Welcome to Self Soul Space! This blog is designed to bring you healthy lifestyle tips. A true healthy lifestyle, embodies a healthy mind, body, spirit, and environment. Thanks for stopping by to check out my way of living.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Salads Don't Have to be Boring

Salads are one of my favorite ways to get in my vegetable (and sometimes fruit) servings. You can get as creative, themed, festive, or simple as possible. Salads can be a super fast meal, at home or to go, with the proper preparation. But please understand, salads don't have to be boring...

Base: My preferred base is lettuce. Not just iceberg, break out of the norm... experiment with different kinds. Some of my favorites, are spinach, romaine, and arugula... but I enjoy mixing different types together. Iceberg is classic, and what you usually find on restaurant salads, but it is not the most nutritious for you. If you are truly eating healthy, try to get the most bang for your buck. The dark leafy greens, pack the most bang! I buy pre-washed containers or bags of organic lettuce, less work for me!  Pasta or cooked grain salads are also an option.

Toppings: No two salads are alike for me, I switch up my toppings all the time. by changing one topping will give your salad a whole new taste and texture.

  • Vegetables- It's not just about tomatoes, cucumbers, and carrots. When making veggies for other meals (grilled, steamed, roasted, etc), I always make extra. I store the extras in a separate container, already chopped, so all I have to do is just throw them on the lettuce. Green beans, asparagus, brussels sprouts, corn, broccoli (I'm not a big fan of raw broccoli), etc... I also chop carrots, cucumbers, celery at the beginning of the week so they are also ready to go. Plus, I buy grape tomatoes, no prep needed.
  • Grains & Beans- I love adding bean and grains to my salad. It's a great way to make your salad more filling. Same way as the veggies, I make extra from a previous meal, and just throw it on my salad. Some of my favorites are quinoa, brown rice, black beans, soy beans (edemame), barley, and whole wheat pasta. I've even put my vegetarian chili on top of a salad one time!
  • Proteins- I don't always put "meat" on my salad. I like to grill or bake extra meat, especially chicken and salmon. I personally stay away from lunch meats as toppings. I also keep a stash of albacore tuna packets in my pantry too. Sometimes, I'll heat up my leftover meat or a veggie burger and place it on top.  Hard boiled eggs are also a great option, plus you can make a few a head of time and store in your fridge.
  • Cheese & others- I love cheese! On salads, blue, feta, or parm are favorites. If I'm making a "Mexican" themed salad, I love shredded cheddar! I also love dried fruits and nuts (esp cranberries & almonds). As a treat, I love to add candied walnuts (you buy them already prepared). At times, I enjoy adding apple slices, oranges, or strawberries to my salad. Fresh herbs can be fun too!
  • Dressings- This is where the real fun can begin. I love to try different dressings. I actually have 5 different salad dressings in my refrigerator. However, I don't always use prepared dressings... I love oil & vinegar, salsa, and sometimes just lemon or lime juice. I've made some great homemade vinaigrettes. Since I prefer to enjoy the flavors of my lettuce and toppings, I only use about 1-2 tbsp of my dressing of choice. When watching my waistline, I choose oil & vinegar or vinaigrette instead of creamy dressings.

You can use the same ingredients over and over again, but make a different salad every time. Salads can be super easy, if you prepare the ingredients ahead of time. If time is not on your side, make it the night before, just keep your dressing separate, so your lettuce doesn't get soggy. If your fridge is empty, and you need a salad to go, my favorite places to get a salad are Salad Works, Chipotle, Trader Joe's, Whole Foods (salad bar or already prepared), and Chop't or PAX (not in DE though).

Salads can supply your body with all of your daily vegetable servings, vitamins, minerals, and fiber. They're a wonderful option when stuck at a buffet where the hot food isn't up to par, or when you need a fast meal. Tonight, I am having a spinach salad, topped with tomatoes, almonds, asparagus, dried cranberries, carrots, teriyaki veggie burger, and an Asian sesame dressing. I wish you all the creativity in making salads not boring! Don't forget to chew, enjoy!!

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Asparagus & Zucchini Torta

I made this Asparagus & Zucchini torta for dinner on Meatless Monday. It was a super easy, light dinner from my Whole Foods Recipes App. even though we had it for dinner, you cold alos serve it for breakfast, brunch, or lunch. Great for Baby showers, or Teas. I served it hot with a side Spinach salad, grapes for the kids, and Trader Joe's crescent rolls, but it could also be served room temperature.

Asparagus & Zucchini Torta
Serves 4
Total Time: 45 min (10 min prep, 30-35 min baking)

2-3 tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil (2 tbsp + cooking spray to coat dish)
1/2 cup Grated Carrots
1 cup Chopped Zucchini (1 small zucchini)
1/2 lb Asparagus, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
4 Eggs
2 cloves Minced Garlic
1/2 cup Grated Parmesan Cheese (+ extra to sprinkle)
1/2 cup Bread Crumbs (I used Panko bc that was in my pantry)
1/4 tsp Salt
Pepper to taste
1-2 tbsp Chopped Flat-leaf Parsley

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Oil bottom and sides of an 8" baking/pie dish with EVOO or Cooking spray.

In a large skillet, over med-high heat, heat remaining oil. Add carrots and zucchini, cook, stirring often until tender and starting to brown (about 5 min). Add aspaprgus, and cook another 3-5 min, until tender. Transfer vegetablesto a large bowl and set aside.

In a second bowl, whisk eggs, garlic, cheese, bread crumbs, salt & pepper, and parsley together. Pour egg mixture over vegetables, stir. Pour new mixture into oiled baking dish, and bake for 30-35 min (until firm). Sprinkle with extra cheese, then set aside to cool briefly. Slice, serve, and enjoy!!

Nutritional Info:
280 cal, 19g total fat, 5g sat fat, 14g protein, 17g total carb, 3g fiber, 3g sugar, 225mg choles, 480mg sodium

I can't wait to make this again! With the minimal hands-on time, and quick baking time this would be great for the unexpected overnight guest. It even tastes good as leftovers!

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Celebrate Earth Day, The Self Soul & Space Way

Happy Earth Day! How will you celebrate and take care of mother earth? Earth day was created by Senator Gaylord Nelson from Wisconsin back in 1970. Today it is celebrated worldwide, in 175 countries. Taking care of the earth is a crucial part of having a truly healthy lifestyle. Here are some ways for you and your friends/family/kids to celebrate earth day, today and all year long...

Take a walk or a hike- keep a lookout for special birds, insects, or plants. Don't forget your sunscreen, hat, and reusable water bottle.

Plant a tree or garden- plants and trees turn carbon dioxide into oxygen... Which we need, so get to digging!

Clean up a neighborhood park or street- picking up trash will make you and others more conscious of littering.

Have a BBQ or Picnic- time to head outdoors and enjoy a great healthy meal, not cooked in a microwave, but don't forget the reusable containers, plates, utensils, and cups.

Eliminate Junk Mail- approximately 100,000,000,000 pieces of junk mail go out every year. Help to limit your waste by adding your name to National Do Not Mail List or to Catalog Choice.

Switch Lightbulbs in your home to LED/CFL bulbs- they use less energy, and last longer. I know they cost more, but you'll save in the long run.

Recycle- most states are making it mandatory for trash depatments/companies to offer this service... So take advantage! However, make it easier on yourself and the trash-recycle persons: use a separate bin for your recyclables; rinse items before throwing into the bin; or get creative with your recyclables (for example make tin can herb pots from soup cans, or decorative toilet paper roll holders from old coffee cans).

Meditate- not only is it good for the soul, but it forces you to turn off the computer, cell phones, and tv!

Eat Clean- eat whole, natural, organic (if possible) foods, not processed! Fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, and lean meats (hormone free, wild caught, free range, or grass fed).

Damage to the earth effects everyone, it knows no boundaries, no race, no religion, and no age. We all should celebrate Earth Day, every day! A healthy Space, will help produce a healthier Self & Soul.

Here are some other ways to celebrate Earth Day, all year round...

Drop thermostat on Hot Water Heater
Use cloth napkins & towels, instead of paper
Drink water from reusable water bottles
Reuse old t-shirts as dust & cleaning clothes
Buy local produce, meats, and products
Shop with reusable shopping bags: mall, grocery store, home improvement stores, etc.
Reduce & reuse printer paper: print on both sides, or reuse as scrap paper

Check out How Big is Your Footprint? For more earth friendly ideas!

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

My Organic Garden

My daughters and I plant an organic garden every spring.  I started with just basil, parsley, and rosemary. I used to buy already started herb plants from the Flower Market in Wilmington, DE.  Last year, was my first time trying vegetables and using seeds, but I bought 2 organic mature tomato plants from my local Home Depot.  My garden was just ok last year, we had squash, green beans, broccoli, green peppers, and tomatoes- Roma & Grape.  My squash plant grew one lovely zucchini, and that was it... We had tons of blossoms, but no fruit thanks to a lovely visitor who enjoyed eating them!  My green peppers did absolutely nothing. The green beans, that's where my inexperience shows, I had only 2 green bean plants that grew lovely beans... However, 2 plants most certainly did not produce enough beans at one time for a meal for one, let alone four.  My broccoli plants, well again inexperience, I planted them at the wrong time last year, they produced fruit in the fall and this spring.  I was advised to trim them, and they will continue to produce, we shall see.  Now, tomatoes... We had tomatoes out the wazoo!  My grape tomato plant was in constant production. The girls ate tomatoes every meal, every day.  We had so many, I was giving them away to my neighbors.  The Roma plant, now that's a different story... It produced tomatoes for the first half of the summer then something happen to it?  It still would produce tomatoes but they were infected.  All of that aside, my herb plants did very well, and we had fresh herbs all the way into the winter.
Clearly, I do not have a green thumb... But I'd like to think it's turning a yellow-green.  So, I am going to try my hand a vegetables  from seeds again.  This year, I have zucchini & squash; green beans; herbs: basil, parsley, rosemary, sage, thyme, & cilantro; spinach; and romaine lettuce.  I am going to try buying mature tomato plants again, since they did so well for me.  My daughters decided to plant their own seeds, and they are growing zinnias.
 Here are the pictures of our sprouts, I'll keep you posted on how our organic garden grows!

Friday, April 13, 2012

Walking until my feet fall off...

I feel like I have been walking and standing (shoot, and running) so much this week, that I think my feet might fall off!  I don't know how New Yorkers' do it?!?  So, I am in Manhattan for the New York Auto Show, if you didn't figure that out already.  It's 10 days of walking around the display, answering questions, laughing at "jokes", and narrating on the featured vehicles for the manufacturer I work for... but it's also 10 days of walking to and from work everyday.  My hotel is in mid-town, and the show is at the Javitz.  That's about 1.2 miles, each way.  Sure, I could take a cab... but where's the fun in that?  Besides the weather has been beautiful everyday, thank you Spring!  I'm logging over 20 miles this trip, not counting my runs and excursions elsewhere.  New York is a walking city, everyone walks everywhere, FAST and with a PURPOSE!  I love it!  Yes, my legs are feeling it!  I wish every place was more conducive to walking, think about how much gas we would save, and how we would decrease pollution, while positively contributing to our health. 

You can turn your city or neighborhood into a walking city, by just walking.  Walk short distances: to the store, to the bank, to the coffee shop, to a friend/neighbor's house, to school or the bus stop, to the park... you get the picture.

If you don't live near anything (within 1 mile or so), or its not safe because of back roads or neighborhoods, try walking some of your errands at shopping centers.  Park at the far end, farthest away from the doors, and don't move your car, walk to the stores or stops you have to make.  Now, I'm not suggesting you walk to Costco's for your big monthly grocery trip, but keep your purchases to things you can easily carry, or make several drop offs at your car (but don't move your car).

At work you can walk too... walk to a co-workers desk instead of sending an email or picking up the phone, walk to pick up lunch instead of using a delivery service, walk your package to the mail room instead of scheduling a pick up, and park farther from the office door.

This sounds all wonderful in cities like New York, but this might not be doable in your area... so, just go for a 15-30 min walk; outside, in your neighborhood (or a new neighborhood), at the gym, or at a local park.  Walking is a great way to get in exercise without feeling like you are working out.  Try it, Walk until your feet fall off!

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

LDL, HDL... IDK... High Cholesterol?

LDL, HDL, IDK, WTH? Sounds like a bad text from your doctor? Well, those lovely acronyms and numbers your doctor is spitting at you, are your cholesterol numbers. They are very, very important in determining your risk of heart disease, do you know your numbers?
What is Cholesterol?
Cholesterol is a waxy, fat-like substance made in the liver and other cells.  It is also found in certain foods, such as food from animals, like dairy products, eggs, and meat.  The body needs some cholesterol in order to function properly.  The body's cell walls need cholesterol in order to produce hormones, vitamin D, and the bile acids that help to digest fat. But the body needs only a limited amount of cholesterol. When too much is present health problems such as heart disease may develop.
What actually happens is plaque(a thick, hard deposit) from too much cholesterol, may form in the body's arteries narrowing the space for blood to flow to the heart. Over time, this buildup causes hardening of the arteries which can lead to heart disease.  When not enough oxygen-carrying blood reaches the heart, chest pain can happen. If the blood supply to a portion of the heart is completely cut off by total blockage, like a blood clot, of a coronary artery, the result is a heart attack.
Everyone over the age of 20 should get their cholesterol levels measured at least once every five years.  Doctors recommend your total cholesterol stay below 200. However, over 200 to 239 is considered borderline high, and 240+ is High!  Your LDL, HDL, and triglyceride levels are important as well.
What does LDL & HDL mean?
Basically, cholesterol travels through the blood attached to a protein, this cholesterol-protein package is called a lipoprotein. Lipoproteins are classified as high density, low density, or very low density, depending on how much protein there is in relation to fat.
  • Low density lipoproteins (LDL): LDL, also called "bad" cholesterol, can cause buildup of plaque on the walls of arteries. The more LDL there is in the blood, the greater the risk of heart disease. Remember, L is for a Low number.
  • High density lipoproteins (HDL): HDL, also called "good" cholesterol, helps the body get rid of bad cholesterol (LDL) in the blood. The higher the level of HDL cholesterol, the better. If your levels of HDL are low, your risk of heart disease increases. Remember, H is for a Higher number.
  • Very low density lipoproteins (VLDL): VLDL is similar to LDL cholesterol in that it contains mostly fat and not much protein.
  • Triglycerides: Triglycerides are another type of fat that is carried in the blood by very low density lipoproteins. Excess calories, alcohol, or sugar in the body are converted into triglycerides and stored in fat cells throughout the body.
So, do you have High Cholesterol?
Abnormal cholesterol levels such as high LDL cholesterol and/or low HDL cholesterol are a major risk factor for heart disease and stroke. An unhealthy diet can cause high cholesterol, however, sometimes high cholesterol can run in families.  Keep in mind, High Cholesterol is a silent health risk that can be deadly!
Here are some ways to lower High Cholesterol:
  • Eat low-cholesterol foods. The American Heart Association recommends that you limit your daily cholesterol intake to less than 300mg. If you have heart disease, limit your daily intake to less than 200mg. People can significantly lower their dietary cholesterol intake by reducing their intake of saturated fats and by avoiding foods that are high in saturated fat and that contain large amounts of cholesterol.
  • Quit smoking. Smoking lowers HDL ("good") cholesterol levels. This trend can be reversed if you quit smoking.
  • Exercise. Exercise increases HDL cholesterol in some people. Even moderate-intensity activities, if done daily, can help control weight, diabetes, and high blood pressure; all risk factors for heart disease.
  • Take medication as prescribed by your doctor. Sometimes making changes to your diet and increasing exercise is not enough to bring your cholesterol down. You may also need to take a cholesterol-lowering drug.

Just a few simple changes can help lower your cholesterol and risk for heart disease!  Get tested and know your numbers!  TK, TTYLXOX!

Friday, April 6, 2012

Runner or Not?

Am I a runner?  Yes, I am!  Who would of ever thought that??? Many people are surprised when I tell them I run, sometimes I think my own family doesn't believe me.  But yes, I am.  Am I a fast runner, NO, but I am a runner!!  I run two to four times a week, ranging from 2 miles to 9 miles, depending on if I'm training or not.  I have participated in the 2011 Delaware Marathon Relay, and will run in the 2012 Delaware Half Marathon in less than a month (yikes).  

I wasn't always a runner, though.  During my sport days, I hated running!!  Field hockey, basketball, lacrosse, tennis, swimming, and competitive cheerleading were my sports... Not Running!  I would dread when that part of practice came; laps, sprints, cross country trail, No Thank You!!  As I got older, walking became my thing... I could walk until the cows came home, I could even walk faster then some people jogged.  When I started working for the automotive manufacturers, I found myself at more marathons & triathlons then I ever knew existed, all because my company sponsored them.  I was surrounded by people of all ages, late teens to senior citizens, who loved to run. I once saw a man who was 80+ cross a marathon finish line.  And I thought, if he can do 26.2, I should at least be able to run a mile (without passing out).  So, I started running, just a few minutes during my walks, but I never felt like I was progressing.  Then I started to think, there are runners and then there's me... I hate running, and that was that!  A year or so later, I was sitting at a playdate listening to Deb and Kathy talk about running.  Deb was blabbing on about races, and such, and Kathy said something that sparked my interest.... "I'm using this app, C25k... It's for people who aren't runners.  It takes you from being a couch potato to running a 5k in 9 weeks."  Hmmm, Kathy might be on to something, I thought.  I immediately went to the app store on my iPhone and bought C25k.  This was all well and good, but who do I run with? Deb was a real runner, and Kathy was already on week 4.... I'd never keep up with them.  So, I recruited my own team, Marisia & Lenise.  They're my cousins, so if this is the worst thing ever, they can't hate me, we're family.  We all started C25k the same week, in the summer.  When our schedules allowed, we ran together, when it didn't we coached and encouraged each other through the runs.  We picked an actual 5k in November of that year as our goal race.  Time went on, we were running.... I actually started to enjoy running, and was really looking forward to my first 5k!  Then my world came to a screeching halt, and I stopped running.  I questioned why on earth I was doing this to my body, I truly started to hate running again.  I thought running took something away from me, and I hated it for that!!  January 2011 rolled around, new year new me, I thought.  I laced up my sneakers and started running again.  I almost felt normal again, like this is what I was missing.  So, I set a new goal, a pretty lofty one, considering I hadn't been running that long... I, Ashley Thayer, was going to run a half marathon.  Thank goodness, I have great realistic friends... They talked me down from the ledge, Michelle and Deb (the real runner) convinced me to run in the relay with them, and I recruited Courtney in the pain.  I figured I could do that, 6.55 miles, much better than 13.1, right?  And that's what I did.  May 2011 was my first race, but not my last.  Running was in my blood now, there was no stopping me.  

Now, I speak in runner's terms, like tempo runs and race pace.  I run maintenance runs, fartleks, hills.  I subscribe to Runner's World Magazine.  Running for me is also my get away time, get away from stress, work, kids, life, etc.  Running is a form of meditation for me, it clears my head and leaves me feeling renewed.  I am still amazed at how, something so dreadful, something I hated for so many years, could now bring such mental clarity and joy to my life.  I'm not going to lie to you, there are still days where I don't want to lace up my sneaks, but then I make a deal with myself... I'll just go for a walk, and sure enough, I'm running by mile 2.  Because my workouts & runs are at the mercy of who can watch my kids, I am mostly an indoor runner, since my YMCA has free child care!  However, when I can get outside, I love the fresh air and the new things I see on my runs.  There are days I still don't believe I am a runner, then I remember something I read in Runner's World: if you run, no matter the distance, you are a runner!  So, yes, I am a runner, and you can be too!

Here's what helped me...
C25k app by BlueFin & RunHelper
Fitted for a new pair of sneakers, try New Balance store or your local running stores (Delaware Running Company is a favorite)
Grab a buddy
Don't worry about others... Like Nike, just do it!

Monday, April 2, 2012

Fit, Skinny, or Healthy?

Fit, skinny, or healthy... Which describes you? Is one more of a compliment than the others? How do you respond when someone calls you fit, skinny, or healthy? Since I have become more committed to my health; a healthy self, soul, and space; so many people have said to me... "you are so skinny!". I guess it should be a compliment, right? So, why am I confused as to what to say, "thank you" just doesn't seem right. In reality, I'm not skinny, I am within a normal weight range for my height... Actually, I am just the size I was pre-babies (2 kids in 2 years, can do some damage). Here's the thing, I am also not trying to be skinny, I am trying to insure I am living my healthiest life possible. I want my mind & body to be in great working condition, so I can enjoy the next 60+ years.

What about "healthy"? Forever, society used the word healthy to describe someone who is curvy, "big boned", or even obese. To me, healthy is a compliment. It shows me, that my healthy living is obvious. I take care of myself. Healthy should be used to describe just what it means. Being healthy means my numbers are at good levels, I am eating right, I am happy with myself, I am stress-free, I am physically active, and I am most of all not sick.

A week ago, a co-worker said to me, "wow, Ashley, you are fit!". I was so honored by her compliment, because it meant that my hard work in the gym was visible. She then proceeded to tell me, I had a "glow" about me. I thanked her, then proceeded to tell her, that was one of the best compliments I have ever heard. I told her about my healthy living journey, and why I am on this journey. FITness is a big part of living a healthy lifestyle, which is why I consider that a compliment.

Call me healthy, call me fit... Shoot, call me hot! But please don't call me skinny, that actually seems more like an insult. Take care of yourself, eat right, be active, stay stress-free, know your numbers, be happy with yourself, and that healthy "glow" will become obvious. Your body will be the size God intended it to be, so enjoy being healthy!