Looking back at 2014 and ahead to the new year

Like so many, I like to take some time to review the year gone by as I make plans and goals for the new year.  The past 12 months have been full of activity as I backed off the blogging and spent my time homeschooling my younger two, shuttling my eldest to and from school and sports and cub scouts, and snatching those little moments of time to put my home together and spend quality time playing chess, reading books, and just enjoying life with these little ones.  As a family we traveled to Minnesota and learned about butchering chickens and canning pickles, we camped at Mustang Island, Colorado Bend, and finally Brazos Bend State Parks, and cheered on our little soccer and T-ball players.  I have thoroughly enjoyed my Moms in Prayer group that meets each Friday morning to pray for Pope Elementary, and our Wednesday morning Bible Study at Fairfield Baptist Church.  I have met so many lovely ladies and been so encouraged by our times of prayer and study!

This year has also been a year of transition.  For the first time since I became a mom, we don’t have a baby in the house.  Gone are the days of baby food, spit-up, bibs, and high chairs; we are in full swing with sports and video games and homework as the kids are all elementary and preschool now.  In some ways life is easier; not nursing a wee one every few hours and working around 2 naps has allowed more flexibility, but juggling the afternoon activities and figuring out an afternoon snack/homework/dinner routine has been a learning experience!  The way we eat definitely reflects our lifestyles, and I can see the drive-thru temptation now more than ever as we become more of a family on the go and less home-based.

2014 Favorite apps:  LoseIt (food log), goodreads (book list), food.com(formerly food on the table, a grocery sale app), and foodily (beautiful pictures and recipes by foodies).

2014 Favorite Foods:

Other than my standard faves of chicken, salmon, oats, eggs, and frozen veggies for quick and healthy meals, the foods below have taken a bit more space in my fridge and pantry this year more than ever before.

  • baby spinach – sauteed with garlic or blended up in a smoothie, it is so mild and versatile and nutritious.
  • chia seeds – in yogurt, smoothies, or pretty much any beverage they add a nice protein and fiber punch
  • coconut oil – I use it as a butter or oil substitute in pastry crust, granola, and cookies.  It also works great for my hands when they dry out from frequent washing, and doesn’t leave a weird residue on food like lotion does.
  • almond flour – another benefit of the paleo movement, this grain-free “flour” is rich in Vitamin E and fiber, and works great in granola, press-in crusts. or just sprinkled over waffles or yogurt in the morning.
  • tea – as I cut down on my coffee intake, I am loving P&G black tea as well as a wide blend of botanicals like nettle, red raspberry leaf, and alfalfa to boost the health benefits of herbal teas.  Hot tea in the winter and cold in the summer makes for a great afternoon break.
  • Braggs apple cider vinegar – Sometimes as a salad dressing, but more often I’ll have a tablespoon with water and a dash of juice.  Warning –  this is another energizing drink that takes a little getting used to.  .
  • Kirkland Semi-Sweet chocolate chips – what’s not to love about 4.5lbs of good chocolate? 🙂

Favorite workout program:  www.suzannebowenfitness.com.  This has done wonders for my back and posture.  I also run and bike weather and time permitting.  That often means a jog with the dog on a leash, my 3yo in the stroller, and one or two kids on bikes alongside.   I will be continuing this regimen in 2015 for sure!

2014 Diet Books I read:

Trim Healthy Mama was recommended by so many friends that I reserved it from the library, and as number 16 on the waiting list, I patiently waited my turn.  I can see why this book is so popular.  Finally, a simple way to eat a balanced diet  while living a normal life and feeding a hungry husband and growing children!  The separation of Energizing and Satisfying and Fuel Pull meals is an ingenious way to curb appetite and enjoy real food from all the food groups.  The book has quite a few good recipes and tips for budget-friendly healthy eating.  I don’t necessarily agree with their explanation on why separating carbs and fats at meals works, or with the push towards stevia, but I do enjoy their ideas on using almond flour, glucomannan, making lunches for husbands, and incorporating sprints and strength-building exercises into the SAHM day.

Wheat Belly was recommended to me by a sales rep I respect, as well as a friend who has seen major changes since incorporating it into his lifestyle.  Once again, I question the science behind his recommendations, particularly the way he generalizes the results from his personal experiments to society at large instead of relying on the gold standard of a clinical trial, but he makes some very good points about the quality of our food supply and the dangers of eating too many refined carbs.  I completely agree with him in the importance of boosting veggies and quality proteins in the diet, but I’m not convinced to totally give up my home-made bread yet.

The Swift Diet was by far my favorite diet book this year.  I heard Kathie Swift speak at a nutrition conference and loved her point of view on traditional dietetics training versus what people today need to improve their diets and their lives.  This book delves deep into the science behind the microbiome (the microbes living inside of that help and hurt us), and has practical applications for improving digestion and changing unhealthy eating behaviors.  She does it all in an easy-to-read, engaging way that includes stories from her own life and clients’ lives.  She offers a moderate elimination diet plan for those that have IBS or other digestive problem at the end, and spends a good chunk of it on the mind-gut connection which is often a missing piece in science-based diet books.

OK, Bread and Wine isn’t a diet book.  But it is a great book on hospitality; preparing and enjoying good meals with good friends and the role that food can play in forming bonds and memories.  I loved her points on balancing feasting and fasting, time-consuming weekend meals with friends compared to 15-minute dinners on a weeknight, and the stories and recipes she writes for all the above.  Not every meal has to be a 5-course to be good, but lighting a couple candles, laughing over good memories, and developing deeper relationships over something as simple as lentil stew can make table time a happy time.

What books and apps should I check out for 2015?  I’m also interested in other workout programs that are cheap and effective – please comment with what you loved last year and are trying out this year.

Have a happy, healthy year in 2015!

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