Food for Back to School Mania – Part 1 – Breakfast of Champions!

Back to School Road Sign

For some of you less fortunate, you’ve already started the sprint called BACK TO SCHOOL! My family and I are facing this unavoidable chaotic time with white knuckles. We are putting on a brave face as we organize the school supplies that I purchased last month. I know. That’s ridiculously early, but I was shamed into doing it early by my hyper- organized friend and neighbor, Colleen. Fortunately for me, that’s all I got done early. Wouldn’t want to change my entire persona in one year. I’m trying to remain “real”… also I can’t possibly have more forethought than that. A little tip, buy the already sharpened pencils. It’s totally worth the extra money because you’ll just break your new pencil sharpener trying to sharpen the 52 pencils you’ll try to jam in the always too small pencil bag.

Clearly this post will not be about organizing your children for the back to school death march. This one will try to give you some guidance regarding feeding the above mentioned children during the school year. I will try to give you the strength to resist reaching into your wallet to hand over the $ for the kids to buy their lunch at school. This also includes dodging the temptation of putting money on their accounts for substandard “food” in the cafeteria. I’m going to empower you so that you can send your offspring out the door well fed so they don’t fall apart at school. We want them to learn enough so they are actually able to leave the house after college and don’t return to live in your basement. These are the thoughts that haunt/inspire me daily. Realize that these will just be ideas and guidelines. You can just put your dreams of a meal plan, grocery list and recipe box away with your dreams of being the next American Idol.

This post will be part 1 of a series. It just occurred to me that I never read a super long post. I know I’m not alone so for those equally attention challenged, I give you …

Part 1
Breakfast of Champions!

I see you. It’s early. No one has anything they need. All efforts to be prepared the night before have been thwarted. Everyone is moving like a sloth, not moving or spinning out of control like the Tasmanian Devil (PLEASE tell me you get that reference). No, I’m not peeping in your window. I’m living this life, just like you are and I know it’s maddening. The idea of feeding anything besides the dog sounds impossible in the middle of all of this! Fear not. We can do this!
1) Make ahead
2) Easy assemble
3) Eat whatcha got

1) Make ahead requires you to set some time aside to make a few dishes so you can just grab, heat and eat. Here are a few of my favorites.

Baked egg cups – Do yourself a favor and use cupcake liners unless you enjoy scrubbing your muffin tins for an eternity or believe, as my husband does, that magic fairies clean your tins while they soak for 3 days (they never show up). If you are making these ahead, you will want to cook them until the yolk sets and then wait for them to fully cool before chucking them into a re-sealable bag to stash in the fridge. Make them your own by using Canadian bacon or adding other favorite ingredients. If yolks freak your family out, whisk a mess of eggs and add your favorite other ingredients and pour them into the ham/bacon lined cupcake liner tins and bake until set. Here’s the link for the original recipe –

egg cups

Baked oatmeal – This is a family fav! Peanut Butter, Banana, honey baked oatmeal. This is so much deliciousness in one pan!

baked oatmeal

This recipe is my version that I have tweaked to bump up the nutritional value

*3 Cups old fashioned rolled oats (not quick oats)
*1/2 cup brown sugar
*1 ½ cups milk (skim, almond, coconut almond, rice – whatever you prefer or have on hand)
*2 large, very ripe bananas – mashed up
*2 eggs or ½ cup of egg whites
*2 tsp of baking powder
*3/4 tsp of salt
*2 tsp of vanilla (just splash a bunch)
*1/2 cup of natural peanut butter or almond butter (again, just blob in a bunch)
* ½ cup of chia seeds (optional but a power house full of omega 3’s and fiber)
*big squeeze of honey ( I didn’t even try to measure this)
Mix all ingredients together in a large bowl and dump into a 9×13 baking dish sprayed with non-stick cooking spray. Bake at 350 for 40 minutes or until the top is crunchy. Cool completely, cut into squares and refrigerate. Serve warm with cold milk and top with cold berries or grab out of the fridge and head to the bus stop.

Breakfast burritos – this is truly a “put whatever you want in the burrito” burrito – this is not a recipe. It’s a guideline, a map of sorts.

breakfast burrito

*Scramble a bunch of eggs, egg whites or a combination of both and add whatever your family prefers. We like diced, canned green chilies, spinach, chives or cilantro. Set them aside to cool.
*Cook thoroughly crumbled breakfast sausage, bacon, Canadian bacon or my family likes the Morningstar vegetarian breakfast sausage. Set that aside to cool.
*Shred or buy shredded cheese of your choice or use blobs of goat cheese or feta.
*To give the burrito a little more staying power, you can add prepared shredded hash browns to the assembly line.
*Find a wrap of your choosing. They vary in size and ingredients. We like the whole wheat, carb smart variety. Take into consideration the size of the appetite you are trying to feed. I will beg you to choose a whole wheat version. Warm it slightly so it will be more pliable.
*Now get assembling – Resist the urge to make a HUGE pile. The burrito/wrap will not close if you make it to huge. Simple concept. – First place the wrap on the plate, scoop some egg mixture onto it, next the meat, cheese, potato, a little more cheese and wrap it up. Double wrap them in plastic wrap tightly so they don’t dry out. Heat and eat in the morning. This is a hearty breakfast. You may have to experiment to figure out how big to make them. I will be making smaller ones so they heat up faster. My daughter will probably eat one and my boys might eat a few. God help me.

2) Easy assembled breakfast – keep some key ingredients on hand your family can throw a breakfast together in no time.
Yogurt parfait – vanilla or plain Greek yogurt, berries, granola of choice. Layer it all up in a bowl or cool glass and you are good to go.
Peanut butter, honey and banana toast/whole grain frozen waffles –top toast or waffles with natural peanut butter, sliced bananas and drizzle with raw honey.
Cream cheese roll up – whole grain tortilla, light cream cheese, no sugar added fruit preserves all rolled up.
Smoothies! – frozen banana, frozen berries, vanilla almond milk, handful of spinach if you can sneak it in (blend it in the liquid first so you don’t have chunks of spinach floating around), scoop of vanilla protein powder or vanilla Greek yogurt. Blend it all up and slurp it up using a fat straw. Don’t use a skinny one. It’s a tough way to start a day.

3) Eat whatcha got! – One of my favorite things to do is have the kids pull out leftovers from dinner. Make extra at dinner and the kids all fight over who gets to finish it in the morning! Who says you need to have “breakfast” food for breakfast. There are no rules. Lots of us have breakfast for dinner and we all know how popular that can be.

My parting thoughts – Think protein, good carbohydrates and good fats. You need to be sending your kids and yourselves out the door ready to attack the day. A breakfast loaded with simple sugars will have your family unfocused and drowsy by 2nd period or by the time you get off the train. Protein gives you the staying power and keeps your blood sugar from spiking. Good carbs from whole fruit, vegetables and whole grains last longer and are a powerhouse of nutrients. Good fats keep you satisfied, are good for your brains (we need brain food) and taste fantastic.
If you have any other ideas, be a share bear and leave it in the comments below. Be brave. Try something new. Think beyond Pop Tarts and a bowl of cereal. Some days that’s all your brain may be able to put together. That’s okay. Make it the exception and not the rule and your family will be just fine.
That’s it that’s all for part 1. Keep an eye out for Part 2- Lunchtime Lowdown!- coming soon.
Until next time…Live well!
Toni Kuhel


Don’t eat that!!!!

Don’t eat that!!! Cut back on this! Limit that! No. No. No. No. No.  UGH! I’m sure you are sick of hearing all the things you should avoid, limit, cut out, forget and just plain not eat.  I have that list for you too, but that’s not the list I have for you today. Today is all about what to add. This isn’t a long list. It’s just a few of my favorite things to add to my rotation of healthy food choices. I find that if I add good things to my daily intake, there’s less room and desire for those things that scream my name from the back of the cabinet.   So here’s my short list for the day. I will give you a few reasons why you get more bang for your nutritional buck with these items and a source for more indepth info. Once you know what and why, I will give you a few of my favorite ways to get these gems into your diet easily.  Remember it’s not all or nothing. Even if you add just one of these things, it is a step forward on your journey towards health and wellness.


Chia seeds – Do not go to your Walgreens and purchase a Chia Pet. Although these are the same seeds, grocery stores sell these as food now. Actually it is an ancient food that has experienced a resurgence as a super food. It is loaded with Omega 3 oils and fiber.  You don’t have to grind them like flax seeds and they are slightly nutty in taste so they are easy to add to recipes without changing the flavor much. If you need more convincing to add them, check out this article.  I like adding a few tablespoons to baked goods like banana bread, baked oatmeal, and muffins. Sprinkling them on my morning cereal or yogurt with fruit is also an easy add. Sneaking them into smoothies is a way to boost nutrition pretty painlessly.





Kale – This leafy green is great for all the reasons other greens are good for you. It is loaded with antioxidants that may protect you from a whole host of diseases including cancer, heart disease and dementia. At only 18 calories a ½ cup serving, it’s a calorie bargain.   For more specifics regarding the benefits of this awesome green, read this article . I love making kale chips. It’s an awesome alternative to potato chips. It’s salty, crunchy and totally guilt free. My kids eat ‘em up! Here’s a link to an easy recipe .   Stir chopped up kale, with the tough center ribs removed, into soups and stews. My very favorite kale salad recipe is a knock off of the Whole Foods kale salad. I measure nothing. I SWEAR my family loves this salad and gobbles it up. We rarely have leftovers.

Lots of kale, tough ribs removed and finely chopped

Just a small handful of dried cranberries finely chopped

A small handful of nuts (whatever you have) finely chopped

Tomatoes – you guessed it – finely chopped

Lemon olive oil or equal parts lemon juice and olive oil mixed

Salt and pepper

Toss and let sit in the fridge for a while to let the flavors come together.

 Eggs – These little gems have been given a bad reputation in the past. People have been avoiding them and removing the yolks believing that they were unhealthy.  Eggs are not bad for you, in fact they are great for you. They may reduce your risk of cancer, repairs muscles after workouts, can help you feel fuller longer resulting in weight loss, and they are delicious. Need more detail to convince you, read this article .  One easy way to get some eggs in your belly during the week are to boil a dozen eggs at the beginning of the week. Peel them all and store them by putting two of them in a ziplock bag with a little salt and pepper. You’ll be able to grab a bag from the refrigerator easily for a quick breakfast or snack. Of course you should add a fruit or vegetable to round out a meal.  My family has a new favorite recipe and it is easy peasy to make ahead or to feed a crowd. Breakfast sandwiches made in muffin tins can be found at this link .




These were just a few of my favorite healthy add ins.  If you try to think about adding in healthy options rather than thinking about all the things you have to or should give up, you may just find that you can do this!  It makes sense to eat the “healthy” food first. This leaves less room for the things that dance around in your head when you are starving.  Chia seeds, kale and eggs are not hard to squeeze into your menus.  You may even find that they become family favorites. Chia seeds are something I put in meals and no one notices.  Kale salad and eggs are things my family craves. Just try a few add ins and see what happens.

Until next time…live well! -Toni Kuhel



What the heck am I going to feed this family???

For absolutely no good reason, I found myself running around like my hair was on fire. This afternoon/evening just seemed to get away from me. Between picking up my daughter from the library, rushing to pick up the boys from practice and thinking about getting back out after dinner to see a client, I began pounding my head on the steering wheel.  WHAT THE HECK AM I GOING TO FEED THIS FAMILY???  I had exactly 30 minutes availabe to make something out of thin air. I am not organized enough to have anything defrosted sooooo WHAT THE HECK AM I GOING TO FEED THIS FAMILY???

Thank goodness for Costco. As I was driving home and “listening” to the bickering happening amongst my spawn in the van, I mentally took a look into my freezer.

Things I look to include in a meal at the Kuhel house

-low fat, good quality, tasty protein

-good quality, whole grain, tasty carbohydrate

-good quality, tasty vegetable

and this is what I found…

Costco saves the day

All packages have short lists of ingredients and were a totally tasty!!!  All minimally processed and I plunked it down on the table in no time.  I find that if I shop with these principles in mind, I can pull off a meal with little to no planning, even if I had to bang my head on the steering wheel for awhile.

TA DAH!!!! Couscous and quinoa, curried chicken meatballs and organic green beans.

There is good quality conveniece food out there. Just read labels, look for short ingredient lists, make sure it’s tasty! Good luck making it through your crazy days ahead.  I would love to hear what great ideas you guys have to get good food on your tables in a flash. I could always use another amazing idea so bring it on!!

Until next time…Live well!  – Toni Kuhel

Getting through a summer of indulgences

It was bound to happen.  A missed workout…or 3 – a few too many food festivals – a couple more beers than I should’ve had.  One of these lapses in judgment is expected once in a while, but all together? I do believe I have really started slipping a bit. Don’t call the health and wellness police! We’ve all hit a hump, bump or a lump in the road to a healthier lifestyle. Now what???

Let’s get real.  We are people and by definition we are NOT perfect so let’s not beat ourselves up for being human.  I didn’t set out to miss my workouts. I had a series of girls’ weekends that just happened to end up in a clump due to my work schedule. I didn’t PLAN on going to all the festivals, but our friends asked us to go and I love my friends.  I didn’t expect to have too much to drink, but it was hot and the beer was cold. Does any of this sound familiar to anyone?  It is true that having lots of moments of weakness is surely a bad idea.  The goal of course is to try to get strong again- in a hurry!  Get over it and get going!! I had a very good time during my moments of weakness and I didn’t feel one bit guilty.  It would sure be hard to have fun while feeling guilty the whole time.  I do not need that kind of conflict in my life.

In a past life, and maybe this sounds like your life now, I would’ve just tormented myself over my decisions.  Guess what – It doesn’t do me any good to spend time feeling bad.  Now it’s just about getting back to making better choices.  I’ll take it one choice at a time.

  • Time to schedule workouts/activity,
  • Make vegetables and fruits the bulk of my meals or snacks
  • Drink water every chance I get. 

Fortunately for me I made the best, bad choices I could make. WHAT? I can hear you asking.  I was a bit surprised at how I could have fun while not wreaking total havoc on my health and wellness. Here’s how I did it and how you are going to do it too.



  • I bought or brought water everywhere I went. 
  • Ate breakfast as early as I could every day. Don’t skip it.
  • I kept healthful snacks in my purse (bring a big purse or get comfortable with carrying a man bag).
  • I made sure not to go more than 2 or 3 hours without eating. Waiting ‘til you’re starving is a very bad idea- it leads to terrible choices.
  • I walked everywhere I could.  I chose some “active” activities.
  • I THOROUGHLY enjoyed my indulgences. Don’t indulge if you aren’t going to love it. It’s sooo not worth it.



  • I brought lots of water.
  • I ate before I went. It kept me from eating too much because I was starving.
  • I got what I craved – a pulled pork sandwich. It kept me from eating a salad, chicken, vegetable tempura, and buttered corn, pretending like I wasn’t going to have my pulled pork sandwich which I was most definitely going to have anyway.
  • I had a bite of my kids’ deserts. I really only wanted a taste so why eat the whole thing.
  • I ate healthfully before and after the festival.  I enjoyed myself because the way I eat at the festivals is an exception and not the rule.


Drinks with friends

  • I order water with every drink and drink it first.
  • I drink light beer or red wine.
  • If I have a mixed drink or a “girly” drink, I try to keep it to just one.

I really enjoy my life and sometimes it can get the better of me. Choose to enjoy your life the best way possible.  Have a great time.  Forgive less than stellar choices by noticing how much better you feel when you get back to your healthier choices.  Realize that fun and healthy are words that can work together. It’s all about living well.

‘Til next time…live well!

Toni Kuhel




Is This a Trip or a Vacation?


My gosh! How did it get to be the end of the school year already???  This seems like the perfect time to address traveling with your posse. The idea of days on end with kids suddenly without the structure of a school day makes one feel like leaving home.  Learning to live well is tough enough when you can control your environment.  When you’re at home you control what is in your cupboards, refrigerator, and freezer.  If you’ve made the commitment (if you’re not there you are on your way) then you have “real food” everywhere.  If you are normal then you also have a couple (just a couple) of items that you should have only once in a great while. Confession time…  my 2 things are fresh buffalo mozzarella and butter.  Activity-wise, you also have a routine.  You’ve scheduled your work-outs, found your three 10 minute “chunks”, and have your favorite walking routes around the neighborhood.  But what happens when you are NOT in control of your environment?  Now there are plenty of times when I feel I have no control of my environment, but that mostly pertains to my 3 little angels and 1 big one.  The actuality is that you can always control your choices and thusly it doesn’t matter what environment you are entering.  You don’t ever have to take a vacation from the healthy lifestyle you’ve created, even when you are on vacation.  Stop rolling your eyes long enough to see how painless it can be.

The Kuhel family travels each year and when the kids come (just about always) it is then a trip and not a vacation due to the amount of work that inherently comes with taking the whole circus on the road.  To be quite honest, making our lifestyle changes at home came a lot easier than making those same changes in other situations.  I really had to sit and brainstorm about how we could possibly do these things out in the real world.  Let’s face it.  The real world is loaded with choices that can lead us down an ugly path.  That’s why our nation is in the shape (round is a shape) it is in.  Here are a few ways we navigate our way through the dangerous sea called the vacation/trip.

  • Plan ahead:  Chances are you are not walking to your destination.  At least not the whole way, I hope.  That means you are either driving, flying or boating.  If you are traveling another way (rocket ship, hot air balloon etc.) planning ahead will serve you well too.  Most of these modes of transportation don’t lend themselves to having healthy snacks as part of the deal.  You are going to have to bring some “real food” or pay an unreasonable amount of money for a few acceptable choices.  The Kuhel family’s money tree in the front yard died so we watch our dollars as much as we can.  If your money tree is thriving, then go ahead and take your chances but sometimes it doesn’t matter how much money you have.  That gas station in the middle of nowhere isn’t going to give you fresh blueberries for a fistful of dollars.  You are going to get a questionable mystery meat sandwich, a 2 year old Twinkie, and purple liquid in a dusty odd shaped bottle. Mmmm mmmm good. 


Pack your snacks. If you are traveling a fair distance by car, be smart about it.  For long trips I suggest packing 2 coolers and a snack bag.  One larger cooler in the trunk or in the back of the minivan you said you’d never get.  Use one smaller cooler for the front of the car.  The larger cooler should be your replenishment cooler.  This one should have lots of bottled water, 100% fruit juice boxes, string cheese, re-sealable bags filled with single servings of grapes, carrots, sugar snap peas, small dark chocolate bars (gotta have treats) and anything else your family likes cold.  The smaller cooler should have smaller quantities of the same thing.  No one wants to travel with a giant cooler inside the car and there is no way a little cooler is going to get you past the state line. The snack bag should be contain re-sealable bags filled with single servings of walnuts, almonds, whole grain cereal, home-made trail mix, whole grain crackers,  pbj sandwiches, apples, bananas and containers of applesauce (don’t forget spoons). On our recent road trip, Renee was “snack manager” and she handed out snacks when anyone asked and monitored our inventory so we knew when we had to get supplies from the large cooler.  She is a control freak so this was a sweet deal for her. Also, no one else wanted the job. Traveling by air has restrictions on liquids so you are just going to have to buy water after the security check.  Your snack bag is obviously going to be smaller, but be sure to bring it.  Somehow I can’t justify $7 + (or something like that) for a box with $2 (or something like that) worth of marginal snacks.

That’s about all for part 1.  Part 2 to follow soon.

          Till next time…live well! Toni Kuhel


You are what you eat.  Those words ring true with every bite you and your family consumes.  So, what do you want to be made of?  Some days I’m made of an Oberwiess Turtle sundae.  Most days I’m not.  Some days my kids are made of hotdogs or burgers. Most days they are not.  More often than not, we make choices that point us in the direction of living well.  We didn’t get here overnight, but it certainly didn’t take a million years either.  It wasn’t torturous, but we did have to become more conscious and take control.  We had to be done with being passive receptacles of junk, junk and more junk which is EVERYWHERE, ALL THE TIME.  Below I’ll list some easy swaps that the Kuhel family made pretty painlessly.  You may have the same experience.  Some of you may have a tougher time of it.  The point, as usual, is not to make all the changes all at once. It also doesn’t mean you have to make all the changes to make it worth your while. Every change you make, no matter how small you may think it is, is totally worth making.  We chose to adopt these changes to increase our fiber, vitamins, minerals and “good fat” intake, decrease our saturated fat, sugar and salt intake…to get more nutritional bang for every bite. You’ll take a detour to avoid construction traffic. What detour will you take to avoid an unhealthy future?


White carbohydrates (bread, pasta, cereal,rice etc) – swap whole wheat/ whole grain bread , pasta(check for “whole” wheat, oats, grain etc and at least 3 grams of fiber per serving).  Try quinoa, barley, oatmeal, couscous and brown rice. Also add oatmeal or ground flax seed to baking recipes.

Baked/roasted potato – baked/roasted sweet potatoes

French fries – baked sweet potato fries

Mashed potatoes – pureed cauliflower (boil cauliflower in skim milk  and a dash of salt and white pepper until soft- put softened cauliflower in blender with a ladle full of the milk you boiled it in- give it a whirl -add more of the milk until it’s the consistency you like – make sure it’s smooth) My kids ask for this dish often.  They swear there is cheese in it!  It’s very filling because of all the fiber.

Chips- whole grain pretzels, almonds, walnuts, pistachios, pop corn made at home

Iceberg lettuce – spinach, arugula, romaine lettuce

Beef – skinless chicken, turkey, fish.

Ground meat – we use ½ the recommended amount of ground beef/turkey and bulk up recipes using black beans, kidney beans, corn, or other veggies.

Whole milk – 2% or skim

Sour cream – low fat sour cream, yogurt, salsa

Chocolate chip cookies – fewer chocolate chip cookies, oatmeal cookies

Butter – we just use much less or use Smart Balance

Vegetable oil – olive oil, swap applesauce for oil in baking recipes

Juice, pop – water, skim milk

Milk chocolate – dark chocolate (at least 60% cocoa)

Sugar –agave syrup

The Kuhel family LOVES food desperately. These are just a few swaps we make. What successful swaps have you made? I’m sure you’ve heard of some of these. I hope you have some that I haven’t heard of.  We are always open to new ideas especially in regards to health and wellness so bring it on!

Until next time…Live Well! – Toni Kuhel

I Don’t Feeeeeeeel Like It! (part 1)


Anything is possible if you are motivated enough.  For goodness sake, people are climbing Mt. Everest just because it’s there.  I need a touch more motivation than that.  Picture 10 bizillion dollars and a guarantee that I would not die in the process.  Neither is a possibility, so no adventures up that mountainside for me.   I would LOVE to say that I wake up every morning ready to seize the day.  Alas, this is not the case.  I could go on and on about how I struggle with finding motivation to go about all the aspects of my life, but I will spare you. You are welcome!What I will share with you are a few strategies that I use to increase my chances of doing what needs doing to live well.

Get to know yourself. I am motivated into action by a few things.

On good days, I’m intrinsically motivated (good angel sitting on my shoulder) to eat right, deal with stress, and exercise. That’s right.  I will do these things because making good choices is the right thing to do for my health and wellness.  I also choose to do these things because, at the end of the day, I physically feel better.

On other days, it’s good old-fashioned fear that moves me.  It is fear that I am going to feel bad, sick or guilty if I choose to sit on the couch, stress about nothing important, and eat a bag of salty-greasy-chip-os.  Some days I really do weigh this as a viable option of something to do for the day, but I do not enjoy feeling bad, sick or guilty.  I also fear the elastic waistband.  Enough sloth-like days in a row will result in a wardrobe punctuated with elastic waistbands.

There are some days when I’m motivated by what other people think.  Alex would love me even if I didn’t do one active thing for a week.  However, he would probably give me a look that I would interpret as “judging” me and that would be bad for everyone.  I talk a lot.  It’s no surprise that my friends know I try to live well. Catching me with a sack of chocolate chip cookies would be too much to let slide by without at least a comment.  It would probably also involve some pointing.

I don’t think being motivated by my conscience, by fear or by other people is so unusual.  Figure out what motivates you. You don’t have to announce it to everyone like I just did.  Be honest with yourself. I don’t like admitting that a committee of “they” has that much influence on me, but sadly it does. Once you know what is motivating, you can then choose how to go about your day. If other people are your motivation, then you can work hard at not being alone with said sack of chocolate chip cookies.  If your partner’s opinion moves you, then let him/her know you appreciate the support.  Make sure you return the favor and freely give well deserved pats on the back.

turkey trot

If you want to run a 5k just to see if you can do it, sign yourself up and make the commitment.  I have committed to participating in this year’s 5K Turkey Trot.  I’m hoping to not be mistaken for a Turkey. I’m also shooting for non-stop trotting for the entire distance.  The date is rapidly approaching, but I’m setting mini goals along the way.  I’ve just completed my first goal of non-stop 2.25 miles. Now I’ll start shooting for faster time within that distance and on other days, longer distance at the same pace.

You can also try to work towards being more self-motivated. It really is the most positive motivation and I am striving to be my very own, best cheerleader.  It’s the one motivation you can completely control. I’m pretty sure I’m not alone in this personal struggle.  I work on this daily and some days I’m successful….some days not so much.  This post is starting to feel long so check back in a while and see what I have to say in this series’ part II. Wouldn’t want to interrupt a possible sudden burst of motivation!

Until next time….Live Well! – Toni Kuhel

Are we coming or going? -Part 2

eating on the run

Yesterday was all about finding time. Today is about eating well when we are struggling with time, which is EVERYDAY for most people. I’m thinking of you.

No time to eat right

If you are going to tell me that you and your family cannot eat well because you have no time, you are not alone.  Yes it’s easier to grab a drive-thru meal and toss it about the car than it is to go to the store at the last minute, think about what’s healthy, think about what everyone will eat, think about what’s on sale, go home, make it and sit down and eat it as a family.   I will agree with that.  But, if you plan ahead and make a bit extra when you do have time to cook and throw it in the fridge or freezer you are doing yourself a favor. It’s a whole lot easier to boil some whole wheat pasta and toss it with some good leftover protein, frozen veggies and your favorite sauce.  It’s markedly tastier, healthier and more conducive to family time.  You don’t have to be slaving over the stove for this and your family can be doing something a bit productive for the 10 minutes it’s going to take for you to make the meal.  You’ll be able to sit at the table and look each other in the eye while you eat instead of checking in the rearview mirror to see if the kids are sharing the fries fairly.

If you are going to have to compromise, throw a thin crust cheese pizza in the oven.  While you are at it put some broccoli florets on a cookie sheet with olive oil, garlic and red pepper flakes.  Bake them all at the same time and you’ll have a yummy and healthier dinner option.  My family loves broccoli this way and I challenge you to eat the same amount of pizza you always do after eating one cup or so of this awesome side dish.  IMPOSSIBLE! You will be too full and completely satisfied.

There are going to be those days when even this is too much to ask of yourself and your family.  Just aim to keep those days to a minimum. In the end you’ll see that when you get where ever you are rushing to, you will all feel better and do better with your tummies full of “real” good food instead of fake fast food.

Check out the blog “Eat this… “. It doesn’t take any more time to put whole wheat bread in the cart than it does to put in a loaf of white bread.   Shop differently and you’ll eat differently. This is truly an example of just shifting what you already do.  You are already going to the supermarket so take the time to be mindful of what is going in the cart.  The first few times might take a bit longer as you read labels and get familiar with produce and lean proteins.  No worries though.  You will find your family will have favorite foods, you’ll get faster at scanning labels, and you’ll be more confident in knowing how to combine foods into your most convenient and healthy meals and snacks.  Shop with meals and snacks in mind. Don’t just throw stuff in the cart and think it’s going to magically turn into something.  Plan and you will not be running out for that lemon you forgot.

Eating on the run is a daunting undertaking.  For those of you who are trapped in a vehicle or just out and about for a good part of the day with no time to eat well, I feel very bad for you.  Fortunately, along with pity, I have some ideas for you as well.  First of all, make sure you eat. Don’t just throw your hands up and say you don’t have time to eat. Pack, pack, pack.

  • Find a couple of small coolers to keep in the car.  Use one for keeping cold, reusable water bottles or low fat/skim milk bottles and snacks.  Use the other for meals.
  • Think ahead and make single portioned snack bags of nuts, dried fruit, and whole grain cereals/crackers/pretzels.  Try mixing them up to make your own trail mix.
  • Single serving bags of baby carrots, snap peas, sweet pepper strips, cucumber slices and other veggies are great when kept cold.
  • If you like to dip then be sure to have some hummus, peanut butter, or yogurt for your dipping pleasure.
  • Keep some apples, bananas, pears or oranges close by as well.
  • There are great options for single servings of cheese – string cheese, cheese sticks, and baby rounds of cheese.
  • On Sunday, boil a dozen eggs.  Pack one or two of these a day and you’ll be able to face the daily grind a bit easier.

  • Keep in mind that you are eating in a vehicle or over your lap at least so don’t make something that requires a plate, knife and a fork. Also, a sandwich that is falling all over your lap is an equally bad idea. Think portable and delicious.  Wraps, simple sandwiches made from your left over dinner, pasta salad, and a thermos of soup or stew are all good alternatives.

  • Plan to eat every three hours so you don’t find yourself weak and cranky and pulling into a drive-thru twitching for the fix to get you through the rest of the afternoon.
  • Do yourself a favor and pack a couple of small dark chocolate squares.  You deserve a bit of a treat every so often. Don’t over-do it and don’t deprive yourself.

Clearly you don’t have to pack ALL of this every day.  I’m just giving you loads of options.

  • To increase your chances of actually packing every day, do your portioning out of snack bags all at once.  Keep them all together so you can grab refrigerated items and pantry items quickly without having to root around to come up with something.

This strategy is something our family practices throughout our beloved wrestling season.  Every Sunday we spend hours on end in various gymnasiums for tournaments surrounded by foil wrapped hot dogs, licorice by the foot, and round chips with neon yellow “cheese”.  We come packed like we’re staying for a week, but this saves us money and our waistlines.  Our kids are not above asking for a donut or a candy bar.  They can have one.  They just can’t have one and another and another. They eat what we bring and we often share with other curious wrestlers who want to know if sugar snap peas indeed taste like sugar.  The answer was always “no”, but they sure kept eating them until they were gone.  If you bring it, they will eat it. You may not be trapped in a gymnasium.  It might be a delivery truck, an ice skating rink, a soccer field, an office building, a construction site, a school, a theater, the salon or …. Our lives don’t always allow for easy food choices throughout the day.  It is up to you to make it easy for yourself and your family.

Part 3 is coming soon with ideas for fitness/stress reduction.

Until next time…Live Well! –Toni Kuhel

Snacks! The good, the bad, and the ugly.

apples and pb


Snack Attacks are Good!

Everybody recalls a parent saying “Don’t eat that! It’ll spoil your dinner!!”  (Maybe you grew up in house where people didn’t talk with so many exclamation points. You people can end those 2 sentences with periods.)  As grown-ups, this warning is sound advice that works in your favor.  This is a weapon in your arsenal in the ever present battle against over indulging every chance you get.   Snacks are good- not evil. True, not all snacks are created equal so let’s sort out the good, the bad, and the ugly.

I try very hard to make sure we eat every three hours. Four hours is pushing it and five is out of the question.  Bad things happen when the Kuhel family goes without feeding for hours on end.  I become intolerant, unreasonable, and unstable and, now that I think of it, so does everyone else in my house.  Clearly we aren’t always able to time our snacks and meals this way, but we give it a good old college try.

What is a snack? It’s a mini-meal.  Contrary to what you might believe, an apple does not make a snack.  What seems to do the best job of keeping the troops happy is a combination of a protein, carb, and fat. So an apple becomes a snack when you pair it with piece of cheese or a couple of TBS of peanut butter.

Good snack combos that we like –

  • Almonds and dry whole grain cereal
  • Banana and string cheese
  • Hummus and whole grain pita chips
  • Apple and cheddar cheese
  • Yogurt and granola
  • Whole grain crackers and Laughing Cow cheese
  • Bell peppers and hummus
  • Milk and granola bar
  • Banana with peanut butter and honey
  • ½  peanut butter and jelly sandwich
  • Walnuts and a pear

* Get ahead of the game by keeping a snack bag as an emergency stash in your car.  Keep non-perishable snack combinations in snack size portions.  This will keep you from careening into a drive through lane or stopping for gas and “a little something”.  This will also save you from hearing the whining and crying from the backseat that is brought on by sudden hunger pangs also referred to as children that are “starving”. At home you should have fruit bowls out on the table with filled with hand sized fruit. Keep healthy snacks in the front of your pantry.  Washed and cut veggies, baby carrots, sugar snap peas in the fridge make great grab – n- go snacks.

Bad snacks – things that are not as good as we believe them to be – Listen up people. The fact that a product has the word “fruit” in its name or has fruit pictured on the box, doesn’t make it healthy. Fruit snacks, yogurt covered raisins, fruit roll ups, fruit drink all fall in this category in my humble opinion.  Check the amount of sugar (more than 8 grams) and how little fiber (<1 gram) it has and you’ll be flabbergasted, dumbfounded and a host of other things that mean disappointed and surprised.  A good rule in general is to eat food that most resembles how it came to be on this earth.  The less you do to a food the better.

Ugly snacks that we like but shouldn’t have too often – I don’t know that I really have to go over this with you.  Put it this way. If somewhere in the recesses of your mind you hear “You shouldn’t be eating that.” ….well, then you shouldn’t be eating that.   Let’s see what that list consists of -donuts, cookies, chips, cake, candy, anything with an ingredient list that has 10 unpronounceable items on it, etc. etc. Quit ignoring that little voice inside your head. It’s there for a reason.

So go ahead and snack smart. You will feel better for it. Think breakfast, snack, lunch, snack, and dinner. You will probably eat more healthy calories and fewer unhealthy ones. You’ll have a better chance of increasing your intake of fruits, vegetables, whole grain, nuts and dairy.  You won’t eat dinner like you’ve been away at sea for weeks.  By now you know we are not a family of absolutes.  We like our “ugly “ snacks but we have them pretty infrequently.  Believe it or not, after a while you stop craving those kinds of snacks.  Have them every so often so it doesn’t feel forbidden. Remember moderation is your friend.  The words  “always” and “never “ in the world of health and wellness don’t end in lasting change for the most part.  So do what you can, when you can and know you did your very best.

Until next time…Live Well! – Toni Kuhel

Maaaaaaaaa! What’s to eat?

I'm Hungry!

We have all done it. Some of us are still doing it. I did it this weekend.  I loaded my plate with a not so keen eye for balance.  I’m not going to spend time loathing myself because I did it. It was delicious. I didn’t go bananas every meal, every day this weekend. It was just a lapse in judgment as I was busy living life. I’m thinking you are familiar with that concept as well.  Most days I shoot for every meal to be balanced.

1/2 of  your plate loaded with produce – fruits/veggies – think lots of colors

1/4 of  your plate whole grain – bread with at least 3 grams fiber per serving, brown rice, couscous, whole grain pasta again with at least 3 grams of fiber per serving

1/4 of your plate with a lean protein – baked, grilled, roasted,poached/skinless chicken/ fish/lean pork/lean beef/turkey/beans.

Use a “good fat” like olive oil to prepare your dish 0r dress your veggies. Don’t drown it – just douse it. I like to add a reasonable amount of cheese when it’s called for. I’ll use some low-fat cheese if I need to use more (mozzarella,cheddar) . I’ll use regular cheese when I can use just a smidge because it’s so flavorful (blue cheese, romano, parmesan, sharp cheddar and feta).

Since I’m sure I’m not the only one that’s heard the eternal question of  “Maaaaa! What’s to eat?”  I’m going to describe a couple of ideas I have for each meal. You’ll see that balanced is delicious, satisfying, and something to look forward to.

Breakfast – with coffee and water

1)build this in a bowl in this order -1/3 cup high protein/ high fiber cereal, ½ low fat Greek yogurt,  1 cup fresh fruit (berries, pineapple),  2TBS sliced almonds/walnut pieces, squirt of honey on top.fruit and yogurt

2)1 hard boiled egg / 1 slice whole wheat toast with a bit of Smart Balance/,banana or apples with natural peanut butter /glass of skim milk


Lunch – with water

1)      ½ sandwich – whole grain bread, roasted chicken/turkey breast, spinach, 1 slice of Swiss cheese, spicy mustard/1 cup of broth based soup loaded with veggies/ an orange or an apple.

2)      Whole grain pita stuffed with grilled chicken breast, hummus, tomatoes, cucumbers, sprouts/ Sun Chips/ pear or banana.

hummus pita sandwich

Dinner – with water

1)      BBQ Turkey meatloaf/ sweet potato fries/ spinach salad

meat loaf

2)      Marinated grilled chicken breast, roasted broccoli, whole grain pasta with Smart Balance and parmesan cheese for sprinkling.

roasted broccoli

These are just a couple of Kuhel family meals. From time to time I’ll post some other menu ideas. I’d love to hear yours.  Check back every so often as I will add recipes for the BBQ Turkey Meatloaf, roasted broccoli and others soon.

Most days we are successful in partaking in a balanced diet. Some days are smattered with hot dogs, pizza and enough dessert to put one in sugar induced coma.  We are glad to say that those indulgent days are few and far between.   On days like that I know that we feel a touch.. how do I say this delicately?….a bit… gurgley .  We’ll just leave it at that. This is NOT a good feeling for anyone so we avoid this as much as we can. There are occasions when you just can’t dodge those kinds of meals.  We take comfort knowing that most days we are healthy eaters and that perfection is over rated.  Strive for balance, forgive yourself for unbalanced days, have a more balanced day tomorrow.

Until next time…Live Well!  – Toni Kuhel.