Cast and Crew

Today is a little behind the scenes of Levelheaded Life!  I’m Sarah.  That’s me over there in the sidebar if you didn’t figure it out yet.  I am Texas born and raised, moved away for a bit and now I’m back!  I was very active in sports growing up and have always been interested in health and wellness.  I earned a degree from Florida State in exercise science with an emphasis in nutrition.  In my real life, I work in sales for a company in the Healthcare/Insurance industry.

I started this blog because after having many conversations with some of my friends, I realized that messages out in the world about food and being healthy and exercise are really mixed up and sometimes just flat out wrong.  I wanted to be able to create a resource for people who are confused about what to put in their bodies can come to try to get some clarification.  If you’ve been struggling to lose weight for years and can’t figure out why?  Or maybe you feel tired all the time even though you’re sleeping 8 hours every night?  I’m here to help wade through that stuff.  Stay tuned for lots more informational posts about health and wellness and also guests posts from experts in different fields.

Now on to the fun stuff!

Supporting Cast:

Brett

Brett

This is the main man in my life.  (The human, not the dog.)  We met while I was living in Florida after college and it was pretty much love at first sight.  I knew we were going to be together forever after two weeks.  We dated for about 2 1/2 years and got hitched after that!  We had a REALLY fun wedding, maybe I’ll tell you about that sometime.  He works in the beer business and when a job opened up in our home state, we jumped at the chance to go back!  He’s my biggest fan, the most loyal person on the entire planet and the true love of my life.  I don’t know what I would do without him.

Sierra, Jack and Kevin Bacon

Three Bad Dogs

These three little monsters are our dogs.  Sierra is the brown one.  She’s the boss of the group.  Jack is the big white one, he’s a big sissy baby and Kevin Bacon is the little guy.  He only has three legs.  We’re those people whose dogs are kind of like their kids.  All of the dogs are rescues. Jack and Sierra were found dumped behind a neighborhood grocery store.  We think it’s because they were too big to be cute to sell out of the back of a truck.

Kevin Bacon came from MCAS as a foster when we were heartbroken after we had to put our oldest dog to sleep.  When we got him, his left front leg was totally broken and they needed someone to foster him so that he could have X-Rays and surgery.  After we went through all of the medical stuff and healing time with him, he fit in too well with our family to adopt him out so we kept him.  He’s named Kevin because I always thought Kevin was a good dog name and when we got him he had a dangling foot (the broken one).  Footloose, get it?

We don’t have any actual human kids yet but probably will sometime in the future.  All in all, our life is pretty great most of the time and we have a strong support system in place for the times when it isn’t.  That’s us in a nutshell!  Thanks for stopping in to take a sneak peek!

The 5 Hottest Diets Revealed

Cutting board with a measuring tape on top

 

I was talking with my mom the other day about our eating habits and we ended up discussing the different styles of eating for people who diet.  It’s an age old story, we all know someone who is constantly talking about the latest diet trend.  While we were on the phone, she asked me, “So what is paleo and what does clean eating mean and what’s the difference?” Since she brought it up, I figured that if she has the question, she’s probably not the only one.  The 5 main styles of dieting that I hear the most about are Low Fat, Low Carb, Clean, Paleo and Gluten Free.  I have laid out a little background and common diets associated with each style. All eating plans have their own benefits and drawbacks. It’s really up to you as an individual to figure out what works best for your body and lifestyle.

Low Fat

Low Fat diets are exactly what they sound like and the most recognizable in the group.  They’re eating plans that restrict calories from fat and are basically what most Americans consider “Healthy Eating.”  It is recommended that the average person have 30% or less of their daily calories come from fat and these diets adhere to that standard. Components of a low fat meal would include vegetables, low fat dairy, pasta, whole wheat bread, fish and other lean meats.  No-no’s are egg yolks, butter, cheese and fried foods.

Low fat dieting became very popular in the 80’s when experts began to recommend reducing saturated fat as a means of healthy eating. Low fat diets have been proven to reduce cholesterol, improve heart health and help people lose weight. (Just stay away from the processed foods.)

Low fat diet examples: DASH, Volumetrics, Ornish

Low Carb

Low carb diets grew in popularity with the advent of the Atkins diet. Characterized and popularized primarily by excluding bread, pasta, sugar and starchy vegetables and allowing seemingly endless amounts of meat, cheese, and other fatty foods to lose weight.  Remember when this was oh so popular in the early 2000’s?  I’ll admit, I tried it.  I couldn’t give up bread though. Me and low carb diets were just not meant for one another.

Severe low carb diets like the original Atkins program cause your body to go into a state called ketosis, which causes rapid weight loss but has been proven to have other possibly harmful side effects. Today, most low carb diets have been altered and include more healthy carbohydrates and focus on lean proteins instead of meats high in saturated fat.

Low Carb Diet Examples: South Beach, Weight Watchers, Atkins 40

Clean

Clean eating meal plans are less about controlling what specific macronutrients you put in your body and are more about being mindful about where your food is coming from. The idea is to eat “real” foods in their state that is closest to how they are found in nature. This means eliminating processed and refined foods.  As I talked about in my last post, processed food is basically anything that comes in a can or a box.  Examples are pasta, hot dogs, frozen pizza, etc.

Acceptable foods are, non processed foods such as fresh fruits and vegetables, beans and legumes, nuts, farm fresh eggs. Minimally processed foods are unrefined grains, like whole wheat bread and pasta, popcorn, steel-cut oatmeal, quinoa, and brown rice, frozen fruits and vegetables, unprocessed meat; wild over pastured, pastured over grain-fed, hormone-free dairy and oils.  The key here is to avoid weird stuff in your food. Think yes to tomatoes, no to ketchup.  No preservatives, no additives, no hormones. Keywords to looks for are free-range, organic, grass fed, and hormone free.

Clean Diets:  Eat-Clean Diet

Paleo

The paleo or paleolithic style of eating is similar to clean eating in that it’s an attempt to return to eating natural foods.  Paleo takes it one step further and encourages people to “eat like cavemen,” which essentially means that you wouldn’t eat anything that a caveman wouldn’t have access to.  The idea is that agricultural process has come so quickly to the human race, our bodies haven’t had enough time to evolve and adapt to eating processed foods like sugar, wheat and processed oils. People who eat this way believe that that inability to adapt is what is causing many of our common “food related” diseases like cardiovascular disease, type-II Diabetes and obesity.  Good foods are the same as clean eating, just take out anything that’s not meat, vegetables, or nuts. The same keywords that apply to clean eating apply here as well, free-range, organic, grass-fed and hormone free.

Paleo Diets: Whole30, Nom-Nom Paleo

Gluten Free

Gluten Free is the buzzword-iest diet in the list I think.  Gluten free diets came to the nation’s attention because of a disorder called Celiac disease.  Celiac disease is an immune reaction to eating gluten, a protein found in wheat, barley, and rye.  People who have Celiac disease can’t eat things like bread, pasta, or beer without having a severe intestinal reaction. (What a bummer!)  So, specific gluten free diets were created to tailor to Celiac patients.  Somewhere along the line, people figured out that if you don’t eat gluten, you will lose weight.  This actually has more to do with the fact that you aren’t putting a lot of processed, simple carbohydrates in your body than your body’s ability to digest gluten.  As with any popular diet, the food industry has blown the gluten craze way up, creating lines of gluten free cookies and cakes and pasta and pretty much every processed food you can imagine.  I’m going to give you my honest opinion here.  Unless you have been diagnosed by a doctor and you have Celiac disease (trust me: if you did, you’d know it), there is no reason to pretend you are allergic to gluten.  If you feel better when you don’t eat a ton of processed food and grains?  That’s because you’re a normal human.

Gluten Free Diets: Gluten Free Living

Have any of you ever tried these eating styles or the specific diets?  Have questions?  Let me know how in the comments!

Grocery Store Survival Guide

This guide will help you become a healthy grocery shopping ninja!

Let’s talk about grocery shopping.  Everyone has to do it (unless you’re Donald Trump, probably) and if you’re not careful, it can be a huge roadblock on your journey to eating healthy.  This used to be a HUGE issue for me until I learned a few simple tricks to getting out of the grocery store without ending up with a cart full of Rolos. Because of that, I’ve put together an easy to use survival guide that will help you become a grocery shopping ninja!

Start with Healthy Recipes: Make a List!

Grocery shopping actually starts at home.  Going in with a gameplan is the #1 most important strategy you can have.  The good news is, with the beautiful lovechild that blogs and Pinterest make, we have TONS of healthy recipes available right at our fingertips.  I have a lot of favorite blogs for healthy meal ideas but my go-tos are Skinnytaste, Picky Palate’s Skinny Palate Section and Gimme Some Oven.  Check out my Good Food, Good Life board for lots of tasty, healthy recipe ideas!

Now take those recipes and MAKE A LIST.  This is so crucial!  If you’re just cruising around the store with no plan, you’re going to end up with potato chips and pizza rolls.  (Which are delicious, but let’s face it, not the best choices you can make.)  I usually make my lists in the morning before work after that first cup of coffee when my brain is really running on all cylinders.  You can use a grocery list app or just plain old paper, but make sure you do it!

Snack

A long-lived grocery store enemy is hunger.  Scene: It’s Monday night, you didn’t get your shopping done on the weekend, so you’re heading to the store after work.  You’ve had a long day and you need to pick up a few things for the week.  The problem is that you haven’t eaten since lunch.  All of the sudden you get into the store and those iced cookies (you know the really soft ones with the sprinkles?) start looking like manna from Heaven and you pop a dozen into your cart just to snack on while you shop.  Sound familiar? No? Just me?  I’m really a sucker for those damn cookies.  Anyway, pretty soon you’re loading anything and everything into your cart and you’ve veered so far off course you can’t find your way back.  Trust me, it’s science.

My trick to avoiding going all Supermarket Sweep in the store is to keep a snack in my bag or in my car.  If you work in an office, keep some healthy stuff at your desk.  Ideas for healthy snacks here, here and here.  Eat something before you leave work or on the way to the store and you’re golden.

Shop the Outside

This may be the tip that you already know.  If you’re looking for healthy food, stay on the perimeter of the grocery store.  Generally, supermarkets pack all of the high calorie, high dollar items in the aisles and leave all of the healthy, affordable stuff on the outside.  Grocery stores have a built-in reason to influence you to shop the center.  They want you to spend as much money as possible while you’re there!  Why do you think the eggs are all the way at the back?  The supermarket planner guy is hoping that you’ll walk down the aisles (instead of around the outside) and add a bunch of nonessential stuff to your cart.  And it works!  To avoid this trap, stick to the outside where you can get fresh meat, dairy and produce without getting sucked into the world of boxed food that awaits inside the aisles.  If you do have to go in the aisles (for spices or canned food) go back to #1 and STICK TO THE LIST.

Steer Clear of Advertising

Advertising is another grocery store trick to get you to buy things that aren’t the best for your health  You never see advertisements for carrots or lean ground beef.  The reason is, that those advertisements are paid for by food companies who want you to buy their processed food products.  This is the stuff you see advertised on television and on all of the flyers that you get with your newspaper and it’s really just not that good for you.  Examples: chips, boxed mac and cheese, frozen foods, etc.  Most processed food (the stuff in the middle of the grocery store) is engineered to be as tasty and addictive as possible.  One of the real reasons that Americans have trouble choosing healthy food; and the reason I started this blog is because the food industry has really messed up what we consider “health food.”  This targeted marketing is especially effective on children.  I could honestly talk about this all day, but we’ll leave it for another post.

To put this point in action: When you see an advertisement for something that you think seems tasty and healthy, do your research.  You can look up the ingredients online or just read the label while you’re in the store.  If the ingredient list has a lot of crazy stuff that you feel like you probably studied in your high school chemistry class, put it back on the shelf.  Then head back to the perimeter where it’s safe.

Shopping Services

This section is close to my heart.  There are actually places out there that will do your grocery shopping for you.  This is the best way to avoid purchasing things you don’t need because you don’t even have to go into the store at all!  My current favorite is Wal-Mart Grocery Pickup.  You sign up for an account, search for the stuff on your list, add it to your cart, pick a pickup time and then just show up at the store at your allotted time.  Someone will come to your car and even help you load your groceries!  I can imagine this being very helpful for moms with small children.  As long as your order is over $30, there is no charge for the service.  Amazing!

Another option (not available in my area yet) is Instacart.  This one seems nice because they will shop lots of different stores for you and then deliver it to your house.  I believe there is currently an offer that will get you $10 off of your first order.  If you’ve used instacart and have an opinion, leave it in the comments!  I’d love to hear about it!

Ok, you have the tools to grocery shop like a pro and you’re a certified grocery store ninja.  Now get out there and shop!