Sometimes one unplanned workout makes the best leaping off point.

I realized yesterday that I was doing the interval runs because I felt that was the next logical step in fitness…but then I realized why it was not working: I don’t have a goal to run a 5K, half or other races. Why was I putting myself into such a funk about running (and not really wanting to) when there are so many other options?

I felt I really needed to do something–anything= to keep myself from becoming inactive…so the treadmill. Ironically, I really enjoyed the “mountain walk” program on the treadmill yesterday because it so resembled my hikes. I LOVE being outside and being in the woods! Granted I am not a hard core hiker but it really is my favorite form of exercise.

So, the point? With so many options for being active, choosing what I love to do makes so much more sense than making myself do what I don’t enjoy and in all likelihood will not continue with.  I’m going to plan on the hiking prep and railtrail walking. If I happen to break into a run (just because it feels right) now and then, so much the better.

Kicking the “old me” down the stairs….

I met the old me in the kitchen today–she was busy cleaning and doing laundry and whatever she could to avoid -err, delay–actually exercising. “I’ll exercise in the afternoon” was the rationale. To tell you the truth, she really annoyed me!! So I kicked her down the stairs to the basement…where the treadmill is. The really weird thing–she liked it down there. I cranked the music up since no one was home to object–heavy on percussion and she just zoned out and it was over before she realized!

Alright, so seriously–despite my good intentions it was just a bit of a mental challenge this morning but I was really glad I was strong enough mentally to see it through and do the right thing–the Smart Choice! I chose a Podrunner called “Restless” at 139 bpm which for me works out to be a 4.0 mph pace. Brief warm up with intro at 3.5 mph/ 2% incline and then got right onto the 4.0 pace, with and without incline. I set the time for 40 minutes but I really did zone out to the beat and movement and honestly lost blocks of time since I was so “in sync” with my body today.

I followed with the abwork, changing it up just a bit. I have to admit it–they were tough today! I felt every crunch-especially #10-25!

So the stats:

Podrunner “Restless” 139 bpm

Treadmill time :40 minutes

Pace 3.5 (warmup ) then 4.0 mph

Incline 0-2%, alternating

Distance 2.653 miles

Caloric burn: 307 (per treadmill)

Ab/core work:

Crunches with ball–1 set 25 reps

Reverse curl with ball–1 set 25 rep

“rope climb”-1 set 25 reps

Standing side bends with weight (10# dumbells)-1 set 25 reps each side

I have to say I can’t wait until Saturday!! I may just walk again in the morning I feel so motivated–going to blow the 100 minutes out of the park!

I won’t be home on Saturday so I am packing my gear including my Forerunner305 which is now fully charged and my ipod nano (the old kind!) so I can stay on top of stats….looking forward to beach walking and around the gorgeous riverfront properties…

See you tomorrow for updates and motivation! ~Janice


Countdown to 48

It occurred to me the other day–I have about 5 weeks until I turn 48. Not so old really, but I am using it a motivational goal–to consistently eat better and exercise to enter that year as my healthiest yet.

So starting tomorrow I will be posting daily thoughts and actions on the blog as a “Countdown to 48″….join me by sharing your thoughts on the blog—keep me motivated/ hold me accountable to do this awesome thing: give myself the Gift of Health!


I actually started yesterday so I will count it toward my goals……

This week:

Tuesday/ Thursday / Saturday–minimum 30 mintes fast pace walking plus minimum 100 ab repetitions ( combination of 4 @25 rep each)…this should work out to about 100 minutes of exercise this week.


I took a pre-work nap and then got up and hit the treadmill:

30 minutes of active time  with a warm up at 3.5 mph/1% incline and then worked at 3.8-4.0 mph/ 0-1% incline.

1.94 miles / 216 caloric burn per machine

Podrunner “Easy Does it” at 139 bpm


Abs–with Bender Ball:

crunches with ball under / at base of spine–1 set 25 reps

reverse curls -squeeze ball between knees with ankles crossed–1 set 25 reps

“rope climbs” (Does anyone know the real name?)–lay on back, legs up/feet flat and reach up to outer edge of feet with opposite arm while squeezing ball between feet–1 set 25 reps

obliques–ball under side of ab and do oblique crunches–1 set 25 reps


I have to confess–my outer glutes are sore today!!  I also walked a lot at work last night and use  Reebok Easytones as a RN to keep my feet comfortable–double workout!


So–motivation and accountability are welcome. Feel free to offer advice, suggestions and thoughts!! I’ll try to get some pictures done so you can see the progress and results!! ~Janice

Smart Choice, Healthy Living– Recipe: Homemade Mac and Cheese, Updated

#mac and cheese, light
All the creaminess of homemade but without all the guilt!

I have been in such a mood for homemade “mac and cheese” but I knew I really did not want our old version; while it was thick and creamy it was also loaded with fat and heavy. I wanted to retain the feel and richness but without the guilt. I think I’m there! I’ve tried finding an alternative to the Velveeta but it does add enough to the taste and feel that I’ve left it in place. Some of the changes: browning the butter, reducing the cheese, adding skim milk, adding Melba toast topping.

Smart Choice, Healthy Living “Mac” and Cheese

2 Tbs butter

4 Tbs flour

4 cups milk (I used 2 c skim, 2 cup 1% but you could use all of one kind)

freshly ground pepper to taste (about 1/4 – 1/2 tsp)

4 oz Cabot Seriously Sharp Cheddar, freshly shredded

4 oz part skim Mozzarella cheese, freshly shredded

4 oz 2% (or light) Velveeta, cubed

1 lb pasta, I prefer cavaptelli  over elbow or shells but either works.

Garlic Melba toasts, crushed (about 1/4 -1/2 cup), optional

Preheat oven to 400*F, spray a large pan (9×13 is good) with non-stick.

Cook pasta according to box instructions. Drain when cooked to preferred firmness ( al dente is good).

In a heavy bottom sauce pan melt the butter and allow it to brown just a bit, being careful that it does not burn. With a whisk make a roux by sprinkling the flour on the butter and whisking until it appears dry. Slowly whisk in milk until the flour is fully incorporated. Add pepper and stir occasionally until it starts to thicken. Add in cheddar until melted and then Velvetta and mozzarella cheeses. Add drained pasta to the pan and stir well to combine. Pour into prepared pan and sprinkle on the crushed Melba toasts if using.

Place in pre-heated oven and heat until bubbling, about 15 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool for 5-10 minutes.

Smart Choice Method: Guideline #4–Eat Food you like!

The  way to stay motivated about eating right is to eat the things you enjoy!

I mean it–really! who in their right minds would stay on a food plan (aka diet) that restricts you from the things you like and makes you eat strange food and sometimes weird food combinations that you don’t enjoy? I know I would not last long at all.  I think that may be the main reason that I don’t identify my eating plan with any one “diet”–I think they all have good points but are too restrictive for most people.  One thing to remember: this is MY understanding and perception of how nutrition works.  I’ve been looking at “nutrition” for a long time and have seen fads come and go, most of which make no sense in hindsight.

Our bodies are meant to be balanced with carbohydrates, proteins and fats along with fluids.  When we eliminate anyone one group or focus on any one ‘nutrient’ or ingredient it throws things out of balance. We needs carbohydrates for immediate energy, its the easiest source our bodies have. Yes, our bodies store the excess unused energy in our muscles and as fat but its a little harder to get easy access to. Protein is a great source of repair for our muscles but doesn’t really offer a quick way to get energized and sometimes slows down other bodily functions because it takes longer to break down and digest. Fat is great for neurological function, healthy hair and nails but also has its negative effects when the harmful fats are out of balance.  When we balance these out in the right proportions our bodies can do more than we ask of it!

#healthy snacks#smartchoiceshealthyliving.comBut I digress, the point is that if I told you that in order to lose weight you can only eat vegetables–and no forms of protein- for the next two weeks you just might be able to do it. Maybe. But are you learning how to properly supply nutrition to your body? I think if I were to say, ok–you can also have some protein( peanut/ nut butters, eggs, cheese, hummus) that you would be able to last a bit longer.  But are you happy with these limitations? Not for a long term way of eating, not for good! By being so drastic with something that should be giving us both nourishment and pleasure we’ve already created an major road block.

Guideline #4: Eating should be fun and enjoyable.

There are so many healthy and good tasting foods –and ways to make them so they are enhanced– that you should never have to be bored with eating! You can take the most mundane foods–say broccoli, carrots and cauliflower and add a little olive oil and spices and roast them in the oven–they are totally changed in character and taste than when they went in the oven!

#roasted vegetables

Vegetables roasted in the oven with a little olive oil and spices–delicious!

There is truly no reason to eat something you dislike! There are multiple options when you eat healthy. There are some foods that no matter what you do to them I still have no interest in them. That is ok though–find something else that gives you similar nutrition and you are back to being balanced. My daughter has become a vegetarian and has no interest in animal protein–I am fine with that so long as she eats food that will give her the things she needs to maintain her health; she eats nut butters, eggs, yogurt and occasionally tofu.  She does not like dairy milk so she has almond milk instead.

Eating Healthy

One of the nice things with her becoming a vegetarian is that I have also learned alot more about “alternate” nutrition sources and we’ve found many recipes that we can share or alter to fit our needs. Cooking does not require a fancy degree or education, just a willingness to try something new and be open to options. I can tell you not all of our recipes have been winners–some because of personal taste preferences and some just because they are not something we are willing to make again but by being open to things I’ve found a whole new world of food choices. Grains are a huge untapped source of nutrition most of us never even think of: quinoa, wheat berries, lentils, and barley just to name a few.

So the point: find things you do like to eat and make them a part of your plan. Don’t eat the things you don’t like but  find alternates to replace them. Easy as that.  Eat real food, not food products. Learn what food tastes like in its most natural state and you’ll understand better how to improve on it. Eat what you need to keep your body functioning, not eat to excess.

Have you been eating food you enjoy or just food to survive? Do you abide by ‘the rules of your diet’ or do you “cheat” because they are restrictive? Are you eating for Life and making Smart Choices?


Image Disclaimer: the food images are my own but the first and last image were obtained on Google Images, my thanks to their creators!

Smart CHoice Method Guideline #3:Be prepared and Plan ahead!

Ok, so its not so much fun as it is good to do but being prepared sets you up for succeeding by offering you a positive choice.  The old adage “when you fail to plan you plan to fail” can be changed when you have short cuts already in place.

Guideline #3: Being Prepared by Planning ahead!

A year ago I never would’ve seen myself being this prepared; having cut up veges, washed apples and single portion chicken in the freezer.  I would’ve been haunting my pantry and doing multiple runs to the grocery store…but when I got smart and realized there is a better way to eat I found that being prepared is the only way to go!

Strategy #1–Pick a day of the week when you have a little bit of time and try to plan out your main meals for the next week.  Believe me it takes practice, and you may find yourself eating the same things over and over but starting to do it is what counts. Have ‘backup meals’ in case your plans go haywire. Make up a grocery list and buy anything you don’t have on hand. No last minute shopping if possible (you’ll save on your grocery bill big time!)

This is something my daughter made for me so I can plan out meals and exercise against my commitments.  This has been the result of several revisions but it may not work for you–simply design one that fits better–if you like it, you’ll be more apt to use it!

Food and Fitness Planner

Strategy #2Once you have a general plan of your main meals you can start prepping. Things I try to have ready to go? Cleaned and cut up carrot slices, red and green peppers and celery–these are great for snacks with hummus, peanut butter or salsa and make stirfries quick as can be.( I find its easier to pass up on chips if these are available.) Wash apples, grapes and other fruits so you can just eat them. Have bananas on hand; slice them and stick in the freezer for smoothies or ‘banana ice cream‘.  Strawberries can be cleaned and frozen as well for smoothies. If you are a salad person try setting up salads so you can just grab one and have it for a quick lunch or meal–I find if I have to start from scratch for each salad I don’t make them at all.

You can do prep with protein as well. I try to buy family portions of boneless chicken breast and freeze them in individual freezer bags. This way you can just take out the portions you need instead of defrosting the whole package. Depending on how much you use it, you can cook 3-4 breasts in a crockpot and then shred them so they are ready to go in enchiladas or ‘pulled chicken’. I normally cook them plain but you can season them with taco seasoning or other flavors depending on how you plan to use them. I make lean beef burgers ahead of time by also buying the 3-4 pound pack of lean beef, measuring out portions, forming patties and storing in the freezer–no more fatty patties to sabotage your efforts! You can use your imagination to what you will actually use and eat if it were readily available.

Strategy #3–Make and store ” reheatables”. Oatmeal, chili, stews, lasagna–pretty much anything you can make ahead and then freeze or use in the next few days.  These are also know as “Planned Leftovers

As you know, I love oatmeal and I tend to make either the ‘overnight refrigerator oatmeal’ in warmer weather (eat cold) or the Crockpot oatmeal in cooler weather (which re-heats nicely).  My husband laughs because I tend to store my portions in mason jars when I can so I just can grab one and know it is ready to go.

But do these things actually work? Is it worth the time planning and prepping? Yes! It drives me crazy when it gets around to dinner time and I have no idea what to have.  I try to have a well stocked pantry with broth, beans, brown rice/pastas and a good selection of veges in the fridge/freezer, but planning ahead–its just so much easier than trying to throw something together. Try it for a week or two and see if it works for you.

Let me know what Strategies you use to make your eating meals easier and healthy ~Janice

The Smart Choice Method-Guideline #2: Get as Natural with your food as possible

One of the biggest things that makes a difference, in my opinion anyway, is getting back to eating food in its most Natural state. Wouldn’t you rather eat this freshly grown tomato than one from a can?   This one is from my garden, grown without chemicals or pesticides.  No preservatives were used to extend its life and it tastes like a tomato is supposed to taste!

Guideline #2: Get as natural as possible with your food (eat as close as you can to its natural state)

Once I made the decision to “clean up my diet” the first thing I did was to really start reading labels. I was amazed at how many ‘preservatives’ and chemicals were in most products claiming to be good for you. Sugar, salt and fat are hidden in plain site–but under many names most of us don’t realize they are there.  Start reading labels of what you are eating. Part of the problem is that its not illegal to list sugar as 3 different types to get ‘sugar’  off the top 3 ingredients to make it look healthier. Learn how to read labels to discover what is really in there.

Take a look at frozen meals. Now I am not saying you need to eliminate them totally, just be aware of what is there. Guidelines are fuzzy because if a ‘nutrient’ falls below a certain number they can round it down and call it zero. So much for honesty in labeling. Look at  your label–if its high in sodium they might boost the potassium to ‘balance’ it out. The trouble is that the sodium is still there affecting your body.

My method to deal with it was to  make as much of the food you eat from scratch. Yes, it does take a little more time and effort but that is part of eating healthier by planning ahead (Guideline #3). When you can take the wholesome parts and create your own meals based on what you like to eat (Guideline#4), and they are ready to eat, you are more likely to eat healthier less processed food. 

One of my easiest things to make? Oatmeal. I love oatmeal! Don’t use the prepackaged ones, they are loaded with sugar and stuff. Use real oats, the old fashioned ones are great for on the stovetop–they cook in just minutes and you can use either water or milk as the liquid and add in any fruits you like. Top with a little maple syrup or honey and you are good to go. When it got warm I switched to “refrigerator oatmeal” which bumped up the nutrition with Greek yogurt and fruit.  Now that it is cooler again I switched to “Crockpot oatmeal” which uses steel cut oats.

Another thing that is super easy? Vegetables! Spend a half hour (or less) prepping carrots, peppers, celery etc and keep it in containers so you can grab and snack. I eat them with hummus, peanut butter, salsa or even plain. By having them ready to go I eliminated heading to the pantry for chips and processed snacks.

No matter what you choose to do, the idea is to eat real food, the kind that does not need a label to know what it is. Try to eat fresh fruit and vegetable, lean meats (if not a vegetarian) and dairy/eggs in their most basic form and experiment with recipes to keep your food ‘clean’ from chemicals and additives. When you do use canned or frozen food, read your labels to understand what you are adding.

Let me know what you think. Do you think eating less processed food and more fresh food makes a difference?

The Smart Choice Method of Healthy Living

I’ve always believed that it is not the person with the loudest voice that gets heard, but the one who quietly shows others by example.  The person who lives what they say actually speaks the loudest of all.

I’ve really been focusing on living healthy, not dieting, for the last 8 months or so. I’ve developed my own eating plan, not liking any one “diet plan” enough to ‘name’ my way of eating. Its a kinda  “modified clean eating- almost vegetarian-make ahead-portion aware-no rules” way to eat. I guess the biggest thing is that I don’t like absolute rules for eating  because rules lead to cheating and cheating leads to guilt.  Confusing maybe, but its been working for me.

I had someone ask me this morning “where to find my diet plan” since she decided she needs to lose weight.  She had overheard a conversation where another person had asked me how much weight I had lost and I had to reply I didn’t know, I had been focusing on eating healthier and lost the weight as a ‘side effect/benefit’. When questioned further I emphasized I had cut out processed foods and focused on fresh foods, pretty much the basis of my focus.

As we talked this morning it got me to thinking and I offered a few quick pieces of advice to get her started but it made me evaluate my own Guidelines for Healthy Eating…..and I started working on this blog–only to find I had way too much to say for one blog. So, this will actually develop into a series of posts about how I’ve gotten more healthy and lost weight along the way.

Lets call it  The Smart Choice Method of Healthy Living. Each of the next posts will focus on and explain one of these things that has guided my sustainable healthy life.


A Smart Choice: Rustic Baked Potato soup

I love soup in the Fall!!  There are so many choices and flavor options that some times it is hard for me  to decide which one to make.  Baked potato soup has always been a great choice  and this one has developed over the years to be my ‘go to’ soup.  It originated from a Weight Watcher magazine recipe that has been tweaked and adapted to fit my tastes and improve on its nutritional values.   Even if you are not an experienced chef you can put this one together quickly and have a healthy lunch or dinner ready when you need one. Granted its not a ‘clean eating recipe’  in the true sense but its much better than anything you’ll find in a can!

One of the nicest things is its adaptability; I’ve shared its original basic recipe and seen many variations on a ‘loaded’ baked potato and with chopped broccoli, petite shrimp or as a ‘faux New England Clam chowder’.

My favorite is the Rustic Baked potato version.

                            Rustic Baked Potato soup

4 Medium baking potatoes (I use Russets)

1/3 cup all purpose flour (King Arthur)

4 cups 1 % milk

1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper

4 ounces Velveeta cheese (I use 2%)

1/2 cup light or fat free sour cream

The easiest way to do this is to bake the potatoes in foil while you are using the oven for other things and then let them cool in a zipper bag.  I usually bake them in a 400*F oven for an hour depending on size (they should “give” when you give them a gentle squeeze). You can make them the same day as the soup but it means more prep time since you need to let them cool a little before the next step.

If you have baked the potatoes ahead of time quarter them and add them with the skins on into a food processor (I have a Ninja Kitchen system 1100) and use the blade with pulses to chop them to fine chunks. If you don’t like potato skins you can remove the skins before this point; if you cooled them in the zippper bag they will slide off fairly easy.

In a large sauce pan add the flour and whisk the milk into it until smooth. Add the chopped baked potato, and pepper. Cook over medium heat until it is thickened, about 5 minutes or so, stirring frequently.

Add the Velveeta and stir until melted, it’ll change into a nice light golden color.

Remove from heat and and stir in the sour cream.

This makes about  six  1 1/2 cup servings. Serve as is or top with your favorite “loaded baked potato” topping like green onions, bacon, finely chopped broccoli or whatever strikes you fancy.

I normally store leftover in a jar so they easily transport for work–you can reheat them right in the jar using a microwave, just make sure to remove the metal ring and cover to avoid splatter.

I exercised …but I didn’t like it

There are just times you know you are not going to have a great work out but you talk yourself into it anyways…..yesterday was one of those days!

My daughter and her boyfriend wanted to go tot he gym after school and I said I would take them, even though I didn’t feel like going. Well it makes no sense to go to the gym and not do anything, right? SO I got dressed and hopped on the treadmill–the kicker? I left my ipod at home on the charger but I had the headphones …into the TV it was (I watched House). Not even 5 minutes into the walk my foot started to kill me–I have this issue with my ‘big toe joint’ on my left foot (it isn’t gout, or a fracture or anything we/I can figure out) and I toughed it out for 22 minutes and decided it was enough. I switched over to the recumbent bike for another 15 minutes (my daughter was done).

Am I glad I went? Yes. Would I do it again that way–I am really not sure. I do believe in pushing your body a bit but to exercise in pain? Yea I don’t think so– on those days I think I would stick to the bike and weights.

Thoughts? Do you exercise in pain or push yourself when you mentally are not in the mood for exercise?

What are your ‘talk yourself into it’  conversations like?