NOW® Immersion Event + Giveaway!!

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Last week, I had the privilege of attending an immersion event with 10 other bloggers at NOW® Foods in Bloomgindale, IL.  I cannot even begin to explain how excited I have been about this event. A few weeks ago, I briefly touched on some of the changes my family has been making in our home, in our food and in the products we use. NOW® Foods not only has the products to help support these changes, but their entire mission is dedicated to helping people live healthier lives.

When I was first invited to this event, I didn’t realize the extent of products NOW® provides. I was very familiar with the supplement line but I don’t take supplements regularly – and so I didn’t really see how I would be a good fit for the program. But, after spending some time on the NOW website, I realized how wrong I was. NOW has four distinct product categories – supplements, sports nutrition, foods and personal care.

You can read about these categories and the 1,400 natural products (!!) they offer here.

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    Life, Food, Home Changes

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    For the last year or so, my family and I have made some changes in our lives. We are embracing a much more natural and holistic lifestyle – everything from food to cleaning solutions to medicine. It’s way too much to explain it all in one post, but I wanted to kind of give an overview of some of the major changes we have made. Even though it’s technically not running related, I feel that it does directly affect my running and performance so I wanted to share.

    One of the best quotes I’ve heard recently is from Organic Living Magazine – the new magazine that Rodale is launching next week (which, coincidentally, I’m attending their launch event in NYC next week!)

    “For us, organic is a mindset or an aspiration. It’s not a rule.“- James Oseland

    That really sums of the approach we are taking lately. For us, it’s not black or white. It’s a process. We are slowly transitioning more and more in our lives to a natural, organic lifestyle (free of GMOs, pesticides and harmful ingredients). A lot of it has come from things we have read. Some has come from my sister and other friends who are on the same page as us for a lot of these things. And some has come as a result of wanting to change the way we physically felt.

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      Homemade Tomato Sauce

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      I’ve never been one to eat out constantly – it’s not that I don’t enjoy the food or the “time-off” from cooking – but I much prefer to know what’s in the food I am eating. I find that I feel much more bloated and just “blah” after a meal out at a restaurant than I would if I ate a similar meal at home.

      But I also really love cooking. I credit most of that to my mom who cooked six nights a week for us when we were growing up. Dinner was always a time to sit down at the table, as a family of six and talk about the day. I’m thankful that the boys are such great eaters – I don’t ever have to make them something special when we eat – I cook one thing and we all eat it.

      One of my go-tos is a made-from-scratch tomato sauce that takes ~30 minutes. There’s nothing fancy about it – but it’s a meal that my little guys LOVE – and it’s light and easy enough on my stomach to eat the night before long runs. I can also use it on a variety of main dishes – whole wheat pasta, black bean pasta, broccoli, chicken (for chicken parmigiana), salmon (baked in the oven with the sauce).

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        Healthy Snacking for Marathon Training

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        I’ve written several posts the last couple of years on my fueling/nutrition for marathon and Ironman training. I feel like I’m always tweaking or changing something to try to find what works best for me, what’s going on in my life (pregnant, nursing) and what I am training for. I’ve gone from a non-restrictive diet (Ironman training) to one that was pretty close to being vegan/vegetarian (last fall for Philly).

        For the past six or seven months, my husband and I have settled into a diet that gives us the energy we need to train while not feeling restrictive. The staples in our diet have returned to things like greens, raw veggies, beans and quinoa – similar to how we were eating in the fall. But we are also eating meat and dairy more frequently these days.  Most importantly, however, are my smaller meals throughout the day – something that I have not been the best with.

        As I’m sure anyone who has their hands full with work, kids or a combo of both know, if you don’t plan ahead for your meals and snacks throughout the day, you’ll end up eating something unhealthy and/or not getting the nutrients that your body needs. That was the routine I found myself in at the start of the summer. My main meals were healthy and packed with the good fats, nutrients and calories I needed. But the smaller meals throughout the day were empty calories, high in fat (not the good kind) and often whatever was easiest and quickest.

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          Changing the Way I Eat

          During Ironman training, I felt hungry ALL the time. There never seemed to be enough food in the house to keep me full. Because I was always starving (and tired), I was reaching for things that were the quickest to cook/prepare: grilled steak, cold cuts, chicken cutlets (fried), a huge dish of pasta. Add to it that my portions began increasing (tremendously) to the point where I was eating an 8-10 oz steak at dinner at least 3x/week. I don’t think I was eating too many calories – my weight stayed pretty consistent during the high intensity months (May – July). But I do think that I was not making the smartest decisions in regards to food. I was choosing the easiest options to fill me up rather than what made me feel the best and give me the most energy.

          Despite being arguably in the best shape I’ve ever been in, I constantly felt “blah”. I would wake up most mornings with a bloated and upset stomach that would often last until midway through my early morning workout. It seemed like most nights after the boys went to sleep, I was on the couch complaining about my bloated stomach or the sometimes sharp, throbbing pain I had.  Tums and other antacids were taken almost nightly to try to combat the pain.

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            Menu Planning for Ironman Training

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            Don’t forget to enter my Motivational Sign Giveaway!!

            After my first week of swimming for Ironman training (coupled with marathon training), I realized I needed to make some major changes with my daily routine.  One area I knew I needed to focus on was my family’s meals – especially dinner.  They had become boring, sometimes very unhealthy, and often lacking in the nutrition that I would need to swim + bike + run.

            The last two weeks I have been meal / menu planning throughout the week for our weekend supermarket trip.  I’ve tried to include 2-3 new recipes each week while also ensuring a few are crockpot recipes.  I have found that trying to cook past 5pm is often difficult with the two little ones – they are much more self-entertained in the early afternoon hours.

            Some of these recipes have come from cookbooks, websites, blogs (check out The Lean Green Bean and Making Good Choices for some yummy recipes), Instagram photos…

            I’ve been posting some of the dinners on Instagram and have been asked to share the recipes.  Let me preface this all by saying a few things:

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              What My Family Ate Last Week (Wk 2)

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              My cooking schedule did not go exactly as planned this week.  I had forgotten that my husband was going to be away Thur-Sun to play in a hockey tournament with some of his friends (aka reliving their college glory days!!) so I postponed some of those meals until this week!

              Monday AND Tuesday: (Leftovers and Taco Tuesday -> Leftovers x 2) We over-ordered wraps and sandwiches for our son’s 1st Birthday Party on Sunday and decided to have what was left rather than let it go to waste.  Eggplant and fresh mozzarella, chicken cutlets with roasted peppers, and Italian subs were only a few of what we got to eat!

              Wednesday: (BBQ Brisket -> Salad) My son was not feeling well most of the morning and I completely forgot to start the BBQ Brisket (requires 6-8 hours to cook in the slow cooker), so I opted for a quick and easy salad option. I added tons of fresh veggies (cucumbers, broccoli, cauliflower, peppers, squash), threw in some cold cuts and cheese, and a little homemade guacamole!

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                Who or what inspires you to run?

                As part of the 5 Borough Challenge, my fellow participants and I were asked “Who or what inspires me to run?”.   At first I thought this would be an easy question to answer…I decided to use this morning’s run as time to think about my answer. Each morning that my alarm goes off, there is something different pulling me out the door.  My inspiration to run each day changes – depending on the day, the week, or my current life situation.  For example, when I was pregnant, my motivation was that I wanted to remain in running shape.  I can’t imagine how hard it would be to get back into running if I took months off during my pregnancy.  Knowing that running even a few miles each day (regardless of how slow I was moving) was a success and an accomplishment, was all the motivation I needed to head out for my run.  After I gave birth to my son, my inspiration quickly became to get back to my previous weight and running ability.   My motivation to run (and push myself when I’m already out running) increases when I am signed up for a big race; I find that knowing there is a race marked on the calendar gives me that little extra motivation to push myself those last few miles or last 30 seconds of mile repeats. Of course, there are mornings when the motivation to head out the door is simply that I probably shouldn’t have eaten that 3rd piece of pizza and most certainly shouldn’t have eaten the 4th the night before, or that I started – and finished – a pint of LaRocca’s Italian Ice.  Or it’s because later on that day we are going over my mom’s house for Sunday dinner with all of my sisters and their families/significant others.  In most families, this is a normal meal.  However, going over my mom’s for “Sunday macaroni” really equates to the average Thanksgiving dinner.  And that’s not even touching on the amount of dessert that inevitably appears (seemingly out of thin air)  on the table (see photo below – this was at a recent family get-together).  So my run in the morning is more of a precautionary measure for my waistline – and it allows me to eat all day guilt-free!! However, there are always two constants that serve as my inspiration – my newest and greatest is my son, AJ.   I want to be healthy and strong for him as he grows up; I want him to look at me and be proud that I ran while I was pregnant with him; I want him to come to races and be proud as he sees me cross the finish line…I want him to grow up seeing that daily running/exercise is normal and healthy.  My husband, Paul, and I already are astonished that at 9 months he is repeating things he sees us doing and we know that it’s only going to get more pronounced as he gets older.  We want him to look to us for examples of a healthy, active lifestyle. And second, at the very core of my inspiration to run is the simple fact that I love to run.  Running is who I am and who I will always be (God-willing that I’m physically capable!).  I have always enjoyed starting my day off with a run – no matter how short, easy, or slow that run is.  During these runs, I  think about the day – what chores  I need to get done, who I need to call or email, and what I am making for dinner.  It helps create order in my life and allows me to return home with an organized plan for the day.