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February SFHL52 Challenge: A Month of Heart Healthy Eating (and Week 1 Oatmeal Recipes)

I am so far behind in SFHL52 Challenge posts and I apologize for that. I cannot believe it is February. How did month one go? If you didn't sign up to take the SFHL52 Challenge, it certainly isn't too late. February holds four weeks of four great challenges. This month is geared towards "heart healthy" foods and incorporating these foods into your daily/weekly diet and cooking habits. There are FAR more heart healthy foods than those that make up this month's challenge. Check out this list for a look at the Top-25 Heart Healthy Foods.

Here is the breakdown of February challenge foods:

February: Heart Healthy Foods

Focus on incorporating these weekly heart healthy foods into your diet:

  • Week 1: Oatmeal
  • Week 2: Broccoli
  • Week 3: Blueberries
  • Week 4: Spinach

What isn't to love about all of these foods? None of these ingredients are difficult to cook or work with; there are no out-of-the-box ingredients. Nothing to make this month difficult. In fact all four foods (oatmeal being the slight exception) can be eaten raw. February is a month of ZERO excuses. Let's get to it.

Here are some great oatmeal recipes for Week 1 of February. If you don't like to cook, simply microwave oatmeal and top it with some fresh fruit, nuts, a tsp of brown sugar or some honey. Oh, and according to my mom, McDonald's oatmeal isn't half bad, so if you're in a bind, might as well swing by there and jump on the oatmeal bandwagon.

How's the SFHL52 Challenge going for you? Any great oatmeal recipes to share? Do you have a favorite way to eat your oatmeal?

Journal Entry by Ashley at Simple Food Healthy Life on October 6, 2010
This was such an easy breakfast recipe. It took some time but if you plan ahead and throw it in the oven while showering and getting ready for the day, it will be done in time to eat and head out the door. The other catch to this recipe is, depending on the consistency you wish, it can be more of a ...
Journal Entry by Ashley at Simple Food Healthy Life on April 12, 2011
I woke up the other morning wanting something other than a bowl of Cheerios. I eliminated the immediate breakfast front runners: pancakes, eggs, and french toast. I thought about oatmeal with some fresh fruit and voila, this lovely combo came to mind. Why not mix three of my favorite things: oatmeal ...
Journal Entry by Ashley at Simple Food Healthy Life on March 1, 2011
What to do with a late night dessert craving? If you can't beat it, succumb to it I suppose. So what did I do last night? Made myself these irresistibly delicious oatmeal chocolate chip cookies. If you are a nut person, adding walnuts to these suckers would be pretty delicious. Word to the Wise: D ...
Journal Entry by Ashley at Simple Food Healthy Life on February 27, 2011
These muffins are healthy and easy to make. If you like oatmeal and fruit in a bowl, you will like these too. Gluten Free Oatmeal Banana Muffins Yield: 12 Prep Time: 20 minutes 11/4 cup rolled oats 1/2 cup yogurt, plain or vanilla low fat 1/2 cup milk, ...
Journal Entry by Ashley at Simple Food Healthy Life on January 4, 2012
I rarely cook anything for breakfast. A typical breakfast for me consists of a whole wheat bagel thin with peanut butter and honey, some days I top it with sliced bananas. On the side I generally have a glass of V8-Fusion juice and a cup of tea. In the spirit of the Healthy Eats January Challenge, I ...

Week 2 of SFHL52 & Healthy Eats Challenges Wrap-Up

This week's challenge has come to a close. How'd you do? Was it as hard as you anticipated? If so, what did you do to make it easier?

Studies show that eating whole grains instead of refined grains lowers the risk of many chronic diseases. While benefits are most pronounced for those consuming at least 3 servings daily, some studies show reduced risks from as little as one serving daily.

Here is a list of whole grains and their nutrients per 1/4 cup of dry whole grains.

There are tons of great, easy recipes to help you along the way. Almost any recipe that does not call for whole wheat can be tweaked to meet your needs. Substitute all purpose flour for either 1/2 all purpose and 1/2 whole wheat or use all whole wheat flour. Use whole wheat pasta and brown rice. Quinoa and bulgur are great substitutes for pasta. Remember, "whole wheat" is what you are looking for on packaging, not just "wheat." If you have any great whole wheat recipes, email them my way and I'll be sure to post them on here. On to week 3, cook at home more often!

My whole wheat recipe of the week: Whole Wheat No Yeast Pizza




Week 3 of SFHL52: Cook at Home 

For some, cooking is a daunting, terrifying experience. Maybe you aren't sure where to start or what to cook. Or maybe you have children and spouses who are picky eaters. Others claim time, or the lack thereof, as the reason for not cooking meals at home. I understand; some nights, cooking a meal is just too overwhelming. Sometimes I am too tired or I'm not in the mood for anything I have in the refrigerator or cupboards. There are nights when what I want to eat is completely different from what my spouse wants to eat. There is always a reason, or an excuse, why you shouldn't cook dinner. Why eating out, or pouring yourself a bowl of cereal, are far easier things to do. That's why this week's challenge is all about cooking at home. There are thousands of recipes out there, on my blog, on other blogs, in cookbooks, the newspaper, and on the back of food products. Nobody said cooking at home had to be an elaborate affair. Take this week and try cooking. Make easy dishes, use a crockpot, have salad, cook some chicken, freeze soup. I always have a few meals that I have cooked and subsquently frozen available for a night where I just don't feel like cooking. I also always have the makings for a salad available. These things make my life easier when it's time to cook dinner. I know some people who plan out their meals, go grocery shopping on the weekend or one week night, and cook exactly what they have planned out. If that's the type of person you are, give yourself the time to plan and shop. Most nights, I don't spend more than 30 minutes cooking dinner. It doesn't take a lot of time, it just takes some strategic planning and a bit of confidence.

So for Week 3, check out some of my favorite blogs below. There are some wonderful (and easy) recipes on those sites. Go to your local library and check out a cookbook. Starting this week, I am offering meal planning services - for free. Contact me via email to discuss food likes and dislikes, family size, and dietary restrictions. I will provide a grocery list and 5 days worth of meals for you to cook for you and your family. Don't forget to check back tomorrow and link up with us for some great whole grain recipes from Week 2.

Budget Bytes: This blogger provides a breakdown of price per serving for the recipes she makes

Closet Cooking: Blogger Kevin has some fabulous recipes (and great pictures) ranging from beginner to advanced.

Green Kitchen Stories: Great recipes for the vegetarian chef.

Kumquat: A healthy mix of main dishes and desserts.

Sprouted Kitchen: An easy to browse side bar makes finding recipes by ingredients simple and fast.

The Kitchen Sink: Beautiful recipes for people from all walks of life.

The Parsley Thief: Some wonderfully unique recipes by a mother of boys.

Honest Cooking

Food Buzz

New York Times Dining & Wine

Washington Post Food


Week 1 of SFHL52 Comes to a Close

Week 1 of the SFHL52 & Healthy Eats Challenges are coming to a close. For some people, seven days of eating breakfast is not a challenge. For others, it is a new way of eating; a substantial change to their daily routine. The health benefits of eating breakfast are undisputed yet, like so many other not-so-healthy habits, knowledge doesn't make change any easier. For me, breakfast is about routine. I wake up during the week and do the same thing: I put on a pot of water for tea, decide which of my two to three rotating weekday breakfasts I am going to eat, and get to making. Breakfast is also about simplicity. I do everything in my power to make my weekday morning meals easy, simple, and ready in under five minutes. This means I eat either a) a whole wheat bagel thin with peanut butter, bananas, and drizzled honey; b) oatmeal and fresh fruit or c) Chobani greek yogurt (in alternating flavors) and fresh fruit or a granola bar. In my house, we reserve weekends for breakfast madness and creativity. It provides excitement, knowing that on Saturday or Sunday I get to whip up something different like muffins, scones, pancakes, or waffles; it provides a break from breakfast monotony, an ever occurring problem for some folks. How to break the monotonous cycle and keep you on your toes? Rotate your meals. Have a few, go-to breakfast items that are quick and enjoyable. Have multiple types of fruits on hand. I generally keep three types of fruits available at all times (or at least I try to). I have also gotten hooked on V8 Fusion juices, all of which have full servings of fruits and vegetables, and are surprisingly tasty. When you change the scenery, you are more likely to enjoy the ride.

How'd you do this week? Any tips for us on how to make breakfast a part of your daily routine? Any great recipes? I'd love to hear from you. Feel free to leave a comment or join the discussion on the SFHL52 Inspire and Be Inspired page. Don't forget to sign up to take the SFHL52 Challenge and get ready for Week 2: Eat More Whole Grains.

To inspire you to continue making breakfast a daily part of your life, here's a look back on all the Simple Food Healthy Life breakfast posts. Don't forget to link up below with your ideas and recipes for how you made breakfast a daily happening this week. Just make sure you Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Peanut Butter and Apple Oatmeal Breakfast Bars

Apple Cinnamon Chobani Muffins

Freezer Friendly Muffin Tin Eggs: Sunny Side Up and Omelettes

Pumpkin Bread with Cinnamon Sugar Glaze

Cinnamon Swirl Bread

Brown Sugar Waffles

Pumpkin Spice Chocolate Chip Muffins

Peanut Butter Banana Bread

Oatmeal Coffee Cake Muffins

Strawberry Banana Muffins

Tropical Banana Coconut Bread

Gluten Free Oatmeal Banana Muffins

Chocolate or Cranberry Scones

Baked Apple and Pumpkin Oatmeal



Week 2: Eat More Whole Grains

Week 2's Challenge starts today. This week's challenge is again about making general changes to your diet. Focusing on overarching themes, rather than specific meals. Grains are essential to a healthy diet, especially whole grains. Whole grains are the healthiest kinds of grains you can eat, and as a result, should make up at least half of all grains eaten. What exactly are whole grains? Whole grains are unrefined grains that have not had bran and germ removed through the milling process. They are a better source of fiber, potassium and magnesium than refined or enriched grains. Start by eating cereal and breads with the word "whole" in front. Check the ingredient list, again looking for the word "whole" in the first ingredient. Also check to see if it has at least 3 grams of fiber. Don't be tricked by labels that say "made with wheat flour," as this is not indicative of whole grain foods. If it is truly whole grain, it will list "whole wheat," "whole oats," or another "whole" grain. If you are baking this week, replace 1/3-1/2 of the all-purpose flour with whole wheat flour; your taste buds won't know the difference but your body will. Eat whole wheat pasta, oats instead of bread crumbs, or brown rice instead of white. Check back this week for tips and recipes to help make this an easy transition. You can also check out Food Network's Healthy Eats website and blog for additional ideas.

Most Americans eat less than one serving of whole grains a day. Take this week to turn that around and make whole grains an integral part of your daily diet. Don't forget to sign up to take the SFHL52 Challenge and remember to share with us great ideas, tips, struggles, or successes you have with this week's challenge.

Information from the Mayo Clinic

Link up throughout the week with great ideas and recipe suggestions for eating with whole grains. Just make sure you Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter. Grab our SFHL52 Badge by right clicking, downloading, and uploading to your site.