Just Live Mindfully


Tag: food

To CSA or Not to CSA…

Have you ever tried a CSA?  You may not even know what a CSA is.  I’ve always wanted to try one and this year, I got my chance!  A CSA is a community-supported agriculture.  Basically, it’s buying straight from your local farmer.  Depending on the CSA, you get a selection of produce that’s grown on the farm each week (or every other week) and the best part is that it’s all fresh.

So how do you decide if joining a CSA is right for you?  If you have been trying to get more fresh produce in your diet, you have a couple of options – shop at the local market, you could grow your own or you could join a CSA.

  • Option 1 is probably the easiest, but to me, it’s the most complicated.  If you’re looking for fresh produce, and I mean really fresh with no pesticides or GMOs, you may not necessarily know where the food is grown or how the vendors treat their farms.  You can research the vendors, but that could take time.  And you don’t necessarily know how long the food has sat on the shelves.
  • Option 2 is to grow your own veggies.  Now if you’re anything like me, you aspire to be a gardener or farmer, but don’t necessarily have the time, the patience or the green thumb.  Growing your own food can definitely take a lot of work.  Currently, I have seeds sitting on my dining room table and at this point, it’s too late in the season to plant them.  I’ll be holding them until next year, for sure.
  • Option 3 is to join the CSA.  Many communities have them now and a quick internet search will help you find one near you.  Once you join one, you have access to many varieties of produce that may be new to you, and the farmer is on-hand to help you learn how to use them.  Even pick up is an easy process and can be much less stressful than going to the market.

Now that you know your options, maybe you’re leaning on joining the CSA.  This year, I was able to join a CSA and was so excited Friday when I picked up my share.  Here’s what I got:

  • Lettuce Head
  • Dandelion Greens
  • Scallions
  • Asian Greens
  • Parsley
  • Young Chinese Cabbage
  • Strawberries
  • Basil
  • Choi

I was sooooo excited!  The most exciting thing to me, was the bok choi.  Although we have’t had it in awhile, bok choi made with coconut milk and caramelized onions is one of our favorite dishes!  That’s one thing that will be on the menu this week.  Friday’s dinner will be homemade pizza with fresh mozzarella, cherry tomatoes and basil.  Mmmmm, sounds good, right?

But what if you don’t know what to do with some of the items?  It’s ok, the CSA typically will have recipes that can be shared and ideas for how to try the produce.   The CSA I participated in this year even has a Facebook page where other members share the recipes they’re making.  The most fun part is the experimentation with the foods you’re getting.

I’ve already received the newsletter for Week 2 at my CSA and I’m even more excited for what’s to come.  If you’re still unsure about trying a CSA, research your local farms and get an idea of what they grow, how they grow their produce and what the logistics would be.  I don’t think you’ll regret it.

Eat This…Not That…

I finally decided to take a look at this book.  I’ve literally had it on my shelf for-ev-er.  I was actually kind of shocked by some of the information inside the pages.  I’m from the Boston area and this is one of the cities that is known for it’s food.  And some of the restaurants that I’ll mention are not only in the Boston area, but other parts of the country.  Here are some of the restaurants, foods and occasions that I found most surprising.


Dunkin’ Donuts has the motto “American runs on Dunkin'”, but maybe not after you read this.  If you go for breakfast, you might just want something easy like a bagel.  The Multigrain Bagel with Lite Cream Cheese is a whopping 500 calories!  Instead, go for something lighter like the Ham, Egg & Cheese English Muffin which is only 380 calories.

Moving on to lunch, we head over to Panera Bread.  Now, I love this place because they have such great tasting food and great ingredients.  But what should you get?  A Sierra Turkey Sandwich might be delicious, but at 840 calories, it might not be your best pick.  Try the BBQ Chicken, which is about half the calories – only 470!

Hungry for a snack?  We’re told whole wheat is good for us, right?  Well, not in every situation.  Auntie Annie’s sells a Whole Wheat Pretzel, but at 450 calories, it might not be the best option.  Instead, try the Jalapeño Pretzel which is only 280 calories.

Now, the book didn’t stop at restaurants.  It had a Menu Decoder, comparisons for holidays and special occasions and supermarket options.  It even had choices for beverages.  This information could be very helpful for some.  I think those that celebrate the holidays and special occasions would be very interested in these options:

Thanksgiving dinner is a HUGE holiday in my family.  My dad cooks for an army but I always try to eat mindfully.  I stay with the light meat instead of the dark meat and replace stuffing and sweet potatoes with green bean casseroles and some real cranberry sauce.  By making these swaps, you’ll save about 500 calories.

Halloween is another holiday I totally love.  It’s so much fun dressing up and seeing the children in their costumes.  But the candy…oh, my candy!  I love chocolate and for me, I stick with organic and dark chocolate.  But what I pass out is the good stuff.  Almond Joys are in the trick-or-treat bag, but the better choice is 3 Musketeers because it will save about 30 calories.

What about a ball game?  Being from Boston, I am a Red Sox fan.  Yes, yes, Yankee fans, bring it on!  But what about the food I eat while I watch them battle it out on the field?  I love to have a Fenway Frank with ketchup and relish and I can even add mustard and it’s still only about 280 calories.  Stay away from the nachos and cheese  because those can bring you just under 700 calories.  Yikes!

In our house, we tend to cook a lot in the house.  And when we go to the market, we like to choose foods that are healthy, mostly organic and good for you.  Some of our favorite foods include snacks, like granola bars and ice cream.  The book gave some options for these too.

For granola bars, we used to get Nutrigrain bars, in particular the yogurt bars.  I’m glad we switched to something a little better because they are 140 calories per bar.  The Special K Bar in Vanilla Crisp flavor can save you about 50 calories per bar.

Ice cream is our weekend treat and we always go for the Ben & Jerry’s.  Unfortunately, they don’t have the lowest calories.  Cherry Garcia Low Fat Frozen Yogurt comes out at 170 calories, while Edy’s Slow Churned Rich & Creamy Black Cherry Vanilla Swirl Yogurt is only about 100 calories per serving.

Now, not all of the foods I mentioned are perfect.  My point in this post is to share comparisons and the fact that there may be a better option that you’re not aware of.  All in all, be mindful about your choices when you’re shopping, eating out or even when you’re cooking.  If you’re curious about finding better options, pick up the book.  You can find it here on Amazon.  Check it out and let me know your thoughts.  What swaps did you make?

My Story

Have you ever really thought about “your story”?  I hadn’t really given it much thought.  A few years ago, I was asked to share my story and I had to really think back.  It all started where everyone’s story begins…at birth.

I was born with asthma.  No one knew it initially, but a few years after I arrived, they found out.  I was sick and in the hospital just about every six months until age 4.  Maybe even a little later.  My  mom jokingly told the doctors to “keep me until they figured out what was wrong”.  Nice, right?!  But it worked.  Needless to say, they found out I had asthma.

Because I was sick all the time, I never wanted to eat.  I had absolutely no appetite and was SUPER skinny.  I mean, I looked like I was sickly.  I can remember a picture taken of me when I was around age seven.  I was on vacation with my family on Cape Cod, playing with my sister in the pool and wearing my two-piece bathing suit.  You could see my ribs.  It was not good.  I was scrawny.  Here’s a picture of my dad and I at our Father / Daughter Dance.  My face is very thin and I was very pale.

About a year later, things started to change.  My asthma started to get better and I discovered something so amazing, I thought I’d lose my mind.  I learned what food was.  Yes, I’m kidding.  My parents fed me, but I found my appetite.  I would eat anything and just about everything.  I LOVED food!  I remember on Sunday mornings after church, my family and I would go to a specific restaurant for breakfast.  Sadly, this restaurant is no longer in business and my parents jokingly blame my sister and I for that.  We could literally clean out the whole buffet if we wanted to.  I definitely found my appetite!

Thankfully despite this appetite, I was active.  I played soccer in the Fall and Winter and soccer and softball in the Spring and Summer.  If I wasn’t this active, I would have gained weight a lot faster than I did.  My parents were happy I had gained a few pounds, though.  Because I was so active, dinners were quick – pasta dinner, fast food, microwaveable meals.  If it was cheap and fast, my family probably had it.  Strangely, I remember having lots of orange soda too.  Odd.

My journey in sports continued through my Sophomore year of high school.  In my Junior year, I stopped being so active because I had to get a job.  I needed things, like a car, gas money, clothes, etc.  My jobs during this time kept me active – I was a janitor, an umpire, a cashier and bagger at a market.  I continued to have jobs like this in college, but that experience with food was much different.  Let’s just say, I won’t forget those steak and cheese subs at 11:30PM.  And adult beverages were everywhere.  It was not good for my waistline.  And being short didn’t help things.  Unfortunately, I didn’t notice my body was changing yet.

After college, my activity level continued, but I was only working.  At a normal check up with my doctor, she noticed a mole.  She did a biopsy and initially the test came back inconclusive.  The C-word popped up in our appointments.  I’m not going to lie, I was nervous.  All I said was “Let me have hair for my wedding”.  Because I only cared about looking good, not feeling good. I was 28 years old, I was the highest my weight has ever been, I was on medicine for high blood pressure and about to be put on medicine for high cholesterol.  Yet, I still didn’t notice something was wrong.

I finally started to notice on a trip to Las Vegas.  We went with friends, including a friend that had a baby shortly before and was already back to her pre-baby weight.  And then I realized, I would be the “fat girl next to the skinny girl at the pool”.  This is what I was telling myself.  Yes,  it was negative self-talk that got me started, but hey, at least I got started.  In a quick 90 days, I lost two dress sizes and 15lbs.  I had changed my eating habits, got myself exercising and off the medications.  Even my asthma was better.  I was feeling like I was on Cloud 9.  Fitness became my drug of choice.  I couldn’t stop and didn’t want to stop.  I ended up losing 25lbs since my journey started and more importantly, I learned what it was like to be HEALTHY!

This was a comparison from our wedding day to our second trip to Las Vegas.  I had changed a lot.  And even since then, I’ve continued to chance.  I have since put some weight back on, but have learned that life is about peaks and valleys and what we do with the challenges that we face.  My work schedule is different now and I have to find time to fit in the health activities that I love.  I make compromises to make it work for me.  Today, my mindset is healthier and I’m happier for the journey I’ve gone down.  Each one of us has a gift to give others and for me, I’ve found living a healthy life is my passion.  I want to help others find the same and if my story can inspire just one person, then I’ve done my job.

If you have read through to the end, that means you’re still here with me.  I hope I’ve helped inspire you in someway.  If I can help more, I’d love to.  Comment below or contact me to set up a time to chat.  Together, we can help you find the life you were meant to live.

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