrased “lose weight”, but you can step on a scale each day to measure how much of the 15 pounds you’ve lost. Seeing the progress in real time will actually do wonders for your momentum and motivation.
  3. Attainable – YES, even goals are confined to the laws of physics. I know, I know, we all wish we could just have one million dollars by tomorrow, but this is not a realistic or attainable desire. It is attainable to make a goal to “save up $5000 in 6 months” or something like that. It is attainable to “lose 15 pounds by next Christmas”. Make sure the goal is actually something that you can achieve and not just a wild fantasy you have, otherwise nothing but frustration will ensue.
  4. Relevant – I guess this means a goal you set should be something that’s worthwhile to you while also in line with your other goals. Your goals should complement each other and help push you to be exactly who you want to be.
  5. Time-bound – I think this might be the most important of them all. Exactly by WHEN do you plan to meet your goal? “I want to lose 15 pounds.” By tomorrow? As if. Set a time limit. “I want to lose 15 pounds by June 30, 2019.” Thats about a 6 month time frame. Not only would this be perfectly feasible, but the sense of urgency that a time limit sets will allow you to stay focused and motivated.

I want to mention one more goal-setting guideline that is not included in this model but I think is absolutely CRUCIAL. WRITE YOUR GOALS DOWN ON PAPER. Put them in a place where you will see them and be reminded of them daily. Each day ask yourself, “What have I done today to bring myself closer to my goals?” Every day you should do at least one thing, no matter how small, that will propel you forward. Going back to the theoretical weight loss goal, maybe the one thing you did was make the choice to not eat the donuts your coworkers brought to work. AND THAT’S A HARD CHOICE, TRUST ME, I KNOW. But every day you have the chance to make little choices that add up to big changes. If you just have your goals floating around in your head, it will be harder to take real-life steps toward them. Writing them down makes them tangible.


My Goals for 2019

So what are MY goals for 2019?? I may have a couple…

Maybe that last goal isn’t quite measurable or specific, but that one may be the most important to me of them all. I am going to be a mom. It is still crazy to me but each day I will do whatever I can to make sure that little baby feels loved and safe.

Each of these is important to me for different reasons, but they are all intended to help me be the happiest, healthiest, and most successful I can be. Some of these goals are stepping stones to even longer term goals (education, career, etc.). I have been especially overwhelmed lately with the concept of getting a graduate degree, especially with the unexpected little bundle of joy that will be here before I know it. My goals have had to shift a lot from what they would have been were I not now growing my little family.

But that’s okay. That’s just life. Life is unexpected and will always throw curveballs your way. What’s important is the ability to remain flexible and adapt and grow with those changes. Maybe 2018 didn’t end for you exactly as you would have planned, but you’re about to have 365 brand new, shiny and fresh chances to make the most of each day, to grow and to learn and to appreciate all of the blessings that life gives you. You are breathing and you are alive and this coming year is going to be SPECTACULAR. ✭

Pregnancy, PCOS, and Paleo

The Gummy Bear Files, Part II

Let’s talk about some girl problems today. And perhaps you’ll start to see just why I consider me getting pregnant such a miracle. I have never had normal periods. From the time I was 14 years old I always struggled with debilitating cramps and pain, so bad that I would even stay home from school some days. Obviously this wasn’t normal. Soon after, my first gynecologist discovered that I had some cysts on one of my ovaries, and at the tender age of 14 I was put on oral contraceptives because this was the only way to make the cysts go away and achieve some sort of normalcy in my cycle.

Fast forward 10 or so years and I had more or less been on the pill consistently THIS. WHOLE. TIME. In fact, it got to the point that any months I spent not taking the pill I simply wouldn’t even get a period. I sometimes would stop taking it because of worries that long term use would affect my fertility. After one of these 3-4 month stretches of consciously not taking my pill and not having a period, I decided to bring it up at my annual check up.

I was about 23 or 24 and this time I was officially diagnosed with polycystic ovarian syndrome (or PCOS). Again, my new doctor told me that the only way to control the cysts is to consistently take an oral contraceptive. He also mentioned at this appointment (and I will never forget these exact words) “That when I am ready to start trying to get pregnant we will need to have a whole other conversation.” He made it very clear that it would be difficult for me to get pregnant naturally with PCOS.

This is not surprising, as infertility or complications with getting pregnant is one of the most common PCOS symptoms. My aunt suffered from PCOS and had to undergo many stressful and expensive fertility treatments before finally getting pregnant around age 35 or 36. Once pregnant, she also developed gestational diabetes. Not sure if these are necessarily related, but maybe. Insulin is one of the hormones involved in PCOS so it would make sense that these two conditions would be comorbid (comorbidity, noun, the presence of two or more simultaneous medical conditions, for you non-science geeks out there).

So with a familial history of PCOS (my maternal grandmother also had it) how did I manage to so easily and unexpectedly find myself expecting a little one?? Could LIFESTYLE have anything to do with it? Honestly, I 100% believe that this is the case. Let’s discuss further, but first a disclaimer.

DISCLAIMER: I AM NOT A DOCTOR, JUST SOMEONE WITH ANECDOTAL EVIDENCE WHO HAPPENS TO ENJOY EDUCATING MYSELF ABOUT NUTRITION AND THE MEDICAL COMMUNITY.

For those of you that don’t know, the symptoms of PCOS can include the following:

  • Abnormal menstruation – either a lack there of or extremely heavy menstruation; lack of ovulation
  • Fatigue
  • Weight gain
  • Pelvic pain
  • Unwanted hair growth
  • Mood changes – mood swings, depression, anxiety (my adolescence was definitely wrought with plenty of depression…)
  • Acne
  • Infertility
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By no means did I experience all of these, but many of them have affected my life at one time or another. The depression was a big factor in my life up until the last couple years or so. I’ve suffered with mild acne, fatigue, and most definitely the complete absence of periods for months at a time. In fact, the doctor had a hard time determining my due date because I had been off the pill since about January 2018, had my first “normal” period on March 28 and then never had one again after. Yet there I was in early September already 9 weeks pregnant. That means I had gone at least 3-4 months without having a seemingly “normal” cycle. Yet apparently I was.

Around the same age I was diagnosed I had also become addicted to crossfit. And as so often happens when one discovers crossfit, my eyes were opened to a whole new universe of nutrition, fitness, and lifestyle changes. I didn’t embark on my crossfit journey without rearranging almost every aspect of my life to supplement that journey.

I started consistently getting 7-8 hours of sleep every night. I began educating myself about the structure of the human body and about how sports performance is affected by nutrition. I read books about the paleo diet and that evolved into me following a low-carb ketogenic diet for almost 2 years straight. I cut out ALL processed foods, sodas, almost all sugar. I couldn’t even touch a food item in a plastic wrapper without cringing. I taught myself how to cook (and VERY WELL, I might add) so that I could make all my healthy food at home. If I was ever in a situation where I didn’t know the exact ingredients present in the food I was eating, I almost couldn’t even bring myself to put it in my body.

Every day for breakfast I had scrambled eggs with spinach and bell peppers, with 1-2 strips of bacon. For lunch I would always have chicken or ground turkey with kale or broccoli and carrots or cauliflower or some combination of vegetables. Every night we would cook dinner at home which always followed a simple formula: one type of meat, one vegetable, and a serving of healthy fats. One of my favorite examples of this is a little grass fed steak served with roasted Brussels sprouts and half an avocado. It became so incredibly simple to eat healthy. I just tried to include as many vegetables as possible, and the more I tried the more I loved them and loved experimenting with different ways to prepare them.

I was DISCIPLINED. I denied myself desserts, and the more I did the easier it became. It’s crazy how the more you eat vegetables and lean proteins and other healthy foods, the more your body craves that sort of food and rejects what was previously deemed “normal”. I was disciplined and I saw results. I lost that little bit of extra body fat (I was never super overweight), but more than that I saw my body composition changing completely. I developed muscle tone and I looked and felt FIT. Even more importantly, I felt STRONG and HEALTHY.

I started getting sick less and less and my stamina in my day to day life improved. I had (and more or less still have, despite growing a human inside me) SO MUCH MORE ENERGY. Two or three years into this lifestyle change I went back to my gyno and never had the cysts again. At this point I was still on (and occasionally off) the pill. So obviously, that had to be the reason for the management of my PCOS symptoms right?

There are plenty of anecdotes on the internet of women who have decreased or even reversed PCOS symptoms on a low-carb or ketogenic diet. I feel like I am one of those anecdotes. I genuinely believe that my fertility health was positively affected by my long term and consistent dedication to health and eating good quality foods. I spent so much of the first half of my twenties so anxious that I would never be able to have my own children. That I would never be blessed enough to get to experience growing a life inside of me. Even after hearing countless nutritionists and even Robb Wolf himself (go check out his podcast The Paleo Solution, it is geeky, informative and all-around awesome) declare the link between the ketogenic diet and improvement with PCOS symptoms.

For all the anecdotal evidence, there has unfortunately not been many scientific research studies done on the subject. One such study was conducted by researchers at Duke University, on eleven women with PCOS over a 6 month period. The women followed a low carb, ketogenic diet (less than 20g of carbs a day) and by the end of the study had improvements in body weight, percent testosterone, and fasting insulin levels. Two of the women in the study even became pregnant, despite suffering from previous infertility problems!

Now, as someone who’s respectful of the scientific method it’s important to point out that one study (or even a few studies) does not necessarily prove causation. At best, this study reinforces the link between insulin levels and PCOS and warrants more extensive research. Despite this, I think the myriad examples of anecdotal evidence of women whose lives have been changed by following a low-carb lifestyle merits giving it a try for yourself.

If you’re trying to get pregnant but have been finding it difficult, whether due to PCOS or not, take a look at your lifestyle. Maybe it’s time to evaluate some of your habits and change them for the better. It’s never too late to start exercising and it’s never to late to follow a diet rich in quality foods, and low in processed, sugar “foods”. (I put that in quotations because an apple is a real food. The unpronounceable chemicals in the ingredient list on a plastic wrapped cookie are NOT real foods.)

I believe that you have the power to create lasting, positive changes in your health based on your daily habits and the nutrition choices you make each day. Day to day it may be difficult to detect any differences, but then all of a sudden three years have passed and you realize how much weight you’ve lost, or that you can run three times farther than you ever were able before, or that you have a baby on the way when you never even thought you’d be able to conceive. Little changes add up to make a BIG DIFFERENCE.

Thus concludes part II of my pregnancy journey. (To read Part I click HERE). I’m so ecstatic to be sharing my emotions and experiences with you all. If you continue to follow along, even if you don’t learn something I hope to at least provide some entertaining reading material. Thanks for reading, and look out for my next post on DEALING WITH SUGAR CRAVINGS IN PREGNANCY in a few days.

Happy holidays and happy new year!!

The Gummy Bear Files

About 3 months ago I wrote a post about my negative experiences with obsessively tracking macros, how it affected my relationship with food, and my subsequent gradual weight gain. To this day I still have not tracked any of the food I’ve eaten and followed a much more intuitive pattern of eating, but there is a very good reason for this. It turns out my expanding belly, exhaustion, and moody disposition was due to more than just nutritional inconsistency. On September 1, I found out I am expecting my first baby.

7 weeks → 12 weeks → 20 weeks

From Bawling to Blessing

I’ll be honest – my first reaction was tears, lots of them. We were NOT trying to have a baby, and in fact I didn’t even think it would be possible (or easy) for me to get pregnant [more on this later]. I’m going to be blunt here, since early July my boobs had been KILLING ME. They were tender and swollen and I just assumed I was “about to” get my period – for 5 weeks in a row.

My only other symptom was exhaustion. I became less and less motivated to push myself in crossfit as it subsequently became harder to lift big weights and catch my breath in intense endurance-heavy workouts. I continued to push myself and figured I was just kind of in a rut, a rut related to my recent food cravings and what I saw as “bad” eating habits. If I could just completely cut out carbs or completely cut out sugar somehow my performance would rebound.

One day I got out of the shower and my boyfriend looked at me and exclaimed (again, very bluntly), “Babe, your tits are HUGE! That’s not normal maybe you should show your mom.” So we went in the kitchen, I flashed my mother and her immediate reaction: “Claire I think you’re pregnant.”

No way. I didn’t believe it so decided to take a test that night. It was immediately and obviously positive. But maybe that one was just a fluke??? Nope. Next morning I took another one, it was ALSO positive! When I took the first test I started bawling. I couldn’t contain my tears, the emotions were so overwhelming. I have never been pregnant before and didn’t even know how to react. What about my body?!? How will I support the baby financially?! AM I EVEN READY TO GROW AND RAISE A WHOLE HUMAN BEING?!!!!

My boyfriend walked in, looked at the test, broke out in the biggest smile I’ve ever seen and said, “WHY ARE YOU CRYING?! WE’RE GOING TO BE PARENTS!” He was so happy it melted my heart.

After we finally made it to the doctor I found out I was already 9 weeks along *gasp*. The baby literally looked like a tiny gummy bear:

Tell me that is not the most gummy bear looking little guy you’ve ever seen.

I won’t lie, I mourned the loss of my abs and waistline. I stressed about having sugar cravings and being hungry all the time and feeling like I was eating way too much. I was horrified that my size 0 pants were beginning to not fit. Even though I was overjoyed (I’ve always wanted to be a mom) it took me a good month to accept that there’s a life growing inside me and that right now IT IS NOT ABOUT ME. It is okay to gain weight right now. I will have the opportunity to get fit again. It will be fun, like a project that I am starting anew. I worked so hard over the last 3 years for my health and fitness.

I have not stopped lifting weights and crossfitting throughout my pregnancy. I have had to make a lot of modifications and I am definitely not as strong or “toned” as I used to be. But I have been blessed beyond belief. I am grateful to have the opportunity to experience what it is like to bring a little person into this world, to give all of myself to another human being.

The Adventure Begins…

My life will NEVER be the same, but this will literally be the most amazing adventure we have ever embarked on. I know my baby daddy will be the most incredible father ever, and he has already been so supportive and helpful in every aspect. I’m 27 years old. I always envisioned that I would have a baby WHEN I was a certain age, WHEN I had a certain job, WHEN I had x amount of money saved up. If there’s anything I’ve learned it’s that life never goes like that. Life just happens and then you figure it out. You just have to be present and enjoy each moment as it comes, rather than stressing about all the “what if’s”.

I’m totally new at this but I think I’d like to share some of my pregnancy experiences with you guys. If you all are interested, in the coming days I will be sharing about:

  • Lifestyle and PCOS
  • Pregnancy nutrition and dealing with sugar cravings
  • Working out when pregnant
  • Dealing with grief during pregnancy

The last bullet point is especially close to my heart. If my thoughts can inspire or help even one person I will be happy. If no one even reads this and I simply have an outlet to organize my thoughts and work through the emotional rollercoaster of life, I will be equally as happy.

The last thing I’ll leave you with is a picture of some teeny tiny feet. Because these teeny tiny feet are inside of me and I still cannot wrap my mind around what a miracle this is.

Some Thoughts Regarding Alcohol

We’ve all been there.  Especially if, like me, you went to college away from home. You were 18 years young, and finally got to experience that sweet taste of freedom and cheap, watered down beer.  I am 110% guilty of falling down this college-drinking rabbit hole and gained more than the freshman fifteen.  I had immense difficulty losing (and maintaining that loss) until recent years.  What starts off as benign college fun can turn into something more sinister, and even affect your health.

 

Isn’t alcohol what being an adult is all about?!

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It’s the culture – you go to house parties, go out for drinks with your friends every weekend night starting on Thursday (Thirsty Thursday is a real thing, people), you sneak pregame drinks in your dorm room.  But this doesn’t stop at college, it carries over into after work happy hours three days a week, and turns into “needing” that glass of wine (or four) every night after work just to wind down.  I was that chick at college parties that would literally HOARD room temperature bud lights in my purse, just to be stocked up when the party inevitable ran out of booze.  I firmly believed that you could not go out and have a “fun” weekend unless it involved a whirlwind of cocktails and bad decisions.  Needless to say, I entered into adulthood with a very unhealthy, “all-or-nothing” relationship with alcohol.

My junior year of college, I started working out because I seriously wanted to shed that freshman fifteen – which at this point had become more like the freshman 25ish.  I became obsessive about counting the calories I ate, never once stopping to give second thought to the calories I DRANK.  Yes, I lost some weight due to eating lower calorie foods, incorporating lots of veggies, hitting cardio 4x a week with mild strength training (I had yet to discover crossfit!!), but I always seemed to kind of plateau.  I never quite got to the level of fitness and health that I wanted.  I thought I was doing everything right!  Oh, the frustration that ensued!

Alcohol goes straight to the a** (and belly and face and joints).

At this time I was still drinking a lot of wine on the weeknights – you know, because that’s what adults do, right?! – and going out to drink on weekends Friday through Saturday.  And don’t forget about mimosa-fueled Sunday brunches.  That’s a lot of empty liquid calories.  Like, a lot.  One mimosa has about 160 calories with 9 grams of sugar.  Raise your hand if you’ve ever had just one mimosa… yeah I didn’t think so.  Multiply that by 4 or 5 and you’re staring down the barrel of almost 1000 calories, just from your brunch drinks alone.

And there’s the other sneaky thing about drinking: it affects your eating habits as well.  When you’ve had a few drinks, all of a sudden it becomes so much easier to make poor food choices.  Who cares about that 1 am pizza??? I’ll tell you who doesn’t care: those three beers, two tequila shots, and four vodka sodas you consumed in a span of 3 hours.  And what about the next morning when you wake up cranky, dehydrated, and feeling like a jackhammer wrecked your whole body?  Definitely gonna need a triple stack of pancakes and/or a giant plate of sour cream chicken enchiladas to soak up those bad decisions.  And then the downward spiral ensues.

As I started to maintain a healthier lifestyle throughout the week, it became so much more noticeable how crappy I felt on the weekends after countless drinks and junk food.  By every Monday morning, I felt like an inflamed whale, only to get right back on track and feel great again by Friday night.  This cycle of healthy week, boozy weekend, Monday morning guilt lasted for years.  I thought this was normal, along with my IBS issues that came along with it.

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Here we encounter a prime example of me not following my own advice and drinking a beer.  Inflammation and gastrointestinal issues ensued post consumption of this beer.  But it was really hot out and this beer was refreshing and provided a great photo op. (Taken with Moment lens.)

Alcohol: the other macronutrient???

Now I am certainly not saying alcohol is terrible or that you should NEVER drink it, but in my personal experience I have just found that overall I feel better when I don’t.  I don’t need to get blackout wasted to have a good time, and I’d rather just not experience the post-drink inflammation and blues.  If you are trying to lose weight, an easy way to boost your progress is to seriously limit or cut out alcohol altogether.  Remember, alcohol is NOT a macronutrient that your body needs.  On the contrary, your body views alcohol as a toxin, and will always preferentially burn any alcohol that enters your system.  That means any carbohydrates, fat, or protein that enters your system at the same time as alcohol will not be processed.  I repeat, ALL OTHER METABOLIC PROCESSES WILL CEASE.  All of a sudden, you have all these extra carbs, fats, and proteins floating around in your body, so what happens to them? They get converted to fat and stored for later!

So next time you go out for dinner and drinks, remember that when you drink a lot of alcohol, and eat excess calories, the alcohol is hindering your body’s ability to metabolize that food.  Again, I am not saying to never drink.  It’s just no wonder so many of us gain the freshman fifteen when we are poor college kids drinking alcohol all the time and eating fast food at 2 am after a night of partying.

The key is to find BALANCE.  If you must drink, save it for special celebratory occasions.  And when you do drink, don’t drink to excess.  Have a few drinks, and remember to drink water so you don’t get dehydrated.  And try not to give in to those late night alcohol-fueled munchies: they are not your friend.

The Juiciest, Cheese-Stuffed Turkey Meatballs!

I don’t know about you guys, but I used to completely not enjoy cooking with ground turkey.  It seemed liIMG_9327.jpgke every time I attempted to make turkey meatballs or turkey burgers they turned out dry and bland.  But if you’re like me, you also get tired of the daily rotations of beef and chicken.

I embarked upon a mission to make the juiciest, tastiest turkey meatballs of all time, just to have another option for mealprepping or as another dinner protein to have handy.  These meatballs did not disappoint, delivering all the moistness you’d expect from a meatball, and an explosion of flavor in every bite.

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Seriously guys, there’s nothing more satisfying than oozy, melty cheese…especially when it’s in the middle of a meatball.

I was trying to figure out just why these turkey meatballs are so satisfying, and why I feel just so gosh dang good after eating them, when I came across this article on Mark’s Daily Apple.  It turns out that turkey (when made into juicy, delicious meatballs) doesn’t just taste good, but it’s also loaded with tryptophan, the precursor to serotonin.  Serotonin, known as the “feel-good hormone,” is vital in regulating your mood, sleep, and even your sexual desire.  But enough science about why turkey is great.  Let’s make some balls of meat!!

Ingredients:

Serves: 10 medium-sized meatballs

  • 1 pound ground turkey (I used Trader Joe’s)
  • 1 egg
  • 1 large handful of kale (chopped)
  • 3-4 cloves of fresh garlic
  • Salt + pepper
  • Trader Joe’s Everything But the Bagel Seasoning (AS MUCH AS YOU WANT. SERIOUSLY I USED LIKE 1/4 OF THE JAR)
  • 10 cubes of cheese – I used Trader Joe’s Grassfed Organic Cheddar slices; I just stacked two slices up and cut them into squares, but I recommend cutting cubes from a block of cheese.
  • 1 tablespoon Kerrygold Grassfed Butter (unsalted) – for the pan

How To Do It:

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1. Put the pound of turkey into a large mixing bowl and season it generously with salt + pepper.  Crack the egg inside, then douse that thing with Everything but the bagel seasoning!

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2. Take your large handful of kale (about this much) and chop it all up into smaller pieces.  Make sure to remove all stems, lest you be in for a crunchy surprise on biting into your meatball!  Add the chopped kale to the bowl with the turkey.

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Fresh garlic packs so much more flavor than garlic powder.  For optimum deliciousness, use 3-4 cloves. (One clove of garlic is one segment of the bulb).

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3. To crush the garlic, you will need a mortar + pestle tool, as pictured.  Peel all skin off the garlic cloves and chop them into somewhat smaller pieces.  Put them in the mortar + pestle and crush them up!

4. Add the crushed garlic to the turkey.  Use a large spoon to mix all the ingredients well (or use your hands – they’re going to get dirty anyways when you are ready to start rolling the meat into balls).

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5. Now we’re ready for the best part: the cheesy insides!  You can use whatever type of cheese you like best, I recommend cheddar or mozzarella…I bet it would be fantastic with feta cheese as well.  I double-stacked these organic cheddar slices from Trader Joe’s and cut them into squares, just because this is what I had on hand.  However, I’m 347% sure that it would probably be easier to cut a block of cheese into cubes.

6. Then it’s time to get messy.  Using your hands, take a small handful of the meat mixture and roll it into a ball.  Using your thumb, create an indentation in the middle.  This is for your cheese.  Insert a cube of cheese, take another pinch of meat to cover the cheese, and continue rolling into a ball so that all the cheese is covered.

7. Continue until all turkey is used up.  You should have about 10 medium sized meatballs.

8. Add the butter to your pan and heat it on medium-high heat.  Allow the pan to get hot (once the butter starts to bubble) and then add the meatballs one by one.  Cook them about 8-10 minutes, continuously turning them with a spatula so they can get browned all around, and making sure they cook all the way through (remember, you don’t want medium-rare turkey….)


Unless you have some sort of magic power that I don’t, these meatballs are not going to be perfectly round.  They will get flat-ish on some sides because the meat is so soft.  But the softness of the meat and cooking them in butter are the keys to what make this recipe so juicy!  The meatballs will absorb the butter, giving them lots of flavor!  These are great for meal prep lunches, or to have on hand for preparing quick dinners.  The first night I made them I paired them with cauliflower rice and some veggies.  The next night I threw the leftovers into a kale salad. Boom – five minute meal magic!  Enjoy them with zucchini noodles and marinara sauce to combat those Italian food cravings!

Super versatile, super yummy!  Hope you enjoy guys!  If you decide to make them, feel free to leave a comment and let me know how they turned out!

xoxo

The Most Important Meal of the Day

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Did this image of the most enticingly delicious, absolutely sugar-laden waffles grab your attention?? Good. Because today I want to talk about something that affects me as a teacher, and should also be affecting you as a parent: breakfast.  In particular, I want to discuss the affect that high-carb, sugary breakfasts devoid of nutrients can have on your child’s ability to function at school.

I may not be a nutritionist quite yet, but it’s never too early to make an impact.  This week I got to experience what it was like to positively influence the nutrition of one of my students.  This 5-year-old is exceptionally smart, loves being at school, and genuinely enjoys the learning process.  Let’s call this boy Liam*.  Liam is a brilliant student, but he can also tend to be very silly and jumpy at times.  The key phrase here is at times.  This past Monday he seemed to be having a particularly difficult time sitting still and concentrating on his work.  And an idea just struck me so I decided to ask him: “Liam, what did you eat for breakfast this morning?”  His answer?  FROSTED FLAKES AND CHOCOLATE MILK.

Now I’m not a parent, but after five years of experience educating young children, I know how picky children can be about food.  I also know what a battle it can be early in the morning to get your child fed and out the door in a reasonable time.  Too often this leads to children eating sugar-filled breakfasts in a rush, such a frozen waffles with syrup, sugary cereal, cookies, and at times even candy! (Yes, I have witnessed the mother of a two-year-old girl feeding her daughter M’n’Ms at 8:30 in the morning at carpool). Most parents don’t even realize just how much sugar their children are eating, not just at breakfast, but throughout the entire day.

Frosted Flakes have 10g of sugar in one 3/4 cup serving, all 10g of these being added sugars. But let’s be real, how many of us pour a bowl of cereal and actually measure out “one serving”.  Realistically, Liam was probably having double this, or even more.  So let’s say 20g for the cereal.  The chocolate milk has even more sugar, at 24g! 10.25 of those grams are added sugar.  So before 8:30 in the morning Liam has already been loaded with 44 grams of sugar – this is equivalent to 11 teaspoons of sugar.  Have you ever added 11 teaspoons of sugar to your coffee?  I’ll just let that sit there for a minute.  No wonder he couldn’t stop fidgeting, running around, and was unable to focus on his math lesson for more than a few seconds at a time.  The sugar-consumption recommendation for adults is no more than 40 grams of added sugar a day.  With this one meal, Liam has already gone over this recommendation.

The average child under 12 years of age eats about 49 pounds of sugar per year.

How could this be affecting your child in the classroom?

  1. Behavioral Problems: We all know that excessive consumption of sugar leads to children “bouncing off the walls.”  In Liam’s case, all the sugar he had eaten for breakfast literally manifested as him jumping up and down.  No matter how many times I called his attention, it was as if he couldn’t control it.  And the fact of the matter is, if Liam is jumping around and acting playful, his friends are going to follow suit.  Too much sugar leads to disruptive behavior in the classroom that affects the other children – and drives the teacher crazy!
  2. Attention Span and Memory: Sugar consumption causes the brain’s hypothalamus to release excess amounts of the stress hormone cortisol.  When this cortisol is flooding through a child’s little body, they find it very difficult to sit still and stay focused on their work in school.  Without the ability to pay close attention to the lessons, it is unlikely that they will be encoding that knowledge into their long term memory.
  3. Refusal to Eat Healthy, Nutritious Food: Sugar is like a drug – eating it feels really good because the neurotransmitter dopamine is released by the brain.  The more sugar children have in their diets, the less likely they are to eat vegetables, fruits, and protein-rich meats – the sustenance that their bodies and brains need to grow and develop.  Constantly being fed sugar means that your child will struggle to accept the less-sweet taste of foods such as green vegetables.  Too many times I have witnessed the meltdowns of 3 and 4-year-olds refusing to eat the “healthy” items in their lunchbox because they know there is a bag of Fruit Loops or a bag of chocolate chip cookies waiting to be devoured at the end.  Too many times I have seen these children simply refuse to eat their lunch because they are not allowed to have the sugar.  Needless to say, these children are not getting the nutrients they need.

When Liam told me what he had for breakfast that day, I informed him that I was going to speak to his mom about the amount of sugar he was eating for breakfast.  Turns out he beat me to the punch, because the very next day at carpool his mom informed me that he had already told her what I wanted to talk to her about.  Luckily she agreed with me and and given him something much more nourishing to eat for breakfast that morning: eggs, toast with peanut butter, and a side of fruit.  She was so thankful I had brought it up with him, because – and these are her exact words – she couldn’t get him “to eat anything but that goddamned cereal.”

To say that Liam was a different child that day is an understatement.  He was calm and concentrated, able to complete his academic tasks without excessive interruptions and distractions.  Every day this past week I made sure to check up on him and ask him what he had eaten for breakfast because I could see such a dramatic difference in his behavior.  I heard peanut butter, I heard fruits, I heard waffles made with almond flour.  Such a far cry from the processed, sugary meal he had consumed on Monday morning.

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Ideally, your child’s breakfast should be a balance of healthy protein, fats, and carbs.  Consider proteins such as eggs; low-glycemic carbohydrates such as fruits (berries, bananas, apples), oatmeal, and even vegetables (if you dare!!); and healthy fats such as avocado, almond butter, or peanut butter. Be wary of nut butters that have added sugars such as high fructose corn syrup – always be sure to read the labels before purchasing!

Remember, breakfast is the most important meal of the day, but make sure you are sending your child to school fed with the nutrients he needs to function and learn effectively.  Not only will you be benefiting your child’s long-term health, but I promise your child’s teacher will be eternally grateful!

*Names have been changed to protect the innocent.