Family

It's A Junk Food Jungle Out There {And How to Get Out!}

Common junk foods like most chips, snacks, sodas and sweets are the obvious offender to a weight loss goal and healthy diet…but what about those hidden food traps? There are so many! The deception is everywhere...from foods that are blatantly, falsely advertised as healthy, to everyday choices we thought were great options, but as we learn more and more about this, we realize they aren’t.

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An even greater crime is that food marketers target kids!

Most children’s commercial foods have more added sugar, food coloring and additives and preservatives in them than they do nutritional benefits! Oh, like fruit juices. Orange, apple, grape…UGH – read the label! Huge sugar boobie traps.

Take fruit snacks as another example: there is not a fleck of fruit in them! Yogurts are another “Whhaaaatttt? I can’t believe it!” food. Watch those added sugar amounts, and check the nutrition amount...then choose the lower-sugar version, you can always flavor it with fruit, honey, or stevia on your own.

Beware of the bountiful amount of unhealthy foods our “wonderful” manufacturers offer us, even (and maybe especially) the ones marketed to those of us watching our diets and food labels. They are not always what they seem to be.

There is so much more about this in my book, FRESH Start for Health - where I share in a refreshingly simple and grace-based way…it’s a Junk food Jungle out there, but we’ve got a way to hack through and get out!

*Junk Food Jungle - How To Find Your Way Out*

Sometimes maneuvering the grocery store aisles without derailing the FRESH eating plan brings more stress than the thought of teaching your teenager to drive! (Pulled completely from personal experience here LOL!)

We head straight to the veggie & fruit section, only to run right into a stand FULL of candy plopped right in the middle of the bananas and pineapples (and some of it is disguised as NUTRITIOUS!)

We avoid the chips and crackers aisle just to find them screaming at us from a corner stand at the seafood section! Yes, it is a Junk food jungle and no one is safe from the false labeling & marketing slogans that convince you that kind of food is actually good for you (when many times, if food has a label, it isn’t!)

So how to get out of the grocery store (errr Jungle!) without too much harm?

First matter of business has to be setting yourself up for grocery shopping success before you leave the house. {Chapters 6 & 7 in the above-mentioned book give the low-down on exactly how to do this! My mission - and I DO choose to accept it - is to help you eat FRESH and get out of the junk food jungle!}

Part of the survival plan at the market is to go in with your armor...your shopping list!

Make a meal plan, and then put together your shopping list for that plan - before you ever leave your house! {Need an example of a family-friendly meal plan that is FRESH food to follow?}

One of the best ways to get out of the Jungle and still be on track is to always use a list, and always eat healthy before you go! Another tip if you truly struggle with temptation and need to pull back for a bit - use the new “pick up” services that most stores now offer. Win-win.

Here’s the TOP 5 sugar traps to watch out for in the store:

1.  Yogurt (especially the squeeze kind) – contains 15-27 grams of the white stuff (added sugar) per serving. Read closely also to see HOW they are sweetening the yogurt, and how many ingredients are in it. Try to purchase yogurt that lists 5 or under ingredients and have ideally less than 10 grams of sugar per serving.

{FRESH Fix: Get low-sugar OR plain Greek yogurt instead and flavor with fruit, honey, etc – try to stick to under 7 grams per serving. The kind I buy my kids uses Stevia as the sweetener}


2. Cereal – This stuff is BAD…and it’s tough, because our kiddos think it’s GOOD. There is an entire aisle in the store with boxes and bags of it for a reason. (Demand!) However, when each “serving” of cereal is between 11-23 grams of sugar and kids usually eat 2 or more servings PER meal, we have a problem! Add in the milk, and its 11 grams of sugar PER 8 ounces. OUCH. Plus, there’s hardly any nutrition at all in this “food.”

{FRESH Fix: Choose homemade low-sugar granola instead, or whole grain varieties of store bought. Try to get away from cereal as a staple and turn it into more of a treat - only serving it on rare occasions.}

3. Juice boxes and other “kid-friendly” sugary drinks – There’s not enough nutritional benefit to these drinks to justify the sugar and chemical content, no matter what the package marketing says. Just steer clear of the TWO AISLES of packaged drinks in the store altogether.

{FRESH fix: Make homemade teas and real-fruit-infused water instead, there’s many varieties that are TASTY and with low to no sweetener! Try fruit-infused waters with fresh mint, and healthy homemade iced coffee drinks. We also occasionally have Truvia-sweetened PURE Crystal Light drinks. It’s a great treat choice, and is a “better” choice than aspartame-sweetened ones.}


4.  Granola bars and commercially prepared “breakfast” foods – Watch out! The 13-30 grams of sugar PER SERVING in these marketed-like-they’re-healthy choices will spike your kiddo’s blood sugar before the day even begins. Plus they contain little to no nutrition or, the nutrition found within is processed versions, bringing all kinds of complications with it.

{FRESH fix: Make homemade choices instead, or try these two FRESH Start-approved choices – Nature Valley Protein Bars (6 grams sugar) and Kashi (make sure to choose the under 10 grams sugar ones.}


5. Fruit snacks or roll-ups – there’s NO fruit in them. They are little expensive pieces of chemically-produced, gelatin-filled, sugar-laden blood spikers that do nothing for hunger but actually create a ravenous hunger driven by the spike in insulin in a child’s body. (Can you tell, I DON’T LIKE THESE at all!) They also promote dental cavities and other dental health issues.

{FRESH fix: Eat REAL fruit instead. Help your child rediscover what they LOVE about grapes, apples, bananas, kiwi, mangoes and dozens of other choices. Use creative and fun ways to enjoy them - make smoothies out of them that taste like ice cream, freeze the grapes, put fruit chunks on a kabob stick, cut pineapple into flower shapes, etc. Once you’ve helped their taste buds get reacquainted with fibrous sugar, they will begin asking for fruit again!}

Tell me in the comments below what your experience is in the Junk Food Jungle called the grocery store?

Is this an area you are working on changing?

Join the conversation in our FRESH Start Club for more about this oh-so-real challenge we all face!

How to Have a Healthy Thanksgiving Dinner

As you gather around your dinner table this Thanksgiving, enjoying those tasty traditional dishes, and leave food-guilt behind – most of what you are about to eat is actually good for you!   

Here’s how to have a healthy Thanksgiving dinner:

Sweet potatoes – these babies are a super food, full of beta-carotene, which produces large amounts of Vitamin A for your body!  Vitamin A not only strengthens eyesight, but also your immune system!  The incredible amounts of Vitamin C, potassium, Vitamin B6 and fiber packed into this family favorite also benefit the body. 

The bad news is that adding sugar and too much unhealthy fat to this dish downplays the benefits – so try using olive oil in the dish instead of butter, and enjoy the natural sweet flavor instead of smothering the potatoes in sugar!

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Pumpkin Pie - Full of fiber, beta carotenes, Vitamin C, potassium, and iron, this nutritious treat is almost all good!  Try making it with less sugar and low-fat evaporated milk for a healthier version, and you’ll have a dessert that is good for your heart, immune system, and eyes!

Stuffing – This dish can go either way, as some versions include too much butter and processed carbs.  Try making yours this year with whole wheat bread crumbs, and add in apple bits, nuts or seeds, and extra veggies; like carrots and squash, to add fiber and other nutrients to this traditional favorite! 

With the benefits from the broth and those nutrients combined, your stuffing now has more nutritional punch!

Sides – During the pre-Thanksgiving dinner rush in the grocery store, I noticed there were more shoppers in the fresh foods department than anywhere else in the store. The traditional dinner often includes collard greens, green beans, squash dishes, and brussel sprouts as filling and delicious sides. (I wonder if we eat more fresh veggies as a nation on this holiday more than any other day of the year!) 

What can I say? It does this health coach’s heart good to see this! 

These sides are loaded with multiple vitamins, minerals and fibrous benefits for our bodies – so good for us! Just try and keep the “additions” like butter and salt, to a minimum. Many of these selections can be broiled, sauteed or steamed and just lightly sea-salted or drizzled with a small amount of olive oil.

And let’s not forget the “star of the show” - the big bird!

Turkey – This main event is a lean protein, providing healthy benefit to your body without a lot of fat or harmful additives. It’s high in tryptophan, the nutrient that helps your body produce serotonin, which helps you regulate mood and sleep patterns. It also includes such necessary nutrients as the B Vitamins, folic acid, selenium, and potassium. It’s healthier to enjoy it skinless, and without a lot of additional fats, like butter, so try moisturizing it with olive oil, and “steam cooking” it in a bag in the roaster to keep it tender without the additional oils.

The nutritious benefits you’ll be getting from these family-favorite dishes are worth every bite. 

Enjoy them in moderation (always a good rule of thumb!) and your body will thank you for the added nutrients this delicious dinner brings. 

Have a wonderful and warm Thanksgiving holiday, everyone!

Preparing Meals Ahead: A Simple Guide

Preparing Meals ahead of time is a key to success with the Fresh Start for Health program.

Once you've pre-determined your meal plan, you can easily move into preparing pieces of your meals (or even full meals) ahead of time.

Not only does this making this a weekly habit continue to pay off in terms of saved time and money, but you'll be miles down the road toward your healthy goals as well.

One of the most frequent concerns I’ve heard from my coaching clients over the past several years is about "not having enough time" to meal plan. I think people assume that making time to prepare fresh, whole foods is a time-intensive project. I'm going to help break that myth with you right now!

“I never have enough time to make healthy lunches or chop all those veggies.”

“How am I supposed to find the time to make all this fresh food when I work and have little ones at home?”

“I travel so much of the month. Where am I supposed to find the time to make even these small changes?”

 

I'm here to tell you, YOU CAN DO THIS!

 

Coaching Tip: To start small, just choose ONE of the ideas I'm sharing with you here to start doing to improve the quality of your weeknight meals - just ONE! Then, when that ONE has become a habit, move to the next ONE idea and make that a habit! One new idea at a time - over time - soon becomes several ideas, and soon, you're following a whole new way of doing weeknight meals after a few weeks of faithfully applying!

 

If you follow this simple guide to prepare some of the items in your meal plan ahead of the week, you'll save yourself a LOT of stress during the week!

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In our FREE Online Community I share specific points for how to prep ahead. One of the consistent reports I get back from my clients once they begin to DO this ACTION STEP is how much easier and doable eating Fresh is once they really dig in and prep portions of their meals ahead of time.

Here on the blog, I'm sharing a bit of the exact HOW you can establish this meal-prep healthy habit in your life! 

PREP AHEAD 101 with Directions:

Quinoa - 2x water as Quinoa, cook on the stove top at a rolling simmer for 20 minutes or in a Rice Cooker with a dash of salt

Brown Rice - 2x water as Rice, cook on the stove top over rolling simmer for 30-40 minutes or in a Rice Cooker

Steel Cut Oats - easy to make ahead for quick re-heat breakfasts! Here's the How To

Hard Boiled Eggs -Fill a pot with COLD water, lay eggs in the bottom, sprinkle in lots of salt—makes them more easily peel-able! Heat water to a boil, close lid and leave on a rolling boil WITHOUT REMOVING LID for 10 minutes. Remove pot to sink immediately, letting cold water run through to chill the eggs and stop the cooking process. 

Crock Pot soups or stews - SUPER simple to make ahead for two full dinners for a large family or a week full of healthy chicken, beans or beef main-dishes for a single person…the crock pot is a busy individuals life-saver when eating fresh! Try this plain shredded Chicken Crock Pot recipe to use creatively the rest of the week in dinners and lunches! I’d love to hear about your go-to crock pot meals in the comments below!

Veggie Prep - Make your own veggie tray or chop them up for healthy snacks. Chop up onions, tomatoes, cilantro and add a healthy dash of fresh LIME juice for an east fresh salsa. Chop root veggies ahead of time for a fast roasted veggies side dish any night of the week –place in a ziplock, add a dash of olive oil and herbs/spices of your choosing and shake thoroughly. Right before roasting in a 400 degree oven for 20-30 minutes the night of your dinner, give another good shake!

Grill Chicken and/or Salmon to use as the protein in the next 2-3 dinners. You can chop them up, or shred the salmon for patties later in the week. Toss the chicken into a salad, gluten-free pasta or sauteed veggies and brown rice as a quick stir fry.

Pre-Bake Sweet Potatoes and Squash for easy quick-energy sides you can re-heat and enjoy later in the week - here's a 9 minute video on how to do this! 

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What do you think? Is this a realistic plan for you?

I’d love to hear about your meal-prepping experiences and frustrations.

What are your favorite make-ahead meals or dishes?

What day works best for you to do your meal prep…do you set aside a couple of hours on the weekend or weeknight? 

Share with me in the comments below!

Best Healthy Cooking Magazines

When I first started consciously cooking healthier for my family, I quickly found that I needed a flow of new ideas. 

The internet, with it's myriad of websites (like this beauty you are currently reading!) and resources (there's almost too many nowadays!) almost overwhelmed me into inaction.  Can anyone relate to "idea overwhelm?"

So, for my healthy cooking needs, I turned to the old friends I had been relying on for information for years...magazines!

From the time I was old enough to look at pictures, I have loved magazines. 

The smell, the feel of the slick pages that don't muss with my fingers, the pages and pages and pages full of vibrant colored-pictures, and the unending flow of up-to-the minute information - all packed into those wonderful little mini-books! 

To this day, I still squeal with delight when the mail arrives, and a magazine is cushioned between all the bills stuffed into our mailbox!

Today in this post, I'm giving you the breakdown of my favorite healthy cooking magazines. Hopefully you'll find that one or two of them suit your fancy as well!

Eating Well Magazine  

This is a monthly magazine that not only boasts dozens of new recipes and cooking tips each issue, but also publishes well-researched and easy-read health articles. I usually gain at least 2-3 new practical recipes from each issue (the reason it's not more is because many of them are just too complicated or involved to make my busy-mom list!) The well-rounded offerings from this magazine are great - whether your approach to healthy cooking is vegetarian, clean-eating, or any other type, this magazine has something you can use!

Whole Living Magazine 

This beauty of a magazine is from Martha Stewart's publishing, and is a great resource for those interested in the environmentally-friendly, sustainable approach on healthy cooking and eating.  It is also great for the whole-life aspect, as it teaches about greener living, including body care, home care, and more.

Healthy Cooking Magazine

I love the simplicity and focus of this magazine - "healthy cooking" is what it's called, so healthy cooking is what you get!  Fun recipe challenges and contests to enter, dozens of great recipes (from beginner cooks to gourmet!) and vibrant, easy-to-follow how-to's, this magazine is a close second place to my top pick...

...drumroll please....and now, my absolute TOP HEALTHY COOKING MAGAZINE!!!

Cooking Light Magazine

Where do I start?  This beautiful magazine is chock-FULL of clean and healthy, easy-to-cook, family-friendly, filling and satisfying recipes every month!  Want to make your comfort food favorites healthier?  You can find out how here!  Want to add some fast favorites to your family's collection? Now you can!  

There are also great shopping, meal planning, and cooking tips in every issue - all written to keep you happily cooking healthy for your family!

So there you have it, the best of the healthy cooking magazine best! 

Take your need to feed your family healthy, supply it with a steady flow of FRESH ideas and recipes, and you'll have one happy, healthy family! 

For more great resources like this to help keep cooking, eating and raising a healthy family, join us in the FRESH Start Club! Totally free and warm place with resources & support for step-by-step, family-friendly healthy living!

Grilling Tips for Your Healthy Summer

It’s summer, and do you find yourself stepping outside to do some outdoor activity and a stomach-grumbling, appetite stimulating, scent wafts your way from somewhere in the neighborhood? 

Yep, that’s probably me, taking full advantage of the weather and getting my grill on!

Are you ready to get grilling this summer and you just need a few great grilling tips?Grilling is my ultimate favorite summertime dinner activity.  Around here, it’s a way to get the whole family outside more often, as they run and play while I lovingly turn chicken, or arrange veggie-loaded kabobs, or place fresh-soaked cedar planks loaded with delicious fish over the hot burners.

I’m not sure what I love more, the scent of charring deliciousness, or the fact that I’m not standing, sweating over a hot stove during the hottest time of the year

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There’s virtually no clean-up, and with the amount of cooking I do around this house with four kids, a hungry man and my own grown-up appetite, that’s important too!

I’ve discovered that just about everything edible known to man can be grilled, or roasted on a grill, or steamed in a foil packet, or slipped lovingly onto a skewer, or in SOME way, grilled!  Fruit, veggies, chicken, fish, seafood, lean meats, breads, and even lemons and spice bunches! It’s all game for the grill, it just takes imagination and inventiveness with those cast iron plates!

While I am by no means the top grill-expert (but alas, that title still belongs to the great Bobby Flay!) I have tried my hand at many a dish involving the trusty old grill, and I’ve gathered some great ideas over the years. 

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So here are some of my top tips for making this summer a grillin’ success in your own backyard!

  1. Use a gas grill – It’s mess-free, and much easier to manage the temperature as you cook your food.  If you prefer the scent of a charcoal grill, just add the cedar chip tray to give your food the desired smoky flavor.
     
  2. Start small, start easy – If you are new at it, start with easy dishes, like chicken tenders or hamburgers to learn temperatures and timing.  As your confidence grows, add new dishes, like grilled veggies and steaks.  It’s smarter to learn how to grill with something lower cost and easy than the hard way with a $15 steak!
     
  3. Mind the grill – While you are gaining your grilling medals, be sure to stay close to the grill, and check your food often (though you only need to touch or turn it once!) It’s not fun to get caught up doing something else and forget about the salmon, creating petrified dinner!
     
  4. Think outside the grill – You’d be surprised what you can grill, or how you can combine different food groups, and still achieve deliciousness!  Fruit with veggies, veggies with fish, citrus with fish, chicken with fruit, the list goes on!  I’ve even seen grilled salad in some new recipes!

Keep it fun, make it inventive, and your family will stay full – and in such a healthy way – with your grilling skills this summer!  

Let’s get grillin’ together!  Share your pics, recipes, ideas and experiences with me on my Facebook page, Coach Bess, or in our free community, as I bring you grilling info all summer long!

Why I Don't Exercise {Confessions of a Health Coach Part 2}

Well, I’m glad you’re here again, my friend, because I’ve got some more confessions to get off my chest! In the first post in this series, I got pretty personal with you, sharing that I struggle with this healthy lifestyle thing too, and that I really don’t care what you’re making for dinner tonight.  ;)

Today, I’m digging even deeper - you ready to hear it? I’m ready to spill! Let’s go...

Confession #5: I CARE DEEPLY about your health, but not much else

(meaning: I’m not criticizing your choices, weight, beliefs, fads, or anything else in your life!)

Just as I said in the first post in this series - I care SO MUCH about YOU, but not much about your choices! I don’t see you as “overweight” or “weak” or “sick” or “crazy” or anything else!

I just see YOU...beautiful, unique, wonderful YOU!

So I don’t care what eating plan you are following, drinks you are drinking, whether or not you are exercising, what habits you are keeping. I really don’t.

I DO care, though, about how you FEEL everyday, and about your HEALTH and WHOLENESS! (God put this calling on my heart when I was a wee thing, so it’s cool that I am actually able to have a career now in a calling that has been on my life since childhood.)

I have realized over my adult life that “ain’t nobody got time” to be trying to convince, control or criticize others in their FREEDOM OF CHOICE! (God gives us freedom of choice for a reason, who do we think we are to try and remove that same freedom from others?)

Here’s what we’re missing though…

Our choices are free for us to make, but the consequences of those choices are NOT free!

They cost us.

They cost our loved ones (think about how it affects the kids, grandkids, etc when someone in the family grows ill - there is a burden - financially, emotionally, spiritually, mentally, physically.)

The consequences to our choices COST EVERYONE we love and are surrounded by!

Heck, they even cost our community and our country - our medical system and personnel are under a tremendous burden - one they almost cannot continue to carry. And it is directly due to a nation of people leading a lifestyle and making lifestyle choices that have led to innumerable amounts of completely preventable (and reversible, many of them) diseases and conditions.

And the statistics say (based on our current way of eating, moving, living, etc as a country) that this situation is GRAVE and getting worse and must be considered seriously (though there isn’t much being done about it on a national level)...meanwhile the numbers for the upcoming diagnosis of obesity-related illnesses, cancer, diabetes Type 2, autoimmune diseases and mental illness are looming over us like a death sentence!

So what to do about all this? Well, that brings me to confession #6...

Confession #6: I’m overwhelmed too (by the over information + fundamental lifestyles & diets + judgy people)

It’s true! When I talk to people who are in discouraging situations with their health or I read new articles or stories of “how bad it’s getting” - I start to feel overwhelmed. And don’t even get me started on the conflicting studies and information being shared! One day, “this oil” is good for us - the next, it’s bad for us. One day, you SHOULD eat eggs, the next day, you shouldn’t. It’s CRAZY!

When people argue (online is where I see/hear this the most) about what supplement is best or what oil to use or whether bread is killing us or not, I RUN. I can’t do it. So my heart gets even bigger for you! Because if I feel this way, and this is what I DO and AM PASSIONATE about it - I can’t even imagine how overwhelming or discouraging it is for you to see the banter and debates. (Especially if you are genuinely looking for practical guidance or help on something!)

And let’s not even get into the fundamental lifestyles being taught/followed out there - I have always and will continue to believe one thing about a fundamental lifestyle - it is NOT sustainable for the long term, whole-family-friendly or even affordable for most of us! (Think $120 monthly supplement or powders or shakes PER PERSON - what family can sustain that? Not mine.)

But even if there is no supplement or other product purchase involved - who can sustain a “do NOT eat this, that, that, that or that or even TOUCH that or you’ll be sick or fat or dead!” (Of course I’m taking some liberty here on my dramatic storytelling - but you get the point I’m making, right?!)

How about this study for ya. It’s actually been proven that out of 1000 people of the population, only ONE has the personality or fortitude to stick with a fundamental lifestyle for their health long-term. ONE out of ONE THOUSAND. And I can tell you right now, I’m NOT that one! (It IS confession time, so, there ya go!)

OK and what about “judgy people?” And all the “advice” they so eagerly give? Before I get into this one too deep, I need you to know in full disclosure, that I WAS THAT JUDGY PERSON once upon a time!

Only after some humbling circumstances I endured (and terrible choices I made) over the years did I find freedom from operating in judgy-person mode...and I’m SO thankful too! Because I could NEVER be a health coach today or have built the FRESH Start movement from a place of pride or judgement.

So I’m not judging the judgy people with this post - I’m just letting you know that I “hear them too” and you and me, we’ve got to #1 make sure we’re not one of them and #2 let the words they speak and looks they give stream on down off our backs, like water off a duck’s back, as my mama would say.

So I hope that YOU discover exactly what I have found - that YOU are the BEST health coach and adviser for YOUR life and lifestyle choices!
— Coach Bess

Really, YOU ARE! You already have most of the answers you need either inside you or at a quick prayer’s notice - God gave us our gift of instinct for a reason.

If you know that you “feel better” when you eat eggs - EAT THEM and enjoy them. If you enjoy “this oil” over “that oil” and you are using less and less of it anyway (which, on a side note, should be the general goal here anyway - using less of the stuff!) then USE IT! If you feel better eating some meat rather than none or a slice of toast with your coffee in the morning (gasp!) then ENJOY IT.

YOU are the boss of you.

God made YOU TO BE! Yes! He gives free choice, but He also leads us - and He’ll let you know what to eat, what not to eat - just listen to that powerful small voice inside you that was saying all along that eating eggs felt good to you or cutting back on meats was a great improvement or dropping the extra sugars felt real FRESH.

Just LISTEN to YOUR voice and His voice, and try to tune out anything that brings overwhelm, stress, panic, confusion or discouragement!
— Coach Bess

Confession #7: I don’t “exercise”

I know, terrible thing for a health coach to confess to, right? Let me explain, though. It’s better than it sounds!

So I’ve been to fitness classes, taken online classes, followed Youtube videos or DVD’s and joined gyms. I’ve even had the “three free sessions” with a personal trainer when I first signed up at the gym. And I HATED IT. DREADED IT, actually!

But I found over the years that when I walk for miles a day or do a little meditation/yoga-type stretching or swim or hike in our gorgeous “back country” out here in the mountains, THAT I ENJOY IT IMMENSELY! Figuring this out has been a lifesaver and now I almost can’t even stand to let a day go by without my walk or a short hike.

It doesn’t feel like “working out” but it does get my heart pumping, my legs and glutes and core feeling the burn, and my gams toned! It DOES get me moving to do this, but it’s NOT a “workout” per se. And that’s exactly my point...why not FIND SOMETHING that brings you joy that also gets you moving intentionally and DAILY?

So as a health coach, my goal has been to help my precious clients (who I become quite protective of, think mama bear! haha) find a way to get moving more and get that good, heart-pumping purposeful daily movement in - but in a way that feels more like play or therapy or joy-giving than “join a gym” or “hire a trainer.”

Do you like to play tennis? THAT is a workout! Do you feel at home in the water? Start with 10 minutes or 2 laps! Do you enjoy nature? Walk, hike or climb hills and mountains...won’t feel like a workout AT ALL!

Oh and the more we can do our activity OUTSIDE the better that is for us! We kill like 5 birds with that stone (another saying from my good ol mama!)

Here’s what you’ll get from outside fitness:

  • Vitamin D for pain relief and healing benefits from the sun

  • Lungfuls of fresh air, clearing away brain fog

  • Mental clarity from being AWAY from technology and stresses of home

  • Benefits of the exercise itself to your brain, heart, blood and muscles

  • Social interaction, it’s so good for your spirit

  • Meditation moments with God and His gift of nature, lifting your soul

Now for full disclosure, I am NOT against gyms, trainers, classes or DVD’s - in fact I’m about to up my own fitness game this fall by joining my colleague and dear friend Trisch’s upcoming online class (she’s a Master T-Tapp Trainer and SO gracious as a teacher - I’m excited about this!) I’ve got personal friends who are trainers and have seen many people benefit from hiring them…

I just don’t think these “traditional” methods are the ONLY WAY or everyone’s way to create a lifestyle of fitness.
— Coach Bess

That is my goal...to help you find what kind of “exercise” BRINGS YOU JOY so that you’ll want to keep doing it, day after day and it won’t be such a dreaded chore.


NOW IT'S YOUR TURN!

Which of these confessions of mine have you experienced or can relate to? I’d love to hear your input in the comments below or in our free online community on Facebook.

And join me back here on the blog SOON - I’ll be posting my next few confessions to finish up this series next week!

Confessions of a Health Coach {Part One}

Can I get real with ya’ll for a minute?

Yes, I’m a Health Coach. NO, I’m not watching you through green-smoothie-colored glasses!

I’ve been a health coach for over 6 years now, and in this time, I have experienced a phenomenon. Sometimes, when people find out I’m a health coach, the interaction between us can become awkward with anything to do with food or exercise or anything “health.” I’m thinking it’s due to what is quite possibly preconceived notions - about what I actually care about in their life!

And I want to take a few minutes to clear this up! This will be fun...from my well-meaning heart to yours.

Confession #1: I'm NOT looking in your shopping cart! Or judging you for what’s in it.

Yes, that’s right! I actually DO NOT care what you’re putting in your cart.

And I'm certainly not criticizing what you do or do not provide for mealtime at your house!

I'm of the simple belief that we are all doing the best we can with what we know right now. And even if you're not, I'm not your mama and I'm pretty sure you're already aware of what you can do better (we're all adults here!) I'm only interested in holding myself accountable to my own goals and standards. Oh and of course, THOSE WHO HIRE ME to, I’ll keep them accountable too!

Full disclosure: I DO care (and deeply!) how you FEEL from what you eat every day - which is why I work so hard daily to do what I do. If this sounds contradictory, let me explain - I’m NOT interested in judging your choices, only in helping those who are ready with guidance in better eating! It’s WHY I spend hours researching natural healing, recipe testing, and creating resources and challenges and meal plans and programs to help those who are READY and want to make changes for the better in their eating.

Confession #2: I struggle too (with changing habits & making healthy lifestyle choices)

This is a lifelong struggle in a lot of ways for ALL OF US! I’d be lying if I acted like living like this (or teaching this lifestyle, for that matter!) is easy for anyone (especially when picky eaters, stubborn spouses, and multiple kids are in the mix!) I have noticed though, some things do get easier with time - and that’s a relief.

I struggle with the daily grind of the “extra work” that making better choices entails

 

I struggle with my weight within a 10-15 pound range (up and down, up and down UGH)

 

I struggle with OCD/anxiety tendencies - and all the “mind stuff” that it involves

 

I struggle with wondering if I’m being a “good enough” mom/wife/friend/daughter/caregiver/coach/sister/entrepreneur/Christian - can anyone relate? LOL

 

I struggle with LOVING sugar and anything made with sugar and anything you can add sugar to

 

I struggle with chronic pain (daily)

 

So yeah. I struggle too!

And if I’ve learned ANYTHING in my 6.5 years as a health coach - it’s that WE ARE ALL JUST DOING WHAT WE CAN. And we need to give OURSELVES and EACH OTHER waaaayyyy more grace than we do (I struggle with this too! haha)

Full disclosure: Some of my greatest personal struggles have been addictive behaviors.

I used to smoke cigarettes (been smoke-free since July 2009, praise God!) and was also addicted to the energy drinks and diet sodas that accompanied that habit.

I carried shame around that habit for the longest time...please find a way to dump that worthless shame if you are in the same cycle - it’s such a wasted a emotion (though a POWERFUL one!) and I wish someone would have said to me in 2009 what I’m saying to you now!

YOU ARE NOT ALONE!

No matter what you are struggling with, leave those worthless emotions of guilt and shame behind and join me in the land of the redeemed and forgiven (Christ gives it freely, we just have to RECEIVE it!) You only get one life, let's make it AWESOME!

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Confession #3: I don’t care what you’re making or picking up for dinner

Yes, this is similar to confession #1. But different, so I want to specifically discuss the “dinner dilemma” - because it’s a REAL thing for us! (Any moms out there with me on this?) By end of day, we’re DONE. Tired. Over it.

Last thing we want to do is spend ANOTHER 45 minutes on our hurting and tired feet cooking, then watch the family inhale in 5 minutes our loving gift that was created with expensive ingredients, and designed with the last bit of sanity that’s clinging to our frazzled brains! Then get right back up and spend the next 20-30 minutes cleaning up the mess everyone leaves behind...Seriously?

So. I. GET. IT.

And exactly why I don’t judge! If tonight is a drive-through-sanity-keeper-choice - then mama, YOU DO YOU and I got absolutely no malice for ya!

Full disclosure: All I care about when it comes to your dinner choices is that YOU are happy with them!

This is seriously what I care about - that YOU feel happy with your choices - and I want to help you change that in a REALISTIC, practical way if it’s something you are ready to tackle! The meal planning/shopping/chopping/cooking part of what I do is my FAVE because I’ve committed these last 6 + years to developing a system for keeping dinner HEALTHY and SIMPLE and that WORKS for the busy family/working mama/budget buyer!

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Confession #4: My kids eat and drink junk food (and I do too)

Yup. We do.

Now, before you get too excited - let me explain. We eat a clean, veggie-based, lean meats, unprocessed, small-portioned type diet about 85% of the time. We drink a LOT of water. We drink homemade smoothies with veggies in them every day.

HOWEVER, we DO enjoy “junk food” like commercial, sugary coffee drinks or a small bowl of ice cream on our “treat day” every weekend. We enjoy candy or desserts during holidays, cake on birthdays and Abuelita’s amazing fried tacos and other traditional food when we visit her in Mexico. (We’re Mexican, ya’ll! Food is LIFE!) We enjoy a pastry or a bag of chips on occasion, too!

We believe in balance, and enjoying this life, and making merry with small servings, instead of overeating on the fun stuff! But we don’t believe in deprivation (we tried it and it didn’t work anyway) or a lot of NO NO NO’s. We believe in adding in the good stuff to squeeze out the not-so-good most of the time. And being ok with splurging the other times. It seems to be working, so it’s probably how we’ll continue this healthy living thing.


What about you, my friend? Do you see yourself in any of these confessions?

My heart as a health coach is to see you at peace with your choices, free of shame or guilt in them and making the BEST ONES YOU CAN with what you can afford/do/handle right now!

So I hope you let yourself off the hook of “attempted perfection” in this lifestyle, do what you can today (and celebrate that you did THAT!) and keep pursuing the BEST God has for you in your habits and choices and future! Because YOU DESERVE IT!

Come back to the blog Thursday, I’m publishing the second part of this fun post series! I’ll be confessing “why I don’t exercise” and “why I’m overwhelmed in this lifestyle too!” (gasp!)

Renewing Our Minds to Renew Our Bodies

Have you ever noticed that when you "change your mind" about something limiting or negative in your life, that it paves the way for your body and health to reflect that?

That's what I'm going to be sharing with you over the next couple of upcoming weeks here on the FRESH Start principle of Renewing Our Minds to Renew Our Bodies!

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So many of us have discovered {just as many authorities and professionals in the medical field have proven recently} that the roots of our healthy or unhealthy habits truly begin in the mind.

Is renewing our minds really important?

This month I’m sharing what has worked for me and for dozens of readers who’ve taken my workbook Fresh Start for Health to heart. Small groups across the United States are meeting together, some in Churches, some in community groups, working through each page and forming new healthy lifestyles as a result.

These principles may be ones you’ve heard in other places before but so many of you have shared that you hadn’t thought of applying them to your health!

The truth is that the power of the Holy Spirit combined with the promises of God’s Word in our lives is tremendous! We have the need for God to transform our lives right from the heart and then outward into the rest of our lives and habits.

This principle is the way to unleash the power of God in our lives & minds and as a result, see real change take place in our habits!
— Coach Bess

Watch this short video, where I’m sharing from my heart on this principle, as well as about my own experience of breaking free from old ways of thinking. 

Today…STEP ONE on the pathway to Renewing our Minds

As we delve into this topic it’s important to me that we recognize the basis for our ever renewing pathway to change. After a twisting-turning journey through recovering from a rough past including childhood abuse, healing from a limiting fundamentalist religious perspective, and then through serious health conditions, I’ve found that pure truth based on God’s Word is the only effective foundation.

Step One is to start here, with Ephesians 4:22-24. The entire passage is powerful. But the key point is this: “Strip yourselves of your former nature …be constantly renewed in the spirit of your mind! Put on the NEW nature, the regenerated self!”

And Psalm 51:10 expands on that when David asks God for a new heart! Think of that! The ability of the God of the Universe to implant in us a new, pure, right-thinking-and-feeling heart!

We should start renewing our minds in our brokenness!

The bottom line is that God can begin to renew our mind when we come to him aware of our brokenness, lack of balance and great need for His power! Even after we’ve been walking in freedom and healing, sometimes we still find ourselves calling on Him to heal us.

This renewing process is a lifelong process of giving over our own thinking and accepting His Scriptural truth in its place.

My heart for you is that you’ll find renewed hope and deep healing in a new way.

And a boost on your own individual path to an ever-deeper walk with Christ…one in which you are free from past hurtful and harmful thinking patterns. Join us here on the blog in the upcoming weeks for new installments in our RENEWING YOUR MIND vlogging series! 

It is only as we allow our thinking and feeling to be totally transformed that the changes we make in our behavior—our eating, moving and other healthy habits—will begin to stick and become true lifestyle changes!
— Coach Bess

I’m so excited that you’re here… and hungry for deeper, long-lasting change. Come share your journey with me on my FRESH Start for Health FB Page or in our free Fresh Start Online Community group. It's a warm, loving group and we'd love to have you share about your own victories and struggles with renewing your mind. I’d love to share encouragement and hope with you personally!

Resources & Healthy Living Tools

As I share deeply this month on renewing our minds from my experience & research shared in the Fresh Start for Health workbook, I wanted to be sure that you knew how to get your own copy. Get your very own copy of the workbook on our Fresh Start STORE page…where you can purchase an e-book version for instant access or order a printed version to be mailed to your home! There are worksheets in each chapter that are perfect for individual study or small group discussion as well!

Please Contact us here at Fresh Start if you have any questions about the workbook, our coaching services or bringing these powerful principles to a church or community group near you!

Books for Healthy Living (Coach Bess' Top Recommendations)

Sometimes digging into a good book resource on healthy living can be exactly what the doctor ordered!

Looking for natural answers to a chronic illness or condition? Open up ANY of Dr Mark Hyman's books, like The UltraSimple Diet or Ultraprevention or Ultrametabolism!

Need meal planning help to get the whole family on board with your healthy eating? Pick up a copy of Amy Hendel's book, The 4 Habits of Healthy Families.

Trying to break out of an eating disorder, food addiction, or shame around your weight? Grab a copy of Lose It For Life by Dr Linda Mintle & Stephen Arterburn or pick up Lysa Terkeurst's Made to Crave or Lisa Bevere's You Are Not Your Weight.

With all there is to learn on this healthy living journey, ONE book is not enough! 

Choose from the multiple books out there and available to help you add healthy living tools and strategies to your toolbox! Or to help you overcome a mental block that may be holding you back from transformation.

books for healthy living

Some more of my personal favorites are:

NUTRITION

ANY books by Joy Bauer - like...

Idiot's Guide to Total Nutrition
Food Cures

Food Bible by Judith Wills

Get the Sugar Out by Ann Louise Gittleman

FAITH/HEALTH CONNECTION

Your Whole Life by Carole Showalter

What the Bible Says About Healthy Living
by Rex Russel

And of course, our book, the FRESH Start for Health Workbook, by yours truly, Bess Blanco, is a fabulous combination of lifestyle change help on faith, beginning fitness, food and our mindset! You can find it here on this website or by clicking HERE.

Now, remember you can add these resources to your personal library little by little or even with a visit to your local library! I've found MANY of my awesome books (and this is only the smallest sampling) at yard sales, thrift stores and on discount websites online, gently used! 

What are YOUR favorite books on healthy living? We'd love to hear your recommendations in the comments below, or share them with us in our FRESH Start Online Community on Facebook! 

Every other Tuesday, we have a LIVE chat called #LetsTalkAboutitTuesday in our free healthy living support group on Facebook, and this video above was today's chat! You should join us to catch the next one!

Enjoy this helpful video, and be sure to subscribe to the FRESH Start for Health channel on Youtube to continue getting our healthy living tips and encouragement! 

Healthy hugs and belief in YOU ~ Coach Bess

”BooksForHealthyLiving”

Spring Clean Your Pantry With FRESH Foods {FREE Printable!}

It’s that time of year again, isn’t it? Spring cleaning time for your kitchen! Cleaning, organizing and arranging our homes and habits to do away with the old and make room for the new! Let’s start with that dreaded corner of the kitchen that is SO vital to have in place for our FRESH family meal plan, but NOT always the most fun to clean out and organize - the PANTRY! Here's what my pantry looked like BEFORE I cleaned it up for the health coaching video you can watch below!

For myself, to have the BEST options for my family meals and snacks at our fingertips, a thorough spring cleaning of our pantry was in order! So I’m sharing with you what we stock on a regular basis—our family’s main stay healthy choice options so that I can put together the FRESHest dinners or snacks quickly and easily.

Watch the video below to see what I stock my pantry with every week!

Here’s what you will almost ALWAYS find in my kitchen pantry:

#1. Keep a bowl of FRESH fruit for the family on the counter.

Choose fruits that are on sale and in season to help you stay in budget. - These items stay fresh longer when they are left out in the open, on the counter

#2.  Breakfast items: cereal, ready-to-make oatmeal – try to use only the types that are low sugar

  • We do use low sugar instant oatmeal occasionally, but the best is old-fashioned oats. (Just cook with water, a bit of cinnamon and a bit of brown sugar for a delicious breakfast!)
  • Nature Valley protein bars—high in protein, low in sugar!
  • Low or NO sugar Greek Yogurt parfaits with FRESH fruit and homemade granola are another fave around here!

This is just a short sneak peek of our breakfast items. We do LOTS of smoothies and eggs are OFTEN on our go-to list for breakfast.

#3.  Dinner prep – canned beans and healthy whole grains

  • Black Beans
  • Cannellini Beans
  • Brown rice pasta (Though we usually only eat pasta once a week or so)
  • Quinoa (red and white!) and brown or wild rice mix

#4. Vinegars and cooking wine and sauces – to keep the flavor intact without commercial seasonings!

  • Rice vinegar
  • Apple cider vinegar (in homemade salad dressings, with sautéed greens)
  • Red wine vinegar (in crock pot meals and roasts)
  • Balsalmic vinegar (use with roasted veggies or over fresh tomato, mozzarella & basil salad)
  • Low sodium soy sauce OR Bragg's Liquid Aminos in place of soy sauce (use often in stir-fries!)

#5 Sweeteners

  • True, pure sugar or brown sugar (use VERY LITTLE!)
  • Light syrup or sugar-free syrup (Mrs. Butterworth’s Light for pancakes)
  • A bit of stevia for sugar-free lemonade and limeade and coffee or tea

These two are the ONLY pure and natural found-in-nature sweeteners (and MOST of what I use!):

  • Pure maple syrup
  • Honey

#6. Pantry FRESH veggies

  • Onions
  • Garlic
  • Potatoes

#7. Nut butters

Ideally, low-sugar varieties of almond butter, peanut butter or other nut butters

#8. Reduced sugar ketchup & other condiments

 #9. Raw nuts (though I often keep them in the freezer for BEST freshness)

#10. Oils I use:

  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • Canola, Sunflower, Avocado & Other Plant Oils (SOME Coconut Oil, VERY little)

#11. Snacks

  • Seaweed Snacks
  • Drink Mix – Crystal Light Pure (has Truvia instead of aspartame)
  • Nesquick - 25% less sugar chocolate drink mix

Bottom Line for Spring Cleaning YOUR Pantry:

STICK with YOUR personal tastes and mainstays – you are the cook in your own kitchen, you know what works for you! Wean out super-processed and packaged snack foods…anything with “fake” food-like ingredients. Stick to whole, pure & FRESH foods as much as possible. (Good rule of thumb is to follow the 80/20 rule…80% FRESH and whole foods, 20% “other” or treat foods!)

To make keeping your pantry stocked with healthy items easier, we've put together a couple of free printables for you!

Click on the image{s} below to download and print these helpful sheets for your kitchen!

Coach Bess' Must-Have Pantry Staples Inventory Printable

We'd love to hear from YOU!

What are the top 5 must-have staples that can be found in your pantry? Share with us in the comments section below!

Best Green Cleaner Ever!

How would you like to know the secret to sparkling countertops, glass, and other surfaces in your home? 

best green cleaner

I am gonna give it to you – and it costs less than .25 cents a spray bottle!  Vinegar and water, folks – there you have it.  I know, no duh, right?  I realize that I am the slow one here – family and friends have given me that tip for years, and I just have never intentionally changed over my large variety of expensive, harmful cleaners out for this simple cleaner.

However, when I picked up the bottle of the new formula of Windex at the store last week, and it was simply labeled “vinegar,” I realized that all these years, I have been duped.  I was about to pay over $3 for a small spray bottle of chemically-enhanced vinegar and water! 

I promptly determined to go home and make my own green cleaners.  So after some quick research online, I began using my trusty vinegar cleaner on everything, my glass tabletop, doors and windows, mirrors, kitchen counter tops, stove top, and more!  You would not believe my sparklin’ house, ya’ll!  Even hubby Juan has been pleasantly surprised! It does not smudge, smear, or streak!

Here are a couple of quick tips for any first-timers out there wondering how to get started on making your own green cleaners.  (I know I can't be the only one still buying those harsh chemical cleaners, because the products are still on the store shelves!)

best green cleaner

how to make it:

1.  To make the vinegar and water cleaner, simply put half water, half vinegar into a spray bottle – Voila!  No really, it’s that easy. ;)  {Some people prefer different ratios of water to vinegar - so just play with the amounts until you get the strength YOU prefer!}

2. When I first start wiping the vinegar with newspaper, paper towel, rag (totally your choice here!) it looks as if it is going to smear – keep wiping, and then you will see the shine!

BONUS GREEN CLEANER TIP: There is a great homemade "green" bathroom cleaner you can use – hydrogen peroxide and water – see http://www.using-hydrogen-peroxide.com/ for valuable information on this non-toxic cleaner, as well.

So there you have it – it’s not rocket science! It’s more of getting back to the basics our Mamas taught us!  Enjoy this quick green cleaning tip, and contact me with your ideas – what simple solutions have you come up with to green-ify your house and save money?

Snacking Healthy - 8 Quick Snack Ideas for the Busy Family

Reaching for a snack is a constant for my kids, especially after school and after dinner. Since cutting most sugar-filled and processed foods out of our family’s diet, we have had to adjust the types of snacks we stock. Today’s kids are snacking more and getting much less exercise than kids five, ten, even twenty or more years ago. 

Traditionally, families ate during mealtimes only, and they were more physically active in their overall lives.  In today’s America, however, far too many sugar-filled and salt-laden processed foods line our grocery aisles, and then find their way into our pantries at home – and we’re not spending the added “food energy” in our bodies as fast as we’re adding it.

Here are my top 8 healthy options waiting in the pantry when my kids reach for that power snack:

1Peanut or almond butter – Great source of protein and fiber and easy to use in high-fiber sandwiches, smoothies, sauces, and as a veggie spread.  This natural nutty goodness is nicely filling, and is a great grab snack anyway you serve it!

2.  Pocorn – A classic favorite, popcorn is light, fiber-filled, and easy.  Popcorn provides a fun crunch and texture for the snacker, and is a great source of bulk.  This is the cream of the crop for my kids, as they turn to this snack when they are craving less healthy alternatives, like chips. HOWEVER, we make it "homemade" now - in a pot, like my mom used to.

HOW TO MAKE HOMEMADE POPCORN:

Just use a large pot with a lid over high heat, put 2 Tbsp canola oil, 1/3 cup popcorn kernels and a Tbsp butter in the pot - shake as it pops, then remove and pour the popcorn out right when it "stops popping so fast." 

3.  Greek Yogurt with Chia Seeds stirred in - Low-sugar flavored Greek Yogurt with a Tbsp or two of chia seeds stirred in and left to set for about 5 minutes (to soften and expand) is a HIGH-energy-giving and easy to make snack! You could always add fresh fruit or berries, Tbsp or two of mini chocolate chips, or even nuts to the "parfait."

4.  Nuts – Almonds, walnuts and pecans are best, and in that order.  These three have the most benefits, carrying loads of fiber (3 grams for one ounce) and vitamin E, folic acid, copper, magnesium and the amino acid arginine.  Each of these benefits present evidence of playing a role in preventing heart disease, so it’s not just a healthier snack option, it’s one of the healthiest!  Some information out there is warning of the high levels of fat in nuts, but be assured, they contain healthy fat – they are very low in saturated fat.

5.  Crackers with Protein Topping or Dips – Most brands are naturally sugar-free, low in fat (no trans fat!) and available in whole wheat.  Serving sizes are realistic, and actually fill the snack need – great alone or with spreads, cheese, or even veggies!  Try a fresh pico salsa with them, or mix some salmon with whipped cream cheese and spices for a quick and easy protein boost.

6.  Prunes, craisins & other dried fruit – Add them to your nut mix, or just pop them in your mouth for a quick sweet tooth fixer.  Either way, the high fiber count (almost 4 grams per serving) and loads of vitamins and minerals contained in this dried fruit packs a punch in your body for health! 

Craisins (dried cranberries) also provide many benefits as you enjoy their naturally sweet-tanginess.  They were found to have the highest level of natural antioxidants per gram than any other fruit!  That’s a good reason to munch on them – you’re boosting your immune system and protecting your heart at the same time!

BONUS tip: FRESH fruit is actually even better for a quick snack - it's full of the right kind of fibrous sugars for energy! Just slicing up an apple or banana or popping a handful of berries in your mouth can be the BEST snack choice!

7. Salmon – leftover fresh grilled or canned – Filling, full of protein, so quick and easy, we whip leftover grilled salmon flakes into a quick dip as a snack often.  The benefits to this fish are numerous – of course, the omega-3 fats, but salmon also contains high levels of vitamin D, vitamin B3, B6, and B12, and many other vitamins and minerals.  It is an energy booster, and a generally good choice for a midday snack.

8.  Sun Tea or other sugar-free drink mixes – It is so easy to whip up some iced tea or a cold pitcher of sugar-free fruit punch!  This has made the transition from sugar-laden juices, sodas and other harmful drinks to much healthier options easier on my kids.  Of course the ideal is to end up sugar-free without sweeteners, but I have learned to choose my battles, and I am choosing the lesser evil on this one! 

One really great option I have found for chocolate milk – 1 tbsp of Nesquik’s 25% less sugar chocolate powder mixed with 6 oz unsweetened almond milk – equals one happy kid, and that is achieved in under 7 grams sugar! Win-win!

It IS possible to make healthier choices in snacking at home, it just takes a conscious decision to make the transition.  Decide to do it, commit to a plan, and watch your family grow healthier today!