When life gets busy, healthy eating needs to be planned ahead. If you have a day that is completely full, and making dinner seems impossible, turn to an easy slow cooker recipe. This recipe for Italian Chicken and Vegetables is full of fresh, healthy ingredients, but only takes a few minutes to put together in the morning. Enjoy it as is, served in bowls like a stew, or serve it on top of hot cooked pasta.
Italian Chicken and Vegetables
- 1/2 of a head of green cabbage, sliced into strips
- 1 onion, thinly sliced
- 4 oz fresh button mushrooms, sliced
- 2 Tbs quick cooking tapioca
- 2 to 2 1/2 lbs skinless chicken drumsticks
- 2 cups marinara sauce
- Freshly grated parmesan cheese
In the bottom of a slow cooker, combine the cabbage, onions, and mushrooms. Sprinkle tapioca over the vegetables. Lay the chicken pieces on top, then pour the marinara sauce over the chicken. Cover slow cooker. Cook on low setting for 6 to 7 hours or high setting 3 to 3 1/2 hours. Transfer to servings dishes, and top each with a sprinkle of parmesan cheese.
The core of a healthy eating program is focusing on what you should eat, not what you shouldn’t. The key is to eat more nutrient dense foods. What are nutrient dense foods? Foods in their most natural state (or as close to it as possible) which include vegetables, fruits, beans, nuts, seeds, whole grains, lean unprocessed meats, eggs, and low fat dairy. Most everyone is familiar with the idea that these are the foods they should be eating, but struggle to make it happen. Here are a few points to consider when implementing a healthy diet into your lifestyle:
- Eat 3 fruits each day. Have fruit with breakfast and also as snacks to achieve this.
- Eat at least 4 servings of vegetables each day. Include a large salad or vegetable soup with your lunch and serve a double portion of veggies at dinner to reach 4 servings.
- Choose whole grains that are the least processed. Avoid refined grains such as white flour, sugar, breads, and pastas.
- When choosing dairy and meats, make sure you choose a low fat or lean option.
- Eat a serving of beans or legumes at least four times a week or even every day. Beans are a great source of complex carbohydrates, protein, and fiber.
- Nuts and seeds are a satiating form of healthy fats. Include one or two servings every day.
- Include carbohydrate, protein, and healthy fats at every meal or snack. This keeps your nutrients balanced.
- Eat five to six times a day. Three meals and two (or three) snacks keep your body fueled for the day. It also gives you more opportunities to add in extra fruit and vegetables.
So what would a day of eating following these guidelines look like? Here are a few sample meals.
-Oatmeal with berries, walnuts, Tbs maple syrup
-Shredded wheat with skim or 1% milk, banana
-Two scrambled eggs, whole grain toast, orange
-Low fat Greek yogurt with berries, almonds, honey
-Large mixed green salad with chicken, black beans, salsa, avocado
-Vegetable soup with beans, fruit salad
-Lettuce wraps with turkey, cheese, avocado or mustard
-Cottage cheese with cut up veggies and a piece of fruit
-Grilled chicken, roast sweet potatoes, broccoli
-Stir fry with chicken or lean beef, peppers, onions, snap peas, brown rice
-Chili made either with lean turkey or vegetarian version
-Grilled fish with black bean salsa, zucchini
-Fruit with nuts or nut butter
-Hummus with cut up veggies
-Smoothie made with yogurt, frozen berries, milk
-Piece of dark chocolate with almonds
- Take it Outside: With the great spring weather arriving, take your workout outside! Run, bike, or rollerblade on an outdoor path, or take the kids to a beach or park for some activity.You can even join the kids on the monkey bars!
- Treat Yourself to a New Fitness DVD: There are so many fitness DVD’s that are reasonably priced, so treat yourself to a new one! Also, don’t forget the more active video games that are popular for the Wii, Xbox, and PlayStation.
- Better Than Nothing: Really crunched for time? You can still get in a mini workout, which is better than no workout at all! Combine some of your favorite moves to create a mini circuit. Some to try: Jumping jacks, squats, push-ups, and crunches.
- Enter a Race: There are always local road races going on. Many are 5K (about 3 miles) or even a 1 mile fun run. It’s a great way to exercise in a fun atmosphere.
- Try a New Class: You don’t have to stick to the same routine all the time. Try out a new class! Boot Camps, Zumba, and Yoga are just a few examples.
- Purchase New Workout Gear: Not only is it fun to get a new workout outfit, but it is also functional. Your workout will be much more comfortable in the proper clothes that are lightweight and moisture wicking.
- Bring Along a Friend: It is always more fun with a friend. Ask your friend to join you in your usual workout, or see #5, and try out a new class together!
- Set a New Challenge: Need some new motivation? Set a new challenge for yourself. Whether it is a weight loss challenge, or a physical challenge (like running a new distance or performing more push-ups) find something that is doable, but will take some work!
- Try Out a Sport: There are a lot of recreational sports that include everyone. What did you play as a kid? Or what sports were you always interested in trying?
- Create a New Music Playlist: Load up some new music, and get the headphones ready! Music can make your workout seem easier, and new tunes can motivate you to get moving.
Do you work out with a friend? It is great to team up with someone for a workout. Not only do they keep you company, but also your training partner can help you stay motivated. Who wants to cancel a workout when you know someone is waiting for you? Another great benefit of working out with a partner is that you can do some fun and challenging exercises together. Here are a few examples to try out the next time you are with your workout partner!
- Squat Jump High Fives: Stand facing your partner, about one foot away from each other. At the same time, you will both lower into a squat. When you rise, power through your legs to propel yourself into a jump (your partner is also jumping) and high five each other with both hands as you reach the top of your jump. Repeat five to ten times.
- Medicine Ball Pass: You and your partner stand facing each other, a few feet apart. Holding a medicine ball at your chest, elbows bent, quickly pass the ball to your partner, keeping it at chest level. Your partner will catch the ball with outstretched arms, and bend the elbows as it is brought back into the chest. Toss the ball back and forth at a quick pace. Try twenty throws!
- Tug of War: This exercise works your back and also your core stability muscles! Face your partner a few feet apart. Each of you will will hold onto one end of the same rope (or similar object, like a towel) with only your right hand. Adjust the distance so that one person has their arm outstretched and the other has the elbow bent in to the side of the waist. The person with the outstretched arm will attempt to pull - with a rowing motion- their arm to their side while the other partner resists. Keep your body steady! Repeat, switching roles of puller and resister. Do ten repetitions, then switch sides.
- Plank Claps: Both you and your partner face each other in a plank position on your hands, arms straight. Alternate clapping hands: each person will raise their right arm and bring it towards the center, meeting in the middle with a clap, then place the arm back down and repeat with the left side. Keep your timing together, and try to get in twenty claps!
Do you want to give yourself a new challenge with the core exercise known as the plank? Add in some of these new varieties to your core routine! First, start out in the basic plank pose: forearms resting on the ground, parallel to each other. Legs extended straight back, with your toes in contact with the floor. Raise your body up to maintain a straight line from your shoulders through your legs, making sure to contract the abs and keep the lower back stable. Engage through the backs of your arms up through the shoulders (no sagging shoulder blades!), and press strongly through your legs and feet. Keep the body level at all times, do not let the belly sag or the lower back lift up and round. Work up to holding this position for 60 seconds. Once you have mastered the basics, try one of these variations:
- While holding the plank, raise one leg 6-12 inches off of the floor and hold it, while still balancing on the other foot and maintaining a strong plank position. Hold for 15-30 seconds, then switch legs.
- Before starting plank, elevate your feet on a step or low bench. Lower your arms down into plank position, and hold for 30-60 seconds.
- While in plank, slowly walk your feet towards your arms, keeping your legs straight. You will bend at the waist into a pike position, putting more emphasis on the shoulders and upper back. Hold for 30 seconds, then slowly walk your feet back to starting position and hold 30 seconds.
- Start in the plank position on your forearms, then raise up onto your right hand and then left hand. You will be in a position as if you were starting a push up. Reverse the movement lowering down onto the right forearm, and then the left forearm. Repeat, starting with the left side. Continue moving slowly for 30-60 seconds.
Fitness has been a passion of mine for the past ten years. I got involved in a fit and healthy lifestyle after my first son was born when I wanted to lead an example by taking care of myself and my family. Along the way I discovered many activities I enjoyed, and achieved many accomplishments such as earning a black belt in Tae Kwon Do, competing in a women’s fitness competition, and becoming a marathoner and Boston Marathon Qualifier.
I received my Personal Training instruction and certification through the Cooper Institute in Dallas, Texas. I also am certified in Red Cross CPR, AED, and First Aid.
To me, fitness should be fun and challenging. I like to help people set new goals and work to achieve them. Whether the goal is losing weight and getting in shape, getting stronger and fitter for sports, or setting sights on a challenge such as a 5K or marathon, I want to help you achieve it!