The Philosophy of Being Healthy, according to me…

I spend so much time thinking about being healthy and eating well. Literally. All the time.

I’ve come a long way in how I approach food. When I first did WW so many years ago and then did 21 Day Fix last year I literally planned out every bite I would take, what exercise I would do and approached weight loss as a General planning an attack. Even if I did not feel like eating what food I had planned I still had it because that was what “fit” for that day. I analyzed each food for calories, fat, fiber and nutrition. I was so regimented in my eating that I forgot to enjoy food and being social (!) and was pretty miserable.

I have to say I really have come to dislike (okay, hate) the words Rules, Off limits, Diet, and No. To my mind they represent restriction and hardship. Food and eating better should not have to be fraught with all these issues. Food is food, some of it better nutritionally than others but it’s just food. We need food to survive.

Exercise was often engaged in as a “payment” for eating; if I eat this then I have to walk/run/bike etc to balance it. I exercised to the point of being exhausted and sore for days. I have so many videos and all kinds of equipment that I could have a personal gym. We need to move in order to keep our bodies moving well but it doesn’t have to be hard every time.

So, my Philosophies on being healthy.

I’ve come to believe in being Practical and Simple.

No “Rules”. No guilt. No crazy planning.

These are my Guidelines:

* I try to live by the 80/20 principle: if you choose more’nutritionally dense food’ (further said as healthy/healthier)  in both type and portion you can splurge or choose something less healthy the other 20% of the time. Life is about balancing the two.

The same can be said for being active. I used to run, a lot. But it became less fun and injuries occurred and I just kinda stopped doing it. I love to walk (and hike) and I have a really fast pace naturally. I love walking with other people; conversations and sharing ideas happen so easily when you fall into the rhythm of moving. Most of the people I  walk with just are not as fast paced as I am.Just saying, but I am okay with that because I also reap other benefits of relaxation, breathing deeply and just enjoy moving. Could I focus on it not being a ‘high intensity’ workout? Sure, but why? I could force myself to do a HIIT workout and be so sore that I am unable to do it again for several days or I can just enjoy moving. I’ve come to realize that there are so many options to being active that to force myself to endure something I dislike just to burn a few more calories is absurd.

*No guilt about my choices. I could drive myself crazy thinking about every bite of something I ate that might not be the best for me or guilt myself for not exercising for 2 days but it serves no purpose. For most instances I find that guilt backfires: it leads to more of the same and suddenly you just give up and go back to old habits. Instead use it as a learning tool to see where you might change the circumstance (if you can). Most of our “bad habits” are just that–a learned reaction to a stimuli. Stressful situations often lead to just grabbing what is handy instead of a better choice (nutritionally). It happens. Maybe something that can avoid it is to keep a snack (granola bar or similar) in your bag. Super busy? Sneak in moving by taking the stairs, parking farther away or anything that makes you move like walking while you are on the phone.

*Being Prepared is half the Battle! While I no longer plan every bite I do try to food prep every week so I have healthy/ier options available. I cut up veggies, make brown rice and often precook chicken for salads. I make sure I have yogurt available.  Having these  things available helps to avoid choosing the other options that don’t keep me healthier. Helps, but everyone slips up especially when busy or tired.

*Make time to reflect and see the Big Picture. So often we get so caught up in living and working that we forget to have a life. We dream about what we would do ‘if we just had the time and money’ but rarely do anything to get there. I’m learning to simplify and have been getting rid of material possessions that I don’t need to that just add clutter. I feel calmer giving things to people who can benefit from them. I am being much more selective about what I purchase. My husband and I discovered kayaking this summer and started doing a lot of research. For what we want in terms of function and size it will run about $2000 for 2 kayaks, gear, travel stuff and little things. We could have put them on a credit card but we decided to save until next year and decide if it is truly something that will bring us joy and an opportunity to be together (or alone) in Nature or if it is just  a spur of the moment interest. So what does this have to do with being healthy? A tranquil mind often has a trickle down effect into eating well and being active because we are not trying to find a substitute for being happy in either food or drink.

These are my big guidelines. Am I a perfect example of a healthy person? No. Am I making progress? Yes, definitely. One day at a time.

Please feel free to share your thoughts and feelings.

Kindest regards,







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 Choices, Healthy Living….will return tomorrow

Pardon for the delay this week in posting. Hurricane Sandy put a slight dent in my plans. No we did not lose power or have dramatic damage done to our home. Mine is more of a personal nature–I had a minor surgical procedure planned for Monday which got cancelled by the hospital for safety reasons. I did have the procedure but on Thursday so I am just a bit behind in posting.

Guideline #4 and some reflections about being a woman tomorrow. Thanks for your patience!!~Janice

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?

Smart Choice Recipe: Buttermilk Bread bread
Homemade Buttermilk Bread

Homemade bread–there  really is nothing better! I love to make bread–the smell of the yeast, the feel of the dough–its just very soothing.  My newest love–Buttermilk Bread. Honestly I had only really used the buttermilk in biscuits or in Irish soda bread. I saw this recipe on a post from Fullbellies. I became intrigued enough to try it.It is essentially their recipe with just a couple minor changes.

Buttermilk Bread

1 cup water

3 Tbs butter

1/2 cup water

1 package active dry yeast ( or a shy Tbs if from a jar)

1 cup buttermilk

2 Tbs honey

1 Tbs sugar

2 tsp salt

1 tsp apple cider vinegar

6 cups bread flour

1-In a small sauce pan heat water and butter and allow butter to melt. Set aside and cool.

2-In a small bowl dissolve yeast in water, set aside.

3-I use a Kitchenaid mixer with the paddle blade but just use a large bowl if you don’t have a stand mixer. In bowl add buttermilk, honey, sugar, salt and vinegar, mix on low to combine. Add butter water and yeast water to mix.

4- Start adding flour 1 cup at a time until combined. At 5 cups it will be stiff, switch to the dough hook if using the Kitchenaid mixer,or start kneading in the remaining cup of flour by hand by putting the dough on a floured surface.

5-Knead for about 5 minutes (either by hand or with dough hook)–it should be smooth and elastic at this point.

6-Placed in a large bowl (glass works best) coated with nonstick or butter and allow to rise in a draft free spot for about 45 minutes. Cover with a dish towel. bread

It is ready to work with when it is doubled in size.

7-Punch down and turn onto a floured surface. Divide in two and roll out/stretch with your hands to get out extra air bubbles.

Starting at the end closest to you and roll up, tucking ends underneath. Place in a bread pan coated with nonstick or butter. Cover and allow to rise another 30-45 minutes. Halfway through rise time preheat the oven to 375*F. bread

8-Melt 1 tbs butter–optional but it gives it a nice crust- and brush on tops of breads. Bake  in preheated oven for about 45 minutes or until golden brown. Let cool in pans 10 minutes and then cool completely on a wire rack.

9-Slice using a serrated knife and enjoy!! bread

Homemade Buttermilk Bread


Smart Choice Recipe: White Chicken Chili,#White Chicken Chili

White Chicken Chili is a great alternative to a beef  based one yet it still bursts with flavor and heat.  My husband recently tried this chili at Ruby Tuesday and it became his new favorite. The only problem is when it is not made at home you can’t control what goes into it. ( The nutritional information says its only 300 calories but over 1900 mg of sodium per portion!) If you do an internet search for  the “WCC” you will get tons of recipes but none of them were exactly what I wanted….so here is our version.

Smart Choice White Chicken Chili

1 lb boneless chicken breast, diced (bite size pieces)

1 large yellow onion, diced

1 Tbs olive oil

1 Tbs garlic, minced (about 2 large cloves)

3-4 cups chicken stock (or broth if that is what you have), homemade or low sodium is preferred but…use what you have on hand. (use 3 if you like it more thick)

3 cans (15 oz) white northern beans (cannelloni), undrained

1-2 cans (4 oz) of chopped green chilies (optional)

1/2 tsp black pepper

1 Tbs cumin

1 tsp oregano

1/4 tsp cayenne pepper

1 cup salsa (I used medium)

1/2 cup half and half

1/2 cup sour cream (I used light)

Grated cheddar or Jack if desired for topping

1-In a large pot ( a heavy bottom one works best) heat the olive oil on medium heat then added the chicken and onion, stirring frequently until chicken is cooked and onion is soft and golden, about 5 minutes.  Add the garlic and cook another minute or two.

2-Add beans, spices, broth, spices, salsa and green chilies ( everything except half and half and sour cream.  Simmer over low heat for about 20 minutes. If you like a thicker chili only add 3 cups broth.

3-Remove from heat. Stir in half and half and sour cream.

4- After served add optional cheeses but it really is good without it.,#White Chicken Chili

We also served it with freshly made Buttermilk Bread.

Homemade Buttermilk Bread

Buttermilk Bread

The Smart Choice Method-Guideline #1: Focus on health and feeling good

Ok, if you read the intro for this post you already know what I am talking about. For those who skipped that one–I was questioned about how I lost weight ie what diet plan I was using. The funny thing is I’m following my own plan and these Guidelines will expand on what I did to get healthy AND lose weight as a side effect.

Guideline #1: Focus on the Healthy reasons you want to lose weight and not the weight loss itself.

I think this is the biggest factor in maintaining the desire to keep eating healthy and increasing/being active. There are a million little ways to evaluate feeling better and making healthy progress than the ones you see on a scale.I’ve read a few articles that also reinforce this point. “Dieting” is usually seen as a short term goal and often for an event like a wedding or reunion where you are looking to impress someone else. When you change the focus of WHY you are looking to lose weight and be healthier (ie feeling better, lower blood pressure/ blood sugar/ cholesterol) you actually put more effort into attaining that goal rather than just looking to lose weight (an ambiguous social driven goal).

I had faced the possibility of having to take blood pressure and cholesterol medications last December and I persuaded my PA to give me an opportunity to work on it with diet and activity. Less than 6 months later I had taken my blood pressure from 140/80-90 to 100-110/60-70 and my cholesterol had dropped about 50 points–all through simple dietary changes and increasing my activity. I did not do anything drastic, I did not starve myself or exercise like crazy.

I cleaned up my diet and started walking. Its that simple. Before YOU make any changes talk to your doctor. Have them get some baseline labwork and maybe even an EKG. We all have different levels of health status so you should work from that point to improve your health.  Most doctors get very little training on nutrition and exercise so you may have to do some research on your own to improve your health but always get them on board for any monitoring you may need.

There are many “unseen” benefits of focusing on health–the “non scale victories” that make a bigger difference in your life rather than a half pound weight loss.

Non-scale Victories (NSV) include:

* your clothes fit more comfortably-waistbands are looser and you can breathe!

*you can walk farther without getting out of breath

*you have more energy naturally and can cut back on coffee just by drinking more water

*you get a healthy ‘glow’ to your skin (people will ask you if you changed makeup!)

*you can take the stairs–because its more activity to count

*you sleep better at night (and maybe even snore less)

*you actually look forward to being active and getting sweaty

*you make new friends who are also health conscious

These are just a few of the many ways being healthy makes you feel better than just losing weight. Oh–and most people who do lose weight–they usually gain it back and then some. Focus on healthy and the weight will come off naturally.

So– are you focusing on healthy living? Is it time for some simple changes? Check in tomorrow for the next Guideline…

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

Make Smart Choices~~Janice

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.